Lectures of Professor David Mather Masson (1822-1907)

Scope and Content

Notebooks in the collection record earlier lectures by Masson on Rhetoric and English Literature while at the University. The notes cover lectures on the Mythical period, the Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman periods, influences on English literature, the history of English language, and style etc., given between 1868-1869. There are lectures on English Literature taken down 1878-1879, 1880, and 1887-1889, and on Rhetoric and English Literature, 1881-1882 and 1882-1883.

Administrative / Biographical History

David Mather Masson was born in Aberdeen in 1822. He was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and then he studied at Marischal College, Aberdeen, where he graduated with degree of MA in 1839. He then went to Edinburgh University to study Divinity with the intention of entering the Church, but he gave up his studies. Masson then pursued a literary career, first in Aberdeen, then Edinburgh, then in London. He became Professor of English Literature at University College, London, in 1853, a post which he held for some twelve years. Then, in 1865, he was elected to the Regius Chair of Rhetoric and English Literature at Edinburgh University. While at Edinburgh University, Masson took a prominent part in the fight for the university education of women and he was the first professor to lecture to classes organised by the Edinburgh Ladies' Educational Association.

Masson's publications include British novelists and their styles: being a critical sketch of the history of British prose fiction (1859), and the multi-volume The life of John Milton: narrated in connexion with the political, ecclesiastical, and literary history of his time (1859-1894).

In 1893, Masson was appointed Historiographer Royal for Scotland. He resigned his Chair at the University in 1895. Professor David Mather Masson died in 1907.

Offering a glimpse of Masson's well-attended lectures are the notes taken in 1868 by the Physician, James Allan Gray, born in 1854. Gray was awarded the degree of MA in 1872 and obtained a Bachelor of Medicine and Master in Surgery in 1876 and became registered in Scotland in that year, on August 2. He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine with a gold medal in 1880. Gray became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicans of Edinburgh in 1881. James Allan Gray practised in Leith for 51 years and died in 1930.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Lectures taken down by James Allan Gray were received from J. D. Allan Gray, January 1968, Accession no. E68.5. Those taken down by Miss Penelope Gordon Watson were received from P. Haig Ferguson in January 1971, Accession no. E71.1. Notes at Gen. 2076 received from Keele University, April 1978, Accession no. E78.17


The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Rice, D. Talbot (compiler). The university portraits. pp.145-147. Edinburgh: The University Press, 1957.

Edited by J. D. Allan Gray, extracts from the diary of James Allan Gray were published in the University of Edinburgh journal, Vol.25. 1971-1972. pp.45-51.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to Masson related material (check the Indexes for more details): his commission of appointment as Professor, DK.2.20/5; letters to others; mention in letter(s); copy of his essays, JA 3097; testimonial; and, more recently acquired correspondence. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: letters to Edward Arber, 1879, at Birmingham University Information Services, Special Collections Department, Ref. Arber NRA 13205 Arber; correspondence with Thomas Carlyle, 1848-78, Ref. MSS 1766-78, and letters (100) to Alexander Campbell, Fraser, 1842-1904, Ref. Dep 208 NRA 27273 Fraser, and correspondence mainly with Lord Rosebery, 1841-1906, Ref. MSS 9657, 10087-10131, 10997 Passim, at the National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division; correspondence with Macmillans, 1856-95, at the British Library, Manuscript Collections, Ref. Add MS 54792; letters to Hew Morrison from Masson and members of his family, 1887-1913, Edinburgh Central Library, Ref. NRA(S)3563 NRA 38890 Edinburgh CL; and, letters to GC Robertson, at London University, University College London (UCL) Manuscripts Room, Ref. MS ADD 88 NRA 14256 Robertson.