The Heart of Mid-Lothian, Volume 1 eBook: Page1

Walter Scott (2004)




  Produced by David Widger

  Bookcover]

  Spine

  THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN

  By Walter Scott

  TALES OF MY LANDLORD

  COLLECTED AND ARRANGED

  BY JEDEDIAH CLEISHBOTHAM,

  SCHOOLMASTER AND PARISH CLERK OF GANDERCLEUGH.

  SECOND SERIES.

  Frontispiece]

  Titlepage_1]

  First Poem]

  THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN.

  Hear, Land o' Cakes and brither Scots, Frae Maidenkirk to Johnny Groat's, If there's a hole in a' your coats, I rede ye tent it; A chiel's amang you takin' notes, An' faith he'll prent it! Burns.

  EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION TO THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN.

  SCOTT began to work on "The Heart of Mid-Lothian" almost before he hadcompleted "Rob Roy." On Nov. 10, 1817, he writes to Archibald Constableannouncing that the negotiations for the sale of the story to Messrs.Longman have fallen through, their firm declining to relieve theBallantynes of their worthless "stock." "So you have the staff in yourown hands, and, as you are on the spot, can manage it your own way.Depend on it that, barring unforeseen illness or death, these will be thebest volumes which have appeared. I pique myself on the first tale, whichis called 'The Heart of Mid-Lothian.'" Sir Walter had thought of adding aromance, "The Regalia," on the Scotch royal insignia, which had beenrediscovered in the Castle of Edinburgh. This story he never wrote. Mr.Cadell was greatly pleased at ousting the Longmans--"they have themselvesto blame for the want of the Tales, and may grumble as they choose: wehave Taggy by the tail, and, if we have influence to keep the best authorof the day, we ought to do it."--[Archibald Constable, iii. 104.]

  Though contemplated and arranged for, "The Heart of Mid-Lothian" was notactually taken in hand till shortly after Jan. 15, 1818, when Cadellwrites that the tracts and pamphlets on the affair of Porteous are to becollected for Scott. "The author was in great glee . . . he says that hefeels very strong with what he has now in hand." But there was muchanxiety concerning Scott's health. "I do not at all like this illness ofScott's," said James Ballantyne to Hogg. "I have eften seen him lookjaded of late, and am afraid it is serious." "Hand your tongue, or I'llgar you measure your length on the pavement," replied Hogg. "You fause,down-hearted loon, that ye are, you daur to speak as if Scott were on hisdeath-bed! It cannot be, it must not be! I will not suffer you to speakthat gait." Scott himself complains to Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe of"these damned spasms. The merchant Abudah's hag was a henwife to themwhen they give me a real night of it."

  "The Heart of Mid-Lothian," in spite of the author's malady, waspublished in June 1818. As to its reception, and the criticism which itreceived, Lockhart has left nothing to be gleaned. Contrary to hiscustom, he has published, but without the writer's name, a letter fromLady Louisa Stuart, which really exhausts what criticism can find to sayabout the new novel. "I have not only read it myself," says Lady Louisa,"but am in a house where everybody is tearing it out of each other'shands, and talking of nothing else." She preferred it to all but"Waverley," and congratulates him on having made "the perfectly goodcharacter the most interesting. . . . Had this very story been conductedby a common hand, Effie would have attracted all our concern andsympathy, Jeanie only cold approbation. Whereas Jeanie, without youth,beauty, genius, warns passions, or any other novel-perfection, is hereour object from beginning to end." Lady Louisa, with her usual frankness,finds the Edinburgh lawyers tedious, in the introduction, and thinks thatMr. Saddletree "will not entertain English readers." The conclusion"flags"; "but the chief fault I have to find relates to the reappearanceand shocking fate of the boy. I hear on all sides 'Oh, I do not likethat!' I cannot say what I would have had instead, but I do not like iteither; it is a lame, huddled conclusion. I know you so well in it,by-the-by! You grow tired yourself, want to get rid of the story, andhardly care how." Lady Lousia adds that Sir George Staunton would neverhave hazarded himself in the streets of Edinburgh. "The end of poor MadgeWildfire is most pathetic. The meeting at Muschat's Cairn tremendous.Dumbiedikes and Rory Beau are delightful. . . . I dare swear many of yourreaders never heard of the Duke of Argyle before." She ends: "If I hadknown nothing, and the whole world had told me the contrary, I shouldhave found you out in that one parenthesis, 'for the man was mortal, andhad been a schoolmaster.'"

  Lady Louisa omits a character who was probably as essential to Scott'sscheme as any--Douce Davie Deans, the old Cameronian. He had almost beenannoyed by the criticism of his Covenanters in "Old Mortality," "theheavy artillery out of the Christian Instructor or some such obscurefield work," and was determined to "tickle off" another. There are signsof a war between literary Cavaliers and literary Covenanters at thistime, after the discharge of Dr. McCrie's "heavy artillery." CharlesKirkpatrick Sharpe was presented by Surtees of Mainsforth with amanuscript of Kirkton's unprinted "History of the Church of Scotland."This he set forth to edite, with the determination not to "let the Whigdogs have the best of it." Every Covenanting scandal and absurdity, suchas the old story of Mess David Williamson--"Dainty Davie"--and hisremarkable prowess, and presence of mind at Cherrytrees, was raked up,and inserted in notes to Kirkton. Scott was Sharpe's ally in thisenterprise. "I had in the persons of my forbears a full share, you see,of religious persecution . . . for all my greatgrandfathers were underthe ban, and I think there were hardly two of them out of jail at once.""I think it would be most scandalous to let the godly carry it oft thus.""It" seems to have been the editing of Kirkton. "It is very odd thevolume of Wodrow, containing the memoir of Russell concerning the murder,is positively vanished from the library" (the Advocates' Library)."Neither book nor receipt is to be found: surely they have stolen it inthe fear of the Lord." The truth seems to have been that Cavaliers andCovenanters were racing for the manuscripts wherein they found smoothstones of the brook to pelt their opponents withal. Soon after Scottwrites: "It was not without exertion and trouble that I this day detectedRussell's manuscript (the account of the murder of Sharpe by one of themurderers), also Kirkton and one or two others, which Mr. McCrie hadremoved from their place in the library and deposited in a snug andsecret corner." The Covenanters had made a raid on the ammunition of theCavaliers. "I have given," adds Sir Walter, "an infernal row on thesubject of hiding books in this manner." Sharpe replies that the"villainous biographer of John Knox" (Dr. McCrie), "that canting rogue,"is about to edite Kirkton. Sharpe therefore advertised his own edition atonce, and edited Kirkton by forced marches as it were. Scott reviewed thebook in the Quarterly (Jan. 1818). He remarked that Sharpe "had notescaped the censure of these industrious literary gentlemen of oppositeprinciples, who have suffered a work always relied upon as one of theirchief authorities to lie dormant for a hundred and forty years." Their"querulous outcries" (probably from the field-work of the ChristianInstructor) he disregards. Among the passions of this literary "bicker,"which Scott allowed to amuse him, was Davie Deans conceived. Scott wasnot going to be driven by querulous outcries off the Covenanting field,where he erected another trophy. This time he was more friendly to the"True Blue Presbyterians." His Scotch patriotism was one of his mostearnest feelings, the Covenanters, at worst, were essentially Scotch, andhe introduced a new Cameronian, with all the sterling honesty, thePuritanism, the impracticable ideas of the Covenant, in contact withchanged times, and compelled to compromise.

  He possessed a curious pamphlet, Haldane's "Active Testimony of the trueblue Presbyterians" (12mo, 1749). It is a most impartial work,"containing a declaration and testimony against the lat
e unjust invasionof Scotland by Charles, Pretended Prince of Wales, and William, PretendedDuke of Cumberland." Everything and everybody not Covenanted, the Houseof Stuart, the House of Brunswick, the House of Hapsburg, Papists,Prelatists and Turks, are cursed up hill and down dale, by these worthysurvivors of the Auld Leaven. Everybody except the authors, Haldane andLeslie, "has broken the everlasting Covenant." The very Confession ofWestminster is arraigned for its laxity. "The whole Civil and JudicialLaw of God," as given to the Jews (except the ritual, polygamy, divorce,slavery, and so forth), is to be maintained in the law of Scotland.Sins are acknowledged, and since the Covenant every politicalstep--Cromwell's Protectorate, the Restoration, the Revolution, theaccession of the "Dukes of Hanover"--has been a sin. A Court of Eldersis to be established to put in execution the Law of Moses. All offendersagainst the Kirk are to be "capitally punished." Stage plays are to besuppressed by the successors of the famous convention at Lanark, Anno1682. Toleration of all religions is "sinful," and "contrary to the wordof God." Charles Edward and the Duke of Cumberland are cursed. "Also wereckon it a great vice in Charles, his foolish Pity and Lenity, insparing these profane, blasphemous Redcoats, that Providence deliveredinto his hand, when, by putting them to death, this poor land might havebeen eased of the heavy burden of these vermin of Hell." The Auld Leavenswore terribly in Scotland. The atrocious cruelties of Cumberland afterCulloden are stated with much frankness and power. The German soldiersare said to have carried off "a vast deal of Spoil and Plunder intoGermany," and the Redcoats had Plays and Diversions (cricket, probably)on the Inch of Perth, on a Sabbath. "The Hellish, Pagan, Juggler playsare set up and frequented with more impudence and audacity than ever."Only the Jews, "our elder Brethren," are exempted from the curses ofHaldane and Leslie, who promise to recover for them the Holy Land. "TheMassacre in Edinburgh" in 1736, by wicked Porteous, calls for vengeanceupon the authors and abettors thereof. The army and navy are "the mostwicked and flagitious in the Universe." In fact, the True Blue Testimonyis very active indeed, and could be delivered, thanks to hellishToleration, with perfect safety, by Leslie and Haldane. The candour oftheir eloquence assuredly proves that Davie Deans is not overdrawn;indeed, he is much less truculent than those who actually weretestifying even after his decease.

  In "The Heart of Mid-Lothian" Scott set himself to draw his own people attheir best. He had a heroine to his hand in Helen Walker, "a character sodistinguished for her undaunted love of virtue," who, unlike JeanieDeans, "lived and died in poverty, if not want." In 1831 he erected apillar over her grave in the old Covenanting stronghold of Irongray. Theinscription ends--

  Respect the Grave of Poverty, When combined with Love of Truth And Dear Affection.

  The sweetness, the courage, the spirit, the integrity of Jeanie Deanshave made her, of all Scott's characters, the dearest to her countrymen,and the name of Jeanie was given to many children, in pious memory of theblameless heroine. The foil to her, in the person of Effie, is not lessadmirable. Among Scott's qualities was one rare among modern authors: hehad an affectionate toleration for his characters. If we compare Effiewith Hetty in "Adam Bede," this charming and genial quality of Scott'sbecomes especially striking. Hetty and Dinah are in very much the samesituation and condition as Effie and Jeanie Deans. But Hetty is afrivolous little animal, in whom vanity and silliness do duty forpassion: she has no heart: she is only a butterfly broken on the wheel ofthe world. Doubtless there are such women in plenty, yet we feel that hercreator persecutes her, and has a kind of spite against her. This wasimpossible to Scott. Effie has heart, sincerity, passion, loyalty,despite her flightiness, and her readiness, when her chance comes, toplay the fine lady. It was distasteful to Scott to create a character nothuman and sympathetic on one side or another. Thus his robber "of mildermood," on Jeanie's journey to England, is comparatively a good fellow,and the scoundrel Ratcliffe is not a scoundrel utterly. "'To make a Langtale short, I canna undertake the job. It gangs against my conscience.''Your conscience, Rat?' said Sharpitlaw, with a sneer, which the readerwill probably think very natural upon the occasion. 'Ou ay, sir,'answered Ratcliffe, calmly, 'just my conscience; a body has a conscience,though it may be ill wunnin at it. I think mine's as weel out o' the gateas maist folk's are; and yet it's just like the noop of my elbow, itwhiles gets a bit dirl on a corner.'" Scott insists on leaving his worstpeople in possession of something likeable, just as he cannot dismisseven Captain Craigengelt without assuring us that Bucklaw made aprovision for his necessities. This is certainly a more humane way ofwriting fiction than that to which we are accustomed in an age ofhumanitarianism. Nor does Scott's art suffer from his kindliness, andEffie in prison, with a heart to be broken, is not less pathetic than theheartless Hetty, in the same condemnation.

  As to her lover, Robertson, or Sir George Staunton, he certainly vergeson the melodramatic. Perhaps we know too much about the real GeorgeRobertson, who was no heir to a title in disguise, but merely a "stablerin Bristol" accused "at the instance of Duncan Forbes, Esq. of Culloden,his Majesty's advocate, for the crimes of Stouthrieff, Housebreaking, andRobbery." Robertson "kept an inn in Bristo, at Edinburgh, where theNewcastle carrier commonly did put up," and is believed to have been amarried man. It is not very clear that the novel gains much by theelevation of the Bristo innkeeper to a baronetcy, except in so far asEffie's appearance in the character of a great lady is entertaining andcharacteristic, and Jeanie's conquest of her own envy is exemplary. Thechange in social rank calls for the tragic conclusion, about which almostevery reader agrees with the criticism of Lady Louisa Stuart and herfriends. Thus the novel "filled more pages" than Mr. JedediahCleishbotham had "opined," and hence comes a languor which does not besetthe story of "Old Mortality." Scott's own love of adventure and ofstirring incidents at any cost is an excellent quality in a novelist, butit does, in this instance, cause him somewhat to dilute those immortalstudies of Scotch character which are the strength of his genius.The reader feels a lack of reality in the conclusion, the fatal encounterof the father and the lost son, an incident as old as the legend ofOdysseus. But this is more than atoned for by the admirable part of MadgeWildfire, flitting like a _feu follet_ up and down among the douceScotch, and the dour rioters. Madge Wildfire is no repetition of MegMerrilies, though both are unrestrained natural things, rebels againstthe settled life, musical voices out of the past, singing forgotten songsof nameless minstrels. Nowhere but in Shakspeare can we find such adistraught woman as Madge Wildfire, so near akin to nature and to themoods of "the bonny lady Moon." Only he who created Ophelia could haveconceived or rivalled the scene where Madge accompanies the hunters ofStaunton on the moonlit hill and sings her warnings to the fugitive.

  When the glede's in the blue cloud, The lavrock lies still; When the hound's in the green-wood, The hind keeps the hill. There's a bloodhound ranging Tinwald wood, There's harness glancing sheen; There's a maiden sits on Tinwald brae, And she sings loud between. O sleep ye sound, Sir James, she said, When ye suld rise and ride? There's twenty men, wi' bow and blade, Are seeking where ye hide.

  The madness of Madge Wildfire has its parallel in the wildness ofGoethe's Marguerite, both of them lamenting the lost child, which, toMadge's fancy, is now dead, now living in a dream. But the gloom thathangs about Muschat's Cairn, the ghastly vision of "crying up AilieMuschat, and she and I will hae a grand bouking-washing, and bleach ourclaise in the beams of the bonny Lady Moon," have a terror beyond theGerman, and are unexcelled by Webster or by Ford. "But the moon, and thedew, and the night-wind, they are just like a caller kail-blade laid onmy brow; and whiles I think the moon just shines on purpose to pleasureme, when naebody sees her but mysell." Scott did not deal much in thefacile pathos of the death-bed, but that of Madge Wildfire has a grace ofpoetry,
and her latest song is the sweetest and wildest of his lyrics,the most appropriate in its setting. When we think of the contrasts toher--the honest, dull good-nature of Dumbiedikes; the common-sense andhumour of Mrs. Saddletree; the pragmatic pedantry of her husband;the Highland pride, courage, and absurdity of the Captain ofKnockdander--when we consider all these so various and perfectcreations, we need not wonder that Scott was "in high glee" over "TheHeart of Mid-Lothian," "felt himself very strong," and thought thatthese would be "the best volumes that have appeared." The difficulty, asusual, is to understand how, in all this strength, he permitted himselfto be so careless over what is really by far the easiest part of thenovelist's task--the construction. But so it was; about "The Monastery"he said, "it was written with as much care as the rest, that is, with nocare at all." His genius flowed free in its own unconscious abundance:where conscious deliberate workmanship was needed, "the forthrightcraftsman's hand," there alone he was lax and irresponsible. InShakspeare's case we can often account for similar incongruities by theconstraint of the old plot which he was using; but Scott was making hisown plots, or letting them make themselves. "I never could lay down aplan, or, having laid it down, I never could adhere to it; the action ofcomposition always diluted some passages and abridged or omitted others;and personages were rendered important or insignificant, not accordingto their agency in the original conception of the plan, but according tothe success or otherwise with which I was able to bring them out. I onlytried to make that which I was actually writing diverting andinteresting, leaving the rest to fate. . . When I chain my mind to ideaswhich are purely imaginative--for argument is a different thing--itseems to me that the sun leaves the landscape, that I think away thewhole vivacity and spirit of my original conception, and that theresults are cold, tame, and spiritless."

  In fact, Sir Walter was like the Magician who can raise spirits that,once raised, dominate him. Probably this must ever be the case, when anauthor's characters are not puppets but real creations. They then have awill and a way of their own; a free-will which their creator cannotpredetermine and correct. Something like this appears to have beenScott's own theory of his lack of constructive power. No one was soassured of its absence, no one criticised it more severely than he didhimself. The Edinburgh Review about this time counselled the "Author ofWaverley" to attempt a drama, doubting only his powers of compression.Possibly work at a drama might have been of advantage to the genius ofScott. He was unskilled in selection and rejection, which the dramaespecially demands. But he detested the idea of writing for actors, whomhe regarded as ignorant, dull, and conceited. "I shall not fine and renewa lease of popularity upon the theatre. To write for low, ill-informed,and conceited actors, whom you must please, for your success isnecessarily at their mercy, I cannot away with," he wrote to Southey."Avowedly, I will never write for the stage; if I do, 'call me horse,'"he remarks to Terry. He wanted "neither the profit nor the shame of it.""I do not think that the character of the audience in London is such thatone could have the least pleasure in pleasing them." He liked helpingTerry to "Terryfy" "The Heart of Mid-Lothian," and his other novels, buthe had no more desire than a senator of Rome would have had to see hisname become famous by the Theatre. This confirmed repulsion in one solearned in the dramatic poets is a curious trait in Scott's character.He could not accommodate his genius to the needs of the stage, and thatcrown which has most potently allured most men of genius he would havethrust away, had it been offered to him, with none of Caesar'sreluctance. At the bottom of all this lay probably the secret convictionthat his genius was his master, that it must take him where it would, onpaths where he was compelled to follow. Terse and concentrated, of setpurpose, he could not be. A notable instance of this inability occurs inthe Introductory Chapter to "The Heart of Mid-Lothian," which hasprobably frightened away many modern readers. The Advocate and the Writerto the Signet and the poor Client are persons quite uncalled for, andtheir little adventure at Gandercleugh is unreal. Oddly enough, part oftheir conversation is absolutely in the manner of Dickens.

  "'I think,' said I, . . . 'the metropolitan county may, in that case, besaid to have a sad heart.'

  "'Right as my glove, Mr. Pattieson,' added Mr. Hardie; 'and a closeheart, and a hard heart--Keep it up, Jack.'

  "'And a wicked heart, and a poor heart,' answered Halkit, doing his best.

  "'And yet it may be called in some sort a strong heart, and a highheart,' rejoined the advocate. 'You see I can put you both out ofheart.'"

  Fortunately we have no more of this easy writing, which makes such verymelancholy reading.

  The narrative of the Porteous mob, as given by the novelist, is not, itseems, entirely accurate. Like most artists, Sir Walter took the libertyof "composing" his picture. In his "Illustrations of the Author ofWaverley" (1825) Mr. Robert Chambers records the changes in facts made byScott. In the first place, Wilson did not attack his guard, and enableRobertson to escape, after the sermon, but as soon as the criminals tooktheir seats in the pew. When fleeing out, Robertson tripped over "theplate," set on a stand to receive alms and oblations, whereby he hurthimself, and was seen to stagger and fall in running down the stairsleading to the Cowgate. Mr. McQueen, Minister of the New Kirk, was comingup the stairs. He conceived it to be his duty to set Robertson on hisfeet again, "and covered his retreat as much as possible from the pursuitof the guard." Robertson ran up the Horse Wynd, out at Potter Row Port,got into the King's Park, and headed for the village of Duddingston,beside the loch on the south-east of Arthur's Seat. He fainted afterjumping a dyke, but was picked up and given some refreshment. He lay inhiding till he could escape to Holland.

  The conspiracy to hang Porteous did not, in fact, develop in a few hours,after his failure to appear on the scaffold. The Queen's pardon (or areprieve) reached Edinburgh on Thursday, Sept. 2; the Riot occurred onthe night of Sept. 7. The council had been informed that lynching wasintended, thirty-six hours before the fatal evening, but pronounced thereports to be "caddies' clatters." Their negligence, of course, must haveincreased the indignation of the Queen. The riot, according to a very oldman, consulted by Mr. Chambers, was headed by two butchers, namedCumming, "tall, strong, and exceedingly handsome men, who dressed inwomen's clothes as a disguise." The rope was tossed out of a window in a"small wares shop" by a woman, who received a piece of gold in exchange.This extravagance is one of the very few points which suggest that peopleof some wealth may have been concerned in the affair. Tradition,according to Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, believed in noble leaders of theriot. It is certain that several witnesses of good birth and positiontestified very strongly against Porteous, at his trial.

  According to Hogg, Scott's "fame was now so firmly established that hecared not a fig for the opinion of his literary friends beforehand." Hewas pleased, however, by the notice of "Ivanhoe," "The Heart ofMid-Lothian," and "The Bride of Lammermoor" in the Edinburgh Review of1820, as he showed by quoting part of its remarks. The Reviewer franklyobserved "that, when we began with one of these works, we were consciousthat we never knew how to leave off. The Porteous mob is rather heavilydescribed, and the whole part of George Robertson, or Staunton, isextravagant and displeasing. The final catastrophe is needlesslyimprobable and startling." The critic felt that he must be critical, buthis praise of Effie and Jeanie Deans obviously comes from his heart.Jeanie's character "is superior to anything we can recollect in thehistory of invention . . . a remarkable triumph over the greatest of alldifficulties in the conduct of a fictitious narrative." The critiqueends with "an earnest wish that the Author would try his hand in thelore of Shakspeare"; but, wiser than the woers of Penelope, Scottrefused to make that perilous adventure. ANDREW LANG.

  An essay by Mr. George Ormond, based on manuscripts in the EdinburghRecord office (Scottish Review, July, 1892), adds little to what is knownabout the Porteous Riot. It is said that Porteous was let down alive, andhanged again, more than once, that his arm was broken by a Lochaber axe,and that a torch wa
s applied to the foot from which the shoe had fallen.A pamphlet of 1787 says that Robertson became a spy on smugglers inHolland, returned to London, procured a pardon through the ButcherCumberland, and "at last died in misery in London." It is plain thatColonel Moyle might have rescued Porteous, but he was naturally cautiousabout entering the city gates without a written warrant from the civilauthorities.