Academic journal article Scottish Cultural Review of Language and Literature

Punctuation in the Letters of Archibald Campbell, Lord Ilay (1682-1761)

Academic journal article Scottish Cultural Review of Language and Literature

Punctuation in the Letters of Archibald Campbell, Lord Ilay (1682-1761)

Article excerpt

Archibald Campbell, Lord Ilay, was not only a major figure in eighteenth-century Scottish society but also an inveterate letter-writer. In this essay, some of Ilay's letters are placed in the context of contemporary notions about the relationship between written discourse and speech, manifested especially in Ilay's practices of punctuation.

Keywords: Lord Ilay, eighteenth-century society, letters, punctuation, written discourse

One of the most significant sections of the Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing is the large collection of transcriptions and images of private letters.1 Including such a subcorpus was clearly a necessary component of the whole, since letters 'became a major text-type in the 18th century';2 'the sheer quantity of potentially available data increases dramatically',3 and such a rich source of material cannot therefore be ignored.

Recent research has shown the exceptional value of letters for historical sociolinguistics and pragmatics. Scottish materials have attracted particular attention, as in, for instance, the corpus-based work of Anneli Meurman-Solin, dealing with the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,4 Jane Dawson's recently-discovered Breadalbane Corpus, which is already attracting philological as well as historical attention,5 or Janet Cruickshank's important recent study of Scotticisms in Lord Fife's letters to his factor, William Rose, in the Duff House Papers.6

This chapter, a short contribution to a much larger long-term project, offers a qualitative analysis of two letters by one writer represented in the corpus: Archibald Campbell (1682-1761), third duke of Argyll and first earl of Ilay (the eighteenth-century spelling for 'Islay').7 For convenience, this person will hence be referred to as 'Ilay', the name by which he was commonly known for most of his career; he inherited the dukedom comparatively late in life.

Ilay's face, derived from Allan Ramsay the Younger's portrait, is very familiar to modem Scots; it still graces the modem sterling banknotes issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland, since he was the Bank's first governor. He was also, however, after a short period in the army, a prominent politician, first at the Scottish parliament but subsequently (as one of the 'representative' peers) in the Scottish grouping in the new United Kingdom's House of Lords.

Ilay was a complex man. Allan Ramsay's portrait of him, painted in 1749, depicted him in the robes of Lord Justice General, 'holding a volume containing the defence of his own great-grandfather Archibald Campbell, marquess of Argyll, against a charge of treason before the very justiciary court he headed eighty-seven years later': 'an elaborate visual pun on the basis of loyalty and disloyalty in Scotland reflecting his own sense of the ebb and flow of fortune in politics'.8 (The old marquess, leader of the Presbyterian party in mid-seventeenth-century Scotland, had been beheaded for treason in 1661.) The portrait was turned into a print, and in this form was commonly displayed in Scottish households throughout the second half of the eighteenth century: an intriguing comment on the complexities and, indeed, popularity of the Union. Ilay was - like Henry Dundas, first viscount Melville, later in the century - the 'uncrowned king' of North Britain, the new polity which many eighteenth-century Scots, especially aspirational Lowlanders, enthusiastically identified with and profited from.9

Ilay was bom in Surrey and educated at Eton and at Glasgow University, where he moved in 1698. Although he transferred to Utrecht to study civil law the following year he never lost his connexion with Glasgow, and he took a close interest in Scottish university appointments, at Glasgow and elsewhere, throughout his career (although he was never, as was once claimed, chancellor of either of Aberdeen's colleges; see his ODNB entry). His studies in the Netherlands were also short-lived, for in 1701 he began a military career, purchasing (as was customary) a colonelcy in a foot-regiment and obtaining the governorship of Dumbarton Castle. …

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