These essays, as Karl Miller points out in his introduction, are ?largely about a time that is past, about the modern Scotland which began after the First World War and lasted out the second. The main tracks followed in the essays are the course of Modernism itself; what might be called the romantic survival; and the progress of Scottish Nationalism. One of their less predictable features is the prominence which it was thought necessary to give to the activities of poets ? during a period when poetry has seemed to many in Britain to be of declining importance, the most doubtful of the arts.? Between them they provide a lively and coherent portrait of the age. They also provide a portrait of Edinburgh, and try to show what has become of the city since the great days of the early nineteenth century, described in Henry Cockburn?s Memorials, the days when Edinburgh was Walter Scott?s ?romantic town?. The contributors are Arthur Marwick, Tom Nairn, Hugh MacDiarmid, Louis Simpson, George Scott-Moncrieff, Robert Taubman, Sorley Maclean, George Mackay Brown, Muriel Spark, Alastair Reid, William McIlvanney, Charles McAra, Ronald Stevenson, Stuart Hood and Karl Miller himself, founder of the London Review of Books.
Karl Miller grew up near Edinburgh, and went to the Royal High School of Edinburgh. He studied at Cambridge and at Harvard Universities, and then became an editor of journals: literary editor of the Spectator and New Statesman, editor of the Listener. In 1979 he founded the London Review of Books, which he edited for many years. From 1974 to 1992 he was Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College, London. Among his books are Cockburn's Millennium, Doubles, and two instalments of biography, Rebecca's Vest and Dark Horses.