'Whose cry is Liberty, and Fatherland': Kossuth, Garibaldi and European Nationalism in Scottish Political Poetry.
Shall I weep if a Poland fall? shall 1 shriek if a Hungary fail? Or an infant civilisation be ruled with rod or with knout? I have not made the world, and He that made it will guide. (1)
Tennyson's disaffected young man, his focus on nature red in tooth and claw, is defiantly at odds with his society. And, of course, the questions in these lines reflect this. Popular sympathy for revolutionary events in Poland and Hungary in the mid-Victorian period ran very high. As often in Maud, however, the speaker's attitude highlights a number of disturbing and, in its immediate context, urgent questions. What good did it do for an individual to 'weep' and 'shriek' over the affairs of foreign nations and peoples? To what extent should the British people as a whole care about the struggles of other nations? Should Britain intervene and assist in struggles against oppression or for national self-determination, and if so, how?
These are questions which engaged many Victorian poets, and their investments in European nationalisms have been substantially explored by critics, including in major studies by Matthew Reynolds and Alison Chapman. (2) However, with the exception of Chapman's consideration of expatriate, pro-Kisorgimento Scottish women writers in Italy, there has been little discussion of any differences within 'British' literary responses to European politics. (3) Nor do broader historical studies of British support for and engagement with European revolutionary causes and their heroes--especially Joseph Mazzini (1805-1872) and Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) of Italy and Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894) of Hungary--have much to say about variations between Scotland and England; most solely focus on England. (4) Yet any investigation of the Scottish press in the period when these causes were most active displays a very strong perception that Scotland had a qualitatively and quantitatively different relationship to European nationalism than England, and that this was due to Scotland's unique history and culture.
Poetry was a vital part of this culture. Only a year after Tennyson's poem, the Hamilton Advertiser published a report of a speech welcoming Kossuth, then in exile, to Hamilton, where he was speaking as part of his 1856 lecture tour of Scotland. The lecture title was 'The Present State of Continental Europe in General, and the connection between European Liberty and British Interests'. The welcome speech was assigned to Samuel Simpson, a local banker. The paper transcribed it:
[Simpson] regarded [Kossuth] as the personification of patriotism, and that love of Fatherland which breathes so fervently in Scotchmen. They would forgive him if he gave utterance to the national feeling in those burning words familiar to every school boy, but which no repetition could weaken-- Breathes there a man with soul so dead. Who never to himself hath said-- This is my own, my native land, Whose heart within him ne'er hath burned, As home his footsteps he hath turned (Cheers) Land of my sires, what mortal hand Can e'er untie that filial band That knits me to thy rugged strand. (Loud cheers) Our friend and fellow townsman, as I may call him, for he is our youngest burgess, is a wanderer in a foreign land, but he is one well entitled to adopt these words as his own; and I trust he shall yet be restored to his native country, by his efforts renewed and regenerated, and freed from the bonds of the oppressor. (Cheers). (5)
In this speech, Walter Scott's famous lines from 'The Lay of the Last Minstrel' are symbolically handed over to Kossuth, not simply in recognition of his continued devotion to Hungary, but as a justification for his ongoing efforts to raise a new revolution. The 'national feeling' that Scots have for Scotland, as summed up in Scott's lines, means that they have a unique sympathy with Kossuth and Hungary's position. In the response to Kossuth's lecture, succeeding this introduction, respondent John Dykes also cited a Scottish poem, this time the foundational lines on freedom in John Barbour's fourteenth-century poem on Robert the Bruce, 'Ah! frcdome is a nobill thing! / Fredome maykse man to haiff liking.' (6) This was equally greeted with 'Loud cheers', as Dykes emphasised that Barbour's lines, for Scots, were, 'as fresh and spirit-kindling today as five hundred years ago. While such were the feelings of Scotchmen, could they fail to sympathise with other nations struggling for their liberties?'. Kossuth graciously replied, the newspaper reported, that 'especially in Scotland had he learned what a country can be under the fostering breath of liberty.' (7)
The prevalent idea that Scotland was better placed to understand and sympathise with European revolutionary nationalism--and that exiled European leaders recognised this--was supported by evidence drawn from Scotland's poetic history, but it was also strongly bolstered by the works of contemporary poets, and especially working-class poets. English working-class radical authors, societies and publications, as Marcella Sutcliffe has discussed in most detail in relation to Mazzini, frequently used poetry to show support for revolutionary change in Europe, and there are doubtless many more poems on these themes waiting to be uncovered from the provincial press in England and Wales. (8) What is argued here, however, is that Scottish working-class poets contributed to and helped to create a powerful narrative in which Scotland was more sympathetic, more attuned, more capable of both appreciating and offering material assistance to European nationalism than England, both because of her past, and because of her present political loyalties. Moreover, I will suggest that these political poems and their accompanying discourses of independence and national self-determination do reflect, though at some times more consciously than others, on the relationship between Scotland and England.
As historians have extensively discussed, the prevailing 'unionist nationalism' narrative in Victorian Scotland represents Scotland as having achieved an enviable state of equal partnership with England through historical wars for independence and commitment to the Union state ideal. (9) This holds true in the poems studied here. Yet there is also an unquestionable sense of separate Scottish nationalist loyalties in much of the writing about Scotland's European connections. James Coleman, noting the frequent references to Wallace and Bruce in discussions of European affairs, comments that:
Faith in the benefits of Scottish nationality, and the benefits it conferred on Britishness, gave the Scots room to sympathize with those who did not enjoy its advantages. This further emphasises the providential unionism that was at the heart of nineteenth-century Scottish nationality. Rather than seeing a resonance between continental nationalism and Scotland's exploitation under the Union, Scottish nationality's secure position within Britishness permitted sympathy with those oppressed nations lacking a history of national independence. (10)
The material studied here, largely consisting of poems from newspaper poetry columns, frequently takes this line and does not usually represent Scotland's relationship with England in terms of 'exploitation'. However, I will argue that, more than Coleman recognises, the strong identification of Scots with continental nationalism feeds into a narrative about Scotland's distinctiveness from England, and the consistent emphasis on paralleling Scotland's history with European current affairs implicitly casts England in the role of oppressive imperial power. Engagements with European independence movements in the nineteenth century certainly did not lead to a strong Scottish independence movement at that moment. But such engagements may provide a link with twentieth-century Scottish nationalism to a greater degree than has been recognised, and one of the discourses which reflects on this most trenchantly is poetry.
Scottish poets were exercised by nationalist movements in Poland, Hungary and, above all, Italy. These movements were commonly seen as part of the same wider cause of liberty versus tyranny for small European nations. This article focuses on the two most important individuals in Scottish perceptions of these causes: Kossuth and Garibaldi. While bearing in mind Sutcliffe's argument that Mazzini rather than Garibaldi was the key figure for English radicals, it was Kossuth and Garibaldi's deeds, speeches and personal histories which were celebrated and endlessly discussed in Scotland's provincial press from the 1850s to the 1870s and beyond. Garibaldi is by a very long way the most prominent political hero in the Scottish press during this period, and the second half of this article focuses on the 'Garibaldry' practised by Scottish poets, and its recurring themes and tropes. Such features, by the time of Garibaldi's celebrated campaigns of 1859-60, were, however, already common because they had been part of the discourse surrounding Kossuth.
Kossuth was a reforming journalist, politician and fierce Hungarian nationalist who had briefly been president of Hungary during the revolutionary period of 1848-9, before Russia's intervention in Hungary led to his resignation and exile. In the 1850s, 'Kossuth mania' swept both Britain and the United States, aided by Kossuth's skill and passion as a public speaker. Tibor Frank's discussions of Kossuth in England highlight his brilliant use of 'modern methods of public relations and political marketing' to 'identify and promote the Hungarian issue in all the countries he visited or lived in--including Turkey, Great Britain, the United States, and Italy. (11) As Laszlo Peter comments, while Kossuth did not achieve his political aims and his enterprises in mid-century repeatedly failed, his wider aim of strengthening the cause of Hungarian nationalism and raising international awareness was highly successful: 'no other Hungarian has become even as remotely as well known abroad as Kossuth.' (12)
Kossuth was ardently welcomed to Scotland, especially for his lecture tour of 1856 and 1857. As was true of wider British investments in European nationalism, it was working men of a reformist and radical bent who led the pro-Kossuth demonstrations and welcomes: the Lanarkshire press noted that the Strathaven celebration of Kossuth, for instance, 'has not been equalled since the stirring times of the Reform Bill' of 1832. (13) In such small towns, where working men's committees were formed to organise Kossuth's visits, speeches of welcome were usually assigned to prominent local social and political reformers and radicals, like weaver-poet Thomas Stewart in Auchterarder or reformer Alexander Mitchell of Dalkeith. (14) Workers showed up en masse and donated special gifts, such as a bonnet, a plaid and a pair of shoes from Kilmarnock. In a typically inspirational response, Kossuth remarked: 'Should it ever be my lot to march to victory, I shall wear your shoes at the head of my fellow-countrymen. Should it ever be my lot to call on my countrymen to rescue their land from oppression, 1 have a bonnet which shall be raised aloft to cheer them onwards'. (15) Scottish people also donated considerable funds to Kossuth and his causes: when Kossuth wrote to the indefatigable fund-raiser, reformer, and friend of European exiles, John McAdam of Glasgow, to request funding to send two Hungarian colonels to help the Italians in 1859-60, McAdam raised the monies locally in thirty-six hours. According to McAdam, Kossuth also used him as a trusted mediator with the press, sending him speeches and letters to be printed in Glasgow newspapers, from where they would circulate nationally; McAdam reported that this 'gave great offence to the London Times in particular'. Such letters included both personal gratitude to McAdam and Kossuth's thanks for the 'unwavering consistency' of the Scottish people, whom he said he looked upon 'as my firmest prop.' (16)
Kossuth's skill in appealing to local Scottish audiences, and the way in which he drew political and cultural parallels between Scotland and Hungary, is amply shown in a speech he gave at a Glasgow meeting in July 1854. He opened by comparing Scotland's landscape to Hungary, saying that when he saw her mountains, 'the word home flashes through my heart', before emphasising that it was not simply the appearance of the landscape, but its historical associations, which created this nostalgic affinity:
Be it from the air--be it from recollections with which this air is fraught--it would appear to be as if there were something congenial between Scotland and Hungary (Cheers) [...] It strikes me that your national name sounds like the name of a nation which means something more than a mere aggregate of men blown together by a whirlwind of different conquerors, succeeding and blending each other turn by turn. (Great cheering). (17)
He then suggested that the Scottish character, like the Hungarian, was resistant to 'the blast of "centralisation"' sweeping through Europe, continuing:
I beg your pardon; but it would almost appear to me, that should I speak to you about Buda and Vienna, in connection with the fatal word "centralisation," you were apt to forget me and my theme, and go home musing about Edinburgh and London [...] It would appear to me that you are of those who, though happy, and prosperous, and free, still do not only know of things to boast of, but also of some to regret. Therefore, I feel more at home with you [...] I feel as if we had to hear a stronger echo from the recesses of your hearts, should we appeal to Scottish sympathy, in the name of Poland and Hungary blotted out from the list of the living as nations. (18)
This is very striking rhetoric, in terms to its specific appeal to a distinct Scottish nationalism and anxiety about England's relationship to Scotland, and its faux-tentative implications that Scotland might regret her loss of former independence, and that it was this regret which led to Scotland's identification with Polish and Hungarian struggles.
Newspaper poets joined the general fervour for Kossuth's rhetoric and his stirring narrative of Scottish-Hungarian sympathy. In the Nairnshire Telegraph and General Advertiser, a poem by 'T' written during Kossuth's 1856 tour opened by imagining the experience of attending one of Kossuth's speeches:
Is not the sight sublime? Before us stands The mighty champion of an injured land, Pleading with patriotic fire his country's cause, While listening thousands hang upon his words.
The poem concludes:
O, Scotland! Land of freedom, let the cry Of the oppressed an echo catch from thee; O let thy howling winds take up the strain, And waft it to the limits of the world, Till every valley, hill and ocean swell With freedom's song, till every shackle falls, And every despot die. (19)
Scotland is thus imagined as an international beacon for 'freedom'--a country indignant on behalf of the oppressed around the world.
In the Airdrie Advertiser, Janet Hamilton, a well-known working-class woman poet who was a fervent champion of European revolutionary efforts in Poland, Hungary and Italy, published 'Hungaria' (14 August 1855), which recalled the triumphs and losses of 1849 through a much wider historical and geo-political lens, looking back to the Ottoman wars of the fifteenth century:
What time the tide of Moslem war roll'd thundering on the west, 'Twas gallant Hungary that opposed the rampart of her breast. And backward roll'd the paynim flood--for this, with listless eye, The west beheld her bleeding bound, yet passed her coldly by. Yea, pass'd when "hope had shrieking fled, and mercy bid farewell;" When deeds were done, and scenes were seen, that woman may not tell; When Austria's laden gibbets jarr'd, and groan'd a requiem wild O'er freedom dead--when Kossuth fled, proscrib'd, enthrall'd, exiled. We hail thee, Kossuth, as the priest that served at freedom's shrine, When tyrants mingled with her blood the sacrificial wine. We hail the day when righteous Heaven will give her life again, And thou the priest to serve her shrine, and guard her hallowed fane. (20)
Hamilton's poem highlights the intersection of religious and nationalist rhetoric in European nationalist verse, with Hungary as a martyred Christ-figure served by Kossuth as high priest, and Hungarian freedom equated to a Heaven-sent resurrection. Hamilton's allusion to historical battles with the Islamic Ottoman empire serves to hint that both Austria and Russia are similarly dangerous, and un-Christian opponents, as well as emphasising Europe's perceived historical debts to Hungary. It places Kossuth squarely in a crusading tradition. The poem narrows down from a broad view to focus specifically on Kossuth as hero and redeemer. Hamilton displayed exactly the 'unwavering consistency' Kossuth admired in his Scottish friends in her poetic efforts for Hungary. Four years later, in 1859, she wrote in 'Impending War Between Austria and Sardinia':
When I forget Thee, gallant Hungary, may my name Become a mark for hate and shame. (21)
When they appeared in the newspaper poetry columns, such sentiments served to remind readers that struggles which had fallen off the current affairs pages were nonetheless still ongoing. In this instance, it is interesting that Hamilton discusses Hungary in general terms rather than Kossuth in particular, as she had done in the earlier 'Hungaria', because in 1859 Kossuth made a controversial decision to back Louis Napoleon in the war against Austria, a decision that Mazzini and others viewed as betrayal. Hamilton's 'Impending War' can serve both as a defence of Kossuth's position, since it emphasises Hungarian suffering at the hands of the 'Austrian bloodhound', 'His savage muzzle yet is wet / With Magyar blood', or as a criticism, since his absence from the poem might seem pointed.
One of Kossuth's key marketing tools was to express his affection for a host country's culture, history and literature and to draw these into comparisons with the sad fate of Hungary. The British were particularly impressed by his recollection that he had learned not simply his English but his political idealism from reading Shakespeare in prison. Indeed, a special meeting was convened and fundraising campaign started to present him with a commissioned set of Shakespeare's works. (22) On his visits to Scotland during the 1850s, Kossuth was thus naturally inclined to emphasise his affinity with Burns and his affection for Burns's commitment to liberty. James Hedderwick, Glasgow newspaper editor, recalled Kossuth telling him that he knew Burns's works and that 'A man's a man for a' that' 'had its counterpart in an old Hungarian lyric.' (23) Kossuth signed the visitor's book at Burns's cottage in 1854 with two lines from 'A man's a man' and the note 'Louis Kossuth, in exile, To the memory of Burns in immortality', and he was presented with at least three copies of Burns's poems in return. (24) Veronica Ruttkay notes, in her important discussion of Burns's reception in Hungary, that Kossuth also cited Burns in his Scottish lectures on Hungary, and that he explicitly sought to establish 'connections between Burns's democratic views' and his own political agenda. (25)
The strongest poetic engagement in Scotland between Kossuth and Burns, however, came decades later, in 1888, when an unknown emigrant from Dumfries, reportedly living in Africa, offered a gold medal and prize for the best poem on the theme 'Burns and Kossuth'. Forty-two entries were received. The Scottish press published several of them, including W. A. Bell of Annan's 'Kossuth at the Grave of Burns' ('Fain would Kossuth awake thy matchless lyre / In Hungary's cause, to rouse her patriot fire') and 'Kossuth's Address to the Shade of Burns' by James Rigg of Barrhead. Rigg's poem suggests, rather implausibly, that Burns had helped to inspire the Hungarian revolution, as Kossuth reveals that:
I, an alien of a shackled race, O! Liberty's great prophet, heard the roll Of thy fleet steeds far down the Danube pace,-- Rousing the Magyar, who may well extol The peasant king of Right's undying soul. (27)
This is perhaps less implausible, however, if we consider that Burns represents the modern 'prophet' of the entire Scottish tradition of freedom, acting as inspiration to European nations in 1848. Kossuth wistfully states, in this poem, that if it had not been for Russian intervention, 'Bannockburn had twice enacted been', this time by Hungary rather than Scotland. He concludes by stating that Burns not only influenced the first revolution, but will help to effect the second, 'Thy Battle ode with strength doth nerve my hand, / To strike the fetters from my own beloved land.'
The winning poem was Glasgow engineer-poet, novelist and editor Alexander Murdoch's 'Kossuth at the Grave of Burns'. Murdoch's poem opened:
A nation's hero, flush'd with light and fame, Standing apart, and with uncovered head By his grand dust who worshipp'd Bruce's name-- The patriot-poet dead! Dead! nay, not dead; the poet never dies
Though the poem is about Burns, Murdoch is careful to introduce Robert the Bruce in its opening in order to write Burns into a long tradition of Scottish freedom fighters. With the exclamation marks, the poem shifts gear from its reflective opening mood into an impassioned eulogy and comparison:
Kossuth and Burns! Names deathless as the stars! Twin-record of a battle waged for man; A red light, threatening, like the soul of Mars Oppression's power and ban. Soldier of God! had Burns been of thy day He would have grasp'd thy hand with fervent pride; Thou later Wallace! Lighting Hungary's way Up Freedom's steep hillside hike Burns, thy passion was the good of man, The breaking down of wrong, and false degree; Defying, to the death, each curse and ban Would hold men's souls in fee. (28)
The poet and the politician are given equal influence in fighting against 'oppression'. These 1888 poems are profoundly nostalgic for the Kossuth of the 1850s and 60s, as indicated in Murdoch's shift into the past tense in the third stanza here. Though he argues that both Kossuth, 'a century's hero', and Burns, helped to light a torch which led to Hungarian freedom, informed readers would have been aware that Hungary was by then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, not precisely the nation-state that Kossuth had envisaged.
In Kossuth's Memories of My Exile, very widely reviewed and discussed in Scotland, he wrote:
If the gratitude which I owe as a man and as a patriot to the people of Great Britain in general allowed me to make any distinction between different places according to the duration of the kindness I received, I should have to say that in Scotland 1 felt as if in a second home [...] With regard to what I said of Glasgow, that to me as a patriot it was a 'stronghold', the same thing could be said by Garibaldi, by Mazzini, and by many others whose names are connected with the struggle for liberty on the Continent. (29)
Kossuth's sense that Scotland, and Glasgow especially, was a 'stronghold' of support for all the leading European revolutionary exiles was a common perception of the period. Garibaldi's campaigns of 1859-60, for example, fired the minds of Scots already attuned to the cause of European revolutionary nationalism by Mazzini in the 1840s and Kossuth in the 1850s. As with Kossuth, the British people, and especially the working classes, were overwhelmingly pro-Garibaldi, who became a celebrity figure on a grand scale. Alfonso Scirocco and Allan Cameron comment that 'The Garibaldi myth caught the popular imagination from the very beginning and engendered support even in countries where there were no problems of liberty and independence.' (30) Lucy Riall has extensively explored the 'unprecedented scale and scope' of this Garibaldi mania, as have Derek Beales and other historians. (31) Yet, again, they devote little attention to the particularities of Garibaldi's relationship with Scotland. Janet Fyfe, who has researched Scottish engagement with the Risorgimento in most detail, argues that support for Italian freedom in Scotland was 'unusually intense and constant in comparison to that afforded by other parts of the United Kingdom'. (32) This chimes with contemporary perceptions within Scotland, summed up in the memories of William Hammond, a radical weaver, who claimed to have met and assisted Kossuth, Mazzini and Garibaldi: 'In 1864 Garibaldi was received in London with great applause, but Glasgow helped him when he looked like an Italian sea captain, and had poor prospects of political success.' (33) Garibaldi himself, though less of an orator than Kossuth, sent particular thanks to the 'pure-minded, generous and faithful people of Scotland', and said that he would 'never forget the moral and material aid given us by England and, especially, by old Scotland so affectionate and so generous'. (34)
Feelings ran very high in Scotland about Garibaldi and the Italian Risorgimento. In autumn 1860, for instance, two working men in the Vale of Leven, near Loch Lomond, had a violent disagreement over 'the merits of Garibaldi's character' and one was stabbed to death. (35) In summer and autumn 1860, every town in Scotland was engaged in fundraising for Garibaldi through meetings, performances and benefit concerts and subscriptions, with amounts raised monitored and reported in the local press. The Aberdeen press gleefully reported that Glasgow alone had raised [pounds sterling]2,400 for the Garibaldi fund 'all England, including London, has sent about [pounds sterling]1,000'. (36) In Dundee, the Rev. George Gilfillan (a well-known champion of Burns and of Scottish working-class poets), offered impassioned speeches on Garibaldi's heroism, and reached a very large audience through the Dundee press. At a huge public meeting in June 1860, Gilfillan declared that:
Garibaldi is a name that carries my imagination, at least, not across the waters of the Atlantic to Washington, but across the deeper gulf of 50a years to the Scotland of the year 1300, and to Scotland's heroic son, Sir William Wallace [...] these days and the spirit of these heroes have at last returned. (37)
Garibaldi was reported to have particularly admired Gilfillan's rhetoric' Other Dundee speakers (including John Leng, newspaper editor), fervently agreed. As in the discourse on Kossuth, they argued that Scotland understood Garibaldi's mission because of her own past heroes ('Scotland once passed through the same fiery ordeal, and in the hour of need there arose a deliverer, whose dauntless breast became the bulwark of his country's freedom'). And this, it was alleged, rendered her more likely to give material aid ('And now when liberty, with suppliant hand's uplifted, cries, "come over and help us", Scotland's voice will respond'). (39) The People's Journal and Dundee Advertiser (owned by Leng) gave unprecedented column space to the 1860 meeting, reporting every speech in full.
Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, enthusiastic volunteers were setting about forming a legion to fight in Italy. (40) John McAdam's Glasgow-based committee eventually had over four hundred enthusiastic young men volunteering to go to Italy to fight, though by the time they had assembled, the need for their services was doubtful: fifty were eventually selected to go, dressed in tartan shirts and bonnets with a thistle emblem. 'To the Scottish Garibaldians', a poem published in the Falkirk Herald, attributed this enthusiasm to the innate 'virtue of your blood / Infused from sires whose death was Scotland's life', again giving a national (and racial) explanation for Scotsmen's desire to fight for the cause of freedom. (41) Later, in 1864, when Garibaldi cancelled his visit to Scotland during his trip to Britain, disappointment and dismay was widespread. McAdam reported that in Glasgow nearly 200,000 working men assembled in the town in protest, sharing the widespread belief that plots were afoot to keep Garibaldi away from his working-class admirers. (42)
Unsurprisingly, this excitement was reflected, and bolstered, by Scotland's poets. Scotland's popular press was full of stirring pro-Garibaldi and pro-Italy verse. In Glasgow's Penny Post, for instance, the editor printed J. Scott's untitled poem, opening 'Old Scotland! ever famed for thy beauty and freedom', and inviting Scotland, as 'Rich mother of heroes, full of love and devotion' to hear the sounds of Italy 'shrieking to Heaven, and bleeding! / The fangs of the tyrant lay deep in her throat'. The editor commented on Scott's poem that 'it is [...] pleasant to find that we possess local poets who willingly invoke the aid of the Muses to second the good work of the Italian Committee.' (43) In 1862 in the Elgin Courant, 'Cutler Jamie', a well-known local 'tramping' poet, lamented Garibaldi's 'downfall' after his defeat and capture in 1862 and the consequent celebration of the 'friends of Papal power':
But what needs Papal pride erect its head? Freedom will live when Garibaldi's dead, And, when in silent death its hero lies, Even from his ashes can its help arise. (44)
As in much Risorgimento poetry, in these two poems Italy is represented as suffering from both political and religious tyranny--the fact that Garibaldi's cause could be represented as a fight against Roman Catholicism and the Pope made it still more popular with Protestant Scodand.
Jamie and J. Scott's poems, other than their explicit or implicit allusions to Scodand as the cradle of freedom, do not make further connections between Scottish political (and literary) culture and the Risorgimento. Many poems did do so, however. John McIntyre's 'Stanzas Suggested by Passing Events', on the front page of the Paisley Herald in September 1860, opens by suggesting that poets ought to write about Nature and God, rather than war and violence, before finding inspiration for the poet's political mission in Scotland's literary records of Wallace:
My own lov'd country! to thy page I turn And see exalted there one mighty name, Higher and brighter on the scroll of fame, Than Bruce the Victor of a Bannockburn. Oh, shade of Wallace! what a glorious power Thy pure unselfish spirit bears along, That wakes a people's ever-grateful song, And nerves the Scottish arm in battle's hour. (45)
At this point, seven stanzas into the poem, Italy has not been mentioned once. It does not need to be, because any poem that references 'passing events' in 1860 and invokes Wallace and Bruce will be assumed by readers to be a Garibaldi poem. It is stanza eleven before we reach an allusion to 'Thou noble soul', and six lines from the conclusion before Garibaldi is named:
Onward, still onward, ye victorious band, Despite the curses of a Vatican, With Garibaldi ever in the van, Whose cry is Liberty, and Fatherland. And may that flag triumphant be unfurl'd, That cry be heard o'er every land and sea, Till Europe's haughty despots bow the knee, And truth, with justice, renovates the world.
McIntyre's poem sets out to give a justification for writing politicised poetry as a local newspaper poet. He argues both that it is the role of the poet to commemorate heroic national liberators, and that this is especially the designated role of the Scottish poet, given the importance of Wallace and Bruce in the Scottish literan' tradition. None of these poems come up with any English heroes who might be compared to Garibaldi, and most, as here, concentrate wholly on Scotland rather than Britain's relationship to the Risorgimento. (The other national heroes frequently cited are William Tell and George Washington, so that three out of four of the most popular antecedents for Garibaldi fought against the English.) McIntyre's present tense--Wallace's inspiration 'nerves the Scottish arm' rather than 'nerved'--may specifically reference the recruitment drive for a Scottish regiment to join the fight in Italy.
The Paisley Herald also published--two weeks later--J. R. R.'s 'Garibaldi and His Men', which is especially notable in setting a poem on Garibaldi to a Jacobite song, giving one verse as epigraph, 'It's up yon heathery mountain / And doon yon scroggy glen / We daurna gang a milking / For Charlie and his men'. Garibaldi and his men are similarly represented as guerrilla fighters, commanding popular revolutionary sympathies:
A moment in the foeman's camp At midnight, and away Back to their forest fastness Before the break of day [...] Where'er they went the peoples rose-- Old treaties thrown aside-- The parchment barriers all gave way, Opposed to freedom's tide. (46)
In imagining an Italy united and ringing 'With the anthems of the free' through the lens of a Jacobite tune, J. R. R. suggests, whether consciously or not, a wistful sense of what might have been for Scotland.
Many Garibaldi poems were written in standard English, though some poets did use Scots to convey Scotland's particular investments in the Italian cause. James Nicholson's 1862 'Lament for Garibaldi', in the Hamilton Advertiser, is assigned the tune of 'Birks of Aberfeldy' and is written in Scots while, interestingly, referring to 'Britannia's' sympathy with Garibaldi rather than Scotia's:
The sword has drapt frae Freedom's han;-- Her glorious march is at a stan'; Italia's braves wha'll noo comman' Since she's lost Garibaldi! Britannia shares Italia's woe, Italia's woe, Italia's woe Britannia shares Italia's woe, And mourns for Garibaldi. (47)
As is often the case in newspaper verse, Scots is used to convey the sense that the poet speaks as one of 'the people', a working man (Nicholson, unlike many of these poets, was also likely to be familiar to readers as a well-known working-class poet from Glasgow). Nicholson's appeal to wider British sympathies may thus speak to the 'people's' identification with Garibaldi: the 'we' in his final fines ('From shore to shore we'd raise the cheer /To welcome Garibaldi') represents the working men and women of Britain. Though, unlike J. R. R.'s tune, there is no direct link between the lyrics of 'The Birks of Aberfeldy' and the content of Nicholson's poem, the choice of this tune also reinforces the connection between Burns and poems on Italian freedom.
Hamilton followed her devotion to Kossuth with an extensive collection of pro-Garibaldi verse. The strength of her support for the Risorgimento was such that when Garibaldi's son Minotti later came to Scotland, he paid a special visit to Hamilton's cottage to thank her personally. Among her numerous poems on Italy, 'Auld Scotland's Welcome to Garibaldi', one of the cluster of poems published in 1864 anticipating Garibaldi's planned visit to Scotland, stands out for its personal address, in Scots, and its invocation (as in Kossuth's Glasgow speech) of the landscape of Scotland as emblematic of freedom:
I ca' ye mine, for ye're the brither O' my ain Wallace; twa sic ither Ne'er leeved upon the virth thegither. Blest amang women was the mither That bore ye, Garibaldi! [...] Oh war the heather in the bell, I'd guide ve thro' the hills mysel', Whaur Freedom's standard never fell; Whaur hill and rock wi' echoing swell, Wad welcome Garibaldi! (48)
Hamilton's gender is usually referenced in her political poems, as when she considers the dreadful sights 'that woman may not tell' in 'Hungaria'. In 'Auld Scotland's Welcome' she speaks in the persona of 'auld mither Scotland', adopting a maternal position towards Garibaldi and also implicitly comparing him to Christ, in the Biblical allusion to Mary in 'Blest amang women'. Hamilton was far from the only working-class woman to write poems in support of Garibaldi--Ellen Johnston's 'Welcome, Garibaldi. A Voice from Dundee' is another well-known example (49)--but Hamilton is the only one to do so from the self-aware perspective of an older woman, a mother whose devotion to the cause of liberty parallels that of mother Scotland.
It would be difficult to locate a Scottish popular newspaper which published no poetry about Garibaldi in the 1860s. Such was the extent of this poetic craze, however, that editors began to greet Garibaldi poems with mock-dismay. From suggesting that 'martial' poems might, in the words of the Glasgow Citizen on the Scottish volunteers, 'administer a touch of heartening to our young and valiant countrymen who are about to make an "excursion" to Italy', editors shifted towards skepticism about the quality and literary standards of poems inspired by political events. (50) The editor of the Hamilton Advertiser, while sharing the general admiration for Garibaldi ('The only man among modern warriors who reminds us of the ancient heroes'), noted in 1864 that 'the visit of Garibaldi to this country has "fired the souls" of not a few among our poetical contributors', citing a number of examples. He selected one unfortunate for particular criticism:
J. lackson, apprentice-maker, Glasgow, 16 years of age, is an intense lover of freedom, and an enthusiastic admirer of Garibaldi, for whom, he informs us in a note which accompanies his poems, he would 'willingly sacrifice his all.' The poem, which is very long, contains several rather funny stanzas:-- Once again, great Garibaldi Once again I hear thy cry Ringing o'er the startled nations From the shores of Italy.
Cry and Italy don't rhyme very well, unless we give to the latter word that peculiar pronunciation which it obtains among street ballad singers [...] Do not give up your awl, Mr Jackson, and if you be wise, eschew poetry and politics for at least four years to come. (51)
'We have received so many addresses to Garibaldi of late that we are getting rather tired of them,' he noted in another column, giving a comic instance of the kind of poetry he was receiving:
o garabaldie welcome. Here the nation Hails the with a cheer thy very name to us is dear Hurra for garibaldi. (52)
This is an example of the kind of ambiguously 'bad' poetry that was becoming increasingly popular in the press from the mid-1860s, since readers enjoyed the spectacle of aspiring poets with amusingly poor spelling, grammar and punctuation. (53) Still more impatiently, by 1867 the Hamilton Advertiser editor informed 'Libertas' that 'Garibaldi has enough to suffer without having his name associated with such twaddle as you have composed in his honour.' (54)
The exhaustion of editors, confronted with endless poorly written poems in praise of Garibaldi, became a comic feature in itself. 'What tortures that poor hero is suffering at the hands of those rhymesters!', wrote the People's Journal editor. 'If this flood of Garibaldi rhyme don't abate soon, we shall be under the necessity of devoting half a column every week to describe its ravages, under some such heading as "Garibaldry"'. (55) One poet took up this challenge by producing 'Garibaldi's Soliloquy on the Modern Scottish Muse', published three weeks later, in which a desperate Garibaldi begs Scottish newspaper poets to stop eulogising him:
What! can nought serve the driv'llers for their rhyme Save my poor father's honoured patronyme? Where shall it end, or what be the next bout? Will no one rise and snuff these blinkers out?
In the final lines, Garibaldi switches into Scots:
Wow, wad the creatures min' their single carritch, Or stint their rhyme to 'postrophize their parritch, Their brose-cogs, kail, or saucy barley-bannocks-- The first might mend their hearts, the lave their stammaks-- An' leave me, an' my spurtle-blade, sae fain, We'll last the langer that we're lat alane. (56)
This shift is important, because in it this comic verse makes a serious point about what Scotland's 'people's poets' should be doing. In suggesting that they would be better to stick to religion ('the single carritch' is the Catechism) and domestic life than attempting, firstly, to write verse, and secondly, to write political Risorgimento verse, the author of this poem raises in a different form the same question that Tennyson's anti-hero asks. Should the poets of Scotland not have better things to do than attempt to intervene in Italian affairs? Since Garibaldi, as the speaker of this soliloquy, is also colloquial, sarcastic, rude and at home in Scots, the poem deflates his image as a glorious Christ-like hero. 'Spurtle-blade' (a 'spurtle' is a spatula for stirring porridge) is a derogatory term for Garibaldi's weaponry, and also quite likely a sexual innuendo, since one of the key aspects of Garibaldi's character that poets glossed over was his attractiveness to women, and his varied relationships within and outside marriage.
As this small selection of examples, out of a vast archive of little-known Scottish political poems on Hungary and Italy, demonstrates, Scotland's poets felt strongly that it was their role to aid European nationalist causes in the best way they could. And despite sardonic editors, newspapers published thousands of these poems. Just as the poems reflect on Garibaldi and Kossuth's links to Wallace, Bruce and Burns, so they reflect on their own relationship to a Scottish poetic tradition which, in this imagining, is explicitly nationalist and politicised and has always been concerned with celebrating liberty and freedom. That the poems themselves often repeat familiar and standard sentiments, using similar language and tropes, does not render them unworthy of literary study, because it is the mass of this poetic culture, the extent to which repetition and familiarity breed conviction, that matters in a body of poems which aim to impact upon public opinion and were read as part of a collective voice. To what extent these poetic sentiments fed into stirrings of Scottish nationalism, or concerns about Scotland's relationship to England and to Britain, is difficult to assess. But poetry certainly played a significant role in establishing a discourse of reciprocal sympathy and identification between European nationalism and Scotland. And as the Glasgow Commonwealth observed:
While Hungarians, Italians, Greeks and Slavonians are all in agony with epidemic restlessness, it would be hard if old Scotland had not a touch of the same fever. True, it is but a slight touch that Scotland has, or can now have, of this sentimental sickness. Such maladies do not attack twice with the same violence; and Scotland had her attack of the nationality-fever long ago, and came through it wonderfully well. But the relics of the old attack are yet dormant in her constitution; and now that the epidemic is in the air and that its ravages are so fearful in regions which it is visiting for the first time, it is not surprising that the 'auld nation' north of the Tweed should feel a sympathetic twinge of her former pains. Hence this cry for 'justice to Scotland' which is beginning to make itself heard. (57)
Though the Commonwealth does not approve of the 'national fanaticism' which it perceives as growing in Scotland, it is important that it links this 'sickness' to identification with European nations. The position of the Commonwealth on nationalism, Scottish or European, was also ambiguous at best: later in the 1850s the newspaper explicitly argued for greater devolution for Scotland, and it shared in the hero-worship of Kossuth and Garibaldi. (58) Poets did not usually call for 'justice to Scotland' in their pro-Hungary or Italy poems: given that the editorial attitude in this quotation was not uncommon, we must remember that if they had done, it is unlikely that their poems would have been published. But their poems are very much part of the movement the Commonwealth discerned, a movement which was gaining momentum in the 1850s and 1860s. Without the reciprocal relationship of support, admiration and emulation between Kossuth, Garibaldi, other European leaders and nations, and Scotland, shown at its height in popular poetry, Scotland's self-perception of its own role in relation to European politics and European nationalism, in the nineteenth and perhaps the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, would have been very different.
(1) Alfred Tennyson, Maud, I.IV, lines 147-49, in Christopher Ricks (ed.), Tennyson: A Selected Edition (London: Longman, 1989), p. 530.
(2) Matthew Reynolds, The Realms of Verse: English Poetry in a Time of Nation-Building (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). Alison Chapman, Networking the Nation: British and American Women's Poetry and Italy, 1840-1870 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). See also Stephanie Kuduk Weiner, Republican Politics and English Poetry, 1789-1874 (Houndmills: Palgrave, 2005), especially chapter 4, and Christopher Keirstead, Victorian Poetry, 'Europe, and the Challenge of Cosmopolitanism (Athens: Ohio State University Press, 2011).
(3) An exception is Suzanne Garrard's discussion of Scottish working-class poet Ellen Johnston, in '"Welcome, Garibaldi!!": Factory poet Ellen Johnston, working-class radicalism, and the poetics of Victorian cosmopolitanism', in L Costaguta, M. Kidd, S. Parfitt and J. Tiplady (eds), Workers of all lands unite? Working-Class Nationalism and Internationalism Until 1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2018), pp. 98-117. Her focus is exclusively on Johnston, comparing her poems to Barrett Browning's Garibaldi verse.
(4) For a good account of English involvement in European nationalist causes, see Eugenio F. Biagini, Liberty, Retrenchment and Reform: Popular Liberalism in the Age of Gladstone, 1860-1880 (Cambridge: CUP, 1992).
(5) Hamilton Advertiser, 20 December 1856, p. 2.
(6) Ibid., p. 2.
(7) Ibid., p. 2.
(8) Marcella Pellcgrino Sutcliffe, Victorian Radicals and Italian Democrats (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2014). On the uses of poetry, see especially pp. 64-68, where Sutcliffe discusses instances of poetry about Mazzini and Kossuth published in the English radical press.
(9) I take this phrase from Graeme Morton, Unionist Nationalism: Governing Urban Scotland, 1830-1860 (East Einton; Tuckwell Press, 1999).
(10) James J. Coleman, Remembering the Past in Nineteenth-Century Scotland: Commemoration, Nationality and Memory (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), p. 74.
(11) Tibor Frank, 'Lajos Kossuth and the Hungarian Exiles in London', in Sabine Freitag (ed.) Exiles from European Revolutions: Refugees in Mid-Victorian England (NY/Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2005), pp. 121-34 (p. 126). See also 'Marketing Hungary: Kossuth and the Politics of Propaganda', in Laszlo Peter, Martyn Rady and Peter Sherwood (eds) Eajos Kossuth Sent Word... Papers Delivered on the Occasion of the Bicentenary of Kossuth's Birth (London: Hungarian Cultural Centre/School of Slavonic and E. European Studies (UCL), 2003), pp. 221-49.
(12) Laszlo Peter, 'Introduction', Lajos Kossuth Sent Word, pp. 1-14 (p. 1).
(13) Hamilton Advertiser, 26 September 1857, p. 1.
(14) See the recollections in Thomas Stewart, Facts and Fancies, A Rambling Autobiographical Sketch, plus Recreations of Rhyme by an Auchterarder Weaver Boy, ed. Moira Cherrie (Perth: Auchterarder Local History Association, 2008), p. 7, and Alexander Mitchell, Political and Social Movements in Dalkeith, from 1831-1882 (Printed for private circulation, 1882), p. 68.
(15) Robert Kerr, Eearn to Live: Firstlings from the Pen of a Working-Man (London; Houlston and Wright, 1860), p. 60. Kerr was Chairman of the committee which organised Kossuth's visit to Kilmarnock.
(16) Autobiography of John McAdam, with Selected Letters, ed. Janet Fyfe (Edinburgh: Scottish History Society, 1980), pp. 44, 57, 58.
(17) Glasgow Herald, 7 July 1854, p. 3.
(18) Ibid., p. 3.
(19) 'Kossuth' by 'T', Crichton St, Nairnshire Telegraph and General Advertiser, 7 May 1856, p. 3.
(20) Janet Hamilton, 'Hungaria', Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 14 August 1855, p. 3. The line in quotation marks may be a misquotation from Byron's The Corsair, 'Hope withering fled, and mercy sigh'd farewell' (IX).
(21) Janet Hamilton, 'Impending War', Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser 16 April 1859, p. 3. Reprinted in Hamilton, Poems, Sketches and Essays (Glasgow: James Maclehose, 1885), p. 69.
(22) On this incident, see Ewan Fernie, Shakespeare for Freedom: Why the Plays Matter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 24-46. Using Edwin Morgan's poem, 'Louis Kossuth', in which Kossuth meets Glasgow working-class poet James Macfarlan, Fernie briefly discusses the link between Kossuth's 'progressive nationalism' and, among other things, the 2014 Scottish independence referendum (p. 41).
(25) James Hedderwick, Backward Glances or Some Personal Recollections (William Blackwood & Sons: Edinburgh and London, 1891), p. 198.
(24) 'Kossuth in the Land of Burns', Glasgow Sentinel, 27 December 1856, p. 7.
(25) Veronica Ruttkay, '"His voice resonated for the longest time in our literature": Burns and "popular poetry" in nineteenth-century Hungary', in Murray Pittock (Ed.), The Reception of Robert Burns in Europe (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), pp. 195-226.
(26) This competition was widely reported; for an example see 'Burns and Kossuth', Annandale Observer, 27 July 1888, p. 2. In 1888 Kossuth was still alive, living in Italy, but his glory days as a revolutionary leader were long behind him.
(27) James Rigg, 'Kossuth's Address to the Shade of Burns', Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 8 September 1888, p. 5.
(28) Glasgow, Mitchell Library, Robert Burns Collection, Alexander Murdoch, Kossuth at the Grave of Burns (Glasgow: James McNab, ).
(29) Louis Kossuth, Memories of My Exile, trans. Ferencz Jausz (New York: D. Applcton and Co., 1880), pp. 258-59n.
(30) Alfonso Scirocco and Allan Cameron, Garibaldi: Citizen of the World (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2007), p. 268.
(31) See Lucy Riall, Garibaldi: Invention of a Hero (Yale University Press: New Haven, 2007) and Derek Bealcs, 'Garibaldi in England: The politics of national enthusiasm' in John A. David and Paul Ginsborg (eds), Society and Politics in the Age of the Risorgimento (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 184-216. See also Biagini, pp. 372-75.
(32) Fyfe, ed. Autobiography, p. xix. See also Janet Fvfe, 'Scottish Volunteers with Garibaldi', Scottish Historical Review 57 (1978), pp. 168-81.
(33) Recollections of William Hammond, A Glasgow Hand-Loom Weaver (Glasgow: Campbell Club, 'Citizen' Press, ), p. 64.
(34) Glasgow, Glasgow University Library Special Collections, John McAdam Letters, MS Cien 503, 530/72 (31 December 1860), 530/74 (16 January? 1872).
(35) Aberdeen Herald, 17 November 1860, p. 3. This incident was widely reported: see also, for instance, 'Fatal Quarrel About the Character of Garibaldi', Dundee Advertiser, 16 November 1860, p. 2.
(36) Aberdeen Herald, 15 September 1860, p. 5, 22 September 1860, p. 2.
(37) People's Journal, 23 June 1860, p. 2.
(38) The Dundee Advertiser's, account of the meeting was sent to Garibaldi in Italy and he replied via a secretary. Reported in People's Journal, 4 August 1860, p. 2.
(39) People's Journal, 23 June 1860, p. 2.
(40) For a full account, see Fyfe, 'Scottish Volunteers'.
(41) D. L. F., 'To the Scottish Garibaldians', Falkirk. Herald, 6 September 1860, p. 4.
(42) McAdam, Autobiography, pp. 45, 68.
(43) Penny Post, 4 August 1860, p. 1.
(44) Cutler Jamie, 'Garibaldi', Elgin Courant, 26 September 1862, p. 2.
(45) John McIntyre, 'Stanzas Suggested by Passing Events', Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser, 5 September 1860, p. 1.
(46) J. R. R., Paisley, 'Garibaldi and His Men', Paisley Herald and Renfren'shire Advertiser, 15 September 1860, p. 1.
(47) James Nicolson, 'Lament for Garibaldi', Hamilton Advertiser, 20 September 1862, p. 1. 'Nicolson' is a misspelling for the more usual 'Nicholson.'
(48) 'Auld Scotland's Welcome to Garibaldi', in Poems of Purpose and Sketches in Prose (CSlasgow; Thomas Murray, 1865), pp. 105-6.
(49) Johnston's Garibaldi poetry is assessed in depth by Garrard. Johnston's engagement (and Dundee's broader engagement) with Garibaldi is also discussed in H. Gustav Klaus, Factory Girl: Ellen Johnston and working-class poetry in Victorian Scotland (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1998), pp. 50-52.
(50) Glasgorw Citizen, 8 September 1860, p. 1.
(51) Hamilton Advertiser, 9 August 1982, p. 2. On Garibaldi as an ancient hero, see 'Garibaldi and Sicily', Hamilton Advertiser, 19 May 1860, p. 2.
(52) Hamilton Advertiser, 30 April 1864, p. 2.
(55) I have assessed this culture, and the usual practice of critiquing poetry in the 'correspondence' columns, in Blair, '"Let the Nightingales Alone": Correspondence columns, the Scottish press, and the making of the working-class poet', Victorian Periodicals Review 47.2 (2014), pp. 188-207.
(54) Hamilton Advertiser, 23 November 1867, p. 2.
(55) People's Journal, 27 October 1860, p. 2.
(56) Anon, 'Garibaldi's Soliloquy to the Modern Scottish Muse', People's Journal, 17 November 1860, p. 2. Reprinted in The Poets of the People's Journal: Newspaper Poetry in Victorian Scotland, ed. Blair (Glasgow: ASLS, 2016), pp. 20-21.
(57) Commonwealth, 29 October 1853, p. 104 (microfilm).
(58) On 10 December 1853, in 'Scottish Grievances Analysed', the paper argued that the emerging strain of Scottish nationalism needed to be countered by greater devolution, (pp. 248-49) On 14 June 1856 the Commonwealth published a special biographical supplement about Kossuth and announced that an engraving of him would be given away with the paper on June 21 and 28.
University of Strathclyde
Please Note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||Giuseppe Garibaldi and Lajos Kossuth|
|Publication:||Scottish Literary Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2018|
|Previous Article:||Scottish Compositor Poets and the Typographical Trade Press, 1850-1880.|
|Next Article:||Selected Essays on Robert Burns.|