SCOTT began to work on “The Heart of Mid-Lothian” almost before he had completed “Rob Roy.” On Nov. 10, 1817, he writes to Archibald Constable announcing that the negotiations for the sale of the story to Messrs. Longman have fallen through, their firm declining to relieve the Ballantynes of their worthless “stock.” “So you have the staff in your own hands, and, as you are on the spot, can manage it your own way. Depend on it that, barring unforeseen illness or death, these will be the best volumes which have appeared. I pique myself on the first tale, which is called ‘The Heart of Mid-Lothian.’” Sir Walter had thought of adding a romance, “The Regalia,” on the Scotch royal insignia, which had been rediscovered in the Castle of Edinburgh. This story he never wrote. Mr. Cadell was greatly pleased at ousting the Longmans —“they have themselves to blame for the want of the Tales, and may grumble as they choose: we have Taggy by the tail, and, if we have influence to keep the best author of the day, we ought to do it.”—[Archibald Constable, iii. 104.]
Though contemplated and arranged for, “The Heart of Mid-Lothian” was not actually taken in hand till shortly after Jan. 15, 1818, when Cadell writes that the tracts and pamphlets on the affair of Porteous are to be collected for Scott. “The author was in great glee . . . he says that he feels very strong with what he has now in hand.” But there was much anxiety concerning Scott’s health. “I do not at all like this illness of Scott’s,” said James Ballantyne to Hogg. “I have eften seen him look jaded of late, and am afraid it is serious.” “Hand your tongue, or I’ll gar you measure your length on the pavement,” replied Hogg. “You fause, down-hearted loon, that ye are, you daur to speak as if Scott were on his death-bed! It cannot be, it must not be! I will not suffer you to speak that gait.” Scott himself complains to Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe of “these damned spasms. The merchant Abudah’s hag was a henwife to them when they give me a real night of it.”
“The Heart of Mid-Lothian,” in spite of the author’s malady, was published in June 1818. As to its reception, and the criticism which it received, Lockhart has left nothing to be gleaned. Contrary to his custom, he has published, but without the writer’s name, a letter from Lady Louisa Stuart, which really exhausts what criticism can find to say about the new novel. “I have not only read it myself,” says Lady Louisa, “but am in a house where everybody is tearing it out of each other’s hands, and talking of nothing else.” She preferred it to all but “Waverley,” and congratulates him on having made “the perfectly good character the most interesting. . . . Had this very story been conducted by a common hand, Effie would have attracted all our concern and sympathy, Jeanie only cold approbation. Whereas Jeanie, without youth, beauty, genius, warns passions, or any other novel-perfection, is here our object from beginning to end.” Lady Louisa, with her usual frankness, finds the Edinburgh lawyers tedious, in the introduction, and thinks that Mr. Saddletree “will not entertain English readers.” The conclusion “flags”; “but the chief fault I have to find relates to the reappearance and shocking fate of the boy. I hear on all sides ‘Oh, I do not like that!’ I cannot say what I would have had instead, but I do not like it either; it is a lame, huddled conclusion. I know you so well in it, by-the-by! You grow tired yourself, want to get rid of the story, and hardly care how.” Lady Lousia adds that Sir George Staunton would never have hazarded himself in the streets of Edinburgh. “The end of poor Madge Wildfire is most pathetic. The meeting at Muschat’s Cairn tremendous. Dumbiedikes and Rory Beau are delightful. . . . I dare swear many of your readers never heard of the Duke of Argyle before.” She ends: “If I had known nothing, and the whole world had told me the contrary, I should have found you out in that one parenthesis, ‘for the man was mortal, and had been a schoolmaster.’”
Lady Louisa omits a character who was probably as essential to Scott’s scheme as any — Douce Davie Deans, the old Cameronian. He had almost been annoyed by the criticism of his Covenanters in “Old Mortality,” “the heavy artillery out of the Christian Instructor or some such obscure field work,” and was determined to “tickle off” another. There are signs of a war between literary Cavaliers and literary Covenanters at this time, after the discharge of Dr. McCrie’s “heavy artillery.” Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe was presented by Surtees of Mainsforth with a manuscript of Kirkton’s unprinted “History of the Church of Scotland.” This he set forth to edite, with the determination not to “let the Whig dogs have the best of it.” Every Covenanting scandal and absurdity, such as the old story of Mess David Williamson —“Dainty Davie”— and his remarkable prowess, and presence of mind at Cherrytrees, was raked up, and inserted in notes to Kirkton. Scott was Sharpe’s ally in this enterprise. “I had in the persons of my forbears a full share, you see, of religious persecution . . . for all my greatgrandfathers were under the ban, and I think there were hardly two of them out of jail at once.” “I think it would be most scandalous to let the godly carry it oft thus.” “It” seems to have been the editing of Kirkton. “It is very odd the volume of Wodrow, containing the memoir of Russell concerning the murder, is positively vanished from the library” (the Advocates’ Library). “Neither book nor receipt is to be found: surely they have stolen it in the fear of the Lord.” The truth seems to have been that Cavaliers and Covenanters were racing for the manuscripts wherein they found smooth stones of the brook to pelt their opponents withal. Soon after Scott writes: “It was not without exertion and trouble that I this day detected Russell’s manuscript (the account of the murder of Sharpe by one of the murderers), also Kirkton and one or two others, which Mr. McCrie had removed from their place in the library and deposited in a snug and secret corner.” The Covenanters had made a raid on the ammunition of the Cavaliers. “I have given,” adds Sir Walter, “an infernal row on the subject of hiding books in this manner.” Sharpe replies that the “villainous biographer of John Knox” (Dr. McCrie), “that canting rogue,” is about to edite Kirkton. Sharpe therefore advertised his own edition at once, and edited Kirkton by forced marches as it were. Scott reviewed the book in the Quarterly (Jan. 1818). He remarked that Sharpe “had not escaped the censure of these industrious literary gentlemen of opposite principles, who have suffered a work always relied upon as one of their chief authorities to lie dormant for a hundred and forty years.” Their “querulous outcries” (probably from the field-work of the Christian Instructor) he disregards. Among the passions of this literary “bicker,” which Scott allowed to amuse him, was Davie Deans conceived. Scott was not going to be driven by querulous outcries off the Covenanting field, where he erected another trophy. This time he was more friendly to the “True Blue Presbyterians.” His Scotch patriotism was one of his most earnest feelings, the Covenanters, at worst, were essentially Scotch, and he introduced a new Cameronian, with all the sterling honesty, the Puritanism, the impracticable ideas of the Covenant, in contact with changed times, and compelled to compromise.
He possessed a curious pamphlet, Haldane’s “Active Testimony of the true blue Presbyterians” (12mo, 1749). It is a most impartial work, “containing a declaration and testimony against the late unjust invasion of Scotland by Charles, Pretended Prince of Wales, and William, Pretended Duke of Cumberland.” Everything and everybody not Covenanted, the House of Stuart, the House of Brunswick, the House of Hapsburg, Papists, Prelatists and Turks, are cursed up hill and down dale, by these worthy survivors of the Auld Leaven. Everybody except the authors, Haldane and Leslie, “has broken the everlasting Covenant.” The very Confession of Westminster is arraigned for its laxity. “The whole Civil and Judicial Law of God,” as given to the Jews (except the ritual, polygamy, divorce, slavery, and so forth), is to be maintained in the law of Scotland. Sins are acknowledged, and since the Covenant every political step — Cromwell’s Protectorate, the Restoration, the Revolution, the accession of the “Dukes of Hanover”— has been a sin. A Court of Elders is to be established to put in execution the Law of Moses. All offenders against the Kirk are to be “capitally punished.” Stage plays are to be suppressed by the successors of the famous convention at Lanark, Anno 1682. Toleration of all religions is “sinful,” and “contrary to the word of God.” Charles Edward and the Duke of Cumberland are cursed. “Also we reckon it a great vice in Charles, his foolish Pity and Lenity, in sparing these profane, blasphemous Redcoats, that Providence delivered into his hand, when, by putting them to death, this poor land might have been eased of the heavy burden of these vermin of Hell.” The Auld Leaven swore terribly in Scotland. The atrocious cruelties of Cumberland after Culloden are stated with much frankness and power. The German soldiers are said to have carried off “a vast deal of Spoil and Plunder into Germany,” and the Redcoats had Plays and Diversions (cricket, probably) on the Inch of Perth, on a Sabbath. “The Hellish, Pagan, Juggler plays are set up and frequented with more impudence and audacity than ever.” Only the Jews, “our elder Brethren,” are exempted from the curses of Haldane and Leslie, who promise to recover for them the Holy Land. “The Massacre in Edinburgh” in 1736, by wicked Porteous, calls for vengeance upon the authors and abettors thereof. The army and navy are “the most wicked and flagitious in the Universe.” In fact, the True Blue Testimony is very active indeed, and could be delivered, thanks to hellish Toleration, with perfect safety, by Leslie and Haldane. The candour of their eloquence assuredly proves that Davie Deans is not overdrawn; indeed, he is much less truculent than those who actually were testifying even after his decease.
In “The Heart of Mid-Lothian” Scott set himself to draw his own people at their best. He had a heroine to his hand in Helen Walker, “a character so distinguished for her undaunted love of virtue,” who, unlike Jeanie Deans, “lived and died in poverty, if not want.” In 1831 he erected a pillar over her grave in the old Covenanting stronghold of Irongray. The inscription ends —
Respect the Grave of Poverty,
When combined with Love of Truth
And Dear Affection.
The sweetness, the courage, the spirit, the integrity of Jeanie Deans have made her, of all Scott’s characters, the dearest to her countrymen, and the name of Jeanie was given to many children, in pious memory of the blameless heroine. The foil to her, in the person of Effie, is not less admirable. Among Scott’s qualities was one rare among modern authors: he had an affectionate toleration for his characters. If we compare Effie with Hetty in “Adam Bede,” this charming and genial quality of Scott’s becomes especially striking. Hetty and Dinah are in very much the same situation and condition as Effie and Jeanie Deans. But Hetty is a frivolous little animal, in whom vanity and silliness do duty for passion: she has no heart: she is only a butterfly broken on the wheel of the world. Doubtless there are such women in plenty, yet we feel that her creator persecutes her, and has a kind of spite against her. This was impossible to Scott. Effie has heart, sincerity, passion, loyalty, despite her flightiness, and her readiness, when her chance comes, to play the fine lady. It was distasteful to Scott to create a character not human and sympathetic on one side or another. Thus his robber “of milder mood,” on Jeanie’s journey to England, is comparatively a good fellow, and the scoundrel Ratcliffe is not a scoundrel utterly. “‘To make a Lang tale short, I canna undertake the job. It gangs against my conscience.’ ‘Your conscience, Rat?’ said Sharpitlaw, with a sneer, which the reader will probably think very natural upon the occasion. ‘Ou ay, sir,’ answered Ratcliffe, calmly, ‘just my conscience; a body has a conscience, though it may be ill wunnin at it. I think mine’s as weel out o’ the gate as maist folk’s are; and yet it’s just like the noop of my elbow, it whiles gets a bit dirl on a corner.’” Scott insists on leaving his worst people in possession of something likeable, just as he cannot dismiss even Captain Craigengelt without assuring us that Bucklaw made a provision for his necessities. This is certainly a more humane way of writing fiction than that to which we are accustomed in an age of humanitarianism. Nor does Scott’s art suffer from his kindliness, and Effie in prison, with a heart to be broken, is not less pathetic than the heartless Hetty, in the same condemnation.
As to her lover, Robertson, or Sir George Staunton, he certainly verges on the melodramatic. Perhaps we know too much about the real George Robertson, who was no heir to a title in disguise, but merely a “stabler in Bristol” accused “at the instance of Duncan Forbes, Esq. of Culloden, his Majesty’s advocate, for the crimes of Stouthrieff, Housebreaking, and Robbery.” Robertson “kept an inn in Bristo, at Edinburgh, where the Newcastle carrier commonly did put up,” and is believed to have been a married man. It is not very clear that the novel gains much by the elevation of the Bristo innkeeper to a baronetcy, except in so far as Effie’s appearance in the character of a great lady is entertaining and characteristic, and Jeanie’s conquest of her own envy is exemplary. The change in social rank calls for the tragic conclusion, about which almost every reader agrees with the criticism of Lady Louisa Stuart and her friends. Thus the novel “filled more pages” than Mr. Jedediah Cleishbotham had “opined,” and hence comes a languor which does not beset the story of “Old Mortality.” Scott’s own love of adventure and of stirring incidents at any cost is an excellent quality in a novelist, but it does, in this instance, cause him somewhat to dilute those immortal studies of Scotch character which are the strength of his genius. The reader feels a lack of reality in the conclusion, the fatal encounter of the father and the lost son, an incident as old as the legend of Odysseus. But this is more than atoned for by the admirable part of Madge Wildfire, flitting like a feu follet up and down among the douce Scotch, and the dour rioters. Madge Wildfire is no repetition of Meg Merrilies, though both are unrestrained natural things, rebels against the settled life, musical voices out of the past, singing forgotten songs of nameless minstrels. Nowhere but in Shakspeare can we find such a distraught woman as Madge Wildfire, so near akin to nature and to the moods of “the bonny lady Moon.” Only he who created Ophelia could have conceived or rivalled the scene where Madge accompanies the hunters of Staunton on the moonlit hill and sings her warnings to the fugitive.
When the glede’s in the blue cloud,
The lavrock lies still;
When the hound’s in the green-wood,
The hind keeps the hill.
There’s a bloodhound ranging Tinwald wood,
There’s harness glancing sheen;
There’s a maiden sits on Tinwald brae,
And she sings loud between.
O sleep ye sound, Sir James, she said,
When ye suld rise and ride?
There’s twenty men, wi’ bow and blade,
Are seeking where ye hide.
The madness of Madge Wildfire has its parallel in the wildness of Goethe’s Marguerite, both of them lamenting the lost child, which, to Madge’s fancy, is now dead, now living in a dream. But the gloom that hangs about Muschat’s Cairn, the ghastly vision of “crying up Ailie Muschat, and she and I will hae a grand bouking-washing, and bleach our claise in the beams of the bonny Lady Moon,” have a terror beyond the German, and are unexcelled by Webster or by Ford. “But the moon, and the dew, and the night-wind, they are just like a caller kail-blade laid on my brow; and whiles I think the moon just shines on purpose to pleasure me, when naebody sees her but mysell.” Scott did not deal much in the facile pathos of the death-bed, but that of Madge Wildfire has a grace of poetry, and her latest song is the sweetest and wildest of his lyrics, the most appropriate in its setting. When we think of the contrasts to her — the honest, dull good-nature of Dumbiedikes; the common-sense and humour of Mrs. Saddletree; the pragmatic pedantry of her husband; the Highland pride, courage, and absurdity of the Captain of Knockdander — when we consider all these so various and perfect creations, we need not wonder that Scott was “in high glee” over “The Heart of Mid-Lothian,” “felt himself very strong,” and thought that these would be “the best volumes that have appeared.” The difficulty, as usual, is to understand how, in all this strength, he permitted himself to be so careless over what is really by far the easiest part of the novelist’s task — the construction. But so it was; about “The Monastery” he said, “it was written with as much care as the rest, that is, with no care at all.” His genius flowed free in its own unconscious abundance: where conscious deliberate workmanship was needed, “the forthright craftsman’s hand,” there alone he was lax and irresponsible. In Shakspeare’s case we can often account for similar incongruities by the constraint of the old plot which he was using; but Scott was making his own plots, or letting them make themselves. “I never could lay down a plan, or, having laid it down, I never could adhere to it; the action of composition always diluted some passages and abridged or omitted others; and personages were rendered important or insignificant, not according to their agency in the original conception of the plan, but according to the success or otherwise with which I was able to bring them out. I only tried to make that which I was actually writing diverting and interesting, leaving the rest to fate . . . When I chain my mind to ideas which are purely imaginative — for argument is a different thing — it seems to me that the sun leaves the landscape, that I think away the whole vivacity and spirit of my original conception, and that the results are cold, tame, and spiritless.”
In fact, Sir Walter was like the Magician who can raise spirits that, once raised, dominate him. Probably this must ever be the case, when an author’s characters are not puppets but real creations. They then have a will and a way of their own; a free-will which their creator cannot predetermine and correct. Something like this appears to have been Scott’s own theory of his lack of constructive power. No one was so assured of its absence, no one criticised it more severely than he did himself. The Edinburgh Review about this time counselled the “Author of Waverley” to attempt a drama, doubting only his powers of compression. Possibly work at a drama might have been of advantage to the genius of Scott. He was unskilled in selection and rejection, which the drama especially demands. But he detested the idea of writing for actors, whom he regarded as ignorant, dull, and conceited. “I shall not fine and renew a lease of popularity upon the theatre. To write for low, ill-informed, and conceited actors, whom you must please, for your success is necessarily at their mercy, I cannot away with,” he wrote to Southey. “Avowedly, I will never write for the stage; if I do, ‘call me horse,’” he remarks to Terry. He wanted “neither the profit nor the shame of it.” “I do not think that the character of the audience in London is such that one could have the least pleasure in pleasing them.” He liked helping Terry to “Terryfy” “The Heart of Mid-Lothian,” and his other novels, but he had no more desire than a senator of Rome would have had to see his name become famous by the Theatre. This confirmed repulsion in one so learned in the dramatic poets is a curious trait in Scott’s character. He could not accommodate his genius to the needs of the stage, and that crown which has most potently allured most men of genius he would have thrust away, had it been offered to him, with none of Caesar’s reluctance. At the bottom of all this lay probably the secret conviction that his genius was his master, that it must take him where it would, on paths where he was compelled to follow. Terse and concentrated, of set purpose, he could not be. A notable instance of this inability occurs in the Introductory Chapter to “The Heart of Mid-Lothian,” which has probably frightened away many modern readers. The Advocate and the Writer to the Signet and the poor Client are persons quite uncalled for, and their little adventure at Gandercleugh is unreal. Oddly enough, part of their conversation is absolutely in the manner of Dickens.
“‘I think,’ said I, . . . ‘the metropolitan county may, in that case, be said to have a sad heart.’
“‘Right as my glove, Mr. Pattieson,’ added Mr. Hardie; ‘and a close heart, and a hard heart — Keep it up, Jack.’
“‘And a wicked heart, and a poor heart,’ answered Halkit, doing his best.
“‘And yet it may be called in some sort a strong heart, and a high heart,’ rejoined the advocate. ‘You see I can put you both out of heart.’”
Fortunately we have no more of this easy writing, which makes such very melancholy reading.
The narrative of the Porteous mob, as given by the novelist, is not, it seems, entirely accurate. Like most artists, Sir Walter took the liberty of “composing” his picture. In his “Illustrations of the Author of Waverley” (1825) Mr. Robert Chambers records the changes in facts made by Scott. In the first place, Wilson did not attack his guard, and enable Robertson to escape, after the sermon, but as soon as the criminals took their seats in the pew. When fleeing out, Robertson tripped over “the plate,” set on a stand to receive alms and oblations, whereby he hurt himself, and was seen to stagger and fall in running down the stairs leading to the Cowgate. Mr. McQueen, Minister of the New Kirk, was coming up the stairs. He conceived it to be his duty to set Robertson on his feet again, “and covered his retreat as much as possible from the pursuit of the guard.” Robertson ran up the Horse Wynd, out at Potter Row Port, got into the King’s Park, and headed for the village of Duddingston, beside the loch on the south-east of Arthur’s Seat. He fainted after jumping a dyke, but was picked up and given some refreshment. He lay in hiding till he could escape to Holland.
The conspiracy to hang Porteous did not, in fact, develop in a few hours, after his failure to appear on the scaffold. The Queen’s pardon (or a reprieve) reached Edinburgh on Thursday, Sept. 2; the Riot occurred on the night of Sept. 7. The council had been informed that lynching was intended, thirty-six hours before the fatal evening, but pronounced the reports to be “caddies’ clatters.” Their negligence, of course, must have increased the indignation of the Queen. The riot, according to a very old man, consulted by Mr. Chambers, was headed by two butchers, named Cumming, “tall, strong, and exceedingly handsome men, who dressed in women’s clothes as a disguise.” The rope was tossed out of a window in a “small wares shop” by a woman, who received a piece of gold in exchange. This extravagance is one of the very few points which suggest that people of some wealth may have been concerned in the affair. Tradition, according to Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, believed in noble leaders of the riot. It is certain that several witnesses of good birth and position testified very strongly against Porteous, at his trial.
According to Hogg, Scott’s “fame was now so firmly established that he cared not a fig for the opinion of his literary friends beforehand.” He was pleased, however, by the notice of “Ivanhoe,” “The Heart of Mid-Lothian,” and “The Bride of Lammermoor” in the Edinburgh Review of 1820, as he showed by quoting part of its remarks. The Reviewer frankly observed “that, when we began with one of these works, we were conscious that we never knew how to leave off. The Porteous mob is rather heavily described, and the whole part of George Robertson, or Staunton, is extravagant and displeasing. The final catastrophe is needlessly improbable and startling.” The critic felt that he must be critical, but his praise of Effie and Jeanie Deans obviously comes from his heart. Jeanie’s character “is superior to anything we can recollect in the history of invention . . . a remarkable triumph over the greatest of all difficulties in the conduct of a fictitious narrative.” The critique ends with “an earnest wish that the Author would try his hand in the lore of Shakspeare”; but, wiser than the woers of Penelope, Scott refused to make that perilous adventure.
— ANDREW LANG.
An essay by Mr. George Ormond, based on manuscripts in the Edinburgh Record office (Scottish Review, July, 1892), adds little to what is known about the Porteous Riot. It is said that Porteous was let down alive, and hanged again, more than once, that his arm was broken by a Lochaber axe, and that a torch was applied to the foot from which the shoe had fallen. A pamphlet of 1787 says that Robertson became a spy on smugglers in Holland, returned to London, procured a pardon through the Butcher Cumberland, and “at last died in misery in London.” It is plain that Colonel Moyle might have rescued Porteous, but he was naturally cautious about entering the city gates without a written warrant from the civil authorities.
TO THE BEST OF PATRONS,
A PLEASED AND INDULGENT READER
WISHES HEALTH, AND INCREASE, AND CONTENTMENT.
If ingratitude comprehendeth every vice, surely so foul a stain worst of all beseemeth him whose life has been devoted to instructing youth in virtue and in humane letters. Therefore have I chosen, in this prolegomenon, to unload my burden of thanks at thy feet, for the favour with which thou last kindly entertained the Tales of my Landlord. Certes, if thou hast chuckled over their factious and festivous descriptions, or hadst thy mind filled with pleasure at the strange and pleasant turns of fortune which they record, verily, I have also simpered when I beheld a second storey with attics, that has arisen on the basis of my small domicile at Gandercleugh, the walls having been aforehand pronounced by Deacon Barrow to be capable of enduring such an elevation. Nor has it been without delectation that I have endued a new coat (snuff-brown, and with metal buttons), having all nether garments corresponding thereto. We do therefore lie, in respect of each other, under a reciprocation of benefits, whereof those received by me being the most solid (in respect that a new house and a new coat are better than a new tale and an old song), it is meet that my gratitude should be expressed with the louder voice and more preponderating vehemence. And how should it be so expressed? — Certainly not in words only, but in act and deed. It is with this sole purpose, and disclaiming all intention of purchasing that pendicle or poffle of land called the Carlinescroft, lying adjacent to my garden, and measuring seven acres, three roods, and four perches, that I have committed to the eyes of those who thought well of the former tomes, these four additional volumes of the Tales of my Landlord. Not the less, if Peter Prayfort be minded to sell the said poffle, it is at his own choice to say so; and, peradventure, he may meet with a purchaser: unless (gentle reader) the pleasing pourtraictures of Peter Pattieson, now given unto thee in particular, and unto the public in general, shall have lost their favour in thine eyes, whereof I am no way distrustful. And so much confidence do I repose in thy continued favour, that, should thy lawful occasions call thee to the town of Gandercleugh, a place frequented by most at one time or other in their lives, I will enrich thine eyes with a sight of those precious manuscripts whence thou hast derived so much delectation, thy nose with a snuff from my mull, and thy palate with a dram from my bottle of strong waters, called by the learned of Gandercleugh, the Dominie’s Dribble o’ Drink.
It is there, O highly esteemed and beloved reader, thou wilt be able to bear testimony, through the medium of thine own senses, against the children of vanity, who have sought to identify thy friend and servant with I know not what inditer of vain fables; who hath cumbered the world with his devices, but shrunken from the responsibility thereof. Truly, this hath been well termed a generation hard of faith; since what can a man do to assert his property in a printed tome, saving to put his name in the title-page thereof, with his description, or designation, as the lawyers term it, and place of abode? Of a surety I would have such sceptics consider how they themselves would brook to have their works ascribed to others, their names and professions imputed as forgeries, and their very existence brought into question; even although, peradventure, it may be it is of little consequence to any but themselves, not only whether they are living or dead, but even whether they ever lived or no. Yet have my maligners carried their uncharitable censures still farther.
These cavillers have not only doubted mine identity, although thus plainly proved, but they have impeached my veracity and the authenticity of my historical narratives! Verily, I can only say in answer, that I have been cautelous in quoting mine authorities. It is true, indeed, that if I had hearkened with only one ear, I might have rehearsed my tale with more acceptation from those who love to hear but half the truth. It is, it may hap, not altogether to the discredit of our kindly nation of Scotland, that we are apt to take an interest, warm, yea partial, in the deeds and sentiments of our forefathers. He whom his adversaries describe as a perjured Prelatist, is desirous that his predecessors should be held moderate in their power, and just in their execution of its privileges, when truly, the unimpassioned peruser of the annals of those times shall deem them sanguinary, violent, and tyrannical. Again, the representatives of the suffering Nonconformists desire that their ancestors, the Cameronians, shall be represented not simply as honest enthusiasts, oppressed for conscience’ sake, but persons of fine breeding, and valiant heroes. Truly, the historian cannot gratify these predilections. He must needs describe the cavaliers as proud and high-spirited, cruel, remorseless, and vindictive; the suffering party as honourably tenacious of their opinions under persecution; their own tempers being, however, sullen, fierce, and rude; their opinions absurd and extravagant; and their whole course of conduct that of persons whom hellebore would better have suited than prosecutions unto death for high-treason. Natheless, while such and so preposterous were the opinions on either side, there were, it cannot be doubted, men of virtue and worth on both, to entitle either party to claim merit from its martyrs. It has been demanded of me, Jedediah Cleishbotham, by what right I am entitled to constitute myself an impartial judge of their discrepancies of opinions, seeing (as it is stated) that I must necessarily have descended from one or other of the contending parties, and be, of course, wedded for better or for worse, according to the reasonable practice of Scotland, to its dogmata, or opinions, and bound, as it were, by the tie matrimonial, or, to speak without metaphor, ex jure sanguinis, to maintain them in preference to all others.
But, nothing denying the rationality of the rule, which calls on all now living to rule their political and religious opinions by those of their great-grandfathers, and inevitable as seems the one or the other horn of the dilemma betwixt which my adversaries conceive they have pinned me to the wall, I yet spy some means of refuge, and claim a privilege to write and speak of both parties with impartiality. For, O ye powers of logic! when the Prelatists and Presbyterians of old times went together by the ears in this unlucky country, my ancestor (venerated be his memory!) was one of the people called Quakers, and suffered severe handling from either side, even to the extenuation of his purse and the incarceration of his person.
Craving thy pardon, gentle Reader, for these few words concerning me and mine, I rest, as above expressed, thy sure and obligated friend,1
J. C. GANDERCLEUGH, this 1st of April, 1818.
1 Author’s connection with Quakerism.
It is an old proverb, that “many a true word is spoken in jest.” The existence of Walter Scott, third son of Sir William Scott of Harden, is instructed, as it is called, by a charter under the great seal, Domino Willielmo Scott de Harden Militi, et Waltero Scott suo filio legitimo tertio genito, terrarum de Roberton.2
The munificent old gentleman left all his four sons considerable estates. and settled those of Eilrig and Raeburn, together with valuable possessions around Lessuden, upon Walter, his third son, who is ancestor of the Scotts of Raeburn, and of the Author of Waverley. He appears to have become a convert to the doctrine of the Quakers, or Friends, and a great assertor of their peculiar tenets. This was probably at the time when George Fox, the celebrated apostle of the sect, made an expedition into the south of Scotland about 1657, on which occasion, he boasts, that “as he first set his horse’s feet upon Scottish ground, he felt the seed of grace to sparkle about him like innumerable sparks of fire.” Upon the same occasion, probably, Sir Gideon Scott of Highchester, second son of Sir William, immediate elder brother of Walter, and ancestor of the author’s friend and kinsman, the present representative of the family of Harden, also embraced the tenets of Quakerism. This last convert, Gideon, entered into a controversy with the Rev. James Kirkton, author of the Secret and True History of the Church of Scotland, which is noticed by my ingenious friend Mr. Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, in his valuable and curious edition of that work, 4to, 1817. Sir William Scott, eldest of the brothers, remained, amid the defection of his two younger brethren, an orthodox member of the Presbyterian Church, and used such means for reclaiming Walter of Raeburn from his heresy, as savoured far more of persecution than persuasion. In this he was assisted by MacDougal of Makerston, brother to Isabella MacDougal, the wife of the said Walter, and who, like her husband, had conformed to the Quaker tenets.
The interest possessed by Sir William Scott and Makerston was powerful enough to procure the two following acts of the Privy Council of Scotland, directed against Walter of Raeburn as an heretic and convert to Quakerism, appointing him to be imprisoned first in Edinburgh jail, and then in that of Jedburgh; and his children to be taken by force from the society and direction of their parents, and educated at a distance from them, besides the assignment of a sum for their maintenance, sufficient in those times to be burdensome to a moderate Scottish estate.
“Apud Edin., vigesimo Junii 1665.
“The Lords of his Magesty’s Privy Council having receaved information that Scott of Raeburn, and Isobel Mackdougall, his wife, being infected with the error of Quakerism, doe endeavour to breid and trains up William, Walter, and Isobel Scotts, their children, in the same profession, doe therefore give order and command to Sir William Scott of Harden, the said Raeburn’s brother, to seperat and take away the saids children from the custody and society of the saids parents, and to cause educat and bring them up in his owne house, or any other convenient place, and ordaines letters to be direct at the said Sir William’s instance against Raeburn, for a maintenance to the saids children, and that the said Sir Wm. give ane account of his diligence with all conveniency.”
“Edinburgh, 5th July 1666.
“Anent a petition presented be Sir Wm. Scott of Harden, for himself and in name and behalf of the three children of Walter Scott of Raeburn, his brother, showing that the Lords of Councill, by ane act of the 22d day of Junii 1665, did grant power and warrand to the petitioner, to separat and take away Raeburn’s children, from his family and education, and to breed them in some convenient place, where they might be free from all infection in their younger years, from the principalls of Quakerism, and, for maintenance of the saids children, did ordain letters to be direct against Raeburn; and, seeing the Petitioner, in obedience to the said order, did take away the saids children, being two sonnes and a daughter, and after some paines taken upon them in his owne family, hes sent them to the city of Glasgow, to be bread at schooles, and there to be principled with the knowledge of the true religion, and that it is necessary the Councill determine what shall be the maintenance for which Raeburn’s three children may be charged, as likewise that Raeburn himself, being now in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, where he dayley converses with all the Quakers who are prisoners there, and others who daily resort to them, whereby he is hardened in his pernitious opinions and principles, without all hope of recovery, unlesse he be separat from such pernitious company, humbly therefore, desyring that the Councell might determine upon the soume of money to be payed be Raeburn, for the education of his children, to the petitioner, who will be countable therefor; and that, in order to his conversion, the place of his imprisonment may be changed. The Lords of his Maj. Privy Councell having at length heard and considered the foresaid petition, doe modifie the soume of two thousand pounds Scots, to be payed yearly at the terms of Whitsunday be the said Walter Scott of Raeburn, furth of his estate to the petitioner, for the entertainment and education of the said children, beginning the first termes payment therof at Whitsunday last for the half year preceding, and so furth yearly, at the said terme of Whitsunday in tym comeing till furder orders; and ordaines the said Walter Scott of Raeburn to be transported from the tolbooth of Edinburgh to the prison of Jedburgh, where his friends and others may have occasion to convert him. And to the effect he may be secured from the practice of other Quakers, the said Lords doe hereby discharge the magistrates of Jedburgh to suffer any persons suspect of these principles to have access to him; and in case any contraveen, that they secure ther persons till they be therfore puneist; and ordaines letters to be direct heirupon in form, as effeirs.”
Both the sons, thus harshly separated from their father, proved good scholars. The eldest, William, who carried on the line of Raeburn, was, like his father, a deep Orientalist; the younger, Walter, became a good classical scholar, a great friend and correspondent of the celebrated Dr. Pitcairn, and a Jacobite so distinguished for zeal, that he made a vow never to shave his beard till the restoration of the exiled family. This last Walter Scott was the author’s great-grandfather.
There is yet another link betwixt the author and the simple-minded and excellent Society of Friends, through a proselyte of much more importance than Walter Scott of Raeburn. The celebrated John Swinton, of Swinton, nineteenth baron in descent of that ancient and once powerful family, was, with Sir William Lockhart of Lee, the person whom Cromwell chiefly trusted in the management of the Scottish affairs during his usurpation. After the Restoration, Swinton was devoted as a victim to the new order of things, and was brought down in the same vessel which conveyed the Marquis of Argyle to Edinburgh, where that nobleman was tried and executed. Swinton was destined to the same fate. He had assumed the habit, and entered into the Society of the Quakers, and appeared as one of their number before the Parliament of Scotland. He renounced all legal defence, though several pleas were open to him, and answered, in conformity to the principles of his sect, that at the time these crimes were imputed to him, he was in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity; but that God Almighty having since called him to the light, he saw and acknowledged these errors, and did not refuse to pay the forfeit of them, even though, in the judgment of the Parliament, it should extend to life itself.
Respect to fallen greatness, and to the patience and calm resignation with which a man once in high power expressed himself under such a change of fortune, found Swinton friends; family connections, and some interested considerations of Middleton the Commissioner, joined to procure his safety, and he was dismissed, but after a long imprisonment, and much dilapidation of his estates. It is said that Swinton’s admonitions, while confined in the Castle of Edinburgh, had a considerable share in converting to the tenets of the Friends Colonel David Barclay, then lying there in the garrison. This was the father of Robert Barclay, author of the celebrated Apology for the Quakers. It may be observed among the inconsistencies of human nature, that Kirkton, Wodrow, and other Presbyterian authors, who have detailed the sufferings of their own sect for nonconformity with the established church, censure the government of the time for not exerting the civil power against the peaceful enthusiasts we have treated of, and some express particular chagrin at the escape of Swinton. Whatever might be his motives for assuming the tenets of the Friends, the old man retained them faithfully till the close of his life.
Jean Swinton, grand-daughter of Sir John Swinton, son of Judge Swinton, as the Quaker was usually termed, was mother of Anne Rutherford, the author’s mother.
And thus, as in the play of the Anti-Jacobin, the ghost of the author’s grandmother having arisen to speak the Epilogue, it is full time to conclude, lest the reader should remonstrate that his desire to know the Author of Waverley never included a wish to be acquainted with his whole ancestry.
2 See Douglas’s Baronage, page 215.
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