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The Scot Abroad
Chapter 5 - Influence of Manners - Part 3


Knox brought over with him the words, perhaps in some measure the thoughts, of his cruel teachers, but not their natures. His cry was, that "the idolatrous priest shall be slain at the altar," but he did not bring the threat to the test of practice. It is one of the most curious instances of human frailty and inconsistency, that he afterwards professed bitterly to repent of his moderation, mentioning, as an aggravation of his offence, that he had credit with many who would have enforced God’s judgments had he urged them to the task, but he held back, and so had from the bottom of his heart to ask God’s pardon that he did not do what in him lay to suppress the idol from the beginning. He would have found the sort of work he referred to, however, more difficult to accomplish than he supposed. The elements he had to deal with were far more worldly and selfish than the fiery zeal he had witnessed in the south. Away from that furnace into which he had gone hardened by persecution, he chafed furiously against the Laodicean latitudinarianism of his lay followers, who flung his ‘Book of Discipline’ back with contempt, and poured out the vials of his wrath copiously on those rags of Popish mummeries which Elizabeth permitted to hang round the Reformation in England.

It is pretty clear that he and others of the fiery spirits of the age liked France, where they found themselves among hearts full of the zeal that was lacking at home. It was somewhat the same on the other side; so, as the valorous supporters of either cause found fields of battle in the French wars, the hot controversialists found there also a congenial arena of strife. Some of the Popish refugees let fly from the safe distance of French soil a few pungent arrows, which they dared not have shot nearer home, and they did not hesitate to make the powerful John Knox their peculiar aim. Among these John Hamilton, a restless and versatile priest—not to be confounded with his namesake the Archbishop—in a general volley against the reformers at large, states with much succinctness, and less than the usual indecorum, a favourite charge of that day against Knox.

In literature as well as religion Hamilton affected the part of the conservative, who stood on old assured standards. But like many others assuming that character, he made his protest against the movement onwards more emphatic by going backwards. In his controversial tracts, such as his ‘Catalogue of ane hundret and sixty-seven heresies, lies, and calumnies, teachet and practicit by the ministers of Calvin’s sect,’ after exhausting his polemical rage, he girds himself anew for frantic attacks on the innovations brought by Knox and others from the English idiom of the day, and in scolding them for "knapping saddrone," as he chose to call their use of a southern idiom, he used a form of expression which seems to have become obsolete in his own country. A gentler opponent of Knox, Nynian Winzet, twits him with the southern affectation of his style, calling it "quaint inglis." The whirlwind of the Reformation seems to have stirred the vernacular languages of the day. Luther’s Bible makes an epoch in the formation of the German language, and Pasquier, no partisan of Calvin, admits the great debt to him of the French language.

Hamilton, by the way, was a man violent in his actions as well as his words, and had his right place in the midst of the contests of the League. The student of history is probably acquainted with an erudite work on the monarchy of ancient Persia, by a certain Barnabas Brissonius. The student of jurisprudence, digging to the roots of the civil law, as practised throughout Europe, is likely to be still more familiar with the great folio dictionary of law terms — a work of overpowering erudition, which bears the same name on its ample title-page. To few who turn the teeming pages of the laborious student, does it occur that he is the same President Brisson whose stirring life and terrible death are conspicuous even in the bloody annals of the League! When they had chased Henry IV. and his court from Paris in 1591, they made Brisson first president of their Parliament. No one knows exactly how it came to pass, whether he really attempted to sell the cause of the League, or was unjustly suspected, but he came under the denunciation of the Council of Ten—a committee of public safety which might have made the model for that other which worked two hundred years later. He got the popular nickname of Barabbas, and became a doomed man. When the Burger Guard were called out to line the streets for the capture of several traitors to the cause, Brisson, who was one of them, had to he dragged from a sick-bed. Conspicuous among the clerical orators of the League who lashed the fanatic mob to fury by street orations against the heretics, was John Hamilton, the curate of Saint Côme. He was equally conspicuous, armed from head to heel, in the processions of the leaguers; and in this form it was that he dragged Brisson from his bed. The poor scholar put in a touching plea for life, which he might as well have told to the elements—he was just finishing a new book—might he not be allowed to complete it? No. They hanged him from a beam in the council chamber.

Even in those wild days, when it must have been hard for any man to get ahead of his neighbours, Hamilton became a character. In his humble sphere of a parish priest he made himself conspicuous in French history by the noisy ferocity of his zeal for the old religion and the audacity of his acts. He managed to escape when the Duke of Mayenne hanged the others concerned in the death of Brisson, but he turned up when Henry IV. abjured the Reformation. An act so likely to lead to peaceable results was not to Hamilton’s taste, and he put himself at the head of a party of desperadoes, who were to attack the grand procession, in which the monarch was to reconcile himself to the Church, and take peaceful possession of the hearts of the Parisian mob. Hamilton was unable, however, to get a sufficient force even to disturb the general peace and joy of the occasion. Whether or not his doings on that occasion reminded people of his precedents, sentence was afterwards passed on him to be broken on the wheel for the affair of Brisson. He wisely permitted the sentence to be executed on his effigy, and sought refuge under the genial shadow of Philip II. in his Flemish dominions. He afterwards visited his native country, where the powerful influence of his relations of the Haddington family seems both to have protected him and kept him quiet.

David Chambers, in his book upon the departed glory of his country, repeats Hamilton’s scandal against Knox, couched in Latin—a form which would only give it more publicity in those days. There is a little volume called ‘Mr Nicol Burne’s Disputation,’ which, although a rarity hunted after by collectors, and therefore in common estimation worthless for literary purposes, will be found by any adventurous reader to contain some rather curious matter, and among them certain particulars regarding John Knox not to be found in the biographical dictionaries. The book is a Parisian publication, and will be seen, like Hamiltons, to have had a struggle with the difficulties of the foreign press.

It is possible that some respectable Protestants may be so little acquainted with the fashion of polemical controversy in the sixteenth century, as to be shocked by the passages concerning Knox to which I have referred. But there is no occasion for their losing a particle of their faith in their particular saint. These things were matters of routine; controversy was not complete without them. It was as necessary to accuse the adversary of some monstrous crime, as in later times it was to charge him with stupidity, dishonesty, and imbecile malevolence. Moreover, they have the comfort of knowing that the malignant papists by no means had it all their own way. Among the champions on the other side, we cannot call up a more appropriate one than Knox’s own son-in-law, famous Mr John Welch. He lived much in France, and was thoroughly at home among the fierce Huguenots, for whom, indeed, he held a pike in the defence of St Jean d’Angely. There is a story, believed by his followers, and strangely enough also by M. Michel, to the effect that Louis XIII. was mightily charmed by the earnest boldness wherewith he preached the truth. He was not content with ministering to his own people, but made aggressive attempts on the great enemy Popery, with results so little to his satisfaction, that he concluded the devil to have entered into the hearts of the people and hardened them against the truth, notwithstanding its plentiful outpouring. A Protestant even can imagine this outpouring to have been unsavoury to those on whom it fell, without any intervention of the devil, by a peep into his ‘Popery Anatomised.’ If there are some passages from the other side that one might hesitate to publish, there are many here that one dare not publish—the compositors would not set them up. Hence the two sides are pitted against each other unfairly, the one having, as it were, a hand tied. It is one of those provoking books in which, if some one in a mixed company begins to read a grotesque and pithy passage, he finds himself brought to a sudden stop, probably with a red face, and then takes a leap onward, but with no better success—for instance, in the little biographical notices by which he makes out the Pope to be Antichrist.

"Steven VI.—He caused to take out of the grave the carcass of Formosus, who had mansworn himself, and spoils it of the pontifical habit, and commands it be buried again to the burial of the laicks, cuts off two of his fingers and casts them into the Tyber, and abrogates his decreets, and decreed that the ordnance of Formosus should be void, whilk is a point of Donatism, as Sigebert, a monk, noteth. But Romanus I. and Theodosius II., Popes, his successors, they allow Formosus, and abrogate the acts of Stephanus; and so did John X. by a council of seventy-four bishop; restored the acts of Formosus to the full, and abrogated the acts of Stephanus and condemned them. Yet, for all this, Sergius III. having casten down Christopher L out of his papal seat, afterwards did cast him in prison, where he died, and so obtained the Satanical seat by the help of Marosia his harlot; he causes to take out the body of Formosus, which had lyen eighteen years in the grave, degrades it from the pontifical honour, cuts off the three fingers which Stephanus VI. had left, and with them casts the carcass in the river Tyber, and abrogates his acts, and ordained anew them that was ordained by Formosus (I), whilk is a point of Donatism. And this most filthy—"

Here come a set of naughty words which cause a sudden stop. Try again.

"Sextus IV., that vile and beastly monster.— Wesselus Groningensis, in his ‘Treatise of the Pope’s Pardons,’ writes of him that he permitted the whole family of Cardinal Lucia—"

Stop again.

"Benedictus IX. —He was so skilled in devilish arts of magic, that before he was made Pope, in the woods he called upon these evil spirits, and by his devilry [here the reader, being on his guard, may get on by slipping over a word or two], obtains the Popedom, and makes his former companions magicians, and his most familiar councillors. But he fearing himself, sold the Popedom unto his fellow-magician, called Joannes Gratianus, who was afterwards called Gregory VI., for £1500. Platin saith, that by the judgement of God he is damned for the selling of his Popedom. So after he is deposed, he is suffocate by the devil in the woods, and so he perisheth. Of whom it is reported, that after his death he was seen monstrously to appear to a certain hermit, in his body like a bear, in his head and tail like an ass," &c.

One cannot help admiring the sagacity of the hermit who recognised the deceased pontiff in this sort of masquerade. It is possible to read in peace in full page about the great Hildebrand, how he poisoned his six predecessors, "that he was a notable magician, that when it pleased him he would shake his sleeves and sparks of fire would come out, whereby he deceived the minds of the simple. Of whom Cardinal Benno reports, that coming to Rome at a time he left his book of magical and devilish arts behind him, through forgetfulness, and, remembering himself, he sends two of his most faithful servants about it, charging them straitly, that they opened not the book. But they, the more they were forbidden, were the more curious, and so opening the book and reading it, behold the angels of Satan appeared to them in such a multitude, that scarcely could the two young men remain in their wits."

Proceed we now to "John, whom some call the thirteenth of that name. He is such a monster, that I know not if ever the earth did bear a greater, who had sold himself to all sorts of licentiousness" (skip a word or two). "Luitprandus, in lib. 6, declares that, of his cardinals, of some he cuts out their tongues; of some he cuts off their hands; of some their noses; of some—"

Pulled up again; and so the book is stowed away in a corner of the library, carefully selected as out of reach of the children.

Among the preachers whom we sent to France, there were many who not only did battle with the common enemy, but fought among themselves. This feature seems to have surprised the French Huguenots, ‘who gave implicit submission to their clerical masters. These Scots clergy, in fact, carried with them that disputatious pragmatic spirit of their native land, a climax of which is furnished by the Secession Church, while yet a small obscure body. The question of administering a burgher’s oath after the Porteous Mob split it in two, and then it got a transverse split through both halves, insomuch that there were the Old-Light Burghers and the New-Light Burghers, the Old-Light Antiburghers, and the New-Light Antiburghers. Each protested in a general way against Popery and Prelacy, but was very vehement against the three-quarters of what had once been itself, reserving its special anathemas for that from which it had just separated.

A deal of curious matter about the disputes among the Scots Protestants in France will be found in M. Michel’s second volume. It was in reference to their contentiousness that Andrew Rivet, a native of Poitou, himself a pretty eager controversialist, used an expression which has come into household use in the shape of the praefervidurn ingenium Sotorum, a slight variation of the original.

I propose now to leave the religious bodies themselves, and glance at a topic which will bring up the nature of the places in which they worshipped. Architecture, especially if it be of stone, is the most enduring memorial of the social conditions of any country. The buildings scattered over the surface of Scotland attest to this day with extraordinary precision the long severance from England and attachment to France. We have seen that when the Normans came to Scotland, they left their mark there, as they did everywhere, in feudal castles, bearing special types of the architecture of the period at which they penetrated so far northwards. These are just like the English castles of the same period. The churches, too, built before and during the war of independence, are the brethren of the English-Norman, and first pointed. The existing remains, as well as the local histories, show that the war and the poverty it caused throughout the land brought castle and church building to a stop for many a year, and when it was resumed, it diverged towards the example of France. For instance, among those remains of church architecture in Scotland which have not been adulterated by bad restorations, there are no instances of the Tudor, third pointed, or perpendicular style, so prevalent everywhere in England. This style came into use in England in the beginning of the sixteenth century, and continued until it was gradually absorbed by the revival of the classical forms. It has been called occasionally the Tudor or the Elizabethan style; but these names were applied to it rather in its application to civil than to ecclesiastical buildings. Mr Rickman gave it the name of perpendicular, from the propensity of all the lines, whether those of pillars or of mullions, to go straight up and meet some arch or transom, instead of spreading themselves in the easy floral forms of the preceding age. It has also been called the third pointed, because the two epochs which preceded had got the name of the first and second pointed; and it is sometimes called depressed, because the favourite form of arch adapted to it has the ogee shape, as if it were the old pointed arch pressed down at the apex. Lastly, it is called the degenerate Gothic; but people sometimes object to the applicability of the term, when they remember that Henry VII.’s Chapel, the hall of Christ Church, and many of the ornaments both of Oxford and Cambridge, have been built after this style. It will make the exclusion of this style from Scotland more distinct, to mention the one building that most nearly approaches to it, the church of Melrose Abbey. But even here the dominant feature of the style—the depressed arch, as it is called by archaeologists, the four-centred arch, as it is termed in architects’ offices—is not to be found. At the time when it came into use in England, we here evidently adopted the contemporary style of France, called the flamboyant, from the flame-like shape and character of its details, especially conspicuous in the compartments of the windows when a bright evening sunshine passes through them.

In the baronial or military branch of architecture, the influence of the alliance was still more emphatic. The poverty of their employers compelled Scots masons to go back to the beginning, and produce the mere square block, such as the Normans had raised two centuries earlier. Hence strangers have found puzzling anachronisms in Scots architecture; and in such instances as Borthwick, Elphinston, Niddrie, and Broughty, have only been convinced that they were not looking on ancient Norman work, when, on close examination, they have seen none of the round pillars, ribbed arches, and cheveron or dog-tooth decorations which mark the transition between the classic and the Gothic.

The natural development of castle-building is into flanking works. The owner or other person responsible for the defence wants something beyond the mere wall-plate, with the enemy outside and himself inside. He desires outworks, that he may protract the enemy’s approach, and assail him, when he has come up, upon both sides as well as in front. When he has built his first flanking works, he wants to protect these works in the same way—and so the affair has gone on, from those noble round towers which the architects of the Edwards clustered round the square tower of earlier days, to the long ranges of bastions and redans which covered miles of land under the constructive genius of Vauban and Coehorn.

The Scots laird was too poor to build the flanking round towers of his English neighbours, but he found a cheap substitute for them, which does credit to his ingenuity. He perched projecting crenelations or bastions on the top corners of his tower. If he could afford one at each of the four corners, it was well; if not, he put up two at opposite angles of the square, so that each could rake two sides of it.

Meanwhile in France the practice was adopted of topping the flanking round towers with conical roofs, giving their form an approach to that of the steeple; any bastions or other petty flanking structures that were wanted were topped in the same manner. This has given a peculiar airy richness to French chateau architecture which every traveller notices, both in France and the countries where French taste or influence has predominated. The Scots laird, when he grew rich, enlarged his bastion, and topped it after the French manner. As he grew still richer, he built flanking towers of the same character. So at last his castle, from the original grim square block, sprouted up into a fanciful coronet of lofty crow-stepped gables, high chimneys, and turret-tops, such as we see in Glammis, Pinkie, Fyvie, Midmar, and a hundred other specimens. Indeed two, and perhaps the two finest of those I have named— Fyvie and Pinkie—were built by Seton, Earl of Dunfermline, who came to Scotland, after a foreign education, full of French law and French tastes. Heriot’s Hospital, in Edinburgh, is a daring and beautiful attempt to bring the architecture which had thus irregularly grown, into system and symmetry. There has been much random discussion about its architect, who certainly deserves not to be forgotten. It is generally said to have been designed by Inigo Jones, because it is so like the Castle of Friedriksborg, which he undoubtedly designed; and again, it is said that Friedriksborg was certainly the work of Jones, because it is so like Heriot’s Hospital. When we get out of this circle, we find that the architect was William Aytoun of Inchdairnie, a namesake and ancestor of our own lyrical poet, so justly loved and lauded.

It is a social specialty of Scotland, that castles after the French fashion were built there long after private dwellings had ceased to be fortresses in England. The wide stretch of area, the broad hospitable doorways, and the cheerful oriel windows of the Tudor architecture prevalent in England, spoke of a country where the law was strong enough to put down private warfare. Though richly decorated externally, however, every passage into the Scots mansions by door or window was dark and intricate. A Tudor oriel or bow window would have been as absurd a thing there as in the embrasure of a fortress—the inmates would have been in constant risk of being fired at through it by their neighbours and hereditary enemies. Down nearly to the Union the Scotsman's house was his castle, not metaphorically or by fiction of law, but by strength of building. It was almost the same in street architecture, where the houses were lofty, inaccessible, and easily fortified. And to this day, in the larger towns of Scotland, house is piled above house in a manner which makes Edinburgh as anomalous to the Englishman as Paris; where the Scot, on the other hand, is surprised to find a close parallel to one of the special practices of his own country.


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