Alexander Gordon (Clerk of His Majesty’s Council) and James Glen (Royal Governor of South Carolina) Arrive in the New World!

“Always remember to explore all the books 2 feet to the left and 2 feet to the right.  Those books will be in the same classification scheme, and we might find our answer in one of them.” —Sally Hambrick, Library of Congress

You may recall that when I was guest speaker at The Charleston Library Society on August 8, 2013, I called my presentation “Solving Colonial Charleston’s Biggest Literary Mystery.”  The title said it all:  I was there to share my work on the pseudonymous “Humourist” essays that had appeared initially in The South Carolina Gazette (1753-1754, now published and made available here, in my Blog, for the first time since then) and to announce the author—the man– who up until then had been Colonial Charleston’s biggest literary mystery.

I confess:  I was thrilled to disclose that I had solved Colonial Charleston’s biggest literary mystery—that I had discovered the author of these important and unique American essays: Colonial Charlestonian, Alexander Gordon, Esq., Clerk of His Majesty’s Council.

Aside from the joy of solving the mystery, I noted in the presentation two other joys that I believe all researchers share.

The first joy relates to something that I have done throughout this authorship study:  giving the essays what is called a “close-reading.”  This is an ancient method, going all the way back to Roman literary critic Quintilian.  The Humourist himself would be delighted because he, too, was familiar with Quintilian, quoted him on at least one occasion, and knew the value of paying attention to language and all of its details!  That’s what I’ve been doing all along the way:  paying attention to details—cataloging them, if you will, and cross referencing them to establish patterns.

The second joy relates to a lesson taught me by Sally Hambrick—librarian, mentor, friend—when I first started working at the Library of Congress.  Sally and I were both editors of The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints, and our task sometimes involved trying to establish authorship for works that appeared under titles only or that appeared under pseudonyms.  Our research often took us into the library stacks.  When we found the book that we were looking for, Sally would look at me and say, “Always remember to explore all the books 2 feet to the left and 2 feet to the right.  Those books will be in the same classification scheme, and we might find our answer in one of them.”  We looked, and, without fail, we found answers!

It was from that research perspective that I kept exploring The South Carolina Gazette—beyond April 9, 1754, when The Humourist announced that he would never more (either under this or any other Title, or on any Pretence, or on any Occasion whatsoever) enter the Lists of Authorism in this Province.”  I kept looking two feet to the left and two feet to the right, if you will.

It was through that process of looking—of exploring—that I discovered an obituary that made me sit up and take notice.  It was through that process of exploring—of believing that if I kept looking I would find something—that I hit pay dirt.  All of the clues—all the patterns—that I had found in “The Humourist” essays lined up perfectly with everything that I was to find out about the ingenious Alexander Gordon, Esq., Clerk of His Majesty’s Council,  whose obituary I had stumbled upon.

I have continued my research on Alexander Gordon, and I have continued to focus on those two approaches:  giving all of the background sources that I am exploring a “close reading” and looking two feet to the left and two feet to the right when conducting my research.

I have been transported (via the Internet) past place and past time, using digitized versions of The South Carolina Gazette as well as digitized versions of some eighteenth century newspapers published in Scotland and England.  As I noted last fall, I’m pursuing the Scotland/England angle because as I started to find information in The South Carolina Gazette about Alexander Gordon and his patron, James Glen (Governor of South Carolina, 1738-1756), I started wondering what kind of press coverage the two of them might have received “at home” as they started their journey to the New World.

We saw part of the press coverage in my posts “Alexander Gordon: Favoured by British Royalty” and in “Alexander Gordon: Sheltered in High Places.”

Today, I will share highlights of the press coverage that I have uncovered in those “musty old newspapers” as Alexander Gordon and James Glen made their way to the New World—to Colonial Charleston, South Carolina. (Their journeys are intertwined, obviously, since Gordon served as Secretary to Governor Glen and since Gordon served as Clerk of His Majesty’s Council during most of the time that Glen served as Governor.)

Let me hasten to add, at this point, that my literary study of “The Humourist” essays and of Alexander Gordon does not require me to go this slow, tedious research route at all.  To be certain I could get Governor Glen and Alexander Gordon to America ever so quickly simply by relying on official documents, simply by relying on what is known already, simply by relying on facts.

I could share with you, for example, the fact that James Glen was appointed Royal Governor of South Carolina in 1738, but he negotiated the terms of the appointment for the next five years and did not arrive in Charleston until 1743.

Or, I could share with you the fact that on June 13, 1740, Alexander Gordon was appointed to be John Hammerton’s deputy “to hold, execute and exercise the office of Clerk of his Majesty’s honorable Council in the said Province of So. Carolina, and, in my place and stead to be present at all Meetings of the Governor and Council of the said Province, when met in Council and of the said Council when met in General Assembly, & to keep exact Registers or Journals of all their Proceedings, Acts & Orders.”

To be certain, those facts are important ones, but they are not nearly as interesting as the information—and, indeed, sometimes misinformation—that I discovered in my ramblings through the musty old newspapers of the period!

The September 16, 1738 Newcastle Courant, for example, announced—somewhat erroneously—Governor Glen’s appointment:

We hear that his Majesty has been pleased to appoint Capt. Alexander Glynn, a native of North Britain, to be Governor of South Carolina, in the Room of Col. Samuel Horsey, deceased.

News traveled slowly to the colonies, and it was not until April 26, 1739, that The South Carolina Gazette announced the new governor, including the incorrect first name and the misspelled last name!

Charles-Town, April 12

By Capt. John Gerald who arrived here this Week from London, we hear, that on or about the Twenty-fifth Day of December last, Capt. Alexander Glynn kissed his Majesty’s Hand on his being appointed Governour of this Province in the Room of the late Coll. Samuel Horsey deceased.

Several weeks later—May 12, 1739The South Carolina Gazette ran a correction:  “In a late Article relating to a new Governor we inserted my Mistake Capt. Alex Glynn for James Glen Esq; which Error the Reader is desired to correct.”

In the meantime, Alexander Gordon was beginning to enter the picture and the press in terms of his own appointment.  Interestingly enough, the press included some misinformation in its announcement as well by placing Gordon in North Carolina rather than in South Carolina:

Mr. Gordon has resigned the Place of Secretary to the Society for Encouragement of Learning, he being appointed one of his Majesty’s Council in North Carolina. ‘Tis thought he will be succeeded by Dr. Mortimer, F.R.S. etc.  (Caledonian Mercury, March 13, 1739)

(With an annual salary of £50, Gordon had been appointed secretary to the Society in 1736.  The Society’s goal was to work for and support authors who were finding difficulties with book publishers in getting their books published.)

The next mention of Gordon appears in the February 12, 1741Caledonian Mercury, where his name appears in a list of those who learned shorthand under the direction of Thomas Cumming from London:

Thomas Cumming from London, at the Hand and Pen, opposite the Cross, Southside of the Street, Edinburgh, Continues to teach the excellent and useful Art of Stenography, in the most easy and expeditious Method; by which any who tolerably write Long-hand may be taught to take down from the Speaker’s Mouth any Sermon, Lecture, Speech, Trial, etc.

We whose Names are under written having been taught by Mr. Cumming in his New Method of Short Hand, Do in Justice to him, Attest That his Method may be learned in the Time he advertiseth and that by an ordinary Capacity, viz. in one Week at the rate of two Hours every Day. And that it is also our Opinion, they may, by a little Practice, arrive at a great Perfection in the Science.

Lord Napier.
Charles Hope-Weir of Craigiehall.
James Geddes of Kirkurd, Advocate.
William Kirkpatrick, One of the Principal Clerks of Session.
Robert Pringle, Advocate.
James Home, Writer to the Signet.
John Sinclair, Writer in Edinburgh.
James Armour junior, Student in Physick in the College of Edinburgh.
Robert Clark, Son to John Clark, M.D.
Hobel Smith junior.
Alex Fairlie of Fairlie.
Alex. Gordon, Writer in Edinburgh.
John Erskine of Balgouny junior, Advocate.
John Erskine, Baillie of Alloa.
James Erskine, Sone to the King’s Advocate.
Capt. Thomas Hillary.

Obviously, by learning shorthand, Gordon felt that he was readying himself to serve as Secretary to Governor Glen and to serve as Clerk of His Majesty’s Council.

Public notice of Gordon’s appointment to serve as Secretary to Governor Glen came on  July 1, 1741.  Under “Preferments,” The Scots Magazine listed, “Mr. Gordon, Secretary to James Glen., Esq; Governor of South Carolina.”

The South Carolina Gazette picked up on the news in a Supplement to its November 7, 1741, paper:

London, July 28.  Mr. Gordon is appointed Secretary to James Glenn [sic], Esq; Governor of South-Carolina.

As of this post, I have not been able to determine the exact date that Alexander Gordon arrived in Charleston.

Some accounts suggest that Alexander Gordon and James Glen set sail to the New World together, but that cannot be the case, since, as we will see, Governor Glen did not arrive in South Carolina until December 1743.

Gordon, on the other hand, had established residence in Charleston at least as early as 1742 and was serving as Clerk of His Majesty’s Council.  On March 20, 1742, The South Carolina Gazette printed a notice authorized by Gordon as Clerk of the Council:

Notice is hereby given that a new Magazine is to be built in the same Manner, but one 5th larger than the present Magazine near St. Philip’s Church.  Any Person or Persons who are willing to undertake the same are desired to give in their Proposals to the Clerk of his Majesty’s Council, on or before the first Tuesday in April next.

Alexander Gordon, C.C.

N.B. I shall receive Proposals at my House next Door to Mr. Alexander Smith’s the Upper End of Tradd street.

Throughout the remainder of 1742, various Council documents appear in The South Carolina Gazette certified by Alex. Gordon, Clerk of Council.

Eventually, Alexander Gordon’s patron—the new Royal Governor of South Carolina—reached Charleston on December 17, 1743.  As soon as the ship came to anchor, Gordon—along with the Master in Chancery—were the first sent on board “to wait on his Excellency, and to shew him a proper Place of Landing”:

Charles-Town, Dec, 19.

Last Saturday arrived here in the Tartar Man of War commanded by Captain Ward, his Excellency James Glen, Esq; Captain General, Governor and Commander in Chief of this Province, and Vice-Admiral of the same.  Upon a Signal of Five Guns being discharged at Fort-Johnson, the Charles-Town Regiment was drawn up under Arms upon the Bay, extending in Two Lines facing one another from the Council-Chamber to Gibbs’s Wharff.  His Excellency in passing by Fort-Johnson, was saluted by the Guns of that Fort; and when the Ship came before the Town, by the Guns also at Granville’s, Craven’s, and Broughton’s Batteries.  As soon as she came to an Anchor, the Clerk of the Council and Master in Chancery having been first sent on board, to wait on his Excellency, and to shew him a proper Place of Landing, she was afterwards received at the Landing, by the Honourable Edmond Atkin and Charles Pinckney, Esqrs. as Members of his Majesty’s Hon. Council who conducted his Excellency through the two Lines of [one word illegible] to the Council-Chamber, to his Honour the Lieutenant Governor attended by the Rest of the Members of Council then on the Spot; His Excellency having there produced his Majesty’s said Commission, he was conducted by them, the Sword of State being carried before, and attended by the Honourable the Commons House, and many Officers and other Gentlemen of Distinction, to Granville’s Bastion, where the same was published in due Form, which was followed by three Whirras, a Discharge of the Cannon at the Bastions, and a general Volley of the Regiment.  Then his Excellency, attended by all the Gentlemen present, marched back in like Manner, to the Council-Chamber, being saluted as he passed by all the Officers of the Regiment.  And having there qualified himself to act by talking the usual Oaths, and the Regiment being drawn up as before in Broad-street, his Excellency attended again in the same Manner walked to Mr. Shepheard’s Tavern, where a handsome Entertainment was provided for him, and a numerous Company concluded the Day with Joy, the House being handsomely illuminated.

As for me, my day has concluded with joy as well for having taken the time to ramble through those musty old newspapers, for having taken the time to explore all the books 2 feet to the left and 2 feet to the right, and for believing—no, for knowing— that in so doing I will find answers!

Alexander Gordon: Sheltered in High Places

“When Persons of high Dignity patronize Learning, it demonstrates a Greatness of Soul, no less advantageous to their own Characters, than beneficial to the Sciences which are blest with their enlivening and extensive Influence:  For Knowledge and Virtue are so inseparable, that whatever promotes the one, must necessarily produce the other.” —Alexander Gordon.

I noted in my last post that when Itinerarium Septentrionale was published in 1726, Alexander Gordon received Royal attention:

Edinburgh, August 22.  Several persons of Distinction, etc. are gone hence to meet their Graces the Duke and Dutchess of Athol, who are expected in Town this Night.

We hear that Mr. Alexander Gordon, Author of the Book entitul’d Itinerarium Septentrionale, had the Honour to present their Royal Highnesses with his Book, and was very graciously received; and for his future Encouragement, were please to subscribe to his Proposals for the Maps he designs to publish of the Roman Walls in Britain.  That Gentleman is shortly expected in Scotland, to illustrate a Project which will greatly redound to the Advantage of Trade and Navigation in Britain (Caledonian Mercury, August 22, 1726).

I noted, too, that three years later when Gordon published his History of Pope Alexander VI and Caesar Borgia, he received even greater Royal attention:

Monday last Mr. Alexander Gordon, Author of the Itinerarium Septentrionale, presented his new History of Pope Alexander VI and Caesar Borgia, to the King and Queen, was very graciously received, and had the Honour to kiss their Majesties Hands; and on Tuesday he presented the said book to the Prince, and had the Honour to kiss his R. Highness’s Hands also (Caledonian Mercury, March 27, 1729).

I shared those ephemera because they were among the early notices that I found of Alexander Gordon as I made my way through the “musty,” digitized versions of newspapers published in Scotland and England in an effort to chronicle Gordon’s journey from the Old World to the New World where he would serve as Clerk of His Majesty’s Council and where he would write “The Humourist” essays that appeared in the South Carolina Gazette.

How truly wonderful that Gordon’s early—and, let me hasten to add, important—scholarly works were of such high caliber and of such historical significance that Royalty took notice and favoured him.  Even so, I never intended for him to dawdle—even Royally—for so many months before I continued my account of his journey.

But it has not been for naught.  It has given me the opportunity to explore Gordon’s  writings more fully.  In doing so, I became impressed by the dedications that he included in his publications.  They explain, in part, why Royalty favoured him—and why, apparently, he was favoured in other high places— and, they make for generally “good” reading since they far outdistance superficial and formulaic dedications, thereby providing more glimpses of Alexander Gordon than can be found in “The Humourist” essays alone.

I have gathered all the dedications, and they shall serve as the basis of today’s post!  (We shall finish Gordon’s journey to South Carolina another day!)

Let’s start with his 1726 Itinerarium Septentrionale, dedicated to Charles Douglas, 3rd Duke of Queensberry, 2nd Duke of Dover, and Vice Admiral of Scotland (1698-1778):

To His Grace


Duke of

Queensberry and Dover, etc.

My Lord,

As the Monuments of Antiquity, exhibited in the following Sheets, are chiefly intended to illustrate the Roman Actions in Scotland, and, of consequence the Achievements of its Ancient Inhabitants, Your Grace will here perceive, from uncontested Authorities, how great the Struggle has been, in the One for Conquest, the Other, for Liberty to their Country.

This being the general Scope of the present Essay, there is none to whom I can so naturally have recourse for Protection, and Countenance, as Your Grace, whose illustrious Ancestors have, for Ages, been so eminent in defending and establishing their Nation’s Honor and Liberty, and certain it is, the Name of Douglas, is too highly exalted in the Annals of Europe, to bring this in Doubt. What pleasure must I then receive, in finding Patronage from one who Possesses, as by Hereditary Right, the many shining Qualities of his renowned Forefathers: All which, joyn’d with a condescending Goodness, Humanity, Knowledge, and Sweetness of Temper, finish the Character of one truly Noble.

Long have I wish’d for an Opportunity to evidence my Gratitude, to your Grace, for many Favours, already received, both at Home and Abroad and, indeed, the small Tribute, I now offer, has its greatest Merit in proceeding from a grateful Heart.  I can never sufficiently express the Sense I have of your generous Encouragement, shewn me at my first Entrance on this Work, for when many were multiplying Difficulties, and starting discouraging Objections against me, You, my Lord, was far from crushing me in the Attempt, not thinking it just to condemn my Work, till it was seen and examin’d.  If, then, any Shadow of Merit be found therein, I shall most willingly acknowledge, that its Success is, in a great measure, owing to Your Grace, and some other learned and generous Patrons.  With Pleasure, therefore, I lay it at Your Feet, and reckon all the Pains and Trouble I have taken therein, well rewarded, in having, hereby, an Opportunity of declaring to the World, That, with most profound Deference, I am,

May it please Your Grace,

Your Grace’s most Obedient,

and most Obliged, humble Servant

Alexander Gordon.

Three years later (1729) he published his The Lives of Pope Alexander VI and His Son Caesar Borgia, and it was dedicated to James Graham, 4th Marquis and 1st Duke of Montrose (1682-1742):

To His Grace


Duke of Montrose

My Lord,

As an Acknowledgment for the many Instances of Favour, with which Your Grace has been pleased to honour me, I beg Leave in all Humility to shelter the following History under Your Grace’s Protection.

But if I had no peculiar Motives of Gratitude, a Work of this Kind should naturally be Addressed to One who is accurately acquainted with the great and active Scenes of Human Life:  And as it is Mine, that just Penetration should be accompanied with all the Indulgence of Candor and Humanity, In Your Grace these shining Qualities go Hand in Hand; they naturally support and adorn each other.

If what I have written deserves any Degree of Favour from the Publick, it will not give me so much Satisfaction from any View of Interest or Reputation, as for having an Opportunity of declaring to the World that am, with sincerest Veneration,

My Lord,

Your Grace’s most Obliged, and

Most Faithful Servant,

Alexander Gordon

In 1730, Gordon’s translation was published:  The Compleat History of the Ancient Amphitheatres. More Peculiarly Regarding The Architecture of those Buildings, and in Particular that of Verona. By the Marquis Scipio Maffei. Made English from the Italian Original by Alexander Gordon, A.M., Adorned with Sculptures. (It is interesting to note, here, that Francesco Scipione, marquis di Maffei [1675-1755] was a well-known Italian Dramatist, archaeologist, and scholar.)  Gordon dedicated his translation to Sir George Bowes (1701-1760), a member of the English Parliament and the founder of the Grand Alliance of coal owners, established to control the London coal trade:


George Bows

Of Streatleham-Castle, Esq;

If a Descent from an Illustrious Race of Patriots, such as Camden is Witness that your Predecessors have been; if the Possession of a Plentiful Fortune, of a Numerous and Powerful Friendship, and of a General Esteem, were sufficient to render a Man happy; there are very few that would have a greater Share of Felicity than your self: But you are sensible, Sir, that the best Judges of Human Nature would not esteem you such, notwithstanding these Advantages, did you not possess the Nobler Endowments of the Mind.  These are the Qualities that improve the Gentleman, a mere amiable Character, into that of the highest Utility, the Patriot: ‘Tis by these alone that Honours, Riches, and Interest become useful, and conduce not only to the Happiness of the Possessor, but to that of Mankind in general; ’tis by these, that a Man not only dispenses Good in his own Time, but entails a lasting and improveable Felicity on After-Ages.

The Advantage of your Patronage to this Piece, might here be a sufficient Reason for a Dedication, had I not been affected with a much stronger Motive, the Desire I have of declaring to the World how much I am indebted to your Bounty.  I am sensible that this Performance is a very small Return for the Favours I’ve received; and yet I should think my Labour very well bestowed, could I deserve the least Part of that Approbation you will give the Learned Author of the Original.  I have this at least in my favour, that ’tis much more difficult to translate than to compose.

That you may long live, and continue to be the Patron of Learning and Virtue, and the Happiness of such as are honoured with your Friendship, is the sincere Wish of,


Your most Humble and

most Obliged Servant,

Alexander Gordon.

When Gordon’s one and only comedy Lupone: or, the Inquisitor was published in 1732, he dedicated it to Cosmo George Gordon, 3rd Duke of Gordon (ca. 1720-1752) who was eleven years old at the time.  (Yes, like you, I am intrigued by the shared surname, but, at this point, I cannot connect our Alexander Gordon with the illustrious House of Gordon.)  Lupone is a Dominican Friar and chief Inquisitor, and the play takes place in Naples.

To His Grace


Duke of Gordon.

My Lord,

The Sincere Regard for Truth, of which your Grace has given the World such early Examples, renders you the proper Patron of every Attempt that tends to the Exposing those whose Employment is to promote the most pernicious Error that ever deluded Mankind.

The wicked Priest, supported by an ignorant and superstitious Multitude, is a Character of such terrible Importance to Publick Happiness and Liberty, that its horrid Consequences can never be too often represented to the People.

This, being the subject of the present Piece, has made me presume to implore your Grace’s Patronage, believing that the Design, rather than the Performance, may be my Excuse.  I am, with the utmost Respect,

My Lord,

Your Grace’s most obedient

humble Servant,

Alex. Gordon.

Also in 1732, he published his Additions and Corrections, by Way of Supplement, to the Itinerarium Septentrionale, dedicating it to James Macrae (1677-1744), Scottish seaman, administrator, and Governor of Fort St. George from 1725-1730).  (Fort St. George was the first English fortress in India.)

To the Honourable

James Makrae, Esq.

Late Governor of Fort St. George.


The many Favours I have received from you, when I was honour’d with your Acquaintance Abroad, and the Continuance of them at Home, oblige me to take the first Opportunity of declaring to the World, how much I am indebted to your Friendship.

The Remains of Antiquity I am describing, are such as illustrate the History of the noblest and most successful Resistance of any to the Violence of the Usurping Romans, their Description may therefore be worthy of your Acceptance, more, indeed, from the Dignity of the Subject treated, than the Manner of describing them.  The Bravery of our Heroic Ancestors against those whom Tacitus calls Raptores Orbis, The Plunderers of the World, has too near a Remembrance to your own, not to affect you, since the same Man who defended the Cassandra with so much Resolution, against Pyrates of a still worse Nature, must with equal Courage have defended his Country, had he lived in those Days.

Accept therefore these Papers, not as any Retribution for the many Favours received, but as a sincere Acknowledgment of a grateful Heart.  I am,


Your most humble, and

most obliged Servant, 

Alex. Gordon.

Gordon returned to his Italian interests in 1733 with a publication that fascinates and perplexes me because it is a revised and corrected translation of The Book of Common Prayer from English to Italian!  It is titled Il libro Delle Preghiere Publiche ed Administrazione de’ Sacramenti, ed Altri Riti e Cerimonie delIa Chiesa, Secondo ruso della Chiesa Anglicana; Insieme col Saltero over i Salmi Di David, Come hanno da esser recitati nelle Chiese.  E la forma e modo di fare, ordinare e consacrare Vescovi, Presbiteri e Diaconi: Questa nuova Impressione revista e corretta per Alessandro Gordon, A.M. 

The story behind the Italian version of The Book of Common Prayer is intriguing.  According to The Book of Common Prayer Among the Nations of the World, Chapter XII, Italian Translations, the first translation was begun by William Bedell (Bishop of Kilmore and Armagh) who had an “expressed desire to win over the people of Venice to Protestanism.”  The Bishop died in 1642, but it was not until 1685 that Edward Browne (Clare Hall, Cambridge) edited the translation for publication.

How Alexander Gordon became involved in the revised 1733 edition shows his entrepreneurial spirit:  he saw the translation as an educational tool for teaching Italian!  Stefano Villani’s “Italian Translations of the Book of Common Prayer enlightens and is worthy of extensive quotation:

A new edition of Brown’s text was then published in 1733 by the Scot Alexander Gordon. … Gordon in his ‘Letter to the readers’ of the Libro delle Preghiere Publiche, after having retold the story of the first edition of 1685 (basing himself on Brown’s old introduction), explains the reasons that led him to publish ‘this new edition’. First of all it was impossible to find copies of the edition of 1685. …secondly it presented several spelling errors and some lexical inaccuracy; and thirdly several prayers and other things relevant to the rites and ceremonies of 1685 were no longer in use. At the end of his letter to the reader, Gordon gives another reason that convinced him of the necessity for this translation. Gordon writes that ‘the Italian language being greatly estimated by the English nobility and by other persons of value and knowledge’ (‘essendo la lingua italiana grandemente stimata appresso lanobilità inglese ed altre persone di merito e sapere’), there were ‘many’ who required a translation of the Anglican liturgy ‘in that sweetest language’ (‘inquella dolcissima lingua’) so that ‘reading it often’ they ‘could improve their knowledge of that language’ (‘leggendola spesso, potessero avanzar nellaconoscenza della detta lingua’).

Since the liturgy was known by heart by every member of the Church of England, everyone who wanted to study Italian could read the translation in that language of the Book of Common Prayer, with the great advantage of being able to grasp the meaning of phrases without a dictionary.  At a time when the practice of completing the intellectual formation of young British nobles and writers with the Grand Tour in Italy was already common, to propose an edition of the Libro delle Preghiere Publiche as a sort of educational aid for teaching the Italian language, could open a very large market, and demonstrates, once again, the ingenuity of this whimsical scholar [emphasis supplied].

 Gordon’s translation contained not only his “Letter to the Readers” but also, as we have come to expect, a dedication.  It is in Italian, and begins, “Al Reverendissimo ed Illustrissimo Padre in Dio, Edwardo Chandler.”  Edward Chandler (1668?-1750) was Bishop of Litchfield from 1717 to 1730 and, then, Bishop of Durham from 1730 on.

In 1737, he dedicated his An Essay towards Explaining the Hieroglyphical Figures on the Coffin of the Ancient Mummy belonging to Capt. William Lethieullier to Sir Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons of Great Britain from 1728 until 1761.   The National Trust observes that “he held the post for 33 years in five successive parliaments and was known as the Great Speaker.”

To the

Right Honourable

Arthur Onslow, Esq;

Speaker of the Hon House of Commons, etc.


When Persons of high Dignity patronize Learning, it demonstrates a Greatness of Soul, no less advantageous to their own Characters, than beneficial to the Sciences which are blest with their enlivening and extensive Influence:  For Knowledge and Virtue are so inseparable, that whatever promotes the one, must necessarily produce the other.  Yet such is the unhappy Effect of a too indulgent Education, that many Persons who by their high Rank and native Genius might have been useful Ornaments to Mankind, suffer themselves to be wholly captivated by the lost Delusions of Sense, which generally make too successful a Court to Persons of ample Fortunes and distinguish’d Birth, and know nothing of the genuine Pleasure that follows the delightful and self-rewarding Pursuits of an intelligent Mind.

‘Tis not therefore surprising, That Literature and the Sciences, should apply themselves to Personages who stand forth as illustrious Exceptions to this too general a Depravity.  Nor is it to be wonder’d at, that among the most Eminent of the Learned, even Persons of meaner Abilities, (attracted by the Sunshine which diffuses it self over the whole World of Science, from the Countenance of the Truly Great) should be ambitious to mingle their humbler Offerings.

Hence, Sir, arises the Liberty I take of presuming to shelter the following Essay under YOUR Name, not induced by the Worth of the Performance, but the Nature of the Subject.

That You May long live the Mecænas of this Age, and continue to do Honour to the exalted Station to which Your own Merit has raised You, is the sincere Wish, of,


Your most Humble, and

Most Obedient Servant

AlexR Gordon.

Also in 1737, he dedicated his An Essay towards Explaining the Ancient Hieroglyphical Figures, on the Egyptian Mummy, in the Museum of Doctor Mead, Physician in Ordinary to His Majesty to Richard Mead.  As the Encyclopedia Britannica notes, Mead was “a leading 18th-century British physician who contributed to the study of preventive medicine. A graduate of the University of Padua (M.D., 1695) and of Oxford (M.D., 1707) and a staff member of St. Thomas’ Hospital and Medical School, London (1703–15), Mead attended some of the foremost personalities of the day, including King George I, Queen Anne, King George II, the British prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, Sir Isaac Newton, and the poet Alexander Pope.”


Doctor Mead.


The many Obligations you have conferr’d upon me, make me lay hold of the least Opportunity to render you the humble Acknowledgments of a grateful Heart: And indeed, besides this superior Inducement, I could not, with equal Propriety, have recourse to any other Patronage for the following Essay, that owes its Being to your noble Museum; which, among many other invaluable Treasures of Antiquity and Erudition, contains the curious Monument of the antient Egyptians, that is the Subject thereof.

The easy Access to this inestimable Repository, which you so generously afford to every one who is inquisitive after Knowledge, and the chearful Assistance you are so ready to lend to whatever tends to the Promotion of Learning, and the polite Arts, have justly intitul’d you to the Esteem of Mankind.  Which that you may continue long to enjoy, is the Wish of all those who have the Honour to be known to you, among whom no one can join with greater Fervour than,


Your most humble and

most obliged Servant,

Alexander Gordon.

And so it was that for this eleven-year chapter of his life (1726-1737), our Alexander Gordon—our illustrious antiquarian and true Renaissance man—found himself favoured again and again as he repeatedly paid tribute to and solicited “shelter” from friends in high places.