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John Campbell Shairp (1819-85) - Poet

He was born on 30th July 1819 at Houston House, West Lothian, Scotland, the son of an army officer. He was educated privately and at Edinburgh Academy, and in 1836 he matriculated at the University of Glasgow where he studied classics. In April 1840 Shairp won the Snell Exhibition to Balliol College, Oxford, where he remained until 1845, having won the Newdigate Prize for Poetry in 1842. Between 1846 and 1856 he taught at Rugby School, but he returned to Scotland in 1857 to take up the Chair of Latin at the University of St Andrews, becoming Principal of United College in 1868. As a teacher Shairp was a supporter of the move towards specialization in the Scottish universities. His last public appointment was as Professor of Poetry at Oxford, a post he held until his death on 18 September 1885. Early in his career Shairp became interested in the Lake poets and their influence can be felt in his one collection of poems, Kilmahoe and Other Poems (1864). His critical essays were published in Studies in Poetry and Philosophy (1868) and his Oxford poetry lectures in Assets of Poetry (1881). In this day, Principal Shairp, as he liked to be known, was a well-known and attractive literary figure and while at Oxford he was close to Matthew Arnold (1822-88) and Cardinal Newman (1801-90). But many remember him only for his priggish attack on Robert Burns in his study of the poet published in 1879 and for his
often anthologized poem 'The Bush Abune Traquair'.

Works: Charles the Twelfth (1848); The Wants of the Scottish Universities and Some Remedies (1856); Uses of the Study of Latin Literature (1857); Kilmahoe and Other Poems (1864); John Keble (1866); Studies in Poetry and Philosophy (1868); Culture and Religion (1870); ed.. Life and Letters of James David Forbes (1873); On Poetic Interpretation of Nature (1877); Robert Bums (1879); Aspects of Poetry (1881).

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