John Gibson Lockhart - Adam Blair (1822)
100 Best Scottish Books of all Time
In a society where church scandals are nothing new, it is hard to imagine the tale of a minister committing adultery causing a great uproar. But in 1822, JG Lockhart’s novel was heavily criticised for its portrayal of a widowed minister who has an affair with a married woman.
The protagonist Adam Blair is a model churchman, but after the death of his wife he suffers from great loneliness and a dearth of like-minded company, since the simple, rural community in which he lives provides little in the way of intellectual stimulation. However, the unexpected arrival of his wife’s cousin Charlotte Campbell fills this gap, as the pair debate spiritual matters and share the care of Blair’s only child Sarah. While tongues wag among his friends in the city about the relationship, the parishioners and Blair himself continue to believe that a man of his position is above falling. Such is their innocence that when the minister does eventually succumb to his passion for Charlotte, it is a sin for which he cannot forgive himself.
Immoral is not the only charge that has been levelled at Lockhart’s novel as some critics have slammed the plot and characters for being rather flimsy. Yet, the rich descriptions of nature provide a powerful subtext and mirror the eponymous character’s repressed emotions. Adam Blair was based on the true story of a local minister who was deposed in 1746, but went on to marry his mistress and was eventually accepted back into the church. But Lockhart does not allow such an easy ending and includes a stern warning. ‘I have told a true story. I hope the days are yet far distant when it shall be doubted in Scotland that such things might have been.’
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