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John Pinkerton

(1758—1826) historian and poet


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John Pinkerton was born in Edinburgh on 17 February 1758 and died in Paris on 10 March 1826. He attended school in Edinburgh from 1764 to 1770. He wished to study at Edinburgh University but was prevented from doing so by his father. He was later apprenticed to a solicitor and completed his apprenticeship in 1780, the same year his father died. Turning from law, he devoted himself to literature and promptly moved to London. Pinkerton published a number of volumes of poetry and prepared scholarly editions of Scottish ballads and folk songs. He also published some ballads for which he claimed ancient origins, but which he in fact wrote himself. Included in the Select Scotish Ballads of 1783 [Pinkerton consistently spelled ‘Scotish’ with one ‘t’] were two excursions into literary aesthetics, on the oral tradition of poetry and on the tragic ballad. In 1785 he published, under the pseudonym Robert Heron (Heron was his mother's maiden name), his Letters of Literature, an entertaining and thoughtful work. His literary scholarship continued to improve, and his Ancient Scotish Poems of 1786 is a useful work. After his marriage in 1793 to Elizabeth Burgees, he continued to pursue his career as antiquary, poet and literary historian, producing a large variety of works, none of them less than competent. At some stage in the latter part of the 1790s, he and his wife separated. He moved to Paris in 1815 or 1816.

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From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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