Literary Biography of William Tennant

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William Tennant (1784-1848) has been called ‘the most original Scottish poet of his period’. This book remedies the neglect Tennant has suffered in comparison with his more famous contemporaries. His poetic oeuvre is re-evaluated and his often intensely localized characters and setting are explained and contextualized. Tennant’s many prose essays, translations and linguistic works are also reviewed, often for the first time, resulting in the most complete account to date of this undeservedly forgotten Scottish man of letters.


“….readers will find this the best modern information source on Tennant and can discover some fugitive pieces reprinted here. Any library ambitious to have good Scottish holdings should purchase this volume.” – Association for Scottish Literary Studies

“. . . the book is written in a direct and lively style and does not, like so many biographical tomes, get lost in details and expand to a length which may do justice to the fastidiousness of research involved but loses the reader’s interest in a plethora of detail. Watson keeps a clear line of narrative and concentrates on major issues throughout. He also does not subscribe to the theory that academic biographies must be at al times serious. The touches of humour and irony contribute to the book’s readability. Second, he often provides full texts – poetical and biographical. . . . it makes the book a valuable research tool for those wishing to follow Watson’s lead in resuscitating fuller studies of the poet’s work. Thirdly and crucially, it is not simply Tennant but an entire way of life, which emerges from these pages. The sociological context within which Tennant grew up is enthusiastically recreated and supported by solid research.” – Ronald Jack

“. . . a mine of information. . . . this is the first modern study of his life and analysis of his work and as such is very welcome. Moreover, in putting his life in its context, the book is rich in material throwing light on life in Fife getting on for two hundred years ago.” – David Stevenson

“Watson’s biography of Tennant serves a number of useful functions, not least of which is to give us the touching and inspiring details of this amazing autodidact’s life and intellectual growth. . . . always keeps an eye on the bigger picture by placing Tennant in the context of intellectual and cultural currents of the day as well as in the traditions of ?Scots poetry ranging back from Robert Burns to the Middle Ages. . . . In addition, the student of the Scots literary tradition, particularly that of the early 19th century, will find a feast of information and trivia in this splendid biography.” – Steven McKenna

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