Correspondence relating to Robert Saunders Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville (1771-1851)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-433
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      6 letters, 2 engravings
  • Location
      Dk.8.4/3; Gen. 1790, nos.78-81; Gen. 1875, nos.77-79; Gen. 1982/46

Scope and Content

The correspondence is composed of: a letter to N. Auld, 1816; a letter to Capt. Dillon, 1819; a letter to Sir Patrick Walker requesting him to call at the Admiralty, 1820; a letter to Rear-Admiral Otway with instructions of what to do in case of the death of Queen Caroline, 1821; letter to T. Dench, 1821; and, a letter to Messrs. Spottiswoode and Robertson about coal-weighing, 1834. There is also an engraving, and a franked postal cover to Messrs. Drummond, 1823, with a signed engraving of Viscount Melville.

Administrative / Biographical History

Robert Saunders Dundas was born on 14 March 1771. He was the only son of Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville (1742-1811) - 'Henry the Ninth, the uncrowned King of Scotland'. He was educated at the Royal High School. Dundas entered Parliament as M.P. for Hastings in 1794, and had received his first taste of political life as Private Secretary to his father who was Secretary of State for War and the Colonies and President of the Board of Control for the Affairs of India, 1794-1801. In 1796 he became M.P. for Rye. His first official appointment was that of Keeper of the Signet for Scotland in 1800. In 1801 Dundas was M.P. for Midlothian, his father's former constituency. He began to make his mark in the Commons in 1805 and 1806 when he spoke up in support of his father who was criticised and impeached for 'high crimes and misdemeanours' while Treasurer of the Navy. In 1807 he became a member of the Privy Council and President of the Board of Control in the Cabinet formed by the Duke of Portland. In 1809 he was Secretary for Ireland for a brief period and then was back at the Board of Control during the Perceval administration. In 1811, Dundas succeeded his father as 2nd Viscount Melville, and the same year he became Lord Privy Seal in Scotland. In 1812, he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty by Lord Liverpool. While at the Admiralty he became particularly interested in Arctic affairs which was acknowledged when Melville Sound was named after him. After the death of Lord Liverpool he refused to serve in Canning's government, but was re-appointed to the Admiralty when the Duke of Wellington took office. He retired from political life in 1830. Earlier, in 1821, Dundas had been made a Knight of the Thistle. Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville, died at Melville Castle, Edinburgh, on 10 June 1851.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Micellaneous letters, purchased 1964, Accession no. E64.6. Miscellaneous letters, purchased June 1971, Accession no. E71.17.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol.6. Drant-Finan. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908.

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.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show other references to Robert Dundas related material in the Laing Collection (check the Indexes for more details): letters to H. Warrender, 1808, 1809, at La.II.294/7-8; letter to Capt. J. Ross R.N. about his remuneration for expenses incurred during his last voyage to the north coast of America, 1834, at La.II.647/275; and, letter to Sir G. Warrender, at La.II.509. There are also letters to Robert Dundas from A. Lindsay, 6th Earl of Balcarres, at Dk.7.63, nos.6-8.

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes the following collections in Scottish public and academic institutions: correspondence and papers, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD51 NRA 10188 Dundas, and family and personal correspondence, 1783-1849, Ref. GD235/10 NRA 34965 Bonar Mackenzie, and correspondence with Sir George Clerk, 1831-1848, Ref. GD18 NRA 29182 Clerk, and letters to Thomas, Lord Cochrane, Ref. GD233 NRA 8150 Cochrane, and letters (14) to Lord Dalhousie, 1835-1847, Ref. GD45 NRA 17164 Ramsay, see NRA(S)0805, and letters to Sir Alexander Hope, 1810-1825, Ref. GD364 NRA 10172 Hope, see NRA(S)1021, and correspondence with J. A. Stewart-Mackenzie, 1821-1828, Ref. GD46 NRA 30101 Stewart-Mackenzie, and correspondence with Duke of Wellington, see Annual report 1983; correspondence and papers, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. passim, and miscellaneous correspondence, 1807-1830, Ref. MSS 6524, 7199 Passim, and correspondence, mostly on Indian affairs, 1790-1838, Ref. Acc 12001, and correspondence with Sir Alexander Cochrane, 1812-1825, Ref. MSS 2264-68, 2574-76, and letters (29) from Frederick Augustus, Duke of York to him and his father, 1798-1823, see Accessions to repositories 1990, and correspondence with Lord Keith, 1812-1815, Ref. MSS 9733-34, and correspondence with John Lee, 1811-1846, Ref. MSS 3433-45 passim, and correspondence with Sir David Milne and Earl of Seafield, 1818-1820, Ref. MS 9735, and correspondence with Lord Minto, 1807-1812, Ref. MSS 11289-90, 11302-03 NRA 10476 Minto, and correspondence with Sir Walter Scott, 1806-1829, Ref. MSS 3875-910 passim, and miscellaneous correspondence including Lord Rutherfurd, Thomas Graham Stirling and John Borthwick of Crookston, 1808-1851, Ref. MSS 9697-10683, 10218-10958 Passim; correspondence as Governor of the Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland Archives, Ref. BS 20/32 NRA 41517 Dundas; correspondence and papers relating to Scotland, St Andrews University Library, NRA 14799 Dundas; correspondence with Balfour family, 1820-1837, Orkney Archives, Ref. NRA(S)0627 NRA 16075 Balfour; and letters to Robert Christie, 1833-1837, Edinburgh Central Library, Ref. NRA(S)3563 NRA 38890 Edinburgh CL.