An unrecorded Scottish novel

We have recently acquired an exciting Scottish novel: The letters of Zariora and Randale (AB.1.215.58), printed in Edinburgh in 1814, is not recorded anywhere. The author’s name does not appear in the printed text, but there is some information about him. A contemporary handwritten note in this copy states: ‘Written by John Hood of Stoneridge A.D. 1813′, which is a reference to Stainrigg House near Coldstream in the Scottish Borders. John Hood (1795-1878), the Scottish author of the novel, was a local landowner.

The letters of Zariora and Randale is an epistolary novel, which means the plot unfolds in a series of letters. It looks as if the novel was a youthful literary experiment by the 18-year-old Hood. He presumably had to pay for the printing himself.

Set in contemporary Spain, the novel is a a moral tale about the dangers of excessive passion, in this case a Scotsman’s doomed love for a young woman called Maria. The Scot, referred to as ‘Chevalier Charles Randale’, lives in Spain and writes to his friend Mr. Zariora of his love for Maria, the daughter of the Baron Lariana. When she suddenly dies he is overcome with grief and Zariora visits him in Spain, reporting his adventures to another friend called Kalthander. The novel closes with Zariora writing to Kalthander that his friend Randale refuses to leave the home of his dead lover to return to Scotland.

Interestingly, this copy appears to have been censored: some lines have been ruled out to the point of illegibility on the title page, and a number of words throughout the text have been carefully removed by scraping away the surface of the paper. Pages 29-30 are also missing from this copy.