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William Aytoun

Aytoun, William Edmonstone (1813–1865). Poet and humorist, son of Roger A., a Writer to the Signet, was born in Edinburgh and ed. there, and was brought up to the law, which, however, as he said, he “followed but could never overtake.” He became a contributor to Blackwood’s Magazine in 1836, and continued his connection with it until his death. In it appeared most of his humorous prose pieces, such as The Glenmutchkin Railway, How I Became a Yeoman, and How I Stood for the Dreepdaily Burghs, all full of vigorous fun. In the same pages began to appear his chief poetical work, the Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers, and a novel, partly autobiographical, Norman Sinclair. Other works were The Bon Gaultier Ballads, jointly with Theodore Martin, and Firmilian, a Spasmodic Tragedy, under the nom-de-plume of T. Percy Jones, intended to satirise a group of poets and critics, including Gilfillan, Dobell, Bailey, and Alexander Smith. In 1845 A. obtained the Chair of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in Edinburgh University, which he filled with great success, raising the attendance from 30 to 150, and in 1852 he was appointed sheriff of Orkney and Shetland. He was married to a daughter of Professor Wilson (Christopher North).

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