James Hogg (1770-1835), the 'Ettrick Shepherd', was born to a farming family in the Scottish Borders. He earned the nickname through his work for a time as a shepherd. He taught himself to read from newspapers passed to him by the wife of his employer. Hogg began writing songs and plays and moved to Edinburgh in 1810 to pursue a full time writing career. A friend of many writers of his day including Sir Walter Scott, he was a prolific writer throughout his life, producing novels, poetry and songs up until his death.
R. L. Stevenson (1850-1894) was born in Edinburgh in 1850 and was a Scottish novelist, travel writer, essayist and poet. He spent a year on the French Riviera to recuperate from ill-health and whilst there developed his love of art. Three years spent touring the Pacific and South Seas resulted in some travel writing and formed the backdrop for many of his novels. Best known for Kidnapped and Treasure Island, Stevenson was a literary celebrity during his lifetime and now ranks among the 30 most translated authors in the world. Stevenson died in Samoa aged 44.
George Douglas Brown (1869-1902) was born in Ayrshire and educated at Glasgow University and Oxford before moving to London to embark upon a career in journalism. He was published in Blackwood's Magazine and in 1899 published a novel called Love and a Sword under a pseudonym. In 1901 his second novel, The House with the Green Shutters was published under his own name.
This is a story of
adventure and romance set in the early Scotland of saints and
swordsmen. A young, Scottish, queen must rule, and seek a husband,
whilst in imminent peril from a sea-borne Viking attack. The author,
James Hogg, claimed the tale to be true, handed down in story and
song, and many characters are historically authentic. The remnants of
Beregonium, first palace of the Scots, still exist on a vitrified,
rocky hill top. Excavations in 1874 produced the remnants of a sword,
a dagger and a ring.
Hogg was a self-taught
writer from very humble origins whose book, “The Justified Sinner”,
is regarded by many as the best Scottish novel. He liked “Queen
Hynde” the best of all his works. The character of Wicked Wene, the
queens companion, is a delightful study of the impish, teasing nature
of young girls. Sparks fly when she comes up against the bachelor
monks of Iona!
This abridged version
makes for a smoother read and retains the best poetic parts while
moving the story forward with prose commentary. Illustrations help
the reader to visualize the scene, and notes on the historical
accuracy leave you wondering how much was true.
You are left with a
lingering feeling that something dramatic once happened here. No poet
could fail to be moved by the vista that overwhelm the gaze from this
ancient site. An inspirational presence drifts in the shadows around
Beregonium awakening the poetic spirit to an awareness of the fading
echoes of a splendid past.
Whatever the truth,
standing on the mighty cliff of Dun Bhaille an Righ, the 'Fort of
the King' and gazing westwards over the magnificent bay it is easy to
imagine that great deeds once chose this land as their stage. And
that some beautiful, royal, lady gave birth to a legend whose shadows
will cling here forever.