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David Masson

Masson, David (1822–1907). Biographer and historian, born at Aberdeen, and ed. at Marischal College there and at Edinburgh, where he studied theology under Chalmers. He did not, however, enter the Church, but began a literary career by ed. a newspaper in Aberdeen. He then returned to Edinburgh, where he worked for the brothers Chambers, the eminent publishers, and where he became acquainted with Wilson, Sir William Hamilton, and Chalmers, for the last of whom he cherished an extraordinary veneration. Going to London in 1847 he wrote extensively in reviews, magazines, and encyclopædias. In 1852 he became Prof. of English Literature in University College, and in 1858 ed. of Macmillan’s Magazine. He was appointed in 1865 Prof. of English Literature in Edinburgh, where he exercised a profound influence on his students, many of whom have risen to high positions in literature. Though a most laborious student and man of letters, M. took a warm interest in various public questions, including Italian emancipation, and the higher education of women. He was the author of many important works, including Essays Biographical and Critical (1856), British Novelists (1859), and Recent British Philosophy (1865). His magnum opus is his monumental Life of John Milton (6 vols., 1859–80) the most complete biography of any Englishman, dealing as it does not only with the personal life of the poet, but with the history, political, social, and religious of his time. Other books are Drummond of Hawthornden (1873), De Quincey (in English Men of Letters Series) (1878), Edinburgh Sketches and Memories (1892), and Carlyle Personally and in his Writings. He also ed. the standard ed. of De Quincey’s works, and the Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, his introductions in connection with which are of great historical value. He was appointed Historiographer for Scotland in 1893. M. was full of learning guided by sagacity, genial, broad-minded, and sane in his judgments of men and things, and thoroughly honest and sincere.

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