Portraits of Talent and Taste

The influence and impact of the Clerk Family on the social, cultural, artistic and scientific landscape of Scotland during the Scottish Enlightenment cannot be overstated.

The history of the Clerk Family has been superbly documented by Dr Iain Gordon Brown, FSA, FRSE, in his essay The Clerks of Penicuik: Portraits of Talent and Taste (©Iain Gordon Brown 1987) which he has generously allowed us to include in our archive. Dr Brown is formerly Principal Curator of Manuscripts in the National Library of Scotland and currently Hon Fellow of the Library and Curator of the Royal Society of Edinburgh as well as a Trustee of the Penicuik House Preservation Trust. The following excerpt from Portraits of Talent and Taste is reproduced here with his kind permission.

“The Clerks of Penicuik are a remarkable family. For two hundred years they occupied a central place in the cultural history and intellectual life of Scotland. Through five generations, between 1630 and 1830, members of the family were leaders of artistic and literary taste and patronage, or prominent in all the sciences from medicine to geology. Music and painting, architecture and landscape gardening, connoisseurship and collecting, poetry and antiquarianism – all were enriched by the talent and enthusiasm of the Clerks; and in the widely different fields of agricultural improvement, forestry, mining technology and astronomy, as well as in political affairs and the law, they made distinguished contributions.”