Ramsay was a man of considerable culture, a traveller, an excellent linguist, and a good scholar. His literary gifts—as evidenced by the volume of essays entitled ‘The Investigator,’ 1762—were far above the average, and his love of letters was genuine. He published anonymously four pamphlets—respectively on the nature of government (1769), the English constitution (1771), the quarrel with America (1777), and the right of conquest (1783).
Among the group of Johnson's friends, Ramsay was distinguished for his amenity, his knowledge of the world, and his social charm. ‘You will not find a man in whose conversation there is more instruction, more information, and more elegance than in Ramsay's,’ said Johnson, who was often the painter's guest at 67 Harley Street (Boswell, Johnson, ed. Hill, iii. 336). As a painter, his merits lie rather in the even level of their accomplishment than in their supreme excellence in any one quality. His portraits are unaffected likenesses of his sitters, by an artist who has mastered all the methods of his craft, and whose point of view is that of a gentleman. His court office confined him in his choice of subjects, and his work has been eclipsed by the more splendid legacy of Gainsborough and Reynolds.
[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Boswell's Johnson; Cunningham's Lives, ed. Heaton; Rouquet, Etat des Arts en Angleterre, 1755; Stanhope's Hist. of England, vi. 324.]
RAMSAY, ANDREW (1574–1659), Scottish divine and Latin poet, born in 1574, was son of David Ramsay of Balmain, Kincardineshire, and Katherine Carnegie, of the house of Kinnaird; he was a younger brother of Gilbert Ramsay, who was created a baronet in 1625. He was probably educated at the university of St. Andrews. At an early age he went to France, where he studied theology, and was promoted to a professorship in the university of Saumur. Returning to Scotland, he was admitted minister of Arbuthnot in 1606, and in the same year was appointed by the general assembly constant moderator of the presbytery of Fordoun.
In 1612 he declined an offer of the Scots church at Campvere in Holland; and in 1614 he was appointed one of the ministers of Edinburgh. In 1615 he became a member of the high commission, and in 1617 he signed the protestation for the liberties of the kirk, but withdrew his name when he found that the king was offended. The earl marischal and the town of Aberdeen sought to have him appointed principal of Marischal College in 1620, but his translation was refused. In that year he was made professor of divinity in the college of Edinburgh, and also rector of the college, and held these offices till 1626, when he resigned them. At that time he became one of the ministers of the Grey Friars church. In 1629 he was made sub-dean of the Chapel Royal at Holyrood, and after the see of Edinburgh was erected in 1634 he was one of the chapter.
Ramsay had from early life shown much taste and aptitude for Latin poetry, and in 1633 he published sacred poems in Latin. They were written in the style of Ovid, and were commended by such a competent judge as Dr. Arthur Johnston. They were reprinted at Amsterdam in 1637 in the ‘Deliciæ Poetarum Scotorum,’ and according to William Lauder [q. v.], the literary forger, they formed one of the sources from which Milton plagiarised his ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘Regained.’
Ramsay disapproved of the innovations introduced into the church after the Perth assembly, but he submitted to them; and when Bishop Forbes, on his appointment to the see of Edinburgh, wrote to the ministers asking them to give the communion at the following Easter, and to each person kneeling, Ramsay promised obedience. From about that time, however, he took his stand with those who opposed any further innovations in worship or doctrine. For this he lost favour with the dignitaries of the church, and talked of ‘dimitting his ministry and retiring to his own lairdship.’
As sub-dean he must have acquiesced in the reading of the English service at the Chapel Royal, where it had been constantly used since 1617; but when all the other ministers of Edinburgh agreed to read Laud's book in the churches on 23 July 1637, Ramsay refused, and for this was silenced by the privy council. From that time he became a leader of the party soon to be known as covenanters, and in September he was sent to Angus and Mearns to rouse his own part of the country against the new liturgy and canons. In February 1638 he preached in the Grey Friars to prepare the people for signing the national covenant, and for years afterwards was one of Henderson's right-hand men. He took a prominent part in the general assembly of 1638, and was moderator of that court in 1640 when the Aberdeen doctors were deposed for refusing to take the covenant. At the same time, like Henderson, he was a zealous opponent of the Brownist innovations which crept