ARTHUR JOHNSTON (1587-1641), Scottish physician and writer of Latin verse, was the son of an Aberdeenshire laird Johnston of Johnston and Caskieben, and on his mother's side a grandson of the seventh Lord Forbes. It is probable that he began his university studies at one, or both, of the colleges at Aberdeen, but in 1608 he proceeded to Italy and graduated M.D. at Padua in 1610. Thereafter he resided at Sedan, in the company of the exiled Andrew Melville, and in 1619 was in practice in Paris. He appears to have returned to England about the time of James I.'s death and to have been in Aberdeen about 1628. He met Laud in Edinburgh at the time of Charles I.'s Scottish coronation (1633) and was encouraged by him in his literary efforts, partly, it is said, for the undoing of Buchanan's reputation as a Latin poet. He was appointed rector of King's College, Aberdeen, in June 163 7. Four years later he died at Oxford, on his way to London, whither Laud had invited him.
Johnston left more than ten works, all in Latin. On two of these, published in the same year, his reputation entirely rests: (a) his version of the Psalms (Psalmorum Davidis paraphrasis poetica et canticorum evangelicorum, Aberdeen, 1637), and (b) his anthology of contemporary Latin verse by Scottish poets (Deliciae poetarum scotorum hujus aevi illustrium, Amsterdam, 1637). He had published in 1633 a volume entitled Cantici Salomonis paraphrasis poetica, which, dedicated to Charles I., had brought him to the notice of Laud. The full version of the Psalms was the result of Laud's encouragement. The book was for some time a strong rival of Buchanan's work, though its good Latinity was not superior to that of the latter. The Deliciae, in two small thick volumes of 699 and 575 pages, was a patriotic effort in imitation of the various volumes (under a similar title) which had been popular on the Continent during the second decade of the century. The volumes are dedicated by Johnston to John Scot of Scotstarvet, at whose expense the collected works were published after Johnston's death, at Middelburg (1642). Selections from his own poems occupy pages 439-647 of the first volume, divided into three sections, Parerga, Epigrammata and Musae Aulicae. He published a volume of epigrams at Aberdeen in 1632. In these pieces he shows himself at his best. His sacred poems, which had appeared in the Opera (1642), were reprinted by Lauder in his Poetarum Scotorum musae sacrae (1739). The earliest lives are by Lauder (u.s.) and Benson (in Psalmi Davidici, 1741). Ruddiman's Vindication of Mr George Buchanan's Paraphrase (1745) began a pamphlet controversy regarding the merits of the rival poets.
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