Scotland's Pariah

Scotland's Pariah: The Life and Work of John Pinkerton, 1758-1826

PATRICK O’FLAHERTY
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 328
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt1287tfs
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Scotland's Pariah
    Book Description:

    Scotland's Pariahis the first book to examine the remarkable life of John Pinkerton: antiquarian, poet, forger, cartographer, historian, serial adulterer, bigamist, and religious skeptic.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-1987-6
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    P.O’F.
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Permissions
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. 1 Youth, 1758–1781
    (pp. 3-15)

    In his bookEnglish Scholars 1660–1730David Douglas used two citations to back up his argument about the “sudden sterility” of English medieval scholarship after 1730.

    “Ever since the time of Thomas Hearne,” wrote a contributor to theGentleman’s Magazinein 1788, “the publication of our old historic writers has been discontinued.” He was scarcely exaggerating. “The age of herculean diligence which could devour and digest whole libraries is passed away,” wrote Gibbon in his old age when referring to the writers of the previous century. He was lamenting the disappearance of “those heroes whose race is now almost...

  7. 2 Finding His Way, 1782–1789
    (pp. 16-58)

    If sheer hard work with language and metre could make a good poet, if close study of poets of the past could make one,¹ if devotion to the Muse could, then Pinkerton would have been one. Instead, his most ambitious volume,Rimes(1781), features an overblown, derivative, hackneyed diction. A statement on language by Beattie in 1778 is apposite here. He said the “greatest difficulty” facing Scots who wrote in English was giving their writing “avernacularcast.” Scots, he said, “are obliged to study English from books, like a dead language. Accordingly, when we write, we write it like...

  8. 3 The Great Work, 1790–1797
    (pp. 59-93)

    As 1790 dawned John Pinkerton was thirty-one years old. He had already published twelve books, three of which had gone into second editions. TheEssay on Medals,Ancient Scotish Poems, andEnquiry into the History of Scotlandhad been notable contributions in knotty areas of knowledge, though theEnquirywas marred by racist views. Despite its manifest flaws, theDissertation on the Scythians or Gothswas also impressive. Having risked censure by forging ballads, challenging orthodoxies, and generally bulling his way onto the literary scene, Pinkerton now had enemies galore, more than he knew he had. He had some friends,...

  9. 4 Reviewer and Geographer, 1798–1802
    (pp. 94-123)

    Pinkerton attributed the poor reception of hisHistory of Scotlandto the “general impoverishment and want of commerce” caused by the war with France¹ rather than to any defect in the work itself. The times were “so strange and portentous,” he said, “that literature must go to bed and sleep for a few years.”² There was something in this perception. With habeas corpus suspended, Europe convulsed in war, and all eyes on Napoleon, Joséphine, and Nelson, it did indeed seem an inopportune moment to drop a two-volume quarto history of the first seven Stuart kings into the mix and expect...

  10. 5 Paris Interlude, 1802–1805
    (pp. 124-136)

    Pinkerton thought hisModern Geographywould remain authoritative for a hundred years.¹ It wouldn’t, but it did bring him temporary fame.

    It was instantly popular. A print run of 1,500 went on sale in July 1802; by November, 800 were sold and a rumour started that a second edition would be called for. By 1804 the complete impression was exhausted.² Second and third editions would be required. A large print run of the abridgment was issued in 1803, found its way into the schools, and sold out by 1805; it too was reprinted.³ Two adaptations of the abridgment, made independently...

  11. 6 The Dishonoured Veteran, 1806–1814
    (pp. 137-177)

    Back in London after his holiday abroad, Pinkerton might have thought he had a lot to be thankful for. In his absence his houses in Scotland had been sold, not without difficulty, to the city of Edinburgh for an annuity of £75¹ – after tax deduction, a small but reliable income for the rest of his life. His reputation as a man of learning had not yet been effaced. One competitor, perhaps misreading the signs, thought Scottish interest in his books had risen.² He had been the subject of a complimentary biographical sketch in 1801, a second had appeared in 1804,...

  12. 7 A Banished Man, 1815–1826
    (pp. 178-190)

    On arriving in France in 1815 Pinkerton settled into a Paris hotel and, once spring came, took a country lodging as well at Clamart on the southern outskirts of the city. The scenery there was beautiful, he had likely salvaged a few hundred pounds² from his last years in London, and he had his annuity. He had the prospect of paid literary work; Macvey Napier was his good and influential friend in Edinburgh, and he likely thought Longman’s would keep him in mind as well.³ His peace of mind was restored. “Immersed in misfortune as I have been I have...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 191-262)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-296)
  15. Index
    (pp. 297-313)