Famous Britons in the French Revolutionary War

We have recently bought a collection of biographical sketches and anecdotes relating to famous Britons who had distinguished themselves during the French Revolutionary War (1793-1802). Among the 24 men described in ‘Neuer brittischer Plutarch’ (AB.2.214.37) are the Scots Adam Duncan, Viscount Duncan;  Henry Dundas, first Viscount Melville; Thomas Erskine, fisrt Baron Erskine; and Sir John Sinclair.

The German Lutheran minister (Ernst) Friedrich Wilhelm Gillet (1762-1829), who preached in Berlin, wrote the sketches. His description of the eminent Britons is relatively neutral. As a Prussian, he would have been aware that King Friedrich Wilhelm III was  pursuing a policy of neutrality in the Napoleonic Wars. However, there is clearly an underlying admiration for the British in refusing to bow to France.

Britts small

The book is illustrated with portraits of the men it describes. It includes an engraving of the wooden carving ‘Tipu’s tiger‘, mentioned at the end of the book in a series of anecdotes relating to Britain’s war against Tipu Sahib, sultan of Mysore in South India.

Gillet intended his work as a continuation of Thomas Mortimer’s popular ‘British Plutarch; or, biographical entertainer’, which was first published in London in 1762. In turn, it had taken as its inspiration the biographies of the ancient Greek author Plutarch of eminent Greek and Roman statesmen and generals.

Find out more about Adam Duncan, Henry Dundas, Thomas Erskine and Sir John Sinclair in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (accessible through NLS Licensed Digital Collections).