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Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments

23 Oct 08 - 11:51 AM (#2473803)
Subject: Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments
From: Uncle_DaveO

I'm reading Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy, and I have a couple questions or observations. Maybe someone here knows the answers.

Number one, I am about 2/3 of the way through the novel, and while the title is Rob Roy, and that person does appear, he's fairly remotely handled most of the time. That raises a question in my mind whether he may have been a historic real person, and Scott merely is writing a novel centering around the historic position he occupies. Can someone confirm his historicity or lack thereof?

Number two, I'm bemused by some of the Scottish speech. I understand it pretty well (most of the time). But I note that certain speakers (Dougal, the hielandman, for one) use "her" or "she" when meaning "you" or "I" or "me" or "him". It took me a long time to figure out that the speaker was not referring to some unidentified female.

For example, when asked how many men Rob Roy had with him when Dougal last saw him, this appears:
   Dougal looked in every direction except at the querist, and began to answer, "She canna just be sure about that."
   Further the army captain said, in part to Dougal, the confessed spy,
   ". . . you shall just in the way of kindness carry me and a small party to the place where you left your master" (Rob Roy) "as I wish to speak a few words with him on serious affairs; and I'll let you go about your business, and give you five guineas to boot."
   "Oigh! Oigh! exclaimed Dougal, in the extremity of distress and perplexity, "she canna do tat--she canna do tat--she'll rather be hanged."

    He uses "she" and "her" in direct address to others, meaning "you", "he", or "him", from context.   

    Can someone familiar with highland Scots speech comment on this kind of usage, ancient or modern? I'd be surprised if Scott simply fabricated it.

Dave Oesterreich

23 Oct 08 - 12:13 PM (#2473821)
Subject: RE: Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments
From: John MacKenzie

Rob Roy MacGregor.


23 Oct 08 - 12:35 PM (#2473845)
Subject: RE: Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments
From: Ross Campbell

Rob Roy's grave

Those two links should attest to Rob Roy's historicity. I used to live in that part of the world. Many of the high passes through the hills were known as routes and hiding-places used by cattle-rievers (or rustlers!). Just about the time I left the area, a statue memorialising Rob Roy was being erected in Stirling.
Statue of Rob Roy MacGregor by Benno Schotz, Dumbarton Road, Stirling

While Rob Roy the character is held (generally) in high regard, I fear the statue is not - I leave you to decide!


23 Oct 08 - 03:21 PM (#2474006)
Subject: RE: Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments
From: michaelr

On the page which has the photo of the Rob Roy statue, the novel is attributed to Daniel Defoe!!??!!

23 Oct 08 - 05:19 PM (#2474122)
Subject: RE: Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments
From: Ross Campbell

Different novel:- "Highland Rogue", and authorship attributed to Defoe by William Lee only in 1869, many years after Defoe's death.

24 Oct 08 - 01:05 AM (#2474481)
Subject: RE: Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments
From: Ross Campbell

As far as the speech paterns go, the examples you quote suggest that the person talking would be a native Gaelic speaker. Literal translation of Gaelic phrases to English sometimes results in odd constructions such as these.


24 Oct 08 - 12:00 PM (#2474946)
Subject: RE: Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments
From: Scabby Douglas

RossCampbell is right, but the actual answer goes a bit further.

Walter Scott is making the Highlander's English much worse - specifically in misusing gender pronouns. Gaelic, like many other languages, identifies everyday objects as masculine and feminine. It was probably commonplace that Gaelic speakers would apply gender to objects that native English speakers would render as "it". Scott's exaggerating that, and also indicating the difficulty that Gaelic speakers were perceived to have in rendering some sounds.

He's not alone in using this device. I have a feeling Robert Louis Stevenson does something similar in "Kidnapped".   It was a fairly common device employed in Scots English writing to paint a picture of Highlanders as semi-literate and inarticulate peasants.

Writers would suggest that "b" sounds were replaced with "p" - so "be" would be rendered as "pe", and "her nainsel" was supposed to be how the Highlander would render "I" or "me" - as a mangling of Scots "Ain sel' " or "own self".

For example - here's a snippet from a broadside ballad called:

"Broadside ballad entitled 'The Highlander's Adventures in Glasgow Fair"

"Lands and lassies were in crowds, and they're gaun up and down, man
And sweety-wives had up their stands, the auld brig did surround man
Her nainsel ne'er saw the like before, and she had unco staring.
For ilka auld wife cried out, ' Come and buy your fairing.'"

See a facsimile of the original broadsheet here:

Fast forward to the 19th century, and you'll find similar devices being deployed against Irish immigrants.

It's also worth mentioning that the English nowadays by people in the Highlands is usually of a better qulaity, and easier to understand than most people frmo the Central Belt. (And I am from Glasgow)

24 Oct 08 - 12:01 PM (#2474952)
Subject: RE: Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments
From: Scabby Douglas


Their typing may also be better than that of people from Glasgow, too...


24 Oct 08 - 01:07 PM (#2475015)
Subject: RE: Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments
From: kendall

I saw the film, Rob Roy with Liam Kneeson, and I liked it a lot. But that rape scene was over the top! I hate that shit in a film!

26 Oct 08 - 02:04 PM (#2476600)
Subject: RE: Scott's 'Rob Roy' questions and comments
From: Uncle_DaveO

Rape scene? I haven't seen the film, but there's no rape scene in the novel. There's an oblique reference, in terms of Rob Roy's wife, which MIGHT refer to a rape at some earlier time. Even if so, its only meaning in the novel, as far as I can see, is perhaps to explain her attitudes in novel-real-time.

Oh, in the "Introduction" (placed at the end of the volume, confusingly enough) there is a reference to Rob Roy's son kidnapping or "stealing" an unwilling wife years after Rob Roy's death. But that wouldn't come into the plot of the novel or a movie reflecting the novel.

Dave Oesterreich