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Among the Picts

John Sutherland

18 August 1994
Stained Radiance: A Fictionist’s Prelude 
by J. Leslie Mitchell.
Polygon, 219 pp., £7.95, July 1993, 0 7486 6141 7
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The Speak of the Mearns 
by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
Polygon, 268 pp., £8.95, June 1994, 0 7486 6167 0
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... LewisGrassicGibbon (the pen-name of James Leslie Mitchell) is put forward as his country’s great 20th-century novelist: the Scottish D.H. Lawrence. Gibbon’s reputation substantially rests on A Scots Quair (‘quire’ – or ‘gathering of sheets’), also called ‘The Mearns Trilogy’, Mearns being an ancient name for Kincardineshire, now itself ...

Sperm’s-Eye View

Robert Crawford

23 February 1995
Dock Leaves 
by Hugo Williams.
Faber, 67 pp., £6.99, June 1994, 0 571 17175 3
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Spring Forest 
by Geoffrey Lehmann.
Faber, 171 pp., £6.99, September 1994, 0 571 17246 6
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Everything is Strange 
by Frank Kuppner.
Carcanet, 78 pp., £8.95, July 1994, 1 85754 071 9
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The Queen of Sheba 
by Kathleen Jamie.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £6.95, April 1994, 1 85224 284 1
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... The family, stuff of novelists as different as Rose Macaulay and James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and LewisGrassicGibbon, is absent from much great poetry of the early 20th century. T.S. Eliot’s parents, a religious poet and a businessman, produced between them a businessman-religious poet, and meant an enormous ...

Chucky, Hirple, Clart

David Craig: Robert Macfarlane

23 September 2015
Landmarks 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 387 pp., £20, March 2015, 978 0 241 14653 8
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... have stayed with me indelibly: William Cobbett of Rural Rides, a farmer’s son and himself a farmer from time to time; John Muir of My First Summer in the Sierra, a farmer’s son and farmer; and LewisGrassicGibbon of A Scots Quair, a farmer’s son from the Mearns in north-east Scotland. All three produced work that strikes me as special – as important, if you like – because they saw the ...

Diary

Duncan McLean: Frank Sargeson

7 June 2018
... of a Peon and Joy of the Worm. I was transfixed by the voice, which, particularly in his earlier stories, reminded me stylistically of some of the Scottish writers I admired, like James Kelman, LewisGrassicGibbon and Janice Galloway. In the best of his work, the narrative is fragmented; there are sudden ellipses and omissions. He shifts aim slightly, deliberately missing the obvious dramatic ...
5 March 1981
Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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Gillespie 
by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... with the Green Shutters (1901) and J. MacDougall Hay’s Gillespie (1914) – now reissued – offered robust, grimly convincing alternatives to Stevenson’s historical tales. What do Hay, Brown and LewisGrassicGibbon owe to Stevenson? Very little, perhaps, unless ‘Thrawn Janet’ or the melodramatic boldness of Jekyll and Hyde left their mark. Edwin Morgan has chosen well from the earlier ...
20 December 1979
Shikasta 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 365 pp., £5.95
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Fergus Lamont 
by Robin Jenkins.
Canongate, 293 pp., £7.95
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A Married Man 
by Piers Paul Read.
Alison Press/Secker, 264 pp., £5.25
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And Again? 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 267 pp., £5.95
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... sort of humour, arrogance and hypocrisy, respectability and outrage: Scottish novelists have had a range of good material to exploit, as has been only too well recognised by those who, from Barrie to LewisGrassicGibbon, have been – to great and lingering effect – essentially exploitative. And not only in literary terms, since it’s the working-class they’ve always used to demonstrate what it ...

A Country Emptied

Ian Jack: The Highland Clearances

7 March 2019
The Scottish Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed 1600-1900 
by T.M. Devine.
Allen Lane, 464 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 241 30410 5
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... destruction of the Scottish Lowlands with the Highland Clearances two centuries before. It was a rare intrusion by an 18th-century lyric into the UK top ten. ‘Lochaber no more/Sutherland no more/Lewis no more/Skye no more’, sang the Proclaimers, reprising the sentiment a few lines later as ‘Bathgate no more/Linwood no more/Methil no more/Irvine no more’. These were towns where big car plants ...
22 January 1987
A Century of the Scottish People: 1830-1950 
by T.C. Smout.
Collins, 318 pp., £15, May 1986, 9780002175241
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Living in Atholl: A Social History of the Estates 1685-1785 
by Leah Leneman.
Edinburgh, 244 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 85224 507 6
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... who strove in these fields expatriated themselves, but this had also happened in the 18th century, and Orchardson, RLS and the later Haldanes did not spring from nowhere. Still less, so to speak, did LewisGrassicGibbon. Such large mainly home-based figures as Rennie Mackintosh, MacDiarmid, Joan Eardley, still inspirational today, are not admitted into Smout’s pages to tease us or to cheer us up ...

The Leopard

James Meek: A Leopard in the Family

18 June 2014
... socialist deputy head of English covered our classroom in the bright blue of Methuen editions as he took us through the work of Berthold Brecht, while the nationalist head of English pitched us into LewisGrassicGibbon, and it didn’t seem as though they were pulling in opposite directions (as James Leslie Mitchell, his real name, Gibbon was, after all, a socialist internationalist). For the ...

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