For those who have read and enjoyed Macdonell’s humorous and affectionate book England, Their England, this volume, My Scotland, will come as a shock. There are some lighter moments with the occasional flash of the Macdonell genius, but these apart it is a choleric tirade in a style which is not apparent in his other books. At the time of writing he was going through a messy divorce — brought about through his own extra-marital adventures — and this may have added to his mood.
He was born in India, brought up in London, educated at Winchester, provided with further excellent character-forming life-experience in France in muddy conditions, and then spent his working life in London. His formal address on his War Record documentation is Bridgefield, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen, but it does not seem that he ever spent a great deal of time in Scotland. Therefore, the spleen and invective coming from someone who adopted England seems out of character. The only explanation is that it came about as the pent-up frustration out of forty years of hearing comments which he viewed as his national heritage being treated as a joke. From those that knew him he was remembered as a complex individual, ‘delightful … but quarrelsome and choleric’ (this was by Alec Waugh, who called him the Purple Scot). J. B. Morton (Beachcomber) remembered him as a man of conviction, with a quick wit and enthusiasm and, surprising in a military man, ‘a sense of compassion for every kind of unhappiness’. What is surprising, given his depth of knowledge of the English, and the fact that they joke about anything, is that he took it so seriously.
Nevertheless, despite Macdonell’s exhortations for a ‘clamour for independence’ towards the end of the book, he did not practice what he preached, and instead of ‘leading from the front’ by preaching his new gospel from Edinburgh, he remained in England for the remainder of his days.
For all those who feel that Scotland has been ‘hard-done-by’ this is a must-buy book.
New introduction by Alan Sutton.
A. G. Macdonell, (1895-1941) was a journalist and satirical novelist. Without doubt his best-known work was England Their England, but the success of this overshadows his other books, many of which were classics in their own way. The Autobiography of a Cad must surely rank as one of the funniest books ever written and Lords and Masters is a cutting and hard-hitting satire with frightening prescience, foreseeing the Second World War as inevitable.
His American trip in 1934 is amusingly related in A Visit to America, but his other non-fiction is also powerful and beautifully written, with his highly regarded Napoleon and his Marshals providing one of the best accounts of the Napoleonic Wars in one single volume.
Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm