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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > W > Andrew of Wyntoun

Andrew of Wyntoun

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Scottish chronicler, born (as we know from the internal evidence of his writings) in the reign of David II, about the middle of the fourteenth century. He is conjectured to have been related to Alan of Wyntoun, who married the heiress of Seton, and is now represented by the Earl of Eglinton and Winton. He became a canon-regular of the priory of St. Andrews, and before 1395 was appointed prior of the ancient monastery of Lochleven, in Kinross-schire, which was a subject house of St. Andrews for upwards of four hundred years (see LOCHLEVEN). Innes, in his "Critical Essay" (1729), pointed out that the register of the priory of St. Andrews contained several acts or public instruments of Wyntoun, as prior of Lochleven, from 1395 to 1413; but there is no evidence as to how long he continued in office after the latter year, or as to the date of his death. It was at the request of Sir John de Wemyss (ancestor of the Earls of Wemyss), whom he mentions as one of his intimate friends, that Wyntoun undertook to write his "Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland", so entitled, as he himself explains, not because it was his own composition, but because it begins at the beginning of things, namely with the creation of angels. How long the compilation of the work took is uncertain, but the fact that Robert, Duke of Albany, is mentioned in it as dead proves that it was finished some time after September, 1420. The author, while engaged in the latter part of it, reckoned himself already an old man, as appears from his prologue to the ninth book, so that it is not probable that he lived long after its completion. The variations in the manuscripts show that it was frequently revised and corrected, in all probability by Wyntoun's own hand.

No printed edition of the Chronicle appeared until 1795, when it was edited from the Royal manuscript in the British Museum, with a valuable critical introduction, by David Macpherson. Nearly one-third of the original was, however, omitted, and this was restored by Laing in his edition published in 1872, in the "Historians of Scotland" series. Laing describes the eleven manuscripts of the Chronicle known to exist, and the Scottish Text Society has since printed a new edition from the Cottonian and Wemyss manuscripts, with the variants of the other texts. A considerable portion of the Chronicle, it must be noted, is the work of an unknown author, who sent it to Wyntoun, and it was incorporated by him into his own narrative. Both are written in the same easy-flowing, octosyllabic rhyming verse, and the work has therefore value from a poetical as well as from an historical standpoint. Andrew Lang credits Wyntoun with "a trace of the critical spirit, displayed in his wrestlings with feigned genealogies"; but Æneas Mackay does him more justice in pointing out that he understands the importance of chronology, and is, for the age in which he wrote, wonderfully accurate as to dates. His work has thus real value as the first attempt at scientific history writing in Scotland, and philologically it is not less important as having been written in the Scots vernacular, and not (like nearly all the works of contemporary men of learning) in a dead language. Regarded as a poet, Wyntoun can hardly take high rank, certainly not equal rank to his predecessor Barbour, the father of Scottish poetry. His narrative, in truth, though written in rhyme is mostly prosaic in style; but some of his descriptions are vivid, and touched with the true spirit of poetry.


Sources

Wyntoun's Oryginale Cronykil of Scotland, with notes, glossary, etc., ed. MACPHERSON (London, 1795); the same, ed. LAING for The Historians of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1872); the same, ed. AMOURS for the Scottish Text Society (Edinburgh, 1902-1913); LANG, Hist. of Scotland, I (Edinburgh, 1900), 296; INNES, Critical Essay on the Ancient Inhabitants of Scotland, II (London, 1729), 622-627; MACKAY in Dict. Nat. Biog., s.v.; ANDERSON, The Scottish Nation, III (Edinburgh, 1868), 674, 75.

About this page

APA citation. Hunter-Blair, O. (1912). Andrew of Wyntoun. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15724a.htm

MLA citation. Hunter-Blair, Oswald. "Andrew of Wyntoun." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15724a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to the Poor Souls in Purgatory.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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