Masson 2

David Masson December 2nd 1822, October 6th 1907, Historiographer Royal of Scotland, Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature in the University of Edinburgh 1865-1895, his wife Emily Rosaline, nee Orme, May 2nd 1835, August 27th 1853, December 10th 1915; their daughters, Flora October 1st 1937, Rosaline December 7th 1949; Flora Lovell Gulland 17th July 1889, 23 August 1960, wife of Sir Irvine Masson, F.S.R., 3rd September 1887-22nd October 1962

Section R – Mary Ann Lovell, wife of John Gulland, died 18th November 1892 aged 56; John Gulland died 8th November 1902 aged 68; The Right Honourable John William Gulland, younger son of the above, died 26th January 1920 aged 56; Professor George Lovell Gulland C.M.G., M.D., F.R.C.P.E., elder son of the above, died 4th May 1941 aged 78; and his wife Helen Orme Masson, died 5th October 1963 aged 100; John Masson Gulland, F.R.S., Professor of Chemistry, Nottingham, died 26th October 1947; Isabella Gulland, widow of James Urquhart Dingwall died 26th March 1891 aged 54; Edith Mary Allen, wife of J. W. Gulland, P.C., M.P., died 9th March 1968 aged 83.

David Mather Masson was born in Aberdeen on 2 December 1822, the first child of William Masson, a stone or marble-cutter, and his wife Sarah Mather.  David was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and Marischal College Aberdeen, graduating in 1839. He moved to Edinburgh to study for the ministry but late in 1842 gave this up in favour of a literary career and, in the midst of the Disruption crisis, returned to Aberdeen to edit the Banner, a weekly paper advocating Free Church principles.  He spent most of 1844 in London before returning to Edinburgh and working on the staff of W. & R. Chambers writing histories for their Educational Series. 

In 1847 Masson moved to London where he carried on working for Chambers and contributed to a number of periodicals including Fraser’s Magazine, the North British Review and the Athenaeum.  Masson’s many friends in London included Thomas Carlyle, the Italian nationalist Joseph Mazzini, the philosopher John Stuart Mill and the poet Coventry Patmore. Through Patmore, he met his future wife, Emily Rosaline Orme (1835-1911).  Her parents, Charles Orme, a distiller, and his wife Eliza Andrews, had a wide circle of literary and artistic friends including several of the pre-Raphaelite painters.  David and Emily married on 27 August 1853 with Mazzini as one of the witnesses to their marriage. 

Masson was appointed Professor of English Literature at University College London in 1852 and from late 1858 to 1868 he also edited the new literary monthly Macmillan’s Magazine.  He and Emily lived with her parents in Hampstead for most of the time until they moved to Edinburgh in 1865 when Masson was appointed Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at Edinburgh University, a post he held until he retired in 1895.  

Masson took over as editor of the Register of the Privy Council of Scotland in 1879 and in the next twenty years was responsible for the production of 13 volumes covering the period 1578-1627.  He was appointed Historiographer Royal for Scotland in 1893.  He wrote numerous articles and stand-alone books, a six volume Life of Milton in Connexion with the History of His Own Time published between 1858 and 1880, and edited Milton’s Poetical Works (3 vols., 1874) and De Quincey’s Collected Works (14 vols., 1889–1890).

Masson was an active supporter of university education for women including in medicine. He lectured on English Literature to the Edinburgh Ladies Educational Association (later the Edinburgh Association for the University Education of Women) from its inception in 1868 and the first hall of residence for women at Edinburgh University was named Masson Hall in his honour when it was opened in George Square in 1897.  

David Masson died on 6 October 1907 and Emily on 10 December 1915.  They had four children and with the exception of their only son, David Orme Masson, the family are all buried in the Grange Cemetery.  

Their son, David Orme Masson (1858-1937), was educated at Edinburgh Academy and Edinburgh University.  As one of the founders of the Student Representative Council, he was, like his father, prominent in the University’s Tercentenary celebrations in 1884, held just as he was finishing his research doctorate.  During the celebrations he met his future wife Mary Struthers, daughter of his father’s old friend John Struthers, the first Regius Professor of Anatomy at Aberdeen University.  

David Orme Masson was appointed the first Professor of Chemistry at Melbourne University in 1886 and married Mary shortly before they sailed for Melbourne, where David had a distinguished career, recognised by his appointment as C.B.E. in 1918 and K.B.E. in 1923, the award of an honorary LL.D. by the University of Edinburgh in 1924, and the naming of Masson Island and the Masson Range in the Australian sector of Antarctica in recognition of his support for Antarctic research.  

David and Mary had three children, two daughters and a son, James Irvine Orme Masson (1887-1962).  Irvine Masson returned to the U.K. to study and, like his father and grandfather had a successful academic career, being appointed Professor of Chemistry at Durham University in 1924 and then Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield University from 1938 until he retired in 1952. He married his cousin Flora Lovell Gulland. 

Flora Lovell Gulland (1889-1960) was the daughter of Helen Orme Masson (1863-1963), David and Emily Masson’s second daughter, who married a doctor, George Lovell Gulland, in 1888.  George Lovell Gulland (1862-1941) was Professor of Medicine in Edinburgh 1915-28.  There is a gravestone for the Lovell family in the south-west section of the Grange Cemetery.  As well as their daughter Flora, Helen and George Lovell Gulland had a son, John Masson Gulland (1898-1947) who became Professor of Chemistry at Nottingham University.

David and Emily Rosaline Masson’s other two daughters did not marry but both had successful careers.  Flora Masson (1856-1937), trained as a nurse at St Thomas Hospital in London, and became a friend of Florence Nightingale. Flora was appointed matron at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford in 1891 and later at the Eastern Fever Hospital at Homerton, London.  She returned to Edinburgh and was living with her parents in 1901.  She edited two volumes of reminiscences by her father, and wrote biographies of the Brontes, Charles Lamb and the 17th century physicist Robert Boyle, as well as a number of articles, short stories and novels.  During the First World War she worked as matron of the Red Cross Hospital at Whitehill House, Rosewell, Midlothian. 

David and Emily’s youngest daughter, Rosaline Masson (1867-1949), wrote numerous short stories and romantic novels, many of which were published in various newspapers as well as in book form.  She also wrote several biographies of literary figures, including Robert Louis Stevenson, and some historical and other works.  

Not surprisingly in view of their parents’ support of education for women and women’s suffrage, both Flora and Rosaline were involved in the movement for votes for women and Rosaline was honorary secretary of the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Association for a number of years, speaking and writing articles.


Dictionary of National Biography and Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:  David Mather Masson

Flora Masson, “David Masson”, University of Edinburgh Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 15-24, (available on-line at:

David Masson, Memories of London in the ‘Forties, arranged for publication and annotated by his daughter Flora Masson (1908) (available on-line at:

Flora Masson, Victorians All (1931)

The Scotsman, 8 October 1907, obituary of David Masson;  2 Oct. 1937, obituary and photograph of Flora Masson;  8 December 1949, p. 6, A Scotsman’s Log, & p. 8, obituary and photograph of Rosaline Masson (Grange Cemetery facing south on north side of southern roadway, 3rd row in from S.W. corner of section R]

The Grange Association Newsletter, No. 125, September 2019

F – Masson grave location