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Scotland in the Middle Ages
Chapter IX - Language and Literature


Origin and formation of Scotch language — At first the same language as the English — English south and north of Trent — The Northern a well cultivated speech — The separation and progressive diversity of Southern and Northern English — The latter called Scotch — Earliest written Scotch — As found in charters — Earliest literary compositions — Lays or ballads — Ossianic poetry — Never influenced our national literature — Early Northern romances — Remaining Scotch of fourteenth century in writing of that period — Barbour's poem composed then — Earliest copies extant not written for a century after — Scotch used in Parliament at end of fourteenth century — Letters of correspondence then written — Wyntoun's chronicle written about 1420 — Preserved in MS. almost of that date — Progress of Scotch literature in poetry and prose — How far the people capable of appreciating it — Education of the people — Scarcity of books — Modes of instruction — Universities — The pulpit — AElfric's homilies of the eleventh century — Library of the Culdees of Lochleven of the twelfth century —Catalogue of Glasgow Cathedral library 1432 — Burgh schools — Act of Parliament 1496 — Old grammar schools — Grammar school of Aberdeen 1520 — Andrew Simpson's school at Perth before the Reformation — Introduction in Scotch schools of Greek and Hebrew — Scotch Universities — St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen — Founded in the fifteenth century — Popular tendency of our authors.

To trace the origin of the language which we call c Scotch, we must go back to a period when it was known by another name. Long before the Anglo-Saxon government and language had come to an end, the language and literature of the great and more enlightened kingdom of Northumbria were distinguished from the Saxon of Southern and Western England; and when the language of England passed by that strangely rapid transition from the cultivated, grammatical Anglo-Saxon, into the rude unformed English, the northern people still kept a peculiar and very distinct dialect. Down to the end of the fourteenth century, this Doric dialect of English extended all over the ancient province of Northumbria, which included Lothian, and beyond even those bounds, along the whole east coast and lowlands of Scotland. It would be a mistake to suppose it a mere patois or vulgar spoken tongue, uncultivated by men of learning. Not to mention the wealthy abbeys which studded the valleys of Yorkshire and our own Teviotdale — each a little school of good letters — the great Episcopal Sees of York . and Durham, and the Royal Court of Scotland which, down to the fourteenth century, enjoyed more peace and prosperity than fell to the lot of the English monarchs, were the centres of some intellectual cultivation. The northern tongue, so formed and cultivated, possessed a literature which we become acquainted with, in a state of rapid growth, and bidding fair to rival or excel that of the South — spoiled and depressed as it was by the courtly use of French — until the genius of Chaucer turned the balance. Within those wide bounds, from Trent to the Moray Firth, there were, doubtless, numerous small varieties of language and accent, distinguishable among themselves; while to the Kentish man or the Londoner, the epithet "Northern" comprehended the whole; and it is certain that, down to the fourteenth century, a uniform language was used and cultivated, and written by men of education, and for purposes of literature, through that wide district.

Starting from a point of time, a little before Chaucer had given shape and life to the southern dialect — a little before Barbour had composed his national epic, popular from the first among all classes of his northern countrymen, the languages of the northern and the southern were distinct indeed, and marked by recognised peculiarities, but the people of each country understood the speech of the other. This soon ceased to be so. The disputed succession at the end of the thirteenth century interrupted the old friendly communication between the sister nations, and Scotch nationality required her to abandon the English standard of taste as well as policy. The dialects of the two courts, still in their infancy, grew up in independent and separate growth, and differing at first slightly, but both in a state of progress in different directions, came in the course of three centuries to be almost different languages, and that of the one people scarcely intelligible to the other. In this change the southern court naturally drew with it all the district of ancient Northumbria which was not subject to Scotland. London was necessarily the model of speech, from the Land's End to the Tweed; while Lothian and Saxon Scotland looked to the Scotch court as the rule of propriety; and that which had been long known as the northern speech began sometimes to be called "Scotch." Thus it continued, the difference and breach still widening, until the Reformation drew the sympathies of one great class of Scotchmen towards England and English writers as well as statesmen.

At length came the time when the Scotch court moved to England, and adopted English manners and language, and the example of conformity, after a little reluctance, spread over our speech and literature, so that now, in 250 years after the union of the crowns, we have nearly arrived at the position from which we started 300 years before it; and any difference that exists between the spoken tongues of Scotland and England, is held a mere provincialism and does not equal the difference between the speech of London and that of several of the English counties, while in the written language there is no difference.

In our most ancient charters we meet with a few words of the vernacular language of lowland Scotland, just enough to show that it was a genuine Teutonic speech, as soon as there was any written conveyance, or any writing at all among us. Thus in charters of William the Lion, we have lands bounded by the "standand stane," the "stane cross;" a penalty for destroying wood is tri-gild. Ut-were is the charter shape of foreign service, as In-were of home military duty. In the year 1312, an indenture of lease between the Abbot of Scone and the Hays of Leys was extended, like all deeds of that time, in Latin. But there were provisions of great importance to the tenant, a layman and country gentleman, and not strong in Latin; and for his benefit, a clerkly triend has gone over the deed, and interlined over each phrase its equivalent in the vernacular. There cannot be a more pure Saxon speech, and it is without the redundancy of consonants and many of the peculiarities which in later times gave an air of barbarism to the language of Scotland in Southern ears. [See Appendix.]

The first actual literary compositions in Scotch must have been in all probability those lays or ballads which are nearly at the beginning of literature in all countries, and have influenced the literature and the people of Scotland more than any other. Old Barbour thinks it needless to give the particulars of a Border exploit, for any one may hear young women at play "sing it among them ilka day." But of the current traditional poetry of that time — of the songs of battle and adventure and infant patriotism, or of the shepherd's lays of love — we cannot pretend to have preserved anything; or if anything, only a shadow or faint outline; now a name, now the burden of an ancient ditty; or in the rare cases where the theme and spirit are preserved, the language passing through the mouths of many generations, has kept no impress of its first shape.

You will observe I do not enter upon the much vexed question of the Ossianic poetry. Not that I doubt that there existed lately in the Highlands some fragments of a very ancient Celtic, bardic poetry, preserved with the necessary imperfection of oral tradition. On the contrary, I think the evidence is complete, both of its antiquity, and that its subjects and heroes were known to the fathers of i. our Scotch literature. But there I think we stop. I cannot find that the Ossianic strain has affected in any degree the tone of our poetry. Archdeacon Barbour reproves John of Lorn for comparing the Bruce to Gowmacmorn — the person whom we know in Macpherson as Gaul son of Morni; and says it had been more mannerly to equal him with Gaudifer Delatyse, or some other knight of romantic chivalry. In the curious interlude of the Droichis, now attributed to Dunbar, and evidently of his age, the dwarf claims for his ancestry Gogmagog and other heathens, and a native giant—

"hecht Fyn M'Kowle,
That dang the devil and gart him yowle;
The skyis rainit when he wald scowle,
And troblit all the air."

Gawayne Douglas speaks of

"Gret Gow MacMorne and Fin MacCowl, and how
They should be gods in Ireland as they say."

It is easy to recognise under these names our now familiar Gaul son of Morni, and Fingal. Sir David Lindsay makes his hero, Squire Meldrum, name the former personage as a fabulous giant, a sort of raw-head and bloody-bones to frighten children with.

"Thocht thow he greit as Gow Macmorne,
Traist weill I sall you meit the morne."

and his Pardoner among the absurd trumpery of the relics —

"The calum of Saint Brydis cow,
The gruntil of Saint Antoinis sow,
Whilk bore his holy bell,"

brings in the Celtic ogre thus —

"Heir is ane relic lang and braid,
Of Fyn-mac-Coul the richt chaft blade
With teith and al togidder."

In all these instances, there is nothing that shows much respect or any tendency to imitate. And, indeed, nothing can be more free than our early Scotch literature, from the inflated, the passionless, the unnatural style and thoughts of the Ossianic poetry, always judging it through the medium of translation.

Closely connected, however, with the popular oral poetry (in some instances, with us, its foundation or prototype) was a class of early metrical romances which it was the custom to commit to writing, and fortunately a few of these, of Northern composition, have been preserved, and furnish us with the oldest written vernacular language of Scotland. Unluckily, the poetry is of that tedious alliterative kind which wearies the ear of the reader, as it must have exhausted the invention, and cramped the thought of the writer. One short specimen I will give from the romance of "Morte Arthur," as found in a MS. of the latter half of the fourteenth century, giving the character of the courteous knight, Syr Gawain, as pronounced over his body by his foe, Sir Mordred.

"Than Syr Modrede with mouthe melis fulle faire:—
He was makles one molde, mane, be my trowhe;
This was Syr Gawayne the gude, the gladdeste of othire,
And the gracionseste gome that undire God lyffede;
Mane hardyeste of hande, happyeste in armes,
And the hendeste in hawle under hevene-riche;
The lordelieste of ledynge, qwhylles he lyffe myghte,
Fore he was lyone allossede in londes inewe.
Had thou knawene hym, syr kynge, in kythe thare he lengede,
His konynge, his knyghthode, his kyndly werkes,
His doyng, his doughtynesse, his dedis of armes
Thow wolde hafe dole for his dede the dayes of thy lyfe."

I will adduce one other extract of that period. It is from the romance of "Syr Gawain and the Green Knight," and describes their hunting together.

"Full erly bifore the day the folk vp rysen,
Gestes that go wolde, hor gromes thay calden,
And thay busken vp bilyve, blonkkez to sadel,
Tyffen her takles, trussen her males,
Richen hem the rychest, to ryde alle arayde,
Lepen vp lytly, lachen her brydeles,
Vche wyze on his way, ther hym wel lyked.
The leue lorde of the londe watz not the last,
Arayit for the rydyng, with renkkez full mony;
Ete a sop hastyly, when he hade herde masse,
With bugle to bent felde he buskes by-lyue;
By that that any day lyt lemed vpon erthe,
He with his hatheles on hyze horses weren.
Thenne thise cacheres that couthe, coupled hor houndes,
Vnclosed the kenel dore, and calde hem ther-onte,
Blwe bygly in bugles thre bare mote;
Braches bayed therfore, and breme noyse maked,
And thay chastysed and charred, on chasyng that went;
A hundreth of hunteres, as I haf herde telle,
To trystors vewters yod, \
Couples huntes of-kest    \
Ther ros for blastes gode, /  of the best."
Gret rurd in that forest     /

I think, from the language alone, the evidence is complete, that these are more ancient than Barbour; but in such a comparison, of course, we must allow for the period that elapsed between the composition of the work, and the transcribing of the copy preserved. [The extracts are from Sir F. Madden's admirable collection of  ancient romances relating to Syr Gawayne.]

John Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen, tells us, himself, that he was in progress of writing his great poem of the Bruce, in the year 1375, and he died in 1395. But the only manuscripts extant are a full century later in date. The Scotch Odyssey was popular from its first appearance, and must have gone through many transcribings in that century of fluctuating language, so that it loses one quality of interest; and serves but imperfectly to mark the state of our language when the Archdeacon, with the fire of a patriot and a soldier, was singing the prowess of Bruce. But though the spelling, and even, occasionally, the words, may have undergone much change, we cannot suppose much alteration in the structure and frame of the language, which would imply the serious labour of an entire re-casting of the metre and versification.

I fear "The Bruce" is less read among us now, than when the homely edition on the coarsest paper was among the three or four volumes over the cottage chimney. I assure you he is not deserving of the neglect into which he has fallen. But I must deny myself the pleasure of making you better acquainted with him, and keep more strictly to my object in directing you to a few specimens of Scotch, actually written during his time. Here is a formal public writ, still preserved in the original, among the Melrose charters, and dated in 1389:—

"Robert Erle of ffyf & of Menteth Wardane & Chambirlayn of Scotland to the Custumers of the Grete Custume of the Burows of Edinburgh hadyn-tone & Dunbarr greting: ffor qwhy that of gude memore Dauid kyng qwhilom of Scotland that god assoillie with his chartir vndre his grete sele has gyvin to the Religiouss men the Abbot & the Conuent of Meuros & to thair successours for euere mare frely all the Custume of all thair wollys as wele of thair awin growing as of thair tendys of thair kyrkes as it apperis be the forsaid Charter confermyt be our mast souereigne & doubtit Lorde & fadre our lorde the kyng of Scotland Robert that now ys wyth his grete Sele: To yow ioyntly & seuerailly be the c tenour of this lettre fermely We bid & commandes that the forsaid wollys at your Portis thir lettres sene the qwilk lettres yhe delyuere to tham again yhe suffre to be shippit & frely to pass withoutyn ony askyng or takyng of Custume or ony obstacle or lettyng in ony point eftir as the tenour of the forsaides chartir & confirmacion plenerly askis & purportis: In wytness here of to this lettre We haue put our sele at Edynburgh the xxvj day of Maij the yhere of god mill ccc iiij xx and nyne."

The language here is unfortunately a very precise translation of a Latin style, and it follows the structure of the original language too much to be a perfect specimen of the common language of the period. You will find another, nearly contemporary writing, in the record of Parliament:—

"In the counsail general of Striuelyn, seyn and consideryt the grete and horrible destructions heyr-schippis brynnyngis and slachteris that ar sa com-mounly done throch al the kynrike, It is statutit and ordanyt with assent of the thre communatez thare beand that ilke schiref of the kynrike sal publy ger crye that na man rydand or gangande in the countre lede ma persons with hym, bot thai that he wil mak ful payment for. Ande that na man use sik destructions slachtir reif na brynning in tyme to-cum under payne of tynsale of life and gudis."

Three years later, in the last year of that century the use of our native language had become common in correspondence. The Earl of Dunbar, writing to the king of England, excuses himself for preferring it to either Latin or French — the language of business and the language of the English court:—

"Excellent, mychty, and noble prince, like yhour realte to wit that I am gretly wrangit be the Duc of Rothesay; the quhilk spousit my douchter, and now agayn his oblisyng to me, made be hys lettre and hys seal, and agaynes the law of halikirc, spouses ane other wife, as it ys said. Of the quhilk wrang and defowle to me and my douchter in swilk maner done, I as ane of yhour poer kyn, gif it like yhow, requer yhow of help and suppowall, fore swilk honest service as I may do, after my power, to yhour noble Lordship and to yhour lande.

* * * * *

And excellent prince, syn that I clayme to be of kyn tyll yhow, and it peraventour nocht knawen on your parte, I schew it to your Lordship be this my lettre, that gif Dame Alice the Bewmont was yhour graunde dame, Dame Marjory Comyne, hyrr full sister, was my graunde dame on the tother syde; sa that I am bot of the feirde degre of kyn tyll yhow; the quhilk in alde tyme was callit neir. And syn I am in swilk degre tyll yhow, I requer yhow as be way of tendir-ness thareof, and fore my service in maner as I hafe before writyn, that yhe will vouchesauf tyll c help me, and suppowell me tyll get amends of the wrangs and the defowle that ys done me; send-and till me, gif yhow like, yhour answer of this with all gudely haste. And, noble prince, mervaile yhe nocht that I write my lettres in English, for that ys mare clere to myne understandyng than Latyne or Fraunch. Excellent, mychty, and noble Prince, the Haly Trinity hafe you evirmar in kepyng. Written at my Castell of Dunbarr, the 18th day of Feverer [1400].

"Le Count de la Marche d'Escoce" Au tres excellent, et tres puissant, et tres noble prince, le Roy d'Engleterre." [Pinkerton's History, vol. i., Appendix.]

Andrew Wyntoun, the Prior of Lochleven, wrote his rhyming chronicle about 1420, and a MS. of it, almost contemporary, is preserved in the Royal Library, from which M'Pherson's careful edition was given. It is of great value as a chronicle compiled from records at St. Andrews, many of which have long ago perished. But as a poem, the Prior's work has very small pretensions. I will quote one passage, which preserves to us a little fragment of one of those ancient popular songs which I have just mentioned. The ballad had been made on the death of the beloved king Alexander  III., who was killed by a fall from his horse, when riding in the dark, over the crag of Kinghorn. The language must have suffered a great change between that time and the period when Wyntoun wrote, and his chronicle was transcribed.

"Scotland menyd hym than ful sare,
For wnder hym all hys legis ware
In hononre quyet and in pes;
Forthi cald pessybil kyng he wes.
He honoryd God and haly kyrk;
And medful dedes he oysyd to wyrk.
Til all prestis he dyd reverens,
And sawfyd thare statis wyth diligens.
He was stedfast in Christyn fay;
Relygyows men he honoryde ay;
He luwyd men that war wertuows;
He lathyd and chastyd al vytyous.
Be justis he gave and eqwyte
Til ilke man that his suld be,
That he mycht noucht til wertu drawe,
He held ay wndyr dowt and awe.

* * *

Be that vertu all hys land
Of corn he gert he abowndand.
A bolle of atis pennys foure,
Of Scottis mone past nocht oure;
A boll of bere for awcht or ten,
In comowne prys sawld was then;
For sextene a boll of qwhete;
Or fore twenty the derth was grete.
This falyhyd fra he deyd suddanly:
This sang wes made of hym for-thi.
Quhen Alysandyr oure kyng was dede
That Scotland led in luwe and le
Away wes sons of ale and brede,
Of wyne and wax, of gamyn and gle:
Our gold was changyd into lede,
Cryst borne into virgynyte,
Succour Scotland and remede,
That stad is in perplexite!

We have thus seen our vernacular language, call it by what name you please, gradually assuming definite shape and system. Barbour's great poem is almost at the beginning of its literary use. From his time down to the union of the Crowns, while Scotland stood aloof from England in policy, feeling, and literature, she produced a national literature, which, judged even by our present canons, was on a footing with that of the Southern people. As at the beginning of the period, Chaucer, so towards its conclusion, Shakspeare, stand separate in genius and out of all competition. But, after these immortal names, it may be allowed to question whether any poets of England of those two centuries and a half can be placed on a level with Barbour, Gawin Douglas, Dunbar, and Lindsay. As has happened in other countries, it was very long after our countrymen had used their native language for poetry, that they first ventured to adopt it in prose writing. John Bellenden's translation of Boece, written in 1533, printed in 1536, may be said to be the first classical Scotch prose; and even after it, Buchanan wrote popular history and tragedies, as well as the psalms, in Latin.

It would be painful, and I trust, unreasonable, to suppose that such a literature was addressed to a people unworthy of it. But we are not altogether left to conjecture about the education of the people and the diffusion of learning among our forefathers. I confess the evidence (in early times) is not very complete; but I am one of those who believe that the ignorance of the people, even in the middle ages, has been a good deal exaggerated.

Taking our view from the present position of society, the chief obstacle to any general diffusion of learning would seem to be the want of books. And I do not pretend that any equivalent for the printing press existed. Books were rare and dear — luxuries to be had only by the rich, or through the union of bodies of men in colleges and monasteries. But you must not believe that modes of conveying instruction were ever altogether wanting. Reflect that in Rome, in its Augustan age, when Horace hoped "monstrari digitis praetereuntium, Romanae fidicen lyrae" — in Athens, when Aristophanes wrote to the mob, and was understood — when Demosthenes, in language and reasoning too severe for popular assemblies now, had the ear of that intellectual people — "wielded at will that fierce democratic" — in those days books were as rare, as costly, as difficult of manufacture, as with us before printing.

As the school of the ancient philosopher served to spread his learning and doctrines over the civilized world of old, so our universities in their first institution were instrumental in spreading the science and knowledge of their age among thousands who could never have obtained means of purchasing the books necessary for private study. It is said that thirty thousand students were attracted to Oxford to hear the lectures of Duns Scotus at the beginning of the fourteenth century, and although much of their time was doubtless bestowed on subjects now lightly esteemed — not unlike those which occupied the devils of Milton, who "found no end in wandering mazes lost" — let us not fall into the vulgar error of undervaluing all but our own manner of teaching. The subtleties of that philosophy no doubt whetted the mind for the work of life, and there was little danger of its becoming too fascinating or popular.

The great means of impressing the popular mind, since the introduction of Christianity, has been through the Church; and we have to regret that we know so little what were the lessons conveyed from the altar and the pulpit in early times. We are not, however, altogether without facts. Here is a little volume of homilies — of sermons actually preached in our ancient mother tongue — in pure vigorous Anglo-Saxon — by one who styled himself monk and mass-priest, and who died in the year 1052. A few sentences may help to show you how our forefathers were instructed 400 years before printing.

"He said again, 'Let there be heaven,' and instantly heaven was made, as he with his wisdom and his will had appointed it.

"He said again, and bade the earth bring forth all living cattle, and he then created of earth all the race of cattle, and the brute race — all those which go on four feet; in like manner of water he created fishes and birds, and gave the power off swimming to the fishes, and flight to the birds; but he gave no soul to any beast nor to any fish, but their blood is their life, and as soon as they are dead they are totally ended. When he had made the man Adam, he did not say, 'Let man be made,' but he said, 'Let us make man in our likeness,' and he then made man with his hands, and blew into him a soul; therefore is man better if he grow up in good than all the beasts are, because they will all come to naught, and man is in one part eternal, that is in the soul — that will never end. The body is mortal through Adam's sin, but nevertheless God will raise again the body to eternity on doomsday.

Now, the heretics say that the devil created some creatures, but they lie; he can create no creatures, for he is not a creator, but is a loathsome fiend, and with leasing he will deceive and fordo the unwary; but he may not compel any man to any crime unless the man voluntarily incline to his teaching.

"Whatsoever among things created seems pernicious and injurious to men is all for our sins and evil deserts." [Aelfric's Homilies. See Appendix.]

I hold it is from such rare specimens that we are to judge of the general instruction of the people, and even of the learning, the judgment, and qualifications of their teachers. The author of those discourses refers to his authorities — St. Augustin, St. Jerome, Beda, St. Gregory, and other doctors of the Church, but speaks of the books in the vulgar tongue as confined to those " which King Alfred wisely turned from Latin into English, which are to be had."

Almost contemporary with that Anglo-Saxon preacher, we have notice of a little store of books preserved in the Culdee monastery in the isle of St. Serf, in Lochlevin. They were evidently thought of much importance, for the Bishop of St. Andrews, in granting to his new priory the little island Abbey of Lochlevin and its possessions, enumerates, along . with the lands, mills, rents of cheese and barley tithes, and valuable properties — the church vestments of the poor Culdees, and their library of sixteen books, each of which he distinguishes separately. [See Appendix.]

A long time afterwards, but still anterior to the use of printing, we have a catalogue of the books preserved and used in the Cathedral Church of Glasgow, where the heavy tomes of theology and the philosophy of the schools are relieved by a sprinkling of classics, Sallust and Ovid.

We have abundant proofs of the existence of burgh schools and convent schools, at a period almost as early as our records reach. I mentioned before that there were considerable burgh schools at Perth, at Stirling and at Roxburgh, in the reign of Malcolm IV., and a convent school at Roxburgh was in high fashion at the same period. Reginald of Durham, a monk of the twelfth century, in connection with a miracle of St. Cuthbert, describes a village school at Nor-ham on Tweed, where some of the boys attended for love of learning, and others from fear of the rod in a rough master's hand. He says it was kept in the church, according to a practice, in his time, common enough. Nobody can read that story without being satisfied that it was a parish school for the parish boys, one of whom, a tricky fellow, thought to get rid of the restraint by stealing the church key and throwing it into a deep pool of Tweed. The schools of Roxburgh, of Perth, of Abernethy, of Glasgow, and doubtless of our other towns, were probably somewhat of a higher kind. In 1418 we find the induction of a schoolmaster of Aberdeen — Magister scholarum burgi de Abirdene—on the presentation of the Provost and community, when the chancellor of the diocese, the inducting officer, testifies him to be of good life, of honest conversation, of great literature and science (magnoe literaturae et scientiae), and a graduate in arts.

It was sometime afterwards, but still long before the reformation, that a master of the grammar school of Aberdeen "inquirit be the Provost whom of, he had the said school — grantit in judgment, that he had the same of the said good toun — offerand him reddy to do thame and thair bairnis service and plesour at his power, and renouncit his com-pulsator of the curt of Rome in all poyntis, except that it suld be lesum to him to persew the techaris of grammer within the burgh." The "teachers of grammer," were interlopers — poachers in his manor.

Even the Act of Parliament, requiring "all barons and freeholders of substance to put their eldest sons to the schools fra thai be eight or nine years of age, and to remaine at the grammar sculis quhil thai be competentlie foundit and have perfit Latyne" — is sufficient to prove that there was no lack of such schools of grammar, English and Latin, in Scotland, long before the Reformation excited to a more extensive course of learning. What they taught in those schools in more early times, when books were so rare that reading was scarcely an object of desire for any but the man of fortune or the churchman, we cannot perhaps learn with certainty. But let us not forget in our self-complacency that books are but one of the roads to knowledge ; and that the higher training of the disposition and the heart, moral and religious instruction, and the discipline even of the understanding and memory, may be successfully prosecuted without them.

Whatever may have been the course of study and training in those remote times, there can be no doubt that the grammar schools of Scotland, in the fifteenth century, and even at the beginning of it, taught the elements of letters and of grammar as we now learn them, only perhaps with more earnestness, as having in hand a high and important duty. We find merchants writing and keeping accounts, and corresponding with foreigners in their own language, who must have received their education early in that century. In the year 1520, John Vaus, the rector of the grammar school of Aberdeen, is commended by Hector Boece for his knowledge of Latin, and his success in the education of youth; and he has left us an elementary work on Latin grammar. A little later, Andrew Simson taught Latin with success, at the grammar school at Perth — the same foundation, doubtless, of which the Dunfermline monks were the patrons three centuries earlier — where he had sometimes 300 boys under his charge; and although it is boasted that these included sons of the principal nobility and gentry, it is more for our present purpose to observe they must have consisted of a large proportion of the burgher and peasant class, and a great number who cannot have been designed for the Church. A sketch of school life of that time, by James Melville, the nephew of Andrew Melville, appears to me one of the most interesting pictures of old domestic manners, but it is too long to be given here. [See Appendix. ]

The introduction of Greek as a part of the Scotch education — its successful teaching at Montrose by Peter de Marsiliers, a French scholar brought over by John Erskine of Dun — the subsequent teaching of Hebrew — are now very generally known.

Down to the beginning of the fifteenth century, the Scotch youth, whether churchman or laic, ambitious of carrying his education beyond the level of those excellent grammar schools, must look abroad. Towards the end of the fourteenth century, Oxford was in the high tide of popularity, and crowds of young Scotchmen obtained passports and hurried thither to complete their course of philosophy — among them, Henry Wardlaw, afterwards Bishop of St. Andrews, and founder of that University. But northern men were never popular at Oxford and it happened that the Papal schism just then made new cause of quarrel. In 1382, Richard II. of England addressed a writ to the Chancellor and Proctors of the University of Oxford, forbidding them to molest the Scotch students, notwithstanding their "damnable adherence" to Robert the Antipope (Clement VII.) Such inconveniences hastened that which must have come without them; and three Universities were founded within the fifteenth century in Scotland — all from the first, teaching successfully the philosophy and higher education which were then cultivated.

But while such was the education for the church, the higher gentry, and the learned professions — including that profession of scholar, once well-known among Scotchmen, who for centuries carried their classical learning and native industry wherever a market opened — I think there is no room for doubt that the mass of the people had also a considerable share of education. If other proof were wanting, I should appeal confidently to the manly, homely tone of our Scotch literature. The mere fact of so many leading writers devoting themselves to translate the works of the great authors of antiquity, shows a wholesome tendency to popularity. When Gawain Douglas, the high-born bishop — the associate and equal of princes — declared of his language,

. . . . . "I set my bissy pane,
As that I couth to mak it braid and plane,
Kepand na Suthron, bot our awn langage,"

He certainly looked for readers, not to a little knot of courtiers, or churchmen, or literary gossips, but that his immortal poem should be received as a public good by the public. Lindsay in plainer terms disclaims writing for a learned class. He chooses to write to the people,—

"Whairfor to coilyearis, carters and to cuikis,
To Jok and Tarn my ryme salbe direckit;
With cunning men howbeit it wilbe lackit."


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