Historical Reprints History Proverbs of Scotland

Proverbs of Scotland

Proverbs of Scotland
Catalog # SKU2269
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Alexander Hislop


Proverbs of Scotland

Alexander Hislop

THE gathering together of the Proverbs of Scotland has occupied the attention of several collectors. The earliest work on the subject which has been traced is that of Beaton, Archbishop of Glasgow, who, about the time of the Reformation, made a small collection. The definite information which we have of this work is so very slight, however, that it has been of little or no value to subsequent collectors and writers on the subject. The first collection of importance is the well-known one made by the Rev. David Fergusson, minister of Dunfermline, who was a contemporary of Archbishop Beaton. Fergusson's collection, which numbered 940 proverbs, was, all circumstances considered, a very commendable one; and it has served as a foundation to the labours of subsequent workers in the same field. The next is that of James Kelly, published in London in 1721.

This volume contains nearly 3000 proverbs, and is very carefully arranged, with notes and parallel illustrations. The collection of Kelly is an able and valuable one, as he was perfectly conversant with the subject of proverbs generally; but we are compelled to agree with Motherwell, when he says that this writer's rendering of the Scottish dialect is "most barbarous;" nor do we wonder that it excited the profound contempt of Allan Ramsay, who, from his thorough knowledge of the Scottish vernacular, was openly indignant at the reputation gained by Kelly's work, and made a collection himself, which was published at Edinburgh in 1763.

In a sensible but pedantic preface, which he addressed to the "Tenantry of Scotland, Farmers of the Dales, and Storemasters of the Hills," he states his reasons for issuing a work on the subject, and strongly recommends the use of proverbs, particularly among the agricultural portion of the community. After alluding to the work of Kelly as a "late large book of them, fou of errors, in a style neither Scots nor English," he goes on to say:-"As naething helps our happiness mair than to hae the mind made up with right principles, I desire you, for the thriving and pleasure of you and yours, to use your een and lend your lugs to these guid auld says, that shine with wail'd sense, and will as lang as the world wags. Gar your bairns get them by heart; let them hae a place among your family books; and may never a window-sole through the country be without them. On a spare hour, when the day is clear, behind a rick, or on the green howm, draw the treasure frae your pouch and enjoy the pleasant companion. Ye happy herds, while your hirdsels are feeding on the flowery braes, you may eithly mak yoursels maisters of the hale ware! How usefou it will prove to you (wha hae sae few opportunities of common clattering) when you forgather with your friends at kirk or market, banquet or bridal! By your proficiency, you'll be able, in a proverbial way, to keep up the soul of a conversation, that is baith blythe and usefou."

Nearly a hundred years elapsed before a new collection appeared, although, during that period, many editions of the works which we have mentioned were brought out to supply the demands of a proverb-loving public. In 1832, the collection formed by Andrew Henderson was published at Glasgow. It is based upon the previous books, and is a very extensive one, although in arrangement it is defective. This collection, which is more ample than the former ones, has the advantage of an elaborate historical and literary disquisition on the general subject, in the form of an introduction by the poet Motherwell, which is allowed to be one of the most interesting and comprehensive papers on proverbs which has yet appeared.

The present collection of Scottish Proverbs, the first edition of which appeared in 1862, while it is the most extensive and systematic that has yet appeared, claims to be little more than a mere mechanical compilation. It was suggested by the work of Henderson, and has been carefully collated with it, and also with the previous collections of Fergusson, Kelly, and Ramsay. Large additions have been made from various sources, such as the works of Sir Walter Scott, Galt, Hogg, and other national writers, while not a few have been picked up and registered as they fell from the lips of friends and strangers with whom the compiler came in contact.

Throughout the volume, a considerable number of notes are introduced. These notes the compiler had some hesitation in inserting, from a feeling that many of them were mere literal explanations or illustrations, conveying generally but a very poor idea of the deeper meaning which the proverbs themselves are capable of yielding; and also in deference to opinions which have been expressed as to the propriety of adding notes to a collection of proverbs at all, as every reader of intelligence is competent to put an individual construction upon each, suited to circumstances; while the very wide inferences and applications which can be extracted from many of them, render the adapting of a brief and satisfactory note, in many cases, an impossibility.

As it is, however, little merit is claimed for them; and if they are found to be of no aid in facilitating an interpretation, they will, at least, tend to relieve the monotonous or catalogue effect, so to speak, which is apt to be felt by many readers when perusing works arranged in alphabetical order. In all cases where the compiler could adapt a quotation or parallel proverb, he did so in preference to inserting an original note. To apply a proverb from the collection, it is hoped that, after all, the notes will be found no worse than "Like a chip among parritch-little gude, little ill." A simple but comprehensive Glossary is appended, containing and explaining the meaning of the Scottish words to be found in the book.

Of course, in a work of this nature, it is impossible to prevent redundancies and repetitions; and when it is mentioned that the gathering and arrangement of the first edition of this little work occupied the leisure hours of six years, and a similar period during the preparation of the present, it will be readily understood that many of the faults are to be attributed to the length of time which elapsed during its compilation.

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TGS Publishing Note:
This is a facsimile book of an original printing. TGS invested in software and equipment in late 2008 that really increased the quality and speed to create facsimile books. This investment helps overcome many problems of reproducing many older books, such as yellowed pages, stains, see-thru or onion skin type paper, colored paper, brown inks, etc. These are scanned pages, not 'copied' pages, and the quality of print truly represents the quality of the print of the original book, though we may have been able to enhance or darken the print. We are proud to be able to preserve this work through new technology.

365+ pages - 8½ x 7 softcover