CHALMERS, Alexander, M.A. F.S.A. - from Scottish Nation


"The Scottish Nation" - Chalmers, Alexander, M.A.,F.S.A.

The following extract was taken from "The Scottish Nation" (1874) by William Anderson. My thanks to Charles D. Chalmers for bringing the book to my attention.


"CHALMERS, ALEXANDER, M.A.,F.S.A., a biographical and miscellaneous writer, the youngest son of James Chalmers and Susanna Trail, daughter of the Rev. James Trail, minister at Montrose, was born at Aberdeen, March 29, 1759. His father was a printer at Aberdeen, of great classical attainments, who established the Aberdeen Journal, the first newspaper published in that city. Having received a classical and medical education, about 1777 he left his native city, and never returned to it. He had obtained the situation of surgeon in the West Indies, and had arrived at Portsmouth to join his ship, when he suddenly changed his mind, and proceeded to the metropolis, where hs soon became connected with the periodical press. His literary career commenced as editor of the Public Ledger and London Packet. He also contributed to the other popular journals of the day. In the St. James' Chronicle he wrote numersous essays, many of them under the signature of Senex. To the 'Morning Chronicle,' the property of is friend Mr. Perry, he for some years contributed paragraphs, epigrams, and satirical poems. He was also at one time editor of the 'Morning Herald.' Being early connected in business with Mr. George Robinson, the celebrated publisher in Paternoster Row, he assisted him in judging of manuscripts offered for sale, as well as occasionally fitting the same for publication. He was also a contributor to the 'Critical Review,' then published by Mr. Robinson, and to the 'Analytical Review,' published by Mr. Johnson.

In 1793 he published a continuation of the 'History of England,' in letters, 2 vols., which reached four editions, the fourth being published in 1821. His publications after this were numerous, and followed each other in constant succession. A list of them is subjoined. In 1805 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. Besides other works edited by him in previous years, in 1809 he edited Bolingbroke's Works, 8 vols. 8vo, and in this and subsequent years he contributed many of the lives to the magnificent volumes of the 'British Gallery of Contemporary Portraits,' published by Cadell and Davies. In 1811 he revised through the press Bishop Hurd's edition of Addison's Works, 6 vols., 8vo, and an edition of Pope's Works, 8 vols. 18mo. In the same year he republished, with corrections and alterations, a periodical paper, entitled 'The Projector,' 3 vols., 8vo, the essays contained in which were originally printed int he Gentleman's Magazine. He had previously written a periodical paper, called 'The Trifler,' in the Aberdeen Magazine; but the essays under that head were never separately printed. The work on which Mr. Chalmers' fame as an author chiefly rests is 'The General Biographical Dictionary.' The first four volumes of this work were published monthly, commencing May 1812, and then a volume every alternate month, to the thirty-second and last volume in March 1817, a period of four years and ten months of incessant labour, and of many personal privations, as is too commonly the fate of professional authors. In November 1816 he re-published 'The Lives of Dr. Edward Pocock, the celebrated orientalist, by Dr. Twells; of Dr. Zachary Pearce, Bishop of Rochester; and of Dr. Thomas Newton, Bishop of Bristol, by themselves; and of the Rev. Philip Skelton, by Mr. Burday,' in 2 vols. 8vo.

Mr. Chalmers was a valuable contributor to the Gentleman's Magazine, to which he was very partial, finding it of the greatest us in the compilation of his biographical works. Durintg the last few years of his life, he suffered much from illness. He died at London, December 10, 1834. He belonged to various literary clubs of the old school, of which he was nearly the last surviving member.

His works and editions are:

Continuation of the 'History of England,' in letters. 2 vols. London, 1793, 4th edition, 1821.

Glossary of Shakespeare. London, 1797.

A Sketch of the Isle of Wight. London, 1798.

An edition of the Rev. James Barclay's Complete and Universal English Dictionary. London, 1798.

The British Essayists, with Prefaces, Historical and Biographical, and a general Index. 45 vols. London, 1803. This series begins with the Tatler and ends with the Observer.

An edition of Shakespeare, 9 vols. 8vo, with an abridgement of the more copious notes of Steevens, and a life of the great dramatist. London, 1803. Reprinted in 1812, illustrated by plates from designs by Fuseli

A Life of Burns, prefrixed by his works. London, 1805.

A Life of Beattie, prefixed by his workd. London, 1805.

In 1806 he edited the follwoing works, namely, Editions of Fielding's works, 10 vols. 8vo; Dr. Johnson's works, 12 vols. 8vo; Warton's Essays; Bolingbroke's works, 8 vols., 8vo; The Tatler, Spectator, and Guardian, 14 vols. 8vo; and in 1807 he assisted the Rev. W. Lisle Bowles in the publication of Pope's works, 10 vols. 8vo.

An edition of Gibbon's History, with a Life of the Author, 12 vols., 8vo. London 1807.

Walker's Classics (so called from the name of the publisher), a collection, selected by Mr. Chalmers, with prefaces, 45 vols. London, 1808 and following years.

The works of the English poets from Chaucer to Cowper, an enlarged edition, including the series edited , with prefaces, biographical and critical, by Dr. Johnson, and by the most approved translations; the additional lives by Mr. Chalmers, 21 vols. royal 8vo. London, 1810.

A history of the Colleges, Halls, and Public Buildings attached to the University of Oxford, including the Lives of the Founders. London, 1810, 2 vols. 8vo.

A Life of Alexander Cruden, prefixed to the 6th edition of his Concordance. London, 1812.

General Biographical Dictionary, containg an Historical and Critical Account of the Lives and Writings of the most eminent Persons in every nation, particularly the British and Irish, from the earliest accounts to the present time. A new edtion revised and enlarged, 32 vols. London 1812-1817.

County Biography, 4 number. London, 1819.

A life of Dr. Paley, prefixed to his works. London 1819.

Dictionary of the English Language abridged from the Rev. H.J.Todd's enlarged edition of Dr. Johnson's Dictionary. 1 vol. 8vo. London, 1820.

Boswell's Life of Johnson, ninth edition, edited by Mr. Chalmers. London, 1822

A new edition of Shakespeare; also, another edition of Dr. Johnson's works. London, 1823.

Two papers in the Looker-on, by Mr. Alexander Chalmers, have erroneously been ascribed to his namesake Mr. George Chalmers, author of 'Caledonia'.


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