Gil-Martin’s habitual attire is specified on p. 216 as being Circassian. This is an alternative alias for the Adyghe, an indigenous people who were amongst the original inhabitants of the Caucasus. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, they lost their independence and were slowly conquered by Russia in a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing. That Gil-Martin allows himself to pass with Robert as Peter the Great whilst wearing the traditional costume of his enemy can again be seen as a taunt. He brazenly flaunts his hypocrisy before his victim, delighting in the fact that Robert will fail to fully comprehend its import.
This appears to be a place of Hogg’s own invention.
This infamous line first appears in Matthew 19:24. When Jesus is preaching to the multitude, a young man asks what he must do in order to enjoy eternal life. Jesus replies that he must not only observe the Ten Commandments but sell all his property and give the profits to the poor. This injunction leaves the man, who is wealthy, sorely disappointed and the Apostles astonished.
Brimstone may be an old name for sulphur, which is produced by active volcanoes. It figures frequently in the Bible as a symbol of God’s wrath and a punishment for sinners. It is also part of hell’s most important geological feature: “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
James Watson worked as a printer from 1695 until his death in 1722. Queen Anne appointed him royal printer on 11th August 1711 and he worked in this capacity until 1716. His main responsibilities were printing bibles, acts of parliament and news-sheets. In 1713, he authored a book entitled History of the Art of Printing. Even without being embroiled in the publication of Robert’s work, his career was not without its controversy: he was imprisoned in 1700 for printing an indictment of the disastrous Darién Scheme, Scotland’s Grievance Respecting Darien.
Watch Stephen Fry’s documentary about the invention of the printing press here.
The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) is an allegorical work by John Bunyan. It tells of the travails of Christian, an everyman, during his pilgrimage from the City of Destruction (this world) to the Celestial City. Despite the obvious differences between this enduringly important religious work and Robert’s narrative, there are certain similarities in their ideologies. Robert would no doubt have identified with Christian in his encounter with Ignorance. This “brisk lad” hails from the country of Conceit and is likewise travelling to the Celestial City. His conviction that he will be accepted there on account of his faith and works, rather than divine grace, arouses Christian’s pitying contempt. Later, when Christian is admitted to dwell in the presence of God, Ignorance is bound hand and foot and cast down to hell.
Access Part I Section v of The Pilgrim’s Progress with modernised spelling here.
Chesters is a hamlet of Hawick in the Scottish Borders.
This is from Psalm 55:6: “And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” The psalm, which evokes the tempest of emotions in which Robert is swept up, can be read here.
This refers to Allan Water, a river which joins the Tweed just east of Selkirk. The Tweed itself is a 97-mile long river which begins in the Southern Uplands of Scotland, forms the Scottish-English border for 17 miles and empties in the North Sea in Berwick, north-east England.
The point where Allan Water joins the River Tweed.
There are strong parallels between this exchange and that which takes place between Faustus and Mephistopheles in Marlowe’s The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus (1616). When Faustus questions him about the limits of hell, the demon replies: “Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscrib'd In one self-place; but where we are is hell, And where hell is, there must we ever be.”
Perhaps we also feel a little sympathy for the devil at this point, for there is an emerging sense that Gil-Martin's eternal role as tormenter of the damned is as miserably suffocating for him as it is for his victim.
Ancrum is a small village in the Scottish Borders.
Oxford, a city in the south-east of England, is synonymous with the centuries of academia and learning its university has fostered. It has never had any associations with witchcraft, much less offered it in its syllabus. Indeed, in the 14th century when superstition ran high and some European universities became an arena for the ‘art of magic’, Oxford publically disavowed all faith in such practices. However, though this is clearly the Oxford Robert has in mind, it isn’t the only one in Britain. It is possible that the landlord is thinking of a small hamlet in Northumberland that lies on the Devil’s Causeway, a 55-mile Roman road whose construction is attributed to infernal forces. Since it is only 30 rather than 300 miles away from Ancrum, it would perhaps be better known to the landlord than its more august namesake.