Scenes and Legends (2)

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CHAPTER V.


"She darkling grapit for the baulks,
 And in the blue clue throws then,"—B
URNS.


VIOLENCE may anticipate by many centuries the natural progress of decay.  There are some of our Scottish cathedrals less entire than some of our old Picts' houses, though the latter have been deserted for more than a thousand years, and the former for not more than three hundred.  And the remark is not less applicable to the beliefs and usages of other ages, than to their more material remains.  It is a curious fact, that we meet among the Protestants of Scotland with more marked traces of the Paganism of their earlier, than of the Popery of their later ancestors.  For while Christianity seems to have been introduced into the country by slow degrees, and to have travelled over it by almost imperceptible stages—leaving the less obnoxious practices of the mythology which it supplanted to the natural course of decay—it is matter of history that the doctrines of the Reformation overspread it in a single age, and that the observances of the old system were effaced, not by a gradual current of popular opinion, but by the hasty surges of popular resentment.  The saint-days of the priest have in consequence been long since forgotten—the festivals of the Druid still survive.

    There is little risk of our mistaking these latter; the rites of Halloween, and the festivities of Beltane, possess well-authenticated genealogies.  There are other usages, however, which, though they bear no less strongly the impress of Paganism, show a more uncertain lineage.  And regarding these, we find it difficult to determine whether they have come down to us from the days of the old mythology, or have been produced in a later period by those sentiments of the human mind to which every false religion owes its origin.  The subject, though a curious, is no very tangible one.  But should I attempt throwing together a few simple thoughts respecting it, in that wandering desultory style which seems best to consort with its irregularity of outline, I trust I may calculate on the forbearance of the reader.  I shall strive to be not very tedious, and to choose a not very beaten path.

    Man was made for the world, and the world for man.  Hence we find that every faculty of the human mind has in the things which lie without some definite object, or particular class of circumstances, on which to operate.  There is a thorough adaptation of that which acts to that which is acted upon—of the moving power to the machine; and woe be to him who deranges this admirable order, in the hope of rendering it more complete.  It is prettily fabled by the Brahmins, that souls are moulded by pairs, and then sent to the earth to be linked together in wedlock, and that matches are unhappy merely in consequence of the parties disuniting by the way, and choosing for themselves other consorts.  One might find more in this fable than any Brahmin ever found in it yet.  There is a prospective connexion of a similar kind formed between the powers of the mind and the objects on which these are to be employed, and should they be subsequently united to objects other than the legitimate, a wretchedness quite as real as that which arises out of an ill-mated marriage is the infallible result.

    Were I asked to illustrate my meaning by an example or two, I do not know where I could find instances better suited to my purpose than in the imaginative extravagancies of some of our wilder sectaries.  There is no principle which so deals in unhappy marriages, and as unhappy divorces, as the fanatical; or that so ceaselessly employs itself in separating what Heaven has joined, and in joining what Heaven has separated.  Man, I have said, was made for the world he lives in;—I should have added, that he was intended also for another world.  Fanaticism makes a somewhat similar omission, only it is the other way.  It forgets that he is as certainly a denizen of the present as an heir of the future; that the same Being who has imparted to him the noble sentiment which leads him to anticipate an hereafter, has also bestowed upon him a thousand lesser faculties which must be employed now; and that, if he prove untrue to even the minor end of his existence, and slight his proper though subordinate employments, the powers which he thus separates from their legitimate objects must, from the very activity of their nature, run riot in the cloisters in which they are shut up, and cast reproach by their excesses on the cause to which they are so unwisely dedicated.  For it is one thing to condemn these to a life of celibacy, and quite another to keep them chaste.  We may shut them up, like a sisterhood of nuns, from the objects to which they ought to have been united, but they will infallibly discover some less legitimate ones with which to connect themselves.  Self-love, and the natural desire of distinction—proper enough sentiments in their own sphere—make but sad work in any other.  The imagination, which was so bountifully given us to raise its ingenious theories as a kind of scaffolding to philosophical discovery, is active to worse purpose when revelling intoxicated amid the dim fields of prophecy, or behind the veil of the inner mysteries.  Reason itself, though a monarch in its own proper territories, can exert only a doubtful authority in the provinces which lie beyond.  Indeed, the whole history of fanaticism, from when St. Anthony retired into the deserts of Upper Egypt to burrow in a cell like a fox-earth, down to the times that witnessed some of the wilder heresiarchs of our own country, working what they had faith enough to deem miracles, is little else than a detail of the disorders occasioned by perversions of this nature.

    There is an exhibition of phenomena equally curious when the religious sentiment, instead of thus swallowing up all the others, is deprived of even its own proper object.  I once saw a solitary hen bullfinch, that retired one spring into a dark corner of her cage and laid an egg, over which she sat until it was addled.  It is always thus when the devotional sentiment is left to form a religion for itself.  Enraged like the poor bullfinch, it proves fruitful in just a similar way, and moping in its dark recesses, brings forth its pitiful abortions unassisted and alone.  I have ever thought of the pantheons and mythological dictionaries of our libraries as a kind of museums, stored, like those of the anatomist, with embryos and abortions.

    It must be remarked further, that the devotional sentiment operates in this way not only when its proper object is wanting, but even, should the mind be dark and uninformed, when that is present.  Every false religion may be regarded as a wild irregular production, springing out of that basis of sentiment (one of the very foundations of our nature) which, when rendered the subject of a right course of culture, and sown with the good seed, proves the proper field of the true.  But on this field, even when occupied the better way, there may be the weeds of a rank indigenous mythology shooting up below—a kind of subordinate superstition, which, in other circumstances, would have been not the underwood, but the forest.  Hence our difficulty in fixing the genealogy of the Pagan-like usages to which I allude; there are two opposite sources, from either of which they may have sprung:—they may form a kind of undergrowth, thrown up at no very early period by a soil occupied by beliefs the most serious and rational, or they may constitute the ancient and broken vestiges of an obsolete and exploded mythology.  I shall briefly describe a few of the more curious.

    I. People acquainted with seafaring men, and who occasionally accompany them in their voyages, cannot miss seeing them, when the sails are drooping against the mast, and the vessel lagging in her course, earnestly invoking the wind in a shrill tremulous whistling—calling on it, in fact, in its own language; and scarcely less confident of being answered than if preferring a common request to one of their companions.  I rarely sail in calm weather with my friends the Cromarty fishermen, without seeing them thus employed—their faces anxiously turned in the direction whence they expect the breeze; now pausing, for a light uncertain air has begun to ruffle the water, and now resuming the call still more solicitously than before, for it has died away.  On thoughtlessly beginning to whistle one evening about twelve years ago, when our skiff was staggering under a closely-reefed foresail, I was instantly silenced by one of the fishermen with a "Whisht, whist, boy, we have more than wind enough already," and I remember being much struck for the first time by the singularity of the fact, that the winds should be as sincerely invoked by our Scottish seamen of the present day, as by the mariners of Themistocles.  There was another such practice common among the Cromarty fishermen of the last age, but it is now obsolete.  It was termed soothing the waves.  When beating up in stormy weather along a lee-shore, it was customary for one of the men to take his place on the weather gunwale, and there continue waving his hand in a direction opposite to the sweep of the sea, in the belief that this species of appeal to it would induce it to lessen its force.  We recognise in both these singular practices the workings of that religion natural to the heart, which, more vivid in its personifications than poetry itself, can address itself to every power of nature as to a sentient being endowed with a faculty being of will, and able, as it inclines, either to aid or injure.  The seaman's prayer to the winds, and the thirty thousand gods of the Greek, probably derive their origin from a similar source.

    II. Viewed in the light of reason, an oath owes its sacredness, not to any virtue in itself, but to the Great Being to whom it is so direct an appeal, and to the good and rational belief that He knows all things, and is the ultimate judge of all.  But the same uninformed principle which can regard the winds and waves as possessed of a power independent of His, seems also to have conferred on the oath an influence and divinity exclusively its own.  I have met with many among the more grossly superstitious, who deemed it a kind of ordeal, somewhat similar to the nine ploughshares of the dark ages, which distinguished between right and wrong, truth or falsehood, by some occult intrinsic virtue.  The innocent person swears, and like the guiltless woman when she had drunk the waters of jealousy, thrives none the worse; the guilty perjure themselves, and from that hour cease to prosper.  I remember—by the way, a very early recollection—that when a Justice of Peace Court was sitting in my native town, many years ago, a dark cloud came suddenly aver the sun; and that a man who had been lounging on the street below, ran into the Court-room to see who it was that, by swearing a false oath, had occasioned the obscuration.  It is a rather singular coincidence, and one which might lead us to believe in the existence of something analogous to principle in even the extravagancies of human belief, that the only oath deemed binding on the gods of classical mythology—the oath by the river Styx—was one of merely intrinsic power and virtue.  Bacon, indeed, in his "Wisdom of the Ancients" (a little book but a great work), has explained the fable as merely an ingenious allegory; but who does not know that the Father of modern philosophy found half the Novum Organum in superstitions which existed before the days of Orpheus?

    III. There seems to have once obtained in this part of the country a belief that the natural sentiment of justice had its tutelary spirit, which, like the Astræa of the Greeks, existed for it, and for it alone; and which not only seconded the dictates of conscience, but even punished those by whom they were disregarded.  The creed of superstition is, however, rarely a well defined or consistent one; and this belief seems to have partaken, as much as any of the others, of the incoherent obscurity in which it originated.  The mysterious agent (the object of it) existed no one knew where, and effected its purposes no one knew how.  But the traditions which illustrate it, narrate better than they define.  Many years ago, says one of these, a woman of Tarbat was passing along the shores of Loch-Slin, with a large web of linen on her back.  There was a market held that morning at Tain, and she was bringing the web there to be sold.  In those times it was quite as customary for farmers to rear the flax which supplied them with clothing, as the corn which furnished them with food; and it was of course necessary, in some of the earlier processes of preparing the former, to leave it for weeks spread out on the fields, with little else to trust to for its protection than the honesty of neighbours.  But to the neighbours of this woman the protection was, it would seem, incomplete; and the web she carried on this occasion was composed of stolen lint.  She had nearly reached the western extremity of the lake, when, feeling fatigued, she seated herself by the water edge, and laid down the web beside her.  But no sooner had it touched the earth than up it bounded three Scots ells into the air, and slowly unrolling fold after fold, until it had stretched itself out as when on the bleaching-green, it flew into the middle of the lake, and disappeared for ever.  There are several other stories of the same class, but the one related may serve as a specimen of the whole.

    IV. The evils which men dread, and the appearances which they cannot understand, are invariably appropriated by superstition: if her power extend not over the terrible and the mysterious, she is without power at all.  And not only does she claim whatever is inexplicable in the great world, but also in some cases what seems mysterious in the little; some, for instance, of the more paradoxical phenomena of human nature.  It has been represented to me as a mysterious, unaccountable fact, that persons who have been rescued from drowning regard their deliverers ever after with a dislike which borders almost on enmity.  I have heard it affirmed, too, that when the crew of some boat or vessel have perished, with the exception of one individual, the relatives of the deceased invariably regard that one with a deep, irrepressible hatred; and in both cases the feelings described are said to originate in some occult and supernatural cause.  Alas! neither envy nor ingratitude lie out of our ordinary every-day walk.  There occurs to me a little anecdote illustrative of this kind of apotheosis of the envious principle.  Some fifty years ago there was a Cromarty boat wrecked on the rough shores of Eathie.   All the crew perished with the exception of one fisherman; and the poor man was so persecuted by the relatives of the drowned, who even threatened his life, that he was compelled, much against his inclination, to remove to Nairn.  There, however, only a few years after, he was wrecked a second time, and, as in the first instance, proved the sole survivor of the crew.  And so he was again subjected to a persecution similar to the one he had already endured; and compelled to quit Nairn as he had before quitted Cromarty.  And in both cases the relatives of the deceased were deemed as entirely under the influence of a mysterious, irresistible impulse, which acted upon their minds from without, as the Orestes of the dramatist when pursued by the Furies.

    One may question, as I have already remarked, whether one sees, in these several instances, polytheism in the act of forming, and but barely forming, in the human mind, or the mutilated remnants of a long-exploded mythology.  The usages to which I have alluded as more certain in their lineage, are perhaps less suited to employ speculation.  But they are curious; and the fact that they are fast sinking into an oblivion, out of which the diligence of no future excavator will be able to restore them, gives them of itself a kind of claim on our notice.  I pass over Beltane; its fires in this part of the country have long since been extinguished; but to its half-surviving partner, Halloween, I shall devote a few pages; and this the more readily, as it chances to be connected with a story of humble life which belongs to that period of my history at which I have now arrived.  True, the festival itself has already sat for its picture, and so admirable was the skill of the artist, that its very name recalls to us rather the masterly strokes of the transcript than the features of the original.  But, with all its truth and beauty, the portrait is not yet complete.

    The Scottish Halloween, as held in the solitary farmhouse and described by Burns, differed considerably from the Halloween of our villages and smaller towns.  In the farmhouse it was a night of prediction only; in our towns and villages there were added a multitude of wild mischievous games, which were tolerated at no other season—a circumstance that serves to identify the festival with those pauses of license peculiar to the nonage of civil government, in which men are set free from the laws they are just learning to respect—partly, it would seem, as a reward for the deference which they have paid them, partly to serve them as a kind of breathing-spaces in which to recover from the unwonted fatigue of being obedient.  After nightfall, the young fellows of the town formed themselves into parties of ten or a dozen, and breaking into the gardens of the graver inhabitants, stole the best and heaviest of their cabbages.  Converting these into bludgeons, by stripping off the lower leaves, they next scoured the streets and lanes, thumping at every door as they passed, until their uncouth weapons were beaten to pieces.  When disarmed in this way, all the parties united into one, and providing themselves with a cart, drove it before them with the rapidity of a chaise and four through the principal streets.  Woe to the inadvertent female whom they encountered!  She was instantly laid hold of, and placed aloft in the cart—brothers, and cousins, and even sons, it is said, not infrequently assisting in the capture; and then dragged backwards and forwards over the rough stones, amid shouts, and screams, and roars of laughter.  The younkers within doors were meanwhile engaged in a manner somewhat less annoying, but not a whit less whimsical.  The bent of their ingenuity for weeks before, had been turned to the accumulating of little hoards of apples—all for this night; and now a large tub, filled with water, was placed in the middle of the floor of some outhouse, carefully dressed up for the occasion; and into the tub every one of the party flung an apple.  They then approached it by turns, and, placing their hands on the edges, plunged forward to fish for the fruit with their teeth.  I remember the main chance of success was to thrust the head fearlessly into the tub, amid the booming of the water, taking especial care to press down one of the apples in a line with the mouth, and to seize it when jammed against the bottom.  When the whole party, with their dripping locks and shining faces, would seem metamorphosed into so many mermaids, this sport usually gave place to another:—A small beam of wood was suspended from the ceiling by a cord, and when fairly balanced, an apple was fastened to the one end, and a lighted candle to the other.  It was then whirled round, and the boys in turn, as before, leaped up and bit at the fruit; not unfrequently, however, merely to singe their faces and hair at the candle.  Neither of these games were peculiar to the north of Scotland: we find it stated by Mr. Polewhele, in his "Historical Views of Devonshire," that the Irish peasants assembled on the eve of La Samon (the 2d November), to celebrate the festival of the sun, with many rites derived from Paganism, among which was the dipping for apples in a tub of water, and the catching at an apple stuck on the one end of a kind of hanging beam.

    There belonged to the north of Scotland two Halloween rites of augury which have not been described by Burns: and one of these, an elegant and beautiful charm, is not yet entirely out of repute.  An ale-glass is filled with pure water, and into the water is dropped the white of an egg.  The female whose future fortunes are to be disclosed (for the charm seems appropriated exclusively by the better sex) lays her hand on the glass's mouth, and holds it there for about the space of a minute.  In that time the heavier parts of the white settle to the bottom, while the lighter shoot up into the water, from which they are distinguished by their opacity, into a variety of fantastic shapes, distinguished towers and domes, towns, fleets, and forests; or, to speak more correctly, into forms not very unlike those icicles which one sees during a severe frost at the edge of a waterfall.  A resemblance is next traced, which is termed reading the glass, between the images displayed in it and some objects of either art or nature; and these are regarded as constituting a hieroglyphic of the person's future fortunes.  Thus, the ramparts of a fortress surmounted by streamers, a plain covered with armies, or the tents of an encampment, show that the female whose hand covered the glass is to be united to a soldier, and that her life is to be spent in camps and garrisons.  A fleet of ships, a church or pulpit, a half-finished building, a field stripped into furrows, a garden, a forest—all these, and fifty other scenes, afford symbols equally unequivocal.  And there are melancholy hieroglyphics, too, that speak of death when interrogated regarding marriage;—there are the solitary tomb, the fringed shroud, the coffin, and the skull and cross-bones.  "Ah! said a young girl, whom I overheard a few years ago regretting the loss of a deceased companion, "Ah!  I knew when she first took ill that there was little to hope.  Last Halloween we went together to Mrs. — to break our eggs.  Betsie's was first cast, and there rose under her hand an ugly skull.  Mrs. — said nothing, but reversed the glass, while poor Betsie laid her hand on it a second time, and then there rose a coffin.  Mrs. — called it a boat, and I said I saw the oars; but Mrs. — well knew what it meant, and so did I."

    The other north country charm, which, of Celtic origin, bears evidently the impress of the romance and melancholy so predominant in the Celtic character, is only known and practised (if, indeed, still practised anywhere) in a few places of the remote Highlands.  The person who intends trying it must steal out unperceived to a field whose furrows lie due south and north, and, entering at the western side, must proceed slowly over eleven ridges, and stand in the centre of the twelfth, when he will hear either low sobs and faint mournful shrieks, which betoken his early death, or the sounds of music and dancing, which foretell his marriage.  But the charm is accounted dangerous.  About twelve years ago, I spent an autumn in the mid-Highlands of Ross-shire, where I passed my Halloween, with nearly a dozen young people, at a farmhouse.  We burned nuts and ate apples; and when we had exhausted our stock of both, some of us proposed setting out for the steading of a neighbouring farm, and robbing the garden of its cabbages; but the motion was overruled by the female members of the party; for the night was pitch dark, and the way rough; and so we had recourse for amusement to story-telling.  Naturally enough most of our stories were of Halloween rites and predictions; and much was spoken regarding the charm of the rig.  I had never before heard of it; and, out of a frolic, I stole away to a field whose furrows lay in the proper direction, and after pacing steadily across the ridges until I had reached the middle of the twelfth, I stood and listened.  But spirits were not abroad—I heard only the wind groaning in the woods, and the deep sullen roar of the Conan.  On my return I was greeted with exclamations of wonder and terror, and it was remarked that I looked deadly pale, and had certainly heard something very terrible.  "But whatever you may have been threatened with," said the author of the remark, "you may congratulate yourself on being among us in your right mind; for there are instances of people returning from the twelfth rig raving mad; and of others who went to it as light of heart as you, who never returned at all."

    The Maccullochs of the parish of Cromarty, a family now extinct, were, for about two centuries, substantial respectable farmers.  The first of this family, says tradition, was Alaster Macculloch, a native of the Highlands.  When a boy he quitted the house of his widow mother, and wandered into the low country in quest of employment, which he at length succeeded in procuring in the parish of Cromarty, on the farm of an old wealthy tacksman.  For the first few weeks he seemed to be one of the gloomiest little fellows ever bred among the solitudes of the hills;—all the social feelings of his nature had been frozen within him; but they began to flow apace; and it was soon discovered that neither reserve nor melancholy formed any part of his real character.  A little of the pride of the Celt he still retained; when he attended chapel he wore a gemmy suit of tartan, and his father's dirk always depended from his belt; but, in every other respect, he seemed a true Lowland Scot, and not one of his companions equalled him in sly humour, or could play off a practical joke with half the effect.

    His master was a widower, and the father of an only daughter, a laughing warm-hearted girl of nineteen.  She had more lovers than half the girls of the parish put together; and when they avowed to her their very sincere attachment, she tendered them her very hearty thanks in return.  But then one's affections are not in one's own power; and as certainly as they loved her just because they could not help it, so certainly was she indifferent to them from the same cause.  Their number received one last accession in little Alaster the herd-boy.  He shared in the kindness of his young mistress, and his cattle shared in it too, with every living thing connected with her father or his farm; but his soul-engrossing love lay silent within him, and not only without words, but, young and sanguine as he was, almost without hope.  Not that he was unhappy.  He had the knack of dreaming when broad awake, and of making his dreams as pleasant as he willed them; and so his passion rather increased than diminished the amount of his happiness.  It taught him, too, the very best species of politeness—that of the heart; and young Lillias could not help wondering where it was that the manners of the red-cheeked Highland boy had received so exquisite a polish, and why it was that she herself was so much the object of his quiet unobtrusive attentions.  When night released him from labour, he would take up his seat in some dark corner of the house, that commanded a full view of the fire, and there would he sit for whole hours gazing on the features of his mistress.  A fine woman looks well by any light, even by that of a peat fire; and fine women, it is said, know it; but little thought the maiden of the farmhouse of the saint-like halo which, in the imagination of her silent worshipper, the red smoky flames shed around her.  How could she even dream of it?  The boy Alaster was fully five years younger than herself, and it surely could not be forgotten that he herded her father's cattle.  The incident, however, which I am just going to relate, gave her sufficient cause to think of him as a lover.

    The Halloween of the year 1560 was a very different thing in the parish of Cromarty from that of the year 1829.  It is now as dark and opaque a night—unless it chance to be brightened by the moon—as any in the winter season; it was then clear as the glass of a magician—people looked through it and saw the future.  Late in October that year, Alaster overheard his mistress and one of her youthful companions—the daughter of a neighbouring farmer—talking over the rites of the coming night of frolic and prediction.  "Will you really venture on throwing the clue?" asked her companion; "the kiln, you ken, is dark and lonely; and there's mony a story no true if folk havena often been frightened."  "Throw it?—oh, surely!" replied the other; "who would think it worth while to harm the like o' me? and, besides, you can bide for me just a wee bittie aff.   One would like, somehow, to know the name o' one's gudeman, or whether one is to get a gudeman at all."  Alaster was a lover, and lovers are fertile in stratagem.  In the presence of his mistress he sought leave from the old man, her father, with whom he was much a favourite, to spend his Halloween at a cottage on a neighbouring farm, where there were several young people to meet; and his request was readily granted.  The long-expected evening came; and Alaster set out for the cottage, without any intention of reaching it for at least two hours.  When he had proceeded a little way he turned back, crept warily towards the kiln, climbed like a wild-cat up the rough circular gable, entered by the chimney, and in a few seconds was snugly seated amid the ashes of the furnace.  There he waited for a full hour, listening to the beatings of his own heart.  At length a light footstep was heard approaching; the key was applied to the lock, and as the door opened, a square patch of moonshine fell upon the rude wall of the kiln.  A tall figure stepped timidly forward, and stood in the stream of faint light.  It was Alaster's young mistress.  She looked fearfully round her, and then producing a small clue of yarn, she threw it towards Alaster, and immediately began to wind [see Burns's Halloween.]  He suffered it to turn round and round among the ashes, and then cautiously laid hold of it.  "Wha hauds?" said his mistress in a low startled whisper, looking as she spoke, over her shoulder towards the door; "Alaster Macculloch," was the reply; and in a moment she had vanished like a spectre.  Soon after, the tread of two persons was heard approaching the door.  It was now Alaster's turn to tremble.  "Ah!" he thought, "I shall be discovered, and my stratagem come to worse than nothing."  "An' did ye hear onything when you came out yon gate?" said one of the persons without.  "Oh, naething, lass, naething!" replied the other, in a voice whose faintest echoes would have been recognised by the lover within; "steek too the door an' lock it;—it's a foolish conceit."  The door was accordingly locked, and Alaster left to find his way out in the manner he had entered.

    It was late that night before he returned from the cottage to which, after leaving the kiln, he had gone.  Next day he saw his mistress.  She by no means exhibited her most amiable phase of character, for she was cold and distant, and not a little cross.  In short, it was evident she had a quarrel with destiny.  This mood, however, soon changed for the one natural to her; years passed away, and suitor after suitor was rejected by the maiden, until, in her twenty-fourth year, Alaster Macculloch paid her his addresses.  He was not then a little herd-boy, but a tall, handsome, young man of nineteen, who, active and faithful, was intrusted by his master with the sole management of his farm.  A belief in destiny often becomes a destiny of itself; and it became such to Alaster's mistress.  How could the predestined husband be other than a successful lover?  In a few weeks they were married; and when the old man was gathered to his fathers, his son-in-law succeeded to his well-stocked farm.

    There are a few other traditions of this northern part of the country—some of them so greatly dilapidated by the waste of years, that they exist as mere fragments—which bear the palpable impress of a pagan or semi-pagan origin.  I have heard imperfectly-preserved stories of a lady dressed in green, and bearing a goblin child in her arms, who used to wander in the night-time from cottage to cottage, when all the inhabitants were asleep.  She would raise the latch, it is said, take up her place by the fire, fan the embers into a flame, and then wash her child in the blood of the youngest inmate of the cottage, who would be found dead next morning.  There was another wandering green lady, her contemporary, of exquisite beauty and a majestic carriage, who was regarded as the Genius of the smallpox, and who, when the disease was to terminate fatally, would be seen in the grey of the morning, or as the evening was passing into night, sitting by the bedside of her victim.  I have heard wild stories, too, of an unearthly, squalid-looking thing, somewhat in the form of a woman, that used to enter farmhouses during the day, when all the inmates, except perhaps a solitary female, were engaged in the fields.  More than a century ago, it is said to have entered, in the time of harvest, the house of a farmer of Navity, who had lost nearly all his cattle by disease a few weeks before.  The farmer's wife, the only inmate at the time, was engaged at the fireside in cooking for the reapers; the goblin squatted itself beside her, and shivering, as if with cold, raised its dingy, dirty-looking vestments over its knees.  "Why, ye nasty thing," said the woman, "hae ye killed a' our cattle?"—"An' why," inquired the goblin in turn, "did the gudeman, when he last roosed them, forget to gie them his blessing?"

    Immediately over the sea, the tract of table-land, which forms the greater part of the parish of Cromarty, terminates, as has been already said, in a green sloping bank, that for several miles sweeps along the edge of the bay.  In the vicinity of the town, a short half mile to the west, we find it traversed by a deep valley, which runs a few hundred yards into the interior; 'tis a secluded, solitary place, the sides sprinkled over with the seahip, the sloe, and the bramble—the bottom occupied by a blind pathway, that, winding through the long grass like a snake, leads to the fields above.  It has borne, from the earliest recollections of tradition, the name of Morial's Den, a name which some, on the hint of Sir Thomas Urquhart, ingeniously derive from the Greek, and others, still more ingeniously, from the Hebrew; and it has, for at least the last six generations, been a scene of bird-nesting and truant-playing during the day, and of witch and fairy meetings, it is said, during the night.  Rather more than a century ago, it was the locale, says tradition, of an interesting encounter with one of the unknown class of spectres.  On a Sabbath noon a farmer of the parish was herding a flock of sheep in a secluded corner of the den.  He was an old grey-haired man, who for many years had been affected by a deafness, which grew upon him as the seasons passed, shutting out one variety of sounds after another, until at length he lived in a world of unbroken silence.  Though secluded, however, from all converse with his brother men, he kept better company than ever, and became more thoroughly acquainted with his Bible, and the fathers of the Reformation, than he would have been had he retained his hearing, or than almost any other person in the parish.  He had just despatched his herd-boy to church, for he himself could no longer profit by his attendance there; his flock was scattered over the sides of the hollow; and with his Bible spread out before him on a hillock of thyme and moss, which served him for a desk, and sheltered on either hand from the sun and wind by a thicket of sweetbrier and sloethorn, he was engaged in reading, when he was startled by a low rushing sound, the first he had heard for many months.  He raised his eyes from the book; a strong breeze was eddying within the hollow, waving the ferns and the bushes; and the portion of sea which appeared through the opening was speckled with white;—but to the old man the waves broke and the shrubs waved in silence.  He again turned to the book—the sound was again repeated; and on looking up a second time, he saw a beautiful, sylph-looking female standing before him.  She was attired in a long flowing mantle of green, which concealed her feet, but her breast and arms, which were of exquisite beauty, were uncovered.  The old man laid his hand on the book, and raising himself from his elbow, fixed his eyes on the face of the lady.  "Old man," said she, addressing him in a low sweet voice, which found prompt entrance at the ears that had so long been shut up to every other sound, "you are reading the book; tell me if there be any offer of salvation in it to us."—"The gospel of this book," said the man, "is addressed to the lost children of Adam, but to the creatures of no other race."  The lady shrieked as he spoke, and gliding away with the rapidity of a swallow on the wing, disappeared amid the recesses of the hollow.

    About a mile further to the west, in an inflection of the bank, there is the scene of a story, which, belonging to a still earlier period than the one related, and wholly unlike it in its details, may yet be deemed to resemble it in its mysterious, and, if I may use the term, unclassified character.

    A shipmaster, who had moored his vessel in the upper roadstead of the bay, some time in the latter days of the first Charles, was one fine evening sitting alone on deck, awaiting the return of some of his seamen who had gone ashore, and amusing himself in watching the lights that twinkled from the scattered farmhouses, and in listening in the extreme stillness of the calm to the distant lowing of cattle, or the abrupt bark of the watch-dog.  As the hour wore later, the sounds ceased, and the lights disappeared—all but one solitary taper, that twinkled from the window of a cottage situated about two miles west of the town.  At length, however, it also disappeared, and all was dark around the shores of the bay as a belt of black velvet.  Suddenly a hissing noise was heard overhead; the shipmaster looked up, and saw one of those meteors that are known as falling stars, slanting athwart the heavens in the direction of the cottage, and increasing in size and brilliancy as it neared the earth, until the wooded ridge and the shore could be seen as distinctly from the ship-deck as by day.  A dog howled piteously from one of the outhouses, an owl whooped from the wood.  The meteor descended until it almost touched the roof, when a cock crew from within.  Its progress seemed instantly arrested; it stood still; rose about the height of a ship's mast, and then began again to descend.  The cock crew a second time.  It rose as before, and after mounting much higher, sunk yet again in the line of the cottage.  It almost touched the roof, when a faint clap of wings was heard, as if whispered over the water, followed by a still louder note of defiance from the cock.  The meteor rose with a bound, and continuing to ascend until it seemed lost among the stars, did not again appear.  Next night, however, at the same hour, the same scene was repeated in all its circumstances—the meteor descended, the dog howled, the owl whooped, the cock crew.  On the following morning the shipmaster visited the cottage, and, curious to ascertain how it would fare when the cock was away, he purchased the bird; and sailing from the bay before nightfall, did not return until about a month after.

    On his voyage inwards he had no sooner doubled an intervening headland, than he stepped forward to the bows to take a peep at the cottage: it had vanished.  As he approached the anchoring ground, he could discern a heap of blackened stones occupying the place where it had stood; and he was informed, on going ashore, that it had been burnt to the ground, no one knew how, on the very night he had quitted the bay.  He had it rebuilt and furnished, says the story, deeming himself, what one of the old schoolmen would have perhaps termed, the occasional cause of the disaster.  About fifteen years ago there was dug up, near the site of the cottage, a human skeleton, with the skull and the bones of the feet lying together, as if the body had been huddled up twofold into a hole; and this discovery led to that of the story, which, though at one time often repeated and extensively believed, had been suffered to sleep in the memories of a few elderly people for nearly sixty years.


 
CHAPTER VI.

"Subtill muldrie wrought mony day agone."—GAVIN DOUGLASS.


AS house after house in the old town of Cromarty was yielding its place to the sea, the inhabitants were engaged in building new dwellings for themselves in the fields behind.  A second town was thus formed, the greater part of which has since also disappeared, though under the influence of causes less violent than those which annihilated the first.  Shortly after the Union, the trade of the place, which prior to that event had been pretty considerable, fell into decay, and the town gradually dwindled in size and importance until about the year 1750, when it had sunk into an inconsiderable village.  After this period, however, trade began to revive, and the town again to increase; and as the old site was deemed inconveniently distant from the harbour, it was changed for the present.  The main street of this second town, which is still used as a road, and bears the name of the Old Causeway, is situated about two hundred yards to the east of the houses, and is now bounded by the fences of gardens and fields, with here and there an antique-looking, high-gabled domicile rising over it.  A row of large trees, which have sprung up since the disappearance of the town, runs along one of the fences.

    About the beginning of the last century, the Old Causeway presented an aspect which, though a little less rural than at present, was still more picturesque.  An irregular line of houses thrust forward their gables on either side, like two parties of ill-trained cavalry drawn up for the charge;—some jutted forward, others slunk backward, some slanted sideways, as if meditating a retreat, others, as if more decided, seemed in the act of turning round.  They varied in size and character, from the little sod-covered cottage, with round moor stones sticking out of its mud walls, like skulls in the famous pyramid of Malta, to the tall narrow house of three storeys, with its court and gateway.  Between every two buildings there intervened a deep narrow close, bounded by the back of one tenement and the front of another, and terminating in a little oblong garden, fringed with a deep border of nettles, and bearing in the centre plots of cabbage and parsnips;—the latter being a root much used before the introduction of the potato.  Here and there a gigantic ash or elm sprung out of the fence, and shot its ponderous arms over the houses.  A low door, somewhat under five feet, and a few stone steps which descended from the level of the soil to that of the floor (for the latter was invariably sunk from one to three feet beneath the former), gave access to each of the meaner class of buildings.  One little window, with the sill scarcely raised above the pavement, fronted the street, another, still smaller and equally low, opened to the close: they admitted through their unbevelled apertures and diminutive panes of brownish-yellow, a sort of umbery twilight, which even the level sunbeams, as they fell at eve or morn in long rules athwart the motty atmosphere within, scarce served to dissipate.  An immense chimney, designed for the drying of fish, which formed the staple food of the poorer inhabitants, stretched from the edge of the window in the gable to near the opposite wall; and on the huge black lintel were inscribed, in rude characters, the name of the builder of the tenement, and that of his wife, with the date of the erection.  The walls, naked and uneven, were hollowed in several places into little square recesses, termed bowels or boles; and at a height of not more than six feet above the floor, which was formed of clay and stone, and marvellously uneven, were the bare rafters varnished over with smoke.

    The larger houses were built in a style equally characteristic of the age and country.  A taste for ornamental masonry was considerably more prevalent in our Scottish villages about the beginning of the seventeenth century than at present.  Palladio began to be studied about that
period by a few architects of the southern parts of the kingdom; and some of our provincial builders had picked up from them an imperfect acquaintance with the old classical style of architecture: but as they could avail themselves of only a few of its forms, and knew nothing of its proportions, they became, all unwittingly, the founders of a kind of school of their own.  And some of the houses of the old town were no bad specimens of this half Grecian half Gothic school.  The high narrow gables, jagged like the teeth of a saw, the diminutive, heavily-framed windows, and chamfered rybats, remained unaltered; but there were stuck round the low doors, which still retained their Gothic proportions, imitations of Palladio's simpler door-pieces; and huge Grecian cornices, more than sufficiently massy for halls twenty feet in height, with circular pateras designed in the same taste, and roughened with vile imitations of the vine and laurel, adorned the better rooms within.  The closes leading to buildings of this superior class were lintelled at the entrance, and over each lintel there was fixed a tablet of stone, bearing the arms and name of the proprietor.  A large house of this kind, on the eastern side of the street, was haunted, it was said, by a green lady, one of the old Scottish spectres, who flourished before the introduction of shrouds and dead linens; and another on the opposite side, by a capricious brownie, who disarranged the pieces of furniture and the platters every night the domestics set them in order, and set them in order every night they were left disarranged.  Directly in the middle of the street stood the town's cross, over the low-browed entrance of a stone vault, furnished with seats, also of stone.  The formidable jogs depended from one of the abutments.  A little higher up was the jail, an antique ruinous structure, with stone floors, and a roof of ponderous grey slate.  The manse, a mean-looking house of two low storeys, with very small windows, and bearing above the door the initials of the first Protestant minister of the parish, nearly fronted it: while the only shop of the place was situated so much lower down, that, like the houses of the earlier town, it was carried away by the sea during a violent storm from the north-east.  There mingled with the other domiciles a due proportion of roofless tenements, with their red weather-wasted gables, and melancholy-looking unframed windows and doors; and, as trade decayed, even the more entire began to fall to pieces, and to show, like so many mouldering carcasses, their bare ribs through the thatch.  Such was the old town of Cromarty in the year 1720.

    Directly behind the site of the old town, the ground, as described in a previous chapter, rises abruptly from the level to the height of nearly a hundred feet, after which it forms a kind of table-land of considerable extent, and then sweeps gently to the top of the hill.  A deep ravine, with a little stream running through it, intersects the rising ground at nearly right angles with the front which it presents to the houses; and on the eastern angle, towering over the ravine on the one side, and the edge of the bank on the other, stood the old castle of Cromarty.  It was a massy, time-worn building, rising in some places to the height of six storeys, battlemented at the top, and roofed with grey stone.  One immense turret jutted out from the corner, which occupied the extreme point of the angle; and looking down from an altitude of at least one hundred and sixty feet on the little stream, and the struggling row of trees which sprung up at its edge, commanded both sides of the declivity, and the town below.  Other turrets of smaller size, but pierced like the larger one with rows of little circular apertures, which in the earlier ages had given egress to the formidable bolt, and in the more recent, when the crossbow was thrown aside for the petronel, to the still more formidable bullet, were placed by pairs on the several projections that stood out from the main body of the building, and were connected by hanging bartisans.  There is a tradition that some time in the seventeenth century a party of Highlanders, engaged in some predatory enterprise, approached so near the castle on this side, that their leader, when in the act of raising his arm to direct their march, was shot at from one of the turrets and killed, and that the party, wrapping up the body in their plaids, carried it away.

    The front of the castle opened to the lawn, from which it was divided by a dry moat, nearly filled with rubbish, and a high wall indented with embrasures, and pierced by an arched gateway.  Within was a small court, flagged with stone, and bounded on one of the sides by a projection from the main building, bartisaned and turreted like all the others, but only three storeys in height, and so completely fallen into decay that the roof and all the floors had disappeared.  From the level of the court, a flight of stone steps led to the vaults below; another flight of greater breadth, and bordered on both sides by an antique balustrade, ascended to the entrance; and the architect, aware of the importance of this part of the building, had so contrived it, that a full score of loopholes in the several turrets and outlets which commanded the court, opened directly on the landing-place.  Round the entrance itself there jutted a broad, grotesquely-proportioned moulding, somewhat resembling an old-fashioned picture-frame, and directly over it there was a square tablet of dark blue stone, bearing in high relief the arms of the old proprietors; but the storms of centuries had defaced all the nicer strokes of the chisel, and the lady with her palm and dagger, the boars' heads, and the greyhounds, were transformed into so many attenuated spectres of their former selves;—no unappropriate emblem of the altered fortunes of the house.  The windows, small and narrow, and barred with iron, were thinly sprinkled over the front: and from the lintel of each there rose a triangulate cap of stone, fretted at the edges, and terminating at the top in two knobs fashioned into the rude semblance of thistles.  Initials and dates were inscribed in raised characters on these triangular tablets.  The aspect of the whole pile was one of extreme antiquity.  Flocks of crows and jays, that had built their nests in the recesses of the huge tusked cornices which ran along the bartisans, wheeled ceaselessly around the gables and the turrets, awakening with their clamorous cries the echoes of the roof.  The walls, grey and weather-stained, were tapestried in some places with sheets of ivy; and an ash sapling, which had struck its roots into the crevices of the outer wall, rose like a banner over the half-dilapidated gateway.

    The castle, for several years before its demolition, was tenanted by only an old female domestic, and a little girl whom she had hired to sleep with her.  I have been told by the latter, who, at the time when I knew her, was turned of seventy, that two threshers could have plied their flails within the huge chimney of the kitchen; and that in the great hall, an immense dark chamber lined with oak, a party of a hundred men had exercised at the pike.  The lower vaults she had never the temerity to explore; they were dark and gousty, she said, and the slits which opened into them were nearly filled up with long rank grass.  Some of her stories of the castle associated well with the fantastic character of its architecture, and the ages of violence and superstition which had passed over it.  A female domestic who had lived in it before the woman she was acquainted with, and who was foolhardy enough to sleep in it alone, was frightened one night out of her wits, and never again so far recovered them as to be able to tell for what.  At times there would echo through the upper apartments a series of noises, as if a very weighty man was pacing the floors; and "Oh," said my informant, "if you could but have heard the shrieks, and moans, and long whistlings, that used to come pounding in the stormy evenings of winter from the chimneys and the turrets.  Often have I listened to them as I lay a-bed, with the clothes drawn over my face."  Her companion was sitting one day in a little chamber at the foot of the great stair, when, hearing a tapping against the steps, she opened the door.  The light was imperfect—it was always twilight in the old castle—but she saw, she said, as distinctly as ever she saw any thing, a small white animal resembling a rabbit, rolling from step to step, head over heels, and dissolving, as it bounded over the last step, into a wreath of smoke.  On another occasion, a Cromarty shoemaker, when passing along the front of the building in a morning of summer, was horrified by the apparition of a very diminutive, greyheaded, greybearded old man, with a withered meagre face scarcely bigger than one's fist, that seemed seated at one of the windows.  On returning by the same path about half an hour after, just as the sun was rising out of the Firth, he saw the same figure wringing its hands over a little cairn in a neighbouring thicket, but he had not courage enough to go up to it.

    The scene of all these terrors has long since disappeared; the plough and roller have passed over its foundations; and all that it recorded of an ancient and interesting, though unfortunate family, with its silent though impressive narratives of the unsettled lives, rude manners, uncouth tastes, and warlike habits of our ancestors, has also perished.  It was pulled down by a proprietor of Cromarty, who had purchased the property a few years before; and, as he was engaged at the time in building a set of offices and a wall to his orchard, the materials it furnished proved a saving to him of several pounds.  He was a man of taste, too, as well as of prudence, and by smoothing down the eminence on which the building had stood, and then sowing it with grass, he bestowed upon it, for its former wild aspect, so workmanlike an appearance, that one might almost suppose he had made the whole of it himself.  Two curious pieces of sculpture were, by some accident, preserved entire in the general wreck.  In a vaulted passage which leads from the modern house to the road, there is a stone slab about five feet in length, and nearly two in breadth, which once served as a lintel to one of the two chimneys of the great hall.  It bears, in low relief, the figures of hares and deer sorely beset by dogs, and surrounded by a thicket of grapes and tendrils.  The huntsman stands in the centre, attired in a sort of loose coat that reaches to his knees, with his horn in one hand, and his hunting-spear in the other, and wearing the moustaches and peaked beard of the reign of Mary.  The lintel of the second chimney, a still more interesting relic, is now in Kinbeakie Cottage, parish of Resolis: and a good lithographic print of it may be seen in the museum of the Northern Institution, Inverness; but of it more anon.  All the other sculptures of the castle, including several rude pieces of Gothic statuary, were destroyed by the workmen.  An old stone dial which had stood in front of the gate, was dug up by the writer, out of a corner of the lawn, about twelve years ago, and is now in his possession.  When entire, it indicated the hour in no fewer than nineteen different places, and though sorely mutilated and divested of all its gnomons, it is still entire enough to show that the mathematical ability of the artist must have been of no ordinary kind.  It was probably cut under the inspection of Sir Thomas, who, among his other accomplishments, was a skilful geometrician.

    "The old castle of Cromarty," says the statistical account of the parish (Sir John Sinclair's), "was pulled down in the year 1772.  Several urns, composed of earthenware, were dug out of the bank immediately around the building, with several coffins of stone.  The urns were placed in square recesses formed of flags, and when touched by the labourers instantly mouldered away, nor was it possible to get up one of them entire.  They were filled with ashes mixed with fragments of half-burned bones.  The coffins contained human skeletons, some of which wanted the head; while among the others which were entire, there was one of a very uncommon size, measuring seven feet in length."

    The old proprietors of the castle, among the other privileges derived to them as the chiefs of a wide district of country, and the system of government which obtained during the ages in which they flourished, were hereditary Sheriffs of Cromarty, and vested with the power of pit and gallows.  The highest knoll of the southern Sutor is still termed the Gallow-hill, from its having been a place of execution; and a low cairn nearly hidden by a thicket of furze, which still occupies its summit, retains the name of the gallows.  It is said that the person last sentenced to die at this place was a poor Highlander who had insulted the Sheriff, and that when in the act of mounting the ladder, he was pardoned at the request of the Sheriff's lady.  At a remoter period the usual scene of execution was a little eminence in the western part of the town, directly above the harbour, where there is a small circular hollow still known to the children of the place as the Witch's Hole; and in which, says tradition, a woman accused of witchcraft was burnt for her alleged crime some time in the reign of Charles II.  The Court- hill, an artificial mound of earth, on which, at least in the earlier ages, the cases of the sheriffdom were tried and decided, was situated several hundred yards nearer the old town.  Some of the sentences passed at this place are said to have been flagrantly unjust.  There is one Sheriff in particular, whom tradition describes as a cruel, oppressive man, alike regardless of the rights and lives of his poor vassals; and there are two brief anecdotes of him which still survive.  A man named Macculloch, a tenant on the Cromarty estate (probably the same person introduced to the reader in the foregoing chapter), was deprived of a cow through the injustice of one of the laird's retainers, and going directly to the castle, disposed rather to be energetic than polite, he made his complaint more in the tone of one who had a right to demand, than in the usual style of submission.  The laird, after hearing him patiently, called for the key of the dungeon, and going out, beckoned on Macculloch to follow.  He did so; they descended a flight of stone steps together, and came to a massy oak door, which the laird opened; when suddenly, and without uttering a syllable, he laid hold of his tenant with the intention of thrusting him in.  But he had mistaken his man; the grasp was returned by one of more than equal firmness, and a struggle ensued, in which Macculloch, a bold, powerful Highlander, had so decidedly the advantage, that he forced the laird into his own dungeon, and then locking the door, carried away the key in his pocket.  The other anecdote is of a sterner cast:—A poor vassal had been condemned on the Court-hill under circumstances more than usually unjust; and the laird, after sentence had been executed on the eminence at the Witch's Hole, was returning homewards through the town, surrounded by his retainers, when he was accosted in a tone of prophecy by an old man, one of the Hossacks of Cromarty, who, though bedridden for years before, had crawled to a seat by the wayside to wait his coming up.  Tradition has preserved the words which follow as those in which he concluded his prediction; but they stand no less in need of a commentary than the obscurest prophecies of Merlin or Thomas the Rhymer:—"Laird, laird, what mayna skaith i' the brock, maun skaith i' the stock."  The seer is said to have meant that the injustice of the father would be visited on the children.

    The recollection of these stories was curiously revived in Cromarty in the spring of 1829; when a labourer employed in digging a pit on the eminence above the harbour, and within a few yards of the Witch's Hole, struck his mattock through a human skull, which immediately fell in pieces.  A pair of shinbones lay directly below it, and on digging a little further there were found the remains of two several skeletons and a second skull.  From the manner in which the bones were blended together, it seemed evident that the bodies had been thrown into the same hole, with their heads turned in opposite directions, either out of carelessness or in studied contempt.  And they had, apparently, lain undisturbed in this place for centuries.  A child, by pressing its foot against the skull which had been raised entire, crushed it to pieces like the other; and the whole of the bones had become so light and porous, that when first seen by the writer, some of the smaller fragments were tumbling over the sward before a light breeze, like withered leaves, or pieces of fungous wood.


 
CHAPTER VII.

He was a veray parfit, gentil knight."—CHAUCER.


OF Sir Thomas Urquhart very little is known but what is related by himself, and though as much an egotist as most men, he has related but little of a kind available to the biographer.  But there are characters of so original a cast that their more prominent features may be hit off by a few strokes; and Sir Thomas's is decidedly of this class.  It is impossible to mistake the small dark profile which he has left us, small and dark though it be, for the profile of any mind except his own.  He was born in 1613, the eldest son of Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, and of Christian, daughter of Alexander Lord Elphinston.  Of his earlier years there is not a single anecdote, nor is there anything known of either the manner or place in which he pursued his studies.  Prior to the death of his father, and, as he himself expresses it, "before his brains were yet ripened for eminent undertakings," he made the tour of Europe.  In travelling through France, Spain, and Italy, he was repeatedly complimented on the fluency with which he spoke the languages of these countries, and advised by some of the people to pass himself for a native.  But he was too true a patriot to relish the proposal.  He had not less honour, he said, by his own poor country than could be derived from any country whatever; for, however much it might be surpassed in riches and fertility—in honesty, valour, and learning, it had no superior.  And this assertion he maintained at the sword's point, in single combat three several times, and at each time discomfited his antagonist.  He boasts on another occasion, that not in all the fights in which he had ever been engaged did he yield an inch-breadth to the enemy before the day of Worcester battle.

    On the breaking out of the troubles in 1638, he took part with the King against the Covenanters, and was engaged in an obscure skirmish, in which he saw the first blood shed that flowed in the protracted quarrel, which it took half a century and two great revolutions to settle.  In a subsequent skirmish, he succeeded, with eight hundred others, many of them "brave gentlemen," in surprising a body of about twelve hundred strong, encamped at Turriff, and broke up their array.  And then marching with his friends upon Aberdeen, which was held by the Covenanters, he assisted in ejecting them, and in taking possession of the place.  Less gifted with conduct than courage, however, the cavaliers suffered their troops to disperse, and were cooped up within the town by the "Earl Marischal of Scotland," who, hastily levying a few hundred men, came upon them, when, according to Spalding, they "were looking for nothing less; " and the "young laird of Cromartie," with a few others, were compelled to take refuge "aboard of Andrew Finlay's ship, then lying in the road," and "hastily hoisted sail for England."  Urquhart had undertaken to be the bearer of despatches to Charles, containing the signatures of his associates and neighbours the leading anti-covenanters; and in the audience which he obtained of the monarch, he was very graciously received, and favoured with an answer, "which gave," he says, "great contentment to all the gentlemen of the north that stood for the king."  In the spring of 1641 he was knighted by Charles at Whitehall, and his father dying soon after, he succeeded to the lands of Cromarty.

    Never was there a proprietor less in danger of sinking into the easy, apathetical indolence of the mere country gentleman; for, impressed with a belief that he was born to enlarge the limits of all science, he applied himself to the study of every branch of human learning, and, having mastered what was already known, and finding the amount but little, he seriously set himself to add to it.  And first, as learning can be communicated only by the aid of language, "words being the signs of things," he deemed it evident that, if language be imperfect, learning must of necessity be so likewise; quite on the principle that a defect in the carved figure of a signet cannot fail of being transmitted to the image formed by it on the wax.  The result of his inquiries on this subject differed only a very little from the conclusion which, when pursuing a similar course of study, the celebrated Lord Monboddo arrived at more than a hundred years after.  His Lordship believed that all languages, except Greek, are a sort of vulgar dialects which have grown up rather through accident than design, and exhibit, in consequence, little else than a tissue of defects both in sound and sense.  Greek, however, he deemed a perfect language; and he accounted for its superiority by supposing that, in some early age of the world, it had been constructed on philosophical principles, out of one of the old jargons, by a society of ingenious grammarians, who afterwards taught it to the common people.  Sir Thomas went a little further; for, not excepting even the Greek, he condemned every language, ancient and modern, and set himself to achieve what, according to Monboddo, had been already achieved by the grammarians of Greece.  And hence his ingenious but unfortunate work, "The Universal Language."

    "A tree," he thus reasoned, "is known by its leaves, a stone by its grit, a flower by the smell, meats by the taste, music by the ear, colours by the eye," and, in short, all the several natures of things by the qualities or aspects with which they address themselves to the senses or the intellect.  And it is from these obvious traits of similarity or difference that the several classes are portioned by the associative faculty into the corresponding cells of understanding and memory.  But it is not thus with words in any of the existing languages.  Things the most opposited in nature are often represented by signs so similar that they can hardly be distinguished, and things of the same class by signs entirely different.  Language is thus formed so loosely and unskilfully, that the associative faculty cannot be brought to bear on it;—one great cause why foreign languages are so difficult to learn, and when once learned, so readily forgotten.  And there is a radical defect in the alphabets of all languages for in all, without exception, do the nominal number of letters fall far short of the real, a single character being arbitrarily made to represent a variety of sounds.  Hence it happens that the people of one country cannot acquaint themselves by books alone with the pronunciation of another.  The words, too, proper to express without circumvolution all the multiform ideas of the human mind, are not to be found in any one tongue; and though the better languages have borrowed largely from each other to supply their several deficiencies, even the more perfect are still very incomplete.  Hence the main difficulty of translation.  Some languages are fluent without exactness.  Hence an unprofitable wordiness, devoid of force and precision.  Others, comparatively concise, are harsh and inharmonious.  Hence, perhaps, the grand cause why some of the civilized nations (the Dutch for instance), though otherwise ingenious, make but few advances compared with others, in philology and the belles-lettres.

    These, concluded Sir Thomas, are the great defects of language.  In a perfect language, then, it is fundamentally necessary that there should be classes of resembling words to represent the classes of resembling things—that every idea should have its sign, and every simple sound its alphabetical character.  It is necessary, too, that there should be a complete union of sweetness, energy, and precision.  Setting himself down in the old castle of Cromarty to labour on these principles for the benefit of all mankind, and the glory of his country, he constructed his Universal Tongue.  There is little difficulty, when we remember where he wrote, in tracing the origin of his metaphor, when he says of the existing languages, that though they may be improved in structure "by the striking out of new light and doors, the outjetting of kernels, and the erecting of prickets and barbicans," they are yet restricted to a certain base, beyond which they must not be enlarged.  In his own language the base was fitted to the superstructure.  His alphabet consisted of ten vowels, and twenty-five consonants.  His radical classes of words amounted to two hundred and fifty, and, to use his own allegory, were the denizens of so many cities divided into streets, which were again subdivided into lanes, the lanes into houses, the houses into storeys, and the storeys into apartments.  It was impossible that the natives of one city should be confounded with those of another; and by prying into their component letters and syllables, the street, lane, house, storey, and apartment of every citizen, could be ascertained without a possibility of mistake.  Simple ideas were expressed by monosyllables, and every added syllable expressed an added idea.  So musical was this language, that for poetical composition it surpassed every other; so concise, that the weightiest thoughts could be expressed in it by a few syllables, in some instances by a single word; so precise, that even sounds and colours could be expressed by it in all their varieties of tone and shade; and so comprehensive, that there was no word in any language, either living or dead, that could not be translated into it without suffering the slightest change of meaning.  And, with all its rich variety of phrase, so completely was it adapted to the associative faculty, that it was possible for a boy of ten years thoroughly to master it in the short space of three months!  The entire work, consisting of a preface, grammar, and lexicon, was comprised in a manuscript of twelve hundred folio pages.

    Laborious as this work must have proved, it was only one of a hundred great works completed by Sir Thomas before he had attained his thirty-eighth year, and all in a style so exquisitely original that neither in subject nor manner had he been anticipated in so much as one of them.  He had designed, and in part digested, four hundred more.  A complete list of these, with such a description of each as I have here attempted of his Universal Language, would be, perhaps, one of the greatest literary curiosities ever exhibited to the world; but so unfortunate was he, as an author, that the very names of the greater number of the works he finished have died with himself, while the names of his projected ones were, probably, never known to any one else.  He prepared for the press a treatise on Arithmetic, intended to remedy some defects in the existing system.  The invention of what he terms the "Trissotetrail Trigonometry for the facilitating of calculations by representations of letters and syllables," was the subject of a second treatise; and the proving of the Equipollencie and Opposition both of Plain and Modal Enunciations by rules of Geometry (I use his own language, for I am not scholar enough to render it into common English), he achieved in a third.  A fourth laid open the profounder recesses of the Metaphysics by a continued Geographical Allegory.  He was the author also of ten books of Epigrams, in all about eleven hundred in number, which he "contryved, blocked, and digested," he says, "in a thirteen weeks thyme;" and of this work the manuscript still exists.  It is said to contain much bad verse, and much exceptionable morality; but at least one of its stanzas, quoted by Dr. Irvine, in his elaborate and scholar-like Biographies of Scottish writers, possesses its portion of epigrammatic point.


"A certain poetaster, not long since,
     Said I might follow him in verse and prose;
 But, truly if I should, 'tis as a prince
     Whose ushers walk before him as he goes."


In Blackwood's Magazine for 1820, in a short critique on the Jewel, it is stated that the writer had "good reasons to believe Sir Thomas to be the real author of that singular production, A Century of Names, and Scantlings of Inventions, the credit or discredit of which was dishonestly assumed by the Marquis of Worcester."  The "good" reasons are not given; nor am I at all sure that they would be found particularly good; for the Marquis is a well-known man; and yet, were intrinsic evidence to be alone consulted, it might be held that either this little tract was written by Sir Thomas, or, what might be deemed less probable, that the world, nay, the same age and island, had produced two Sir Thomases. [4]  Some little weight, too, might be attached to the facts, that many of his manuscripts were lost in the city of Worcester, with which place, judging from his title, it is probable the Marquis may have had some connexion, by residence or otherwise; and that the "Century of Names" was not published until 1663, two years after death had disarmed poor Sir Thomas of his sword and his pen, and rendered him insensible to both his country's honour and his own.  If in reality the author of this piece, he must be regarded, it is said, as the original inventor of the steam-engine.

    But the merit of the most curious of all his treatises no one has ventured to dispute with him—a work entitled "The True Pedigree and Lineal Descent of the Ancient and Honourable Family of Urquhart."  It records the names of all the fathers of the family, from the days of Adam to those of Sir Thomas; and may be regarded as forming no bad specimen of the inverted climax—beginning with God, the creator of all things, and ending with the genealogist himself.  One of his ancestors he has married (for he was a professed lover of the useful) to a daughter of what the Abbé Pluche deemed an Egyptian symbol of husbandry, and another to a descendant of what Bacon regarded as a personification of human fortitude.  In his notice of the arms of the family he has surpassed all the heralds who have flourished before or since.  The first whose bearings he describes is Esormon, sovereign prince of Achaia, the father of all such as bear the name of Urquhart, and the fifth from Japhet by lineal descent.  His arms were three banners, three ships, and three ladies in a field; or, the crest, a young lady holding in her right hand a brandished sword, and in her left a branch of myrtle; the supporters, two Javanites attired after the soldier habit of Achaia; and the motto,

—These three are worthy to behold.  Heraldry and Greek were alike anticipated by the genius of this family.  The device of Esormon was changed about six hundred years after, under the following very remarkable circumstances.  Molin, a celebrated descendant of this prince, and a son-in-law of Deucalion and Pyrrha, accompanied Galethus, the Æneas of Scotland, to the scene of his first colony, a province of Africa, which in that age, as in the present, was infested with wild beasts.  He excelled in hunting; and having in one morning killed three lions, he carried home their heads in a large basket, and presented it to his wife Panthea, then pregnant with her first child.  Unconscious of what the basket contained, she raised the lid, and, filled with horror and astonishment by the apparition of the heads, she struck her hand against her left side, exclaiming, in the suddenness of her surprise, "O Hercules! what is this?"  By a wonderful sympathy, the likeness of the three heads, grim and horrible as they appeared in the basket, was impressed on the left side of the infant, who afterwards became a famous warrior, and transferred to his shield the badge which nature had thus bestowed upon him.  The external ornaments of the bearings remained unaltered until the days of Astorimon, who, after his victory over Ethus, changed the myrtle branch of the lady for one of palm, and the original motto for

Mean, speak, and do well.  Both the shield and the supporters underwent yet another change in the reign of Solvatious of Scotland, who, in admiration of an exploit achieved by the Urquhart and his two brothers in the great Caledonian forest, converted the lions' heads into the heads of bears, and the armed Javanites of Esormon into a brace of greyhounds.  And such were the arms of the family in the days of Sir Thomas, as shown by the curious stone lintel now at Kinbeakie.

    This singular relic, which has, perhaps, more of character impressed upon it than any other piece of sandstone in the kingdom, is about five feet in length, by three in breadth, and bears date A.M. 5612, A.C. 1651.  On the lower and upper edges it is bordered by a plain moulding, and at the ends by belts of rich foliage, terminating in a chalice or vase.  In the upper corner two knights in complete armour on horseback, and with their lances couched, front each other, as if in the tilt-yard.  Two Sirens playing on harps occupy the lower.  In the centre are the arms—the charge on the shield three bears' heads, the supporters two greyhounds leashed and collared, the crest a naked woman holding a dagger and palm, the helmet holding that of a knight, with the beaver partially raised, and so profusely mantled that the drapery occupies more space than the shield and supporters, and the motto MEANE WEIL, SPEAK WEIL, AND DO WEIL.  Sir Thomas's initials, S. T. V. C., are placed separately, one letter at the outer side of each supporter, one in the centre of the crest, and one beneath the label; while the names of the more celebrated heroes of his genealogy, and the eras in which they flourished, occupy, in the following inscription, the space between the figures:—ANNO ASTORIMONIS, 2226.  ANNO VOCOMPOTIS, 3892.  ANNO MOLINI, 3199.  ANNO RODRICI, 2958.  ANNO CHARI, 2219.  ANNO LUTORCI, 2000.  ANNO ESORMONIS, 3804.  It is melancholy enough that this singular exhibition of family pride should have been made in the same year in which the family received its deathblow—the year of Worcester battle.

    During the eventful period which intervened between the death of Sir Thomas's father and this unfortunate year, he was too busily engaged with science and composition to take an active part in the affairs of the kingdom.  "In the usual sports of country gentlemen, he does not seem," says Dr. Irvine, "to have taken any great share;" and a characteristic anecdote which he relates in his "Logopandacteision," shows that he rated these simply by what they produced, estimated at their money value, and accordingly beneath the care of a man born to extend the limits of all human knowledge.  "There happened," he says, "a gentleman of very good worth to stay awhile at my house, who one day, amongst many others, was pleased in the deadest time of all the winter, with a gun upon his shoulder, to search for a shot of some wild-fowl; and after he had waded through many waters, taken excessive pains in quest of his game, and by means thereof had killed some five or six moor-fowls and partridges, which he brought along with him to my house, he was, by some other gentlemen who chanced to alight at my gate as he entered in, very much commended for his love of sport; and as the fashion of most of our countrymen is not to praise one without dispraising another, I was highly blamed for not giving myself in that kind to the same exercise, having before my eyes so commendable a pattern to imitate.  I answered, though the gentleman deserved praise for the evident proof he had given that day of his inclination to thrift and laboriousness, that nevertheless I was not to blame, seeing, whilst he was busied about that sport, I was employed in a diversion of another nature, such as optical secrets, mysteries of natural philosophic, reasons for the variety of colours, the finding out of the longitude, the squaring of a circle, and wayes to accomplish all trigonometrical calculations by signes, without tangents, with the same comprehensiveness of computation; which, in the estimation of learned men, would be accounted worth six hundred thousand partridges and as many moorfowls.  That night past—the next morning I gave sixpence to a footman of mine to try his fortune with the gun during the time I should disport myself in the breaking of a young horse; and it so fell out, that by I had given myself a good heat by riding, the boy returned with a dozen of wildfowls, half moorfowl half partridge; whereat, being exceedingly well pleased, I alighted, gave him my horse to care for, and forthwith entered in to see my gentlemen, the most especiall whereof was unable to rise out of his bed by reason of the gout and siatick, wherewith he was seized through his former day's toil."

    Sir Thomas, though he had taken part with the king, was by no means a cavalier of the extreme class.  His grandfather, with all his ancestors for centuries before, had been Papists; and he himself was certainly no Presbyterian, and indeed not a man to contend earnestly about religion of any kind.  He hints somewhat broadly in one of his treatises, that Tamerlane might possibly be in the right in supposing God to be best pleased with a diversity of worship.  But though lax in his religious opinions, he was a friend to civil liberty; and loved his country too well to be in the least desirous of seeing it sacrificed to the ambition of even a native prince.  And so we find him classing in one sentence, the doctrine "de jure divino" with "piœ fraudes" and "political whimsies," and expressing as his earnest wish in another, that a free school and standing library should be established in every parish of Scotland.  But if he liked ill the tyranny and intolerance of Kings and Episcopalians, he liked the tyranny and intolerance of Presbyterian churchmen still worse.  And there was a circumstance which rendered the Consistorial government much less tolerable to him than the Monarchical.  The Monarchical recognised him as a petty feudal prince, vested with a prerogative not a whit less kingly in his own little sphere than that which it challenged for itself; while the Consistorial pulled him down to nearly the level of his vassals, and legislated after the same fashion for both.

    He found, too, that unfortunately for his peace, the churchmen were much nearer neighbours than the King.  He was patron, and almost sole hector of the churches of Cromarty, Kirkmichael, and Cullicuden, and in desperate warfare did he involve himself with all the three ministers at once.  Two of them were born vassals of the house; an ancestor of one of these "had shelter on the land, by reason of slaughter committed by him, when there was no refuge for him anywhere else in Scotland;" and the other owed his admission to his charge solely to the zeal of Sir Thomas, by whom he was inducted in opposition to the wishes of both the people and the clergy.  And both ministers, prior to their appointment, had faithfully promised, as became good vassals, to remain satisfied with the salaries of their immediate predecessors.  Their party triumphed, however, and the promise was forgotten.  In virtue of a decree of Synod, they sued for an augmentation of stipend; Sir Thomas resisted; and to such extremities did they urge matters against him, as to "outlaw and declare him rebel, by open proclamation, at the market-cross of the head town of his own shire."  He joined issue with Mr. Gilbert Anderson, the minister of Cromarty, on a different question.  The church he regarded as exclusively his own property; and the minister, who thought otherwise, having sanctioned one of his friends to erect a desk in it, Sir Thomas, who disliked the man, pulled it down.  There was no attempt made at replacing it; but for several Sabbaths together, all the worst parts of Mr. Anderson's sermons were devoted entirely to the benefit of the knight; who was by much too fond of panegyric not to be affected by censure.  Even when a prisoner in the Tower, and virtually stripped of all his possessions, he continued to speak of the "aconital bitterness" of the preacher in a style that shows how keenly he must have felt it.

    On the coronation of Charles II. at Scone, he quitted the old castle, to which he was never again to return, and joined the Scottish army: carrying with him, among his other luggage, three huge trunks filled with his hundred manuscripts.  He states that on this occasion he "was his own paymaster, and took orders from himself."  The army was heterogeneously composed of Presbyterians and Cavaliers; men who had nothing in common but the cause which brought them together, and who, according to Sir Thomas, differed even in that.  He has produced no fewer than four comparisons, all good, and all very original, to prove that the obnoxious Presbyterians were rebels at heart.  They make use of kings, says he, as we do of card kings in playing at the hundred, discard them without ceremony, if there be any chance of having a better game without them;—they deal by them as the French do by their Roi de la fève, or king of the bean—first honour them by drinking their health, and then make them pay the reckoning; or as players at nine-pins do by the king Kyle, set them up to have the pleasure of knocking them down again; or, finally, as the wassailers at Christmas serve their king of Misrule, invest him with the title for no other end than that he may countenance all the riots and disorders of the family.  He accuses, too, some of the Presbyterian gentlemen, who had been commissioned to levy troops for the army, of the practices resorted to by the redoubtable Falstaff, when intrusted with a similar commission; and of returning homewards when matters came to the push, out of an unwillingness to "hazard their precious persons, lest they should seem to trust to the arm of flesh."  Poor Sir Thomas himself was not one of the people who, in such circumstances, are readiest at returning home.  At any rate he stayed long enough on the disastrous field of Worcester to be taken prisoner.  Indifferent, however, to personal risk or suffering, he has detailed only the utter woe which befell his hundred manuscripts.

    He had lodged, prior to the battle, in the house of a Mr. Spilsbury, "a very honest sort of man, who had an exceeding good woman to his wife;" and his effects, consisting of "scarlet cloaks, buff suits, arms of all sorts, and seven large portmantles full of precious commodity," were stored in an upper chamber.  Three of the "portmantles," as has been said already, were filled with manuscripts in folio, "to the quantity of six score and eight quires and a half, divided into six hundred forty and two quinternions, the quinternion consisting of five sheets, and the quire of five-and-twenty."  There were, besides, law-papers and bonds to the value of about three thousand pounds sterling.  After the total rout of the king's forces, the soldiers of Cromwell went about ransacking the houses; and two of them having broken into Mr. Spilsbury's house, and finding their way to the upper chamber, the scarlet cloaks, the buff suits, the seven "portmantles," and the hundred manuscripts fell a prey to their rapacity.  The latter had well-nigh escaped, for at first the soldiers merely scattered them over the floor; but reflecting, after they had left the chamber, on the many uses to which they might be applied, they returned and bore them out to the street.  Some they carried away with them, some they distributed among their comrades, and the people of the town gathered up the rest.  One solitary quinternion, containing part of the preface to the Universal Language, found its way into the kennel, and was picked out two days after by a Mr. Broughton, "a man of some learning," who restored it to Sir Thomas.  His Genealogy was rescued from the tobacco-pipes of a file of musketeers, by an officer of Colonel Pride's regiment, and also restored.  But the rest he never saw.  He was committed to the Tower, with some of the other Scottish gentlemen taken at Worcester; and a body of English troops were garrisoned in the old castle, "upon no other pretence but that the stance thereof was stately, and the house itself of a notable good fabric and contrivance."  So oppressive were their exactions, that though he had previously derived from his lands an income of nearly a thousand pounds per annum (no inconsiderable sum in the days of the Commonwealth), not a single shilling found its way to the Tower.

    The ingenuity which had hitherto been taxed for the good of mankind and the glory of his country, had now to be exerted for himself.  First he published his Genealogy, to convince Cromwell and the Parliament that a family "which Saturn's scythe had not been able to mow in the progress of all former ages, ought not to be prematurely cut off;" but neither Cromwell nor the Parliament took any notice of his Genealogy.  Next he published, in a larger work entitled the Jewel, a prospectus of his Universal Language: Cromwell thought there were languages enough already.  He described his own stupendous powers of mind; Cromwell was not in the least astonished at their magnitude.  He hinted at the vast discoveries with which he was yet to enrich the country; Cromwell left him to employ them in enriching himself.  In short, notwithstanding the much he offered in exchange for liberty and his forfeited possessions, Cromwell disliked the bargain; and so he remained a close prisoner in the Tower.  It must be confessed that, withall his ingenuity he was little skilled to conciliate the favour of the men in power.  They had beheaded Charles I., and he yet tells them how much he hated the Presbyterians for the manner in which they had treated that unfortunate monarch; and though they would fain have dealt with Charles II. after the same fashion, he assures them, that in no virtue, moral or intellectual, was that prince inferior to any of his hundred and ten predecessors.  Besides the Genealogy and the Jewel, he published, when in the Tower, a translation of the three first books of Rabelais, which has been described by a periodical critic as the "finest monument of his genius, and one of the most perfect transfusions of an author, from one language into another, that ever man accomplished."  And it is remarked, with reference to this work, by Mr. Motteux, that Sir Thomas "possessed learning and fancy equal to the task which he had undertaken, and that his version preserves the very style and air of the original."  What is known of the rest of his history may be summed up in a few words.  Having found means to escape out of prison, he fled to the Continent, and there died on the eve of the Restoration (indeed, as is said, out of joy at the event), in his forty-eighth year.

    "The character of Sir Thomas Urquhart," says a modern critic, "was singular in the extreme.  To all the bravery of the soldier and learning of the scholar, he added much of the knight-errant, and more of the visionnaire and projector.  Zealous for the honour of his country, and fully determined to wage war, both with his pen and his sword, against all the defaulters who disgraced it—credulous yet sagacious—enterprising but rash, he appears to have chosen the Admirable Crichton as his pattern and model for imitation.  For his learning he may be denominated the Sir Walter Raleigh of Scotland, and his pedantry was the natural fruit of erudition deeply engrained in his mind.  To this I may add, he possessed a disposition prone to strike out new paths in knowledge, and a confidence in himself that nothing could weaken or disturb.  In short, the characters of the humorist, the braggadocio, the schemer, the wit, the pedant, the patriot, the soldier, and the courtier, were all intermingled in his, and, together, formed a character which can hardly ever be equalled for excess of singularity, or excess of humour—for ingenious wisdom or entertaining folly."  He is described by another writer as "not only one of the most curious and whimsical, but one of the most powerful also, of all the geniuses our part of the island has produced."

    He was unquestionably an extraordinary man.  Their occur in some characters anomalies so striking, that, on their first appearance, they surprise even the most practised in the study of human nature.  By a careful process of analysis, however, we may arrive, in most instances, at what may be regarded as the simple elements which compose them, and see the mystery explained.  But it is not thus with the character of Sir Thomas.  Anomaly seems to have formed its very basis, and the more we analyse the more inexplicable it appears.  It exhibits traits so opposite, and apparently so discordant, that the circumstance of their amazing contrariety renders him as decidedly an original as the Caliban of Shakspere.

    His inventive powers seem to have been of a high order.  The new chemical vocabulary, with all its philosophical ingenuity, is constructed on principles exactly similar to those which he divulged more than a hundred years prior to its invention, in the preface to his Universal Language.  By what process could it be anticipated that the judgment which had enabled him to fix upon these principles, should have suffered him to urge in favour of that language the facility it afforded in the making of anagrams!  As a scholar, he is perhaps not much overrated by the critic whose character of him I have just transcribed.  It is remarked of the Greek language by Monboddo, that, "were there nothing else to convince him of its being a work of philosophers and grammarians, its dual number would of itself be sufficient; for, as certainly as the principles of body are the point, the line, and the surface, the principles of number are the monad and the duad, though philosophers only are aware of the fact."  His Lordship, in even this—one of the most refined of his speculations—was anticipated by Sir Thomas.  He, too, regarded the duad, "not as number, but as a step towards number—as a medium between multitude and unity;" and he has therefore assigned the dual its proper place in his Universal Language.  And is it not strikingly anomalous, that, with all this learning, he should not only have failed to detect the silly fictions of the old chroniclers, but that he himself should have attempted to impose on the world with fictions equally extravagant!  We find him, at one time, seriously pleading with the English Parliament that he had a claim, as the undoubted head and representative of the family of Japhet, to be released from the Tower.  We see him at another producing solid and powerful arguments to prove that a union of the two kingdoms would be productive of beneficial effects to both.  When we look at his literary character in one of its phases, and see how unconsciously he lays himself open to ridicule, we wonder how a writer of such general ingenuity should be so totally devoid of that sense of the incongruous which constitutes the perception of wit.  But, viewing him in another, we find that he is a person of exquisite humour, and the most successful of all the translators of Rabelais.  We are struck in some of his narratives (his narrative of the death of Crichton, for instance) by a style of description so gorgeously imaginative, that it seems to partake in no slight degree of the grandeur and elevation of epic poetry.  We turn over a few of the pages in which these occur, and find some of the meanest things in the language.  And his moral character seems to have been equally anomalous.  He would sooner have died in prison than have concealed, by a single falsehood, the respect which he entertained for the exiled Prince, at the very time, when he was fabricating a thousand for the honour of his family.  Must we not regard him as a kind of intellectual monster—a sort of moral centaur!  His character is wonderful, not in any of its single parts, but in its incongruity as a whole.  The horse is formed like other animals of the same species, and the man much like other men; but it is truly marvellous to find them united.



NOTES

 
4.    The resemblance between the inventions of Sir Thomas as described in the Jewel, and of the Marquis as intimated in the Century, is singularly close.  The following passages, selected chiefly for their brevity as specimens, may serve to show how very much the minds that produced them must have been of a piece.
 

FROM THE JEWEL.


    "In the denominations of the fixed stars, the Universal Language afforded the most significant way imaginary; for by the single word alone which represents the star you shall know the magnitude, together with the longitude and latitude, both in degrees and minutes, of the star that is expressed by it.

    "Such as will hearken to my instructions, if some strange word be proposed to them, whereof there are many thousands of millions devisable by the wit of man, which never hitherto by any breathing have been uttered, shall be able, although they know not the ultimate signification thereof, to declare what part of speech it is; or if a noun, to what predicament or class it is to be reduced; whether it be the sign of a real or natural thing, or somewhat concerning mechanic trades in their tools or terms; or if real, whether natural or artificial, complete or incomplete."

FROM THE CENTURY.


    "To write by a knotted silk string, so that every knot shall signify any letter, with a comma, full point, or interrogation, and as legible as with pen and ink upon white paper.  The like by the smell, by the taste, by the touch, by these three senses, as perfectly, distinctly, and unconfusedly, yea, as readily as by the sight.

    "How to compose an universal character, methodical, and easy to be written, yet intelligible in any language; so that if an Englishman write it in English, a Frenchman, Italian, Spaniard, Irish, Welch, being scholars, yea, Grecian or Hebritan, shall as perfectly understand it in their own tongue, distinguishing the verbs from the nouns, the numbers, tenses, and cases, as properly expressed in their own language as it was in English."



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