BY PROFESSOR DAVID R. KEYS, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, TORONTO.
No country in the world has a greater reverence for
books than Scotland, except China. Nor is there any country where the name
of Margaret is held in such high esteem. The meaning of the name is
precious and a fitting symbol of sweet and jewelled recollections. For
Margaret in the original Greek means a pearl, the sign of rare purity and
costly beauty. When the Anglo-Saxon merchants first heard the word, their
minds translated it into their own idiom and it was familiarized in the
form meregreot or sea-stone. So one has heard the Scotch pebble or agate
derived from the town of Peebles, and so many a one has connected the
"right good-willie waught" of the poet Burns with the proper name Will.
The latter is a case of mistaken attachment, for the ic belongs to the
waught not to the goodwill and represents not the fond diminutive
termination, but the Anglo-Saxon prefex ge. The late Sir Daniel Wilson,
from whom the writer heard this explanation, made a very beautiful use of
the meaning of Margaret in the Latin epitaph that is to be seen on the
Celtic Cross which marks the last resting place of his wife in St. James'
cemetery, Toronto. The epitaph is in Latin and reads: Carissimae
Margaritae margaritae uxorum. To my dearest Margaret, the pearl of wives.
The stone, the sentiment, the very use of the Latin language, with its
suggestion of Buchanan and the Roman Law, all are strongly characteristic
Yet, though Margaret is the favorite name in Scotia,
it was first made popular there by an English princess, the sister of
Edgar Atheling, the last heir of the Royal Saxon line of Alfred. After the
Norman conquest, this prince with his two sisters Margaret and Christina
took refuge at the court of Malcolm Canmore (Caenmnohr, or great head), an
epitaph more flattering nine hundred years ago than it is to-day. The
saintly Margaret seems immediately to have won the heart of the Scottish
monarch, and although like her kinsman, St. Edward the Confessor, averse
to matrimony herself, she appears to have found it prudent to accept the
monarch's suit. The marriage which ensued had no little influence on the
subsequent course of Scottish history. As the latest historian of
Scotland, her most charming and versatile writer, puts it in his own
With all her virtues Margaret was what in Scotland we
call "very English "—that is very "correct," and punctilious. Her
interference in the ecclesiastical affairs of the country went so far that
we read of her "holding Councils to decide between the Celtic and the
English Church fashions" in which the King himself acted as interpreter.
One of the changes thus brought about is perhaps the
most typical feature of Scotch life as it appears to the foreigner in the
Scottish capital and as it has been reproduced in this greater Scotland of
ours across the Atlantic. The observance of the Sabbath was already
peculiarly sabbatical, even so long ago. The early usage was in accordance
with the ancient Hebrew canon of the law by which the seventh day of the
week was kept free from labor. On Sunday, however, they worked. So that
while the Scot still keeps the Sabbath (as well as everything else he can
lay his hands on, in the playful words of the late Principal Grant) the
day on which he celebrates it since Queen Margaret's time has been
changed. This is but one of many new, customs introduced by Malcohn's
pious and punctilious queen. The general effect of these innovations was
to increase the English influence in the Northern Kingdom just at the time
when, by the Norman conquest, that native influence was being diminished
in the southern part of Great Britain. This again, had a twofold result.
First in Scotland, from the accession of Margaret's son Eadgar, "no Celt
in both lines has sat on the Scottish throne." Next in England, Margaret's
daughter Eadgyth or Matilda became the queen of Henry I., the son of the
Conqueror, and thus restored the royal and saintly line of Alfred to its
place on the English throne. Hence we may see how interesting both to
English and to Scotch readers the life of Saint Margaret should be.
Like the great Alfred she was a lover of books. Her
husband, illiterate himself, was yet in entire sympathy with this fondness
for fine manuscripts, and we read of his kissing the favorite books of his
learned wife. The famous Gothic MS. of TJlphilas, was bound in silver.
King Malcolm had the manuscripts of Margaret bound in gold and embossed
with precious stones. It may well inspire the bibliomaniac with envy of
the opportunities of a Carnegie or a Rockefeller, when one hears that a
specimen of this rare collection of bibliopegic marvels is still on view
at a value that only multi-millionaires could consider.
When one learns further that this unique
specimen—this copy of the Gospels of the sainted Queen Margaret, with its
beautiful penmanship, its artistic illuminations and its costly binding,
was picked up at a sale for the paltry sum of six pounds sterling and is
now ticketed as worth three hundred thousand pounds ($1,500,000), one
feels appalled at the possibilities of sudden wealth to the
What gave the book this high worth? It is not only a
magnificent illustration of the art of the illuminator, a beautiful
specimen of bookbinder's craft and a relic of the sainted Margaret
herself, but it possesses an even rarer title to the wonder of the gazer.
Like the wife of Bath in Chaucer, Queen Margaret "had passed many a
straune stream." On one occasion, when thus crossing a river she let this
copy of the gospels fall into the water whence it was recovered without
stain. This was at once proclaimed a miracle, not the only one by which
the queen's piety was rewarded.
Mr. Andrew Lang suggests as the real cause of this
immunity from injury the excellence of St. Columba's writing materials,
for to that pious Irish missionary, we owe "so dear a wondered" book.
Another copy of the gospels written by the same saintly scribe is
preserved under the care of the chief of the O'Donnells in a silver shrine
at Dublin. This latter book is the famous "Catrach" or "Battler," so
called, because it was the occasion not a miracle but of the battle of
Culdremhne. That however, is another story. The truth of these legends is
attested by contemporary writers, and if any one doubts as to Queen
Margaret's book, let him go to Oxford, and there in the Bodleian library,
he will find it exhibited to the gaze of the wondering visitor, with the
astounding note attached: Valued at £300,000.
Perhaps another explanation may be offered. When we
remember how many Americans visit Oxford, and how naive is their delight
inthe gardens and lawns of those mediaeval cloisters, we may easily
imagine some playful Don in mere wantonness buttering their hay, so to
speak, by affording, in the extraordinary value affixed to this miraculous
book, another outlet for new expressions of wonder and delight, in which
to all that rapture in the presence of the antique and strange, so
characteristic of our American cousins, is added the forcible appeal to
that other national motive, the worship of the Almighty Dollar.
POLITE WIT IN GLASGOW.—In a Glasgow theatre a
young fellow was rather annoyed because his view of the stage was
obstructed by the hat of a young lady who was sitting in front of him.
Wishing to get a glimpse of the performance, he plucked up courage,
and in a nervous voice exclaimed—
"Look here, miss, A' want tae
look as weel as you."
"Oh, dae ye," she retorted, without looking
round. "Then I doot ye'll hae tae change yer face."
AN old clergyman who had a tailor for his beadle
was one day riding home from a neighboring parish, where he had been
assisting in the celebration of the Sacrament. "John," said he, "how
comes it, think you, that my young brother there should have so many
members, when I, though preaching the same sermons I ever preached, am
losing my hearers daily?" "Ah, sir," answered the beadle, "it is just
the same wi 'you, as wi' mysel'. I sew just as weelas ever I did, and
yet that puir elf, Sandy Sneddon, has ta'en my business 'maist clean
awa'. It's no the sewing that's wrang, sir; it's the new cut that does
it—it's just the new cut."
THING.—An Englishman went for a holiday to a small village in Scotland
where there were famous echoes. Being rather sceptical as to whether
they were really echoes or not, he got a man to take him round to some
of the best places. He spoke in such a tone of command that the man
was annoyed, and, determined to take the stranger down, he took him to
a hill just near the ale-house door, and said—
"Shout as loud as you can,
"Two pots of beer.'"
Not noticing who he was, the gentleman did so,
and then remarked—
"I don't hear any echo." "Neither do I," said the guide: but here's
the man with the beer." The gentleman paid.