Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Significant Scots
Robert Wallace

Robert Wallace was a Scottish writer who had a remarkably varied career as a classics teacher, minister, university professor, newspaper editor, barrister and finally a member of parliament. He was born on 24 June 1831 at Kincaple near St. Andrews, Fife, and was the second son of Jasper Wallace, a gardener, and Elizabeth Archibald. He was educated at the Geddes Institution, Culross, Fife, and at the University of St. Andrews where he graduated M.A. in 1853. He was awarded the degree of D.D. by Glasgow University in 1869. He married Margaret Robertson (died 1898) on 10 March 1858 and they had six sons and one daughter. While he was minister at Old Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh, he was involved in attempts to reform and modernise the Church of Scotland. As a result, his fitness to be a minister was questioned and presumably this controversy influenced his decision to leave the clerical profession. He died in London on 6 June 1899.

Robert Wallace, Life and Last Leaves
Edited by J. Campbell Smith and William Wallace (1903) (pdf)


Some years before his death my late brother arranged with the publishers of this volume to write a full account of his varied career under the title of “Recollections of a Chequered Life.” The fragment which, as “Reminiscences,” forms the first portion of the present work, will show how short a distance he had travelled towards the accomplishment of his design, and how great a loss the literature of autobiography has sustained by his death.

No attempt has been made here to continue the contemplated work. Such an attempt could only have met with disastrous failure. It is clear that my brother meant two things by his original design—to show the moral continuity and inevitableness of his “chequered” experiences, and (not being an egotist in the aggressive or self-conscious sense) to illustrate the general life of Scotland and his time, so far as that came within his knowledge, by means of these experiences. It is obvious that only he could have done this. But Sheriff Campbell Smith, who kindly undertook to write a sketch of his early years, elucidating and supplementing the “ Reminiscences,” has, as the oldest and most intimate friend among his surviving contemporaries, been able so far to follow the plan of the original work as to illustrate the university and religious life of Scotland by means of his career.

My part in this book, of the slightness of which I am painfully conscious, has been to let my brother speak for himself as a public writer and a politician, because it was in these two capacities that he spoke with a freedom and a power which—in his own opinion, at all events—he did not command as a minister of the Church of Scotland. As explained in the chapter on journalism, I have been prevented by considerations of space from giving the whole or even the best of his contributions to newspaper literature; and the same remark applies, though in a lesser degree, to the chapters on politics. Nevertheless the development of his life, as it was largely given up to thought and observation, may, it seems to me, be not inadequately traced in these portions of the book.

My brother did hot write many letters, at least of a biographical interest, to friends and contemporaries, and seems to have preserved very few of the letters he received. He was averse to unbosoming himself; besides, the struggle, if not for existence, certainly for the free development of life, left him no time for the cultivation of the epistolary art either as an amusement or as a relief.

The second part of this volume consists mainly of the more important of the lectures, which, in the latest years of his life, my brother delivered in various parts of the country. Though, in my opinion, they are as readable and as much works of art as anything he ever wrote, they cannot be regarded as essential to his life like his speeches or his leading articles. I have also included in this section two speeches he delivered on Burns, and some reminiscences by his and my friend, the Rev. Roderick Lawson. I have been pressed to publish his lectures as professor and some of his sermons, especially those he wrote as minister of Greyfriars Church. But I know from conversations with him that he did not desire any of these to be published, and that he certainly would not have published them had he lived. His wish, wherever I have been certain of it, has been law to me in connection with this book.

I have to thank the proprietors and editor of the Scotsman for granting me permission to quote from the articles contributed by my brother to that newspaper, and for enabling me to identify them without difficulty. My thanks are also due to the editors of various magazines for similar courtesies.

I have finally to express my gratitude to Mr. J. D. Cockburn, of Glasgow, for varied and valuable assistance.

Glasgow, June, 1903.

Download Robert Wallace, Life and Last Leaves here

Return to our Significant Scots page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus