Welcome to The British Literary Ballads Archive, a site dedicated to a unique genre of literary imitations of traditional ballads. The site contains a growing archive of over 700 poems, as well as short biographical sketches of the poets who wrote them.

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John Jamieson (1759-1838)



Scottish lexicographer and antiquary, born in Glasgow. He is known as an editor of An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, first published in 2 vols at Edinburgh in 1808, followed in 1825 by a Supplement in 2 vols. These volumes remained the best reference to the Scots language until The Scottish National Dictionary was published by the Scottish National Dictionary Association from 1931 to 1976.

Jamieson was a friend of Sir Walter Scott, in whose Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802-03) was included Jamieson’s “Water Kelpie”. Scott put a headnote to the ballad: “The principal design of the author of this piece was to give a specimen of Scottish writing more nearly to the classical compositions of our ancient bards than that which has been generally followed for seventy or eighty years past”, and he did not forget to refer to Jamieson’s dictionary by saying that “It is with pleasure that the Editor announces to the literary wor[l]d that Dr Jamieson is about to publish a complete Dictionary of the Scottish Dialect; his intimate acquaintance with which is evinced in the following stanzas.” [Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, ed. Thomas Henderson (London: George G. Harrap, 1931) 676]  (M. Y.)

1.Water Kelpie