John Barclay (1582—1621), Scottish satirist and Latin poet, was born, on the 28th of January 1582, at Pont-ŕ-Mousson, where his father, William Barclay, held the chair of civil law. His mother was a Frenchwoman of good family. His early education was obtained at the Jesuit College. While there, at the age of nineteen, he wrote a commentary on the Thebais of Statius. In 1603 he crossed with his father to London. Barclay had persistently maintained his Scottish nationality in his French surroundings, and probably found in James's accession an opportunity which he would not let slip.
He did not remain long in England, where he is supposed to have published the first part of his Satrycon, for in 1605 when a second edition of that book appeared in Paris, he was there, having already spent some time in Angers, and being now the husband of a French girl, Louise Debonaire. He returned to London with his wife in 1606, and there published his Sylvae, a collection of Latin poems. In the following year the second part of the Satyricon appeared in Paris.
In 1609 he edited the De Potestate Papae, an anti-papal treatise by his father, who had died in the preceding year, and in 1611 he issued an Apologia or “third part” of the Satyricon, in answer to the attacks of the Jesuits]. A so-called “fourth part,” with the title of Icon Animorum, appeared in 1614. James I is said to have been attracted by his scholarship, but particulars of this, or of his life in London generally, are not available. In 1616 he went to Rome, for some reason unexplained, and there resided till his death on the 15th of August 1621.
He appears to have been on better terms with the Church and notably with Bellarmine; for in 1617 he issued, from a press at Cologne, a Paraeneis ad Sectarios, an attack on the position of Protestantism. The literary effort of his closing years was his best-known work the Argenis, completed about a fortnight before his death, which has been said to have been hastened by poison.
John Barclay (1734—1798), Scottish divine, was born in Perthshire and died at Edinburgh. He graduated at St. Andrews, and after being licensed became assistant to the parish minister of Errol in Perthshire. Owing to differences with the minister, he left in 1763 and was appointed assistant to Antony Dow of Fettercairn, Kincardine. In 1772 he was rejected as successor to Dow, and was even refused by the presbytery the testimonials required in order to obtain another living. The refusal of the presbytery was sustained by the General Assembly, and Barclay then left the Scottish church and founded congregations at Sauchyburn, Edinburgh and London. His followers were sometimes called Bereans, because they regulated their conduct by a diligent study of the Scriptures (Acts xvii. 11). They hold a modified form of Calvinism.