Guy Mannering; or, The Astrologer — Complete eBook: Page1
Walter Scott (2006)
Produced by David Widger. Liberal use made of an earlier PG editionby Robert Rowe, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
BY SIR WALTER SCOTT
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
VOLUME I.THE DEPARTURE OF THE GYPSIES----Drawn by Clark Stanton, Etched by C. deBilly
ELLANGOWAN CASTLE----Drawn by John MacWhirter, Etched by Alex. Ansted
CARLAVEROCK CASTLE----Photo-Etching by John Andrew and Son
"PRODIGIOUS!"---Original Etching by George Cruikshank
THE CURE OF MEG MERRILIES----Drawn and Etched by C. O. Murray
DOMINIE SAMPSON IN THE LIBRARY----Drawn and Etched by C. O. Murray
DANDIE DINMONT AT HOME----Drawn by Steel Gourlay, Etched by H. MacbethRaeburn
VOLUME II.THE PARTY AT COLONEL MANNERING'S---Drawn by Herdman, Etched by H. Manesse
THE ATTACK OF THE SMUGGLERS---Drawn and Etched by H. Moyer Smith
PLEYDELL AS KING----Original Etching by R. W. Macbeth
ON THE SOLWAY FRITH----Original Etching by F. S. Walker
"GAPE, SINNER, AND SWALLOW!"---Original Etching by George Cruikshank
MEG MERRILIES DIRECTS BERTRAM TO THE CAVE----Etched by C. O. Murray
THE CAPTURE OF DIRK HATTERAICK---Drawn by MacDonald, Etched by Courtry
'Tis said that words and signs have power O'er sprites in planetary hour; But scarce I praise their venturous part Who tamper with such dangerous art.
Lay of the Last Minstrel.
The Novel or Romance of Waverley made its way to the public slowly, ofcourse, at first, but afterwards with such accumulating popularity as toencourage the Author to a second attempt. He looked about for a name anda subject; and the manner in which the novels were composed cannot bebetter illustrated than by reciting the simple narrative on which GuyMannering was originally founded; but to which, in the progress of thework, the production ceased to bear any, even the most distantresemblance. The tale was originally told me by an old servant of myfather's, an excellent old Highlander, without a fault, unless apreference to mountain dew over less potent liquors be accounted one.He believed as firmly in the story as in any part of his creed.
A grave and elderly person, according to old John MacKinlay's account,while travelling in the wilder parts of Galloway, was benighted. Withdifficulty he found his way to a country seat, where, with thehospitality of the time and country, he was readily admitted. The ownerof the house, a gentleman of good fortune, was much struck by thereverend appearance of his guest, and apologised to him for a certaindegree of confusion which must unavoidably attend his reception, andcould not escape his eye. The lady of the house was, he said, confined toher apartment, and on the point of making her husband a father for thefirst time, though they had been ten years married. At such an emergency,the laird said, he feared his guest might meet with some apparentneglect.
'Not so, sir,' said the stranger; 'my wants are few, and easily supplied,and I trust the present circumstances may even afford an opportunity ofshowing my gratitude for your hospitality. Let me only request that I maybe informed of the exact minute of the birth; and I hope to be able toput you in possession of some particulars which may influence in animportant manner the future prospects of the child now about to come intothis busy and changeful world. I will not conceal from you that I amskilful in understanding and interpreting the movements of thoseplanetary bodies which exert their influences on the destiny of mortals.It is a science which I do not practise, like others who call themselvesastrologers, for hire or reward; for I have a competent estate, and onlyuse the knowledge I possess for the benefit of those in whom I feel aninterest.' The laird bowed in respect and gratitude, and the stranger wasaccommodated with an apartment which commanded an ample view of theastral regions.
The guest spent a part of the night in ascertaining the position of theheavenly bodies, and calculating their probable influence; until atlength the result of his observations induced him to send for the fatherand conjure him in the most solemn manner to cause the assistants toretard the birth if practicable, were it but for five minutes. The answerdeclared this to be impossible; and almost in the instant that themessage was returned the father and his guest were made acquainted withthe birth of a boy.
The Astrologer on the morrow met the party who gathered around thebreakfast table with looks so grave and ominous as to alarm the fears ofthe father, who had hitherto exulted in the prospects held out by thebirth of an heir to his ancient property, failing which event it musthave passed to a distant branch of the family. He hastened to draw thestranger into a private room.
'I fear from your looks,' said the father, 'that you have bad tidings totell me of my young stranger; perhaps God will resume the blessing He hasbestowed ere he attains the age of manhood, or perhaps he is destined tobe unworthy of the affection which we are naturally disposed to devote toour offspring?'
'Neither the one nor the other,' answered the stranger; 'unless myjudgment greatly err, the infant will survive the years of minority, andin temper and disposition will prove all that his parents can wish. Butwith much in his horoscope which promises many blessings, there is oneevil influence strongly predominant, which threatens to subject him to anunhallowed and unhappy temptation about the time when he shall attain theage of twenty-one, which period, the constellations intimate, will be thecrisis of his fate. In what shape, or with what peculiar urgency, thistemptation may beset him, my art cannot discover.'
'Your knowledge, then, can afford us no defence,' said the anxiousfather, 'against the threatened evil?'
'Pardon me,' answered the stranger, 'it can. The influence of theconstellations is powerful; but He who made the heavens is more powerfulthan all, if His aid be invoked in sincerity and truth. You ought todedicate this boy to the immediate service of his Maker, with as muchsincerity as Samuel was devoted to the worship in the Temple by hisparents. You must regard him as a being separated from the rest of theworld. In childhood, in boyhood, you must surround him with the pious andvirtuous, and protect him to the utmost of your power from the sight orhearing of any crime, in word or action. He must be educated in religiousand moral principles of the strictest description. Let him not enter theworld, lest he learn to partake of its follies, or perhaps of its vices.In short, preserve him as far as possible from all sin, save that ofwhich too great a portion belongs to all the fallen race of Adam. Withthe approach of his twenty-first birthday comes the crisis of his fate.If he survive it, he will be happy and prosperous on earth, and a chosenvessel among those elected for heaven. But if it be otherwise--' TheAstrologer stopped, and sighed deeply.
'Sir,' replied the parent, still more alarmed than before, 'your wordsare so kind, your advice so serious, that I will pay the deepestattention to your behests; but can you not aid me farther in this mostimportant concern? Believe me, I will not be ungrateful.'
'I require and deserve no gratitude for doing a good action,' said thestranger, 'in especial for contributing all that lies in my power to savefrom an abhorred fate the harmless infant to whom, under a singularconjunction of planets, last night gave life. There is my address; youmay write to me from time to time concerning the progress of the boy inreligious knowledge. If he be bred up as I advise, I think it will bebest that he come to my house at the time when the fatal and decisiveperiod approaches, that is, before he has attained his twenty-first yearcomplete. If you send him such as I desire, I humbly trust that God willprotect His own through whatever strong temptation his fate ma
The mysterious stranger departed, but his words remained impressed uponthe mind of the anxious parent. He lost his lady while his boy was stillin infancy. This calamity, I think, had been predicted by the Astrologer;and thus his confidence, which, like most people of the period, he hadfreely given to the science, was riveted and confirmed. The utmost care,therefore, was taken to carry into effect the severe and almost asceticplan of education which the sage had enjoined. A tutor of the strictestprinciples was employed to superintend the youth's education; he wassurrounded by domestics of the most established character, and closelywatched and looked after by the anxious father himself.
The years of infancy, childhood, and boyhood passed as the father couldhave wished. A young Nazarene could not have been bred up with morerigour. All that was evil was withheld from his observation: he onlyheard what was pure in precept, he only witnessed what was worthy inpractice.
But when the boy began to be lost in the youth, the attentive father sawcause for alarm. Shades of sadness, which gradually assumed a darkercharacter, began to over-cloud the young man's temper. Tears, whichseemed involuntary, broken sleep, moonlight wanderings, and a melancholyfor which he could assign no reason, seemed to threaten at once hisbodily health and the stability of his mind. The Astrologer was consultedby letter, and returned for answer that this fitful state of mind was butthe commencement of his trial, and that the poor youth must undergo moreand more desperate struggles with the evil that assailed him. There wasno hope of remedy, save that he showed steadiness of mind in the study ofthe Scriptures. 'He suffers, continued the letter of the sage,' from theawakening of those harpies the passions, which have slept with him, aswith others, till the period of life which he has now attained. Better,far better, that they torment him by ungrateful cravings than that heshould have to repent having satiated them by criminal indulgence.'
The dispositions of the young man were so excellent that he combated, byreason and religion, the fits of gloom which at times overcast his mind,and it was not till he attained the commencement of his twenty-first yearthat they assumed a character which made his father tremble for theconsequences. It seemed as if the gloomiest and most hideous of mentalmaladies was taking the form of religious despair. Still the youth wasgentle, courteous, affectionate, and submissive to his father's will, andresisted with all his power the dark suggestions which were breathed intohis mind, as it seemed by some emanation of the Evil Principle, exhortinghim, like the wicked wife of Job, to curse God and die.
The time at length arrived when he was to perform what was then thought along and somewhat perilous journey, to the mansion of the early friendwho had calculated his nativity. His road lay through several places ofinterest, and he enjoyed the amusement of travelling more than he himselfthought would have been possible. Thus he did not reach the place of hisdestination till noon on the day preceding his birthday. It seemed as ifhe had been carried away with an unwonted tide of pleasurable sensation,so as to forget in some degree what his father had communicatedconcerning the purpose of his journey. He halted at length before arespectable but solitary old mansion, to which he was directed as theabode of his father's friend.
The servants who came to take his horse told him he had been expected fortwo days. He was led into a study, where the stranger, now a venerableold man, who had been his father's guest, met him with a shade ofdispleasure, as well as gravity, on his brow. 'Young man,' he said,'wherefore so slow on a journey of such importance?' 'I thought,' repliedthe guest, blushing and looking downward,' that there was no harm intravelling slowly and satisfying my curiosity, providing I could reachyour residence by this day; for such was my father's charge.' 'You wereto blame,' replied the sage, 'in lingering, considering that the avengerof blood was pressing on your footsteps. But you are come at last, and wewill hope for the best, though the conflict in which you are to beengaged will be found more dreadful the longer it is postponed. But firstaccept of such refreshments as nature requires to satisfy, but not topamper, the appetite.'
The old man led the way into a summer parlour, where a frugal meal wasplaced on the table. As they sat down to the board they were joined by ayoung lady about eighteen years of age, and so lovely that the sight ofher carried off the feelings of the young stranger from the peculiarityand mystery of his own lot, and riveted his attention to everything shedid or said. She spoke little and it was on the most serious subjects.She played on the harpsichord at her father's command, but it was hymnswith which she accompanied the instrument. At length, on a sign from thesage, she left the room, turning on the young stranger as she departed alook of inexpressible anxiety and interest.
The old man then conducted the youth to his study, and conversed with himupon the most important points of religion, to satisfy himself that hecould render a reason for the faith that was in him. During theexamination the youth, in spite of himself, felt his mind occasionallywander, and his recollections go in quest of the beautiful vision who hadshared their meal at noon. On such occasions the Astrologer looked grave,and shook his head at this relaxation of attention; yet, on the whole, hewas pleased with the youth's replies.
At sunset the young man was made to take the bath; and, having done so,he was directed to attire himself in a robe somewhat like that worn byArmenians, having his long hair combed down on his shoulders, and hisneck, hands, and feet bare. In this guise he was conducted into a remotechamber totally devoid of furniture, excepting a lamp, a chair, and atable, on which lay a Bible. 'Here,' said the Astrologer, 'I must leaveyou alone to pass the most critical period of your life. If you can, byrecollection of the great truths of which we have spoken, repel theattacks which will be made on your courage and your principles, you havenothing to apprehend. But the trial will be severe and arduous.' Hisfeatures then assumed a pathetic solemnity, the tears stood in his eyes,and his voice faltered with emotion as he said, 'Dear child, at whosecoming into the world I foresaw this fatal trial, may God give thee graceto support it with firmness!'
The young man was left alone; and hardly did he find himself so, when,like a swarm of demons, the recollection of all his sins of omission andcommission, rendered even more terrible by the scrupulousness with whichhe had been educated, rushed on his mind, and, like furies armed withfiery scourges, seemed determined to drive him to despair. As he combatedthese horrible recollections with distracted feelings, but with aresolved mind, he became aware that his arguments were answered by thesophistry of another, and that the dispute was no longer confined to hisown thoughts. The Author of Evil was present in the room with him inbodily shape, and, potent with spirits of a melancholy cast, wasimpressing upon him the desperation of his state, and urging suicide asthe readiest mode to put an end to his sinful career. Amid his errors,the pleasure he had taken in prolonging his journey unnecessarily, andthe attention which he had bestowed on the beauty of the fair female whenhis thoughts ought to have been dedicated to the religious discourse ofher father, were set before him in the darkest colours; and he wastreated as one who, having sinned against light, was therefore deservedlyleft a prey to the Prince of Darkness.
As the fated and influential hour rolled on, the terrors of the hatefulPresence grew more confounding to the mortal senses of the victim, andthe knot of the accursed sophistry became more inextricable inappearance, at least to the prey whom its meshes surrounded. He had notpower to explain the assurance of pardon which he continued to assert, orto name the victorious name in which he trusted. But his faith did notabandon him, though he lacked for a time the power of expressing it. 'Saywhat you will,' was his answer to the Tempter; 'I know there is as muchbetwixt the two boards of this Book as can ensure me forgiveness for mytransgressions and safety for my soul.' As he spoke, the clock, whichannounced the lapse of the fatal hour, was heard to strike. The speechand intellectual powers of the youth were instantly and fully restored;he b
The young man was afterwards married to the beautiful maiden, the firstsight of whom had made such an impression on him, and they were consignedover at the close of the story to domestic happiness. So ended JohnMacKinlay's legend.
The Author of Waverley had imagined a possibility of framing aninteresting, and perhaps not an unedifying, tale out of the incidents ofthe life of a doomed individual, whose efforts at good and virtuousconduct were to be for ever disappointed by the intervention, as it were,of some malevolent being, and who was at last to come off victorious fromthe fearful struggle. In short, something was meditated upon a planresembling the imaginative tale of Sintram and his Companions, by Mons.le Baron de la Motte Fouque, although, if it then existed, the author hadnot seen it.
The scheme projected may be traced in the three or four first chapters ofthe work; but farther consideration induced the author to lay his purposeaside. It appeared, on mature consideration, that astrology, though itsinfluence was once received and admitted by Bacon himself, does not nowretain influence over the general mind sufficient even to constitute themainspring of a romance. Besides, it occurred that to do justice to sucha subject would have required not only more talent than the Author couldbe conscious of possessing, but also involved doctrines and discussionsof a nature too serious for his purpose and for the character of thenarrative. In changing his plan, however, which was done in the course ofprinting, the early sheets retained the vestiges of the original tenor ofthe story, although they now hang upon it as an unnecessary and unnaturalincumbrance. The cause of such vestiges occurring is now explained andapologised for.
It is here worthy of observation that, while the astrological doctrineshave fallen into general contempt, and been supplanted by superstitionsof a more gross and far less beautiful character, they have, even inmodern days, retained some votaries.
One of the most remarkable believers in that forgotten and despisedscience was a late eminent professor of the art of legerdemain. One wouldhave thought that a person of this description ought, from his knowledgeof the thousand ways in which human eyes could be deceived, to have beenless than others subject to the fantasies of superstition. Perhaps thehabitual use of those abstruse calculations by which, in a mannersurprising to the artist himself, many tricks upon cards, etc., areperformed, induced this gentleman to study the combination of the starsand planets, with the expectation of obtaining prophetic communications.
He constructed a scheme of his own nativity, calculated according to suchrules of art as he could collect from the best astrological authors. Theresult of the past he found agreeable to what had hitherto befallen him,but in the important prospect of the future a singular difficultyoccurred. There were two years during the course of which he could by nomeans obtain any exact knowledge whether the subject of the scheme wouldbe dead or alive. Anxious concerning so remarkable a circumstance, hegave the scheme to a brother astrologer, who was also baffled in the samemanner. At one period he found the native, or subject, was certainlyalive; at another that he was unquestionably dead; but a space of twoyears extended between these two terms, during which he could find nocertainty as to his death or existence.
The astrologer marked the remarkable circumstance in his diary, andcontinued his exhibitions in various parts of the empire until the periodwas about to expire during which his existence had been warranted asactually ascertained. At last, while he was exhibiting to a numerousaudience his usual tricks of legerdemain, the hands whose activity had sooften baffled the closest observer suddenly lost their power, the cardsdropped from them, and he sunk down a disabled paralytic. In this statethe artist languished for two years, when he was at length removed bydeath. It is said that the diary of this modern astrologer will soon begiven to the public.
The fact, if truly reported, is one of those singular coincidences whichoccasionally appear, differing so widely from ordinary calculation, yetwithout which irregularities human life would not present to mortals,looking into futurity, the abyss of impenetrable darkness which it is thepleasure of the Creator it should offer to them. Were everything tohappen in the ordinary train of events, the future would be subject tothe rules of arithmetic, like the chances of gaming. But extraordinaryevents and wonderful runs of luck defy the calculations of mankind andthrow impenetrable darkness on future contingencies.
To the above anecdote, another, still more recent, may be here added. Theauthor was lately honoured with a letter from a gentleman deeply skilledin these mysteries, who kindly undertook to calculate the nativity of thewriter of Guy Mannering, who might be supposed to be friendly to thedivine art which he professed. But it was impossible to supply data forthe construction of a horoscope, had the native been otherwise desirousof it, since all those who could supply the minutiae of day, hour, andminute have been long removed from the mortal sphere.
Having thus given some account of the first idea, or rude sketch, of thestory, which was soon departed from, the Author, in following out theplan of the present edition, has to mention the prototypes of theprincipal characters in Guy Mannering.
Some circumstances of local situation gave the Author in his youth anopportunity of seeing a little, and hearing a great deal, about thatdegraded class who are called gipsies; who are in most cases a mixed racebetween the ancient Egyptians who arrived in Europe about the beginningof the fifteenth century and vagrants of European descent.
The individual gipsy upon whom the character of Meg Merrilies was foundedwas well known about the middle of the last century by the name of JeanGordon, an inhabitant of the village of Kirk Yetholm, in the CheviotHills, adjoining to the English Border. The Author gave the public someaccount of this remarkable person in one of the early numbers ofBlackwood's Magazine, to the following purpose:--
'My father remembered old Jean Gordon of Yetholm, who had great swayamong her tribe. She was quite a Meg Merrilies, and possessed the savagevirtue of fidelity in the same perfection. Having been often hospitablyreceived at the farmhouse of Lochside, near Yetholm, she had carefullyabstained from committing any depredations on the farmer's property. Buther sons (nine in number) had not, it seems, the same delicacy, and stolea brood-sow from their kind entertainer. Jean was mortified at thisungrateful conduct, and so much ashamed of it that she absented herselffrom Lochside for several years.
'It happened in course of time that, in consequence of some temporarypecuniary necessity, the goodman of Lochside was obliged to go toNewcastle to raise some money to pay his rent. He succeeded in hispurpose, but, returning through the mountains of Cheviot, he wasbenighted and lost his way.
'A light glimmering through the window of a large waste barn, which hadsurvived the farm-house to which it had once belonged, guided him to aplace of shelter; and when he knocked at the door it was opened by JeanGordon. Her very remarkable figure, for she was nearly six feet high, andher equally remarkable features and dress, rendered it impossible tomistake her for a moment, though he had not seen her for years; and tomeet with such a character in so solitary a place, and probably at nogreat distance from her clan, was a grievous surprise to the poor man,whose rent (to lose which would have been ruin) was about his person.
'Jean set up a loud shout of joyful recognition--
"Eh, sirs! the winsome gudeman of Lochside! Light down, light down; forye maunna gang farther the night, and a friend's house sae near." Thefarmer was obliged to dismount and accept of the gipsy's offer of supperand a bed. There was plenty of meat in the barn, however it might be comeby, and preparations were going on for a plentiful repast, which thefarmer, to the great increase of his anxiety, observed was calculated forten or twelve guests, of the same description, probably, with hislandlady.
'Jean left him in no doubt on the subject. She brought to hisreco
'This arrangement being made, the farmer lay down on a sort ofshake-down, as the Scotch call it, or bed-clothes disposed upon somestraw, but, as will easily be believed, slept not.
'About midnight the gang returned, with various articles of plunder, andtalked over their exploits in language which made the farmer tremble.They were not long in discovering they had a guest, and demanded of Jeanwhom she had got there.
'"E'en the winsome gudeman of Lochside, poor body," replied Jean; "he'sbeen at Newcastle seeking for siller to pay his rent, honest man, butdeil-be-lickit he's been able to gather in, and sae he's gaun e'en hamewi' a toom purse and a sair heart."
"'That may be, Jean," replied one of the banditti, "but we maun ripe hispouches a bit, and see if the tale be true or no." Jean set up her throatin exclamations against this breach of hospitality, but without producingany change in their determination. The farmer soon heard their stifledwhispers and light steps by his bedside, and understood they wererummaging his clothes. When they found the money which the providence ofJean Gordon had made him retain, they held a consultation if they shouldtake it or no; but the smallness of the booty, and the vehemence ofJean's remonstrances, determined them in the negative. They caroused andwent to rest. As soon as day dawned Jean roused her guest, produced hishorse, which she had accommodated behind the hallan, and guided him forsome miles, till he was on the highroad to Lochside. She then restoredhis whole property; nor could his earnest entreaties prevail on her toaccept so much as a single guinea.
'I have heard the old people at Jedburgh say, that all Jean's sons werecondemned to die there on the same day. It is said the jury were equallydivided, but that a friend to justice, who had slept during the wholediscussion, waked suddenly and gave his vote for condemnation in theemphatic words, "Hang them a'!" Unanimity is not required in a Scottishjury, so the verdict of guilty was returned. Jean was present, and onlysaid, "The Lord help the innocent in a day like this!" Her own death wasaccompanied with circumstances of brutal outrage, of which poor Jean wasin many respects wholly undeserving. She had, among other demerits, ormerits, as the reader may choose to rank it, that of being a stanchJacobite. She chanced to be at Carlisle upon a fair or market-day, soonafter the year 1746, where she gave vent to her political partiality, tothe great offence of the rabble of that city. Being zealous in theirloyalty when there was no danger, in proportion to the tameness withwhich they had surrendered to the Highlanders in 1745, the mob inflictedupon poor Jean Gordon no slighter penalty than that of ducking her todeath in the Eden. It was an operation of some time, for Jean was a stoutwoman, and, struggling with her murderers, often got her head abovewater; and, while she had voice left, continued to exclaim at suchintervals, "Charlie yet! Charlie yet!" When a child, and among the sceneswhich she frequented, I have often heard these stories, and criedpiteously for poor Jean Gordon.
'Before quitting the Border gipsies, I may mention that my grandfather,while riding over Charterhouse Moor, then a very extensive common, fellsuddenly among a large band of them, who were carousing in a hollow ofthe moor, surrounded by bushes. They instantly seized on his horse'sbridle with many shouts of welcome, exclaiming (for he was well known tomost of them) that they had often dined at his expense, and he must nowstay and share their good cheer. My ancestor was, a little alarmed, for,like the goodman of Lochside, he had more money about his person than hecared to risk in such society. However, being naturally a bold,lively-spirited man, he entered into the humour of the thing and satedown to the feast, which consisted of all the varieties of game, poultry,pigs, and so forth that could be collected by a wide and indiscriminatesystem of plunder. The dinner was a very merry one; but my relative got ahint from some of the older gipsies to retire just when--
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious,
and, mounting his horse accordingly, he took a French leave of hisentertainers, but without experiencing the least breach of hospitality. Ibelieve Jean Gordon was at this festival.'[Footnote: Blackwood'sMagazine, vol. I, p. 54]
Notwithstanding the failure of Jean's issue, for which
Weary fa' the waefu' wuddie,
a granddaughter survived her, whom I remember to have seen. That is, asDr. Johnson had a shadowy recollection of Queen Anne as a stately lady inblack, adorned with diamonds, so my memory is haunted by a solemnremembrance of a woman of more than female height, dressed in a long redcloak, who commenced acquaintance by giving me an apple, but whom,nevertheless, I looked on with as much awe as the future Doctor, HighChurch and Tory as he was doomed to be, could look upon the Queen. Iconceive this woman to have been Madge Gordon, of whom an impressiveaccount is given in the same article in which her mother Jean ismentioned, but not by the present writer:--
'The late Madge Gordon was at this time accounted the Queen of theYetholm clans. She was, we believe, a granddaughter of the celebratedJean Gordon, and was said to have much resembled her in appearance. Thefollowing account of her is extracted from the letter of a friend, whofor many years enjoyed frequent and favourable opportunities of observingthe characteristic peculiarities of the Yetholm tribes:--"Madge Gordonwas descended from the Faas by the mother's side, and was married to aYoung. She was a remarkable personage--of a very commanding presence andhigh stature, being nearly six feet high. She had a large aquiline nose,penetrating eyes, even in her old age, bushy hair, that hung around hershoulders from beneath a gipsy bonnet of straw, a short cloak of apeculiar fashion, and a long staff nearly as tall as herself. I rememberher well; every week she paid my father a visit for her awmous when I wasa little boy, and I looked upon Madge with no common degree of awe andterror. When she spoke vehemently (for she made loud complaints) she usedto strike her staff upon the floor and throw herself into an attitudewhich it was impossible to regard with indifference. She used to say thatshe could bring from the remotest parts of the island friends to revengeher quarrel while she sat motionless in her cottage; and she frequentlyboasted that there was a time when she was of still more considerableimportance, for there were at her wedding fifty saddled asses, andunsaddled asses without number. If Jean Gordon was the prototype of theCHARACTER of Meg Merrilies, I imagine Madge must have sat to the unknownauthor as the representative of her PERSON."'[Footnote: Blackwood'sMagazine, vol. I, p. 56.]
How far Blackwood's ingenious correspondent was right, how far mistaken,in his conjecture the reader has been informed.
To pass to a character of a very different description, DominieSampson,--the reader may easily suppose that a poor modest humble scholarwho has won his way through the classics, yet has fallen to leeward inthe voyage of life, is no uncommon personage in a country where a certainportion of learning is easily attained by those who are willing to sufferhunger and thirst in exchange for acquiring Greek and Latin. But there isa far more exact prototype of the worthy Dominie, upon which is foundedthe part which he performs in the romance, and which, for certainparticular reasons, must be expressed very generally.
Such a preceptor as Mr. Sampson is supposed to have been was actuallytutor in the family of a gentleman of considerable property. The younglads, his pupils, grew up and went out in the world, but the tutorcontinued to reside in the family, no uncommon circumstance in Scotlandin former days, where food and shelter were readily afforded to humblefri
The tutor awakened as from a dream. He saw his patron dead, and that hispatron's only remaining child, an elderly woman, now neither graceful norbeautiful, if she ever had been either the one or the other, had by thiscalamity become a homeless and penniless orphan. He addressed her nearlyin the words which Dominie Sampson uses to Miss Bertram, and professedhis determination not to leave her. Accordingly, roused to the exerciseof talents which had long slumbered, he opened a little school andsupported his patron's child for the rest of her life, treating her withthe same humble observance and devoted attention which he had usedtowards her in the days of her prosperity.
Such is the outline of Dominie Sampson's real story, in which there isneither romantic incident nor sentimental passion; but which, perhaps,from the rectitude and simplicity of character which it displays, mayinterest the heart and fill the eye of the reader as irresistibly as ifit respected distresses of a more dignified or refined character.
These preliminary notices concerning the tale of Guy Mannering and someof the characters introduced may save the author and reader in thepresent instance the trouble of writing and perusing a long string ofdetached notes.
ABBOTSFORD, January, 1829.
ADDENDUM: I may add that the motto of this novel was taken from the Layof the Last Minstrel, to evade the conclusions of those who began tothink that, as the author of Waverley never quoted the works of SirWalter Scott, he must have reason for doing so, and that thecircumstances might argue an identity between them.
ABBOTSFORD, August 1, 1829.