Document 28

Prose Urquhart

Author(s): Dr John B Corbett

Copyright holder(s): University of Glasgow: Copyright © 2004 The University of Glasgow. All rights reserved.


Prose Style (2)
Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty

At the very end of last term we took a look at the way Scots prose evolved briefly in the 16th Century, developing out of the native tradition of loosely-connected OE sentences and the continental European (ultimately Latin) tradition of periodic sentences. Writers either leaned towards one style, or, like John Knox at his best, blended the two appropriately to his dramatic purposes. Today I want to concentrate on one writer, from the mid 17th Century, Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty. Urquhart is often dismissed as one of the great eccentrics of the Scottish literary tradition; I am going to argue that he is a tremendously important transitional figure. He is still a great eccentric – some of his writing is simply weird – but within the weirdness there is a disruption of the elements that marked the mediaeval and renaissance styles of prose writing, and a foretaste of the use of Scots in times to come. It also must be said from the outset that most of Urquhart's writing is in English. But occasionally, glimpses of Scots bleed through, and when they do, the way Urquhart uses his Scots is significantly modern. In a way, all modern Scots prose writers are his children, a fact possibly acknowledged by Alasdair Gray when he made Urquhart the hero of one of his 'Unlikely Stories, Mostly', 'Logopandocy', which also offers a pastiche of Urquhart's prose style.

Urquhart was born in 1611, into a Scotland that was now part of the United Kingdom. His family was Catholic, turned Episcopalian, and in the disputes between church and crown that punctuated the 17th Century, he was essentially Royalist. He attended university in Aberdeen, at the age of 11, but did not graduate. He travelled in Europe, returning to Scotland when civil war was threatening, and when it was clear that his father's refusal to sign the covenant was putting him in a difficult position. When Aberdeen was taken by Covenanting forces in 1640, Urquhart fled to England where he was accepted into the court circle, being knighted in 1641. Here, he began to write, two books of epigrams which received little attention, and a book on trigonometry which if anything established his reputation as an eccentric. This is from the trigonometry book, 'Trissotetras' (1641):

'In all plain rectangled triangles, the ambients are equall in power to the subtendent; for by demitting from the right angle a perpendicular, there will arise two correctangles, from whose equiangularity with the great rectangle will proceed such a proportion amongst the homologall sides of all the three, that if you can set them right in the rule, beginning your analogy at the main subtendent (seeing the including sides of the totall rectangle prove subtendents in the partiall correctangles, and the bases of those rectanglets, the segments of the great subtendent) it will fall out, that as the main subtendent is to his base, on either side (for either of the legs of a rectangled triangle, in reference to one another is both base and perpendicular) so the same bases, which are subtendents in the lesser rectangles, are to their bases, the segments of the prime subtendent. Then, by the golden rule, we find, that the multiplying of the middle termes (which is nothing else but the squaring of the comprehending sides of the prime rectangular) affords two products, equall to the oblongs made of the great subtendent, and his respective segments, the aggregate whereof, by equation, is the same with the square of the chief subtendent, or hypotenusa, which was to be demonstrated.'

It might not be immediately obvious, but if you vaguely remember your school geometry you might just recognise this as Pythagoras' Theorem: if you have a right-angled triangle, then the square of the hypotenuse (the long side) is the sum of the squares of the other two sides. Urqhuart takes this (reasonably simple) geometric theorem, and elaborates it to the point of absurdity – the 'Trissotetras' is a parody of the continental style of prose writing – the long periodic sentences, built up of subordinate clauses, parentheses, and embedded phrases. But as with many parodies, Urquhart seems in love with the object of his attack – there is an infectious energy to the wilful obscurity of this joke geometry treatise. The obscure Greek terms and technical neologisms give the treatise the attraction of nonsense poetry – it might be argued that a Scot writing in English (still at this time a foreign dialect if not a foreign accent) is more likely to accentuate the foreigness of his written medium. It is a strategy used much later in prose by James Joyce (in 'Finnegan's Wake') and in poetry by Hugh MacDiarmid (in his later poems in 'synthetic English', such as 'On a Raised Beach'). Certainly Urquhart's English is never straightforward.

Urquhart was part of the court circle in England for three years; however, on the death of his father he returned to manage the estate in Cromarty, combining this with spells of travel abroad. He was appalled at the execution of Charles I and in 1649 and 1650 he joined with Royalist uprisings in Scotland against the republican side in England. He was captured at the battle of Worcester and spent time imprisoned in the Tower of London and then in Windsor Castle. Alasdair Gray's short story imagines a meeting between the Scottish Royalist and the Latin secretary to Oliver Cromwell, a man by the name of John Milton. One result of this imprisonment was that Urquhart was told that his lands in Scotland would be forfeited if he could not demonstrate that he deserved to keep possession of them. Urquhart decided that the best way to demonstrate his worth was to fulfil his literary ambitions, and so he set about writing and publishing four books between 1652 and 1653, all with the express purpose of showing that their author was a heroic figure, a prodigious intellectual from a noble family. The first book, 'Pantochronocanon', constructs a family tree that traces the Urquhart family line all the way back to Adam; the second, 'Ekskubalauron' (now known better by its subtitle, 'The Jewel'), sets about drawing up the principles for a very useful universal language, but also contains passages of narrative about a character called 'The Admirable Crichton', a heroic Scot in Europe. 'Ekskubalauron', like most of Urquhart's book titles, is a new word, coined from Greek: it literally means 'gold out of dung', and the English title 'The Jewel' is a reference to the fable of the Cock and the Jasp that Henryson has a version of. The third book, 'Logopandecteision', is largely a reprint of the previous book, with some additional passages attacking Urquhart's religious foes and creditors. The part of 'The Jewel' most often anthologised is the scene where the Admirable Crichton puts on a dramatic performance at the court at Mantua, playing fifteen characters on stage for five hours, so successfully that he has various ladies fainting in the audience. After his triumph, he goes to meet his lover, and the subsequent assignation combines Urqhuart's passionate interest in sex, astronomy, the construction of sundials, Greek and Latin vocabulary…and, of course, grammar:

'Thus for a while their eloquence was mute, and all they spoke was but with the eye and hand, yet so persuasively, by vertue of the intermutual unlimitedness of their visotactil sensation, that each part and portion of the persons of either was obvious to the sight and touch of the persons of both; the visuriency of either, by ushering the tacturiency of both, made the attrectation of both consequent to the inspection of either. Here it was that passion was active, and action passive, they both being overcome by other, and each the conquerour. To speak of her hirquitalliency at the elevation of the pole of his microcosme, or of his luxuriousness to erect a gnomon on her horizontal dyal, will perhaps be held by some to be expressions full of obscoeness, and offensive to the purity of chaste ears; yet seeing she was to be his wife, and that she could not be such without consummation of marriage, which signifieth the same thing in effect, it may be thought, as definitiones logicae verificantur in rebus, if the exerced act be lawful, that the diction which suppones it, can be of no greater transgression, unless you would call it a solaecisme, or that vice in grammar which imports the copulating of the masculine with the feminine gender.

visotactil: involving sight & touch
hirquitalliency: delighted shouts
visuriency: desire to be looked at
gnomon: rod
tacturiency: desire to be touched
solaecisme: error in grammar/etiquette
attrectation: touching with hands
exerced act: performed act
definitiones logicae verificantur in rebus: logical definitions are verified by actual things'

This might be the first sex scene in Scottish prose. John Knox it ain't, and not just because it plays about with metaphors for sexual congress: the rising of the pole star, the erection of a rod on a sundial, and the ungrammatical 'copulation' of a masculine subject with a feminine complement. The prose style is very unlike the plain style that we have inherited from the reformers. Again, we have the elaborate periodic sentences, the neologisms coined from Latin and Greek, and (as in the joke geometry book) a wildly elaborate habit of circumlocution – of avoiding direct statement of a simple fact ('they had sex') in favour of absurd euphemisms and obscure allusions, even Latin tags. The prose style can be termed 'baroque' after the excessively decorated, grotesquely ornate architecture of the late renaissance.

It is a translation of another baroque work, Urquhart's last major literary effort while imprisoned, that is his greatest and most lasting achievement – the translation from French of three of François Rabelais' comic prose narratives about the giants Gargantua and Pantagruel. Rabelais (c1494-c1553) was a Franciscan monk, then a physician, and subsequently a satirist. His satires, which he began publishing in 1532, were highly successful, but condemned by the church because of their mockery of religious practices. After the publication of the third book in the series, he actually had to flee to Metz, where he practised medicine and continued publishing there. The choice of a tremendously rude, surreal anticlerical satire to translate in order to impress a puritanical republican administration still strikes me as odd, even though the anticlerical satire is directed at the Catholic church. AD Mackie has argued that 'It wes a Scot, Sir Tam Urquhart, that owreset Rabelais inti a Suthron muckle enrichit bi Lallans' but if you take a look at Urquhart's Rabelais, then you're hard-pressed to find much evidence of Scots in it. You also have to remember that Urquhart in all his major works is writing for a very specific audience, namely his English captors and political foes – he needs to impress them in order to protect his land. It would be odd to write largely in Scots for such a specific English-reading audience. Moreover, Urquhart is writing at a time when Scots has gone out of fashion, even in Scotland, as a decorous written medium for literature. English is reaching its final phase of standardisation – there is not yet a great English dictionary, authoritatively setting down the normative spelling for each English word, but there are spelling books, and even bilingual word-books in English and other languages. Urquhart demonstrably had access to one of these bilingual word-books, Randle Cotgrave's 'Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues'. RJ Craik has conclusively demonstrated the extent to which Urqhuart relied on Cotgrave's dictionary, consulting it for even the most familiar French words. Cotgrave had a special symbol [R] for those words in his dictionary invented by Rabelais, and as a word-coiner himself, Urquhart would no doubt have enjoyed this aspect of Rabelais' style. It has often been said that Urquhart out-does Rabelais, using six descriptive words where Rabelais only uses four (his translation of the first three books of Rabelais is half again as long as his source text), but Craik shows that often this lexical abundancy in Urquhart derives ultimately from Cotgrave. If Cotgrave defines one of Rabelais' terms with three English words, Urquhart simply uses them all. As Craik says:

'To the already grotesque and gigantic world of 'Gargantua and Pantagruel' the transplanting of Cotgrave's synonyms and variants adds still more colour while leaving unaltered the structural details of Rabelais' tale. Once the reader is familiar with Urquhart's expansive methods, he may suspect the occasions when Cotgrave is consulted, especially when he encounters short lists, or pairs of words joined by "and" or "or"'. (Craik, 1993: 138)

Urquhart's use of Cotgrave as a point of linguistic reference is significant in the steady decline of the use of Scots in the 17th Century as a formal, public, high-style language. Cotgrave's after all is a dictionary of French and English; the first extensive monolingual Scots dictionary, Jamieson's, would not appear until the early 19th Century. The only bilingual dictionaries of Scots so far to have appeared are Scots-English, not Scots-French or Scots-Spanish. As a translator, then, Urquhart had to depend on sources that pushed him further towards English usage. Even so, there are episodes in Urqhuart's Rabelais when Scots can be found. And when you do, it's interesting to see what Urquhart is doing with it. I want to focus on two examples. The first occurs when Pantagruel meets Panurge, and the two characters attempt to converse. The problem is that they do not speak the same language. In Rabelais, Panurge attempts to communicate in various languages, ranging from the familiar, to the obscure and invented: German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Basque, Danish, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Puzlatory and Buffoonish. To this sequence of 'double dutch' attempts at communication, Urquhart adds the following:

'Then said Panurge, Lard, ghest tholb be sua virtuis be intelligence ass yi body schall biss naturall relvth, tholb suld of me pety have; for natur hass ulss egualy maide; bot fortune sum exaltit hess and oyis deprevit. Non ye less viois mou virtius deprevit and virtiuss men discrivis, for anen ye lad end iss non gud. Yet lesse said Pantagruel…
('Gargantua and Pantagruel', Bk 2, Ch IX)'

The 'double dutch' that Panurge is speaking here seems to be older Scots. There are other elements in it: the <y> is an archaic representation of <th> (the same <y> as in <ye olde coffee shoppe>) but if this is largely nonsense, then it's nonsense in something like Scots. One giant seems to be saying to the other: 'Lord, if you are so virtuous by intelligence as your body shall be naturally merciful, you should have pity on me, for nature has made us equally; but fortune has exalted some and deprived others' – but it is difficult to make out the rest. There are here some Scots markers, several of which we saw last term: the recognisably Scots <schall>, <sua>, <exaltit>, <deprevit>, <discrivis> [describes], <anen> and <gud>. What is significant about this passage is that Urquhart is implicitly associating older Scots texts with obscure and unreadable language: Panurge's plea is not understood by Pantagruel because it is in a barely comprehensible form of language. Half a century after the Union of the Crowns the very language written at the Scottish court during the late king's earlier life is now regarded as archaic, obscure, 'double dutch'. We can hear the death knell for Scots as a potential formal standard; it is by Urquhart's time, quite literally, a joke. What future then is there for written Scottish prose? Urquhart, in another brief passage from 'Pantagruel', gives us a clue.

In this passage, Pantagruel encounters a pretentious student from provincial Limoges, a 'Limousin'. The student (in the original text) makes the mistake of affecting the latinised French of the capital, and the giant decides to take him down a peg:

'By G—(said Pantagruel), I will teach you to speak, but first come hither, and tell me whence thou art? To this the Scholar answered: The primeval origin of my aves and ataves was indigenerie of the Lemovick regions, where requiesceth the corpor of the hagiotat St. Martial. I understand thee very well (said Pantagruel), when all comes to all, thou art a Limousin, and thou wilt here by thy affected speech counterfeit the Parisiens: well, now, come hither, I must shew thee a new trick, and handsomely give thee combfeat: with this he took him by the throat, saying to him, Thou flayest the Latine: by St. John, I will make thee flay the foxe, for I will now flay thee alive: Then began the poor Limousin to cry; Haw, gwid Maaster, haw, Laord, my halp and St. Marshaw, haw, I'm worried: Haw, my thropple, the bean of my cragg is bruck! Haw, for gauad's seck, lawt my lean, Mawster; waw, waw, waw. Now (said Pantagruel) thou speakest naturally, and so let him go, for the poor Limousin had totally berayed, and throughly conshit his breeches…'

'…but this hug of Pantagruels was such a terrour to him all the dayes of his life, and took such deep impression in his fancie, that very often, distracted with sudden affrightments, he would startle and say that Pantagruel held him by the neck; besides that it procured him in a continual drought and desire to drink, so that after some few years he died of the death Roland, in plain English called thirst, a work of divine vengeance, shewing us that which saith the Philosopher and Aulus Gellius, that it becometh us to speak according to the common language: and that we should, (as said Octavian Augustus) strive to shun all strange and unknown termes with as much heedfulnesse and circumspection as Pilots of ships use to avoid the rocks and banks in the sea.('Gargantua and Pantagruel', Bk 2, Ch VI)'

The code-switching in this passage is fascinating: the dominant narrative is in English, as is the direct speech of Pantagruel. This, then, is the privileged, prestigious code. The direct speech of the Limousin, initially affected and then 'naturally' provincial, is first of all the latinised English that Urquhart affects elsewhere in his writings, as we have seen, and then secondly the localised Aberdeenshire of his upbringing and university days. This is not the pastiche older Scots of the passage we looked at earlier: the phonetic spellings point to very specific regional Scots: the /w/ in <gwid>, the long vowels in <Maaster, gauad> and the dropping of the /l/ in <Marshaw> are not part of traditional Scots orthography; they are spellings that represent the author's own regional accent. There are also more general Scots expressions -- <thrapple>, throat, <cragg> neck, <my lean> alone – but here we have the use of phonetic spellings in direct speech dramatically to represent a provincial Scotsman…a technique that will be taken up to some extent by the poets of the 18th Century and the novelists and dramatists of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

The Limousin is the object of linguistic and social mockery in the passage, yet it is difficult not to identify the Limousin with Urquhart himself. Urquhart, like his fellow Scots, would have been a provincial at Charles I's court, his 'natural' north-eastern speech would have seemed rustic and comic in London, and in his writing he often affected an obscure style deliberately drenched in Latin and Greek neologisms and borrowings. Self-mockery is not widely considered to be one of Urquhart's more obvious characteristics – rather the reverse – but he must have recognised aspects of his own history in the language of the Limousin. It is therefore all the more poignant, as well as ironic, when a few lines after the encounter with Pantagruel, we are told that the Limousin died of an enormous thirst and that this is evidence of divine vengeance on those who use affected language.

This is an important point in the linguistic history of literary Scots. As the move towards a standard Scots is arrested in the late 16th Century, we find the rise in the 17th Century of a range of non-standard varieties, that can carry regional and social meanings that a deracinated, homogenised standard cannot. Scottish writers who use specific varieties of Scots to identify the social and regional roots of their characters can trace their literary genealogy back to that arch genealogist, Urquhart.

Urquhart's importance is undervalued, I think. Possibly this is because none of his books made much impact at the time – they were, perhaps, considered too eccentric, as I have said, and the lack of response made Urquhart abandon his translation of Rabelais after Book 3. Later readers and writers recognised his worth, though. In the 18th Century, Sir Alexander Fraser Tytler, a Scotsman who wrote the first English-language prose essay on the theory of translation, singled Urquhart out for special praise, despite his vulgarity. The Urquhart translation of Rabelais is by common consent the finest of all English-language versions, and remains in print today – it is the cheap Everyman edition, for example, probably for copyright reasons as much as its literary worth. And Urquhart influences all later translations of Rabelais into English, including JM Cohen's modern translation for the Penguin Classics series, done in the mid 1950's. In his introduction, Cohen acknowledges his debt to Urquhart 'for a phrase' here and there. In the Limousin episode, the homage goes further:

'By God,' cried Pantagruel, 'I'll teach you to speak. But before I do so, tell me one thing. Where do you come from?'
To which the scholar replied: 'The primeval origin of my aves and ataves was indigenous to the Lemovic regions, where requiesces the corpus of the hagiotate Saint Martial.'
'I understand you all right,' said Pantagruel. 'What it comes to is that you're a Limousin, and here you want to play the Parisian. Well, come on then, and I'll give you a combing.' Then he took him by the throat and continued, 'You murder Latin, by Saint John, I'll make you skin the fox. I'll skin you alive.'
Then the poor Limousin began to plead: 'Haw, guid master! Haw lordie! Help me, St Marshaw. Ho, let me alane, for Gaud's sake and dinna hairm me!'
Whereupon Pantagruel replied, 'Now you're speaking naturally,' and released him.
('Gargantua and Pantagruel', trans. JM Cohen, Bk 2, Ch IX)

It's interesting to compare Cohen's and Urquhart's use of Scots in this passage. Where Urquhart opts for a more localised variety – his Limousin is obviously Aberdonian – Cohen opts for a more generalised rural Scotsman. His spelling of <guid> is more standardised, and could be pronounced in various ways (. Cohen can be considered an English translator, using a generalised Scots speech to brand the Scotsman as provincial; Urqhuart's specific use of his native Aberdonian to do the same thing is powerfully indicative of how upper-class Scots of his time were beginning to perceive the way they spoke – they, too, are beginning to associate it with provincialism and low comedy. Only seventy years before Urquhart's translation, as we have seen, King James VI was commissioning translations into Scots and writing advice for Scottish poets in the Scots tongue. By Urquhart's time, the written language of these translations seems quaint and obscure, and its spoken equivalent is regarded as unsophisticated and comic. English seemed to have triumphed… but in Urquhart's prose there are also clues to the way Scots will be revived. It will have the dramatic power to represent the spoken voice, particularly the voice of the peasant, the worker on the land, and it will be able to dramatise that voice in all its local and social specificity, in a way that a bland standard English cannot.

I want, in conclusion, to touch on a topic related to Urquhart's use of language in the Rabelais translation that is potentially rich but strangely unexplored. Rabelais figures large in the critical writings of the early 20th Century Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin. Bakhtin wrote on numerous topics, including psychology (a critique of Freud), language (a critique of Saussure) and literature (discourse and the novel; Rabelais and the concept of 'carnival'). I know that Chris Whyte lectures to you on the way Bakhtinian concepts of carnival can be applied to 18th Century poems like 'Christis Kirk on the Grene' and Burns' 'The Holy Fair'; it's worth, then, looking briefly at how Bakhtinian concepts of discourse and carnival apply to the Scottish translation of the author that inspired them, Rabelais.

For Bakhtin, Rabelais falls into the baroque tradition in early prose writing. As we have seen, Urquhart's writings fall into this tradition too – if anything, they out-baroque Rabelais, adding ornamentation to an already ornate style. The baroque decoration in Urquhart is also in the line of descent from the high style, latinate poetry of the mediaeval makers, as mediated by the polished periodic sentences of the (particularly Catholic) renaissance prose writers. These were traditions that were ultimately to be swept away by the plain style prose of the victorious reformers in the 16th Century. For Bakhtin, the distinctive stylistic characteristic of the novel is its potential for polyphony and heteroglossia, that is, its ability to contain (a) different languages, and (b) different social varieties and registers. We have seen these qualities in the passages from 'The Jewel' and 'Gargantua and Pantagruel'. In the former, the registers associated with astronomy and grammar are mixed comically with a narrative relating a sexual encounter. The English is semi-latinate, and we even find a Latin proverb. In the latter, the situation is even more complicated: latinate English and then Aberdonian dialect represent the French of Paris and Limoges, respectively, and plainer English represents French. The distribution of varieties delineates the characters of plain-speaking Pantagruel, and the affected Limousin scholar. The translation picks up resonances specific to the translator: the mock-Latin and Aberdonian echo the writing and accent of Urquhart himself, and the apostrophe to St Martial (or St Marshaw) might remind us that the young Urquhart attended Aberdeen University, whose principal college is St Martial's College. Bakhtin's view of language is that it is primarily dialogic: all speech and writing is a response to someone else's speech and writing, and is formulated in anticipation of a further response. This dialogic process is particularly appropriate to translation: Urquhart's 'Pantagruel' is a response to Rabelais' Pantagruel, and both anticipate Cohen's 'Pantagruel'. Urquhart borrows and reshapes Rabelais language, mediated by Cotgrave's dictionary, adding and subtracting meanings as he goes, and Cohen borrows and reshapes Rabelais, mediated by Urquhart's translation. No text appears from a vacuum; each must be viewed as the result of a continuing dialogue between a multiplicity of authors and their texts. (There is an argument for rethinking late 16th Century Scottish poetry and prose as a Bakhtinian dialogue between Scottish writers and Scottish, English and continental texts and readers…but I'll leave that to one of you to pick up as an Honours dissertation.)

A final point about the Bakhtinian concept of carnival. As this is a literary concept it might not seem to have much linguistic relevance, but I think it does. Bakhtin linked the notion of carnival to his critique of Freud. Bakhtin liked the notion of the conscious and the unconscious, but did not like Freud's implication that they were biologically innate, that they were somehow there, in the realm of the mind. Bakhtin reinterpreted Freud in social and linguistic terms: consciousness was redefined as that which could be articulated, and the unconscious was that which could not be articulated, or that which was not yet articulated. Since all language is dialogue, it follows that expression – the ability to articulate – exists in the 'border zone' between the individual and society. There is pressure from society to articulate particular concepts and to suppress others; there is pressure from individual, with his or her often transgressive desires, to articulate things of which 'official' society does not approve. Bakhtin, of course, was writing in a period of Stalinist oppression – he was sentenced to internal exile for his work, and apparently published under the pseudonyms of several of his friends, one of whom was subsequently sacked from his university post, tried and shot. 'Carnival' for Bakhtin was freedom of expression: the rude, surreal, scatalogical, low and violent humour of the pompous Limousin shitting himself as he is throttled by the giant represents the victory of the individual's primal desires against the decorous, polite, regulating forces of official consciousness. The literary-linguistic upshot of all this is that the rules of decorum, codified in the late 16th Century in Scots by a Scottish king, the very epitome, after all, of official consciousness, get thrown away. Parody and an energetic mixture of styles take over in carnivalesque writing. It's not new – you can argue that 'The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo' is carnivalesque: the primal desires of the women are pitched against the official consciousness of the eavesdropping male. The widow's advice to her younger friends parodies in exact detail the structure of a saint's life, as she tells them her history of seduction, blackmail and debauchery. And it's there in Urquhart, in spades: in the use of technical and erudite language to portray the sexual congress of two lovers, and in the use of baroque prose and high language to tell the scatalogical adventures of a family of giants and their comic encounters as they wander through France.

I hope I've managed to endear Urquhart to you. In some ways his prose is manifestly of its time: the long, complex periodic sentences, adorned with classical borrowings and Latin tags, harked back to a continental tradition that became associated in Scotland and England with Catholic apologists, and the Episcopalian royalist, Urquhart, falls into that category. The reformers won out, and we are the inheritors of a plain style as the vehicle for unadorned truth, and we are suspicious of purple patches. With Urquhart, of course, there are no purple patches: it's purple, all the way through. Yet in other ways his writings are curiously modern: the fondness for parody, the excesses, and – most pertinently for this class – his very occasional use of Scots in direct speech to localise a character by region (if not yet by class). Urquhart was released from prison, and he spent the last years of his life in exile, in Holland. He died suddenly in 1660, on the same day that Charles II, supported by Scottish troops, was restored to the crown of the United Kingdom. His death is reported to be the result of an excessive fit of laughter on hearing the news – an appropriate way to go.

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Information about Document 28

Prose Urquhart


Text audience

Adults (18+)
Informed lay people
Audience size 21-100

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Word count 5187

Text setting


Text type

Prepared text (e.g. lecture/talk, sermon, public address/speech)
Other Lecture


Author details

Author id 608
Title Dr
Forenames John
Initials B
Surname Corbett
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1950
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation University Professor
Place of birth Ayr
Region of birth S Ayr
Birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Bridge of Weir
Region of residence Renfrew
Residence CSD dialect area Renfr
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Insurance Broker
Father's place of birth Auchinleck
Father's region of birth S Ayr
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Dental Receptionist
Mother's place of birth Ayr
Mother's region of birth S Ayr
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes In most everyday situations
Portuguese Yes No No Yes When trying to communicate with my in-laws
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes In domestic/activist circles; reading literature