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Alexander Campbell


1764 - 1824

Composer, musician, poet and author. Born at Tombea (by Loch Lubnaig, Stirling), Campbell attended school in nearby Callander. He left home for Edinburgh, where he studied singing and counterpoint with the singer Giusto Ferdinando Tenducci.

Campbell taught singing and the harpsichord in Edinburgh (c.1782) and became organist in the Nicholson Street Scottish Episcopal Chapel. He became friends with Robert Burns (1759-96) and struggled to give music lessons to the young Walter Scott (1771 - 1832), who lacked any talent in that direction.

His collections of songs included: Songs of the Lowlands of Scotland (1799), illustrated with engravings by artist David Allan (1744-96) and the two-volume Albyn's Anthology (1816), which was a collection of Highland songs and poems including contemporary works especially written by Sir Walter Scott and others. Albyn's Anthology was not a success, Campbell having spoiled many of the original melodies by trying to modernise them. He wrote an opera in 1795, but sent the only manuscript he had to a London theatre company who lost it!

Campbell's books included a respected Introduction to the History of Poetry in Scotland (1798) and A Tour from Edinburgh through parts of Northern Britain (1802), which he illustrated himself. In 1804, he published the poem The Grampians Desolate , in which he revealed his sympathies for the Jacobites. He also set some of the songs of Robert Tannahill (1774 - 1810) to music.

Campbell underwent a bitter separation from his second wife, suffered several further disappointments and died in poverty.


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