Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
LITERATURE]
457
SCOTLAND

of research. The Foreign Calendars of State Papers, especially J. Bain's Calendars (Edinburgh, 1881-1888), are useful indices, but not infrequently need to be checked by the manuscripts.

There is much new information among the documents published by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, by the Scottish History Society, and the Register of the Privy Council, edited by Professors Masson and Hume Brown. The volumes of the book clubs, Bannatyne, Maitland, Abbotsford and Spalding, are full of matter; also those of the Early Scottish Texts Society and the Wodrow Society, with the works of Knox, Calderwood and the History of the Sufferings by Wodrow (edited by the Rev. Robert Burns, 1837-1838). Knox, like Bishop Burnet, needs to be read critically and in the light of contemporary documents; especially those in the Hamilton Papers, The Border Papers and English State Papers (Foreign). The most recent general Histories of Scotland are those of P. Hume Brown (Cambridge, 1899), and on a larger scale, but ending at 1746, of A. Lang (Edinburgh, 1900-1907). Mathieson's works deal with the period of the Covenant and Civil War, and, like Mackinnon's, with the Union; while Sir H. Craik's A Century of Scottish History (Edinburgh, 1901) gives a full account of the disruption of the Kirk. Many important manuscripts in muniment rooms are still uncalendared; those of the French Foreign Office are imperfect in places, and have been little consulted; and a complete calendar of the treasures of the Advocate's Library was only recently begun.

Among monographs, Six Saints of the Covenant and The Life of Mary Stuart (up to 1568), by D. Hay Fleming; the Life of Knox, by P. Hume Brown, and John Knox and the Reformation, by A. Lang; Miss Shield's King over the Water and Martin Haile's James Francis Stuart (the old Chevalier); Omond's Lord Advocates of Scotland; Willcock's The Great Marquess (of Argyll); Napier's Lives of Montrose and Dundee; Clarke and Foxcroft's Life of Bishop Burnet; Sir Herbert Maxwell's Robert Bruce and Book of Douglas, with all Sir W. Fraser's family histories, and Patrick's Statutes of the Scottish Church, may on various points prove serviceable. For Scottish constitutional history, what there is of it, Sanford Terry's Scottish Parliaments may be recommended.

 (A. L.) 

IV. Scottish Literature

“Scottish Literature” is taken here in the familiar sense of the Teutonic vernacular of Scotland, not in the more comprehensive sense of the literature of Scotland or of writings by men of Scottish birth, whether in Gaelic (see Celt) or Latin or Northern English. The difference between the two definitions, however, is of small practical concern. The Scottish-Gaelic literature, which is separately dealt with (see Celt: Literature) is, by comparison, of minor importance; and the Latin, though it has a range and influence in Scotland to which it is difficult to find a parallel in the history of the literatures of Europe, is (perhaps for the very reason of its persistency and extent) so bound up with the vernacular that it may be conveniently treated with that literature. It is true that down to the 15th century there were many Teutonic Scots who had difficulty in expressing themselves in “Ynglis,” and that, at a later date, the literary vocabulary was strongly influenced by the Latin habit of Scottish culture; but the difficulty was generally academic, arising from a scholarly sensitiveness to style in the use of a medium which had no literary traditions; perhaps also from medieval and humanistic contempt of the vulgar tongue; in some cases from the cosmopolitan circumstance of the Scot and the special nature of his appeal to the learned world. The widespread use of Latin was, however, seldom or never antagonistic to the preservation of national sentiment. That it was used for other than literary purposes strengthened that sentiment in a way which mere scholarly or literary interest could not have done. The Scottish timbre is rarely wanting, even in places where scholastic or classical custom might have claimed, as in other literatures, an exclusive privilege. And to say this implies no disrespect to the quality of early Scottish Latinity.

In a survey of the vernacular literature of Scotland it is advantageous to keep in mind that there are two main streams or threads running throughout, the one literary in the higher sense, expressing itself in “schools” of a more artificial or academic type; the other popular, also in the better sense of that term, more native, more rooted in national tradition, more persistent and conversely less bookish in fashion. The former is represented by the group known as the Scottish Chaucerians, by the 17th-century Court poets, by the “English” writings of literary Edinburgh of the 18th century; the latter by the domestic and “rustic” muse from Christis Kirk on the Grene to the work of the 18th century revival begun in Ramsay. There is, of course, frequent interaction between these two movements, but recognition of their separate development is necessary to the understanding of such contemporary contrasts as the Thrissil and the Rois and Peblis to the Play, Drummond and Montgomerie, Ramsay and Hume. In our own day, when the literary medium of Scotland is identical with that of England, the term Scottish literature has been reserved for certain dialectal revivals, more or less bookish in origin, and often as artificial and as unrelated to existing conditions as the most “aureate” and Chaucerian “Ynglis” of the 15th century was to the popular speech of that time.

This sketch is concerned only with the general process of Scottish literature. An estimate of the writings of individual authors will be found in separate articles, to which the reader is, in each case, referred.

I. Early Period (from the beginnings to the earlier decades of the 15th century). The literary remains of this period written in the vernacular, which is in its main characteristics “Northern English,” are in the familiar medieval kinds of romance and rhymed chronicle. After the Wars of Independence a national or Scottish sentiment is discernible, but it does not colour the literature of this age as it does that of later periods when political and social conditions had suffered serious change.

The earliest extant verse has been associated with Thomas of Ercildoune (q.v.), called The Rhymer, but the problem of the Scot's share in reworking the Tristrem saga is in some important points undetermined. Uncertainty also hangs round the later Huchown (q.v.), who continues in the 14th century the traditions of medieval romance. Contemporary with the work of the latter are a few anonymous fragments such as the verses on the death of Alexander II., first quoted by Wyntoun in the 15th century, and the snatches on the “Maydens of Englelonde” and “Long beerdys,” quoted by Fabyan. The type of alliterative romance shown in the work ascribed to Huchown continued to be popular throughout the period (e.g. The Knightly Tale of Golagros and Gawane), and lingered on in the next in The Buke of the Howlat by Holland (q.v.), the anonymous Rauf Coilȝear of the third quarter of the 15th century, and in occasional pieces of, burlesque by the “Chaucerian” makars.

Independent of this group of alliterative romances is the not less important body of historical verse associated with the names of John Barbour (q.v.), Andrew of Wyntoun (q.v.), and, in the middle period, Harry the Minstrel (q.v.). Barbour has been called the Father of Scottish Poetry, apparently for no other reason than that he is the oldest writer who has held place in popular esteem. Though his work shows some of the qualities of a poet, which are entirely lacking in the annalistic verse of Wyntoun, he is without literary influence. Later political fervour has grouped him with the author of the Wallace, and treated the unequal pair as the singers of a militant patriotism. That association is not only unjust to Barbour's literary claims, but a misinterpretation of the general terms of his political appeal. The “Scottish prejudice” which Burns tells us was “poured” into his veins from the Wallace is not obvious to the dispassionate reader of the Brus.

II. Middle Period (extending, roughly, throughout the 15th and 16th centuries). To this period belongs the important group of Middle Scots “makars” or poets who, in the traditional phrase of the literary historians, made their age “the Golden Age of Scottish Poetry”; it is in the writings of this time that we find the practice of the artificial literary dialect known as Middle Scots; but there is also in this period the first clear indications of other literary types of great prospective interest in the historical development of the literature of Scotland.

The prevailing influence in the writers of greater account is Chaucerian. These writers, to whom the name of “The Scottish Chaucerians” has been given, broke with the manner of 14th-century verse, and carried over from the south much of the verbal habit and not a little of the literary sentiment of the master-poet. In both respects they are always superior to Lydgate, Occleve and other southern contemporaries; and not