Published in 1895 by Bliss, Sands and Foster, it is a collection of work that the author states are ‘tales chiefly of Galloway gathered from the years 1889 to 1895’ – that is, it is primarily a compilation of serialised work from before he was famous.The book is dedicated to George Milner of Manchester (Crockett’s father in law) with the words ‘a man most Generous, Brave, True, to whom, because he freely gave me that of his which I most desired – I having Nothing worthier to give, Give This.’ Crockett had early harboured the desire to be a poet (something R.L.Stevenson finally convinced him to abandon) but he manages to include poems, both his own and others (notably Andrew Lang and Milner himself) woven into ‘Bog Myrtle’ which is laid out as five ‘Books’ (a Romantic poetic form!) being ‘Adventures,’ Intimacies,’ ‘Histories,’ ‘Idylls’ and ‘Tales of the Kirk.’ A reader taking these headings too literally would be confused however, since they really serve as an ironic ‘take’ on the headings as often as not. Any writer will know how difficult it is to ‘construct’ a collection out of a body of work and it can be hard for the reader to work out why it has been done this, that or a certain way. That can be the case with ‘Bog Myrtle.’ However, I suggest that to enjoy the collection in the way it is intended, one has to set aside the modern critical penchant for ‘understanding’ why it has been presented in the way it is, and simply dip in and out of it enjoying each story or part as one goes. It works best, perhaps, viewed as something of a collage of twenty nine stories plus an excellent epilogue which shows Crockett’s natural descriptive powers at their finest as he takes us through ‘A Galloway Night’ in the company of the flora and fauna. It’s worth reading for the Preface alone, where Crockett seeks to explain what he is doing - offering a poignant and moving exposition of the writing process. ‘Bog Myrtle and Peat’ offers an introduction to the ‘types’ of Crockett’s longer fiction. Prepare for the unexpected and lose yourself in it. I believe that’s the way to approach and to enjoy this book.
VOLUME 15 OF THE GALLOWAY COLLECTION. BUY THE BOOK ONLINE HERE