Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsSo Rob Roy is a really nice segue to go from thinking about Scott's literature and his literary output into thinking about objects. Then the other aspect that I'm very interested in is to do with the objects. And this whole MOOC is about material culture. And so our students are going to be really familiar with objects by this point. And so Scott does deliberately acquire Jacobite objects, doesn't he? So we know that Scott as a young boy has a little museum in his bedroom. It's something that his friends talk about seeing. He had a collection of coins. But he also had highland broadswords and was particularly interested in the Scotland of the 18th century from being very young.
Skip to 0 minutes and 56 secondsSo because of that interest that stems from boyhood, Abbotsford collection is very, very strong in Jacobite relics. We have a lot of material connected with Rob Roy. We have his broadsword, his sgian-dubh, his dirk. And these things are connected with some of Scott's earlier collecting activity before he built this house. So we know that most of that material was in his possession at his other Borders home of Ashestiel. So what it does is it kind of acts as a backbone for a much larger collection that really finds the space to be accommodated as he creates Abbotsford.
Skip to 1 minute and 30 secondsBut he also has things like Bonnie Dundee's pistol, Claverhouse's pistol, and the broadsword of his great-grandfather as well, which saw service in Killiecrankie, as I've mentioned before. So it does form an important, I suppose, body of material within the Abbotsford collection. So I hadn't appreciated that a number of these objects predated Abbotsford. And just remind us when Scott first came to this property. Because obviously it looked very, very different when it was Clarty Hole. What was it? Was it 1812? It was 1812 that he occupied this place. But it's 1811 that he basically did the deed and decided to take on the property. And you're right.
Skip to 2 minutes and 12 secondsIt was a ramshackle farmhouse that looked absolutely nothing like the building behind us today. And over a period of nigh on, 15 years, extension upon extension goes up over time. It's a house built on books and the proceeds of books. And because of that ethos, Scott's filling it with objects that tell stories. So yes, the Jacobite objects are connected with famous individuals and famous periods in history because that's how he was fueling his creative imagination for his writing. I think the two are inextricably linked. One of the things about the objects that Scott collected is how different they are.
Skip to 2 minutes and 47 secondsAs you might expect of a collection like Scott's, the Jacobite objects, there is quite a high proportion of arms and armour. You know, arms and armour is quite a discrete category that we might expect. But there were a number of other objects here at Abbotsford that we could think of as being quite whimsical, which is not to say that they're not historically important because they are really historically important. But I was thinking particularly of the oatcake from the Battle of Culloden. So what do we know about how Scott came to acquire this oatcake? Well, we're very lucky in that it's accompanied by a little handwritten note.
Skip to 3 minutes and 24 secondsAnd it says, "An oatcake found in the pockets of a dead Highlander on the battlefield of Culloden, which is a curious thing to-- we know that people were collecting relics from the battlefield in that way. And the note is signed off by R. Chambers, which we assume to be Robert Chambers, who was a publisher and a historian, a Scottish historian, who was Edinburgh-based, and we know Scott was writing to in the 1820s. We haven't found a reference to it definitely being that Robert Chambers. But R. Chambers seems to indicate that that is the man, and it's certainly the right time. So we know it's probably the 1820s. But beyond that, we don't know a definite date.
Skip to 4 minutes and 5 secondsAnd with many of the objects here, we do know when they were gifted, right down to the date of the letter. So it's surprising with the oatcake that we have that missing piece in the puzzle. We've got the oatcake. And then you've got another very precious Jacobite object here, which is the pocket book of Flora MacDonald. So first of all, because some of our students may not know, is a pocket book a diary of some sort? It was affectively a storage device for letters. So within our pocket book, there are four compartments. And if I was to open it up-- it's very fragile now-- but it has that most completely unexpected bright pink silk lining.
Skip to 4 minutes and 44 secondsWhen you sort of see the very sort of Scottish exterior of the object, and then you open it up and it's this sort of very garish coloured silk, it's a bit of a surprise. It's shocking. Shocking pink, absolutely. So yeah, there are four compartments for storing letters. And it was designed to be a gift. Flora appears to have made it to give to somebody. And supposedly, it's to a minister called Martin Martin. And he died before the gift was received. That's the story. So she hadn't intended to keep it.
Skip to 5 minutes and 16 secondsBut because she'd never been able to give it to the recipient, it had remained within a family on Skye and then had got handed to somebody that had then presented it to Scott, a chap called Alexander Campbell. So the provenance is good when you sort of follow the trail as you always have to do with these things. It's quite likely to be the real deal. Some things in the collection you wonder whether Scott knew that they were bogus or not. That's part of the fun I think of a collection like this. It is so romantic in nature. So Flora MacDonald is obviously-- she comes into the Jacobite story quite late on. So she is involved after Culloden.
Skip to 5 minutes and 54 secondsSo we have this bloody defeat at Culloden. And then Charles, Prince Charles Edward Stuart is a fugitive. And so he is trying to get back to Europe. And he goes up to the Highlands. And he's crossing the islands. And it's on Skye where he meets Flora. And then of course, he dresses as her Irish maid Betty Burke. I mean, you couldn't really make this up. And then he, obviously, he manages to escape. So Flora MacDonald she is probably-- well, she must be one of the leading female Jacobites within the historical tale. So the fact that Scott has this pocket book is-- it's a really important part of that narrative, isn't it? So what other Jacobite objects have you got here?
Skip to 6 minutes and 38 secondsWell, we talked about this being a romantic collection. And it wouldn't be a true romantic collection without locks of hair, and plenty of them. And we do have a lock of Bonnie Prince Charlie's hair and a lock of hair from the beard of Scott's great-grandfather Beardie as well. And they're very close to one another in the display. For instance, with the Prince Charles Edward Stuart's hair, do you think that Scott thought it really was his hair? I think so.
Skip to 7 minutes and 2 secondsI mean, we do know Scott-- despite the fact he's a storyteller, and he knows how to spin a good yarn-- and if you read his manuscript of the account-- it's unfinished unfortunately-- but the account of his house and the collection within it, he sort of imprints stories. He said, it's possible if you kind of look at it slanted and half imagine that it could be this. But at the same time, he's also questioning when he's purchased things, he's been told that they're one thing, and then finding out that there's other versions of this. The Ginevra chest, the folktale chest in the entrance hall, is a classic example.
Skip to 7 minutes and 36 secondsHe gets very upset when he finds other chests are circulating associated with this folktale and he hasn't perhaps bought the real one. So it did concern him. He was very astute. I think for him, perhaps, it was a case of a kind of after dinner game with guests at the house as to looking closely at the objects. He would tell stories about them a bit like a Georgian version of Call My Bluff.
Sir Walter Scott's Jacobite objects
Sir Walter Scott was a prolific collector and amassed a diverse – and often quirky – collection of historical objects, many associated with key Jacobites and the series of campaigns.
In this third film in our series, Viccy Cotlman interviews Kirsty Archer-Thompson about Scott’s unique collection of Jacobite material culture.
Please note at 5:54: Bonnie Prince Charlie met Flora Macdonald on Benbecula not Skye, as Viccy states in this video.