« PreviousContinue »
.cessary; there can be no doubt that the bill which last year passed the Commons, but was thrown out by the Lords, was in several respects inadequate to the proposed purpose; and we may be permitted to express a hope that no feelings of jealousy or of disappointment, either among philosophers or legislators, will so operate as to impede inquiry and revision, in a matter where both national reputation and commercial intercourse, are deeply interested.
The author of Metrology would probably have been better pleased, if we had said more respecting his book, and less respecting the subject of it, than we have yet done. But that would not have comported with our principal object in preparing this article. Let it suffice if we remark with respect to this performance, that it contains much interesting, and in the main, correct information, on the actual state of weights and measures, and of the chief proposals for ensuring uniformity; but that we suppose the author threw his materials rather hastily together, in order to meet public curiosity at a particular moment; and this may explain why it is equally destitute of scientific investigation directed to particular objects, and of comprehensive views of the question at large.
The article in Dr. Rees's Cyclopædia may be popular and entertaining to general readers. Its writer does not profess to do more than skim the surface of the subject; and we conjecture that he has been more free in his quotations from the Metrology, than could be justified in any person who did not stand in the closest possible relation to the ingenious author of that work.
ART. IX.--Tales of my Landlord, collected and arranged by Jedes
diah Cleishbotham, Schoolmaster and Parish-Clerk of Gandercleugh. 4 yolş. 12mo. pp. 1399. Blackwood. Edinburgh,
1816. We sat down to read these volumes with a degree of interest and expectation, which this sort of publication rarely excites in us, on being informed that they were written in the style, and supposed to be the production, of the author of Waverly; and of the two other popular productions which embrace the traditions, and describe the manners, of our northern neighbours. The rebels of the covenant and of presbytery, who in the west of Scotland opposed the tyrannical measures of the last Stuarts, the stern and decided features of their unyielding enthusiasm, and the singular nature of their adventures, were fit subjects for that genius which had sketched
so animated a picture of the Highland insurgents and their enterprise, in 1745. To the same person, or to Mr. Scott, report has assigned the present work. For our own part we pretend to no secrets on these grave matters: we know not who that anony, mous magician may be, who is thus calling up past ages for our amusement; we receive his gifts however, with that becoming sense of the favour, with which some helpless families of his country are said formerly to have received the assistance of a kind fairy called Brounie; and should be sorry that any prying curiosity should scare him, like that fabulous being (who wrought no longer than he could escape reward or detection), from continuing his services: but we may say that the author of Waverly is the author of the “ Tales of my Landlord,” if, according to the reasoning of Dean Swift, quoted by Cleishbotham the schoolmaster in his own favour,
“ That without which a thing is not
Is causa sine qua non."
The present volumes contain two Tales; the first, occupying one volume, and entitled the Black Dwarf, is descriptive of the manners, the superstitions, and political state of the Borders, about the era of the Hanoverian succession; the other, called Old Mortality, embraces the history of the Cameronians, or covenanters, in the time of Charles II. They display, like Waverly, Guy Mannering, and the Antiquary, though perhaps in a less degree, a strong and vigorous conception of the scenes they describe, a complete dominion over the characters introduced, a rapid and precipitous flow of narration, a spirited and natural dialogue, and a minute and intimate knowledge of manners, traditions, and localities. The old plate armour, in which warriors of other days were encased, does not give us a more exact representation of their figures when prepared for action, than these volumes convey of the passions, opinions, and proceedings of the stormy and turbulent race whose transactions they pourtray. We are grateful to those authors who have thus turned back our
upon the history and traditions of our ancestors as sources of amusement, who have given us a taste for something more in poetry and fictitious narrative, than set phrases, tawdry antitheses, and the trifling details of fashionable distress, affectation, gallantry, and gossip.
“ The relics of ancient poetry” have performed real literary miracles. The Border ballads, and the beautiful imitations by which they have been succeeded, have inspired a still further relish for the “olden time.” The last and greatest of the minstrels has taken up the harp, found among his native mountains, and adding to it other strings, and drawing
from it more varied music, has become the Homer of his country. The prose-writer and novelist have followed in the track of the traditionary bard; literature has expanded her wings and has collected her materials from a wider circuit of nature, and a bolder range through the dark and distant scenery of human character.
The superstitions, the political notions and errors, the arts, the enjoyments, the modes of thinking and style of expression, that distinguished those who preceded us by a few generations, when represented in a just and vigorous manner, when embodied in romantic story, surrounded with majestic scenes, and displayed with gigantic
features and vivacious colouring, are irresistibly attractive. They seize at once our curiosity and our hearts
. There is a medium of natural prejudice in favour of antiquity through which our ruder forefathers are seen to great poetical advantage; and it may be that, in their circumstances and characters, there were more of the elements of romantic interest and intense sympathy than now exist. Their sturdy self-will, the fiercer freedom of their affections and passions and ambitions, the devotedness of their loyalty, the fervour of their zeal, their fortitude in suffering; all concur in the composition of a rich, and deep, and splendid effect. Their characters were cast in a mould newer and less worn, with more of the individual marks, or angular roughnesses of nature. We doubt much, whether presbytery would now have, in case of persecution, as many martyrs in Scotland as formerly; though the present race may possibly think as highly of the benefits they derive from it, as their fathers, who, as Cuddie's mother expresses it, “ were thought worthy to bear testimony to the covenant in the Grass-market.
The Black Dwarf is a tale of Border violence, superstition, and conspiracy, conducted with singular art, embracing much well sustained character and striking incident. The mysterious being, who gives it the title, is found in the course of the story to be a man born to great fortune, and possessed of a vigorous intellect, but who, having been driven by the treacherous ingratitude of his friends, the violence of his injured feelings, and his keen sensibi, lity to the deformities of his own person, into the madness of misanthropy and self torment, had taken up his abode in a frightful solitude, where he was visited by some for his knowledge of simples and his power of sorcery, or shunned by others on account of his terrific figure, his supposed intercourse with the invisible world, and his demoniacal capacity of mischief.
“ Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
he found that the prodigality of his bounty could not overcome the aversion inspired by his person; and keenly goaded into frenzy by treachery and baseness, he transferred the crimes of an individual to the whole race, and vents his wrath in the bitterest curses against nature and mankind. The following description of his external appearance is executed, we think, with a vigorous pencil, and is well calculated to inspire the superstitious terrors with which Hobbie the farmer viewed him building his hut in the wilderness. Elliot, the hero of the tale, without whom the farmer would never have ventured to approach so near, had come to examine him.
“ I am amaist persuaded it's the ghaist of a stane-mason-see siccan band-stanes as he's laid-An' it be a man, after a', I wonder what he wad take by the rood to build a ma
march-dyke. There's ane sair wanted between Cringlehope and the Shaws.-Honest man, (raising his voice,) ye make good firm wark there.?
“ The being whom he addressed raised his eyes with a ghastly stare, and getting up from his stooping posture, stood before them in all his native deformity. His head was of uncommon size, covered with a fell of shaggy hair, partly grizzled with age ; his eye-brows, shaggy and prominent, overhung a pair of small, dark, piercing eyes, set far back in their sockets, that rolled with a portentous wildness, indicative of a partial insanity. The rest of his features were of the coarse, rough-hewn stamp with which a painter would equip a giant in a romance, to which was added, the wild, irregular, and peculiar expression so often seen in the countenances of those whose persons are deformed. His body, thick and square, like that of a man of middle size, was mounted upon two large feet; but nature seemed to have forgotten the legs and the thighs, or they were so very short as to be hidden by the dress which he wore. His arms were long and brawny, furnished with two muscular hands, and where uncovered in the eagerness of his labour, were shagged with coarse black hair. It seemed as if nature had originally intended the separate parts of his body to be the members of a giant, but had afterwards capriciously assigned them to the person of a dwarf, so ill did the length of his arms and the iron strength of his frame correspond with the shortness of his stature. His cloathing was a sort of coarse brown tunic, like a monk's frock, girt round him with a belt of seal-skin. On his head he had a cap made of badger's skin, or some other rough fur, which added considerably to the grotesque effect of his whole appearance, and over-shadowed features, whose habitual expression seemed that of sullen malignant misanthropy. This remarkable Dwarf gazed on the two youths in silence, with a dogged and irritated look, until Earnscliff, willing to sooth him into better temper, observed— You are hard tasked, my friend ; allow us to assist you.?
“Elliot and he accordingly placed the stone, by their joint efforts, upon the rising wall. The Dwarf watched them with the eye of a taskmaster, and testified, by peevish gestures, his impatience at the time which they took in adjusting the stone. He pointed to another
they raised it also to a third, to a fourth-they continued to humour him, though with some trouble, for he assigned them, as if intentionally, the heaviest fragments which lay near. And now, friend,' said Elliot, as the unreasonable Dwarf indicated another stone larger than any they had moved, · Earnscliff
do as he likes ; but, be ye man, or be ye waur, de’il be in my fingers if I break my back wi' heaving these stanes ony langer like a barrow-man, without getting sae muckle as thanks for my pains.'
66 • Thanks !’exclaimed the Dwarf, with a motion expressive of the utmost contempt — There-take them, and fatten upon them! Take them, and may they thrive with you as they have done with memas they have done with every mortal worm that ever heard the word spoken by his fellow reptile -Hence-either labour or begone.'
“ This is a fine reward we have, Earnscliff, for building a tabernacle for the devil, and prejudicing our ain souls into the bargain, for what we ken." (Vol. i. 1983.)
The ideas in the following passage are common, but they are expressed with uncommon force. Elliot, who visited the Dwarf on the fishing excursion, had entered with him into conversation on rural sports, and had said that he could not defend them.
“ 6 And yet,' interrupted the Dwarf, they are better than your ordinary business ; better to exercise idle and wanton cruelty on mute fishes than on your fellow creatures. Yet why should I say so? Why should not the whole human herd butt, gore, and gorge upon each other, till all are extirpated but one huge and overfed Behemoth, and he, when he had throttled and gnawed the bones of all his fellows-he, when his prey failed him, to be roaring whole days for lack of food, and, finally, to die inch by inch of famine-it were a consummation worthy of the race !'
“ • Your deeds are better, Elshie, than your words,' answered Earnscliff; you labour to preserve the race whom your misanthropy slanders.'
« $ I do; but why?-_Hearken. You are one on whom I look with the least loathing, and I care not, if, contrary to my wont, I waste a few words in compassion to your infatuated blindness. If I cannot send disease into families, and murrain among the herds, can I attain the same end so well as by prolonging the lives of those who can serve the purpose of destruction as effectually ?-If Alice of Bower had died in winter, would young Ruthwin have been slain for her love the last spring ?-Who thought of penning their cattle beneath the tower when the Red Riever of Westburnflat was deemed to be on his deathbed! My draughts, my skill recovered him. And, now, who dare leave his herd upon the lea without a watch, or go to bed without unchaining the sleuth-hound ??
“"I own,' answered Earnscliff, you did little good to society by the last of these cures. But, to balance the evil, there is my friend Hobbie, honest Hobbie of the Heughfoot, your skill relieved him last winter in a fever that might have cost him his life.' « « Thus think the children of clay in their ignorance," said the