The Lyndsay Letters: the Public Correspondence of a Poet and Herald in in Early Sixteenth-Century Scotland!


  • Janet Hadley Williams


Scottish literature


Because we are all keenly interested in the study of early Scottish history, it is probable that the name of Sir David Lyndsay, as well as some facts about his career, and one or two of his works, are familiar to us. Some of us may link Lyndsay with heraldry, aware that he compiled Scotland's earliest official armorial manuscript and possibly was involved in redesigning the royal crest in 1536.2 A few among us may have been lucky enough to have seen a performance of Lyndsay's superbly entertaining political morality play, Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis.3 There have been several Edinburgh Festival productions since the first gave its audience such an exhilarating experience in 1948.4 At that time the play had not been performed in Edinburgh since 1554, when the dowager Queen, Marie de Guise, had been among the audience.5 She could have understood only too well the play's astute commentary on the current state of Scottish society-weakened by intermittent war with England, troubled by religious and political division-as by then it certainly was.6 There had been an even earlier performance of Ane Satyre at which Lyndsay himself may have been present.? This 1552 version was played on his home territory of Cupar in Fife, and contained many wickedly specific references to its residents.8 But these two performances came at the end of Lyndsay's life. What preceded them?