Prof. David Purdie - A Colloquium on The Heart of Midlothian

On Saturday 18th August 2018 we had a talk by Prof. David Purdie. He was introduced by our Chairman, Prof. Peter Garside.

Welcome everybody to this year’s Scott Club Colloquium, an event which is customarily timed to be as close as possible to Scott’s birthdate on 15 August (we’re within three days on this occasion). In the last two decades we’ve also been blessed by the opportunity to celebrate a number of key literary bicentenaries, such as the Lady of the Lake in 2010 and Waverley in 2014. An effort has also been made in some instances to fit the location of the colloquium to the work in question, the Trossachs in the case of the Lady or in that of Waverley Abbotsford, where Scott is famously supposed to have retrieved his unfinished first novel from a desk drawer in a lumber room before resuming it during the Christmas vacation of 18134/14. Last year we first intended to hold the colloquium on Rob Roy in Ross Priory at the foot of Loch Lomond before the cost of the booking and travel made this inadvisable, turning instead to the the New Club at lunchtime, a venue and timing which from the turnout appears to suit a number of our members. This year round one might claim (if the expression has any remaining validity) to have a Cake-and-Eat-It situation, in that the location admirably fits the present work under consideration: that is, The Heart of Mid-Lothian, first published in the summer of 1818, and arguably Scott’s one and only fully Edinburgh novel in terms of setting and leading concerns. Of course it hasn’t been possible to hold this colloquium exactly in the location that gives the novel its title—no, not the football Club, but the old Edinburgh Tolbooth, demolished in 1817—but we are within a mile or so of some of the places where main events in the story occurred, the site of then gallows in the Grassmarket, the Edinburgh Law Courts in Parliament Square, and the grasslands beneath Salisbury Crags.

We also have a specially qualified speaker today in Professor David Purdie, already known to many of you I’m sure as a two-term Chairman of this Club, holding the office that is for six years during which he helped raise the profile of meetings and hosted some memorable dinners. David is a medical Professor Emeritus and a former Clinical Sub-Dean of the Leeds University Medical School, his specialism I believe being Osteoporosis, the brittle bone disease. Since retirement he has given fuller vent to another side of his intellectual interests, establishing himself as a leading light on the Edinburgh intellectual scene, and an authority on Burns, Scott, and the Scottish Enlightenment among other things. As well as work in preparing the 4th edition of The Burns Encyclopedia, he is the author of a humorous book on golf, and an Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Edinburgh, where he has been working on a revision of David Hume’s key philosophical texts. More apposite still to our present situation, he has published redactions of two novels by Scott aimed at facilitating the modern reader, Ivanhoe in 2012 and the Heart of Mid-Lothian in 2014 (of which I note there have already been four reprintings). The main plan today is that Professor Purdie will talk for about 20-25 minutes, covering both the novel and his own work in adapting it, this being followed by a general discussion amongst those present, the formal meeting then ending with sandwiches at about 1pm. I have with me copies of some of the main manifestations of the Heart during its long publishing history, including parts of the 4-volume first edition and Magnum Opus version, the EEEWN volume, and David’s own redaction, in case anyone would like to consult these afterwards. Also a short list of possible topic for discussion, if needed, though this may well be left behind by the time our speaker has finished. Professor Purdie …

Above Image Copyright "Lee Live: Photographer" (Used with Permission)