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The Scottish Chiefs
Preface to a Subsequent Edition


Published in 1828.

IN dismissing this edition of the Scottish Chiefs from the press, after so many of its predecessors, its author will not deny herself the genuine pleasure of expressing her grateful sense of the candour with which so adventurous a work from a female pen has been generally received. That among these liberal approvers, are the people of her hero’s nation,—the country in which she first drew the ailments of her intellectual life,—cannot but afford a peculiar gratification to her heart: and she expresses her delight on this occasion, with the feelings of a child rejoicing in the approbation of indulgent parents ! —for England, the land of her birth, has not been less kind in its reception.

While thus fondly recording the favourable sentiments of her own country, she has the satisfaction of adding similar sufrages from foreign lands; while, indeed, the immediate result from such an approval in one of those lands, was quite unexpected by her; giving her the honour of sharing the distinction of a literary banishment along with the great name of Madame de Staël. The Scottish Chiefs was translated into the languages of the Continent. She received from Vienna, Berlin, Wirtemberg, Petersburgh, and Moscow, and even far distant India, letters of generous criticism from persons of the highest names in rank and literature. But when the work was ready for publication in France, it was denounced by the order of Napoleon, as dangerous to the state, and commanded to be withheld or destroyed.

The widow of the brave and unfortunate General Moreau was the first that mentioned this prohibition to the writer. There are many interesting events connected in the author’s mind with that communication. It was made to her in the morning of a most remarkable day: for a very few hours after Madame Moreau had been talking with her, and the young and lovely widow’s full heart had drawn a sad parallel between her own lost hero and those commemorated by her friend, the author saw her on the platform of the balcony of the Pulteney Hotel; to witness, along with the Imperial Family of Russia then resident there, the public entry into London of Louis XVIII. on his restoration as King of France. The writer of this recollection, though she had not the honour of being on the same balcony, was so situated as to be able to observe all that passed there. The Grand Duchess Catharine of Russia, and the Princess Charlotte of England, stood together, after having embraced each other on their meeting, amidst the welcoming shouts of the throng of people in the street. Both were simply but elegantly dressed; both were in the, bloom of youth, and full of joyous gaiety. Near them stood another Russian princess, also in the summer of her life, and equally animated. On the opposite side of the balcony, sat our true British Princess, Elizabeth, looking all kind-hearted gladsomeness, for the happy pageant about to pass. The Duke of Oldenberg, a pretty child, the son of the young Grand Duchess, was on her Royal Highness’s knee. Madame Moreau, in her deep widow’s weeds, stood not far from her, leaning against the balustrade. When the procession came forward, and the open carriage which contained Louis, stopped an instant under the balcony, to receive the gratulations of the Imperial and Royal party above, all waved their handkerchiefs; the Grand Duchess, and the Princess Charlotte, kissing their hands to the gratefully bowing head of the Duchess d’Angoulême; whose pale cheek, and emaciated form, bore too evident marks of her trying destiny up to that hour. She smiled—all smiled, excepting the recently desolated widow of Morean; and she indeed leaned over the railing towards the carriage, and waved her white handkerchief too; but the writer of this saw the heavy tears rolling down her cheeks in actual showers, and fall upon the top of the balustrade in large drops, leaving it wet with them.

But a sadder memorial hangs over that scene. In the course of a very few years afterwards, not one of those young and blooming persons, royal and noble, who stood there, the hope and admiration of many loyal and attached hearts, were existing on this earth! The Grand Duchess Catharine died at Wirtemberg, then its queen; the other Russian princess followed the same early call at St. Petersburgh.* Madame Moreau closed her widowed sorrows at Paris; and our own Princess Charlotte—all England knows how it lost her. Even the boy Duke of Oldenberg is no more! And the sole remaining one, who looked in that extraordinary moment from that balcony, filled with youth and beauty, and tenderly beating hearts, is our Princess Elizabeth, the most senior of them all; who, after becoming the Landgravine of Hesse Homberg, has herself returned a widow to her country, which is indeed happy to receive back the honoured mourner. But the awful events ended not there; the royal object of that great day’s pageant, is himself gone to another world; and the Duchess d’Angoulême, again driven from the throne of her ancestors, has once more become a hopeless exile! Thus then it is proved, that death and sorrow know no respect of persons.+

Madame Moreau’s information had gone farther to me than communicating the interdiction of this work by the Emperor Napoleon. She told me of its immediate publication in Paris on the recall of the Bourbons; and soon after receiving a copy from France, I found the translator’s account of the prohibition in his preface.

It seems hardly credible that the same victor, who when he came forward (with pretensions at least,) to redeem Poland to independence, quoted the words of her hero Sobieski, by way of a noble excitement, should, not many years afterwards, put an interdict on the very same sentiments, when expressed by the "Scottish Chiefs," in his own empire of France. But the difference in his language may be read in his relative circumstances. He wished, as a pretended umpire and benefactor, to impose his lasting sceptre, on the one people; and to hold in unreflecting subjection the other. We know that with conquerors, who usually fight for power rather than justice, the use of certain sentiments springs more from expediency than principle. Real principle is proved in the result ;—a true patriot establishes the liberty of his country, without infringing on the rights of others; a pretender first founds a despotic empire over his own countrymen, and then leads them to put similar chains on their neighbours.

To draw the line between such characters, to place high chivalric loyalty, and the spirit of patriotic freedom, on just principles, whether in the breast of prince or peasant; the writer of this tale has studied the page of many a history; has studied the lesson in many a noble heart. With humility as to the execution of her task, but with due confidence in its matter and object, she proceeded, from Thaddeus of Warsaw to The Scottish Chiefs. And so would do henceforward, on whatever ground she might take her stand to labour in the cause.

Sir Philip Sidney, a true hero of her own country, early gave her this text, " Let who may make the laws of a people, allow me to write their ballads and I‘ll guide them at my will !" What ballads were to the sixteenth century, romances are to ours; the constant companions of young people’s leisure hours; biassing them to virtue, or misleading them to vice. And; to inspire the most susceptible period of man’s existence, his youth, with the principles which are to be his future staff; and their effects, his "exceeding great reward," is the motive of my pen. Hence, in proportion to the great view of the aim, must be the satisfaction derived, when the approbation of the wise and of the good, has pronounced the attempt not unworthy its intention.

* She was the beloved wife of the author’s brother, Sir R. K. Porter. 
+ Since this Postscript was written, the Landgravine, our ever-honoured Princess Elizabeth, has been laid in a foreign grave.


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