James Robertson: The Testament of Gideon Mack

The alleged link to James Hogg’s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is in actual fact quite tenuous; and the passage in which the main character meets the Devil is actually weaker than the rest of the book. But the bulk of it is very good indeed: the ‘autobiography’ of a fictional atheistic Church of Scotland minister. I know authors as good as Robertson in making up a ‘personal’ life story and setting it against the changing historical background; I do not know any better ones.



This is the hard lesson of my life: love is not in us from the beginning, like an instinct; love is no more original to human beings than sin. Like sin, it has to be learned.
(Gideon Mack, p 27)


Having achieved all she could have hoped for, she went into a three-year decline, at the end of which she expired.
(of Mrs Campbell, p 41)


Austerity is not highly regarded these days; not to have things is considered a mark of poverty. But there is more than one kind of poverty, and I have not seen more wretchedly impoverished people than the desperate crowds shopping for the sake of shopping in the post-Christmas sales.
(Gideon Mack, p 47)


I was boiling away within, but I kept a lid on my passions. Somewhere in his Journal Walter Scott says something about this, I forget the exact words: ‘Our passions are wild beasts: God grant us the strength to muzzle them.’ Unconsciously at first, and then deliberately, I learned how to do this. It was what enabled me to survive, but it was what prevented me, for so long, from really living.
(Gideon Mack, p 52)


I was an adolescent, brimming with energy and opinions: I should have despised, deplored or raged at my parents, but I didn’t. I simply didn’t care about them.
(Gideon Mack, p 86)


I’m not an atheist, I wouldn’t be so presumptuous. How do I know what’s out there and after this? I’m an agnostic.
(Catherine Craigie, p 181)



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