You Might Not've Known This Was Scottish
From three years of living in Edinburgh, I’ve had a lot of aha moments with Scotland’s influence on literature and arts.
This post might expand in the future, and I know there are a lot of things I am missing out, but I wanted to give my fellow Americans insight on some things Scottish.
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
This was written by Edinburgh-born author Robert Louis Stevenson and published in 1886. You might know the story as a man with dual personalities, Dr. Henry Jekyll and his alter-ego, evil Edward Hyde. You might not know that this story was inspired by real-life Deacon Brodie, resident of Edinburgh, and an Edinburgh city councillor by day and a burglar by night. There’s a pub named after him on the Lawnmarket.
If you grew up in northeastern USA, you might only know Jekyll and Hyde from the “haunted” restaurant in New York City that your sadistic father would take you to when you’re a child, complete with an elevator that gives the optical illusion of sharp daggers coming down on you and in between eating your personal pizza and dessert, a performance of Frankenstein’s monster come to life.
Fun fact: I thought it was always called “Jaclyn Hyde”.
Catcher in the Rye
Catcher in the Rye, the novel on every Junior Year English course curriculum was written by J.D. Salinger who is indeed American. But, did you know where the title of this novel comes from?
“You know that song ‘If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye’? I’d like—”
“It's 'If a body meet a body coming through the rye'!" old Phoebe said. "It's a poem. By Robert Burns."
"I know it's a poem by Robert Burns."
She was right, though. It is "If a body meet a body coming through the rye." I didn't know it then, though.
Yes, Holden misunderstood the lyrics to a poem written in 1782 by Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns titled “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye”.
Fun fact: In Scotland, Robert Burns’ birthday is a national holiday celebrated as “Burns Night”, where Scots celebrate with a Burns supper of haggis and Scotch whisky, and recite Burns’ poem “Address to a Haggis”.
Last week I spoke to my fellow PhD friend about her studies on Scottish novelist and playwright, J.M. Barrie. When I admitted I didn’t know who he was, nor did I think I’d have a clue what he wrote, she told me he wrote Peter Pan and I went “Oh!” Because, one, I had no idea Peter Pan was a book and two, I had no idea Peter Pan was written by a Scot!
Fun fact: Barrie and Stevenson were of the same era and wrote letters to each other.
The Wind in the Willows /
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
This children’s novel written by Edinburgh-born Kenneth Grahame was before my time (published in 1908), but I do remember Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad cartoon movie.
Yes, the author of the Sherlock Holmes series, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh! Sadly I didn’t know that until a Japanese film crew approached me and my boyfriend in Princes Street Gardens this summer to ask us about it. (I let the Scot do all the talking.)
Here’s another example of me not knowing that something was once a book. Titled Madame Doubtfire, this YA novel was written by Englishwoman, Anne Fine. The name of her main character was inspired by real-life Madame Doubtfire and her shop in Stockbridge, Edinburgh near where Fine once lived. Today, the shop is no longer Madame Doubtfire’s second-hand clothing store, but an art gallery called “The Doubtfire Gallery”.
This is not exactly “Scottish”, because J.K. Rowling is English but she did write Harry Potter in Edinburgh and she still lives in Edinburgh to this day. There is a coffee shop that claims to be the “birthplace” of Harry Potter, with this tagline written in different languages on the window, and people take photos outside of it every day, and cover the bathrooms in quotes. Maybe she wrote in there once, maybe she lived above it, maybe she actually wrote somewhere on Nicolson Street instead, who knows…
Fun fact: In Greyfriars Kirkyard you can find the grave of “Thomas Riddell”, which is rumored to be where Rowling got the name Tom Riddle.
Okay, dear lit-friends, please tell me what I’ve missed.
And American friends, did any of these facts surprise you? Did you go “Oh!” when you learned that Peter Pan was written by a Scot like I did?
Comment below! :)