The Walter Scott Monument and Writing as Cultural Preservation
In describing Sir Walter Scott, Lord Cockburn’s Journal stated, ”Scotland never owed so much to one man.” In part, Cockburn was referring to the work Scott did in preserving Scotland’s cultural heritage. Scott’s work was often concerned with Scottish heritage and mythology (both ancient and more modern), and it partially because of him that Scotland has retained its sense of identity.
For his contributions, Scott received a monument that was described by Charles Dickens as a “complete failure” because it looks like a Gothic steeple planted in the ground without a surrounding building.
I can’t really recommend the monument wholeheartedly, what with its price and the substantially better (and free) views from nearby Arthur’s Seat. The only extra that the monument adds is information on Scott himself, but you could find out more by just checking out the man’s wiki. However, doing a little bit of digging on Scott isn’t a bad idea for those wondering at the role of writers in the grand scheme of society. Scott’s work has seen steadfast interest, and his contributions helped preserve a fading culture.
In Ireland, I saw something similar with Seamus Heaney. While Heaney has written dozens, if not hundreds, of wonderful poems, he only read translated Irish poems at the reading I attended. Heaney is also famous for his translation of Beowulf. Further, Heaney’s early work can be seen partially as an homage to Irish mythology (North is centered around Irish myths, and the striking poems about the bog bodies are a look back at ancient European culture). Both in translating cultural lore and in adapting it for modern audiences, it’s clear that writers contribute substantially to the backbone of a culture’s sense of itself.
Enough about Scott and his phallogocentric monument. I enjoyed both my walk there and back, thanks to the architecture and ingrained history of the city.
I then explored the Edinburgh Museum of Art, which will have its own entry (which contains some reflections on the nature of reflection, especially as it applies to art and story).
For those of you who haven’t been keeping close track of my whereabouts, here the general update: I am currently staying in Edinburgh, and while I’d intended to explore onward more quickly than this, I was stopped by an amazing hostel.
The Caladonian Backpacker’s is a great place to stay for someone who works online. They have stable, fast internet, a lot of places to hook up your laptop, a free breakfast, and a great surrounding area to wander. This includes lovely extras like major historic sites and a cheap grocery store that’s just five minutes away. As such, I decided to procrastinate my exploration of the rest of Scotland as my eye fully recovers and I reconstruct my online presence. Having a stable place gives me the time to devote to these projects that are normally pushed to the back-burner.
Every so often, I’m blown away by the reality of my situation. I am currently traveling the world as a freelance writer. And it’s working.
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