Evergreen: Environmentalism & the Symbolism of Changing Seasons in the Context of the Scottish Renaissance
© Copyright 2019 Aimie Prazeres, Ryerson University
The Evergreen was a Celtic revival magazine based in Edinburgh, Scotland edited by Patrick Geddes and William Sharp, that was short-lived, running semi-annually from 1895 till 1897 (Kooistra, “General Introduction”). This curated collection with each season was integrated not only in the binding and cover but also in its contents and artwork. The Evergreen‘s collection of visual art, fantasy, folklore, and written works invariably emphasized on uncovering and laying bare the realities of the progression of nature as well as Celtic culture. Andrew J. Herbertson’s “Northern Springtime” is established in the Spring volume of The Evergreen, in contrast, the Autumn volume features S. R. Crockett’s “The Song of Life’s Fine Flower”. While the two works incorporate the environment as a focal point, the manner in which it is treated in the two writings is fairly dissimilar. In spite of their disparities, both “Northern Springtime” and “The Song of Life’s Fine Flower” depict the topic of the environment with regards to each of their individual volume’s themes, in relation to their season. Through the depiction of the environment as a country and/or individual, the two works partake in the Scottish Renaissance, thus contributing to the magazine’s social and cultural revolution. By using the symbol of nature to represent rebirth and the continuance of life as an essential part of the natural environment, “Northern Springtime” and “The Song of Life’s Fine Flower” of The Evergreen served to promote a respect and admiration for the natural environment as well as encourage social and cultural regeneration, especially concentrated towards Edinburgh, Scotland.
About the Authors
Andrew J. Herbertson (1865-1915)
Andrew John Herbertson was born in Galashiels, Scotland in 1865 and was educated at the University of Edinburgh and University of Freiburg, a public research university located in Germany (Hedley). Herbertson was a student at Edinburgh in 1886 when he mentored by Patrick Geddes, who would later become an editor of Evergreen, and began to work with him in the Outlook Tower, located in Castlehill (Meller 90). Both Herbertson and Geddes developed a mutually beneficially relationship that intellectually complemented one another, which would later shape Herbertson’s career and change his life. Andrew Herbertson would become interested in numerous fields and even win scholarships related to nature and environmentalism including philosophy, experimental physics, astronomy, agricultural economy, and also the influence of culture upon evolutionary changes (Meller 90). Geddes’ influence would stretch continuously in Herbertson’s life and lead him to venture into various occupational fields including: author, editor, geographer, lecturer, and even member of Royal Scottish Geographical Society (Hedley). It was as a result of meeting Geddes and working with him on the geographical aspects of the Outlook Tower that Herbertson became an innovator of geography and its teachings (Meller 90).
S. R. Crockett (1859-1914)
Samuel Rutherford Crockett, known as S. R. Crockett in the publishing industry, was born in Scotland in 1859 to an unwed mother (Collin 89). Raised by his mother and his maternal grandparents, farmers from a southern region of Scotland called Kirkcudbrightshire, Crockett attended and was educated by the local schools that provided him a free education (Collin 89). Having attended Edinburgh University, due to a bursary he received, Crockett traveled to Europe twice as a traveling tutor when he ultimately believed, in 1881, that he was called to join the ministry of the Free Church in Scotland (Collin 89). To make a suitable amount of income to support himself throughout his endeavours, he sold articles to keep himself afloat. In 1886, Samuel Crockett was in his first year of ministry at an evangelical church, however, after his monumental success of The Stickit Minister (1893), Crockett resigned from his station in the church to become a writer and lecturer (Berton 370). By 1887, Crockett married the daughter of George Milner, an innovator and pioneer in Manchester for manufacturing and literary circles, he nonetheless continued with his literary ventures not for profit but for his own personal ambition and dream of becoming a poet (Collin 90-94). Throughout his works, one is able to discern the importance behind Crockett’s personal life and ambitions — his faith, family, and neighbours — as well as his endless loyalty to his home and his culture.
Society in the 1890s
When establishing The Evergreen towards nineteenth century Scotland, it is important to consider the Scottish state of being and culture as well as the influence behind the serial’s content. During the eighteenth century, the British Union Act was formally introduced in 1707 (Oakleaf 324). Due to the introduction of this Act, many historians looked at this period as a sort of cultural sub-nationalism because of the substantial role it played in the Scottish culture by suppressing Scottish folklore, culture, language, and writing (Morris and Morton 90). A shift occurred during the nineteenth century to a focus based more upon science and technology, attributable to manufacturing and industrialization, as well as what is believed to be ideal living conditions and way to obtain happiness which quickly changed due to the rapid development of industrialization, making the slums increase in capacity and overcrowding become possible (Morris and Morton 90). However, as industrialization and urbanization began to rise so did the Scotland’s independence, leading many to push for the rebirth and revitalization of Scottish culture. This is especially seen in movements such as the Arts and Crafts movement, Pan-Celticism, and the Sottish Renaissance.
The Scottish Renaissance
The Scottish Renaissance, much like the Pan-Celticism movement, resulted from the interwar years, the belief that Celtic nations (Scotland, Ireland, Wales) held minority and should thereby be emerged with larger nations, and Britain’s persistence of asserting dominance over the Celts as well as forcing them to follow the “proper” English way of living (Kidd 874). The Celtic nations, especially Scotland, suffered harsh cultural dysphoria, as Britain tried to change their attitudes and lifestyle to become more “proper” and to blend more with themselves. The repression of Scottish culture led to a significant gap to form in their history ensuring that its citizens had little to no cultural identity (Wallace 572). However, Scotland fought to reclaim their cultural identity that had been lost with Britain through violence but mores through literary and artistic works. This followed suit with it being taught in educational fields thus enabling future generations to know and reclaim their traditions and heritage.
Ties to The Evergreen
The Evergreen was conceived with the idea of shaping it based on each season, leading to the publication of a total of four volumes, and establishing the idealization of Celtic traditions, culture, and folklore being one with nature (Carruthers 8). Due to the suppression that the Celtic nations faced and the gap in history due to cultural dysphoria, Patrick Geddes and William Sharp, editors for Evergreen, were influenced by society during 1890s, the suppression of Scottish culture, the Scottish Renaissance, and Celtic Revival when they were putting together the volumes for The Evergreen. The influences behind this serial is also highly important as it is repeatedly addressed throughout the literary and artistic works featured, which advocated regeneration and renewal both politically and aesthetically. It is one of the earliest ‘little magazines’ to take part in the Scottish Renascence and Celtic Revival and one that was interested in devoting into the topic of Scottish identity politics, sociology, and natural science (Claes 111-112). Patrick Geddes even went as far as to write in a keynote essay that Evergreen plays a role in the revival of the Scottish Renascence and the push for individuality and Scottish culture: “Our new ‘Evergreen’ may here and there stimulate some newer and younger writer, and hence beside the general interests common to all men of culture; it would…add a fresh page to that widely reviving Literature of Locality to which the kindly firesides…are ever adding their individual tinge and glow” (Carruthers 8).
Symbolism of Changing Seasons in The Evergreen
“Northern Springtime” written by Andrew J. Herbertson is a literary essay comparable to that folklore, in particular the gradual arrival of spring and the role it plays in the expression of hopes dashed throughout history. The gradual arrival of Spring is seen through the usage of imagery, narration, setting, and simile. Herbertson explores the struggles the people of Scotland have gone through and the repression they have faced over their own culture through the implementation of the natural environment (Herbertson 74). He makes a point of accentuating that while winter is a period of conformity and hardness, it is crucial that when faced with the bleak harshness of winter to not give up hope and to rise again with renewed purpose (Herbertson 75). Herbertson personifies the Scottish people through flowers and other vegetation, the hope they have as the Spring and Summer seasons, while the Britain is shown through Autumn and Winter and the coldness they bring forth (Herbertson 74). Its use of the changing seasons as a material manifestation of revival and regeneration, particularly over environmentalism, with hints of what appears to be historic sympathies best showcases the overall theme of the serial.
“The Song of Life’s Fine Flower”
“The Song of Life’s Fine Flower” written by S. R. Crockett is an eight-part literary poem that calls into play the Celtic culture and traditions, the cruelty faced at the hands of the British, and the utilization of the natural environment as a metaphor for the Scottish spirit and revitalization. The poem tells about an individual from England who chooses to travel to other countries and/or nations due to the bleakness that Britain represents with all its conformity (Crockett 75-79). Admist the analogy of natural environment, for example the use of the sea and green terrace, Crockett is displaying that through tumultuous situations — that may leave you grey and bleak — one must continue to push forth if not for yourself and your right to life and culture than for the future generations (Crockett 79). Crockett’s application of seasons and the environment in his tale displays the influence of the Scottish Renaissance and the Celtic Revival as well as the volume’s theme of the progression of life.
Analysis of Spring vs Autumn in The Evergreen
It is important to consider where these stories can be located in each volume. Andrew J. Herbertson’s “Northern Springtime” can be found in the spring volume of The Evergreen, while S. R. Crockett’s “The Song of Life’s Fine Flower” fits into the autumn volume. The spring volume’s theme of The Evergreen is a time of renascence and vision of the future (Kooistra, Critical Introduction Volume I). This fits into “Northern Springtime” and the story it expresses as it focuses on the representation of the natural world to showcase the Scottish Renascence. This is best seen when Herbertson writes “Spring in the North is a history of hopes often dashed – sometimes, indeed, crushed immediately, but oftener rising again with renewed vigour and concentrated purpose” (Herbertson 75). Whereas the autumn volume’s theme does focus on the Scottish Renascence, it also centres upon life and the representation of the seasons as one’s ever changing age (Kooistra, Critical Introduction Volume II). “The Song of Life’s Fine Flower” is perfectly suited for this volume as it discusses one’s life and the experiences one has in it as well as the bleakness of conformity that is the Britain compared to lands with individuality and rich culture. By analyzing both volumes, one is able to clearly see that though each volume has their own individual theme, it still stays true to the Scottish Renaissance through the depiction of the natural world and changing seasons.
In conclusion, by analyzing volume I and volume II of The Evergreen: A Northern Seasonal, one is able to clearly perceive the influence of environmentalism, the Scottish Renaissance and the necessary role it played in the Evergreen, as well as the importance symbolism of nature to represent rebirth and continuance of life as a means to inspire cultural revitalization and regeneration in nineteenth century Scotland. Though Andrew J. Herbertson’s “Northern Springtime” and S. R. Crockett’s “The Song of Life’s Fine Flower” were different, they shared key similarities in that both pushed for Scotland’s cultural and social revival as well as a focus on environmentalism all through the perception of seasons. The Evergreen played a role in Scottish Renaissance due to its contribution at showcasing that period’s literary and cultural perspective and the importance in the overall shaping of point-of-views and society to create a driven desire to reinvent and rebuild. The Evergreen enabled the Celtic revival of Ireland and Scotland, as well as the other Celtic nations, to reach communities throughout the world thus presenting respect and admiration of the natural world as well as promoting social and cultural regeneration.
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