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XVI. Caledonian Sketches, or a Tour through Scotland in 1807. To which is prefixed an Explanatory Address to the Public upon a recent Trial. By Sir John Carr, pp. 541, 4tof London, Matthews and Leigh, 1809.

[pp. 178-193] [original article in PDF format]

  1. THE advice of the Giant Moulineau to a reciter, Je vous prie, Belier mon ami, commençez par le commencement, is too often neglected. We, however, admonished by a recent event,* new in our high office, and anxious to discharge its duties with unexampled fidelity, actually read the explanatory address prefixed to this volume, before we proceeded on the Caledonian sketches. It is, in sooth, a piece of very tragical mirth, in which we hardly knew whether to sympathise with the wounded feelings of a good-natured, well-meaning man, or to laugh at the ambiguous expressions in which he couches his sorrow and indignation upon a very foolish subject. The trial, in which Sir John Carr sued the editor of a satiric work, called 'My Pocket Book', for damages, as a libel on his literary fame, must be fresh in the memory of every reader. The Address displays great anxiety to ascertain the precise grounds upon which the action was commenced; but there is no little embarrassment and confusion in bottoming the case, as will appear from the opening of the subject.

    'Had this attack been announced as a travesty, the Public would have regarded it as a burlesque, and I should have been as much disposed as any one to have smiled at what humour it might have possessed. Indeed I should have deemed it, in some measure, an honour; for, as the nature of travesty is laughable deformity, the original must at least possess some symmetry, before it could be twisted into deformity, Nay, I should have felt myself flattered to have been placed in the same line of attack in which many illustrious literary characters have been assailed, although immeasurably removed from them in literary reputation. I should also have reflected that the Public would not be interested in the travesty of an unknown author. But many, who have never read the Tour in Ireland, have considered the quotations as authentic, and the comment as fair and candid. I am placed before a mirror that distorts, and the mirror is thought to represent me faithfully.' p. 4. [178]

  2. We suspect that the author of this passage remained a little too long in the 'southern and western parts of Ireland, to be an absolute stranger to the national mode of ratiocination. If a work be announced as a burlesque it must undoubtedly be regarded as a travesty, which is pretty much the same thing. But although it be not announced as a burlesque, it by no means follows that an action lies against the author, because the public insist upon mistaking for grave matter of fact what was intended for raillery. The readers are then to be blamed more than the satirist; and indeed, so dull was our apprehension in this very case, that having dipped into 'My Pocket Book', and afterwards heard of a suit at law, we could not but conclude that Sir John had commenced it not on the score of libel, but on that of piracy: for whatever the author may have intended, the imitation had all the merit of being as prosing as the original, with the sole advantage (certainly no inconsiderable one) of being much shorter.

  3. But Sir John does not rest his case here. He proceeds to state that the 'frontispiece of this publication attermpted personally to degrade him in a point of view which had no reference to his travels.' And again,

    'In my work I have mentioned, that the cruel custom of yoking the plough to the tail of the drawing horse, which once existed in the uncivilized parts of Ireland, has for some time past been discontinued; yet, in this print, I am represented in the attitude of making a drawing of this barbarous usage; and, if such print be admitted to be fair criticism, I am made by the artist's pencil to assert that the custom still endures. In fact I am assured that I have already incurred the displeasure of some of the Irish, who have not perused my work, and who have been misled by this print, for having, as they thought, in this instance thrown an odium upon the character of their peasantry. To return to the action, the frontispiece caricature, and the explanation, constituted the sole ground of my legal complaint.' p. 6.

    This ground of complaint appears to us still more fantastical than that which he stated for the purpose of abandoning it. For an author has certainly some right in equity, if not at common law, to complain of the maladresse of a satirical satellite, who shaped his irony so awkwardly that all men took it for sober truth. But that any human being upon either side of St. George's Channel could seriously draw a conclusion, as matter of fact, from a caricature print, is one of the most whimsical inuendos [sic] which a declaration ever attached to a libel. There are twenty [179] prints in the windows of St. James's Street, representing the highest characters in the most absurd attitudes and employments; by each of which, no doubt, a certain inference is intended, but we suppose something very different from the emblem offered to the eye. If a groupe of forlorn statesmen were to be presented in the shape of pigs possessed with an evil spirit, and precipitating themselves into the sea; would an action lie at their instance against the caricaturist, not because they were ridiculed for a noble abandonment of their places, but because he might mean to infer that the 'nine-farrow' had literally jumped from Dover Cliffs, in order to take the shortest road to Calais!

  4. While Sir John Carr is thus puzzled to shape a legal ground for his action, we cannot but feel some sympathy in his distress; for although he may have done very ill to go to law, it is possible he may do very well to be angry; and it is some suspicion that his resentment is neither unprovoked nor unjustifiable, that restrains our inclination to smile at the legal distinctions which he makes concerning it. As 'My Pocket Book' is a burlesque, it pleaseth him well, but in respect it is a satire, it is naught; in regard it is criticism, it may be the " palladium of literature," but in respect it was actively dispersed, it is a very vile work; as it is a book, look you, it fits his humour well, but in regard it hath an engraved frontispiece, it goeth much against his stomach!

  5. But Sir John hath a fellow sufferer in this matter, whom it is not meet to pass without notice,

    'I have only one observation more to make, which I owe in justice to myself, and my late publisher, Sir Richard Phillips, who has been accused of having, from objects of personal feeling, prompted me to bring the action to which I have adverted. I can most solemnly declare that he never excited me to such a measure.'

    This is a subject not to be proceeded upon rashly—let us look for a precedent. When a gentleman-like person, swinging his switch, and pointing his toes, happens, in bestriding a kennel in snowy weather, to slip down upon his central part, he is greeted by the shouts of all the children in the street. But if the alderman of the Ward, vir pietate ac meritis gravis, hath lent his arm in the perilous pass, and shared the disgraceful tumble, the elder 'prentice boys [180] (who probably formed the slippery trap) rush to condole with his worship, and fall to rubbing his coat; while the younger fry suppress their grinning, and emulously join in upraising and comforting his companion. Even so, we, novices in criticism, are taught compassion by our elder brethren of Edinburgh, whom we lately beheld with edification, consoling the senior knight, moved by the reverence due to the shrieval furs, or to a misfortune deep enough to affect even the soldiers of the dire Ulysses.

  6. It becomes our duty, therefore, to comfort the neglected sufferer—to tell him that Pope, like himself, had to complain of

    'The libelled person, and the pictured shape.'

    That Dryden affirms more libels had been written on him than on any man alive in that libellous age; that in our own time, the wittiest, and worthiest of the nation have had the same fate. Had Sir John eaten his posset with the composure which Page recommends to his namesake, he might have laughed at those who now laugh at him. A wise man, who in ambling his hobby, along the highway, has the dirt thrown in his face by some mischievous varlet splashing past him, will wipe off the mark of dishonour, and escape at the expence of a stifled titter among grooms and hackney coachmen. But if he gives the reins to his resentment, and pursue the offender with whip uplifted, he excites a general interest in the cause; it becomes an eventful matter, a skirmish or race: and at a skirmish, were it only between two dunghill cocks; at a race, were it only between a pair of donkies, the dogs will bark, the children scream, and the blackguards shout. And now, Knight,

    'Unbuckle wide your mail,
    And to the lull requite us tale for tale'

  7. What news from the land of cakes and whiskey, from the region of mist and snow? 'Stands Scotland where it did?' Do her critics still brandish their scalping knives, her bards still tune their bagpipes, their sackbuts, their dulcimers, and their psalteries? Do her lawyers still wrangle about politics, her clergy about patronage, her professors about heat and cold, her philosophers about the cosmogony of the world, (which has puzzled the Royal Society of Edinburgh, as much as ever it did Sanconiathon and Berosus,) and last, and fiercest of all, her physicians, about—the Lord knows what? Alas! these questions have offence in [181] them, and our knight, the gentlest that ever prick'd upon a plain, refuseth the information which 'an if he would' he could doubtless communicate. His details are entirely confined to a short description of the exterior of the country, a few trite anecdotes of ancient history and manners, and an account of local customs and laws neither remarkable for value nor accuracy.

  8. It would, perhaps, be somewhat difficult to bring us news from Scotland. Formerly indeed, we knew Scots, and, as we thought, to our cost; but we knew little of Scotland; and most plain London citizens would have made their wills before they ventured into a country where the fair sex dispensed with the use of shoes and stockings, and the males with that of a still more necessary integument. But that time is gone by. We no longer wonder at the hardihood of those who, to give us information, (and take two guineas for the book which contains it) plunge into these hyperborean regions, are absent from home about six weeks, and return after having seen Johnnie Groat's house. Since the continent has been shut against us, Edinburgh is as much visited by every dashing citizen who pretends to fashion, as Margate or Tunbridge. Then for 'tender youth and weary age,' the information which they cannot seek in person, may be found in a hundred volumes. There is Johnson's Philosophic Tour, Pennant's Descriptive Tour, Gilpin's Picturesque Tour, Stoddart's Sketching Tour, Garnet's Medical Tour, Mrs. Murray's Familiar Tour, Newte's Nautical Tour, Mawman's Bookselling Tour, Campbell's Crazy Tour, Lithie's Insipid Tour, and Boswell's fantastic Tour, with the Humours of the Bear and the Monkey. From collating these, the curious may learn, without stirring from the sound of Bow bell, the depth of the supposed unfathomable Loch-Ness, the four wonders of Loch Lomond, the heighth of Fingal's cave, and all those Caledonian Memorabilia which the more desperate visit in person, at the expence of being obliged to drink whisky, and eat Scattan agus braddan agus spuntat.* Now it will presently be seen that Sir John Carr, although himself of the more adventurous class who demand ocular evidence of the existence of these wonders, has not disregarded the labours of his predecessor so far as to disdain to incorporate them with his own. On the contrary, so much of this quarto may be traced to Pennant and his numerous successors, [182] that we are really of opinion it might have been compiled without the author taking the trouble to stir from No. 2, Garden court, Temple; and that the mountains being thus brought to Mahomet, in the shape of quartos and octavos, Mahomet might have dispensed with his personal attendance on the mountains. Sir John may no doubt reply that, in describing the same scenes, it is impossible to avoid recalling the descriptions of those forerunners, whom perhaps, in his heart, he accuses, as the Frenchman did the ancients, of having stolen all his fine things. But this unavoidable consequence arises, first from his choice of a hackneyed subject, and secondly, from his treating it in a most hackneyed manner. For although it is true, that Scotland in her outward features presents nothing to the traveller which she did not offer to former tourists, the inhabitants are at present in the act of undergoing some important changes, which call for attention both from the philosopher and the politician. A gentleman educated to the English bar, might be expected to have offered some remarks upon the alterations which the wisdom of the legislature has deemed necessary in Scottish jurisprudence, and upon the policy and possibility of assimilating the laws of the united kingdoms. The subject, however, though it has agitated Scotland to the very centre, and divided the soundest of her lawyers and statesmen, is scarcely hinted at in the following passage:

    'In the Court of Session the judges are also the jury. Most of the proceedings are carried on in printed pleadings, in which refined logic and noble specimens of composition are frequently displayed. Sometimes a hearing in presence is ordered, when barristers argue, viva voce, the pleas of their clients. As the judges have a double duty to perform, for want of a separate jury, they take peculiar pains with their decisions, which renders procrastination inevitable; but justice is in general fairly and satisfactorily administered, and their decisions are not very often reversed upon an appeal to the British parliament. The number of the judges has been much objected to, on account of their being likely to be unduly swayed in favour of their patrons, in matters coming judicially before them, where their interests may clash with those of other individuals before the court; of the difficulty of procuring so many persons adequately learned in the laws; and, finally, of the occasional warmth, and irritability with which they, in open court, defend their respective opinions when they differ from each other, in a manner sometimes derogatory to the dignity of the judicial character.' p. 126.

  9. We know not where nor with whom Sir John found any apprehension [183] of the judges being unduly swayed in favour of the patrons; and no plan, that ever we heard of, proposed to diminish their number, but only to divide them into two separate courts or chambers of the same court, as has been lately done by act of parliament; a remedy which could not apply to the imaginary subject of complaint. We understand that by this subdivision, each of the two chambers of the court of session has singly been enabled to discharge more business than would have overwhelmed the old court, and that the long arrear of causes which hung in dependance, are now nearly decided. It remains to prove how far, by the introduction of jury trial in cases proper for that mode of decision, it may be possible to compel parties to come to a more special issue upon disputed facts, than has of late been the custom in the court of session.—But we crave Sir John Carr's pardon for going out of the record. Although the storm raged around the traveller, and every lawyer's tongue in Edinburgh was unloosed to censure, or vindicate, the ancient course of justice, we may address Sir John in the words of the poet:

    'Nec rapis ad leges, male custoditaque gentis
    Jura, nec insulsis damnas clamoribus aures.'

    A yet more important subject of discussion was open to our traveller, on the state of the Highlanders.

  10. The emigrations are slightly touched, and without any pretence of giving a decided opinion upon them; but we read the best and only possible cure for this unfortunate drain of a population invaluable for hardihood and military spirit, in the improvements of Ranald Macdonald of Staffa, a young gentleman possessed of a large estate in the Western Isles, which he improves with the prudence and wisdom of a Scottish farmer, combined with that love of his people, and desire to render them happy, which was the finest feature in the character of an ancient Celtic chief. We are happy to find an opportunity to give Sir John Carr our sincere thanks for such valuable information as is contained in chapter VI.

  11. The process of making kelp in which the lower classes of Hebridian population are now every season engaged, is described with accuracy, and the following remarks on the cultivation of the isles, are well worthy of preservation.

    'The soil and climate of most parts of the islands and west coast of Scotland, and the shelter which they afford, are better adapted; to grazing than cropping. There is no calculating the extent of cultivation [184] into which these islands may be brought, from the almost primeval state in which they still continue. The average price of land in Mull and Ulva is still very low, compared with the price which is given for land in the neighbouring districts of Lorn, Khnapdale, the Duke of Gordon's, and Mr. Cameron of Lochiel's, property, &c. &c. Although there are several fields in Ulva, consisting of twelve to fifteen acres each, which are annually enclosed and laid carefully down in grass seeds, and in good heart, for which l ls. 10 s. and 2 l. per acre have been frequently offered for the grass alone, still it was found by the proprietor to be more beneficial and productive to keep it in his own hands, for pasturing black cattle.

    'I was informed, by a gentleman who had long resided in the Hebrides, and knew their local advantages well, that the population of the islands would be by no means too great if some of the large estates were put in a proper train of management, and the land distributed amongst the lower classes upon a different plan and principle from those now followed. Not that the number of tacksmen of capital and enterprise should be diminished, for the purpose of giving their farms exclusively to small tenants, for that indeed would be ruinous to a large estate, but that the extent of the moor and hill pastures of the larger tenements, which are possessed by the gentlemen tacksmen, should be increased, and part of the better, or arable, soil, divided among the small tenants, but in smaller quantities than formerly, and on such terms and for such a duration of lease as to induce them to improve their respective lots, and toll the land off by inclosures for hay, corn, and green crops and pasture. Upon this mode, he assured me, the economy and sound policy of Highland management principally turn.

    'The right of primogeniture exists all over Scotland amongst the higher classes, and most generally amongst the lower orders also. Staffa thinks it good policy to encourage it amongst his tenantry, being of opinion that it is a valuable remnant of the feudal system. As an instance, he has upon his property at present some tenants, who are the fifth and sixth generations, in regular descent, upon the same piece of ground, and who would refuse exchanging it for twice its size upon English ground.' pp. 493, 494, 495.

  12. The following account of the tenantry, of Staffa (so Mr. Macdonald is properly distinguished), is highly honourable to their worthy and patriarchal landlord; whose achievements, we doubt not, wilt be sung to the oars of the men of Ulva, not only when those of Fingal, but even of Sir John Carr, shall have faded from the memory.

    'Notwithstanding the occasional vexations which those who chiefly live by the fisheries endure in consequence of the salt-laws, the natives of Ulva, and, it is believed, of the other islands, have an opportunity of living in great comfort and happiness. Their food consists of fish, of which they have upwards of twenty different [185] species, within a few hundred yards of the shore, all around the island and along the coast; of mutton, lamb, and beef, of which they, of late years, consume a good deal; of geese, ducks, hens, chickens, &c, &c. Indeed, at certain seasons of the year, they consume a considerable quantity of poultry; eggs and milk they have in great abundance all the year round.

    'The worthy Laird of Ulva arranges all the lots of land upon his property in such a manner, that the holder of the smallest lot of land has his two cows, and from that number up to six, ten, and twelve cows. In consequence of this, many of them not only provide their families with butter and cheese, but have a surplus to dispose of. The bread generally made use of is from barley and oatmeal, of which they also make porridge, which forms their breakfast or supper, along with milk; and when there is any scarcity of that in the winter months, they take molasses with their porridge.'

  13. As every small tenant, or lotman, has a garden attached to his house, he in general plants a quantity of cabbages, and of late turnip, which, with potatoes, are the principal vegetables; the latter are so much cultivated, and in such abundance, that they eat a great quantity of them with their fish, of which, as I have mentioned, they have great variety, close to the shore of most of their respective lots; and in general every tenant has a row-boat for himself and family, with which they fish, make kelp, &c. &c.

  14. We cannot always congratulate Sir John on the accuracy of his information. Kelp, he says, is on an average 3 l. 10 s. per ton: we believe it greatly exceeds that sum doubled. He tells us, p. 271, that in the Carse of Gowrie, 'the English traveller will see English agricultural instruments, and English farming, every where adopted.' We dare not accept this compliment. A Scotchman, with more accuracy, would tell him, that the said traveller will see 'Scotch agricultural instruments, and Scotch farming;' which, with reference to arable ground, are as much better as Scotch rents are higher than those of England. The highland dress, p. 450, is described as including the belted plaid, philabeg or kelt. If Sir John means that these two garments are both worn at once, he might as well describe an English gentleman wearing his breeches over his pantaloons. The belted plaid was the original dress. It is precisely that of a savage, who finding a web of cloth which he had not skill to frame into a garment, wrapt one end round his middle, and threw the rest about his shoulders. This dress was abundantly inconvenient, for the upper part of the plaid was only useful in rain, or for a cover at night, while the lower extremity was essential to decency. It was, in short, as if a man's great coat [186] were fastened to his breeches, and in exertions of war or the chace, all was necessarily thrown away. And it is little to the honour of Highland ingenuity, that although the Chiefs, to avoid this dilemma, wore long pantaloons called trews, the common Gael never fell upon any substitute for the belted plaid, till an English officer, for the benefit of the labourers who worked under his direction on the military roads, invented the fileah beg, philabeg, or little petticoat, detached from the plaid, and fastened by a buckle round the waist.

  15. Having adverted to the agricultural information, the reader may expect that we should afford him a specimen of Sir John's descriptive style. And here we must observe, heaven knows, without either censure or regret, that in this volume the traveller has given us but few examples, of superfine writing. Sir John's eye, indeed, sometimes 'hunts for trees as a sportsman would for game,' p. 311, and sometimes 'banquets' on the splendour of a landscape: but these graces of language are sprinkled with a sparing hand. The following is no unfavourable specimen of his descriptive powers.

    'Afterwards we followed the line of the river Awe, which is very long, black, deep, narrow, and rapid, flowing into Loch Etive. Our course lay through copses of weeping birch and hazel, along the foot of the stupendous and rugged Cruachan Ben, a mountain measuring three thousand two hundred and ninety feet above the level of the sea, and twenty miles in circumference at its base. This Alpine scenery, particularly as the evening advanced, was at once awful and tremendous; frequently the road extended along a frightful precipice, overhanging Loch Awe, which lay in many places a prodigious depth below us, and which we occasionally saw, through the opening of trees impending over it, reflecting star for star of the cloudless sky in its clear, but sable, mirror of waters; whilst huge shattered fragments of rock, arrested in their descent by projecting crags, impended awfully and frightfully, far above us, on the sides of this mighty mountain, deriving increased magnitude and horror from the shadows of the night, the solemn silence of which was only interrupted by the melancholy murmur of remote waterfalls.' p. 505.

  16. In general, Sir John is not tempted to follow the vagrant muse of Mrs. Ratcliffe over rock, precipice, water-fall, fen, lake, and torrent. He is contented to give a short sober-minded statement of the reality, and leave the reader to fill up the sketch, 'according to the dictates of his own imagination; or the vacancy is sometimes supplied with a quotation from Ossian, or the Lay of the last Minstrel. Yet he now and then plays us a provoking [187] trick peculiar to a practised traveller, in describing some place in Scotland to which we must be supposed strangers, by reference to another on the Continent, of which, in all probability we know still less. Thus, we are little edified by being informed that Jedburgh is like Upsal; that Edinburgh may be compared to Athens; and that to form a conception of Perth, we have only to recollect Bonn. This is something worse than obscurum per obscurius, unless, perhaps, to those who may be possessed of all his previous Tours.

  17. In point of extent, Sir John's travels through Caledonia are not on a large scale. He entered Scotland by Jedburgh, and went straight to Edinburgh, where he spent, we conjecture, about four days, but found materials for ten chapters, being nearly one half of the work in question;

    'For what the nigggard time of lore denied,
    From other stores the fearless knight supplied.'

    Arnott's History of Edinburgh, and Church's contrast between the state of that city in 1760 and 1780, have been laid under liberal contribution. We have also the usual remarks of strangers, a hope that the new college will be one day finished, and that the old jail will be one day pulled down. The following observation on the Register House, is probably original.

    'The decorations of the interior do not correspond with the external beauty of the building. The rotunda under the dome is disfigured by a vast collection of old and modern record and other books, plainly bound, which, instead of being concealed by green silk and brass lattice-work, obtrude themselves upon the eye, and accord with the noble appearance of the room just as well as the hat of a mendicant would become a Knight of the Bath in his full robes.' p. 77.

  18. We dare not dispute with our traveller upon the attire of knighthood; but we may just hint that these same unseemly volumes are the denizens of the place, for whose reception and preservation it was built; that, on the same principle, he might object to the splendid halls of Greenwich being disgraced by a rabble of maimed weather-beaten seamen; and demand that such slovenly and unhandsome objects should not come between the wind and his gentility.

  19. From Edinburgh our traveller proceeds by Stirling and Alloa to Perth, and thence by the coast-road to Inverness; then along what is called the Chain to Fort Augustus and Fort William. In this, the most common of Scottish tours, Sir John never [188] diverges from the beaten track, and being, as he some where allows, 'a little near-sighted,' does not very distinctly observe even those objects of curiosity which lay within his ken. The vast ruins of Dunnollar Castle are briefly noticed as 'very ancient;' and that strange and puzzling work of old times, the parallel roads of Glenroy, is coolly stated to have been constructed 'for the accommodation of the ancient Scottish kings.' Now although accommodation comes from accomodo, and is—'When a man is being whereby he may be thought to be accommodated, which is an excellent thing;' yet we own that it conveys to us no very particular information as to the parallel roads of Glenroy. Perhaps these roads, which are six in number, lying in parallel lines one above the other on opposite sides of a glen, may have accommodated the Scottish kings better than they would our traveller's one-horse chaise: at any rate, he went not near them. However, as Shallow says, Good phrases are surely and ever were very commendable.

  20. Two or three chapters are dedicated to the manners of the Highlanders, in which Sir John has most unmercifully pillaged a curious work, entitled 'Letters from Scotland,' published in 1754, but written about 1750, by an English officer of Engineers, quartered at Inverness. We do not blame him for drawing both jest and earnest from this authentic source. But he ought to have mentioned his authority. From Home's History of the Rebellion, and Boswell's Tour, the traveller gives an abridged narrative of the escape of Charles Edward, in which he is pleased to introduce a flourishing account of his entering the house of a chief, hostile to his family, and throwing himself on his mercy; which was, we believe, invented by Voltaire for the sake of effect. The story of his being harboured by six robbers, one of whom was afterwards hanged for stealing a cow, is true, but very inaccurately told. One of these men was alive in Edinburgh about twenty years ago. His name was Chisholm. Sir John here gives a curious instance of mistaking the drift and real merit of a story. He had been told (and it is a fact) that one of these faithful Highlanders ventured to Fort George to procure intelligence of the motions of the troops, and unwilling to return without something that might improve the prince's fare, in the simplicity of his heart, purchased and brought home a pennyworth of gingerbread. Sir John blunts the story cruelly by saying, he brought him 'abundance of gingerbread, of which the unhappy prince was very fond!' Among the remarks of our author, which seem to be most original, we discover a peculiar [189] abhorrence of the Scottish bagpipe. Even the hospitality of Staffa hardly induces him to stifle his sarcasms on this obstreperous musical retainer; and he exults, in an unseemly manner, over the fate of one of the profession, who in an ambitious attempt to pipe, sans intermission, during a march of thirty miles, actually blew the breath out of his body! p. 479

  21. From Fort Augustus Sir John proceeds to Oban, and thence to Mull and Ulva. He sees Staffa (the island as well as the Laird), but not Jona, which was rather unlucky, as all the monuments had been just white-washed to receive his Grace of Argyle! He returns by Lismere to Loch Lomond, and thence crosses to the Highlands of Perthshire, as far as Dunkeld; and turns westward, again to Glasgow. Here he arrived in time to give his advice to the magistrates concerning the inscription to be placed on Nelson's monument, an obelisk then just completed. Sir John recommended, that the base should bear this brief record 'Glasgow to Nelson.' We are surprised at the rejection of this laconic posy, because 'there is a dignity in brevity;' and also because we have heard that a sagacious citizen, recollecting that there was a village in the vicinage bearing the name of the gallant admiral, proposed this useful addition, 'Glasgow to Nelson, XII MILES;' so that the column might serve the double purpose of a milestone and a monument. From Glasgow, Sir John, tired with wandering, escapes in two pages into England.

  22. An eager desire to rush, with the poet, in medias res, prevented us from noticing in the proper place, that Sir John begins his eventful journey from London, and describes, at some length, the cities, towns, and hamlets, which he surveyed in his progress to the border land. Cambridge, Stamford, York, Durham, Newcastle, &c. pass successively under his review; and as he travels, like Uncle Toby, 'in the kindest disposition in the world,' he finds something civil to say of them all.

  23. Those who are aware of the knight's perspicacity, will hear, without emotion, that even in places so well known, he meets with wonders of which the existence was never suspected: but they will yet be somewhat startled at the singular concatenation of ideas and language on which his discoveries appear to depend. Thus, at Cambridge, while contemplating the writings of Milton, he finds out that the lovers of the sublime and beautiful may be gratified by seeing a lock of his hair in Yorkshire! And at Stamford, that the city of Cologne, as well as most of the houses, are built of a fine hard stone in Lincolnshire. [190]

  24. At Durham, he tells us, that 'the houses are in general mean, and far from corresponding with the features he has just mentioned.' Here we are tempted to exclaim with poor Audrey, Features! Lord bless us, what's features? for we hear of none 'but walks of elm and mountain ash, and bridges over the river Wear!' But thus the knight proceeds, bewildering himself and his readers, 'and venting his folly' from town to town.

  25. At Newcastle, we are favoured with 'a copy of verses made by Ben Johnson on a steeple.' This notable piece of humour concludes thus;

    'I am seen where I am not, I am heard where I is not;
    Tell me now what I am, and see that ye miss not.'

    We can venture to assure the knight, that he has been imposed upon, and that Ben Jonson (however incredible it may appear to him) was incapable of writing vile doggrel in viler English. We are almost inclined to suspect that the couplet in question was composed by some Newcastle wag upon Sir John himself; as, in this view, and in no other, it forms a tolerable riddle. We can follow him no farther.

  26. Although Sir John quotes Horace, he has yet to learn that a wise man should not admire too easily: for lie frequently falls into a state of wonderment at what appears to us neither very new nor very extraordinary. Thus we hear of a portrait of Lady Caroline Montague by Sir Joshua; 'and what is singular, the back-ground is a winter scene, and a little robin is whimsically approaching her.' p. 87.

  27. In Northumberland, nothing astonishes him so much as the language of the common people. 'Some of their words arc pronounced precisely the same as some words of German, and have the same meaning: for instance, a shepherd one day said to a friend of mine,' (all the knight's stories, even those purloined from Joe Millar, happen to himself or his friends,) 'the maiden is no blait.' In German it is'—(No, not in German, Sir John, we can venture to assure you,)—'das madehen is no blöde.' p. 26.

  28. But the Northumbrians not only use German, but French words; 'thus they have pese from peser.' All this utterly confounds the knight: he never heard, apparently, that the Saxons and the Normans had once a footing in this country; and, like the bourgeois of Moliere, will scarcely trust the evidence of his own senses, when we inform him that he has been talking [191] German and French from his cradle without knowing it. Upon the whole, we do not much admire Sir John as a philologist.

  29. Just as he enters Scotland, he gives a singular proof of that disposition, already noticed, to say something civil of every thing; and truly, when we take into consideration the awkward pains which it must have cost him, we cannot sufficiently praise his good nature. 'At Wallington, there is a portrait of Mrs. Trevelyan, by Hoppner, of which it may be most justly remarked, that had the beauty pourtrayed in the picture been less, it had been in that degree less like its amiable original.' p. 32.

  30. Ere we dismiss our traveller, we cannot but remark his want of precision in the names of persons and places. We have Branston for Brampton, Corniston for Comiston, Willcox for Willox, Lockiel for Lochiel, Stath Lachlaw for Strath Lachlan, &c. &c. Besides this, Sir John has an unlucky vacillation and uncertainty of phrase, which sometimes leaves us utterly at a loss to comprehend him. We propound the following doubts for solution to any Œdipus wiser than ourselves. Of Dunolly Castle, Sir John says,

    'The remains of this castle stand on a bold rocky promontory, jutting into Loch Etive. This castle was founded by Ewin, a Pictish monarch, contemporary with Julius Caesar. It is said that, when visitors unexpectedly arrive at this castle, and there are not sufficient provisions within for their entertainment, an hospitable telegraph, namely, a table-cloth, is hoisted upon a pole on the battlements, which is a signal for certain tenants of the proprietor to bring supplies of fresh salmon, or any other fish which may be in season.'

    In this confusion of tenses are we to conclude that the displaying of the genial banner belonged to the times of the Pictish, monarch, Ewin? or that the remains of the castle are still inhabited, and that the ceremony is of modern date? Again, p. 484, it is recorded, that the generous Bishop of Derry bestowed on a western islesman three razors, several pounds of soap, and a purse of ten guineas, 'which made the poor fellow pity and despise the rest of the world, till his presents were worn out and expended.' The guineas might be expended, the soap worn out, but what became of the razors? Yet again, p. 127, it is said of the Court of Justiciary, 'The causes which come before this court are tried by a Jury of fifteen; a majority of whom most wisely decide.' Here arises a high and doubtful question for future scholiasts: are we to understand that it is most wise that the verdict should be decided by the majority, or [192] that the majority of a Scottish jury always decide most wisely? The last supposition may account for the partiality of the Caledonians to majorities elsewhere, from their observing that they were always in the right in their own national courts. But the sentence is deeply oracular, and will bear either construction.

  31. We take our leave of Sir John, with a sincere advice to him to extend his next travels to some more distant bourne. He has long been the Stranger Abroad, we will not permit him to be the Stranger at Home. We must guard him against giving us a Hampstead Summer, Memoranda of Margate, or, the Traveller at Brighton: A top—Sir John must not be offended at the simile, Virgil compares a queen to the same thing—a top, when it narrows its gyrations, is apt to become stationary; in which case all school-boys know it will either fall asleep or tumble down: the remedy to restore its activity, and enlarge its circuit, is a tight flagellation. We have taken the hint; but we hope that Sir John, will not go to law with us for so doing: we would rather whip our top any where than in Westminster Hall; and our Review is not, at least in the engraver's sense of the word, adorned with cuts.

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September 2006

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