Friday, December 31, 2010

Charles Edward Stuart

The year ends with a remembrance of the birth of Bonnie Prince Charlie, which occurred on December 31, 1720.  With his father in exile, Prince Charlie was born in Rome, under the protection of Pope Clement XI.

Charles Stuart and the rising of 1745, which aimed to restore the Stuart's to the throne, form the backdrop for Walter Scotts' 'Waverley".  Scott depicts Stuart's personal qualities favorably, based on sources included in notes to "Waverley":

'That Charles Edward had the advantages of a graceful presence, courtesy, and an address and manner becoming his station, the author never heard disputed by any who approached his person, nor does he conceive that these qualities are overcharged in the present attempt to sketch his portrait.


The following extracts corroborative of the general opinion respecting the Prince's amiable disposition are taken from a manuscript account of his romantic expedition, by James Maxwell of Kirkconnell, of which I possess a copy, by the friendship of J. Menzies, Esq., of Pitfoddells. The author, though partial to the Prince, whom he faithfully followed, seems to have been a fair and candid man, and well acquainted with the intrigues among the adventurer's council:--


'Everybody was mightily taken with the Prince's figure and personal behaviour. There was but one voice about them. Those whom interest or prejudice made a runaway to his cause could not help  acknowledging that they wished him well in all other respects, and could hardly blame him for his present undertaking. Sundry things had concurred to raise his character to the highest pitch, besides the greatness of the enterprise and the conduct that had hitherto appeared in the execution of it....'

Thursday, December 30, 2010

George Huntly Gordon

December 30 [1825]'...Dined alone with Gordon, Lady S., and Anne. James Curle, Melrose, has handsomely lent me £600; he has done kindly. I have served him before and will again if in my power.

The Gordon referred to in this December 30 entry from Scott's Journal, was George Huntly Gordon, who served as an amanuensis for Scott.  JG Lockhart discusses Scott meeting the younger Gordon in his "Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott":

'It may perhaps be remembered, that Sir Walter's cicerone over Waterloo, in August 1815, was a certain Major. Pryse Gordon, then on half-pay and resident at Brussels. The acquaintance, until they met at Sir Frederick Adam's table, had been very slight—nor was it ever carried further; but the Major was exceedingly attentive during Scott's stay, and afterwards took some pains about collecting little reliques of the battle for Abbotsford. One evening the poet supped at his house, and there happened to sit next him the host's eldest son, then a lad of nineteen, whose appearance and situation much interested him. He had been destined for the Church of Scotland, but, as he grew up, a deafness, which had come on him in boyhood, became worse and worse, and at length his friends feared that it must incapacitate him for the clerical function. He had gone to spend the vacation with his father, and Sir Frederick Adam, understanding how he was situated, offered him a temporary appointment as a clerk in the Commissariat, which he hoped to convert into a permanent one, in case the war continued. At the time of Scott's arrival that prospect was wellnigh gone, and the young man's infirmity, his embarrassment, and other things to which his own memorandum makes no allusion, excited the visitor's sympathy. Though there were lion-hunters of no small consequence in the party, he directed most of his talk into the poor clerk's ear-trumpet; and at parting, begged him not to forget that he had a friend on Tweedside....'

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

William Ewert Gladstone

William Ewert Gladstone was a very successful public servant, serving four times as Chancellor of the Exchequer, as a member of Parliament, and as Prime Minister, retiring at the age of 84.  He was also an enthusiastic Walter Scott fan.  According to Clayton Windscheffel, in his article for The Scottish Historical Review titled Gladstone and Scott: family, identity and nation:

'Amongst the poet-novelist's nineteenth-century political admirers, William Ewart Gladstone was possibly the most ardent, genuine, and significant. Scott's poems and novels were amongst the earliest texts Gladstone read; he read no works (in English), except the Bible, so consistently or completely over such a length of time. They offered him a plethora of inspirations, ideas, and language, which he imbibed and appropriated into his public and private lives. His concept of self, his understanding of family, and his sense of home, were all forged and conducted within a Scottian frame of reference. Scott's life and works also crucially influenced Gladstone's political understanding of the Scottish nation and its people, and his conception of how he could best serve their political interests. ...'

It is the long-lived Gladstone's birth that is celebrated on December 29.  The year was 1809.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rob Roy MacGregor

'Far and near, through vale and hill,
Are laces that attest the same,
And kindle like a fire new stirr'd
At sound of Rob Roy's name.'
 
Most people are familiar with Rob Roy MacGregor, at least from the movie with Liam Neeson playing the lead role.  The text above comes from Walter Scott's introduction to his "Rob Roy", which according to Edinburgh University's Walter Scott site was well received, both critically and with the public.  Scott provides background to the action of his story in the intro: 'There had been a long and bloody feud betwixt the MacGregors and the Laird of Luss, head of the family of Colquhoun, a powerful race on the lower part of Loch Lomond. The MacGregors' tradition affirms that the quarrel began on a very trifling subject. Two of the MacGregors being benighted, asked shelter in a house belonging to a dependant of the Colquhouns, and were refused. They then retreated to an out-house, took a wedder from the fold, killed it, and supped off the carcass, for which (it is said) they offered payment to the proprietor. The Laird of Luss seized on the offenders, and, by the summary process which feudal barons had at their command, had them both condemned and executed. The MacGregors verify this account of the feud by appealing to a proverb current amongst them execrating the hour {Mult dhu an carbail ghiT) that the black wedder with the white tail was ever lambed. To avenge this quarrel the Laird of MacGregor assembled his clan, to the number of three or four hundred men, and marched towards Luss from the banks of Loch Long, by a pass called Raid na Gael, or the Highlandman's Pass...'
 
Rob Roy fought with Jacobites in the risings of 1688 and 1715, the year "Rob Roy" the novel is set in.  Rob Roy's career as a cattleman developed after this period, and it was dealings with James Graham that caused him to be imprisoned.  Rob Roy MacGregor died on December 28, 1734.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Engagement

'When this treaty (which was called the Engagement, because the Commissioners engaged to restore the King by force of arms) was presented to the Scottish Parliament, it was approved by the more moderate part of the Presbyterians, who were led by the Duke of Hamilton, together with his brother, the Earl of Lanark, the Lord Chancellor Loudon, and the Earl of Lauderdale; this last being destined to make a remarkable figure in the next reign.  But the majority of the Presbyterian clergy, headed by the more zealous of their hearers, declared that the concessions of the King were entirely insufficient to engage Scotland in a new war, as affording no adequate cause for a quarrel with England.  This party was headed by the Duke of Argyle...'

The Engagement between Charles I of England and Covenanters was agreed to on December 27, 1647 (per Rampant Scotland).  Charles was confined in Carisbrooke Castle (wikipedia image) at the time.  Under the terms of this agreement, Scotland agreed to invade England to restore Charles to his throne, while Charles conceded the right to practice Presbyterianism for three years.  Sir Walter Scott covered this history in his "Tales of a Grandfather" (text above).

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Battle of Pultusk

On December 26, 1806, the Battle of Pultusk took place.  Russian troops under German general Levin Bennigsen defeated Napoleon Bonaparte's forces, which were under the command of Marshal Jean Lannes.  Sir Walter Scott covered this battle in his "The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte":

'On the 25th of November, the Russian army of Bennigsen, closely concentrated, occupied a position behind Pultusk ; their left, commanded by Count Ostreman, resting upon the town, which is situated on tha river Narew. A corps occupied the bridge, to prevent any attack from that point. The right, under Barclay de Tolly, was strongly posted in a wood, and the centre was under the orders of General Zachen. A considerable plain extended between the town of Pultusk and the wood, which formed the right of the Russian position. They had stationed a powerful advanced guard, had occupied the plain with their cavalry, and established a strong reserve in their rear. On the 26th, the Russian position was attacked by the French divisions of Lannes and Davoust, together with the French guards. After skirmishing some time in the centre, without making the desired impression, the battle appeared doubtful, when, suddenly assembling a great strength on their own left, the French made a decisive effort to overwhelm the Russians, by turning their right wing. The attack prevailed to a certain extent. The accumulated and superior weight of fire, determined Barclay de Tolly to retreat on his reserves, which he did without confusion, while the French seized upon the wood, and took several Russian guns. But Bennigsen, in spite of Kaminskoy's order to retreat, was determined to abide the brunt of battle, and to avail himself of the rugged intrepidity of the troops which he commanded. Ordering Barclay de Tolly to continue his retreat, and thus throwing back his right wing, he enticed the French, confident in victory, to pursue their success, until the Russian cavalry , which had covered the manoeuvre, suddenly withdrawing, they found themselves under a murderous and welldirected fire from one hundred and twenty guns, which, extending along the Russian front, played on the French advancing columns with the utmost success. The Russian line at the same time advanced in turn, and pushing the enemy before them, recovered the ground from which they had been driven. The approach of night ended the combat, which had been both obstinate and bloody. The French lost near eight thousand men, killed and wounded, including General Lannes and five other general officers among the latter. The Russian loss amounted to five thousand. The French retreated after nightfall with such rapidity, that on the next day the Cossacks could not find a rear-guard in the vicinity of Pultusk...'

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas

On Christmas Day, a poem title 'Christmas' by Sir Walter Scott (from poemhunter.com)

Christmas


The glowing censers, and their rich perfume;
The splendid vestments, and the sounding choir;
The gentle sigh of soul-subduing piety;
The alms which open-hearted charity
Bestows, with kindly glance; and those
Which e'en stern avarice.
Though with unwilling hand,
Seems forced to tender; an offering sweet
To the bright throne of mercy; mark
This day a festival.

And well our Christian sires of old
Loved when the year its course had roll'd,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all its hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night.
On Christmas eve the bells were rung,
On Christmas-eve the mass was sung;
That only night in all the year
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donn'd her Kirtle sheen;
The hall was dress'd with holly green;
Then open'd wide the baron's hall,
To vassal -- tenant -- serf and all:
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And ceremony doff'd his pride.
All hail'd with uncontroll'd delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.

Friday, December 24, 2010

George Crabbe

English poet George Crabbe was born this day, December 24th, in the year 1754.  Nearly 17 years Walter Scott's senior, he died just seven months before Scott (in February1832).  In addition to his work as a poet, Crabbe served as a priest for the Duke of Rutland, living at Belvoir Castle.

Crabbe's most famous poems, The Village and The Borough, focus on village life.  Crabbe developed a friendship with Scott due to his poetry.  It was Scott who initiated contact, as related in Rene Louis Huchon's "George Crabbe and his Times, 1754 - 1832; a critical and biographical study":

'In this comparatively sedentary life, the year 1822 is marked by an event of some importance—a journey to Edinburgh. A correspondence had arisen in 1812 between Crabbe and Sir Walter Scott. The latter, hearing that the Tales in Verse were about to be Published, had bespoken a copy at Hatchard's, and had afterwards intimated his entire satisfaction with the work in a highly eulogistic letter addressed to the publisher. Hatchard hastened to send it to Crabbe, who at once expressed his deep gratitude to the writer. " I have," he says, " long entertained a hearty wish to be made known to a poet whose works are so greatly and so universally admired. I continued to hope that I might at some time find a common friend, by whose intervention I might obtain that honour; but I am confined by duties near my home and by sickness in it. . . . Excuse me then, Sir, if I gladly seize this opportunity which now occurs to express my thanks for the politeness of your expressions, as well as my desire of being known to a gentleman who has delighted and affected me, and moved all the passions and feelings in turn, I believe—envy surely excepted. ... I truly rejoice in your success, and while I am entertaining, in my way, a certain set of readers, for the most part probably of peculiar turn and habit, I can with pleasure see the effect you produce on all." Scott replied by return of post with marked cordiality. He fully snared Crabbe's wish. " It is more than twenty years ago," he added, " that I was, for great part of a very snowy winter, the inhabitant of an old house in the country, in a course of poetical study, so very like that of your admirably painted ' Young Lad,' that I could hardly help saying, ' That's me!'"' And Scott, being unable to procure the poems themselves, had learnt by heart all the extracts from them given by The Annual Register—the conclusion of the first book of The Village, and the satire on the romantic novels in The Library: " You may therefore guess my sincere delight when I saw your poems at a later period assume the rank in the public consideration which they so well deserve. It was a triumph to my own immature taste to find I had anticipated the applause of the learned and the critical."...'

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Samuel Smiles

Scottish author Samuel Smiles was born on December 23, 1812.  Smiles is best known for his work titled "Self-Help", which sold more than a quarter million copies during his lifetime.  In "Self-Help",  Smiles dispensed wisdom such as: ' The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual; and, exhibited in the lives of many, it constitutes the true source of national vigour and strength. Help from without is often enfeebling in its effects, but help from within invariably invigorates. Whatever is done for men or classes, to a certain extent takes away the stimulus and necessity of doing for themselves; and where men are subjected to over-guidance and over-government, the inevitable tendency is to render them comparatively helpless.'

Smiles also authored biographies, including "The Life of George Stephenson", and more directly related to Sir Walter Scott "A Publisher and his Friends. Memoir and Correspondence of the Late John Murray".  From that work:

 'Some of the most important events in Murray's career occurred during the first year of his married life. Chief among them may perhaps be mentioned his part share in the publication of "Marmion" (in February 1808)--which brought him into intimate connection with Walter Scott--and his appointment for a time as publisher in London of the Edinburgh Review; for he was thus brought into direct personal contact with those forces which ultimately led to the chief literary enterprise of his life--the publication of the Quarterly Review.


Mr. Scott called upon Mr. Murray in London shortly after the return of the latter from his marriage in Edinburgh.


"Mr. Scott called upon me on Tuesday, and we conversed for an hour....

He appears very anxious that 'Marmion' should be published by the King's birthday....

He said he wished it to be ready by that time for very particular reasons; and yet he allows that the poem is not completed, and that he is yet undetermined if he shall make his hero happy or otherwise."...'

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Air of Bonnie Dundee

December 22, 1825 finds Sir Walter in a fine mood,.  Among other things that day, he records 'The air of "Bonnie Dundee" running in my head to-day, I [wrote] a few verses to it before dinner, taking the key-note from the story of Clavers leaving the Scottish Convention of Estates in 1688-9....'

The full poem is published in "Scott's Poetical Works".

To the Lords of Convention 'twas Clavers who spoke,
'Ere the King's crown shall fall there are crowns to be broke;
So let each Cavalier who loves honour and me,
Come follow the bonnet of Bonny Dundee.

Come fill up my cup, come fill up my can,
Come saddle your horses, and call up your men;
Come open the West Port and let me gang free,
And it's room for the bonnets of Bonny Dundee!

Dundee he is mounted, he rides up the street,
The bells are rung backward, the drums they are beat;
But the Provost, douce man, said, "Just e'en let him be,
The Gude Town is weel quit of that Deil of Dundee."...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Coventry Act

"May go to the devil for a self-conceited ass. One pleasure of this twist of intrigue is, to revenge me of that villain, who thought himself so essential, that, by Heaven! he forced himself on my privacy, and lectured me like a schoolboy. Hang the cold-blooded hypocritical vermin! If he mutters, I will have his nose slit as wide as Coventry's.[*]--Hark ye, is the Colonel come?"

"I expect him every moment, your Grace."

[*] The ill-usage of Sir John Coventry by some of the Life Guardsmen, in revenge of something said in Parliament concerning the King's theatrical amours, gave rise to what was called Coventry's Act, against cutting and maiming the person.

According to "The Book of Days", the slitting to the bone of Sir John Coventry's nose that Sir Walter Scott employs in the text of "Peveril of the Peak", occurred on December 21, 1669.  "Peveril of the Peak" is set in the Popish Plot of 1678.  The plot was entirely fictitious, and served anti-Catholic ends.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Church of Scotland

The first General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was held on December 20, 1560.  Sir Walter Scott's view on religion, as expressed in his novels, has been less than expressly stated.  One perspective on his treatment of religion is contained in a note in "A Handbook of the Church of Scotland", by James Rankin.  'While Sir Walter in many passages has done the Church of Scotland injustice, and religion itself harm, by caricaturing the Covenanters, faithfulness has prevailed in such instances as the character of a moderate minister of the eighteenth century above quoted [good Mr. Morton]; and still more notably in the character of Dr. Erskine, given in "Guy Mannering", chap xxxvii, and in that of Rueben Butler, in "The Heart of Midlothian", chap li.'

Sunday, December 19, 2010

An Empty Easel

JMW Turner's passing was posted last year.  Turner worked with Sir Walter Scott on Scott's "Provincial Antiquities of Scotland", and "Poetical Works".  From American philosopher Elbert Hubbard comes the following on the collaboration between the two: 'One spot in Turner's life over which I like to linger is his friendship with Sir Walter Scott. They collaborated in the production of "Provincial Antiquities," and spent many happy hours together tramping over Scottish moors and mountains. Sir Walter lived out his days in happy ignorance concerning the art of painting, and although he liked the society of Turner, he confessed that it was quite beyond his ken why people bought his pictures.


"And as for your books," said Turner, "the covers of some are certainly very pretty."


Yet these men took a satisfaction in each other's society, such as brothers might enjoy, but without either man appreciating the greatness of the other. '

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

Per Rampant Scotland, the Society of Antiquaries was formed on December 18, 1780.  From Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Volume 4, comes the following Walter Scott related entry:  '..." Of the same class, also, is another slab figured here, the drawing of which was made by George Scott, the friend of Mungo Park, who accompanied him to Africa, aud died there. It was forwarded to the Society of Antiquaries by Sir Walter Scott in 1828, who described the original as a rough sandstone, about six feet long hy perhaps two and a half broad, which was raised by the plough at a place called Annan Street, upon the farm of Whitehope. The drawing is designated, probably by the original draftsman,—'A Druid stone found at Annan Street, figured with thr sun and moon.' Little doubt can be entertained that it had formed the cover of a cist, though few probably will now be inclined to attempt s. solution of the '•uigmatic devices rudely traced on its surface. The spot where it was found is about half a mile from the church at Yarrow, and close by there are two large stones, about 120 yards apart, which are believed to mark the scene of the memorable struggle that has given ' The dowie houms of Yarrow' so touching a place in the beautiful legendary poetry of Scotland.'


...With this drawing the following detailed MS. account was found:—


" Memoranda received by me from Sir Walter Scott, in regard to the drawing in Indian ink upon the other side. ' Edinburgh 9th March 1828


(Signed) " E. W. A. Drummond Hay."


" The drawing was made by (? George) Scott, who accompanied Mungo Park to Africa, and died there. " The original is a rough sandstone about six feet long, by perhaps two and a half feet broad, which was raised by the plough at a place called Annan Street, upon the farm of Wheathope, belonging to his Grace the Duke of Buccleuch.


" The place is about half a mile from the church of Yarrow, and is said at some remote period to have been the site of an ecclesiastical building. There are two largo fragments of rock at the distance of about 120 yards from each other. Here the memorable duel is said to have taken place, which gave occasion to Hamilton's ballad of ' Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny, bonny bride;' and other ballads on the same subject. The common tradition is, that both the knights, whose names are reported to have been Scott, fell in the duel.


" Sir Walter Scott had the good fortune of preserving this curious relic of antiquity, which, from circumstances which he does not think worthy (of) record, he had accidentally discovered was about to be blown up with gunpowder some years ago."


This paper is marked on the back :—


"Notice by Sir Waiter Scott of an anciently Inscribed Stone found at Annan Street, of which a drawing is annexed."


These memoranda, by Mr Hay, after a conversation with Sir Walter Scott, formed the subject of a communication on the 24th March 1828, when the Indian-ink sketch was presented by him from Sir Walter Scott to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.


The sketch has written on it the following descriptive title:—


" Selkirkshire,


" Druid stone found at Annan Street, figured with ye sun and moon."


This title however, instead of being in the handwriting of the original draftsman, according to Dr "Wilson's idea, is undoubtedly in the handwriting of Sir Walter Scott himself; and I may state that my friend Mr David Laing quite agrees with me on this point.


In the third volume of the second edition of the " Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," published in 1803, page 73, Sir Walter Scott, with his well-known fondness for giving to any floating tradition or song a local habitation and a name, fixes upon this locality of Annan Street, with its standing stones, as the scene of the tragedy described in the old ballad of the " Dowie Dens of Yarrow," which is supposed to have suggested to Hamilton of Bangour his much admired ballad, " Busk ye, busk ye, my bonny, bonny bride." In Sir Walter's introductory notes to this ballad he says :—


" The name of the murderer is said to have been Annan, and the place of combat is still called Annan's Treat. It is a low moor, on the banks of the Yarrow, lying to the west of Yarrow Kirk. Two tall unhewn masses of stone are erected, about eighty yards distant from each other ; and the least child that can herd a cow will tell the passenger that here lie ' the two lords who were slain in single combat.' "...'

Friday, December 17, 2010

Drake Norris Expedition

'...But war was again raging, the history of Sir Francis Drake, Captain Morgan, and other bold adventurers, an account of whose exploits he had purchased from Bryce Snailsfoot, had made much impression on his mind, and the ofl'er of Captain Cleveland to take him to sea, frequently recurred to him, although the pleasure of such a project was somewhat damped by a doubt, whether, in ihe long run, he should not find many objections to his proposed commander. Thus much he already saw, that he was opinionative, and might probably prove arbitrary; and thai, since even his kindness was mingled with an assumption of superiority, his occasional displeasure might contain a great deal more of that disagreeable ingredient than could be palatable to those who sailed under him. And yet, after counting nll risks, could his father's consent be obtained, with what pleasure, he thought, would he embark in quest of new scenes and strange adventures, in which he proposed to himself to achieve such deeds as should be the theme of many a tale to the lovely sisters of Burgh-Westra—tales at which Minna should weep, and Brenda should smile, and both should marvel!...'

Part of the history of Sir Francis Drake alluded to in Walter Scott's "The Pirate" (above) was an attempted invasion of Spain in 1589, the year after the Spanish Armada was defeated by the English.  Drake led this expedition, which had a primary aim of sinking the survivors of the Armada.  There was also to be an invasion at Lisbon led by Sir John Norreys (Norris).

In "Sir Francis Drake: A Pictorial Biography" by Hans P. Kraus, a view of the financing for this expedition is provided.  It shows funding provided by Queen Elizabeth (£16k), Drake and other "adventurers" (£10k combined).  The document, which is dated December 17, 1588, was saved by diarist John Evelyn, and is available for online viewing at the Library of Congress Rare Books Reading Room http://www.loc.gov/rr/rarebook/catalog/drake/drake-9-begoftheend.html.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lord Protector

'He started at first, rousing himself with the sensation of one who awakes in a place unknown to him; but the localities instantly forced themselves on his recollection. The lamp burning dimly in the socket, the wood fire almost extinguished in its own white embers, the gloomy picture over the chimney-piece, the sealed packet on the table--all reminded him of the events of yesterday, and his deliberations of the succeeding night. "There is no help for it," he said; "it must be Cromwell or anarchy. And probably the sense that his title, as head of the Executive Government, is derived merely from popular consent, may check the too natural proneness of power to render itself arbitrary. If he govern by Parliaments, and with regard to the privileges of the subject, wherefore not Oliver as well as Charles? But I must take measures for having this conveyed safely to the hands of this future sovereign prince. It will be well to take the first word of influence with him, since there must be many who will not hesitate to recommend counsels more violent and precipitate."...'

The text above is from Walter Scott's "Woodstock", which is set in 1651; the English Civil War.  Oliver Cromwell figures prominently in this novel.  Cromwell became Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland on December 16, 1653.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Compleat Angler

Izaak Walton, the author of "The Compleat Angler", died on December 15, 1683.  Walton lived a long life; 90 years.  Fishing must have been good for Walton, whose early career was spent as an ironmonger. 

Sir Walter Scott provided an unsigned preface and notes to an edition of Walton's work published in 1821.  In a later edition, published by Wiley & Putnam in 1847, Charles Cotton's name is listed along with Walton's  This book contains a section titled "Some Account of the Life and Times of Charles Cotton", which contains the remark: 'The practical angler, though fresh from the study of Hofland, Chitty, or Ronald, will be gratified and instructed by reading Cotton after Walton, notwithstanding that Walter Scott says: "Walton's practice was entirely confined to bait-fishing...'

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Critique by William Taylor

'...Chalmers writes in great transports about Scott's versions; but weightier encouragement came from Mr. Taylor of Norwich, himself the first translator of the Lenore.


[Footnote 130: Some extracts from this venerable person's unpublished Memoirs of his own Life have been kindly sent to me by his son, the well-known physician of Chelsea College, from which it appears that the reverend doctor, and, more particularly still, his wife, a lady of remarkable talent and humor, had formed a high notion of Scott's future eminence at a very early period of his life. Dr. S. survived to a great old age, preserving his faculties quite entire, and I have spent many pleasant hours under his hospitable roof in company with Sir Walter Scott. We heard him preach an excellent circuit sermon when he was upwards of eighty-two, and at the Judges' dinner afterwards he was among the gayest of the company.]
I need not tell you, sir [he writes], with how much eagerness I opened your volume--with how much glow I followed The Chase--or with how much alarm I came to William and Helen. Of the latter I will say nothing; praise might seem hypocrisy--criticism envy. The ghost nowhere makes his appearance so well as with you, or his exit so well as with Mr. Spenser. I like very much the recurrence of

"The scourge is red, the spur drops blood,
The flashing pebbles flee;"

but of William and Helen I had resolved to say nothing. Let me return to The Chase, of which the metric stanza style pleases me entirely; yet I think a few passages written in too elevated a strain for the general spirit of the poem. This age leans too much to the Darwin style. Mr. Percy's Lenore owes its coldness to the adoption of this; and it seems peculiarly incongruous in the ballad--where habit has taught us to expect simplicity. Among the passages too stately and pompous, I should reckon--


"The mountain echoes startling wake--
And for devotion's choral swell
Exchange the rude discordant noise--
Fell Famine marks the maddening throng
With cold Despair's averted eye,"--

On December 14, 1796, William Taylor of Norwich wrote a letter to Sir Walter Scott, with the comments above.  The text was found in John Gibson Lockhart's "Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott".

Taylor was six years senior to Walter Scott, and outlived him by five years as well (lived between 1765 and 1836).  Taylor contributed to the interest in German literature that swept England and Scotland in the late 18th century.  In fact, Taylor has been referred to as "the founder of the Anglo-German school in England" (by G. Borrow).  Taylor's translation of Gottfried Burger's "Lenore" was influential to Coleridge and Wordsworth, for example.  Taylor also published a "Historic Survey of German Poetry" (1830), which provided an overview of the development from Old and Middle High German to the 19th century.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Samuel Johnson

Last year's post covered Samuel Johnson's death on December 13, 1784.  Walter Scott was an admirer of Johnson and his works.  In "Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott", author John Gibson Lockhart's discusses Scott meeting an individual whose life bridged the two: '... (May 9, 1828) This day, at the request of Sir William Knighton, I sat to Northcote, who is to introduce himself in the same piece in the act of painting me, like some pictures of the Venetian school. The artist is an old man, low in stature, and bent with years—fourscore at least. But the eye is quick and the countenance noble. A pleasant companion, familiar with recollections of Sir Joshua, Samuel Johnson, Burke, Goldsmith, etc. His account of the last confirms all that we have heard of his oddities...'

James Northcote is best known for his portraits.  The reference above describes Northcote's self portrait of himself painting Sir Walter Scott.  Northcote was among Johnson's circle of friends, and William Hazlitt's "Conversations of James Northcote, R.A." includes anecdotes in which Johnson appears:

' ...I remember once being at the Academy, when Sir Joshua wished to propose a monument to Dr. Johnson in St. Paul's, and West got up and said, that the King, he knew, was averse to anything of the kind, for he had been proposing a similar monument in Westminster Abbey for a man of the greatest genius and celebrity—one whose works were in all the cabinets of the curious throughout Europe—one whose name they would all hear with the greatest respect—and then it came out, after a long preamble, that he meant Woollett,1 who had engraved his Death of Wolfe. 

"I was provoked, and I could not help exclaiming, 'My God! what, do you put him upon a footing with such a man as Dr. Johnson—one of the greatest philosophers and moralists that ever lived? We have thousands of engravers at any time !' — and there was such a burst of laughter at this—Dance, who was a grave gentlemanly man, laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks; and Farington used afterwards to say to me, 'Why don't you speak in the Academy, and begin with "My God!" as you do sometimes 1" I said, I had seen in a certain painter something of this humour, who once very goodnaturedly showed me a Rubens he had, and observed with great nonchalance, "What a pity that this man wanted expression!" I imagined Rubens to have looked round his gallery. "Yet," he continued, "it is the consciousness of defect, too, that often stimulates the utmost exertions. If Pope had been a fine, handsome man, would he have left those masterpieces that he has 1 But he knew and felt his own deformity, and therefore was determined to leave nothing undone to extend that corner of power that he possessed. He said to himself, They shall have no fault to find there. I have often thought when very good-looking young men have come here intending to draw, 'What! are you going to bury yourselves in a garret 1' And it has generally happened that they have given up the art before long, and married or otherwise disposed of themselves."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Charles Mathews

December 12. [1825]—Dined at home, and spent the evening in writing—Anne and Lady Scott at the theatre to see Mathews; a very clever man my friend Mathews; but it is tiresome to be funny for a whole evening, so I was content and stupid at home.

Among the many people Sir Walter Scott knew was English actor Charles Mathews, whose play he missed on December 12, 1825.  Mathews was born five years later than Scott (June 28, 1776), and lived nearly an equal number of years, dying in 1835.  Like David Garrick before him, and many others, Mathews became interested in theater at an early age.  His acting career began in Dublin, in 1794.  It took until 1803 to act on the London stage, at the Haymarket.  Mathews was a comic actor, which explains Scott's comment in his journal above.  He has a couple of other literary connections, one of which is that he is thought to have inspired Dickens' character Alfred Jingle in "The Pickwick Papers".  His main legacy to the stage may have been his son, also Charles, who achieved greater fame than the father.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Louis XVI's Trial

The charge was treason.  It happened on December 11, 1792.  Sir Walter Scott covered it, including this poignant scene, in "The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte".

'It was the cruel resolution of his jailors to take the boy from his father on the very morning [December 11] when Louis was to undergo an interrogatory before the Convention. In other words, to give the deepest blow to his feelings, at the very moment when it was necessary he should combine his whole mental powers for defending his life against his subtle and powerful enemies.

This cruel measure produced in some respect the effect desired. The King testified more deep affliction than he had yet manifested. The child was playing at the game called Siam with his father, and by no effort could the dauphin get beyond the number sixteen, " That is a very unlucky number," said the child. This petty omen seemed soon accomplished by the commissioners of the Assembly, who, without deigning further explanation than that Louis must prepare to receive the Mayor of Paris, tore the child from his father, and left him to his sorrow. In about two hours, during which the trampling of many horses was heard, and a formidable body of troops with artillery were drawn up around the prison, the mayor appeared, a man called Chambon, weak and illiterate, the willing tool of the ferocious Commune in which he presided...'

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mons Meg

On December 10, 1825, Sir Walter Scott is ruminating over Wallace's Sword and the cannon Mons Meg: 'A third rogue writes to tell me—rather of the latest, if the matter was of consequence—that he approves of the first three volumes of the H[eart] of Midlothian, but totally condemns the fourth. Doubtless he thinks his opinion worth the sevenpence sterling which his letter costs. However, authors should be reasonably well pleased when three-fourths of their work are acceptable to the reader. The knave demands of me in a postscript, to get back the sword of Sir W[illiam] Wallace from England, where it was carried from Dumbarton Castle. I am not Master-General of the Ordnance, that I know. It was wrong, however, to take away that and Mons Meg. If I go to town this spring, I will renew my negotiation with the Great Duke for recovery of Mons Meg.'

Mons Meg was originally a gift from Burgundian Duke Philip the Good to James II of Scotland.  It was taken from Edinburgh Castle to Woolwich England in 1757.  Scott's efforts to secure its return were eventually successful, and Mons Meg was returned to Edinburgh Castle in 1829.  Scott included Mons Meg in "Rob Roy": 'Andrew Fairservice was far from acquiescing in these arguments of expedience, and even ventured to enter a grumbling protest, "That it was an unco change to hae Scotland's laws made in England; and that, for his share, he wadna for a' the herring-barrels in Glasgow, and a' the tobacco-casks to boot, hae gien up the riding o' the Scots Parliament, or sent awa' our crown, and our sword, and our sceptre, and Mons Meg, to be keep it by thae English pock-puddings in the Tower o' Lunnon.'

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Malcolm IV of Scotland

'In Malcolm's reign the lords of the Hebridean islands, who were in a state of independence, scarcely acknowledging even a nominal allegiance either to the crown of Scotland or that of Norway, though claimed by both countries, began to give much annoyance to the western coasts of Scotland, to which their light-armed galleys or birlins, and their habits of piracy, gave great facilities. Somerled was at this time lord of the isles, and a frequent leader in such incursions. Peace was made with this turbulent chief in 1153; but in 1164, ten years after, Somerled was again in arms, and fell, attempting a descent at Renfrew.



Malcolm IV. 's transactions with Henry of England were of greater moment. Henry (second of the name) had sworn (in 1149) that if he ever gained the English crown he would put the Scottish king in possession of Carlisle, and of all the country lying between Tweed and Tyne; but, when securely seated on the throne, instead of fulfilling his obligation, he endeavored to deprive Malcolm of such possessions in the northern counties as yet remained to him, forgetting his obligations to his great-uncle David, and his relationship to the young king his grandson. The youth and inexperience of Malcolm seem on this occasion to have been circumvented by the sagacity of Henry, who was besides, in point of power, greatly superior to the young Scots prince. Indeed, it would appear that the English sovereign had acquired a personal influence over his kinsman, of which his Scottish subjects had reason to be jealous. Malcolm yielded up to Henry all his possessions in Cumberland and Northumberland; and when it is considered that his grandfather David had not been able to retain them with any secure hold, even when England was distracted with the civil wars of Stephen and Matilda, it must be owned that his descendant, opposed to Henry II. in his plenitude of undisputed power, had little chance to make his claim good. He also did homage for Lothian, to the great scandal of Scottish historians, who, conceiving his doing so affected the question of Scottish independence, are much disposed 3

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

From "The Abbot"

"Ay, ay," replied the falconer, "Queen she was then, though you must not call her so now. Well, they may say what they will--many a true heart will be sad for Mary Stewart, e'en if all be true men say of her; for look you, Master Roland--she was the loveliest creature to look upon that I ever saw with eye, and no lady in the land liked better the fair flight of a falcon. I was at the great match on Roslin
Moor betwixt Bothwell--he was a black sight to her that Bothwell--and the Baron of Roslin, who could judge a hawk's flight as well as any man in Scotland--a butt of Rhenish and a ring of gold was the wager, and it was flown as fairly for as ever was red gold and bright wine. And to see her there on her white palfrey, that flew as if it scorned to touch more than the heather blossom; and to hear her voice, as clear and sweet as the mavis's whistle, mix among our jolly whooping and whistling; and to mark all the nobles dashing round her; happiest he who got a word or a look--tearing through moss and hagg, and venturing neck and limb to gain the praise of a bold rider, and the blink of a bonny Queen's bright eye!--she will see little hawking where she lies now--ay, ay, pomp and pleasure pass away as speedily as the wap of a falcon's wing."


Last year's post covered the birth of Mary Queen of Scots, on December 8, 1542. In the bit of text above from "The Abbot", Sir Walter Scott brings in much of her life after first husband Darnley's murder.  In particular, Earl Bothwell, who was related to the Sinclairs of Roslin is mentioned.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fuller's History of Abbeys

' ...I fell a-reading Fuller's History of Abbys, and my wife in Great Cyrus till twelve at night, and so to bed.'

On December 7, 1660, Samuel Pepys records (in his diary) reading Thomas Fuller's "The Church History of Britain", which includes (Book VI) "The History of Abbeys in England". Abbeys were an important part of Sir Walter Scott's life. Though it is not included in Fuller's work, Scott is buried at Dryburgh Abbey. According to http://www.bordersabbeysway.fsnet.co.uk/page41.html, Dryburgh Abbey was once under the control of Walter Scott's great-grandfather, Thomas Halliburton. Halliburton's family eventually sold their right to the Abbey, but retained the right to family burial there (picture from wikipedia).

Monday, December 6, 2010

Alexander II Crowned at Scone

'Alexander II.'s reign, though active, busy, and abounding in events, yet exhibits few incidents of that deeply influential character which affect future ages. These events are rather to be considered in the gross than in particular detail, and we shall revert to them hereafter, only stating here generally that Alexander's battles chiefly took place in endeavoring to give currency to the law in those parts of his kingdom which were still Celtic.'

The blurb above, from Sir Walter Scott's "Scotland", gives a flavor of Alexander II's era.  Alexander was the son of William I, the Lion of Scotland.  The unfortunate sacking of Berwick by John of England took place under Alexander's watch.  Alexander II was crowned king on December 6, 1214.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Francis II of France

Francis II lived only 16 years, succeeding his father Henry II, dying of illness on December 5, 1560.  He is remembered mainly for being the king-consort to Mary Queen of Scots (from 1548), and her first husband.  Sir Walter Scott includes reference to Francis in the speech of Mary, in "The Abbot", which covers the time after Mary's escape from Lochleven:


"Look--look at him well," said the Queen, "thus has it been with all who loved Mary Stewart!--The royalty of Francis, the wit of Chastelar, the power and gallantry of the gay Gordon, the melody of Rizzio, the portly form and youthful grace of Darnley, the bold address and courtly manners of Bothwell--and now the deep-devoted passion of the noble Douglas--nought could save them!--they looked on the wretched Mary, and to have loved her was crime enough to deserve early death! No sooner had the victim formed a kind thought of me, than the poisoned cup, the axe and block, the dagger, the mine, were ready to punish them for casting away affection on such a wretch as I am!--Importune me not--I will fly no farther--I can die but once, and I will die here."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

William the Lion of Scotland

'William derived his cognomen of the Lion from his being the first who adopted that animal as the armorial bearing of Scotland. From this emblem the chief of the Scottish heralds is called Lion king at arms. Chivalry was fast gaining ground in Scotland at this time, as appears from the importance attached by William and his elder brother Malcolm to the dignity of knighthood, and also from the romantic exclamation of William, when he joined the unequal conflict at Alnwick, " Now shall we see the best knights."


William the Lion was a legislator, and his laws are preserved. He was a strict, almost a severe administrator of justice; but the turn of the age and the temper of his subjects required, that justice, which in a more refined period can and ought to make many distinctions in the classification of crimes, should in barbarous times seize her harvest with less selection. The blot of William's reign was his rashness at Alnwick, and the precipitation with which he bartered the independence of Scotland for his own liberty. But his dexterous negotiation with Richard I. enabled him to recover that false step, and to leave his kingdom in the same condition in which he found it. By his wife, Ermengarde de Beaumont, William had a son, Alexander, who succeeded to him. By illicit intrigues he left a numerous family.'
 
William I of Scotland died this day, December 4, in the year 1214.  Sir Walter Scott discusses this king in his "History of Scotland" (above).  William is remembered for leading a revolt against the England's Henry II, which culminated in his being captured at the Battle of Alnwick (1174).  With few options, William pledged his allegiance to Henry, by signing the Treaty of Falaise (Normandy) in December of that year.  It took another "lion", Henry's successor Richard the Lionheart to release William of his pledge.  Richard was in need of funds to support his crusade in the Holy Lands.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Robert Bloomfield

English poet Robert Bloomfield was born on December 3rd, 1766.  His most popular poem was 'The Farmers Boy', which was published in 1800.  It is Bloomfield's death in 1823 (August 19) that connects him to Sir Walter Scott.  Bloomfield's obituary was published in the "Edinburgh Annual Register" which Scott edited.
Mr Robert Bloomfield.

At Shefford, aged 57, Mr Robert Bloomfield, author of the Farmer's Boy, once very popular, and of other poems. He was the son of a poor tailor in Suffolk, was originally employed as a farmer's boy, and afterwards followed the employment of a shoemaker. Having, about 1800, finished his four poems on the rural employments of the seasons, he brought them to London to endeavour to get them published. His first application was to Mr Charles Dilly, who recommended him to the editor of the Monthly Magazine. He brought his poems to that office; and, though his unpolished appearance, his coarse hand-writing, and wretched orthography, afforded no prospect that his production could be printed, yet he found attention by his repeated calls, and by the humility of his expectations, which were limited to half-adozen copies of the Magazine. At length, on his name being announced when a literary gentleman, particularly conversant in rural economy, happened to be present, the poem was formally re-examined, and its general aspect excited the risibility of that gentleman in so pointed a manner, that Bloomfield was called into the room, and exhorted not to waste his time, and neglect his employment, in making vain attempts, and particularly in treading on the ground which Thomson had sanctified. His earnestness and confidence, however, led the editor to advise him to consult his countryman, Mr Capel Lofft, of Troston, to whom he gave him a letter of introduction. On his departure, the gentleman present warmly complimented the editor on the sound advice which he had given " the poor fellow ;" and, it was mutually conceived, that an industrious man was thereby likely to be saved from a ruinous infatuation. Bloomfield, however, visited Mr Lofft, and that kind-hearted and erudite man, entering sanguinely into his views, edited the work through the press, wrote a preface, and the poem appeared as a literary meteor. Its success was prodigious. The author was to divide the profits with the bookseller, and they soon shared above 1000/. a-piece. The reputation of the poem at length seemed so thoroughly established, that the bookseller offered to give Bloomfield an annuity of 200/. per annum for his half; but this he refused, in the confidence that it would produce him double. At length, however, new objects caught the public attention; the sale died away ; and, in three or four years, a small edition per annum only was required. All this was in the usual course; but Bloomfield, whose expectations had been unduly raised, keenly felt the reverse; he was obliged to seek other employment, and his health and spirits suffered in consequence. Other attempts produced but moderate recompense, and, becoming peevish, he entered into a paper-war with his patron, Mr Lofft, and lost the sympathy of many of his first friends. He was nevertheless a man of real genius; and, though the bloated popularity of his Farmer's Boy led to no permanent advantage, yet it had, and still has, admirers, some of whom never ceased to be kind to the author. His ambition, however, was disappointed; and, for some years, he was in a state of mental depression.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Battle of Austerlitz

'The Battle of Austerlitz, fought against an enemy of great valour but slender experience, was not of a very complicated character.  The Russians, we have seen, were extending their line to extend the French flank.  Marshal Davoust, with a division of infantry, and another of dragoons, was placed behind the convent of Raygern, to oppose the forces destined for this manoeuver, at the moment when they should conceive the point carried...'

The Battle of Austerlitz, covered in Sir Walter Scott's "The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte" (above), took place on December 2, 1805.  It was Napoleon's greatest victory, in which the Russians and Austrians were defeated.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kinnaird Head

Scotland's first lighthouse was officially installed on December 1, 1787.  Thomas Smith, the father-in-law of Robert Stevenson, who went on to build a family business out of lighthouses, gets credit for this installation.

Stevenson decided to destroy the lighthouse in 1824, but according to Historic Scotland, intervention on the part of Sir Walter Scott probably changed his mind http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/es/propertyresults/propertyabout.htm?PropID=PL_186&PropName=Kinnaird%20Head%20Castle%20Lighthouse%20And%20Museum.

Further history on this lighthouse is available at: http://www.nlb.org.uk/ourlights/history/kinnaird.htm

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jonathan Swift

The satirist Jonathan Swift was born this day, November 30, in the year 1667.  Swift was born in Dublin, and educated at Kilkenny College.  As his father, also Jonathan, had died during his wife's pregnancy, Jonathan was supported in his education by a relative of his father.  Jonathan's uncle, Dryden William Swift (the family was related to poet John Dryden), took on this responsibility.  Jonathan later furthered his study at Dublin University, earning a Doctor of Divinity degree. 

Swift is best known for his novel "Gulliver's Travels".  Sir Walter Scott edited a 19 volume set of "The Works of Jonathan Swift", which Archibald Constable published.  Scott included his own notes and a life of Swift.  Here is a portion of Scott's Life of Swift, as taken from "The Miscellaneous Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott...":

'The life of Swift forms an interesting and instructive narrative to all who love to contemplate those alternations of good and evil which chequer the fate of individuals, distinguished by their talents and by their fame. Born under circumstances of the most pressing calamity, educated by the cold and careless charity of relations, denied the usual honours attached to academical study, and spending years of dependence upon the inefficient patronage of Sir William Temple, the earlier part of his history may be considered as a continued tale of depressed genius and disappointed hopes. Yet, under all these disadvantages, Swift arose to be the counsellor of a British administration, the best defender of their measures, and the intimate friend of all who were noble or renowned, learned or witty, in the classic age of Queen Anne. The events of his latter years were not less strongly contrasted. Involved in the fall of his patrons, he became a discontented and persecuted exile from England, and from his friends, yet, almost at once, attained a pitch of popularity which rendered him the idol of Ireland, and the dread of those who ruled that kingdom. Nor was his domestic fate less extraordinary—loving, and beloved by two of the most beautiful and interesting women of the time, he was doomed to form a happy and tranquil union with neither, and saw them sink successively to the grave, under the consciousness that their mortal disease had its source in disappointed hopes, and ill-re.quited affection. His talents also, the source of his fame and his pride, whose brilliancy had so long dazzled and delighted mankind, became gradually clouded by disease, and perverted by passion, as their possessor approached the goal of life; and, ere he. attained it, were levelled far below those of ordinary humanity. From the life of Swift, therefore, may be derived the important lesson, that, as no misfortunes should induce genius to despair, no rank of fame, however elevated, should encourage its possessor to presumption. And those to whom fate has denied such brilliant qualities, or to whom she has refused the necessary opportunities of displaying them, may be taught, while perusing the history of this illustrious man, how little happiness depends upon the possession of transcendent genius, of political influence, or of popular renown.


Jonathan Swift, Doctor of Divinity, and Dean of St Patrick's, Dublin, was descended from the younger branch of the family of Swifts, in Yorkshire, which had been settled in that county for many years. His immediate ancestor was the Reverend Thomas Swift, vicar of Goodrich, in Herefordshire, and proprietor of a small estate in that neighbourhood. At the beginning of the civil wars, this gentleman distinguished himself by his zeal and activity in the cause of Charles I.; and his grandson has recorded, in a separate memoir, his exploits and sufferings during the civil wars. To that memoir, and the notes which accompany it, the reader is referred for farther particulars concerning Swift's family. After having been repeatedly plundered by the parliamentary soldiers, even to the clothes of the infant in the cradle, (which, according to family tradition, was Jonathan, father of the Dean,) and to the last loaf which was to support his numerous family, Thomas Swift died in the year 1658, leaving ten sons, and three or four daughters, with no other fortune than the small estate to which he was born, and that almost ruined by fines and sequestrations. The sufferings of this gentleman were of some service to his family after the Restoration; for Godwin Swift, his eldest son, who had studied at Gray's Inn, and had been called to the bar, was appointed Attorney-general of the Palatinate of Tipperary, under the Duke of Ormond. He was a man of talents, and appears to have possessed a considerable revenue, which he greatly embarrassed by embarking in speculative and expensive projects, to which his nephew, Jonathan, ever after entertained an unconquerable aversion. Meantime, however, the success of Godwin Swift, in his profession, attracted to Ireland three of his brethren, William, Jonathan, and Adam, all of whom settled in that kingdom, and there lived and died.
 
Jonathan Swift, the father of the celebrated author, was the sixth or seventh son of the Vicar of Goodrich, the number of whose descendants, and the obscurity of their fortunes, does not admit of distinguishing his lineage more accurately. Jonathan, like his brother Godwin, appears to have been bred to the law, though not like him called to the bar. He added to the embarrassments of his situation, by marrying Abigail Ericke of Leicestershire, a lady whose ancient genealogy was her principal dowry. The Dean has, himself, informed us, that his father obtained some agencies and employments in Ireland; but his principal promotion seems to have been the office of steward to' the society of the King's Inns, Dublin, to which he was nominated in 1665.


This situation he did not long enjoy, for he died in 1667, two years after his appointment, leaving an infant daughter, and his widow, then pregnant [with Jonathan], in a very destitute situation, as Mrs Swift was unable, without the assistance of the society, even to defray the expense of her husband's funeral...'

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Letter from Southey

Poet Robert Southey was somewhat of a radical from an early age.  He got himself expelled from Westminster School in 1792 (approx. 18 years old) for publishing an article in the school paper against flogging.  In 1794, he contemplated migrating to Pennsylvania with Samuel Taylor Coleridge to establish a commune.  He seems to have been temperamental, as evidenced by Sir Walter Scott's journal reaction to a letter he received from Southey on November 29, 1825.

'A letter from Southey, malcontent about Murray having accomplished the change in the Quarterly without speaking to him, and quoting the twaddle of some old woman, male or female, about Lockhart's earlier jeux d'esprit, but concluding most kindly that in regard to my daughter and me he did not mean to withdraw. That he has done yeoman's service to the Review is certain, with his genius, his universal reading, his powers of regular industry, and at the outset a name which, though less generally popular than it deserves, is still too respectable to be withdrawn without injury. I could not in reply point out to him what is the truth, that his rigid Toryism and High Church prejudices rendered him an unsafe counsellor in a matter where the spirit of the age must be consulted; but I pointed out to him what I am sure is true, that Murray, apprehensive of his displeasure, had not ventured to write to him out of mere timidity and not from any [intention to offend]. I treated [lightly] his old woman's apprehensions and cautions, and all that gossip about friends and enemies, to which a splendid number or two will be a sufficient answer, and I accepted with due acknowledgment his proposal of continued support. I cannot say I was afraid of his withdrawing. Lockhart will have hard words with him, for, great as Southey's powers are, he has not the art to make them work popularly; he is often diffuse, and frequently sets much value on minute and unimportant facts, and useless pieces of abstruse knowledge. Living too exclusively in a circle where he is idolised both for his genius and the excellence of his disposition, he has acquired strong prejudices, though all of an upright and honourable cast. He rides his High Church hobby too hard, and it will not do to run a tilt upon it against all the world. Gifford used to crop his articles considerably, and they bear mark of it, being sometimes d├ęcousues. Southey said that Gifford cut out his middle joints. When John comes to use the carving-knife I fear Dr. Southey will not be so tractable. Nous verrons. I will not show Southey's letter to Lockhart, for there is to him personally no friendly tone, and it would startle the Hidalgo's pride. It is to be wished they may draw kindly together. Southey says most truly that even those who most undervalue his reputation would, were he to withdraw from the Review, exaggerate the loss it would thereby sustain. The bottom of all these feuds, though not named, is Blackwood's Magazine; all the squibs of which, which have sometimes exploded among the Lakers, Lockhart is rendered accountable for. He must now exert himself at once with spirit and prudence.  He has good backing—Canning, Bishop Blomfield, Gifford, Wright, Croker, Will Rose,—and is there not besides the Douglas?  An excellent plot, excellent friends, and full of preparations? It was no plot of my making, I am sure, yet men will say and believe that [it was], though I never heard a word of the matter till first a hint from Wright, and then the formal proposal of Murray to Lockhart announced. I believe Canning and Charles Ellis were the prime movers. I'll puzzle my brains no more about it.'

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pretty Fanny's Way

The phrase "Pretty Fanny's Way" has gone out of fashion.  It is attributed to the Graveyard poet Thomas Parnell, and might be replaced by the word eccentric today.

Parnell, in fact, is considered the first of the Graveyard poets, with his "A Night-Piece on Death" (1721) considered the first representative of this school of poetry.  Today's post line is part of a verse that runs 'And all that’s madly wild, or oddly gay,/We call it only pretty Fanny’s way’.

Walter Scott used the phrase in his journal entry of November 28, 1825.  I found the post interesting for it's practical consideration of how best to socialize.  Per Scott, '[John Gibson] Lockhart must be liked where his good qualities are known, and where his fund of information has room to be displayed. But, notwithstanding a handsome exterior and face, I am not sure he will succeed in London Society; he sometimes reverses the proverb, and gives the volte strette e pensiere sciolti, withdraws his attention from the company, or attaches himself to some individual, gets into a corner, and seems to be quizzing the rest. This is the want of early habits of being in society, and a life led much at college. Nothing is, however, so popular, and so deservedly so, as to take an interest in whatever is going forward in society. A wise man always finds his account in it, and will receive information and fresh views of life even in the society of fools. Abstain from society altogether when you are not able to play some part in it. This reserve, and a sort of Hidalgo air joined to his character as a satirist, have done the best-humoured fellow in the world some injury in the opinion of Edinburgh folks. In London it is of less consequence whether he please in general society or not, since if he can establish himself as a genius it will only be called "Pretty Fanny's Way."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

John Murray

Publisher John Murray's birth occurred on November 27, 1775, as covered in last year's post.  His death has also been mentioned in a previous post.

Murray first became involved in Walter Scott's works as a seller of books published by Archibald Constable.  The relationship with Constable developed after Murray dissolved his partnership with his father's former assistant, Samuel Highley.  The developing interaction between Murray and Constable is described in Samuel Smiles' "A Publisher and His Friends Memoir and Correspondence of John Murray; with an Account of the Origin and Progress of the House, 1768-1843".

'April_ 25, 1803.


"I have several works in the press which I should be willing to consign to your management in Edinburgh, but that I presume you have already sufficient business upon your hands, and that you would not find mine worth attending to. If so, I wish that you would tell me of some vigorous young bookseller, like myself, just starting into business, upon whose probity, punctuality, and exertion you think I might rely, and I would instantly open a correspondence with him; and in return it will give me much pleasure to do any civil office for you in London. I should be happy if any arrangement could be made wherein we might prove of reciprocal advantage; and were you from your superabundance to pick me out any work of merit of which you would either make me the publisher in London, or in which you would allow me to become a partner, I dare say the occasion would arise wherein I could return the compliment, and you would have the satisfaction of knowing that your book was in the hands of one who has not yet so much business as to cause him to neglect any part of it."

Mr. Constable's answer was favourable. In October 1804 Mr. Murray, at the instance of Constable, took as his apprentice Charles Hunter, the younger brother of A. Gibson Hunter, Constable's partner. The apprenticeship was to be for four or seven years, at the option of Charles Hunter. These negotiations between the firms, and their increasing interchange of books, showed that they were gradually drawing nearer to each other, until their correspondence became quite friendly and even intimate. Walter Scott was now making his appearance as an author; Constable had published his "Sir Tristram" in May 1804, and his "Lay of the Last Minstrel" in January 1805. Large numbers of these works were forwarded to London and sold by Mr. Murray.'

Friday, November 26, 2010

Accepting a Curatorship

'November 26.—The court met late, and sat till one; detained from that hour till four o'clock, being engaged in the perplexed affairs of Mr. James Stewart of Brugh. This young gentleman is heir to a property of better than £1000 a year in Orkney. His mother married very young, and was wife, mother, and widow in the course of the first year. Being unfortunately under the direction of a careless agent, she was unlucky enough to embarrass her own affairs by many transactions with this person. I was asked to accept the situation of one of the son's curators; and trust to clear out his affairs and hers—at least I will not fail for want of application. I have lent her £300 on a second (and therefore doubtful) security over her house in Newington, bought for £1000, and on which £600 is already secured. I have no connection with the family except that of compassion, and may not be rewarded even by thanks when the young man comes of age. I have known my father often so treated by those whom he had laboured to serve. But if we do not run some hazard in our attempts to do good, where is the merit of them? So I will bring through my Orkney laird if I can.'

On November 26, 1825, Sir Walter Scott records taking on legal work related to James Stewart of Brugh, Orkney. This entry provides an insight into his dealings with people, including a reminiscense to his father's situation.  There is a fairly lengthy discussion of this case in an 1832 entry in "Cases decided in the Court of Session" (per Scotland's Court of Session), which begins: 'Feb. 29 1832. James Stewart of Brugh died intestate in March 1811, leaving the pursuer, an only child, in infancy, and without tutors or curators. On the 2d of June 1814, a gift of tutory was obtained from Exchequer, in favour of Mrs Stewart, the pursuer's mother, Thomas Strong, merchant in Leith, and Alexander Stevenson, writer in Edinburgh...'

Thursday, November 25, 2010

John Gibson Lockhart

Sir Walter Scott's son-in-law and biographer died on November 25, 1854.  John Gibson Lockhart enjoyed a distinguished literary career aside from his "The Life of Scott".  Lockhart's reputation as a writer was founded in writing for the Tory magazine Blackwood, which he joined in 1817.  It was his contributions to this magazine that ultimately connected him to Scott, and later to Scott's daughter Sophia.  Lockhart was 60 at the time of his death.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Laurence Sterne Born

" Laurence Sterne was one of those few authors who have anticipated the labours of the biographer, 'and left to the world what they desired should be known of their family and their life.
" Roger Sterne (says this narrative,) grandson to Archbishop Sterne, lieutenant in Handaside's regiment, was married to Agnes Hebert, widow of a captain of a good family. Her family name was (I believe) Nuttle; though, upon recollection, that was the name of her father-in-law, who was a noted sutler in Flanders, in Queen Anne's wars, where my father married his wife's daughter (N. B. he was in debt to him) which was in September 25, 1711, old style. This Nuttle had a son by my grandmother—a fine person of a man, but a graceless whelp !—What became of him, I know not. The family (if any left) live now at Clonmel, in the south, of Ireland; at which town I was born, November 24, 1713, a few days after my mother arrived from Dunkirk...
 
The text above is from Sir Walter Scott's "Lives of the Novelists".  Laurence Sterne's birth ushered in the disbanding of father Roger's regiment, causing the family to return briefly to Yorkshire.  But, by 1715, the family returned to Ireland.  The Sterne's had a connection to higher education through great-grandfather Richard Sterne, who been Master of Jesus College in Cambridge, where Laurence studied, beginning in 1733.
 
Sterne's life was richer in preaching and politics than in writing, though "The Life and Opinions of Tristam Shandy, Gentleman" has become a classic.  Sterne died in 1768, after a long battle with consumption.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Meeting with Thomas Moore

On November 23, 1825, Sir Walter Scott met with Thomas Moore, who was engaged in writing his "Life of Lord Byron".  Moore published this work in 1830, and dedicated it to Sir Walter Scott by "his affectionate friend, T.M."  Scott records a rather lengthy journal entry for that day, including: 'On comparing notes with Moore, I was confirmed in one or two points which I had always laid down in considering poor Byron. One was, that like Rousseau he was apt to be very suspicious, and a plain downright steadiness of manner was the true mode to maintain his good opinion. Will Rose told me that once, while sitting with Byron, he fixed insensibly his eyes on his feet, one of which, it must be remembered, was deformed. Looking up suddenly, he saw Byron regarding him with a look of concentrated and deep displeasure, which wore off when he observed no consciousness or embarrassment in the countenance of Rose. Murray afterwards explained this, by telling Rose that Lord Byron was very jealous of having this personal imperfection noticed or attended to. In another point, Moore confirmed my previous opinion, namely, that Byron loved mischief-making. Moore had written to him cautioning him against the project of establishing the paper called the Liberal, in communion with such men as P.B. Shelley and Hunt, on whom he said the world had set its mark. Byron showed this to the parties. Shelley wrote a modest and rather affecting expostulation to Moore. These two peculiarities of extreme suspicion and love of mischief are both shades of the malady which certainly tinctured some part of the character of this mighty genius; and, without some tendency towards which, genius—I mean that kind which depends on the imaginative power—perhaps cannot exist to great extent. The wheels of a machine, to play rapidly, must not fit with the utmost exactness, else the attrition diminishes the impetus.



Another of Byron's peculiarities was the love of mystifying; which indeed may be referred to that of mischief. There was no knowing how much or how little to believe of his narratives. Instance:—Mr. Bankes expostulating with him upon a dedication which he had written in extravagant terms of praise to Cam Hobhouse, Byron told him that Cam had teased him into the dedication till he had said, "Well; it shall be so,—providing you will write the dedication yourself"; and affirmed that Cam Hobhouse did write the high-coloured dedication accordingly. I mentioned this to Murray, having the report from Will Rose, to whom Bankes had mentioned it. Murray, in reply, assured me that the dedication was written by Lord Byron himself, and showed it me in his own hand. I wrote to Rose to mention the thing to Bankes, as it might have made mischief had the story got into the circle. Byron was disposed to think all men of imagination were addicted to mix fiction (or poetry) with their prose. He used to say he dared believe the celebrated courtezan of Venice, about whom Rousseau makes so piquante a story, was, if one could see her, a draggle-tailed wench enough. I believe that he embellished his own amours considerably, and that he was, in many respects, le fanfaron de vices qu'il n'avoit pas. He loved to be thought awful, mysterious, and gloomy, and sometimes hinted at strange causes. I believe the whole to have been the creation and sport of a wild and powerful fancy. In the same manner he crammed people, as it is termed, about duels, etc., which never existed, or were much exaggerated....'


Constable has been here as lame as a duck upon his legs, but his heart and courage as firm as a cock. He has convinced me we will do well to support the London House. He has sent them about £5000, and proposes we should borrow on our joint security £5000 for their accommodation. J.B. and R. Cadell present. I must be guided by them, and hope for the best. Certainly to part company would be to incur an awful risk.


What I liked about Byron, besides his boundless genius, was his generosity of spirit as well as purse, and his utter contempt of all the affectations of literature, from the school-magisterial style to the lackadaisical. Byron's example has formed a sort of upper house of poetry. There is Lord Leveson Gower, a very clever young man. Lord Porchester too, nephew to Mrs. Scott of Harden, a young man who lies on the carpet and looks poetical and dandyish—fine lad too, but—


"There will be many peers
Ere such another Byron."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mary of Guise

Slightly less well known than her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, Mary of Guise became Queen Consort to James V of Scotland in 1540 (February 22nd).  She also served as Regent of Scotland for her daughter between 1554 and 1560.  Mary of Guise was 24 at the time of her coronation as Queen Consort, having been born in Lorraine on November 22, 1515.

Sir Walter Scott devotes a fair amount of text to her history in his "Scotland":  'Having thus entirely new-modelled the system of church government and of national worship, the parliament of Scotland resolved to recall from France the descendant of their monarchs, whose connection with that country was broken off by the death of her husband; naturally supposing that Mary, alone, and unsupported by French power, could not be suspected of meditating any interruption to the new order of religious affairs so unanimously adopted by her subjects.


With this view, the lord prior of St. Andrew's, the queen's illegitimate brother, and a principal agent in all the great changes which had taken place since the commencement of the regency of Mary of Guise, was despatched to Paris to negotiate the return of his royal sister. The Catholics of Scotland sent an ambassador on their own part: this was Lesley, bishop of Ross, celebrated for his fidelity to Mary during her afflictions, and known as a historian of credit and eminence. He made a secret proposal, on the part of the Catholics, that the young queen should land in the north of Scotland, and place herself under the guardianship of the Earl of Huntley, who, it was boasted, would conduct her in triumph to the capital at the head of an army of twenty thousand men, and restore, by force of arms, the ancient form of religion. Mary refused to listen to advice which must have made her return to her kingdom a signal for civil war, and acquiesced in the proposals delivered by the prior of St. Andrew's, on the part of the parliament. The young queen took this prudent step with the advice of her uncles of Guise, who, fallen from the towering hopes they had formerly entertained, were now chiefly desirous to place her in her native kingdom, without opposition or civil war, in which the proposals of the bishop of Ross must have immediately plunged her.'

Sunday, November 21, 2010

James Hogg Passes

The Ettrick Shepherd, who helped Walter Scott collect ballads for "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border", and became a friend, died on November 21, 1835.  Hogg's work is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance in the past twenty years or so.  His novel "The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner" is believed to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's writing of "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde".  Hogg also authored "The Domestic Manner and Private Life of Sir Walter Scott".

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Visiting Lord Melville

'November 20....I omitted to say yesterday that I went out to Melville Castle to inquire after my Lord Melville, who had broke his collar-bone by a fall from his horse in mounting. He is recovering well, but much bruised...'

Robert Dundas, Lord Melville, who Walter Scott records visiting in his journal entry of November 20, 1827, held many offices during his political career.  At the time Scott visited, Dundas was First Lord of the Admiralty.  Scott dined with him six days later.  The Dundas family held significant power in Scotland during Scott's lifetime, with Robert's father Henry becoming 1st Viscount Melville.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Off the Coast of Tunis

November 19.—Wind favourable during night, dies away in the morning, and blows in flurries rather contrary. The steamboat packet, which left Portsmouth at the same time with us, passes us about seven o'clock, and will reach a day or two before us. We are now off the coast of Tunis: not so high and rocky as that of Algiers, and apparently much more richly cultivated. A space of considerable length along shore, between a conical hill called Mount Baluty and Cape Bon, which we passed last night, is occupied by the French as a coral fishery. They drop heavy shot by lines on the coral rocks and break off fragments which they fish up with nets. The Algerines, seizing about 200 Neapolitans thus employed gave rise to the bombardment of their town by Lord Exmouth. All this coast is picturesquely covered with enclosures and buildings and is now clothed with squally weather. One hill has a smoky umbrella displayed over its peak, which is very like a volcano—many islets and rocks bearing the Italian names of sisters, brothers, dogs, and suchlike epithets. The view is very striking, with varying rays of light and of shade mingling and changing as the wind rises and falls. About one o'clock we pass the situation of ancient Carthage, but saw no ruins, though such are said to exist. A good deal of talk about two ancient lakes called——; I knew the name, but little more. We passed in the evening two rocky islands, or skerries, rising straight out of the water, called Gli Fratelli or The Brothers.

On November 19, 1831, Scott is touring off the coast of Tunis.  In his "Tales of a Grandfather; being stories taken from France", Scott describes the attempt of Louis IX of France to conquer Tunis for Christianity.

'With all that was so excellent in the character and conduct of Saint Louis, he was subject, as we have already hinted, to a strain of superstition, the great vice of the age, which impelled him into measures that finally brought ruin upon himself, and severe losses upon the state. At the bottom of his thoughts, he still retained the insane hope of being more successful in a new crusade than in that in which he had encountered defeat and captivity ; and after sixteen years had been devoted to the improvement and good government of his own dominions, he again prepared a fleet and an army to invade the territories of a Mahometan prince. Neither Palestine nor Egypt was the object of this new attack. The city of Tunis, upon the coast of Africa, was the destined object of the expedition. Credulous in all concerning the holy war, Louis conceived that the Mahometan king of Tunis was willing to turn Christian, and become his ally, or vassal ; and, by possessing a powerful influence, through the occupation of this fertile country, he hoped he should make the conversion of this prince the means of pushing his conquests, and extending Christianity over Egypt and Palestine also...'

Thursday, November 18, 2010

William Tell

"I say not but that he deserved death," replied the Landamman; "but for your own sake and for ours, you should have forborne him till the Duke's pleasure was known."


"What tell you us of the Duke?" answered Laurenz Neipperg, the same blue cavalier whom Arthur had seen at the secret rendezvous of the Balese youth, in company with Rudolph,—" Why talk you of Burgundy to us, who are none of his subjects? The Emperor, our only rightful lord, had no title to pawn the town and fortifications of La Ferette, being as it is a dependency of Bale, to the prejudice of our free city. He might have pledged the revenue indeed] and supposing him to have done so, the debt has been paid twice over by the exactions levied by yonder oppressor, who has now received his due. But pass on, Landamman of Uuterwalden. If our actions displease you, abjure them at the footstool of the Duke of Burgundy; but, in doing so, abjure the memory of William Tell, and Staufbacher, of Furst, and Melchtal, the fathers of Swiss freedom."


" You speak truth," said the Landamman; " but it is in an ill-chosen and unhappy time. Patience would have remedied your evils, which none felt more deeply, or would have redressed more willingly, than I. But O, imprudent young man, you have thrown aside the modesty of your age, and the subjection you owe to your elders. William Tell and his brethren were men of years and judgment, husbands and fathers, having a right to be heard in council, and to be foremost in action. Enough —I leave it with the fathers and senators of your own city, to acknowledge or to reprove your actions. —But you, my friends,—you, Banneret of Berne,— you, Rudolph,—above all, you, Nicholas Bonstetten, my comrade and my friend, why did you not take this miserable man under your protection? The action would have shown Burgundy, that we were slandered by those who have declared us desirous of seeking a quarrel with him, or of inciting his subjects to revolt. Now, all these prejudices will be confirmed in the minds of men, naturally more tenacious of evil impressions than of those which are favourable."
 
The Swiss set "Anne of Geierstein" is an appropriate place for Walter Scott to bring in Swiss patriot William Tell.  November 18, 1307, is considered the date when he famously sent an arrow through an apple sitting atop his son's head.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

John Balliol Crowned King of Scotland

'In 1292, the candidates, called upon to that effect, solemnly acknowledged Edward's right as lord paramount of Scotland, and submitted their claims to his decision. We shall endeavor to explain hereafter why these Norman nobles were not unwilling to consent to a submission which, as children of the soil, they would probably have spurned at. The strengths and fortresses of the kingdom were put into the king of England's power, to enable him to support, it was pretended, the award he should pronounce. After these operations had lasted several months, to accustom the Scots to the view of English governors and garrisons in their castles, and to disable them from resisting a foreign force, by the continued disunion which must have increased and become the more embittered the longer the debate was in dependence, Edward I. preferred John Baliol to the Scottish crown, to be held of him and his successors, and surrendered to him the Scottish castles of which he held possession, being twenty in number.'

The text above is from "Scotland" by Walter Scott and Mayo Hazeltine.  On November 17, 1292, John Balliol became King of Scotland, officially succeeding Margaret, the Maid of Norway, who had died two years earlier.  It was to be a short reign, lasting less than four years.  Balliol was in power when the Auld Alliance was formalized with France, after which Edward I of England marched on Scotland.  The Battle of Dunbar began the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sourcing Material for "Life of Napoleon"

Sir Walter Scott's "Life of Napoleon Buonaparte" presented some significant new material to the world.  Some of this was included in a historical note related to Napoleon's coup d'etat of Eighteenth Brumaire.  Scott's journal entry of November 16, 1826, provides insight into the the research process he engaged in, meeting with Arthur Wellesley to further the cause of his study of Napoleon: 'At eleven to the Duke of Wellington, who gave me a bundle of remarks on Bonaparte's Russian campaign, written in his carriage during his late mission to St. Petersburg. It is furiously scrawled, and the Russian names hard to distinguish, but it shall do me yeoman's service.'  Information from Wellesley's packet was later published as "Memorandum on the War in Russia in 1812".

Monday, November 15, 2010

Edinburgh's Great Fire

'On the night of Monday, the 15th of November, 1824, around 10 o'clock, the cry of "Fire!" was heard in the High Street, and it spread throughout the city from mouth to mouth; vast crowds came from all quarters rushing to the spot, and columns of smooke and flame were seen issuing from the second floor of a house at the head of the old Assembly Close, then occupied by Kirkwood, a well-known engraver...'

The description above is from http://www.oldandnewedinburgh.co.uk/

The cause of the great fire was a pot of heated linseed oil in engraver James Kirkwood's workshop.  The fire seemed to have been extinguished at one point, but By 9AM on the 16th, the fire renewed in the Tron Church.  According to a report form Coutts & Co., Bankers, 'Sir Walter Scott was one of the crowd watching the Fire Demon at work on the Tron Kirk spire, and when it was wreathed in flames, he ejaculated to Henry Cockburn and others, "Eh, sirs ! mony a weary, weary sermon hae I heard beneath that steeple !' His father had sat, and his young mind had been tortured, there. Luckily the church was saved by the arrival of Deacon Field with a powerful fire-engine, and the inhabitants breathed again. '  By the time the fire was put out, on the 17th, a significant portion of the south side of the High Street had been razed. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bristol Riots of 1831

On November 14, 1831, Sir Walter Scott is traveling to historic sites, and hoping to improve his health.  As recorded in his journal, the party on board hears disturbing news on happenings back home...

'...We stood into the Bay of Gibraltar and approached the harbour firing a gun and hoisting a signal for a boat: one accordingly came off—a man-of-war's boat—but refused to have any communication with us on account of the quarantine, so we can send no letters ashore, and after some pourparlers, Mr. L——, instead of joining his regiment, must remain on board. We learned an unpleasant piece of news. There has been a tumult at Bristol and some rioters shot, it is said fifty or sixty. I would flatter myself that this is rather good news, since it seems to be no part of a formed insurrection, but an accidental scuffle in which the mob have had the worst, and which, like Tranent, Manchester, and Bonnymoor, have always had the effect of quieting the people and alarming men of property.  The Whigs will find it impossible to permit men to be plundered by a few blackguards called by them the people, and education and property probably will recover an ascendency which they have only lost by faintheartedness.'

The spark for the Bristol Riots was rejection by the House of Lords of a reform bill, which would have provided Bristol and other cities with greater representation in the House of Commons.  In "History of the Peace...", Harriet Martineau and Charles Knight depict a situation that was exploited by nefarious intrests based in London.  'London rogues could have had no such power as in this case if the political and moral state of Bristol had not been bad. Its political state was disgraceful. The venality of its elections was notorious. It had a close corporation, between whom and the citizens there was no community of feeling on municipal subjects. The lower parts of the city were the harbourage of probably a worse seaport populace than any other place in England, while the police was ineffective and demoralised. There was no city in which a greater amount of savagery lay beneath a society proud, exclusive, and mutually repellent, rather than enlightened and accustomed to social co-operatiou. These are circumstances which go far to account for the Bristol riots being so fearfully bad as they were. Of this city, Sir Charles Wctherell— then at the height of his unpopularity as a vigorous opponent of the Reform Bill—was recorder; and there he had to go, in the last days of October, in his judicial capacity. Strenuous efforts had been made to exhibit before the eyes of the Bristol people the difference between the political and judicial functions of their recorder, and to shew them that to receive the judge with respect was not to countenance his political course; yet the symptoms of discontent were such as to induce the mayor, Mr l'inney, to apply to the home-office for military aid. Lord Melbourne sent down some troops of horse, which were quartered within reach, in the neighbourhood of the city. It was an unfortunate circumstance that, owing to the want of a common interest between the citizens and the corporation, scarcely any gentlemen offered their services as special constables but such as were accustomed to consider the lower classes with contempt as a troublesome rabble, and rather relished an occasion for defying and humbling them. Such was the preparation made in the face of the fact that Sir Charles Wetherell could not be induced to relinquish his public entry, though warned of danger by the magistrates themselves; and of the other important fact that the London rogues, driven from the metropolis by the new police, were known to be infesting every place where there was hope of confusion and spoil...'

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Robert Louis Stevenson

November 13 is the anniversary of Robert Louis Stevenson's birth, which occurred in 1850.  Stevenson, of course, is well known as an author.  Robert declared his interest in becoming a writer fairly early in life, bucking the Stevenson family trend of building lighthouses.  Robert's father Thomas employed his engineering skills in designing more than 30 of Scotland's lighthouses.  Robert's cousin David designed Bass Rock lighthouse, which figured in Robert's novel Catronia.  Lighthouse building became a Stevenson forte with Robert's grandfather (also Robert), who designed, among others, Bell Rock lighthouse, which Walter Scott visited with Robert Stevenson on his Northern lights tour (1814).  The connection between Scott and the Stevensons clearly influenced Robert Louis' interests.  One other connection in terms of novels, is that his "Kidnapped" was in part inspired by his reading of Scott's "Rob Roy".

Robert Louis Stevenson visited the Northern lights as well, on summer inspection trips with his family.  Like Walter Scott, these travels were a source of writing material for Stevenson, who was a travel writer, as well as novelist.  Stevenson's travels took him not only to Europe, but to America, in pursuit of a love interest (wife Fanny Osbourne), and ultimately to Samoa, where he died.  Stevenson was sickly most of his life, suffering from tuberculosis, and dying at the young age of 44.