Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Charlotte Bronte

"...Something stirred in an adjoining chamber; it would not do to be surprised eaves-dropping; I tapped hastily, And as hastily entered. Frances was just before me; she had been walking slowly in her room, and her step was checked by my advent: Twilight only was with her, and tranquil, ruddy Firelight; to these sisters, the Bright and the Dark, she had been speaking, ere I entered, in poetry. Sir Walter Scott's voice, to her a foreign, far-off sound, a mountain echo, had uttered itself in the first stanzas; the second, I thought, from the style and the substance, was the language of her own heart. ..."

From Charlotte Bronte's "The Professor",

As has been noted before, Walter Scott was familiar with the work of the Bronte sisters, and vice-versa.  Charlotte Bronte, who died on March 31, 1855, included a reference to Sir Walter Scott in her novel quoted above.  The eldest of the three writing Brontes produced "Jane Eyre" and eight other novels, as well as two volumes of poetry.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Massacre of Berwick


* * * * *
"There lived a king in southern land,
King Edward hight his name;
Unwordily he wore the crown,
Till fifty years were gane.

He had a sister's son o's ain,
Was large of blood and bane;
And afterward, when he came up,
Young Edward hight his name.

One day he came before the king,
And kneel'd low on his knee--
"A boon, a boon, my good uncle,
"I crave to ask of thee!

"At our lang wars, in fair Scotland,
"I fain hae wished to be;
"If fifteen hundred waled[90] wight men
"You'll grant to ride wi' me."

"Thou sail hae thae, thou sail hae mae;
"I say it sickerlie;
"And I mysell, an auld gray man,
"Array'd your host sall see."

King Edward rade, King Edward ran--
I wish him dool and pyne!
Till he had fifteen hundred men
Assembled on the Tyne.

And thrice as many at Berwicke
Were all for battle bound,
_Who, marching forth with false Dunbar,
A ready welcome found_..."

-From Auld Maitland, collected as part of Scott's "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.
Berwick, around 1296, enjoyed a more prosperous foreign trade than Edinburgh.  On March 30, 1296, the forces of Edward I of England invaded Berwick, and killed approximately 10,000 of its inhabitants.  The invasion was partly precipitated by King John Balliol signing a mutual assistance agreement with the French.  Edward soon afterward began an invasion of Scotland, with Berwick being an early stop in the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Battle of Towton

"...We must not tarry," said Margaret; " let us part here — you for Dijon

— I to Aix, my abode of unrest in Provence. Furewell — we may meet in a better hour—yet how can I hope it? Thus I said on the morning before the fight of St. Albans — thus on the dark dawning of Towton — thus on the yet more bloody field of Tewkesbury — and what was the event? Yet hope is a plant which cannot be rooted out of a noble breast, till the last heart-string crack as it is pulled away..."

From Scott's "Anne of Geierstein".

The Battle of Towton occurred on March 29, 1461.  The Yorkists, under King Edward IV won the battle decisively, giving the Lancastrians a crushing blow.  Edward had claimed the throne on March 4, 1460 soon after the death of his father Richard.  Edward held the throne until 1470, when Lancastrian King Henry IV was restored to power.  Henry's second reign ended the next year, with the Battle of Tewkesbury, after which Edward was himself restored to the throne.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


"...Reading at intervals a novel called Granby; one of that very difficult class which aspires to describe the actual current of society, whose colours are so evanescent that it is difficult to fix them on the canvas. It is well written, but over-laboured—too much attempt to put the reader exactly up to the thoughts and sentiments of the parties. The women do this better: Edgeworth, Ferrier, Austen have all had their portraits of real society, far superior to anything man, vain man, has produced of the like nature..."

From Scott's Journal, March 28, 1826.

Thomas Lister authored Granby.  Lister was born in 1800, and did not complete his 42nd year, dying in 1842.  Among his works was a Life of Clarendon.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

King Solomon died in Peace, when he had lived about sixty years...and so you know did King James

The title words were spoken by Bishop John Williams eulogizing James VI of Scotland and I of England, who died on March 27, 1625.  Thus ended the reign of the first Scottish ruler of the United Kingdoms.  Walter Scott mentions the taking of the Stone of Scone by King Edward I of England 300 years earlier as a precursor to James' rule in his "History of Scotland".

"...This fatal stone, as already mentioned, was said to have been brought from Ireland by Fergus, the son of Erie, who led the Dalriads to the shores of Argyllshire. Its virtues are preserved in the celebrated leonine verse -

Ni filial fatum, Scoti, quocunque Iocs turn
Invenieut lapidt-m, regnare tenentur ibidem.

Which may be rendered thus : —
Unless the fates are faithless grown,
And prophets' voice be vain,
Where'er is found this sacred stone
The Scottish race shall reign.

There were Scots who hailed the accomplishment of this prophecy at the accession of James VI. to the crown of England, and exulted, that, in removing this palladium, the policy of Edward resembled that which brought the Trojan horse in triumph within their walls, and which occafioncil the destruction of their royal family. The btone is -till preserved, and forms the support of king Edward the Confessor's chair, which the sovereign occupies at his coronation, and, indei«ndent of the divination so long in being accomplished, is in itself a very curious remnant of extreme Antiquity..."

Friday, March 26, 2010


March 26 (1826).—Here is a disagreeable morning, snowing and hailing, with gleams of bright sunshine between, and all the ground white, and all the air frozen. I don't like this jumbling of weather. It is ungenial, and gives chilblains. Besides, with its whiteness, and its coldness, and its glister, and its discomfort, it resembles that most disagreeable of all things, a vain, cold, empty, beautiful woman, who has neither mind nor heart, but only features like a doll. I do not know what is so like this disagreeable day, when the sun is so bright, and yet so uninfluential, that
"One may gaze upon its beams
Till he is starved with cold."

No matter, it will serve as well as another day to finish Woodstock. Walked out to the lake, and coquetted with this disagreeable weather, whereby I catch chilblains in my fingers and cold in my head. Fed the swans.

Finished Woodstock, however, cum tota sequela of title-page, introduction, etc., and so, as Dame Fortune says in Quevedo,

"Go wheel, and may the devil drive thee."
- From Scott's Journal.
Paraphrasing from Edinburgh University's Walter Scott Archive,Woodstock was finished hurriedly after the financial panic of 1825/26 enveloped the over-extended author, bringing him essentially into bancruptcy.  Critical reviews of the novel, which gravitates around King Charles II's escape from England during the English Civil Wars, were on the negative side.  Fortunately for Scott and his creditors, the verdict of the public was decidedly positive.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

James II of Scotland Crowned

On March 25, 1437, James the Fiery Face was crowned King of Scotland.  James was only 6 when he became king.  He was crowned in Holyrood House, which represented a switch from the past nearly 600 years (from Kenneth MacAlpin), during which monarchs were crowned at Scone.

Walter Scott covers James II in his History of Scotland:

"A war with England was the next object of interest during the active reign of James II. He invaded England with six thousand men, burned and plundered the country for twenty miles inland, and destroyed eighteen towers and fortalices. The Scottish army remained on English ground six days, without battle being offered, and returned home without loss, and with worship and honour. On James's retreat, the duke of York and earl Salisbury, with other English nobles, led to the border a body of about four or five thousand men; but having differed in opinion of the plan of the campaign, they quarrelled among themselves, and retired with disgrace. The cause of these internal discords in the English camp probably arose out of the dissensions concerning the red and white roses, which were now engrossing the nation. The truce with England was prolonged for nine years. James, however, seems to have deemed the period favourable for recovering such Scottish possessions as were still held by the English; accordingly we find him breaking through the truce.

It was with this view that the king collected a numerous army, and laid siege to Roxburgh, which had now been in possession of the English since the captivity of David II., and, as a military post, was of the greatest importance, being very strongly situated between the Tweed and Teviot, and not far from their confluence, in the most fertile part of the Scottish frontier. John the lord of the isles appeared in the royal camp, to atone for former errors and treasonable actions by zeal on the present occasion. He led a select body of Highlanders and islesmen armed with shirts of mail, two-handed swords, bows, and battle-axes, with which he offered to take the vanguard of the army should it be necessary to enter England, and to march a mile before the main body, so as to encounter the first brunt of the onset. Invasion, however, made no part of James's purpose on this occasion. He was desirous to recover possession of Roxburgh, and not being apprehensive of relief from England, resolved to proceed in the siege accoming to formal rule. He beleaguered the castle on every side, and battered it from the north of the Tweed, his cannon being placed in the duke of Roxburgh's park of Fleurs. James was proud of his train of cannon, and of the skill of a French engineer, who could level them so truly as to hit within a fathom of the place he aimed at, which, in these days, was held extraordinary practice. The siege had not continued many days when the arrival of the earl of Huntley, to whose valour and fidelity the king had been so much indebted with a gallant body of forces from the north, increased the king's hopes of succeeding in his enterprise. He received his noble and faithful adherent with the greatest marks of respect and regard, and conducted him to see his batteries.

Unhappily, standing in the vicinity of a gun which was about to be discharged, the rude mass, composed of ribs of iron, bound together by hoops of the same metal, burst asunder, and a fragment striking the king on the thigh, broke it asunder, and killed him on the spot. The earl of Angus was severely wounded on the same occasion.

Thus fell James the second of Scotland, in the twentyninth year of his age, and the twenty-fourth of his reign. His person was strong and well put together, and he was reckoned excellent at all exercises. His face would have been handsome, had it not been partly disfigured by a red spot, which procured him from his subjects the name of James with the fiery face. Of the natural violence of his temper he had given an unfortunate proof, by suffering himself to be surprised into a violation of faith towards Douglas. His subjects seem, however, to have considered this as the act of momentary passion; and James's clemency to Crawford, who, in the words of the chronicler, had been " right dangerous to the king," after that earl was entirely in his power, as well as the small number of persons who suffered for rebellions which shook the very throne, made his temper appear merciful, compared to that of his father, James I. He possessed the gift of being able to choose wise counsellors, and had the sense to follow their advice when chosen. In the display which James II. was called on to make of his military talents he showed both courage and conduct. His death was an inexpressible loss to his country, which was again plunged into the miseries of a long minority...."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Union of the Crowns

"A fancied moss-trooper, frc.

This was the usual appellation of the marauders upon the Borders ; a profession diligently pursued by the inhabitants on both sides, and by none more actively and successfully than by Buccleuch's clan. Long after the union of the crowns, the mosstroopers, although sunk in reputation, and no longer enjoying the pretext of national hostility, continued to pursue their calling.

Fuller includes, among the wonders of Cumberland, "The moss-troopers: so strange in the condition of their living, if considered in their Original, Increase, Height, Decay, and Buine. "

The quote above is a note from Scott's "Lay of the Last Minstrel", which references the Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland.  On March 24, 1603, Queen Elizabeth I of England died at Richmond Palace, to be followed by James VI of Scotland/I of England.  The moss-troopers operated largely during the time of the English Commonwealth, relying of their knowledge of border bogs for stealthy operations.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Herbal Heart Health

"March 23 (1826).—Lady Scott arrived yesterday to dinner. She was better than I expected, but Anne, poor soul, looked very poorly, and had been much worried with the fatigue and discomfort of the last week. Lady S. takes the digitalis, and, as she thinks, with advantage, though the medicine makes her very sick. Yet, on the whole, things are better than my gloomy apprehensions had anticipated."

- From Scott's Journal

Lady Scott developed heart problems in later life.  Digitalis, derived officially in 1785 from the foxglove plant, was a fairly familiar treatment when Charlotte began her treatment.  English physician William Withering is credited with isolating the active ingredient of what had been a folk remedy for congestive heart failure; foxglove.  In 1785, Withering publish

Monday, March 22, 2010

Let the Light Enter

The death of the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe on March 22, 1832 had an impact throughout Europe.  His dying words have been the inspiration for poets and thinkers.  Goethe and Scott enjoyed a friendly correspondence, exchanging gifts on occasion.  An expression of Scott's sentiment regarding Goethe is found in his Journal:

"February 15 (1827)....I have a letter from Baron Von Goethe,[472] which I must have read to me; for though I know German, I have forgot their written hand. I make it a rule seldom to read, and never to answer, foreign letters from literary folks. It leads to nothing but the battle-dore and shuttle-cock intercourse of compliments, as light as cork and feathers. But Goethe is different, and a wonderful fellow, the Ariosto at once, and almost the Voltaire of Germany. Who could have told me thirty years ago I should correspond, and be on something like an equal footing, with the author of Goetz? Ay, and who could have told me fifty things else that have befallen me?"

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The People's MP

"March 21 (1826).—Perused an attack on myself, done with as much ability as truth, by no less a man than Joseph Hume, the night-work man of the House of Commons, who lives upon petty abuses, and is a very useful man by so doing. He has had the kindness to say that I am interested in keeping up the taxes; I wish I had anything else to do with them than to pay them. But he lies, and is an ass, and not worth a man's thinking about. Joseph Hume, indeed!—I say Joseph Hum,—and could add a Swiftian rhyme, but forbear."

- From Scott's Journal.

According to Sir Robert Peel, Hume was "one of the most useful members to sit in the House of Commons".  He was known for challenging every expenditure in the budget.  Hume was in favor of free trade, and opposed to the Corn Laws.  His nickname as the People's MP had to do partly with his efforts against "combination laws" that favored masters, and hindered laborers.  William Wordsworth and Charles Lamb would have been attuned to Scott's feelings on the subject of Joseph Hume.  These men saw their pensions severed, due, as Lamb put it, to "the foul enchanter, Joseph Hume".

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Feast of Saint Cuthbert

On the feast of Saint Cuthbert (Cuthbert died March 20, 687), who has been covered in a previous post, two passages that reference him.  The first is from Scott's "The Lord of the Isles" (canto X).  The second from John Barbour's "The Brus" (Book IV, v.1), which provided reference for the Scott passage.  Barbour's work is included as an explanatory note to "The Lord of the Isles" in "The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott".  The historical reference is to Robert Bruce receiving a false signal, in the form of a bonfire on the shore near Turnberry Castle, which was his mother's ancestral home, that indicated he should re-enter Scotland.


"...'Twas I,' said Edward, 'found employ Of nobler import for the boy. Deep pondering in my anxious mind,
A fitting messenger to find,
To bear thy written mandate o'er
To Cuthbert on the Carrick shore,
I chanced, at early dawn, to pass
The chapel gate to snatch a mass.
I found the stripling on a tomb
Low-seated, weeping for the doom
That gave his youth to convent gloom.
I told my purpose, and his eyes
Flash'd joyful at the glad surprise.
He bounded to the skiff, the sail
Was spread before a prosperous gale,
And well my charge he hath obey'd ;
For, see ! the ruddy signal made,
That Clifford, with his merry-men all,
•Guards carelessly our father's hall.' 

"...Thai rowit fast, with all thair mycht,
Till that apon thaim fell the nycht,
That woux myrk. apon gret mancr,
Swa that thai wyst nocht quhar thai wer
For thai na nedill had, na stane ;
Bot rowyt alwayis in till anc,
Sterand all tyme apon the fyr,
That thai saw brynnand lycht and schyr12
It wes bot auentur 13 thaim led :
And thai in schort tyme sa thaim sped.
That at the fyr arywyt thai;
And went to land bot mar delay.
And Cuthbert, that has sene the fyr,
Was full off angyr, and off ire:
For he durst nocht do it away;
And wes alsua dowtand ay
That his lord suld pass to se.
Tharfor thair cummyn waytit he,
And met thaim at thair arywing.
He wes wele sone broucht to the King,
That speryt at him how he had done.
And he with sar hart tauld him sone.
How that he fand nane weill luffand;
Bot all war fayis, that he fand:
And that the lord the Persy,
With ner thre hundre in cumpany,
Was in the castell thar besid,
Fullfillyt off dispyt and prid.
Bot ma than twa partis off his rowt
War herberyt in the toune without;
"And dyspytyt vow mar, Schir King,
Than men may dispyt ony thing."
Than said the King, in full gret ire;
" Tratour, quhy maid thowthan the fyr?"—
" A I Schyr," said he, " sa God me se I
The fyr wes newyr maid for me.
Na, or the nycht, I wyst it nocht;
Bot fra I wyst it, weill I thocht
That ye, and haly your menye,
In hy M suld put yow to the se.
For thi I cum to mete yow her,
To tell perellys that may aper."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Tobias Smollet

"The Life of Smollett, whose genius has raised an imperishable monument to his fame, has been written, with spirit and elegance- by his friend and contemporary, the celebrated Dr Moore, and more lately by Dr Robert Anderson of Edinburgh, with a careful research, which leaves to us little except the task of selection and abridgement..."

Thus Walter Scott begins his brief biography of Tobias Smollett, published in "The Miscellaneous Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott".  Smollett, born on March 19, 1721, died the month following Scott's own birth (Smollett passed Sept. 17, 1771).  His youth was spent in what is now Renton, in West Dunbartonshire.  Scott describes the scene: "Tobias Smollett (baptized Tobias George) was born in 1721, in the old house of Dalquhurn, in the valley of Leven, in perhaps the most beautiful district in Britain."

Smollett trained as a surgeon at the University of Glasgow, and served as a naval surgeon.  His true calling however, was to literature, and he was also partial to Scotland.  His first publication was the poem " The Tears of Scotland", about the Battle of Culloden.  Scott reports a story of Smollet's working on this poem:  "...The late Robert Graham, Esq. 01 Gartmore, a particular friend and trustee of Smollett, has recorded the manner in which this effusion was poured forth.

" Some gentlemen having met at a tavern were amusing themselves before supper with a game at cards j while Smollett, not choosing to play, sat down to write. One of the company, who also was nominated by him one of his trustees," ( Gartmore himself,) " observing his earnestness, and supposing lie was writing verses, asked him if it was not so. He accordingly read them the first sketch of his Tears of Scotland, consisting only of six stanzas ; and on their remarking that the termination of the poem, being too strongly expressed, might give offence to persons whose political opinions were different, he sat down, without reply, and, with an air of great indignation, subjoined the concluding stanza:—

" While the warm blood bedews my veins.
And unimpaired remembrance reigns,
Resentment of my Country's fate

Within my filial breast shall heat.

Yes, spite of thine insulting foe,

My sympathizing verse shall flow.

Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn,

Thy banish'd peace, thy laurels torn !"..."
Smollett established himself as a literary figure with the publication of his novel "The Adventures of Roderick Random, in 1748.  Smollett's great work, to his own thinking, was his "A Complete History of England."  Smollett had already achieved quite a literary reputation before embarking on this study, which took from 1757 - 1765 to complete.
Smollett was contemporary with Samuel Johnson, who he nicknamed "the great Cham of literature".  James Boswell records this conversation in his "Life of Johnson" (April 10, 1776), which highlights the great esteem Smollett was held in, as well as his reputation as a critic: "...He (Johnson) talked of Lord Lyttelton's extreme anxiety as an authour; observing, that 'he was thirty years in preparing his History, and that he employed a man to point it for him; as if (laughing) another man could point his sense better than himself.' Mr. Murphy said, he understood his history was kept back several years for fear of Smollet. JOHNSON. 'This seems strange to Murphy and me, who never felt that anxiety, but sent what we wrote to the press, and let it take its chance.' MRS. THRALE. 'The time has been, Sir, when you felt it.' JOHNSON. 'Why, really, Madam, I do not recollect a time when that was the case.'..." Dr. Johnson edited the Latin inscription on a memorial column at Smollett's burial site.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Laurence Sterne

" Any man who has a name, or who has the power of pleasing," said Johnson, "will be very generally invited in London. The man Sterme, I am told, has had engagements for three months." Johnson's feelings of morality, and respect for the priesthood, led him to speak of Sterne with contempt; but when Goldsmith added, " And a very dull fellow," he replied with his emphatic, " Why, no, sir."

Walter Scott included this snippet of conversation between Samuel Johnson and Oliver Goldsmith to portray the Anglican clergyman and novelist Laurence Sterne as his contemporaries saw him.  The text is part of Scott's article on Laurence Sterne in his "The Lives of the Novelists".  The dialogue above captures something of the moral discomfort people felt at the time, about the novel "The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman"; especially as this work came from the pen of a clergyman.  Scott comments in his lives that:

"...Tristram Shandy is no narrative, but a collection of scenes, dialogues, and portraits, humorous or affecting, intermixed with much wit, and with much learning, original or borrowed. It resembles the irregularities of a Gothic room, built by some fanciful collector, to contain the miscellaneous remnants of antiquity which his pains have accumulated, and bearing as little proportion in its parts, as there is connexion between the pieces of rusty armor with which it is decorated..."

Tristam Shandy was much better appreciated after Sterne's death, up to the current time.  As was the author, Laurence Sterne, who died on March 18, 1768.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saint Patrick's Purgatory

"Tales of Wonder", published in 1801, is a collection with contributions from Matthew Gregory Lewis, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Southey, and John Leyden.  It contains a work titled "Saint Patrick's Purgatory".  The intro, and a small portion of that ballad, are below.

"In the Reliques of Ancient Poetry, is the following—," Owaine Myles it a Ballad, giving an account of the wonders of St. Patrick's Purgatory. This is a translation into verse, ofthestory related in Mat. Paries Hist, sub Ann. 1152."— The version which is here offered to the Public is evidently modern: I am ignorant of the Author. I think the 19th stanza, in particular, has a great degree of merit."

" Now enter in ! "—the Prior cried,
—" And God, Sir Ouvain, be your guide !
" Your name shall live in story :
" Many there are who reach this shore,
" But few who venture to explore
" St. Patrick's Purgatory."—
" St. Patrick's Purgatory;
" For after death these seats divine,
" Reward eternal shall be thine,
** And thine eternal glory."—
Inebriate with the deep delight,
Dim grew Sir Ouvain's swimming sight,
His senses died away ;
To life again revived, before
The entrance of the cave once more
He saw the light of day."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


"...The best course, therefore, seemed to be to get into the great north road about Boroughbridge, and there take a place in the northern diligence, a huge old-fashioned tub, drawn by three horses, which completed the journey from Edinburgh to London (God willing, as the advertisement expressed it) in three weeks. Our hero, therefore, took an affectionate farewell of his Cumberland friends, whose kindness he promised never to forget, and tacitly hoped ene day to acknowledge by substantial proofs of gratitude. After some petty difficulties and vexatious delays, and after putting his dress into a shape better befitting his rank, though perfectly plain and simple, he accomplished crossing the country, and found himself in the desired vehicle vis-a-vis to Mrs. Nosebag, the lady of Lieutenant Nosebag, adjutant and riding-master of the--dragoons, a jolly woman of about fifty, wearing a blue habit, faced with scarlet, and grasping a silver-mounted horse-whip..."

Scott included Boroughbridge as setting in his novel "Waverley".  Boroughbridge is located on the Ure River, and historically was a point of access from York to the North.  It was also a focal point for Scottish forays, including raids in 1318, 1319  On March 16, 1322, the Battle of Boroughbridge took place.

This battle was not between Scots and English, but between the forces of English King Edward II and some of his nobles, led by cousin Thomas of Lancaster.  Lancaster organized a rebellion with some discontented lords, threatening a civil war.  Edward met the challenge, marching north, and forcing Lancaster ultimately to make a stand at Boroughbridge.  There, Lancaster met the forces of Sir Andrew Harclay, who'd cut Lancaster off from the north at the bridge.  With Edward marching from the south, Lancaster was forced to fight.

Harclay employed the schiltron formation with his pikemen, a tactic he'd learned from fighting against the Scots.  The battle did not last long.  Lancaster surrendered, and he and 30 of his followers were later executed.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ides of March

"...'The ides of March are not past,' said Mac-Ivor, with a smile; when, suddenly casting his eyes back on the moor, a large body of cavalry was indistinctly seen to hover upon its brown and dark surface..."

The quote above is from Scott's "Waverley".  It was in 44AD, with Julius Caesar's assassination that the Ides of March took on their status as portent of danger.  Scott uses the term in several places, including "Waverly", and "Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft".

Sunday, March 14, 2010

John Russell, Earl of Bedford

John Russell is a man who rose from a relatively prominent non-noble family to become an integral member of King Henry VII's privy chamber.  Russell later served in this role for Henry's son, Henry VIII.  Russell's accession developed from a special circumstance that allowed his talent for speaking foreign languages to reach the appreciation of Henry VII.

The circumstance that allowed Russell to shine occurred in 1506, when three vessels under the command of Austrian Archduke Philip appeared off the shore of Dorset, England.  Philip and his new bride, Juana, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen of Castile and Aragon had been sailing to Spain when a storm overtook them.    They took shelter in Weymouth harbor.  Sir Thomas Trenchard was the Governor of the region, and when he met the travelers, he sent for John Russell to translate and accommodate the foreigners.  Russell had grown up abroad, and had great facility with language.

The grateful Archduke, when he later met with Henry VII, asked that Russell accompany him.  Henry took an immediate liking to Russell, and thus began Russell's rise in society.  Henry VII knighted him.  Edward VI made him Earl of Bedford.  He continued serving the crown under Queen Mary.  John Russell died on March 14, 1556.

Russell had a son, Francis, Second Earl of Beford, that appears in Walter Scott's collection "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border".  On June 7, 1575, a Scotch-English Border skirmish known as the Raid of Reidswire occurred.  Scott provides a history, and presents a poem of the affair.  The poem includes Francis Russell, who was present at the skirmish.

"Sir Francis Russell ta'en was there,
And hurt, as we hear men rehearse;
Proud Wallinton was wounded sair,
Albeit he be a Fennick fierce..."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fredome is a Noble Thing

One of the most important of Scottish poets, John Barbour, died on March 13, 1395.  Barbour was a clergyman, situated at Dunkeld Cathedral, who succeeded to the Archdeaconry of Aberdeen in 1356.  Barbour has been credited with translating Latin and French works into Scots, including, from two French poems, "The Buik of Alexander", which was reprinted by the Bannatyne Club in 1831.  Above all, Barbour is known for being the first major literary figure to write in the Scots vernacular.  His seminal work was "The Brus".

Barbour's story of Robert the Bruce, from which the famous quote "Fredome is a Noble Thing" comes, is known for being fairly accurate historically.  It is written in octosyllabic lines, a form that Scott employed in his poetry four centuries later.  Barbour's "The Brus" served as inspiration for Scott for his work "The Lord of the Isles".

From "The Brus":
"A! fredome is a noble thing!
Fredome mayss man to haiff liking;
Fredome all solace to man giffis:
He levys at ess that frely levys!
A noble hart may haiff nane ess
Na ellys nocht that may him pless,..."
And, at Bannockburn:
"And on schir Eduard the Brysis rout From "The Lord of the Isles":
That was so sturdy and so stout,
As dreid of nakyn thing had he,
He prykit, cryand “Argente!”
From Scott's "The Lord of the Isles":
"...'Twixt Bannock's brook and Ninian's shrine
Detach'd was each, yet each so nigh
As well might mutual aid supply.
Beyond, the Southern host appears
A boundless wilderness of spears,
Whose verge or rear the anxious eye
Strove far, but strove in vain, to spy.
Thick flashing in the evening beam.
Glaives, lances, bills, and banners gleam ;
And where the heaven join'd with the hill.
Was distant armour flashing still.
So wide, so far, the boundless host
Seem'd in the blue horizon lost..."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cesare Borgia

"Off, off, ye lendings!" he continued, in the same vein. "Via, the curtain that shadowed Borgia!"  - From Walter Scott's "The Fortunes of Nigel". The Edinburgh Edition of Nigel includes a note that "RW Van Fossen speculates that 'the curtain' may refer to the disguise of the stable-boy, which in 1495 Borgia used to escape from Charles VIII of France."  He did not escape the siege of Viana, dying there on March 12, 1507.

Cesare Borgia, Duke of Valentinois, was the son of Pope Alexander VI (when he was a Cardinal), and his mistress, Vanozza dei Cattanei.  Borgia was groomed for a career in the church, becoming Bishop of Pamplona at age 15.  He became a Cardinal three years later.  He prefered a military career,  and found the opportunity to pursue one when his brother Giovanni was assassinated.  Cesare proved a capable militarist, but quickly lost power when his father the Pope died.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Witches of Belvoir

According to Chalmers Book of Days, two sisters, confessed witches, were burned to death on March 11, 1618 or 19.  The sisters, named Margaret and Philippa Flower thus followed their mother Joan in dying for their deeds.  The three worked as servants for the Earl and Countess of Rutland.  The nobles apparently did not treat their servants well, leading the three to seek revenge.  They found it in the practice of witchcraft.

As the story goes, the witches worked malice on the Earl and his family through the use of familiar spirits; in the form of a cat for Joan.  One maleficent action involved stealing a glove from the Earl's son, Lord Ross, and rubbing it on Rutterkin the cat.  Lord Ross fell ill as a result.

Joan, and her daughters, and three other women underwent a trial for witchery.  Joan avoided the fate of the other five, by choking on a piece of bread.  This served to prove she was guilty anyhow. 

Late in Scott's life, he published a series of letters to John Lockhart on demonology and witchcraft.  Addressing Lockhart: "You have asked of me, my dear friend, that I should assist the "Family Library" with the history of a dark chapter in human nature, which the increasing civilization of all well-instructed countries has now almost blotted out, though the subject attracted no ordinary degree of consideration in the older times of their history."

Scott was not a believer in the occult, though many of his works include superstition or witchcraft.  Scott continues:  "Among much reading of my earlier days, it is no doubt true that I travelled a good deal in the twilight regions of superstitious disquisitions. Many hours have I lost--"I would their debt were less!"--in examining old as well as more recent narratives of this character, and even in looking into some of the criminal trials so frequent in early days, upon a subject which our fathers considered as a matter of the last importance."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Saint Kessog

Kessog was a saint of the Celtic Church.  His feast day is March 10, in remembrance of his death in the year 520.

Kessog's story begins in Ireland, where he was born of a royal family in Munster.  He is said to have performed miracles from an early age (childhood).  He undertook religious training with Saint Machaloi while in Ireland, then was sent as a missionary to Lennox in what was Strathclyde, at the time.  Strathclyde bordered three kingdoms, Dal Riata (Scots -west), Picts (East), and Welsh (south).

Kessog moved to Luss in the 6th century, building a monastery there on Inchtavannoch (Monk's Island) in Loch Lomond.  Kessog was killed at Bandry.  His assailants are unknown.

Walter Scott's "The Lady of the Lake" is set in the Trossachs region, Loch Katrine being an inspiration.  Loch Lomond, Lennox, Luss - all figure in this poem:

"...The terror of Loch Lomond's side,
Would, at my suit, thou know'st, delay
A Lennox foray--for a day.'--



Proudly our pibroch has thrilled in Glen Fruin,
And Bannochar's groans to our slogan replied;
Glen Luss and Ross-dhu, they are smoking in ruin,
And the best of Loch Lomond lie dead on her side.
Widow and Saxon maid
Long shall lament our raid,
Think of Clan-Alpine with fear and with woe;
Lennox and Leven-glen
Shake when they hear again,
'Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! ieroe!'..."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

David Rizzio

"...a cunning harper that could harp the heart out of woman's breast, as they say Signer David Rizzio did to our poor Queen..."

The quote above is from "The Abbot", by Walter Scott.  The Abbot was set during the English Reformation, and the novel covers Mary, Queen of Scots interrment at Lochleven Castle.  Rizzio, in the quote, is David Rizzio.

David Rizzio was a music teacher from Turin, who through a turn of events, met Queen Mary of Scotland's musicians, and ultimately became one of Mary's valets, adding his bass voice to the voices of three others.  Rizzio grew in trust an influence with Mary, and was rewarded with the office of Secretary for relations with France.

Rizzio's rise drew jealous eyes, and rumors about an affair with Mary began to circulate.  On May 9, 1566, Rizzio was murdered by a force led by Patrick Ruthven in the Palace of Holyroodhouse.  Mary was present at the execution, seven months pregnant with the future James VI, and was herself threatened by the murderers.  Mary escaped the palace by tying bedsheets together, and exiting through a window.  She later returned to Edinburgh with troops, and arrested Ruthven's forces.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Third Letter of Malachi Malagrowther

In Malachi's first letter, Walter Scott laid out the strengths of the Scottish banking system, how the system of paper credit (backed by landed estates) had fostered economic growth through the circulation of small bank notes.  He also protested the illegality of the English adopting measures that did not lead to Scotland's "evident utility"; a phrasing from the 1707 Treaty of Union.  Malachi's second letter played to nationalistic feeling, both in Scotland and in Ireland to oppose, by peaceable means, measures that would prove harmful to the poorer countries in the United Kingdom. In Malichi's third letter, Scott tackles the issue of the gold standard, as England's proposed banking reform included the replacement of paper bank notes with circulating specie.

Scott introduces a character, Christopher Chrysal, who takes the side of the gold standard, admonishing Malagrowther: ``Why, Mr. Malachi Malagrowther,'' said my friend, in wrath, ``I pronounce you ignorant of the most ordinary principles of Political Economy."  The argument for gold is laid out by a standard analogy: "Gold, therefore, like all other commodities, will flow to the place where there is a demand for it. It will be found, assure yourself, wherever it is most wanted; just as, if you dig a well, water will percolate into it from all the neighbourhood."

Malachi's (Scott's) counter argument considers how Scotland, a country with little specie, but a flourishing economy might fare if it was forced suddenly to obtain gold, a scarce commodity, for use in both everyday circulation and to remit to England. He answer's this question by turning the flowing water analogy around: 
"Mr. Chrysal's proposition should not then run, that gold will come when it is most needed, but should have been expressed thus,---that in countries where the presence of gold is rendered indispensable, it must be obtained, whatever price is given for it, while the means of paying such a price remain...Scotland, sir, is not beneath the level to which gold flows naturally. She is above that level, and she may perish for want of it ere she sees a guinea, without she, or the State for her, be at the perpetual expense of maintaining, by constant expenditure of a large per centage, that metallic currency which has a natural tendency to escape from a poor country back to a rich one..."  In Malagrowther's view, the English would benefit at the expense of the Scots.

Scott's Malachi makes an interesting observation as he draws toward the conclusion of his third and final letter that touches on the human aspects of the free trade issue, wherein people are treated merely as commodities.  This issue is at the heart of the economic rationale for the Highland Clearances.  "Mountainous countries inspire peculiarly strong attachments into the natives, showing, perhaps, if we argue up to the Final Great Cause, that while it was the pleasure of God that men should exist in all parts of the world, which His pleasure called into being, the Beneficence of the Common Father annexed circumstances of consolation, which should compensate the mountaineers for want of the fertility and fine climate enjoyed by the inhabitants of the plain...A Scottish gentleman, in the wilder districts, is seldom severe in excluding his poor neighbours from his grounds; and I have known many that have voluntarily thrown them open to all quiet and decent persons who wish to enjoy them. The game of such liberal proprietors, their plantations, their fences, and all that is apt to suffer from intruders, have, I have observed, been better protected than where severer measures of general seclusion were adopted...Above all, the peasant lives and dies as his fathers did, in the cot where he was born, without ever experiencing the horrors of a workhouse. This may compensate for the want of much beef, beer, and pudding, in those to whom habit has not made this diet indispensable..."

This observation echoes that of the English Sir Thomas More (and others) three centuries earlier, who noticed that workers were better off on farms than when they tried to find work in towns.  So often, More noted, workers ended up impoverished, and ultimately, in trouble with the law.  While Scott may not have extended his argument against specie for Scotland to the English economy, he is in essence questioning the viability of that system for all.

Scott's delving into the banking system was precipitated by a personal financial crisis, which had been triggered by ruinous speculation on the part of English banks; the Panic of 1825/26.  Scott learned from this calamity, and transcended his personal issue to effectively defend the Scottish banking system from a change that would have been injurious to it and Scotland.  For this reason, Sir Walter Scott is pictured on Scottish £5 notes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers

The Edinburgh Golfers was the first golf association ever formed.  The club met for the first time on Leith Links on March 7, 1744.  This group, which later became The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, according to their official website, drafted the first 13 rules of golf.

Walter Scott includes the game of golf in "The Heart of Midlothian".  After the Porteus Riot, a magistrate is about to examine Butler: "Mr. Middleburgh had taken his seat, and was debating in an animated manner, with one of his colleagues, the doubtful chances of a game of golf which they had played the game before...".

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Saint Baldred (or Balfred)

Saint Baldred was a monk of the 7th century.  Baldred was a Bishop of Scotland, who succeeded Saint Kentigern in Glasgow.  At some point, Balfred bedcame a hermit, establishing a cell/chapel on The Bass Rock.  Baldred died on March 6, 608.

The Bass, situated in the Firth of Forth, was later used as a prison for religious and political prisoners, especially by King James I in the 15th century.  The fort used for this purpose was demolished in 1701.  In 1706, Hew Dalrymple, brother of the Master of Stair, acquired The Bass, and it remains in the family today.

Bass Rock Lighthouse (photo by Don Carter) was built by David Stevenson, grandson of Robert Stevenson, who led Walter Scott on a voyage to the Northern Lights in 1814.  David Stevenson engineered 26 lighthouses; three with his uncle Thomas Stevenson, and twenty-three with his brother Charles.  Bass Rock lighthouse was completed in 1903, well after Scott's lifetime.  The light figures in another Scottish author's novel,  Robert Louis Stevenson's (cousin of David) "Catronia".

Scott makes a melancholy reference to Bass Rock in his journal, on the death of his "Lady Scott":

"May_ 16.(1826) --She died at nine in the morning, after being
very ill for two days,--easy at last.
I arrived here late last night. Anne is worn out, and has had hysterics,
which returned on my arrival. Her broken accents were like those of a
child, the language, as well as the tones, broken, but in the most
gentle voice of submission. "Poor mamma--never return again--'gone for
ever--a better place." Then, when she came to herself, she spoke with
sense, freedom, and strength of mind, till her weakness returned. It
would have been inexpressibly moving to me as a stranger--what was it
then to the father and the husband? For myself, I scarce know how I
feel, sometimes as firm as the Bass Rock, sometimes as weak as the wave
that breaks on it."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sir Robert Peel

A recent post covered George Square in Glasgow.  Within the square, one finds statues of famous Scots, including Sir Walter Scott and Sir Robert Peel.  Peel was a statesman; Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during two separate stints covering nearly six years.  Peel was born on March 5, 1788.

Peel was born to an industrialist in Ramsbottom, Lancashire.  His political career began just after the turn of the century, as MP for Cashel, Ireland.  Peel was a Tory, and an ally of Sir Arthur Wellesley.

Scott and Peel were well known to each other, and there are several entries in Scott's Journal wherein Scott records dining with Peel.  On May 17, 1828, Scott enters: "...I went to Mr. Chantrey, and sat for an hour to finish the bust...".  The bust was done by Sir Francis Chantry of Norton, in North Derbyshire, England.  Chantry was one of the leading sculptors of his day, and the bust that Scott was sitting for had actually been ordered by Robert Peel.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sir Henry Raeburn

Henry Raeburn was born on March 4, 1756.  Raeburn is best known for his portraits, with one of his most famous being of Sir Walter Scott.  Raeburn painted many of the leading Scottish figures of his day, completing Scott in 1822.

Raeburn was orphaned at an early age, and was largely brought up by his brother William, who took over the family manufacturing business after their father's death.  Henry was apprenticed at the age of 15 to a goldsmith to become a jeweller.  At the same time he began sketching.  The jeweller noticed his talents, and introduced him to David Martin, and portraitist in Edinburgh.  With encouragement, Raeburn's natural talent began to grow and flourish.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

George Square Glasgow

George Square in Glasgow was named after King George III.  The square was planned by architects James and Robert Adam, beginning around 1780. 

Robert Adam was the son of Scotland's most famous architect, William Adam who designed Hopetown House and Duff House.  Of William's three architect sons (John, Robert and James), the latter two developed a style known as Adamesque.  Features of this style include Roman motifs, grotesque panels, and pilasters.  Robert Adam died on March 3, 1792.

George Square contains a statue of Sir Walter Scott, which was the first memorial dedicated to him.  Other famous Scott Memorial sites include Edinburgh, and the Literary Walk in New York's Central Park.  The column on which the statue sits was erected in 1837.  Scott shares the square with other notables such as James Watt, Robert Burns, Queen Victoria, Sir John Moore, William Gladstone and  Robert Peel.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Robert II of Scotland

Robert Stuart, the first Stuart king, was born on March 2, 1316.  Robert succeeded David II, who was the last ruler of the direct Bruce line.  Walter Scott covers Stewart's accession to the throne in his "Tales of a Grandfather".

"As David the Second died childless, the male line of his father, the great Robert Bruce, was at end. But the attachment of the Scottish nation naturally turned to the line of that heroic prince, and they resolved to confer the crown on a grandson of his by the mother's side. Marjory, the daughter of Robert Bruce, had married Walter, the Lord High Steward of Scotland, and the sixth of his family who had enjoyed that high dignity, in consequence of possessing which the family had acquired the surname of Stewart. This Walter Stewart, with his wife Marjory, were ancestors of that long line of Stewarts who afterwards ruled Scotland, and came at length to be Kings of England also. The last King of the Stewart family lost his kingdoms at the great national Revolution in 1688, and his son and grandsons died in exile. The female line have possession of the crown at this moment, in the person of our sovereign, King George the Fourth. When, therefore, you hear of the line of Stewart, you will know that the descendants of Walter Stewart and Marjory Bruce are the family meant by that term. It is said, that the Stewarts were descended from Fleance, the son of Banquo, whose posterity the witches declared were to be Kings of Scotland, and who was murdered by Macbeth. But this seems a very doubtful tradition.

Walter, the Steward of Scotland, who married Bruce's daughter, was a gallant man, and fought bravely at Bannockburn, where he had a high command. But he died young, and much regretted. Robert Stewart, his son by Marjory Bruce, grandson, of course, of King Robert, was the person now called to the throne. He was a good and kind-tempered prince. When young he had been a brave soldier; but he was now fifty-five years old, and subject to a violent inflammation in his eyes, which rendered them as red as blood. From these reasons he lived a good deal retired, and was not active enough to be at the head of a fierce and unmanageable nation like the Scots.

Robert Stewart's ascent to the throne was not unopposed, for it was claimed by a formidable competitor. This was William Earl of Douglas. That family, in which so many great men had arisen, was now come to a great pitch of power and prosperity, and possessed almost a sovereign authority in the south parts of Scotland. The Earl of Douglas was on the present occasion induced to depart from his claim, upon his son being married with Euphemia, the daughter of Robert II. Stewart therefore was crowned without farther opposition..."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Earthquake in Selkirkshire

With the horrible human suffering that has engulfed Haiti and Chile over the last few weeks, it's easy to overlook the fact that earthquakes can and have occurred in every country.  It's perhaps a false sense of security that engulfs us on the east coast of the US, and in Scotland.  The Sherriff of Selkirkshire, Walter Scott, no doubt felt the same.

But earthquakes are not completely unknown in the Borderlands, and one relatively large one would have been within the living memory of many of Scott's older friends and relatives.  On March 1, 1728, one struck near Selkirk.

As reported in the Edinburgh Weekly Journal of March 4, 1728:

"On Friday the first of March current, between 4 and 5 in the Morning, we felt in this Place a very sensible Shock of an Earthquake.  It came from the North East, and went directly South West...It lasted according to some, one Minute, but most of my acquaintances say, near three Minutes...There have none suffered by it, but there was a strange Dancing among the Plates Glasses, &c..."

Also significant in the 18th century were earthquakes at Leadhills, in 1746 and 1749.

Scott experienced his first earthquake while at Malta, on December 10, 1831.  From Scott's Journal:

"...The last night we were at Malta we experienced a rude shock of an earthquake, which alarmed me, though I did not know what it was. It was said to foretell that the ocean, which had given birth to Graham's Island, had, like Pelops, devoured its own offspring, and we are told it is not now visible, and will be, perhaps, hid from those who risk the main; but as we did not come near its latitude we cannot say from our own knowledge that the news is true..."