That Promethian Spark

In some ways the most real and rooted people whom Sandy knew were Miss Gaunt and the Kerr sisters who made no evasions about their belief that God had planned for practically everybody before they were born a nasty surprise when they died. Later, when Sandy read John Calvin, she found that although popular conceptions […]

The Tangle o the Isles

The earth belongs unto the Lord and all that it contains except for the West Highland piers for they belong to MacBraynes —Anon. Islands are finite spaces enclosed by boundaries of indeterminate extent. This is a result of the Coastline Paradox, and specifically the Richardson Effect, to wit: the sum of the segments is inversely […]

Not of the Race of Adam

Fairies — the Little People, the People of Peace; the Sigrave;th; the Tuatha dé Danaan — are an interstitial race. They lurk around the edges, on the borderlands and in the margins, and out the corner of your eye … Scotland is blessed with more peripheries (and peri-fairies) than most other nations, so it’s no surprise to find their tracks scattered across this country’s stories, and laced into its history.

Century Notes

Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)— Walt Whitman, ‘Song of Myself’ Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison, CBE (née Haldane; 1 November 1897–11 January 1999). How does one do justice to a writer who lived for over a hundred years? Who witnessed almost every single […]

Watching Us, Watching You

NOTICE: THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN REDACTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THE DEFENCE OF THE REALM (SCOTLAND) ACT Watching Us, Watching You This issue, The Bottle Imp gets political. We’ve got our ear to the ground, but you never know who’s listening … Politics, skulduggery and spies, enemies both foreign and domestic! Scotland’s writers ███ ██ […]

The Lie of the Land

It requires great love of it deeply to read The configuration of a land — from ‘Scotland’, by Hugh MacDiarmid Scotland is the land of the Scots. To what extent are the Scots the people of the land which bears them? It is a multitudinous terrain, from the lowing depths of the Devil’s Beef-tub in […]

Unwept, Unhonoured, and Unsung

It has become fashionable, of late, to point out that the novels of Sir Walter Scott are scarcely read, now; to remark that few would willingly pick up Waverley, let alone give shelf-space to Peveril of the Peak (it killed Prince Albert and it can do the same for you). Often this is framed within the kind of […]

Their Knife in Your Glands

In medicine the most practicianis, Lechis, surrigianis and phisicianis, Thame self fra ded may not supple: Timor mortis conturbat me. —William Dunbar, ‘Lament for the Makaris, Quhen He Was Seik’ The Scots have a peculiar relationship with medicine. On the one hand, we have pioneered many of the most important developments in medical science: world-shaking […]

I’ll tak’ it to avizandum

A lawyer without history or literature is a mechanic, a mere working mason; if he possesses some knowledge of these, he may venture to call himself an architect. —Sir Walter Scott, Guy Mannering Law is the basis for all literature. It is what the written word was created for. Folk memory could bear the thread of […]

As Others See Us

[…] others, when the bagpipe sings i’ the nose, Cannot contain their urine […] Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice The Scots are oddities, there’s no denying it: the most reliably peculiar inhabitants of the British Isles, blessed with a plethora of shibboleths, a host of identity tags from kilts and cabers, haggises and havers, to Whisky […]

The Only Art is to Omit

In this issue of The Bottle Imp, we celebrate the work—the art—of Robert Louis Stevenson. Why such focus on a single writer? Of course, we owe our very name to one of Stevenson’s South Sea stories, so perhaps we are biased: the first seven editions of the Norton Anthology of English Literature do not give him house room; and the Oxford […]

The Outward Urge

“The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads to England”, said Samuel Johnson. Like many of his countrymen his vision was impaired by the Great Wen: why else would he utter such a sadly parochial statement? As an Englishman – even more so as a Londoner – Johnson imagined […]

Tartan Nation

Once you can accept the universe as being something expanding into an infinite nothing which is something, wearing stripes with plaid is easy. — Albert Einstein Tartan is significant. Famously it was banned by the Hanoverian regime, following the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Later rebels of other sorts have taken to it too, from mohawk’d […]

Long, Thin Strings of Singing

This issue, The Bottle Imp inflates its lungs, throws back its head, opens its mouth and belts one out—or rather, several, as we wax lyrical about Scotland’s songs. The bloodlines of Scotland’s music are long and complex, and not without controversy: some say there’s even a little bit of Gaelic singing down in the foundations of Soul. […]

Beam Me Up, Sir Walter!

This issue The Bottle Imp seeks out strange new worlds and scans new event horizons as we boldly go in search of Scotland’s speculative fictions. Who knows what we will find? It’s a big universe, after all. Right in the middle of the Scottish Enlightenment, when Scotland’s thinkers were writing down the rational rules of civilisation, Macpherson […]

Tell Us A Story…

For this issue, The Bottle Imp pokes its nose into the world of children’s literature—that strange country where every work is in translation. This is disputed territory: children’s reading pours from off the page straight into developing brains, forming pictures, scenes, ideas … Scotland’s books are no strangers to controversy in this field, from accusations of racism […]

The Uncanny Scot

Readers of a nervous disposition, turn away! This issue of The Bottle Imp pursues the spectre of the Gothic. Naught but ruined towers, blasted heaths, and cold wastes lie within. Horror seeps in to this our waking world from the margins, and the marginalised. Scotland lies on Britain’s edge, a ragged, ancient fringe. The very rocks beneath […]

Jings, Crivvens, an’ Help Ma Boab

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us! wrote Robert Burns, on seeing a louse on a lady’s bonnet, in church in 1786. It wad frae mony a blunder free us, An’ foolish notion: What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us, An’ ev’n devotion! Scots today are in […]

‘Consider History’

Consider history with the beginnings of it stretching dimly into the remote time; emerging darkly out of the mysterious eternity: the true epic poem and universal divine scripture. — Thomas Carlyle History, of course, is the sister of Literature: they have much in common, in that they are both not true. But whereas Literature runs around […]

Believe it or not …

Religion is a literary exercise: stories, fables, parables. It is wrapped up in beginnings, and most especially endings, judgements and deserts – just, unjust, and wandered-through, as well. Even in its pre-literate beginnings, Scotland’s religions have been made of stories, told and re-told. Callanish’s great lunar temple rolls around still on a circle of 18.61 […]

Westward Ho!

The first Scottish — or rather, Caledonian — literary character is Calgacus, who turns up in Tacitus’s The Life of Gnaeus Julius Agricola prior to the battle of Mons Graupius to add a touch of nobility to a doomed barbarian horde. In a ringing speech, Calgacus condemns the greed and slavery that marches with the Roman Empire: […]

See me?

Welcome to the first edition of The Bottle Imp, the ezine of the Scottish Writing Exhibition. Why The Bottle Imp? The name, of course, is stolen from one of Stevenson’s short stories. The story itself has deep European roots, drawn from – amongst other influences – Germanic folklore: but Stevenson reaches fully half around the world to tell […]


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