Thursday, September 30, 2010

John Rae

Orcadian John Rae was born on September 30, 1813.  Rae is known as an explorer of Northern Canada.  Rae traveled to Canada to work as a surgeon for the Hudson Bay Company.  While there, he met and befriended local Inuits, a connection which significantly contributed to his success as an explorer.  Rae has a strait, ariver, an isthmus, a mount, a fort, and a village named after him.  More importantly for Walter Scott's work, Rae had two older sisters.

Scott visited Orkney on his trip to the Northern Lights.  On August 16, 1814, he visited Clestrain House, which is where Rae was born.  While there he met Rae's sisters who, as explained on the Orkney Boat House website ( became the models for sisters Minna and Brenda in Scott's novel; "The Pirate".

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Baronetcy of Nova Scotia

' is not to be omitted, that through the Swintons Sir Walter Scott could trace himself to William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, the poet and dramatist...'

The above text is from "Memoirs of Sir Walter Scott", by John Gibson Lockhart.  In addition to being a poet and dramatist, William Alexander was a colonizer, receiving, on September 29, 1621, a charter to colonize the Baronetcy of Nova Scotia (from Rampant Scotland).

Alexander's territory, granted to him by King James I of England, stretched through New Brunswick into what is now part of the United States.  An attempt to establish a colony called Port Royal effectively bankrupted Alexander by 1632. 

In 1636, under the regime of Charles I, Alexander was made Earl of Stirling.  Charles also gave him rights to Long Island (now part of New York), from the Plymouth Colony.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Battle of the Clans

According to Rampant Scotland, the battle between Clans Chattan and Kay that serves as  focal point for the action in Scott's "The Fair Maid of Perth" occurred on September 28, 1396.  Robert III of Scotland witnessed the event, in which 30 men from each side fought each other until only one remained alive of Clan Kay.  The Chattans lost 19.

Scott describes the two sides: 'The course of our story will be best pursued by attending that of Simon
Glover. It is not our purpose to indicate the exact local boundaries of the two contending clans, especially since they are not clearly pointedout by the historians who have transmitted accounts of this memorable feud. It is sufficient to say, that the territory of the Clan Chattan extended far and wide, comprehending Caithness and Sutherland, and having for their paramount chief the powerful earl of the latter shire, thence called Mohr ar Chat. In this general sense, the Keiths, the Sinclairs, the Guns, and other families and clans of great power, were included in the confederacy. These, however, were not engaged in the present quarrel, which was limited to that part of the Clan Chattan occupying the extensive mountainous districts of Perthshire and Inverness shire, which form a large portion of what is called the northeastern Highlands. It is well known that two large septs, unquestionably known to belong to the Clan Chattan, the MacPhersons and the MacIntoshes, dispute to this day which of their chieftains was at the head of this Badenoch branch of the great confederacy, and both have of later times assumed the title of Captain of Clan Chattan. Non nostrum
est. But, at all events, Badenoch must have been the centre of the confederacy, so far as involved in the feud of which we treat.

Of the rival league of Clan Quhele we have a still less distinct account, for reasons which will appear in the sequel. Some authors have identified them with the numerous and powerful sept of MacKay. If this is done on good authority, which is to be doubted, the MacKays must have shifted their settlements greatly since the reign of Robert III, since they are now to be found (as a clan) in the extreme northern parts of Scotland, in the counties of Ross and Sutherland. We cannot, therefore, be so clear as we would wish in the geography of the story. Suffice it that, directing his course in a northwesterly direction, the glover travelled for a day's journey in the direction of the Breadalbane country, from which he hoped to reach the castle where Gilchrist MacIan, the captain of the Clan Quhele, and the father of his pupil Conachar, usually held his residence, with a barbarous pomp of attendance and ceremonial suited to his lofty pretensions.'

Monday, September 27, 2010

Battle of Tinchebray

On September 27, 1106, two brothers, sons of William the conqueror, faced off in Normandy, at Tinchebray.  Robert, the Duke of Normandy, and eldest, lost out to William's fourth son, Henry I of England.  Robert was imprisoned afterward at Cardiff Castle.  Out of concern for security, and perhaps just for spite, Henry had Robert's eyes cut out.  Robert lived nearly thirty years in blind captivity, turning from military endeavors to the composition of poetry in Welsh learned from his jailers.

Sir Walter Scott writes on some of Robert's background, his ill-conceived rebellion against his father, in his "Tales of a Grandfather":  'Philip's [I of France] jealousy of his great vassal [Robert, Duke of Normandy] began to show itself in every way so soon as he arrived at years of maturity. In 1077 he intrigued with William's eldest son, Robert, and encouraged him to rebel against his father. The pretext assigned by Robert for his unnatural conduct, was, that William, during a severe illness, soon after his conquest of England, had caused Robert be recognised as his successor in the duchy, and receive the homage of his vassals; but on his recovery shortly after, he resumed the reins of authority, and had ever since refused, contrary to promise, to allow him any share in the administration of Normandy. The Duke's answer to all his son's applications was couched in the homely but expressive phrase, that he was not willing to throw off his clothes before he went to bed, or part with his dominions before his death.

Under the pretence, nevertheless, that his father had not fulfilled his engagement, Robert, who was a rash young man, and of fiery passions, though in his person brave and generous, actually rebelled against his father, and held out against him the small fortified place of Gerberoi, a station very convenient for the annoyance of Normandy. William was incensed at the rebellious conduct of his son, and hastened to lay siege to the place of his retreat. The garrison made a sally, headed by Prince Robert in person. This leader, one of the bravest men of his time, singled out for his antagonist a knight who appeared in front of the besiegers, in armour, and having his face covered by the vizor of his helmet. The onset of the young and fiery prince bore down his antagonist, horse and man ; and Robert, placing his lance to the throat of the dismounted cavalier, would have taken his life, had he not recognised, by the accents in which the answer was returned, that he was in the act of slaying his own father. Shocked at this discovery, he flung himself from his horse, and, assisting his father to rise, held the stirrup to him till he mounted it in his stead.

But notwithstanding an incident so touching at once and terrible, no reconciliation between the father and son took place, and the latter continued a sort of knight-errant in France, and other countries, until his father's death. In 1087, the disputes between the Kings of France and England, for the possession of the province of Vexin, led to an open rupture, which cost William his life. He: caught an inflammatory complaint, while directing in person the conflagration of the town of ' Mantes, and the destruction of the country around. He made immediate dispositions for securing the crown of England to his second son William Rufus, or the Red. But although in-' censed against his eldest son Robert, who was still an exile, William made no attempt to deprive him of the duchy of Normandy, regarding it probably as his hereditary right. To his third son, Henry, he left nothing but a sum of money.'

Sunday, September 26, 2010

MacDonald of Kingsburgh

On September 26, 1773, Dr. Johnson and James Boswell are still on Skye, meeting with the Macleod's and the MacDonald's who had helped Prince Charles Edward Stuart escape from Scotland after Culloden.  Boswell records the following: '...Mrs M'Kinnon told us at dinner, that old Kingsburgh, her father, was
examined at Mugstot, by General Campbell, as to the particulars of the dress of the person who had come to his house in woman's clothes, along with Miss Flora M'Donald; as the General had received intelligence of that disguise. The particulars were taken down in writing, that it might be seen how far they agreed with the dress of the 'Irish girl' who went with Miss Flora from the Long Island.  Kingsburgh, she said, had but one song, which he always sung when he was merry over a glass. She dictated the words to me, which are foolish enough:

Green sleeves and pudding pies,
Tell me where my mistress lies,
And I'll be with her before the rise,
Fiddle and aw' together.

May our affairs abroad succeed,
And may our king come home with speed,
And all pretenders shake for dread,
And let HIS health go round.

To all our injured friends in need,
This side and beyond the Tweed!
Let all pretenders shake for dread,
And let HIS health go round.
Green sleeves, &c.

While the examination was going on, the present Talisker, who was there as one of M'Leod's militia, could not resist the pleasantry of asking Kingsburgh, in allusion to his only song, 'Had she GREEN SLEEVES?' Kingsburgh gave him no answer. Lady Margaret M'Donald was very angry at Talisker for joking on such a serious occasion, as Kingsburgh was really in danger of his life. Mrs M'Kinnon added that Lady Margaret was quite adored in Sky. That when she travelled through the island, the people ran in crowds before her, and took the stones off the road, lest her horse should stumble and she be hurt. Her husband, Sir Alexander, is also remembered with great regard. We were told that every week a hogshead of claret was drunk at his table...'
Sir Walter Scott covered these events; published in "Tales of a Grandfather".  'General Campbell, returning from Kilda, landed upon South Uist, with the purpose of searching the Long Island from south to north, and he found the MacDonalds of Skye, and MacLeod of MacLeod, as also a strong detachment of regular troops, engaged in the same service. While these forces, in number two thousand men, searched with eagerness the interior of the island, its shores were surrounded with small vessels of war, cutters, armed boats, and the like. It seemed as if the Prince's escape from a search so vigorously prosecuted was altogether impossible; but the high spirit of a noble-minded female rescued him, when probably every other means must have failed.

This person was the celebrated Flora MacDonald ; she was related to the Clanranald family, and was on a visit to that chiefs house at Ormaclade, in South Uist, during the emergency we speak of. Her stepfather was one of Sir Alexander MacDonald's clan, an enemy to the Prince of course, and in the immediate command of the militia of the name of MacDonald, who were then in South Uist.

Notwithstanding her stepfather's hostility, Flora MacDonald readily engaged in a plan for rescuing the unfortunate Wanderer. With this purpose she procured from her stepfather a passport for herself, a man servant, and a female servant, who was termed Betty Burke—the part of Betty Burke being to be acted by the Chevalier in woman's attire.1 In this disguise, after being repeatedly in danger of being taken, Charles at length reached Kilbride, in the Isle of Skye ; but they were still in the country of Sir Alexander MacDonald, and, devoted as that chief was to the service of the Government, the Prince was as much in danger as ever. Here the spirit and presence of mind of Miss Flora MacDonald were again displayed in the behalf of the object, so strangely thrown under the protection of one of her sex and age. She resolved to confide the secret to Lady Margaret MacDonald, the wife of Sir Alexander, and trast to female compassion, and the secret reserve of Jacobitism which lurked in the heart of most Highland women.

The resolution to confide in Lady Margaret was particularly hardy, for Sir Alexander MacDonald, the husband of the lady to be trusted with the important secret, was, as you will recollect, originally believed to be engaged to join the Prince on his arrival, but had declined doing so, under the plea, that the stipulated support from France was not forthcoming; he was afterwards induced to levy his clan on the side of Government. His men had been at first added to Lord Loudon's army, in Inverness-shire, and now formed part of those troops from which the Chevalier had with difficulty just made his escape.

Flora MacDonald found herself under the necessity of communicating the fatal secret of her disguised attendant to the lady of a person thus situated. Lady Margaret MacDonald was much alarmed. Her husband was absent, and as the best mode for the unfortunate Prince's preservation, her house being filled with officers of the militia, she committed him to the charge of MacDonald of Kingsburgh, a man of courage and intelligence, who acted as factor or steward for her husband. Flora MacDonald accordingly conducted Charles to MacDonald of Kingsburgh's house ; and he was fortunate enough to escape detection on the road, though the ungainly and awkward appearance of a man dressed in female apparel attracted suspicion on more than one occasion.'

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans

The poet Felicia Hemans has a significant connection with Sir Walter Scott.  Hemans visited Scott at Abbotsford in 1828, and contributed her poem "The Funeral Day of Sir Walter Scott" after Scott passed (September 21, 1832).  Hemans herself did not live long after Scott died, passing in May 1835, less than 42 years old.

It is Hemans' birth that is celebrated today; September 25, 1793.  She was born in Liverpool, but felt more affinity to Wales, where she spent part of her youth after her father George Browne's business failed.  Hemans merited her first publication in 1808, when she was not yet 15 (and still named Browne). 

Hemans was well known among the poets of her day, including Shelley, Byron, and Wordsworth who composed a memorial in her honor.  According to UPenn's "A Celebration of Woman Writers" website, Hemans' style was influenced by Lord Byron.

From, here is a portion of "The Funeral Day of Sir Walter Scott", with a link to the full poem:

Many an eye
May wail the dimming of our shining star.–SHAKESPEARE.

A GLORIOUS voice hath ceased!–
Mournfully, reverently–the funeral chant
Breathe reverently! There is a dreamy sound,
A hollow murmur of the dying year,
In the deep woods. Let it be wild and sad!
A more Aeolian melancholy tone
Than ever wail'd o'er bright things perishing!
For that is passing from the darken'd land,
Which the green summer will not bring us back–
Though all her songs return. The funeral chant
Breathe reverently!–They bear the mighty forth,
The kingly ruler in the realms of mind–
They bear him through the household paths, the groves,
Where every tree had music of its own
To his quick ear of knowledge taught by love–
And he is silent!–Past the living stream
They bear him now; the stream, whose kindly voice
On alien shores his true heart burn'd to hear–
And he is silent! O'er the heathery hills,
Which his own soul had mantled with a light
Richer than autumn's purple, now they move–
And he is silent!–he, whose flexile lips
Were but unseal'd, and lo! a thousand forms,
From every pastoral glen and fern-clad height,
In glowing life upsprang:–Vassal and chief,
Rider and steed, with shout and bugle-peal,
Fast rushing through the brightly troubled air,
Like the wild huntsman's band. And still they live,
To those fair scenes imperishably bound,
And, from the mountain mist still flashing by,
Startle the wanderer who hath listen'd there
To the seer's voice: phantoms of colour'd thought,
Surviving him who raised.–O eloquence!


Friday, September 24, 2010

Edward Balliol Crowned at Scone

The son of John Balliol, Edward became King of Scotland on September 24, 1332.  it wa an on again-off again kingship for about five years.  Edward gained the throne after the Battle of Dupplin Moor.  Sir Walter Scott provides some comments in his "History of Scotland":

'The Earl of March led back and dispersed his army, and ' afterward showed his real sentiments by acceding once more to the English interest. It was not, however, till the Scots lost the battle of Halidon Hill that this powerful earl and other barons on the eastern marches of Scotland, who had late and unwillingly exchanged their allegiance to England for that to the Bruce, were, now that the constraint imposed by his authority was removed, desirous of returning to their dependence on the English crown, which they found, probably, more nominal than that exacted by their closer neighbors, the Scottish monarchs.

The foreign invasion having thus succeeded, though made on a scale wonderfully in contrast with the extent of the means prepared, the domestic conspiracy was made manifest. The family of Comyn in all its branches, all who resented the proceedings against David de Brechin and the other conspirators condemned by the Black Parliament; all who had suffered injury, or what they termed such, in the disturbed and violent times, when so much evil was inflicted and suffered on both sides; all, finally, who nourished ambitious projects of rising under the new government, or had incurred neglect during the old one, joined in conducting Edward Baliol to Scone, where he was crowned king in their presence, when (grief and shame to tell 1) Sinclair, prelate of Dunkeld, whom the Bruce, on account of his gallantry, termed his own bishop, officiated at the ceremony of crowning a usurper, to the prejudice of his heroic patron's son.

However marvellous or mortifying this revolution certainly was, it was of a nature far more temporary than that which was effected by Edward I. after the battle of Falkirk. Then all seemed hopeless; and if some patriots still resisted, it was more in desperation than hope of success. Then, though there was a desire to destroy the English yoke, yet there was no agreement or common purpose as to the monarch or mode of government to be substituted. Now there was no room for hesitation. The sound part of the kingdom, which was by far the larger portion, was fixed in the unanimous and steady resolution to replace upon the throne the race of the deliverer of Scotland. And the faith of those who adopted this generous resolution, although not uniformly unchangeable, was yet, as already mentioned, constancy itself, contrasted with the vacillations of former times.

Edward Baliol, in temporary possession of the Scottish crown, speedily showed his unworthiness to wear it. He hastened to the border, to which Edward III. was now advancing, with an army, to claim the lion's share among the disinherited barons, to whom he had afforded private countenance in their undertaking, and whose ultimate success was finally to depend upon his aid. Unwarned by his father's evil fortune, Edward Baliol renewed in all form the subjugation of the kingdom of Scotland, took on himself the feudal fetters which even his father had found it too degrading to endure; and became bound, under an enormous penalty, to serve King Edward in his wars, he himself with two hundred, and his successors with one hundred men-atarms, and to extend and strengthen the English frontiers by the cession of Berwick, and lands to the annual amount of two thousand pounds.'

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Battle of Jena

'September 23 [1826].—Wrought in the morning, but only at reading and proofs. That cursed battle of Jena is like to cost me more time than it did Bonaparte to gain it...'

Walter Scott was writing his "The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte" at the time today's entry was entered into his Journal.  Jena was a victory for Napoleon over the Prussian forces of Frederick William III.  Napoleon's losses amounted to a couple thousand soldiers.  Prussian losses were ten times this amount.

Scott took about a year to complete this work, which was published in June 1827.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Theodore Hook

The author of Sayings and Doings, Theodore Hook, was born on September 22, 1788.  Hook also authored a life of Sir David Baird, titled "The Life of General, the Right Honorable Sir David Baird, Bart.".  Hook references Sir Walter Scott several times in this work, including to Scott "Life of Napoleon", often in a corrective mode. 

'We must here beg to call the reader's attention, not only to the last paragraph of the quotation from Lord Londonderry's work; but, as it appears a fitting opportunity for doing so, to an observation contained in the Life of Napoleon, by Sir Walter Scott.

Lord Londonderry speaks of " Baird's retrogression," as if the retreat, or the intention of retreating, had originated with him. The letter of General Moore, already given, dated December the 2nd, will sufficiently prove that Sir David Baird merely acted under the orders which thnt letter contains. So far as we are concerned, we think it our duty to refer to his lordship's narrative, in order to clear up a passage, which certainly admits of misconstruction.

With respect to the passage in Sir Walter's Scott's Life of Napoleon, we have only to call the attention of the reader to an extract from a letter written to Sir Walter by Colonel Sorell, and who subsequently published, with the same laudable view of correcting a mistake injurious to the fame and reputation of Sir David Baird, " Notes on the Campaign of 1808-9," from which we have already made several extracts.

At page 286 of the Life of Napoleon, this passage occurs.

" Yet he (Sir John Moore) finally ordered Sir David Baird, whose retreat upon Corufia was already commenced, again to occupy Astorga. It might," says Colonel Sorell, " naturally be inferred from this passage, that Sir David Baird had commenced his retreat on his own authority, and without instructions from his superior in command. This was not the case. Sir John Moore, immediately after the dispersion of the Spanish armies, ordered Sir David Baird to retire forthwith to Corufia: to send back all the stores which had been brought forward for the use of the army when united, and to embark and proceed by sea to join him at Lisbon: himself at the same time intending to retire on Portugal.

" The retreat was commenced accordingly, and to reconcile the minds of the population to this retrograde movement, an address to the Spanish people was published, containing assurances, that it was in no way connected with an intention of abandoning the cause, but solely for the purpose of concentrating the British forces on a point where their services might be more generally useful. Sir David Baird's head quarters had reached Villa Franca on the road to Corufia, when he received orders first to suspend his march, and afterwards to retrace his steps to Astorga, preparatory to a junction of the two divisions, with a view to the movement in advance, which afterwards took place."...'

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Boarding L'Heureux

On September 21, 1746, Prince Charles Edward Stuart boarded L'Heureux, a French frigate, escaping from Scotland after the failed '45.  Stuart was aided by Flora MacDonald, who disguised Stuart as her maid "Betty Burke" during part of his journey.

Walter Scott's novel "Waverley" is set in the Jacobite Rising of 1745, with Bonnie Prince Charlie as a central character.  From Waverley"

'The exchange of mutual protection between a Highland gentleman and an officer of rank in the king's service, together with the spirited manner in which the latter asserted his right to return the favour he had received, is literally true. The accident by a musket shot, and the heroic reply imputed to Flora, relate to a lady of rank not long deceased. And scarce a gentleman who was 'in hiding' after the battle of Culloden but could tell a tale of strange concealments and of wild and hair's breadth's capes as extraordinary as any which I have ascribed to my heroes. Of this, the escape of Charles Edward himself, as the most prominent, is the most striking example. The accounts of the battle of Preston and skirmish at Clifton are taken from the narrative of intelligent eye-witnesses, and corrected from the 'History of the Rebellion' by the late venerable author of 'Douglas.' The Lowland Scottish gentlemen and the subordinate characters are not given as individual portraits, but are drawn from the general habits of the period, of which I have witnessed some remnants in my younger days, and partly gathered from tradition.'

Monday, September 20, 2010

Owen Glendower

The last independent prince of Wales died on September 20, 1415.  Glendower served the future Henry IV of England while a young man.  Glendower led a Welsh revolt, beginning in 1400/01, which began when neighbor Reginald Grey, 3rd Baron Grey de Ruthyn, failed to notify Glendower of Henry's call to his Scottish campaign in 1400, then disingenuously charged Glendower with treason.  By the time Henry learned of the rebellion, he had difficulty quelling it.  Glendower gained control over most of Wales by 1405, in part due to an alliance with Henry Percy and Edmund Mortimer.  Welsh control lasted until 1408, when Henry's son, the future Henry V captured Aberystwith.  The circumstances of Glendower's death remain uncertain to this day.

Walter Scott references Owen Glendower, and the setting in 1400, in a publication titled "Scotland", by Sir Walter Scott, Dionysius Lardner, and Mayo Williamson Hazeltine:

'In 1400, Henry therefore summoned the whole military force of England to meet him at York, and published an arrogant manifesto, in which he vindicated the antiquated claim of supremacy, which had been so long in abeyance, and, assuming the tone of lord paramount, commanded the Scottish king, with his prelates and nobles, to meet him at Edinburgh and render homage. Of course no one attended upon that summons, excepting the new proselyte March, who met Henry at Newcastle, and was received to the English fealty. But if Henry's boast of subjecting Scotland was a bravado inconsistent with his usual wisdom, his warfare, on the contrary, was marked by a degree of forbearance and moderation too seldom the characteristic of an English invader. Penetrating as far as Edinburgh, he extended his especial protection to the canons of Holyrood, from whom his father, John of Gaunt, had experienced shelter, and in general spared religious houses.

The castle of Edinburgh was gallantly held out by the Duke of Roth say, aided by the skill and experience of his father-in-law, the Earl of Douglas. Albany commanded a large army, which, according to the ancient Scottish policy, hovered at some distance from the English host. The Soots had wisely resolved upon the defensive system of war which had so frequently saved Scotland. But they could not forbear some of the bravado of the time. The Duke of Rothsay wrote to Henry that, to avoid the effusion of Christian blood, he was willing to rest the national quarrel upon the event of a combat of one, two, or three nobles on every side. Henry laughed at this sally of youthful vivacity, and, in answer, expressed his wonder how Rothsay should think of saving Christian blood at the expense of shedding that of the nobility, who, it was to be hoped, were Christians as well as others. Albany also would have his gasconade. He sent a herald to Henry to say that, if he would stay in his position near Edinburgh for six days, he would do battle with him to the extremity. The English king gave his mantle and a chain of gold to the herald, in token that he joyfully accepted the challenge. But Albany had no purpose of keeping his word; and Henry found nothing was to be won by residing in a wasted country to beleaguer an impregnable rock. He raised the siege and retired into England, where the rebellion of Owen Glendower soon after broke out. A truce of twelve months and upward took place between the kingdoms.'

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lady Grange on St. Kilda

September 19, 1773 was a Sunday, as is the case this year.  Johnson and Boswell continue on their tour of the Western Isles.  They are in Skye, visiting with the McLeod's of Dunvegan, talking of happenings in the region:

'After dinner to-day, we talked of the extraordinary fact of Lady Grange's being sent to St Kilda, and confined there for several years, without any means of relief. [Footnote: The true story of this lady, which happened In this century, is as frightfully romantick as if it had been the fiction of a gloomy fancy. She was the wife of one of the Lords of Session in Scotland, a man of the very first blood of his country. For some mysterious reasons, which have never been discovered, she was seized and carried off in the dark, she knew not by whom, and by nightly journies was conveyed to the Highland shores, from whence she was transported by sea to the remote rock of St Kilda, where she remained, amongst its few wild inhabitants, a forlorn prisoner, but had a constant supply of provisions, and a woman to wait on her. No inquiry was made after her, till she at last found means to convey a letter to a confidential friend, by the daughter of a Catechist who concealed it in a clue of yarn. Information being thus obtained at Edinburgh, a ship was sent to bring her off; but intelligence of this being received, she was conveyed to M'Leod's island of Herries, where she died.

Rachel Chiesley was the wife of James Erskine, Lord Grange, who was a Jacobite sympathizer.  Chiesley, who may have been unbalanced for many years, felt her husband was being unfaithful to her, and she accused him publicly of acting treasonably against the Hanoverian government.  This occurred in late 1731, and when Chiesley booked a coach to London in January 1732, Erskine, afraid she might cause more trouble, had her kidnapped.  She was later transported to the Monarch Isles, where she lived for two years, then to St. Kilda from 1734 - 1740.  She was moved to the Isle of Skye in 1740, and died there in 1745.
Walter Scott leaves a reference to Lady Grange in his Journal: 'January 20 [1829].—...Also a letter to Mrs. Professor Sandford at Glasgow about reprinting Macaulay's History of St. Kilda, advising them to insert the history of Lady Grange who was kidnapped and banished thither.'

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Reading Austen

September 18 [1827].—Wrote five pages of the Tales [of a Grandfather]. Walked from Huntly Burn, having gone in the carriage. Smoked my cigar with Lockhart after dinner, and then whiled away the evening over one of Miss Austen's novels. There is a truth of painting in her writings which always delights me. They do not, it is true, get above the middle classes of society, but there she is inimitable.

Walter Scott enjoyed Jane Austen's novels, as this entry from his Journal indicates.  John Gibson Lockhart, in his "Memoirs of Sir Walter Scott" records being with Scott (1831), and his mentioning Miss Austen:

 '...Among some other talk, in returning, he [Scott] spoke with praise of Miss Ferrier as a novelist, and then with still higher praise of Miss Austen. Of the latter he said—" I find myself every now and then with one of her books in my hand. There's a finishing-off in some of her scenes that is really quite above everybody else...'

Friday, September 17, 2010


Jean Antoine, Marquis de Condorcet may be the first mathematician to grace the pages of the Daily Sir Walter.  The French philosopher published several papers on integral calculus between 1765 and 1772, adding, in 1784, a work on differential and integral calculus.  Condorcet was born in the Picardy region of France on September 17, 1743.

Condorcet became an important figure in the French Revolution, which Walter Scott covers in his "The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte".  He was elected to the Assembly in 1791, and served as its secretary.  One of the main tasks of the Assembly at this time, which Condorcet was actively engaged in, was the drafting of a constitution.  Politically, Condorcet became a Girodinist, on which Scott has a few words:

'In stern opposition to those admirers of the constitution, stood two bodies of unequal numbers, strength, and efficacy; of which the first was determined that the Revolution should never stop until the downfall of the monarchy, while the second entertained the equally resolved purpose of urging these changes still farther onwards, to the total destruction of all civil order, and the establishment of a government, in which terror and violence should be the ruling principles, to be wielded by the hands of the demagogues who dared to nourish a scheme so nefarious. We have indicated the existence of both these parties in the first, or Constituent Assembly; but in the second, called the Legislative, they assumed a more decided form, and appeared united towards the abolition of royalty as a common end, though certain, when it was attained, to dispute with each other the use which was to be made of the victory. In the words of Shakspeare, they were determined

" To lay this Angiers even with the ground,
 Then, after, tight who should be king of it."

The first of these parties took its most common denomination from the Gironde, a department which sent most of its members to the Convention. Condorcet, dear to science, was one of this party, and it was often named from Brissot, another of its principal leaders. Its most distinguished champions were men bred as lawyers in the south of France, who had, by mutual flattery, and the habit of living much together, acquired no small portion of that self-conceit and overweening opinion of each other's talents, which may be frequently found among small provincial associations for political or literary purposes. '

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Old Pretender Claims Throne

God bless the King!--God bless the Faith's defender!
God bless--No harm in blessing--the Pretender.
Who that Pretender is, and who that King,--
God bless us all!--is quite another thing.

From Walter Scott's "Red Gauntlet".  According to Edinburgh University's Walter Scott Archive, "Red Gauntlet" may contain more investment of Scott's personal life than any of his other novels.  The story revolves around a last attempt by James Francis Edward Stuart to claim the throne.  On September 16, 1701, James's father James II (England and Ireland and VII (Scotland) died.  The "Old Pretender" made his first claim to these thrones that day.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Poisoned in the Tower

"I remember it but too well, Mistress Margaret," said Ursula, after a moment's reflection, "and I would serve you in any thing in my condition; but to meddle with such high matters--I shall never forget poor Mistress Turner, my honoured patroness, peace be with her!--she had the ill-luck to meddle in the matter of Somerset and Overbury, and so the great earl and his lady slipt their necks out of the collar, and left her and some half-dozen others to suffer in their stead. I shall never forget the sight of her standing on the scaffold with the ruff round her pretty neck, all done up with the yellow starch which I had so often helped her to make, and that was so soon to give place to a rough hempen cord. Such a sight, sweetheart, will make one loath to meddle with matters that are too hot or heavy for their handling."

Sir Thomas Overbury is referenced above in the text from Walter Scott's "The Fortunes of Nigel".  Overbury was poisoned to death while confined in the Tower on September 15, 1613. 
Like Scott, Overbury was a poet and author.  Overbury's trip to the Tower was precipitated by his poem "A Wife".  The wife in question was one Frances Howard, who began an affair with Overbury's friend Robert Carr.  Overbury's poem on wifely virtues was believed by many to show Ms. Howard in a bad light.  The Howards and others were close to King James I, and in an effort to quell a growing dispute, James interceded to offer Overbury a post as ambassador to Russia.  When Overbury refused, James threw him into jail.  The notes to "The Fortunes of Nigel" contain more on the topic of Overbury's death.
Note VI. p. 98.--MRS. ANNE TURNER

Mrs. Anne Turner was a dame somewhat of the occupation of Mrs. Suddlechop in the text; that is, half milliner half procuress, and secret agent in all manner of proceedings. She was a trafficker in the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury, for which so many subordinate agents lost their lives, while, to the great scandal of justice, the Earl of Somerset and his Countess were suffered to escape, upon a threat of Somerset to make public some secret which nearly affected his master, King James. Mrs. Turner introduced into England a French custom of using yellow starch in getting up bands and cuffs, and, by Lord Coke's orders, she appeared in that fashion at the place of execution. She was the widow of a physician, and had been eminently beautiful, as appears from the description of her in the poem called Overbury's Vision. There was produced in court a parcel of dolls or puppets belonging to this lady, some naked, some dressed, and which she used for exhibiting fashions upon. But, greatly to the horror of the spectators, who accounted these figures to be magical devices, there was, on their being shown, "heard a crack from the scaffold, which caused great fear, tumult, and confusion, among the spectators and throughout the hall, every one fearing hurt, as if the devil had been present, and grown angry to have his workmanship showed to such as were not his own scholars." Compare this curious passage in the History of King James for the First Fourteen Years, 1651, with the Aulicus Coquinarius of Dr. Heylin. Both works are published in the Secret History of King James.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Battle of Homildon Hill

The Battle of Homildon Hill (or Humbleton Hill) took place on September 14, 1402.  This fight pitted Earl Archibald Douglas against Earl Henry Percy of Northumberland.  Douglas' Scots took ground on Holimdon Hill while Percy's English faced Douglas on Harehope Hill.  English archers carried the day, and Percy's forces were victorious that day.

The character of Archibald Douglas has inspired more than one bard.  He appears in Shakespeare's Henry IV, and Walter Scott includes him in his "The Fair Maid of Perth":

'But there remained a third party to be consulted, and that was no other than the tremendous Archibald Earl of Douglas, terrible alike from the extent of his lands, from the numerous offices and jurisdictions with which he was invested, and from his personal qualities of wisdom and valour, mingled with indomitable pride, and more than the feudal love of vengeance. The Earl was also nearly related to the throne, having married the eldest daughter of the reigning monarch.'


Monday, September 13, 2010

Battle of Aberdeen

'...It was owing to such causes, the slackness of the Lowland loyalists and the temporary desertion of his Highland followers, that Montrose found himself, even after the decisive victory of Tippermuir, in no condition to face the second army with which Argyle advanced upon him from the westward. In this emergency, supplying by velocity the want of strength, he moved suddenly from Perth to Dundee, and being refused admission into that town, fell northward upon Aberdeen, where he expected to be joined by the Gordons and other loyalists. But the zeal of these gentlemen was, for the time, effectually bridled by a large body of Covenanters, commanded by the Lord Burleigh, and supposed to amount to three thousand men. These Montrose boldly attacked with half their number. The battle was fought under the walls Of the city, and the resolute valour of Montrose's followers was again successful against every disadvantage...'

The text above is from Walter Scott's "A Legend of Montrose", and in a broad stroke treats the Battle of Aberdeen, which occurred on September 13, 1644.  In this battle, James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose, fighting as a royalist for Charles I of England, defeated Covenanter forces under John Balfour, Lord Burleigh.  The battle was part of the Wars of Three Kingdoms, which ran between 1644 - 1651.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Patrick Murray, Lord Elibank

Summer is not fully past at this time of year, and on Septermber 12, 1773 Samuel Johnson and James Boswell are touring Scotland's Western Isles.  As recorded in Boswell's "The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D", on this day, the weather provided the travellers an opportunity to sail from Raasay to Skye.  On reaching an inn at Portree, they find letters waiting for them, sent from Edinburgh by Patrick Murray, Lord Elibank. 

Dear Boswell,

I flew to Edinburgh the moment I heard of Mr Johnson's arrival; but so defective was my intelligence, that I came too late. It is but justice to believe, that I could never forgive myself, nor deserve to be forgiven by others, if I was to foil in any mark of respect to that very great genius.--I hold him in the highest veneration: for that very reason I was resolved to take no share in the merit, perhaps guilt, of inticing him to honour this country with a visit.--I could not persuade myself there was any thing in Scotland worthy to have a Summer of Samuel Johnson bestowed on it; but since he has done us that compliment, for heaven's sake inform me of your motions. I will attend them most religiously; and though I should regret to let Mr Johnson go a mile out of his way on my account, old as I am, I shall be glad to go five hundred miles to enjoy a day of his company. Have the charity to send a council-post [Footnote: A term in Scotland for a special messenger, such as was formerly sent with dispatches by the lords of the council.] with intelligence; the post does not suit us in the country. At any rate write to me. I will attend you in the north, when I shall know where to find you.

I am,

My dear Boswell,
Your sincerely
Obedient humble servant,


August 21st, 1773.

The letter to Dr Johnson was in these words:

Dear Sir,

I was to have kissed your hands at Edinburgh, the moment I heard of you; but you were gone. I hope my friend Boswell will inform me of your motions. It will be cruel to deprive me an instant of the honour of attending you. As I value you more than any King in Christendom, I will perform that duty with infinitely greater alacrity than any courtier. I can contribute but little to your entertainment; but, my sincere esteem for you gives me some tide to the opportunity of expressing it.
I dare say you are by this time sensible that things are pretty much the same, as when Buchanan complained of being born solo et seculo inerudito. Let me hear of you, and be persuaded that none of your admirers is more sincerely devoted to you, than,

Dear Sir,
Your most obedient,
And most humble servant,


According to Boswell, Johnson said of Murray: " Lord Elibank has read a great deal. It is true, I can find in books all that he has read; but he has a great deal of what is in books, proved by the test of real life."

Patrick Murray, a figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, died at Ballencrieff Castle on August 3, 1778. Walter Scott did not know him.  Murray was contemporary with, and often associated with David Hume.  Among Murray's written works are: Essays on Paper Money, Banking, etc. (1755) Thoughts on Money, Circulation, and Paper Currency (1758), Inquiry into the Origin and Consequence of the Public Debts (1758/9), Queries Relating to the Proposed Plan for Altering Entails in Scotland (1765), Letter to Lord Hailes on his Remarks on the History of Scotland (1773) and Considerations on the Present State of the Peerage of Scotland (1774).

Sir Walter Scott did know other Elibanks. Patrick himself had no children, and the Elibank title passed to more than one Murray line.  Scott knew Peter Murray, and mentions him in his Journal:

February 26 (1826) ...Peter Murray, son of the clever Lord Elibank, called and sat half-an-hour—an old friend, and who, from the peculiarity and originality of his genius, is one of the most entertaining companions I have ever known. But I must finish Malachi.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Battle of Stirling Bridge

On September 11, 1297, Scots forces numbering approximately 2,000 under William Wallace and Andrew Moray defeated an English force 5-6 times their size.  The English were commanded by John de Warenne and Hugh de Cressingham.  Cressingham led his cavalry across the bridge that morning, and into the waiting arms of the Scottish soldiers. Scots troops then took control of the bridge, and routed the mounted knights.  Cressingham and Moray did not survive that day.  Wallace and Warenne did, and met again at the Battle of Falkirk.

Walter Scott renders his version of this event in his "Tales of a Grandfather":

'...Thus Wallace's party grew daily stronger and stronger, and many of the Scottish nobles joined with him. Among these was Sir William Douglas, the Lord of Douglasdale, and the head of a great family often mentioned in Scottish history. There was also Sir John the Grahame, who became Wallace's bosom friend and greatest confident. Many of these great noblemen, however, deserted the cause of the country on the approach of John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey, the English governor, at the head of a numerous and well-appointed army. They thought that Wallace would be unable to withstand the attack of so many disciplined soldiers, and hastened to submit themselves to the English, for fear of losing their estates. Wallace, however, remained undismayed, and at the head of a considerable army. He had taken up his camp upon the northern side of the river Forth, near the town of Stirling. The river was there crossed by a long wooden bridge, about a mile above the spot where the present bridge is situated.

The English general approached the banks of the river on the southern side. He sent two clergymen to offer a pardon to Wallace and his followers, on condition that they should lay down their arms. But such was not the purpose of the high-minded champion of Scotland.

"Go back to Warenne," said Wallace, " and tell him we value not the pardon of the King of England. We are not here for the purpose of treating of peace, but of abiding battle, and restoring freedom to our country. Let the English come on;—we defy them to their very beards!"

The English, upon hearing this haughty answer, called loudly to be led to the attack. The Earl of Surrey hesitated, for he was a skilful soldier, and he saw that, to approach the Scottish army, his troops must pass over the long, narrow wooden bridge; so that those who should gel over first might be attacked by Wallace with all his forces, before those who remained behind could possibly come to their assistance. He therefore inclined to delay the battle. But Cressingham the Treasurer, who was ignorant and presumptuous, insisted that it was their duty to fight, and put an end to the war at once; and Surrey gave way to his opinion, although Cressingham, being a churchman, could not be so good a judge of what was fitting as he himself, an experienced officer.

The English army began to cross the bridge, Cressingham leading the van, or foremost division of the army; for, in those military days, even clergymen wore armour and fought in battle. That took place which Surrey had foreseen. Wallace suffered a considerable part of the English army to pass the bridge, without offering any opposition; but when about one-half were over, and the bridge was crowded with those who were following, he charged those who had crossed' with his whole strength, slew a very great number, and drove the rest into the river Forth,where the greater part were drowned. The remainder of the English army, who were left on the southern bank of the river, fled in great confusion, having first set fire to the wooden bridge, that the Scots might not pursue them. Cressingham was killed in the very beginning of the battle; and the Scots detested him so much, that they flayed the skin from his dead body, and kept pieces of it, in memory of the revenge they had taken upon the English Treasurer. Some say they made saddle-girths of this same skin; a purpose for which I do not think it could be very fit. It must be owned to have been a dishonourable thing of the Scots to insult thus the dead body of their enemy, and shows that they must have been then a ferocious and barbarous people.

The remains of Surrey's great army fled out of Scotland after this defeat; and the Scots, taking arms on all sides, attacked the castles in which the English soldiers continued to shelter themselves, and took most of them by force or stratagem. Many wonderful stories are told of Wallace's exploits on these occasions; some of which are no doubt true, while others are either invented, or very much exaggerated. It seems certain, however, that he defeated the English in several combats, chased fliem almost entirely out of Scotland, regained the towns and castles of which they had possessed themselves, and recovered for a time the complete freedom of the country. He even marched into England, and laid Cumberland and Northumberland waste, where the Scottish soldiers, in revenge for the mischief which the English had done in their country, committed great cruelties. Wallace did not approve of their killing the people who were not in arms, and he endeavoured to protect the clergymen and others, who were not able to defend themselves. " Remain with me," he said to the priests of Hexham, a large town in Northumberland, " for I cannot protect you from my soldiers when you are out of my presence."—The troops who followed Wallace received no pay, because he had no money to give them ; and that was one great reason why he could not keep them under restraint, or prevent their doing much harm to the defenceless country people. He remained in England more than three weeks, and did a great deal of mischief to the country...'

Friday, September 10, 2010

Battle of Pinkie Cleugh

"So please your noble fatherhood," answered Dame Glendinning with a deep curtsy, "I should know somewhat of archery to my cost, seeing my husband--God assoilzie him!--was slain in the field of Pinkie with an arrow-shot, while he was fighting under the Kirk's banner, as became a liege vassal of the Halidome. He was a valiant man, please your reverence, and an honest; and saving that he loved a bit of venison, and shifted for his living at a time as Border-men will sometimes do, I wot not of sin that he did. And yet, though I have paid for mass after mass to the matter of a forty shilling, besides a quarter of wheat and four firlocks of rye, I can have no assurance yet that he has been delivered from purgatory."

The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh referenced in Walter Scott's "The Monastery" (above), occurred on September 10, 1547.  Pinkie Cleugh was part of the War of the Rough Wooing, which phrase Scott himself coined.

The object of these battles, five year old Mary, Queen of Scots' hand in marriage to Henry VIII's son Edward VI, failed to materialize, as Mary escaped to France.  Pinkie Cleugh is remembered in part for being the first instance of the use of British naval artillery in a land battle.  Despite a larger force, the Scottish death toll was in the thousands, while numbering only hundreds for the English.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Battle of Flodden Field

Walter Scott's poem "Marmion" is set at the Battle of Flodden Field, which took place on September 9, 1513.  Scott's Lord Marmion is a favorite of England's Henry VIII, against whose army James IV of Scotland fought.  James and most of his nobles were killed at Flodden Field, a disastrous event in Scottish history.


And why stands Scotland idly now,
Dark Flodden! on thy airy brow,
Since England gains the pass the while,
And struggles through the deep defile?
What checks the fiery soul of James?
Why sits that champion of the dames
Inactive on his steed,
And sees, between him and his land,
Between him and Tweed's southern strand,
His host Lord Surrey lead?
What 'vails the vain knight-errant's brand?--
O, Douglas, for thy leading wand!
Fierce Randolph, for thy speed!
O for one hour of Wallace wight,
Or well-skill'd Bruce, to rule the fight,
And cry--'Saint Andrew and our right!'
Another sight had seen that morn,
From Fate's dark book a leaf been torn,
And Flodden had been Bannockbourne!--
The precious hour has pass'd in vain,
And England's host has gain'd the plain;
Wheeling their march, and circling still,
Around the base of Flodden hill.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Amy Robsart

'He left, therefore, the Countess's door unsecured on the outside, and, under the eye of Varney, withdrew the supports which sustained the falling trap, which, therefore, kept its level position merely by a slight adhesion. They withdrew to wait the issue on the ground-floor adjoining; but they waited long in vain. At length Varney, after walking long to and fro, with his face muffled in his cloak, threw it suddenly back and exclaimed, "Surely never was a woman fool enough to neglect so fair an opportunity of escape!"
"Perhaps she is resolved," said Foster, "to await her husband's return."

"True!--most true!" said Varney, rushing out; "I had not thought of that before."

In less than two minutes, Foster, who remained behind, heard the tread of a horse in the courtyard, and then a whistle similar to that which was the Earl's usual signal. The instant after the door of the Countess's chamber opened, and in the same moment the trap-door gave way. There was a rushing sound--a heavy fall--a faint groan--and all was over...'

The real-life Amy Robsart did die a suspicious death, as portrayed in Walter Scott's "Kenilworth" (text above), and was found at the bottom of a flight of stairs at Cumnor Place.  In 1558, Amy's husband Robert Dudley joined Elizabeth I's court.  Elizabeth and Dudley were close, and possibly intimate.  Amy may have felt betrayed, and become despondent.  Many death scenarios are possible, none proven.  In Scott's novel, Richard Varney, Dudley's vassal, is the villain.  Amy Robsart died on September 8, 1560.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sir Simon Fraser Executed

A knight known for his courage and chivalry, who fought with William Wallace and Robert the Bruce in the Wars of Scottish Independence, ended life with his head on a pole in London next to Wallace's.  On September 7, 1306, Fraser was hanged, drawn, and quartered and his head placed on a spike on London Bridge.  Wallace's head remained from his execution on August 23 of that year.

Sir Walter Scott includes this bit of history on Simon Fraser in the notes to Canto 2 of his "The Lord of the Isles":

'The fate of Sir Simon Fraser, or Frizel, ancestor of the family of Lovat, is dwelt upon at great length, and with savage exultation, by the English historians. This knight, who was renowned for personal gallantry and high deeds of chivalry, was also made prisoner, after a gallant defence, in the battle of Methven. Some stanzas of a ballad of the times, which, for the sake of rendering it intelligible, I have translated out of its rude orthography, give minute particulars of his fate. It was written immediately at the period, for it mentions the Earl of Athole as not yet in custody. It was first published by the indefatigable Mr Ritson, but with so many contractions and peculiarities of character, as to render it illegible, excepting by antiquaries.

This was before Saint Bartholomew's mass.
That Frizel was y-taken, were it more other less,
To Sir Thomas of Multoo, gentil baron and free,
And to Sir John Jose be-take tho was he

To hand

He was y-fettered wele

Both with iron and steel

To bringen to Scotland...'

Monday, September 6, 2010

Prince Rupert of the Rhine

Samuel Pepys' diary entry for September 6, 1664 includes references to Prince Rupert, Cromwell,  and Cavaliers.  Prince Rupert was the leading military commander for the Royalists in the English Civil Wars.  Rupert was the grandson of James I of England, through James' daughter Elizabeth.  Rupert learned about the use of cavalry in war while imprisoned, having been captured by forces of the Holy Roman Emperor, while fighting with Dutch forces.  After his release (1642), he went to England, fighting for Charles I.  His efforts were notably felt at the Battle of Naseby, where Rupert led an attack against Parliamentarian forces.  Charles and Rupert's troops were less disciplined than Cromwell's and Naseby ended in defeat the Royalists.



6th. ... This day Mr. Coventry did tell us how the Duke did receive the Dutch Embassador the other day; by telling him that, whereas they think us in jest, he believes that the Prince (Rupert) which goes in this fleete to Guinny will soon tell them that we are in earnest, and that he himself will do the like here, in the head of the fleete here at home, and that for the meschants, which he told the Duke there were in England, which did hope to do themselves good by the King's being at warr, says he, the English have ever united all this private difference to attend foraigne, and that Cromwell, notwithstanding the meschants in his time, which were the Cavaliers, did never find them interrupt him in his foraigne businesses, and that he did not doubt but to live to see the Dutch as fearfull of provoking the English, under the government of a King, as he remembers them to have
been under that of a Coquin. I writ all this story to my Lord Sandwich tonight into the Downes, it being very good and true, word for word from Mr. Coventry to-day.

Prince Rupert is included in Walter Scott's "Peveril of the Peak":

Upon these visits, it was with great pleasure he received the intelligence, that Lady Peveril had shown much kindness to Mrs. Bridgenorth, and had actually given her and her family shelter in Martindale Castle, when Moultrassie Hall was threatened with pillage by a body of Prince Rupert's ill-disciplined Cavaliers. This acquaintance had been matured by frequent walks together, which the vicinity of their places of residence suffered the Lady Peveril to have with Mrs. Bridgenorth, who deemed herself much honoured in being thus admitted into the society of so distinguished a lady.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Robert Fergusson

The poet Robert Fergusson was born on September 5, 1750.  Fergusson, led a raucous life and short life, dying three years after Walter Scott was born (died Oct 16, 1774), at the age of 24.  The circumstances of his death are unfortunate.  He died while under medical care after receiving a head injury. Nonetheless, Fergusson, who wrote in both Scottish and English dialects, left a mark on Scottish life and literature, notably influencing Robert Burns' work.

Fergusson's works are collected in  "The Works of Robert Fergusson", by Robert Fergusson and Alexander Balloch Grosart, which was published in 1857.  Brosart includes several references to Walter Scott in this collection, as in the following from a poem titled "Mutual Complaint of Plainstanes and Causey" (Scottish dialect):


I dinna care a single jot,
Tho' summon'd by a shelly-coat,
Sac leally I'll propone defences,
As get ye flung for my expcnces;
Your libel I'll impugn verbatim,
And hae a magnum damnum datum;
For tho' frae Arthur's seat I sprang,
And am in constitution strang,
Wad it no fret the hardest stane
Beneath the Luckenbooths l to grane ?
Tho' magistrates the Cross 2 discard,
It makes na whan they leave the Guard, 3

1 Where Ramsay had his 'Shop' in which the first circulating library was established, and from which issued his peerless Pastoral and subsequently Burns's Poems, and many of the most celebrated works of the last century, from the press of Creech. The Luckenbooths consisted of a series of tenements which rose nearly to the height of the adjacent houses, built within a few yards of the church of St. Giles headed at their western extremity by the Old Tolbooth of Edinburgh.— Vide Arnot—Wilson—Cliambers.

2 The market-cross had been removed in 1752, as touchingly and with levin-fire lamented by Sir Walter Scott, at whose seat of Abbotsford the ornamental stones of it are still preserved.

Dun Edin's Cross, a pillar'd stone,
Rose on a turret octagon ;
But now is razed that monument,
Whence royal edict rang,
And voice of Scotland's law was sent
In glorious trumpet clang.
0 ! be his tomb as lead to lead,
Upon its dull destroyer's head!—
A minstrel's malison is said.

Marmion, Canto V. v. 25.

3 " The Guard-house was a long, low, ugly building (removed in 1787-8) which to a fanciful imagination might have suggested the idea of a long black snail crawling up the middle of the High Street, and deforming its beautiful esplanade."—Scott:—Heart of Midlothian, c. vi. A portrait of the Guard-house forms one of the curious Collection by Kay, No. CLXX. Edin. 2 vols. 4to.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Alexander III of Scotland

On September 4, 1241, the future King Alexander III of Scotland was born at Roxburgh.  His coronation took place eight years later, on Moot Hill, inside Scone Abbey.  The Isle of Man and the Western Isles became Scottish under Alexander's reign, by the Treaty of Perth (1266) with Norway's Magnus VI.  Alexander made Angus MacDonald first Lord of the Isles.

Alexander's reign was a strong one.  He married Henry III of England's daughter Margaret, but refused Henry the homage he demanded.  His death without a living male heir left a vacumn that enable Henry's son Edward I of England to embark on his acquisitive efforts in Scotland.

Walter Scott devotes substantial time to Alexander's reign, including this passage, from "Tales of a Grandfather":


Death of Alexander III. of Scotland, and Usurpation of Edward I. of England*

Seven kings of Scotland, omitting one or two temporary occupants of the throne, had reigned in succession, after Malcolm Canmore, the son of Duncan, who recovered the kingdom from Macbeth. Their reigns occupied a period of nearly two hundred years. Some of them were very able men; all of them were well-disposed, good sovereigns, and inclined to discharge their duty towards their subjects. They made good laws; and, considering the barbarous and ignorant times they lived in, they appear to have been men as deserving of praise as any race of kings who reigned in Europe during that period. Alexander, the third of that name, and the last of these seven princes, was an excellent sovereign. He married, as I told you in the last chapter, Margaret, daughter of Henry III. of England ; but unhappily all the children who were born of that marriage died before their father. After the death of Queen Margaret, Alexander married another wife; but he did not live to have any family by her. As he was riding in the dusk of the evening, along the sea-coast of Fife, betwixt Burntisland and Kinghorn, he approached too near the brink of the precipice, and his horse starting or stumbling, he was thrown over the rock, and killed on the spot. It is now no less than five hundred and forty-two years since Alexander's death, yet the people of the country still point out the very spot where it happened, and which is called the King's Crag...'

Friday, September 3, 2010

Composed upon Westminster Bridge

On September 3, 1802, William Wordsworth composed his sonnet “Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802”:

Earth hath not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! The very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Walter Scott knew Wordsworth well, and seems fond of him, from several entries in his journal. For example, on January 2, 1827:

‘Talking of Wordsworth, he told Anne and me a story, the object of which was to show that Crabbe had not imagination. He, Sir George Beaumont, and Wordsworth were sitting together in Murray the bookseller's
back-room. Sir George, after sealing a letter, blew out the candle, which had enabled him to do so, and, exchanging a look with Wordsworth, began to admire in silence the undulating thread of smoke which slowly arose from the expiring wick, when Crabbe put on the extinguisher. Anne laughed at the instance, and inquired if the taper was wax, and being answered in the negative, seemed to think that there was no call on Mr. Crabbe to sacrifice his sense of smell to their admiration of beautiful and evanescent forms. In two other men I should have said "this is affectations," with Sir Hugh Evans; but Sir George is the man in the world most void of affectation; and then he is an exquisite painter, and no doubt saw where the _incident_ would have succeeded in painting. The error is not in you yourself receiving deep impressions from slight hints, but in supposing that precisely the same sort of impression must arise in the mind of men otherwise of kindred feeling, or that the commonplace folks of the world can derive such inductions at any time or under any circumstances.’

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Great Fire of London

'The next morning found Nigel Olifaunt, the young Lord of Glenvarloch, seated, sad and solitary, in his little apartment, in the mansion of John Christie, the ship-chandler; which that honest tradesman, in gratitude perhaps to the profession from which he derived his chief support, appeared to have constructed as nearly as possible upon the plan of a ship's cabin.

It was situated near to Paul's Wharf, at the end of one of those intricate and narrow lanes, which, until that part of the city was swept away by the Great Fire in 1666, constituted an extraordinary labyrinth of small, dark, damp, and unwholesome streets and alleys, in one corner or other of which the plague was then as surely found lurking, as in the obscure corners of  Constantinople in our own time. But John Christie's house looked out upon the river, and had the advantage, therefore, of free air, impregnated, however, with the odoriferous fumes of the articles in which the ship-chandler dealt, with the odour of pitch, and the natural scent of the ooze and sludge left by the reflux of the tide.'

The Great Fire of London, mentioned in the text above from Walter Scott's "The Fortunes of Nigel", began on September 2, 1666.  St. Paul's Cathedral was among its victims.  Diarist Samuel Pepys recorded the best known eyewitness account of the fire.  It is a lengthy description, beginning with...

'September 1666.

2nd. Some of our mayds sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast to-day, Jane called us up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose and slipped on my nightgowne, and went to her window, and thought it to be on the backside of Marke-lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off; and so went to bed again and to sleep. About seven rose again to dress myself, and there looked out at the window, and saw the fire not so much as it was and further off. So to my closett to set things to rights after yesterday's cleaning. By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down to-night by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish-street, by London Bridge. ..'

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Saint Giles

'Never did hours pass so heavily. Butler shifted his place and enlarged his circle to while away the time, and heard the huge bell of St. Giles's toll each successive hour in swelling tones, which were instantly attested by those of the other steeples in succession. He had heard seven struck in this manner, when he began to think he might venture to approach nearer to St. Leonard's, from which he was still a mile distant. Accordingly he descended from his lofty station as low as the bottom of the valley, which divides Salisbury Crags from those small rocks which take their name from Saint Leonard. It is, as many of my readers may know, a deep, wild, grassy valley, scattered with huge rocks and fragments which have descended from the cliffs and steep ascent to the east.'

Saint Giles is the patron saint of Edinburgh, and was a well known part of Walter Scott's life.  The text above, which employs St. Giles Cathedral, is from the "The Heart of Midlothian".
Giles, or Aegidius, an Athenian, migrated to Gaul, ultimately founding a Benedictine abbey, St. Gilles-du-Gard.  He is known for having lived a simple contemplative life, having at one point been nourished only by the milk of a red deer.  Giles is especially important for crippled people, died on September 1, 714AD.