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This review is taken from PN Review 11, Volume 6 Number 3, January - February 1980.

SIX CENTURIES OF SCOTTISH LITERATURE Maurice Lindsay, History of Scottish Literature (Robert Hale) £8.95

Maurice Lindsay's History of Scottish Literature is a survey of the subject, dealing with six centuries in roughly chronological fashion and bringing within its scope a host of writers-major, minor, and many who seem scarcely worth mentioning. My first reaction on reading the book rather more than a year ago was a mixture of irritation and disbelief. Since then the book has been praised-though not without considerable qualification-by Professors MacQueen and Daiches and has been the subject of a largely sympathetic review article by R. D. S. Jack in the Scottish Literary Journal. A second look at the book for the purposes of this review has only reinforced my first reaction.

The book shows signs of haste in writing and production; there are many misprints and frequent instances of a slack and confusing use of language. Mr Lindsay's style switches about, rather uneasily, between the popular or popularizing and the academic. We have this comment, for example, on the final stanzas of "Sir Patrick Spens": "How can we fail to be aware of the death-levelling implications. Not only common sailors stand in danger of drowning." He tells us that, in some lines from "The Cottar's Saturday Night", "Burns's linguistic dichotomy bursts out anew . . ." and, in a later chapter, makes this literary historical remark: "1890 was, of course, the official opening of the 'Naughty Nineties', when even Yeats went a-fairy-mongering." Occasionally the two styles come together in a curious amalgamation:


The ...


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