Jessica Reid

From Hy Brasil to Gilliquhimnee: Place in the Pamphlets of Thomas St. Serfe (1624-1669)

Following the suppression of his newsbook, Mercurius Caledonius, Thomas St. Serfe wrote a series of Rabelaisian pamphlets in which he commented on contemporary events in Scotland through nonsensical news, parodic prophecy, and spurious presbyterian proceedings. One of the striking things about these pamphlets is the abundance of places named therein, from actual Scottish places to nowhere places (some well-known, like the Land of Cockaigne, and others St. Serfe’s own invention, like Gilliquhimnee). I have argued elsewhere that St. Serfe used carnival laughter to imagine a royalist utopia for the Scottish Restoration.[1] In the current paper, I ask what kind of Scotland he ‘maps’ through the commingling of real and nowhere places in his pamphlets, and how this speaks to the context of mid-seventeenth century Scotland, post-Union of Crowns and pre-Union of Parliaments. By engaging with recent work by Kirsten Sandrock on the utopian character of Scottish colonialism, as well as Silke Stroh’s on the ‘Celtic fringe’,[2] my paper will shed a sidelight onto the globalized Scotland which was emerging in the contact zone between Scottish, Gaelic, Irish, English, and Atlantic cultures in the mid-seventeenth century.

Jessica Reid, University of Glasgow

[1] Jessica Reid, ‘”L’Écosse à l’envers: Scotland’s Restoration Pamphleteer Thomas St Serfe’, Scottish Literary Review, 12.1 (2020), 109–22.

[2] Kirsten A. Sandrock, Scottish Colonial Literature: Writing the Atlantic, 1603-1707, Edinburgh Critical Studies in Atlantic Literatures and Cultures (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021); Silke Stroh, Gaelic Scotland in the Colonial Imagination: Anglophone Writing from 1600 to 1900 (Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2016).