Patrick Adamson ~ Religious Figure and Writer

Patrick Adamson was born at Perth. He studied philosophy, and took the degree of M.A. at St Andrews. After being minister of Ceres in Fife for three years, in 1566 he set out for Paris as tutor to the eldest son of Sir James Macgill, the clerk-general. In June of the same year he wrote a Latin poem on the birth of the young prince James, whom he described as “serenissimus princeps” of France and England. The French court was offended, and he was confined for six months. He was released only through the intercession of Queen Mary of Scotland and some of the principal nobility, and retired with his pupil to Bourges. He was in this city at the time of the massacre of St Bartholomew at Paris, and lived concealed for seven months in a public-house, the aged master of which, in reward for his charity to a heretic, was thrown from the roof. While in this ‘Sepulchre’, he wrote his Latin poetical version of the book of Job, and his tragedy of Herod in the same language. In 1572 or 1573 he returned to Scotland, and became minister of Paisley. In 1575 he was appointed by the General Assembly one of the commissioners to settle the jurisdiction and policy of the church; and the following year he was named, with David Lindsay, to report their proceedings to the Earl of Morton, then regent. In 1576 his appointment as archbishop of St Andrews gave rise to a protracted conflict with the Presbyterian party in the Assembly. He had previously published a catechism in Latin verse dedicated to the king, a work highly approved even by his opponents, and also a Latin translation of the Scottish Confession of Faith. In 1578 he submitted himself to the General Assembly, which procured him peace for a little time, but next year fresh accusations were brought against him. He took refuge in St Andrews Castle, where ‘a wise woman’, Alison Pearson, who was ultimately burned for witchcraft, cured him of a serious illness. In 1583 he went as James’s ambassador to the court of Elizabeth, and is said to have behaved rather badly. On his return he took strong parliamentary measures against Presbyterians, and consequently, at a provincial synod held at St Andrews in April 1586, he was accused of heresy and excommunicated, but at the next General Assembly the sentence was remitted as illegal. In 1587 and 1588, however, fresh accusations were brought against him, and he was again excommunicated, though afterwards on the inducement of his old opponent, Andrew Melville, the sentence was again remitted. Meanwhile he had published the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and the book of Revelation in Latin verse, which he dedicated to the king, complaining of his hard usage. But James was unmoved by his application, and granted the revenue of his see to the Duke of Lennox. For the rest of his life Adamson was supported by charity; he died in 1592. His recantation of Episcopacy (1590) is probably spurious. Adamson was a man of many gifts, learned and eloquent, but with grave defects of character. His collected works, prefaced by a fulsome panegyric, in the course of which it is said that “he was a miracle of nature, and rather seemed to be the immediate production of God Almighty than born of a woman,” were produced by his son-in-law, Thomas Wilson, in 1619.