Blog #214: Strengthening the Finlay Macbeth Connection in To the Lighthouse

Naturally, one had asked her to lunch, tea, dinner, finally to stay with them up at Finlay, which had resulted in some friction with the Owl, her mother, and more calling, and more conversation, and more sand, and really at the end of it, she had told enough lies about parrots to last her a lifetime (so she had said to her husband that night, coming back from the party).

To the Lighthouse

In an earlier blog, I raised the possibility that the Finlay name might be a subtle allusion to the deep importance which Macbeth has for Virginia in To the Lighthouse. Other than a host of other Macbeth references, and Virginia’s love of the playful and the cryptic, I had no evidence for such a claim. Now, though, thanks to an editor’s prodding , the link between Finlay and Macbeth is considerably stronger.

In the earlier blog, I had stated: “Apparently Finlay was the name of Macbeth’s father.” Quite rightly, the editor’s response was to ask me to back up that claim, as nowhere in Macbeth is there any mention of any Finlay. Indeed, the Macbeth Finlay connection is so recondite that I am sure that many, if not most, Shakespeare scholars do not know of it. Certainly, without some obsessive internet noodling, I would not have known this small piece of genealogical trivia, and consequently I was very cautious about ascribing knowledge of it to Virginia.

Now, though, thanks to my editor, I decided to dig a little deeper. Footnotes to my three editions of Macbeth yielded nothing, and even if they had none of the editions were earlier than the mid 60s, and therefore they would not have been accessible to Virginia. Holinshed’s Chronicles, though, were another matter, but sadly a search of Holinshed failed to find Finlay. Findlay or Findláech is mentioned the Annals of Ulster and the Book of Leinster, yet Virginia is not known to have read either of those two sources.

Frustrated in my sleuthing, I finally did what I should have done at the outset: I turned to Virginia’s library. Almost instantly, gold! Washington State’s Short-Title Catalogue for The Library of Leonard and Virginia Woolf listed Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Macbeth, as Presented by Edwin Booth. Ed. by W. Winter (1878). With the help of archive.org, I easily located a Winter edition of Macbeth, and there in the appendix was sweet proof that Virginia would have known about Macbeth’s paternity:

“Macbeth, or Macbeathad MacFinlegh, as he is called in contempo-
rary chronicles, was a king of Scotland. From his father, Finlegh, the
son of Ruadhri, he inherited the rule of the province of Moray, and he
became allied with the royal line by his marriage with Gruoch Mac-
Boedhe, the granddaughter of King Kenneth MacDuff. In the year
1039 he headed an attack upon King Duncan MacCrinan at a place
called Bothgouanan (the Smith’s Bothy), where the King was mortally
wounded, but survived to be carried to Elgin, in Moray. Macbeth now
ascended the throne, and his reign of seventeen years is commemorated
in the chronicles as a time of plenty. He made grants to the Culdees
of Loch Leven, and in the year 1050 went in pilgrimage to Rome.
Malcolm MacDuncan, or Ceanmore, the eldest son of King Duncan
MacCrinan, had fled to England on his father’s death ; and in the sum-
mer of 1054, his kinsman, Siward, Earl of Northumberland, led an
English army into Scotland against Macbeth. That King was defeated
with great slaughter, but escaped from the field, and still kept the
throne. Four years afterwards he was again defeated by Malcolm Mac-
Duncan, and, fleeing northwards across the mountain-range, since called
the Grampians, he was slain at Lumphanan, in Aberdeenshire, on the
5th of December, 1056. His followers were able to place his nephew,
or step-son, Lulach, on the throne ; and his defeat and death at Essie,
in Strathbogie, on the 3d of April, 1057, opened the succession to Mal-
colm, who, three weeks afterwards, was crowned at Scone. This is all
that is certainly known of the history of Macbeth. The fables which
gradually accumulated round his name were systematized in the begin-
ning of the fifteenth century by the historian Hector Boece, from whose
pages they were transferred to the chronicle of Holinshed, where they
met the eye of Shakespeare. Nearly half a century before his great
play was written, Buchanan had remarked how well the legend of
Macbeth was fitted for the stage.” CHAMBERS’S ENCYCLOPAEDIA,
vol. vi., p. 237.

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