Old Mortality, Volume 1. eBook: Page1
Walter Scott (2004)
Produced by David Widger, with assistance from an etext produced byDavid Moynihan
by Sir Walter Scott
EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION TO OLD MORTALITY.
The origin of "Old Mortality," perhaps the best of Scott's historicalromances, is well known. In May, 1816, Mr. Joseph Train, the gauger fromGalloway, breakfasted with Scott in Castle Street. He brought gifts inhis hand,--a relic of Rob Roy, and a parcel of traditions. Among thesewas a letter from Mr. Broadfoot, schoolmaster in Pennington, whofacetiously signed himself "Clashbottom." To cleish, or clash, is to"flog," in Scots. From Mr. Broadfoot's joke arose Jedediah Cleishbotham,the dominie of Gandercleugh; the real place of Broadfoot's revels was theShoulder of Mutton Inn, at Newton Stewart. Mr. Train, much pleased withthe antiques in "the den" of Castle Street, was particularly charmed bythat portrait of Claverhouse which now hangs on the staircase of thestudy at Abbotsford. Scott expressed the Cavalier opinions about Dundee,which were new to Mr. Train, who had been bred in the rural tradition of"Bloody Claver'se."
[The Editor's first acquaintance with Claverhouse was obtained through an old nurse, who had lived on a farm beside a burn where, she said, the skulls of Covenanters shot by Bloody Claver'se were still occasionally found. The stream was a tributary of the Ettrick.]
"Might he not," asked Mr. Train, "be made, in good hands, the hero of anational romance as interesting as any about either Wallace or PrinceCharlie?" He suggested that the story should be delivered "as if from themouth of Old Mortality." This probably recalled to Scott his own meetingwith Old Mortality in Dunnottar Churchyard, as described in theIntroduction to the novel.
The account of the pilgrim, as given by Sir Walter from Mr. Train'smemoranda, needs no addition. About Old Mortality's son, John, who wentto America in 1776 (? 1774), and settled in Baltimore, a curious romanticmyth has gathered. Mr. Train told Scott more, as his manuscript atAbbotsford shows, than Scott printed. According to Mr. Train, JohnPaterson, of Baltimore, had a son Robert and a daughter Elizabeth. Robertmarried an American lady, who, after his decease, was married to theMarquis of Wellesley. Elizabeth married Jerome Bonaparte! Sir Walterdistrusted these legends, though derived from a Scotch descendant of OldMortality. Mr. Ramage, in March, 1871, wrote to "Notes and Queries"dispelling the myth.
According to Jerome Bonaparte's descendant, Madame Bonaparte, her familywere Pattersons, not Patersons. Her Baltimore ancestor's will is extant,has been examined by Old Mortality's great-grandson, and announces in akind of preamble that the testator was a native of Donegal; his Christianname was William ("Notes and Queries," Fourth Series, vol. vii. p. 219,and Fifth Series, August, 1874). This, of course, quite settles thequestion; but the legend is still current among American descendants ofthe old Roxburghshire wanderer.
"Old Mortality," with its companion, "The Black Dwarf," was published onDecember 1, 1816, by Mr. Murray in London, and Mr. Blackwood inEdinburgh.
The name of "The Author of 'Waverley'" was omitted on the title-page. Thereason for a change of publisher may have been chiefly financial(Lockhart, v. 152). Scott may have also thought it amusing to appear ashis own rival in a new field. He had not yet told his secret to LadyAbercorn, but he seems to reveal it (for who but he could have known somuch about the subject?) in a letter to her, of November 29, 1816. "Youmust know the Marquis well,--or rather you must be the Marquis himself!"quoth Dalgetty. Here follow portions of the letter:
I do not like the first story, "The Black Dwarf," at all; but the long one which occupies three volumes is a most remarkable production. . . . I should like to know if you are of my opinion as to these new volumes coming from the same hand. . . . I wander about from nine in the morning till five at night with a plaid about my shoulders and an immensely large bloodhound at my heels, and stick in sprigs which are to become trees when I shall have no eyes to look at them. . . .
I am truly glad that the Tales have amused you. In my poor opinion they are the best of the four sets, though perhaps I only think so on account of their opening ground less familiar to me than the manners of the Highlanders. . . . If Tom--[His brother, Mr. Thomas Scott.]--wrote those volumes, he has not put me in his secret. . . . General rumour here attributes them to a very ingenious but most unhappy man, a clergyman of the Church of Scotland, who, many years since, was obliged to retire from his profession, and from society, who hides himself under a borrowed name. This hypothesis seems to account satisfactorily for the rigid secrecy observed; but from what I can recollect of the unfortunate individual, these are not the kind of productions I should expect from him. Burley, if I mistake not, was on board the Prince of Orange's own vessel at the time of his death. There was also in the Life Guards such a person as Francis Stewart, grandson of the last Earl of Bothwell. I have in my possession various proceedings at his father's instance for recovering some part of the Earl's large estates which had been granted to the Earls of Buccleugh and Roxburgh. It would appear that Charles I. made some attempts to reinstate him in those lands, but, like most of that poor monarch's measures, the attempt only served to augment his own enemies, for Buccleugh was one of the first who declared against him in Scotland, and raised a regiment of twelve hundred men, of whom my grandfather's grandfather (Sir William Scott of Harden) was lieutenant-colonel. This regiment was very active at the destruction of Montrose's Highland army at Philiphaugh. In Charles the Second's time the old knight suffered as much through the nonconformity of his wife as Cuddie through that of his mother. My father's grandmother, who lived to the uncommon age of ninety-eight years, perfectly remembered being carried, when a child, to the field-preachings, where the clergyman thundered from the top of a rock, and the ladies sat upon their side-saddles, which were placed upon the turf for their accommodation, while the men stood round, all armed with swords and pistols. . . . Old Mortality was a living person; I have myself seen him about twenty years ago repairing the Covenanters' tombs as far north as Dunnottar.
If Lady Abercorn was in any doubt after this ingenuous communication, Mr.Murray, the publisher, was in none. (Lockhart, v. 169.) He wrote to Scotton December 14, 1816, rejoicing in the success of the Tales, "which mustbe written either by Walter Scott or the Devil. . . . I never experiencedsuch unmixed pleasure as the reading of this exquisite work has affordedme; and if you could see me, as the author's literary chamberlain,receiving the unanimous and vehement praises of those who have read it,and the curses of those whose needs my scanty supply could not satisfy,you might judge of the sincerity with which I now entreat you to assurethe Author of the most complete success." Lord Holland had said, when Mr.Murray asked his opinion, "Opinion! We did not one of us go to bed lastnight,--nothing slept but my gout."
The very Whigs were conquered. But not the Scottish Whigs, the AuldLeaven of the Covenant,--they were still dour, and offered manycriticisms. Thereon Scott, by way of disproving his authorship, offeredto review the Tales in the "Quarterly." His true reason for this step wasthe wish to reply to Dr. Thomas McCrie, author of the "Life of JohnKnox," who had been criticising Scott's historical view of the Covenant,in the "Edinburgh Christian Instructor." Scott had, perhaps, no bettermode of answering his censor. He was indifferent to reviews, but here hishistorical knowledge and his candour had been challenged. Scott alwaysrecognised the national spirit of the Covenanters, which he remarks on in"The Heart of Mid-Lothian," and now he was treated as a faithlessScotsman. For these reasons he r
Dr. McCrie's review may be read, or at least may be found, in the fourthvolume of his collected works (Blackwood, Edinburgh 1857). The critiqueamounts to about eighty-five thousand words. Since the "Princesse deCleves" was reviewed in a book as long as the original, never was solengthy a criticism. As Dr. McCrie's performance scarcely shares thepopularity of "Old Mortality," a note on his ideas may not besuperfluous, though space does not permit a complete statement of hismany objections. The Doctor begins by remarks on novels in general, thendescends to the earlier Waverley romances. "The Antiquary" he pronouncesto be "tame and fatiguing." Acknowledging the merits of the others, hefinds fault with "the foolish lines" (from Burns), "which must have beenfoisted without the author's knowledge into the title page," and hedenounces the "bad taste" of the quotation from "Don Quixote." Burns andCervantes had done no harm to Dr. McCrie, but his anger was aroused, andhe, like the McCallum More as described by Andrew Fairservice, "got upwi' an unto' bang, and garr'd them a' look about them." The view of theCovenanters is "false and distorted." These worthies are not to be"abused with profane wit or low buffoonery." "Prayers were not read inthe parish churches of Scotland" at that time. As Episcopacy was restoredwhen Charles II. returned "upon the unanimous petition of the ScottishParliament" (Scott's Collected Works, vol. xix. p. 78) it is notunnatural for the general reader to suppose that prayers would be read bythe curates. Dr. McCrie maintains that "at the Restoration neither theone nor the other" (neither the Scotch nor English Prayer Books) "wasimposed," and that the Presbyterians repeatedly "admitted they had nosuch grievance." No doubt Dr. McCrie is correct. But Mr. James Guthrie,who was executed on June 1, 1661, said in his last speech, "Oh that therewere not many who study to build again what they did formerlyunwarrantably destroy: I mean Prelacy and the Service Book, a mystery ofiniquity that works amongst us, whose steps lead unto the house of thegreat Whore, Babylon, the mother of fornication," and so forth. Eitherthis mystery of iniquity, the Book of Common Prayer, "was working amongstus," or it was not. If it was not, of what did Mr. Guthrie complain? Ifit was "working," was read by certain curates, as by Burnet, afterwardsBishop of Salisbury, at Saltoun, Scott is not incorrect. He makes Morton,in danger of death, pray in the words of the Prayer Book, "a circumstancewhich so enraged his murderers that they determined to precipitate hisfate." Dr. McCrie objects to this incident, which is merely borrowed, onemay conjecture, from the death of Archbishop Sharpe. The assassins toldthe Archbishop that they would slay him. "Hereupon he began to think ofdeath. But (here are just the words of the person who related the story)behold! God did not give him the grace to pray to Him without the help ofa book. But he pulled out of his pocket a small book, and began to readover some words to himself, which filled us with amazement andindignation." So they fired their pistols into the old man, and thenchopped him up with their swords, supposing that he had a charm againstbullets! Dr. McCrie seems to have forgotten, or may have disbelieved thenarrative telling how Sharpe's use of the Prayer Book, like Morton's,"enraged" his murderers. The incident does not occur in the story of themurder by Russell, one of the murderers, a document published in C. K.Sharpe's edition of Kirkton. It need not be true, but it may havesuggested the prayer of Morton.
If Scott thought that the Prayer Book was ordained to be read in Scotchchurches, he was wrong; if he merely thought that it might have been readin some churches, was "working amongst us," he was right: at least,according to Mr. James Guthrie.
Dr. McCrie argues that Burley would never have wrestled with a soldier inan inn, especially in the circumstances. This, he says, was inconsistentwith Balfour's "character." Wodrow remarks, "I cannot hear that thisgentleman had ever any great character for religion among those that knewhim, and such were the accounts of him, when abroad, that the reverendministers of the Scots congregation at Rotterdam would never allow him tocommunicate with them." In Scott's reading of Burley's character, therewas a great deal of the old Adam. That such a man should so resent theinsolence of a soldier is far from improbable, and our sympathies arewith Burley on this occasion.
Mause Headrigg is next criticised. Scott never asserted that she was arepresentative of sober Presbyterianism. She had long conducted herselfprudently, but, when she gave way to her indignation, she only used suchlanguage as we find on many pages of Wodrow, in the mouths of manyCovenanters. Indeed, though Manse is undeniably comic, she also commandsas much respect as the Spartan mother when she bids her only son bearhimself boldly in the face of torture. If Scott makes her grotesque, healso makes her heroic. But Dr. McCrie could not endure the ridiculouselement, which surely no fair critic can fail to observe in the speechesof the gallant and courageous, but not philosophical, members of theCovenant's Extreme Left. Dr. McCrie talks of "the creeping loyalty of theCavaliers." "Staggering" were a more appropriate epithet. Both sides wereloyal to principle, both courageous; but the inappropriate andpromiscuous scriptural language of many Covenanters was, and remains,ridiculous. Let us admit that the Covenanters were not averse to allgames. In one or two sermons they illustrate religion by phrases derivedfrom golf!
When Dr. McCrie exclaims, in a rich anger, "Your Fathers!" as if Scott'smust either have been Presbyterians or Cavaliers, the retort is cleverlyput by Sir Walter in the mouth of Jedediah. His ancestors of these dayshad been Quakers, and persecuted by both parties.
Throughout the novel Scott keeps insisting that the Presbyterians hadbeen goaded into rebellion, and even into revenge, by cruelty ofpersecution, and that excesses and bloodthirstiness were confined to the"High Flyers," as the milder Covenanters called them. Morton representsthe ideal of a good Scot in the circumstances. He comes to be ashamed ofhis passive attitude in the face of oppression. He stands up for "thatfreedom from stripes and bondage" which was claimed, as you may read inScripture, by the Apostle Paul, and which every man who is free-born iscalled upon to defend, for his own sake and that of his countrymen. Theterms demanded by Morton from Monmouth before the battle of BothwellBridge are such as Scott recognises to be fair. Freedom of worship, and afree Parliament, are included.
Dr. McCrie's chief charges are that Scott does not insist enough on thehardships and brutalities of the persecution, and that the ferocity ofthe Covenanters is overstated. He does not admit that the picture drawnof "the more rigid Presbyterians" is just. But it is almost impossible tooverstate the ferocity of the High Flyers' conduct and creed. ThusWodrow, a witness not quite unfriendly to the rigid Presbyterians, thoughnot high-flying enough for Patrick Walker, writes "Mr. Tate informs methat he had this account front Mr. Antony Shau, and others of theIndulged; that at some time, under the Indulgence, there was a meeting ofsome people, when they resolved in one night . . . to go to every houseof the Indulged Ministers and kill them, and all in one night."This anecdote was confirmed by Mr. John Millar, to whose father's houseone of these High Flyers came, on this errand. This massacre was notaimed at the persecutors, but at the Poundtexts. As to their creed,Wodrow has an anecdote of one of his own elders, who told a poor womanwith many children that "it would be an uncouth mercy" if they were allsaved.
A pleasant evangel was this, and peacefully was it to have beenpropagated!
Scott was writing a novel, not history. In "The Minstrelsy of theScottish Border" (1802-3) Sir Walter gave this account of thepersecutions. "Had the system of coercion been continued until our day,Blair and Robertson would have preached in the wilderness, and onlydiscovered their powers of eloquence and composition by rolling along adeeper torrent of gloomy fanaticism. . . . The genius of the persecutedbecame stubborn, obstinate, and ferocious." He did not, in his romance,draw a complete picture of the whole persecution, but he did show, bythat insolence of Bothwell at Milnwood, which stirs the most sluggishblood, how the people were misused. This scene, to Dr. McCrie's mind, is"a mere farce," because it is enlivened by Manse's declamations. Scottdisplays the abo
Probably the best points made by Dr. McCrie are his proof that biblicalnames were not common among the Covenanteers and that Episcopal eloquenceand Episcopal superstition were often as tardy and as dark as theeloquence and superstition of the Presbyterians. He carries the war intothe opposite camp, with considerable success. His best answer to "OldMortality" would have been a novel, as good and on the whole as fair,written from the Covenanting side. Hogg attempted this reply, not toScott's pleasure according to the Shepherd, in "The Brownie of Bodsbeck."The Shepherd says that when Scott remarked that the "Brownie" gave anuntrue description of the age, he replied, "It's a devilish deal truerthan yours!" Scott, in his defence, says that to please the friends ofthe Covenanters, "their portraits must be drawn without shadow, and theobjects of their political antipathy be blackened, hooved, and horned erethey will acknowledge the likeness of either." He gives examples ofclemency, and even considerateness, in Dundee; for example, he did notbring with him a prisoner, "who laboured under a disease rendering itpainful to him to be on horseback." He examines the story of John Brown,and disproves the blacker circumstances. Yet he appears to hold thatDundee should have resigned his commission rather than carry out theorders of Government? Burley's character for ruthlessness is defended bythe evidence of the "Scottish Worthies." As Dr. McCrie objects to his"buffoonery," it is odd that he palliates the "strong propensity" of Knox"to indulge his vein of humour," when describing, with ghoul-like mirth,the festive circumstances of the murder and burial of Cardinal Beaton.The odious part of his satire, Scott says, is confined to "the fierce andunreasonable set of extra-Presbyterians," Wodrow's High Flyers. "We haveno delight to dwell either upon the atrocities or absurdities of a peoplewhose ignorance and fanaticism were rendered frantic by persecution."To sum up the controversy, we may say that Scott was unfair, if at all,in tone rather than in statement. He grants to the Covenanters dauntlessresolution and fortitude; he admits their wrongs; we cannot see, on theevidence of their literature, that he exaggerates their grotesqueness,their superstition, their impossible attitude as of Israelites under aTheocracy, which only existed as an ideal, or their ruthlessness oncertain occasions. The books of Wodrow, Kirkton, and Patrick Walker, thesermons, the ghost stories, the dying speeches, the direct testimony oftheir own historians, prove all that Scott says, a hundred times over.The facts are correct, the testimony to the presence of another, anangelic temper, remains immortal in the figure of Bessie McLure. But anunfairness of tone may be detected in the choice of such names asKettledrummle and Poundtext: probably the "jog-trot" friends of theIndulgence have more right to complain than the "high-flying" friends ofthe Covenant. Scott had Cavalier sympathies, as Macaulay had Covenantingsympathies. That Scott is more unjust to the Covenanters than Macaulay toClaverhouse historians will scarcely maintain. Neither history or fictionwould be very delightful if they were warless. This must serve as anapology more needed by Macaulay--than by Sir Walter. His reply to Dr.McCrie is marked by excellent temper, humour, and good humor. The"Quarterly Review" ends with the well known reference to his brotherTom's suspected authorship: "We intended here to conclude this longarticle, when a strong report reached us of certain transatlanticconfessions, which, if genuine (though of this we know nothing), assign adifferent author to those volumes than the party suspected by ourScottish correspondents. Yet a critic may be excused for seizing upon thenearest suspected person, or the principle happily expressed byClaverhouse in a letter to the Earl of Linlithgow. He had been, it seems,in search of a gifted weaver who used to hold forth at conventicles: 'Isent for the webster, they brought in his brother for him: though he,maybe, cannot preach like his brother, I doubt not but he is as wellprincipled as he, wherefore I thought it would be no great fault to givehim the trouble to go to jail with the rest.'"
Nobody who read this could doubt that Scott was, at least, "art and part"in the review. His efforts to disguise himself as an Englishman, aided bya Scotch antiquary, are divertingly futile. He seized the chance ofdefending his earlier works from some criticisms on Scotch mannerssuggested by the ignorance of Gifford. Nor was it difficult to see thatthe author of the review was also the author of the novel. In later yearsLady Louisa Stuart reminded Scott that "Old Mortality," like the Iliad,had been ascribed by clever critics to several hands working together. OnDecember 5, 1816, she wrote to him, "I found something you wot of upon mytable; and as I dare not take it with me to a friend's house, for fear ofarousing curiosity"--she read it at once. She could not sleep afterwards,so much had she been excited. "Manse and Cuddie forced me to laugh outaloud, which one seldom does when alone." Many of the Scotch words "wereabsolutely Hebrew" to her. She not unjustly objected to Claverhouse's useof the word "sentimental" as an anachronism. Sentiment, like nerves, hadnot been invented in Claverhouse's day.
The pecuniary success of "Old Mortality" was less, perhaps, than mighthave been expected. The first edition was only of two thousand copies.Two editions of this number were sold in six weeks, and a third wasprinted. Constable's gallant enterprise of ten thousand, in "Rob Roy,"throws these figures into the shade.
"Old Mortality" is the first of Scott's works in which he invades historybeyond the range of what may be called living oral tradition. In"Waverley," and even in "Rob Roy," he had the memories of Invernahyle, ofMiss Nairne, of many persons of the last generation for his guides. In"Old Mortality" his fancy had to wander among the relics of another age,among the inscribed tombs of the Covenanters, which are common in theWest Country, as in the churchyards of Balmaclellan and Dalry. There thedust of these enduring and courageous men, like that of Bessie Bell andMarion Gray in the ballad, "beiks forenenst the sun," which shines onthem from beyond the hills of their wanderings, while the brown waters ofthe Ken murmur at their feet.
Here now in peace sweet rest we take, Once murdered for religion's sake,
says the epitaph on the flat table-stone, beneath the wind tormentedtrees of Iron Gray. Concerning these _Manes Presbyteriani_, "Guthrie'sand Giffan's Passions"
With all these materials at his command, Scott was able almost to dwellin the age of the Covenant hence the extraordinary life and brilliance ofthis, his first essay in fiction dealing with a remote time and obsoletemanners. His opening, though it may seem long and uninviting to modernreaders, is interesting for the sympathetic sketch of the gentleconsumptive dominie. If there was any class of men whom Sir Walter couldnot away with, it was the race of schoolmasters, "black cattle" whom heneither trusted nor respected. But he could make or invent exceptions, asin the uncomplaining and kindly usher of the verbose Cleishbotham. Oncelaunched in his legend, with the shooting of the Popinjay, he neverfalters. The gallant, dauntless, overbearing Bothwell, the dour Burley,the handful of Preachers, representing every current of opinion in theCovenant, the awful figure of Habakkuk Mucklewrath, the charm of goodnessin Bessie McLure, are all immortal, deathless as Shakspeare's men andwomen. Indeed here, even more than elsewhere, we admire the life whichScott breathes into his minor characters, Halliday and Inglis, thetroopers, the child who leads Morton to Burley's retreat in the cave,that auld Laird Nippy, old Milnwood (a real "Laird Nippy" was a neighbourof Scott's at Ashiestiel), Ailie Wilson, the kind, crabbed oldhousekeeper, generous in great things, though habitually niggardly inthings small. Most of these are persons whom we might still meet inScotland, as we might meet Cuddie Headrigg--the shrewd, the blithe, thefaithful and humorous Cuddie. As to Miss Jenny Dennison, we can hardlyforgive Scott for making that gayest of soubrettes hard and selfish inmarried life. He is too severe on the harmless and even beneficent raceof coquettes, who brighten life so much, who so rapidly "draw up with thenew pleugh lad," and who do so very little harm when all is said. Jennyplays the part of a leal and brave lass in the siege of Tillietudlem,hunger and terror do not subdue her spirit; she is true, in spite of manytemptations, to her Cuddie, and we decline to believe that she was untrueto his master and friend. Ikuse, no doubt, is a caricature, though Wodrowmakes us acquainted with at least one Mause, Jean Biggart, who "all thewinter over was exceedingly straitened in wrestling and prayer as to theParliament, and said that still that place was brought before her, Ourhedges are broken down!" ("Analecta," ii. 173.) Surely even Dr. McCriemust have laughed out loud, like Lady Louisa Stuart, when Mause exclaims:"Neither will I peace for the bidding of no earthly potsherd, though itbe painted as red as a brick from the tower o' Babel, and ca' itsel' acorporal." Manse, as we have said, is not more comic than heroic, amother in that Sparta of the Covenant. The figure of Morton, as usual, isnot very attractive. In his review, Scott explains the weakness of hisheroes as usually strangers in the land (Waverley, Lovel, Mannering,Osbaldistone), who need to have everything explained to them, and who areless required to move than to be the pivots of the general movement. ButMorton is no stranger in the land. His political position in the justemilieu is unexciting. A schoolboy wrote to Scott at this time, "Oh, SirWalter, how could you take the lady from the gallant Cavalier, and giveher to the crop-eared Covenanter?" Probably Scott sympathised with hisyoung critic, who longed "to be a feudal chief, and to see his retainershappy around him." But Edith Bellenden loved Morton, with that lovewhich, as she said, and thought, "disturbs the repose of the dead." Scotthad no choice. Besides, Dr. McCrie might have disapproved of so fortunatean arrangement. The heroine herself does not live in the memory like DiVernon; she does not even live like Jenny Dennison. We remember CorporalRaddlebanes better, the stoutest fighting man of Major Bellenden'sacquaintance; and the lady of Tillietudlem has admirers more numerous andmore constant. The lovers of the tale chiefly engage our interest by therare constancy of their affections.
The most disputed character is, of course, that of Claverhouse. There isno doubt that, if Claverhouse had been a man of the ordinary mould, hewould never have reckoned so many enthusiastic friends in future ages.But Beauty, which makes Helen immortal, had put its seal on Bonny Dundee.With that face "which limners might have loved to paint, and ladies tolook upon," he still conquers hearts from his dark corner above theprivate staircase in Sir Walter's deserted study. He was brave, he wasloyal when all the world forsook his master; in that reckless age ofrevelry he looks on with the austere and noble contempt which he wears inHell among the tippling shades of Cavaliers. He died in the arms ofvictory, but he lives among
The chiefs of ancient names Who swore to fight and die beneath the banner of King James, And he fell in Killiecrankie Pass, the glory of the Grahames.
Sentiment in romance, not in history, may be excused for pardoning therest.
Critics of the time, as Lady Louisa Stuart reminds Sir Walter, did notbelieve the book was his, because it lacked his "tedious descriptions."The descriptions, as of the waterfall where Burley had his den, areindeed far from "tedious." There is a tendency in Scott to exalt intomountains "his own grey hills," the _bosses verdatres_ as Prosper Merimeecalled them, of the Border. But the horrors of such linns as that downwhich Hab Dab and Davie Dinn "dang the deil" are not exaggerated.
"Old Mortality" was the last novel written by Scott before the maladywhich tormented his stoicism in 1817-1820. Every reader has his ownfavourite, but few will place this glorious tale lower than second in thelist of his incomparable romances.