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
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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