Christopher Murray Grieve Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Christopher Murray Grieve, who wrote under the name Hugh MacDiarmid (mak-DUR-mihd), was born in the border town of Langhom, Scotland, eight miles north of the border with England. Characteristic of the contrarian streak which was to mark his life, he horrified his parents by declaring that he was going to be a poet even as he began a course of teacher training in Edinburgh in 1908. There, he became involved with Scottish nationalist politics, joined the socialist Fabian society as well as the Scots Independent Labor Party, and became the editor of the literary magazine at the Broughton Junior Student Center. He left school after a prank went out of control in 1910 and found work as a journalist, a vocation he returned to periodically during times of economic stress. He returned to Langholm after a class with the editor of the Edinburg Evening Dispatch, and with the energy and ambition that drove him throughout his life, he wrote for three newspapers in the Aberdeen area, started a series of essays on Scots nationalism, wrote lyric poetry, and experimented with short fiction akin to the early work D. H. Lawrence.{$S[A]Grieve, Christopher Murray;MacDiarmid, Hugh}

Initially opposed to “England’s war,” he enlisted in World War I when a close friend was killed. He was posted to Greece in 1916, where he wrote war poetry resembling that of Rupert Brooke, as well as “barracks songs” similar to those of Rudyard Kipling. On medical leave when he contracted malaria, he married Margaret Skinner in 1918 and returned to Scotland in 1919, where he launched a review of Scots cultural activities, Northern Numbers. After assuming the editorship of the prestigious Montrose Review in 1921, he adopted the nom de plume Hugh MacDiarmid as a means of emphasizing his intense nationalist convictions, and began to employ a poetic language he called “Synthetic Scots,” which was both a revival and re-creation of an older Scots/English amalgam.

This led to his emergence as a poet of real accomplishment, beginning with a collection of lyrics in 1925, Sangschaw...

(The entire section is 860 words.)