Vedder, David (DNB00)

VEDDER, DAVID (1790–1854), Scottish poet, son of a small proprietor, was born in the parish of Deerness, near Kirkwall, Orkney, in 1790. Receiving little or no education, and being ‘pretty well grown before he could read or write’ (Grant Wilson, Poet and Poetry of Scotland), he at length read extensively, and seems ultimately to have and seems ultimately to have mastered French, Italian, and German. Early left an orphan, he went to sea, and when twenty-two became captain of a Greenland whaler, which he commanded for several years. In 1815 he was appointed first officer of an armed cruiser, and in 1820 became a tide-surveyor, officiating successively at Montrose, Kirkcaldy, Dundee, and Leith. Retiring on a pension in 1852, he died at Newington, Edinburgh, on 11 Feb. 1854, and was buried in the Grange cemetery, Edinburgh. Vedder was survived by his widow, by a son in the royal navy, and by two daughters, one of whom was married to Frederick Schenck, a well-known Edinburgh lithographer.

Vedder wrote and translated verse from a comparatively early age. In 1828 he published ‘The Covenanters' Communion, and other Poems,’ the title-piece comprising fifty-seven vigorous and opinionative Spenserian stanzas, and several of the lyrics being well turned and vivacious. In 1832 appeared ‘Orcadian Sketches,’ a prose and verse miscellany, largely representing the results of direct observation and disciplined experience. In 1830 De Quincey and others supported Vedder's ‘Edinburgh Literary Gazette,’ in opposition to the ‘Edinburgh Literary Journal’ of Henry Glassford Bell [q. v.] In 1832 he published a very popular memoir of Scott, freely compiled from Jeffrey's ‘Essays’ and other sources. He edited in 1839 ‘Poetical Remains of Robert Fraser,’ a Kirkcaldy poet, and in 1842 issued a collected edition of his own ‘Poems, Legendary, Lyrical, and Descriptive,’ illustrated by Walter Geikie, the distinguished delineator of Scottish character. With lyric movement usually correct and fluent, Vedder commands at once a certain frank humour, and a pathos unfeigned and manly. His scripture transcripts are marked by grace and reserve. His lyric, ‘The Temple of Nature,’ was a favourite with Dr. Chalmers, who frequently recited it to his students (Gilfillan, Prefatory Memoir to Poems, Lyrics, and Sketches, p. xxii). Vedder collaborated with Frederick Schenck in ‘The Pictorial Gift-Book of Lays and Lithography,’ 1842. In 1852 he published, in one volume quarto, his ‘Story of Reynard the Fox; new version, illustrated by Gustav Canton of Munich.’ With lithographs by Schenck and MacFarlane, this was considered on its appearance ‘the best edition of this famous story yet presented in England’ (London Literary Gazette, 1852, p. 789). Vedder contributed letterpress to Geikie's ‘Etchings,’ and he is represented in the supplementary volume of George Thomson's ‘Scottish Melodies,’ in Blackie's ‘Book of Scottish Song’ (1844), and ‘Whistle-Binkie’ (1853). He wrote for the ‘Edinburgh Literary Journal,’ Constable's ‘Edinburgh Magazine,’ the ‘Christian Herald,’ ‘Tait's Magazine,’ and ‘Chambers's Journal.’ George Gilfillan edited, with memoir, a posthumous undated volume of Vedder's ‘Poems, Lyrics, and Sketches’ (1878?).

[United Presbyterian Mag. 1854; Gilfillan's Memoir; Rogers's Modern Scottish Minstrel.]

T. B.