When the French critic and philosopher Denis Saurat wrote the influential essay ‘Le groupe de “la Renaissance Écossaise”’ in 1924, he was thinking mainly of the writers associated with Hugh MacDiarmid’s Northern Numbers anthologies and his magazine Scottish Chapbook, started in 1922. Yet the notion of a renaissance was not a new one: signs of a revival in culture and politics can be traced to the beginning of the century, and indeed the term was first coined in modern times by Patrick Geddes, writing of a ‘Celtic Renascence’ in his periodical The Evergreen from the Outlook Tower in 1895, with a vision of Edinburgh as ‘not only a National and Imperial, but a European city — the larger view of Scotland’. But it was Hugh MacDiarmid’s creative example, not to mention his political nationalism and his indefatigable propaganda, that was to make the most impact, and if he shared Geddes’s insistence on a European outlook it was his satirical attacks on his own countrymen that gave the movement a necessary critical dimension.
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