Bannatyne, George (DNB00)

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BANNATYNE, GEORGE (1545–1608?), collector of Scottish poems, seventh of the twenty-three children of James Bannatyne of Kirktown of Newtyle in Forfarshire and Katherine Taillefer, was bred to trade, and acquired considerable property in or near Edinburgh, of which he was admitted a burgess in 1587. His only surviving child by his wife Isobel Mawchan, Janet, married George Foulis of Woodhall and Ravelston, second son of James Foulis of Colinton. The family of Foulis preserved the manuscript well known as the ‘Bannatyne MS.,’ now in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, which entitles George Bannatyne to the gratitude of students of Scottish poetry. This manuscript was written during the pestilence of 1568, which forced him to leave his business and take refuge in Forfarshire, and is styled by him ‘Ane most godlie mirrie and lustie Rapsodie maide be sundrie learned Scots poets and written be George Bannatyne in the tyme of his youth.’ It is a neatly written folio of 800 pages divided into five parts, thus described in one of the verses by himself, which prove him a lover rather than a maker of poetry:

The first concernis Godis gloir and our salvatioun;
The next are morale, grave, and als besyd it,
Ground on gude counsale; the third, I will not hyd it,
Ar blyth and glaid maid for our consollatioun;
The ferd of luve and thair richt reformatioun;
The fyift ar tailis and stories weill discydit.

In this, a somewhat earlier compilation by Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington, and that by John Asloan, now in the Auchenleck Library, are preserved most of the poems of Dunbar, Henryson, Lyndsay, and Alexander Scott, as well as many poems by less-known or unknown ‘makars’ of the fifteenth and first half of the sixteenth century, during which Scottish poetry was at its best, until its splendid revival in Burns and Scott. The contents of this manuscript were first partially printed by Allan Ramsay in the ‘Evergreen,’ and afterwards by Lord Hailes in his ‘Ancient Scottish Poems,’ but the whole manuscript has now been more accurately printed by the Hunterian Club. Bannatyne was adopted as the patron of the Bannatyne Club of Edinburgh, which, under the presidency of Sir Walter Scott, was instituted in 1823, and printed many valuable memorials of the history and literature of Scotland. In the ‘Memorials of George Bannatyne,’ one of its publications, will be found a grateful and graceful memoir of their patron by Scott, and a detailed catalogue of the contents of his manuscript by Mr. D. Laing. The exact date of his death is unknown, but it was prior to December 1608. On returning the manuscript to its owner, Mr. Carmichael, Ramsay added the lines:

In seventeen hundred twenty-four
 Did Allan Ramsay keen-
ly gather from this Book that store
 Which fills his Evergreen.

Thrice fifty and sax towmonds neat
 Frae when it was collected;
Let worthy Poets hope good fate,
 Thro' time they'll be respected.
Fashions of words and witt may change,
 And rob in part their fame,
And make them to dull fops look strange,
 But sense is still the same.

Ramsay, however, took considerable liberties with the text and added some poems of his own, skilfully imitating the style of the ancient poets, whose genuine works must be read in the publication of Bannatyne's manuscript by the Hunterian Club or the standard editions of the principal authors.

[Memorials of George Bannatyne.]

Æ. M.