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The Highland Smugglers
In three volumes


INTRODUCTION

Even such readers as “hate prefaces,” need not be startled by the appearance of these few preliminary observations: they have no pretension to so alarming an appellation. The work before them is strictly a Highland tale; descriptive partly, as its title imports, of the habits and manners of a class of people, who not very long ago abounded throughout the Highlands, and who, in spite of every attempt at controul, or legislative enactment on the part of government, are still to be found there. That it was the author’s original intention to turn the interest of the story more exclusively upon smuggling adventures, will account for the introduction of certain discussions on the subject of illicit distillation at greater length than may, by some readers, be deemed suitable to a work of this nature.

Another principal object of the author being to depict Highland scenery and manners in general, he trusts to be held excused, even by those who delight in cc stirring adventure” alone, should local descriptions appear at first to predominate more than may be to their taste: they will find, as the narrative proceeds, that these give place to an increased variety of incident and action, which he flatters himself will not be thought deficient in interest or excitement.

A few words regarding the language, or rather the dialect, put into the mouths of the lower characters. There is no point, perhaps, in which the ablest and most admired Authors have been so little successful, as in conveying to their readers a correct idea of Highland dialect and accent. It differs essentially both in pronunciation and idiom from the Lowland Scotch, which has been usually but erroneously attributed to Highlanders. Its chief points of dissimilarity from English are to be found in its periphrastic phraseology and strong gutteral, aspirated accent. A Highlander, even when he speaks English, seems to fJiink in his own language: hence, his conversation in that tongue is, in fact, a translation from Gaelic, while the long drawn aspirates of the Celtic enunciation infect and disguise his words to a degree extremely offensive to an English ear. To describe in writing a peculiarity, which chiefly consists in the inflections of that inexpressible thing accent, is very difficult. Should we wish, for instance, to convey to an English reader, the true sound of such common expressions as, “It’s a fine day!” or "trouth,” (in-truth)—“I’m no weel at all the day,” as uttered by a Highlander,— the English alphabet affords no combination of letters that will approach nearer the truth than those we have made use of. How is that long nasal drawl, with which the Highlander would enunciate the words, to be expressed?

Again, the letter a is generally sounded broad by the Lowlander, who frequently substitutes its sound for that of the vowel o, as in auld, cauld, for old and cold. The Highlander preserves the vowel, but adds to it a long drawling u, making the words owld and could. The Lowlander prenounces the word good as gude, or giud; in the mouth of a Highlander it scarcely differs from the same word in English. The lad, or rather laud, of the former, bears but little resemblance to the interminable laaad of the Celt.

We do not, however, mean to write a treatise on Highland orthoepy; enough has been said to explain the reason of any variation that may be observed between the language used in this work, and the dialect commonly put in the mouths of Highlanders. But, as in portrait painting, it has been found that slight deviations from truth will rather add to than detract from a likeness; and as the judicious artist will rather reject such particulars as tend to diminish the general good effect of his work, than embarrass himself with unprofitable details; so has the Author in this case deemed it expedient to deviate occasionally from the rules he has laid down; and in order to maintain a suitable verisimilitude, when an expression or sentence might otherwise have appeared unnaturally English in the mouth of a Highlander of the lower classes, he has ventured to throw in a sprinkling of words, which in strictness belong to Lowland Scotch.

With regard to the localities and incidents of his story, the Author has little to remark. He has described but what he saw, and what he knows; and although there may be certain peculiarities of scene and of fact that will appear strange to some of his southern readers, he feels assured that the general truth of his delineations can be attested by many of the sons and daughters of “Merry England,” as well as by those of the "Land of the Mountain and the Flood.” To them he appeals with confidence for their favourable testimony, and to the public at large for that liberal encouragement which is seldom withheld from those who have at least the merit of good intentions to plead in behalf of their efforts.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2  |  Volume 3


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