For nineteenth-century readers, the Scots and their books were everywhere, saturating British, imperial, and even American markets. Indeed, Scottish literature in Scots was widely enough read that through the period authors could sell a variety of dialects to an empire they themselves had educated.
Literature of lowland and highland and all parts in between was so pervasive, the phenomenon sparked parodies like Sarah Greene's Scotch Novel Reading (1824), which imagines northern authors "filling their Scotch pouches, and laughing to see how easily John Bull is gulled."
This anthology invites readers to experience the liveliness of those times, with all their innovations, opportunities, and raging debates. To facilitate readers' engagement with the ideas as well as the materials of nineteenth-century Scotland in its British and international contexts, items are arranged roughly chronologically, but also thematically.
General readers will be able to enjoy the sudden changes of a burgeoning literature simply by tracking this book end to end. By recognizing the light framing of this anthology, they will also be guided toward a sense of the ongoing conceptual and literary struggles in a society that is challenged yet stimulated by conflicting forces. Traffic between country, town, and city; the tension between elites founded in class, education, or gender; the idea of home, set against the industry and empire that supported it; and the new and adjusted genres allowed by manufacture (e.g. the steam press), kept Scottish authors in constant movement. This book hopes that its readers, too, will get on the move.
Students can develop an interest of their own, then use the book's structural hints to track it. Instructors can use the framework to connect easily to their own pedagogical focus in Scottish and other literatures.
Caroline McCracken-Flesher teaches in the English Department of the University of Wyoming. Her research interests range widely through British Literature and Culture, with a current focus on Scottish writing. Recent books include Possible Scotlands: Walter Scott and the Story of Tomorrow (Oxford, 2005) and the edited book Culture, Nation and the New Scottish Parliament (Bucknell, 2008).