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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of George I: 1714 - 1727 Part 3


1715, Oct 20
A newspaper which enjoyed a temporary existence in Edin­burgh—each number consisting of five small leaves—is vociferous with the celebrations of the anniversary of King George’s corona­tion in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Perth, and other Scottish towns. Ten days later, it proclaims with equal vehemence the rejoicings in the same places in honour of the birthday of the Prince of Wales. Paradings and firings of musketry by the troops, drinkings of loyal toasts from covered tables at the Cross, bonfires, ringings of bells, form the chief demonstrations. And it is notable that in Dundee, Brechin, and Aberdeen, which we know to have been in those days full of Jacobites, the symptoms of loyalty to Hanover are by many degrees the most ostentatious, there being the more need of course for the friends of the reigning house to exert themselves. In Dundee (where in reality the Jacobites were probably two to one), ‘everybody looked cheerful, and vied who should outdo other in rejoicing, except some few of our Jacobite neighbours, who, being like owls, loved darkness; but care will be taken that they spared not their money by being singular.’

Loyalty is altogether a paradox, appearances with it being usually in the inverse ratio of its actual existence, and the actuality in the inverse ratio of the deserving. No monarch ever enjoyed so much of it as Charles I. Since the days of his sons, when the bulk of the people of Scotland felt themselves under a civil and ecclesiastical tyranny, the demonstrations at market-crosses on royal birthdays had not been so violent as now, when a new family, about whom nobody cared or could care, occupied the throne. Nor did these again become equally loud till the time of George III., when Wilkes prosecutions, losses of American colonies, and unjustifiable wars with French reformers, made loyalty again a needful article, and king’s-health-drinkings in the highest degree desirable. On the other hand, when rulers are truly worthy of a faithful affection on the part of their people—as in our happy age—one never hears the word loyalty mentioned.

All through the reign of the first George and a great part of that of his successor, the newspaper estimate of human character seems to have had but one element—the attachment of the indi­vidual to ‘our present happy establishment in church and state.’ At the end of every paragraph announcing a choice of magistrates in Scotland, it is pointedly stated that they are all friends of the Hanover succession. Such things are, of course, simply the measure of the extent of hatred and indifferency with which the happy establishment and dynasty were regarded, as well as of the danger in which it was the fate of both to exist, from the eagerness of many to get them destroyed.

The same newspaper, while telling us of such grave things as Scottish nobles and gentlemen waiting in the Tower and in Carlisle Castle for death or for life, as an incensed government might please to dictate, gives us other notices, reminding us of the affecting truism breathed from every sheet of the kind in our own day, that all the affairs of human life, the serious, the comic, the important, the trivial, are constantly going on shoulder to shoulder together. We glance from a hard-wrung pardon for a dozen rebels, or an account of the execution of Sergeant Ainslie, hung over the wall of Edinburgh Castle for an attempt to render the fortress up to the Jacobites—to the let of the lands of Biggarshiels, which ‘sow above eighty boils of oats,’ and have a good ‘sheep-gang’ besides—or to David Sibbald’s vessel, the Anne of Kirkcaldy, which now lies in Leith harbour for the benefit of all who wish to transport themselves or their goods to London, and is to sail with all expedition—or to the fact that yesterday the Duke of Hamilton left Edinburgh for his country-seat, attended by a retinue of gentlemen—or to an announcement of Allan Ramsay’s forth­coming poem of the Morning Interview—for all these things come jostling along together in one mouth. Nor may the following quaint advertisement be overlooked:

‘A young gentlewoman, lately come from London, cuts hair extremely well, dresses in the newest fashion, has the newest fashioned patterns for beads, ruffles, &c., and mends lace very fine, and does all sort of plain work; also teaches young gentle­women to work, and young women for their work. She does all manner of quilting and stitching. All the ladies that come to her on Monday and Thursday, have their hair cut for sixpence; at any other time, as reasonably as any in town; and dresses the beads on wires cheaper than any one. She lodges in the Luckenbooths, over against the Tolbooth, at one Mr Palmer’s, a periwig-maker, up one pair of stairs.’

Since the Revolution, there had been a constant and eager pressure towards commerce and manufactures as a means of saving the nation from the wretched poverty with which it was afflicted. But as yet there had been scarcely the slightest move­ment towards the improvement of another great branch of the national economy—namely, the culture of the ground. The country was unenclosed; cultivation was only in patches near houses; farm establishments were clusters of hovels; the rural people, among whom the distinction of master and servant was little marked, lived in the most wretched manner. A large part of rent was paid in produce and by services. Old systems of husbandry reigned without disturbance. Little had yet been done to facilitate communications in the country by roads, as indeed little was required, for all goods were carried on horseback.

The first notable attempt at planting was by Thomas, sixth Earl of Haddington, about the time of the Union. From a love of common country sports, this young nobleman was called away by his wife, a sister of the first Earl of Hopetoun, who desired to see him engaged in planting, for which she had somehow acquired a taste. The domain they had to work upon was a tract of low ground surrounding their mansion of Tyninghame, composing part of the coast of the Firth of Forth between North Berwick and Dunbar. Their first experiment was upon a tract of about three hundred acres, where it was believed that no trees could grow on account of the sea-air. To the marvel of all, Lord Haddington included, the Binning Wood, as it was called, soon became a beautiful sylvan domain, as it continues to this day. To pursue his lordship’s own recital: ‘I now took pleasure in planting and improving; but, because I did not like the husbandry practised in this country, I got some farmers from Dorsetshire. This made me divide my ground; but, as I knew the coldness of the climate, and the bad effects the winds had, I made stripes of planting between every enclosure, some forty, fifty, or sixty feet broad, as I thought best….. From these Englishmen we came to the knowledge of sowing and the management of grass-seeds. After making the enclosures, a piece of ground that carried nothing but furze was planted; and my wife, seeing the unexpected success of her former projects, went on to another…..        There was a warren of four hundred acres, vastly sandy (near the mouth of the Tyne). A gentleman who had lived some time at Hamburg, one day walking with her, said that he had seen fine trees grow­ing upon such a soil. She took the hint, and planted about sixty or seventy acres of warren. All who saw it at the time thought that labour and trees were thrown away; but to their amazement, they saw them prosper as well as in the best grounds. The whole field was dead sand, with scarce any grass on it; nor was it only so poor on the surface, but continued so some yards down. Such was the origin of the famous Tyninghame Woods, which now present eight hundred acres of the finest timber in the country. By means of his Dorsetshire farmers, too, Lord Haddington became the introducer of the practice of sowing clover and other grass-seeds.

Another early improver of the surface was Sir Archibald Grant of Monymusk (second baronet of the title), whose merits, more­over, are the more remarkable, as his operations took place in a remote part of the north. ‘in my early days,’ says be, ‘soon after the Union, husbandry and manufactures were in low esteem. Turnips (raised) in fields for cattle by the Earl of Rothes and very few others, were wondered at. Wheat was almost confined to East Lothian. Enclosures were few, and planting very little; no repair of roads, all bad, and very few wheel-carriages. in 1720, I could not, in chariot, get my wife from Aberdeen to Monymusk. Colonel Middleton (was) the first who used carts or wagons there; and he and I (were) the first benorth Tay who had hay, except very little at Gordon Castle. Mr Lockhart of Carnwath, author of Memoirs, (was) the first that attempted raising or feeding cattle to size.’

‘By the indulgence of a very worthy father,’ says Sir Archibald, ‘I was allowed (in) 1716, though then very young, to begin to enclose and plant, and provide and prepare nurseries. At that time there was not one acre upon the whole estate enclosed, nor any timber upon it but a few elm, sycamore, and ash, about a small kitchen-garden adjoining to the house (a very common arrangement about old Scotch country mansion-houses), and some straggling trees at some of the farmyards, with a small copse­wood, not enclosed and dwarfish, and browsed by sheep and cattle. All the farms (were) ill-disposed and mixed, different persons having alternate ridges; not one wheel-carriage on the estate, nor indeed any one road that would allow it; and the rent about £600 sterling per annum, (when) grain and services (were) converted into money. The house was an old castle, with battle­ments and six different roofs of various heights and directions, confusedly and inconveniently combined, and all rotten, with two wings more modern of two stories only, the half of the windows of the higher rising above the roofs; with granaries, stables, and houses for all cattle and the vermin attending them close adjoin­ing; and with the heath and muir reaching in angles or gushets to the gate, and much heath near. What land was in culture belonged to the farms, by which their cattle and dung were always at the door. The whole land (was) raised and uneven, and full of stones, many of them very large, of a hard iron quality, and all the ridges crooked in shape of an S, and very high, and full of noxious weeds, and poor, being worn out by culture, without proper manure or tillage. Much of the land and muir near the house (was) poor and boggy; the rivulet that runs before the house in pits and shallow streams, often varying channel, with banks always ragged and broken. The people (were) poor, ignorant, and slothful, and ingrained enemies to planting, enclosing, or any improvements or cleanness; no keeping of sheep or cattle, or roads, but four months, when oats and bear (which was the only sorts of their grain) was on ground. The farm­houses, and even corn-mills, and manse and school, (were) all poor, dirty huts, (occasionally) pulled in pieces for manure, or (which) fell of themselves almost each alternate year.’

By Sir Archibald’s exertions, Monymusk became in due time a beautiful domain, well cultivated and productive, checkered with fine woods, in which are now some of the largest trees to be seen in that part of Scotland.

There is reason to believe that the very first person who was effective in introducing any agricultural improvements into Scot­land was an English lady. It was in 1706—the year before the Union—that Elizabeth Mordaunt, daughter of the famous Earl of Peterborough, married the eldest son of the Duke of Gordon, and came to reside in Scotland. A spark of her father’s enter­prising genius made her desire to see her adopted country put on a better aspect, and she took some trouble to effect the object, by bringing down to some of her father-in-law’s estates English ploughs, with men to work them, and who were acquainted with the business off allowing herethfore utterly unknown in Scotland.

Her ladyship instructed the people of her neighbourhood in the proper way of making hay, of which they were previously ignorant; and set an example in the planting of muirs and the laying out of gardens. Urged by her counsels, during the first twenty years of her residence in Scotland, two Morayland proprietors, Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonston, and a gentleman named Dunbar, and one Ross-shire laird, Sir William Gordon of Invergordon, set about the draining and planting of their estates, and the introduction of improved modes of culture, including the sowing of French grasses.’ It is rather remarkable that Scotland should have received her first impulse towards agricultural improvements from England, which we have in recent times seen, as it were, sitting at her feet as a pupil in all the various particulars of a superior rural economy.

1716, Nov
We are informed that, after the close of the Rebellion, owing to the number of people cast loose thereby from all the ordinary social bonds, ‘thefts, robberies, rapines, and depredations became so common (in the Highlands and their borders), that they began to be looked upon as neither shameful nor dishonourable, and people of a station somewhat above the vulgar, did sometimes countenance, encourage, nay, head gangs of banditti in those detestable villanies.’ The tenants of great landlords who had joined the Whig cause were particularly liable to despoliation, and to this extent the system bore the character of a kind of guerilla warfare. Such a landlord was the Duke of Montrose, whose lands lying chiefly in the western parts of Perth, Stirling, and Dumbarton shires, were peculiarly exposed to this kind of rapine. His Grace, moreover, had so acted towards Rob Roy, as to create in that personage a deep sense of injury, which the Highland moral code called for being wreaked out in every available method. Rob had now constituted himself the head of the broken men of his district, and having great sagacity and address, he was by no means a despicable enemy.

At the date noted, the duke’s factor, Mr Graham of Killearn, came in the usual routine, to collect his Grace’s Martinmas rents at a place called Chapel-eroch, about half-way between Buchanan House and the village of Drymen. The farmers were gathered together, and had paid in about two hundred and sixty pounds, when Rob Roy, with twenty followers, descended upon the spot from the hills of Buchanan. Having planted his people about the house, he coolly entered, took Mr Graham prisoner, and possessed himself of the money that had been collected, as well as the account-books, telling the factor that he would answer for all to the duke, as soon as his Grace should pay him three thousand four hundred merks, being the amount of what he professed himself to have been wronged of by the havoc committed by the duke upon his house at Craigrostan, and subsequently by the burning of his house at Auchinchisallen by the government troops. Mr Graham was permitted to write to the duke, stating the case, and telling that he was to remain a prisoner till his Grace should comply with Rob’s demands, with ‘hard usage if any party are sent after him.’

Mr Graham was marched about by Rob Roy from place to place, ‘under a very uneasy kind of restraint,’ for a week, when at length the outlaw, considering that he could not mend matters, but might only provoke more hostility by keeping his prisoner any longer, liberated him with his books and papers, but without the money.

Part of the duke’s rents being paid in kind, there were ,girnels or grain stores near Chapel-croch, into which the farmers of the district used to render their quotas of victual, according to custom. ‘Whenever Rob and his followers were pressed with want, a party was detached to execute an order of their commnanders, for taking as much victual out of these girnels as was necessary for them at the time.’ In this district, ‘the value of the thefts and depredations committed upon some lands were equal to the yearly rent of the lands, and the persons of small heritors were taken, carried off, and detained prisoners till they redeemed themselves for a sum of money, especially if they had at elections for parliament voted for the government man.”

The duke got his farmers armed, and was preparing for an inroad on the freebooter’s quarters, when, in an unguarded moment, they were beset by a party of Macgregors under Rob’s nephew, Gregor Macgregor of Glengyle, and turned adrift without any of their military accoutrements. The duke renewed the effort with better success, for, marching into Balquhidder with some of his people, he took Rob Roy prisoner. But here good-fortune and native craft befriended the outlaw. Being carried along on horseback, bound by a belt to the man who had him in charge, he contrived so to work on the man’s feelings as to induce him to slip the bond, as they were crossing a river, when, diving under the stream, he easily made his escape. Sir Walter Scott heard this story recited by the grandson of Rob’s friend, and worked it up with his usual skill in the novel bearing the outlaw’s name.

While these operations were going on, the commissioners on the Forfeited Estates were coolly reckoning up the little patrimony of Rob Roy as part of the public spoil of the late rebellion. It is felt as a strange and uncouth association that Steele, of Tatler and Spectator memory—kind-hearted, thoughtless Dicky Steele —should have been one of the persons who administered in the affairs of the cateran of Craigrostan. In the final report of the Commissioners, we have the pitiful account of the public gains from the ruin of poor Rob, Inversnaid being described as of the yearly value of £53, 16s. 8d., and the total realised from it of purchase-money and interest, £958, 10s. There is all possible reason to believe, that it would have been a much more advantageous as well as humane arrangement for the public, to allow these twelve miles of Highland mountains to remain in the hands of their former owner.

1717, Jan
Wonder-seekers were at this time regaled with a brochure stating how Mr John Gardner, minister near Elgin, fell into a trance, and lay as dead for two days, in the sight of many; and how, being put into a coffin, and carried to his parish church in order to be buried, he was heard at the last moment to make a noise in the coffin; which being opened, he was found alive, to the astonishment of all present.’ Being then carried home, and put into a warm bed, he in a little time coming to himself, ‘related many strange things which he had seen in the other world.’ In the same publication was a sermon which the worthy man had preached after his recovery.

Apr 28
Mr Gordon of Ellon, a rich merchant of Edinburgh, lived in a villa to the north of the city, with a family composed of a wife, two sons, and a daughter, the children being all of tender age.’ He had for a tutor to his two boys a licentiate of the church, named Robert Irvine, who was considered of respectable attain­ments, but remarked for a somewhat melancholic disposition. A gloomy view of predestination, derived from a work by Flavel, had taken hold of Irvine’s mind, which, perhaps, had some native infirmity, ready to be acted upon by external circumstances to dismal results.

The tutor, having cast eyes of affection upon a servant-girl in his employer’s house, was tempted, one day, to take some liberties with her, which were observed and reported by his two pupils. He was reprimanded by Mr Gordon for this breach of decorum, which, on an apology from him, was forgiven. The incident sunk into the man’s sensitive nature, and he brooded upon it till it assumed proportions beyond the reality, and raised in his heart an insane thirst for revenge. For three days did the wretch revolve the idea of cutting off Mr Gordon’s three children, and on the day here noted he found an opportunity of partially accomplishing his morbid desire. It was Sunday, and Mr and Mrs Gordon went to spend the latter part of the day with a friend in the city, taking their little daughter along with them. Irvine, left with the two boys, took them out for a walk along the then broomy slope where St Andrew Square and York Place are now situated. The children ran about gathering flowers and pursuing butterflies, while this fiend-transformed man sat whetting a knife wherewith to cut short their days. Calling the two boys to him, he upbraided them with their informing upon him, and told them that they must suffer for it. They ran off but he easily overtook and seized them. Then keeping one down upon the grass with his knee, he cut the other’s throat; after which he despatched in like manner the remaining one.

The insane nature of the action was shewn by its being com­mitted in daylight in an open place, exposed to the view of mul­titudes who might chance to look that way from the adjacent city. A gentleman, enjoying his evening walk upon the Castle Hill, did obtain a tolerably perfect view of the incident, and immediately gave an alarm. Irvine, who had already attempted to cut his own throat, but unsuccessfully, ran from his pursuers to the Water of Leith, thinking to drown himself there; but he was taken, and brought in a cart to prison, and there chained down to the floor, as if he had been a wild beast.

There was a summary process of law for murderers taken as he was with the red hand. It was only necessary to bring him next day before the judge of the district, and have sentence passed upon him. In this case, the judge was the Baron Bailie of Broughton, a hamlet now overwhelmed in the spreading streets of the New Town of Edinburgh, but whose court-house existed so lately as 1827. Till the abolition of heritable jurisdictions in 1747, the bailie of the Baron of Broughton could arraign a criminal before a jury of his own people, and do the highest judgment upon him. Irvine was tricd by the bailie upon the 30th of April, and received sentence of death. During the brief interval before execution, which was but a day, the unhappy wretch was addressed by several clergymen on the heinousness of his crime, and the need of repentance, and, after a time, he began to exhibit signs of contrition. The bloody clothes of the poor children being then exhibited before him, he broke out in tears and groans, as if a new light was shed upon his mind, and he had been able to see his offence in its true character. He then sent a message to the bereaved parents, beseeching their Christian forgiveness to a dying man; and this they very kindly gave.

Irvine was next day hanged at Greenside, having first had his hands hacked off, and stuck upon the gibbet by the knife with which he had committed the murder. His body was thrown into a neighbouring quarry-hole.

June 10
Occurred this day at Edinburgh a thunder-storm, attended with such remarkable effects, that an account of it was published on a broadside. It was little, perhaps, that it frightened the people off the streets, caused the garrison at the Castle to look well to the powder-magazine, and killed a man and a woman at Lasswade. What attracted particular attention was the fate of a tavern company at Canonmills, where two barbers from the Lawn-market had come to celebrate the Pretender’s birthday over a bottle of ale. They had just drunk to the health of their assumed monarch—one of the company had remarked with a curse how the bells were not rung or the Castle guns fired on ‘the king’s’ birthday—when a great thunder-clap broke over the house. ‘The people on earth,’ cried one of the party, ‘will not adore their king; but you hear the Almighty is complimenting him with a volley from heaven.’ At that moment came a second stroke, which instantaneously killed one of the barbers and a woman, and scorched a gentleman so severely that he died in a few hours. The rest of the company, being amazed, sent to Edinburgh for doctors to take blood of the gentleman; but the doctors told them they could do no good. They tried to let blood of him, but found none. Their bodies were as soft as wool.’

‘There is none more blind than them that will not see: these men may see, if they wilfully will not shut their eyes, that Providence many times bath blasted their enterprises….. These men were contending for that which did not concern them; they were drinking, cursing, and passing reflections— which in all probability hath offended the King of Heaven to throw down his thunder, &c., a warning to all blasphemers, drunkards, swearers, licentious livers, and others.’ It is a little awkward for this theory, that among the killed was but one of the Jacobite barbers, the other and equally guilty one escaping.

June
The capture of the fugitate Rob Roy seeming now an object worthy of the regard of the Duke of Athole, a negotiation took place between them, which ended in Rob being taken into custody of a strong party at Logierait, the place where his Grace usually exercised his justiciary functions, and where his prison accordingly was situated. The outlaw felt he had been deceived, but it did not appear that he could help himself. Meanwhile, the duke sent intelligence of the capture of Rob to Edinburgh, desiring a company of troops to be sent to receive him. Ultimately, how­ever, the duke countermanded the military, finding he could send a sufficiently strong party of his own people to hand over the outlaw to justice.

While preparations were making for his transmission to the Lowlands, Rob entertained his guards with whisky, and easily gained their confidence. One day, when they were all very hearty, he made a business to go to the door to deliver a letter for his wife to a man who was waiting for it, and to whom he pretended he had some private instructions to give. One of the guard languidly accompanied him, as it were for form’s sake, having no fear of his breaking off. Macgregor was thus allowed to lounge about outside for a few minutes, till at last getting near his horse, he suddenly mounted, and was off to Stirlingshire like the wind.

To have set two dukes upon thief-catching within a twelvemonth or so, and escaped out of the clutches of both, was certainly a curious fate for a Highiand cateran, partisan warrior, or whatever name he may be called by.

Nov
Sir Richard Steele appears not to have attended the business of the Forfeited Estates Commission in Edinburgh during the year 1716, but given his time, as usual, to literary and political pur­suits in London, and to a project in which he had become concerned for bringing fish ‘alive and in good health’ to the metropolis. It was reported that he would get no pay for the first year, as having performed no duty; but those who raised this rumour must have had a very wrong notion of the way that Public affairs were then administered. He tells his wife, May 22, 1717, in one of those most amorous of marital letters of his which Leigh Hunt has praised so much, that ‘five hundred pounds for the time the commission was in Scotland is already ordered me.’ It is strange to reflect that payment of coach-horses, which he, as a man of study, rarely used, and condemned as vain superfluities, was among the things on which was spent the property wrung out of the vitals of the poor Scotch Jacobites.

When the second year’s session of the commissioners was about to commence in September 1717, Sir Harry Houghton appears to have proposed that Steele should go at the first, in which case the baronet proposed to relieve him in November; in case he did not go now, he would have to go in November, and stay till the end of January. He dallied on in London, only scheming about his journey, which, it must be admitted, was not an easy one in 1717. He informs his wife: ‘I alter the manner of taking my journey every time I think of it. My present disposi­tion is to borrow what they call a post-chaise of the Duke of Roxburgh (Secretary of State for Scotland). It is drawn by one horse, runs on two wheels, and is led by a servant riding by. This rider and leader is to be Mr Willmot, formerly a carrier, who answers for managing on a road to perfection, by keeping tracks, and the like.’ Next it was: ‘I may possibly join with two or three gentlemen, and hire a coach for ourselves.’ On the 30th of September, he tells Lady Steele: ‘The commission in Scotland stands still for want of me at Edinburgh. It is necessary there should be four there, and there are now but two; three others halt on the road, and will not go forward till I have passed by York. I have therefore taken places in the York coach for Monday next.’ On the 20th of October: ‘After many resolutions and irresolutions concerning my way of going, I go, God willing, to-morrow morning, by the Wakefield coach, on my way to York and Edinburgh.’ And now he did go, for his next letter is dated on the 23d from Stamford, to which place two days’ coaching had brought him.

An odd but very characteristic circumstance connected with Steele’s first journey to Scotland was, that he took a French master with him, in order that the long idle days and evenings of travelling might be turned to some account in his acquisition of that language, which he believed would be useful to him on his return. ‘He lies in the same room with me; and the loquacity which is usual at his age, and inseparable from his nation, at once contributes to my purpose, and makes him very agreeable.’

Steele was in Edinburgh on the 5th of November, and we know that about the 9th he set out on his return to London, because on the 11th he writes to his wife from Ayton on the third day of his journey, one (a Sunday) having been spent in inaction on the road. ‘I hope,’ says he, ‘God willing, to be at London, Saturday come se’ennight:’ that is to say, the journey was to take a fortnight. In accordance with this view of the matter, we find him writing on Friday the 15th from Pearce Bridge, in the county of Durham, ‘with my limbs much better than usual after my seven days’ journey from Edinburgh towards London.’ He tells on this occasion: ‘You cannot imagine the civilities and honours I had done me there, and (I) never lay better, ate or drank better, or conversed with men of better sense, than there.’

Brief as his visit had been, he was evidently pleased with the men he met with in the Scottish capital. All besides officials must have felt that he came about a business of malign aspect towards their country; but his name was an illustrious one in British literature, he was personally good-natured, and they could separate the great essayist from the Whig partisan and servant of the ministry. Allan Ramsay would be delighted to see him in his shop ‘opposite to Niddry’s Wynd head.’ Thomson, then a youth at college, would steal a respectful look at him as he stood amongst his friends at the Cross. From ‘Alexander Pennecuik, gentleman,’ a bard little known to fame, he received a set of complimentary verses, ending thus:

‘Scotia…..
Grief more than age hath furrowed her brow,
She sobs her sorrows, yet she smiles on you;
Tears from her crystal lambies do distil,
With throbbing breast she dreads th’ approaching ill,
Yet still she loves you, though you come to kill,
In midst of fears and wounds, which she doth feel,
Kisses the hurting hand, smiles on the wounding STEELE.’

1718
Sir Richard spent part of the summer of 1718 in Edinburgh, in attendance upon the business of the commission. We find him taking a furnished house for the half-year beginning on the 15th of May (the Whitsunday term in Scotland), from Mr James Anderson, the editor of the Diplomata Scotiae. But on the 29th July he had not come to take possession: neither could he say when he would arrive, till his ‘great affair’ was finished. He promised immediately thereupon to take his horses for Scotland, ‘though I do not bring my coach, by reason of my wife’s inability to go with me.’ ‘I shall,’ he adds, ‘want the four-horse stable for my saddle-horses.’

He appears to have taken the same house for the same period in 1719, and to have revisited Scotland in the same manner in 1720, when he occupied the house of Mr William Scott, professor of Greek in the Edinburgh University.’ There is a letter to him from Mr James Anderson in February 1721, thanking him for the interest he had taken in forwarding a scheme of the writer, to induce the government to purchase his collection of historical books. Steele was again residing in Edinburgh in October 1721, when we find him in friendly intercourse with Mr Anderson. ‘Just before I received yours,’ he says on one occasion, ‘I sent a written message to Mr Montgomery, advising that I designed the coach (Steele’s own carriage?) should go to your house, to take in your galaxy, and afterwards call for his star:’ pleasant allusions these probably to some party of pleasure in which the female members of Mr Anderson’s and Mr Montgomery’s families were to be concerned. In the ensuing month, he writes to Mr Anderson from the York Buildings Office in London, regarding an application he had had from a poor woman named Margaret Gow. He could not help her with her petition; but he sent a small bill representing money of his own for her relief ‘This trifle,’ he says, ‘in her housewifely hands, will make cheerful her numerous family at Collingtown.’

These are meagre particulars regarding Steele’s visits to Scotland, but at least serviceable in illustrating his noted kind­heartedness.

‘Kind Richy Spec, the friend of a’ distressed,’

as he is called by Allan Ramsay, who doubtless made his personal acquaintance at this time.

There is a traditionary anecdote of Steele’s visits to Scotland, which has enough of truth-likeness to be entitled to preservation. It is stated that, in one of his journeys northward, soon after he had crossed the Border, near Annan, he observed a shepherd resting on a hillside and reading a book. He and his companions rode up, and one of them asked the man what he was reading. It proved to be the Bible. ‘And what do you learn from this book?’ asked Sir Richard. ‘I learn from it the way to heaven.’ ‘Very well,’ replied the knight, ‘we are desirous of going to the same place, and wish you would shew us the way.’ Then the shepherd, turning about, pointed to a tall and conspicuous object on an eminence at some miles’ distance, and said: ‘Weel, gentle­men, ye maun just gang by that tower.’ The party, surprised and amused, demanded to know how the tower was called. The shepherd answered: ‘It is the Tower of Repentance.

It was so in verity. Some centuries ago, a Border cavalier, in a fit of remorse, had built a tower, to which he gave the name of Repentance. It lies near Hoddam House, in the parish of Cummertrees, rendered by its eminent situation a conspicuous object to all the country round.

We are informed by Richard Shiels that Steele, while in Scotland, had interviews with a considerable number of the Pres­byterian clergy, with the view of inducing them to agree to a union of the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches—a ‘devout imagination,’ which one would have thought a very few such interviews would have been required to dispel. He was particu­larly struck with the singular and original character of James Hart, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, who is universally admitted to have been an excellent man, as he was a most attrac­tive preacher. That strange enthusiast, Mrs Elizabeth West, speaks of a discourse she once heard from him on a passage in Cantieles: ‘The king hath brought me into his chambers; we will be glad,’ where he held forth, she says, ‘on the sweet fellowship Christ and believers have together.’ ‘Oh,’ she adds, ‘but this was a soul-refreshing sermon to me!’ What had most impressed the English moralist was the contrast between the good-humour and benevolence of Hart in his private character, and the severe style in which he launched forth in the pulpit on the subject of human nature, and on the frightful punishments awaiting the great mass of mankind iu another state of existence. Steele called him on this account ‘the Hangman of the Gospel.’

The only other recollection of Steele in Edinburgh which has ever come under the notice of the author, represents him, charac­teristically, as assembling all the eccentric-looking mendicants of the Scottish capital in a tavern in Lady Stair’s Close, and there pleasing the whimsical taste of himself and one or two friends by witnessing their happiness in the enjoyment of an abundant feast, and observing all their various humours and oddities. Shiels also relates this circumstance, and adds that Steele afterwards con­fessed he had drunk in enough of native drollery to compose a comedy.

1717, Nov
Lord Grange tells us, in his Diary, of a woman in humble life, residing in the Potterrow in Edinburgh, who had religious experiences reminding us of those of St Theresa and Antonia Bourig­non, but consonant with orthodox Presbyterianism. Being taken, along with Mr Logan, the minister of Culross, to see her at ‘Lady Aytoun’s, at the back of the College,’ he found her a woman between thirty and forty. At the communion in Leith, a month ago, she had striven to dwell upon the thought of Christ, and came to have ‘clear uptakings of his sufferings.’ She saw him on the cross, and his deserted sepulchre, ‘as plainly as if she had been actually present when these things happened, though there was not any visible representation thereof made to her bodily eyes. She also got liberty to speak to him, and ask several questions at him, to which she got answers, as if one had spoken to her audibly, though there was no audible voice.’ Lord Grange admits that all this was apt to look like enthusiasm or delusion; but ‘far be it from me to say it is delusion.’ Being once at a communion in Kirkcaldy, ‘it was born in upon her— Arise and eat, for thou hast a journey to make, a Jordan to pass through.’ In passing across the Firth of Forth that afternoon, she was upset into the water, but sustained till a boat came to her rescue.

The pious judge seems to have desired much to keep up acquaintance with Jean Brown—for such was her name—and he went several times to see her at her little shop; but the place was so iunch crowded with children and people coining in to buy snch things as she sells,’ that his wish was frustrated. ‘After­wards,’ lie tells us, ‘I employed her husband (a shoemaker) to make some little things for me, mostly to give them business, and that I might thereby get opportnnity now and then to talk with such as, I hope, are acquainted with the ways of God.’

1718
Immediately after the Union, the shrewd-witted people of Glasgow saw the opportunity which was afforded them of making a profitable trade with the American colonies. They had as yet no vessels of their own, and little means of purchasing cargoes; but diligence, frugality, and patience made up for all deficiencies. There is scarcely anything in our national history more truly interesting than the early efforts of Glasgow in commerce. Her first ventures to Maryland and Virginia were in vessels chartered from Whitehaven. In each vessel, filled with goods, there went a supercargo, whose simple instructions were to sell as many as he could for tobacco, and return home as soon as he had sold all, or had got enough of the plant to fill his vessel, whether the goods were all sold or not, bringing home with him any that remained unsold. In this cautions way were the foundations of the wondrous wealth of Glasgow laid. It was not till now, eleven years after the Union, that the first vessel belonging to Glasgow crossed the Atlantic.

By that time, much of the tobacco-trade had come into the hands of Glasgow merchants. Bristol, Liverpool, and White-haven, which had heretofore been the great entrepóts of the trade, opened their eyes with some little surprise when they began to find Glasgow underselling them in this article even among their own retailers, it was the mere frugality of the Scottish traders which gave them this advantage. But the jealousy of their rivals refused to see the true cause. They entered in 1721 into a con­federacy to destroy the tobacco-trade of Glasgow, petitioning in succession the House of Lords and the House of Commons, with utterly unfounded complaints on the subject. The charges of fraud were declared groundless by the upper house; but, in the lower, the just defences of Glasgow were disregarded, through the interest made by her adversaries. ‘New officers were appointed at the ports of Greenock and Port-Glasgow, whose private instruc­tions seem to have been to ruin the trade, if possible, by putting all imaginable hardships upon it; bills of equity were exhibited against the merchants in the Court of Exchequer for no less than thirty-three ships’ cargoes, by which they were commanded to declare, on oath, whether or not they had imported in these ships any, and how much, more tobacco than what had been exported, or had paid the king’s duty. Vexatious lawsuits of every kind were stirred up against them. Every specics of persecution, which malice, assisted by wealth and interest, could invent, to destroy the trade of Glasgow, was put in practice,’ and in part success­fully, the trade being reduced to a languishing condition, in which it remained for a number of years.’

Quiet Mr Wodrow, in his neighbouring Renfrewshire parish, seems to have rather relished any loss or difficulty sustained by this industrious community, being apparently under an impres­sion that wealth was apt to abate the godly habits of the people. He already recognised a party in the city who mocked at the ministry, and everything that was serious. Instead of seventy-two meetings for prayer, which he had known some years before, there were now but four or five; while in their place flourished club-meetings, at which foolish questions were dis­cussed. He adverts to the blow struck at the tobacco-trade through the House of Commons, ‘which they say will be twenty thousand pounds loss to that place. I wish it may be sanctified to them.’

We have seen a concert taking place in Edinburgh in 1694, and a very grand one, partly supported by amateurs, presented in celebration of St Cecilia’s Day, in the ensuing year. We learn that there was now a weekly meeting of amateurs at the Cross Keys Tavern, kept by one Steil, who is noted as an excellent singer of Scottish songs, and who appears to have possessed a collection of instruments for the use of his guests. This meeting admitted of visitors of both sexes, and was a point of reunion for the beau monde of Edinburgh in days while as yet there were neither balls nor theatres. Its being held in a tavern would be no objection to the ladies. Allan Ramsay, in singing the winter attractions of the city, does not forget that

‘Others can with music make you gay,
With sweetest sounds Corelli’s art display;’

And then adds a picture of the scene

To visit, and take tea the well—dressed fair
May pass the crowd unruffled in her chair
No dust or mire her shining foot shall stain,
Or on the horizontal hoop give pain.
For beaux and bclles no city can compare,
Nor shew a galaxy so made, so fair;
The ears are charmed, and ravished are the eyes,
When at the concert my fair stars arise;
What poets of fictitious beauties sing,
Shall in bright order fill the dazzling ring;
From Venus, Pallas, and the spouse of Jove,
They ‘d gain the prize, judged by the god of Love.’

A writer of some ability and acuteness, who travelled over Scotland, and wrote an account of his journey, published in 1723, tells us that he was at several consorts in Edinburgh, and had much reason to be pleased with the appearance of the ladies. He had never in any country seen ‘an assembly of greater beauties.’ It is not in point here, but it may be stated that he also admired their stately firm way of walking ‘with the joints extended and the toes out,’ and thought their tartan head—mantles of scarlet and green at church as gay as a parterre of flowers. At the same time, he knew them to be good housewives, and that many gentlemen of good estate were not ashamed to wear clothes of their wives’ and servants’ spinning.

To return to music—it looks like a mark of rising taste for sweet sounds, that we have a paragraph in the Edinburgh Courant for July 12, 1720, announcing that Mr Gordon, who had lately been travelling in Italy for his improvement in music, was daily expected in Edinburgh, ‘accompanied with Signor Lorenzo Bocchi, who is considered the second master of the violoncello in Europe, and the fittest hand to join Mr Gordon’s voice in the consorts which he designs to entertain his friends with before the rising of the session.’ On the 28th of May 1722, at the request of several gentlemen of Glasgow, Mr Gordon was to give a ‘consort’ in that city ; and immediately after we hear of him publishing proposals for the improvement of music in Scotland, together with a most reasonable and easy scheme for establishing a Pastoral Opera in Edinburgh.’ Signor Bocchi seems to have been able to carve a professional position for himself in Edinburgh, for in 1726 we find him publishing there an opera of his own composi­tion, containing twelve sonatas for different instruments—violin, flute, violoncello, &c., with a libretto in broad Scotch by Allan Ramsay, beginning:

‘Blate Johnnie faintly tauld fair Jean his mind.’

It was about this time that the native music of Scotland—those beautiful melodies which seem to have sprung up in the country as naturally and unperceivedly as the primroses and the gowans—were first much heard of to the south of the Tweed. William Thomson, who was a boy at the Feast of St Cecilia in 1695, had since grown up in the possession of a remarkably sweet voice for the singing of Scots songs, and having migrated to London, he was there so well received, that Scottish music became fashion­able even amidst the rage there was at the same time for the opera and the compositions of Handel. A collection of Scottish songs, with the music, under the title of Orpheus Caledonius, was published by Thomson in London in 1725, with a dedication to the Princess of Wales, and republished in an extended form in 1733.

Of the other performers at the Feast of St Cecilia, a few were still flourishing. Adam Craig, a teacher of music, played second violin at the gentlemen’s concerts with high approbation. Matthew M’Gibbon was no more; but he had left a superior representative in his son William, who had studied under Corbet in London, and was now leader and first-violin at the concerts, playing the music of Corelli, Geminiani, and Handel with great skill and judgment. A collection of Scots tunes by William M’Gibbon, published in 1742 and subsequent years, was long in high repute.’ Of the St Cecilia amateurs we only hear now of Lord Colville, who seems to have been a great enthusiast, ‘a thorough master of music,’ and is said to have ‘understood counterpoiut well.’ His instruments were the harpsichord and organ. He had made a large collection of music, much of it brought home to him from Italy.

‘The god of Music joins when Colvil plays,
And all the Muses dance to Haddington’s essays;
The charms are mutual, piercing, and compleat—
This in his art excels, and that in wit.’
Defoe’s Caledonia, 1706.

Robert Lord Colville of Ochiltree (for it is necessary so to distin­guish him from Lord Colville of Culross) died unmarried in March 1728, after having been in possession of the peerage for fifty-seven years. Wodrow tells a gossip’s story about his lord­ship having ‘walked’ for some time after his apparent departure from the earth.

After a comparatively private form of entertainment had been in vogue some years, the lovers of harmony in Edinburgh consti­tuted themselves in 1728 into a regular society, with a governor and directors, the entire number of members being seventy, and, for the sake of room, transferred their meetings to St Mary’s Chapel, where they continued to assemble for a long course of years. The progress of their gay science is marked by the publi­cation, in 1730, of a collection of Scots tunes for the harpsichord or spinet by Adam Craig, appropriately dedicated to the Honourable Lords and Gentlemen of the Musical Society of Mary’s Chapel, as ‘generous encouragers and promoters of music ‘—this collection being the first of the kind that was published,’ although there were several previous collections containing Scottish tunes, mingled with others.

June
At this time the house of the Rev. Mr M’Gill, minister of Kinross, was represented as troubled with spirits. The first fact that excited attention, was the disappearance of some silver spoons and knives, which were soon after found in the barn, stuck up in straw, with a big dish all nipped in pieces. Next it was found that no meat was brought to table but what was stuck full of pins. The minister found one in an egg. His wife, to make sure against trick, cooked some meat herself; but behold, when presented at table, ‘there were several pins in it, particularly a big pin the minister used for his gown. Another day, there was a pair of sheets put to the green, among other people’s, which were all nipped to pieces, and none of the linens belonging to others troubled. A certain night several went to watch the house, and as one was praying, down falls the press, wherein was abundance of lime-vessels, all broke to pieces; also at one other time the spirits, as they call them, not only tore the clothes that were locked up in a coffer, to pieces, but the very laps of a gentle­woman’s hood, as she was walking along the floor, were clipped away, as also a woman’s gown-tail and many other things not proper to mention. A certain girl, eating some meat, turned so very sick, that, being necessitate to vomit, (she) cast up five pins. A stone thrown down the chimney wambled a space on the floor, and then took a flight out at the window. There was thrown in the fire the minister’s Bible, which would not burn; but a plate and two silver spoons melted immediately. ‘What bread is fired, were the meal never so fine, it‘s all made useless. Is it not very sad that such a godly family, that employ their time no otherwise but by praying, reading, and serious meditation, should be so molested, while others who are wicked livers, and in a manner avowedly serve the Wicked One, are never troubled?

Wodrow, who relates these particulars, soon after enters in his note-book: ‘I hear of a woman in Carstairs parish, that has been for some time troubled with apparitions, and needs much sympathy.’

It seems to have been a season of unusual spiritual activity. During September, and for some time after, the house of William Montgomery, mason, at Burnside, Scrabster, near Thurso, in the extreme north of Scotland, was tormented in an unusual manner by cats, which flocked in great numbers in and about his dwelling, making a frightful noise. Montgomery himself was from home; but his wife was so much troubled by this unac­countable pest, as to be obliged to write to him requiring his return, as otherwise she would be obliged to remove to Thurso. The goodman did return, and became witness to the torment that was going on, as many as eight cats, totally unknown in the neighbourhood, being sometimes assembled about his fireside in a single evening, ‘making the night hideous.’ One servant-girl left service on account of the nightly disturbance. Another, who came in her place, called to her master one evening that ‘the cats were speaking among themselves,’ for so it had appeared to her they were doing, so human-like were their cries.

On a particular night, the 28th of November, Montgomery became unusually exasperated by these four-footed tormentors, and resolved to attack them with lethal weapons. One having got into a chest which had a hole in it, he watched with his drawn sword till he saw the creature put her head out at the hole, when he struck hard, yet failed to effect decapitation. Opening the chest, a servant named Geddes struck the animal with his master’s dirk in her hinder quarter, pinning her to the timber; yet after all she got out. Ultimately, Montgomery battered this cat pretty effectually, and threw her out as dead ; nevertheless, they found she had disappeared by the morning. Five nights thereafter, some of the eats coming in upon Geddes in his bed, Montgomery dirked one, and battered its head, till it appeared dead, when he flung it out of doors. Before morning, it too had disappeared. He remarked that the wounds he inflicted brought no blood.

As it bad been threatened that none should thrive in his house, William Montgomery entertained no doubt that there was witch­craft in the visitation. When an old woman in the neighbourhood fell ill, he became confirmed in his surmise, and thought himself justified in seeking the interference of the sheriff, though without particularising any delinquent. By this officer, the case was slighted as a piece of popular credulity and ignorance, till, one day in the ensuing February, a certain old woman named Margaret Nin-Gilbert, living in Owst, about a mile and a half from Montgomery’s house, ‘was seen by some of her neighbours to drop at her own door one of her legs from the middle.’ So narrates the sheriff. He adds: ‘She being under bad fame for witchcraft, the leg, black and putrefied, was brought to me; and immediately thereafter I ordered her to be appre­hended and incarcerated.’

When old ladies begin to unhook their legs, and leave them in public places, it is evident there must be something in it. On the 8th of February, Margaret was examined in presence of two ministers, a bailie, and four merchants of Thurso, and confessed that she was in compact with the devil, who some­times appeared to her as a great black horse, sometimes as a black cloud, and sometimes like a black hen. She owned to having been present as a cat in Montgomery’s house, along with other women similarly transformed, when two of the latter had died of the wounds inflicted by Montgomery, and she had had her leg broken by him, so that in time it mortified and broke off. Margaret Olson, one of the women she accused, was examined for witch-marks; and several small coloured spots being detected, a needle was thrust in almost to the eye without exciting the least pain; but neither she nor any other person besides Nin-Gilbert could be induced to confess the practice of witchcraft.

Lord Advocate Dundas heard, some weeks after, what was going on in this remote corner of Scotland, and wrote a letter to the sheriff; finding fault with him for proceeding without consultation with the central authority. The local officer apolo­gised on the ground, that he only acted for the Earl of Breadalbane and Mr Sinclair of Ulbster, and had deemed it proper to communicate directly with them. In the course of a short time, Nin-Gilbert died in prison, and this seems to have been an end to the affair.

Hitherto, no sort of literary or scientific association had been formed in Scotland. For a long time bypast, almost the only learning that existed was theological, and there was but little of that. In this year, Thomas Ruddiman, who had distinguished himself in Edinburgh by editing the works of Buchanan, and composing the well-known Rudiments of the Latin Tongue, joined with the masters of the High School of the city in establishing there an association for improving each other in classical lore, without meddling with the affairs of church or state.’ This body was afterwards joined by a young advocate, subsequently eminent as a judge and a philosophical writer under the name of Lord Kames; afterwards, Mr Archibald Murray and Mr James Cochran, advocates, and Mr George Wishart, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, with some others, became members. ‘Whether their conversations were preserved, or their dissertations pub­lished, cannot now be ascertained.’


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