N the Sixth Edition of the “REMINISCENCES OF SCOTTISH LIFE AND CHARACTER” a considerable number of fresh anecdotes were introduced from various sources, whilst some of those already adopted were corrected. In further illustration of the drinking system, now fortunately obsolete in Scottish society, some details were given regarding the toasts and sentiments which were once considered a necessary appendage to every festive board, public or private. In the sixth edition, also, I was enabled to introduce some Scottish reminiscences by an esteemed friend – the Rev. Dr. Clason. No one was better qualified for such an office; and I feel confident that my readers have considered his contribution as one of the most interesting and important parts of the volume.
It has been one of the most pleasing results of the favour with which this work has been received by my countrymen, that it has called forth, for edition after edition, so many kind communications from various quarters. Regarding the contributions sent to me for insertion, my rule has been to omit every story which I conceived might possibly give offence, whether from hurting the feelings of surviving relatives, trespassing upon delicacy and moral propriety, or trenching upon the reverence due to sacred things. I have also made it a condition that my anecdotes should possess an essentially Scottish character, and that they should illustrate some phase of Scottish manners. These reasons have excluded many stories, some of which are popular and familiar, and some less generally known. I hope I have not offended against my own laws. I have endeavoured to preserve the right course in this matter of selection. I know that from some one or other of the above reasons, or from several combined, I have omitted stories which, in point and humour, I consider among our best.
Many anecdotes, however, have been inserted from various correspondents, and many suggestions have been adopted. Still there remain a great quantity of contributions, from which, no doubt, interesting materials could be selected; and these I purpose to embody in a Supplement, as a work separate from the present volume, but arranged under the same heads, of religious feelings, conviviality, domestics, language and proverbs, wit and humour.
From the numerous communications which I have received, it is quite evident that the field of inquiry for such reminiscences is very extensive, and I am convinced is far from being yet exhausted. But I fear the labourers are growing few. We are constantly hearing of the death of some person, who, it is said, was possessed of a rich store of original Scottish anecdotes, which have not been recorded. I would therefore take this opportunity of soliciting, for the proposed supplemental volume, contributions from those who are interested in the subject, and who have, especially, experience in the dialect and humour of the west of Scotland, and of those districts with which I have less acquaintance. My intercourse has chiefly been confined to the Forfar, Kincardine, and Aberdeen districts of the country. I would further suggest, for the consideration of those who may be kindly disposed to contribute materials towards a supplementary volume, that notices of customs and practices now obsolete, which they can remember to have prevailed in society – like those communicated by Dr. Clason – would be a valuable and interesting addition to the volume.
In calling the attention of my countrymen to their native Scottish dialect, with all its force and humour, I would again remind them of the uncertainty which hangs over the question of right spelling. There is no uniform rule or practice for our guidance. We can only follow the practice of those who are considered as of highest authority amongst Scottish writers. Amongst these, however, will be found differences of spelling. Kelly’s work on Scottish Proverbs has always been held in high estimation for its correctness. But he does not seem to have been sufficiently careful to correct the proof sheets, as there are many typographical errors in his book. From these causes the Scotch spelling of a modern author may be found fault with, not because he has committed an error, but because he has followed a different authority from his critic. Thus, in my own case, a friendly reviewer of this work has objected to the story at page 163, line sixth, of Sixth Edition, that “ ‘had in’ is a mistake in Scotch for ‘hauld in.’ ” But for “had,” I may quote the high authority of Allan Ramsay’s “Gentle Shepherd.” I select two passages from several to the same effect:-
“Sir William, like a warlock, with a beard
Five nives in length, and white
As driven snaw,
Amang us came, cry’d – Had ye merry a’.
“I’m happy now! o’er happy!
Had my head;
This gush of pleasure’s like to be
I may also refer to local usage. The expression belongs to an Angus story, and let me further remark, that although (as I am quite aware) “haud in” is pure classical Scotch, yet that in my country the constant pronunciation familiar to my early “reminiscences,” was – “had east,” or “had wast,” “had in,” etc., pronounced short, as if written “hadd.”
The portion of this work devoted to our proverbial expressions has been carefully revised, and it is with no small gratification that I have to acknowledge the honour of having received suggestions in this department from two such accomplished scholars as Lord Neaves and Dr. Hannah. I am desirous of again taking the opportunity of expressing how much I owe to the valuable and judicious assistance of Mr. David Douglas, of the firm of Edmonston and Douglas, publishers. His accurate knowledge of Scotch has been most serviceable in correcting the press, especially in the quotations from the older writers on Scottish proverbs.
For such persons as may still feel an interest in a language which is now fast passing away, I am convinced the best mode of obtaining a correct knowledge of the Scottish words and phraseology, which constituted the pure dialect of an older generation, is to study Jamieson’s Dictionary. The progress of time seems only to bring forth more clearly the great research, the varied learning, and the accurate discrimination, of this remarkable national work.
1 Poems by Allan Ramsay. 2 vols., 4to. Edinburgh, 1728. Vol. ii., pages 355, 349.