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Fraser's Scottish Annual
Dandie Dinmont


A BRIEF STUDY OF ONE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT'S FAMOUS CHARACTERS.
BY REV. ALEX. MACMILLAN, TORONTO.

THE very mention of the name of the sturdy borderer arouses in every lover of the work of Sir Walter many associations. Amongst the many who were made to live for us by the wizard of the north, Dandie stands in the front rank. There is a charm about him from first to last. There he sits in the Wayside Change House, tall and stout and kindly, "discussing huge slices of cold boiled beef, glancing from time to time to see that the faithful and now famous 'Dumple' is equally engaged with his provender." From this first appearance of Dandie we look for especial pleasure whenever he comes upon the scene.

We at first can hardly tell why. He is but a south country store farmer, living his somewhat confined life, having little of either tragedy or comedy in it; his farmhouse the centre of his world, the farm-house of "Charlie's hope," the place where his heart is. The charm, doubtless, lies in part in the glamour which Sir Walter casts over all he touches, a glamour not of the unreal, but of the real, in the light of the imaginative. In part also it lies in the fact that in this store farmer is caught and fixed the borderer who stands between the old and new, between the borderer of the old days of raid and pillage and the peaceful farmer of the modern time. Dandie certainly belongs to both, for he is of the transition period. He has much in him of the fighting raider, and much of the kindly, peaceful, keeper at home. But that is an interest which holds the student of our Scottish history and nationality, it scarcely touches the casual reader.

The real charm lies in what he is. Here is a man who lives close to nature, who cannot affect anything. He is just himself wherever you find him. He is partly amused and partly confused by the thin veneer of affected woe at the obsequies of Mistress Margaret Bertram of Singleside. He is puzzled beyond measure to find the correct and able Counsellor Plydell at "high jinks" on Saturday at e'en. Dandie passes on his way, through all kinds of complexity of persons and affairs, simple, honest, generous, kindly. There is a big air about him. He seems to fill every place in which he is found, from the kitchen of the wayside alehouse, where we first find him, to the hearts of all who come to know him, ourselves included. He is curiously like Sir Walter himself up to a certain point.

So you read the pen portrait of Scott given by Dr. John Brown, the beloved physician. "Rab" could describe a man with almost unapproached grace, and he must have seen Sir Walter often as he pushed down the mound "in the teeth of a surly blast of sleet." " He was big, and though lame, nimble and all rough and alive with life. Had you met him anywhere else you would say he was a Liddesdale store farmer, come of gentle blood -' a stout, blunt cane,' as he says of himself; with the swing and stride and the eye of a man of the hills, a large sunny, out-of-door air all about him."

So writes Dr. John Brown of Sir Walter, a child of the strong border race. And so seems our Dandie Dinmont. Wherever you meet the simple, generous, natural people, whether in the store farmer or the man of genius and of place, he draws you to himself.

Such is the great charm of Dan- die, and such the great attraction that lay in Sir Walter. But Dan- die lacked what Sir Walter possessed. Read a few sentences further on in the writing of "Rab." "Had anyone watched him closely before and after the parting of the three friends, what a change he would see. The bright, broadlaugh; the shrewd, jovial word; the man of . . . the world, and next step moody; the light of his eye withdrawn, as if seeing things that were; his short mouth like a child's, so impressionable, so innocent, so sad, he was now all within as before he was all without. Hence his brooding look." When we meet one in whom are combined all we find in Dandie Dinmont, with the reflective developed, and when there is added to it genius and imaginative power of the highest, Sir Walter is himself before us.

But we all love Dandie Dinmont for what he is. He loved his wife, his bairns, his dogs. And even if he cast out with his neighbor, Jock o' Dawstoncleugh, and went to law with him, he had a heart big enough to include him also. He was grateful and generous, and sensitive, notwithstanding his shaggy and rugged exterior. As we close "Guy Mannering," we feel that it has been good to have come into contact with our border friend, for we have been brought into the open air and back to nature.


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