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Significant Scots
Charles MacFarlane



In the spring of this year I noticed in the catalogue of Mr. Frank Woore, antiquarian bookseller, of St. Peter’s Street, Derby, two quarto manuscript volumes containing the reminiscences of Charles MacFarlane. The name of the writer was not known to me; but as the manuscript made mention of the names of Shelley, Keats, and Hartley Coleridge, with those of others who will not soon be forgotten, I obtained, by the kindness of Mr. Woore, a sight of the two volumes, and found their contents even more interesting than I had anticipated. Mr. Woore informed me that he had bought them at a country sale, among a number of old ledgers and account books, and that they would probably have been sold as waste paper and destroyed had he not noticed the interesting character of the contents.

My task has been to arrange them, and to correct, to the best of my power, the errors of the amanuenses employed by the author, where their work had not had the benefit of his revision.

I have omitted only a few entries of minor interest, and a few allusions to families which still have living representatives, when I considered that MacFarlane's outspoken remarks might possibly give them pain. I will now give such few particulars of MacFarlane's life as I have been able to gather, referring the reader to the “ Dictionary of National Biography ” for further information.

Charles MacFarlane, author and traveller, was born on the 18th December, 1799, and died a “Poor Brother of the Charterhouse” on the 9th December, 1858, after eighteen months’ residence.

On a printed leaflet prefixed to his anecdotes, dated “Charterhouse, August, 1857,” he records thirty books written and published by him between the years 1820 and 1857, besides a large number of articles contributed to magazines (cf. Appendix).

Between 1844 and 1846 he wrote three novels or “ Historical Tales,” the best of which, “The Camp of Refuge, or the Last of the Saxons,” found considerable favour, and may have given Kingsley the idea for his well-known novel, “Hereward the Wake.”

MacFarlane arrived in Italy in January, 1816, and lived at Naples till the year 1827, when he visited Sicily, Malta, Greece, and Turkey, the result being his “Constantinople in 1828,” published in 1829. In the spring of that year he arrived in London. The autumn and winter of the same year he spent at Brighton, with the object of restoring his health, which had suffered from malarial fever, contracted during his travels. At Brighton he made the acquaintance of his life-long friend, William Stewart Rose, “a man to my heart of hearts,” of whom, and of his friend the Rev. Charles Townsend, he gives such an engaging description.

Soon after this he must have married, for his eldest son Charles was born at Edinburgh on the 4th July, 1832. He lived at Friern Barnet from 1832 to 1846, when he again visited Italy and Turkey with his eldest son, the result being two books, “A Glance at Revolutionized Italy in 1848,” and “Turkey and its Destiny ” (2 vols., 1850).

On his return to England he settled at Burgate, Canterbury, till his admission to the Charterhouse, on the nomination of the Archbishop of Canterbury, in June, 1857. Towards the end of his life, MacFarJane seems to have fallen on evil times. His health gave way, and the satisfactory income which he had derived from literature for a quarter of a century began to fall off, largely, according to his own account, from the fault of his publisher.

It may have been about this time, as recorded in his reminiscences, that he made an application to the 1 Foreign Office.for a consulship abroad. He writes: “ I had been making application for a consular appointment in Italy or somewhere else in the Mediterranean, and was feeling a pang in sickness of ‘ hope deferred,’ when Lord---- suggested to me that I should have a better chance for some appointment in the Colonies or in the Colonial Office, as that was much more promising than the Foreign Office. I wrote instantly to Rose, who took a warm interest for me, and who had still some little (and little it was) political or parliamentary or ministerial interest. In reply he said: ‘Lord ---- is quite right: the Colonial Department is very promising; it promised me a berth for a young friend ten years ago, and it keeps promising still.’

I am indebted to the Rev. Gerald S. Davies, Master of the Charterhouse, for the information that MacFarlane, at the time of his admission, had five children living: two sons, Charles and Victor, and three daughters, Arabella, Blanche, and Marion.

Charles entered the East Indian Army in 1851, nominated to a cadetship by Sir James W. Hogg, M.P., at the recommendation of the Countess of Jersey. He had a distinguished career, serving in the Burmese War of 1852-53, and during the Mutinies of 1857-58. He was present at the final assault and capture of Delhi, and commanded his regiment (1st European Regiment) after Colonel Gerrard had been mortally wounded. He was also present at the final siege and capture of Lucknow, under Lord Clyde, in March, 1858. He obtained his captaincy in January, 1863, and became Major in January, 1871. He obtained two years' leave to Europe in December, 1871, and died on the 2nd March, 1872.

His younger brother Victor was born in 1838, and at the age of eighteen he enlisted in London as a private in the East India Company’s 2nd Bengal Regiment. He served in the siege and capture of Delhi, where he was wounded in the thigh. He was afterwards promoted to the rank of sergeant, and died on the 5th June, 1859, thus surviving his father only six months.

J. R. Planch, who died in 1880, described MacFarlane as “a most amusing companion and a warm friend,” and I think that those who peruse this book will not be inclined to dispute his judgment. We learn from his Memoirs that he was a little man, proud of his Highland descent, a sturdy Conservative, Churchman, and Anti-Republican. Living, as he did, during his “ hot youth ” in Naples, where he seems to have experienced much kindness and cordiality in Court circles, he was blinded to the defects of the Bourbon rule, and he did not believe that the Revolutionists had men able enough to overturn it and to erect on its ruins a stabler and better form of government.

The happiest years of his life were spent in Italy. He writes in his entertaining book, ‘‘The Lives and Exploits of Banditti and Robbers in all Parts of the World” (1st edition, 1831), in one chapter of which he describes his own capture by brigands when travelling with his friend the Prince of Ischitella. “And now good-night to Italian brigands, and once more farewell to Italy I—a country where my brightest days have been passed, for I can never hope to retrace the pleasant period of life between seventeen years and twenty-seven; a country for which I may assert a heart-warm admiration, knowing it and living in it so long as I have done, without, I trust, incurring the suspicion of sentimentalism or affectation; a country where I have'; had, and am confident still have, some of my best friends, and where, next to my native land, I should prefer to end my life, and find, with a quiet and a humble grave.”

I have not been able to find any portrait of MacFarlane. Is it possible that the "handsome sort of album,” in which his friend Brockedon the artist had drawn his “effigies,” is still in existence?

Many of those who peruse the following pages will no doubt first turn to what MacFarlane writes of Shelley, Keats, and Hartley Coleridge.

What a life-like sketch he draws of the wayward and lovable Hartley, as he walked on that fine day of late autumn from Grasmere to Bowness, kicking before him the drifts of sere fallen leaves which impeded his progress, and stopping now and then to stamp his little feet when he wished to emphasize some point in the flow of his discourse! My aim is, however, only to introduce to readers an author who, I fear, is now almost forgotten, though most of his works are still worthy of perusal. Should those who dip into these desultory pages find in them some distraction from sad thoughts in these stem times, some solace for a few hours in these memories of years which now seem so far away, my task in preparing them for publication will not have been undertaken in vain.

December, 1916.


At fifty-seven, the heartiest of us is no longer young. It is time to think of the past and prepare for the great future. I am in my fifty-seventh year, and in no good case in mind, body, or estate. My anxieties are numerous; I have had two of the “ Three Warnings,” being lame and purblind, such property as I ever had is departed from me, and literature no longer affords me the ample income I derived from it during more than a quarter of a century; yet all is not gloom: my memory is unimpaired, my spirit often buoyant:

"II cor mi senio in sen’ vegeto t fresco,
Ed in vecchi anni giovenil pensier.”

Now, I have thought that, while this memory lasts, I might, at least, amuse my solitude by jotting down some of my reminiscences. I have been, to a considerable extent, a traveller and sojourner in foreign countries, and it has been my fortune, both at home and abroad, to be thrown among very many remarkable persons, of some of whom the world still talks and writes, and will continue to talk and write. I will say my say of these, and give some of their sayings and doings. I have never Boswellized; I have never thought it fair to go from a man’s table straight to one’s diary, and before his dinner be digested or the flavour of his claret passed away, to sit down and en-register all that he has been saying in the confidence or carelessness of conviviality. But though I took no “ notes,” I pondered over and treasured what I heard—as also what I saw—and as my memory has been very retentive, I think that I may report with tolerable accuracy.*

I cannot promise to myself that in these souvenirs I shall be always and invariably eulogistic. I have known something as well of the bad as of the good side of human nature; and that which I have by far most frequently encountered has been the mixture of the good and bad, or that vertu mediocre which makes no impression and leaves no remembrances.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum is a benevolent-looking maxim, but it will not do in practice; it would be the death of history, of biography, of anecdote. I believe, however, that my tastes, habits of thought, and natural disposition, will lead me to dwell much longer on the good than on the bad, and to deal much more in praise than in censure.' As for mediocrities,

“Non ragionam di lor,
ma guarda e passa.”

I have no intention of making any present use of these memorabilia; but they—or at least some of them—may be published hereafter; and, if they are not, the books which contain them may interest my children, and recall to their memory the valuable friendships I have enjoyed, and the numerous acquaintances I have had from my boyhood upwards. By one, for a certainty, this will be prized as an heirloom ; I mean, by my eldest son Charles, who has been separated from me these last five years and six months, who has been campaigning in Burma, who is now at Cawnpore in the Oude frontier, but who, before going to India, travelled with me in Asiatic and European Turkey, Italy, Savoy, Switzerland, Alsace, down the Rhine and through Belgium, and who always delighted to hear my stories of past times and anecdotes of ea?ly friends, with not a few of whom he became personally acquainted, as we—at a very slow pace and with many a halt—were journeying homeward from Constantinople.

To Charles—should God only grant him life and health—these notes will be very dear; and to him, by anticipation, I inscribe them.

Possibly the books will include descriptions of scenes and places as well as of persons, personal adventures, and some recollections derived from my varied reading. I have written a great deal, but I have never yet gone through a work and brought it to its close in strict conformity with my original plan, or in precisely the manner I contemplated when beginning it. I suspect that no author has ever done this au pied de la lettre. I shall attempt no order, no chronological or other systematic arrangement, but shall dictate my anecdotes as they occur to my memory.

Canterbury, 1855.

Read the book about him in pdf format

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