Author, poet, critic and editor. Born in Paisley, the son of a gauze manufacturer. Wilson was educated in that town, in the Mearns (where his mother returned after the death of his father in 1797), followed by the University of Glasgow and Magdalen College, Oxford. He was a successful scholar, winning a prize for his poetry, and athlete. His father left a sizeable inheritance and after his graduation, he used some of this to purchase an estate in the English Lake District, where he was able to entertain poets such as William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge and Thomas De Quincey. In 1815, Wilson moved to Edinburgh, having suffered a financial crisis, to practice law. However he soon joined the staff of the 'Blackwood's Magazine' as an editor and contributor, writing, for example, the column 'Noctes Ambrosianae' (1822-35).
Despite not having the qualifications for the post, Wilson was the subject of a political appointment to the Chair of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh (1820). He lived in Ann Street in Stockbridge. In 1851 he resigned, due to ill health. He was awarded a government pension of £300 a year, but died only three years later. He is buried in Dean Cemetery and is remembered by a statue in East Princes Street Gardens.
He published the poetic works 'The Isle of Palms and other Poems' (1812), 'The Magic Mirror' (1812) and 'The City of the Plague' (1816). His novels include 'The Trials of Margaret Lyndsay' (1823) and 'The Foresters' (1825). However, it is as the centre of a rich literary circle that Wilson is remembered.