of the 15th century that we encounter any works seriously undertaken in the vulgar: before that time there is nothing but an occasional letter (e.g. that of the earl of March to Henry IV.), a few laws, and one or two scraps in the Asloan and other MSS., all of the plainest and without any effort towards style. Nor can it be said that the first works of a more extensive and deliberate character show any consciousness of pure art as we find it in contemporary writings in England, though the fact that they are translations has some prospective significance. The earliest books are Sir Gilbert Haye's Buke of the Law of Arms, Buke of the Order of Knighthood, and Government of Princes, preserved in a single MS. at Abbotsford. The dull treatise of John of Ireland (q.v.) lays claim to originality of a kind. The author's confession that, being “thretty ȝeris nurist in Fraunce, and in the noble study of Paris in Latin toung,” he “knew nocht the gret eloquens of Chauceir,” and again that he had written another work in Latin, “the tounge that I knaw better,” is valuable testimony to the difficulties in the way of a struggling Scots prose. Other preliminary efforts are the Portuus of Nobilnes in the Asloan MS.; the Spectakle of Luf, translated by G. Mill (1492); and the Schort Memoriole of the Scottis Corniklis, an account of the reign of James II. In the early 16th century the use of the vernacular is extended, chiefly in the treatment of historical and polemical subjects, as in Murdoch Nisbet's version of Purvey (in MS. till 1901), a compromise between northern and southern usage; Gau's (q.v.) Richt Vay, translated from Christiern Pedersen; Bellenden's (q.v.) translation of Livy and Scottish History; the Complaynt of Scotlande, largely a mosaic of translation from the French; Ninian Winzet's (q.v.) Tractates; Lesley's (q.v.) History of Scotland; Knox's (q.v.) History; Buchanan's (q.v.) Chamaeleon; Lindesay of Pitscottie's (q.v.) History; and the tracts of Nicol Burne and other exiled Catholics. In these works, and especially in Knox, the language is strongly southern. The Scriptures, which had an important bearing on the literary style, as on other matters, were, with the exception of Nisbet's version, which does not appear to have widely circulated, accepted in the southern text. It was not till the publication of Bassandyne's Bible in 1576-1579 that a Scottish version was used officially. Lyndsay in the midst of passages in Scots quotes directly from the Genevan version. The literary influence of the Bassandyne was unimportant. Of the prose books named the Complaynt of Scotlande is the most remarkable example of aureate Middle Scots, the prose analogue of the verse of the “Chaucerians.” This characteristic is by no means strong in Scots prose, even at this time: the last, and most extravagant, example is the Rolment of Courtis by Abacuck Bysset, as late as 1622.
So far in our treatment of the Middle Period we have taken account of the “Chaucerian” and more popular verse and of the prose. There appear towards the close of the period certain verse-writers, who, despite points of difference with their Middle Scots predecessors, belong as much to this period as to the next. In language they are still Scottish; if they show any southern affectations, it is (all echoes of the older aureate style notwithstanding) the affectation of Tudor and Elizabethan English. This poetry, like that of the early half of the period, is courtly; its differences are the differences between the atmosphere of the reigns of the first and fourth Jameses and that of the sixth. When the sixth James becomes the first of England, a more thorough transformation is discernible. In the centre of this group is King James (q.v.) himself, poet and writer of prose; but he yields in literary competence to Alexander Scott (q.v.) and Alexander Montgomerie (q.v.). Their interest on the formal side is retrospective, but it is possible to find even in the persistent reiteration of medieval sentiment and methods, a fresh feeling for nature, and a lyrical quality of later timbre. With these may be named the minors, William Fowler (q.v.), Alexander Arbuthnot (q.v.) and John Rolland (q.v.), the last most strongly influenced by Douglas and the earlier “makars.”
III. The third period begins with the 17th century, with the union of the English and Scottish crowns, if we seek the aid of political history for our literary finger-posts. Strict accuracy would place the date of change earlier than 1600 or 1603, for there is evidence in the 16th century, even outside the region of diplomatic and official correspondence, of the intermingling of the north and south. It is, however, when James is established on his new throne that we have the clearest signs of the changes which had been at work and were ultimately to transform the entire literary habit of his ancient kingdom. The recital of the names of the Anglo-Scots poets will make this clear: Robert Ker, earl of Ancram, best known for his Sonnet in Praise of a Solitary Life; Sir David Murray of Gorthy, who wrote The tragicall Death of Sophonisba; Sir William Alexander (q.v.), afterwards earl of Stirling; William Drummond, laird of Hawthornden (q.v.); Sir Robert Aytoun (q.v.); James Grahame, marquess of Montrose; Patrick Hannay; and the covenanting Sir William Mure of Rowallan (q.v.); a group whose “courtly” style might be assumed, had the literary evidence been less ample than it is. So, too, in prose. There we have Drummond again, and that strange genius Sir Thomas Urquhart (q.v.); a crowd of polemical writers, mostly ecclesiastics; all the historians, including Spotswood and Calderwood. There is small room for the old vernacular here; and less when we take into account the still active Latinity, shown in the publication by the poet Arthur Johnston (q.v.) of the two volumes of Delitiae poetarum Scotorum hujus aevi illustrium (1637), and in the writings of John Barclay (q.v.) author of the Argenis, Sir Robert Aytoun (v.s.), Thomas Dempster (q.v.), the historian, David Hume of Godscroft, Sir John Scot of Scotstarvet, best known for his prose Staggering State, Sir Thomas Craig, author of the Jus Feudale, Andrew Melville and others represented in Johnston's volumes.
There is nothing in Scots to balance this English and Latin list. The play Philotus, a poor example in a genre rarely attempted in the north, is indebted to the south for more than its subject. The interesting philological tractate Of the Orthographie and Congruitie of the Briton Tongue by Alexander Hume (not the verse writer, u.s.) is in its language a medley; and William Lithgow had travelled too widely to retain his native speech in purity, even in his indifferent verse. Scraps may be unearthed as mediocre as the Answer to Curat Caddel's Satyre upon the Whigs, which attempts to revive the mere vulgarity of the Scots “flyting.” The only contributions which redeem these hundred years and more from the charge of disrespect to the native muse come from the pen of the Sempills (q.v.). And even here individual merit must yield to historical interest. We are attracted to Beltrees and his kinsmen less by their craftsmanship than by the fact that they supplied the leaders of the vernacular revival of the 18th century with many subjects and verse models, and that by their treatment of these subjects and models, based on the practice of an earlier day, they complete the evidence of the continuity of the domestic popular type of Scots verse.
In the 18th century the literary union of the North and South is complete. The Scot, whatever dialectal habits marked his speech, wrote the English of Englishmen. The story of his triumphs belongs to the story of English literature: to it we leave James Thomson, Adam Smith, David Hume, James Boswell and Sir Walter Scott. If the work begun by Allan Ramsay, continued by Fergusson and completed by Burns, were matter for separate treatment, it would be necessary to show not only that the editorial zeal which turned these writers to the forgotten vernacular and to “popular” themes was inspired by the general conditions of reaction against the artificiality of the century; but that it was because these poets were Scots, and in Scotland, that they chose this line of return to nature and naturalness, and did honour, partly by protest, to the slighted efforts of the “vulgar” muse. Yet even they did not abjure the “southern manner,” and their work in it is matter of some critical significance, whatever may be said of its inferiority in spirit and craftsmanship.
Bibliography.—Authorities dealing with individual authors and their generation are named in the bibliographies appended to the articles on Scottish writers. Reference may be made here to the following general works (given in chronological order): Warton, History of English Poetry (1774-1781); D. Irving, Scotish Writers (1839), and History of Scotish Poetry (1861); H. Ward, The English