Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 September 2009
Where was Romantic Scotland? The act of imagining a Scotland is a subject of debate as much in the twenty-first as in the eighteenth century, and we are familiar with tensions, interplay, and acts of mutual sustaining between the romance of an imaginary Scotland and the social dynamics which both resist and produce it. To conceive of any territory must be in part a question of form and precedent, and there were plenty of generic ways of “knowing” Scotland in the late eighteenth century. Domestic tourism had given rise to a rush of printed Tours, “the mushroom produce of every summer.” The historical or anthropological tours of Johnson and Pennant produced a diachronic Scotland whose land- and townscapes inscribed a history of people moving uncertainly in their stadial progress towards advanced agricultural practices. Further underpinning the creation of a modern Scotland, the ability of Scottish landscapes to act as a source of the picturesque produced models of identification which not only enabled the tourist to know where and how to look, but also formalized a sense of the nation as being already inscribed in polite literature, obviating the need actually to go there. But the process of identifying a “Scotland,” or anywhere else, must also take place at a more basic level: the nuts and bolts of location itself, the task of differentiating one place from another, or the even more difficult one of isolating place from a wider concept of space.