The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies
Late in the seventeenth century, Robert Kirk, an Episcopalian minister in the Scottish Highlands, set out to collect his parishioners’ many striking stories about elves, fairies, fauns, doppelgangers, wraiths, and other beings of, in Kirk’s words, “a middle nature betwixt man and angel.” For Kirk these stories constituted strong evidence for the reality of a supernatural world, existing parallel to ours, which, he passionately believed demanded exploration as much as the New World across the seas. Kirk defended these views inThe Secret Commonwealth, an essay that was left in manuscript when he died in 1692. It is a rare and fascinating work, an extraordinary amalgam of science, religion, and folklore, suffused with the spirit of active curiosity and bemused wonder that fills Robert Burton’sAnatomy of Melancholyand the works of Sir Thomas Browne.The Secret Commonwealthis not only a remarkable document in the history of ideas but a study
of enchantment that enchants in its own right.
First published in 1815 by Sir Walter Scott, then re-edited in 1893 by Andrew Lang, with a dedication to Robert Louis Stevenson,The Secret Commonwealthhas long been difficult to obtain—available, if at all, only in scholarly editions. This new edition modernizes the spelling and punctuation of Kirk’s little book and features a wide-ranging and illuminating introduction by the critic and historian Marina Warner, who brings out the originality of Kirk’s contribution and reflects on the ongoing life of fairies in the modern mind.
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Aberfoyle aerial Andrew Andrew Lang angels apparitions appear Barrie beast believe in fairies Bible body called Cardano Celtic CESARE PAVESE charm charmer conjecture conveyed creatures cure curiosity daemons dead defaecat devils doth earth Elves enchanted essay fairyland Fauns Folklore Gaelic GEORGES SIMENON ghosts hand hath haunt Highlands hill inhabitants invisible Irish isle J. G. FARRELL J. M. Barrie James Jesus King Kirk's glossary knew leannain sith LEONARDO SCIASCIA living London Lord lore magic Marina Warner Mary ment middle nature betwixt milt minister night occult ond sight PATRICK LEIGH FERMOR perceived person Peter powers Robert Boyle Robert Kirk Scotland Scots Scottish Scottish-Irish second sight Secret Commonwealth seen seer seventh Sir Norman sluagh souls species spell spirits stories strange subterranean supernatural Tarbat terrestrial things tion told tradition Twilight uncanny vision W. B. Yeats whereof wights Witchcraft witches words Yeats