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Significant Scots
Alexander Ross

ROSS, ALEXANDER, a very voluminous writer, but remembered less for his numerous works, than for a celebrated couplet in Hudibras:--

"There was an ancient sage philosopher,
Who had read Alexander Ross over."

He was born in Aberdeen in the year 1590; but his parentage has not been ascertained, nor have the circumstances of his early life been recorded. He has been generally confounded with a contemporary of the same name, of whom some account will be found in the next memoir. At what time he quitted Scotland is unknown; but it is supposed that not long after his arrival in England, he was appointed master of the grammar school of Southampton, and chaplain to Charles I. These appointments were probably procured through the influence of Laud, archbishop of Canterbury, to whom he expresses his obligations in the dedication of his "Commentum de Terrae Motu Circulari Refutatum." This work appeared at London in 1634; and though professedly written against Lansbergius and Carpentarius, two advocates of the Copernican theory, contains, in fact, an epitome of all the arguments that have been adduced against that system. The Latinity is respectable, and the argument is managed with considerable skill. During the struggles of the great civil war, Ross espoused the royal cause, and his writings are filled with praises of the king, and denunciations of the parliament. It has been remarked by Echard, however, that he "so managed his affairs, that, in the midst of these storms, he died very rich, as appears from the several benefactions he made." His death took place early in 1654. We learn from the MSS. of Sir Robert Sibbald, that, by his will, dated 21st February, 1653, and probated 19th April, 1654, among numerous other benefactions, he left 200 to the town council of Aberdeen, for the foundation of two bursaries; 50 to the poor of Southampton; 50 to the poor of the parish of All-Saints; and 50 to the Bodleian library. There is scarcely a subject in the wide range of literature, on which Ross has not left a work. His first publication appears to have been poetical: "Rerum Judaicarum Libri Duo", London, 1617. To these he added a third book in 1619, and a fourth in 1632. The rarest of his poetical effusions bears no date, but is entitled. "Three Decads of Divine Meditations, whereof each one containeth three parts. 1. History. 2. An Allegory. 3. A Prayer. With a Commendation of a Private Country Life." This work has been priced so high as 8 8s. "Four Books of Epigrams in Latin Elegiacs," also appeared without a date; and in 1642 he published, "Mel Heliconium, or Poetical Honey gathered out of the Weeds of Parnassus. The first book is divided into vii chapters, according to the first vii letters of the alphabet, containing 48 fictions, out of which are extracted many historicall, naturall, morall, politicall, and theologicall observations, both delightful and useful; with 48 Meditations in Verse." But his most celebrated work in the department of poetry, is his "Virgilii Evangelisantis Christiados Libri xiii.," which was published at London in 1634, and again in 1638 and 1659. This is a cento from Virgil, giving a view of the leading features of sacred history, from the murder of Abel to the ascension of Christ. It excited considerable notice in its day, and was more lately brought before the public attention by Lauder, who accused Milton of having plagiarized it. Lauder says, that by many Ross’s Christiad is esteemed equal with the AEneid. The opening lines may serve as a specimen:--

"Acta, Deumque cano, coeli qul primus ab oris
Virginis in laetae gremium descendit et orbem
Terrarum invisit profugus, Chananaeque venit
Littora, multum Ille et terra jactatus et alto
In superum, saevi memorem Plutonis ob iram."

His chief works in the department of history, are, "Animadversions and Observations upon Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World, wherein his Mistakes are noted, and some doubtful Passages noted," London, 1653; and "The History of the World, the Second Part, in six books, being a Continuation of Sir Walter Raleigh’s," London, 1652. " This," says Granger, (3d edit. vol iii. p. 32,) is like a piece of bad Gothic tacked to a magnificent pile of Roman architecture, which serves to heighten the effect of it, while it exposes its own deficiency in strength and beauty." In 1652, was published, with a portrait of the author, "Pansebia, or View of all the Religions in the World, with the Lives of certain notorious Hereticks." Afterwards reprinted in 1672, 1675, 1683, &c. Ross entered into controversy with Hobbes, Sir Thomas Browne, Hervey, and Sir Kenelm Digby; and has left, among others, the following controversial writings: "Observations upon Hobbes’s Leviathan," 1653; "Arcana Microcosmi, or the Hid Secrets of Man’s Body discovered, in Anatomical Duel between Aristotle and Galen; with a Refutation of Thomas Browne’s Vulgar Errors, from Bacon’s Natural History, and Hervey’s book De Generatione," 1651; the "Philosophical Touchstone, or Observations on Sir Kenelm Digby’s Discourse on the Nature of Bodies and of the Reasonable Soul, and Spinosa’s Opinion of the Mortality of the Soul, briefly confuted," 1645. This does not exhaust the catalogue of Ross’s writings. Besides many ascribed to him on doubtful authority, there remain to be mentioned: "The New Planet, no Planet, or the Earth no Wandering Star, against Galilaeus and Copernicus," 1640; "Mystagogus Poeticus, or the Muses’ Interpreter," 1647, which went through six editions; "Enchiridium Oratorium et Poeticum," 1650 "Medicus Medicatus, or the Physician’s Religion cured," 1645; "Melisomachia;" "Colloquia Plautina;" "Chronology, in English;" "Chymera Pythagorica," no date; "Tonsor ad cutem Rasus," 1629; "Questions and Answers on the First Six Chapters of Genesis," 1620; "The Picture of the Conscience," 1646; "God’s House, or the House of Prayer, vindicated from Profaneness," 1642; "God’s House made a Den of Thieves," 1642. These two last pieces are sermons.

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