Page images








[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

I am sorry to observe, by your last favour, that you disapprove of the numerous retrenchments and alterations which I have been under the necessity of making on the Manuscript of your fejend, the Benedictine; and I willingly make you the medium of apology to many, who have honoured me more than I deserve.

I admit that my retrenchments have been numerous, and leave gaps in the story, which, in your original manuscript, would have run well nigh to a fourth volume, as my printer assures me. I am sensible besides, that in consequence of the liberty of curtailment you have allowed me, some parts of the story have been huddled up without the necessary details. But, after all, it is better that the traveller should have to step over a drain, than to wade through a morass--that the reader should have to suppose what

may easily be inferred, than be obliged to creep through pages of dull explanation. I have struck out, for example, the whole machinery of the White Lady, and the poetry by which it is so ably supported, in the original manuscript. But you must allow that the public taste gives little encouragement to those legendary superstitions, which formed the delight alternately and the terror of our predecessors. In like manner, much is omitted illustrative of the impulse of enthusiasm in favour of the ancient religion in Mother Magdalen and the Abbot. But we do not feel a deep sympathy at this period with what was once the most powerful and animating principle in Europe, with the exception of that of the Reformation, by which it was successfully opposed.

You rightly observe, that these retrenchments have rendered the title no longer applicable to the subject, and that some other would have been more suitable to the Work, in its present state, than that of The Abbot, who made so much greater figure in the original, and for whom your friend, the Benedictine, seems to have inspired you with a sympathetic respect. I

34 X 26

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

must plead guilty to this accusation, observing, at the same time, in manner of extenuation, that though the objection might have been easily removed, by giving a new title to the Work, yet, in doing so, I should have destroyed the necessary cohesion between the present history, and its predecessor The MONASTERY, which I was unwilling to do, as the period, and several of the personages, were the same.

After all, my good friend, it is of little consequence what the work is called, or on what interest it turns, providing it catches the public attention ; for the quality of the wine, (could we but ensure it) may, according to the old proverb, render the bush unnecessary, or of little consequence.

I congratulate you upon your having found it consistent with prudence to establish your Tilbury, and approve of the colour, and of your boy's livery, (subdued green and pink.)-As you talk of completing your descriptive poem on the • Ruins of Kennaquhair, with notes by an Antiquary,' I hope you have procured a steady horse. I remain, with compliments to all friends, dear Captain, very much

Your's, &c. &c. &c.


[ocr errors][ocr errors]



Domum mancit-lanam fecit.


She keepit close the hous, and birlit at the quhele.


The time which passes over our heads so imperceptibly, makes the same gradual change in habits, manners, and character, as in personal appearance. At the revolution of every five years we find ourselves another, and yet the same--there is a change of views, and no less of the light in which we regard them ; a change of motives as well as of actions. Nearly twice that space had glided away over the head of Halbert Glendinning and his lady, betwixt the conclusion of that narrative in which they played a distinguished part, and the commencement of the present.

Two circumstances only had embittered their union, which was otherwise as happy as mutual affection could render it. The first of these was indeed the common calamity of Scotland, being the distracted state of that unhappy country, where every man's sword was directed against his neighbour's bosom. Glendinning had proved what Murray expected of him, a steady Iriend, strong in battle and wise in counsel, adhering to him from motives of gratitude, in situations where by his own unbiassed will he would either have stood neuter, or have joined the opposite party. Hence, when danger was near, and it was seldom far distant, Sir Halbert Glendinding, for he now bore the rank of knighthood, was perpetually summoned to attend his patron on distant expeditions, or on perilous enterprizes, or to assist him with his counsel in the doubtful intrigues of a half barbarous court. He was thus frequently, and for a long space, absent from his castle and from his lady; and to this ground of regret we must add, that their union had produced no children to occupy the attention of the Lady of Ayenel, while She was thus deprived of her husband's domestic society.

On such occasions she lived almost entirely secluded from the world, within the walls of her paternal mansion. Visiting amongst neighbours was a matter entirely out of the question, unless on occasion of solemn festival, and then it was chiefly confined to near kindred. Of these the Lady of Avenel had none who survived, and the dames of the neighbouring barons affected to regard her less as the heiress of the House of Avenel, than as the

« PreviousContinue »