Bridging the Continental divide: neo-Latin and its cultural role in Jacobean Scotland, as seen in the Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum (1637)
Latin was Scotland's third language in the early modern period, alongside Scots and Gaelic. However, it has been dubbed by Professor Robert Crawford as Scotland's literary 'lost continent' due to the lack of sustained academic research into Scoto-Latin texts, and translation thereof. The Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum huius aevi illustrium (DPS, Amsterdam, 1637) is the most important of these neglected texts. A 1,272 page anthology of 37 of Scotland's neo-Latin poets, edited by the Fife laird Sir John Scot of Scotstarvit and the Aberdonian poet Arthur Johnstone, it represents the zenith of Scotland's burgeoning Latin culture during the renaissance and reformation. However, no translation of this anthology has ever been produced, or an attempt made to understand holistically what its contents tell us about Latin culture in early modern Scotland. This project aims to deal with this issue. It will produce an electronic resource that provides original scans of the text of 13 of the poets in the DPS, alongside a full transcription of the Latin and an English translation which will be fully searchable by scholars. The resource will provide a full critical apparatus for each text detailing all scriptural and philological references cited, and the historical and social context behind each poem. The resource will be supported by a range of articles analyzing the texts in both linguistic and historic contexts, along with a full range of biographical material on each poet, and broader essays on early modern Scotland's Latin culture. The website will also be open ended so that the remainder of the text not digitised and translated now can be added by scholars in the future.
The poets chosen for translation are those whose work now exists solely or primarily within the DPS itself, and those whom we currently know the least about - several of them are only known to us because of the DPS. However, one key link between them is that they all worked and lived in Scotland in the reign of James VI and I. Nearly all of them came into contact with the royal government and court at some stage in their careers. Some, like the Royal Secretary John Maitland, directly worked for the king. Others, like the church reformer Andrew Melville, stood in opposition to his religious and political policies. Hercules Rollock relied on the king's favour to secure his job as Dundee grammar school master in 1582. Several contributors produced poetry for James' royal entries, including Henry Anderson at Perth in 1580, and Henry Danskin and Peter Goldman on the king's return to Scotland in 1617. The poets came from both sides of the confessional divide, but all used Latin as a shared mode of cultural expression and identity regardless of their confessional or political leanings, often as a means by which to impress their colleagues and the king himself. This thread of Scottish cultural expression, so clearly summarized and captured in the DPS, has never been explored, and the project aims to understand from the text when and why Latin was used in Jacobean Scotland, and to create a research tool that allows scholars to engage with this question.
The poems in the DPS span a variety of genres inspired by classical models. They include pious homilies to Christ and vitriolic attacks on the Catholic church; astronomical and medical treatises; ribald satires on contemporary life and politics; and appeals to pagan deities for health and wellbeing, among many others. Collectively, they paradoxically show that neo-Latin humanist culture, with its reverence for the pagan and antique past, became immensely popular in Scotland at the exact same time as Scotland became one of the most doctrinaire Reformed countries in Europe. Given that most accounts
of Scotland's post-reformation culture emphasize its commitment to a narrow form of Protestantism and severe moral and social discipline, how are we to explain this? One of the major aims of this project is to solve this paradox.