Scott, Alexander John.(1768-1840), chaplain in the navy, son of Robert Scott, a retired lieutenant in the navy, and nephew of Commander, afterwards Rear-Admiral, Alexander Scott, was born at Rotherhithe on 23 July 1768. In 1770 his father died, leaving his family in straitened circumstances, and in 1772 his uncle, going out to the West Indies in command of the Lynx, took the boy with him. For the next four years he lived principally with Lady Payne, wife of Sir Ralph Payne(afterwards Lord Lavington) governor of the Leeward Islands, who used to call him 'Little Toby.'

In 1776 his uncle, Captain Scott, was posted to the Experiment on the coast of North America, where, in the attack on Sullivan's Island on 28 June, he lost his left arm, besides receiving other severe wounds, which compelled him to return to England and retire from active service.

'Little Toby' returned to England about the same time, and was sent to school. In 1777 Sir Ralph Payne procured for him a nomination to a foundation scholarship at the Charterhouse(admitted 5 Aug.) whence he obtained a sizarship at St John's College, Cambridge, in 1786. He was of a convivial disposition and ran into debt. A good classic he abhorred mathematics, but he duly graduated B.A. in 1791. In the following November he was ordained deacon to a small curacy in Sussex, and in November 1792 was ordained priest.

But his college debts were pressing on him; his uncle refused assistance, and in February 1793 he accepted the offer of a warrant as chaplain of the Berwick with Captain John Collins, an old friend of his father. The Berwick was one of the fleet that went out to the Mediterranean with Lord Hood, and by the time she arrived on the station SCOTT, who had devoted himself to the study of Spanish and Italian, had acquired a competent knowledge of both these languages. French he had previously mastered so that he quickly became of special use to his captain in his intercourse with the Spanish and Italians.

In March 1795 the Berwick was captured, but SCOTT happened to be on leave in Leghorn, and shortly afterwards was appointed by Sir Hyde Parker(1739-1807) to be chaplain of his flagship the St George. Parker conceived a warm friendship for him, and employed as a foreign secretary. Subsequently SCOTT accompanied Parker to the West Indies in the Queen. At Jamaica, by Parker's interest with the governor, he was appointed to a living in the island, of the value of 500l. a year, tenable with his chaplaincy.

In 1800 Parker returned to England and Scott went with him on leave of abscence, joining him in the London when he hoisted his flag as commander-in-chief of the fleet going to the Baltic. With his remarkable aptitude for languages, Scott, who already had a good knowledge of German, quickly picked up Danish and was at work on Russian. After the battle of Copenhagen he was employed as secretary to the conferences on shore, Nelson, who had known him in the Mediterranean, making a special request to Parker for his assistance.

Afterwards, when Parker was recalled, he refused Nelson's invitation to come to the St George, saying that 'he copuld not bear to leave the old admiral at the very time when he stood most in need of his company.' Nelson made him promises that he would come to him when he could leave Sir Hyde.

In the last days of 1801 he learned that his living in Jamaica would be declared vacant if he did not return at once. He accordingly went out in the Temeraire, and arrived at Port Royal on 5 April 1802, when he was appointed by Sir John Thomas Duckworth to be chaplian of the flagship, the Leviathan, and despatched on a secret message to Cape Francais, to try to ascertain the intention of the French in sending an army of twenty thousand me to St Domingo after peace had been concluded. He failed to solve that puzzle, but found that sickness had so disorganised the French ranks that nothing was to be apprehended from them.

While returning to the admiral in the frigate Topaz the ship was struck by lightning, and he was seriously injured. To physical trouble was added the worry of finding, on arrival at Kingston, that his living had been given away by the governor. Meantime, however, the governors of the Charterhouse had presented him to the vicarage of Southminster in Essex, which he visited early in 1803, after his passage home.

Nelson, who visited him while both were stopping in London, persuaded Scott to go out with him when appointed to the Mediterranean command in May 1803. He sailed in the Amphion, from which he was transferred, off Toulon, to the Victory. As private secretary and interpreter he was able to render Nelson efficient assistance in a private capacity. Officially he was chaplian of the Victory, and nothing else. The arrangement by which Nelson paid him 100l. a year was entirely a private one.

He was frequently sent, as though on leave, to Leghorn, Naples, Barcelona, or other places; and the readiness with which he gained admission to fashionable society enabled him to bring back important intelligence, or occasionally to obtain concessions which would certainly not have been granted on formal application. He continued with Nelson on this footing for the whole time in the Mediterranean, during the chase to the West Indies, until he landed at Portsmouth on 20 August 1805.

Before the end of the month he again joined Nelson at Merton, and on 15 September sailed with him once more on the Victory. On 21 October he attended during the dying admiral's last hours, receiving his last wishes. On the return of the Victory to England he attended the coffin as it lay in state at Greenwich, and till it was finally laid in the crypt of St Paul's.

The only public recognition Scott received for his services was the degree of D.D. conferred on him by Cambridge on the royal mandate. The admiralty refused to acknoledge his unofficial services, and even stopped his time and pay as chaplian for the many weeks he had been absent from his ship on leave. This was stricly in conformity with establshed usage, though the stoppage was eventually withdrawn.

Scott settled down as vicar of Southminster on a narrow income, scantily extended by a small half pay. In 1816 Lord Liverpool presented him to the crown living of Catterick in Yorkshire, and at the same time he was appointed chaplian to the Prince Regent, which gave him the right of holding two livings. From this time he lived principally at Catterick, engaged in the duties of his profession and accumalating a large library, mostly of foreign books. Among them were represented forty different languages, of maany of which, however, his knowledge was very limited.

He died at Catterick on 24 July 1840, and was buried in the churchyard of Ecclesfield, near Sheffield, on the 31st. In July 1807 he had married Mary Frances, daughter of Thomas Ryder, registrar of the Charterhouse. She died in September 1811, leaving two daughters, the younger of whom, Margaret, wife of Dr Alfred Gatty,was vicar of Ecclesfield.


The above is from the Dictinary of National Biography. Vol. XVII. A very similar, and slightly more extensive biography, is in the Admissions to the College of St John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge. Pt.V. 1931. This is as follows;


SCOTT, Alexander John. Admitted 10th March 1786., s.; first day of residence 5 May 1786; admitted Platt Scholar 3 November 1789. B.A. 1790, M.A. 1806 D.D. by mandate 1806.

Alexander John Scott was the only son of Robert Scott, Lietenant R.N. and his wife, Jane, whose maiden name was Comyn. He was born 23 July and baptized at St Mary's, Rotherhithe, 11 August 1768. Robert Scott, the father, being disappointed of promotion in the navy, retired on half-pay and engaged in ship building and the Danish and Russian trade. Mrs Scott had a small estate at Prince Rupert's Bay in Dominica, and Robert Scott went to the West Indies for the purpose of relising this property, but fell a victim to the climate and died there in 1770. Mrs Scott was then left in very poor circumstances and depended on her husband's brother, Alexander Scott, afterwards Rear Admiral Scott. In 1772 his uncle took Scott to the West Indies, where he lived for some years, returning to England in 1776. On 5th August 1778 he was admitted a scholar of the Charterhouse on the nomiation of the King. he left as an Exhibitioner of that foundation 27 April 1786. As economy was the chief object he was entered as a Sizar, and he was wounded to find that he was in a position so much inferior to that of his school-fellows. He remonstated with his uncle, but Captain Scott(as he was then)being steeped in habits of naval discipline, and remembering his own early days in the navy, refused to listen to complaints and ordered him to "get rid of pride and do his duty cheerly"


His career at college was not altogether a happy one. His tastes were classical and linguistic, while the studies that counted in the College at that time were almost entirely mathematical. This combined with the fact that he was living beyond his means, made him in bad odour with the College authorities, who set him frequent impositions to write out, or get by heart. It was in fact debated whether he should not be rusticated.

But the Senior Dean(Thomas Cockshutt) came to the rescue and declared that young Scott had displayed extraordinary talent in performing the heavy impositions laid upon him, proving that he was not idle, and that he was not insubordinate as he had never failed to complete the imposed task within the prescribed time. In short the Dean had grasped Scott's talent for languages which was to stand him in good stead in after life. It will be noted that he was elected a Scholar of the College.

After taking is degree he was ordained Deacon 30 November 1791 and Priest 30 November 1792 by the Bishop of Chichester, his title being a Curacy in Sussex.

In the Spring of 1793 he sailed with Sir John Collins, a friend of his father, as chaplain on the Berwick. This ship was in the first squadron of the fleet under Lord Hood in the Mediterranean. Scott studied French, Italian and Spanish, and was employed by the Admiral in negotiations with the Italian authorities. He then made the acquaintance of Captain Horatio Nelson of the Agamemnon and, on the death of Sir John Collins, Nelson offerred him the chaplaincy of the Agamemnon, which Scott declined on the ground that, havinmg acted as secretary to Collins in diplomatic matters, he would not be doing himself justice by accepting the chaplaincy of a smaller ship.

In May 1795 he was appointed, by Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, to chaplain of his flagship the St George and also to act as his foreign secretary. In 1796 Sir Hyde Parker was appointed to the command on the Jamaica station and took Scott with him. Through Parker's influence, about 1798, Scott was appointed to the Rectory of St John's in Jamaica, worth about 500 a year; this he could hold with his naval chaplaincy.

In 1800 Scott returned to England with Parker and accopanied him to the Baltic, where he picked up German and Danish and worked on Russian. At, and after, the Battle of Copenhagen, Scot, with his knowledge of languages, was much employed in the conferences, Nelson making special request to Parker for Scott's asssistance When Parker was recalled Nelson again pressed Scott to remain with him, but he declined, "to leave the old Admiral a the very time when he stood most in need of his company."

At the end of 1801 he heard that his living at St John's was about to be given to another. He went out in 1802 on the Temeraire, reaching Jamaica on 5th April. Admiral Sir John Duckworth was in command at the station and appointed Scott chaplain on the flagship the Leviathan. He was sent on a confidenmtial mission to he did not discover the object of the French, but was able to report that sickness, due to the climate, was prevelant among the French troops that no danger to the British colonies need be feared.

While returning to Jamaica in the Topaz she was struck by lightning and Scott was seriously injured. He then found that his Jamaican benefice had been given to another.

He was consoled by the information that the Governors of Charterhouse had presented him to the Vicarage at Southminster in Essex. This he visited on his return to England in 1804, having been instituted 3 March 1803.

While in London he again met Nelson who persuaded Scott to join him in his Mediterranean command. He sailed in the Amphion and at Toulon was transferred to the Victory, officially as chaplain only, but Nelson appointed him his private secretary. He was with Nelson the whole time the fleet was in the Mediterranean, in the chase to the West Indies and the return. He laned at Portsmouth 20 August 1805, joned Nelson at Merton abd sailed on the Victory on 15 September. From then he was with Nelson until the end at Trafalgar on October 21. He returned with the Victory to England and attended the coffin at Greewich and St Paul's.

He then serttled down at Southminster, where he proved an excellent incumbent, combing with his duties as Vicar of Southminster those of Curate of Burnham, an adjoining parish. He was admitted to the M.A. degree at Cambridge 3 February 1806. During his stay at Cambridge for this degree he created so favourable impression of his learning that the University petitioned the King for a mandate to dispense with the interval of 12 years which at that time had to elapse between the M.A. and D.D. degrees; this was granted and he was admitted to the D.D. degree 21 March 1806. The mandate is printed in The Eagle, xxvi, 119-20

Dr Scott had about this time and foir some years afterwards hopes of substantial preferment in the Church. Amongst other hopes he had been encouraged by Admiral Nelson to think that by the promotion of the Reverend William Nelson(afterwards the first Earl Nelson)a prebend of Canterbury might be obtained for him, but the Earl held the prebend to his death. Other hopes and expectations likewisi came to nothing. In June 1816 Lord Liverpool offered to recommend him to the Crown for presentation to the Vicarage of Catterick in Yorkshire.

The value of the benefice was greatly exagggerated and, owing to subsequent litigation about the tithe, was no great prize. It was intended that he should hold this with Southminster. To hold the two livings in the language of the day, he had to have a "Chaplain's Scarf"; that is to say he had to be Chaplain to one of the Royal family or to some nobleman. As a matter of fact he appeared to have the qualification as on 17 June 1801 he had been appointed Chaplain to the Prince Regent.

Unfortunately the Gazette described him as "The Reverend Alexander Scott. M.A." in which there were two mistakes. His second christian name was omitted and at that time he had not proceeded to the M.A. degree; this appointment was therefore deemed to be invalid. This slip was corrected, the following appearing in the London Gazette, 1816, p.217 a; "Lord Chamberlain's Office, November 16, 1816. The Lord Chamberlain of His Majesty's Household has been pleased to appoint The Reverenmd Alexander John Scott, D.D., Vicar of Southminster in Essex, to be one of his Majesty's Chaplains in Ordinary, in the room of the Reverend Thomas D'Oyley, deceased.

The obstacle being thus overcome he was instituted Vicar of Catterick 25 January 1817.

He held both benefices to his death 25 July 1840 at Ecclesfield Vicarage, the home of his son-in-law, Dr Alfred Gatty.

It was a curious career; for 12 years(1793-1805) especially in the later years, he took an active, if subordinate, part in great events and then for over 36 years was an obscure country clergyman, active in his parochial duties and devoted to literary persuits.

Dr Scott married Francis Mary, eldest daughter of Thomas Ryder, Registrar of the Charterhouse, and sister of Edward Ryder(q.v.) The marriage was at first opposed by the parents of the lady. But the couple got married privately in London and Mrs Scott returned to her father's house. It was some time before the family could be reconciled, but ultimately the couple were re-married at Hendon 9 July 1807(Gentelman's Magazine, 1807,ii 681a)

They lived for some time at Southminster but Mrs Scott died 30 Septembver 1811 at her father's house at Hendon. Their daughter Margaret, born at Southminster 3 June 1809, married at St Gile's in the Filds 8 July 1839 Dr Alfred Gatty, sub-dean of York and Vicar of Ecclesfield. She was the author of Parables from Nature and other works. Together with her husband she published in 1842 Recollections of the Life of the Rev. A.J. Scott, D.D., Lord Nelson's Chaplain. This contains extracts from Scott's diaries and correspondence. Juliana Horatia Gatty, their daughter, wife of Major Alfred Ewing, was the author of Jackanapes and other well-known storiesstories(J.J.Howard Howard and F.A.Crisp, Visitation of England and |Wales, ii, 153-4).

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