George Lewis Scott
George Lewis Scott (1708–1780) was an English royal tutor, encyclopedist, and dilettante.
Born at Hanover in May 1708, he was the eldest son of George Scott of Bristo in Scotland, and Marion Stewart, daughter of Sir James Stewart of Coltness, Lord Advocate of Scotland. George Scott held diplomatic posts at various German courts, and was envoy-extraordinary to Augustus II the Strong, king of Poland, in 1712. He was a close friend of the Elector of Hanover (who became George I of England), whose names were given to the boy George Lewis at baptism, and the Princess Sophia was his godmother. At the end of 1726, after his father's death, his mother moved to Leyden for the education of her children.
George Lewis was called to the bar at the Middle Temple, became Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries on 3 June 1736, and Fellow of the Royal Society on 5 May 1737; and was a member in 1736 of the Society for Encouragement of Learning. At this period James Thomson was one of his friends. In November 1750 Scott was made sub-preceptor to Prince George and his younger brothers, on the recommendation of Viscount Bolingbroke through Earl Bathurst. Scott was considered a Jacobite, and his appointment caused a stir. By July 1752 the tutors were divided into factions, and the quarrel lasted all year. In February 1758 Scott was made a commissioner of excise, and he held that post until his death.
Scott was a pupil of Abraham De Moivre, and was known for his knowledge of mathematics. On 7 May 1762 he sent a long letter to Edward Gibbon on the mathematical books he should study. Gibbon, on 19 October 1767, asked him to supply a paper ‘on the present state of the physical and mathematical sciences’ in England, for insertion in the Mémoires Littéraires de la Grande-Bretagne of Jacques Georges Deyverdun and himself. In December 1775 Gibbon sent Scott a part of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Scott's letters to Robert Simson, with those he received in reply, are printed in William Trail's Life of Simson. Charles Burney speaks of him as an excellent musician, and as performing on the harpsichord. He was a close friend of Johann Christoph Pepusch, whom he helped with a paper for the Royal Society on ancient Greek music. Fanny Burney, who met Scott in 1769, described him as ‘very sociable and facetious. He entertained me extremely with droll anecdotes and stories among the Great and about the Court.’ George Rose knew him ‘long and very intimately,’ and praised him as ‘amiable, honorable, temperate, and one of the sweetest dispositions I ever knew.’ And it was Scott who introduced Thomas Paine to Benjamin Franklin, an act of networking with profound results for the history of revolutionary America and Europe. He was tall and big. Samuel Johnson was one day giving way to tears, when Scott, who was present, clapped him on the back and said, ‘What's all this, my dear sir? Why, you and I and Hercules, you know, were all troubled with melancholy.’ The doctor was ‘so delighted at his odd sally that he suddenly embraced him’.
The materials Ephraim Chambers left for a supplement to his Dictionary of Arts and Sciences were committed to Scott's care for selection, revision, and expansion. The two volumes appeared in 1753, and he is said to have received £1,500 for his services.
- "Letter to the Honorable Henry Laurens, January 14, 1779" in Philip A. Foner, THE COMPLETE WRITINGS OF THOMAS PAINE, 2:1160-65.
- Mrs. Piozzi, Anecdotes of Johnson, pp. 50–1.