Please Sign In | Register
Google pluspinterestShare on Stumble UponShare on RedditFacebookShare on Tumblr
TITLE
'A Summer in Skye' (6)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_ALEXANDER_SMITH_06
DISTRICT
Skye
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Alexander Smith
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1233
KEYWORDS
audio
literary landscapes

Get Adobe Flash player

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

'No-one is independent of scenery and climate. A Saxon, nurtured in fat Kent or Sussex, amid flats of heavy wheat and acorn-dropping oaks, must of necessity be a different creature from the Celts who gathers his sustenance from the bleak seaboard and who is daily drenched by the sea-cloud from Cuchullin. The Skye-man will be, at best, of sharper spirit, because it has been more keenly whetted on difficulty; if not more intrepid, at least more consciously so; of sadder mood habitually, but when happy, happier, as the gloomier the cloud the more dazzling the rainbow; at his worst either beaten-down, subdued and nerveless, or gaunt, suspicious and crafty, like a belly-pinched wolf. The Celt is the more superstitious; the more poetical; with an anger swift and transient, like the flame that consumes the dried heather. He is the most melancholy of men; he has turned everything to superstitious uses and every object of nature, even the unreasoning dreams of sleep, are mirrors which flash back death upon him. He, least of all me, requires to be reminded that he is mortal. The howling of his dog will do him that service.'

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.

For guidance on the use of images and other content, please see the Terms and Conditions page.
High Life Highland is a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland No. SC407011 and is a registered Scottish charity No. SC042593
Powered by Capture

'A Summer in Skye' (6)

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 /> 'No-one is independent of scenery and climate. A Saxon, nurtured in fat Kent or Sussex, amid flats of heavy wheat and acorn-dropping oaks, must of necessity be a different creature from the Celts who gathers his sustenance from the bleak seaboard and who is daily drenched by the sea-cloud from Cuchullin. The Skye-man will be, at best, of sharper spirit, because it has been more keenly whetted on difficulty; if not more intrepid, at least more consciously so; of sadder mood habitually, but when happy, happier, as the gloomier the cloud the more dazzling the rainbow; at his worst either beaten-down, subdued and nerveless, or gaunt, suspicious and crafty, like a belly-pinched wolf. The Celt is the more superstitious; the more poetical; with an anger swift and transient, like the flame that consumes the dried heather. He is the most melancholy of men; he has turned everything to superstitious uses and every object of nature, even the unreasoning dreams of sleep, are mirrors which flash back death upon him. He, least of all me, requires to be reminded that he is mortal. The howling of his dog will do him that service.'<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.