Hogg, Maturin, and the Gothic National Tale
Hogg, Maturin, and the Gothic National Tale
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter examines the lasting appeal of the Gothic, its nature as a genre, and its inflections in Scotland's and Ireland's national literatures. In particular, it discusses James Hogg and Charles Maturin as initiators and developers of Gothic writing in Scotland and Ireland, examining Hogg's relationship to Scott and Maturin's relationship to the National Tale. The importance of the Gothic to national literature's sense of a locus amoenus at odds with the generalizing definitions of Enlightenment thought is stressed.
THE literary Gothic became a major field of critical operation in the late twentieth century. There were many reasons for this: the increasing prominence of violence in popular culture, the sexualization of society, the struggles and debates of gender politics, the reaction to a scientistic age, where the economics of capitalist politics were increasingly triumphant. No doubt there were other causes at work. The Gothic however, was analysed as a framework encompassing many of these anxieties, not least because it was an extremely flexible literary kind, both in terms of period and subject‐matter. On its simplest level, it often operated as a warning about trespass or usurpation; it posited the recrudescence of a world ignored or suppressed; and it either admitted the supernatural or defamiliarized the natural. It had psychological implications: the beast in the cellar or the divided self were obvious metaphors for mental states: they also carried the implication that the superego might not be able to cope with the demands of the id, and such an idea seemed persuasive in a twentieth century in which Hyde had been far more evident than Jekyll.
The tropes of the literary Gothic also seemed to address the age, and criticism devoted to the Gothic as a literary kind became more open to viewing the genre over a longer time frame, no longer confined to 1760–1830, but as a persisting feature in human culture. The popular interpretation of the Gothic in music and fashion sustained this. In body‐snatching and the cemetery, the Gothic raised the spectre of death, which the contemporary world seeks to evade; in the ancestral curse lay anxieties of genetic encoding and the reduction of human freedom to the dimensions of the mapped genome; in the Gothic focus on claustrophobia and imprisonment, it addressed the alienation of modern (sub)urban society. Nightmares, ghosts, and the grotesque all played on fears of repression; the haunted house reflected concerns about human violation of the taboos or the environment: building houses on graveyards is a common reason for supernatural assault in modern Gothic. Revenants and pursuit indicated fears over the limits of psychological and technological control, and fears, too, of the alienated other, often shaped as a serial killer in contemporary representation. The list could be extended.
(p.212) Recently, there has been an increasing tendency in criticism to identify national inflections of the Gothic, though with regard to the subjects of this book this has been clearer in the Irish than the Scottish case. Irish Gothic has been identified with Protestant ascendancy guilt, with the Big House as a locale of imprisonment and threat, and with the application of Burkean aesthetics to Irish culture and politics. The popularity of the vampire as a (metaphorical ?) image in the Anglo‐Irish imagination has also been noted: Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla and Bram Stoker's Dracula being the most prominent cases. Luke Gibbons has recently deepened this argument by pointing out the prevalence of images of the Fenians as vampire bats in nineteenth‐century periodicals,1 and such readings can only reinforce the possibility of seeing characters like Carmilla as autochthonous manifestations of the female nation, reaching out from their portraits and ruined castles to fascinate and destroy the expatriate English in their midst, confined, as Laura is in the novella, by a sterile world of patriarchal rationality where no young men are permitted because no continuation is possible. Laura's world is in the end as dead as Carmilla's, even if the book rescues her from sharing the same kind of death, the shameful death of the native Irish aristocracy from ‘1698’, the date of Carmilla's portrait, and a composite of ‘1688/9’ and ‘1798’, dates of Irish defeat (interestingly, ‘1698’ is also the date on the ‘ould Brigadier's’ picture in Owenson's Florence Macarthy2). In related vein, Claire Nally has suggested that the pursuing monkey in Le Fanu's ‘Green Tea’ is related to the simian caricatures of the native Irish so ably exposed by Perry Curtis in Apes and Angels (1971).3 The critical debate is also a literary one, with novels such as John Banville's Birchwood (1973) both manifesting and dissecting the tropes of Big House Gothic. Key to the discussion of Irish Gothic is the idea that it is a genre inflected by primarily Protestant writers to describe their own situation and fear of the return of the repressed. As Frantz Fanon suggests, ‘the settler is always . . . the one who makes history’, and in Irish Gothic the themes of the literature of combat are played out not by texts, but within them, as the irrational self, excluded from history, attempts to irrupt into it at the colonizer's cost. Tztevan Todorov's definition of the unheimlich as ‘une image qui s'origine dans l'enfance de l'individu ou de la race’ also resonates, as it relates the Gothic to immaturity, the infancy of national history explicitly suppressed by Enlightenment stadialism. The uncanny is the past that refuses to be lost.4
(p.213) As was suggested in Chapter 3, it is not only settlers who make history, but also historiographers. One of the reasons that the Gothic in the British Isles is so easily inflected towards the dimensions of national debate is that in its beginning it was an expression of political triumphalism, a return to the past made possible only by the total control of history and the assurance of the triumph of its stadial civility. So it was that the duke of Argyll rebuilt Inveraray in the Gothic style after the defeat of the Jacobites, ‘a model which was then imitated . . . by the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, particularly after the 1798 rebellion’.5 Yet this use of the Gothic was one which itself could contain anxiety at the return of the repressed or the usurped: precisely the feature of Walpole's The Castle of Otranto (1762) where the outsize armour is a none too subtle reference to the militant opposition to the Whig state, relics of a feudal era in stadialism's terms, which nevertheless threatens to smash through the civil society created by its usurper. Likewise the anti‐Catholicism of much Gothic writing (not least Maturin's) was a revealing display of fear of the Popish bogey so recently associated with the prospect of a Stuart restoration or (in Ireland), the military success of the 1798 Rising. To take only one example, Ann Radcliffe's The Italian (1797) brings into focus the conflated discourses of Italian decline (‘those mighty monuments of Rome's eternal name, those sacred ruins, those gigantic skeletons’) and Catholic corruption, both themselves the object of Enlightened stadialism's disapproval.6
On one level then, Gothic writing in the British Isles is a comment on the Jacobite and Catholic causes, part of the process whereby romance displaces history, because the alternative history of the past has to be displaced—buried, if you like, as Ian Duncan's brilliant term ‘chronotopic sedimentations’ implies. Scott is an ambivalent subscriber to this strategy precisely because he is paradoxically too attached to the Scottish past to make it merely an object of sentiment. Nevertheless, the supernatural Gothic in Scott is almost always associated with the infantilized, credulous Scotland of the Jacobite and Catholic past; this was one of Hogg's targets in his fiction, as will be argued below. These are not the only themes of the Gothic of course: anxieties about empire and mad scientists, to take only two other examples, can be found as early as William Beckford's Vathek (1782).7 Nonetheless, the political dimension to be found from the beginning in Gothic writing in the British Isles eased the path to the national inflections of the Gothic in Scotland and Ireland, which in Jacobite and Catholic guise respectively, had been the sources (p.214) for a significant proportion of the fears addressed in the broader Anglophone Gothic tradition.
Many of the authors already discussed in this book display Gothic features in their writing. Fiona Robertson has analysed the dimensions of Scott's Gothic in her study Legitimate Histories (1994); Maria Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent clearly draws on the Gothic theme of imprisonment, while Vera Kreilkamp has argued that Mortimer's perception of ‘the beautiful Glorvina as a “horrid spectre” ’ in The Wild Irish Girl is a ‘return of the colonial repressed to the imperial British subject’ of the kind ‘postulated by recent critical formulations of a Protestant Gothic tradition in Irish fiction’.8
The Gothic locale is an aestheticized, political occupation of space; it is also vulnerable both to misunderstanding and to delusion. This is always presuming, though, that the correct standpoint is the rational one. If it is, it can equally be the standpoint of repression: Hounhynhnm government is rational and genocidal, and the roots of the political Gothic in Ireland may be more everyday than some have supposed. ‘The Rising of the Moon’ is a famous (nineteenth‐century, with an Ó Carolan air) gathering song of ’98; in Moore's Captain Rock, Rock ‘being found guilty of the transportable offence, namely, that of being out by moonlight, is at this moment on his way to those distant shores, where so many lads who “love the moon” have preceded him’ because ‘an Irishman may be transported, under English law, for being out of his house (having none, perhaps) after sunset . . . ’.9 The underlying political realities which align the revenants of darkness with the patriot native (‘Captain Moonlight’) may create their Gothic effects out of empirical histories: much as the IRA man who brushes past Lois in her garden in The Last September (1929) is Other in political, supernatural, and sexual terms. Darkness has all these connotations, while the moon itself, long a feminine symbol, shines aptly on the service of the devotees of the Poor Old Woman or other manifestations of the feminized nation. In addition, the link of the supernatural to peasant identity, discussed by Emmanel Le Roy Ladurie among others, fits well both with the (mis)identification of ’98 as a peasant Rising, the voice of the disenfranchised, and also with the political and superstitious peasantry created in Ireland in texts such as Crofton Croker's Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (1825), William Carleton's (1794–1869) Traits & Stories of the Irish Peasantry (1830), and the productions of the Banim brothers, which depicted an Irish peasantry fundamentally irreconcileable to the culture, politics, and economics of a British polity.10
(p.215) The chapter that follows will seek to expand the discussion of a specifically Irish Gothic, and will also begin to establish the parameters for the national inflection of Scottish Gothic in the Romantic period. Its main subjects will be James Hogg (1770–1835) and Charles Maturin (1780–1824). In Maturin's case the rational standpoint may be inadequate, but it is still the only principal point of reference because an unfettered supernatural expression of the autochthonous cannot ultimately be permitted in Protestant Ireland. In Hogg's writing by contrast, attempts to compromise and undermine the autochthonous are defeated by its accurate knowledge of itself; by contrast the editor or narrator, typically an Anglicized post‐Enlightenment Scot, finds that they are themselves unheimlich in a marvellous world they occupy but do not understand, almost like the ascendancy in Ireland. Hogg's Gothic (as, indeed, more widely in Scottish Gothic) is not just a space where rationality is contested. It is a synecdoche for the national space, the ‘precise and wonderful things’ of Carleton's version of the Gaelic tradition of lived heritage and environment: a value set on the knowledge of locality by those who belong to it: for them, a locus amoenus, for others, a threat.11 Just as those dimensions of Scottish culture incompatible with Britishness were aestheticized as picturesque in the generation after they had been defeated or dismissed as barbaric, so their survival in terms of threat rather than regret is a feature of Scottish Gothic, the violation of the expected in British space by remaining traces of the lost national other.
This style of locus amoenus is important in a wide range of Gothic writing arising in different contexts. Ultimately, its irreducible appeal is the premiss for the argument which underpins the Gothic quarrel with the Enlightenment: homogenizing accounts of the unity and transferability of experience are endangered by neglect of place and past, sedimentations not only chronotopical, but geographical and psychological also. Across different times, places, and very different authors, this Gothic theme is often repeated. Disturbance of a place or object belonging to that place by blundering rational enquiry is the key to the majority of M. R. James's tales; in Hound of the Baskervilles, the map consulted by Holmes in London is not an adequate guide to Dartmoor, or to its ultimately mapless, trackless Grimpen Mire within which the Hound lies hidden; in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Irving explicitly points out that legends are not for mobile, modern populations. Irving's linkage (p.216) between place and ethnicity (the Dutch) and his emphasis that Sleepy Hollow was a borderland in the American War of Independence, moves us in the inflection of national Gothic towards issues of conflict between peoples, or between defeated and victorious histories; the presence of neglected Native American history in American Gothic also fulfils this role. The inflections of Irish and Scottish Gothic are towards historical contestation of this kind because this is the state of a nationally inflected Gothic; this is particularly marked in the Scottish case, because in Scottish Gothic history is not a contested space alone, but one suffering the burden of hermeneutic abolition by the historiography of the Enlightenment. So it is that, in Witch Wood, Buchan suggests that the abolition of Melanudrigill as a locus amoenus in favour of being merely feared or economically exploited space is the victory of the Presbyterian interpretation of history, challenged only in surviving oral traditions; in Farewell, Miss Julie Logan (1931), Barrie identifies religious prejudice as one dimension preventing Scotland's honest encounter with its own denied past, present only when the glen is ‘locked’ away from modernity by winter; while in Oliphant's ‘The Library Window’ (1896), an anglicized Scotland where women are repressed and excluded from education is threatened by an ancestral curse which paradoxically liberates them from the controlling voices of modernity which annotate and destroy the space the Gothic delivers for them to inscribe. Among the male characters, only the Scots speech of the baker's boy admits the marvellousness of the Library ghost: native honesty and native speech go together, a feature which is earlier very marked in Hogg's work. The repression of history and the partial interpretations which sustain it are alike key elements in Scottish Gothic, the national inflection of the locus amoenus and the genre it informs.
Altermentality, very much a feature of the Gothic as a whole, is given an entrée into national history through the inflection of the Gothic by writers intending thereby to sustain some of the bases of the existence of a national literature: Hogg's Gothic displays Scots as an identifier of authentic national community. His innovation is to use this defensive altermentality as a critique of the Enlightenment itself in a series of evasive texts which offer neither the marvellous accepted (the true supernatural, identified by Tzvetan Todorov in The Fantastic (1973) ) nor the unheimlich, but rather the marvellous contested, and contested in the terms of nationality itself.
This has not gone entirely unrecognized. Ian Duncan has argued (in ‘The Upright Corpse: Hogg, National Literature and The Uncanny’) that Hogg is a defender of ‘synchronic’ culture against ‘diachronic’ history, offering a ‘traditional community’ which is the site of ‘ “nature” ’. In editing Hogg's major text, Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), Peter Garside has likewise (p.217) pointed out that ‘Hogg might be said to have made a vital move in re‐grounding the Gothic in the indigenous’: in fact, as we have seen, this was happening almost simultaneously in Irish writing.12
Confessions is the text which, more than any other, is responsible for begetting the major revaluation of Hogg undertaken in the last thirty years. Whether or not it is discussed from the perspective of Scottish literature, it is now an essential feature of any examination of the Gothic literature of its time. The story of the seduction of Robert Wringhim by the devil is complicated on a number of levels, in the first place by the multiplication of narrators. The Editor of Wringhim's memoirs discusses the events they describe from the standpoint of an Enlightenment stadialist who believes that ‘in this day, and with the present generation, it will not go down, that a man should be daily tempted by the devil, in the semblance of a fellow‐creature’. The Editor, however, right from the first page of his narrative, has himself appealed to ‘tradition’ as opposed to ‘history’; he clearly favours the Colwans, Wringhim's ostensible family, over the Wringhims, despite the presence of counter‐evidence in the text he presents; and it turns out that the confessions which he is editing are not in fact discovered till the end of the book.13 The Editor provides not so much an edition, as an alternate fiction to Wringhim's own text, which follows the Editor's version. The third narrative is a visit of the Editor's in company, to find Wringhim's grave, towards which James Hogg guides them. Hogg speaks Scots, a language which throughout both the Editor's narrative and Wringhim's has been used as a touchstone of autochthonous integrity. Printing itself comes under attack in favour of orality: Wringhim ironically works as a ‘printer's devil’ at James Watson's printing press (see Chapter 2) in Edinburgh, until Gil‐Martin comes there (‘the devil having appeared twice in the printing house’).14 At Watson's press, Wringhim would have been producing Jacobite propaganda, anathema to himself as a Presbyterian, and indeed the whole story, set at the time of the Union, is shot through with references to the divided Scotland of the Jacobite era. The death of Scotland at the hands of extremist Presbyterianism may even be referred to by the appearance of the demonic Gil‐Martin to Wringhim on Lady Day, 25 March 1704: the day on which Robert the Bruce (whose claim was legitimate, if contested) was crowned becomes the day on which Robert Wringhim (whose claim to the Colwan lands is illegitimate and whose everlasting crown of salvation is an illusion) is seduced by Satan. The process of that seduction of Robert (p.218) by Gil‐Martin runs parallel to the momentum for Union in 1704–6, and indeed some of the parliamentary players of the day are introduced to the story.15 Hogg's text is in a sense a parallel national tale of Union to Castle Rackrent, but one which is more complex in its use of the unreliable narrator(s), more explicitly Gothic, and more clearly an edited text, the work of that untrustworthy creature, a collector. The ‘authenticating apparatus of documentation and editorial commentary’ creates an illusion of truth;16 it also allows the reader to forget that in editing Wringhim's private confessions the Editor ensures that they are not private, and contests the very fact of what they confess. The more closely the characters of the book are aligned with a native oral Scottishness, the better their judgement between appearance and reality, the less willing they are to impose ideological boundaries between the heimlich and the unheimlich, or to admit the latter's dissolution into the marvellous.
Just as the borders of experience are debateable in Confessions, so Wringhim's grave (he is in the end tempted to suicide) is situated on debatable land, which even Hogg gets wrong: ‘for the grave was not on the hill of Cowan's‐Croft, nor yet on the point wherre three lairds' lands meet, but on the top of a hill called the Faw‐Law, where there was no land that was not the Duke of Buccleuch's within a quarter of a mile’ (170). Scotland itself is such a country, an uncertain and debatable land, not only because of the Union, but also because its inhabitants (not least the Editor, but also Wringhim, inter alia) have begun to fail to understand the realities of their own culture and language. It is Wringhim's Anglophone cosmopolite desire to embrace the unknown that prevents his recognition of supernatural reality, and makes him what his father's servant, John Barnet, calls a ‘gowk’ (68): a word meaning both cuckoo and fool, hence a possible gibe at Wringhim's illegitimacy and even his status as a changeling (cf. John Wyndham's The Midwich Cuckoos). The extreme economy of the Scots word also offers a contrast with the verbose perversity of Wringhim's English, itself a cuckoo in the nest of the native tongue. Later in the text, Mrs Logan and Bell Calvert watch for Gil‐Martin and Wringhim in a ‘thicket’ in a place which ‘as all the country knows, goes along a dark bank of brushwood called the Bogle‐heuch’ (59). Anyone who truly accepted their own tongue as a definition of underlying reality would know that bogles are exactly what one might expect to find there, and that thus Logan and Calvert's subsequent ‘discovery'of Wringhim and Gil‐Martin (p.219) is no news at all (61).17 Like Fergusson, Hogg introduces different forms of Scottish speech: Wringhim's jailer in Edinburgh is a north‐easterner, who can barely distinguish Wringhim's ‘yoolling’ and his ‘praying’ (103). This indeed summarizes Wringhim's actions and state of mind better than his own words do, and Scots speakers have this insight throughout, an insight which even penetrates the reality of the supernatural. So Robin Methven can understand the speech of the ‘corbie craws’ (137); or it is dryly observed that Gil‐Martin is ‘countit uncanny’ (128). Similarly, as we move towards the detection of the devil who preached at Auchtermuchty in Samuel Penpunt's integrated oral tale, the presence of Scots is heightened (139). Hogg's Editor fails to recognize the speech of Scotland and the traditions it protects, even though it is to these traditions that he appeals on the first page of his narrative.
Techniques of this kind can be found throughout Hogg's fiction. Despite his very poor background and lack of education, he is not a dialect writer, but deploys different kinds of Scots, even extending to a ‘synthetic mediaeval Scots’, ‘my old language’ as he calls it in an 1822 letter. He focuses strongly on the images of ‘bard’ and ‘seer’, and reinvokes the taxonomy of glory in not only editing, but recreating, the voice of the past, in, for example, the old Scots of the harper's song in Mador of the Moor. Hogg's Gothic world exists in the environment of the time described by John MacQueen, where ‘in the popular mind . . . a close connection existed between diabolism and radical politics’.18 Patriot historiography is revenant everywhere: in Mador, the northern mountains of the Grampians are ‘the battlements of ancient liberty’ (109 n.); in The Queen's Wake (1813), Hogg narrates a bardic competition before Mary, Queen of Scots, which appears to be a historical romance poem of the kind already published by Scott, but in fact verges on being an account of Scotland's continuing plight. ‘The Queen's Wake seeks to re‐string . . . the . . . ancient Caledonian harp, the harp of the Scottish people’, as Douglas Mack observes. Hogg is, as in his fiction, conscious of the legacy of Robertsonian sentiment with regard to Mary, but seeks to make her more than an object of pathos: his ‘portrayal of Mary . . . draws upon a Robertsonian sympathy for her as a beautiful, gentle, and essentially impressionable heroine. Crucially, however, his presentation . . . seeks to restore her as a powerful (p.220) political symbol.’ In the 5th edition in 1819, in particular, Mary is ‘celebrated as promising with her patronage and interest in Scottish song the continuity of a national poetic tradition’.19
The Queen's Wake displays a plethora of harpers representing different traditions from every corner of Scotland: a ‘bardic contest’ which ‘rebukes Scott's self‐nomination’ as sole Border minstrel.20 Although Hogg calls them ‘minstrels’ as well as ‘bards’, this terminology allows him to establish a relationship with Scott while reserving the right to characterize the songs ultimately as bardic, prophetic, and nationally celebratory. Nor is his ‘minstrel’ the ‘last’: Hogg's bards number more than a dozen. They include figures representative of a cross channel tradition between Scotland and Ireland, and although they admit that ‘vanished those hardy times outright; | So is our ancient Scottish might’ they present an uncompromising, often brutal world, which is distinctively Scottish: ‘No fairies kept the English side’.21 Hogg, though a Borderer like Scott, does not offer a liminal border. He restores the ‘mountain harp’ to its role as a synecdoche for Scottish identity: the northern Gardyn, dressed in the ‘garb of ancient Caledon’, carries a harp with ‘a rose beneath a thistle bowed’; Allan Bawn from Mull sings of ‘Fingal’, while a southern bard sings an aisling‐type song of vision of the Thistle's victory.22 Although some of the poetry celebrates the Union and the struggle against Napoleon, there is an uncomfortable doubleness in the language throughout, with Mary being invoked as a type of the female nation. Her harp (won by Gardyn) returns with him to Banchory, being celebrated as a type of northern valour which is by no means limited to the Napoleonic wars:
The association with the militant defence of Scotland (from the traditional Grampian frontier, not from the Highlands) and the reawakening motif of the ‘mounting song’ in the context of a bardic ceilidh for the Stuarts have an unavoidable tinge of Jacobitism: not least because the harp itself is a Stuart harp, the property of Mary, presented both as dynastic inheritor and national symbol. The ‘northern bards’ (188) are the last to die: they were also the last to fight. Such implications are (of necessity) oblique in Hogg, but they are (p.221) repeated, and they are accompanied by criticism, both overt and covert, of Scott.
- Long, long that harp, the hills among,
- Resounded Ossian's mounting [‘warrior’ in some editions] song:
- Waked slumbering lyres from every tree
- Adown the banks of Don and Dee.23
In the ‘concluding section’ of The Queen's Wake, as Gill Hughes points out, Hogg makes it clear that Scott's interpretation of history is one of his targets, and ‘reproaches Scott for being “of change enamoured” and for taking the poetic harp “to other kingdoms” ’, asserting that Hogg himself is a better custodian of the harp of Scotland, and therefore of its native voice, which he has displayed as varied, bardic, and Scottish, not the product of a liminal border culture from bygone centuries.24 If The Queen's Wake rewrites elements of The Lay of the Last Minstrel, then Mador of the Moor does the same for The Lady of the Lake, where the king presents himself as a bard, and the same equation between the bardic and the national is made: the Grampians are repeatedly presented as the zone of northern liberty in a straightforward reprise of patriot historiography. As in parts of The Queen's Wake (‘Kilmeny’ for example), Hogg uses synthetic Scots to drive the point home.25 In January 1815, Hogg also wrote to John Murray expressing distaste at the ‘fear’ of ‘giving offence to the English’ he identifies in Scott's Lord of the Isles, and sharply compares Scott to ‘the English bard who was taken captive there and compelled to celebrate the Scottish victory’. As is clear from what he writes to Byron, and from poems like ‘Lock The Door, Lauriston’, Hogg sees the Border as a firm line, and places (Celtic) Scots north of it and (Saxon) English south.26
Hogg's famous definition of himself as ‘king of the mountain and fairy school’ was the key to his composition of a different kind of Scotland from that found upon many of the pages of Scott, who typically associated the supernatural with the irrational and the emotionally adolescent braggadocio of the figures from an old and defeated Scotland. In preparing The Three Perils of Man (1821), Hogg planned to name one of the central characters ‘Sir Walter Scott’, though he later changed this to ‘Sir Ringan Redhough’, a defiantly Scottish name in contrast to the anglicizations of Scott's novels. In writing to Scott about the character, Hogg noted that ‘I have made him somewhat blunt and uncourtly uttering at times strong expressions of broad Scots and besides he is not a little superstitious’. These two things went together for both writers. The difference for Hogg was that they were a positive: ‘the character is a noble character’.27
The Three Perils of Man incorporates the Gothic into history by challenging the claim to accuracy of the Scottian historical novel, and satirizing the elements of ‘chivalry and romance’ with which it is intertwined. The book (p.222) opens as a tale told by an editor of ‘The Days of the Stuarts . . . the days of chivalry and romance’, which frames a tale told by a curate of ‘There were once a noble king and queen of Scotland’.28 At the opening of the story, editor and curate alike are enthralled by the romance of the story; as the events outlined by the curate, incorporating the tales of other narrators, unfold, the editor seems to become less enamoured of the presentation of history as romance, a vision challenged by the characters themselves.
The romance in question is a bloody relief of the siege of Roxburgh Castle, undertaken by Musgrave for reasons of pride, and resisted by Douglas so that he can marry the king's daughter. The standard English‐speaking curate and his editor may be enthralled by the romance, but the Scots of Charlie Scott of Yardbire or Sir Ringan tells a different story: ‘are a’ my brave lads to lie in bloody claes that the Douglas may lie i’ snaw‐white sheets wi’ a bonny bedfellow?’ (TPM 6). These voices break through a narrative which begins in much the same vein as a fairy story: ‘There was once a noble king and queen of Scotland’, and presents the king's daughter, Margaret, in fairy‐tale guise, with ‘three and twenty nobles rivals for her hand’ (TPM, 2, 3). The tale's tone continues in this guise, but the ‘mad chivalrous exploits’ it narrates become more and more deeply marked with pride, savagery, and suffering, for both Douglas and Musgrave ‘are waging war with your own vain imagination, and suffer all this wretchedness for a thing that has neither being nor name’. We are drawn into sympathy with the ordinary victims of chivalry: Sandy Yellowlees, the fisherman, has become quite a familiar character by the time he is hanged, and when the hanging is mentioned to the reader first it is anonymized, so we only realize a few pages later that it is Sandy, whom we knew, that is dead. Edmund Heaton, the Northumbrian yeoman caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, struggles with his language and his indignation as the Scots drag him off to the gallows. The English are ‘hanged like dogs’ by the Scots, and exactly the same phrase is used of the English themselves nine pages later. Lady Jane Howard is confined and threatened with rape and having ‘her nose cut off, her eyes put out, and her beauteous frame otherwise disfigured’ if Musgrave ‘did not yield up the fortress . . . on or before the day of the conception of the Blessed Virgin’. Princess Margaret is equally brutal: she hopes to see Lady Jane's ‘nose cut off; and two of her fore teeth drawn; and her cheeks and brow scolloped’ (TPM 21, 58–9, 66, 68, 75, 77, 85). Douglas claims moral superiority over Musgrave, but is effectively his double. By these means, Hogg presents the sentimentalist reading of the Scottish past in more realistic colours, and undercuts romance's claim to be midwife to Scottish history. At (p.223) the same time, he has little to say on British unity, and his border is stubbornly unelided: the Scots army, whose speech is redolent of the Gaidhealtachd, central Scotland, and the north‐east respectively (Hogg uses all three accents (TPM 35)), has its national unity stressed, in contradistinction to the ethnic divisions highlighted by Scott and (tellingly perhaps) here attributed to the views of the English garrison. As far as the liminal border is concerned, the Borderer Charlie Scott in his tale (vide infra) makes it clear that he cannot always even understand the language of the English (TPM 272). The Scots fight with Douglas for ‘the right of my sovereign and my nation’, rhetoric on Douglas's part, closer to reality on theirs (TPM 78).
The story has another doubling, however, as well as that between Musgrave and Douglas and Margaret and Lady Jane. Just as the curate's romance of Roxburgh Castle forms the main tale, so a secondary narrative focus develops, on Aikwood, the towerhouse of the wizard Michael Scott, who imprisons a group of Scots (with Roger Bacon in tow!), who are sent to him by Sir Ringan to see if he should join Douglas or just carry on opportunistic raids on the English. Aikwood is a truly Scott‐ish castle, a ‘huge dark‐looking pile’, surrounded by the silence and solitude of the Picturesque. Scott imprisons them in his tower of romance, where he offers the increasingly hungry captives the chance of food and reward by engaging in a tale‐telling competition. The best tale will win ‘this beautiful maid’ (the ultimate end of a good deal of Scott's fiction of course), while ‘the man . . . who tells the worst shall . . . be blooded and flayed in this same chamber for food to his associates’. Scott the magician thus offers oral tradition the chance to cannibalize itself in his prison. Confined in the tower by powerful demons, the characters can only secure their release by telling stories, by enabling ‘Scott’ to act as the collector for their tales. Fittingly, these include stories of both gluttony and violence (TPM 109, 162, 234, 265–6, 276 ff., 293 ff.). Charlie Scott of Yardbire emerges as a further double—Michael Scott's‐contrasting the honest border patriot with the magical romancer.
In Scott's tower, the reader also becomes aware that the editor is beginning to be a little detached from the apparent sympathies of the curate's narrative. The editor describes himself as a ‘waggoner’, who, when he comes to a hill, must carry his story (which he insists is a ‘true history’) up it part by part: the parts played by each character in their narration of their tale form a parallel to the parts of the narrative fetched and carried by the narrator as ‘poor waggoner’ (TPM 184, 185, 187). Poor or not, the ‘waggoner’ casts a lofty eye on the curate's narrative:
It is the curate who goes on to narrate the story of the Devil's conversation, ‘but does not say on what authority he had it’, the puzzled ‘waggoner'notes (TPM, 337). The ‘Devil’ is an exaggerated, fantastic presence. Rather like ‘romance’ and ‘chivalry’, a conversation involving the Devil is on a level beyond the realistic aims of the waggoner: to move his characters about, to show their ordinary human qualities, and to show the autochthonous typicality of their experiences of the supernatural, at odds with the extravagances of ‘Scott’ and the sympathetic curate. Michael Scott's art, like the narrative of the curate, presents supernaturalism (whether the human one of meaningless ideals such as ‘chivalry and romance’ or the demonic one of the competition to tell the best tale) in a manner disconnected from the real life of the place, a contrast between inner identity and outward picturesque:
Incidents seem to have multiplied intentionally to interrupt poor Isaac's narrative . . . Isaac . . . was one of those wise and downright men who know that truth tells always (p.224) the best, and to that maxim he adhered. But the worst of it was, there were so many truths, that any body may see it was scarcely possible to get them all narrated in their proper places; and that, without the help of the waggoner, the task could never have been effected. (TPM 222)
This is a landscape charged with the reality of the supernatural: the cultural liminality of Hogg's text lies not in fraying the border between England and Scotland, but in the boundaries between the rational and the marvellous in Scotland itself. But is it marvellous? Or even unheimlich? There is something homely about the moping kelpie, and he and all his fellows are well known by the Scots who live there, part of the familiar landscape of home. By contrast, Michael Scott's demonic domain of high magic is an alien wonder, not a native glamour: a wizardry in the north, but not of it, one neither of the mountain nor the fairy school. Michael Scott is even characterized in terms of Romantic radical politics, being likened to the actions of ‘all those who form combinations inimical to the laws or authority of the land in which they reside’ (TPM 530).That land is on one level the one in which both reader and tale‐tellers are temporarily entrapped: one of brutality more than chivalry, but yet its medieval inhabitants, shorn of any Enlightenment manners, successfully (p.225) maintain their independence. Sir Ringan finally takes Roxburgh Castle by dressing his men in ox‐hides and leading them thus through the gates: a device which both reverses the outer nobility and inner beastliness of war displayed by the text and also succeeds in securing a victory through the apparent metamorphosis of a trick where the supernatural shapeshifting of Michael Scott, who turns men into actual cattle has not secured it (TPM 403, 449) ). Hogg based this device on an oral tradition;29 it is also redolent both of the Trojan horse and more directly of Odysseus' escape from Polyphemus. In both cases, it tells of a world of violence where the supernatural is normative, the world of the moping kelpie, not the artifice of Michael Scott. ‘Scott”s magic is shown as recursive and self‐regarding, a mode of artistic vanity, not the native valour represented by his ‘Scott’ counterpart, Charlie Scott of Yardbire, the Border warrior. The supernature of art, sensibility, and demonic glamour are part of the picturesque qualities of Aikwood: they are distinct from the acknowledged supernaturalism of autochthonous Scotland, a quality known and understood, not learnt and practised.
Save when the English marauders were abroad, all was quietness by hamlet and steading. The land was the abode of the genii of the woods, the rocks and the rivers; and of this the inhabitants were well aware, and kept within locked doors, whose lintels were made of the mountain ash, and nightly sprinkled with holy water . . . They knew that their green and solitary glens were the nightly haunts of the fairies . . . The mermaid sung her sweet and alluring strains by the shore of the mountain lake, and the kelpie sat moping and dripping by his frightsome pool, or the boiling cauldron at the foot of the cataract . . . these were the natural residenters in the wilds of the woodland, the aboriginal inhabitants of the country . . . but ever since Master Michael Scott came from the colleges abroad to reside at the castle of Aikwood, the nature of demonology in the forest glades was altogether changed . . . (TPM 375–6)
Similar strategies in the conflation of the national self with the qualities of a locus amoenus can be found in The Brownie of Bodsbeck (1818), where the supernatural is revealed as the hidden and repressed identity of the ordinary Scottish Covenanters: the ‘traditional community’ displaced by history appears to be supernatural, but is in fact ‘the site of “nature” ’.30 In ‘The Brownie of the Black Haggs’, the Covenanting tale of the brownie itself acts as a cover for a tale of murder, the hidden self being more hidden still, and in any case occluded from the eyes of the narrating editor who cannot tell the difference between the historicized romance and the dehistoricized tradition, which, as it turns out, may actually reveal the historical truth. In both cases the autochthonous self protects itself from history by means of the appearance of the marvellous, which is in fact only what is familiar to the tale's originators but defamiliarized by history: the unheimlich self. As Jason Harris has noted with respect to The Three Perils of Man, ‘folklorists have observed that supernatural intrusions in folk legend circulate around the interface between the borders of civilization and the wilderness’, and it is in this space that the Scottish self survives in both Brownie tales.31 It was this self also which Hogg saw Scott as interring via the antiquarian grand narrative of sympathy, collection, analysis, and display: ‘The publication of the Border Minstrelsy had a singular and unexpected effect . . . these songs had floated down on a stream of oral tradition . . . and (p.226) were regarded as a precious treasure belonging to the country; but when Mr Scott's work appeared . . . a deadening blow was inflicted on our rural literature and principal enjoyment by the very means adopted for their preservation.’32 In many respects, the narrative complexity with which Hogg deployed the supernatural to resist its own extinction was a response in the language of literature to the usurpation literature had already carried out, the return of the repressed. Hogg's Gothic was a Gothic act.
Charles Maturin's work provides an early and disturbing insight into the national tale's development in Irish Gothic, where the local space is the only one that can be legitimately inscribed, and yet that inscription violates it: a plot clear as late in the genre as Patrick McCabe's Butcher Boy (1992) and the work of John Banville. In Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), the narrator, John Melmoth, is ‘a student in Trinity’ who quits it in 1816 ‘to attend a dying uncle on whom his hopes chiefly rested’.33 The uncle lives in a big house by the sea in Co. Wicklow, where Michael Dwyer and his supporters had held out for several years against British forces after the failed Rising of 1798. If Charlotte Smith had been ‘the first novelist to take as her setting a castle or great house intended to be read as a precise emblem of . . . England's ownership and government’,34 the role of the Big House in Ireland had, from Castle Rackrent on, been incorporated into the national tale in a manner which problematized such easy synecdoches. For one thing, the owner is often not the real owner, but a usurper: and this is clear in Melmoth. When John arrives, his uncle, the miser, is dying, but his hoarding and hiding is perpetually undercut by the native Irish servants about him, who are forever pilfering the provisions he thinks are secure, and entertaining their ‘followers’ on the proceeds. John's first meeting is with them, and he dislikes them all, with ‘habits . . . alternately . . . of abject mendacity, and of arrogant but clever imposture’ (MW 24), the means, of course, by which the native Irish keep control of their domestic world. But like them or not, the early pages of the book display the hold native Ireland has, albeit from the servants' hall, on the class that has usurped them. Biddy Brannigan, the ‘withered Sybil’ of the neighbourhood (such a figure appears again in ‘Castle Leixlip’, and, as we shall see below, arguably has a deeper significance in Maturin's work), introduces an immediate association of Catholicism and supernaturalism, which is borne out in different ways as the book progresses. Biddy uses Irish English freely, as do all the native Irish, and while John Melmoth (as narrator) translates these terms at times for the reader, and at other times claims to edit them out (‘We (p.227) spare the reader her endless circumlocutions, her Irishicisms’), they still persist to some degree as a marker of self and locality more clearly expressed than in Maturin's other work (MW 10, 22–3). However, Melmoth's understanding of the language he hears has limits: when the housekeeper affectionately greets him as a ‘white‐headed boy’, the narrator objects that Melmoth's ‘hair was as black as jet’ (MW 11), without realizing that the epithet bán is hidden in the spoken Irish English, which could refer to complexion, or, indeed, be a term of endearment alone.
In his uncle's closet, Melmoth sees the portrait of another John Melmoth (‘Jno Melmoth, anno 1646’) (MW 17). This portrait is (as portraits often are) a token of the revenant body of ascendancy history and subsequently a narrative comes to light, illegible and fragmentary in places, which imitates in its form the fracturing and illegibility of history under the usurpation to the ascendancy, and synecdochally present in the figure of Melmoth the Wanderer, a stranger not at home in Ireland, but in a ghostly fashion rooted there.35 The portrait's eyes seem to move, and the sense of a doubling between the two John Melmoths begins. As the text develops, the junior John Melmoth will encounter the narratives of the people whom the older Melmoth, ‘the Wanderer’, has invited to sell their souls.
Although John's uncle recommends him to burn both, he lets him know that there is a manuscript as well as a portrait in the closet, ‘among some papers of no value, such as manuscript sermons, and pamphlets on the improvement of Ireland’. The uncle dies, and John has to turn to the native Irish to glean any sense of the nature of the fright that helped to kill him, and the mystery of the portrait. At first he learns nothing specific but gains the uneasy impression that his uncle's ‘sudden death, and even the terrible visitation that preceded it’ may ‘have been owing to some wrong that his rapacity had done the widow and the fatherless’. It is not his uncle's theft and rapine which is in question, however, but a much more foundational act of familial violence, as Biddy Brannigan tells him; far from the ‘arrogant imposture’ John Melmoth thinks characteristic of her, her words are the truth, and as such return him to the cyclical nature of the Irish history he inherits, not the historical progress invented by the rational discourse of the settler colony (MW 21, 24). Biddy informs him that ‘John Melmoth the Traveller’, his namesake and ancestor, is ‘the brother of an officer in Cromwell's army who obtained his lands in Ireland by expropriating a royalist family’ (MW 26).36 The whole property (on the inheritance of which John relied by currying favour with his uncle) is thus based on an ancestral (p.228) theft by the Melmoths, a theft rooted in their own rebellion against the crown, which now in its turn protects them from the Catholic Irish. With the ancestral theft seems to come an ancestral curse: ‘Melmoth the Traveller’ is a kind of banshee, bean sí, who appears to forecast the death of a member of his house ‘when the evil passion or habits of the individual had cast a shade of gloomy and fearful interest over his last hour’. In the case of young John Melmoth, the Wanderer also appears at other times, again stressing the idea that he and the figure in the portrait are in some sense doubles: the Wanderer even suggests that he and his namesake share the same ‘vain and desperate inquisitiveness’ (MW 26, 536). When young John destroys the portrait (MW 60), he brings on the final act in the Wanderer's destiny which culminates in the Wanderer's removal to hell. The use of the portrait to signify a revenant body which is also still alive and is the double of the living was taken from Maturin by Sheridan Le Fanu in Carmilla, Arthur Conan Doyle in Hound of the Baskervilles, and, most obviously, by Oscar Wilde, Melmoth's great‐nephew, in The Picture of Dorian Gray. In Le Fanu and Doyle, it is the repressed history which seeks to violate the present to which it is related (Laura in Carmilla is half‐Styrian), but which denies the hybridity of self implied by that relationship; in Maturin and Wilde, it is a double of the self. The Melmoths have built a long career as gentry on a primal theft; the Wanderer's career seeks to steal souls. Like the Merchants in Yeats's The Countess Cathleen, he preys on those in extremity.
Young Melmoth encounters the Wanderer first through the narrative of the manuscript in his uncle's closet, written by an Englishman named Stanton, who encounters anti‐English prejudice (‘a peculiar and personal horror of the English’) created by Melmoth; the English family identity of the now Irish landlords is established, and for much of the rest of the story, continental Catholics (albeit presented as corrupt and detestable) will be those depicted in fear of the Wanderer. Alonzo the Spaniard is saved from a shipwreck to enjoy young Melmoth's hospitality; he tells a tale of the Wanderer, but also of the corruption of Catholicism, where ‘Spain is but one great monastery’. In Alonzo's main narrative, monkishness and ‘nature’ are depicted as at odds: ‘I am staked against a community, a priesthood, a nation’ is his attitude to Spain—the verb is of course crudely telling (MW 31, 179, 185). Such might equally be the attitude of an ascendancy figure such as Melmoth to Ireland, and it sets up a further doubling between Alonzo and John Melmoth, both alike in some sense isolated in their own societies. Alonzo, however, is isolated because he is oppressed, while Melmoth, though oppressed by his own isolation, comes himself from a line of oppressors, of whom the Wanderer is one: on one level, the spirit of ascendancy theft, the Curse of Cromwell.
Alonzo's status as victim in the text is related to Maturin's own decided anti‐Catholicism, reflected in Five Sermons on the Errors of the Roman Catholic (p.229) Church (1824). The strain of violence in Alonzo's tale arguably derives from passages of violence from the Irish radical era of 1797–1803, encoded at various points in the text: particularly in the death of the Parricide.37 Moreover, the cannibalistic vignette, where the lovers immured in the monastery turn from turtle‐doves into predator and food (‘on the fourth night I heard the shout of the wretched female,—her lover, in an agony of hunger, had fastened his teeth in her shoulder, that bosom on which he had so often luxuriated, became a meal to him now’) parallels the tale of the grandfather ‘sucking’ the ‘vital blood’ of his granddaughter told by Biddy Brannigan as the book begins (MW 11, 212). It also parallels the role of Michael Scott in The Three Perils of Man, where, as in Melmoth, both cannibalism and famine are offered and narrated in Aikwood tower. Both references in Maturin can be seen as referring to the savagery of the behaviour of some Irish Catholics in the 1798 Rising, a fear of the repressed other; on the other hand, the lovers are themselves immured by an oppressive Catholicism, while the image of the vampiric grandfather is redolent of famine. The tale of the grandfather is told in a kitchen full of the ‘bony hands' of thin native Irishmen and women who live by filching from the Melmoths who own their land. Melmoth’s images of violence suggest the oppression of Irish Catholics (Maturin himself supported emancipation),38 but also suggest that Catholicism itself is a repressive superstition which begets violence.
The use of the locus amoenus in Melmoth the Wanderer is frequently accompanied by violent weather and gloomy landscapes, presenting the Big House as a locus both of identity and of the theft of that identity. The text may on occasion deride the value of place and space and ‘laugh at human passions and human cares,—vice and virtue, religion and impiety; they are all the result of petty localities, and artificial situations’ (MW 213), but its many fragmentary narratives, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish, English, Anglo‐Irish, and Spanish, all break up space and time while confirming their empirical realities. In the end, all roads lead to the locus amoenus of ascendancy theft where all wanderings began. John Melmoth returns to the Big House where he sees and destroys the portrait of his namesake and ancestor, the portrait with moving eyes which is an earnest of the presence of the Wanderer's revenant body. Alonzo is rescued by John from shipwreck; he too is carrying a portrait of the Wanderer, which he destroys in the Big House (MW 72). But all attempts to erase the Wanderer and his primal guilt fail: he returns, only to be dashed down the rocks on which Alonzo was earlier rescued. We are to presume the (p.230) Wanderer is destroyed by demons, who, in fact, lead him from a room in the Big House to his doom. Although on one level, Melmoth the Wanderer certainly draws on images of ‘the Wandering Jew and the Elixir of Life’,39 the locus amoenus of the Irish Big House, and the politics of dispossession which underpin it, serve as the grounds of its inflexion of the Gothic genre towards a national space. The son and grandson of substantial dignitaries in the Church of Ireland (including Swift's successor as the Dean of St Patrick's), Maturin well fitted that mould of ascendancy Gothic writing which was to survive for over a century, and which was satirized by Joyce in the opening chapter of Ulysses, where Buck Mulligan (Oliver St John Gogarty), the ‘Usurper’, allies with Haines the Englishman against the native Irish Stephen Daedalus in the Martello Tower, into which comes, early in the morning, the Sean Bhean Bhocht in the guise of a milkmaid to act an ironic version of the sybilline part similar figures play in Melmoth (Biddy Brannigan), ‘Leixlip Castle’, and elsewhere.
The importance of the locus amoenus is very clear in other work by Maturin. The Fatal Revenge presents Irish poetry as ‘richer in harmony and more melting’ than English Romanticism, because ‘whereas England had subordinated nature to society, Ireland still lived close to nature’. A plot arising from these sentiments is played out in The Wild Irish Boy (1808), where Ormsby Bethel runs about the Lake District like the youthful Wordsworth of Tintern Abbey: ‘during three years, my life was a species of romantic intoxication. The reading of Ossian competed my infatuation.’ Thence he goes to Ireland, where in the native chieftain de Lacy (Old English rather than native, as the name indicates), Ormsby encounters Romanticism as reality, no longer a tale of old times, but present to the eye, where the swords are no longer a tale of the Fianna's valour, but modern and (implicitly) Jacobite: the ‘chieftain went abroad with his brothers, to earn wealth and distinction by their swords’. The heroes of Ossian are not literary only; they are living and real.40
This is even plainer in The Milesian Chief (1812), where again Ossian plays a significant role in mentally preparing the musician, Armida Fitzalban, to fall in love with the eponymous chief, Connal O'Morven (a very Ossianic name), in preference to her English fiancé. Maturin's (admittedly very Protestant and Grattanite) nationalist sympathies are most in evidence in this text. Armida is presented as the book opens in oriental guise: knowing nothing of Ireland, her luxuriant and sympathetic portrayal of the orient is a surrogate for the (p.231) Irish sentiments she will soon reveal. Just as Luxima in The Missionary is in symbolic parallel to Glorvina in The Wild Irish Girl (and to Ida of Athens in Woman) as a synecdoche for marginal nationality, so Armida is in a sense Irish without knowing it before landing in Ireland: her ‘Doric Graces’ are those of a marginal locality in a British world, whether of the decayed Italy with which she initially identifies, the ruins of Persepolis, or the broken‐down tower where the mysterious O'Morven lives. Her father, Lord Montclare, though clearly Anglo‐Irish, is identified as ‘English’ just as Melmoth the Wanderer is; he is served by a scion of the O'Morven family, living ‘the degradation of taking his place under the roof he was born to inherit’. Montclare sees ‘Ireland’ as a place only ‘where the judgment of my character was indifferent to me from my contempt for its inhabitants’, but when a bored Armida goes for a walk, the mysterious neighbouring tower becomes an object of fascination to her amid the storm and rock with which John Melmoth's house is also to be associated. This tower is the residence of Connal, who appears before her in Irish dress to tell her that Irish music may not appeal to her because of the defeat of the language that sustained it, all ‘harmony of language’ being ‘proscribed by England’, but that
The apparent reference here to Moore's ‘Minstrel Boy’ is all the more striking because Moore's poem did not appear until the following year, in Irish Melodies V (1813). Ireland is performed through its music and its language in combination: both are synecdoches for the altermentality of the national self, prophetically relayed by the bards who celebrate the taxonomy of glory and are destroyed by its defeat.41
all other music is the production of science: Irish music is the effusion of passion, and of the heart: our dirges were composed by bards, who hung round the body of our chief: our war‐songs, amid the rage of a battle on which the fate of the minstrel and his country hung, often amid the death‐shock into which the minstrel himself, smote with the madness he inspired, has plunged, and mingled the last sounds of his harp with his own . . .
Armida offers an Ossianic solution: ‘ “We will bring an Eolian harp”, said she, “and its sounds . . . will recall the thoughts of other times” ’. But although Connal is ‘the last of the race’, the effects of the bardic harp are not yet quite faded, for Connal's grandfather was inspired by a harper to search out the cave where his ancestors lie buried: they turned out to be ‘men of formidable size’. None the less, the sense of decay is palpable, and is emphasized by the fact that the strongest locus amoenus of the native Irish identity of Connal's family is not the tower where they live, looking on their ‘alienated home and (p.232) rights’, but the island with its ruined abbey, ‘to which the rising moon gave all the dim and aerial effect of vapour’: here the political implications of the risen moon are surely present, for Connal is to lead out his men in the 1798 Rising. The place where the Connals lie buried is the strongest locale of identity: the dead are more powerful than the living. The scene is set in Scottian terms, and Connal even quotes ‘If thou wouldst view fair Melrose aright, go visit it by the pale moonlight’. He, Armida, and Wandesford, her English fiancé, all visit the island and are nearly drowned on their return: repressed history seeks to reclaim its own. The intense stress on the bardic, the balladic, and the scene of the dispossessed Irish in a tower neighbouring the usurper's castle are all very redolent of The Bride of Lammermoor, the most Gothic of Scott's major novels, and Scott even introduces there a sybilline Irish‐style character in old Alice. Connal stresses the importance of such characters, and their link to the Poor Old Woman/Sean Bhean Bhocht typology of Ireland, in a manner which reflects interestingly on other dimensions of Maturin's fiction:
In Irish mythology every family is supposed to be attended by a visionary being . . . an old woman sitting on the grave, or wandering near the house of the devoted family, and pouring out a stream of melancholy sound, half musical, half moaning, to summon the wanderer home . . . Such is the tale of the Banshi . . .
The ‘Banshi’ haunts the isle of the ruined abbey in The Milesian Chief; but just as pertinently, Connal's description of her reflects both on the characters of Biddy Brannigan, who sees and understands something of the curse of the Melmoths, and on the sybil of ‘Leixlip Castle’, whose temptations contribute to the tragedy of the Blaney family. However, Connal, who invokes the name of Brutus from Jacobite Roman Republican rhetoric, is not yet entirely content to subside into the halls of his fathers without making a last attempt to revivify the age of the ‘bards and . . . warriors’ who once populated them.42
In ‘Leixlip Castle’ (1825), Maturin tells the tale of an Irish Catholic Jacobite baronet who (in about 1720) rents a dark castle with a ruined castle for its neighbour, itself a sign of the strife of times gone by, a modelling of the past clearly dependent on the historiography of the Scottish Enlightenment. It is also a sign of the past's defeat, as arguably is the fact that Sir Redmond Blaney, who is obviously in straitened circumstances, has to rent the castle: the displaced Catholic aristocracy can only hire the history that once they owned. They also have no future. Sir Redmond's youngest daughter is abducted by an old woman dressed in Fingalian style in the woods (traditional dress also plays a significant role as a marker of identity in The Wild Irish Boy (p.233) and The Milesian Chief), and returns as a shrunken changeling, another version of the Poor Old Woman who has abducted her, able only to gaze at history in the shape of her mother's portrait, not to give it life. The eldest daughter is murdered on her wedding night by her husband, who has gone insane as soon as he took her to bed; the middle daughter seeks to know her future bridegroom by the forbidden arts of divination. He turns out to be Sir Richard Maxwell (the name of a south‐western Scottish Catholic and Jacobite family, the Maxwells of Kirkconnel), who disappears every Hallowe'en, and avoids the society of all fellow Scots, because he has fled the country on killing his brother. The two separate when Sir Richard realizes that his wife has obtained the knife which he used in the murder through her divination. Maturin presents Maxwell as the representative of a brutally divided Scotland (the political use of the brother motif will resurface in Stevenson's The Master of Ballantrae) and the Redmonds as emblematic of a Catholic Ireland destroyed by its own history (the abduction in the wood by the old woman in green and scarlet), its superstition (Anne Redmond's divination), and by its insanity (the Catholic husband who goes mad). Brother kills brother, husband kills wife: the identity of the Catholic world is infertile, savage, and given to internecine violence. Its last rentals of what it once owned must themselves decay into that history's final exile from the possibility of possessing the present. Maturin's narrators may or may not feel guilty about the dispossession, displacement, and destruction of Catholic history, but they do not shrink from it.43
Both Hogg and Maturin present the Gothic through the guise of the locus amoenus at war with the verdict of history. Indeed, Maturin's landscapes are very repetitive—Bertram (1816) shares a setting very close to that of The Milesian Chief or Melmoth.44 Both authors' displacements and repressions of self, the performance of that self by other means, were ways by which the legitimacy of British power and public space could be questioned, even as it is expanded. Both were domestic kinds of questionings, resisting universalist narratives by focusing on special spaces. But there were traces elsewhere in Maturin's work in particular of the exploration of such problems in a European or global context fitting in the age of Napoleon and empire: in Fredolfo (1817), for instance, where Austrian hegemony over Switzerland is a displaced version of ‘Ireland and the English invader’.45 This displacement on a grander scale, the conversion of the locus amoenus into the world of alternate national space, is the subject of the last chapter of this study, fratriotism, which examines (p.234) the envisioning of empire in Scottish and Irish Romanticism in terms which preserved and represented a sense of self: the creation of a public space for the performance of a public national self beyond the boundaries of self, no matter how liminally expressed: the presence, in short, of the terms of definition we have been discussing in an international sphere.
(3) In conversation, 2005.
(4) Joe Cleary, ‘Postcolonial Ireland’, in Kevin Kenny (ed.), Ireland and the British Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 251–88 (282); Tztevan Todorov, Introduction à la littérature fantastique (Paris: Editions de Seuil, 1970), 52.
(5) Gibbons, Gaelic Gothic, 20.
(7) Ian Duncan, unpublished intervention, Scottish Romanticism in World Literature conference, University of California at Berkeley, 9 Sept. 2006; William Beckford, Vathek, ed. Roger Lonsdale (1782; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. xvi, 98.
(8) Vera Kreilkamp, ‘Fiction and Empire: The Irish Novel’, in Kenny (ed.), Ireland and the British Empire, 154–81 (164).
(10) Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Jasmin's Witch, trans. Brian Pearce (1983; Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1987); Thomas Flanagan, The Irish Novelists 1800–1850 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959), 172, 176–8; John and Michael Banim, Tales by the O'Hara Family, 3 vols. (London: Simplon and Marshall, 1825); Michael Banim, The Croppy, 3 vols. (London: Henry Colburn, 1828); The Ghost‐Hunter and His Family (London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1888); William Carleton, Traits & Stories of the Irish Peasantry Volume 1, ed. Barbara Hayley (1830; Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 2002).
(11) Carleton, Traits & Stories, 5.
(12) Ian Duncan, ‘The Upright Corpse: Hogg, National Literature and the Uncanny’, Studies in Hogg and His World, 5 (1994), 29–54; James Hogg, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, ed. P. D. Garside (1824; Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002), p. xlix.
(13) Hogg, Confessions, 3, 43, 175.
(14) Ibid. 151–3.
(15) Hogg, Confessions, pp. xxi, xxxi, 36, 82.
(16) Ian Duncan, ‘Authenticity Effects: The Work of Fiction in Romantic Scotland’, The South Atlantic Quarterly, 102: 1 (2003), 93–116 (96). Hogg's relationship to E. T. A. Hoffman is also topical, and has been discussed in Gillian Hughes, ‘Hogg, Gillies, and German Romanticism’, Studies in Hogg and His World, 14 (2003), 62–72.
(17) There is a place called ‘The Bogle Bush’ near Kinrossie in Perthshire, as Hogg may have known (Donald Roger, John Stokes, and James Ogilvie, Heritage Trees of Scotland (Edinburgh: Forestry Commission Scotland, 2006), 106).
(18) Hogg to Archibald Constable, 8 Feb. 1822, in The Collected Letters of James Hogg, ii. 1820–1831, ed. Gillian Hughes (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006), 136, 140, 142, 229; James Hogg, The Shepherd's Calendar, ed. Douglas S. Mack (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002), 21; James Hogg, Mador of the Moor, ed. James E. Barcus (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005), 23 ff.; John MacQueen, The Rise of the Historical Novel (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1989), 207.
(21) Hogg, Queen's Wake, 38, 50, 60.
(22) Ibid. 30, 133, 150, 167.
(23) Ibid. 97, 178, 181.
(25) Hogg, Mador, 9, 23, 85, 109 n.
(26) Letters of Hogg, i. 191, 231.
(27) Ibid. ii. 123, 129.
(29) See National Library of Scotland MS 123, fo. 147.
(30) Duncan, ‘The Upright Corpse’, 29, 31.
(31) Murray Pittock, ‘Narrative Strategy in “The Brownie of the Black Haggs” ’, Studies in Hogg and His World, 14 (2003), 30–7; Jason Marc Harris, ‘National Borders, Contiguous Cultures, and Fantastic Folklore in Hogg's The Three Perils of Man’, ibid. 38–61 (44).
(32) Judy Steel (ed.), A Shepherd's Delight (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1985).
(37) Gibbons, Gaelic Gothic, 53–6.
(39) Charles Robert Maturin, i, p. v.
(41) Maturin, Milesian Chief, i, pp. x, xvi, 3, 12, 22–3, 65, 70, 83, 127–9, 131, 132, 134.
(42) Maturin, Milesian Chief, 157, 164–5, 177–9, 183, 188–90; the involvement of the ‘Fitzconnals’ in the 1798 Rising in Christian Johnstone's Clan‐Albín (1816) may derive from the name of Maturin's hero and his role.
(45) Maturin, Milesian Chief, i, p. xiv.