John Pinkerton Was Born At Edinburgh In February, 1758, And Died In
Paris In March, 1826, Aged Sixty-Eight.
He was the best classical
scholar at the Lanark grammar school; but his father, refusing to
send him to a university, bound him to Scottish law.
He had a
strong will, fortified in some respects by a weak judgment. He
wrote clever verse; at the age of twenty-two he went to London to
support himself by literature, began by publishing "Rimes" of his
own, and then Scottish Ballads, all issued as ancient, but of which
he afterwards admitted that fourteen out of the seventy-three were
wholly written by himself. John Pinkerton, whom Sir Walter Scott
described as "a man of considerable learning, and some severity as
well as acuteness of disposition," made clear conscience on the
matter in 1786, when he published two volumes of genuine old
Scottish Poems from the MS. collections of Sir Richard Maitland. He
had added to his credit as an antiquary by an Essay on Medals, and
then applied his studies to ancient Scottish History, producing
learned books, in which he bitterly abused the Celts. It was in
1802 that Pinkerton left England for Paris, where he supported
himself by indefatigable industry as a writer during the last
twenty-four years of his life. One of the most useful of his many
works was that General Collection of the best and most interesting
Voyages and Travels of the World, which appeared in seventeen quarto
volumes, with maps and engravings, in the years 1808-1814.
Pinkerton abridged and digested most of the travellers' records
given in this series, but always studied to retain the travellers'
own words, and his occasional comments have a value of their own.
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