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Scottish Women in Bygone Days
Funeral Sermon for Lady Jane Maitland 1631


By Act of Parliament in 1638 funeral sermons were forbidden to be preached.

One was preached in the year 1631 in honour of Lady Jane Maitland. She was the daughter of Maitland of Thirlestane, who was created Earl of Lauderdale in 1624. This Maitland was grandson of Sir John Maitland, and grand-nephew of William Maitland of Lethington, the minister of Queen Mary of Scots. The Maitlands served the Royal family faithfully; the execution of Queen Mary grieved Maitland greatly, but apparently relieved King James, who felt himself at last without a rival to this throne. His conduct so shamed Maitland that he took means that "there might be few or no spectators of James’s behaviour." [History of the Kirk of Scotland. Calderwood.]

Maitland of Thirlestane married in June, 1610, Lady Isabel Seaton, second daughter of Alexander, Earl of Dunfermline, High Chancellor of Scotland. She died at Lethington on the 2nd November, 1638, in her forty-fifth year, and was buried at Haddington, where a monument was erected to her memory by her afflicted husband; she was also celebrated in the poems of Arthur Johnston.

Poor lady, in the forty-four years she was on earth, she must have had plenty of occupation, for she was the mother of fifteen children, seven sons and eight daughters. Of these, four sons and seven daughters predeceased her. One daughter, Lady Jane Maitland, also highly praised by Arthur Johnston (born October 1st, 1612), died 8th December, 1631, in her twentieth year, and is also buried at Haddington. Her virtues are inscribed on the same monument as those of her mother. Her funeral sermon was preached at Haddington on December 19th, 1631, and was afterwards published with fifty-nine copies of verses and poems in English and Latin. Almost all of these poems were otherwise unpublished. Several are by well-known poets.

Lady Jane must have been a young woman of beauty and fascination. Both sermons and poems are highly laudatory, and the collection is interesting as reflecting the spirit of the age.

The title is simple: "A Funeral Sermon, preached at the burial of the Lady Jane Maitland. Job xiv. ‘All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change comes.’"

It is said that it is better to be in the house of mourning, than mirth; however, I trust now you are in a house of mourning, and mourners: mourners, not so much with their mourning cloathes; as with mourning hearts and weeping eyes. I pray God this mourning, caused by this more than mournful object, may draw us to a mourning for ourselves, and for our sins. And that this change may lead us to the practice of Job’s resolution here: ‘All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come.’ I make it the ground of my speech; since of a mourner I must be a speaker. Loth was I to do it, this being the least dutie I can; the last I shall ever perform to the never-to-be-forgotten memory of this Honourable young Lady. Repressing, therefore, and smothering my own grief for a time, I will proceed, having first called upon God, who only can direct me how to speak, you how to hear, and both to His Glory. This change, to her all joyfull, as to us sorrowfull, calls upon us, with Job, ‘all the days of our appointed time to wait till our change come.’ Few words, yet large matter; which at this time, is rather a trouble, than an ease to the speaker; of whom you cannot expect scholastic speculations, flowers of Fathers, broken sentences of poets, such elaborate and painted discourses as they are more for show than profit, so to this time altogether unsuitable. It shall suffice me, if tempering my speech, with brevity and perspicuity, I can enforce upon you the practice of what Job resolved—‘ 'All the days of your appointed time to wait till your change come.’ And thus I enter upon my text by way of (1) explanation, (2) application, (3) exhortation.

"For explication, as I will not detain you with the dependence and deduction of the text, so I will not be curious in cutting and dividing the words; only, in generall, and I take them as running in three points—(1) Life, (2) Death, (3) Preparation in Life for Death. Of Life you have two things; one expressed, that the time thereof is appointed; the other implied, that it is short, rather to be measured by days than years. Death and Preparation thereto are set down in two words of large extent; death is a change, and our preparation a waiting for this change."

Thus the good man expounds his thesis, and gradually he comes to the virtues of Lady Jane.

"I may confidently affirm, and asserve, that the fear of God was placed, yea deeply rooted in her heart. Her hunger and burning desire to hear God’s word, her attention in hearing, her knowledge by hearing, her sweet, devout communication and practice after hearing. What shall I name to you her frequent praying, daily reading, her writing almost the whole New Testament with her own hand. From this same fountain flowed also that rare, and scarce to be matched obedience, love and due respect to her parents, which as her whole life did witness, for her change, nothing more grieving her for her change, as that her change would bring grief to them. If I should enlarge her observance to her superiors in regard to age and state of life, her dutiful respect to her equals, her modest and moderate carriage to her inferiors, her love to all and love of all; I might easilie wearie myself in relating, and you in hearing. . . The confluence of worldly blessings, I confess my ignorance in heraldry, to describe her pedigree and descent, derived by many generations from her well-deserving ancestors. Only this can I say—they were truly honourable, since both blood and vertue joyned to make them noble, noble not only by inheritance but by purchase. Their greatness was from their blood, their goodness was from their virtue. Such her birth. But what availes names, titles, armes, honours, if there be no more. Her birth did not so much honour her, as she it; having in a beautiful body a more beautiful soule, such knowledge, wisdome, skill in all things befitting her sex, and far above her age; that scarce her equall, let be her superior, could be found. . . . Now what could have been expected, but that this concurrence of earthly blessings of all sorts, within, without, of birth, body, soul, estate, friends, would have tied her heart to the world, and raised her thoughts to an applauding of herself and contemning of others? But ah! who ever did see pride shine in these eyes? When did ever neglect and contempt shew itself in that meek, loving and lovely countenance? I have often wondered to behold such excellent parts followed with such admirable humility, humanity, modesty, courtesie, and that not only towards the great (which may, and often dwells with pride), but even to those of the poorer sort. Now what did this shew? but that her heart was not in this world.

When her weakness did threaten her change; with what spiritual courage did she welcome it! Thousands dare not so much as think on their change. The Atheist, the Epicure, the worldling, are confounded with the apprehension. Only the child of God dareth encounter it."

He goes on—" Let me tell you that ere long, there is not any of us who are here, but shall come to his own change," and he elaborates that and the littleness of worldly position: we have to come to the end and he compares it to "the chess-men while the play lasteth, there is distinction of them, but the play ended, and stalemate given, all promiscuously are hurled in the box; and often the least lies above the greatest. So here, though men be more or less regarded in respect of differences; yet when this change comes, whereby the play of this life is ended, then we are equally hurled in the grave, and often the poore man’s dust lies above the rich. When ye behold a heap of bones, who can say, here are the rich man’s, there the poor’s. Oh, if we could obtain so much liberty and leisure of our too many restlesse and unprofitable thoughts, so as to make this change a great part of our daily meditation."

And so he enlarges and exhorts and ends thus—" I pray God this change may teach us, all the days of our appointed time, to wait till our change come.’’

Many things in this sermon strike us; the character of Lady Jane stands out as that of a sweet, gentle, beautiful, religious young woman, learned beyond her age. The earnest pleading of the minister, for people to spare time to consider the great change, the change that comes to all, and the general fear entertained of the meeting that lies before all, seems curious in an age when personal piety was said to be greater than in the twentieth century.

Lady Jane had almost completed a copy of the Bible—books in her day were hard to come by, and even the Bible would be a prized and rare possession. The printing of Bassendyne’s Bible had been completed by Arbuthnott in 1579, and a year later the Town Council of Edinburgh ordered "all nychtbouris of this burgh, substantious househalderis, to haif ane bybill in their houssis under the paynes contenit in the actes of Parliament maid thairanent."

From that date onwards houses had "ane grit houss Bibill," and sometimes if they were rich there was also "ane little bybill," so we can picture Lady Jane Maitland bending over the "grit houss Bibill" copying it faithfully for her private devotions.

Of the fifty-nine poems at the end of the book, Arthur Johnson, a poet, and others write in Latin and some in English. The following are examples:

Let virtuous virgins all with tears behold
The fairest cabin stor’d with choicest gems
That grace or nature ever did unfold
To human knowledge under diadems;
Of faultless body (here) and faultlesse minde
The femail sex perfection confinde.
In bloud she might have claimed the best,
In honour too of none she did come short,
In dowry equall with those nobly blest,
For personage of a most lowely port
Such blessings blooming makes most ladies proud,
But fully ripe with her, she still was good,
These forc’d but fair prerogatives of birth
By inward virtue were most highly grac’d,
Stayd gravitie mixed with modest mirth,
Humilitie in stately palace plac’d.
Her chastitie not stained with any thought,
Of heavenly substance prov’d her to be wrought.
No industry which curious hands afford
Did hirs surpasse, all sciences, all arts
Her sex beseeming, richly her decord,
She rather them by full adorning parts:
Yet her alas ere lustres foure were told
A winding sheet for hymens robes enrold.
Her fear of God respect to parents shew,
Who nevei yet could challenge the offence
She gave, nor did desire of youth persew
Beside their pleasure, ravish’d thus from hence
To the third heaven, she parting with a smile
Told man’s abode on earth was but exile.

Lute, viol, organ, sautral, pandal be
Silent, as when in forrest wilde ye grew,
Since cruell death, but pitie overthrew
Her, whose dear hands made sweet your harmonie
And if ye found bewailing to all ears
That stroks may sighs, and sounds bring forth salt tears,
A snow-like white pure innocence bewrayes,
On it black tears, for virgins grief, betrayes
This at her funerall was clearly found
Where all eyes objects black was but the ground.

Nature’s rich gems, by art most orient bright,
Of both the honour, parents sole content,
Ladies, yea, sexes glory, virgins light,
Her times delight, than them more excellent,
Endewed with all these gifts which ever wight
Obtain’d on earth; death in the prime hath rent.
This lesser world’s fall (vertue’s universe)
Turns hearts, eyes, verse, sad mourners o’er her heroe.

Men, Matrones, maids, come mourn to see
This matchless match, so soon to dye.
Ours is the losse, hers is the gain,
When leaving life, she leaves all pain;
And doth enjoy these endless joyes
For worldly transitorie toyes.
The change is good, great is the gain,
When she with Christ doth now remain;
He now her head and husband is,
She in her life desir’d but this.
And to none other was bethroth’d,
Belov’d of all, of none was loath’d.
Her wit, her vertues wanne her this,
Which may be told when she’s in blisse;
Yet being dead, she lives by fame,
Her worth doth grace her noble steme.
But none can fly death’s cruell hand,
No, not this Phoenix of our Land.
                              Marens posuit.
                                                     M. R. M.

Here are two short ones :—

Her nature best; her most complete
Had vertue made, and youth most sweet;
More years could not make her more wise,
Who here below this marble lyes.

This hopeful maid, made of the Maitland mould,
Where Nature, Art their industrie did show;
Timely resolv’d her graces to uphold,
With care to write the words of sacred truth,
And as her years, so did her virtues grow.
Envious fates untimely cropt them both;
Then let this serve to make compleat her praise,
Whom God doth love, they die in tender daies.

In one of these poems we read of the lute, viol, organ, psaltery and pandora. Various musical instruments came into Scotland in the beginning of the sixteenth century; we have records of the use of the harp, the fiddle, the lute and the organ, the monochord, the taborn, the clairschach, the drone and the shawm: this last was of the clarinet type.

James Melville, when a student in St. Andrews, says:—" I lovit singing and playing on instruments passing weill." Musical instruments, like books, were rare, but as culture spread and wealth increased the desire both for books and music increased.

It was to be hoped that Jane’s mother found comfort in the funeral oration, and the poems, for it was a hard fate for a mother to be predeceased by eleven children.

Of her children who survived, John became Earl of Lauderdale.

Lord Robert married Margaret, only daughter of John Lundin of Lundin in Fife. Her husband supported the "engagement," as it was called, for the rescue of King Charles I. in 1648, and for this he was obliged to make repentance in his own seat, in Largo Church, on the 13th January, 1650. Later on he accompanied Charles II. on his expedition to England, where he was taken at the battle of Worcester, September, 1651. He remained some years a prisoner in England, but was later liberated and fined £1,000 by Cromwell’s Act of Grace and Pardon in 1654. He died at Lundin on December 15th, 1658, in his 38th year, and was buried at Largo.

The third son, Charles, became the third Earl of Lauderdale. The only daughter who survived her mother was Lady Sophia.


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