A.B., St. Andrews
- Professional Experience:
Schoolmaster, Edinburgh, 1739-52; schoolmaster, Boston, 1752-8; master of his own Latin school, 1757-8; maser of the Latin School and prof, langs., Academy (then College) of Philadelphia (now U. Pennsylvania), 1758-62.
A Short Introduction to Grammar for the Use of the College and Academy Philadelphia: being a new edition of Whittenhill's Latin Grammar with Many Alterations, Additions and Amendments... (Philadelphia,1762); Epistolae Familiares et Alia Quaedam Miscellanea (Philadelphia, 1765)
Beveridge was an accomplished Latinist but was miserable as a teacher in Edinburgh, thinking anywhere, even the fires of hell, would be a better place for him. He dreamed of the New World and expressed his idealization of the America through poems written in Horatian meters (under the collective name "Epistolae familiars") both before and after in immigration to Falmouth, Maine (on Casco Bay) in the fall of 1752. He was injured three times traversing the harsh landscape around his home as the reality of his new home did not match his dreams of it. His son was killed in the French and Indian War and by 1758 he was in Philadelphia (via Boston and Hartford) where he was in charge of Latin instruction at what would become the University of Pennsylvania. He is no happier nor successful here than he was in Edinburgh: students made fun of his wig and his thick Scottish accent. One student pulled Beveridge's wig off on a dare (he pretended to be swatting a spider) and classes would close the window shutters on his entry into the room and throw books, erasers, and other materials at him. William Smith, however, the president of the College of Philadelphia, called him "one of the ablest masers of the Latin tongue on this continent," had requested him to write a Latin grammar for his students based on TT ˆhe originally by William Lily (1469-1522), the royally approved Latin Grammar through the 19th century. Edward Whittenhall or Wettenhalll (1636-1713) had printed a revision in 1713 but Beveridge's revision, A Short Introduction to Grammar... (1762) was so filled with typographical errors (including Wettenhall's name on the title page) that the politician and satirist Francis Hopkinson (1737-91) wrote a key to using it called Errata or the Art of Printing Incorrectly. He followed it with a lampoon, The Grammarians or the Scoto and the Doctor, to which Beveridge replied in Latin. He wrote encomiastic poems to political leaders looking for a patron but found none, ending his professional life as he had begun it, an angry and embittered schoolmaster. He is chiefly remembered as a masterly crafter of Latin verse. In the words of Gilbert L. Gigliotti, "Beveridge's Latin poems, written throughout his life, both in Edinburgh Scotland, and the New World, reveal his metaphorical concept of America and his unsuccessful attempts, through his verse, to reconcile that vision with the realities of the actual Northern New England landscape." (Gigliotti, 89).
Leo M. Kaiser, "John Beveridge, Latin Poet of Two Worlds," CJ 58 (1963) 215-25; Thomas H. Montgomery, A History of the University of Pennsylvania from its Foundation to A.D. 1770 (Philadelphia, 1900); NatCAB 7:343; G.L. Gigliotti, "'Nail-Gnawing' in a New World Landscape: From Allusion to Disillusion in John Beveridge's Epistolae Familiares," Connecticut Review 18 (1996) 89-101; S. Hale, "John Beveridge, the Neo-Latin Horatian Ode and the Narrative of British Colonialism in Eighteenth-Century North America," IJCT 27 (2020) 554-80.
- Author: Meyer Reinhold