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Bonnie Scotland

The Whig country included Galloway, that rough southwestern corner that stretches its Mull towards Ireland in what Boece calls "ane great snout of crags." The whole promontory formed by the stewartry of Kirkcudbright and the county of Wigtown, once known as Upper and Lower Galloway, and then taking in parts of Ayr and Dumfries, seems to concentrate many of the qualities of Scotland, Land und Leute. This northern Cornwall lent itself of old as a scene for dark romance, whose combats glitter here and there through deepest mists of history. Its Attacott people, Picts or what not, mixed with Scots from Ireland and Gaels from who knows where, run to dark hair and the tallest forms of Britain, perhaps even of Europe, while their character is a blend of especially perfervid spirit. Though this corner was the first foothold of Christianity on the mainland, it long remained notable for untamed fierceness, like that of the northern mountain cats. So near England, it came to glow with a patriotism more fervent than its loyalty; and some of the doughtiest exploits of Wallace and Bruce were done upon its borders, not always indeed with the help of the Galwegians. Mr. S. R. Crockett, who in a generation too forgetful of Guy Mannering has come forward to give Galloway its fair share of fame, tells us how most of its gentry, as well as its long-limbed and hot-hearted peasants, threw themselves into the Covenant struggle, their "Praying Societies" throughout making camps of resistance and protest against the persecutors; and in quieter times the same enthusiasm has flared up into will-o'-the-wisp fanaticism bred among the moss hags. Later on, as we know from Scott, the wild coasts of Galloway reared a daring breed of smugglers to testify for what they called "fair trade" with the Isle of Man. That trans-atlanticised firebrand, Paul Jones, hailed from Galloway, to which he came back to threaten the mouth of his native Dee.

Whatever this people's hand finds to do, it has been apt to do it with might and main. What it chiefly finds to do in our day is the rearing of cattle, that seem to thrive best on the promontories of our island ; then also Galloway has given its name to a hardy horseflesh, and pigs, too, are largely reared in this region. Such an authority as the author of Field and Fern judges no beef better than that which matches the brawn of Galloway men. And these tall fellows have the name of living to a good old age, as witness the Galloway story of a man of threescore and ten found "greeting" when his father had given him "his licks" for throwing stones at his grandfather.

By this time the reader must have an inkling how the names Highland and Lowland are but relative. The knobbed area of Scotland, which, as a native boasted, would be as big as England "if ye flattened it oot," consists mainly of two uplands, that of the south smaller, greener, and less boldly mountainous, between which dips a more thickly peopled interval, at one point but forty miles broad from sea to sea, where only the rich river straths and the coast plains are right lowlands, never out of sight of sheep-dotted hills. Galloway is mainly a wild region of rocks, lochs, moors, and bogs, in the north rising to mountains almost as high as any in England. This ground seems too much neglected by tourists, who yet might find here and there smart hotels to their mind, oftener the more old-fashioned inns where they would have to do not with managers and foreign waiters, but with housewifely Meg Dods and decent servant lasses, now instructed by the spread of knowledge no longer to mistake a tooth-brush as an instrument for sharpening the appetite before dinner. We Scots have a grudge against southrons for the degree to which they have sophisticated the hotels on more frequented routes, especially in the matter of charges. The butterfly-travellers as well as the bee-travellers should have a grievance against their landlords (Limited) not so much for making hay while the holiday sun shines, as for the tyranny that tries to impose upon them boarding-house regulations at Piccadilly prices. My grudge at those exotic caravanserais is that they try to set all their guests "feeding like one," and draw out the chief meal of the day through that sweetest hour of the northern summer—

'Twixt the gloaming and the mirk,
When the kye come hame.

A Birch-Wood in Springtime, by Loch Maree, Ross-Shire
A Birch-Wood in Springtime, by Loch Maree, Ross-Shire

This grumble and others one need not make in Galloway, where strangers not too pock-puddingish about being "done well," would find a hearty welcome and openings for exploring a country sacred through memories of patriots and martyrs, dotted with ruined shrines and with strongholds of Douglases, Kennedys, Gordons, who in their lifetime loved better to hear the lark sing than the mouse squeak. From Newton-Stewart, not yet wide awake to its capabilities as a tourist centre, one has half a day's walk northwards into the heart of the Galloway Highlands, where Merrick raises its heathery Pente-dactylon above the lovely Glen and Loch of Trool, one of the fastnesses of Bruce's Wanderjahre. Another goal in these hills is Murray's Monument, commemorating one of Scotland's gifted herd-loons, who with homely schooling raised himself to be Doctor of Divinity and Professor of Oriental Languages. Three heights in Galloway bear the name of Cairnsmore, the highest Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, approached from the town of New Galloway by Loch Ken, Kenmure Castle, and the beautiful Glenkens. Passing beyond Carsphairn to Dalmellington, we can strike by rail into the native country of Burns, who at the Galloway spa of Lochenbreck wrote down his "Scots wha hae," meetly composed by him, it is said, on a wild ride through a stormy night.

The chief town of Galloway is Stranraer, port of the shortest sea-crossing to Belfast, by Loch Ryan ; but the nearest point to Ireland is Portpatrick, where that saint could step across the Channel long before so much money had been sunk on an abandoned harbour. The lion of Portpatrick is the glen and ruin of Dunskey; as that of Stranraer the grounds of Castle Kennedy, nursing exotics that attest the mildness of this, western shore. The Irish express trains dash also past the beauties of Glenluce and its ruins haunted by legends of Michael Scott the Wizard, of Peden the Covenanting prophet, and of that hapless Bride of Lammermoor, whose story seems to have been distorted as well as transplanted to the other side of the country. Luce Bay separates the Mull of Galloway from a broader promontory in which the lochs of Mochrum are perhaps the finest nook. Its southern point is the green "Isle" of Whithorn, where Scottish Christianity was planted by St. Ninian; and still stand fragments of the famous monastery sought by James of the Iron Belt, and many another penitential pilgrim. On the same branch line from Newton-Stewart, Wigtown rears above its bay a monument of that shamefullest tragedy of the Covenanting persecutions, when two women martyrs were fastened to stakes to be drowned by the tide. At the mouth of the Cree is Creetown, "Portanferry" of Guy Mannering, from which can be visited caves fit to shelter Dirck Hatteraick, and the ruins of Barholm, that claims to be "Ellangowan," and to have given concealment to John Knox. Gatehouse of Fleet is a picturesque place in the district illustrated by the Faed brothers' pictures, and sanctified by the preaching of Samuel Rutherford. Farther east, on its inlet, is reached the county town Kirkcudbright, church of St. Cuthbert, who would hardly know his own name as now pronounced Kirkoobry. Here we have an interesting museum of Galloway antiquities; and a few miles off is Dundrennan Abbey, poor Mary's last resting place in her troubled kingdom, whence she gave herself to the mercy of Elizabeth after her flight from Langside. The Kirkcudbright branch takes us back to the main line at Castle Douglas, near which stands the grim tower of a stronghold whose lords were once a terror to their own country, while over the Border English nurses would hush babes to rest with—

Hush ye, hush ye, dinna fret ye:
The Black Douglas shall na' get ye!

Like too many other noble Scottish names, this one has sadly degenerated, its last exploit to be proud of ending in the catastrophe that cut short Lord Francis Douglas's life on the first ascent of the Matterhorn; and his brother, the late Marquis of Queensberry, made some stir in the world, least unenviably perhaps by the Queens-berry rules of boxing. Several members of the family have in modern days come to an obscurely tragic end, as if urged by the Nemesis of forgotten bloodshed. Their chief title, the Dukedom of Queensberry, had passed to the house of Buccleuch, along with the princely seat of Drumlanrig in Nithsdale.

The oldest bridge in Scotland leads over the Nith to the largest town of the southern counties, out of Galloway in the letter, but not in the spirit. Dumfries, originally the fastness of Frisian pirates whose stock would "go far," is set among famous sites and relics. In the Church of its Greyfriars, Bruce stabbed the Red Comyn, a deed "made siccar" by an ancestor of the Empress of the French. Near the town are the remains of Lincluden Abbey, "ruins yet beauteous in decay." To the south, on the Galloway side of the estuary, Criffel's cone rises above the walls of Sweetheart Abbey, built by John Baliol's widow as tomb in which her husband's heart should lie upon her own. On the opposite side stands another stately ruin, Caerlaverock Castle, where in the churchyard lies "Old Mortality," as "Jeanie Deans" rests at Irongray. To the north is Lochmaben, the castle, perhaps the birthplace, of Robert Bruce. But the name that first rises to memory in this Nithsdale countryside is Robert Burns, tenant of Ellisland under that Dalswinton laird for whom is claimed the honour of the earliest steamboat experiments. Bruce, possibly born at Turnberry Castle on the Carrick coast, may have been an Ayrshire man like Burns, who came to end his broken life at Dumfries, now counting itself honoured by the sepulchre of one who thus wrote his own epitaph—

The poor inhabitant below
Was quick to learn and wise to know,
And keenly felt the friendly glow,
And softer flame;
But thoughtless follies laid him low,
And stained his name.

Scotland's heart warms to the memory of Robbie Burns, over whose sayings and doings in lifetime big wigs about Dumfries were shaken and grave eyes upturned. As if in repentance for his hard life and troubled death, his countrymen will now hear no word against the poet, who could be severe enough on his own frailities. And if mortal ever deserved kindly judgment, it was he whose heart went out not only to his Jeans and Annies, but to his "auld mare Maggie," to a hare wounded by

On the River Ayr, Ayrshire
On the River Ayr, Ayrshire

"barb'rous art," to dumb cattle left out in a storm, even to such a "poor earth-companion and fellow-mortal" as a field-mouse; he who would not willingly have crushed with his ploughshare a "wee, modest, crimson-tippit flower"; who had no hatred for the very enemy of mankind—"Wad ye take a thought and mend!" It is vain to deny or conceal that "he had twa faults, or maybe three," but fate indeed gave him hard measure. Had his sphere been a higher one, he would not have been the man he was; yet with a little ease, with wise friends to counsel "prudent, cautious self-control," with Pitt's port or even Byron's hock and soda-water instead of tippenny and usquebaugh among spell-bound tavern cronies, might he not have lived to draw as good an income from the Civil Service as Wordsworth, to become a douce elder of the Kirk, and to take a seat among the orthodox bon vivants of the Nodes? As it is, his humble birthplace draws more pilgrims than come to Stratford-on-Avon from all over the world, for—

Who his human heart has laid
To Nature's bosom nearer?
Who sweetened toil like him, or paid
To love a tribute dearer?

Through all his tuneful art, how strong
The human feeling gushes!
The very moonlight of his song
Is warm with smiles and blushes!

This singer of the people's joys and sorrows represents the soft side to a strong nature. From the scene of his last days it is but a step to Annandale, cradle of a neighbour genius that is Scotland's boast rather than her darling. Thomas Carlyle, who ascended into such a clear heaven of contempt for the "mostly fools" of his "swindler century," fell short of Burns in one highest point of wisdom. He knew himself hardly better than did his amazed contemporaries ; and seems never to have guessed what short work some of his admired strong men would have made of one who preached the gospel of silence in such long-drawn screeds of rhetoric, rising often to a falsetto note. An unchristianised Calvinist and Covenanter; a poet "wanting the accomplishment of verse"; a painter in "hues of earthquake and eclipse"; a philosopher who "thought in a passion"; a Stoic who could not abide the crowing of a cock; an historian who "saw history in flashes of lightning"; a reformer "calling down fire from heaven whenever he cannot readily lay his hand on the match-box"; a painful preacher who has ministered more amusement than repentance; a prophet who could not recognise the master force of his own age; a ferocious moralist and a bitter humorist, this "great imperfect man" owes much of his renown to a gnarled eccentricity which at first scared away readers, but more to the ardour that has inspired so many minds rejecting both his premises and his conclusions. To some who receive Sartor Resartus into the canon of immortality, his idolatry of strength, so natural to the sedentary, bilious student, seems the weakness of his character, through which he was led to work up bloodshot halos for unscrupulous violence, from his fancy picture of Dr. Francia to his fond glorification of Frederick the Great, till at last he appears struggling to pervert his own moral judgment. A countryman of his who, but for another weakness, might have made himself better known, Patrick Proctor Alexander, has well exposed his obliquity of vision in a burlesque that shows as much wisdom as fooling; and to my mind the soundest judgment of Carlyle comes across the Atlantic from James Russell Lowell:—

"If not a profound thinker, he had what was next best: he felt profoundly, and his cry came out of the depths. The stern Calvinism of his early training was rekindled by his imagination to the old fervour of Wishart and Brown, and became a new phenomenon as he reproduced it subtilised by German transcendentalism and German culture. Imagination, if it lays hold of a Scotsman, possesses him in the old demoniac sense of the word, and that hard logical nature, if the Hebrew fire once gets fair headway in it, burns unquenchable as an anthracite coal-mine. But to utilise these sacred heats, to employ them, as a literary man is always tempted, to keep the domestic pot a-boiling—is such a thing possible? Only too possible, we fear; and Mr. Carlyle is an example of it. If the languid public long for a sensation, the excitement of making one becomes also a necessity of the successful author, as the intellectual nerves grow duller and the old inspiration that came unbidden to the bare garret grows shyer and shyer of the comfortable parlour. As he himself said thirty years ago of Edward Irving, 'Unconsciously, for the most part in deep unconsciousness, there was now the impossibility to live neglected—to walk on the quiet paths where alone it is well with us. Singularity must henceforth succeed singularity. O foulest Circean draught, thou poison of Popular Applause! madness is in thee and death; thy end is Bedlam and the grave.' Mr. Carlyle won his first successes as a kind of preacher in print. His fervour, his oddity of manner, his pugnacious paradox, drew the crowd; the truth, or, at any rate, the faith that underlay them all, brought also the fitter audience, though fewer. But the curse was upon him; he must attract, he must astonish. Thenceforth he has done nothing but revamp his telling things; but the oddity has become always odder, the paradoxes more paradoxical. No very large share of truth falls to the apprehension of any one man; let him keep it sacred, and beware of repeating it till it turn to falsehood on his lips by becoming ritual."

After all Carlyle was not wholly a typical Scotsman. His stock seems to have come from Cumberland, and his birthplace, not far from the Border, is one of Scotland's less bonnie airts. He was very Lowlandish, indeed, in some features: in his perfervidness, in his intolerance, in the coarseness of mental grain that chuckles over abusive nicknames, and in volcanic stirrings of sympathy that enabled him to appreciate Burns. He was above all himself, Der Einzige, as he proclaimed others, a most portentous and vigorous force in literature, that has been transmuted into different modes of intellectual motion. Whatever rank this coruscating star may eventually take in the firmament of fame, its spectrum is not that of Scotland. At the best, he represents but one side of his country's nature, as appears in his grudging and belittling view of Scott, who more fully unites the chequered elements of the national character.

In a generation much blinded by literary superstitions and idolatries, Scotsmen should faithfully testify to Scott as the truest genius of their country. With him for guide, we entered his beloved Borderland; he has seldom been far from us as we passed through its scenes and monuments, and still on the rhinns of Galloway and in the dales of Dumfries, his shade attends us; nor does it wholly vanish as we cross the Solway viaduct into "Happy England," pronounced by a recent American writer, after his lights, "a section more beautiful perhaps to the eye," forsooth, than Bonnie Scotland, but "certainly not one which appeals more forcibly to the imagination." Burns did something, Carlyle almost nothing, towards fusing angry memories of the past into one national sentiment. To the spells of that Wizard of the North we chiefly owe it that now "Highland and Lowland, all our hearts are Scotch!" as a romancer of our own time exclaims, who elsewhere recalls Stewart of Garth's story how, when a Highland regiment landed at Portpatrick after long exile, the kilted veterans flung themselves down to kiss the ground of Galloway, so far from their native heath.


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