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LIFE AND WRITINGS
THOMAS REID, D. D. F. R. S.
From Dr. Reid's Birth till the Date of his latest Publication.
The life of which I am now to present to the Royal Society a short account, although it fixes an era in the history of modern philosophy, was uncommonly barren of those incidents which furnish materials for biography ; strenuously devoted to truth, to virtue, and to the best interests of mankind; but spent in the obscurity of a learned retirement, remote from the pursuits of ambition, and with little solicitude about literary fame. After the agitation, however, of the political convulsions which Europe has witnessed for a course of years, the simple record of such a life may derive an interest even from its uniformity; and, when contrasted with the events of the passing scene, may lead the thoughts to some views of human nature, on which it is not ungrateful to repose.
Thomas Reid, D.D. late professor of Moral Philosophy in the university of Glasgow, was born on the 26th of April, 1710, at Strachan in Kincardineshire, a country parish situated about twenty miles from Aberdeen, on the north side of the Grampian mountains.
His father, the Reverend Lewis Reid, was minister of this parish for fifty years. He was a clergyman, according to his son's account of him, respected by all who knew him, for his piety, prudence, and benevolence; inheriting from his ancestors, most of whom, from the time of the protestant establishment, had been ministers of the church of Scotland, that purity and simplicity of manners which became his station; and a love of letters, which, without attracting the notice of the world, amused his leisure, and dignified his retirement.
For some generations before his time, a propensity to literature, and to the learned professions; a propensity which, when it has once become characteristical of a race, is peculiarly apt to be propagated by the influence of early associations and habits, may be traced in several individuals among his kindred. One of his ancestors, James Reid, was the first minister of Banchory-Ternan after the Reformation; and transmitted to four sons a predilection for those studious habits which formed his own happiness. He was himself a younger son of Mr. Reid of Pitfoddels, a gentleman of a very ancient and respectable family in the county of Aberdeen.
James Reid was succeeded as minister of Banchory by his son Robert. Another son, Thomas, rose to considerable distinction both as a philosopher and a poet; and seems to have wanted neither ability nor inclination to turn his attainments to the best advantage. After travelling over Europe, and maintaining, as was the custom of his age, public disputations in several universities, he collected into a volume, the theses and dissertations which had been the subjects of his literary contests; and also published some Latin poems, which may be found in the collection entitled, “Deliciæ Poëtarum Scotorum. On his return to his native country, he fixed his residence in London, where he was appointed secreretary in the Greek and Latin tongues to king James I. of England, and lived in habits of intimacy with some of the most distinguished characters of that period. Little more, I believe, is known of Thomas Reid's history, excepting that he bequeathed to the Marischal college of Aberdeen, a curious collection of