TO THE BEST OF PATRONS, A PLEASED AND INDULGENT READER
WISHES HEALTH, AND INCREASE, AND CONTENTMENT.
If ingratitude comprehendeth every vice, surely so foul a stain worst
of all beseemeth him whose life has been devoted to instructing youth
in virtue and in humane letters. Therefore have I chosen, in this prolegomenon,
to unload my burden of thanks at thy feet, for the favour with which thou
last kindly entertained the Tales of my Landlord. Certes, if thou hast
chuckled over their factious and festivous descriptions, or hadst thy
mind filled with pleasure at the strange and pleasant turns of fortune
which they record, verily, I have also simpered when I beheld a second
storey with attics, that has arisen on the basis of my small domicile
at Gandercleugh, the walls having been aforehand pronounced by Deacon
Barrow to be capable of enduring such an elevation. Nor has it been without
delectation that I have endued a new coat (snuff-brown, and with metal
buttons), having all nether garments corresponding thereto. We do therefore
lie, in respect of each other, under a reciprocation of benefits, whereof
those received by me being the most solid (in respect that a new house
and a new coat are better than a new tale and an old song), it is meet
that my gratitude should be expressed with the louder voice and more preponderating
vehemence. And how should it be so expressed? ---Certainly not in words
only, but in act and deed. It is with this sole purpose, and disclaiming
all intention of purchasing that pendicle or poffle of land called the
Carlinescroft, lying adjacent to my garden, and measuring seven acres,
three roods, and four perches, that I have committed to the eyes of those
who thought well of the former tomes, these four additional volumes<*>
of the Tales of my Landlord. Not
* [The Heart of Mid-Lothian was originally published in 4 vols.]
the less, if Peter Prayfort be minded to sell the said poffle, it is
at his own choice to say so; and, peradventure, he may meet with a purchaser:
unless (gentle reader) the pleasing pourtraictures of Peter Pattieson,
now given unto thee in particular, and unto the public in general, shall
have lost their favour in thine eyes, whereof I am no way distrustful.
And so much confidence do I repose in thy continued favour, that, should
thy lawful occasions call thee to the town of Gandercleugh, a place frequented
by most at one time or other in their lives, I will enrich thine eyes
with a sight of those precious manuscripts whence thou hast derived so
much delectation, thy nose with a snuff from my mull, and thy palate with
a dram from my bottle of strong waters, called by the learned of Gandercleugh,
the Dominie's Dribble o' Drink.
It is there, O highly esteemed and beloved reader, thou wilt be able
to bear testimony, through the medium of thine own senses, against the
children of vanity, who have sought to identify thy friend and servant
with I know not what inditer of vain fables; who hath cumbered the world
with his devices, but shrunken from the responsibility thereof. Truly,
this hath been well termed a generation hard of faith; since what can
a man do to assert his property in a printed tome, saving to put his name
in the title-page thereof, with his description, or designation, as the
lawyers term it, and place of abode? Of a surety I would have such sceptics
consider how they themselves would brook to have their works ascribed
to others, their names and professions imputed as forgeries, and their
very existence brought into question; even although, peradventure, it
may be it is of little consequence to any but themselves, not only whether
they are living or dead, but even whether they ever lived or no. Yet have
my maligners carried their uncharitable censures still farther.
These cavillers have not only doubted mine identity, although thus plainly
proved, but they have impeached my veracity and the authenticity of my
historical narratives! Verily, I can only say in answer, that I have been
cautelous in quoting mine authorities. It is true, indeed, that if I had
hearkened with only one ear, I might have rehearsed my tale with more
acceptation from those who love to hear but half the truth. It is, it
may hap, not altogether to the discredit of our kindly nation of Scotland,
that we are apt to take an interest, warm, yea partial, in the deeds and
sentiments of our forefathers. He whom his adversaries describe as a perjured
Prelatist, is desirous that his predecessors should be held moderate in
their power, and just in their execution of its privileges, when truly,
the unimpassioned peruser of the annals of those times shall deem them
sanguinary, violent, and tyrannical. Again, the representatives of the
suffering Nonconformists desire that their ancestors, the Cameronians,
shall be represented not simply as honest enthusiasts, oppressed for conscience'
sake, but persons of fine breeding, and valiant heroes. Truly, the historian
cannot gratify these predilections. He must needs describe the cavaliers
as proud and high-spirited, cruel, remorseless, and vindictive; the suffering
party as honourably tenacious of their opinions under persecution; their
own tempers being, however, sullen, fierce, and rude; their opinions absurd
and extravagant; and their whole course of conduct that of persons whom
hellebore would better have suited than prosecutions unto death for high-treason.
Natheless, while such and so preposterous were the opinions on either
side, there were, it cannot be doubted, men of virtue and worth on both,
to entitle either party to claim merit from its martyrs. It has been demanded
of me, Jedediah Cleishbotham, by what right I am entitled to constitute
myself an impartial judge of their discrepancies of opinions, seeing (as
it is stated) that I must necessarily have descended from one or other
of the contending parties, and be, of course, wedded for better or for
worse, according to the reasonable practice of Scotland, to its dogmata,
or opinions, and bound, as it were, by the tie matrimonial, or, to speak
without metaphor, _ex jure sanguinis,_ to maintain them in preference
to all others.
But, nothing denying the rationality of the rule, which calls on all
now living to rule their political and religious opinions by those of
their great-grandfathers, and inevitable as seems the one or the other
horn of the dilemma betwixt which my adversaries conceive they have pinned
me to the wall, I yet spy some means of refuge, and claim a privilege
to write and speak of both parties with impartiality. For, O ye powers
of logic! when the Prelatists and Presbyterians of old times went together
by the ears in this unlucky country, my ancestor (venerated be his memory!)
was one of the people called Quakers, and suffered severe handling from
either side, even to the extenuation of his purse and the incarceration
of his person.
Craving thy pardon, gentle Reader, for these few words concerning me
and mine, I rest, as above expressed, thy sure and obligated friend,<*>
* Note A. Author's connection with Quakerism.
GANDERCLEUGH, this 1st of April, 1818.
TO THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN---(1830).
The author has stated, in the preface to the Chronicles of the Canongate,
1827, that he received from an anonymous correspondent an account of the
incident upon which the following story is founded. He is now at liberty
to say, that the information was conveyed to him by a late amiable and
ingenious lady, whose wit and power of remarking and judging of character
still survive in the memory of her friends. Her maiden name was Miss Helen
Lawson, of Girthhead, and she was wife of Thomas Goldie, Esq. of Craigmuie,
Commissary of Dumfries.
Her communication was in these words:---
``I had taken for summer lodgings a cottage near the old Abbey of Lincluden.
It had formerly been inhabited by a lady who had pleasure in embellishing
cottages, which she found perhaps homely and even poor enough; mine, therefore,
possessed many marks of taste and elegance unusual in this species of
habitation in Scotland, where a cottage is literally what its name declares.
``From my cottage door I had a partial view of the old Abbey before
mentioned; some of the highest arches were seen over, and some through,
the trees scattered along a lane which led down to the ruin, and the strange
fantastic shapes of almost all those old ashes accorded wonderfully well
with the building they at once shaded and ornamented.
``The Abbey itself from my door was almost on a level with the cottage;
but on coming to the end of the lane, it was discovered to be situated
on a high perpendicular bank, at the foot of which run the clear waters
of the Cluden, where they hasten to join the sweeping Nith,
`Whose distant roaring swells and fa's.'
As my kitchen and parlour were not very far distant, I one day went
in to purchase some chickens from a person I heard offering them for sale.
It was a little, rather stout-looking woman, who seemed to be between
seventy and eighty years of age; she was almost covered with a tartan
plaid, and her cap had over it a black silk hood, tied under the chin,
a piece of dress still much in use among elderly women of that rank of
life in Scotland; her eyes were dark, and remarkably lively and intelligent;
I entered into conversation with her, and began by asking how she maintained
``She said that in winter she footed stockings, that is, knit feet to
country-people's stockings, which bears about the same relation to stocking-knitting
that cobbling does to shoe-making, and is of course both less profitable
and less dignified; she likewise taught a few children to read, and in
summer she whiles reared a few chickens.
``I said I could venture to guess from her face she had never been married.
She laughed heartily at this, and said, `I maun hae the queerest face
that ever was seen, that ye could guess that. Now, do tell me, madam,
how ye cam to think sae?' I told her it was from her cheerful disengaged
countenance. She said, `Mem, have ye na far mair reason to be happy than
me, wi' a gude husband and a fine family o' bairns, and plenty o' everything?
for me, I'm the puirest o' a' puir bodies, and can hardly contrive to
keep mysell alive in a' the wee bits o' ways I hae tell't ye.' After some
more conversation, during which I was more and more pleased with the old
womans sensible conversation, and the _navet_ of her remarks,
she rose to go away, when I asked her name. Her countenance suddenly clouded,
and she said gravely, rather colouring, `My name is Helen Walker; but
your husband kens weel about me.'
``In the evening I related how much I had been pleased, and inquired
what was extraordinary in the history of the poor woman. Mr. ------ said,
there were perhaps few more remarkable people than Helen Walker. She had
been left an orphan, with the charge of a sister considerably younger
than herself, and who was educated and maintained by her exertions. Attached
to herby so many ties, therefore, it will not be easy to conceive her
feelings, when she found that this only sister must be tried by the laws
of her country for child-murder, and upon being called as principal witness
against her. The counsel for the prisoner told Helen, that if she could
declare that her sister had made any preparations, however slight, or
had given her any intimation on the subject, that such a statement would
save her sister's life, as she was the principal witness against her.
Helen said, `It is impossible for me to swear to a falsehood; and, whatever
may be the consequence, I will give my oath according to my conscience.'
``The trial came on, and the sister was found guilty and condemned;
but in Scotland six weeks must elapse between the sentence and the execution,
and Helen Walker availed herself of it. The very day of her sister's condemnation
she got a petition drawn, stating the peculiar circumstances of the case,
and that very night set out on foot to London.
``Without introduction or recommendation, with her simple (perhaps ill-expressed)
petition, drawn up by some inferior clerk of the court, she presented
herself, in her tartan plaid and country attire, to the late Duke of Argyle,
who immediately procured the pardon she petitioned for, and Helen returned
with it on foot just in time to save her sister.
``I was so strongly interested by this narrative, that I determined
immediately to prosecute my acquaintance with Helen Walker; but as I was
to leave the country next day, I was obliged to defer it till my return
in spring, when the first walk I took was to Helen Walker's cottage.
``She had died a short time before. My regret was extreme, and I endeavoured
to obtain some account of Helen from an old woman who inhabited the other
end of her cottage. I inquired if Helen ever spoke of her past history---her
journey to London, etc., `Na,' the old woman said, `Helen was a wily body,
and whene'er ony o' the neebors asked anything about it, she aye turned
``In short, every answer I received only tended to increase my regret,
and raise my opinion of Helen Walker, who could unite so much prudence
with so much heroic virtue.''
This narrative was inclosed in the following letter to the author, without
date or signature ---
``Sir,---The occurrence just related happened to me twenty-six years
ago. Helen Walker lies buried in the churchyard of Irongray, about six
miles from Dumfries. I once proposed that a small monument should have
been erected to commemorate so remarkable a character, but I now prefer
leaving it to you to perpetuate her memory in a more durable manner.''
The reader is now able to judge how far the author has improved upon,
or fallen short of, the pleasing and interesting sketch of high principle
and steady affection displayed by Helen Walker, the prototype of the fictitious
Jeanie Deans. Mrs. Goldie was unfortunately dead before the author had
given his name to these volumes, so he lost all opportunity of thanking
that lady for her highly valuable communication. But her daughter, Miss
Goldie, obliged him with the following additional information:---
``Mrs. Goldie endeavoured to collect further particulars of Helen Walker,
particularly concerning her journey to London, but found this nearly impossible;
as the natural dignity of her character, and a high sense of family respectability,
made her so indissolubly connect her sister's disgrace with her own exertions,
that none of her neighbours durst ever question her upon the subject.
One old woman, a distant relation of Helen's, and who is still living,
says she worked an harvest with her, but that she never ventured to ask
her about her sister's trial, or her journey to London; `Helen,' she added,
`was a lofty body, and used a high style o' language.' The same old woman
says, that every year Helen received a cheese from her sister, who lived
at Whitehaven, and that she always sent a liberal portion of it to herself,
or to her father's family. This fact, though trivial in itself, strongly
marks the affection subsisting between the two sisters, and the complete
conviction on the mind of the criminal that her sister had acted solely
from high principle, not from any want of feeling, which another small
but characteristic trait will further illustrate. A gentleman, a relation
of Mrs. Goldie's, who happened to be travelling in the North of England,
on coming to a small inn, was shown into the parlour by a female servant,
who, after cautiously shutting the door, said, `Sir, I'm Nelly Walker's
sister.' Thus practically showing that she considered her sister as better
known by her high conduct than even herself by a different kind of celebrity.
``Mrs. Goldie was extremely anxious to have a tombstone and an inscription
upon it erected in Irongray Churchyard; and if Sir Walter Scott will condescend
to write the last, a little subscription could be easily raised in the
immediate neighbourhood, and Mrs. Goldie's wish be thus fulfilled.''
It is scarcely necessary to add that the request of Miss Goldie will
be most willingly complied with, and without the necessity of any tax
on the public.<*> Nor is there much occasion to repeat how much the
* [Note B. Tombstone to Helen Walker.]
author conceives himself obliged to his unknown correspondent, who thus
supplied him with a theme affording such a pleasing view of the moral
dignity of virtue, though unaided by birth, beauty, or talent. If the
picture has suffered in the execution, it is from the failure of the author's
powers to present in detail the same simple and striking portrait exhibited
in Mrs. Goldie's letter.
Abbotsford, April 1, 1830.
Although it would be impossible to add much to Mrs. Goldie's picturesque
and most interesting account of Helen Walker, the prototype of the imaginary
Jeanie Deans, the Editor may be pardoned for introducing two or three
anecdotes respecting that excellent person, which he has collected from
a volume entitled, _Sketches from Nature,_ by John M`Diarmid, a gentleman
who conducts an able provincial paper in the town of Dumfries.
Helen was the daughter of a small farmer in a place called Dalwhairn,
in the parish of Irongray; where, after the death of her father, she continued,
with the unassuming piety of a Scottish peasant, to support her mother
by her own unremitted labour and privations; a case so common, that even
yet, I am proud to say, few of my countrywomen would shrink from the duty.
Helen Walker was held among her equals _pensy,_ that is, proud or conceited;
but the facts brought to prove this accusation seem only to evince a strength
of character superior to those around her. Thus it was remarked, that
when it thundered, she went with her work and her Bible to the front of
the cottage, alleging that the Almighty could smite in the city as well
as in the field.
Mr. M`Diarmid mentions more particularly the misfortune of her sister,
which he supposes to have taken place previous to 1736. Helen Walker,
declining every proposal of saving her relation's life at the expense
of truth, borrowed a sum of money sufficient for her journey, walked the
whole distance to London barefoot, and made her way to John Duke of Argyle.
She was heard to say, that, by the Almighty strength, she had been enabled
to meet the Duke at the most critical moment, which, if lost, would have
caused the inevitable forfeiture of her sister's life.
Isabella, or Tibby Walker, saved from the fate which impended over her,
was married by the person who had wronged her (named Waugh), and lived
happily for great part of a century, uniformly acknowledging the extraordinary
affection to which she owed her preservation.
Helen Walker died about the end of the year 1791, and her remains are
interred in the churchyard of her native parish of Irongray, in a romantic
cemetery on the banks of the Cairn. That a character so distinguished
for her undaunted love of virtue, lived and died in poverty, if not want,
serves only to show us how insignificant, in the sight of Heaven, are
our principal objects of ambition upon earth.
* [Note---This Preliminary Chapter originally formed the first of the
Novel, but * has now been printed in italics on account of its introductory
So down thy hill, romantic Ashbourn, glides The Derby dilly, carrying
six insides. Frere.
The times have changed in nothing more (we follow as we were wont the
manuscript of Peter Pattieson) than in the rapid conveyance of intelligence
and communication betwixt one part of Scotland and another. It is not
above twenty or thirty years, according to the evidence of many credible
witnesses now alive, since a little miserable horse-cart, performing with
difficulty a journey of thirty miles _per diem,_ carried our mails from
the capital of Scotland to its extremity. Nor was Scotland much more deficient
in these accommodations than our rich sister had been about eighty years
before. Fielding, in his Tom Jones, and Farquhar, in a little farce called
the Stage-Coach, have ridiculed the slowness of these vehicles of public
accommodation. According to the latter authority, the highest bribe could
only induce the coachman to promise to anticipate by half-an-hour the
usual time of his arrival at the Bull and Mouth.
But in both countries these ancient, slow, and sure modes of conveyance
are now alike unknown; mail-coach races against mail-coach, and high-flyer
against high-flyer, through the most remote districts of Britain. And
in our village alone, three post-coaches, and four coaches with men armed,
and in scarlet cassocks, thunder through the streets each day, and rival
in brilliancy and noise the invention of the celebrated tyrant:---
Demens, qui nimbos et non imitabile fulmen, re et cornipedum pulsu,
Now and then, to complete the resemblance, and to correct the presumption
of the venturous charioteers, it does happen that the career of these
dashing rivals of Salmoneus meets with as undesirable and violent a termination
as that of their prototype. It is on such occasions that the Insides and
Outsides, to use the appropriate vehicular phrases, have reason to rue
the exchange of the slow and safe motion of the ancient Fly-coaches, which,
compared with the chariots of Mr. Palmer, so ill deserve the name. The
ancient vehicle used to settle quietly down, like a ship scuttled and
left to sink by the gradual influx of the waters, while the modern is
smashed to pieces with the velocity of the same vessel hurled against
breakers, or rather with the fury of a bomb bursting at the conclusion
of its career through the air. The late ingenious Mr. Pennant, whose humour
it was to set his face in stern opposition to these speedy conveyances,
had collected, I have heard, a formidable list of such casualties, which,
joined to the imposition of innkeepers, whose charges the passengers had
no time to dispute, the sauciness of the coachman, and the uncontrolled
and despotic authority of the tyrant called the guard, held forth a picture
of horror, to which murder, theft, fraud, and peculation, lent all their
dark colouring. But that which gratifies the impatience of the human disposition
will be practised in the teeth of danger, and in defiance of admonition;
and, in despite of the Cambrian antiquary, mail-coaches not only roll
their thunders round the base of Penman-Maur and Cader-Idris, but
Frighted Skiddaw hears afar The rattling of the unscythed car.
And perhaps the echoes of Ben Nevis may soon be awakened by the bugle,
not of a warlike chieftain, but of the guard of a mail-coach.
It was a fine summer day, and our little school had obtained a half-holiday,
by the intercession of a good-humoured visitor.<*> I
* His honour Gilbert Goslinn of Gandercleugh; for I love to be precise
in * matters of importance.---J. C.
expected by the coach a new number of an interesting periodical publication,
and walked forward on the highway to meet it, with the impatience which
Cowper has described as actuating the resident in the country when longing
for intelligence from the mart of news.---
--------- The grand debate, The popular harangue,---the tart reply,---
The logic, and the wisdom, and the wit, And the loud laugh,---I long to
know them all;--- I burn to set the imprisoned wranglers free, And give
them voice and utterance again.
It was with such feelings that I eyed the approach of the new coach,
lately established on our road, and known by the name of the Somerset,
which, to say truth, possesses some interest for me, even when it conveys
no such important information. The distant tremulous sound of its wheels
was heard just as I gained the summit of the gentle ascent, called the
Goslin-brae, from which you command an extensive view down the valley
of the river Gander. The public road, which comes up the side of that
stream, and crosses it at a bridge about a quarter of a mile from the
place where I was standing, runs partly through enclosures and plantations,
and partly through open pasture land. It is a childish amusement perhaps,---but
my life has been spent with children, and why should not my pleasures
be like theirs?---childish as it is then, I must own I have had great
pleasure in watching the approach of the carriage, where the openings
of the road permit it to be seen. The gay glancing of the equipage, its
diminished and toy-like appearance at a distance, contrasted with the
rapidity of its motion, its appearance and disappearance at intervals,
and the progressively increasing sounds that announce its nearer approach,
have all to the idle and listless spectator, who has nothing more important
to attend to, something of awakening interest. The ridicule may attach
to me, which is flung upon many an honest citizen, who watches from the
window of his villa the passage of the stage-coach; but it is a very natural
source of amusement notwithstanding, and many of those who join in the
laugh are perhaps not unused to resort to it in secret.
On the present occasion, however, fate had decreed that I should not
enjoy the consummation of the amusement by seeing the coach rattle past
me as I sat on the turf, and hearing the hoarse grating voice of the guard
as he skimmed forth for my grasp the expected packet, without the carriage
checking its course for an instant. I had seen the vehicle thunder down
the hill that leads to the bridge with more than its usual impetuosity,
glittering all the while by flashes from a cloudy tabernacle of the dust
which it had raised, and leaving a train behind it on the road resembling
a wreath of summer mist. But it did not appear on the top of the nearer
bank within the usual space of three minutes, which frequent observation
had enabled me to ascertain was the medium time for crossing the bridge
and mounting the ascent. When double that space had elapsed, I became
alarmed, and walked hastily forward. As I came in sight of the bridge,
the cause of delay was too manifest, for the Somerset had made a summerset
in good earnest, and overturned so completely, that it was literally resting
upon the ground, with the roof undermost, and the four wheels in the air.
The ``exertions of the guard and coachman,'' both of whom were gratefully
commemorated in the newspapers, having succeeded in disentangling the
horses by cutting the harness, were now proceeding to extricate the insides
by a sort of summary and Csarean process of delivery, forcing the
hinges from one of the doors which they could not open otherwise. In this
manner were two disconsolate damsels set at liberty from the womb of the
leathern conveniency. As they immediately began to settle their clothes,
which were a little deranged, as may be presumed, I concluded they had
received no injury, and did not venture to obtrude my services at their
toilette, for which, I understand, I have since been reflected upon by
the fair sufferers. The _outsides,_ who must have been discharged from
their elevated situation by a shock resembling the springing of a mine,
escaped, nevertheless, with the usual allowance of scratches and bruises,
excepting three, who, having been pitched into the river Gander, were
dimly seen contending with the tide like the relics of neas's shipwreck,---
Rari apparent mantes in gurgite vasto.
I applied my poor exertions where they seemed to be most needed, and
with the assistance of one or two of the company who had escaped unhurt,
easily succeeded in fishing out two of the unfortunate passengers, who
were stout active young fellows; and, but for the preposterous length
of their greatcoats, and the equally fashionable latitude and longitude
of their Wellington trousers, would have required little assistance from
any one. The third was sickly and elderly, and might have perished but
for the efforts used to preserve him.
When the two greatcoated gentlemen had extricated themselves from the
river, and shaken their ears like huge water-dogs, a violent altercation
ensued betwixt them and the coachman and guard, concerning the cause of
their overthrow. In the course of the squabble, I observed that both my
new acquaintances belonged to the law, and that their professional sharpness
was likely to prove an overmatch for the surly and official tone of the
guardians of the vehicle. The dispute ended in the guard assuring the
passengers that they should have seats in a heavy coach which would pass
that spot in less than half-an-hour, provided it were not full. Chance
seemed to favour this arrangement, for when the expected vehicle, arrived,
there were only two places occupied in a carriage which professed to carry
six. The two ladies who had been disinterred out of the fallen vehicle
were readily admitted, but positive objections were stated by those previously
in possession to the admittance of the two lawyers, whose wetted garments
being much of the nature of well-soaked sponges, there was every reason
to believe they would refund a considerable part of the water they had
collected, to the inconvenience of their fellow-passengers. On the other
hand, the lawyers rejected a seat on the roof, alleging that they had
only taken that station for pleasure for one stage, but were entitled
in all respects to free egress and regress from the interior, to which
their contract positively referred. After some altercation, in which something
was said upon the edict _Naut caupones stabularii,_ the coach went
off, leaving the learned gentlemen to abide by their action of damages.
They immediately applied to me to guide them to the next village and
the best inn; and from the account I gave them of the Wallace Head, declared
they were much better pleased to stop there than to go forward upon the
terms of that impudent scoundrel the guard of the Somerset. All that they
now wanted was a lad to carry their travelling bags, who was easily procured
from an adjoining cottage; and they prepared to walk forward, when they
found there was another passenger in the same deserted situation with
themselves. This was the elderly and sickly-looking person, who had been
precipitated into the river along with the two young lawyers. He, it seems,
had been too modest to push his own plea against the coachman when he
saw that of his betters rejected, and now remained behind with a look
of timid anxiety, plainly intimating that he was deficient in those means
of recommendation which are necessary passports to the hospitality of
I ventured to call the attention of the two dashing young blades, for
such they seemed, to the desolate condition of their fellow-traveller.
They took the hint with ready good-nature.
``O, true, Mr. Dunover,'' said one of the youngsters, ``you must not
remain on the pav here; you must go and have some dinner with us---Halkit
and I must have a post-chaise to go on, at all events, and we will set
you down wherever suits you best.''
The poor man, for such his dress, as well as his diffidence, bespoke
him, made the sort of acknowledging bow by which says a Scotsman, ``It's
too much honour for the like of me;'' and followed humbly behind his gay
patrons, all three besprinkling the dusty road as they walked along with
the moisture of their drenched garments, and exhibiting the singular and
somewhat ridiculous appearance of three persons suffering from the opposite
extreme of humidity, while the summer sun was at its height, and everything
else around them had the expression of heat and drought. The ridicule
did not escape the young gentlemen themselves, and they had made what
might be received as one or two tolerable jests on the subject before
they had advanced far on their peregrination.
``We cannot complain, like Cowley,'' said one of them, ``that Gideon's
fleece remains dry, while all around is moist; this is the reverse of
``We ought to be received with gratitude in this good town; we bring
a supply of what they seem to need most,'' said Halkit.
``And distribute it with unparalleled generosity,'' replied his companion;
``performing the part of three water-carts for the benefit of their dusty
``We come before them, too,'' said Halkit, ``in full professional force---counsel
``And client,'' said the young advocate, looking behind him; and then
added, lowering his voice, ``that looks as if he had kept such dangerous
company too long.''
It was, indeed, too true, that the humble follower of the gay young
men had the threadbare appearance of a worn-out litigant, and I could
not but smile at the conceit, though anxious to conceal my mirth from
the object of it.
When we arrived at the Wallace Inn, the elder of the Edinburgh gentlemen,
and whom I understood to be a barrister, insisted that I should remain
and take part of their dinner; and their inquiries and demands speedily
put my landlord and his whole family in motion to produce the best cheer
which the larder and cellar afforded, and proceed to cook it to the best
advantage, a science in which our entertainers seemed to be admirably
skilled. In other respects they were lively young men, in the hey-day
of youth and good spirits, playing the part which is common to the higher
classes of the law at Edinburgh, and which nearly resembles that of the
young Templars in the days of Steele and Addison. An air of giddy gaiety
mingled with the good sense, taste, and information which their conversation
exhibited; and it seemed to be their object to unite the character of
men of fashion and lovers of the polite arts. A fine gentleman, bred up
in the thorough idleness and inanity of pursuit, which I understand is
absolutely necessary to the character in perfection, might in all probability
have traced a tinge of professional pedantry which marked the barrister
in spite of his efforts, and something of active bustle in his companion,
and would certainly have detected more than a fashionable mixture of information
and animated interest in the language of both. But to me, who had no pretensions
to be so critical, my companions seemed to form a very happy mixture of
good-breeding and liberal information, with a disposition to lively rattle,
pun, and jest, amusing to a grave man, because it is what he himself can
least easily command.
The thin pale-faced man, whom their good-nature had brought into their
society, looked out of place as well as out of spirits; sate on the edge
of his seat, and kept the chair at two feet distance from the table; thus
incommoding himself considerably in conveying the victuals to his mouth,
as if by way of penance for partaking of them in the company of his superiors.
A short time after dinner, declining all entreaty to partake of the wine,
which circulated freely round, he informed himself of the hour when the
chaise had been ordered to attend; and saying he would be in readiness,
modestly withdrew from the apartment.
``Jack,'' said the barrister to his companion, ``I remember that poor
fellow's face; you spoke more truly than you were aware of; he really
is one of my clients, poor man.''
``Poor man!'' echoed Halkit---``I suppose you mean he is your one and
``That's not my fault, Jack,'' replied the other, whose name I discovered
was Hardie. ``You are to give me all your business, you know; and if you
have none, the learned gentleman here knows nothing can come of nothing.''
``You seem to have brought something to nothing though, in the case
of that honest man. He looks as if he were just about to honour with his
residence the =Heart of Mid-Lothian.=''
``You are mistaken---he is just delivered from it.---Our friend here
looks for an explanation. Pray, Mr. Pattieson, have you been in Edinburgh?''
I answered in the affirmative.
``Then you must have passed, occasionally at least, though probably
not so faithfully as I am doomed to do, through a narrow intricate passage,
leading out of the north-west corner of the Parliament Square, and passing
by a high and antique building with turrets and iron grates,
Making good the saying odd, ``Near the church and far from God''---
Mr. Halkit broke in upon his learned counsel, to contribute his moiety
to the riddle---``Having at the door the sign of the Red man''------
``And being on the whole,'' resumed the counsellor interrupting his
friend in his turn, ``a sort of place where misfortune is happily confounded
with guilt, where all who are in wish to get out''------
``And where none who have the good luck to be out, wish to get in,''
added his companion.
``I conceive you, gentlemen,'' replied I; ``you mean the prison.''
``The prison,'' added the young lawyer---``You have hit it---the very
reverend Tolbooth itself; and let me tell you, you are obliged to us for
describing it with so much modesty and brevity; for with whatever amplifications
we might have chosen to decorate the subject, you lay entirely at our
mercy, since the Fathers Conscript of our city have decreed that the venerable
edifice itself shall not remain in existence to confirm or to confute
``Then the Tolbooth of Edinburgh is called the Heart of Mid-Lothian?''
``So termed and reputed, I assure you.''
``I think,'' said I, with the bashful diffidence with which a man lets
slip a pun in presence of his superiors, ``the metropolitan county may,
in that case, be said to have a sad heart.''
``Right as my glove, Mr. Pattieson,'' added Mr. Hardie; ``and a close
heart, and a hard heart---Keep it up, Jack.''
``And a wicked heart, and a poor heart,'' answered Halkit, doing his
``And yet it may be called in some sort a strong heart, and a high heart,''
rejoined the advocate. ``You see I can put you both out of heart.''
``I have played all my hearts,'' said the younger gentleman.
``Then we'll have another lead,'' answered his companion.---``And as
to the old and condemned Tolbooth, what pity the same honour cannot be
done to it as has been done to many of its inmates. Why should not the
Tolbooth have its `Last Speech, Confession, and Dying Words?' The old
stones would be just as conscious of the honour as many a poor devil who
has dangled like a tassel at the west end of it, while the hawkers were
shouting a confession the culprit had never heard of.''
``I am afraid,'' said I, ``if I might presume to give my opinion, it
would be a tale of unvaried sorrow and guilt.''
``Not entirely, my friend,'' said Hardie; ``a prison is a world within
itself, and has its own business, griefs, and joys, peculiar to its circle.
Its inmates are sometimes short-lived, but so are soldiers on service;
they are poor relatively to the world without, but there are degrees of
wealth and poverty among them, and so some are relatively rich also. They
cannot stir abroad, but neither can the garrison of a besieged fort, or
the crew of a ship at sea; and they are not under a dispensation quite
so desperate as either, for they may have as much food as they have money
to buy, and are not obliged to work, whether they have food or not.''
``But what variety of incident,'' said I (not without a secret view
to my present task), ``could possibly be derived from such a work as you
are pleased to talk of?''
``Infinite,'' replied the young advocate. ``Whatever of guilt, crime,
imposture, folly, unheard-of misfortunes, and unlooked-for change of fortune,
can be found to chequer life, my Last Speech of the Tolbooth should illustrate
with examples sufficient to gorge even the public's all-devouring appetite
for the wonderful and horrible. The inventor of fictitious narratives
has to rack his brains for means to diversify his tale, and after all
can hardly hit upon characters or incidents which have not been used again
and again, until they are familiar to the eye of the reader, so that the
development, _enlvement,_ the desperate wound of which the hero never
dies, the burning fever from which the heroine is sure to recover, become
a mere matter of course. I join with my honest friend Crabbe, and have
an unlucky propensity to hope, when hope is lost, and to rely upon the
cork-jacket, which carries the heroes of romance safe through all the
billows of affliction.'' He then declaimed the following passage, rather
with too much than too little emphasis:---
Much have I feared, but am no more afraid, When some chaste beauty by
some wretch betrayed, Is drawn away with such distracted speed, That she
anticipates a dreadful deed. Not so do I---Let solid walls impound The
captive fair, and dig a moat around; Let there be brazen locks and bars
of steel, And keepers cruel, such as never feel; With not a single note
the purse supply, And when she begs, let men and maids deny; Be windows
there from which she dare not fall, And help so distant, 'tis in vain
to call; Still means of freedom will some Power devise, And from the baffled
ruffian snatch his prize.
``The end of uncertainty,'' he concluded, ``is the death of interest;
and hence it happens that no one now reads novels.''
``Hear him, ye gods!'' returned his companion. ``I assure you, Mr. Pattieson,
you will hardly visit this learned gentleman, but you are likely to find
the new novel most in repute lying on his table,--- snugly intrenched,
however, beneath Stair's Institutes, or an open volume of Morrison's Decisions.''
``Do I deny it?'' said the hopeful jurisconsult, ``or wherefore should
I, since it is well known these Delilahs seduce my wisers and my betters?
May they not be found lurking amidst the multiplied memorials of our most
distinguished counsel, and even peeping from under the cushion of a judge's
arm-chair? Our seniors at the bar, within the bar, and even on the bench,
read novels; and, if not belied, some of them have written novels into
the bargain. I only say, that I read from habit and from indolence, not
from real interest; that, like ancient Pistol devouring his leek, I read
and swear till I get to the end of the narrative. But not so in the real
records of human vagaries---not so in the State Trials, or in the Books
of Adjournal, where every now and then you read new pages of the human
heart, and turns of fortune far beyond what the boldest novelist ever
attempted to produce from the coinage of his brain.''
``And for such narratives,'' I asked, ``you suppose the History of the
Prison of Edinburgh might afford appropriate materials?''
``In a degree unusually ample, my dear sir,'' said Hardie--- ``Fill
your glass, however, in the meanwhile. Was it not for many years the place
in which the Scottish parliament met? Was it not James's place of refuge,
when the mob, inflamed by a seditious preacher, broke, forth, on him with
the cries of `The sword of the Lord and of Gideon---bring forth the wicked
Haman?' Since that time how many hearts have throbbed within these walls,
as the tolling of the neighbouring bell announced to them how fast the
sands of their life were ebbing; how many must have sunk at the sound---how
many were supported by stubborn pride and dogged resolution---how many
by the consolations of religion? Have there not been some, who, looking
back on the motives of their crimes, were scarce able to understand how
they should have had such temptation as to seduce them from virtue; and
have there not, perhaps, been others, who, sensible of their innocence,
were divided between indignation at the undeserved doom which they were
to undergo, consciousness that they had not deserved it, and racking anxiety
to discover some way in which they might yet vindicate themselves? Do
you suppose any of these deep, powerful, and agitating feelings, can be
recorded and perused without exciting a corresponding depth of deep, powerful,
and agitating interest?---Oh! do but wait till I publish the _Causes Clbres_
of Caledonia, and you will find no want of a novel or a tragedy for some
time to come. The true thing will triumph over the brightest inventions
of the most ardent imagination. _Magna est veritas, et prvalebit._''
``I have understood,'' said I, encouraged by the affability of my rattling
entertainer, ``that less of this interest must attach to Scottish jurisprudence
than to that of any other country. The general morality of our people,
their sober and prudent habits''------
``Secure them,'' said the barrister, ``against any great increase of
professional thieves and depredators, but not against wild and wayward
starts of fancy and passion, producing crimes of an extraordinary description,
which are precisely those to the detail of which we listen with thrilling
interest. England has been much longer a highly civilised country; her
subjects have been very strictly amenable to laws administered without
fear or favour, a complete division of labour has taken place among her
subjects, and the very thieves and robbers form a distinct class in society,
subdivided among themselves according to the subject of the depredations,
and the mode in which they carry them on, acting upon regular habits and
principles, which can be calculated and anticipated at Bow Street, Hatton
Garden, or the Old Bailey. Our sister kingdom is like a cultivated field,---the
farmer expects that, in spite of all his care, a certain number of weeds
will rise with the corn, and can tell you beforehand their names and appearance.
But Scotland is like one of her own Highland glens, and the moralist who
reads the records of her criminal jurisprudence, will find as many curious
anomalous facts in the history of mind, as the botanist will detect rare
specimens among her dingles and cliffs.''
``And that's all the good you have obtained from three perusals of the
Commentaries on Scottish Criminal Jurisprudence?'' said his companion.
``I suppose the learned author very little thinks that the facts which
his erudition and acuteness have accumulated for the illustration of legal
doctrines, might be so arranged as to form a sort of appendix to the half-bound
and slip-shod volumes of the circulating library.''
``I'll bet you a pint of claret,'' said the elder lawyer, ``that he
will not feel sore at the comparison. But as we say at the bar, `I beg
I may not be interrupted;' I have much more to say, upon my Scottish collection
of _Causes Clbres._ You will please recollect the scope and motive
given for the contrivance and execution of many extraordinary and daring
crimes, by the long civil dissensions of Scotland---by the hereditary
jurisdictions, which, until 1748, rested the investigation of crises in
judges, ignorant, partial, or interested ---by the habits of the gentry,
shut up in their distant and solitary mansion-houses, nursing their revengeful
Passions just to keep their blood from stagnating---not to mention that
amiable national qualification, called the _perfervidum ingenium Scotorum,_
which our lawyers join in alleging as a reason for the severity of some
of our enactments. When I come to treat of matters so mysterious, deep,
and dangerous, as these circumstances have given rise to, the blood of
each reader shall be curdled, and his epidermis crisped into goose skin.---But,
hist!---here comes the landlord, with tidings, I suppose, that the chaise
It was no such thing---the tidings bore, that no chaise could be had
that evening, for Sir Peter Plyem had carried forward my landlord's two
pairs of horses that morning to the ancient royal borough of Bubbleburgh,
to look after his interest there. But as Bubbleburgh is only one of a
set of five boroughs which club their shares for a member of parliament,
Sir Peter's adversary had judiciously watched his departure, in order
to commence a canvass in the no less royal borough of Bitem, which, as
all the world knows, lies at the very termination of Sir Peter's avenue,
and has been held in leading-strings by him and his ancestors for time
immemorial. Now Sir Peter was thus placed in the situation of an ambitious
monarch, who, after having commenced a daring inroad into his enemy's
territories, is suddenly recalled by an invasion of his own hereditary
dominions. He was obliged in consequence to return from the half-won borough
of Bubbleburgh, to look after the half-lost borough of Bitem, and the
two pairs of horses which had carried him that morning to Bubbleburgh
were now forcibly detained to transport him, his agent, his valet, his
jester, and his hard-drinker, across the country to Bitem. The cause of
this detention, which to me was of as little consequence as it may be
to the reader, was important enough to my companions to reconcile them
to the delay. Like eagles, they smelled the battle afar off, ordered a
magnum of claret and beds at the Wallace, and entered at full career into
the Bubbleburgh and Bitem politics, with all the probable ``Petitions
and complaints'' to which they were likely to give rise.
In the midst of an anxious, animated, and, to me, most unintelligible
discussion, concerning provosts, bailies, deacons, sets of boroughs, leets,
town-clerks, burgesses resident and non-resident, all of a sudden the
lawyer recollected himself. ``Poor Dunover, we must not forget him;''
and the landlord was despatched in quest of the _pauvre honteux,_ with
an earnestly civil invitation to him for the rest of the evening. I could
not help asking the young gentlemen if they knew the history of this poor
man; and the counsellor applied himself to his pocket to recover the memorial
or brief from which he had stated his cause.
``He has been a candidate for our _remedium miserabile,_'' said Mr.
Hardie, ``commonly called a _cessio bonorum._ As there are divines who
have doubted the eternity of future punishments, so the Scotch lawyers
seem to have thought that the crime of poverty might be atoned for by
something short of perpetual imprisonment. After a month's confinement,
you must know, a prisoner for debt is entitled, on a sufficient statement
to our Supreme Court, setting forth the amount of his funds, and the nature
of his misfortunes, and surrendering all his effects to his creditors,
to claim to be discharged from prison.''
``I had heard,'' I replied, ``of such a humane regulation.''
``Yes,'' said Halkit, ``and the beauty of it is, as the foreign fellow
said, you may get the _cessio,_ when the _bonorums_ are all spent--- But
what, are you puzzling in your pockets to seek your only memorial among
old play-bills, letters requesting a meeting of the Faculty, rules of
the Speculative Society,<*> syllabus' of lectures---all
* [A well-known debating club in Edinburgh.]
the miscellaneous contents of a young advocate's pocket, which contains
everything but briefs and bank-notes? Can you not state a case of _cessio_
without your memorial? Why, it is done every Saturday. The events follow
each other as regularly as clock-work, and one form of condescendence
might suit every one of them.''
``This is very unlike the variety of distress which this gentleman stated
to fall under the consideration of your judges,'' said I.
``True,'' replied Halkit; ``but Hardie spoke of criminal jurisprudence,
and this business is purely civil. I could plead a _cessio_ myself without
the inspiring honours of a gown and three-tailed periwig---Listen.---My
client was bred a journeyman weaver---made some little money---took a
farm---(for conducting a farm, like driving a gig, comes by nature)---late
severe times---induced to sign bills with a friend, for which he received
no value---landlord sequestrates--- creditors accept a composition---pursuer
sets up a public-house---fails a second time---is incarcerated for a debt
of ten pounds seven shillings and sixpence---his debts amount to blank---his
losses to blank---his funds to blank---leaving a balance of blank in his
favour. There is no opposition; your lordships will please grant commission
to take his oath.''
Hardie now renounced this ineffectual search, in which there was perhaps
a little affectation, and told us the tale of poor Dunover's distresses,
with a tone in which a degree of feeling, which he seemed ashamed of as
unprofessional, mingled with his attempts at wit, and did him more honour.
It was one of those tales which seem to argue a sort of ill-luck or fatality
attached to the hero. A well-informed, industrious, and blameless, but
poor and bashful man, had in vain essayed all the usual means by which
others acquire independence, yet had never succeeded beyond the attainment
of bare subsistence. During a brief gleam of hope, rather than of actual
prosperity, he had added a wife and family to his cares, but the dawn
was speedily overcast. Everything retrograded with him towards the verge
of the miry Slough of Despond, which yawns for insolvent debtors; and
after catching at each twig, and experiencing the protracted agony of
feeling them one by one elude his grasp, he actually sunk into the miry
pit whence he had been extricated by the professional exertions of Hardie.
``And, I suppose, now you have dragged this poor devil ashore, you will
leave him half naked on the beach to provide for himself?'' said Halkit.
``Hark ye,''---and he whispered something in his ear, of which the penetrating
and insinuating words, ``Interest with my Lord,'' alone reached mine.
``It is _pessimi exempli,_'' said Hardie, laughing, ``to provide for
a ruined client; but I was thinking of what you mention, provided it can
be managed---But hush! here he comes.''
The recent relation of the poor man's misfortunes had given him, I was
pleased to observe, a claim to the attention and respect of the young
men, who treated him with great civility, and gradually engaged him in
a conversation, which, much to my satisfaction, again turned upon the
_Causes Clbres_ of Scotland. Imboldened by the kindness with which
he was treated, Mr. Dunover began to contribute his share to the amusement
of the evening. Jails, like other places, have their ancient traditions,
known only to the inhabitants, and handed down from one set of the melancholy
lodgers to the next who occupy their cells. Some of these, which Dunover
mentioned, were interesting, and served to illustrate the narratives of
remarkable trials, which Hardie had at his finger-ends, and which his
companion was also well skilled in. This sort of conversation passed away
the evening till the early hour when Mr. Dunover chose to retire to rest,
and I also retreated to take down memorandums of what I had learned, in
order to add another narrative to those which it had been my chief amusement
to collect, and to write out in detail. The two young men ordered a broiled
bone, Madeira negus, and a pack of cards, and commenced a game at picquet.
Next morning the travellers left Gandercleugh. I afterwards learned
from the papers that both have been since engaged in the great political
cause of Bubbleburgh and Bitem, a summary case, and entitled to particular
despatch; but which, it is thought, nevertheless, may outlast the duration
of the parliament to which the contest refers. Mr. Halkit, as the newspapers
informed me, acts as agent or solicitor; and Mr. Hardie opened for Sir
Peter Plyem with singular ability, and to such good purpose, that I understand
he has since had fewer play-bills and more briefs in his pocket. And both
the young gentlemen deserve their good fortune; for I learned from Dunover,
who called on me some weeks afterwards, and communicated the intelligence
with tears in his eyes, that their interest had availed to obtain him
a small office for the decent maintenance of his family; and that, after
a train of constant and uninterrupted misfortune, he could trace a dawn
of prosperity to his having the good fortune to be flung from the top
of a mail-coach into the river Gander, in company with an advocate and
a writer to the Signet. The reader will not perhaps deem himself equally
obliged to the accident, since it brings upon him the following narrative,
founded upon the conversation of the evening.
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