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The Border Magazine
An Illustrated Monthly devoted to Border Biography, History, Literature and Folklore

I came across a reference to this title in an old book so did a search and found several copies of it and so am making them available for you to download and enjoy. I have read a couple of the issues in full and found much in them that was very informative and also found some significant people where a biography of them were made available.  I certainly recommend them to you as an enjoyable read.

The Border Magazine - November, 1831, Volume 1


To the projectors of the present publication, the idea of establishing in Berwick a periodical in the shape of a Magazine is not of recent occurrence. It had been long nurtured, and was only prevented from assuming a tangible form by a mixed feeling of dread and delicacy, although in many respects the circumstances were favourable and the prospects flattering. Lately, however, a fresh impulse was given to the undertaking by a combination of fortuitous events, which recalled former conceptions and reanimated former plans. In the nature of these events toe public are not interested, and besides, there is involved in their texture a story too complicated and too personal to be unfolded. With the results merely has the world to do. To the purposes proposed, attention has been already called by a preliminary paper, which, partly to preserve entire the thread of the Editors* doings, and paray to accommodate such readers as did not procure the original copy, is here republished


To contend for the utility of Periodical Publications would be like attempting to prove the truth of a self-evident proposition. While the names of Addison and Johnson are remembered, the value of such works will be duly appreciated.

The appearance of the Spectator formed a new era in the history of mind:—-previously to this, philosophy was excluded from the walks of common life, or, if she ever ventured abroad in open day-light, like the ladies of the East she was shrouded in a veil of mysticism, which served to increase rather than dispel the general ignorance. But no sooner did the Essayists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries give to the world their inimitable productions than the grand barrier between the learned and the unlearned was removed, and the “goddess divinely bright” shone forth in her native grandeur and simplicity. Wisdom issued from the prison-house of the schools, and took up her residence where formerly knowledge and virtue had been entire strangers. The tonsequence was, that toe foibles of the age were in a great measure discarded, a taste for polite literature was extensively diffused, and morality was introduced into those circles, where lately profanity and profligacy held all but supreme sway.

It would be equally unseasonable and arrogant to apply these remarks aa grounds for justifying the appearance of the present publication. The fact is undisputed, that those in the humblest situation of life can now boast of acquirements and refinement, of which even the enlightened among their forefathers possessed not the slightest information. But in an age, which has been properly denominated that of literary luxury, when almost all have enjoyed the privilege of tasting of its sweets, an effort to confer on the inhabitants of Berwick and the Border towns, with their environs, a similar and more immediate opportunity, may perhaps be pardoned in the Editors of the proposed Magazine and they thus pledge themselves, while their object is to combine instruction with amusement, that nothing shall find a place in the Border Magazine, which may tend in the smallest degree to injure the purest precepts df morality, or call the blush of ingenuous shame into the countenance of the most delicate of their readers.

The work will be published on the 15th of every month, in Numbers, Price One Shilling each, printed on a new and beautiful Type, and shall consist of Original Essays on subjects of Morals or Miscellaneous Literature, Tales, Translations from valuable productions in Foreign Languages, Reviews, &c. A proportionate space will also be devoted to Poetry in its various departments.

In opening their pages to all classes of contributors, whom their plan recognizes, the Editors declare their firm resolve to submit every article to a careful and candid examination; and at the same time that they are determined to discountenance wilful stupidity and presumption, they will exert every energy to call forth the latent spark of genius, and nurture the hidden blossomings of worth and intelligence. They are encouraged to be thus decisive in their tone— and they will assuredly act up to it—by the consideration of the high and honourable names, who, they rejoice to state, are guaranteed to lend their aid, and whose talents will adorn and dignify the successive numbers of the Border Magazine. As a redundancy of verse is anticipated, intending correspondents are respectfully recommended to prose compositions—not, however, to the entire or even fastidious neglect of the muse:—indeed, the Editors trust, that the spirit, which has been partially slumbering by the banks of the Tweed and upon the hills of Cheviot, will arouse itself, and strike with bolder hand that lyre which in olden days kindled a brightly burning flame in the breasts of the Douglases and the Percys.

In conclusion, the Editors are alive to the candour of an enlightened Public, and as they are conscious that their attempts must succeed or fall by the decision of the Public obits, they confidently hope that, if instruction and amusement form an agreeable visitor, the Border Magazine will not be an unwelcome guest.

No sooner was the above printed and circulated, than assurances of support poured in from all quarters; in a short time the list of Subscribers was respectably signed, and altogether the most sanguine expectations have been fulfilled. And now, kind readers, we shall henceforth throw aside the cold reserve and distant greeting of the third person, and assume at once, as well in the remainder of our present address as on all future occasions, the more dignified and yet familiar pronoun, which has been the prerogative of Kings and Editors from tune immemorial. If, when our young hopes outstepped the puny strength of our mental energies, when overflowing spirits and puerile temerity had nearly overbalanced the natural modesty of our mind and the reflections of a cool hour—if then the lordly pedagogue might, with a fair portion of justice on his side, have opened the floodgates of quotation, and discharged upon our blushing frontispiece, the Horatian adage,

The mountains laboured with prodigious throes,
And a small mouse ridiculous arose

or as the celebrated author of the Rambler hath it in the garb of sim-pie and classical prose—'Parturient mountains have brought forth muscicular abortions f—we say, if in an hour of boyhood's revelling we were exposed to such assault, and merited a wholesome castigation, now, we humbly think, the lash of satire will be inapplicable, and ridicule may spare her shafts. We advance to the duties that lie before us in full confidence, relying as much on the strength of our domestic troops steeled and marshalled for “the war of words," as on the valuable co-operation of numerous veteran literati, whom we are proud to number amongst our allies. Nor are we insensible to the undisguised and gushing sympathies of many a heart, that in a silent and emphatic language of its own, bids our labours speed, teeming with kindly wishes and friendly aspirations for our success. To speak of enemies were premature:—ana yet we would not shrink from the contemplation of human nature in its most forbidding aspect—we would not "lay the flattering unction to our soul," that the world is purified to the entire exclusion of the baser Wnetals, and we remain unsatisfied, that the melancholy proposition—'Envy withers al another's joy*— has ever been confuted. Let none suppose, however, we are disturbed : the best of men have had their foes to meet and crosses to encounter; and he has yet to see the light of day, who shall succeed in alluring us from our self-complacency, or in betraying us from our extreme good-nature. Nay, in verity—we are

............. 'not altogether of each clay
As rota into the souls of those whom we survey.’

Dismissing, however, the distinction betwixt friends and enemies—at all times an ungracious task, and particularly so under existing circumstances—we beg to observe to the many-headed public, that we entertain a wish somewhat analogous to the famous one of a certain tyrant, who wished the necks of all mankind were conjoined, that he might satiate his blood-thirsty despotism at a Mow: with a wish comprehensive as his—though by no means allied to it in character — and as a proof of our consummate benignity, we do most faithfully revere, that if the sweet persons of our present and future readers could by any singular involution be embodied in one comely, discreet, and manageable corporation, we should clasp the substantial reality in our Editorial arms, and confer upon the strange flaw nature aims artie, a sincere and cordial embrace, not unworthy of Christopher North, Esquire, himself.

But, excellent friends and gentle patrons, it were ungenerous to trifle longer with your feelings, nor will we disguise from you, that we suspect what thoughts do now naturally occupy the uppermost place in your minds. No doubt, the question is continually presenting itself in ideal form and striving for utterance, if possibly it may be answered—'Who are the Editors?’—Now, since we neither wish to prolong your anxiety, nor mean to deny to curiosity its reasonable gratification, and since secrecy in matters of Editorship has been voted unfashionable, we shall straightway make you acquainted with the names, characteristics and respective duties of those who are at the head of affairs.

First, then, we would recommend to Your regards our Preses, Speaker, or Chairman—Nathaniel Nestor, Gent—who has been raised to the aforesaid exalted and responsible station by the unanimous suffrages of his colleagues.

Many things concurred to plead for this gentleman, and secure his appointment to the chief place in the councils of the Border Magazine. Furnished by nature with a large measure of common sense—a desideratum, by the by, in many a self-important and busy official of our day—and endowed with intellectual powers of no mean order, he traversed the curriculum of a University education with an ardour and success seldom paralleled. During that time, the whole of which was spent without any fixed profession in view, and solely from a love of literature and the sciences, besides performing the mere tasks imposed on the academical ewes, he borrowed from his hours of rest and relaxation, and made such progress in the paths of classical criticism and belles lettres, as to leave his compeers far behind. Forming one in a select circle of kindred spirits—youths who acted from the same motives, and owned the same enthusiasm—painful was the hour that called him from his friends and ordered him to other climes and other company. The period of parting was deeply felt on both sides, but go he must; assurances of continued amity, promises of correspondence, and heartfelt benedictions were exchanged—then Nat. Nestor bade adieu to early objects of attachment and his native mountains. The sequel proved the event to be for good. From being pent up within a circumscribed space, and chained to an unvarying train of thought and feeling, whence prejudices were apt to spring, he was conducted to the broad amphitheatre of the world, and soon breathed more liberal sentiments. Men and things were substituted for books; and, therefore, instead of gaining his knowledge at second hand, and from often polluted channels, he drew it now from pure streams and from prime sources. Thus five years’ travel taught him humanity. Subsequently, his intercourse with former associates—whom, on his return, be found treading with firmer step the track of life which each had selected for himself, but never forgetful of by-gone days and yttrauite—has been uninterrupted. Half a century of winterŪ, in conjunctian with severe study, has had the effect of robbing him to a coy&. adorable extent of a glossy and luxuriant crop of hair, with which nature had furnished him, and of displaying a forehead indicative of intelligence, and strongly corroborative of the craniological theory. The demise of a relative placed an estate by no means contemptible at his disposal: happily for the present undertaking, the majestic Tweed flowed past the comfortable inheritance, and induced the new owner of the domain to keep Nestor House in his own hands as the chosen spot of his retreat. Business has frequently brought him to the "Town and County by itself," where in future he purposes to fix his winter quarters; and where also a quantum suffice of his. suninen will be spent for the discharge of the duties on which he has entered. He may be distinguished from the crowds that resort to the health-invigorating promenades—the Pier, the New Road, the Magdalen fields, and the Ramparts—by a broad-brimmed hat, black dress, large silver shoe-buckles, and a gold-headed cane. He possesses, moreover, a serious and rather sombre countenance, a steady gait o' is militaire, and he is a bachelor. Thus partially described, he will be recognized without difficulty. His province is very extensive, ini eunuch as his authority can allow or forbid the insertion of any article, even though contrary to the opinions of his co-operators. This, indeed, is not likely to happen frequently, since all of them are remarkable for a sound and discriminating judgment, and dace the mind of the President himself is always open to conviction.

The next personage, who takes his seat on the immediate right of the chairman, is Dr. Ploddem, a retired physician and an antiquary. His small piercing eyes and sharp nose, a solitary tuft at the top of his cranium, which serves as a set-off to a thinly-planted margin of capillary teguments, terminating at either temple, and especially a finger or two profusely adorned with specimens of the antique, abundantly bespeak the nature of his researches. At present, he is busied in collecting' information of many ancient buildings, which once were the pride of Berwick, and of which not a vestige remains. His labours promise to be crowned with success, and will, ere long, be handed over to the printer.

The sober manners and grave visages of the Preses and the Doctor are strongly contrasted with the blazing and good-humoured counte-mnce, and the boisterous deportment of Lieutenant Siroc—a peramal representation of a hurricane. The Lieutenant has seen real service sett off a joke, but then, he indulges on occasions^ too liberally, an art of which he is perfect master, and hence, in thd embellishments of his tales, he is prone to violate the laws of probability. According to his own account, he has been nineteen times mortally wounded!—notwithstanding the satisfactory evidence to the contrary; and the adventures of Baron Munchausen are trifles compared with the wonders he himself has seen, and the deeds he has performed. Still he enjoys intervals of a calm and prosaic existence, and consequently though

...'little of this great world can he apeak.
More than pertains to feats of broils and battles'—

he is tolerably well fitted for his ofime, to-wit, the superintendence of stories of sailors, soldiers, and smugglers,—

'Of moving accidents by flood and Add;
Of hair-breadth escapes i* the imminent deadly breach;

* * * * *

......of antres vast, and deserts wild.
Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads teach heaven.'

Opposite the virtuoso, and operating as a light to relieve the shadow of the Doctor, shines not the least important personage amongst the dramatu penom—Mader Mattkw Cmtrtlps or abbreviated, Beow Courtly. This model of a modern gentleman, and living advertisement of oils and perfumes, gentility and manners, fashion and varieties—invariably subscribes himself jtfaater in preference to which, he contends, is a common-place and tradesman-like cognomen— and prides himself on the off-hand appellation of Beau bestowed by his familiars, which he reckons a merited eulogium on his taste, talents and accomplishments. He boasts a thorough knowledge of the poetic art, from tne puff-impudent of blacking-manufacturers, up to the lofty epic and heroic line, and keeps constantly in view a rather high standard, by which he purposes to guide his decision on all rhythmical contributions transmitted to 46, High Street. To do the Beau justice, and to conciliate towards him the objects whom, above all else, he is anxious to please—the fair sex in geperal, we must not fail to notify, that, in the course of an hour, he can indite a dozen sonnets adapted to the numerous shades and shapes of ladies’ eyebrows, and that his earnest expostulations and entreaties succeeded in gaining a place for a monthly register of births, marriages and deaths. His reading has been extensive—so much so, that he has the whole library of British Poets at command, and his tongue is eternally distilling some honied sweets gathered from the flower-gardens of the Muse.

The last member of the literary conclave obtains and deserves the most profound regard by reason of his amiable manners, gentle disposition and sterling excellence. Intended by his friends for the clerical profession, Mr. Placid completed, agreeably to their wishes, the course of study prescribed by the ecclesiastical courts of the Scottish Church. But further he did not venture, except so far as he attempted a solitary pulpit exhibition, which effectually deterred him from again appearing before a congregation. Extreme modesty and delicate health rendered the embarrassment of his debut in that capacity so exquisitely painful and distressing, that he could never, muster courage or strength for a second experiment. Fortunately for him, he enjoys a competency of this world’s goods through a private channel, a portion of which is dedicated to the cause of charity to an extent by no means commensurate with the benevolence of his heart. When he opens his mouth to deliver his sentiments, which are valuable in proportion to their rarity and appropriateness, every whisper is hushed, and not a syllable escapes the ear of his audience; —even the hardy and obstreperous veteran compresses his lips into the expression of a mute and respectful listener, and the tagpmrgai Courtly looks serious.

The aforesaid characters, having thus made their introductory bow by proxy, felicitate themselves on*the prospect of a more intimate acquaintance with each other and with the public:--------We had nearly forgotten to record an essential prop of the concern, being neither better nor worse than James, otherwise Jemmy Dabble, who officiates in the combined and complicate ensemble of errand-boy, porter, et caetera, at a salary of Five Shillings per week, exclusive of worn-out garments, victuals to the content of a stomach which seems insatiable, and many additional perquisites. He will not permit us, depend on’t, to neglect the insertion of his services along with those who feed him.

We question, if our readers will here rest satisfied, since a thousand particulars remain explanatory of the origin, rise, and probable consummation of the Magazine. We shall, therefore, without ceremony, introduce them to...

Download Volume 1 in pdf format here

The volumes which I was able to find are...

Volume 1
Volume 2

Volume 3
Volume 5
Volume 6
Volume 7
Volume 8

Volume 9
Volume 10
Volume 11
Volume 12

Volume 13

From Volume 3...

Thomas Gray of Earlston
By Robert Anderson, Edinburgh

FOURTEEN years have sped since this remarkable man and grand old Borderer passed away, and no record of him has appeared other than a few short paragraphs in local newspapers at the time of his death.

He was the very kind of man Robert Burns would have been delighted to have made a companion and comrade; but he only came on the stage two and a-half years after the poet’s death. He, however, appears to have been nursed in Border
poetry and ballad lore, and grew up a thorough representative of the famous Thomas of Ercildoune, whose poetry he admired, and whose memory he fondly worshipped. Had the late Dr. John Brown chanced to have met him and become acquainted with him, the genial author of "Rab and his Friends,” might have left a literary portrait of him, which would have been a fit companion to the matchless sketch of his “Uncle Johnston” in his exquisite letter to Dr. Cairns. The two men had a great deal in common, though, in many respects, they were very unlike.

Robert Johnston spent almost the whole of his long life in the remote little town of Biggar in the upper ward of Lanarkshire, and, although a humble shopkeeper, “he not only intermeddled fearlessly with all knowledge but mastered more than many practised, and University men do in their own lines.”

His minister, John Brown, D.D., father of "Rab", used to say with deep feeling, "that one thing put him always on his mettle, the knowledge that yonder in that corner, under the gallery, sat, Sabbath after Sabbath, a man who knew his Greek Testament better than I did.”

Thomas Gray was born in the Border town of Earlston, and never left it unless to go on his regular rounds with his pack and his fiddle, to dispose of his “ginghams" the quality of which was proverbial, and concerning which he could have honestly said, “I counsel thee to buy of me.” He was born early in the year 1794, and died from the result of an accident while on a visit to friends in 1884, at the age of ninety. With only the early education which the parish school of the day afforded, he managed by diligent application to cultivate his intellect to such an extent that he became in his own neighbourhood and far remote, famous for his learning and intimate knowledge of the leaders in literature. He possessed upwards of 2,000 books—many of them standard works, scarce bibles, dictionaries and commentaries—and not only possessed them but he knew and had mastered the contents of most of them. It is interesting to know that the sale of this library after his death brought many "bidders" from distant parts of the country, and some boasted that they had got prizes they had been unable to find elsewhere.

It was his great delight to rattle off screeds from his favourite authors. Indeed it may be freely asserted that he was more familiar with the great Puritan divines, such as Howe, Flavel, Charnock, Bunyan and Samuel Rutherford, than most of the clergy of his day, and nothing gave him greater pleasure than to meet a kindred spirit who could patiently listen to him, or give him in exchange other “bits” from his favourite or other like authors.

He was one of the last survivors of a race of gingham manufacturers—famous in their day— and his chosen part of the business was to traverse the country distributing his wares. For three score years and ten he travelled over the three Lothians, as well as the counties on both sides of the Border, from the Cheviots well up into Liddesdale. During his later years, however, he confined himself chiefly to Berwickshire and East Lothian.

Most of these journeys he made on foot, though, as railway facilities offered, and as declining years advanced, he took a lift in the train as he felt disposed. It may be safely affirmed that during his long lifetime he walked many thousands of miles; for it was to places to which no hired conveyance reached that many of his pilgrimages extended.

“A Pedlar of many Excursions,” quite equal to Wordsworth’s in intensity and quaint variety of character, he rather resented the name of rackman; for, as he said, it was only to customers he delivered previously ordered goods. He pressed none to buy, assured that the ginghams would recommend themselves, and so they did; for many a frugal housewife has been known to wear for long years as her best gown his exquisite stuffs, and after that make them down to her daughters.

But it was not only clothing for the body he carried; his capacious pockets used to hold at least two or three favourite volumes on which he might be seen poring while resting by the way; and many an odd book did he pick from the old stalls in Edinburgh that he judged would be appreciated by some young inquiring mind far removed from the chance of purchasing them; for it was a perfect joy to him to direct an inquiring spirit into the paths of pleasantness and peace, or give strength and solace to the weary traveller far advanced in the journey of life.

It was not only to the humble cottage or the shepherd’s shieling far up in the hills where he was a welcome visitor and honoured guest. He had also access to the halls of the noble, and many “a lady of high degree” did not think it beneath her to purchase a dress piece from the old worthy, and to get in return his blessing and a tune on his fiddle.

This instrument he invariably carried about with him, his pack on his back, and it slung in front; and his appearance never failed to excite interest in those chosen haunts in which his long experience made him feel most at home. When playing the favourite Scotch tunes, of which he was passionately fond, the tears were often seen running down his cheeks, and he had been heard to say that he would rather live on brose with his music, than be a nobleman with all his luxury without it.

The decadence of Scottish song was to him a matter of deep lamentation. With all his heart he re-echoed the appeal of Robert Ferguson:—

“O Scotland! that could yince afford
To bang the pith of Roman sword,
Winna your sons, in joint accord,
To battle speed,
And fight till music be restor’d,
Which now lies dead?"

A glance at his portrait shows the delicate and sensitive fingers so well fitted to bring out the tender strains from his loved instrument; and no father ever fondled his infant son more tenderly than did the old bachelor his treasured fiddle.

He was admitted into terms of intimacy and friendship with many gentleman farmers, such as the late Douglas Murray of Longyester, a man of highly cultivated tastes, and possessing a library and collection of paintings—including three or four of Sam Bough’s at his best—which means a nobleman might have amused. Mr Murray welcomed Thomas to his house, and many a time they sat on to the small hours of the morning, holding high converse with each other.

One who knew him well says, "His communings with Nature in his solitary wanderings had brought him into sympathy with the dumb animals of God’s creation, and nothing so let loose the fire of his wrath as to see or hear of any cruelty to them; then his small twinkling eyes would be set in a fierce glare, and he would denounce the wrong doers with hot indignation.”

The writer of this short and imperfect sketch will never forget the happy hours he spent with the old man. He was wont to give expression to his feelings of admiration, on a favourite piece being recalled to him by saying with true pathos and deep feeling, “Eh, man, isna that graund.”

Once he had the pleasure of introducing to him—and spending the evening with both—the late Miss Jeanie Watson, the author of “Bygone Days in our Village”; and it was something to hear the old veteran describing scenes and places he had visited, and telling of “old times changed, old manners gone.” It was astonishing the alertness and vivacity he still possessed in his old age. His friends used to tell him—what he was quite convinced of himself—that he would break down in some of his rounds; but the wandering spirit was too strong in him to permit him resting at home, where domestic ties he had none; and so he was on the road to the last. It is sad to think that his end was hastened by accident at last; for while staying with friends in Eyemouth, he had in passing from one house to another, missed his way in the darkness and stepped over the pier into the harbour, and, though rescued at once, the shock had been too much for the old man, and he passed away — not far from his beloved Borderland —within twenty-four hours after. Peace be to his memory. He was one who could say and sing with Burns:

“For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Our toil’s obscure, an’ a’ that;
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp,
The man’s the gowd for a’ that.

What tho’ on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin gray, an’ a’ that,
Gie fools their silks, an’ knaves their wine,
A man’s a man for a’ that.
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that,
The honest man, though e’er sae poor,
Is king o’ men for a’ that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a’ that,
That sense an’ worth, o’er a’ the earth
May bear the gree, an’ a’ that ;
For af that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet, for a’ that,
That man to man, the warld o’er
Shall brothers be lor a’ that.”



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