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Document 599

Lecture on Scottish Literature 2

Author(s): Dr John B Corbett

Copyright holder(s): SCOTS Project, University of Glasgow: Copyright © 2004 The University of Glasgow. All rights reserved.

Audio transcription

M608 Okay, good afternoon. Erm, what I want to do today is to take a look at one of my favourite Scottish writers, eh Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, whose work is represented in, eh, Ronnie Jack's anthology, "The Mercat Anthology of Early Scottish Literature"; parts of the "Jewel" are there. [inhale] He is a strange writer, it has to be said. Erm, he's not always readable [laugh]. There are long pages of incoherent, indigestible prose, but he's certainly unique, and he's certainly strange, and on top form, there's nobody in Scottish literature like him. What I want to do today is fit him in to the developing narrative of what's, what happens with Scottish prose, from the sixteenth century, into the twentieth century.

Erm Urquhart is a mid-seventeenth century writer, writing around about 1650. [tut] Okay. So I want to try to put him into context. [inhale] Last week if you remember, er we looked at the way Scots prose evolved in the sixteenth century, developing out of a native tradition, of loosely connected, Old English sentences in a kind of spoken style. [inhale] And we contrasted that with the continental style, based on Latin, of long, elaborate sentences. [door opens and student enters] oh [speaker passes handout to student, who thanks him] There you go. In the sixteenth century you don't really have literary prose; you have administrative prose, you have historiographical prose; the writers of the histories are probably getting closest to a literary style, of the wri- of the prose writers of that period. And the writers of histories tended to move towards the elaborate, continental style, which became kind of associated with the Catholic cause in Scotland, whereas the Protestant writers gravitated more towards the kind of loose colloquial style based on speech. The native style. [inhale] Some writers and I was arguing like John Knox at his best, m- modulated between the two styles and used the expressive range in a very kind of, eh, rhetorical and purposeful way.

[inhale] But today, in concentrating on one writer from the mid-seventeenth century, Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, we look at somebody who basically took the, the continental style, to its mad, absurd extreme. [laugh] Eh, he was the last of the great kind of baroque writers in the Scottish tradition. Erm, he writes in, if you like, the the Latin-based, the continental style. [sniff] [inhale] Urquhart is often dismissed, as one of the great, but kind of difficult eccentrics of the Scottish literary tradition. Now what I'm going to argue today is that he's in some ways a transitional figure. He's the end of an era, in one respect. Er, he's the last great exponent of the continental style, in Scottish prose. [inhale] But, in other respects, erm he's a foretaste of Scottish prose, fictional prose, to come. He does things for the first time, that are taken up by later Scottish writers, and in some respects you could argue, that wittingly or unwittingly, all modern Scottish prose fictional writers are his children. He is the first. The most obvious modern tribute to Urquhart comes in, er, Alasdair Gray's short stories, "Unlikely Stories Mos- Mostly". Has anyone rea- read "Unlikely Stories Mostly"? They're a good read, they're very strange, [laugh] and unlikely stories, mostly. And, one of the stories called "Logopandocy" is eh, the narrative of what happens to Thomas Urquhart in his final days, to his death, and beyond. [laugh] Er, and it's written in the style of Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty. So one of the interesting things to do would be to take a look at Alasdair Gray's short story "Logopandocy", and compare the style, his pastiche, of Urquhart of Cromarty with what you find in the "Jewel", er in Ronnie Jack's "Mercat Anthology", and see how, er Alasdair Gray picks up on the stylistic traits of Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty. [inhale] Gray's style is parodic, or a pastiche, eh he parodies Urquhart's style, but as we will see, Urquhart's style is itself a parody, so what you get, ultimately, is a parody of a parody.

[tut] Okay. [inhale] With Thomas Urquhart we're beginning to move into the modern period; he was born in sixteen hundred and eleven, into a Scotland was, that was then part of the United Kingdom, so he's a British writer, if you like. He's in, he's born into that United Kingdom context. [inhale] His family was Catholic turned Episcopalian, and in the disputes between Church and Crown that punctuated the seventeenth century, er Urquhart was essentially a royalist, and I think that's important, because I think also if you see eh this highly elegant baroque style being associated with a tendency towards Episcopalianism, Catholicism, then that fits, he fits the picture. [inhale] Eh, Urquhart went to Aberdeen University, at the age of eleven, as you do, at that period of time. [laugh] He didn't graduate, erm, but he went and he travelled in Europe, and he returned to Scotland when civil war was threatening, when it was clear that his father's refusal to sign the covenant was putting his father in a difficult position. [inhale] When Aberdeen was taken by covenanting forces in 1640, Urquhart fled, fled to England, where he was accepted into the court circle because his family were royalist supporters. And, eh, Urquhart was knighted in 1641; he became Sir Thomas Urquhart. [inhale] And it was in the court, in England, that Urquhart began to write, and he was writing for the court circle that was then based in England. He started off by writing two books of little epigrams, which still receive very little critical attention, because they're short, and they're boring, and they're fairly conventional. And they're nothing like what he later writes.

And then he wrote a book on trigonometry, which if anything established his reputation as someone who was barking mad. [audience laugh] erm, and I think on your handout, yep! On your handout you've got a little bit from his book on trigonometry. Now, did anybody study maths at school, at any, to any stage, whatsoever? If you studied maths at school, you'll have done this. And, the question is, [laugh] do you recognise it? [inhale] "In all prane rectangle triangles the ambients are equal in power to the subtendent, for by demitting from the right angle a perpendicular, there will arise two correct angles, from whose equi-angularity with the great rectangle will proceed such a proportion, amongst the homologol sides of all the three, that if you can set them right in the rule beginning your analogy, the main subtendents, being the including sides of the total rectangle, prove subtendents in the partial correct angles, and the basis of these rectanglets, the segments of the great subtendent, it will fall out, that as the main subtendent is to his base on either side or either of the legs of a rectangle triangle, in reference to one another is both base and perpendicular, so the same bases which are subtendents in the resur- rectangles, are to their bases the segments of the prime subtendent. Then, by the golden rule, [laugh] [audience laugh] we find, that the multiplying of the middle terms, which is nothing else but the squaring of the comprehending sides of the prime rectangular forge two products, equal to the oblongs made of the great subtendent, and his respective segments the aggregate whereof by equation is the same with the square of the chief subtendent, or hypotenuesa, which was to be demonstrated." Got it, yeah? [audience laugh] You've all done it. What this means is that the, in a right-angled triangle, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. It's Pythagoras' theorem. But God Almighty, did that help? [laugh] [audience laugh] Give that to a class of, you know, twelve-year olds studying for their standard grade in maths. [laugh] "Right, what I'm going to tell you is in all plain rectangle triangles, and all right-angled triangles, the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the square on the on the other two sides".

[inhale] Erm so what's happening here? [inhale] Urquhart is taking a reasonably simple, reasonably straightforward, geometrical theorem, and he's elaborating it to the point of absurdity, and, if [laugh], either he's mad, and that has been put forward as a proposition, [laugh] [audience laugh] or he's doing it on purpose as a joke. It's a [laugh] joke with a very limited audience. [laugh] And he has a whole book like this. So the entire book, goes on like this. [inhale] You can see the "Trissotetras", the joke trigonometry book - it's called the "Trissotetras" - as a parody of the continental style of prose writing. You have here, the kind of things that we were talking about last week. You have the long periodic sentences, built up of subordinate clauses, parentheses, embedded phrases, almost to infinity. So he's parodying the style of trigonometry books. [someone in audience sneezes] Or he seems to be parodying the style of trigonometry books; with Urquhart you're never quite sure. Certainly, as with many parodies, Urquhart seems in love with the object of his parody. There's an infectious energy to the wilful obscurity of this joke geometry treatise. [inhale] The obscure Greek terms, the technical neologisms, the new words, give the treatise the attraction, to me at least, of nonsense poetry; it's like reading "Jabberwocky" or something. And it might be argued, that a Scot, writing in English, still at the time for Urquhart a foreign dialect, if not a foreign language, is more likely to accentuate the foreignness of his written medium, er, he's writing in effectively what is a foreign variety for him. [inhale] It's a strategy used much later in prose by James Joyce in "Finnegan's Wake", and in poetry by Hugh MacDiarmid, the later poems in synthetic English, like "On a raised beach" for example, and Urquhart's English, like the English of many Scottish and Irish writers, is artificial, it's constructed, it's never straightforward. But it's a weird way to enter literary life; a joke trigonometry book. Anyway, that's how he starts.

[inhale] Urquhart remained part of the court circle in England for three more years; however, on the death of his father, he returned to Scotland to manage the estate in Cromarty. [inhale] And he combined this management of the estate with spells abroad. [inhale] In 1649 his king, Charles the First, the guy who had knighted him a few years earlier, was executed, and because he was part of the court circle he was obviously appalled at this. And in six- nine- in, sorry, in 1650, in 1650 Urquhart joined the Royalist cause, in Scotland, against the Republican side, in England, read by, led by Cromwell. He was at the Battle of Worcester, er, and he was captured at the Battle of Worcester, and then he spent some time imprisoned in the Tower of London, and then in Windsor Castle. So he's back in England, he's ba- [laugh] he's back at the centre of the power, but this s-s- but time he's a prisoner, he's not part of the court circle. [inhale] And if you read Alasdair Gray's short story, eh [laugh] one of the funniest things in Alasdair Gray's short story is, eh, he has, er, Urquhart locked up in the Tower of London, and he's visited by Cromwell's secretary, and Cromwell's secretary is, er, John Milton, the author of "Paradise Lost", [laugh] and there is this tremendous conversation between John Milton and Thomas Urquhart, wh- in which it's completely at cross purposes; they're both talking about translating the greatest book ever written, and Milton is talking about the Bible, and Urquhart is talking about Rabelais, and they don't ac- actually realise this for quite a long time.

[tut] [inhale] One result of Urquhart's imprisonment in fact, rather than in fiction, was that Urquhart was told that his lands in Scotland would be forfeited if he could not demonstrate that he deserved to keep possession of them. [laugh] And, yeah. So Urquhart decided that the best way to demonstrate his worth, his value, [inhale] was to set about writing and publishing four books, between 1652 and 1653, to prove that he is an important writer and intellectual. A heroic figure. From a noble family. [someone in audience sneezes] [inhale] So he, his first book, [someone in audience sneezes] which is called the "Pantochronochanon", [laugh] I'm never terribly sure how to pronounce Urquhart's books. [inhale] The "Pantochronochanon" constructs a family tree for the Urquhart family, that ends with Urquhart and begins with Adam. [laugh] So he traces his line right back to Adam. [inhale] erm So that kind of proves he's noble. [laugh]

The second one, which is better known, which i- was called "Ekskybalauron", and is better and more easily known as "The Jewel" and that's what is excerpted in the "Mercat Anthology", you've got eh, bits of that in the "Mercat Anthology", "The Jewel". In this he sets about drawing up the fr- the principles for a universal language. [laugh] That would be good. [laugh] And er it's a very learned treatise on universal languages; it's like a, kind of, superlanguage, that everybody will write, and all trade will become possible between nations because they'll all be speaking this superlanguage. Erm, "The Jewel" also, because it's a tremendous mixture of a book, i- it starts off giving you the principles of this universal language and then it goes into this amazing story about a character called "The Admirable Crichton", and this is the first appearance of this character, "The Admirable Crichton", who later turns up in a play by Bridie, er but he's a very different "Admirable Crichton" in the original, in the "Jewel", and I think that's the excerpt that you've got in the "Mercat Anthology". [inhale] This is the story of a heroic Scottish nobleman in Europe, and it's a fabulously written episode. [inhale] [exhale] "Ekskybalauron", like most of Urquhart's book titles, is a new word. It's coined from Greek. He's, he loves making words up. And in Greek it literally means 'gold out of dung'. [laugh] [inhale] And the English title "The Jewel" is a reference to the fable of "The Cock and the Jasp". You find a jewel in the midden, in the dungheap. And it's the same jewel, jo- "Cock and the Jasp" that Henryson has a version of. So you can see Urquhart beginning to link up at least tenuously, to some other parts of the Scottish tradition.

The third of his four books, "Logopandecteision", is largely a reprint of "The Jewel". He basically writes it again because he's running out of time. [inhale] But he has some additional passages, attacking his foes and creditors. [inhale] So the part of "The Jewel" and its sequel that are most often anthologised are the scene, is the scene where Admirable Crichton puts on a dramatic performance at the Court of Mantua, in Italy, playing fifteen characters on stage simultaneously, for five hours, [audience laugh] [laugh] [inhale] and he does this, he portrays fifteen characters, simultaneously, on stage, for five hours, so successfully that ladies faint in the audience. After this triumph, he goes to meet his lover, an Italian noblewoman, and you get, hallelujah, the first prose sex scene in Scottish literature. But it's written like his geometry book. [laugh] [audience laugh] And I think that's on your handout. Yep! That's C, on your handout. [inhale] So, this is the first prose sex scene, in Scottish literature. You get poetic sex scenes before this, but I think this is the first prose one, that's quite so explicit. Erm and it combines Urquhart's passionate interests in sex, astronomy, the construction of sundials, Greek and Latin vocabulary, and of course, syntax. So, he's meeting his lover, and it says "Thus, for a while, their eloquence was mute, and all they spoke was but with the eye and hand, yet so persuasively by virtue of the intermutual unlimitedness of their visotactile sensation, for each part and portion of the persons of either was obvious to the sight and touch of the persons of both. The visuriency of either, by ushering the tacturiency of both, made the attrectation of both consequent to the inspection of either." Translation: they're both naked. "Here it was, that passion, was active, and action passive, they both being overcome by other and each, the conqueror. To speak of her herquitelaniency, at the elevation of the pole of his microcosm", [audience laugh] I think we know what's happening here. [inhale] "or of his luxuriousness to erect a gnomen on her horizontal dial, will perhaps be held by some to be expressions full of obsceneness, and offensive to the purity of chaste ears, yet shein- seeing she was to be his wife, and that she could not be such without consummation of marriage, which signifies the same thing in effect, it may be thought as definitionies logicae verificantur in rebus, if the exerst act be lawful, that the diction which suppones it can be of no greater transgression unless you would call it a solecism, or that vice in grammar which imports the copulating of the masculine, with the feminine gender."

I think we've come a long way since John Knox [laugh] in this passage. It plays about, very playfully, with metaphors for sexual congress, the rising of the pole star, the erection of a rod on a sundial, the ungrammatical copulation of a masculine subject with a feminine complement, [inhale] erm [click] and the prose style is at the very least unlike the plain style that we've inherited from the reformers in Scotland. Again here we have the extremely elaborate periodic sentences, the neologisms coined from Latin and Greek, and, as in the joke geometry book, a wildly elaborate habit of circumulo- circumlocution, saying saying simple things in more words than you need to, to use. You avoid direct statement of simple fact, in favour of absurd euphemisms, obscure allusions, and even little Latin phrases. [inhale] The prose style can be termed and has been termed 'baroque', after the excessively decorated grotesquely ornate architecture, or, of the late Renaissance. If you take a look at the architecture of the late Renaissance it's extremely highly decorated, grotesquely from a particular perspective, beautifully from another perspective. So that was, him building up to [laugh] to his, er, masterwork. He's in prison, he's writing this stuff, trying to say, [laugh] 'Hey', Er, it amazes me actually that he's, [laugh] he's giving this stuff to the arch-puritan Cromwell, [laugh] I mean, he's trying to say to Cromwell, "I'm a good writer, get me out," and he writes kind of sex scenes for the puritans, in order to get him, it just, it just strikes me as crazy.

[inhale] Anyway, this wasn't working too well. [click] So he writes a fourth book, to try to get himself out of prison. And it's the fourth book that is Urquhart's greatest, and most lasting literary achievement. And this is a translation. A translation from French of three of François la- Rabelais' comic prose navel- narratives about the giants, "Gargantua" and "Pantagruel". [tut] [inhale] These had been written by Rabelais, erm, a French writer who lived from about 1494 to about 1553, so they'd been written about a hundred years before Urquhart came to translate them. [tut] [inhale] Rabelais, as some of you will know, was a Franciscan monk, then a physician, and then subsequently a satirist. His satires, which he began publishing in 1532, were highly successful, but condemned by the church because of their mockery of religious practices and maybe here there is some element of Urquhart saying to Cromwell, "Okay, you want religious satire, I'll give you religious satire. I'll translate Rabelais for you." [inhale] After the publication of the third book in the series, the original third book of the series, Rabelais had to flee to Metz, where he practised medicine, and continued publishing. [inhale] Even given the fact that it's a religious satire, the choice of a tremendously rude, and it's a very very rude book, it's a very surreal anti-clerical satire, in order to impress a puritanical Republican administration still strikes me as, again, nine parts insane. Eh, not perhaps the best, or the most tactful, choice that somebody can make, while they're sitting in the Tower of London, rotting, wanting out. [click] [inhale]

The Scots activist A D Mackie has argued that "it was a Scot, Sir Tam Urquhart that owerset Rabelais into a southern muckle enriched by Lallans": basically he was saying that the, the translation of Rabelais by Urquhart was into a kind of Scotticised, a highly Scotticised English, but if you take a look at, er Rabelais, and it's still in print, it's been in print almost continuously, since 1650, although it wasn't immediately a success, er it became one of the great Scots translations. It's second only I think to Gavin Douglas's "Aeneid", as one of the great Scots translations. And it was still a st- I think it actually still is the standard 'Everyman' translation of Rabelais, if you pick up the 'Everyman' translation. [inhale] If you look through this translation you f- you have to look pretty hard to find any Scots in it, but the Scots that's in it is interesting. One of the things that you have to remember is that Urquhart is writing for a very specific audience. He's in England, either in the court or in prison, and he's writing for the administrations of his time, either the court, in his earlier period, or the Cromwellian eh administration, in the later period. So it's an English-reading audience, so it's not surprising that there's not very much Scots in there. Moreover, Urquhart is writing at a time fifty years after the Union of the Crowns, when even in Scotland, eh Scots has gone out of fashion amongst the eh aristoca- aristocratic classes, amongst the literate classes as a medium for literature. [inhale] In the south, English is beginning to reach its final phase of standardisation at the time that Urquhart's writing. There's not yet, for Urquhart, an English dictionary to refer to; the English dictionary, the great Johnson's English Dictionary will not come a- along for another hundred years.

[inhale] But there are spelling books, and there are even bilingual English-French phrase books, that he could use, and it has been shown that he did use these phrase books. [inhale] Erm, the one that he used, in particular, was Randall Cotgrave's "Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues", and the scholar R. G. Craick has conclusively demonstrated the extent to which Urquhart relied on Cotgrave's dictionary, consulting it even for most the familia-, even for the most familiar French words. Now the dictionary that Urquhart was using for his translation by Cotgrave was very useful for him, because when the word in the French dictionary had been used in Rabelais, there was a little mark beside it that said 'capital R', [laugh] so it was a dictionary really for those people who wanted to read Rabelais. So it was kind of the perfect dictionary for Urquhart, as a translator. [inhale] Erm and Rabelais, like Urquhart, loved inventing words, so he introduced a lot of new words into the French language. [inhale] Now it's often been said that Urquhart outdoes Rabelais, that where Rabelais is extravagant, Urquhart is super-extravagant, when Rabelais uses three words for something, Urquhart uses nine. [laugh] But this is partly because Urquhart was using this bloody dictionary. [laugh] And if you look, in the Cotgrave dictionary, and you get a word for Rabelais, Cotgrave gives you kind of three possible choices, for the translation of these words, and Urquhart uses them all. [audience laugh] I don't know if you've ever translated French at school, and you go to your French dictionary and you say "Okay, erm, kind of er, 'maison: house, home, building', okay which one of?" Use them all! [laugh] What you get is a work that is at least three quarters longer than the original, and that's what Urquhart comes up with. [inhale] As Craick comments about er Urquhart's translation, "To the already grotesque and gigantic world of 'Gargantua and Pantagruel' the transplanting of Cotgrave's synonyms and variants adds still more colour, while leaving unaltered the structural details of Rabelais' tale. Once the reader is familiar with Urquhart's expansive methods, he may subs- suspect the occasions when Cotgrave is consulted, especially when you encounter short lists, or pairs of words joined by 'and' [someone sneezes] or 'or' so he just throws everything in there." [inhale] Urquhart's use of Cotgrave as a point of linguistic reference is significant in the steady decline in the use of Scots in the seventeenth century, as a formal, public, high-style language. Cotgrade's, Cotgrave's, after all, is a dictionary of French and English, and there were no dictionaries of French and Scots. [inhale] So if you're a Scottish writer you have to begin to rely on English reference works, particularly if you're doing things like translation. [inhale] Erm so, as a translator, Urquhart again had to depend on sources that pushed him further towards English usage and away from Scots usage.

[inhale] Even so, if you do look hard enough, there are places in his translation of Rabelais where Scots can be found, and when you do find them, as I said, it's interesting to see how he's using it, and why he's using Scots. I want to focus on two examples. [inhale] The first occurs when two of the massive surreal strange characters in the story, er Pantagruel meets Panurge. These are two giants, wandering around France, meeting people and having kind of episodic adventures. So the giant Pantagruel comes upon another giant called Panurge. And the problem is, they begin to talk and they speak in different languages, so they've got to attempt to communicate. [inhale] So, they try different languages out. Some of the languages are real, some of the languages Rabelais invents, some of the languages Urquhart, in his translation, invents too. So they try German - doesn't work; Italian - doesn't work; Spanish - doesn't work; Dutch - nope; Basque - nope; Hi- Danish - no; Hebrew - no; Greek - no; Latin - no. So they try Puzzlatory - that doesn't work. They try Buffoonish - that doesn't work. And then, in this sequence of strange, obscure, weird and fictional languages, you get the third part, the third thing on your, or the fourth thing, on your, eh, D, on your handout. "Then said Panurge, 'Lard, gest all be sir birches th'intelligence as thy body shall be natural, ruleth, them should be, there should of me pity have. For nature has us equally made, but fortune some exalted has, in use depravit. None the less, vice nor virtue is depravit, and virtue is men discrives for an en ye lad en is not good." That doesn't work either. Nobody can understand what that means. Yet less, said Pantagruel. So again you get another failure of communication, and as you can see, it's kind of nonsensical. The interesting thing about this nonsense is that there's, it's Scots. It's Scots nonsense. It's Older Scots nonsense. There are elements in it, erm that are obviously old. The Y, that you find here, in 'ye', is actually 'the' so it's the old 'the' form, T-H form, so it's not 'ye' it's 'the'. And that's old-fashioned, by this time. [inhale] Erm, you get Scots spellings here: 'shall' S-C-H-A double L, 'so' S double, S-U-A, you get Scots grammatical features: 'exaltit', I-T, 'depravit' I-T, 'describes', 'discrives' 'anen', 'ane-' eh 'ant', I'm sorry, 'anen', 'anent' and 'good', G-U-D, 'gud', it's a good Scottish pronunciation, 'gud', sometimes G-U-I-D, but here G-U-D. [inhale] If it means anything, it means something like "Lord, if you're so virtuous by intelligence as your body shall be naturally merciful, you should have pity on me for nature has made us equally, but Fortune has exalted some, and deprived others". But it's difficult to make out the rest.

[inhale] What I'm suggesting is significant about this passage, for the history of Scots, is that Urquhart is explicitly associating Older Scots texts with obscure and unreadable languages. 'Puzzlatory', 'Buffoonish', and then something that looks like Older Scots. [inhale] Half a century after the Union of the Crowns, in a single lifetime after the Union of the Crowns, fifty short years, the very language written at the Scottish court during James the Sixth's tenancy in Scotland, is now regarded as archaic, obscure, double-dutch, and fit matter for a joke. So in this little reference, you can hear the death knell for Scots, as a potential formal standard. It is by Urquhart's time, quite literally, a joke.

What future is there, then, for Scottish prose after Urquhart? And this is where I want to come to my second and final example today. In another brief passage from "Pantagruel", Urquhart gives us a clue about where Scots can go. The Older Scots style the slightly archaic exalted prose, that is represented by, eh the histories, for example, at the end of the period of Mary Queen of Scots and the beginning of the period of James the Sixth, that seems to have gone; that point is over. But in the translation, in another passage, the giant Pantagruel encounters a pretentious student, there's nothing worse than a pretentious student. Specially giants; giants do not like pretentious students. And this is a pretentious student from Limoges. And Limoges is like, well Aberdeen, let's face it, I apologise to anybody from Aberdeen who's in the room, but you know, it's f- in French terms, it's a little bit out in the sticks. Okay. So this is a Limousin, a pretentious French student from Limoges, [inhale] and this pretentious student makes the mistake, when speaking to Pantagruel, of affecting to be, a, kind of, intellectual student, from Paris, and he uses a highly Latinised, high-style vocabulary, to begin to talk to the giant. And the giant decides to take him down a peg. And this is on your handout, too.

"By God," said Pantagruel, "I will teach you to speak. But first come hither and tell me whence thou art". To this the scholar answered, "The primeval origin of my aves and ataves was indigenerie of the Lemo- Lemovick regions, where requiesceth the corpor of the hagiotat St Martial". "I understand thee very well," said Pantagruel, "when all comes to all, thou art a Limousin, and thou wilt here, by thy affected speech, counterfeit the Parisiens. Well now, come hither, I must shew thee a new trick, and handsomely give thou combfeat." [inhale] With this he took him by the throat, saying to him, "Thou flayest the Latine? By St John I will make thee flay the foxe, for I will now flay thee alive". Then began the poor Limousin to cry, "Haw, gwid Maaster, haw Laord ma halp and St Marshaw, haw, I'm worried; haw, ma thrapple, the bean of ma cragg is bruck! Haw, for gauad's seck, lawt ma lean Mawster, waw, waw, waw!" "Now," said Pantagruel, "thou speaks naturally," and so let him go, for the poor Limousin had totally berayed, and thoroughly conshit his breeches." [audience laugh] Don't mess with the giants. It's translated in the twentieth century; you've got this on your handout as well.

Erm and it's interesting to look at that, erm I've noticed that I've given you this in your tutorial exercise, well we'll do something else with Urquhart in the tutorial. It is quite interesting to take a look at the erm, the modern English translation, by a guy called J M Cohen, for the ple- Penguin Classics, because obviously, the modern translator, the twentieth-century translator, has read Urquhart, and he uses some of what Urquhart, er, is doing, in his twentieth-century translation. So this is the Penguin translation, twentieth century, J M Cohen. "But this hug of Pantagruel's was such a terror to him all the days of his life, and, er, took such deep impression on his fancy". Wait a minute! oh no, sorry. [laugh] [turns page] Yeah, sorry it's further down. "By God," cried Pantagruel, "I'll teach you to speak, but before I do so, tell me one thing: where do you come from?" It's further down the same page. "To which the scholar replied, 'The primeval origin of my aves and ataves was indigenous to the Lemovick regions, where requiesces the corpus of the hagiotate St Martial'". "I understand you all right," said Pantagruel, "what it comes to is this: that you're a Limousin, and here you want to play the Parisian. Well come on then, and I'll give you a combing". Then he took him by the throat and continued, "You murder Latin by St John, I'll make you skin the fox. I'll skin you alive." Then the poor Limousin began to plead, "Haw, guid master, haw lordie, help me St Marshaw, haw let me alane, for Gaud's sake dinna hairm me!" Whereupon Pantagruel replied, 'Now you're speaking naturally' and released him."

Now, what I think is actually modern about this, this is where I think you leave the Middle Ages behind, and come into the modern period, is in the code-switching that goes on in this passage. The dominant narrative is English, as is the direct speech of Pantagruel, and this then becomes the prestige code. This is the code that the reader and the writer share: we're both English speakers, readers and writers. [inhale] The direct speech of the Limousin, however, initially affected and then naturally provincial, is first of all the Latinised English that Urquhart affects elsewhere in his writings as we've seen; and then secondly, when the giant takes him by the throat and shakes him, he switches into the localised Aberdeenshire of his upbringing, and university days. [inhale] And this is a different kind of Scots from the nonsense passage that we've seen before. This is a Scots that's marked much more by phoneticised spellings. You're looking at sh- related words, words that, er, English and Scots share, and you're showing the locality by changing the spelling to mimic not Scots in general, but a specific regional variety of Scots. This is Aberdonian. 'Guid master', not 'gid master', or 'gud master'. 'Guid master'. The long vowels in 'maaster', 'gaud'. [laugh] Very Aberdonian. The dropping of the L in 'St Marshaw'. If you go to Aberdeen, which college do you go to? St Marshall's College. So St Marshall, again, associated with Aberdeen. [inhale] These are not part of traditional Scots orthography, they're spellings that represent the author's own regional accent. Remember that Urquhart went to Aberdeen University at the age of eleven, he was brought up in that area; this probably is the way that he himself spoke. So in the Limousin, he's partly parodying himself. There all- also some more general Scots expressions: 'thrapple' for throat, 'cragg' for neck, 'my lean' for alone, but it's the phonetic spernin- spellings, er, in direct speech dramatically to represent a provincial Scotsman, that will be followed up in the eighteenth century, and the nineteenth century. This is the way forward for Scots prose. Put it in direct speech, and give people a very specific local and regional concreteness, a locality.

The final point that I'd want to make about this is that the Limousin is an object of mockery, in this passage. Linguistic mockery and social mockery. He is an, he's a provincial, he's a student; you know we all make fun of students, er we all make fun of provincials; he speaks in a funny way, he's affected, he's pretentious, erm in the first part of the episode, he uses this Latin-drenched, Greek-trenched, high-style, continental-style, baroque-style, that is very very much like Urquhart's own writing in most of his books. So even when he's affecting the pretentious Latinised style, Urquhart seems to be parodying himself. The Limousin begins by speaking the way that Urquhart usually writes. Then, as we've said, when he's shaken by the throat, he th- reverts into his natural speech, which would be Urquhart's own spoken idiom. [inhale] It's all for, it's therefore all the more poignant, as well as ironic, when a few lines after the encounter with Pantagruel, and this is the bit that I started reading but it's in, in between the two quotations that I gave you, it's all the more poignant when a few lines after the encounter with the giant Pantagruel, we're told that the Limousin died of an enormous thirst, and that this is evidence of divine vengeance on those who use affected language. What the hell is Urquhart telling us there? That people that write like him are going to be punished by God? I d- I eh, I sti- I still have difficulty knowing what the message of thi- it's it's a kind of self-parody to an extreme style. I think Urquhart is not talked about as much as he could be or should be, eh, possibly this is because none of his books made much impact at the time that he wrote them. They were perhaps considered too eccentric, and the lack of response made Urquhart abandon his translation of Rabelais after Book Three; he never completed the translation. [inhale] Eh, it was trans- it was actually completed by somebody else, Pierre de la Motteux. [inhale] Later readers and writers after his death, readers and writers began to recognise his worth, and in the eighteenth century Sir Alexander Fraser Tytler, a Scotsman who wrote the first English-language prose essay on the theory of translation, singled Urquhart out for particular praise, despite what he condemns as his vulgarity; he said "This would be a great translation by a Scot, if it wasn't so rude." [laugh] So er, you're beginning to get eighteenth-century er, genteel manners coming in.

[inhale] The Urquhart translation of Rabelais is by common consent the finest of all English language versions and remains in print to this day, as I've said, in the Everyman tr- edition, and Urquhart influences all later translations of Rabelais into English, including J M Cohen's modern translation. [inhale] If you compare the modern translation with Urquhart's translation you'll see that where Urquhart changes his Limousin into an Aberdonian, Cohen simply changes him into a Scot. Cohen's Limousin is not so regionally specific, as Urquhart's, instead of 'guid', you've got 'gud', for example, and he is, he's speaking in standard Scots, he's not as spi- specified as Urquhart's.

Erm So two things, to sum up, to take from from Urquhart. First of all, his translation of, erm, Rabelais probably marks the end of Older Scots writing. That reference, that very very brief reference to Older Scots writing, in the context of Buffoonish, and Puzzlatory, seems to say, "Nobody's gonna read Older Scots writing any more, nobody can understand it, it's archaic, it's old-fashioned, it's funny." [inhale] But as well as the end of one period, he possibly marks the beginning of another period: the use of regional Scots to mark social and regional specificity. The fact that he uses an Aberdonian in the Limousin episode, in the direct speech, altering the the spellings to give you a sense of the local identity of the Limousin; that seems to be the way forward, and that's what the writers, who are not yet born [laugh], of the Scottish vernacular revival, will begin to do; they'll start writing a Scots that is very much more a regional literature. Okie-doke, see you next week.

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Lecture on Scottish Literature 2

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Year of transcription 2004
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Word count 6678

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Title Dr
Forenames John
Initials B
Surname Corbett
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Decade of birth 1950
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation University Professor
Place of birth Ayr
Region of birth S Ayr
Birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Bridge of Weir
Region of residence Renfrew
Residence CSD dialect area Renfr
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Insurance Broker
Father's place of birth Auchinleck
Father's region of birth S Ayr
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Dental Receptionist
Mother's place of birth Ayr
Mother's region of birth S Ayr
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Mother's country of birth Scotland

Languages

Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes In most everyday situations
Portuguese Yes No No Yes When trying to communicate with my in-laws
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes In domestic/activist circles; reading literature

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Participant id 608
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1950
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation University Professor
Place of birth Ayr
Region of birth S Ayr
Birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Bridge of Weir
Region of residence Renfrew
Residence CSD dialect area Renfr
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Insurance Broker
Father's place of birth Auchinleck
Father's region of birth S Ayr
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Dental Receptionist
Mother's place of birth Ayr
Mother's region of birth S Ayr
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Mother's country of birth Scotland

Languages

Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes In most everyday situations
Portuguese Yes No No Yes When trying to communicate with my in-laws
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes In domestic/activist circles; reading literature

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