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peremptory! that scepticism itself is dared into silence, and the mind sinks before the bold reporter in unresisting credulity; but, if a second question be ventured, it breaks the enchantment; for it is immediately discovered, that what was told so confidently was told at hazard, and that such fearlessness of assertion was either the sport of negligence, or the refuge of ignorance. I have often been deceived by them, in asking the distance between places. In walking from Dunkeld to Logierait, (which is 8 miles) when we were approaching the Tay, I asked the distance; 2 miles was the answer—the next person asserted it was 31!and, when I was within a mile of Logierait, I was told it was nearly 3 miles off!
The philosophic traveller in the Highlands, will soon perceive what insuperable barriers Nature has opposed to the diffusion of knowledge in this country: extensive and pathless moors, dark glens, immense lochs like inland seas, wide and stormy friths jutting from the sea into the heart of the country. How can the humanizing spirit of Christianity be spread among such a diffused, isolated population? In those dreary regions, the inhabitants, sunk under the power of the most abject ignorance and poverty, must feel callous to the attractions of a mild religion, or must, on the other hand, abandon their gloomy souls to the most horrid superstition.
A silly law was passed, obliging the Highlanders to change their dress
and this has
been obeyed to a certain degree. The plaid however appears to be universally worn--it is merely a sheet of some cloth hanging loose on the shoulders, and it is chiefly used as a cloak during the rain, and to wrap themselves in, when they take a nap on their "blasted heaths.” The woolen bonnet is also universal. The philibeg, or lower garment like a petticoat cut short, is common. The tartan hose, or sandal, is sometimes worn. It was with extreme impatience that they bore the prohibition of the ancient Highland dress; and they consider the privilege of again wearing it, as doubly valuable; since the removal of this degrading prohibition, was obtained at the request of the present Duke of Montrose, a chieftain of their
I saw a wee fellow at Kenmore, dressed completely in the national style. He wore a neat striped bonnet, cocked to one side of his head, and giving him a very smart look. Over his shoulders fluttered the chequered plaid, and the philibeg waved downwards-his knees were naked, and his legs were covered with the Tartan hose. The little urchin strutted about the streets with much self-complacency, and afforded our party great diversion from the tavern window.
The music of the Highlanders is congenial with their peculiar turn of mind. It is plaintive and even melancholy: “ the music was like the memory of joys that are past, (says Ossian,) pleasant and mournful to the soul”Laments, or funeral dirges, are favourite airs
with the Highlanders; some of them are exquisitely beautiful, producing that voluptuous melancholy which is so congenial to persons of a romantic turn of mind. The bagpipe, when played in the valleys during a fine evening, produces a delightful effect, by the reverberation of the tones from the mountains and glens. I shall never forget the evening I spent near Loch Katrine. The low murmuring of the distant waters was blended with the soft notes of the bag pipe, whose music floated in the air at a distance. What the Ettrick Shepherd finely calls
“Great Nature's hom
was confounded with the noise of the
sweeping winds and far-off stream; but when the bag pipe poured forth its melody in its highest strain, all the music of nature seemed hushed into silence and the rich harmonious tones floated at a distance “like a meteor streaming to the wind”-while the rocks and nodding groves
re-echoed to the sound. Dr. Johnson distinguishes the Highland habitations into huts and houses: a house being a building of two stories, a hut being a dwelling with one floor. These huts are miserable ho. vels, without chimney or window, the door being used for entrance to the light and exit to the smoke. They are built of loose stones adapted to each other, or by a double wall of stones, with an intermedium of earth, and the
hut is covered with mud, grass or turfs, held together by twigs. The roof is rent in several places. The fire is often made in the centre and fills the whole wigwam with smoke. I entered one of these buts near Cailander, the description of which may serve for the rest. The door was so narrow,
that I was nearly suffocated in my attempt to squeeze in; and after narrowly escaping breaking my shins over a pile of stones set for a bench! I sat near a crazy table to partake of the wretched fare laid before me. The smoke from the blazing turf, having no means of escape, but through a hole in the roof, eddied through the apertures in the ceiling, and hung in sable folds over our heads, like a canopy of soot! The Hecate whose soiled and ragged dress, and weather-beaten phyz, gave her the appearance of one of the “ imperfect speakers” in Macbeth, almost induced me to shrink back from my resolution of satisfying my appetite in her horrid den. Over her shoulders was a Tartan screen, rather the worse for the wear:
“ Her lower weeds were all o'er coarsely patched
Her thick black hair, which escaped“ with Gorgon horrors” from a small greasy nightcap, and her hideous expression of features, conveyed the idea of a witch“ plying her unutterable trade."
But all the Highland cottages are not so dis
gusting as the one I have spoken of; although, generally speaking, they answer this description. Our party called at a neat little hamlet near Blair-Athol, where we were regaled with delicacies, which induced even the fastidious Dr. Johnson to extol the luxury of a Scotch breakfast. This cottage was embosomed in the
dst of fruit trees; the garden was neatly laid out and was well stored with vegetables; circles of blue smoke ascended from the chimney, and winded slowly out from among the green trees; a tremendous bull-dog was snoring at the door, and in a little farm-yard were cows and sheep—the cock was tuning his throat, and the poultry were swarming round our hostess, who was distributing showers of meal and corn to them. The interior of the cottage corresponded to the exterior; every thing was clean, neat and almost elegant—and we were so well satisfied with this pleasing picture of rural happiness, that on continuing our journey, we cast many a “ longing, lingering look behind.”
Peat or turf is used in the Highlands for fuel. It is dug out of marshy grounds, and appears to be merely black earth kept together by the intertwisting of vegetable fibres, which being more combustible, take fire and heat the earth red hot. They use this peat in the distillation of Highland whiskey, which is much admired, particularly on account of a singular