In Joan's family, a Jacobite flame was kept burning in the female line, to resurface in the Victorian period. Her grandfather was one of the trustees of the Jacobite Old St Paul's church in Edinburgh, and her son was a neo-Jacobite author, but the male generations in between, her father James Keir of Kinmonth and husband Roger Aytoun, were conforming and progressive in their activities. Her son, inheriting from her ideas which were a hundred years out of date, turned to humour to express the incongruous mixture of ideas which he found in the world of Charlotte Chapel.
The Victorian poet William Edmonstone Aytoun's two greatest influences were the writing of Walter Scott and the Jacobitism of his mother Joan Keir. He collected ballads and lovingly parodied the form, so that humour infused them with new zest, most successfully in The Queen in France, celebrating the young Queen Victoria's visit:
... Three days had come, three days had gane,
The fourth began to fa'
When our gude Queen to the Frenchman said,
'It's time I was awa!
'Oh, bonny are the fields o' France,
And saftly draps the rain;
But my bairnies are in Windsor Tower,
And greeting a' their lane' ...
While Aytoun had great success as a humourist and satirist, his attempts at serious Jacobite poetry like The Island of the Scots, a century too late, were less well received, and sound like a parody of Scott:
... Rise, hill and glen! rise, crag and wood!
Rise up on either hand --
Again upon the Garry's banks,
On Scottish soil we stand! ...
At his best, Aytoun displays both the ponderous hilarity of Scott, and the economical vignettes of the more classical style of his father's Whig friend, Henry Cockburn. But his favourite comic technique is the absurd incongruity, where in the middle of a charming or tragic scene something deeply prosaic intrudes. In one story, the hero overhears the baillie's sweet daughter Miss Maggie Binkie singing airs to her harpsicord on a fine spring morning, but there is something odd about the words:
I heard a wee bird singing clear,
In the tight, tight month of June --
'What garr'd ye buy when stocks were high,
And sell when shares were doun?'
Oh bonny were the Midland Halves,
When credit was sae free! --
But wae betide the Southron loon
That sold they Halves to me!
In his hilarious tales of railway schemes in obscure glens, crazy schemes for making a quick fortune within a corrupt system, and small Scottish towns whose absurd town councils are blighted alike by timeless clan feuds and an obsession with commerce, Aytoun depicts the uneasy encounter of Jacobite and Whig ideas which took place in his parents' drawing room, and which appears to have been characteristic of Charlotte Chapel. (quotations from 6)
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