The following will hopefully resonate with many writers (and readers) and is reproduced here to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the publication of Crockett's short story collection 'Bog Myrtle and Peat' (1895)
Republished in 2014 as Volume 15 of the Galloway Collection you can purchase it HERE in paperback or HERE digitally
There is a certain book of mine which no publisher has paid royalty upon, which has never yet been confined in spidery lines upon any paper, a book that is nevertheless the Book of my Youth, of my Love, and of my Heart.
There never was such a book, and in the chill of type certainly there never will be. It has, so far as I know, no title, this unpublished book of mine. For it would need the blood of rubies and the life of diamonds crusted on ivory to set the title of this book.
Mostly I see it in the late night watches, when the twilight verges to the cock-crowing and the universe is silent, stirless, windless, for about the space of one hour. Then the pages of the book are opened a little; and, as one that reads hungrily, hastily, at the bookstall of an impatient vendor a book he cannot buy, so I scan the idylls, the epics, the dramas of the life of man written in words which thrill me as I read. Some are fiercely tender, some yearning and unsatisfying, some bitter in the mouth but afterward sweet in the belly. All are expressed in words so fit and chaste and noble, that each is an immortal poem which would give me deathless fame—could I, alas! but remember.
Then the morning comes, and with the first red I awake to a sense of utter loss and bottomless despair. Once more I have clutched and missed and forgotten. It is gone from me. The imagination of my heart is left unto me desolate. Sometimes indeed when a waking bird—by preference a mavis—sings outside my window, for a little while after I swim upward out of the ocean of sleep, it seems that I might possibly remember one stanza of the deathless words; or even by chance recapture, like the brown speckled thrush, that ‘first fine careless rapture’ of the adorable refrain.
Even when I arise and walk out in the dawn, as is my custom winter and summer, still I have visions of this book of mine, of which I now remember that the mystic name is ‘The Book Sealed.’ Sometimes in these dreams of the morning, as I walk abroad, I find my hands upon the clasps. I touch the binding wax of the seals. When the first rosy fingers of the dawn point upward to the zenith with the sunlight behind them, sanguine like a maid's hand held before a lamp, I catch a farewell glimpse of the hidden pages.
Tales, not poems, are written upon them now. I hear the voices of ‘Them Ones,’ as Irish folk impressively say of the Little People, telling me tales out of the Book Sealed, tales which in the very hearing make a man blush hotly and thrill with hopes mysterious. Such stories as they are! The romances of high young blood, of maidens' winsome purity and frank disdain, of strong men who take their lives in hand and hurl themselves upon the push of pikes. And though I cannot grasp more than a hint of the plot, yet as my feet swish through the dewy swathes of the hyacinths or crisp along the frost-bitten snow, a wild thought quickens within me into a belief, that one day I shall hear them all, and tell these tales for my very own so that the world must listen.
But as the rosy fingers of the morn melt and the broad day fares forth, the vision fades, and I who saw and heard must go and sit down to my plain saltless tale. Once I wrote a book, every word of it, in the open air. It was full of the sweet things of the country, so at least as they seemed to me. I saw the hens nestle sleepily in the holes of the bank-side where the dry dust is, and so I wrote it down. I heard the rain drum on the broad leaves over my head, and I wrote that down also. Day after day I rose and wrote in the dawn, and sometimes I seemed to recapture a leaf or a passing glance of a chapter-heading out of the Book Sealed. It came back to me how the girls were kissed and love was made in the days when the Book Sealed was the Book Open, and when I cared not a jot for anything that was written therein. So as well as I could I wrote these things down in the red dawn. And so till the book was done.
Then the day comes when the book is printed and bound, and when the critics write of it after their kind, things good and things evil. But I that have gathered the fairy gold dare not for my life look again within, lest it should be even as they say, and I should find but withered leaves therein. For the sake of the vision of the breaking day and the incommunicable hope, I shall look no more upon it. But ever with the eternal human expectation, I rise and wait the morning and the final opening of the ‘Book Sealed.’
J.H.Millar is credited as originating the term 'Kailyard' as a literary phenomenon (or stigma) in his article of April 1895 in The New Review. It's not entirely true. However, for over a century the term has been used as a term of offence regarding particular Scottish authors, and some kinds of Scottish literature - and even Scots culture much more broadly. Over the past quarter of a century there has been a shift towards seeing 'Kailyard' as a critical concept, but the authors damned with the title have still suffered from the slur. Foremost among these 'unco' authors are J.M.Barrie and S.R.Crockett. Both of their work is well represented by Society catalogues in the unco Bookstore.
I've been studying and researching the work of these two authors since the 1990s and while my exploration (and expose) of Kailyard is still incomplete, it seemed right that in this 125th anniversary year, I start turning over the soil in public.
I'm starting with 'The Offending Article' by J.H.Millar ( with more than a little help from W.E.Henley) and some other contextual articles. You can download the digital text (PDF format) from the Unco bookstore HERE and it's free if you're a member of the 'unco' community. Otherwise, it'll cost you £1.99