Gerard Lee McKeever, “Extreme Attachment: Allan Cunningham’s ‘South Countree’” (pp. 223–252)
This article positions Allan Cunningham (1784–1842) as an extreme case of literary place-making in the first half of the nineteenth century. Cunningham lived from 1810 in London, where he became superintendent of the sculptor Francis Chantrey’s workshop. Yet over the following decades, he produced literary work that is remarkably consistent in its return to his native southwest Scotland and the Anglo-Scottish borders region, developing a longue durée imaginative geography through a rotating cast of characters, places, tales, and topoi. This work emblematizes a moment in the transformation of the long-eighteenth-century condition of “nostalgia,” or homesickness, which over the course of the nineteenth century became a patriotic virtue and—eventually—an aestheticized sense of the past. The article interrogates Cunningham’s overall literary career from a geographical perspective, before focusing in on two unfairly neglected later works: the long poem The Maid of Elvar (1832) and his final novel, Lord Roldan (1836). In general, Cunningham’s work performs regional attachment in such a precariously literary manner that it forces the reader to reckon with the imaginative quality of belonging. By the 1830s, however, it had reached an acutely self-referential phase, exercising and recycling a vocabulary of belonging that had been decades in the making.