We are very excited to present our expanded New Publications section.
On this page you’ll find a selection of books relating to this issue’s general theme: the influence of religious writing and thought on Scottish literature.
The Testament of Gideon Mack
by James Robertson
“Who am I? I am Gideon Mack, time-server, charlatan, hypocrite, God’s grovelling apologist; the man who saw the stone, the man that was drowned and that the waters gave back, the mad minister who met with the Devil and lived to tell the tale.” Gideon Mack, an errant Church of Scotland minister, doesn’t believe in God, the Devil or an afterlife. From the moment he discovers a mysterious standing stone, his life unravels dramatically until he is swept into a river and carried through a deep chasm underground. Miraculously, Mack emerges three days later, battered but alive. He seems, however, to have lost his mind, since he claims to have been rescued and restored to the world by the Devil. Mixing fantasy, legend and history with a wealth of insight about religion, belief and culture, The Testament of Gideon Mack is an ambitious, mesmerizing novel that combines superlative storytelling with immense imaginative power.
The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies by Robert Kirk
Intr. Marina Warner
Late in the seventeenth century, Robert Kirk, an Episcopalian minister in the Scottish Highlands, set out to collect his parishioners’ many striking stories about elves, fairies, fauns, doppelgangers, wraiths, and other beings of, in Kirk’s words, “a middle nature betwixt man and angel.” For Kirk these stories constituted strong evidence for the reality of a supernatural world, existing parallel to ours, which, he passionately believed demanded exploration as much as the New World across the seas. Kirk defended these views in The Secret Commonwealth, an essay that was left in manuscript when he died in 1692. It is a rare and fascinating work, an extraordinary amalgam of science, religion, and folklore, suffused with the spirit of active curiosity and bemused wonder that fills Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy and the works of Sir Thomas Browne. The Secret Commonwealth is not only a remarkable document in the history of ideas but a study of enchantment that enchants in its own right. First published in 1815 by Sir Walter Scott, then re-edited in 1893 by Andrew Lang, with a dedication to Robert Louis Stevenson, The Secret Commonwealth has long been difficult to obtain — available, if at all, only in scholarly editions. This new edition modernizes the spelling and punctuation of Kirk’s little book and features a wide-ranging and illuminating introduction by the critic and historian Marina Warner, who brings out the originality of Kirk’s contribution and reflects on the ongoing life of fairies in the modern mind.
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg
ed Karl Miller
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is a startling tale of murder and madness set in a time of troubles like our own. Robert Wringhim is a religious fanatic: one of God’s chosen who believes himself free to disregard the strictures of morality — a view in which he is much encouraged by the elusive, peculiarly striking foreigner who becomes his dearest friend. Describing the seductive mutual dependence of these soulmates and the way — efficient at first, then increasingly intoxicated — they go about settling scores with their (and of course God’s) enemies, James Hogg presents a powerful picture of evil in the world and in the heart and mind. This work of black humor, acute psychological insight, and, in the end, deeply compassionate humanity is one of the masterpieces of literature in English.
The Complete Short Stories of Robert Louis Stevenson
ed. Charles Neider
Da Capo Books, 1998
The editor has produced an excellent collection of Stevenson’s short fiction, including the complete New Arabian Nights and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It also includes Stevenson’s well-known ghost stories Thrawn Janet and The Merry Men, and medieval romances, farces, horror stories, and the South Sea Tales, which includes the short story The Bottle Imp.
The Devil to Stage: Five Plays by James Bridie
ed. Gerard Carruthers
The establishment of the new National Theatre of Scotland has revived interest in Scottish drama, both at home and around the world. James Bridie is one of Scotland’s greatest playwrights, and one of the leading British dramatists of the 20th century. His work is a celebration of the human spirit, its mixture of �dirt and deity’, the opposition of appearance and reality, the deflation of pretension and the investigation of moral dilemmas, all presented with irony, wit and serious levity. This collection of five acting scripts has been thoroughly corrected and re-set, and brings some of Bridie’s greatest works back into the public domain. Dr Carruthers’ extensive introduction provides an essential critical background to Bridie’s life and work, and the comprehensive notes make the plays more accessible and enjoyable.
- The Sunlight Sonata (1928)
- The Anatomist (1933)
- A Sleeping Clergyman (1933)
- Mr Bolfry (1943)
- Daphne Laureola (1949)
The Scots Confession of 1560
transl. Reverend James Bulloch
St Andrew Press, July 2007
The Scots Confession of 1560, written by John Knox, John Winram and four other ministers, is ‘the warm utterance of a people’s heart.’ It states the Christian beliefs and principles at the heart of the Reformation. Simple, straightforward and frank, The Confession is essential reading for anyone interested in the Reformation or in Scottish history.
This new edition includes:
- a version in original Scots
- a valuable Introduction which explains the background and recent history to this key historical document
- a full, modern translation by the Reverend James Bulloch
Adam Blair by J. G. Lockhart
ed. Ian Campbell
Saltire Society, 2007
When Adam Blair was published in 1822 its portrayal of a Church of Scotland Minister’s fall from grace caused a sensation in a society where absolute moral standards were completely at odds with overt expressions of physical desire. As well as a fascinating study of a tormented soul, the book throws light on Scottish society at the end of the 18th century when the rigidities of a puritanical past were giving way to a more modern outlook. This is Lockhart’s masterpiece in which his skill as a creator of dark and dramatic events is complemented by his brilliant descriptive powers.
The People’s Act of Love
by James Meek
Canongate Books, 2005
In the outer reaches of a country recently torn apart by civil war lives a small Christian sect and its enigmatic leader, Balashov. Stationed nearby is a regiment of Czech soldiers, desperate to get home but on the losing side of the recent conflict. Uncertainty prevails. Into this isolated community trudges Samarin, an escapee from Russia’s northernmost gulag. Immediately apprehended, he is brought for interrogation before Captain Matula, the regiment’s megalomaniac commander. But the stranger’s arrival has caught the attention of others, including Anna, a beautiful, young war widow. And when the local shaman lies dead, suspicion and terror engulf the little town . . . James Meek’s novel is a breathtaking contemporary fable staged against one of the most remote landscapes on earth.
The Ballad of Peckham Rye
by Muriel Spark
Penguin Classics, 2006 (1960)
The Ballad of Peckham Rye is the wickedly farcical fable of a blue-collar town turned upside down. When the firm of Meadows, Meade & Grindley hires Dougal Douglas (a.k.a. Douglas Dougal) to do “human research” into the private lives of its workforce, they are in no way prepared for the mayhem, mutiny, and murder he will stir up. “Not only funny but startlingly original”, declared The Washington Post, “the legendary character of Dougal Douglas…may not have been boasting when he referred so blithely to his association with the devil”. In fact this Music Man of the thoroughly modern corporation changes the lives of all the eccentric characters he meets, from Miss Merle Coverdale, head of the typing pool, to V.R. Druce, unsuspecting Managing Director. The Ballad of Peckham Rye presents Dame Muriel Spark at her most devilishly piquant.
George Buchanan’s Law of Kingship transl. and ed. Roger A Mason and Martin S Smith
Saltire Society, 2007
The constitutional theories of George Buchanan, Scotland’s greatest Renaissance poet and thinker, are as fresh and necessary now, five centuries after his birth, as when he first began to set them down as De Lure Regni apud Scotos Dialogus – a dialogue on the Law of Kingship among the Scots. Written in the turbulent times surrounding the overthrow of Mary Queen of Scots, his infamous Dialogue – twice banned by the State – is at core a fascinating mediation on humanity’s longest-standing constitutional conundrum: who rules the rulers? Making an outspoken case, cast firmly in the Scottish mould of elective kingship, for the rights of the people over their crowned heads, it came to stand as a bold and seminal challenge to the growing doctrine of Divine Right of kings at a crucial time in Europe’s political evolution. Many of Buchanan’s arguments underpin the modern democratic state. More than that, its elegant lucidity, radical confidence and unflinching gaze, together with the perennial relevance of the constitutional ‘riddle’ at its heart, all make the dialogue a work of great literature with power to influence beyond the politics of its own century. And just as its subject remains every bit as pertinent in an age in which executive power seeks again to attain unbridled influence, so too its answers remain every bit as vital – and contentious.
The Devil’s Footprints
by John Burnside
Nan A. Talese, 2007
Michael Gardiner has lived in Coldhaven all his life yet still feels like an outsider. Married but rather distant from his wife, he reads in the local paper that a school friend, Moira Birnie, has killed herself and her two sons by setting their car on fire; but she has spared her 14-year-old daughter Hazel. Michael uneasily recalls his past connections to Moira. As teenagers, Michael and Moira had a brief romance, yet more troubling to Michael is the fact that he was responsible for the death of Moira’s brother, the town bully. In the wake of the tragedy, Michael becomes obsessed with Hazel, who is just old enough to be his daughter. Aware of his obsession, Hazel convinces Michael to take her away from the village and her father, an abusive and violent man.
Setting his story against the untamed Scottish landscape, John Burnside has written a chilling novel that explores the elemental forces of everyday life: love, fear, grief, and the hope of redemption. In its ability to evoke and exploit our most primal fears, The Devil’s Footprints prompts comparisons to the best of Stephen King. In both language and imagery, it is a novel of mysterious beauty, written with the clarity and power of a folk tale.
Be Near Me
by Andrew O’Hagan
‘Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick/
And tingle; and the heart is sick . . .’
In a small Scottish parish, an English priest is stalked by the fear of scandal, class hatred and lost ideals.
Over the Spring and Summer of 2003, Father David becomes friends with two young people, Mark and Lisa: by the year’s end his life is the focus of public hysteria. As he looks back to his childhood, and to Oxford in the fever of student revolt, Father David begins to reconsider the central events of his life, and to see what may have happened to the political hopes of his generation. Meanwhile, religious warfare breaks out on his doorstep.
The Awakening of George Darroch
by Robin Jenkins
Black & White, 2000 (1985)
This novel is based on a momentous event in Scottish history, the Great Disruption of 1843, when a group of ministers took on the establishment in a bitter conflict which split the Church of Scotland down the middle.