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TITLE
'A Summer in Skye' (1)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_ALEXANDER_SMITH_01
DISTRICT
Skye
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Alexander Smith
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1225
KEYWORDS
audio
literary landscapes

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This audio extract is from 'A Summer in Skye' by Alexander Smith, first published in 1865. It is read here by Norman Newton.

'The Highlander stands alone amongst the British people. For generations his land was shut against civilisation by mountain and forest and intricate pass. While the large drama of Scottish history was being played out in the Lowlands, he was busy in his mists with narrow clan-fights and revenges. While the southern Scot owed allegiance to the Jameses, he was subject to Lords of the Isles and to Duncans and Donalds innumerable.

The Highlander was and is still, so far as circumstances permit, a proud, loving, punctillious being: full of loyalty, careful of social distinctions; with a bared head for his chief, a jealous eye for his equal, an armed heel for his inferior. He loved the valley in which he was born, the hills on the horizon of his childhood; his sense of family relationships was strong and around him widening rings of cousinship extended to the very verge of the clan. The Isles-man is a Highlander of the Highlanders; modern life took longer in reaching him and his weeping climate, his misty wreaths and vapours and the silence of his moory environments, naturally continued to act upon and shape his character. He is song-loving and out of the natural phenomena of his mountain region - his mist and rain-cloud, wan sea-setting of the moon, stars glancing through rifts of vapour, blowing wind and broken rainbows - he has drawn his poetry and his superstition. His mists give him the shroud high on the living heart, the sea-foam gives him an image of the whiteness of the breasts of his girls and the broken rainbow of their blushes. To a great extent his climate has made him what he is. He is a child of the mist and you may discover in his music the monotony of the brown moor, the seethe of the wave on the rock, the sigh of the wind in the long grasses of the deserted churchyard.'

Alexander Smith was a prolific mid-Victorian poet and essayist, who worked hard at his literary trade without ever quite attaining the success to which he aspired.

Smith was born in Edinburgh on 31st December 1829 and was self-educated, following his father in the textile trade until, in 1853, a collection of poems originally appearing in 'The Critic' periodical as 'A Life Drama' was published to much acclaim from the Scottish literati and gained him the post of Secretary of the University of Edinburgh in 1854.

After the publication of 'Poems' (1853) Smith collaborated with Sydney Dobell on a jingoistic contribution on the Crimean War, 'Sonnets on the War' (1855). This attracted further criticism and in 'City Poems' (1857) Smith tried to lighten his tone, producing some of his best work. Unfortunately accusations of plagiarism produced further negative reviews.

Alexander Smith married Flora Macdonald at Ord House in Skye in 1857 - she was distantly related to Bonnie Prince Charlie's rescuer. They returned to Skye every August for the next nine years, until Smith's death from typhus on 5th January 1867. He suffered from poor health for the last two years of his life and was in a debilitated state when struck down by typhus.

Simon Berry, in the 'Oxford Dictionary of National Biography' (2004), says that:

The annual month's retreat on Skye allowed his psychological defences
against urban pressures to be lowered. His creative, dionysian side fed
on the unpredictable and irrational features of the island: the sudden
contrasts of storm and calm, the semi-surrealistic mountain shapes and
colours, the superstitions and fantastic tales of its inhabitants. All these
went into 'A Summer in Skye', making it a fascinating hotchpotch of
travelogue and speculation with no obvious models. In the same way
as Scott's poetry had drawn visitors to Perthshire earlier in the century,
so Smith's work (allied to the growth in the railway network) benefited
the west highland tourist trade.

'A Summer in Skye' has been twice reprinted in recent times in an edited and much abridged edition, but Alexander Smith's poetry remains to be rediscovered by modern readers.

There is a useful introduction in the abridged 1983 reprint of 'A Summer in Skye' by William F. Laughlan. Smith's father-in-law Charles Macdonald is identified as 'M'Ian of Ord' and Kenneth Macleod of Greshornish is 'the Landlord', but other characters mentioned remain to be identified.

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'A Summer in Skye' (1)

INVERNESS

2000s

audio; literary landscapes

Am Baile

Literary Landscapes: Alexander Smith

This audio extract is from 'A Summer in Skye' by Alexander Smith, first published in 1865. It is read here by Norman Newton.<br /> <br /> 'The Highlander stands alone amongst the British people. For generations his land was shut against civilisation by mountain and forest and intricate pass. While the large drama of Scottish history was being played out in the Lowlands, he was busy in his mists with narrow clan-fights and revenges. While the southern Scot owed allegiance to the Jameses, he was subject to Lords of the Isles and to Duncans and Donalds innumerable. <br /> <br /> The Highlander was and is still, so far as circumstances permit, a proud, loving, punctillious being: full of loyalty, careful of social distinctions; with a bared head for his chief, a jealous eye for his equal, an armed heel for his inferior. He loved the valley in which he was born, the hills on the horizon of his childhood; his sense of family relationships was strong and around him widening rings of cousinship extended to the very verge of the clan. The Isles-man is a Highlander of the Highlanders; modern life took longer in reaching him and his weeping climate, his misty wreaths and vapours and the silence of his moory environments, naturally continued to act upon and shape his character. He is song-loving and out of the natural phenomena of his mountain region - his mist and rain-cloud, wan sea-setting of the moon, stars glancing through rifts of vapour, blowing wind and broken rainbows - he has drawn his poetry and his superstition. His mists give him the shroud high on the living heart, the sea-foam gives him an image of the whiteness of the breasts of his girls and the broken rainbow of their blushes. To a great extent his climate has made him what he is. He is a child of the mist and you may discover in his music the monotony of the brown moor, the seethe of the wave on the rock, the sigh of the wind in the long grasses of the deserted churchyard.'<br /> <br /> Alexander Smith was a prolific mid-Victorian poet and essayist, who worked hard at his literary trade without ever quite attaining the success to which he aspired.<br /> <br /> Smith was born in Edinburgh on 31st December 1829 and was self-educated, following his father in the textile trade until, in 1853, a collection of poems originally appearing in 'The Critic' periodical as 'A Life Drama' was published to much acclaim from the Scottish literati and gained him the post of Secretary of the University of Edinburgh in 1854.<br /> <br /> After the publication of 'Poems' (1853) Smith collaborated with Sydney Dobell on a jingoistic contribution on the Crimean War, 'Sonnets on the War' (1855). This attracted further criticism and in 'City Poems' (1857) Smith tried to lighten his tone, producing some of his best work. Unfortunately accusations of plagiarism produced further negative reviews.<br /> <br /> Alexander Smith married Flora Macdonald at Ord House in Skye in 1857 - she was distantly related to Bonnie Prince Charlie's rescuer. They returned to Skye every August for the next nine years, until Smith's death from typhus on 5th January 1867. He suffered from poor health for the last two years of his life and was in a debilitated state when struck down by typhus.<br /> <br /> Simon Berry, in the 'Oxford Dictionary of National Biography' (2004), says that:<br /> <br /> The annual month's retreat on Skye allowed his psychological defences<br /> against urban pressures to be lowered. His creative, dionysian side fed<br /> on the unpredictable and irrational features of the island: the sudden<br /> contrasts of storm and calm, the semi-surrealistic mountain shapes and<br /> colours, the superstitions and fantastic tales of its inhabitants. All these<br /> went into 'A Summer in Skye', making it a fascinating hotchpotch of<br /> travelogue and speculation with no obvious models. In the same way<br /> as Scott's poetry had drawn visitors to Perthshire earlier in the century,<br /> so Smith's work (allied to the growth in the railway network) benefited<br /> the west highland tourist trade.<br /> <br /> 'A Summer in Skye' has been twice reprinted in recent times in an edited and much abridged edition, but Alexander Smith's poetry remains to be rediscovered by modern readers.<br /> <br /> There is a useful introduction in the abridged 1983 reprint of 'A Summer in Skye' by William F. Laughlan. Smith's father-in-law Charles Macdonald is identified as 'M'Ian of Ord' and Kenneth Macleod of Greshornish is 'the Landlord', but other characters mentioned remain to be identified.