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Alexander Carmichael, His Circle and the Celtic Revival

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2012


After serving nearly fifty years as an exciseman, Alexander Carmichael entered into semi-retirement in 1897. Fifteen years previously, Carmichael and his wife moved to Edinburgh in 1882 for the sake of their children’s education. Carmichael was to spend most of his time in three key locations: Lismore, the island of his birth and upbringing, Uist where he undertook most of his collecting and Edinburgh, where as a youth he completed his education and where he finally retired. This paper will focus upon Carmichael during his time in Edinburgh and in particular the last two decades of his life. By 1882, Carmichael had completed his lion's share of collecting and had also by this time created a large network of friends and colleagues. His correspondence bears witness to well-known cultural figures of the nineteenth century, such as Fr Allan McDonald and Patrick Geddes, some of whom were key exponents of the Celtic Revival. An introduction to some of these figures will preface the important question of how such a revival influenced Carmichael when he was then undertaking his masterwork published as Carmina Gadelica (1900). Both positive and negative influences on Carmina will be examined in the light of this revival and other related issues will be discussed in relation to the complex character of Carmichael and the intricacies of his published works.

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