Page images

The Local Historian's Table Book; or, Remarkable Occurrences, Histo

rical Facts, Traditions, Legendary and Descriptive Ballads, &c. Part

51. By M. A. RICHARDSON. We have, on several former occasions, referred to this curious and interesting publication. We re-introduce it to the notice of our readers because of the opportunity which it gives us of presenting them with the following

ANECDOTES OF FARIES. The most noticeable characteristic of the greater number of fairy tales is not only the resemblance which they bear to each other, but the analogy which subsists between those of two different districts-even of one country and another. Thus the fairy tales of Northumberland and Durham have a remarkable affinity to some which are prevalent in the Highlands of Scotland and in Wales, and, indeed, perhaps the whole of the more northern states of Europe, although the close connection which formerly subsisted between us and the latter sufficiently accounts for the similarity of detail; but it is not so easy to assign cause for the connection with the legends of more remote regions. This circuinstance tends to show that there has been one common stock whence all these varieties of one ancient legend have sprung; for on relating an anecdote of this kind nothing was more rational than for the narrator to individualize his tale, by placing its occurrence on some tangible and well known spot of ground in his immediate vicinity. Not that anything of plagiarism is here implied, but the multitude of similar details would lead us to suppose that they must have occurred in a lesser number of places; nevertheless this remark is more particularly applicable to the tales of King Arthur's knights. These sbreds of floaty tradition, whose origin is lost in the remote mists of unfathomable antiquity, possess peculiar interest to the man of observation. They are not merely remarkable as being the remains of a system of mythology, closely interwoven with the history of remote ages, associated with all that is fresh, beautiful, and sparkling, and far from the noise and bustle of men; airy beings whose chosen scenes are the forest, the lone heath, the gurgling stream, the plashing waterfall, and the sandy untrodden beach. They are, we say, not only remarkable on these accounts, but it makes matter for just surprise that the faithfulness of tradition during so long a series of ages, has handed down to us, in all their freshness and originality, the beautiful and wildly imaginative tales of those tiny beings, whose exploits were first related by men whose race has long since been run, whose toils and troubles are overpast, and the green earth knows them no more.

“The broad daylight of knowledge,” says Chatto, "which has been shed on the human mind within the last fifty years, has caused fairies wholly to disappear, though on many a moor and in many a glen the emerald rings traced by their tiny feet, twinkling in the dance to the sound of 'aërial minstrelsy,' are still to be seen. No good-looking young countryman, six feet high or thereabouts—for whom all the girls of the village are dying as fast as slighted love fed only on milk and meal can make them—is any longer under the apprehension of captivating a female fairy by his ' manly beauty,' and of being violently seduced by her; and no poor woman, when out shearing, is any longer afraid to leave her comely child under a stook of corn lest it should be carried off by the fairies, and a rickety bantling, peevish as a sick monkey and ugly as sin, left in its place. I never met with any one who could positively assert that he had ever received benefit or injury from the fairies, or who had ever witnessed their revels; though I have heard several persons tell of fairies having been seen by their immediate ancestors. I however knew an old man whose dog had pointed a troop of fairies; and though they were invisible to himself, yet he plainly heard their music, sounding like a fiddle and a pair of very small pipes. He believed that they were dancing under a small green hillock in the direction of which the dog pointed. Many years ago, ere.George the Third was king,' a girl who lived near Nether Witton, returning home from milking, with her pail upon her head, saw many fairies gambolling in the fields, but which were invisible to her companions though pointed out to them by her. On reaching home, and telling what she had seen, the circumstance of her power of vision being greater than that of her companions was canvassed in the family, and the cause at length discovered in her weise,* which was found to be of four-leaved clover ; persons having about with them a bunch, or even a single blade, of four-leaved clover, being supposed to possess the power of seeing fairies, even though the elves should wish to be invisible ; of perceiving in their proper character evil spirits which assumed the form of men; and of detecting the arts of those who practised magic, necromancy, or witchcraft."

The village and vicinity of Nether Witton, indeed, seemed to be rife of these tales :-A cottager and his wife, residing at this place, were one day visited by a fairy and his spouse with their young child, which they wished to leave in their charge. The cottager agreed to take care of the child for a certain period, when it had to be taken thence. The fairy gave the man a box of ointment, with which to anoint the child's eyes; but he had not on any account to touch himself with it, or some misfortune would befal him. For a long time he and his wife were very careful to avoid the dangerous unction; but one day, when his wife was out, curiosity overcame his prudence, and he anointed his eye, without any noticeable effect. But after a while, when walking through Long Horsely Fair, he met the male fairy and accosted him : he started back in amazement at the recognition, but instantly guessing the truth, blew on the eyes of the cottager, and instantly blinded him. The child was never more seen.

Another tale relates, that a messenger having visited a country midwife or howdie, requested her professional assistance in a case where so much secresy was required, that she must be conducted to and from the destined place blindfolded. She at first hesitated, but her scruples were overcome by a handsome present, the promise of a future reward, and assurance of personal safety. She then submitted to the required condition, mounted behind the messenger on a fleet charger, and was carried forward in an unaccountable manner. The journey was not of long continuance, the steed halted, she dismounted, and was conducted into the cottage, where the bandage was removed from her eyes; everything appeared neat and comfortable. She was shown the woman “ in the straw," and performed her office; but when ready to dress the babe, an old woman (who, according to the narration, appears to have been the nurse) put a box of ointment into her hand, requiring her to anoint the child all over with it, but to be careful that it did not touch her own person. She prudently complied, though wondering at the motive. Whilst this operation was going on, she felt an itching in one of her eyes, and, in an unguarded moment, rubbed it with a finger which had touched the mysterious ointment. And now a new scene forced itself upon her astonished vision, and she saw everything in a different light. Instead of the neat cottage, she perceived the large overhanging branches of an ancient oak, whose hollow and moss-grown trunk she had before mistaken for the fireplace; glow-worms supplied the place of lamps, and, in short, she found herself in the abode of a family of fairies, with fairies was she surrounded, and one of their number reposed on her lap. She however retained her self-possession, finished her task, and was conducted homeward in the same manner as she was brought. So far all went

* A weise is a circular pad, commonly made of an old stocking, but sometimes merely a wreath of straw or grass, to save the head from the pressure of the pail.

well, and the howdie might have carried her secret to her grave, but in after time, on a market day (in what town the legend saith not), forgetful of her former caution, she saw the old nurse among the country women, gliding about from one basket to another, passing a little wooden scraper along the rolls of butter, and carefully collecting the particles thus purloined into a vessel hung by her side. After a mutual but silent recognition, the nurse addressed her thus :

“Which eye do you see me with ?”
“With this," innocently answered the other.

No sooner had she spoken, than a puff from the withering breath of her unearthly companion extinguished the ill-fated orb for ever, and the hag instantly vanished.

Another version says the Doctor is presented with a box of eyesalve by his conductor : on using it he sees a splendid portico in the side of a steep hill; through this he is shown into the fairies' hall in the interior of the mountain. He performs his office, and on coming out he receives a second box; he rubs one eye, and with it sees the hill in its natural shape; then, thinking to cheat the devil, feigns to rub the other, and gallops off. Afterwards he sees the fairy's husband stealing corn in the market, when similar consequences befal him as those which occurred unto the woman.

At Chatbill Farm, a few miles north of Alnwick, is a fairy ring, around which the children of the vicinity delight to gambol. They have a superstition that if they run more than nine times around it some evil will befal them. Consequently, impelled by a sort of obstinacy and that unaccountable temerity and curiosity not confined to babes but possessed by children of larger growth, venturing even to the brink of ruin, they run around the circle with impunity the appointed number of times, but cannot be induced to overstep the bounds they have assigned. In the sweet precincts of the solitude of Brinkburn, the villagers point out a shady green spot as coveting the graves of the tiny people, and truly a more suitable place could not have been devised as a scene of so purely poetic a belief.

A widow and her son, a little boy, lived together in a cottage in or near the village of Rothley, Northumberland. One winter evening the child refused to go to bed with his mother, as he wished to sit up for a while longer, “ for," said he, “ I am not sleepy.” The mother, finding remonstrance in vain, at last told him that if he sat up by himself the fairies would most certainly come and take him away. The boy laughed as his mother went to bed, leaving him sitting by the fire. He had not been there long watching the fire and enjoying the cheerful warmth, till a beautiful little figure, about the size of a child's doll, descended the chimney, and alighted on the hearth. The little fellow was somewhat startled at first, but its prepossessing smile as it paced to and fro before him, soon overcame his fears, and he inquired familiarly

“What do they call thou ?” "Ainsel,” answered the little thing haughtily, at the same time retorting the question

“And what do they ca' thou?"

“My ainsel,” answered the boy; and they commenced playing together like two children newly acquainted.

Their gambols continued quite innocently until the fire began to grow dim; the boy then took up the poker to stir it, when a hot cinder accidentally fell upon the foot of his playmate ; her tiny voice was instantly raised to a most terrific roar, and the boy had scarcely time to crouch into the bed behind his mother, before the voice of the old fairy mother was heard shouting

“Who's done it? Who's done it?"
“Oh! it was my ainsel !” answered the daughter.

"Why then," said the mother, as she kicked her up the chimney, “What's all the noise for? there's nyen to blame.”

Among the romantic thickets, the projecting rocks and the deep whirling

pools of the sequestered ravine of Whittle dean, near Ovingham, Northumberland, spots are still pointed out by the neighbouring villagers as the favourite retreat of harmless fairies and weeping lovers. Of one of these latter the old people of Warden relate a curious story, and although it may not exactly relate to the subjects under consideration, it possesses many points of similarity, and its introduction may therefore be pardoned. A young woman, who died of love, was buried in Warden churchyard, when a singular and uncommon species of yellow flower, similar to that of the mustard, grew on her grave; and what is still more remarkable, it never again appeared after the season in which the broken-hearted nymph was laid beneath the verdant sod.

As a termination to these scraps, we append one of those more purely poetical beliefs which are now very rarely to be met with. On the north side of Cheviot, in the midst of its green slypes and heathy solitudes, there is a chasm called the “Hen Hole." This cleft is so deep and so narrow, that the rays of the sun can never be said to illumine even its rugged sides, and, as might be expected, there is frequently to be seen therein a snow egg at Midsummer. In the days of old, a party of hunters were chasing a roc upon the green hills of Cheviot, when they heard issuing from this chasm the sweetest music they had ever heard, and forgetting the roe, which scoured away unheeded, they were impelled to enter, and could never again find their way out.

The Kind and Benevolent Call to the People of God to come out of Babylon.

Illustrated and Enforced. By WILLIAM JONES, M.A. Author of

the “ History of the Waldenses ;" “ Biblical Cyclopædia,” &c., &c. This is one of a series of Lectures which Mr. Jones lately delivered to his congregation on the subject of prophecy. On this subject we know of no greater contemporary authority than our revered author. As we have reason to believe that the series of Lectures to which we refer, will soon make their appearance in a handsome volume, we defer any lengthened remarks on the pamphlet before us. We shall then have an opportunity of adverting not only to the Lectures themselves, but to the subject of which they treat. In the meantime we content ourselves with quoting the conclusion of the present lecture, which appears at a most seasonable moment:

But it is time that I drew this lecture to a close. What, upon the whole, is the use that we are called to make of the subject which we have now had under consideration? After what has appeared, from this course of lectures, to be the real character of the church of Rome-her corruption in doctrine ; her idolatrous worship ; her tyranny, and intolerance, and oppression-lording it over God's heritage, and making the commandments of God of no effect by her traditions ; can any unprejudiced person doubt for a moment that in papal Rome we have Babylon the Great, the mother of barlots and abominations of the earth, against the vials of the wrath of Almighty God are now pouring out upon the earth, and concerning which the call in my text is gone forth :Come out of her, my people, that ye partake not of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues ?" Confidently may it be affirmed, that the history of that apostate church is written in blood : and the bare perusal of its sanguinary proceedings against the faithful, leaves on the mind impressions of the utmost detestation for the spiritual tyranny exercised by that irfamous court. Providence never made use of so terrible à scourge to chastise mankind. No power ever outraged the interests of society, the principles of justice, and the claims of humanity to the same extent. Never did the world behold such

blasphemy, profligacy, and wantonness, as in the proceedings of this spiritual domination. It held the human mind in chains, visited with exemplary punishment every inroad on the domains of ignorance, and sunk nations into a state of stupidity and imbecility. Its proscriptions, massacres, and murders, and all the various forms which its cruelties assumed; the miseries which it heaped on the objects of its vengeance; its merciless treatment of them, and the grasp of its iron sway at one time seemed to leave no hope for the liberation of the human race, and surely nothing can appear more hideous than this power in its true colours; it leaves the mind full of horror at its cruelties. This, I am aware, may be deemed strong language and severe, but not more so than the facts that have been detailed in the foregoing lectures will be found fully to justify! But Babylon is foredoomed, and the hour of her destruction is at hand. Look at the context and consider it maturely : “ And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power, and the earth was lightened with his glory : And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the Great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird : for all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have waved rich through the abundance of her delicacies.” “And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all,” verse 21. As sure, then, as this antichristian power arose, and reigned, and triumphed, so surely shall its overthrow come in the Lord's appointed time and way.

We have no doubt that Mr. Jones's Lectures will excite great attention when they appear.

English Churchwomen of the Seventeenth Century. This volume contains memoirs, mostly brief (but some of them more copious) of women distinguished for their piety in the seventeenth century. The great fault of the book is, that the subjects all belonged to the Church of England; it would have been better had they been chosen from among the good of all denominations. We give, as a specimen, the account of

LADY JANE CHEYNE. Lady Jane Cavendish was the eldest daughter of William, Marquis, afterwards Duke, of Newcastle, and was brought up in her infant years at Welbeck, the princely abode of her father. Her mother took much pains with her education, and she was the favourite of her grandmother Lady Ogle.

She had a naturally sweet and even disposition, which, being cultivated by good training, produced an even course of goodness. “Her soft yielding compliance, backed with magnanimity, was like polished marble, smooth and strong.'

During her youth, she took much delight in her father's writings, and left a good stock of her own; for she loved to spend her leisure in writing pious meditations, as well as in reading good discourses. From her youth to her death-bed, she failed not of prayer thrice a-day; or, if her time was interfered with in the morning or at noon, she failed not to make it up at night. Whilst her father was abroad, she and one of her sisters were in a house of his garrisoned against the rebels, and, after showing her courage and loyalty during the siege, she became a prisoner there upon the house being taken. The treatineat received by her and her sister was not such as might have seemed due to their rank and tender age ; but upon the retaking of the house by the king's forces, she became petitioner to save her jailer's life,

« PreviousContinue »