To this slight attempt at a sketch of ancient Scottish manners the public have been more favourable than the Author durst have hoped or expected. He has heard, with a mixture of satisfaction and humility, his work ascribed to more than one respectable name. Considerations, which seem weighty in his particular situation, prevent his releasing those gentlemen from suspicion by placing his own name in the title-page; so that, for the present at least, it must remain uncertain whether Waverley be the work of a poet or a critic, a lawyer or a clergyman, or whether the writer, to use Mrs. Malaprop’s phrase, be, ‘like Cerberus, three gentlemen at once.’ The Author, as he is unconscious of anything in the work itself (except perhaps its frivolity) which prevents its finding an acknowledged father, leaves it to the candour of the public to choose among the many circumstances peculiar to different situations in life such as may induce him to suppress his name on the present occasion. He may be a writer new to publication, and unwilling to avow a character to which he is unaccustomed; or he may be a hackneyed author, who is ashamed of too frequent appearance, and employs this mystery, as the heroine of the old comedy used her mask, to attract the attention of those to whom her face had become too familiar. He may be a man of a grave profession, to whom the reputation of being a novel-writer might be prejudicial; or he may be a man of fashion, to whom writing of any kind might appear pedantic. He may be too young to assume the character of an author, or so old as to make it advisable to lay it aside.
The Author of Waverley has heard it objected to this novel, that, in the character of Callum Beg and in the account given by the Baron of Bradwardine of the petty trespasses of the Highlanders upon trifling articles of property, he has borne hard, and unjustly so, upon their national character. Nothing could be farther from his wish or intention. The character of Callum Beg is that of a spirit naturally turned to daring evil, and determined, by the circumstances of his situation, to a particular species of mischief. Those who have perused the curious Letters from the Highlands, published about 1726, will find instances of such atrocious characters which fell under the writer’s own observation, though it would be most unjust to consider such villains as representatives of the Highlanders of that period, any more than the murderers of Marr and Williamson can be supposed to represent the English of the present day. As for the plunder supposed to have been picked up by some of the insurgents in 1745, it must be remembered that, although the way of that unfortunate little army was neither marked by devastation nor bloodshed, but, on the contrary, was orderly and quiet in a most wonderful degree, yet no army marches through a country in a hostile manner without committing some depredations; and several, to the extent and of the nature jocularly imputed to them by the Baron, were really laid to the charge of the Highland insurgents; for which many traditions, and particularly one respecting the Knight of the Mirror, may be quoted as good evidence.13
13 A homely metrical narrative of the events of the period, which contains some striking particulars, and is still a great favourite with the lower classes, gives a very correct statement of the behaviour of the mountaineers respecting this same military license; and, as the verses are little known, and contain some good sense, we venture to insert them.
Now, gentle readers, I have let you ken
My very thoughts, from heart and pen,
’Tis needless for to conten’
Or yet controule,
For there’s not a word o’t I can men’;
So ye must thole.
For on both sides some were not good;
I saw them murd’ring in cold blood,
Not the gentlemen, but wild and rude,
The baser sort,
Who to the wounded had no mood
But murd’ring sport!
Ev’n both at Preston and Falkirk,
That fatal night ere it grew mirk,
Piercing the wounded with their durk,
Caused many cry!
Such pity’s shown from Savage and Turk
As peace to die.
A woe be to such hot zeal,
To smite the wounded on the fiell!
It’s just they got such groats in kail,
Who do the same.
It only teaches crueltys real
To them again.
I’ve seen the men call’d Highland rogues,
With Lowland men make shangs a brogs,
Sup kail and brose, and fling the cogs
Out at the door,
Take cocks, hens, sheep, and hogs,
And pay nought for.
I saw a Highlander,‘t was right drole,
With a string of puddings hung on a pole,
Whip’d o’er his shoulder, skipped like a fole,
Caus’d Maggy bann,
Lap o’er the midden and midden-hole,
And aff he ran.
When check’d for this, they’d often tell ye,
‘Indeed her nainsell’s a tume belly;
You’ll no gie’t wanting bought, nor sell me;
Hersell will hae’t;
Go tell King Shorge, and Shordy’s Willie,
I’ll hae a meat.’
I saw the soldiers at Linton-brig,
Because the man was not a Whig,
Of meat and drink leave not a skig,
Within his door;
They burnt his very hat and wig,
And thump’d him sore.
And through the Highlands they were so rude,
As leave them neither clothes nor food,
Then burnt their houses to conclude;
‘T was tit for tat.
How can her nainsell e’er be good,
To think on that?
And after all, O, shame and grief!
To use some worse than murd’ring thief,
Their very gentleman and chief,
Like Popish tortures, I believe,
Ev’n what was act on open stage
At Carlisle, in the hottest rage,
When mercy was clapt in a cage,
And pity dead,
Such cruelty approv’d by every age,
I shook my head.
So many to curse, so few to pray,
And some aloud huzza did cry;
They cursed the rebel Scots that day,
As they’d been nowt
Brought up for slaughter, as that way
Too many rowt.
Therefore, alas! dear countrymen,
O never do the like again,
To thirst for vengeance, never ben’
Your gun nor pa’,
But with the English e’en borrow and len’,
Let anger fa’.
Their boasts and bullying, not worth a louse,
As our King’s the best about the house.
‘T is ay good to be sober and douce,
To live in peace;
For many, I see, for being o’er crouse,
Gets broken face.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00