Additional Info

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Share

Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Social Life in Scotland
Chapter XVIII. - Humour and Eccentricity


THE hilarity of every country is moved by influences of its own. Thus, while the American laughs at the idea of a very tall man ascending a ladder to shave himself, or the companion of a rapid driver mistaking the milestones of a road for monuments in a cemetery, the Briton listens to these extravagances unmoved. And few save natives of Erin may enjoy the bull, when in answer to the remark, "One man is as good as another," his countryman answered, "Aye, and much better, too!" By pleasant word-playing the Englishman cheers and gives pleasure, but the northerner values only such verbal conceits as are forceful and stirring. When Charles Lamb remarks that his grandmother was a very tall woman, since she was a "granny dear," the Scotsman smiles, but it is in derision. Nor does he discover any real wit in the reproof addressed to Swift, when he was censuring his uncle Godwin for educating him like a dog, that he himself "had not got the gratitude of a dog." Reproved by a Scottish humorist, Swift could have found himself in a fire which he might not readily extinguish.

Scottish jocundity is bracing, as are the northern breezes. If his national comedy is 'confined to one drama—the "Gentle Shepherd "—the native of the north has a. wealth of dramatic power in the weird utterances which start up everywhere. Even in the names of places is depicted the humour of the race. The gloomy vale is the fairy dell, the dismal grotto the goblins' cave. Edinburgh, in old and squalid times, was Auld Reekie. Even the source of evil is in Scottish parlance less associated with malice than with a, mirthful rendering of the terrible. Thus, the "Devil's Glen" is a valley at Lochgoilhead; the "Devil's Staircase," a steep pathway at Glencoe; the " Devil's Caldron," a cascade on the Lednoch; the " Devil's Beef Tub," a hollow among the lloflht lulls; the "Devil's Elbow," a perilous turn of the road at Glenshee; the "Devil's hill" and the "Devil's Punch Bowl," portions of the wild scenery on the Devon.

When surnames came into use, the Caledonian had recourse to his humour that he might distinguish and individualise. Malcolm III., with his superior wit, was styled "Canmore," that is, of the big head, and Malcolm IV. was the "Maiden," that is, one of feminine aspects; then followed Alexander I., called the "Fierce," because of his impetuosity; and William, brave and adventurous, who was designated the "Lion." In like manner James V., who rejoiced to wander about among his subjects in disguise, was popularly known as the "King of the Commons."

Those who bear aristocratic names might hesitate to admit that they owe their appellatives less to Norman descent than to Scottish wit. But the house of Avenel was founded by one who struck powerfully upon the anvil. The family of Howe lived in a hollow; and the earliest Landale in the "lang dale." From "cow-herd" came the fancily of the Cowards, and from "stot-herd" the race of Stodart. The dealer in good wine became Godwin; the brewer's son, was Bryson; and the vendor of good ale was styled "Goodall." The stone-builder who became superior to a common operative was called "Latomus," and his descendants Latto.

Sobriquets were common. William of Deloraine, a scion of the ducal house of Buccleuch, was in the sixteenth century known as William Cut-at-the-Black.' Another Border Minstrel was celebrated as "Sweet Mills."

When a few family names were common to entire districts, as in Banffshire and on the Border, sobriquets abounded. On the Border as contemporaries lived "Hob the King," "John the Braid," "Windie Dirkie," "Land give me little," "Owre the Moss," "Out wi' the Swerd," "Lang Ridare," "Picket up Archie," "Nimble Willie," "Wry Craig," "Lang Foot," "Sow Jock," and "Gleed John." [Armstrong's "History of Liddesdale," Edinburgh, 1883, 4to, pg. 78-9.]

In the Midland Counties sobriquets were also employed. The teacher of a juvenile school at Dollar, early in the century, was known as "Muckle Jean." And John Macdonald, a weaver in the same place, having refused the office of sexton, with the remark that he did not see how "he could earn daily bread by it," was by the name of "Daily Bread" known ever afterwards. [Gibson's "Reminiscences of Dollar," 2d ed.. 1883, p. 70.]

Dr Patrick Cooper, minister at Dunbar, who died in 1822, having read his discourses when notes were generally dispensed with, was usually designated "Paper Pate." A minister in Selkirkshire, who frequently repeated his text, was known as "Heckle-text." Another clergyman in the same county, who in the pulpit used a violent action, was commonly named as "the walloper." "Roaring Willie " was the recognized appellative of Mr William Campbell, minister at Lilliesleaf. From his evangelical teaching and pleasing aspects, Dr Robert Russell, successively minister at Ettrick and Yarrow, was characterized as "the beauty of holiness." An elder, who frequently spoke in the General Assembly as a vigorous opponent to heretical teaching, Andrew Johnston of .Rennyhill, sometime M.P. for the St Andrews Burghs, was described as "Saint Andrew." Campbell, an old lawyer at Stirling, very tall and very irascible, was known as "the deil's darning needle." An Edinburgh banker, with a crouching gait, was called the "deerstalker," and a north country pastor, from a foolish episode associated with his youth, was designated "Potato John." Through Sir Walter Scott, Archibald Constable, the publisher, was known as "Our fat friend," and John Ballantyne as "Rigdumfunnidos." Professor John Wilson assumed the nom de plume of Christopher North. Thirty years ago every university professor had a sobriquet applied to him in allusion to some special hobby or mode of expression.

Some family names humorously given by our ancestors have ceased to be in use. In the Sasine Register of Fifeshire in the sixteenth century appears one "Gudebody of that Ilk." Richard Deadman, who lived at Edinburgh in 1679, has no representative. The names of Moonlight, Happiland, Smiklaw, Oldcorne, and Caldcleuch, which in the fifteenth century appear in the parish registers of Edinburgh, Lasswade, Kinneff, and the Canongate, have been dispensed with. In 1811, William Mow, writer to the signet, made application to the Supreme Court that he might be authorized to adopt the name of "Molle," which he proceeded to show was that borne by his progenitors. The more inharmonious appellative was allowed readily. The designations of Eyvil, Falsey, Fluke, Groundwater, Sneesby, and Twaddle continue. Very recently a child was baptised in the parish of Dyke, in Morayshire, whose parents were Robert Eagle and Mary Goose.

In the early times merry-making abounded. With the rein of Alexander III., Wyntoun associates "gamyn," that is sportiveness. To his troops at Falkirk, Wallace exclaimed, "I have brought you to the ring, dance if you can." James I. joined in the national sports at Falkirk, Stirling, and Perth. By James II. and James III. professional jesters were employed; James IV. pensioned bards and dramatists.

James V. rewarded humorists and "tale-tellers," and Queen Mary jested at her Council board. James VI. was a creditable wit. On revisiting Scotland in 1617, he, in the Chapel Royal at Stirling, assembled the professors of the University of Edinburgh, of which he was the founder. When in his presence were exercised their most choice dialectics, James proceeded, by way of approval to indulge in punning upon their names. To Professor Adamson he remarked that, as Adam was father of the race, it was well that in the discussion Adam's son had a foremost place. The thesis of Professor Fairlie, he said, had some ferlies in it, and he had fairly upheld them. Professor Sands had proved that all Sands were not barren. Young, he added, is "old in Aristotle." James kept a Court jester, Archie Armstrong, who accompanied him to England, and there vigorously exercised his vocation. He was privileged to indulge his banter at the King's personal cost. But Armstrong ventured on ground more perilous; his wit offended Archbishop Laud. He had warned the primate to abstain from interfering with Scottish affairs, and when news came that the royal proclamation respecting the service-book, made at Stirling, in March 1637, had been received contemptuously, he ventured on a jest. As Laud was passing through the palace to the Privy Council, he exclaimed, "Wha's fule noo?" In angry words Laud reported at the Council-table what Armstrong had said, and on his motion the following resolution was forthwith passed :—

"Ordered by his Majesty, with the advice of the Board, that Archibald Armstrong, the King's Fool, for certain scandalous words of a high nature, spoken by him against the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, his Grace, and proved to be uttered by him by two witnesses, shall have his coat pulled over his head, and be discharged of the King's service, and banished the Court, for which the Lord Chamberlain of the King's household is prayed and required to give order to be executed."

Armstrong's degradation took place on the 11th March 1637, and, less than four years afterwards, viz., on the 1st March 1641, Laud was, under the charge of high treason, committed to the tower. At his estate of Arthuret in Cumberland, Armstrong composed on his adversary's fall these lines:—

"His foole's coate now is in far better case
Than he whom yesterday had so much grace;
Changes of times surely cannot be small
When jesters rise and archbishops fall."

Humour attended the Reformation both in its origin and early progress. Apart from his poetical sarcasms at the expense of the Romish clergy, Sir David Lindsay ridiculed them orally. When James V. was in his court, surrounded by the nobility and clergy, Lindsay desired to make a personal request.

"I have served your Grace long," he said, "and look to be rewarded as are others. And now that your master tailor is departed, I would desire of your Grace to bestow this little benefit upon me." The king answered with a smile, "You clod, you know that you can neither shape nor sew." "No odds," replied the humorist, "for your Grace has given kirks to many who can neither teach nor preach; and why may not I as well be your tailor, though I can neither shape nor sew?"

Against Papal error John Knox indulged a crushing sarcasm. When prisoner in the French galleys he was desired to kiss a timber image of the Virgin. Tossing it into the sea, he exclaimed, "Our Lady is light; let her swim."

George Buchanan was eminently facetious; in a Latin drama he scourged the Franciscan Monks, and that wit which he had wielded against ecclesiastical corruption he also exercised as a preceptor. As tutor to James VI., he one day in his presence claimed regal honours, addressing James as his subject. When the young king demanded an explanation, he showed him a document which he had subscribed, unread, in which he abdicated to his tutor for three days the royal authority. By this act of drollery, Buchanan was enabled to convey to his royal pupil a lesson of caution.

In the social intercourse of our English neighbours Scottish banter has no equivalent. Lacking the harsh satire associated with English raillery, it is immeasurably superior to southern badinage; while it may be questioned whether a Scottish banterer ever awakened in a neighbour sentiments of anger. Often the subject of banter by his friends, James Boswell enjoyed rather than resented it. Personally, he indulged banter not unsuccessfully. "I never roast any," said to him one of his associates, meaning that he was not given to raillery. "No, you never roast," said Boswell, "for you have no fire."

Principal Robertson, being intensely loquacious, usually monopolised the conversation. To prevent his gratifying his peculiarity, Professor Adam Ferguson remarked to him, prior to a dinner-party, that he suspected there was something wrong with their friend Dr Alexander Carlyle, since his talk now consisted only of miserable drivel. After dinner, when the Principal was commencing to descant on a selected topic, Dr Carlyle entered upon a disquisition on the importance of patent mustard. The Principal sat paralysed, and, during the evening, ventured only an occasional sentence. Professor William Brown of the Church History Chair in the University of St Andrews, was not ordinarily a humorist. What nature denied him he obtained through a demonstrative aversion. The members of the University were seated together at their annual dinner, when someone proposed as a toast, "The Faculty of Arts." Professor Brown, who was at variance with all the members of the faculty, raised his glass, exclaiming, "To our absent friends, gentlemen." Another matter-of- fact Professor of Church History was the late energetic Dr James Robertson of Edinburgh, formerly of Ellon. Meeting in the College Library one morning his colleague, Principal Lee, he enquired after his welfare. Dr Lee, who though he enjoyed a vigorous constitution, was querulous about his health, answered in his usual valetudinary mode, "I've been very ill, sir, and have had no sleep for ten days." "Then you're getting well, Dr Lee," rejoined his interlocutor, "for when last I enquired as to your health, you had not slept for six weeks." Personally Dr Lee excelled in banter. Professor Pillans when he had passed his eightieth birthday, remarked to him that he felt quite juvenile, though the feeling, he added, was clearly a delusive one. "No delusion, indeed, my friend," exclaimed the Principal; "second childhood is a reality." Dr David Laing, the eminent antiquary, procrastinated sadly. Often rallied as to his propensity, he submitted patiently; and when remonstrated with by letter, he concluded his reply in a manner which at once evinced his humour and acknowledged his peculiarity. He wrote, "Yours always D Laing."

Scottish ladies excel in banter. Campbell, Laird of Combie, met at dinner Miss Macnab of Barochastail. Campbell was celebrated for his licentious manners, the lady for an unpleasing exterior. "Come," said Campbell, looking across the table to Miss Macnab, "I'll give you a toast, 'Honest men and bonny lasses:' "Yes, Campbell; I'll drink to it," said the lady, "for it neither applies to you nor me." The colonel of the Perthshire cavalry, in complaining of the inefficiency of his officers, remarked that the duties of the corps devolved solely upon himself. "I am," said he, "my own captain, my own lieutenant, my own cornet, and my...." "Your own trumpeter," added a lady. But in smart speeches Scottish gentlewomen have not always triumphed. Lady Wallace, sister of the more celebrated Jane, Duchess of Gordon, was in raillery overcome by David Hume. "I and often asked," she said to the philosopher, "what age I am; what answer should I make?" "When you are asked that question again," replied Hume, "just say you are not come to the years of discretion." Remarked a Glasgow gentlewoman to Professor Robert Buchanan, as she sat beside him at dinner, "It's all the talk that you and I are to become man and wife." "Aye", said the Professor, "but we'll cheat them." "Do you know," said Mrs L. to a Scottish baronet, "that people give out that you and my daughter Gertrude Louise are to be married? It's so very awkward; what shall we say about it?" "Just say she refused me," responded the baronet. The most noted of Scottish punsters, Henry Erskine, was challenged by the middle-aged Miss Hennie Dallas [This gentlewoman, who, at the beginning of the century, moved in the literary circles of Edinburgh, was daughter of George Dallas, W.S., representative of the family of Dallas of St Martin's, Ross-shire.] to make a pun upon her name. "Ah!" exclaimed the wit, "Hennie, you're nae chicken." "A pun cannot be made on my name," ejaculated Mr Dunlop. "Lop off the latter syllable and it's done [dun]," said Erskine.

Repartee is a chief feature of northern wit. When, on the accession of the Coalition Ministry, in 1783, Henry Erskine was appointed Lord Advocate, he was jocularly offered by his predecessor Henry Dundas the loan of his silk gown, with the remark that he was not likely to require it long. "I have no doubt," said Erskine, "your gown is made to fit any party, but however short may be my term of office it shall not be said that I put on the abandoned habits of my predecessor."

John Clerk, of Eldin, afterwards a judge, indulged in humorous hard hitting. Persisting in the use of the vernacular, he made no effort to abandon it, even in the English courts. Pleading in the House of Lords, lie used the words, "In plain English," when Lord Chancellor Eldon exclaimed, petulantly, "You mean plain Scotch." "Yes, my lord," quietly continued the pleader, "or plain common sense, if you understand that."

When Dr Laurence Lockhart, minister of Inch- mean, succeeded to the estate of Milton-Lockhart, Dr Robert Gillan of Glasgow was appointed his successor. Some time afterwards, Dr Lockhart, in communicating with him, expressed a hope that the MSS. and sermons he had left in an attic chamber were kept free from damp. Dr Gillan answered laconically, "The MSS. are quite dry, especially the sermons."

In witty rejoinder Mr Walter Dunlop of the Secession Church, Dumfries, was especially effective. A neighbour, Mr Clark, whose mental capacity fell short of his fine exterior, was complimented by Mr Dunlop with the remark, "That's a great head o' yours, Mr Clark." Said Clark, who disliked the allusion. "Aye: it wad haul twa sma' heads like yours." "May be," rejoined Mr Dunlop, "for it's gey an' toom"—he meant empty.

The Rev. Professor Lawson, minister of Selkirk, had a medical attendant who used oaths. Dr Lawson was one day consulting him about his health. Having learned what his symptoms were, the M.D. exclaimed, with an expletive, "You must give up that habit of snuffing; unless you give it up (adding another oath), you'll not recover." "It is rather a costly habit," replied Dr Lawson, "and if it is injuring me, I will abandon it. But you, too, my dear friend, indulge a bad habit—that of swearing—and it would comfort your friends were you to give it up." "But it's not a costly habit like yours," rejoined the physician, with a smile. "Very costly you'll find it, sir, when the account comes," added the Professor gravely.

Dr Dow of Errol and Dr Duff of Kilspindie, ministers in the Carse of Gowrie, were both humorists, and often met. On a New Year's day Dr Dow sent to his friend, who was a great snuffer, a mull, inscribed--

Dr Dow to Dr Duff,
Snuff! Snuff! Snuff!

The allusion to his habit, Dr Duff resolved pithily to avenge, and, knowing his friend's weakness for toddy, despatched to him a hot-water jug, with these lines upon the lid:

Dr Duff to Dr Dow,
Fou! Fou! Fou!

Reproof, with a gentle humour, has not been without its uses. One of the most earnest of modern Gaelic poets, Dugald Buchanan, ultimately a catechist in the Highlands, was first led to think seriously by being made the subject of a jest. "What is your profession?" inquired of him a pious Highlander. "As to that," replied Buchanan, "I have none particularly. My mind is very much as a sheet of white paper." "Then take care," responded the querist, "that the devil does not write his name upon it." Henceforth Buchanan became serious.

Dr David Johnston, minister of North Leith, in the course of visiting his parish, entered the house of a Secession elder. "I cannot receive you," said the householder, "for I abhor the State religion, and assert the great voluntary principle." Mildly replied Dr Johnston; "Jerusalem has twelve gates, and all lead to the temple. I hope we'll meet there." "There's my hand, sir," said the objector, "and God bless you."

By the gentle sarcasm of a humble cottager, a minister in Fife was led to abandon a loftiness of demeanour which impeded his usefulness. Asked by an aged widow, to "sit doun" as he entered her dwelling, he, expecting a more respectful salutation, exclaimed, "Woman, I'm the Lord's servant." "If that be sae," persisted the widow, "then like your Maister he'll be humble and sit doun."

A farmer at Kirriemuir remarked that the young grass in one of his fields seemed to be grazed on before daybreak. Getting up early one Sunday morning, he observed a cow among the grass, to which was attached a long tether, which he traced to the door of a man who pretended piety. There he rested, with the tether in his left hand and the bible in his right, which he seemed engaged in studying. "Are ye trying to mak them square, Tammas?" exclaimed the farmer, pointing to the tether and the book. The reproof was crushing.

Mr Linton, schoolmaster of Breehin, was a haughty pedant. A farmer waited on him, accompanied by his young son, whom he presented as a pupil. "What do you intend to make of the lad?" asked Mr Linton loftily. "Weel," said the farmer, "if he bets grace we'll mak' him a minister." "All," persisted Mr Linton, "and if he gets no grace, what then?" "'Then," said the farmer, looking firmly at the pedagogue, "He maun juist become a schulemaister, like yersel'."

Sir John Whitefoord, Bart., sternly resisted the interference in county affairs of persons connected with trade. A shopkeeper in his neighbourhood having purchased lands in the county, became a Commissioner of Supply. At a county meeting, when a question arose about roads, the new landowner ventured a suggestion, when Sir John arose and spoke of "persons from the dunghill." "A dunghill is very filthy," retorted the trader, "but surely, Sir John, it's better to be leavin' it than comin' till't." Sir John's estates were burdened with debt, and were about to be sold.

Professor John Hill of Edinburgh walked each morning on the Calton Hill. Torn Jackson, a reputed idiot, was generally on the road before him, and the Professor, annoyed by what he regarded as an intrusion, said to him one morning, "Tom, how long may one live without brains?" "I dinna ken, sir," responded Tom; "how lang hae ye lived yersel'?"

Among eccentric Scotsmen, James Boswell holds a first place. Apprehending his own oddities, he wrote, "My head is like a tavern, in which a club of punch-drinkers have taken up the room that might have been filled with lords who drink Burgundy, but it is not in the landlord's power to dispossess them." Of himself, on another occasion, he remarked—"I am a composition of an infinite variety of ingredients. I have been formed by a vast number of scenes of the most different nations, and I question if any uniform education could have produced a character so agreeable." Boswell believed he could discharge every duty better than that which he had presently in hand. When in fair practice as an advocate at Edinburgh, he thought of securing a commission in the Guards. Next he fancied that the Scottish Law Courts were a field too restricted for his genius, so he transferred himself to the Courts at Westminster. Moved with a strange desire to attach himself to some notable person, he sought the society of Lord Hailes, but after a time he felt that his companionship suited a brighter luminary. As the chief star of his time was Dr Samuel Johnson, he determined to secure his friendship. When he had accomplished this, his joy was overwhelming. To his correspondent, John Johnstone of Grange, he, on the 9th May 1772, addressed a letter from "Mr Samuel Johnson's study." Five days later he informed the same correspondent that he had been entertaining Dr Johnson at dinner.

Familiar with Dr Johnson, Boswell became intimate with other notables. He proceeded to Corsica, and there interviewed Paoli. The cause of Corsica, for which Paoli contended, he made his own; and at a demonstration at Stratford-on-Avon, whither he had crone to celebrate Shakespeare, he wore a Corsican dress. He coveted the sobriquet of "Corsican Boswell."

In his Common-place book, Boswell refers to the eccentricities of Sir Alexander Ogilvy, Lord Forglen. During his last illness Forglen was visited by his friend Dr Clark. "Weel, Doctor, what news?" he asked. "I canna say I have ony," said the doctor. "Dear man," responded his lordship, "wha do they say is to succeed me?" "It's time enough," said the doctor, "to speak o' that when you're dead." "Hoot," said Forglen, "Will ye tell us?" Upon which Dr Clark named one of the learned faculty. "What's his interest?" The doctor stated it. "Pooh, that'll no dae," said the judge. "Who else?" The doctor named another. "What's his interest?" said the judge. It was given. "Pooh, that'll no dae." The doctor named a third expectant and his supposed interest. "I'll lay my siller on his head against the field," responded the dying senator. When Dr Clark renewed his visit, Lord Forglen's clerk, Mr David Reid, met him at the entrance. "How does my lord do?" enquired the visitor. "I hope he's weel," said the clerk, a remark which the doctor knew was an intimation that his patient was gone. Mr Reid conducted the physician to a room where under the table lay two dozen bottles of wine. Other friends of the deceased came in, and corks were drawn. Mr Reid detailed the history of his lordship's last hours, and passed round the bottle. When the gentlemen rose to leave he interposed. "No, gentlemen," said he, "It was the will o' the dead that I should fill you a' fou, and I maun fulfil the will o' the dead." The company remained, adds Boswell, till "none was able to bite his thumb."

Andrew Stuart, the famous Peerage lawyer of last century, closed every successful plea by a prodigal hospitality. Writing on the 28th March 1759, to General William Alexander of New Jersey, informing him that by a jury he had been served heir-male to the Earldom of Stirling, he concludes:—"According to your orders I gave a genteel entertainment to the gentlemen of the jury, when there was much mirth and jollity, and many bumpers to the prosperity of yourself and family. As I had the duty of landlord upon me, politeness required me to do the Honours of the table, while any of the guests remained, by which it so happened that the landlord was at list almost incapable of giving you any accounts that night of what had happened. He had this, however, to comfort him, that very few of his guests were better qualified than he to send you intelligence." [MS. Correspondence of the American Earl of Stirling, in the archives of the Historical Society of New York.]

David Steuart Erskine, eleventh Earl of Buchan, who founded the Society of Antiquaries, was of eccentric habits. In 1819 Sir Walter Scott was laid up in his house in Castle Street, Edinburgh, by a sharp attack of illness. Though aware that the physicians had prohibited the reception of visitors, Lord Buchan determined on having an interview. Finding the knocker on the front door tied up, his lordship descended to the area door, and, despite the remonstrances of the coachman, mounted up-stairs on his way to Sir Walter's bed-chamber. Miss Scott met him and expostulated. It was useless. The earl said that he "must see Sir Walter." Meanwhile the coachman, again coming upon the scene, have his lordship a shove, and, with menacing gestures, showed that further intrusion would he resisted. Informed of the occurrence, Sir Walter despatched Mr James Ballantyne to explain matters. Ballantyne found the earl in a state of lamentable excitement. "He had gone," he said, "to embrace Sir Walter before he died, and to remind him that they should rest together in the same burial place, and to show him a plan of the funeral procession which he had prepared."

A younger brother of Lord Buchan was the celebrated Lord Chancellor Erskine. According to Sir Walter Scott, Lord Erskine was, through professional restraint, kept from being openly insane. When he retired from public life he committed many extravagances. "I have heard him," writes Scott, "tell a cock-and-bull story of having seen the ghost of his father's servant, John Burnet, with as much gravity as if he believed every word he was saying."

Isolation is productive of eccentric habits. David, fourth Earl of Airlie, in early life commanded a regiment under Prince Charles Edward, and many years was an exile in France. Latterly, at Cortachy Castle, he led the life of a recluse. He received a London newspaper once a week, which he burned after reading, that he might enjoy the satisfaction of personally retailing the news to his domestics.

At the outset of his career, Mr Robert Haldane, who loved sylvan retirement, advertised for a hermit to occupy a hermitage which he constructed on his beautiful domain of Airthrey, on the southern slopes of the Ochils. In this structure he proposed to accommodate a person who would in all respects realise Dr Goldsmith's description of the eremite. There were several applicants, but no one was found willing to pledge himself to a perpetual seclusion.

At the commencement of life, Dr Hew Scott, author of "The Succession of Ministers in the Church of Scotland," endured no inconsiderable privation; hence, he contracted penurious habits which rigidly clung to him. He did not purchase writing paper, but composed his sermons, as well as his great work, on letter-backs. In his correspondence he used turned envelopes. When confined to his bedchamber during his last illness, he occupied himself by opening envelopes and refolding them with a view to their future use.

Of a vigorous understanding and superior culture, Dr John Park, minister of Cadder, was withal much inclined to parsimony. When at an advanced age his health became feeble, he arranged with the parish sexton as to the cost of his interment. As he had stipulated that his grave was much to exceed the usual depth, and some impediments were to be removed from the surface, the sexton remarked that for their labour he and his assistant would be entitled to thirty shillings. "You shall have one pound, George," said the Doctor; "but you must pledge me that you will not charge a farthing more."

Mr James Greig, minister of Ballingry, lived in positive retirement, hardly so much as withdrawing the shutters of his sitting-room. In his garden he allowed weeds and flowers to grow together, the former assuming gigantic proportions. When the front door of his manse fell down under decay, he permitted the fragments to rest where they fell, and the house to remain unsecured. He refrained from purchasing new clothes, wore unpolled hair, and rejoiced in unpared nails.

Benevolent towards the unfortunate, Thomas Carlyle indulged the unhappy tendency of censuring his contemporaries. In his journal, in which he made constant entries, he recorded his impressions of those whom he met in society, or who waited upon him at his house. These impressions were of an unusual severity. One of the gentlest of his contemporaries, a friend whom he warmly cherished, Dr David Laing, the antiquary, he describes as resembling the son of one who was hanged for murder! Sir Walter Scott he describes as "supercilious," since as he had omitted to acknowledge his service as bearer to him of a gift from Goethe. Professor John Wilson, whose geniality was proverbial, he characterises as "disdainful," since he had not fulfilled a promise to visit him. Dr David Irving, to whom he extended a life-long friendship, he describes as having "behaved badly in procuring him at Edinburgh some noisy lodgings". Having met Allan Cunningham, he inclined to question his "sincerity," while James Hogg, with whom he had a solitary meeting, he has denounced as vain, as on solicitation he sung his own songs or repeated them. William Tait, the publisher, a kind unpretentious man, he describes as a "booby," while other friends who had rendered him service, he censures even more impetuously.

The late Dr Thomas Duncan, minister of the New Church, Dumfries, was known to be extremely oblivious. One afternoon he, after a long walk, became at length exhausted, when he stepped into a farmhouse and legged permission to rest a little. The farmer respectfully asked him for his name. "I would have given you my name at once," answered the visitor, "but the truth is, it has escaped me." "Then you're Dr Duncan of Dumfries," responded the farmer.

Dr William Wilkie, Professor of Natural Philosophy at St Andrews, author of "The Epigoniad," is, in relation to his obliviousness, the subject of numerous anecdotes. Meeting at St Andrews a former student, he said to him, "I am sorry to hear you have had fever in your family; was it you or your brother who died of it? Ah, indeed, it was yourself," continued the Professor; "very sorry for it, very sorry." Wilkie was the victim of a perpetual chill. He wore thick winter clothing in the dog-days, and slept all the year round under twelve pairs of blankets. When a youth he was placed on his father's fields as a scarecrow, for, in reading a book, his concentration was such that he would remain standing on the spot on which he was placed, without the desire to move from it, or the consciousness of restraint.

According to Dr Alexander Carlyle, Dr Adam Smith was "the most absent man in company he ever saw, mourning his losses and talking to himself, and smiling in the midst of large companies." When resident at Kirkcaldy he was deeply engaged in his philosophic studies. Early on a Sunday morning while so occupied he walked into his garden. Instead of returning from the garden to his dwelling he passed by a small path into the turnpike road, along which he proceeded in a condition of reverie, till he reached Dunfermline, fifteen miles distant. The people were proceeding to church, and the sound of the church bells aroused the philosopher to consciousness. He was arrayed in an old dressing-gown, and presented withal so strange an appearance that he was regarded as a lunatic.

Dr Robert Hamilton, Professor of Mathematics at Aberdeen, was most oblivious. He was so engrossed in his subject, as to be indifferent to the showers of peas cast at him when his face was turned towards the demonstration-board. On one occasion a naughty idler threw against the board a toy cracker containing a few grains of detonating powder, which exploded with a loud report. In a moment Hamilton bounded from the class-room, and when a deputation entered his private apartment he burst forth: "Gentlemen, don't, I entreat you, fire with ball; the board was penetrated close by my right ear!"

The celebrated Professor James Beattie of Aberdeen was, when schoolmaster at Fordoun, suspected of lunacy, and his alleged madness was reported to Lord Gardenstone. Not long afterwards his lordship was walking in a glen in the vicinity of his residence, when he found the schoolmaster seated on a bank, writing and repeating aloud what he had written. On coming up, Gardenstone, who was struck by the beauty of the lines which the schoolmaster had declaimed, entered into conversation with him, and after a time said, "I see that the report as to your madness is not well founded. You are a genius, not a lunatic." "Ah!" responded Beattie, "I see I have been compromising myself by repeating my lines aloud. And I have at times quite unconsciously continued my evening walk up to the hours of morning."

Both Sir Walter Scott and his son-in-law, John Gibson Lockhart, were subject to obliviousness. In a note to his neighbour at 41 Castle Street, James Wylie, of Annatfield, W.S., written in August 1822, two years after he was created a baronet, he begins, "Mr Scott, with many apologies," &c. Before his departure for London, Mr Lockhart acknowledged the hospitality of his literary friends by inviting them to an entertainment. A considerable number assembled, and all were merrily disposed; but the host had fallen into one of his dull humours, and would not be moved. The only word uttered by him during the evening was a monosyllable. A friend who sat near asked him to name the wine; he replied, "Hock."

Professor Lawson of Selkirk, his biographer relates, forgot the day of his marriage, with the result that his fiancee refused to receive an explanation, and withdrew her consent.

Both Dr Thomas Chalmers and Professor Simson, of Glasgow, the eminent geometrician, were, in journeying between their residences and their classrooms, in the habit of counting their steps. In his work on the "Clubs of Glasgow," Dr Strang relates that while on his way from the college to his club at Anderston, Simson, occupied as usual in enumerating his steps, was accosted by a stranger. "One word with you, Professor," said the stranger. "Most happy, 573." "Just one question," persisted the spokesman. "Well, 573," said the Professor. "You are too polite; but it is to decide a bet. Did D-- bequeath 500 to each of his nieces?" "Precisely, 573," replied the Professor, and walked on.

Romancing was in former times not deemed wholly incompatible with a respect to the proprieties of religion. A notorious romancer, Mr James Durham, the laird of Largo, in Fife, carefully observed domestic worship. And the time of the evening exercise he regulated by the appearance of the smoke of Edinburgh, which he could, in summer, distinguish twenty-five miles off. He would say, "It's time, bairns, to tak the beuks, for yonder's Auld Reekie putting on her nichtcap." At a meeting of the district Road Trustees he pleaded for the repair of a farm road near his residence, clenching his remarks by a narrative: "Just the other day," he said, "as I was walking upon this road, I met the local carrier, who, whip in hand, was looking wistfully into a small pool which bubbled in its centre. `What is the matter, John?' I inquired, as I remarked tears upon his cheek. 'D'ye see that bubbling water? he responded he, pointing to the pool. 'I do, and what of it? I asked. `Aye, sir, that's a' I've got for a horse and cart; baith are doun.' The poor man had, gentlemen, lost his all." Mr Durham obtained his wish, for while none believed his story, all were amused by his romance. Mr Durham employed a valet whose name was Peter. Having been long in his family, Peter was regarded as a permanent member of his domestic staff. None better knew his master's weakness, or more keenly deplored a habit which, though overlooked by some, was obnoxious to others. At length Peter adopted a course which gave him an opportunity of remonstrating. "I'm going to leave your service, sir," said Peter; "I go at the term." "What's your discontent, Peter," exclaimed Mr Durham, "Have I not treated you always well, and raised your wages from time to time? Tell me at once what's wrong?" "I cannot say, sir, I have in the house aught to complain of, but I cannot longer endure the public talk." "What are they saying, Peter?" persisted Mr Durham. "Why, sir, the people point me out one to the other as 'the man who has the leein' moister.'" "If this is really so," answered Mr Durham, "I must be more careful, and you may help me a little. When at dinner, as you are standing behind my chair, if I relate a story which you think a little exaggerated, give me a nudge and I'll make it right at once." Not long afterwards Mr Durham was entertaining at dinner a party of friends, when he proceeded to describe some foxes he had seen abroad, with tails twelve feet long. John gave his master a nudge, when Mr Durham remarked to his guests, "'No, I am wrong. Not twelve; they were six feet long." Peter administered a second nudge. "All, well, on reflecting," said Mr Durham, "I believe the animals' tails were not beyond three feet long." Peter yet nudged when Mr Durham turned sharply round, and addressing his attendant, said gravely, "Peter, if I reduce the tail further the story's gone." Mr Durham indulged a good-humoured banter. He was one day romancing to Sir John Marjoribanks of Lees, in a tale intended to bit off some of the latter's peculiarities. "That's a Largo," replied Sir John. "No," Mr Durham humorously rejoined, ''It is not Largo, it's Lees."

Admiral Sir Philip Charles Durham, third son of James Durham, of Largo, inherited his father's peculiarity. Having joined the Navy, lie became a lieutenant of the Royal George, and was on board that ill-fated vessel when, on the 29th August 1.792, she sunk at Spithead. He happily escaped, but the tidings of his safety did not reach Largo for several days after the first news of the catastrophe. During the interval old Mr Durham was in deep distress on account of his favourite son, who he concluded had perished with the ship. Even the sight of a letter in his son's handwriting did not relieve his anxiety, for, said he, " Philip is sair inclined to lee, an' I'll no believe he's been saved till he tells me oot o' his ain mooch, an' aiblins then I'll no be quite sure." Sir Philip was prototype of one of Captain Marryat's most amusing characters, whose Munchausen-like stories used to gratify the readers of fiction some forty years ago. To this day Sir Philip's family name is in naval slang used to signify any incredible relation.

Possessing large capacity, encyclopedic information, vast powers of eloquence, and singular promptitude, Henry Peter, Lord Brougham, had withal an imaginative faculty, which led him into error. When on a visit to Edinburgh he was walking in the Greyfriars' Churchyard, he, in the hearing of Mr Campbell, the recorder, pointed out to Sir Robert Peel and Lord Lincoln, who accompanied him, the house in the Cowgate in which he was born, and which is to be remarked from that place of graves. The Cowgate is situated within the boundaries of St Giles Parish. Accordingly, in the baptismal register of that parish appears the following entry:—"Wednesday, 30th September 1778. Henry Brougham, Esq., parish of St Giles, and Eleanora Syme, his spouse, a son born the nineteenth current, named Henry Peter. Witnesses, Mr Archibald Hope, Royal Bank, and the Reverend Principal Robertson." The house occupied by Henry and Mrs Brougham after their marriage was the third or uppermost flat of a house at the corner of the Cowgate and West Bow, the windows fronting Candlemaker Row; it is described in the Directory as 8 Cowgatehead. There Mrs Brougham's mother, Mrs Mary Syme, widow of Cllr James Syme, minister of Alloa, and sister of Principal Robertson, supplemented her slender provision by keeping a boarding-house. Among her other boarders was Henry Brougham, who then represented a commercial house, but who, on succeeding to Brougham Hall in Westmoreland a year or two subsequent to his marriage, was relieved of business anxieties, and also from the necessity of occupying with wife and child a humble tenement in the Cowgate. He removed to the third floor of No. 21 St Andrew Square, in the new town, and within the bounds of St Andrew's parish. There Mr Brougham continued to reside till his death, which took place on the 19th February 1810. His remains were deposited in the churchyard of Restalrig, where a plain tombstone erected by his widow denotes his grave.

In his "Life and Times" Lord Brougham presents a narrative which differs from these details.

He remarks that his father came to Edinburgh under the auspices of the Earl of Buchan, whom he describes "as a very intimate friend of his grandfather." He proceeds—"To him my father was consigned in the hopes that, introduced by him to the best Edinburgh society, he might find occupation and distraction enough to dissipate his grief," occasioned by the unexpected death of Mary Whelpdale, a Westmoreland heiress, to whom he was betrothed. His lordship adds "Accordingly, to Edinburgh he went, and there, among other distinguished personages, made the acquaintance of Dr Robertson, at whose house he met his eldest sister, then a widow, and her only child Eleanor. This ended in a marriage, and then my father and his bride moved to St Andrew Square, to the house in which Lord and Lady Buchan lived, and there I was born on the 19th September 1778." In confirmation of his narrative as to the place of his birth, the ex-chancellor quotes "Notes about Henry," described as having in the year 1826 been written by his mother. "He (Henry)," "went to school before the 19th of September 1785, having been born on that day in the year 1778, at No. 21 north side of St Andrew Square."

A marked peculiarity of Scotsmen descending from a Celtic ancestry is a desire to avenge their wrongs. In the year 1573 two members of the University of St Andrews indulged a warfare in censorious rhymes. The assailant was Professor John Davidson, a zealous reformer, but of an infirm temper. He in verse described John Rutherford, Provost of St Salvator's College, as "an cruset mouse"—that is a goose sitting on eggs and hissing at all who came near. Provost Rutherford resented in kind, but his rhymes have not been preserved. Both combatants were, by the General Assembly of March 1574, ordered to read their pasquinades in open court. A compromise followed, but Davidson, who by his versifying had also offended the Regent Morton, was prosecuted by that high functionary, and had to seek safety in flight.

Respecting Samuel Colville, author of the "Whig's Supplication, a mock poem," frequently printed, some curious particulars have been discovered. Third son of John Colville of Cardross, who in 1640 succeeded to the honours of Lord Colville, but who, owing to inadequacy of fortune, did not assume the title, he inherited a strong poetical tendency from his mother, Elizabeth Melville, daughter of Sir James Melville of Hallhill, and whose "Godly Dream," a poem of 480 verses, is of no inconsiderable vigour. Samuel's elder brother, Dr Alexander Colville, was in 1642 appointed Professor of Hebrew in St Mary's College. Between Professor Colville and his university colleague, Samuel Rutherford, there existed an acrimonious feeling, for the former adhered to the Resolutioners, and the latter consorted with the Protesters. The strife, which in 1652 had begun to wax keen, was intensified by pasquils, which were directed against Rutherford by Samuel Colville, who then resided in the city. As a member of the Kirk-session, Rutherford had his revenge. Through his interposition a statement as to Samuel's conduct was, by the Masters of St Salvator's College sought from the Kirksession of which he was a member. Their report was most pungent. Dated 18th August 1652, it thus proceeds:—

"Whereas the Masters of the Old Colledge have desired us to declare our knowledge concerning Mr Samuel Colvill, we, Ministers and Elders of the Kirksession of St Andrews do declare as follows: We never acknowledged the said Mr Samuel as a member of our congregation, not only because he had no testimonials of his good behaviour elsewhere, got also because he did lye under the scandell of idlenes, carding, dyceing, swearing, lying, railing, and the lyke. Lykeas it bath been declared in the session by many members thereof, that during his abode in this toun he has been observed and found in carding by night, upsetting in taverns and ale-houses, haunting the most debased companie as his usual element, and in other forementioned disorders, so that his abode here was grievous to us; having been also some years ago, expelled this citie by the magistrates for his disorderlie carriage. These things we testify to be of truth, and ordain an extract hereof to be taken to the said Masters of the Old Colledge."

From the tenor of this report it appears that Samuel Colville had already left the place, a circumstance doubtless which facilitated the action of the court. Some years afterwards, when his relatives obtained the political ascendancy, he returned to the city, and then demanded from the Kirksession a copy of their libel. Having met on the 8th March 1660 to consider the application, the members agreed that he night inspect their register. Colville now complained to the Presbytery, and by that court he was referred to the Kirksession, which, on the 22nd March, resumed consideration of his case. Their deliverance, dated the 22nd March, proceeds thus:—

The whilk day Mr Samuel Colvill did give in a paper shewin; that he is referred by the Presbytery to the Session for a testimoniall, whereunto he received the following answer:—`In referring to the above-mentioned petition, we, Ministers and Elders of the Kirksession, doe testifie that the above-mentioned Mr Samuel Colvill bath remained got a short tyme in this citie occasionallie of late, since August 16, 1653; and during that tyme the members of the Session, being posed particularlie, did answer unanimouslie that no scandall concerning hint bath, in any publicke way, come to their knowledge, nor any dilation made to them thereanent.'

As their former minute was still uncancelled, Colville requested the Kirksession to grant him "a testimonial) without any limitation of tyme." On. the 29th March 1654 they supplied him with a copy of their original minute. This was met by a further demand on his part as to the "testimonie of what witnesses they knew those things to be true which they testified to be true by their judiciall subscription." To this demand they made answer: "The civil judge having, at the instance of the petitioner, taken the process off our hand, and having examined witnesses upon oath thereanent, they cannot meddle further therein, but adhere to what they have formerlie testified." In 1681 he issued at London his "Mock Poem." The preceding narrative explains these lines which he ascribes to the Squire:-

Once at St Rule
He forged records, and them enacted
To bear false witness when extracted
I cannot tell till I advise
Whether he did it twice or thrice.
Next, I will tell that he gave leave,
If ere he turned, to call him knave
But he can challenge no reflection
Put on him at his own direction.

* * * * *

And I them tax'd of forg'd records,
As I can prove before the lords;
If that succeed not, it appears
Nor I be judged by my peers—
That is, by fifteen jurors
Half fool, half beggars, half burlesquers.

As a sequel to the hitherto unrecorded controversy at St Andrews, may be added some particulars concerning the Colville brothers. At the Restoration the Professor, complying with Episcopacy, was appointed Principal of St Mary's College, in succession to Rutherford, while the poet, remaining true to his Presbyteriaii convictions, published at Edinburgh in 1673, a work entitled "The Grand Impostor Discovered or an Historical Dispute of the Papacy and Protestant Religion, Part I." From St Andrews Samuel Colville proceeded to France, for, according to John Cockburn, a contemporary verse-writer, whom he quotes in the preface to his "Mock Poem "-

"Samuel was sent to France
To learn to sing and dance
And play upon a fiddle."

In an eccentric resistance to an undoubted wrong, another Scottish poet afforded at St Andrews early evidence of his powers. This was the celebrated Robert Fergusson. In 1766 Fergusson became a bursar, and was, as such, entitled to his board within the College. But the viands supplied by the Professors were coarse and mean. Dinner usually consisted of rabbits, served with rye. All the boarders grumbled; but as a professor presided daily, none ventured to complain. It was customary to ask the hursars to "say grace" in turn. When Fergusson's turn came, he expressed these rhymes:—

"For rabbits young and for rabbits old,
For rabbits hot and for rabbits cold,
For rabbits tender and for rabbits tough,
Our thanks we render—but we've had enough."

By the presiding professor Fergusson's outrage was reported to his colleagues, but it was ruled that the offence should be condoned, and the rabbits withdrawn.

Not distant from the bounds of lunacy is the votary of prejudice. Dr Gilbert Stuart, historical writer, became embittered on account of failing to obtain a professorship at Edinburgh. He uttered anathemas on his country and on the city of Edinburgh, of which he was a native. To a literary persecution of Dr Robert Henry and Principal Robertson he devoted all the energies of his life. Against Robertson, whom lie blamed for the loss of the university preferment he had aspired to, he cherished an inveterate hatred, which did not disappear under the shadow of death. When shortly before his departure, he was being tapped for dropsy, lie instructed the physicians to bottle up the fluid, and to send it, with his compliments, to Principal Robertson.

The celebrated George Buchanan, severe in controversy, was otherwise benevolent. Devoted to the art of communicating knowledge he retained his love of teaching to any advanced age. A short time before his death he was waited upon at Edinburgh by his friend Mr Andrew Melville, who found him teaching his serving-boy the use of the alphabet. "You are not unemployed," said the visitor. "No," replied Buchanan, "better this than stealing sheep, or sitting idle, which is as ill."

John Barclay, the learned author of Argenis was content to occupy an unwholesome dwelling, so that in the small garden attached, he might gratify his taste in raising tulips. He protected his flowers by placing in his garden two mastiffs as sentinels.

The Lord President Forbes, when he held office as Lord Advocate, conversed with the foreign ambassadors in Latin. About the age of forty, he secluded himself for two years, that he might acquire a knowledge of Hebrew, so as to read the Old Testament in the original.

Henry Prentice, who about the year 1746 introduced the field-culture of potatoes into the county of Edinburgh, had his coffin suspended in his bedroom. He also erected a gravestone to himself in the Canongate churchyard, bearing these lines:-

"Be not curious to know how I lived,
But rather how you yourself should die."

Instead of cherishing those domestic animals which usually attract the favour of the benevolent, Lord Gardenstone preferred as his companion a small pig. This creature rested at night upon his garments. A country neighbour had occasion to visit his lordship one morning, and was shown into his bedroom. Stumbling upon something, he was startled by a grunt, on which his lordship exclaimed: "It's just a bit sow, poor beast, and I laid my breeches on it to keep it warm."

Mr William Tytler of Woodhouselee, lawyer and historical writer, entertained a strong aversion to cheese on account of its smell. In order to ascertain whether his prohibition of its use in his household was the result of caprice or otherwise, a member of his family sewed up in his coat a slice of double Gloster. As he sat in court he perceived the smell of cheese, and rushing home to avoid the terrible infliction, expressed his apprehension that the whole world had conspired for his discomfort.

When Alexander Cruden, author of "The Concordance," was just recovered from a third attack of lunacy, and had regained freedom from restraint, he endeavoured to induce several relations who were instrumental in confining him to submit to imprisonment in Newgate as a compensation to him for the loss of his liberty. To his sister, to whom he was attached, he proposed the alternative of Newgate, Reading, and Aylesbury Jails, or the prison at Windsor Castle.

Thomas Campbell was haunted by a distressing melancholy. From his early associate, Professor Pillans, we received the following:—"I first knew Campbell about the year 1798—some considerable time before the publication of `The Pleasures of Hope.' Soon after I made his acquaintance, he accompanied me to my father's house in Edinburgh, when he was in a state of the deepest depression - so much so, indeed, that my father twitted me with bringing to the house one bordering on insanity. That was a part of his poetical temperament. He was, as Dryden describes fortune, always in extremes; hence when I next met him he was in the highest spirits, as his published poem had been received with encomiums. At the period of his severe depression at Edinburgh he was in the throes of composition, and often walked out alone, and in a state of abstraction."

The Rev. James Graham, author of "The Sabbath," believed that green was a colour detrimental or fatal to his sept; he in consequence prohibited the inmates of his dwelling from introducing under his roof any vestment of that hue.

The Rev. Sir Henry Moncreiff, Bart., was brought up in the rural manse of Blackford, and had contracted strong anti-ritualistic views from his progenitors, five of whom in succession were Presbyterian ministers. When minister of St Cuthbert's, he was in the habit of testifying his protest against the doctrine of consecrated buildings by walking the entire length of his church, from the vestry to the pulpit, with his head covered, removing his hat only when he reached the pulpit.

Mr William Auld, minister of Mauchline, though rigidly adhering to the austere modes of Genevan worship, could not resist a desire for personal adornment. His wig — conspicuous for its size — was decorated with numerous curls; it was humorously styled "the hundred and nineteenth psalm."

The Rev. Professor Kidd of Aberdeen, who, in addition to his professorial duties, was minister of Gilcomston Chapel of Ease, was alike humorous and eccentric. The following anecdote is related of him by Mr Sage:-

"The worthy Doctor was much annoyed by drowsy hearers. There was one man, clothed with a red waistcoat, who had got a seat directly under the Doctor's eye. This man began first of all to nod, showing that, if not fairly asleep, he was at least on the high way to it. `Waken that man,' suddenly exclaimed the Doctor. The man was pinched and wakened up accordingly by his neighbours. But he was awakened only to fall asleep again, and more determinedly than before. `I say again, waken that red-breasted sinner,' there, shouted the Doctor a second time, and a second time was the sleeper roused from his slumbers by his neighbouring and more watchful fellow-worshippers. But in a twinkling he was fast asleep a third lime, and his worthy pastor's patience being fairly exhausted, he grasped a small pocket Bible lying at his hand, and sending it at the sleeper with an unerring aim, hit him on the side of his head. `Now,' says he, sir, if you will not hear the Word of God, you shall feel it.' There was not a minister in the kingdom who could have ventured to give so striking a reproof."

Mr James Chalmers, elder brother of the celebrated Dr Thomas Chalmers, who died in 1842, spent his life chiefly in London. Possessed of violent prejudices, he conceived a strong aversion to his relatives, to the extent that he would open a special bottle of wine the day he heard of the death of a Scottish cousin. He would not go to hear his brother preach.

To gratify his friends and satisfy the requirements of society, Sir Walter Scott kept his cellar full of the best wines, but he was incapable of estimating the value of wine of any sort; he could not distinguish between madeira and sherry, and considered port as a kind of physic.

Persons given to concentrated thought are, if under the necessity of using spectacles, most apt to misplace and lose them. Of an impatient nature, Sir David Brewster was in the habit of buying at a time twelve pairs of spectacles; these he distributed in the different rooms he was likely to frequent.

Dr David Laing, the antiquary, had a strong dislike to impressing on books a library stamp. In bequeathing to the University of Edinburgh his large collection of MSS., he specified that the bequest was made on the condition "that these were not stamped with lamp-black like books and MSS. elsewhere."

Among the jocundities of a former age prevailed a, tendency to personation. The  personations of Miss Clementina Stirling Graham, chiefly in the assumed character of Lady Pitlyal, have been made familiar by the delightful volume of "Mystifications," edited by the ingenious Dr John Brown.

When George, fifth Duke of Gordon, was Marquis of Huntly, he impersonated the gaberlunzie. His success in this character being the subject of conversation in his presence, one of the company, a landowner, maintained that under no possible disguise could his lordship deceive him. Not long afterwards, as the landowner was walking in his avenue, a beggar came up, and, with becoming reverence, solicited alms. "Step into the hall," said the landowner, "and there see what can be got." The beggar expressed thanks, and, hirpling slowly towards the mansion, was in the hall supplied with abundant viands, and of excellent quality. Having partaken, he again drew near to the landowner in his walk. ''Well, how have you fared?" asked the landlord. "Puirly," answered the beggar; "naething but stinkin' beef, soon bread, and stale beer." ''Ungrateful rascal!" exclaimed the landlord, menacingly raising his walking stick. Thereupon, the Marquis, throwing off his disguise, stood before him in his own costume. Colonel Sir Hugh Playfair, the restorer of St Andrews, took delight in odd impersonations. Many of his improvements were effected under night, when a form was seen which, inspiring alarm, removed from the scene all curious spectators. Professor Ednmondstoune Aytoun was an adept in the impersonating art. An instance of his passing himself off as a Highland chief is related in his memoirs by Sir 'Theodore Martin. His friend, Mr Peter Fraser, of Edinburgh, also excelled in the same walk. George Cruikshank, inimitable as a caricaturist, also impersonated skilfully. In the guise of an inebriated peasant he sung "Willie brewed a peck o' maut " with singular effect.

There existed a practice of literary reticence, which maintained a strange hold. While there were obvious reasons why the authorship of the Jacobite songs should be concealed, there were none to justify Lady Anne Barnard in not divulging the authorship of "Auld Robin Gray," or Lady Nairne in keeping secret that she composed "The Land o' the Leal."

Eccentricity has been evinced in the mode of spelling certain names. Dr David Irving, author of the "History of Scottish Poetry," and George Chalmers, author of "Caledonia," were not on friendly terms, but they cordially agreed in omitting from the word "Scottish" one of the t's. Even among well educated persons, imperfect orthography was peculiar to certain writers. James Boswell was an egregious offender; he constantly wrote smoke as smock, and persisted in setting himself forth as the freind of Dr Johnson. Francis Garden, Lord Gardenstone, composed a work of travel, and associated with men of letters, yet was unable to spell the most common words. In a short note of two lilies, which on the 2nd December 1789, he addressed to Mr Charles Steuart, secretary of the Natural History Society of Edinburgh, he writes "concurr, usefull, delightfull, faithfull, gratefull, and trully."

John Pinkerton, the antiquary, was excessively opinionative. But he endeavoured to conceal his weakness both from himself and his friends by using in his correspondence, when he spoke in the first person, the small "i." From Kentish Town, writing to the Earl of Buchan on the 20th February 1782, he proceeds: "In arranging my materials for the history of Scotland, i find a remarkable deficiency in the reign of James the Second."

Ungrammatical writing is rare. A notable offender was Lady Scott (nee Charlotte Cherpentier), wife of Sir Walter Scott. When making arrangements for illuminating her house, 41 Castle Street, during the royal visit iii 1822, she addressed her neighbour, James Wylie, of Annatfield, W.S., a note in these words: "Lady Scott, with compliments to Mr Wylie he, will thank him to give her a call, if convenient, on Friday next, any time before 12 o'clock, when she hope to have it in her power to settled with him about the illumination."

Recurring or stereotyped forms of expression were formerly common. A late parochial clergyman wearied or afflicted his hearers both in his prayers and discourses with the ever-recurring phrase of "on this occasion." Another country pastor used in his discourses the phrase "be assured," till young persons computed how many times the utterance had been made. Captain Balme, the friend. of Dean Ramsay, in answering every remark, accompanied his reply with the words, "if I may be allowed the language." Being asked how Mrs Balme was he replied, "Quite well, I thank you, if I may be allowed the language." But unchecked habits of manner and phrase have proved positively mischievous. A Scottish gentleman, who had fallen into the habit of crooning, paid a visit of condolence to the widow of a neighbour. Having expressed his sympathy in becoming words, he unconsciously proceeded to croon a merry and well-known air. A gentlewoman, who was in the habit of ejaculating the words "how very absurd," having been informed by a friend that she had just received the sad news that her husband was barbarously murdered in India, straightway gave forth her stereotyped expression. The utterance, implying as it did an utter heartlessness or unperturbed formality, broke off the friendship. A landowner in Fife, who was extremely deaf, and desired to conceal his infirmity, answered every remark in an undertone, "Yes; no." It led to an occasional awkwardness, as when was made the remark, "You would be grieved that poor Mr Thomson has lost all his four children by scarlet fever," he made his wonted ejaculation.

Dr Haldane, Principal of St Mary's College, repeated his words in conversation twice or thrice, such as "ell, ell," "very good, very good." Laird White of Forfarshire incessantly accompanied his sentiments with the phrases, "ell, ell," "what d'ye say?" "what's y'er wull," "what, what." Laird Allan of Bonnytoun emphasized his words by tapping on the knee or shoulder the person with whom he talked. Scribes and register-keepers of former centuries had a fancy for making grotesque figures and flourishes on the spare leaves of the registers. In the "Acta Dominorum Concilii," 1543-1529, the clerk has on a fly leaf inscribed the following lines of verse:-

Across two blank leaves of the Register of Deeds, 1671-1684 (Dalrymple office), a clerk thus condemns his own inadvertence:—

"There were two leaves turned through mistake,
For which my head should have been brake."

William Fraser, keeper of the Dalrymple Register of Deeds, commemorates his labours in 1711 with the words, "William Fraser beginus and ends this book, as witnesses his foolish hand;" while in 1721 lie concludes a volume thus, "Finis magni laboris, quod attestor W. Fraser."


Return to Book Index Page