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Social Life in Scotland
Chapter XV. - Social Clubs

WITH the unrestricted liberty secured at the Revolution arose a desire for social fellowship heretofore unknown. Men had hitherto assembled to concert measures against a despotic government, and provide means for the common safety. Now they met for social pastime and literary recreation. But assemblages in each other's houses were impracticable, for the domestic accommodation of even opulent citizens forbade any considerable gatherings under the family roof-tree. Clubs were instituted—that is, fellow-citizens of kindred sentiments formed themselves into associations, consenting, under the guidance of certain rules, to meet together in taverns or other public places at regular or stated intervals. From the commencement of the eighteenth century such institutions were planted in the principal towns subsequently they obtained existence in the several provinces.

On the 12th May 1712 the Easy Club was constituted at Edinburgh. One of the prominent founders was Allan Ramsay, who, in honour of his fellow-clubmen, presented on the occasion the earliest rhymes which he is believed to have written. His inceptive ode includes these verses:—

"Were I but a prince or king,
I'd advance ye, I'd advance ye;
Were I but a prince or king,
So highly I'd advance ye.

"Great sense and wit are ever found
Among you always to abound,
Much like the orbs that still move round,
No ways constrain'd, but easy.

"Most of what's hid from vulgar eye,
E'en from earth's centre to the sky,
Your brighter thoughts do clearly spy
Which makes you wise and easy.

"All faction in the church or state
With greater wisdom still you hate,
And leave learn'd fools these to debate,
Like rocks in seas, ye're easy.

"I love ye well—O let me be
One of your blythe society,
And, like yourselves, I'll strive to be
Aye humorous and easy."

According to the constitution, each member of the Easy Club was required to assume a dramatic name, by which he was to be addressed at the meetings and denoted in the proceedings. At first Ramsay chose the name of Isaac Bickerstaff, Steele's pseudonym in the Tatler; he was latterly known as "Garvin Douglas." The secretary and historiographer elected George Buchanan as his social appellative. His real name is not entered in the papers, but he may certainly be identified as Ramsay's early associate, John Clerk, younger of Penicuik, afterwards Sir John Clerk, Bart., and a member of the Privy Council. When the club started, Ramsay was twenty-six, Clerk about twenty-eight. Among the papers is a letter which the pseudo Buchanan had prepared for the Spectator, in which, while discussing the merits or peculiarities of social clubs, Steele had already indulged some curious speculation. The first of the Spectator's Club papers appeared on the 10th March 1711, and the last of five others on the 8th November of the same year. Whether Clerk's communication had been despatched to Addison and his coadjutors and been declined by then cannot be ascertained, but as a graceful ebullition of social feeling, it may be printed now. The pseudo "Buchanan" proceeds:

"Edin., August 15, 1712.—Did I think it a pardonable fault to praise a man to his face, I could with a great deal of satisfaction discover my judgment of your writings. However, allow me for once to tell you that your happy talent for raising such handsome thoughts from subjects which to men of an ordinary capacity would seem altogether barren, makes me hope you may perhaps find something in what I presume to trouble you with, which will not be altogether disagreeable.

"I am a member of a civil society which goes under the name of' the Easie Club. The main reason of our assuming this name is because none of an empty, conceited, quarreling temper can have the priviledge [sic] of being a member, for we allow all the little merry freedoms among ourselves, rallying one another at our meetings without the least appearance of spleen upon account of whatever we discover to be amiss or weak in any circumstance of our conversation, which produces rather love than dislike, being well persuaded of the esteem each of us bath for his fellow, and his design to see no blemish in his character.

"Our Club consists just now of eight members, all of us within some months of either side of twenty-one, unmarried, and resolved not inconsiderately to rush into a state of life even the wisest cannot foresee whether it shall be more happy or miserable, without making the tryall, and when be the luck good or bad there is no disengaging. I confess a married life has many tempting advantages, but I am affrighted when I see so many dayly instances of these being overballanced [sic] by a greater number of inconveniences which attend that state, and to which nothing but death alone can put a period. Therefore we are resolved as much as possible to subject every passion to the pleasure of freedom, each of us knowing how to live upon our own without the help of a well promised ill pay'd portion.

"Tho' our humours be sympathetically united, yet there are several pleasant varieties in our qualifications, or rather in what Ave discover ourselves to be admirers of in others. Every member at meeting is called by the name of whatever author he bath the greatest esteem for. Our Wit goes by the name of Lord Rochester; our Mathematician, Sir Isaac Newton; our Merchant, Sir Roger L'Estrange; the brave Poet, Sir Richard Blackmore; our Historian, George Buchanan; the Merchant, Robert Collinson; the Humorist, Thomas Brown, and the Censor of the Club, Isaac Bickerstaff.

The first thing that induc'd us to join in a Society was the reading of your Spectators, where it is frequently recommended, and the better to make us acquainted with such fine thoughts, we have observed as one of our fundamental laws that one, two or more of the Spectator shall be read at every meeting. That in case any passage or sentence occur we have any scruples or doubts about, every one may give his thoughts out, and thus (as the rubing [sic] of two hard bodies together will smooth both) we have all been satisfied about the thing, each of us by ourselves could not be convinced of. Consider, Sir, we are but young, and have need of advice; and seeing you are the fittest person can do it, I earnestly beg, you'lI lay down the best methods and rules to be observed in a Society of our constitution, and to say something in vindication of Societies in generall [sic] and this in particular from the implacable hatred of some here who have professed themselves irreconcilable enemies to us and all such who attempt the forsaking of vice and aiming at virtue. Hoping in some issue you'll answer the expectation of him who has a profound respect for you, and your incomparable writings, I subscribe myself your admirer.-

G. Buchanan."

The pseudo George Buchanan was, amidst the socialities of the Easy Club, endeavouring to forget a memorable disappointment. In the year 1708 he had met at Edinburgh a celebrated beauty, Susanna, daughter of Sir Archibald Kennedy of Culzean, then in her eighteenth year. Deeply smitten he declared his love after a romantic fashion. He sent the young beauty a flute, which on receiving she proceeded to use. As no sound was emitted, she unscrewed the instrument, when a missive dropped into her lap. It bore these lines:—

"Harnionious pipe, how I envye thy bliss,
When press'd to Sylphia's lips with gentle kiss
And when her tender fingers round thee move
In soft embrace, I listen and approve
Those melting notes, which soothe my soul to love,
Embalm'd with odours from her breath that flow
You yield your music when she's pleas'd to blow
And thus at once the charming lovely fair
Delights with sounds, with sweet perfumes the air.
Go happy pipe, and ever mindful be
To court the charming Sylphia for me;
Tell all I feel—you cannot tell how much—
Respect my love at each soft melting touch;
Since I to her my liberty resign,
Take thou the care to turn her heart to mine."

Clerk might have been a successful wooer, but that the young lady's father preferred that she should wed another suitor of higher rank, Alexander, ninth Earl of Eglinton, who consequently made her his third wife. Though disappointed in his love, Clerk was gratified to find that the object of his early affection subsequently became a patroness of his attached friend, Allan Ramsay. For in 1725 she accepted the dedication of "The Gentle Shepherd," which the author expressed in a eulogy composed in prose.

A poet of no inconsiderable elegance, Sir John Clerk is noted as author of the popular song with the alliterative opening Line, "Merry may the maid be that marries the miller." Under his roof at Penicuik Ramsay spent much of his time, and when the poet died, Clerk reared in his grounds an obelisk to his memory.

James Edgar, another member of the club, whose pseudonym was latterly Michael Scot, also claims particular notice. Younger son of David Edgar of Keithocl:, in the county of Forfar, he was born on the 13th July 1688, and at the time of his admission to the club its 1713 was consequently in his twenty-fifth year. A college student, he not long after his admission into the club proceeded abroad, with the professed intention of following out his literary studies at the University of Leyden. Within some eighteen months he was settled at Rome, as private secretary to the Chevalier St George. Before leaving Leyden, but without notifying a change of residence, Edgar had communicated with the secretary of the Easy Club, and his letter after an interval the secretary proceeded to acknowledge. Despatched under care of a shipmaster "to the care of Mons. Oublie, at the castle of Antwerp in Leyden," it was in Edgar's absence brought back to Edinburgh. The letter, which remains among the papers of the Club, proceeds thus:—

"Last Wednesday the subject of our conversation in the Easy Club was Friendship. We had not long discoursed of it, and considered ourselves as engaged to one another by that nearest relation, till we found we are justly blameable for being so much wanting to ourselves and unfaithfull [sic] to our obligation to you as a friend and fellow member of this Society, by so neglecting epistolary correspondence. Upon winch I was appointed to write you as I here do without any ceremonie [sic]. That we excuse you as not knowing whether the Club yet subsisted, and frankly acknowledge ourselves in the wrong. But we hope that your good humour and agreeable easy temper will easily pardon this neglect.

"To make some amends I shall give you a short account of the state of the Club for these two last years. We had no meeting for six months after you left this place, then we had about two months' session, in which we made some improvement upon our constitution. We rejected English patrons and chose Scots authors or heroes. Rockingham] is now Lord Napier, Is[aac] Bick[erstaff] is Gawin Douglas, Richard Blackinore is Blind Harry, Heywood is Dr Pitcairn, Tom Brown chose Samuell Colvill (but lie is ejected and extruded the Club). I continue the same. We have added Zachary] Boyd, Sir William Wallace, La. Bellhaven, [The prototype was John Hamilton, second Lord Belhaven, a zealous opponent of the arbitrary measures of Charles II., and a warm supporter of the Revolution Settlement. He latterly became conspicuous by his determined opposition to the Union. He died in 1708.] Davie Lindsay, Hector Boethius, and John Barclay, [The prototype was the celebrated John Barclay, author of "Argenis."] all of your acquaintance. We call you by the name of Michael Scot. If you are not pleased, you have the liberty of choice. During this session there was a poetick war between Gawin and Lord Napier ; we were often amused with letters and poems, and spent many evenings very aggreeably [sic]. After this we had ten months vacance [sic] till the 6th of December last, from which time we have not failed to meet once a week. The co-operating spirit gains upon us, and we grow every day more sociable, and as proof of it, by a special act have appointed the 12th of May, being the day this our Societie [sic.] first met, and was constitute, an anniversary feast to be observed in all times coming by the Club, and accordingly spent the 12th of last month in countrey [sic] diversions, mirth and jollity, and ended it as true gallick juice inspired; we remembered you frequently that day.

"Our correspondence and friendship is [sic] so sollid [sic] and secured, that we now meet in a hall or dome of our own, where we enjoy ourselves at large, free from tavern noise, and the slavish obligation of drinking contrary to our inclinations. Mere we are in no fear of being overheard by such who are ready to misconstruct our irnocent mirth, but have all the advantage of a private retreat.

"Our conversation is as free of party as ever. But upon all other subjects we express ourselves with a great deal of freedom. Though not in a university way, we improve so fast that in a little time we shall be able to give rules to your professors for deciding the controversies which are so disturbing to the, world. There is one rule which about eighteen months ago we made a law of the Club, which may be very usefull [sic]; it has been so among us in determining many debates, and so effectually that none of the parties could ever complain of being wronged. It is this—that when any debate or argunienting arises and proves unneasie [sic] upon the complaint of any one member time Praeses shall state the controversie and call a vote for the decision, or order the disputants to remove and decide it between themselves, by FORCE OF REASON. You know we are not nairrow [sic] spirited, or so churlish as to make a secret of what may be of publich use. So if you please you may communicate this to [a blank] and your other professors and wrangling ducti. We have also attained much of the art of conversing on grave subjects, which are reckoned nauseous, dull and disagreeable [sic] by unthinking fops and are realy [sic] so as discoursed by the PANNICK TRIBE. But in our easie and well-honoured way of treating them are the most aggrecable [sic] and edifying and afford us the greatest pleasure.

"In short (we may tell you as a friend), we look upon ourselves as the best constitute, most harmonious, aggreable [sic] and happy corporation in the three kingdoms. There is no jarring amongst us, no strife of humours, but a mutuall [sic] esteem and affection, an easie acquiessance [sic] in one another's opinions, and a frank submission of our best notions to the judgements of our fellows. Thus we live easie, and grow rich in wit and humour, by a free commerce of minds. We long for your return, to assist and bear a part with us, and hope you will make up some of our loss by frequent accounts from you; we will all rejoice in your welfare. And here I must acquaint you that our Praeses title of Honour is Master Easy, disclaiming that of Lord as common among tippenny clubs.

"I shall be -lad of an opportunity of giving you a fuller account of our constitution, as to how we have improved since you left us, and proud of the honour of introducing you to our green table, which, with the kindest and hearty wishes for your health and happiness, conclude this letter from your loving fellow and most humble servant, " Geo. Buchannan, Secretary."

Mr Edgar.
At the Easy Dome,
Edinburgh, June 29, 1715,
And of our Club the 4th year."

While the secretary of the Easy Club was thus addressing at Leyden his quondam associate, and referring mysteriously to someone who might not be named, that associate was actually in Scotland, fomenting in the interest of his master that spirit of disaffection, which into open insurrection developed a few months later. From this course of adventure Edgar made a narrow escape; he exchanged clothes with a crofter on his father's estate of Keithock, and in this disguise escaped from those who certainly had consigned him to a traitor's death.

Two odes, or sonnets, strongly imbued with Jacobite sentiments, are included among the MSS. of the Easy Club. These may unhesitatingly be ascribed to the pseudo Michael Scott. One of the compositions originally described as "Verses under the Prince's Picture, 1710," had subsequently in a bold hand got the following title—"Under the Pretender's Picture with his Sword Drawn." The sonnet proceeds:—

Born to a triple empire I submit
To Providence in all that heaven thinks fit
And if the powerful king of kings ordain
His worthless servant in due time should reign,
I'll sheath my sword, not claim th' avenging rod,
Caesar demands not what belongs to God.
Oh I could the sufferings of an injured heir
Bring mercy down the guilty lands to spare,
After the great example of my syre,
With patience would I bear th' Almighty's ire,
While virtuous Anna, sprung from James the just,
Preventing greater ills, deserves the trust,
Still let her rule, for it's her right alone,
While I ain absent, to supply my throne."

By another hand:—

But when to do him right these lands incline,
The pious sister will the crown resign
Which to her farne will greater glory gain
Than all the wonders of great Anna's reign."

The second Jacobite sonnet, copied on the back of the former, is entitled, "Advice to the Duke of Marlborough, by a Penny Poet when he was at St James' boarding and lodging there".—

Trust not in glittering gady height,
Or fortune's crazy towers;
If justice don't prop up the weight,
In vain's all human powers;
Your glorious meteor Noll's extinct,
Whose cursed name remains;
Your William's blasted trophies sink
In spight of all your pains
But the eternal Monk shall live
While heaven and earth doth last
To blot out { His footsteps only can retrieve
                { The loss of what is last."

In the MIS., the words "blot out" precede the two concluding lines, to which they are joined by a hyphen.

If these odes were really composed by James Edgar, do we not thereby derive a clue towards discovering the authorship of those numerous Jacobite ditties heretofore anonymous? Till his death, which occurred on the 24th September 1764, Edgar possessed the means of despatching into Scotland from Rome such missives as might subserve a cause to which he had most unwisely dedicated his energies.

In the Secretary's letter to Edgar, we are informed that Tom Brown, otherwise Samuel Colvill, had been ejected from the club. The actual name of the extruded member was Andrew Brown ; and among the club's papers is a poem by Ramsay, inscribed, "On Andrew Brown hanging himself." From the opening stanza, it would seem that Brown's chief offence had been a vicious parsimony—an offence obnoxious to the sociable. The verses commence:-

"Now, what could be the carle's drift,
To which Auld Nick lent him a lift,
Unless it were a wylie shift
To hain his bread?
Now he'll cat nine, and that is thrift,
Since he is dead."

Not improbably, Andrew Brown was a near relative of that Dr Andrew Brown, commonly called Dolphington," from his estate in Lanarkshire, who, as an Edinburgh physician, excited prejudice among the members of his profession by introducing in the treatment of fever the new system of Dr Sydenham. John Moncrieff, called "Tippermalloch," from his lands in Perthshire, had already issued his book of medical receipts, which in their absurd and disgusting details had excited loathing and contempt. Hence, as an additional disgrace to the extruded member, his successor in the club sported "Tippermalloch " as his pseudonym.

The celebrated Dr Archibald Pitcairn (lied in October 1713, and soon afterwards Ramsay prepared for the Easy Club an elegy in his honour. Though not included among his published poems, this composition was printed by the club, and was by his friend Clerk acknowledged in the following lines :—


So much good sense join'd with so just a thought,
And both with so much art and number wrought,
As in your poem clearly doth appear,
Can't fail to please the mind and charm the ear
Of all, but those who show their want of witt,
By crying down what they themselves can't write.
Such is your poem, and such must be its fate,
For such detraction shall enhance its rate.
Let dulness still envy and criticks rage,
Yet truth impartiall shall clear every page,
And leave them still to show their wicked spite;
For doggs who bark, yet want the power to bite,
Only, as such you are them to regard,
And let them have their barking for reward.

So may your pen continue aye to write,
And your impartial soul [still] to indite
The praises just of those who loyal are,
And for their native soil have such a care,
As deer in midst of danger still defend
Their darling liberty for having end,
That unborn ages may the heroes know
To whom old Scotland did its freedom owe;
And then at last by whom 'twas basely sold
For the dire thirst and love of English gold,
That they may hate their execrable name
For bringing on them poverty and shame.
Thus shall you be by all good men caress'd,
Your Easy CIub by loyal souls address'd,
Who with your wish'd for company are bless'd.

G. L.

Included in Ramsay's published works are three compositions written for the Easy Club—the "Elegy on Maggy Johnstoun," the lines "On Wit," and "The Gentleman's Qualifications Debated." In the last the poet, in reference to a discussion in the club on what constituted a gentleman, proceeds:—

As in each thing we common topics shun,
So the great prize nor birth nor riches won,
The vote was carried thus—that easy Iie
Who should three years a social fellow be,
And to our Easy Club give no offence
After triennial trial, should commence
A gentleman.

According to the rule thus poetically expressed, the club, on the 12th May 1715, declared "that Dr Pitcairn and Gawin Douglas having behaved themselves three years as good members of the Club, were adjudged to be gentlemen." Ramsay was elected Poet Laureate on the 2d of the preceding February. The club had no active existence subsequent to 1715, and it is not improbable that the sittings were suspended on account of Edgar's political disaffection, combined with a general apprehension that the purpose of their meetings might consequently be misconstrued. The Club's papers, secured by the Laureate, were attained as an inheritance by his son Allan, the distinguished painter. Allan Ramsay, the artist, was husband of Margaret, eldest daughter of Sir Alexander Lindsay, Bart., of Evelick, whose sister, Mrs Murray of Henderland, was mother of Sir John Archibald Murray,. better known by his judicial title of Lord Murray. On the painter's death, his family papers fell into the possession of Lord Murray, who evinced his appreciation of the treasure by rearing in Honour of the poet a colossal marble statue in the Public Gardens at Edinburgh. The Ramsay papers, including the proceedings of the Easy Club, and the original MS. of the Gentle Shepherd, were at Lord Murray's death exposed to sale, and being secured by the publisher of the present work, were by him presented to Dr David Laing, the well-known antiquary. Consequent on Dr Laing's bequest, the papers are now in the possession of the University of Edinburgh.

Under the guidance of Allan Ramsay was formed at Edinburgh the Select Society. This society sought to improve the members in the art of public speaking; also to induce philosophical inquiry. The first meeting, held in the Advocates' Library, was attended by fifteen persons; the members, who were afterwards elected by ballot, latterly numbered an hundred and thirty. On the roll were such social magnates as the Duke of Hamilton, the Earls of Aboyne, Cassius, Errol, Lauderdale, Rosebery, Selkirk, and Sutherland, and the Lords Aberdour, Aboyne, Belhaven, Dalmeny, and Gray, while letters were represented by Principal Robertson, Dr Hugh Blair, David Hume, Dr Adam Ferguson, Dr Adam Smith, John Home, James Burnet, afterwards Lord Monboddo, Dr Alexander Carlyle, Alexander Monro, and William Cullen. Among the more prominent debaters were Mr Wedderburn, afterwards Lord Chancellor, Lord Kames, Sir Gilbert Elliot, Principal Robertson. The club met each Friday evening while the Court of Session was in sitting. One of the members, Mr Robert Alexander, a wine merchant, supplied, according to Dr Carlyle, his deficiency as a speaker, by entertaining the members at warm suppers. "At these convivial meetings," adds Dr Carlyle, "the members were more improved by free conversation than by speeches in the Society. Those meetings in particular rubbed off all corners, as we call it, by collision, and made the literati of Edinburgh less captious and pedantic than they were elsewhere." The Select Society had an existence of only six or seven years. The Duke of Hamilton, the highest member in social rank, attended only when under the influence of liquor, and it is not improbable that the pernicious example of one so elevated in rank induced those more soberly inclined to withdraw their attendance.

From the ashes of the Select Society sprung up in 1762 the Poker Club, which embraced among its founders several leading members of the former institution. The Poker Club had a distinct practical purpose. There was a prevailing belief, especially in the capital, that in being denied the privilege of embodying a militia Scotland had by English statesmen been regarded contumeliously ; and to concert measures for redress the club was organised. According to Dr Carlyle, who presents a narrative of its origin and progress, the club's name of "Poker" was suggested. by Dr Adam Ferguson, for reasons which the members understood, but which was to the public presented as an enigma. In reality the name was intended to imply that the society was formed to stir up the question at issue. Accordingly the chairman assumed a poker as his rod of office, while on the parchment diploma a poker was emblazoned as the society's symbol.

"This establishment," writes Dr Carlyle, "was frugal and moderate. . . . We met at our old landlord's ... near the Cross, the dinner on the table soon after two o'clock at one shilling a head, the wine to be confined to sherry and claret, and the reckoning to be called at six o'clock." After the first fifteen, who were chosen by nomination, the members were to be chosen by ballot, two black balls to exclude the candidate. There was to be a new preses chosen at every meeting. William Johnston, Esq., now Sir William Pultency, was elected secretary of the club, with a charge of all publications that might be thought necessary by him and two other members with whom he was to consult. The club, adds the gossiping chronicler, "continued to be in great perfection for six or seven years, because the expense was moderate, while every member was pleased with the entertainment as well as the company. During these seven years, a very close attendant told me that he never observed even an approach to inebriety in any of the members."

In 1769, owing to a quarrel with Thomas Nicholson, the landlord, the Poker Club removed its headquarters to Fortune's tavern, where the excessive charges led to a diminished attendance. Thereupon arose the Tuesday Club, which met weekly at Sommers' tavern, but ceased after two years. At the Poker Club the attendance continued steadily to fall off, till in 1784 its proceedings terminated.

The records of the Poker Club were on its discontinuance entrusted to Professor Adam Ferguson, by whose son, Sir Adam, they were in 1864 deposited in the library of the Edinburgh University. The preserved records commence in 1774 and extend till the day of winding-up. Latterly, owing to the uncertain attendance, two "attending members" were nominated its a nucleus for the next meeting, and if these did not present themselves, or make satisfactory excuse for their absence, they were mulct in the cost of two or more dinners. The imposer of penalties was Andrew Crosbie, the original of Councillor Pleydell in "Guy Mannering," who, because of the unpleasantness of his post, was humorously styled "the assassin." The assassin's "assessor" or counsel was David Hume, who was chosen in compliment to his uniform good nature and easy manners.

In 1768 the Poker Club had on its roll sixty-six members. Among these were the titled names of the Earl Marischal, the Earl of Dunmore, Lord Elibank, and. Baron Grant. The literary and scientific membership included Principal Robertson, David Hume, Adam Smith, Dr Hugh Blair, John Home, John Clerk of Eldin, Islay Campbell, afterwards Lord President, George Dempster, M.P., Dr Alexander Carlyle, and Dr Joseph Black. Till September 1783 the club met weekly, when monthly meetings were substituted in the hope of reviving the general interest. But a revival did not follow, and subsequent to a meeting held on the 3d January 1784, at which five members were present, the club ceased to exist.

The Belles Lettres Society is cursorily noticed in Dr Thomas Somerville's "Life and Times." At the first meeting held in the College of Edinburgh on the 12th January 1759, it was resolved by the founders, six in number, that the society should meet each Friday evening, when "a, discourse shall be pronounced," and "a question debated." Among the early subjects of debate were these sentimental themes:—"Whether mankind have been happier since the introduction of the arts, or before the invention of them; whether a good condition, with the fear of becoming ill, or a bad one, with the hope of becoming well, please or displease most; whether avarice or ambition are the predominant passions in the human mind; whether there is such a person as one disinterestedly malicious; and whether the poor sort of people are of most advantage to the rich, or the rich to the poor." These quaint topics were discussed, "whether the fool or the wise man is happier, the fool in esteeming himself, or the wise man in being esteemed by others; whether it is more useful to study men or books, and whether is popular esteem any test of merit." But the members did not reserve their dialectic skill for questions of abstract speculation. After a time they indulged debate on practical questions which involved the common welfare. They reasoned as to whether a great town or a small one is the most proper place for a university; whether the stage in its present state is of advantage to society; and whether the present prevailing game of cards tends to corrupt the morals of young people. On social and patriotic themes they debated as to whether the liberty of the press is of advantage or disadvantage to the country; whether entails are advantageous or disadvantageous; whether by the laws of nature, females are entitled to an equal share in succession with males; and whether it would not be more for the advantage of society that condemned criminals should rather be employed in public works than sent to the new or to the other world. Even questions of ecclesiastical polity were ardently contested, such as whether the settlement of ministers by presentation or by election is preferable; and whether the repenting stool should be taken away. Not without an allusion to prevailing manners strongly cynical must have been that member who proposed as a subject of discussion, whether a foundling hospital at Edinburgh to be maintained by a tax on old bachelors would be for the advantage of Scotland?

The earlier attendances on the Belles Lettres Society were limited, but in about a year after its origin, twenty and even thirty persons would be ordinarily present at the weekly meetings. These included honorary members and visitors. Among the visitors in 1760 and 1761 appear the names of Dr William Robertson, soon afterwards Principal; Dr Hugh Blair, David Hume, Dr Alexander Carlyle, Professor Adam Ferguson, George Dempster, afterwards M.P., Sir William Forbes, Bart., Dr Joseph M`Cormick, afterwards Principal of the United College, St Andrews, Professor William Cullen, and James Boswell. Of these the greater number were elected honorary members.

Ordinary members were chosen by ballot, and from those only who by respectful memorial solicited "the honour of admission." On the 7th March 1760, "Henry Dundas, Esq., student of the Civil Law," sought election, and at the second weekly meeting thereafter his name was added to the roll. As an exercise, he, on the 3d of April, "delivered a discourse on religious liberty," which, according to the record, "received the universal approbation of the society." Mr Dundas, who was then in his eighteenth year, proved so efficient as a member, that on the 29th May 1761 he was "appointed to give an occasional oration at the sitting down of the next session of the society." The eloquence wherewith this precocious youth had electrified the Belles Lettres Society was destined to move the British senate, and to obtain for the speaker, as Viscount Melville, a powerful influence in national affairs. By Dr Thomas Somerville, who joined the society in the winter of 1761, Henry Dundas is with Robert Blair named as among the "best speakers."

The minute-book of the Belles Lettres Society, containing a record of the proceedings from its commencement to the 29th May 1761, is preserved iii the Advocates' Library, being there deposited by David, Earl of Buchan, one of the members.

In connection with the Belles Lettres Association, Dr Somerville names the Theological Society, which, originating in 1759, ceased in 1764, after a duration of five years. To his attendance at these two institutions Dr Somerville ascribes his early progress "in literature, in composition, and in solid intellectual improvement." But the Theologians, or many of them, adjourned to taverns after their weekly meetings, and so, unhappily, fell into social irregularities. [Dr Thomas Somerville's "Life and Times," pp. 39-42.]

A prominent literary and convivial organization was the Club or Order of the Cape. After a less conspicuous existence of several years, this association acquired in 1764 a distinctive footing. Part of the original purpose was to establish branches, whereby provincial and colonial clubs might, wvitli authority derived from the parent society, "extend the benign influence of their Order to every region under the Grand Cape (or Cope) of Heaven." [According to Dr Robert Chambers, in his "Traditions of Edinburgh" (ed. 1869, pp. 164-5), the Cape Club derived its name consequent on a social incident. A burgher of the Calton was in the habit of spending some hours each evening in the city, often so late that the Netherbow Port was closed. He had, therefore, to thread his way homeward towards Leith Wynd by turning with difficulty a rectangular corner. This operation he described as doubling the Cape; and the phrase becoming familiar, led to its being appropriated as a club name.]

The members of the Cape Club were styled Knights Companions, while the administration was vested in a sovereign, a deputy-sovereign, a secretary, a treasurer, a recorder, an assistant recorder, twelve councillors, a chaplain, and the past sovereigns. Ordinary meetings were held in "Cape-Ball," which signified the private dwelling of the sovereign, while the knights resident in Midlothian observed a half-yearly festival. At these festivals the dining-hour was three o'clock, and both on these occasions and at the ordinary meetings gaming and tobacco-smoking were disallowed. Those who removed newspapers were amerced "in a green stamp," that is, one shilling and fourpence. Candidates were admitted by ballot, on the approving vote of two-thirds of the knights present. The diploma, printed on white satin, presents, in the upper part, between two cupids, an escutcheon displaying two pokers crossed, one bearing the cap of the sovereign, together with a wreath, exhibiting the motto of the Order, "Concordia Fratrum Decus." Below is a wine-flaggon, the emblem of conviviality and friendship. The printed form reads thus:—

"Be it known to all men,—That We, Sir, the Super-Eminent Sovereign of the Most Capital Knighthood of the CAPE, having nothing more sincerely at heart than the glory and honour of this most noble Order, and the happiness and prosperity of the Knight Companions, and being desirous of extending the benign and social influence of the Order to every region under the Cope of Heaven; being likewise well informed and fully satisfied with the abilities and qualifications of _____, Esq., with the advice and concurrence of our Council, We do create, admit, and receive him a KNIGHT COMPANION of this most social Order, by the title of Sir ______, and of C.F.D., hereby giving and granting unto him all the powers, privileges, and pre-eminences that do or may belong to this most social Order, and We give command to our recorder to register this our patent in the Records of the Order. In testimony whereof, We have subscribed these presents at our Cape-hall, this ____ day of _____ in the year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ____


At the meetings of the Order, the sovereign assumed a velvet cap or crown of crimson velvet, ornamented with gold and silver lace, and in front embroidered with two hands clasped together, as a token or badge. Duly enthroned, the sovereign received each novice, by extending to hint the great poker, which being taken hold of, he proceeded to raise the lesser weapon so menacingly that instant stooping became a natural impulse. As a further step in initiation, the knight-elect was required to exercise his gifts by some appropriate recital.

Among twenty-four knights created in 1764 occur the names of David Herd, the literary antiquary, who chose "Sir Scrape" as his appellative; Alexander Runciman, the painter, who became "Sir Brimstone;" and Michael Bruce, the poet, who was styled "Sir Tomas." Thomas Lancashire, the comedian, was, as first sovereign of the Order, designated "Sir Cape." In 1766 was dubbed James Cumyng, herald painter, afterwards secretary of the Society of Antiquaries; he was known as "Sir Nun and Abbess."

On the 10th October 1772 was admitted as "Sir Precentor" the ingenious Robert Fergusson. Elected laureate of the Order, the young bard derived from the meetings a chief source of enjoyment. The Cape Club he has in his poem of "Auld Reekie" celebrated thus:---

"Now many a club, jocose and free,
Gi'e a' to merriment and glee:
Wi' sang and glass they fley the pow'r
O' care that wad harass the hour.
But chief, O Cape, we crave thy aid
To get our cares and poortith laid.
Sincerity and genius true
O' knights have ever been the due;
Mirth, music, porter deepest dyed,
Are never here to mirth denied
And worth, o' happiness the queen,
Blinks bonny, wi' her smile serene."

When Thomas Lancaster died, the laureate commemorated him in these lines:—

"Alas, poor Tom! how oft with merry heart,
Have we beheld thee play the Sexton's part!
Each comic heart must now be griev'd to see
The Sexton's dreary part perform'd on thee."

On the 3d September 1774 AIlan Masterton of the High School was dubbed as "Sir Pole"; on the 27th December 1774 Walter Ruddiman as "Sir Mill Dam;" on the 27th September 1782 John Rennie as "Sir "Hatchet"; on the 8th June 1787 John Logan as "Sir Heather"; on the 14th June 1791 Alexander Nasmyth as "Sir Thumb"; and on the 26th September 1791 Henry Raeburn as "Sir Discovery."

When in September 1799 the roll closed, 650 knights were found to have been admitted. Among the more humorous pseudonyms chosen or imposed are—Sir Snore, Sir Canker, Sir Snaiknaked, Sir Sobersides, Sir Coup, Sir Truth, Sir Hayloft, Sir Beefstakes, Sir Toothache, Sir Sark, Sir Stick, Sir Fork, Sir Breeks, Sir Acid, Sir Nick, Sir Coalhole, Sir Splitbeard, Sir Spitfire, Sir Gutter, Sir Handbarrow, Sir Droddlepouch, Sir Wickstick, Sir Black-face o't, Sir Kailpat, Sir Bottle, Sir Whinbush. The sovereigns are entered after the manner of reigning princes. Thus William I., William II., William III., James I., James II., and James III., are names and designations to be found in the minute-book.

On the 11th December 1841 the Society of Antiquaries received from four surviving members of the Cape Club a cabinet containing the records, documents, and paraphernalia of the society. Along with the cabinet was handed a missive, declaring that the accompanying articles were "for depositation, it being understood that should the Club be at any time hereafter revived, either by any of the descendants of the late members or other body of respectable citizens, the documents and effects will be given up to them." Among the MSS. so deposited are the minute-book of proceedings from 1764 to 1788, [A postscript appended to the last minute bears that "the great parchment roll containing the signatures of the knights on admission, was some years ago delivered to Mr A. Sievwright (Sir Jordan), for the purpose of summoning a meeting of the existing members, with a view of reviving the Club. From enquiries recently made at his widdow [sic] there seems no doubt that the roll was ignorantly destroyed after his death along with various useless papers belonging to himself."] and an alphabetical list of knights or members. All the insignia have been preserved.

Subsequent to the rehearsal of the tragedy of Douglas in a private lodging on the 1 4t December 1756, those who took part in it adjourned for festivities to the Griskin Club, which met in a tavern in the Canongate. Among those present at the rehearsal and at the Club subsequently were Principal Robertson, Dr Hugh Blair, Professor Adam Ferguson, Dr Alexander Carlyle, and John Home."

During the sitting of the General Assembly of the same year was established at an inn in the West Bow the Diversorium, a gathering of the moderate clergy, members of Assembly. This institution was established by Dr Carlyle and John Home. Prior to the meeting of Assembly the founders requested Nicolson the landlord to provide for early use twelve dozen of claret, at eighteen shillings a dozen. Among the members of the Diversorium were Lord Elibank, Sir Gilbert Elliot, Principal Robertson, David Hume, and Professor Ferguson.

On the ruins of "The Tabernacle," a literary coterie of whose proceedings there are no records, was founded the "Mirror Club," of which the leading members were Lord Abercromby, Lord Bannatyne, Lord Craig, Lord Cullen, and Henry Mackenzie. In the conversations of the "Mirror Club " originated the idea of the Mirror, a well-known serial, conducted after the manner of the Spectator. Of this pleasing and instructive periodical the first number appeared in January 1779, and the last in May 1780. From the sale the club derived a profit sufficient to purchase a hogshead of claret, also to hand a balance of 100 to the Orphan Hospital.

Chiefly memorable in connection with the poet Robert Burns, the club of the "Crochallan Fencibles" was founded in 1777 by William Smellie, printer and naturalist. With head-quarters established in the Anchor Close Tavern, kept by Donald Douglas, it was designated Crochallan after a song Cro Chalein or Colin's Cattle, which the landlord effectively sung. The word "Fencibles" was added to the title owing to the embodiment of fencible regiments to compensate for the absence in America of the regular troops, being at the time a popular topic. Burns was in January 1787 introduced to the Club by his friend Mr Smellie. As a semi-military fraternity, the club gave its office-bearers warlike designations. William Dunbar, Writer to the Signet, a particularly mirthful associate, was Colonel, Lord Newton, the bibulous judge, Muster-Master-General, and Mr Smellie Executioner. In the initiatory ceremony novices were subjected to much rough handling, chiefly by Smellie. Burns, though acknowledging himself thrashed in a manner beyond his former experiences, preserved his equanimity, which was recognised as high evidence of his fraternal qualities. The Cochallan brotherhood he greatly enjoyed; several of the members are celebrated by his muse. William Dunbar, whom he describes as "one of the worthiest fellows in the world," he thus poetically celebrates---

I cam by Crochallan,
I cannilie keekit ben;
Rattlin, roarin' Willie,
Was sittin at yon boord-en',
Sittin' at you boord-en',
And amang gude companie;
Rattlin, roarin' Willie,
Your welcome hame to me."

The Bard hailed Mr Smellie in like fashion--

Shrewd Willie Smellie to Crochallan came;
The old cock'd hat, the grey surtout, the same,
His bristling beard just rising in its might,
'Twas four long nights and days to shaving night,
His uncomb'd Grizzly locks, wild staring, thatch'd
A head for thought profound and clear, unmatch'd;
Yet tho' his caustic wit was biting rude,
His heart was warm, benevolent and good."

Two other attached friends of the poet, Alexander Cunningham and Robert Cleghorn, were prominent members of the Club. Inspired by their skill in rendering the older ballads, Burns composed songs in similar strain, to be used only at the Club. In these compositions, be indulged his humour by scathing the levities of a former age. Having after his death been found in his repositories, they were, under the title of "The Merry Muses of Caledonia," injudiciously printed.

According to Robert Heron, there existed in Edinburgh about the close of the century a Club composed of young men of rank and fashion, known as "The Caledonian." The Boar Club met at Hogg's Tavern, in Shakespeare Square. Organized in 1787, its sittings were continued every evening for about twenty years. The officers consisted of a Poet-Laureate, a Champion, and a Procurator-fiscal. While dispensing with pseudonyms, the members were under a penalty called on to address each other as "Sir," without using their ordinary names. As the infliction of penalties at length became oppressive, the institution was abandoned.

The Spendthrift Club derived its name, not from the extravagance of the members, but rather from their parsimony. There were originally six, latterly four weekly meetings, while the cost of supper, liquor, and attendance was at first restricted to fourpence-halfpenny, and latterly to sixteenpence. In 1824 the Club was wound up.

The Cormorant Club, which was noted for its fish-dinners, met at Leith. At the Soaping Club, every member was allowed to soap his own beard, that is, he was privileged to ventilate his own opinions. The Capilliare Club was formed in order to create a taste for certain fashionable liqueurs. About the close of the century there were social organizations known as "The Knights Nun and Abbess," "Knights of the Royal Order," "Knights of the Fleet," and "Knights of the Speech." The Marrow-bone Club, composed chiefly of Lords of Session, met in the Flesh Market Close; they recorded their proceedings in verse, and ate from plates of solid silver. "The Presbytery," an association of merchants, assembled daily in Milne's Square, High Street. "The Pious Club," writes Dr Robert Chambers, "met in a pie-house, so that the members might rest under the agreeable uncertainty as to whether their name arose from their piety, or from their pie-eating." The members were restricted to fifteen; and each associate was expected to consume not more than one gill of spirituous liquor. On Sunday evening, the members met for serious conversation.

Of the social and scientific institutions established in the eighteenth century, and which have survived to the present, the most conspicuous is the Speculative Society. Instituted on the 17th November 1764, the founders were six college students, of whom the most notable was William Creech, afterwards Lord Provost. During the University term, meetings were held weekly, when essays were read and debates conducted. Members who for several years gave regular attendance were appointed "extraordinary members," and as such exempted from active duties. From the small fee of one shilling and sixpence, the payment on admission was increased to five guineas. Several members have, in their writings, expressed the deep interest which early in life they had experienced in its discussions. From the Society Lord Cockburn derived his first notions of composition and debate. In an octavo volume are embraced sketches of distinguished members, together with interesting details of the Society's rise and progress.

At the Forum, an Edinburgh literary club, young persons desirous of improving in the art of oratory conducted public discussions. In 1790 Alexander Wilson, the future ornithologist, took part in a debate as to whether Allan .Ramsay or Robert Fergusson had done greater honour to Scottish poetry, by reading his poem. The Laurel Disputed. He gave the palm to Fergusson.

In his autobiography Lord Brougham remarks that on the 22d December 1792 he founded at Edinburgh the Juvenile Literary Society; and among the members he names Francis Horner, Henry, afterwards Lord Mackenzie, John Forbes, afterwards Lord Medwyn, and the afterwards celebrated Dr Andrew Thomson. During the college session the society met each Saturday morning, the members presiding in rotation. Essays were read and public questions, apart from political, energetically debated. The society existed several years, and the practice of debate acquired at its meetings enabled the projector, he informs us, to enter with facility on the practice of his profession. The minute-book of the society is preserved at Brougham Hall.

The Esculapian Club, consisting of physicians and surgeons, which on the 2d of April 1773 was constituted at Edinburgh, has maintained an active existence ever since. On the 14th 'November 1873 its centenary was celebrated by an appropriate banquet. Two volumes of the minutes of the club, preserved in the library of the Royal College of Physicians, exhibit in the roll of members many notable names. Among these the more conspicuous are Sir James Hay, Dr Andrew Duncan, Andrew and Alexander Wood, Benjamin Bell, and Professors Alexander Hamilton, and John and Thomas Charles Hope. The Esculapian Club has twenty-four members; it meets annually.

The Wagering Club, established on the 28th January 1775 "to promote friendly and social intercourse," continues a prosperous existence. And in practical operation the betting feature, which in some respects is calculated to excite prejudice, really serves to sustain the general interest. At one annual meeting "wagers" are chosen, for settlement at the next, the members on a written card adhering to one side or the other. When the cards have been fully subscribed they are sealed up, the packet being entrusted for keeping to the chairman to be publicly opened at the next anniversary. As the bets relate to events which must have been determined in the interval, those who have registered on the winning side obtain credit for their prescience, while the bets they have won, each one shilling in value, are added to the fund conducing to defray the cost of the entertainment. Some of the bets illustrate at different epochs the state of national feeling. A bet in 1798 that Buonaparte shall not be alive or known to be in existence on the 26th January 1799 was repeated in the following year. Thereafter was the bet, "that Buonaparte shall be alive at next meeting," repeated annually till the ex-emperor's death in 1821. From the beginning of the century a portion of the annual bets have related to the price of consols and of grain. Wagers in regard to the probable marriage of rich heiresses or celebrated beauties or of bachelor members of the club are frequent. In reference to an agitation now in active progress for securing a political minister for Scotland, it is interesting to remark that an antecedent movement led to the first wager of the club on the 29th January 1855, which is, "will the office of Secretary of State for Scotland be revived, or will any other public officer, to attend specially to the affairs of Scotland, be appointed betwixt and the next meeting of the Club?" Under the rule of Bain Whyt, the genial founder (whose monument adorns St Cuthbert's Churchyard), the membership was restricted to thirty, but nearly double that number have for some years taken part in the annual celebration. Among the more notable members or visitors appear the names of Sir Wilfred Lawson, Bart.; John Hunter, LL.D., Auditor of the Court of Session; Charles Mackay, comedian; Sam Bough, James D. Marwick, LL.D.; James Drummond, R.S.A.; Mr Sheriff Nicolson, and the Right Hon. Sir George Harrison, LL.D., the present Lord Provost. The surplus funds of the society were in 1862 invested in purchasing a silver medal to be worn by the chairman at the annual re-union, which is held on the last Monday of January. Apart from the president who is annually chosen, are two permanent officers, the secretary and the chaplain, of whom the latter chronicles the leading events of the year in a humorous summary, of which the reacting forms no uninteresting part of the general proceedings. The minute-book of the club has been carefully preserved.

Among the clubs which have sprung up during the progress of the century, some of the more prominent may be named. The Friday Club, so called from the day on which it met weekly, was in 1803 originated by Sir Walter Scott. Among the early members were Professors Playfair and Dugadd Stewart, Sir James Hall, the Rev. Archibald Alison, Henry Brougham, Henry Mackenzie, Thomas Campbell, Francis Horner, Malcolm Laing, Thomas Thomson. and Francis Jeffrey. Latterly the chief promoter was Lord Jeffrey, who, up to an advanced age, regarded the Friday monthly meetings of the Club as "a guide and solace."'

On the 27th May 1817 was established at Edinburgh the Albyn Club, one of the earliest of those joint-stock institutions in which the members obtain entertainment and otherwise enjoy the comforts of a home. Among the promoters were the Marquises of Douglas, Tweeddale and Queensberry, the Earls of Eglinton, Elgin, Fife, Glasgow and Kintore, the Hon. William Maule, afterwards Lord Panmure, and other titled and distinguished persons. Law and science had their representatives in Andrew, afterwards Lord Rutherfurd, John Hope, afterwards Lord Justice Clerk, Dr, afterwards Sir David Brewster, and Patrick Miller of Dalswinton. In 1820 the club was joined by Sir Walter Scott, and among those admitted subsequently were Archibald, afterwards Sir Archibald Alison, Bart., Robert Liston, the Right Hon. Fox Maule, the Duke of Hamilton, the Earl of Buchan, Sir John Sinclair, Bart., and Sir Henry Jardine. By one of the fundamental laws, the membership was restricted to 200, and though twelve years later the number was extended to 220, the roll did not at any time contain more than 125 names. At length, on account of embarrassments, the club was on the 11th January 1830 legally dissolved. On this event sprung up at Edinburgh the New Club, which as the city head-quarters of a large and important constituency, chiefly of Scottish landowners, has continued to flourish.

The Medico-Chirurgical Club was founded in 1822 with a compliment of twenty members. These assemble at dinner three times a year, in March, June, and November. At each meeting the secretary produces an historical report, which embracing a vidimus of professional progress, humorously expressed, is suggestive of sparkling wit and enlivening conversation. These secretarial reports are engrossed in the minute-books, which already extend to fifteen volumes. Among the members are to be remarked the names of Dr John Abercrombie, Professor W. P. Alison, Dr James Gregory, Sir James Y. Simpson, Bart., Sir Robert Christison, Bart., and Professor .Tames Syme.

The Heather Club was devised in 1823 for promoting a healthy recreation and social friendship, the members making an annual excursion to the Pentlands attended by a piper. The principal officers of the Heather Club are a Captain and Lieutenant.

"The Contemporary Club," which upheld Conservative principles, had among its early members Sir Walter Scott, John Hope, afterwards Lord Justice Clerk, Robert Dundas of Arniston, and about fifty others. When in 1825 John Gilson Lockhart was about to leave Edinburgh for a permanent residence in London as editor of the Quarterly Review, he was by the Contemporary Club, of which he was a member, invited to dinner. His reply to a letter of invitation addressed to him by the President, Mr Dundas of Arniston, now in the possession of the Publisher of the present work, proceeds thus:—

"Chieswood, November 18, 1825.

"Dear Dundas,—You may easily believe that leaving Scotland even for a season is to me no matter of pleasing contemplation. Yet having considered it as my duty to go, I cannot exert quite so much self-denial as to decline carrying with me the recollection of one meeting more with gentlemen whose society has afforded me the highest pleasure during the best years (I fear I may now begin to talk so) of my life, and whose good opinion it shall ever be my chief pride to retain and cultivate.

"This courtesy was neither merited nor expected. But I am not the less sensible to it, nor to the additional value which such a communication must ever bear from coming through hands such as yours.

"I propose being in Edinburgh on Saturday the 3d December, for the purpose of dining with the Contemporary Club, and if the Monday following should happen to suit your convenience it would mine perfectly.—Believe me, my dear sir, yours very sincerely,


"P.S.—On second thoughts I take the liberty of requesting you to see Mr William Sharpe, and inform him that I request the honour of seeing the Contemporaries at the British Hotel, either on Saturday the 3d, or Monday the 5th of December, leaving it to you to determine on which of these days your dinner takes place, and so fixing the other, which ever it may be, for mine and the Club.

"I hope you will pardon the additional trouble. Menzies [Afterwards the Hon. William Menzies, one of the Supreme Judges at the Cape of Good Hope.] will gladly relieve you of it, however, if you are busy."

Sir Walter Scott, in his "Diary," records that he was present at the dinner given to Lockhart by the Contemporaries, and which came off on Saturday the 3d December.

At the "Dilettanti Club," Professor John Wilson presided, with an abundant Humour. Among the members were J. G. Lockhart, and the early staff of Blackwood's Edinburgh Maguzine.

When, in 1835, the late Professor Edward Forbes was a college student, he along with other young men of a kindred spirit, established a social organization, under the name of the Malta Club or Order. Each member wore across his breast a narrow silk ribbon, rose coloured and black, with the mystic letters O. E. M. worked into its texture—the initials of three Greek words signifying time, love, and learning. At the meetings of the Order, the higher class brethren wore a small silver triangle, styled "Oineromaths or Red-Ribbons." The members in 1838 sought to avoid criticism by constituting themselves into "The Universal Brotherhood of the Friends of Truth," which in the rules is described as a union of the searchers after truth, for the glory of God, the good of all, and the honour of the Order, to the end that mina may hold its rightful sway in the world." Of this latter association Forbes was Arch Magus. Its next President or leader, John, afterwards Professor John Goodsir, was, in November 1838, when in his twenty-fourth year, elected to a fellowship. The society included clergymen, physicians, artists, and other cultivators of learning.

Glasgow Clubs have an appropriate chronicler in Dr John Strang. ["Glasgow and its Clubs," by John Strang, LL.D., London, 1856, 8vo.] Of these western fraternities some had quaint appellatives. There were the Banditti and Gegg Clubs, also those with the prefix of Face, Pig, Duck, Crow, and Cowl. Provincial. Clubs resembled and imitated those in cities. Some took names from public courts and corporations. At Cupar-Fife met a "Parliament," at Falkirk a "Presbytery," at Stirling a "Session." In provincial clubs each member was designated after his farm, or his trade, or his office. In the provinces as well as in the capital, members of clubs indulged the sport of "high jinks." In this game dice were thrown by the company, those on whom the lot fell being obliged to assume and maintain a fictitious character, and repeat certain fescennine verses. When recollection failed, forfeits were imposed, compounded by a contribution to the reckoning. Written summonses to club meetings were issued quarterly. When certain Edinburgh clubs were convened, the members were invited "to hold a fast."

Among the existing Edinburgh Clubs "the Monks of St Giles " obtains a special interest. The members use a monkish costume, compose spirited verses, and under the presidentship of a Prior, hold monthly reunions. "The Monks" assemble in a hall in St Giles' Street, which is adorned with paintings executed by the members, several of whom are artists of reputation.

A history of those provincial clubs, of which the records have been preserved, might prove a pleasant exercise to the compiler, while it would amply tend to set forth and illustrate the national manners. Of two clubs of this rural character, of each of which the father of the present writer was an official member, some details may not be unacceptable. One of the earlier of the farm clubs in this country, the Lunan and Vinney Farming Society, was, on the 4th July 1803, established at the village of Dunnichen, near Forfar. The founders were Mr George Dempster, formerly M.P., who in his later years became a zealous agriculturist; and Mr James Roger, afterwards minister of Dunino, who had acquired some distinction as reporter to the Board of Agriculture on the husbandry of Angus. At the initiatory meeting, attended by thirty-four persons, of whom eleven were landowners, Mr Roger was nominated permanent secretary, and Mr Dempster the perpetual president. In opening the society's business, Mr Dempster expatiated on the importance of maintaining superior breeds of cattle and horses, on the duty of extirpating weeds, on the necessity of a stern resistance to smuggling, and on the desirableness of upholding the constitution. With his approval, it was arranged that the society should assemble at least once a. year, that its proceedings should be accompanied by as modest feast at 1s. 6d., afterwards 2s. 6d. a head, and that on each occasion liquor of native manufacture should be used exclusively.

At the second meeting, held in July 1804, Mr Dempster invited attention to the rotation of crops suggesting various methods, and maintaining that by a proper alternation of green and grain crops, fallowing might be dispensed with. To each member he handed a slip of rules, which he termed golden; they consisted of injunctions to keep the land rich and clean and dry, to use efficient manure, and to avoid two grain crops in succession. Poultry and hogs, he maintained, should be largely reared. The secretary read an essay on the rearing of horses and cattle. Prior to the reign of James I., he said, Alexander, Earl of Mar, imported horses from Hungary; while James I. was himself a promoter of farm stock, by introducing on his lands at Falkland a superior species of mulch cows. In reference to grazing, he remarked that one of the members had recently sold cattle of three years old at 18 each, while another member had reaped from about an acre a quantity of red clover which produced 154 lbs. of seed. At the meetings held in August 1805, and in July 1806, Mr Dempster recommended the cultivation of Swedish turnips, and suggested that the tops of the carrot should be used in feeding milch cows. His former proposal as to the disuse of fallow ground was disapproved, it being strongly held that the land required rest at least every tenth year. It was agreed, on his recommendation, that wheat ought to be more extensively cultivated, and that it should be sown late in August or early in September. At the close of the meeting an indigent person, formerly a farmer, and then said to be in his 106th year, was awarded a little money.

The fifth meeting, held in August 1807, was attended with an exhibition of live stock. Various subjects were discussed. Gypsum as a manure, recommended by the Board of Agriculture, was, on the motion of the Rev. James Headrick, [This reverend gentleman was then assistant in the parish; he was ordained to the care on the 11th August 1807. He recommended himself to Mr Dempster's notice by his agricultural papers in the Farmer's Magazine. His "View of the Mineralogy, &c., of the Isle of Arran," is of much value and interest. He died on the 31st March 1841, in his eighty-third year.] disapproved. Flax-raising was commended by several members, and by others styled unprofitable. The question as to whether carcases of meat might be transmitted to distances packed in ice, was mooted and generally affirmed.

In his address to the meeting in July 1808, Mr Dempster recommended the cultivation of vetches, to be sown in drills. The Chinese method of economising manure was explained and urged by Mr Headrick; while the importance of draining marshes, described as "magazines of mischief," was duly maintained. At the meeting in 1800, the president remarked that he had lately been making trial of kale with a view to its more extensive use. He regarded the sowing of spring wheat as worthy of consideration, and exhibited a sample of naked barley, resembling wheat, imported from Egypt, and commended by Sir John Sinclair. By individual members different agricultural topics were submitted for discussion. Mr Guthrie of Craigie, an important landowner, held that the Swedish was much inferior to the yellow turnip, especially as the latter might be reared on a greater variety of soils. Mr Scott of Reswallie recommended a more general cultivation of barley, and suggested the erection in the district of woollen mills. He condemned the disuse of "the Scottish" or woollen bonnet, and hoped that at next meeting all the members would discard hats and appear bonneted. To this proposal Mr Dempster expressed an objection. The hat, he held, was not cumbrous, as the bonnet was; it protected the face and did not retain moisture. As to woollen manufactories, these had been established in East Lothian and elsewhere, and had failed. Manufactories of sailcloth and coarse linen, long common to the district, were, he maintained, worthy of encouragement, and no others. It was suggested that a donation should be presented to Mr Meikle, inventor of the threshing-machine, who was represented as aged and indigent.

The society's roll in September 1810 was seventy-four; it increased to eighty. At the anniversary then held, Mr Dempster remarked that sixty years ago the district was covered with furze and broom, while bogs were to be found at every turn; now the fields were clean and well drained, roads were abundant, and wheat was largely cultivated. The establishment of local farming societies he believed was most beneficial, as they brought pleasantly together landlord and tenant, and enabled them to be mutually helpful. Respecting the destruction of weeds, a member remarked that in Strathmore, a riding committee inspected farms every summer, and, as authorised in the leases, imposed fines on those who permitted weeds to grow unchecked. Of spring wheat Mr Guthrie expressed his disapproval; the grain was inferior and the straw discoloured and feeble.

There was a competition among exhibitors of live stock in 1811, Mr Dempster presenting several gold and silver medals to be used as premiums. In his presidential address, he recommended wheat-sowing in drill rather than broadcast, suggested the use of single-horse carts, and remarked that cattle might be trained for use in the threshing-mill. These proposals were generally approved, especially the drill-sowing of wheat. But naked barley was unfavourably reported upon—a third only of the seed being found to germinate, while the grain could not be threshed without difficulty. Some members discussed the respective merits of "Angus" and "Potato" oats, but the subject was left open.

In July 1812 the society held its tenth anniversary. At this meeting wheat-sowing in drill was warmly commended, a member remarking that the produce of wheat sown in this manner was one-third more than under the broadcast system. At the following meeting Mr Dempster, who had formerly congratulated the members on the general disappearance of field weeds, recommended drainage as "the most necessary of agricultural operations." He pleaded on behalf of crows that they destroyed grub, and ought to be encouraged, a view strongly supported by Mr Guthrie but objected to by Mr Headrick. Fiorin grass had at a former meeting been brought under discussion; the subject was revived, and among those who took part in the debate was Mr John Pinkerton, the antiquary, who, being Mr Dempster's guest, was present as an honorary member. Mr Pinkerton remarked that Camden had referred to a field of florin grass which was so fertile as to be cut four times a year.

At the Society's twelfth anniversary, held in July 1814, Mr Dempster described the clergy as the first promoters of agriculture. "Around the monasteries," he said, "the best soil was a garden and the worst a grave." It was remarked by a member that while the Roman Catholic clergy largely cultivated and made use of wheaten-flour, it had since the Reformation been generally disused. This sentiment was confirmed by Mr Headrick, who stated that his father, who was a farmer in Ayrshire, had endeavoured to introduce wheaten-flour, but without success. A return to the use of oxen in tillage was suggested; the blight in barley, some held, might be prevented by pickling the seed; and the yellow turnip was unanimously ruled to be preferable to the Swedish.

The Society did not re-assemble. Having attained his eightieth year, Mr Dempster was unable longer to discharge the presidential duties, and as his election was for life it was deemed ungracious to choose a substitute. Mr Dempster died on the 13th February 1818, and the Society's minute-book, preserved by the secretary, became by inheritance the possession of the present writer, by whom it was deposited in the Scottish National Museum.

In the hands of the Rev. Dr J. F. S. Gordon, incumbent of St Andrew's Episcopal Church, Glasgow, are preserved the records of another provincial society, in which the writer's father held office as chaplain. The Musomanik Society had its head-quarters at Anstruther in Fife, and was there founded in 1813 by several resident cultivators of learning. Of these the more conspicuous were William Tennant, afterwards author of the poem of "Anster Fair," latterly Professor of Oriental Languages in the University of St Andrews, Charles Gray, afterwards Captain R.N., author of "Lays and Lyrics," William Macdonald Fowler, author of "The Spirit of the Isle and other Poems," and Matthew Forster Conolly, town-clerk of Anstruther, latterly Nvell known by his "Men of Fife" and other biographical writings.

The Musomanik Society held monthly meetings; also a grand anniversary. Iii an Edinburgh newspaper the annual meeting of 1814 is reported in the following animated strain:—

On the 30th of September the first anniversary of the Musomanik Club of Anstruther was celebrated there, in the hall of Apollo, with the pomp and festivity becoming the worshippers of that enlivening deity. At four o'clock the brethren, whose number is precisely that of the nine .Muses, being attended by many honorary members, passed into the hall, which, from its tasteful decorations, struck every eye with admiration. The walls of the chambers were hung round with pictures of ancient and modern poets, under whose names were inscribed portions of their works, in English, French, Italian, German, Latin, also in Greek. Every chair was entwined with laurels, myrtles, and nettles; the mixture of the nettle leaf was appropriate, since it denoted the prickly nature of that satire with which the rhymsters sting those who are opposed to them. The dinner was choice and elegant, doing Honour to the genius of the provisor. Every dish was symbolical, and had its innuendo denoting either the pride or the vanity, or the poverty of poets. Directly before the Laureate, whose head was over-canopied by an umbrella of bays, lay the immense roe of a cod-fish, meant to be a figure not only of the multitude of modern bards, but also of that fecundity, by favour of which they are enabled to send out such voluminous productions. Much mirth was excited by a Parnassus of paste; it was twin-topt, and had on each summit a sprig of laurel; on its side appearing a Poet of paste, in the act of clambering; his hand was stretched out towards the laurel sprigs, and from his mouth issued a parchment scroll, containing the motto of the Society's seal, `Vos, O Lauri, Caspam.' The cloth removed, a sacrifice of nine copies of their Pastimes was offered to Apollo, every bard applying a lighted candle to the offering. The principal toasts were:—

"May our great Patron, Dear Apollo,
Ne'er find our brains so boss and hollow,
If he should knock, but rhymes may follow."

"May the Shield of Good Humour throw back on our assailants the arrows of criticism."

"The Kingdom of Fife, and may she long retain her supremacy for fun, frolic, and hospitality."

At the close was sung by Mr Fowler, one of the brotherhood, the following ode, which he had composed for the occasion:—

"Unextinguish'd spark of sky!
Spirit that can never die!
Hear, oh hear thy children's cry—
Sacred Poesy!

O'er this scene do thou preside,
Joy and pleasure at thy side;
From thy servants, hallowed guide,
Never, never fly!

Should misfortune sullen lour
On our short terrestrial hour
Still, thy silent, secret power
Sweeps the fiend away.

What is life without thy light
Cheerless gloom and sullen night!
Fancy never takes her flight
ever dreams of day!

Then thy wand, enchantress wave
Give, O give the boon we crave,
May we live beyond the grave,
Dear to memory!"

The Musomanik Society possessed a seal charged with the Scottish harp, bearing an anchor on its chords, and surrounded by a chaplet. Their diploma, conferring honorary membership on Sir Walter Scott, was couched in the following terms:—

"Be it known to all men by these presents, that whereas Apollo the Sovereign Lord of Poetry, hath, by particular predilection, singled us out from the prosaic herd of men to be the special vessels of his illumination, and, in consequence of that choice, hath, in his high benignity, shed a generative ray upon the naturally barren soil of our pericraniums, thereby rendering them exceedingly rich and prolific of odes, ballads, bouts-rimes, acrostics, pastorals, epic poems, and other rhythmical effusions. And whereas, deaming it unwise and unprofitable to dissipate the richness and fecundity of our brains in the vulgar intercourse with men, we have associated ourselves into a Musomanik Society, in order to enjoy, by reflection of one another's fire, the coruscations of our own festive minds, by that means truly tasting, with the heightened gust of self-admiration, the pleasure of our poetical existences. Further whereas, considering that gifted as we are with sharp and penetrating wisdom, we can easily discern the seal of Apollo stamped upon the forehead of Walter Scott, Esq., whereby it is evident that the Unshorn God claims him for his own ; We the vicegerent subjects of the said Apollo in Anstruther hereby Admit, Legitimate, Enfranchise and Inaugurate, the said Walter Scott into our Musomanik Society, freely bestowing upon him all its rights and privileges, and granting him liberty to rhyme and scribble in what shape, manner and degree he will, whether he be pleased to soar in the Epopee, to sink in the Son-, to puzzle in the Riddle, to astonish in the Ode, or to amuse and make merry with the Louts-rimes.--Given at the Hall of Apollo at Anstruther, &c. Wm. Tennant, Recorder."

By the author of "The Lady of the Lake" the complement of the Anstruther rhymsters was acknowledged in the following letter:—

"GENTLEMEN, I am, upon my return from the country, honoured with your letter and diploma, couched in very flattering terms, creating me a member of the Musomanik Society of Anstruther. I beg you will assure the Society of my grateful sense of the favour they have conferred upon me, and my sincere wishes that they may long enjoy the various pleasures attendant upon the hours of relaxation which they may dedicate in their corporate or individual capacity to `weel timed daffing.'—I remain, Gentlemen, your much obliged humble servant. WALTER SCOTT."

At the monthly meetings strings of rhymes were supplied by time president, to which lines were forthwith added by the members. Specimens of their poetical competitions were printed in a volume entitled "Bouts-Prime's, or Poetical Pastimes round the base of Parnassus." Of these two examples will suffice to show that the "musomaniks" considerably shared a poetic inspiration.


The Musomanik Society ceased after an active existence of about four years.

Reactionary to the rigid austerity prescribed by the societies for the reformation of manners, which arose at the time of the Union, prevailed a movement of which the promoters fostered levity and abhorred restraint. Writing under May 1726, Wodrow remarks:—

"We have sad accounts of some secret Atheisticall Clubs in or about Edinburgh. . . . I am told they had their rise from the Hell-fire Club about two or three years ago at London, the secretary of which, I am well informed, was a Scotsman, and came down not long since to Edinburgh; and I doubt not propagat their vile wickedness. He fell into melancholy.... and physitians prescribed bathing for him, and he dyed mad at the first bathing,"

'These clubs, each possessing an unhallowed name, and associated with demoralising orgies, had their real origin in the more degrading rites of a rude and pre-Christian superstition. The fires with which their observances were associated symbolized riot the spiritual Gehenna, but the sacrificial fires of Druidic worship. There were Baalic or "hell-fire" clubs in the capital and on the coast. Of a "Hell-fire" club at Edinburgh, the president was named "the Devil"; it assembled in secret haunts, and, according to Dr Robert Chambers, practised rites not more fit for seeing the light than the Elcusinian mysteries." The Sweating Club, partaking of the same character, flourished at Edinburgh about the middle of the century. In a state of intoxication, the members sallied forth at midnight, when they attacked or jostled any inoffensive citizen whom they chanced to meet.

On the west coast, at every point where prevailed a contraband trade, a hell-fire Club obtained scope and footing. Those who constituted the membership were the smugglers and their abetters, who had banded against the excise, and who kindling fires on the coast to guide the skippers in making for the shore, leapt through the burning embers, as did, the boys through the Beltane fires.

The contrabandist clubs of eastern Fifeshire culminated in a society which met at Anstruther under the designation of the Beggar's Benison.

Of this fraternity the existence may be traced to 1732, when it was instituted as a knightly order. At its origin and long afterwards, the members assembled annually in the ruin of Castle Dreel, at Anstruther, where in a small chamber designated "the temple" they enacted their mysteries. At the annual meeting, on the 30th November or "collar day," they severally bore upon their breasts a silver medal, while the chief or sovereign wore a medal pendant from a green sash.

The "temple" derived a dim light from an upper window. Towards the centre was placed a small table designated "an altar," on which were placed symbols such as those used by John Wilkes in his Order of St Francis, and which were irreverently consecrated by the monks of Isernia. At the sound of a small trumpet or breath-horn were novices severally admitted to the initiatory rite. The ceremonial was derived from the Druidic rites of Ashtoreth and those of the Roman Lupercalia. When proceedings in "the temple" had closed, festivities were conducted in the inn. There the knights were entertained with verses in the style of William Dunbar and with prose dissertations in the strain of Rabelais.

The Beggar's Benison having some years fallen into abeyance, was revived about 1764 by John M`Nachtan, who, at Anstruther held office as Collector of Customs. The Order was then described as being founded by James V., in commemoration of an incident which happened to him while travelling in disguise. In the dress of a piper he had proceeded on foot to the annual fair at Anstruther, When, finding that the Dreel burn which lie required to cross was in flood, he accepted the service of a sturdy beggar-woman, who bore him through the stream upon her shoulders, and from whom, on rewarding her with old, he received a benison or blessing. The story is fictitious.

In Ruddiman's Magazine for 1768, it is set forth "that on Wednesday the 30th November 1768, being Collar-clay of the most puissant and honourable Order of the Beggar's Benison, the Knights Companions re-elected as Sovereign, Sir John M`Nachtane, being the fourth year of his guardianship." In his Humphrey Clinker, composed in 1770, Dr Tobias Smollett has, in Mr Melford's letter to Sir Watkin Phillips, described a dinner given by the chairmen of Edinburgh to their patrons after the Leith races, and "the Beggar's Benison " is named as one of the toasts.

The Knight Companions of the Order, thirty-two in number, included Thomas Alexander Erskine, the eminent musician, afterwards sixth Earl of Kellie; Lord Newark, whose progenitor was the celebrated General David Leslie; Sir Charles Erskine, Bart., a brave officer who fell at the battle of Laffeldt in 1747; James Lumsdaine of that ilk, James Lumsdame of Stravithie, William Ayton of Hippo, and David Austruther of the old family of that name. But the most ingenious of the early members was Colonel Alexander Monypenny of Pitmilly, who was constituted laureate. To his pen has been ascribed a humorous composition, of which is preserved the following fragment:—

Colonel of the 56th Regiment, Colonel Monypenny was representative of a family which had possessed the lands of Pi to-idly from the thirteenth century ; at a very advanced age he died in December 1801, surviving after the lapse of half a century, to remark that his popular Benison ode was parodied by Burns in an Epistle to Captain Grose. The families of Dischington, Malcolm, and Don, of which the representatives are depicted in the Colonel's verses, deserve a passing notice.

Prior to 1330, William of Dischington married Elizabeth, younger sister of King Robert the Bruce. His eldest son John, a skilful architect, reared the Gothic fabric of St Monan's Church, which was cornpleted at the cost of David II., his near relation. His descendant, Sir William Dischington, obtained in 1429 the lands of Airdrie. Three members of the house, Thomas, George, and Andrew Dischington, were charged with being privy to Rizzio's murder. In 1626 Sir Thomas Dischington was one of the keepers of the royal park at Farnham. The Town-Clerkship of Crail became in the family an hereditary office. George Dischington succeeded his father as "Clerk of Crail" in 1612, and was in turn succeeded in 1708 by his son George, who was doubtless the "Clerk" of the ode.

Sir John Malcolm of the Beggar's Benison was originally a writer in Kirkcaldy ; he succeeded to the baronetcy of Lochore, and possessed the estates of Balbedic and Grange, the latter not distant from Anstrutlier. Originally distinguished by wealth and culture, the Malcolm family were latterly to be remarked for their peculiar manners. Ignorant and boastful, Sir John's eccentricities subjected him to ridicule. He died prior to 1747, and in the baronetcy was succeeded by Sir Michael Malcolm, who when he came to the family honours was a working joiner, first at Kinross, afterwards in London. Sir Michael was also celebrated in rhyme, probably by the laureate of the Benison. Thus:—

"Balbedie has a second son,
They ca,' him Michael Malcolm;
He gans about Balgonie dykes
Huntin' and hawkin';
He's stown away the bonny lass,
And kept the widow waukin'."

Alexander, described as "Sandy" Don, Colonel Monypenny's third hero, was parish schoolmaster of Crail. He was a relative of Sir James Don of Newton, and the scion of an old family which owned an estate at Doune in Perthshire. The schoolmaster of Crail was famous for his jocundity.

Among other officers, the "Beggar's Benison" engaged the services of a chaplain, who was bona fide a clergyman in orders. The diploma by which the Reverend John Nairne, minister of Anstruther, was on the 27th May 1767 constituted a knight brother and chaplain of the order, has been preserved. Representing on its engraved surface certain Isernian symbols, the diploma proceeds:—

"By the supereminently beneficent and superlatively benevolent Sovereign of the most ancient and most puissant Order of the Beggar's Denison and Merry Land I in the fourth year of his guardianship, and in that of the Order 5771. Having nothing more sincerely at heart than the happiness of our well-beloved subjects in our celebrated territories of Merry Land, and the promoting of Trade Manufactures and Agriculture in that delightful colony, and whereas we are well-informed that the Rev. John Nairne has all manner of inclination, as well as sufficient ability and other qualifications for these laudable purposes, and willing that such well-qualified and bold adventurers should have all suitable encouragement, we do therefore elect, admit and receive him, &c."

In respect of his chaplaincy, Mr Nairne was styled "Dean of the Order for the shire of Argyle and of the Western Isles." He held office till his death in 1795, when as his successor was appointed the Right Reverend David Low, D.D., Bishop of Ross, who ministered to a small congregation at Pittenweem, the adjacent burgh. Bishop Low died in 1865 at the age of eighty-seven. Several years previously he requested that in the records of the Benison his name might be expunged from the proceedings of each of the forty anniversaries in which lie had taken part. This request suggested the propriety of destroying the register. Already the order had ceased, for on the 30th November 1836 the knights met for the last time. The dissolution was agreed upon, Lord Arbuthnot only expressing his dissent. After a considerable interval, and when he had become the sole surviving member, the secretary, Mr Conolly, handed the balance of funds, amounting to 70, to certain local administrators, in order to provide prizes in reward of merit at the Anstruther schools. [To our friend Dr J. F. S. Gordon, incumbent of St Andrew's Church, Glasgow, son-in-law of the latest secretary and last surviving member, Mr M. F. Conolly, we are indebted for many of these particulars.]

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