Travel Tales

Scotland, Part Three - A Way with Words

Travel Tale No. 7 - Vol. 3


Scottish literature is robust with text written in English, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, French and Latin. Robert Burns wrote in the Scots language, although much of his writing was also done in English.

Sir James Matthew Barrie, 1st Baronet, OM , novelist and dramatist, was born ninth of ten children in Kirriemuir in 1860. The author of Peter Pan, introduced the “kailyard tradition” at the end of the 19th century, with elements of fantasy and folklore. He studied at Edinburgh University and had articles published in magazines while still in college. He also met Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson.

After graduation, he worked at the Nottingham Journal, and later back in Kirriemuir he wrote a bunch of successful series of stories about tales of his town. In London he teamed up with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and co-authored an opera called Jane Annie, it was a flop and has never been heard of since.

Peter Pan was first published in 1901. In 1904 it was performed as a stage play, and later appeared in the form of a novel. He was knighted in 1913, the year in which he also became rector of St. Andrews University . You will find a statue of Barrie in Kensington Gardens in London , and also one of Peter Pan in Kirriemuir where he is buried.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes, was born in Edinburgh in 1859. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University . He also spent some time as a ship’s surgeon on board a whaler in the Artic, and time as a ship’s surgeon on a passenger ship to West Africa . He set up his practice in Southsea, near Portsmouth , where he started writing. Doyle married twice and set up a practice as an oculist in London in 1891. In 1893 Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty by having them fall to their deaths in a waterfall, but an outraged public brought them back in 1902, and he resurrected Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

He continued to write throughout his life and also served as a doctor in South Africa during the Boer War. Later in life he became very interested in spiritualism. He died in 1930.

Robert Louis Stevenson, was born in Edinburgh in 1850. He entered the University of Edinburgh to study engineering, but did not like it, so he switched to studying law. In 1875 he passed the Bar, but by then he had already published several articles for journals.

As a child he had suffered from tuberculosis, so later he traveled extensively trying to find a climate to help his lungs. The idea to write Treasure Island came to him while walking on a California beach.

Kidnapped was published in 1886. His biggest hit although was The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He sold 40,000 copies in 1886. He visited Hawaii several times and liked living in the South Pacific. He purchased an estate in Samoa , where he is buried. He died from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 44.

Dame Muriel Sparks, born in Edinburgh in 1918, is another great Scottish writer who wrote many interesting novels: The Comforters, published in 1954; The Bachelors, 1960; The Very Fine Clock 1968; Not to Disturb 1971; Symposium, 1990; and her last novel, The Finishing School, 2004, to name a few. But she is perhaps known for her book about the divinely eccentric Miss Jean Brodie which was published in 1961, as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Maggie Smith is probably the best idiosyncratic Brodie to interpret the self-destructive girls' school teacher. Sparks lived in England before spending her last years in Tuscany. She died in 2006, not on speaking terms with her only son.

The rest of this newsletter will be filled with my photos of Scotland. Enjoy!



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