Copyright © 2017 by Roger Greaves
Allan Ramsay's Fables & Tales (PDF Edition)

Allan Ramsay's rollicking Scots satires were brought together for the first time in a two-volume limited edition published in Paris by Editions d'En Face in 2008.

Volume I contains his twenty-nine fables published between 1722 and 1730, at a time when fables were extremely popular in print and on the stage. However most, if not all, were written in a single creative outburst in late 1721 and early 1722 at the very start of the craze. While intended to make money, as Ramsay's Advertisement admits, they were also written to exemplify the ideals of his canny blend of utopianism and citizenship.

Volume II contains the fourteen Scots poems which Ramsay himself described as "tales", by which he meant social satires. Some are amusing stories in a Chaucerian vein, others mock the world's foibles in the manner of Horace, and one or two are mere squibs lampooning examples of contemporary behaviour. The earliest of the fourteen dates from around 1715 or before, the latest from 1745 or after. Three were first published in 1722, one in 1724, one in 1729. Nine known only to his circle of enlightened friends remained unpublished during his lifetime on account of their outspoken content. All were originally intended for performance in convivial circumstances by the poet solo or with the assistance of friends.

The present PDF Edition is extracted and adapted from the original print edition, complete with its biographical introduction, on-page glosses and extensive notes (including Ramsay's source material). Individual poems are also made available with their notes, as are related documents such as Ramsay's observations on English and Scots (1721), his Scots-English glossary (1729) and a guide to his pronunciation in the form of a cross-indexed rhyme list.

Three centuries on, Scotslit Downloads puns on Ramsay's publishing business in Edinburgh's High Street in the 1720s, when he issued his satires in penny broadsheets and sixpenny pamphlets from his bookshop by the Cross-well and his circulating library-cum-coffeehouse in the Luckenbooths. Doubtless his business in our century would be digital too, hence the Ramsay niche here.

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