Online Encyclopedia

WILLIAM STEWART (c. 1480-c. 1550)

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Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 914 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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WILLIAM STEWART (c. 1480-c. 1550), Scottish poet and translator, descendant of one of the illegitimate sons of Alexander Stewart, earl of Buchan, the " Wolf of Badenoch," was a member of the university of St Andrews. He was in orders, and a hanger-on at the court of James V. The last entry of the payment of a pension of £40 appears in the accounts of 1541. He was known as a poet in his own day: Lyndsay and Rolland refer to him. Portions of his minor verse are preserved in the Bannatyne and Maitland Folio MSS. His chief work is a metrical translation of Hector Boece's History, in obedience to the command of James V., who entrusted Bellenden with its translation into Scots prose. Stewart's version remained in MS. till 1858, when it was edited by W. Turnbull for the " Rolls Series (3 vols.). The MS. is now in the library of the university of Cambridge. Ethical, and Political Philosophy since the Revival of Letters." In 1822 he was struck with paralysis, but recovered a fair degree of health, sufficient to enable him to resume his studies. In 1827 he published the third volume of the Elements, and in 1828, a few weeks before his death, The Philosophy of the Active and Moral Powers. He died in Edinburgh on the 11th of June 1828. A monument to his memory was erected on Calton Hill. Stewart's philosophical views are mainly the reproduction of his master Reid (for his ethical views see ETHICS). He upheld Reid's psychological method and expounded the " common-sense" doctrine, which was attacked by the two Mills. Unconsciously, however, he fell away from the pure Scottish tradition and made concessions both to moderate empiricism and to the French ideologists (Laromiguiere, Cabanis and Destutt de Tracy). It is important to notice the energy of his declaration against the argument of ontology, and also against Condillac's sensationalism. Kant, he confessed, he could not understand. Perhaps his most valuable and original work is his theory of taste in the Philosophical Essays. But his reputation rests rather on his inspiring eloquence and the beauty of his style than on original work. Stewart's works were edited in 11 vols. (1854—1858) by Sir William Hamilton and completed with a memoir by John Veitch. Matthew Stewart (his eldest son) wrote a life in Annual Biography and Obituary (1829), republished privately in 1838. For his philosophy see McCosh, Scottish Philosophy (1875), pp. 162—173; A. Bain, Mental Science, pp. 208, 313 and app. 29, 65, 88, 89; Moral Science, pp. 639 seq.; Sir L. Stephen, English Thought in the XVIIIth Century.
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