Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border

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(3 vols 1802–3),

a collection of ballads compiled by Sir W. Scott, who divided them into three sections, Historical Ballads, Romantic Ballads, and Imitations of the Ancient Ballad. He was aided by various friends and advisers, who included Leyden, J. Hogg, R. Surtees, and many old women (including Hogg's mother) who kept alive the oral traditions. The extent to which Scott himself altered and improved on the texts has been much discussed. In his introduction Scott stated a patriotic intention: ‘By such efforts, feeble as they are, I may contribute somewhat to the history of my native country; the peculiar features of whose manners and character are daily melting and dissolving into those of her sister and ally.’ According to Motherwell, Scott later in life regretted the extent of his editorial work. The volumes contain many well‐known ballads, including ‘The Wife of Usher's Well’ (its first printing) and ‘The Twa Corbies’, in a version that M. J. C. Hodgart (The Ballads, 1950) claims is ‘largely of Scott's making’.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Sir Walter Scott (1771—1832) poet and novelist

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