Page 203. " I put on his green frock coat, buff belt, and a sort of turban that he always wore on his head "

Portrait of Tuguzhoko Kizbech Sheretluko, the military leader of the Circassians in 1810, demonstrating the kind of attire favoured by Gil-Martin
Public DomainPortrait of Tuguzhoko Kizbech Sheretluko, the military leader of the Circassians in 1810, demonstrating the kind of attire favoured by Gil-Martin - Credit: James Stanislaw Bell

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.

Page 203. " he drew his hand thrice across my face "

Three is a proverbially magic number and many spells are cast by repeating a ritual three times. The origins of the belief are uncertain but seem to lie in the fact that three represents a beginning, middle and end and encompasses the whole being of (wo)man (body, mind and soul).

Page 204. " that rising ground called Dorington Moor "

This appears to be a place of Hogg’s own invention.

Page 205. " it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven "

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.

Page 206. " a saur reek an’ brimstane about him "

Fallen Angels in Hell, c.1841
Public DomainFallen Angels in Hell, c.1841 - Credit: John Martin

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).

Page 210. " dinna begin a Boddel Brigg business in your ain house "

Monument commemorating the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. The inscription reads:
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMonument commemorating the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. The inscription reads: "In honour of the Covenanters who fought and fell in the Battle of Bothwell Bridge 22nd June 1679 in defence of civil and religious liberty" - Credit: Elliott Simpson
The Battle of Bothwell Bridge took place on 22nd June 1679 after the murder of the Episcopalian Archbishop James Sharp inflamed the ire of the Covenanters. Some 6,000 men opposed the Duke of Monmouth’s army, which comprised around 5,000 regular troops and militia. Lacking ammunition, artillery and experience, the Covenanters were roundly defeated with around 600 men killed and a further 1,200 taken prisoner.

Page 212. " I reached the West Port "

During Hogg’s time, West Port was a street in the former burgh of barony, Portsburgh. It is now a part of Edinburgh and lies just south of the castle.

Google Map


Page 213. " a compositor, in the Queen’s printing house, then conducted by a Mr James Watson "

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.

Page 214. " a religious parable such as the Pilgrim’s Progress "

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.

Page 215. " Chesters, July 27, 1712 "

Chesters is a hamlet of Hawick in the Scottish Borders.

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Page 216. " I flew out the way towards Dalkeith "

Dalkeith as it appears today
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDalkeith as it appears today - Credit: Richard Webb
 A town in Midlothian on the North River Esk.

Page 216. " O that I had the wings of a dove "

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.

Page 219. " jogging on towards the Tweed, by the side of a small river called Ellan "
The Mouth of the Allan Water as it runs into the River Tweed
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Mouth of the Allan Water as it runs into the River Tweed - Credit: Iain Lees

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.


Google Map

The point where Allan Water joins the River Tweed.

Page 220. " Wherever you are, there must my presence be with you "

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.


Page 221. " the village of Ancrum "

Ancrum is a small village in the Scottish Borders.

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Page 222. " they had some crude conceptions that nothing was taught at Oxford but the black arts "

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.

Map showing the locations of the two Oxfords
Public DomainMap showing the locations of the two Oxfords - Credit: Google maps