paris scotland appointed college tutor
BUCHANAN, GEORGE (1506-1582), a celebrated Scottish historian and scholar, was born in February 1506. His father, a younger son of an old family, was the possessor of the farm of Moss, in the parish of Killearn, Stirling shire, but he died at an early age, leaving his widow and children in poverty. George, the third son, is said to have attended Killearn school, but not much is known of his early education. In 1520 lie was sent by his uncle to the university of Paris, where he prosecuted his studies with great ardour, and especially trained himself in poetical composition. In 1522 his uncle died, and Buchanan being thus unable to continue longer in Paris, returned to Scotland. After recovering from a severe illness, he joined the French auxiliaries who had been brought over by the duke of Albany, and took part in an unsuccessful inroad into England. In the following year he entered the university of St Andrews, where he graduated as B.A. in 1525. He had gone there chiefly for the purpose of attending the celebrated John Major or Mair's lectures on logic ; and when that teacher removed to Paris Buchanan accompanied him. In 1527 he became B.A., and in 1528 M.A. at Paris. Next year he seems to have been appointed regent or professor in the college of Ste Barbe, and taught there for upwards of three years. In 1532 he became the friend and tutor of Gilbert Kennedy, earl of Cassilis, with whom he returned to Scotland about the beginning of 1537.
While residing at Paris Buchanan had been converted to the Protestant faith, and his first production in Scotland was the poem Somnium, attacking with keen satire the Franciscan friars and monastic life generally. This assault on the monks was not displeasing to James V., who engaged Buchanan as tutor to one of his natural sons, and encouraged him to a still more daring attack. Under these circumstances the Francisca/am was written, and it is not surprising that the author became an object of bitterest hatred to all of the Roman Catholic faith. Nor was it yet a safe matter to assail the church. In 1539 there was a bitter persecution of the Lutherans, and Buchanan among others was arrested. He managed to effect his escape, and with considerable difficulty made his way to London and thence to Paris. At Paris, however, he found his resolute enemy, Cardinal Beaton, and on the invitation of Andrew Govea, proceeded to Bordeaux. Govea was then principal of the newly-founded college of Guienne at Bordeaux, and by hii exertions Buchanan was appointed professor of Latin. During his residence there several of his best works, the translations of Medea and Alcestis, and his two great dramas Jephthes and Baptistes, were completed.
After three years he returned to Paris, and in 1544 was appointed regent in the college of Cardinal le Moine, a post he held till 1547. He then accepted Govea's invitation to a chair in the new Portuguese university of Coimbra, afterwards one of the most celebrated seats of learning in Europe. But he had not been long in Portugal when Govea's death exposed him to the unwearied persecution of the priests. Buchanan was several times examined by the officers of the Inquisition, and finally was confined to a monastery, where he was condemned to hear edifying lessons from the monks. During his imprisonment, which lasted several months, he began his famous version of the Psalms. On his release lie sailed for England, but soon made his way to Paris, where, in 1553, he was appointed regent in the College of Boncourt. He remained in that post for two years, and then accepted the office of tutor to the son of the Marshal de Brissac.
In 1560 or 1561 he returned to Scotland, and in April 1562 we find him installed as tutor to the young queen Mary, who was accustomed to read Livy with him daily. Buchanan now openly joined the Protestant or Reformed Church, and in 1566 was appointed by the earl of Murray principal of St Leonard's College, St Andrews. Two years before he had received from the queen the valuable gift of the revenue resulting from Crossraguel Abbey. He was thus in good circumstances, and his fame was steadily increasing. So great, indeed, was his reputation for learning and administrative capacity that, though a layman, he was made moderator of the General Assembly in 1567. He had sat in the Assemblies from 1563.
The part Buchanan took in the affairs of Queen Mary is well known. lie accompanied the Regent Murray into England, and his Detection (published in 1572) was produced to the commissioners at Westminster. In 1570, after the assassination of Murray, he was appointed one of the preceptors of the young king, and it was through his tuition that James acquired his great scholarship. Buchanan was a strict and severe master, and kept his pupil in salutary awe and obedience. James long remembered the feelings of dread with which he was accustomed to regard his formidable pedagogue.
While discharging the functions of royal tutor he also held other important offices. He was for a short time director of chancery, and then became lord privy seal, a post which entitled him to a seat in the Parliament. He appears to have continued in this office for some years, at least till 1579. He died on the 28th September 1582.
His last years had been occupied with two of his most important works. The first was the treatise De Jure Regni apud Scotos, published in 1579. In this famous work, composed in the form of a dialogue, and evidently intended to instil sound political principles into the mind of his pupil, Buchanan lays down the doctrine that the source of all political power is the people, that the king is bound by those conditions under which the supreme power was first committed to his hands, and that it is lawful to resist, even to punish, tyrants. A theory such as this was not likely to be palatable to James. The book was condemned in 1584, and again in 1664 ; while in 1683 it was burned by the loyal scholars of Orford.
The second of his large works was the history of Scotland, Berm Scoticarum Historia, completed shortly before his death and published in 1582. It is of great value for the period personally known to the author, which occupies the greater portion of the book. The earlier part is to a considerable extent based on the work of Bocce and repeats the legendary history which was for so long an article of faith to every Scotchman.
Buchanan is the greatest scholar that Scotland has produced. For mastery over the Latin language he has never been surpassed by any modern writer. His style is not rigidly modelled upon that of any classical author, but has a certain freshness and elasticity of its own. He wrote Latin as if it had been his mother tongue. But in addition to this perfect command over the instrument of expression, Buchanan had a rich vein of poetical feeling, and great powers of thought. His translations of the Psalms and of the Greek plays are more than mere versions ; they have a peculiar grace and felicity. The smaller satirical poems are masterpieces of wit and expressive language, while the two tragedies, Baptistes and Jephthes, are works whose merits have not perhaps been generally recognized.
There are two complete editions of Buchanan's works, one by Ruddiman, 2 vols. fo., 1715; the other by Burman, 2 vols. 4to, 1725. Ills life has been written by Dr Irving, Memoirs of the Life and IVritings of George Buchanan, 2d edition, 1817. The Jephthah and Baptist have been translated by A. Gibbs, 1870.