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Ringan Gilhaize or The Covenanters   By: (1779-1839)

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Transcriber's note

Inconsistencies in language and dialect found in the original book have been retained. Minor punctuation errors have been changed without notice. Printer errors have been changed and are listed at the end.

RINGAN GILHAIZE

Their constancy in torture and in death These on Tradition's tongue still live, these shall On History's honest page be pictured bright To latest times.

GRAHAME'S SABBATH.

Ringan Gilhaize

OR

THE COVENANTERS

BY

JOHN GALT

AUTHOR OF

" Annals of the Parish ," " Sir Andrew Wylie ," " The Entail ," Etc.

EDITED, WITH AN INTRODUCTION, BY

Sir GEORGE DOUGLAS, Bart.

London GREENING & CO., LTD. 20 Cecil Court, Charing Cross Road 1899

INTRODUCTION

A NEGLECTED MASTERPIECE

There have, of course, been many men of genius who have united with great laxity and waywardness in their lives a high and perfect respect for their art; but instances of the directly contrary practice are much rarer, and among these there is probably none more prominent than that of the author of Ringan Gilhaize . Gifted by nature with a faculty which was at once brilliant, powerful and genial, he led an industrious life, the upright and generally exemplary character of which has never for a moment been called in question. But, in the sphere of his art, it is as undeniable as unaccountable that he cared little or nothing to do his best. The haps or whims of the moment seem, indeed, to have governed his production with an influence as of stars malign or fortunate. Furthermore, we know that the profession of authorship that most distinguished of all professions, as, speaking in sober sadness without arrogance, we cannot but be bold to call it that profession from which he was himself so well equipt to derive honour was held by him in low esteem. So that, speaking of the time of his residence in Upper Canada, he thinks no shame to observe that he did then consider himself qualified to do something more useful than "stringing blethers[1] into rhyme," or "writing 'clishmaclavers' in a closet." And again says he, "to tell the truth, I have sometimes felt a little shamefaced in thinking myself so much an author, in consequence of the estimation in which I view the profession of book making in general. A mere literary man an author by profession stands low in my opinion." Such remarks as these from a man of commanding literary talent are the reverse of pleasant reading. But let us deal with the speaker, as we would ourselves be dealt by mercifully, and regard these petulant utterances as a mere expression of bitterness or perversity in one much tried and sorely disappointed. Even so, the fact remains that the sum of Galt's immense and varied production exhibits inequalities of execution for which only carelessness or contempt in the worker for his task can adequately account. We shall presently have occasion to speak of him in his relation to the great contemporary writer to whose life and work his own work and life present so many interesting points of similarity and diversity; but we may here note that, in the glaringly disparate character of his output, the author of The Provost is in absolute contrast to the author of The Antiquary . For, if Scott's work viewed as a whole be rarely of the very finest literary quality, its evenness within its own limits is on the other hand very striking indeed. For, of his twenty seven novels, there are perhaps but three which fall perceptibly below the general level of excellence; whilst probably any one of at least as many as six or eight might by a quorum of competent judges be selected as the best of all. And hence, where in the case of other authors we are called on to read this masterpiece or those specimens, and, having done so, are held to have acquitted ourselves, in the case of Scott we cannot feel that we have done our duty till we have read through the Waverley Novels... Continue reading book >>




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