Thursday, June 30, 2011

Orange Invitation

There may have been a Glorious Revolution without him, but William of Orange was the man who took the helm in 1688, replacing the Stuart king James II as King of England.  William was invited into England by a letter delivered on June 30, 1688, and landed at Torbay on November 15th.

Without the Glorious Revolution, Walter Scott's characters the Ravenswoods, in "The Bride of Lammermoor", would not have lost legal right to their estate:

'A day was accordingly fixed for holding a grand palaver at Wolf's Hope on the subject of Caleb's requisitions, and he was invited to attend at the hamlet for that purpose. 

He went with open hands and empty stomach, trusting to fill the one on his master's account and the other on his own score, at the expense of the feuars of Wolf's Hope. But, death to his hopes! as he entered the eastern end of the straggling village, the awful form of Davie Dingwall, a sly, dry, hard-fisted, shrewd country attorney, who had already acted against the family of Ravenswood, and was a principal agent of Sir William Ashton, trotted in at the western extremity, bestriding a leathern portmanteau stuffed with the feu-charters of the hamlet, and hoping he had not kept Mr. Balderstone waiting, "as he was instructed and fully empowered to pay or receive, compound or compensate, and, in fine, to age as accords respecting all mutual and unsettled claims whatsoever, belonging or competent to the Honourable Edgar Ravenswood, commonly called the Master of Ravenswood——"...'

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Feast of Saint Peter

June 29th is the Feast of Saint Peter the Apostle.  And in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican, lie the remains of the Stuart kings James III, James VIII, Henry’s IX and I, and Charles III.  Poet Richard Monckton Milnes, who was born about 38 years after Walter Scott, wrote  a poem bringing Scott, the Stuarts, and St. Peter’s together:

Sir Walter Scott At The Tomb Of The Stuarts In St. Peter’s

Eve's tinted shadows slowly fill the fane
Where Art has taken almost Nature's room,
While still two objects clear in light remain,
An alien pilgrim at an alien tomb.--

--A sculptured tomb of regal heads discrown'd,
Of one heart--worshipped, fancy--haunted, name,
Once loud on earth, but now scarce else renown'd
Than as the offspring of that stranger's fame.

There lie the Stuarts!--There lingers Walter Scott!
Strange congress of illustrious thoughts and things!
A plain old moral, still too oft forgot,--
The power of Genius and the fall of Kings.

The curse on lawless Will high--planted there,
A beacon to the world, shines not for him;
He is with those who felt their life was sere,
When the full light of loyalty grew dim.

He rests his chin upon a sturdy staff,
Historic as that sceptre, theirs no more;
His gaze is fixed; his thirsty heart can quaff,
For a short hour, the spirit--draughts of yore.

Each figure in its pictured place is seen,
Each fancied shape his actual vision fills,
From the long--pining, death--delivered, Queen,
To the worn Outlaw of the heathery hills.

O grace of life, which shame could never mar!
O dignity, that circumstance defied!
Pure is the neck that wears the deathly scar,
And sorrow has baptised the front of pride.

But purpled mantle, and blood--crimson'd shroud,
Exiles to suffer and returns to woo,
Are gone, like dreams by daylight disallow'd;
And their historian,--he is sinking too!

A few more moments and that labouring brow
Cold as those royal busts and calm will lie;
And, as on them his thoughts are resting now,
His marbled form will meet the attentive eye.

Thus, face to face, the dying and the dead,
Bound in one solemn ever--living bond,
Communed; and I was sad that ancient head
Ever should pass those holy walls beyond.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ely and Littleport Riots

'At the town of Littleport in the Isle of Ely, (the peculiarly distressed situation of which district we have already detailed,) the popular discontent broke out at last in a shape of alarm which might at length entitle it to the name of an insurrection. The judicious conduct of Sir Henry Dudly, Bart, (who is both_ a clergymen and a magistrate) was mainly instrumental in putting an end to the scene of outrage which had thus commenced. The most resolute offenders were selected for punishment, and several of them underwent the last severity of the law by a sentence -of a Court of Special Commission, which sat immediately afterwards at Ely. '

The text above comes from the Edinburgh Annual Register, volume 9 of 1816, which Walter Scott edited.  The Ely and Littleport riots began on May 22, 1816, lasting into the next day.  Sir Henry Dudly led the militia in subduing the rioters, capturing eight-two of them.  On June 28, 1816, five of these were hanged.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lord Chesterfield

'On Sunday, June 27 [1784], I found him rather better...We this day dined at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, with General Paoli, Lord Eliot, (formerly Mr. Eliot, of Port Eliot,) Dr. Beattie, and some other company. Talking of Lord Chesterfield;--JOHNSON. 'His manner was exquisitely elegant, and he had more knowledge than I expected.' BOSWELL. 'Did you find, Sir, his conversation to be of a superiour style?' JOHNSON. 'Sir, in the conversation which I had with him I had the best right to superiority, for it was upon philology and strange that a man who shewed he had so much affection for his son as Lord Chesterfield did, by writing so many long and anxious letters to him, almost all of them when he was Secretary of State, which certainly was a proof of great goodness of disposition, should endeavour to make his son a rascal. His Lordship told us, that Foote had intended to bring on the stage a father who had thus tutored his son, and to shew the son an honest man to every one else, but practising his father's maxims upon him, and cheating him. JOHNSON. 'I am much pleased with this design; but I think there was no occasion to make the son honest at all. No; he should be a consummate rogue: the contrast between honesty and knavery would be the stronger. It should be contrived so that the father should be the only sufferer by the son's villainy, and thus there would be poetical justice.'...'

One gets a quick picture of Lord Chesterfield and his son from this snippet of conversation from Boswell's "Life of Johnson".  It is the son that is referred to in Sir Walter Scott's "St. Ronan's Well" (his own son being less than 10 at the time the novel is set - probably 1809-1812 according to E.U.'s Walter Scott archive).  St. Ronan's Well was Scott's unsuccessful foray into the realm of domestic manners:

'Shall I go with you, my dear?" said Lady Penelope.
"No—I have too great a soul for that—I think some of them are lions only as far as the hide is concerned."
"But why would you go so soon, Clara?"
"Because my errand is finished—have I not invited you and yours? and would not Lord Chesterfield himself allow I have done the polite thing?"

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dragon of Wantley

June 26 [1830].—Miss Kemble and her father breakfasted here, with Sir Adam and Lady Ferguson. I like the young lady very much, respecting both her talents and the use she has made of them. She seems merry, unaffected, and good-humoured. She said she did not like the apathy of the Scottish audiences, who are certain not to give applause upon credit. I went to the Court, but soon returned; a bad cold in my head makes me cough and sneeze like the Dragon of Wantley.

In Walter Scott's journal  entry of June 26, 1830, he refers to the dragon from an old poem.  The dragon lived in a cave in Wharncliffe Crags, and Scott introduces the dragon's turf in "Ivanhoe":

'In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster. The remains of this extensive wood are still to be seen at the noble seats of Wentworth, of Warncliffe Park, and around Rotherham. Here haunted of yore the fabulous Dragon of Wantley; here were fought many of the most desperate battles during the Civil Wars of the Roses; and here also flourished in ancient times those bands of gallant outlaws, whose deeds have been rendered so popular in English song...'

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Inside the Wallace Monument

Rampant Scotland lists June 25, 1887 as the date on which the Wallace Monument was unveiled in Stirling.  John Rochead served as architect for the monument, and David Stevenson sculpted the statue of Wallace.  Stevenson at one point worked with Sir John Steell who sculpted the statue of Sir Walter Scott in Edinburgh's  Walter Scott Monument.  One of Stevenson's works is in the Scott Monument as well; the statue of James VI. The Wallace Monument houses a bust of Sir Walter Scott, and several others, along with the statue of Wallace.  The Scott work was also sculpted by Stevenson, and was placed in the hall in 1884.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Feast of Saint John the Baptist

June 24th is the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, celebrating his birth (as opposed to his beheading).  On this quarter day, we turn to Walter Scott's poem "Eve of St. John":

The Eve of St. John

The baron of Smaylho'me rose with day,
He spurr'd his courser on,
Without stop or stay, down the rocky way,
That leads to Brotherstone.

He went not with the bold Buccleuch,
His banner broad to rear;
He went not 'gainst the English yew,
To lift the Scottish spear.

Yet his plate-jack was braced, and his helmet was laced,
And his vaunt-brace of proof he wore;
At his saddle-gerthe was a good steel sperthe,
Full ten pound weight and more.

The Baron return'd in three days' space,
And his looks were sad and sour;
And weary was his courser's pace,
As he reach'd his rocky tower.

He came not from where Ancram Moor
Ran red with English blood;
Where the Douglas true, and the bold Buccleuch,
'Gainst keen Lord Evers stood.

Yet was his helmet hack'd and hew'd,
His acton pierced and tore,
His axe and his dagger with blood inbrued,-
But it was not English gore.

He lighted at the Chapellage,
He held him close and still;
And he whistled thrice for his little foot-page,
His name was English Will.
'Come thou hither, my little foot-page,
Come hither to my knee;
Though thou art young, and tender of age,
I think thou art true to me.

'Come, tell me all that thou hast seen,
And look thou tell me true!
Since I from Smaylho'me tower have been,
What did thy lady do?'-

'My lady, each night, sought the lonely light,
That burns on the wild Watchfold;
For, from height to height, the beacons bright
Of the English foemen told.

'The bittern clamour'd from the moss,
The wind blew loud and shrill;
Yet the craggy pathway she did cross
To the eiry Beacon Hill.

'I watch'd her steps, and silent came
Where she sat her on a stone;-
No watchman stood by the dreary flame,
It burned all alone.

'The second night I kept her in sight,
Till to the fire she came,
And, by Mary's might! an Armed Knight
Stood by the lonely flame.

'And many a word that warlike lord
Did speak to my lady there:
But the rain fell fast, and loud blew the blast,
And I heard not what they were.

'The third night there the sky was fair,
And the mountain-blast was still,
As again I watch'd  the secret pair,
On the lonesome Beacon Hill.

'And I heard her name the midnight hour,
And name this holy eve;
And say, 'Come this night to thy lady's bower;
Ask no bold Baron's leave.

'He lifts his spear with the bold Buccleuch;
His lady is all alone;
The door she'll undo, to her knight so true,
On the eve of good St. John.'-

''I cannot come; I must not come;
I dare not come to thee;
On the eve of St. John I must wander alone:
In thy bower I may not be.'-

''Now, out on thee, faint-hearted knight!
Thou shouldst not say me nay;
For the eve is sweet, and when lovers meet,
Is worth the whole summer's day.

''And I'll chain the blood-hound, and the warder shall not sound,
And rushes shall be strew'd on the stair;
So, by the black rood-stone, and by Holy St. John,
I conjure thee, my love, to be there!'-

''Though the blood-hound be mute, and the rush beneath my foot,
And the warder his bugle should not blow,
Yet there sleepeth a priest in the chamber to the east,
And my footstep he would know.'-

''O fear not the priest, who sleepeth to the east!
For to Dryburgh the way he has ta'en;
And there to say mass, till three days do pass,
For the soul of a knight that is slayne.'-

'He turn'd him around, and grimly he frown'd;
Then he laugh'd right scornfully-
'He who says the mass-rite for the soul of that knight,
May as well say mass for me:

''At the lone midnight hour, when bad spirits have power,
In thy chamber will I be.'-
With that he was gone, and my lady left alone,
And no more did I see.'

Then changed, I trow, was that bold Baron's brow,
From the dark to the blood-red high;
'Now, tell me the mien of the knight thou hast seen,
For, by Mary, he shall die!'-

'His arms shone full bright, in the beacon's red light;
His plume it was scarlet and blue;
On his shield was a hound, in a silver leash bound,
And his crest was a branch of the yew.'-

'Thou liest, thou liest, thou little foot-page,
Loud dost thou lie to me!
For that knight is cold, and low laid in the mould,
All under the Eildon-tree.'-

'Yet hear but my word, my noble lord!
For I heard her name his name;
And that lady bright, she called the knight
Sir Richard of Coldinghame.'-

The bold Baron's brow then changed, I trow,
From high blood-red to pale -
'The grave is deep and dark - and the corpse is stiff and stark-
So I may not trust thy tale.

'Where fair Tweed flows round holy Melrose,
And Eildon slopes to the plain,
Full three nights ago, by some secret foe,
That gay gallant was slain.

'The varying light deceived thy sight,
And the wild winds drown'd the name;
For the Dryburgh bells ring, and the white monks do sing,
For Sir Richard of Coldinghame!'

He pass'd the court-gate, and he oped the tower-gate,
And he mounted the narow stair,
To the bartizan-seat, where, with maids that on her wait,
He found his lady fair.

That lady sat in mournful mood;
Look'd over hill and vale;
Over Tweed's fair flod, and Mertoun's wood,
And all down Teviotdale.

'Now hail, now hail, thou lady bright!'-
'Now hail, thou Baron true!
What news, what news, from Ancram fight?
What news from the bold Buccleuch?'-

'The Ancram Moor is red with gore,
For many a southron fell;
And Buccleuch has charged us, evermore,
To watch our beacons well.'-

The lady blush'd red, but nothing she said:
Nor added the Baron a word:
Then she stepp'd down the stair to her chamber fair,
And so did her moody lord.

In sleep the lady mourn'd, and the Baron toss'd and turn'd,
And oft to himself he said,-
'The worms around him creep, and his bloody grave is deep…..
It cannot give up the dead!'-

It was near the ringing of matin-bell,
The night was wellnigh done,
When a heavy sleep on that Baron fell,
On the eve of good St. John.

The lady look'd through the chamber fair,
By the light of a dying flame;
And she was aware of a knight stood there-
Sir Richard of Coldinghame!

'Alas! away, away!' she cried,
'For the holy Virgin's sake!'-
'Lady, I know who sleeps by thy side;
But, lady, he will not awake.

'By Eildon-tree, for long nights three,
In bloody grave have I lain;
The mass and the death-prayer are said for me,
But, lady, they are said in vain.

'By the Baron's brand, near Tweed's fair strand,
Most foully slain, I fell;
And my restless sprite on the beacon's height,
For a space is doom'd to dwell.

'At our trysting-place, for a certain space,
I must wander to and fro;
But I had not had power to come to thy bower
Had'st thou not conjured me so.'-

Love master'd fear - her brow she cross'd;
'How, Richard, hast thou sped?
And art thou saved, or art thou lost?'-
The vision shook his head!

'Who spilleth life, shall forfeit life;
So bid thy lord believe;
That lawless love is guilt above,
This awful sign receive.'

He laid his left palm on an oaken beam;
His right upon her hand;
The lady shrunk, and fainting sunk,
For it scorch'd like a fiery brand.

The sable score, of fingers, four,
Remains on that board impress'd;
And for evermore that lady wore
A covering on her wrist.

There is a nun in Dryburgh bower,
Ne'er looks upon the sun;
There is a monk in Melrose tower,
He speaketh word to none.

That nun, who ne'er beholds the day,
That monk, who speaks to none-
That nun was Smaylho'me's Lady gay,
That monk the bold Baron.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

James Mill

Scottish economist James Mill, the father of philosopher John Stuart Mill, died this day, June 23, 1836.  His life spanned roughly the same time frame as Sir Walter Scott.  Mill also wrote for the Edinburgh Review at one point in his life.  An interesting connection to Scott comes not through his writing, but through his tutoring of one Williamina Belches, with whom Scott became famously enamored.  Ms. Belches charm apparently impacted Mill as well.  William Henry Hudson in his "Sir Walter Scott" includes a note concerning Mill's affection for Belches:

'It was about 1790 that, according to the testimony of his friend, William Clerk, Scott "was observed to lay aside that carelessness, not to say slovenliness, as to dress," which had theretofore furnished matter for no little jesting among his companions, and to pay some attention to the details of the toilette. At eighteen, such a change may be commonly taken to indicate that the unsophisticated boy, who regarded girls as bores, has now blossomed out into a highly self conscious youth with a marked fondness for female society. With Scott it meant something more than this. If from this time on, his powerful yet comely figure was familiar in Edinburgh drawing-rooms and assemblies, it was not because of any special desire to shine in the new part of squire of dames, but on account of one particular magnet which drew him thither with a force that he neither could nor would resist.

The lady who had taken his heart by assault was Williamina, only child of Sir John and Lady Jane Belches, afterwards Stuart, of Fettercairn.2 He had first met her—so the pretty story runs—one Sunday morning, when the congregation of Greyfriars Church was dispersing; a sudden shower had come on, and Scott proffered his umbrella, and with it his escort home. It was presently discovered that Mrs Scott and Lady Jane had been companions in girlhood, a circumstance that naturally made it easier for the infatuated youth to improve the acquaintance which his courtesy and address had so auspiciously commenced. For some years after this, Scott lived in the full enjoyment of love's young dream. In winter he met his charmer frequently in Edinburgh society; in summer, when she was away with her parents in the Highlands, the relationship was maintained by correspondence, and by his occasional visits to her country home. Yet his wooing must have been carried on with astonishing discretion, for we do not find that the girl's parents were at all concerned about the issue. The mother, indeed, may have realised the drift of affairs and been willing at least to put no obstacle in the way. But Sir John was so little suspicious that anything unusual was happening, that even when the elder Scott presently felt in duty bound to warn him of the existence of an intimacy which "might involve the parties in future pain and disappointment," he thanked him graciously enough, but added that he saw no cause for alarm.

2 It may be interesting to note that James Mill, then a student at the University of Edinburgh, was for a time the tutor of Williamina, and "spoke of her in later years with some warmth." See Alexander Bain's fames Mill, p. 24. "Some warmth" in the case of a man like Mill, not given to bursts of feeling, may be taken to mean a good deal. '

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Battle of Bothwell Bridge

'There was now a pause in the military movements on both sides. The government seemed contented to prevent the rebels advancing towards the capital, while the insurgents were intent upon augmenting and strengthening their forces. For this purpose, they established a sort of encampment in the park belonging to the ducal residence at Hamilton, a centrical situation for receiving their recruits, and where they were secured from any sudden attack, by having the Clyde, a deep and rapid river, in front of their position, which is only passable by a long and narrow bridge, near the castle and village of Bothwell. 

Morton remained here for about a fortnight after the attack on Glasgow, actively engaged in his military duties. He had received more than one communication from Burley, but they only stated, in general, that the Castle of Tillietudlem continued to hold out. Impatient of suspense upon this most interesting subject, he at length intimated to his colleagues in command his desire, or rather his intention,—for he saw no reason why he should not assume a license which was taken by every one else in this disorderly army,—to go to Milnwood for a day or two to arrange some private affairs of consequence. The proposal was by no means approved of; for the military council of the insurgents were sufficiently sensible of the value of his services to fear to lose them, and felt somewhat conscious of their own inability to supply his place. They could not, however, pretend to dictate to him laws more rigid than they submitted to themselves, and he was suffered to depart on his journey without any direct objection being stated. The Reverend Mr Poundtext took the same opportunity to pay a visit to his own residence in the neighbourhood of Milnwood, and favoured Morton with his company on the journey. As the country was chiefly friendly to their cause, and in possession of their detached parties, excepting here and there the stronghold of some old cavaliering Baron, they travelled without any other attendant than the faithful Cuddie.'

 The Covenanters were defeated at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, on June 22, 1679.  Victory belonged to the Duke of Monmouth, John Graham.  This battle plays an important part in Walter Scott's "Old Mortality", from which the text above comes.  Hero Henry Morton is on the wrong side in this one.

Monday, June 20, 2011

John Skelton

Walter Scott shares at least one thing in common with today's subject - John Skelton.  Both were offered the Poet Laureateship.  Scott refused, recommending Robert Southey, who became Poet Laureate in 1813.  Skelton became Poet Laureate in 1513 or 1514.  Skelton tutored the future Henry VIII while he was a prince, becoming Poet Laureate during his reign.  Skelton managed to keep his head, dying on June 21, 1529, at nearly 70 years of age.

Skelton wrote sometimes of women who inspired him, including the mother of Jane Seymour:

To Mistress Margery Wentworth

WITH margerain gentle,
The flower of goodlihead,
Embroidered the mantle
Is of your maidenhead.
Plainly I cannot glose;
Ye be, as I divine,
The pretty primrose,
The goodly columbine.

Benign, courteous, and meek,
With wordes well devised;
In you, who list to seek,
Be virtues well comprised.
With margerain gentle,
The flower of goodlihead,
Embroidered the mantle
Is of your maidenhead.

Anna Maria Porter

According to Chambers' Book of Days, the novelist Anna Maria Porter died on June 20, 1832.  Anna Maria was the sister of fellow author Jane Porter, and of brother Sir Robert Ker Porter.  Anna Maria's first novel, "Artless Tales", was published in 1792, when the author was twelve years old.

According to a brief bio by Robert Carruthers in "Chambers' Cyclopaedia of English Literature", Sir Walter Scott, when a student at college, was intimate with the family, and, we are told, "was very fond of either teasing the little female student [Anna Maria Porter] when very gravely engaged with her book, or more often fondling her on his knees, and telling her stories of witches and warlocks, till both forgot their former playful merriment in the marvellous interest of the tale."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Battle of Methven

The Battle of Methven was more of a slaughter, by Aymer de Valence's English backed men, on Robert Bruce's unprepared forces.   The fighting took place on June 19, 1306, just a few months after Bruce slayed John Comyn (February 1306).  Walter Scott refers to people from this battle in his "Lord of the Isles":

Song Continued.
"Vain was then the Douglas brand,
Vain the Campbell's vaunted hand,
Vain Kirkpatrick's bloody dirk,
Making sure of murder's work;

Barendown fled fast away,
Fled the fiery De la Haye,1

When this broach, triumphant borne,
Beam'd upon the breast of Lorn.
"Farthest fled its former Lord,
Left his men to brand and cord,
Bloody brand of Highland steel,
English gibbet, axe, and wheel.
Let him fly from coast to coast,
Dogg'd by Comyn's vengeful ghost,
While his spoils, in triumph worn,
Long shall grace victorious Lorn!" 

1 These knights are enumerated by Barbour among the small number of Bruce's adherents, who remained in arms with him after the battle of Methven. 

"With him was a bold baron,
Schyr William the Baroundoun, 

Schyr Gilbert de la Haye alsua."

There were more than one of the noble family of Hay engaged in Bruce's cause; but the principal was Gilbert de la Haye, Lord of Errol, a stanch adherent to King Robert's interest, and whom he rewarded by creating him hereditary Lord High Constable of Scotland, a title which he used 16th March, 1308, where, in a letter from the peers of Scotland to Philip the Fair of France, he is designed Gilbertus de Hay Constabularius Scotice. He was slain at the battle of Halidoun-hill. Hugh de la Haye, his brother, was made prisoner at the battle of Methven.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Great Escape

'...This person was the celebrated Flora MacDonald; she was related to the Clanranald family, and was on a visit to that chief's 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 trust 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 London'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.

  1 [" Lady Clanranald dressed up the Prince in his new habit, not without some mirth and raillery passing amidst all their distress and perplexity, and a mixture of tears and smilesThe dress was on purpose coarse, and even homely, suited to the station of the wearer, viz. a calico gown, with a light coloured quilted petticoat, a mantle of dun camelet, made after the Irish fashion, with a hood joined to it."—Lockhart Papers, voL iL p. 545.]...'

The text above is from Walter Scott’s “Tales of a Grandfather”.  June 18, 1746 is the date on which Flora MacDonald met Charles Stuart to help him escape Scotland, after his failed attempt to regain the crown.

Friday, June 17, 2011


'With this secret and unjust purpose, Edward of England summoned the nobility and clergy of Scotland to meet him at the Castle of Norham, a large and strong fortress, which stands on the English side of the Tweed, on the line where that river divides England from Scotland. They met there on the 10th May 1291, and were presented to the King of England, who received them in great state, surrounded by the high officers of his court. He was a very handsome man, and so tall, that he was popularly known by the name of Longshanks, that is, long legs. The Justiciary of England then informed the nobility and clergy of Scotland, in King Edward's name, that before he could proceed to decide who should be the vassal King of Scotland, it was necessary that they should acknowledge the King of England's right as Lord Paramount, or Sovereign, of that kingdom.'

Sir Walter Scott introduces Edward I of England in his "Tales of a Grandfather".  The man who became known as the Hammer of the Scots was born on June 17, 1239.  His reign was marked by warfare, especially with Scotland.  Edward died in 1307, two years after having William Wallace executed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Siege of Dunbar Castle

Among the warlike exploits of this period, we must not forget the defense of the Castle of Dunbar by the celebrated Countess of March. Her lord, as we have seen, had embraced the side of David Bruce, and had taken the field with the Regent. The Countess, who from her complexion was termed Black Agnes, by which name she is still familiarly remembered, was a high-spirited and courageous woman, the daughter of that Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, whom I have so often mentioned, and the heiress of his valour and patriotism. The Castle of Dunbar itself was very strong, being built upon a chain of rocks stretching into the sea, having only one passage to the mainland, which was well fortified. It was besieged by Montague, Earl of Salisbury, who employed to destroy its walls great military engines, constructed to throw huge stones, with which machines fortifications were attacked before the use of cannon.

Black Agnes set all his attempts at defiance, and showed herself with her maids on the walls of the castle, wiping the places where the huge stones fell with a clean towel, as if they could do no ill to her castle, save raising a little dust, which a napkin could wipe away.

The Earl of Salisbury then commanded them to bring forward to the assault an engine of another kind, being a species of wooden shed, or house, rolled forward on wheels, with a roof of peculiar strength, which, from resembling the ridge of a hog's back, occasioned the machine to be called a Sow. This, according to the old mode of warfare, was thrust up to the walls of a besieged castle or city, and served to protect from the arrows and stones of the besieged a party of soldiers placed within the sow, who were in the meanwhile to undermine the wall, or break an entrance through it with pickaxes and mining tools. When the Countess of March saw this engine advanced to the walls of the castle, she called out to the Earl of Salisbury in derision, and making a kind of rhyme,—

" Beware, Montagow,
For farrow shall thy sow.'' 

At the same time she made a signal, and a huge fragment of rock, which hung prepared for the purpose, was dropped down from the wall upon the sow, whose roof was thus dashed to pieces. As the English soldiers, who had been within it, were running as fast as they could to get out of the way of the arrows and stones from the wall, Black Agnes called out, "Behold the litter of English pigs!”
The Earl of Salisbury could jest also on such serious occasions. One day he rode near the walls with a knight dressed in armour of proof, having three folds of mail over an acton, or leathern jacket; notwithstanding which, one William Spens shot an arrow with such force that it penetrated all these defences, and reached the heart of the wearer. "That is one of my lady's love-tokens," said the Earl, as he saw the knight fall dead from his horse. "Black Agnes's love-shafts pierce to the heart."
Upon another occasion, the Countess of March had well nigh made the Earl of Salisbury her prisoner. She made one of her people enter into treaty with the besiegers, pretending to betray the castle. Trusting to this agreement, the Earl came at midnight before the gate, which he found open, and the portcullis drawn up. As Salisbury was about to enter, one John Copland, a squire of Northumberland, pressed on before him, and as soon as he passed the threshold, the portcullis was dropped, and thus the Scots missed their principal prey, and made prisoner only a person of inferior condition.

At length, the Castle of Dunbar was relieved by Alexander Ramsay of Dalwolsy, who brought the Countess supplies by sea both of men and provisions. The Earl of Salisbury, learning this, despaired of success, and raised the siege, which had lasted nineteen weeks. The minstrels made songs in praise of the perseverance and courage of Black Agnes. The following lines are nearly the sense of what is preserved :

She kept a stir in tower and trench,
That brawling boisterous Scottish wench ;
Came I early, came I late,
1 found Agnes at the gate. 

The Siege of Dunbar Castle is dated by Rampant Scotland as June 16, 1338.  Sir Walter Scott recounts the story in his “Tales of a Grandfather” (above).  The main conflict of this period was the effort of Edward Balliol, with English support, to take the Scottish throne from David II.  Black Agnes Dunbar’s husband Patrick was away fighting the English when the William Montagu, the Earl of Salisbury arrived. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

William Julius Mickle

'On Monday, June 14, and Tuesday, 15, Dr. Johnson and I dined, on one of them, I forget which, with Mr. Mickle, translator of the Lusiad, at Wheatley, a very pretty country place a few miles from Oxford; and on the other with Dr. Wetherell, Master of University College. ....'

This entry from Boswell's "Life of Johnson" was took place in the year Johnson died; 1784.  “The Lusiad or The Discovery of India" was an epic poem written by Luis de Camoes.  Mickle dedicated his 1776 translation to a friend of Sir Walter Scott’s - Henry Scott, the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch.

My Lord,
The first idea of offering my Lusiad to some distinguished personage, inspired the earnest wish, that it might be accepted by the illustrious representative of that family under which my father, for many years, discharged the duties of a clergyman.

Both the late Duke of Buccleugh, and the Earl of Dalkeith, distinguished him by particular marks of their favour; and I must have forgotten him, if I could have wished to offer the first Dedication of my literary labours to any other than the Duke of Buccleugh.

I am, with the greatest respect,
My Lord,
Your Grace's most devoted
And most obedient humble servant,


Sir Walter Scott mentions Mickle in his Introductory Remarks on Popular Poetry, in the 1830 publication of his “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border”:

 ‘Of Ritson's own talents as an editor of ancient poetry, we shall have occasion to speak hereafter. The first collector who followed the example of Dr. Purr, was Mr. T. Evans, bookseller, father of the gentleman we have just quoted. His 'Old Ballads, historical narrative, with some of modern date, appeared in two volumes, in 1777, and were eminently successful. In 1T84, a. second edition appeared, extending the work to four volumes. In this collection many ballads found acceptance, which Bishop Percy had not considered as possessing sufficient merit to claim admittance into the Reliques The 8vo. Miscellany of 1723 yielded a great part of  the materials. The collection of Evans contained several modern pieces of great merit, which are not to be found elsewhere, and which are understood to be the productions of William Julius Mickle, translator of the Lusiad, though they were never claimed by him, nor received among his works. Amongst them is the elegiac poem of Cumnor Hall, which suggested the fictitious narrative entitled Kenilworth. The Red-Cross Knight, also by Mickle, which has furnished words for a beautiful glee, first occurred in the same collection. As Mickle, with a vein of great facility, united a power of verbal melody which might have been envied by bards of much greater renown, he must be considered as very successful in these efforts, if the ballads be regarded as avowedly modern. If they are to be judged of as accurate imitations of ancient poetry, they have less merit: the deception being only maintained by a huge store of double consonants, strewed at random into ordinary words, resembling the real fashion of antiquity as little as the niches, turrets, and tracery of plaster stuck upon a modern front.’

Scott dedicated this publication to the 5th Duke of Buccleuch, Walter Francis Montagu Douglas Scott:


&c. &c. &c. My Lord Duke,
In inscribing these volumes* to your Grace, I am fortunately emancipated from the necessity of intruding upon you the commonplace subjects of dedication. Most of these Poems have been long before the public, and were inscribed, at the time of their publication, to the various excellent persons nearly connected with your Grace, whose names they retain. I am, therefore, well aware, that these compositions, of little intrinsic value in themselves, will, like other memorials of dear friends, who have been removed from the world, claim some value in your Grace's estimation, from the names of their former patrons.

May your Grace live long to exercise the virtues of your predecessors, whose duties you inherit along with their rank and possessions. Such is the sincere wish of, My Lord Duke,
Your Grace's early Friend,
And much obliged humble Servant,
WALTER SCOTT. Abbotsford, April 3, 1830.