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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

XIV. Scottish Popular Poetry before Burns

§ 11. Alexander Pennecuick

A contemporary and a kind of poetic rival of Ramsay was Alexander Pennecuick (d. 1730), the thriftless, drunken and down-at-heel nephew of Dr. Alexander Pennecuik (1652–1722) of Romanno, author of a Description of Tweeddale and other English verse, published posthumously in 1817. The vernacular verses of the nephew, who is often confounded with his uncle, appeared, like the early experiments of Ramsay, as penny broadsides, and, like Ramsay, he also essayed verse in stilted English, publishing, in 1713, Britannia Triumphans, in 1720, Streams from Helicon and, in 1726, Flowers from Parnassus. If, in low humour, he is not quite so affluent as Ramsay, he, in The Merry Wives of Musselburgh at their meeting together to welcom Meg Dickson after her loup from the Ladder (1724), (Meg, a Musselburgh fishwife, had escaped execution through the breaking of the rope), depicts the incidents of the semi-grotesque semi-awesome occasion with a grim and graphic satiric mirth rather beyond him. Other vernacular achievements of Pennecuick are Rome’s Legacy to the Church of Scotland, a satire on the kirk’s cutty-stool in heroic couplets, an Elegy on Robert Forbes, a kirk-treasurer’s man like Ramsay’s John Cowper, and The Presbyterian Pope, in the form of a dialogue between the kirk-treasurer’s man and his female informant, Meg. In his descriptions, Pennecuick shows greater aptitude for individual portraiture and for the realisation of definite scenes than does Ramsay, whose John Cowper might be any kirk-treasurer’s man. Pennecuick shows us the “pawky face” of Robert Forbes “keeking thro’ close-heads” to catch a brace of lovers in confabulation, or piously shaking his head when he hears the tune of Chevy Chace, and, with his “Judas face,” repeating preachings and saying grace.