Michael Ramsay of Mungale

Michael Ramsay

Biography: 

Nephew of famous Jacobite Chevalier Andrew Michael Ramsay (1686-1743).

Sometime travelling tutor to the families of the Earls of Home and Eglintoun, and later Chamberlain to the Duke of Roxburghe. Ramsay was a childhood friend of David Hume and was also well acquainted with Adam Smith,1 and of George Dempster,2 among many others.

According to Ernst Campbell Mosner in The Life of David Hume3:

"Of all the Edinburgh group of young men of letters, Michael Ramsay of Mungale was Hume's most intimate friend. A curiously fleeting figure, this Michael Ramsay inspired or repelled according to the personality of those who met him. On the one hand, Alexander Cunningham (later Sir Alexander Dick), who knew both Henry Home and Michael Ramsay well, describes Ramsay as "a very debauched, licensious Creature, who took pleasure in corrupting all the Youth of families that came in his way, by carrying them to lewd women, drunken companions who like himself feared neither God nor Man." And Sir Alexander confesses that he inwardly thought of "this wretch" as "Michael the Arch Divel." Henry Home on the other hand, commented that Michael Ramsay was "a harmless creature, and [that] Sir Alexander Dick misunderstood his character."  

Little is known about Ramsay's career beyond the fact that, after an early inclination to take orders in the Church of England, he travelled abroad as tutor to the families of the Earl of Home and the Earl of Eglintoun and later became Chamberlain to the Duke of Roxburgh. Throughout life he had a happy facility for friendship, attracting such disparate characters as Laurence Sterne and Charles Burney."

 

  • 1. Jones, P.; Skinner, D. (1992). Adam Smith Reviewed. Edinburgh University Press, p. 96-99
  • 2. Ross, I.S. (1995). The Life of Adam Smith. Clarendon Press, p. 252-253
  • 3. Mossner, Ernest Campbell. (1980). The Life of David Hume. Oxford University Press, p. 60-61

Life with Boswell: 

Boswell first mentions Ramsay on October 20, 1762, when they dined together at Broomlands, near Kelso. He described him as having been "a travelling governor and has been abroad a good deal, and yet has a disagreeable roughness of behaviour. He is a good scholar and an accurate man of business and is very much disposed to oblige."