Noctes Ambrosianae, Vol. 2

Author(s): Wilson, Professor John



PHOC. ap. Ath.
[This is a distich by wise old Phocylides,
An ancient who wrote crabbed Greek in no silly days;
An excellent rule of the hearty old cock 'tis-And
a very fit motto to put to our Noctes.]
C. N. ap. Aonbr.
A Swimming Match, . . . . . 2
Edinburgh as soon from the Sea, . . . . . 3
Dolphins, Sharks, and Whales, . . . . . 4
Tickler in jeopardy, . . . . . 5
How the Shepherd learned to swim, . . . . . 6
The Shepherd as a Sailor, . . . . . 7
Shepherd on Mermaids,, . . . . . 8
Isis Adventure with one, . . . . . 9
Ship ahoy! — Shall we board her? . . . . . 10
No Politics at Sea, . . . . . 11
Bronte, . . . . . 12
A Boatful of Ladies, . . . . . 3
The Portobello Fly, . . . . . 14
Shepherd making himself agreeable, . . . . . 15
An Invitation to Mount Benger, . . . . . 16
A Pastoral Prescription, . . . . . 17
A Leaf from Socrates, . . . . . 18
Tickler best Company when asleep, . . . . . 19
Shepherd on Female Education, . . . . . 20
On the Phrenologists, . . . . . 21
Description of Mr Tickler, . . . . . 24
The Scene changes, . . . . . 25
North soliloquising, . . . . . 26
A Dinner, . . . . . 27
Baths. — The Age reviewed, . . . . . 28
The Knout.—May-Fair, . . . . . 29
Thomas Campbell, . . . . . 30
North Lord Rector of Glasgow, . . . . . 31
Vegetarianism. — Sir R. Phillips, . . . . . 32
Cheese. — The Punchbowl, . . . . . 33
Tergiversation of the Press, . . . . . 34
The Periodical not the only Press, . . . . . 35
Pulpit Orators, . . . . . 36
T. P. Cooke, . . . . . 37
Theatrical Criticism. — The Pulpit, . . . . . 38
The Wickedness of the World, . . . . . 39
The Bible Society. — Dr Van Ess, . . . . . 40
His Commission on Saving Souls, . . . . . 41
A True Philanthropist, . . . . . 42
Actions for Libel, . . . . . 43
Folly of such Actions, . . . . . 44
Croly on the Apocalypse, . . . . . 45
Who hissed the Duke. — Bowring, . . . . . 46
Au Revoir, . . . . . 47
Shepherd moralising on Time, . . . . . 49
Shepherd fiddles, . . . . . 50
And sings, . . . . . 51
Mirrors — Sofas — Kitchen Chairs, . . . . . 52
Times are changed, . . . . . 53
Reindeer Tongues. — A Tale of Tears, . . . . . 54
The Soul talking to itself, . . . . . 55
A Brace of Boa-Constrictors, . . . . . 56
Shepherd lifted — Tickler dissected, . . . . . 57
Mutual Bequests. — Alas, poor Yorick! . . . . . 58
A Skull, . . . . . 59
True Temperance. — Sheridan, . . . . . 60
He wanted Imagination, . . . . . 61
Delicate Spirit of the Noctes, . . . . . 62
The Shepherd a Talking Torrent, . . . . . 63
Flattery, . . . . . 64
The Praised in Blackwood, . . . . . 65
The Damned in ditto, . . . . . 66
English Bishops. — Copplestone, . . . . . 67
Hunger and Thirst, . . . . . 68
Tic-Douloureux, . . . . . 69
Angina Pectoris, . . . . . 70
Jaundice, . . . . . 71
Their combined attack, . . . . . 72
Recovery, . . . . . 73
O the Days when we were young!, . . . . . 74
A Felon. — Charity, . . . . . 75
Subscription-Paper-mongers, . . . . . 76
Oysters, . . . . . 77
A Core of Reserve. — The Cattle-Show, . . . . . 78
The Highland Society. — Journal of Agriculture, . . . . . 79
Shepherd on Horse-racing, . . . . . 80
Ducrow's Circus, . . . . . 81
An Inspired Equestrian, . . . . . 82
The Theatre. — Country versus Town, . . . . . 83
"Blue Bonnets" parodied. — Literary Men, . . . . . 84
Sons of Genius, . . . . . 85
Pastoral Peacefulness, . . . . . 86
North sings, . . . . . 87
Marry her, sir; marry her, . . . . . 88
A Glee, . . . . . 89
North asleep, . . . . . 91
North's Head and Face, . . . . . 92
Shepherd stands up for His Own, . . . . . 93
North drowned in a Dream, . . . . . 94
North hanged in a Dream — his Rescue, . . . . . 95
North Redivivus. — The Russian General, . . . . . 96
Shepherd put to his Mettle, . . . . . 97
A Perpetual Mist, . . . . . 98
The Lily o' the Lea, . . . . . 99
All is Vanity, . . . . . 100
Treason against Nature. — Grief and Joy, . . . . . 101
Philosophy. — Poetry. — Religion, . . . . . 102
The whole World groans, . . . . . 103
The Curse of Drunkenness, . . . . . 104
True Education, . . . . . 105
The Wisdom of our Ancestors, . . . . . 106
The Shepherd's Shellfishness, . . . . . 107
The Manners Oyster. — A Devil Incarnate, . . . . . 108
An Avowal by North, . . . . . 109
The Principles of Blackwood's Magazine, . . . . . 110
Oh Villain! — A Temptation, . . . . . 111
Maga the Matron, . . . . . 112
Theocritus, Burns, Ramsay, Cunningham, Hogg, . . . . . 113
A Welshman, . . . . . 114
The Principality. — Williams, . . . . . 1l5
Wranglers and Senior Optimes, . . . . . 116
The dear old General. — Hot Words, . . . . . 118
Edinburgh in Summer. — Lord Melville, . . . . . 119
Edinburgh in Winter, . . . . . 120
An exciting Picture, . . . . . 121
A dear little Laplander. — An old Bachelor, . . . . . 122
North sitting for a Wife, . . . . . 123
North nearly circumvented, . . . . . 124
How he extricates himself, . . . . . 125
His Placidity restored, . . . . . 126
Autobiographers. — An Old Sinner, . . . . . 127
Friendship. — The Imperishable, . . . . . 128
Mundane Vicissitude. — Jeremy Taylor, . . . . . 129
Do not educate the Understanding merely, . . . . . 130
Education of the People, . . . . . 131
Poker and Tongs, . . . . . 132
John Nicholson's Daughter, . . . . . 133
A Haggis Deluge, . . . . . 134
The Tide is gaining, . . . . . 135
The Tide is ebbing. — High Jinks, . . . . . 136
The Twa Magicians, . . . . . 137
Tickler in torment, . . . . . 139
Edinburgh Review. — Jeffrey, . . . . . 140
I'll thank him to write "Kilmeny," . . . . . 141
"My Brother" caught Napping, . . . . . 142
"My Brother" on Scott, Athorstone, and Southey, . . . . . 143
"My Brother" on Kirke White, Keats, Pollok, Shelley, . . . . . 144
North as a Critic. — D. L. Richardson, . . . . . 145
Hazlitt, . . . . . 146
Blackwood's Magazine, . . . . . 147
North's Habits of Composition, . . . . . 148
His Rapidity of Composition, . . . . . 149
A whole Magazine at Five Sittings, . . . . . 150
Lesly's Portrait of Scott, . . . . . 151
Newspapers, . . . . . 152
Question of Catholic Emancipation, . . . . . 153
Imagery applicable to Ireland, . . . . . 154
Emancipation impossible under Catholicism, . . . . . 155
Absenteeism, . . . . . 156
Sheil and O'Connell, . . . . . 157
Sheil's Oratory, . . . . . 158
Charles Phillips. — Adolphus, . . . . . 159
Sheil's Plays, . . . . . 160
His Dramatic Genius illustrated, . . . . . 161
His Oratory characterised, . . . . . 162
The Romanists would destroy Church and State, . . . . . 163
The Tree of the British Constitution, . . . . . 165
Sheil among the Men of Kent, . . . . . 166
"Early to Bed and early to Rise," . . . . . 168
A Composite Family, . . . . . 170
North's Vanity, . . . . . 171
North a gay Deceiver, . . . . . 172
Women in Edinburgh, . . . . . 173
Enter the Shepherd on Skates, . . . . . 174
A Challenge, . . . . . 175
A Skating-Match from Yarrow, . . . . . 176
A Parrot, . . . . . 178
A Raven and a Starling, . . . . . 179
A Harmonious Party, . . . . . 180
Shepherd in Warm Bath, . . . . . 181
Discoursing on Female Genius, . . . . . 182
Supper. — The Rival Exhibitions, . . . . . 183
Martin's Picture of the Deluge, . . . . . 184
Burke and Hare, . . . . . 185
North's Description of Burke, . . . . . 186
His Description of Hare, . . . . . 187
North's Description of their Wives, . . . . . 188
The Murderers' Dens, . . . . . 189
Proper Behaviour of the People, . . . . . 190
At the Execution of the Monster, . . . . . 191
Proper Conduct of the Trial, . . . . . 192
Dr Knox, . . . . . 193
Dr Knox's Class, . . . . . 195
Spring on the Tweed or Yarrow, . . . . . 196
Country Sounds. — Nature getting up, . . . . . 197
Glory departed, . . . . . 198
Superstition. — Religion, . . . . . 199
Forsaking the World, . . . . . 200
A Female Glutton, . . . . . 201
Infant Schools. — Evangelical Marriages, . . . . . 202
A True Christian, . . . . . 203
Posthumous Fame, . . . . . 204
Longevity of Great Poets, . . . . . 205
The Poetical Temperament inexplicable, . . . . . 206
The Shepherd on Fashionable Novels, . . . . . 207
North Snoring "Auld Lang Syne," . . . . . 208
The Health of Old Eldon, . . . . . 209
A Threesome Reel among the Crystal, . . . . . 210
Peel. — Blackwood's Magazine. — Wellington, . . . . . 211
North the Immovable, . . . . . 212
Cookery.—The Shepherd's Tongue, . . . . . 214
A Miscellaneous Meal, . . . . . 215
Definition of Gluttony, . . . . . 216
The Test of Gluttony, . . . . . 217
Wills. — Avarice.—The Sun, . . . . . 218
The Moon. — Vegetation at Mount Benger, . . . . . 219
Ettrick Forest.—Early Days, . . . . . 220
Pensive Reflections, . . . . . 221
Language. — Interchange of Compliments, . . . . . 222
A Day for a Poet, . . . . . 223
Thunder. — Poetry is Religion, . . . . . 224
Jealousy. — North on Othello. . . . . . 220
Shepherd on Desdemona, . . . . . 227
North on Ingo, . . . . . 228
Idolatry of Genius, . . . . . 229
Virtue, not Genius, shall save us, . . . . . 230
North on Burns, . . . . . 231
Critics, English and German, . . . . . 232
Wordsworth on Adam Smith and David Hume, . . . . . 233
Scotch Critics of Last Century, . . . . . 234
Dr Hugh Blair, . . . . . 235
Samuel Johnson, . . . . . 236
Burke and Reynolds, . . . . . 237
Superiority of our present Critics, . . . . . 238
Our Periodical Literature, . . . . . 239
The Spectator, . . . . . 240
Newspapers, . . . . . 241
North absorbed in the Standard, . . . . . 242
The Shepherd's Soliloquy, . . . . . 243
"Take that, Mr North," . . . . . 244
A Set-to. — A Floorer, . . . . . 245
The Shepherd's Revival, . . . . . 246
A Glance in the Mirror, . . . . . 248
Suburban Retirement, . . . . . 250
Happiness independent of place, . . . . . 251
O Instinct! Instinct! . . . . . 252
Natural History, . . . . . 253
Blackwood's Magazine, . . . . . 254
North's Dreams. — Raptures, . . . . . 255
The Gardener's Daughter, . . . . . 256
Blindness more endurable than Deafness, . . . . . 257
The Sorrows of the Poor, . . . . . 258
Scottish Music and Poetry, . . . . . 259
Gurney! As I am a Christian! . . . . . 260
Good Poets are always Good Men, . . . . . 261
No Man is always true to himself, . . . . . 262
Right Feeling not enough without Well-doing, . . . . . 263
Expediency — Honour — Conscience, . . . . . 264
Keepsakes. — Thoughts are imperishable, . . . . . 265
The Association of Ideas, . . . . . 260
Keepsakes. — Imagination's Stores, . . . . . 267
Keepsakes. — A Vision from the Grave, . . . . . 268
The Shortcomings of Portrait-painting, . . . . . 269
A Tender Topic, . . . . . 270
Softly! softly! Mr North! . . . . . 271
"Yonder she is, James!" . . . . . 272
Indoor Comfort. — Night-Storm, . . . . . 274
A Secret. — Tickler described, . . . . . 275
The Plague of Poets, . . . . . 276
The Difficulties of Penal Legislation, . . . . . 277
The Knout, . . . . . 278
"No Place is Sacred — Not the Church is Free," . . . . . 279
The Shepherd's Favourite Weather,. . . . . . 280
His Appetite. — A Crash, . . . . . 281
The Shepherd in a Swoon, . . . . . 282
The Damage repaired, . . . . . 283
The Devil, . . . . . 284
A Pyet — A Raven, . . . . . 285
Milton's Satan, . . . . . 286
Prosecutions of the Press, . . . . . 287
North on the Government, . . . . . 288
The Duke. — Liberty of the Press, . . . . . 289
The Shepherd in Parliament, . . . . . 290
Wilkie. — The Forum, . . . . . 291
An Apostate, . . . . . 292
Female Martyr. — The Great Measure, . . . . . 293
North's Loyalty. — The Kirk, . . . . . 294
The Press. — Southey, . . . . . 295
Southey 's Attack on Magazines repelled, . . . . . 296
Maga and the Quarterly, . . . . . 297
Newspapers: their Defence by North, . . . . . 298
Demagogues and Infidels, . . . . . 299
A Higher Grade of Iniquity, . . . . . 300
The Liberal Press, . . . . . 301
Deists, . . . . . 302
Different Kinds of Deists, . . . . . 303
Insect-Infidels. — Beast-Infidels, . . . . . 304
Tom Paine. — Richard Watson, . . . . . 305
A Flight by the Shepherd, . . . . . 306
Causes of Infidelity, . . . . . 307
Physical must precede Moral Well-being, . . . . . 308
A Pious Widow, . . . . . 309
The Church must be up and doing, . . . . . 310
The Shepherd as an Eagle, . . . . . 311
North negrified, . . . . . 312
Ladies at the Noctes, . . . . . 313
Poetesses don't live on Air, . . . . . 314
A Flare-up. — Miss Jewsbury, . . . . . 315
Ugly Women, . . . . . 316
Imagination and Intellect, . . . . . 317
Science and Poetry, . . . . . 318
Poetry perfected through Science, . . . . . 319
A Supper for Two, . . . . . 320
A Blood-Goose, . . . . . 321
Leap-Frog, . . . . . 322
A Pause in the Conversation, . . . . . 323
North a Damascus Sword, . . . . . 324
An Orrery. — Comparative Grammar, . . . . . 326
"A Soft Word turns away Wrath," . . . . . 327
Description of Mr De Quincey, . . . . . 328
Vermicelli. — Hotch-Potch, . . . . . 329
The Power of Pepper, . . . . . 330
A Mountain-Well, . . . . . 331
The Exhibition of Paintings, . . . . . 332
Mrs Gentle's Eyes, . . . . . 333
Colvin Smith's Portrait of Jeffrey, . . . . . 334
Eulogium on Jeffrey, . . . . . 335
Watson Gordon's "Lord Dalhousie," . . . . . 336
A Braw Wooer. — A Queenlike Quean, . . . . . 337
Shepherd's Genius contagious, . . . . . 338
An Adventure, . . . . . 339
An Echo to the Shepherd's Key-bugle, . . . . . 340
Down came the Bonassus, . . . . . 341
Denudation. — Taking the Bull by the Horns, . . . . . 342
Mazeppa outdone, . . . . . 343
Opium-Eater's Analysis of Shepherd's Bonassus Flight, . . . . . 344
A Bam, . . . . . 347
North choking, . . . . . 348
Disgorges the Shark's Skeleton, . . . . . 349
State of the Country, . . . . . 350
Opium-Eater on "Vents" and "Gluts," . . . . . 351
A Political Economist, . . . . . 352
Blue Devils, . . . . . 353
Shadows seen by Sin. — Pollok, . . . . . 354
London Review. — Dead-born Periodicals, . . . . . 355
The Edinburgh Review, . . . . . 356
Macaulay and Southey, . . . . . 357
Southey censured by the Opium-Eater, . . . . . 359
Censure of Southey continued, . . . . . 360
Opium-Eater on Blackwood's Magazine, . . . . . 361
Southey's Colloquies vindicated against Macaulay, . . . . . 362
Vindication of Southey continued, . . . . . 364
Sotheby's Homer, . . . . . 366
Lyte's "Tales in Verse," . . . . . 367
Mrs Norton, . . . . . 368
A Swan among Geese and Ducks, . . . . . 369
The Exclusives. — G. P. R. James, . . . . . 370
Fashionable Novelists. — Allan Cunningham, . . . . . 371
The Examiner, . . . . . 372
England and Scotland, . . . . . 373
A True Bill, . . . . . 374
The English do justice to the Scotch, . . . . . 375
The Beau-ideal of a Scotchman, . . . . . 376
The Bow-window of an Englishman, . . . . . 377
The Question lies in a Nutshell, . . . . . 378
Scottish Sculpture, . . . . . 379
Greek Tragedy, . . . . . 380
A Hermit, . . . . . 381
A Cemetery. — The Ocean, . . . . . 383
Raptures. — Tender Memories, . . . . . 384
A Child's Funeral, . . . . . 385
Opium-Eater on his Children, . . . . . 386
Tickler on Trees. — North on Fire, . . . . . 387
A Transplanted Tree, . . . . . 388
Sir Henry Steuart, . . . . . 389
Lloyd. — Bowring. — Jews in Parliament, . . . . . 390
M`Crie. — Inglis. — Douglas. — Morehead, . . . . . 391
Actresses, . . . . . 392
A Receipt for Rheumatism, . . . . . 393
The Primary Objects of Education, . . . . . 394
The Growth of Intellect, . . . . . 395
Love is the Life and Light of Education, . . . . . 396
A Contrast, . . . . . 397
All are dependent on Sympathy, . . . . . 398
Self-Meditation, . . . . . 399
Knowledge is its own Reward, . . . . . 400
A false Distinction, . . . . . 401
Utility defined and illustrated, . . . . . 402
Liberty and Necessity, . . . . . 404
Thirst, . . . . . 405
A Morning Picture, . . . . . 407
Beauty and Sublimity: their Difference, . . . . . 409
Pain and Fear enter into the Sublime, . . . . . 410
Love enters into the Beautiful, . . . . . 411
We see Ourselves in External Nature, . . . . . 412
The Tweed. — England and Scotland, . . . . . 413
Influence of Natural Sounds, . . . . . 414
Lord and Lady Byron, . . . . . 415
Lady Byron's Letter, . . . . . 416
"Could no other Arm be found," . . . . . 417
The Better Course for Lady Byron, . . . . . 418
A Christian Widow, . . . . . 419
A Ruffian Husband, . . . . . 420
Forgiveness, . . . . . 421
Lord and Lady Byron, . . . . . 422
The Twa Tummasses, . . . . . 423
Moore's Life of Byron, . . . . . 424
North on "Striding-Edge," . . . . . 425
Campbell and Moore, . . . . . 426
Tickler beaten at Chess, . . . . . 427
A Pyramid, . . . . . 428
(JULY 1827)
PHOC. ap. Ath.
[This is a distich by wise old Phocylides,
An ancient who wrote crabbed Greek in no silly days;
An excellent rule of the hearty old cock 'tis—
And a very fit motto to put to our Noctes.]
C. N. ap. Ambr.
Scene 1. — Two Bathing-machines in the Sea at Portobello.¹
Shepherd. Halloo, Mr Tickler, are you no ready yet, man?
I've been a mother-naked man, in my machine here, for mair
than ten minutes. Hae your pantaloons got entangled amang
your heels, or are you saying your prayers afore you plunge?
Tickler. Both. These patent long drawers, too, are a
confounded nuisance — and this patent short undershirt.
There is no getting out of them, without greater agility than
is generally possessed by a man at my time of life.
Shepherd. Confound a' pawtents. As for mysel I never
¹ A bathing quarter near Edinburgh
wear drawers, but hae my breeks lined wi' flannen a' the year
through; and as for thae wee short corded under-shirts that
clasp you like ivy, I never hae had ane o' them on sin' last
July, when I was forced to cut it aff my back and breast wi'
a pair o' sheep-shears, after having tried in vain to get out o't
every morning for twa months. But are ye no ready, sir?
A man on the scaffold wadna be allowed sae lang time for
preparation. The minister or the hangman wad be jugging¹
him to fling the hankerchief.
Tickler. Hanging, I hold, is a mere flea-bite—
Shepherd. What! tae dookin? — Here goes.
[The SHEPHERD plunges into the sea.
Tickler. What the devil has become of James? He is
nowhere to be seen. That is but a gull — that only a seal —
and that a mere pellock. James, James, James!
Shepherd (emerging). Wha's that roaring? Stop a wee till I
get the saut water out o' my een, and my mouth, and my nose,
and wring my hair a bit. Noo, where are you, Mr Tickler?
Tickler. I think I shall put on my clothes again, James.
The air is chill; and I see from your face that the water is as
cold as ice.
Shepherd. Oh, man! but you're a desperate cooart. Think
shame o' yoursel, stannin naked there, at the mouth o' the
machine, wi' the haill crew o' yon brig sailin up the Firth
looking at ye, ane after anther, frae cyuck to captain, through
the telescope.
Tickler. James, on the sincerity of a shepherd, and the
faith of a Christian, lay your hand on your heart, and tell me,
was not the shock tremendous? I thought you never would
have reappeared.
Shepherd. The shock was naething, nae mair than what a
body feels when waukenin suddenly during a sermon, or fa'in
over a staircase in a dream. — But I'm aff to Inchkeith.
Tickler. Whizz. [Flings a Somerset into the sea.
Shepherd. Ane — twa — three — four —five — sax — seven —
aught — but there's nae need o' coontin — for nae pearl-diver,
in the Straits o' Madagascar or aff the coast o' Coromandel,
can haud in his breath like Tickler. Weel, that's surprisin.
You chaise has Bane about half a mile o' gate towards
Portybelly sin' he gaed fizzin outower the lugs like a verra
¹ Jugging — jogging.
rocket. Safe us! what's this gruppin me by the legs? A
sherk — a sherk — a sherk!
Tickler (yellowing to the surface). Blabla — blabla — bla —
Shepherd. He's keept soomin aneath the water till he's
sick; but every man for himsel, and God for us a' — I'm aff.
[SHEPHERD stretches away to sea in the direction of
Inehkeith — TICKLER in pursuit.
Tickler. Every sinew, my dear James, like so much whipcord.
I swim like a salmon.
Shepherd. Oh, sir! that Lord Byron had but been alive the
noo, what a sweepstakes!
Tickler. A Liverpool gentleman has undertaken, James, to
swim four-and-twenty miles at a stretch. What are the odds?
Shepherd. Three to one on Saturn and Neptune. He'll get
Tickler. James, I had no idea you were so rough on the
back. You are a perfect otter.
Shepherd. Nae personality, Mr Tickler, out at sea. I'll
compare carcasses wi' you ony day o' the year. Yet, you're
a gran' soomer — out o' the water at every stroke, neck,
breast, shouthers, and half-way doun the back — after the
fashion o' the great American serpent. As for me, my
style o' soomin's less showy — laigh and lown — less hurry,
but mair speed. Come, sir, I'll dive you for a jug o' toddy.
[TICKLER and SHEPHERD melt away like foam-bells in
the sunshine.
Shepherd. Mr Tickler!
Tickler. James!
Shepherd. It's a drawn bate — sae we'll baith pay. — Oh, sir!
Isna Embro' a glorious city? Sae clear the air, yonner you
see a man and a woman stannin on the tap o' Arthur's Seat!
I had nae notion there were sae moray steeples, and spires,
and columms, and pillars, and obelisks, and dome, in Embro'!
And at this distance the ee canna distinguish atween them
that belangs to kirks, and them that belangs to naval monuments,
and them that belangs to ile-gas companies, and them
that's only chimley-heids in the auld town, and the taps o'
groves, or single trees, sic as poplars; and aboon a' and ahint
a', craigs and saft-broo'd hills sprinkled wi' sheep, lichts and
shadows, and the blue vapoury glimmer o' a Midsummer
day — het, het, het, wi' the barometer at ninety; but here, to
us twa, bob-bobbin amang the fresh, cool, murmurin, and
faemy wee waves, temperate as the air within the mermaid's
palace. anither dive!
Tickler. James, here goes the Fly-Wheel.
Shepherd. That beats a'! He gangs round in the water
like a jack roastin beef. I'm thinkin he canna stop himsel.
Safe us! he's fun' out the perpetual motion.
Tickler. What fish, James, would you incline to be, if put
into scales?
Shepherd. A dolphin — for they hae the speed o' lichtnin.
They'll dart past and roun' about a ship in full sail before the
wind, just as if she was at anchor. Then the dolphin is a
fish o' peace — he saved the life o' a poet of auld, Arion, wi'
his harp — and oh! they say the cretur's beautifu' in death c
Byron, ye ken, comparin his hues to those o' the sun settin
ahint the Grecian Isles. I sud like to be a dolphin.
Tickler. I should choose to sport shark for a season. In
speed he is a match for the dolphin — and, then, James, think
what luxury to swallow a well-fed chaplain, or a delicate midshipman,
or a young negro girl occasionally
Shepherd. And feenally to be grupped wi' a hyuck in a
cocked hat and feather, at which the shark rises, as a trout
does at a flee, hauled on board, and hacked to pieces wi' cutlasses
and pikes by the jolly crew, or left alive on the deck,
gutted as clean as a dice-box, and without an inch o' bowels.
Tickler. Men die at shore, James, of natural deaths as bad
as that —
Shepherd. Let me see — I sud hae nae great objections to be
a whale in the Polar Seas. Gran' fun to fling a boatfu' o'
harpooners into the air — or, wi' ae thud o' your tail, to drive
in the stern-posts o' a Greenlandman.
Tickler. Grander fun still, James, to feel the inextricable
harpoon in your blubber, and to go snoving away beneath an
ice-floe with four mile of line connecting you with your
distant enemies.
Shepherd. But then whales marry but ae wife, and are passionately
attached to their offspring. There, they and I are
congenial speerits. Nae fish that swims enjoys so large a
share of domestic happiness.
Tickler. A whale, James, is not a fish.
Shepherd. Isna he? Let him alane for that. He's ca'd a
fish in the Bible, and that's better authority than Buffon.
O that I were a whale!
Tickler. What think you of a summer of the American Sea--
Shepherd. What? To be constantly cruised upon by the
haill American navy, military and mercantile! No to be able
to show your back aboon water without being libelled by the
Yankees in a' the newspapers, and pursued even by pleasure--
parties, playin the hurdy-gurdy and smokin cigars! Besides,
although I hae nae objection to a certain degree o' singularity,
I sudna just like to be sae very singular as the American Sea--
Serpent, who is the only ane o' his specie noo extant; and
whether he dees in his bed, or is slain by Jonathan, must incur
the pain and the opprobrium o' defunckin an auld bachelor.
What's the matter wi' you, Mr Tickler? [Dives.
Tickler. The calf of my right leg is rather harder than is
altogether pleasant. A pretty business if it prove the cramp;
and the cramp it is, sure enough — Hallo — James — James —
James — hallo — I'm seized with the cramp — James — the
sinews of the calf' of my right leg are gathered up into a
knot about the bulk and consistency of a sledge-hammerShepherd.
Nae tricks upon travellers. You've nae cramp.
Gin you hae, streek out your right hind leg, like a horse geein
a funk — and then ower on the back o' ye, and keep floatin for
a space, and your calf 'ill be as saft's a cushion. Lord safe
us! what's this? Deevil tak me if he's no droonin. Mr
Tickler, are you droonin? There' he's doun ance, and up
again — twice, and up again; — but it's time to tak haud o'
him by the hair o' the head, or he'll be doun amang the
limpets! [SHEPHERD seizes TICKLER by the locks.
Tickler. Oho — oho — oho — ho — ho — ho — hra — hra — hrach
— hrach.
Shepherd. What language is that? Finnish? Noo, sir,
dinna rug me doun to the bottom alang wi' you in the
Tickler. Heaven reward you, James — the pain is gone —
but keep near me.
Shepherd. Whammle yoursel ower on your back, sir. That
'ill do. Hoo are you now, sir? Yonner's the James Watt¹
¹ The "James Watt" plied between London and Edinburgh, under the
command of Captain Bain.
steamboat, Captain Bain, within half a league. Lean on my
airm, sir, till he comes alangside, and it 'ill be a real happiness
to the captain to save your life. But what 'ill a' the
leddies do whan they're hoistin us aboard? They maun just
use their fans.
Tickler. My dear Shepherd, I am again floating like a
turtle, — but keep within hail, James. Are you to windward
or leeward ?
Shepherd. Right astarn. Did you ever see, sir, in a' your
born days, sic a sky? Ane can scarcely say he sees't, for it's
maist invisible in its blue beautifu' tenuity, as the waters o' a
well! It's just like the ee o' ae lassie I kent lang ago — the
langer you gazed intil't, the deep, deep, deeper it grew — the
cawmer and the mair cawm — composed o' a smile, as an
amythist is composed o' licht — and seeming something impalpable
to the touch, till you ventured, wi' fear, joy, and
tremmlin to kiss it — just ae hesitatin, pantin, reverential kiss
— and then to be sure your verra sowl kent it to be a bonny
blue ee, covered wi' a lid o' dark fringes, and drappin aiblins
a bit frichtened tear to the lip o' love.
Tickler. What is your specific gravity, James? You float
like a sedge.
Shepherd. Say rather a Nautilus, or a Mew. I'm native to
the yelement.
Tickler. Where learned you the natatory art, my dear
Shepherd ?
Shepherd. Do you mean soomin? In St Mary's Loch.
For a haill simmer I kept plouterin alang the shore, and pittin
ae fit to the grun', knockin the skin aff my knees, and makin
nae progress, till ae day, the gravel haein been loosened by a
flood, I plowpt in ower head and ears, and in my confusion,
turnin my face to the wrang airt, I swom across the loch at
the widest, at ae streetch, and ever after that could hae soomed
ony man in the Forest for a wager, excep Mr David Ballantyne,
that noo leeves ower-by yonner, near the Hermitage
Tickler. Now, James, you are, to use the language of
Spenser, the Shepherd of the Sea.
Shepherd. O that I had been a sailor! To hae circumnavigated
the warld! To hae pitched our tents, or built our
bowers, on the shores o' bays sae glitterin wi' league-lang
wreaths o' shells, that the billows blushed crimson as they
murmured! To hae seen our flags burnin meteor-like, high
up amang the primæval woods, while birds bright as ony
buntin sat trimmin their plummage amang the cordage, sae
tame in that island where ship had haply never touched afore,
nor ever might touch again, lying in a latitude by itsel, and
far out o' the breath o' the tredd-wunds! Or to hae landed
wi' a' the crew, marines and a', excep a guard on shipboard
to keep aff the crowd o' canoes, on some warlike isle, tossin wi'
the plumes on chieftains' heads, and soun'-soun'-soundin wi'
gongs! What's a man-o'-war's barge, Mr Tickler, beautifu'
sicht though it be, to the hundred-oared canoe o' some
savage Island-king! The King himsel lyin in state — no dead,
but leevin, every inch o' him — on a platform — aboon a' his
warriors standin wi' war-clubs, and stane-hatchets, and fish-bane
spears, and twisted mats, and tattooed faces, and ornaments
in their noses, and painted een, and feathers on their
heads a yard heigh, a' silent, or burstin out o' a sudden intil
shootin sangs o' welcome or defiance, in a language made up
o' a few lang strang words — maistly gutturals — and gran' for
the naked priests to yell intil the ears o' their victims, when
about to cut their throats on the altar-stane that Idolatry had
incrusted with blood, shed by stormy moonlicht to glut the
maw of their sanguinary God. Or say rather — oh, rather say,
that the white-winged Wonder that has brought the strangers
frae afar, frae lands beyond the setting sun, has been hailed
with hymns and dances o' peace — and that a' the daughters
of the Isle, wi' the daughter o' the King at their head, come
a' gracefully windin alang in a figur, that, wi' a thousan'
changes, is aye but ae single dance, wi' unsandalled feet true
to their ain wild singin, wi' wings fancifully fastened to their
shouthers, and, beautifu' creturs! a' naked to the waist — But
whare the deevil's Mr Tickler? Has he sunk during my
soliloquy? or swum to shore? Mr Tickler — Mr Tickler — I
wush I had a pistol to fire into the air, that he might be
brought to. Yonner he is, playin at porpuss. Let me try if
I can reach him in twenty strokes — it's no aboon a hunder
yards. Five yards a stroke — no bad soomin in dead water.
— There, I've done it in nineteen. Let me on my back
for a rest.
Tickler. I am not sure that this confounded cramp
Shepherd. The cramp's just like the hiccup, sir — never
think o't, and it's gane. I've seen a white lace veil, sic as
Queen Mary 's drawn in, lyin afloat, without stirrin aboon her
snawy broo, saftenin the ee-licht — and it's yon braided clouds
that remind me o't, motionless, as if they had lain there a'
their lives; yet, wae's me! perhaps in ae single hour to melt
away for ever!
Tickler. James, were a Mermaid to see and hear you
moralising so, afloat on your back, her heart were lost.
Shepherd. I'm nae favourite noo, I suspeck, amang the
Tickler. Why not, James? You look more irresistible than
you imagine. Never saw I your face and figure to more
advantage — when lying on the braes o' Yarrow, with your eyes
closed in the sunshine, and the shadows of poetical dreams
chasing each other along cheek and brow. You would make
a beautiful corpse, James.
Shepherd. Think shame o' yoursel, Mr Tickler, for daurin
to use that word, and the sinnies o' the cauf o' your richt
leg yet knotted wi' the cramp. Think shame o' yoursel! That word's no canny.
Tickler. But what ail the Mermaids with the Shepherd?
Shepherd. I was ance lyin half asleep in a sea-shore cave
o' the Isle o' Sky, wearied out by the verra beauty o' the
moonlicht that had keepit lyin for hours in ae lang line o'
harmless fire, stretchin leagues and leagues to the rim o' the
ocean. Nae sound, but a bit faint, dim plash — plash — plash
o' the tide — whether ebbin or flawin I ken not — no against,
but upon the weedy sides o' the cave
"As when some shepherd of the Hebride Isles,
Placed far amid the melancholy main!"
Shepherd. That soun's like Thamson — in his "Castle o'
Indolence." A' the haill warld was forgotten — and my ain
name — and what I was — and where I had come frae — and
why I was lyin there, — nor was I onything but a Leevin
Tickler. Are you to windward or leeward, James?
Shepherd. Something — like a caulder breath o' moonlicht —
fell on my face and breast, and seemed to touch all my body
and my limbs. But it canna be mere moonlicht, thocht I, for,
at the same time, there was the whisperin — or say rather, the
waverin o' the voice — no alang the green cave wa's, but close
intil my ear, and then within my verra breast, — sae, at first,
for the soun' was sift and sweet, and wi' a touch o' plaintive
wildness in't no unlike the strain o' an Eolian harp, I was
rather surprised than feared, and maist thocht that it was but
the wark o' my ain fancy, afore she yielded to the dwawm o'
that solitary sleep.
Tickler. James, I hear the Steamer.
Shepherd. I opened my een, that had only been half steekit
— and may we never reach the shore again, if there was not
I, sir, in the embrace o' a Mermaid!
Tickler. James — remember we are well out to Inchkeith.
If you please, no —
Shepherd. I would scorn to be drooned with a lee in my
mouth, sir. It is quite true that the hair o' the cretur is
green — and it's as slimy as it's green — slimy and sliddery as
the sea-weed that cheats your unsteady footing on the rocks.
Then, what een! — oh, what een! — Like the boiled een o' a
cod's head and shouthers! — and yet expression in them — an
expression o' love and fondness, that would hae garred an
Eskimaw scunner.
Tickler. James, you are surely romancing.
Shepherd. Oh, dear, dear me! — hech, sirs! hech, sirs ! — the
fishiness o' that kiss! — I had hung up my claes to dry on a
peak o' the cliff — for it was ane o' thae lang midsummer
nichts, when the sea-air itself fans ye wi' as warm a sugh as
that frae a leddy's fan, when you're sittin side by side wi' her
in an arbour
Tickler. Oh, James — you fox
Shepherd. Sae that I was as naked as either you or me, Mr
Tickler, at this blessed moment — and whan I felt mysel
enveloped in the hauns, paws, fins, scales, tail, and maw o'
the Mermaid o' a monster, I grued till the verra roof o' the
cave let doun drap, drap, drap upon us — me and the Mermaid
— and I gied mysel up for lost.
Tickler. Worse than Venus and Adonis, my dear Shepherd.
Shepherd. I began mutterin the Lord's Prayer, and the
Creed, and the hundred and nineteenth Psalm — but a' wudna
do. The Mermaid held the grup — and while I was splutterin
out her kisses, and convulsed waur than I ever was under the
warst nichtmare that ever sat on my stamach, wi' ae desperate
wallop we baith gaed tapsalteerie — frae ae sliddery ledge
to anither — till, wi' accelerated velocity, like twa stanes,
increasin accordin to the squares o' the distances, we played
plunge like porpusses into the sea, a thousan' fadom deep —
and hoo I gat rid o' the briny Beastliness nae man kens till
this day; for there was I sittin in the cave, chitterin like a
drookit cock, and nae Mermaid to be seen or heard; although,
wad ye believe me, the cave had the smell o' crabs, and
labsters, and oysters, and skate, and fish in general, aneuch
to turn the stamach o' a whale or a sea-lion.
Tickler. Ship ahoy! — Let us change our position, James.
Shall we board the Steamer?
Shepherd. Only look at the waves, hoo they gang welterin
frae her prow and sides, and widen in her wake for miles aff!
Gin we venture ony nearer, we'll never wear breeks mair.
Mercy on us! she's bearin doun upon us. Let us soom fast,
and passing across her bows, we shall bear up to windward
out o' a' the commotion. — Captain Bain! Captain Bain! it's
me and Mr Tickler, takin a soom for an appeteet — stop the
ingine till we get past the bowsprit.
Tickler. Heavens! James, what a bevy of ladies on deck.
Let us dive.
Shepherd. You may dive — for you swim improperly high;
but as for me, I seem in the water to be a mere Head, like a
cherub on a church. A boat, captain — a boat!
Tickler. James, you aren't mad, sure? Who ever boarded
a steamer in our plight? There will be fainting from stern to
stern, in cabin and steerage.
Shepherd. I ken that leddy in the straw-bannet and green
veil, and ruby sarsnet, wi' the glass at her ee. Ye ho —
Miss —
Tickler. James — remember how exceedingly delicate a thing
is a young lady's reputation. See, she turns away in confusion.

Shepherd. Captain, I say, what news frae London?
Captain Bain (through a speaking-trumpet). Lord Wellington's
amendment on the bonding clause in the corn bill again
carried against Ministers by 133 to 122.¹ Sixty-six shillings!
¹ The Duke of Wellington's amendment on the Ministerial measure was, that
"no foreign grain in bond shall be taken out of bond until the average price
of corn shall have reached 66s." — See Alison's History of Europe from 1815 to
1852, vol. iv. p. 110; also Annual Register, 1827, p. 147.
Tickler. What says your friend M'Culloch to that, Captain?
Shepherd. Wha cares a bodle about corn bills in our situation?
What's the Captain routin about noo, out o' his speakintrumpet?
But he may just as weel haud his tongue, for I
never understand ae word out o' the mouth o' a trumpet.
Tickler. He says, the general opinion in London is, that the
Administration will stand — that Canning and Brougham
Shepherd. Canning and Brougham, indeed! Do you think,
sir, if Canning and Brougham had been soomin in the sea, and
that Canning had taen the cramp in the cauf o' his richt leg,
as you either did, or said you did, a short while sin' syne, that
Brougham wad hae safed him as I safed you? Faith, no he
indeed! Hairy wad hae thocht naething o' watchin till George
showed the croon o' his head aboon water, and then hittin him
on the temples.
Tickler. No, no, James. They would mutually risk lives for
each other's sake. But no politics at present, we're getting
into the swell, and will have our work to do to beat back into
smooth water. James, that was a facer.
Shepherd. Dog on it, ane wad need to be a sea-maw, or kittywake,
or stormy petrel, or some ither ane o' Bewick's birds —
Tickler. Keep your mouth shut, James, till we're out of the
Shepherd. Em — hem — umph — humph — whoo —whoo —
whurr — whurr — herrachvacherach.
Tickler. Whsy — whsy — whsy — whugh — whugh — shugh —
shugh — prugh — ptsugh — prgugh.
Shepherd. It's lang sin' I've drank sae muckle saut water
at ae sittin — at ae soomin, I mean — as I hae dune, sir, sin'
that Steamboat gaed by. She does indeed kick up a deevil
o' a rumpus.
Tickler. Whoo — whoo — whoof — whroo — whroo — whroof —
proof — ptroof — sprtf!
Shepherd. Ae thing I maun tell you, sir, and that's, gin you
tak the cramp the noo, you maunna expeck ony assistance frae
me — no, gin you were my ain faither. This bates a' the swalls!
Confoun' the James Watt, quoth I.
Tickler. Nay, nay, James. She is worthy of her name — and
a better seaman than Captain Bain never boxed the compass.
He never comes below, except at meal-times, and a pleasanter
person cannot be at the foot of the table. All night long he
is on deck, looking out for squalls.
Shepherd. I declare to you, sir, that just noo, in the trough
o' the sea, I didna see the top o' the Steamer's chimley. See,
Mr Tickler — see, Mr Tickler — only look here — only look here
Tickler. Capital — capital. He has been paying his father a
visit at the gallant Admiral's,¹ and come across our steps on
the sands.
Shepherd. Puir fallow — gran' fallow — did ye think we was
Bronte. Bow — bow — bow — bow, wow, wow — bow, wow,
Tickler. His oratory is like that of Bristol Hunt versus Sir
Thomas Lethbridge.²
Shepherd. Sir, you're tired, sir. You had better take haud
o' his tail.
Tickler. No bad idea, James. But let me just put one arm
round his neck. There we go. Bronte, my boy, you swim
strong as a rhinoceros!
Bronte. Bow, wow, wow — bow, wow, wow.
Shepherd. He can do onything but speak.
Tickler. Why, I think, James, he speaks uncommonly well.
Few of our Scotch members speak better. He might lead the
Shepherd. What for will ye aye be introducin politics, sir?
But, really, I hae fund his tail very useful in that swall; and
let's leave him to himsel noo, for twa men on ae dowg's a sair
Tickler. With what a bold kind eye the noble animal keeps
swimming between us, like a Christian!
Shepherd. I hae never been able to perswade my heart and
my understandin that dowgs haena immortal sowls. See how
he steers himsel, first a wee towarts me, and then a wee
towarts you, wi' his tail like a rudder. His sowl maun be
Tickler. I am sure, James, that if it be, I shall be extremely
happy to meet Bronte in any future society.
Shepherd. The minister wad ca' that no orthodox. But the
¹ Admiral Otway. See ante, vol. i. p. 378.
² Henry Hunt, a mob orator and Radical reformer, M.P. for Preston, 1830-31;
died in 1835. Sir T. Lethbridge, a Tory M.P., and large landed proprietor.
³ doundraucht — down-drag.
mystery o' life canna gang out like the pluff o' a cawnle.
Perhaps the verra bit bonny glitterin insecks that we ca'
ephemeral, because they dance out but ae single day, never
dee, but keep for ever and aye openin and shuttin their wings
in mony million atmospheres, and may do sae through a'
eternity. The universe is aiblins wide aneuch.
Tickler. Eyes right! James, a boatful of ladies — with
umbrellas and parasols extended to catch the breeze. Let us
lie on our oars, and they will never observe us.
Bronte. Bow, wow, wow, — bow, wow, wow.
[Female alarms heard from the pleasure-boat. A gentleman
in the stern rises with an oar, and stands in a
threatening attitude.
Tickler. Ease off to the east, James — Bronte, hush!
Shepherd. I howp they've nae fooling-pieces — for they may
tak us for gulls, and pepper us wi' swan-shot or slugs. I'll
dive at the flash. Yon's no a gun that chiel has in his haun?
Tickler. He lets fall his oar into the water, and the "boatie
rows — the boatie rows" — Hark, a song!
[Song from the retiring boat.
Shepherd. A very gude sang, and very well sung - jolly
companions every one.
Tickler. The fair authors of the Odd Volume!¹
Shepherd. What's their names ?
Tickler. They choose to be anonymous, James; and that
being the case, no gentleman is entitled to withdraw the veil.
Shepherd. They're sweet singers, howsomever, and the words
o' their sang are capital. Baith Odd Volumes are maist ingenious,
well written, and amusing.
Tickler. The public thinks so — and they sell like wildfire.
Shepherd. I'm beginning to get maist desperat thrusty,
and hungry baith. What a denner wull we make! How
mony miles do you think we hae swom?
Tickler. Three — in or over. Let me sound. — Why, James,
my toe scrapes the sand. "By the Nail six!"
Shepherd. I'm glad o't. It 'ill be a bonny bizziness, gif
ony neerdoweels hae ran aff wi' our claes out o' the machines.
But gif they hae, Bronte 'ill sune grup them — Wunna ye,
Bronte. Bow, wow, wow — bow, wow, wow.
¹ The Misses Corbett. See ante, vol. i. p. 252.
Shepherd. Now, Tickler, that our feet touch the grun', I'll
rin you a race to the machines for anither jug.
Tickler. Done — But let us have a fair start. — Once, twice,
[TICKLER and the SHEPHERD start, with BRONTE in the van,
amid loud acclamations from the shore. — Scene closes.
Scene II. — Inside of Portobello Fly.
Mrs Gentle. I suspect, Mary, that we are to have the whole
coach to ourselves. It has struck four.
Miss Gentle. Mr Forsyth's coach seldom starts, I think, till
about seven minutes after the hour, and I hope we may have
company. It is always pleasant to me to see a new face, and
hear a new voice, if it should be but for a passing half-hour
of cheerfulness and good-will among strangers.
Mrs Gentle. There is an advantage, child — I had almost
called it a blessing, in being not too genteel. People who at
all times keep fastidiously aloof from all society but that in
which it is their fortune to move, unconsciously come to regard
a large portion of their fellow-creatures with a kind of pride
not unallied to contempt, and their sympathies are confined
within too narrow a range.
Miss Gentle. Yes, mamma, I often observe that those persons
who, by the kindness of Providence, are enabled to lead
a life of luxury — innocent and blameless in itself, fear even
such an accidental and transient association with their inferiors
in rank or wealth, as may befall them in such a vehicle as
this, as if the contact were contamination. Why, too, should
shame ever be felt but for meanness or evildoing?
Mrs Gentle. Why, my dear Mary, we are both beginning
absolutely to sermonise on other people's little weaknesses or
failings. Who knows, if we had a carriage of our own to loll
in, many servants, and troops of splendid friends, that we
might not be among the vainest of the vain, the proudest of
the proud?
Miss Gentle. You never could, mamma, for you have been
tried; as for myself, I verily believe that my hauteur would
¹ It should be mentioned that the widow and her daughter who occasionally
take part in these dialogues are entirely fabulous characters.
have been excessive. This is a very hot afternoon, and I do
trust that fat dusty woman, with a cage and a bandbox, is
not —
Mrs Gentle. Fat dusty woman, Mary! Why, may not —
Miss Gentle. My dear mother! I declare there come Mr
Tickler and Mr Hogg! Do let me kiss my hand to them —
perhaps they may —
Tickler. Ha! ladies — I am delighted to find we shall have
your company to Edinburgh. — Hogg, ascend.
Shepherd. Hoo are ye the day, Mrs Gentle? — and hoo are
you, Miss Mary. God bless your bonny gentle een. Come
in, Mr Tickler — come in. — Coachman, pit up the steps. But
gif you've ony parshels to get out o' the office, or ony honest
outside passengers to tak up, you had better wait a wee while
on them, and, as it's unco het, and a' up-hill, and your beasts
wearied, tak your time, my man, and hurry nae man's cattle.
Miss Mary, you'll hae been doun to the dookin?
Miss Gentle. No, Mr Hogg; I very seldom bathe in the sea.
Bathing is apt to give me a headache, and to induce sleepiness.
Shepherd. That's a sign the dookin disna agree wi' your
constitution. Yet though you have that kind o' complexion,
my dear Mem, that the poet was dreaming o' when he said,
"O call it fair, not pale," I howp devoutly that your health's
gude. — I howp, Mrs Gentle, your dochter's no what's ca'd
Mrs Gentle. Mary enjoys excellent health, Mr Hogg, and is
much in the open air, which, after all, is the best of baths.
Shepherd. Ye say richt — ye say richt, Mem. There's nae
need o' watering a flower that opens its bosom to the dews o'
heaven. Now, leddies, there's no a man in a' this warld that's
less inquisitive than mysel about ither folk's concerns; yet
whenever I forgather unexpectedly wi' freens I love, my heart
aye asks itsel silently, on what errand o' courtesy or kindness
hae they been engaged? I think, Miss Mary, I could maist
Miss Gentle. No, Mr Hogg.
Shepherd. There's nae smile on your face — at least, but sic
a faint smile as generally — unless I'm lair mistaen in your
character — dwalls there, — sae, my dear Miss Gentle, I ken
that though your visit to this place has no been an unhappy,
it may hae been something o' a sad ane; and therefore, God
bless you, I'll change the subject, and try and be agreeable.
Mrs Gentle. Even so, sir. We have been visiting a friend
— I may almost say a sister of Mary's, who, a few weeks ago,
there was but too much reason to fear, was sinking into a consumption.

Shepherd. Dinna mind, my dearest Miss Gentle, though the
tears do come to your een. Friendship is never sae pure, sae
unselfish, sae affeckin, in this warld, as when it breathes frae
bosom to bosom o' twa young innocent maidens, wha, ha'in
nae sisters o' their ain, come to love ane anither even mair
dearly than if their hearts beat with the same blood. Diana
fear but she'll get better. If she seemed sinkin into a consumption
weeks sin' syne, and instead o' being waur is noo
better, it's a proof that God intends not yet takin her to himself
in heaven.
Miss Gentle. I am truly happy, sir, to meet with you again
so soon after that charming evening at Buchanan Lodge. I
hope you are all well at Mount Benger?
Shepherd. Better than well; and next moon the mistress
expects to see your mother and you alang wi' Mr North,
according to your promise. You're no gaun to break it?
What for are you lookin sae grave, baith o' you? I dinna
understan' this — I am verra near about gaun to grow a wee
Miss Gentle. When my dear sister shall have recovered
sufficient strength for a little tour in the country, her physician
has recommended —
Shepherd. No anither word. She sall come out wi' you to
Yarrow. I've seen near a dizzen o' us in Mr North's coach
afore noo, and no that crooded neither. You fewer 'ill ilka ane
hae your corner — and you, Mem, Mrs Gentle, and Mr North,
'ill be taken for the mother and the father — and Miss Mary
and Miss Ellenor for your twa dochters; the ane like Bessy
Bell, and the ither like Mary Gray.
Miss Gentle. Most extraordinary, Mr Hogg — why, my dear
friend's name absolutely is Ellinor!
Shepherd. The moment I either see a young leddy, or lassie
indeed o' ony sort, or even hear them spoken o' by ane that
lo'es them, that moment I ken their Christian name. What
process my mind gangs through I canna tell, except that it's
intuitive like, and instantawneous. The soun' o' the unpronounced
name, or raither the shadow o' the soun', comes
across my mind, and I'm never wrang ony mair than if I had
heard the wean baptised in the kirk.
Miss Gentle. What fine apprehensions are given to the poet's
gifted soul and senses!
Shepherd. A July at Mount Benger will add twenty years
to Miss Ellenor's life. She sall hae asses' milk — and a stool
to sit on in the byre every nicht when the "kye come hame"
to be milked — for there's naethin better for that complaint
than the balmy breath o' kine.
Miss Gentle. God bless you, sir, you are so considerate!
Shepherd. And we'll tak care no to let her walk on the gerse
when the dews are on, — and no to stay out ower late in the
gloamin; and in case o' a chance shower — for there's nae
countin on them — she sall hae my plaid — and bonny she'll
look in't, gif she be onything like her freen Miss Mary Gentle
— and we'll row in a boatie on St Mary's Loch in the sunshine
— and her bed sall be made cozy every nicht wi' our new
brass warmin-pan, though there's no as much damp about a'
the house as to dim a lookin-glass — and her food sall be Yarrow
truits, and Eltrive chickens, and licht barley-scones, wi'
a glass o' the mistress's currant-wine — and the banished roses
sall return frae exile to her cheek, and the lilies to her breast
— and her voice sall no trummle in the chorus o' a sang — and
you and her may gladden our een by dancin a waltz to my
fiddle — for the waltz is a bonny dance for twa maiden sisters
dressed in white, wi' roses on their hair, and pink sashes
roue' their waists, and silk stockins sae smooth and white,
ye micht maist think they werena stockins ava, but just the
pure gleam o' the natural ankle glidin alang the floor.
Miss Gentle. You draw such a picture of our Arcadia! I
feel assured that we shall visit the Forest.
Shepherd. I'm sure, Miss Mary, that you believe in the
doctrine o' impulses?
Miss Gentle. I wish to believe in everything beautiful — ay,
even in Kilmeny's sojourn in the land of Faery, and her return,
when years had flown, late late in the gloamin, to her
father's ingle.
Shepherd. Mony impulses, Mem, Mrs Gentle, have come to
me, between the age o' sixteen and my present time o' life —
what that is, I leave you baith to guess, but no to utter — for
the maist part in the silence and darkness o' nicht — but no
always sae, — sometimes in the brichtness o' sunshine, at morn
or meridian — but never but when alane — a' ithers bein' either
far away, or buried in sleep.
Miss Gentle. Will you have the kindness, my dear Mr Hogg,
to explain yourself — for —
Shepherd. A' at ance my soul kens that it must obey the
Impulse — nor ever seeks to refuse. Aftenest it is towards
something sad — but although sad, seldom miserable — a journey
over the hills to see some freen, whom I hae nae reason
to fear is otherwise than well and happy — but on reaching his
house, I see grieffu' faces, and perhaps hear the voice o' prayer
by the bedside o' ane whom the bystanders fear is about to
die. Ance the Impulse led me to go by a ford, instead o' the
brig, although the ford was fardest, and the river red; and
I was just in time to save a puir travellin mither, wi' twa wee
weans on her breast: awa she went wi' a blessing on my head,
and I never saw her mair. Anither time, the Impulse sent
me to a lanesome spat amang the hills, as I thought, only
because the starnies were mair than usual beautifully bricht,
and that I might aiblins mak a bit poem or sang in the solitude,
and I found my ain brither's wee dochter, o' twelve
years auld, lyin delirious o' a sudden brain fever, and sae
weak that I had to carry her hame in my plaid like a bit
lamb.¹ But I'm gettin wearisome, Mems — and, gude safe us!
there's Bronte fechtin wi' a carter's mastiff. We're a mile
frae Portybelly, and I never was sensible o' the Fly ha'in
steered frae the cotch-offish. Driver — driver, stop, or thae
twa dowgs 'ill devoor ane anither. There's nae occasion —
Bronte has garred him flee, and that carter 'ill be wise to haud
his haun; for faith, gif he strikes Bronte wi' his whup, he'll
be on the braid o' his back in a jiffy, wi' a haill set o' teeth in
his wizard, as lang's my fingers, and as white as yours, Miss
Mary; — but wull ye let me look at that ring, for I'm unco
curious in precious shines.
[SHEPHERD takes MISS GENTLE'S hand into his.
Miss Gentle. It has been in our family, sir, for several centuries,
and I wear it for my grandmother's sake, who took it
off her finger and put it on mine, a few days before she died.
Shepherd. Mrs Gentle, I see your dochter's haun's just like
¹ Hogg's "Impulse" may claim kindred with the Demon of Socrates; differing,
however, from it in this respect, that the office of the latter was never to
impel, but only to restrain.
your ain — the back narrowish, but rather a wee plumpy —
fingers sma' and taper, without being lang — and the beautifu'
wee member, pawm an' a', as saft and warm as velvet, that
has been no verra far aff the fire. Happy he whom heaven
ordains, on some nae distant day, to put the thin, unadorned,
unrubied ring on this finger — my dear Mary — this ane, the
neist to the wee finger o' the left haun — and gin you'll ask
me to the wedding, you shall get, my bonny doo, warm frae
this heart o' mine, a faither's blessing.
Mrs Gentle. Let me promise for Mary, Mr Hogg; and on
that day, you, Mr North, and Mr Tickler, will dine with me
at Trinity Cottage.
Shepherd. I'll answer for Mr Tickler. But hoosh — speak
lown, or we'll wauken him. I'm never sae happy in his
company, as when he's sleepin — for his animal spirits, at
times, is maist outrawgeous — his wut incessant — and the
verra een o' him gleg as wummles, mair than I can thole, for
hours thegither fixed on mine, as gin he wushed to bore a
hole through a body's head, frae oss frontis to cerebellum.
Leddies dear, you're no Phrenologists?
Mrs Gentle. We are not — from no contempt of what we do
not understand — but merely because Mary's education is still
in many things incomplete — and —
Shepherd. Incomplete! I dinna believe its incomplete in
onything. Dinna they tell me that she can play the piawno,
and the herp, and the guitawr, each sae weel, that it seems at
the time to be her only instrument? Mr North, they say, 'ill
sit for hours without ony cawnle in the room, only the moon
lookin and listenin in at the window, while she keeps singin
to the auld man tunes that somehow mak him greet — and
greetin's no a mood he's in general gien to — And, then, dinna
ye think Mr North has shown me some o' her verses, ay, as
true poetry, Miss Mary, as Mrs Hemans's hersel? — and what
for wull ye no alloo him to prent some o' them in the
Mrs Gentle. Mary's attempts, Mr Hogg, are all unworthy
that honour — and I assure you her modesty is so unaffected,
that it would give her pain to see any of her trifles in print.
She rarely can be brought even to sing them to Mr North,
when we are alone.
Shepherd. I canna ca't a fause modesty — for there's naething
fause about her — indeed I love, admire, and respeck
her for't — although, God forbid I sud think that the female
poetesses i' this and ither kintras sudna hae sang before a'
the people, — but oh, Mem, there's a charm divine in the bits
o' sangs that's owned by their writers — young, innocent, and
fair — maist as if in confession o' ha'in dune something wrang
— and extorted frae them, when nane but dearest freens are
by, in some auld plaintive air that never seemed sae sweet
before, — the singer a' the while hangin doun her head, till
her hair seems in the twilight hangin like a veil ower her
countenance, and you can just see the moving o' her breast,
half in sadness, and half in a timid fear, yet the haill feelin a
feelin o' happiness that she wad be sorry to exchange for mirth.
Mrs Gentle. I sometimes think, sir, that the education of
females in this country is too much according to rule — too
formal — too —
Shepherd. Far ower muckle sae. There's ower little left
to theirsels, Mem. The truth is, that the creturs hae nae
time to think or feel about onything but what they're taucht
— every hour in the day bein' taken up wi' its ain separate
task — sae that their acquirements, or accomplishments, as
they ca' them, are ower mechanical, and dinna melt into, and
set aff ane anither like the colours o' a rainbow, Mem, as they
do in the case o' your dochter there, — and a year after
leavin school, or being married, where's a' their fine gran'
accomplishments then? They canna then pent a bit flower
wi' distinctive petals frae natur; and as for ony new tunes,
they never attempt them, and jingle ower them learnt at
school unco wearisomely — for the spinnet, poorly played, is a
meeserable instrument, like music dazed and daunderin in an
asthmatic consumption.
Mrs Gentle. Perhaps, Mr Hogg, you may allow that such
accomplishments are chiefly graceful in youth, and that they
may rust out of use, without much regret, when the wife and
the mother —
Shepherd. Just sae — just sae, Mem — only they sudna be
gien up just a'thegither, and only by slow degrees. Though
I confess I hae nae pleasure in seein mother and dochter
sittin playin a duet at the same spinnet.
Miss Gentle. Phrenology is quite epidemic, Mr Hogg,
among our sex in Edinburgh.
Shepherd. Haena ye observed that a' leddies that are
Phrenologists are very impident, upsettin, bauld amang men,
loud talkers, and lang as weel's loud — tak desperate strides
when they walk — write a strang haun o' write — grow red in
the face gin you happen to contradick them — dinna behave
ower reverently to their pawrents, nor yet to their husbands,
gin they hae the gude luck to hae gotten wed — hae nae slicht
o' haun in curlin their hair toshly, and are naewise kenspeckle
for white teeth — to say naething about the girth o' their
ankles — nor —
Miss Gentle. I know only one female Phrenologist, Mr Hogg
— and I assure you she is a very sweet, simple, pretty girl.
Shepherd. And does she let lecturers hawnle her head?
Miss Gentle. Pardon me for again interrupting you; but
Lucy Callander —
Shepherd. Is nae Phrenologist. A sweet, simple, pretty
girl, wi' sic an agreeable name as Lucy Callander, canna
be a Phrenologist. She'll hae a sweetheart that pretends to
be ane, that he may tak impertinent opportunities to weave
her fair tresses roun' his fingers, and mak "the Sceeance,"
as the fules ca't, subservient to a little innocent flirtation,
Mem. That's no uncommon, Mem. There's nae scarcity o'
siccan disciples.
Mrs Gentle. Surely, sir, no gentleman would so far forget
his natural respect for the delicacy and dignity of the sex as
under any circumstances to act so insultingly, so vulgarly,
and so coarsely
Shepherd. Ony member o' the Phrenological Society, Mem,
would do sae, without meaning ony insult, but just frae the
obtuse insolence characteristic o' the seck. In matters o'
sceeance, a' the ordinary decencies, and delicacies, and proprieties
o' life maun be laid aside; and sic an angelic head as
the ane I see before me, glitterin wi' sunbeams, and wi' the
breathin incense o' morn, submitted to be pawed upon (the
beasts ca't manipulated) by fingers fetidly familiar wi' plaster-o'-Paris
casts o' the skulls o' murderous Jezebels, like Mrs
Mackinnon,¹ or aiblins wi' the verra skull itsel, and a comparison
instituted, possibly to the advantage o' her that has
been hanged and disseckit, and made an atomy² o', between
¹ Mary Mackinnon or M'Innes, executed 16th April 1823, for the murder, on
the 8th February preceding, of William Howat, in her own house on the South
Bridge, Edinburgh.
² Atomy — a skeleton.
the character o' that dochter o' sin and perdition, and this
your ain child o' innocence and bliss.
Mrs Gentle. Aren't you pressing the point against the
Phrenologists too far, Mr Hogg?
Shepherd. No half far aneuch. They said that she-devil
wha had brought sae mony a puir young lassie to destruction,
and broken so mony a parental heart, had a great organ o'
veneration; and how think ye they proved the correspondence
o' her character wi' what they ca' her development? Why,
that she ance drapped on her knees on the Calton Hill and
imprecated furious curses on the vessel that was carrying off
an offisher, or some other profligate, with whom she had
lived in sin and shame! I could show you the words.
Mrs Gentle. Mr North, sir, I can assure you, regards Phrenology
much more favourably than you seem —
Shepherd. What care I for Mr North, Mem, or indeed ony
ither Man, in a maitter, no sae muckle o' pure philosophy, as
common sense? Besides, Mr North only seems to humour
sic folly, to see hoo far it 'ill gang — and it's gran' sport to hear
him acquiescin wi' a Phrenologist, the silly cretur considerin
him a convert, till, in the pride o' his heart, the ass brays sae
loud and lang, that the haill company is startled, and Lang--
Lugs himsel perceeves that he has been trottin for their
amusement, and had his nose a' the while tickled by Mr
North, wi' the nemo-me-impune-lacesset thistle that grows on
the back o' Blackwood's Magazine.
Miss Gentle. Have any of the gentlemen you allude to, sir,
written any works of merit — in prose or verse? — for I confess
that, if they have, I should feel the more disposed to believe
that their philosophy was true.
Shepherd. I never heard tell o' ony. Let a Phrenologist
write ae beautifu' sang o' four stanzas — ae Prose Tale, however
short, in which human nature is unfaulded and elucidated
— ae Essay even in the common language o' men — on Metapheesics
theirsels — let him pruve himsel to hae genius o'
ony kind, and in ony depairtment, and then a body micht
think wi' some temper on their blind and brutal abuse o' their
betters, and their general denunciation o' a' the rest o' mankind
as dunces or bigots. But what hae they got to shaw?
No ae single scrawl fit for onything better than singin
Mrs Gentle. I understand, sir, there are some very clever
men among the Phrenologists.
Shepherd. There are some very clever men, Mem, in every
craal o' Hottentots, I'se warrant, in Caffrawria, as there are in
every tent o' tinklers frae Yetholm. Tawlents o' a tolerable
size you stumble on nowadays at the corner o' every street;
and it would be a singular phenomenon if you couldna put
your haun on the shouther o' a decent Phrenologist. But
oh, Mem! but the creturs mak the maist o' ony moderate
tawlents they may possess, or poo'r o' writin doun statements
o' what they ca' facts; — and sure aneuch in conversation in
company after denner — maist unhappy haverers are they over
tumbler or jug — sae serious whan everybody else is jokin —
sae close in their reasonin whan ither folk's minds are like
bows unbent — sae argumentative on mere wunnle-straes flung
up to see how the wund blaws — sae fairce gif you but gie a
wee bit short good-natured grunt o' a lauch — sae tenawcious
like grim death o' a syllogism o' ratiocination that you hae
rugged out o' their nieve — sae fond o' damnable iteration, as
Shakespeare says, for I never swear nane — sae dreigh and sae
dour in a' they look, think, say, or do — sae bauld and bristly
when they think they are beating you in logic, and sae crestfallen
and like cauves wi' their heads hanging ower the sides
o' carts, when they find that ye are yerking it into them, and
see that a' the company is kecklin; — in short, oh, dear me!
Mem, Mrs Gentle! and you, my dear Miss Mary! the Phrenologists
are indeed a peculiar people, jealous o' good works,
and wi' about as muckle sense amang them as micht furnish
some half-dozen commissioners o' police per annum, twa-three
droggists, an advocate callant no verra sair on the fees, and a
couple o' stickit ministers. You'll hear them takin a sweepin
view o' the History o' Metapheesics frae Thawles tae Tam
Broon, establishin for themselves nae fewer than twa-andthretty
faculties, mainteenin that the knowledge o' human
nature on the sceeance o' Mind is yet in its infancy — that a'
the millions on millions o' men that thocht about their ain
sowls since Noah, went blindfolded and ram-stam on the wrang
road, with their backs towards the rising Sun o' Truth — and,
to mak a lang story short, that Dr Gall, Dr Spurzheim, Mr
George Combe, and Mr James Simpson, do now possess,
within the circumference of their skulls, shallow and empty
as they are deemed to be by a weak and wicked generation,
mair sense, knowledge, sceeance, truth, than all the other
skulls belonging to the eight hundred and fifty million o'
Christians, Pagans, Heathens, Jews, Turks, and the lave,¹ on
continent or isle, a' ower the face, breast, and back o' the
habitable yirth! Whoo — I am out o' breath — I wuss I had a
drink. Did Tickler stir the noo? I howp he's no waukenin.
Mrs Gentle. Well, Mr Hogg, this is the first time in my life
I ever saw Mr Tickler asleep. I fear he has been overpowered
by the sun.
Shepherd. No, Mem — by soomin. He and I, and Bronte
there, took a soom nearly out to Inchkeith — and no being
accustomed to it for some years, he's unco comatose. There's
no ae single thing in a' this warld that he's sae severe on in
other folk as fa'in asleep in company — let them even hae sat
up the haill nicht afore, ower bowl or book, — but that trance is
like a judgment on him, and he'll be real wud² at me for no
waukenin him, when he opens his een as the wheels stop, and
he fin's that I've had baith the leddies a' the way up to mysel.
But you can see him at ony time — whereas a sicht o' me in
Awmrose's is gude for sair een, on an average only but ance
a season. Mrs Gentle, did you ever see ony person sleep mair
like a gentleman?
Mrs Gentle. Everything Mr Tickler does, Mr Hogg, is like
a gentleman.
Shepherd. When he's dead he'll look like a gentleman.
Even if ane could for a moment mak sic a supposition, he
would look like a gentleman if he were hanged.
Mrs Gentle. O shocking! — My dear sir —
Shepherd. My admiration o' Mr Tickler has nae bounds,
Mem. He would look like a gentleman in the stocks — or the
jougs — or the present Ministry —
Mrs Gentle. I certainly never saw any person enter a drawing-room
with an air of more courteous dignity, more heartfelt
politeness, more urbanity, sir, a word, I believe, derived —
Shepherd. It's no an man in fifty thousan' that's entitled to
hae what's ca'd a mainner. Maist men, on entering a room,
do weel just to sit doun on the first chair they lay their haun
on — or to gang intil the window — or lean against the wa' — or
keep lookin at pictures on a table — till the denner-bell rings.
But Mr Tickler there — sax feet four — threescore and ten¹
Lave — remainder.
² Wud — angry.
wi' heigh feturs¹ — white hair — ruddy cheeks — paircin een —
naturally eloquent — fu' o' anecdote o' the olden time — independent
in sowl, body, and estate, — geyan proud — a wee mad —
rather deafish on the side of his head that happens to be neist
a ninny — He, Mem, is entitled by nature and art to hae a
mainner, and an extraordinar mainner sometimes it is²—
Mrs Gentle. I think Mr Tickler is about to shake off his
Tickler. Has that lazy fellow of a coachman not got all his
parcels and passengers collected yet? Is he never going to
set off? Ay, there we go at last. This Portobello, Mrs Gentle,
is really a wonderful place. That building reminds me of the
Edinburgh Post-Office.
Shepherd. We're in Embro', sir, we're in Embro', and you've
been snorin like a bittern or a frog in Tarras Moss.
Tickler. Ladies — can I hope ever to be pardoned for having
fallen asleep in such presence? Yet, could I think that the
guilt of sleep had been aggravated by being habit and repute
a snorer, — suicide alone could—
Mrs Gentle. During your slumber, sir, you drew your breath
as softly as a sleeping child.
Tickler. My offence, then, is not inexpiable.
Shepherd. I am muckle obliged to you, sir, for sleepin — and
I drew up the window on your side, that you michtna catch
cauld; for, sir, though you draw your breath as saftly as a
sleepin child, you hae nae notion how wide open you haud
your mouth. You'll do the same for me another time.
[The coach stops, and the SHEPHERD hands out Miss GENTLE.
— MR TICKLER gallantly performing the same office to
the Lady Mother.
Bronte. Bow, wow, wow — bow, wow, wow. [Scene closes.

Scene III. — Mr Ambrose's Hotel, Picardy Place — Pitt Parlour.
MR NORTH lying on a sofa, and MR AMBROSE fanning him
with a Peacock's Tail.
North. These window-ventilators, Mr Ambrose, are indeed
admirable contrivances, and I must get them adopted at the
Lodge. No wind that blows suits this room so well as the
south-east. Do you think I might venture on another water¹
Feturs — features.
² Mr Robert Sym is here painted to the life.
ice before dinner? The pine-apple we shall reserve. Thank
you, Ambrose — that fan almost makes me melancholy. Demetrius
was truly a splendid — a gorgeous — a glorious bird — and
methinks I see him now affronting Phoebus with his thousand
lidless eyes intensely bright within the emerald haze by which
they were all encircled and overshadowed. Poor, dear, good
old Lady Diana Le Fleming¹ gave him to me, that parricide
might not be perpetrated in the Rydal woods. For the Prince
had rebelled against the King his father, and driven old
Poliorcetes² into the gloom of the forest. There, in some
remote glade, accompanied in his dethroned exile but by one
single Sultana, would he dare, as the echo of his ungrateful
heir-apparent's triumphant cry was faint among the ancient
oaks, to unfurl that Tail, Mr Ambrose, glorious even in the
gloom, till, sick of tenderness, his pensive paramour stooped
her crested head, and pressed her bosom to the mossy greensward
before her enamoured lord, who, had he been more of a
philosopher than I fear he was, would have been happy in the
thought of "All for Love, or the World well Lost." No
spectator there of such caresses but the wild-bee, too busy
amidst the sylvan blooms to behold even the birds of Juno —
or the squirrel leaping among the mossy branches of that
endless canopy — or the lovely adder trailing his burnished
undulations along the forest flowers — or snow-white coney all
intent on his own loves, the happy father he of monthly
families all the year long, retiring at the far-off rustle of footstep
into his old hereditary palace, beneath the roots of elm or
ash five centuries old! Solemn woods they were indeed, my
good Ambrose, in those days — but oh! that the axe should
ever be laid to the root of the Bright, the Beautiful, the Bold,
the Free, the Great, the Young or the Old! Let hurricanes
level lanes through forests, as plagues do through the families
of men, for Nature may work at will with her own elements
among her own creations, but why must man for ever destroy?
nor, child of a day, fear to murder the Tree that stands green
yet gloomy in its strength, beside the mouldering mausoleum
it has for ages overshadowed, and that is now but a heap of
dust and ashes? Hark! the timepiece sweetly strikes, as
¹ A daughter of the Earl of Suffolk: married to Sir Michael Le Fleming of
Rydal Hall, Westmoreland. Rydal Mount, for so long the residence of Wordsworth,
is a portion of this estate.
² Demetrius, surnamed Poliorcetes, or the Besieger, was defeated, and kept
in confinement, by his son-in-law Seleucus.
with a silver bell, the hour of five! — Cease your fanning, mine
host most worthy — and let the dinner appear — for ere a man,
with moderate haste, might count a hundred, Tickler and
the Shepherd will be in the presence. Ay, God bless his
honest soul, there is my dear James's laugh in the lobby.
Shepherd. Here I am, sir, gloriously hungry. My stamach,
Mr North, as weel's my heart, 's in the richt place. I'm nae
glutton — nae gormandeezer — but a man o' a gude — a great
appeteet — and for the next half-hour I shall be as perfectly
happy as ony man in a' Scotland.
Tickler. Take a few biscuits, James, till —
Shepherd. Biskits! I could crunch the hail tot o' them like
sae mony wafers. Rax me ower ane o' thae cabin-biskits o' a
man-o'-war — there — smash into flinders flees it at ae stroke o'
my elbow — but here comes the ROOND!
North. Mr Ambrose, I ordered a cold dinner —
Shepherd. A cauld denner! Wha the deevil in his seven
senses wad condescend to sit doun till a cauld denner! Hail,
Hotch-potch! What a Cut o' Sawmon! That maun hae been
a noble fish! Come forrit, my wee chiel, wi' the chickens,
and you bigger callant, wi' the tongue and ham. Tak tent,
ye auld dominee, and no scale the sass o' the sweet-breads!
Curry's a gran' thing, geyan late on in a denner, when the
edge o' the appeteet's a wee turned, and you're rather beginnin
to be stawed.¹ Mr Awmrose, I'll thank ye to lend me a pocky--
haundkershief, for I've forgotten mine in my wallise, and my
mouth's waterin. There, Mr North, there — set in his fit-stule
aneath the table. I ca' this, sir, a tastefu' and judicious
denner for three. Whisht, sirs. "God bless us in these
mercies, and make us truly thankful. Amen!"
Tickler. Hodge-podge, Hogg?
Shepherd. Only three ladlefu's. — Mair pease. Dip deeper.
— That's it.
North. Boiling broth, with the thermometer at eighty!
Shepherd. I carena if the fermometer war at aught hunder
and aughty. I'll eat het hotch-potch against Mosshy Shaubert'
— only I'll no gae intil the oven — neither will I eat arsenick
or phosphorus.
¹ Stawed — satiated.
² A fire-eater of those days. He could handle, it is said, red-hot iron, and
enter with impunity an oven in which beef-steaks were cooking.
North. I should like, James, to introduce my friend Dr
Dodds to M. Chabert.
Shepherd. Wha's he?
North. The ingenious gentleman who was packed in ice
below an avalanche in Switzerland for some century and a
half, and who, on being dug out and restored to animation
before a rousing wood-fire, merely complained of a slight
numbness in his knees, and a tingling at the points of his
Shepherd. Oh, man! hoo he must hae enjoyed the first het
denner! I think I see him ower his first jug o' het toddy.
They tell me he has gotten himsel married — has he ony
Tickler. Mr Hogg, a glass of wine?
Shepherd. No the noo. I am for some mair o' the hotch--
potch. Mr Awmrose, gie me a deeper ashet. — I wunner to see
ye, Mr North, fiddle-faddlin awa at cauld lamb and mint sass.
— I just perfectly abhor mint sass.
North. My dear James, you must have had the shower-bath
Shepherd. Confound your shower-baths, and your vapour-baths,
and your slipper-baths, and your marble-coffin-baths,
and your Bath-baths — "Give me," as my ingenious freen, the
author o' the Cigar and Life after Dark, spiritedly says, "give
me the broad bosom of the blue sea, with five fathom of water
beneath me;" the Firth o' Forth to frisk in, sir — the lips o'
the wide mouth o' the German Ocean to play with — where, as
Tennant says,
"Breaks the long wave that at the Pole began."
Noo, Mr Tickler, my hotch-potch is dune, and I'll drink a pint
o' porter wi' you frae the tap.
[MR AMBROSE places the pewter.
North. The Cigar, James, and Every Night Book, or Life
after Dark, are extremely clever and amusing. Who?²
Shepherd. The same. He's a wutty fallow. I wush he
was here.
North. Is the Age Reviewed, James, any shakes of a satire?
¹ A story to this effect was current at the time.
² The American editor states that the name of the author of these books
was William Clarke.
Shepherd. Some o' the belly, sir. I prefer the belly o' a
sawmon and the back o' a cod. What's your wull?
North. I gave you the Age Reviewed yestreen to peruse,
James. Eh?
Shepherd. He's a sumph, the author. He leads a body in
the preface to expeck that he's gaun to be personal, and malevolent,
and rancorous, and a' that; and instead o' that, he's
only stupit.
Tickler. I gave the drivel a glance — wretched stuff. The
dolt is not aware that "The Age" goes farther back in time
than about the year 1812, or extends in space beyond London
and suburbs.
Shepherd. He might as weel hae ca'd a drill o' twa-three
tailors and weavers — makin into volunteers — a review o' the
British army. It's curious how many sumphs become satirists.
North. What a rare faculty 'tis, James, cutting-up.
Shepherd. Ye may say that, wi' a pig's tail in your cheek,
Mr North; for, savin and exceppin your ain single sel, there's
no a man noo, either in the Fleet or the Army, or the Church,
or the Courts o' Law, or the Parliament, that knows how to
hawnle a cat-o'-nine-tails.
North. My dear Shepherd, you forget — my instrument is the
Shepherd. What maist surprises and pleases me, sir, is that
your richt hand never forgets its cunnin. You'll maybe no tak
your KNOUT intil't for a year at a time; and the next culprit that
has his head tied over a post, howps your haun 'ill be weak or
ackward; but, my faith, he sune kens better; for at every
stripe o' the inevitable and inexorable whang, the skin flipes
aff frae nape to hurdies — and the Cockney confesses that
Christopher North is still, septuagenarian though he be, the
First Leevin Satirist o' the age. I wud like to see you, sir, by
way o' vareeity, pented by John Watson Gordon, in the character
o' Apollo flayin Marsyas. — Noo for the Roond. Thank ye,
Mr Tickler — some udder. — Awmrose, Dickson's mustard.
Tickler. May-Fair,¹ North, is clever.
North. Very much so. But I do not fancy light-hitting —
and showy sparring of that sort. Give me a desperate lunge
at the kidneys.
Tickler. The author is not a man of fashion — although he
¹ May-Fair, in Four Cantos. By W. H. AINSWORTH. London, 1827.
would fain be thought one. — Dress — speak — laugh — bow — sit
— walk, — blow your nose as fashionably as you can — unless
you are bona fide of the ton — it is all in vain. You are soon
seen to be a forgery.
North. Yet the author is a gentleman and a scholar.
Tickler. I dislike altogether these ambling octo-syllabics.
'Tis a pitiful pace.
North. Rather so. But what chiefly annoyed me in May-Fair,
was its author's assumed easiness of air, — his nonchalance
in speaking of his titled friends, — his hand-in-glove
familiarity with my Lord Holland, — and above all, the unconscious
pomposity with which he, a gay and airy trifler, treats
of matters utterly uninteresting to all mankind except perhaps
about three people.
Shepherd. Nae mair about it. I read a skreed o't in the
Literary Gazette, but didna understand ae single word o't, wi'
its blanks, and its allusions, and its alleeterations. The
author thinks himsel a great wut, nae doubt, but he's only
middlin, — and it's no worth while "takin the conceit out o'
him," for he'll no reach another edition. The Lunnon creturs
imagine a' the warld's aye thinkin about them, — but naebody
in Yarrow minds them. May-Fair at Selkrig's a different
bizziness, and wad mak a grand poem, either serious or
sateerical, or baith at ance, like the wabster's widow.
Tickler. Pray, North, did you see Tom Campbell¹ when he
was lately in Edinburgh?
North. I did not. He was to have dined with me, when a
summons — from Colburn, I suppose — carried him off by steam
to London.
Tickler. Our worthy friends, the people of the West Country,
did themselves infinite credit by their cordial reception of
their Bard and Rector.
North. They did so indeed. Campbell's speeches and
addresses on his Installation on the First of May, and at the
Public Dinner, contained many very happy touches — apt,
ingenious, hearty, and graceful.
Tickler. You heard, I presume, that the Gander² tried to
¹ Thomas Campbell was Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow in 1827.
² The Glasgow "Gander" was a Mr Douglas. Among his other social misdemeanours
he was addicted to abusing Sir Walter Scott at public dinners.
See afterwards, Noctes for March 1831.
disturb the genial feeling of sympathy and admiration by his
Goose-dub gabble, but got hissed and hooted back to his
green-mantled pool?
North. I noticed, with pleasure, an able castigation of the
creature in the Scots Times; and it is agreeable to know, that
the illustrious Author of the Pleasures of Hope cut him dead.
In England, such baseness would be held incredible. Yet,
plucked as he is of every feather, and bleeding all over, he
struts about in the same mock majesty as ever, and construes
pity and contempt into keudos and glorification.
Shepherd. I dinna ken wha you're speakin about. But wha
wull the College laddies make Rector neist? I'll tell you wha
they should eleck.
North. Whom, James?
Shepherd. Just yoursel. They've had a dynasty of Whigs —
Jaffrey, and Sir James Mackintosh, and Brougham, and Cammell
— and noo they should line a dynasty o' Tories. THE
North. No—no—no, James. Nolo Episcopari.
Shepherd. What for no? Haud your tongue. I'll mak an
appeal to the laddies, and your election is sure. First, you're
the auldest Tory in Scotland — secondly, you're the bauldest
Tory in Scotland — thirdly, you're the wuttiest Tory in Scotland
— fourthly, you're the wisest Tory in Scotland. That
Tammas Cammell is a mair popular poet than you, sir, I
grant; but that he has ae tenth pairt o' your poetical genius,
I deny. As a miscellawneous writer on a' subjects human
and divine, he is no to be named wi' you, sir, in the same
lifetime — and as an EDITOR, he is, compared wi' CHRISTOPHER
NORTH — but as a spunk to the Sun!
Tickler. Rector! a glass of hock or sauterne?
North. Mr Ambrose, the Peacock's Tail, if you please.
The room is getting very hot.
Shepherd. Oh, sir, but you look bonny when you blush. I
can conceeve a virgin o' saxteen fa'in in love wi' you — Rector,
your good health. Mr Awmrose, fill the Rector's glass. Oh,
sir, but you wad luk gran' in your robs. Jaffrey and Cammell's
but pechs¹ to you — the verra stoop o' your shouthers would
be dignified aneath a goon — the gait o' the gout is unco
philosophical — and wi' your crutch in your nieve, you would
¹ Pechs — pigmies.
seem the Champion o' Truth, ready either to defend the
passes against the wily assaults of Falsehood, or to follow her
into her ain camp, storm the intrenchments, and slaughter
her whole army o' sceptics. — Mr Awmrose, gie me a clean
plate — I'm for some o' the curried kernels.
North. I have some thoughts, James, of relinquishing
animal food, and confining myself, like Sir Richard Phillips,
to vegetable matter.
Shepherd. Ma troth, sir, there are mony millions o' Sir
Richard Phillipses in the world, if a' that's necessary to make
ane be abstinence frae animal food. It's my belief, that no
aboon ane in ten o' mankind at large, pree animal food frae
week's end to week's end. Sir Richard Phillips, on that
question, is in a great majority.
Tickler. North, accustomed, James, all his life, to three
courses — fish, flesh, and fowl — would think himself an absolute
phenomenon or miracle of man, were he to devote the
remainder of his meals to potatoes and barley bannocks,
pease-soup, macaroni, and the rest of the range of bloodless
but sappy nature. How he would be laughed at for his heroic
resolution, if overheard by three million strapping Irish
beggars, with their bowels yearning for potatoes and potheen!
North. No quizzing, boys, of the old gentleman. Talking
of Sir Richard Phillips, I am sorry he is no longer — to my
knowledge at least — the Editor of a Magazine. In his hands
the Monthly was a valuable periodical. One met with information
there, that nowadays I, at least, know not where to
look for — and though the Knight's own scientific speculations
were sometimes sufficiently absurd, they, for the most part,
exhibited the working of a powerful and even original mind.
Shepherd. I agree wi' him in thinkin Sir Isaac Newton out
o' his reckonin entirely about gravitation. There's nae sic
thing as a law o' gravitation! What would be the use o't?
Wull onybody tell me, that an apple or a stane wudna fa' to
the grun' without sic a law? Sumphs that say sae! They
fa' to the grun' because they're heavy.
North. I also liked Sir Richard's politics.
Shepherd. Haw!!!
North. He was consistent, James — and my mind is so constituted
as always to connect together the ideas of consistency
and conscientiousness. In his criticisms on literature and the
fine arts, he appeared to me generally to say what he thought
the truth — and although sometimes manifestly swayed in his
judgment on such matters, like almost all other men, by his
political predilections, his pages were seldom if ever tainted
with malignity; and, on the whole, Dick was a fair foe.
Tickler. He was the only Editor, sir, that ever clearly saw
the real faults and defects of Maga, and therefore although he
sometimes blamed, he never abused her —
Shepherd. That's a gude distinction, Mr Tickler, either
about books or bodies. When ae man hates anither, and has
a spite at him, he never fastens on his real fauts, blackguardin
him for acks he never thocht o' a' his days, and
confoundin the verra natures o' vice and virtue. The sight
o' a weel-faur'd lauchin face — like mine for example — gies the
puir distorted deevil the jaundice — and he gangs up and doun
the toun mainteenin that your cheeks is yellow, when they're
cherries, till some freen or ither tales him aside in pity intil a
corner, and advises him to tak a purge, for he's unco sick o'
the okre distemper.
North. Gentlemen, cheese ?
Shepherd. Na, na — nae cheese. Cheese is capital in the
forenoons, or the afternoons either, when you've had nae
ither denner, especially wi' fresh butter and bread; but nane
but gluttonous epicures wad hae recourse to it after they hae
been stuffin themsels, as we hae noo been doin for the last
hour, wi' three coorses, forbye hotch-potch and puddins. —
Draw the cloth, Mr Awmrose, and down wi' the Deevil's
North. You will find, I trust, that it breathes the very
Spirit of the West. St Mungo's cathedral, you know, is at
the bottom — and near it the monument of John Knox — almost
as great a reformer in his day as I in mine; and had the
West India trade then flourished, no doubt he had been as
religiously devoted to cold Glasgow Punch. I'll answer for
him, that he was no milk-sop.
[MR AMBROSE and Assistants deposit the Devil's Punch-Bowl
in the centre of the circular table.
North. THE KING.
Shepherd. I took the hips frae you last time, Mr North,—
tak you the hips frae me this time.
North. We will, James. But see that this bowl does not
take the legs from you likewise.
Omnes. Hip — hip — hip — hurra — hurra — hurra — hip — hip
— hip — hurra — hurra — hurra — hip — hip — hip — hurra—
hurra — hurra!
Shepherd. Hoo the "Universal British Nation" lately stood
up, like ae man, to stamp the seal o' its approbation on the
conduct o' Eldon, Wellington, Melville, Peel, and the lave o'
our patriotic statesmen!
North. "England! with all thy faults, I love thee still!"
There is one toast, gentlemen, that we have often drank with
pleasure — yea, with pride. Let us do so now — in silence.
Tickler. Instead of pleasure and pride, I for one drink that
toast with pain and shame. The persons of the press pretend
indignation at the charge urged against them by the Marquess
of Londonderry, of being bribed and corrupted by ministerial
money. Some of them are Political Economists, and must
know the meaning of the word money. But if not so bribed
and corrupted, whence their tergiversation and apostasy?
From the native baseness of their souls?
Shepherd. I think that's the maist likely.
Tickler. The Whig papers are not so double-damned as the
Tory ones. The Times, and the Morning Chronicle, and the
Globe, might be defended by a good Devil's Advocate in a
silk-gown, given him by a patent of precedency; but for the
Courier — for the once gentlemanly, judicious, well-informed,
clear-headed, and seemingly right-hearted Englishman
the Courier — to fling from him, unbribed, and unbought,
and uncorrupted, the honourable reputation he had gained by
long years of earnest and zealous services in the cause of his
country and her greatest men, is deplorable indeed; and had
his apostasy been less flagrant and barefaced, the renegade
might, by force of character, have done much mischief to
the State.¹
North. You speak well, sir — the infatuated craven was
¹ The Courier had been the organ of the high Tory party. But when Canning
obtained the reins of government, greatly to the dissatisfaction of the
majority of that party, this paper sided with the Premier, and no longer advocated
its former principles
called on for his defence, "but the trembling coward, who
forsook his master," was at first tongue-tied, then stuttered
an unintelligible palinode, and finally strove in vain to inflict
as sore a wound on the patience as on the principles of the
public, by a series of paragraphs ashamed of their own truckling
imbecility, and anxious to crawl away from contempt
into oblivion.
Tickler. For fifteen years was the Courier laid duly every
morning on my breakfast-table, and I asked no better Journal.
It is gone — and the Standard has taken its place. But not
soon — if ever — will the Standard freshen for me even a town--
bought egg, as the Courier did so long; nor, at my time of
life, am I fond of changing an old friend for a new. But if
an old friend will desert me — and himself — and all that ever
bound us in amity — " if he prove Haggard, then whistle him
down the wind" — I forget the quotation — James
Shepherd. Why, sir, let him go to the devil and shake himself.
North. I still have a kindness for him — and I shall never
again utter a syllable against him — may he repent for seven
years in sackcloth and ashes; — at the close of that term, I may
again become a subscriber — till then —
"Therefore, eternal silence be his doom!"
Shepherd. The press? What! is there nae ither Press than
the periodical? Nae ither periodicals but newspapers? Thank
God, sir, the laws and liberties o' this great kintra depend not
for existence or vitality on ony sic ingine — although I grant,
that when, by the chances o' time and tide, they collapse,
that ingine blaws up and inflates their lungs, and sets them
ance mair breathin or hoastin. Sic an ingine, I opine, is the
St James's Chronicle, which gangs through the Forest thrice
a-week, like a fine bauld purifyin wund, and has, to my knowledge,
changed the sour sallow cheek o' mair than ae radical
— for we hae the breed on the Braes o' Yarrow — into the open
rosy countenance o' a kirk-and-constitution man, cheerfully
payin his teinds to the minister's steepen, and hatin the Pope's
Ee, except when he sees't glowerin at him fine a shank o'
North. The well-being of a State is wholly dependent on
the character of a people, James; and I agree with you in
thinking that the character of a people is not entirely formed
by newspapers.
Tickler. Some sixty years since, few persons in Scotland,
out of Edinburgh, ever saw a newspaper but the Caledonian
Mercury — a good paper yet; but were not the Scottish people
then, as now, a "nation of gentlemen"?
Shepherd. A daft-lookin nation would that be, Mr Tickler;
but, thank God, there never was ower mony gentlemen in
Scotland, and them there was had nae connection in ony way
wi' the newspaper-press. For my ain pairt, I never peruse
what's ca'd the leadin article in a newspaper — and, to speak
the truth, I'm geyan shy o' them in a magazine too — but I
devoor the adverteesements, which, beside lettin you ken
everything that's gaun on in a kintra respectin the sellin and
nifferin o' property, baith in hooses and lands, are to my mind
models o' composition, without ae single unnecessary word, for
every word's paid for, and that gies the adverteeser a habit o'
conceese thocht and expression, better than a Logic class.
Tickler. Writing in Magazines, and speaking in Parliament,
have quite an opposite effect — making the world wordy.
Shepherd. An' preachin's warst of a'. A popular preacher
has a' his ain way in the poupit, like a bill in a cheena-shop.
He's like a river in spate — drumly-drumly, and you can hear
naethin else for his deafenin roar. Meet wi' him, neist day, in
a preevat pairty, and you wudna ken him to be the same
man. He's like the river run out — dry and staney, and you
wunner hoo you could hae been sae frightened at him rampagin

North. A sermon should never exceed twenty-five minutes
— nor —
Tickler. A horse-race two miles. Four-mile heats are tiresome
— to horse, rider, and spectator.
Shepherd. Great poupit orators are aften geyan stupit in
conversation. The pleasantest orators o' my acquaintance,
the maist sensible and instructin in society, are them that just
preaches weel aneuch to satisfy folk in the kirk, without occasionin
ony great gossip about their discourse in the kirkyard.
There's a harmony atween their doctrine and their daily life
that tells in the long-run a' ower the parish; but it's nae easy
maitter, indeed it's unpossible, for your hee-fleers to ack in
preevat as they ack in public — in the parlour as in the poupit.
Tickler. The bawling bashaw, James, may become an abject
mute — a tyrant on the Sabbath — through the week-days a
Shepherd. Scoldin a' his heritors when preachin — lickin the
dust aff their shoes when dinin in their houses—
North. Whisht — James — whisht — you know my respect for
the Scottish clergy; and among the high-flyers, as you call
them, are some of our most splendid orators and useful ministers.

Shepherd. Whisht yoursel, Mr North. You've spoken twa
words for my ane the day. But tell me, sir, did you gang to
see Mr Tay Pay Cooke, in "The Pilot"? Did ye ever see
the like o' yon?
North. The best Sailor, out of all sight and hearing, that
ever trod the stage.
Shepherd. Do ye ca' yon treddin the stage? Yon's no treddin.
When he first loupit out o' the boat on the dry lawn',
tryin to steady himsel on his harpoon, he garred me fin' the
verra furm aneath me in the pit shooin up and down, as if the
earth were lowsen'd frae her moorins. I grew amaist sea-sick.
North. Nothing overdone — no bad bye-play, blabbing of
the land-lubber — not too much pulling up of the trousers —
no ostentatious display of pig-tail — one chuck of tobacco into
his cheek, without any perceptible chaw, sufficient to show
that next to grog the quid is dear — no puling, no whining,
when on some. strong occasion he pumps his eye, but merely
a slight choking of that full, deep, rich mellow voice, symphonious,
James, in all its keys with the ocean's, whether piping
in the shrouds, or blowing great guns, running up, James, by
way of pastime, the whole gamut — and then, so much heart
and soul, James, in minute particulars, justifying the most
passionate exhibition when comes crisis or catastrophe —
Shepherd. What for do you no mention the hornpipe? I
wad gie fifty pounds to be able to dance yon way. Faith, I
wad astonish them at kirns. Haw! haw! haw! The way
he twists the knees o' him — and rips on his heels — and dour
to the floor wi' a wide spread-eagle amaist to his verra doup
— up again like mad, and awa aff intil some ither nawtical
muvement o' the hornpipe, bafflin a' comprehension as to its
meanin; and then a' the while siccan a face! I wush I kept
hum — he maun be a fine fallow.
North. A gentleman, James.
Shepherd. That's aneuch — I never can help carryin ontil
the stage my knowledge o' an actor's preevat character — and
I couldna thole to see a drunken, dishonest neerdoweel actin
sic a pairt as Lang Tam in "The Pilot."
North. I believe such a thing would be impossible. Mr
Cooke served in the navy in his boyhood, and fought in the
glorious battle off Cape St Vincent. But all his experience
of a sea-life, and all his genius, would have been vain, had he
not possessed within his own heart the virtues of the British
tar. That gives a truth, a glow of colouring to his picture
of Long Tom just, my dear James, as if you were to act
the principal part in that little Piece of mine, the Ettrick
Tickler. What impostor, dearest James, could personate a
certain Pastor in the Noctes Ambrosianæ —
Shepherd. Is Mr Gurney gotten intil the press again?
North. James, I wish you would write the Monthly
Dramatic Review for Maga ?
Shepherd. Hoo can I do that, leevin in the Forest?
North. Poo — I will send you out the Journal, and the
Mercury, and the Observer, and the Chronicle, who have all
"a strong propensity for the drama," and you can give us
the cream of Acris, and Vindex, and Fair Play, and a Friend
of Rising Merit, and Philo, and Vox Populi, and a Pittite, and
A. and Y., and P. Q. —
Shepherd. I wad rather undertak to sen' you in creeteeks
on a' the sermons preach'd every Sawbath in a' the kirks in
Embro' — provided you just send me out the texts, and twa--
three o' the heads, wi' the ministers' names labell'd.
North. Something of that sort, James, was attempted in
London, in a periodical called The Pulpit. Yet, would you
believe it, not one of the contributors ever went to church.
They had each his old woman in her pew, with whom they
took a glass of gin-and-water for an hour of the Sunday
evening, before going to the Pig and Whistle, and thus got
the materials for a general weekly Review of the Pulpit
Eloquence of the Metropolis.
Shepherd. Safe us! what a shame! There's nae settin
boun's to the wickedness o' the gentlemen o' the press. To
creeticeese a minister in the poupit — and describe his face and
his vice, and the action o' his hauns, and his way o' managin
the whites o' his een, without ever ha'in been in his kirk! It's
North. The wickedness of the whole world, James, is fearsome.
Many a sleepless night I pass thinking of it, and
endeavouring to digest plans for the amelioration of my
Shepherd. A' in vain, a' in vain! The bit wean at its
mother's breast, lang afore it can speak, girns like an imp o'
sin; and the auld man, sittin palsied and pillow-prapped in
his arm-chair at the neuk o' the fire, grows black i' the face
wi' rage, gin his parritch is no richt biled, or the potawties
ower hard; and prefaces his mummled prayer wi' a mair
mummled curse.
Tickler. Your language, James, has been particularly
strong all this evening. The sea is bracing.
Shepherd. Honour and honesty! Wha ever saw them
staun a real trial? The Platonic Philosopher seduces the
sister o' the brither o' his soul — the "noblest work o' God"¹
receives a' the poor people's money in the parish, and becomes
a bankrupt.
North. It is only among women, my dear James, that anything
is to be found deserving the name of virtue or religion.
Shepherd. The lassie o' saxteen 'ill rin awa wi' a tinkler,
and break her father's heart. He dees, and his poor disconsolate
widow, wha has worn a deep black veil for a towmont,
that she mayna see or be seen by the sun, marries an Eerish
sodger, and neist time you see her, she has naething on her
head but a dirty mutch, and she's gaun up and doun the
street half-fou, wi' an open bosom, sucklin twuns!
Tickler. Ephesian matron!
Shepherd. Gie an advocate bizziness whan he's starvin, at
the tap o' a common stair, wull he help you to fit out your son
for India when he has become a Judge, inhabiting a palace
in Moray Place? Gie a preacher a kirk, and in three months
he insults his pawtron. Buy up a naitural son, stap by stap,
in the airmy, till he's a briggadeer, and he'll disoun his ain
father, and pretend that he belangs to a distant branch o' the
stem o' some noble family — although, aiblins, he never had
on stockins till he was ensign, and up to the date o' his first
¹ "An honest man's the noblest work of God."
commission herded the kye. Get a reprieve for a rubber the
nicht afore execution, and he sall celebrate the anniversary
o' his Free Pardon in your pantry, carryin aff wi' him a silver
trencher and the branching cawnlesticks. Review a new poet
in Blackwood's Magazine, roosin¹ him to the skies, and he or
his freens 'ill accuse you o' envy and jealousy, and libel you
in the Scotsman. In short, do a' the gude you can to a'
mankind, and naebody 'ill thank you. But come nearer to me,
Mr North — lend me your ear, sir, it's richt it sud be sae — for,
let a man luk into his ain heart — the verra man — me — or
you — or Mr Tickler there — that has been lamentin over the
original sin o' our fellow-creturs, — and oh! what a sicht does
he see there just a mass o' corruption! We're waur than
the warst o' them we hae been consignin to the pit, and grue
to peep over the edge o't, lest Satan, wha is stannin girnin
ahint our back, gie us a dunge when we're no mindin, and
bury us in the brimstone.
Tickler. Oh, ho, gents — from libelling individuals, you two
are now advancing to libel human nature at large. For my
own part, I have a most particular esteem for human nature
at large — and—
Shepherd. Your views is no scriptural, Mr Tickler. The
Bible Society could tell you better —
Tickler. The British and Foreign Bible Society? Dr
Andrew Thomson² has given the Directors a most complete
squabash; and I am glad to see the monstrous abuses of
which they have been guilty reprobated in a calm and sensible
article in the last admirable number of the Quarterly
North. Into what sacred place will not Mammon find
entrance? Well done, Dr Leander Van Ess, agent at Darmstadt!
For fifteen years, James, has the Professor been in
the annual receipt of three hundred and sixty pounds — which,
in Germany, James, is equivalent to about a thousand a-year
in the Forest.
Shepherd. Safe us! what for doin?
North. Distributing the Scriptures among the Roman
Catholics of Germany, James.
¹ Roosin — praising.
² Dr Andrew Thomson, minister of St George's Church, Edinburgh — a vigorous
preacher, and author of several volumes of sermons — died in 1831.
Shepherd. Greedy houn'! chargin siller for geein a puir
benichted beggar body a grawtis copy o' the Word o'
North. A gratis copy, my dear James! Stop a bit. The
Doctor is himself the principal proprietor of the version which
he has for so many years been circulating at the expense of
the Society; and during his connection with it he has circulated
six hundred thousand! Take his profit ten per cent,
James, and the Doctor must be worth a plum.
Shepherd. Oh the greedy houn' !
North. "Leander Van Ess," quoth the Seventeenth Report,
"seeks no earthly emoluments; nor is the applause of a vain
world his aim; he desires not the treasures which rust and
moth consume. No; the glory of God, and the salvation of
souls, these are the pure and heavenly principles which
influence his mind and stimulate his actions."
Shepherd. And hypocrites like thae will abuse us for dinin
at Awmrose's and discussin the interests o' mankind, ower
the Deevil's Punch-Bowl!
Tickler. And were the Doctor, under the pretence of piety
and erudition, to make one with us of a partie carrée, he would
sham pauper, and —
Shepherd. Look anither airt whan the bill cam in!
North. James, refresh and revive your soul by reference to
the proceedings of the Assembly's Scheme for Establishing
Schools in our own Highlands. There is pure enlightened
Christian philanthropy, without fee or reward.
Shepherd. A' the Heelanders want is but better schulin,
and some mair kirks —
North. And they are getting both, James. Why, this Society
alone, with its very moderate funds, has already established
between thirty and forty schools !
Shepherd. Hae they indeed? They sall hae their reward here
and hereafter. I hope they dinna despise the applause o' a
vain warld like Dr Yes — nor yet yearthly emoliments — nor
yet the treasures which rust and moth consume. The applause
o' a vain wand's an unco pleasant and encouragin thing, as I
experienced when I published the Queen's Wake, and veese
versa when I put out the Perils — and as for the Moths — they
hae gotten intil every chest o' drawers, and a' the presses at
Mount Benger, and riddled twa coats and three pair o' breeks
till they're no wearable. Could ye no gie me a reecate for
extirpatin the clan, sir ?
Tickler. Write for one, James, to the said German quack —
Dr Leander Van Ess.
Shepherd. Howsomever, moths are naething to bugs, and
thank Heaven there's nane o' them in the Forest. But wha's
at the head o' the Assembly's Scheme for Educating the
Highlans, sir?
North. Principal Baird,¹ James.
Shepherd. That's just like himsel — never happy but when
he's doin good.
North. You have drawn his character. James, in three
words. And as he is always doing good —
Shepherd. Why, then, he maun aye be happy.
North. Sound doctrine. Truly happy was I to see and
hear him, during the time of the General Assembly, getting
without seeking it, and enjoying without overvaluing it, "the
applause of a vain world!" Edinburgh rung with his praises
— from peers and judges to the cadie at the corner of the
Shepherd. A' the cauddies are Heelanders; and faith they'll
ken, for they read the papers, that the Principal lo'es their
land o' mists and mountains, and is pruvin his love by geein
the Gael education, the only thing wanting to equaleeze them
with the Sassenach.
North. A scheme, James, in which all good men must rejoice
to unite. No wasting of funds here, but one Secretary, and
he the best one, — all subscriptions applied directly to the
noble work in hand. Patriotism strengthens what religion
and humanity inspire, and the blessings conferred on the
poor Highlanders will gladden the eyes of the mere prospect-hunter
in search of the beautiful and picturesque, who will
see with deeper emotions the smoke-wreaths winding up to
heaven from cottages whose humble inmates have learned
the way thither from lessons that might never have been
taught them but for the labours of this excellent man, and the
other enlightened and zealous Divines leagued with him in
the same sacred work.
Shepherd. Every word you say, sir, is the truth. Pity¹
Dr George H. Baird, the then Principal of the University of Edinburgh: he
died in 1840.
nay, shame — to think that there should be ae single man,
woman, or child in a' Scotland, to whom the Bible is a sealed
North. Charity should begin at home, James — although it
should not end there — and I confess it would grieve me to
think that the Mohawks should all be reading away at
Teyoninhokarawen's translation of the Bible, while thousands
on thousands of the natives of Lochaber and Badenoch were
unable to read that of Dr Stewart of Luss.
Tickler. Yet I cannot, I confess, go entirely along with the
Quarterly Reviewer, when he objects to all Translations of the
Scriptures not executed by accomplished Greek and Hebrew
scholars. That a man should be at once a profound Hebraist
and a first-rate Mohawk, is not only against the doctrine of
chances, but the laws of nature. Better the Bible with many
errors, than no Bible at all.
North. Perhaps, Tickler, we are getting out of our depths.
Shepherd. Gettin out o' your deepth! Ma faith, Mr North,
when ye get out o' your deepth, ither folk 'ill be drooning —
when the water's up to your chin there 'll be a sair jinglin in
maist throats; and when it's risen out-ower your nose, sir,
there'll be naething less than a universal deluge.
Tickler. The newspapers have been lately filled with contemptible
libel-actions, I observe, North. How does Maga
North. A dog of any sense, finding a kettle tied to his tail,
sneaks into a close in town, or lane in the country, and sitting
down on his encumbered and jingling rump, whines on some
benevolent Howard to untie the tin. It is done, and the cur
repairs to his kennel, without farther yelp to the public. A
dog of no sense scampers along the street, himself a whole
band of instrumental music, knocking the kettle against every
shin that kicks him, till his master, a greater fool than himself;
insists on reparation, and summons the impugner of the cynic
system to a Court of Justice, savage for damages. It has so
happened that the curs I have occasionally so treated have
been of the former class, and have found their advantage in
such conduct, for I thenceforth spared them; and they all
know me when they meet me on the street, some of them even
wagging their tails in approbation of my past severity, and
gratitude for my present forbearance.
Tickler. Soane was silly in bringing an action against an
article in Knight's Quarterly Magazine.
North. Truly so. He is a good architect, Soane, and may
therefore laugh at being called a bad one. Not a bad idea —
the Boeotian order of architecture. Is Knight's Quarterly
Magazine dead, think ye, Tickler?
Tickler. I fear so. But some of the contributors, I believe,
are yet alive — so is Knight himself, I am glad to see — and I
wish him all prosperity, for he is a very gentlemanly person —
a man of honour and abilities.
North. Poor Parry, too! Fifty pounds won't pay his attorney.
I remember being so far taken in with that book of his about
Byron, as to think it authentic. And I am not sure now that
most of the matter is not true. It would appear from the trial,
that a Mr Thomas Hodgkin had a hand in the composition of
it — and if he kept to Parry's oral or written statements, which
I think there is reason to suppose he did, where's the harm?
Mr Hodgkin, I believe, was once in the navy — and his lectures
on Political Economy before the Mechanics' Institution,
though full of untenable positions, show him to be a man of
talent. From his having been appointed Secretary to the
Mechanical Institution it is but fair to suppose that he is a
person of character — and if he did put together Parry's book,¹
why, that is a reason with me for crediting its statements. As
for malignity towards Byron and Bentham, that is all stuff.
Of the first, Parry speaks like a Caulker — and of Jeremy and
his trotting, the description is extremely humorous and picturesque.
The Examiner used too strong language by far in
calling him a sot, a bully, and a coward — although his defence
was manly and tolerably effective.
Tickler. Stanhope² spoke out.
North. He was a good witness, and rebuffed Serjeant
Taddy like a gentleman. The Colonel, two-three years ago,
being displeased with an article in Maga, spoke in the Oriental
Herald of "Blackwood's friend the Caulker." Now, to this
¹ The Last Days of Lord Byron, by William Parry, reviewed in Blackwood's
Magazine, No. CIII. I believe that Parry brought an action against the
Examiner for defamation.
² Afterwards the Earl of Harrington. He was the agent in Greece of the
London Greek Committee; and if the review in Blackwood, referred to in the
preceding note, is to be trusted, he was not of much service to the cause.
hour, Mr Blackwood has never seen Parry, whereas it appears
from the Colonel's own testimony t'other day in Court, that
the said Caulker dined daily, for months, at his table; and on
being asked, "was he a sober man or a sot?" he answered,
"a sot." Poor Stanhope! What a fine thing to be a Greek
Tickler. Do you never feel any sort of irritation on being
attacked yourself, North?
North. Very seldom, for I am seldom or never in the wrong.
There are eight ways of dealing with an assailant. — First,
Notice not the insect's existence, and at night in the course
of nature he dies. — Secondly, Catch and crush him in your
hand. — Thirdly, Let him buzz about, till the smell of honey
tempts him down the neck of a bottle — cork him up, he fizzes;
and is mute. — Fourthly, To leave that metaphor, put the
point of your pen through the eye of the scribbler into the
rotten matter, ignorantly supposed brain, and he falls like a
stot struck in the spine. — Fifthly, Simply ask him, should you
meet him in the lowest society you happen to keep, what he
means by being such a lying idiot — he leaves the room, and
you never see or hear him more. — Sixthly, Kick him. —
Seventhly, Into the Magazine with him. — Eighthly, Should
he by any possibility be a gentleman, the Duello.
Shepherd. Dear me!
North. Have you seen Croly's Book on the Apocalypse, Mr
Tickler. No.
North. It is a splendid attempt — you ought to read it, I
assure you, not merely as a Treatise on a very deep subject
of divinity, but as a political and historical sketch, directly
applicable and intentionally applied to the present and coming
time. It is a long time since I have read anything finer than
his passages — On the Fall of the Roman Empire — The Constitution
of the Pagan Hierarchy — The Nature of Romish
Modern Idolatry — The French Revolution — The Sceptical
Writers who preceded it — The Present State of Europe — and,
The Character of the Chief Instruments of English Success
during the War. These are all grand topics, and magnificently
Tickler. He is a powerful prose-writer, Mr Croly —
Shepherd. And a poo'rfu poet too
Tickler. And on the right side, and therefore abused by
Whigs and Radicals —
North. And praised by Tories, and all good men and true.
Shepherd. Abused by Whigs and Radicals! Wha's safe
frae that? "The Duke of Wellington entered his carriage
amidst groans and hisses!!!" — Morning Paper.
North. Who groaned and hissed the conqueror of Napoleon?
Hackney coachmen dismissed for drunkenness —
beaten boxers become pickpockets — prostitutes — burglars
returned from Botany Bay — cashiered clerks with coin chinking
in their fobs, furnished by De Courcy Ireland — felons
acquitted at the Old Bailey on alibi — shopmen out of employment,
because they constantly robbed the till — waiters kicked
from bar to bar for secreting silver spoons — emeriti besom--
brandishers of the crossings of streets — sweeps — petitioning
beggars, whose wives are all dying of cancers — mud-larks —
chalkers to Dr Eady — a reporter to a "Morning Paper," and
the hangman.
Shepherd. Hae dune — hae dune! You'll gar me split.
Tickler. North, why do you never review Bowring in that
Magazine of yours ?
North. Because I cannot lay my hands on all his various
volumes — some having been lost, and some stolen — and I
should wish to give a general estimate of his literary character.
Shepherd. I suspeck he's a real clever fallow, that Jock
North. He has a wonderful gift of tongues — great powers,
indeed, of acquisition, and great acquirements. He has also
poetical taste, feeling, and even genius; and seems to be, on
the whole, a good translator.
Shepherd. I like to hear you speak sae, sir — for, oh man
thae waefu' politics —
North. Shall never sway, have never swayed, my judgment,
James, of the literary talents of any man of real merit, like
Mr Bowring. His political principles and mine are wide as
the Poles asunder; nor, should he ever come under my hands
in that character, will I show him any mercy — although all
justice. Let him do the same by me, in that able periodical
the Westminster — to which I hear he contributes — or in any
¹Afterwards Sir John Bowring, the friend and literary executor of Jeremy
Bentham. He now holds a lucrative government office at Hong-Kong.
other place under the cope of heaven. But when I see him
gathering the flowers of poetry, with equal skill and enthusiasm,
from the sunny gardens of the south and the icy
deserts of the north, then, James, I fling all other thoughts
to the winds, and love to hail hint a true son of Apollo.
Tickler. Bravo — bravo — bravissimo!
North. May I believe, sir, what I hear from so many
quarters, that you are about editing the SOUTHSIDE PAPERS?
Tickler. You may. The Preface is at press.¹
Shepherd. That's gran' news! — But, pity me, there's John
Knox's moniment and the Glasgow Cathedral reappearin
aboon the subsidin waves! Anither bowl, sir ?
North. Not a drop. We have timed it to a minute — nine
o'clock. You know we are all engaged — and we are not men
to neglect an engagement.
Shepherd. Especially to sooper wi' leddies — let's aff. Oh,
man! Bronte, but you have behaved weel — never opened your
mouth the haill nicht — but sat listenin there to our conversation.
Mony a Christian puppy micht take a lesson frae thee.
Bronte. Bow — wow — wow.
Shepherd. What spangs! [Exeunt omnes.
¹ These papers never made their appearance.
(JANUARY 1828.)
Scene I. — Picardy Place — South-east Drawing-room.
The SHEPHERD solus.
Shepherd. Perfeck enchantment! Ae single material coal-fire
multiplied by mirrors into a score o' unsubstantial reflections,
ilka image burnin awa as brichtlv up its ain shadowy
chimley, as the original Prototeep! Only, ye dinna hear the
phantom-fires murmurin about the bars — their flickerin tongues
are a' silent — they micht seem to reek at a puff o' the Prototeep,
— but sic seemin wadna dim the atmosphere o' this
splendid Saloon. The refraction and reflection o' light's
a beautifu' mystery, and I wuss I understood the sceeance
o' optics. And yet aiblins it's better no — I michtna then
wi' sic a shudder o' instantawneous delicht, naething
short o' religion, glower upon the rainbow, the Apparition
o' the storm. Let Pheelosophers ken causes — Poets
effecks. Ye canna ca' him an ignorawmus that kens effecks
— and then in the moral world, which belangs to men o'
genius like Me and Burns, there's for the maist part a confused
but no an obscure notion o' causes accompanying the
knowledge o' effecks — difficult to express formally, like a
preacher in his poupit, or a professor in his chair, but colouring
the poetry o' effecks wi' the tinge o' the pheelosophy o'
causes, sae that the reader alloos that reason and imagination are
ane, and that there's nae truth like fiction. — O, ye bit bonny
bricht-burning fires, there's only ane amang ye a' that gies ony
heat! A' the rest's but delusion — just as when the evening
star lets loose her locks to the dews high up in heaven, every
pool amang the mountains has its ain Eidolon, sae that the
earth seems strewn with stars, yet a' the while there's in
reality but ae star, and her name is Venus, the delicht o' gods
and men and universal natur. — Ma faith, you're a maist magnificent
timepiece, towerin there on the mantel,¹ mair like a
palace wi' thae ivory pillars, or the verra temple o' Solomon!
To what a heicht man has carried the mechanical airts — till
they've become imaginative! There's poetry in that portal —
mercy on us, twa figures comin out, haun in haun, frae the
interior o' the building intil the open air, apparelled like wee
bit Christians, yet nae bigger than fairies. Weel, that beats a'
— first the tane and then the tither, wi' its tiny siller rod,
seemin to strike the chimes on a sheet o' tinsel — and then aff
and awa in amang the ticks o' the clock-wark! Puir creturs,
wi' a' their fantastic friskiness, they mann lead a slavish life,
up and out to their wark, every hour o' the day and nicht,
Sabbaths and a', sae that they haena time even to finish a
dream. That's waur² than human life itsel; for the wee midshipman
in a man-o'-war is aye allooed four hours' sleep at a
streetch, and mair than that is the lot o' the puirest herd
callant, wha, ha'in nae pawrents, is glad to sair³ a hard master,
withouten ony wage — a plaid, parritch,4 and a cauff-bed 5 —
Mony, certes, is the curious contrivance for notin time! The
hour-glass — to my mind the maist impressive, perhaps, o'
them a' — as ye see the sand perpetually dreep-dreepin awa
momently — and then a' dune just like life. Then, wi' a touch
o' the haun, or whammle in which there's aye something baith
o' feelin and o' thocht, there begins anither era, or epoch of an
hour, during which ane o' your ain bairns, wha has been lang
in a decline, and visited by the doctor only when he's been at
ony rate passin by, gies a groanlike sick, and ye ken in a moment
that he's dead; or an earthquake tumbles down Lisbon,
or some city in Calabria, while a' the folk, men, women, and
children, fall down on their knees, or are crushed aiblins by
falling churches. "The dial-stane aged and green," — ane o'
Cammel's fine lines! Houses change families, not only at
Michaelmas, but often, on a sudden summons frae death, there
is a general flitting, awa a'thegither frae this side o' the kintra,
nane o' the neebours ken whare; and sae, ye see, dial-stanes
get green, for there are nae bairns' hauns to pick aff the moss,
and it's no muckle that the Robin Redbreast taks for his nest,
¹ Mantel — chimney-piece.
² Waur — worse.
³ Sair — serve.
4 Parritch — oatmeal porridge.
5 Cauff-bed — chaff-bed.
or the Kitty-Wren. It's after been a mournfu' thocht wi' me,
that o' a' the dial-stanes I ever saw, stannin in a sort o' circle
in the middle o' a garden, or in a nyeuck o' grun'¹ that
might ance hae been a garden, just as you gang in or out o' the
village, or in a kirkyard, there was aye something wrang wi'
them, either wi' the finger or the face, sae that Time laughed
at his ain altar, and pied it a kick in the by-gaun, till it
begood to hang a' to the tae side like a negleckit tombstane
ower the banes o' some ane or ither buried lang afore the
Covenant. — Isna that a fiddle on the brace-piece? Let's hawnle²
her. — Ay, just like a' the lave — ae string wantin — and something
or ither wrang wi' twa-three o' the pegs — sae, that whan
ye skrew up, they'll no haud³ the grip. Neertheless, I'll play
mysel a bit tune. Got, she's no an ill fiddle — but some folk
can bring music out o' a boot-jack.
O MOTHER, tell the laird o't, Or sair-ly it will grieve me, O, That
I'm to wake the ewes the night, An' Annie's to gang wi' me, O. I'll
wake the ewes my night a-bout, But ne'er wi' ane sae sau - cy, O; Nor
sit my lane the lee-lang night Wi' sic a scornfu' lassie, O. I'll
no wake, I'll no wake, I'll no wake wi Annie, O, Nor sit my lane o'er
night wi' ane Sae thrawart an' un - can - nie4 O.
¹ Nyeuck o' grun' — nook of ground.
² Hawnle —- handle
³ Haud — hold.
4 Thrawart and uncannie — perverse and dangerous.
Dear son, be wise an' warie,
But never be unmanly, O,
I've heard you tell another tale
O' young and charming Annie, O.
The ewes ye wake are fair enough,
Upon the brae sae bonny, O ;
But the laird himsel wad gie them a',
To wake the night wi' Annie, O.
He'll no wake, &c.
I tauld ye ear,¹ I tauld ye late,
That lassie wad trepan ye, O,
In ilka word ye boud to say,
When left your lane wi' Annie, O.
Tak my advice this night for ance,
Or beauty's tongue will ban ye, O,
An' sey² your leal auld mother's skeel,³
Ayont the moor wi' Annie, O.
He'll no wake, &c.
The night it was a simmer night,
An' O the glen was lanely, O,
For just ae sternie's gowden ee
Peep'd o'er the hill serenely, O.
The twa are in the flow'ry heath,
Ayont the moor sae flowy, O,
An' but ae plaid atween them baith,
An' wasna that right dowy,4 O?
He maun wake, &c.
Neist morning at his mother's knee
He bless'd her love unfeign'dly, O;
An' aye the tear fell frae his ee,
An' aye he clasp'd her kindly, O.
Of a' my griefs I've got amends,
Up in yon glen so grassy, O —
A woman only woman kens ;
Your skill has won my lassie, O.
I'll aye wake, I'll aye wake,
I'll aye wake wi' Annie, O ;
I'll ne'er again keep wake wi' ane
Sae sweet, sae kind, an' cannie, O.
I'm no in bad vice the nicht — and oh! but the Saloon's a gran'
ha' for singin! Here's your health and sang, sir. Dog on't,
¹ Ear — early.
² Sey — assay, prove.
³ Skeel — skill.
4 Dewy — doleful; here used ironically.
if I didna believe for a minute that yon Image was anither
Man! I dinna a'thegither just like this room, for it's getting
unco like a Pandemonium. It would be a fearsome room to
get fou in — for then you would sit glowerin in the middle o'
forty fires, and yet fear that you were nae Salamander. You
wud be frichtened to stir, in case you either walked intil
the real ribs, or gaed crash through a lookin-glass thinkin't
the trance.¹ I'm beginnin to get a wee dizzy — sae let me sit
down on this settee. Oh! Wow but this is a sonsy sofa!
It wad do bravely for a honeymoon. It's aneuch o' itsel to
gar a man fa' in love wi' he disna ken wha — or the ugliest
woman o' a' his haill acquantance. I declare that I dinna ken
whether I'm sittin, or stannin, or lyin, or hangin in air, or
dookin in warm water. The leanest o' humankind wud fin'
itsel saft and plump, on, or rather in, sic a settee, for there's nae
kennin the seat from the thing sittin, and ane's amalgamated,
to use a chemical word, corporeally wi' the cushions, and part
and parcel o' the fringed furniture o' a room fit to be the
Sanctum Sanctorum o' the Spirit o' Sardanapalus after Apotheosis.
Sae intense is the luxury, that it gars me unawaures
use lang-nebbed classical words, in preference to my mither
tongue, which seems ower puir-like and impovereeshed for
geein adequate expression to a voluptuousness that laps my
spirit in an Oriental Elysium. A doobled rose-leaf would be
felt uneasily below my limbs the noo — yet I would be ower
steeped in luxurious laziness to allow mysel even to be lifted
up by the saft fingers, and hauns, and arms, and shouthers, o'
a train o' virgins, till the loveliest o' them a' micht redd the
bed, blawin awa the disturbin rose-leaf wi' her breath, and then
commanding, with her dewy eyne, her nymphs to replace the
Shepherd midst the down, and sing him asleep with their
choral vespers. Thochts gang by the rule o' contrairies —
that's certain sure — or, what could mak me think the noo o' a
hard-bottomed kitchen cheyre, deep-worn, sliddery, ower wee,
the crazy back bent in against the nape o' my neck, and a'
the fower legs o' different staturs, ane o' the hint anes fit for a
creepie, the tither a broken besom-stick, for a makshift, intil
a hole far ower big; the fore anes like them o' a mawkin², unco
short for sic ling hint anes, the tane³ stickin out sturdily in a
¹ Trance — passage.
² Mawkin — hare.
³ The tane — the one.
wrang direction, and for ever treddin on folk's taes — the tither
constantly craikin frae some cause nae carpenter could ever
fin' out, and if you sae muckle as mooved, disturbin the reading
o' the chapter. That cheyre used aye to fa' to me, and it
was so coggly that it couldna sit dooble, sae that nae lassie
wud venture to drap doun aside you on't, no, not even gin
you were to take her ontil your verra knee. Wha could hae
foreseen, in thae days, that I, Jamie Hogg, would ever hae
been sittin on down cushions, covered wi' damask, waitin for
Christopher North, in Awmrose's Hotel, in Picardy, surrounded
wi' mirrors a' ableeze, reflected fires, shintillating wi' gilt
mouldins, and surmounted wi' eagles' beeks, seemin to haud
up the glitterin glasses in the air by golden cords, while out
o' the mouths o' leopards and lions depended chandeliers o'
cut crystal, lustres indeed, dotted wi' wax cawnles, as the
galaxy wi' stars, and filling the perfumed Saloon wi' unwinkin
licht, frae the Turkey carpet to the Persian roof, a heicht that
it would be fatal to fa' frae, and that a pridefu' poet couldna howp
to strike wi' his head, even when loupin and dancin in an Ode
and Dream. Methinks I see my father and my mother! my
brothers and sisters! We are a' sittin thegither — the grown-up
— the little and the less — the peat-fire, wi' an ash-root in't, is
bright and vapourless as a new-risen star that ye come suddenly
in sicht o', and think it sae near that you could maist
grup it wi' your outstretched haun. What voices are these I
hear? — the well-known, well-beloved tones of lips that have
langsyne been in the clay! There is the bed on which I used
to sleep beside my parents, when I was ca'd "Wee Jamie,"
and on the edge o' which mony a time, when I was a growin
callan, hae I sat with the lassies, in innocent daffin, a skirl
noo and then half waukenin the auld man asleep, or pretendin
to be sae, by the ingle-neuk.¹ I see before me the coverlet
patched with a million pawterns, chance being the kaleedoscope,
and the harmony of the colours perfect as that o' a bank
o' flowers. As for mirrors, there was but ae single lookinglass
in a' the house, geyan sair cracket, and the ising² rubbed
aff, sae that ye had a comical face and queer, when you
shaved; and on the Sunday mornin, when the family were
buskin themsels for the kirk, it gaed glintin like a sunbeam
¹ Ingle-neuk — chimney-corner.
² Ising — silvering.
frae ane till anither, but aye rested longest afore the face o'
bonnie Tibby Laidlaw.
(Enter MR AMBROSE with some Reindeer tongues.)
Mr Ambrose. A present, Mr Hogg, from the Emperor of
Russia to Mr North. The Emperor, you remember, sir, when
Duke Nicholas,¹ used to honour Gabriel's Road. — Asleep, with
his eyes open! [Exit retrogrediens.
Shepherd. Puir Tibby! Mony a time hae I tied my neckcloth
extendin the knot intil twa white rosebuds, in her een!
stannin sae close, in order that I might see my image, that
the ruffles o' my Sabbath-sark just touched her breast-knot,
and my breath amaist lifted up the love-lock that the lighthearted
cretur used to let hang, as if through carelessness, on
ae rosy cheek, just aboon and about the rim o' her wee, white,
thin lug,² that kent, I trove, a' the tunes ever sung in Scotland.
— But — oh! that lug listened to what it shouldna hae
listened till — and awa frae the Forest fled its Flower wi' an
outlandish French prisoner on his parole at Selkirk, but set
free by the short peace. He disappeared from her ae night in
London, and she became a thing of shame, sin, and sorrow.
Years afterwards she begged her way back to the hut in
which she had been born — was forgiven by her father and
mother, wha had never had any other child but her — and, ere
the second Sabbath after her return, she was buried decently
and quietly, and without many tears, in the kirkyard, where
she had for many springs gathered the primroses; for, although
her life had latterly been that of a great sinner, nobody that
knew her attributed that sin to her, puir cretur, but thocht on
her as ane o' thae victims that the Evil One is permitted, by
an inscrutable Providence, to choose out frae among the moist
innocent o' the daughters o' men, to confound all that would
put their trust in human virtue. — Was Awmrose no in the
room the noo? Preserve us! what a tot o' tongues! And it's
me that used to fin' faut wi' Shakespeare for putting lang
soliloquies into the mouths of his chief characters? Now,
this seems to be the pheelosophy o' the soliloquy:— either
you are in the habit o' speaking to yoursel in real life or no —
if you are, then it follows o' coorse, that you ought to lose no
opportunity, if puttin intil a Play, o' communicatin your sentiments
or opinions to yoursel in private, when there is none
¹ The late Emperor of Russia visited Edinburgh in 1816.
² Lug — ear.
by to break the thread o' your discourse. If you are not,
then you must never be left by yoursel in a scene; for nae
actor, when he is manet solus, is allowed, by the laws o' the
Drama, to say nor do naething — but just to walk about, or to
sit down on a cheyre in the middle o' the room, whirling his
hat or counting his fingers. To soliloquise seems natural to
a hantle¹ o' folk — and that's reason aneuch to authoreeze the
practice on the stage. Neither am I sure that soliloquies are
aye short or shortish — for I ance keepit speakin to mysel, I
recolleck, a' the way frae the Grey Mare's Tail² to Mount
Benger. The fack is, that the Sowl, when up wi' ony strong
passion, expresses a' it feels chiefly to itsel, even when it
seems to be addressin ithers that happen to be present at the
hour o' trouble. The sumphs think it's pourin itsel out to
them, for the sake o' their sympathies, whereas it's in a manner
beside itsel; and the tane talks till the tither, as if there were
twa; but there's only ane — speaker and hearer being the same
Sowl — and the triflin creturs that are in the room at the time,
being little mair than sae mony chairs — the tongs or the
poker — or him that they ca' the Speaker o' the Hoose o' Commons.
But I'm gettin as hoarse as a craw — and had better
ring the bell for a jug. Deevil tak the worsted bell-rape — see
if it hasna bracken short aff, leaving the ring in my haun!
Mercy on us, whatten a feet o' flunkeys in the trance!
(Door flies open — and enter TICKLER — NORTH, supported
Shepherd. What a queer couple o' auld fallows, a' covered
wi' cranreuch!³ Is't snawin, sirs?
Tickler. Snowing, my dear James! — Sleeting, hailing, raining,
driving, and blasting, all in one unexpected coalition of
parties, to the utter discomfort and dismay of all his Majesty's
loyal subjects.
Shepherd. And hae you walked up, like twa fules, frae
Bawhannan Lodge, in sic an eerie nicht, knee-deep in mire,
glaur, and sludge?
Tickler. One of North's coach-horses is sick, and the other
lame — and —
Shepherd. Catch me keepin a cotch. It costs Mr North five
¹ Hantle — number, handful.
² A waterfall near St Mary's Loch in the north of Dumfriesshire.
³ Cranreuch — hoar-frost.
guineas every hurl — and him that's getting sae narrow, too —
but Pride! hech, sirs, Pride gets the maister o' Avarice — and
he'll no condescend to hire a haickney. Dinna melt in the
Saloon, sirs — Gang intil the trance, and cast your outer skins,
and then come back glitterin like twa serpents as you are,
twa Boa-Constrictors, or rather Rattlesnakes, wi' your forked
tongues, and wee red piercin een, growin aye mair and mair
venomous, as ye begin to bask and beck in the hearth-heat,
and turn about the heads o' you to spy whom you may fasten
on, lick a' ower wi' glue, and then draw them into your jaws
by suction, crashin their banes like egg-shells, and then hiss--
hissin to ane anither in weel-pleased fierceness, after your ain
natur, which mony a puir tortirt cretur has kent to his cost to
be without pity and without ruth — ye Sons o' Satan!
North. Thank ye, my dear James, for all your kind inquiries.
— Quite well, except being even deafer than usual, or —
Shepherd. Ne'er mind, sir; I'll mak you hear on the deafest
side o' your head. But whare's the siller ear-trumpet?
Tickler. Buchanan Lodge, James, was stealthily entered a
few nights ago by some rejected contributors, in a mere jeu
d'esprit, — and a Shabby-genteel was observed by one of the
police, this very afternoon, driving South in what appeared
to be a hired gig, and attempting to make North's ear-trumpet
perform the part of a bugle. He immediately gave chase,
and has, doubtless, overtaken the depredator at Fushie Bridge
or Torsonce.
Shepherd. The neist article my gentleman sends maun be
on the Tread Mill. But what's North fummlin at yonner?
Odd, he's just, for a' the warld, like a wee bit corn-stack,
frosted and pouthered ower wi' rime. Noo Mr Awmrose has
gotten him out o' the theekin, — and oh! but he looks genteel,
and like a verra nobleman, in that speck-and-span-new blue
coat, wi' big yellow buttons; nor wad that breast ill become
a star. Reel roun' his throne, Mr Awmrose.
[MR AMBROSE wheels MR NORTH in the Patent Chair to the
off-door side of the Fire, setting his Footstool, and depositing
the Crutch in its own niche, leaning on the
pedestal of Apollo.
Tickler. Heaven and earth! James, are you well, my dear
friend? — you seem reduced to a mere shadow.
Shepherd. Reduced to a mere shadow! — I'm thinkin, sir,
you'll hae been mistakin your nain figure in the glass for me
the noo—
North. Thank ye, Mr Ambrose. — Family all well? That's
right — that's right. Where's the Shepherd? Lord bless me,
James, are you ill ?
Shepherd. Me ill? What the deevil's to mak me ill? — But
you're baith jokin, noo, sirs.
Tickler. Pardon my weakness, James, but I had a very ugly
dream about you — and your appearance.
Shepherd. Ma appearance? What the deevil's the matter
wi' ma appearance? Mr North, am I luckin ony way out
o' health? — (Aside) — Ay, ay, my lads, I see what you're
ettlin at noo — but I'm no sae saft and simple's I look like. —
(Aloud) — You had an ugly dream, Mr Tickler? — what was't
about? Let's hear't.
Tickler. That you were dead, James, — laid out — coffined —
biered — buried — superscribed — and —
Shepherd. Houkit¹ up by half-a-dizzen resurrection-men —
driven by nicht in a gig to Embro', and selt for three pounds
ten shillings to a lecturin surgeon, for a subject o' demonstration
afore a schule o' young doctors; and after that, an atomy
in Surgeons' Ha'. Do ye ken, Mr Tickler, that I wud like
gran.' to see you disseckit. That is, after you was dead — for
I'm no wishin you dead yet, although you plague me sairly
sometimes; and are aye tryin, I winna say wi' what success,
to be witty at my expense. I wish you a' happiness, sir, and
a lang life — but I howp I may add without offence, that gin
ye was fairly and bonny feedy dead — I wud like to see the
corp disseckit, no on a public table, afore hunners o' glowering
gawpuses, but in a parlour afore a few chosen peers, sic
as Mr North there, and ODoherty; and Δ,² who, by the way,
would be happy, I dinna doubt, to perform the operation himsel,
and I could answer for his doin't wi' a haun at ance firm
and tender, resolute and respeckfu', for ae man o' genius is
aye kind to anither on a' sic occasions; and Δ would cut you
up, sir, as delicately as you were his ain faither.
¹ Houkit — dug.
² D. M. Moir, the Delta of Blackwood's Magazine, was an eminent medical
practitioner at Musselburgh, near Edinburgh. He died in 1851.
Tickler. Is it to give a flavour to the oysters, James, that
you talk so? Suppose we change the subject.
Shepherd. We shall leave that to Δ, sir. There's nae need
for changin the subject yet; besides, didna ye introduce't
yoursel, by offerin to receet your ugly dream about my decease?
But —
North. My dear James, I have left you, by my last will and
testament, my Skull.
Shepherd. Oh! my dear sir, but I take that verra verra kind.
I'll hae't siller-munted, — the tap o't — that is, the organ o'
veneration, which in you is enormous — sawn aff like that o' a
cocko-nit, and then fastened on for a lid by a hinge, — and I'll
keep a' ma manuscripps in't — and also that wee stereoteep
Bible you gied me that beautiful Sunday simmer night we
spak sae seriously about religion, when the sun was settin sae
gloriously, and the profound hush o' nature seemed o' itsel an
assurance o' immortality. Mr Tickler, will ye no leave me
your skull, too, as weel's the cremona that I ken's in a codicil,
to staun cheek-by-jowl wi' Mr North's, on the tap o' my mahogany
Tickler. Be it so, James — but the bequest must be mutual.
Shepherd. I hae nae objections — there's my thumb I'll ne'er
beguile you. Oh, sir! but I wad look unco gash¹ on a bit
pedestal in the parlour o' Southside, when you were enterteenin
your sma' snug pairties wi' anecdots o' the Shepherd.
There's something pleasant in the thocht, sir, for I'm sure ye
wad tell nae ill o' me — and that you wud every Saturday
nicht wipe the dust frae my skull wi' a towel, mutterin perhaps
at a time, "Alas, poor Yorick!"
Tickler. James, you affect me — you do indeed —
Shepherd. Silly fules, noo, were they to overhear us jockin
and jeerin in this gate about ane anither's skulls, wud ca' us
Atheists, and deny our richt to Christian burial. But what
signifies a skull? The shell of the flown bird, said Simonides,
a pensive poet of old — for whose sake would that I could read
Greek — though I fancy there are o' him but some sma' and
uncertain remains.
North. Religion, James, follows the bird in her flight, and
beholds her alight in heaven.
Shepherd. Yet that's nae reason for treatin a skull irreve¹
Unco gash — uncommonly sagacious.
rently — playin tricks wi't — pittin a cigaur in its teeth — or a
wig on't — or tryin to stick spectacles afore the howes¹ o' what
was ance its een — without ony brig o' a nose for them to rest
on — or whisperin intil its wide-open but deaf, deaf lugs, some
amusin maitter frae ane o' the Noctes Ambrosianæ! There's
nae reason for haudin up a caulker o' Glenlivet to its gab,
and askin the silent skull for- a sentiment — or to join, as it
used to do, till its very sutures were like to split, in a Three
times Three! There's nae reason for ca'in upon't for a sang,
true as its ear ance was, and its tongue like silver — for a
sang either tragic or comic — ony mair than there is for playin
at bowls wi't on the green, or at fit-ba' — or geein it even to
the bairns, if they hae courage to accepp o't, instead o' a turnip,
to frighten folk wi' a cawnle low within its banes by the
side o' a kirkyard wa' on Halloween. In short, there's nae
need either for despair or daffin, when a man takes the skull
o' a freen into his haun, or looks at it on the mantel-piece.
It's a mementy mori o' friendship — and at a' yevents, isna't
far better, think ye, sirs, for a skull to be stannin decently as
a relic or bequest, in a warm cozy parlour like that at Mount
Benger, Southside, or Bawhannan Lodge, than deep down
within the clayey cauldness — the rotten corruption o' a great
city kirkyard, o' which the haill sile² is a decomposition o'
flesh and banes, as if ae vast corp filled a' the burial-grund —- and ye canna stick in a pick without hittin the splinter o' the
North. James, many a merry Christmas to us all. What
a jug!
Shepherd. It's an instinck wi' me noo, makin het whisky
toddy. A' the time o' our silly discourse about our skulls,
was I steerin about the liquid, plumpin in the bits o' sugar,
and garrin the green bottle gurgle — unconscious o' what I
was about — yet, as ye observe, sir, wi' your usual sagacity,
"What a jug!"
Tickler. There is no such school of temperance as Ambrose's
in the world — a skreed³ in any room of his house clears my
head for a month, and re-strings my stomach to such a pitch
of power, that, like an ostrich, I can digest a nail or a
¹ Howes — holes.
² Sile — soil.
³ A skreed — a liberal allowance of anything.
North. Sobriety is the strength of our physical, moral, and
intellectual life. But how can any man hope to continue long
sober, who calumniates cordial conviviality — misnames fun
folly, and mirth malignity — turns up the whites of his eyes
at humour, because it is broad, broad as the sea in sunshine
— who in his false wisdom knows not what real wit is, or, half
knowing it, turns away, abashed and detected, from its conruscations,
that are ever harmless to the truly good, and
wither only the weak or the wicked — who —
Shepherd. Stap, sir — stap — for you'll never be able to fin'
your way, at this time o' nicht, out o' sic a sentence. It's o'
a perplexin and bewilderin kind o' construction, and I'll defy
mortal man to make his escape out o't without breakin
through, in perfect desperation, a' the rules o' grammar, and
upsettin Dr Syntax at the door o' a parenthesis.
North. Never shall Sot be suffered to sit at our Symposium,
James. Not even the genius of a Sheridan —
Shepherd. Pshewwhoohoo — the genius o' Sheridan! Oh,
sir, but his comedies are cauldrife compositions; and the
haill tot of them's no worth the warst Noctes Ambrosianæ that
ever Maister Gurney, that gentleman o' the press, extended
frae out o' short haun. His mind had baith pint and glitter
— but sae has a preen. Sheridan had but a sma' sowl — and
even his oratory was feeble, false, and fushionless; and ane
o' the auld Covenanters wad hae rowted him doun intil a
silent ceepher on the hillside, makin him fin' what eloquence
is, no made up o' patches frae ither men's pamphlets, and o'
lang accounts and statements, interlarded wi' rancid rant, and
faded figures new dyed like auld claes, that do weel aneuch by
cawnle-light, but look desperate shabby in the daytime — wi'
remarks, forsooth, on human life and the principles of Eternal
Justice — nae less — o' which the unhappy neerdoweel kent
muckle, nae doubt — having never read a good and great book
a' his days, and associated chiefly with the vilest o' the
North. James—What's the meaning of all this? These
sudden bursts—
Shepherd. I canna thole to hear sic a sot as Sherry aye
classed wi' Pitt and Burke.
Tickler. Nor I. A couple of clever comedies — a few elegant
epilogues — a so-so opera — some spirited speechifyings — a few
fitful flashes — some composed corruscations of conversational
wit — will these make a great man? Bah! As to his faults
and failings, on their ashes we must tread tenderly —
North. Yes; but we must not collect them in an urn, and
weep over them in maudlin worship. He was but a town-wit
after all, and of a very superficial fancy. He had no imagination.

Shepherd. No a grain. He could say sharp things upon
blunt people — turn a common thocht wi' a certain neatness,
that gied it, at first hearin, an air o' novelty; and an image
bein' to him rather a rare occurrence, he polished it aff till the
pebble seemed a diamond; but after a' it couldna write on
glass, and was barely worth settin in the warst goold. He
wanted copiousness, ferteelity, richness, vareeity, feelin, truth
o' natur, sudden inspiration, poo'r¹ o' thocht; and as for
either beauty or sublimity, he had a fause notion o' them in
words, and nae notion o' them at a' in things, and never drew
a tear or garred the reader grue² in a' his days. Peezarro
alone pruves him to hae had nae real sowl; for though the
subject be patriotism, and liberty, and independence, it's a'
naething but flummery, and a fritter o' gran' soundin senseless
words, that gang in at the tae lug and out at the tither,
like great big bummin blue-bottle flees on a sunny day, in a
room wi' cross lichts — the folk at their toddy half-wonderin
and half-angry wi' the pompous insecks. Better far the
bonny, licht, spatty, and mealy-winged, aerial butterflee, that
keeps waverin frae flower to firmament, useless but beautifu',
and remembered, for sake o' its silent mirth and motion, after
the bit gaudy ephemeral has sank down and expired amidst
the evening dews. And oh, how many thousand times mair
preferable, the bit broon busy bee, that has a sting, but gin
ye let it alone will sting naebody — that selects, by instinct,
aye the sweetest flowers, rare as they may be in the weedy
wild, and wi' cheerfu' murmur returns wax or honey laden, at
the gloamin, to its straw-theeked skep in the garden-nyeuck,
and continues, wi' the rest o' its innocent and industrious
nation, to sing a' nicht ling, when a' the een o' heaven hae
closed, and no a breath is stirrin outower a' the hills, trees,
or castles.
Tickler. Would you believe it, Hogg, that it is no unusual
¹Poo'r — power.,
² Grue — shudder.
thing for droves of numbskulls to come driving along these
lobbies, poking their low-browed stupidities into every parlour,
hoping to surprise us at a Noctes Ambrosianæ, and
wondering what can possibly have become of us, with their
great big grey goggle eyes, sticking boiled-lobster-like out of
their dirty-red physiognomies, with their clumsy gift of
tongues lolling out of their blubber-lipped mouths, in a sort
of speechless slaver, their very nostrils distended and quivering
with vulgar perplexity and disappointment, and an ear
seemingly nailed to each side of their ignorance-box, somewhere
about the size of a small kibbock?¹
Shepherd. Whatten a fricht they wud get gin they were to
find us! The sumphs wud swarf.²
North. They know not, James, that a single tap of the
crutch on the floor enchants us and our orgies into instant
invisibility. Hunt the dewdrops after they have fled from
before the sun-rising — the clouds that have gone sailing away
over the western horizon, to be in at the sun-setting — the
flashing and foaming waves that have left the sea and all her
isles in a calm at last — the cushats still murmuring on farther
and farther into the far forest, till the sound is now faint as an
echo, and then nothing — golden eagles lost in light, and
raging in their joy on the very rim of this globe's attraction
— during the summer heats, the wild-flowers that strew the
old woods of Caledon only during the pure snowy breath of
the earth-brightening spring — the stars, that at once disappear
with all their thousands, at the howl of the midnight
storm — the lightnings suddenly intersecting the collied night,
and then off and away for ever, quicker than forgotten thoughts
— the grave-mounds, once so round and green, James, and
stepped over so tenderly by footsteps going towards the low
door of the little kirk, but all gone now, James, — kirk, kirk-yard
and all, James — and not a house in all the whole parish
that has not been many times over and over again pulled
down — altered — rebuilt, till a ghost, could he but loosen himself
from the strong till, and raise up his head from among a
twenty-acre field of turnips, and potatoes, and pease, would
know not his own bonny birth-place, and death-place too, once
so fringed and fragrant with brushwood over all its knolls,
with whins, and broom, and harebells, and in moist moorland
¹ Kibbock — a cheese.
² Swarf — swoon.
places, James, beautiful with "green grows the rashes o',"
and a little loch, clear as any well, and always, always when
you lay down and drank, cool, cold, chill, and soul-restoring —.
now drained for the sake of marl, and forsaken by the wild
swans, that used to descend from heaven in their perfect
whiteness, for a moment fold up their sounding pinions, and
then, hoisting their wings for sails, go veering like ships on a
pleasure-cruise, all up and down in every direction, obeying
the air-like impulses of inward happiness, all up and down,
James, such heavenly air-and-water-woven world as your
own St Mary's Loch, or Loch of the Loaves, with its old,
silent, ruined chapel, and one or two shepherds' houses, as
silent as the chapel, but, as you may know from the smoke,
old, but not ruined, and, though silent, alive!
Tickler. Hurry! hurra! hurra!
Shepherd. Oh, man, North, but you're a bare-faced eemetawtor
o' me! You never wad hae spoken in that gate, a'
your days, had you never kent me, and hearkened till me,
when Nature lets me lowse, like a water that has been gettin
itsel fed a' nicht, far aff at its source amang the muntains,
and that a' at ante, when bits o' callants and lassies are
plouterin about fishin for mennons wi' thread and cruckit
preens, comes doun, red and roarin, in spate, and gin the
bairns hadna heard the weel-kenn'd thunner, up aboon the
linn, as it approached, wad hae sweepit them in twa-three
hours frae Mingan¹ to the Main, — na, broken at ae charge a'
the squadrons o' cavalry that ever nichered, frae queerassears
to Cossacks, and made parks o' artillery play spin like sae
mony straes! Then how the earth-bound roots o' the auld
forest-trees rejoice, as oak, ash, and elm try in vain to behold
their shadows in the turbid flood! The helms and meadows
are all overflowed into a hundred isles — and the kirk is cut
aff frae the mainlaun'! How, think ye, will the people get to
the summer sacrament the morn? By the morn, a' will be so
quate that you will hear the lark at his greatest heicht in
heaven, and the bit gowan you canna help treddin on, crunklin
aneath your feet — the earth below will be greener than the
heavens aboon are blue — a' the waters will be transparent as
windows in shadow, or glitterin like windows when the sun
glints on the panes, — and parties o' well-dressed people a'
¹ A farm on the upper part of the Tweed.
proceedin sae orderly thegither, or here and there comin
down hill-sides, and out o' the mooths o' wee bit glens, anes,
and twas, and threes — say a man and his wife and bairn, or a
lassie and her sweetheart, or an auld body wi' fourscore on
his back, but hale and hearty for a' that, comin to worship
by himsel, for his wife and family hae been lang dead, frae
the farthest aff and maist lanesome house in a' a gey wild hill-parish,
every Sabbath-day, as regular as the shadow fa's on.
the dial, and the kirk-bell is rung by drucken Davy, who's
fou a' the week thro', but nano but a leear will say that they
ever saw him the waur o' drink on the Lord's day, and that's
something — though but ane in seven.
Tickler. Hurra! hurra! hurra !
North. Oh, man, Hogg, but you are a bare-faced "eemetawtor"
of me.
Shepherd. That's the way o't. That's the way that folks is
rubbit¹ o' their oreeginality. What's a Noctes withouten the
Shepherd? Tell me that. — But you're welcome, sir, to be a
copiawtor at times, for there's nae denyin that when you
either skaitch or feenish aff, after your ain manner, there's
few hauns like Christopher North, either ancient or modern.
But excuse me, sir, for sayin, that, about the tenth tummler
or sae, oh, sir, you are tiresome, tiresome
North. A gross contradiction, James, of that compliment
you paid me half-an-hour ago.
Tickler. Claw me, and I'll claw you. Eh, Jamie — Eh,
Shepherd. He that disna like flattery, is either less or mair
nor man. It's the natural language o' freenship, and as distinck
frae flummery as a bee frae a drone, a swan fine a guse,
a bit bonny yellow meadow-born spanging froggy frae an
ugly carbunkle-backit, din,² nettle-crawlin taid — a real lake
frae meerage. What the deevil's the use or meanin o' a freen³
that aye looks dour at you whan you're speakin at your
verra best, and gies his nose a snifter, and his breast a
grumph, whan you're dune singin, and a' hauns but his
clappin, a' tongues but his roosin your voice to the skies, —
his hauns rooted intil the pocket o' his breeks — a hatefu'
attitude, — and his tongue seen through his shafts, as if he
¹ Rubbit — robbed.
² Dim — dun.
³ Freen — friend.
were mockin, a insult for which a chiel that's a Christian
ought to be hanged, — drawn and quartered, — disseckit, — and
hung in chains. Commend me to freens that flatter you, as
it is ca'd, afore your face, and defend ye ahint your back, and
review your books in Maga wi' a fine natural, nice, philosophical
discrimination o' poetry — a deadly draucht to the
dunces — and that, whan you are dead at last, seleck frae the
Scriptures a solemn verse for your yepitaph, composed on
some mild, mournfu', and melancholy nicht, when memory
grows wondrous bricht aneath the moon and stars, an elegy
or hymn on your genius, and on what's better than, and o'
mair avail than, your genius, — your virtue, or I wad raither
say your religion, — and wha wad think naething o' pu'in the
nose or kickin the houghs o' the fallow that wad daur but to
utter ae single syllable against you, when out o' sicht a'thegither
and for ever, and just the same, but for your writings,
to the warld still whurlin roun' and roun' on its axis, as if
you had never been born!
North. Yes, — James, — people are proud of being praised in
Maga — for they know that I would scorn to prostitute praise
to Prince, Kaesar, or King.
Shepherd. Brawly¹ do they ken that, sir, — and the consequence
is, that ye have only to look intil an author's face to
ken whether he's been praised or no in Blackwood. If never
mentioned at a', he pits on a queer kind o' creeticeesin and
dissatisfied face at naming o' The Periodical, but's feared to
say onything against it, in case Mr North comes to hear o't,
for hope's no yet quite dead within him, and he still keeps
applyin at headquarters, through the awgency o' freens, for
a notice in the Noctes; — if roosed to the skies, he hauds up his
head like an exultin heir o' immortality, tryin a' the time no
to be ower proud, and sayin ceevil things to the silly — praisin
ither folk's warks — being far removed aboon envy or jealousy
noo — and on an equality wi' a' writers, leevin or dead, but Sir
Walter — geein capital denners, — sittin in a front seat o' a
box in the playhouse — amaist howpin that the pit will
applaud him wi' a ruff — aftener than afore, and mair conspicuous
even, in his pew — on Princes Street, enveloped in a new
London greatcoat lined wi' silk, — and kissin his hand to person¹
Brawly — finely.
ages in chariots, who occasionally return the salute as if they
had never seen him atween the een afore; — but oh! sir, — ask
me not to pent the face o' him that has been damned!
Tickler. Wheesht — James — wheesht.
Shepherd. Yes — I will wheesh — for it's "a face to dream
o'," as that rare genius Coleridge says, "no to see," — and I'm
sure, Mr North, gin you were to come on't suddenly, at the
corner o' Picardy, you wad loup out o' your seven senses.
North. It is so long since I have damned an author, that
the gentleman you allude to, James, must be well stricken in
Shepherd. He's no mair than forty — to ma certain knowledge
— and though he never, to be sure, had muckle meanin
in the face o' him, yet was he a stout able-bodied man, and
ance walked sax miles in an hour, tae and heel. Noo he
seems several centuries auld — just like a tree that has been
left stannin after bein' barked, and although a' covered, yards
up frae the Brun', wi' nasty funguses, and sae sliddery-lookin
in its whiteness, that you see at ance nae sailor cud speel't,
yet has here and there bits o' twigs that seem to contain life
in them, but no life aneuch to put forth leaves, only bits o'
scraggy, fushionless, bluidless buds, like shrivelled haws, or
moles, — that is, deevil-marks, — on the arms and shouthers o'
an auld witch. Good safe us! Mr North, if he was to come in
the noo!
North. Catch him coming within compass of my crutch,
James. Instinct with him now does the work of reason.
Tickler. I scarcely think, James, that you are in your usual
spirits to-night. Come, be brilliant.
Shepherd. Oh, man, Mr Tickler, wha wad hae expeckit sic
a sumphish speech frae you, sir? Wha was ever brilliant at
a biddin? Bid a sleepin fire bleeze — Wull't? Na. But ripe
the ribs, and then gie the central coal a smash wi' the poker,
and lo! a volcano vomits like Etna or Vesuvius.
Tickler. After all, my dear James, I believe the truth to be,
that Christmas is not a merry season.
Shepherd. Aiblins scaircely sae to men like us, that's gettin
raither auld. But though no merry, it needna be melancholy
— for after a', death, that taks awa the gude — a freen or twa
drappin awa ilka year — is no so very terrible, except when he
comes to our ain fireside, our ain bed, or our ain cradle — and,
for my ain part, I can drink, wi' an unpainfu' tear, or without
ony tear at a', to the memory o' them I loved dearly, naething
doubtin that Heaven is the trystin-place where all friends
and lovers will feenally meet at last, free frae a' jealousies
and heartburnings, and sorrows, and angers — sae, why should
our Christmas be melancholy, though we three have buried
some that last year lauched, and sang, and danced in our
presence, and because of our presence, and looked as if they
had been destined for a lang lang life?
North. What mortality among the English Bishops, James,
this year!
Shepherd. An English Bishop maun hate to dee, proud as
he is o' himsel, and his Cathedral, wi' his pouthered weeg,
his balloon sleeves, his silk petticoats, and his fearsome
income — a domestic chaplain, wha's only a better sort o'
flunkey, aye booin and booin at every word the Spiritual Lord
says, and —
North. James! — I am delighted, Tickler, to see Copplestone
a Bishop;¹ not an abler, better man in England. Talent and
integrity are, nowadays, sure to make their way to the
Bench; and it is thus that the church establishment of
England will stand like a rock.
Tickler. The Edinburgh Review entertains singular opinions
on Copplestone. One number he is a barn-door fowl, another
a finished scholar; now a retromingent animal; then a first-rate
theologian, metaphysician, and political economist — he
soon afterwards degenerates into a third-rate man, and finally
into an old woman, afraid of Catholic emancipation, and
preaching prosy sermons, smelling of orthodoxy and dotage.
— What do the blockheads mean, North ?
Shepherd. Sumphs, sumphs indeed. But do you ken, in
spite o' a' that, I'm just desperate fond o' Christmas minshed
pies. Sirs — in a bonny bleeze o' brandy, burnin blue as
snapdragon — I can devoor a dizzen.
Tickler. Christmas geese are prime birds, James, with
onions and sage sufficient, and each mouthful accompanied
by its contingent of rich red apple-sauce.
Shepherd. A guse aye gies me the colic — yet I canna
help eatin't for a' that — for whan there's nae sin nor iniquity,
¹ Dr Edward Copplestone, elected Provost of Oriel College, Oxford, in 1814,
was promoted to the bishopric of Llandaff in 1828. He died in 1849.
it's richt and reasonable to purchase pleasure at the expense o'
pain. I like to eat a' sorts o' land or fresh-water wild-fools —
and eke the eggs. Pease-weeps'¹ eggs is capital poached.
Tickler. James, whether do you like eating or drinking
best? Is hunger or thirst the preferable appetite?
Shepherd. Why, you see, I, for ane, never eat but when I'm
hungry — and hunger's soon satisfied if you hae plenty o'
vittals. Compare that wi' drinkin when you're thursty—
either clear well-water, or sour-milk, or sma' yill, or porter;
or speerits half-and-half, and then I wad say that eatin and
drinkin's pretty much of a muchness — very nearly on a par,
wi' this difference, that hunger wi' me's never sae intense as
thurst. I never was sae hungry that I wad hae devoured a
bane frae the gutter, but I hae often been sae thursty, on the
muirs, that I hae drank black moss-water wi' a green scum
on't without scunnerin.
North. I never was hungry in my life.
Shepherd. That's a confounded lee, sir, beggin your pardon

North. No offence, James — but the instant I begin to eat,
my appetite is felt to be excellent.
Shepherd. Felt and seen baith, sir. A how-towdie's a mere
laverock to you, sir, on the day the Magazine's finished aff —
and Mr Awmrose himsel canna help lauching at the relays o'
het beef-stakes that ye keep yokin to, wi' pickled ingans or
shallotts, and spoonfu's o' Dickson's mustard, that wad be
aneuch to blin' a Lynx.
Tickler. I have lost my appetite
Shepherd. I howp nae puir man 'ill find it, now that wages
is low and wark scarce; — but drinkin, you see, Mr North, has
this great advantage over eatin, that ye may drink a' nicht
lang without being thursty — tummler after tummler— jug
after jug — bowl after bowl — as lang's you're no sick — and
you're better worth sittin wi' at ten than at aucht, and at
twal than at ten, and during the sma' hours you're just
intolerable good company — scarcely bearable at a', ane waxes
sae truly wutty and out o' a' measure deevertin; whereas, I'll
defy ony man, the best natural and acquired glutton that
ever was born and bred at the feet o' a father that gaed aff at
a city feast, wi' a gob o' green fat o' turtle half-way down
¹ Pease-weep — lapwing.
his gullet, in an apoplexy, to carry on the eatin wi' ony spunk
or speerit after three or four courses, forbye toasted cheese,
and roasted chesnuts, and a dessert o' filberts, prunes, awmons,
and raisins, ginger-frute, guava jeely, and ither Wast Indian
preserves. The cretur coups ower¹ comatose. But only tak
tent² no to roar over loud and lang in speakin or singin, and
you may drink awa at the Glenlivet till past midnight, and
wee' on to the morning o' the day after to-morrow.
Tickler. Next to the British, Hogg, I know no such constitution
as yours — so fine a balance of powers. I daresay, you
never had an hour's serious illness in your life.
Shepherd. That's a' you ken — and the observe comes weel
frae you that began the nicht wi' geein the club my death-like
Tickler. Prognosis ?
Shepherd. Simtoms like. This back-end³ I had, a' three at ance,
the Tick Dollaroose, the Angeena Pectoris, and the Jaundice.
North. James — James — James!
Tickler. Hogg — Hogg — Hogg!
Shepherd. I never fan' ony pain like the Tick Dollaroose.
Ane's no accustomed to a pain in the face. For the toothache's
in the inside o' the mouth, no in the face; and you've nae
idea hoo sensitive's the face. Cheeks are a' fu' o' nerves —
and the Tick attacks the haill bunch o' them, screwing them
up to sic a pitch o' tension that you canna help screechin out,
like a thousan' ools, and clappin the pawms o' your hauns to
your distrackit chafts, and rowin yoursel on the floor, on your
groof,4 wi' your hair on end, and your een on fire, and a
general muscular convulsion in a' your sinnies, sae piercin,
and searchin, and scrutinisin, and diggin, and houkin, and
tearin is the pangfu' pain that keeps eatin awa and manglin
the nerves o' your human face divine. Draps o' sweat, as
big as beads for the neck or arms o' a lassie, are pourin doun
to the verra floor, so that the folk that hears you roarin thinks
you're greetin, and you're aye afterwards considered a bairnly
chiel through the haill kintra. In ane o' the sudden fits I
gruppit sic haud o' a grape that I was helpin our Shusey5 to
muck the byre wi', that it withered in my fingers like a frush6
¹ Coups ower—tumbles over.
² Tal tent—take care.
³ Back-end—close of the year.
4 U''roof—belly.
5 Shusey—Susan.
6 Frush—brittie,
saugh-wand¹ — and 'twould hae been the same, had it been a
bar o' airn. Only think o' the Tick Dollaroose in a man's
face continuing to a' eternity.
North. Or even for a few million ages —
Shepherd. Angeena Pectoris is even waur, if waur may be,
than the Tick Dollaroose. Some say it's an ossified condition
o' the coronary arteries o' the heart; but that's no necessarily
true — for there's nae ossification o' these arterial branches o'
my heart. But oh! sirs, the fit's deadly, and maist like till
death. A' at ance, especially if you be walkin uphill, it
comes on you like the shadow o' a thunder-cloud over smilin
natur, silencin a' the singin birds, as if it threatened earth--
quake, — and you canna doubt that your last hour is come,
and that your sowl is about to be demanded of you by its
Maker. However aften you may have it, you aye feel and
believe that it is, this time — death. It is a sort o' swoon,
without loss o' sense — a dwawm, in which there still is consciousness
— a stoppage o' a' the animal functions, even o'
breathin itsel; which, if I'm no mista'en, is the meanin o' a
syncope — and a' the while something is rug-ruggin² at the
heart itsel, something cauld and ponderous, amaist like the
forefinger and thoom o' a heavy haun — the haun o' an evil
speerit; and then you expeck that your heart is to rin doun,
just like a clock, wi' a dull cloggy noise, or rumble like that
o' disarranged machinery, and then to beat, to tick nae mair!
The collapse is dreadfu'. Ay, Mr North, collapse is the word.
North. Consult Uwins on Indigestion, James — the best medical
work I have read for years, of a popular, yet scientific
Shepherd. Noo for the Jaundice. The Angeena Pectoris,
the Tic Dollaroose, are intermittent — "like angel visits, few
and far between" — but the jaundice lasts for weeks, when it is
gatherin or brewin in the system — for weeks at its yellowest
heicht, — and for weeks as the disease is ebbin in the blood —
a disease, if I'm no sair mista'en, o' the liver.
North. An obstructed condition of the duodenum, James —
Shepherd. The mental depression o' the sowl in the jaundice
is most truly dreadfu'. It would hae sunk Samson on the
morning o' the day that he bore aff on his back the gates o'
¹ Saugh-wand — willow-wand.
² Rug-ruggin — tear-tearing.
Tickler. Tell us all about it, James.
Shepherd. You begin to hate and be sick o' things that used
to be maist delightfu' — sic as the sky-, and streams, and hills,
and the ee and voice, and haun and breast o' woman. You
dauner about the doors, dour and dowie, and are seen sittin
in nyeuks and corners, whare there's little licht, no mindin
the cobwabs, or the spiders themselves drappin doun amang
your unkempt hair. You hae nae appeteet; and if by ony
chance you think you could tak a mouthfu' o' a particular
dish, you splutter't out again, as if it were bitter ashes. You
canna say that you are unco ill either, but just a wee sickish —
tongue furry as if you had been licking a muff or a mawkin —
and you observe, frae folk stannin weel back when you happen
to speak to them — which is no aften — that your breath's bad,
though a week before it was as caller as clover. You snore
mair than you sleep — and dream wi' your een open — ugly, confused,
mean, stupid, unimaginative dreams, like those of a
drunk dunce imitatin a Noctes — and that's aboot the warst
thing o' a' the complaint, that you're ashamed o' yoursel, and
begin to fear that you're no the man you ance thocht yoursel,
when in health shootin groose on the hills, or listerin sawmon.
North. The jaundice that, James, of a man of genius — of
the author of the Queen's Wake.
Shepherd. Wad ye believe it, sir, that I was ashamed of
"Kilmeny?" A' the poems I ever writ seemed trash — rubbish,
— fuilzie; and as for my prose — even my verra articles in Maga,
— "Shepherd's Calendar" and a' — waxed havers — like something
in the Metropolitan Quarterly Magazine, the stupidest
o' a' created periodicals, and now deader than a' the nails in
Nebuchadnezzar's coffin.
North. The disease must have been at its climax then, my
dear James.
Shepherd. Na, na, na; it was far frae the cleemax. I tuk to
the bed, and never luckit out frae the coortains for a fortnight
— gettin glummier and glummier in sense and cowl, heart,
mind, body, and estate — eating little or naething, and — wad
ye believe it? — sick, and like to stunner at the very name o'
North. Thank God, I knew nothing of all this, James. I
could not have borne the thought, much less the sight, of such
total prostration, or rather perversion of your understanding.
Shepherd. Wearied and worn out wi' lyin in the bed, I got
up wi' some sma' assistance frae wee Jamie, God bless him!
and telt them to open the shutters. What a sicht! A' faces
as yellow 's yellow lilies, like the parchment o' an auld drumhead!
Ghastly were they, ane and a', whan they leuch;¹ yet
seemed insensible o' their corp-like hue — I mean, a corp that
has died o' some unnatural disease, and been keepit over lang
aboon grun' in close weather, the carpenter having gotten
drunk, and botched the coffin. I ca'd for the glass — and my
ain face was the warst o' the haill set. Whites o' een! They
were the colour o' dandelions, or yellow-yoldrins.² I was feared
to wash my face, lest the water grew ochre. That the Jaundice
was in the house was plain; but whether it was me only that
had it, or a' the rest likewise, was mair than I could tell. That
the yellow I saw wasna in them, but in me, was hard to believe,
when I luckit on them; yet I thocht on green specks, and the
stained wundows in Windermere Station, and reasoned wi'
mysel that the discoloration must be in my lens, or pupil, or
optic nerve, or apple, or ba' o' the ee; and that I, James Hogg,
the Ettrick Shepherd, was The Jaundice.
Tickler. Your portrait, coloured from nature, James, would
have been inestimable in after ages, and given rise to much
argument among the learned about your origin — the country
of your birth. You must have looked cousin-german to the
Green Man and Still.
Shepherd. I stoitered to the door, and, just as I feared, the
Yarrow was as yellow as a rotten egg — a' the helms the colour
o' a Cockney's play-going gloves — the skies like the dirty
ochre wa's o' a change-house — the cluds like buckskin breeks
— and the sun, the michty sun himsel, wha lends the rainbow
its hues, and is never the poorer, looked at me wi' a disconsolate
aspeck, as much as to say, "James, James, is it thou
or I that has the Jaundice?"
Tickler. Better than the best bits of Abernethy³ in the
Lancet, North.
Shepherd. Just as I was gaun to answer the Sun, the Tick
Dollaroose attacked baith o' my cheeks — a' my face, lips, chin,
¹ Leuch — laughed.
² Yellow-yoldrin — yellow-hammer.
³ This eminent practitioner, celebrated no less for his eccentricity of manner
than for his medical skill, was born in 1764, and died in 1831. He was the
author of Surgical Observations, Physiological Essays, &c.
nose, brow, lugs, and crown and back o' my head, — the Angeena
Pectoris brought on the Heart-Collapse — and there the
three, the Tick, the Angeena, and the Jaundice, a' fell on me
at ance, like three English, Scotch, and Eerish regiments
stormin a fort, and slaughterin their way wi' the beggonet on
to the citadel.
North. That you are alive at this blessed hour, my dearest
James, almost exceeds belief, and I begin to suspect that you
are not flesh and blood, — a mere Appearance.
Shepherd. Na, faith, a'm a reality; an Appearance is a puir
haun at a jug. Yet, sir, the recovery was weel worth a' I
paid for it in sufferins. The first time I went out to the knowe
yonner, aboon the garden, and gazed and glowered, and better
gazed and glowered, on the heavens, the earth, and the air,
the three bein' blent thegither to mak up that mysterious thing
— a Day o' Glory — I thocht that my youth, like that o' the
sun-staring eagle, had been renewed, and that I was ance mair
in the verra middle o' the untamed licht and music o' this life,
whan a' is fancy and imagination, and friendship and love, and
howp, — oh, howp, sir, howp, worth a' the ither blisses ever sent
frae Heaven, like a shower o' sunbeams, for it canna be
darkenit, far less put out by the mirkest midnight o' meesery,
but keeps shinin on like a star, or rather like the moon hersel
— a spiritual moon, sir, that "is never hid in vacant interlunar
Tickler. Mixed metaphors these, James.
Shepherd. Nane the waur o' that, Timothy — I felt about
ane-and-twunty — and oh, what an angelical being was a lassie
then comin wadin through the ford! At every step she took,
after launin wi' her white feet, havin letters doun fa' her cloudlike
claes wi' a blush, as she keepit lookin roun' and roun' for
a whyleock, to see gin ony ee had been on her, as her limbs
came silveryin through the water —
North. The Ladies, James, in a bumper.
Shepherd. The leddies. — A track o' flowers keepit lenthenin
alang the greensward as she walked awa, at last, quite out
o' sicht.
Tickler. And this you call recovering from the Tic-Douloureux,
the Angina Pectoris, and the Jaundice, James?
Shepherd. Few roses are there about Mount Benger, and
nae honeysuckle; and, at the time I speak o', the field-pease
and beans werena in bloom; yet a' the hollow o' the air was
filled wi' sweetness, mair like than onything else to the smell
o' thyme, and sic a scent wad hae tauld a blin' man that he
was breathin in paradise. The shapes o' the few trees that
grew on that part o' the Yarrow, became mair gracefu', and
the trees themsels seemed as if leevin creturs when the
breeze cam near them, and shook their tresses in the moonshine,
like lassies lettin out their hair to dry, after they hac
been bathin in some shady line, and lauchin about their
Tickler. James, you cannot get rid of your besetting
Shepherd. Slawly, slawly did I fa' back into mysel — into a
man o' fifty and some few years mair, into something duller,
deader, mair obscure — yet no unhappy either, or inclined to
utter ony complaints, but still owerburdened by a dimness,
maist a darkness o' soul — and weel weel aware, that though
you were to crown my brow wi' the garlands o' glory, and to
set a diadem on the crown o' my head, and for Prime Minister
to give me Power, and Health for my Chancellor of the Ex
chequer, and Pleasure for Home Secretary, never, never, never
could James Hogg be what he ance was; nor, as lang as he
leeves, enjoy as much happiness, put it a'thegither, and
multiply it by decimals, as used lang, lang ago aften to be
crooded into ae single hour, till I thocht my verra heart wad
hae burst wi' bliss, and that the stars o' heaven, pure as they
are, burned dim with envy of us twa beneath the milk-white
thorn, the trysting-thorn for the Flowers o' the Forest, for
countless generations.
(Enter MR AMBROSE, with Copper-kettle No. I.)
North. Who rung?
Ambrose. I have taken note of the time of the last four
jugs, sir, and have found that each jug gains ten minutes on
its predecessor — so ventured —
Shepherd. Oh, Mr Ambrose, but you wad be a gran' observer
o' the motions o' the heavenly bodies, in an Astronomical
Observatory! — The jug's this moment dead. There — in wi'
a' the sugar, and a' the whusky, — fill up, Awmrose, fill up.
That stroop's¹ a gran' pourer, and you're a prime experimenter
in hydrostatics. [Exit MR AMBROSE, susurrans.
¹ Stroop — spout.
Tickler. You knew the late Malcolm Gillespie¹ of Crombie
Cottage, I think, James? He died game.
Shepherd. Only middlin. He had a cross o' the dunghill in
him — which is the case wi' a' the cruel.
North. He should not have got faint in the Court-House.
On the scaffold his behaviour was firm enough — and —
Shepherd. He was an infamous ruffian — and mony a prime
worm he broke — mony a sweet-workin stell, — and much he
bragged of his duty and his daring — but a' the while the
fearless reprobate was livin on forgery; and feenally, naething
wad satisfy him but to burn the house o' sin by the
havens o' his abandoned limmers. Yet he declared before
God, that he died — innocent.
North. It is said that high interest was used to procure a
commutation of his punishment. I hope not. No man who
knew right from wrong would have dared to put his hand to
a petition for mercy to such a profligate and hardened villain.
Pardon would, in his case, have been defiance of justice — the
triumph of vice, crime, and iniquity, over the laws. But there
are people who will petition for the forfeited life of a felon, a
forger and an incendiary, who will be shy of subscribing a
pound for the relief of the blind aged widow, who, industrious
as long as she saw Heaven's light, is now a palsied but
uncomplaining pauper.
Tickler. Nothing seems much clearer to me, sir, than the
natural direction of charity. Would we all but relieve, according
to the measure of our means, those objects immediately
within the range of our personal knowledge, how much of the
worst evil of poverty might be alleviated! Very poor people,
who are known to us to have been honest, decent, and industrious,
when industry was in their power, have a claim on us,
founded on that our knowledge, and on vicinity and neighbourhood,
which have in themselves something sacred and
endearing to every good heart. One cannot, surely, always
pass by, in his walks for health, restoration, or delight, the
lone wayside beggar, without occasionally giving him an
alms. Old, careworn, pale, drooping, and emaciated creatures,
¹ Malcolm Gillespie was a supervisor in the excise. He was tried at Aberdeen,
28th September 1827, and executed 16th November following, for
forgery, and uttering false money. He was also charged with fire-raising, to
cheat the insurance.
who pass us by without looking beseechingly at us, or even
lifting their eyes from the ground — cannot often be met with,
without exciting an interest in us for their silent and unobtrusive
sufferings or privations. A hovel, here and there,
round and about our own comfortable dwelling, attracts our
eyes by some peculiar appearance of penury — and we look in,
now and then, upon its inmates, cheering their cold gloom
with some small benefaction. These are duties all men owe
to distress; they are easily discharged, and even such tender
mercies as these are twice blessed.
Shepherd. Oh, sir, you speak weel. I like you when you're
wutty — I admire you when you're wise — I love and venerate
you when you're good — and what greater goodness can there
be in a world like this than charity?
Tickler. But then, my worthy friend, for one man to interfere
with another's charities is always delicate — nay, dangerous;
for how can the benevolent stranger, who comes to me
to solicit my aid to some poor family, whose necessities he
wishes to relieve, know either my means, or the claims that
already lie upon me, and which I am doing my best to discharge?
He asks me for a guinea — a small sum, as he thinks
— the hour after I have given two to a bed-ridden father of a
large family, to save his bed and bed-clothes from being sold
at the Cross.
Shepherd. But you maunna be angry at him — unless he's
impident — and duns you for your donation. That's hard
to thole.
Tickler. Yet, am I to apologise to him — uninformed, or misinformed,
as he is about me and mine — for not drawing my
purse-strings at his solicitation? Am I to explain how it
happens that I cannot comply — to tell him that, in fact, I am
at that moment poor? He is not entitled to hold such a colloquy
with me — yet, if I simply say, "Sir, I must refuse
your petition," he probably condemns me as a heartless hunks
— an unmerciful miser — and, among his friends, does not
abstain from hints on my selfish character.
Shepherd. There's, for the maist part, I am willing to believe,
a spice o' goodness about the greater number even o'
the gadders-about wi' subscription papers.
Tickler. But a spice, James, is not enough. Their motives
are of too mixed a kind. Vanity, idleness, mere desire to
escape ennui, curiosity even, and a habit of busy-bodyism,
which is apt to grow on poisons who have no very strong ties
of affection binding them to home, do sadly impair the beauty
of beneficence.
Shepherd. They do that — yet in a great populous city like
Embro', much good must often be done by charitable people
formin themselves into associations — findin out the deservin
puir, gettin siller subscribed for them, visitin them in their
ain houses, especially in the winter time, sir, geein them a
cart o' coals, or a pair o' blankets, or some worsted stockins,
and so on — for a sma' thing is aften a great help to them just
hangin on the edge o' want; and a meal o' meat set afore a
hungry family, wha hadna expeckit to break their fast that
day, not only fills their stamacks, puir sowls, but warms their
verra hearts, banishin despair, as by a God-gift, and awaukenin
Hope, that had expired alang wi' the last spark on the
ashy hearth.
Tickler. Give me your hand, James. James, your health —
God bless you. Certainly a young lady — or a middle-aged
one either — never looks better—so well — as when in prudence
and meekness she seeks to cheer with charity the hovels of
the poor. I know several such — and though they may too
often be cheated and imposed on — that is not their fault, — and
the discharge of a Christian duty cannot fail of being accompanied
by a great overbalance of good.
Shepherd. Oh man! Mr Tickler — but you hae a maist pleasant
face the noo — you're a real gude cretur — and I wad fling
a glass o' het water in the face o' onybody that wad daur to
speak ill o' a single letter in your name. — Is't no time, think
ye, sir, to be ringin for the eisters? — I hear them comin! —
That cretur Awmrose has the gift o' divination!
[Enter MR AMBROSE, his Brother from Gabriel's Road, the
with a Board of Oysters.
Tickler. Fat, fair, and fifty! —
Shepherd. What desperate breedy beasts eisters maun be,
— for they tell me that Embro' devoors a hunder thousand
every day.
North. Why, James, that is only about two oysters to every
three mouths. I am happy to see, from their condition, that
the oyster population is not pressing too hard on the means
of subsistence. They will be spared the Report from the
Emigration Committee.
Shepherd. Tak them, richt and left, sir, — this way, — first
frae ae brodd, and then frae anither — crossing hauns like a
young leddy playin a kittle piece on the Piawno. Tappy--
toorie — some pots o' porter. I think I see a cauld roun' o'
beef ower-by yonner on the sideboard, lowerin amang a fillet
o' veal, a pie and a pasty, a how-towdie, and some sma'ish
burds, maist likely snipes and wudcocks — for the lang-bills
is come over noo frae Norway — just like a three decker lying
at anchor in the middle o' as mony frigates. Yon's what I
ca', sirs, a Core o' Reserve.
North. Were you at the Cattle Show, James, t'other day,
in the Court of the Oil-Gas Institution ?
Shepherd. Eisters dinna interrupt talkin. — There's a beauty,
Mr North, — obleedge me by allooin me to let it doun your
throat. Haud back your head a wee — open Sesame — there it
goes, without ever a chack, — didna ye hear't play plowp in
the stamach?
Tickler. Pleasing picture of piety! — The young cormorant
feeding his old father.
Shepherd. I was at the Show. But sic anither prize-bill as
yon I never saw — a wee wizzened, waif-and-stray-looking
cretur — sic a tawty¹ hide—a mere rickle² o' banes — sae weak
that he could hardly staun', — and evidently a martyr to the
rheumatism, the asthma, and the consumption.
North. But the breed, James — the breed!
Shepherd. Nae doubt the breed was gude, for it was Mr
Rennie's; but sic a specimen! I defy ony judge, since the
days o' Gamaliel, to decide on the merits o' a beast in sic a
condition as yon. Suppose, sir, by way of argumentative
illustration, that a prize was to be given to the finest young
man of eighteen that could be produced, and that from among
ever so many noble fellows, all instinct with health and vigour,
the judge were to single out ae urchin, a lean, lank, yellow,
and loose-skinned skeleton, and put a belt round his waist as
being the picked man of all England!
North. So might be his framework.
Shepherd. What? Do ye mean his skeleton? But the prize
¹ Tawty — matted.
² Rickle — heap, ridge.
wasna for skeletons — if it was, a' the competitors should hae
been prepared. Or take, sir, a shipwrecked sailor aff a rock
in the middle o' the sea, where he has been leevin, puir fallow,
on some moothfu's o' tangle, scarted aff the sluddery stanes,
for maist pairt o' a fortnicht, and wringin the rain out o' his
troosers, to keep doun his ragin thirst — and compare him wi'
me — just me mysel sittin here wi' a brodd o' eisters on ilka
haun — after a Benner the day wi' some freens in the Auld
Town — and a December's eating, the month that's allooed to
be the verra best in the haill towmont, and wha wad daur
to pass judgment on the comparative pints o' sic a Sailor and
sic a Shepherd? As for the bit bill, he was leevin then —
though nae doubt he's dead noo — for it was a raw day, and
he keepit shiverin in his pen like an aspen.
North. I confess, James, there is something in what you
say — yet a bull bred by Mr Rennie of Linton, and approved
by Captain Barclay of Ury, must have been, in spite of his
delicate state of health, a rare animal.
Shepherd. There's no twa mair honourable and cleverer
chiels in a' Scotland — but it's just perfectly impossible to
decide atween ane or twa brute creturs — or human anes either
— when the tine's a' that it ought to be, or can be, in health
and speerits, and the tither hingin head and tail, little better
than an atomy — it's just perfectly impossible.
North. The Highland Society, James, the promoters of these
great Cattle Shows, is the most useful one in all Scotland;
and you will be glad, I am sure, to hear that, under their
auspices, Mr Blackwood is about to publish, quarterly, an
Agricultural Magazine,¹ for which he has already found an
Editor of rare accomplishments.
Shepherd. Oh, man, but I'm real glad o' that! — sic a buik's
a great desiderawtum. I'll write for't mysel, and sae will a
thousan' ithers; — but still I doubt the possibility o' judgin
fairly o' a bill² like you, though, nae doubt, he wad hae been
a beauty if in fine ruddy health, like a bailie or a bishop. It
¹ The Journal of Agriculture was started by Mr Blackwood in May 1828. Mr
Low, Professor of Agriculture in the University of Edinburgh, was its first
editor. It was afterwards conducted with great ability, for many years, by Mr
Stephens, author of the Book of the Farm, an unrivalled agriculturist, both in
theory and in practice.
² Bill — bull.
was just the vice versa wi' yon prize pig. She was just a fat
grunt, and had lost a' appearance o' a human cretur. Extremes
should be avoided; for, as Horace says,
"Sunt certi denique fines,
Quos ultra citraque nequit consistere rectum."
North. Very sensible, James. In like manner, with respect
to horses. A colt, whose sire was a Regulus, and dam a
Mandane, must almost necessarily be a fine colt; but shut
him up in an empty stable till he is starved, and just able
to hobble, and is there a man in all England who will take
upon him to say that he can still fairly compare all his points
with those of another colt at the moment of starting for the
St Leger, and backed at even against the field?
Shepherd. Let the judge ken that the colt belangs to Mr
Petre or Lord Darlington, and name sire and dam, and let
him also ken the inferior lineage of the ither competitor, and
in spite o' himsel he will prefer the starvelin, and the mair
because he is a starvelin; for, if filled up and fattened to the
proper pitch, wadna he indeed be a pictur? But it's fause
North. James, you astonish me by your knowledge of the
turf. You are a perfect Gully .¹
Shepherd. No me. I never saw a horse-race for higher
stakes than five pounds and a saddle. But nae races for siller
or leather like a — broose.² I had ance a din³ powny, about
fourteen hands but an inch, that I coft frae a set o' tinklers,
that beat a' for gallopin sin' the days o' Childers or Eclipse.
I wadna hae feared to hae run him against Fleur-de-lis, or
Acteon, or Memnon, or Mameluke, or Camel, or Mullattoe, for
a thousan' guineas.
North. Weight for inches, James.
Shepherd. Deevil mind the wecht. Pats-and-Pans never
ran sae weel's whan he was ridden dooble — me and a weelgrown
lass ahint me, for I never could thole thin anes a' my
days. His fav'rite distance, carryin dooble, was twal miles;
and he used generally to do't, up hill and doun brae, within
the half-hour. Indeed, he never came to his speed till about
¹ John Gully, originally distinguished in the prize-ring, amassed a large
fortune by his subsequent speculations on the turf.
² Broose — a race at country weddings.
3 Din — dun.
the middle o' the fourth mile — and siccan a cretur for wund!
I never saw him blawn but ance, and that was after bringin
the howdie ahint me, a' the way frae Selkirk up to Douglas
Burn — no short o' eighteen miles, and bein' just taen aff the
North. Still, at Newmarket or Doncaster, James
Shepherd. He wad hae left them a' as if they had been
stannin — provided they had allooed me to carry as muckle
wecht's I chose; for Pats-and-Pans never ran steddy under
twal stane at the least, and wi' a feather he wad hae swerved
ower the ropes, and played the mischief wi' the carriages. —
Where's Mr Tickler ?
North. I saw him slip away a little ago just as he had
cleared his boards —
Shepherd. I never missed him till the noo. Is he aff to
Ducraw's,¹ think ye? — Yet it's ower late, for isna that ten
that thae bits o' Fairies are chappin?
North. Have you seen Ducrow? He is indeed a prodigy.
Shepherd. After a', sir, it canna be denied that the human
race are maist extraordinary creturs. What canna they, by
constant practice, be brought to perform? It's a perplexin
place, yon Circus: ae man draps doun in the dust, and awa
out o' the door on his doup; anither after him, wi' a' celerity,
on his elbows; a third after him again, soomin on dry laun' at
the rate o' four miles an hour; a fourth, perpendicular on the
pawms o' his halms, and a fifth on the croon o' his head,
without ever touchin the grun' wi' his loofs ava. A' the
while, the lang-luggit fule, wi' a maist divertin face, balancin
himsel cross-leggit on a chair wi' ae fit, it spinnin
roun' like a whirligig. Ordinary sittin or walkin seems
perfectly stupid after that — feet superfluous, and legs an
North. But Ducrow, James, Ducrow?
Shepherd. Then in comes a tall, pleasant-lookin fallow o' a
German, ane Herr Benjamin, wha thinks nae mair o' balancin
a beam o' wood, that micht be a roof-tree to a house, on his
wee finger, than if it were a wundle-strae; then gars a
¹ Exhibition of horsemanship. Certain pecuniary losses which this unrivalled
equestrian sustained so preyed upon his mind as to induce insanity,
and ultimately occasion his death. Yet he died (in 1842) worth, it is said,
upwards of £60,000.
sodger's musket, wi' the point o' the beggonet on his chin,
spin roun' till it becomes nearly invisible; no content wi' that,
up wi' a ladder aneath his lip, wi' a laddie on't, as easily as
if it were a leddy's fan, and, feenally, concludes wi' twa mailcotch
wheels on the mouth o' him —
North. But Ducrow, James, Ducrow ?
Shepherd. Yon's a beautifu' sicht, sir — at ance music, dancin,
statuary, painting, and poetry! The creturs aneath him soon
cease to seem horses, as they accelerate round the circus, wi'
a motion a' their ain, unlike to that o' ony ither four-footed
quadrupeds on the face o' this earth, mair gracefu' in their
easy swiftness than the flight of Arabian coursers over the
desert, and to the eye o' imagination some rare and new-created
animals, fit for the wild and wondrous pastimes o'
that greatest o' a' magicians — Man.
North. But Ducrow, James, Ducrow ?
Shepherd. As if inspired, possessed by some spirit, over
whom the laws o' attraction and gravity hae nae control, he
dallies wi' danger, and bears a charmed life, safe as the
pigeon that you will afttimes see gang tapsy-turvy amang
the clouds, and tumblin doun to within a yard o' the earth,
then reascend, like an arrow, into the sunshine, and, wheelin
roun' and roun' in aft-repeated circles, extend proudly a' its
burnished plumage to the licht, till the een are pained, and the
brain dizzy to behold the aerial brichtness beautifyin the sky.
North. Bravo, James — excellent — go on.
Shepherd. Wha the deevil was Castor, that the ancients
made a god o' for his horsemanship — a god o' and a star — in
comparison wi' yon Ducraw? A silly thocht is a Centaur — a
man and a horse in ane — in which the dominion o' the man is
lost, and the superior incorpsed wi' the inferior natur! Ducraw
"rides on the whirlwind, and directs the storm." And oh,
sir! how saftly, gently, tenderly, and like the deein awa o'
fast fairy music in a dream, is the subsidin o' the motion o'
a' the creturs aneath his feet, his ain gestures, and his ain attitudes,
and his ain actions, a' correspondin and congenial wi' the
ebbin flicht; even like some great master o' music wha disna
leave aff when the soun' is at its heicht, but gradually leads
on the sowls o' the listeners to a far profounder hush o' silence
than reigned even before he woke to ecstasy his livin lyre.
North. Go it again, my dear James.
Shepherd. Yon's neither walkin, dancin, nor loupin, nor
rinnin, nor soomin, nor hingin, nor floatin, nor fleein, but an
inconceivable conglomeration o' them a' — sic as I used sometimes
to experience whan lyin in a dream on a sunny knowe
by St Mary's Loch — believin mysel a disembodied spirit — and
withouten wings, geein the eagle and the hawk the go-by,
richt afore the wind, — and skimmin the real stars, just as
skaters skim their images aneath the ice, and fearing not the
mountain-taps, from which, every time I touched them wi'
my foot, upsprung I again into the blue lift, and felt roun'
my brows the cool caller halo o' the harvest-moon.
North. Empty your tumbler, James, — to Ducrow's health.
Shepherd. That I will. But I howp the Circus 'ill no injure
the Theatre?
North. Not at all. Admirable Murray — incomparable
Mackay — perfect Mrs Siddons, and elegant Miss Gray —
cleverest Jones — accomplished Pritchard — manly Denham —
genteel Stanley¹ —
Shepherd. Gie ower your epithets — for neither you nor ony
man can describe an actress or an actor in ae word; — but I
agree wi' you, — the mair general the speerit o' pastime, the
better will the Theatre fill in the lang-run; and the manager
and his sister will aye be supported by their freen, the people
o' Embro', wha admires in them the union o' professional
genius and private virtue.
North. Their health and happiness — in the jug, James — in
the jug.
Shepherd. A stranger that chanced to be present at a
Noctes without kennin wha we twa was, wad never jalouse
us to be Leeterautee, Mr North. We seldom hae ony brainless
bother about books. Sic talk maistly marks the blockhead.

North. You know, James, that I would not give an intelligent
and independent Tweedside sheep-farmer for a score of
ordinary town essay-mongers, poetasters, and getters-up-ofarticles.
The thoughts and feelings of the Pastoral run in a
channel scooped out by themselves — they murmur with a
music of their own, and ever and anon overflow their banks
¹ Members of the Edinburgh theatrical company. The "elegant Miss Gray'
afterwards became the wife of Mr Murray the manager. Mr Murray's sister,
Mrs Henry Siddons, was the widow of a son of the great actress, Sarah Siddons.
in a style that is floodlike and impressive. He of the common
stair¹ is like a canal-cut, navigable only to flat-bottoms, muddy
in the clearest weather, and its characterless banks wearisome
with their gritty gravel-walks, on which you meet nothing
more lively than an occasional old blind horse or two towing
coals, or a passage-boat crowded with the paltriest people, all
sorely sick of one another, themselves, the locks, and that
part of Scotland in general, the women staring at you from
below ill-shaped bonnets of coarse dirty chip, and the men
crowned with third-head waterproof hats — napless and greasy
— strolling candle-snuffers, petitioners, editors, contributors,
and a sickly man of tailors perhaps, trying change of place
and posture. Whereas —
Shepherd. Stop a wee, and I'll sing you "Blue Bonnets " —
by a fine fallow — a freen o' mine in Leith. I promised him
that I wad sing 't at a Noctes.
Write, write, tourist and traveller —
Fill up your pages, and write in good order;
Write, write, scribbler and driveller —
Why leave such margins? Come nearer the border.
Many a laurel dead, flutters around your head ;
Many a tome is your memento mori :
Come from your garrets, then, sons of the quill and pen —
Write for snuff-shops, if you write not for glory.
Come from your rooms, where the farthing wick's burning —
Come with your tales — speak they gladness or woe;
Come from your small-beer to vinegar turning —
Come where the Port and the Burgundy flow.
Fame's trump is sounding, — topics abounding,
Leave then, each scribbler, your high attic storey ;
Critics shall many a day speak of your book, and say —
"He wrote for the snuff-shop — he wrote not for glory."
Write, write, tourist and traveller —
Fill up your pages, and write in good order;
Write, write, scribbler and driveller —
Why leave such margins? Come nearer the border.
North. Very well, indeed. A mere literary man, James, is
a contemptible creature. Indeed I often wish that I had
¹ Many of the Edinburgh houses consist of separate flats, which are entered
by means of a "common stair."
flourished before the invention of printing, or even of writing.
What think you, James, of a Noctes in hieroglyphics?
Shepherd. I scarcely ken; but I think ane wadna look
amiss in the Chinese. Wi' respeck to mere literary men, oh
dear me, sir! hoo I do gaunt¹ when they come out to Mount
Benger! They canna shute, they canna fish, they canna
loup, they canna warsle, they canna soom, they canna put the
stave, they canna fling the hammer, they canna even drive a
gig, they canna kiss a lassie in an aff-haun and pleasant
manner, without offendin her feelins, as through the dews she
"comes wadin all alane;" and what's perhaps the maist contemptible
o' a', they canna, to ony effeck, drink whusky.
Ae glass o' pure speerits on the hill afore breakfast wad gie
them a sick headache; and after denner, although the creturs
hae nae objections to the jug, oh, but their heads are wake,²
wake — before the fire has got sun-bricht, they are lauchin-fou
— you then fin' them out to be rejected contributors to Blackwood;
and you hear that they're Whigs frae their wee, sharp,
shrill, intermittin, dissatisfied, and rather disgustin snore,
like a soun' ane aften hears at nicht in moors and mosses, but
whence proceedin ane knows not, except it be frae some wild--
fool distressed in sleep by a stamach fa' o' slug-worms mixed
wi' mire — for he aiblins leeves by suction.
North. He is all mind, James; king of the Coteries, and
monarch of all the Albums. His mother laments that he is
not in Parliament; and, up to the Preface,³ used to hint that
he had a finger in Kenilworth and Ivanhoe.
Shepherd. Yet, after a', it's far frae unamusin to read the
verses o' sic creturs. They're aye talkin o' inspiration — o'
bein' rapt, and carried awa by the Muses — and ridin on
Pegasus — and climbin Parnassus, on their hauns and knees,
nae doubt — and drinkin Hippocrene and Helicon, twa kinds
o' Greek wine, ance red, but noo tawny; and though no like
to flee to the head, yet apt to soor sair on an empty stamach.
Yet a' the time there's no a whut mair inspiration, or ravishment,
or ridin, or climbin, or drinkin about the bit versifying
¹ Gaunt — yawn
² Wake — weak.
³ "Up to the Preface," — that is, previous to Scott's public avowal of the
authorship of the Waverley Novels. He laid aside his incognito, first at the
public dinner already referred to (vol. i. p. 339, note), and secondly, in the Preface
or rather Introduction to the Chronicles of tire Canongate, 1827.
creturs o' Cockneys, than there is about a grocer's clerk copying
out an adverteesement o' sweeties for the newspapers.
North. Yet such Sons of Genius think themselves entitled
to become unprincipled, because they can occasionally count
their fingers — disdain area-doors,¹ with eyes in fine frenzy
rolling — get into a network — that is, James, according to Dr
Johnson, a thing equally reticulated and discussated with
equal distances between the interstices — a network of small
coarse debts — attempt to commit forgery — fall, through ignorance
of the forms of business, into the inferior crime of
swindling — off on the coach-box of the Carlisle mail to Liverpool;
and, by packet that is to sail to-morrow morning, right
slick away to the United States.
Shepherd. You're really verra interteenin the nicht, sir; but
dinna be ower hard on them a'; for when natur has kindled
the spark o' genius in the heart o' a fine outspoken, enthusiastic,
hopefu' callant, wi' bauld bricht een, like far-keekers
spyin into futurity, isn't² delightfu' to grasp his haun, and to
clap him on the shouther, and praise him to his face, as you
shove ower the jug to him, and ask him to sing or receet
something o' his ain, — and tell ane o' your bairns to gang
roun' the table and speak till him, for that he's a freend o'
yours, and a gran' fallow, and no to mind even about climbin
ontil his knee, and ruggin the curly locks o' him, as black as
a raven?
North. How delightful for a town-talk-teazed poor old man,
like me, to take refuge, for a month or so, in a deeper solitude
even than Buchanan Lodge — the House at the head of the
Glen, which, know it ever so well, you still have to search for
among so many knolls, some quite bare, some with a Birk or
two, and some of them each in itself a grove or wood, — self--
sown all the trees, brushwood, coppice, and standards.
Shepherd. You're getting desperate descriptive in your
dotage — sir — dinna froon — there's nae dishonour in dotage,
when nature's its object. The aulder we grow, our love for
her gets tenderer and main tender, for this thocht afters comes
across our heart, "in the bosom o' this bonny green earth, in
how few years — shall I be laid — dust restored to dust!"
That's a' I mean by dotage.
North. What a difference, James, between the din of twenty
¹ "Disdain area-doors," — that is, disdain to officiate as lawyers' clerks in
rooms on the sunk flat.
² Isn't — is it not.
little waterfalls, that absolutely seem pursuing one another
away down the glen, and as many hackney coaches jolting
along a street! A composure in all faces and figures that
you meet going out to work or coming in from it—or sitting
or walking about the house! Quiet without dulness — without
languor — peace! There the gloaming is indeed pensive —
each star as it rises sparkles contentment — and the moon is
felt to belong more especially to this one valley, most beautiful
of all the valleys of this earth. Not an action of all my
life — not a word I ever uttered — not a tale, or poem, or article,
or book in two, three, or four volumes, that I ever wrote — not
one of all the panegyrics, anathemas, blessings, curses, prayers,
oaths, vows, and protestations, ever pronounced, denounced,
and announced anent me, known to one single dweller in all
the vale! There am I strictly anonymous. That crutch is as
the crutch of any ordinary rheumatic — and I, James, have the
unspeakable satisfaction of feeling myself — a Cipher.
Shepherd. What are ye hummin at, sir. You're no gaun to
(NORTH sings.)
Why does the sun shine on me,
When its light I hate to see:
Fain I'd lay me down and dee.
For o' life I'm weary!
O 'tis no thy frown I fear —
'Tis thy smile I canna bear —
'Tis thy smile my heart does tear,—
When thou triest to cheer me.
Ladies fair hae smiled on me —
A' their smiles nae joy could gie —
Never lo'ed I ane but thee.
And I loe thee dearly !
On the sea the moonbeams play —
Sae they'll shine when I'm away —
Happy then thou'lt be, and gay,
When I wander dreary!
Shepherd. Some auld fragmentary strain, remindin him, nae
doubt, o' joys and sorrows lang ago! He has a pathetic vice
— but sing what tune he may, it still slides awa into "Stroud
North. Oh, James! a dream of the olden time —
Shepherd. Huts! huts! I wush you maunna be gettin rather
a wee fuddled, sir — hafflins fou. Preserve me! are ye greetin?
The whusky's maist terrible strong — and I suspect has never
been chrissened. It's time we be aff! Oh! what some o'
them he has knouted wad gie to see him in this condition!
But there's the wheels o' the cotch. Or is't a fire-engine?
(Enter AMBROSE to announce the arrival of the coach.)
Dinna look at him, Mr Ambrose — he's gotten the toothache —
and likewise some ingan in his een. This is aye the way wi'
him noo — he fa's aff a' on a sudden — and begins greetin at
naething, or at things that's rather amusin as itherwise.
There's mony thousan' ways o' gettin fou — and I ken nao
mair philosophical employment, than, in sic cityations, the
study o' the varieties o' human character.
North. Son James —
Shepherd. Pardon, Father — 'twas but a jeest. I've kept
you noo the better paint o' twunty years — and never saw I
thae bricht een — that bricht brain obscured, — for wi' a' our
daffin — our weel-timed daffin — our dulce est desipere in loco —
that's Latin, you ken — we return to our hame, or our lodgings,
as sober as Quakers — and as peacefu', too, — well-wishers, ane
and a', to the haill human race — even the verra Wheegs.
North. Sometimes, my dear Shepherd, my life from eighteen
to twenty-four is an utter blank, like a moonless midnight —
at other times, oh! what a refulgent day! Had you known
me then, James, you would —
Shepherd. No hae liked you half as weel's I do noo — for
then, though you was doutless tall and straucht as a tree, and
able and willin baith to fecht man, dowg, or deevil, wi' een,
tongue, feet, or hauns, yet, as doutless, you was prouder nor
Lucifer. But noo that you're bent doun no that muckle, just
a wee, and your "lyart haffits wearing thin and bare," sae
pleesant, sae cheerfu', sae fu' o' allooances for the fauts and
frailties o' your fellow-creturs, provided only they proceed na
frae a bad heart — it's just perfeckly impossible no to love the
wise, merry auld man
North. James, I wish to consult you and Mr Ambrose about
the propriety and prudence of my marrying —
Shepherd. Never heed ye propriety and prudence, sir, in
mairrying, ony mair than ither folk. Mairry her, sir—mairry
her — and I'll be godfather — for the predestined mither o' him
will be an Episcopaulian — to wee Christopher.
North. As the Reis Effendi well observes to the interpreters
of the Three Powers — we must not name a child till we have
ascertained its sex.¹ — But, Ambrose, open the Ear of Dionysius.
[MR AMBROSE opens a secret door, and flings it open.
Shepherd. Mr Gurney — the short-haun writer! Dinna be
frighted, sir. What a cozy contrivance! A green-baized
table o' his ain — twa wax cawnles — a nice wee bit ingle —
and a gey² big Jug !
North. Not a whisper, James, that Mr Gurney does not
catch. I will explain the principle to you at our first leisure.
You know the Elements of Acoustics ?
Shepherd. Cow-steeks, — Cow's horns. What do you mean?
Let me try your toddy, Mr Gurney. Oh, man! but its strong.
Goodnight, sir; dinna steer till ye extend.³ Come awa, Mr
North — Awmrose, rax him ower the crutch.
North. What a hobbletehoy I am, James — Allons. But
hark ye, James — are you the author of the "Relief Meeting?"
No? I wish I knew how to direct a letter to him about his
excellent article. Let us off to Southside — and sup with
Glee — for Three Voices.
Fall de rall de,
Fall, lall, lall de,
Fall de lall de,
Fall, lall le, &c.
[Exeunt ambo et AMBROSE.
¹ After the battle of Navarino (fought on the 20th of October 1827), the
allied ambassadors at Constantinople, British, French, and Russian, desired to
know in what light the Porte would consider hostilities if occasioned by Ibrahim
Pacha refusing to comply with the declared will of the allied courts in
respect to the affairs of Greece. His excellency the Reis Effendi, who had not
yet received intelligence of the defeat of the Turkish fleet at Navarino, replied,
"We hope that no hostilities have taken place, and we do not feel disposed to
declare what we would do, or not do, in certain cases. People do not give a
name to a child before it is born and its sex known." — See Annual Register,
1827, p. 319.
² Gey — rather.
³ That is, do not stir till you have written out your shorthand notes.
(OCTOBER 1828.)
Scene, — Large Dining-room. — Time uncertain. — NORTH discovered
sitting upright in his easy-chair, with arms akimbo
on his crutch, asleep.
Shepherd. Lord safe us! only look at him sitting asleep.
What'n a face! — Dinna leave the parlour, Mr Awmrose, for
it would be fearsome to be alane wi' the Vision.
Ambrose: The heat of the fire has overcome the dear old
gentleman — but he will soon awake; and may I make so
bold, Mr Hogg, as to request that you do not disturb —
Shepherd. What! Wad ye be for my takin aff my shoon,
and glidin over the Turkey carpet on my stockin soles, like
a pard or panther on the Libyan sands?
Ambrose (sauviter in modo). I beg pardon, sir, but you have
got on your top-boots¹ this evening.
Shepherd. Eh! sae I hae. And tryin to rug them aff, tae
and heel, aneath the fit o' a chair, wad be sure to wauken
him wi' ane o' thae froons o' his, aneuch to daunt the deevil.
Ambrose. I never saw Mr North frown, Mr Hogg, since
we came to Picardy. I hope, sir, you think him in his usual
Shepherd. That's a gude ane, Awmrose. You think him
near his latter end, 'cause he's gien up that hellish frown
that formerly used sae aften to make his face frichtsome?
¹ Top-boots, at this period not uncommon, were a favourite attire of the
'Ye ne'er saw him froon sin' ye came to Picardy? — Look,
there — only look at the cretur's face —
A darkness comes across it, like a squall
Blackening the sea.
Ambrose. I fear he suffers some inward qualm, sir. His
stomach, I fear, sir, is out of order.
Shepherd. His stomach is ne'er out o' order. It's an ingine
that aye works sweetly. But what think you, Mr Awmrose,
o' a quawm o' conscience?
Ambrose. Mr North never, in all his life, I am sure, so much
as injured a fly. Oh! dear me! he must be in very great pain.
Shepherd. —
So froon'd he ance, when in an angry parle
He smote the sliding Pollock on the ice.
Ambrose. You allude, sir, to that day at the curling on
Duddingston Loch. But you must allow, Mr Hogg, that
the brute of a carter deserved the crutch. It was pretty to
see the old gentleman knock him down. The crack on the
ice made by the carter's skull was like a star, sir.
Shepherd. The clud's blawn aff — and noo his countenance
is pale and pensive, and no without a kind o' reverend
beauty, no very consistent wi' his waukin character. But
the faces o' the most ferocious are a' placid in sleep and
in death. That is an impressive fizziological and sykological
Ambrose. How can you utter the word death in relation to
him, Mr Hogg? Were he dead, the whole world might shut
up shop.
Shepherd. Na, ua. Ye micht, hut no the warld. There
never leeved a man the world missed, ony mair than a great,
green, spreading simmer tree misses a leaf that fa's doun on
the moss aneath its shadow.
Ambrose. Were ye looking round for something, sir?
Shepherd. Ay; gie me that cork aff yon table — I'll burn't
on the fire, and then blacken his face wi' coom.
Ambrose (placing himself in an imposing attitude between
NORTH and the SHEPHERD). Then it must be through my
body, sir. Mr Hogg, I am always proud and happy to see
you in my house; but the mere idea of such an outrage —
such sacrilege — horrifies me; the roof would fall down — the
whole land —
Shepherd. Tuts, man, I'm only jokin. Oh! but he wad
mak a fine pictur! I wish John Watson Gordon were but
here to pent his face in iles. What a mass o' forehead! an
inch atween every wrinkle, noo scarcely visible in the calm
o' sleep! Frae eebree to croon o' the head a lofty mountain
o' snaw — a verra Benledi — wi' rich mineral ore aneath the
surface, within the bowels o' the skull, copper, silver, and
gold! Then what a nose! Like a bridge, along which
might be driven cart-loads o' intellect; — neither Roman nor
Grecian, hookit nor cockit, a wee thocht inclined to the
ae side, the pint being a pairt and pendicle o' the whole, an
object in itsel, but at the same time finely smoothed aff and
on intil the featur; while his nostrils, small and red, look as
they would emit fire, and had the scent o' a jowler or a
Ambrose. There never were such eyes in a human head
Shepherd. I like to see them sometimes shut. The instant
Mr North leaves the room, after denner or sooper, it's the
same thing as if he had carried aff wi' him twa o' the fowre
Ambrose. I have often felt that, sir, — exactly that, — but
.never could express it. If at any time he falls asleep it is
just as if the waiter or myself had snuffed out —
Shepherd. Let my image alane, Mr Awmrose, and dinna
ride it to death — double. But what I admire maist o' a' in
the face o' him, is the auld man's mouth. There's a warld's
difference, Mr Awmrose, atween a lang mouth and a wide ane.
Ambrose. There is, Mr Hogg, there is — they are two
different mouths entirely. I have often felt that, but could
not express it —
Shepherd. Mr Awmrose, you're a person that tales notice o'
a hantle o' things — and there canna be a stronger proof, or a
better illustration, of the effeck o' the conversation o' a man
o' genius like me, than its thus seeming to express former
feelings and fancies of the awditor — whereas, the truth is,
that it disna wauken them for the second time, but communicates
them for the first — for believe me, that the idea o' the
cawnles, and eke o' the difference wi' a distinction atween
wide mouths and lang anes, never entered your mind afore,
but are baith, bona feedy, the property o' my ain intelleck.
Ambrose. I ask you many pardons, Mr Hogg. They are
both your own, I now perceive, and I promise never to make
use of them without your permission in writing — or—
Shepherd. Poo — I'm no sae pernickitty¹ as that about my
original ideas; only when folk do mak use o' my obs, I think
it but fair they should add, "as Mr Hogg well said," "as the
Ettrick Shepherd admirably remarked," "as the celebrated
author o' the Queen's Wake, wi' his usual felicity, observed"
— and so forth — and ma faith, if some folk that's reckoned
yeloquent at roots and petty soopers, were aye to do that,
when they're what's ca'd maist brilliant, my name wad be
seldom out o' their mouths. Even North himsel —
Ambrose. Do not be angry with me, sir — but it's most
delightful to hear Mr North and you bandying matters across
the table; ye take such different views always of the same
subject; yet I find it, when standing behind the chair, impossible
not to agree with you both.
Shepherd. That's just it, Mr Awmrose. That's the way to
exhowst a subject. The ane o' us ploughs down the rig, and
the ither across, then on wi' the harrows, and the field is like
a garden.
Ambrose. See, sir, he stirs!
Shepherd. The crutch is like a very tree growin out o' the
earth — so straucht and steddy. I daursay he sleeps wi't in
his bed. Noo — ye see his mouth to perfection — just a wee
open — showing the teeth — a smile and no a snarl — the thin
lips o' him slightly curled and quiverin, and the corners
drawn doun a wee, and then up again wi' a swirl, gein wonderfu'
animation to his yet ruddy cheeks — a mouth unitin in
ane, Mr Jaffray's and that o' Canning's and Cicero's busts.
Ambrose. No young lady — no widow — could look at him
now, as he sits there, Mr Hogg, God bless him, without
thinking of a first or second husband. Many is the offer he
must have refused!
Shepherd. Is that your fashun in Yorkshire, Mr Awmrose,
for the women to ask the men to marry?
Ambrose (susurrans). Exceptio probat regulam — sir.
Shepherd. Faith, ye speak Latin as weel's mysel. Do you
ken the Doctrine o' Dreams?
Ambrose. No, sir. Dreaming seems to me a very unintelligible
piece of business.
¹ Pernickitty — particular.
Shepherd. So thinks Mr Coleridge and "Kubla Khan."¹ But
the sowl, ye see, is swayed by the senses — and its in my
power the noo that Mr North's half-sleepin and half-waukin,
to mak him dream o' a' sorts o' deaths — nay, to dream that
he is himsel dreein² a' sorts o' deaths — ane after the ither in
ruefu' succession, as if he were some great criminal undergoing
capital punishments in the wild world o' sleep.
Ambrose. That would be worse than blacking my dear
master's face — for by that name I love to call him. You
must not inflict on him the horror of dreams.
Shepherd. There can be nae such thing as cruelty in a real
philosophical experiment. In philosophy, though not in
politics, the end justifies the means. Be quiet, Awmrose.
There noo, I hae drapt some could water on his bald pow —
and it's tricklin doun his haffits to his lugs. Whisht! wait
a wee! There na, ye see his mouth openin, and his chest
heavin, as if the waters o' the deep sea were gullering in his
throat. He's now droonin!
Ambrose. I cannot support this — Mr Hogg — I must
Shepherd. Haud back, sir! Look how he's tryin to streik
out his richt leg as if it had gotten the cramp. He's tryin
to cry for help. Noo he has risen to the surface for the third
and last time. Noo he gies ower strugglin, and sinks doun
to the broon-ribbed sand among the crawlin partens!³
Ambrose. I must — I shall waken him
Shepherd. The dreamed death-fit is ower, for the water's
dried — and he thinks himsel walkin up Leith Walk, and then
straucht intil Mr Blackwood's shop. But noo we'll hang
Ambrose. My God! that it should ever have come to this!
Yet there is an interest in such philosophical experiments,
Mr Hogg, which it is impossible to resist. But do not, I
beseech you, keep him long in pain.
Shepherd. There — I just tichten a wee on his wizen his
black neck-hankerchief, and in a moment you'll see him get
blue in the face. Quick as the "lightning on a collied
night," the dream comes athwart his sowl! He's on the
scaffold, and the grey-headed, red-eyed, white-faced hangman's
lean shrivelled hands are fumblin about his throat,
fixing the knot on the juglar! See how puir North clutches
¹ A poem said by Coleridge to have been composed in his sleep.
² Dreein — suffering,
³ Partens — crabs.
the cambric, naturally averse to fling it frae him, as a signal
for the drap! It's no aboon a minute since we began the
experiment, and yet during that ae minute has he planned
and perpetrated his crime — nae dout murder, — concealed
himsel for a month in empty hovels, and tombs, in towns, —
in glens, and muirs, and woods, in the kintra, — been apprehended,
for a reward o' one hundred guineas, by twa red--
coated sheriff's-officers — imprisoned till he had nearly run
his letters, — stood his trial frae ten in the mornin till twelve
o'clock at nicht — examination o' witnesses, the speech o' the
croon coonsel, and that o' the coonsel for the panel too, and
the soumin up o' the Lord Justice Clerk, nane o' the three
shorter than twa hours, — been prayed till, frae daybreak to
breakfast, by three ministers, — oh sickenin breakfast! — sat'n
in a chair on account o' his gout — a lang lang time on the
scaffold — and then aff he goes with a swing, a swirl, and a
general shriek — and a' within the space o' some forty seconds
o' the time that passes in the outer air world, which we
wauken creatures inhabit; — but which is the true time, and
which is the fause, it's no for me to say, for I'm nae metaphysician;
and judge o' time, either by the shadows on the
hill, or on the stane sundial, or by the short and lang haun
o' our aught-day clock.
Ambrose. Mr Hogg, it is high time this were put an end
to, — my conscience accuses me of a great crime — and the
moment Mr North awakes, I will make a clean bosom of it,
and confess the whole.
Shepherd. What! you'll peach, will you? In that case, it
is just as weel to proceed to the last extremity. Rax me
over the carvin knife, and I'll guillotine him
Ambrose. Shocking, shocking, Mr Hogg!
(The SHEPHERD and AMBROSE struggle violently for the
possession of the carving-knife, — amid cries from the
latter of "Thieves! .Robbers! Fire! Murder!" — and
in the struggle they fall against the chimney piece, to the
clash of shovel, poker, and tongs. BRONTE, who has been
sleeping under NORTH'S chair, bursts out with a bull-bellow,
a tiger-growl, and a lion-roar — and NORTH awakes —
collaring the SHEPHERD).
Bronte. Bow — wow — wow — wow — wow — wow—
Shepherd. Ca' aff your dowg, Mr North, — ca' aff your dowg!
He's devourin me —
North (undisturbed from his former posture). Gentlemen,
what is the meaning of all this — you seem discomposed?
James! engaged in the duello with Mr Ambrose? Mr
Ambrose! [Exit MR AMBROSE, retrogrediens, much confused.
Shepherd. I'll ca' him out — I'll ca' him out wi' pistols! He
was the first aggressor.
North. Arrange your dress, James, then sit down, and
narrate to me truly these plusquam civilia bella.
Shepherd. Why, ye see, sir, a gentleman in the hotel, a
Russian General, I believe, was anxious to see you sleepin,
and to take a sketch o' you in that predicament for the
Emperor, and Mr Awmrose insisted on bringin him in,
whether I would or no, — and as I know you have an antipathy
against having your head taken aff — as naebody can
hit the face, and a' the likenesses yet attempted are mere
caricatures — I rose to oppose the entrance o' the General.
Mr Awmrose put himsel into what I could not but construe
a fechtin attitude, though I daursay it was only on the
defensive; we yokit, and on me tryin to hough him, we
tumbled again' the mantelpiece, and you awoke. This is
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
(NORTH rings the bell violently, and MR AMBROSE appears).
North. Show in the Russian General, sir!
Ambrose. The Russian General, sir!
North. How dare you repeat my words? I say, sir, show
in the Russian General.
Shepherd. Haw — haw — haw — haw — haw — haw — haw —
haw! I'm like to spleet! Haw — haw — haw — haw — haw—
North (with dignity). These manners, sir, may do in Ettrick
— or the Forest — where the breed of wild boars is not
wholly extirpated — but in Edinburgh we expect —
Shepherd. Na — gin that be the way o't, I maun be on my
mettle too. As for your wutticism, sir, about the boars, it's
just perfectly contemptible, and, indeed, at the best, nae
better than a maist meeserable pun. And as to mainners, I'll
bet you a ten-gallon cask to a half-mutchkin, that I'll show
an elder in Yarrow - Kirk, ony Sabbath atween this and
Christmas, that shall outmainner your ainsel, wi' a' your
high breedin, in everything that constitutes true natural
dignity — and as for female mainners, seleck the maist
yelegant and fashionable leddy that you see walkin alang
Princes Street, wi' a bonnet bigger than a boyne,¹ atween
three and four o' the afternoon, when the street's like a
stream, and gin I dinna bring frae the Forest, within a mile's
range, wi' Mount Benger the centre o' the circle, a bareleggit
lassie, wi' hauns, aiblins, red and hard wi' milkin the
coos, wi' naething on her head but a bit pinchbeck kame,
that shall outmainner your city madam, till she blush black
through the red pent on her cheeks — my name's no James
Hogg — that's a'. And whether you tak the wager or no, let
me tell you to the face o' you, that you're a damned arrogant,
upsettin impudent fallow, and that I do not care the crack o'
my thoom for you, or your Magazin, or your Buchanan Lodge,
were you and they worth ten thousand million times mair
than what you ever will be, as lang's your name's Christopher
North. James, you are a pretty fellow. Nothing will satisfy
you, it seems, but to insult most grossly the old man whom
you have first drowned in his sleep, then hanged, and, but for
my guardian angel, Ambrose, would have guillotined!
Shepherd. What! and you were pretendin to be asleep a'
the while o' the pheelosophical experiments! What a horrid
heepocrit! You're really no fit company for plain, simple,
honest folk like the like o' me; but as we've been baith to
blame, especially you, who began it a' by shammin sleep, let's
shake hauns, and say nae mair about it. Do ye ken I'm desperate
hungry — and no a little thursty.
(Re-enter MR AMBROSE, in trim apparel and downcast
eyes, with a board of oysters).
North. Bless you, James! You wheel me round in my chair
to the table with quite a filial touch. Ay, my dear boy, take
a pull at the porter, for you are in a violent perspiration.
Shepherd. Naething like draft!
North. Mr Ambrose, confine the Russian General to his
chamber — and see that you keep him in fresh train-oil.
[Exit MR AMBROSE, smiling through his tears.
North. James, I shrewdly suspect Mr Ambrose is up to our
¹ Boyne — a large wooden tub; not pot, as formerly explained, vol. i. p. 57.
Shepherd. I really begin to jalouse he is. He was sair
frichtened at first — but I thocht I heard him geein a bit grunt
o' a lauch, a sort o' subpressed nicher, ahint the door, to the
flunkeys in the trance, wha had a' flocked thegither in a crood
at the cry o' Fire and Murder. Hech, sirs! but the month o'
September 's the month after my ain heart — and worth ony
ither twa in the year — comin upon you, as it does, after May,
June, July, and August, wi' its R and its Eisters — na, that
brodd beats a' — ilka shell as wide's my loof — ilka fish like a
shot-star — and the tottle o' the whole¹ sooming in its ain
saut-sea liccor, aneuch to create an appeteet in the palate o'
yon Atomy swingin in Dr Munro's² class in the College by
himsel during the lang vacation — Puir fallow!
North. Dear to me, James, September, because of the harvest
moon —
Shepherd. Haud your tongue, ye heepocrit. — The harvest
moon, indeed! Did ye ever ance see her horns, or her lugs,
or her een, or her mou', or her chin, or her nose, or her Tootnsamble,
as the French say, during a' that September you
passed wi' us at Mount Benger the year afore last, when wee
Jamie, you ken, had the mizzles?³
North. Why, James, there was a perpetual mist
Shepherd. Frae the toddy-jug. Ye wad aye drink it het —
and 'deed I agree wi' you in detestin a blash4 o' cauld speerits--
and-water wi' broon sugar — aneuch to gar you grue, scunner,
and bock.5 Ye wad aye drink it het, and free gloamin till
midnicht assuredly there was a mist; but hoo could you possibly
see the moon, ye auld sinner, through the mist, like ane
o' Ossian's ghosts, when regularly at sax o'clock you axed me
to ripe the ribs, and shut the shutters — and —
North. I rung the bell for that bonny lassie, the "lass with
the gowden hair," to come with her brush, which she brandished
so prettily, and sweep in the ashes
Shepherd. I ca'd you an auld sinner — and an auld sinner ye
are, my maist excellent sir, though I gladly alloo there's no
¹ The total of the whole — a phrase the paternity of which may be traced, I
believe, to Joseph Hume.
² The third medical professor in succession of that name and family in the
University of Edinburgh. After teaching anatomy for upwards of fifty years,
Dr Munro retired from the professorial chair in 1846, and still flourishes in a
green and vigorous old age.
³ Mizzles — measles.
4 A blash — a drench.
5 Bock — vomit.
a better man, for a' that, 'mang the eight hundred millions
inhabiting the earth.
North. Sits still so trigly, James, the silken snood of my
Lily of the Lea ?
"Bonny Kilmeny gaed up the glen,
But it wasna to meet Duneira's men."
Shepherd. The last time I saw your Lily o' the Lea, sir, she
was sittin on a stane at the cheek o' the door, wi' a mutch
ower her tawty hair, a geyan dirty face, bauchles¹ on, and
sooklin twuns.
North. Suckling twins! O Jupiter and Leda! Castor and
Shepherd. Ay, just sooklin twuns. But what's there in that
to gar you turn up the whites o' your een? Tibbie's married.
North. And I devoutly trust to a man worthy of her beauty,
her virtue, her innocence — her —
Shepherd. The tailor carried her aff frae them a' — the flyin
tailor o' Ettrick,² sir — him that can do fifteen yards, at hap,
step, and loop, back and forward on level grun' — stood second
ae year in the ring at Carlisle — can put the stane within a foot
o' Jedburgh Bell himsel, and fling the hammer neist best ower
a' the Border to Geordy Scougal o' Innerleithen.³
North. Another phantom of my imagination has melted,
like a dewdrop from the earth. To a tailor!
Shepherd. Another phantom o' my imagination has melted,
like a dewdrop frae the earth — and a sappier eister never
played plump intil a human stamack.
North. James, that is a sacrilegious parody on the expression
of one of the finest feelings that breathes a sadness over
our common humanity. Eat your oysters after your own
fashion — but —
Shepherd. O, sir! I wonder to see you, at your time o' life,
lamentin that a bit fernytickled4 kintra lassie, that used to
gang atween barn and byre wi' worsted huggers5 on, and a
jacket o' striped mankey, should hae sae far improved her
condition within the year as to be a sonsie gudewife, double
¹ Bauchles — old shoes, used as slippers.
² See ante, vol. i. p. 292.
³ Innerleithen, a village on the Tweed, is the supposed locality of Scott's
St Ronan's Well. Here athletic games used to be celebrated, and George
Scougal was generally one of the champions.
4 Fernytickled — freckled.
5 Huggers — stockings without feet.
the size she used to be — her wee bit prim rosy mouth, ance
sae like a bud that refused to open out even in the sunshine,
noo aye wide open as if wishing to catch flees — and her voice,
formerly sae laigh and lown, now loud and fierce as ony ither
wife and mither's, scaulding the servant lass, the dowg, or a
North. True — James — as Wordsworth says,
"Such ebb and flow must ever be,
Then wherefore should we mourn?"
Shepherd. As Wordsworth says — whroo! — Nae occasion for
quoting onybody but oursels. We twa ken as muckle — and
mair too, o' human nature, in its various phawses, than a' the
Pond Poets pitten thegither. O man! Mr North, but my
heart has often and often amaist dee'd within me, to think
that a' we love and long for, pine to possess, and burn to enjoy
— a' that passion maddens for on the midnicht pillow, in
the desert day-dream — a' that the yearning sowl would fain
expand itself to embrace within the rainbow circle o' its holiest
and maist heavenly affections — a' that speeritualeezes our
human nature, till our very dust-formed bodies seem o' the
essence o' licht, or flowers, or music, something no terrestrial,
but akin to the elements o' our native regions on the blue
cloudless lift —
North. You touch a chord, James — You do indeed — you
touch a chord —
Shepherd. Should a' be delusion — a glamour flung over us
by a celestial but deceitful spirit — felt and seen, as soon as it
is broken and dissolved, to have been a fiction, a falsehood, a
lie — a soft, sweet, bright, balmy, triumphant and glorious lie,
in place of which nature offers us in mockery, during a' the
rest o' our lives, the puir, paltry, pitiful, faded, fushionless,
cauldrifed, and chittering substitute — Truth. O, sir! waes
me, that by stripping a' creation, fauld after fauld, o' gay,
glitterin, gorgeous and glorious apparellin, you are sure at
last to come to the hard naked Truth —
North. Hamlet has it, James — "a foul congregation of
Shepherd. Or say rather, like a body carelessly or purposely
pressin a full-blawn or budding rose atween his finger and his
¹ Tramper — wandering beggar.
thoomb, scaling leaf after leaf, till what hae you in your hand
at last but the bare heart o' the flower, and you look dour
amang your feet in vain for the scattered and dissipated bloom
that a moment afore thrust its bold beauty into the eyes of the
sun, and seemed o' its ain single self to be scenting the haill
wilderness, then sweet wi' its grassy braes, as if the heavens
had hung over mountains o' bloomin heather steeped in morning
dew evaporating in mist-wreaths exhaled from earth to
heaven in morning sacrifice!
North. And Tibbie has twins!
Shepherd. 'Deed has she, sir. Her poetry is now prose.
North. Gone all the light lyrical measures! all the sweet
pauses transposed. The numerous verse of her virgin being
shorn of all its rhymes so musical — a thousand tunes, each in
its specific sweetness murmuring of a separate soul, blended
indistinguishably into one monotony — and marriage, marriage,
marriage is the deadening word!
Shepherd. That's treason, sir — treason against natur. Is the
young lintie, I would ask, flutterin amang the broom, or balancin
itsel in sportive happiness on ane o' the yellow jewels, half
sae bonny as the same lintie sittin in its nest within a briar-bush,
wi' its head lying sae meek and lovingly on the rim o'
the moss, and a' its breast yearning wi' the still deep instinctive
bliss o' maternal affection — or fleeing ten times in a
minute frae briar-bush to bracken-brae, and frae bracken-brae
to briar-bush, wi' insecks, and worms, and caterpillars, and
speeders, in her neb, to satisfy the hunger o' a nest a' agape
wi' yellow-throated young anes, and then settlin hersel doun
again, as saftly as if she were naething but feathers, aboon
her brood in that cozy bield, although but a bit silly burdie,
happy as ony angel in the heaven o' heavens?
North. A sweet image, James; an image that beams the
light of Poetry on the Prose-ground of human life! But, alas!
that thin golden ring lays a heavy weight on the hand that
wears it — The finger it seriously and somewhat sadly decks,
never again, with so lightsome touch, braids the hair above
the fair forehead, — the gay, gladsome, tripping, dancing, and
singing maiden soon changes into the staid, calm, douce,
almost melancholy matron, whose tears are then sincerer than
her smiles — with whom Joy seems but a transient visitor, —
Grief a constant guest.
Shepherd. And this warld, ye ken, sir, and nane kens better,
was made for Grief as weel as for Joy. Grief and Joy, unlike
as they appear in face and figure, are nevertheless sisters,—
and by fate and destiny their verra lives depend on ane and the
same eternal law. Were Grief banished frae this life, Joy would
soon dwine awa into the resemblance o' her departed Soror —
ay, her face would soon be whiter and mair woebegone, and
they would soon be buried, side by side, in ae grave.¹
North. Shake hands, my dear James. I am in bad spirits
tonight, and love to listen to your benign philosophy.
Shepherd. I hae nae philosophy, my dear Mr North; but I
howp I hae some religion. If I had not, the banes o' my
father and my mother would not lie at rest in Yarrow kirk-yard.
Philosophy, I hae nao doubt, is an excellent, a capital
thing, — and I'm sure Poetry is sae, — but the ane is but the
moon, which, bricht and bonny though she be, is often sairly
benichted, and at the best shines by a reflected licht,—the
ither is like the stars — no useless in their beauty — God
forbid I ever should think sic a stupid thocht — but still, after
a', no just sae usefu' perhaps, in the ordinar sense o' utility,
as they are pleasant and delichtfu' to the shepherd on the
hills; but the last, that is, Religion, she, sir, is like the sun,
that gladdens heaven and earth, gars a' things grow, baith for
the profit and the pleasure o' man, and convinces us, alike in
gloom and glory, that the mortal senses hold a mysterious
communion with the immortal soul; that "we are greater
than we seem;" — may I be pardoned for even venturing to say,
even here — and why not — that "the things which are seen
are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal."
North. You may say it, James, without reproach here —
over the social board — there, by yourself in the wilderness —
anywhere, by day or by night, on the world of green earth or
foamy waters, on the steadfast brae or reeling deck, in calm
or in storm, in joy or in sorrow, in life and in death. Shame
on the coward heart that fears to utter what itself prompts!
Shame on the coward ear that fears to hear what the heart
dictates, in any time or any place, where the mood is blameless,
— for mirth is still in sympathy with melancholy, and
what, oh! what thoughts profound circle round the wine-cup,
when it flows to the memory of one beloved of yore, — one
¹ This sentiment is highly Socratic. See the Phædo of Plato, where Socrates
moralises on Pain and Pleasure as springing from one root.
who left us in the sunshine of youth, and seems to reappear
like a veiled shadow across the light of the festal fire — and
then in a moment away into oblivion!
Shepherd. Then you see, sir, the place o' the bonny young
distractin and deceitfu' creatures — for, wi' a' their innocence
— a favourite word wi' you, sir — they are deceitfu' — their
places, I say, are supplied by anither flock o' flowers just
like annuals after annuals — as fair and as fragrant as theirsels
— and thus, amid the perpetual decay and the perpetual
renovation, there is naething worth weeping for — except,
indeed, when twa silly poets like us, — and ye are a poet, sir,
though ye dinna write verses, — forgather ower a brodd and a
bowl, and gie vent, the ane or the ither o' us, it's the turning
o' a straw which, to mournfu' heart-sinkings that maun hae
an inkling o' pleasure in them, or else they would be at ance
repressed — and seek in a sort o' diseased or distemper'd wilfulness,
just as you hae been doing the noo, to look on the
world in a light that it was never intended we should look on
it, and to people it wi' sorrowfu' spectres, instead o' various
kinds o' gude flesh-and-blood folk, a' gude in their degree, in
their place, and in their time, — and if that be true, isna a'
moping contrar to richt reason, and them that's Penserosos
for the maist pairt — Sumphs?
North. "Melancholy and gentlemanlike," you know, James.
Shepherd. It's a wicked ack, sir, in a warld like ours, to
sham melancholy; and if a man canna contrive, by ony other
means, to look like a gentleman, he had far better keep on lookin
like a bagman. Besides being wicked, it's dangerous; for
by pretending to be melancholy, in desperation o' being
thought a gentleman by ony other mair natural contrivances
and endowments, a man comes to get himsel universally
despised — contempt kills credit — then follows bankruptcy —
and the upshot o' the whole is suicide — jail — or America.
North. But to be rational, and as far as possible from the
poetical and the pathetic, I often shudder, James, in solitude,
to think of the change, generally slow but often sudden, from
the happiness of maidenhood, to the misery of the wife, especially
in many of the classes of the lower orders of society.
I use advisedly the words — happiness and misery. James,
the whole world groans. — I hear it groaning — though no Fine--
Ear to the doleful.
Shepherd. There's ower muckle truth in what you say, Mr
North — and were we to think too intently on the dark side o'
the picture, or rather on the mony great big black blotches
disfigurin the brichtest pairts o' the fairest side o' the married
life o' the puir, and ignorant, and depraved, weel might we
shut them in despair, and weep for the maist o' woman born!
Meesery never comes to a head but in marriage. Yet, oh!
how different might it be, without supposing human natur to
be altogether changed, but only what it was intended to be,
in spite o' original sin and corruption!
North. How many hundreds of thousands of harsh husbands
— nay, cruel — savage — fierce — drunken — furious — insane —
murderous! What horrid oaths heard at the humble ingle —
and, worse than oaths, blows and shrieks — and the pregnant
mother of terrified children, all crouching in a corner, on her
knees beseeching the demoniacal homicide not to kick to
death the babe yet unborn — for its sake to remember the days
of their courtship and —
Shepherd. Whisht — whisht — whisht!
North. Drunkenness is the cause of nine-tenths of the grief
and guilt that aggravate the inevitable distresses of the poor.
Dry up that horrid thirst, and the hearts of the wretched
would sing aloud for joy. In their sober senses, it seldom
happens that men, in a Christian country, are such savages.
But all cursed passions latent in the heart, and, seemingly at
least, dead, or non-existent, while that heart beats healthily in
sober industry, leap up fierce and full-grown in the power of
drunkenness, making the man at once a maniac, or rather at
once converting him into a fiend.
Shepherd. There's nae cure for that but edication — edicatin
o' the people — clear the head and you strengthen the heart —
gie thoughts, and feelings follow — I agree wi' Socrates in
thinking a' vice ignorance, and a' virtue knowledge, takin a'
the four words in the highest sense o' which they are cawpable.
Then they are baith επεα πτεροευτα και Φωναντα συνετοισι¹
North. Yet I sometimes feel myself almost compelled to
agree with the present Archbishop of Canterbury,² that there
is something necessarily and essentially immoral and irreligious
in the cultivation of the intellect
Shepherd. Na — na — na; — that can never be —
North. His lordship means — apart from — divorced from the
¹ Winged words, and full of significance to the intelligent.
² Dr Howley: he died in 1848.
cultivation of those feelings and principles—those great
natural instincts—by which man is a moral and religious
being. The tendency of intellect not only left to itself, but
instructed solely in its own knowledge, is averse, his lordship
holds, from the contemplation and the love of more holy
and higher things—and
Shepherd. Ay, there he's richt. I perfectly agree wi' his
lordship there—and I wish he kent it — for aiblins I'm better
acquainted, practically acquainted, I mean, than ony Archbishop's
likely to be—nae disparagement to the Episcopawlian
church—wi' the virtues and vices, the sins, sorrows, and
sufferings, the noble thochts, and feelins, and ticks, the everyday
wark-life, the Sabbath-day rest-life, o' the Puir! The
first often painfu', laborious, nay, slavish, and wi' but ordinar
satisfactions belongin to our lower natur; the last, in Scotland
at least, pleasant, cawm, and elevated in blissfu' release, up to
a mood that, alike in the auld grey-headit grandfaither, and
his bit bonny wee oe walking haun in haun wi' him to the
kirk, does indeed deserve the name o' religion, if sic a thing
as religion be onywhere to be fund atween heaven and
North. You speak like yourself, my dear James. In their present
zeal for intellectual education, many good men forget —
Shepherd. Then they should be reminded, that a' the knowledge
which the puir — I needna explain the sense in which I
use the word puir — can ever acquire in schools, or mechanical
institutions, can be nae mair than subsidiary to a far higher
knowledge; and that if that be negleekit, or undervalued, a'
that they can ever learn will either be useless or pernicious — for
isna the chief end o' man "to fear God and keep his commandments"?

North. I believe, my admirable friend, that you have said,
in a few plain and simple, but, allow me to add, beautiful and
noble words—all that can possibly be said on this all-important
subject. Put round the jug, James.
Shepherd. Then, sir, what may be the case in England, I
dinna weel ken—for I never was onywhere in England except
at the Lakes on a veesit to your freen the Professor,' then
only the author o' the Isle o' Pawms, and The City o' the Plague;
and the folk there seemed no unlike the folk in our ain kintra,
Professor Wilson, whose country seat was Elleray on the banks of
only they thocht ower little o' leadin in corn on dry Sundays in
rainy weather, — but in Scotland, the people are not ignorant
—it is lang since they were ignorant, — and to return to what
we was sayin about unhappy marriages, believe me, sir, when
I say, that maist marriages — by far the maist — are happy —
for a warld o' new thochts, and new feelings, is unfaulded
within wife's and husband's heart; and though there will be
sour or dour looks at a time — some flytin¹ — and even wilfu'
meesery — these are but the sughin wunds and the drivin
cluds, — and the Lift² o' Life, gin I may use the expression, is,
generally speaking, like our ain dear, sweet, blue Scottish sky,
a' the year through, spring, simmer, awtumn, and wunter,
pleasant baith to the ee and to the sowl, — for God reigns day
and nicht, aboon and below, alike in dead creation, and in us
his creatures, wha, if they serve him, shall never dee, but have
immortal life.
North. Perhaps, then, James, you think that in Scotland, what
we have chiefly to do is to keep education right — to —
Shepherd. Nearly sae. At a' yevents, nane but ignorant
sumphs wad apply to the people o' Scotland that vile nonsense
about the "March o' Intellect," and so forth, nor our ancestors
hae for generations been as wise in the best o' a' wisdom as
oursels³ — though there has been great improvement in a' the
airts, and aiblins the sceeances, — but o' the latter I shanna
for I canna speak — and aboon a' things else, there has been
wrought by that means a great and a beneficial change in the
agricultur o' the kintra.
North. Yet something, I fear, James, may have been lost.
Shepherd. Ay, mony a thing, that, had I my ain way, should
leeve4 for ever. But religion, wi' a' the cauldrife changes in life,
and manners, and customs, still strongly survives — and, thanks
to Robert Burns — and aiblins ane or twa mair, there is still
poetry amang our braes, — and o' nae shepherd on our Scottish
hills could it be truly said, in the language o' Wordsworth:—
A primrose on the river's brim,
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more."
¹ Flytin — scolding.
² Lift — atmosphere.
³ And this education — do we not owe it to the admirable working of our
parish schools? — a system which certainly ought not to be rashly meddled
with by the Legislature.
4 Leeve — live.
For as gude a poet as Wordsworth, and in my opinion a better
too, has tauld us what he felt frae the sicht o' a Mountain Daisy.
North. There is comfort in that creed, my dear James. I
feel as if an oppressive weight were taken from my heart.
Shepherd. Then that's mair than I do — mair than you or
onyither man should say, after devoorin half a hunder eisters —
and siccan eisters — to say naething o' a tippenny loaf, a quarter
o' a pund o' butter — and the better pairt o' twa pots o' porter.
North. James! I have not eat a morsel, or drank a drop,
since breakfast.
Shepherd. Then, I've been confusioning you wi' mysel. A'
the time that I was sookin up the eisters frae out o' their
shells, ilka ane sappier than anither in its shallow pool o'
caller saut sea-water, and some o' them taken a stronger sook
than ithers to rug them out o' their cradles, — I thocht I saw
you, sir, in my mind's ee, and no by my bodily organs, it
would appear, doin the same to a nicety, only dashing on
mair o' the pepper, and mixing up mustard wi' your vinegar,
as if gratifying a fause appeteet.
North. That cursed cholera
Shepherd. I never, at may time o' the year, hae recourse to
the cruet till after the Lang hunder — and in September — after
four months' fast frae the creturs — I can easily devoor them
by theirsels just in their ain liccor, on till anither fifty — and
then, to be sure, just when I am beginning to be a wee
stawed,¹ I apply first the pepper to a squad, and then, after a
score or twa in that way, some dizzen and a half wi' vinegar,
and finish aff, like you, wi' a wheen to the mustard, till the
brodd's naething but shells.
North. The cholera has left me so weak, that —
Shepherd. I dinna ken a mair perplexin state o' mind to be
in than to be swithering about a farther brodd o' eisters, when
you've devoored what at ae moment is felt to be sufficient,
and anither moment what is felt to be very insufficient —
feelin staved this moment, and that moment yaup² as ever —
noo sayin into yoursel that you'll order in the toasted cheese,
and then silently swearin that you maun hae anither yokin at
the beardies —
North. This last attack, James, has reduced me much —
and a few more like it will deprive the world of a man whose
poor abilities were over devoted to her ser —
¹ Stawed — surfeited.
² Yaup — hungry.
Shepherd. I agree wi' ye, sir, in a' ye say about the diffeeculty
o' the dilemma. But during the dubiety and the
swither, in comes honest Mr Awmrose, o' his ain accord, wi'
the final brodd, and a body feels himsel to have been a great
sumph for suspecking ae single moment that he wasna able
for his share o' the concluding Centenary o' Noble Inventions.
There's really no end in natur to the eatin o' eisters.
North. Really, James, your insensibility, your callousness
to my complaints, painfully affects me, and forces me to believe
that Friendship, like Love, is but an empty name.
Shepherd. An empty wame!¹ It's your ain faut gin it's
empty — but you wadna surely be for eatin the very shells?
Oh! Mr North, but o' a' the men I ever knew, you are the
most distinguished by natural and native coortesy and politeness
— by what Cicero calls Urbanity. Tak it — tak it. For
I declare, were I to tak it, I never could forgie mysel a' my
days. Tak it, sir. — My dear sir, tak it.
North. What do you mean, James? — What the devil can
you mean?
Shepherd. The last eister — the mainners eister — it's but a
wee ane, or it hadna been here. There, sir, I've douked it in
an amalgamation o' pepper, vinegar, and mustard, and a wee
drag whusky. Open your mouth, and tak it aff the pin to'
my fork — that's a gude bairn.
North. I have been very ill, my dear James.
Shepherd. Haud your tongue — nae sic thing. Your cheeks
are no half that shrivelled they were last year; and there's a
circle o' yeloquent bluid in them baith, as ruddy as Robin's
breast. Your lips are no like cherries — but they were aye
rather thin and colourless since first I kent you; and when
chirted thegither — oh! man, but they have a scornfu', and
savage, and cruel expression, that ought seldom to be on a
face o' clay. As for your een, there's twenty gude year o'
life in their licht yet. But, Lord safe us! — dinna, I beseech
you, put on your specks; for when you cock up your chin, and
lie back on your chair, and keep fastenin your lowin een upon
a body through the glasses, it's mair than mortal man can
endure — you look so like the Deevil Incarnate.
North. I am a much-injured man in the estimation of the
world, James, for I am gentle as a sleeping child.
¹Wame — stomach.
Shepherd. Come, now — you're wushin me to flatter you —
ye're desperate fond, man, o' flattery.
North. I admit — confess — glory that I am so. It is impossible
to lay it on too thick. All that an author has to do
to secure a favourable notice, short or long, in Blackwood's
Magazine, is, to call it in the body of his work, or even in a
foot-note, "that matchless Miscellany," "that exhaustless fund
of all that is entertaining and instructive," "that miracle of
Magazines," "that peerless Periodical," "that glory of Scotland,"
"that wonder of the world," and so forth — while of
ourself personally, let him merely say, "Christopher, who
with the wisdom of a Socrates unites the wit of an Aristophanes;"
— "North, at once the Bacon, the Swift, and the
Scott of the age;" — "Christopher, whose universal genius
and achievements, while they prove the possibility of the
existence of such a character as the Admirable Crichton, at
the same time throw that wonderful person for ever into the
shade," and let him be the most distinguished dunce extant
— even MacDermot himself on Taste and Tragedy — and his
brains shall be extolled to the skies, above moon and stars.
Shepherd. What'n an avooal!
North. Why, James, are you so weak as ever to have
imagined for a moment that I care a pin's point for truth,
in the praise or blame bestowed or inflicted on any mortal
creature in my Magazine?
Shepherd. What's that you say ? — can I believe my lugs!
North. I have been merely amusing myself for a few years
back with the great gawky world. I hate and despise all
mankind — and hitherto I have been contented with laughing
at them all in my sleeve — pleasing this blockhead only to pain
that — holding up John as a great genius, that Tom might
the more intensely feel himself to be a dunce. The truth
is, James, that I am a misanthrope, and have a liking only
for Cockneys.
Shepherd. The chandaleer's gaun to fa' doun on our heads.
Eat your words, sir, eat your words, or —
North. You would not have me lie, during the only time
that, for many years, I have felt a desire to speak the truth?
The only distinctions I acknowledge are intellectual ones.
Moral distinctions there are none — and as for religion — it is
all a —
Shepherd (standing up). And it's on principles like these
— boldly and unblushingly avoo'd here — in Mr Awmrose's
paper-parlour, at the conclusion o' the sixth brodd, on the
evening o' Monday the 22d o' September, Anno Dominie
aughteen hunder and twunty-aught, within twa hours o' midnicht
— that you, sir, have been yeditin a Māggăsin that has
gone out to the uttermost corners o' the yerth, wherever
civilisation or uncivilisation is known, deludin and distrackin
men and women folk, till it's impossible for them to ken their
right hand frae their left — or whether they're standin on their
heels or their heads — or what byeuk ought to be perused,
and what byeuk puttin intil the bottom o' pie-dishes, and
trunks — or what awthor hissed, or what awthor hurraa'd — or
what's flummery and what's philosophy — or what's rant and
what's religion — or what's monopoly and what's free tredd —
or wha's poets or wha's but Pats — or whether it's best to be
drunk, or whether it's best to be sober a' hours o' the day and
nicht — or if there should be rich church establishments as in
England, or poor kirk ones as in Scotland — or whether the
Bishop o' Canterbury, wi' twunty thousan' a-year, is mair like
a primitive Christian than the Minister o' Kirkintulloch wi'
twa hunder and fifty — or if folk should aye be readin sermons
or fishin for sawmon — or if it's best to marry or best to burn
— or if the national debt hangs like a millstone round the
neck o' the kintra or like a chain o' blae-berries — or if the
Millennium be really close at haun — or the present Solar
System be calculated to last to a' eternity — or whether the
people should be edicated up to the highest pitch o' perfection,
or preferably to be all like trotters through the Bog o'
Allen — or whether the Government should subsideeze foreign
powers, or spend a' its siller on oursels — or whether the
Blacks and the Catholics should be emancipawted or no afore
the demolition o' Priests and Obis, — or whether — God forgie
us baith for the hypothesis — man has a mortal or an immortal
sowl — be a Phœnix — or an Eister!
North. Precisely so, James. You have drawn my real
character to a hair — and the character, too, of the baleful work
over which I have the honour and happiness to preside.
Shepherd. I canna sit here only langer, and hear a' things,
visible and invisible, turned tapsy-turvy and tapsalteerie —
I'm aff — I'm aff — ower to the Auld Toon, to tak toddy wi'
Christians, and no wi' an Atheist, that would involve the
warld in even-doun Pyrrhonism — and disorder, if he could,
the verra coorses o' the seven Planets, and set the central Sun
adrift through the sky. Gude-nicht to ye, sir — gude-nicht —
Ye are the maist dangerous o' a' reprobates — for your private
conduct and character is that o' an angel, but your public
that o' a fiend; and the honey o' your domestic practice can
be nae antidote to the pushion o' your foreign principles. I'm
aff — I'm aff.
(Enter MR AMBROSE with a Howtowdie, and KING PEPIN
with Potatoes and Ham.)
Shepherd (in continuation). What brought ye intil the room
the noo, Mr Awmrose, wi' a temptation sic as that — nae flesh
and bluid can resist? Awa back to the kitchen wi' the savoury
sacrifice — or clash doun the Towdie afore the Bagman
in the wee closet-room, ayont the wainscot. What'n a bonny,
brown, basted, buttery, iley, and dreepin breast o' a
roasted Earock! O' a' the smells I ever fan, that is the maist
insupportably seducin to the palate. It has gien me the water-brash.
Weel, weel, Mr North, since you insist on't, we'll
resume the argument after supper.
North. Goodnight, James. — Ambrose, deposit the Towdie,
and show Mr Hogg down stairs. Lord bless you, James —
Shepherd (resuming his seat). Dinna say anither word, sir. Nae
farther apology. I forgie you. Ye wasna serious. Come, be
cheerfu' — I'm sune pacified. O man, but ye cut up a fool¹ wi'
incredible dexterity! There — a leg and a wing to yoursel
— and a leg and a wing to me — then to you the breast — for I
ken ye like the breast — and to me the back — and I dinna dislike
the back, — and then, How-towdie! "Farewell! a long
farewell to all thy fatness." O, sir! but the taties are gran'
the year! How ony Christian creature can prefer waxies to
mealies, I never could conjecture. Anither spoonfu' or twa
o' the gravy. Haud — haud — what a deluge!
North. This, I trust, my dear Shepherd, will be a good
season for the poor.
Shepherd. Nae fear o' that, sir. Has she ony eggs? But I
forgot — the hens are no layin the noo; they're mootin²
Faith, considering ye didna eat mony o' the eisters, your
appeteet's no amiss, sir. Pray, sir, will ye tell me gin there
¹ Fool — fowl.
² Mootin — moulting.
be ony difference atween this newfangled oriental disease,
they ca' the Cholera, and the gude auld-fashion'd Scottish
complent, the colic?
North. Mr Ambrose, give Mr Hogg some bread.
Shepherd. Ye needna fash, Mr Awmrose. I tak bread at
breakfast, and the afternoons, but never either at denner or
sooper — but I'm thinkin a bottle a-piece o' Berwick's or Giles'
strong yill 'ill taste geyan weel after the porter. Tak tent, in
drawin the cork, that the yill doesna spoot up to the ceilin.
Bottled yill's aye up in the stirrups. The moment you pu' out
the cork, in wi' your thoomb — and then decant baith bottles
into the dolphin.
North. Above an average crop, I suppose, James.
Shepherd. Do you contribute to it, sir?
North. To what ?
Shepherd. Mr Blackwood's New Agricultural Journal, to be
sure. There's a gran' openin the noo for sic a wark — and he's
gotten a capital Editor. The subject is endless as the earth
itsel and its productions.
North. I am a Monogamist.
Shepherd. And what's that — may I ask?
North. A man with one wife. Her name is — Maga.¹
Shepherd. Ay, ye do richt in stickin till her. Were the
ane o' ye to die, the tither wad sune follow. You are lovely
in your lives, and in your deaths you will not be divided.
North. She sometimes has her sulks and her tantrums; but,
in spite of them all, our wedded life has been all one honeymoon.

Shepherd. And then what a breedy body! A new birth
every month — and sometimes twuns. Is she never to hae
North. Dropping all figure or metaphor, — What do you think
of Maga, the Matron?
Shepherd. She shud hae mair leeteratur — mair creetishism
— mair accounts o' books o' voyages and travels — mair owerhaulin
o' the press — mair philosophic estimates o' the genius
o' the age, in Poetry, Eloquence, Paintin, Music, the Playhouse,
and the rest o' the Fine Arts — mair topography and
antiquities — aiblins, mair divinity; — and I hear folk that
canna read Latin and Greek cryin out for the Classics, as they
¹ Blackwood's Magazine.
ca' them, — Popular Essays on the Classics, from Homer down
to modern Romaics inclusive — and I can weel believe that
the Greeks and Romans were gran' writers, for they were
gran' fechters, and the twa aye gang thegither — the Lyre and
the Lance, the Pen and the Swurd. Noo, tell me, sir, and tell
me truly, was Theocrates really as gude a pastoral poet as
me, or Robert Burns, or Allan Ramsay, or Allan Cunningham?
North. He was, James, your equal in truth, simplicity, nature;
more than your equal in an occasional rustic grace
without a name, — superior far in the power and magic of a
language light as air, dense as clouds, cheerful as the dædal
earth, magnificent as the much-and-many-sounding sea;—
but he was, in variety of feelings and fancies, in depth and
force of passion, in creation of character, in profusion of imagery,
in invention of incident, far inferior to YOU GLORIOUS
FOUR.¹ He was indeed.
Shepherd. I'm glad to hear that, sir, — for the honour o'
auld Scotland. She too, then, is an Arcawdia.
North. Let Glencorse Burn, murmuring from Habbie's
Howe through Compensation Pond, down into the Esk, and
then to the sea, — let the Ayr and Doune, cheering Coila with
immortal music, — let the dewy, no more the dowie helms of
Yarrow, — let the Nith, from Closeburn to Criffel, attest the
truth² — let the —
Shepherd. O man! but the inside o' the back is sappy —
sappy. What wi' your sauce and its ain gravy, this is the
maist delicious Towdie that ever foraged afore the fanners.
Noo for the yill. I fancy there's nae sin in dichtin ane's gab
wi' the tablecloth, — for I've forgotten my pocket-hankerchief
in my big-coat.
North. Is it not singular, James, that, though we two have
each our own peculiar and characteristic style of eating, we
have finished equal quantities in equal times?
Shepherd. I was dune Lang afore you, sir — and no to hurry
¹ The title of Allan Ramsay to rank as one of any "glorious" four may well
be doubted. His nature was decidedly prosaic, if not essentially vulgar.
² Habbie's Howe, among the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh, has obtained
celebrity as the scene of Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd; but localities and traditions
are in favour of Newhall, about five miles distant, on the North Esk. Burns
glorified the Ayr and Doune. The helms of Yarrow were the birthplace of
the muse of Hogg; and the flowings of the Nith found an echo in the songs
of Cunningham.
you, have been sookin awa, for ten minutes, in amang the
trellis-wark o' the spine, lang after the banes o' the back
were as dry as horn.
North. And I, for a quarter of an hour, have been dallying
with the merrythought.
Shepherd. I aye kent, though we sometimes seem to differ
in opinion, that we are congenial speerits. For gudesake,
dinna drain the dolphin!
North. A mixture of Giles's and Berwick — nectar worthy
an ambrosial feast!
Shepherd. It gars my een water, and my lugs crack. Noo
for the toasted cheese.
(Enter TAFFY with two Welsh rabbits, and exit.)
Shepherd (looking after him). What droich¹ o' a new
cretur's that?
North. A Welshman. Desirous of seeing the world, he
worked his passage from Penrhyn to Liverpool, on board a
slater — thence played the part of shoeblack in a steamer
to Greenock and Glasgow — from Port-Dundas in the West
country to Port-Hopetoun in the East, he ballad-sang himself
in an unknown tongue by one of the canal coal-boats — and
Mr Ambrose, who has a fine natural coup d'œil, picked him
up one morning in the Vegetable Market, munching a carrot,
without hat, shoes, or stockings — but a lively, active, and
intelligent-looking lad as you can see — and in less than a
month he was the best waiter in Edinburgh.
Shepherd. What's the name o' the cretur?
North. On account of a slight limp in his left leg, which
promotes rather than impedes his activity, we call him — Sir
David Gam.
Shepherd. I hae some thochts o' keepin a flunkey —
North. Don't, James. A lassie's far better in every respect.
Shepherd. But then, sir, a flunkey in the Forest livery wad
look sae genteel and fashionable —
North. What is the Forest livery ?
Shepherd. Bricht bottle-green, sir, lined and turned up at
the tails, lappelles, cuffs, and collar, wi' oker, barred on the
breast, when the single-breasted coat's buttoned, wi' zigzag
stripes o' twisted gold-lace — and the buttons o' yellow brass,
few in number, but about as big's a tea-cup cheena saucer.
That's the Forest livery, sir.
¹ Droich — dwarf.
North. The nether integuments?
Shepherd. What? the breeks? There's nae maitter about
the breeks — but, generally speakin, nankeens, wi' blue thread
stockings and pumps, in summer — and in winter, corduroys,
wi' grey rig-and-fur worsteds, and quarter boots.
North. I do not believe Sir David would leave Picardy for
any place in the world; besides, James, it would not be
handsome to tempt him away from Mr Ambrose, by the offer
of high wages —
Shepherd. High wages, indeed! The deevil a wage he
should hae frae me. A shute o' livery — and anither o' wark
claes — a ride in the gig thrice a-week — that's to say, in the
box ahint — and on the hill the ither three days wi' the grews
— as muckle as he could eat and drink o' meat, vegetables,
and milkness, cheese included — plenty o' fun in the kitchen
— and what mair could the heart o' the bit young Auncient
Briton desire?
North. I have no doubt that Sir David is laying up golden
store, with a view to purchase an estate in his native country.
Like us Scotchmen, the Welsh are a proud and provident
race. He is a boy of birth.
Shepherd. There noo, Mr North — there's the whole Principawlity
o' Wales lying untouched for articles in the Magazine.
What for is't ca'd the Principawlity? What like is't
by our ain Highlands? Is the language the same's the
Erse? What mean ye by the Welch Triads? Did Cadwaller,
Urien, Lewellen, Modred, and Hoel, flourish afore or
after Ossian? And aboon a', what is or can be in a' this
world — what, for mercy's sake, tell me, can be — the meanin o'
the Cymrodion at Estoffud?
North. All in good time, James — but I have hitherto been
very unlucky about Wales. The only literary Welshman of
great abilities and erudition I know, has been too busily
occupied with the important functions of his own useful and
honourable profession,¹ to become a contributor to Maga — and
these idle dogs of Oxonians and Cantabs —
Shepherd. What? Mr Sheward and Mr Buller?²
¹ The Rev. John Williams, afterwards Archdeacon of Cardigan, author of
Homerus and other learned works, was for many years the zealous and efficient
Rector of the Edinburgh Academy. He retired from that Institution in 1847.
² Characters frequently introduced in Professor Wilson's writings — embodiments,
I believe, of his old Oxford reminiscences.
North. No — no — no. Batches of boys from Oxford and
Cambridge, about to become Bachelors of Arts, settle down
in Bangor and Llanwryst, and other pretty Welsh villages,
getting themselves crammed by tutors with Greek and cube
roots for wranglers, and senior optimes, and first classmen,
and over and over again, during the last seven years, have
the vagabonds promised to send me lots of leading articles —
Shepherd. Never trust till a contributor fourty miles aff frae
Embro'. Besides, young lawds like them, though clever
chiels, nae doubt, carryin aff at college gold medals for Greek
and Latin epigrams, and English poems on the Druids, and
so on, canna write articles gude for muckle — they canna
indeed — and for years to come should just confine themsels to
NOTE — Here terminates Professor Wilson's contribution to this number
of the Noctes.
(DECEMBER 1828.)
Scene 1. — The Octagon. — Time — Ten.
North. Thank heaven! my dear Shepherd, Winter is come
again, and Edinburgh is beginning once more to look like
herself, like her name and her nature, with rain, mist, sleet,
haur, hail, snow I hope, wind, storm — would that we could
but add a little thunder and lightning — The Queen of the
Shepherd. Hoo could you, sir, wi' a' your time at your ain
command, keep in and about Embro' frae May to December?
The city, for three months in the dead o' simmer, is like
a tomb.
Tickler (in a whisper to the Shepherd). The widow — James
— the widow.
Shepherd (aloud). The weedow — sir — the weedow! Couldna
he hae brocht her out wi' him to the Forest? At their time
o' life, surely scandal wad hae held her tongue.
Tickler. Scandal never holds her tongue, James. She drops
her poison upon the dew on the virgin's untimely grave — her
breath will not let the grey hairs rest in the mould
Shepherd. Then, Mr North, marry her at ance, and bring
her out in Spring, that you may pass the hinney-moon on the
sunny braes o' Mount Benger.
North. Why, James, the moment I begin to press matters,
she takes out her pocket-handkerchief — and through sighs
and sobs, recurs to the old topic — that twenty thousand times
told tale — the dear old General.
Shepherd. Deevil keep the dear old General! Hasna the
man been dead these twunty years? And if he had been
leevin, wouldna he been aulder than yoursel, and far mair
infirm? You're no in the least infirm, sir.
North. Ah, James! that's all you know. My infirmities
are increasing with years —
Shepherd. Wad you be sae unreasonable as to expect them
to decrease with years? Are her infirmities —
North. Hush — she has no infirmities.
Shepherd. Nae infirmities! Then she's no worth a brass
button. But let me ask you ae interrogatory. — Hae ye ever
put the question? Answer me that, sir.
North. Why, James, I cannot say that I ever have —
Shepherd. What! and you expeck that she wull put the
question to you? That would indeed be puttin the cart
before the horse. If the women were to ask the men, there
wad be nae leevin in this warld. Yet, let me tell you, Mr
North, that it's a shamefu' thing to keep playin in the way
you hae been doin for these ten years past on a young
woman's feelings —
Tickler. Ha — ha — ha — James! — A young woman! Why,
she's sixty, if she's an hour.
North. You lie.
Shepherd. That's a douss' on the chops, Mr Tickler. That's
made you as red in the face as a bubbly-jock, sir. O the
power o' ae wee bit single monosyllabic syllable o' a word to
awauken a' the safter and a' the fiercer passions! Dinna
keep bitin your thoomb, Mr Tickler, like an Itawlian. Make
an apology to Mr North —
North. I will accept of no apology. The man who calls
a woman old deserves death.
Shepherd. Did you call her auld, Mr Tickler?
Tickler. To you, sir, I will condescend to reply. I did not.
I merely said she was sixty if she was an hour.
Shepherd. In the first place, dinna "Sir" me — for it's not
only ill bred, but it's stupit. In the second place, dinna
talk o' "condescendin" to reply to me — for that's language
I'll no thole even frae the King on the throne, and I'm sure
the King on the throne wadna make use o't. In the third
place, to ca' a woman saxty, and then mainteen that ye didna
ca' her auld, is naething short o' a sophism. And, in the
fourth place, you shudna hae accompanied your remark wi' a
¹ Douss — a blow, a stroke.
loud haw — haw — haw, — for on a tender topic a guffaw's an
aggravation — and marryin a widow, let her age be what it
wull, is a tender topic, depend on't — sae that on a calm and
dispassionate view o' a' the circumstances o' the case, there can
be nae doubt that you maun mak an apology; or, if you do not,
I leave the room, and there is an end of the Noctes Ambrosianæ,
North. An end of the Noctes Ambrosianæ!
Tickler. An end of the Noctes Ambrosianæ!
Shepherd. An end of the Noctes Ambrosianæ.
Omnes. An end of the Noctes Ambrosianæ!!!
North. Rather than that should happen I will make a thousand
apologies —
Tickler. And I ten thousand —
Shepherd. That's behavin like men and Christians. Embrace
— embrace. [NORTH and TICKLER embrace.
North. Where were we, James?
Shepherd. I was abusin Embro' in simmer.
North. Why?
Shepherd. Whey? — a' the lums¹ smokeless! No ae² jack
turnin a piece o' roastin beef afore ae fire in ony ae kitchen in
a' the New Toon! Streets and squares a' grass-grown, sae
that they micht be mawn! Shops like bee-hives that hae
dee'd in wunter! Coaches settin aff for Stirlin, and Perth, and
Glasgow, and no ae passenger either inside or out — only the
driver keepin up his heart wi' flourishing his whup, and the
guard, sittin in perfect solitude, playin an eerie spring on his
bugle-horn! The shut-up playhouse a' covered ower wi'
bills that seem to speak o' plays acted in an antediluvian
world! Here, perhaps, a leevin cretur, like an emage, staunin
at the mouth o' a close, or hirplin³ alang, like the last relic o'
the plague. And oh! but the stane-statue o' the late Lord
Melville,4 staunin a' by himsel up in the silent air, a hunder
and fifty feet high, has then a ghastly seeming in the sky,
like some giant condemned to perpetual imprisonment on his
pedestal, and mournin ower the desolation of the city that in
life he loved so well, unheeded and unhonoured for a season
1 Lums — chimneys.
² No ae — not one.
³ "Hobbling" comes as near hirpling as the less expressive character of the
English language admits of.
4 Henry Dundas, the first Lord Melville, was born in 1740, and died in 1811.
For many reasons his influence in Scotland was supreme; and his grateful
countrymen erected, in 1821, a splendid monument to his memory in St
Andrew Square, Edinburgh.
in the great metropolitan heart o' the country which he ance
rejoiced to enrich and beautify, telling and teaching her how
to hold up her head bauldly among the nations, and like a
true patriot as he was, home and abroad caring for the greatest
— and the least of all her sons
North. He was the greatest statesman ever Scotland produced,
James; nor is she ungrateful, for the mutterings of
Whig malice have died away like so much croaking in the
pouchy throats of drought-dried toads, and the cheerful singing
and whistling of Industry all over the beautifully cultivated
Land, are the hymns perpetually exhaled to heaven
along with the morning dews, in praise and commemoration
of the Patriots who loved the sacred soil in which their bones
lie buried.
Shepherd. That's weel said, sir. Let there be but a body
o' Truth, and nae fear but imagery will crood around it, just
like shadows and sunbeams cast frae the blue sky, the white
clouds, and the green trees, round about the body o' some fair
maid, — that is, some bonny Scotch lassie, bathin in a stream
as pure as her ain thochts.
Tickler. There again, James!
Shepherd. But to return to the near approach o' wunter.
Mankind hae again putten on worsted stockins, and flannen
drawers — white jeans and yellow nankeen troosers hae disappeared
— dooble soles hae gotten a secure footen ower pumps
— big-coats wi' fur, and mantles wi' miniver, gie an agreeable
rouchness to the picturesque stream o' life eddyin along the
channel o' the streets — gloves and mittens are sae general
that a red hairy haun looks rather singular — every third body
ye meet, for fear o' a sudden blash, carries an umbrella — a'
folk shave noo wi' het water — coal-carts are emptyin theirsels
into ilka area — caddies at the corners o' streets and drivers
on coach-boxes are seen warmin themsels by blawin on their
fingers, or whuskin themsels wi' their open nieves across the
shouthers — skates glitter at shop-wundows prophetic o' frost
— Mr Phin¹ may tak in his rod noo, for nae mair thocht o'
anglin till spring, — and wi' spring hersel, as wi' ither o' our
best and bonniest freens, it may be said, out o' sicht out o'
mind, — you see heaps o' bears hung out for sale — horses are
a' hairier o' the hide — the bit toon bantam craws nane, and at
breakfast you maun tak tent no to pree an egg afore smellin
¹ See ante, vol. i. p.348,
at it, — you meet hares carryin about in a' quarters — and ggemkeepers
proceedin out into the kintra wi' strings o' grows, —
sparrows sit silent and smoky wi' ruffled feathers waiting for
crumbs on the ballustrawds — loud is the cacklin in the fowl-market
o' Christmas geese that come a month at least afore
the day, just like thae Annuals the Forget-me-Nots, Amulets,
Keepsakes, Beejoos, Gems, Anniversaries, Souvenirs, Friendship's
Offerings, and Wunter-Wreaths
Tickler. Stop, James — stop. Such an accumulation of imagery
absolutely confounds — perplexes —
Shepherd. Folk o' nae fancy. Then for womankind —
Tickler. Oh! James, James! I knew you would not long
keep off that theme —
Shepherd. Oh, ye pawkie auld carle! What ither theme
in a' this wide weary warld is worth ae single thocht or feelin
in the poet's heart — ae single line frae the poet's pen — ae
North. Song from the Shepherd's lyre — of which, as of the
Teian Bard's of old, it may be said
Α βαρβιτος δε χορδαυς
Ερωτα μουνου ηχει¹
Do, my dear James, give us John Nicholson's daughter.
Shepherd. Wait a wee. The womankind, I say, sirs, never
looks sae bonny as in wunter, excepp indeed it may be in
spring —
Tickler. Or summer, or autumn, James —
Shepherd. Haud your tongue. You auld bachelors ken
naething o' womankind — and hoo should ye, when they treat
you wi' but ae feelin, that o' derision? Oh, sirs! but the dear
creturs do look weel in muffs — whether they haud them, wi'
their invisible hauns clasped thegither in their beauty within
the cozy silk linin, close prest to their innicent waists, just
aneath the glad beatins o' their first-love-touched hearts
Tickler. There again, James!
Shepherd. Or haud them hingin frae their extended richt
arms, leavin a' the feegur visible, that seems taller and
slimmer as the removed muff reveals the clasps o' the pelisse
a' the way doun frae neck till feet!
North. Look at Tickler — James — how be moves about in
his chair. His restlessness —
¹ The harp with its strings sounds only love.
Shepherd. Is no unnatural. Then, sir, is there, in a' the
beautifu' and silent unfauldins o' natur amang plants and
flowers, onything sae beautifu' as the white, smooth, saft
chafts o' a bit smilin maiden o' saxteen, aughteen, or twunty,
blossomin out, like some bonny bud o' snaw-white satin frae
a coverin o' rough leaves, — blossomin out, sirs, frae the edge
o' the fur-tippet, that haply a lover's happy haun had delicately
hung ower her gracefu' shouthers — oh the dear delightfu'
little Laplander!
Tickler. For a married man, James, you really describe —
North. Whisht!
Shepherd. I wush you only heard the way the bonny
croodin-doos¹ keep murmurin their jeists² to ane anither, as
soon as a nest o' them gets rid o' an auld bacheleer on Princes
Tickler. Gets rid o' an auld bachelor!
Shepherd. Booin and scrapin to them after the formal and
stately fashion o' the auld school o' politeness, and thinkin
himsel the very pink o' coortesy, wi' a gold-headed cane
aiblins, nae less, in his haun, and buckles on's shoon — for
buckles are no quite out yet a'thegither — a frill like a fan at
the shirt-neck o' him — and, wad the warld believe't, knee--
breeks! — then they titter — and then they lauch — and then, as
musical as if they were singin in paints, the bonny, bloomin,
innicent wicked creturs break out into — I maunna say, o' sic
rosy lips, and sic snawy breasts, a guffaw³ — but a guffay, sirs,
a guffay — for that's the feminine o' guffaw
North. Tickler, we really must not allow ourselves to be
insulted in this style any longer —
Shepherd. And then awa they trip, sirs, flingin an antelope's
or gazelle's ee ower their shouther, diverted beyond measure
to see their antique beau continuing at a distance to cut
capers in his pride — till a' at ance they see a comet in the
sky — a young offisher o' dragoons, wi' his helmet a' in a low
wi' a flicker o' red feathers — and as he "turns and winds his
fiery Pegassus," they are a' mute as death — yet every face at
the same time eloquent wi' mantling smiles, and wi' blushes
that break through and around the blue heavens of their een,
like crimson clouds to sudden sunlight burning beautiful for
a moment, and then melting away like a thocht or a dream!
¹ Croodin-doos — cooing doves.
² Jeists — jests.
³ Guffaw — a broad laugh.
North. Why, my dear James, it does one's heart good even
to be ridiculed in the language of Poetry. Does it not,
Tickler. James, your health, my dear fellow.
Shepherd. I never ridicule onybody, sirs, that's no fit to
bear it. But there's some sense and some satisfaction in
makin a fule o' them, that, when the fiend's in them, can mak
fules o' a' body, like North and Tickler.
North. You would cackle, my dear James, were I to tell
you how the laugh went against me, t'other day on the Calton
Shepherd. The laugh went against you, sir? That forebodes
some evil to the State o' Denmark.
North. I had chanced to take a stroll, James, round the
Calton Hill, and feeling my toe rather twitchy, I sat down on
a bench immediately under Nelson's Monument, and having
that clever paper the Observer of the day in my pocket, I
began to glance over its columns, when my attention was
suddenly attracted to a confused noise of footsteps, whisperings,
titterings, and absolutely guffaws, James, circling round
the base of that ingenious model of a somewhat clumsy
churn, Nelson's Monument. Looking through my specks — lo
a multitude of all sexes — more especially the female — kept
congregating round me, some with a stare, others with a
simper, some with a full open-mouthed laugh, and others with
a half-shut-eye leer, which latter mode of expressing her
feelings, is, in a woman, to me peculiarly loathsome, while
ever and anon I heard one voice saying, "He is really a
decent man;" another, "He has been a fine fellow in his
day, I warrant;" a third, "Come awa, Meg, he's over auld
for my money;" and a fourth, "He has cruel grey-green een,
and looks like a man that would murder his wife."
Shepherd. That was gutting fish afore you catch them —
But what was the meanin o' a' this, sir ?
North. Why, James, some infernal ninny, it seems, had
advertised in the Edinburgh newspapers for a wife with a
hundred a-year, and informed the female public that he would
be seen sitting for inspection —
Tickler. In the character of opening article in the Edinburgh
Review —
North. From the hours of one and two in the afternoon, on
the identical bench, James, on which, under the influence of
a malignant star, I had brought myself to anchor.
Shepherd. Haw! haw! haw! That beats cock-fechtin—
So then Christopher North sat publicly on a bench commandin
a view o' the haill city o' Embro', as an adverteeser
for a wife wi' a moderate income — and you canna ca' a hunder
a-year immoderate, though it's comfortable — and was unconsciously
undergoin an inspection as scrutineezin to the ee o'
fancy and imagination, as a recruit by the surgeon afore he's
alloo'd to join the regiment. Haw — haw — haw!
North. I knew nothing at the time, James, of the infernal
ninny and his advertisement —
Shepherd. Sae you continued sittin and glowerin at the
crood through your specks?
North. I did, James. What else could I do? The
semicircle "sharpening its mooned horns," closed in upon
me, hemming and hemming me quite up to the precipice in
my rear — the front rank of the allied powers being composed,
as you may suppose, of women
Shepherd. And a pretty pack they wad be — fishwives,
female candies, blue - stockins, toon's - offisher's widows,
washerwomen, she-waiters, girrzies, auld maids wi' bairds,
and young limmers wi' green parasols and five flounces to
their forenoon gowns
North. I so lost my head, James, and all power of discrimination,
that the whole assemblage seemed to me like a
great daub of a picture looked at by a connoisseur with a sick
stomach, and suddenly about to faint in an exhibition.
Shepherd. You hae reason to be thankfu' that they didna
tear you into pieces.
North. At last up I got, and attempted to make a speech,
but I felt as if I had no tongue.
Shepherd. That was a judgment on you, sir, for bein' sae
fond o' talkin —
North. Instinctively brandishing my crutch, I attacked the
centre of the circle, which immediately gave way, falling into
two segments — the one sliding with great loss down the slope,
and stopt only by the iron paling in front of the New Jail —
the other wheeling tumultuously in a sauve qui peut movement
up towards the Observatory — the plateau in front being thus
left open to my retreat, or rather advance.
Shepherd. Oh, sir! but you should hae been a sodger!
Wellington or Napoleon wad hae been naething to you — you
wad soon hae been a field-marshal — a generalissimo.
North. The left wing had rallied in the hollow — and having
formed themselves into a solid square, came up the hill at the
pas de charge, with a cloud of skirmishers thrown out in front
— and unless my eye deceived me, which is not improbable,
supported and covered on each flank by cavalry.
Shepherd. That was fearsome.
North. I was now placed between two fires, in imminent
danger of being surrounded and taken prisoner, when with one
of those sudden coup d'œils, which, more than anything else,
distinguish the military genius from the mere martinet, I
spied an opening to my right, through, or rather over the
crags, and, using the but-end of my crutch, I overthrew in an
instant the few companies, vainly endeavouring to form into
echelon in that part of the position, and, with little or no loss,
effected a bold and skilful retrograde movement down the
steepest part of the hill, over whose rugged declivities, it is
recorded, that Darnley, centuries before, had won the heart of
Queen Mary, by galloping his war-horse, in full armour, on the
evening after a tournament at Holyrood. Not a regiment had
the courage to follow me; and, on reaching the head of Leith
Walk I halted on the very spot where my excellent friend the
then Lord Provost presented the keys of the City to his most
gracious Majesty,¹ on his entrance into the metropolis of the
most ancient of his dominions, and gave three-times-three in
token of triumph and derision, which were faintly and feebly
returned from the pillars of the Parthenon; but I know not
till this hour, whether by the discomfited host, or only by the
Shepherd. "Fortunate Senex!" Wonderfu' auld man!
North. There was I, James, within fifty yards of Ambrose's;
so, like a fine, old, bold buck of a red deer, who, after slaughtering
or scattering with hoof and horn the pack that had
dared to obstruct his noonday flight, from his high haunts at
the head of green Glen Aven to his low lair in the heart of
the black forest of Abernethy, at last unpursued takes to soil,
that is, buries himself, back and belly, in a limpid pool of the
running waters; — so did I, Christopher North, after giving
¹ George IV., who visited Edinburgh in 1822.
that total overthrow, take to soil in the Sanctum Sanctorum of
Picardy; and issuing from the cold-bath, vigorous — to use
another image — as a great old cod in the deep sea, — as round
in the shoulders, and as red about the gills too, — astonished
the household by the airy and majestic movement with which,
like an eagle, I floated into the festal hall, — sung a solo, like
a spring nightingale, — then danced a lavolta, to the terror of
the chandelier, like a chamois making love on Mont Blanc, —
then subsiding out of Dance, which is the Poetry of Motion,
into Attitude, which is the Poetry of Rest, finally sunk away
into voluptuous diffusion of lith¹ and limb on that celestial sofa,
like an impersonation of Alexander the Great, Mark Antony,
and Sardanapalus.
Shepherd. Did naebody in the crood ken Christopher North?
North. Their senses, James, were deluded by their imagination.
They had set me down as the Edinburgh Advertiser,
— and the Edinburgh Advertiser I appeared to be, — instead
of the Editor of Blackwood's Magazine. The senses
are the slaves of the soul, James. "How easily's a bush
supposed a bear! " Yet a few voices did exclaim, "Christopher
North! Christopher North!" and that magical
name did for a moment calm the tumult. But forthwith
arose the cry of "Impostor! Impostor!" — "Kit has no
need to advertise for a wife!" — " Hang his impudence, for
dauring to sham Christopher!" — " He's no far aneuch North
for that!" — and in vain, during one pause of my combat and
career did I make an appeal to the Public in favour of my
personal identity. It would not do, James. I appeared to
be a Perkin Warbeck² detected; and had nearly paid the penalty
of death, or, in other words, forfeited my existence, for
merely personating myself! Mr Ambrose, with his usual ingenuity,
immediately on hearing the recital of our adventure,
and just as he was pouring us out a caulker consummative of
our restoration to our wonted placidity and repose, sphinx-like
solved the riddle, and devoutly congratulated us on our escape
from a Public justly infuriated by the idea, that a counterfeit
of Us had thrown himself for a wife upon their curiosity;
sagaciously observing, at the same time, that it would be a
¹ Lith — joint.
² An impostor, who claimed the crown of England against Henry VII., on
the ground that he was a son of Edward IV., supposed to have been murdered
in the Tower. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered in 1499.
salve to the sore of her signal defeat on the Calton to know,
that, after all, it was the veritable Christopher North who had
scattered her like sawdust, without distinction of age or sex.
Shepherd. Mr Tickler, do you recolleck what Mr North said
to you, a wee while sin'syne, that made ye sae angry? I think
you micht pay him back noo in his ain coin. Few owtobeeograffers
are verawcious historians.
Tickler. Without meaning offence to any individual in particular,
they all — lie.
North. They do, like troopers. And did they not, they
would not be fit to live.
Shepherd. Nor dee.
Tickler. The man does not live who dares to outrage humanity
by a full, true, and particular account of everything he has
said, done, and thought, during even the least guilty year of his
youth, manhood, or old age.
Shepherd. Especially auld age. Oh! never — never — never
— but at the great day o' Judgment, will there be a revelation
o' an auld sinner's heart! I appeal to you, Mr North, for
the awfu' truth o' that apothegm. Arena ye an auld sinner, sir?
North. I do not know, my dear James, that to you or any
other man I am bound to confess that; sufficient surely, if I
do not deny it. I am not a Roman Catholic layman; nor are
you, James, so far as I understand, a Roman Catholic priest;
nor is the Octagon a Roman Catholic confessional; nor are
the Noctes Ambrosianæ Roman Catholic nights of penance
and mortification for our manifold sins and iniquities. Yet,
my dear James, if, as I believe you do, you mean nothing personal
in your question, — and you know I hate all personality
either in my own case, or that of others — but interrogate me
as a representative of human nature, — then do I most — cheerfully,
I was going to say — but I correct myself — most sorrowfully
confess, that I am indeed — an old sinner.
Tickler. So am I.
Shepherd. And sae I howp to be — meaning thereby, merely
that I may live till I'm as auld as you, Mr Tickler, sir, or you,
sir, Mr North. For the only twa perfeck seenonims in the
English language are, man and sinner.
North. In utter prostration, and sacred privacy of soul, I
almost think now, and have often felt heretofore, man may
make a confessional of the breast of his brother man. Once I
had such a friend — and to me he was a priest. He has been
so long dead that it seems to me now, that I have almost forgotten
him — and that I remember only that he once lived, and
that I once loved him with all my affections. One such friend
alone can ever, from the very nature of things, belong to any
one human being, however endowed by nature and beloved of
Heaven. He is felt to stand between us and our upbraiding-conscience.
In his life lies the strength — the power — the
virtue of ours, — in his death the better half of our whole being
seems to expire. Such communion of spirit, perhaps, can
only be in existences rising towards their meridian; as the
hills of life cast longer shadows in the westering hours, we
grow — I should not say more suspicious, for that may be too
strong a word — but more silent, more self-wrapt, more circumspect
— less sympathetic even with kindred and congenial
natures, who will sometimes, in our almost sullen moods or
theirs, seem as if they were kindred and congenial no more —
less devoted to Spirituals, that is, to Ideas, so tender, true,
beautiful, and sublime, that they seem to be inhabitants of
heaven though born of earth, and to float between the two
regions angelical and divine — yet felt to be mortal, human
still — the Ideas of passions and desires, and affections, and
"impulses that come to us in solitude," to whom we breathe
out our souls in silence or in almost silent speech, in utterly
mute adoration, or in broken hymns of feeling, believing that
the holy enthusiasm will go with us through life to the grave,
or rather knowing not, or feeling not, that the grave is anything
more for us than a mere word with a somewhat mournful
sound, and that life is changeless, cloudless, unfading as
the heaven of heavens, that lies to the uplifted fancy in blue
immortal calm, round the throne of the eternal Jehovah.
Shepherd. Wi' little trouble, sir, that micht be turned into
blank verse, and then, without meanin to flatter you, 'twould
be a noble poem.
North. Now, James, "to descend from these imaginative
heights," what man, who has ever felt thus, would publish
his inner spirit in a printed confession, on wire-wove, hot-pressed
paper, in three volumes crown octavo, one guinea and
a half in boards?
Shepherd. And wait anxiously for the beginning o' every
month, to see himsel reviewed in a pack o' paltry periodicals!
North. Much of himself is gone — gone for ever — not only
from his present being — but even from his memory, even like
a thousand long summer days, each so intensely beautiful
that it seemed immortal, yet all the splendid series now closed
for ever and aye. Much remains — with strange transformation
— like clear running waters chained by dim fixed frost,
or like soft, pure, almost aerial snow-flakes, heaped up into
hard, polluted, smoky, sooty wreaths by the roadside; much
is reversed into its opposite in nature, joy into grief, mirth
into melancholy, hope into despair; and oh! still more mournful,
more miserable far, virtue into vice, honour into shame,
innocence into guilt; — while Sin is felt to have leavened the
whole mass of our being, and Religion herself, once a radiant
angel, now moody as Superstition, now fantastic as Philosophy
— or haply but the hem of her garment seen like a disappearing
cloud, as an angel still, she evanishes from our shortsighted
eyes in heaven!
Shepherd. I hae often wushed, my dear sir, that you would
publish a few volumes o' Sermons. I dinna fear to say't,
'cause I believe't true, that in that department Christopher
North would be noways inferior to Jeremy Taylor.
North. My dear James, Friendship is like Love — So far
from being blind, each — I will not say sees what is not — but
magnifies what is — and that, too, to such a degree, that Truth
becomes Falsehood. Jeremy Taylor had a divine spirit. That
divine spirit pervades, permeates all he ever embodied in
words. Each sermon of his is like a star — a star that is not
only framed of light, and self-burning unconsumed in its own
celestial fires, but hung in light as in an atmosphere which
it does not itself create, and thus blended and bound in
links of light to all the rest of the radiant Host of Heaven.
Thus it is that all his sermons are as a galaxy. Read one of
them, and it is
"Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky "—
Read many, and you think of some beautiful and sublime
night — a bright sky, with the full moon,
"When round her throne the radiant planets roll,
And stars unnumber'd gild the glowing Pole."
As the moon is among the stars — so seems the Holy Spirit to
hang effulgent among the sacred sparkles of thought issuing
out from the "blue serene," the untroubled firmament of his
Christian frame of being!
Shepherd. I believe I was wrangin you in the comparison.
He served in the sanctuary — the inner shrine. Others can
only bow down and adore at the threshold, and aneath the
vestibule o' the temple.
North. In all those works of uninspired men, my dear
James, whether in prose or verse, to which we may justifiably
give the name of divine, such as Taylor's and Milton's, is
there not a spirit invisible to the eyes, inaudible to the ears,
of the mere understanding? And if so, who that is wise in
humanity, can think that the cultivation of the mere understanding
may ever give an insight, or an inhearing, into such
truths of our being as such men as Taylor and Milton have
communicated to the race in a kind of dimmer revelation?
Shepherd. Nae wise man 'ill believe't. Edicate a' men,
and women too, say I, as much as possible — but dinna
expeck impossible results. If edication be confined to the
mere understaunin, a man may gang out of schools, and
institutions, and colleges, after seven years' study, far waur
than a coof. For a coof generally kens, or at least suspecks,
that he is a coof; but an "Intellectual-all-in-all," as Wordsworth
weel ca's him, thinks himsel the versa perfection o'
God's creturs. No ae single thing will he believe that he
doesna understaun — sae that ye may ken how narrow is his
creed — puir blinded moudiwarp, that has deluded itsel into
a notion that it's a lynx! Noo, I ca' this Impiety. What
say ye, sir?
North. The highest philosophy, whether natural or mental
philosophy, my dearest James, leads to Christianity — indeed,
the highest mental philosophy is Christianity. But all beneath
the highest is either dangerous or unsatisfactory, while
the low and the lowest is nothing better than blind base
scepticism, alternating between superstition and atheism.
An ill-instructed, or confusedly and imperfectly informed
person, who prides himself upon, and trusts to his understanding

Shepherd. Is at a' times walkin on the edge o' the bottomless
North. At least wandering in the ways that lead to it.
Shepherd. And that comes to the same thing, sir; for only
gie him length o' time and tether, and in he'll play plump some
day at last, just like a sand-blind man botaneezin in a wood,
and a' at ance tumblin, through briers and brambles, into the
mouth o' an auld unsuspected coal-pit — whereas, a man that
was quite blin' a'thegither would either hae had a guide wi'
him, or, what is the still safer scheme for ane in his condition,
wouldna hae ventured into the wood at a', but sat contented
at his ain ingle amang his wife and bairns, and listened wi'
decent humility to an orthodox sermon.
North. Without religion, the poor are poor indeed — with
it, they may be the only rich.
Shepherd. Oh, sir! but you sometimes say things wi' a sweet
sententiousness that sinks into the heart. I hauld it, sir, to
be utterly impossible that those men, who, as friends of the
education of the people, avow that their character may be
raised to the utmost pitch of which it is capable, by the
distribution of ae Library o' Useful, and anither o' Enterteenin
Knowledge, can have any saving knowledge either o' their
ain souls, or the souls o' ither folk, or the trials and temptations
to which men are exposed, who work from sunrise to
sunset, with their hands, and legs, and backs, for their daily
bread, or o' the conditions on which alone they can howp to
hauld in health and longevity their moral and their religious
being. What's the matter wi' you, Mr Tickler, that you
dinna speak ony the nicht?
Tickler. In the company of the truly wise I love to listen.
Besides, to tell you the truth, James, that fire has made me
rather sleepy.
Shepherd. You're no the least sleepy, sir. Your een are
like gimlets — augres.
Tickler. Why, my dear Shepherd, 'tis half-an-hour ago since
you promised us a song.
North. Come, James, John Nicholson's daughter.
Tickler. And I will accompany you on the poker and
Shepherd. I hae nae objections — for you've not only a sowl
for music, sir, but a genius too, and the twa dinna always
gang thegither — mony a man ha'in as fine an ear for tunes,
as the starnies¹ on a dewy nicht that listen to the grass growin
roun' the vernal primroses, and yet no able to play on ony
¹ Starnies — stars. German, Sterne.
instrument — on even the flute — let abee¹ the poker and the
North. A true and fine distinction.
Shepherd. Whereas, sir, a genius for music can bring music
out o' amaist ony material substance — be it horn, timmer, or
airn, sic are the hidden qualities o' natur that lie asleep, even
as if they were dead or were not, till the equally mysterious
power that God has given to man wiles or rugs them out to
the notice o' the senses — in this case the ear — and then, to
be sure, melody or harmony chimes or tinkles accordant and
congenial to ony strain o' feelin or o' fancy that the poet sings
to the musician, and the musician plays back again, or rather
at ane and the same time, to the poet — the twa thegither sae
speeritualeezin the verra air o' the room, that the fire seems
to burn as purely as the star that may be blinkin in through
the half-uncurtained window, frae its ain hame in heaven!
Tickler. Come, then, James, let me accompany you on my
favourite instrument; a finer-toned tongs I never took in hand
than this of the Octagon. The poker is a little out of tune,
I fear — "but that not much." We have "counted the chimes
at midnight" before now, my dear Shepherd —
Shepherd. I wush I mayna burst out a-lauchin in the middle
o' my sang, for siccan anither feegur I never saw, even in a
dream, sir, as you, when you first rax yoursel up your haill
heicht on the rug, and then loot doun a wee over the tangs,
swingin to and fro, wi' an expression o' face as serious as if it
depended a'thegither at that moment on you, whether or no
the earth was to continue to circumvolve on her ain axis.
North. Tickler puts all his soul, James, into whatever he
happens to be doing at the time. Why, he brushes his hat,
before turning out at two for a constitutional walk, with as
much seeming, nay, real earnestness, as Barry Cornwall
polishes a dramatic scene, before making an appeal to posterity.

Shepherd. And baith o' them rub aff the nap. Commend
me to a rouch hat and a rouch poem — a smooth hat's shabby-genteel,
and a smooth poem's no muckle better. I like the
woo² on the ane to show shadows to the breeze — and the lines
o' the ither to wanton like waves on the sea, that, even at the
verra cawmest, breaks out every noo and then into little foam--
¹ Abee — alone.
² Woo — wool.
furrows, characteristic o' the essential and the eternal difference
atween the waters o' an inland loch, and them o' the
earth-girdlin ocean.
North. Come, my dear James, don't keep Tickler any longer
in untinkling attitude.
(SHEPHERD sings to TICKLER'S tongs and poker accompaniment.)
SONG ¹ — "John Nicholson's Daughter."
The daisy is fair, the day-lily ² rare,
The bud o' the rose as sweet as it's bonny —
But there ne'er was a flower, in garden or bower,
Like auld Joe Nicholson's bonny Nannie.
O my Nannie,
My dear little Nannie,
My sweet little niddlety-noddlety Nannie,
There ne'er was a flower,
In garden or bower,
Like auld Joe Nicholson's Nannie.
Ae day she came out wi' a rosy blush,
To milk her twa kye, sae couthie an' cannie ³—
I cower'd me down at the back o' the bush,
To watch the air o' my bonny Nannie.
O my Nannie, &c. &c.
Her looks so gay, o'er Nature away,
Frae bonny blue een sae mild and mellow—
Saw naething sae sweet, in Nature's array,
Though clad in the morning's gowden yellow.
O my Nannie, &c. &c.
My heart lay beating the flowery green,
In quaking, quavering agitation —
And the tears came trickling doun frae my een,
Wi' perfect love, an' wi' admiration.
O my Nannie, &c. &c.
There's mony a joy in this world below,
And sweet the hopes that to sing were uncannie —
But of all the pleasures I ever can know,
There's none like the love o' my dearest Nannie.
O my Nannie, &c. &c.
¹ By Hogg.
² Day-lily—asphodel.
³ Couthie and cannie—frank and gentle.
North. Bravo! You have sent that song to our friend
Pringle's Friendship's Offering — haven't you, James?
Shepherd. I hae — and anither as gude, or better. —
(Enter MR AMBROSE with a hot roasted Round of Beef — KING
PEPIN with a couple of boiled Ducks — SIR DAVID GAM with a
trencher of Tripe, à la Meg Dods — and TAPPYTOORIE with
a Haggis. Pickled Salmon, Welsh Rabbits, &c. &c. — and, as
usual, Oysters, raw, stewed, scolloped, roasted, and pickled, of
course — Rizzards, Finzeans, Red Herrings.)
Shepherd. You've really served up a bonny wee neat bit
sooper for three, Mr Awmrose. I hate, for my ain pairt, to
see a table overloaded. It's sae vulgar. I'll carve the haggis.¹
North. I beseech you, James, for the love of all that is
dear to you, here and hereafter, to hold your hand. Stop —
stop — stop!
(The SHEPHERD sticks the Haggis, and the Table is instantly
Shepherd. Heavens and earth! Is the Haggis mad? Tooels²
Awmrose — tooels! Safe us! we'll a' be drooned!
[PICARDY and his Tail rush out for towels.
North. Rash man! what ruin have you wrought! See
how it has overflown the deck from stem to stern — we shall
all be lost.
Shepherd. Sweepin everything afore it! Whare's the puir
biled³ dyucks? Only the croon-head o' the roun' visible!
Tooels — tooels — tooels! Send roun' the fire-drum through
the city.
(Re-enter PICARDY and "the Rest" with napery.)
Mr Ambrose. Mr North, I look to you for orders in the midst
of this alarming calamity. Shall I order in more strength?
Shepherd. See — see — sir! it's creeping alang the carpet!
We're like men left on a sandbank, when the tide's comin
in rampaugin. Oh! that I had insured my life! Oh! that I
had learned to soom!4 What wull become o' my widow and
my fatherless children!
North. Silence! Let us die like men.
Shepherd. O, Lord! its over our insteps already! Open
¹ A haggis is the stomach of a sheep filled with the lungs, heart, and liver
of the same animal, minced with suet, onions, salt, and pepper.
² Tooels — towels.
³ Biled — boiled.
4 Soom — swim.
a' the doors and wundows — and let it find its ain level. I'll
up on a chair in the meantime.
(The SHEPHERD mounts the back of The Chair,
and draws MR NORTH up after him.)
Sit on my shouthers, my dear — dear — dearest sir. I insist
on't. Mr Tickler, Mr Awmrose, King Pepin, Sir David, and
Tappitourie — you wee lazy deevil — help Mr North up — help
Mr North up on my shouthers!
(MR NORTH is elevated, Crutch and all, astride on the
SHEPHERD'S shoulders.)
North. Good God! Where is Mr Tickler?
Shepherd. Look — look — look, sir,—yonner he's staunin on
the brace-piece — on the mantel! Noo, Awmrose, and a' ye
waiters, make your escape, and leave us to our fate. Oh! Mr
North, gie us a prayer. — What for do you look so meeserable,
Mr Tickler? Death is common — 'tis but "passing through
Natur' to Eternity!" And yet — to be drooped in haggis 'ill
be waur than Clarence's dream! Alack and alas-a-day! it's
up to the ring o' the bell-rope! Speak, Mr Tickler — oh speak, sir
— Men in our dismal condition — Are you sittin easy, Mr North?
North. Quite so, my dear James, I am perfectly resigned.
Yet, what is to become of Maga —
Shepherd. Oh my wee Jamie!
North. I fear I am very heavy, James.
Shepherd. Dinna say't, sir — dinna say't. I'm like the pious
Æneas bearrin his father Ancheeses through the flames o'
Troy. The similie doesna haud glide at a' points — I wish it
did — Oh, haul fast, sir, wi' your arms roun' my neck, lest the
cruel tyrant o' a haggis swoop ye clean awa under the sideboard
to inevitable death!
North. Far as the eye can reach it is one wide wilderness
of suet!
Tickler. Hurra! hurra! hurra!
Shepherd. Do you hear the puir gentleman, Christopher?
It's affeckin to men in our condition to see the pictur we hae
baith read o' in accounts o' shipwrecks realeezed! Timothy's
gane mad! Hear till him shoutin wi' horrid glee on the
brink o' eternity !
Tickler. Hurra! hurra! hurra!
North. Horrible! most horrible!
Tickler. The haggis is subsiding — the haggis is subsiding!
It has fallen an inch by the surbase¹ since the Shepherd's last
Shepherd. If you're tellin a lee, Timothy, I'll wade over to
you, and bring you doun aff the mantel wi' the crutch. — Can
I believe my een? It is subseedin. Hurraw! hurraw!
hurraw! Nine times nine, Mr North, to our deliverance — and
the Protestant ascendancy!
Omnes. Hurra! hurraw! hurree !
Shepherd. Noo, sir, you may dismunt.
(Re-enter the Household, with the immediate neighbourhood.)
Shepherd. High Jinks! High Jinks! High Jinks! The
haggis has putten out the fire, and sealed up the boiler—
(The SHEPHERD descends upon all fours, and lets
MR NORTH of gently.)
North. Oh James, I am a daft old man!
Shepherd. No sae silly as Solomon, sir, at your time o' life.
Noo for sooper.
Tickler. How the devil am I to get down?
Shepherd. How the deevil did you get up? Oh, ho, by
the gas ladder! And it's been removed in the confusion.
Either jump doun — or stay where you are, Mr Tickler.
Tickler. Come now, James — shove over the ladder.
Shepherd. O that Mr Chantrey was here to sculptur him
in that attitude! Streitch out your richt haun! A wee
grain heicher! Hoo gran' he looks in basso-relievo!
Tickler. Shove over the ladder, you son of the mist, or I'll
brain you with the crystal.
Shepherd. Sit doun, Mr North, opposite to me — and Mr
Awmrose, tak roun' my plate for a shave o' the beef. — Isna
he the perfeck pictur o' the late Right Honourable William
Pitt? — Shall I send you, sir, some o' the biled dyuck?
North. If you please, James — Rather "Like Patience on a
monument smiling at Grief."
Shepherd. Gie us a sang, Mr Tickler, and then you shall hae
the ladder. I never preed a roasted roun' afore — it's real
"Oh! who can tell how hard it is to climb
The height where Fame's proud temple shines afar!"
¹ Surbase — the moulding at the upper edge of the wainscot.
Shepherd. I'll let you doun, Mr Tickler, if you touch the
ceilin wi' your fingers. Itherwise, you maun sing a sang.
[TICKLER tries, and fails.
Tickler. Well, if I must sing, let me have a tumbler of
Shepherd. Ye shall hae that, sir.
[The SHEPHERD fills a tumbler from the jug, and balancing it
on the cross of the crutch, reaches it up to MR TICKLER.
(TICKLER sings.)
The lady stands in her bower door,
As straight as willow wand;
The blacksmith stood a little forbye,
Wi' hammer in his hand.
Weel may ye dress ye, lady fair,
Into your robes o' red,
Before the morn at this same time,
I'll loose your silken snood.
Awa, awa, ye coal-black smith,
Wud ye do me the wrang,
To think to gain my virgin love,
That I hae kept sae lang?
Then she has hadden up her hand,
And she sware by the mold,
I wudna be a blacksmith's wife
For a' the warld's gold.
O! rather I were dead and gone,
And my body laid in grave,
Ere a rusty stock o' coal-black smith
My virgin love should have.
But he has hadden up his hand,
And he sware by the mass,
I'll cause ye be my light leman,
For the hauf o' that and less.
O bide, lady bide,
And aye he bade her bide ;
The rusty smith your leman shall be,
For a' your meikle pride.
Then she became a turtle dow.
To fly up in the air;
And he became another dow.
And they flew pair and pair.
O bide, lady, bide, &c.
She turn'd herself into an eel,
To swim into yon burn;
And he became a speckled trout,
To give the eel a turn.
O bide, lady, bide, &c.
Then she became a duck, a duck,
Upon a reedy lake ;
And the smith wi' her to soom or dive.
Became a rose-kamed drake.
O bide, lady, bide, &c.
She turned herself into a hare,
To rin over hill and hollow;
And he became a gude greyhound,
And boldly he did follow.
O bide, lady, bide, &c.
Then she became a gay grey mare,
And stood in yonder slack;
And he became a gilt saddle,
And sat upon her back.
O bide, lady, bide, &c.
Then she became a het girdle,
And he became a cake;
And a' the ways she turned hersel,
The blacksmith was her make.¹
O bide, lady, bide, &c.
She turned herself into a ship,
To sail out-ower the flood;
He ca'd a nail intil her tail,
And syne the ship she stood.
O bide, lady, bide, &e.
Then she became a silken plaid,
And stretch'd upon a bed:
And he became a green covering,
And thus the twa were wed.
¹ Make — match.
Was she wae, he held her sae,
And still he bade her bide;
The rusty smith her leman was,
For a' her meikle pride.
Shepherd. Noo — sir — here is the ladder to you — for which
you're indebted to Mr Peter Buchan, o' Peterhead, the ingenious
collector o' the Ancient Ballads, frae which ye have
chanted so speeritedly the speerited "Twa Magicians." It's
a capital collection — and should be added in a' libraries, to
Percy, and Ritson, and Headley, and the Minstrelsy o' the
Border, and John Finlay, and Robert Jamieson, and Gilchrist
and Kinloch, and the Quarto o' that clever chiel, Motherwell¹
o' Paisley, wha's no only a gude collector and commentator o'
ballads, but a gude writer o' them too — as he has proved by
that real poetical address o' a Northman to his Swurd in ane o'
the Annals. Come awa doun, sir — come awa doun. Tak tent,
for the steps are gey shoggly² Noo — sir — fa' to the roun'.
Tickler. I have no appetite, James. I have been suffering
all night under a complication of capital complaints — the
tooth-ache, which like a fine attenuated red-hot steel-sting,
keeps shooting through an old rugged stump, which to touch
with my tongue is agony — the tongue-ache, from a blister on
that weapon, that I begin to fear may prove cancerous — the
lip-ache, from having accidentally given myself a labial wound
in sucking out an oyster — the eye-ache, as if an absolute
worm were laying eggs in the pupil — the ear-ache, tinglin and
stounin³ to the very brain, till my drum seems beating for
evening parade—to which add a head-ache of the hammer-andanvil
kind — and a stomach-ache, that seems to intimate that
dyspepsy is about to be converted into cholera morbus; and
you have a partial enumeration of the causes that at present
deaden my appetite — and that prevented me from chanting
the ballad with my usual vivacity. However — I will trouble
you for a duck.
Shepherd. You canna be in the least pain, wi' sae mony
complaints as these — for they maun neutraleeze ane anither.
But even if they dinna, I believe mysel, wi' the Stoics, that
pain's nae evil — Dinna you, Mr North?
¹ William Motherwell, born in 1798; the author of some spirited ballads, and
editor of Minstrelsy, Ancient and Modern. He died in 1835.
² Shoggly — shaky.
³ Stounin — aching.
North. Certainly. But, Tickler, you know, has many odd
crotchets. Pray, James, have you read the last number of
the Edinburgh Review?¹
Shepherd. Pray, Mr North, have you loupt ower the Castle
o' Embro'? I wud as sune offer to walk through the interior
o' Africa, frae Tripoli to Timbuctoo. Howsomever, I did
read Mr Jaffray's article on the Decline and Fa' o' Poetry ?²
North. I read with pleasure all that my ingenious brother
writes; but he is often a little paradoxical or so — sometimes
a little superficial, I fear, in his philosophy and criticism.
However, he handles delicately and gracefully every subject
he touches; and seldom fails to leave on it something of the
brightness of his genius.
Shepherd. The article's dounricht intolerable and untenable
nonsense frae beginnin to end. Whether Poetry's exhowsted
or no, it's no for me to say; but Mr Jaffray himsel, though
that could scarcely hae been his end in writin 't, has proved
in his article, beyond a' doubt, that Criticism is in the
dead-thraws ³
North. I was somewhat surprised certainly, James, to hear
my brother absolutely asserting, that in our Poetry since
Cowper, there is "little invention, little direct or overwhelming
passion, and little natural simplicity," — " no sudden
unconscious bursts either of nature or passion — no casual
flashes of fancy — no slight passing intimations of deep but
latent emotions — no rash darings of untutored genius soaring
proudly up into the infinite unknown."
Shepherd. After havin in every ither article, for the last
twunty years, laboured wi' a' his power to prove the direck
contrar! Noo that the New Licht has brak in on him, he
maun look back on the Francey Jaffray that keepit year after
year oratorically — I mean oracularly — haranguin on the
terrible and awfu' bursts o' a' the dark and fierce passions in
Byron's poetry, as a wee demented madman or lunatic.
North. But what say you, James, to "no rash darings of
untutored genius"?
Shepherd. That it's either nonsensical or fause. If he
.allude to the great leevin Poets wha have had College educa¹
No. XCV.
² The article referred to is a review of The Fall of Nineveh, a Poem, by
Edwin Atherstone, 1828.
³ Dead-thraws — death-throes.
tions, then it's nonsensical; for hoo could they "show rash
daurin's o' untutored genius," seein that ane and a' o' them
had tutors, public and preevat, for years? If he allude to
me, and Allan Kinnigam, and Bloomfield, and Clare, and
ithers, wha were left to educate oursels, then it's fause.
"Nae rash daurin's o' untutored genius" indeed! I'll thank
him, or the likes o' him, wi' a' his tutored genius, to write
"Kilmeny,"¹ or "Mary Lee the Female Pilgrim o' the Sun,"
or ae single prose tale o' honest Allan's, or ae single sang
like mony o' his spirit- stirrin strains baith about the land and
the sea. "Nae rash daurin's o' untutored genius" indeed!
Impident body, I wush he mayna hae been fou — or rather,
I wush he may — for afore I declair'd mysel a Tory, he himsel
told the warld in sae mony words, that my Poetry was fu' o'
"Daurin flichts o' untutored genius;" and sae it is, in spite
o' the ignorant impertinence o' the like o' him, and ither
envious elves that out o' natural or political malice will
annonymously slump half-a-dizzen o' men o' genius ower into
ae clause o' a sentence, which, when you analeeze 't, is just
naething mair nor less than a self-evident and contemptible
North. How I admire the Doric dialect, my dear James!
What a difference to the ear in the sound of lie and lee!
Shepherd. My ear detects nane. But supposing there to be
a difference i' the soun', there's nane in the sense; and Mr
Jaffray, either in the ae creetique or the ither, maun hae said
what is no true.
North. A mere matter of taste — of opinion, James; and will
you not allow a man to change his mind?
Shepherd. No, I won't. At least, no an auld man like Mr
Jaffray. It's just in mere matters o' taste and opinion that
I'll no alloo him or ony ither supperannated creetic to say that
he has changed his mind — without at least tellin him that he's
a coof² — and that what he may conceive to be a change o'
opinion, is only a decay o' faculties — a dotage o' the mind.
North. My brother complains that we have no poetry nowadays,
containing "slight passing intimations of deep but latent
emotions" — yet in three or four most elaborate disquisitions
of his on the genius of Campbell, the power of thus, by slight
passing intimations, raising "deep but latent emotions," is
¹ The gem of Hogg's Queen's Wake.
² Coof — blockhead.
dwelt upon as the power characteristic of that delightful poet,
beyond almost all other men that ever wrote!
Shepherd. Hoo can a man, after contradickin himsel in that
silly and senseless manner, look himsel in the face in the
morning, when he sits doun to shave?
North. My brother goes on to say of Modern British Poets,
that "their chief fault is the want of subject and matter — the
absence of real persons, intelligible interests, and conceivable
Shepherd. I really wush, sir, you would gie over quotin
drivel, for it maks me sick. Ca' you that leavin, "on every
subject he touches, something o' the brichtness o' his genius"?
North. Why, I confess, James, that here my respected
brother is indeed a great goose.
Shepherd. Or rather a wee bit duck — cryin quack, quack,
quack — as it plouters amang the dubs; and then streekin
itsel up, as if it were trying to staun' on its tail, and flappin
the dirty pearls frae its wings, and lengthenin out its neck
like an eel, and lookin noun' about it wi' a sort o' triumph —
cries quack, quack, quack again, and then dives doun in the
gulf profound for anither mouthfu' o' something, leavin naething
veesible in the upper warld but its — doup !
North. The poetry of Crabbe and Scott is fuller of "real
persons, intelligible interests, and conceivable incidents," than
any other poetry — Shakespeare of course always excepted —
perhaps yet in existence; and this, or nearly this, my brother
has said at least a thousand times — showing, and well showing
— for I repeat, James, "that on every subject he handles,
he leaves something of the brightness of his genius," — that
therein lies their power and glory.
Shepherd. And I hae only to repeat, sir, that I wunder hoo
your brither can after a' that look himsel in the face in the
mornin when he sits doun to shave.
North. My brother, James, says, that all the Poems of
Crabbe, Scott, Byron, Moore, Southey, Wordsworth, Coleridge,
Campbell, yourself, and all other poets now living or dead since
Cowper and Burns, — "are but shadows, we fear, that have no
independent or substantial existence — and though reflected
from grand and beautiful originals, have but little chance" of
being remembered, and so forth. — What say you to that, James?
Shepherd. I say that that's either no in the Edinburgh Review,
or that the Editor ought to be in a strait-waistcoat. For the
man that raves in that fashion's no safe — and some day 'll bite.
North. Scott's Poems, he says, are mere reflections of the
Romances of Chivalry — which, I admit, he could not have
said, had he ever read one single romance of chivalry — either
in prose or verse — as you, James, know well, that in all points
whatever they are the very antipodes
Shepherd. I never read — nor even saw ane o' the Romances
o' Cheevalry in my life — excepp you ca' Blind Harry's Sir
William Wallace ane, — and it, to be sure, though a glorious
auld thing, has about as little resemblance to Marmion — as
a peat-car — nae contemptible vehicle for rattlin either up or
doun a hill wi' an active nag — to a war-chariot armed wi'
scythes, and thunderin ower the field wi' four white horses.
North. Then Wordsworth, it seems, went back to the early
ballads for his Excursion, Sonnets to Liberty, &c. &e., and all
others alike to Spenser and Shakespeare, and —
Shepherd. Oh, sir! tell me what I hae said or dune to deserve
sic drivel as this being poured out upon me as a punishment;
and I wall mak ony apology you like to demand, doun
even to axin pardon at your feet on my bare knees!
North. My brother sums up by setting Mr Atherstone, as a
poet, by the side of Mr Southey!
Shepherd. Mr Atherstane, from what I hae seen o' his
verses, may just as well be set at ance by the side o' Shakespeare.
Mr Soothey is a poet o' the very highest order, sir —
and "Thalaba," "Madoc," "Roderic," "Kehama" — are gran'
soun's, that at ance fill the mind wi' images o' high achievement.
Has Mr Atherstane really written poems like them?
If sae, I wash I was introduced to him — and that he was sittin
here just noo at the Noctes.
North. I should have no objections, James — none in the
world; but Mr Atherstone (I say it reluctantly) is not much
of a poet.¹ Something of a painter he may be, though his
conceptions, vivid enough in themselves, seem to arise in
series, and often too in great confusion and disarray; nor has
he been able to produce a single picture, having in it Unity,
¹ Professor Wilson reviewed Atherstone's "Fall of Nineveh" in Blackwood's
Magazine, vol. xxvii, p. 137 — taking a very different estimate of it from that
proclaimed by Lord Jeffrey; and the public seems to have ratified the Professor's
verdict by allowing "The Fall" to drop quietly into oblivion.
comprehending all the details, great and small, to which they
are all made to conform, and which is felt to be the spirit of
the whole. Till he does this, he is not even a painter; and
for the truth of what I say, I refer him to his friend Martin.
In the same article, my brother laments the loss "in the
morn and liquid dew of their youth" of Kirke White, Keats, and
Pollok — and "that powerful, though more uncertain genius,
less prematurely extinguished, Shelley." Now, why did he not
encourage, animate, and spread the fame of these poets while
they were alive, to reap profit and pleasure from his praise?
Shepherd. I fancy, because he cared little or naething about
them, and either never knew, or forgot, that such poets were
in existence.
North. Henry Kirke White,¹ when chilled by the frost of
criticism, would have had his blood warmed within the very
core of his heart, by a panegyric on his genius in such a work,
so powerful for good and evil, as the Edinburgh Review then
was. — But no — not a hint dropped of "the morn and liquid
dew of his life," till many years after his pure spirit had
soared to heaven!
Shepherd. While Mr Soothey cheered the life o' the young
pensive bard, and after death embalmed his name in one of
the most beautiful pieces of biography in the language!
North. My brother praised Keats,² it is true, but somewhat
tardily, and with no discrimination; and, to this hour,
he has taken no notice of his Lamia and Isabella, in which
Keats's genius is seen to the best advantage; while, from the
utter silence observed towards him in general, it is plain enough
that he cares nothing for him, and that it is not unjust or unfair
to suspect the insertion of the article on Endymion was
brought about by a Cockney job of Hunt or Hazlitt's.
Shepherd. Is his review o' Pollok's³ Course of Time a fine one ?
North. That noble Poem has never been so much as mentioned,
— though, no doubt, the mere introduction of Pollok's
name is thought to be a sufficient sacrifice to the genius of
that singularly gifted young man.
Shepherd. And what said he o' Shelley?4
North. Never, to the best of my remembrance, one single
¹ Born in 1785; died in 1806.
² Born in 1796; died in 1820.
³ Robert Pollok, author of The Course of Time, died in 1827, aged 28.
4 Born in 1792; drowned in the Gulf of Lerici in 1822.
syllable. Now, my dear James, all this may be very consistent
with the principles on which my brother conducts his
Review; but nobody can say that it is a high-minded, finesouled,
warm-hearted system. The voice of praise can be of
no avail then, —
"Nor flattery soothe the dull cold ear of death."
Still, with all his deficiencies, inconsistencies, and contradictions,
my brother is a charming critic.
Shepherd. O' a' the creetics o' this age, you alone, sir, have
shown that you have a heart. You're the best creetic that
ever existed o' warks o' imagination.
North. That seems to be the general opinion. Yet even I
am not perfection.
Shepherd. Dinna alloo yoursel to say sae, sir; you're far
over modest.
North. There's Mr David Lester Richardson¹, or some other
dissatisfied person, who says, in that entertaining work, the
London Weekly Review, that the last degradation that can
befall a writer, is to be praised in Blackwood's Magazine.
Shepherd. Faith, he's maybe no far wrang, there. Is that
the Diamond Poet, who published three hunder and sixty-five
panegyrics on his ain genius, by way o' Notes and Illustrations
to his Sonnets — ane for every day in the year?
North. The same.
Shepherd. His modesty's amaist as great's your ain, sir;
for he canna bring himsel to believe that onybody will credit
his being a poet, without ha'in his judgment overpowered by
the testimony o' a cloud o' witnesses.
North. Perhaps he was nettled, James, by my exposure of
that puffery; but the truth is, I have a great kindness for
David, and the very first volume, either of prose or verse, he
publishes, I shall try him with praise in Blackwood; and he
will be surprised to find that it is far more delightful, and not
nearly so degrading as he or his contributor, during a fit of
the jaundice, imagined.²
Shepherd. Tak care ye dinna turn his head — for I should
¹ A forgotten writer, the author of some sonnets.
² Mr Lockhart has a pleasant parable apropos of those delicate organisations
which profess themselves delighted to swallow any amount of censure from
their reviewers, but incapable of digesting the slightest admixture of praise. "It
be sorry o' that, as, if he's the Editor o' the Weekly Review,
he's a clever fallow.
North. Hazlitt, too, has lately somewhere said — I think
in that acute paper, the Examiner — that Maga is a
work of which no man will mention the name, who has any
regard to his own character. Now, Hazlitt has not written
a paper of any kind whatever, these last ten years, without
using the most unwarrantable, and unprovoked, and unnecessary
liberties, with Maga's name. Therefore, Hazlitt
is a man who has no regard to his own character?
Shepherd. You hae him on the hip there, sir. It's a good
North. Yet you see, James, the inutility of the syllogistic
form of reasoning; for it ends with proving what has already
been admitted by all the world.
Shepherd. I see your meanin, sir — Oh! but you're a desperate
sateerical auld chiel, and plant your skein-dhu¹ —
North. The blundering blockhead, James, drove his own
knife up to the hilt in his own side, beneath the fifth rib, in
his rage to strike a harmless old man like me, who was not
minding the maniac, and had not kicked him for years.
Shepherd. Oh! man, but there's a cawm, cauld, clear,
glitterin cruelty in the expression o' your een the noo, that's
no canny, and you'll obleege me by takin aff your glass;
for the taste o' that Glenlivet's aneuch to soften the sowl
towards the greatest reprobate. A caulker o't could mak a
man for a minute or twa amaist endure a Cockney.
North. Maga, James, is an Engine.
Shepherd. An Ingine! — Lord safe us! — She is that! — An
Ingine o' five hunder Elephant-power. Nae mortal man
is related," says he, "of Mr Alderman Faulkener, of convivial memory, that
one night when he expected his guests to sit late and try the strength of
his claret and his head, he took the precaution of placing in his wine-glass a
strawberry, which his doctor, he said, had recommended to him on account of
its cooling qualities. On the faith of this specific he drank even more deeply,
and, as might be expected, was carried away at an earlier period, and in rather
a worse state than was usual with him. When some of his friends condoled
with him next day, and attributed his misfortune to six bottles of claret which
he had imbibed, the Alderman was extremely indignant, — ‘The claret,' he
said, 'was sound, and never could do any man any harm — his discomfiture was
altogether caused by that damned single strawberry,' which he had kept all
night at the bottom of his glass." — Quarterly Review, vol. xlix., p. 96.
¹ Skein-dhu, (Gaelic) — dagger; literally, dark knife.
should be intrusted wi' sic an Ingine; it's aneuch to mak ony
man as prood as Nebuchadnezzar — and if you dinna tak tent,
wha kens but you may share the fate o' that unfortunate
monarch. You would be a curious cretur on a' fowres,
munchin gerse!
North. Maga is, you know, my dear James, an omnipresence.
In hall and hut alike her visits are hailed by the
heart-acclamation of young and old — her face beams in
equal beauty by the firelight reflected from brass mirrors
bright as gold, within a chimney-piece of the dove-coloured
Italian marble — and by the peat-low frae the ingle o' the
"auld clay biggin" —
Shepherd. As noo and then the melted snaw-flakes drip
doun the open lum, sir, and the reading lassie, while the
flickering flame momentarily leaves a darker shade ower the
gay or serious page, louts doun her silken snood nearer to the
embers, that the circle mayna lose ae word o' auld Christopher
North, or the Shepherd, or Delta, whether Delta be
singin a sweet sang, aiblins about Mary queen o' Scotland,
or telling a comical story in a Chapter in the Life and
Adventures o' that curious Dalkeith tailor body, now retired,
as I hear, frae bizziness, ha'in taen out his capital altogether,
and become a Box-proprietor on the Esk — Mansie Wauch.¹
North. That, James, is true fame. The consciousness of a
circulation confined to certain classes — an exclusive circulation,
would be the death, or paralysis of my genius.
Shepherd. 'Cause, in that case, you would have to compose
for an exclusive circulation — Oh, dear! oh, dear! oh, dear!
perhaps a Cockney coterie, — and then to a' mankind you
would become either unintelligible or disgustin! Does your
body, sir, ever get wearied wi' writin? for as to your mind,
ane micht as weel ask if the vis generawtrix Naturæ ever
got wearied.
North. I write, James, by screeds. Whenever I feel the
fit coming on, which it often does about ten in the morning —
never sooner — I encourage it by a caulker — a mere nut-shell,
which my dear friend the English Opium-Eater would toss
off in laudanum: as soon as I feel that there is no danger of
¹ The Life of Mansie Wauch, Tailor in Dalkeith, a work in which certain
phases of Scottish life and manners are portrayed in characters irresistibly
a relapse — that my demon will be with me during the whole
day — I order dinner at nine—shut myself up within triple
doors — and as I look at the inner one in its green-baized
brass-knobbedness, there comes upon me an inspiring sense
of security from all interruption, nay, from all connection or
even remembrance of the outer world. The silver salver —
you know it, James — with a few rusks, and half a pint of
Madeira — a moderation which Sir Humphry must approve —
stands within a few inches of my writing hand. No desk!
an inclined plane — except in bed — is my abhorrence. All
glorious articles must be written on a dead flat.
Shepherd. No if you use the sclate.¹
North. At two o'clock, from September to March — true to
a minute — Robin Redbreast comes hopping in through one
unglazed diamond of my low lattice — Mousey peers with his
black eyes and whiskered nose out of his hole, and the two
contend in pretty gambols about the crumbs.
Shepherd. What a pictur o' Innocence! Oh my dear, dear
Mr North, I've aften thocht you were ower gude — ower
tender o' natur — ower simple for this wicked, hard, cunnin
North. Mousey, after feeding and fun, glides into his hole
behind the wainscot, and Robin flits, with a small sweet
song, into the shrubbery — and then I at it again tooth and
Shepherd. Sacrifeecin, perhaps, the peace not only o' individuals
but o' families — by makin them, and a' that's conneckit
wi' them, meeserable in life, and sae odious and
infamous after death, that the son gies up his father's name
a'thegither; if the surname be ane o' ae syllable, the better
to obliterate a remembrance o't even in his ain mind, adoptin
ane o' four or five — and changin the Christian name, too, into
something heathenish, as, for example, Tam into Heliogabawlus.

North. Just as the gloamin begins to deepen on the wire-wove
paper, so that there is felt a slight strain on the optic
nerve, and pots and hooks assume a hieroglyphical character
— inaudibly cloth door after door open like a dream — and
Helen, with a wax candle in either pretty small band,
¹ It is recorded of the Shepherd, that he used to draft his compositions ou
a slate.
between which are seen shining her large blue eyes, soft in
their brightness, in a moment is at my side, and my manuscripts
are at once illuminated.
Shepherd. She's a bonny lassie. I saw a pictur very like
her the day, in Mr Galli's exhibition on the Mound —
North. An exhibition which all people should visit. It
contains many excellent, and some splendid pictures.
Shepherd. Oh! but the Auld Masters, sir, had a deep sense
o' the beautifu'.
North. No soup — but first a sole, then a beefsteak, and
then a chicken — with a finish o' a few tartlets, and a saucer
of Parmesan judiciously interspersed with an occasional sip
of old hock ending in a gulp — a caulker, of course — and then
at the MSS. again, over a Scotch pint of claret. By mid--
night —
"Ae wee short hour ayont the twal;"
and lo! ready for the devil a sheet of Maga!
Shepherd. And whan do you rise?
North. Early. Precisely at nine (I speak of winter) Helen
is at my bedside —
"And, like the murmur of a dream,
I hear her breathe my name."
Shepherd. That's scarcely safe, sir.
North. God bless the dear child! — she loves me with all
the reverential affection of a granddaughter. While I keep
getting fairly awake, she stirs up the fire, that has been
napping during the night, and, arranging with delicate
dexterity my shirt, drawers, stockings, breeches, &c. on a
neat mahogany screen, places it before the glow — and disappears.
In about half-an-hour I am apparelled — and just
as I have given the last touch to the topmost curl of my
wig —
Shepherd. I like ye best bald —
North. The clear tingle-ingle-ing of the small brass bell
in the hand of my pretty maiden —
Shepherd. That's the thing — and no ane o' thae infernal
bells that the man-servant in some houses keeps ringing for
ten minutes, as if he meant to awauken a' the folk in the
neist street —
North. Chimes me down to the parlour —
Shepherd. Nae mair aboot your domestic economy, sir —
You're gettin egotustical.
North. I wrote "Christopher in his Sporting Jacket,"¹
James — forty pages of Maga — at two such sittings.
Shepherd. I dinna believe you — though you should swear't
on the Bible.
North. At five such sittings I have more than once
written — with this hand —
Shepherd. And a lang-fingered, bony, ghaunt, formidable--
lookin haun it is — like the haun o' grim death — clutchin —
North. Written the whole Magazine — an entire Number,²
James —
Shepherd. And a desperate bad ane it must hae been —
North. No, James — brilliant as the Aurora Borealis —
musical as is Apollo's lute.
Shepherd. And that's the way ye serve your contributors!
Flingin their capital articles intil the Balaam-box, that your
ain trash may —
North. Trash! What the devil do you mean by trash, sir?
Shepherd. I just mean a hantle o' your ain articles, — especially
them that you're fondest and proudest o' — sic as
"Streams"³ — "Cottages"4 —"Hints for Holidays"5 —
North. Oh! James — James — that genius should be thus
debased by jealousy —
Shepherd. Me jealous o' you? That's a gude ane. But
what for didna you send me out a' the Anuwals o' the year
as you promised? I hate folk that promises and ne'er performs.

North. By the rule of contraries, my character to a tittle.
I promise nothing — and perform everything. But the reason,
James, was, that I had not them to send. The Keepsake I
have not got yet — but I have Mr Alaric Watts' Souvenir in
my pocket — there, — well caught, ye cricketer. Ay, you may
well turn up your eyes in admiration — for of all the embellish¹
See Recreations of Christopher North, vol. i. p. 1; or Blackwood's Magazine,
² In some of the "double" Numbers of Blackwood's Magazine, Professor
Wilson wrote as much as would have filled one Number or more — for instance. in
the double Numbers for August 1830 and May 1834; but he never wrote any
one whole continuous Number.
³ Blackwood's Magazine, No. CXI.
4 Ibid., No. CX.
5 Ibid., Nos. CXIV., CXVI., CXVII.
ments — of all the engravings I ever beheld, these are the
most exquisitely beautiful.
Shepherd. Sir Walter? Ma faith! The thing's dune at
last. The verra man himsel, as if you were lookin at him
through the wrang end o' a telescope! Only see his hauns
The big, fat, roun', firm back o' his hauns! I should hae
said in an instant — that's Sir Walter — had I seen nae mair
than just by themsels thae hauns! Hoo are ye, Sir Walter?
Hoo are ye, sir? I'm glad to see ye lookin sae weel. Na—
am na I a fule, Mr North, to be speakin till an eemage, as if
it were — Lord bless him — the verra leevin glory o' Scotland?
North. I request posterity to be informed, that Lesly's is
the best likeness of Sir Walter Scott ever achieved — face,
figure, air, manner — all characteristically complete. Lesly is
a genuine genius — so is Stephanoff.
Shepherd. And is the writin in the Souvenir gude, sir?
North. Excellent. Taken altogether, the volume is a formidable
rival, competitor, or compeer, to the Anniversary —
Shepherd. In leeterature — my cry has ever been — Free
Tredd, Free Tredd. If the Keepsake beats the beauty o' the
Souvenir, she may change her name into the Phoenix or the
Bird o' Paradise.
North. Pocket the affront, James.
Shepherd. Hae you made me a present o't, sir, outricht?
You hae! — then alloo me to treat you wi' the eisters at my
ain expense.
North. To purchase the Souvenir in oysters! Oh! the
horrid thought!
Shepherd. Rax me ower that newspaper, my dear sir, that
I may wrap it—
North. Nay, we must not destroy Mr Ambrose's Courier.
Shepherd. Is that the Coureer? It's the best paper, the
Coureer, o' the haill set.
North. There cannot be a better paper, James — but there
may be as good — and the Standard is so — the two together,
well studied, may set a young Member of Parliament up in
politics. Both true to the backbone. "Alike — yet oh, how
different!" Mr Street is a man of great talents — and Mr
Gifford an admirable writer. As for the Doctor
Shepherd. He hasna his match in a' England, I'm sure, for
wut, satire, and fun, and deevil tak me if he's no also a maist
poo'rfu reasoner. Wut and Intellect are twun-brithers, and
sae like that,'but for a sort o' smile native to the face o' the
first, I'll defy you to tell the ane frae the ither!
North. These are my Evening Papers, James; and my
Morning ones are the Morning Post, always full of news of
the fashionable world, and excellent and able in its politics —
the Morning Journal, most spirited and vigorous — the Morning
Herald, miscellaneous to a most amusing degree, and teeming
with various matter — the Morning Chronicle — you know the
worthy editor, Mr Black,¹ James?
Shepherd. A fine fallow — gin he werena a Whig — and a
great freen o' dear Gray's² —
North. Of itself a good sign of his heart; — but though a
Whig, not a bitter one, — and, though rather lengthy, a writer
of much talent and information.
Shepherd. Do you no read The auld Times?
North. What! not read the Leading Journal of Europe?
Daily. Inexplicable altogether in its political machinery, I
admire the strength and audacity of the bold old Times. I
also see that moderate and very able paper, the Globe.
Shepherd. Faith there's the Embro' Saturday Evening Post
turnin out a maist capital paper. There's smeddum yonner,
Mr North.
North. There is smeddum yonder, James. The pen of one
first-rate writer may be weekly traced in its leading articles,
and occasionally elsewhere — and some of his coadjutors are
apparently men of power and principle. It has — though young
— a good circulation, and is sure to succeed. A true Tory.
Shepherd. What's the real bonny feedy state o' the case, sir, the
noo, wi' what's ca'd the Question o' Catholic Emancipawtion?
Tickler (yawning out of a profound sleep). Hollo! where am
I? Who are you, gentlemen, intruding on a sober citizen's
privacy at this hour of the night? I say, who are you?
Shepherd. He thinks himsel at hame. — I really had nae
notion, sir, that Mr Tickler was sae soon made fou?
Tickler. Made fou? — Heavens! at Ambrose's!
¹ The translator of Schlegel's Dramatic Literature. Mr Black was a man of
high character in his profession; and the London newspaper press, with which
he was connected during many years, owed much of its weight to the energy
and versatility of his talents. He died in 1855.
² Sec ante, vol. i. p. 233, note 1.
Shepherd. At Awmrose's sure aneuch. You've been sleepin
this twa hours, sir, wi' your mouth wide open — and it required
great forbearance no to put a half-lemon into your mouth. I
would hae dune't, had ye snored — but as ye didna snore
nane —
Tickler. I have awoke to all my "aitches!"
Shepherd. When you gang hame, let me recommend you to
get a flannel petticoat frae ane o' the servant lassies, and
wrap it roan' your chowks.¹
Tickler. Oh! I am in great pain, James! Let me lie down
on the sofa.
Shepherd. Do sae — do sae — but dinna snore nane. Weel,
Mr North, what's the bonny feedy state o' the case, wi' what's
ca'd the Question o' Catholic Emancipawtion? You dinna
think it 'ill be carried or conciliated?
North. Unquestionably, James, there is a belief among certain
circles that think themselves well informed, with respect
to authentic rumours of intended measures of Government, that
something is to be done for the Catholics in next Session of
Parliament. One cannot dine out without having much sickening
stuff of the sort dinned into his ears. But the nation has
the Duke of Wellington's word for it — that nothing will be
done for the Catholics in the next Session of Parliament.
Shepherd. Has it?
North. Yes, the Duke of Wellington said, in his simple
strong style, in the House, that "if they kept quiet perhaps
something might be done for them;" but they have not kept
quiet; and, therefore, certainly nothing will be done for them
next Parliament.²
Shepherd. Quiet, indeed! ay — ay — there's different kinds
o' quiet, as the Duke, nae dout, kens as weel as aither you or
me, Mr North.
North. True, James. The French Marshals in Spain used
to keep quiet — sometimes for weeks and months at a time —
but the great Lord, for all that, lay asleep in his position like
a lion with his eyes open, — and on an alarm, in half-an-hour
the whole British army had been in order of battle.
Shepherd. A toon coof, comin intil the kintra, and kennin o'
¹ Clowks — jaws.
² Something, however, was done for them next Parliament. The Catholic
Emancipation Bill was passed in 1829.
coorse naething at a' aboot the symptoms o' the atmosphere,
having contented himsel a' his life wi' noticin the quicksilver
in his glass, and in spite o' a' its daily deceits keepit still
payin the maist shamefu' deference to its authority, — a toon
coof, I say, sir, coming intil the Forest, cocks his ee up to
the heavens, without attendin to what airt the wind blaws
frae, and prophesying a fine, clear, dry, breezy day, whustles
out Ponto, and awa to the hill after the goose. The lift
looked, he thocht, sae cawm, the weather sae settled! There
was a cawm in heaven, nae dout — a dead cawm. But then
far aff on the weather-gleam, there was a froonin, threatenin,
sullen, sulky, dark, dismal, dour expression o' face in the
sky — no the less fearsome 'cause o' the noo and then glimmerin
out o' something like a grim ghastly smile, as if it
were stifled lichtnin; ahint the cloud that noo lies black
and dense on the towerin mountain, is heard first a sigh —
then a groan — then a growl — then a clap — and then a rattle
o' thunder, till earth shakes wi' a' her quiverin woods, and the
lochs are seen tumbling a' afoam in the levin! — a deluge
croons the misty hills — and doun come the hay-rucks, or the
corn-stooks, wi' aiblins a human dwellin or twa — sailing alang
the meadows, in which the main course o' the Tweed is lost
as in a sea, — sae sudden, sae red and sae roaring is the spate,
that sweeps the vale o' half its harvest, and leaves farmer,
hind, and shepherd in ruin.
North. Strong as your imagery is, James, and vivid — most
vivid your picture, — it is neither overcharged, nor in one
point inapplicable.
Shepherd. I'm sure it's no, sir. Then let nae man tell me
that seven million o' Eerishmen — for if there were sax million
at the last Noctes, they'll be seven noo — will ever keep a
cawm sugh — unless when they're brewin mischief. I would
despise them if they did, frae the bottom o' my heart — and
I'm far frae despisin the Eerish, wha, but for priests and
priestcraft, would be, certes, a glorious people.
Tickler. Why, according to that rule of judgment, James,
you suspect them alike, whether they are tame or tumultuous.
Shepherd. Ye maunna argue wi' me, Mr Tickler; fa' asleep
— for, wi' a' your poo'rs¹ o' reasonin, I'll set ye doun, and nail
your coat-tails to the chair, so as you'll no be able to get up
¹ Poo'rs — powers.
again, wi' the strong haun o' plain, gude, common sense. A'
Eerland's under the thoombs o' the Agitawtors. Thoombs
doun, and a's cawm; thoombs up, and rebellion wad wade
the bogs breast-deep in blood.
North. I repeat what I have said to you, James, a hundred
times within these last four years, that the Government of this
country has much to answer for to civil and religious liberty
on account of its shameful supineness, — must I say of a British
Government — its cowardice?
Tickler. Well, then, pray is this state of things to be
Shepherd. Let me answer that, Mr North. — It will last, Mr
Tickler, as lang as the Bible is a sealed book. Break the
seal — let the leaves flutter free — and Superstition, blinded by
the licht o' heaven, will dwine and die. She will dwine for
moray years afore she dies; but, during a' that time, knowledge
will be gainin head o' ignorance, — Eerishmen will be
becomin mair and mair like Scotchmen and Englishmen in
their character and condition, — and when the similitude grows
strong and secure — for naebody wants perfect identity —
then, and not till then, "something perhaps may be done for
the Catholics;" and, feenally — for you maunna talk nonsense
about eternity — the Roman religion will be undermined
and fall, and then there will indeed be a glorious Emancipawtion.

North. Meanwhile, good heavens! what might not the Irish
landlords — Protestant and Roman Catholic alike — do for their
beautiful country! There are many difficulties to contend
against; but I, for one, never could see any mystery in the
evils that afflict Ireland. She wants an enlightened system
of education; — she wants an enlightened system of employment;
— she wants an enlightened system of poor-laws; — she
wants an enlightened, generous, patriotic, fatherland-loving
resident gentry — lords and commoners; — and with these,
Erin would indeed be the Emerald Gem of the Sea!
Shepherd. What blesses ae kintra blesses anither; and o' a'
blessins, what's mair blessed than a resident gentry? O that
ugly sumph! that first daured to write doun in the English
langage that a kintra was the better o' Absenteeism!
North. A paltry paradox, that stunk in the nostrils before
it was a day old.
Shepherd. O the ugly sumph! The doctrine was an outrage
on human nature, and an insult to Divine Providence! —
Wad a kintra be the better if a' its clergy were non-resident
in it — absentees abroad — and their duties discharged universally
by proxy curates? Likewise a' its Judges? Likewise
if a' partners in mercantile concerns were to leave them to the
foreman, and gang over to Boulogne to play billiards? And,
to crown a', would the sumph say, that it wad be better for
THE MAGAZINE, if its Editor — even yoursel, sir, Christopher
North, God bless you! — were an absentee? Na, na! — that
you'll never be. Easier wad it be to root up an auld oak-tree.
North. A blind, base blunder it was indeed, James; and
how the owl did hoot in the sunshine, staring and winking
most absurdly, with eyes made only for the twilight! What
books could the sumph, as you call him, have read? — with
what manner of men held converse? — that his ear had not got
accustomed, in some measure, to the expression of those
natural feelings and affections that bind the human heart to
the natale solum, — feelings and affections so inevitable, that
he is probably the first, and will be the last man, that ever
avowed himself born without them, — insensible to their influence,
or, rather, unaware of their existence!
Shepherd. Better for a kintra that a' the gentry should leeve
abroad! O the sumph! But eh, sir! isna it cheerin to see
and hear how suddenly a sumph's put down in Great Britain,
when, wi' open jaws and lung-labouring sides, he sticks out
his lang-lugged pericranium, and, reckless o' breakin the
wund o' the pair harmless echoes, brays out insupportable
nonsense, a' the while never doutin himsel to be ane o' the
greater prophets, lifting up a warning, as in an angelic voice,
unto some foolish people determined to perish in their pride
— were the ass to bray on till Domesday?
North. Yes, James, the British nation are not, in the long
run, by any means easily humbugged. They have their temporary
follies — why not? The proprietor of "the wonderful
duck " may make money for a month or so, asserting that
she sings like a nightingale; but people will not pay sixpence
twice to hear what, if their ears "are to be in aught believed,"
is neither more nor less, in tone or articulation, than — quack
— quack — quack! Then, what a disgrace — what a degradation
to Ireland — the land of eloquence and Burke, to have produced,
in these latter days, no better demagogues than Sheil¹
and O'Connell!² — Scrape O'Connell's tongue of blackguardism,
and Shell's of blarney, and they will be as dry as that of an
old parrot.
Shepherd. I'm sure that Sheil's nae orator. Puttin politics,
and the peace o' Ireland, and the cause of civil and religious
liberty a' over the world, a'thegither aside — and ane can
easily do that at a Noctes —
North. With all the ease in the world, James.
Shepherd. I mysel am an agitawtor! And not only can I
mak a' allowance for them, but as ae human being wi' ither
human beings, I can sympatheeze, sir, frae the very bottom o'
my sowl, -wi' agitawtors.
North. And so can I.
Tickler (yawning). And — I.
¹ Sheil, born in 1791, died in 1851, at Florence, where he was the British
envoy. His life has been published under the title of Memoirs of the Right
Honourable Richard Later Sheil, by Torrens M'Cullagh, Esq.
² In one of the Noctes not written by Professor Wilson, the following graphic,
and, it is believed, faithful description of the great Irish demagogue appears:—
"North. O'Connell, I take it for granted, has the appearance of belonging to a
different order of society from Hunt and Hume.
"Tickler. It is natural to suppose so of a man at the head of the Dublin bar;
and perhaps it may be affectation in part that renders the fact apparently so
much otherwise. O'Connell is, however, cast in a clownish mould. Indeed, if
I wished to let you see the difference between an Irish gentleman and an Irish
raff, I don't know that I could do better than place him alongside of the Knight
of Kerry. It would be about as complete in its way as a juxtaposition of Joseph
Hume and Sir George Murray, or of Colonel Anson and the Blacking Man.
For the very type of a mob-mystifier, however, give me nobody but Dan. He
is a tall braggadocio, but so broadset that he does not seem above the middle
stature. His chest is enormous; his arms are a blacksmith's; his legs a chairman's,
and he bears himself, sitting, standing, or walking, with the air of a
butcher. His head is a vast round mass of the true Paddy organisation, as if
hewn out on purpose for Donnybrook; and the countenance all over — broad
ruddy cheek, scowling unsettled brow, small wild grey eye, bland oily lips, and
huge tusks of teeth — presents such a melange of physical vigour, animal hilarity,
ferocity, craft, and fun, as, wherever you encounter it, no human being could
for a moment hesitate to pronounce Milesian. He has a fine rich manly voice,
and brogue worthy of the organ; and of course he possesses all the skill of a
practised barrister in handling such subjects as his nature is tempted to
grapple with. The ascendancy he has gained over the poor tremblers of the
Treasury Bench, is such as might have been expected after a crowd of puny
whipsters should have experienced the pushes and digs of a veritable athlete in
a row of their own tempting. The circumstances, however, have done much
to disgrace them. O'Connell Gregson, Cobbett — these words, being interpreted,
signify Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. See the book of Daniel, James." — Noctes Ambrosianæ,
No. lvii.; Blackwood's Magazine, vol. xxx. p. 406.
Shepherd. Dear me, Mr Tickler! are you no asleep? But,
pity me the day! when I tak up a speech o' Sheil's, howpin
to get my heart made to Loup like a cod in a creel; to be stung
by his sharp swarming syllables into rebellion against the
state, like a collie attacked by bees, and in the madness o'
pain bitin his master; or rather, like a bull stung by a hornet
in the flank, or a red-rag in the ce, plungin after the herds
and hinds, wha a' rin helter-skelter into the wudds — or, like a
teeger, or a lion, that has lain peaceably licking his paws till
a man, in a hairy fur-cap, stirs him up wi' a lang pole, and
gars him roar as if about to carry aff in his mouth the son o'
Sir George Monro across his shouther — or like an elephant
that —
North. Stop, James — stop; for Heaven's sake, stop!
Shepherd. Or like a whale that —
North. Stop, James — stop; for Heaven's sake, stop!
Shepherd. Weel, then, I wull stop. When, instead o' onything
o' that sort, ae pert, pratin fribble o' a coxcomb o' a
Cockney o' a paragraph follows after anither, a' as like's they
can smirk or stare, brither on brither o' the same conceited
family, wi' faces and voices no to be distinguished, were it
no that ane seems to be greetin, and ane to be lauchin, and
ane to be troubled wi' a sair cough, and ane to hae the colic,
and ane to be dressed as for a bridal, and ane for a funeral —
ane wi' a sodger's green coat, and ane apparelled in brown
like a Quaker — yet a' the haill set equally cauldrife, formal,
pedantical, and pragmatic, — and what's warse than a', and
damnation to the soul o' oratory, when I see hypocrisy, meanness,
truckling insincerity, cruelty, and what's akin to cruelty,
political cowardice, staining all the pairts o' speech — so that
when a' the paragraphs have passed aff and awa, and the
orawtion is closed, you know by a feeling no to be mistaken
nor mistrusted, that Sheil is after a' only a playactor, sir, who
has taken to the stage by chance, idleness, or impidence, but
whom Natur has barely fitted to perform even the maist
inferior and subordinate characters, either in farce or tragedy;
although, on the total eclipse of that sort of dramatic talent
among the Roman Catholics o' Eerland, he plays Captain
Rock himself, even as in the submarine warld, in the dearth
o' theatrical talent among the cetawceous tribe, ane might
imagine a shrimp, to the astonishment of all other fishes, acting
a whale, "wallowing unwieldy enormous in his gait,"
from a quarter to half an inch long.
North. Charles Phillips¹ was worth a gross of Sheils. There
were frequent flashes of fine imagination, and strains of genuine
feeling in his speeches, that showed Nature intended him for
an orator. In the midst of his most tedious and tasteless
exaggerations, you still felt that Charles Phillips had a heart;
that he was a fine, bold, open, generous Irishman, in whom,
more especially in youth and early manhood, you are delighted
with a strong dash of folly — and who is entitled, in seasons of
real or pretended passion, to avail himself of the privilege of
his birth, to the very verge of madness, without being thought
in the least insane, — while in his more felicitous efforts, lie
rose fairly into the region of eloquence, and remained there on
unwearied wing, either like a Glead on poise, or a Peregrine
in pursuit, sufficiently long and light to prove the strength of
his pinion, and the purity of his breed.
Shepherd. What's become o' Chairley Phullups?
North. In good practice at the English bar, James — and at
the Old Bailey, making a fair strussle even with Adolphus,² who
is one of the cleverest and acutest men I ever heard conduct
a cross-examination, or address a jury.
Shepherd. I'm glad o' that, sir. The lad was rather flowery;
but he pu'd the flowers for himsel, frae the spots where natur
bade them grow — and oh! but they tell me Eerland's a flowery
flowery kintra — and didna buy them in shops like Sheil, out
o' green wicker-baskets set in the shade, or glass bottles wi'
some water in them to enable the pinks and puppies for a few
hours to struggle up their droopin heads, while to the ee o' a
florist they are visibly faded frae the very first — faded, sir, and
fusionless, alike destitute o' bloom and baum, and to a' intents
and purposes, either o' utility or ornament, worthless as weeds.
North. When a sudden strong frost succeeds a week's wet,
James, icicles make really a pretty show, as, depending from
slate or thatch eaves of cot or palace, they glitter in the sun-light,
with something even of the lustre of the rainbow. The
eye regards with a sort of sensuous pleasure the fantastic
¹ Author of Curran and his Contemporaries.
² John Adolphus, a barrister, author of a History of England, Biographical
Memoirs of the French Revolution, &c.: he died in 1845, aged 79. His son,
J. L. Adolphus, wrote Letters to Heber on the Authorship of Waverley, 1821.
and fairy frostwork. But it soon is satisfied with the peg-like
display of prisms, for even to the sense of sight they are
cold, James — cold; we blow our fingers — on with our
gloves — and leave the icicles to the admiration of schoolboys,
who regard with open mouths and uplifted hands the rareeshow
— but who soon pass by unheeding when familiar with
the dripping brotherhood, as they melt away beneath the
meridian heat into the common mire of the street. Sheil's
speeches are as formal and as cold as any long low level
eaves of icicles — and can any other quality, James, supposing
it to be there, compensate for frigidity?
Shepherd. Neither man nor woman can thole frigidity. It's
the death o' everything, either dangerous or delightfu' — and
then, because in his case it's sae totally unexpected, its trikes
a chill into the marrow o' the back-bane — comin either frae
the haun or the tongue o' an Eerishman.
North. Mr Shell is a man of education — and something,
though not much, of a scholar. You have read his plays?
Shepherd. No me. Are they tragedies, comedies, or farces?
North. A sort of unintended mixture of the three, James.
Occasionally rather elegant —
Shepherd. Rather elegant! Oh, sir, that's damnation to a
drama! Pity me the day! An elegant tragedy! Yet aiblins
no sae very elegant either, if we tak a critical look at it —
North, Perhaps not, James.
Shepherd. Just as my leddy's waitin-maid, or my leddy's
milliner, whom you may hae mistaen, at a hasty glance, for
my leddy hersel, is sune seen and heard through, when you
begin to flirt wi' her on the outside o' a cotch.
North. The outside of a coach, James?
Shepherd. Yes, the outside of a cotch, Kit. For she's aye
sae fashous¹ in pu'in her petticoats ower her coots,² though
you're no lookin at them; and aye drawin her shawl across
her breist, or rather wushin you to do that for her, though
there's neither cauld nor wund; and instead o' lookin straught
forrit, aye leerin unaccountably frae aneath her curls to the
tae side — and every noo and then pretending to be frichtened
whan ane o' the blin' leaders gies a start or a stumble, that
she may press her shouther at the least again' yours — and
then when she does venture to begin to speak, keeping at it
¹ Fashous — troublesome.
² Coots — anklea.
tongue and nail, up-hill and doun-hill, the hail fifteen-mile
stage, wi' an H afore every vooel to help it out, and makin
use o' the maist comicallest words that are no even provincialisms,
but peculiar to peculiar butlers in peculiar servants'
ha's; sae that you're sair bamboozled to form a conjecture o'
her meanin, and out o' pure gude breedin are under the
necessity, the first overshadowin tree you come to on the road,
to loot doun aneath her bannet and gie her a kiss.
North. And that somewhat amatory description of a
would-be lady, you conceive, James, to answer, at the same
time, for a critical dissertation on the dramatic genius of Mr
Shepherd. I leave you to judge o' that, sir. The pictur's
drawn frae natur and experience — but it's for you and ithers
to mak the application, for I ne'er read a verse o' Mr Shell's
in my life; and after yon beastly abuse, in a speech o' his
that has long been dead and stinkin, o' the late gude and
gracious Duke o' York, whom all Britain loved — gude God!
in the last stage o' a dropsy! — and a' Berland loved too, savin
and exceppin the disgustin imp himsel — confoond me gin I
ever wull, though it were to save his neck fine the gallows.¹
¹ The following extract affords a complete justification of the strong invective
directed against Mr Sheil in the text; and it will be seen that, even on
the admission of his biographer, his subsequent attempt to extenuate his
atrocious language "was received and resented as an aggravation of the first
offence": —
"At a dinner at Mullingar, on the 14th of September (1826), the chairman,
Sir Richard Nagle, a young Catholic baronet, to the surprise of those assembled,
gave, with complimentary preface, the health of 'the Duke of York, and may
he soon learn to entertain more favourable sentiments towards the Catholics of
Ireland:' Other toasts followed, Mr Sheil's health was given, and, amidst considerable
excitement, he rose to return thanks. His words, as reported at the
time, are as follows: 'I thank you, gentlemen, for the manner in which you
have drank my health, and will say no more respecting myself. I cannot,
however, allow this opportunity to pass without making a few observations
upon an incident which has taken place to-night, and which calls for some
comment. The chairman has given the health of the Duke of York. He has
so far deviated from the course which, since the memorable anathema of his
Royal Highness, has been adopted at all Liberal dinners in this country; the
health of the Duke is drank in Cavan with "nine times nine." A bishop has
improved upon Horace's receipt for drinking. A poet, in the paroxysm of convivial
excitation, is directed to take nine cups, —
"Torsos ter cyathos attonitus petet."
But anointed Beresford is indulged in still deeper potations, and episcopal
loyalty is henceforth to be estimated by multiplving nine into itself. I must be
North. With that sentiment, my dear Shepherd, all mankind
will sympathise. Yet it was no outrage on the dying
Shepherd. What?
North. Sheil, as he uttered those foul execrations, was
simply in the condition of a drunk street-blackguard, who, in
attempting to spit in the face of some sickly gentleman well
stricken in years, grew so sick with blue ruin as to spew —
while a sudden blast of wind from an opposite direction blew
the filth back with a blash all over his own ferocious physiognomy,
forcing the self-punished brute, amidst the hootings
of the half-mirthful, half-abhorring mob, to stoop staggering
over the gutter, and, in strong convulsions, to empty his
stomach into the common sewer.
Shepherd. Ma faith! you tank o' my strong langage?
What's a' the coorse things I ever said at the Noctes Ambrosianæ,
puttin thegither, in comparison wi' that?
North. Far too mild, James. Let him or her who thinks
otherwise fling Maga into the fire — from the arms of "the
rude and boisterous North," fly into those of the sweet and
simpering Sheil — for "rude am I in speech, and little graced
with the set phrase of peace," iron would not melt in my
mouth nor butter in his; yes, he is as mealy-mouthed on
occasion as a flour-sack in autumn — as honey-lipped as a beepardoned
for observing, that it is better that we should altogether omit a toast
which has become the signal of faction, and with which so many exasperating
associations are connected. Yet I do not blame the chairman; he thought he
was going through a mere unmeaning formula. Once, indeed, the health of
the Duke of York passed like any other routine enunciation of an attachment
to the reigning family; but his Royal Highness has recently contrived to attach
recollections to his name which make the gorge of every genuine Irishman
rise at its utterance. The chairman, however, has annexed to his health an
amiable expression of his hopes that his Royal Highness may live to cherish
more favourable sentiments towards one-third of the population of the British
empire. Considering the character of his royal mind, it would require more
time than is in all likelihood reserved to him to alter his opinions. Obstinacy
is not unfrequently allied with faculties of that order which belongs to his Royal
Highness. It would, at all events, take a year or so to produce this revolution
in the heart and understanding of the Hero of Dunkirk; and, judging from the
attendance of Sir Henry Halford upon his Royal Highness to Brighton, in the
same carriage, and other incidents of the like consolatory nature, it is to be
apprehended that the effect of Digitalis will not prove so sovereign as to give
his Royal Highness sufficient time to correct his antipathy to Ireland. In case
at any assembly of Roman Catholics his Royal Highness's health shall be hereafter
proposed, instead of intimating a desire that his Royal Highness should
hive in spring. Yet hearken to me, James — his potato-trap — to borrow a good vulgarism of his own country, is liker the
hole of a wasp's nest, when in the heat of the dog-days all
the angry insects are a-swarm, all at work, heaven only knows
exactly at what, but manifestly bent on mischief, and ready
to bury themselves with a bizz in the hair of your head, or to
sting out your eyes lost in a blue-swelling, if you so much as
look at them as the yellow Shanavests¹ are robbing the hives
of the beautiful industrious Orangemen the bees, — ay, just as
the Catholic crew would, if they dared, rob the domiciles of
the Protestants — upset, if they could, James, the great Hives
of National Industry, and —
Shepherd. Murder a' the Queen Bees. There's a cleemax!
North. Do they, or do they not, seek the destruction of the
Protestant Established Church in Ireland?
Shepherd. Leears, as most o' the Roman leaders are, they
sometimes speak the truth — and I believe them when they
say, as they have said a thousand times coram populo, that
that will be the most glorious, the most blessed day for Ireland,
which sees that Church razed to its foundation-stane,
and hears the huzzas o' the seven millions mixed wi' the
dusty thunder o' its overthrow.
North. Let all Protestants, therefore, who hope to hear the
change his opinions, I should beg leave, with profound submission, to suggest
that the means should be substituted for the end; and in order that he may
have an opportunity of modifying his opinions, that the chairman should propose
"Success to Foxglove." But one word more. In the course of the
evening, 'tis not improbable that we shall have got into a more pathetic mood;
memories may be given, and if we should fall into any train of melancholy
reminiscences, to preserve some kind of consistence, in our loyal effusions, I
shall venture to propose the memory of Mrs Clarke.'
"Great indignation was expressed in various quarters, when the report of
this speech appeared; and by his best friends it was condemned most strongly,
as calculated to injure, not only himself, but the popular cause. In private,
he confessed that it had been spoken under the influence of some wine,' and
he could not easily be persuaded that it had provoked in high quarters sentiments
of serious resentment. When forced to alter this opinion, he endeavoured
in an elaborate public statement to qualify the terms originally used,
mid to vindicate himself from the imputation of wantonness or malignity. But
it must be owned that this did not serve to mend matters. The levity with
which he tried to invest the subject was censured as ill-timed. considering the
Duke of York's declining state; and as he neither retracted nor repudiated
the offensive phrases originally used, what was meant as an extenuation, was
received and resented as an aggravation of the first offence." — Sheil's Memoirs,
vol. i. p. 30I-306.
¹ Shanavests — Irish rebels, or Rockites.
echoes of that consummation, vote for Catholic emancipation.
Let all Protestants who venerate the holy altar of the Living
Temple resist Catholic emancipation, even to the death!
though, to avert that calamity, they once more must see the
green shamrock — God bless it — blush red, and for a season
trodden with pain under patriotic feet, torn from the foreheads
of traitors and rebels.
Shepherd. What! mercy on us! ye're for fechtin — are
ye, sir?
North. No, James, I am for peace; but though blustering
and bullying may for a long time be despised, yet when
ruffians shake their fists or flourish their shillelas in your
face, or begin sharpening their pikes, James — then it is time
to point with your hand to your sword — So, James — so — to
recite with the alteration of one word those lines of Milton —
Shepherd. Wha spak ?
North. Wellington.
Shepherd. Oh! do, my dear sir, I beseech you, tell me
what can be the meanin, in a case like this, o' — securities.
North. A man of common prudence, James — a man who
was not a downright absolute born idiot, would not lend five
pounds on such securities as are talked of by some politicians
as sufficient to lend out upon them the dearest and most vital
rights and privileges that belong to us as Protestants, to our
avowed enemies the Catholics, whose religious duty it is — let
frightened fools deny it, and get laughed at and murdered for
their cowardly falsehoods — to overthrow Church and State.
For we, James, the prime of the people of England, and.
Scotland, and Ireland — that is, of the Earth — are Heretics —
that is, we love the Tree of Freedom that is planted on earth,
because it is a scion from the Tree of Life that grows in
heaven "fast by the Throne of God." For centuries now
have we flourished beneath its shade, and been refreshed with
its fruitage. But had the Roman Catholics sway, the axe
would be laid to its root —
Shepherd. Mony a thump it would thole afore the bark even
was chipped through o' the gnarled aik; for, wi' your permission,
I change the eemage frae a fruit intil a forest tree; but
then, sir, as you weel ken, the bark's —
North. Not like "the unfeeling armour of old Time —"
Shepherd. Na, sir; but like the very hide o' a man, a horse,
or an elephant, protectin the beautifu' and fine vein-machinery
through which the blood or the sap keeps ebbing and flowing
just as mysteriously as the tides o' the great sea. For my
ain pairt, I hae nae fears that a' the axes o' our enemies,
lang-armed and roun'-shouthered though the race o' Eerishers
be, could ever, were they to hack awa for ten thousan' years,
penetrate through the outer ring o' the flint-hard wood, far less
lab¹ awa nitil the heart o' the michty bole o' the Tree —
North. —
"Like a cedar on the top of Lebanon
Darkening the sea."
Shepherd. Na, na, na. For there's nae saft silly sap in the
body o' the tremendous auld giant. He's a' heart, sir — and
the edges o' their axes would be turned as if strucken against
North. True, James — most beautifully, sublimely true!
Shepherd. Yet still an aik-tree (be thinkin o' the British
Constitution, sir), though o' a' things that grow, wi' roots far
down in earth, and branches high up in heaven, the maist
storm-lovin and thunder-proof, depends for its verra life
amaist as muckle on its outer rind as on its inner heart. Tear
aff or cut through the rind, and the bole festers with funguses,²
that, like verra cancers, keep eatin, and eatin, and eatin day
and nicht, summer and wunter, into the mysterious principle
o' leafy life.
North. You speak like a man inspired, James.
Shepherd. Haena ye seen, sir, and amaist grat in the solitude
to see, some noble Tree, it matters not whether elm, ash,
or aik, stannin sick sick-like in the forest — why or wherefore
you canna weel tell — for a' roun' the black deep soil is pervious
to the rains and dews, and a great river gangs sweepin
by its roots, gently waterin them when it rins laigh,³ and
dashin drumly yards up the bank when it's in spate — and yet
the constitution o' the tree, sir, is gane — its big branches a'
¹ Lab—strike.
² Is not Puseyism one of these here predicted funguses?
³ Laigh—low.
tattery wi' unhealthfu' moss, and its wee anes a' frush as
saugh-wands, and tryin in vain to shoot out their buds unto
the spring — so the hawk or heron builds there nae mair — and
you are willing, rather than the monarch o' the wood should
thus dee o' consumption, that axes should be laid to his root,
and pulleys fastened to his bole and branches, to rug him doun
out o' that lang slaw linger o' dwining death, till at last, wi'
ae crash no unworthy o' him, doun he comes — overwhelming
handers o' sma' saplins, and inferior stannards, and alarmin
distant vales wi' the unaccountable thunder o' his fa' — no the
less awfu' because lang expeckit, and leavin a gap that 'ill no
be filled up for centuries — perhaps never while the earth is the
earth, and wi' a' its ither trees gangs circlin round the sun,
wha misses, as neist morning he rises in the east, the lang--
illumined Glory!
North. Better and better still, my dear James. Tho bold,
bluff, sea-breeze-bronzed lien of Kent, James, how their strong
lungs must have crowed within their broad bosoms, to see
Sheil attempting to introduce on that stage the principal part
in the farce of the Fantoccini!¹
Shepherd. Oh! the puppy — Oh! the puppet!
North. A great soul in a small body — and I know some such
— is a noble — yes, a noble spectacle! — for their mind triumphs
over matter, or, rather, dilates the diminutive form into kindred
majesty; — or, what is most likely, the shape is sunk, and we
see, while we hear, only the soul.
Shepherd. That's as true a word's ever was spoken, sir. As
reasonably admire a great, big, hulkin fallow wi' a wee sowl,
as think o' undervaluin a man wi' a wee neat body, — or even
if it's no neat — wi' a sowl fit for a giant. Never mind the
size o' a man. Let him, on risin to speak, tak the advantage
o' a stool, sae that his head be on a level wi' the lave, and
when the fire o' genius flashes frae his een, and the flood o'
eloquence frae his lips, a' the waves o' that living sea will be
charmed into a caum; and whan he ceases speakin, and,
jumpin aff the stool, disappears, that livin sea will hail him
wi' its thunder, like fifty thousan' billows, at full tide, breakin
against the beach.
¹ An anti-Catholic meeting of the men of Kent, at which Sheil attempted, but
in vain, to obtain a hearing, was held at Penenden Heath in that county, in
October 1828.
North. Admirable, my dear James, admirable! — But here
was a puppet indeed! jerking legs and arms, and contorting
nose and mouth, as if to a string, managed by Punch, or
Punch's wife, beneath the platform.
Shepherd. Sputterin out amang shouts and shrieks o' involuntary
lauchter — for man's by nature a lauchin animal, and
that distinguishes him frae a' the beasts, no exceppin the
lauchin hyena, who after a' only grunts — sentences o' a speech
written a fortnight afore in Eerland!
North. Something inexpressibly ludicrous in the whole concern
from beginning to end, James. The farewell to his
native shores — the passage to Liverpool by steam — his approach
in the mail towards London, of which that mighty
metropolis lay, with all its millions, unconscious and unaware—
and finally, the irresistible appearance of the ape in a cart on
the Heath, with his mows and grins, and strangely accented
chatter, so different from that of the same species in the Tower
or Exeter 'Change¹ — the rage of the animal on being what is
absurdly called insulted, that is, treated in one universal and
varied roar, with the tribute felt, by sixty — or say thirty
thousand Englishmen — to be due to one small Paddy, self-elected
representative of the seven millions — and whom any
Jack Tibbutts of a Kent yeoman could have put into his
breeches-pocket, where the little orator, like the caterwauling
voice of a ventriloquist suddenly thrown into your apparel,
would have delivered a speech just as like the one he did
from the cart, as its report in the Sun newspaper.
Shepherd. Haw — haw — haw! about midnight, sir, you
begin to open out granly, and to wax wondrous comical. But
what say ye to O'Connell?
North. Dan, again, James —
Ambrose (entering with his suavest physiognomy). Beg pardon,
Mr North, for venturing in unrung, but there's a young
lady wishing to speak with you —
Shepherd. A young lady! — show her ben.
North. An anonymous article?
Ambrose. No, sir, — Miss Helen Sandford,² from the Lodge.
North. Helen! — what does she want?
Ambrose. Miss Sandford had got alarmed, sir —
¹ Where wild beasts used formerly to be kept.
² A purely imaginary character.
Shepherd. Safe us! only look at the time-piece! Four
o'clock in the mornin!
Ambrose. And has walked up from the Lodge —
North. What? Alone!
Ambrose. No, sir. Her father is with her — and she bids me
say — now that she knows her master is well — that here is
your Kilmarnock nightcap.
[MR NORTH submits his head to PICARDY, who adjusts
the nightcap.
Shepherd. What a cowl!
North. A capote — James. Mr Ambrose, — we three must
sleep here all night.
Shepherd. A' mornin ye mean. Tak care o' Tickler amang
ye — but recolleck it's no safe to wauken sleepin dowgs — Oh!
man! Mr North! sir! but that was touchin attention in puir
Eelen. She's like a dochter, indeed. — Come awa, you auld
vagabon, to your bed. I'll kick open the door o' your dormitory
wi' my fit, as I pass clang the transe in the mornin. The
mornin! Faith I'm beginnin already to get hungry for breakfast!
Come awa, you auld vagabon — come awa.
[Exeunt NORTH and SHEPHERD, followed by the Height
of TICKLER, to Roost.
NORTH (singing as they go.) —
"Early to bed, and early to rise,
Is the way to be healthy, wealthy, and wise!"
Da Capo.
(MARCH 1829.)
Scene 1. — The Snuggery. Time, — Nine in the Evening.
Tickler. I paid a visit to-day, North, to a family which has
something extraordinary in its constitution.
North. Ay?
Tickler. The lady of the house has been married four times,
and the gentleman of the house four times; and as all the
seven marriages have been productive, you may conjecture
the general character of the interior.
North. What may be the population?
Tickler. Not so immense as various. I should not think it
exceeds a score, from what I saw and heard, but it is most
North. Patchwork.
Tickler. The lady's first husband was a Cockney, and there
are twins as like as peas, which is indeed the only description
of which they are susceptible. Her second, of course,
was an Irishman, to whom she bore a couple of semi-Catholic
cubs — both boys — bullet-headed, and with faces like — you
have seen him, I believe — that of Burke,¹ the murderer, with
grim, but not ferocious expression, decisive mouth, and
determined eyes and brows, which, though rather agreeable,
over a glass, yet when frowning in an angry parle, or a throttling
match, must have been far from pleasant. These
promising youths are at present assistants to Dr Knox.
Caroline then married a Highland. clergyman — very far
¹ See post, p. 185.
north — and of that connection the fruit was three heather--
legged animals, apparently of the female sex — hair not absolutely
red, but foxey — fairneytickled cheeks — eyes of the
colour of "three times skimmed sky-blue" milk — papa's buck
teeth — what seems very unaccountable, hair-lipped all; and,
though their mamma asserted smilingly that they were fine
growing girls, of such a set shape, that I venture to affirm,
that for the two last years they have grown about as much as
the leg of that table. They have, however, I was given to
understand, finished their education, and one of them had
very nearly played us a tune on the piano. To her present
lord and master, my friend, with whom I was in love a
quarter of a century ago, has presented four productions, of
which the one in flounced trousers, with enormous feet and
legs, is said to be a girl, and the three in fancy kilts — in
compliment, I suppose, to the father of the other brood — boys,
but so wishy-washy that their sex seems problematical.
North. What is the total of the whole?
Tickler. Eleven — by that side of the house — in Cockneys,
Irish, and Highlanders half-and-half — and in Lowlanders
North. By the other side of the house?
Tickler. One Dutch girl born at the Cape — very round, and
rather pretty — down-looking, and on the eve of marriage —
two tall and not inelegant creatures, seemingly Chinese, but
in fact by the mother's side Hindoos — and four mulattoes,
of which two, boys, would look well in livery, with a cockade
in their hats as captain's servants — and two, girls, would be
producible on waggons in the rear of a marching regiment.
It being a coarse day, the whole family were at home, sitting
on chairs, and sofas, and stools, and the carpet, and what not;
and I must say I never saw, North, a set of more contented
creatures, or a richer scene of connubial felicity in all my life.
North. Rich?
Tickler. Their income is under three hundred a-year, and
at this hour they don't owe twenty pounds.
North. You must bring the Captain, honest fellow, to the
next Noctes. By the by, Tickler, we must rescind that
resolution by which strangers are excluded from the Noctes.
Tickler. Let us wait till the Fiftieth Noctes — to speak
grammatically, and then we shall celebrate a JUBILEE.
North. Be it so. The Noctes shall endure till all eternity;
and soon as the Millennium comes, we shall bring down, by
special retainer, Edward Irving.
Tickler (after a long pause). Come, North, none of your fits
of absence. Where were you just now?
North. Meditating on my many infirmities.
Tickler. Lay your hand on your heart, North, and tell me
truly what is the sin that most easily besets you — while I
keep a phrenological eye on your development.
North. Personal vanity. Night and day do I struggle
against it — but all in vain — Tickler. I am an incorrigible
Tickler. I cannot deny it.
North. My happiness is in the hands of my tailor. In a
perfectly well cut coat and faultless pair of breeches, I am in
heaven — a wrinkle on my pantaloons puts me into purgatory —
and a —
Tickler. Stop. Your language may get too strong.
North. Many a leading article have I stuck, by attempting
it in tights that unduly confined the play of muscle. Last
year, Scaife and Willis raised the sale a thousand, by a pair
that were perfect, if ever there were a pair of perfect breeches
in this sublunary world.
Tickler. Yet you never were a handsome man, Kit — never
le Beau Sabreur.¹
North. That may be your opinion, sir; but it was not that
of the world during the last quarter of the eighteenth century.
My error never lay in thinking myself a fine animal — for that
I certainly was — but in feeling inordinate pleasure and pride
in the possession of those personal endowments which, alas!
proved fatal to so many of the most amiable of the sea; and
in being too —
Tickler. The last victim of disappointed passion had certainly
white teeth — but she was a lady of a very dark complexion
— her lips, either for ornament or use, were to my taste
by far too thick. Surely, my dear North, her hair was strongly
disposed to be woolly — and, in short, pardon me for saying it,
she had the universal reputation of being positively, intus et in
cute, a negress.
North. Pshaw! But do you remember poor Alpina?
¹ The designation of Marshal Murat.
Tickler. An absolute Albino.
North. These, Tickler, were extreme cases — but, between
the negress and the Albino, what infinite varieties of female
loveliness had to lay their deaths at my door!
Tickler. I much doubt if any one single woman ever ate
half a pound of mutton the less per diem on your account,
taking the average of her year's dinners.
North. Would it were so! But alas! my sleep is haunted
by the ghosts of —
Tickler. Never when you sleep in your easy-chair, North —
else your face is an adept in falsehood — for then your features
smile like those of a sleeping child during the holidays. You
are then the very beau ideal of a happy and a harmless old
North. What a leg, Tickler!
Tickler. Which of the two do you allude to?
North. This one — the right one — the one with the calf.
Tickler. Well — I confess I prefer the other — it is so slim —
nay, so elegant in tights. But you must have had your advantage
in having legs of such opposite characters; while to
virgins, with downcast eyes, you had gently to put forth the
leg that, ever since I knew it, looked all ankle from instep to
knee-pan, an innocent-looking leg that would not harm a fly—
to widows, with less timorous eyes, you could, at the same
moment, exhibit the leg that, ever since I knew it, looked all
calf — a dangerous leg that could trample a dragon — and thus
you might bring down your bird, right and left.
North. No more impertinence, if you please, Tim. I know
no purer — no higher pleasure, than to sit in full fig before a
large mirror, and admire myself — my person — my body — the
outer man of Christopher North. From an hour's such contemplation,
I always feel that I rise up a better — a wiser — a
happier man.
Tickler. No wonder.
North. Never surely was there a countenance that so
happily united in its every feature the expression of moral
goodness and that of intellectual grandeur. But perhaps my
person is even more —
Tickler. A mere atomy. I wonder you are not afraid to
sleep by yourself — you must be so like a skeleton in a shroud.
North. All living creatures, Tickler, derive their chief happiness
from self-admiration. Not a more complete coxcomb
than a toad. He is willing to confess that he may be rather
yellowish — rather tawny or so about the gills; but then what
an eye in his head — so full of the fire of genius! It is not
possible to look at a rat for five minutes sitting by himself on
a dunghill, without being convinced that he esteems his tail
one of the most captivating productions of animated nature. A
pug-dog would never twist his tail so over one side of his rump,
did he not live under the blessed delusion of knowing himself to
be a million times more beautiful than any of Adonis' darlings
that used to lick the hands of Venus. No degree of dumpiness
in women is incompatible with a belief in a good figure.
Tickler. Oh, North! North! There are some truly ugly
women in Edinburgh!
North. There are indeed, Tickler. Strong, bony, flat, men--
like women, who walk fast and firm; look you hard in the
face, God knows why, while the forehead immediately above
their eyebrows is puckered up into a knot of wrinkles; their
mouths unconsciously wide open
Tickler. While all intent in scrutinising the object of their
search, they totally forget all the rest of the external world,
and run themselves, back front foremost, perhaps against some
unlucky baker with a board of loaves on his head, which all
tumble into the kennel. Why, there may perhaps be some
little excuse for the ugly devils, when fascinated by such a
rattlesnake as Christopher North; but what the deuce do they
see in an ordinary-looking man of six feet four, like me, or
what the deuce do they want with me at my time of life? I
declare, North, that the very next time one of those great
grey-eyed glowering gawkies opens her mouth at me in Princes
Street, and selects me from all the mighty multitude of mankind,
for ocular inspection, I will demand a public explanation,
perhaps apology; or, should the day be warm, offer to strip
on the spot, provided she will do the same, on condition, after
a mutual lecture on comparative anatomy, of my ever after
being suffered to pass by her and all her female relatives,
without further scrutiny.
North. They positively have not the manners of modest
Tickler. Nor the minds of modest women.
North. You never see anything of the kind in the strangers
within our gates — in the Englishwomen who honour, by their
fair and sweet presence, our metropolis. They walk along
with soft and gentle, but not unobservant eyes, like ladies,
and I love them all, for they are all lovable, whereas —
Tickler. Come, Kit, don't let us two sour old cynics be too
severe on our countrywomen, for they make excellent wives
and mothers.
North. So I am told. Wives and mothers! Alas! Tickler,
our silent homes!
Tickler. Replenish. That last jug was most illustrious. I
wish James were here.
North. Hush! hark! It must be he! — and yet 'tis not just
the pastoral tread either of the Bard of Benger. "Alike, but
oh! how different!"
Tickler. "His very step has music in't as he comes up the
Shepherd (bursting in with a bang). Huzzaw! Huzzaw! huzzaw!
North. God bless you, James; your paw, my dear Sus.
Shepherd. Fresh frae the Forest, in three hours —
Tickler. What? thirty-six miles?
North. So it is true that you have purchased the famous
American trotter?
Shepherd. Nae trotters like my ain trotters! I've won my
bate, sirs.
North. Bet?
Shepherd. Ay, — a bate, — a bate o' twenty guineas.
Tickler. What the deuce have you got on your feet, James?
Shepherd. Skites.¹ I've skited frae St Mary's Loch to the
Canawl Basin in fowre minutes and a half within the three
hours, without turnin a hair.
Tickler. Do keep a little further off, James, for your face
has waxed intolerably hot, and I perceive that you have raised
the thermometer a dozen degrees.
Shepherd (flinging a purse of gold on the table). It'ill require
a gey string thaw to melt that, chiels; sae tak your change
out o' that, as Joseph² says, either in champaigne, or yill, or
porter, or Burgundy, or cedar, or Glenlivet, just whatsomever
you like best to drink and devoor; and we shanna be lang
without supper, for in comin along the transe I sheeted to
¹ Skites — skates.
² Joseph Hume.
Tappytoorie forthwith to send in samples o' all the several
eatables and drinkables in Picardy. I'm desperate hungry.
Lowse my skites, Tickler.
[TICKLER succumbs to unthong the SHEPHERD'S skates.
Tickler. What an instep!
Shepherd. Ay, nane o' your plain soles that gang shiffle--
shaffling arnang the chuckystanes assassinatin a' the insects;
but a foot arched like Apollo's bow when he shot the Python
— heel, of a firm and decided, but unobtrusive character — and
taes, ilka ane a thocht larger than the ither, like a family o'
childer, or a flight o' steps leading up to the pillared portico
o' a Grecian temple.
(Enter Signor AMBROSIO susurrans with IT below his arm.)
Shepherd. That's richt — O but Greeny has a gran' gurgle!
A mouthfu' o' Millbank never conies amiss. Oh! but it's
potent! (gruing). I wuss it be na ile o' vitrol.
North. James, enlighten our weak minds.
Shepherd. An English bagman, you see, — he's unco fond o'
poetry and the picturesque, a traveller in the soft line — paid
me a visit the day just at denner-time, in a yellow gig, drawn
by a chestnut blude meer; and after we had discussed the
comparative merits o' my poems and Lord Byron's, and Sir
Walter's, he rather attributin to me, a' things considered, the
superiority over baith; it's no impossible that my freen got
rather fuddled a wee, for, after roosin his meer to the skies,
as if she were fit for Castor himsel to ride upon up and doun
the blue lift, frae less to mair he offered to trot her in the gig
into Embro', against me on the best horse in a' my stable,
and gie me a half-hour's start before puttin her into the shafts;
when, my birses being up, faith I challenged him, on the same
condition, to run him until Embro' on shank's naigie.¹
North. What! biped against quadruped?
Shepherd. Just. The cretur, as sune as he came to the
clear understandin o' my meanin, gied ane o' these bit creenklin
cackles o' a Cockney lauch, that can only be forgiven by a
Christian when his soul is saften'd by the sunny hush o' a
Sabbath morning.
North. Forgotten perhaps, James, but not forgiven.
Shepherd. The bate was committed to black and white; and
then on wi' my skites, and awa like a reindeer.
¹ On shank's naigie — on foot.
Tickler. What? down the Yarrow to Selkirk — then up the
Shepherd. Na, na! naething like keepin the high-road for
safety in a skiting-match. There it was — noo stretchin
straught afore me, noo serpenteezin like a great congor eel,
and noo amaist coilin itself up like a sleepin adder; but
whether straught or crooked or circlin, ayont a' imagination
sliddery, sliddery!
Tickler. Confound me — if I knew that we had frost.
Shepherd. That comes o' trustin till a barometer to tell you
when things hae come to the freezin-pint. Frost! The ice is
fourteen feet thick in the Loch — and though you hae nae frost
about Embro' like our frost in the Forest, yet I wadna advise
you, Mr Tickler, to put your tongue on the airn-rim o' a cart
or cotch wheel.
North. I remember, James, being beguiled — sixty-four
years ago! — by a pretty little, light-haired, blue-eyed lassie,
one starry night of black frost, just to touch a cart-wheel for
one moment with the tip of my tongue.
Shepherd. What a gowmeril!¹
North. And the bonny May had to run all the way to the
manse for a jug of hot water to relieve me from that bondage.
Shepherd. You had a gude excuse, sir, for geein the cutty a
gude kissin.
North. How fragments of one's past existence come suddenly
flashing back upon —
Shepherd. Hoo I snooved alang the snaw! Like a verra
curlin-stane, when a dizzen besoms are soopin the ice afore't,
and the granite gangs groanin gloriously alang, as if instinct
wi' spirit, and the water-kelpie below strives in vain to keep
up wi' the straight-forrit planet, still accompanied as it spins
wi' a sort o' spray, like the shiverin atoms of diamonds, and
wi' a noise to which the hills far and near respond, like a
water-quake — the verra ice itself seemin at times to sink and
swell, just as if the Loch were a great wide glitterin tin-plate,
beaten out by that cunnin whitesmith, Wunter, — and —
Tickler. And every mouth, in spite of frost, thaws to the
thought of corned beef and greens.
Shepherd. Hoo I snooved alang! Some collies keepit geyan
weel up wi' me as far 's Traquair manse — but ere, I crossed
¹ Gowmeril — fool.
the Tweed my canine tail had dripped quite away, and I had
but the company of a couple of crows to Peebles.
North. Did you dine on the road, James?
Shepherd. Didn't I tell you I had dined before I set off? I
ettled at a cauker at Eddlestone — but in vain attempted to
moderate my velocity as I neared the village, and had merely
time to fling a look to my worthy friend the minister, as I flew
by that tree-hidden manse and its rill-divided garden, beautiful
alike in dew and in cranreuch!
Tickler. Helpless as Mazeppa!
Shepherd. It's far worse to be ridden aff wi' by ane's ain
sowl than by the wildest o' the desert loon.
North. At this moment, the soul seems running away with
the body, — at that, the body is off with the soul. Spirit and
matter are playing at fast and loose with each other — and at
full speed, you get sceptical as Spinoza.
Shepherd. Sometimes the ruts are for miles thegither regular
as railroads — and your skite gets fitted intil a groove, sae that
you can hand out ane o' your legs like an opera-dancer playin
a peeryette; and on the ither glint by, to the astonishment o'
toll-keepers, who at first suspect you to be on horseback —
then that you may be a bird — and feenally that you must be
a ghost.
Tickler. Did you upset any carriages, James?
Shepherd. Nane that I recollect. I saw severals — but
whether they were coming or going — in motion or at rest, it
is not for me to say — but they, and the hills, and woods, and
clouds, seemed a' to be floatin awa thegither in the direction
o' the mountains at the head o' Clydesdale.
Tickler. And where all this while was the bagman?
Shepherd. Wanderin, nae doubt, a' a-foam, leagues ahint;
for the chesnut meer was weel cauked, and she ance won a
king's plate at Doncaster. You may hae seen, Mr North, a
cloud-giant on a stormy day striding alang the sky, coverin a
parish wi' ilka stretch o' his spawl,¹ and pausin, aiblins, to tak
his breath now and then at the meetin o' twa counties; if sae,
you hae seen an image o' me — only he was in the heavens and
I on the yearth — he an unsubstantial phantom, and I twal stane
wecht — he silent and sullen in his flight, I musical and merry
in mine —
¹ Spawl — shoulder.
Tickler. But on what principle came you to stop, James?
Shepherd. Luckily the Pentland Hills came to my succour.
By means of one of their ridges I got gradually rid of a portion
of my velocity — subdued down into about seven miles an
hour, which rate got gradually diminished to about four; and
here I am, gentlemen, after having made a narrow escape
from a stumble, that in York Place threatened to set me off
again down Leith Walk, in which case I must have gone on
to Portobello or Musselburgh.
North. Well, if I did not know you, my dear James, to be a
matter-of-fact man, I should absolutely begin to entertain
some doubts of your veracity.
Shepherd. What the deevil's that hingin frae the roof?
North. Why, the chandelier.
Shepherd. The shandleer? It's a cage, wi' an outlandish
bird in't. A pawrot, I declare! Pretty Poll! Pretty Poll!
Pretty Poll!
Parrot. Go to the devil and shake yourself.
Shepherd. Heaven preserve us! — heard you ever the likes
o' that? — A bird cursin! What sort o' an education must the
cretur hae had? Poor beast, do you ken what you're sayin?
Parrot. Much cry and little wool, as the devil said when he
was shearin the Hog.
Shepherd. You're gettin personal, sir, or madam, for I dinna
pretend to ken your sex.
North. That everybody does, James, who has anything to
do with Blackwood's Magazine.
Shepherd. True enough, sir. If it wad but keep a gude
tongue in its head — it's really a bonny cretur. What plummage!
What'ill you hae, Polly, for sooper?
Parrot. —
Molly put the kettle on,
Molly put the kettle on,
Molly put the kettle on,
And I shall have some punch.
Shepherd. That's fearsome — Yet, whisht! What ither vice
was that speakin? A gruff vice. There again! whisht!
Voice. —
The devil he came to our town.
And rode away wi' the exciseman!
Shepherd. This room's no canny. I'm aff (rising to go).
Mercy me! A raven hoppin aneath the sideboard! Look at
him, how he turns his great big broad head to the ae side, and
keeps regardin me wi' an evil eye! Satan!
North. My familiar, James.
Shepherd. Whence cam he?
North. One gloomy night I heard him croakin in the garden.
Shepherd. You did wrang, sir, — it was rash to let him in;
wha ever heard o' a real raven in a suburban garden! It's some
demon pretendin to be a raven. Only look at him wi' the
silver ladle in his bill. Noo, he draps it, and is ruggin at the
Turkey carpet, as if he were collecktin lining for his nest.
Let alane the carpet, you ugly villain.
Raven. The devil would a wooin go — ho — ho! the wooin,
Shepherd. Ay — ay — you hear how it is, gentlemen — "Love
is a' the theme" —
Raven. "To woo his bonny lassie when the kye come hame!"
Shepherd. Satan singin ane o' my sangs! Frae this hour
I forswear poetry.
Voice. —
O love — love — love,
Love's like a dizziness.
Shepherd. What! another voice?
Tickler. James — James — he's on your shoulder.
Shepherd (starting up in great emotion). Wha's on my
North. Only Matthew.
Shepherd. Puir bit bonny burdie! What! you're a Stirling,
are you? Ay — ay — just pick and dab awa there at the hair
in my lug. Yet I wad rather see you fleein and flutterin in
and out o' a bit hole aneath a wall-flower high up on some
auld and ruined castle standin by itsel among the woods.
Raven. —
O love — love — love,
Love's like a dizziness.
Shepherd. Rax me over the poker, Mr North — or lend me
your crutch, that I may brain sooty.
Starling. —
It wunna let a puir bodie
Gang about his bissiness.
¹ Dickens' incomparable raven in Barnaby Rudge would have been quite at
home in this party; and appears, indeed, to have taken a lesson in household
economy from North's parrot.
Parrot. Fie, whigs, awa — fie, whigs, awa.
Shepherd. Na—the bird doesna want sense.
Raven. —
The deil sat girnin in a neuk,
Riving sticks to roast the Duke.
Shepherd. Oh ho! you are fond of picking up Jacobite
Raven. Ho! blood — blood — blood — blood — blood!
Shepherd. What do you mean, you sinner?
Raven. Burke him — Burke him — Burke him. Ho — Ho —
Ho — blood — blood — blood!
Bronte. Bow — wow — wow. — Bow — wow — wow. — Bow —
wow — wow.
Shepherd. A complete aviary, Mr North. Weel, that's
sight worth lookin at. Bronte lying on the rug — never perceivin
that it's on the tap o' a worsted teegger — a raven,
either real or pretended, amusin himsel wi' ruggin at the
dowg's toosey tail — the pawrot, wha maun hae opened the
door o' his cage himsel, sittin on Bronte's shouther — and the
stirling, Matthew, hidin himsel ahint his head — no less than
four irrational creturs, as they are called, on the rug — each
wi' a natur o' its ain; and then again four rational creturs, as
they are called, sittin round them on chairs — each wi' his
specific character too — and the aught makin ane aggregate.
— or whole — of parts not unharmoniously combined.
North. Why, James, there are but three of the nationals.
Shepherd. I find I was countin mysel twice over.
Tickler. Now be persuaded, my dear Shepherd, before
supper is brought ben, to tak a warm bath, and then rig yourself
out in your Sunday suit of black, which Mr Ambrose
keeps sweet for you in his own drawer, bestrewed with sprigs
of thyme, whose scent fadeth not for a century.
Shepherd. Faith, I think I shall tak a plouter.¹
[SHEPHERD retires into the marble bath adjoining the Snuggery.
The hot water is let on with a mighty noise.
North. Do you want the flesh-brushes, James?
Shepherd (from within). I wish I had some female slaves,
wi' wooden swurds, to scrape me wi', like the Shah o' Persia..
Tickler. Are you in, James?
¹ A plouter — a bathe accompanied with splashing.
Shepherd. Harken —
[A sullen plunge is heard as of a huge stone into the deep-down
waters of a draw-well.
North (looking at his watch). Two minutes have elapsed.
I hope, Tickler, nothing apoplectical has occurred.
Shepherd. Blow — o — wo — ho — wro!
Tickler. Why, James,
"You are gurgling Italian halfway down your throat."
North. What temperature, James?
Shepherd. Nearly up at egg-boiling. But you had better,
sirs, be makin anither jug — for that ane was geyan sair dune
afore I left you — and I maun hae a glass of het-and-het as
sure as I come out, to prevent me takin the cauld. I hope
there's nae current o' air in the room. Wha's this that bled
himsel to death in a bath? Wasna't Seneca?
North. James, who is the best female poet of the age?
Shepherd. Female what?
Tickler. Poet.
Shepherd. Mrs John Biley.¹ In her plays on the passions,
she has a' the vigour o' a man, and a' the delicacy o' a woman.
And oh, sirs! but her lyrics are gems, and she wears them
gracefully, like diamond-draps danglin frae the cars o' Melpomene.
The very worst play she ever wrote is better than the
best o' ony ither body's that hasna kickt the bucket.
North. Yet they won't act, James.
Shepherd. They wull ack. "Count Bosil" 'ill ack — and "Do
Montford " 'ill ack — and "Constantine" 'ill ack — and they'll
a' ack.
Tickler. Miss Mitford, James?
Shepherd. I'm just verra fond o' that lassie — Mitford. She
has an ee like a hawk's, that misses naething, however far
aff — and yet like a dove's, that sees only what is nearest and
dearest, and round about the hame-circle o' its central nest.
I'm just excessive fond o' Miss Mitford.
Tickler. Fond is not the right word, James.
Shepherd. It is the richt word, Timothy — either in the het
bath or out o't. I'm fond o' a' gude female writers. They're
a' bonny — and every passage they write carries, as it ought
to do, their feminitye alang wi't. The young gentlemen o'
¹ Joanna Baillie.
England should be ashamed o' theirsels for letting her name
be Mitford. They should marry her whether she wull or no
— for she would mak baith a useful and agreeable wife. That's
the best creetishism on her warks.
Tickler. L. E. L.?
Shepherd. A delightfu' cretur.
Tickler. Mrs Hemans?
Shepherd. Haud your tongue, ye sinner. I see your drift
now — suggestin to my imagination a' the flower o' the female
genius o' the Three Kingdoms. What? you are for drawin
a pictur o' me as Apollo in the het bath surrounded wi' the
Muses? That would be a fine subject for Etty.
North. Isn't his "Judith and Holofernes," my dear Shepherd,
a noble, a majestic performance?
Shepherd. Yen's colourin! Judith's richt leg's as flesh-like
as my ain noo lyin on the rim o' the bath, and amaist as
Tickler. Not so hairy, though, James.
Shepherd. That's worse. You think you hear the heroine's
prayer or invocation. The energy in that bonny fair straught
arm comes direct frae Heaven. That swurd is not for a murder,
but for a sacrifice. In those upraised eyes methinks I
see reluctance to shed blood giving way to the holy resolve to
set her country free frae the oppressor. Her face is somewhat
pale — for Judith in her widowhood, amang the shades
o' her rural retirement, was a lover o' pensive peace; but her
dead husband's spirit stood before her in a dream, and inspired
her to go to the camp before the city, and by one great and
dreadfu' deed to render her name immortal in national sang.
What matronly majesty in that swelling bosom, which the
enamoured giant was not suffered with one touch to profane!
Pure as stern she stands amid the golden cups drained by that
Warrior-wassailer — in another moment to "be red, but not
with wine;" when, like lightning descending from heaven,
that sword shall smite him in his sleep through the spouting
spine — and methinks I see, at morning dawn, the fires o'
liberty sun-kindled, and glintin gloriously on all the city
North. Bravo! James.
Shepherd. I'm geyan weel sodden noo, and I think I'll
come out. Ring the bell, sir, for my black claes.
North. I have been toasting your shirt, James, at the fire.
— Will you come out for it?
Shepherd. Fling't in at the door. Thank you, sir. Ho!
here's the claes, I declare, hingin on the tenters. Is that
sooper comin in? Noo, I'm rubbed down — ae stockin on —
anither — noo, the flannel drawers — and noo, the breeks. — Oh!
but that turkey has a gran' smell! Mr Awmrose, ma slippers! Noo for't.
(The SHEPHERD reappears, in full sables, blooming
like a rose.
North. Come away, my dear Shepherd. Is he not, Tickler,
like a black eagle that has renewed his youth?
[They take their seats at the Supper-table. — Mulligatawny
— Roasted Turkey — Fillet of Veal — Soles — a
Pie — and the Cold Round — Potatoes — Oysters, &c.
&c. &c. &c. &c.
North. The turkey is not a large one, James, and after a
thirty-six miles' run, I think you had better take it on your
Shepherd. Na, na, sir. Just set the ashet afore me — tak
you the fillet — gie Tickler the pie — and noo, let us hae some
discourse about the fine airts.
Tickler. The Opposition¹ is strong this season — reinforced
by Etty, Linton, and Martin.
North. But how came you, James, to see the "Judith," having
only arrived within the hour in Edinburgh?
Shepherd. Ask no questions, and you'll hear tell no lies. I
hae seen her, as my description proves. As to the "Deluge,"
yon picture's at first altogether incomprehensible. But the
Langer you glower at it, the mair and mair intelligible does a'
the confusion become, and you begin to feel that you're looking
on some dreadfu' disaster. Phantoms, like the taps o'
mountains, grow distincter in the gloom; and the gloom itsel,
that at first seemed clud, is noo seen to be water. What you
thocht to be snawy rocks, become sea-like waves, and shudderin,
you cry out, wi' a stifled vice, "Lord preserve us, if
that's no the Deluge!" — Mr Tickler, dinna blaw the froth o'
your porter in my face.
Tickler. Beg your pardon, James, — Perge.
¹ In consequence of some schism among the painters there were two Exhibitions
at this time in Edinburgh.
Shepherd. But whare's a' the folk? That canna be them —
that huddle o' specks like flocks o' sheep driven to and fro by
the tempests! It is! The demented survivors o' the human
race a' gathered together on ledges o' rocks, up, up, up, ae
ledge aboon anither, a' frowning o'er the brink o' Eternity.
That's even waur than the decks o' a veshel in shipwreck.
Gang nearer the pictur — and there thousan's on thousan's o'
folk broken out o' Bedlam a' mad! — and nae wonder, for
yon's a fearsome moon, a' drenched in blood, in conjunction
wi' a fiery comet, and there's lichtnin too splinterin the crags
till they topple doun on the raging multitude o' men and
women mixed wi' horses and elephants, and lions roarin in
their fear — antediluvian lions, far far bigger than the biggest
that ever since fought in a Roman amphitheatre, or are at this
moment lying with their mouths atween their paws in the
sands o' Africa.
Tickler. Why, James, you are not unlike a lion yourself
just now growling over the carcass of a young buffalo. Shall
I ring for another turkey?
Shepherd. Mind your ain pie, sir. Here's to you — What
yill! Berwick is the best of brewers in Britain.
North. Linton's "Return of a Victorious Armament" is
splendid; but it is pure imagination. His architecture is not
to my eye Grecian. It is too lofty and too light.
Tickler. But what a glorious dream, North! And the triumphal
pageant glides majestically along, beneath those
aerial pillars, and piles, and domes, and temples, and pure
celestial clime — fit dwelling for heroes and demigods.
Shepherd. Mind your pie, sir, and dinna imitate me in
speakin as weel as in eatin.
Tickler. 'Tis a noble ambition, James, to emulate your
excellence in either.
Shepherd. But then, sir, your natural capacity is greater for
the ane than the ither.
North. But what think you, James, of our own artists this
Shepherd. Just very muckle. But let us no particulareeze,
for fear o' geein offence, or doin injustice to men o' genius.
Baith Institutions are capital; and if you were gude for onything,
you would write an article o' thirty pages on them,
when you would hae scope —
North. Perhaps I may, for next Number. Meanwhile, shall
we clear decks?
Shepherd. Did you ever see sic a preparation o' a skeleton
o' a turkey? We maun send it to the College Museum, to
staun in a glass-case aside Burke's.
North. What did you think, James, of the proceedings of
these two Irish gentlemen?
Shepherd. That they were too monotonous to impress the
imagination. First ae drunk auld wife, and then anither
drunk auld wife — and then a third drunk auld wife — and then
a drunk auld or sick man or twa. The confession got unco
monotonous — the Lights and Shadows o' Scottish Death want
relief — though, to be sure, poor Peggy Paterson, that Unfortunate,
broke in a little on the uniformity; and sae did Daft
Jamie; for whilk last murder, without ony impiety, ane may
venture to say, the Devil is at this moment ruggin that Burke
out o' hell-fire wi' a three-pronged fork, and then in wi' him
again, through the ribs — and then stirring up the coals wi'
that eternal poker — and then wi' the great bellows blawin up
the furnace, till, like an Etna, or Mount Vesuvius, it vomits
the murderer out again far over into the very middle o' the
floor o' the infernal regions.
Tickler. Whisht — whisht — James!
Shepherd. Nae system o' divinity shuts mortal mouths
against such enormous monsters. I am but a worm. We are
all worms. But we crawl in the licht o' heaven; and God
has given us voices to be lifted up from the dust, when horrid
guilt loosens our tongues; and the moral sense, roused by
religion, then denounces, without misgivings, the curse o'
heaven on the hell-doomed soul o' the Atheistic murderer.
What forbids?
North. Base blind superstition, in the crimes of the creature
forgetful of the laws of the Creator. Nothing else.
Shepherd. Was he penitent? If sae, I abhor my words.
North. Impenitent as a snake — remorseless as a tiger. I
¹ Burke and his paramour Mrs Macdougal, and Hare and his wife, were tried
in Edinburgh in 1829, for an extensive series of murders, perpetrated for the
purpose of supplying an anatomical school with subjects; which they did without
challenge, and at a sufficiently remunerating price. Burke was executed:
the others escaped, — Hare having kept his neck out of the noose by turning
king's evidence. The sentiments expressed in the text are not one whit overcharged.

studied, in his cell,¹ his hard, cruel eyes, from whose lids had
never dropped the tear
"That sacred pity had engender'd," —
his hardened lips, which ruth never touched nor moved from
their cunning compression — his voice rather soft and calm,
but steeped in hypocrisy and deceit — his collected and guarded
demeanour, full of danger and guile — all, all betrayed, as he
lay in his shackles, the cool, calculating, callous, and unrelenting
villain. As the day of execution drew near, his anxiety
was often — I am told by those who saw him, and marked him
well — manifest in his dim or darkened countenance — for the
felon's throat felt in imagination the suffocating halter; but
when that dream passed off, he would smile — nay laugh — and
inly exult in his series of murders, so long successfully perpetrated
— and the bodies of the slaughtered still carried to a
ready market — prompt payment without discount — eight or ten
pounds for a corpse, and whisky cheap! — so that murderers,
and those about to be murdered, might all get speedily fuddled,
and drunk together — and then the hand on the mouth and
throat — a few gasps and convulsions — and then corpse after
corpse huddled in among straw, or beneath chaff-beds, or into
herring-barrels — then into tea-chests — and off to the most unsuspicious
and generous of surgeons that ever gave a bounty
on the dead for the benefit of the living.
Shepherd. Was he a strong fallow, Burke?
North. No, a neat little man of about five feet five, well proportioned,
especially in his legs and thighs — round-bodied,
but narrow-chested — arms rather thin — small wrists, and a
moderate-sized hand — no mass of muscle anywhere about his
limbs or frame — but vigorously necked — with hard forehead
and cheek-bones — a very active, but not a powerful man — and
intended by nature for a dancing-master. Indeed he danced
well — excelling in the Irish jig — and when working about
Peebles and Inverleithen he was very fond of that recreation.
In that neighbourhood he was reckoned a good specimen of
the Irish character — not quarrelsome — expert with the spade
— and a pleasant enough companion over a jug of toddy.
¹ I accompanied Professor Wilson on the occasion when he visited the murderers
and murderesses in their cells, and I can testify to the perfect fidelity of
his description.
Nothing repulsive about him, to ordinary observers at least —
and certainly not deficient in intelligence. But he had that
within which passeth show " — "there was a laughing devil in
his eye," James — and in his cell he applied in my hearing
over and over again the words "humane man," to those who
had visited him, laying the emphasis on humane, with a hypocritical
tone, as I thought, that showed he had not attached
its appropriate meaning to the word, but used it by rote like a
parrot —
Shepherd. Safe us! what like was Hare?
North. The most brutal man ever subjected to my sight —
and at first look seemingly an idiot. His dull, dead, blackish
eyes, wide apart, one rather higher up than the other, his
large, thick, or rather coarse-lipped mouth — his high, broad
cheekbones, and sunken cheeks, each of which when he
laughed — which he did often — collapsed into a perpendicular
hollow, shooting up ghastlily from chin to cheek-bone — all
steeped in a sullenness and squalor not born of the jail, but
native to the almost deformed face of the leering miscreant —
inspired not fear, for the aspect was scarcely ferocious, but
disgust and abhorrence — so utterly loathsome was the whole
look of the reptile! He did not look so much like a murderer as
a resurrectionist — a brute that would grope in the grave for the
dead rather than stifle the living — though, to be sure, that required
about an equal degree of the same kind of courage as
stifling old drunk women, and bedridden old men, and helpless
idiots — for Daft Jamie was a weak creature in body, and
though he might in sore affright have tumbled himself and
his murderer off the bed upon the floor, was incapable of
making any effort deserving the name of resistance.
Shepherd. Was he no sorry and ashamed, at least, for what
he had dune?
North. No more than if he had killed so many rabbits. He
was ready to laugh, and leer, and claw his elbow, at every
question put to him which he did not comprehend, or in which
he thought he heard something funny. His sleep, he said, was
always sound, and that he "never dreamed none;" he was
much tickled by the question, "Did he believe in ghosts?"
or "Did he ever see any in the dark?" and gobbled out,
grinning all the while a brutal laugh, an uncouth expression
of contempt for such foolery — and then muttering "thank God"
— words he used more than once — callously, and sullenly, and
vacantly as to their meaning, he thought — "that he had done
nought to be afeared for;" his dialect being to our ears a sort
of slovenly mixture of the "lower than the lowest" Irish, and
the most brutelike of the most sunken "Coomberland."¹
Shepherd. Hark ye, sir, — ane likes to hear about monsters —
Was Hare a strang Deevil Incarnate ?
North. Not very. Sluggish and inert — but a heavier and
more muscular man above than Burke. He prided himself;
however, on his strength, and vaunted that he could lift five
sixty-fives, by his teeth, fastened to a rope, and placed between
his knees. But it was easy to see he lied, and that the anecdote
was but a trait of vanity; — the look he had in all things
of an abject, though perhaps quarrelsome coward — and his
brows and head had scars of wounds from stone or shillela,
such as are to be seen on the head and brows of many a
brutal craven.
Shepherd. Did ye see their leddies?
North. Poor, miserable, bony, skinny, scranky, wizened
jades both, without the most distant approach to good-lookingness,
either in any part of their form, or any feature of
their face — peevish, sulky, savage, and cruel, and evidently
familiar, from earliest life, with all the woe and
wretchedness of guilt and pollution — most mean in look,
manner, mind, dress — the very dregs of the dregs of prostitution.
Hare has most of the she-devil. She looked at you
brazen-facedly, and spoke with an affectedly plaintive voice,
"gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman," and held her
yellow, "yammering" infant (the image of its father) in her
arm — in prison we saw her — as if it were a bundle of rags —
but now and then looking at it with that species of maternal
fondness with which impostors sit on house-steps, staring at
their babies, as if their whole souls yearned towards them —
while no sooner have you passed by, than the angry beggar
dashes its head, to make it cry better, against the pavement.
Tickler. Prodigious nonsense, James, was written in the
newspapers about the "dens" of the monsters. Burke's
room was one of the neatest and snuggest little places I ever
¹ Although Hare had no moral, yet he had physical sensibilities. I remember
he complained sorely of "the cold" — the season being winter, and the windows
of his cell unglazed.
saw — walls well plastered and washed — a good wood-floor —
respectable fireplace — and light well-paned window, without
a single spider's web. You reached the room by going along
a comfortable, and by no means dark passage, about fifteen
feet long — on each side of which was a room, inhabited, the
one by Mrs Law, and the other by Mr and Mrs Connoway.
Another short passage (with outer and inner door of course)
turned off into the dwelling of Mr Burke — the only possible
way of making it a room by itself — and the character of the
whole flat was that of comfort and cheerfulness to a degree
seldom seen in the dwellings of the poor. Burke's room,
therefore, so far from being remote or solitary, or adapted to
murder, was in the very heart of life, and no more like a den
than any other room in Edinburgh — say that in which we, who,
murder nobody, are now sitting at supper. Neither was any
other murder than that of "t' ould woman" there perpetrated.
Yet Sir Walter Scott, it was said, declared that, with all his
wonderful imagination, he could picture to himself nothing so
hideous. Sir Walter is not given to compliment his own imagination
so — and if ever he saw the room, must have approved
of it as a room of a very comfortable but commonplace and
unpretending character.
Shepherd. But isna Hare's house a dreadfu' place? I howp
it is, sir?
North. It is at the bottom of a close — and I presume that
one house must always be at the bottom of a close — but the
flat above Hare's dwelling was inhabited, — and two of his
apartments are large and roomy — well fitted for a range of
chaff-beds, but not particularly so for murder. A small place,
eight feet or ten by four or five, seems to have been formed
by the staircase of another dwelling and the outer wall, and
no doubt, were murder committed there, it would seem a
murderous place. But we have slept in such a place fifty
times, without having been murdered — and a den, consisting
of two large rooms, with excellent fireplaces and windows,
and one small one, is not, to our apprehension, like the den
of a fox or a wolf — nor yet of a lion or a tiger. The house
outside looks like a minister's manse. — But I am getting
tedious and wearisome, James!
Shepherd. No you. But let us change the subject a wee —
I howp, sirs, you baith went to the hanging?
North. We intended to have assisted at that ceremony,
and had taken tickets in one of the upper boxes; but the
morning was raw and rainy, so we let the fiend wing away
into perdition, without any visible or audible testimony of
our applause.
Shepherd. The congregation behaved maist devootly.
Tickler. Like Christians, James. Burke, it seems, was
told to give the signal with the name of his Saviour on his
lips! But the congregation, though ignorant of that profanation,
knew that the demon, even on the scaffold, endured
neither remorse nor penitence; and therefore natural, and
just, and proper shouts of human vengeance assailed the
savage coward, and excommunicated him from our common
lot by yells of abhorrence that delivered his body over to the
hangman, and his soul to Satan.
Shepherd. Yet a puir senseless, heartless driveller in the
Courant, I observed, writing for a penny a line, sympatheezed
with the Throttler, and daured to abuse that pious congregation
as a ferocious mob. Yea, the pitiful hypocrite absolutely
called bloody Burke "their victim"!!
Tickler. The whining cur deserved to be half-hanged for
his cant, and resuscitated to his senses in Dr Knox's shambles.
That congregation of twenty thousand souls was the most
respectable ever assembled at an execution — and had they
stood mute at a moment when nature demanded they should
salute the monster with curses both loud and deep, they
would have been traitors to the trust confided to every human
heart, and brutally insensible to the "deep damnation of
their taking off," whom week after week "the victim" had
smothered with those fingers now clutched in prayer, forsooth
— but at home and free from awkwardness only when
engaged in murder; and then uniting a delicacy with a
strength of touch decisively indicative of the hand of a
Shepherd. Independently o' a' ye hae sae weel said, sir, only
think o' the satisfaction o' safety to the whole city — a selfish
but unco natural satisfaction — in riddance o' the monster.
Had he no been found out, wha michtna hae been Burked,
Hared, Macdougal'd, and Knoxed, during the current year?
North. James Hogg, to a dead certainty.
Shepherd. Poo! Puir folk thocht o' themselves in the fate
o' the saxteen corpses — o' their fathers and mithers, and
aiblins idiot brithers or sisters — and therefore they hissed and
shouted, and waved their hauns and hats aboon their heads,
as soon as the carcass o' the ruffian blackened on the scaffold.
Tickler. And the beautiful and eternal fitness of things
was exemplified to their soul's full desires, in the rope
dangling over his organ of destructiveness —
North. In the knot fastened — I was glad to hear — behind
his neck to keep him in pain —
Shepherd. In Hangy's allooing him only three inches
o' a fa' —
Tickler. In the funny fashion of his nightcap — put on
between eight and nine in the morning, when other people
have taken theirs off —
Shepherd. And, feenally, in that consummating swing,
"here we go round about, round about" — and that drawin up
o' the knees, that tells death's doure — and the labour o' the
lungs in agony, when you can breathe neither through mouth
nor nostrils, and a' your inside is workin like a barmy
North. Did the Courant idiot expect that the whole congregation
were to have melted into tears at the pathetic appearance
of "their victim"? The Scottish people — and it was
an assemblage of the Scottish people — are not such slaves of
the hour. They will not suffer the voice of deep-abhorring
nature to be stifled within them by the decencies due to
a hideous man-monster under the hands of the hangman.
Priests may pray, and magistrates may beckon — as in duty
bound; but the waves of the sea "flowed not back when
Canute gave command;" and, in spite of clerical and lay
authorities, the people behaved in every way worthy of their
national character.
Shepherd. Then think o' sympathy, sir, workin in the power
o' antipathy — twenty thousand sowls a' inflamed wi' ae
passion — and that passion eye-fed even to gloatin and
gluttony by the sicht o' "their victim." O sirs! hoo men's
souls fever through their een! In love or hate —
Tickler. I am credibly informed, James, that several blind
men went to see Burke hanged.
Shepherd. That was real curious. They had kent intuitively,
you see, that there was to be tremendous shootin.
They went to hear him hanged. But what for hadna ye a
lang article embracin the subject?
North. The Edinburgh newspapers, especially the Mercury
and Chronicle, were so powerful and picturesque, that really,
James, nothing was left for me to say; besides, I did not see
how I could with propriety interfere with the wish to hang
Hare, or any one else implicated in the sixteen murders; and,
therefore, during law proceedings, meditated or attempted, I
kept mute. All these being now at an end, my mouth may
be unsealed; but, at present, I have really little to say on the
sixteen subjects.
Shepherd. Weel, let's hear that little.
North. First and foremost, the Lord Advocate,¹ and the
Sheriff,² and all the lawyers of the Crown, did their duty
thoroughly and fearlessly; and so did all the lawyers for the
prisoner, — Messrs Moncrieff, Cockburn, M`Neill, Robertson,
and others; and so did the Jury. The Jury might, with safe
conscience, have found Macdougal guilty; but with a safe
conscience, they found the libel in her case, Not Proven.
They did what, on the whole, was perhaps best.
Shepherd. I dout that.
Tickler. So do I.
North. So perhaps did they; but let her live. Death is one
punishment, Life another. In admitting Hare to be king's
evidence, the Lord Advocate did that which alone could have
brought Burke to the gallows. Otherwise, the whole gang
would have escaped, and might have been at murder this very
night. In including the three charges in one indictment, his
Lordship was influenced solely by that feeling for the prisoners
which a humane and enlightened man may entertain even for
the most atrocious criminal, consistently with justice. Their
counsel chose otherwise, and the event was the same. The
attempt to try Hare, at first appeared to me infamous; but in
that I showed my ignorance, for Mr Sandford made out a
strong case; but Mr M`Neill's³ masterly argument was irresistible,
and the decision of the Judges entirely right —
although I do not say that the view of the law so ably given
by Lords Alloway and Gillies was wrong. As to any wish
¹ Sir William Rae.
² Sheriff Duff.
³ Afterwards (in 1852) Lord Justice General, and President of the Court of
in any quarter to shape the proceedings so as to shield Dr
Knox, that idea is mere childishness and absurdity, and fit
only for the old women whom Burke and Hare did not murder.
Shepherd. I'm glad to hear o' that, sir; and since you say't,
it maun be true. But what o' Dr Knox?
North. The system established and acted on in the dissecting-rooms
of that anatomist is manifestly of the most savage,
brutal, and dreadful character. It is allowed by all parties,
that not a single question was ever put — or if ever, mere
mockery — to the wretches who came week after week with
uninterred bodies crammed into tea-chests — but that each
corpse was eagerly received, and fresh orders issued for more.
Nor is there any reason to believe, but every reason to believe
the contrary, that had the murderers brought sixty instead of
sixteen murdered corpses, they would not have met an instant
Shepherd. Fearsome — fearsome!
Tickler. We shall suppose, then, that not a shade, however
slight, of suspicion ever crossed Dr Knox's mind, or the minds
of his assistants. What follows? That they knew that the
poorer inhabitants of Edinburgh were all of them not only
willing, but most eager to sell the bodies of their husbands,
wives, brothers, and sisters, and sweethearts, and relations in
general; for if these two miscreants could, in little more than
eight months, purchase from off the deathbed sixteen corpses,
pray how many might have been purchased in that time by a
sufficient number of agents? Unless the practice of selling
the dead were almost universal, and known by Dr Knox and
his assistants to be so, uninterred body after uninterred body
brought to them thus must have struck them with surprise
and astonishment.
Shepherd. That's conclusive, sir.
North. How, in the nature of things, could Burke and Hare
have been believed endowed with an instinct that led them to
sixteen different houses in eight months, where the inmates
were ready to sell their dead to the doctors? Did Dr Knox
and his assistants believe that these two wretches were each
like a vulture —
"So scented the Grim Feature, and upturn'd
His nostril wide into the murky air,
Sagacious of his quarry from afar," —
that they dropped in at every sick-room, and sounded the
sitters by the dying bed, to know if they were disposed, in the
event of death, for a few pounds to let the corpse be crammed
into a tea-chest, and off to the doctors?
Shepherd. I canna say; but they can best answer the question
themsels —
North. Ay, and they shall be made to answer the question,
for the subject shall be probed to the bottom, — nor shall either fear
or favour hinder me from spreading the result all over Europe.
Shepherd. Ay, America, and Asia, and Africa too
North. The Edinburgh newspapers have spoken out manfully,
and Dr Knox stands arraigned at the bar of the public,
his accuser being — Human nature.
Shepherd. Of what is he accused ?
North. He is ordered to open his mouth and speak, or be
for ever dumb. Sixteen uninterred bodies — for the present I
sink the word murdered — have been purchased, within nine
months, by him and his, from the two brutal wretches who
lived by that trade. Let him prove, to the conviction of all
reasonable men, that it was impossible he could suspect any
evil, — that the practice of selling the dead was so general as
to be almost universal among the poor of this city — and that
he knew it to be so — and then we shall send his vindication
abroad on all the winds of heaven.
Tickler. Does he dare to presume to command all mankind
to be mute on such a series of dreadful transactions! Does
he not know that he stands, at this hour, in the most hideous
predicament in which a man can stand — in that of the suspected
accomplice or encourager of unparalleled murderers?
North. If wholly and entirely innocent, he need not fear
that he shall be able to establish his innocence. Give me the
materials, and I will do it for him; — but he is not now the
victim of some wild and foolish calumny; the whole world
shudders at the transactions; and none but a base, blind,
brutal beast can at this moment dare to declare, "Dr Knox
stands free from all suspicion of being accessory to murder."
Shepherd. Your offer to vindicate him is like yourself, sir, —
and 'tis like yourself to utter the sentiments that have now
flowed from your fearless lips.
North. If innocent, still he caused those murders. But for
the accursed system he and his assistants acted on, only two
or three experimental murders would have been perpetrated, —
unless we must believe that other — nay, all other lecturers
would have done as he did, which, in my belief, would be
wickedly to libel the character of our anatomists.
Shepherd. Is't true that his class received him, in consequence
of these horrid disclosures, with three cheers?
North. Though almost incredible, it is true. But that savage
yell within those blood-stained walls, is no more to the voice
of the public, than so much squeaking and grunting in a pig--
sty during a storm of thunder. Besides, many of those who
thus disgraced themselves and their human nature, were implicated
in the charge; and instead of serving to convince any
one, out of the shambles, of their own or their lecturer's innocence,
it has had, and must have had, the very opposite effect
— exhibiting a ruffian recklessness of general opinion and feeling
on a most appalling subject as yet altogether unexplained,
and, as many think, incapable of any explanation that will
remove from the public mind, even in its calmest mood, the
most horrible and damning suspicions. The shouts and cheers
at Burke's appearance on the scaffold, were right — human
nature being constituted as it is; but the shouts and cheers
on Dr Knox's appearance at the table where so many of Burke's
victims had been dissected, after having been murdered, were
"horrible, most horrible," and calculated — whatever may be
their effect on more thinking minds — to confirm in those of
the populace the conviction that they are all a gang of murderers
together, and determined to insult, in horrid exultation,
all the deepest feelings of humanity — without which a people
would be a mob more fierce and fell than the concentrated
essence of the Burkes, the Hares, and the Macdougals.
Shepherd. Ae thing's plain — that whatever may be the case
wi' ither anatomists, here or elsewhere, Dr Knox at least has
nae right to ca' on the legislature for some legal provision for
the procurin o' dead bodies for dissection. The legislature,
on the ither hand, has a better right to ca' on him for a revision
o' the laws regulatin his ain system. Some writers, I see,
blame the magistrates o' Edinburgh, and some the poleish,¹
and some the London Parliament House, for a' thae murders
— but I canna help blamin, especially, Burke and Hare — and
neist to them Dr Knox and his assistants. Naebody believes
¹ Poleish — police.
in ghosts in toons, but everybody believes in ghosts in the
kintra. Let either Hare or Knox sleep a' nicht in a lanely
wood, wi' the wund roarin in the tap branches o' the pines,
and cheepin in the side anes, and by skreich o' day he will be
seen flyin wi' his hair on end, and his een jumpin out o' their
sockets, doun into the nearest toon, pursued, as he thinks, by
saxteen ghaists a' in a row, wi' Daft Jamie¹ at their head,
caperin like a paralytic as he was, and lauching like to split,
wi' a mouth drawn a' to the ae side, at the doctor or the
doctor's man, distracted at the sicht o' sae mony spirits
demandin back their ain atomies.
North. It is an ugly business altogether, James; far worse
than the Chaldean MS.
Shepherd. Ah! you deevil!
Tickler. Hollow, North, into the ear of Dionysius, that
Ambrose may appear like a spirit, and sweep away reliquias
North. Man is the slave of habit. So accustomed have I
been to pull this worsted bell-rope, that I never remember the
ear. Ambrose! Ambrose! Ho iero !
Tickler. Picardy, wheel out, and wheel in.
[PICARDY and SIR DAVID GAM wheel out the oblong
Supper-Table through the Folding-doors, and the
Circular Glentilt Marble Slab into a warmer climate.
Shepherd. In another month, sirs, the Forest will be as green
as the summer sea rolling in its foam-crested waves in moonlight.
You maun come out — you maun baith come out this
North. I will. Every breath of air we draw is terrestrialised
or etherealised by imagination. Our suburban air, round
about Edinburgh, especially down towards the sea, must be
pure, James; and yet, my fancy being haunted by these
easterly haurs,² the finest atmosphere often seems to me afloat
with the foulest atoms. My mouth is as a vortex, that engulfs
all the stray wool and feathers in the vicinity. In the country,
and nowhere more than on the Tweed or the Yarrow, I inhale
always the gas of Paradise. I look about me for flowers, and
I see none — but I feel the breath of thousands. Country
¹ Daft Jamie, a well-known idiot, was one of their victims.
² Haur — a chill, foggy, easterly wind.
smoke from cottages or kilns, or burning heather, is not like
town smoke. It ascends into clouds on which angels and
departed spirits may repose.
Shepherd. O' a' kintra soun's, which do you like best, sir?
North. The crowing of cocks before, at, and after sunrise.
They are like clocks all set by the sun. Some hoarsely
scrauching, James — some with a long, clear, silver chime —
and now and then a bit bantam crowing twice for the statelier
chanticleer's once — and, by fancy's eye, seen strutting and
sliding up, in his impudence, to hens of the largest size, not
unaverse to the flirtation of the feathery-legged coxcomb.
Shepherd. Few folk hae seen oftener than me Natur gettin
up i' the mornin. It's no possible to help personifyin her first
into a goddess, and then into a human —
Tickler. There again, James.
Shepherd. She sleeps a' nicht in her claes, yet they're never
runkled; her awakening face she turns up dewy to the sun,
and Zephyr wipes it wi' his wing without disturbin its
dreamy expression; never see ye her hair in papers, for crisp
and curly, far-streamin and wide-wavin are her locks, as
alternate shadows and sunbeams dancin on the dancin music
o' some joyous river rollin awa to the far-aff sea; her ee is
heaven — her brow the marbled clouds; and after a lang doun--
gazing, serene, and spiritual look o' hersel, breathin her
orison-prayers, in the reflectin magic o' some loch like an
inland ocean, stately steps she frae the East, and a' that meet
her — mair especially the Poet, wha draps doun amid the
heather in devotion on his knees — kens that she is indeed the
Queen of the whole Universe.
Tickler. Incedit Regina.
North. Then, what a breakfast at Mount Benger, after a
stroll to and fro' the Loch! One devours the most material
breakfast spiritually; and none of the ethereal particles are
lost in such a meal.
Shepherd. Ethereal particles! What are they like?
North. Of the soul, James. Wordsworth says, in his own
beautiful way, of a sparrow's nest —
"Look, five blue eggs are gleaming there!
Few visions have I seen more fair,
or many prospects of delight
More touching than that simple sight!"
But five or six, or perhaps a dozen, white hen-eggs gleaming
there — all on a most lovely, a most beautiful, a most glorious
round white plate of crockery — is a sight even more simple
and more touching still.
Tickler. What a difference between caller eggs and caller
haddies !
North. About the same as between a rural lassie stepping
along the greensward, like a walking rose or lily endued
with life by the touch of a fairy's wand, and a lodging-house
Girrzzie laying down a baikie¹ fu' o' ashes at the mouth of a
common stair.
Shepherd. North, you're a curious cretur.
Tickler. You must excuse him — for he is getting into his
pleasant though somewhat prosy dotage.
Shepherd. A' men begin to get into a kind o' dotage after
five-and-twunty. They think theirsels wiser, but they're only
stupider. The glory o' the heaven and earth has a' flown by;
there's something gave wrang wi' the machinery o' the peristrephic
panorama, and it 'ill no gang roun' — nor is there ony
great matter, for the colours hae faded on the canvass, and
the spirit that pervaded the picture is dead.
Tickler. Poo, poo, James. You're haverin.
North. Do you think, my dear James, that there is less
religion now than of old in Scotland?
Shepherd. I really canna say, sir. At times I think there is
even less sunshine; at least, that a' that intensely bricht kind
o' heavenly licht that used to wauken me in the mornings
when a boy, by dancin on my face, is extinct, or withdrawn to
anither planet; and yet reason serves to convince me that the
sun canna be muckle the waur o' ha'in been shining these
forty last years o' his life, and that the faut maun lie in the
pupil o' the iris o' my twa auld hazy een; — neither can I see
cause why dewdraps and blaeberries should be less beautifu'
than o' yore, though certain sure they seem sae; and warst
o' a', the faces o' the fairest maidens, whether in smiles or in
tears, seem noo-a-days to want that inexpressible spirit o' joy
or grief — a loveliness breathed on them from climes and
regions afar — that used to gar my heart quake within me
whenever I came within the balm o' their breath or the waving
o' their hair, yet I wad fain believe, for the sake o' the
¹ Baikie — a kind of scuttle for ashes.
Flowers o' the Forest, that rapt youth still sees the beauty
that some film or other now veils from my eyes.
Tickler. Hem!
Shepherd. And which they must see nevermore, till after
the shades o' death they reopen with renovated power in
heaven. Auld folk, I remember in my youth, were aye complainin
o' some great loss — some total taking away — some
dim eclipse — just as we, sirs, aften do now; then I lauched
to hear them, but now I could amaist weep! Alas! even
memory o' the Trysting Hour is but a dream of a dream!
But what a dream it was! I never see "a milk-white thorn"
without fa'in into a strange swoon o' the soul, as if she were
struggling to renew her youth, and swarfed awa in the
unavailing effort to renew the mysterious laws o' natur.
North. I fear there is less superstition now, James, in the
peasant's heart than of old — that the understanding has
invaded the glimmering realms of the imagination.
Shepherd. Tak ony religious feeling, and keep intensifying
it by the power o' solitary meditation, and you feel it growin
into a superstitious ane — and in like manner get deeper and
deeper into the heart o' the mystery o' a superstitious ane,
and you then discover it to be religious! Mind being nursed
in matter must aye be superstitious. Superstition is like the
gloom round a great oak-tree. Religion is like the tree itsel —
darkenin the earth wi' branches growin by means o' the licht
o' heaven.
North. I fear Christianity, James, is too often taught merely
as a system of morals.
Shepherd. That's the root o' the evil, sir, where there is
evil in Scotland. Such ministers deaden, by their plain,
practical preaching, the sublimest aspirations of the soul —
and thus is the Bible in the poor man's house often "shorn
of its beams." There is mair sleepin in kirks noo than of
old — though the sermons are shorter — and the private worship
throughout a' the parish insensibly loses its unction aneath a
cauldrife moral preacher. Many fountains are shut up in
men's hearts that used to flow perennially to the touch o'
fear. It's a salutary state aye to feel ane's sel, when left
to ane's sel, a helpless sinner. How pride hardens a' the heart!
and how humility saftens it! till like a meadow it is overrun
wi' thousands o' bonny wee modest flowers— flock succeeding
flock, and aye some visible, peepin ever through the winter
North. I fear, James, that a sort of silly superficial religion
is diffusing itself very widely over Edinburgh.
Shepherd. Especially, which is a pity, over the young
leddies, who are afraid to wear feathers on their heads,
or pearlins on their bosoms — sae great is the sin o' adornin
the flesh.
North. The self-dubbed evangelicals are not very consistent
on that score, James — for saw ye ever one of the set to whom
nature had given good ankles that did not wear rather
shortish petticoat; or one gummy, that did not carefully
conceal her clumsiness alike from eye of saint and sinner?
Shepherd. Puir things! natur will work within them — and
even them that forsakes the world, as they ca't, hae a gude
stamach for some of the grossest o' its enjoyments, sic as eatin
and drinkin, and lyin on sofas, or in bed a' day, in a sort o'
sensual doze, which they pretend to think spiritual — forsakin
the world, indeed!
North. I never yet knew one instance of a truly pretty girl
forsaking the world, except, perhaps, that her hair might
have time to grow, after having been shaven in a fever —
or —
Shepherd. Or a sudden change of fashion, when she couldna
afford to buy new things, and therefore pretended to be
unusually religious for a season — wearyin a' the time for the
sicht o' some male cretur in her suburban retirement, were it
only for the face o' the young baker wha brings the baps in
the mornin wi' a hairy cap on — or o' some swarth Italian
callant wi' a board o' images.
Tickler. Yes — religious ladies never recollect that eating
for the sake of eating, and not for mere nourishment, is the
grossest of all sensualities. It never occurs to them that in
greedily and gluttonously cramming in fat things down their
gratified gullets, they are at each mouthful virtually breaking
all the ten commandments.
North. All washed over with ale and porter.
Shepherd. Into ane stamach like the Dead Sea. Maist
Tickler. Salmon, hodgepodge, pease and pork, goose and
applesauce, plum-pudding, and toasted cheese, all floating in
a squash of malt in the stomach of an evangelical young lady,
who has forsaken the world!
Shepherd. There's nae denying that maist o' them's gutsy.
But the married evangelical leddies are waur than the young
anes; for they egg on their husbands to be as great gluttons
as themselves; and I've seen them noddin and winkin, and
makin mouths to their men, that sic or sic a dish was nice
and fine, wi' the gravy a' the while rinnin out o' the corners
o' their mouths; or if no the gravy, just the natural juice o'
their ain palates waterin at the thocht o' something savoury,
just as the chops o' Bronte there water when he sits up on
his hinder end, and gies a lang laigh yowl for the fat tail o'
a roasted leg o' mutton.
North. In youngish evangelical married people, who have
in a great measure forsaken the world, such behaviour makes
me squeamish, and themselves excessively greasy over their
whole face; so greasy, indeed, that it is next to a physical
impossibility to wash it, the water running off it as off oilskin.
Tickler. Byron it was, I think, who did not like to see
women eat. Certainly I am so far an Oriental, that I do not
like to see a woman eat against her husband, as if it were for
a wager. Her eyes, during feed, should not seem starting
from their sockets; nor the veins in her forehead to swell in
sympathy with her alimentary canal; nor the sound of her
grinders to be high; nor loud mastication to be followed by
louder swallow; nor ought she, when the "fames edendi" has
been removed, to gather herself up like mine hostess of the
Hen and Chickens, and giving herself a shake, then fold her
red ringed paws across her well-filled stomach, and give vent
to her entire satisfaction in a long, deep, pious sigh, by way
of grace after meat.
North. The essence of religion is its spirituality. It
refines — purifies — elevates all our finer feelings, as far as
flesh and blood will allow.
Shepherd. Oh! it's a desperate thing that flesh and blude!
Can you, Mr North, form ony idea o' the virtue o' a disembodied,
or rather o' an unembodied spirit — a spirit that never
was thirsty, that never was hungry, that never was cauld,
that never was sick, that never felt its heart loup to its mouth
(how could it?) at the kiss o' the lips o' a young lassie sittin
in the same plaid wi' you, on the hill-side, unmindfu' o' the
blashing sleet, and inhabiting, within thae worsted faulds, the
very heart o' balmy paradise?
North. It must be something very different, at any rate,
James, from the nature of an evangelical lady of middle age,
and much rotundity, smiling greasily on her greasy husband,
for another spoonful of stuffing out of the goose; and while
engaged in devouring him, ogling a roasted pig with an
orange in its mouth, the very image of a human squeaker of
an age fit for Mr Wilderspin's infant school.
Tickler. Infant schools! There you see education driven to
absurdity that must soon sicken any rational mind.
North. What can we know, Tickler, about infants? "He
speaks to us who never had a child."
Shepherd. But I have had mony, and I prophesy, that in
three years there shall not be an infant school in all Scotland.
Nae doubt, in great towns it might often be of great advantage
to children and parents, that the bit infants should be
better cared for and looked after than they are, when the
parents are at work, or necessarily from home. But to hope
to be able to do this permanently, on a regular system of infant
schools, proves an utter ignorance of human feelings, and
of the structure of human society. It is unnatural, and the
attempt will soon fall out of the hands of weak enthusiasts,
and expire.
North. It is amusing, James — is it not ? — to see how ready
an evangelical young lady is to marry the first reprobate who
asks her — under the delusion of believing that she is rich.
Tickler. But she first converts him, you know.
Shepherd. Na, na. It's him that converts her — and it's no
ill to do. If she really hae cash — say a thoosan' poun' — madam
asks few questions — but catches at the captain. There
is an end then o' her Sunday schools, and her catechysings,
and her preachin o' the word. She flings aff the hypocrite,
and is converted into the bauld randy-like wife o' a subaltern
officer in the grenadier company o' an Eerish regiment;
flauntin in a boyne-like bannet in the front-row o' a box in the
theatre — unco like ane o' the hizzies up in the pigeonholes,
and no thinkin shame to lauch at dooble-entendres! Ithers
o' them, again, mak up to weak young men o' a serious turn
and good income; marryin some o' them by sly stratagem,
and some by main force.
North. But of them all alike, without one single exception,
the aim — with various motives — is still the same —
Tickler. Come, come, Kit, not all — I know to the contrary.
North. All the self-dubbed evangelicals. For love, or for
money, they are all eager to marry at a week's notice, — and
they are all of them ready to jump at an offer, on to a very
advanced period of mortal existence. From about fifty on to
sixty-five, they are still most susceptible of the tender passion
— rather than not have a husband, they will marry
"Toothless bald decrepitude,"
as I have known in many instances — and absolutely pretend
to get sick in company a month or two after the odious event
— as if they were as "ladies wish to be who love their lords,"
and about, ere long, to increase the number of Mr Wilderspin's
infant scholars! What a contrast does all this present to the
character and conduct of the true and humble Christian —
mild, modest, unpretending.
Shepherd. And always, without exception, beautifu'; for
the hameliest countenance becomes angelical when overspread
for a constancy with the spirit of that religion that has "shown
us how divine a thing a woman may be made!"
Tickler. I see her sitting — serene, but not silent — her smiles
frequent, and now and then her sweet silvery laugh not unheard
— in a dress simple as simple may be, in unison with a
graceful elegance that Nature breathed over "that lady of
her own."
North. I forget her name, my dear friend — you mean Lucy?
Tickler. Whom else in heaven or on earth?
Shepherd. Ay — there are thousan's on thousan's o' Lucys,
who walk in their innocence and their happiness beneath the
light of Christianity, knowing not how good they are, and in
the holy inspiration o' Nature doing their duty to God and
man, almost without knowing it, so sublime a simplicity is
North. Of theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Shepherd. Nae backbiting — nae envy — nae uncharitableness
— nae exaggeration o' trifies — nae fear o' the face o' the
knave o' spades at an innocent game o' cards, played to please
some auld leddy that in the doze o' decent dotage canna do
without some amusement or ither that requires little thocht,
but waukens up some kindlins o' aimless feeling — nae fear,
and but sma fondness for dancin, except when she's gotten a
pleasant partner — a cretur that doesna start at shadows, because
she walks in licht — that kens by thinkin on her ain
heart what in this tryin life should be guarded against in
tremblin, and what indulged in withouten reproach — a lassie
that doesna eternally keep rinnin after new preachers, but sits
in the same pew in the same kirk — an angel
Tickler. "Like heavenly Una with her milk-white lamb,"
in the light of whose beauty her father's house rejoiceth, and
is breathed over by a shade of sadness only for a few weeks
after she has been wafted away on the wings of love to bless
the home of a husband, won more by the holy charm of her
filial affection than even by the breath of the sighs that poured
forth her speechless confession on his own bosom fast beating
to the revelation of her virgin love.
Shepherd. That's no sae ill expressed, sir, for an auld
bachelor; but the truth is, that in the course o' life a' the best
capacities o' human feeling expand themselves out into full
growth in the bosom o' a gude man, even under the impulses
o' imagination, just the same as if he had had a real wife and
weans o' his ain; and aiblins, his feelings are even mair
divine from being free o' the doundraught o' realities; idealeezed
as it were by love rejoicin in its escape from the thraldom
o' necessity.
North. James, you always speak such poetry at our Noctes
that I grieve you write it now so seldom or never.
Shepherd. Perhaps I hae written my best; and bad as that
may be, my name will have a sort of existence through the
future in the Forest. Won't it, sir?
North. No fear of that, James.
Shepherd. Then I am satisfied.
Tickler. I hardly understand the nature of the desire for
posthumous fame.
Shepherd. Nor me neither. But the truth is, I understand
naething. That I love to gaze on a rose and a rainbow, and
a wallflower on a castle, and a wreath o' snaw, and a laverock
in the lift, and a dewy starnie, and a bit bonny wee pink
shell, and an inseck dancin like a diamond, and a glimmer o'
the moon on water, be it a great wide Highland loch, or only
a sma' fountain or well in the wilderness. — and on a restless
wave, and on a steadfast cloud, and on the face o' a lisping
child that means amaist naething, and on the face o' a mute
maiden that means amaist everything, — that I love to gaze on
a' these, and a thousan' things beside in heaven and on earth
that are dreamt of in my philosophy, my beatin heart tells me
every day I live; but the why and the wherefore are generally
hidden frae me, and whenever I strive for the reason, my soul
sinks away down and down into a depth that seems half air
and half water, and I am like a man drownin in a calm, and
as he drowns, feelin as if he were descendin to the coral
palaces o' the mermaids, where a' things are beautifu' but
unintelligible, and after wanderin about awhile under the
saftly-looming climat, up again a' at ante into the everyday
world, in itself, o' a gude truth, as beautifu' and unintelligible
too as any wand in the heavens above or in the waters underneath
the earth.
North. Posthumous fame!
Shepherd. What's mair nor ordinar extraordinar¹ in that
We love our kind, and we love our life — and we love our
earth — and we love oursels. Therefore, being immortal creatures,
we love the thocht of never being forgotten by that
kind, and in that life, and on that earth. We all desire, we
all hope, to be held in remembrance for a shorter or a langer
time—but only them that has done, or said, or sung something
imperishable, extend that desire into a limitless future
— coexisting with our warks, — when they perish, we perish
too, and are willing to perish. But be so gude as tell me,
sir, what's the preceese meanin o' the word posthumous, or
rather how it comes to mean "after you are dead"?
Tickler. All poets should die young.
Shepherd. No great poet ever died young that I heard tell
o'. All the great ancient poets o' Greece, I am tauld, leeved
till they were auld chiels—
North. Homer and Pindar (eh?) and Æschylus, and Sophocles,
and Euripides.
Shepherd. And a' the great English poets either lived to be
auld men, or reached a decent time o' life — say fifty and six,
and threescore and ten; as to Richard West and Chatterton,
young Beattie, and Michael Bruce, and Kirke White, and John
¹ Mair nor ordinar extraordinar — more than usually extraordinary.
Keats, and others, they were a' fine lads, but nane o' them a'
gied symptoms of ever becomin great poets, and better far for
their fame that they died in youth. Ony new poets sprutin
up, sir, amang us, like fresh daisies amang them that's
withered? Noo that the auld cocks are cowed, are the
chickens beginning to flap their wings and craw?
Tickler. Most of them mere poultry, James.
North. Not worth plucking.
Shepherd. It's uncomprehensible, sir, to me altogether,
what that something is that ae man only, amang many million,
has, that makes him poetical, while a' the lave remain to the
day o' their death prosaic? I defy you to put your finger on
ae pint o' his mental character or constitution in which the
secret lies — indeed, there's aften a sort o' stupidity about the
cretur that maks you sorry for him, and he's very generally
laucht at; — yet, there's a superiority in the strain o' his
thochts and feelings that places him on a level by himsel
aboon a' their heads; he has intuitions o' the truth, which,
depend on't, sir, does not lie at the bottom of a well, but
rather in the lift o' the understanding and the imagination —
the twa hemispheres; and knowledge, that seems to flee
awa frae ither men the faster and the farther the mair eagerly
it is pursued, aften comes o' its ain sweet accord, and lies
doun at the poet's feet.
North. Just so. The power of the soul is as the expression
of the countenance — the one is strong in faculties, and the
other beautiful in features, you cannot tell how — but so it is,
and so it is felt to be, and let those not thus endowed by
nature, either try to make souls or make faces, and they only
become ridiculous, and laughing-stocks to the world. This is
especially the case with poets, who must be made of finer clay.
Tickler. Generally cracked —
Shepherd. But transpawrent —
Tickler. Yea, an urn of light.
Shepherd. I'm beginnin to get verra hungry just for ae particular
thing that I think you'll baith join me in — pickled
sawmont. Ay, yonder it's on the sideboards; Mr Tickler,
rise and bring't, and I'll do as muckle for you anither
[TICKLER puts the Circular Slab to rights, by means of pre--
existing materials for a night only. They all fall to.
North. James, I wish you would review for Maga all those
fashionable Novels — Novels of High Life; such as Pelham —
the Disowned —
Shepherd. I've read thae twa, and they're baith gude. But
the mair I think on't, the profounder is my conviction that
the strength o' human nature lies either in the highest or
lowest estate of life. Characters in books should either be
kings, and princes, and nobles, and on a level with them, like
heroes; or peasants, shepherds, farmers, and the like, includin
a' orders amaist o' our ain working population. The intermediate
class — that is, leddies and gentlemen in general — are no
worth the Muse's while; for their life is made up chiefly o'
mainners — mainners — mainners; — you canna see the human
creturs for their claes; and should ane o' them commit suicide
in despair, in lookin on the dead body, you are mair taen up
wi' its dress than its decease.
Tickler. Is this Tay or Tweed salmon, James?
Shepherd. Tay, to be sure — it has the Perthshire accent,
verra pallateable. These leddies and gentlemen in fashionable
novels, as in fashionable life, are aye intrig — trigtriguin
— this leddy with that ane's gentleman, and this
gentleman with that ane's leddy, — then it's a' fund out
through letters or key-holes, and there's a duel, and a
divorce, and a death, the perpetual repetition o' which, I
confess, gets unco wearisome. Or the chief chiel in the wark
is devoted to cairts and dice — and out o' ae hell — as they
rightly ca' gamblin-houses — intil anither — till feenally, as
was lang ago foreseen, he blaws out his brains wi' a horse-pistol,
a bit o' the skull stickin in the ceilin. This too gets
tiresome, sirs — oh! unco tiresome — for I hae nae desire to
hear onything mair about gamblers, than what ane sees noo
and then in the police reports in the newspapers. There is
something sae essentially mean and contemptible in gamblin,
that no deep interest can ever be created for ony young man
under such a passion. It's a' on account o' the siller; and I
canna bring mysel to think that the love o' money should ever
be the foundation-stane, or rather key-stane o' the arch o' a
story intended for the perusal o' men o' moral and intellectual
worth. Out he flees like a madman frae ane o' the hells,
because he's ruined, and we are asked to pity him — or tak
warnin by him — or something o' that sort, by way o' moral ;
but had he won, why another would have lost; and it is just
as well that he should loup into the Thames wi' stanes in his
pouches, as him that held the wonnin haun ;— but, to speak
plain, they may baith gang to the deevil for me, without
excitin ony mair emotion in my mind than you are doin the
noo, Tickler, by puttin a bit o' cheese on your forefinger, and
then by a sharp smack on the palm, makin the mites spang
into your mouth.
Tickler. I was doing no such thing, Hogg.
Shepherd. North, wasna he? — Puir auld useless body! he's
asleep. Age will tell. He canna staun¹ a heavy sooper noo
as he used to do — the toddy tells noo a hantle faster² upon
him, and the verra fire itself drowzifies him noo intil a dwawm
— na, even the sound o' ane's vice, lang continued, lulls him
noo half or haill asleep, especially if your talk like mine
demands thocht — and there indeed, you see, Mr Tickler, how
his chin fa's doun on his breast, till he seems — but for a slight
snore — the image o' death. Heaven preserve us — only listen
to that! Did ye ever hear the like o' that? What is't? Is't
a musical snuff-box? or what is't? Has he gotten a wee fairy
musical snuffbox, I ask you, Mr Tickler, within the nose o'
him; or what or wha is't that's playin that tune?
Tickler. It is indeed equally beautiful and mysterious.
Shepherd. I never heard "Auld Langsyne" played mair
exactly in a' my life.
Tickler. " List — O list! if ever thou didst thy dear father
Shepherd (going up on tiptoes to Mr North, and putting his
ear close to the old gentleman's nose). By all that's miraculous,
he is snoring "Auld Langsyne!" The Eolian harp's naething
to that — it canna play a regular tune — but there's no a sweeter,
safter, mair pathetic wund-instrument in being than his nose.
Tickler. I have often heard him, James, snore a few notes
very sweetly, but never before a complete tune. With what
powers the soul is endowed in dreams!
Shepherd. You may weel say that. — Harkee! he's snorin't
wi' variations! I'm no a Christian if he hasna gotten into
"Maggy Lauder." He's snorin a medley in his sleep!
[TICKLER and the SHEPHERD listen entranced.
Tickler. What a spirit-stirring snore is his "Erin-go-bragh!"
¹ Staun — stand.
² A hantle faster — a good deal faster.
Shepherd. A' this is proof o' the immortality o' the sowl.
Whisht — whisht! [NORTH snores "God save the King."
Ay — a loyal pawtriot even in the kingdom o' dreams! I wad
rather hear that than Catalan, in the King's Anthem. We
maun never mention this, Mr Tickler. The warld 'ill no believe't.
The warld's no ripe yet for the belief o' sic a mystery.
Tickler. His nose, James, I think, is getting a little hoarse.
Shepherd. Less o' the tenor and mair o' the bass. He was
a wee out o' tune there — and I suspeck his nose wants blawin.
Hear till him noo — "Croppies, lie doun," I declare; — and see
how he is clutchin the crutch.
[NORTH awakes, and for a moment like goshawk stares wild.
North. Yes — I agree with you — there must be a dissolution.
Shepherd. A dissolution!
North. Yes — of Parliament. Let us have the sense of the
people. I am an old Whig — a Whig of the 1688.
Tickler and Shepherd. Hurraw, hurraw, hurraw! Old North,
old Eldon, and old Colchester, for ever! Hurraw, hurraw,
North. No. Old Eldon alone! Give me the Dolphin. No.
The Ivy-Tower. No need of a glass. Let us, one after the
other, put the Ivy-Tower to our mouth, and drink him in pure
Shepherd. On the table!
[The SHEPHERD and TICKLER offer to help NORTH to mount
the table.
North. Hands off, gentlemen. I scorn assistance. Look
[NORTH, by a dexterous movement, swings himself off his crutch
erect on the table, and gives a helping hand first to the
Shepherd. That feat beats the snorin a' to sticks! Faith
Tickler, we maun sing sma'. In a' things he's our maister.
Alloo me, sir, to gang doun for your chair
North (flinging his crutch to the roof). — OLD ELDON!
[Tremendous cheering amidst the breakage by the descending
Bronte. Bow, wow, wow — wow, wow — wow, wow, wow.
(Enter PICARDY and Tail in general consternation.)
Shepherd. Luk at him noo, Picardy — luk at him noo!
Tickler. Firm on his pins as a pillar of the Parthenon.
Shepherd. Saw ye ever a pair o' strauchter, main sinewy legs,
noo that he leans the haill wecht o' his body on them; ay, wi'
that outstretched arm he stauns like a statue o' Demosthenes,
about to utter the first word o' ane o' his Philippics.
[BRONTE leaps on the table, and stands by NORTH's knee
with a determined aspect.
North. Take the time from Bronte — OLD COLCHESTER!
Bronte. Bow, wow — wow, wow — wow, wow, wow.
[Loud acclamations.
Shepherd. Come, let's dance a threesome reel.
North. Picardy — your fiddle.
[MR AMBROSE takes "Neil Gow" from the peg, and plays.
Shepherd. Hadna we better clear decks —
North. No — James. In my youth I could dance the ancient
German sword-dance, as described by Tacitus. Sir David,
remove the Dolphin. I care not a jot for the rest of the crystal.
[NORTH, TICKLER, and the SHEPHERD thrid a threesome reelBRONTE
careering round the table in a Solo — PICARDY'S
bow-hand in high condition.
Shepherd. Set to me, sir, set to me — never mind Tickler.
Oh! but you're matchless at the Heelan fling, sir. — Luk at
him, Mr Awmrose !
Ambrose. Yes, Mr Hogg.
Shepherd. I'll match him against a' the Heelans — either in
breeks or out o' them — luk, luk — see him cuttin!
[MR NORTH motions to PICARDY, who stops playing, and with
one bound leaps from the centre of the circular, over the
Ivy-Tower to the floor. SHEPHERD and TICKLER, in attempting
to imitate the great original, fall on the floor, but
recover their feet with considerable alacrity.
North (resuming his chair). The Catholic Question is not
carried yet, gentlemen. Should it be, let it be ours to defend
the Constitution.
Shepherd. Speak awa, sir, till I recover my breath. I'm sair
blawn. Hear Tickler's bellows.
Tickler (stretching his weary length on a sofa). Whew — whew
— whew.
[Exit PICARDY with his Tail.
North. Mr Peel seems to have made a hit in the chief
character of Sheil's play — "The Apostate."
Tickler. Whew — whew — whew.
North. I confess I had no expectations of seeing that play
revived; still less of such a star as Robert Peel being prevailed
upon to accept of such a miserable part.
Shepherd. It'ill no gang doun lang — they'll be hissing him,
some day, aff the stage.
North. From the commencement of his career have I
regarded Robert Peel with pleasure and with pride; and
when it does happen that an old man's heart has warmed
towards a young one, it is not easy to chill the kindly glow —
it is more difficult, it would seem, to change sentiments than
Shepherd. I heard twa-three whalps the ither day braggin,
"Noo, we'll see Blackwood's Magazine makin a wheel;" but
I gied them the lee direck in their teeth, and they were mum.
North. Blackwood's Magazine may make a wheel, when the
sun makes a wheel in heaven — and from his meridian tower
runs back eastward.
Shepherd. The chariot o' Apollo reistin¹ on the hill!
North. Oxford must not — must not re-elect Robert Peel.²
Let her pity — forgive — if she can, respect — nay, admire him
still — but let her not trust the betrayer.
Shepherd. And must we say gude-nicht — without ha'in ance
mentioned that name that wont to set the table in a roar — a
roar o' glorying gratitude — to him wha—
North. THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON! What! in solemn
Tickler. Solemn — but not sullen — North.
North. May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth — or
wag in mumbling palsy — if ever my breath seek to stain the
lustre of that glorious name. He saved England.
Shepherd. Dinna put on that kind o' face, I beseech you,
sir. The expression o't is sae incomprehensible, that I know
not whether to howp or fear for my country.
North. We who never feared must hope. Oh! I could
Shepherd. So could I, for that matter; but I hate to look
into clouds and darkness.
¹ Reistin — backing, through the restiveness of the horses.
² Peel, the Home Secretary, who, up to this time, had been a staunch anti-Catholic
member of Parliament, at length yielded to the pressure, and carried
the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829. In consequence of this step he
resigned his seat for the University of Oxford, and was not re-elected by that
Tickler. Let us swear to meet this day month — Shall the
Popish Association put down the Government? And may not
the Protestant Association restore the State?
North. It might — it may.
Shepherd. Oh! My dear sir, my imagination kindles when
I look on your bald forehead. It would be as easy to turn you
round as an auld oak-tree, — na, not so easy, for Sir Henry
Steuart o' Allanton,¹ wi' his machinery, could turn roun' an
auld oak-tree, but no a' the powers o' earth, wi' a their machinery,
could screw you a hair's-breadth roun' frae the position
on which you hae taken your staun; as sune turn roun'
a rock-built tower, to face the settin instead o' the risin sun.
North. My dear James, you are too partial to the old man.
Shepherd. I speak the sense o' the nation. You are Abdiel
grown auld, but faithful as in youth — still the dauntless
North. One bumper at parting —
[Endless cheering, and then Exeunt Omnes.
¹ The author of a work entitled The Planter's Guide; or, A Practical Essay
on the best method of giving immediate effect to wood, by the removal of large
trees and underwood. It was reviewed by Sir Walter Scott in the Quarterly
Review of March 1828.
(APRIL 1829.)
Scene I. — The Snuggery. Time, — Eight o'clock. The Union-Table,
with Tea and Coffee Pots, and the O Doherty China-set
— Cold Round — Pies — Oysters — Rizzards — Pickled Salmon,
&c. &c. &c. A How-towdie whirling before the fire over a
large basin of mashed Potatoes. The Boiler on. A Bachelor's
Kitchen on the small Oval. A Dumb Waiter at each
end of the Union.
Shepherd. This I ca' comfort, sir. Everything within
oursel — nae need to ring a bell the leeve-lang night — nae
openin o' cheepin, nae shuttin o' clashin doors — nae trampin
o' waiters across the carpet wi' creakin shoon — or stumblin,
clumsy coots, to the great spillin o' gravy — but a'
things, eatable and uneatable, either hushed into a cozy
calm, or —
North. Now light, James, the lamp of the Bachelor's
Kitchen with Tickler's card, and in a quarter of an hour,
minus five minutes, you shall scent and see such steaks!
Shepherd. Only look at the towdie,¹ sir, how she swings sae
granly roun' by my garters, after the fashion o' a planet. It's
a beautiful example o' centrifugal attraction. See till the fat
dreep-dreepin intil the ashet o' mashed potawtoes, oilifying
the crusted brown intil a mair delicious richness o' mixed
vegetable and animal maitter! As she swings slowly twirlin
roun', I really canna say, sir, for I dinna ken, whether
baney back or fleshy breist be the maist temptin! Sappy
¹ Towdie or how-towdie — a barn-door fowl.
North. Right, James — baste her — baste her — don't spare
the flour. Nothing tells like the dredge-box.
Shepherd. You're a capital man-cook, sir.
North. For plain roast and boil, I yield to no mortal man.
Nor am I inconsiderable shakes at stews. What a beautiful
blue magical light glimmers from that wonder-working lamp,
beneath whose necromancy you already hear the sweet low
bubble and squeak of the maturing steak! Off with the lid,
[SHEPHERD doffs the lid of the Bachelor's Kitchen.
Shepherd. What a pabblin!¹ A' hotchin, like the sea in a
squall, or a patfu' o' boilin parritch! What a sweet savour!
Is 't na like honeysuckle, sir, or sweet-briar, or broom, or
whuns, or thyme, or roses, or carnations? Or rather like the
scent o' these a' conglomerated thegither in the dewy mornin
air, when, as sune as you open the window, the haill house is
overflowin wi' fragrance, and a body's amaist sick wi' the
sweet, warm, thick air, that slowly wins its way, like palpable
balm, arm-in-arm wi' the licht that waukens the yellow-billed
blackbird in her nest amang the cottage creepers, or reopens
the watchful een o' her neighbour, the bonny spotted mavis!
Let's pree 't.
[SHEPHERD tastes.
North. Ay — I could have told you so. Rash man, to
swallow liquid and solid fire! But no more spluttering.
Cool your tongue with a caulker.
Shepherd. That lamp's no canny. It intensifies hetness
intil an atrocity aboon natur. Is the skin flyped aff my
tongue, sir?
[SHEPHERD shows tongue.
North. Let me put on my spectacles. A slight incipient
inflammation, not worth mentioning.
Shepherd. I howp an incipient inflammation's no a dangerous
sort ?
North. Is that indeed the tongue, my dear James, that
trills so sweetly and so simply those wild Doric strains?
How deeply, darkly, beautifully red! Just like a rag of
scarlet. No scurf — say rather no haze around the lambent
light. A rod of fire — an arrow of flame. A tongue of ten
thousand, prophesying an eagle or raven life.
Shepherd. I aye like, sir, to keep a gude tongue in my
head, ever since I wrote the Chaldee Mannyscripp.²
¹Pabblin — bubbling up.
² See Preface, vol. i. p. xvi.
North. Humph! — No more infallible mark of a man of
genius, James, than the shape of his tongue. It is uniformly
long, so that he can shoot it out, with an easy grace, to the
tip of his nose.
Shepherd. This way?
North. Precisely so. Fine all round the edge, from root to
tip — underneath very veinous — surface in colour near as may
be to that of a crimson curtain shining in setting sunlight.
But the tip — James — the tip
Shepherd. Like that o' the serpent's that deceived Eve, sir
— curlin up and doun like the musical leaf o' some magical
North. It is a singular fact with regard to the tongue, that
if you cut off the half of it, the proprietor of the contingent
remainder can only mumble — but cut it off wholly, and he
speaks fully better than before —
Shepherd. That's a hanged lee.
North. As true a word as ever I spoke, James.
Shepherd. Perhaps it may, sir, but it's a hanged lee, nevertheless.

North. Dish the steaks, my dear James, and I shall cut
down the how-towdie.
[NORTH and the SHEPHERD furnish up the Ambrosial tables,
and sit down to serious devouring.
North. Now, James, acknowledge it — don't you admire a
miscellaneous meal ?
Shepherd. I do. Breakfast, noony,¹ denner, four-hours,² and
sooper, a' in ane. A material emblem o' that spiritual substance,
Blackwood's Magazine! Can it possibly be, sir, that
we are twa gluttons?
North. Gluttons we most assuredly are not; but each of us
is a man of good appetite. What is gluttony?
Shepherd. Some mair stakes, sir ?
North. Very few, my dear James, very few.
Shepherd. What's gluttony ?
North. Some eggs?
Shepherd. Ae spoonfu'. What a layer she wad hae been!
O but she's a prolific cretur, Mr North, your how-towdie!
Its necessary to kill heaps o' yearocks,³ or the haill kintra
¹ Noony — luncheon.
² Four-hours — tea.
³ Yearocks — chickens.
wad be a-cackle frae John o' Groat's House to St Michael's
North. Sometimes I eat merely as an amusement or pastime
— sometimes for recreation of my animal spirits — sometimes
on the philosophical principle of sustenance — sometimes for
the mere sensual, but scarcely sinful, pleasure of eating, or,
in common language, gormandising — and occasionally, once
a-month or so, for all these several purposes united, as at this
present blessed moment; so a few flakes, my dear Shepherd,
of that Westmoreland ham — lay the knife on it, and its own
weight will sink it down through the soft sweet sappiness of
fat and lean, undistinguishably blended as the colours of the
rainbow, and out of all sight incomparably more beautiful.
Shepherd. As for me, I care nae mair about what I eat, than
I do what kind o' bed I sleep upon, sir. I hate onything
stinkin or mooldy at board — or onything damp or musty in
bed. But let the vivres be but fresh and wholesome — and if
it's but scones and milk, I shut my een, say a grace, fa' to,
and am thankfu'; — let the bed be dry, and whether sift or
hard, feathers, hair, cauff, straw, or heather, I'm fast in ten
minutes, and my sowl waverin awa like a butterflee intil the
land o' dreams.
North. Not a more abstemious man than old Kit North in
his Majesty's dominions, on which the sun never sets. I have
the most accommodating of palates.
Shepherd. Yes — it's an universal genius. I ken naething
like it, sir, but your stammack. — "Sure such a pair were never
seen!" Had ye never the colic?
North. Never, James, never. I confess that I have been guilty
of many crimes, but never of a capital crime, — never of colic.
Shepherd. There's muckle confusion o' ideas in the brains
o' the blockheads who accuse us o' gluttony, Mr North.
Gluttony may be defined "an immoral and unintellectual
abandonment o' the sowl o' man to his gustative natur." I
defy a brute animal to be a glutton. A swine's no a glutton.
Nae cretur but man can be a glutton. A' the rest are prevented
by the definition.
North. Is there any test of gluttony, James ?
Shepherd. Watch twa men eatin. As lang's there's a power
or capacity o' smilin on their cheeks, and in and about their een,
— as lang's they keep lookin at you, and round about the table,
attendin to or joinin in the tauk, or the speakin caum, — as
lang's they every noo an' than lay doun their knife and fork,
to ca' for yill, or ask a young leddy to tak wine, or tell an
anecdote, — as lang's they keep frequently ca'in on the servant
lad or lass for a clean plate, — as lang's they glower on the
framed picturs or prents on the wa', and keep askin if the
tane's originals and the tither proofs, — as lang's they offer to
carve the tongue or turkey — depend on't they're no in a state
o' gluttony, but are devouring their soup, fish, flesh, and fowl,
like men and Christians. But as sune's their chin gets creeshy
— their cheeks lank, sallow, and clunk-clunky — their nostrils
wide — their een fixed — their faces close to their trencher — and
themsels dumbies — then you may see a specimen "o' the
immoral and unintellectual abandonment o' the sowl o' man
to his gustative natur;" then is the fast, foul, fat feeder a
glutton, the maist disgustfu'est cretur that sits — and far aneath
the level o' them that feed, on a' fowres, out o' troths on
North. Sensuality is the most shocking of all sins, and its
name is Legion.
Shepherd. Ay, there may be as muckle gluttony on sowens
as on turtle-soup. A ploughman may be as greedy and as
gutsy as an alderman. The sin lies not in the sense, but
in the sowl. Sir — a red herring?
North. Thank ye, James.
Shepherd. Are you drinkin coffee? — Let me toast you a
shave o' bread, and butter it for you on baith sides, sir ?
[The Shepherd kneels on the Tiger, and stretches out the
Trident to Vulcan.
North. Heaven will reward ye, James, for your piety to the
old man.
Shepherd. Dinna think, sir, that I care about your last wall
and testament. I'm nae legacy-hunter — nae Post-obit. But
hae ye added the codicil?
North. The man who has not made his will at forty is worse
than a fool — almost a knave.
Shepherd. I ken nae better test o' wisdom — wisdom in its
highest sense — than a just last wull and testament. It blesseth
generations yet unborn. It guardeth and strengtheneth domestic
peace — and maketh brethren to dwell together in unity.
Being dead, the wise testator yet liveth — his spirit abideth
invisible, but felt ower the roof-tree, and delighteth, morning
and evening, in the thanksgiving Psalm.
North. One would think it were easy to act well in that
Shepherd. One would think it were easy to act weel, sir, in
a' maitters. Yet hoo difficult! The sowl seems, somehow or
ither, to lose her simplicity; and, instead o' lookin wi' her twa
natural een straucht forrits alang the great, wide, smooth,
royal road o' truth and integrity, to keep restlessly glowerin
round and round about wi' a thousan' artificial ogles upon a'
the cross and by paths leading nae single body kens whither,
unless it be into brakes, and thickets, and quagmires, and
wildernesses o' moss — where ane may wander wearily and
drearily up and doun for years, and never recover the richt
road again, till death touches him on the shouther, and doun
he fa's amang them that were, leavin a' that looked up to him
for his effecks in doubt and dismay and desolation, wi' sore
and bitter hearts, uncertain whether to gie vent to their feelings
in blessings or in curses, in execration or prayer.
North. Of all the vices of old age, may gracious Heaven,
my dearest James, for ever shield me from avarice!
Shepherd. Nae fear o' that. There's aither just ae enjoyment
o' siller, or five hander thousan' million. The rich maun
either spend it thick and fast, as a nightingale scatters her
notes on the happy air — or sit upon his guineas, like a clockin
hen on a heap o' yellow addled eggs amang the nettles.
North. Picturesquely true.
Shepherd. Oh, sir! what delicht to a wise rich man in being
lavish — in being prodigal! For thae twa words only carry
blame alang wi' them according to the character o' the giver
or the receiver. Wha mair lavish — wha mair prodigal than
the Sun? Yet let him shower his beams for ever and ever all
ower the Planetary System, frae Venus wi' her cestus to Saturn
wi' his ring, and nane the poorer, either in licht or in heat, is
he, — and nane the poorer will he ever be, till the Hand that
hung him on high shall cut the golden cord by which he liveth
in the sky, and he falls, his duty done, into the bosom of Chaos
and Old Night
North. My dear Shepherd!
Shepherd. But the Sun he shineth wi' unborrowed licht.
There's the bonny Moon, God bless her mildest face, that
loveth still to cheer the pensive nicht wi' a lustre lent her by
the joyful day — to give to earth a' she receives frae heaven.
Puir, senseless, ungratefu' creturs we! Eying her frae our
ain narrow vales, we ca' her changefu' and inconstant! But
isna she, sweet satellite, for ever journeying on her gracious
round, and why will we grudge her smiles to them far hue us,
seein we are a' children o' ae Maker, and, according to his
perfect laws, a' partakers in the same impartial bounty? —
Here's a nice brown shave for you, sir.
[The SHEPHERD rises from his knees on the rug — takes the
bread from the prongs of the Trident, and fresh-butters it
on both sides for MR NORTH, who receives it with a benign
North. Uncommonly yellow this butter, James, for the season.
The grass must be growing —
Shepherd. Ay, you may hear 't growin. What years for
vegetation the last beautifu' and glorious Three! The ongoings
o' natur are in the lang-rin regular and steady; — but
noo and then the michty mother seems to obey some uncontrollable
impulse, far within her fair large bosom, and "wantons
as in her prime," outdoing her very self in beneficence to
earth, and that mysterious concave we ca' heaven.
North. In spite of gout, rheumatism, lumbago, corns, and
chilblains, into the Forest shall I wend my way, James, before
Shepherd. And young and auld will be but ower happy to
see you, sir, frae the lanely Douglas Tower to those o' Newark.
Would ye believe't, an auld ash stullion in the garden
hedge of Mount Benger shot out six scions last year, the
langest o' them nine, and the shortest seven feet lang? That
was growin for you, sir.
North. There has been much planting of trees lately in the
Forest, James?
Shepherd. To my taste, to tell the truth, rather ower muckle
— especially o' nurses.¹
North. Nurses! — wet or dry nurses, James?
Shepherd. Baith. Larches and Scotch firs; or you may ca'
them schoolmasters, that teach the young idea how to shoot.
But thinnins in the Forest never can pay, I suspeck; and
¹ Trees of the hardier breed, put in at intervals to shelter the more tender
plants as they grow.
except on bleaky knowes, the hardwood wad grow better, in
my opinion, left to themsels, without either nurses or schoolmasters.
The nurses are apt to overlay their weans, and the
schoolmasters to forget, or, what's waur, to flog their pupils;
and thus the rising is a stunted generation.
North. Forty-five years ago, my dear James, when you were
too young to remember much, I loved the Forest for its solitary
single trees, ancient yew or sycamore, black in the distance,
but when near how gloriously green! Tall, delicately-feathered
ash, whose limbs were still visible in latest summer's
leafiness — birch, in early spring, weeping and whispering
in its pensive happiness by the perpetual din of its own
waterfall — oak, yellow in the suns of June —
Shepherd. —
"The grace of forest charms decayed,
And pastoral melancholy!"
North. What lovely lines! Who writes like Wordsworth!
Shepherd. Tuts! Me over young to remember muckle
fourty-five years ago! You're speakin havers. I was then
twal — and I remember everything I ever heard or saw sin' I
was three year auld. I recolleck the mornin I was pitten intil
breeks as distinckly as if it were this verra day. They hurt
me sair atween the fork and the inside o' the knees — but oh!
I was a prood man — and the lamb that I chased all the way
frae my father's hut to Ettrick Manse, round about the kirk,
till I caught it on a gowany grave, and lay doun wi't in my
arms on the sunny heap, had nae need to be ashamed o' itsel,
for I hunted it like a collie — although, when I grupped it at
last, I held it to my beatin bosom as tenderly as ever I hae
since dune wee Jamie, when pittin¹ the dear cretur intil the crib
that stauns at the side o' his mother's bed, after e'enin prayers.
North. I feel not undelightfully, my dear James, that I
must be waxing old — very old — for of the last ten years of my
life I remember almost nothing except by an effort; whereas
the first ten — commencing with that bright, clear, undying
light that borders the edge of the oblivion of infancy — have
been lately becoming more intensely distinct; so that often
the past is with me as it were the present — and the sad grey-haired
ancient is again a blest golden-headed boy, singing a
¹ Pittin -putting.
chorus with the breezes, the birds, and the streams. Alas
and alack-a-day!
Shepherd. 'Tis only sae that we ever renew our youth. Oh,
sir, I hinna forgotten the colour o' the plumage o' ae single
dove that over sat cooin of old on the growin turf-riggin o'
my father's hut! Ae great muckle, big, beautifu' ane in particular,
blue as if it had dropt doun frae the sky — I see the
noo, a' neck and bosom, cooin and cooin deep as distant thunder,
round and round his mate, wha was whiter than the white
sea-faem, makin love to the snawy cretur — wha cowered doun
in fear afore her imperious and impassioned lord — yet in love
stronger than fear — showing hoo in a' leevin natur passions
seemingly the maist remote free ane anither, coalesce into
mysterious union by means o' ae pervading and interfusing
speerit, that quickens the pulses o' that inscrutable secret —
North. All linnets have died, James — that race of loveliest
litters is extinct.
Shepherd. No thae. Broom and bracken are tenanted by
the glad, meek creturs still, — but the chords o' music in our
hearts are sair unstrung — the harp o' our heart has lost its
melody. But come out to the Forest, my dear, my honoured
sir; and fear not then when we twa are walking thegither
without speakin among the hills, you
"Will feel the airs that from them blow,
A momentary bliss bestow;"
and the wild, uncertain, waverin music o' the Eolian harp
that natur plays upon in the solitude, will again echo far far
awa amang the recesses o' your heart, and the lintie will sing
as sweetly as ever frae amang the blossoms o' the milk-white
thorn. Or, if you canna be brocht to feel sae, you'll hae but
to look in my wee Jamie's face, and his glistening een will
convince you that Scotia's nightingale still singeth as sweetly
as of yore! — But let us sit in to the fire, sir.
North. Thank you, Shepherd — thank you, James.
Shepherd (wheeling his father's chair to the Ingle corner, and
singing the while). —
¹ Wale — best.
North. I cannot bear, James, to receive such attention paid
to my bodily weakness — I had almost said, my decrepitude —
by any living soul but yourself. — How is that, my dear
Shepherd. Because I treat you wi' tenderness, but no wi'
pity — wi' sympathy, but no wi' compassion
North. My dear James, ye must give us a book on synonymes.
What delicacy of distinction!
Shepherd. I suspeck, sir, that mother wut and mother
feeling hae mair to do wi' the truth o' metaphysical etymology
and grammar than either lair¹ or labour. Ken the meanin,
by self-experience, o' a' the nicest shades o' thoughts and
feelings, and devil the fears but you'll ken the meanies o' the
nicest shades o' syllables and words.
North. Good, James. Language flows from two great
sources — the head and the heart. Each feeds ten thousand
rills —
Shepherd. Reflectin different imagery — but no sae very
different either — for — you see —
North. I see nothing, James, little or nothing, till you
blow away the intervening mist by the breath of genius, and
then the whole world outshines, like a panorama with a central
Shepherd. Ah! sir, you had seen the haill world afore ever
I kent you — a perfect wandering Ulysses.
North. Yes, James, I have circumnavigated the globe, and
intersected it through all its zones, and, by Jupiter, there is
not a climate comparable to that of Scotland.
Shepherd. I believe't. Blessed be Providence for having
saved my life frae the curse o' a stagnant sky — a monotonous
heaven. On flat land, and aneath an ever blue lift, I should
sune hae been a perfect idiwut.
North. What a comical chap, James, you would have been,
had you been born a negro!
Shepherd. Ay — I think I see you, sir, wi' great big
blubber lips, a mouthfu' o' muckle white horse's teeth, and a
head o' hair like the woo atween a ram's horns when he's
grown ancient among the mountains. What Desdemona
could hae stood out against sic an Othello?
¹ Lair — learning.
North. Are negroes, gentlemen, to sit in both Houses of
Shepherd. Nae politics the nicht — nae politics. I'm sick o'
politics. Let's speak about the weather. This has been a
fine day, sirs.
North. A first-rate day, indeed, James. Commend me to
a day who does not stand shilly-shallying during the whole
morning and forenoon, with hands in his breeches pockets,
or biting his nails, and scratching his head, unable to make
up his mind in what fancy character he is to appear from
meridian to sunset — but who —
Shepherd. Breaks out o' the arms o' the dark-haired,
bricht-eed nicht, wi' the power and pomp o' a Titan, and
frichtenin that bit puir timid lassie the Dawn out o' her seven
senses, in thunder and lightning a' at ance storms the sky,
till creation is drenched in flood, bathed in fire, and rocked by
earthquake. That's the day for a poet, sirs — that's a pictur
for the ee, and that's music for the lug o' imagination, sirs,
till ane's verra speerit cums to creawte the war it trummles
at, and to be composed o' the self-same yelements, gloomin
and boomin, blackenin and brichtenin, pourin and rearm,
and awsomely confusin and confoundin heaven and earth,
and this life and the life that is to come, and a' the passions
that loup up at sichts and soun's, joy, hope, fear, tenor,
exultation, and that mysterious uprisin and dounfa'in o' our
mortal hearts connected somehoo or ither wi' the fleein cluds,
and the tossin trees, and the red rivers in spate, and the
sullen looks o' black bits o' sky-like faces, together wi' ane.
and a' o' thae restless shows o' uneasy natur appertainin, God
knows hoo, but maist certain sure it is so, to the region, the
rueful region o' man's entailed inheritance — the grave!
North. James, you are very pale — very white about the
gills — are you well enough? Turn up your little finger.
Pale! nay, now they are more of the colour of my hat — as if
"In the scowl of heaven, his face
Grew black as he was speaking"
The shadow of the thunder-cloud threatening the eyes of his
imagination, has absolutely darkened his face of clay, He
seems at a funeral — James!
Shepherd. Whare's the moral? What's the use of thunder,
except in a free country? There's nae grandeur in the terror
o' slaves flingin themsels doun on their faces amang the
sugarcanes, in a tornawdo. But the low quick beatin at the
heart o' a freeman, a bauld-faced son o' liberty, when simultawneous
flash and crash rends Natur to her core, — why, that
flutter, sir, that does homage to a Power aboon us, exalts the
dreadful magnificence o' the instruments that Power employs
to subjugate our sowls to his sway, and makes thunder and
lichtnin, in sic a country as England and Scotland, sublime.
North. The short and the long of the matter seems to be,
James, that when it thunders you funk.
Shepherd. Yes, sir, thunder frightens me into my senses.
North. Well said, James — well said.
Shepherd. Heaven forgive me — but ten out o' the eighteen
wakin hours, I am an atheist.
North. And I.
Shepherd. And a' men. Puir, pitifu', ungratefu', and meeserable
wretches that we are — waur than worms. An atheist's
a godless man. Sweep a' thoughts o' his Maker out o' ony
man's heart — and what better is he, as lang's the floor o' his
being continues bare, than an atheist?
North. Little better, indeed.
Shepherd. I envy — I honour — I venerate — I love — I bless
the man, who, like the patriarchs of old, ere sin drowned the
world, ever walks with God.
North. James, here we must not get too solemn
Shepherd. That's true; and let me hope that I'm no sae
forgetfu' as I fear. In this season o' the year, especially when
the flowers are a' seen again in lauchin flocks over the
braes, like children returnin to school after a lang snaw, I
can wi' truth avoo, that the sicht o' a primrose is to me like
the soun' o' a prayer, and that I seldom walk alone by mysel
for half a mile, without thochts sae calm and sae serene, and
sae humble and sae gratefu', that I howp I'm no deceivin
mysel noo when I venture to ca' them — religious.
North. No, James, you are not self-deceived — Poetry melts
into Religion.
Shepherd. It is Religion, sir; for what is Religion but a
clear — often a sudden — insicht, accompanied wi' emotion, into
the dependence o' a' beauty and a' glory on the Divine Mind?
A wee bit dew-wat gowany, as it maks a scarcely perceptible
sound and stir, which it often does, amang the grass that
loves to shelter but not hide the bonny earth-born star, glintin
up sae kindly wi' its face into mine, while by good fortune
my feet touched it not, has hundreds o' times affected me as
profoundly as ever did the Sun himsel setting in a' his glory
— as profoundly — and, oh! far mair tenderly, for a thing that
grows and grows, and becomes every hour mair and mair
beautifu', and then hangs fixed for a season in the perfection
o' its lovely delicht, and then — wae is me — begins to be a
little dim — and then dimmer and dimmer, till we feel that it
is indeed — in very truth, there's nae denyin't — fading — fading
— faded — gone — dead — buried. Oh, sir! sic an existence as
that has an overwhelmin analogy to our ain life — and that I
hae felt — nor doubt I that you, my dear sir, hae felt it too —
when on some saft, sweet, silent incense-breathing morning o'
spring — far awa, perhaps, fine the smoke o' ony human dwellin,
and walkin ye cared na, kent na whither — sae early that
the ground-bees were but beginnin to hum out o' their bikes¹
— when, I say, some flower suddenly attracted the licht within
your ee, wi' a power like that o' the loadstone, and though,
perhaps, the commonest o' the flowers that beautify the braes
o' Scotland — only, as I said, a bit ordinary gowan — yet, what
a sudden rush o' thochts and feelings overflowed your soul at
the simple sicht! while a' nature becam for a moment owerspread
wi' a tender haze belongin not to hersel, for there was
naething there to bedim her brightness, but existin only in
your ain twa silly een, sheddin in the solitude a few holy
North. James, I will trouble you for the red-herrings.
Shepherd. There. Mr North, I coud write twunty vollumms
about the weather. Wad they sell?
North. I fear they might be deficient in incident.
Shepherd. Naething I write 's ever deficient in incident.
Between us three, what think ye o' my Shepherd's Calendar?
North. Admirable, my dear James — admirable. To tell
you the truth, I never read it in the Magazine; but I was
told the papers were universally liked there — and now, as
Vols., they are beyond — above — all praise.
Shepherd. But wull you say that in black and white in the
¹ Bikes — nests.
Magazine? What's the use o' rousin a body to their face,
and abusin them ahint their backs? Setting them upon a
pedestal in private, and in public layin them a' their length
on the floor? You're jealous o' me, sir, that's the real truth,
— and you wush that I was dead.
North. Pardon me, James, I merely wish that you never
had been born.
Shepherd. That's far mair wicked. Oh! but jealousy and
envy's twa delusive passions, and they pu' you doun frae your
aerial altitude, sir, like twa ravens ruggin an eagle frae
the sky.
North. From literary jealousy, James, even of you, my
soul is free as the stone-shaded well in your garden from the
ditch water that flows around it on a rainy day. I but flirt
with the Muses, and when they are faithless, I whistle the
haggards down the wind, and puff all care away with a cigar.
But I have felt the jealousy, James, and of all passions it
alone springs from seed wafted into the human heart from the
Upas Tree of Hell.
Shepherd. Wheesht! Wheesht !
North. Shakespeare has but feebly painted that passion in
Othello. A complete failure. I never was married, that I
recollect — neither am I a black man, — therefore, I do not pretend
to be a judge of Othello's conduct and character. But,
in the first place, Shakespeare ought to have been above
taking an anomalous case of jealousy. How could a black
husband escape being jealous of a white wife? There was a
cause of jealousy given in his very fate.
Shepherd. Eh? What? What? Eh? Faith there's something
in that observation.
North. Besides, had Desdemona lived, she would have
produced a mulatto. Could she have seen their "visages in
their minds"? Othello and she going to church, with a
brood of tawnies —
Shepherd. I dinna like to hear you speakin that way.
Dinna profane poetry.
North. Let not poetry profane nature. I am serious, James.
That which in real life would be fulsome, cannot breathe
sweetly in fiction; for fiction is still a reflection of truth, and
truth is sacred.
Shepherd. I agree wi' you sae far, that the Passion o' Jealousy
in Luve can only be painted wi' perfect natur in a man
that stands towards a woman in a perfectly natural relation.
Otherwise, the picture may be well painted, but it is still but
a picture of a particular and singular exhibition o' the passion
— in short, as you say, o' an anomaly. I like a word I dinna
weel understan'.
North. Mr Wordsworth calls Desdemona, "the gentle
lady married to the Moor," and the line has been often quoted
and admired. It simply asserts two facts — that she was a gentle
lady, and that she was married to the Moor. What then?
Shepherd. I forgie her — I pity her — but I can wi' difficulty
respeck her — I confess. It was a curious kind o' hankerin
after an opposite colour.
North. Change the character and condition of the parties
— Can you imagine a white hero falling in love with a black
heroine, in a country where there were plenty of white
women? Marrying and murdering her in an agony of rage
and love?
Shepherd. I can only answer for mysel — I never could bring
mysel to marry a Blackamoor.
North. Yet they are often sweet, gentle, affectionate, meek,
mild, humble, and devoted creatures — Desdemonas.
Shepherd. But men and women, sir, I verily believe, are
different in mony things respectin the passion o' luve. I've
kent bonny, young, bloomin lassies fa' in luve wi' auld,
wizened, disgustin fallows, — I hae indeed, sir. It was their
fancy. But I never heard tell o' a young, handsome, healthy
chiel gettin impassioned on an auld, wrunkled, skranky hag,
without a tocher. Now, sir, Othello was —
North. Well — well — let it pass
Shepherd. Ay — that's the way o' you — the instant you
begin to see the argument gaun against you, you turn the
conversation, either by main force, or by a quirk or a sophism,
and sae escape frae the net that was about to be flung ower
you, and like a bird, awa up into the air — or invisible ower
the edge of the horizon.
North. Well, then, James, what say you to Iago?
Shepherd. What about him ?
North. Is his character in nature?
Shepherd. I dinna ken. But what for no?
North. What was his motive? Pure love of mischief?
Shepherd. Aiblins¹
North. Pride in power, and in skill to work mischief?
Shepherd. Aiblins.
North. Did he hate the Moor even to the death?
Shepherd. Aiblins.
North. Did he resolve to work his ruin, let the consequences
to himself be what they might?
Shepherd. It would seem sae.
North. Did he know that his own ruin — his own death —
must follow the success of this scheme?
Shepherd. Hoo can I tell that ?
North. Was he blinded utterly to such result by his wickedness
directed against Othello?
Shepherd. Perhaps he was. Hoo can I tell?
North. Or did he foresee his own doom — and still go on
Shepherd. It might be sae, for onything I ken to the
contrary. He was over cool and calculatin to be blinded.
North. Is he, then, an intelligible or an unintelligible
Shepherd. An unintelligible.
North. Therefore not a natural character. I say, James,
that his conduct from first to last cannot be accounted for by
any view that can be taken of his character. The whole is a
riddle — of which Shakespeare has not given the solution.
Now, all human nature is full of riddles; but it is the business
of dramatic poets to solve them — and this one Shakespeare
has left unsolved. But having himself proposed it,
he was bound either to have solved it, or to have set such a
riddle as the wit of man could have solved in two centuries.
Therefore —
Shepherd. "Othello" is a bad play?
North. Not bad, but not good — that is, not greatly good —
not in the first order of harmonious and mysterious creations
— not a work worthy of Shakespeare.
Shepherd. Confound me if I can tell whether you're speakin
sense or nonsense — truth or havers; or whether you be serious,
or only playin aff upon me some o' your Mephistophiles tricks.
I often think you're an evil speerit in disguise, and that your
greatest delight is in confounding truth and falsehood.
¹ Aiblins — perhaps•
North. My dear James, every word I have now uttered
may be mere nonsense. — I cannot tell. But do you see
my drift?
Shepherd. Na. I see you like a veshel tryin to beat up
against a strong wund and a strong tide, and driftin awa to
leeward, till it's close in upon the shore, and about to gang
stern foremost in among the rocks and the breakers. Sae far
I see your drift, and nae farther. You'll soon fa' over on
your beam ends, and become a total wreck.
North. Well, then, mark my drift, James. We idolise
Genius, to the neglect of the worship of Virtue. To our
thoughts, Genius is all in all — Virtue absolutely nothing.
Human nature seems to be glorified in Shakespeare, because
his intellect was various and vast, and because it comprehended
a knowledge of all the workings, perhaps, of human
being. But if there be truth in that faith to which the
Christian world is bound, how dare we, on that ground, to
look on Shakespeare as almost greater and better than Man?
Why, to criticise one of his works poorly, or badly, or insolently,
is it held to be blasphemy? Why? Is Genius so
sacred, so holy a thing, per se, and apart from Virtue? Folly
all! One truly good action performed is worth all that ever
Shakespeare wrote. Who is the Swan of Avon in comparison
to the humblest being that ever purified his spirit in the
waters of eternal life ?
Shepherd. Speak awa! I'll no interrupt you — but whether
I agree wi' you or no's anither question.
North. Only listen, James, to our eulogies on genius. How
virtue must veil her radiant forehead before that idol! How
the whole world speaks out her ceaseless sympathy with the
woes of Genius! How silent as frost, when Virtue pines!
Let a young poet poison himself in wrathful despair — and all
the muses weep over his unhallowed bier. Let a young
Christian die under the visitation of God, who weeps? No
eye but his mother's. We know that such deaths are every
day — every hour, — but the thought affects us not — we have no
thought — and heap after heap is added, unbewailed, to city or
country churchyard. But let a poet, forsooth, die in youth —
pay the debt of nature early — and Nature herself, throughout
her elements, must in her turn pay tribute to his shade.
Shepherd. Dinna mak me unhappy, sir — dinna mak me sae
very unhappy, sir, I beseech you — try and explain awa what
you hae said, to the satisfaction o' our hearts and understandins.

North. Impossible. We are base idolaters. 'Tis infatuation
— not religion. Is it Genius, or is it Virtue, that shall
send a soul to heaven?
Shepherd. Virtue — there's nae denying that; — virtue, sir
— virtue.¹
North. Let us then feel, think, speak, and act, as if we so
believed. Is Poetry necessary to our salvation? Is Paradise
Lost better than the New Testament ?
Shepherd. Oh! dinna mak me unhappy. Say again that
Poetry is religion.
North. Religion has in it the finest and truest spirit of
poetry, and the finest and truest spirit of poetry has in it the
spirit of religion. But —
Shepherd. Say nae mair — say nae mair. I'm satisfied wi'
that —
North. Oh! James, it makes my very soul sick within
me to hear the puny whinings poured by philosophical sentimentalists
over the failings — the errors — the vices of genius!
There has been, I fear, too much of that traitorous dereliction
of the only true faith, even in some eloquent eulogies on the
dead, which I have been the means of giving to the world.
Have you not often felt that, when reading what has been
said about our own immortal Burns ?
Shepherd. I have in my calmer moments.
North. While the hypocritical and the base exaggerated all
that illustrious man's aberrations from the right path, nor had
the heart to acknowledge the manifold temptations strewed
around his feet, the enthusiastic and the generous ran into
the other extreme, and weakly — I must not say wickedly —
strove to extenuate them into mere trifles — in too many instances
to deny them altogether; and when too flagrant to be
denied, dared to declare that we were bound to forget and
forgive them on the score of the poet's genius — as if genius,
the guardian of virtue, could ever be regarded as the pander
to vice, and the slave of sin. Thus they were willing to
sacrifice morality, rather than that the idol set up before their
¹ "Hac arte Pollux et vagus Hercules,
Enisus arces attigit igneas." — HORAT.
imagination should be degraded; and did far worse injury,
and offered far worse insult, to Virtue and Religion, by thus
slurring over the offences of Burns against both, than ever was
done by those offences themselves — for Burns bitterly repented
what they almost canonised; and the evil practice of one
man can never do so much injury to society as the evil theory
of a thousand. Burns erred greatly and grievously; and since
the world knows that he did, as well from friends as from
foes, let us be lenient and merciful to him, whose worth was
great; but just and faithful to that law of right, which must
on no consideration be violated by our judgments, but which
must maintain and exercise its severe and sovereign power over
all transgressions, and more especially over the transgressions
of those to whom nature has granted endowments that might
have been, had their possessors nobly willed it, the ministers
of unmingled good to themselves and the whole human
Shepherd. You've written better about Burns yoursel, sir,
nor onybody else breathin. That you hae — baith better and
aftener — and a' friends of the poet ought to be grateful to
Christopher North.
North. That is true praise coming from my Shepherd. But
I have fallen into the error I now reprehended.
Shepherd. There's a set o' sumphs that say periodical literature
has degraded the haill literature o' the age. They refer
us to the standard warks o' the auld school.
North. There is intolerable impertinence in such opinions —
and disgusting ignorance. Where is the body of philosophical
criticism, of which these prigs keep prating, to be found?
Aristotle's Poetics is an admirable manual — as far as it goes —
but no more than a manual — outlines for a philosophical lecturer
to fill up into a theory. Quintilian is fuller — but often false and
oftener feeble — and too formal by far. Longinus was a man of
fine enthusiasm, and wrote from an awakened spirit. But he
was not a master of principles — though to a writer so eloquent
I shall not deny the glory of deserving that famous panegyric —
" And is himself the Great Sublime he draws."
¹ See Professor Wilson's review of Lockhart's "Life of Burns," Blackwood's
Magazine, vol. xxiii. p. 667; also his "Essay on the Life and Genius of
Burns," in Essays, Critical and Imaginative, vol. iii.
There is nothing else left us from antiquity deserving the
name of philosophical criticism. Of the French school of
philosophical criticism, I need say nothing — La Harpe is clear
and sparkling enough, but very commonplace and very
shallow. The names of twenty others prior to him I might
recollect if I chose — but I choose at present to forget them
all — as the rest of the world has done. As to the English
school, Dryden and Dennis — forgive the junction, James —
both wrote acute criticism; but the name of Dennis but for
Pope would now have been in oblivion, as all his writings
are — and "glorious John" had never gained that epithet,
excellent as they are, by his prose prefaces. What other
English critic flourished before the present age? Addison.
His Essays on the Imagination may be advantageously read
by young ladies, before they paper their hair with such flimsy
Shepherd. I'll no alloo ye to say a word against the author
o' the Vision o' Mirza. As for the Spectawtors, I never could
thole them¹ — no even Sir Roger Coventrey. What was Sir
Roger Coventrey to Christopher North ?
North. But, James, it is not fair to compare a fictitious with
a real character.
Shepherd. No fair, perhaps, to the real character; but mair
than fair to the fictitious ane.
North. As for the German critics — Lessing and Wieland are
the best of them — and I allow they are stars. But as for the
Schlegels, they are too often like men in a mist, imagining
that they are among mountains by the side of a loch or river,
while in good truth they are walking along a flat by the side
of a canal.
Shepherd. Maist unendurable quacks baith o' them, I'll swear.
Fine soundin words and lang sentences — and a theory to
account for everything — for every man, woman, and child,
that ever showed genius in ony age or kintra! as if there was
ony need to account for a production o' natur under the laws
o' Natur's God. O' a' reading the maist entirely useless, waur
than useless, stupifyin, is "cause and effeck." Do the thing
— and be done wi't — whether it be a poem, or a statue, or a
picture, or an oraution, — but, for the love o' Heaven, nae
¹ The Vision of Mirza, however, is one of the Spectators.
botheration about the cause o' its origin in the climate or
constitution o' the kintra that gied it birth — nae —
North. Why, James, you are for putting an end to all philosophy.

Shepherd. Philosophy? Havers.
North. Mr Wordsworth, nettled by the Edinburgh Review,
speaks, in a note to a Lyrical Ballad, of "Adam Smith as the
worst critic, David Hume excepted, that Scotland, a soil
favourable to that species of weed, ever produced." Now,
Adam Smith was perhaps the greatest political economist the
world has yet produced, Ricardo excepted, and one of the
greatest moralists, — I do not know whom to except. Witness
his Wealth of Nations, and Theory of Moral Sentiments. But
he was not a critic at all, nor pretended to be one, James,
and therefore Mr Wordsworth had no right to include him in
that class. He may have occasionally uttered sentiments about
poetry (where authentically recorded?) with which Mr Wordsworth
may not sympathise; and I am most willing to allow
that Mr Wordsworth, being himself a great poet, knows far
more about it than Father Adam. But 'tis childish and contemptible,
in a great man like Mr Wordsworth, to give vent
to his spleen towards a man, in many things as much his
superior as in others he was his inferior; and erroneous as
some of Adam Smith's vaguely and inaccurately reported
opinions on poetry may be, not one of them, I will venture to
say, was over half so silly and so senseless as this splenetic
note of the Great Laker.
Shepherd. Wordsworth canna thole onything Scotch — no
even me and the Queen's Wake.
North. He's greatly to be pitied for his narrow and anti-poetical
-prejudices against "braid" and poetical Scotland,
"and stately Edinborough, throned on crags!" Why, James,
we have the highest authority, you know, for calling ourselves
a nation of gentlemen.
Shepherd. We didna need a king to speak nonsense about
us, to mak us proud. Pride and Poverty are twuns.
North. Ay, James, many of our gentlemen are poor gentlemen
indeed. But what right had Mr Wordsworth to join with
Adam Smith the name of David Hume in one expression of
contempt for the critical character? Let Mr Wordsworth
write such Essays as Hume wrote — such a History, — I speak
now merely of style — and then, and not till then, may he
venture, unassailed by universal laughter, to call David
Hume "a weed." He was "a bright consummate flower,"
James, and though perhaps he did not think it, — also
immortal in heaven as on earth.
Shepherd. I hate — I abhor to hear great men abusin, and
pretendin — for it's a' pretence, mean and base pretence — to
despise ane anither. I blush for them — I hang doun my
head — I'm forced to — replenish my jug — to forget their
frailties and their follies; and thus ye see, sir, how good
springs out o' evil. Tale anither jug.
North. To-night I confine myself to Turkish coffee.
Shepherd. Weel, then, gie't¹ a dash o' Glenlivet.
North. Not a bad idea — let me try.
[NORTH fills up his cup of coffee with Glenlivet.
Shepherd. Speak awa, sir; — but will you forgie me for sayin
that, in layin about you richt and left, you aiblins are subjectin
yoursel to the same censure I hae been passin just now
on ither great men
North. But, James, this is a private party — a privileged place.
Besides, the cases are not parallel — I am in the right — they
are in the wrong — that makes all the difference in the world;
— crush my opinions first, and then censure their utterance.
Shepherd. There's plenty to censure you without me. The
haill periodical press censures you — but I maun confess they
dinna crush your opinions.
North. Hume and Smith formed their taste on the classical
models — ancient and modern — therefore Mr Wordsworth
should have considered —
Shepherd. Tuts — Tuts —
North. As to our Scotch critics of a former age, there are
Gerard, and Beattie, and Campbell, and Kames, and Blair² —
all writers of great merit. Gerard, copious, clear, and acute,
— though not a man of originality, a man of reflection. His
¹ Gie't — give it.
² Alexander Gerard, D.D., Professor of Moral Philosophy in Marischal
College, and afterwards of Theology in King's College, Aberdeen : born 1723.
James Beattie, LL.D., Professor of Moral Philosophy in Marischal College,
Aberdeen: born 1735, died 1803. George Campbell, D.D., Principal of
Marischal College, Aberdeen, author of the Philosophy of Rhetoric: born 1709,
died 1796. Henry Home, afterwards Lord Kames, a Judge of the Court of
volumes on Taste and on Genius contain many excellent
views and many good illustrations. But I dare say Mr Wordsworth
never heard of the Aberdonian Professor. Beattie was
a delightful poet — that Mr Wordsworth well knows — and,
Mr Alison' excepted, the best writer on Literature and the
Fine Arts Britain ever produced — full of feeling and full of
genius. Karnes was "gleg as ony wummle," and, considering
his multifarious studies, the author of the Elements of'
Criticism is not to be sneezed at — he was no weed — a real
rough Bur-Thistle, and that is not a weed, but a fine bold
national flower. As to Dr Blair, his sermons — full of truth,
and most elegantly, simply, and beautifully written — will live
thousands of years after much of our present pompous preaching
is dead, and buried, and forgotten; and though his
Lectures on the Belles Lettres are a compilation, they are
informed by a spirit of his own — pure and graceful, — and
though the purity and the grace are greater than the power
and the originality, he who thinks them stupid must be an
ass — and let him bray against the Doctor "till he stretch his
leathern coat almost to bursting."
Shepherd. I never read a single word o' ane o' thae books
you've been speakin about — and what the better wad I hae
been, tell me, if I had written abstracts o' them a', and
committed the contents to memory?
North. Your education, James, has been a very good one —
and well suited, I verily believe, to your native genius. But
you will allow that other people may have been the better of
them, and of other books on various subjects?
Shepherd. Ou ay — ou ay! I'm verra liberal. I hae nae
objections to let other folk read a' through the Advocates'
Library — but, for my ain pairt, I read nane —
North. And yet, James, you are extremely well informed
on most subjects. Indeed, out of pure science, I do not
know one on which you are ignorant. — How is that?
Shepherd. I canna say. I only ken I reads amaist nane —
Session, and author of Elements of Criticism: born 1696, died 1782. Hugh
Blair, D.D., Professor of Rhetoric in the University of Edinburgh, author of
Lectures on Rhetoric, Sermons: born 1718, died 1800.
1 Archibald Alison, LL.B., held for many years the first charge of St Paul's
Episcopal Chapel, Edinburgh: he published An Essay on the Nature and
Principles of Taste: born 1757, died 1839. The author of The History of
Europe is his son.
no even the Magazine, except my ain articles — and noo and
then a Noctes, which I'm entitled to consider my ain articles;
for without the Shepherd, Gurney, wouldna ye be aff to
Norwich — wouldna ye, Gurney?
Mr Gurney (with stentorian lungs). YES! LIKE A SHOT.
North. As my admirable friend, Mr Campbell, says —
"Without the laugh from partial shepherd won,
Oh what were we? a world without a sun!"
Shepherd. I hate to hear leevin folk, that never wrote
books, or did onything else remarkable, gossiped about, and
a' their stupid clishmaclaver, by way o' wut, retailed by their
puny adherents, mair childish if possible than themsels — a
common nuisance in Embro' society — especially amang advocats
and writers; but I love to hear about the dead — famous
authors in their day — even although I ken but the soun o'
their bare names — and cudna spell them, aiblins, in writin
them doun on paper. Say on.
North. I forgot old Sam — a jewel rough set, yet shining
like a star; and though sand-blind by nature, and bigoted by
education, one of the truly great men of England, and "her
men are of men the chief," alike in the dominions of the
understanding, the reason, the passions, and the imagination.
No prig shall ever persuade me that Rasselas is not a noble
performance, — in design and in execution. Never were the
expenses of a mother's funeral more gloriously defrayed by
son, than the funeral of Samuel Johnson's mother by the
price of Rasselas, written for the pious purpose of laying her
head decently and honourably in the dust.
Shepherd. Ay, that was pittin literature and genius to a
glorious purpose indeed; and therefore nature and religion
smiled on the wark, and have stamped it with immortality.
North. Samuel was seventy years old when he wrote the
Lives of the Poets.
Shepherd. What a fine old buck! No unlike yoursel.
North. Would it were so! He had his prejudices, and his
partialities, and his bigotries, and his blindnesses, — but on
the same fruit-tree you see shrivelled pears or apples on the
same branch with jargonelles or golden pippins worthy of
paradise. Which would ye show to the Horticultural Society
as a fair specimen of the tree?
Shepherd. Good, Kit, good — philosophically picturesque.
[Mimicking the old man's voice and manner.
North. Show me the critique that beats his on Pope, and
on Dryden — nay, even on Milton; and hang me if you may not,
read his Essay on Shakespeare even after having read Charles
Lamb, or heard Coleridge, with increased admiration of the
powers of all three, and of their insight, through different
avenues, and as it might seem almost with different bodily
and mental organs, into Shakespeare's "old exhausted," and
his "new imagined worlds." He was a critic and a moralist
who would have been wholly wise, had he not been partly —
constitutionally insane. For there is blood in the brain,
James — even in the organ — the vital principle of all our
"eagle winged raptures;" — and there was a taint of the
black drop of melancholy in his —
Shepherd. Wheesht — wheesht — let us keep aff that subject.
All men ever I knew are mad; and but for that law o' natur,
never, never in this warld had there been a Noctes Ambrosianæ!

North. Oh, dear! oh, dear! — I have forgot Edmund Burke,
— and Sir Joshua — par Nobile Fratrum. The Treatise on the
Sublime and Beautiful — though written when Ned was a mere
boy — shows a noble mind, clutching at all times at the truth,
and often grasping it for a moment, though, like celestial
quicksilver, it evanishes out of hand. Of voluptuous animal
beauty, the illustrious Irishman had that passionate sense--
nor unprofound — with which nature has gifted the spirit of all
his race. And he had a soul that could rise up from lan-guishment
on Beauty's lap, and aspire to the brows of the
sublime. His juvenile Essay contains some splendid — some
magnificent passages; and with all its imperfections, defects,
and failures, maybe placed among the highest attempts made
by the human mind to cross the debateable land that lies
between the kingdoms of Feeling and of Thought, of Sense
and Imagination.
Shepherd. That's geyan misty, and wudna be easy got aff
by heart.
North. As for Sir Joshua, with pen and pencil he was
equally a great man.
Shepherd. A great man?
North. Yes. What but genius as original as exquisite
could have flung a robe of grace over even a vulgar form, as
if the hand of nature had drawn the aerial charm over the
attitudes and motions thus magically elevated into ideal
beauty? Still retaining, by some finest skill, the similitude
of all the lineaments, what easy flowing outlines adorned the
canvass, deceiving the cheated sitter or walker into the
pardonable delusion that she was one of the Graces — or
Muses, at the least — nay, Venus herself looking out for Mars
on the distant horizon, or awaiting Anchises on the hill.
Shepherd. Even I, sir, a shepherd —
North. The Shepherd, my dear James.
Shepherd. Even I, sir, The Shepherd — though mair impressible
by beauty than by grace, know what grace is, ever since
the first time that I saw a wild swan comin floatin wi' uplifted
wings doun afore the wind through amang the rippled water--
lilies that stretch frae baith shores far intil ae pairt o' St
Mary's Loch, leavin but a narrow dark-blue channel for the
gracefu' naïad to come glidin through, wi' her lang, smooth,
white neck bendin back atween her snaw-white sails, and her
full breast seemin, as it ploughed the sma' sunny waves,
whiter and whiter still — noo smooth, smooth — and noo
slightly ruffled, as the foam half dashed against and half flew
awa, without touchin't, frae the beautifu' protrusion o' that
depth o' down!
North. Verra weel — nae mair, Jamie. Then as to Sir
Joshua's writings, their spirit is all in delightful keeping with
his pictures. One of the few painters he — such as Leonardo
Da Vinci, Michael Angelo, and so on — our own Barry, Opie,
Fuseli, and so on — who could express by the pen the principles
which guide the pencil. 'Tis the only work on art
which, to men not artists, is entirely intelligible —
Shepherd. The less painters in general write the better, I
North. But what led to our conversation about philosophical
criticism? Oh! I have it. Well then, James, compare with
this slight sketch of the doings of the men of former generations,
from the beginning of time down to nearly the French
Revolution, those of our present race of critics — in Britain —
and how great our superiority! Dugald Stewart¹ has just
¹ Born in 1753, died in 1828. He was Professor of Moral Philosophy in the
University of Edinburgh from 1785 to 1810, when he retired in favour of Dr
Thomas Brown.
left us, — and though his poetical was not so good as his
philosophical education, — and though his eye had scarcely
got accustomed to the present bright flush of Poetry, yet his
delightful volume of Miscellaneous Essays proves that he
stood — and for ever will stand — in the First Order of critics,
— generous, enthusiastic, and even impassioned, far beyond
the hair-splitting spirit of the mere metaphysician. And
there is our own Alison, still left, and long may he be left to
us, whose work on Taste and the Association of Ideas ought
to be in the hands of every poet, and of every lover of
poetry, — so clear in its statement, so rich in its illustration
of Principles.
Shepherd. This seems to me to be the only age of the
world, sir, in which poetry and creetishism ever gaed, like
sisters, hand in hand, encircled wi' a wreath o' flowers.
North. Now — all our philosophical criticism — or nearly all
— is periodical; and fortunate that it is so both for taste and
genius. It is poured daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, into
the veins of the people, mixing with their very heart-blood.
Nay, it is like the very air they breathe.
Shepherd. Do you mean to say, "if they have it not,
they die?"
North. Were it withheld from them now, their souls would
die or become stultified. Formerly, when such disquisitions
were confined to quarto or octavo volumes, in which there was
nothing else, the author made one great effort, and died in
book-birth — his offspring sharing often the doom of its
unhappy parent. If it lived, it was forthwith immured in a
prison called a library — an uncirculating library — and was
heard no more of in this world, but by certain worms.
Shepherd. A' the warld's hotchin wi' authors noo, like a
pond wi' powheads.¹ Out sallies Christopher North frae amang
the reeds, like a pike, and crunches them in thousands.
North. Our current periodical literature teems with thought
and feeling, James, — with passion and imagination. There
was Gifford, and there are Jeffrey, arid Southey, and Campbell,
and Moore, and Bowles, and Sir Walter, and Lockhart,
and Lamb, and Wilson, and De Quincey, and the four Cole-ridges,
S. T. C., John, Hartley, and Derwent, and Croly, and
Maginn, and Mackintosh, and Cunningham, and Kennedy, and
Stebbings, and St Ledger, and Knight, and Praed, and Lord
¹ Powheads — tadpoles.
Dudley and Ward, and Lord L. Gower, and Charles Grant,
and Hobhouse, and Blunt, and Milman, and Carlyle, and
Macaulay, and the two Moirs, and Jordan, and Talfourd, and
Bowling, and North, and Hogg, and Tickler, and twentyforty
— fifty — other crack contributors to the Reviews, Magazines,
and Gazettes, who have said more tender, and true, and
fine, and deep things in the way of criticism, than ever was
said before since the reign of Cadmus, ten thousand times
over, — not in long, dull, heavy, formal, prosy theories, — but
flung off hand, out of the glowing mint — a coinage of the
purest ore — and stamped with the ineffaceable impress of
genius. Who so elevated in intellectual rank as to be entitled
to despise such a Periodical Literature?
Shepherd. Nae leevin man — nor yet dead ane.
North. The whole surface of society, James, is thus irrigated
by a thousand streams; some deep — some shallow
Shepherd. And the shallow are sufficient for the purpose o'
irrigation. Water three inches deep, skilfully and timeously
conducted ower a flat o' fifty or a hunder acres, wull change
arid sterility, on which half-a-score sheep would be starved
in a month intil skeletons, intil a flush o' flowery herbage that
will feed and fatten a haill score o' kye. You'll see a proof o'
this when you come out to Mount Benger. But no to dwall
on ae image — let me say that millions are thus pleased and
instructed, who otherwise would go dull and ignorant to their
North. Every month adds to the number of these admirable
works; and from the conflict of parties, political, poetical, and
philosophical, emerges, in all her brightness, the form of
Truth. Why, there, James, lies THE SPECTATOR, a new weekly
paper, of some half-year's standing or so, of the highest merit,
and I wish I had some way of strenuously recommending it
to the Reading Public. The editor,¹ indeed, is Whiggish and
a Pro-Catholic — but moderate, steady, and consistent in his
politics. Let us have no turncoats. His précis of passing
politics is always admirable; his mercantile information — that
I know on the authority of as good a judge as lives — is correct
and comprehensive; miscellaneous news are collected judiciously
and amusingly from all quarters; the literary depart¹
Mr Rintoul, under whose management the Spectator is still (1855) remarkable
for its condensation, clear-sightedness, and independence.
ment is equal, on the whole, to that of any other weekly periodical,
such as The Literary Gazette (which, however, has the
great advantage of being altogether literary and scientific, and
stands, beyond dispute, at the head of its own class), Weekly
Review, Athenæum, Sphynx, Atlas, or others, — I nowhere see bet--
ter criticism on poetry — and nowhere nearly so good criticism
on theatricals. Some critiques there have been, in that department,
superior, in exquisite truth of tact, to anything I remember
— worthy of Elia himself, though not apparently from Elia;
and in accounts of foreign literature, especially French, and,
above all, of French politics, a subject on which I need to be enlightened,
I have seen no periodical at all equal to the Spectator.
Shepherd. The numbers you sent out-by deserved a' that
ye say o' them. It's a maist enterteenin and instructive — a
waist miscellawneous Miscellany.
North. And without being wishy-washy —
Shepherd. Or wersh —
North. The Spectator is impartial. It is a fair, open, honest,
and manly periodical.
Shepherd. Wheesht! I hear a rustlin in the letter-box.
North. John will have brought up my newspapers from the
Lodge, expecting that I am not to be at home to dinner.
Shepherd. Denner! it's near the dawin!
[The SHEPHERD opens the letter-box in the door, and lays
down nearly a dozen Newspapers on the table.
North. Ay, there they are, the Herald, the Morning Post, the
Morning Journal, the Courier, the Globe, the Standard, and "the
Rest." Let me take a look into the Standard, as able, argumentative,
and eloquent a Paper as ever supported civil and religious
liberty — that is, Protestantism in Church and State. —
No disparagement to its stanch brother, the Morning Journal,
or its excellent cousin, the Morning Post. Two strong, steady,
well-bred wheelers — and a Leader that shows blood at all points
— and covers his ground like the Phenomenon. — No superior
set-out to an — Unicorn. [North unfolds the Standard.
Shepherd. I never read prent after twal. And as for newspapers,
I carena if they should be a month auld. It's pitifu'
to see some folk — nae fules neither — unhappy if their paper
misses comin ony nicht by the post. For my ain pairt, I like
best to receive a great heap o' them a' at ance in a parshel by
the carrier. Ony news, North?
North. Eh?
Shepherd. Ony news? Are you deaf? or only absent?
North. Eh ?
Shepherd. There's mainners — the mainners o' a gentleman
— o' the auld schule too. — Ony news ?
North. Hem — hem¹ —
Shepherd. His mind's weaken'd. Millions o' reasonable
creatures at this hour perhaps — na — no at this hour — but a'
this evenin — readin newspapers! And that's the philosophy
o' human life! London sendin out, as frae a great reservoir,
rivers o' reports, spates o' speculations to inundate, to droon,
to deluge the haill island! I hear the torrents roarin, but the
soon' fa's on my ear without stunnin my heart. There comes
a drought, and they are a' dry. Catholic Emancipation!
Stern shades of the old Covenanters, methinks I hear your
voices on the moors and the mountains! But weep not, wail
not — though a black cloud seems to be hanging over all the
land! Still will the daisy, "wee modest crimson-tipped flower,"
bloom sweetly on the greensward that of yore was reddened
wi' your patriot, your martyr blood. Still will the foxglove,
as the silent ground-bee bends doun the lovely hanging bells,
shake the pure tears of heaven over your hallowed graves!
Though annual fires run along the bonny bloomin heather,
yet the shepherds ne'er miss the balm and brightness still left
at mornin to meet them on the solitary hills. The sound of
Psalms rises not now, as they sublimely did in those troubled
times, from a tabernacle not built with hands, whose side--
walls were the rocks and cliffs, its floor the spacious sward,
and its roof the eternal heavens. But from beneath many a
lowly roof of house, and hut, and hovel, and shielin, and sylvan
cosy bield, ascend the humble holy orisons of poor and
happy men, who, when comes the hour of sickness or of death,
desire no other pillow for their swimming brain than that
Bible, which to them is the Book of everlasting life, even as
the Sun is the Orb of the transitory day. And to maintain
that faith is now, alas! bigotry and superstition! The Bible
is to take care of itself. If it cannot, let it perish! Let innocence
and virtue, and truth and knowledge and freedom, all
take care of themselves, and let all their enemies seek, as they
will, insidiously to seduce, openly to outrage; — for if they
¹ It was Professor Wilson's habit, when great events were astir, to be much
absorbed in the newspaper he happened to be reading.
cannot stand fast against all the powers of evil, they deserve
to die! And this it seems is — Christian doctrine! It may be
held sae in great cities, where sin sits in high places, where
the weak soon become worthless, and the worthless wicked,
and the wicked blind; but never, never will it be the creed of
the dwellers on the gracious bosom of nature! — of those who,
whether amang spacious tree-sprinkled plains made beautifu'
and solemn wi' a hundred church towers and cathedrals, at
work or in pastime lift up a gaze, bold before man, but meek
before God, to the blue marbled skies of merry and magnificent
England! — of those who, beneath mist and cloud, wanderin
through lonely regions whose silence hears but the
eagle's cry or the torrent's roar, as they pass by the little
kirk on the knowe let their softened een follow up the spire,
till from its sun-licht point momentarily glancin through the
gloom, they muse on the storm-driftin heavens, through which
shines as brightly as in the fairest clime the eye o' the all-seeing
God. — But where am I? In the silence I thocht it was
the Sabbath — and that I was in the Forest. High thochts
and pure feelings can never come amiss — either in place or in
time. Folk that hae been prayin in a kirk may lauch., withouten
blame, when they hae left the kirkyard. Silly thochts
maun never be allowed to steal in amang sacred anes — but
there never can be ony harm in sacred thochts stealing in
amang silly anes. A bit bird singin by itsel in the wilderness
has sometimes made me amaist greet,¹ in a mysterious melancholy
that seemed wafted towards me on the solitary strain,
frae regions ayont the grave. But it flitted awa into silence,
and in twa or three minutes I was singin ane o' my ain cheerful
— nay, funny sangs. — Mr North, I say, will ye never hae
dune readin at that Stannard? It's a capital paper — I ken
that — nane better — na, nane sae gude, for it's faithful and
fearless, and cuts like a twa-handed twa-edged swurd. Mr
North, I say, I'll begin to get real angry if you'll no speak.
O man! but that's desperate bad mainners to keep glowering
like a gawpus on a newspaper, at what was meant to be a
crick-crack atween twa auld freens. Fling't doun. I'm sayin,
sir, fling't doun. O but you're ugly the noo — and what's
waur, there's nae meanin in your face. You're a puir, auld,
ugly, stupid, vulgar, disagreeable, and dishonest-looking
fallow, and a'm baith sorry and ashamed that I sud be sittin
¹ Greet — weep.
in sic company. Fling doun the Stannard — if you dinna, it 'ill
be waur for you, for you've raised my corruption. Flesh and
bluid can bear this treatment nae langer. I'll gie just ae
mair warnin. — Fling doun the Stannard. Na, you wunna —
won't you? Weel, tak that.
[The SHEPHERD throws a glass of toddy in MR NORTH'S face.
North. Ha! What the deuce is that? My cup has jumped
out of my hand and spurted the Glenlivet-coffee into its
master's countenance. James, lend me your pocket-handkerchief.
[Relapses into the Standard.
Shepherd. Fling doun the Stannard — or I'll gang mad.
Neist time I'll shy the jug at him — for if it's impossible to
insult, it may perhaps be possible to kill him — Fling doun
the Stannard. You maddenin auld sinner, you wad be cheap
o' death! Yet I maunna kill him — I maunna kill him — for
I micht be hanged.
North. Nobly said, Sadler¹ — nobly said! I have long
known your great talents, and your great eloquence, too; but
I hardly hoped for such a display of both as this — Hear! —
hear! — hear! — There — my trusty fere — you have indeed
clapped the saddle on the right horse.
Shepherd. Tak that.
[Flings another glass of toddy in MR NORTH'S face.
North (starting up). Fire and fury!
Shepherd. Butter and brimstone! How daured you to treat
me? —
North. This outrage must not pass unpunished. Hogg, I
shall give you a sound thrashing.
[MR NORTH advances towards the SHEPHERD in an offensive
attitude. The SHEPHERD seizes the poker in one hand,
and a chair in the other.
Shepherd. Haud aff, sir, — haud aff — or I'll brain you.
Dinna pick a quarrel wi' me. I've dune a' I could to prevent
it; but the provocation I received was past a' endurance.
Haud aff, sir, — Haud aff.
North. Coward! coward! coward !
Shepherd. Flyte² awa, sir — flyte awa; — but haud aff, or I'll
fell you.
¹ Michael Thomas Sadler, M.P., 1829, for Newark-upon-Trent, was born
in 1780 and died in 1835. The amelioration of the condition of the factory--
children in England, and of the Irish poor, was due very much to his exertions.
His principal works were Ireland, its Evils and their Remedies, — and The
Law of Population, written in opposition to Malthus.
² Flyte — rail.
North (resuming his seat). I am unwilling to hurt you,
James, on account of those at Mount Benger; but lay down
the poker — and lay down the chair.
Shepherd. Na — na — na. Unless you first swear on the
Bible that you'll tak nae unfair advantage.
North. Let my word suffice — I won't. Now go to that
press — and you will see a pair of gloves. Bring them
to me — [The SHEPHERD fetches the gloves.
Shepherd. Ca' you thae gloves?
North (stripping and putting on the gloves). Now, sir, use
your fists as you best may — and in five minutes I shall take
the conceit out of you
Shepherd (peeling to the sark). I'll sune gie you a
bluidy nose.
[The combatants shake hands and put themselves into attitude.
North. Take care of your eyes.
[SHEPHERD elevates his guard — and NORTH delivers a desperate
right-handed lunge on his kidneys.
Shepherd. That's no fair, ye auld blackguard.
North. Well, then, is that?
[SHEPHERD receives two left-handed facers, which seem to muddle
his knowledge-box. He bores in wildly on the old man.
Shepherd. Whew — whew — whew. Fu — fu — fu. What's
that? What's that ? [The SHEPHERD receives pepper.
North. Hit straight, James. So — so — so — so — so — so.
Shepherd. That's foul play. There's mair nor ane o' you.
Wha's that joinin in? Let me alane — and I'll sune finish
[MR NORTH, who has gradually retreated into a corner of the
Snuggery, gathers himself up for mischief, and as the SHEPHERD
rushes in to close, delivers a stinger under JAMES'S
ear, that floors him like a shot. MR NORTH then comes out,
as actively as a bird on the bough of a tree.
North. I find I have a hit in me yet. A touch on the
jugular always tells tales. Hollo! hollo! My dear James
Deaf as a house.
[Mr NORTH takes of the gloves fetches a tumbler of the jug —
and kneeling tenderly down by the SHEPHERD bathes his
temples. JAMES opens his eyes, and stares wildly around.
Shepherd. Is that you, Gudefallow? Hae I had a fa' aff a
horse, or out o' the gig?
North. My dear maister — out o' the gig. The young horse
took fricht at a tup loupin¹ over the wa', and set off like
lichtnin. You sudna hae louped out — You sudna hae
louped out.
Shepherd. Whare's the gig ?
North. Never mind, maister.
Shepherd. I say, whare's the gig?
North. In the Loch —
Shepherd. And the horse ?
North. In the loch too —
Shepherd. Droon'd ?
North. Not yet — if you look up, you'll see him soomin
across wi' the gig.
Shepherd (fixing his eyes on vacancy). Ay — sure aneuch —
yonner he goes !
North. Yon proves his breed. He's descended from the
Shepherd. I'm verra faint. I wush I had some whusky —
North. Here, maister — here —
[The SHEPHERD drains the tumbler, and revives.
Shepherd. Am I in the open air, or in a hoose? I howp a
hoose — or there maun be a concussion o' the brain, for I seem
to see chairs and tables.
North. Yes, maister — you have been removed in a blanket
by eight men to Mount Benger.
Shepherd. Is baith my legs brok?
North. Dinna ask — dinna ask. We've sent an express to
Embro' for Liston.² They say that when he sets broken legs
they're stronger than ever.
Shepherd. He's a wonderfu' operawtor — but I can scarcely
believe that. Oh! am I to be for life a lameter!³ It's a judgment
on me for writin the Chaldee!4
¹ Loupin — leaping.
² Robert Liston, one of the most eminent surgeons of the day, first in Edinburgh,
and afterwards in London. He died in 1847.
³ Lameter — a cripple.
4 Hogg's share in the authorship of the Chaldee MS. has been already pointed
out; see Preface, p. xvi. Messrs Pringle and Cleghorn — both of whom were
excessively lame — were the editors of the first six numbers of Blackwood's
Magazine. In the Chaldee they are thus satirically described by the
Shepherd: —
"4. And I turned mine eyes, and behold two beasts came from the land of the
borders of the south; and when I saw then I wondered with great admiration.
"5. The one beast was like unto a lamb, and the other like unto a bear, and
they had wings on their heads; their faces also were like the faces of men, the
North. I canna thole, maister, to see you greetin —
Shepherd. Mercifu' powers! but your face has changed intil
that o' an auld man! — Was Mr North frae Embro' here the noo?
North. I am indeed that unhappy old man. But 'tis all but
a dream, my dear James — 'tis all but a dream! What means
all this wild disjointed talk of yours about gigs and horses,
and a horse and a gig swimming over St Mary's Loch! Here
we are, my beloved friend, in Edinburgh — in Picardy — at the
Noctes Ambrosianæ — at high-jinks, my James, after a bout
with the mufflers and the naked mawleys.
Shepherd. I dreamed that I had knocked you down, sir —
Was that the case?
North. It was indeed, James. But I am not angry with
you. You did not mean to hit so hard. You generously ran in
to keep me from falling, and by some strange sudden twist,
you happened to fall undermost, and to save me sacrificed
yourself. — 'Twas a severe stun.
Shepherd. The hail wecht o' mist has rolled itsel up into
cluds on the mountain-taps, and all the scenery aneath lies
fresh and green, wi' every kept house and tree. But I howp
you're no sair hurt yoursel — let me help you up
[The SHEPHERD assists Mr NORTH, who has been sitting on the
floor, like the Shah, to recover his pins — and the two walk
arm-in-arm to their respective chairs.
North. I am sorely shaken, James. An account of our
Set-to, our Turn-up, James, ought to be sent to that admirable
sporting paper, Bell's Life in London.
Shepherd. Let it, my dear sir, be a lesson to you the langest
day you leeve, never to pick a quarrel, or even to undertak
ony half-and-half sort o' horse-play wi' a younger and a
stronger man than yoursel. Sir, if I hadna been sae weel up
to the business, that fa' might hae been your last. As for
thae nasty gloves, I never wush to see their faces again a' the
days o' my life. What's that chappin?
North. Probably Picardy. See, the door's locked inside.
[The SHEPHERD unlocks and opens the door.
Shepherd. What mob's this?
joints of their legs* like the polished cedars of Lebanon, and their feet like the
feet of horses preparing to go forth to battle; and they arose, and they came
onward over the face of the earth, and they touched not the ground as they
* i,e. Their crutches.
North. Show in the Democracy.
(Enter PICARDY, MON. CADET, the Manciple, the Clerk of the
Ambrose (while OMNES hold up their hands). Dear me! dear me!
Shepherd. What are you a' glowerin at me for, ye fules?
North. Tappy, bring me a looking-glass.
[Exit TAPPY, volans.
Shepherd. I say, ye fules, what are ye glowerin at me in
that gate for? Do you see horns on my head?
(Re-enter TAPPY, with a copy of the Mirror).
North. Take a glance, my dear James, at the Magic Mirror.
[The SHEPHERD looks in, and recoils to the sideboard.
Shepherd. What's a face! What'n a pair o' black, blue,
green, yellow een!
North. We must apply leeches. Mr Ambrose, bring in a
few bottles of leeches, and some raw veal-steaks.
Shepherd. Aff wi' you — aff wi' you — the haill tot o' you.
[Exit PICARDY, with his Tail.
North. Come to my arms, my incomparable Shepherd, and
let us hob and nob, to "Gude nicht and joy be wi' us a'," in
a caulker of Millbank; and let us, during the "wullie waught,"
think of him whose worthy name it bears —
Shepherd. As gude a chiefs in Christendie! — Oh, my ever--
honoured sir, what wad the warld say, if she kent the concludin
proceedins o' this nicht! That we were twa auld fules!
North. At times, James,
"'Tie folly to be wise."
Shepherd. As auld Crow, the Oxford orator, says at the end
o' his bonny descriptive poem, Lewesdon Hill —
"To-morrow for severer thought — but now
To breakfast"
North. To bed — you mean —
Shepherd. No — to breakfast. It's mornin. The East is
brichtenin — Look over awaukenin Leith — and, lo! white sails
glidin ower the dim blue sea
North. Let us each take a cold bath.
[MR NORTH and SHEPHERD disappear.
(MAY 1829.)
Scene I. — Buchanan Lodge — the Virgin's Bower Arbour.
Time, — Four in the Afternoon. NORTH and the SHEPHERD
partaking of a Cold Collation.
Shepherd. Let's hae just ae single hour's twa-haun'd crack,
afore we gang into the Lodge to dress for the Tea-party.
North. There is something interesting, my dear James,
nay impressive, almost melancholy, in the first cold Dinner
of the year.
Shepherd. Come — come, sir — nae sentimentality; — besides,
a cauld denner's no muckle amiss, provided there only be an
ashet o' het mealy potatoes.
North. Spring is with me the happiest season of the year.
How tempting the young esculents, as they spring up in their
virginity along the weedless garden-beds! Then the little
fattening twin-lambs, James, racing on the sunny braes, how
pleasing to the poetical palate!
Shepherd. Though I tauld you no to be sentimental, I
didna bid you be sensual.
North. I sit corrected. Lo, winter is over and gone.
Shepherd. Na —
"Wunter lingerin chills the lap o' May."
But May is a merry month, and I kenna whether the smiles
or the frowns on her face be the mair beautifu' — just like a
haughty damsel, in the pride o' her teens, sometimes flingin a
scornfu' look to you ower her shouther, as if she despised a'
mankind; and then a' at ance, as if touched by gentle thochts,
relaxin intil a burst o' smiles, like the sun, on a half-stormy
day, comin out suddenly frae amang the breakin clouds, and
changing at ante earth into heaven. O, sir, but the Lodge is
a bonny place noo.
North. I love suburban retirement, James, even more than
the remotest rural solitude. In old age, one needs to have
the neighbourhood of human beings to lean upon — and in the
stillness of awakening morn or hushing eve, my spirit yearns
towards the hum of the city, and finds a relief from all o'er-mastering
thoughts, in its fellowship with the busy multitudes
sailing along the many streams of life, too near to be wholly
forgotten, and yet far enough off not to harass or disturb. In
my most world-sick dreams I never longed to be a hermit in
his cave. Mine eyes have still loved the smoke of human
dwellings — and when my infirmities keep me from church,
sitting here in this arbour, with Jeremy Taylor's Holy Living
and Dying perhaps on the table before me, how solemn, how
sublime, the sound of the Sabbath-bells! Whether the towers
and spires of the houses of worship are shining in the sunlight,
or heard each in its own region of the consecrated city, through
a softening weight of mist or clouds from the windy sea!
Shepherd. For my ain pairt, Mr North, though I loe¹ the
lochs, and moors, and mountains, as well as do the wild
swans, the whaups, and the red-deer; yet could I, were there
a necessity for't, be every bit as happy in a flat in ony timmer
tenement in the darkest lane o' Auld Reekie, as in Mount
Benger itsel, that blinks sae bonnily on its ain green knowe
on the broad bosom o' natur. Wherever duty ca's him, and
binds him doun, there may a man be happy — ay, even at the
bottom o' a coal-pit, sir, that rins a mile aneath the sea, wi'
waves and ships roarin and rowin a thousan' fathom over
the shaft.
North. The Philosophy of Human Life.
Shepherd. Better still — it's Religion. Woe for us were there
not great happiness and great virtue in toons and cities? Let
but the faculties o' the mind be occupied for sake o' the
affections o' the heart, and your ee may shine as cheerfully on
a smoky dead brick wa', within three yards o' your nose, as on
a ledge o' livin rock formin an amphitheatre roun' a loch or
an arm o' the sea. Wad I loe my wife and my weans the less
in the Grassmarket² than in the Forest? Wad I be affected
itherwise by burying one o' them — should it so please God¹
Loe — love.
² in Edinburgh.
in Yarrow kirkyard than in the Greyfriars ?¹ If my sons and
my daughters turn out weel in life, what matters it to me if
they leeve by the silver streams or the dry Nor-loch?² Vice
and misery as readily — as inevitably — befa' mortal creturs in
the sprinkled domiciles, that frae the green earth look up
through amang trees to the blue heavens, as in the dungeon--
like dwallins, crooded ane aboon anither, in closes whare it's
aye a sort o' glimmerin nicht. And Death visits them a'
alike wi' as sure a foot and as pitiless an ee. And whenever,
and wherever, he comes, there's an end o' a' distinctions — o'
a' differences o' outward and material things. Then we maun
a' alike look for comfort to ae source — and that's no the skies
theirsels, beautifu' though they may be, canopyin the dewy
earth wi' a curtain wrought into endless figures, a' bricht wi'
the rainbow hues, or amaist hidden by houses frae the sicht
o' them that are weepin amang the dim city-lanes — for what
is't in either case but a mere congregation o' vapours? But
the mourner maun be able, wi' the eyes o' Faith, to pierce
through it a', or else of his mournin there will be no end, —
nay, nay, sir, tho mair beautifu' may be the tent in which he
tabernacles, the mair hideous the hell within his heart!
The contrast atween the strife o' his ain distracted spirit, and
the calm o' the peacefu' earth, may itherwise drive him mad,
or, if not, make him curse the hour when he was born into a
warld in vain so beautifu'.
North. I love to hear you discourse, James,
"On man and nature, and on human life,
Musing in solitude."
Methinks that Poetry, of late years, has dwelt too much on
external nature. The worship of poets, if not idolatry, has
been idolatrous.
Shepherd. What's the difference?
North. Nay, ask the Bishop of Oxford.³
Shepherd. Whew! — Not so with the poetry of Burns, and
other great peasants. They pored not perpetually, sir, into
streams and lochs that they might see there their ain reflec¹
A church and churchyard in Edinburgh.
² The hollow which divides the old town of Edinburgh from the new, and
along which the railway now runs.
³ Dr Lloyd, Bishop of Oxford in 1829 (in which year he died), is reported to
have said of the Roman Catholic religion, that it was idolatrous, and yet not
tion. Believe me, sir, that Narcissus¹ was nae poet. — Preserve
me, what a sicht! Chucky, chucky — chucky, chucky.
Oh, sir! but that's a bonny clock-in hen! An' what's a
cleckin² she's gotten! Nearer a score nor a dizzen, and a'
white as snaw!
North. Yes, James, Lancashire Ladylegs.
Shepherd. Mufties too, I declare; — are they ggem?³
North. You shall see. — Ralpho!
[Flings a piece of meat towards the brood. The raven hops
out of the arbour to seize it, and is instantly attacked by
Shepherd. That beats cock-fechtin! O instinck! instinck!
but for thy mysterious fever hoo cauldrife the haill warld o'
North. 'Tis but a mere pullet, James — her first family —
Shepherd. See hoo she cuffs Sooty's chafts, till the feathers
flee frae him like stour!4 Lend me your crutch, sir, that I may
separate them, or faith she'll tear him intil pieces.
[The SHEPHERD endeavours to separate the combatants —
when Ladylegs turns against him, and drives him into
the arbour.
North. Mark how beautifully — how gracefully she shall soon
subside into a calm!
Shepherd. For a pullet she has fearfu' lang spurs. Ay —
yon's bonny — bonny! See till them — the bit chickenies — ane
after anither, comin rinnin out frae various pairts o' the
shrubbery just like sae mony white mice — and dartin in
aneath her extended wings, as she sits on the sunny gravel,
beautifu' as an outlandish bird frae some Polar region, her
braid breast expandin in delight as she feels a' her brood
hotchin aneath her, and her lang upricht neck, flexible as that
o' a serpent's, turnin her red-crested head hither and thither
in a' directions, main in pride than in fear, noo that she hears
Ralpho croakin at a distance, and the wee panters beginnin
again to twitter amang the feathers, lookin out noos and thens
wi' their bit heads frae that cosy bield —
North. Here is a little bit bookie, which pray put into your
pocket for wee Jamie — James. The Library of Entertaining
¹ Narcissus fell in love with his own image in the water, and pined away
because he could not embrace it. — See Ovid's Metamorphoses.
² Cleckin — brood.
³ Ggem — game.
4 Stour — flying dust
Knowledge, vol. i. part i., entitled "The Menageries." "Quadrupeds
described and drawn from living subjects."
Shepherd. Thank ye, sir. He's¹ just perfectly mad about
a' mainner o' birds and beasts — and weel I like to look at him
lookin at a new pictur! Methinks I see the verra sowl growin
within him as he glowers I The study o' natural history,
maist assuredly, should be begun when you're a bairn, and
when you're a man, you'll be hand and glove wi' a' the beasts
o' the field, and birds o' the air — their various names
familiar to you as household words — their habits as weel
lent, or aiblins better, than your ain — sae that you hae
acquaintances, and companions, and freens in the maist solitary
places — and need never weary for want o' thochts and feelings
even in a desert, if but ae feathery or filmy wing cross
between you and the horizon.
North. There is in London, as perhaps you know, a Society
for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, which has published
very widely many admirable treatises — chiefly on Physical,
though their plan comprehends Moral, subjects. For all the
enlightened labours of that Society have I always prayed for
success; for I desire that all men may live in the light of
liberty and truth.
Shepherd. That's the redeemin trait in your character, sir.
O, but you're a glorious auld Tory, Mr North. Your love for
the past neither deadens your joy in the present, nor inspires
you wi ' fear for the future. You venerate the weather-stains
on the trunk o' the tree o' knowledge, yet you rejoice to see
its branches every year flinging a wider shadow.
North. Why, my dear James, the Magazine, with all its
faults — which have been neither few nor small —
Shepherd. And wha ever saw either a book or a man worth
praisin, that wasna as weel worth abusin? In a' great gifts
there's a mixtur o' gude and evil —
North. Has spread knowledge among the people of Britain.
In Theology, Philosophy, Politics, Literature, Life and Man-ners,
Maga has, on the whole, been sound, and she has been
consistent. She may be said to be in herself a Library of
Useful and Entertaining Knowledge.
Shepherd. But what for ca' they this bookie "The Menagerie,"
¹ He - i.e. wee Jamie.
North. A well-chosen name, James. There, as in a Menagerie,
you behold —
Shepherd. I see, I see — The woodcuts are capital — but
hoo's the letterpress, sir ?
North. Why, there you have upwards of two hundred closely
printed pages, fine paper and type, with nearly a score of
admirable representations of animals, for a couple of shillings!
The cheapest thing I ever saw; — and so far from being a catchpenny
— it is got up, in all its departments, by men of real
talent, and knowledge of the subject.
Shepherd. It's incredibly cheap; and I fear maun be a losing
North. No, James, it will be a gaining concern. The conductors
of the Library of Entertaining Knowledge have resolved
that it shall be sold at the lowest possible rate, and are little
anxious about profit. But let them go on as they have begun,
and I do not doubt that the sale of their monthly parts may
soon reach twenty — thirty — why not forty thousand?
Shepherd. Na—na. It can never do that. Maga doesna
sell that.
North. Doesn't she? That shows how little you know
of Maga. By the by, James, I have not seen Maga for
some months — not since Christmas. I thought her rather
dull last time we had a tête-à-tête. I was absolutely so very
ungallant as to fall asleep with her in my arms. The wick of
the candle got about a foot long — the tail of her gown took
fire — and Buchanan Lodge was within an ace of being reduced
to ashes.
Shepherd. You would hae broken out o' the conflagration
in the shape o' a phœnix, sir, "the secular bird of ages."
But wha's the veece-yeditor?
North. She edits herself, James. She reminds me of an
orange-tree in a conservatory — blossom and fruit beautifully
blended at all times among the radiant evergreen. The sun
forgets her not — and an hour now and then of open window
bathes her in morning or evening dew; so gaze on her
when you will, and she is bright and balmy in immortal
Shepherd. You assuredly are, sir, the idlest auld sinner in
a' this warld, yet you never seem weary o' life; and your face
aye wears an expression as if some new thocht were visitin
your mind, and passin aff in smiles or froons, rather than
words, — the aboriginal and only universal langage, o' which
a body never forgets the grammar, and o' which the construction,
though simple, is comprehensive, and capable o'
ten thousand interpretations, according to the spirit in which
it is read — mair copious either than the Hebrew or the Greek,
though the roots are but few; but oh! the compound epithets,
countless as the motes i' the sun o' a simmer mornin! I weel
believe, sir, that a' your life lang you were never a single
moment idle.
North. Idle! No, James — not even in sleep. Yet, do you
know, that my sleeping seems to have no kindred with my
waking soul. Seldom — I may say never — do I dream of this
waking world. I have every night a new set of friends in
sleep, whom I know and love. They .pass away with the
morning light, and never more return. Sometimes they seem
as if they were phantoms I had been familiar with in
youth — in boyhood — in infancy — but I know not their names,
nor can recall the memory of the times or places where we
had met in joy — only I feel that they are lovely, loving, and
beloved! We talk of strange and delightful things, and walk
overshadowed by bliss divine, — but —
Shepherd. I never met a man before that had dreams o'
that kind besides mysel —
North. I never, my dear James, saw your face in a dream —
yet my dreams are often perfectly happy — nor do I remember
to have once dreamt of any book, or —
Shepherd. Did you never dream of being married, sir?
North. Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear !
Shepherd. What! You're no gaun to greet?
North. What large dewy orbs divine, angelical eyes in
angelical faces, have fixed themselves upon mine, overcharged
with love, as if the beings beaming there had been
commissioned to pour immortal heaven into my mortal heart!
No doubts, no fears, no misgivings, such as haunt and trouble
all our delights in this waking world! But one pure serene
flow of bliss, deep and high as the blue marbled heaven of
the Dream that heard the very music of the spheres chiming,
as the Paradise in which we stood, face to face with a seraph,
kept floating not insensibly through the fragrant ether! The
voice that syllabled such overwhelming words! Embracements
that blended spirit with spirit! Perishings into
intenser life! Swoonings away into spiritual regions!
Re-awakenings into consciousness of breath and blood almost
stopt by rapture! Then, the dying away back again —
slowly but sadly — into earthly existence — till, with a beating
heart, we knew again that we were the thralls of sense, and
doomed to grovel like worms upon the dust — the melancholy
dust of this our prison-house, from which, except in
dreams, there is no escape, and from which at last we may
be set free but for the eternal darkness of the grave! — Oh!
James — James! — what if the soul be like the body, mortal,
and all that we shall ever know of heaven, only such
glorious but delusive dreams!
Shepherd. Sic visions leave just the verra opposite impression
on my mind. Something divine, and therefore immortal,
needs must be the spirit within us, that, when a' the senses
are locked up in sleep, can yet glorify the settin sun into an
apparition far mair magnificent than ever sank into the sea
ahint the western mountains. But whisht! Is that an angel
singin ?
North. No, James; 'tis my gardener's little daughter, Flora.
Shepherd. Happy as ony burd. Music is indeed the natural
voice o' joy. First, the bosom feels free frae a' anxiety — then
a kind o' gladness, without ony definite cause or objects
settles ower the verra essence o' life; — ere long there is a
beatin and stirrin at the heart, as some suddenly-remembered
thocht passes ower it like a brighter sunbeam; — by-and-by,
the innocent young cretur, sittin by hersel, pu'in wi' her wee
white hauns the weeds frae amang the flowers, and half loath
to fling them awe, some o' them bein' sae bonny, although
without ony fragrant smell, can nae linger contain the happiness
flowing within her snaw-white breist, but breaks out, as
noo .ye hear your bonny Flora, into some auld Scottish sang,
maist likely mournfu', for bliss is aye akin, sir, to grief. Ay,
sir, the "Flowers o' the Forest!" And sae truelv doth she
sing, that I kenna whether to ca' her Sweet-voice or Fine-ear!
Hasna that cadence, indeed, a dyin fa'? Nor should I
wonder if the unseen cretur at this moment had her face wat
wi' tears !
North. Methinks, James, I could better bear everlasting
darkness than everlasting silence. The memory seems to
have more command over sights than over sounds. We can
shut our eyes, yet see all nature. But music, except when it
breathes, has no residing-place within the cells of the ear.
So faint, so dim, the dream, it hardly can be said to be — till
one single note awakes, and then the whole tune is suddenly
let loose upon the soul! Blindness, methinks, I could endure
and live, — but in deafness my spirit would die within me,
and I should pray for death.
Shepherd. Baith maun be sair trials, yet baith are cheerfully
borne. The truth is, sir, that a Christian can bear
onything; — for ae moment's thocht, during his repining, tells
him whence the affliction comes — and then sorrow saftens
awa into resignation, and delight steals into the heart o' the
maist desolate.
North. The creature now singing away at her pleasant
work, a few weeks ago lost her mother. There never was a
more affectionate or more dutiful child, — yet, as you said,
James, Flora is now happy as a bird.
Shepherd. Yet perhaps, sir, were we to come upon her the
noo — She has stopt singin a' at ance, in the verra middle o'
the tune — we micht see her sittin idle amang the flowers, wi'
a pale face, greetin by hersel, as she keeps lookin at her black
gown, and thinkin on that burial-day, or her father's countenance,
that sin' syne has seldom brichtened.
North. There is something most affecting in the natural
sorrows of poor men, my dear Shepherd, as, after a few days'
wrestling with affliction, they appear again at their usual
work — melancholy, but not miserable.
Shepherd. You ken a gude deal, sir, about the life and
character o' the puir; but then it's free philosophical and
poetical observation and sympathy — no frae art-and-part
participation, like mine, in their merriment and their meesery.
Folk in what they ca' the upper classes o' society, a' look
upon life, mair or less, as a scene o' enjoyment, and amusement,
and delicht. They get a' selfish in their sensibilities,
and would fain mak the verra laws o' natur obedient to their
wull. Thus they cherish and encourage habits o' thocht and
feeling that are maist adverse to obedience and resignation
to the decrees o' the Almighty — when these decrees dash in
pieces small the idols o' their earthly worship.
North. Too true, alas! my dearest Shepherd.
Shepherd. Pity me! how they moan, and groan, and greet,
and wring their hauns, and tear their hair, even auld folk
their thin grey hair, when death comes into the bedroom, or
the verra drawing-room, and carries aff in his clutches some
wee bit spoiled bairn, yaummerin¹ amang its playthings, or
keepin its mither awake a' nicht by its perpetual cries!
North. Touch tenderly, James — on —
Shepherd. Ane wad think that nae parents had ever lost a
child afore — yet hoo mony a sma' funeral do you see ilka day
pacin alang the streets unheeded on, amang the carts and
North. Unheeded, as a party of upholsterer's men carrying
furniture to a new house.
Shepherd. There is little or naething o' this thochtless, this
senseless clamour in kintra-houses, when the cloud o' God's
judgment passes over them, and orders are gien for a grave
to be dug in the kirkyard. A' the house is hushed and quate
— just the same as if the patient were still sick, and no gane²
awa — the father, and perhaps the mother, the brothers, and
the sisters, are a' gaun about their ordinary business, wi'
grave faces nae doubt, and some o' them now and then dichtin
the draps frae their ben; but, after the first black day, little
audible greetin, and nae indecent and impious outcries.
North. The angler calling in at the cottage would never
know that a corpse was the cause of the calm.
Shepherd. Rich folk, if they saw- sic douce,³ composed ongoings,
wad doubtless wonder to think hoo callous, hoo insensible
were the puir! That natur had kindly denied to them
those fine feelings that belong to cultivated life! But if they
heard the prayer o' the auld man at nicht, when the survivin
family were on their knees around the wa', and his puir wife
neist him in the holy circle, they wad ken better, and confess
that there is something as sublime as it is sincere and simple,
in the resignation and piety of those humble Christians, whose
doom it is to live by the sweat o' their brow, and who are
taught, almost frae the cradle to the grave, to feel every hour
they breathe, that all they enjoy, and all they suffer, is dropt
doun frae the hand o' God, almost as visibly as the dew or
the hail, — and hence their faith in things unseen and eternal,
is firm as their belief in things seen and temporal — and that
they a' feel, sir, when lettin doun the coffin into the grave!
¹ Yaummerin — fretting.
² Gane — gone.
³ Douce — sedate
North. Take another glass, my dear friend, of Mrs Gentle's
elder-flower wine.
Shepherd. Frontignac! But, harken! There, again, the bit
happy motherless cretur is beguiled into anither sang! Her
ain voice, sir, brings comfort frae a' the air around, even as
if it were an angel's sang, singin to her frae the heart o'
North. From how many spiritual sources come assuagings
of our most mortal griefs!
Shepherd. It's a strathspey! — I canna understand the want
o' an ear. When I'm alone, I'm aye either whistlin, or singin,
or hummin, till I fa' into thocht; and then baith thochts and
feelings are swayed, if I'm no sair mista'en, in their main
current by the tune, whether gay or sad, that your heart has
been harpin on; so, if I hadna a gude ear, the loneliness o'
the hills wad be unto wearisome, unvisited by involuntary
dreams about indefinite things! Do folk aye think in words?
North. Generally, I suspect.
Shepherd. Yet the thochts maun come first, surely. I fancy
words and thochts fly intil ane anither's halms. A thousan'
thochts may be a' wrapt up in ae wee bit word just as a
thousand beauties in ae wee bit flower. They baith expand
out into beauty — and then there's nae end to the creations o'
the eye and the ear — for the soul sits ahint the pupil o' the
tane, and the drum o' the tither, and takin a hint frae tone or
hue, expawtiates over the universe.
North. Scottish Music, my dear James, is to me rather
Shepherd. So is Scottish Poetry, sir. It has nae great
range; but human natur never wearies o' its ain prime elementary
feelings. A man may sit a haill nicht by his ingle,
wi' his wife and bairns, without either thinkin or feelin muckle;
and yet he's perfectly happy till bedtime, and says his prayers
we fervent gratitude to the Giver o' a' mercies. It's only
whan he's beginnin to tire o' the hummin o' the wheel, or o'
Ins wife flytin at the weans, or o' the weans upsettin the stools,
or ruggin ane anither's hair, that his fancy takes a very poetical
flight into the regions o' the Imagination. Sae lang's the
heart sleeps amang its affections, it dwalls upon few images;
but these images may be infinitely varied; and, when expressed
in words, the variety will be felt. Sae that, after a',
it's scarcely correct to ca' Scottish Poetry monotonous, or
Scottish Music either, ony mair than you would ca' a kintra
level, in bonny gentle ups and downs, or a sky dull, though
the clouds were neither mony nor multiform; a' depends upon
the spirit. Twa-three notes may mak a maist beautifu' tune;
twa-three woody knowes a bonny landscape; and there are
some bit streams amang the hills, without ony striking or
very peculiar scenery, that it's no possible to dauner along at
gloamin without feelin them to be visionary, as if they flowed
through a land o' glamour. It's the same thing wi' faces.
Little depends on the features; a' on the composition. There
is a nameless something that tells, when the colour o' the een,
and o' the hair, and o' the cheeks, and the roundin aff o' the
chin rin intil the throat, and then awa aff, lik a wave o' the
sea, until the breast is a' harmonious as music; and leaves
ane lookin at the lasses as if they were listenin "to a melody
that's sweetly play'd in tune!" Sensibility feels a' this;
Genius creautes it; and in Poetry it dwells, like the charm in
the Amulet.
North. James, look through the loophole. Do you not
think, my dear Shepherd, that the character of a man is known
in his works?
Shepherd. Gurney! as I'm a Christian! That's really too
bad, sir. A body canna sit doun in an arbour, to crack an
hour wi' an auld freen, but there is a short-haun writer at your
lug, jottin you doun for extension at his leisure — and convertin
you frae a preevat character at the Lodge, intil a public
ane in thae confounded, thae accursed Noctes Ambrosianæ.
North. Gurney, leave out that last epithet.
Shepherd. If you do I'll fell¹ you. But, Mr North, many o'
my freens² —
North. I know it, my dear James — but treat them with
contempt, or shall I take up a few of them by the scroof³ of
the neck, with my glove on, as one would take up a small
scotched viper, and fling him over the wall, to crawl a few
inches, before death, on the dust of the road?
Shepherd. Their vulgar venom shall never poison my ear,
my dear sir. But had natur but glen them fangs, hoo the
reptiles wad bite! There's a speeder, sir, on your chin.
North. I love spiders. Look at the lineal descendant of
¹ Fell — knock down.
² The Shepherd would have continued — "object to my being made so free
with in the Noctes."
³ Scroof — nape.
Arachne, how beautifully she descends from the chin of
Christopher North to the lower region of our earth! — But
speaking of public and private characters —
Shepherd. That's a puzzlin question, sir. — Let's speak o'
Poets. Ae thing's certain; that afore you can express ony
ae single thocht or feelin in poetry, you maun hae had it in
your spirit or heart, strong, distinct, fresh, and bricht, in real
leevin experience and actual natur. It maun hae been,
whether originatin entirely in yoursel, or transfused through
you by anither, your ain bonny feedy¹ possession and property
— else it 'ill no be worth a state in verse. Eh?
North. Granted.
Shepherd. Secondly, however a poet may write weel by fits
and starts, in a sort o' inspiration like, thae fits and starts
themsels can only come frae a state o' the speerit habitually
meditative, and rejoicin in its ain free moods. Therefore,
however muckle they may astonish you that doesna ken him,
they are just as characteristic o' his natur as the rest o' his
mair ordinary proceedings, and maun be set doun to the score
o' his natural and indigenous constitution. Eh?
North. Granted.
Shepherd. What a poet maist dearly and devoutly loves,
about that wull he, of course, write the feck² o' his poetry.
His poetry, therefore, wull contain mair of his deeper, inner
self, than onything else can do in this warld — that's to say,
if he be a real poet, and no a pretender. For I'll defy ony
human cretur, unless he has some sinister end to gain, to
keep writin, or speakin either, a' his life lang about things
that dinna constitute his chief happiness. Eh?
North. Granted.
Shepherd. Fourthly, if his poetry be gude, and if the states
o' sowl formin the staple o't be also gude, and if his poems
be sae numerous and important as to hae occupied him mair
or less a' his life lang, then I should like to know on what ither
principle he can be a bad man, except that he be a hypocrite
but if he be a hypocrite, that 'ill be seen at ance in his poetry,
for it'ill be bad — but then the verra reverse, by the supposition,
is the case, for his poetry is gude; and therefore, if he be na
a gude man, taken on the whole, a' this warld and this life's
delusion thegither, black's white, het cauld, virtue vice, and
frae sic a senseless life as the present there can be nae reason
¹ Boná fide.
² Feck — greater part.
to believe in a future. And thus you end in a denial of the
Deity, and avoo yoursel to be an atheist. Eh?
North. Granted almost.
Shepherd. Fifthly, sir — What's this I was gaun to say? Ou
ay. A man's real character, then, is as truly shown in his
poetry as in his religion. When he is poetical and when he is
religious, he is in his highest states. He exists at his best.
Then and therein is the perfection o' his natur. But it disna
follow — by no mainner o' means — but that the puir mortal
cretur may be untrue to himsel — untrue baith to his poetry
and to his religion — and ower after stain himsel wi' a' sorts
o' vices and crimes. King David did sae — yet wha ever
doubted either his poetry or his religion — or whare would you
look for either, or for the man himsel, but in his Psalms. Eh?
North. Granted, James — granted.
Shepherd. If the Bard o' virtue and morality, and religion
and immortal truth, sink doun frae his elevation amang the
stars, and soil his spirit wi' the stain o' clay, what does that
prove but that he is not a seraph, inspired though he be, but
like the sumphs around him, a sinner — Oh! a greater sinner
than they, because tumblin frae a loftier height, and sinkin
deeper into the mire that bedabbles his glorious wings, that
shall require other waters to cleanse them than ever flowed.
frae Helicon.
North. These are solemn — yea, mournful truths.
Shepherd. Show me ae leevin mortal man, consistent wi'
himsel, and at a' times subject to the rule o' life as it is revealed.
in Scripture, and then tell me that a good, a great poet is not
truly shown in his warks, and I will believe you — but not till
then — for the humblest and the highest spirit, if tried by that
test, will baith be found wantin; and a' that I ask for either
the ane or the ither set o' sinners is — justice.
North. Yet something there seems to be unexplained in the
Shepherd. There maun aye be left something unexplained in
every subject, sir. But hear till me ae minute langer. A man
may deliver himsel up to poetry wi' too total a devotion — sae
that he comes to dislike common life. There's much in common
life, sir, as you ken, that's painfu', and a sair restraint on the
wull. Folk maun learn not only to thole, but absolutely to
love, many things in ithers that would cut but a poor figure
in poetry; and to cherish many things in themsels that hae
nae relation whatsomever wi' the imagination. Every head
o' a house maun be sensible o' that, wha does his duty as a
husband, a father, a master, and a friend. Let these things
be forgotten, or felt to be burdensome, and the mind that
loves at all times to expatiate freely in a world o' its ain —
even though the elements o't be a' human — is under a strong
temptation to do sae — and then the life o' the man becomes
defective and disordered. In such cases, the poet who loves
virtue in her ideal beauty, and worships her in spirit and in
truth, may frae her authority yet be a recreant — in real life.
That's a short solution o' much that's puzzlin and perplexin
in the conduct o' men o' genius; but there's anither key to
the difficulty, sir — only I fear I'm gettin tedious and tiresome.
North. No — no — my dear James — go on.
Shepherd. There's danger in the indulgence of feelings, let
them be even the highest and the holiest o' our nature, without
constant corresponding practice to prevent their degeneration
into mere aimless impulses — and these aimless impulses
are found but a weak protection against the temptations that
assail us in this world.¹ Why, sir, I verily believe that religion
itsel may be indulged in to excess, when frequent ca's are no
made on men to act, as well as to think and feel. The man
of religion is perfectly sincere, though he be found wanting
when put to trial just like the man of genius. Well-doing
is necessary.
North. There you have hit the nail on the head, James.
Shepherd. Shall we say then, in conclusion, that the true
character of a true poet is always exhibited in his poetry —
Eh? It must be so — Burns, Byron, Cowper, Wordsworth, are
all, in different ways, proofs of the truth of the apothegm.
North. But what think you, ,James, of the vulgar belief, that
a bad private may be a good public character?
Shepherd. That it is indeed a most vulgar belief. A bad
private character is a blackguard — and how could a blackguard
make a gude public character? Eh?
¹ "Habits of virtue," says Dugald Stewart, "are not to be formed in
retirement, but by mingling in the scenes of active life; and an habitual
attention to exhibitions of fictitious distress is not merely useless to character,
but positively hurtful." — Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind,
vol. i. p. 526, sixth edition.
North. That's a poser.
Shepherd. Only you see there's scarcely sic a thing as
morality in political life; or if there be, it's anither code, and
gangs by the name o' Expediency. A blackguard may be a
gey gude judge o' maist kinds o' expediency — but whenever
the question gets dark and difficult, you maun hae recourse
to the licht o' conscience, and what becomes o' the blackguard
then, sir? He gangs blind-faulded ower a precipice, and is
dashed to pieces. But besides expediency, there's what they
ca' honour — national honour, — and though I scarcely see hoo it
is, yet great blackguards in private life hae a sense o' that,
and wadna, but under great temptation, sacrifeece't. A bribe,
however, administered to their besettin sin, whatever that may
be, will generally do the business, and they will sell even the
freedom of their country for women or gold.
North. I do not well know what to think of public men
just now, James.
Shepherd. They seem to be a puir pitifu' pack the maist o'
them, especially, wi' some twa or three exceptions — our ain
Forty-Five.' Whenever a man past thirty tells me that he has
changed his opinion about ony given thing in ony given time,
gude mainners alane hinder me frae tellin him that he is a
leear. — But let's hae nae politics. What the deevil are you
thinkin about that you're no attendin to me speakin? Dinna
be absent. For Heaven's sake gie ower that face. Ay, there
the black thunder-cloud has passed awa, and your benign and
beautifu' auld physiognomy mice main looks like itsel in the
licht o' heaven.
North. I chanced to look at this ring —
Shepherd. What? The ane on your wee finger? The
finest diamond ever glittered.
North. And the image of the Noble Being, in remembrance
of whom I have worn it for twenty years, rose up before me
— methought in the very attitude in which he used of old to
address a public assembly — the right arm extended — so —
Shepherd. Few things in this weary warld sae delichtfu' as
Keepsakes! Nor do they ever, to my heart at least, nor to
my een, ever lose their tender, their powerfu' charm!
North. How slight — how small — how tiny a memorial,
saves a beloved friend from oblivion — worn on the finger
¹ At this time there were forty-five members of Parliament for Scotland. By
the Reform Bill of 1832 their number was increased to fifty-three.
Shepherd. Or close to the heart! Especially if he be dead!
Nae thocht sae unsupportable as that o' entire, total, blank
forgetfulness — when the cretur that ance laucht, and sang,
and wept to us, close to our side, or in our verra arms, is as if
her smiles, her voice, her tears, her kisses, had never been!
She and them a' swallowed up in the dark nothingness o' the
North. It is not safe to say, James, that any one single
thought that ever was in the mind is forgotten. It may be
gone, utterly gone — like a bird out of a cage. But a thought
is not like a bird, a mortal thing; and why may it not, after
many many long years have past by — so many and so long
that we look with a sort of quiet longing on the churchyard
heaps — why may it not return all at once from a "far countrée,"
fresh, and fair, and bright, as of yore, when first it glided into
being, up from among the heaven-dew-opened pores in the
celestial soil of the soul, and "possessed it wholly," as if
there for ever were to have been its blissful abiding-place, in
those sunny regions where sin and sorrow as yet had shown
their evil eyes, but durst not venture in, to scare off from the
paradise even one of all its divinest inmates! Why may not
the thought, I ask, return — or rather, rise up again on the
spirit, from which it has never flown, but lain hushed in that
mysterious dormitory, where ideas sleep, all ready to awake
again into life, even when most like death, — for Ideas are as
birds of passage, and they are also akin to the winter-sleepers,
so that no man comprehends their exits or their entrances, or
can know whether any one of all the tribe is at any one
moment a million of miles off, or wheeling round his bead,
and ready to perch on his hand!¹
Shepherd. Alloo me, sir, noo to press you to anither glass
o' Mrs Gentle's elder-flower wine.
¹ "It is probable," says S. T. Coleridge, "that all thoughts are in themselves
imperishable; and that if the intelligent faculty should be rendered
more comprehensive, it would require only a different and apportioned organisation
— the body celestial instead of the body terrestrial — to bring before every
human soul the collective experience of its whole past existence. And this,
perchance, is the dread book of judgment, in whose mysterious hieroglyphics
every idle word is recorded! Yea, in the very nature of a living spirit, it
may be more possible that heaven and earth should pass away, than that a
single act, a single thought, should be loosened or lost from that living chain
of causes, to all whose links, conscious or unconscious, the free-will, our only
absolute self, is coextensive and co-present." — Biographia Literaria, vol. i.
p. 115, first edition.
North. Frontignac! — Now, do you, James, take up the ball
— for I'm out of breath.
Shepherd. To please you, sir, I hae read lately — or at least
tried to read — thae books, and lectures, and what not, on the
Association o' Ideas, — and yon explanations and theories of
Tammas Broon's, and Mr Dugald Stewart's, and Mr Al.ison's,
and the lave, seem, at the time the volume's lyin open afore
you, rational aneuch — sae that you canna help believin that
each o' them has flung doun a great big bunch o' keys, wi' a
clash on the table, that 'ill enable you to open a' the locks o' a'
the doors o' the Temple o' Natur. But, dog on't! the verra
first lock you try, the key 'ill no fit! Or if it fits, you cannot
get it to turn roun', though you chirt wi' your twa hands till
you're baith black and red in the face, and desperate angry.
A' the Metapheesicks that ever were theoreezed into a system
o' Philosophy 'ill never clear up the mystery o' memory ae
hue, or enable me nor onybody else to understand hoo, at ae
time, ye may knock on your head wi' your loof or nieve till
it's sair, without awaukenin a single thocht, ony mair than
you would awauken a dormouse in the heart o' the bole of an
aik,¹ by tappin on the rough hide; while, at another time, you
canna gie your head a jee² to the ae side, without tens o' thou-sans
o' thochts fleein out o' your mouth, your nose, and your
een, just like a swarm o' bees playin whurr — and bum — into
the countless sky, when by chance you hae upset a skep, or
the creturs o' their ain accord, and in the passion o' their ain
instinck, are aff after their Queen, and havin tormented half
the kintra-side for hours, a' at last settle doun on the branch
o' an apple-tree perhaps — the maist unlikely, to all appearance,
they could find — and perplexin to the man wi' the
ladder, and the towel outower his face, — because the Queen-Bee
preferred, for some inscrutable reason, that ackward
branch to a' ither resting-places on which she could hae
rested her doup, although it was physically and morally impossible
that she could ever hae seen the tree afore, never
havin been alloo'd to set her fit³ ayont the door o' the skep,
for reasons best known to her subjects, or at least her Ministers,
wha, unlike some ithers I micht mention, dinna despise
the voice o' the people, even though it should be nae louder
nor a murmur or a hum!
¹ Aik — oak.
² a jee — a turn.
³ Fit — foot.
North. Come, James, no politics — keep to philosophy.
Shepherd. The Queen-Thocht's the same's the Queen-Bee
— and when she's let lowse intil heaven, out flees the haill
swarm o' winged fancies at her tail, wi' a noise like thunder.
North. But we were speaking of Keepsakes
Shepherd. And sae we are still. I see the road windin
alang on the richt haun yonner — but we're like passengers
loupin aff the tap o' the cotch at the fit o' a hill, and divin
devious through a wood by a short cut, to catch her again
afore she get through the turnpike.
North. The pleasantest way either of travel or of talk.
Shepherd. Ten hunder thousan' million thochts and feelings,
and fancies, and ideas, and emotions, and passions and what
not, a' lie thegither, heads and thraws, in the great, wide,
saft, swellin, four-posted, mony-pillowed bed o' the Imagination.
Joys, sorrows, hopes, fears, raptures, agonies, shames,
horrors, repentances, remorses — strange bed-fellows indeed,
sir — some skuddy-naked,¹ some clothed in duds, and some
gorgeously apparelled, ready to rise up and sit down at feasts
and festivals —
North. Stop, James, stop —
Shepherd. Tis the poet alane, sir, that can speak to ony
purpose about sic an association o' ideas as that, sir; he kens
at every hotch amang them, whilk is about to start up like a
sheeted cadaver shiverin cauldrife as the grave, or a stoled
queen, a rosy, balmy, fragrant-bosomed queen, wi' lang, white,
satin arms, to twine noun' your verra sowl! But the metaphyseecian,
what kens he about the matter? Afore he has
putten the specks astraddle o' his nose, the floor o' the imagination
is a' astir like the foaming sea — and aiblins hushed
again into a calm as deep as that o' a sunny hill, where
lichts and limbs are dancin thegither on the greensward, and
to the music of the lilting linties amang the golden groves o'
broom, proud to see their yellow glories reflected in the pools,
like blossoms bloomin in anither warld belonging to the
Naïads and the mermaids !
North. But, James, we were speaking of Keepsakes.
Shepherd. And sae we are still. For what is a keepsake
but a material memorial o' a spiritual happenin? Something
substantial, through whose instrumentality the shadowy past
¹ Skuddy-naked — stark-naked.
may resettle on the present — till a bit metal, or a bit jewel,
or a bit lock o' hair, or a bit painted paper, shall suddenly
bring the tears into your startled and softened een, by a dear,
delightfu', overwhelmin image o' Life-in-Death!
North. Of all keepsakes, memorials, relics, most tenderly,
most dearly, most devoutly, James, do I love a little lock of
hair! — and oh! when the head it beautified has long mouldered
in the dust, how spiritual seems the undying glossiness
of the sole remaining ringlet! All else gone to nothing — save
and except that soft, smooth, burnished, golden, and glorious
fragment of the apparelling that once hung in clouds and
sunshine over an angel's brow!
Shepherd. Ay — as poor Kirke White says —
"It must have been a lovely head
That had such lovely hair!"
But dinna think ony mair upon her the noo, sir. What fules
we are to summon up shadows and spectres frae the grave, to
North. Her image troubles me not. Why should it? Methinks
I see her walking yonder, as if fifty years of life were
extinguished, and that were the sun of my youth! Look —
look — James! — a figure all arrayed, like Innocence, in white
garments! Gone — gone! Yet such visions are delightful
visitants — and the day, and the evening, and the night, are
all sanctified on which the apparition comes and goes with a
transient yet immortal smile!
Shepherd. Ay, sir! a lock o' hair, I agree wi' 'you, is far
better than ony pictur. It's a pairt o' the beloved object hersel
— it belanged to the tresses that aften, lang, lang ago, may
hae a' been suddenly dishevelled, like a shower o' sunbeams,
over your beatin breast! But noo solemn thochts sadden the
beauty ance sae bricht — sae refulgent; the langer you gaze
on't, the mair and mair pensive grows the expression of the
holy relic — it seems to say, almost upbraidingly, "Weep'st
thou no more for me?" and then, indeed, a tear, true to the
imperishable affection in which all nature seemed to rejoice,
"when life itself was young," bears witness that the object
towards which it yearned is no more forgotten, now that she
has been dead for so many many long weary years, than she
was forgotten during an hour of absence, that came like a
passing cloud between us and the sunshine of her living, her
loving smiles!
North. Were a picture perfectly like our deceased friend —
no shade of expression, however slight, that was his, awanting
— none there, however slight, that belonged not to the face
that has faded utterly away — then might a picture
Shepherd. But then that's never the case, sir. There's aye
something wrang, either about the mouth, or the een, or the
nose — or, what's warst o' a', you canna fin' faut wi' ony o'
the features for no being like; and yet the painter, frae no
kennin the delightfu' character o' her or him that was sittin
till him, leaves out o' the face the entire speerit — or aiblins,
that the portrait mayna be deficient in expression, he pits in
a sharp clever look, like that o' a bluestocking, into saft,
dewy, divine een, swimmin wi' sowl! spoils the mouth a'thegither
by puckerin't up at the corners, sae that a' the innocent
smiles, mantlin there like kisses, tak flight frae sic prim
lips, cherry-ripe though they be; and, blip' to the delicate,
straught, fine-edged hicht o' her Grecian — ay, her Grecian
nose — what does the rule do, but raises up the middle o' the
brig, or — may Heaven never forgie him — cocks it up at the
pint sae, that you can see up the nostrils — a thing I dinna
like at a'; and for this, which he ca's a portrait, and proposes
sendin to the Exhibition, he has the conscience to charge
you — withouten the frame — the reasonable soum o' ae hundred
pounds sterling!
North. Next to a lock of hair, James, is a brooch, or a ring,
that has been worn by a beloved friend.
Shepherd. Just sae; and then you can put the hair intil the
brooch or the ring — or baith — and wear them on your finger
and on your breast a' nicht lang, dream, dream, dreamin awa
back into the vanished world o' unendurable, and incomprehensible,
and unutterable things!
North. Or what think you of a book, my dear James
Shepherd. Ay, a bit bookie o' one's ain writin, a poem perhaps,
or a garland o' ballants and sings, with twa-three lovin
verses on the flyleaf, by way o' inscription — for there's something
unto affectionate in manuscripp — bound on purpose for
her in delicate white silver-edged cauf, wi' flowers alang the
border, or the figure o' a heart perhaps in the middle, pierced
wi' a dart, or breathin out flames like a volcawno.
North. A device, James, as natural as it is new.
Shepherd. Nane o' your sneers, you auld satirist. Whether
natural or unnatural, new or auld, the device, frae being sae
common, canna be far wrang — for a' the warld has been in
love at ae time or ither o' its life, and kens best hoo to express
its ain passion. What see you ever in love-sangs that's
at a' new? Never ae single word. It's just the same thing
ower again, like a vernal shower patterin amang the buddin
woods. But let the lines come sweetly and saftly, and a wee
wildly too, frae the lips o' Genius, and they shall delight a'
mankind, and womankind too, without ever wearyin them,
whether they be said or sung. But try to be original — to
keep aff a' that ever has been said afore, for fear o' plagiarism,
or in ambition o' originality, and your poem 'ill be like a bit
o' ice that you hae taken into your mouth unawaures for a
lump o' white sugar.
North. Now, my dear James, the hour is elapsed, and we
must to our toilet. The Gentles will be here in a jiffey,¹ and
I know not how it is, but intimate as we are, and attached by
the kindest ties, I never feel at my ease in their company, in
the afternoon, unless my hair be powdered, my ruffles on, and
my silver buckles.
Shepherd. Do you mean the buckles on your shoon, or the
buckles on your breeks?
North. My shoon, to be sure. James — James!
Shepherd. I'll tell you a secret, sir — and yet it's nae great
secret either; for I'm o' opinion that we a' ken our ain hearts,
only we dinna ken what's best for them, — you're in love wi'
Mrs Gentle. Na, na — dinna hang doun your head, and blush
in that gate; there's nae harm in't — nae sin — only you should
marry her, sir; for I never saw a woman sae in love wi' a man
in a' my born days.
North. I cannot bring myself to think so, my dear James.
Shepherd. Tuts. You canna attempt to walk across the
room, that her twa een are no followin you on your crutch, wi'
a mixed expression o' love, and fear lest you should fa' and
dislocate your knee-pan, or —
North. Crutch! Why, you know, James, well enough, that
for the list twelve months I have worn it, not for use, but ornament.
I am thinking of laying it aside entirely.
¹ In a jiffey — immediately.
Shepherd. "And capering nimbly in a lady's chamber!"
Be persuaded by me, sir, and attempt nae sic thing. Naebody
supposes that your constitution's broken in upon, sir, or that
you're subject to a general frailty o' natur. The gout's a local
complaint wi' you — and what the waur is a man for ha'in an
occasional pain in his tae? Besides, sir, there's a great deal
in habit — and Mrs Gentle has been sae lang accustomed to
look at you on the crutch, that there's nae saying hoo it
micht be, were you to gie ower that captivatin hobble, and
figure on the floor like a dancing-master. At your time o'
life, you could never howp to be an extremely — an uncommonly
active man on your legs — and therefore it's better,
it's wiser, and it's safer, to continue a sort o' lameter, and
keep to the crutch.
North. But does she absolutely follow me with her eyes?
Shepherd. She just reminds me, sir, when you're in the
room wi' her, o' a bit image o' a duck soomin about in a bowl o'
water at the command o' a loadstane. She's really a bonny
body — and no sae auld either. Naebody 'ill laugh at the
marriage--and I should not be surprised if you had —
North. "The world's dread laugh," as it is called, has no
terrors to me, my dear James —
Shepherd. Nane whatever — I weel ken that; and I think
I see you sittin wi' your pouthered head, aside her in the chay
drawn by four blood horses, cavin their heads till the foam
flees over the hedges, a' adorned wi' white ribbons, and the
postilions wi' great braid favours on their breasts like roses
or stars, smackin their wimps, while the crood huzzaws you aff
to your honeymoon amang the mountains
North. I will pop the question, this very evening.
Shepherd. Just tak it for granted that the marriage is to be
as sune as the settlements can be drawn up, look to her, and
speak to her, and press her haun, whenever she puts her arm
intil yours, as if it was a' fixed — and she'll sune return a bit
wee raft uncertain squeeze — and then by-and-by —
North. I'll begin this very evening —
Shepherd. Saftlv — saftly — moderate your transports. You
maun begin by degrees, and no be ower tender upon her a' at
ance, or she'll wunner what's the maitter wi' you — suspeck
that you're mad, or hae been takin a drap drink — and are only
makin a fule o' her —
North. Ha! yonder she is, James. Gentle by name and
gentle by nature! To her delicate touch the door seems to
open as of itself, and to turn on its hinges
Shepherd. As if they were iled.¹ Wait a wee, and maybe
you'll hear her bang't after her like a clap o' thunder.
North. Hush! impious man. How meekly the most lovable
matron rings the door-bell! What can that lazy fellow,
John, be about, that he does not fly to let the angel in?
Shepherd. Perhaps cleanin the shoos, or the knives and
forks. Noo, mind you, behave yoursel. Come awa.
[The SHEPHERD takes the crutch, and MR NORTH walks
towards the Lodge as fresh as a five-year-old.
¹ Iled — oiled.
(DECEMBER 1829.)
The Snuggery. — Time, seven o'clock.
Shepherd. O, sir! but there's something delightfu' in coal--
fire glimmerin and gloomin, breaking out every noo and then
into a flickering bleeze; and whenever ane uses the poker
into a sudden illumination, vivifyin the pictured paper on the
wa's, and settin a' the range o' lookin-glasses a-low, like sae
mony beacons kindled on the taps o' hills, burnin awa to ane
anither over a' the kintra-side, on the birthday nicht o' the
Duke o' Buceleuch, or that o' his marriage wi' that fair English
Leddy¹ — God bless them baith, and send them in gude time a
circle o' bauld sons and bonny dochters, to uphaud the stately
an' noble house o' the King o' the Border!
North. Amen. James — a caulker.
Shepherd. That speerit's far aboon proof. There's little
difference atween awka veety an' awka fortis.² Ay, ma man,
that gars your een water. Dicht them wi' the doylez, and
then tak a mouthfu' out o' the jug to moderate the intensity
o' the pure cretur. Haud, haud! it's no sma' yill, but strong
toddy, sir. (Aside) — The body 'ill be fou afore aught o'clock.
North. This jug, James, is rather wishy-washy; confound
me if I don't suspect it is milk and water!
Shepherd. Plowp in some speerit. Let me try't. It 'ill do
noo, sir. That's capital boilin water, and tholes double its
air wecht o' cauld Glenlivet. Let's dook in³ the thermometer.
¹ In 1829 the Duke of Buccleuch married Lady Charlotte Anne Thynne,
daughter of the Marquess of Bath.
² Aqua vitæ and aqua fortis.
³ Dook in — plunge in.
Up, you see, to twa hunder and twunty, just the proper toddy
pitch. It's mirawculous!
North. What sort of a night out of doors, James?
Shepherd. A fine night, sir, and like the season. The wund's
due east, and I'se warrant the ships at anchor in the Roads
are a' rather coggly, wi' their nebs doun the Firth, like sae
mony rocking-horses. On turnin the corner o' Picardy, a blash
o' sleet like a verra snawba' amaist knocked my head aff my
shouthers; and as for my hat, if it meet with nae interruption,
it maun be weel on to West-Craigs by this time, for it flew aff
in a whurlwund. Ye canna see the sleet for the haur;¹ the
ghastly lamps are amaist entirely overpoored by the whustlin
darkness; and as for moon and stars, they're a' dead and
buried, and we never mair may wutness their resurrection.
Auld-women frae chimley-taps are clytin² wi' a crash into every
area, and the deevil's tirlin³ the kirks outower a' the Synods o'
Scotland. Whisht! Is that thunner?
North. I fear scarcely — but the roar in the vent is good,
James, and tells of tempest. Would to heaven I were at sea!
Shepherd. That's impious. Yet you micht aiblins be safe
aneuch in a bit cockle-shell o' an open boat — for some folk are
born no to be drooned
North. There goes another old-woman!4
Shepherd. O but the Yarrow wull be a' ae red roar the noo,
frae the Loch to the Ettrick. Yet wee Jamie's soon' asleep
in his crib by this time, and dreamin, it may be, o' paiddlin
amang the mennows in the silver sandbanks o' simmer, whare
the glassy stream is nae higher than his knee; or o' chasin
amang the broom the young linties sent by the sunshine, afore
their wings are weel feathered, frae their mossy cradle in the
briar-bush, and able to flee just weel aneuch to wile awa on
and on, after their chirpin flutter, my dear wee canty callant,
chasin first ane and then anither, on wings just like their ain,
the wings o' joy, love, and hope; fauldin them, in a disappointment
free frae ony taint o' bitterness, when a' the
burdies hae disappeared, and his een, as he sits doun on the
knowe, fix themselves wi' a new pleasure on the bonny bands
o' gowans croodin round his feet.
North. A bumper, my dear Shepherd, to Mount Benger.
¹ Haur — flying mist.
² Clytin — falling.
³ Tirlin — unroofing.
4 Old-woman — chimney-can.
Shepherd. Thank ye, sir — thank ye. Oh! my dear sir, but
ye hae a gude heart, sound at the core as an apple on the
sunny south side o' the tree — and ruddy as an apple, sir, is
your cheek —
North. Yes, James, a life of temperance preserves
Shepherd. Help yoursel, and put over the jug. There's
twunty gude years o' wear and tear in you yet, Mr North —
but what for wunna ye marry? Dinna be frichtened — it's
naething ava — and it aften grieves my heart to think o' you
lyin your lane in that state-bed, which canna be less than
seven feet wide, when the General's widow —
North. I have long wished for an opportunity of confiding
to you a secret which —
Shepherd. A sacret! Tell nae sacret to me — for I never a'
my life could sleep wi' a sacret in my head, ony mair than wi'
the lug-ache. But if you're merely gaun to tell me that ye
hae screwed up your courage at last to marry her, say't, do't
and be dune wi't, for she's a comely and a cosy cretur yon Mrs
Gentle, and it 'ill do my een gude to see you marchin up wi'
her, haun in haun to the Hymeneal Altar.
North. On Christmas day, my dear James, we shall be
one spirit.
Shepherd. And ae flesh. Hurraw! hurraw! hurraw! Gie's
your haun on that, my auld hearty! What a gran' echo's in
you corner o' the roof! hear till 't smackin loofs after us, as if
Cupid himsel were in the cornice!
North. You must write our Epithalamium.
Shepherd. That I wull, wi' a' my birr, and sae wull Delta, and
sae wull the Doctor,¹ and sae, I'm sure, wull Mr Wudworth;
and I can answer for Sir Walter —
North. Who has kindly promised to give away the Bride.
Shepherd. I could greet to think that I canna be the
Best Man .²
North. Tickler has —
Shepherd. Capital — capital! I see him — look, there he is —
wi' his speck-and-span-new sky-blue coat wi' siller buttons,
snaw-white waistcoat wi' gracefu' flaps, licht casimer knee--
breeks wi' lang ties, flesh-coloured silk-stockings wi' flowered
gushets, pumps brushed up to a perfeck polish a' roun' the
buckles crystal-set, a dash o' pouther in his hair, een bricht
¹ Doctor Maginn.
² The bridegroom's man.
as diamonds, the face o' him like the verra sun, chin shaven
smooth as satin, mouth — saw ye ever sic teeth in a man's
head at his time o' life — mantling wi' jocund benisons, and
the haill Feegur o' the incomparable Fallow, frae tap to tae,
sax feet fowre inches and a hauf gude measure, instinck wi'
condolence and congratulation, as if at times he were almost
believing Buchanan Lodge was Southside — that he was
changin places wi' you, in a sweet sort o' jookery-pawkery
that he was Christopher North, and Mrs Gentle on the
verra brink o' becoming Mrs Tickler?
North. James, you make me jealous.
Shepherd. For Heaven's sake, sir, dinna split on that rock.
Remember Othello, and hoo he smothered his wife wi' the
bowster. But saft lie the bowster aneath your twa happy
heads, and pleasantly may your goold watch keep tick-tickin
throughout the night, in accompaniment wi' the beatin's o'
your twa worthy and wedded hearts.
North. Methinks, James, the wind has shifted round to
the —
Shepherd. —
"O' a' the airts the wund can blaw,
I dearly loe the west,
For there the bonny widow lives,
The ane that I loe best!"
North. Let us endeavour to change the subject. How
many poets, think ye, James, at the present moment, may be
in Edinburgh?
Shepherd. Baith sexes? Were I appointed, during a season
o' distress, to the head o' the Commissawriat Department in a
great Bane-Soup-Dispensary, for behoof and in behalf o' the
inspired pairt o the poppilation o' Ernbro', I think it wadna
be safe to take the average — supposing the dole to each
beggar to be twice a-day — aneath twenty thoosand rawtions.
North. The existence of such a class of persons really
becomes matter of serious consideration to the State.
Shepherd. Wad ye be for pittin them doun by the strong
arm o' the Law?
North. Why, you see, James, before we could reach them,
it would be necessary to alter the whole Criminal Jurisprudence
of Scotland.
Shepherd. I dinna see that ava. Let it just be enacted,
neist session o' Parliament, that the punishment o' the first
offence shall be sax months' imprisonment on crowdy,¹ o' the
second Botany, and the third death without benefit o' clergy.
But stop a wee — cut aff the hinner end o' that last clause, and let
the meenisters o' religion be admitted to the condemned cells.
North. Define "First Offence."
Shepherd. Ay, that gars ane scart their head. I begin to
see into the diffeeculties o' Pænal Legislawtion.
North. Then, James, think on the folly of rewarding a
miserable Driveller, for his first offence, with board and
lodging for six months!
Shepherd. We maun gie up the crowdy. Let the first
offence, then, be Botany.
North. We are then brought to the discussion of one of the
most puzzling problems in the whole range of —
Shepherd. Just to prevent that — for the solution o' sic a
puzzling problem would be a national nuisance — let us mercifully
substitute, at ance and to be dune wi't, for the verra
first offence o' the kind, however sma', and however inaccurately
defined, neither main we be verra pernickitty about
evidence, the punishment o' death.
North. I fear hanging would not answer the desired end.
Shepherd. Answer the end?
North. A sort of spurious sympathy might be created in
the souls of the silly ones, with the poor poetasters following
one another, with mincing steps, up the scaffold-ladder, and
then looking round upon the crowd with their "eyes in a fine
frenzy rolling," and perhaps giving Hangy their last speeches
and dying words to distribute, in the shape of sonnets, odes,
and elegies, all the while looking at once Jemmy-Jessamyish
and Jacky Lack-adaisical, with the collars of their shirts, for
the nonce, a-la-Byron, and their tuneful throats, white as
those of so many Boarding-school Misses, most piteous to
behold, too rudely visited by a hempen neckcloth. There
would be a powerful and dangerous reaction.
Shepherd. I see farther and farther ben intil the darkness o'
Pænal Legislawtion. There is but ae resource left — Tak the
punishment into your ain hauns. The nation expects it, sir.
Gie them THE KNOUT.
North. I will.
Shepherd. Horridly conceese!
¹ Crowdy — porridge without salt,
North. Unroll a few yards of yonder List, James, and read
off the first fifty names.
Shepherd. Mercy on us! Lang as the signatures to the.
Roman Catholic Petition, or the Address to Queen Caroline.
How far wad it reach?
North. It is not so long as you imagine, James. It is
precisely as long as the front of the Lodge.
Shepherd. Forty yards! A hunder and twenty feet o' the
names o' Poets a' flourishin in Embro' at ae era!
North. Read away, James.
Shepherd. A' arranged alphabetically, as I hope to be
shaved! Puir fallow AAA! Little did your father think,
when he was haudin ye up in lang frocks, a skirlin babby, to
be chrissen'd after your uncle and your granpawpa, that in
less than twenty years you were to be rebaptised in bluid,
under the Knout o' ane without bowels and without ruth!
(Letting the List fall out of his hands). — I hae nae heart to get
beyond thae three waist misfortunate and ill-chosen Initials!
I'm gettin a wee sick — whare's the Glenlivet? Hoch! But I'm
better noo. Puir chiel! I wuss I hadna kent him; but it's no
twa months back sin' he was at Mount Benger, and left wi' me a
series o' Sonnets on Puddock-stools, on the moddle o' Milton's.
North. No invidious appeal to my mercy, James.
Shepherd. Let it at least temper your justice; yet sure
aneuch never was there sic a screed o' vermin.
North. Never since the Egyptian plague of flies and lice.
Shepherd. Dinna be too severe, sir — dinna be too severe.
Rather ca' them froggies.
North. Be it so. As when, according to Cowper —
"A race obscene,
Spawn'd in the muddy beds of Nile, came forth
Polluting Egypt: gardens, fields, and plains,
Were covered with the pest; the streets were fill'd;
The croaking nuisance lurk'd in every nook ;
Nor palaces, nor even chambers, 'scaped ;
And the land stank — so numerous was the fry."
Shepherd. The land stank! Cowper meant there, a' Egypt.
But in Embro', where The Land means, ye ken, a Tenement
or Tenements, a batch o' houses, a continuous series o'
lodgings, the expression "The land stank," is fearsomely
intensified to the nostrils o' the imagination o' ilka individual
either in the New or the Auld Town.
North. It must have brought down the price of lodgings.
Shepherd. Mony o' them wunna let at a'. You canna gang
doun a close without jostling again' the vermin. Shoals keep
perpetually pourin doun the common-stairs. Wantin to hae
a gude sicht o' the sea, last time I was here, I gaed up to
the Calton Hill. There was half-a-dizzen decided anes crawlin
aneath the pillars o' the Parthenion, — and I afterwards stumbled
on as mony mair on the tap o' Neelson's Moniment.
North. It is shocking to think that our churches are
infested by¹ —
Shepherd. Na, what's waur than that, this verra evenin I
met ane loupin doun Ambrose's main staircase. Tappytoorie
had luckily met him on his way up; and having the poker in
his haun — he had been ripin the ribs o' the Snuggery —
Tappy charged him like a lancer, and ye never saw sic
spangs as the cretin, when I met him, was makin towards
the front door.
North. A very few young men of true poetical genius, and
more of true poetical feeling, we have among us, James,
nevertheless; and them, some day soon, I propose to
praise —
Shepherd. Without pleasin them — for unless you lay it on
six inches thick — the butter I mean, no the Knout — they'll
misca' you ahint your back for a niggard. Then, hoo they
butter ane anither — and their ainsels! Genius — genius —
genius! That's aye their watchword and reply — but a's no
gowd that glitters — paste's no pearls — a Scotch peeble's no a
Golconda gem — neither is a bit glass bead a diamond — nor a
¹ Indulging in a similar strain of satire, Pope exclaims, —
"Shut, shut the door, good John! fatigued I said,
Tie up the knocker — say I'm sick, I'm dead.
The Dog-star rages! nay, 'tis past a doubt,
All Bedlam, or Parnassus, is let out:
Fire in each eye, and papers in each hand,
They rave, recite, and madden round the land.
What walls can guard me, or what shades can hide?
They pierce my thickets, through my grot they glide,
By land, by water, they renew the charge,
They stop the chariot, and they board the barge.
No place is sacred, not the church is free,
Even Sunday shines no Sabbath-day to me:
Then from the Mint walks forth the man of rhyme,
Happy! to catch me, just at dinner-time,"
Prologue to Satires, i. 14.
See also the First Satire of Juvenal.
leaf o' tinsy a burnished sheet o' the ore for which kingdoms
are bought and sold, and the human conscience sent into
thrall to the powers o' darkness.
North. Modest merit must be encouraged and fostered.
Shepherd. Whare wull ye find it?
North. Why, there, for example, are our Three country--
men — and I might notice others — Pringle, and Malcolm, and
Shepherd. Fine fallows, a' the Three — Here's to them!
North. The night improves, and must be almost at its best.
That is a first-rate howl! Well done — hail. I pity the poor
hot-houses. The stones cannot be less than sugar-almonds.
Shepherd. Shoogger-awmons! They're like guse-eggs. If
the lozens² werena pawtent plate, lang ere noo they would
hae a' flown into flinders. But they're ball-proof. They
wudna break though you were to let aff a pistol.
North. What, James, is your favourite weather?
Shepherd. A clear, hard, black frost. Sky without a clud —
sun bright, but almost cold — earth firm aneath your feet as a
rock — trees silent, but not asleep, wi' their budded branches
— ice-edged rivers, amaist mute and motionless, yet wimplin
a wee, and murmuring dozingly as in a dream — the air or
atmosphere sae rarified by the mysterious alchemy o' that
wonderfu' Wuzzard Wunter, that when ye draw in your
breath, ye're no sensible o' ha'in ony lungs; wi' sic a celestial
coolness does the spirit o' the middle region pervade and
permeate the totality o' ane's haill created existence, sowl
and body being but ae essence, the pulses o' ane indistinguishable
frae the feelins o' the ither, materialism and
immaterialism just ane and the same thing, without ony
perceptible shade o' difference, and the immortality o' the
sowl felt in as sure a faith as the NOW of its being, sae that
ilka thocht is as pious as a prayer, and the happy habitude
o' the entire man an absolute religion.
North, James, my dear friend, you have fine eyes, and a
¹ Thomas Pringle was one of the editors of the early numbers of Blackwood's
Magazine (see ante, p. 246, note 4). He emigrated to South Africa, and published
an account of his residence there. He returned to England, and died
in 1834. John Malcolm wrote some poems in the Annuals of that period.
William Hetherington is now an eminent D.D. in the Free Church of Scotland.
He wrote the Fulness of Time; and, among other works, a highly respectable,
although somewhat one-sided, history of the Church of Scotland.
² Lozens — panes of glass, lozenge-shaped.
noble forehead. Has Mr Combe ever manipulated your
Shepherd. Ou ay. A' my thretty-three organs or faculties
are — enormous.
North. In my development wonder is very large; and
therefore you may suppose how I am astonished. But, my
dear weather-wiseacre, proceed with your description.
Shepherd. Then, sir, what a glorious appetite in a black
frost! Corned beef and greens send up in their steam your
soul to heaven. The greediest gluttony is satisfied, and
becomes a virtue. Eating, for eating's sake, and in oblivion
o' its feenal cause, is then the most sacred o' household
duties. The sweat-drops that stand on your brow, while
your jaws are clunkin, is beautifu' as the dew on the mountain
at sunrise — as poetical as the foam-bells on the bosom o'
the glitterin river. The music o' knives and forks is like that
o' "flutes and sift recorders," "breathing deliberate valour;"
and think, sir, oh think! hoo the imagination is noosed by the
power o' contrast between the gor-cock lyin wi' his buttered
breast on the braid o' his back upon a bed o' brown toasted
bread, and whurrin awa in vain doun the wund afore the
death-shot, and then tapsalteerie head-over-heels, on the blue
lift, and doun on the greensward or the blooming heather, a
battered and bluidy bunch o' plumage, gorgeous and glorious
still in the dead-thraws, your only bird o' Paradise! —
Death and Destruction!
[The small oriel window of the Snuggery is blown in with a
tremendous crash. NORTH and the SHEPHERD prostrated
among the ruins.
North. Are you among the survivors, James? — wounded or
dead? (An awful pause.) Alas! alas! who will write my
Epithalamium! And must I live to see the day on which, O
gentle Shepherd, these withered hands of mine must falter
thy Epicedia!
Shepherd. O, tell me, sir, if the toddy jug has been upset in
this catastrophe, or the Tower of Babel and a' the speerits!
North (supporting himself on his elbow, and eyeing the festal
board). Jug and Tower are both miraculously preserved
amidst the ruins!
Shepherd. Then am I a dead man, and lyin in a pool o' bluid.
Oh! dear me! Oh! dear me! a bit broken lozen has cut my
jugular !
North. Don't yet give yourself up, my dear, dear Shepherd,
for a dead man. Ay — here's my crutch — I shall be on my
legs presently — surely they cannot both be broken; and if I
can but get at my tape-garter, I do not despair of being able
to tie up the carotid.
Shepherd. Pu' the bell for a needle and thread. — What's
this? — I'm fentin!
[The SHEPHERD faints away; and NORTH having recovered
his feet, and rung the bell violently, enter MR AMBROSE,
cum multis aliis.
North. Away for Liston¹ — one and all of you, away like
lightning for Liston. You alone, Ambrose, support Mr
Hogg in this, I fear, mortal swoon. Don't take him by
the feet, Ambrose, but lift up his head, and support it on
your knee.
[MR AMBROSE, greatly flurried, but with much tenderness,
obeys the mandate.
Shepherd (opening his eyes). Are you come hither, too, Awmrose?
'Tis a dreadfu' place. What a fire? But let us speak
lown, or Clootie 'ill hear us. Is he ben the Loose? — Oh! Mr
North, pity me the day! are you here too, and has a' our daffin
come to this at last?
North. Where, my dear James, do you think you are? In
the Hotel.
Shepherd. Ay, ay, Hothell indeed! I swarfed awa in a
bluidy swoon, and hae awaukened in a fearfu' eternity.
Noctes Ambrosianæ indeed! And whare, oh! whare is that
pair, short-haund, harmless body, Gurney? Hae we pu'd him
doun wi' us to the bottomless pit ?
North. Mr Ambrose, let me support his head, while you bring
the Tower of Babel.
[Mr AMBROSE brings the Tower of Babel, and applies the
battlements to the SHEPHERD'S lips.
Shepherd. Whusky here! I daurna taste it, for it can be
naething but melted sulphur. Yet, let me just pree't. It has
a maist unearthly similitude to Glenlivet. Oh! Mr North —
Mr North — tak aff thae horns frae your head, for they're awfu'
fearsome. Hae you gotten a tail too? And are you, or are
you not, answer me that single question, an Imp o' Darkness?
¹ See ante, p. 246, note 2.
North. Bear a hand, Mr Ambrose, and give Mr Hogg
London-carries to his chair.
[NORTH and AMBROSE mutually cross wrists, and bear the
SHEPHERD to his seat.
Shepherd. Hoo the wund sughs through the lozenless
wundow, awaukenin into tenfold fury the Blast-Furnace.
Mon. Cadet. Mr Liston has left town to attend the Perth
Breakneck, which has had an overturn on Queensferry Hill —
and 'tis said many legs and heads are fractured.
Tappytoorie. He'll no be back afore midnicht.
Ambrose (chastising Tappy). How dare you speak, sir?
North. Most unlucky that the capsize had not been delayed
for ten minutes. How do you feel now, James?
Shepherd. Feel? I never was better in my life. But what's
the matter wi' your nose, sir? About half-way doun the
middle, it has taken a turn at right angles towards your left
lug. Ane o' the splinter-bars o' the window has bashed it
frae the line o' propriety, and you're a fricht for life. Only
look at him, gentlemen; saw ye ever siccan a pheesiognomy?
North. Tarriers, begone! [Exeunt omnes.
Shepherd. We're twa daft fules — that's sure aneuch — and did
the public ken o' this, the idiwuts wad cry out, "Buffoonery —
buffoonery!" — But we can never sit here without lozens.
(Re-enter MR AMBROSE, and a Carpenter, with a
new Window -frame.)
North. Let me adjust the pulleys. It fits to a hair. Well
done, deacon. Expedition's the soul of business — off with
your caulker — Thank you — Good-night.
[MR AMBROSE and Carpenter exeunt with the debris.
Shepherd. Joking and jinks apart, Mr North, there's bluid
on your nose. Let me pit a bit o' black stickin-plaister on't.
There — Mrs Gentle wad think you unco killin wi' that beauty-spot
on your neb.
North. Hush. — Pray, James, do you believe in the Devil?
Shepherd. Just as firmly as I believe in you, sir. Yet, I
confess, I never could see the sin in abusin the neerdoweel;
whereas mony folk, no ower and aboon religious, in idler
respects, hand up their halms and the whites o' their een
whenever you satireeze Satan — and cry "Whisht, whisht!"
My mind never yet has a' my days got rid o' ony early
impression; and against baith reason and revelation, I canna
think o' the Deevil even yet, without seein him wi' great big
goggle fiery een, a mouth like a foumart-trap, the horns o' a
Lancashire kyloe, and a tufted tail atween that o' a bill's, a
lion's, and a teeger's. Let me see him when I wull, sleepin
or waukin, he's aye the verra leevin image o' a woodcut.
North. Mr Southey, in some o' his inimitable ballads, has
turned him into such ridicule that he has laid his tail entirely
aside, screwed off his horns, hid his hoofs in Wellingtons, and
appeared, of late years, in shape and garb more worthy of the
Prince of the Air. I have seen such people turn up the
whites of their eyes at the Laureate's profanity — forgetting
that wit and humour are never better employed than against
Shepherd. Ay, Mr Southey's a real wutty man, forbye
being a great poet. But do you ken, for a' that, my hair
stands on end o' its tinglin roots, and my skin amaist crawls
aff my body, whenever, by a blink o' the storm-driven moon,
in a mirk nicht, I chance to forgather wi' auld Clootie,
Hornie, and Tuft-tail, in the middle o' some wide moor, amang
hags, and peat-mosses, and quagmires, nae house within mony
miles, and the uncertain weather-gleam, blackened by some
auld wood, swingin and sughin to the wind, as if hotchin wi'
North. Poo — I should at once take the bull by the horns —
or, seizing him by the tail, drive him with my crutch into the
nearest loch.
Shepherd. It's easy speakin. But you see, sir, he never
appears to a man that's no frichtened aforehaun out o' his
seven senses — and imagination is the greatest cooard on
earth, breakin out into a cauld sweat, his heart loup-loupin,
like a fish in a creel, and the retina o' his ee representin a'
things, main especially them that's ony way infernal, in gruesome
features, dreadfully disordered; till reason is shaken by
the same panic, judgment lost, and the haill sowl distracted
in the insanity o' Fear, till you're nae better than a stark--
staring madman.
North. Good, James — good.
Shepherd. In sic a mood could ony Christian cretur, even
Mr Southey himsel, tak haud o' the deil either by the horns
or the tail? — mair likely that in frenzied desperation you loup
wi' a spang on the bristly back o' the Evil Ane, wha gallops
aff wi' you demented into some loch, where you are found
floatin in the mornin a swollen corp, wi' the mark o' claws on
your hause, your een hangin out o' their sockets; your head
scalped wi' something waur than a tammyhawk, and no a
single bane in your body that's no grund to mash like a
malefactor's on the wheel, for havin curst the Holy Inquisition.
North. Why, my dear Shepherd, genius, I feel, can render
terrible even the meanest superstition.
Shepherd. Meanness and majesty signify naething in the
supernatural. I've seen an expression in the een o' a pyet,
wi' its head turned to the ae side, and though in general a
shy bird, no caring for you though you present your rung¹ at
it as if you were gaun to shoot it wi' a gun, that has made
my verra heart-strings crunkle up wi' the thochts o' some
indefinite evil comin I kent na free what quarter o' the
lowerin heavens. — For pyets, at certain times and places, are
no canny, and their nebs look as if they were peckin at
North. Cross him out, James — cross him out.
Shepherd. A raven ruggin at the booels o' a dead horse is
naething; but ane sittin a' by himsel on a rock, in some
lanely glen, and croak-croakin, naebody can think why, noo
lookin savagely up at the sun, and noo tearin, no in hunger,
for his crap's fu' o' carrion, but in anger and rage, the moss
aneath him wi' beak or tawlons; and though you shout at
him wi' a' your micht, never steerin a single fit frae his.
stance, but absolutely lauchin at you wi' a horrid guller in
the sooty throat o' him, in derision o' you, ane o' God's
reasonable creturs, — I say, sir, that sic a bird, wi' sic unaccoontable
conduct, in sic an inhuman solitude, is a frichtsome
demon; and that when you see him hop-hoppin awa
wi' great jumps in amang the region o' rocks, you wadna
follow him into his auncient lair for ony consideration
whatsomever, but turn your face doun the glen, and thank
God at the sound o' some distant bagpipe. A' men are
augurs. Yet sitting here, what care I for a raven mair than
for a how-towdie?
North. The devil in Scotland, during the days o' witchcraft,
was a most contemptible character.
Shepherd. Sae muckle the better. It showed that sin maun
be a low base state, when a superstitious age could embody
¹ Rung — walking-staff.
it in a nae mair imposing impersonation. I should like to ken
distinckly the origin o' Scottish witchcraft. Was't altogether
indigenous, think ye, sir? or coft¹ or borrowed frae ither
kintras ?
North. I am writing a series of articles on witchcraft,
James, and must not forestall myself at a Noctes.
Shepherd. Keep it a' to yoursel, and nae loss. Had I been
born then, and chosen to play the deevil
North. You could not have done so more effectually than
you did some dozen years ago, by writing the Chaldee
Shepherd. Hoots! — I wadna hae condescended to let auld
flae-bitten wutches kiss —
North. That practice certainly showed the devil to be no
gentleman — But, pray, who ever thought he was one?
Shepherd. Didna Milton?
North. No, James. Milton makes Satan — Lucifer himself —
Prince of the morning — squat down a toad by the ear of Eve
asleep in Adam's bosom in the nuptial-bower of Paradise.
Shepherd. An eve's-dropper. Nae mair despicable character
on earth or in hell.
North. And afterwards, James, in the hall of that dark
consistory, in the presence-chamber of Pandemonium, when
suddenly to the startled gaze of all his assembled peers, their
great Sultaun, with "fulgent head," "star-bright appears,"
and godlike addresses the demons — What happens? a dismal
universal hiss — and all are serpents!²
Shepherd. Gran' is the passage — and out o' a' bounds
magnificent, ayont ony ither imagination o' a' the sons o'
North. Yes, my dear James — the devil, depend upon it, is
intus et in cute — a poor pitiful scoundrel.
Shepherd. Yet I canna quite agree wi' Young in his Night
Thoughts, who says, "Satan, thou art a dunce!" I canna
picture him to my mind's ee sittin wi' his finger in his mouth,
at the doup o' the furm — Booby.
North. Yet you must allow that his education has been
very much neglected — that his knowledge, though miscellaneous,
is superficial — that he sifts no subject thoroughly —
and never gets to the bottom of anything.
¹ Coft — bought.
² Paradise Lost, book x. line 504.
Shepherd. No even o' his ain pit. But it wadna be fair to
blame him for that, for it has nane.
North. Then he is such a poltroon, that a child can frichten
him into hysterics.
Shepherd. True — true. It can do that, just by kneelin
doun at the bedside, fauldin its hauns together, wee bit
pawm to wee bit pawm, turnip up its blue een to heaven, and
whusperin the Lord's Prayer. That sets Satan into a fit —
like a great big he-goat in the staggers — aff he sets over the
bogs — and wee Jamie, never suspeckin that it's the smell o'
sulphur, blaws out the lang-wick'd cawnle that has been
dreepin its creesh on the table, and creeps into a warm sleep
within his father's bosom.
North. I have sometimes amused myself with conjecturing,
James, what may be his opinion of the Magazine.
Shepherd. Him read the Magazine! It would be wormwood
to him, sir. Waur than thae bonny red-cheeked aipples that
turned within his mouth into sand and ashes. Yet I wuss he
would become a regular subscriber — and tak it in. Wha kens
that it michtna reclaim him — and
"I'm wae to think upon yon den,
Even for his sake!"
North. Having given the devil his due — what think ye,
James, of these proposed prosecutions of the Press?
Shepherd. Wha's gaun to tak the law o' Blackwood noo?
North. Not Blackwood, but the newspaper press, with the
Standard — so 'tis said — and the Morning Journal, at the head.
Shepherd. I never heard tell o't afore. Wha's the public
persecutor ?
North. The Duke of Wellington.
Shepherd. That's a confoonded lee, if ever there was ane
tauld in this warld.
North. James, look at me, — I am serious. The crime laid to
their charge is that of having endeavoured to bring the govern-ment
into contempt.¹
Shepherd. If a crime be great in proportion as it's diffeecult,
¹ They were prosecuted at the instance of Wellington and Peel, for having
charged these statesmen with a dereliction of principle in passing the Catholic
Emancipation Act. Mr Robert Alexander, editor of the Morning Journal, was
convicted and imprisoned.
I am free tae confess, as they say in Parliament, that the
bringin o' the government o' this kintra into contempt, maun
be a misdemeanour o' nae muckle magnitude.
North. Perhaps it is wrong to despise anything; and certainly,
in the highest Christian light, it is so. Wordsworth
finely says, "He who feels contempt for any living thing, has
faculties which he has never used."
Shepherd. Then Wudsworth has faculties in abundance that
he has never used; for he feels contempt for every leevin
thing, in the shape either o' man or woman, that can write as
gude or better poetry than himsel — which I alloo is no easy;
but still it's possible, and has been dune, and will be dune
again, by me and ithers. But that's rinnin awa frae the subject.
— Sae it's actionable to despise the government! In that
case, no a word o' politics this nicht. Do ye admire the
government ?
North. Sweet are the uses of adversity, "that, like the
toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in its
Shepherd. But admittin the aptitude o' the first pairt o' the
similitude, has the present government a precious jewel in its
head? I dout it — although the Duke o' Wellington may, for
onything I ken to the contrar, hae like Hazlitt — and like him
deny it too — a carbuncle on his nose.
North. If the government bring actions against the Standard
and the Morning Journal, it must then, to be consistent, instantly
afterwards institute an action of a very singular and
peculiar kind — an action against itself —
Shepherd. Eh?
North. For having not only endeavoured, but beyond all
expectation of the most sanguine, succeeded in overwhelming
itself beneath a load of contempt, from which all the spades
and shovels of all the ministerial hirelings, whether Englishmen
feeding on roast-beef and plum-pudding, or Irishmen on
"wetuns" and praes,¹ or Scotchmen on brose, butter, and
brimstone, will never, between this date and the Millenniums,
supposing some thousands of the most slavish of the three
nations working extra hours, succeed in disinterring it, nor,
dig till they die, ever come within a myriad cubic feet of its
putrefying skeleton.
¹ Praes — potatoes.
Shepherd. But surely the Duke wull haud the hauns o' the
Whig Attorney?
North. The Duke, who has stood in a hundred battles, calm
as a tree, in the fire of a park of French artillery, cannot
surely, James, I agree with you, turn pale at a shower of
paper pellets.
Shepherd. No pale wi' fear, but aiblins wi' anger. Ira furor
North. Better Latin than anv of Hazlitt's quotations.
Shepherd. It is Latin. But do you really think that he's
North. I admire the apothegm, James.
Shepherd. I'll lay a hoggit o' whusky to a saucer o' salloop,
that the Government never brings its actions against the
Stannard and Jurnal.
North. But there's no salloop in Scotland, James — and were
I to lose my wager, I must import a saucerful from Cockaigne
— which would be attended with considerable expense — as
neither smack nor waggon would take it on board, and I
should have to send a special messenger, perhaps an express,
to Mr Leigh Hunt.
Shepherd. What are the ither papers sayin till't ?
North. All on fire, and blazing away with a proper British
spirit — Globe, Examiner, and all — except "yon trembling
coward who forsook his master," the shameful yet shameless
slave, the apostatising Courier, whose unnatural love of tergiversation
is so deep, and black-grained, and intense, that once
a quarter he is seen turning his back upon himself, in a style
justifying a much-ridiculed but most felicitous phrase of the
late Lord Castlereagh; so that the few coffee-house readers,
who occasionally witness his transformations, have long given
up in despair the hopeless task of trying to discover his brazen
face from his wooden posteriors, and let the lusus naturæ, with
all its monstrosities, lie below the table bespitten and be-spurned,
in secula seculorum.
Shepherd. That's a maist sweepin and sonorous specimen o'
oral vituperation.
North. The Liberty of the Press can never be perfectly pure
from licentiousness. If it were, I should propose calling it
the Slavery of the Press. What sense is there in telling any
set of men by all manner of means to speak out boldly about
their governors and their grievances, for that such is the birthright
of Britons — to open their mouths barn-door wide, and
roar aloud to the heavens with lungs of which the machinery
is worked by steam, a high-pressure-engine — and yet the
moment they begin to bawl beyond the birthright of Britons,
what justice is there in not only commanding the aforesaid
barn-door-wide mouths to be shut, bolted, locked, and the
key-hole hermetically sealed, but in punishing the bawling
Britons for having, in the enthusiasm of their vociferation,
abused their birthright of crying aloud to the winds of heaven
against their real or imaginary tyrants and oppressors, by fine,
imprisonment, expatriation, or not impossibly — death?
Shepherd. Sic conduct can proceed only frae a maist consummate
ignorance o' the nature o' the human mind, and a
wilfu' and wicked non-understanding o' that auncient apothegm,
" Gie an inch, and you'll tak an ell." Noo, I say,
debar them the inch by an ack o' the Legislature, if you wall;
but if you alloo them the inch, wull you flee in the face o' a'
experience, fine them for a foot, and hang them for an ell?
That's sumphish.
North. James, I shall certainly put you into Parliament
next dissolution.
Shepherd. But I'll no gang. For although I'm complete
maister o' the English language and idiom, I've gotten a
slicht Scottish accent that micht seem singular to the
Southrons; and confoun' me gin I could bear to be lauchen
at by the stammerin coofs that hum and ha yonner like sae
mony boobies tryin to repeat by heart their lessons frae the
horn-book. My pride couldna submit to their "Hear — hear —
hears !" by way o' derision, and I wud be apt to shut my
nieve, and gie some o' them a douss on the chafts, or a clink
on the side o' the head, contrar to the rules o' Parliament.
North. With scarcely an exception — now that Brougham
is mute — save Sadler and Huskisson,¹ who in very different
styles speak admirably, the members of the Lower House are
a pack partly of pert praters, shallow, superficial, coxcombical,
and pedantic — yes, James, absolutely pedantic — and partly
of drawling dunces, who dole out a vast fund of facts, one and
all of which have figured for weeks, months, years, in all the
¹ Huskisson was run down by a steam-engine at the opening of the Liverpool
and Manchester Railway in 1830, and died after lingering a few hours.
newspapers, metropolitan and provincial, and have ceased to
be familiar to Wilkie's "Village Politicians."¹
Shepherd. I ax pardon, sir, for interruptin you; but did you
see Mr Wulkie when he was in Scotland this time — and if you
did, hoo is he — and what for did he no come out-by to Mount
North. The Prince of Painters is as the whole world would
wish, well and happy, and in social converse delightful
as ever — simple, yet original — plain, yet profound — calm,
yet enthusiastic — and his whole character composed by the
thoughtfulness of a genius that, in his art, works its way
slowly and surely through many a multitude of conceptions
to the final idea which with consummate skill he embodies in
immortal forms. And may the colours be immortal too —
works one and all, laborious though they be, of inspiration!
Shepherd. But what for didna he come out-by this time to
Mount Benger? I weel remember George Tamson bringin
him out in the hairst o' 1817, and me readin till them pairt
o' The Manuscripp.
North. What! the Chaldee?
Shepherd. What else? Hoo they leuch!
North. Bad as was the haranguing, and good the humming
and hawing, at the Edinburgh Forum² of old, James, where
first you "fulmined over Greece," yet for even-down right
hammering stupidity, St Stephen's exceeds the Forum far.
Nor was yon queer comical body, James, the wee bit smug--
faced, smooth-haired, low-browed, pug-nosed, cock-chinned,
bandy-legged, hump-backed Precentor to the Chapel rejoicing
in the Auld Light, in Liberton's Wynd, who used occasionally
to open the question, the tenth part so tiresome, after the
ludicrousness of the exhibition had got stale, as Sir Thomas
Leather-breeches,³ stinking of Zummerset, looking from him
with a face as free from one single grain of meaning as a
clean-swept barn-floor, labouring to apply to speech a mouth
manifestly made by gracious nature for the exclusive purpose
of bolting bacon, vainly wagging in a frothy syllabub of
words a tongue in its thickness admirably adapted, and then
¹ The "Village Politicians," a celebrated picture by Wilkie.
² A debating society of very miscellaneous constitution, where Hogg used to
hold forth early in the century.
³ Sir Thomas Lethbridge.
only felicitously employed, for lapping up lollipops, ever and
anon with a pair of awful paws raking up the coarse bristle of
his poll, so that, along with the grunt of the greedy pig, you
are presented with the quills of the fretful porcupine; and
since the then and the there alluded to, gobbling up his own
words — for meanings had he never none — like a turkey-cock
his own voidings; and giving the lie direct to the whole of
his past political life, public and private, if indeed political
life it may be called, which was but like the diseased doze of
a drunkard dreaming through a stomach dark and deep as the
Shepherd. To my lugs, sir, the maist shockin epithet in our
language is — Apostate. Soon as you hear it, you see a man
selling his sowl to the deevil.
North. To Mammon.
Shepherd. Belial or Beelzebub. I look to the mountains,
Mr North, and stern they stand in a glorious gloom, for the
sun is strugglin wi' a thundercloud, and facing him a faint
but fast-brichtenin rainbow. The ancient spirit o' Scotland
comes on me frae the sky; and the sowl within me re-swears
in silence the oath o' the Covenant. There they are — the
Covenanters — a' gathered thegither, no in fear and tremblin,
but wi' Bibles in their bosoms, and swords by their sides, in a
glen deep as the sea, and still as death, but for the sound o' a
stream and the cry o' an eagle. "Let us sing, to the praise
and glory of God, the hundred psalm," quoth a loud clear
voice, though it be the voice o' an auld man; and up to
Heaven hauds he his strung withered hands, and in the
gracious wunds o' heaven are flying abroad his grey hairs, or
say rather, white as the silver or the snaw.
North. Oh, for Wilkie!
Shepherd. The eagle and the stream are silent, and the
heavens and the earth are brocht close thegither by that
triumphin psalm. Ay, the clouds cease their sailing and lie
still; the mountains bow their heads; and the crags, do they
not seem to listen, as in that remote place the hour o' the
delighted day is filled with a holy hymn to the Lord God o'
North. My dear Shepherd!
Shepherd. Oh! if there should be sittin there — even in that
congregation on which, like God's own eye, looketh down the
meridian sun, now shinin in the blue region — an Apostate!
North. The thought is terrible.
Shepherd. But na, na, na! See that bonny blue-eed, rosy--
checked, gowden-haired lassie — only a thought paler than
usual, sweet lily that she is — half-sittin half-lyin on the
greensward, as she leans on the knee o' her stalwart grandfather
— for the sermon's begun, and all eyes are fastened on the
preacher, — look at her till your heart melts as if she were
your ain, and God had given you that beautifu' wee image
o' her sainted mother, and tell me if you think that a' the
tortures that cruelty could devise to inflict, would ever wring
frae thae sweet innocent lips ae word o' abjuration o' the faith
in which the flower is growing up amang the dewdraps o'
her native hills?
North. Never — never — never!
Shepherd. She proved it, sir, in death. Tied to a stake on
the sea-sands she stood; and first she heard, and then she
saw, the white roarin o' the tide. But the smile forsook not
her face; it brichtened in her een when the water reached her
knee; calmer and calmer was her voice of prayer, as it beat
again' her bonny breast; nae shriek when a wave closed her
lips for ever; and methinks, sir — for ages on ages hae lapsed
awa sin' that martyrdom, and therefore Imagination may
withouten blame dally wi' grief — methinks, sir, that as her
golden head disappeared, 'twas like a star sinkin in the sea!
North. God bless you, my dearest James! shake hands!
Shepherd. When I think on these things — in olden times
the produce o' the common day — and look aroun' me noo, I
could wush to steek my een in the darkness o' death; for
dearly as I love it still, alas! alas! I am ashamed o' my
North. What an outcry, in such a predicament, would have
been made by Leather-breeches!
Shepherd. Bubble and squeak like a pig plotted. But
what waur is he than our ain Forty-Five?² O, they mak
me stunner!
North. Does not the Duke of Wellington know that mortal
hatred of the "Great Measure"² is in the hearts of millions
of his subjects?
Shepherd. His subjects?
North. Yes, James, his subjects; for I am not now speaking
of his slaves. His subjects; and if he has that horror at the
¹ See ante, p. 264, note.
² The Catholic Emancipation Bill.
idea of being thought ambitious of being KING, which he
chooses to evince by the prosecution of the Press, and an
attack on its long-established liberties, then must he be at this
hour the most miserable of men. For at this hour, he is the
King. No King of England, but himself, could, I verily
believe, even if they would, have carried the Catholic Question.
Shepherd. We had better cry on Gurney no to tak doun
this, for I jalouse it's actionable — na, for onything I ken, treasonable;
and we may be baith hanged.
North. No, James, we are loyal to the backbone. Till the
day of my death will I raise up my feeble voice in honour of
the Hero of Waterloo. He saved Europe — the world. Twin-stars
in England's sky, immortally shall burn the deified
spirits of Nelson and Wellington.
Shepherd. Your words gar me a' grue.
North. But of noble minds ambition is both the first and
the last infirmity; an infirmity it must, even in its most
glorious mood, be called in all noble minds, except that of
Alfred. In war, Wellington, the Gaul-humbler, is a greater
name, immeasurably greater than Alfred, the Dane-destroyer.
But in peace — too, too painful would it be to pursue the
parallel —
Shepherd. And therefore shove across the jug; dicht your
broo, for you're sweatin; look less fierce and gloomy; and,
wi' your permission, here's "The Kirk o' Scotland!"
North. Ay, let the Church of England prepare her pillars
for an earthquake, for I hear a sound louder than all her
organs; but our Kirk, small and simple though it be, is built
upon a rock that Vulcan himself may not undermine; let the
storm rage as loud as it may, her little bells will cheerfully
tinkle in the hurly-burly; no sacrilegious hands shall ever fling
her pews and pulpits into a bonfire : on her roofs shall ever
fall the dews and the sunshine of Peace; Time may dilapidate,
but Piety will rebuild her holy altars; and her corner-stone
shall endure till Christianity has prepared Earth for melting
away into Heaven.
Shepherd. A land o' cauldness and then a fit o' heat's chasin
ane anither through my body — is the jug wi' me? I ax your
North. Well then, James, millions abhor the Great Measure.
And in their abhorrence, must they be dumb? No. They
will speak; and, it may be, louder and longer too than Buonaparte's
batteries. Wellington himself cannot silence their
fire. And if their engine — their organ — the Press, speak
trumpet-tongued against the Great Measure, and the Great
Man who carried it by stealing a march on the Friends of the
Constitution, so as to take them fatally on flank, and by
bribing its Enemies, so as to bring them down in formidable
array in front of the army of the Faithful surprised in their
position — does he hope, powerful as he is in Place, in Genius,
and in Fame, to carry by siege, by sap, or by storm, that
Battery which ere now has played upon Thrones till they sunk
in ruins, and their crowned Kings fled eleemosynary pensioners
into foreign lands!
Shepherd. I didna ken, sir, you had thought sae highly o'
the Gentlemen o' the Periodical Press.
North. Periodical! Time is not an element, James, that
can enter into any just judgment on the merits of such a
question. The same minds are at work for the Press all over
Britain, whatever may be the seasons of their appearance in
print. I do think very highly of many of the Gentlemen of
the Press. Nor does it matter one iota with me, whether they
set the Press a-going once a-year or once a-day.
Shepherd. I see there's nae essential distinction.
North. With all my reverence for Mr Southey, I cannot
help thinking, that by speaking so bitterly and contemptuously
in some passages of his admirable Progress and Prospects of
Society, of magazines and newspapers, he has glanced aside
from the truth, and been guilty of not a little discourtesy to
his literary brethren.
Shepherd. He shouldna hae done that — but ye maunna be
angry at Mr Soothey.
North. Nor am I. Why, James, the self-same men who
write in the Quarterly Review, of which, next and equal to the
accomplished and powerful Editor,¹ Mr Southey is the ornament
and support, write, and that too not by fits and starts,
but regularly, and for both fame and bread, in magazines and
newspapers. For many years the Editor of the Quarterly
Review, along with our friend the Professor,² who still lends
me his aid — contributed, as Mr Southey and all the world
know, largely to the Magazine which I have the honour of
¹ John G. Lockhart.
² Wilson.
feebly editing; and so did and do some of Mr Southey's most
esteemed personal friends, such as Mr Lamb and Mr Coleridge.
Indeed I could show Mr Southey a contribution-list
of names that would make him stare — from Sir Walter Scott
to Sir Peter Nimmo.
Shepherd. Mr Soothey maun hae meant to except Blackwood.
North. I fear not, James.
Shepherd. That's stupit.
North. The editor of Colburn's Magazine¹ is illustrious over
Europe — the best critic, and one of the best poets of his age;
and many of his contributors are, elsewhere, successful and
influential authors. In brief, I would beg leave to say most
kindly to the Laureate, that as much, and perhaps more varied
talent, is shown in those two Magazines every month, than in
that Review every quarter; and that, without any disparagement
to the best of all Quarterly Reviews.
Shepherd. I confess I canna help agreein wi' you, sir —
though, at the same time, it's kittlier to write in the Quarterly
than in Maga. At ony rate, Lockhart aye sends me back my
articles —
North. Which I never do.
Shepherd. Dinna ye? — um.
North. True, we of Maga are not so pompous, authoritative,
dogmatical, doctorial (perhaps, however, fully more professorial),
as ye of the Quarterly; we have not the same satisfaction
in constantly wearing wigs, and occasionally shovel--
hats; nor do we, like ye, at all times, every man's son of you,
indite our articles with a huge pile of books encumbering our
table, in a room surrounded by maps, and empty of all bottles
save one of eye-water. Our mice do not come from mountains
in labour, but out of small chinks and crannies behind
the chimney-cheeks of our parturient fancies. When our
mountains are in travail they produce mammoths. Absurd,
trifling, and ridiculous, we often — too often, are, — ye never;
but dull, heavy — nay, stupid — ye sometimes are, while with
us, these are universally admitted to be the most impossible of
all impossible events in nature. In mere information — or
what is called knowledge — learning, and all that — facts, and
so forth — we willingly give ye the pas : but neither are we
ignorant; on the contrary, we are well acquainted with arts
and literature, and in the ways of the world — up both to trap
¹ Thomas Campbell.
and to snuff, which, save your reverences! you are not always
to the degree your best friends could wish. You have a
notion in your wise heads, that you are always walking in
advance of the public; we have a notion in our foolish ones,
that we are often running in the rear. Ye would fain lead;
we are contented to drive. As to divinity, ye are all doctors,
some of you perhaps bishops; we, at the best, but licensed
preachers. Ye are all Episcopalians, and proud ye are of
showing it; we are all, or nearly all, Presbyterians, and think
no shame to own it. Whether ye or we are the more or the
less bigoted to our respective creeds, it is not for us to say;
but we do not scruple to think, that on this point we have greatly
the advantage over our brethren of the south. Anti-catholics
we both are — and at the risk, perhaps, of some little tautology,
we add — Christians. In politics we are steady as the pole--
star; so perhaps are ye: but clouds never obscure our brightness;
whereas, for some few years past, such is the dense
gloom in which it has been hidden, your pole-star has, to the
eyes of midnight mariners, been invisible in the sky. To
sum up all in one short and pithy sentence, the Quarterly
Review is the best periodical in the world except Blackwood's
Magazine, and Blackwood's Magazine the best periodical in the
world except the Quarterly Review.
Shepherd. Haw — haw — haw! — maist capital! — O, sir, but
you're beginnin to wax wutty. You were rather a wee prosy
about an hour sin' syne, but the toddy, I'm thinkin, 's beginnin
to work, and after a few jugs ye talk like an opium-eater.

North. Opium-Eater!¹ "Where has he hid his many-coloured
Shepherd. I kenna. But he's like the lave o' the Lakers —
when he wons in Westmoreland, he forgets Maga, and a' the
rest o' the civileezed warld.
North. Now, James, all this being the case, why will Mr
Southey sneer, or worse than sneer, at Moon-Maga, and her
Shepherd. We maun alloo a great man his crotchets. There's
nae perfection in mortal man; but gin I were to look for it
onywhere, 'twould be in the life, character, and warks O'
Robert Soothey.
¹ Mr De Quincey, the English Opium-Eater, is one of the interlocutors in the
next Noctes.
North. With respect, again, to Newspapers, generally
speaking, they are conducted with extraordinary talent. I'll
be shot if Junius, were he alive now, would set the world on
the rave, as he did some half-century ago. Many of the London
daily scribes write as well as ever he did, and some better;
witness Dr Gifford and Dr Maginn, in that incomparable paper
the Standard, or Laabrum; and hundreds, not greatly inferior
to Junius, write in the same sort of cutting trenchant style of
that celebrated assassin. Times, Chronicle, Globe, Examiner,
Herald, Sun, Atlas, Spectator (one of the most able, honest,
and independent of all the Weeklies), are frequently distinguished
by most admirable writing; and the Morning Journal,
though often rather lengthy, and sometimes unnecessarily
warm, constantly exhibits specimens of most powerful composition.
The Morning Post, too, instead of being what it
once was, a mere record of fashionable movements, is a political
paper now, full, for the most part, of a truly British
spirit, expressed with truly British talent. If Zeta¹ be really
hanged, the editor of the Morning Journal should let him
alone; if he be really unhanged, he ought to give the able
editor of the Morning Journal a good hiding.
Shepherd. He's aiblins no fit. But what's the meanin o'
North. Confound me, James, if I know.
Shepherd. Mr Southey, though, I'm thinkin, does not deny
tawlent to the daily or weekly Press; he anathemateeses their
pernicious principles.
North. True. But does he not greatly exaggerate the evil?
Most pernicious principles some of them do, with a truly
wicked pertinacity, disseminate; but those which love and
spread truth, though perhaps fewer in number, are greater in
power; and even were it not so, truth is stronger than falsehood,
and will ultimately prevail against her, and that, too,
at no remote time. Besides, I do not know of any newspaper
that is devoted to the sole worship of falsehood. We must
allow some, nay, even great differences of opinion in men's
minds, even on the most solemn and most sacred subjects;
we ought not to think everything wicked which our understanding
or conscience cannot embrace: as there is sometimes
¹ "Zeta," says the American editor, "was an anonymous letter-writer in the
Morning Post. It was even said that Lord Ellenborough was the author."
found by ourselves, to our own dismay, much bad in our good,
so, if we look with clear, bright, unjaundiced eyes, we may
often see much good in their bad; nay, not unfrequently we
shall then see, that what we were too willing to think utterly
bad, because it was in the broad sheet of an enemy, is entirely
good, and feel, not without compunction and self-reproach,

"Fas est et ab hoste doceri."
Shepherd. Are you no in danger o' becomin ower candid the
noo, sir; in danger o' rather trimmin?
North. No, James; I am merely trimming the vessel of my
own moral reason — removing to the centre the shifted ballast,
that, on my voyage to the distant shores of truth, she may
not, by making leeway, drift out of her course, and fall in
among the breakers; and then, after putting and seeing all
right, I return like a good pilot to the wheel, and, with all
sail set, work up, with my merry crew, in the wind's eye, to
the safest harbour in all the Land of Promise.
Shepherd. That's a weel-supported simile. You aye speak
wi' uncommon smeddum on nowtical affairs.
North. Question — Who are the dangerous writers of the
day? Answer — Demagogues and Infidels; there being included
in the latter, and indeed also in the former — so, in
truth, there is no such distinction — Deists and Atheists. The
lowest and worst Demagogues are mostly all dunces; and
therefore I must opine, not alarmingly dangerous to the stability
of the state, or the well-being of the people. Still they
are pests; they pollute alehouses, and make more disgustful
gin-shops; the contagion of their bad thoughts sometimes
sickens the honest poor man with his humble ingle — irritates
his weary heart, confuses his aching head, and makes him an
unhappy subject, fit, and ripe, and ready for sedition. Luckily
the members of this gang occasionally commit overt acts of
which the law can take hold; and, instead of wilting them
down, which, from the utter debasement of their understandings,
as well as that of all their unwashed proselytes, is below
the province of the press, and indeed impossible, you tie
them down in a cell, and order them to be well privately
whipt, or you make them mount the treadmill, and insist on
their continuing to reason, step by step, in a circle.
Shepherd. Besides, many o' them, sir, get hanged for crimes
not at all of a literary character, if, indeed, you except forgery
— profligacy kills many more by horrid diseases — mid multitudes
run away to America, or are sent to Sydney Cove, or
the "still vexed Bermoothes." Sae I howp the breed 's on
the decline by consumption, and will afore lang rin clean out,
dregs an' a'.
North. I agree with Mr Southey, however, in believing
that in London, and all large towns, the number of such
ruffians is very great. Let the police do its duty.
Shepherd. But, sir, ye maun ascend a few grauds up the
scale o' Iniquity.
North. I do — and find some men of good education and
small talent, and more men of bad or no education and considerable
talent — Demagogues — that is to say, wretches who,
from love of mischief, would instigate the ignorant to their
own ruin, in the ruin of the state. They write and they speak
with fluency and glibness, and the filthy and fetid stream
flows widely over poor men's dwellings, especially those who
are given to reading, and deposits in workshop, kitchen,
parlour, and bedroom, a slime whose exhalation is poison and
death. They have publications of their own, and they gloat
over and steal and spread everything that is bad and suited
to their ends in the publications of some other people, who,
while they would scorn their alliance, do nevertheless often
purposely contribute aid to their evil designs and machinations.
To such charge too large a portion of what is called
the Liberal Press must plead guilty, or perhaps they would
glory in the charge. This pollution of the Press can only be
cleansed by the pure waters of Truth, showered over it
by such men as Mr Southey himself; or swept away, if you
prefer the image, by besoms in the hands of the righteous,
who, for sake of those who suffer, shun not the nauseous
office even of fuilzie-men to keep clean and sweet the highways
and byways, the streets and alleys, of social life.
Shepherd. Such a righteous besom-brandisher is Christopher
North, the terror of traitors and the —
North. And thus, James, are we "led another grand up the
scale of Iniquity," and reach the Liberal Press. It works
much evil, and, I fear not to say, much good.
Shepherd. Say rather some good, sir. Lay the emphasis on
North. "Much good." For it is not to be denied that men
may be bigotedly and blindly attached to the right cause.
Old institutions seem sacred to their imaginations, beyond
the sanctity inherent in their frame. Time-hallowed, they
are improvement-proof. But the new may be, and often is,
holier than the old — the work of a single day better than
that of a thousand years. The soul of
"The fond adorer of departed fame"
sometimes falls asleep on the tomb of the good and great
of other times, to the oblivion of far higher living worth; or
dozes over the inscription graven there by the gratitude of a
former age, instead of more wisely recording the triumphs of
contemporary genius or virtue. Reason must be awakened
from her slumbers or her dreams in the arms of imagination
that loves to haunt old places, and to walk in reveries among
the shades of antiquity. The Liberal Press — I take the word
as I find it in general use — often breaks these delusions; for
they often are delusions, and it oftener shows us to distinguish
shadow from substance — fiction from truth — superstition
from devotion. It thus does good at times when perhaps
it is intending evil; but at times it intends good — does good
— and therefore is strictly entitled to unqualified and fervent
praise. Such praise I give it now, James — and if Gurney be
not asleep, it will ring in the ears of the public, who will
ratify the award.
Shepherd. But are you sure that the evil doesna greatly
preponderate in the scale?
North. I am sure it does preponderate — but let us, the
Illiberals, fling in good into the good, and we restore the
Shepherd. That's incorreck. The evil, light in comparison,
kicks the beam — and the good in the other bucket o' the
balance remains, for the use o' man, steady on a rock.
North. And here it is that Southey's self authorises me to
contradict Southey. While he, and others like to him — a
few, perhaps his equals, at least in power, such as Sir Walter,
S. T. Coleridge, and William Wordsworth — and not a few,
his inferiors indeed in power, but nevertheless his equals in
zeal and sincerity — and the many who, without any very
surpassing talents, do yet acquire force from faith, and have
reliance on religion, — I say, James, while that Sacred Band
moves on in firm united phalanx, in discipline meet to their
valour — nor in bright array wanting their music-bands, vocal
and instrumental, to hymn them on in the march to victory —
who will fear the issue of the battle, or doubt that beneath the
Champions of the Cross the Host of the Misbelievers will
sustain a signal and fatal overthrow?
Shepherd. You've been speakin, sir, I perceive, by implication,
o' infidels, that's deists and atheists, a' the time you
were discussin demagogues; but hae ye ony thing mair particularly
to say o' infidels by themsels, as being sometimes a
separate gang? Let's hear 't.
North. I believe, James, that there are many, too many,
conscientious deists — deists on conviction — on conviction
consequent on candid and extensive, but not philosophical
and profound inquiry into the evidences, internal and external,
of Christianity.
Shepherd. Ah! sir. That's scarcely possible.
North. It is true. But such men do not often — they very
rarely seek to disturb the faith of others — and few of them
carry their creed on with them to old age, for the Lamp of
Revelation burns more brightly before eyes that feel the
dimness of years shrouding all mortal things. In meridian
manhood, it seems to them that the Sun of Natural Theology
irradiates all being, and in that blaze the Star of Revelation
seems to fade away and be hidden. But as they approach the
close of life, they come to know that the Sun of Natural
Theology — and it is a Sun — had shone upon them with a
borrowed light, and that the Book of Nature had never been
so read by them but for the Book of God. They lived Deists,
and they die Christians.
Shepherd. In good truth, sir, I hae kent some affecting
cases o' that kind.
North. Now observe the inconsistent conduct of such men;
an inconsistency that, I believe, must attach to the character
of every virtuous deist in a country where Christianity prevails
in its Protestant purity, and is the faith of an enlightened
national intellect. Rarely indeed, if ever, do they teach
their children their own creed. Their disbelief, therefore,
cannot be an utter disbelief. For if it were, a good and
conscientious man — and I am supposing the deist to be
such — could not make a sacrifice of the truth for the sake of
them he dearly loved; such sacrifice, indeed, would be the
height of folly and wickedness. For if he knows Christianity
to be an imposture, beautiful though the imposture be — and
no human heart ever yet denied its beauty — conscience,
God's vicegerent here below, would command him to begin
with exposing the imposture to the wife of his bosom, and
the children of their common blood. But all unknown perhaps
to himself, or but faintly known, the day-spring from on
high has with gracious glimpses of light visited his conscience,
and that conscience, heaven-touched, trembles to
disown the source from which comes that gentle visiting, and,
with its still small voice, more divine than he is aware of,
whispers him not to initiate in another faith the hearts of the
guileless and the innocent, by nature open to receive the
words of eternal life. And thus,
"While Virtue's self and Genius did adorn
With a sad charm the blinded deist's scorn,
Religion's self, by moral goodness won,
Hath smiled forgiving on her sceptic son!"
Shepherd. They are muckle to be pitied, my dear sir; and
it's neither for you nor me, nor onybody else, to be hard
upon them; and I'll answer for Mr Soothey, that were ony
such to visit him in his ain house at Keswick, he wad be as
kind to him as he was in the autumn o' aughteen hunder and
fourteen to mysel, show him his beautifu' and maist astonishing
leebrary, toast bread for him at breakfast wi' his ain hauns,
wi' that lang-shanked fork, and tak an oar wi' him in a boat
round the Isles, and into the bays o' Derwentwater loch,
amusin him wi' his wut, and instructing him wi' his wisdom.
North. I know he would, James. From such deists, then,
though their existence is to be deplored, little or no danger
need be feared to revealed religion. But there are many
more deists of a different stamp, — the shallow, superficial,
insensible, and conceited, — the profligate, the brutal, and the
wicked. I hardly know which are in the most hopeless condition,
Argument is thrown away on both — for the eyes of
the one are too weak to bear the light; and those of the other
love only darkness. "They hate the light, because their
deeds are dark." The former fade like insects; the latter
perish like beasts. But the insects flutter away their lives
among weeds and flowers, and are of a sort that sting nobody,
though they may tease in the twilight; while the beasts
bellow, and gore, and toss, and therefore must be hoodwinked
with boards — the tips of their horns must be sawed off, a chain
passed through their noses — they must be driven from the
green pastures by the living waters, on to the bare brown
common; and, unfit for the shambles, must be knocked on the
head, and sold to the hounds — "down to the ground at once,.
as butcher felleth ox."
Shepherd. There are over mony o' the insecks in Scotland;
but, thank God! but few o' the beasts.
North. Because in Scotland, James, the Church, as Wordsworth
well says, holds over us "the strong hand of its purity;"
and thus infidelity has been chiefly confined to philosophers
who would not suffer the Church to catch hold; while, as the
beasts I speak of are most likely to arise among the lower
orders, the church being omnipotent there, the bulls of Bastian
are but a scant breed. In England, from many causes, some
of them inevitable in a land so rich, and populous, and manycitied,
and some of them existing in neglect of duties secular
and religious, the beasts are seen of a larger size, and in
larger droves; but providentially, by a law of Nature, the
bulls calved have always been in the proportion of a hundred
to one to the cows; and as that proportion is always increasing,
we may even hope that in half a century the last quey
will expire, and then the male monsters will soon become
utterly extinct.
Shepherd. Od, man, I never heard you sae feegurative as
you are the nicht; yet I maun alloo that maist part o' them 's
capital, and but few very muckle amiss.
North. Now, James, with such infidels as these, how are we
to deal? First of all, they are doomed, living and dying, to
universal loathing, ignominy, scorn, and execration. All that
is good. It curses them into hatred of their species — and that
curse is intensified by the conviction that their hatred is of
little or no avail to hurt the hair of any one Christian's head.
Further, their books — for they sometimes write books — are
smashed, pounded into pulp, and flung into their faces till
they are blind. Groping in their darkness, they pick the
pulp up — spread it out again, and dry it in the sun, whose
Maker they blaspheme; and over and over again, after each
repetition of the blow — the blash on their eyes — they recommence
their manufacture of blotted paper, and scrawl it over
with the same impious and senseless scribble, all the while
assured of the same result, yet instigated by the master they
serve, the Devil. The more they are baffled, the more
wickedly they persevere, till the snuff of their wretched life
goes out, like Tom Paine's, in a stink, and some Cobbett completes
their infamy, by his consecration of their bones.¹
Shepherd. Yet I fear, sir, Tom Paine worked great evil,
even in Scotland.
North. No, James; very little indeed. The times were then
troubled, and ripe for mischief. Paine's blasphemy caused
the boil to burst. A wise and humane physician, the illustrious
and immortal Richard Watson,² Lord Bishop of Llandaff
applied a sacred salve to the sore — the wound healed kindly,
soon cicatrized, and the patient made whole again bounded in
joy and liberty like a deer upon the hills.
Shepherd. Feegur after feegur — in troops, bands, and shoals!
What a teeming and prolific imagination! And in auldest ago
may it never be effete!
North. Your affection for your father, my dear son James,
sees in my eye, and hears in my voice, meanings which exist
not in them — but the light and the breath touch your spirit,
and from its soil arise flowers and shrubs indigenous to the
blessed soil of our ain dear Scotland.
Shepherd. Is the theme exhausted — the well run dry — the
last leaf shaken frae the tree — wull the string no haud another
pearl, or is the diver tired — has your croon gotten on the
centre-tap the feenal and consummatin diamond, or do the dark
unfathomed caves o' ocean bear nae mair — can the rim roun'
it support nae greater wecht o' gowd, or is the mine wrought
out — wull the plumes o' thocht that form the soarin crest
aboon your coronet no admit another feather frae the train o'
the Bird o' Paradise, or is the bird itsel flown awa into the
heart o' the Garden o' Eden? Answer me that mony-feegur'd
¹ "When Cobbett returned to England from the United States in 1819, be
brought with him what he said were the bones of Tom Paine. There are strong
grounds for believing that they were the remains of some other person." —
American Editor.
² Bishop Watson's Apology for the Bible was written in answer to Paine's
Age of Reason.
interrogatory in the conceeseness o' ae single word, or in the
diffusion o' a thousan' — let your voice be as the monotones of
the simplest Scottish melody, or as the multitudinousness of
the maist complex German harmony, the ane like takin a few
short easy steps up a green gowany brae, and the idler like
rinnin up and doun endless flights o' stairs leading through a'
the mazes o' some immense cathedral, frae the gloom o' cells
and oratories on the grun'-floor, or even aneath the rock foundation,
to the roof open within its battlements to the night-circle
o' the blue boundless heavens, with their moon and stars.
There's a touch for you, ye auld conceited Carle, o' the picturesque,
the beautifu', and shooblime; nor ever dare to think,
much less say again, that I, James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd,
am not a poet equal to a' the three pitten thegither,
Ramsay, Kinnigham, and Burns, though they, I acknowledge,
till the star of Mount Benger arose, were the Tria Lumina
Scotorum of our northern sky. But I, sir, I am the great
flashing, rustling Aurora Borealis, that gars a' the Three
"pale their ineffectual fires" in my electrical blaze, till the
een o' our millions are dazzled wi' the coruscations; and earth
wonders, and o' its wonderin finds no end, at the troublous
glory o' the incomprehensible heaven. There's a touch o' the
magnificent for you, ye auld wicked scoonrel! Equal that,
and I'll pay the bill out o' my ain pouch, and fling a dollar
for himsel to Tappytoorie, without askin for the change. Eh?
North. The evil done by the infidel writings you alluded
to, James, was not of long duration, and out of it sprang great
good. Many, it is true, suffered the filth of Paine to defile
their Bibles. But ere a few moons went up and down the
sky, their hearts smote them on account of the insult done to
the holy leaves; tears of remorse, contrition, and repentance
washed out the stain; every renewed page seemed then to
shine with a purer and diviner lustre — they clasped and unclasped
with a more reverent hand
"The big Ha'-Bible, ance their Fathers' pride."
Its black-cloth cover was thenceforth more sacred to the eyes
of all the family; with more pious care was it replaced by
husband and wife, after morning and evening worship, in the
chest beside the bridal linen destined to be their shroud.
Search, now, all the cottages Scotland thorough, and not one
single copy of the Age of Reason will you find; but you will
find a Bible in the shieling of the loneliest herdsman.
Shepherd. You speak God's truth, for I ken Scotland weel;
and sae do you, for I hae heard you was a wonderfu' walker
in your youth; and for the last twenty years, to my certain
knowledge, you hae ridden on a race o' sure-footed pownies,
far better than ony Spanish or Portuguese mules, a' through
amang the mountains, by kittle bridle-paths; and I'm only
astonished that you never brak your neck.
North. The main causes of infidelity lie in ignorance and
misery, especially in that worst of all misery — guilt. But
poverty, brought on by either the profligacy of the labouring
classes, or by the ignorance or folly of their rulers, embitters
the heart into sullen or fierce disbelief. A wise Political
Economy, therefore, is one of the strongest and happiest safe--
guards of religion.
Shepherd. I canna understaun' it ava. Ricardo's as obscure
as Ezekiel.
North. Though dealing directly but with temporal things,
it bears, James, on those that are eternal. Statist, statesman,
philosopher, and priest, if they know their duty, and discharge
it, all work together for one great end.
Shepherd. That's geyan like common sense.
North. When the social state of a people is disturbed by
the disarrangement of the natural order, and changes of the
natural course of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce,
will not morality and religion, my dear James, sink with the
sinking prosperity of the country?
Shepherd. They wull that.
North. The domestic virtues cannot live through the winter,
round a starved board and a cold hearth. Sound sleep
shuns not a hard bed — but no eye can long remain closed on
a truckle which next day may see in a pauper's roup at the
Shepherd. An' what's the drift o' a' thae verra true and excellent
North. That much of the worst spirit which we deplore in
the people, though it may be cruelly exasperated and exacerbated
by demagogues and infidels, owes to them neither its
origin nor chief growth and nurture, but springs out of the
very frame and constitution of society in all great kingdoms.
Shepherd. And is that a consoling doctrine, think ye, sir,
or one that gars us despair for our species?
North. What! shall I despair of my species, because I see long
periods in the history of my own and other countries, when the
moral condition of the people has been withered or blasted by the
curse of an incapable, unfeeling, or unprincipled government?
Shepherd. But that's no the character o' the present Government
o' our kintra, Mr North?
North. It must strengthen their hands and hearts, James,
to know that you are not in opposition. But to return for one
moment more to the subject of the infidelity of the lower
orders, how beautifully, my dear James, do all the best domestic
affections, when suffered to enjoy themselves even in
tolerable repose and peace, blend into, and, as it were, become
one and the same with religion! Let human nature have but
fair play in life — let but its physical necessities be duly supplied
— and all its moral sympathies and religious aspirations
kindle and aspire. What other religion but Christianity was
ever the religion of the poor? But the poor sometimes cease
to be Christians, and curse their existence. And Mr Huskisson
would be shocked to see and hear how that happens, were
he to make an occasional pilgrimage and sojourn in Spitalfields,
instead of abusing its wretched dwellers.
Shepherd. It's very unfair, I see, sir, to lay the blame o'
the irreligion o' the puir when they are irreligious, as there's
but ower mony o' them, according to Mr Soothey and you, in
England at this present era, on the shouthers o' the priesthood.
What gude wull preachin and prayin do them, when folk
are starvin o' cauld, and hae naething either to eat or drink?
North. I have known a poor old sailor, James, who had eat
nothing for two days, dismissed from her door by a pious
lady, not with a loaf in his pouch — for she referred him to the
parish — but — a Bible.
Shepherd. That was verra wicked. Let the body be attended
to first, and the sowl afterwards, or you're fleein in the face
o' the Ten Commandments.¹ That, I dinna dout, was the
pious leddy's ain case; for wasna she a widow wi' a gude jointure,
fat, frouzy, and forty, wi' great big peony-rose knots o'
¹ The "ragged schools" have since taken the hint, and, by providing for
the wants of the body before attending to those of the mind, have profited by
a suggestion which shows the Shepherd to have been in advance of his age.
ribbons a' roun' her match, and about to try it on again, in the
way o' marriage, wi' a strappin Methody preacher?
North. Before the consummation of that event she died of
a surfeit from an inordinate guzzle on a prize-haggis. Much
as she talked about the Bible, she showed in practice that she
preferred the precepts of Meg Dods. Cookery was, in fact,
her Christianity, and hers a kitchen-creed; yet I heard her
funeral sermon preached by a great greasy villain, with long
black, lank, oily hair, and the most sensual face ever seen
on earth since Silenus, who nauseously whined away about
her single-mindedness (two husbands, remember, and within
a week of a third), her —
Shepherd. Od rot baith her and him, are ye gaun to gar
me spew?
North. But take it at the worst, James, and let us believe,
with Mr Southey, that the press is now a mighty engine of
evil in the hand of the lovers of evil. What then? It is the
Press against the Press. Wherein lies our trust? In the
mighty array that might be — that is, on the side of heaven.
Where are the twenty thousand ministers of religion, more or
less? And in their cures and benefices, rich or poor, what
are they about? Are they all broad awake, up, stirring, and
at work? If so, they are more than a match for the miscel--
laneous muster of infidels, the lumbering levy-en-masse of the
godless, who, when brought into action, present the singular
appearance of a whole large army consisting entirely of an
awkward squad.
Shepherd. And if any considerable number o' the clergy
snore awa the week-days weel on to eleven o'clock, and set
the congregation a-snore baith forenoon and afternoon ilka
Sabbath, showin that they think bapteezin, and buryin, and
marryin, and prayin, and preachin, a sair drawback an' doundraucht
on the comforts o' a rectory, — then, I say, let them be
ca'd ower the coals by the bishop, and if incorrigible frae
natural stupidity or acquired inveteracy o' habit, let them be
deposed and pensioned aff the stipen' o' their successors wi'
some fifty a-year, aneuch to leeve on in sma' seaport towns,
where fish and coals are cheap; and then they may stroll
about the sauns, wi' their hauns ahint their backs, gatherin
buckies and urchins, and ither shells, looking at the ships
comin in and gaun out, and no to be distinguished frae half--
pay lieutenants, except by their no swearin sae muckle, or at
a' events no the same queer kind o' comical oaths, but equally
wi' them daunderin about, ill aff for something to do, and
equally wi' them red about the nose, thin in the cauves, and
thick about the ankles.
North. The Church of England is the richest in the world,
though I am far from thinking that its riches are rightly distributed.
It ought, then, to work well, since it is paid well;
and I think, James, that on the whole it is, even as it now
stands, a most excellent church. It ought, however, to have
kept down Dissenters, which it has not done; and still more,
it ought to keep down Infidels. Did some twenty thousand
infidels, educated in richly-endowed universities of their own,
compose an anti-christian establishment, O Satan! how they
would stir hell and earth!
Shepherd. Universities, colleges, schools, academies, cathedrals,
minsters, abbeys, churches, chapels, kirks, relief meeting-houses,
tabernacles, and what not, without number and
without end, and yet the infidels triumph! Is't indeed sae?
Then pu' them doun, or convert them, accordin to their conveniences,
into theatres, and ridin-schools, and amphitheatres
for Ducrow, and racket-courts, and places for dryin claes in
rainy weather.
North. If infidelity overruns the land, then this healthy,
wealthy, and wise Church of England has not done its duty,
and must be made to do it. If infidelity exists only in narrow
lines and small patches, then we may make ourselves easy
about the infidel press, and, knowing that the Church has done
the one thing needful, look with complacency on occasional
parson somewhat too jolly, and unfrequent bishop with face
made up entirely of proud flesh.
Shepherd. Sughs o' wund, some loud and some laigh, but
prophetic o' a storm, hae been aften heard o' late roun' about
the square towers — for ye seldom see a spire yonner — o' the
English churches. What side, when comes the collieshangie,¹
wull ye, sir, espouse?
North. That of the Church of England, of which Misopseudos²
himself, with all his integrity and talent, is not a sincerer
friend, though he may be a more powerful champion.
¹ Collieshangie — disturbance.
² I do not know who "Misopseudos" was, or what he wrote.
Shepherd. Eh? What ?
North. Whisht! Had you your choice, James, pray what
sort of a bird would you be ?
Shepherd. I wad transmigrate intil a gey hantle. And, first
and foremost, for royal ambition is the poet's sin, I would be
an Eagle. Higher than ever in his balloon did Lunardi soar,
would I shoot up into heaven. Poised in that empyreal air,
where nae storm-current flows, far up aboon the region of
clouds, with wide-spread and unquivering wings would I hang
in the virgin sunshine. Nae human ee should see me in my
cerulean tabernacle — but mine should see the human specks
by the sides of rocks and rivers, creeping and crawling, like
worms as they are, over their miserable earthly flats, or toiling,
like reptiles as they are, up their majestic molehills.
Down with a sughing swoop in one moment would I descend
a league of atmosphere, still miles and miles above all the
dwarf mountain-taps and pigmy forests. Ae headlong lapse
mair, and my ears would drink the faint thunder of some puny
cataract; another mile in a moment nearer the poor humble
earth, and, lo! the woods are what men call majestic, the vales
wide, and the mountains magnificent. That pitiful bit of
smoke is a city — a metropolitan city. I cross it wi' ae wave
of my wing. An army is on the plain, and they are indeed a
ludicrous lot of Liliputians.
"They march with weapons in their hands,
Their banners bright displaying;
And all the while their music-bands
Triumphant tunes are playing!"
The rags are indeed most sublime, waving to the squeak of
penny trumpets. Ay, the cloud below my claws begins to
rain, and the martial array is getting a thorough soaking —
those noble animals, horses, like so many regiments of half-drowned
rats. Too contemptible to look at — so away up again
to the sky-heart, and for an hour's float far far above the sea.
Tiny though they be, I love to look on those thousand isles,
mottling the main with beauty; nor do I despise the wave-wanderers,
whom Britannia calls her men-of-war. Guided by
needle still trummlingly obedient to the pole, on go the giant
cockle-shells, which Heaven save from wreck, nor in storm may
one single pop-gun be flung overboard! But God-given instinct
is my compass — and when the blackness of night is on
my eyes, straight as an arrow or a sunbeam I shoot alang the
firmament, nor, obedient to that unerring impeller, deviate a
mile-breadth from the line that leads direct from the Grampians
to the Andes. — The roar of ocean — what — what's that
I hear? You auld mannerless rascal, is that you I hear snorin?
Ma faith, gin I was an eagle, I wad start your haffits wi' my
tawlons, and try which o' our nebs were the sharpest. Weel,
that's maist extraordinar — he absolutely snores on a different
key wi' each o' his twa individual nostrils — snorin a first and
second like a catch or glee. I wunner if he can snore by the
notes — or trusts entirely to his dreaming ear. It's really
no that unharmonious — and I think I hear him accompanying
Mrs Gentle on the spinnet. Let's coom his face wi'
burned cork.
[The SHEPHERD applies a cork to the fire, and makes
NORTH a Blackamoor.
North. Kiss me, my love. Another. Sweet — sweet — oh! 'tis sweet!
Shepherd. Haw — haw — haw! Mrs Gentle, gin ye kiss him
the noo, the pat 'ill no need to ca' the kettle —
North. Be not so coy — so cold — my love. "Can danger
lurk within a kiss?"
Shepherd. Othello — Othello — Othello!
North (awaking with a tremendous yawn). 'Tis gone — 'twas
but a dream!
Shepherd. Ay, ay, what's that you were dreamin about,
sir? Your face is a' ower blushes — just like a white rose
tinged with the setting sun.
North. I sometimes speak in my sleep. Did I do so now?
Shepherd. If you did, sir, I did not hear you — for I hae been
takin a nap mysel, and just awaukened this moment wi' a fa'
frae the cock on a kirk-steeple. I hae often odd dreams; and
I thocht I had got astride o' the cock, and was haudin on by
the tail, when the feathers gave way, and had it not been a
dream, I should infallibly have been dashed to pieces. Do
you ever dream o' kissing, sir?
North. Fie, James!
Shepherd. O, but you look quite captivatin, quite seducin,
when you blush that gate, sir! I never could admire a dark-complexioned
North. I do — and often wish mine had been dark —
Shepherd. Ye made a narrow escape the noo, sir; for out o'
revenge for your havin once roomed my face when I fell asleep
on my chair, I was within an ace of coomin yours; but when
I had the cork ready, my respect, my veneration for you, held
my haun, and I flung it into the ass-hole ayont the fender.
North. My dear James, your filial affection for the old man
is touching. Yet, had you done so, I had forgiven you
Shepherd. But I never could hae forgien mysel, it would
hae been sae irreverent. — Mr North, I often wush that we had
some leddies at the Noctes. When you're married to Mrs
Gentle, you maun bring her sometimes to Picardy, to matroneeze
the ither females, that there may be nae scandalum magnatum.
And then what pairties! Neist time she comes to
Embro', we'll hae The Hemans, and she'll aiblins sing to us
some o' her ain beautifu' sangs, set to tunes by that delightfu'
musical genius her sister —
North. And she shall sit at my right hand —
Shepherd. And me on hers —
North. And with her wit she shall brighten the dimness her
pathos brings into our eyes, till tears and smiles struggle
together beneath the witchery of the fair necromanceress.
And L. E. L., I hope, will not refuse to sit on the old man's
Shepherd. O man! but I wush I could sit next to her too;
but it's impossible to be, like a bird, in twa places at ance,
sae I maun submit —
North. Miss Landon, I understand, is a brilliant creature,
full of animation and enthusiasm, and, like Mrs Hemans too,
none of your lachrymose muses, "melancholy and gentlemanlike,"
but, like the daughters of Adam and Eve, earnestly and
keenly alive to all the cheerful and pleasant humanities and
charities of this everyday sublunary world of ours, where,
besides poetry, the inhabitants live on a vast variety of other
esculents, and like ever and anon to take a glass of Berwick's
beer or Perkins's porter between even draughts of Hippocrene
or Helicon.
Shepherd. That's the character o' a' real geniuses, baith
males and females. They're ae thing wi' a pen in their haun,
at a green desk, wi' only an ink-bottle on't and a sheet o'
paper — and anither thing entirely at a white table a' covered
wi' plates and trenchers, soup in the middle, sawmon at the
head, and a sirloin o' beef or mutton at the fit, wi' turkeys,
and how-towdies, and tongues, and hams, and a' mainner of
vegetables, roun' the sides — to say naething o' tarts and flummeries,
and the Dulap,¹ Stilton, or feenal² cheese — Parmesan.
North. You surely don't mean to say, James, that poetesses
are fond of good-eating?
Shepherd. Na. But I mean to say that they are not addicted,
like green girls, to eat lime out of walls, or chowin
chalk, or even sookin barley-sugar and sweeties in the forenoon,
to the spoilin o' their natural and rational denner; but,
on the contrair, that they are mistress o' a moderate slice o'
roast and biled butcher's meat; after that, the wing or the
merry-thocht o' a fool; and after that again some puddin,
perhaps, or some berry-pie, some jeely, or some blawmange;
taukin and smilin and lauchin at intervals a' the while to their
neist-chair neighbour, waxing wutty on his hauns wi' a little
encouragement, and joinin sweetly or gaily wi' the general
discourse, when, after the cloth has been drawn, the dininroom
begins to murmur like a hive o' honey-bees after a' the
drones are dead; and though a' present hae stings, nane ever
think o' usin them, but in genial employment are busy in the
sunshine o' sociality wi' probosces and wings.
North. What do you mean by a young lady being busy
with her proboscis, James?
Shepherd. O ye coof! it's allegorical; sae are her wings.
Proboscis is the Latin for the mouth o' a bee, and its instrument
for making honey, that is, for extracting or inhaling it
out o' the inner speerit o' flowers. Weel, then, why not allegorically
speak o' a young lady's proboscis — for drops not,
distils not honey frae her sweet mouth? And where, think
ye, ye auld crabbit critical carle, does her proboscis find the
elementary particles thereof, but hidden amang the saftest
leaves that lie faulded up in the heart o' the heaven-sawn
flowers o' happiness that beautify and bless the bosom o' this
itherwise maist dreary and meeserable earth?
North. Admirable? Proboscis let it be —
Shepherd. Yes, just sae. And neist time you're dreamin o'
Mrs Gentle, murmur out wi' a coomed face, "O, 'tis sweet,
¹ Dulap — Dunlop, a well-known cheese.
² Feenal — final.
sweet! One other taste of your proboscis! O, 'tis sweet,
North (starting up furiously). With a coomed face? Have
you dared, you swineherd, to cork my face? If you have,
you shall repent it till the latest day of your life.
Shepherd. You surely will forgive me when you hear I am
on my deathbed —
North (at the mirror). Blackguard!
Shepherd. 'Tweel you're a' that. I ca' that epithet multum
in parvo. You're a maist complete blackguard — that's beyond
a' manner o' dout. What'n whites o' een! and what'n whites
o' teeth! But your hair's no half grizzly aneuch for a blackamoor
— at least an African ane — and gies you a sort o' uncanny
mongrel appearance that wad frichten the King o' Congo.
North. Talking of Mrs Hemans and Miss Landon with a
face as black as the crown of my hat!
Shepherd. And a great deal blacker. The croon o' your
hat's broon, and I wanner you're no ashamed, sir, to wear't
on the streets! but you're face, sir, is as black as the back o'
that chimley, and baith wad be muckle the better o' the sweeps.
North. James, I have ever found it impossible to be irate
with you more than half a minute at a time during these last
twenty years. I forgive you — and do you know that I do
not look so much amiss in cork. 'Pon honour —
Shepherd. It's a great improvement on you, sir — and I
would seriously advise you to coom your face every day
when you dress for denner. — But wunna¹ you ask Miss Jewsbury²
to the first male and female Noctes? She's really a
maist superior lassie.
North. Both in prose and verse. Her Phantasmagoria,
two miscellaneous volumes, teem with promise and performance.
Always acute and never coarse —
Shepherd. Qualities seldom separable in a woman. Seo
Leddy Morgan.
North. But Miss Jewsbury is an agreeable exception.
Always acute and never coarse, this amiable and most ingenious
young lady
Shepherd. Is she bonny?
North. I believe she is, James. But I do not pretend to
be positive on that point, for the only time I ever had the
¹ Wunna — will not.
² Afterwards Mrs Fletcher.
pleasure of seeing Miss Jewsbury, it was but for a momentary
glance among the mountains. Mounted on a pretty pony, in
a pretty rural straw-hat, and pretty rural riding-habit, with
the sunshine of a cloudless heaven blended on her countenance
with that of her own cloudless soul, the young author
of Phantasmagoria rode smilingly along a beautiful vale, with
the illustrious Wordsworth, whom she venerates, pacing in
his poetical way by her side, and pouring out poetry in
that glorious recitative of his, till "the vale was overflowing
with the sound." Wha, Jamie, wadna hae looked bonny in sic
a predicament?
Shepherd. Mony a ane wad hae looked desperate ugly in sic
a predicament — far mair uglier than when walking on fit wi'
some respectable commonplace young man, in a gingham
gown, by the banks of a canal in a level kintra. Place a
positively plain woman in a poetical predicament, especially
where she doesna clearly comprehend the signification o't, and
yet has been tauld that it is incumbent on her to show that
she enjoys it, and it is really painfu' to ane's feelin's to see
hoo muckle plainer she gets aye the langer she glowers, till
at last it's no easy to thole the face o' her; but you are forced
to turn awa your head, or to steek your een, neither o' whilk
modes o' procedure perhaps is altogether consistent with the
maist perfeck propriety o' mainners that ought ever to subsist
atween the twa different sexes.
North. My dear James —
Shepherd. I'm thinkin Miss Jewsbury maun be a bit bonny
lassie, wi' an expressive face and fine figure; and, no to minch
the maitter, let me just tell you at ance, that it's no in your
power, Mr North, to praise wi' ony warmth o' cordiality either
an ugly woman or an auld ane; but let them be but young
and fresh and fair, or "black but comely," and then hoo —
you wicked rabiawtor — do you keep casting a sheep's ee upon
the cutties! pretendin a' the while that it's their genius you're
admirin — whereas, it's no their genius ava,¹ but the living
temple iu which it is enshrined.
North. I plead guilty to that indictment. Ugly women are
shocking anomalies, that ought to be hunted, hooted, and
hissed out of every civilised and Christian community into a
convent in Cockaigne. But no truly ugly woman ever yet wrote
¹ Ava — at all
a truly beautiful poem the length of her little finger; and when
beauty and genius kindle up the same eyes, why, gentle
Shepherd, tell me why should Christopher North not fall
down on his knees and adore the divinity of his waking
Shepherd. The seldomer, sir, you fall doun on your knees
the better; for some day or ither you'll find it no such easy
maitter to get up again, and the adored divinity of your waking
dreams may have to ring the bell for the servant lad or lass
to help you on your feet, as I have somewhere read a French
leddy had to do in regard to Mr Gibbons o' the Decline and Fa'.
North. Nor must our festal board, that happy night, miss
the light of the countenance of the fascinating Mrs Jameson.
Shepherd. Wha's she?
North. Read ye never the Diary of an Ennuyée ?
Shepherd. O' a what? An N, O, E? Is't a man or a
woman's initials?
North. Nor the Loves of the Poets?
Shepherd. Only what was in the Maugazin. But oh! sir,
yon were maist beautifu' specimens o' eloquent and impassionat
prose composition as ever crapped like hinny frae
woman's lips. We maun hae Mrs Jameson — we maun indeed.
And wull ye hear till me, sir, there's a fine enthusiastic bit
lassie, ca'd Browne¹ — Ada Browne, I think, wha maun get an
inveet, if she's no ower young to gang out to sooper; — but
Miss Mitford, or Mrs Mary Howitt, will aiblins bring the bit
timid cretur under their wing — and as for mysel, I shall be as,
kind till her as if she were my ain dochter.
North. —
"Visions of Glory, spare my aching sight —
Ye unborn Noctes, press not on my soul!"
Shepherd. What think ye, sir, o' the dogmas that high
imagination is incompatible wi' high intellect, and that as
Science flourishes Poetry decays?
¹ "This young lady was Mary Ann Browne, whose poem of 'Ada' was
published in 1827, before she was fifteen. Many other poetical works followed
in due course of time, of which 'Ignatia,' a passionate tale of love, was the
best. She contributed many articles to the Dublin University Magazine. She
was married in her twenty-ninth year to Mr James Gray (a nephew of the
Ettrick Shepherd), and went with him to reside in Ireland, where she died
in 1844." — American Editor.
North. The dogmata of dunces beyond the reach of redemption.
Imagination, my dear James, as you who possess it
must know, is Intellect working according to certain laws of
feeling or passion. A man may have a high Intellect with
little or no imagination; but he cannot have a high Imagination
with little or no Intellect. The Intellect of Homer, Dante,
Milton, and Shakespeare, was higher than that of Aristotle,
Newton, and Bacon. When elevated by feeling into Imagination,
their Intellect became transcendent — and thus were
they poets — the noblest name by far and away that belongs
to any of the children of men. So much, in few words, for
the first dogma of the dunces. Is it damned?
Shepherd. I dinna dout. What o' the second ?
North. That the blockheads, there too, bray the most
asinine assertion that was ever laboriously elongated from
the lungs of an Emeritus donkey retired from public life, to
his native common on an annual allowance of thistles.
Shepherd. That's funny aneuch. You're a curious cretur, sir.
North. Pray, what is Science? True knowledge of mind and
matter, as far as it is permitted to us to know truly anything
of the world without and the world within us, congenial in
their coexistence.
Shepherd. That soun's weel, and maun be the right definition.
Say on — you've a pleasant vice.
North. What is Poetry? The true exhibition in musical and
metrical speech of the thoughts of humanity when coloured
by its feelings, throughout the whole range of the physical,
moral, intellectual, and spiritual regions of its being.
Shepherd. That's shooblime. I wuss I could get it aff by
heart to spoot at the petty soopies o' the Blues. But I fear
that I suld forget some o' the prime words — the fundamental
features on which the feelosophical definition hinges, and fa'
into over great nonsense.
North. You thus see with half an eye, James, that Poetry
and Science are identical. Or rather, that as Imagination is
the highest kind of Intellect, so Poetry is the highest kind of
Shepherd. I see't as plain as a pikestaff, or the nose on
your face. Indeed, plainer than the latter simile, for your
face being still in coom, or, as you said, in cork, your nasal
promontory is involved in deepest shadow, and is in fack
invisible on the general surface, and amang the surroundin
scenery o' your face.
North. Thus, James, it is only in an age of Science that
anything worthy the name of Poetry can exist. In a rude
age there may be bursts of passion — of imagination even,
which, if you, or any other man whom I esteem, insist on calling
them poetry, I am willing so to designate. In that case,
almost all human language is poetry, nor am I sure that from
the province of such inspiration are we justified in excluding
the cawing of rooks, or the gabbling of geese, and certainly
not the more impassioned lyrical effusions of monkeys.
Shepherd. Queer deevils, monkeys!
North. Will any antiquary or archæologist show me a bit
of poetry as broad as the palm of my hand, worth the toss up of
a tinker's farthing, the produce of uncivilised man? O lord!
James, is not such stuff sufficient to sicken a whole livery
stable! In the light of knowledge alone can the eye of the
soul see the soul — or those flaming ministers, the Five
Senses —
Shepherd. Seven, if you please — and few aneuch too, considerin
the boundless extent and variety o' the universe.
North. Or the senses do their duties to the soul, — for though
she is their queen, and sends them forth night and day to do
her work among the elements, yet seem they, material though
they be, to be kith and kin even unto her their sovereign,
and to be imbued with some divine power evanescent with
the moment of corporeal death, and separation of the spirit.
Shepherd. Hech!
North. Therefore, not till man, and nature, and human life
lie in the last light of Science — that is, of knowledge and of
truth — will Poetry reach the acme of its triumph. As Campbell
sings, —
"Come, bright Improvement, on the car of Time,
And rule the spacious world from clime to clime;"
and still Poetry will be here below Prime Minister and High
Priest of Nature.
Shepherd (with a gaunt¹). What's that you was saying about
the Prime Minister and the High Priest? Is the Dyuck²
¹ Gaunt — a yawn.
² The Duke of Wellington, at this time Prime Minister.
gaun out? and has onything happened to the Archbishop
of Canterbury ?
North. But it is further asserted, that the human mind will
cease to look on Nature poetically, or poetically to feel her
laws, in proportion as the Revelation becomes ampler and
clearer of her mysteries, and that's —
Shepherd. I begin to think, sir, that considerin the natur o'
a twa-haun'd crack, you're rather trespassing upon the rights
o' the ither interlocutor in the dialogue — and that it would be
only ordinar gude mainners to alloo me to —
North. As if an ignorant were higher and more imaginative,
that is, more poetical, than an enlightened wonder!
Shepherd. Sumphs!
North. Does the philosopher who knows what a rainbow is,
cease with delight to regard the glory as it spans the storm?
Does the knowledge of the fact, that lightning is electricity,
destroy the grandeur of those black abysses in the thunderous
clouds, which flashing it momentarily reveals, and then leaves
in eternal darkness? Clouds, rain, dew, light, heat, cold,
frost, snow, &c. are all pretty well understood nowadays by
people in general, and yet who feels them to be on that
account unpoetical? A drop of dew on a flower or leaf, a
tear on cheek or eye, will be felt to be beautiful, after all
mankind have become familiarly acquainted with the perfected
philosophy of all secretions.
Shepherd. Are you quite positive in your ain mind, that
you're no gettin tiresome, sir? Let's order sooper.
North. Well, James, be it so.
(As the SHEPHERD rises to ring the bell, the Timepiece
strikes Ten, and PICARDY enters with his Tail.)
Shepherd. Ye dinna mean to say, Mr Awmrose, that that's a'
the sooper? Only the roun', a cut o' sawmon, beefsteaks, and twa
brodds o' eisters! This 'ill never do, Awmrose. Remember
there's a couple o' us — and that a sooper that may be no amiss
for ane, may be little better than starvation to twa; especially
if them twa be in the prime and vigour o' life, hae come in
frae the kintra, and got yaup¹ over some half-dizzen jugs o'
Strang whusky-toddy.
Ambrose (bowing). The boiled turkey and the roasted ducks
¹ Yaup — hungry,
will be on the table forthwith — unless, Mr Hogg, you would
prefer a goose which last week won a sweepstakes —
Shepherd. What? at Perth races? Was he a bluid-guse,
belangin to a member o' the Caledonian Hunt?
Ambrose (smiling). No, Mr Hogg — There was a competition
between six parishes which should produce the greatest
goose, and I had the good fortune to purchase the successful
candidate, who was laid, hatched, and brought up at the Manse
of —
Shepherd. I ken the successful candidate brawly — Wasna
he a white ane, wi' a tremendous doup that soopt the gran',
and hadna he contracted a habit o' turnin in the taes o'
his left fit?
Ambrose. The same, sir. He weighed, ready for spit,
twenty pounds jump — feathers and giblets four pounds more.
Nor do I doubt, Mr North, that had your Miss Nevison had
him for a fortnight longer at the Lodge, she would have
fattened him (for he is a gander) up to thirty, — that is to say,
with all his paraphernalia.
Shepherd. Show him in; raw or roasted, show him in.
(Enter KING PEPIN and Sir DAVID GAM, with the successful
candidate, supported by MON. CADET and TAPPYTOORIE.)
What a strapper! Puir chiel, I wadna hae kent him, sae
changed is he frae the time I last saw him at the Manse, takin
a walk in the cool o' the Saturday e'ening, wi' his wife and
family, and ever and anon gabblin to himsel in a sort o' undertone,
no unlike a minister rehearsin his sermon for the coming
North. How comes he to be ready roasted, Ambrose?
Ambrose. A party of twenty are about to sup in the Saloon,
and —
Shepherd. Set him doun; and if the gentlemen wuss to see
North cut up a Buse, show the score into the Snuggery.
[The successful candidate is safely got on the board.
Hear hoo the table groans!
North. I feel my limbs rather stiffish with sitting so long.
Suppose, James, that we have a little leap-frog.
Shepherd. Wi' a' my heart. Let me arrange the forces
roun' the table. Mr Awmrose, staun' you there — Mon. Cadet,
fa' until the rear o' your brither — Pippin, twa yairds ahint
Awmrose junior — Sir Dawvit, dress by his Majesty — and
Tappytoorie, turn your back upon me. Noo, lout doun a'
your heads. Here goes — Keep the pie warm.
[The SHEPHERD vaults away, and the whole circle is in
perpetual motion; NORTH distinguished by his agility in
the ring.
North (piping). Heads all up — no louting. There, James,
I topped you without touching a hair.
Shepherd. Mirawculus auld man! A lameter too! I never
felt his hauns on my shouther!
Ambrose. I'm rather short of breath, and must drop out of
the line.
[MR AMBROSE drops out of the line, and his place is
supplied by TICKLER, who at that moment has entered
the room unobserved.
Shepherd (coming unexpectedly upon Tickler). Here's a
steeple! What glamoury 's this?
North. Stand aloof, James, and I'll clear the weathercock
on the spire.
[NORTH, using his crutch as a leaping pole, clears TICKLER
in grand style; but TAPPYTOORIE, the next in the series,
boggles, and remains balanced on SOUTHSIDE'S shoulders.
Tickler. Firm on your pins, North. I'm coming.
[TICKLER, with TAPPYTOORIE on his shoulders, clears CHRISTOPHER
in a canter.
Omnes. Huzza! huzza! huzza!
North (addressing TICKLER). Mr Tickler, it gives me great
pleasure to present to you the Silver Frog, which I am sure
will never be disgraced by your leaping.
[TICKLER stoops his head, and NORTH hangs the Prize
Silver Frog, by a silver chain, round his neck: TAPPYTOORIE
dismounts, and the Three sit down to supper.
Shepherd. Some sax or seven slices o' the breist, sir, and
dinna spare the stuffin. — Mr Awmrose, gie my trencher a gude
clash o' aipple-sass. — Potawtoes. Thank ye. — Noo, some o'
the smashed. — Tappy, the porter. — What guse!!!
Tickler. Cut the apron off the bishop, North; but you must
have a longer spoon to, get into the interior.
Ambrose. Here is a punch-ladle, sir.
Shepherd. Gie him the great big silver soup ane. — Sic
Tickler. Why, that is liker the leg of a sheep than of a
Shepherd. Awmrose, ma man, dinna forget the morn¹ to Iet
us hae the giblets. — Pippin, the mustard. — Mr North, as
naebody seems to be axin for't, gie me the bishop's apron, it
seems sappy. What are ye gaun to eat yoursel, sir? Dinna
mind helpin me, but attend to your nain sooper.
North. James, does not the side of the breast which I have
now been hewing, remind you of Salisbury Crags?
Shepherd. It's verra precipitous. The skeleton maun be
sent to the College Museum, to staun' at the fit o' the
elephant, the rhinoceros, and the cammyleopardawlis; and
that it mayna be spiled by unskilful workmanship, I vote we
finish him cauld the morn afore we yoke to the giblet-pie.
[Carried nem. con.
Tickler. Goose always gives me a pain in my stomach.
But to purchase pleasure at a certain degree of pain, is true
philosophy. Besides, in pleasure, I belong to the sect Epicurean;
and in pain, am a budge doctor of the Stoic Fur;
therefore I shall eat on. So, my dear North, another plateful.
James, a caulker?
Shepherd. What's your wull?
Tickler. Oh! nothing at all. — Ambrose, the Glenlivet to
Mr North. — Mr Hogg, I believe, never takes it during
[The SHEPHERD tips AMBROSE the wink, and the gurgle
goes round the table.
[Silence, with slight interruptions, and no conversation for
about three quarters of an hour. NATHAN GURNEY.
Shepherd. I had nae previous idea that steaks eat sae
capital after guse. Some sawmon.
North. Stop, James. Let all be removed, except the fish —
to wit, the salmon, the rizzards, the speldrins, the herrings,
and the oysters.
Shepherd. And bring some mair fresh anes. Mr Awmrose,
you maun mak a deal o' siller by sellin your eister-shells for
manur to the farmers a' roun' about Embro'? They're as
gude's lime — indeed, I'm thinkin they are lime — a sort o' sea--
lime, growing on rocks by the shore, and a coatin at the
¹ The morn — to-morrow.
same time to leevin and edible creturs. Oh, the wonnerfu'
warks o' Nature!
North. Then wheeling the circular to the fire, let us have
a parting jug or two —
Shepherd. Each?
North. Na! here's his Lordship full to the brim. He holds
exactly one gallon, Imperial Measure; and that quantity,
according to Mrs Ambrose's recipe, cannot hurt us
Shepherd. God bless the face o' him!
Tickler. Pray, James, is it a true bill that you have had
the hydrophobia?
Shepherd. Ower true; but I'll gie you a description o't at
our next. Meanwhile, let's ca' in that puir cretur Gurney,
and gie him a drag drink. Nawthan! Nawthan! Nawthan!
Gurney (in a shrill voice from the interior of the Ear of
Dionysius). Here — here — here.
Shepherd. What'n a vice! Like a young ratton¹ squaakin
ahint the lath and plaister.
North. No rattous here, James. Mr Gurney is true as
Shepherd. Reserve that short similie for yoursel, sir? O
sir, but you're elastic as a drawn Damascus swurd. Lean a'
your wecht on't, wi' the pint on the grun, but fear na, while
it bends, that it will break; for back again frae the semicircle
springs it in a second intil the straught line; and woe be to
him wha daurs that cut and thrust! for it gangs through his
body like licht through a wundow, and before the sinner kens
he is wounded, you turn him over on his back, sir, stane--
[MR GURNEY joins the party, and the curtain of course falls.
¹ Ratton — rat.
(APRIL 1830.)
Scene, — The Saloon, illuminated by the grand Gas Orrery.
Time, — First of April — Six o'clock,. Present, — NORTH, the
Dresses. The three celebrated young Scottish LEANDERS,
with their horns, in the hanging gallery. AIR., "Brose and
Brochan and a'."
Shepherd. An' that's an Orrery! The infinitude o' the
starry heavens reduced sae as to suit the ceilin o' the Saloon!
Whare's Virgo?
¹ Thomas De Quincey has been already referred to more than once in the
course of these dialogues. Now he is introduced as an interlocutor; and, if I
may be permitted to say so, the general character of his conversation has been
imitated not infelicitously by his friend the Professor. But the reader who
would learn what Mr De Quincey himself is in propriâ personá — what fascinating
powers of eloquence he possesses — how deep his poetical sensibilities are —
and how profound his philosophical acumen — must be referred to his collected
works now (1855) in the course of publication, (Hogg, Edinburgh; Groombridge,
Tickler. Yonder she is, James — smiling in the shade of —
Shepherd. I see her just aboon the cocky-leeky. Weel,
sic anither contrivance! Some o' the stars and planets —
moons and suns lichter than ithers, I jalouse, by lettin in upon
them a greater power o' coal-gas; and ithers again, just by
moderatin the pipe-conductors, faint and far awa in the
system, sae that ye scarcely ken whether they are lichted wi'
the gawseous vapour ava, or only a sort o' fine, tender, delicate
porcelain, radiant in its ain transparent nature, and though
thin, yet stronger than the storms.
North. The first astronomers were shepherds
Shepherd. Ay, Chaldean shepherds like mysel — but no a
mother's son o' them could hae written the Manuscripp. Ha,
ha, ha!
Tickler. What a misty evening!
Shepherd. Nae wonder — wi' thirteen soups a' steamin up to
the skies! O but the Orrery is sublime the noo, in its
shroud! Naethin like hotchpotch for geein a dim grandeur
to the stars. See, yonder Venus — peerless planet — shining
like the face a' a virgin bride through her white nuptial veil!
He's a grim chiel you Saturn. Nae wonder he devourit his
weans — he has the coontenance o' a cannibal. Thank you,
Mr Awmrose, for opening the door — for this current o' air has
sweept awa the mists frae heaven, and gien us back the
beauty o' the celestial spheres.
North (aside to the English Opium-Eater). You hear, Mr De
Quincey, how he begins to blaze even before broth.
English Opium-Eater (aside to North). I have always placed
Mr Hogg, in genius, far above Burns. He is indeed "of imagination
all compact." Burns had strong sense — and strong
sinews — and brandished a pen pretty much after the same
fashion as he brandished a flail. You never lose sight of the
thresher —
Shepherd. Dinna abuse Burns, Mr De Quinshy. Neither
you nor ony ither Englishman can thoroughly understaun'
three sentences o' his poems —
English Opium-Eater (with much animation). I have for some
years past longed for an opportunity to tear into pieces that
gross national delusion, born of prejudice, ignorance, and
bigotry, in which, from highest to lowest, all literary classes
of Scotchmen are as it were incarnated — to wit, a belief,
strong as superstition, that all their various dialects must be
as unintelligible, as I grant that most of them are uncouth
and barbarous, to English ears — even to those of the most
accomplished and consummate scholars. Whereas, to a
Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Saxon, German, French, Italian,
Spanish — and let me add, Latin and Greek scholar, there is
not even a monosyllable that —
Shepherd. What's a gowpen o' glaur?
English Opium-Eater. Mr Hogg — Sir, I will not be interrupted

Shepherd. You cannot tell. It's just twa neif-fu's o' clarts.¹
North. James — James — James!
Shepherd. Kit — Kit — Kit. But beg your pardon, Mr De
Quinshy — afore denner I'm aye unco snappish. I admit
you're a great grammarian. But kennin something o' a
language by bringin to bear upon't a' the united efforts o'
knowledge and understaunin' — baith first-rate — is ae thing,
and feelin every breath and every shadow that keeps playin
ower a' its syllables, as if by a natural and born instinct, is
anither; the first you may aiblins hae — naebody likelier — but
to the second, nae man may pretend that hasna had the happiness
and the honour o' havin been born and bred in bonny
Scotland. What can ye ken o' Kilmeny ?
English Opium-Eater (smiling graciously). 'Tis a ballad
breathing the sweetest, simplest, wildest spirit of Scottish
traditionary song — music, as of some antique instrument long
lost, but found at last in the Forest among the decayed roots
of trees, and touched, indeed, as by an instinct, by the only
man who could reawaken its sleeping chords — the Ettrick
Shepherd. Na — if you say that sincerely — and I never saw
a broo smoother wi' truth than your ain — I maun qualify my
former apothegm, and alloo you to be an exception frae the
general rule. I wush, sir, you would write a Glossary o' the
Scottish Language. I ken naebody fitter.
North. Our distinguished guest is aware that this is "All
Fool's Day," — and must, on that score, pardon these court-dresses.
We consider them, my dear sir, appropriate to this
Shepherd. Mine wasna originally a coort-dress. It's the
¹ Two handfuls of mud.
uniform o' the Border Club. But nane o' the ither members
would wear them, except me and the late Dyuk o' Buccleuch.
So when the King cam to Scotland, and expeckit to be introduced
to me at Holyroodhouse, I got the tiler at Yarrow-Ford
to cut it doun after a patron¹ frae Embro'
English Opium-Eater. Green and gold — to my eyes the most
beautiful of colours — the one characteristic of earth, the other
of heaven — and, therefore, the two united, emblematic of
Shepherd. Oh! Mr De Quinshy — sir, but you're a pleasant
cretur — and were I ask't to gie a notion o' your mainners to
them that had never seen you, I should just use twa words,
Urbanity and Amenity — meanin, by the first, that saft bricht
polish that a man gets by leevin amang gentlemen scholars
in touns and cities, burnished on the solid metal o' a happy
natur hardened by the rural atmosphere o' the pure kintra air,
in which I ken you hae ever delighted; and, by the ither, a
peculiar sweetness, amaist like that o' a woman's, yet sae far
frae bein' feminine, as masculine as that o' Allan Ramsay's
ain Gentle Shepherd — and breathin o' a harmonious union
between the heart, the intelleck, and the imagination, a' the
three keepin their ain places, and thus makin the vice,²
speech, gesture, and motion o' a man as composed as a figure
on a pictur by some painter that was a master in his art, and
produced his effects easily — and ane kens nae hoo — by his
lichts and shadows. Mr North, amna³ I richt in the thocht, if
no in the expression?
North. You have always known my sentiments, James —
Shepherd. I'm thinkin we had better lay aside our swurds.
They're kittle dealin, when a body's stannin or walkin; but
the very deevil's in them when ane claps his doup on
a chair, for here's the hilt o' mine interferin wi' my ladle--
Tickler. Why, James, you have buckled it on the wrong side.
Shepherd. What? Is the richt the wrang?
North. Let us all untackle. Mr Ambrose, hang up each
man's sword on his own hat-peg. — There.
Shepherd. O Mr de Quinshy! but you look weel in a single--
breisted snuff-olive, wi' cut-steel buttons, figured waistcoat,
and —
English Opium-Eater. There is a beautiful propriety, Mr
¹ Patron — pattern.
² Vice — voice.
³ Amna — am not.
Hogg, in a court-dress, distinguished as it is, both by material
and form, from the apparel suitable to the highest occasions
immediately below the presence of royalty, just as that other
apparel is distinguished from the costume worn on the less
Shepherd. Eh?
English Opium-Eater. Occasions of civilised life, — and that
again in due degree from that sanctioned by custom, in what
I may call, to use the language of Shakespeare, and others of
our elder dramatists, the "worky-day" world, — whether it be
in those professions peculiar, or nearly so, to towns and cities,
or belonging more appropriately — though the distinction, perhaps,
is popular rather than philosophical — to rural districts on
either side of your beautiful river the Tweed.
Shepherd. O, sir! but I'm unto fond o' the English accent.
It's like an instrument wi' a' the strings o' silver, — and though
I canna help thinkin that you speak rather a wee over slow,
yet there's sic music in your vice, that I'm just perfectly
enchanted wi' the soun', while a sense o' truth prevents me
frae sayin that I aye a'thegither comprehend the meaning, —
for that's aye, written or oral alike, sae desperate metapheesical.
— But what soup will you tak, sir. Let me recommend
the hotch-potch.
English Opium-Eater. I prefer vermicelli.
Shepherd. What? Worms! They gar me scunner, — the
verra look o' them. Sae, you're a worm-eater, sir, as weel's
an opium-eater ?
English Opium-Eater. Mr Wordsworth, sir, I think it is,
who says, speaking of the human being under the thraldom of
the senses, —
"He is a slave, the meanest we can meet."
Shepherd. I beseech ye, my dear sir, no to be angry sae
sune on in the afternoon. There's your worms — and I wuss
you muckle gude o' them — only compare them — Thank you,
Mr Tickler — wi' this bowl-deep trencher o' hotch-potch — an
emblem o' the haill vegetable and animal creation.
Tickler. Why, James, though now invisible to the naked
eye, boiled down as they are in baser matter, that tureen on
which your face has for some minutes been fixed as gloatingly
as that of a Satyr on a sleeping Wood-nymph, or of Pan himself
on Matron Cybele, contains, as every naturalist knows,
some scores of snails, a gowpenful of gnats, countless caterpillars,
of our smaller British insects numbers without number
numberless as the sea-shore sands —
Shepherd. No at this time o' the year, you gowk. You're
thinking o' simmer colleyfloor —
Tickler. But their larvæ, James —
Shepherd. Confound their larvæ! Awmrose! the pepper.
(Dashes in the pepper along with the silver top of the cruet.)
Pity me! whare's the cruet? It has sunk doun intil the
hotch-potch, like a mailed horse and his rider intil a swamp.
I maun tak tent no to swallow the bog-trotter. What the
deevil, Awmrose, you've gien me the Cayawne!!
Mr Ambrose. (tremens.) My dear sir, it was Tappytoorie.
Shepherd (to Tappy). You wee sinner, did ye tak me for
Mosshy Shaubert?¹
English Opium-Eater. I have not seen it recorded, Mr Hogg,
in any of the Public Journals, at least it was not so in the
Standard, — in fact the only newspaper I now read, and an
admirable evening paper it is, unceasingly conducted with
consummate ability, — that that French charlatan had hitherto
essayed Cayenne pepper; and indeed such an exhibition
would be preposterous, seeing that the lesser is contained
within the greater, and consequently all the hot varieties of
that plant — all the possibilities of the pepper-pod — are included
within Phosphorus and Prussic acid. Meanly as I think of
the logic —
Shepherd. O ma mouth! ma mouth! — Logic indeed! I didna
think there had been sic a power o' pepper about a' the premises.

English Opium-Eater. The only conclusion that can be legitimately
drawn —
Shepherd. Whisht wi' your College clavers — and, Awmrose,
gie me a caulker o' Glenlivet to cool the roof o' my pallet.
Ma tongue's like red-hot airn — and blisters ma verra lips.
Na! it 'ill melt the siller-spoon —
North. I pledge you, my dear James —
English Opium-Eater. Vermicelli soup, originally Italian,
has been so long naturalised in this island, that it may now
almost be said, by those not ambitious of extremest accuracy
of thought and expression, to be indigenous in Britain — and
as it sips somewhat insipid, may I use the freedom, Mr Tick¹
See ante, p. 27.
ler — scarcely pardonable, perhaps, from our short acquaintance
— to request you to join me in a glass of the same truly
Scottish liquor ?
Tickler. Most happy indeed to cultivate the friendship of
Mr De Quincey.
[The Four turn up their little fingers.
Shepherd. Mirawculus! My tongue's a' at ance as cauld 's
the rim o' a cart-wheel on a winter's nicht! My pallet cool as
the lift o' a spring-mornin! And the inside o' my mouth just
like a wee mountain-well afore sunrise, when the bit muirlaud
birdies are hoppin on its margin, about to wat their whussles
in the blessed beverage, after their love-dreams amang the
dewy heather
English Opium-Eater. I would earnestly recommend it to
you, Mr Hogg, to abstain —
Shepherd. Thank you, sir, for your timeous warnin — for,
without thinkin what I was about, I was just on the verra eve
o' fa'in to again till the self-same fiery trencher. It's no everybody
that has your philosophical composure. But it sits weel
on you, sir — and I like baith to look and listen to you; for,
in spite o' your classical learning, and a' your outlandish
logic, you're at a' times — and I'm nae bad judge — shepherd
as I am — intus et in cute — that is, tooth and nail — naething
else but a perfeck gentleman. But oh, you're a lazy cretur,
man, or you would hae putten out a dizzen volunms sin' the
English Opium-Eater. I am at present, my dear friend —
allow me to call myself so — in treaty with Mr Blackwood for
a novel
Shepherd. In ae volumm — in ae volumm, I hope — and
that 'ill tie you doun to whare your strength lies, condensation
at ance vigorous and exquisite — like a man succinct for hapstep-and-loup
on the greensward — each spang langer than
anither till he clears a peat hand-barrow at the end like a
catastrophe. — Hae I eaten anither dish o' hotchpotch, think
ye, sirs, without bein' aware o't?
Tickler. No, James — North changed the fare upon you,
and you have devoured, in a fit of absence, about half-a-bushel
of pease.
Shepherd. I'm glad it wasna carrots — for they aye gie me
a sair belly. — But hae ye been at the Exhibition o' Pictures
by leevin artists at the Scottish Academy, Mr North, — and
what think ye o't ?
North. I look in occasionally, James, of a morning, before
the bustle begins, for a crowd is not for a crutch.
Shepherd. But ma faith, a crutch is for a crood, as is weel kent
o' yours, by a' the blockheads in Britain. — Is't gude the year?
North. Good, bad, and indifferent, like all other mortal exhibitions.
In landscape, we sorely miss Mr Thomson¹ of Duddingston.

Shepherd. What can be the maitter wi' the minister? — He's
no deid?
North. God forbid! But Williams² is gone — dear delightful
Williams — with his aerial distances into which the imagination
sailed as on wings, like a dove gliding through sunshine
into gentle gloom — with his shady foregrounds, where Love
and Leisure reposed — and his middle regions, with towering
cities grove-embowered, solemn with the spirit of the olden
time — and all, all embalmed in the beauty of those deep Grecian
Shepherd. He's deid. What matters it? In his virtues he
was happy, and in his genius he is immortal. Hoots, man!
If tears are to drap for ilka freen "who is not," our een wad
be seldom dry. — Tak some mair turtle.
North. Mr Thomson of Duddingston is now our greatest
landscape painter. In what sullen skies he sometimes shrouds
the solitary moors!
Shepherd. And wi' what blinks o' beauty he aften brings
out frae beneath the clouds the spire o' some pastoral parish
kirk, till you feel it is the Sabbath!
North. Time and decay crumbling his castles seem to be
warring against the very living rock — and we feel their endurance
in their desolation.
Shepherd. I never look at his roarin rivers, wi' a' their precipices,
without thinkin, some hoo or ither, o' Sir William
Wallace! They seem to belang to an unconquerable country.
North. Yes, James! he is a patriotic painter. Moor, mountain
and glen — castle, hall, and hut — all breathe sternly or
sweetly o' auld Scotland. So do his seas and his firths — roll,
roar, blacken and whiten with Caledonia — from the Mull of
Galloway to Cape Wrath. Or when summer stillness is upon
them, are not all the soft shadowy pastoral hills Scottish, that
in their still deep transparency invert their summits in the
transfiguring magic of the far-sleeping main?
¹ See ante, vol. i. p. 69, note 1.
² Ibid. p. 316, note.
Tickler. William Simpson, now gone to live in London, is
in genius no whit inferior to Mr Thomson, and superior in
mastery over the execution of the Art.
North. A first-rater. Ewbank's moonlights this season are
meritorious; but 'tis difficult to paint Luna, though she is a
still sitter in the sky. Be she veiled nun — white-robed vestal
— blue-cinetured huntress — full-orbed in Christian meekness
— or, bright misbeliever! brow-rayed with the Turkish crescent
— still meetest is she, spiritual creature, for the Poet's love!
Shepherd. They tell me that a lad o' the name o' Fleming,
frae the west kintra, has shown some bonny landscapes.
North. His pictures are rather deficient in depth, James —
his scenes are scarcely sufficiently like portions of the solid
globe — but he has a sense of beauty — and with that a painter
may do almost anything — without it, nothing. For of the
painter as of the poet, we may employ the exquisite image of
Wordsworth, that beauty
"Pitches her tents before him."
For example, there is Gibb,¹ who can make a small sweet
pastoral world out of a bank and a brae, a pond and a couple
of cows, with a simple lassie sitting in her plaid upon the
stump of an old tree. Or, if a morning rainbow spans the
moor, he shows you brother and sister — it may be — or perhaps
childish lovers — facing the showery wind — in the folds of the
same plaid — straining merrily, with their collie before them, to
wards the hut whose smoke is shivered as soon as it reaches the
tops of the sheltering grove. Gibb is full of feeling and genius.
Shepherd. But isna his colourin ower blue?
North. No, James. Show me anything bluer than the sky
— at its bluest. — Not even her eye —
Shepherd. What! Mrs Gentle? Her een aye seemed to
me to be greenish.
North. Hush, blasphemer! Their zones are like the sky--
light of the longest night in the year — when all the earth lies
half asleep and half awake in the beauty of happy dreams.
Shepherd. Hech! hech!
"O love! love! love!
Love's like a dizziness,
It wunna let a puir bodie
Gang about his bizziness!"
¹ See ante, vol. 1. p. 315, note 2.
English Opium-Eater. I have often admired the prodigious
power of perspective displayed in the large landscapes of
Nasmyth.¹ He gives you at one coup-d'œil a metropolitan
city — with its river, bridges, towers, and temples — engirdled
with groves, and far-retiring all around the garden-fields,
tree-dropped, or sylvan-shaded, of merry England. I allude
now to a noble picture of London.
North. And all his family are geniuses like himself. In
the minutiæ of nature, Peter is perfect — it would not be easy
to say which of his unmarried daughters excels her sisters in
truth of touch — though I believe the best judges are disposed
to give Mrs Terry the palm — who now — since the death of
her lamented husband — teaches painting in London with
eminent success.
Tickler. Colvin Smith² has caught Jeffrey's countenance at
last — and a fine countenance it is — alive with intellect —
armed at all points — acute without a quibble — clothed all
over with cloudless perspicacity — and eloquent on the silent
canvass, as if all the air within the frame were murmuring
with winged words.
North. Not murmuring his voice tinkles like a silver bell.
Shepherd. But wha can tell that frae the canvass?
North. James, on looking at a portrait, you carry along
with you all the characteristic individualities of the original
— his voice — his gesture — his action — his motion — his manner
— and thus the likeness is made up "of what you half--
create and half-perceive," — else dead — thus only spiritualised
into perfect similitude.
Shepherd. Mr De Quinshy should hae said that!
English Opium-Eater. Pardon me, Mr Hogg, I could not
have said it nearly so well — and in this case, I doubt not,
most truly — as Mr North.
North. No one feature, perhaps, of Mr Jeffrey's face is very
fine, except, indeed, his mouth, which is the firmest, and, at the
same time, the mildest — the most resolute, and yet, at the same
time, the sweetest, I ever saw — inferior in such mingled expression
only to Canning's, which was perfect; but look on them
all together, and they all act together in irresistible union ;
¹ Mr Alexander Nasmyth was an eminent landscape-painter of Edinburgh.
He died at a great age about 1840. He had a son (Peter), settled in London,
who also rose to high distinction as a painter, who died in 1831.
² See ante, vol. i. p. 144, note.1.
forehead, eyes, cheeks, mouth, and chin, all declaring, as Burns
said of Matthew Henderson, that "Francis is a bright man,"
— ever in full command of all his great and various talents,
with just enough of genius to preserve them all in due order
and subordination — for, with either more or less genius, we
may not believe that his endowments could have been so
finely, yet so firmly balanced, so powerful both in speculative
and practical skill, making him at once, perhaps, on the whole,
the most philosophic critic of his age, and, beyond all comparison,
the most eloquent orator of his country.
English Opium-Eater. To much of that eulogium, Mr North,
great as my admiration is of Mr Jeffrey's abilities, I must
Shepherd. And me too.
Tickler. And I also.
North. Well, gentlemen, demur away; but such for many
years has been my opinion, and 'tis the opinion of all Scotland.
English Opium-Eater. Since you speak of Mr Jeffrey, and
of his achievements in law, literature, and philosophy, in
Scotland, and without meaning to include the Southern Intellectual
Empire of Britain, why, then, with one exception
(bowing to Mr North), I do most cordially agree with you,
though of his law I know nothing, and nothing of his oral
eloquence, but judge of him solely from the Edinburgh Review,
which (bowing again to Mr North), with the same conspicuous
exception — maugre all its manifold and miserable mistakes —
unquestionably stands — or did stand — for I have not seen a
number of it since the April number of 1826 — at the head of
the Periodical Literature of the Age; and that the Periodical
Literature of the Age is infinitely superior to all its other
philosophical criticism — for example, the charlatanerie of the
Schlegels, et id genus omne, is as certain — Mr Hogg, pardon
me for imitating your illustrative imagery, or attempting to
imitate what all the world allows to be inimitable — as that
the hotch-potch which you are now swallowing, in spite of
heat that seems breathed from the torrid zone —
Shepherd. It's no hotch-potch — this platefu's cocky-leeky.
English Opium-Eater. As that cocky-leeky which, though
hot as purgatory (the company will pardon me for yielding to
the influence of the genius loci), your mouth is, and for a
quarter of an hour has been, vortex-like engulfing, transcends,
to all that is best in animal and vegetable matter — worthy
indeed of Scotland's manly Shepherd — the soup maigre, that,.
attenuated almost to invisibility, drenches the odiously--
guttural gullet of some monkey Frenchman of the old school,
by the incomprehensible interposition of Providence saved at
the era of the Revolution from the guillotine.
Omnes! Bravo! bravo! bravo! — Encore! encore! encore !
Shepherd. That's capital — it's just me; gin ye were aye to
speak that gate, man, folk would understaun' you. Let's hae
a caulker thegither. — There's a gurgle — your health, sir — no
forgettin the wife and the weans. It's a pity you're no a
North. John Watson's¹ "Lord Dalhousie"² is a noble
picture. But John's always great — his works win upon you
the longer you study them — and that, after all, is at once the
test and the triumph of the art. On some portraits you at
once exhaust your admiration; and are then ashamed of
yourself for having mistaken the vulgar pleasure, so cheaply
inspired, of a staring likeness, for that high emotion breathed
from the mastery of the painter's skill — and blush to have
doated on a daub.
Tickler. Duncan's³ "Braw Wooer," from Burns's
"Yestreen a brave wooer cam down the Lang glen,
And sair wi' his love he did deave me;
I said there was naething I hated like men, —
The deuce gang wi' him to believe me,"
is a masterpiece. What a fellow, James! Not unlike yourself
in your younger days, perhaps — but without a particle of
the light of genius that ever ennobles your rusticity, and
makes the plaid on our incomparable Shepherd's shoulders
graceful as the poet's mantle — But rather like some son of
yours, James, of whom you had not chanced to think it worth
your while to take any very particular notice, yet who, by
hereditary talents, had made his way in the world up to head--
shepherd on a four-thousand-acre hill-farm, — his face glowing
with love and health like a peony over which a milk-pail had
happened to be upset — bonnet cocked as crousely on his hard
¹ See ante, vol. i. p. 48, note 2.
² The father of the distinguished Governor-General of India. He fought
with great gallantry through the Peninsular war and at Waterloo.
³ Thomas Duncan died in 1844. He painted "Christopher in his Sporting--
jacket" — a picture of Professor Wilson in the possession of Mr John Blackwood.
brow as the comb upon the tappin o' chanticleer when sidling
up, with dropped wing, to a favourite pullet — buckskin
breeches, such as Burns used to wear himself, brown and
burnished to a most perilous polish — and top-boots, the images
of your own, my beloved boy — on which the journey down
the lang glen has brought the summer-dust to blend with the
well-greased blacking — broad chest, gorgeously apparelled in a
flapped waistcoat, manifestly made for him by his great grand--
mother, out of the damask-hangings of a bed that once must
have stood firm in a Ha' on four posts, though now haply in a
hut but a trembling truckle — strong barn shirt, clean as a lily,
bleached in the showery sunshine on a brent¹ gowany brae,
nor untinged with a faint scent of thyme that, in oaken
drawer, will lie odorous for years upon years, — and cravat
with a knot like a love-posy, and two pointed depending
stalks, tied in the gleam of a water-pail, or haply in the mirror
of the pool in which that Apollo had just been floundering
like a porpoise, and in which, when drought had dried the
shallows, he had leistered many a fish impatient of the sea; —
there, James, he sits on a bank, leaning and leering, a lost
and love-sick man, yet not forgetful nor unconscious of the
charms so prodigally lavished upon him both by nature and
art, the BRAW WOOER, who may not fail in his suit, till blood
be wersh as water, and flesh indeed fushionless as grass
growing in a sandy desert.
Shepherd. Remember, Mr Tickler, what a lee-way you hae
to mak up, on the sea o' soup, and be na sae descriptive, for
we've a' gotten to windward; you seem to hae drapt anchor,
and baith mainsail and foresail are flappin to the extremity o'
their sheets.
Tickler. And is not she, indeed, James, a queenlike quean?
What scorn and skaith in the large full orbs of her imperial
eyes! How she tosses back her head in triumph, till the
yellow lustre of her locks seems about to escape from the
bondage of that ribbon, the hope-gift of another suitor who
wooed her under happier auspices, among last-year's "rigs o'
barley," at winter's moonless midnight, beneath the barn-balk
where roosts the owl, — by spring's dewy eve on the dim primrose
bank, while the lark sought his nest among the green
braird, descending from his sunset-song!
¹ Brent — high; steep.
Shepherd. Confound me — if this be no just perfectly intolerable
— Mr North, Mr De Quinshy, Mr Tickler, and a', men,
women, and children, imitatin ma style o' colloquial oratory,
till a' that's specific and original about me 's lost in universal
Tickler. Why, James, your genius is as contagious — as infectious
as the plague, — if, indeed, it be not epidemical — like
a fever in the air.
Shepherd. You're a' glad to sook up the miasmata. But,
mercy on us! a' the tureens seem to me amaist dried up — as
laigh's wells in midsummer drought. The vermicelli, especially,
is drained to its last worms. Mr De Quinshy, you've
an awfu' appeteet!
English Opium-Eater. I shall dine to-day entirely on soup,
— for your Edinburgh beef and mutton, however long kept,
are difficult of mastication, — the sinews seeming to me all to
go transversely, thus, — and not longitudinally, — so —
North. Hark! my gold repeater is smiting seven. We
allow an hour, Mr De Quincey, to each course — and then —
[The LEANDERS play "The Boatie Rows," — the door flies
open, — enter PICARDY and his clan.
Shepherd. I'm sure we canna be sufficiently gratefu' for
having got rid o' a' thae empty tureens o' soup — so let us noo
set in for serious eatin, and tackle to the inhabitants o' the
Great Deep. What's that bit body, North, been about?
Daidlin¹ wi' the mock-turtle. I hate a' things mock — soups,
pearls, fause tails, baith bustles and queues, wigs, cauves,
religion, freenship, love, glass-een, rouge on the face o' a
woman, — no' exceppin even cork legs, for timmer anes are far
better, there bein' nae attempt at deception, which ought never
to be practised on ony o' God's reasonable creatures — it's sae
English Opium-Eater. Better open outrage than hidden
guile, which —
Shepherd. Just sae, sir. — But is't no a bonny instrument,
that key-bugle? I've been twin to learn't a' this wunter,
beginnin at first wi' the simple coo's-horn. But afore I had
weel gotten the gamut, I had nearly lost my life.
Tickler. What? From mere loss of breath — positive exhaustion?
An abscess in the lungs, James?
Shepherd. Nothing o' the sort. I hae wund and lungs for
onything — even for roarin you doun at argument, whan, driven
to the wa', you begin to storm like a Stentor, till the verra
neb o' the jug on the dirlin table regards you wi' astonishment,
and the speeders are seen rinning alang the ceilin to
shelter themselves in their corner cobwebs. — (Canna ye learn
frae Mr De Quinshy, man, to speak laigh and lown, trustin
mair to sense and less to soun', and you'll find your advantage
in't ?) — But I allude, sir, to an Adventure
North. An adventure, James?
Shepherd. Ay — an adventure — but as there's nane o' you
for cod's-head and shouthers, I'll first fortify mysel wi' some
forty or fifty flakes — like half-crown pieces.
Tickler. Some cod, James, if you please.
Shepherd. Help yoursel — I'm unco thrang² the noo. Mr De
Quinshy, what fish are you devoorin?
English Opium-Eater. Soles.
Shepherd. And you, Mr North?
North. Salmon.
Shepherd. And you, Mr Tickler?
Tickler. Cod.
Shepherd. You're a' in your laconics. I'm fear'd for the
banes, otherwise, after this cod's dune, I sud like gran' to gie
that pike a yokin. I ken him for a Linlithgow loun by the
length o' his lantern-jaws, and the peacock-neck colour o' his
¹ Daidlin — trifling.
² Thrang — busy.
dorsal ridge — and I see by the jut o' his stammach there's
store o' stuffin. There'll be naething between him and me
when the cod's dune for, but halibut and turbot — the first the
wershest and maist fushionless o' a' swimmin creturs — and
the second ower rich, unless you intend eatin no other specie
o' fish.
Tickler. Now — for your adventure — my dear Shepherd.
Shepherd. Whisht — and you'se hear't. I gaed out, ae day,
ayont the knowe — the same, Mr North, that kythes¹ aboon
the bit field whare I tried, you ken, to raise a conterband crap
o' tobacco — and sat doun on a brae amang the brackens —
then a' red as the heavens in sunset — tootin awa on the Horn,
ettlin first at B flat, and then at A sharp, — when I hears, at
the close o' a lesson, what I thocht the grandest echo that
ever cam frae a mountain-tap — an echo like a rain o' the
ghost of ane o' the Bulls o' Bashan, gane mad amang other
horned spectres like himsel in the howe² o' the cloudy sky —
English Opium-Eater. Mr North, allow me to direct your
attention to that image, which seems to me perfectly original,.
and, at the same time, perfectly true to nature : Original I am
entitled to call it, since I remember nothing resembling it,
either essentially or accidentally, in prose or verse, in the
literature of Antiquity, in that of the middle, ordinarily, but
ignorantly, called the Dark Ages, — in that which arose in
Europe after the revival of letters — though assuredly letters
had not sunk into a state from which it could be said with
any precision that they did revive, — or in that of our own
Times, which seem to me to want that totality and unity
which alone constitute an Age, otherwise but a series of unconnected
successions, destitute of any causative principle of
cohesion or evolvement. True to nature no less am I entitled
to call the image, inasmuch as it giveth, not indeed
"to airy nothing a local habitation and a name," but to an
"airy something," namely, the earthly bellowing of an animal,
whose bellow is universally felt to be terrific, nay moreover,
and therefore, sublime — (for that terror lieth at the root — if
not always, yet of verity in by far the greater number of instances
— of the true sublime, from early boyhood my intellect
saw, and my imagination felt, to be among the great primal
intuitive truths of our spiritual frame), — because it giveth, I
¹ Kythes — shows itself.
² Howe — hollow.
repeat, to the earthly bellowing of such an animal an aerial
character, which, for the moment, deludes the mind into a
belief of the existence of a cloudy trine, spectral in the sky--
region, else thought to be the dwelling-place of silence and
vacuity, and thus an affecting, impressive, — nay, most solemn
and almost sacred feeling, is impressed on the sovereign reason
of the immortality of the brute creatures, — a doctrine that visits
us at those times only when our own being breathes in the
awe of divining thought, and, disentangling her wings from
all clay encumbrances, is strong in the consciousness of her
DEATHLESS ME — so Fichte and Schelling speak —
Shepherd. Weel, sir, you see, doun cam on my "DEATHLESS
ME" the Bonassus, head cavin, tail-tuft on high, hinder legs
visible over his neck and shouthers, and his hump clothed in
thunder, louder in his ae single sel than a wheeling charge
o' a hail regiment o' dragoon cavalry on the Portobello sands,
— doun cam the Bonassus, I say, like the Horse Life-Guards
takin a park o' French artillery at Waterloo, richt doun,
Heaven hae mercy! upon me, his ain kind maister, wha had
fed him on turnips, hay, and straw, ever sin' Lammas, till
the monster was as fat's he could lie in the hide o' him, — and
naething had I to defend mysel wi' but that silly coo's-horn.
A' the collies were at hame. Yet in my fricht — deadly as it
was — I was thankfu' wee Jamie wasna there lookin for primroses
— for he micht hae lost his judgment. You understand,
the Bonassus had mista'en my B sharp for anither Bonassus
challengin him to single combat.¹
English Opium-Eater. A very plausible theory.
Shepherd. Thank you, sir, for that commentary on ma text
— for it has gien me time to plouter amang the chouks² o' the
cod. Faith it was nae theory, sir, it was practice — and afore
I could fin' my feet, he was sae close upon me that I could
see up his nostrils. Just at that moment I remembered that
I had on an auld red jacket — the ane that was ance sky-blue,
you ken, Mr North, that I had gotten dyed — and that made
the Bonassus just an evendoun Bedlamite. For amaist a'
horned cattle hate and abhor red coats.
North. So I have heard the army say — alike in town and
¹ The naturalisation of the Bonassus in Ettrick is described in Noctes XIV,
vol. i. p. 380.
² Chouks — jaws.
Shepherd. What was to be done? I thocht o' tootin the
horn, as the trumpeter did when run aff wi' in the mouth o' a
teeger; but then I recollected that it was a' the horn's blame
that the Bonassus was there — so I lost nae time in that speculation,
— but slipping aff my breeks, jacket, waistcoat, shirt,
and a', just as you've seen an actor on the stage, I appeared
suddenly before him as naked as the day I was born — and sic
is the awe, sir, wi' which a human being, in puris naturalibus,
inspires the maddest of the brute creation (I had tried it ance
before on a mastiff ), that he was a' at ance, in a single moment,
stricken o' a heap, just the very same as if the butcher
had sank the head o' an aix intil his harn-pan — his knees
trummled like a new-dropped lamb's — his tail, tuft and a',
had nae mair power in't than a broken thrissle-stalk — his een
goggled instead o' glowered, a heartfelt difference, I assure
you —
English Opium-Eater. It seems to be, Mr Hogg — but you
will pardon me if I am mistaken — a distinction without a difference,
as the logicians say —
Shepherd. Ay, De Quinshy, ma man — logician as you are,
had you stood in my spoon, you had gotten yoursel on baith
horns o' the dilemma.
North. Did you cut off his retreat to the Loch, James, and
take him prisoner?
Shepherd. I did. Poor silly sumph! I canna help thinkin
that he swarfed; though perhaps he was only pretendin — so
I mounted him, and, putting my worsted garters through his
nose — it had been bored when he was a wild beast in a caravan
— I keepit peggin his ribs wi' my heels, till, after gruntin
and grainin¹ and raisin his great big unwieldy red bouk²
half up frae the earth, and then swelterin doun again, if ance,
at least a dizzen times, till I began absolutely to weary o' my
situation in life, he feenally recovered his cloots,³ and, as if
inspired wi' a new speerit, aff like lichtnin to the mountains.
North. What! — without a saddle, James? You must have
felt the loss — I mean the want, of leather —
Shepherd. We ride a' mainner o' animals bare-backed in
the Forest, sir. I hae seen a bairn, no aboon fowre year auld,
ridin hame the Bill at the gloamin — a' the kye at his tail,
like a squadron o' cavalry ahint Joachim Murat, King o'
¹ Grainin — groaning.
² Bouk — bulk.
³ Cloots — feet.
Naples. — Mr North, gin ye keep eatin sae vorawciously at the
sawmon, you'll hurt yoursel. Fish is heavy. Dinna spare
the vinegar, if you will be a glutton.
North. Ma!¹
Shepherd. But, as I was say in, awa went the Bonassus due
west. Though you could hardly ca't even a snaffle, yet I soon
found that I had a strong purchase, and bore him doun frae
the heights to the turnpike-road that cuts the kintra frae Selkirk
to Moffat. There does I encounter three gigfu's o' gentlemen
and leddies; and ane o' the latter — a bonny cretur —
leuch as if she kent me, as I gaed by at full gallop — and I
remembered ha'in seen her afore, though where I couldna
tell; but a' the lave shrieked as if at the visible superstition
o' the Water-Kelpie on the Water-Horse mistakin day for
nicht, in the delirium o' a fever — and thinkin that it had been
the moon shining down on his green pastures aneath the Loch,
when it was but the shadow o' a lurid cloud. But I soon
vanished into distance.
Tickler. Where the deuce were your clothes all this time,
my dear matter-of-fact Shepherd?
Shepherd. Ay — there was the rub. In the enthusiasm of
the moment I had forgotten them — nay, such was the state of
excitement to which I had worked myself up, that, till I met
the three gigfu's o' leddies and gentlemen — a marriage-party
— full in the face, I was not, Mr De Quinshy, aware of being
so like the Truth. Then I felt, all in a moment, that I was a
Mazeppa. But had I turned back, they would have supposed
that I had intended to accompany them to Selkirk; and therefore,
to allay all such fears, I made a show o' fleein far awa
aff into the interior — into the cloudland of Loch Skene and
the Grey Mare's Tail.
English Opium-Eater. Your adventure, Mr Hogg, would furnish
a much better subject for the painter, or for the poet, than
the Mazeppa of Byron. For, it is not possible to avoid feeling,
that in the image of a naked man on horseback, there is
an involution of the grotesque in the picturesque — of the truly
ludicrous in the falsely sublime. But, further, the thought of
bonds — whether of cordage or of leather — on a being naturally
free, is degrading to the moral, intellectual, and physical dignity
of the creature so constricted; and it ought ever to be the
¹ "Ma! — North is too intent upon eating to return an articulate answer.
grand aim of poetry to elevate and exalt. Moreover, Mazeppa,
in being subjected to the scornful gaze of hundreds — nay,
haply of thousands of spectators — the base retinue of a barbarous
power — in a state of uttermost nudity, was subjected
to an ordeal of shame and rage, which neither the contemplative
nor imaginative mind could brook to see applied to even
the veriest outcast scum of our race. He was, in fact, placed
naked in a moving pillory — and the hissing shower of scornful
curses by which he was by those barbarians assailed, is as
insupportable to our thoughts as an irregular volley, or street-firing,
of rotten eggs, discharged by the hooting rabble against
some miscreant standing with his face through a hole in the
wood, with his crime placarded on his felon breast. True,
that as Mazeppa "recoils into the wilderness," the exposure
is less repulsive to common imagination; but it is not to
common imagination that the highest poetry is addressed;
and, therefore, though to the fit reader there be indeed some
relief or release from shame in the "deserts idle," yet doth
not the feeling of degradation so subside as to be merged is
that pleasurable state of the soul, essential to the effect of the
true and legitimate exercise of poetical power. Shame pursues
him faster than the wolves; nor doth the umbrage of the
forest-trees, that fly past him in his flight, hide his nakedness,
which, in some other conditions, being an attribute of his
nature, might even be the source to him and to us of a high
emotion, but which here being forcibly and violently imposed
against his will by the will of a brutal tyrant, is but an accident
of his position in space and time, and therefore unfit to
be permanently contemplated in a creature let loose before the
Imaginative Faculty. Nor is this vital vice — so let me call
it — in anywise cured or alleviated by his subsequent triumph,
when he returns — as he himself tells us he did — at the head
of "twice ten thousand horse!" — for the contrast only serves
to deepen and darken the original nudity of his intolerable
doom. The mother-naked man still seems to be riding in front
of all his cavalry; nor, in this case, has the poet's art sufficed
to reinstate him in his pristine dignity, and to efface all remembrance
of the degrading process of stripping and of binding,
to which of yore the miserable Nude had been compelled
to yield, as helpless as an angry child ignominiously whipt by
a nurse, till its mental sufferings may be said to be lost in its
physical agonies. Think not that I wish to withhold from
Byron the praise of considerable spirit and vigour of execution,
in his narrative of the race; but that praise may duly belong
to very inferior powers; and I am now speaking of Mazeppa
in the light of a great Poem. A great Poem it assuredly is
not; and how small a Poem it assuredly is, must be felt by all
who have read, and are worthy to read, Homer's description
of the dragging, and driving, and whirling of the dead body
of Hector in bloody nakedness behind the chariot-wheels of
Shepherd. I never heard onything like that in a' my days.
Weel, then, sir, there were nae wolves to chase me and the
Bonassus, nor yet mony trees to overshadow us; but we made
the cattle and the sheep look about them, and mair nor ae
hooded craw and lang-necked heron gat a fricht, as we came
suddenly on him through the mist, and gaed thundering by
the cataracts. In an hour or twa I began to get as firm on
my seat as a Centaur; and discovered by the chasms that the
Bonassus was not only as fleet as a racer, but that he could
loup like a hunter, and thocht nae mair o' a thirty feet spang
than ye wad think o' stepping across the gutter. Ma faith,
we werena lang o' bein' in Moffat!
English Opium-Eater. In your Flight, Mr Hogg, there were
visibly and audibly concentrated all the attributes of the highest
Poetry. First, freedom of the will; for self-impelled you
ascended the animal. Secondly, the impulse, though immediately
consequent upon, and proceeding from, one of fear, was
yet an impulse of courage; and courage is not only a virtue,
and acknowledged to be such in all Christian countries, but
among the Romans — who assuredly, however low they must
be ranked on the intellectual scale, were nevertheless morally a
brave people — to it alone was given the name virtus. Thirdly,
though you were during your whole flight so far passive as
that you yielded to the volition of the creature, yet were you
likewise, during your whole course, so far active, that you
guided, as it appears, the motions, which it was beyond your
power entirely to control; thus vindicating in your own person
the rights of the superior order of creation. Fourthly, you were
not so subjugated by the passion peculiar and appropriate to
your situation, as to be insensible to or regardless of the
courtesies, the amenities, and the humanities of civilised life —
as witness that glance of mutual recognition that passed, in
one moment, between you and the "bonny creature" in the
gig; nor yet to be inattentive to the effect produced by yourself
and the Bonassus on various tribes of the inferior creatures,
— cattle, sheep, crows, and herons, to say nothing of the
poetical delight experienced by you from the influence of the
beautiful or august shows of nature, — mists, clouds, cataracts,
and the eternal mountains. Fifthly, the constantly accompanying
sense of danger interfused with that of safety, so as
to constitute one complex emotion, under which, hurried as
you were, it may be said with perfect truth that you found
leisure to admire, nay, even to wonder at, the strange speed
of that most extraordinary animal — and most extraordinary he
must be, if the only living representative of his species since
the days of Aristotle, — nor less to admire and wonder at your
own skill, equally, if not more, miraculous, and well entitled
to throw into the shade of oblivion the art of the most illustrious
equestrian that ever "witched the world with noble
horsemanship." Sixthly, the sublime feeling of penetrating,
like a thunderbolt, cloud-land and all the mist cities that
evanished as you galloped into their suburbs, gradually giving
way to a feeling no less sublime, of having left behind all those
unsubstantial phantom-regions, and of nearing the habitation
or tabernacle of men, known by the name of Moffat — perhaps
one of the most imaginative of all the successive series of states
of your soul since first you appeared among the hills, like Sol
entering Taurus. And, finally, the deep trance of home-felt
delight that must have fallen upon your spirit — true still to all
the sweetest and most sacred of all the social affections —
when, the Grey Mare's Tail left streaming far behind that of
the Bonassus, you knew from the murmur of that silver stream
that your flight was about to cease — till, lo! the pretty village
of which you spoke, embosomed in hills and trees — the sign
of the White Lion, peradventure, motionless in the airless
calm — a snug parlour with a blazing ingle — re-apparelling
instant, almost as thought — food both for man and beast —
for the Ettrick Shepherd — pardon my familiarity for sake of
friendship — and his Bonassus. Yea, from goal to goal, the
entire Flight is Poetry, and the original idea of nakedness is
lost — or say rather veiled — in the halo-light of imagination.
Shepherd. Weel, if it's no provokin, Mr De Quinshy, to hear
you, who never was on a Bonassus a' your days, analeezin,
wi' the maist comprehensive and acute philosophical accuracy,
ma complex emotion during the Flight to Moffat far better than
I could do mysel —
North. Your genius, James, is synthetical.
Shepherd. Synthetical? I howp no — at least nae mair sae
than the genius o' Burns or Allan Kinninghame — or the lave —
for —
English Opium-Eater. What is the precise Era of the Flight
to Moffat ?
Shepherd. Mr De Quinshy, you're like a' ither great
philosophers, ane o' the maist credulous o' mankind! You
wad believe me, were I to say that I had ridden a whale up
the Yarrow frae Newark to Eltrive! The haill story's a lee!
and sae free o' ony foundation in truth, that I wad hae nae
objections to tak my bible-oath that sic a beast as a Bonassus
never was creawted — and it's lucky for him that he never was,
for seeing that he's said to consume three bushel o' ingans
to denner every day o' his life, Noah wad never hae letten
him intil the Ark, and he wad hae been fund, after the subsidin
o' the waters, a skeleton on the tap o' Mount Ararat.
English Opium-Eater. His non-existence in nature is altogether
distinct from his existence in the imagination of the
poet — and, in good truth, redounds to his honour — for his
character must be viewed in the light of a pure Ens rationis —
or say rather —
Shepherd. Just let him be an Ens rationis. But confess, at
the same time, that you was bammed, sir.
English Opium-Eater. I recognise the legitimate colloquial
use of the word Bam, Mr Hogg, denoting, I believe, " the
willing surrendering of belief, one of the first principles of our
mental constitution, to any statement made with apparent
sincerity, but real deceit, by a mind not previously suspected
to exist in a perpetual atmosphere of falsehood."
Shepherd. Just sae, sir, — that's a Bam. In Glasgow, they
ca't a ggeg. — But what's the matter wi' Mr North? Saw ye
ever the cretur lookin sae gash?¹ I wish he mayna be in a
fit o' apoplexy. Speak till him, Mr De Quinshy.
English Opium-Eater. His countenance is, indeed, ominously
sable, — but 'tis most unlikely that apoplexy should strike a
¹ Gash — sagacious: here in the sense of "solemn."
person of his spare habit: Nay, I must sit corrected; for I
believe that attacks of this kind have, within the last quarter
of a century, become comparatively frequent, and constitute
one of the not least perplexing phenomena submitted to the
inquisition of Modern Medical Science. — Mr North, will you
relieve our anxiety?
Shepherd (starting up, and flying to Mr North). His face is
a' purple. Confoun' that cravat! — for the mair you pu' at it,
the tichter it grows.
English Opium-Eater. Mr Hogg, I would seriously and
earnestly recommend more delicacy and gentleness.
Shepherd. Tuts. It's fastened, I declare, ahint wi' a gold
buckle, — and afore wi' a gold preen, — a brotch frae Mrs
Gentle, in the shape o' a bleedin heart! 'Twill be the death o'
him. — Oh! puir fallow, puir fallow! — rax¹ me ower that
knife. What's this? You've given me the silver fish-knife,
Mr De Quinshy. Na, — that's far waur, Mr Tickler — That
swurd for carvin the round. But here's my ain jockteleg.²
[SHEPHERD unclasps his pocket-knife, — and while brandishing
it in great trepidation, MR NORTH opens his eyes.
North. Emond! Emond! Emond! — Thurtell — Thurtell —
Shepherd. A drap o' bluid's on his brain, — and Reason
becomes Raving! What's man?
Tickler. Cut away, James. Not a moment to be lost. Be
firm and decided, else he is a dead heathen.
Shepherd. Wae's me, — wae's me! Nae goshawk ever sae
glowered, — and only look at his puir fingers hoo they are
workin! I canna thole the sicht, — I'm as weak's a wean, —
and fear that I'm gaun to fent. Tak the knife, Tickler. O,
look at his hauns, — look at his hauns!
Tickler (bending over Mr North). Yes, yes, my dear sir, — I
comprehend you — I —
Shepherd (in anger and astonishment). Mr Tickler, are you
mad? — fingerin your fingers in that gate, — as if you were
mockin him!
¹ Rax — reach.
² Jockteleg — a folding-knife.
³ For Thurtell, see ante, vol. i. p. 81. Robert Emend was tried in Edinburgh
on the 8th of February, and executed on the 17th of March 1830, for
the murder of Katherine Franks and her daughter Madeline, in their house at
Abbey, near Haddington.
English Opium-Eater. They are conversing, Mr Hogg, in
that language which originated in Oriental —
Shepherd. Oh! they're speakin on their fingers? — then a's
richt, — and Mr North's comin roun' again intil his seven
senses. It's been but a dwawm!
Tickler. Mr North has just contrived to communicate to
me, gentlemen, the somewhat alarming intelligence, that the
back-bone of the pike has for some time past been sticking
about half-way down his throat; that, being unwilling to
interrupt the conviviality of the company, he endeavoured at
first to conceal the circumstance, and then made the most
strenuous efforts to dislodge it, upwards or downwards, without
avail; but that you must not allow yourselves to fall
into any extravagant consternation, as he indulges the fond
hope that it may be extracted, even without professional assistance,
by Mr De Quincey, who has an exceedingly neat small
Byronish hand, and on whose decision of character he places
the most unfaltering reliance.
Shepherd (in a huff). Does he? — Very weel — sin' he forgets
auld freens — let him do sae —
North. Ohrr Hogrwhu — chru — u — u — u — Hogruwhuu
Shepherd. Na! I canna resist sic pleadin eloquence as
that — here's the screw, let me try it — Or, what think ye, Mr
Tickler, — what think ye, Mr De Quinshy — o' thir pair o'
boot-hooks? — Gin I could get a cleck o' the bane by ane o'
the vertebræ, I might hoise it gently up, by slaw degrees, sae
that ane could get at it wi' their fingers, and then pu' it out
o' his mouth in a twinklin! But first let me look doun his
throat — Open your mouth, my dearest sir.
[MR NORTH leans back his head, and opens his mouth.
Shepherd. I see't like a harrow. Rin ben, baith o' ye, for
Mr Awmrose.
Weel ackit, sir — weel ackit — I was taen in mysel at first, for
your cheeks were like coals. Here's the back-bane o' the
pike on the trencher — I'll —
pale as death.)
It's all over, gentlemen — It's all over!
Ambrose. Oh! oh! oh! (Faints away into TICKLER'S arms.
Shepherd. What the deevil's the matter wi' you, you set o'
files? — I've gotten out the bane. — Look here at the skeleton
o' the shark!
English Opium-Eater. Monstrous!
North (running to the assistance of MR AMBROSE). We have
sported too far, I fear, with his sensibilities.
English Opium-Eater. A similar case of a fish-bone in Germany

Shepherd. Mr De Quinshy, can you really swallow that?
[Looking at the pike-back, about two feet long.
But the hour has nearly expired.
[The LEANDERS play "Hey, Johnnie Cope, are you wauken
yet?" — MR AMBROSE starts to his feet, runs of; and
reappears almost instanter at the head of the forces.
Shepherd (in continuation). And do you really think, Mr
North, that the kintra's in great and general distress, and a'
orders in a state o' absolute starvation?
North. Yes — James — although the Duke¹ cannot see the
sufferings of his subjects, I can — and —
Shepherd. Certain appearances do indicate national distress;
yet I think I could, withouten meikle difficulty, lay my haun
the noo on idlers that seem to lead to a different conclusion.
North. No sophistry, James. True, that we are now sitting
at a Feast. But remember, James, that All Fool's Day has
been duly celebrated by us ever since the commencement of
our career, and that one omission of observance of such anniversary
might prove fatal to the existence of "The Magazine."
¹ The Duke of Wellington. He was at this time Prime Minister.
Shepherd. At least ominous. For sure aneuch it would be
ungratefu' to forget our subscribers.
North. And are we to violate a sacred custom, merely because
the country has been brought by an incapable and unprincipled
ministry to the brink of ruin?
English Opium-Eater. Yet I have seen nothing in the condition
of the people to incline me to doubt the truth of the
doctrine — originally stated by Say, afterwards expounded by
Ricardo — and, since the death of that illustrious discoverer —
(happier than Cooke, who by twice circumnavigating the
globe — for on his third voyage he was cut off by the savage
Sandwichers, the problem unsolved — ascertained the non-existence
of Terra Incognita Australis; — yea, more felicitous
even than Columbus, who, while he indeed found a new world,
mistook it for an old one, and dreamt that he beheld isles that
of old had been visited for their golden store by the ships of
Solomon ;) — I say, since the death of David Ricardo unmercifully
and laboriously overloaded with a heap of leaden words
that love the ground, by Smith and M'Culloch [whose pages
are the most arid spots in that desert of Politico-Economical
science which the genius of the Jew¹ mapped out, indicating
the direction in which all the main caravan roads ought to run
by the banks of the rivers, by the wells, and by the oases] —
that doctrine which, being established by arguments a priori,
would indeed remain in my reason immutable as an axiom in
the mathematics, in spite of all the seeming opposition of mere
outward facts, or phenomena from which the blind leading the
blind, owl-like in mid-day, would seek to draw conclusions at
vital enmity with those primal truths subsisting effectually
and necessarily in the Relations of Things; — [which relations
indeed they are, shadowed or figured out to ordinary apprehension
under various names:] — the Doctrine, in short, that
Production is the Cause of Production, that Vents create
Vents, and thence, that a universal Glut is a Moral and
Physical Impossibility, the monster of a sick merchant's
Shepherd. That Vents creawte Vents! Do you mean, in plain
¹ Ricardo was a Jew, or of Jewish extraction.
² Gluts are caused, not by the over-production of any commodity, but by the
under-production of other commodities, with which the apparently, though
not really, superabundant article might be exchanged.
language, Mr De Quinshy, to say that lums¹ creawte lums —
that ae chimley procreawtes anither chimley —
North. My dear James, you know nothing of Political Economy
— so hold your —
Shepherd. Heaven be praised — for a' them that pretends
they do — I mean the farmers — aye break. I ken ae puir fallow,
a cock-laird,² wi' a pleasant mailin³ o' his ain, that had
been in the family since Seth, that got his death by studyin
the Stot.4 "Stimulate Production! Stimulate Production!"
was aye puir Watty's cry — "Nae fear o' consumption. The
nati consumers fruges" — (for the Stot had taught him to quote
some rare lines o' Latin) — "will aye be hungry and thirsty,
and need to wear claes;" — but Watty drave baith his pigs
and his sheep to a laigh market; he fand that the Stot was
likewise far wrang in tellin him that competition couldna
possibly reduce profits — an apothegm you would has thocht
aforehaun that wud hae scunnered a natural-born idiot, — yet
still wad Watty study the Stot — for he was a dour cretur — till
ae nicht, ridin hame frae Selkirk, wi' M'Culloch's Principles
in the richt-haun pouch o' his big-coat, he was, as you micht
easily hae conjectured, thrawn aff his balance, and coupin
ower till that side, was dragged wi' his fit in the stirrup till
he was as dead as the Stot's ain doctrine about Absentees.5
North. Besides, gentlemen, remember that our board to-day
is chiefly supplied by presents, among which are many love--
gifts from the fair —
Shepherd. And then, The Fragments —
North. The Reliquiæ Danaum —
Shepherd. Are the property o' the puir —
North. And will all be distributed to-morrow — by ticket —
according to the arrangement of Mrs Gentle
Shepherd. The maist charitable o' God's creturs — exceptin
yoursel, my dear sir — whose haun is open as day — Oh,
man! but there's a heap o' hatefu' meanin in the epithet,
close-fisted! I like aye to see the open paum, for it's amaist
as expressive's the open broo. A greedy chiel — him that's
¹ Lums — chimneys.
² Cock-laird — yeoman.
³ Mailin — farm.
4 See ante, vol. i., p. 140, note.
5 This doctrine was, that the non-residence of the Irish proprietors could not
injure the general prosperity of Ireland; a position questionable, to say the
least, on grounds of political economy, and certainly indefensible on moral
ony way meeserly — aye sits, you'll observe, wi' his nieves
crunkled up unconsciously through the power o' habit, or
keeps them in the pockets o' his breeks as if fumblin amang
the fardens; and let the conversation be about what it wull,
there's aye a sort o' mental reservation in his een, seemin to
say, that if the talk should tak a turn, and ony hint be drapt
about a subscription to a droon'd fisherman's widow and
weans, or the like, he'll instantly thraw cauld water on 't,
suggest inquiries intil her character, and ring the bell for his
hack. North, look at thae twa creturs guttlin — the tane at
the saiddle, and the tither at the fillet! — Awmrose, change
the position o' the fowre principal dishes answerin to the
Fowre Airts.¹
[AMBROSE makes the saddle exchange places with the fillet,
the sirloin with the round.
By this dispensation, each o' us gets easy access, feenally, to
a' the dishes, sereawtim;² can carve in his ain way, and taks
his fair chance o' the tidbits; — but d'ye ken, sirs, that I'm
gettin melancholy — fa'in into laigh spirits — weary o' life. I
howp it's but the reaction frae that daffin — but really the verra
skies seem to my een as if I were lookin up to them, lyin on
my back aneath a muddy stream — while, as for this globe,
it's naething but glaur! The poetry o' life is dead and
buried, sir, and wha can bear to be wadin frae mornin till
nicht, up to his oxters, in prose? The verra Deevil³ himsel's
got dull in the hauns o' that Rab Montgomery, — cauldrifed,
as if hell were out o' coals, — a' its blast-furnaces choked up
wi' blue silent ashes — and the damned coorin and chitterin in
corners, as if fire were frost.
North. James! James!
Shepherd. Dinna be feared for me being blasphemous.
Rather than sin sae, micht I cease to breathe, or gang sichin
and sabbin in insanity through the woods and moors! The
Deevil's just as utter a nonentity as ony ither dream; or if
no, at the maist, he's but a soap-bubble. Mind ye, I'm
speakin o' an external Deevil — a shaped Satan — a limbed
¹ Airts — points of the compass.
² Sereawtim — seriatim.
³ Satan: a poem by the Rev. Robert Montgomery, now (1855) the excellent
minister of Percy Chapel, London. At this time he was a student at Oxford,
and not much beyond his teens.
Lucifer — Beelzebub wi' a belly — gaun bodily about, wi' cloots
and horns, seeking whom he may devour.
North. The saving superstition of the imagination.
Shepherd. Just sae — shadows seen by sin movin atween
and the sky in the gloamin, when naebody's near, but some
glowerin and listenin auld motionless tower — shadows o' its
ain thochts, at which it aften gangs demented — nor will they
subside awa intil naething, but, unsubstantial as they are, far
mair endurable than substance just as ghosts continue to
glide about for centuries after the bodies have amaist ceased
to be even banes, and haunt a' the hills and glens, sunshine
and moonlight alike, lown¹ or stormy days; — nor unprivileged
are they by conscience to enter just as if a thunder-cloud
were passin the skylight windows — into the house o' God —
still by the side o' the sinner, even on the Sabbath — and
keepin fixed on his their dismal een, they can frichten the
immortal spirit within him, sae that his ears nae mair transmit
to it the singin o' the psalm — unless you ca' that singin, which
is mair like the noise o' ever sae mony swarms o' bees a'
castin thegither on a het day on the same sycamore, and murderin
ane anither in the confusion o' queens, by haill hives,
till the winged air is in torment, and a' the grun' aneath
crawlin wi' wrathfu' mutilation!
North. Pollok was a true poet — and the Course of Time,
though not a poem, overflows with poetry; but the apes of
that angel must be bagged, and stifled in the cess-pools of the
cities where they —
Shepherd. Suppose we begin wi' the Embro' apes. There's
that cretur —
North. Let him stand over for a season — one other chatter
— and he dies.
Shepherd. I could greet — I hae grat² — to think o' puir Pollok
ha'in been ca'd sae sune awa — but his country may be said
to hae bigged a monument over his remains.
North. Poor Blanco White's³ London Review — got up among
some of the most formal of the Oxford prigs — for Whately4
surely could never countenance such a concern — the only
¹ Lown — calm.
² Grat — wept.
³ After undergoing many vicissitudes of religious opinion, Blanco White,
originally a Spanish papist, ended as a Unitarian, and died at Liverpool in 1841.
4 Afterwards the Archbishop of Dublin.
number that ever got printed ordered the world to despise
Pollok. The Course of Time — Miltonic in design and execution
— was tried by the Oriel critic as a prize poem —
Shepherd. I recolleck, sir. Yon Number 's used at Mount
Benger still, as a stane weight —
North. Each paltry periodical, James, that, born of poorest
parents, and fed from the first, as paupers' brats must be, on
pap provided by charity, begins soon as it is dropped, drab--
and-ditch-delivered, instinctively to caterwaul after the fashion
of its progenitors, like a nest o' kittens, snoking¹ about the
straw with their little red snub-noses, and sealed swollen
eyes, which are plainly doomed never to see the day, except
perhaps one single blink on the morning they are all plopped
pitilessly into a pond, to be fished out and flung in
again, every spring-Saturday, by schoolboys learning the elements
of angling Each paltry periodical, James, weekly,
monthly, or quarterly — while like a puddle in a cart-wheel
rut, it attempts to reflect the physiognomy of Christopher
North — employs the very first moments of its transitory existence
in showing its gums — for time is not given it for teeth —
at ME — at Us — at the MAGAZINE — who would not even take
the trouble of treating it as a Newfoundland dog has been
sometimes seen to treat a troublesome turnspit.
Shepherd. Out they gang, ane after the ither, like sae mony
farden candles stickin intil turnips — and och! what a shabby
stink! Ae single sneer frae you, sir, smeeks² and smithers
them in their ain reek;³ and yet, sic is the spite o' stupidity,
that ae fule taks nae warnin frae the fate o' the fule afore
him, but they are a' like sae mony sheep, jumpin o' their ain
accord into the verra shambles — although the Shepherd —
that's me — does a' he can wi' his collies to keep them out o'
the jaws o' destruction, and get them a' safely collected in as
staring squad on the common, whare they may feed on herbage
little or vane the waur for the goose-dung. Hoo's the Embro'
Review gaun on?
North. Very well indeed, James. Methinks, under the new
editor,4 it hath more pith and smeddum.
¹ Snoking — nuzzling.
² Smeeks — stifles with smoke.
³ Reek — smoke.
4 Mr Macvey Napier, editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica (seventh edition),
and Professor of Conveyancing in the University of Edinburgh. He succeeded
Jeffrey in the editorship of the Edinburgh Review in 1829, and died in 1847.
Shepherd. O' late years it has aye reminded me o' an auld
worn-out ram, whom the proprietor doesna like either to let
dee o' hunger, or a' at ance to pit out o' its meesery — but
sin' he's of nae use noo, and wunna sell either for woo or
meat, the master flings him noo and then a turnip, and noo
and then alloos him a wusp o' strae — as he stauns wi' his
tauty sides, speeral horns, and beard that has never been
shaven in the memory o' man — the Eemage rather than the
Reality o' a Ram.
North. Why, James, the youth of the animal seems in some
measure restored, and he butts away with much animation
and —
Shepherd. Let him tak tent he doesna break his horns.
Them that's beginnin to bud's tender, but them that's dune
wi' growin's frush: I hae nae faith in the renewal o' youth;
and though the Ram, videlicet the Review, may be better
fed noo than for some wunters by-past — puir beast! — yet he
can only be patched up. Ye may aiblins fatten his sides —
but I'll defy you to harden his horns. Wash him in the Sky-blue¹
Pool, but still wull his woo be like a specie o' hair on
some outlandish dowg; and as for continuin his —
North. Southey's Colloquies are, in the opinion of young
Macaulay, exceedingly contemptible —
Shepherd. And wha's Macaulay?²
North. The son of old Macaulay.
Shepherd. And wha the deevil's auld Macaulay ?
North. Zachary.³
Shepherd. What? The Sierra Leone Saint, who has been
the means o' sending sae mony sinners to Satan through that
accursed settlement?
North. The same — whom our friend M'Queen4 has squabashed
— and whom that able and accomplished man, Charles
M'Kenzie, late consul-general at Hayti —
¹ The cover of the Edinburgh Review is blue and yellow.
² This question is sufficiently answered now.
³ Zachary Macaulay, the historian's father, was a West India merchant. He
was a friend of Wilberforce, and in his religious opinions he adhered to what
has been termed the "Clapham sect."
4 James M'Queen advocated opinions directly opposed to those of Macaulay
and Wilberforce on West India politics. He is also distinguished for his
geographical researches, the results of which appeared in various numbers of
Blackwood's Magazine; and he has been for long an able member of the
London Conservative press.
Shepherd, Charles M'Kenzie! I see his Notes on Hayti
advertised by Colburn. I'll warrant they'll be gude — for I
remember him Lang ago, a medical student at the College
here, afore he turned himsel to mercantile affairs, and a
cleverer young man wasna in a' Embro'.
North. He is about to be sent out by Government to
Cuba — one of the judges to inquire —
Shepherd. I'm glad to hear't — I howp noo he'll send me
harne some rum and limes — wi' a hogshead o' sugar —
North. But, James, as I was saying, Thomas Macaulay
informs his fellow-creatures that Robert Southey's mind is
"utterly destitute of the power of discerning truth from
Shepherd. Then Thomas Macaulay is naither mair nor less
than an impertinent puppy for his pains; and Maga should
lay him across her knee, doun wi' his breeks, and haun ower
head wi' the taws¹ on his doup, like Dominic Skelp —
North. He adds, "Mr Southey brings to the task two
faculties which were never, we believe, vouchsafed in measure
so copious to any human being, — the faculty of believing
without a reason, and the faculty of hating without a provocation;"
and again, "in the mind of Mr Southey, reason has no
place at all, as either leader or follower, as either sovereign
or slave."
Shepherd. I wonner, sir, hoo you can remember sic malignant
trash. An' these are the symptoms, sir, are they, that
the youth o' the auld Ram is renewed?
North. No doubt seems to have entered the mind of the
young gentleman, that, while in fact he was merely attempting,
without much point, to stick a pin into the calf of one
of Mr Southey's literary legs, he was planting a dagger in
the brain of the Laureate.
Shepherd. A Liliputian atween the spauls² o' Gulliver.
Yet one canna but admire the courage o' the cretur in the
inverse ratio o' its impotence. Only suppose Soothey to stir
in his sleep — but to gie a sneeze or a snore — and hoo the bit
barrister — for I remember what the bit body is noo — would
wriggle awa like a worm, and divin intil some dung, hide
himsel amang the grubs.
North. He's a clever lad, James
¹ Taws — the terror of Scotch schoolboys.
² Spauls — shoulder-blades.
Shepherd. Evidently, and a clever lad he'll remain, depend
ye upon that, a' the days o' his life. A clever lad o' thirty
year auld and some odds, is to ma mind the waist melancholy
sicht in nature — only think o' a clever lad o' threescoreand-ten
on his deathbed, wha can look back on nae greater
achievement than ha'in ance — or aiblins ten times — abused
Mr Soothey in the Embro' review!
North. The son of the Saint, who seems himself to be something
of a reviewer, is insidious as a serpent, but fangless as
the slow-worm.
Shepherd. That's the hag or blind-worm ?
North. The same. He pretends to admire Mr Southey's
poetry, that with its richness he may contrast the poverty of
his prose. "His larger poems," quoth he, "though full of faults,
are nevertheless extraordinary productions. We doubt greatly
whether they will be read fifty years hence — but that if they are
read, they will be admired, we have no doubt whatever." As
for his short poems, " they are not generally happy; " and
" his odes are for the most part worse than Pye's, and as bad
as Cibber's."
Shepherd. Puir deevil! hoo envious thochts maun hae been
eatin awa at his heart like mites in a rotten cheese !
North. All Mr Southey's heroes — says the Templar — " make
love either like seraphim or cattle." " No man out of a
cloister ever wrote about love so coldly, and at the same time
so grossly."
Shepherd. A' the young leddies in Britain ken that to be a
lee — and the cross-bred puppy o' a mongrel-cur wadna hesitate
to ca' themselves' limmers, after speakin o' the coldness
and grossness of the love of Thalaba for Oneiza his Arabian
Maid, whether breathed in delight in their tent beneath the
palm-tree's shade, or groaned in madness amid the tombs,
after Azrael the angel of death had left their bridal chamber.
What does he mean by cattle ?
North. Obscene insolence !
Shepherd. Trash like that, sir, wad damn at ance ony new
periodical. Tak ma word for't, sir, the auld Ram 'ill no leeve
ling on sic articles o' consumption. He'll tak the rot, and
dee a' ae scab, ae carbuncle, " a perfect chrysolite."
North. I had sonic thoughts of exposing the gross mis1
Themselves — i. e., " all the young ladies in Britain."
representations — say the falsehoods — of this article —
but —
Shepherd. 'Tweel it's no worth your while. The weed's
withered, I'se warrant, by this time, though no a month auld
— while the flowers o' Mr Southey's genius, rich and rare,
bright and balmy, will breathe and bloom as lang's the sun
shines on the earth, and the Seasons keep rinnin, alternately,
unwearied alangside o' his chariot wheels. Mr De Quinshy,
what for dinna ye speak?
English Opium-Eater. Mr Southey is, beyond all doubt, one
of the most illustrious, just as Mr Macaulay is one of the most
obscure men, of the age. The abuse lavished upon him in
that contemptible critique on his Colloquies — a critique which
I have read, and therefore must correct the statement I made
about the middle of the last Course, that I had not seen any
number of the Edinburgh Review since that for April 1826 — is
baser than I could have expected even from a Macaulay —
meaning thereby any Sinner among the Saints, — and I do not
doubt, Mr Hogg, to use your own amusing image, that it will
sicken, if not poison to death, the old Ram — the ancient
Aries — a sign into which the sun never enters —
Shepherd. That's wutty — I'm a sure judge o' wut — that's
Tickler (aside to the Shepherd). But so-so — I prefer our admirable
friend's logic to his —
Shepherd (aside to Tickler). Na, na — I canna thole his logic.
English Opium-Eater. But while I reprobate the insolent
spirit in which this obscure cipher has chosen to speak of such
a good and great man, let it be understood that I not only
withhold my sympathy from some of the sentiments expressed
by Mr Southey in his Colloquies, but censure them as most
erroneous, and most unjust — as, for example, all that he has
falsely and foolishly said, in that and other works, respecting
the periodical literature of this age. What right had Mr
Southey, who gains an honourable livelihood chiefly by his
contributions to Reviews, to put into the mouth of Sir Thomas
More the following insulting sentence — insulting to many
minds of the same order with his own, and as devoted to the
truth, — "The waters in which you have now been angling
have been shallow enough, if the pamphlet in your hand is, as
it appears to be, a Magazine." Nor is his answer to the Ghost
more courteous to his contemporaries, — "In publications of
this kind, prejudicial as they are to public taste and public
feeling, and therefore deeply injurious to the real interests of
literature, something may sometimes be found to compensate
for the trash, and tinsel, and insolent flippancy, which are
now become the staple commodities of such journals."
Shepherd. Hut — tut, Mr Soothey; you shouldna hae said
that, sir, — for it's no tr—
English Opium-Eater. In the first place, Mr Southey ought
to have given the name of the pamphlet — that is, the Magazine
— from which he chose to extract Kant's Idea of a Universal
History on a Cosmopolitical plan. Secondly, he ought to have
printed that extract as an extract from that Magazine, and not
to have attempted — rather unsuccessfully — to incorporate its
substance with his own work. Thirdly, he ought to have
given the name of the translator, not unknown to him, when
he scrupled not to enrich his Colloquies with some of Kant's
thoughts, in the original to him inaccessible, as Mr Southey's
knowledge of the language of Germany does not embrace the
nomenclature of any of its philosophical schools or sects.
Fourthly, to insult publicly the character of all Magazines —
that included from which you are at the same time pilfering
a jewel (Mr Southey will — nay, must — ponder the word
"pilfer"), is inconsistent with the common courtesies of life,
and unworthy of a scholar and gentleman. Fifthly, the
Magazine from which Mr Southey makes that extract (which
I may mention was translated by me) was the London Magazine,
published by Taylor and Hessey, and originally under the
editorship of John Scott. Its chief supporters were Charles
Lamb, William Hazlitt, Allan Cunningham, Thomas Hood,
Reynolds, the most amiable and ingenuous Aytoun,¹ whose
beautiful and original Papers were afterwards collected, and
published in two volumes, and — let me not assume the semblance
of that paltry humility which I despise — myself; and
how dared Mr Southey to assert, that of any journal so supported,
tinsel, trash, and insolent flippancy, were the staple
Shepherd. I couldna love as weel as admire ony man, how¹
This Aytoun was, of cpurse, not the accomplished author of the Lays of the
Scottish Cavaliers, but another — "a clever essayist," according to the American
ever great and good, and Mr Soothey's baith, and has aye been
generous to my genius, gin he hadna his wee bit weaknesses
like ither folk, — sae on the whole I'm glad that he has been sae
far left to himsel as to sneer at a' the Magazines, and insult,
in a lump, a' their editors, contributors, and subscribers, comprehending,
I guess, nine-tenths o' the nation.
English Opium-Eater. Neither shall a spurious delicacy
deter me from declaring, even here, that there is more wit, and
more wisdom, in the Periodical over which, Mr North, you
preside, and to which there are now present two of the most
distinguished contributors —
Shepherd. Say three, sir — say three, Mr De Quinshy — for
when you do write — pity it's sae seldom — ye bang us a' —
English Opium-Eater. Than in an equal number of any
other miscellaneous volumes, the product of this or the preceding
century, not excepting on the list all the best of Mr
Southey's own, full as they are of wit and wisdom, and placing
him deservedly in the first rank of our literature. Tinsel there
may be, but it lies lightly over bars of the beaten gold; he
must have an instinct for trash who can detect it among the
necessaries and luxuries of life, that are monthly distributed
to all classes, with most lavish, even prodigal profusion, from
that inexhaustible Magazine; and as for insolent flippancy,
that cannot be said, without senseless and blindfolded injustice,
to be the staple commodity of a Periodical, of which one
of the chief claims has long lain in those myriad-minded
Dialogues, whose facete benignities, cordialities, and humanities,
form a continued era in the philosophy of human life.
Need I name, unworthy member as I am of this meeting — the
Noctes Ambrosianæ!
Omnes. Hurra — hurra — hurra!
Shepherd. Gie me an unce o' opium, Mr De Quinshy —
English Opium-Eater (filling up drops of laudanum in the
minimeter to 120). I give you a small dose to begin with, Mr
Hogg —
Shepherd. Na, na — I was but jokin — I'm ower auld to begin
on the poppy, I'se e'en keep to the maut.
English Opium-Eater. To recur, for a brief space, to the
article on Mr Southey in the Edinburgh Review. The editor,
who, I am told, is an able and judicious man, ought not to
have admitted it at this juncture, or crisis, into his work. Mr
Jeffrey and Mr Southey were open and avowed foes, Mr Jeffrey
having been, beyond all question, the aggressor. The interest
of the war was at an end, when that accomplished champion
quitted the field; and the public is not prepared to regard,
with any satisfaction, the renewal of the attack on Mr Southey,
by a combatant whose shield bears no impress of any high
emprise. He is, after all, but a mere skirmisher, and could not
abide the onset of a man-at-arms.
North. The editor should at least have assured himself,
by a perusal of the Colloquies, that the young man's critique,
as it is called, contained no such wilful misrepresentations
as would disgrace a gentleman in the intercourse of private
English Opium-Eater. Yet several such there are — gross
misstatements of facts — to say nothing of the spirit of misinterpretation
that pervades the whole article — like envenomed
blood, circulated through a body bloated and discoloured by
some rank disease. The mention of one will suffice; and, if
not dead to shame, let the face of the reviewer blush brass,
while he hangs down his head.
North. The volumes are in the saloon-library. I will get
them for you in a moment.
[Mr NORTH takes down the "Colloquies" from the shelf
English Opium-Eater. Beautifully bound! — By what artist?
North. By Henderson.
English Opium-Eater. Now, I will make a complete exposure
of this prig — who, in seeking to render Mr Southey ridiculous,
has made himself hateful.
Shepherd. Here's your health, sir, again, in a caulker. —
Let's hear 't.
English Opium-Eater. In the Colloquy entitled Walla-Crag,
Sir Thomas More, having said that the progress of the useful
arts, and the application of science to the purposes of
common life, warrant the expectation that whenever a state
shall duly exercise its parental duties, there will be no
trades which shall either hebetate the faculties or harden
the heart
Shepherd. That, I fear, 's Utopian.
English Opium-Eater. Not the less characteristic, on that
account, Mr Hogg, of Sir Thomas More.
Shepherd. Eh ?
English Opium-Eater. Montesinos — the name Mr Southey
adopts in these Colloquies — says, "Butchers will continue,"
— and then adds, "I cannot but acknowledge, with good John
Fox, that the sight of a slaughter-house or shambles, if it does
not disturb this clear conviction" (he is alluding to the mercifulness
of cutting off suddenly and violently the existence
of animals, who thus suffer less than those who die of disease
or inanition), "excites in me uneasiness and pain, as well as
Shepherd. Natural enough, surely, and likely to happen to
a' men unaccustomed to see butchin —
English Opium-Eater. "They produce," continues Mr
Southey, "a worse effect upon the persons employed on
them;" and again, he says, "perhaps, however, the hardness
of heart which this occupation is believed to produce, may,
in most cases, have been the cause wherefore it is chosen."
Shepherd. I can scarcely agree wi' that —
English Opium-Eater. Allow me, Mr Hogg, to complete
what I have got to say, without interruption. Here the
Reviewer falls foul of Mr Southey for an alleged libel on
Butchers. "Mr Southey," quoth he, "represents them as
men who are necessarily reprobates — as men who must
necessarily be reprobates — even in the most improved
state of society — even, to use his own phrase, in a Christian
Utopia." Here follows a forty-line page of high
moral vituperation. Now, the charge is entirely false, and
the Reviewer must have known it to be entirely false. For
there is an alternation — an interchange of sentiment on this
subject between the two interlocutors in the Dialogue. Sir
Thomas More corrects this first wholly natural, but partly
erroneous impression, made on the mind of Montesinos by the
sight of the shambles, and shows him "how he is mistaken."
Montesinos represents himself as being set right by the
gracious Ghost, and says, "The best answer, however, to
what I was unthinkingly disposed to credit, is, that the men
engaged in this occupation are not found to furnish more than
their numerical proportion of offenders to the criminal list;
and that, as a body, they are by no means worse than any
other set of men upon the same level." He then quotes Dr
Beddoes, and enters somewhat deeper into the philosophy of
the matter — observing, "because they are well fed, they are
not exposed to the temptation which necessity brings with it,
the mother of crime, as well as of arts; and their occupation
being constant, they are likewise safe from the dangers of
idleness. The relation, too, in which they stand to their customers,
places them in a salutary degree of dependence, and
makes them understand how much their own welfare depends
upon civility and good conduct.
Shepherd. Macaulay can hae nae principle — that's flat.
English Opium-Eater. Sir Thomas More is then made to say
to Montesinos — "You have thus yourself remarked, that men
who exercise the occupation, which of all others at first sight
appears most injurious to the human heart, and which inevitably
must injure it to some degree, are, in point of fact, no
worse than their neighbours, and much better than the vagrant
classes of the population, and than those whose employment
is casual. They are better, because they fare better, and are
more under the influence of order. Improve the condition of
others, bring them within the sphere of order, instead of leaving
them merely within the reach — the chance reach, almost
it may be called — of vindictive law, and the result will be
the same."
Tickler. Your exposure, sir, of the calumniator, is complete.
English Opium-Eater. Allow me to read one short passage
more from the Review, — "And what reasons are given for a
judgment so directly opposed to every principle of sound and
manly morality? — Merely this — that he cannot abide the sight
of their apparatus — that, from certain peculiar associations, he
is affected with disgust when he passes by their shops."
Shepherd. O man! I wadna be that Macaulay for ony money.¹
¹ In justice to Mr Macaulay, it is right to mention, that in republishing this
article in his collected Essays, he has introduced the following note: "A passage
(that namely which is here animadverted on), in which some expressions
used by Mr Southey were misrepresented, certainly without any unfair intention,
has been here omitted."In justice, also, to Professor Wilson, I must be
permitted to state that he lived to alter very materially his estimate of Mr
Macaulay, as expressed in this and a subsequent Noctes. His last public act —
performed too, at a time when his feeble health made such an act a sore tax
upon his strength — was to record his vote in favour of the eloquent historian in
1852, when he was returned to Parliament as member for the city of Edinburgh.
This tribute of respect was accepted by Mr Macaulay — so I have been
given to understand — in the same cordial spirit in which it was tendered.
Hoo sma' he looks! Hoo sma' he sings! and hoo sma' he
maun feel in the preevat consciousness, and the public conviction,
o' ha'in deliberately traduced sic a man as Mr
Soothey! without ony ither provocation, I jalouse, than the
sense o' inferiority, that keeps gnawin like a veeper at the
veetals o' the envious, and licks up party spite, or rather
party spittle, a foul and fetid foam that drenches the worm's
fangs — if it has gotten ony — and a' worms hae organs o' some
sort or ither for bitin — in a poison that only the mair blackens
and embitters its ain rotten heart.
North (glancing over the article in the Review). What stuff's
this about lawyers and soldiers?
English Opium-Eater. All of the same kidney — silly sophistry
or monstrous misrepresentations — which —
North. The Whigs will chuckle and crow over — but
the gentlemen of England tread scornfully under foot, as
something smelling of a new kind of Cockneyism, even
more offensive to the senses than that which stinks Little
Shepherd. Fling't frae you. Wi' a' your fauts, sir, you
never admit intil Maga ony malignant attacks on Genius, and
Virtue, and Knowledge — and when or where were these
Three ever united mair gloriously, and mair beautifully, and
endearingly, than in Mr Soothey? Had Mr Soothey been a
Whig — and had he leeved in Embro' here — and had you
written in that way about him — (a great heap o' maist impossible
and contradictory supposes,¹ I alloo — something like
supposing licht darkness, and straught crooked, and honey
the jice o' aloes) — what a hullyballoo would hae been raised
again' you, and what'n an assassin wouldna ye hae been ca'd,
like the Auld Man o' the Mountain! But ye never was an
assassin, sir, ony mair than a Saunt. O' a' the Great Poets o'
the age, whatever their politics or their purity, you have
sounded the eulogium, trumpet-tongued, till a' the warld
rang wi' their fame. What'n a contrast atween Maga and the
Ram! — But whisht, I heard a fisslin in the gallery!
North. Leander !
(The horns sound, and enter όι περι AMBROSE.)
Shepherd (in continuation). Ggemm! and Fools!
¹ Supposes — suppositions.
Shepherd. I fancy the order of the day hands gude alike
through a' the coorses — every man helpin himsel to the dish
neist him; — and then to think hoo the verra seasons themsels
accommodate their productions to our Festival! — Soups, Fish,
Flesh, and Fool o' a' sorts in perfection, in spite o' the month
— it's really curious, and shows hoo folk's the slaves o' habit. —
Mr North, onything gaun on, up-by yonner in Lunnon, in the
literary department?
North. I live so entirely out of the literary world, James,
that —
Shepherd. Ye leeve in a' kind o' warlds, you warlock; and
confoun' me if I dinna believe ye employ spies.
North. None, my dear James, but these two eyes — now
waxing somewhat dim — and these two ears, now waxing
somewhat deaf — and that general sense of feeling spread by
nature all over the surface of the body, all through its frame,
and originating in the interior of the soul, by which one is
made to feel and know a thousand indescribable things, far
beyond the acquisition of the mere understanding, things of
which the range grows, so it seems, wider and wider every
day as we near the place of our final rest.
Shepherd. No — I canna say I do — but what's gaun on in
Lunnon in the book way?
North. Sotheby has published three Specimens of his translation
of Homer — The First Book of the Iliad — the Parting
between Hector and Andromache — and the Shield of
Tickler. A bold, nay, a rash man, to enter the lists with
Shepherd. Wi' Pop? What for no? I've heard there's
a great difference atween Pop's Homer and Homer's Homer,
and I can weel believe't —
Tickler. And so perhaps will there be found to be between
Sotheby's Homer and Homer's Homer, James — a great
or greater —
North. Sotheby's Georgics stamped him the best translator
in Christendom. That was, in my opinion, a more difficult
achievement than an equally admirable translation of the
Iliad. I have read his Specimens — and in an early Number —
perhaps the next — intend to sift them thoroughly, comparing
all the fine or difficult passages in the original with Pope,
Hobbes, Chapman, Cowper — and my friend, Mr Sotheby, who
will probably be found, in the whole, to have excelled all his
predecessors in this great task.¹
Tickler. I'll back Pope for a rump and dozen —
North. Done. Have you seen a little volume, James,
entitled Tales in Verse, by the Reverend H. M. Lyte² — published
by Marsh and Miller, and which seems to have reached
a second edition?
Shepherd. Na!
North. Now, that is the right kind of religious poetry. Mr
Lyte shows how the sins and sorrows of man flow from
irreligion, in simple but strong domestic narratives, told in a
style and spirit reminding one sometimes of Goldsmith and
sometimes of Crabbe. A volume so humble in its appearance
and pretensions runs the risk of being jostled off the highway
into bypaths — and indeed no harm if it should, for in such
retired places 'twill be pleasant reading — pensive in the
shade, and cheerful in the sunshine. Mr Lyte has reaped
"The harvest of a quiet eye,
That broods and sleeps on its own heart" —
¹ Professor Wilson had five articles on Sotheby's Homer in Blackwood's
Magazine, vols. XXIX. XXX. XXXI.
² The full title of Mr Lyte's work was, Tales in Verse, illustrative of the
several Petitions of the Lord's Prayer.
and his Christian Tales will be read with interest and instruction
by many a fireside. "The Brothers" is eminently
beautiful; and he ought to give us another volume.
Shepherd. Wha's she, that Mrs Norton,¹ that wrote the
Sorrows o' Rosalie?
North. Daughter of poor dear Tom Sheridan, who was
indeed a star. Four generations of genius! — She is, I am
told, even more beautiful than —
Shepherd. Her poetry? That 'ill no be easy, sir — for there's
a saftness and a sweetness, and a brichtness, and aboon a', an
indefinite, and indescribable, and undefinable, and unintelligible,
general, vague, dim, fleetin speerit o' feminine sympathy
and attraction — Na, na, na, these are no the richt words ava —
a celestial atmosphere o' the balm o' a thousand flowers,
especially lilies and roses, pinks, carnations, violets, honeysuckle,
and sweet-briar — an intermingled mawgic o' the
sweetest scents in natur — heaven and earth breathin upon
ane anither's faces and breasts — hangin ower yon bit pathetic
poem, Rosalie, that inclines ane to remember the fair young
lady that wrote it in his prayers!
North. Good, kind, and true, my dear James. That is
Shepherd. It's a story of seduction, nae dout, and the primmou'd
will purse up their lips at it, as if you were gaun to
offer to kiss them — than whilk naething could be farther
frae my intentions — however near it might be to their desires.
North. —
"A tale of tears — a mortal story."
Shepherd. Oh, sir! hoo delicately virtuous women write
about love! Chastity feels her ain sacred character — and,
when inspired by genius, isna she a touchin Muse! Modesty,
Chastity's sister, though aiblins at times rather just a wee
thocht ower doun-lookin, and as if a red light fell suddenly
on a white lily or a white rose, blushing no that deeply, but
wi' a thin, fine, faint, fleetin tint, sic as you may see within
the inside o' a wee bit curled shell when walking on the
yellow sea-shore, — you haud it up atween you and the licht,
and feel hoo perfectly beautifu' is the pearl —
¹ The honourable and beautiful Caroline Norton, daughter of Thomas
Sheridan, and granddaughter of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, distinguished alike
for her poetical genius and the chequered current of her lot.
North. Mrs Norton is about to publish another poem — "The
Undying One." — I do not like the title —
Shepherd. Nor me the noo. But perhaps, when published,
it may be felt to be appropriate; and at a' events, whatever
objections there may be to the name, there'ill be nane, I'm
sure, to the speerit o' the poem.
North. I remember reading, one day last summer, at the
foot of Benlomond, a little poem, called Gabrielle, from the
pen of Cyrus Redding — the collaborateur of Campbell, I have
heard, in the New Monthly — which breathed a fine, fresh,
free mountain spirit. The scene is laid in Switzerland — and
the heroine goes mad with woe on the death of her parents
under an avalanche. There are numberless true touches of
nature, both in the pathetic and the picturesque, which prove
the author to belong to the right breed. He is a poet.
Shepherd. Wha's Bawl?
North. Mr Ball is a young gentleman, at least I hope so,
who has modestly avoided the more difficult and extensive
subjects of song, and chosen one of the easiest and narrowest
— The Creation.
Shepherd. Of coorse — in blanks?
North. Yes, James, in blanks. — I see Mr Murray has advertised
a "Descant into Hell."
Shepherd. That's rather alarmin — is it to be performed by
Mosshy Shaubert? I thocht Mr Murray would hae keepit
clear o' sic flams. The Descent into Hell! That's fearsome.
You see, sir, as I was sayin afore, last coorse, a' the pious
poets are plagiareesin frae Pollok. They'll a' be forgotten in
the Course of Time. Preserve me! there's a pun!
North. And a very fair one, too, James.
Shepherd. A' this wark wi' religious poems reminds me o'
the shootin o' a wild swan ae day, about twenty years syne,
by a shepherd, on the Loch. It was indeed a maist majestic,
and, at the same time, beauteous cretur, seeming, as it lay
dead on the greensward, baith foreign and indigenous, to
belang equally to a' the snaw-mountains o' the earth. Hunders
flocked frae a' pairts o' the Forest to gaze on't, and there was
some talk o' stuffin't; but ae nicht it unaccountably disappeared
— and a lassie, that was comin by hersel across the
moonlicht hills, said she saw something spiritual-like sailing
amang the stars, on wings, that, as they winnowed the blue
air, were noiseless as a cloud; but the simple thing, at the
time, never thocht of a swan. Weel — naething would serve
a' the Shepherds in the Forest, but to gang ilka idle day to
the Loch a-swan-shootin! — so they ca'd it — though never
anither swan was shotten on't frae that day till this; but then
the chiels now and then got a wild guse, and no unfrequently
a wild dyuck; and on ae grand occasion, I remember Jock
Linton bringin to Fahope's an auld drake and an auld dyuck,
wi' about a dizzen flappers, as he ca'd them, as tame as ony
that ever waddled about the dubs o' a farmyard. The truth
is, they were Fahope's ain Quackies, that had stravaiged¹ to
the Loch; and daft Jock never doubted they were swans and
cygnets. The application, sir, 's obvious. Pollok's poem is
the bonny and magnificent wild swan; a' the lave are but
geese or goslins, dyucks or dyucklins — yet every Cockney
shooter's as proud as puir Jock Linton, and thinks himsel an
Apollo — or, as Homer — that's Pop — says, — "The god with
the silver bow."
North. Yet better even such "dilution of trashiness," than
a fashionable novel!
Shepherd. Do you ken, sir, I really thought The Exclusives
no sae meikle amiss, considerin that the author's a
butler — or rather — I ax his pardon — a gentleman's gentleman,
that is to say, a valley-de-sham. To be sure, it was rather
derogatory to his dignity, and disgraceful to the character
which he had brought frae his last place — to marry his
master's cast-off kept-mistress; but then, on the other haun,
she was a woman o' pairts, and o' some sma' education, and
was a great help to him in his spellin and grammar, and figures
o' speech. The style, for that reason, o' The Exclusives is
rather yelegant — and had the limmer, after the loun had made
her an honest woman, contributed the maitter too, the trash
would hae been far better worth readin, and if nae great
favourite in the heart o' touns and cities, micht hae had its ain
run amang the sooburbs.
North. Mr Colburn has lately given us two books of a very
different character, Richelieu and Darnley — by Mr James.²
¹ Stravaiged — strayed.
² G. P. R. James was born in London about the year 1800. Besides the works
mentioned in the text, he was the author of many popular novels, quæ nunc
præscribere longum est.
Richelieu is one of the most spirited, amusing, and interesting
romances I ever read; characters well drawn — incidents well
managed — story perpetually progressive — catastrophe at once
natural and unexpected — moral good, but not goody — and the
whole felt, in every chapter, to be the work of a — Gentleman.
Shepherd. And what o' Darnley?
North. Read, and judge. — The scribes who scrawl the
fashionable novels compose a singular class. Rips of both
sexes — including kept-mistresses and kept-men — fancy men,
as they are called in St Giles's; — married women, with stains
on their reputations as well as on their gowns, labouring under
the imputation of ante-nuptial children; unmarried women,
good creatures enough, and really not immodest, but who have
been infortunate, and, victorious in literature, have yet met a
fatal overthrow from love; gamblers, now billiard-markers in
hells; fraudulent bankrupts in the Bench; members once
returned and received for a rotten borough; roués, who, at
school and college, were reckoned clever, and, upon town, still
cling to that belief, which is fast fading into pity, contempt,
or scorn; forgers; borrowers; beggars; thieves; robbers;
perhaps a murderer, — for Jack Thurtell had a literary turn,
and had he not been hanged, would ere now have produced
a fashionable novel.
Shepherd. I wunner, if sic be the constitution o' the clan,
that they dinna write better byucks. Blackguards and —
are aften gaily clever.¹ I suspeck you omit, in your philosophical
enumeration, the mere sumphs and sumphesses.
North. Two or three men of birth and fashion do wield the
pen, such as Lord Normanby, Mr Lister, and Mr Bulwer.
They, in their respective styles, write well, and must be horribly
annoyed at being brought into contact, by Mr Colburn's indiscriminate
patronage, with the scurvy crew of both sexes
whose cacoethes scribendi is not the worst itch that frets their
Shepherd. Hoo's Murray's Family Library gettin on, sir?
North. Swimmingly, soaringly. Allan Cunningham's Lives
of the Painters — I know not which of the two volumes is best
— are full of a fine and an instructed enthusiasm. He speaks
boldly, but reverentially, of genius, and of men of genius;
strews his narrative with many flowers of poetry; disposes
¹ Gaily clever — pretty clever.
and arranges his materials skilfully; and is, in few words, an
admirable critic on art — an admirable biographer of artists.
Have you read Stabbings' History of Chivalry and the Crusades?
— No. Then do. 'Tis the last, and one of the best of
the series in Constable's Miscellany — style clear, sentiments
and opinions just, descriptions picturesque, and the stream
of narrative strong and flowing. Mr Stebbings is a rising
Shepherd. Are there nae mair o' them, sir?
North. Several. The author of the Collegians¹ has much
genius. Leitch Ritchie² writes powerfully; and Picken's
Dominie's Legacy, three volumes of stories chiefly Scottish,
well deserves a place in every library that prides itself on its
own snug national corner, set apart for worthies born north of
the Tweed.
Shepherd. I aye prophesied gude things o' that Picken : O
but his "Mary Ogilvie" is verra affeckin. But, speakin o'
national corners, read ye that letter, sir, in the Examiner,
abusin a' Scotchmen, and the twa capital anes in answer?
North. I did, James. The Examiner for some years past
has been a very able paper — and frequently shows fight, even
with the Standard. They are both good swordsmen — and
sometimes bleed with mutual but not mortal wounds.
"Thrice is he armed who hath his quarrel just ;"
and therefore the Examiner contends at odds. But he is
"cunning of fence" — strong and nimble-wristed — and without
fear. He is — savage as he sometimes seems, nay truculent
— I verily believe an honest and generous man, — and
while he propounds his own opinions in his leading columns
as an honest man should do, why, it is not to the discredit of
a generous man, perhaps now and then to give an obscure
corner to some pauper who may have seen better days, that
the poor wretch, shivering in rags and filthy in squalor, may
have the only comfort of which his miserable condition now
admits — for cheap as gin is, it must be purchased — the relief
of spitting out his bile, as the diseased drunkard dreams on
some object of his insane malignity, while the fetid dregs of
¹ Gerald Griffin, an Irishman.
² This amiable and accomplished gentleman is now (1855) the editor, I believe,
of Chambers's Journal.
his spleen, hawked up in a fit of coughing that crinkles of a
galloping consumption, fall down a gob on the sore nakedness
of his own unstockinged and shoeless feet.
Shepherd. Your defence o' the Examiner's kind, but no
sound, sir. He ought to send the pauper to the poor-house.
Nay, true charity would alloo him gin and forbid ink.
North. There can be no bad blood in any good heart, when
the question is debated, of the comparative glories of England
and Scotland.
Shepherd. I'm no sure o' that, sir; dang't, the fire flees to
my face whenever I articulate the first critical letter o' a syllable
about to be uttered against Scotland by a Southron.
English Opium-Eater. Far be it from me, Mr Hogg, to disallow
to such feelings, natural as they are; and, therefore,
since right in educated minds is but another name for natural
— also right; far be it from me, I repeat —
Shepherd. I wasna speakin o' you, sir, though aiblins I
could show, even in your writins, certain sneering uses o' the
word "Scotch," that you micht just as weel hae left to the
Cockneys —
English Opium-Eater. I indignantly deny the charge, Mr
Hogg. A sneer is the resource of the illiberal and illogical

Shepherd. And deevil tak me, and you too, sir, gin you belong
to either o' thae twa classifications! for, as to liberality,
I've seen you walkin arm-in-arm wi' an atheist; and as to
logic, were Aristotle himsel alive, ye wad sae scarify him wi'
his ain syllogisms, as no to leave the silly Stagirite the likeness
o' a dog.
English Opium-Eater. Of the illiberal and illogical — whereas
from the earliest dawn of reason —
Shepherd. Nae mair about it, sir. I ax your pardon.
English Opium-Eater. Mr Hogg, your mind, with all its rich
endowments, must be singularly illogical to conclude —
Shepherd. Oh! Mr North — Mr North — I'm about to fa' into
Mr De Quinshy's hauns, sae come to my assistance; for I
canna thole bein' pressed up backwards, step by step, intil
a corner, till an argument that's ca'd a clencher clashes
in your face, and knocks your head wi' sic force against
the wa', that your croon gets a clour, leavin a dent in the
English Opium-Eater. Insulted, sir, by your boorish breakings-in
on that continuous integrity of discourse, which must
be granted to each speaker, as long as he usurps not either
time or turn in conversation, else dialogue loses both its name
and its nature, and colloquy ceases to be — the esse sunk in
the posse —
Shepherd. I never interruppit a man when he was speakin
in a' my born days, sir. I'm just remarkable for the verra
contrar, and for lettin everybody, baith Christian and Cockney,
prose awa till he's tired, sittin mysel as patient as Job, and
as dumb 's Diogenes.
English Opium-Eater. I hesitate not to affirm, that the
Scottish intellect is degraded by an odious disputativeness,
which truth compels me to denounce as a national depravity
or disease, and which it is difficult — nay, I have found it
impossible — to reconcile, in belief, with the pure possession
of the sovereign reason.
North. A true bill.
English Opium-Eater. Thus private life, Scotland thorough,
is polluted by the froth spurted from argumentative lips, and
darkened by the frowns scowled from argumentative foreheads,
and deafened by the noise grinded and grated from argumentative
Shepherd. Capital — capital — carry on, Mr De Quinshy, I'll
no interrupt ye —
English Opium-Eater. While public life — witness Bar,
Bench, and Pulpit — what is it but one eternal, harsh, dull
debate, in which the understanding, a self-sufficient All-in--
All, swallows feeling and imagination up, — so that when the
shallow and muddy waters have at nightfall been run off, lo!
the stony channel dry, and the meadows round — irrigated say
not — but corrugated with mud-seams — and the hopes of the
husbandman or shepherd buried beneath an unseemly and
unsavoury deposit of —
Shepherd. Stop. I say, stop. Heard ye e'er o' Dr Chawmers,
or Dr Thamson, or Dr Gordon? — Oh ho! ma man — that
froon on your face says no; but I'm no feared for your froons
— no me indeed — and I just tell you, that like a' the ither
Lakers, you pheelosopheeze in the face o' facts — try to bend
till they break in your verra hands a' practicals that staun in
the way o' your ain theories — begin biggin gran' steadins
without ever diggin ony foundation — which maist likely, were
ye to attempt doin, you would sure be smothered in a rush o'
water and san' — an' feenally, delude yoursel intil the belief
that it's a dwallin-house or mansion o' granite or freestane,
while a' the rest o' mankind see wi' half an ee that it's composed
o' clouds and mist, a mere castle in the air, and that,
payin nae taxes, it 'ill be flaffered awa to the Back o' Beyond
outower the mountain-taps, whenever Lord Raise-the-Wind
gets into the government, and the Duke o' Stormaway becomes
Prime Minister.
North. Noble — noble — my dear James. Yet Mr De Quincey's
charge against the prevailing character of the national
mind holds, with some illustrious exceptions, good. We dig
deep wells in dry places — with costly enginery and a pompous
display of buckets; when, by using the divining-rod of instinct,
we might have detected many springs a few feet beneath
the gowany greensward — nay, by observing "that inward
eye that is the bliss of solitude," have seen flowing on
the unsuspected waters of everlasting life!
Shepherd. Tickler! What for are ye no speakin?
Tickler. Bu!
Shepherd. What'n sort o' an answer's that man, to a ceevil
Tickler. Mu!
Shepherd. Curious mainners! — they may suit Southside,
where ye're a kind o' king, or three-tailed Bashaw; but here,
in Northside, they dinna answer, for here every man's every
inch a king, mid he that plays the tyrant yonner must here
submit to sit the slave.
Tickler. Whu! toothache — toothache!
Shepherd. A thousan' pardons, my dear sir! Let me get a
red-hot skewer frae the kitchen, and burn the nerve.
English Opium-Eater. Neither, Mr Hogg, can I bring my
mind to assent to the proposition with which you ushered in
the subject of our present discussion; to wit, that Englishmen
are prone, as a people, to underrate the national virtues of
Scotchmen. This allegation I hold to be the polar opposite
of what is true; nor can I refrain from affirming, that manifold
as are the excellencies of the Scottish character, there is
a tendency, which philosophy may not approve, in the English
mind — say rather, the English imagination — monstrously and
enormously to magnify their proportions — till of the entire
frame and limbs thereof, thus rendered more than colossal, it
may be said, in the language of Milton, "its stature reached
the sky;" but reason recoils from all such dim delusions of
dreamland, and sees in a Scotchman — no offence, I hope,
gentlemen — a being apparently human, with sandy hair — high
cheek-bones — light blue eyes — wide mouth —
Shepherd. Aiblins wi' buck-teeth like mine — and oh! pray,
do tell us, sir, for we're verra ignorant, and it's a subject o'
great importance, what sort o' a nose?
English Opium-Eater. The entire face acute, but coarse —
intelligent, but not open —
Shepherd. Like North's there — or Tickler's. Confound me
gin I think there are twa sic auld men in a' England, whuther
for face or feegur. As for mainners, when Tickler's out o' the
toothache, and North no in the gout or rudiments,¹ they're
perfect paragons, sic as never were seen in the South; and
as for mind — ma faith, if you come to that, where's their match
in a' your twal millions, though our poppilation's scarcely
twa, wi' women and weans out o' a' proportion?
English Opium-Eater. Nor can I imagine a charge — at once
more false and loathsome — than one which I have heard even
you, Mr Hogg, more than once utter against the English — as
a people — that they are slaves to the passion of the palate —
epicures and gluttons in one — or as the Scotch call it, sneeringly
and insultingly — accompanying the reproach with a
vulgar laugh, of which the lowest birth would be incapable
but for the lowest breeding — "fond of good eating;" —
whereas I appeal to the whole history, not of England alone,
but of the world, in proof of this simple proposition — "that
there exists not, nor ever did exist, a people comparable to
the English, in the ascendancy in their national character of
the spirituous over the sensuous, in the due ordination of the
correlates —
Shepherd. I grant a' that — but still I mainteen that the
English are fonder — prooder they canna be — o' rost-beef and
plumm-pudden, than the Scotch o' brose and haggis, — that
they speak mair and think mair — and muse and meditate
atween meals mair — and when at meals, eat mair — and drink
mair — and wipe the sweat aff their foreheads mair — and gie
¹ Rudiments — rheumatics (?)
every kind o' proof mair o' a fu' stammack — than the Scotch;
— and in proof o' that proposition, alloo me, sir, also to make
an appeal, no to the haill history o' the warld, but to the
pot-bellies ane sees waddlin out frae front doors as he spins
through English touns and villages on the tap o' a licht cotch
— pot-bellies, Mr De Quinshy, o' a' sizes, frae the bouk o' my
twa hauns expanded upon ane anither's finger-nebs — sae —
up till, moderately speaking, the girth o' a hoghead — and no
confined to the men, but extendin to the women — and, pity
me, even to the weans — na, to the verra infants (what sookers!)
that a' look as they were crammed — instead o' wee piggies —
for the second coorse o' the denner o' the King o' the Cannibals.

English Opium-Eater (suavely). Though I pity your prejudices,
my dear Shepherd, I cannot but smile with pleasure at
your quaint and humorous illustrations.
Shepherd. Argument and illustration, sir, a' in ane. Here's
anither doobler. Nae fat wean born in Scotland o' Scotch
parents, was ever exhibited as a show in a caravan. Answer
me that — and confute the deduction? You canna. Again —
there never was a Scotch Lambert. Mercy on us — a Scotchman
fifty-seven stane wecht! Feenally, a' great eatin fates¹
hae been performed in England — sic as a beggar devourin at
ae meal, for a wager, atween twa sportin characters, twal
poun' o' lichts and livers, ae pail o' tripe, and anither o' mashed
turnip peelins, — or a farmer an equal wecht o' beefsteaks, a
peck plumm-pudden, and a guse, washin a' over wi' twa
imperial gallons — that's twal bottles — o' yill.
English Opium-Eater. A man worthy to be admitted — by
acclamation — member of that society whose sittings are
designated by the celebrated sound — Noctes Ambrosianæ.
Shepherd. Oh! Mr De Quinshy, Mr De Quinshy! can it be
that ye ken sae little o' human natur, o' Scotland, and o'
yoursel, as no to ken that this denner — which you wad bring
forrit as a cowp-de-grace argumentum at ony man in proof
o' the Scotch bein' fonder o' gude eatin than the English —
was provided wi' a' its Coorses — no aboon the half o' them's
come yet — entirely, though no exclusively — FOR YOU?
English Opium-Eater. For me! Most monstrous!
North. Poor people in Scotland, sir — I do not mean paupers
¹ Fates — feats.
— of whom, in ordinary times, there are few — live almost on
nothing — meal and water, nor do they complain of a hard
lot. The labouring classes in general, who are not in the
same sense poor people, feed not so fully, believe me, in
Scotland as in England.
Shepherd. Nor sae frequently in ae day. Five times is
common in England. In Scotland, never mair nor three —
often but twa — and never nane o' your pies and puddens!
— rarely flesh-meat, except —
North. And thus, Mr De Quincey, as the appetites are very
much habits, "good eating" among the lower orders in Scotland,
is an indulgence or enjoyment never thought of, beyond
the simple pleasure of the gratification of hunger, and of the
restoration of strength and spirits so supplied. Believe me,
my dear sir, it is so; whereas in England it assuredly is
otherwise — though not to any degrading pitch of sensuality;
— there the labouring man enjoys necessaries which here we
should reckon luxuries of life.
Shepherd. Pies! pies! raised crust pies! Puddens! puddens!
rice, bread, and egg puddens!
North. The whole question lies in a nut-shell. England
has long been a great, powerful, rich, highly-civilised country,
and has equalled, if not excelled, all the countries of modern
Europe in all the useful and fine arts, in all the sciences, in
all literature, and in all philosophy. Her men, as Campbell,
himself a glorious Scotchman, has nobly exulted to declare,
"are of men the chief," — as Wordsworth, himself a glorious
Englishman, has nobly exulted to declare,
"Are sprung
Of earth's first blood, have titles manifold."
During her long course of glory, she has produced from her
celestial soil children of celestial seed — unequalled names —
Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, Newton, Bacon, and other giants
who scaled heaven not to storm it, but to worship and adore.
Scotland has enjoyed but a single century, it may be said, of
full intellectual light. She has not slept nor slumbered beneath
the rutili spatia ampla diei, but uplifted her front in
inspiration to the auspicious heavens. Genius, too, has
sprung fair and stately from her soil, and eyed the stars shining
in fitful beauty through her midnight storms. She too
has had, and has, her poets and philosophers — "a glorious
train attending;" — transfigured by the useful arts, her old
mountains shout aloud for joy — the fine arts have wreathed
round the brows of her cities a towery diadem, and filled with
lovely imagery her halls and temples. "Science has frowned
not on her humble birth," — while Religion, the source of the
highest inspiration, loves her blue skies and green fields with
an especial love.
Shepherd. Stop. Ye canna impruv that — and it's God's
truth, every word o't — isna't, Mr De Quinshy ?
English Opium-Eater. Will you accept from me, Mr North,
an essay, to be entitled, "Comparative Estimate of the English
and Scotch Character ?"
North. My dear sir, when did I ever decline an article of
Shepherd. Faith, he seldom gies ye an opportunity — about
twice, maybe, in the three years.
North. Why, Scotland is making great strides even in Sculpture.
Gibson¹ and Campbell are the most eminent young
sculptors now in Rome. Scoular and Steell² are following in
their footsteps. At home, Fletcher³ shows skill, taste, and
genius; and Lawrence Macdonald,4 equal to any one of them,
if not, indeed, superior to them all — after displaying in groups
or single figures, of children, "boys or virgins," and maidens
in their innocent primp, a finest sense of beauty and of grace,
that kindles human tenderness by touches of the ideal and
divine — has lately nobly dared to take a flight up to a higher
sphere, and, in his Ajax and Patroclus, his Thetis and Achilles,
essayed, and with success that will soon spread wide his
fame, the Heroic in Art, such as gave visible existence in
Greece to her old traditions — and peopled the groves and
gardens, and pillared porticoes of Athens, with gods and
demigods, the tutelary genii of the Acropolis on her unconquered
¹ John Gibson was born in 1790. The statue of Queen Victoria, which
adorns the gallery of Buckingham Palace, is from his chisel.
² John Steel is now at the top of his profession in Edinburgh. One of his
latest and greatest works is the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington,
in front of the Register Office, Edinburgh.
³ Angus Fletcher executed many admirable busts; but has now retired, I
believe, from the profession.
4 For Lawrence Macdonald see ante, vol. i. p. 318.
Shepherd. That's beautifu'. You maun gie us an article on
North. I will — including a critical account of those extraordinary
works of two original, self-taught geniuses, Thom
and Greenshields — Tam o' Shanter and Souter Johnny — and
the Jolly Beggars.¹ The kingdoms of all the Fine Arts have
many provinces — why not Sculpture?
Shepherd. Ay, why no?
North. The Greek Tragedy, James, was austere, in its
principles, as the Greek Sculpture. Its subjects were all of
ancestral and religious consecration; its style, high, and
heroic, and divine, admitted no intermixture even of mirth, or
seldom and reluctantly, — much less of grotesque and fantastic
extravagancies of humour, — which would have marred the consummate
dignity, beauty, and magnificence of all the scenes
that swept along that enchanted floor. Such was the spirit
that shone on the soft and the stately Sophocles. But Shakespeare
came from heaven — and along with him a Tragedy
that poured into one cup the tears of mirth and madness;
showed Kings one day crowned with jewelled diadems, and
another day with wild wisps of straw; taught the Prince who,
in single combat,
"Had quench'd the flame of hot rebellion
Even in the rebels' blood,"
to moralise on the field of battle over the carcass of a fat
buffoon wittily simulating death among the bloody corpses of
English nobles; nay, showed the son — and that son, prince,
philosopher, paragon of men jocularly conjuring to rest his
Father's Ghost, who had revisited earth "by the glimpses of
the moon, making night hideous."
Shepherd. Stop — stop, sir. That's aneuch to prove your
pint. Therefore, let the range o' sculpture be extended, so
as to comprehend sic subjects as Tam o' Shanter and Souter
Johnny — The Jolly Beggars —
North. Well, James — Of this more hereafter. You see my
Shepherd. Isna Galt's Lowrie Todd indeed maist amusin?
¹ The exhibition of these works, which were remarkable as the handiwork
of self-taught genius, used to attract considerable crowds. Greenshields executed
a statuette of Sir Walter Scott.
North. It is indeed; — our friend's genius is as rare and.
original as ever — the field, too, he treads, is all his own — and
it has yielded a rich harvest. By the by, the Editor of the
Monthly Review is a singular person. He thinks Sir Walter
Scott's History of Scotland meagre, feeble, and inaccurate;
John Bowring no linguist, and a mere quack of no talents;
Galt he declares he never, till very lately, heard of; and the
Double Number of Blackwood's Magazine for February was,
in his opinion, dull, stupid, and —
Shepherd. O the coof! Wha is he?
North. For fourteen years, James, he was hermit to Lord
Hill's Father.
Shepherd. Eh?
North. He sat in a cave in that worthy Baronet's grounds,¹
with an hour-glass in his hand, and a beard once belonging to
an old goat — from sunrise to sunset — with strict injunctions
to accept no half-crowns from visitors — but to behave like
Bishop Giordano Bruno.
Shepherd. That's curious. Wha had the selection o' him,
think ye? — But what's this I was gaup to say? — Ou ay —
heard ye ever Knowles's Lectures on Dramatic Poetry?
North. I have — They are admirable — full of matter — elegantly
written, and eloquently delivered. Knowles is a
delightful fellow — and a man of true genius.²
[The Horns spend for the Fifth Course — "The Gloomy
Nicht is gatherin fast." Enter PICARDY, &c. The
Pipe is obstructed — the Gas Orrery extinguished — and a
strange hubbub heard in the mirk. — Finis.
¹ "There really was," says the American editor, "such a case, and such a
hermit (several of the latter indeed) at Hawkstone, the seat of the Hill family
in Shropshire." Bruno, the founder of the order of Carthusians (A.D.
1084), spent many years in the desert as a hermit.
² James Sheridan Knowles, born at Cork, 1784, is the author of Virginius,
The Hunchback, and other popular dramas.
(MAY 1830.)
Scene, — The Blue Parlour. Time, — Seven o' Clock. Present —
each with a silver Coffee-Pot before him, and a plate of
Shepherd. I'm sorry to see you, sir, wi' crape on your hat,
and weepers¹ on your cuffs; but I hope it's nae dear freen —
only some common acquaintance, or distant relation?
North. A worthy man, James, for whom I had a sincere
regard, though our separate pursuits in life kept us pretty
much asunder for the last thirty years. Death renews the
youth of friendship.
Shepherd. Maist miraculously.
North. You need not look so glum, James; for I purpose
being becomingly cheerful over my coffee.
Tickler. Ætat?
North. The defunct was threescore-and-ten — died of a
short and unpainful disease — has left his widow comfortable
— and his sons rich — and to myself a hundred guineas
for a mourning ring.
Shepherd. That's useless extravagance.
North. No, James, it is not. A man on his deathbed
should not be shabby. My friend knew that I had a hereditary
love of such baubles.
Shepherd. What kirkyard was he buried in?
North. Greyfriars.
Shepherd. An impressive place. Huge, auld, red, gloomy
church — a countless multitude o' grass graves a' touchin ane
¹ White muslin round the cuff's of the coat.
anither — a' roun' the kirkyard wa's marble and freestane
monuments without end, o' a' shapes, and sizes, and ages —
some quaint, some queer, some simple, some ornate; for
genius likes to work upon grief — and these tombs are like
towers and temples, partakin not o' the noise o' the city, but
staunin aloof frae the stir o' life, aneath the sombre shadow
o' the castle cliff, that heaves its battlements far up into the
sky. A sublime cemetery — yet I sudna like to be interred
in't — it looks sae dank, clammy, cauld —
Tickler. And uncomfortable. A corpse would be apt to
catch its death of cold.
Shepherd. Whisht. — Where did he leeve?
North. On the sea-shore.
Shepherd. I couldna thole to leeve on the sea-shore.
Tickler. And pray why not, James?
Shepherd. That everlastin thunner sae disturbs my imagination,
that my soul has nae rest in its ain solitude, but
becomes transfused as it were into the michty ocean, a' its
thochts as wild as the waves that keep foamin awa into
naething, and then breakin back again into transitory life —
for ever and ever and ever — as if neither in sunshine nor
moonlight, that multitudinous tumultuousness, frae the first
creation o' the world, had ever ance been stilled in the
blessedness o' perfect sleep.
English Opium-Eater. In the Turmoil of this our mortal lot,
the soul's deepest bliss assuredly is, O Shepherd! a tideless
Shepherd. The verra thocht, sir — the verra feelin — the
verra word. That Moon ye see, sir — bonny as she is in
heaven — and when a' the starry lift is blue, motionless ane
believes as if nae planet were she, but the central soul o' the
lovely lichts round which the silent nicht thocht-like revolves
dreamily — dreamily, far far away — She will not even for ae
single hour let the auld Ocean shut his weary een, that often
in their sleeplessness seem longing, methinks, for the still
silence o' the steadfast earth.
English Opium-Eater. The majesty of power is in the
gentleness of beauty. Cannot an eye — call it in its trembling
light a blue-sphered tear — in one moment set countless
human hearts a-beating, till love in ecstasy is sick as death,
and life a spiritual swoon into Paradise?
Shepherd. Ay, ay, sir. Ance or twice in my life hae I
seen a smile, for sake o' which I would hae sacrificed my
soul. But nae fiend — nae demon was she who sent it through
a' my being, like a glimpse o' holiest moonlight through
a dark wood, bathin the ground-flowers in beauty as they
look up to their sister stars, — an angel she — yet she died,
and underwent burial in the dust — forgetfulness and oblivion !
English Opium-Eater. Say not oblivion. A poet's heart is
the sanctuary of dim and tender memories — holy ground
haunted by the ghosts of the beautiful — some of whom will
be for long long years, as if they were not — sojourning in some
world beyond the reach of thought — when, lo! all in a
moment, like white sea-birds, gleaming inland from the misty
main, there they are glide-gliding through the illumined
darkness, and the entire region of the spirit is beatified by
the heavenly visitants.
Shepherd. Nae delightfu' thocht ever utterly and eternally
perishes. A' the air is filled wi' their perpetual presence,
invisible, inaudible — during life's common hours — but nae
barrier is atween them and us — aften do we feel they're near
when the hush o' moonlicht is on the hills — although a sweet
vague consciousness is a' that stirs our souls; — and at times
mair especially sacred — when virtue clears the inner eye--
sight, and fines the inner ear-touch, we know them as we
knew them of yore, a divine restoration; mortality puts on
immortality, and we feel there is no such thing as — death!
North. The exterior surface of the earth is a shield spread
by God between the eyes of the living and the faces of the
Shepherd. What if it were not so? Grief wad gang mad!
North. What pleasanter spot, James, than a country kirkyard!

Shepherd. I steek my een — and I see ane the noo — in a
green laigh lown spot amang the sheep-nibbled braes. A
Funeral! See that row of schoolboy biddies and lassies drawn
up sae orderly o' their ain still accord, half curious and half
wae,¹ some o' the lassies wi' lapfu's o' primroses, and gazin
wi' hushed faces as the wee coffin enters in on men's
shouthers that never feel its wecht, wi' its doun-hangin and
gracefu' velvet pall, though she that is hidden therein was
¹ Wae — sorrowful.
the poorest o' the poor! Twa-three days ago the body in
that coffin was dancin like a sunbeam over the verra sods
that are noo about to be shovelled over it! The flowers she
had been gatherin — sweet, innocent thochtless cretur — then
moved up and doun on her bosom when she breathed — for she
and nature were blest and beautifu' in their spring. An auld
white-headed man, bent swirly doun, at the head o' the grave,
lettin the white cord slip wi' a lingerin reluctant tenderness
through his withered hauns! It has reached the bottom.
Wasna that a dreadfu' groan, driven out o' his heart, as if a
strong-haun'd man had smote it, by the first fa' o' the clayey
thunder on the fast-disappearing blackness o' the velvet —
soon hidden in the bony mould! He's but her grandfather —
for she was an orphan. But her grandfather! Wae's me!
wha is't that writes in some silly blin' book that auld age is
insensible — safe and secure frae sorrow — and that dim eyes
are unapproachable to tears?
Tickler. Not till dotage drivels away into death. With
hoariest eld often is parental love a passion deeper than ever
bowed the soul of bright-haired youth, watching by the first
dawn of daylight the face of the sleeping bride.
Shepherd. What gars us a' fowre talk on such topics the
nicht? Friendship! That, when sincere — as ours is sincere
— will sometimes saften wi' a strange sympathy merriest
hearts into ae mood o' melancholy, and pitch a' their voices
on ae key, and gie a' their faces ae expression, and mak them
a' feel mair profoundly because they a' feel thegither, the
sadness and the sanctity — different words for the same meaning
— o' this our mortal life; — I howp there's naething the
maitter wi' wee Jamie.
North. That there is not, indeed, my dearest Shepherd.
At this very moment he is singing his little sister asleep.
Shepherd. God bless you, sir; the tone o' your voice is like
a silver trumpet. — Mr De Quinshy, hae you ever soum'd up
the number o' your weans?¹
English Opium-Eater. Seven.
Shepherd. Stop there, sir, it's a mystical number, — and may
they aye be like sae mony planets in bliss and beauty circlin roun' the sun.
English Opium-Eater. It seemeth strange the time when as
¹ Weans — children.
yet those Seven Spirits were not in the body — and the air
which I breathed partook not of that blessedness which now
to me is my life. Another sun — another moon — other stars —
since the face of my first-born. Another earth — another
heaven! I loved, methought — before that face smiled — the
lights and the shadows, the flowers and the dews, the rivulets
that sing to Pilgrims in the wild, — the mountain wells, where
all alone the "book-bosomed" Pilgrim sitteth down — and lo!
far below the many-rivered vales sweeping each to its own
lake — how dearly did I love ye all! Yet was that love
fantastical — and verily not of the deeper soul. Imagination
over this "visible diurnal sphere," spread out her own
spiritual qualities, and made the beauty that beamed back
upon her dreams. Nor wanted tenderest touches of humanity
— as my heart remembered some living flower by the door of
far-up cottage, where the river is but a rill. But in my inner
spirit, there was then a dearth which Providence hath since
amply, and richly, and prodigally furnished with celestial
food — which is also music to the ears, and light to the eyes,
and the essence of silken softness to the touch — a family of
immortal spirits, who but for me never had been brought into
the mystery of accountable and responsible being! Of old
I used to study the Spring — but now its sweet sadness
steals unawares into my heart — when among the joyous
lambs I see my own children at play. The shallow nest of
the cushat seems now to me a more sacred thing in the
obscurity of the pine-tree. The instincts of all the inferior
creatures are now holy in my eyes — for, like Reason's self,
they have their origin in love. Affection for my own children
has enabled me to sound the depths of gratitude. Gazing on
them at their prayers, in their sleep, I have had revelations of
the nature of peace, and trouble, and innocence, and sin, and
sorrow, which, till they had smiled and wept, offended and
been reconciled, I knew not — how could I? — to be within the
range of the far-flying and far-fetching spirit of love, which is
the life-of-life of all things beneath the sun, moon, and stars.
Shepherd. Do ye ken, sir, that I love to hear ye speak far
best ava when you lay aside your logic? Grammar's after a
grievous and gallin burden; but logic's a cruel constraint on
thochts, and the death of feelings, which ought aye to rin
blendin intil ane anither like the rainbow, or the pink, or the
peacock's neck, a beautifu' confusion o' colours, that's the
mair admired the mair ignorant you are o' the science o'
opticks. I just perfectly abhor the word "therefore," it's sae
pedantic and pragmatical, and like a doctor. What's the use
o' premises? commend me to conclusions. As for inferences,
put them into the form o' apothegms, and never tell the world
whence you draw them — for then they look like inspiration.
And dinna ye think, sir, that reasoning's far inferior to
Tickler. How are your transplanted trees, James?
Shepherd. A' dead.
Tickler. I can't endure the idea of a transplanted tree.
Transplantation strikes at the very root of its character, as a
stationary and steadfast being, flourishing where nature dropt
it. You may remove a seedling; but 'tis sacrilege to hoist up
a huge old oak by the power of machinery, and stick him into
another soil, far aloof from his native spot, which for so many
years he had sweetly or solemnly overshadowed.
Shepherd. Is that feelin no a wee owre imaginative?
Tickler. Perhaps it is — and none the worse of that either —
for there's a tincture of imagination in all feelings of any pith
or moment — nor do we require that they should always be
justified by reason. On looking on a tree with any emotion
of grandeur or beauty, one always has a dim notion of its
endurance — its growth and its decay. The place about it is
felt to belong to it — or rather they mutually belong to each
other, and death alone should dissolve the union.
Shepherd. I fin' mysel convincin — that is, being convinced —
but no by your spoken words, but by my ain silent thochts.
I felt a' you say, and mair too, the first time I tried to transplant
a tree. It was a birk — a weepin birk — and I had loved
and admired it for twenty years by its ain pool, far up ane o'
the grains¹ o' the Douglas Water, where I beat Mr North at
the fishin —
North. You never beat me at the fishing, sir, and never will
beat me at the fishing, sir, while your name is Hogg. I killed
that day — in half the time — double the number —
Shepherd. But wecht, sir — wecht, sir — wecht. My creel was
mair nor dooble yours's wecht — and every wean kens that
in fishin for a wager, wecht wins — it's aye decided by wecht.
¹ Grains — branches. The Douglas Water is a tributary of the Yarrow.
North. The weight of your basket was not nearly equal to
mine, you —
Shepherd. Confound me gin, on an average, ane o' my troots
didna conteen mair cubic inches than three o' yours — while,
I had a ane to produce that, on his first showin his snoot, I
could hae sworn was a sawmon; — he would hae filled the
creel his ain lane — sae I sent him hame wi' a callant I met
gaun to the school. The feck o' yours was mere fry — and
some had a' the appearance o' bein' baggy menons. You're a
gran' par-fisher, sir; but you're nae Thorburn¹ either at troots,
morts, or fish.²
North (starting up in a fury). I'll fish you for —
Shepherd. Mr North! I'm ashamed to see you exposin yoursel
afore Mr De Quinshy — besides, thae ragin fits are dangerous —
and, some time or ither, 'ill bring on apoplexy. Oh! but you're
fearsome the noo — black in the face, or rather blue and purple
— and a' because I said that you're nae Thorburn at the fishin!
Sit doun — sit doun, sir.
[MR NORTH sits down, and cools and calms himself.
English Opium-Eater. Mr Hogg, you were speaking a few
minutes ago of transplanting —
Shepherd. Ou ay. There it stood, or rather hung, or rather
floated, over it's ain pool, that on still days showed anither
birk as bonny's itsel, inverted in a liquid wand. A bed o'
fine broon mould had sunk doun frae the brae aboon, a' covered
wi' richest moss-embroidery, and there a' by itsel, never
wearying in the solitary place, grew up that bonniest o' a'
bonny birks fine a seedlin — when first I saw't — like a bit wee
myrtle plant — ilka year gracefu'er and main gracefu', till
full-grown tree — sic brae-born birks are never verra tall — it
waved its light masses o' delicate leaves, tress-like, in the
wind, or let them hang doun, dependin in the lown air as
motionless as in a pictur. The earliest primroses aye peeped
out a' round its silver stem, — and whether 'twas their scent, or
that o' the leaves of my sweet tree, I never could tell — but
oh! as I used to lie in my plaid aneath its shade — scarcely a
shade, only a sort of cool dimness — beside the dancing linn —
as Thamson says, the "air was balm," indeed — and sae thocht
the wee muirland birds that twittered — unalarmed at me —
¹ A noted angler on Tweedside.
² In the language of anglers, salmon alone are called fish.
among the foliage. Like a fond but foolish lover, I said intil
mysel, ae day o' especial beautifu'ness, as I was touchin its
silken bark — "I'll tak it doun to Mount Benger, and plant it
on the knowe afore the door, early some morning, to delight
wee Jamie wi' astonishment." Wae's me! for that infatuation!
I did sae, and wi' as much tenderness as ever I took a
bonny lassie in my arms — but never mair did the darling lift
up its head; lifeless-looking frae the first were a' its locks o'
green licht — the pale silk bark soon was sairly ruffled — and
ere Midsummer came — it was stane-dead! Aften, aften — in
the drought — did wee Jamie gang wi' his watering-pan, and
pour the freshness amang its roots — but a' in vain; and wud
ye believe't, the lovin cretur grat when he saw that a' the leaves
were red, and that it had dee'd just as his pet-lamb had dune
— for his affection had imbued it with a breathin and a sentient
Tickler. Why, James, you are "poachin for the pathetic."
Sir Henry Steuart's¹ groves are a living proof of his skill and
science — but they are not the haunts dear to my imagination.
I love the ancient gloom of self-sown, unviolated woods. But
these trees were not born here — they are strangers — aliens —
or, worse — upstarts. I should wish to feel round my mansion
the beauty of that deep line of Cowley's (I think) —
"And loves his old contemporary trees!"
But these — whatever their age — were carted hither — all their
roots have been handled —
Shepherd. Nae mair about it. It's still usefu' — sic transplantation
— and I esteem every man who, by ony sort o' genius,
skill, or study, contributes to the adornment o' naked places,
and, generally speakin, to the beautifyin e' the earth. Sir
Henry has dune that — in his degree — and may, therefore, in
ae sense or licht, be ranked among the Poets. Nae man loves
trees as he does, without poetry in his soul — his skill in transplantin
is equal to his skill in translation; and I'm tauld he's
a capital Latin scholar — wutness his English Sawlust; and I
wush he had been at Mount Benger when I carried aff that
bonny virgin birk frae her birthplace in that case, she had
been alive at this day, wi' bees and burdies amang her
¹ See ante, p. 212.
Tickler. I should like to be at a Bear-Hunt. My friend
Lloyd describes it capitally in those most entertaining
volumes, Northern Sports, — or what do you call them — published
t'other day by Colburn.
Shepherd. It's a shame to kill a bear, except, indeed, for his
creesh and skin. He's an affectionate cretur amang his kith
and kin — in the bosom o' his ain family, sagawcious and playsome
— no sae rouch in his mind as in his mainners — a good
husband, a good son, and a good father.
Tickler. Did you receive Lardner's Pocket Encyclopædia,
Shepherd. Ay — I did sae. Was 't you that sent it out?
Thank ye, sir. It's chokefu' o' maist instructive and enterteenin
rnaitter. Cheap.
Tickler. Very. And Bowring's Poetry of the Magyars?
Shepherd. Them too. Mr Bowering is a benefactor, sir.
National Poetry shows a people's heart. History's aften
cauldrife; but songs and ballants are aye warm wi' passion.
Ilka national patriotism has its ain peculiar and characteristic
feturs, just like ilka national face. A Hun's no a Scot, nor a
Dutchman a Spaniard. Yet can they a' feel one anither's
national songs, could they read ane anither's language. But
that they canna do; and therefore a man wi' the gift o'
tongues, like Mr Bowering, extends, by his translations, knowledge
o' the range o' the infinite varieties o' our common
humanities, and enables us to break doun our prejudices and
our bigotries, in the conviction that all the nations o' the
earth hae the same sympathies as ourselves, racy as our own,
and smellin o' the soil in which they grow, be it watered by
the Rhine, the Ebro, the Maese, or ony ither outlandish river.
Tickler. What say ye, James, to the vote t'other day in
Parliament about the Jews?
Shepherd. I hae nae objections to see a couple o' Jews in
Parliament. Wull the members be made to shave, think ye,
sir? Ould cloes! Ould cloes! A' that the Hoose'ill want
then, for picturesque as weel as political effeck, will be a few
Blacks — here and there a Negro.
North. Gentlemen, no politics.
Shepherd. Be't sae. — Mr North, what for do you never
review books about religion?
North. Few good enough to deserve it. I purpose, however,
articles very soon, on Dr M'Crie's Progress and Suppression
of the Reformation in Spain,¹ (also his History of similar
events in Italy) and Inglis's² admirable View of the Evidences
of Christianity; Mr Douglas of Cavers' delightful volume,
The Truths of Religion; The Natural History of Enthusiasm, a
very able disquisition;³ Le Bas' Sermons, eloquent, original,
and powerful; Dr -Morehead's4 ingenious and philosophical
Dialogues —
Shepherd. I love that man —
North. So do I, James; and so do all that know him personally
— his talents — his genius — and better than both, his truly
Christian character — mild and pure —
Shepherd. And also bricht.
North. Yes, bright.
"In wit a man — simplicity a child."
Shepherd. What sort o' vols., sir, are the Traits and Stories
of the Irish Peasantry,5 published by Curry in Dublin?
North. Admirable. Truly, intensely Irish. The whole
book has the brogue — never were the outrageous whimsicalities
of that strange, wild, imaginative people so characteristically
displayed; nor, in the midst of all the fun, frolic,
and folly, is there any dearth of poetry, pathos, and passion.
The author's a jewel, and he will be reviewed next
Shepherd. The Eerishers are marchin in leeterature, pawri
pashu,6 wi' us and the Southrons. — What's stirrin in the
North. T. P. Cooke, THE SEAMAN, is to take his benefit one
of these nights
Shepherd. Let's a' gang in a body, to show our pride and
glory in the British navy, of which he is the best, the only
Ideal Representative, that ever rolled with sea-born motion
across the stage. Nae caricaturist he — but Jack himsel. He
intensifies to the heart and the imagination the word — TAR.
¹ A complete edition of Dr M'Crie's writings, all of which are admirable, is
now in the course of publication by the Messrs Blackwood.
² Dr Inglis was minister of the Greyfriars' Church, Edinburgh. For many
years he was the leader of the less extreme section of the Church of Scotland.
Indeed, his force of character, clearness of intellect, and vigorous eloquence,
placed him above all rivalry in the ecclesiastical courts. He died in 1834.
³ By Isaac Taylor.
4 Dr Morehead was for many years an Episcopalian minister in Edinburgh.
5 By William Carleton.
6 Pari passu.
North. So, in a different style, does Baker of the Caledonian
Shepherd. Bass is a speerited manager.
North. He is; and there I heard, a few weeks ago, one of
the sweetest, strongest, and most scientific singers that now
chants on the boards — Edmunds. His Black-Eyed Susan is
delicious. He is but a lad — but promises to be a Braham.
Shepherd. Is it possible that Mr Murray is gaun to alloo
Miss Jarman¹ to return to Covent Garden?
North. Impossible! A fixed star — The sweet creature must
remain in our Scottish sky — nor is there now on any stage a
more delightful actress. Her genius on the stage is not
greater than her worth in private life.
Tickler. An accomplished creature — simple and modest in
mind and manners — yet lively — and awake to all harmless
mirth and merriment — a temper which is the sure sign and
constant accompaniment of purity and innocence. We must
not lose The Jarman.
North. Nor her sister Louisa — a charming singer, and
skilful teacher of singing — quite the lady — and in all respects
most estimable.
Shepherd. Saw ye ever Miss Smithson ?²
North. Yes — In Jane Shore. She enacted that character
finely and powerfully, — is an actress not only of great talent,
but of genius — a very lovely woman — and, like Miss Jarman,
altogether a lady in private life.
Shepherd. I'm glad to hear ye say sae — for you're the best
judge o' actin in a' Scotland.
North. Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh!
Shepherd. What's the maitter — my dear sir — what's the
North. Racking rheumatism.
Shepherd. It's a cruel complaint. I had it great pairt o' the
wunter — first in my head — then in my —
North. Oh! oh! oh! oh! oh! oh!
Shepherd. I'll gie ye a simple and infallible receit for't, sir,
if you hae courage to ack on't. The morn's mornin tak a doze
o' drogs, — then get Mr Nibbs — Mr Mapplestone's successor³
¹ Miss Jarman was afterwards married to Mr Ternan, manager of the theatre
at Newcastle.
² Miss Smithson, says the American editor, married Hector Berlioz, the
composer, and died in 1854.
³ Skilful cuppers in Edinburgh.
to cup you atween the shouthers; — he's maist expert wi' his
box o' lancets — then tak the shoor-bath — no, that's an anachronism
— tak it the first thing in the mornin afore the drogs;
— then get an auld woman — be sure she's an auld ane, sir —
no Mrs Gentle — to nip your arms, and legs, and back, wi' her
finger and her thoomb — to nip you severely, sir, and you
maunna mind the sairness — for at least twa hours; then get
in twa cawdies,¹ and gar them beat a' the same pairts wi'
swutches as if they were dustin carpets — say for twenty
minutes; — then get the above auld woman again to rub and
scrub your naked body, frae head to heel, wi' ane o' the hard
brushes that John polishes the tables wi' — say for half an
hour; then a change o' instrument or weapon — for hard brush
coarse towel — and ten minutes o' dichtin; then — the receit's
drawin to a close — gar the gardener flog you a' over, and
smairtly, wi' a succession o' fresh bunches o' nettles, that 'ill
burn your skin as red's red currans — and mak ye dance,
aiblins, up and doun the floor withouten mindin the want o'
music; — then cover your limbs and trunk wi' a peculiar pastey
plaister that you can get at Duncan and Ogilvie's, — the
princes o' apothecaries, — then on wi' your leathern and your
flannel waistcoats, and your nicht-shirt, and in atween twa
feather-beds in a room wi' a roosin fire; if the barometer out
o' doors in the shade is at auchty sae muckle the better; and
if your rheumatism stauns that, there's nae howp for you on
this side o' the grave, and you mann e'en lay your account
wi' bein' for life a lameter.
North. To-morrow, James, I will assuredly try your receipt.
Will you step down to the Lodge, and help to administer the
Shepherd. Wi' a' my heart. But I'm wearyin to hear Mr
De Quinshy taukin. Tak up some coffee, my dear sir. I wush
you mayna burst yoursel wi' swallowin sic coontless cups o'
coffee. But what's this I was gaun to ask ye — ou ay — what's
your Idea o' Education?
English Opium-Eater. The over anxiety of improvement,
Mr Hogg, introduces into education much perilous and injurious
innovation. An anxiety for particular objects of minute
regard often urges on the understanding of those who do not
understand properly the single and great ends which alone
make education important; and they are not aware that the
¹ Caudies — street-porters.
prosecution of those pursuits injures and weakens the mind
itself, diverting its powers from their proper aim, and disturbing
their silent and spontaneous growth.
Shepherd. I like that weel — silent and spontawneous growth
— like a bit blade o' grass, or a bit flower, or a bit buddie no
the size o' my nail unfaulding itsel to the dew and sunshine
into a leaf as braid's my haun — or a bit burdie, the beginnin
o' ae week a blin' ba' o' puddock hair, at the beginnin o' the
neist a mottled and spangled urchin hotchin restlessly in the
nest, and ore three weeks are ower, glintin wi' short, uncertain,
up-and-doun flichts in and out amang the pear-blossoms
o' a glorious orchard — sic an orchard, for example, as in spring
makes the bonny town o' Jeddart a pictur o' Paradise in its
prime. Silent and spontawneous growth — a wise expression!
English Opium-Eater. The primary objects of education are
few and great; — nobleness of character, honourable and generous
affections, a pure and high morality, a free, bold, and
strong, yet a temperate and well-governed intellectual spirit.
Shepherd. Hoo many miss these great ends a'thegither! Perhaps
frae bein' a' huddled thegither under ae general system.
English Opium-Eater. Just so, Mr Hogg. The means which
nature has provided for attaining the great ends of education
are infinitely various, To each she has assigned individual
character. According to that character must be his virtue,
his happiness, his knowledge. The feelings and affections,
which are different to different minds; desires which reign
powerfully in one heart and are unknown to another; faculties
of intelligence infinitely diversified, springing up into glad
activity, and by their unseen native impulses, — all these make
to each, in his own mind, a various allotment of love, joy, and
power, — a moral and intellectual being, individual and his
own. In the work of education, then, we look on one who has
not only a common nature which he shares with us, but a
separate nature which divides him from us. Though we may
understand an infancy — and that is not easy — which reflects
to us the miniature of our own mind, it is difficult, indeed, to
understand that of any mind which is unlike our own, which
in intellect, in imagination, and love, has faculties and affections
with which our own mind does not acquaint us. This
is a circumstance which peculiarly exposes us to the danger
of thwarting the providence and bounty of Nature, and of
overruling, in our rude, unskilful ignorance, the processes she
is carrying on in her wisdom for the happiness, the virtue,
and the power of the human soul she is rearing up for life.
Shepherd. Oh! but you're wise, sir, Mr De Quinshy — oh
but you're unco wise!
English Opium-Eater. Look at a child on its mother's breast.
Tickler. Hem!
English Opium-Eater. The impulses, and movements, and
quick impressions of sense — or of a sentient being living in
sense — are the first matter of understanding to a high intellectual
Shepherd. Mr Tickler, nae yawning — hearken till Mr De
English Opium-Eater. By these touches of pleasure and pain
it is wakened from the sleep of its birth. By sounds that
merely lull in it the sense of pain, or reach it with emotions
of delight, it is called to listen in that ear which will one day
divide with nicest apprehension all the words of human discourse,
and receive in the impulses of articulated sound the
communicated thoughts of intellectual natures resembling
Shepherd. The bit prattler!
English Opium-Eater. That eye, which watches the approach
or departure of some living object yet unknown, which
traverses its little sphere of vision to look for some living toy,
is exercising that vision which shall one day behold all beauty,
and read wisdom in the stars of heaven. And that hand, with
its feeble and erring aim now so impotent and helpless, shall
perhaps one day shape the wonderful fabrics of human intelligence
— shall build the ship, or guide the pencil — or write
down wisdom — or draw sounds like the harmonies of angels
from the instruments its own skill has framed. And what are
the words to which those lisped-out murmurings shall change?
Shall Senates hang listening to the sound? Shall thronged
and breathless men receive from them the sound of eternal
life? Shall they utter song to which unknown ages shall
listen with wonder and reverence? Or shall they only, in the
humble privacy of quiet life, breathe delight with instruction
to those who love their familiar sound — or the adoration of a
spirit prostrate before its Creator in prayer?¹
¹ This is a fine expansion of Leibnitz's remark, Præsens est gravidum future.
Shepherd. That's real eloquence, sir. Fu' o' feelin — and
true to nature, as the lang lines o' glimmerin licht — streamin
frae the moon shinin through amang and outower the taps o'
the leafy trees.
English Opium-Eater. Let us hear with scorn, O gifted
Shepherd! of the mind of such a creature being a blank, a
Tabula Rasa, a sheet of white paper.
Tickler. Like Courtenay's.¹
English Opium-Eater. On which are to be written by sense,
characters which sense-born understanding is to decipher.
If we must have an image, let it be rather that of a seed which
contains a germ, ere long to be unfolded to the light, in the
shape of some glorious tree, hung with leaves, blossoms, and
fruit; and let it be "Immortal Amaranth, the tree that grows
fast by the throne of God."
Shepherd. Beautifu' — philosophical — and religious!
English Opium-Eater. How does it lift up our thoughts in
reverent wonder to Him who framed this spirit and this its
natural life; and through the intervention of sense, and from
the face of a material world, discovered to that intelligent and
adoring Spirit the evidences of his own being, and the glory
of his own infinite perfections!
Shepherd. Baith sound asleep! That's shamefu'.
North. Broad awake, and delighted.
"That strain I heard was of a higher mood."
Tickler. Let us two leave Mr De Quincey and Mr Hogg for
a time to their metaphysics, and have a game at chess.
[NORTH and TICKLER retire to the chess-board niche.
Shepherd. Pronounce in ae monosyllable — the power o'
education. Praise?
English Opium-Eater. LOVE.
Shepherd. Hoo often fatally thocht to be — Fear!
English Opium-Eater. Love! Look on the orphan, for whom
no one cares — for whom no face ever brightens, no voice grows
musical; who performs in slavish drudgery her solitary and
thankless labours, and feels that, from morning to night, the
¹ The Right Hon. Thomas P. Courtenay, Vice-President of the Board of
Trade, is said to have remarked that, in reference to the business of his office,
"his mind was like a blank sheet of paper."
scowl of tyranny is upon her — and see how nature pines, and
shivers, and gets stunted, in the absence of the genial light of
Shepherd. Like a bit unlucky lily, chance-planted amang
the cauld clay on a bleak knowe to the north, where the morning
sun never, and the evening sun seldom shines, and bleakness
is the general character o' the ungenial day. It struggles
at a smile — does the bit bonny stranger white-lily — but you
see it's far frae happy, and that it 'ill be sune dead. The bee
passes it by, for it's quite scentless; and though some draps
o' dew do visit it — for the heavens are still gracious to the
dying outcast — yet they canna freshen up its droopin head,
so weak at last, that the stalk could hardly bear up a butterfly.
English Opium-Eater. Even the buoyant — the elastic — the
airy — the volatile spirit of childhood cannot sustain itself
against the weight of self-degradation thus bearing it down
with the consciousness of contumely and contempt. The
heart seems to feel itself worthy of the scorn it so perpetually
endures; and cruel humiliation destroys its virtue, by robbing
it of its self-esteem.
Shepherd. God's truth.
English Opium-Eater. Look on that picture — and on this.
See the child of the poorest parents, who love it, perhaps, the
better for their poverty —
Shepherd. A thousan — a million times the better — as
Wordsworth nobly says —
"A virtuous household, though exceeding poor."
English Opium-Eater. With whom it has been early made a
partaker in pleasure and in praise — and felt its common humanity,
as it danced before its father's steps when he walked
to his morning labour — or as it knelt beside him at morning and
evening prayer; and what a contrast will there be, not in the
happiness merely, but in the whole nature of these two beings!
Shepherd. A rose-tree full in bearing, balming and brightening
the wilderness — a dead withered wall-flower on a sunless
English Opium-Eater. Change their lot, and you will soon
change their nature. It will, indeed, be difficult to reduce
the glad, and rejoicing, and self-exulting child to the level of
her who was so miserably bowed down in something worse
than despair; but it will be easy — a week's kindness will
do it — to rekindle life, and joy, and self-satisfaction, in the
heart of the orphan-slave of the work-house — to lift her, by
love, and sympathy, and praise, up to the glad consciousness
of her moral being.
Shepherd. Ay — like a star in heaven set free frae the cruel
English Opium-Eater. So essential is self-estimation, even
to the happiness, the innocence, and the virtue of childhood;
and so dependent are they on the sympathy of those to whom
nature constrains it to look, and in whom it will forgive and
forget many frowning days for one chance smiling hour of
transient benignity!
Shepherd. I defy the universe to explain the clearness,
and the cawmness, and the comprehensiveness, to say nothing
o' the truth and tenderness o' your sentiments, sir, in spite o'
metapheesicks, opium, and lyin in bed till sax o'clock o' the
afternoon every mornin. You're a truly unaccountable cretur.
English Opium-Eater. I have read little metaphysics for
many years — and I have reduced my daily dose of laudanum
to five hundred drops. My chief, almost my sole study, is of
the laws of mind, as I behold them in operation in myself;
and in the species.
Shepherd. And think ye, sir, that sic a study — pity me, but
it's something fearsome! — is usefu' to men o' creative genius,
to poets, and the like, sic as me and —
English Opium-Eater. The knowledge acquired by such
study alone can furnish means to execute the enterprises of
nobler art and spiritual genius.
Shepherd. I howp, sir, you're mistaen there — for I never, in
a' my life, set mysel doun seriously to study human nature,
and to commit ony o't to memory, as I hae often tried, always
in vain, to do the Multiplication Table —
English Opium-Eater.—
"Impulses of deeper mood
Have come to you in solitude."
But they had all passed you by, unless your heart, your imagination,
and your reason, had all been made recipient by divining
dreams, which, when genius dreams, are in verity processes,
often long, dark, and intricate of thought, terminating finally
in the open air, and on the celestial soil of eternal truth.
Shepherd. Aiblins, I've been mair studious than I was sensible
o' at the time, when lyin by the silver springs amang the
hills — for a shepherd's life is aften sedentary; and gin a body
'ill just let his sowl alane, leeve it entirely to its ainsel, and no
trammel't in it's flights, its wonderfu' hoo, being an essence,
it 'ill keep hummin awa outower far distant braes, gangin
and comin just like that never-weary insect the unquarrelsome
bee, that drags doun instinctively on ilka honey-flower that
scents the wild, and wheels name to its hive by air-ways never
flown afore, yet every ane o' them the nearest and directest
to the straw-roofed shop in the lown sunny neuk o' the garden,
that a' day lang murmurs to the sunshine a swarming sang,
and at nicht emits a laigh happy hum, as if a' the multitude
were but ae bee, unable to keep silence even in the hours o'
English Opium-Eater. Yes — those high minds which, with
creative genius, have given, in whatever form, a permanent
being to the conceptions of sublime Imagination; whether
they have embodied their thoughts in colours, in marble, or in
imperishable words, have all trained and enriched their genius
in the same self-meditation. This is true of those whose
arts seem to speak only to the eye: — The same derivation of
its strength is yet more apparent in respect to the productions
of those arts which use Language as the vehicle of representation.
That eloquence which, in the words of great historians,
yet preserves to us, in living form, the character of men and
nations — which, from the lips of great speakers of old or
modern times, has swayed the passions, or enlightened the
reason of multitudes — that Poetry which, with a voice lifted
up from age to age, has poured forth, in awful or dazzling
shapes, imagery of the inmost passions and feelings of men,
and made almost the soul itself a visible Being —
Shepherd. That's capital — indeed wonderful — on Coffee.
English Opium-Eater. The very powers which Bacon imparted
to the science of Nature, he drew from the science of
Mind. It was in the study of the Mind itself that he found
the true principles which must guide Natural Philosophy.
Shepherd. Na — there you're beyond my depth a'thegither. If
I gang in to dook wi' you in that pool, I'se be droon'd to a moral.
English Opium-Eater. But the yet highest character of all
high study, is when viewed in its reflection on the mind. The
discoveries of Astronomy have perfected Navigation. But it
was not the prospect of that augmentation of human power
that was in the mind of Galileo when he watched the courses
of the stars, and strove in thought to explore the mechanism
and motion of worlds. It satisfied him that he could know.
Shepherd. That's a fine thocht, sir. I'm no sleepy.
English Opium-Eater. In the trance of long and profound
meditation, the power that rose in his spirit, and the illumination
that flowed in upon his mind, standing alone amidst surrounding
darkness, were at once the requital of all his painful
vigils of thought. These were the recompense that was with
him, when the prisons of jealous and trembling power were
closed upon the illustrious Sage, as if the same walls could
have buried in their gloom his mind itself, and the truth which
it enshrined.
Shepherd. Galileo and Milton met at Florence, or somewhere
else in Tuscany. I wush I had been o' the pairty, and had
got a keek through the Italian's telescope.
English Opium-Eater. Are we under any necessity, Mr
Hogg —
Shepherd. Nane whatsomever.
English Opium-Eater. — of remembering the same fruits
of astronomical knowledge, in order to venerate the name of
Newton? Or, do we imagine that he himself saw in his sublime
speculations nothing more than the powers they would
furnish to man? We never think of such advantages. We
conceive of his mind as an intelligence satisfying its own
nature in its contemplations, and our views of what he effected
for mankind terminate when we have said, that he assisted
them to comprehend the sublimity of the universe.
Shepherd. Chalmers never spoke better — nor sae weel — in
his Astronomical Discourses, — yet in preaching he's a Paul.
English Opium-Eater. A world as full of wonders — ay, far
fuller, my dear Shepherd — is disclosed to the metaphysical
eye — yours or mine — exploring the manifestations of spirit —
and all its heavenly harmonies. All sorrow and all joy, the
calamities which have shaken empires, the crimes which have
hurried single souls into destruction, the grounds of stability,
order, and power, in the government of man, the peace and
happiness that have blossomed in the bosom of innocent life,
the loves that have inwoven joy with grief; the hopes that no
misery can overwhelm, the stern undaunted virtue of lofty
minds, — if such thoughts have any power to produce tenderness,
or elevation, — if awe, and pity, and reverence, are feelings
which do not pass away, leaving the mind as unawakened
and barren as before — if our capacities are dilated by the very
images of solemn greatness of which they are made the repository
— then is such study important, not merely by the
works which may spring from it, when genius and science
meet, but by its agency on the mind itself engaged in it,
which is thereby enlarged and elevated.
Shepherd. I would like to hear ye, sir, conversin wi' Coleridge
and Wordsworth. — Three cataracts a' thunderin at
ance! When you drag your voice in speaking, it reminds
me o' that line in Cawmel —
"The torrent's smoothness ere it dash below."
I never could understaun' distinctly the distinction between
the Useful and the Fine Arts. I begin to suspeck there is
nane in nature.
English Opium-Eater. Distinction-drawing is generally
deceptive. Madame de Stael praises in monuments their
noble inutility. Yet how can that which moves affection be useless?
It is a means of happiness. Schools surely are useful,
yet they tutor the mind only.
Shepherd. That's as plain as a pike-staff.
English Opium-Eater. Again, shall we call a Language--
Master useful, and yet the poem useless out of which he
teaches his pupils?
Shepherd. There would assuredly be nae logic in that, sir.
English Opium-Eater. What is a Music-Master? Why,
his trade is useful to himself — he teaches one pupil a useful
trade, and another, we shall say, a useless accomplishment.
Yet is he not useless himself in teaching the useless accomplishment,
because he gains thereby useful money.
Shepherd. Ane can never gang far wrang, I see, in ony
doubtfu' discussion, to bring in the simile o' the rainbow.
English Opium-Eater. What is a Poet who indulges
pleasure, and purposes pleasure merely to others; yet in the
mean time sets printers and booksellers in motion?
Shepherd. Dinna be angry we me, sir, for requeestin you,
gin ye hae nae objections, to define Utility.
English Opium-Eater. It can be nothing but Production of
Enjoyment. Yet these things of which the essence and sole
existence is enjoyment, though they do not end with the
present enjoyment, but by their influence on the mind are
causes of future enjoyment, are held useless!
Shepherd. I jalouse there maun be something at the bottom
of the question which ye haena yet expiscated. How stauns
English Opium-Eater. Utility, it may be said, regards the
Persons of Mankind, Poetry their Dreams.
Shepherd. That's rather antithetical — but very vague. It'ill
hardly do, sir.
English Opium-Eater. Mr Hogg, I beg your attention for a
few minutes. There is a great root of Utility — the bodily
life. Whatever springs out of this is useful — agriculture,
weaving, and brickmaking, in the first degree. Secondly, things
subservient and subordinate to these — the protection of property
by laws, the king, and the army. Then, as it is impossible
to eat, or live in peace in your house without public
morals, or to hold the state, the great and universal shield of
men's bodies, together without them — Morality and Religion.
This is one Utility — that of the body. — Some inquirers seem
hardly to know another. But man, James, has two natures,
and his Utility has two roots. The above is reversed, beginning
from his immortal and ever-happy soul, resting upon,
rooted in, Deity. Proceed hence, and you derive at last the
body, and earth, which, as we are constituted, are means to
this soul, and necessary conditions to its fulfilling its own
birth and destiny. But, begin from the body, which is to last
from day to day — or from the soul, which is to last for ever —
in either way you comprehend a Totality, the whole Being;
arts for his body, science and morals for his soul. Imagination
— Poetry — seems to elapse — to elude grasp — between. It
is neither the body nor the soul; but a light that plays about
Shepherd. Something sublime in a' that, sir; but rather
unsatisfactory at the hinner end, when you come upon the
preceese pint o' Poetry.
English Opium-Eater. Imagination of the arts seems separable,
as a mimicry of reality — a play of mind borrowed from
all real things — in itself unreal.
Shepherd. Be it sae — it soun's sensible.
English Opium-Eater. Tell the difference between Homer
and Greek history, between Shakespeare and English history.
Shepherd. Eh?
English Opium-Eater. When I compare Homer with the
Roman history, I am tempted to say, the difference is, that
we trace down the series of causations in actual events
(bodily events) from Cæsar to ourselves : But Troy, like
Olympus, is a world between which and us clouds roll. Yet
this avails not when Shakespeare writes Henry the Fifth.
There is the very man — our king — more alive and himself
than in history. Are there clouds, then, O Shepherd, between
him and me — and do I, after all, see but his glorified
Shepherd. I suspeck but his glorified shadow.
English Opium-Eater. This, then, is the power of Poetry —
it divides from the real world what it takes in the real world.
Is not the Temple of Diana in a grove separate from this
world, though built from the town quarry, and upon ground
which is not only mere earth, but made part of such a man's
property, and paying rent? So Poetry consecrates — and so —
but higher far — doth Religion.
Shepherd. Do you ever gang to the kirk, Mr De Quinshy?
English Opium-Eater. Religion consecrates that which was
common by changing it to our feelings — that is, our feelings
to it. But what change? Is it removed from use? No:—
It is consecrated to use: — but to pure, high, unworldly use.
In approaching, contemplating that which is holy, our spirit
seems freed from many bonds. Fetters of this world fall off.
Holy bonds are laid on us, and holy bonds, which the soul
receives willingly, are, therefore, Liberty and Law.
Shepherd. I aye thocht Liberty had been ae thing, and Law
anither — just like black and white.
English Opium-Eater. I think that all feeling of pleasure
is, or necessarily appears to be — spontaneous; and that, in
consequence, all forms of thought and action, which are the
natural produce of, and are produced by feelings of pleasure,
appear to be free. They appear to be the spontaneous product
of our minds, and spontaneity is freedom. Further,
forms of thought and action, which are not the work of our
mind, but are presented to it, provided that feeling which
appears to us spontaneous flows into these forms, and is at
home in them — then are those forms, Mr Hogg, freely accepted,
and we are still conscious of liberty.
Shepherd. That's geyan glimmery.
English Opium-Eater. Now, my dear Shepherd, Poetry is
an example of forms which are the produce of our feelings of
pleasure. Religion and Morality, when accepted with love,
are examples of forms presented to us, and accepted with the
consciousness of liberty retained. But in both Religion and
Morality there is necessarily some invention of the loving and
happy mind for itself; and of a verity, Christianity is free —
for it ingrafts a spirit out of which forms arise freely — and
that spirit is LOVE.
Shepherd. Do ye understaun' the great question of Liberty
and Necessity, sir? It's desperate kittle.
English Opium-Eater. I call the will free — thereby expressing
a feeling. Whether the present movement and the present
determination of my will arise necessarily out of the
predisposition of my mind, and is a necessary effect of existing
causes, is a question of a fact wholly out of the domain of
my consciousness. Our feeling of freedom is quite independent
of and irrelevant to the fact of liberty or necessity.
It is a feeling which throws no light, and possibly, in the
nature of things, can throw none upon its own cause. A
feeling springs up in us suddenly, seeming to us unpreformed,
the birth of the moment. A person has loved me, and done
acts of love to me that have made me happy for those twenty
years past. I love that person. I may say that I know the
causes of my love; the course of means which have constrained
my love — yet notwithstanding that known conviction and
constraint, I feel my love to be free.
North (flourishing his crutch, and marching from the niche).
Hurra! Tickler's done brown.
Tickler (agitatedly pulling up the waistband of his tights). I'll
play you a main of Three for a Thousand Guineas.
Shepherd. A thoosan' guineas! That's fearsome.
Tickler. Another jug? The Dolphin!
Shepherd. Mr North?
North. Laws were made to be broken — so pull the bell-rope

Shepherd. I hae mair sense than do that. I never gied a
worsted rape a rug a' my days that it didna burst. I'll roar
doun the lug. Awmrose — Awmrose — the Dolphin! (Enter
MR AMBROSE, like Arion). Ready-made and reekin! Mawgic!
Tickler. That's a poor, mean, degrading simile of Byron's,
James, of the dying dolphin and the dying day.¹
Shepherd. I never recolleckit a line of poetry a' my days —
but I dinna dout it's bad — for you hae a gleg ee for fauts, but
a blunt ane for beauties, sir.
Tickler. Borrowed, too, from Butler's boiled lobster and the
reddening dawn.²
Shepherd. Coffee's nae slokener — and I am unco thrusty.
Omnes. God bless him !
Shepherd. Hunger's naething till Thrust. Ance in the middle
o' the muir o' Rannoch I had near dee'd o' thrust. I was crossing
frae Loch Ericht fit³ to the heid o' Glenorchy, and got in amang
the hags,4 that for leagues and leagues a' round that dismal
region seem howked out o' the black moss by demons doomed
to dreary days-dargs5 for their sins in the wilderness. There
was naething for't but loup — loup — loupin out o' ae pit intil
anither — hour after hour--till, sair forfeuchen,6 I feenally gied
mysel up for lost. Drought had sooked up the pools, and left
their cracked bottoms barkened7 in the heat. The heather was
sliddery as ice, aneath that torrid zone. Sic a sun! No ae
clud on a' the sky glitterin wi' wirewoven sultriness! The
hove o' the lift8 was like a great cawdron pabblin into the boil
ower a slow fire. The element o' water seemed dried up out o'
natur, a' except the big drips o' sweat that plashed doun on
¹ — "Parting day
Dies like a dolphin, whom each pang imbues
With a new colour as it gasps away,
The last still loveliest, till — 'tis gone — and all is grey."
Childe Harold, canto iv., st. 39.
² "The sun had long since in the lap
Of Thetis taken out his nap,
And like a lobster boiled, the morn
From black to red began to turn." — Hudibras.
³ Fit — foot.
4 Hags — pits whence peat has been dug.
5 Days-dargs — days' labours.
6 Forfeuchen — fatigued.
7 Barkened — hardened.
8 Howe o' the lift — hollow of the sky.
my fevered hauns that began to trummle like leaves o' aspen.
My mouth was made o' cork covered wi' dust — lips, tongue,
palate, and a', dour till my throat and stammack. I spak—
and the arid soun' was as if a buried corpse had tried to mutter
through the smotherin mouls. I thocht on the tongue of a
parrot. The central lands o' Africa, whare lions gang ragin
mad for water, when cheated out o' blood, canna be worse —
dreamed I in a species o' delirium — than this dungeon'd desert.
Oh! but a drap o' dew would hae seem'd then pregnant wi'
salvation! — a shower out o' the windows o' heaven, like the
direct gift o' God. Rain! Rain! Rain! — what a world o' life
in that sma' word! But the atmosphere look'd as if it would
never melt mair, intrenched against a' liquidity by brazen
barriers burnin in the sun. Spittle I had nane — and when in
desperation I sooked the heather, 'twas frush and fushionless,
as if withered by lichtnin, and a' sap had left the vegetable
creation. What'n a cursed fule was I — for in rage I fear I
swore inwardly (Heev'n forgie me), that I didna at the last
change-house put into any pouch a bottle o' whisky! I fan'
my pulse — and it was thin — thin — thin — sma' — sma' — sma'—
noo nane ava — and then a flutter that telt tales o' the
exhausted heart. I grat.¹ Then shame came to my relief —
shame even in that utter solitude. Somewhere or ither in the
muir I knew there was a loch, and I took out my map. But
the infernal idiwut that had planned it hadna allooed a yellow
circle o' aboon six inches square for a' Perthshire. What's
become o' a' the birds — thocht I — and the bees — and the
butterflees — and the dragons? — a' wattin their bills and their
proboscisces in far-off rills, and rivers, and lochs! O blessed
wild-dyucks, plouterin in the water, streekin theirsels up,
and flappin their flashin plumage in the pearly freshness! A
great big speeder, wi' a bag-belly, was rinnin up my leg, and
I crushed it in my fierceness — the first inseck I ever wantonly
murdered sin' I was a wean. I kenna whether at last I
swarfed or slept — but for certain sure I had a dream. I dreamt
that I was at hame — and that a tub o' whey was staunin on
the kitchen dresser. I dook'd my head intil't, and sooked it
dry to the wood. Yet it slokened² not my thrust, but aggravated
a thousand-fauld the torment o' my greed. A thunder--
plump or water-spout brak amang the hills — and in an instant
¹ Grat — wept.
² Slokened — quenched.
a' the burns were on spate; the Yarrow roarin red, and foaming
as it were mad, — and I thocht I could hae drucken up a' its
linns. 'Twas a brain fever ye see, sirs, that had stricken me
— a sair stroke — and I was conscious again o' lyin broad awake
in the desert, wi' my face up to the cruel sky. I was the verra
personification o' Thrust! — and felt that I was ane o' the
Damned Dry, doom'd for his sins to leeve beyond the reign o'
the element to a' Eternity. Suddenly, like a man shot in
battle, I bounded up into the air — and ran off in the convulsive
energy o' dying natur — till doun I fell — and felt that I was
about indeed to expire. A sweet saft celestial greenness
cooled my check as I lay, and my burnin een — and then a
gleam o' something like a mighty diamond — a gleam that
seemed to comprehend within itsel the haill universe — shone
in upon and through my being. — I gazed upon't wi' a' my
senses. Mercifu' Heaven! what was't but — a WELL in the
wilderness; — water — water — water, — and as I drank — I
Omnes. Bravo — bravo — bravo! Hurra — hurra — hurra!
Shepherd. Analeeze that, Mr De Quinshy.
English Opium-Eater. Inspiration admits not of analysis — in
itself an evolvement of an infinite series
Shepherd. Isna the Dolphin rather over sweet, sirs? We
maun mak haste and drain him — and neist brewst, Mrs Awmrose
main be less lavish o' her sugar — for her finest crystals
are the verra concentrated essence o' saccharine sweetness,
twa lumps to the mutchkin.
English Opium-Eater. Mr Hogg, that wallflower in your
button-hole is intensely beautiful, and its faint wild scent
mingles delightfully with the fragrance of the coffee —
Shepherd. And o' the toddy — ae blended bawm. I pu'd it
aff ane o' the auld towers o' Newark, this morning, frae a
constellation o' starry blossoms, that a' nicht ling had been
drinkin the dews, and at the dawin could hardly hand up
their heads, sae laden was the haill bricht bunch wi' the
pearlins o' heaven. And would ye believe't, a bit robin--
redbreast had bigged its nest in a cosy cranny o' the moss
wa', ahint the wallflower, a perfect paradise to brood and
breed in, — out flew the dear wee beastie wi' a flutter in my
face, and every mouth opened as I keeked in — and then a' was
hushed again just like my ain bairnies in ae bed at hame —-
no up yet — for the hours were slawly intrudin on the "innocent
brichtness o' the new-born day;" and it was, guessing
by the shadowless light on the tower and trees, only about
four o'clock in the mornin.
Tickler. I was just then going to bed.
Shepherd. Teetus Vespawsian used to say sometimes — "I
have lost a day" — but the sluggard loses a' his life, and lets
it slip through his hauns like a knotless thread.
English Opium-Eater. I am no sluggard, Mr Hogg — yet
I —
Shepherd. Change nicht into day, and day into nicht, rinnin
coonter to natur, insultin the sun, and quarrellin wi' the
equawtor. That's no richt. Nae man kens what Beauty is,
that hasna seen her a thousan' and a thousan' times lyin on
the lap o' nature, asleep in the dawn — on an earthly bed a
spirit maist divine.
English Opium-Eater. The Emotion of Beauty —
Shepherd. Philosophers say there's nae sic thing as Beauty!
and Burns, out o' civility to Dr Dugald Stewart and Mr
Alison, confessed that it's a' association o' ideas. Mr De
Quinshy, I howp ye dinna believe sic havers?
English Opium-Eater. Mr Alison's work on Taste might
convert the most sceptical, so winningly beautiful! It has
revealed, not merely the philosophy, but the religion of the
Fine Arts. He does not deny adaptations of the world of
Matter to the world of Mind — harmonies which —
Shepherd. But is there nae sic thing as Beauty? Nor Sublimity?

North. Don't be alarmed, my dear James. Beauty, wherever
you go, "pitches her tents before you; " nor can it
signify a straw whether she be the living queen of the green
earth, blue sky, arid purple ocean, or an apparition evolved
from your own imaginative genius.
English Opium-Eater. We seem to take Beauty in two
senses — for we sometimes oppose it to Sublimity; and yet
we have a feeling, that over Sublimity there lies a thin transparent
veil of Beauty, which makes it not terror and pain, but
delightful Poetry. Methinks, too, that there is a Beauty that
lies out of Imagination and Poetry — merely or nearly sensible
— without intellect, and without passion; for example, that of
a colour, — of some soft, fair, inexpressive faces
Shepherd. Often very bonny — but a body sune tires o'
them — sae like babbies.
English Opium-Eater. I think Dr Brown clearly wrong, who
says that there is no essential difference between Beauty and
Sublimity, because a stream begins in simple loveliness, and
ends in being the Mississippi or River of Amazons. Beauty
begins to be high, when it is felt to affect Intellect with a
sense of expansion, with a tendency to the indefinite — the
infinite. If it ever appears — which I have said it sometimes
does — shut up in soft sense — and unimaginative, the reason
is, that this expansive intellectual action is then stopped —
stagnated in mere present pleasure. Such pleasure might
appear, to our first reflection upon it, to be wholly of sense,
even though, in metaphysical exactness, it were not so : but
the difference in kind between Beauty and Sublimity is, that
the element of the first is Pleasure, of the second Pain.
Shepherd. Eh?
English Opium-Eater. There are two obviously, or apparently
distinct Sublimities — one of desolate Alps, the other of the
solar system, and Socrates.
Shepherd. Whew!
English Opium-Eater. In the one, the soul seems to struggle,
and be in a sort conquered — or it may conquer. I don't
know which —
Shepherd. Aiblins baith — alternately.
English Opium-Eater. In the other, it sympathises with
calm great Power, and is serenely elated.
North. Burke's Fear is in the first —
Shepherd. What! Burke — Hare — and Knox!¹
North. Edmund Burke, James. — But how, my dear sir, is
there pain in the second ?
English Opium-Eater. In the case of Moral Sublimity, sir,
it is evident that there is a triumph of the Moral Sense over
some sort of pain : that is the essential condition of all Moral
Sublimity. Even when the conquest is over pleasure, it is a
conquest over the pain of relinquishing the pleasure.
Shepherd. Maist ingenious and intricate!
English Opium--Eater. But in the Sublimity of the order of
the universe, there seems to be no pain — nothing but the subliming
intellectual apprehension of Infinitude.
¹ See ante, p. 185-196.
North. That kind of Sublimity, then, Mr De Quincey, might
less seem to have a distinction in kind from softest Beauty, of
any Beauty from which imagination seems most to be withdrawn.
For if in such Beauty there is the feeling of indefiniteness,
not of great extension, but of the mere obliteration
and invisibility of limits, then that indefiniteness is the beginning
— or the least degree of infiniteness — and it would
require very nice analysis indeed, to show that from low
Beauty, or from good Beauty, up to this Sublimity, there are
new, not differently proportioned, elements.
Shepherd. Confound me, Mr North, if you're no gettin as
unintelligible as Mr De Quinshy himself — Hae ye been
chowin opium?
English Opium-Eater. This subliming infinite is mixed with
pain in the
"Good man struggling with the storms of Fate."
Shepherd. I understaun' that — for 'tis like a flash o' truth.
English Opium-Eater. Pain and fear seem the proper elements
of the natural Sublimity of this world, considered as
the domain and theatre of imagination; as in desolate Alps,
on which I think the earth is considered as the seat of man,
with reference to, and subordinate to him, — at least as collected
within itself and about him, and it is not considered in reference
to all creation. The sun appears in our sky — lightening
us — not as the centre of the solar system. Therefore, even
if the Deity is felt in the earthly scenes of imagination, it is not
with distinct intellectual acknowledgment or estimate of the
laws of his government, or of his agency: — his power is felt as
a power that bursts out occasionally and uncertainly — that is, it
is seen as it is felt — that is, it is seen by feeling — and only what
is felt is seen — the feeling is all the seeing — so that cessation
of feeling is utter darkness — and there is intellectual death.
Shepherd. Nae wonder, nae wonder — that under sic circumstances
death should ensue; but what is a' this about, and
whare will it end — this world or the neist?
English Opium-Eater. And as our feeling, Mr Hogg, is bybursts
and uncertain, so the manifestations of power in such
scenes are to us looking with imagination, by bursts and uncertain.
When we view the universe intellectually, all is seen
equably, steadily by intellect: — Power appears all-pervading
and uniform, as it did to Sir Isaac Newton.
Shepherd. Mr North, what for dinna ye speak? What wi'
Mr De Quinshy's monotonous vice, and Mr Tickler's monotonous
snore, my een's beginnin to steek.
North. When I read Lear, all my fleshly nature, in such
Sublimity, is smitten down by fear and pain, but my spirit
survives, conquering, and indestructible. As to Beauty,
again, James, the most marked thing in it is the feeling of
love towards the object made beautiful by that feeling of love.
Love, if ye can, the sublime object which shivers and grinds
to dust your earthly powers, and then you overspread Sublimity
with Beauty — like a merciful smile breaking suddenly
from the face of some dreadful giant.
English Opium-Eater. A very large — or very small animal
becomes imaginative — as —
Shepherd. What do you mean, sir? I insist on your tellin
me what you mean, Mr De Quinshy ?
English Opium-Eater. As an eagle or a humming-bird. In
the first there is expansion — in the second contraction; but
in both, a going of intellect out of the accustomed habit-fixed
measure. There is an intellectual tendency from or out of;
namely, from or out of ourselves, but ourselves peculiarly conditioned
— namely, as we exist in the world. For if Ourself
were high and fair, sublime and spiritual, there would be
something gained, perhaps, by going out of the I or Me. But
we have accumulated a narrow, petty, deadly, earth-thickened
self; and every departure from this may be gain.
Shepherd (bawling down his ear). Awmrose! a nicht-cap!
(Enter MR AMBROSEE with a night-cap.)
Thank you — ye needna tie the strings — now, wheel in the
sofa — and let's hae a nap.
[SHEPHERD lies down on the Tiroclinium.
North. Thou Brownie!
Shepherd. Noo — I can defy your havers — for I'm aff to the
Land of Nod. Gude nicht. Wauken me at sax o'clock, in
time for the Fly.
English Opium-Eater. In the brightest beauty there is perfect
composure and calm.
Shepherd (turning on his side). Are you speakin about me?
English Opium-Eater. The understanding sees distinctly,
and the heart rests, and yet there is conscious Imagination.
And why doth the soul thus rejoice in a repose in which it
has no participation?
Shepherd. You may participate, if you like. There's room
aneuch on the sofa for twa.
English Opium-Eater. Whence this sympathy with an unsouled,
inanimate world? Because the human soul is perpetually
making all things external and circumstant a mirror to
itself of itself, — filling all existence with emblems, symbols, —
everywhere seeing and reading them, and in gazing outwardly,
still wrapt in self-study, — or rather intuitive self-knowledge.
The soul desires, loves, longs for peace in itself : it is almost
its conception's deepest bliss. Wherever, therefore, it discovers
it, it rejoices in the image whereof it seeks the reality.
Thus, the calm human countenance, the wide waters sleeping
in the moonlight, the stainless marble depth of the immeasureable
heavens, reflect to it that tranquillity which it imagines
within itself — represents that which it desires. The pictured
shadow is grateful to it, wanting the substance. It loves to
look on what it loves, though it cannot possess it, — and hence
the feeling of the soul, in contemplating such a calm, is not
of simple repose, but desire stirs in it, as if it would fain blend
itself more deeply with the quiet which it beholds. All the
while, it is Beauty that creates the desire : and never is there
the feeling of Beauty — no, never — without the transfer on the
object, or the transfusion, by the mind, of some quality or
character not in the object. In most, and in all great instances,
there is apprehension, dim and faint, or more distinct,
of pervasion of a spirit throughout that which we conceive to
be beautiful. Stars, the moon, the deep-bright ether, waters,
the rainbow, a fair lovely flower, — none of them ever appear
to us, or are believed by us, to be mere physical, unconscious,
dead aggregate of atoms.
Shepherd. I'm only pretendin to be sleepin, sir; and noo
you're really speakin like yoursel — at ance Poet and Philosopher.
Do you ken, sir, that I aye understaun' everything
best when I'm lyin a' my length on my side — or my back —
which I attribute to my early shepherd-life amang the hills.
Wallin, or stannin, or even sittin, I'm sometimes geyly stupid
— but lyin, never! Thochts come croodin like eemages, and
feelings croonin like music, and the haill mortal warld swims
in licht, or a saft vapoury haze, through which a' things appear
divinely beautiful. I learnt the secret, without seekin
for't, just by lyin upon the braes in my plaid amang the sheep.
North. I remember translating a poem of Schiller's, in
which is a verse to this effect —
All lived to me — the Tree — the Flower —
To me the murmuring Fountain sung
What feels not, felt, so strong a power
Of life, my life o'er all had flung.¹
Shepherd. A' us fowre, sirs, hae been made what we are —
ower and aboon the happy, natural, constitutional temper o'
our speerit — by ha'in been born and bred in a mountaneous
kintra. Some signal exceptions there are undoubtedly —
though I forget them just the noo, — but folk in general are a'
flat-souled as weel's flat-soled, in a flat kintra. God bless our
ain native snaw-white-headed, emerald-breisted native region
o' the storms.
[Starting up and seizing the Dolphin.
North. How purely imaginary the line that separates the
two countries! Yet love delights in the distinction, as it
hovers over the Tweed, — and to the ear of the native of each
land — what a mystery in the murmurs of the kingdom-cleaving
River! Sweet bold music! worthy of distinguishing —
without dividing — England from Scotland — a patriotic poetry
flowing in the imaginations of their heart-united sons.
Shepherd. Ay — the great glory o' auld Scotland ance was, that
she could fecht England without ever ha'in been ance totally
subdued. Yet if that incarnate Fiend the First Edward hadna
been stricken deid, chains micht has been heard clinkin
through a' her forests. God swoopit him aff — his son fled
afore the Bruce — and mild Scotland thenceforth was free.
Now — we fecht England in ither guise; — peace hath "her
victories as well as war," and if we main yield the pawm to
England, wi' a gracefu' and majestic smile she returns it to
her sister, as much as to say — "Let us wear it alternately on
our foreheads."
English Opium-Eater. There are, as I imagine, Mr Hogg,
numerous and complicated associations with the natural
sounds peculiar to any region of the world, that would have
to be taken into account in estimating those many, and often.
¹ "Da lebte mir der Baum, die Rose,
Mir sang der Quellen Silberfall,
Es fühlte selbst das Seelenlose
Von meines Lebens wiederhall."
Die Ideale.
unapparent causes which concur, in the great simplicity of
natural life, to form even the national spirit of a people.
Shepherd. Nae dout, nae dout, sir; nae dout ava.
North. Yes, James, in a mountainous country like our
Highlands, for example, where the hearts of the people are
strongly bound to their native soil, the many and wild characteristic
sounds which are continually pouring on their ears,
are like a language in which the spirit of their own wild
region calls to them from the heart of the clouds or the hills.
The torrent's continuous roar, the howling of blasts on the
mountainside, among the clefts of rocks, or over their cabins
in lonely midnight, sounds issuing from caverns, the clashing
roll of a heavy sea on the open or inland shore, wild birds
screaming in the air — the eagle or the raven — the lowing of
cattle on a thousand hills, — all these, and innumerable other
sounds from living and inanimate things, which are around
them evermore, mix in their heart with the very conception
of the land in which they dwell, and blend with life itself.
English Opium-Eater. An hour ago, Mr Tickler, you challenged
Mr North to a main at chess. Will you suffer me to
be your antagonist for a single game?
Tickler. For Love and Glory.
[They retire to the niche.
Shepherd. I want to hear your opinion, Mr North, about
this Lord and Leddy Byron bizziness?
North. I see no need of bad blood between such men as
Moore and Campbell, about such a man as Byron. Time —
that is, a Month — must have soothed and sweetened the peccant
Shepherd. Mr Cawmel, I'm thinkin, was the maist peccant
— for after pattin and pettin Mr Muir on the back, he suddenly
up, I hear, with his fists, and tries to floor him afore he can
say Jack Robinson. Us poets are queer chiels — that's the
only key to the mystery — and it 'ill open ony door.
North. As to Mr Campbell's having admitted into the New
Monthly a short critical notice of Mr Moore's Life of Byron,
without having read the volume, and as to his having scored
out some objurgatory sentence or two in the said critique
about the Biographer, it is silly or insincere to say a single
syllable against that; for an editor would needs be in a condition
most melancholy and forlorn, who, on the one hand,
could not repose any confidence in any of his contributors,
and, on the other, did not hold possession of the natural right
to expunge or modify, at his will and pleasure, whatever he
feared might be painful to the feelings, or injurious to the
reputation, of a friend. Truth is sacred — and being so, allows
a latitude to her sincere worshippers, at which the false would
stare in astonishment.
Shepherd. Nae need for an Editor to be a Drawco. Neither
does an Editor become responsible — in foro conscientiæ — for
ilka word his work may contain; if he did, there would soon
be a period pitten till the Periodicals, for sameness and stupidity
are twa deadly sins, and on that principle o' conduct,
Maga herself would be sune flattened doun into stale and
stationary unsaleability — in cellars stinkin o' stock.
North. God forbid I should wound the feelings of Lady
Byron, of whose character — known to me but by the high
estimation in which it is held by all who enjoy her friendship
— I have always spoken with respect — as I have always
shown my sympathy with her singular sufferings and sacrifices.
But may I without harshness or indelicacy say, here
among ourselves privately, my dear James, in this our own
family-circle, that, by marrying Byron, she took upon her,
with eyes wide open, and conscience clearly convinced, duties
very different indeed from those of which, even in common
cases, the presaging foresight shadows with a pensive but
pleasant sadness — the light of the first nuptial moon?
Shepherd. She did that, sir. By ma troth, she did that.
North. Byron's character was a mystery then — as it is now
— but its dark qualities were perhaps the most prominent — at
least they were so to the public view, and in the public judgment.
Miss Milbank knew that he was reckoned a rake and
a roué; and although his genius wiped off, by impassioned
eloquence in love-letters that were felt to be irresistible, or
hid the worst stain of that reproach, still Miss Milbank must
have believed it a perilous thing to be the wife of Lord Byron.
Blinded we can well believe her to have been in the blaze of
his fame — and she is also entitled to the privilege of pride.
But still, by joining her life to his in marriage, she pledged
her troth, and her faith, and her love, under probabilities of
severe, disturbing, perhaps fearful trials in the future, from
which, during the few bright days of love, she must have felt
that it would be her duty never, under any possible circumstances,
to resile.
Shepherd. Weel, weel, sir. Puir things! they a' dream
theirsels awa into a clear, dim, delightfu' delirium, that sae
brichtens up, and at the same time sae saftens dorm, the grim
precipices and black abysms o' danger in the licht o' love and
imagination, that a bairn, sae it seems, micht fa' asleep, or
walk blindfauld alang the edges o' the rocks, and even were
it to fa', would sink doun, doun on wings, and rest at the cliff-foot
on a bed o' snaw, or say rather o' lilies and roses, and a'
silken and scented flowerage!
North. I would not press this point harshly or hardly, so as
to hurt her heart; but now that the debate, or rather the conjectural
surmises, are about the Truth, and the Truth involving
deep and dark blame of the dead, this much, I trust, may
be said here; and if I be in aught wrong or mistaken, James,
I have at least spoken now in a mild, and not unchristian
Shepherd. Age has mellowed the strang into the wise man.
In ither twenty years you'll be perfeck.
North. That Byron behaved badly — very badly — to his wife,
I believe, as firmly and as readily as Mr Campbell does, on
the word of that unfortunate, but I hope not unhappy lady.
Shepherd. She canna be unhappy — for she's good.
North. But I think Lady Byron ought not to have printed
that Narrative.¹ Death abrogates not the rights of a husband
to his wife's silence, when speech is fatal — as in this case it
seems to be — to his character as a man. Has she not flung
suspicion over his bones interred, — that they are the bones of
a — monster?
Shepherd. I haena seen, and never wish to see, her Remarks;
but may she enjoy peace!
North. If Byron's sins or crimes — for we are driven to use
terrible terms — were unendurable and unforgiveable — as if
¹ A Letter to Thomas Moore, Esq., occasioned by his Notices of the late Right
Hon. Lord Byron. By LADY BYRON. 1830. Lady Byron's main object in
publishing this Letter was to vindicate her parents from the charge advanced
against them in Moore's Life of Byron, that they had been instrumental in
bringing about the separation between her and her husband. The facts, as
told by herself, are shortly these: She left Lord Byron, by his own desire, on
the 15th January 1816. At this time, she says, "it was strongly impressed on
my mind that Lord Byron was under the influence of insanity;" and entertaining
this belief, she wrote to him on the 16th of January "in a kind and cheerful
tone according to medical direction." She afterwards found that "the
reports of his medical attendant were far from establishing anything like
lunacy;" and then she goes on to say, "Under this uncertainty, I deemed it
right to communicate to my parents, that if I were to consider Lord Byron's
against the Holy Ghost — ought the wheel, the rack, or the
stake, to have extorted that confession from his widow's
Shepherd. Pain micht hae chirted it out o' her tender frame.
North. But there was no such pain here, James; the declaration
was voluntary — and it was calm. Self-collected, and
gathering up all her faculties and feelings into unshrinking
strength, she denounced before all the world, and throughout
all space and all time — for his name can never die — her husband
as excommunicated by his vices from woman's bosom
Shepherd. 'Twas a fearsome step — and the leddy maun hae
a determined speerit; but I am sorry that her guardian angel
didna tell her to draw back her foot afore she planted it resolutely
over the line o' prudence and propriety — I fear, indeed,
o' natur and religion. Oh! that she had had some wise and
tender being o' her ain sex by her side, aulder than hersel,
and main profoundly impressed, in the mournfu' licht o' declinin
years, wi' the peril o' takin on ourselves the office o'
retribution, — mair especially when our ain sorrows hae sprung
frae ithers' sins — when the heart that conceived evil against
us had aften met our own in love or friendship —
North. When, as in this case, the head once suspected to
have been insane, had lain in the bosom of the injured — was
once beautiful and glorious in the lustre of genius — "the
palace of the soul," indeed, though finally haunted and polluted
by the flesh-phantasms of many evil passions.
Shepherd. Some day I'll write your Life and Conversations,
sir, after the manner o' Xenophon's Memorabilia o' Socrates.
North. 'Twas to vindicate the character of her parents that
Lady Byron wrote — a holy purpose and a devout — nor do I
doubt, sincere. But filial affection and reverence, sacred as
past conduct as that of a person of sound mind, nothing could induce me to
return to him." The strange thing is, that she was confirmed in this determination
by the opinion of Dr Lushington, who, at first, had thought a reconciliation
practicable, but who, on receiving from Lady Byron some "additional
information," declares to her in writing that "his opinion was entirely
changed ;" that "he considered a reconciliation impossible," and that "if such
an idea should be entertained, he could not, either professionally or otherwise,
take any part towards effecting it." Altogether it is a dark and miserable
business: only this may be said, that neither right feeling, nor right reason,
nor the respect due to exalted genius, will ever permit us to believe — without
much stronger evidence than we have yet obtained — that the offences of the
noble poet, bad as they may bare been, were so utterly inexpiable as his lady
and her learned adviser chose to consider them.
they are, may be blamelessly, nay, righteously subordinate to
conjugal duties, which die not with the dead, are extinguished,
not even by the sins of the dead, were they as foul as the
grave's corruption. Misinterpret me not. I now accuse
Lady Byron of no fault during her husband's life. I believe
she did right in leaving him, though she was wrong in the
mode of her desertion. But allowing that a painful and distressing
collision between her filial and conjugal duties had
occurred, ought she not, pure and high-minded woman as she
is, to have balanced with a trembling hand, and a beating
heart, what was due to her dead husband's reputation —
stained and stripped as it had already been by his own evil
deeds — against all that in the most reverential daughter's
bosom could be due to the good name of her father and
her mother, which, though breathed on rudely and unjustly,
yet lay under no very heavy, no unsupportable weight of
calumny, and was sure, in the tide of time, to be freed,
almost or entirely, from all reproach; or, might she not have
waited, meekly and trustingly, to a latter day, when all good
spirits would have listened to her solemn and sacred, pitying
and forgiving voice — when it, like her lord's, was invested
with the awfulness of death and the grave?
Shepherd. Something within me says 'twould hae been
better far.
North. To vindicate her mother from an unjust but no
deadly charge, she has for ever sacrificed her husband. Such
sacrifice I cannot but lament and condemn, though I know
how difficult it is to judge aright of another's heart. I speak,
therefore, not in anger, but in sorrow — and though in some
moods I may soften the blame, in no moods am I able to
lessen my regret. Then how calmly — how imperturbably she
approaches — with no friendly voice — the gloom of the grave!
In widow's weeds — but with no widow's tears visible on her
marble cheeks; beautiful, it is said — but, methinks, stern and
stoical, rather than meek and Christian; somewhat too lofty,
when lowliness would have been lovely — and silent, enduring,
misunderstood, and unappreciated forgiveness, angelical and
Shepherd. In a' the great relations o' life, I suppose I may
safely say, sittin in the presence o' sic a man as Christopher
North — for I dinna count thae twa creturs in the corner — that
a' human beings are bound by the same ties, be their condition
high or low, their lot cast in a hut or in a palace.
North. There the Shepherd speaketh like himself — and as
none other speaks.
Shepherd. Now, only think, my dear sir, o' what has happened,
is happening, and will happen to the end o' time, seein
human nature is altogether corrupt, and the heart o' man
desperately wicked, a thousan' and tens o' thousan's o' times
in wedded life, a' ower the face o' this meeserable and sinfu'
North. Bliss and Despair are the Lares of every House.
Shepherd. Oh! wae's me! and pity me the day! hoo many
broken-hearted wives and widows are seen sichin and sabbin
in poortith cauld, and wearin awa in consumptions, brought
on them by the cruel sins o' their husbands!
North. When the spring-grove is ringing with rapture, we
think not of the many wounded birds dying, emaciated of
famine, in the darkness of the forests.
Shepherd. Not a few sic widows do I mysel ken, wham
brutal, and profligate, and savage husbands hae brought to
the brink o' the grave — as good, as bonny, as innocent — and
oh! far, far mair forgivin than Leddy Byron! There they
sit in their obscure and rarely-visited dwellings : for Sympathy
— sweet