William Drummond of Logiealmond

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Sir William James Charles Maria Drummond of Logiealmond FRS FRSE DCL (c. 1770 – 1828) was a Scottish diplomat and Member of Parliament, poet and philosopher. His book Academical Questions (1805) is arguably important in the development of the ideas of English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.


He was born in Perthshire the son of John Drummond of Perth and educated at both St Andrew's University and Oxford University.[1]

In 1798 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, his proposers being Dugald Stewart, Alexander Keith and John Playfair. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London the following year.

He lived in London from 1809 and died in Rome in Italy on 29 March 1828.


In 1795 he was MP for St. Mawes, and in the elections of 1796 and 1801 was returned for Lostwithiel. These were both rotten boroughs in Cornwall. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1799 [2] He became sworn as a Privy Counsellor in 1801,[3] and left Parliament as a diplomat, as Envoy to the court of Naples. [4]

In 1803 he became British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.[5] Appointed by the Levant Company on 14 January 1803, he arrived at the Dardanelles the following May. He was there for less than a year and then he returned to England in 1804. From 1806 to 1809 he served as Envoy to the Court of Naples for a second time.

He was knighted in 1813 or 1814.[6]

The Argument of Academical Questions

The title of Drummond's book refers to the later Platonic Academy, which was, in fact, not so much Platonist as Sceptical in orientation, based on the work of Pyrrho the Sceptic and later followers of Pyrrho such as Carneades. Academical Questions is a work in the Sceptic tradition, in this case influenced by the Sceptical Scottish philosopher David Hume.

According to C. E. Pulos's 1954 book The Deep Truth: A Study of Shelley's Scepticism, Drummond uses Sceptical Humean ideas in an attempt to refute the British philosophy predominant in his day, the Common Sense ideas of Thomas Reid and his followers. These had been enunciated first in Reid's An Enquiry into the Human Mind (1765).

Drummond failed to unseat Reid's ideas in popularity; they remained dominant in English philosophy for the first half of the 19th century.


In contrast to other scholars he names, Pulos argues that Shelley was decisively influenced by Academical Questions, and under its influence confidently abandoned 18th-century French materialism. According to Pulos, Drummond altered the poet Shelley's beliefs. He ceased being an 18th-century French materialist; Shelley asserted that some passions (of the heart) are "innate."

Other writings

His Oedipus Judaicus references the Oedipus Aegyptiacus of Athanasius Kircher, and was printed for private circulation. It was reprinted in 1866, having proved highly controversial (introduction to 1986 reprint by James P. Carley). It interprets passages from the Book of Genesis (in particular the Chedorlaomer story), and the Book of Joshua, in allegorical fashion, with a detailed argument based on astrology.


  • A Review of the Government of Sparta and Athens (1794)
  • Academical Questions (1805)
  • Herculanensia (1810) with Robert Walpole
  • Oedipus Judaicus (1811, privately circulated and reprinted in 1866)
  • Odin (1818), poem
  • Origines, or Remarks on the Origin of several Empires, States, and Cities (1824–29)


  1. BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF FORMER FELLOWS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH 1783 – 2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Drummond
  3. Concise Dictionary of National Biography
  4. "DRUMMOND, William (?1770-1828), of Logie Almond, Perth". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 22 May 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. ...ambassador to the Court of Naples 1801-3; to the Ottoman Porte 1803-6; to the Court of Naples for the second time, 1806-9.[1]; this reference also gives opinions by Lord Byron.
  6. "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 11 March 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Thomas Calvert
Sir William Young
Member of Parliament for St Mawes
With: Sir William Young
Succeeded by
George Nugent
Sir William Young
Preceded by
George Smith
Reginald Pole-Carew
Member of Parliament for Lostwithiel
With: Hans Sloane
Succeeded by
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Parliament of Great Britain
Member of Parliament for Lostwithiel
With: Hans Sloane
Succeeded by
Hans Sloane
William Dickinson
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Arthur Paget
Ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples
Succeeded by
Hugh Elliot
Preceded by
Earl of Elgin
Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire
Succeeded by
Charles Arbuthnot
Preceded by
Gen. Henry Edward Fox
Ambassador to the Kingdom of Naples
Succeeded by
Lord Amherst