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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

VI. Sir David Lyndsay

§ 5. Sir Richard Maitland

A social satirist of a much milder type than Lyndsay was Sir Richard Maitland, who was not very much Lyndsay’s senior in years, though most of his verse was written after Lyndsay’s death. A descendant of the Richard de Matelant who defended the family keep of Thirlestane against Edward I, and whose deeds were celebrated in ancient song and story, Maitland belonged to that class of Scottish gentry from which government and court officials were chiefly drawn, and held the office of judge from the time of James V until 1584. Having, about his sixtieth year, lost his sight, he, partly to divert his mind from the troubles of the time, partly to occupy the now duller hours of his leisure, devoted them, with the aid of his daughter, to literature; and, besides compiling A Chronicle and Historie of the House and Surname of Seatone, and composing a good many poetical pieces, he set himself to gather the collection of Scottish MS. poetry, which, copied out by his daughter, is now preserved in the Pepysian library of Magdalene College, Cambridge. In his poetry, as well as otherwise, he is a survival of the ante-reformation period. As regards both the form and spirit of his verse, he is a disciple of Dunbar, though his satire lacks Dunbar’s boisterous humour and keenness of wit, and his reflective pieces Dunbar’s emotional pungency. He has nothing in common with Lyndsay—though quite alive to the evils of the old régime, he did not, while it existed, make them the object of his satire; nor, when the new régime perfection. In Quhair is the Blytheness that has been he laments the decay of the old merry customs, and in his Miseries of the Tyme he bewails the lack of any real amendment either in church or state. Like his famous son, William the secretary, he was more an enlightened patriot and a shrewd man of the world than either an ecclesiastical or political partisan. The evils of internal dissension and strife are set forth by him in the poems Of the Assemblie of the Congregation, 1559, and On the New Yeir, 1560; and, at a later period, he advocated a reconciliation of the two parties in Againis the Division of the Lordis, On Union among the Lordis, Againis Discord among the Lordis and Lament for the Disorders of the Cuntrie. He brought to the consideration of social, political and religious questions much of the impartiality and practical worldly wisdom of the judge; and his satire is severest when he deals with social disorders or violations of the law, as in The Satire of the Aige and Againis the Theivis of Liddisdaill, the latter of which has something of the denunciatory rush of Dunbar’s Donald Owre, on which it is modelled. In The Satire of the Toun Ladeis, an amusing recital of the extravagant caprices of contemporary female fashions, his tone is mainly that of half cynical, half good-humoured mockery, while his verses on the Folye of Ane auld man maryand ane Young Woman, are shrewdly sententious and mildly witty in the suggestive fashion characteristic of the time. The Ballat of the Greatness of the World, prompted, it may be, like Lyndsay’s Dialog, by a perusal of the translation of the Scriptures, and written in the stave of The Cherrie and the Slae, indicates his acceptance of the conventional beliefs of his time; but the poem is a very uninspired performance; and much more of his real self appears in the half humorous, half melancholy musings of such pieces as Na Kyndes without Siller, Gude Counseillis, Advyce to lesum Merynes and Solace of Aige. Maitland was hardly a poet, nor is he of much account as a satirist; but his verse is of considerable interest as a record of the ingenuous sentiments of a highly accomplished and upright man, who, at this troubled and critical period of Scottish history, kept, in a manner, aloof from both parties.