Hugh Miller: Leading Articles (3)

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LORD BROUGHAM.
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THE history of Lord Brougham has no exact parallel in that of British statesmen.  Villiers Duke of Buckingham (the Duke of the times of Charles II.) sunk quite as low, but not from such an elevation.  Of him too it was said, as of his Lordship, that 'he left not faction, but of that was left,'—that every party learned to distrust and stand aloof from him, and that his great parts had only the effect of rendering his ultimate degradation the more marked and the more instructive.  Hume tells us that by his 'wild conduct, unrestrained either by prudence or principle, he found means to render himself in the end odious, and even insignificant.'  But the Duke of Buckingham had been a mere courtier from the beginning, and no man had ever trusted or thought well of him.

    Bolingbroke bears a nearly similar character.  There was a mighty difference between the influential and able minister of Queen Anne, recognised by all as decidedly one of the most accomplished statesmen of his age or country, and the same individual,—forlorn and an exile, disliked and suspected by parties the most opposite, and who agreed in nothing else,—a fugitive from his own country to avoid the threatened impeachment of the Whigs for his Jacobitism, and a fugitive from France to avoid being impeached by the Pretender for his treachery.  But Bolingbroke had never very seriously professed to be the friend of his country, nor would his country have believed him if he had.  According to the shrewd remark of Fielding, the temporal happiness, the civil liberties and properties of Europe, had been the game of his earliest youth, and the eternal and final happiness of all mankind the sport and entertainment of his advanced age.  He would have fain destroyed the freedom of his countrymen when in power, and their hope of immortality when in disgrace.  Neither can we find a parallel in the history of that other Lord Chancellor of England, who has been described by the poet as 'the greatest, wisest, meanest of mankind.'  Two of the epithets would not suit Lord Brougham; and though he unquestionably bore himself more honourably in the season of his elevation than his illustrious predecessor, he has as certainly employed himself to worse purpose in the time of his disgrace.

    Unlike Lords Bolingbroke, Buckingham, or Bacon, Lord Brougham entered public life a reformer and a patriot.  The subject of his first successful speech in Parliament was the slave-trade.  He denounced not only the abominable traffic itself,—the men who stole, bought, and kept the slave; but also the traders and merchants, 'the cowardly suborners of piracy and mercenary murder,' as he termed them, under whose remote influence the trade had been carried on; and the sympathies of the people went along with him.  He was on every occasion, too, the powerful advocate of popular education.  Brougham is no discoverer of great truths; but he has evinced a 'curious felicity' in expressing truths already discovered: he exerted himself in sending 'the schoolmaster abroad,' and announced the fact in words which became more truly his motto than the motto found for him in the Herald's Office.  He took part in well-nigh every question of reform; stood up for economy, the reduction of taxes, and Queen Caroline; found very vigorous English in which to express all he ought to have felt regarding the Holy Alliance and the massacre at Manchester; and dealt with Cobbett as Cobbett deserved, for doing what he is now doing himself.  There was always a lack of heart about Brougham, so that men admired without loving him.

    There were no spontaneous exhibitions of those noblenesses of nature which mark the true reformer, and which compel the respect of even enemies.  Luther, Knox, and Andrew Thomson were all men of rugged strength,—men of war, and born to contend; but they were also men of deep and broad sympathies, and of kindly affections: they could all feel as well as see the right; what is even more important still, they could all thoroughly forget themselves, and what the world thought and said of them, in the pursuit of some great and engrossing object: they could all love, too, at least as sincerely as they could hate.  Brougham, on the contrary, could only see without feeling the right; but then he saw clearly.  Brougham could not forget himself; but then he succeeded in identifying himself with much that was truly excellent.  Brougham could not love as thoroughly as he could hate; but then his indignation generally fell where it ought.  His large intellect seemed based on an inferior nature—it was a brilliant set in lead; nor were there indications wanting all along, it has been said, that he was one of those patriots who have their price.  But the brilliant was a true, not a factitious brilliant, whatever the value of the setting; and the price, if ever proffered, had not been sufficiently large.  Brougham became Lord Chancellor, the Reform Bill passed into a law, and slavery was abolished in the colonies.

    The country has not yet forgotten that the Lord Chancellor of 1832 and the two following years was no wild Radical.  There was no leaven of Chartism in Lord Brougham, though a very considerable dash of eccentricity; and really, for a man who had been contending so many years in the Opposition, and who had attained to so thorough a command of sarcasm, he learned to enact the courtier wonderfully well.  Neither 'Tompkins' nor 'Jenkins' had as yet manifested their contempt for the aristocracy; nor had the 'man well stricken in years' written anonymous letters to insult his sovereign.  The universal suffrage scheme found no advocate in the Lord Chancellor.  He could call on Cobbett in his chariot, to attempt persuading the stubborn old Saxon to write down incendiarism and machine-breaking.  He breathed no anticipation of the 'first cheer of the people on the first refusal of the soldiery to fire on them.'  As for Reform, he was very explicit on that head: really so much had been accomplished already, that a great deal more could not be expected.  Little could be done in the coming years, he said, just because there had been so much done in the years that had gone by.  The Lord Chancellor was comparatively a cautious and prudent man in those days—on the whole, a safe card for monarchy to play with.  Radicalism had learned that Whigs in office are not very unlike Tories in office; and to Brougham it applied the remark: nor was he at all indignant that it did so.  All his superabundant energies were expended in Chancery.  We unluckily missed hearing him deliver his famous speech at Inverness, and that merely by an untoward chance, for we were in that part of the country at the time; but we have seen and conversed with scores who did hear him: we are intimate, too, with the gentleman who gave his speech on that occasion to the world, and know that a more faithful or more accomplished reporter than the editor of the Inverness Courser is not to be found anywhere, nor yet a man of nicer discrimination, nor of a finer literary taste.  There was no mistake made regarding his Lordship's sentiments when he spoke of the Reform Bill as well-nigh a final measure; nor did his delight in the simple-minded natives arise when he pledged himself to recommend them, by the evening mail, to the graces of good King William, from their wishing the bill to be anything else than final.  Even with its limited franchise, he deemed it a very excellent bill; and the woolsack, to which it had elevated him, a very desirable seat.  People did occasionally see that Hazlitt was in the right—that he was rather a man of speech than of action; that he was somewhat too imprudent for a leader, somewhat too petulant for a partisan; and that he wanted in a considerable degree the principle of co-operation.

    But Chatham wanted it quite as much as he; and it was deemed invidious to measure so accomplished a man, and so sworn a friend of peace and good order, by the minuter rules.  But Napoleon should have died at Waterloo, Brougham at Dunrobin.

    What is ex-Chancellor Brougham now?  What party trusts to him?  What section of the community does he represent?  Frost had his confiding friends and followers, and Feargus O'Connor led a numerous and formidable body.  Even Sir William Courtenay had his disciples.  Where are Brougham's disciples?  What moral influence does the advocate of popular education, and the indignant denouncer of the iniquities of the slave-trade, exert?  In what age or what country was there ever a man so 'left by faction?'  The Socialism of England and the Voluntaryism of Edinburgh entrust him with their petitions, and Chartism stands on tiptoe when he rises in his place to advocate universal suffrage; but no one confides in him.  Owen does not, nor the Rev. Mr. Marshall of Kirkintilloch, nor yet the conspirators of Sheffield or Newport.  Toryism scarcely thanks him for fighting its battles; Whiggism abhors him.  There is no one credulous enough to believe that his aims rise any higher than himself, or blind enough not to see that even his selfishness is so ill-regulated as to defeat its own little object.  His lack of the higher sentiments, the more generous feelings, the nobler aims, neutralizes even his intellect.  He publishes his speeches, carefully solicitous of his fame, and provokes comparison in laboured dissertations with the oratory of Demosthenes and Cicero; he eulogizes the Duke of Wellington, and demands by inference whether he cannot praise as classically as even the ancients themselves; but his heartless though well-modulated eloquence lingers in first editions, like the effusions of inferior minds; nor is it of a kind which the 'world will find after many days.'  Brougham will be less known sixty years hence than the player Garrick is at present.

    Bolingbroke, when thrown out of all public employment—gagged, disarmed, shut out from the possibility of a return to office, suspected alike by the Government and the Opposition, and thoroughly disliked by the people to boot—could yet solace himself in his uneasy and unhonoured retirement by exerting himself to write down the Ministry.

    And his Craftsmen sold even more rapidly than the Spectator itself.

    But the writings of Brougham do not sell; he lacks even the solace of Bolingbroke.  We have said that his history is without parallel in that of Britain.  Napoleon on his rock was a less melancholy object: the imprisoned warrior had lost none of his original power—he was no moral suicide; the millions of France were still devotedly attached to him, and her armies would still have followed him to battle.  It was no total forfeiture of character on his own part that had rendered him so utterly powerless either for good or ill.


July 8, 1840.


 
THE SCOTT MONUMENT.
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THE foundation-stone of the metropolitan monument in memory of Sir Walter Scott was laid with masonic honours on Saturday last.  The day was pleasant, and the pageant imposing.  All business seemed suspended for the time; the shops were shut.  The one half of Edinburgh had poured into the streets, and formed by no means the least interesting part of the spectacle.  Every window and balcony that overlooked the procession, every house-top almost, had its crowd of spectators.  According to the poet,


'Rank behind rank, close wedged, hung bellying o'er;'


while the area below, for many hundred yards on either side the intended site of the monument, presented a continuous sea of heads.  We marked, among the flags exhibited, the Royal Standard of Scotland, apparently a piece of venerable antiquity, for the field of gold had degenerated into a field of drab, and the figure in the centre showed less of leonine nobleness than of art in that imperfect state in which men are fain to content themselves with semblances doubtful and inexpressive, and less than half the result of chance.  The entire pageant was such a one as Sir Walter himself could perhaps have improved.  He would not have fired so many guns in the hollow, and the grey old castle so near: he would have found means, too, to prevent the crowd from so nearly swallowing up the procession.  Perhaps no man had ever a finer eye for pictorial effect than Sir Walter, whether art or nature supplied the scene.  It has been well said that he rendered Abbotsford a romance in stone and lime, and imparted to the king's visit to Scotland the interest and dignity of an epic poem.  Still, however, the pageant was an imposing one, and illustrated happily the influence of a great and original mind, whose energies had been employed in enriching the national literature, over an educated and intellectual people.

    It is a bad matter when a country is employed in building monuments to the memory of men chiefly remarkable for knocking other men on the head; it is a bad matter, too, when it builds monuments to the memory of mere courtiers, of whom not much more can be said than that when they lived they had places and pensions to bestow, and that they bestowed them on their friends.  We cannot think so ill, however, of the homage paid to genius.

    The Masonic Brethren of the several lodges mustered in great numbers.  It has been stated that more than a thousand took part in the procession.  Coleridge, in his curious and highly original work, The Friend—a work which, from its nature, never can become popular, but which, though it may be forgotten for a time, will infallibly be dug up and brought into public view in the future as an unique fossil impression of an extinct order of mind—refers to a bygone class of mechanics, 'to whom every trade was an allegory, and had its guardian saint.'  'But the time has gone by,' he states, 'in which the details of every art were ennobled in the eyes of its professors by being spiritually improved into symbols and mementoes of all doctrines and all duties.'  We could hardly think so as we stood watching the procession, with its curiously fantastic accumulation of ornament and symbol; it seemed, however, rather the relic of a former age than the natural growth of the present—a spectre of the past strangely resuscitated.

    The laugh, half in ridicule, half in good nature, with which the crowd greeted every very gaudily dressed member, richer in symbol and obsolete finery than his neighbour, showed that the day had passed in which such things could produce their originally intended effect.  Will the time ever arrive in which stars and garters will claim as little respect as broad-skirted doublets of green velvet, surmounted with three-cornered hats tagged with silver lace?  Much, we suppose, must depend upon the characters of those who wear them, and the kind of services on which they will come to be bestowed.  An Upper House of mere diplomatists—skilful only to overreach—imprudent enough to substitute cunning for wisdom—ignorant enough to deem the people not merely their inferiors in rank, but in discernment also—weak enough to believe that laws may be enacted with no regard to the general good—wrapped up in themselves, and acquainted with the masses only through their eavesdroppers and dependants—would bring titles and orders to a lower level in half an age, than the onward progress of intellect has brought the quaintnesses of mechanic symbol and mystery in two full centuries.  We but smile at the one, we would learn to execrate the other.  Has the reader ever seen Quarles' Emblems, or Flavel's Husbandry and Navigation Spiritualized?  Both belong to an extinct species of literature, of which the mechanic mysteries described by Coleridge, and exhibited in the procession of Saturday last, strongly remind us.  Both alike proceeded on a process of mind the reverse of the common.  Comparison generally leads from the moral to the physical, from the abstract to the visible and the tangible; here, on the contrary, the tangible and the visible—the emblem and the symbol—were made to lead to the moral and the abstract.  There are beautiful instances, too, of the same school in the allegories of Bunyan,—the wonders in the house of the Interpreter, for instance, and the scenes exhibited in the cave of the 'man named Contemplation.'

    Sir Walter's monument will have one great merit, regarded as a piece of art.  It will be entirely an original,—such a piece of architecture as he himself would have delighted to describe, and the description of which he, and he only, could have sublimed into poetry.  There is a chaste and noble beauty in the forms of Greek and Roman architecture which consorts well with the classic literature of those countries.  The compositions of Sir Walter, on the contrary, resemble what he so much loved to describe—the rich and fantastic Gothic, at times ludicrously uncouth, at times exquisitely beautiful.  There are not finer passages in all his writings than some of his architectural descriptions.  How exquisite is his Melrose Abbey,—the external view in the cold, pale moonshine,


'When buttress and buttress alternately
 Seemed formed of ebon and ivory;'


internally, when the strange light broke from the wizard's tomb!  Who, like Sir Walter, could draw a mullioned window, with its 'foliaged tracery,' its 'freakish knots,' its pointed and moulded arch, and its dyed and pictured panes?  We passed, of late, an hour amid the ruins of Crichton, and scarce knew whether most to admire the fine old castle itself, so worthy of its poet, or the exquisite picture of it we found in Marmion.

    Sir Walter's monument would be a monument without character, if it were other than Gothic.  Still, however, we have our fears for the effect.  In portrait-painting there is the full life-size, and a size much smaller, and both suit nearly equally well, and appear equally natural; but the intermediate sizes do not suit.  Make the portrait just a very little less than the natural size, and it seems not the reduced portrait of a man, but the full-sized portrait of a dwarf.  Now a similar principle seems to obtain in Gothic architecture.

    The same design which strikes as beautiful in a model—the piece which, if executed in spar, and with a glass cover over it, would be regarded as exquisitely tasteful—would impress, when executed on a large scale, as grand and magnificent in the first degree.  And yet this identical design, in an intermediate size, would possibly enough be pronounced a failure.  Mediocrity in size is fatal to the Gothic, if it be a richly ornamented Gothic; nor are we sure that the noble design of Mr. Kemp is to be executed on a scale sufficiently extended.  We are rather afraid not, but the result will show.  Such a monument a hundred yards in height would be one of the finest things perhaps in Europe.

    What has Sir Walter done for Scotland, to deserve so gorgeous a monument?  Assuredly not all he might have done; and yet he has done much—more, in some respects, than any other merely literary man the country ever produced.  He has interested Europe in the national character, and in some corresponding degree in the national welfare; and this of itself is a very important matter indeed.  Shakespeare—perhaps the only writer who, in the delineation of character, takes precedence of the author of Waverley—seems to have been less intensely imbued with the love of country.  It is quite possible for a foreigner to luxuriate over his dramas, as the Germans are said to do, without loving Englishmen any the better in consequence, or respecting them any the more.  But the European celebrity of the fictions of Sir Walter must have had the inevitable effect of raising the character of his country, its character as a country of men of large growth, morally and intellectually.  Besides, it is natural to think of foreigners as mere abstractions; and hence one cause at least of the indifference with which we regard them,—an indifference which the first slight misunderstanding converts into hostility.  It is something towards a more general diffusion of goodwill to be enabled to conceive of them as men with all those sympathies of human nature, on which the corresponding sympathies lay, hold, warm and vigorous about them.  Now, in this aspect has Sir Walter presented his countrymen to the world.  Wherever his writings are known, a Scotsman can be no mere abstraction; and in both these respects has the poet and novelist deserved well of his country.

    Within the country itself, too, his great nationality, like that of Burns, has had a decidedly favourable effect.  The cosmopolism so fashionable among a certain class about the middle of the last century, was but a mock virtue, and a very dangerous one.  The 'citizen of the world,' if he be not a mere pretender, is a man to be defined by negatives.  It is improper to say he loves all men alike: he is merely equally indifferent to all.  Nothing can be more absurd than to oppose the love of country to the love of race.  The latter exists but as a wider diffusion of the former.  Do we not know that human nature, in its absolute perfection, and blent with the absolute and infinite perfection of Deity, indulged in the love of country?  The Saviour, when He took to Himself a human heart, wept over the city of His fathers.  Now, it is well that this spirit should be fostered, not in its harsh and exclusive, but in its human and more charitable form.

    Liberty cannot long exist apart from it.  The spirit of war and aggression is yet abroad: there are laws to be established, rights to be defended, invaders to be repulsed, tyrants to be deposed.  And who but the patriot is equal to these things?  How was the cry of 'Scotland for ever' responded to at Waterloo, when the Scots Greys broke through a column of the enemy to the rescue of their countrymen, and the Highlanders levelled their bayonets for the charge!  A people cannot survive without the national spirit, except as slaves.  The man who adds to the vigour of the feeling at the same time that he lessens its exclusiveness, deserves well of his country; and who can doubt that Sir Walter has done so?

    The sympathies of Sir Walter, despite his high Tory predilections, were more favourable to the people as such than those of Shakespeare.  If the station be low among the characters of the dramatist, it is an invariable rule that the style of thinking and of sentiment is low also.

    The humble wool-comber of Stratford-on-Avon, possessed of a mind more capacious beyond comparison than the minds of all the nobles and monarchs of the age, introduced no such man as himself into his dramas—no such men as Bunyan or Burns,—men low in place, but kingly in intellect.  Not so, however, the aristocratic Sir Walter.  There is scarcely a finer character in all his writings than the youthful peasant of Glendearg, Halbert Glendinning, afterwards the noble knight of Avenel, brave and wise, and alike fitted to lead in the councils of a great monarch, or to carry his banner in war.  His brother Edward is scarcely a lower character.  And when was unsullied integrity in a humble condition placed in an attitude more suited to command respect and regard, than in the person of Jeanie Deans?

    A man of a lower nature, wrapt round by the vulgar prejudices of rank, could not have conceived such a character: he would have transferred to it a portion of his own vulgarity, dressed up in a few borrowed peculiarities of habit and phraseology.  Even the character of Jeanie's father lies quite as much beyond the ordinary reach.  Men such as Sheridan, Fielding, and Foote, would have represented him as a hypocrite—a feeble and unnatural mixture of baseness and cunning.  Sir Walter, with all his prejudices and all his antipathies, not only better knew the national type, but he had a more comprehensive mind; and he drew David Deans, therefore, as a man of stern and inflexible integrity, and as thoroughly sincere in his religion.  Not but that in this department be committed great and grievous mistakes.  The main doctrine of revelation, with its influence on character—that doctrine of regeneration which our Saviour promulgated to Nicodemus, and enforced with the sanctity of an oath—was a doctrine of which he knew almost nothing.  What has the first place in all the allegories of Bunyan, has no place in the fictions of Sir Walter.  None of his characters exhibit the change displayed in the life of the ingenious allegorist of Elston, or of James Gardener, or of John Newton.

    He found human nature a terra incognita when it came under the influence of grace; and in this terra incognita, the field in which he could only grope, not see, his way, well-nigh all his mistakes were committed.  But had his native honesty been less, his mistakes would have been greater.

    He finds good even among Christians.  What can be finer than the character of his Covenanter's widow, standing out as it does in the most exceptionable of all his works, the blind and desolate woman, meek and forgiving in her utmost distress, who had seen her sons shot before her eyes, and had then ceased to see more?

    Our subject, however, is one which we must be content not to exhaust.


 
THE LATE MR. KEMP.*
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THE funeral of this hapless man of genius took place yesterday, and excited a deep and very general interest, in which there mingled the natural sorrow for high talent prematurely extinguished, with the feeling of painful regret, awakened by a peculiarly melancholy end.  It was numerously attended, and by many distinguished men.  The several streets through which it passed were crowded by saddened spectators—in some few localities very densely; and the windows overhead were much thronged.  At no place was the crowd greater, except perhaps immediately surrounding the burying ground, than at the fatal opening beside the Canal Basin, into which the unfortunate man had turned from the direct road in the darkness of night, and had found death at its termination.  The scene of the accident is a gloomy and singularly unpleasant spot.  A high wall, perforated by a low, clumsy archway, closes abruptly what the stranger might deem a thoroughfare.  There is a piece of sluggish, stagnant water on the one hand, thick and turbid, and somewhat resembling in form and colour a broad muddy highway, lined by low walls; not a tuft of vegetation is to be seen on its tame rectilinear sides: all is slimy and brown, with here and there dank, muddy recesses, as if for the frog and the rat; while on the damp flat above, there lie, somewhat in the style of the grouping in a Dutch painting, the rotting fragments of canal passage-boats and coal-barges, with here and there some broken-backed hulk, muddy and green, the timbers peering out through the planking, and all around heaps of the nameless lumber of a deserted boat-yard.  The low, clumsy archway is wholly occupied by a narrow branch of the canal,—brown and clay-like as the main trunk, from which it strikes off at nearly right angles.  It struck us forcibly, in examining the place, that in the uncertain light of midnight, the flat, dead water must have resembled an ordinary cart-road, leading through the arched opening in the direction of the unfortunate architect's dwelling; and certainly at this spot, just where he might be supposed to have stepped upon the seeming road under the fatal impression, was the body found.

    It had been intended, as the funeral letters bore, to inter the body of Mr. Kemp in the vault under the Scott Monument,—a structure which, erected to do honour to the genius of one illustrious Scotsman, will be long recognised as a proud trophy of the fine taste and vigorous talent of another.  The arrangement was not without precedent; and had it been possible for Sir Walter to have anticipated it, we do not think it would have greatly displeased him.  The Egyptian architect inscribed the name of his kingly master on but the plaster of the pyramid, while he engraved his own on the enduring granite underneath; and so the name of the king has been lost, and only that of the architect has survived.  And there are, no doubt, monuments in our own country which have been transferred in some sort, and on a somewhat similar principle, from their original object.  There are fine statues which reflect honour on but the sculptor that chiselled them, and tombs and cenotaphs inscribed with names so very obscure, that they give place in effect, if not literally, like that of the Egyptian king, to the name of the architect who reared them.  Had the Scott Monument been erected, like the monument of a neighbouring square, to express a perhaps not very seemly gratitude for the services of some tenth-rate statesman, who procured places for his friends, and who did not much else, it would have been perilous to convert it into the tomb of a man of genius like poor Kemp.  It would have been perilous had it been the monument of some mere litterateur.  The litterateur's works would have disappeared from the public eye, while that of the hapless architect would be for ever before it.  And it would be thus the architect, not the litterateur, that would be permanently remembered.  But the monument of Sir Walter was in no danger; and Sir Walter himself would have been quite aware of the fact.  It would not have displeased him, that in the remote future, when all its buttresses had become lichened and grey, and generation after generation had disappeared from around its base, the story would be told—like that connected in so many of our older cathedrals with 'prentice pillars' and 'prentice aisles'—that the poor architect who had designed its exquisite arches and rich pinnacles in honour of the Shakespeare of Scotland, had met an untimely death when engaged on it, and had found under its floor an appropriate grave.

    The intention, however, was not carried into effect.  It had been intimated in the funeral letters that the burial procession should quit the humble dwelling of the architect—for a humble dwelling it is—at half-past one.  It had been arranged, too, that the workmen employed at the monument, one of the most respectable-looking bodies of mechanics we ever saw, should carry the corpse to the grave.  They had gathered round the dwelling, a cottage at Morningside, with a wreath of ivy nodding from the wall; and the appearance of both it and them naturally suggested that the poor deceased, originally one of themselves, though he had risen, after a long struggle, into celebrity, had not risen into affluence.  Death had come too soon.  He had just attained his proper position—just reached the upper edge of the table-land which his genius had given him a right to occupy, and on which a competency might be soon and honourably secured—when a cruel accident struck him down.  The time specified for the burial passed—first one half-hour, and then another.  The assembled group wondered at the delay.  And then a gentleman from the dwelling-house came to inform them that some interdict or protest, we know not what—some, we suppose, perfectly legal document—had inhibited, at this late hour, the interment of the body in the monument, and that there was a grave in the course of being prepared for it in one of the city churchyards.


* ED.—George Meikle Kemp (1795-1844) was a Scottish joiner, draftsman, and self-taught architect.  He was buried in St. Cuthbert’s church-yard.


 
ANNIE M'DONALD
AND THE FIFESHIRE FORESTER.
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IT was the religion of Scotland that first developed the intellect of the country.  Nor would it be at all difficult to show how.  It is sufficiently easy to conceive the process through which earnest feeling concentrated on the great concerns of human destiny leads to earnest thinking, and how thinking propagates itself in its abstract character as such, even after the moving power which had first set its wheels in motion has ceased to operate.  The Reformation was mainly a religious movement, but it was pregnant with philosophy and the arts.  The grand doctrine of justification by faith, for which Luther and the other reformers contended, was wonderfully linked, by the God from whom it emanated, with all the great discoveries of modern science, and not a few of the proudest triumphs of literature.  It drew along with it in the train of events, as if by a golden chain, the philosophy of Bacon and Newton, and the poesy of Milton and Shakespeare.  But though the general truth of the remark has been acknowledged, the connection which it intimates—a connection clearly referable to the will of that adorable Being who has made 'godliness profitable for all things'—has been too much lost sight of.  Religious belief, transmuted in its reflex influences into mere intellectual activity, has too often assumed another nature and name, and forgotten or disowned its origin; and whatever is suited to remind us of the certainty of the connection, or to illustrate the mode of its operations, cannot be deemed other than important.  From a consideration of this character, we have been much pleased with a little work just published, which, taking up a single family in the humblest rank, shows, without any apparent intention of the kind on the part of the writer, how the Christianity of the country has operated on the popular intellect; and we think we can scarce do better than introduce it to the acquaintance of our readers.  Most of them have perhaps seen a memoir of one Annie M'Donald, published in Edinburgh some eight or ten years ago.  It is a humble production, given chiefly, as the title-page intimates, in Annie's own words; and Annie ranked among the humblest of our people.  She had never seen a single day in school.  When best and most favourably circumstanced, she was the wife of a farm-servant,—no very exalted station surely; but still a lowlier station awaited her, and she passed more than half a century in widowhood.  One of her daughters became the wife of a poor labourer, her two grandchildren were labourers also.  It is not easy to imagine a humbler lot, without crossing the line beyond which independence cannot be achieved; and yet Annie was a noble-hearted matron, one of the true aristocracy of the country.  Her long life was a protracted warfare—a scene of privation, sorrow, and sore trial; but she struggled bravely through, ever trusting in God, dependent on Him, and Him only; and if the dignity of human nature consist in integrity the most inflexible, energy the most untiring, strong sound thinking, deep devotional feeling, and a high-toned yet chastened spirit of independence, then was there more true dignity to he found in the humble cottage of Annie M'Donald, than in half the proud mansions of the country.  Many of our readers must be acquainted, as we have said, with her character, and some of the outlines of her story.  Most of them are acquainted, too, with the character of another very remarkable person, John Bethune, the Fifeshire Forester,—a man whose name, in all probability, they have never associated with Annie M'Donald.  He belongs to quite a different class of persons.  The venerable matron takes her place among those cultivators of the moral nature who live in close converse with their God, and on whom are restamped, if we may so speak, the lineaments of the divine image obliterated at the fall.  The poet, too early lost, ranks, on the other hand, among those hardy cultivators of the intellectual nature who, among all the difficulties incident to imperfect education, and a life of hardship and labour, struggle into notice through the force of an innate vigour, and impress the stamp of their mind on the literature of their country.  Much of the interest of the newly published memoir before us arises from the connection which it establishes between the matron and the poet.  It purports to be 'A Sketch of the Life of Annie M'Donald, by her Grandson, the late John Bethune.'  And scarce any one can peruse it without marking the powerful influence which the high religious character of the grandmother exerted on the intellectual character of her descendant.  The nobility of the humble family from which he sprung was derived evidently from this source.  That character, to borrow a homely but forcible metaphor from Burns, was the sustaining 'stalk of carle hemp' which bore it up and kept it from grovelling on the depressed level of its condition.  How very interesting a subject of thought and inquiry!  A little Highland girl, when tending cattle in the fields nearly a century ago, was led, through divine grace, to 'apprehend the mercy of God in Christ,' and to close with His free offers of salvation; and in the third generation we can see the effects of the transaction, not only in the blameless life and the pure sentiments of a true though humble poet, but in, also, the manly vigour of his thinking, and the high degree of culture which he was enabled to bestow on his intellectual faculties.

    The story of Annie M'Donald is such an one as a poet of Wordsworth's cast would delight to tell.  She was born in a remote and thinly inhabited district of the Highlands, and lost her father, a Highland crofter, while yet an infant.  She was his youngest child, but the other members of the family were all very young and helpless; and her poor mother, a woman still in the prime of life, had to wander with them into the low country, friendless and penniless, in quest of employment.  And employment after a weary pilgrimage she at length succeeded in procuring from a hospitable farmer in the parish of Kilmany, in Fifeshire.  An unoccupied hovel furnished her with a home; and here, with hard labour, she reared her children, till they were fitted to leave her one by one, and do something for themselves, chiefly in the way of herding cattle.  Annie grew up to be employed like the rest; and when a little herd-girl in the fields, 'she frequently fell into strains of serious meditation,' says her biographer, 'on the works of God, and on her own standing before Him.'  Let scepticism assert what it may, such is the nature of man.  God has written on every human heart the great truth of man's responsibility; and the simple, ignorant herd-girl could read it there, amid the solitude of the fields.  But the inscription seemed fraught with terror: she was perplexed by alternate doubts and fears, and troubled by wildly vivid imaginings during the day, and by frightful dreams by night.  Her mother had been unable to send her to school, but she got occasional lessons in the evenings from a fellow-servant; and through the desultory assistance obtained in this way, backed by her solitary efforts at self-instruction, she learned to read.  She must have deemed that an important day on which she found she could at length converse with books; and the books with which she most loved to discourse were such as related to the spiritual state.  She pored over the Shorter Catechism, and acquainted herself with her Bible.  But for years together, at this period, she suffered much distress of mind.  Her imagination possessed a wild activity, and the scenes and shapes which it was continually calling up before her were all of horror and dismay—the place of the lost, the appalling forms with which fancy invests the fallen spirits, the terrors of the last day, and the dread throne of judgment.  But a time of peace and comfort came; and she was enabled to lay hold on God in faith and hope as her God, through the all-sufficient blood of the atonement.  And this hold she never after relinquished.

    There was no pause in her humble toils.  From her early occupations in the fields, she passed in riper youth to the labours of the farm-house; and at the age of twenty-five experienced yet another change, in becoming the wife of a farm-servant, a quiet man of solid character, and whose religious views and feelings coincided with her own.  Her humble home was a solitary hut on the uplands, far from even her nearest neighbours; but it was her home, and she was happy.  With the consent of her husband, she took her agèd mother under her care, and succeeded in repaying more than the obligations incurred in infancy; for her instructions, through the blessing of God, were rendered apparently the means of the old woman's conversion.  There were sorrows that came to her even at the happiest, but they were mingled with comfort.  She lost one of her children by small-pox at a very early age; and yet, very early as the age was, evidence was not wanting in its death that the Psalmist spoke with full meaning when he said that God can perfect praise out of the mouths of babes and sucklings.  But there was a deeper grief awaiting her.  After a happy union of twelve years, her husband was seized in the night in their lonely shieling by a mortal distemper, at a time when only herself and her young children were present, and ere assistance could be procured he expired.  There is something extremely touching in the details of this event, as given by the poet, her grandson.  They strongly show how real an evil poverty is, in even the most favourable circumstances, when the hour of distress comes.  Cowper ceased to envy the '"peasant's nest," when he thought how its solitude made scant the means of life.'  We would almost covet the hut of Annie M'Donald as described by her grandson.  'It appeared,' he says, 'as if separated and raised above the world by the cultureless and elevated solitude on which it stood.  Around it on every side were grey rocks, peering out from among tufted grass, heath furze, and many-coloured mosses; forming what had been, till more recently—when the whole was converted into a plantation—a rather extensive sheep-walk.  For an extent equal to more than half the horizon, the eye might stretch away to the distant mountains, or repose on the intervening valleys; and from the highest part of the hill, a little to the eastward, the dark blue of the German Ocean was clearly visible.  It must have been a cheerful spot in the clear sunny days of summer, when even heaths and moors look gay—when the deep blue of the hills seems as if softening its tints to harmonize with the deep blue of the sky—when the hum of the bee is heard amid the heath, and the lark high overhead.  But it must have been a gloomy and miserable solitude on that night when the husband of Annie lay tossing in mortal agony, and no neighbour near to counsel or assist, her weeping children around her, and with neither lamp nor candle in the cottage.  It was only by the 'light of a burning coal taken from the fire, and exchanged for another as the flame waxed faint, that she was enabled to watch the progress of the fatal malady, and to tell at what time death set his unalterable seal on the pallid features of her husband.'

    Long years of incessant labour followed; her children were young and helpless, and her agèd mother still with her.  She removed to another cottage, where she rented an acre or two of land, that enabled her to keep a cow, and gave her opportunity, as the place was situated beside a considerable stream, of earning a small income as a bleacher of home-made linen.  The day, and not unfrequently the night, was spent in toil; but she was strengthened to endure, and so her children were bred up in hardy independence.  'During the weeks of harvest,' says her biographer, 'she was engaged as a reaper by the farmer from whom she rented her little tenement; and when her day's work was done, while her fellow-labourers retired to rest, she employed herself in reaping her own crops, or providing grass for the cow, and often continued her toil by the light of the harvest moon till it was almost midnight.  After a number of years thus spent, the expiration of the farmer's lease occasioned her removal.  Her family were now grown up; she could afford, in consequence, to have recourse to means of subsistence which, if more scanty, were less laborious than those which she had plied so long; and so, removing to a neighbouring village, she earned a livelihood for herself and her infirm mother by spinning carpet worsted at two-pence a-day, the common wages for a woman at that period.'  'The cottage which she now occupied,' we again quote, 'happened to be one of a number which the Countess of Leven charitably kept for the accommodation of poor people who were unable to pay a rent.  She, however, considered that she had no right to reckon herself among this class, so long as it should please God to afford her strength to provide for her own necessities; and therefore she deemed it unjustifiable to deprive the truly indigent of what had been intended exclusively for them.  Influenced by these motives, she removed at the next term to an adjacent hamlet, and here her agèd mother died.'  We need not minutely follow her after-course: it bore but one complexion to the end.  She taught a school for many years, and was of signal use to not a few of her pupils.  At an earlier period she experienced a desire to be able to write.  There was a friend at a distance whom she wished to comfort, by suggesting to her those topics of consolation which she herself had found of such solid use; and the wish had suggested the idea.  And so she did learn to write.  She took up a pen, and tried to imitate the letters in her Bible; an acquaintance subsequently furnished her with a copy of the alphabet commonly used in writing; and such was all the instruction she ever received in an art to which in after life she devoted a considerable portion of her time, and in the exercise of which she derived no small enjoyment.  In extreme old age she was rendered unable by deafness properly to attend to her school, and so, with her characteristic conscientiousness, she threw it up; but bodily strength was spared to her in a remarkable degree, and her last years were not wasted in idleness.  'Her spinning-wheel was again eagerly resorted to; even outdoor labour, when it could be obtained, was sometimes adopted.'  And the editor of the memoir before us—Alexander Bethune, the brother and biographer of John—relates that he recollects seeing her engaged in reaping, on one occasion, when in her eighty-second year; and that on the same field her favourite nephew the poet, at that time a boy of ten, was also essaying the labours of the harvest.  In one of the simple but touching epistles which we owe to her singularly acquired accomplishment of writing—a letter to one of her daughters—we find her thus expressing herself:—


'We finished our harvest last Monday, and here again I have cause for thankfulness.  I would desire to be doubly thankful to God for enabling my old and withered arms to use the sickle almost as well as they were wont to do when I was young, and for the favourable weather and abundant crop which in His mercy He has bestowed on us.  But, my dear child, there is in very deed a more important harvest before us.  Oh! may God, for Christ's sake, ripen us by the sunshine of His Spirit for the sickle of death, and stand by us in that trying hour, that we may be cut down as a shock of corn which is fully ripe.'


    Annie survived twelve years longer; for her life was prolonged through three full generations.  'In the intervals of domestic duty, her book and her pen were her constant companions.'  'The process of committing her thoughts to paper was rendered tedious, latterly, by the weakness and tremor of her hand; and her mind not unfrequently outran her pen, leaving blanks in her composition, which she did not always detect so as to enable her to fill them up.  And this circumstance sometimes rendered her meaning a little obscure.  But with all these deficiencies, her letters were generally appreciated by those to whom they were addressed.  Her conversation, too, was much sought after by serious individuals in all ranks in society; and occasionally it was pleasing to see the promiscuous visitors who met in her lowly cottage laying aside for a time the fastidious distinctions of birth and station, and humbly uniting in the exercise of Christian love.'  At length she could no longer leave her bed: 'her hearing was so much impaired, that it was with the greatest difficulty she could be made to understand what was said to her; and those friends who came to visit her were frequently requested to sit down by her bedside, where she might see their faces, though she could no longer enjoy their conversation.  After raising herself to a convenient position, she generally addressed them upon the importance of preparing for another world while health and strength remained; and tried to direct their attention to the merits and sufferings of the Saviour as the only sure ground of hope upon which sinners could rest their salvation in the hour of trial.'  As for her own departure, she 'had a thousand reasons,' she said, 'for wishing to be gone; but there was one reason which overbalanced them all—God's time had not yet arrived.'  But at length it did arrive.  'Lay me down,' she said, for the irritability of her nervous system had rendered frequent change of posture necessary, and her friends had just been indulging her,—'Lay me down; let me sleep my last sleep in Jesus.'  And these were her last words.  Her grandson John seems to have cherished, when a mere boy, years before she died, the design of writing her story; and the whole tone of his memoir (apparently one of his earlier prose compositions) shows how thorough was the respect which he entertained for her memory.  She forms the subject, too, of a copy of verses evidently of later production, and at least equal to any he ever wrote, in which he affectingly tells us how, when sadness and disease pressed upon the springs of life, and he lingered in suspense and disappointment, the hopes which she had so long cherished—


'The glorious hopes which flattered not—
 Dawned on him by degrees.'


He found the Saviour whom she had worshipped; and one of the last subsidiary hopes in which he indulged ere he bade the world farewell, was that in the place to which he was going he should meet with his beloved grandmother.  We have occupied so much space with our narrative, brief as it is, that we cannot follow up our original intention of showing how, in principle, the intellectual history of Bethune is an epitome of that of his country; but we must add that it would be well if, in at least one important respect, the history of his country resembled his history more.  The thoughtful piety of the grandmother prepared an atmosphere of high-toned thought, in which the genius of the grandson was fostered.  It constituted, to vary the figure, the table-land from which he arose; but how many of a resembling class, and indebted in a similar way, have directed the influence of their writings to dissipate that atmosphere—to lower that table-land!  We refer the reader to the interesting little work from which we have drawn our materials.  It is edited by the surviving Bethune, the brother and biographer of the poet, and both a vigorous writer and a worthy man.  There are several of the passages which it comprises of his composition; among the rest, the very striking passage with which the memoir concludes, and in which he adds a few additional facts illustrative of his grandmother's character, and describes her personal appearance.  The description will remind our readers of one of the more graphic pictures of Wordsworth, that of the stately dame on whose appearance the poet remarks quaintly, but significantly,


'Old tunes are living there.'


    'From the date of her birth,' says Alexander Bethune,


 'it will be seen that she (Annie M'Donald) was in her ninety-fourth year at the time of her death.  In person she was spare; and ere toil and approaching age had bent her frame, she must have been considerably above the middle size.  Even after she was far advanced in life, there was in her appearance a rigidity of outline and a sinewy firmness which told of no ordinary powers of endurance.  There was much of true benevolence in the cast of her countenance; while the depth of her own Christian feelings gave an expression of calm yet earnest sympathy to her eye, which was particularly impressive.  Limited as were her resources, she had been a regular contributor to the Bible and Missionary Societies for a number of years previous to her death.  Nor was she slow to minister to the necessities of others according to her ability.  Notwithstanding the various items thus disposed of during the latter part of her life, she had saved a small sum of money, which at her death was left to her unmarried daughters.'


    The touching description of the poet we must also subjoin.  No one can read it without feeling its truth, or without being convinced that, to be thoroughly true in the circumstances, was to be intensely poetical.  The recollection of such a relative affectionately retained was of itself poetry.


MY GRANDMOTHER.


Long years of toil and care,
    And pain and poverty, have passed
Since last I listened to her prayer,
    And looked upon her last;
Yet how she spoke, and how she smiled
Upon me, when a playful child—
    The lustre of her eye—
The kind caress—the fond embrace—
The reverence of her placid face,—
    All in my memory lie
As fresh as they had only been
Bestowed and felt, and heard and seen,
    Since yesterday went by.

Her dress was simply neat—
    Her household tasks so featly done;
Even the old willow-wicker seat
    On which she sat and spun—
The table where her Bible lay,
Open from morn till close of day—
    The standish, and the pen
With which she noted, as they rose.
Her thoughts upon the joys, the wood,
    The final fate of men,
And sufferings of her Saviour God,—
Each object in her poor abode
    Is visible as then.

Nor are they all forgot,
    The faithful admonitions given,
And glorious hopes which flattered not,
    But led the soul to heaven!
These had been hers, and have been mine
When all beside had ceased to shine—
    When sadness and disease,
And disappointment and suspense,
Had driven youth's fairest fancies hence,
    Short'ning its fleeting lease:
'Twas then these hopes, amid the dark
Just glimmering, like an unqueuch'd spark,
    Dawned on me by degrees.

To her they gave a light
    Brighter than sun or star supplied;
And never did they shine more bright
    Than just before she died.
Death's shadow dimm'd her agèd eyes,
Grey clouds had clothed the evening skies,
    And darkness was abroad;
But still she turned her gaze above,
As if the eternal light of love
    On her glazed organs glowed,
Like beacon-fire at closing even,
Hung out between the earth and heaven,
    To guide her soul to God

And then they brighter grew,
    Beaming with everlasting bliss,
As if the eternal world in view
    Had weaned her eyes from this:
And every feature was composed,
As with a placid smile they closed
    On those who stood around,
Who felt it was a sin to weep
O'er such a smile and such a sleep—
    So peaceful, so profound;
And though they wept, their tears expressed
Joy for her time-worn frame at rest—
    Her soul with mercy crowned.


August 10, 1822.


 
A HIGHLAND CLEARING.
――― ♦ ―――


HOW quickly the years fly!  One twelvemonth more, and it will be a full quarter of a century since we last saw the wild Highland valley so well described by Mr. Robertson in his opening paragraphs. [19]  And yet the recollection is as fresh in our memory now as it was twenty years ago.  The chill winter night had fallen on the brown round hills and alder-skirted river, as we turned from off the road that winds along the Kyle of the Dornoch Frith into the bleak gorge of Strathcarron.  The shepherd's cottage, in which we purposed passing the night, lay high up in the valley, where the lofty sides—partially covered at that period by the remnants of an ancient forest—approach so near each other, and rise so abruptly, that for the whole winter quarter the sun never falls on the stream below.  There were still some ten or twelve miles of broken road before us.  The moon in its first quarter hung low over the hills, dimly revealing their rough outline, and throwing its tinge of faint bronze on the broken clumps of wood in the hollows.  A keen frost had set in; and a thick trail of fog-rime, raised by its influence in the calm, and which at the height of some eighty or a hundred feet hung over the river—scarce less defined in its margin than the river itself, for it winded wherever the stream winded, and ran straight as an arrow wherever the stream ran straight—occupied the whole length of the valley, like an enormous snake lying uncoiled in its den.  The numerous turf cottages on either side were invisible in the darkness, save that ever and anon the brief twinkle of a light indicated their existence and their places.  In a recess of the stream the torch of some adventurous fisher now gleamed red on rock and water, now suddenly disappeared, eclipsed by the overhanging brushwood, or by some jutting angle of the bank.  The distant roar of the stream mingled sullenly in the calm, with its nearer and hoarser dash, as it chafed on the ledges below, filling the air with a wild music, that seemed the appropriate voice of the impressive scenery from amid which it arose.  It was late ere we reached the shepherd's cottage—a dark, raftered, dimly-lighted building of turf and stone.  The weather for several weeks before had been rainy and close, and the flocks of the inmate had been thinned by the common scourge of the sheep-farmer at such seasons on marshy and unwholesome farms.  The rafters were laden with skins besmeared with blood, that dangled overhead to catch the conservative influences of the smoke; and on a rude plank table below there rose two tall pyramids of dark-coloured joints of braxy mutton, heaped up each on a corn riddle.  The shepherd—a Highlander of colossal proportions, but hard and thin, and worn by the cares and toils of at least sixty winters—sat moodily beside the fire.  The state of his flocks was not particularly cheering; and he had, besides, seen a vision of late, he said, that filled his mind with strange forebodings.  He had gone out after nightfall on the previous evening to a dank hollow on the hill-side, in which many of his flock had died; the rain had ceased a few hours before, and a smart frost had set in, that, as on this second evening, filled the whole valley with a wreath of silvery vapour, dimly lighted by the thin fragment of a moon that appeared as if resting at the time on the hill-top.  The wreath stretched out its grey folds beneath him, for he had climbed half-way up the acclivity, when suddenly what seemed the figure of a man in heated metal—the figure of a brazen man brought to a red heat in a furnace—sprang up out of the darkness; and after stalking over the surface of the fog for a few seconds—in which, however, it traversed the greater part of the valley—as suddenly disappeared, leaving an evanescent trail of flame behind it.  There could be little doubt that the old shepherd had merely seen one of those shooting lights that in mountain districts, during unsettled weather, so frequently startle the night traveller, and that some peculiarity of form in the meteor had been exaggerated by the obscuring influence of the frost-rime and the briefness of the survey; but the apparition had filled his whole mind, as one of strange and frightful portent from the spiritual world.  And often since that night has it returned to us in recollection, as a vision in singular keeping with the wild valley which it traversed, and the credulous melancholy of the solitary shepherd, its only witness,—


'A meteor of the night of distant years,
 That flashed unnoticed, save by wrinkled eld
 Musing at midnight upon prophecies.'


    By much the greater part of Strathcarron, in those days, was in the possession of its ancient inhabitants; and we learn from the description of Mr. Robertson, that it has since undergone scarce any change.  'Strathcarron,' he says, 'is still in the old state.'  Throughout its whole extent the turf cottages of the aborigines rise dark and thick as heretofore, from amid their irregular patches of potatoes and corn.  But in an adjacent glen, through which the Calvie works its headlong way to the Carron, that terror of the Highlanders, a summons of removal, has been served within the last few months on a whole community; and the graphic sketch of Mr. Robertson relates both the peculiar circumstances in which it has been issued, and the feelings which it has excited.  We find from his testimony, that the old state of things which is so immediately on the eve of being broken up in this locality, lacked not a few of those sources of terror to the proprietary of the country, that are becoming so very formidable to them in the newer states.  A spectral poor-law sits by our waysides, wrapped up in death-flannels of the English cut, and shakes its skinny hand at the mansion-houses of our landlords,—vision beyond comparison more direfully portentous than the apparition seen by the lone shepherd of Strathcarron.  But in the Highlands, at least; it is merely the landlord of the new and improved state of things—the landlord of widespread clearings and stringent removal-summonses—that it threatens.  The existing poor-law in Glencalvie is a self-enforcing law, that rises direct out of the unsophisticated sympathies of the Highland heart, and costs the proprietary nothing.  'The constitution of society in the glen,' says Mr. Robertson, 'is remarkably simple.  Four heads of families are bound for the whole rental of £55, 13s. a year; the number of souls is about ninety.  Sixteen cottages pay rent; three cottages are occupied by old lone women, who pay no rent, and who have a grace from the others for the grazing of a few goats or sheep, by which they live.  This self-working poor-law system,' adds Mr. Robertson, 'is supported by the people themselves; the laird, I am informed, never gives anything to it.'  Now there must be at least some modicum of good in such a state of things, however old-fashioned; and we are pretty sure such of our English neighbours as leave their acres untilled year after year, to avoid the crushing pressure of the statuteen-forced poor-law that renders them not worth the tilling, would be somewhat unwilling, were the state made theirs, to improve it away.  Nor does it seem a state—with all its simplicity, and all its perhaps blameable indifferency to modern improvement—particularly hostile to the development of mind or the growth of morals.  'The people of Amat and Glencalvie themselves supported a teacher for the education of their children,' says Mr. Robertson.  'The laird,' he adds, 'has never lost a farthing of rent.  In bad years, such as 1836 or 1837, the people may have required the favour of a few weeks' delay, but they are now not a single farthing in arrears.'

    Mr. Robertson gives us the tragedy of a clearing in its first act.  We had lately the opportunity of witnessing the closing scene in the after-piece, by which a clearing more than equally extensive has been followed up, and which bids fair to find at no distant day many counterparts in the Highlands of Scotland.  Rather more than twenty years ago, the wild, mountainous island of Rum, the home of considerably more than five hundred souls, was divested of all its inhabitants, to make way for one sheep-farmer and eight thousand sheep.  It was soon found, however, that there are limits beyond which it is inconvenient to depopulate a country on even the sheep-farm system: the island had been rendered too thoroughly a desert for the comfort of the tenant; and on the occasion of a clearing which took place in a district of Skye, and deprived of their homes many of the old inhabitants, some ten or twelve families of the number were invited to Rum, and may now be found squatting on the shores of the only bay of the island, on a strip of unprofitable morass.  But the whole of the once peopled interior remains a desert, all the more lonely in its aspect from the circumstance that the solitary glens, with their green, plough-furrowed patches, and their ruined heaps of stone, open upon shores every whit as solitary as themselves, and that the wide untrodden sea stretches drearily around.  We spent a long summer's day amidst its desert recesses, and saw the sun set behind its wilderness of pyramidal hills.  The evening was calm and clear; the armies of the insect world were sporting by millions in the light; a brown stream that ran through the valley at our feet yielded an incessant poppling sound from the myriads of fish that were incessantly leaping in the pools, beguiled by the quick glancing wings of green and gold that incessantly fluttered over them; the half-effaced furrows borrowed a richer hue from the yellow light of sunset; the broken cottage-walls stood up more boldly prominent on the hill-side, relieved by the lengthening shadows; along a distant hill-side there ran what seemed the ruins of a grey stone fence, erected, says tradition, in a very remote age to facilitate the hunting of deer: all seemed to bespeak the place a fitting habitation for man, and in which not only the necessaries, but not a few also of the luxuries of life, might be procured—but in the entire prospect not a man nor a man's dwelling could the eye command.  The landscape was one without figures.  And where, it may be asked, was the one tenant of the island for whose sake so many others had been removed?  We found his house occupied by a humble shepherd, who had in charge the wreck of his property,—property no longer his, but held for the benefit of his creditors.  The great sheep-farmer had gone down under circumstances of very general bearing, and on whose after development, when in their latent state, improving landlords had failed to calculate; the island itself was in the market, and a report went current at the time that it was on the eve of being purchased by some wealthy Englishman, who purposed converting it into a deer-forest.  The cycle—which bids fair to be that of the Highlands generally—had already revolved in the depopulated island of Rum.

    We have said that the sheep-farmer had gone down, in this instance, under adverse circumstances of very extensive bearing.  In a beautiful transatlantic poem, a North American Indian is represented as visiting by night the tombs of his fathers, now surrounded, though reared in the depths of a forest, by the cultivated farms and luxurious dwellings of the stranger, and there predicting that the race by which his had been supplaced should be in turn cast out of their possessions.  His fancy on the subject is a wild one, though not unfitted for the poet.  The streams, he said, were yielding a lower murmur than of old, and rolling downwards a decreasing volume; the springs were less copious in their supplies; the land, shorn of its forests, was drying up under the no longer softened influence of summer suns.  Yet a few ages more, and it would spread out all around an arid and barren wilderness, unfitted, like the deserts of the East, to be a home of man.  The fancy, we repeat, though a poetic, is a wild one; but the grounds from which we infer that the clearers of the Highlands—the supplanters of the Highlanders—are themselves to be cleared and supplanted in turn, is neither wild nor poetic.  The voice which predicts in the case is a voice, not of shrinking rivulets nor failing springs, but of the 'Cloth Hall' in Leeds, and of the worsted factories of Bradford and Halifax.  Most of our readers must be aware that the great woollen trade of Britain divides into two main branches—its woollen cloth manufacture, and its worsted and stuff manufactures: and in both these the estimation in which British wool is held has mightily sunk of late years, never apparently to rise again; for it has sunk, not through any caprice of fashion, but in the natural progress of improvement.  Mr. Dodd, in his interesting little work on the Textile Manufactures of Great Britain, refers incidentally to the fact, in drawing a scene in the Cloth Hall of Leeds, introduced simply for the purpose of showing at how slight an expense of time and words business is transacted in this great mart of trade.  'All the sellers,' says Mr. Dodd, 'know all the buyers; and each buyer is invited, as he passes along, to look at some "olives," or "browns," or "pilots," or "six quarters," or "eight quarters;" and the buyer decides in a wonderfully short space of time whether it will answer his purpose to purchase or not.  "Mr. A., just look at these olives."  "How much?"  "Six and eight."  "Too high."  Mr. A. walks on, and perhaps a neighbouring clothier draws his attention to a piece, or "end," of cloth.  "What's this?" "Five and three."  "Too low."  The "too high" relates, as may be supposed, to the price per yard; whereas the "too low" means that the quality of the cloth is lower than the purchaser requires.  Another seller accosts him with "Will this suit you, Mr. A.?"  "Any English wool?" "Not in much; it is nearly all foreign;" a question and answer which exemplify the disfavour into which English wool has fallen in the cloth trade.  But it is not the cloth trade alone in which it has fallen into disfavour.  'The rapid extension of the worsted manufacture in this country,' says the same writer in another portion of his work, 'is very remarkable.  So long as efforts were made by English wool-growers to compel the use of the English wool in cloth-making—efforts which the Legislature for many years sanctioned by legal enactments—the worsted fabrics made were chiefly of a coarse and heavy kind, such as "camlets;" but when the wool trade was allowed to flow into its natural channels by the removal of restrictions, the value of all the different kinds of wool became appreciated, and each one was appropriated to purposes for which it seemed best fitted.  The wool of one kind of English sheep continued in demand for hosiery and coarse worsted goods; and the wool of the Cashmere and Angora goats came to be imported for worsted goods of finer quality.'  The colonist and the foreign merchant have been brought into the field, and the home producer labours in vain to compete with them on what he finds unequal terms.

    Hence the difficulties which, in a season of invigorated commerce and revived trade, continue to bear on the British wool-grower, and which bid fair to clear him from the soil which he divested of the original inhabitants.  Every new sheep-rearing farm that springs up in the colonies—whether in Australia, or New Zealand, or Van Diemen's Land, or Southern Africa—sends him its summons of removal in the form of huge bales of wool, lower in price and better in quality than he himself can produce.  The sheep-breeders of New Holland and the Cape threaten to avenge the Rosses of Glencalvie.  But to avenge is one thing, and to right another.  The comforts of our poor Highlander have been deteriorating, and his position lowering, for the last three ages, and we see no prospect of improvement.

    'For a century,' says Mr. Robertson,


    'their privileges have been lessening: they dare not now hunt the deer, or shoot the grouse or the blackcock; they have no longer the range of the hills for their cattle and their sheep; they must not catch a salmon in a stream: in earth, air, and water, the rights of the laird are greater, and the rights of the people are smaller, than they were in the days of their forefathers.  Yet, forsooth, there is much talk of philosophers of the progress of democracy as a progress to equality of conditions in our day!  One of the ministers who accompanied me had to become bound for law expenses to the amount of £20 inflicted on the people for taking a log from the forest for their bridge,—a thing they and their fathers had always done unchallenged.'


    One eloquent passage more, and we have done.  It is thus we find Mr. Robertson, to whose intensely interesting sketch we again direct the attention of the reader, summing up the case of the Rosses of Glencalvie:


    'The father of the laird of Kindeace bought Glencalvie.  It was sold by a Ross two short centuries ago.  The swords of the Rosses of Glencalvie did their part in protecting this little glen, as well as the broad lands of Pitcalnie, from the ravages and the clutches of hostile septs.  These clansmen bled and died in the belief that every principle of honour and morals secured their descendants a right to subsisting on the soil.  The chiefs and their children had the same charter of the sword.  Some Legislatures have made the right of the people superior to the right of the chief; British law-makers have made the rights of the chief everything, and those of their followers nothing.  The ideas of the morality of property are in most men the creatures of their interests and sympathies.  Of this there cannot be a doubt, however: the chiefs would not have had the land at all, could the clansmen have foreseen the present state of the Highlands—their children in mournful groups going into exile—the faggot of legal myrmidons in the thatch of the feal cabin—the hearths of their loves and their lives the green sheep-walks of the stranger.

    'Sad it is, that it is seemingly the will of our constituencies that our laws shall prefer the few to the many.  Most mournful will it be, should the clansmen of the Highlands have been cleared away, ejected, exiled, in deference to a political, a moral, a social, and an economical mistake,—a suggestion not of philosophy, but of mammon,—a system in which the demon of sordidness assumed the shape of the angel of civilisation and of light.'


September 4, 1844


 
THE POET MONTGOMERY.
――― ♦ ―――


THE reader will find in our columns a report, as ample as our limits have allowed, of the public breakfast given in Edinburgh on Wednesday last [20] to our distinguished countryman James Montgomery, and his friend the missionary Latrobe.  We have rarely shared in a more agreeable entertainment, and have never listened to a more pleasing or better-toned address than that in which the poet ran over some of the more striking incidents of his early life.  It was in itself a poem, and a very fine one.  An old and venerable man returning to his native country after an absence of sixty years after two whole generations had passed away, and the grave had closed over almost all his contemporaries—would be of itself a matter of poetical interest, even were the agèd visitor a person of but the ordinary cast of thought and depth of feeling.  How striking the contrast between the sunny, dream-like recollections of childhood to such an individual, and the surrounding realities—between the scenes and figures on this side the wide gulf of sixty years, and the scenes and figures on that: yonder, the fair locks of infancy, its bright, joyous eyes, and its speaking smiles; here, the grey hairs and careworn wrinkles of rigid old age, tottering painfully on the extreme verge of life!  But if there attaches thus a poetic interest to the mere circumstances of such a visit, how much more, in the present instance, from the character of the visitor,—a man whose thoughts and feelings, tinted by the warm hues of imagination, retain in his old age all the strength and freshness of early youth!

    Hogg, when first introduced to Wilkie, expressed his gratification at finding him so young a man.  We experienced a similar feeling on first seeing the poet Montgomery.  He can be no young man, who, looking backwards across two whole generations, can recount from recollection, like Nestor of old, some of the occurrences of the third.  But there is a green old age, in which the spirits retain their buoyancy, and the intellect its original vigour; and the whole appearance of the poet gives evidence that his evening of life is of this happy and desirable character.  His appearance speaks of antiquity, but not of decay.  His locks have assumed a snowy whiteness, and the lofty and full-arched coronal region exhibits what a brother poet has well termed the 'clear bald polish of the honoured head;' but the expression of the countenance is that of middle life.  It is a clear, thin, speaking countenance: the features are high; the complexion fresh, though not ruddy; and age has failed to pucker either cheek or forehead with a single wrinkle.  The spectator sees at a glance that all the poet still survives—that James Montgomery in his sixty-fifth year is all that he ever was.  The forehead, rather compact than large, swells out on either side towards the region of ideality, and rises high, in a fine arch, into what, if phrenology speak true, must be regarded as an amply developed organ of veneration.  The figure is quite as little touched by age as the face.  It is well but not strongly made, and of the middle size; and yet there is a touch of antiquity about it too, derived, however, rather from the dress than from any peculiarity in die person itself.  To a plain suit of black Mr. Montgomery adds the voluminous breast ruffles of the last age—exactly such things as, in Scotland at least, the fathers of the present generation wore on their wedding days.  These are perhaps but small details; but we notice them just because we have never yet met with any one who took an interest in a celebrated name, without trying to picture to himself the appearance of the individual who bore it.

    There are some very pleasing incidents beautifully related in the address of Mr. Montgomery.  It would have been false taste and delicacy in such a man to have forborne speaking of himself.  His return, after an absence equal to the term of two full generations, to his native cottage, is an incident exquisitely poetic.  He finds his father's humble chapel converted into a workshop, and strangers sit beside the hearth that had once been his mother's.  And where were that father and mother?  Their bones moulder in a distant land, where the tombstones cast no shadow when the fierce sun looks down at noon upon their graves.  'Taking their lives in their hands,' they had gone abroad to preach Christ to the poor enslaved negro, for whose soul at that period scarce any one cared save the United Brethren; and in the midst of their labours of piety and love, they had fallen victims to the climate.  He passed through the cottage and the workshop, calling up the dreamlike recollections of his earliest scene of existence, and recognising one by one the once familiar objects within.  One object he failed to recognise.  It was a small tablet fixed in the wall.  He went up to it, and found it intimated that James Montgomery the poet had been born there.  Was it not almost as if one of the poets or philosophers of a former time had lighted, on revisiting the earth as a disembodied spirit, on his own monument?  Of scarce less interest is his anecdote of Monboddo.  The parents of the poet bad gone abroad, as we have said, and their little boy was left with the Brethren at Fulneck, a Moravian settlement in the sister kingdom.  He was one of their younger scholars at a time when Lord Monboddo, still so well known for his great talents and acquirements, and his scarce less marked eccentricities, visited the settlement, and was shown, among other things, their little school.  His Lordship stood among the boys, coiling and uncoiling his whip on the floor, and engaged as if in counting the nail-heads in the boarding.  The little fellows were all exceedingly curious; none of them had ever seen a real live lord before, and Monboddo was a very strange-looking lord indeed.  He wore a large, stiff, bushy periwig, surmounted by a huge, odd-looking hat; his very plain coat was studded with brass buttons of broadest disk, and his voluminous inexpressibles were of leather.  And there he stood, with his grave, absent face bent downwards, drawing and redrawing his whip along the floor, as the Moravian, his guide, pointed out to his notice boy after boy.  'And this,' said the Moravian, coming at length to young Montgomery, 'is a countryman of your Lordship's.'  His Lordship raised himself up, looked hard at the little fellow, and then shaking his huge whip over his head, 'Ah,' he exclaimed, 'I hope his country will have no reason to be ashamed of him.'  'The circumstance,' said the poet, 'made a deep impression on my mind; and I determined—I trust the resolution was not made in vain—I determined in that moment that my country should not have reason to be ashamed of me.'

    Scotland has no reason to be ashamed of James Montgomery.  Of all her poets, there is not one of equal power, whose strain has been so uninterruptedly pure, or whose objects have been so invariably excellent.  The child of the Christian missionary has been the poet of Christian missions.  The parents laid down their lives in behalf of the enslaved and perishing negro; the son, in strains the most vigorous and impassioned, has raised his generous appeal to public justice in his behalf.  Nor has the appeal been in vain.  All his writings bear the stamp of the Christian; many of them—embodying feelings which all the truly devout experience, but which only a poet could express—have been made vehicles for addressing to the Creator the emotions of many a grateful heart; and, employed chiefly on themes of immortality, they promise to outlive not only songs of intellectually a lower order, but of even equal powers of genius, into whose otherwise noble texture sin has introduced the elements of death.


28th October 1841.



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