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The riddle of the Ruthvens and other studies
By William Roughead (1919)

THIS volume, of delightful and luxurious form, is full of Scottish story. It may be described as the happy result of the lucubrations of one of our lawyers, the most skilled perhaps (teste the late Mr. Andrew Lang) in placing Scottish yesterdays before us. Generally he does this with historical subjects, but not always, otherwise we would not have had his admirable poetic criticism (placed last in this book) on Robert Fergusson, the Edinburgh prototype of Burns. Still, it is with historical or legal subjects he is generally connected, at least in this collection. He begins with ' The Riddle of the Ruthvens,' an examination of the baffling 'Gowrie Conspiracy.' We now wonder with him whether the plot was not as much on the King's side as on that of the victims. .Many 'trials,' judicial or else so-called, help to fill the book. We get a magnificent view of legal Nemesis in the remote Highlands when the Pack of the Travelling Merchant is accounted for through a dream. Witchcraft is dealt with in three studies. Auld Auchindrayne's Murder of an innocent boy is narrated, as is the modern case of 'Antique Smith ' who 'uttered' forgeries of the works of the great Dead some of which may still unhappily be current. Scottish and Irish Law finds its crux in the curious tangle of the Yelverton Marriage Case. Two important papers on Lord Braxfield (whose portrait is twice given to show his different aspects), soften a little his fierce contours, and one on Lord Grange, who deported his ill-willywife to St. Kilda, are all well worth study. It is impossible to read the book which contains many other essays of interest without delighting in the writer's thoroughness, his knowledge of Scottish History, his skill in unfolding the half forgotten past, and his quaint humour.


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