Introduction: Literary Geographies: The Solway Firth


McKeever GL (2021) Introduction: Literary Geographies: The Solway Firth. Studies in Scottish Literature, 47 (1).

In the latter part of 1821, the Dumfries-shire and Galloway Monthly Magazine ran a three-part short fiction under the title “The Highland Chieftain Steam Packet.” The series turns the exciting novelty of steam travel into a framing device for a number of inset tales, thus replicating the format of John Galt’s “The Steam-Boat,” which had been appearing in serialized form in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine since February that year. In this case, the tales are told from the decks of the real-life Highland Chieftain, a steamer newly running between Dumfries and Liverpool, stopping at Douglas, Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport along the way. The Monthly Magazine itself debuted in July 1821, fronted by a letter to the editor proclaiming that, “connected with Dumfries-shire and Galloway as is that galaxy of talent from which the leading Magazines of London and Edinburgh draw their richest stories,” its success would be assured. In the event, the magazine’s single annual run featured contributors such as John Mayne and Allan Cunningham, both Dumfriesshire migrants in London, as well as the Carlisle poet Robert Anderson. The “Highland Chieftain” series (signed “L” from “Maidstone, Kent”) echoes this composite regionality: Dumfriesshire is slowly disappearing over the horizon as the ship traverses the Solway Firth to “that great mart of commerce,” Liverpool. Attempting to make sense of this experience, the passengers sit “in a social circle” and exchange supernatural tales of home. In doing so, they produce the intersubjectivity of belonging in relation to the ultramodern technology of steam, to the radically open horizons of the firth and to the literary vanguard represented by Blackwood’s. Underlining this last point, the series breaks the fourth wall to advertise “the medium of the Dumfries magazine” as a site for “anecdotes and interesting tales,” where readers can acquire a new, regional sense of place in the age of mass print.

Output Status: Forthcoming

Studies in Scottish Literature: Volume 47, Issue 1

FundersThe British Academy
Date accepted by journal24/03/2021
Publisher URL