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TITLE
'A Summer in Skye' (7)
EXTERNAL ID
AB_LL_ALEXANDER_SMITH_07
DISTRICT
Skye
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS
DATE OF RECORDING
2008
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Alexander Smith
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
1234
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.

'During the last few weeks I have had opportunity of witnessing something of life as it passes in the Skye wildernesses and have been struck with its self-containedness, not less than with its remoteness. A Skye family has everything within itself. The bare mountains yield mutton, which possesses a flavour and delicacy unknown in the south. The copses swarm with rabbits; and if a net is set over-night at the Black Island, there is abundance of fish to breakfast. The farmer grows his own corn, barley and potatoes, digs his own peats, makes his own candles; he tans leather, spins cloth shaggy as a terrier's pile and a hunch-backed artist in the place transforms the raw materials into boots or shepherd garments.

Twice every year a huge hamper arrives from Glasgow, stuffed with all the little luxuries of housekeeping - tea, sugar, coffee and the like. At more frequent intervals comes a ten-gallon flask from Greenock, whose contents can cunningly draw the icy fangs of a north-easter, or take the chill out of the clammy mists.

And once a week the 'Inverness Courier', like a window suddenly opened on the roaring sea, brings a murmur of the outer world, its politics, its business, its crimes, its literature, its whole multitudinous and unsleeping life, making the stillness yet more still.'

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' (7)

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 /> 'During the last few weeks I have had opportunity of witnessing something of life as it passes in the Skye wildernesses and have been struck with its self-containedness, not less than with its remoteness. A Skye family has everything within itself. The bare mountains yield mutton, which possesses a flavour and delicacy unknown in the south. The copses swarm with rabbits; and if a net is set over-night at the Black Island, there is abundance of fish to breakfast. The farmer grows his own corn, barley and potatoes, digs his own peats, makes his own candles; he tans leather, spins cloth shaggy as a terrier's pile and a hunch-backed artist in the place transforms the raw materials into boots or shepherd garments. <br /> <br /> Twice every year a huge hamper arrives from Glasgow, stuffed with all the little luxuries of housekeeping - tea, sugar, coffee and the like. At more frequent intervals comes a ten-gallon flask from Greenock, whose contents can cunningly draw the icy fangs of a north-easter, or take the chill out of the clammy mists. <br /> <br /> And once a week the 'Inverness Courier', like a window suddenly opened on the roaring sea, brings a murmur of the outer world, its politics, its business, its crimes, its literature, its whole multitudinous and unsleeping life, making the stillness yet more still.'<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.