The MonasteryWalter Scott
Produced by Alan Millar, David Moynihan, Charles Franksand the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
Halbert Glendinning Invoking The White Lady]
WAVERLEY NOVELS ABBOTSFORD EDITION]
THE WAVERLY NOVELS by SIR WALTER SCOTT.
Complete In Twelve Volumes
Printed from the latest English Editions Embracing The Author's Last Corrections, Prefaces, and Notes.
It would be difficult to assign any good reason why the author ofIvanhoe, after using, in that work, all the art he possessed to removethe personages, action, and manners of the tale, to a distance fromhis own country, should choose for the scene of his next attempt thecelebrated ruins of Melrose, in the immediate neighbourhood of his ownresidence. But the reason, or caprice, which dictated his change ofsystem, has entirely escaped his recollection, nor is it worth while toattempt recalling what must be a matter of very little consequence.
The general plan of the story was, to conjoin two characters in thatbustling and contentious age, who, thrown into situations which gavethem different views on the subject of the Reformation, should, with thesame sincerity and purity of intention, dedicate themselves, the one tothe support of the sinking fabric of the Catholic Church, the other tothe establishment of the Reformed doctrines. It was supposed that someinteresting subjects for narrative might be derived from opposing twosuch enthusiasts to each other in the path of life, and contrasting thereal worth of both with their passions and prejudices. The localitiesof Melrose suited well the scenery of the proposed story; the ruinsthemselves form a splendid theatre for any tragic incident which mightbe brought forward; joined to the vicinity of the fine river, with allits tributary streams, flowing through a country which has been thescene of so much fierce fighting, and is rich with so many recollectionsof former times, and lying almost under the immediate eye of the author,by whom they were to be used in composition.
The situation possessed farther recommendations. On the opposite bank ofthe Tweed might be seen the remains of ancient enclosures, surrounded bysycamores and ash-trees of considerable size. These had once formed thecrofts or arable ground of a village, now reduced to a single hut, theabode of a fisherman, who also manages a ferry. The cottages, even thechurch which once existed there, have sunk into vestiges hardly tobe traced without visiting the spot, the inhabitants having graduallywithdrawn to the more prosperous town of Galashiels, which hasrisen into consideration, within two miles of their neighbourhood.Superstitious eld, however, has tenanted the deserted groves with aerialbeings, to supply the want of the mortal tenants who have deserted it.The ruined and abandoned churchyard of Boldside has been long believedto be haunted by the Fairies, and the deep broad current of the Tweed,wheeling in moonlight round the foot of the steep bank, with thenumber of trees originally planted for shelter round the fields ofthe cottagers, but now presenting the effect of scattered and detachedgroves, fill up the idea which one would form in imagination for a scenethat Oberon and Queen Mab might love to revel in. There are eveningswhen the spectator might believe, with Father Chaucer, that the
--Queen of Faery, With harp, and pipe, and symphony, Were dwelling in the place.
Another, and even a more familiar refuge of the elfin race, (iftradition is to be trusted,) is the glen of the river, or rather brook,named the Allen, which falls into the Tweed from the northward, about aquarter of a mile above the present bridge. As the streamlet finds itsway behind Lord Sommerville's hunting-seat, called the Pavilion, itsvalley has been popularly termed the Fairy Dean, or rather the NamelessDean, because of the supposed ill luck attached by the popular faith ofancient times, to any one who might name or allude to the race, whom ourfathers distinguished as the Good Neighbours, and the Highlanders calledDaoine Shie, or Men of Peace; rather by way of compliment, than onaccount of any particular idea of friendship or pacific relation whicheither Highlander or Borderer entertained towards the irritable beingswhom they thus distinguished, or supposed them to bear to humanity.[Footnote: See Rob Roy, Note, p. 202.]
In evidence of the actual operations of the fairy people even at thistime, little pieces of calcareous matter are found in the glen after aflood, which either the labours of those tiny artists, or the eddies ofthe brook among the stones, have formed into a fantastic resemblance ofcups, saucers, basins, and the like, in which children who gather thempretend to discern fairy utensils.
Besides these circumstances of romantic locality, _mea paupera regna_(as Captain Dalgetty denominates his territory of Drumthwacket) arebounded by a small but deep lake, from which eyes that yet look on thelight are said to have seen the waterbull ascend, and shake the hillswith his roar.
Indeed, the country around Melrose, if possessing less of romanticbeauty than some other scenes in Scotland, is connected with so manyassociations of a fanciful nature, in which the imagination takesdelight, as might well induce one even less attached to the spot thanthe author, to accommodate, after a general manner, the imaginary sceneshe was framing to the localities to which he was partial. But it wouldbe a misapprehension to suppose, that, because Melrose may in generalpass for Kennaquhair, or because it agrees with scenes of the Monasteryin the circumstances of the drawbridge, the milldam, and other points ofresemblance, that therefore an accurate or perfect local similitudeis to be found in all the particulars of the picture. It was not thepurpose of the author to present a landscape copied from nature, but apiece of composition, in which a real scene, with which he is familiar,had afforded him some leading outlines. Thus the resemblance of theimaginary Glendearg with the real vale of the Allen, is far from beingminute, nor did the author aim at identifying them. This must appearplain to all who know the actual character of the Glen of Allen, andhave taken the trouble to read the account of the imaginary Glendearg.The stream in the latter case is described as wandering down a romanticlittle valley, shifting itself, after the fashion of such a brook,from one side to the other, as it can most easily find its passage, andtouching nothing in its progress that gives token of cultivation. Itrises near a solitary tower, the abode of a supposed church vassal, andthe scene of several incidents in the Romance.
The real Allen, on the contrary, after traversing the romantic ravinecalled the Nameless Dean, thrown off from side to side alternately, likea billiard ball repelled by the sides of the table on which it has beenplayed, and in that part of its course resembling the stream which poursdown Glendearg, may be traced upwards into a more open country, wherethe banks retreat farther from each other, and the vale exhibits agood deal of dry ground, which has not been neglected by the activecultivators of the district. It arrives, too, at a sort of termination,striking in itself, but totally irreconcilable with the narrative ofthe Romance. Instead of a single peel-house, or border tower of defence,such as Dame Glendinning is supposed to have inhabited, the head of theAllen, about five miles above its junction with the Tweed, shows threeruins of Border houses, belonging to different proprietors, and each,from the desire of mutual support so natural to troublesome times,situated at the extremity of the property of which it is the principalmessuage. One of these is the ruinous mansion-house of Hillslap,formerly the property of the Cairncrosses, and now of Mr. Innes of Stow;a second the tower of Colmslie, an ancient inheritance of the Borthwickfamily, as is testified by their crest, the Goat's Head, which exists onthe ruin; [Footnote: It appears that Sir Walter Scott's memory was notquite accurate on these points. John Borthwick, Esq. in a note to thepublisher, (June 11, 1813.) says that _Colmslie_ belonged to Mr. Innesof Stow, while _Hillslap_ forms part of the estate of Crookston. Headds--"In proof that the tower o
f Hillslap, which I have taken measuresto preserve from injury, was chiefly in his head, as the tower of_Glendearg,_ when writing the Monastery, I may mention that, on one ofthe occasions when I had the honour of being a visiter at Abbotsford,the stables then being full, I sent a pony to be put up at our tenant'sat Hillslap:--'Well.' said Sir Walter, 'if you do that, you must trustfor its not being _lifted_ before to-morrow, to the protection ofHalbert Glendinning: against Christie of the Clintshill.' At page 58,vol. iii., the first edition, the '_winding_ stair' which the monkascended is described. The winding stone stair is still to be seen inHillslap, but not in either of the other two towers" It is however,probable, from the Goat's-Head crest on Colmslie, that that tower alsohad been of old a possession of the Borthwicks.] a third, the house ofLangshaw, also ruinous, but near which the proprietor, Mr. Baillie ofJerviswood and Mellerstain, has built a small shooting box.
All these ruins, so strangely huddled together in a very solitary spot,have recollections and traditions of their own, but none of them bearthe most distant resemblance to the descriptions in the Romance ofthe Monastery; and as the author could hardly have erred so grosslyregarding a spot within a morning's ride of his own house, the inferenceis, that no resemblance was intended. Hillslap is remembered by thehumours of the last inhabitants, two or three elderly ladies, of theclass of Miss Raynalds, in the Old Manor House, though less important bybirth and fortune. Colmslie is commemorated in song:--
Colmslie stands on Colmslie hill. The water it flows round Colmslie mill; The mill and the kiln gang bonnily. And it's up with the whippers of Colmslie.
Langshaw, although larger than the other mansions assembled at the headof the supposed Glendearg, has nothing about it more remarkable than theinscription of the present proprietor over his shooting lodge--_Utinamhane eliam viris impleam amicis_--a modest wish, which I know no onemore capable of attaining upon an extended scale, than the gentleman whohas expressed it upon a limited one.
Having thus shown that I could say something of these desolated towers,which the desire of social intercourse, or the facility of mutualdefence, had drawn together at the head of this Glen, I need not add anyfarther reason to show, that there is no resemblance between themand the solitary habitation of Dame Elspeth Glendinning. Beyond thesedwellings are some remains of natural wood, and a considerable portionof morass and bog; but I would not advise any who may be curious inlocalities, to spend time in looking for the fountain and holly-tree ofthe White Lady.
While I am on the subject I may add, that Captain Clutterbuck, theimaginary editor of the Monastery, has no real prototype in the villageof Melrose or neighbourhood, that ever I saw or heard of. To give someindividuality to this personage, he is described as a character whichsometimes occurs in actual society--a person who, having spent his lifewithin the necessary duties of a technical profession, from which hehas been at length emancipated, finds himself without any occupationwhatever, and is apt to become the prey of ennui, until he discerns somepetty subject of investigation commensurate to his talents, the study ofwhich gives him employment in solitude; while the conscious possessionof information peculiar to himself, adds to his consequence in society.I have often observed, that the lighter and trivial branches ofantiquarian study are singularly useful in relieving vacuity of such akind, and have known them serve many a Captain Clutterbuck toretreat upon; I was therefore a good deal surprised, when I found theantiquarian Captain identified with a neighbour and friend of my own,who could never have been confounded with him by any one who had readthe book, and seen the party alluded to. This erroneous identificationoccurs in a work entitled, "Illustrations of the Author of Waverley,being Notices and Anecdotes of real Characters, Scenes, and Incidents,supposed to be described in his works, by Robert Chambers." This workwas, of course, liable to many errors, as any one of the kind must be,whatever may be the ingenuity of the author, which takes the task ofexplaining what can be only known to another person. Mistakes of placeor inanimate things referred to, are of very little moment; but theingenious author ought to have been more cautious of attaching realnames to fictitious characters. I think it is in the Spectator weread of a rustic wag, who, in a copy of "The Whole Duty of Man," wroteopposite to every vice the name of some individual in the neighbourhood,and thus converted that excellent work into a libel on a whole parish.
The scenery being thus ready at the author's hand, the reminiscences ofthe country were equally favourable. In a land where the horses remainedalmost constantly saddled, and the sword seldom quitted the warrior'sside--where war was the natural and constant state of the inhabitants,and peace only existed in the shape of brief and feverish truces--therecould be no want of the means to complicate and extricate the incidentsof his narrative at pleasure. There was a disadvantage, notwithstanding,in treading this Border district, for it had been already ransacked bythe author himself, as well as others; and unless presented under anew light, was likely to afford ground to the objection of _Crambe biscocta_.
To attain the indispensable quality of novelty, something, it wasthought, might be gained by contrasting the character of the vassals ofthe church with those of the dependants of the lay barons, by whom theywere surrounded. But much advantage could not be derived from this.There were, indeed, differences betwixt the two classes, but, liketribes in the mineral and vegetable world, which, resembling each otherto common eyes, can be sufficiently well discriminated by naturalists,they were yet too similar, upon the whole, to be placed in markedcontrast with each other.
Machinery remained--the introduction of the supernatural and marvellous;the resort of distressed authors since the days of Horace, but whoseprivileges as a sanctuary have been disputed in the present age, andwell-nigh exploded. The popular belief no longer allows the possibilityof existence to the race of mysterious beings which hovered betwixtthis world and that which is invisible. The fairies have abandonedtheir moonlight turf; the witch no longer holds her black orgies in thehemlock dell; and
Even the last lingering phantom of the brain, The churchyard ghost, is now at rest again.
From the discredit attached to the vulgar and more common modes in whichthe Scottish superstition displays itself, the author was induced tohave recourse to the beautiful, though almost forgotten, theory ofastral spirits, or creatures of the elements, surpassing human beingsin knowledge and power, but inferior to them, as being subject, aftera certain space of years, to a death which is to them annihilation,as they have no share in the promise made to the sons of Adam. Thesespirits are supposed to be of four distinct kinds, as the elements fromwhich they have their origin, and are known, to those who havestudied the cabalistical philosophy, by the names of Sylphs, Gnomes,Salamanders, and Naiads, as they belong to the elements of Air, Earth,Fire, or Water. The general reader will find an entertaining accountof these elementary spirits in the French book entitled, "Entretiens deCompte du Gabalis." The ingenious Compte de la Motte Fouqu? composed,in German, one of the most successful productions of his fertilebrain, where a beautiful and even afflicting effect is produced by theintroduction of a water-nymph, who loses the privilege of immortality byconsenting to become accessible to human feelings, and uniting her lotwith that of a mortal, who treats her with ingratitude.
In imitation of an example so successful, the White Lady of Avenel wasintroduced into the following sheets. She is represented as connectedwith the family of Avenel by one of those mystic ties, which, in ancienttimes, were supposed to exist, in certain circumstances, between thecreatures of the elements and the children of men. Such instancesof mysterious union are recognized in Ireland, in the real Milosianfamilies, who are possessed of a Banshie; and they are known among thetraditions of the Highlands, which, in many cases, attached an immortalbeing or spirit to the service of particular families or tribes. Thesedemons, if they are to be called so, announced good or evil fortune tothe families connected with them; and though some only condescended tomeddle with matters of importance, others, like the May Mollach, or Maidof the Hairy A
rms, condescended to mingle in ordinary sports, and evento direct the Chief how to play at draughts.
There was, therefore, no great violence in supposing such a being asthis to have existed, while the elementary spirits were believed in;but it was more difficult to describe or imagine its attributes andprinciples of action. Shakespeare, the first of authorities in such acase, has painted Ariel, that beautiful creature of his fancy, as onlyapproaching so near to humanity as to know the nature of that sympathywhich the creatures of clay felt for each other, as we learn from theexpression--"Mine would, if I were human." The inferences from thisare singular, but seem capable of regular deduction. A being, howeversuperior to man in length of life--in power over the elements--incertain perceptions respecting the present, the past, and the future,yet still incapable of human passions, of sentiments of moral good andevil, of meriting future rewards or punishments, belongs rather tothe class of animals, than of human creatures, and must therefore bepresumed to act more from temporary benevolence or caprice, than fromanything approaching to feeling or reasoning. Such a being's superiorityin power can only be compared to that of the elephant or lion, who aregreater in strength than man, though inferior in the scale of creation.The partialities which we suppose such spirits to entertain must be likethose of the dog; their sudden starts of passion, or the indulgence of afrolic, or mischief, may be compared to those of the numerous varietiesof the cat. All these propensities are, however, controlled by thelaws which render the elementary race subordinate to the command ofman--liable to be subjected by his science, (so the sect of Gnosticsbelieved, and on this turned the Rosicrucian philosophy,) or to beoverpowered by his superior courage and daring, when it set theirillusions at defiance.
It is with reference to this idea of the supposed spirits of theelements, that the White Lady of Avenel is represented as acting avarying, capricious, and inconsistent part in the pages assigned to herin the narrative; manifesting interest and attachment to the family withwhom her destinies are associated, but evincing whim, and even a speciesof malevolence, towards other mortals, as the Sacristan, and theBorder robber, whose incorrect life subjected them to receive pettymortifications at her hand. The White Lady is scarcely supposed,however, to have possessed either the power or the inclination to domore than inflict terror or create embarrassment, and is also subjectedby those mortals, who, by virtuous resolution, and mental energy,could assert superiority over her. In these particulars she seems toconstitute a being of a middle class, between the _esprit follet_who places its pleasure in misleading and tormenting mortals, and thebenevolent Fairy of the East, who uniformly guides, aids, and supportsthem.
Either, however, the author executed his purpose indifferently, or thepublic did not approve of it; for the White Lady of Avenel was far frombeing popular. He does not now make the present statement, in the viewof arguing readers into a more favourable opinion on the subject, butmerely with the purpose of exculpating himself from the charge of havingwantonly intruded into the narrative a being of inconsistent powers andpropensities.
In the delineation of another character, the author of the Monasteryfailed, where he hoped for some success. As nothing is so successful asubject for ridicule as the fashionable follies of the time, it occurredto him that the more serious scenes of his narrative might be relievedby the humour of a cavaliero of the age of Queen Elizabeth. In everyperiod, the attempt to gain and maintain the highest rank of society,has depended on the power of assuming and supporting a certainfashionable kind of affectation, usually connected with some vivacity oftalent and energy of character, but distinguished at the same time bya transcendent flight, beyond sound reason and common sense; bothfaculties too vulgar to be admitted into the estimate of one who claimsto be esteemed "a choice spirit of the age." These, in their differentphases, constitute the gallants of the day, whose boast it is to drivethe whims of fashion to extremity.
On all occasions, the manners of the sovereign, the court, and the time,must give the tone to the peculiar description of qualities by whichthose who would attain the height of fashion must seek to distinguishthemselves. The reign of Elizabeth, being that of a maiden queen,was distinguished by the decorum of the courtiers, and especiallythe affectation of the deepest deference to the sovereign. After theacknowledgment of the Queen's matchless perfections, the same devotionwas extended to beauty as it existed among the lesser stars in hercourt, who sparkled, as it was the mode to say, by her reflected lustre.It is true, that gallant knights no longer vowed to Heaven, the peacock,and the ladies, to perform some feat of extravagant chivalry, in whichthey endangered the lives of others as well as their own; but althoughtheir chivalrous displays of personal gallantry seldom went farther inElizabeth's days than the tilt-yard, where barricades, called barriers,prevented the shock of the horses, and limited the display of thecavalier's skill to the comparatively safe encounter of their lances,the language of the lovers to their ladies was still in the exaltedterms which Amadis would have addressed to Oriana, before encountering adragon for her sake. This tone of romantic gallantry found a clever butconceited author, to reduce it to a species of constitution and form,and lay down the courtly manner of conversation, in a pedantic book,called Euphues and his England. Of this, a brief account is given in thetext, to which it may now be proper to make some additions.
The extravagance of Euphuism, or a symbolical jargon of the same class,predominates in the romances of Calprenade and Scuderi, which were readfor the amusement of the fair sex of France during the long reign ofLouis XIV., and were supposed to contain the only legitimate language oflove and gallantry. In this reign they encountered the satire of Moliereand Boileau. A similar disorder, spreading into private society, formedthe ground of the affected dialogue of the _Praecieuses_, as they werestyled, who formed the coterie of the Hotel de Rambouillet, and affordedMoliere matter for his admirable comedy, _Les Praecieuses Ridicules_. InEngland, the humour does not seem to have long survived the accession ofJames I.
The author had the vanity to think that a character, whose peculiaritiesshould turn on extravagances which were once universally fashionable,might be read in a fictitious story with a good chance of affordingamusement to the existing generation, who, fond as they are of lookingback on the actions and manners of their ancestors, might be alsosupposed to be sensible of their absurdities. He must fairly acknowledgethat he was disappointed, and that the Euphuist, far from beingaccounted a well drawn and humorous character of the period, wascondemned as unnatural and absurd. It would be easy to account for thisfailure, by supposing the defect to arise from the author's want ofskill, and, probably, many readers may not be inclined to look farther.But as the author himself can scarcely be supposed willing to acquiescein this final cause, if any other can be alleged, he has been led tosuspect, that, contrary to what he originally supposed, his subject wasinjudiciously chosen, in which, and not in his mode of treating it, laythe source of the want of success.
The manners of a rude people are always founded on nature, and thereforethe feelings of a more polished generation immediately sympathize withthem. We need no numerous notes, no antiquarian dissertations, toenable the most ignorant to recognize the sentiments and diction ofthe characters of Homer; we have but, as Lear says, to strip off ourlendings--to set aside the factitious principles and adornments which wehave received from our comparatively artificial system of society, andour natural feelings are in unison with those of the bard of Chios andthe heroes who live in his verses. It is the same with a great part ofthe narratives of my friend Mr. Cooper. We sympathize with his Indianchiefs and back-woodsmen, and acknowledge, in the characters which hepresents to us, the same truth of human nature by which we should feelourselves influenced if placed in the same condition. So much is thisthe case, that, though it is difficult, or almost impossible, to reclaima savage, bred from his youth to war and the chase, to the restraintsand the duties of civilized life, nothing is more easy or common thanto find men who have been educated in all the habits and comforts ofimp
roved society, willing to exchange them for the wild labours of thehunter and the fisher. The very amusements most pursued and relishedby men of all ranks, whose constitutions permit active exercise, arehunting, fishing, and, in some instances, war, the natural and necessarybusiness of the savage of Dryden, where his hero talks of being
--"As free as nature first made man, When wild in woods the noble savage ran."
But although the occupations, and even the sentiments, of human beingsin a primitive state, find access and interest in the minds of the morecivilized part of the species, it does not therefore follow, that thenational tastes, opinions, and follies of one civilized period, shouldafford either the same interest or the same amusement to those ofanother. These generally, when driven to extravagance, are founded, notupon any natural taste proper to the species, but upon the growth ofsome peculiar cast of affectation, with which mankind in general,and succeeding generations in particular, feel no common interest orsympathy. The extravagances of coxcombry in manners and apparel areindeed the legitimate and often the successful objects of satire, duringthe time when they exist. In evidence of this, theatrical criticsmay observe how many dramatic _jeux d'esprit_ are well received everyseason, because the satirist levels at some well-known or fashionableabsurdity; or, in the dramatic phrase, "shoots folly as it flies." Butwhen the peculiar kind of folly keeps the wing no longer, it is reckonedbut waste of powder to pour a discharge of ridicule on what has ceasedto exist; and the pieces in which such forgotten absurdities are madethe subject of ridicule, fall quietly into oblivion with the follieswhich gave them fashion, or only continue to exist on the scene, becausethey contain some other more permanent interest than that which connectsthem with manners and follies of a temporary character.
This, perhaps, affords a reason why the comedies of Ben Jonson, foundedupon system, or what the age termed humours,--by which was meantfactitious and affected characters, superinduced on that which wascommon to the rest of their race,--in spite of acute satire, deepscholarship, and strong sense, do not now afford general pleasure, butare confined to the closet of the antiquary, whose studies have assuredhim that the personages of the dramatist were once, though they are nowno longer, portraits of existing nature.
Let us take another example of our hypothesis from Shakspeare himself,who, of all authors, drew his portraits for all ages. With the wholesum of the idolatry which affects us at his name, the mass of readersperuse, without amusement, the characters formed on the extravagances oftemporary fashion; and the Euphuist Don Armado, the pedant Holofernes,even Nym and Pistol, are read with little pleasure by the mass of thepublic, being portraits of which we cannot recognize the humour, becausethe originals no longer exist. In like manner, while the distresses ofRomeo and Juliet continue to interest every bosom, Mercutio, drawn asan accurate representation of the finished fine gentleman of the period,and as such received by the unanimous approbation of contemporaries, hasso little to interest the present age, that, stripped of all his puns,and quirks of verbal wit, he only retains his place in the scene, invirtue of his fine and fanciful speech upon dreaming, which belongsto no particular age, and because he is a personage whose presence isindispensable to the plot.
We have already prosecuted perhaps too far an argument, the tendency ofwhich is to prove, that the introduction of an humorist, acting like SirPiercie Shafton, upon some forgotten and obsolete model of folly, oncefashionable, is rather likely to awaken the disgust of the reader,as unnatural, than find him food for laughter. Whether owing to thistheory, or whether to the more simple and probable cause of the author'sfailure in the delineation of the subject he had proposed to himself,the formidable objection of _incredulus odi_ was applied to theEuphuist, as well as to the White Lady of Avenel; and the one wasdenounced as unnatural, while the other was rejected as impossible.
There was little in the story to atone for these failures in twoprincipal points. The incidents were inartificially huddled together.There was no part of the intrigue to which deep interest was found toapply; and the conclusion was brought about, not by incidents arisingout of the story itself, but in consequence of public transactions,with which the narrative has little connexion, and which the reader hadlittle opportunity to become acquainted with.
This, if not a positive fault, was yet a great defect in the Romance.It is true, that not only the practice of some great authors in thisdepartment, but even the general course of human life itself, may bequoted in favour of this more obvious and less artificial practice ofarranging a narrative. It is seldom that the same circle of personageswho have surrounded an individual at his first outset in life, continueto have an interest in his career till his fate comes to a crisis. Onthe contrary, and more especially if the events of his life be of avaried character, and worth communicating to others, or to the world,the hero's later connexions are usually totally separated from thosewith whom he began the voyage, but whom the individual has outsailed,or who have drifted astray, or foundered on the passage. This hackneyedcomparison holds good in another point. The numerous vessels of so manydifferent sorts, and destined for such different purposes, which arelaunched in the same mighty ocean, although each endeavours to pursueits own course, are in every case more influenced by the winds andtides, which are common to the element which they all navigate, than bytheir own separate exertions. And it is thus in the world, that, whenhuman prudence has done its best, some general, perhaps national, event,destroys the schemes of the individual, as the casual touch of a morepowerful being sweeps away the web of the spider.
Many excellent romances have been composed in this view of human life,where the hero is conducted through a variety of detached scenes, inwhich various agents appear and disappear, without, perhaps, having anypermanent influence on the progress of the story. Such is the structureof Gil Blas, Roderick Random, and the lives and adventures of many otherheroes, who are described as running through different stations of life,and encountering various adventures, which are only connected with eachother by having happened to be witnessed by the same individual, whoseidentity unites them together, as the string of a necklace links thebeads, which are otherwise detached.
But though such an unconnected course of adventures is what mostfrequently occurs in nature, yet the province of the romance writerbeing artificial, there is more required from him than a mere compliancewith the simplicity of reality,--just as we demand from the scientificgardener, that he shall arrange, in curious knots and artificialparterres, the flowers which "nature boon" distributes freely on hilland dale. Fielding, accordingly, in most of his novels, but especiallyin Tom Jones, his _chef-d'oeuvre_, has set the distinguished exampleof a story regularly built and consistent in all its parts, in whichnothing occurs, and scarce a personage is introduced, that has not someshare in tending to advance the catastrophe.
To demand equal correctness and felicity in those who may follow inthe track of that illustrious novelist, would be to fetter too much thepower of giving pleasure, by surrounding it with penal rules; since ofthis sort of light literature it may be especially said--_tout genre estpermis, hors le genre ennuyeux_. Still, however, the more closely andhappily the story is combined, and the more natural and felicitous thecatastrophe, the nearer such a composition will approach the perfectionof the novelist's art; nor can an author neglect this branch of hisprofession, without incurring proportional censure.
For such censure the Monastery gave but too much occasion. The intrigueof the Romance, neither very interesting in itself, nor very happilydetailed, is at length finally disentangled by the breaking out ofnational hostilities between England and Scotland, and the as suddenrenewal of the truce. Instances of this kind, it is true, cannot inreality have been uncommon, but the resorting to such, in order toaccomplish the catastrophe, as by a _tour de force_, was objected to asinartificial, and not perfectly, intelligible to the general reader.
Still the Monastery, though exposed to severe and just criticism, didnot fail, judging from the extent of its circulation, to
have someinterest for the public. And this, too, was according to the ordinarycourse of such matters; for it very seldom happens that literaryreputation is gained by a single effort, and still more rarely is itlost by a solitary miscarriage.
The author, therefore, had his days of grace allowed him, and time, ifhe pleased, to comfort himself with the burden of the old Scots song,
"If it isna weel bobbit. We'll bob it again."
ABBOTSFORD, _1st November_, 1830.
* * * * *
FROM CAPTAIN CLUTTERBUCK, LATE OF HIS MAJESTY'S ---- REGIMENT OFINFANTRY, TO THE AUTHOR OF WAVERLEY.
Although I do not pretend to the pleasure of your personal acquaintance,like many whom I believe to be equally strangers to you, I amnevertheless interested in your publications, and desire theircontinuance;-not that I pretend to much taste in fictitious composition,or that I am apt to be interested in your grave scenes, or amused bythose which are meant to be lively. I will not disguise from you, that Ihave yawned over the last interview of MacIvor and his sister, and fellfairly asleep while the schoolmaster was reading the humours of DandieDinmont. You see, sir, that I scorn to solicit your favour in a wayto which you are no stranger. If the papers I enclose you are worthnothing, I will not endeavour to recommend them by personal flattery, asa bad cook pours rancid butter upon stale fish. No, sir! what Irespect in you is the light you have occasionally thrown on nationalantiquities, a study which I have commenced rather late in life, but towhich I am attached with the devotions of a first love, because it isthe only study I ever cared a farthing for.
You shall have my history, sir, (it will not reach to three volumes,)before that of my manuscript; and as you usually throw out a few linesof verse (by way of skirmishers, I suppose) at the head of eachdivision of prose, I have had the luck to light upon a stanza in theschoolmaster's copy of Burns which describes me exactly. I love itthe better, because it was originally designed for Captain Grose, anexcellent antiquary, though, like yourself, somewhat too apt to treatwith levity his own pursuits:
'Tis said he was a soldier bred, And ane wad rather fa'en than fled; But now he's quit the spurtle blade, And dog-skin wallet, And ta'en the--antiquarian trade, I think, they call it.
I never could conceive what influenced me, when a boy, in the choice ofa profession. Military zeal and ardour it was not, which made me standout for a commission in the Scots Fusiliers, when my tutors and curatorswished to bind me apprentice to old David Stiles, Clerk to his Majesty'sSignet. I say, military zeal it was _not_; for I was no fighting boy inmy own person, and cared not a penny to read the history of the heroeswho turned the world upside down in former ages. As for courage, I had,as I have since discovered, just as much of it as serve'd my turn, andnot one frain of surplus. I soon found out, indeed, that in action therewas more anger in running away than in standing fast; and besides, Icould not afford to lose my commission, which was my chief means ofsupport. But, as for that overboiling valour, which I have heard many of_ours_ talk of, though I seldom observed that it influenced them inthe actual affair---that exuberant zeal, which courts Danger as abride,--truly my courage was of a complexion much less ecstatical.
Again, the love of a red coat, which, in default of all other aptitudesto the profession, has made many a bad soldier and some good ones,was an utter stranger to my disposition. I cared not a "bodle" for thecompany of the misses: Nay, though there was a boarding-school in thevillage, and though we used to meet with its fair inmates at SimonLightfoot's weekly Practising, I cannot recollect any strong emotionsbeing excited on these occasions, excepting the infinite regret withwhich I went through the polite ceremonial of presenting my partner withan orange, thrust into my pocket by my aunt for this special purpose,but which, had I dared, I certainly would have secreted for my ownpersonal use. As for vanity, or love of finery for itself, I was such astranger to it, that the difficulty was great to make me brush my coat,and appear in proper trim upon parade. I shall never forget the rebukeof my old Colonel on a morning when the King reviewed a brigade of whichours made part. "I am no friend to extravagance, Ensign Clutterbuck,"said he; "but, on the day when we are to pass before the Sovereign ofthe kingdom, in the name of God I would have at least shown him an inchof clean linen."
Thus, a stranger to the ordinary motives which lead young men to makethe army their choice, and without the least desire to become either ahero or a dandy, I really do not know what determined my thoughts thatway, unless it were the happy state of half-pay indolence enjoyedby Captain Doolittle, who had set up his staff of rest in my nativevillage. Every other person had, or seemed to have, something to do,less or more. They did not, indeed, precisely go to school and learntasks, that last of evils in my estimation; but it did not escape myboyish observation, that they were all bothered with something or otherlike duty or labour--all but the happy Captain Doolittle. The ministerhad his parish to visit, and his preaching to prepare, though perhaps hemade more fuss than he needed about both. The laird had his farmingand improving operations to superintend; and, besides, he had toattend trustee meetings, and lieutenancy meetings, and head-courts, andmeetings of justices, and what not--was as early up, (that I detested,)and as much in the open air, wet and dry, as his own grieve. Theshopkeeper (the village boasted but one of eminence) stood indeed prettymuch at his ease behind his counter, for his custom was by no meansoverburdensome; but still he enjoyed his _status_, as the Bailie callsit, upon condition of tumbling all the wares in his booth over and over,when any one chose to want a yard of muslin, a mousetrap, an ounce ofcaraways, a paper of pins, the Sermons of Mr. Peden, or the Life ofJack the Giant-Queller, (not Killer, as usually erroneously written andpronounced.--See my essay on the true history of this worthy, where realfacts have in a peculiar degree been obscured by fable.) In short, allin the village were under the necessity of doing something which theywould rather have left undone, excepting Captain Doolittle, who walkedevery morning in the open street, which formed the high mall of ourvillage, in a blue coat with a red neck, and played at whist the wholeevening, when he could make up a party. This happy vacuity of allemployment appeared to me so delicious, that it became the primaryhint, which, according to the system of Helvetius, as the minister says,determined my infant talents towards the profession I was destined toillustrate.
But who, alas! can form a just estimate of their future prospects inthis deceitful world? I was not long engaged in my new profession,before I discovered, that if the independent indolence of half-pay wasa paradise, the officer must pass through the purgatory of duty andservice in order to gain admission to it. Captain Doolittle might brushhis blue coat with the red neck, or leave it unbrushed, at his pleasure;but Ensign Clutterbuck had no such option. Captain Doolittle might goto bed at ten o'clock, if he had a mind; but the Ensign must make therounds in his turn. What was worse, the Captain might repose under thetester of his tent-bed until noon, if he was so pleased; but the Ensign,God help him, had to appear upon parade at peep of day. As for duty,I made that as easy as I could, had the sergeant to whisper to me thewords of command, and bustled through as other folks did. Of service, Isaw enough for an indolent man--was buffeted up and down the world, andvisited both the East and West Indies, Egypt, and other distant places,which my youth had scarce dreamed of. The French I saw, and felt too;witness two fingers on my right hand, which one of their cursed hussarstook off with his sabre as neatly as an hospital surgeon. At length, thedeath of an old aunt, who left me some fifteen hundred pounds, snuglyvested in the three per cents, gave me the long-wished-for opportunityof retiring, with the prospect of enjoying a clean shirt and a guineafour times a-week at least.
For the purpose of commencing my new way of life, I selected formy residence the village of Kennaquhair, in the south of Scotland,celebrated for the ruins of its magnificent Monastery, intending thereto lead my future life in the _otium cum dignitate_ of half-pay andan
nuity. I was not long, however, in making the grand discovery, that inorder to enjoy leisure, it is absolutely necessary it should be precededby occupation. For some time, it was delightful to wake at daybreak,dreaming of the reveill?--then to recollect my happy emancipation fromthe slavery that doomed me to start at a piece of clattering parchment,turn on my other side, damn the parade, and go to sleep again. But eventhis enjoyment had its termination; and time, when it became a stockentirely at my own disposal, began to hang heavy on my hand.
I angled for two days, during which time I lost twenty hooks, andseveral scores of yards of gut and line, and caught not even a minnow.Hunting was out of the question, for the stomach of a horse by no meansagrees with the half-pay establishment. When I shot, the shepherds, andploughmen, and my very dog, quizzed me every time that I missed, whichwas, generally speaking, every time I fired. Besides, the countrygentlemen in this quarter like their game, and began to talk ofprosecutions and interdicts. I did not give up fighting the French tocommence a domestic war with the "pleasant men of Teviotdale," as thesong calls them; so I e'en spent three days (very agreeably) in cleaningmy gun, and disposing it upon two hooks over my chimney-piece.
The success of this accidental experiment set me on trying my skill inthe mechanical arts. Accordingly I took down and cleaned my landlady'scuckoo-clock, and in so doing, silenced that companion of the spring forever and a day. I mounted a turning-lathe, and in attempting to useit, I very nearly cribbed off, with an inch-and-half former, one of thefingers which the hussar had left me.
Books I tried, both those of the little circulating library, and of themore rational subscription collection maintained by this intellectualpeople. But neither the light reading of the one, nor the heavyartillery of the other, suited my purpose. I always fell asleep atthe fourth or fifth page of history or disquisition; and it took me amonth's hard reading to wade through a half-bound trashy novel, duringwhich I was pestered with applications to return the volumes, by everyhalf-bred milliner's miss about the place. In short, during the timewhen all the town besides had something to do, I had nothing for it, butto walk in the church-yard, and whistle till it was dinner-time.
During these promenades, the ruins necessarily forced themselves on myattention, and, by degrees, I found myself engaged in studying themore minute ornaments, and at length the general plan, of this noblestructure. The old sexton aided my labours, and gave me his portion oftraditional lore. Every day added something to my stock of knowledgerespecting the ancient state of the building; and at length I madediscoveries concerning the purpose of several detached and very ruinousportions of it, the use of which had hitherto been either unknownaltogether or erroneously explained.
The knowledge which I thus acquired I had frequent opportunities ofretailing to those visiters whom the progress of a Scottish tour broughtto visit this celebrated spot. Without encroaching on the privilege ofmy friend the sexton, I became gradually an assistant Cicerone in thetask of description and explanation, and often (seeing a fresh party ofvisiters arrive) has he turned over to me those to whom he had told halfhis story, with the flattering observation, "What needs I say ony mairabout it? There's the Captain kens mair anent it than I do, or anyman in the town." Then would I salute the strangers courteously, andexpatiate to their astonished minds upon crypts and chancels, and naves,arches, Gothic and Saxon architraves, mullions and flying buttresses. Itnot unfrequently happened, that an acquaintance which commenced in theAbbey concluded in the inn, which served to relieve the solitude aswell as the monotony of my landlady's shoulder of mutton, whether roast,cold, or hashed.
By degrees my mind became enlarged; I found a book or two whichenlightened me on the subject of Gothic architecture, and I read nowwith pleasure, because I was interested in what I read about. Even mycharacter began to dilate and expand. I spoke with more authority atthe club, and was listened to with deference, because on one subject, atleast, I possessed more information than any of its members. Indeed,I found that even my stories about Egypt, which, to say truth, weresomewhat threadbare, were now listened to with more respect thanformerly. "The Captain," they said, "had something in him aftera',--there were few folk kend sae muckle about the Abbey."
With this general approbation waxed my own sense of self-importance, andmy feeling of general comfort. I ate with more appetite, I digested withmore ease, I lay down at night with joy, and slept sound till morning,when I arose with a sense of busy importance, and hied me to measure, toexamine, and to compare the various parts of this interesting structure.I lost all sense and consciousness of certain unpleasant sensations ofa nondescript nature, about my head and stomach, to which I had been inthe habit of attending, more for the benefit of the village apothecarythan my own, for the pure want of something else to think about. Ihad found out an occupation unwittingly, and was happy because I hadsomething to do. In a word, I had commenced local antiquary, and was notunworthy of the name.
Whilst I was in this pleasing career of busy idleness, for so it mightat best be called, it happened that I was one night sitting in my littleparlour, adjacent to the closet which my landlady calls my bedroom, inthe act of preparing for an early retreat to the realms of Morpheus.Dugdale's Monasticon, borrowed from the library at A------, was lyingon the table before me, flanked by some excellent Cheshire cheese,(a present, by the way, from an honest London citizen, to whom I hadexplained the difference between a Gothic and a Saxon arch,) and a glassof Vanderhagen's best ale. Thus armed at all points against my old enemyTime, I was leisurely and deliciously preparing for bed--now readinga line of old Dugdale--now sipping my ale, or munching my bread andcheese--now undoing the strings at my breeches' knees, or a button ortwo of my waistcoat, until the village clock should strike ten, beforewhich time I make it a rule never to go to bed. A loud knocking,however, interrupted my ordinary process on this occasion, and the voiceof my honest landlord of the George was heard vociferating, [Footnote:The George was, and is, the principal inn in the village of Kennaquhair,or Melrose. But the landlord of the period was not the same civiland quiet person by whom the inn is now kept. David Kyle, a Melroseproprietor of no little importance, a first-rate person of consequencein whatever belonged to the business of the town, was the original ownerand landlord of the inn. Poor David, like many other busy men, took somuch care of public affairs, as in some degree to neglect his own. Thereare persons still alive at Kennaquhair who can recognise him and hispeculiarities in the following sketch of mine Host of the George.]"What the deevil, Mrs. Grimslees, the Captain is no in his bed? anda gentleman at our house has ordered a fowl and minced collops, and abottle of sherry, and has sent to ask him to supper, to tell him allabout the Abbey."
"Na," answered Luckie Grimslees, in the true sleepy tone of a Scottishmatron when ten o'clock is going to strike, "he's no in his bed, butI'se warrant him no gae out at this time o' night to keep folks sittingup waiting for him--the Captain's a decent man."
I plainly perceived this last compliment was made for my hearing, by wayboth of indicating and of recommending the course of conduct which Mrs.Grimslees desired I should pursue. But I had not been knocked aboutthe world for thirty years and odd, and lived a bluff bachelor allthe while, to come home and be put under petticoat government by mylandlady. Accordingly I opened my chamber-door, and desired my oldfriend David to walk up stairs.
"Captain," said he, as he entered, "I am as glad to find you up as ifI had hooked a twenty pound saumon. There's a gentleman up yonder thatwill not sleep sound in his bed this blessed night unless he has thepleasure to drink a glass of wine with you."
"You know, David," I replied, with becoming dignity, "that I cannot withpropriety go out to visit strangers at this time of night, or accept ofinvitations from people of whom I know nothing."
David swore a round oath, and added, "Was ever the like heard of? He hasordered a fowl and egg sauce, a pancake and minced collops and a bottleof sherry--D'ye think I wad come and ask you to go to keep company withony bit English rider that sups on toaste
d cheese, and a cheerer ofrum-toddy? This is a gentleman every inch of him, and a virtuoso, aclean virtuoso-a sad-coloured stand of claithes, and a wig like thecurled back of a mug-ewe. The very first question he speered was aboutthe auld drawbrig that has been at the bottom of the water thesetwal score years--I have seen the fundations when we were stickingsaumon--And how the deevil suld he ken ony thing about the old drawbrig,unless he were a virtuoso?" [Footnote: There is more to be said aboutthis old bridge hereafter. See Note, p. 57.]
David being a virtuoso in his own way, and moreover a landholder andheritor, was a qualified judge of all who frequented his house, andtherefore I could not avoid again tying the strings of my knees.
"That's right, Captain," vociferated David; "you twa will be as thickas three in a bed an ance ye forgather. I haena seen the like o' himmy very sell since I saw the great Doctor Samuel Johnson on his towerthrough Scotland, whilk tower is lying in my back parlour for theamusement of my guests, wi' the twa boards torn aff."
"Then the gentleman is a scholar, David?"
"I'se uphaud him a scholar," answered David: "he has a black coat on, ora brown ane, at ony-rate."
"Is he a clergyman?"
"I am thinking no, for he looked after his horse's supper before hespoke o' his ain," replied mine host.
"Has he a servant?" demanded I.
"Nae servant," answered David; "but a grand face o' his ain, that wadgar ony body be willing to serve him that looks upon him."
"And what makes him think of disturbing me? Ah, David, this has beensome of your chattering; you are perpetually bringing your guests on myshoulders, as if it were my business to entertain every man who comes tothe George."
"What the deil wad ye hae me do, Captain?" answered mine host; "agentleman lights down, and asks me in a most earnest manner, what man ofsense and learning there is about our town, that can tell him about theantiquities of the place, and specially about the auld Abbey--ye wadnahae me tell the gentleman a lee? and ye ken weel eneugh there is naebodyin the town can say a reasonable word about it, be it no yoursell,except the bedral, and he is as fou as a piper by this time. So, saysI, there's Captain Clutterbuck, that's a very civil gentleman and haslittle to do forby telling a' the auld cracks about the Abbey, anddwells just hard by. Then says the gentleman to me, 'Sir,' says he,very civilly, 'have the goodness to step to Captain Clutterbuck with mycompliments, and say I am a stranger, who have been led to these partschiefly by the fame of these Ruins, and that I would call upon him, butthe hour is late.' And mair he said that I have forgotten, but I weelremember it ended,--'And, landlord, get a bottle of your best sherry,and supper for two.'--Ye wadna have had me refuse to do the gentleman'sbidding, and me a publican?"
"Well, David," said I, "I wish your virtuoso had taken a fitterhour--but as you say he is a gentleman--"
"I'se uphaud him that--the order speaks for itsell--a bottle ofsherry--minched collops and a fowl--that's speaking like a gentleman, Itrow?--That's right, Captain, button weel up, the night's raw--but thewater's clearing for a' that; we'll be on't neist night wi' my Lord'sboats, and we'll hae ill luck if I dinna send you a kipper to relishyour ale at e'en." [Footnote: The nobleman whose boats are mentionedin the text, is the late kind and amiable Lord Sommerville, an intimatefriend of the author. David Kyle was a constant and privilegedattendant when Lord Sommerville had a party for spearing salmon; on suchoccasions, eighty or a hundred fish were often killed between Gleamerand Leaderfoot.]
In five minutes after this dialogue, I found myself in the parlour ofthe George, and in the presence of the stranger.
He was a grave personage, about my own age, (which we shall call aboutfifty,) and really had, as my friend David expressed it, somethingin his face that inclined men to oblige and to serve him. Yet thisexpression of authority was not at all of the cast which I have seenin the countenance of a general of brigade, neither was the stranger'sdress at all martial. It consisted of a uniform suit of iron-grayclothes, cut in rather an old-fashioned form. His legs were defendedwith strong leathern gambadoes, which, according to an antiquariancontrivance, opened at the sides, and were secured by steel clasps.His countenance was worn as much by toil and sorrow as by age, for itintimated that he had seen and endured much. His address was singularlypleasing and gentlemanlike, and the apology which he made for disturbingme at such an hour, and in such a manner, was so well and handsomelyexpressed, that I could not reply otherwise than by declaring mywillingness to be of service to him.
"I have been a traveller to-day, sir," said he, "and I would willinglydefer the little I have to say till after supper, for which I feelrather more appetized than usual."
We sate down to table, and notwithstanding the stranger's allegedappetite, as well as the gentle preparation of cheese and ale whichI had already laid aboard, I really believe that I of the two did thegreater honour to my friend David's fowl and minced collops.
When the cloth was removed, and we had each made a tumbler of negus, ofthat liquor which hosts call Sherry, and guests call Lisbon, I perceivedthat the stranger seemed pensive, silent, and somewhat embarrassed,as if he had something to communicate which he knew not well how tointroduce. To pave the way for him, I spoke of the ancient ruins of theMonastery, and of their history. But, to my great surprise, I found Ihad met my match with a witness. The stranger not only knew all thatI could tell him, but a great deal more; and, what was still moremortifying, he was able, by reference to dates, charters, and otherevidence of facts, that, as Burns says, "downa be disputed," tocorrect many of the vague tales which I had adopted on loose and vulgartradition, as well as to confute more than one of my favourite theorieson the subject of the old monks and their dwellings, which I had sportedfreely in all the presumption of superior information. And here I cannotbut remark, that much of the stranger's arguments and inductions restedupon the authority of Mr. Deputy Register of Scotland, [Footnote:Thomas Thomson, Esq., whose well-deserved panegyric ought to be foundon another page than one written by an intimate friend of thirtyyears' standing.] and his lucubrations; a gentleman whose indefatigableresearch into the national records is like to destroy my trade, and thatof all local antiquaries, by substituting truth instead of legend andromance. Alas! I would the learned gentleman did but know how difficultit is for us dealers in petty wares of antiquity to--
Pluck from our memories a rooted "legend," Raze out the written records of our brain. Or cleanse our bosoms of that perilous stuff--
and so forth. It would, I am sure, move his pity to think how many olddogs he hath set to learn new tricks, how many venerable parrots he hathtaught to sing a new song, how many gray heads he hath addled by vainattempts to exchange their old _Mumpsimus_ for his new _Sumpsimus_.But let it pass. _Humana perpessi sumus_--All changes round us, past,present, and to come; that which was history yesterday becomes fableto-day, and the truth of to-day is hatched into a lie by to-morrow.
Finding myself like to be overpowered in the Monastery, which I hadhitherto regarded as my citadel, I began, like a skilful general, toevacuate that place of defence, and fight my way through the adjacentcountry. I had recourse to my acquaintance with the families andantiquities of the neighbourhood, ground on which I thought I mightskirmish at large without its being possible for the stranger to meet mewith advantage. But I was mistaken.
The man in the iron-gray suit showed a much more minute knowledge ofthese particulars than I had the least pretension to. He could tell thevery year in which the family of De Haga first settled on their ancientbarony.
[Footnote: The family of De Haga, modernized into Haig, of Bemerside, isof the highest antiquity, and is the subject of one of the prophecies ofThomas the Rhymer:--
Betide, betide, whate'er betide. Haig shall be Haig of Bemerside. ]
Not a Thane within reach but he knew his family and connexions, how manyof his ancestors had fallen by the sword of the English, how manyin domestic brawl, and how many by the hand of the executioner formarch-treason. Their castles he was acquainted wit
h from turret tofoundation-stone; and as for the miscellaneous antiquities scatteredabout the country, he knew every one of them, from a _cromlech_ to a_cairn_, and could give as good an account of each as if he had lived inthe time of the Danes or Druids.
I was now in the mortifying predicament of one who suddenly findshimself a scholar when he came to teach, and nothing was left for me butto pick up as much of his conversation as I could, for the benefit ofthe next company. I told, indeed, Allan Ramsay's story of the Monk andMiller's Wife, in order to retreat with some honour under cover of aparting volley. Here, however, my flank was again turned by the eternalstranger.
"You are pleased to be facetious, sir," said he; "but you cannot beignorant that the ludicrous incident you mentioned is the subject of atale much older than that of Allan Ramsay."
I nodded, unwilling to acknowledge my ignorance, though, in fact, I knewno more what he meant than did one of my friend David's post-horses.
"I do not allude," continued my omniscient companion, "to the curiouspoem published by Pinkerton from the Maitland Manuscript, called theFryars of Berwick, although it presents a very minute and amusingpicture of Scottish manners during the reign of James V.; but ratherto the Italian novelist, by whom, so far as I know, the story was firstprinted, although unquestionably he first took his original from someancient _fabliau_." [Footnote: It is curious to remark at how littleexpense of invention successive ages are content to receive amusement.The same story which Ramsay and Dunbar have successively handled, formsalso the subject of the modern farce, No Song, no Supper.]
"It is not to be doubted," answered I, not very well understanding,however, the proposition to which I gave such unqualified assent.
"Yet," continued my companion, "I question much, had you known mysituation and profession, whether you would have pitched upon thisprecise anecdote for my amusement."
This observation he made in a tone of perfect good-humour. I prickedup my ears at the hint, and answered as politely as I could, that myignorance of his condition and rank could be the only cause of myhaving stumbled on anything disagreeable; and that I was most willing toapologize for my unintentional offence, so soon as I should know whereinit consisted.
"Nay, no offence, sir," he replied; "offence can only exist where itis taken. I have been too long accustomed to more severe and cruelmisconstructions, to be offended at a popular jest, though directed atmy profession."
"Am I to understand, then," I answered, "that I am speaking with aCatholic clergyman?"
"An unworthy monk of the order of Saint Benedict," said the stranger,"belonging to a community of your own countrymen, long establishedin France, and scattered unhappily by the events of the Revolution.""Then," said I, "you are a native Scotchman, and from thisneighbourhood?"
"Not so," answered the monk; "I am a Scotchman by extraction only, andnever was in this neighbourhood during my whole life."
"Never in this neighbourhood, and yet so minutely acquainted with itshistory, its traditions, and even its external scenery! You surprise me,sir," I replied.
"It is not surprising," he said, "that I should have that sort of localinformation, when it is considered, that my uncle, an excellent man,as well as a good Scotchman, the head also of our religious community,employed much of his leisure in making me acquainted with theseparticulars; and that I myself, disgusted with what has been passingaround me, have for many years amused myself, by digesting and arrangingthe various scraps of information which I derived from my worthyrelative, and other aged brethren of our order."
"I presume, sir," said I, "though I would by no means intrude thequestion, that you are now returned to Scotland with a view to settleamongst your countrymen, since the great political catastrophe of ourtime has reduced your corps?"
"No, sir," replied the Benedictine, "such is not my intention. AEuropean potentate, who still cherishes the Catholic faith, has offeredus a retreat within his dominions, where a few of my scattered brethrenare already assembled, to pray to God for blessings on their protector,and pardon to their enemies. No one, I believe, will be able to objectto us under our new establishment, that the extent of our revenues willbe inconsistent with our vows of poverty and abstinence; but, let usstrive to be thankful to God, that the snare of temporal abundance isremoved from us."
"Many of your convents abroad, sir," said I, "enjoyed very handsomeincomes--and yet, allowing for times, I question if any were betterprovided for than the Monastery of this village. It is said to havepossessed nearly two thousand pounds in yearly money-rent, fourteenchalders and nine bolls of wheat, fifty-six chalders five bolls barley,forty-four chalders and ten bolls oats, capons and poultry, butter,salt, carriage and arriage, peats and kain, wool and ale."
"Even too much of all these temporal goods, sir," said my companion,"which, though well intended by the pious donors, served only to makethe establishment the envy and the prey of those by whom it was finallydevoured."
"In the meanwhile, however," I observed, "the monks had an easy life ofit, and, as the old song goes,
--made gude kale On Fridays when they fasted."
"I understand you, sir," said the Benedictine; "it is difficult, saiththe proverb, to carry a full cup without spilling. Unquestionablythe wealth of the community, as it endangered the safety of theestablishment by exciting the cupidity of others, was also in frequentinstances a snare to the brethren themselves. And yet we have seenthe revenues of convents expended, not only in acts of beneficenceand hospitality to individuals, but in works of general and permanentadvantage to the world at large. The noble folio collection of Frenchhistorians, commenced in 1737, under the inspection and at the expenseof the community of Saint Maur, will long show that the revenues ofthe Benedictines were not always spent in self-indulgence, and that themembers of that order did not uniformly slumber in sloth and indolence,when they had discharged the formal duties of their rule."
As I knew nothing earthly at the time about the community of St. Maur,and their learned labours, I could only return a mumbling assent tothis proposition. I have since seen this noble work in the library of adistinguished family, and I must own I am ashamed to reflect, that, inso wealthy a country as ours, a similar digest of our historians shouldnot be undertaken, under the patronage of the noble and the learned, inrivalry of that which the Benedictines of Paris executed at the expenseof their own conventual funds.
"I perceive," said the ex-Benedictine, smiling, "that your hereticalprejudices are too strong to allow us poor brethren any merit, whetherliterary or spiritual."
"Far from it, sir," said I; "I assure you I have been much obliged tomonks in my time. When I was quartered in a Monastery in Flanders, inthe campaign of 1793, I never lived more comfortably in my life. Theywere jolly fellows, the Flemish Canons, and right sorry was I to leavemy good quarters, and to know that my honest hosts were to be at themercy of the Sans-Culottes. But _fortune de la guerre!_"
The poor Benedictine looked down and was silent. I had unwittinglyawakened a train of bitter reflections, or rather I had touched somewhatrudely upon a chord which seldom ceased to vibrate of itself. But hewas too much accustomed to this sorrowful train of ideas to suffer it toovercome him. On my part, I hastened to atone for my blunder. "If therewas any object of his journey to this country in which I could, withpropriety, assist him, I begged to offer him my best services." I ownI laid some little emphasis on the words "with propriety," as I felt itwould ill become me, a sound Protestant, and a servant of government sofar as my half-pay was concerned, to implicate myself in any recruitingwhich my companion might have undertaken in behalf of foreignseminaries, or in any similar design for the advancement of Popery,which, whether the Pope be actually the old lady of Babylon or no, itdid not become me in any manner to advance or countenance.
My new friend hastened to relieve my indecision. "I was about to requestyour assistance, sir," he said, "in a matter which cannot but interestyou as an antiquary, and a person of research. But I assure you itrelates entirely to event
s and persons removed to the distance of twocenturies and a half. I have experienced too much evil from the violentunsettlement of the country in which I was born, to be a rash labourerin the work of innovation in that of my ancestors."
I again assured him of my willingness to assist him in anything that wasnot contrary to my allegiance or religion.
"My proposal," he replied, "affects neither.--May God bless the reigningfamily in Britain! They are not, indeed, of that dynasty to restorewhich my ancestors struggled and suffered in vain; but the Providencewho has conducted his present Majesty to the throne, has given him thevirtues necessary to his time--firmness and intrepidity--a true loveof his country, and an enlightened view of the dangers by which she issurrounded.--For the religion of these realms, I am contented to hopethat the great Power, whose mysterious dispensation has rent them fromthe bosom of the church, will, in his own good time and manner, restorethem to its holy pale. The efforts of an individual, obscure andhumble as myself, might well retard, but could never advance, a work somighty."
"May I then inquire, sir," said I, "with what purpose you seek thiscountry?"
Ere my companion replied, he took from his pocket a clasped paper book,about the size of a regimental orderly-book, full, as it seemed, ofmemoranda; and, drawing one of the candles close to him, (for David,as a strong proof of his respect for the stranger, had indulged us withtwo,) he seemed to peruse the contents very earnestly.
"There is among the ruins of the western end of the Abbey church," saidhe, looking up to me, yet keeping the memorandum-book half open, andoccasionally glancing at it, as if to refresh his memory, "a sort ofrecess or chapel beneath a broken arch, and in the immediate vicinityof one of those shattered Gothic columns which once supported themagnificent roof, whose fall has now encumbered that part of thebuilding with its ruins."
"I think," said I, "that I know whereabouts you are. Is there not in theside wall of the chapel, or recess, which you mention, a large carvedstone, bearing a coat of arms, which no one hitherto has been able todecipher?"
"You are right," answered the Benedictine; and again consultinghis memoranda, he added, "the arms on the dexter side are those ofGlendinning, being a cross parted by a cross indented and counterchargedof the same; and on the sinister three spur-rowels for those of Avenel;they are two ancient families, now almost extinct in this country--thearms _part y per pale_."
"I think," said I, "there is no part of this ancient structure withwhich you are not as well acquainted as was the mason who built it. Butif your information be correct, he who made out these bearings must havehad better eyes than mine."
"His eyes," said the Benedictine, "have long been closed in death;probably when he inspected the monument it was in a more perfect state,or he may have derived his information from the tradition of the place."
"I assure you," said I, "that no such tradition now exists. I havemade several reconnoissances among the old people, in hopes to learnsomething of the armorial bearings, but I never heard of such acircumstance. It seems odd that you should have acquired it in a foreignland."
"These trifling particulars," he replied, "were formerly looked uponas more important, and they were sanctified to the exiles who retainedrecollection of them, because they related to a place dear indeed tomemory, but which their eyes could never again behold. It is possible,in like manner, that on the Potomac or Susquehannah, you may findtraditions current concerning places in England, which are utterlyforgotten in the neighbourhood where they originated. But to my purpose.In this recess, marked by the armorial bearings, lies buried a treasure,and it is in order to remove it that I have undertaken my presentjourney."
"A treasure!" echoed I, in astonishment.
"Yes," replied the monk, "an inestimable treasure, for those who knowhow to use it rightly."
I own my ears did tingle a little at the word treasure, and that ahandsome tilbury, with a neat groom in blue and scarlet livery, havinga smart cockade on his glazed hat, seemed as it were to glide across theroom before gay eyes, while a voice, as of a crier, pronounced my ear,"Captain Clutterbuck's tilbury--drive up." But I resisted the devil, andhe fled from me.
"I believe," said I, "all hidden treasure belongs either to the king orthe lord of the soil; and as I have served his majesty, I cannotconcern myself in any adventure which may have an end in the Court ofExchequer."
"The treasure I seek," said the stranger, smiling, "will not be enviedby princes or nobles,---it is simply the heart of an upright man."
"Ah! I understand you," I answered; "some relic, forgotten in theconfusion of the Reformation. I know the value which men of yourpersuasion put upon the bodies and limbs of saints. I have seen theThree Kings of Cologne."
"The relics which I seek, however," said the Benedictine, "are notprecisely of that nature. The excellent relative whom I have alreadymentioned, amused his leisure hours with putting into form thetraditions of his family, particularly some remarkable circumstanceswhich took place about the first breaking out of the schism of thechurch in Scotland. He became so much interested in his own labours,that at length he resolved that the heart of one individual, the hero ofhis tale, should rest no longer in a land of heresy, now deserted by allhis kindred. As he knew where it was deposited, he formed the resolutionto visit his native country for the purpose of recovering this valuedrelic. But age, and at length disease, interfered with his resolution,and it was on his deathbed that he charged me to undertake the task inhis stead. The various important events which have crowded upon eachother, our ruin and our exile, have for many years obliged me topostpone this delegated duty. Why, indeed, transfer the relics of a holyand worthy man to a country, where religion and virtue are becomethe mockery of the scorner? I have now a home, which I trust may bepermanent, if any thing in this earth can be, termed so. Thither will Itransport the heart of the good father, and beside the shrine which itshall occupy, I will construct my own grave."
"He must, indeed, have been an excellent man," replied I, "whose memory,at so distant a period, calls forth such strong marks of regard."
"He was, as you justly term him," said the ecclesiastic, "indeedexcellent--excellent in his life and doctrine--excellent, above all, inhis self-denied and disinterested sacrifice of all that life holds dearto principle and to friendship. But you shall read his history. I shallbe happy at once to gratify your curiosity, and to show my sense ofyour kindness, if you will have the goodness to procure me the meansof accomplishing my object." I replied to the Benedictine, that, as therubbish amongst which he proposed to search was no part of the ordinaryburial-ground, and as I was on the best terms with the sexton, I hadlittle doubt that I could procure him the means of executing his piouspurpose.
With this promise we parted for the night; and on the ensuing morningI made it my business to see the sexton, who, for a small gratuity,readily granted permission of search, on condition, however, that heshould be present himself, to see that the stranger removed nothing ofintrinsic value.
"To banes, and skulls, and hearts, if he can find ony, he shall bewelcome," said this guardian of the ruined Monastery, "there's plentya' about, an he's curious of them; but if there be ony picts" (meaningperhaps _pyx_) "or chalishes, or the like of such Popish veshells ofgold and silver, deil hae me an I conneve at their being removed."
The sexton also stipulated, that our researches should take place atnight, being unwilling to excite observation, or give rise to scandal.My new acquaintance and I spent the day as became lovers of hoarantiquity. We visited every corner of these magnificent ruins againand again during the forenoon; and, having made a comfortable dinner atDavid's, we walked in the afternoon to such places in the neighbourhoodas ancient tradition or modern conjecture had rendered mark worthy.Night found us in the interior of the ruins, attended by the sexton, whocarried a dark lantern, and stumbling alternately over the graves ofthe dead, and the fragments of that architecture, which they doubtlesstrusted would have canopied their bones till doomsday.
I am by no
means particularly superstitious, and yet there was that inthe present service which I did not very much like. There was somethingawful in the resolution of disturbing, at such an hour, and in such aplace, the still and mute sanctity of the grave. My companions were freefrom this impression--the stranger from his energetic desire toexecute the purpose for which he came--and the sexton from habitualindifference. We soon stood in the aisle, which, by the account of theBenedictine, contained the bones of the family of Glendinning, and werebusily employed in removing the rubbish from a corner which the strangerpointed out. If a half-pay Captain could have represented an ancientBorder-knight, or an ex-Benedictine of the nineteenth century a wizardmonk of the sixteenth, we might have aptly enough personified the searchafter Michael Scott's lamp and book of magic power. But the sextonwould have been _de trop_ in the group. [Footnote: This is one of thosepassages which must now read awkwardly, since every one knows that theNovelist and the author of the Lay of the Minstrel, is the same person.But before the avowal was made, the author was forced into thisand similar offences against good taste, to meet an argument, oftenrepeated, that there was something very mysterious in the Author ofWaverley's reserve concerning Sir Walter Scott, an author sufficientlyvoluminous at least. I had a great mind to remove the passages from thisedition, but the more candid way is to explain how they came there.]
Ere the stranger, assisted by the sexton in his task, had been long atwork, they came to some hewn stones, which seemed to have made part of asmall shrine, though now displaced and destroyed.
"Let us remove these with caution, my friend," said the stranger, "lestwe injure that which I come to seek."
"They are prime stanes," said the sexton, "picked free every ane ofthem;--warse than the best wad never serve the monks, I'se warrant."
A minute after he had made this observation, he exclaimed, "I hae fundsomething now that stands again' the spade, as if it were neither earthnor stane."
The stranger stooped eagerly to assist him.
"Na, na, haill o' my ain," said the sexton; "nae halves orquarters;"--and he lifted from amongst the ruins a small leaden box.
"You will be disappointed, my friend," said the Benedictine, "if youexpect any thing there but the mouldering dust of a human heart, closedin an inner case of porphyry."
I interposed as a neutral party, and taking the box from the sexton,reminded him, that if there were treasure concealed in it, still itcould not become the property of the finder. I then proposed, that asthe place was too dark to examine the contents of the leaden casket, weshould adjourn to David's, where we might have the advantage of lightand fire while carrying on our investigation. The stranger requested usto go before, assuring us that he would follow in a few minutes.
I fancy that old Mattocks suspected these few minutes might be employedin effecting farther discoveries amongst the tombs, for he glided backthrough a side-aisle to watch the Benedictine's motions, but presentlyreturned, and told me in a whisper that "the gentleman was on his kneesamang the cauld stanes, praying like ony saunt."
I stole back, and beheld the old man actually employed as Mattocks hadinformed me. The language seemed to be Latin; and as, the whispered, yetsolemn accent, glided away through the ruined aisles, I could nothelp reflecting how long it was since they had heard the forms of thatreligion, for the exercise of which they had been reared at such cost oftime, taste, labour, and expense. "Come away, come away," said I; "letus leave him to himself, Mattocks; this is no business of ours."
"My certes, no, Captain," said Mattocks; "ne'ertheless, it winnabe amiss to keep an eye on him. My father, rest his saul, was ahorse-couper, and used to say he never was cheated in a naig in hislife, saving by a west-country whig frae Kilmarnock, that said agrace ower a dram o' whisky. But this gentleman will be a Roman, I'sewarrant?"
"You are perfectly right in that, Saunders," said I.
"Ay, I have seen twa or three of their priests that were chased owerhere some score o' years syne. They just danced like mad when theylooked on the friars' heads, and the nuns' heads, in the cloisteryonder; they took to them like auld acquaintance like.--Od, he isnot stirring yet, mair than he were a through-stane! [Footnote: Atombstone.] I never kend a Roman, to say kend him, but ane--mair bytoken, he was the only ane in the town to ken--and that was auld Jock ofthe Pend. It wad hae been lang ere ye fand Jock praying in the Abbey ina thick night, wi' his knees on a cauld stane. Jock likit a kirk wi'a chimley in't. Mony a merry ploy I hae had wi' him down at the innyonder; and when he died, decently I wad hae earded him; but, or I gathis grave weel howkit, some of the quality, that were o' his ain unhappypersuasion, had the corpse whirried away up the water, and buried himafter their ain pleasure, doubtless--they kend best. I wad hae madenae great charge. I wadna hae excised Johnnie, dead or alive.--Stay,see--the strange gentleman is coming."
"Hold the lantern to assist him, Mattocks," said I.--"This is roughwalking, sir."
"Yes," replied the Benedictine; "I may say with a poet, who is doubtlessfamiliar to you----"
I should be surprised if he were, thought I internally.
The stranger continued:
"Saint Francis be my speed! how oft to-night Have my old feet stumbled at graves!"
"We are now clear of the churchyard," said I, "and have but a short walkto David's, where I hope we shall find a cheerful fire to enliven usafter our night's work."
We entered, accordingly, the little parlour, into which Mattocks wasalso about to push himself with sufficient effrontery, when David, witha most astounding oath, expelled him by head and shoulders, d--ning hiscuriosity, that would not let gentlemen be private in their own inn.Apparently mine host considered his own presence as no intrusion, for hecrowded up to the table on which I had laid down the leaden box. It wasfrail and wasted, as might be guessed, from having lain so many yearsin the ground. On opening it, we found deposited within, a case made ofporphyry, as the stranger had announced to us.
"I fancy," he said, "gentlemen, your curiosity will not besatisfied,--perhaps I should say that your suspicions will not beremoved,--unless I undo this casket; yet it only contains the moulderingremains of a heart, once the seat of the noblest thoughts."
He undid the box with great caution; but the shrivelled substance whichit contained bore now no resemblance to what it might once have been,the means used having been apparently unequal to preserve its shape andcolour, although they were adequate to prevent its total decay. Wewere quite satisfied, notwithstanding, that it was, what the strangerasserted, the remains of a human heart; and David readily promised hisinfluence in the village, which was almost co-ordinate with that of thebailie himself, to silence all idle rumours. He was, moreover, pleasedto favour us with his company to supper; and having taken the lion'sshare of two bottles of sherry, he not only sanctioned with his plenaryauthority the stranger's removal of the heart, but, I believe, wouldhave authorized the removal of the Abbey itself, were it not that ithappens considerably to advantage the worthy publican's own custom.
The object of the Benedictine's visit to the land of his forefathersbeing now accomplished, he announced his intention of leaving us earlyin the ensuing day, but requested my company to breakfast with himbefore his departure. I came accordingly, and when we had finished ourmorning's meal, the priest took me apart, and pulling from his pocketa large bundle of papers, he put them into my hands. "These," said he,"Captain Clutterbuck, are genuine Memoirs of the sixteenth century, andexhibit in a singular, and, as I think, an interesting point ofview, the manners of that period. I am induced to believe that theirpublication will not be an unacceptable present to the British public;and willingly make over to you any profit that may accrue from such atransaction."
I stared a little at this annunciation, and observed, that the handseemed too modern for the date he assigned to the manuscript.
"Do not mistake me, sir," said the Benedictine; "I did not mean to saythe Memoirs were written in the sixteenth century, but only, that theywere compiled from authentic mate
rials of that period, but written inthe taste and language of the present day. My uncle commenced this book;and I, partly to improve my habit of English composition, partly todivert melancholy thoughts, amused my leisure hours with continuingand concluding it. You will see the period of the story where my uncleleaves off his narrative, and I commence mine. In fact, they relate in agreat measure to different persons, as well as to a different period."
Retaining the papers in my hand, I proceeded to state to him my doubts,whether, as a good Protestant, I could undertake or superintend apublication written probably in the spirit of Popery.
"You will find," he said, "no matter of controversy in these sheets, norany sentiments stated, with which, I trust, the good in all persuasionswill not be willing to join. I remembered I was writing for a landunhappily divided from the Catholic faith; and I have taken care to saynothing which, justly interpreted, could give ground for accusing me ofpartiality. But if, upon collating my narrative with the proofs to whichI refer you--for you will find copies of many of the original papersin that parcel--you are of opinion that I have been partial to my ownfaith, I freely give you leave to correct my errors in that respect. Iown, however, I am not conscious of this defect, and have rather tofear that the Catholics may be of opinion, that I have mentionedcircumstances respecting the decay of discipline which preceded, andpartly occasioned, the great schism, called by you the Reformation, overwhich I ought to have drawn a veil. And indeed, this is one reason why Ichoose the papers should appear in a foreign land, and pass to the pressthrough the hands of a stranger."
To this I had nothing to reply, unless to object my own incompetency tothe task the good father was desirous to impose upon me. On this subjecthe was pleased to say more, I fear, than his knowledge of me fullywarranted--more, at any rate, than my modesty will permit me to record.At length he ended, with advising me, if I continued to feel thediffidence which I stated, to apply to some veteran of literature, whoseexperience might supply my deficiencies. Upon these terms we parted,with mutual expressions of regard, and I have never since heard of him.
After several attempts to peruse the quires of paper thus singularlyconferred on me, in which I was interrupted by the most inexplicablefits of yawning, I at length, in a sort of despair, communicated them toour village club, from whom they found a more favourable reception thanthe unlucky conformation of my nerves had been able to afford them. Theyunanimously pronounced the work to be exceedingly good, and assured meI would be guilty of the greatest possible injury to our flourishingvillage, if I should suppress what threw such an interesting and radiantlight upon the history of the ancient Monastery of Saint Mary.
At length, by dint of listening to their opinion, I became dubious of myown; and, indeed, when I heard passages read forth by the sonorous voiceof our worthy pastor, I was scarce more tired than I have felt myselfat some of his own sermons. Such, and so great is the differencebetwixt reading a thing one's self, making toilsome way through all thedifficulties of manuscript, and, as the man says in the play, "havingthe same read to you;"--it is positively like being wafted over a creekin a boat, or wading through it on your feet, with the mud up to yourknees. Still, however, there remained the great difficulty of findingsome one who could act as editor, corrector at once of the press andof the language, which, according to the schoolmaster, was absolutelynecessary.
Since the trees walked forth to choose themselves a king, never was anhonour so bandied about. The parson would not leave the quiet of hischimney-corner--the bailie pleaded the dignity of his situation, and theapproach of the great annual fair, as reasons against going to Edinburghto make arrangements for printing the Benedictine's manuscript. Theschoolmaster alone seemed of malleable stuff; and, desirous perhaps ofemulating the fame of Jedediah Cleishbotham, evinced a wish to undertakethis momentous commission. But a remonstrance from three opulentfarmers, whose sons he had at bed, board, and schooling, for twentypounds per annum a-head, came like a frost over the blossoms of hisliterary ambition, and he was compelled to decline the service.
In these circumstances, sir, I apply to you, by the advice of our littlecouncil of war, nothing doubting you will not be disinclined to takethe duty upon you, as it is much connected with that in which you havedistinguished yourself. What I request is, that you will review, orrather revise and correct, the enclosed packet, and prepare it for thepress, by such alterations, additions, and curtailments, as you thinknecessary. Forgive my hinting to you, that the deepest well may beexhausted,--the best corps of grenadiers, as our old general of brigadeexpressed himself, may be _used up_. A few hints can do you no harm;and, for the prize-money, let the battle be first won, and it shall beparted at the drum-head. I hope you will take nothing amiss that I havesaid. I am a plain soldier, and little accustomed to compliments. Imay add, that I should be well contented to march in the front withyou--that is, to put my name with yours on the title-page. I have thehonour to be, Sir, Your unknown humble Servant, Cuthbert Clutterbuck.Village of Kennaquhair, -- of April, 18--
_For the Author of "Waverley," &c. care of Mr. John Ballantyne, HanoverStreet, Edinburgh._
* * * * *
ANSWER BY "THE AUTHOR OF WAVERLEY,"
TO THE FOREGOING LETTER FROM CAPTAIN CLUTTERBUCK.
Do not admire, that, notwithstanding the distance and ceremony of youraddress, I return an answer in the terms of familiarity. The truthis, your origin and native country are better known to me than even toyourself. You derive your respectable parentage, if I am not greatlymistaken, from a land which has afforded much pleasure, as well asprofit, to those who have traded to it successfully,--I mean that partof the _terra incognita_ which is called the province of Utopia. Itsproductions, though censured by many (and some who use tea and tobaccowithout scruple) as idle and unsubstantial luxuries, have nevertheless,like many other luxuries, a general acceptation, and are secretlyenjoyed even by those who express the greatest scorn and dislike ofthem in public. The dram-drinker is often the first to be shocked at thesmell of spirits--it is not unusual to hear old maiden ladies declaimagainst scandal--the private book-cases of some grave-seeming men wouldnot brook decent eyes--and many, I say not of the wise and learned,but of those most anxious to seem such, when the spring-lock of theirlibrary is drawn, their velvet cap pulled over their ears, their feetinsinuated into their turkey slippers, are to be found, were theirretreats suddenly intruded upon, busily engaged with the last new novel.
I have said, the truly wise and learned disdain these shifts, andwill open the said novel as avowedly as they would the lid of theirsnuff-box. I will only quote one instance, though I know a hundred.Did you know the celebrated Watt of Birmingham, Captain Clutterbuck? Ibelieve not, though, from what I am about to state, he would not havefailed to have sought an acquaintance with you. It was only once myfortune to meet him, whether in body or in spirit it matters not.There were assembled about half a score of our Northern Lights, who hadamongst them, Heaven knows how, a well-known character of your country,Jedediah Cleishbotham. This worthy person, having come to Edinburghduring the Christmas vacation, had become a sort of lion in the place,and was lead in leash from house to house along with the guisards, thestone-eater, and other amusements of the season, which "exhibited theirunparalleled feats to private family-parties, if required." Amidst thiscompany stood Mr. Watt, the man whose genius discovered the means ofmultiplying our national resources to a degree perhaps even beyondhis own stupendous powers of calculation and combination; bringing thetreasures of the abyss to the summit of the earth--giving the feeble armof man the momentum of an Afrite--commanding manufactures to arise, asthe rod of the prophet produced water in the desert--affording the meansof dispensing with that time and tide which wait for no man, and ofsailing without that wind which defied the commands and threats ofXerxes himself.
[Footnote: Probably the ingenious author alludes to the national adage:
The king said sail, But the wind said no.
Our schoolmaster (who is also a land surveyor) thinks this whole passagerefers to Mr. Watt's improvements on the steam engine.--_Note by CaptainClutterbuck_.]
This potent commander of the elements--this abridger of time andspace--this magician, whose cloudy machinery has produced a change onthe world, the effects of which, extraordinary as they are, are perhapsonly now beginning to be felt--was not only the most profound manof science, the most successful combiner of powers and calculator ofnumbers as adapted to practical purposes,--was not only one of themost generally well-informed,--but one of the best and kindest of humanbeings.
There he stood, surrounded by the little band I have mentioned ofNorthern literati, men not less tenacious, generally speaking, oftheir own fame and their own opinions, than the national regiments aresupposed to be jealous of the high character which they have won uponservice. Methinks I yet see and hear what I shall never see or hearagain. In his eighty-fifth year, the alert, kind, benevolent old man,had his attention alive to every one's question, his information atevery one's command.
His talents and fancy overflowed on every subject. One gentleman was adeep philologist--he talked with him on the origin of the alphabet as ifhe had been coeval with Cadmus; another a celebrated critic,--you wouldhave said the old man had studied political economy and belles-lettresall his life,--of science it is unnecessary to speak, it was his owndistinguished walk. And yet, Captain Clutterbuck, when he spoke withyour countryman Jedediah Cleishbotham, you would have sworn he had beencoeval with Claver'se and Burley, with the persecutors and persecuted,and could number every shot the dragoons had fired at the fugitiveCovenanters. In fact, we discovered that no novel of the least celebrityescaped his perusal, and that the gifted man of science was as muchaddicted to the productions of your native country, (the land of Utopiaaforesaid,) in other words, as shameless and obstinate a peruser ofnovels, as if he had been a very milliner's apprentice of eighteen. Iknow little apology for troubling you with these things, excepting thedesire to commemorate a delightful evening, and a wish to encourageyou to shake off that modest diffidence which makes you afraid of beingsupposed connected with the fairy-land of delusive fiction. I willrequite your tag of verse, from Horace himself, with a paraphrasefor your own use, my dear Captain, and for that of your country club,excepting in reverence the clergyman and schoolmaster:--
_Ne sit ancillae tibi amor pudori, &c._
Take thou no scorn. Of fiction born, Fair fiction's muse to woe; Old Homer's theme Was but a dream, Himself a fiction too.
Having told you your country, I must next, my dear Captain Clutterbuck,make free to mention your own immediate descent. You are not to supposeyour land of prodigies so little known to us as the careful concealmentof your origin would seem to imply. But you have it in common with manyof your country, studiously and anxiously to hide any connexion with it.There is this difference, indeed, betwixt your countrymen and those ofour more material world, that many of the most estimable of them, suchas an old Highland gentleman called Ossian, a monk of Bristol calledRowley, and others, are inclined to pass themselves off as denizens ofthe land of reality, whereas most of our fellow-citizens who deny theircountry are such as that country would be very willing to disclaim. Theespecial circumstances you mention relating to your life and services,impose not upon us. We know the versatility of the unsubstantial speciesto which you belong permits them to assume all manner of disguises; wehave seen them apparelled in the caftan of a Persian, and the silkenrobe of a Chinese, [Footnote: See the Persian Letters, and the Citizenof the World.] and are prepared to suspect their real character underevery disguise. But how can we be ignorant of your country and manners,or deceived by the evasion of its inhabitants, when the voyages ofdiscovery which have been made to it rival in number those recorded byPurchas or by Hackluyt? [Footnote: See Les Voyages Imaginaires.] And toshow the skill and perseverance of your navigators and travellers, wehave only to name Sindbad, Aboulfouaris, and Robinson Crusoe. These werethe men for discoveries. Could we have sent Captain Greenland to lookout for the north-west passage, or Peter Wilkins to examine Baffin'sBay, what discoveries might we not have expected? But there are feats,and these both numerous and extraordinary, performed by the inhabitantsof your country, which we read without once attempting to emulate.
I wander from my purpose, which was to assure you, that I know you aswell as the mother who _did_ not bear you, for MacDuff's peculiaritysticks to your whole race. You are not born of woman, unless, indeed, inthat figurative sense, in which the celebrated Maria Edgeworth may, inher state of single blessedness, be termed mother of the finest familyin England. You belong, sir, to the Editors of the land of Utopia, asort of persons for whom I have the highest esteem. How is it possibleit should be otherwise, when you reckon among your corporation the sageCid Hamet Benengeli, the short-faced president of the Spectator's Club,poor Ben Silton, and many others, who have acted as gentlemen-ushers toworks which have cheered our heaviest, and added wings to our lightesthours?
What I have remarked as peculiar to Editors of the class in whichI venture to enrol you, is the happy combination of fortuitouscircumstances which usually put you in possession of the works whichyou have the goodness to bring into public notice. One walks on thesea-shore, and a wave casts on land a small cylindrical trunk or casket,containing a manuscript much damaged with sea-water, which is withdifficulty deciphered, and so forth. [Footnote: See the History ofAutomathes.] Another steps into a chandler's shop, to purchase a poundof butter, and, behold! the waste-paper on which it is laid is themanuscript of a cabalist. [Footnote: Adventures of a Guinea.] A thirdis so fortunate as to obtain from a woman who lets lodgings, the curiouscontents of an antique bureau, the property of a deceased lodger.[Footnote: Adventures of an Atom.] All these are certainly possibleoccurrences; but, I know not how, they seldom occur to any Editors savethose of your country. At least I can answer for myself, that in mysolitary walks by the sea, I never saw it cast ashore any thing butdulse and tangle, and now and then a deceased star-fish; my landladynever presented me with any manuscript save her cursed bill; and themost interesting of my discoveries in the way of waste-paper, wasfinding a favourite passage of one of my own novels wrapt round an ounceof snuff. No, Captain, the funds from which I have drawn my powerof amusing the public, have been bought otherwise than by fortuitousadventure. I have buried myself in libraries to extract from thenonsense of ancient days new nonsense of my own. I have turned overvolumes, which, from the pot-hooks I was obliged to decipher, might havebeen the cabalistic manuscripts of Cornelius Agrippa, although I neversaw "the door open and the devil come in." [Footnote: See Southey'sBallad on the Young Man who read in a Conjuror's Books.] But all thedomestic inhabitants of the libraries were disturbed by the vehemence ofmy studies:--
From my research the boldest spider fled, And moths, retreating, trembled as I read;
From this learned sepulchre I emerged like the Magician in the PersianTales, from his twelve-month's residence in the mountain, not like himto soar over the heads of the multitude, but to mingle in the crowd, andto elbow amongst the throng, making my way from the highest societyto the lowest, undergoing the scorn, or, what is harder to brook,the patronizing condescension of the one, and enduring the vulgarfamiliarity of the other,--and all, you will say, for what?--to collectmaterials for one of those manuscripts with which mere chance so oftenaccommodates your country-men; in other words, to write a successfulnovel.--"O Athenians, how hard we labour to deserve your praise!"
I might stop here, my dear Clutterbuck; it would have a touching effect,and the air of proper deference to our dear Public. But I will notbe false with you,--(though falsehood is--excuse the observation--thecurrent coin of your country,) the truth is, I have studied and livedfor the purpose of gratifying my own curiosity, and passing my own time;and though the result has been, that, in one shape or other, I havebeen frequently before the Public, perhaps more frequently than prudencewarranted, yet I cannot claim from them the favour due to
those who havededicated their ease and leisure to the improvement and entertainment ofothers.
Having communicated thus freely with you, my dear Captain, it follows,of course, that I will gratefully accept of your communication, which,as your Benedictine observed, divides itself both by subject, manner,and age, into two parts. But I am sorry I cannot gratify your literaryambition, by suffering your name to appear upon the title-page; and Iwill candidly tell you the reason.
The Editors of your country are of such a soft and passive disposition,that they have frequently done themselves great disgrace by giving upthe coadjutors who first brought them into public notice and publicfavour, and suffering their names to be used by those quacks andimpostors who live upon the ideas of others. Thus I shame to tell howthe sage Cid Hamet Benengeli was induced by one Juan Avellaneda to playthe Turk with the ingenious Miguel Cervantes, and to publish a SecondPart of the adventures of his hero the renowned Don Quixote, without theknowledge or co-operation of his principal aforesaid. It is true, theArabian sage returned to his allegiance, and thereafter composed agenuine continuation of the Knight of La Mancha, in which the saidAvellaneda of Tordesillas is severely chastised. For in this youpseudo-editors resemble the juggler's disciplined ape, to which a slyold Scotsman likened James I., "if you have Jackoo in your hand, you canmake him bite me; if I have Jackoo in my hand, I can make him biteyou." Yet, notwithstanding the _amende honorable_ thus made by Cid HametBenengeli, his temporary defection did not the less occasion the deceaseof the ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote, if he can be said to die, whosememory is immortal. Cervantes put him to death, lest he should againfall into bad hands. Awful, yet just consequence of Cid Hamet'sdefection!
To quote a more modern and much less important instance. I am sorry toobserve my old acquaintance Jedediah Cleishbotham has misbehaved himselfso far as to desert his original patron, and set up for himself. I amafraid the poor pedagogue will make little by his new allies, unlessthe pleasure of entertaining the public, and, for aught I know, thegentlemen of the long robe, with disputes about his identity.
[Footnote: I am since more correctly informed, that Mr. Cleishbothamdied some months since at Gandercleuch, and that the person assuminghis name is an impostor. The real Jedediah made a most Christianand edifying end; and, as I am credibly informed, having sent for aCameronian clergyman when he was _in extremis_, was so fortunate as toconvince the good man, that, after all, he had no wish to bring down onthe scattered remnant of Mountain folks, "the bonnets of Bonny Dundee."Hard that the speculators in print and paper will not allow a good manto rest quiet in his grave.
This note, and the passages in the text, were occasioned by a Londonbookseller having printed, as a Speculation, an additional collectionof Tales of My Landlord, which was not so fortunate as to succeed inpassing on the world as genuine.]
Observe, therefore, Captain Clutterbuck, that, wise by these greatexamples, I receive you as a partner, but a sleeping partner only. AsI give you no title to employ or use the firm of the copartnery we areabout to form, I will announce my property in my title-page, and put myown mark on my own chattels, which the attorney tells me it will be acrime to counterfeit, as much as it would to imitate the autograph ofany other empiric--a crime amounting, as advertisements upon littlevials assure to us, to nothing short of felony. If, therefore, my dearfriend, your name should hereafter appear in any title-page withoutmine, readers will know what to think of you. I scorn to use eitherarguments or threats; but you cannot but be sensible, that, as you oweyour literary existence to me on the one hand, so, on the other, yourvery all is at my disposal. I can at pleasure cut off your annuity,strike your name from the half-pay establishment, nay, actually put youto death, without being answerable to any one. These are plain words toa gentleman who has served during the whole war; but, I am aware, youwill take nothing amiss at my hands.
And now, my good sir, let us address ourselves to our task, and arrange,as we best can, the manuscript of your Benedictine, so as to suit thetaste of this critical age. You will find I have made very liberal useof his permission, to alter whatever seemed too favourable to the Churchof Rome, which I abominate, were it but for her fasts and penances.
Our reader is doubtless impatient, and we must own, with John Bunyan,
We have too long detain'd him in the porch, And kept him from the sunshine with a torch.
Adieu, therefore, my dear Captain--remember me respectfully to theparson, the schoolmaster, and the bailie, and all friends of the happyclub in the village of Kennaquhair. I have never seen, and never shallsee, one of their faces; and notwithstanding, I believe that as yet I ambetter acquainted with them than any other man who lives.--I shall soonintroduce you to my jocund friend, Mr. John Ballantyne of Trinity Grove,whom you will find warm from his match at single-stick with a brotherPublisher. [Footnote: In consequence of the pseudo Tales of My Landlordprinted in London, as already mentioned, the late Mr. John Ballantyne,the author's publisher, had a controversy with the interlopingbibliopolist, each insisting that his Jedediah Cleishbotham was the realSimon Pure.] Peace to their differences! It is a wrathful trade, andthe _irritabile genus_ comprehends the bookselling as well as thebook-writing species.--Once more adieu!
THE AUTHOR OF WAVERLEY.
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