The first edition of Allan Ramsay’s elegy on Maggy Johnston

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Abstract

This note presents the discovery of what appears to be the long-lost first edition of Allan Ramsay's famous Elegy on Maggy Johnston. Its subject died in 1711 and the poem is first referred to in the summer of 1712, but the earliest versions known hitherto have been manuscript copies of the '2d edition enlarged and corrected' by the author in July 1713. It was not believed to survive in print before the third and final edition, published together with Ramsay's elegies on John Cowper and Lucky Wood, in a pamphlet of 1718. This first edition was found in the broadside collection of the Signet Library, Edinburgh. Like some of Ramsay's other early poems, it is printed on a half-sheet, suggesting that it was intended for street sale. It consists of just 11 stanzas, which Ramsay evidently expanded to 16 stanzas in his second edition, and then revised to 15 for the definitive iteration. The stanzas consist of only five lines, indicating that Ramsay had yet to adopt the 'Standard Habbie' form that became associated with mock elegies and other comic verse. The imprint is undated but it seems to be the original text of late 1711 or early 1712, or some variant of it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-50
JournalScottish Literary Review
Volume11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2019

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