Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jonathan Swift

The satirist Jonathan Swift was born this day, November 30, in the year 1667.  Swift was born in Dublin, and educated at Kilkenny College.  As his father, also Jonathan, had died during his wife's pregnancy, Jonathan was supported in his education by a relative of his father.  Jonathan's uncle, Dryden William Swift (the family was related to poet John Dryden), took on this responsibility.  Jonathan later furthered his study at Dublin University, earning a Doctor of Divinity degree. 

Swift is best known for his novel "Gulliver's Travels".  Sir Walter Scott edited a 19 volume set of "The Works of Jonathan Swift", which Archibald Constable published.  Scott included his own notes and a life of Swift.  Here is a portion of Scott's Life of Swift, as taken from "The Miscellaneous Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott...":

'The life of Swift forms an interesting and instructive narrative to all who love to contemplate those alternations of good and evil which chequer the fate of individuals, distinguished by their talents and by their fame. Born under circumstances of the most pressing calamity, educated by the cold and careless charity of relations, denied the usual honours attached to academical study, and spending years of dependence upon the inefficient patronage of Sir William Temple, the earlier part of his history may be considered as a continued tale of depressed genius and disappointed hopes. Yet, under all these disadvantages, Swift arose to be the counsellor of a British administration, the best defender of their measures, and the intimate friend of all who were noble or renowned, learned or witty, in the classic age of Queen Anne. The events of his latter years were not less strongly contrasted. Involved in the fall of his patrons, he became a discontented and persecuted exile from England, and from his friends, yet, almost at once, attained a pitch of popularity which rendered him the idol of Ireland, and the dread of those who ruled that kingdom. Nor was his domestic fate less extraordinary—loving, and beloved by two of the most beautiful and interesting women of the time, he was doomed to form a happy and tranquil union with neither, and saw them sink successively to the grave, under the consciousness that their mortal disease had its source in disappointed hopes, and ill-re.quited affection. His talents also, the source of his fame and his pride, whose brilliancy had so long dazzled and delighted mankind, became gradually clouded by disease, and perverted by passion, as their possessor approached the goal of life; and, ere he. attained it, were levelled far below those of ordinary humanity. From the life of Swift, therefore, may be derived the important lesson, that, as no misfortunes should induce genius to despair, no rank of fame, however elevated, should encourage its possessor to presumption. And those to whom fate has denied such brilliant qualities, or to whom she has refused the necessary opportunities of displaying them, may be taught, while perusing the history of this illustrious man, how little happiness depends upon the possession of transcendent genius, of political influence, or of popular renown.

Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Divinity, and Dean of St Patrick's, Dublin, was descended from the younger branch of the family of Swifts, in Yorkshire, which had been settled in that county for many years. His immediate ancestor was the Reverend Thomas Swift, vicar of Goodrich, in Herefordshire, and proprietor of a small estate in that neighbourhood. At the beginning of the civil wars, this gentleman distinguished himself by his zeal and activity in the cause of Charles I.; and his grandson has recorded, in a separate memoir, his exploits and sufferings during the civil wars. To that memoir, and the notes which accompany it, the reader is referred for farther particulars concerning Swift's family. After having been repeatedly plundered by the parliamentary soldiers, even to the clothes of the infant in the cradle, (which, according to family tradition, was Jonathan, father of the Dean,) and to the last loaf which was to support his numerous family, Thomas Swift died in the year 1658, leaving ten sons, and three or four daughters, with no other fortune than the small estate to which he was born, and that almost ruined by fines and sequestrations. The sufferings of this gentleman were of some service to his family after the Restoration; for Godwin Swift, his eldest son, who had studied at Gray's Inn, and had been called to the bar, was appointed Attorney-general of the Palatinate of Tipperary, under the Duke of Ormond. He was a man of talents, and appears to have possessed a considerable revenue, which he greatly embarrassed by embarking in speculative and expensive projects, to which his nephew, Jonathan, ever after entertained an unconquerable aversion. Meantime, however, the success of Godwin Swift, in his profession, attracted to Ireland three of his brethren, William, Jonathan, and Adam, all of whom settled in that kingdom, and there lived and died.
Jonathan Swift, the father of the celebrated author, was the sixth or seventh son of the Vicar of Goodrich, the number of whose descendants, and the obscurity of their fortunes, does not admit of distinguishing his lineage more accurately. Jonathan, like his brother Godwin, appears to have been bred to the law, though not like him called to the bar. He added to the embarrassments of his situation, by marrying Abigail Ericke of Leicestershire, a lady whose ancient genealogy was her principal dowry. The Dean has, himself, informed us, that his father obtained some agencies and employments in Ireland; but his principal promotion seems to have been the office of steward to' the society of the King's Inns, Dublin, to which he was nominated in 1665.

This situation he did not long enjoy, for he died in 1667, two years after his appointment, leaving an infant daughter, and his widow, then pregnant [with Jonathan], in a very destitute situation, as Mrs Swift was unable, without the assistance of the society, even to defray the expense of her husband's funeral...'

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Letter from Southey

Poet Robert Southey was somewhat of a radical from an early age.  He got himself expelled from Westminster School in 1792 (approx. 18 years old) for publishing an article in the school paper against flogging.  In 1794, he contemplated migrating to Pennsylvania with Samuel Taylor Coleridge to establish a commune.  He seems to have been temperamental, as evidenced by Sir Walter Scott's journal reaction to a letter he received from Southey on November 29, 1825.

'A letter from Southey, malcontent about Murray having accomplished the change in the Quarterly without speaking to him, and quoting the twaddle of some old woman, male or female, about Lockhart's earlier jeux d'esprit, but concluding most kindly that in regard to my daughter and me he did not mean to withdraw. That he has done yeoman's service to the Review is certain, with his genius, his universal reading, his powers of regular industry, and at the outset a name which, though less generally popular than it deserves, is still too respectable to be withdrawn without injury. I could not in reply point out to him what is the truth, that his rigid Toryism and High Church prejudices rendered him an unsafe counsellor in a matter where the spirit of the age must be consulted; but I pointed out to him what I am sure is true, that Murray, apprehensive of his displeasure, had not ventured to write to him out of mere timidity and not from any [intention to offend]. I treated [lightly] his old woman's apprehensions and cautions, and all that gossip about friends and enemies, to which a splendid number or two will be a sufficient answer, and I accepted with due acknowledgment his proposal of continued support. I cannot say I was afraid of his withdrawing. Lockhart will have hard words with him, for, great as Southey's powers are, he has not the art to make them work popularly; he is often diffuse, and frequently sets much value on minute and unimportant facts, and useless pieces of abstruse knowledge. Living too exclusively in a circle where he is idolised both for his genius and the excellence of his disposition, he has acquired strong prejudices, though all of an upright and honourable cast. He rides his High Church hobby too hard, and it will not do to run a tilt upon it against all the world. Gifford used to crop his articles considerably, and they bear mark of it, being sometimes d├ęcousues. Southey said that Gifford cut out his middle joints. When John comes to use the carving-knife I fear Dr. Southey will not be so tractable. Nous verrons. I will not show Southey's letter to Lockhart, for there is to him personally no friendly tone, and it would startle the Hidalgo's pride. It is to be wished they may draw kindly together. Southey says most truly that even those who most undervalue his reputation would, were he to withdraw from the Review, exaggerate the loss it would thereby sustain. The bottom of all these feuds, though not named, is Blackwood's Magazine; all the squibs of which, which have sometimes exploded among the Lakers, Lockhart is rendered accountable for. He must now exert himself at once with spirit and prudence.  He has good backing—Canning, Bishop Blomfield, Gifford, Wright, Croker, Will Rose,—and is there not besides the Douglas?  An excellent plot, excellent friends, and full of preparations? It was no plot of my making, I am sure, yet men will say and believe that [it was], though I never heard a word of the matter till first a hint from Wright, and then the formal proposal of Murray to Lockhart announced. I believe Canning and Charles Ellis were the prime movers. I'll puzzle my brains no more about it.'

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pretty Fanny's Way

The phrase "Pretty Fanny's Way" has gone out of fashion.  It is attributed to the Graveyard poet Thomas Parnell, and might be replaced by the word eccentric today.

Parnell, in fact, is considered the first of the Graveyard poets, with his "A Night-Piece on Death" (1721) considered the first representative of this school of poetry.  Today's post line is part of a verse that runs 'And all that’s madly wild, or oddly gay,/We call it only pretty Fanny’s way’.

Walter Scott used the phrase in his journal entry of November 28, 1825.  I found the post interesting for it's practical consideration of how best to socialize.  Per Scott, '[John Gibson] Lockhart must be liked where his good qualities are known, and where his fund of information has room to be displayed. But, notwithstanding a handsome exterior and face, I am not sure he will succeed in London Society; he sometimes reverses the proverb, and gives the volte strette e pensiere sciolti, withdraws his attention from the company, or attaches himself to some individual, gets into a corner, and seems to be quizzing the rest. This is the want of early habits of being in society, and a life led much at college. Nothing is, however, so popular, and so deservedly so, as to take an interest in whatever is going forward in society. A wise man always finds his account in it, and will receive information and fresh views of life even in the society of fools. Abstain from society altogether when you are not able to play some part in it. This reserve, and a sort of Hidalgo air joined to his character as a satirist, have done the best-humoured fellow in the world some injury in the opinion of Edinburgh folks. In London it is of less consequence whether he please in general society or not, since if he can establish himself as a genius it will only be called "Pretty Fanny's Way."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

John Murray

Publisher John Murray's birth occurred on November 27, 1775, as covered in last year's post.  His death has also been mentioned in a previous post.

Murray first became involved in Walter Scott's works as a seller of books published by Archibald Constable.  The relationship with Constable developed after Murray dissolved his partnership with his father's former assistant, Samuel Highley.  The developing interaction between Murray and Constable is described in Samuel Smiles' "A Publisher and His Friends Memoir and Correspondence of John Murray; with an Account of the Origin and Progress of the House, 1768-1843".

'April_ 25, 1803.

"I have several works in the press which I should be willing to consign to your management in Edinburgh, but that I presume you have already sufficient business upon your hands, and that you would not find mine worth attending to. If so, I wish that you would tell me of some vigorous young bookseller, like myself, just starting into business, upon whose probity, punctuality, and exertion you think I might rely, and I would instantly open a correspondence with him; and in return it will give me much pleasure to do any civil office for you in London. I should be happy if any arrangement could be made wherein we might prove of reciprocal advantage; and were you from your superabundance to pick me out any work of merit of which you would either make me the publisher in London, or in which you would allow me to become a partner, I dare say the occasion would arise wherein I could return the compliment, and you would have the satisfaction of knowing that your book was in the hands of one who has not yet so much business as to cause him to neglect any part of it."

Mr. Constable's answer was favourable. In October 1804 Mr. Murray, at the instance of Constable, took as his apprentice Charles Hunter, the younger brother of A. Gibson Hunter, Constable's partner. The apprenticeship was to be for four or seven years, at the option of Charles Hunter. These negotiations between the firms, and their increasing interchange of books, showed that they were gradually drawing nearer to each other, until their correspondence became quite friendly and even intimate. Walter Scott was now making his appearance as an author; Constable had published his "Sir Tristram" in May 1804, and his "Lay of the Last Minstrel" in January 1805. Large numbers of these works were forwarded to London and sold by Mr. Murray.'

Friday, November 26, 2010

Accepting a Curatorship

'November 26.—The court met late, and sat till one; detained from that hour till four o'clock, being engaged in the perplexed affairs of Mr. James Stewart of Brugh. This young gentleman is heir to a property of better than £1000 a year in Orkney. His mother married very young, and was wife, mother, and widow in the course of the first year. Being unfortunately under the direction of a careless agent, she was unlucky enough to embarrass her own affairs by many transactions with this person. I was asked to accept the situation of one of the son's curators; and trust to clear out his affairs and hers—at least I will not fail for want of application. I have lent her £300 on a second (and therefore doubtful) security over her house in Newington, bought for £1000, and on which £600 is already secured. I have no connection with the family except that of compassion, and may not be rewarded even by thanks when the young man comes of age. I have known my father often so treated by those whom he had laboured to serve. But if we do not run some hazard in our attempts to do good, where is the merit of them? So I will bring through my Orkney laird if I can.'

On November 26, 1825, Sir Walter Scott records taking on legal work related to James Stewart of Brugh, Orkney. This entry provides an insight into his dealings with people, including a reminiscense to his father's situation.  There is a fairly lengthy discussion of this case in an 1832 entry in "Cases decided in the Court of Session" (per Scotland's Court of Session), which begins: 'Feb. 29 1832. James Stewart of Brugh died intestate in March 1811, leaving the pursuer, an only child, in infancy, and without tutors or curators. On the 2d of June 1814, a gift of tutory was obtained from Exchequer, in favour of Mrs Stewart, the pursuer's mother, Thomas Strong, merchant in Leith, and Alexander Stevenson, writer in Edinburgh...'

Thursday, November 25, 2010

John Gibson Lockhart

Sir Walter Scott's son-in-law and biographer died on November 25, 1854.  John Gibson Lockhart enjoyed a distinguished literary career aside from his "The Life of Scott".  Lockhart's reputation as a writer was founded in writing for the Tory magazine Blackwood, which he joined in 1817.  It was his contributions to this magazine that ultimately connected him to Scott, and later to Scott's daughter Sophia.  Lockhart was 60 at the time of his death.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Laurence Sterne Born

" Laurence Sterne was one of those few authors who have anticipated the labours of the biographer, 'and left to the world what they desired should be known of their family and their life.
" Roger Sterne (says this narrative,) grandson to Archbishop Sterne, lieutenant in Handaside's regiment, was married to Agnes Hebert, widow of a captain of a good family. Her family name was (I believe) Nuttle; though, upon recollection, that was the name of her father-in-law, who was a noted sutler in Flanders, in Queen Anne's wars, where my father married his wife's daughter (N. B. he was in debt to him) which was in September 25, 1711, old style. This Nuttle had a son by my grandmother—a fine person of a man, but a graceless whelp !—What became of him, I know not. The family (if any left) live now at Clonmel, in the south, of Ireland; at which town I was born, November 24, 1713, a few days after my mother arrived from Dunkirk...
The text above is from Sir Walter Scott's "Lives of the Novelists".  Laurence Sterne's birth ushered in the disbanding of father Roger's regiment, causing the family to return briefly to Yorkshire.  But, by 1715, the family returned to Ireland.  The Sterne's had a connection to higher education through great-grandfather Richard Sterne, who been Master of Jesus College in Cambridge, where Laurence studied, beginning in 1733.
Sterne's life was richer in preaching and politics than in writing, though "The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman" has become a classic.  Sterne died in 1768, after a long battle with consumption.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Meeting with Thomas Moore

On November 23, 1825, Sir Walter Scott met with Thomas Moore, who was engaged in writing his "Life of Lord Byron".  Moore published this work in 1830, and dedicated it to Sir Walter Scott by "his affectionate friend, T.M."  Scott records a rather lengthy journal entry for that day, including: 'On comparing notes with Moore, I was confirmed in one or two points which I had always laid down in considering poor Byron. One was, that like Rousseau he was apt to be very suspicious, and a plain downright steadiness of manner was the true mode to maintain his good opinion. Will Rose told me that once, while sitting with Byron, he fixed insensibly his eyes on his feet, one of which, it must be remembered, was deformed. Looking up suddenly, he saw Byron regarding him with a look of concentrated and deep displeasure, which wore off when he observed no consciousness or embarrassment in the countenance of Rose. Murray afterwards explained this, by telling Rose that Lord Byron was very jealous of having this personal imperfection noticed or attended to. In another point, Moore confirmed my previous opinion, namely, that Byron loved mischief-making. Moore had written to him cautioning him against the project of establishing the paper called the Liberal, in communion with such men as P.B. Shelley and Hunt, on whom he said the world had set its mark. Byron showed this to the parties. Shelley wrote a modest and rather affecting expostulation to Moore. These two peculiarities of extreme suspicion and love of mischief are both shades of the malady which certainly tinctured some part of the character of this mighty genius; and, without some tendency towards which, genius—I mean that kind which depends on the imaginative power—perhaps cannot exist to great extent. The wheels of a machine, to play rapidly, must not fit with the utmost exactness, else the attrition diminishes the impetus.

Another of Byron's peculiarities was the love of mystifying; which indeed may be referred to that of mischief. There was no knowing how much or how little to believe of his narratives. Instance:—Mr. Bankes expostulating with him upon a dedication which he had written in extravagant terms of praise to Cam Hobhouse, Byron told him that Cam had teased him into the dedication till he had said, "Well; it shall be so,—providing you will write the dedication yourself"; and affirmed that Cam Hobhouse did write the high-coloured dedication accordingly. I mentioned this to Murray, having the report from Will Rose, to whom Bankes had mentioned it. Murray, in reply, assured me that the dedication was written by Lord Byron himself, and showed it me in his own hand. I wrote to Rose to mention the thing to Bankes, as it might have made mischief had the story got into the circle. Byron was disposed to think all men of imagination were addicted to mix fiction (or poetry) with their prose. He used to say he dared believe the celebrated courtezan of Venice, about whom Rousseau makes so piquante a story, was, if one could see her, a draggle-tailed wench enough. I believe that he embellished his own amours considerably, and that he was, in many respects, le fanfaron de vices qu'il n'avoit pas. He loved to be thought awful, mysterious, and gloomy, and sometimes hinted at strange causes. I believe the whole to have been the creation and sport of a wild and powerful fancy. In the same manner he crammed people, as it is termed, about duels, etc., which never existed, or were much exaggerated....'

Constable has been here as lame as a duck upon his legs, but his heart and courage as firm as a cock. He has convinced me we will do well to support the London House. He has sent them about £5000, and proposes we should borrow on our joint security £5000 for their accommodation. J.B. and R. Cadell present. I must be guided by them, and hope for the best. Certainly to part company would be to incur an awful risk.

What I liked about Byron, besides his boundless genius, was his generosity of spirit as well as purse, and his utter contempt of all the affectations of literature, from the school-magisterial style to the lackadaisical. Byron's example has formed a sort of upper house of poetry. There is Lord Leveson Gower, a very clever young man. Lord Porchester too, nephew to Mrs. Scott of Harden, a young man who lies on the carpet and looks poetical and dandyish—fine lad too, but—

"There will be many peers
Ere such another Byron."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mary of Guise

Slightly less well known than her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, Mary of Guise became Queen Consort to James V of Scotland in 1540 (February 22nd).  She also served as Regent of Scotland for her daughter between 1554 and 1560.  Mary of Guise was 24 at the time of her coronation as Queen Consort, having been born in Lorraine on November 22, 1515.

Sir Walter Scott devotes a fair amount of text to her history in his "Scotland":  'Having thus entirely new-modelled the system of church government and of national worship, the parliament of Scotland resolved to recall from France the descendant of their monarchs, whose connection with that country was broken off by the death of her husband; naturally supposing that Mary, alone, and unsupported by French power, could not be suspected of meditating any interruption to the new order of religious affairs so unanimously adopted by her subjects.

With this view, the lord prior of St. Andrew's, the queen's illegitimate brother, and a principal agent in all the great changes which had taken place since the commencement of the regency of Mary of Guise, was despatched to Paris to negotiate the return of his royal sister. The Catholics of Scotland sent an ambassador on their own part: this was Lesley, bishop of Ross, celebrated for his fidelity to Mary during her afflictions, and known as a historian of credit and eminence. He made a secret proposal, on the part of the Catholics, that the young queen should land in the north of Scotland, and place herself under the guardianship of the Earl of Huntley, who, it was boasted, would conduct her in triumph to the capital at the head of an army of twenty thousand men, and restore, by force of arms, the ancient form of religion. Mary refused to listen to advice which must have made her return to her kingdom a signal for civil war, and acquiesced in the proposals delivered by the prior of St. Andrew's, on the part of the parliament. The young queen took this prudent step with the advice of her uncles of Guise, who, fallen from the towering hopes they had formerly entertained, were now chiefly desirous to place her in her native kingdom, without opposition or civil war, in which the proposals of the bishop of Ross must have immediately plunged her.'

Sunday, November 21, 2010

James Hogg Passes

The Ettrick Shepherd, who helped Walter Scott collect ballads for "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border", and became a friend, died on November 21, 1835.  Hogg's work is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance in the past twenty years or so.  His novel "The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner" is believed to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's writing of "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".  Hogg also authored "The Domestic Manner and Private Life of Sir Walter Scott".

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Visiting Lord Melville

'November 20....I omitted to say yesterday that I went out to Melville Castle to inquire after my Lord Melville, who had broke his collar-bone by a fall from his horse in mounting. He is recovering well, but much bruised...'

Robert Dundas, Lord Melville, who Walter Scott records visiting in his journal entry of November 20, 1827, held many offices during his political career.  At the time Scott visited, Dundas was First Lord of the Admiralty.  Scott dined with him six days later.  The Dundas family held significant power in Scotland during Scott's lifetime, with Robert's father Henry becoming 1st Viscount Melville.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Off the Coast of Tunis

November 19.—Wind favourable during night, dies away in the morning, and blows in flurries rather contrary. The steamboat packet, which left Portsmouth at the same time with us, passes us about seven o'clock, and will reach a day or two before us. We are now off the coast of Tunis: not so high and rocky as that of Algiers, and apparently much more richly cultivated. A space of considerable length along shore, between a conical hill called Mount Baluty and Cape Bon, which we passed last night, is occupied by the French as a coral fishery. They drop heavy shot by lines on the coral rocks and break off fragments which they fish up with nets. The Algerines, seizing about 200 Neapolitans thus employed gave rise to the bombardment of their town by Lord Exmouth. All this coast is picturesquely covered with enclosures and buildings and is now clothed with squally weather. One hill has a smoky umbrella displayed over its peak, which is very like a volcano—many islets and rocks bearing the Italian names of sisters, brothers, dogs, and suchlike epithets. The view is very striking, with varying rays of light and of shade mingling and changing as the wind rises and falls. About one o'clock we pass the situation of ancient Carthage, but saw no ruins, though such are said to exist. A good deal of talk about two ancient lakes called——; I knew the name, but little more. We passed in the evening two rocky islands, or skerries, rising straight out of the water, called Gli Fratelli or The Brothers.

On November 19, 1831, Scott is touring off the coast of Tunis.  In his "Tales of a Grandfather; being stories taken from France", Scott describes the attempt of Louis IX of France to conquer Tunis for Christianity.

'With all that was so excellent in the character and conduct of Saint Louis, he was subject, as we have already hinted, to a strain of superstition, the great vice of the age, which impelled him into measures that finally brought ruin upon himself, and severe losses upon the state. At the bottom of his thoughts, he still retained the insane hope of being more successful in a new crusade than in that in which he had encountered defeat and captivity ; and after sixteen years had been devoted to the improvement and good government of his own dominions, he again prepared a fleet and an army to invade the territories of a Mahometan prince. Neither Palestine nor Egypt was the object of this new attack. The city of Tunis, upon the coast of Africa, was the destined object of the expedition. Credulous in all concerning the holy war, Louis conceived that the Mahometan king of Tunis was willing to turn Christian, and become his ally, or vassal ; and, by possessing a powerful influence, through the occupation of this fertile country, he hoped he should make the conversion of this prince the means of pushing his conquests, and extending Christianity over Egypt and Palestine also...'

Thursday, November 18, 2010

William Tell

"I say not but that he deserved death," replied the Landamman; "but for your own sake and for ours, you should have forborne him till the Duke's pleasure was known."

"What tell you us of the Duke?" answered Laurenz Neipperg, the same blue cavalier whom Arthur had seen at the secret rendezvous of the Balese youth, in company with Rudolph,—" Why talk you of Burgundy to us, who are none of his subjects? The Emperor, our only rightful lord, had no title to pawn the town and fortifications of La Ferette, being as it is a dependency of Bale, to the prejudice of our free city. He might have pledged the revenue indeed] and supposing him to have done so, the debt has been paid twice over by the exactions levied by yonder oppressor, who has now received his due. But pass on, Landamman of Uuterwalden. If our actions displease you, abjure them at the footstool of the Duke of Burgundy; but, in doing so, abjure the memory of William Tell, and Staufbacher, of Furst, and Melchtal, the fathers of Swiss freedom."

" You speak truth," said the Landamman; " but it is in an ill-chosen and unhappy time. Patience would have remedied your evils, which none felt more deeply, or would have redressed more willingly, than I. But O, imprudent young man, you have thrown aside the modesty of your age, and the subjection you owe to your elders. William Tell and his brethren were men of years and judgment, husbands and fathers, having a right to be heard in council, and to be foremost in action. Enough —I leave it with the fathers and senators of your own city, to acknowledge or to reprove your actions. —But you, my friends,—you, Banneret of Berne,— you, Rudolph,—above all, you, Nicholas Bonstetten, my comrade and my friend, why did you not take this miserable man under your protection? The action would have shown Burgundy, that we were slandered by those who have declared us desirous of seeking a quarrel with him, or of inciting his subjects to revolt. Now, all these prejudices will be confirmed in the minds of men, naturally more tenacious of evil impressions than of those which are favourable."
The Swiss set "Anne of Geierstein" is an appropriate place for Walter Scott to bring in Swiss patriot William Tell.  November 18, 1307, is considered the date when he famously sent an arrow through an apple sitting atop his son's head.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

John Balliol Crowned King of Scotland

'In 1292, the candidates, called upon to that effect, solemnly acknowledged Edward's right as lord paramount of Scotland, and submitted their claims to his decision. We shall endeavor to explain hereafter why these Norman nobles were not unwilling to consent to a submission which, as children of the soil, they would probably have spurned at. The strengths and fortresses of the kingdom were put into the king of England's power, to enable him to support, it was pretended, the award he should pronounce. After these operations had lasted several months, to accustom the Scots to the view of English governors and garrisons in their castles, and to disable them from resisting a foreign force, by the continued disunion which must have increased and become the more embittered the longer the debate was in dependence, Edward I. preferred John Baliol to the Scottish crown, to be held of him and his successors, and surrendered to him the Scottish castles of which he held possession, being twenty in number.'

The text above is from "Scotland" by Walter Scott and Mayo Hazeltine.  On November 17, 1292, John Balliol became King of Scotland, officially succeeding Margaret, the Maid of Norway, who had died two years earlier.  It was to be a short reign, lasting less than four years.  Balliol was in power when the Auld Alliance was formalized with France, after which Edward I of England marched on Scotland.  The Battle of Dunbar began the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sourcing Material for "Life of Napoleon"

Sir Walter Scott's "Life of Napoleon Buonaparte" presented some significant new material to the world.  Some of this was included in a historical note related to Napoleon's coup d'etat of Eighteenth Brumaire.  Scott's journal entry of November 16, 1826, provides insight into the the research process he engaged in, meeting with Arthur Wellesley to further the cause of his study of Napoleon: 'At eleven to the Duke of Wellington, who gave me a bundle of remarks on Bonaparte's Russian campaign, written in his carriage during his late mission to St. Petersburg. It is furiously scrawled, and the Russian names hard to distinguish, but it shall do me yeoman's service.'  Information from Wellesley's packet was later published as "Memorandum on the War in Russia in 1812".

Monday, November 15, 2010

Edinburgh's Great Fire

'On the night of Monday, the 15th of November, 1824, around 10 o'clock, the cry of "Fire!" was heard in the High Street, and it spread throughout the city from mouth to mouth; vast crowds came from all quarters rushing to the spot, and columns of smooke and flame were seen issuing from the second floor of a house at the head of the old Assembly Close, then occupied by Kirkwood, a well-known engraver...'

The description above is from http://www.oldandnewedinburgh.co.uk/

The cause of the great fire was a pot of heated linseed oil in engraver James Kirkwood's workshop.  The fire seemed to have been extinguished at one point, but By 9AM on the 16th, the fire renewed in the Tron Church.  According to a report form Coutts & Co., Bankers, 'Sir Walter Scott was one of the crowd watching the Fire Demon at work on the Tron Kirk spire, and when it was wreathed in flames, he ejaculated to Henry Cockburn and others, "Eh, sirs ! mony a weary, weary sermon hae I heard beneath that steeple !' His father had sat, and his young mind had been tortured, there. Luckily the church was saved by the arrival of Deacon Field with a powerful fire-engine, and the inhabitants breathed again. '  By the time the fire was put out, on the 17th, a significant portion of the south side of the High Street had been razed. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bristol Riots of 1831

On November 14, 1831, Sir Walter Scott is traveling to historic sites, and hoping to improve his health.  As recorded in his journal, the party on board hears disturbing news on happenings back home...

'...We stood into the Bay of Gibraltar and approached the harbour firing a gun and hoisting a signal for a boat: one accordingly came off—a man-of-war's boat—but refused to have any communication with us on account of the quarantine, so we can send no letters ashore, and after some pourparlers, Mr. L——, instead of joining his regiment, must remain on board. We learned an unpleasant piece of news. There has been a tumult at Bristol and some rioters shot, it is said fifty or sixty. I would flatter myself that this is rather good news, since it seems to be no part of a formed insurrection, but an accidental scuffle in which the mob have had the worst, and which, like Tranent, Manchester, and Bonnymoor, have always had the effect of quieting the people and alarming men of property.  The Whigs will find it impossible to permit men to be plundered by a few blackguards called by them the people, and education and property probably will recover an ascendency which they have only lost by faintheartedness.'

The spark for the Bristol Riots was rejection by the House of Lords of a reform bill, which would have provided Bristol and other cities with greater representation in the House of Commons.  In "History of the Peace...", Harriet Martineau and Charles Knight depict a situation that was exploited by nefarious intrests based in London.  'London rogues could have had no such power as in this case if the political and moral state of Bristol had not been bad. Its political state was disgraceful. The venality of its elections was notorious. It had a close corporation, between whom and the citizens there was no community of feeling on municipal subjects. The lower parts of the city were the harbourage of probably a worse seaport populace than any other place in England, while the police was ineffective and demoralised. There was no city in which a greater amount of savagery lay beneath a society proud, exclusive, and mutually repellent, rather than enlightened and accustomed to social co-operatiou. These are circumstances which go far to account for the Bristol riots being so fearfully bad as they were. Of this city, Sir Charles Wctherell— then at the height of his unpopularity as a vigorous opponent of the Reform Bill—was recorder; and there he had to go, in the last days of October, in his judicial capacity. Strenuous efforts had been made to exhibit before the eyes of the Bristol people the difference between the political and judicial functions of their recorder, and to shew them that to receive the judge with respect was not to countenance his political course; yet the symptoms of discontent were such as to induce the mayor, Mr l'inney, to apply to the home-office for military aid. Lord Melbourne sent down some troops of horse, which were quartered within reach, in the neighbourhood of the city. It was an unfortunate circumstance that, owing to the want of a common interest between the citizens and the corporation, scarcely any gentlemen offered their services as special constables but such as were accustomed to consider the lower classes with contempt as a troublesome rabble, and rather relished an occasion for defying and humbling them. Such was the preparation made in the face of the fact that Sir Charles Wetherell could not be induced to relinquish his public entry, though warned of danger by the magistrates themselves; and of the other important fact that the London rogues, driven from the metropolis by the new police, were known to be infesting every place where there was hope of confusion and spoil...'

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Robert Louis Stevenson

November 13 is the anniversary of Robert Louis Stevenson's birth, which occurred in 1850.  Stevenson, of course, is well known as an author.  Robert declared his interest in becoming a writer fairly early in life, bucking the Stevenson family trend of building lighthouses.  Robert's father Thomas employed his engineering skills in designing more than 30 of Scotland's lighthouses.  Robert's cousin David designed Bass Rock lighthouse, which figured in Robert's novel Catronia.  Lighthouse building became a Stevenson forte with Robert's grandfather (also Robert), who designed, among others, Bell Rock lighthouse, which Walter Scott visited with Robert Stevenson on his Northern lights tour (1814).  The connection between Scott and the Stevensons clearly influenced Robert Louis' interests.  One other connection in terms of novels, is that his "Kidnapped" was in part inspired by his reading of Scott's "Rob Roy".

Robert Louis Stevenson visited the Northern lights as well, on summer inspection trips with his family.  Like Walter Scott, these travels were a source of writing material for Stevenson, who was a travel writer, as well as novelist.  Stevenson's travels took him not only to Europe, but to America, in pursuit of a love interest (wife Fanny Osbourne), and ultimately to Samoa, where he died.  Stevenson was sickly most of his life, suffering from tuberculosis, and dying at the young age of 44.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Plymouth Incorporated

'The Bellerophon had hardly anchored, when orders came from the admiral, Lord Keith, which were soon after seconded by others from the Admiralty, enjoining that no one, of whatever rank or station, should be permitted to come on board the Bellerophon, excepting the officers and men belonging to the ship. On the 26th, the vessel received orders to move round to Plymouth Sound.'

Plymouth has long been an important coastal city for England, with passenger and commercial trade passing through its port.  It was the point of departure for the Pilgrims coming to America.  Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to go to America too.  But he was captured during his escape from France.  Instead of America, the ship carrying the defeated Napoleon Bonaparte aimed for the Plymouth Sound.  Later, Napoleon was shipped to St. Helena.

On November 12, 1439, Plymouth became the first town incorporated by the English Parliament.  The text above is from Walter Scott's "Life of Napoleon".

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Newgate's Garland


Ye gallants of Newgate, whose fingers are nice
In diving in pockets, or cogging of dice;
Ye sharpers so rich, who can buy off the noose,
Ye honester poor rogues, who die in your shoes,

Attend and draw near,
Good news ye shall hear,
How Jonathan's throat was cut from ear to ear,
How Blueskin's sharp penknife hath set you at ease,
And every man round me may rob, if he please.


When to the Old Bailey this Blueskin was led,
He held up his hand: his indictment was read;
Loud rattled his chains ; near him Jonathan stood;
For full forty pounds was the price of his blood.
Then hopeless of life,
He drew his penknife,
And made a sad widow of Jonathan's wife.
But forty pounds paid her, her grief shall appease;
And every man round me may rob, if he please....
There is more to this ballad, which is taken from "The Works of Jonathan Swift: Miscellanies in prose", by Jonathan Swift, with a life of the author by Sir Walter Scott.  The ballad is not Scott's, but John Gay's.
Blueskin, or Joseph Blake, was a highwayman whose life caught up with himin October of 1724.  He was hanged on November 11, 1725 at Tyburn.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Friedrich Schiller

German poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller was born November 10, 1759.  Fourteen years later, and shortly after Walter Scott was born, the Duke of Swabia, for whom Schiller's father served, agreed to send the elder Schiller's sons to the ducal academy.  Thus, this talented future poet received a first-rate education.  Through his writings and thought, and later through his friendship and dialogue with Goethe, the two German poets forged what became known as the Weimar Classicism.  German thought and literature became extremely popular in Scotland, and influenced Walter Scott and his crowd.

“I do not know anything of a play of mine, my dear friend, unless it be a sort of half-mad German tragedy which I wrote many years ago when my taste was very green and when, like the rest of the world, I was taken in with the bombast of Schiller.”

- Sir Walter Scott to Lady Abercorn  from Sir Walter Scott, "Familiar Letters".
Walter Scott was "young and green" in 1788, when according to biographer John Gibson Lockhart, he and his cronies took a strong interest in German literature.  As Lockhart relates, 'The German class, of which we have an account in one of the Prefaces of 1830, was formed before the Christmas of 1792, and it included almost all these loungers of the Mountain. In the essay now referred to Scott traces the interest excited in Scotland on the subject of German literature to a paper read before the Royal Society of Edinburgh, on the 21st of April, 1788, by the author of The Man of Feeling. "The literary persons of Edinburgh," he says, "were then first made aware of the existence of works of genius in a language cognate with the English, and possessed of the same manly force of expression; they learned at the same time that the taste which dictated the German compositions was of a kind as nearly allied to the English as their language: those who were from their youth accustomed to admire Shakespeare and Milton, became acquainted for the first time with a race of poets, who had the same lofty ambition to spurn the flaming boundaries of the universe, and investigate the realms of Chaos and Old Night; and of dramatists, who, disclaiming the pedantry of the unities, sought, at the expense of occasional improbabilities and extravagance, to present life on the stage in its scenes of wildest contrast, and in all its boundless variety of character.... Their fictitious narratives, their ballad poetry, and other branches of their literature, which are particularly apt to bear the stamp of the extravagant and the supernatural, began also to occupy the attention of the British literati. In Edinburgh, where the remarkable coincidence between the German language and the Lowland Scottish encouraged young men to approach this newly discovered spring of literature, a class was formed of six or seven intimate friends, who proposed to make themselves acquainted (p. 185) with the German language. They were in the habit of being much together, and the time they spent in this new study was felt as a period of great amusement. One source of this diversion was the laziness of one of their number, the present author, who, averse to the necessary toil of grammar, and the rules, was in the practice of fighting his way to the knowledge of the German by his acquaintance with the Scottish and Anglo-Saxon dialects, and of course frequently committed blunders which were not lost on his more accurate and more studious companions." The teacher, Dr. Willich, a medical man, is then described as striving with little success to make his pupils sympathize in his own passion for the "sickly monotony" and "affected ecstasies" of Gessner's Death of Abel; and the young students, having at length acquired enough of the language for their respective purposes, as selecting for their private pursuits, some the philosophical treatises of Kant, others the dramas of Schiller and Goethe. The chief, if not the only Kantist of the party, was, I believe, John Macfarlan of Kirkton; among those who turned zealously to the popular belles-lettres of Germany were, with Scott, his most intimate friends of the period, William Clerk, William Erskine, and Thomas Thomson....'

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eighteenth Brumaire

On November 9, 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte overthrew the French Directory, in a coup d'etat. The date was 18th Brumaire, in the second month of the eighth year on the French Republican calendar.  Sir Walter Scott introduced some information on the events of that day, which had previously been unpublished, in an appendix in his "Life of Napoleon Buonaparte". 


The following facts, which have never been made public, but with which we have been favoured from an authentic channel, throw particular light on the troubled period during which Napoleon assumed the supreme power—the risks which he ran of being anticipated in his aim, or of altogether missing it.
 In the end of July, 1799, when all those discontents were fermenting, which afterwards led to the Revolution of the 18th Brumaire, General Augereau, with one of the most celebrated veterans of the Republican army, attended by a deputation of six persons, amongst whom were Salicetti and other members of Convention, came on a mission to General Bernadotte, their minister at war, at an early hour in the morning.

Their object was to call the minister's attention to a general report, which announced that there was to be a speedy alteration of the constitution and existing order of things. They accused Barras, Sieyes, and Fouche, as being the authors of these intrigues. It was generally believed, they said, that one of the directors (Barras) was for restoring the Bourbons ; another (Sieyes is probably meant) was for electing the Duke of Brunswick. The deputation made Bernadotte acquainted with their purpose of fulminating a decree of arrest against the two official persons. Having first enquired what proofs they could produce in support of their allegations, and being informed that they had no positive proof to offer, the minister informed them that he would not participate in the proposed act of illegal violence. " I require your word of honour," he said, " that you will desist from this project. It is the only mode to ensure my silence on the subject." One of the deputation, whom the minister had reason to regard as a man of the most exemplary loyalty, and with whom he had had connexions in military service, replied to him, " Our intention was to have placed you in possession of great power, being well persuaded that you would not abuse it. Since you do not see the matter as we do, the affair is at an end. We give up our scheme- Let the affair be buried in complete oblivion." In less than two months afterwards, Buonaparte's arrival gave a new turn to the state of affairs.

He landed, as is well known, at Frejus, after having abandoned his army, and broke the quarantine laws. When this intelligence reached Bernadotte, he intimated to the Directory, that there was not an instant to lose in having him brought before a council of war. General Debel was instructed to make this communication to a member of the Directory, who was one of his friends. Colonel St Martin, of the artillery^ spoke to •this director to the same purpose. His answer was, "We are 'not strong enough.". On its being said that Bernadotte was of 'opinion that Buonaparte should be proceeded against according to the principles of military discipline, and that the opportunity which occurred should be laid hold of, the director replied, "Let us wait."

Buonaparte arrived at Paris. All the generals went to visit him. A public dinner to him was proposed, and a list for that purpose handed about. When it was presented to Bernadotte by two members of the Council of Five Hundred, he said to them, " I would advise you to put off this dinner till he account satisfactorily for having abandoned his army."...'

Monday, November 8, 2010

Duns Scotus

'The debating club formed among these young friends at this era of their studies was called The Literary Society; and is not to be confounded with the more celebrated Speculative Society, which Scott did not join for two years later. At The Literary he spoke frequently, and very amusingly and sensibly, but was not at all numbered among the most brilliant members. He had a world of knowledge to produce; but he had not acquired the art of arranging it to the best advantage in a continued address; nor, indeed, did he ever, I think, except under the influence of strong personal feeling, even when years and fame had given him full confidence in himself, exhibit upon any occasion the powers of oral eloquence. His antiquarian information, however, supplied many an interesting feature in these evenings of discussion. He had already dabbled in Anglo-Saxon and the Norse Sagas: in his Essay on Imitations of Popular Poetry, he alludes to these studies as having facilitated his acquisition of German:—But he was deep especially in Fordun and Wyntoun, and all the Scotch chronicles; and his friends rewarded him by the honorable title of Duns Scotus.'

From John Gibson Lockhart's "Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott".  The "Subtle Doctor", John Duns the Scot, died on November 8, 1308.  Like Fordun and Wyntoun, Duns was a man of the cloth, though of the Catholic faith.  He was ordained a Franciscan in 1291, and had a significant influence on Middle Age thought.  The term "Scotism" applies to the school of philosophical and theological thought that Scotus developed.  For more, see: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/duns-scotus/

According to Lockhart, the Duns Scotus nickname stuck with Walter Scott for many years.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


" Your Grace talks mysteries—Buckingham blushes—and the rogue himself is dumb."

" That honest gentleman, please your Majesty," replied the Duke of Ormoud, " whose modesty makes him mute, though it cannot make him blush, is the notorious Colonel Blood, as he calls himself, whose attempt to possess himself of your Majesty's royal crown, took place at no very distant date, in this very Tower of London."
" That exploit is not easily forgotten," said the King; " but that the fellow lives, shows your Grace's clemency as well as mine."
" I cannot deny that I was in his hands, sire," said Ormond, " and had certainly been murdered by him, had he chosen to take my life on the spot, instead of destining me—I thank him for the honour—to be hanged at Tyburn.
The last to have the honor of being hanged at Tyburn was one John Austen, hanged on November 7, 1783 (per The Book of Days); for robbery with violence.  Tyburn suffered its own sort of death, when executions were transferred from Tyburn to Newgate.  Thus ended nearly eight centuries of continuous functio.  The first execution was William Fitz Osbern, in 1196.  Text above is from "Perveril of the Peak".

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lord Auchinleck v. Samuel Johnson

"Boswell's Life of Johnson", compiled by George Birkbeck Norman Hill, includes a Walter Scott note discussing Boswell's father Lord Auchinleck.  The occasion for this note was a famous argument that the Anglican Tory Johnson and the Presbyterian Whig Lord Auchinleck engaged in during Johnson's visit to Auchinleck House, at the end of his Western Isles tour with James Boswell. 

The event which occurred at Auckhinleck House (wikipedia image below) on November 6, 1773 follows, along with Scott's note:

'Saturday, 6th November

I cannot be certain, whether it was on this day, or a former, that Dr Johnson and my father came in collision. If I recollect right, the contest began while my father was shewing him his collection of medals; and Oliver Cromwell's coin unfortunately introduced Charles the First, and Toryism. They became exceedingly warm, and violent, and I was very much distressed by being present at such an altercation between the two men, both of whom I reverenced; yet I durst not interfere. It would certainly be very unbecoming in me to exhibit my honoured father, and my respected friend, as intellectual gladiators, for the entertainment of the publick; and therefore I suppress what would, I dare say, make an interesting scene in this dramatick sketch this account of the transit of Johnson over the Caledonian hemisphere.

Yet I think I may, without impropriety, mention one circumstance, as an instance of my father's address. Dr Johnson challenged him, as he did us all at Talisker, to point out any theological works of merit written by Presbyterian ministers in Scotland. My father, whose studies did not lie much in that way, owned to me afterwards, that he was somewhat at a loss how to answer, but that luckily he recollected having read in catalogues the title of Durham On the Galatians; upon which he boldly said, 'Pray, sir, have you read Mr Durham's excellent commentary on the Galatians?' 'No, sir,' said Dr Johnson. By this lucky thought my father kept him at bay, and for some time enjoyed his triumph; but his antagonist soon made a retort, which I  forbear to mention.

In the course of their altercation, Whiggism and Presbyterianism, Toryism and Episcopacy, were terribly buffeted. My worthy hereditary friend, Sir John Pringle, never having been mentioned, happily escaped without a bruise.'

And the note:

' Old Lord Auchinleck was an think he has pinned himself to now, able lawyer, a good scholar, after the manner of Scotland, and highly valued his own advantages as a man of good estate and ancient family ; and, moreover, he was a strict presbyterian and Whig of the old Scottish cast. This did not prevent his being a terribly proud aristocrat; and great was the contempt he entertained and expressed for his son James, for the nature of his friendships and the character of the personages of whom he was engoue" one after another.  ' There's nae hope for Jamie, mon,' he said to a friend. ' Jamie is gaen clean gyte. What do you think, mon ? He's done wi' Paoli he's off wi' the land-louping scoundrel of a Corsican ; and whose tail do you think he has pinned himself to now, mon ?'  Here the old judge summoned up a sneer of most sovereign contempt. ' A dominie, mon—an auld dominie : he keeped a schule, and cau'd it an acaadamy.' Probably if this had been reported to Johnson, he would have felt it more galling,  for he never much liked to think of that period of his life]; it would have aggravated his dis like of Lord Auchinleck's Whiggery and presbyterianism. These the old lord carried to such a height, that once, when a countryman came in to state some justice business, and being required to make his oath, declined to do so before his lordship, because he was not a covenanted magistrate. 'Is that a' your objection, mon ?' said the judge ; ' come your ways in here, and we'll baith of us tak the solemn league and covenant together.' The oath was accordingly agreed and sworn to by both, and I dare say it was the last time it ever received such homage. It may be surmised how far Lord Auchinleck, such as he is here described, was likely to suit a high Tory and episcopalian like Johnson. As they approached Auchinleck, Boswell conjured Johnson by all the ties of regard, and in requital of the services he had rendered him upon his tour, that he would spare two subjects in tenderness to his father's prejudices ; the first related to Sir John Pringle, president of the Royal Society, about whom there was then some dispute current: the second concerned the general question of Whig and Tory. Sir John Pringle, as Boswell says, escaped, but the controversy between Tory and Covenanter raged with great fury, and ended in Johnson's pressing upon the old judge the question, what good Cromwell, of whom he had said something derogatory, had ever done to his country; when, after being much tortured, Lord Auchinleck at last spoke out,
'God, Doctor! he gart kings ken that they had a lith in their neck'— he taught kings they had a joint in their necks. Jamie then set to mediating between his father and the philosopher, and availing himself of the judge's sense of hospitality, which was punctilious, reduced the debate to more order. Walter Scott.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gunpowder Plot

"Lord Dalgarno," said Margaret;--"the wickedest man who lives. Under pretence of friendship, he introduced the Lord Glenvarloch to a gambling-house with the purpose of engaging him in deep play; but he with whom the perfidious traitor had to deal, was too virtuous, moderate, and cautious, to be caught in a snare so open. What did they next, but turn his own moderation against him, and persuade others that--because he would not become the prey of wolves, he herded with them for a share of their booty! And, while this base Lord Dalgarno was thus undermining his unsuspecting countryman, he took every measure to keep him surrounded by creatures of his own, to prevent him from attending Court, and mixing with those of his proper rank. Since the Gunpowder Treason, there never was a conspiracy more deeply laid, more basely and more deliberately pursued."

From "The Fortunes of Nigel" by Sir Walter Scott.  This novel focuses on King James I of England's era, particularly after the attempted bombing of November 5, 1605, which was believed to have been a conspiracy undertaken by Catholics to assassinate James.  After the failed attempt to blow up the House of Lords while James was opening a new session of Parliament, Catholics were vulnerable to reprisals from the mainly Protestant members of Parliament.  James, realizing that most Catholics were good citizens, restrained Parliament from more forceful measures.  Instead, he supported legislation which made Catholics swear an oath affirming loyalty to the King and denying the power of the Pope.

More from the text...

"A plague of your similes, dame," replied the apprentice; "for the devil gave me that knowledge, and beggary may be the end on't.--But what has this gentleman done, that he should need to be under hiding? No Papist, I hope--no Catesby and Piercy business--no Gunpowder Plot?"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

William III and Mary II Wed

'The throne being thus declared vacant, the important question remained, by whom it should be filled. This was warmly disputed. The Tories were contented that the Prince of Orange should exercise the regal power, but only under the title of Regent. They could not reconcile themselves to the dethroning a King and electing his successor ; and contended, that James's course of misconduct did not deprive him of his kingly title, but only operated like some malady, which rendered him unfit to have the exercise of regal power. The Whigs replied, that this doctrine would prevent their deriving the desired advantages from the Revolution, since, if James was in any respect to be acknowledged as a sovereign, he might return and claim the power which is inalienable from the royal right. Besides, if James was still King, it was evident that his son, who had been carried abroad, in order that he might be bred up in Popery and in arbitrary doctrines, must be acknowledged after the death of James himself. They, therefore, declared for the necessity of filling up the vacant sovereignty. A third party endeavoured to find a middle opinion, with regard to which the objections applicable to those we have just expressed should not hold good. They proposed that the crown should be conferred on Mary, Princess of Orange, in her own right ; thus passing over the infant Prince of Wales, and transferring their allegiance to Mary as the next Protestant heir of the crown.

The Prince of Orange, who had listened to, and watched these debates in silence, but with deep interest, now summoned a small council of leading persons, to whom he made his sentiments known.

He would not, he said, interfere in any respect with the right of the English Parliament, to arrange their future government according to their own laws, or their own pleasure. But he felt it necessary to acquaint them, that if they chose to be governed by a Regent, he would not accept that office. Neither was he disposed to take the government of the kingdom under his wife, supposing she was chosen Queen. If either of these modes of settlement were adopted, he informed them he would retire entirely from all interference with British affairs. The Princess, his wife, seconded her husband's views, to whom she always paid the highest degree of conjugal deference.

The wisdom and power of the Prince of Orange, nay even the assistance of his military force, were absolutely indispensable to the settlement of England, divided as it was by two rival political parties, who had indeed been forced into union by the general fear of James's tyranny, but were ready to renew their dissensions the instant the overwhelming pressure of that fear was removed. The Convention were, therefore, obliged to regulate the succession to the throne upon the terms agreeable to the Prince of Orange. The Princess and he were called to the throne jointly, under the title of King William and Queen Mary, the survivor succeeding the party who should first die. The Princess Anne of Denmark, was named to succeed after the death of her sister and brother-in-law, and the claims of James's infant son were entirely passed over.'
On November 4, 1677 Prince William of Orange married Mary Stuart, to improve his chances of succeeding to the English throne.  Sir Walter Scott provides background and results in "Tales of a Grandfather" (text above).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Darien Expedition Lands

On November 3, 1698, the ill-fated Darien expedition landed on the Isthmus of Panama.  According to bank historian Andrew Kerr ("History of Banking in Scotland"), 'The expedition consisted of five well-armed ships, laden with merchandise, and having twelve hundred men on board. They arrived at their destination with but small loss, and the colony was formally established as New Caledonia, with New Edinburgh as its chief town. ...'

Sir Walter Scott's information largely agrees with Kerr's.   Scott covers the Dairen Scheme in his "Tales of a Grandfather".

'Twelve hundred men, three hundred of whom were youths of the best Scottish families, embarked on board of five frigates, purchased at Hamburgh for the service of the expedition ; for the King refused the Company even the trifling accommodation of a ship of war, which lay idle at Burntisland. They reached their destination in safety, and disembarked at a place called Acta, where, by cutting through a peninsula, they obtained a safe and insulated situation for a town, called New Edinburgh, and a fort named Saint Andrew. With the same fond remembrance of their native land, the colony itself was called Caledonia. They were favourably received by the native princes, from whom they purchased the land they required. The harbour, which was excellent, was proclaimed a free port; and in the outset the happiest results were expected from the settlement.

The arrival of the colonists took place in winter, when the air was cool and temperate ; but with the summer returned the heat, and with the heat came the diseases of tropical climate. Those who had reported so favourably of the climate of Darien, had probably been persons who had only visited the coast during the healthy season, or mariners, who, being chiefly on shipboard, find many situations healthy, which prove pestilential to Europeans residing on shore. The health of the settlers accustomed to a cold and mountainous country, give way fast under the constant exhalations of the sultry climate, and even a more pressing danger arose from the want of food. The provisions which the colonists had brought from Scotland were expended, and the country afforded them only such supplies as could be procured by the precarious success of fishing and the chase. ...'
The Darien colony was abaondoned less than two years later.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Saint Cloud

On November 2nd 1826, Sir Walter Scott is touring Paris and it environs, directly experiencing source material which would be published as "The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte".  From Scott's journal:

November 2 [1826] - Another gloomy day—a pize upon it!—and we have settled to go to Saint Cloud, and dine, if possible, with the Drummonds at Auteuil. Besides, I expect poor W.R. S[pencer] to breakfast. There is another thought which depresses me...

We went to Saint Cloud with my old friend Mr. Drummond, now at a pretty maison de campagne at Auteuil. Saint Cloud, besides its unequalled views, is rich in remembrances. I did not fail to revisit the Orangerie, out of which Bon. expelled the Council of [Five Hundred]. I thought I saw the scoundrels jumping the windows, with the bayonets at their rumps. What a pity the house was not two stories high! I asked the Swiss some questions on the locale, which he answered with becoming caution, saying, however, that "he was not present at the time." There are also new remembrances. A separate garden, laid out as a playground for the royal children, is called Il Trocadero, from the siege of Cadiz [1823]. But the Bourbons should not take military ground—it is firing a pop-gun in answer to a battery of cannon.

And, from Scott's Life of Napoleon:

'This hostile Council [The Council of Five Hundred] only met at ten o'clock on that memorable day, when they received, to their surprise, the message, intimating that the Council of Ancients had changed the place of meeting from Paris to St. Cloud: and thus removed their debates from the neighbourhood of the populace, over whom the old Jacobinical principles might have retained influence. The laws as they stood afforded the young Council no means of evading compliance, and they accordingly adjourned to meet the next day at St. Cloud, with unabated resolution to maintain the democratical part of the Constitution. They separated amid shouts of " Long live the Republic and the Constitution!" which were echoed by the galleries. The tricoteuses and other more zealous attendants on their debates, resolved to transfer themselves to St. Cloud also, and appeared there in considerable numbers on the ensuing day, when it was evident the enterprise of Sieyes and of Bonaparte must be either perfected or abandoned.'

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lady Eglington

On Novermber 1, 1773, the Johnson/Boswell Western Isles tour visits Susanna Kennedy, the Countess Eglington.  Eglington was described by King George II as "the most beautiful woman in my dominions" (wikipedia).  But Ms. Eglington is known equally well for her talents and her patronage of poets.  The entry below, from Boswell's journal of his tour with Johnson is repeated in full in Sir Walter Scott's "Chronicles of the Canongate".

Monday, 1st November

'Though Dr Johnson was lazy, and averse to move, I insisted that he should go with me, and pay a visit to the Countess of Eglintoune, mother of the late and present earl. I assured him, he would find himself amply recompensed for the trouble; and he yielded to my solicitations, though with some unwillingness. We were well mounted, and had not many miles to ride...

Lady Eglintoune, though she was now in her eighty-fifth year, and had lived in the retirement of the country for almost half a century, was still a very agreeable woman. She was of the noble house of Kennedy, and had all the elevation which the consciousness of such birth inspires. Her figure was majestick, her manners high-bred, her reading extensive, and her conversation elegant. She had been the admiration of the gay circles of life, and the patroness of poets. Dr Johnson was delighted with his reception here. Her principles in Church and state were congenial with his. She knew all his merit, and had heard much of him from her son, Earl Alexander, who loved to cultivate the acquaintance of men of talents, in every department.

All who knew his lordship, will allow that his understanding and accomplishments were of no ordinary rate. From the gay habits which he had early acquired, he spent too much of his time with men, and in pursuits far beneath such a mind as his. He afterwards became sensible of it, and turned his thoughts to objects of importance; but was cut off in the prime of his life. I cannot speak, but with emotions of the most affectionate regret, of one, in whose company many of my early days were passed, and to whose kindness I was much indebted...

In the course of our conversation this day, it came out, that Lady Eglintoune was married the year before Dr Johnson was born; upon which she graciously said to him, that she might have been his mother; and that she now adopted him; and when we were going away, she embraced him, saying, 'My dear son, farewell!' My friend was much pleased with this day's entertainment, and owned that I had done well to force him out.'

Ms. Eglinton appears in Scott's work in the following passage, where the Boswell/Johnson is also noted :
'In the course of her becoming habituated with foreign manners, Mrs. Bethune Baliol had, perhaps, acquired some slight tincture of them herself. Yet I was always persuaded, that the peculiar vivacity of look and manner—the pointed and appropriate action—with which she accompanied what she said—the use of the gold and gemmed tabatiere, or rather I should say bonbonniere, (for she took no snuff, and the little box contained only a few pieces of candied angelica, or some such lady-like sweetmeat,) were of real old-fashioned Scottish growth, and such as might have graced the tea-table of Susannah, Countess of Eglinton,* the patroness of Allan Ramsay, or of the Hon. Mrs. Colonel Ogilvy, who was another mirror by whom the maidens of Auld Reekie were required to dress themselves. Although well acquainted with the customs of other countries, her manners had been chiefly formed in her own, at a time when great folk lived within little space, and when the distinguished name of the highest society gave to Edinburgh the eclat, which we now endeavour to derive from the unbounded expense and extended circle of our pleasures.
* Susannah Kennedy, daughter of Sir Archibald Kennedy of Cullean, Bart., by Elizabeth Lesly, daughter of David Lord Newark, third wife of Alexander 9th Earl of Eglinton, and mother of the 10th and llth Earls. She survived her husband, who died 1729, no less than fifty-seven years, and died March, 1780, in her 91st year. Allan Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd, published 1726, is dedicated to her, in verse, by Hamilton of Bangour.'