Introduction: Borderlines: Contemporary Scottish Gothic

  • Timothy C. Baker
Part of the The Palgrave Gothic Series book series (PAGO)


Robert Wise’s 1945 film adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘The Body Snatcher’ features an ahistoric admixture of Scottish signifiers. The opening credits appear over a fixed shot of a reconstructed Edinburgh Castle while the orchestra plays a somewhat ominous version of ‘Loch Lomond’. The camera passes over a singing beggar and drovers in the city’s centre before alighting on the young medical student Donald Fettes (whom the viewer will soon learn hails from J.M. Barrie’s Thrums) feeding part of his lunch to Greyfriars Bobby. Before long, Bobby will be cruelly killed by Boris Karloff as cabman and resurrectionist John Gray, and the body snatching, linked to Burke and Hare, will begin in earnest. While the film is explicitly set in 1831, its references come from closer to Stevenson’s own time: Bobby, according to the famous statue outside Greyfriars Kirk, died in 1872, while the first of Barrie’s Thrums stories was published in 1889. These details seem selected not for historical accuracy, but because they straightforwardly represent ‘Scottishness’ to an international audience.


Literary History Literary Tradition Print Culture Open Credit Ghost Story 
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© Timothy C. Baker 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy C. Baker
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AberdeenUK

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