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NEIL MUNRO
VIEWS  AND  REVIEWS
Glasgow Evening News.


Views and Reviews
5th August 1897

“Benjamin Swift”
	
Among the new books of the opening autumn season will be “ The Tormentor” 
by “Benjamin Swift”, who has wisely enough refrained from rushing out the volume too 
soon after the success of “Nancy Noon,” though I understand the manuscript a year ago 
was practically ready for the printer. Mr Swift was, till lately, in Normandy, and 
staying at Etretat, and I am now glad to say his health has much improved. From Etretat 
he went to Holland, and he is at present in Scheveningn, alternating musical evenings 
at the somewhat dreary Kursarl with spells of hard work on his next novel, which will 
be called “The Destroyer”. “I have read the MS of the volume now in Fisher Unwin’s hands” 
says a mutual friend, “and I can honestly say I have been greatly struck by the originality, 
power, and passion of the book; it should make a stir.”

                                          * * *

The Romance of Montrose
	
Another Scots writer who seems wisely to go slow is Mr Maclaren Cobban, from whom 
we have not had a volume for some time. He is about to publish a historical dramatica. I 
trust I am not divulging any secret when I say that it deals with the seventeenth century 
campaign of Montrose, one of the most brilliant military operations the world has seen, 
although conducted in a primitive age by ?... and unrestrainable troops. I met Mr Cobban 
some time ago – an Aberdonian with a great deal of vitality and “go” in him – and he hinted 
that the forthcoming volume is one of three which will have a sort of historical continuity. 
It may be added that his story is told from the Lowlander’s point of view, and so he will 
miss the utilisation of the McVurich narrative in the second volume of he “Red Book of 
Clanranald”, particularly its invaluable record of the invasion of the Campbell territory 
in 1664. The light thrown by recent research upon the exploits of the period seem to me to 
greatly modify the claim of Montrose to inspired generalship. Although Napier and all the 
other historians of the gallant Grahame have credited him with the entire genius of those 
wonderful forced marches and strategic attacks, Gaelic tradition has insisted that all he 
did was done under the advice of Alasdair Macdonald, son of Colkitto, who knew the material 
he had to work with better than Montrose could have done. The tradition seems to be very 
consistently confirmed by contemporary records now coming to light for the first time.

                                          * * *

On Cricket

Prince Ranjitsinhji’s book on cricket will be published on Monday, and for manyreasons, most 
of all for the eminence of the author as an exponent of our greatest out-door game,it is almost 
certain to establish itself as the modern classic on the subject. The Prince is as astute a business 
man as he is a cricketer, and, taking advantage of the great competition there was among the publishers 
for his book, he gets from the Blackwoods, I believe, an enormously large sum for the copyright. It 
ought to prove a good speculation for the publishers, however, for the interest of England in the volume 
is considerable, and some of the magazines – such as the Windsor – I see, are apparently willing to pay 
handsomely for the privilege of quoting articles from the proof-sheet. In this month’s Windsor Ranjitsinhji’s 
counsel on fielding is given pretty fully,and in summary it amounts to this:-
1. Keep the legs together when the ball is hit straight to you and when you re picking it up.
2. Always back up the man who is receiving the ball at the wicket, when it is thrown in; 
but not too close.
3. Do not fail to try for: a catch, however impossible it may seem.
4. Always be on the look-out and ready to start.
5. Run at top speed, but not rashly, the moment the ball is hit.
6. Use both hands whenever possible.
7. Do not get nervous if you make a mistake.
8. Obey your captain cheerfully and promptly.
9. Never be slack about taking up the exact position assigned to you; never move about 
in an aimless, fidgety manner.

                                         * * *

A Scots Correspondent on the Last war.

“With the Greeks in Thesealy” – Mr Kinnaird Rose’s book on the recent war – has come out 
with remarkable promptness; it seems as if the echo of the fighting had hardly time to die away. 
It is a capital book, not only in its descriptions, which the public sampled before in the Reuter telegrams, 
but in its analysis of the situation before and after the struggle. According to Mr Rose, the weak spot in 
the whole Greek army was that there was no real sense of military discipline. “The drill,” he says, “was 
left mainly to the non-commissioned officers, and the officers, at drill, were not in sufficiently close 
contact with the men. There was no habit of implicit obedience to orders, and I have actually seen an officer 
approach a private and implore him as a favourto do what he had been told by his non-commissioned drill-instructor. 
On another occasion when a smart shower of rain came on during drill, a battalion simply melted away to seek the 
shelter of the nearest trees.” It is obvious that in the face of war carried on against them by the German 
officered and strictly disciplined Turkish forces the Greeks could have little chance of success. Of course, 
there was the Greek enthusiasm and fervour to set against all other defects. The Greeks, in their own opinion, 
were engaged in a holy cause and patriotic crusade. But, as Mr Rose remarks, “An undisciplined host, activated 
by however grand enthusiasm, must melt like snow before the sun in face of far inferior numbers who are trained 
to arms and to unquestioned obedience to their superior officers.” Mr Rose was at Shika and in the hottest corner 
of Plevna, but he never witnessed such wild and continuous fire as was indulged in by the Greek soldiery, who, 
instead of simply yelling at critical moments, fired off their guns indifferent to aim or anything else.

                                         * * *

The Illustrator

Mr Rose’s book is illustrated by Mr Maud of the Daily Graphic, whose sketches on the scene of conflict 
very greatly augment the interest of the volume. On his return from Thesealy Mr Maud considerably the 
worse for some weeks’ sleeping on sand and dodging of bullets kindly intended by the Turks for the Greeks 
whom he accompanied, and the poorer, too, by all his portable property, lost, stolen, or strayed at Larissa, 
went north to Ballater and did some fishing. I met him there two or three months ago, and went with him to Iona, 
where his white hat and putties created some curiosity as to his identity among the pilgrims celebrating the 
centenary of St. Columba by worshipping at his shrine. “Rose,” said Mr Maud, “is a marvel of physique; 
I believe he could do very comfortably for a week without food, and sleep is certainly a luxury he can 
easily dispense with on the field.”

                                         * * *

Joseph Conrad’s Latest.

I feel sure we are in for a tremendously fine novel in “The Nigger of the Nautilus,”(sic) [The Nigger of the Narcissus] 
which Mr Joseph Conrad has begun as a serial in the August New Review. Few novels of the sea open so magnificently, 
in atmosphere, in character drawing, in the confident but not pedantic handling of marine material. One of 
the characters stands out in strong relief, Singleton, an old A.B. – a sixty-year-old child of the mysterious sea. 
“He sat apart on the deck right under the lamps, stripped to the waist, tattooed like a cannibal chief all over his 
powerful chest and enormous biceps. Between the blue and red patterns his white skin gleamed like satin; his bare back 
was propped against the heel of the bowsprit, and he held a book at arm’s length before his big, sunburnt face. With 
his spectacles and a venerable white beard, he resembled a learned and strange patriarch, the incarnation of barbarian 
wisdom – serene in the blasphemous turmoil of the world. He was intensely absorbed, and, as he turned the pages an 
expression of grave surprise would pass over his rugged features. He was reading ‘Pelham.’ The popularity of Bulwer Lytton 
in the forecastles of Southern-going ships is a wonderful and bizarre phenomenon. What ideas do his polished and so 
curiously insincere sentences awaken in the simple minds of the big children who people those dark and wandering places 
of the earth? What meaning their rough, inexperienced souls can find in the elegant verbiage of his pages? What excitement? 
–What forgetfulness? – What appeasement? Mystery! Is it the fascination of the incomprehensible? – is it the charm of 
the impossible?”

                                         
                                           * * *

Peter the Great

At Zaandam the other day I saw American tourists by the score crowding up to the house of Peter the Great, which has 
had to be enclosed in an outer shell to prevent the enthusiasts from taking it away in bits. The general impression, 
got at school mostly, of the great Father of his Country, is a sadly erroneous one, according to M. Kazimfez  Waliazewski, 
whose “Peter the Great” (Heinemann) is the most astonishing reading. Peter seems to have been as extraordinary combination 
of madness and genius as Ludwig,the mad king of Bavaria, whose exploits are worth reading in the current 
'Pearson’s’. He was a buffoon, a debauche, a brute, a coward. He thrashed his wife like any moujik, made her kiss 
the statue of Priapus in public, sent his guests home drunk in wheel- barrows, tortured an epileptic who disturbed 
Mass with untimely fits, and tortured and killed his own son, making much merriment a day thereafter. He piqued himself 
on his anatomical knowledge and loved to practise the dentistry that he had picked up from a mountebank at a fair. 
A sure way to his heart was to let him wrench a grinder from your jaw; ….
(The rest of this article is illegible on my copy)

                                          
                                          * * * * *

12th August 1897

The Great Big Boom

Of all the objectionable devices for booming a book there is none more distressing than to have the author interviewed 
(or interview himself) upon the character, aim, and quality of his latest work. If you are a complacent soul you may 
pardon him acquiescing in the customary paragraph preliminary, the allusion oblique, or the frank exaggeration about the 
numbers printed for the first edition, but to have the misguided creature sit down in cold blood and reel off, as Mr Hall 
Caine has done, a column “interview” which is nothing more nor less than a flagrant advertisement of his own transcendental 
genius is intolerable to the earnest and conscientious mind. Could you conceive of a poet of any reputation who would do 
the same? Have you known a good artist in any intelligible medium – paint, statuary, or simple letters – who thought it in 
good taste to tell over for the vulgar delectation, the tale of his travail with the masterpiece, and anticipate the verdict 
of the authorised critics by himself assuming that his work was really great? Yet we have Mr Caine, a man – not of genius, 
perhaps – but admittedly of great talent and admirable fastidiousness in his craft, with a reputation that is the young 
writer’s to emulate, setting a pernicious example to every ambitious young artist by showing him the colossal commercial 
advantages of a well organised Boom.

                                          * * *

Is the Public an Ass?

There has never been a book so boomed before – so blatantly, so insolently, so manifestly with the impression behind 
that the public really is an ass – which, God help us, is the case in some respects. For weeks back every newspaper 
you look up had two or three paragraphs regarding the coming marvel, and for several days quite sane and reputable 
organs of public opinion have given valuable space gratis to exciting advertisements (ingeniously called “Literary Gossip”) 
about the number of copies Heinemann would print of “The Christians,” the time it took to set up the type,the weight of 
the paper used, and the pecuniary return that would accrue to the author. These were the more transparent advertisements; 
there were others more subtle to be met with in every direction. It is not surprising that Mr Hall Caine, in an amusing 
full-page photograph of himself which appears in this week’s Sketch, as he appears in his study at Greeba Castle,when hemmed 
in one corner by all the best-looking furniture, should wear a worried look as who should say, “A man must do it to live.” 
Kipling does not do it; he has triumphantly evaded the interviewers of three continents, and never connived at an oblique 
advertisement of his wares; Barrie does not do it; his shrinking artistic sensitiveness would abhor such draper’s methods; 
Meredith – but indeed why suggest grotesque comparisons.

                                          * * *

Mr Hall Caine’s Work.

You and I, my dear Major, have a good opinion of Mr Hall Caine’s work, though it may seem to some of our superior friends 
a Philistinism to admit it; we would, I am sure, enjoy it much more heartily if it was not invariably heralded by the 
same self-advertisements. It is your hand, I am sure, that is discernible in a letter to the Daily Chronicle. He has never 
seemed to realise, you say, “that in every high profession – be it law, medicine, the Army, or literature – there are certain 
unwritten laws – a gentlemanly etiquette which is binding upon all, but most binding upon those who have a claim to stand among 
the leaders of the profession. If those who are successful advertise their own wares, and use the machinery of the Press 
in order to whet curiosity about their own book before it has come into the hands of the critics, the young aspirant naturally 
comes to imagine that this is the cause of the success, and by his imitating the same tactics the whole tone of the profession 
becomes lowered.” That is the opinion of the gun room at Monavechatan Lodge; and it will be the opinion of everyone who realises 
the great misfortune of surrendering the old and honourable traditions of every fine art.

                                          * * *

The Logroliad.

Mr Le Gallienne’s offence is less heinous because it is unselfish, and in some degree a failing that leans to virtue’s 
side. You have read Miss Olive Constance’s little book of poems “Opals,” published by Mr John Lane, and I know you admired 
them for their dainty French impressionism, their atmosphere, unexpected turns of phrase and sentiment which ought to 
be among the first qualities to a book of verse. But are the poems, my dear Major, quite important enough to justify 
Mr Le Gallienne spreading himself over the London Press to say this by the column? He said it in the Star over his pen 
name of “Log Roller”; he has said it in various places since then, and now he gushes anew on “Opals” to the extent of a 
column in the Westminster Gazette. And here is a passage characteristic of Mr Le Gallienne at his best as a critic of feminine 
poetry published from The Bodley Head:- “One pleasant characteristic distinguishes Miss Constance from the typical woman poet 
– she doesn’t pretend to be a man, but is quite consciously charmed with her own girlhood; though maybe one should not assume 
that the ‘frail girl in whom God’s glories meet’ of ‘The Poet’s Picture’ is necessarily the poet we are enjoying. Indeed her book, 
so to say, is a girl, a girl poet, almost cruelly alive, experimentally passionate, tremulously sensitive to every 
sound straying across the ?olian harp of life. The little book seems to flush and tremble in one’s hand. It is so 
exquisitely a girl.”

                                          * * *

?

What does it mean? When is a girl “almost cruelly alive?” What passions are ever experimental and not inevitable? And does 
Mr Le Gallienne think it any extraordinary thing that a book of poems by a woman should have femininity revealed in every 
line if she is writing poetry at all?  “The little book seems to flush and tremble in one’s hands” – does it? That sentence 
is really not criticism; it is not what Mark Twain would call plain horse-sense; it is an indication that our erotic gentleman 
had forgotten all about poetry and the book for a moment, and was thinking about the girl who wrote it. For he dearly loves a 
petticoat, as you know from the immortal “Quest.” If I were a poet with any serious intentions towards a reputation for the Muse 
I should dread having him write a notice of me, for his good heart would make him say encouraging things if he said anything 
at all, and he is never encouraging without at the same time being gushing. In the bright lexicon of Le Gallion there is no 
such word  as “good”; everything that is worth his notice is superlatively magnificent, and you can’t but be amused to see in 
his weekly column in the Star how immortal geniuses turn up thirteen to the dozen. He writes columns about poetlings, rhapsodists, 
and such truck whom you never heard of in your life and (from samples he kindly provides you with) never want to hear about 
again, and from that day when he refers to them they are dead. The Star column, indeed, is the Morgue of Mediocrities. 
“ Log Roller” goes about the river of letters with his injudicious hook, and cleeks out a stiff ‘un at regular intervals,laying 
it out on his marble slab for the passers-bye to look at – a mournful and significant spectacle.

                                          * * *

“If I were God.”

Mr Le Gallienne is in a precarious condition. He has spoiled his reputation for judgment as a critic by the utterly 
indiscriminate character of his appreciations, and his poetical celebrity is a thing of the day before yesterday and 
forgotten by the world at large. He must make a new break of some sort, and I suppose we have the first indication of 
what that break will be, in the report by Dr Robertson Nicoll that he is writing a book to be entitled “If I were God.” 
Mr Stead has so long been the understudy for the Deity that it seems hopeless for Mr Le Gallienne to think of the part, 
but, seriously, is it not pitiful that anyone should dream of fanning up the embers of a reputation by so Salvation Army 
a trick as that? 

                                        * * * * * 

Note: The above is a letter written to the ”Major” when the writer is at Monavechatan Lodge while waiting for the 
rain to stop so that the party can go on a grouse shoot.
Note: Richard Le Gallienne (1866-1947) poet, novelist and critic.
                                       
                                        * * * * * 


19th August 1897 

“Q’s” Continuation.

Many people will turn with great interest to the September Pall Mall Magazine to see how Mr Quiller Couch fares with 
his concluding chapters of Stevenson’s unfinished “St Ives.” They will fins that a rather delicate and difficult task i
s being remarkably well done. “Dead Man’s Rock” and the “Splendid Spur” (which are still the best selling of “Q’s” books) 
were unmistakably inspired in their romance and method by “Treasure Island” and “Kidnapped” and for Mr Couch to lapse again 
into his early style should be the leastb difficult part of his undertaking. If there is a limit at all, it is that he 
out-Stevensons Stevenson.  For example – “There in the doorway stood, or rather titubated my paragon of body servants;” 
“I lifted the breakfast cover and saw before me a damnatory red herring;” “I hugged the lacerating fox of self-reproach” 
– these somehow suggest a parody rather than a sober imitation. But otherwise the vein is excellent, and the Cornish author 
even succeeds in his Scots, which is quite of the period and locality of the story as Stevenson began it. You flinch a 
little at the notion of letting the hero of the tale escape in a balloon, as Mr Couch (with Andree in his mind perhaps) 
has done, but it is a nice old friend, the “Lunardi,” and that takes the ?? thing of the melodrama. 


                                          * * * 

An Edinburgh Landlady’s Library. 

Mr Couch makes St Ive’s tell the contents of his Edinburgh landlady’s library.
It consisted of ?Derham’s  Physics and Astro-Theology,” “The Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin,” by one Taylor, D.D.; 
“ The Ready Reckoner or Tradesman’s Sure Guide,” and “The Path to the Pit delineated with Twelve Engravings on Copperplate.” 
So quaint a collection of religious and commercial lore I’m afraid could not be got on an Edinburgh landlady’s shelves today. 
She would, if she had the books at all, certainly have Burns (“that my man read every ither nicht up to the time he de’ed”)., 
the first volume of the “Family Doctor” published in parts, and nipped in the bud, as it were, early in its career because 
it did not have any reference to Brownkitis; and the “Moonlight Soap Year Book,” invaluable in her case for its recipes for 
cooking game and its instructions in the growing of peaches. The other day, when rain made the moor impossible, The Novelist 
and I, with that affable impertinence which brings the Sassenach home at once to the heart of the native, made a peregrination 
through the cottars’ houses round about Monavechatan, and indulged our curiosity as to what people read. There was not one 
of Mr Quiller Couch’s list, except the Ready Reckoner – invaluable and essential for wool market days. There was a Bible, 
of course, or rather there were two, one in English and the other in Gaelic; “Boston’s Fourfold State,” and the sermons of 
Knox, “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” and “The Holy War.” That seemed to exhaust the religious literature of Glen Caol, unless 
“An T Slighe chum Sal-bhris, le Oludh Franclin” – otherwise “The Way to Wealth, or Poor Richard Improved by Dr Franklin” – 
is to be considered of that category. 

                                          * * *

In the Cot.

But there is, in some of those peat-reeked cottar’s huts, a variety of profane or secular lore which is astonishing. 
I don’t suppose any of them have read the ingenious Flavius Josephus translated from the original Greek according to Havercamp’s 
accurate edition, by William Winston M.A., but there Flavius is in four solid calf-bound tomes on the window shelf, very useful 
for stropping a razor on. “Buchan’s Domestic medicine” and “The Farrier’s Guide” are obviously necessary to the happiness of Glen 
Caol, for the doctor is ten miles distant, and over five miles of a loch at that, and besides, if it is a time of frost,he is 
sure to be skipping a rink at the curling and unable to come away. Keltie’s Clans, the poems and songs of Evan MacColl and 
Donacha Ban, and Sinclair’s song collection, all in the native vernacular, are to be expected; but you find Melmoth’s Cicero 
inexplicable until, on inquiry, you learn that Uncle Hamish, now in Canada, and a prosperous  farmer, being in his youth a 
“lad o’ pairts”, had ambitions for the ministry, and laboured for a while under the remarkable delusion that those letters of 
Master Marcus Tullius provided a suitable introduction to knowledge. It is worthy of notice that from end to end of Glen Caol 
you will probably not get a single copy of Burns, unless it happens to be at the Manse. The natives know a good many of his songs, 
but only as they know (or did know up to twenty years ago) the rhapsodies of Ossian and the feinn, by picking them up orally; 
and for a few of them the creator of the songs is a very dim personality, occupying the same misty mythological atmosphere as 
Ossian himself, and the composer of that very antique pipe tune ”The Lament of the Harp,” which Cameron the keeper assures me 
gravely is contemporaneous with the Psalms of David.

                                          * * *

Poetry in Glen Caol.

I’m afraid that for our neighbours in Glen Caol Mr Stead’s Penny Poets have been published in vain. They have not got even 
the length of the “Popular Educator,” which a century ago ravaged the whole of the cities of the plain. Books of any kind, 
indeed, are with them simply accidents. After the Bible and the song book which are conventional possessions, the rest were 
either inherited or bought in a job lot at the sale of Kildrocharty’s farm stock and plenishing nineteen years ago last Whitsunday, 
or left by a kinsman from the South, who was on a visit at Glasgow fair. But if they do not read very many books – having more 
serious calls from life – they are studious patrons of the newspaper press. The Weekly Mail comes up the glen by the Flying Post 
every Saturday morning.

                                          * * *

The Flying Post.

The Flying Post, being a gentleman of modern enterprise, found his Mail becoming so weighty of late that he provided himself 
with a bicycle to lighten his journey. The indignation of St-Martins-le-Grand when it learned of this through a neat little 
paragraph in the Oban Times congratulating “our young rural messenger on his energy” was very great. It demanded the instant 
suppression of the bicycle, and issued an unalterable time-table, showing the different hours at which the minion was to be 
at certain “farm towns”, cottages, and shooting lodges, and forbidding him, under the pain of instant dismissal, to travel 
round his district at any quicker rate than four miles an hour. The consequence is that Glen Caol does not get its weekly 
newspaper in time to read it all before Saturday night. Many years ago a newspaper would not be opened on a Sunday in any 
part of this long strath; other times, other manners, and even the elders of the church will now give half-an-hour between 
the diets of worship on a communion Sunday to the perusal of “Side Lights,” or that thrilling romance “Reddy’s Bonny Daughter.”

                                         * * *

An Anthology of American Fun.

It is only within the last fifteen or twenty years that American humour in the widest sense has become known to, and 
understood, by the British reader. Its extravagance, its “irreverence” (as it used to be considered) its insistence 
upon the jocular side of everything, from a mule’s hind legs to culpable homicide; at first puzzled and amazed us. 
Less than ten years ago so erratic a comedian as the late Billy Nye might as well be writing in Choctaw as in English, 
so far is his appeal to the reader in the effete East, was concerned. What led to our comprehension and appreciation of 
the American funny man in the present decade is difficult to say. Probably something was due (so far as the minor humourists 
were concerned) to the English editions of the Detroit Free Press, and the sterling elementary qualities of the first-class 
comedians like Twain, Harte, Lewell, and Holmes – though their popularity here goes farther back – was inevitably bound 
to capture us. There are still many American humourists whose work is better known in this country than their names. George Bagby, 
the “Dansbury Newsman,” Petroleum V. Naseby, and Orpheus C. Kerr, for example, have contributed much to the gaiety of this 
nation, and yet how few British readers know these names. Who they are, what they did, and who many other Yankee comedians 
of the pen are, may be found from a most entertaining and admirable book which Mr Robert Ford has just published from the 
Paisley press of Mr Alex Gardner. Mr Ford necessarily deals fully with the classics, - Lowell, Holmes, Harte, Twain and 
Artemus Ward (whom I take leave to consider rather a lugubrious joker), and of the work of these men as well as of numerous others, 
he gives discriminate and copious examples. His book is not only a valuable record of a certain class of American literature, but 
a mine of wealth in wit, wisdom, and honest laughter.

                                        * * *

If HE were ---- !

Glen Caol, I need hardly say, never heard of Mr Le Gallienne, and its religious sentiment will be spared the shock of 
learning that he is publishing a book, as I said last week, to be entitled “If I were God?” Mr James Bowden, the publisher, 
writes to the British Weekly a letter which, as a non sequitur would be hard to beat. “May I,” he says, “venture to point 
out (as Mr Le Gallienne is out of England) that his title is an adapted quotation from Dr. George Macdonald’s ‘David Elginbrod.’ 
Here are the lines in question, which you will no doubt remember:
	“Here lie I, Martin Elginbrodde;
	Hae mercy o’ my soul, Lord God;
	As I would do, were I Lord God,
	And ye were Martin Elginbrodde.’”
What this means, it is difficult to guess. Surely Mr Bowden does not imagine that as a quotation the title would be any less 
blasphemous and silly than as an original invention.
  
                                                             * * * * *



Thursday 24 February 1898

A Jail Bird’s Song

“The Ballad of Reading Gaol” is in many respects one of the most interesting literary successes 
of the year. You will not read so many fervent eulogiums upon it as upon Mr Stephen Phillip’s 
new poems or the patriotic banjo muse of Mr Newbolt, but it is work original and strong enough to
have secured its author no little fame if his past history had been different from what it was. 
“C.33” is, of course, Oscar Wilde, and it is difficult to understand why so many of the newspapers,
commenting upon this poem, should consider the ends of British Decency best served by withholding 
all reference to that fact. The Ballad has much of the simplicity of “The Ancient Mariner” and the 
macabre of “Eugene Aram,” and is as terrific an impeachment of the prison system as has ever been 
written, though it is a poem first and last and a tract only by implication. It is the story of a 
trooper who was executed at Reading on 7th July, 1896, for the murder of his wife; of his last days 
in gaol; and the feelings of his fellow prisoners who knew “he was to swing.”

	The Governor was strong upon
                The Regulation Act
	The Doctor said that Death was but 
		A scientific fact:
	And twice a day the Chaplain called
		And left a little tract.
	And twice a day he smoked his pipe
		And drank his quart of beer;
	His soul was resolute and bold
		No hiding place for fear:
	He often said that he was glad
		The hangman’s day was near.


A Poet’s Training

“C.33” has certainly benefited in one respect at least from his experience of prison life. It has 
taken the fat off his soul as well as off his bones, and he is a healthier man morally, to judge 
by his own verse, as well as physically:-

	We tore the tarry ropes to shreds
	With blunt and bleeding nails;
	We rubbed the doors and scrubbed the floors,
	And cleaned the shining rails;
	And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
	And clattered in the pails.

he writes, and though it may not seem a regimen very conducive to the poetical spirit, it has been 
efficacious in this case. What is most marked about the ballad is the intensity of the personal 
feeling in it, the absorbing nature of its human sympathy, which is exampled, perhaps, at its best 
in the verses

	We saw the greasy, hempen rope,
		Hooked to the blackened beam,
	And heard the prayer the hangman’s snare
		Strangled into a scream.

	And all the woe that moved him so
		That gave that bitter cry,
	And the wild regrets and the bloody sweats
		None knew so well as I;
	For he who lives more lives than one
		More Deaths than one must die.

					* * *

Note by Brian D. Osborne: The remainder of the column was devoted to a discussion of George Bernard Shaw’s views 
on the split infintive and on French literature.

					
					* * * * * 


11th August 1898

The Bard of Loch Fyne

	It is indicative of the small part the purely Celtic muse plays in the literature of 
Scotland that the death of so renowned a Gaelic minstrel as Evan MacColl should 
receive but a perfunctory obituary paragraph from the Scottish press. For MacColl 
was the oldest, if not the last, of the Bards. A great many minor Gaelic geniuses still 
touch their harps to the conventional. The fair-haired (or Nut-brown) Maiden, the 
Deserted Valley, the Inconstant Fisher Lover monotonously inspire their muse, but 
MacColl, even by them, was confessed one of the very last among the major sons of 
the Gaelic Olympus. He was not so absolutely the genius as Donacha Ban of the same 
shire of Argyll, but he had much of MacIntyre’s gift, and he carried the traditions of 
the last century’s Celtic song into the present. He has died in Canada, more a 
Canadian than a Highlander by his history, yet he was known to Canada and Celtic 
Scotland till yesterday ad the “Bard of Loch Fyne”, and those who saw the aged poet 
a few years before his death say he was then, as ever, a perfervid son of the mist and 
the mountains.
	MacColl was born on 21st September, 1808 (not 1812, as stated in ‘The 
Beauties of Gaelic Poetry’) at Kenmore’ Lochfyneside, where his father was a 
comfortable crofter, and famed far and near for the possession of the richest store of 
Celtic song of any man in his part of the country. Old MacColl’s home became, in 
consequence, the common resort of those in the district who delighted in such things, 
to hear him sing or recite, as he could with marvellous fluency, the poetry of such 
favourite minstrels as Mairi Nighean Alastair Ruaidh, Alexander Macdonald, 
Donacha Ban, and all the old Jacobite singers. A shrewd old man must have been the 
elder MacColl, not unlike the father of poet Burns, for his peasant home contained an 
excellent little library, and finding that the village school afforded but the scantiest of 
education, he actually hired a tutor for his family at an amount of remuneration which 
a crofter’s income could scarcely warrant. From the tutor, Evan MacColl learned his 
English and his love of English literature: his subsequent career as ploughman, herd, 
fisherman and roadman provided the material for his Gaelic and English verses on 
nature and life.
	Evan MacColl (to be biographical for once in these columns, because 
elsewhere the dead poet may find no biography) emigrated to Canada in 1850, but 
many years before that he had removed from Loch Fyne to Liverpool, where the 
influence of Fletcher of Dunans and Campbell of Islay had procured him a post in the 
Customs House. His first publication in volume form appeared in 1836 under the title 
of ‘The mountain Minstrel’, containing Gaelic songs and his earliest attempts in 
English. In 1838, Messrs. Blackie, of Glasgow, published the Gaelic work now 
known as ‘Clarsach nam Beann’ (Harp of the Hills) containing all the Gaelic poems 
of the bard up to that date, and the result was that MacColl was hailed as a rare and 
valued acquisition to Gaelic literature. Hugh Miller called him the Moore of Highland 
song, and the comparison perhaps sums up all that is to be said in criticism of his 
work. His Gaelic poems are chiefly amorous or descriptive pastoral, with more of 
thought and imagery than of deep feeling, wild and sometimes rough in rhyme and 
epithet, yet inspired by a strong and singular individuality. His English verse, as might 
naturally be expected, is scarcely so good.

					* * * * *


2nd February 1899


Fiona, A Mystery 

A good many days behind the Fair, as it were, the Daily Chronicle asks this week,
“Who is Fiona Macleod?” and goes on to lay forth its theory. It does so by comparing the styles 
of the alleged Fiona and of Mr William Sharp and concludes that “in our search for Miss Macleod
we may turn to Mr Sharp himself, and say with literal truth, ‘Thou art beside thyself.’” This, 
as readers of the News are well aware is not a new theory. Mr Sharp’s name has long since been
mentioned in that connection. He is the literary executor or literary agent of the fair unknown; 
her business his done through him; her correspondence went to his house or to the houses of his 
friends. It has at times been stated that the unknown was Mrs Sharp or a relative of hers,and Mr
Sharp himself has been frankly credited to his face with the authorship, and has denied it.

A Study in Two Styles

But the Chronicle is the first to take the trouble of comparing the styles of Fiona Macleod and
of Mr Sharp, and the first to draw attention to the remarkable resemblances the comparison discloses,
and the no-less striking fondness both display for certain “precious” and out-of-the-way words,phrases,
and sentiments. The Chronicle postulates at once that the work of Fiona Macleod is the work of a man, 
because the standpoint from which life is regarded, certain frank and unfeminine modes of expression, 
the allusions to love and the relations of the sexes, cannot be associated with a woman. It is also 
assumed that the writer is middle-aged, and that “Pharais” could not have been the first work of some
hitherto “mute, inglorious Milton.” Both writers, it is pointed out, have a special use for such words
as “myriad,” “aerial,” “poignant,” “cosmic,” “honey-ooze,” “suspire,” and “sunswept.” One is given to 
write of “unfrontiered land,” and the other of “disfrontiered realm”; both are fond of “the spires of 
heather” and “whirling stars.” In Mr Sharp’s “Ecce Puella” we have the “wine-dark purple of the bell-heather
and the paler amethyst of the ling,” and in Miss Macleod’s “Hill of Dream” we have leagues of purple 
heather, of pale amethyst ling.”

Parallels

In the current “Fortnightly,” over the signature Fiona Macleod, appears an article on the younger
Celtic poets and “if this be read,” says the Chronicle, “in conjunction with Mr Sharp’s preface and
notes to “Lyra Celtica, “ it will be found that one voice unquestionably speaks in both. Fiona Macleod
says that W.B Yeats has “the most haunting sense of beauty of any of our young writers … the most distinction,
by far the rarest touch.” Of the same author Mr William Sharp says:- “He has a grace of touch and 
distinction of form beyond any of the younger poets of Great Britain, and there is throughout his work
a haunting beauty and a haunting sense of beauty.”  Fiona Macleod says that Miss Tynan “makes her admirers
think of her as a sister of St. Francis of Assisi, for surely she is the author of tender little things,
birds, flowers, little children;” and Mr Sharp says that Miss Tynan “has St. Francis love of birds
and all defenceless creatures and humble things.”

Mr Sharp’s ‘Story’

That is the Chronicle’s argument. It is striking, and the parallels are certainly surprising, but they
might easily be accounted for if Mr Sharp is editor as well as literary adviser of Miss Fiona Macleod.
That the work of Miss Macleod is the work of a man I cannot believe (unless, indeed, he is androgynous),
and it is simply libellous to assert, as the Chronicle does, that recent reviews by Fiona Macleod and Mr
Sharp in the Bookman on a Scots novel “were written by one and the same hand.” That would be a scandalous
thing, and I am certain from what I know of Mr Sharp that it is impossible. But one conclusive answer to 
the Chronicle’s assumption of the identity of Fiona Macleod and Mr William Sharp is that Mr Sharp denies
that he is Fiona Macleod. I interviewed him on the subject lately. “There is a Fiona Macleod,” he assured
me, “and I have nothing to do with what she writes except that I act as her adviser and look after her 
interests with publishers.” That should be conclusive so far as Mr Sharp is concerned.

An Interview

In the course of my conversation with Mr Sharp he gave me some further guarded details, among others
that Fiona Macleod is young, a woman, a Highlander, and a relative of his own. She is not Mrs Sharp. She
is known to comparatively few people as Fiona Macleod, which as Mr Sharp cautiously suggested, “might be
a maiden name.” He added it was certainly one form of her baptismal name. From that I assumed that Fiona
Macleod is, to all intents and purposes, a nom de geurre and Mr Sharp did not deny it. He went further and
said that if her everyday name was mentioned it would immediately be recognised as connecting her with a 
well-known family. Also, he agreed with me that while at first the concealment of the lady’s identity 
might for several reasons be desirable, it was unfortunate that it should have to be kept up any longer.
That may be accepted, I think, as Mr Sharp’s answer to the charge of the Chronicle. My own speculations
as to the authorship of the works in question take a different line, but circumstances make it undesirable
that they should be given in an unsigned article.

Biographical

Mr Sharp, it may not be irrelevant to say here, was born in Renfrewshire in 1856, and married in 1884
a relative of Highland extraction, herself a writer and student of literature. He was educated at 
Glasgow University, and after leaving, went to Australia, then to the Pacific, and finally settled in 
London at literary work. He came to know Rossetti through Sir Noel Paton, and saw much of D.G. Rossetti,
by whom he was introduced to Marston, &c. He has since then lived much in Italy and France, travelled
extensively in Europe, North America, and Canada. Besides editing “The Canterbury Poets,” he has 
published numerous books of his own verse, biographies of D. G. Rossetti, Shelley, Heine, and Browning,
half a dozen novels,and numerous essays. His most popular publication has been “Sonnets of the Century,”
an anthology which has gone into nearly a score of editions. From “Who’s Who” which provides these 
particulars, I learn, too,that Mr Sharp’s recreations are “frequent change of scene and environment;
in summer boating and sailing,and cycling in Scotland. Miss Macleod’s recreations are given in the same
book as “sailing, hill-climbing and listening.”

					 * * *

Munro’s conclusion that William Sharp and “Fiona Macleod” were not one and the same person was of 
course wrong. Two years before this piece appeared Munro had identified “Fiona Macleod” with William
Sharp in another article in the News and had received a lengthy denial from Sharp [see Volkel,
Heinrich: Das literarische Werk Neil Munros p. 182] By 1904 when he was reviewing “Fiona Macleod’s”
The Winged Destiny he was highly critical of her grasp of Gaelic [see The Looker-On pp. 274-6.] and
doubted the veracity of the account of her Highland Gaelic roots – one story being that she was related
to the ministerial dynasty of the Macleods of Morvern and to Norman Macleod “Caraid nan Gaidheal”. 
Although suspicions continued about the dual identity it was only formally confirmed after Sharp’s death. 
One of the curiosities of this piece is that the reviews of a Scots novel by Sharp and Macleod in The
Bookman, reviews which the Daily Chronicle asserted were by “one and the same hand” and which assertions
Munro insisted would be scandalous if true, but impossible based on his knowledge of Sharp, were of 
Munro’s John Splendid. These reviews, together with ones by Andrew Lang and William Wallace, appeared
in the October 1898 edition of The Bookman and were reprinted in Exploring New Road pp.95-103.
Brian D Osborne


					* * * * * 


8 February 1900

The Future Scots Novel

“I anticipate the rise of a school of fiction dealing exclusively and even realistically with the 
Scotland of today. Here are pastures new and untouched. The horrors of slum life in the big 
cities – especially in Glasgow and Edinburgh – will never be thoroughly understood, and no 
attempt at ending, instead of temporarily making believe to mend them, will be initiated until 
we have a Scottish Zola.” That is the conclusion at which Mr William Wallace 1. arrives in a 
well-timed and interesting article in the February “Bookman” upon “Coming Scottish 
Literary Developments.” No one who has had an intelligent eye to the signs of the times for 
the past ten years will question the shrewdness of the forecast. The historians and charter 
chests have now had more than a fair share in the inspiration of modern fiction; in the domain 
of the idealistic idyll, Mr Barrie seems to have said what is like to be the last word for many a 
day to come; the local colourist (who, oddly enough, seems to be always rural in his 
topography) had apparently pegged out claims in every pastoral portion of Scotland, and yet 
the most vital and potent material for a modern Scottish novel is all untouched or left to the 
tender mercies of the ladies and gentlemen who purvey serial fiction for the Dundee weekly 
papers. I am not sure that I ardently desire the Zola system in the treatment of our slums and 
it looks as if Mr Morison, Mr Pugh, Mr Glaister and the author of No. 3 John Street had 
temporarily exhausted the [unreadable word] convention in Great Britain, but it would be 
good to see a novelist with the rare combination of poetry, humour and charm making the 
most of the dark but profoundly theme which modern Scottish life presents, not in the 
kailyard but up tenement closes.
History
Mr Wallace in the same article calls attention to the revived interest in Scottish history, and it 
is interesting to learn that among forthcoming books is one by Dr James Colville to be called 
“The Making of Modern Scotland,” and likely to cover much the same ground as Mr 
Graham’s 2. “Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century.” It is to be hoped that Dr 
Colville’s history will be less insistent that Mr Graham’s upon the squalor and vice of our 
unhappy forefathers. Now that Mr Graham’s book has had the great success to which its 
merits as an impressionistic picture of a period and its enthralling articles entitle it, one may 
the more freely deny its claim to be considered the final record of Scottish life, manners, and 
morals a hundred years ago. Too frequently the native historians of the period – the writers of 
the First Statistical Accounts, Parish and County Histories, and so on – have been prone to 
credit the good old times with graces and amenities that are largely imaginery – Mr Graham 
appears to have been biased the other way, and I confess my somewhat sluggish patriotic 
gorge rises, not at the details of the story, but at the general inferences. If it were not for his 
name and what is known of his personality, I should have thought the author of “Social Life 
in Scotland in the Eighteenth Century” was merely one more of the countless cynical 
Sassenachs who have, from Burt downwards, come north to misrepresent in letters for 
English contemporaries a people they could not understand and a society they thought 
themselves superior to, which latter belief has fatal effects on books of travel. Scotland was 
poor a hundred and fifty years ago, but yet Scotland, on the whole, was a great deal happier 
and more decent than the minister of Hyndlands would have his readers believe. He produces 
plenty of authorities for his statements, but a more genial chronicler of the same period could 
bring forward quite as many authorities in total disagreement with Mr Graham’s views.

					* * *

Notes by Brian D. Osborne:

Note: The remainder of this column was devoted to a discussion of sea stories and Jerome K 
Jerome’s “Three Men on the Bummel”
					 * *

1) William Wallace (1843-1921) was in 1900 Assistant Editor of the “Glasgow Herald”, 
becoming editor in 1906.

2) Rev. Henry Grey Graham (1842 - 1906) was Minister of Hyndland Parish Church, 
Glasgow.


					* * * * *


4th October 1900

From Misty Islands

	The most interesting Blue Book I have ever seen was issued as a report on the 
Napier Commission. It contained poetry, and a great deal of it too, which is an odd 
thing in a Blue Book. The poetry – mostly old Gaelic hymns, incantations &c. – were 
due to Mr Archibald Carmichael, who had contributed to the evidence laid before the 
Commission an original and valuable and scholarly article on the Agrestic Customs of 
the Highlands. On these subjects – on all that relates to the disappearing myths and 
manners of the Gael in the Outer Hebrides – Mr Carmichael is profoundly learned, 
and I sometimes fancy I discover evidences of his aid in the vernacular of Fiona 
Macleod. We are promised early next month – on St Michael’s Day (0.8.), to be 
accurate – a book of Gaelic Hymns and incantations by Mr. Carmichael, which is 
likely to attract widespread attention. He has been at work on “Carmina Gadelica”(as 
it is entitled) for over forty years, its material being got mainly in the Outer Hebrides 
among the island folk, who naturally retain the old ways and beliefs longer than the 
people of the mainland. Some of his labour as a collector has already seen the light in 
“Campbell’s Tales” and elsewhere, notable among his finds being the story of 
Deirdire in the Transactions of the Inverness Gaelic Society. I have seen a copy of 
Mr. Carmichael’s book which is printed on hand-made paper by Constable and bound 
beautifully in white. Each hymn – which has its English translation facing it – has an 
initial letter copied by Mrs Carmichael from old Celtic MSS in the Advocates’ 
Library.

					* * * * *


21st March 1901

Jimmy and I

	We used to swap books. I feel ashamed when I read of bright young souls who 
read Dante at ten, and could recite great swatches of Shakespeare before they had 
their second teeth, for I was not like that. Neither was Jimmy. It seems so poor and 
sordid to confess it, but there it is! At ten I fancy we were about the stage of the Penny 
Blood and a particularly rich auriferous vein of yellow little Indians and moral Pirates, 
sold at threepence, with the imprint of James Henderson, Red Lion House, on them. 
But the threepenny Indians and Pirates were so popular among all classes in the 
school that Jimmy and I, who could easily read two a day, speedily exhausted the 
whole series. Of all that glorious band of painted braves and spirited buccaneers, I 
cannot recall a single individual. They whooped in the forest; they trod the gory deck 
for their appointed time, and now they sleep with all their names and attributes and 
gallant deeds forgotten. Some phrases survive – “the Happy hunting-grounds.” “I 
have spojken,” “die, paleface!” “run out the bow-chaser,” “up to the yard-arm with 
him,” “the Jolly Rodger” – bit these remain, perhaps, because Jimmy and I were used 
to mingle them in our ordinary conversation. Jimmy knew them all, and even invented 
a bright phrase of his own – “Die, dog, or swallow the hatchet!”

“Jessica’s First Prayer”

	Nothing but the direst famine in Bloods and Indians could have driven us to it, 
I feel sure, but at all events there came a day when Jimmy and I snatched a tame 
rapture from a girl-book called “Jessica’s First Prayer.” It seems yet to circulate in 
Sunday Schools, and doubtless has some merits of its own, but nothing of it lingers in 
this sieve-like memory beyond a blurred impression that Jessica was unnaturally 
good. She was the first of that pensive crowd that found apotheosis in Ellen 
Montgomery of “The Wide, Wide World.” I was half-ashamed to admit that there was 
any charm in these for me, and so was Jimmy. They were never circulated so 
extensively as the others among the schoolboys, and thus we two read them oftenest, 
until I never think of the Eastern States of America but as a country where Aunts are 
abominable and religious young men called John go about preaching. No shooting, no 
sailing, no comic negro cooks! And yet somehow, that wretched “Wide, Wide World” 
had a fascination for Jimmy and me. It gave a pleasing melancholy to my period of 
mumps; to see its name in print invariably revives the gritty taste of Gregory’s 
Mixture, whereas “The Wild Man of the West” is associated with the odour of 
camomile and camphor, which had something to do with the treatment of my frequent 
quinsies. And of all the books of that golden age, “The Wild Man of the West” 
remains for Jimmy and me the most mysterious. I have thought of advertising in the 
“Athenaeum” for a clue to its authorship. The present generation seem never to have 
heard of it, and for Jimmy and me it is merely a glorious name. All we can recall is 
that it was about the size of one of Ballantyne’s, and had stunning pictures.

Ballantyne the Brave.

	As for Ballantyne himself – ah! he was the Magician! Where we got him, 
heaven knows, but Jimmy surmises that he was a discovery of the Sunday School 
library, which used to be housed in the church steeple. Custom could not stale his 
infinite variety; “Ungava” and “Martin Rattler.” And “The Young Fur Trader” passed 
between us like tennis balls, and Jimmy and I still think the true Hesperides, the true 
world of romance, is somewhere west of Winnipeg. The silver fox, the mocassin, the 
rifle and stockade; the bark canoe, the trader and the voyageur – oh! That’s the stuff 
of poetry! There is but one Lake in this great world, and that is the Lake in the Wood; 
one river – the Saskatchewan; one mountain range – the Rockies. Jimmy and I in 
those days knew to a shilling how much it cost for a single steerage ticket to Quebec, 
and we wrote pencil notes to each other from Fort Chimo or Fort Moose, and put the 
mysterious letters H.B.C. after our names. Yesterday I read “Ungava” – which is 
another boy’s delight – and I found the glamour gone. I must advise Jimmy not to 
touch it. And still not wholly gone. “In another moment the canoe disappeared behind 
a group of willows that grew on the point at the river’s mouth, and the young man was 
left alone. For a few minutes he stood contemplating the point behind which his 
companion had disappeared; then, giving a hasty glance at the priming of his rifle, he 
threw it across his shoulder, and, striding rapidly up to the bank, was soon lost to view 
amid the luxuriant undergrowth of the forest.” A Chapter1 that ends like that must 
still retain a little of its ancient magic for Jimmy and me.

The Picture Book

	Jimmy had a relative who had a library. It consisted of Bunyan’s “Holy War” 
and “The Pickwick Papers.” Good and clever boys would have read and re-read the 
“Holy War,” but Jimmy and I were not that sort of boys, and I am compelled to 
confess that Bunyan’s nomenclature was bitterly resented. We unanimously decided 
that the “Holy War” was no good. When we first read “Pickwick” I cannot recall, but 
we used to lie on the floor and look over the pictures by Phiz. Sam Weller brushing 
boots in the yard of the inn; Mr Pickwick standing behind the door of the young 
ladies’ seminary; the Club sliding on the ice – Jimmy said I must have got the whole 
spirit of the story through these illustrations long before I was able to read the 
letterpress with understanding. Then, somehow, it grew upon us that Bloods were not 
the last word in English literature, and upon the base of Dickens’ comic creations we 
built a structure of materials which the Red Lion House could not supply. Where this 
latter class of letters came from I cannot guess, but Jimmy and I found almost enough 
to keep us going, enough certainly to make us frightful dunces in school, for you 
obviously cannot learn the Chief Mountain Heights of Europe, or do brilliant parsing 
and analysis, when you have “The Spa Heat” to finish before morning, because 
Jimmy has only got two nights loan of it. There was a man Jorrocks in “The Spa 
Heat” (of the Handley Cross Series), and the last chapter was almost wholly amissing, 
but Jimmy and I declared it a ripper, though we could not guess for our lives what a 
Spa was.

Strap – A Vagabond

	There was fortunately a great deal that was misty in our reading in those days. 
“Roderick Random,” for example – there is much in that excellent work that does not 
make for edification, and yet Jimmy and I careered over its thin ice without supposing 
for a moment that there were muddy depths below. I’ll swear we did not even have 
the skill to fill in the dashes, and yet we had a thorough knowledge of the story and its 
incidents. Its characters had no actual existence for Jimmy and me; what we read for 
were the scenes – the flogging of Dr Syntax, the sick on the quarter-deck of the 
“Thunder”; the duel between Roderick and the midshipmen. Those sea characters we 
considered almost as good as those in our discarded Bloods, and otherwise Smollet’s 
picaro did us as little harm as “Sandford and Merton” which Jimmy won as a prize in 
school. There was no joy at all in “Sandford and Merton,” but who shall tell the 
magnificence of the “Swiss Family Robinson?” How providential were all the 
happenings in that glorious book, how enviable the children! Not even “Pickwick” or 
“Roderick Random” was so high in our esteem; we placed it at the pinnacle of 
English Literature, and at the bottom we placed “Ministering Children,” for what 
reason cannot be now recalled.

The Library

	Nobody took the slightest trouble to select reading for Jimmy and me; if Scott 
came our way, I do not recall him, and for years he was merely a name on the back of 
a file of sixpenny reprints in the druggist’s shop where we bought H.D.Smith’s 
Grammar, and the senna for ourselves. Jimmy and I read everything that came our 
way, and it is appalling to realise with what trash we fed our hungry fancy. We were 
so eclectic that we could devour “Scottish Chiefs” and “Gipsy Brenton” with equal 
avidity, and if aught else failed, a penny sheet of ballads would fill an hour, though 
poetry was merely stuff to learn by heart in school. There was no supervision over the 
reading of Jimmy and me, as I say; but a time came when we profited by the literary 
counsel of a lady who sold tea and tobacco and hair-oil, and conducted the funniest 
kind of circulating library. Among the treasures of the library were:-
	Tom Cringle’s Log
	The Castle of Otranto
	The Mysteries of Udolpho
	Handy Andy
	Pickwick Abroad
and the most of the works of Anthony Trollope. The librarian assured us that 
“Pickwick Abroad” was if anything better than the original work of Mr Dickens, and 
Jimmy and I quite believed that it was so. She was an elderly lady with a wig and an 
air of faded gentility that is precious to memory, and I regard that while she properly 
enough desired to direct us to her more improving works she also sold us what were 
called cheroots, but were a sort of cigarette with a tobacco wrapping.

Rattling Ones

	Kingston and Cooper, Ascot R.Hope, Lever and Jules Verne seem to have 
come flooding in upon us all at once about this time, and Jimmy and I were kept 
exceeding busy. The days were long, but not long enough for us as we read in the 
byre, the stable, the wash-house, or the wood. Two special days stand out pure golden 
– that one when Grant’s “Romance of War” (without covers) came with the noise of 
bugles and pipes, and that other when the “B.O.P.” Part 1 came full of beautiful 
things. There was the “Weekly Citizen” also, giving lovely vistas of another world of 
letters, and “Cassel’s Magazine,” but Jimmy and I were then in trousers and virtually 
our golden age was done.

					* * * * *

28th August 1913

“Sinister Street”

	The great popularity of Mr Compton Mackenzie’s novel “Carnival” will 
ensure a favourable reception for his new story, “Sinister Street,” a title which, he 
informs his readers, is symbolic, and “bears no reference to an heraldic euphemism.” 
If the title does not bear this significance, it is impossible to guess any other reason 
for it. “Sinister Street” is merely the first volume of a two-volume account of a man’s 
life: fired to emulation by Mr Arnold Bennett’s later practice, Mr Mackenzie promises 
us 500 pages more of his hero’s career some time next year. If one does not insist 
upon a plot based on intrigue and entanglement, “Sinister Street” is excellent reading 
– very personal and confidential to all appearance, much more founded on memory 
than imagination. The life of Michael Fane, its chief protagonist, begins for the 
narrator almost at birth, and progresses deliberately to his eighteenth year, at which he 
is left “with a strange sensation of life beginning all over again.” Mr Compton has a 
shrewd and complete conception of the psychology of boyhood; his Michael Fane is 
much more truly the “soaring human boy” than some very notable literary expositions 
of that bewildering creature are. “Sinister Street” is a sound piece of literary 
craftsmanship, and (always assuming you do not want a dramatic clash of contending 
interests) a narrative of enthralling interest.

					* * * * *

21st May 1914

The Gaelic Drama

	There may be half-a-dozen Scottish Gaelic plays in existence, these being one-
act pieces principally; at all events, I know no more. They have been played by 
amateurs before small Gaelic societies. It is now proposed to stage a Gaelic play at the 
annual Mod of the Comunn Gaidhealach. But the Hon. R. Erskine has more lofty 
ideas of the possibilities of the Gaelic drama; he has found some Gaelic Playwrights, 
hitherto unacted, who entirely eschew English models, and blaze quite new national 
trails for themselves, and he asks the clan and Celtic societies, especially in Glasgow, 
to bestir themselves and establish a Scottish equivalent for the Dublin Abbey Theatre.
“In a great city like Glasgow, which has a large Gaelic-speaking population, I am 
firmly persuaded,” he writes,” that such a pleasing and useful innovation would be an 
abounding and instantaneous success. It would increase the vogue of the national 
speech; immensely encourage our existing dramatists, besides stimulating others to 
follow in their footsteps; it would raise the whole tone and level of Celtic 
entertainments; and for my part I would not be the least surprised should it result in no 
small measure of financial success. I go further, and say that I think a small regular 
company of Gaelic actors, having their centre in Glasgow, but touring the capitals of 
the United Kingdom and the Provinces, is an idea which presents a ‘business 
proposition.’ … It matters nothing that, outside the Gaidhealtachd, the language to 
which the actors should speak would be, for the most part, unintelligible to the 
audience. When the Sicilian players were in London a few years ago everyone rushed 
to see them, though the language in which they spoke was Greek to the greatest part 
of those who attended the performances. It was their acting and the daring and novelty 
of the innovation which carried the day.”

Mr Erskine Asks

	Mr Erskine’s Gaelic quarterly, “Guth na Bliadhna,” in a Gaelic article which 
one ventures to guess is by Mr Erskine himself, falls foul of the Commun 
Gaidhealach for wasting too much of its money and energy on purely spectacular 
song and harp affairs at the annual Mods, and is very ironical about its project for 
paying extra fees to schoolmasters in the Highlands for teaching Gaelic. “Why,” he 
asks with unanswerable logic, “should it not be compulsory on school teachers to 
teach the language of the country as they teach history, geography, Latin, French, or 
any other subject?” … Does the Frenchman require to give extra fees of this sort to 
have his language taught in the Gaelic shires and in these islands? If not, why should 
the Gael have to put his hand in his purse to secure the teaching of his unfortunate 
mother-tongue?” The suppression of Gaelic in schools, the writer of the article says, 
began in 1872. It really began some generations earlier, and originated, I fear, not 
with John Bull and the Education Department, but with the Gaels themselves, as may 
be read in the lives of Evan MacColl, the poet, and others.

					* * * * *

4th September 1919

Scottish Minstrelsy

	In a dusty corner the other day I picked up a stoutly bound volume that was 
published in Glasgow about forty years ago, perhaps. ‘Recent and Living Scottish 
Poets’ it was called, ‘being a series of brief biographical sketches of Scottish poets, 
with illustrative selections from their writings.’ The biographical sections were dull 
(though one remembers that the anthologist wrote of his contemporaries), but the 
illustrative sections were of profound interest. That prosy old book has reminded me 
once more that the truest artistic expression of Scottish sentiment came from people 
unknown to fame, and that the songs we regard as most truly national were piped on 
rustic lutes.
	The little men – and a few women – created the minstrelsy of our land. Burns, 
of course, a big man, crowned the work and handed on the high tradition; but it was 
the honest, sentimental balladists of tavern and smiddy who tilled the soil for the 
reception of the crop that is so representative and racy of Scotland. They were at their 
best in dialect and at their worst in English. The dialect songs lived, were wedded to 
traditional airs, and co-operated wonderfully in the truest earnest of national art, the 
Scottish minstrelsy.
	It is the modern fashion to ignore the old songs or even scorn them openly: a 
suicidal fashion. It is cursing the breed of which one was born. Let us have a great 
Scottish poet writing in the English convention before we throw out the little Doric 
treasure we do possess.

Unfamiliar Names

	All good Scots, however, know the songs of Scotland without knowing or 
recognising authorship. So it occurred to me, as I read the old book, that this 
opportunity should be grasped to do some posthumous justice to the little men. 
‘Recent and Living Scottish Poets’ shall be robbed of its guarded treasure.
	The first name I encounter is that of Sandy Rodger. The name does not 
suggest much. But Sandy did his bit: he wrote ‘Robin Tamson’s Smiddy,’ a work of 
the purest native humour. After Rodger comes William Miller, a name that suggests 
anything from a stonebreaker to a barber. But if I quote a quatrain about Wee Willie 
Winkie who rins through the toun, perhaps I shall suggest the greatness of one who 
was born in Glasgow in 1810, and who was happy enough to hit upon the title 
‘Whistle Binkie’, for his first published volume.
	After him comes Hew Ainslie, born in the parish of Dailly in 1792. Hew 
Ainslie … But let me quote:-

	‘It’s dowie in the hint o’ hairst,
	At the wa-gang o’ the swallow.
	When the wind grows cauld, and the burns grow bald,
	And the woods are hingin’ yellow …’

	That, sirs, is poetry. Hew Ainslie was at the heart of the matter. I should 
regard it as tragic if Scottish children were to forget that a poet of such worth was 
their kinsman. It is tragic enough that he had to emigrate to America, and wrote so 
poignantly of his native land, an exile – prosperous enough, but yet an exile.

The Good and Bad

	So the record proceeds in the most interesting and revealing fashion. There is 
much in it that we did not know, much we ought to know.
	Here is Hugh Macdonald, of Glasgow, with his ‘bonnie wee well on the breist 
o’ the brae, that skinkles sae cauld in the sweet smile o’ day’; after him Alexander 
Anderson – ‘Surfaceman’ – fondly remembered for ‘The bairnies cuddle doon at 
nicht’; then James Hyslop, of the ‘Cameronians’ Dream’ – subject matter, by the bye, 
for one of the finest cantatas of Hamish McCunn, of Greenock, the greatest composer 
ever produced by Scotland. The list could be extended, also, to include gems that are 
hidden here, their lustre forgotten.
	There is, of course, reams of third-rate stuff. That monument of patriotic 
fatuity – ‘Scotland Yet’ – is included, though its companion piece of Victorian 
bombast – ‘Draw the Sword, Scotland’ – is not to the fore. And the failures are almost 
all written in classical English. Dr Joseph Roy offers us this contrast:-

	A (in English)		‘In a dingy room in London’s gloom
				In the very heart of the nation
				A woman lay on Christmas Day,
				Moaning of sheer starvation.’

	B (in Scots)		‘Since Adam fell frae Eden’s bower
				And put things sair ajee,
				There’s aye some weakness to look owre
				And folly to forgie.’

Dr Roy  should have known better than to write A.

The Predecessors

	That, however, is how native art comes into being, and passes finally into the 
speech of a nation. One is, at least, glad to find that the mid-Victorians not only were 
foolish in the ‘Scotland Yet’ manner, but did give us something worthy and lasting.
	The path, however, was cut for them long ago, by Allan Ramsay and Burns, 
with the assistance of a remarkable group of women. Let us record one debt to the 
latter. We do not forget Joanna Baillie and her ‘Woo’d and married and a’’ and ‘Saw 
ye Johnie comin’?’ nor Lady Ann Lindsay and ‘Auld Robin Gray’. Then there was 
Mrs Grant of Laggan – she of the ‘Letters from the highlands’ – with ‘O, where, tell 
me where’ and Mrs John Hunter, wife of the anatomist, who wrote (of all things!) 
‘My mother bids me bind my hair,’ to which Haydn gave immortality. Greatest of all 
was Caroline Oliphant, Lady Nairn. ‘The Land of the Leal’, ‘Caller Herrin’’, ‘The 
Laird o’ Cockpen’, ‘The Hundred Pipers,’ and many others are all her creation.
	Add the names of Hector MacNeil, Allan Cunningham, Robert Ferguson, and 
Tannahill, and the strength of the tradition begins to be comprehended.

What of the Day?

	Where, then, do we stand today?
	Few great names occur to us. Charles Murray and Mrs Violet Jacob seem to 
stand for the last of the Doric school and we know that their dialect is, in the quite 
inoffensive sense, an affectation. That is, it does not spring from the earth born spirit. 
Mr Murray is a South African Government official, Mrs Jacob is the daughter of a 
laird. Both are capable of writing just as finely in English, while Robert Sterling, 
killed in France, derived from purely English models, and would have been ill at ease 
in the Doric.
	But though the great may be few, the little are still many. Of the verses that 
reach Scottish newspaper offices from contributors outside more than half are in 
dialect – though it must be said that the influence of Sir Harry Lauder is more 
apparent than that of Burns. And there comes to me continually for review the 
slender, locally printed verses of rustic singers. They are seldom first-rate; they are 
often thoroughly bad: but they are always honest. Therefore I say with confidence, the 
spirit is living yet.

					* * * * *


18th December 1919

In Memoriam: John Macdougall Hay

	Purposely I delayed last week to say a word about the work of John Macdougall Hay. 
He was for most of us a writer, who had not yet arrived at perfect fruitfulness, and we 
could not dare to strike out a phrase of judgment that would cover his work in the 
sombre Gillespie, and in the weaker but happier Barnacles, and in his numerous 
contributions to the periodical press. We hardly dare do so even yet. Fortunately for 
myself, I am able to quote something lucidly explanatory from an authoritative source 
– indeed, from the memorial sermon delivered in his church by the Rev Professor H 
M B Reid. It may assist us all in our estimates.
        “Some may question whether his theological training was not a slight 
hindrance when he came to his own as novelist. In Ian Maclaren the preaching habit 
has certainly diminished the artistic value of his work; for a novelist should never 
become markedly didactic. In Crockett, that soon went, because he left the pulpit; but 
what he gained technically was more than lost in sincerity, when he became the sport 
of publishers and the slave of contracts. But the early work of Hay was sometimes of 
great beauty and almost faultless finish. One night, in a small company of students in 
my study, we talked about his feuilletons in the Evening News and elsewhere. I 
ventured to take out a cutting… and to read it aloud. None of us can forget the 
startling vividness of it…”
        
A Comparison
        
        In another part of his address Professor Reid referred to the most obvious of 
comparisons, thus:
	“I see that he is being classified as belonging to the school of another, also 
untimely gone from us, George Douglas Brown; but there are notable and deep 
differences. Gillespie is no doubt an example of realism, but so were the Kailyarders 
in their way. And it is on the surface pessimistic, leaving much the same impression 
as the House with the Green Shutters - a sense of silent gloom and the sadness of 
human fate. But Gillespie must be taken along with Barnacles to get the author’s true 
place. It is really a merciless exposure of selfishness grown to a cancer, but it must be 
judged side by side with Barnacles, the study of a stainless and unselfish soul. The 
two pictures must be hung together, and we must look on both. They embody Hay’s 
gospel, or rather the gospel of the Nazarene.”
	Then there is this interesting pronouncement:
	“Fresh from reading his last published volume called ‘Their Dead Sons’ I have 
quickly decided that these rugged lines represent his best, though at times they are 
like the edges of a fresh wound…”

An Appeal

        I leave the critical side of Professor Reid’s address to draw attention to a 
proposal made tentatively in his last paragraph.
	“To-day, while we ask for comfort to his sorrowing family and friends, we 
may also ask you for a larger recognition of his consecrated genius. Robert Napier has 
his memorial in Dunblane Cathedral. Ought not John Macdougall Hay to have his, in 
this quiet parish church?”
	The suggestion, I believe, is being acted upon and admirers of his work in 
particular, and lovers of Scottish literature in general, may shortly be called upon to 
give tangible proof of their admiration. These offerings, it is hoped, will be generous, 
as the memorial funds will be required for a purpose of an important nature.

					* * * * *

22nd January 1920

ROBERT BURNS

	The most obvious criticism of Burns Clubs from the literary standpoint is that their
existence is notessential to the enduring quality of the peasant poet’s work. Burns had genius,
and the works of genius do not die. It does not need an annual orgy of haggis-eating to keep his
memory alive.
	But that is by the way. Otherwise the Burns Clubs – though they admirably illustrate
the strength of Scottish patriotism – yet have a detrimental effect on the purity of our 
criticisms and appreciations. Their influence moves us to sentimentalise our national view of the
national bard, destroys our initial liberty by insisting on a wholesale acceptance as good of 
everything that Burns wrote, and confuses the literary view by stressing aspects of the life of
the man rather than the verses of the poet. The average enthusiast is too pugnacious and lacking 
somewhat in discrimination. He will write his book to prove that his hero was an ardent Volunteer,
or fight a meaningless battle over the grave of one of his many loves. I use the word “meaningless”
deliberately. Burns was a literary phenomenon, and all that posterity can properly concern itself 
with is his literary product, its value and influence. The circumstances of his life signify 
nothing now.
	It is surely right and fair to his memory that we should now discard the accretion of
legend, hystericalpartisanship, and unimportant fact that has gathered in the last hundred years,
and try to appreciate the true sterling worth of him – his magnificent contribution to the 
literary treasure of humanity.

Historical Environment

	Our appreciation must begin with an appreciation of the historical and even political
circumstances prevailing in Europe and Britain at the period in which he was born and through
which he lived. That period is dominated by the sinister figures of, on the continent, the French
aristocracy and, in this country, William Pitt.
	Tyranny, it may be put roughly, was at the climactic point in Europe. Aristocracies on the 
one hand, hard,ruthless middle-class bureaucracies on the other, were in full and autocratic charge
of human affairs. It is a matter of historical fact – strangely glossed over and even inverted 
in our school histories – that Pitt (even though it may have been for the sake of an ideal) kept
the people in subjection. Simple and earnest theories on religion, for example, were put at the
vindictive mercy of Bishop Wilberforce, and experimenters in literature were in no better case. 
Thought, in short, was not free in Western Europe; human souls were denied their birthright of 
intellectual freedom and expansion.
	It was a period so terrible that we who are free to think and speak to-day can have no 
conception of the gloom of it, can never share the holy anger of those greater souls in whom 
the spark of freedom glowed. We can only judge the darkness comparatively by observing the 
greatness of the semi-abortive French Revolution, the fire of Burns,Wordsworth, Shelley, and Byron, 
the splendourof Europe’s intellectual and artistic emergence from the horror.

Out of Darkness

	The period of oppression had its poets. England’s greatest was Pope. … We begin to 
appreciate the stagnation of the period into which Burns was born. Those were the conditions under
which genius had to blossom,that was the standard model he had to follow. His greatness was that 
the conditions failed to affect him, that the tinsel stuff of Pope influenced only a small 
proportion of the lines he wrote, and those the worst.
Long before Wordsworth and Coleridge made their great pact on the Quantock Hills, Burns was
singing of the people for the people in the quintessential voice of Scotland. There were predecessors, 
of course. The Jacobite poets and poetesses had done their share, and much had been done 
by the booksellers of Edinburgh to collect the best of native verse. But the genius that was 
to give enduring fire to the racial forms was still lacking;Scotland was still in need of a singer
who should raise the voice of the North in championship ofthe liberty for which the race had fought
through centuries of the bitterest civil and religious strife.
	Burns was the man. It was not that he preached liberty directly, but that he sang freely
of the people, of the simple environment of the people, for the people. His was the voice of 
democracy. When he wrote a song to a mountain daisy, tyranny was challenged. The dawn of naturalism
was coming fast.

Discrimination

	Now, one hundred and twenty-four years after his death, we are surely free to discriminate
between the good and the bad in his work. Surely it accentuates our joy in his poetry that the good
is further above the average than the bad is below it. I confess to a comparative affection for
the really artificial “To Mary in Heaven”; it makes me double thankful for the nervous, Doric 
passion of “Jean” and the robust, rustic humour of “Duncan Gray.” Ranting, roving Robin is 
preferable to the vain Pope-ridden Burns. Yet one must know the faults,the poetic faults to savour
the glorious contrast of the people’s own songs.
	The official sentimentalisation, again, is unconsciously unfair to one who was all the greater
because he was a peasant. He had been seen to often through a distorted romantic atmosphere as an 
elegant figure in an Edinburgh drawing-room, a polished writer of letters to aristocratic 
acquaintances. If we are to take it that he as born to such a life, we are to emasculate our proud 
vision of the ploughman who painfully mastered his letters and then his art in order to give form 
to the universal emotions that burned in his breast.
	God help us of Scotland if we substitute an anaemic abstraction, the spirit of Burns’s
worst work, for the red-blooded reality of the peasant!Even the tipsy singer of Poosie Nancy’s 
is more lovable than the lion of Edinburgh and Clarinda. The poetry of the former state is the greater.

Heralds of the Dawn

	He was greatest when he was natural, even that truism must be insisted upon in these
days of belligerent exposition of every aspect of his life and work.
He was the Scot utterly – sentimental, coarse, melancholy, tender, sardonic, erotic, passionate, 
human, always a human.For that we praise him greatly – him, the embodiment of the spirit of 
our race with its many faults and its many virtues. And among the virtues this reckless passion
for the liberty of the individual is the greatest.That he sang always. Again, in his singing was
an enduring quality, the eternal voice of mankind, given only to those who will use it for the
encouragement and exhortation of their fellow-creatures for all time to come. That quality, sirs, 
is genuine. 
	There is no greater love. So when we sing his praise let us forget the inessentials that 
busybodies have imported into the celebration and give him his due for what he was, pure and simple, 
with Shelley, Coleridge, Wordsworth,and Byron – a herald of the dawn.


					* * * * *



28 October 1920

Glasgow Novels

Till recent years, Glasgow was a city where no novelist dreamt of seeking the material and inspiration of his work. 
There were a few exceptions to this rule, admittedly – Miss ____, Charles Gibbon, and William Black for instance, 
wrote Glasgow stories – but so log as the mood of romance prevailed in fiction, St Mungo, as he scene of action, was,
generally speaking, left severely alone by native writers of repute.  All the preconceptions of the English reader 
were unfavourable to the exploitation of any industrial Northern community in tales of the kind in fashion.
	New tendencies in fiction, have, for some time back, given provincial towns, and notable industrial cities, 
a better chance of producing notable novels than even London itself, whose life has inspired not a single outstanding 
novel in the past ten years. Glasgow, with its extraordinary social contrasts and its turmoil might well, now, be the 
‘milieu’ of an epoch-making novel in the pseudo-realistic or romantic-cum-realistic manner of the times. How lurid and 
epical a theme Zola could make of it! If there are any aspiring young Arnold Bennetts on Clydeside, let them use their 
eyesight: realise that a strange, fierce, pathetic and even romantic scene confronts them every time they come out of 
the close or office, and that nobody, properly speaking, has written about it hitherto!
	The great Glasgow novel must be done with passion in an ecstasy of inspiration long sustained; it must glow 
with furnace fires and prophetic sunsets, plumb the depths of social misery and lay bare the ideals, motives, and 
lives of Suburbia and the County House.

                                         * * *


A Tale That is Told

There have been a good many Glasgow novels in recent years, but none of the epic all-embracing lines to lay bare the 
soul of a city of a million people. We have had interesting fictions of a more or less autobiographical character, but 
concerned wth moral rickets in artistic classes, or that hackneyed theme, the revolt of the family; the psychology of a 
great community quite neglected or the psychology of some young commonplace soul with an objection to his or her father.
	Mr Frederick Niven’s latest novel, “A Tale That is Told” (Collins, 9s net,) cannot fail to interest Glasgow readers, 
for it is the work of a Glasgow man, and depicts some aspects of this city at a period recent enough (the 1880’s) to be 
vivid yet for many of us. But an epic tale of the spaciousness of Zola’s “Paris”; or even Sheila Kaye Smith’s “Tamarisk Town” 
has not been attempted by Mr Niven; his is the story of a Glasgow clergyman’s family, very real and entertaining people, but 
showing little sigs of the repercussion on their thoughts and destinies of this great Cinderella city of the North. Mr Niven 
left Glasgow at too early an age to have assimilated all ts various phases.
	Yet his novel, in its own range, is wholly admirable, shrewd in its observation, and lifelike in its portraiture. 
We have no doubt here will be many guess as to the identity of the Rev. Thos. Grey, D.P., the Glasgow cleric who had preached 
at Balmoral and had a weakness for sweetbread patties, and is summed up by the narrator tolerantly as “not a bad old sort.” 
The Glasgow bookshop scenes that occupy no little part of the story should amuse and create speculation among many readers. 
But most vital of all is Mr Niven’s true and mildly ironic, but in no way better perception, of some fast-disappearing features 
of domestic life and philosophy in our middle class. “A Tale That is Told”; it is the most pleasant long work of fiction that 
has been written about us for a generation, and no Glasgow reader should overlook it.

                                        * * *

Those Women

Serious observers of modern tendencies in literature must have noted with interest – and some apprehension – the rise 
of a school of women writers determined to make fiction the vehicle of a movement towards the wider freedom and surer 
independence of their sex. Misses May Sinclair, Dorothy Richardson, Amber Reeves, and E.M. Delafield (to name only a few 
of those eager emancipators) have now been in the field for some years, and as time goes on there are more and more adhesions 
to the ranks of an army of novelists that is out quite frankly to revolutionise not only the methods but the characteristic 
thought of fiction in the English tongue.
	It is well that we, the average readers, should pause to consider our position before this menace of belligerent 
femininity. These women novelists and attempting some criticism of the work of the more prominent, will help many of us to 
a better understanding of the inwardness of the movement. Mr R. Brimley Johnson is an industrious, painstaking and sympathetic 
critic of literature. His recent work, “Some Contemporary Novelists(Women).” (Parsons: 7s 6d net), can be recommended as a sort 
of guide to the ideals and inspirations of the Feminists. I find it highly provocative, not in manner, but for its substance.

                                        * * *

The Revolt

The heart of the matter seems to be that the clever ladies of the day have revolted against the domination of masculine 
thought and feeling, which, since the days of Adam, have coloured most of the happenings on the surface of this wicked earth. 
The very impersonality of male interests exasperates them; they seek, perhaps unconsciously, to drag things back within the 
vision and influence of personality.
	There is nothing new in that. It is the age old tendency of Everywoman, and it is perfectly justifiable in so far 
as woman is the giver and maker of life. But – I suggest a question – is woman the centre and creator of thought and action 
by which, reproduction apart, the world has progressed at a fair rate of speed since the passing of time was first recorded?
	The answer is with the Ultimate, of course, though the Misses Sinclair and Richardson rather incline to believe it lies 
with them. Our interest is the literary aspect of the question. And we see that those new literary activities are urging a 
shifting of Society’s centre of gravity – therefore of literatures centre of gravity. It is all to be personal, tangible, 
describable. There is to be no mystery; none of Hardy’s sense of cruel Fate; none of Conrad’s persuasion of impending Fate, 
with mankind very small in the middle distance; no speculation, no wonder, no profundity. Bring it, the ladies say, within 
our material vision and let us grasp everything of the mind or body as we would grasp a box of chocolates.

                                        * * *

A Phase

While the suffrage movement was in being, the ladies found in the clouting of policemen adequate expression of their feelings. 
Now they have got the vote, but the hunger for influence is not satisfied. Hence this new fiction.
	They have recruited where they can. Sigmund Freud is dragged in by the hair of the head to bear witness to the supremity 
of the personal element; indeed, the ladies frame their works on the model of his psycho-analytic soul charts. The war – a masculine 
folly – is used only as a background against which the writhing and horrified souls of women may be silhouetted. Everything must be 
enlisted to point the moral of personality’s predominance.
	Everybody is free to choose between the old balance and the new. But in the suburbs at least, the women still quote their 
husbands, and one is encouraged to believe that this is only a phase. I frankly hope so. If it seems to gain ground, I shall protest. 
Yea, through the fold of the shawl with which one day Woman Triumphant may attempt to suffocate me. I shall continue, however 
breathlessly, to protest. For it is as plain as the daylight that this movement aims at something which will delimit human 
interests and seek to send the flood of progress through one narrow and obviously in adequate channel.

	                                * * * 

Form in Poetry

Then there is that other quarrel that rages everywhere over the merits of the New Poetry, as chanted by the Sitwells 
and the young men of “Coterie”. Miss Sitwell made a fair defence of her “wooden stalactites of rain” in the Saturday 
Westminster the other day, and that particular field of battle appears to be quiet now: but the editor of “Coterie” and 
Mr C.E. Montague, of the Mancheste Guardian, are still hard at it in the pages of that newspaper. My money is on Mr Montague.
	These ructions concern the eccentric forms in which the younger poets express themselves; and the conservative is 
warned that a thing is not bad because it is eccentric. Only this; it is for the reformer to prove that his new form is beautiful 
or to justify the use of extravagant means to break down the prejudice in favour of conventional forms. That, I take it, is 
what the post-impressionists are after so far as pictorial art is concerned, and there is no reason in the world why the 
young poets should not kick against the shackles of established manner in the same way. Artistic rebellion is a healthy symptom. 
It is only unhealthy when symptomatic of a fatal inability to succeed in the normal way.

                                        * * *

THE NEW BOOKS

Reviews at Random

Pursuit of Knowledge

The spate of autumn fiction is subsiding rapidly, and habitual readers will be none the worse for leaving novels aside 
for a time. The novel is an amusement, and literature fails if it devotes itself exclusively to cheating us of sighs and 
charming us to tears. These are evanescent emotions; they have not the solidity of Fact. A Fat is a thing to which one may 
well hitch one’s wagon. There is available just now plenty of material to encourage the requisition of knowledge, which, 
they say, grants us a largess of beatitude.

                                         * * *

Critical

“Boon” by H.G. Wells – which Fisher Unwin now publish at 8s net, under the name of its real author – may be regarded 
by some as fiction, but it is of that family only so far as form is concerned. George Boon, of whom the book purports to 
be a memoir, may be any acute critic of literature – Mr Wells, for example – and this account of his later activities must be 
read for the critical value of his pronouncements on contemporary fiction and its tendencies, and the profession of letters in 
general. It is one of the most delightful things in modern literature; and it is sincerely to be hoped that it will attract 
more attention than it did when issued four years ago with the name “Reginald Bliss” in place of that of H.G Wells. Even the 
chronic reader of fiction should get it for the story of “The Last Trump”

                                         * * *

Historical

A dignified and beautiful record of the feats and endurance of the Fifty-first Division is published by Messrs. JC. & E.C. Jack 
at 15s net. It consists of sixty-three drawings from the pencil and brush of Mr. Fred A. Farrell, the well-known Glasgow etcher, 
who was attached to the Divisional Staff as official artist. The plates splendidly reproduce the various aspects of the fields 
on which the Highlanders fought, or recapture the spirit of incidents in their many historic battles, or present striking and 
sympathetic portraits of the higher officers associated with that responsible command. Each picture is explained by an adequate 
note, mainly from the pens of eye-witnesses. With a straightforward but comprehensive introduction by Neil Munro, “The Fifty-first 
Division: War Sketches” forms one of the finest tributes to soldierly accomplishment that has yet been published.

                                         * * *
Informative

There is always room for a good encyclopaedia of concisely compiled information, and there have been many attempts to 
meet public demand for such a work. Quite the latest is “The New Age Encyclopaedia” which Nelsons are publishing in ten 
fortnightly parts at 3s 6d each. It is a post war work, tersely written, accurate and reliable, and it seems to present 
the essential facts of the New Age admirably. The completed work will contain over 35,000 articles in its 4,800 pages; 
good maps, diagrams, and pictures fully illustrate the text. The work is edited by Sir Edward Parrott, assisted by a large 
staff of specialists. There should be a heavy demand for it in this age of novelty.

                                         * * *

Biographical

The firm of Nelson also publish a war-record of great interest. “Francis and Riversdale Grenfell,” by John Buchan 
(Nelson: 15s net), is the story o two remarkable brothers – twins they were – who fell in France. They were a remarkable 
pair in every respect. Great polo-players and great students, keen politicians and keen huntsmen, they must have doe much 
to astonish, and even shock, the members of the aristocratic circle into which they were born. The “ruling caste” was their 
birth-right, and the country suffered loss by their deaths. For they were unconventional in the best way; they were not blinded by 
class illusions of any kind. Indeed, this clearly written history has the pathetic interest of being the record of two 
unusual men, who had to spend the best parts of their lives in overcoming the disabilities conferred on them by a public-school 
education. Field-Marshal Lord Grenfell, their uncle and guardian, contributes an Introduction. The proceeds of the sale of this 
book will go to swell the fund of the Invalid Children’s Aid Association.


                                              * * * * *



23rd December 1920

Northern Numbers

	In this paper, some short time ago, there were reviewed at considerable length, 
three volumes of verse by living Scotsmen. It was pointed out in that article that 
something very like a revival in Scottish poetry is actually in movement at this time, 
and that a long-standing reproach to Northern men of letters was being wiped out by 
the poets of the day. With all the more interest, therefore, does one approach a volume 
called “Northern Numbers,” beautifully printed, and published by T.N. Foulis at 6s 
net.
	The title of the book is elaborated thus – “Being Representative Selections 
from Certain Living Scottish Poets”; it is dedicated “with affection and pride” to 
“Neil Munro”, and it possesses a “Foreword,” initialled C.M.G. Without more ado let  
me quote the first two paragraphs of this Foreword.
	“This collection does not pretend to be in any sense an anthology of 
contemporary Scottish poetry. It merely consists of representative selections (chosen 
by the contributors themselves) from the – mainly current – works of certain Scottish 
poets of to-say – and to-morrow!”
	“Many contemporary writers of the highest merit, whose work will 
unquestionably be given a place in any future anthology of Scottish poetry embracing, 
the output of the twentieth century, have not been invited to contribute to this volume. 
The chief reason for that lies in the fact that for the most part the contributors to this 
volume are close personal friends, and that this is rather an experiment in group 
publication than an anthology.”
	I shall return to discuss this declaration later. In the meantime, we can have a 
look at the fare offered for our consumption.

Varied Fare

	Eleven poets are represented. Their names are:- Neil Munro, John Buchan, 
Violet Jacob, Will Ogilvie, T.S. Cairncross, C.M. Grieve (presumably the C.M.G. of 
the Foreword), Joseph Lee, John Ferguson, A.G.Grieve, Donald A. Mackenzie, and 
Roderick Watson Kerr – hardly a homogeneous group if one may take the liberty of 
saying so. For some reason or other a brief biography of Donald A. Mackenzie is 
incorporated, though weightier names are left un documented; and we are informed 
on page 104 that Mr John Ferguson’s “Thyrea” has run into more editions than any 
other volume of distinguished modern verse – an ambiguous and hardly relevant 
statement.
	Of the eleven, five have contributed verses of genuine distinction. Mr John 
Buchan can be depended on for an honest piece of poetry; his best in this collection is 
“From the Pentlands,” which, if inevitably reminiscent of Stevenson both in manner 
and subject has fine qualities of atmosphere and warmth. The excellence of Violet 
Jacob’s songs in the doric of Angus is sustained in five characteristic numbers. Joseph 
Lee has a pungent gift; there are good examples here from “Workaday Warriors” and 
“Ballads of Battle,” but he gets the best effects in “The Burial of the Bairn,” a 
poignant thing in the true ballad style. The name of T.S.Cairncross may be unfamiliar 
to many readers, and I am glad to think that this volume will introduce his fine, 
unconventional, rugged work to a wider circle than he has, perhaps, previously 
entertained. “The Martyr Graves” is great stuff!
	Finally – and unmistakably – the truest poetry in “Northern Numbers” has 
come from the pen of him to whom the collection is dedicated. Mr Munro contributes 
five poems, brief, sombre, and moving, on themes apparently suggested by the names 
of bagpipe tunes. They have unique atmospheric quality; they “tell” – inevitably, as it 
were: and though they are so distinctively “Highland” in inspiration, they are, at the 
same time, the truest possible expression of the Scottish spirit.

Omissions

	And so I return to this “Foreword” and quote another paragraph thereof:-“If 
this venture is sufficiently successful, subsequent volumes … will be published at 
convenient intervals. No new contributor will, however, be admitted without the 
approval of the majority of the present group.”
	This, you observe, carries the “Group” idea still further – and this “Group” 
business is precisely what I do not like about “Northern Numbers.” Indeed I find it 
difficult to believe that there is any such Group at all. That two of the foremost 
Scottish litterateurs of the day should be associated with a number of young poets of, 
at least, questionable promise is a state of affairs my imagination is incapable of 
conceiving, I cannot help regarding the “Foreword” as misleading, unconsciously 
misleading, but still phrased in such a way as to create a wrong impression in the 
mind of the non-professional reader, who may be led to believe that Messrs. Munro 
and Buchan are members of an ambitious coterie. My point is, that Messrs. Munro 
and Buchan should not be graded quite as low.
	But that is by the way. The chief argument against a poetry Group is that it 
imposes limitations to which no free artist will ever submit. Just so is the “Northern 
Numbers” Group imperfect. It includes Munro and Buchan – it excludes Charles 
Murray. The “Foreword” gives a sort of reason for omissions of this kind – “that for 
the most part the contributors to this volume are close personal friends.” C.M.G. will 
have to find a better reason for the absence from his pages of the verses of the most 
distinguished Scottish poet of the day.

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