The oral tradition and literature in Ireland and Scotland:
Popular culture in Robert Burns and Charles Maturin.
Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies, 1 (1).
In a much recounted anecdote, the writer James Hogg recalled a meeting
between Sir Walter Scott and Hogg’s mother. Responding to Scott’s interest
in whether a particular song she had sung had ever been printed, Mrs Hogg
scolded Scott’s interest in printing what were orally transmitted ballads:
[There] war never ane o’ my sangs prentit till ye prentit them yoursel’,
an’ ye have spoilt them awthegither. They were made for singin’ an’ no
for readin’; but ye hae broken the charm noo, an’ they’ll never sung
The anecdote serves perfectly to show the uneasy relationship between the
enthusiastic antiquarian, eager to ‘preserve’ remnants of an oral culture, and an
actual practitioner of that culture, suspicious of someone who transposes, and
thereby destroys, songs from an oral culture into a textual one.
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