Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stuart, Robert

STUART, ROBERT (1812–1848), author of ‘Caledonia Romana,’ was the eldest son of William Stuart, a merchant in Glasgow, where he was born on 21 Jan. 1812. Owing to his father's absence abroad on business, he was placed, when about a year old, with his maternal grandfather, George Meliss, resident near Perth, and was strongly influenced by his grandmother, a descendant of the Stewarts of Invernahyle (see Introd. to Waverley, ed. 1829). In 1819 Stuart joined his parents at Nice, presently accompanying them to Gibraltar. In 1821 he was sent to a boarding-school near Perth, and in 1825 his parents returned to Glasgow, where he settled with them and attended school. Prevalent business depression in 1826 caused the father to become bookseller and publisher, with his son as assistant. In 1836 the father turned to some new enterprise, whereupon Stuart undertook the business himself and married. His literary faculty received special direction in 1841 when his friend John Buchanan of Glasgow, after showing him inscribed altars and other memorials of the Roman occupation of Scotland, expressed surprise that authors should have neglected such a fascinating subject. The result was Stuart's great work, ‘Caledonia Romana’ (1845). Stuart died at Glasgow of cholera, after a few hours' illness, on 23 Dec. 1848. He was survived by a widow and family.

Stuart early contributed verses, in the manner of Byron, to his father's ‘Literary Rambler’ and his own ‘Scottish Monthly Magazine,’ which he issued for a year in 1836. He also wrote for Blackwood's and Tait's magazines. In 1834 he published ‘Ina and other Fragments in Verse,’ displaying respectable workmanship but little poetic distinction. The ‘Caledonia Romana: Roman Antiquities in Scotland,’ appeared in 1845. It is methodical and accurate, if a little diffuse. After an introductory and an historical chapter, Stuart devotes the third chapter to a careful consideration of the influence of the Romans in Scotland, and in the fourth he presents a minute account of the wall of Antoninus Pius. The second edition, furnished with good maps, illustrative plates, and a memoir by David Thomson, appeared in 1852. Stuart published in 1848 an interesting work, ‘Views and Notices of Glasgow in former Times.’

[Memoir prefixed to Caledonia Romana.]

T. B.