HAWTHORNDEN would well
merit a place among the Scottish scenes
made famous by the pen of genius, so beautiful is its setting and
surroundings. But it is inseparably associated with the name of William
Drummond, the early Scottish poet, whose home it was and whose muse sheds
a lustre on its beauty even to the present day. William Drummond was
descended from the Carnock family (afterwards Earls and Dukes of Perth) a
family which gave warriors and statesmen and at least one poet to
Scotland. He was the son of Sir John Drummond, usher and knight of the
black rod to James VI. He was educated at
Edinburgh and studied law there and in France, making such progress in
studies that President Lockhart stated that had he followed the practice
of law "he might have made the best figure of any lawyer of his time." But
his father died shortly after the poet's return from France, and instead
of practising law he settled down on his beautiful estate and cultivated
his taste for literature amid the enchantments of the rural scenery of
Hawthornden" a spot consecrated by nature to contemplation and the
muses." Here the poet studied the classics deeply, and formed, on the best
models, a style which was noted for elegance and grace. He published his
first volume of occasional poems before he reached his 31st year, and when
his tastes were fairly matured. Following closely came his " Cypress
Grove," "Flowers of Zion; or, Spiritual Poems.
"As yet," says a writer, "Drummond, though a
poet, and much of an enthusiast, had escaped any visitation of the tender
passion; but he was now to join the multitude of grave and learned who
have swelled its triumphs. The lady with whom he fell in love was of a
respectable family of the name of Cunningham. He was fortunate in his
addresses; he obtained her consent to the union, and the day was fixed for
the celebration of their nuptials. The change which this attachment had
given to the current of his thoughts is thus elegantly portrayed in one of
Ah me! and am I now the man, whose muse,
In happier times, was wont to laugh at love
In those who suffered that blind boy t' abuse
The noble gifts were giv'n them from above?
What metamorphose strange
is this I prove?
scarce now find myself to be
And think no fable Circe's tyrannie,
And all the tales are told of changed Jove.
Virtue hath taught, with
My mind into
a better course to move;
Reason may chide her full, and oft reprove
Affection's power ; but what is that to me,
Who ever think, and never think on aught,
But that bright cherubim which thralls my thought?
Before the appointed
nuptial day, however, arrived, the lady was seized with a fever, which put
a period to her life, and to all Drummond's present schemes of happiness.
Oppressed with grief on
account of her loss, his usual haunts and studies had no longer any charms
for him, and to ease his mind he resolved to travel into foreign
countries. He wandered through all Germany, France and Italy; visited the
most celebrated universities: courted the acquaintance of the men most
eminent for their talents of learning; collected rare books in the
different foreign and dead languages; and thus passed away several years
with much benefit; both to his peace of mind and to his knowledge of
On returning to Scotland he made a present of a
considerable part of the collection of books and MSS., which he had made
on his travels, to the University of Edinburgh; and to a catalogue of them
printed in 1627, he prefixed a Latin preface from his pen, on the
advantage of public libraries, of which, at that period, there were but
few in Scotland, and those few scanty in the extreme. Drummond's long
absence from home had probably caused the house of Hawthornden to fall
into disrepair; for, either from this or some other less obvious reason,
he did not resume his residence there, but went to live with a brother-in-
law, Sir John Scott of Scotstarvet. While residing with this gentleman, he
wrote a "History of the Five James," Kings of Scotland, to whom, indeed,
he had, through a remote ancestor, some affinity of kin. Annabella
Drummond, the Queen of Robert III., was a sister of Sir John Drummond of
Carnock, and mother of James I.
His biographer says that he was a man of excellent
parts and endowments, and that he was well acquainted with the best Greek
and Latin authors, and spoke Italian, Spanish, and French fluently. He was
a judicious and excellent historian, a quaint and delicate poet, a master
and judge of all polite learning.
Drummond is said to be the first Scotch poet who
wrote English well. He was born here in 1585,' and died in 1649. He was a
warm adherent of the Stuart cause.
Ben Jonson made a journey to Hawthornden in 1618 to
see Drummond,and it is said that much of the discredit thrown upon him
resulted from the publication of Druinmond's notes of their conversation.
In the published heads of
the conversation between him Ben Jonson, is related the following mournful
anecdote of Spencer
"Spencer's goods were robbed by the Irish, and his house and one child
burnt. He and his wife escaped, and afterwards died for want of bread in
King Street. He refused twenty pieces sent him by Lord Essex, and said he
was sure he had no time to spend them."
Drummond was buried in the church of Lasswade. Sir
George Mackenzie wrote the following elegy on him while in the Hawthornden
"Here lived that
poet, whose immortal name
Was crowned with laurels and adorned by fame.
Whom every man, next to himself, did love,
Who durst be loyal, an', what's more, reprove
The errors of that base rebellious age;
His was a
poet's, theirs a tyrant's rage.
Each man then his neighbor wished to
And we now grieve that
we did not him see.
his wit, we did his works admire,
And each young spark does kindle at his fire.
Or, what is more, his poems can beget
On my old
muse, though now much past the date."
In his 45th year he married Elizabeth Logan, and
resumed residence at Hawthornden, which he had repaired, and on which he
inscribed the following legend
munere Gulielmus Drummondus ab Hawthornden, Joannis Equitis aurati fihius,
ut honesto otio quiesceret sibi et successoribus instauravit."
Of his personal character it has
been said that he was "insensible to the allurements of ambition;
temperate in his desires and elegant in his habits, he lived from his
youth in the calm enjoyment of the purest pleasures of mind."
Hawthornden stands on the edge of
a lofty precipice of freestone rock, on the banks of the River Esk. Midway
in the side of the rock are hewn out some extraordinary caverns. Tradition
assigns their construction to the Pictish monarchs, and has called one the
King's Gallery, another the Guardroom and a third the King's Bedchamber.
It seems more than probable that they owe their origin to the destructive
wars between the Scots and the English. It appears tolerably certain that
they served as a hiding-place for Sir Alexander Ramsay and his companions,
during the contest between Bruce and Baliol. Besides these three caves,
there is a smaller one, called the Cypress Grove, where Drummond is said
to have composed some of his prose and poetical compositions, including
his treatise on the Vanity of Human Life.
"The range of caverns adjoining the garden are the
most curious," says one writer. "They extend to a considerable length, and
branch out of one another. One, of an oval shape with low arches, I was
told,. the Pictish kings used as a bedchamber. In the broader part of one
of these gloomy recesses is a. well some fathoms deep. In the sides of
another of the rooms there are cut several rows of square holes, several
inches wide, said to have- contained his Majesty's library. It is
extremely curious to observe in these barbarous ages, though the people
were strangers to the luxuries and conveniences of life, they had
ingenuity to 'substitute rude furniture contributory to their necessities
On the south
side of the present house are the ruins of the old tower, the residence of
the poet's ancestors. Through this lies the entrance to, the modern house.
It is said that Bishop Abernethy took down the greater part of the old
castle, and with it built the village of Hawthorriden. On one of the walls
of the flower-garden are or were inscribed:-
"To the memory of Sir Laurence Abernethy, a gallant
soldier, who, at the head of a party, conquered Lord Douglas five times in
one day, yet was taken prisoner before sunset. Also to the merqory of
William Drummond, Esq., poet and historian, an honor to his family, and an
ornament to his country."
The following from Dr. Young's "Love of Fame" are or
were also inscribed
sacred solitude! Divine retreat
Choice of the prudent, envy of the
By thy pure streams or in thy waving shade,
I court fair wisdom, that celestial maid.
from the ways of man laid safe ashore,
I smile whene'er the distant tempests roar.
Then, bless'd with business unperplexed,
life I relish, and secure the next."