STELLA: Software for Teaching English Language and Literature and its Assessment


Note A---The Black Dwarf.

The Black Dwarf, now almost forgotten, was once held a formidable personage by the dalesmen of the Border, where he got the blame of whatever mischief befell the sheep or cattle. ``He was,'' says Dr. Leyden, who makes considerable use of him in the ballad called the Cowt of Keeldar, ``a fairy of the most malignant order---the genuine Northern Duergar.'' The best and most authentic account of this dangerous and mysterious being occurs in a tale communicated to the Author by that eminent antiquary Richard Surtees, Esq. of Mainsforth, author of the History of the Bishopric of Durham.

According to this well-attested legend, two young Northumbrians were out on a shooting party, and had plunged deep among the mountainous moorlands which border on Cumberland. They stopped for refreshment in a little secluded dell by the side of a rivulet. There, after they had partaken of such food as they brought with them, one of the party fell asleep; the other, unwilling to disturb his friend's repose, stole silently out of the dell with the purpose of looking around him, when he was astonished to find himself close to a being who seemed not to belong to this world, as he was the most hideous dwarf that the sun had ever shone on. His head was of full human size, forming a frightful contrast with his height, which was considerably under four feet. It was thatched with no other covering than long matted red hair, like that of the felt of a badger in consistence, and in colour a reddish brown, like the hue of the heather blossom. His limbs seemed of great strength ; nor was he otherwise deformed than from their undue proportion in thickness to his diminutive height. The terrified sportsman stood gazing on this horrible apparition, until, with an angry countenance, the being demanded by what right he intruded himself on those hills, and destroyed their harmless inhabitants. The perplexed stranger endeavoured to propitiate the incensed dwarf by offering to surrender his game, as he would to an earthly Lord of the Manor. The proposal only redoubled the offence already taken by the dwarf, who alleged that he was the lord of those mountains, and the protector of the wild creatures who found a retreat in their solitary recesses ; and that all spoils derived from their death, or misery, were abhorrent to him. The hunter humbled himself before the angry goblin, and by protestations of his ignorance, and of his resolution to abstain from such intrusion in future, at last succeeded in pacifying him. The gnome now became more communicative, and spoke of himself as belonging to a species of beings something between the angelic race and humanity. He added, moreover, which could hardly have been anticipated, that he had hopes of sharing in the redemption of the race of Adam. He pressed the sportsman to visit his dwelling, which he said was hard by, and plighted his faith for his safe return. But at this moment the shout of the sportsman's companion was heard calling for his friend, and the dwarf, as if unwilling that more than one person should be cognisant of his presence, disappeared as the young man emerged from the dell to join his comrade.

It was the universal opinion of those most experienced in such matters, that if the shooter had accompanied the spirit, he would, notwithstanding the dwarf's fair pretences, have been either torn to pieces or immured for years in the recesses of some fairy hill.

Such is the last and most authentic account of the apparition of the Black Dwarf.

Note B---Willie of Westburnflat.

This was in reality the designation of one of the last Border robbers, at least one of the last Scotchmen who pursued that ancient profession. He is probably placed about forty or fifty years too late by introducing him in the beginning of the eighteenth century.

He is said to have been condemned to death at the last Circuit Court of Justiciary which was held in the town of Selkirk. When the judge was about to pronounce sentence, the prisoner arose, and being a man of great strength, broke asunder one of the benches, and, seizing on a fragment, was about to fight his way out of the Court House. But his companions in misfortune, for several persons had been convicted along with him, held his hands, and implored him to permit them to die the death of Christians ; and both he and they, agreeable to their decorous desire, had full honours of rope and gallows.

Westburnflat itself is situated on the small river or brook called Hermitage, not far from its junction with the Liddel. (See also introduction to ``Johnie Armstrong,'' _Minstrelsy of the Border,_ vol. i.)

Note C---Border Jacobites.

In confirmation of what is said concerning the Border Jacobites of inferior rank, the reader may consult what is said by the Rev. Mr. Patten concerning the cavalry of the Earl of Derwentwater in 1715. After giving some account of Captains Hunter and Douglas, by each of whom a troop was levied, the historian adds---

``To this account of these two gentlemen, I shall add as a pleasant story what one was pleased to remark upon them. When he heard that Captain Hunter was gone with his troop back into England, as was then given out, to take up quarters for the whole army who were to follow, and to fall upon General Carpenter and his small and wearied troops : he said, `Let but Hunter and Douglas with their men quarter near General Carpenter, and in faith they'll not leave them a horse to mount on.' His reason is supposed to be because these with their men had been pretty well versed in horse-stealing, or at least suspected as such, for an old Borderer was pleased to say, when he was informed that a great many, if not all, the loose fellows and suspected horse-stealers were gone into the rebelllion, `It is an ill wind blows nobody profit;' for now, continued he, `I can leave my stable door unlocked and sleep sound since _Luck-in-a-Bag_ and the rest are gone to the wars.' ''---_History of the late Rebellion,_ by the Rev. Robert Patten. Second edition, London, 1717, p. 63.

Note D---Captain Green.

This unfortunate mariner was commander of an armed vessel engaged in the East Indian trade, called the Worcester. He was seize at Edinburgh, and tried before the Admiralty Court there for an alleged act of piracy committed on a vessel belonging to the Scottish Darien Company, called the Rising Sun, the crew of which Green was said to have murdered, and plundered the cargo. He suffered death, with two others of his crew, for this alleged offence, of which he appears to have been innocent, and certainly was not convicted on credible evidence.---[See the _State Trials,_ 1705, vol. xiv.]

Note E---Invasion by the Chevalier.

The period of the novel corresponds to the spring of 1707, when an invasion by the Chevalier St. George, at the head of an army of French auxiliaries, was universally expected, and when the greater part of Scotland, dissatisfied with the Union, was well content to have received the heir of the House of Stuart with open arms. The alert conduct of Admiral Sir George Byng, who followed the French squadron into the Firth of Forth, and the coldness and indifference of the French Commodore Count Forbin, who refused to suffer the Chevalier to disembark, lost an opportunity which was the most favourable to the restoration of the Stuart line that had occurred since the Revolution. While the French squadron was in the Forth, the Jacobite gentlemen of Stirlingshire took arms, as Ellieslaw's party are represented to have done, but on learning that the flotilla was chased off the coast they dispersed and returned to their homes. Stirling of Keir, Edmonston of Newlin, and other gentlemen, were tried for high treason, but as no proof could be brought of distinct or overt act of rebellion, or of their having other arms than swords and pistols, then generally worn by all travellers, they were acquitted for want of evidence.

Back to Contents Page