Whilst working in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow recently, I came across a volume housed in Special Collections called ‘Stray Green Leaves’, which is an anthology that was put together by James Gould in 1860.
There is a newspaper clipping pasted into the front of the volume from The Glasgow Herald by Reverend Charles Rogers (no date given). It explains:
‘It appears that, for some twenty years or more, [James Gould] has frequented a number of newspaper offices, and culled the best poetry from the columns of newspapers belonging to all parts of the world. These he has neatly arranged in a well-bound volume. Corresponding principally with Scottish bards, he has obtained from them copies of some of their choicest compositions in their own handwriting, and these he has included in his collection.’
This volume is particularly significant as it contains a selection of poems in manuscript by some of the best known poets in Scotland around the mid-nineteenth century, along with letters to Gould written in reply to his request for a sample of the authors’ poetry in their own handwriting for his collection.
And it really is an amazing collection, a testament to Gould’s tenacity as it took him somewhere between 20 and 30 years to complete.
Amongst the letters and manuscript poems are contributions by Isa Craig, Jessie Saxby, Mrs. J. Ayton, Alexander Rodger, Robert Gilfillin, Andrew Park, David Gray, Thomas Aird, Hew Ainslie, William Watt, Henry A. Riddell, Alexander Maclachlan, James Stuart, James Thomison, Alexander Anderson, George Webster, Alexander Smith, and the list goes on!
I was quite excited to see a letter from Janet Hamilton – a working-class poet from Langloan – to Gould (as dictated to her son) along with the poem, ‘Lowly Song of a Lowly Bard’, in her own handwriting, which, as she explains is ‘the caligraphy that I invented for myself after I was fifty years of age having never learned to write’.
In the first part of the volume are poems in the authors’ handwriting, followed by newspaper clippings, which are neatly pasted in. Unfortunately, the clippings don’t always have the authors’ names nor the details of the newspapers from which they came.
This is a remarkable work and is surely one of the stars in the Mitchell Library’s impressive collection. It is, as Reverend Rogers rightly called it, ‘a literary treasure’.