Hugh MacDiarmid

(born August 1892 – died September 1978) – Langholm, Dumfries & Galloway

Hugh MacDiarmid

Hugh MacDiarmid was just one of the many pseudonyms of Christopher Murray Grieve, from Langholm in Dumfries and Galloway. A journalist with a strong political sense, he helped found the National Party of Scotland (later the SNP). He left School in 1910, and after serving in the Medical Corps in WWI, he returned to journalism and began to edit and publish a series of literary magazines. Northern Numbers was a poetry collection, while in Scottish Chapbook he first used the name ‘Hugh MacDiarmid’.

MacDiarmid was an exponent of the new Scottish modernism, and, with authors such as Lewis Grassic Gibbon, of the new Scottish literary renaissance. MacDiarmid wrote a series of articles with Gibbon on this new renaissance, a rejection of the 19th century sentimentalisation of Scottish literature.

His first published book was Annals of the Five Senses; his long poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle is his most famous work.

Other pseudonyms used by MacDiarmid included Isobel Guthrie, A.K. Laidlaw, Arthur Leslie, Gillechriosd Mac a'Greidhir and James Maclaren. He wrote in Gaelic (and did several Gaelic to English translations), Lallans and English, particularly in later life. He was one of the greatest promoters and creators of Lallans, here referring to the synthetic combination of different forms of the Scots tongue. His attempt to establish a unified and standardised written form of Scots, in order to prevent a shift toward Standard English writing, met with approval as well as criticism. Poet Edwin Muir was particularly opposed to his use of Lallans, believing that "Scotland can only create a national literature by writing in English".

MacDiarmid’s political views tended to be radical and still continue to stir controversy. He died in September 1978 in Biggar in the Scottish Borders.

  • Cover scan of Annals Of The Five Senses And Other Stories, Sketches And Plays
    Annals Of The Five Senses And Other Stories, Sketches And Plays - Hardback
    This is a collection of psychological studies. Some of the studies in this book are based upon the author's own life, and others explore both male and female viewpoints. The text also includes short stories, short plays, and a ballet scenario.
  • Cover scan of Complete Poems
    Complete Poems - Hardback
    This is the first volume of a two-volume edition of the work of the Scottish poet, Hugh MacDiarmid. It is a revised edition with several newly-discovered poems and various corrections.
  • Cover scan of A Drunk Man Looks At The Thistle
    A Drunk Man Looks At The Thistle - Paperback
    The drunk man lies on a moonlit hillside looking at a thistle, jaggy and beautiful, which epitomises Scotland's divided self. The man reflects on the fate of the nation, the human condition in general and his own personal fears. In this edition, Kenneth Buthlay provides extensive commentary and notes.
  • Cover scan of Lucky Poet
    Lucky Poet: A Self-Study In Literature And Political Ideas - Hardback
    First published in 1943, this book had a minatory subtitle: 'A Self-Study in Literature and Political Ideas, being the Autobiography of Hugh MacDiarmid'. It has more in common with Coleridge's 'Biographia Literaria' than with conventional memoirs.
  • Cover scan of The Raucle Tongue
    The Raucle Tongue: Hitherto Uncollected Essays, Journalism And Interviews - Hardback
    This title is part of the 14-volume MacDiarmid 2000 programme which was launched by Carcanet on the centenary of his birth in 1992. The purpose of the programme is to bring into print all of Hugh MacDiarmid's major writings
  • Cover scan of Selected Poems
    Selected Poems - Paperback
    Drawing on the literary and vernacular traditions of Scottish culture, Hugh MacDiarmid's creates modern literature that is both nationalistic and international in its range. This selection of his poetry explores the diversity of his writing, from delicate lyrics to fierce polemic.

Biographies of Hugh MacDiarmid

  • Lucky Poet by Hugh MacDiarmid - 1946
  • The Company I've Kept by Hugh MacDiarmid - 1966
  • Hugh MacDiarmid by Bob Purdie - 2004