7 DECEMBER 1901, Page 16


[To THE Eorroa or THE "SPECTATOR.") Sin,—In your notice of " Superstitions of. the Higlilands " in the Spectator of November 16th your critic says of the men- ded fairy Glaistig :—" Thus, when the servants neglected their work, or spoke disrespectfully of herself, or did any- thing to her favourites, she," &c. Now, I wonder, may one who has not yet seen the book, but is interested in Highland, ways, express a disbelief in " herself " here meaning the Glaistig ? Partly because Highland maids, though believing as bravely as ever in the "puny folk," hardly ever speak of there, and certainly never do so disrespectfully, and partly because " herself " always means the mistress of the household,—the wielder of authority. "Was herself wanting me ?" a maid fresh from the glens will say; or, "Herself bade me delve the peats." as one who should wish to avoid the uncivil brusqueness of the direct address. A Gaelic-speaking old wife of our acquaintance will tell you for hours about " him- self," and her need of patience with him, never once mention- ing him by name. Is " himself " a tutelary being and benevolent fairy ? Certainly not! He is her husband, and " himself " just because he blocks her horizon. These entanglements of the Northern tongue remind one of the American critic who was aghast at the Scottish idea of humour, as exemplified when the Thrums House of Commons applauded a speech of Thomas Haggart's with: "Ye cow, Tammas !" The good man mistook the verb for the noun !—