Page 179. " JAMES, by the grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland "

James II of England and VII of Scotland. His short reign, which followed that of Charles II, lasted from 1685 to 1688 when he fled to France following the Glorious Revolution. See note for p. 51.

Page 179. " the five merk land of Kipplerig; the five pound land of Easter Knockward "

These place names are probably Hogg’s own invention.

Page 180. " Given at our Court of Whitehall "

The Old Palace of Whitehall, 1676-80
Public DomainThe Old Palace of Whitehall, 1676-80 - Credit: Hendrick Danckerts
The Palace of Whitehall in London was the main residence of English monarchs from 1530 until 1698. It was originally named York Place and had been purchased by the then-Archbishop of York around the mid-13th century. It was rebuilt and expanded by a series of monarchs, most notably Henry VIII whose additions included a cockpit and bowling alley. In 1698, the building was consumed in a fire that spared only Inigo Jones’ Banqueting Hall. Parts of the remains were incorporated into what is now the Whitehall government complex.

Page 180. " here are ten signatures of privy councillors "

Privy councillors advise the head of state – usually the monarch – on the exercise of executive authority.

Page 189. " A precognition is in process "

Precognitions entail the examination of witnesses prior to a trial in order to establish a legal basis for the prosecution.

Page 189. " Two souls, which take possession of my bodily frame by turns, the one being all unconscious of what the other performs "

The experiences Robert describes are strongly reminiscent of what would now be called dissociative identity disorder. This term, which has replaced multiple personality disorder in medical diagnoses, describes a condition in which a person has more than one personality state. These different personalities, which take it in turns to assert control over the individual, are quite distinct from each other: they have different names, memories, self-images and sometimes ages, genders, races and sexual orientations. Switches between personalities are often triggered by stressful events. DID sufferers usually have a main personality referred to as the ‘host’; whilst other identities are in control, the host will not have any awareness of themselves and for this reason patients experience long periods of amnesia. Recognition between personalities varies from patient to patient.


Page 189. " The spirit that now directs my energies is not that with which I was endowed at my creation "

Here is another hint allying Gil-Martin with Satan. In his original incarnation as the highest of God’s angels, Satan was Lucifer, meaning ‘light-bearer’; after his expulsion he took on the antithecal identity of the ‘prince of darkness’. See note for p. 129.

Page 190. " I was like Daniel in the den of lions "

Daniel is the protagonist of the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament. Originally a slave to the Assyrian king Nebuchadnezzar, he rises in status as a result of his great skill in interpreting dreams. Jealous of his popularity with Cyrus the Great, various princes and officials in the royal administration hatch a plot to dispose of him. They contrive a royal decree sentencing anyone who prays to God within a 30 day period to be cast into a den of lions. Daniel refuses to abide by this and is punished accordingly. He is saved by God’s intervention : “God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me” (Daniel 6:22).

Page 190. " I felt as one round whose body a deadly snake is twisted "

Despite the relatively small risk they pose to humans, snakes have long been regarded as an object of fear. The majority of species are non-venomous. Those that don’t simply swallow their prey whole kill it by constriction, wrapping their bodies in tight coils until the animal is asphyxiated. The snake also has biblical connotations: the devil takes on the form of this beast in his temptation of Eve. On this level, he represents a spiritual as much as a physical threat.


Illustration for Paradise Lost, 1808
Public DomainIllustration for Paradise Lost, 1808 - Credit: William Blake


Page 191. " a place called Penpunt "


Google Map

Penpont is a small town in Nithsdale, Dumfries and Galloway. Why Robert deems the name so ludicrous is not quite clear.

Page 193. " he could ding Auld Macmillan himsel "

Having been deprived of his previous post for publically identifying with the rigid codes of the Covenanters, Rev. John MacMillan became minister for the Cameronians from 1706 until 1743, when he founded the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Hogg wrote about Macmillan at greater length in 'The Cameronian Preacher’s Tale' (1828).


Page 194. " Flanders lace, an’ Hollin lawn "

Flanders lace from the 18th century
GNU Free Documentation LicenseFlanders lace from the 18th century - Credit: Carolus
Lace from Flanders was renowned for its gossamer fineness. Lawn, a type of sheer linen, from Holland was also highly prized.

Page 195. " There are many wolves in sheep’s claithing "

The reference is to Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

Page 195. " the town o’ Auchtermuchty "

An aerial view of Auchtermuchty as it appears now
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAn aerial view of Auchtermuchty as it appears now - Credit: James Allan

A town in north-east Fife, Scotland. Its small but highly religious population identified with the Covenanters and strongly opposed the extension of the Church of England into Scotland.

Page 195. " The young men wooed their sweethearts out o’ the Song o' Solomon "

The Song of Solomon, which appears in the Old Testament, is an exchange between a man and a woman charting their progression from courtship to the consummation of their love. Lines providing an inventory of the beloved’s praiseworthy features - “thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks” (4:3) - have much in common with later courtly poetry of the variety mocked by Shakespeare in Sonnet 130.

Page 195. " he had been in the hands o’ the fairies when he was young "

The fairies of folklore are capricious beings whose behaviour towards humans ranges from mildly mischievous to outright malicious. A popular belief in Scotland was that fairies, being fond of pretty babies, would steal them away from their homes if they had not been baptised. As in the case of Robin Ruthven, some of those kidnapped made their way back to the mortal world but retained a heightened supernatural awareness as a legacy of their experience.

Speculation concerning the origins of fairies suggests that they stem from pagan deities and as such they are often conceived of in opposition to the Christian beliefs which deposed them. As the parable of Auchtermuchty suggests, there was no such division in contemporary rural Scottish thought, in which strong religious sensibilities were steeped in the ideas promulgated by oral tradition. Fairies, talking crows and the devil of Christianity all emerge from the same wellspring of common belief. It was even thought that “The queen of fairyland was a kind of feudatory sovereign under Satan, to whom she was obliged to pay kave, or tithe in kind”. 


The Fairies’ Banquet, 1859
Public DomainThe Fairies’ Banquet, 1859 - Credit: John Anster Fitzgerald



Page 195. " the side o’ the West Lowmond "

West Lomond
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeWest Lomond - Credit: Paul McIlroy
Formed of volcanic rock, West Lomond – as it is now spelt – is the highest point in Fife. It lies roughly five miles to the south-west of Auchtermuchty.

Page 195. " a bridal o’ corbie crows "

The Twa Corbies, c.1919
Public DomainThe Twa Corbies, c.1919 - Credit: Arthur Rackham
Corbie crows are carrion crows. They figure prominently in European mythology as harbingers of doom, no doubt as a result of their habit of hovering over ailing animals as though to predict their death. This tendency has also led to the belief that crows have powers of divination. They are associated with the uncanny and are said to possess great cunning.

Page 196. " we should put them in the thief’s hole "

Thieves’ holes were a feature of some prisons in Scotland. They lay on the ground floor or in the basement of the building and were more than usually dank and miserable. Only those guilty of the most grievous offences were incarcerated there.

Page 196. " there is a feast on the Sidlaw hills tonight, below the hill of Macbeth "
Battle of Dunsinane. Macbeth and a companion watch the Northumbrian army approaching from Dunsinane Hill
Public DomainBattle of Dunsinane. Macbeth and a companion watch the Northumbrian army approaching from Dunsinane Hill - Credit: John Martin

The Sidlaws are a range of volcanic hills spreading 30 miles across Perthshire and Angus in Scotland. ‘Sid’ probably derives from the Gaelic term ‘sidhe’, meaning ‘fairy’, and folklore held that the prehistoric cairns which dot the hills were inhabited by supernatural beings. Dunsinane Hill is commonly supposed to be the site where Malcolm Canmore defeated Macbeth in 1054. Shakespeare’s version of events holds the greatest sway over the public conception of this battle and its supernatural overtones colour this already sinister episode.




Page 196. " They ordered the clerk to sing a part of the 119th Psalm "

This psalm, which you can read here, is a lengthy enumeration of acts of obedience to God. The 77th verse reads: “Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight”. There doesn’t seem to be any particular significance attached to the fact that the “strange divine” enters during the reading of this line.

Page 196. " He read out his text from the Prophecies of Ezekiel "

The Book of Ezekiel describes the seven visions experienced by the prophet. It foretells the destruction of Jerusalem; how Israel will be purged of troublesome influences such as the Ammonites and Moabites (see notes for pages 31 and 39); and how a new Israel will be established. The lines which the divine quotes come from Ezekiel 21:27.

Page 197. " as Jonah was sent to the Ninevites "
Painting of Jonah on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (1511)
Public DomainPainting of Jonah on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (1511) - Credit: Michelangelo

In the Book of Jonah, Jonah, the sole righteous man in Nineveh, is chosen by God to warn his fellow citizens that their iniquity will result in the city’s destruction. Reluctant to embrace this role, Jonah flees in a boat. God besets the vessel with storms, leaving the other sailors no choice but to throw him overboard. He is then swallowed by a large fish – or whale – which has been sent by God and in whose innards he dwells for three days before being vomited out. God once more entreats Jonah to prophecy destruction to the Ninevites, and this time he obeys. The Ninevites heed his word and proclaim a fast. As a result of their humility, God spares them his wrath.

Page 198. " Cupar, Newburgh, and Strathmiglo, turned out men, women, and children. Perth and Dundee gave their thousands; and from the East Nook of Fife to the foot of the Grampian hills, there was nothing but running and riding that morning to Auchtermuchty "

The map illustrates how far people were prepared to travel to listen to the sermon of the “great preacher”
Public DomainThe map illustrates how far people were prepared to travel to listen to the sermon of the “great preacher”

Page 199. " behold, there was a pair o’ cloven feet! "

The devil has not always possessed cloven feet. Until around the early modern period, he was generally represented as a winged man with claws or human feet, echoes of his fallen angel status. His development of cloven feet and horns suggests a hybridisation with the Greek goat-god Pan. Having acquired these feet, Satan seemingly becomes unable to change them into any other form. In A Provincial Glossary (1787), Francis Grose writes: “Although the devil can partly transform himself into a variety of shapes, he cannot change his cloven foot, which will always mark him under every appearance.” Gil-Martin appears to be an exception to this rule.


Devil bears Metternich,1848
Public DomainDevil bears Metternich,1848 - Credit: J. Grädner
Aphrodite, Pan and Eros, 2nd century BC
GNU Free Documentation LicenseAphrodite, Pan and Eros, 2nd century BC - Credit: DerHexer


Page 199. " there is a gouden rule "

The church’s Golden Rule is that of Matthew 7:12: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”