James Robertson‘s well-deserved reputation as a historical novelist has obscured the role that the Gothic plays in his work. Manifesting itself in distinctively Scottish fashion, Robertson‘s Gothicism is tied to the ‘broader national culture’ in general and to post-devolutionary Scotland in particular. Not only does his transformation of the Gothic into the historical novels uncanny other resist the modern novels tendency towards increasing privatisation. It also results in work that diverges from much post-devolutionary Scottish fiction in that his stories and novels are, by virtue of the density of their Scottishness, deeply connected to the local and to folk culture.
The Case of Mary Ashford and the Cultural Context of Late-Regency Melodrama
This paper examines the historical context of the publication and reception of three dramas related to the murder of a gardener‘s daughter, Mary Ashford in Sutton Coldfield in 1817. George Ludlam‘s The Mysterious Murder was countered by a play called The Murdered Maid whose anonymous author is likely to have been a local clergyman. Both plays were locally written and published. When the case reached a national arena, John Kerr‘s Presumptive Guilt provided a London-based comment on the case. The paper examines the relationship between these metropolitan and provincial print cultures and the way in which dramatic form was used as a mode of mediation between public and legal discourse.
Hence, the Phrenological Society supplied these smaller organisations, often following the tendering of an invitation, with experienced speakers, who were frequently credited on local publicity as being associated with the earliest phrenological society – but it did not impose a prevailing orthodoxy, a structure, or indeed any form of subscription which sent tribute back to the Scottish capital.
In some respects, the phrenological societies of the
, several other learned ideas about witches and the Devil were introduced through leading questions from the interrogators. However, it is likely that the story of the Dancers of Moaness had been circulating in the local community for many years, and that Barbara knew it through oral transmission before her interrogation began.
The questions will then arise how learned ideas about human beings’ relations with the Devil interacted with the ideas of the common people, and to what extent this interaction influenced the development of witchcraft trials. The Orkney women
Mesmerism, celebrity practitioners and the schism of 1842–3
. This parallel was arguably most evident in the dissemination of the two systems amongst popular (rather than elite) audiences, for the curious auditors who subscribed – at an admission tariff no doubt determined by the social status of the local demographic – to public mesmeric séances were often identical to those attending demonstrations of phrenology. By the 1840s these latter were less likely to be the sober lectures favoured by the perceptibly declining phrenological societies, and more a form of entertainment or distraction masquerading as education. This was
collect his fee. 21 Thomas pleads for a token, and she gives him a tongue incapable of lies. 22 Thomas asks when the Anglo-Scottish wars will end. The woman’s prophecies all predict English victories presaging a time of suffering. An English royal ‘bastard’ will destroy the Scots at Sandyford and unify Britain, bringing peace to both nations. He will go on crusade and die in Jerusalem.
These anti-Scottish prophecies were popular in England in the 1520s, when the Cheshire landowner Humphrey Newton reported a local minstrel singing ‘a song of Thomas Ersholedon & the
Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forebeare
To digg the dust enclosed heare;
Bleste be the man that spares thes stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.
These ominous words protect the mortal remains of William Shakespeare the Stratford burgher, a tithe-holder and man of consequence in his local community who had purchased the right to be buried within the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in 1605. The career and reputation of
great threat it brings is commensurate; that for post-Union Scotland, Scottishness – Callidon – can only ever be like something it is not, can only ever be a placeholder for an absence: a likeness and a seeming, not a being and a presence. The remainder of the poem lays down, as it imagines Scotland’s future (‘Of quhat sall afterwart befall, / In mair auspicious Tymes’) the concerns about local governance – and wider British policy – that were to power the astonishingly rich treatment of the supernatural in eighteenth-century Scottish verse. 11
One of Tytler
legends – even, to use the folkloristic idiom, a commonly held Erzählkultur or tale culture – that was prevalent until comparatively recently among peoples of the North Sea region and, perhaps, Scandinavia and the Baltic coasts. 22
Like Second Sight, expressions such as north-western Low German Vorspok , Dutch voorloop or Danish forvarsel refer to an extrasensory perceptive ability possessed by certain humans and animals alike. Like Second Sight, this faculty was the subject of local belief legends concerning involuntary premonitions, usually visions but
with many of his Edinburgh compatriots, George Combe's introduction to the claims of nascent phrenology came by way of polemic printed in one of the many journals which periodically stimulated the intellects and tastes of the British educated classes. The debate to which he alludes is, in many respects, a local one with national implications. Combe, a Writer to the Signet – a solicitor within the Scottish legal system – is engaging with a work written by another Edinburgh professional in a journal published in the same city but enjoying a readership that extended