RAMSAY, rfun'e, ALLAN A Scotch poet, born at Leadhills in the parish of Crawford. Lanarkshire, October 15, 1686. His father was manager of Lord Hopetoun's mines at Leadhills, and his mother, Alice Bower, was the daughter of a Derbyshire miner. He received the ordinary education of a parish school. In his sixteenth year he was apprenticed to a wig maker in Edinburgh, and soon married (1712) and set up for himself. In 1716, or a little later, he gave up wigmaking and began business as bookseller, first in High Street, under the sign of the Mercury, and afterwards in the Lueken booths, under the heads of Drummond and Ben Jonson. Here he added to his business a cir culating library, the first in Scotland. Care and industry enabled Ramsay to prosper in all his undertakings but one. In 1736 he built a theatre in Carrubbers Close. In the following year the licensing act, prohibiting all dramatic exhibitions without a special license, compelled him to close his theatre. In 1755 he built a quaint and picturesque house on the north side of Castle Hill, where he died, January 7, 1758.
Ramsay's earliest poems were written for the entertainment of the Easy Club (1712-15), After setting up as a bookseller, he issued many short humorous pieces. printed as broadsides and sold for a penny each. In 1716 he published the old Scotch poem Christ's Kirk Olt the Green, adding a canto of his own, and two years later still another canto. This was followed by a volume
of Scots Songs (1719). By this time he was writing in the Horatian manner verse epistles to his friends. Ilis first important publication was a collected edition of his poems in 1721, on which he realized 409 guineas. There followed Fables and Tales (1722); The Fair Assembly (1723) ; Health (17r1); The Tea-table Miscellany, an anthology of Scotch and English songs (vol. 1724; vol. ii., 1725; vol. iii.. 1727; vol. iv., 1740) ; The Erergrcen. a Scotch anthology, con taining his own Vision (1724) ; a pastoral drama, entitled The Gentle Shepherd (1725), to which songs were added (1728) ; a second collec tion of poems (172S) ; and Thirty Fables (1730). Ramsay's tales and fables are amusing, but coarse. His verse epistles are neat and graceful. His many songs, as The Laddie, are the best before Burns. His finest longer lyric is The Vision. The Gentle Shepherd, which readied its tenth edition by 1750. was long held to be the best pastoral comedy ever written. It certainly marks an epoch in English pastoral poetry—the transition from, the artificiality of Pope's pastorals to real life, treated lightly and humorously. Consult : Smeaton, Life (Edin burgh, 1890) ; Poems, edited with a Life, by Chalmers. 1S00; reissued and revised, Paisley, 1877; and Poems, selected, by Robertson (Lon don, 1887).