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Alexander
Alexander
277

by his son-in-law for ‘the lands of Menstry.’ On 6 June 1609 a royal charter passed under the great seal, confirming a charter of alienation and vendition from Argyle to Erskine, whereby the latter obtained the lands and barony of Menstry in life-rent, and Sir William Alexander and his spouse, Lady Janet Erskine, the lands in conjunct fee (Reg. Mag. Sig. xlviii. 131). But the conditions of the charter remained unfulfilled; and nineteen years later Sir William Alexander is found consenting to a royal charter whereby he received the lands and barony of Menstry from the Earl of Argyle on an annual payment of 80l. (Rogers's Memorials, i. 38–39).

Alexander published in 1605 ‘The Alexandræan, a Tragedy,’ which afterwards elicited Dr. Andrew Johnston's well-known epigram:—

  Confer Alexandros: Macedo victricibus armis
    Magnus erat, Scotus carmina major uter?

Having in the interval written still another tragedy, ‘Iulius Cæsar,’ he once more collected the whole extant into a quarto volume. This was in 1607, and again the volume bore the title of the ‘Monarchicke Tragedies,’ being ‘Crœsus,’ ‘Darius,’ ‘The Alexandrian,’ and ‘Iulius Cæsar,’ ‘newly enlarged by William Alexander, Gentleman of the Prince's Privie Chamber.’ To this new edition his friend, Sir Robert Aytoun, preflxed a well-turned sonnet.

In 1608 a somewhat noticeable authority was given to our William Alexander and a relative (presumably), Walter Alexander, ‘to receive and uplift all arrears of taxes due to the crown, from the first year of the reign of Edward VI to the 30th of Elizabeth,’ these arrears amounting to 12,000l., equal to four or five times the amount to-day, and of which they were to receive a ‘commission’ of one-half. The patent has been printed in extenso by Dr. Charles Rogers; but what came out of it has not been transmitted.

Alexander must have been ‘knighted’ in 1609; for whilst in 1608 he is simply ‘gent.,’ on 25 May 1609 he is described as ‘Sir William Alexander’ (Reg. Mag. Sig. lib. i. 185, fol. 134).

The death of Prince Henry, at the age of eighteen, on 6 Nov. 1612, must have been a crushing blow to him as to all the scholars and literary men of the period. He published an ‘Elegie’ on the occasion, and promised more; but, like Spenser's of Sidney, it lacks emotion. It has nothing of the desolation and pathos of the Laments of George Chapman and John Davies of Hereford.

The ‘Elegie,’ however, appears to have pleased the bereaved father, for Sir William was at once appointed to the same position in the household of Prince Charles.

In 1613 he was ‘conjoined’ with a Thomas Foulis and a Paulo Pinto (a Portuguese) in royal grants or rescripts to work alleged gold and silver mines in Scotland, at Crawford Muir (Lanarkshire) and Hilderston (Linlithgowshire) (Acta Sec. Con. 17 March 1613). Neither undertaking proved remunerative (Proceedings of Scot. Soc. of Antiq. x. 236).

In the same year (1613) he published a meagre ‘completion’ of the ‘third part’ of Sidney's ‘Arcadia,’ to be found in the fourth and after editions.

At this time also he formed a fast friendship with his fellow-countryman and fellow-poet, William Drummond, of Hawthornden. In 1614 a sunny letter from Drummond gives account of a visit to Menstry. It thus closes:

‘Tables removed, after Homer's fassion well satiat, he honord me so much as to schow me his bookes and papers. . . . I estimed of him befor I was acquent with him, because of his workes; but I protest hencefoorth I will estime of his workes because of his awne good, courte[ou]s, meeke disposition. He entreatit me to have made me longer stay, and beleave me I was as sorrie to depart as a new enamoured lover would be for his mistress’ (Memorials, i. 47, and all editions of Drummond's works). Afterwards—1616–20—there was gracious interchange of correspondence, and in Drummond's letters to Michael Drayton there are very genial references to his bosom friend Alexander (Masson's Story of Life and Writings of Drummond, p. 84)—the poet of ‘Nymphidia’ and ‘Agincourt’ calling him ‘a man of men.’

Among the papers shown on this visit was our poet's most ambitious production, viz. his ‘Doomesday.’ In 1614 he published a first part, entitled ‘Doomes-day; or the Great Day of the Lord's Ivdgment, by Sr William Alexander, Knight’ (4to).

In its original form this stupendous poem embraced four books or ‘houres.’ These were in 1637 extended to twelve, containing some eleven thousand lines! In the vast morass of this dead-level sacred epic a few flowers gleam, showing touches of colour or whiteness, and Milton disdained not to read the whole that he might gather them; but substantively it is ‘stale, flat, and unprofitable.’ The king perpetrated one of his worst sonnets about ‘Doomes-day,’ albeit its heading bewrayed slyly his majesty's perception of its pervading defect: ‘The Complainte of the Muses to Alexander vpon himselfe, for his