Watson, David (1710-1756) (DNB00)

WATSON, DAVID (1710–1756), translator of Horace, is believed to have been born in Brechin, Forfarshire, in 1710. He is said to have studied at St. Leonard's College, St. Andrews, and the title-pages of his books describe him as A.M. of that college; but the university records from 1720 onwards do not contain his name either as student or graduate. Nor is there any official evidence of the popular statements that Watson was ‘professor of philosophy’ in St. Leonard's and lost his chair in 1747, when the colleges of St. Leonard's and St. Salvator's were united. The professors of both colleges in 1747 seem to be accounted for, and not one of them is named Watson. Whatever he was, and howsoever educated, there is no doubt of his scholarship, and a practically contemporary manuscript note, inscribed on the copy of his Horace in St. Andrews University library, seems to leave as little uncertainty regarding his reputed dissipation. He ended his career in the neighbourhood of London in 1756, and his melancholy record closes with the tradition that he was buried at the expense of the parish in which he died.

Watson published in 1741, in two volumes octavo, the ‘Works of Horace translated into English Prose, with the original Latin,’ &c.; 2nd edit. 1747; 3rd edit. 1750. This is a monument of scholarship and literary skill, not only giving a critical text and a specially attractive version, but embodying Douglas's catalogue of nearly five hundred editions of Horace, and Bentley's various readings. Its popularity was instantaneous, although scholars protested against the presentation of Horace in prose (Nichols, Literary Anecdotes, i. 151 n.) Revised editions were prepared by Samuel Patrick, 1760, and William Crackelt, 1792. Watson also published in 1752 ‘A Clear and Compendious History of the Gods and Goddesses and their Contemporaries,’ which reached a second edition in 1753.

[Anderson's Scottish Nation; Irving's Eminent Scotsmen; information from Mr. J. Maitland Anderson, university librarian, St. Andrews; Allibone's Dict. of English Authors; Lowndes's Bibliographer's Manual, s.v. ‘Horatius.’]

T. B.