THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN - VOLUME 1.
THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN - VOLUME 1.
SIR WALTER SCOTT
THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN
By Walter Scott
TALES OF MY LANDLORD
COLLECTED AND ARRANGED
BY JEDEDIAH CLEISHBOTHAM
SCHOOLMASTER AND PARISH CLERK OF GANDERCLEUGH.
THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN.
Hear Land o' Cakes and brither Scots
Frae Maidenkirk to Johnny Groat's
If there's a hole in a' your coats
I rede ye tent it;
A chiel's amang you takin' notes
An' faith he'll prent it!
THE HEART OF MID-LOTHIAN.
SCOTT began to work on "The Heart of Mid-Lothian" almost before he had
completed "Rob Roy." On Nov. 10 1817 he writes to Archibald Constable
announcing that the negotiations for the sale of the story to Messrs.
Longman have fallen through their firm declining to relieve the
Ballantynes of their worthless "stock." "So you have the staff in your
own hands and as you are on the spot can manage it your own way.
Depend on it that barring unforeseen illness or death these will be the
best volumes which have appeared. I pique myself on the first tale which
is called 'The Heart of Mid-Lothian.'" Sir Walter had thought of adding a
romance "The Regalia" on the Scotch royal insignia which had been
rediscovered in the Castle of Edinburgh. This story he never wrote. Mr.
Cadell was greatly pleased at ousting the Longmans--"they have themselves
to blame for the want of the Tales and may grumble as they choose: we
have Taggy by the tail and if we have influence to keep the best author
of the day we ought to do it."--[Archibald Constable iii. 104.]
Though contemplated and arranged for "The Heart of Mid-Lothian" was not
actually taken in hand till shortly after Jan. 15 1818 when Cadell
writes that the tracts and pamphlets on the affair of Porteous are to be
collected for Scott. "The author was in great glee . . . he says that he
feels very strong with what he has now in hand." But there was much
anxiety concerning Scott's health. "I do not at all like this illness of
Scott's" said James Ballantyne to Hogg. "I have eften seen him look
jaded of late and am afraid it is serious." "Hand your tongue or I'll
gar you measure your length on the pavement" replied Hogg. "You fause
down-hearted loon that ye are you daur to speak as if Scott were on his
death-bed! It cannot be it must not be! I will not suffer you to speak
that gait." Scott himself complains to Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe of
"these damned spasms. The merchant Abudah's hag was a henwife to them
when they give me a real night of it."
"The Heart of Mid-Lothian" in spite of the author's malady was
published in June 1818. As to its reception and the criticism which it
received Lockhart has left nothing to be gleaned. Contrary to his
custom he has published but without the writer's name a letter from
Lady Louisa Stuart which really exhausts what criticism can find to say
about the new novel. "I have not only read it myself" says Lady Louisa
"but am in a house where everybody is tearing it out of each other's
hands and talking of nothing else." She preferred it to all but
"Waverley" and congratulates him on having made "the perfectly good
character the most interesting. . . . Had this very story been conducted
by a common hand Effie would have attracted all our concern and
sympathy Jeanie only cold approbation. Whereas Jeanie without youth
beauty genius warns passions or any other novel-perfection is here
our object from beginning to end." Lady Louisa with her usual frankness
finds the Edinburgh lawyers tedious in the introduction and thinks that
Mr. Saddletree "will not entertain English readers." The conclusion
"flags"; "but the chief fault I have to find relates to the reappearance
and shocking fate of the boy. I hear on all sides 'Oh I do not like
that!' I cannot say what I would have had instead but I do not like it
either; it is a lame huddled conclusion. I know you so well in it
by-the-by! You grow tired yourself want to get rid of the story and
hardly care how." Lady Lousia adds that Sir George Staunton would never
have hazarded himself in the streets of Edinburgh. "The end of poor Madge
Wildfire is most pathetic. The meeting at Muschat's Cairn tremendous.
Dumbiedikes and Rory Beau are delightful. . . . I dare swear many of your
readers never heard of the Duke of Argyle before." She ends: "If I had
known nothing and the whole world had told me the contrary I should
have found you out in that one parenthesis 'for the man was mortal and
had been a schoolmaster.'"
Lady Louisa omits a character who was probably as essential to Scott's
scheme as any--Douce Davie Deans the old Cameronian. He had almost been
annoyed by the criticism of his Covenanters in "Old Mortality" "the
heavy artillery out of the Christian Instructor or some such obscure
field work" and was determined to "tickle off" another. There are signs
of a war between literary Cavaliers and literary Covenanters at this
time after the discharge of Dr. McCrie's "heavy artillery." Charles
Kirkpatrick Sharpe was presented by Surtees of Mainsforth with a
manuscript of Kirkton's unprinted "History of the Church of Scotland."
This he set forth to edite with the determination not to "let the Whig
dogs have the best of it." Every Covenanting scandal and absurdity such
as the old story of Mess David Williamson--"Dainty Davie"--and his
remarkable prowess and presence of mind at Cherrytrees was raked up
and inserted in notes to Kirkton. Scott was Sharpe's ally in this
enterprise. "I had in the persons of my forbears a full share you see
of religious persecution . . . for all my greatgrandfathers were under
the ban and I think there were hardly two of them out of jail at once."
"I think it would be most scandalous to let the godly carry it oft thus."
"It" seems to have been the editing of Kirkton. "It is very odd the
volume of Wodrow containing the memoir of Russell concerning the murder
is positively vanished from the library" (the Advocates' Library).
"Neither book nor receipt is to be found: surely they have stolen it in
the fear of the Lord." The truth seems to have been that Cavaliers and
Covenanters were racing for the manuscripts wherein they found smooth
stones of the brook to pelt their opponents withal. Soon after Scott
writes: "It was not without exertion and trouble that I this day detected
Russell's manuscript (the account of the murder of Sharpe by one of the
murderers) also Kirkton and one or two others which Mr. McCrie had
removed from their place in the library and deposited in a snug and
secret corner." The Covenanters had made a raid on the ammunition of the
Cavaliers. "I have given" adds Sir Walter "an infernal row on the
subject of hiding books in this manner." Sharpe replies that the
"villainous biographer of John Knox" (Dr. McCrie) "that canting rogue"
is about to edite Kirkton. Sharpe therefore advertised his own edition at
once and edited Kirkton by forced marches as it were. Scott reviewed the
book in the Quarterly (Jan. 1818). He remarked that Sharpe "had not
escaped the censure of these industrious literary gentlemen of opposite
principles who have suffered a work always relied upon as one of their
chief authorities to lie dormant for a hundred and forty years." Their
"querulous outcries" (probably from the field-work of the Christian
Instructor) he disregards. Among the passions of this literary "bicker"
which Scott allowed to amuse him was Davie Deans conceived. Scott was
not going to be driven by querulous outcries off the Covenanting field
where he erected another trophy. This time he was more friendly to the
"True Blue Presbyterians." His Scotch patriotism was one of his most
earnest feelings the Covenanters at worst were essentially Scotch and
he introduced a new Cameronian with all the sterling honesty the
Puritanism the impracticable ideas of the Covenant in contact with
changed times and compelled to compromise.
He possessed a curious pamphlet Haldane's "Active Testimony of the true
blue Presbyterians" (12mo 1749). It is a most impartial work
"containing a declaration and testimony against the late unjust invasion
of Scotland by Charles Pretended Prince of Wales and William Pretended
Duke of Cumberland." Everything and everybody not Covenanted the House
of Stuart the House of Brunswick the House of Hapsburg Papists
Prelatists and Turks are cursed up hill and down dale by these worthy
survivors of the Auld Leaven. Everybody except the authors Haldane and
Leslie "has broken the everlasting Covenant." The very Confession of
Westminster is arraigned for its laxity. "The whole Civil and Judicial
Law of God" as given to the Jews (except the ritual polygamy divorce
slavery and so forth) is to be maintained in the law of Scotland. Sins
are acknowledged and since the Covenant every political step--
Cromwell's Protectorate the Restoration the Revolution the accession
of the "Dukes of Hanover"--has been a sin. A Court of Elders is to be
established to put in execution the Law of Moses. All offenders against
the Kirk are to be "capitally punished." Stage plays are to be suppressed
by the successors of the famous convention at Lanark Anno 1682.
Toleration of all religions is "sinful" and "contrary to the word of
God." Charles Edward and the Duke of Cumberland are cursed. "Also we
reckon it a great vice in Charles his foolish Pity and Lenity in
sparing these profane blasphemous Redcoats that Providence delivered
into his hand when by putting them to death this poor land might have
been eased of the heavy burden of these vermin of Hell." The Auld Leaven
swore terribly in Scotland. The atrocious cruelties of Cumberland after
Culloden are stated with much frankness and power. The German soldiers
are said to have carried off "a vast deal of Spoil and Plunder into
Germany" and the Redcoats had Plays and Diversions (cricket probably)
on the Inch of Perth on a Sabbath. "The Hellish Pagan Juggler plays
are set up and frequented with more impudence and audacity than ever."
Only the Jews "our elder Brethren" are exempted from the curses of
Haldane and Leslie who promise to recover for them the Holy Land. "The
Massacre in Edinburgh" in 1736 by wicked Porteous calls for vengeance
upon the authors and abettors thereof. The army and navy are "the most
wicked and flagitious in the Universe." In fact the True Blue Testimony
is very active indeed and could be delivered thanks to hellish
Toleration with perfect safety by Leslie and Haldane. The candour of
their eloquence assuredly proves that Davie Deans is not overdrawn;
indeed he is much less truculent than those who actually were testifying
even after his decease.
In "The Heart of Mid-Lothian" Scott set himself to draw his own people at
their best. He had a heroine to his hand in Helen Walker "a character so
distinguished for her undaunted love of virtue" who unlike Jeanie
Deans "lived and died in poverty if not want." In 1831 he erected a
pillar over her grave in the old Covenanting stronghold of Irongray. The
Respect the Grave of Poverty
When combined with Love of Truth
And Dear Affection.
The sweetness the courage the spirit the integrity of Jeanie Deans
have made her of all Scott's characters the dearest to her countrymen
and the name of Jeanie was given to many children in pious memory of the
blameless heroine. The foil to her in the person of Effie is not less
admirable. Among Scott's qualities was one rare among modern authors: he
had an affectionate toleration for his characters. If we compare Effie
with Hetty in "Adam Bede" this charming and genial quality of Scott's
becomes especially striking. Hetty and Dinah are in very much the same
situation and condition as Effie and Jeanie Deans. But Hetty is a
frivolous little animal in whom vanity and silliness do duty for
passion: she has no heart: she is only a butterfly broken on the wheel of
the world. Doubtless there are such women in plenty yet we feel that her
creator persecutes her and has a kind of spite against her. This was
impossible to Scott. Effie has heart sincerity passion loyalty
despite her flightiness and her readiness when her chance comes to
play the fine lady. It was distasteful to Scott to create a character not
human and sympathetic on one side or another. Thus his robber "of milder
mood" on Jeanie's journey to England is comparatively a good fellow
and the scoundrel Ratcliffe is not a scoundrel utterly. "'To make a Lang
tale short I canna undertake the job. It gangs against my conscience.'
'Your conscience Rat?' said Sharpitlaw with a sneer which the reader
will probably think very natural upon the occasion. 'Ou ay sir'
answered Ratcliffe calmly 'just my conscience; a body has a conscience
though it may be ill wunnin at it. I think mine's as weel out o' the gate
as maist folk's are; and yet it's just like the noop of my elbow it
whiles gets a bit dirl on a corner.'" Scott insists on leaving his worst
people in possession of something likeable just as he cannot dismiss
even Captain Craigengelt without assuring us that Bucklaw made a
provision for his necessities. This is certainly a more humane way of
writing fiction than that to which we are accustomed in an age of
humanitarianism. Nor does Scott's art suffer from his kindliness and
Effie in prison with a heart to be broken is not less pathetic than the
heartless Hetty in the same condemnation.
As to her lover Robertson or Sir George Staunton he certainly verges
on the melodramatic. Perhaps we know too much about the real George
Robertson who was no heir to a title in disguise but merely a "stabler
in Bristol" accused "at the instance of Duncan Forbes Esq. of Culloden
his Majesty's advocate for the crimes of Stouthrieff Housebreaking and
Robbery." Robertson "kept an inn in Bristo at Edinburgh where the
Newcastle carrier commonly did put up" and is believed to have been a
married man. It is not very clear that the novel gains much by the
elevation of the Bristo innkeeper to a baronetcy except in so far as
Effie's appearance in the character of a great lady is entertaining and
characteristic and Jeanie's conquest of her own envy is exemplary. The
change in social rank calls for the tragic conclusion about which almost
every reader agrees with the criticism of Lady Louisa Stuart and her
friends. Thus the novel "filled more pages" than Mr. Jedediah
Cleishbotham had "opined" and hence comes a languor which does not beset
the story of "Old Mortality." Scott's own love of adventure and of
stirring incidents at any cost is an excellent quality in a novelist but
it does in this instance cause him somewhat to dilute those immortal
studies of Scotch character which are the strength of his genius.
The reader feels a lack of reality in the conclusion the fatal encounter
of the father and the lost son an incident as old as the legend of
Odysseus. But this is more than atoned for by the admirable part of Madge
Wildfire flitting like a /feu follet/ up and down among the douce
Scotch and the dour rioters. Madge Wildfire is no repetition of Meg
Merrilies though both are unrestrained natural things rebels against
the settled life musical voices out of the past singing forgotten songs
of nameless minstrels. Nowhere but in Shakspeare can we find such a
distraught woman as Madge Wildfire so near akin to nature and to the
moods of "the bonny lady Moon." Only he who created Ophelia could have
conceived or rivalled the scene where Madge accompanies the hunters of
Staunton on the moonlit hill and sings her warnings to the fugitive.
When the glede's in the blue cloud
The lavrock lies still;
When the hound's in the green-wood
The hind keeps the hill.
There's a bloodhound ranging Tinwald wood
There's harness glancing sheen;
There's a maiden sits on Tinwald brae
And she sings loud between.
O sleep ye sound Sir James she said
When ye suld rise and ride?
There's twenty men wi' bow and blade
Are seeking where ye hide.
The madness of Madge Wildfire has its parallel in the wildness of
Goethe's Marguerite both of them lamenting the lost child which to
Madge's fancy is now dead now living in a dream. But the gloom that
hangs about Muschat's Cairn the ghastly vision of "crying up Ailie
Muschat and she and I will hae a grand bouking-washing and bleach our
claise in the beams of the bonny Lady Moon" have a terror beyond the
German and are unexcelled by Webster or by Ford. "But the moon and the
dew and the night-wind they are just like a caller kail-blade laid on
my brow; and whiles I think the moon just shines on purpose to pleasure
me when naebody sees her but mysell." Scott did not deal much in the
facile pathos of the death-bed but that of Madge Wildfire has a grace of
poetry and her latest song is the sweetest and wildest of his lyrics
the most appropriate in its setting. When we think of the contrasts to
her--the honest dull good-nature of Dumbiedikes; the common-sense and
humour of Mrs. Saddletree; the pragmatic pedantry of her husband; the
Highland pride courage and absurdity of the Captain of Knockdander--
when we consider all these so various and perfect creations we need not
wonder that Scott was "in high glee" over "The Heart of Mid-Lothian"
"felt himself very strong" and thought that these would be "the best
volumes that have appeared." The difficulty as usual is to understand
how in all this strength he permitted himself to be so careless over
what is really by far the easiest part of the novelist's task--the
construction. But so it was; about "The Monastery" he said "it was
written with as much care as the rest that is with no care at all."
His genius flowed free in its own unconscious abundance: where conscious
deliberate workmanship was needed "the forthright craftsman's hand"
there alone he was lax and irresponsible. In Shakspeare's case we can
often account for similar incongruities by the constraint of the old plot
which he was using; but Scott was making his own plots or letting them
make themselves. "I never could lay down a plan or having laid it down
I never could adhere to it; the action of composition always diluted some
passages and abridged or omitted others; and personages were rendered
important or insignificant not according to their agency in the original
conception of the plan but according to the success or otherwise with
which I was able to bring them out. I only tried to make that which I was
actually writing diverting and interesting leaving the rest to fate. . .
When I chain my mind to ideas which are purely imaginative--for argument
is a different thing--it seems to me that the sun leaves the landscape
that I think away the whole vivacity and spirit of my original
conception and that the results are cold tame and spiritless."
In fact Sir Walter was like the Magician who can raise spirits that
once raised dominate him. Probably this must ever be the case when an
author's characters are not puppets but real creations. They then have a
will and a way of their own; a free-will which their creator cannot
predetermine and correct. Something like this appears to have been
Scott's own theory of his lack of constructive power. No one was so
assured of its absence no one criticised it more severely than he did
himself. The Edinburgh Review about this time counselled the "Author of
Waverley" to attempt a drama doubting only his powers of compression.
Possibly work at a drama might have been of advantage to the genius of
Scott. He was unskilled in selection and rejection which the drama
especially demands. But he detested the idea of writing for actors whom
he regarded as ignorant dull and conceited. "I shall not fine and renew
a lease of popularity upon the theatre. To write for low ill-informed
and conceited actors whom you must please for your success is
necessarily at their mercy I cannot away with" he wrote to Southey.
"Avowedly I will never write for the stage; if I do 'call me horse'"
he remarks to Terry. He wanted "neither the profit nor the shame of it."
"I do not think that the character of the audience in London is such that
one could have the least pleasure in pleasing them." He liked helping
Terry to "Terryfy" "The Heart of Mid-Lothian" and his other novels but
he had no more desire than a senator of Rome would have had to see his
name become famous by the Theatre. This confirmed repulsion in one so
learned in the dramatic poets is a curious trait in Scott's character.
He could not accommodate his genius to the needs of the stage and that
crown which has most potently allured most men of genius he would have
thrust away had it been offered to him with none of Caesar's
reluctance. At the bottom of all this lay probably the secret conviction
that his genius was his master that it must take him where it would on
paths where he was compelled to follow. Terse and concentrated of set
purpose he could not be. A notable instance of this inability occurs in
the Introductory Chapter to "The Heart of Mid-Lothian" which has
probably frightened away many modern readers. The Advocate and the Writer
to the Signet and the poor Client are persons quite uncalled for and
their little adventure at Gandercleugh is unreal. Oddly enough part of
their conversation is absolutely in the manner of Dickens.
"'I think' said I . . . 'the metropolitan county may in that case be
said to have a sad heart.'
"'Right as my glove Mr. Pattieson' added Mr. Hardie; 'and a close
heart and a hard heart--Keep it up Jack.'
"'And a wicked heart and a poor heart' answered Halkit doing his best.
"'And yet it may be called in some sort a strong heart and a high
heart' rejoined the advocate. 'You see I can put you both out of
Fortunately we have no more of this easy writing which makes such very
The narrative of the Porteous mob as given by the novelist is not it
seems entirely accurate. Like most artists Sir Walter took the liberty
of "composing" his picture. In his "Illustrations of the Author of
Waverley" (1825) Mr. Robert Chambers records the changes in facts made by
Scott. In the first place Wilson did not attack his guard and enable
Robertson to escape after the sermon but as soon as the criminals took
their seats in the pew. When fleeing out Robertson tripped over "the
plate" set on a stand to receive alms and oblations whereby he hurt
himself and was seen to stagger and fall in running down the stairs
leading to the Cowgate. Mr. McQueen Minister of the New Kirk was coming
up the stairs. He conceived it to be his duty to set Robertson on his
feet again "and covered his retreat as much as possible from the pursuit
of the guard." Robertson ran up the Horse Wynd out at Potter Row Port
got into the King's Park and headed for the village of Duddingston
beside the loch on the south-east of Arthur's Seat. He fainted after
jumping a dyke but was picked up and given some refreshment. He lay in
hiding till he could escape to Holland.
The conspiracy to hang Porteous did not in fact develop in a few hours
after his failure to appear on the scaffold. The Queen's pardon (or a
reprieve) reached Edinburgh on Thursday Sept. 2; the Riot occurred on
the night of Sept. 7. The council had been informed that lynching was
intended thirty-six hours before the fatal evening but pronounced the
reports to be "caddies' clatters." Their negligence of course must have
increased the indignation of the Queen. The riot according to a very old
man consulted by Mr. Chambers was headed by two butchers named
Cumming "tall strong and exceedingly handsome men who dressed in
women's clothes as a disguise." The rope was tossed out of a window in a
"small wares shop" by a woman who received a piece of gold in exchange.
This extravagance is one of the very few points which suggest that people
of some wealth may have been concerned in the affair. Tradition
according to Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe believed in noble leaders of the
riot. It is certain that several witnesses of good birth and position
testified very strongly against Porteous at his trial.
According to Hogg Scott's "fame was now so firmly established that he
cared not a fig for the opinion of his literary friends beforehand." He
was pleased however by the notice of "Ivanhoe" "The Heart of Mid-
Lothian" and "The Bride of Lammermoor" in the Edinburgh Review of 1820
as he showed by quoting part of its remarks. The Reviewer frankly
observed "that when we began with one of these works we were conscious
that we never knew how to leave off. The Porteous mob is rather heavily
described and the whole part of George Robertson or Staunton is
extravagant and displeasing. The final catastrophe is needlessly
improbable and startling." The critic felt that he must be critical but
his praise of Effie and Jeanie Deans obviously comes from his heart.
Jeanie's character "is superior to anything we can recollect in the
history of invention . . . a remarkable triumph over the greatest of all
difficulties in the conduct of a fictitious narrative." The critique ends
with "an earnest wish that the Author would try his hand in the lore of
Shakspeare"; but wiser than the woers of Penelope Scott refused to make
that perilous adventure.
An essay by Mr. George Ormond based on manuscripts in the Edinburgh
Record office (Scottish Review July 1892) adds little to what is known
about the Porteous Riot. It is said that Porteous was let down alive and
hanged again more than once that his arm was broken by a Lochaber axe
and that a torch was applied to the foot from which the shoe had fallen.
A pamphlet of 1787 says that Robertson became a spy on smugglers in
Holland returned to London procured a pardon through the Butcher
Cumberland and "at last died in misery in London." It is plain that
Colonel Moyle might have rescued Porteous but he was naturally cautious
about entering the city gates without a written warrant from the civil
TO THE BEST OF PATRONS
A PLEASED AND INDULGENT READER
WISHES HEALTH AND INCREASE AND CONTENTMENT.