Monday, January 18, 2010

Sir John Pringle

The January 16 post covered the Treaty of Union in 1707.  Approximately three months after ratification, John Pringle was born (April 10, 1707).  Pringle was the son of 2nd Baronet John Pringle, a neighbor and friend of James Boswell's father, Lord Auchinlech.

Boswell's companion, Dr. Samuel Johnson, does not seem to have met the Pringles, but Boswell related to Johnson an account of a conversation he had with Captain James Cook at a dinner at Sir John Pringle's:

"I gave him [Johnson] an account of a conversation which had passed between me and Captain Cook, the day before, at dinner at Sir John Pringle's; and he was much pleased with the conscientious accuracy of that celebrated circumnavigator, who set me right as to many of the exaggerated accounts given by Dr Hawkesworth of his Voyages. I told him that while I was with the Captain, I catched the enthusiasm of curiosity and adventure, and felt a strong inclination to go with him on his next voyage.

JOHNSON 'Why, Sir, a man does feel so, till he considers how very little he can learn from such voyages.'

BOSWELL 'But one is carried away with the general grand and indistinct notion of A VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD.'

JOHNSON 'Yes, Sir, but a man is to guard himself against taking a thing in general.'

I said I was certain that a great part of what we are told by the travellers to the South Sea must be conjecture, because they had not enough of the language of those countries to understand so much as they have related. Objects falling under the observation of the senses might be clearly known; but everything intellectual, everything abstract - politicks, morals and religion, must be darkly guessed. Dr Johnson was of the same opinion." (see

Walter Scott had come across this Border family as well.  In the interconnectedness of the Borderlands, one of Sir John Pringle's ancestors, John Fear, married Margaret Scott of Buccleugh.  More directly to Scott's work, John Pringle became the personal physician to John Dalrymple, the 2nd Earl of Stair in 1742 (The 1st Earl of Stair was covered in an earlier post), on his way to a career as a military physician.   The Earl married one Eleanor, widow of Viscount Primrose, who may have inspired Scott's 'My Aunt's Margaret's Mirror" (see Dorothea Waley Singer's Sir John Pringle and his circle - Part I Life

Sir John Pringle died on January 18, 1782.

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