Saturday, 24 August 2013

True, Imaginary and Cyber Friends ... and Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford

Suddenly, this blog has attracted more traffic.  (I wonder if anyone found me after I spoke at the Vitae Part-Time Researchers' conference in Glasgow yesterday morning?  I spoke about embracing the challenge of part-time research.  If you thought my subtitle was rather Gothic, you're about to find out why!)

Welcome to my personal research blog.  It's called 'True Imaginary Friends' because I started it while I was working on turning my doctoral thesis into a book.  I had a mug which I only used when I was writing - it bore the slogan, 'Writer's block is when your imaginary friends stop talking to you'.  And that was it - my blog was born.  My thesis, and subsequent book, are on the subject of historic Scottish song collecting.  The topic lent itself to a chronological treatment, and I grew to know those song collectors very well.  So well that I couldn't go to Edinburgh without feeling as though half my Victorian friends were hanging around on street corners and tailing behind me close on my heels.  Not just imaginary friends, then.  Real, true imaginary friends.

Callander and Campbell

Mr Callander was a particularly persistent ghost, and Alexander Campbell has dragged me all over the place, including to the church where he used to be organist.  (It isn't even a church now, but it's been renovated to a staggeringly high standard inside, notwithstanding.  It's far too good to be 'just' financial services offices, and I hope the office-workers appreciate their good fortune!)

I digress.  If you've found me here because you share my interests in Scottish songs, Scottish cultural history, book history, or arts research methodology, then welcome!  I'd call you a 'cyber friend', but that sounds somewhat sinister.  I'm a scholar-librarian and musicologist, and not in the least scary, I can assure you.

Sir Walter Scott

Walter Scott deserves a mention today, too.  I went to Abbotsford last Saturday, with the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.  It was a bit drizzly and damp, but we had a great day, with erudite commentary on the bus there, and the curator of Abbotsford as our guide when we got there.  I've wanted to go there for a few years now, but it has been closed for a couple of years for renovation.  I'm glad I had to wait - as time has passed, I kept on coming across references to Scott, and I've taken particular interest in his Border ballads; his poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrel';, and his novel, The Antiquary.  
Scott also gave poems to Alexander Campbell, to be set to music in Campbell's two-volume Albyn's Anthology, and was very friendly with Margaret and Anna Maclean-Clephane, and their mother Marianne; I've written about this Mull family quite extensively, most recently in the International Review of the Sociology and Aesthetics of Music (Vol.44 no.1).

But most importantly, I'm interested in any aspect of the contemporary arguments about authenticity versus fakery or forgery.  And - you heard it first here - Scott's home, Abbotsford, is a perfect metaphor for the attitudes of his age.  Was this bit of panelling real, or fake? Was this glass stained, or painted?  Was this artefact old, or merely a pretence at something old?  That was exactly what antiquarians and literary people argued about in the 1810s and 1820s.  

So, I had a lovely day at Abbotsford.  It was a bit like my visit to the Robert Burns museum a couple of months ago, though.  I had to remember that I am a mature adult, and remind myself it would be wholly inappropriate to sit cross-legged on the floor, refusing to leave until I'd absorbed every last drop of atmosphere!  The ghost of Sir Walter Scott smiled benignly.  I think he was pleased that I had made the intellectual connection between his house and the ballads and songs that he and his circle 'collected' so assiduously.  Or did they collect them?!!

Do come back and visit my blog again!  Thank you for your interest.

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