Due to the generosity of a financial donor, Random Scottish History has been able to obtain a 4 volume set of Dr. Browne’s ‘A History of the Highlands and of the Highland Clans’. Although bound equally alike and in the same condition of disrepair, we here at RSH were interested to find that where the volume 1 edition was published in 1850 (in Arabic numerals) volumes 2-4 were published in 1839 (in Roman numerals). Very strange. This was purchased as information pertinent to Appendix I. Records from the Scots College of Cosmo Innes’ ‘Sketches’ (1861). In footnote 3 we’re told:
“Above thirty years after McPherson’s inquiry at St. Omers, one Robert Watson came to Rome, and talking on this subject to the Abbé, assured him that there was no truth in the alleged destruction of these documents; indeed, he asserted that he knew where many of them then were, and that he could recover them if £50 were paid him. This information the Abbé wrote to Lord Stuart de Rothsay, then in Paris, who saw Watson, paid him the money, and did obtain some papers.
This Watson had fled from Scotland, having been compromised in the seditious associations of 1794, and remained abroad till after the peace. Having become acquainted at Rome with an attorney, who had been confidential agent of the Cardinal York, he purchased form him, for 100 scudi (£22, 10s.), a large mass of papers, chiefly regarding the rebellions of 1715 and 1745, which had remained in his hands after the Cardinal’s death. Several carts were employed to transport them to a room which Watson had fitted up to receive them: but having made great boasting of his prize, the matter reached Cardinal Gonsalvi, the minister of Pius VII., who directed the whole to be seized. Watson was offered repayment of the price and all the expenses; but he refused to accept of this, and left Rome protesting his right to the papers. The whole collection was subsequently sent to George IV. as a present from Pius VII., and is generally known as the Stuart Papers. A commission was appointed by his Majesty for examining these, with Sir Walter Scott at the head of it; and extracts have been published from them by Lord Mahon, in his History of England from the Peace of Utrecht, and by Dr. Brown, in his History of the Highlands.”
So you can imagine how keen I am to get in about this one to find out what wee gems Dr. Browne was able to eke out of the Stuart Papers.