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Robert Burns Lives!
Scotland and the 19th-Century World edited by Gerard Carruthers, David Goldie and Alastair Renfrew


Edited by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Dawsonville, GA, USA
Email: jurascot@earthlink.net

This book review has been fun to write! The book was edited by Gerard Carruthers, David Goldie and Alastair Renfrew, three men who know their subjects and who acquired twelve noted scholars to write a most interesting and thought provoking book. It is entitled Scotland and the 19th-Century World. All are as talented as they come, and it is literature at its best!

Before going any further, let me give you a quote from the back cover of the book:

“The nineteenth century is often read as a time of retreat and
diffusion in Scottish literature under the overwhelming influence
of British identity.
Scotland and the 19-Century World
presents Scottish literature as altogether more dynamic, with
narratives of Scottish identity working beyond the merely imperial.
This collection of essays by leading international scholars
highlights Scottish literary intersections with North America,
Asia, Africa and Europe. James Macpherson, Francis Jeffrey,
Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and John Davidson
feature alongside other major literary and cultural figures in this
groundbreaking volume.”

Robert Burns could have been put in the list of twelve since he figures so prominently in Susan Manning’s article.  Lovers of the Bard will want to turn immediately to her commentary, Lateral Literary Biography: Robert Fergusson, Herman Melville and ‘Bartleby’, to read Burns references which, in my opinion, are as noteworthy as those on Fergusson. It is almost impossible to mention Fergusson without Burns being pulled into the conversion. Pages 93 through 118, as well as other Burns references throughout, will be a treat for all Burnsians, and is the reason I chose to put this review in Robert Burns Lives! rather than in A Highlander and His Books where most of my non-Burns book reviews are to be found. There is enough material by Susan Manning on Burns to warrant my decision since more and more readers are finding their way to its pages, thereby generating more comments.

Walter Scott may be overlooked today by many scholars, but we would all do well to remember he was the first novelist to capture the attention of the world, not just Scotland. In today’s language he would have been considered “a rock star” during his lifetime! Scott may or may not be “the man who created a nation”, as a fairly recent book cover states, but he is a writer worthy of our time. I’m happy to see Edinburgh University’s Sarah Dunnigan bring Scott to life as few have done with her chapter, The Enchanted Worlds of Scott, Scotland, and the Grimms. She shows us why she is a Senior Lecturer at that famed university and takes us through Scott’s foray into German literature, his correspondence with German writers, a short-lived correspondence with Grimms and Goethe while revealing the Germanic impact on Scott’s writing. Dunnigan gives Scott his due which is quite refreshing today when so many for so long have only pointed to his failures.

Of particular interest to me is also Andrew Hook’s chapter on Scotland, the USA, and National Literatures in the Nineteenth Century. He states in his introduction that “Walter Scott’s Waverley novels were most influential here”, and he gives new insight into the concept that when America was a colony of England, our writing was considered “an off-shoot of English literature”. After Independence, we had to acquire our own way in the field of literature. That was hard to do when less than a generation removed we were at arms again with England in 1812. The bitterness toward each country continued to exist. The “pens” on both side of the Atlantic underlined the bitterness and hostility toward each country. “Who reads an American book?” created as much uproar in the United States as the burning of the American Capitol. There was much literary conflict between the two nations. America had to have defining literature but it would take time since she was such a young nation. Scottish literature played a big part in America’s discovery of their own as Americans embraced Scottish writing with a keen interest, particularly in Burns and Scott. It is often said that when Scots came to America they brought with them their bibles, Burns and Scott.

The American writers started focusing on things Scottish writers did - scenes, landscapes, customs, manners, characters, and their new history. Americans began to write about America. Hooks writes that “it is Scott above all who is the writer pointing the way forward for a national American literature”. An example of Scott’s beginning to receive such credit is noted in a speech by Rufus Choate in 1833 on The Importance of Illustrating New England History by a Series of Romances like the Waverley Novels. The race was on. Such novels would speak to the “heart and imagination of the reader”. A national identity would emerge and America found what it needed - a national literature! The writer who led the way was none other than an American- Scot, James Fenimore Cooper, considered by some to be the first true American novelist. If ever a man lived who wanted to outdo Scott, it was Cooper. The Last of the Mohicans is a favorite of mine and, to me, the film is even better. Usually movies do not do justice to the books they are about, but this one indeed did.

I have given you just three examples of the twelve chapters in Scotland and the 19th-Century World.  You will short change yourself if you fail to get this publication.  You will be fascinated by all of the writers.

Here is a look at the contents:

Contributors
Acknowledgements
Introduction - Gerard Carruthers, David Goldie and Alastair Renfrew
Preparing for Renaissance: Revaluing Nineteenth-Century Scottish Literature - Douglas Gifford
Scotland, the USA, and National Literatures in the Nineteenth Century - Andrew Hook
Reviewing America: Francis Jeffrey, The Edinburgh Review and the United States - Pam Perkins
Alliance and Defiance in Scottish and American Outlaw-Hero Ballads - Suzanne Gilbert
Lateral Literary Biography: Robert Fergusson, Herman Melville and “Bartleby” - Susan Manning
The Military Kailyard: The Iconography of the Nineteenth-Century Soldier - Trevor Royle
 “The Key to their Hearts”: Scottish Orientalism - Michael Fry
Exporting the Covenant: Scottish Missionary Tales and Africa, c.1870 - c.1920 - Richard Finlay
From Slogan to Clan: Three Fragments from the Evolving Scottish/Germanic Literary Relations of the Romantic Period - Johnny Rodger
Nietzsche in Glasgow: Alexander Tille, John Davidson and Edwin Muir - Ritchie Robertson
 “The great affair is to move”: Stevenson’s Journeys - Kenneth Simpson
The Enchanted Worlds of Scott, Scotland, and the Grimms - Sarah Dunnigan
Index

(FRS: 12.12.12)


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