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The Heart of Mid-Lothian, Volume 1, Page 2

Walter Scott



  Courteous Reader,

  If ingratitude comprehendeth every vice, surely so foul a stain worst ofall beseemeth him whose life has been devoted to instructing youth invirtue and in humane letters. Therefore have I chosen, in thisprolegomenon, to unload my burden of thanks at thy feet, for the favourwith which thou last kindly entertained the Tales of my Landlord. Certes,if thou hast chuckled over their factious and festivous descriptions, orhadst thy mind filled with pleasure at the strange and pleasant turns offortune which they record, verily, I have also simpered when I beheld asecond storey with attics, that has arisen on the basis of my smalldomicile at Gandercleugh, the walls having been aforehand pronounced byDeacon Barrow to be capable of enduring such an elevation. Nor has itbeen without delectation that I have endued a new coat (snuff-brown, andwith metal buttons), having all nether garments corresponding thereto. Wedo therefore lie, in respect of each other, under a reciprocation ofbenefits, whereof those received by me being the most solid (in respectthat a new house and a new coat are better than a new tale and an oldsong), it is meet that my gratitude should be expressed with the loudervoice and more preponderating vehemence. And how should it be soexpressed?--Certainly not in words only, but in act and deed. It is withthis sole purpose, and disclaiming all intention of purchasing thatpendicle or poffle of land called the Carlinescroft, lying adjacent to mygarden, and measuring seven acres, three roods, and four perches, that Ihave committed to the eyes of those who thought well of the former tomes,these four additional volumes of the Tales of my Landlord. Not the less,if Peter Prayfort be minded to sell the said poffle, it is at his ownchoice to say so; and, peradventure, he may meet with a purchaser: unless(gentle reader) the pleasing pourtraictures of Peter Pattieson, now givenunto thee in particular, and unto the public in general, shall have losttheir favour in thine eyes, whereof I am no way distrustful. And so muchconfidence do I repose in thy continued favour, that, should thy lawfuloccasions call thee to the town of Gandercleugh, a place frequented bymost at one time or other in their lives, I will enrich thine eyes with asight of those precious manuscripts whence thou hast derived so muchdelectation, thy nose with a snuff from my mull, and thy palate with adram from my bottle of strong waters, called by the learned ofGandercleugh, the Dominie's Dribble o' Drink.

  It is there, O highly esteemed and beloved reader, thou wilt be able tobear testimony, through the medium of thine own senses, against thechildren of vanity, who have sought to identify thy friend and servantwith I know not what inditer of vain fables; who hath cumbered the worldwith his devices, but shrunken from the responsibility thereof. Truly,this hath been well termed a generation hard of faith; since what can aman do to assert his property in a printed tome, saving to put his namein the title-page thereof, with his description, or designation, as thelawyers term it, and place of abode? Of a surety I would have suchsceptics consider how they themselves would brook to have their worksascribed to others, their names and professions imputed as forgeries, andtheir very existence brought into question; even although, peradventure,it may be it is of little consequence to any but themselves, not onlywhether they are living or dead, but even whether they ever lived or no.Yet have my maligners carried their uncharitable censures still farther.

  These cavillers have not only doubted mine identity, although thusplainly proved, but they have impeached my veracity and the authenticityof my historical narratives! Verily, I can only say in answer, that Ihave been cautelous in quoting mine authorities. It is true, indeed, thatif I had hearkened with only one ear, I might have rehearsed my tale withmore acceptation from those who love to hear but half the truth. It is,it may hap, not altogether to the discredit of our kindly nation ofScotland, that we are apt to take an interest, warm, yea partial, in thedeeds and sentiments of our forefathers. He whom his adversaries describeas a perjured Prelatist, is desirous that his predecessors should be heldmoderate in their power, and just in their execution of its privileges,when truly, the unimpassioned peruser of the annals of those times shalldeem them sanguinary, violent, and tyrannical. Again, the representativesof the suffering Nonconformists desire that their ancestors, theCameronians, shall be represented not simply as honest enthusiasts,oppressed for conscience' sake, but persons of fine breeding, and valiantheroes. Truly, the historian cannot gratify these predilections. He mustneeds describe the cavaliers as proud and high-spirited, cruel,remorseless, and vindictive; the suffering party as honourably tenaciousof their opinions under persecution; their own tempers being, however,sullen, fierce, and rude; their opinions absurd and extravagant; andtheir whole course of conduct that of persons whom hellebore would betterhave suited than prosecutions unto death for high-treason. Natheless,while such and so preposterous were the opinions on either side, therewere, it cannot be doubted, men of virtue and worth on both, to entitleeither party to claim merit from its martyrs. It has been demanded of me,Jedediah Cleishbotham, by what right I am entitled to constitute myselfan impartial judge of their discrepancies of opinions, seeing (as it isstated) that I must necessarily have descended from one or other of thecontending parties, and be, of course, wedded for better or for worse,according to the reasonable practice of Scotland, to its dogmata, oropinions, and bound, as it were, by the tie matrimonial, or, to speakwithout metaphor, _ex jure sanguinis,_ to maintain them in preference toall others.

  But, nothing denying the rationality of the rule, which calls on all nowliving to rule their political and religious opinions by those of theirgreat-grandfathers, and inevitable as seems the one or the other horn ofthe dilemma betwixt which my adversaries conceive they have pinned me tothe wall, I yet spy some means of refuge, and claim a privilege to writeand speak of both parties with impartiality. For, O ye powers of logic!when the Prelatists and Presbyterians of old times went together by theears in this unlucky country, my ancestor (venerated be his memory!) wasone of the people called Quakers, and suffered severe handling fromeither side, even to the extenuation of his purse and the incarcerationof his person.

  Craving thy pardon, gentle Reader, for these few words concerning me andmine, I rest, as above expressed, thy sure and obligated friend,*

  J. C.GANDERCLEUGH,this 1st of April, 1818.

  * Note A. Author's connection with Quakerism.