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Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song with Historical and Traditional Notices relative to the manners and customs of the peasantry (1810)
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By Cromek, Robert Hartley (Compiler) with contributions by Allan Cunningham
ISBN 184921090X
SERIES The Ecclefechan Carlyle Society
Paperback  332 pages
 
Published 3 August 2010
UK Price £14.95   Order from amazon.co.uk
US Price $25.00   Order from amazon.com

'The re-issue of Cromer's "Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song" is justified rather by the rarity of the work, its interesting pictures of local manners, and the circumstances in which it was written, than by its claims to bear the name assigned to it by the Editor.

The book owes more to Allan Cunningham than to tradition, and it is difficult to understand how far the English Editor was sincere in recording his belief that he was giving to the world a genuine collection of unpublished Nithsdale and Galloway Song. That Cunningham was the author of nearly all the pieces in the Collection there cannot be a reasonable doubt, and whether Cromek was so thoroughly hoaxed as his statements would imply, may be doubted. Apart, however, from its doubtful antiquarian claims, the volume is interesting as the production of a representative Scotsman, whose songs are at least founded on ballad and traditionary lore, and whose expositions of the manners and customs of the peasantry of his native district, embodied in the work, are replete with information which every antiquarian must prize.

Robert Cromek, an engraver by trade, was a native of Yorkshire. He early became an enthusiastic student of ballad poetry, and interested himself in following up relics of the songs and manners of the past. When the songs of Burns were given to the world, he was so attracted by their delineations of Scottish life, that he made a pilgrimage to the North, and collected material for his "Reliques of Robert Burns," which he published in 1808, and for which he was made a member of the Antiquarian Society of Edinburgh. After its publication he again visited Scotland, and it was during his second visit that he met Allan Cunningham, and secured the material which appears in the "Nithsdale and Galloway Remains". Cunningham was at the time working as a mason in Dumfriesshire, but neglected his trade in his ardent pursuit of literature; and it was partly through Cromek's advice and influence, that in the very year when the "Remains" appeared, he went to London, and became connected with the newspaper press. It is said that Allan presented some of his poetry to Cromek, but received only feeble praise for his productions, until the thought occurred to him that he might secure more favourable criticisms if he appealed to Cromek's weak side, by saying they were traditionary remains. The bait took, the patron became enthusiastic, and the result was "The Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song." Cromek died in London in 1812. His memory de­serves the gratitude of Scotsmen. Though a native of the South, he gave his whole heart to the study of Scottish tradition, and his work is well worthy of being preserved. On the whole, it is probable that he really believed the representations made to him as to the nature of the poetry he published as "Remains," and that Cunningham was the perpetrator of a hoax such as has been repeatedly imposed upon enthusiastic men of letters.' - from the Introduction to the Second Edition.


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