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“I do not know in Scotland a valley so beautiful …”: Samuel Laing’s Topographical-Geographical Observations in Central Norway, 1834–1836
Michael Jones

Journal of the North Atlantic, Special Volume 4 (2013): 207–218

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207 M. Jones 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 Introduction In July 1834, Samuel Laing of Papdale (1780– 1868) left Orkney for Norway. He spent two years there, travelling around and living for 16 months in Levanger and Verdal in Central Norway—about 100 km northeast of Trondheim. Verdal was the “valley so beautiful” that Laing compared to Scotland and found the latter lacking. In 1836, he published his Journal of a Residence in Norway During the Years 1834, 1835, and 1836, presented as an enquiry into the moral and political economy of Norway and the condition of its inhabitants. It is best known for its idealization of Norwegian independent small-farm proprietors and the udal law of succession without primogeniture, which he saw as an example for other countries to follow. Although his main concern was with “the social condition and state of the Norwegian people”, he included topographical-geographical observations on natural and cultural history in the tradition of other European travellers of the time. The present paper concentrates on some of these observations that have received less attention than his preoccupation with legal and constitutional issues. First, I present Samuel Laing’s reasons for going to Norway and the literary context of his journal. I then present the places he stayed at in Levanger and Verdal. Following this, I discuss in more detail a selection of his observations, on topics that overlap with my own research interests. The objective of this paper is to examine Samuel Laing’s Journal in the light of contemporary and later ideas, using his observations on earthquakes, land uplift, reindeerherding “Laplanders” (i.e., Saami), and historical monuments as illustrations. Alongside my own field observations in the areas of Central Norway that Laing lived in and visited, this paper is based on an analysis of secondary sources. Laing’s own accounts of his stay in his Journal and in his Autobiography are the principal sources. The Journal was published shortly after his return to Britain, and went into a second edition already the following year in 1837.1 The Autobiography came to light only in 1957 when a typescript copy was deposited in the Orkney Archives by Alastair Laing, a collateral descendant of Samuel Laing. It was published in 2000, having been edited, annotated, and supplemented with biographical material by the historian R.P. Fereday. I have also made use of the short biographies of Laing in two editions of the Dictionary of National Biography (Baigent 2004, Rigg 1909), as well as that in W.S. Hewison’s Who Was Who in Orkney (1998:88–89). Information on the historical context of Samuel Laing’s literary production has been gained from an article by Bernard Porter in the Scandinavian Journal of History (1998), from Andrew Wawn’s book, The Vikings and the Victorians (2000), and from Sebastian Seibert’s book, Reception and Construction of the Norse Past in Orkney (2008). I refer to the eighteenth-century travellers’ accounts of Norway that Laing was familiar with in order to illustrate how he was influenced by the prevailing ideas of his time. To give an understanding of Laing’s observations in the light of present-day knowledge, I have drawn on historical and geographical sources that have informed my own research on udal law in Orkney and Shetland—the remnants of the Old Norse legal system in the islands that have survived vestigially until the present (Jones 2012)—as well as on human responses to land uplift in Fennoscandia (Jones 1977, 1978), and on the landscape of Stiklestad in Verdal (Jones 2006). “I do not know in Scotland a valley so beautiful …”: Samuel Laing’s Topographical-Geographical Observations in Central Norway, 1834–1836 Michael Jones* Abstract - In 1836, Samuel Laing (1780–1868) published his Journal of a Residence in Norway, an enquiry into Norway’s moral and political economy. It is best known for idealizing Norwegian independent small-farm proprietors and their udal law of succession without primogeniture. During 16 months at Levanger and Verdal in Central Norway, his main concern was “the social condition and state of the Norwegian people”. However, like other contemporary European travellers, he included topographical-geographical observations on natural and cultural history. The present paper examines topics that have received less attention than his preoccupation with legal and constitutional issues. His Journal is examined in the light of contemporary and later ideas, using his observations on natural phenomena, Saami reindeer-herders, and historical monuments as illustrations. Across the Sólundarhaf: Connections between Scotland and the Nordic World Selected Papers from the Inaugural St. Magnus Conference 2011 Journal of the North Atlantic *Department of Geography, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO-7491 Trondheim, Norway; Michael. Jones@svt.ntnu.no. 2013 Special Volume 4:207–218 M. Jones 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 208 Samuel Laing’s Journey to Norway W.P.L. Thomson (2000:xiii), in his preface to the Autobiography, writes that “Samuel Laing is remarkable for two very different careers”. The two careers were separated by his journey to Norway in 1834. In the period before 1834, he worked first as a clerk and merchant’s assistant; he was then a soldier in Spain and Portugal during the Peninsular War, was later employed as a mine manager, and became a merchant. He founded and organized the herring fishery on Stronsay in Orkney in 1816. He inherited the Papdale estate on the death of his brother, the historian Malcolm Laing, in 1818. Samuel Laing lived in Papdale House until 1834. As estate-owner, he engaged in the kelp trade, and was an agricultural improver. In order to introduce new crops and improved breeds of cattle and sheep on the farm of Stove on Sanday, he resettled crofters from the main farm onto self-contained crofts nearby, a model that was widely copied in Orkney. He was provost of Kirkwall from 1822 to 1834. After 1834, he lived primarily from his income as a writer, making his mark as travel writer, political theorist, and Norse scholar. The publication of his Norwegian journal was followed by an account of his visit to Sweden in 1838, published in 1839. His travels in France, Prussia, Switzerland, and Italy in 1839, 1840, and 1841 were described in Notes of a Traveller, published in 1842. A second volume in 1850 contained his Observations on the Social and Political State of the European People in 1848 and 1849. His account of his visit to Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein in 1851 came in 1852. As a Norse scholar, his great achievement was to publish in 1844 his translation of The Heimskringla, or Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, the first complete translation into English of the saga of the Norse kings from the original Old Norse (Baigent 2004, Fereday 2000, Hewison 1998, Porter 1998, Rigg 1909, Røe 1986, Seibert 2008:89–97, Wawn 2000:92–116). Samuel Laing’s reasons for leaving Orkney for Norway were complex, the result of a combination of circumstances. In his Autobiography, Laing explained in some detail the debts and other burdens that encumbered the estate he had inherited from his brother. He had received the estate by testament when Malcolm Laing had died childless. Although Samuel was the youngest son, his other brothers were passed over as they were well off and established on their own estates elsewhere. His wife, Agnes Kelly, whom he had married in 1809, had died in 1812, leaving him with two small children to support. The uncertainty of his future had led him in 1818 to consider emigrating with his family to America, but the inheritance of the estate provided him with a livelihood. However, he was unable to free the estate of debt, a situation that was made worse by falling kelp prices. The collapse of the kelp trade and the cost of his agricultural improvements brought him into serious financial difficulties. He had political ambitions and stood as candidate for the Northern Isles in the general election of 1833. He topped the poll in Orkney, but the returns from Shetland tipped the balance against him, causing a riot in Kirkwall. For Samuel Laing, 1834 was a turning point. That year his daughter Elizabeth married and his son Sam started a career at Cambridge University. At the same time, he quarrelled and broke with his sisterin- law, Mary Kelly, who had lived with him and managed his household after the death of his wife. With his children settled, and freed of domestic obligations, he resigned his bankrupt estate to trustees, and, with an allowance from the trustees until the estate was sold, embarked on his journey to Norway, where he found he could live more cheaply (Baigent 2004; Fereday 2000, 2003; Hewison 1998:88–89; Rigg 1909; Wawn 2000:92–116). Seeking a better way of life and social organization, he wished to get better acquainted with Norway, “… partly to investigate the social condition of a people living under institutions so ancient and peculiar, … and partly from the historical interest which we attach to every thing Norwegian” (Laing 1837 [1836]:2). The Literary Context of Samuel Laing’s Journal of a Residence in Norway The literary context of Samuel Laing’s Journal contains a number of strands that can be seen against the background of the Scottish Enlightenment. Although Laing may not have directly taken part in the intellectual fervor of Edinburgh circles that characterized the Scottish Enlightenment in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, his work is in the Enlightenment spirit. Features of the Scottish Enlightenment included emphasis on observation and experience, criticism of authority, comment on society and its values, moral philosophy, critical thinking, systematic recording of scientific observations, and an applied dimension associated with the drive for improvement, for example in agriculture and other economic pursuits. It included also a strong interest in history, liberal thought, ideals of civic freedom, and criticism of religion (Broadie 2001, Keay and Keay 2000:891–893). Topographical-geographical description was a feature of the Scottish Enlightenment. Sir John Sinclair’s twenty-one volume Statistical Account of Scotland, published between 1791 and 1799, gave a detailed account of the geography, history, economy, 209 M. Jones 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 and society of every parish of the country. A volume for the northern counties and islands, including Orkney and Shetland, came in 1795. Systematic topographical-geographical descriptions in Scotland and elsewhere in Europe involved naming and placing observations of geographical phenomena, both natural and cultural (especially antiquities), recording of empirical knowledge, and emphasizing economic improvement (Eriksen 2007:9–30). These were all features of Samuel Laing’s Journal, although he made no reference to the Statistical Account or other topographical-geographical surveys. There can be discerned in the Journal the two interwoven modes of enquiry characteristic of the period: accurate empirical description together with the personal experiences of the individual traveller (Fielding 2008:8–9). Also associated with the Scottish Enlightenment was Old Northernism—a developing interest in the Norse contribution to Scottish history that gained momentum in intellectual circles in the second half of the eighteenth century and reached its culmination during the Victorian era in the nineteenth century (Seibert 2008, Wawn 2000). In Orkney, which had been subject to Norway (later Norway–Denmark) until sovereignty was transferred to the Scottish crown in 1468, there began to appear references to the Norse past and to udal law in descriptions of the islands by landowners, ministers, and visitors during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. This interest was stimulated further by the Pundlar Process, a lawsuit that began in 1733 and continued to 1759. The case tested allegations by a group of Orkney landlords that the Earl of Morton, who feued the Orkney Earldom and Bishopric estates from the crown, had manipulated in his own favor the historical Norse weights and weighing beams—pundlars and bismars—still then customarily used in Orkney for determining feu duties and other taxes payable to the earl. The lawsuit lasted longer and collected more evidence than any other case heard by the Court of Session (Scotland’s supreme court) in Edinburgh, either before or since. In 1750, James Mackenzie, an Orkney lawyer published anonymously a book titled The General Grievances and Oppressions of the Isles of Orkney and Shetland (Mackenzie 1836 [1750]), in which he produced historical arguments supporting the claims of the landlords against the earl. In 1759, the court found it not proven that the Earl of Morton’s officials had increased the weights. However, the case contributed to awakened interest in Orkney’s Norse past in subsequent writings about the islands in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (Jones 2012:396, 399–402). There is no direct evidence in his Autobiography that Samuel Laing showed a special interest in Orkney’s Norse history in his younger days, but he was familiar with his brother’s general historical works and knew of Orkney’s historical and later commercial links with Norway. Possibly an interest in Norse history and udal law was aroused when in 1826 Samuel Laing headed the jury of magistrates that was instrumental in replacing the Norse weights and measures by Imperial weights (Fereday 2000:36–37, 219; Seibert 2008:89–90). Fereday (2000:231) writes: “Thus in choosing Norway as his place of exile he was attracted not only by its nearness, cheapness and seclusion but also by ancestral voices, historical connections and the opportunity of seeing a country of which he had heard so much. He was particularly fascinated by the idea that it was a country without any feudal aristocracy or inheritance by primogeniture, a paradise for liberal peasants.” The Scottish Enlightenment saw also a flourishing of the arts—poetry and painting. With regard to literature, there is some dispute as to how far Sir Walter Scott, “one of the great sources of the European romantic movement” (Broadie 2001:221), belonged to the Enlightenment or whether his death marked its end (Broadie 2001: 220–221, Keay and Keay 2000:893). According to Thomson (2001:xiv), Laing “was generally dismissive of painting, music and romanticism”. Nonetheless, he read Scott’s novels. He became captivated by the Norse sagas. His idealization of Norway in his Journal and, later his commentary on Norway’s Viking past in his translation of Heimskringla, contributed greatly to the romantic Old Northernism of the Victorian era. However, Laing’s Journal became a treatise in political economy. His main agenda was the utilitarian one of examining the moral, political, and economic status of Norway and the other countries he visited. His travel books were unconventional compared with those of many other travel writers of the time, who were content to describe the sights (Porter 1998:153). He was familiar with the diaries of a European traveller who visited Norway during the Napoleonic Wars, when Scandinavia became an alternative destination since much of the European continent elsewhere was either hostile territory or engulfed in war. He was familiar with the chapter on Norway in the second edition of Thomas Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population, published in 1803. This chapter was added after Malthus’ journey to Norway together with his friend William Otter in 1799, the year following the first edition of the Principle of Population, although Malthus’ travel diaries were not published until the middle of the twentieth century (James 1966). Inspired by Malthus, Laing discussed checks to population growth in Norway in his Journal. He would, M. Jones 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 210 however, have disagreed with Malthus’ characterization of “Odel’s right” (udal law) as a “great obstacle to the improvement of farms in Norway” (James 1966:288). Samuel Laing referred several times in his Journal to Edward Daniel Clarke’s (1824 [1823]) description of Norway in his Travels in Various Countries of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Clarke had started his journey to Scandinavia together with Malthus in 1799, and although their paths separated before they reached Norway, Clarke borrowed Malthus’ diaries and incorporated passages from them in his own Travels (James 1966:16–22). Clarke also made use of the German traveller Leopold von Buch’s book on travels in Norway 1806–1808, published in 1810 and in English translation in 1813 (Johnsen 1977:8). Laing referred also to von Buch’s work, but found both his and Clarke’s descriptions wanting. He began the introduction to his Journal (Laing 1837 [1836]:iii) thus: “Norway has been visited and described by Von Buch, Dr. Clarke, and other travellers of science and talent; but these enlightened observers have naturally directed their attention to the geology, botany, and sublime natural scenery which the country presents in the most interesting forms, and bestowed little of it on the social conditions and state of the Norwegian people.” Laing may not have gone to Norway with the express intention of publishing a journal, but the idea appears to have come to him under way (Porter 1998:156, footnote 12). In an entry in his Autobiography in October 1834, he wrote (Fereday 2000:164): “I shall wander about for some time, and at intervals enter in this book of which the few leaves remaining will hold all I shall have to say, where I am and what are my views and intentions. I keep a regular diary, besides, and these two books will be silent companions of my old age. They may perhaps amuse Elizabeth’s or Sam’s children at some future day.” At the beginning of 1835, now living in lodgings in Levanger, he was mastering Norwegian and wrote that he was occupying himself “writing observations on Norway” and reading what he could find in that language. In October 1835, now renting a small farmhouse in Verdal, he wrote: “I amuse myself with fishing, shooting, reading, and writing observations on Norway.” In April 1836, he wrote at Christiania (Oslo), on his return journey to Scotland: “I have written a volume of observations on Norway which I think may sell for a hundred pounds or two …”. Within a few weeks of his return to Edinburgh, he wrote in June 1836 that he had sold his volume to the publishers Longman & Co. on condition of receiving half the profits, and the Journal was published later the same year (Fereday 2000:164–167). Laing’s second career as a writer was now established. The Journal begins with extensive comparisons of Norway and Scotland. Constitutional matters and the survival of udal landholding became the central themes of the Journal and the basis of his theory as to why the Norwegian way of living was superior. Fereday (2000:5) sums up Laing’s achievement: “Samuel Laing had an enquiring mind and his ideas are historically interesting. There is much accurate observation and good sense mingled with his exaggerations, contradictions, and errors. Of course his opinions were based not only on his travels, researches, and reasonings but on prejudices formed during a long and chequered career.” Fereday (2000:231) writes further: “Laing went to Norway with his own preconceptions and, not surprisingly, he was soon finding evidence to support them. He was not an open-minded and scientific observer, but he was active, deeply curious, and keen-eyed. As he travelled north, keeping a journal, he was increasingly satisfied that he could put his necessary exile to good use and eventually gain a better understanding of Norwegian society than had been achieved by earlier, transient visitors.” Table 1. Some topics in Samuel Laing’s Journal of a Residence in Norway. • Property laws • Norwegian constitution and Parliament • Yule • Law courts • Udal estates and landholding • Agriculture • Forests • Fisheries • Buildings and architecture • Taxation • Union with Sweden • Checks on population • Manners and customs • Station of females • The Church • Education • Free press • Food and spirits • Winter • Laplanders • Wild birds and animals • Orkneyinga Saga • Battle of Stiklestad • Earthquakes • Landslip • Raised beaches 211 M. Jones 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 Despite its focus on legal and social issues, the Journal contained a wealth of detailed observations on other phenomena, including natural phenomena (Table 1), many of which have received relatively little attention in presentations of Laing’s work. Samuel Laing in Levanger and Verdal In July 1834, Laing voyaged by steamboat from Hull to Gothenburg (Göteborg) in Sweden, and then on the post boat to Christiania. Sending his baggage ahead, he continued north by horse, travelling past Lake Mjøsa and up the valley of Gudbrandsdalen, with stops of up to several days on the way, writing his diary as he went. In mid-August, he bought a horse and cart and continued over the Dovrefjell mountain plateau, where he described a Norwegian farm watermill similar to those found in Shetland. He reached Trondheim later in the month. A few days later, he continued north along the Trondheim Fjord to Levanger and Verdal. On 20 September, Laing (1837 [1836]:92) wrote: “I do not know in Scotland a valley so beautiful as this of Værdal: the crops of grain so rich and yellow; the houses so substantial and thickly set; farm after farm without interruption, each fully enclosed and subdivided with paling; the grass fields so lively green, so free from weeds and rubbish; every knoll, and all the background, covered with trees, and a noble clear river running briskly through it. … I find that all these beautiful little farms, with their substantial houses, and that air of plenty and completeness about them which struck me so much on my way up this valley, are the udal estates, and residences of the peasant proprietors, or bonder.” We find here an example of Laing’s unqualified praise of what he considered the free, upright Norwegian peasant proprietors (Baigent 2004). Wawn (2000:97) calls this eulogizing “hero worship”. From Verdal, Laing carried on north via Steinkjer to Snåsa, where he came across a Scot who had lived there for six years and was tenant of a farm. Laing was able to obtain detailed information of Norwegian agriculture, and made a series of drawings of a Norwegian plough. He then returned to Levanger, where he found lodgings for the winter at Brusve gård, the farm of the town’s sheriff, Ole Nilsen Lynum. Figures 1–6 illustrate Brusve gård around the time of Laing’s visit and at present. A plaque on the wall of the main house states that Brusve gård was built in 1803 for Bardo Westrum, Lynum’s predecessor as sheriff, and that it remained an official’s residence until 1882. It now belongs to the Town Museum of Levanger. At 17 years of age, Lynum came to Brusve in 1818 and worked first as a handyman, later as an office clerk, and in 1824 married Figure 1. Map of Levanger and environs drawn by the cartographer and antiquarian Lorentz Diderich Klüwer in 1824, ten years before Laing’s visit. The map shows the town’s location on an inlet of the Trondheim Fjord. Brusve gård (spelt Brusveet on the map) lies across the river to the south of the town. Source: Hallan (1964:235). Figure 2. The earliest known photograph of Levanger, taken between 1864 and 1868, about thirty years after Laing’s visit. The long white-painted farmhouse of Brusve can be seen in the distance behind the church. The photographer is unknown. Photograph of print in Brusve gård © M. Jones, March 2011. M. Jones 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 212 Figure 3. A portrait of Laing’s host, sheriff Ole Nilsen Lynum. The portrait is unsigned. Photograph of original in Brusve gård © M. Jones, March 2011. Figure 4. The empire-style Brusve gård and its snow-covered garden in March 2011. It is no longer a farm but is surrounded by built-up land. Photograph © M. Jones. Figure 6. Interior photo of the Court Room, Brusve gård. The local court met here in Laing’s day, a topic on which he elaborated. The room is today not exactly as Laing would have found it, the interior having been reconstructed and provided with late nineteenth-century furnishings. Photograph © M. Jones, March 2011. Figure 5. Weather vane stamped with sheriff Ole Lynum’s initials and the date 1830, today nailed on to the outside wall of the storehouse. Laing would have seen this in use. Photo: M. Jones, March 2011. Figure 7. Present-day photograph of the “valley so beautiful” of Verdal, near Midtgrunnnan in early spring, with a tractor and snow plough. Photo: M. Jones, March 2011. Figure 8. The two present-day farms at Grunnan viewed across the river. Midtgrunnan vestre, which no longer exists, is thought to have been situated to the left of the two present farms. Photo: M. Jones, March 2011. 213 M. Jones 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 Trondheim in 1686 and 1792, as well as a catastrophe in 1344, when the Gaula River “disappeared in the earth, and on bursting out again destroyed fortyeight farms, and above 250 persons”, recorded in the Icelandic annals and occurring five years after an earthquake in Iceland (Laing 1837 [1836]:114, footnote). It is now known that the catastrophe in the Gaula River was a quick-clay landslide that blocked the river at Kvasshylla, about 40 km south of Trondheim, creating a lake above the blockage, which then broke and caused a flood downstream, resulting in the worst natural catastrophe in Norway’s history (Reite 1985:21). However, earth tremors do occur regularly in Norway, and since 1980 have been automatically registered by seismographs in the Norwegian National Seismic Network. Up to the end of 2010, there occurred in Norway a total of 304 tremors above 2.0 on the Richter scale, that is all those that could be directly felt by humans, with the maximum registering 4.7 on 29 July 1982. Of those, nine tremors in Central Norway were recorded in the same period, the maximum registering 3.7 on 1 November 1987 (NORSAR 2011). Laing (1837 [1836]:115) remarked that “… it is impossible to look at the features of this country … without being impressed with the idea that at some period this surface has been torn, and raised, and depressed by earthquakes.” Another natural phenomenon experienced by Laing was a “landslip” that occurred on 23 February 1835 at Gustad in Ekne. He described it thus: “A farm-house, with forty or fifty acres of land, was suddenly swallowed up, or sunk in the earth, and three people perished” (Laing (1837 [1836]:201).3 He walked 20 km the next day along the fjord from Levanger to the spot where this “very remarkable accident” had occurred. He discussed possible causes. He did not think it was caused by water between the superficial deposits and the underlying rock, because Westrum’s daughter. The following year he took over as sheriff, and was proprietor of Brusve gård from 1834, the year of Laing’s visit. Lynum died in 1862 (Snekkvik 1997:92, footnote 1). In May 1835, Laing left Brusve and rented the small farm of Midtgrunnan vestre, which he called Medgrunden, near the church settlement of Vuku in Verdal. Midtgrunnan vestre no longer exists but was amalgamated with a neighboring farm later in the nineteenth century (Musum 1931:23–24).2 The vicinity is shown in Figures 7–9. Laing stayed at Midtgrunnan until January 1836, when he left to return to Christiania and Scotland. In the following, I will discuss Laing’s observations of some natural phenomena, as well as of “Laplanders” and of St. Olav and the Battle of Stiklestad, the site of which he visited. Natural Phenomena: Earthquakes, Landslides, and Raised Beaches In the autumn of 1834, Samuel Laing (1837 [1836]:114) reported two earthquake shocks in the Trondheim area: “Since I was last in Dronthiem, a distinct shock of earthquake was felt there along the coast, and in the islands to the north, on the 3d September; and one on the 17th September, in the islands to the south. … A correspondent of the Morgenblad newspaper, who has kept a register of the weather for many years, says he reckons seven distinct earthquakes in Norway since 1797.” Citing the historian Jens Kraft’s topographicalstatistical description of Norway (1832), Laing mentioned two earlier earthquakes recorded in Figure 9. The site of Midtgrunnan vestre is believed to have been close to Grunden mølle, a mill building moved here in recent years. Photo: M. Jones, March 2011. Figure 10. The site of the quick-clay landslide at Gustad, Ekne, 1835. The steep slope picked out by snow below the farm buildings in the background indicates the depression left after the landslide. Photo: M. Jones, March 2011. M. Jones 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 214 too large an area had slid out and the slope down to the sea was too gentle. He concluded it was caused by a sinking of the bedrock. We now know that it was a quick-clay landslide. Land uplift after the last ice age had raised marine clays above sea level, and they became unstable over time as the salt content of the clay was washed out. The site of the landslide is still visible today (Fig. 10). Fifty-eight years later, on 19 May 1893, a major quick-clay landslide occurred in Verdal, causing 116 deaths and the destruction of a large number of farms. A total of 55 m3 slid out from a 3-km2 area. Liquid clay covered 9 km2 downstream. The blockage caused a temporary lake upstream, and the lower valley was flooded when the blockage was breached, causing the river to take a new course (Fig. 11; Bendiksen et al. 1993, Bjørlykke 1893). This was one of the greatest catastrophes in Norway’s recent history. Smaller quick-clay landslides are a frequent occurrence in Norway, with occasional loss of life. In July 1835, Laing made excursions to different locations near the Trondheim Fjord and reported finds at several places of raised beaches and shells at 60´ (20 m) above sea level (Laing (1837 [1836]:334– 337). We know now that this height corresponds to the Tapes (known in the Baltic as the Littorina) transgression about 6000 BC. Land uplift in Fennoscandia is a result of the rebounding of the Earth’s crust once the continental ice sheet that depressed it melted. Land uplift still occurs at a rate of 9 mm a year (90 cm per century) in the northern Gulf of Bothnia, and in the Trondheim area at a rate of 4 mm a year (40 cm a century) (Eronen 2005; Jones 1977:18–44, 1978). The theory of land uplift due to ice melting had not been developed in Laing’s time. There was instead a debate between the Neptunists, who believed that the sea level was decreasing, and the Vulcanists, who believed in land rise due to volcanism (Jones 1977:19). Laing supported the latter theory, which he had from Leopold von Buch. He discussed the differential rates of uplift between the Atlantic and Bothnian shores of the Scandinavian peninsula, and concluded that this showed that the phenomenon could not be due to the retiring of the sea as suggested by some “Swedish philosophers” (Laing (1837 [1836]:337). Laing was not, however, aware that the earth tremors and quick-clay slides he observed were also related to land uplift. Samuel Laing’s Encounters with “Laplanders” One of the objects of travel for European travellers to central and northern Scandinavia was to visit the Saami (Lapp) nomadic reindeer herders— variously termed Laplanders, Laps, Lapfins, or Fins. Malthus and then Clarke visited Saami encampments near Røros in Central Norway in 1799. Clarke (1824 [1823]: 167–171, 252–256) was particularly derogatory in describing their appearance: they were “all dwarfs, with long, lank, black hair” and inflamed, bleary eyes. They were of diminutive stature, and “their little ferret eyes, and want of eyebrows, added to their high cheek-bones” and gave them an Asiatic resemblance. They had feeble, effeminate voices. They were regarded as cunning knaves and considered inferior. He also wrote that they were liable to intoxication. The stereotypes reflected the views of contemporary Norwegians that the “Laplanders” were “actuated by no motives but the love of brandy and Figure 11. Map of the quick-clay landslide in Verdal, 1893, made by the Norwegian Geographical Survey (Norges geografiske oppmåling). Dark red indicates the area from which the quick clay slid out. Light red indicates the area covered by quick clay as a result of the landslide. Blue indicates the area temporarily flooded by the blockage of the river caused by the landslide. The map also shows the change in the course of the river due to the landslide. Source: Bjørlykke 1893. 215 M. Jones 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 Samuel Laing on Historical Monuments and the Cult of St. Olav My final example is Samuel Laing’s account of his visits in autumn 1834 to Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim and the medieval stone church at Stiklestad in Verdal. The cathedral was built over St. Olav’s grave, while Stiklestad church was erected at the place where he was killed at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. In the first half of the eighteenth century, the cult of St. Olav was being revived as part of the Norwegian national romantic movement, after being the fear of the wolf”, as Laing put it in November 1834, continuing: “As practical shepherds, these poor Laplanders are so imbecile that they will not shoot the wolf, which in one night might tear a flock to pieces, but seek only to frighten or fly from him; and not from cowardice, since they will shoot the bear, but from a superstitious prejudice” (Laing (1837 [1836]:145). He described them selling reindeer products at the Levanger Fair in December and March—frozen venison, reindeer skins, and cheese. In April 1835, he related an encounter with a drunken Laplander. He went on to give the following negative characteristic ((Laing (1837 [1836]:247): “The Laplander has, certainly, beyond all other Europeans, peculiarities of features and appearance, not easily described, but which decidedly indicate a separate breed or race. The slit of the eye running obliquely from the temples to the nose; the eyes small and peculiarly brown, and without eyelashes; the forehead low and projecting; the cheekbones high and far apart; the mouth wide, with illdefined lips; the chin thinly furnished with scattered hairs rather than a beard; the skin decidedly of a yellow hue, as in the crossbreed of a white person with a mulatto,—all these peculiarities strike the eye at once, as distinctive of a separate race. The structure of the body also seems different. The bones are considerably smaller as well as shorter than other races … They also have that peculiarity of a distinct race, the odour from their bodies being to our sense different from ours, and to us raw and wild …” However, seven months later, in November, Laing’s attitude changed. He related (Laing 1837 [1836]:409–410): “A Lapland beauty, and really a pretty girl, came into our kitchen to-day on her way from the Fjelde. She was dressed very smartly … This young woman came to sell me fur shoes and mittens. …” He described meeting the reindeer herders as they moved through the valley preparing for winter. Unlike the Norwegians, who looked upon them with contempt and would not eat, sit or associate with them, Laing made them welcome. He bought a reindeer, watched it being slaughtered, and gave them dinner. He wrote: “They were much gratified at being treated like other people and set down to a table regularly, instead of getting the victuals in their hands to eat in a corner or take with them, as is the usual way” (Laing 1837 [1836]: 416). He was given a present of reindeer cheese and, at Christmas, a reindeer-skin pelisse. Figure 12. Gerhard Schøning’s drawings of Stiklestad church and the St. Olav’s monument, 1774. Original drawings archived in the Royal Library, Copenhagen. Source: Gjone (1968). M. Jones 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 216 arch … similar to those … in the cathedral of Dronthiem” (Laing 1837 [1836]:91). In 1807, a second monument had been erected. Laing was critical of the inscription on the new monument, which praised St. Olav, and stated that: “The silence of the ancient monument is more honourable, and true to history” (Laing 1837 [1836]:89). A contemporary painting (Fig. 13) gives an idea of the two monuments and the church at the period of Laing’s visit. However, it was the national romantic view of Stiklestad that came to prevail in Norway, and today it is the venue of the annual St. Olav’s Festival, including Norway’s oldest extant open-air theatre and a rapidly developing tourist industry (Jones 2006). In contrast to Samuel Laing’s critical remarks in 1834, Stiklestad has today become a product of “Viking tourism”. Paradoxically, Laing’s translation and idealization of the sagas, like their translation into modern Norwegian by Jacob Aall in 1838, can be considered to be symptomatic of the forces that have contributed to laying the foundations of this industry. Conclusion Although there is little direct evidence of the literary influences on Samuel Laing’s Journal of a Residence in Norway, it reflected the prevailing legacy of the Scottish Enlightenment. The Journal combined elements of topographical-geographical description, Old Northernism, romanticism, and forbidden for more than 250 years after the Reformation. In contrast to his hosts, Laing (1837 [1836]:68– 69) had a more realistic view of Olav’s death: “King Olaf Haraldsen, who appears to have been the most blood-thirsty tyrant who was ever canonised, was killed by his subjects at a place called Stikklestad, north of Dronthiem. ... As this monarch introduced Christianity by fire and sword into his dominions, and was killed by the peasants whom his cruelties had driven into revolt, he was canonized; his shrine became the most distinguished in the north of Europe, and one of the most frequented by pilgrims.” On Stiklestad, he wrote (Laing 1837 [1836]:88): “It is a place celebrated in Norwegian history, for here king Olaf the saint was slain in the battle with his subjects. Never was a monarch opposed and cut off by his people on juster grounds.” Laing was familiar with the topographical writings of Gerhard Schøning, who visited Stiklestad in 1774 (Schøning 1795) and was the first to make drawings of the church and the monument to St. Olav (Fig. 12). Laing was not impressed by the church, writing that: “The only part that struck me as curious, although, from my not knowing the date, of little interest, is the entrance gate, a round Saxon Figure 13. Two monuments to St. Olav and Stiklestad church, ca.1840. Lithograph by C. Müller. Source: Stiklestad National Culture Centre, archive no. 46:4. 217 M. Jones 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 political economy. Laing was an autodidact in literary matters. Like many travellers, he kept diaries. He was an avid reader and he taught himself Norwegian in order to read works in that language. He was an unusual travel writer. His concern with legal and constitutional issues reflected his moral and political agenda of liberty and improvement. He idealized the Norwegian peasantry and their udal landholdings. Through his saga translation, he became a pioneering Norse scholar. Although he was a utilitarian at heart, together these things contributed greatly to the romantic Northernism of the Victorian age. Nonetheless, despite his biases, his detailed observations of society and of natural phenomena are comparable to the best travel writers of his time. Literature Cited Aall, J. (Transl.) 1838. Snorre Sturlesons norske Kongers Sagaer. Vol. 1. Guldberg and Dzwonkowski, Christiania, Norway. XII + 365 pp. Baigent, E. 2004. Laing, Samuel (1780–1868). Pp. 228–229, In H.G.C. Matthew and B. Harrison (Eds.). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 32. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. Bendiksen, A., J.E. Raanes, and M. Årstadvold (Eds.). 1993. Verdalsraset 1893 [The Verdal Landslide]. Verdal Historielag, Verdal, Norway. 48 pp. Bjørlykke, K.O. 1893. Skredet i Værdalen. Det Norske Geografiske Selskabs Årbog IV 1892–1893:105–112. Broadie, A. 2001. The Scottish Enlightenment: The Historical Age of the Historical Nation. Birlinn, Edinburgh, UK. 240 pp. Clarke, E.D. 1824 [1823]. Travels in Various Countries of Europe Asia and Africa. Vol. 10, Part the Third: Scandinavia. T. Cadell, London, UK. 555 pp. Eriksen, A. 2007. Topgrafenes verden: Fornminner og fortidsforståelse. Pax Forlag, Oslo, Norway. 262 pp. Eronen, M. 2005. Land uplift: Virgin land from the sea. Pp. 17–34, In M. Seppälä (Ed.). The Physical Geography of Fennoscandia. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. XXXI + 432 pp. Fereday, R.P. (Ed.). 2000. The Autobiography of Samuel Laing of Papdale 1780–1868. Bellavista Publications, Kirkwall, UK. XVII + 308 pp. Fereday, R.P. 2003. Samuel Laing of Papdale, Orkney: A kelp-laird’s political ambitions, 1824–1834. Pp. 94–107, In D.J. Waugh (Ed.). The Faces of Orkney: Stones, Skalds and Saints. Scottish Society for Northern Studies, Edinburgh, UK. 195 pp. Fielding, P. 2008. Scotland and the Fictions of Geography: North Britain 1760–1830. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK. 235 pp. Finsvik, M.E. 1978. [Ekne.] Pp. 246–517, In N. Hallan, J. Sørmo and M.E. Finsvik. Skogn historie. Vol. VIII: Markabygda og Ekne. Nemnda for Skogn Historie, Verdal, Norway. 517 pp. Gjone, E. 1968. Stiklestad kirke. Pp. 80–83, In A. Berg and E. Sinding-Larsen (Eds.). 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Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, London, UK. XII + 482 pp. Laing, S. 1839. A Tour in Sweden in 1838, Comprising Observations on the Moral, Political, and Economical State of the Swedish Nation. Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, London, UK. 431 + 32 pp. Laing, S. 1842. Notes of a Traveller on the Social and Political State of France, Prussia, Switzerland, Italy and Other Parts of Europe During the Present Century. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, London, UK. XII + 496 pp. Laing, S. (Ed. and Transl.) 1844. The Heimskringla, or Chronicle of the Kings of Norway: Translated from the Islandic of Snorro Sturleson, with a Preliminary Dissertation. Vols. 1–3. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, London, UK. VIII + 485 + 399 + 393 pp. M. Jones 2013 Journal of the North Atlantic Special Volume 4 218 Laing, S. 1850. Observations on the Social and Political State of the European People in 1848 and 1849, Being the Second Series of the Notes of a Traveller. 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General View of the Agriculture of the Northern Counties and Islands of Scotland; Including the Counties of Cromarty, Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness, and the Islands of Orkney and Shetland: With Observations on the Means of Improvement. Colin Macrea, London, UK. XXI + 281 + 45 pp. Snekkvik, K. (Ed. and Transl.). 1997. Dagbok frå eit opphald i Norge i åra 1834, 1835 og 1836; Med det formål å undersøke den moralske tilstand og samfunnsøkonomiske forhold i landet, og levekåra for innbyggarane: Av Samuel Laing, Ny utgåve. Snøfugl forlag, Melhus, Norway. 307 pp. Thomson, W.P.L. 2000. Preface. Pp. xiii–xv, In R.P. Fereday (Ed.). The Autobiography of Samuel Laing of Papdale 1780–1878. Bellavista Publications, Kirkwall, UK. 308 pp. von Buch, L. 1810. Reise durch Norwegen und Lappland. 2 Vols. Nauk, Berlin, Germany. X + 486 + VI + 406 pp. von Buch, L. 1813. Travels through Norway and Lapland, During the Years 1806, 1807, and 1808. Translated by J. Black. Henry Colburn, British and Foreign Public Library, London, UK. XVIII + 460 pp. Wawn, A. 2000. The Vikings and the Victorians: Inventing the Old North in Nineteenth-Century Britain. D.S. Brewer, Cambridge, UK. 434 pp. Notes 1A complete translation of the Journal into Norwegian by Kåre Snekkvik, based on the 1851 edition, appeared first in 1997. 2Thanks are due to Stein Otto Bjørkeng, Nord-Trøndelag University College, for assistance in obtaining information on Midtgrunnan vestre, 6 April 2011. Further details on the history of the farm, including a Norwegian translation of Laing’s account of the property, can be found in Musum (1931:18–34). 3According to a local historical work on Ekne, four people are named as having lost their lives in the landslide (Finsvik 1978:289–290).