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TITLE
'A Summer in Skye' (2)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_ALEXANDER_SMITH_02
DISTRICT
Skye
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Alexander Smith
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1227
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.

'It is in the Isles, however and particularly amongst the old Isles-men, that the Highland character is, at this day, to be found in its purity. There, in the dwelling of the proprietor, or still more in that of the large sheep farmer - who is of as good blood as the laird himself - you find the hospitality, the prejudice, the generosity, the pride of birth, the delight in ancient traditions, which smack of the antique time. Love of wandering and pride in military life, have been characteristic of all the old families. The pen is alien to their fingers, but they have wielded the sword industriously. They have had representatives in every Peninsular and Indian battle-field; India has been the chosen field of their activity and the Island of Skye has itself given to the British and Indian armies at least a dozen generals. And lads, to whom the profession of arms has been shut, have gone to plant indigo in Bengal or coffee in Ceylon and have returned with gray hairs to the island to spend their money there and to make the stony soil a little greener; and during their thirty years of absence Gaelic did not moulder on their tongues, nor did their fingers forget their cunning with the pipes. The palm did not obliterate the memory of the birch; nor the slow upswelling of the tepid wave and its long roar of frothy thunder on the flat red sands at Madras, the coasts of their childhood and the smell and smoke of burning kelp.'

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' (2)

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 /> 'It is in the Isles, however and particularly amongst the old Isles-men, that the Highland character is, at this day, to be found in its purity. There, in the dwelling of the proprietor, or still more in that of the large sheep farmer - who is of as good blood as the laird himself - you find the hospitality, the prejudice, the generosity, the pride of birth, the delight in ancient traditions, which smack of the antique time. Love of wandering and pride in military life, have been characteristic of all the old families. The pen is alien to their fingers, but they have wielded the sword industriously. They have had representatives in every Peninsular and Indian battle-field; India has been the chosen field of their activity and the Island of Skye has itself given to the British and Indian armies at least a dozen generals. And lads, to whom the profession of arms has been shut, have gone to plant indigo in Bengal or coffee in Ceylon and have returned with gray hairs to the island to spend their money there and to make the stony soil a little greener; and during their thirty years of absence Gaelic did not moulder on their tongues, nor did their fingers forget their cunning with the pipes. The palm did not obliterate the memory of the birch; nor the slow upswelling of the tepid wave and its long roar of frothy thunder on the flat red sands at Madras, the coasts of their childhood and the smell and smoke of burning kelp.' <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.