Thursday, May 31, 2007

A bit of Scottish romance - and madness

I’m a mutt.

Scottish, Irish and Dutch/German – with Scottish probably dominating (my mother was born in Scotland, but may have had some Irish blood).

Chesterton also boasted of some Scottish blood.

“But on the other side my mother came of Scottish people, who were Keiths from Aberdeen; and for several reasons, partly because my maternal grandmother long survived her husband and was a very attractive personality, and partly because of a certain vividness in any infusion of Scots blood or patriotism, this northern affiliation appealed strongly to my affections; and made a sort of Scottish romance in my childhood.” (Autobiography)

The Keith part of his Scottish roots lived on in his middle name.

He later goes on to note in an essay entitled “The Sentimental Scot” that ”Of all the great nations of Christendom, the Scotch are by far the most romantic. I have just enough Scotch experience and just enough Scotch blood to know this in the only way in which a thing can really be known; that is, when the outer world and the inner world are at one. (collected in A Miscellany of Men)

He goes on to talk of Scots in terms of what we would consider a decidedly unromantic topic – Industry.

“The Scotch were tempted by the enormous but unequal opportunities of industrialism, because the Scotch are romantic.”

He compares the Scottish with the Irish, then goes on to observe:

“Anyhow, the romantic quality of Scotland rolled all about me, as much in the last reek of Glasgow as in the first rain upon the hills. The tall factory chimneys seemed trying to be taller than the mountain peaks; as if this landscape were full (as its history has been full) of the very madness of ambition. The wage-slavery we live in is a wicked thing.”


“But there is nothing-in which the Scotch are more piercing and poetical, I might say more perfect, than in their Scotch wickedness. It is what makes the Master of Ballantrae the most thrilling of all fictitious villains. It is what makes the Master of Lovat the most thrilling of all historical villains.”

MacBeth might fit in here.

“It is poetry. It is an intensity which is on the edge of madness or (what is worse) magic. Well, the Scotch have managed to apply something of this fierce romanticism even to the lowest of all lordships and serfdoms; the proletarian inequality of today. You do meet now and then, in Scotland, the man you never meet anywhere else but in novels; I mean the self-made man; the hard, insatiable man, merciless to himself as well as to others.”

Scottish madness? Having met a few of my Scottish relatives over the years, I understand what he is saying.

Some might point to me as another example.

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