Scott’s Highlands made for English

0
Have your say

IN HIS article “We are the heirs of Waverley” (Insight, 6 July), Allan Massie describes how following Culloden, 
Scotland came to present “an image to the world that is Jacobite and Highland rather than Whig and Lowland”.

Indeed it did, in great part because Sir Walter Scott brought it about. In the general preface to Waverley, Scott explains how he wished to 
emulate the achievements of the Irish writer Maria Edgeworth and “introduce her [Scotland’s] natives to those of her sister kingdom in a more favourable light than they had been placed hitherto, and tend to procure sympathy for their virtues and indulgence for their foibles”.

Thus Scott’s aim was to re­define Scottish identity to ­cater for English patronage. He largely created the popular Scottish image based on landscape, Highland dress, kilt, tartan etc. Scotland fell for it, and has fallen for it ever since.

Scott’s understanding of Highland culture was superficial. As far as I am aware he never learned Gaelic, and in Northern Lights, the novelist’s account of his 1814 voyage with the lighthouse inspectorate to the north of Scotland and the Hebrides, Scott shows more interest in caves and ruined castles than he does in contemporary Highland life.

This is not to detract from Scott’s greatness as a writer, but we should not blind ourselves to his limitations. To borrow a term from Stuart ­Kelly, there is more to Scotland than Scott-land.

Richard A A Deveria, Aberfeldy

Back to the top of the page