William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585-1649)

William Drummond of Hawthornden (1585-1649)

Poet and pamphleteer

William Drummond was born at the family seat of Hawthornden Castle, near Roslin in Midlothian. He studied at Edinburgh, Bourges and Paris before returning to become laird of Hawthornden on the death of his father, a courtier of James VI, in 1609. After the sudden death of his fiancee, he turned to the study of European poetry and literature. He wrote poetry including 'Teares on the Death of Meliades', written following the early death of Prince Henry. Other works include 'Forth Feasting', 'Flowers of Zion' and 'A Cypress Grove', a prose contemplation of mortality. He received a visit from the English metaphysical poet, Ben Jonson, in 1618, and the latter kept a detailed account of their meeting. Before his death he gave most of his considerable library to his first university at Edinburgh. It includes early prints of Shakespeare, Jonson and Spencer. He was a reluctant signatory to the National Covenant in 1638 and his lands avoided destruction due to his acquaintance with the marquis of Montrose. The news of the execution of Charles I is believed to have hastened his own death.

Testament of William Drummond of Hawthornden

National Records of Scotland, CC8/8/67 pp.321-323

In his will William provides for the children of his lover, as well as those of his wife, Elizabeth Logan of Restalrig. The language of the document reveals a poetic bent as well as an almost tangible fear of his approaching death.

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