Document 520

Joseph Knight (extract 1)

Author(s): James Robertson

Copyright holder(s): Fourth Estate Publishers: With thanks to HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. © James Robertson 2003, James Robertson


Dundee, 16th November 1773

Ann Thomson’s sister Peggy was away home, and Ann was alone with her daughter at last. She felt the silence cover her like the shawl that was across her shoulders. She was sitting in one of two old chairs drawn up opposite each other at the ingle. Outside the one-roomed cottage – nothing; nobody going by the gable end on the muddy road, no voices filtering through from the neighbouring buildings. Inside – just the steady clicking of the fire. The spinning-wheels were pushed away for the night. Her mother had gone to the box-bed set in the recess at the far end of the room, closing the doors against draughts. Even the bairn was quiet, giving out none of the tiny murmurs and squeaks that sometimes punctuated her sleep; so quiet, in fact, that it made Ann nervous. She had brought the crib in beside her, close to the fire where she knew never to leave it unattended in case of spitting coals. It was good when the bairn slept so well, but at least when she cried she demonstrated that she was without question, alive. Ann had lost one child already, and could not bear the thought of losing this one.

The cottage was in the Hilltown – a poor part of Dundee north and east of the High Street – a seemingly indiscriminate scattering of narrow, one- and two-roomed houses among a confusion of gardens and kailyards. All but a very few of the roofs were thatched with straw or laid with turf divots, and the stone lums poked through the thatch like ancient markers in a kirkyard. On a windless night such as this, the reek of peat and coal which they puffed out hung in the air like a shroud.

In the cottage lived in by Ann, her mother and her child, tiny thick-glassed windows admitted a minimum of light during the brief winter days, and at night gave out only the faintest flickering indications of life within. The floor was of trodden clay, damp and cold at this time of year. The hearth, built of stone flags, was where their waking life was centred. When the fire faded, Ann would bank it up with dross, then creep into the box-bed with her mother, taking the bairn as well. On the two nights Joseph had been here, Ann and he had made up another rough bed in front of the fire, of plaids and blankets and all the clothes they could fling on top, and had wrapped themselves together against the cold.

But Joseph was not here tonight. They had taken him away yesterday, back to Ballindean. He had gone quietly enough, and Ann herself was calm now, although her calmness surprised her. Yesterday she had been a raging harridan, fighting to keep Joseph when the town constable, Sandy Pullar, came with the warrant. In the Hilltown, officers of the law did not stand on ceremony. Sandy Pullar had been squeezing his enormous bulk past the door even as his knuckles rapped on it. The space behind him had been filled by another two men.

‘Noo, lass,’ Pullar said, ‘let’s no hae ony bather. I’m here for your man. It’s his name wrote here clear as ye can see, and if there’s anither runawa Negro in Scotland cried Joseph Knight I’d like tae see ye produce him.’

She leapt from her spinning-wheel at the other end of the room and planted herself in front of Pullar, hands on hips, her head no higher than the middle of his chest. ‘And I’d like tae see ye produce the piece o paper that says ye can tak him awa,’ she said. ‘Shame on ye, Sandy, tae sinder a man frae his wife and bairn! Shame on ye when he’s done naething wrang. All he wants is tae be let alane. What has he done tae ye, that ye come tae tak him awa like this?’

‘I am jist daein my duty,’ said Pullar, but she could see he did not like it, and would have preferred a case of robbery or assault, where the miscreants he came for tried to fight their way out and he could set his men on them. But here there was no hint of a battle to come: only Ann’s mother, hardly pausing at the wheel, as if, half-blind and hard of hearing as she was, she did not understand the gravity of what was happening; and Joseph standing behind her with the weak light of the window at his back, cradling the bairn in his arms, saying to Ann he would go with them, there was no sense in bones being broken since he would have to go willing or unwilling. Ann saw Pullar fumbling in his tunic for the document, and she waited till it was in his hand and then snatched it from him, while still barring the way to him and his two brutes.

‘Noo, lass – ’ Pullar said again, but she cut him off with a scream.

‘Dinna you noo lass me, Sandy Pullar. Ye’ve kent me since we were bairns. Ye’ll jist need tae bide whaur ye are till I read this oot – this warrant, as it cries itsel. Hae ye read it yoursel? Dae ye ken the filth ye’ve been cairryin in yer pooch? Weel, I’m a guid reader, Sandy, sae I’ll mak it plain tae ye. “Sir John Wedderburn of Ballindean” – a fine title for a man that sends ithers tae dae his dirty work – “claims that Joseph Knight, whom he has hitherto entertained in the same manner as he does his other servants” – aye, that’ll be the anes he pays – “and means to continue to do so” – ha! – “and humbly presumes that the law will not disappoint him of his service during life, and the said Joseph Knight having within these two days past packed up his clothes and threatened to absent himself from his service, although the petitioner never gave him manumission or promised to release him from his slavery, the petitioner prays that the Justices of Peace of Perthshire grant warrant to apprehend the person of the said Joseph Knight and bring him before them for examination upon the facts as set forth” – God save us, whit facts, Sandy? There’s nae facts here, it’s aw clash and claivers. It’s a pack o lees.’

Sandy moved to the right to get past her. She blocked his way.

‘My man has as muckle right as ony man tae leave his maister’s service,’ she said. ‘Mair right, since he was forced intae it.’

‘Annie…’ Pullar and Joseph both said it simultaneously. She ignored them both.

‘Whit kind o country is this that ye can come and tak a man back intae bondage, awa frae his family, even awa frae Scotland if Sir John Wedderburn wants tae send him back tae Jamaica?’

‘That’s no for me tae say, lass,’ Sandy said, stepping to the left. She blocked him again, turned to the signatures at the foot of the warrant.

‘Weel, I’ll tell ye,’ she said. ‘It’s a country whaur big glaikit chiels like you dae whit they’re tellt by the justices, and the justices that sign warrants are nane but Sir John Wedderburn’s cronies and fellow slave drivers. Justices! Their notion o justice is jist whitever will keep them fat and rich on the sweat and blood o ithers. Here, ye can tak back your trash.’

She thrust the warrant at the constable and stood daring him to shift her. But then she became aware that Sandy was no longer looking at her, and she turned, and Joseph had come up beside them and was holding the bairn to her saying she must be strong, he would have to go, she knew what they had to do, they had discussed it often and she would see him again soon enough. And he kissed the bairn and put her into Ann’s arms and then he kissed Ann on both cheeks and once on her mouth and turned to Pullar and his men and stepped between them and out of the door. And all the fight went from her and she clutched the bairn to her and followed them out, tears streaming down her face, and she shouted down the road at him, ‘Come back, Joseph Knight!’ And the neighbours at their doors were hissing at the procession, and though most of them hissed at Sandy Pullar, some, she knew, hissed at Joseph Knight, and Joseph turned and raised his hand, without a smile, and called, “Be strong, Annie,” and then he was walking again between the constables, and turned the end of the street and was out of sight. And when she went back into the house, her mother’s wheel was clacking away as ever, and without looking up she said, ‘Annie, I’m wae for ye and Joseph, and nae man should be treated in that way, but ye mairrit on a black man and ye maun thole the consequences. Sit ye back doun, and we’ll spin a way for tae get him back.’ And Ann, her face still wet and her tongue unable to speak, put the bairn in the crib, and took her place at her own wheel.

The room was dark except by the fire. Ann had had candles lit earlier, but after her sister Peggy had left she had put them out, and now the fire’s red glow was enough for her thoughts. Peggy had been there until half an hour ago. It was she who had said, when the first bairn died, that it was better, if they were to go, that they went sooner and not later. ‘That way ye dinna hae time tae grow ower fond o them.’ She had said this as one who should know, having lost three of her own, but Ann believed it was not the bereaved mother who spoke but something outside, beyond grief: the need to keep despair at bay. For how could you grow more fond of a bairn than you were when it first slid out of you, mewling and peching and bloody and hungry for life? How could you love it more than the first time you took it to your breast and it sucked the milk from you? Impossible – and yet you did. The love became something solid and immovable, it grew with the tiny life, and so Peggy was right also, in a way. Yet there was not a day went by, not an hour when she held her new bairn, that Ann did not mourn the dead one, that was born and died at Ballindean.

Except for that other one, the new bairn was bonnier than any Ann had ever seen: a wee white lassie with a flat nose and full lips and an astonishing shock of curly black hair. They had called her Sarah, but Ann seldom named her; thought of her as a small unknowable being still to grow into herself, still to be sure of an identity. She had noticed at once how, even when they had agreed on the name, Joseph had shied away from using it, and now she had caught that habit. A name, she understood, was something most people took for granted; but for Joseph a name, the very act of naming, carried a strange and ponderous weight.

Peggy was away back to the man that had given her the three sick bairns, the man that would not come into this house because of the ‘blackie’. Peggy’s man Chae was a big glaik from Forfar, often half drunk and always wholly daft. He harboured the suspicion that the blackie was ‘unco, no chancy’, and he did not have the manners or sense to keep it to himself. ‘Auld Clootie!’ Ann had spat at him, a while back. ‘The Deil! How no jist come oot and say it if that’s whit ye think? Dae ye want tae see his cloven foot? Awa an hide ahint a dyke if ye’re feart frae him. But dinna come here when he’s awa –’ she had paused significantly ‘– for he kens when ye hae been and he can pit a curse on ye whether he’s here or no.’ Chae had not been near them since.

Ann’s mother was strong-minded but physically wearing out. For years, since before her husband’s early death, she had been at the flax-spinning, and now, though her eyesight was failing, she spun with a thrawn determination, as if her life depended on it. But she spun not for herself but for Annie and her bairn. All day, the two women sat at their wheels with piles of flax beside them, spinning it into yarn, and every week the yarn merchant’s agent came with more flax, and took their spindles away to market. The agent, a Fife man called Thomas Ritchie, weighed the flax he brought and the yarn he took away, and made sure, as he did with all his spinners, that his master was getting back what he gave out, allowing for a certain amount of necessary wastage. He entered the figures in a ledger, and each week he handed over what the women were due for their labours. It was never very much.

The yarn merchant was also the landlord, and he deducted the rent of the cottage from what he paid them. Ritchie could also give them credit to buy cheese, coals, oatmeal and so forth from certain traders, and this debt diminished at a painfully slow rate and was always topped up before it was cleared. The tick system was what enabled them to eat and stay warm, but it also bound them to Ritchie and his master, especially at a time, as now, when linen prices were depressed.

Ritchie was not an unkind man, and he had known Mrs Thomson for thirty years, but, as he reminded them when the quality of her yarn was not as it should be, but uneven and knotty, his master was not much interested in charity. In her best days, ten or twenty years ago, Mrs Thomson had earned as much as four shillings a week, but the effects of old age and the fall in prices meant that they now struggled to bring in that amount between them. Ann’s mother had been spinning all her life, and would die at the wheel if not in her bed, and sometimes it seemed to Ann that she herself would be spinning into eternity.

Peggy came by two or three times a week. The sisters had had a good laugh at the spell Joseph cast over Chae. ‘He’s a fool,’ said Peggy of her husband. ‘It maks it easy tae rule him but there’s nae muckle company tae be had frae a man like thon.’ Peggy was not afraid of Joseph and it was clear that on these visits to Ann she was happy to get away from Chae and girn about him. This night, she had claimed to come out of sisterly concern in their time of trial. But whatever she said, it was never long before she turned the conversation round to her own woes: Chae’s drinking, his stupidity, the long hours they both laboured, she at the spinning, Chae at his handloom weaving coarse linen from her yarn. She complained about their lack of money, though with no family they were better off than many, or would have been if Chae had not poured most of his earnings down his thrapple. And though Peggy always brought something when she came – a poke of tea, a lump of cheese, a pint of gin – she brought only what she could get a good portion of back again before she left. Never a blanket or a bonnet for the bairn, and never siller.

Ann tried not to resent her sister’s resentment. It was hard for her, to see the bairn healthy and growing when she had none of her own. But her situation was common – even among the gentry as many bairns died as lived. Tonight, with the trouble over Joseph, Ann had felt doubly oppressed by Peggy’s constant moaning. The silence of the night was a blessed relief. How peaceful it was to be alone with the bairn, leaning into the warmth of the fire, and thinking of Joseph nine miles away at Ballindean.

Oh, she could be fierce when she chose, the women of Dundee were famous for it, she could rant and roar with the best of them. But the thing that had fuelled her rage most, the need to protect her family, was also perhaps what now brought her calm. She could hear Joseph’s voice, against the hiss of the coals in the fire: ‘Be strong, Annie.’ It was not what she had wanted to hear. She loved him. She had wanted to hear his love, but she knew how hard it was for Joseph to give his feelings up to her. Still, she trusted him. She always had. But sometimes she wondered, did he trust her?

He had told her many times what he would do when this time came. He had worked it out long before he took off from Ballindean. He would act the way the Wedderburns expected him to act, but when he did run, he would run not to hide, but to be found. More than a year ago he had read in the paper about Somerset, the slave in England, and how the judge there had said he could not be forced to go back to Virginia against his will. Somerset therefore had become free, and the onlooking blacks of London packed into the public gallery had celebrated that freedom with cheers and handshakes all round, and later had held a great dinner at which they had drunk the health of Lord Mansfield. But Joseph had read the reports carefully and repeatedly and had seen that it was only the master’s right to take Somerset out of the country that had been overthrown, and that if the master had not being going back to America himself the case would not have arisen.

Ann had said, ‘Whit use is it if Wedderburn canna send ye awa but he can keep ye frae me?’ So Joseph had read again, and he had talked to some of the servants about the case, and from them he had heard of something that had occurred, right there in Perthshire, only a year or so earlier. A slave woman had run away from her master, and when the master had sought to have her apprehended, the sheriff depute of the county had thrown out the petition. Joseph had latched on to this information like a terrier. This was judgment of a different order. The Sheriff Depute of Perthshire was a man called John Swinton, and it was around him that Joseph had built his hopes.

Since then they had learned enough about the machinery of the law to know what would happen next. Joseph would be brought before the justices and be given a chance to state his case against the petition of his master. The justices, being the friends and accomplices of Wedderburn, would find against him. But – and this Ann had discovered by careful inquiry in Dundee – they would have to make a statement of their decision, and they would have to supply a copy of it to Joseph. With that in his possession, he could then make his own petition against what they had ‘decerned’. And the man to whom he could appeal was the sheriff depute of the county, John Swinton.

But all that was in the future. How long Joseph must remain at Ballindean, how long before the sheriff heard their petition, these were questions to which she had no answer. She had the name of a lawyer in Perth, a Mr Andrew Davidson, who could draw up the document for them, but she had no means of paying him. Joseph had sixpence a week in ‘pocket money’ from Wedderburn, and had been saving what he could of it for months, but this amounted to no more than a pound or two. The work done by Ann and her mother was barely enough to cover their weekly needs, and most of what they earned came in the form of tick. She had to hope that the lawyer would see the rightness of their cause, and work for a nominal fee, or for promise of future payment. If he did not, she did not see how they could reach to the ear of John Swinton.

She wondered again why she was so calm. It was not in her nature to be passive, to accept fate. Even when she had got the place at Ballindean, through a series of interviews that led her from Mr Ritchie, who had put in a word for her, to a dressmaker cousin of Mr Ritchie’s master, and from her to Lady Wedderburn’s housekeeper (‘Can ye spin, lass? The mistress is maist particular, and I agree wi her, that the maids here shall spin when the rest o the day’s darg is done.’) – even then she had not reckoned, as other young women in her position might have, that she had arrived, that she only had to do what she was told and life would be a more than tolerable burden ever after. A burden was a burden and she didn’t believe a body should ever grow to like it, though it might have to be borne. And then she had first got sight of Joseph, and she had known why she had come to the big house out on the Perth road: she had come for him.

The other maids, those that weren’t feared of him at least, also tipped their eyes at him and she knew she had to stay ahead of them. There was talk of wild neger lust and the prodigious attributes of African men, but none of that fitted with what she saw. She saw a quiet, deep, thoughtful man, not coarse at all; handsome, clean, soft-voiced and smooth, but with power in the way his body moved; a man whose first line of defence was solemnity, who did not readily open himself to anyone; whose self-reliance seemed a sign of both strength and vulnerability.

Maybe she was also attracted just because he was so different from some of the other menservants, who were crude and leering around the maids when they got a chance, always trying for a fondle or a kiss, whereas Joseph stood off and was cool almost to the point of rudeness, making out that he was not interested in their favours. But surely, she thought, any healthy man would be interested in bonnie Annie Thomson – unless, as somebody whispered once, he was his master’s very personal servant.

Half the lassies didn’t understand that insinuation. Ann understood but didn’t believe it – not of Joseph, not of John Wedderburn. The whisper was there, she was sure, only because there was a mystery in Joseph, in his blackness, in his history, in his unique standing in the house, which made him both less and more than the other servants, both closer to and more utterly removed from his master. Ann saw all these things in him, but she also something else that made her want to touch him: she saw an aching loneliness.

The story was that he had been plucked from ignorance and savagery by Sir John, had been hand-picked to be raised from field bondage to a position of trust and safety. But Ann, never having benefited from charity, had an ingrained suspicion of such tales. She did not believe that many people, least of all the rich, did things out of the goodness of their hearts. If Joseph had been plucked from anything, it was not from ignorance but from his home, not from savagery but from his family. She understood this because the gentry used the same kind of terms to describe people like her.

The fire was dying away. She should not waste any more coals, but she reached for a couple more and – quietly, in case her mother was still awake – laid them on to coax a little more heat into the room. The bairn would wake soon anyway, hungry; she’d be as well sitting up a while longer, to feed her, and then the pair of them would slip into the box-bed.

She thought again of Joseph, how she had played her own game for him. While the others fluttered and flirted around him, or were offended by his aloofness, she made herself be serious and quietly friendly. She found ways of getting him to help her with this or that task, asked his opinion and acted on it, did him small acts of kindness without seeming to expect thanks. Gradually she began to win his confidence. Once, as she was walking to Inchture on an errand for the housekeeper, Joseph appeared on the road behind her, caught up and escorted her there and back. They said very little then, but she recognised the statement that his silent company represented.

After that, when they could not be away from the house, they tried to find secluded corners of it where they could talk. There was little time for servants to be at leisure – certainly none was allowed for in the pages of Lady Wedderburn’s household book – but they would sit together at night for a few minutes, before bed, and he would tell her things about Jamaica; things about Sir John and his brothers, and the terrible cruelties he had seen, and the kind, harsh, feeble, strong, miserable, humorous, brave, bitter people that the slaves were. They were people just like all of them there at Ballindean, he said, good and bad in unequal, changeable portions, leading lives that the white people in the great houses never even knew about. That, too, was like Ballindean, like anywhere – there were the great and rich and there was the rest of the world and a gulf like the ocean lay between the two.

Joseph told her about that also, the ocean he had crossed two times in his life, once when he was brought to Scotland and the other, earlier time when he was taken from Africa in the slave ship. She had heard of slave ships but nothing prepared her for what he described. She listened, appalled, and her hand went out to his and held it while he spoke, and at the end of that long speech it happened, the thing she had longed for, he reached across and kissed her, and she felt a surge of something – love perhaps, happiness, even, but now she thought it was mainly triumph. She, Annie Thomson, had reached Joseph Knight. But that was only part of it. There was fear in there too. She felt that she was doing something both right and wrong, both good and dangerous: she knew that to act in any way that set herself in conflict with the rich and powerful could destroy her, and that she was about to condemn herself to years, perhaps a lifetime, of trouble. For she knew that her intention to make Joseph hers would mean having to take him away from the Wedderburns.

And there was another obstacle: MacRoy, the dominie from Dundee, who came to give Joseph lessons and who seemed, for a man as unlikely as the one she had opened the door to that first New Year’s Day, to have a remarkable skill at keeping in with Sir John. Aeneas MacRoy tilted his bullet head at her and all but pawed the ground in his demonstrations of affection, and she recognised his power, and that she should not fall foul of him. She did not encourage him but she did not discourage him either, and that was how he fell into his delusions, that she might be his, and that was how the three of them were all through the summer of ’72, jostling and testing and swarming with desires and jealousies.

That was the summer, too, that Joseph read of Somerset, the English slave, in the newspaper, and began to fix his mind on becoming a Scottish Somerset. And then one day it became clear that the time for prevarication was over, for Ann fell pregnant and Joseph went to John Wedderburn and told him the bairn was his, and he wished to marry Ann. All the faces in the house shifted as if a wind had blown across them. John Wedderburn looked outraged and Lady Margaret, also pregnant, looked pale, and Aeneas MacRoy’s face seemed to go darker than Joseph’s, thunder dark. Ann thought he might roar out of the house and never come back. She hoped that would happen but it did not – the reverse happened, MacRoy spoke at length to Sir John and soon was winding down his school and had a room to himself at Ballindean and Lady Margaret began to bring forth the bairns of her own that would, in a few years, populate a schoolroom presided over by the dour Maister MacRoy. Meanwhile Ann grew bigger and John Wedderburn, since it was his slave that had put her into that condition, decided that he was under an obligation not to cast her out, at least not till she had had the child. But he could not and did not sanction a marriage to make good what could not be undone, and this he made clear to both her and to Joseph. They wondered about this, since Joseph was now made into a Christian, and she, being a Scotswoman from birth, was already one – they wondered what it was that made John Wedderburn set himself against their becoming man and wife. Now, though, looking back from the fireside, Ann could see quite clearly that John Wedderburn understood what she was about. She saw that he understood the feud that existed between them, that they were engaged in a struggle over the possession of his slave.

And then the bairn came, and it was half Joseph and half her, and she thought that the Wedderburns would have to let them marry, for the bairn was such complete evidence of their union, but it died within a day. John Wedderburn extended his sense of obligation to providing a coffin and a funeral for their bairn, thus neatly disposing of the evidence, and then – and she detected the hand of Lady Margaret here – she herself was disposed of, given the wages due to her to the end of the year and sent on the back of a carrier’s cart home to her mother in Dundee.

In this the Wedderburns showed how little they estimated poor folk like her, if they thought that by dismissing her they had heard the last of her. For Joseph had by then become a reader and a writer, and she too had those skills, so there was an exchange of notes between them, and then a meeting in the woods at the back of Ballindean, followed, as winter set in, by more in Dundee, where Joseph had managed to persuade his master to send him for training with a barber. She saw now the interpretation that the Wedderburns were bound to place on these liaisons, which at first went undetected in spite of the suspicions of Aeneas MacRoy – how inevitably they confirmed Sir John and his lady in their view that Ann Thomson was a person of no breeding, indecent passions and habitual deceit. What other kind of woman could so take advantage of Joseph as to persuade him to go with her to Edinburgh, where in March they were joined in matrimonial union by a seceder clergyman of Leith? What else could this be but a pretext on her part, a scheme for making herself comfortable for life?

And the proof of that, for the Wedderburns, came in what happened next. Back came Joseph to Ballindean, without apology for his absence, now claiming that he had a wife to support who should be brought back into their service, or at least that Joseph should get a cottage on the estate where they might live as one as God had joined them together. And John Wedderburn was affronted by the hypocrisy and treachery of his slave, and refused to countenance the idea.

Joseph, Ann thought, might just have had a chance of success had John Wedderburn alone had the decision. But behind Wedderburn stood his wife, with whom he discussed all matters that were not strictly about the plantations or other business. The Lady Margaret would have settled it. Ann detested her. She detested her because she was only two or three years older than herself yet behaved as if she had been born to be mistress of a house like Ballindean. Which, of course, she had. She was fine-looking, soft-spoken, beautifully dressed and always correct. Ann’s hands were already coarse, the hands of a spinner, a skivvy, a scudge. Her bonnie, unpainted face would soon begin to acquire care lines and her body would start to crumble from hard and ceaseless toil. Ann’s own mother was not much over fifty, but she was an old, done woman, worn out by decades of work. At fifty, Lady Margaret would still be carrying herself like a queen. Ann’s daughter Sarah would grow up to be haggard before her time, but the Wedderburns’ daughters would be roses, they would bloom in the presence of rich suitors and go off to be the mistresses of great houses of their own. It was not right, it was not fair. And she, meanwhile, was not even allowed to keep the man she had chosen.

She spat into the fire. It gave an answering spit, and she spat at it again. She loathed the Wedderburns and everything about them. Behind their every seemingly charitable or upright deed she saw a twisted, hateful motive. Even Joseph seemed to think less badly of them than she. She had had as little time for the idea of her going back, of making herself beholden to them, as they had. She had been willing to go along with Joseph’s request, but only because she was sure it would be rejected. She had known with a certain fatal feeling in the depths of her, that was both despair and contentment, that their options were narrowing and narrowing, till only two would be available to them: either that she and Joseph must part as if they had never met, never loved, never made a bairn, never married; or that he must walk away from his slavery. It was only a matter of time because, weeks before their marriage in Leith, she had known she was pregnant again.

And it was that, the bairn, alive and with her now, that made her calm. Rage and madness would not help the bairn to keep her father. The forces ranged against them were too strong for rage, too rational for madness. She had to be calm. She had to be patient.

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Information about Document 520

Joseph Knight (extract 1)


Text audience

Adults (18+)
General public
Audience size N/A

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 2002
Word count 5946

Text medium


Text publication details

Publisher Fourth Estate
Publication year 2003
Place of publication London
ISBN/ISSN 0-00-715024-5
Edition First
Part of larger text
Contained in Joseph Knight, by James Robertson - Extract
Page numbers 203-216

Text setting


Text type



Author details

Author id 105
Forenames James
Surname Robertson
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1950
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Writer
Place of birth Sevenoaks
Region of birth Kent
Country of birth England
Place of residence Newtyle
Region of residence W Angus
Residence CSD dialect area Ags
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Sales Director
Father's place of birth London
Father's country of birth England
Mother's occupation Primary Teacher
Mother's place of birth Leatherhead
Mother's region of birth Surrey
Mother's country of birth England


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes General use, work and home
French Yes Yes No Yes Occasional use, work and leisure (holidays)
Gaelic; Scottish Gaelic No Yes No No Academic, creative
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes General use, work and home