Home, (or is it Away?) with Anselme Adorne

I’ve just recently returned to Slovenia from a visit back in Edinburgh for the first time in almost four years, having been unable to travel until now due to first, the Covid lockdowns, and then a severe rheumatic condition. It was a short visit of only 3½ weeks, and it felt odd in some ways coming “home” to my native city when home now is my beloved mountain village in Slovenia. So much that was familiar and yet now so different from a quiet semi-alpine life.

I timed the planning of this visit in the hope that I’d be able to attend the Dorothy Dunnett Society AGM weekend, and happily I was able to do so and meet up with some old friends who I hadn’t seen since 2019. It proved tiring – I’m still not fully recovered and my knees are weak and painful if I have to walk any distance or stand for long periods, and as a result I missed the Saturday morning lectures and had already decided against the gala dinner as being too ambitious – particularly as I also had a 4-way birthday lunch with some very old and dear friends on the Sunday.

It was lovely to see both sets of friends and I hope I’ll be able to travel more regularly now – potential knee replacement operations allowing. (Travel tip: don’t wear a knee support when going through airport security – it confuses their machines no end!)

The Saturday afternoon lecture was given by Dr Bryony Coombs on Anselm Adorne, whose 600th anniversary it is. Before going further I must congratulate her on today’s announcement that she has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society – very well deserved!

She is researching into his life and connections and here focused interestingly on his books, and the sort of material that would be read by a man in his position. All of which of course throws further light on the likely contents of Lymond’s library further down the line – a subject which I know fascinates many readers.

Dorothy’s research into Adorne is of course an invaluable source and I’m certain that Dr Coombs will build on that to illuminate him further and I’m sure she’ll be back to speak to us again in the future. I look forward to that very much. I’ve been attending the Zoom meetings of the research group set up to study him for this anniversary and greatly enjoyed hearing about the investigations that are going on.

I also had an almost forgotten bonus awaiting me at home – a number of copies of Whispering Gallery, the DDS magazine, which had arrived here during the first year or so of my Slovenian exile before I got them to send them directly to my new home – plus a few more that I had barely had a chance to read due to my father’s final illness and the funeral and estate processing that followed in 2020.

Reading through them all one night reinforced just what a marvel they are – so much better than any comparable magazine in literary or historical society circles; professional, glossy, superby laid out and illustrated. We’ve always had good editors who’ve built successively on the talents of the earlier ones, but Suzanne McNeil has been a revelation over the years that she’s been in post and seems able to attract some outstanding contributions on a regular basis. Even if you don’t wish to take any other part in the Society, the magazine is well worth the membership fee on it’s own, and I highly recommend it.

Sadly I didn’t have space in my case to bring them back with me but I hope to do that on my next visit – there is much I would like to read again in a less hurried fashion and consider more carefully.

But to return to Anselm Adorne, I leave you with a question worth considering. We know of course that Dorothy initially planned to include a fictitious daughter of his as the Katelinje character; before the astonishing discovery of a real neice who came to Scotland with him and her brother – and who in a mind-boggling and hitherto unsuspected coincidence – married into a real family who just happened to be called Crawford!! (That still blows my mind every time I think about it.)

All of which makes me wonder if she originally intended Adorne to be a direct ancestor of Lymond rather than the one-sidestep-removed that he ended up as. Would the original plan for the series have included more of him, and an even closer relationship with Nicholas? If so, I wonder how different the story might have been and how much re-writing she had to do to fit the historical discovery into it?

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