Rokeby, by Walter Scott

Notes to Canto Sixth.

Note I.

O’er Hexham’s altar hung my glove, — St. XXL p. 305.

This custom among the Redesdale and Tynedale borderers is mentioned in the interesting Life of Bernard Gilpin, where some account is given of these wild districts, which it was the custom of that excellent man regularly to visit.

“This custom (of duels) still prevailed on the borders, where Saxon barbarism held its latest possession. These wild Northumbrians indeed went beyond the ferocity of their ancestors. They were not content with a duel: each contending party used to muster what adherents he could, and commence a kind of petty war. So that a private grudge would often occasion much bloodshed.

“It happened that a quarrel of this kind was on foot when Mr Gilpin was at Rothbury, in those parts. During the two or three first days of his preaching, the contending parties observed some decorum, and never appeared at churcli together. At length, however, they met. One party had been early at church, and just as Mr Gilpin began his sermon the other entered. They stood not long silent: inflamed at the sight of each other, they began to clash their weapons, for they were all armed with javelins and swords, and mutually approach. Awed, however, by the sacredness of the place, the tumult in some degree ceased. Mr Gilpin proceeded: when again the combatants began to brandish their weapons, and draw towards each other. As a fray seemed near, Mr Gilpin stepped from the pulpit, went between them, and addressed the leaders, put an end to the quarrel for the present, but could not effect an entire reconciliation. They promised him, however, that till the sermon was over they would make no more disturbance. He then went again into the pulpit, and spent the rest of the time in endeavouring to make them ashamed of what they had done. His behaviour and discourse affected them so much, that, at his farther entreaty, they promised to forbear all acts of hostility while he continued in the country. And so much respected was he among them, that whoever was in fear of his enemy used to resort where Mr Gilpin was, esteeming his. presence the best protection.

“One Sunday morning, coming to a church in those parts before the people were assembled, he observed a glove hanging up, and was informed by the sexton, that it was meant as a challenge to any one who should take it down. Mr Gilpin ordered the sexton to reach it him; but upon his utterly refusing to touch it, he took it down himself, and put it in his breast. When the people were assembled, he went into the pulpit, and, before he concluded his sermon, took occasion to rebuke them severely for these inhuman challenges. ‘I hear,’ saith he, ‘that one among you hath hanged up a glove, even in this sacred place, threatening to fio’lit anv one who taketh it down: see, I have taken it down;’ and, pulling out the glove, he held it up to the congregation, and then shewed them how unsuitable such savage practices were to the profession of Christianity, using such persuasives to mutual love as he thought would most affect them.” — life of Bernard Gilinn, Lond. 1753, 8vo. p. 111.

Note ii.

A Horseman armed, at headlong speed. — St. XXXIII. p. 324.

This, and what follows, is taken from a real achievement of Major Robert Philipson, called from his desperate and adventurous courage, Robin the Devil. He was a loyalist during the civil wars, and held out the castle of the Earl of Derwent water, situated upon Lord’s Island in the lake of Keswick, against a considerable force commanded by Colonel Briggs, on the part of the parliament. The besiegers being obliged to retire, Philipson resolved to be revenged upon their general, and, during the time of divine service, galloped up the centre of the church at Kendal, completely armed, and discharged a pistol at his enemy’s head. In turning his horse it fell upon the pavement, notwithstanding which he was able to raise the animal with the rein and spur, and rode out of the church as safely as he had entered. The anecdote is mentioned at some length in one of Mr Gilpin’s tours, but I do not remember whether the object of Robin the Devil’s enmity escaped, or was slain on the spot.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29