Wedderburn Brothers, James, John and Robert

(?1495-1557)
   The three brothers were all born in Dundee, the sons of James Wedderburn, a prosperous merchant, and Janet Barrie. Educated at St. Andrews University, they all became zealous Scottish religious reformers. On the death of James V (1542) the brothers published the Compendious Book of Psalms and Spiritual Songs (also known as The Gude and Godlie Ballatisё or The Dundee Book, or The Dundee Psalms). It has been said that after the Bible itself, this book did more for the spread of reformation doctrines than any other book published in Scotland. And next to Knox's Historie of the Reformatioun, is the most memorable literary monument of the period in vernacular Scots. It consists of a calendar and almanac, a catechism, hymns - many of them translations from the German, metrical versions of the Psalms-and a collection of ballads and satirical poems against the Catholic Church and clergy. The book aroused a storm of opposition; the brothers were accused of heresy and the publishers were fined.
   • James, ?1495-1553
   He composed two plays: The Beheading of Johne the Baptist, and The Historie of Dyonisius the Tyrant, a morality play satirizing church abuses, both of which were performed in 1540 in the play-field of Dundee. A charge of heresy was brought against him for counterfeiting the conjuring of a ghost, but he escaped to France and established himself as a merchant at Rouen or Dieppe, where he lived unmolested until his death, although attempts were made by the Scottish community there to bring further charges against him.
   • John, ?1500-1556
   He took priests' orders and appears to have held the chaplaincy of St. Matthews, Dundee, but in March 1539 he, too, was accused of heresy, for his part in the The Gude and Godlie Ballatis. He escaped to Wittenberg, Germany, where he received the teaching of the German reformers. He returned to Scotland with the hope that with the death of James V a more enlightened religious atmosphere would prevail. This hope was not realized, and he fled to England, where he died.
   • Robert, 1510-1557
   He also took priests' orders and succeeded his uncle John Barry as vicar of Dundee. But before he came into actual possession he also was suspected of heresy, and was compelled to flee to France and Germany. He returned to Scotland in 1546 and was vicar of Dundee in 1552. It is not possible to clearly identify which brother wrote which poem (the poems have been reproduced in their Scottish vernacular, with translations of obscure words). Some of their poems: "All My Hart Ay This is My Sang," "Ane Sang of the Birth of Christ, with the Tune of Baw [hush] Lula Low," "Christ is the Onlie Sone of God," "De Profundis, Psalm 30," "Dominus Regit Me, Psalm 23," "Grievous is My Sorrow," "Christ Quhilk [Which] Art the Licht of Day," "Of the False Fyre of Purgatorie," "Pray God for Grace, My Lufe [Love] Maist Deir," "The Supper of the Lord, and Richt Use of It to Be Sung," "We Thank Our God Baith Kynde and Liberall," "Welcvm Lord Christ, Welcum Againe," "With Heuie Hart Full of Distres," "With Huntis Up, with Huntis Up" (name of a song and dance).
   Sources: Dictionary of National Biography. Electronic Edition 1.1. Oxford University Press, 1997. English Poetry: Author Search. Chadwyck-Healey Ltd., 1995 (http://www. lib.utexas.edu:8080/search/epoetry/author.html). Biography of the Wedderburn Brothers (http://23.1911encyclopedia.org/W/WE/WEDDERBURN_JAMES_JOHN_AND_ROBERT.htm). The history of Sir John Wedderburn, who was executed for his part in the 1745 Rebellion (http://perso.wanadoo.fr/euroleader/wedderburn/sirjohn.htm). The Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry. 11th ed. The Columbia Granger's World of Poetry, Columbia University Press, 2005 (http://www.columbiagrangers.org). The New Penguin Book of Scottish Verse. Robert Crawford and Mick Imlah, eds. Penguin Books, 2000. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 6th edition. Margaret Drabble, ed. Oxford University Press, 2000. The Wedderburn Book. Published privately by Alexander Wedderburn, 1898 (these two volumes give a detailed history of the Wedderburn family and include The Gude and Godlie Ballatis, Vol. 1 xxxi, The Wedderburn Pages, The Gude and Godlie Ballatis, and history of the Wedderburn family) (http://perso.wanadoo.fr/euroleader/wedderburn/gudeandgodlie.htm\#Play%20on%20your%20lute).

British and Irish poets. A biographical dictionary. . 2015.

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