Snake Women and Hideous Sensations: The Strange Case of Gaelic Detective Short Stories by Ruaraidh Erskine of Mar (1)

By Poncarova, Petra Johana | Scottish Literary Review, Spring-Summer 2020 | Go to article overview

Snake Women and Hideous Sensations: The Strange Case of Gaelic Detective Short Stories by Ruaraidh Erskine of Mar (1)


Poncarova, Petra Johana, Scottish Literary Review


Ruaraidh Erskine of Mar (born Richard Stuart Erskine, 1869-1960), is one of the most intriguing and least examined representatives of Scottish nationalism and Gaelic revival in the early decades of the twentieth century. (2) A son of an aristocratic family descended from the Erskine earls of Buchan, Erskine learnt Gaelic from his childhood nurse, a native speaker from Harris, and was inspired by radical Irish nationalism. Unlike many of his contemporaries who did not connect the efforts to obtain devolution or full independence for Scotland with a specific linguistic and cultural agenda, Erskine considered the revival of Gaelic an essential component of a successful political emancipation.

In Donald John MacLeod's words, Erskine 'deployed his own capital and his remarkable resources of ideas and of energy to rid Gaelic literature of the influence both of its "peasant origins" and its new "enthusiasm for the music hall"' and to raise it to the best European standards of the time. (3) To this end, he founded several magazines that he edited, contributed to, and sponsored by his own means: the bilingual monthly Am Bard (The Poet, 1901-02), the quarterly Guth na Bliadbna (The Year's Voice, 1904-25, bilingual until 1919, all-Gaelic since), the weekly Alba (Scotland, 1908-09), the initially monthly and later quarterly An Sgeulaiche (The Storyteller, 1909-11), and a book-length annuals Rosarnach (The Rose Garden, 1917, 1918, 1921, 1930). (4) Erskine's motivation, as well as his elitist attitude, can be tellingly illustrated by an excerpt from a letter addressed to the Northern Chronicle in 1924 where he explains that the aim of his Gaelic magazines is

deagh litreachas anns a' chanain Ghaidhlig a chur a mach, agus mar an 
ceudna spiorad fior thuigseach leirsinneach a thaobh nithean arda an 
t-saoghail so a dhuisgeadh anns na Gaidheil air fad. Ma ghabhas so 
deanamh ann an doigh a bheir tlachd agus toileachadh do'n mhor-chuid 
de na Gaidheil, tha sinn toilichte; ach mur toir, tha sinn coma, is 
gur iad is motha leinn daonnan prionnsapla seach daoine. (5)
to publish good literature in the Gaelic language, and also to awake 
the spirit of true understanding and intelligence towards the elevated 
things of this world in all the Gaels. If it can be done in a way that 
brings pleasure and happiness to most of the Gaels, we are glad; if 
not, we do not care, for principles last longer than people.

Contributors to these publications included, amongst others, poet and playwright Domhnall Mac na Ceardaich (Donald Sinclair) as well as Iain MacCormaig (John MacCormick) and Aonghas MacDhonnchaidh (Angus Robertson), authors of the first two Gaelic novels, Dun-aluinn (Dunalin, 1912) and An t-Ogha Mor (The Great-Grandson, 1913). Though mostly short-lived (with the remarkable exception of Guth na Bliadhna) and not commercially successful, the magazines nonetheless played a vital role in the emergence of modern Gaelic journalism, literary criticism, prose, and drama.

Erskine himself contributed to the magazines in several genres--he wrote essays on a wide range of topics (including philosophy, aesthetics, history, ethnology, and politics), reviews, plays, and a number of short stories. (6) He was one of the first non-native speakers of Gaelic who decided to use the language as the medium of their creative expression, a trend which is now well-established with prominent and acclaimed authors such as Christopher Whyte and Meg Bateman, but would have been quite uncommon at the beginning of the twentieth century. As a non-native speaker, an aristocrat, and a Catholic, Erskine represents an intriguing combination of several minority strains in Gaelic literature.

In 1909-10, An Sgeulaiche, a magazine devoted primarily to Gaelic fiction, published a series of Erskine's tales 'Gniomharran Iain Mhic Ranouill' (The Adventures of John MacRonald), featuring a gentleman detective with many friends in elevated social circles who deals with stolen Velazquez paintings, murder by means of a poisoned bulbul (Erskine was perhaps trying to trump Arthur Conan Doyle and his milk-drinking, servant-bell-climbing lethal snake in 'The Speckled Band'), and manipulative spiritualists. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Snake Women and Hideous Sensations: The Strange Case of Gaelic Detective Short Stories by Ruaraidh Erskine of Mar (1)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.