Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wedderburn, David

WEDDERBURN, DAVID (1580–1646), Latin poet, was baptised in Aberdeen on 2 Jan. 1579–80 (Aberdeen Parish Register). He was the eldest son of William Wedderburn, burgess of Aberdeen, and Marjorie Annand, and was educated at Marischal College. In 1602 he was appointed master of the grammar school of Aberdeen, in conjunction with Thomas Reid (d. 1624) [q. v.]; but in the following year he resigned his office, with the intention of becoming a minister. This purpose was abandoned, however, and in 1603 he was reinstated. In 1614 Gilbert Gray, principal of Marischal College, died, and Wedderburn was appointed to teach the class in that college which had been under Gray's charge. On 6 Feb. 1620 Wedderburn was made poet-laureate of Aberdeen, receiving a salary of eighty merks yearly from the town council, for which he undertook to teach a weekly lesson of humanity in the college, and ‘to compose in Latin, both prose and verse, whatever purpose or theme concerning the common affairs of the burgh, either at home or afield, that he shall be required by any of the magistrates or clerks.’ From a passage in the ‘Diary of Alexander Jaffray’ (3rd edit. p. 42) it appears that Wedderburn continued in his place as master of the grammar school along with the professorial charge in the college. But in 1624 the town council ordered him to resign his class in the college, and to confine his attention to the grammar school. In 1628 he obtained an assistant in the grammar school, and in the following year his stipend was increased by eighty merks (Records of Burgh of Aberdeen, 1625–42, pp. 19, 20, Burgh Records Soc. edit.) On 14 Aug. 1620 he had been admitted a burgess of Aberdeen ‘in right of his father,’ but on 20 May 1632 he was made an honorary burgess of Dundee in recognition of his learning and skill ‘in erudiendo juventutem.’ In 1630 he completed a new grammar for the use of young scholars, for which he received the reward of a hundred lib. Scots from the town council of Aberdeen. He was sent specially to Edinburgh that the license of the privy council might be obtained for the printing of this work. The register of the privy council contains several entries in regard to this book in 1630–2, and the matter came before parliament in June 1633, when he presented a petition that his ‘short and facile grammar’ might be the only one taught in the schools of this country (Wedderburn Book, vol. ii.; Acts of Parl. of Scot.) The infirmities of age compelled Wedderburn to resign his office as master of the grammar school in 1640. His death took place either in February or October 1646, and he was buried ‘gratis’ in the church of St. Nicholas, Aberdeen. He was twice married: in April 1611 to Janet Johnstone, by whom he had issue one son; and in October 1614 to Bathia Mowat, by whom he had two sons and five daughters.

When James VI visited Scotland in 1617 Wedderburn was engaged by the town council of Aberdeen to write a Latin welcome, and the two poems which he composed—‘Syneuphranterion in Reditu Regis’ and ‘Propempticon Caritatum Abredonensium’—were afterwards published in Sir John Scot's ‘Delitiæ Poetarum Scotorum.’ These are usually referred to as Wedderburn's first publications; but in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, there is a copy of a Latin poem on the death of Prince Henry, also included in the ‘Delitiæ,’ which was printed by Andro Hart in 1613, under the title ‘In Obitu summæ Spei Principis Henrici, Jacobi VI Regis filii primogeniti, Lessus,’ by ‘David Wedderburnus, Scholæ Abredonensis Moderator.’ In 1625 he wrote a Latin poem on the death of James VI, which was printed by Edward Raban [q. v.] of Aberdeen, with the title ‘Abredonia atrata sub Obitum serenissimi et potentissimi Monarchæ Jacobi VI,’ a work now very scarce. One of his most esteemed friends was Arthur Johnston [q. v.], who wrote one of his finest Latin poems on Wedderburn, to which he replied in a similar strain. When Johnston died in 1641, Wedderburn published six Latin elegies upon his friend, under the title ‘Sub Obitum Viri clarissimi et carissimi D. Arturi Johnstoni, Medici regii, Davidis Wedderburni Suspiria.’ These poems were included in Lauder's ‘Poetarum Scotorum Musæ sacræ,’ published in 1731. In 1643 Wedderburn published at Aberdeen ‘Meditationum campestrium, seu Epigrammatum moralium, Centuriæ duæ;’ and in 1644 he issued a similar work, ‘Centuria tertia,’ which also was printed by Edward Raban. Another of his elegiac compositions was his contribution to the ‘Funerals,’ or memorial verses on Patrick Forbes of Corse, bishop of Aberdeen, published in 1635. The council records of Aberdeen contain many entries of payments made to Wedderburn for poems and on account of his grammar. Wedderburn was reckoned one of the foremost latinists of his day. Eight of his Latin poems are included in Scot's ‘Delitiæ Poetarum Scotorum.’ Besides those poems mentioned above, there are an elegy, epitaph, and apotheosis of Professor Duncan Liddel of Aberdeen, and an ode to Calliope.

Wedderburn's next brother, Alexander Wedderburn (1581–1650?), Latin scholar, was baptised at Aberdeen on 3 Sept. 1581. He was admitted as a bursar of Marischal College on 29 Jan. 1623, on the petition of his two brothers, William and David, ‘being presentlie in England in a pedagogie.’ Little is known regarding him, save that he prepared for publication an edition entitled ‘Persius enucleatus, sive Commentarius exactissimus et maxime perspicuus in Persium, Poetarum omnium difficillimum,’ for which his brother David had left notes. This work was published at Amsterdam in 1664, after the death of Alexander. The date of his decease is not recorded, but it was about 1650 (The Wedderburn Book, i. 477).

Another of Wedderburn's brothers, William Wedderburn (1582?–1660), Scotch divine, was born in 1582 or 1584, but the loss of the Aberdeen parish register for the period leaves the exact date unknown. He was doctor of the grammar school of Aberdeen in 1616–17, and afterwards became one of the regents of Marischal College. On 25 Oct. 1623 he was enrolled as burgess of Aberdeen, in right of his father. In 1633 he was admitted minister of Bethelnay, Old Meldrum, Aberdeenshire, and was presented to the charge by Charles I in June 1636. His name appears in the list of assemblies of 1638–9. In 1642 he was deposed for fornication, but the sentence was rescinded in the following year, and he was recommended for a vacant place. It appears that he was again censured, as in November 1648 his status as a minister was restored. In 1651 he was admitted minister of Innernochtie or Strathdon, and was in that charge in April 1659; but as the parish was vacant in April 1660, he probably died in the interim. He was twice married: first, in June 1624, to Margaret Tulliedeph, and secondly, in November 1649, to Agnes Howisone. It is supposed that some of the Wedderburns in Old Meldrum were his descendants. No literary works by him have been identified. In Maidment's ‘Catalogue of Scotish Writers,’ the ‘Meditationum Campestrium’ written by David Wedderburn is wrongly ascribed to William (Scott, Fasti, iii. 563, 592).

[The Wedderburn Book (privately printed 1898), i. 477–8; Anderson's Records of Marischal College, passim; Collections for Hist. of Aberdeen and Banff (Spalding Club); Extracts from Council Register of Aberdeen, 1570–1625 (Spalding Club); Misc. of Spalding Club, vol. v.; Cat. of the Advocates' Library, 1776; Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen; Millar's Roll of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee; manuscript Aberdeen Parish Register.]

A. H. M.