John fowles

From teenage delinquent to man of letters: James Campbell’s remarkable career

The great age of the Scottish autodidact must have ended a century ago, but it had a prodigious impact while it lasted. To read John Gross’s The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters (1969) is to be plunged headfirst into a world of kenspeckle lads studying Nietzsche behind the crankshaft and miners quoting Burns to each other as they were winched up from the Lanarkshire coal face. If James Campbell (born 1951) isn’t quite a figure to rank with James Thompson the Younger (1834-82) or the Rev. George Gilfillan (1813-78), to name a couple of Gross’s exemplars, then he is certainly their spiritual heir – a man whose