Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character
Edward Bannerman Ramsay
Part 2 out of 8
I beg also to thank you for the flattering and acceptable
_testimonial_ you have bestowed on myself.--Your most
respectful and grateful friend,
CLEMENTINA STIRLING GRAHAM.
Rev. Dr. HANNA to DEAN RAMSAY.
16 Magdala Crescent, 11th January 1872.
Dear Dean Ramsay--I have been touched exceedingly by your
kindness in sending me a copy of the twentieth edition of the
It was a happy thought of Mr. Douglas to present it to the
public in such a handsome form--the one in which it will take
its place in every good library in the country.
I am especially delighted with the last twenty pages of this
edition. Very few had such a right to speak about the strange
commotion created by the act of the two English Bishops, and
the manner in which they tried to lay the storm, and still
fewer could have done it with such effect.
One fruit of your work is sure to abide. As long as Scotland
lasts, _your_ name will "be associated with gentle and happy
_Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character_."
Mrs. Hanna joins me in affectionate regard.--With highest
respect and esteem, I ever am, yours very truly,
DEAN RAMSAY to Rev. Dr. L. ALEXANDER.
23 Ainslie Place, Edinburgh.
January 29, 1872.
My clear Dr. Alexander--Since I had the pleasure of your most
agreeable visit, and its accompanying conversation, I have
been very unwell and hardly left the house. You mentioned the
reference made by Dean Stanley (?) to the story of the
semi-idiot boy and his receiving the communion with such
heart-felt reality. I forgot to mention that, summer before
last, two American gentlemen were announced, who talked very
pleasantly before I found who they were--one a Baptist
minister at Boston, and the other a professor in a college. I
did not know why they had called at all until the minister
_let on_ that he did not like to be in Edinburgh without
waiting upon the author of _Reminiscences_, as the book had
much interested him in Scottish life, language and character,
before he had been a visitor on the Scottish shores. "But
chiefly," he added, "I wished to tell you that the day before
I sailed I preached in a large store to above two thousand
people; that from your book I had to them brought forward the
anecdote of the simpleton lad's deep feeling in seeing the
'_pretty man_' in the communion, and of his being found dead
next morning." To which he added, in strong American tones,
"I pledge _myself_ to you, sir, there was not a dry eye in
the whole assembly."
It is a feature of modern times how anecdotes, sayings,
expressions, etc., pass amongst the human race. I have
received from Sir Thomas Biddulph an expression of the
Queen's pleasure at finding pure _Scottish_ anecdotes have
been so popular in England. How fond she is of
Scotland!--With much esteem, I am very truly yours,
The Dean was an enthusiastic admirer of Dr. Chalmers, and on the evening
of March 4, 1849, he read a memoir of the life and labours of Chalmers
at a meeting of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. That memoir, although it
had been to a great extent anticipated by Rev. Dr. Hanna's fine and
copious memoir of his father-in-law, was printed in the Society
Transactions, and afterwards went through several editions when issued
in a separate volume.
LORD MEDWTN to DEAN RAMSAY.
Ainslie Place, Thursday morning
My dear Mr. Ramsay--I beg to thank you most truly for your
very acceptable gift so kindly sent to me yesterday evening.
I had heard with the greatest satisfaction of the admirable
sketch you had read to the Royal Society of the public
character of the latest of our Scottish worthies--a very
remarkable man in many respects; one whose name must ever
stand in the foremost rank of Christian philanthropists; all
whose great and various talents and acquirements being
devoted with untiring energy to the one great object--the
temporal and eternal benefit of mankind. What I also greatly
admired about him was that all the great adulation he met
with never affected his simple-mindedness; his humility was
remarkable. There was the same absence of conceit or
assumption of any kind which also greatly distinguished his
great cotemporary, our friend Walter Scott; in truth, both
were too far elevated above other men to seek any
adventitious distinction. I wish our country could show more
men like Chalmers to hold up to imitation, or if too exalted
to be imitated, yet still to be proud of; and that they were
fortunate enough to have admirers such as you, capable of
recording their worth in an _eloge_, such as the public has
the satisfaction of receiving at your hands. Again I beg to
thank you for your kind remembrance of me on the present
occasion.--Believe me, my dear Sir, yours very truly,
Dr. CANDLISH to DEAN RAMSAY.
4 S. Charlotte Street, Tuesday, 6th March.
My dear Sir--I cannot deny myself the pleasure of expressing
to you the deep interest and delight with which I listened to
your discourse last night, so worthy, in every view, of the
subject, the occasion, and the audience. And while I thank
you most sincerely for so cordial and genial a tribute to the
memory of the greatest of modern Scotsmen, I venture to
express my hope that we may be favoured with an earlier and
wider publication of it than the Transactions of the Royal
Society will afford.--Pray excuse this intrusion, and believe
me, yours very truly,
ROB. S. CANDLISH.
I will indulge myself only with one phrase from the Dean's
memoir of Dr. Chalmers:--"Chalmers's greatest delight was to
contrive plans and schemes for raising degraded human nature
in the scale of moral living. The favourite object of his
contemplation was human nature attaining the highest
perfection of which it is capable, and especially as that
perfection was manifested in saintly individuals, in
characters of great acquirements, adorned with the graces of
Christian piety. His greatest sorrow was to contemplate
masses of mankind hopelessly bound to vice and misery by
chains of passion, ignorance, and prejudice. As no one more
firmly believed in the power of Christianity to regenerate a
fallen race, as faith and experience both conspired to assure
him that the only effectual deliverance for the sinful and
degraded was to be wrought by Christian education, and by the
active agency of Christian instruction penetrating into the
haunts of vice and the abodes of misery, these acquisitions
he strove to secure for all his beloved countrymen; for these
he laboured, and for these he was willing to spend and to
That high yet just character not only shows Dean Ramsay's
appreciation of Chalmers, but seems to show that he had
already set him up as the model which he himself was to
follow. At any rate, he attempted to stir up the public mind
to give some worthy testimonial to the greatest of modern
Scotsmen. A few letters connected with this subject I have
put together. I did not think it necessary to collect more,
since the object has been attained under difficulties of time
and distance which might have quelled a less enthusiastic
admirer. It is pleasant to notice the general consent with
which we agree that no one else was so fitted to recommend
the Chalmers memorial as Dean Ramsay.
It was to do honour to my own little book that I ventured,
without asking leave, to print the few lines which follow,
from the great French writer, the high minister of State, the
patron of historical letters for half-a-century in France,
the Protestant Guizot.
M. GUIZOT to the DEAN.
Paris, ce 7 Fevrier 1870,
10 Rue Billault.
Sir--Je m'associerai avec un vrai et serieux plaisir a
l'erection d'une statue en l'honneur du Dr. Chalmers. Il n'y
a point de theologien ni de moraliste Chretien a qui je porte
une plus haute estime. Sur quelques unes des grandes
questions qu' il a traitees, je ne partage pas ses opinions;
mais j'honore et j'admire l'elevation, la vigueur de sa
pense, et la beaute morale de son genie. Je vous prie,
Monsieur, de me compter parmi les hommes qui se feliciteront
de pouvoir lui rendre un solennel hommage, et je vous
remercie d'avoir pense a moi dans ce dessein.
Recevez l'assurance de mes sentiments les plus distingues.
Mr. E.B. Ramsay, Dean, etc., 23 Ainslie Place, Edinburgh,
Some of Mr. Gladstone's letters, already printed, show that they were
not the beginning of the correspondence between him and the Dean. The
accident which made them acquainted will be mentioned afterwards
Right Hon. W.E. GLADSTONE to DEAN RAMSAY.
Hawarden Castle, Chester,
Jan. 3, 1870.
My dear Dean Ramsay--I send you my rather shabby contribution
of L10 to the Chalmers' Memorial. I wish it were more, but I
am rather specially pressed at this time; and I think I
refused Robert Bruce altogether not long ago.
I quite understand the feeling of the Scotch aristocracy,
but I should have thought Lothian would be apart from, as
well as above it.
But the number of subscriptions is the main thing, and very
many they ought to be if Scotland is Scotland still. He was
one of Nature's nobles. It is impossible even to dream that a
base or unworthy thought ever found harbour for a moment
in his mind.
Is it not extraordinary to see this rain of Bishoprics upon
_my_ head? Nor (I think) is it over; the next twelvemonth
(wherever I may be at the end of it) will, I think, probably
produce three more.
Bishop Temple is a fine fellow, and I hope all will now go
well. For Manchester (this is secret) I hope to have Mr.
Fraser of Clifton--a very notable man, in the first rank of
knowledge and experience on the question of education. Many
pressed him for Salisbury.
I can truly say that every Bishop who has been appointed has
been chosen simply as the best man to be had.
Ah! when will you spend that month here, which I shall never
cease to long for?--Ever affectionately yours,
Rev. Dr. CANDLISH to DEAN RAMSAY.
52 Melville Street, 7th Dec. 1870.
Dear Dean Ramsay--I should have acknowledged yours of the 1st
sooner. I cannot say that I regret the conclusion to which
you have come, though. I would have done my best to help on
the larger movement.... I very willingly acquiesce in the
wisdom of your resolution to accept the position, for it is
one which you may well accept with satisfaction and
thankfulness. You have accomplished what I doubt if any other
man could have even ventured to propose, at so late a period
after Dr. Chalmers' death. It will be a historical fact, made
palpable to succeeding ages, that you have wiped off a
discredit from Scotland's church and nation, by securing a
suitable memorial of one of her most distinguished sons, in
the most conspicuous position the Metropolis could assign to
it. It will be for us of the Free Church to recognise in our
archives the high compliment paid to our illustrious leader
and chief in the great movement of the Disruption by one of
other ecclesiastical convictions and leanings. But we must
always do that under the feeling that it is not in that
character that you know Chalmers; but in the far broader
aspect in which you have so happily celebrated him as a
Christian philanthropist, a patriot, and a divine.
I conclude with earnest congratulations on the complete
success, as I regard it, of your generous proposal; and I am
yours very truly,
ROB. S. CANDLISH.
Rev. Dr. DUFF to DEAN RAMSAY.
The Grange, 29th June.
Very Rev. and dear Sir--Many thanks for your kind note with
From my sad experience in such matters, I am not at all
surprised at the meagre number of replies to your
When I first learnt from the newspaper of the meeting held in
your house, and of Dr. Guthrie's proposal, I had a strong
impression that the latter was on far too extensive a
scale--but remained silent, being only anxious, in a quiet
way, to do what I could in promoting the general design.
Having had much to do during the last forty years with the
raising of funds for all manner of objects, in different
lands, I have come to know something of men's tempers and
dispositions in such cases, and under peculiar circumstances
and conditions. I therefore never expected the L20,000 scheme
to succeed; unless, indeed, it were headed by a dozen or so
at L1000, or at least L500 each--a liberality not to be
expected for such an object at this time of day.
Your present plan, therefore, I think a wise one--viz., to
constitute yourselves into "a statue committee," for the
successful carrying out of your own original and very
practicable design,--handing over any surplus funds which may
remain to any other committee or body willing to prosecute
the larger professorship or lectureship scheme.--I remain,
very Rev. and dear Sir, yours very sincerely,
I am indebted for the following letters to the Rev. Dr. Lindsay
Alexander. If I wrote only for Scotsmen, it would be unnecessary to
speak of Dr. Alexander as holding a place which he seems to me, ignorant
as I am of Church disputes, to owe to his own high personal merit, and
the independence which makes him free to think and to write as scarcely
any clergyman fettered with the supposed claims of sect or denomination
feels himself at liberty to do. As our Dean got older we find him
drawing more kindly to those whose Christianity was shown in other guise
than in sectarian precision with some spice of persecution.
23 Ainslie Place, Feb. 28, 1866.
I have found, as others have, the "Biblical Commentary" a
very useful companion in sermon-writing. It gives you the
Scripture parallel passages bodily, and saves the trouble of
turning backwards and forwards to find the marginal
references and to examine their relevancy. The work is
published by Bagster, and he generally, I believe, gets his
work pretty well done, and, so far as I can judge, it is
judiciously selected, generally at least.
Now, dear Dr. Alexander, if you would accept of the copy of
this work which I have sent, and accept it from me, and if it
should prove a useful companion in your homiletical labours,
I should feel much gratified. Perhaps it may be a remembrance
amongst your books, when years have passed away, of one in
his grave who had a sincere regard for you, and who now signs
himself, yours very faithfully,
23 Ainslie Place, Jan. 11, 1866.
My dear Dr. Alexander--You will not suppose me to be an
advocate for the donkeyism of vestment ritual. But I wish you
not to have unfavourable impressions as regard _our_ concern
with such matters. We have a canon declaratory on vestments,
asserting the ordinary surplice, gown, hood, and stole. It is
stupidly worded, but the meaning is obvious. I was vexed from
your experience to hear of such foolish proceedings at Bridge
of Allan, contrary to canon and to common sense.... The
_green_ part of the dress which caused your wonder, naturally
enough, is not a freak of new vestments, but is a foolish way
which the Glenalmond students have adopted of wearing the
_hood_, which our Bishops (not without diversity of opinion)
had granted for those who had been educated at our College.
It is a hood lined with _green_ (Scottish thistle colour),
and they have a way of wearing it in a manner which brings
the coloured part in front. Pray, pray, don't think of
answering this; it is merely to correct an unfavourable
impression in one whose favourable opinion I much desiderate.
I cannot tell you the pleasure I had in your visit on
Tuesday.--With sincere regard, yours always, E.B. RAMSAY.
23 Ainslie Place, June 8, 1866.
Dear Dr. Alexander--I forgot to mention a circumstance
connected with my story of to-day. I have had a communicant
thereanent with Dr. Robert Lee. The good Dr., although fond
of introducing Episcopalian practices, which cause great
indignation amongst some of his brethren, does not wish it to
be understood that he has the least tendency to become an
Episcopalian himself. In short, he hinted to me himself that
were such an idea to become prevalent it would materially
weaken his influence with many followers. "It is to improve
my own church, not to join yours," were his words, or to that
effect. In carrying out this idea he has a hit in his
"Reformation of the Church of Scotland" against
Episcopalians, and in the first edition he brings up Dean
Ramsay and the unfortunate statement he had made, as a
melancholy proof how hopeless were even the most specious of
the Scottish Episcopal Church on the subject of toleration. I
told him that so far as that statement went it proved
nothing, that it had been wrung from me in an unguarded
moment, and that I had for fourteen years borne unequivocal
testimony to views which were opposite to that statement. He
received the explanation most kindly, and offered to do
anything I wished, but we both at length agreed that the best
plan would be simply to omit it in the second edition, which
was preparing and has since come out. It was omitted.
I am, dear Dr. Alexander, with true regard, ever yours most
sincerely, E.B. RAMSAY.
23 Ainslie Place, August 26, 1867.
Dear Dr. Alexander--I have lately returned to Edinburgh,
having paid a visit to my own country on Deeside. On Saturday
I drove down to Musselburgh, and had an express object in
calling upon you to ask how you were. But I found I had been
wrong directed to Pinkie Burn, and that to accomplish my
visit, I must have made a _detour_ which would have detained
me too long. I had an engagement waiting me, and I found my
strength pretty well exhausted. I wish, however, to notify my
_intention_ of a visit. I have had a very severe illness
since we met, and have not regained my former position, and
do not think I ever shall. I was very, very close upon the
gate we must all pass, and I believe a few hours longer of
the fever's continuance would have closed the scene. I don't
think I dread to meet death. I have so largely experienced
the goodness of God through (now) a long life, and I feel so
deeply, and I trust so humbly, the power of his grace and
mercy in Christ, that, I can calmly contemplate the approach
of the last hour. But I confess I do shrink from encountering
an undefined period of bodily and mental imbecility; of being
helpless, useless, a burden. I have been so distressed to see
all this come upon our bishop, Dr. Terrot; the once clear,
acute, _sharp_, and ready man. Oh, it is to my mind the most
terrible affliction of our poor nature. I have known lately
an unusual number of such cases before me, and I hope I am
not unreasonably apprehensive as to what may come. I hope
your family all are well, and that you are fully up to your
work in all its forms.--I am, believe me, with much regard,
very sincerely yours, E.B. RAMSAY.
My dear Dr. Alexander--I feel deeply obliged by your kind
gift to Bishop Whipple. His simple heart will be gratified
much. I am so vexed at having mislaid two letters from him. I
should have liked you to see and to know the bishop by seeing
and reading them. They are _models_ of simple, loving,
Christian feeling. He went to Minnesota as to a new rough
state just added to the United States. He took five
clergymen. He has now above thirty and a college (for which
he asked the books). He is beloved by all, and loves all. The
Red Indians worship him. He is so considerate of them. They
suffer from bad teeth, and on some occasions he has drawn 150
teeth before a prayer-meeting in the woods, from Indians who
were suffering pain....
I will take care Bishop Whipple shall know of your goodness.
I am so vexed I can't find his letters.
23 Ainslie Place, Edinburgh,
November 26, 1871.
Dear Dr. Alexander--You will be sorry to hear that my
brother, Sir William, is _very_ ill. This morning we had
given up all idea of his rallying, but since that he has
shown symptoms of a more favourable character. His state is
still a very precarious one, and I fear much we must make up
our minds to lose him. God's will be done! We are sure he is
prepared for his change. He has long been a sincere believer
in the great work and offices of the Lord Jesus, and he has
followed up his profession of belief by liberal and judicious
expenditure on benevolent objects.
I have heard of your being in London at the Revision, and you
may probably be there now. But when you return to Edinburgh,
the Admiral would be most glad to see you when able to call
in Ainslie Place. Sir William is three years younger than I,
but he has had a more trying life. His death (should such be
God's will) must be a great blank for me. But for me it
cannot be a long one.--Hoping you are well, I am, with much
regard, most sincerely yours, E.B. RAMSAY.
Very soon after the date of this letter Admiral William Ramsay died, who
had lived with his brother the Dean in the most affectionate friendship
for many years. Their duties and interests were identical. William
Ramsay was known as the promoter of every scheme of benevolence in
Right Hon. W.E. GLADSTONE to DEAN RAMSAY.
Hawarden, December 7, 1871.
My dear Dean Ramsay--It is with much grief that we have seen
the announcement of the heavy loss you have sustained in the
death of your brother. It was a beautiful union, which is now
for the time dissolved. One has been taken, and the other
left. The stronger frame has been broken, the weaker one
still abides the buffetings of the sea of life. And I feel a
very strong conviction, even at this sad moment, and with
your advancing age, that the balance of your mind and
character will remain unshaken through your habitual and
entire acceptance of the will of God. I write then only to
express my sincere regard for the dead, strong sympathy with
the living. Such as it is, and knowing it to be pure, I offer
it; would it were more worthy, and would that I, let me
rather say--for my wife enters into all these feelings--that
we were able in any way at this especial time to minister to
I fear the stroke must have come rather suddenly, but no
dispensation could, I think, in the sense really dangerous,
be sudden to you.
Accept, my dear Dean, our affectionate wishes, and be assured
we enter into the many prayers which will ascend on your
behalf. Your devoted niece will sorely feel this, but it will
be to her a new incentive in the performance of those loving
duties to which she has so willingly devoted her heart and
mind.--Believe me always your affectionate friend, W.E.
Rev. D.T.K. DRUMMOND to DEAN RAMSAY.
My dear Friend--I did not like to intrude on you in the very
freshness of your home sorrow. But you know how much I loved
and respected your brother, and how truly and heartily I
sympathise with you. There were few in Edinburgh so much
beloved as Sir William, and it will be long indeed ere the
memory of his goodness shall pass away. Such men in the
quiet, private, and unassuming walk, are often much more
missed and more extensively lamented than men who have been
more in the eye of the public, and during their life have had
much of public observation and favour. It is trying for us
who are far on in the pilgrimage to see one and another of
our brothers and sisters pass away before us. I have seen
_ten_ go before me, and am the only one left; and yet it
seems as if the old feeling of their leaving us is being
exchanged for the brighter and happier consciousness that
they are coming to meet us, or at least that the gathering
band are BEFORE us, and looking our way, expecting the time
when we too shall pass through the veil, leaning on the arm
of the Beloved. I earnestly pray, my dear friend, for the
Master's loving help and comfort to you from henceforth
even for ever.
I cannot close this without, in a sentence, expressing my
very great delight in reading your words regarding brotherly
intercommunion among members of Churches who hold the same
Truth, love the same Lord, and are bound to the same "better
land." I do rejoice with all my heart that you have given
utterance to the sentiments so carefully and admirably
expressed by you. I go heart and soul with you in the large
and liberal and Christ-like spirit of the views you propound;
and feel with you that all such brotherly esteem and hearty
and candid co-operation only makes me love my own church
better, because such love is unmixed with the exclusiveness
which sees nothing good save in the Communion to which we
Thank you most heartily for what you have written.--Ever very
affectionately yours, D.T.K. DRUMMOND.
When the Ramsays were under the necessity of selling most of their
property in the Mearns, the purchaser of Fasque was Mr. Gladstone, not
yet a baronet; and, what does not always happen, the families of the
buyer and the seller continued good friends, and Sir John, the great
merchant, by his advice and perhaps other help, assisted some of the
young Ramsays, who had still to push their way to fortune. I believe
William, afterwards Admiral, was guided by him in the investment and
management of a little money, which prospered, notwithstanding his
innumerable bounties to the poor. The Dean also was obliged to Sir John
Gladstone, but only for kindness and hospitalities.
On the Ramsays going to London in the summer of 1845, the journal
records what nice rooms they had, and how happy they were at Mr.
Gladstone's, where they saw a good deal of their host--"a man who at
eighty-one possesses the bodily and mental vigour of the prime of life."
The Dean was struck with the old man's abilities. "Mr. Gladstone would
have been successful in any undertaking or any pursuits--a man fitted to
grapple with the highest subjects."
From that period much intercourse took place between the Premier and our
Dean. There are mutual visits between Hawarden and Edinburgh, and I find
a good deal of correspondence between them; at least I find the letters
on one side. The Dean preserved Mr. Gladstone's letters, but the
counterparts are probably not preserved. One-sided as they are, the
little packet in my hand, of letters from the great Statesman to the
rural clergyman is not without interest. The correspondence has been
friendly, frank and confidential, the writers often differing in
immaterial things, but showing the same liberality in "Church and
State;" so that we are not surprised to find, when the time came, that
of the friends, the churchman approved of Irish disestablishment as
heartily as the layman who was its author.
Right Hon. W.E. GLADSTONE to DEAN RAMSAY.
10 Downing Street, Whitehall, Jan. 20, 1869.
My dear Dean Ramsay--I need not tell you I am no fit judge of
your brother's claims, but I shall send your letter
privately to the First Lord, who, I am sure, will give it an
impartial and friendly consideration.
Pray remember me to the Admiral, and be assured it will give
me sincere pleasure if your wish on his behalf can be
I write from Hawarden, but almost _en route_ for London, and
the arduous work before us.
My mind is cheerful, and even sanguine about it.
I wish I had some chance or hope of seeing you, and I remain
affectionately yours, W.E. GLADSTONE.
The Bishop of Salisbury has been for days at the point of death. He is
decidedly better, but cannot recover. Let him have a place in
Windsor Castle, June 24, 1871.
My dear Dean Ramsay--The attraction of the Scott Centenary to
Edinburgh is strong, and your affectionate invitation makes
it stronger still. I do not despair of being free, and if
free, I mean to use my freedom, so as to profit by both. At
the same time the delays and obstructions to business have
been so formidable that I must not as yet presume to forecast
the time when I may be able to escape from London, and
therefore I fear I must draw upon your indulgence to allow me
some delay. The session may last far into August, but the
stars may be more propitious.
We are all grumbling at an unusually cold year, and the
progress of vegetation seems to be suspended, but I trust no
serious harm is yet done; as Louis Napoleon said, _tout peut
It would indeed be delightful could I negotiate for a right
to bring you back with me on coming southwards.
So glad to hear a good account of your health and appearance
from our Lord Advocate; a clever chiel, is he not?--Ever
affectionately yours, W.E. GLADSTONE.
My wife sends her kind love.
10 Downing Street, Whitehall, July 25, 1871.
My dear Friend--From day to day my hopes of attending the
Scott Centenary have been declining, and I regret much to say
that they are now virtually dead. The extraordinary
obstructions which have been offered to public business
during the present session have now, as you will see, brought
us to such a pass that some suggest an adjournment from
August to some period in the autumn, to enable us to get
through what we have in hand. Whether we do this, or whether
we finish off at once, it is now, I fear, practically certain
that there is no chance of my being free to leave town at the
time of the Centenary.
We paid Tennyson a visit from last Saturday to Tuesday. He is
a sincere and ardent admirer of Scott, and heartily wishes
well to anything which is likely to keep him before the minds
of the on-coming generation.
His Sussex abode is beautiful, 600 feet above the sea, with a
splendid view. He seems to be very happy in his family.
With regard to the Emperor of Brazil, I think any application
made to him would come best from those officially connected
with the celebration. At any rate, I fear it would be
obtrusive on my part to mix in it, as I have no special
relation with him, though he has made a most pleasing
impression on me.
I now expect to go to Balmoral in the middle of September,
and should much wish to know whether I might visit you on my
way north or south.--Always affectionately yours, W.E.
10 Downing Street, Whitehall, August 8, 1871.
My dear Dean Ramsay--Do what you like with the inclosed. It
is written at the last moment, and because you asked for it,
by a man who was nine hours in the House yesterday, and has
to be there nine to-day, besides a fair share of a day's work
outside it to boot.
I hope you received a subscription from Royal Bounty which I
sent for Archibald's family. I can give five pounds myself
also.--Ever your affectionate friend,
11 Carlton House Terrace, S.W., August 8, 1871.
My dear Dean Ramsay---I wish I could convey to you adequately
the regret with which I find myself cut off from any
possibility of joining in the tribute to be paid to-morrow to
the memory of the first among the sons of Scotland. He was
the idol of my boyhood, and though I well know that my
admiration is worth little, it has never varied.
In his case the feeling is towards the man as much as towards
his works. Did we not possess a line from his pen, his life
would stand as a true epic.
I will not say I think him as strong in his modern politics
as in some other points, but I find my general estimate of
the great and heroic whole affected only in the slightest
degree by this point of qualified misgiving.
If he is out of fashion with some parts of some classes, it
is their misfortune, not his. He is above fluctuations of
time, for his place is in the Band of the Immortals.
The end of my letter shall be better worth your having than
the beginning. A fortnight ago I visited Tennyson, and found
him possessed with all the sentiments about Scott which your
celebration is meant to foster.--I remain in haste,
affectionately yours. W.E. GLADSTONE.
Hawarden Castle, Chester, January 12, 1872.
My dear Dean Ramsay--I was at once obliged, gratified, and
comforted by your letter. This has been a great storm, but it
has not rooted you up, and He whom you live to serve,
evidently has yet more service for you to do. Those remaining
in the world cannot be wife or brother to you, but how many
there are who would if they could, and who will be all
The testimonies you send me are full of touching interest.
My wife has received to-day the beautiful present of the new
edition of your book. She will enjoy it immensely. I hope to
send you, when I get to London, a little work called the
"Mirror of Monks." Let not the title alarm you. It is in the
manner of a Kempis, and is original, as well as excellent and
lofty. I have had much Scotch reading. The "Life of Dr. Lee;"
Macdonald's "Love, Law, and Theology;" last, not least, Lady
Nairne. I am equally struck with her life, and her singularly
beautiful songs, and this though she was Tory and Puritan; I
am opposed to both. Her character brings into view a problem
common to all times, but also I suppose special to this. I
take it that if there is a religious body upon earth that
fully and absolutely deserves the character of schismatical,
it is your Drummond secession. Yet not only is this noble and
holy woman in it, but even my own narrow experience has
supplied me with other types of singular excellence and
elevation within its pale; and the considerations hereby
suggested are of immensely wide application.
I trust that your Walker Cathedral will be thoroughly good,
and that your Bishop's book is prospering.
You will be glad to hear that the solemn thanksgiving at St.
Paul's may be regarded as decided on, to my great
If you will let me have particulars of any case such as you
describe, I will most readily see what can be done; and now
farewell, my dear friend.--Always affectionately yours, W.E.
If not quite so popular as some of the Dean's other correspondents, he
whose letter I bring forward here stood as high as any man in the
estimation of the better and most thinking classes of Scotsmen.
Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, though no clergyman, had his mind more
constantly full of divine thoughts than most priests; though no
technical scholar perhaps, he kept up his Greek to read Plato, and did
not think that his enjoyment of the works of high reach in classical
times unfitted him for Bible studies, which were the chief object of his
* * * * *
THOMAS ERSKINE to DEAN RAMSAY.
127 George Street, 19th Oct. 1869.
Dear Dean--I return you many thanks for that kind letter.
Neither you nor I can now be far from death--that commonest
of all events, and yet the most unknown. The majority of
those with whom you and I have been acquainted, have passed
through it, but their experience does not help us except by
calling us to prepare for it. _One_ man indeed--the Head and
Lord of men--has risen from the dead, thereby declaring death
overcome, and inviting us all to share in his victory. And
yet we feel that the victory over death cannot deliver us
from fear, unless there be also a victory over that which
makes death terrible--a victory over him that hath the power
of death, that is the devil, or prince and principle of sin.
And our Lord has achieved this also, for he put away sin _by
the sacrifice of himself_; but this sacrifice can only really
profit us when it is reproduced in us--when we, as branches
of the true Vine, live by the sap of the root, which sap is
_filial trust_, the only principle which can sacrifice
_self_, because the only principle which can enable us to
commit ourselves _unreservedly_ into the hands of God for
guidance and for disposal. We are thus _put right_ by _trust,
justified_ or _put right_ by faith in the loving fatherly
righteous purpose of God towards us.
Dear George Dundas's death has taken from me my chief social
support in Edinburgh. I was fourteen years his senior, but I
had known and loved him from his childhood. Our mothers were
sisters, and thus we had the same family ties and traditions.
I think of him now in connection with that verse, "to those
who by patient continuance in well-doing," etc.
And now farewell. Let us seek to live by the faith of the Son
of God--his filial trust I suppose, which I so much
need.--Ever truly and gratefully yours,
* * * * *
The three following letters hardly help on the story of the Dean's life,
but I could not pass them when they came into my hands.
The writer is Adam Sedgwick, the well-known Cambridge Professor and
Philosopher. In another capacity he was still better known. He was tutor
and vice-master of Trinity, and in his time an outside stranger of any
education, even a half-educated Scot, dropping into Cambridge society,
found a reception to be remembered. Take for choice one of their
peculiar festivals--Trinity Sunday comes to my mind--the stranger
partook of the splendid feast in that princely hall of Trinity, where
the massive college plate was arrayed and the old college customs of
welcome used, not from affectation, but kindly reverence. When the
dinner was over, the large party of Doctors and Fellows, with hundreds
of the noble youth of England, all in surplice, moved to the chapel, all
joining with reverence in the august service of the church, and later,
they and their guests, or as many as could be held, crossed to the
Combination Room, where Sedgwick filled the chair, and led the
conversation, not to glorify himself, not to display his own powers,
which were great, but to let his guests know among whom they were
placed--philosophers, first men of science, first scholars, leaders in
all kinds of learning, meeting in a noble equality, proud to meet under
his presidency--_that_ I take to be the highest triumph of civilised
hospitality. At the time of these letters the philosopher is old, but
vigorous in mind, and even gay at the age of eighty-eight.
The death of Bishop Terrot called forth the following letter from the
* * * * *
PROFESSOR SEDGWICK to the Rev. Mr. MALCOLM.
Trinity College, Cambridge, May 1, 1872.
Dear Mr. Malcolm--I had been previously informed of the death
of my dear old friend, the Bishop of Edinburgh, but I am very
grateful to you for thinking so kindly of me, and for
communicating particulars about which I was not acquainted
previously. Accept my expressions of true-hearted sympathy,
and pray impart them to the surviving members of dear Bishop
Terrot's family. He was an old, an honoured and beloved
friend; God laid upon his old age an unusual load of the
labours and sorrows of humanity, but they are over now, and
he has reached his haven of shelter from external sorrow and
his true and enduring home of joy and peace, in the presence
of his Maker and Redeemer. I am very infirm, and am affected
by an internal malady, which, through the past winter, has
confined me to my college rooms, but I have to thank my Maker
for thousands of little comforts to mind and body, by which
I am hourly surrounded, and for His long-suffering in
extending my probation till I have entered on my 88th year.
My eyes are dim-sighted and irritable, so that I generally
dictate my letters; now, however, I am using my own pen to
express my thanks to you, in this time of your sorrow for the
loss of one so nearly and dearly connected with your clerical
life. My memory is not much shaken, except in recalling names
not very familiar to me, and I think (with the painful
exception I have alluded to) that my constitutional health is
sound. When my friends call upon me, my deafness generally
compels me to use an ear-trumpet, and I yesterday took it to
our college walks, to try if I could catch the notes of the
singing birds, which were piping all round me. But, alas! I
could not hear the notes of the singing birds, though I did
catch the harsher and louder notes of the rooks, which have
their nests in some college grounds.
May the remaining years of your life be cheered and animated
by good abiding Christian hope.--I remain very faithfully
yours, ADAM SEDGWICK.
* * * * *
PROFESSOR SEDGWICK to DEAN RAMSAY.
Trinity College, Cambridge,
29th May 1872.
My dear Dean--I this morning received your kind presentation
copy of your Reminiscences, which I shall highly value for
its own sake, and as your gift. I read little now because my
eyes are both dim-sighted and very irritable; but your book
will just suit me, as it is not a continuous tale, but a
succession of tales, each of which is perfect in itself, and
I hope to read it bit by bit without worrying my enfeebled
powers of sight.
I meant to have thanked you in an autograph, but there has
been a sudden change in the atmosphere, which is dark, heavy
and wet, and when there is a defect of light I am almost
constrained to dictate my letters to my _factotum_.
I am delighted, too, with the single sheet containing verses
addressed to yourself. The first copy by Bishop Wordsworth
appears to me quite admirable from the beauty and simplicity
of his Latin; and the other copies are good in their way.
I dare say you have seen the short verses he wrote on the
death of his first wife. They are of Roman brevity and of
One of the very pleasant days of my life was spent in a visit
to the small country living of Mr. Dawes of Downing,
afterwards Dean of Hereford. Your late brother was one of the
happy party. We returned together to Cambridge at a rattling
pace, and I am not sure that I ever saw his face afterwards,
for very soon he had a bilious attack which induced him to
seek health in his native country, and, alas! he sought it in
vain, for he sickened and died, to the deep sorrow of all his
friends.--I remain, my dear Dean, very truly and
* * * * *
PROFESSOR SEDGWICK to Rev. Mr. MALCOLM.
Trinity College, Cambridge,
January 18, 1873.
My dear Mr. Malcolm--The infirmity of my sight compels me to
dictate this letter to one who often writes for me. Such a
bright day as this, and while the sun is shining, I could see
the traces of my pen upon a sheet of paper; but the act of
writing greatly fatigues me, and I dictate nearly all
I very much value your melancholy memorial of my late dear
and honoured friend, the late Bishop Terrot. Though the photo
represents our late friend the bishop with his features
shrouded in the cold fixity of death, yet it does bring back
the original to the memory of those who knew him well, and I
am greatly obliged to you for this memorial of one who has
gone from our sight for ever, so far as this world is
concerned. It was very kind of you to remember the photo.
I did not know Bishop Cotterell intimately, but I have met
him many times, and I think you very happy in obtaining the
services of a man of such experience, talent, and zeal, in
the good cause of Christian truth.
I am now a very feeble, infirm, old man, toiling in the last
quarter of my 88th year. I ought to be thankful that my mind,
though feeble, remains entire: my memory is often defective,
but I have been enabled, though with great labour to myself,
and with many interruptions, to dictate a preface to a
catalogue published by the university of the older fossils of
our collection. They have kindly printed and given to me some
extra copies of my preface, one of which I will forward to
you by the book-post.
I know it can have no interest to you, excepting, perhaps, a
few paragraphs in the conclusion of only two or three
pages.--I remain, my dear Mr. Malcolm, very faithfully and
gratefully yours, A. SEDGWICK.
I have printed already more than one letter from the Rev. D.T.K.
Drummond, from admiration of their intrinsic merit, and because I wish
here to collect proofs that no diversity of Church rites or Church
policy could separate our Dean from brethren whom he regarded perhaps as
erroneous, but recognised as teaching and leading by the same principles
of freedom, which he himself revered and followed.
Rev. D.T.K. DRUMMOND to DEAN RAMSAY.
My dear Friend--Very many thanks for your most touching note,
and for the extract from your book you so kindly sent me. The
more I look into it the more I like it, and thank God for
the testimony you so unequivocally and fearlessly hear to the
_unity_ of the True Church of Christ of any age, however much
the great army he made up of various sections, of diverse
uniforms, and with special duties to perform.....
Again thanking you very warmly, and earnestly praying for all
the precious consolations of the Great Head of the Church to
be largely vouchsafed to you, believe me to be always most
D. T. K. DRUMMOND.
* * * * *
The subject of the following letter cannot be overlooked by a biographer
of Dean Ramsay:--
Rev. Dr. CANDLISH to DEAN RAMSAY.
52 Melville Street, 18th March 1872.
My dear Dean Ramsay--I have just read with most profound
thankfulness and admiration your noble Christian letter in
this day's _Scotsman_. I cannot deny myself the gratification
of expressing my feelings to you in this feeble
acknowledgment. You have done a signal service to the cause
of our Blessed Lord and common Master. I am too infirm to
write more fully all that is in my heart. You will pardon all
defects, and believe me, yours very truly,
ROB. S. CANDLISH.
The letter referred to by the distinguished divine arose out of what is
known in the Scottish Episcopal Church as the _cause celebre_ of the
Bishop of Glasgow against the Bishop of Argyll.
The Rev. Dr. Caird, of the University of Glasgow, having invited the
Bishop of Argyll to preach to a mixed Episcopalian and Presbyterian
congregation, using his Church's liturgy, from the University pulpit of
Glasgow, the Bishop of Glasgow interposed to prevent it.
The interference of the Bishop of Glasgow with his brother prelate of
Argyll called forth a letter from Dean Ramsay, which appeared in the
_Scottish Guardian_ on 15th March 1872, and in the _Scotsman_ three days
later. In it the Dean in fact asserts a religious sympathy towards those
who differ from him, comprehensive enough to include all his Protestant
"In an address to the Bishop of Glasgow, signed by sixty-two clergymen,
it is stated that the service contemplated in the chapel of the
University of Glasgow would be a 'lax proceeding, and fraught with great
injury to the highest interests of the Church,' Accordingly the Bishop
of Glasgow prohibited the service, to guard the Church from complicity
in a measure which he considered subversive of her position in this
country.' In other words," says Dean Ramsay, "we are called upon to
believe that, as members of the Scottish Episcopal Church, it is our
bounden duty to withhold every appearance of any religious sympathy with
our Presbyterian fellow-countrymen and fellow-Christians. I now solemnly
declare for myself that, had I come to the conclusion that such was the
teaching of our Church, and such the views to which I was bound--viz.
that her object was thus to sever man from man, and to maintain that the
service proposed at Glasgow was really 'fraught with great injury to the
highest interests of my Church,' because it would promote union and
peace--the sun should not again set till I had given up all official
connection with a Church of which the foundations and the principles
would be so different from the landmarks and leading manifestations of
our holy faith itself. Were the principles and conduct laid down in this
address and in the answer to it fairly carried out, I cannot see any
other result than the members of our Church considering the whole of
Scotland which is external to our communion as a land of infidels, with
whom we can have no spiritual connection, and whom, indeed, we could
hardly recognise as a Christian people."
The Dean's letter is chiefly remarkable as showing that age had not
frozen his charity. It called forth many letters like that of Dr.
Candlish, and one from the little Somersetshire society which he
loved so well.
JOHN SHEPPARD, Esq., Frome, to DEAN RAMSAY.
The Cottage, Frome, 21st March 1872.
Very dear and reverend Sir--I have to thank you for the
_Scottish Guardian_ which you have kindly sent me. I regret
the divisions which appear to have arisen in your church.
Whatever comes from your pen has special interest for me; and
I am glad to see it (as it always has been) pleading the
cause of Christian charity. It appears to me that the welfare
of your church would have been promoted by acceding to the
I think I have mentioned to you that we had lately a visit
from good Archdeacon Sandford, which we much enjoyed. We
learn with sorrow that since attendance at the Convocation
and a stay at Lambeth Palace, he has been suffering great
weakness and exhaustion, and been confined to his bed for a
month. He is now slowly recovering; but we fear his
exertions have been beyond his strength, and that his life
must be very precarious.
I hope your health is not more seriously impaired; but we
must be looking more and more, dear sir, towards the home
which pain and strife cannot enter.
My beloved Susan is very zealous as the animals' friend, and
birds of many sorts welcome and solicit her as their
patroness. She desires to be most kindly remembered to you,
with, my dear Dean, your attached old friend,
_P.S._--Susan instructs me to say for her that, "since
reading your letter to the _Guardian_, she loves you more
than ever, if possible." My words are cool in comparison with
hers; and this is a curious message for an ancient husband
She thinks we have not thanked you for the Bishop's Latin
verses and the translations of them. If we have not, it is
not because our "_reminiscences_" of you are faint or few.
I wish to preserve a note of a dear old friend of my own, whose talents,
perhaps I might say whose genius, was only shrouded by his modesty. I
know that the Dean felt how gratifying it was to find among his
congregation men of such accomplishment, such scholarship, as George
Moir and George Dundas, and it is something to show that they responded
very heartily to that feeling.
GEORGE MOIR to DEAN RAMSAY.
Monday morning, 14 Charlotte Square.
My dear Dean--My condition renders it frequently impossible
to attend church, from the difficulty I have in remaining for
any length of time. But I have been able to be present the
last two Sundays, and I cannot refrain from saying with how
much pleasure I listened yesterday to your discourse on
charity. It was not unworthy of the beautiful passage which
formed its ground-work; clear, consecutive, eloquent, and
with a moral application of which I wish we may all avail
Long may you continue to advise and instruct those who are
_to come after me_.
I was delighted to see you looking so well, and to notice the
look of vigour with which the discourse was delivered.
Believe me ever most truly yours, GEO. MOIR.
In 1866 the Dean had delivered two lectures upon "Preachers and
Preaching," but which were afterwards published in a volume called
_Pulpit Table-Talk_. That is the subject of the following letter from a
great master of the art:--
Dr. GUTHRIE to DEAN RAMSAY.
Inchgrundle, Tarfside, by Brechin,
31st August 1868.
My dear Mr. Dean--Your Pulpit Table-Talk has been sent here
to gratify, delight, and edify me. A most entertaining book;
and full of wise and admirable sentiments. All ministers and
preachers should read and digest it. Age seems to have no
more dulling effect on you than it had on Sir David Brewster,
who retained, after he had turned the threescore and ten, all
the greenery, foliage, and flowers of youth--presenting at
once the freshness of Spring, and the flowers of Summer, and
the precious fruits of Autumn.
May your bow long abide in strength! and the evening of your
days be calm and peaceful, bright with the sure and certain
hope of that better world, where, I hope, we shall meet to be
for ever with the Lord! With the greatest respect and
affectionate regards, yours ever,
I cannot fix the date of the following anecdote, nor does the date much
matter:--Some years ago a child, the son of the U.P. minister of
Dunblane, was so dangerously ill, that a neighbouring lady, the wife of
the Episcopal clergyman, who was much interested in the little boy,
asked her husband if it might be permitted to beg the prayers of the
congregation for his recovery. The clergyman readily assented; and when
the facts came to the knowledge of Dean Ramsay, and that it was a
suggestion of a dear friend of his, he sent the lady a copy of his
_Reminiscences_, with a letter to her husband, in which he says--"I was
greatly charmed with your account of prayers offered up for poor little
Blair. Tell your Mary I love her more than ever. It has quite affected
me, her proposing it." The husband is the Rev. Mr. Malcolm; the lady his
wife, daughter of the Dean's dear friend, Bishop Terrot.
But the end was approaching. In December 1872 it was noticed with sorrow
that for the first time since the commencement of the Church Society
(1838), of which Ramsay was really the founder, the Dean was absent from
the annual meeting of the general committee. Soon it became known that
his illness was more than a mere passing attack. During its continuance
the deepest interest was manifested in every quarter. Each day, and
"almost from hour to hour, the latest tidings were eagerly sought for.
In many churches and in many families besides those of our communion,
prayers were offered for his recovery. And when at last it became known
that he had indeed passed away from this life, it was felt that we had
lost not only a venerable Father of the Church, but one whose name,
familiar as a household word, was always associated with kindly loving
thoughts and deeds--one who was deservedly welcome wherever he went, and
whose influence was always towards peace and goodwill." The Rev. Mr.
Montgomery, our present Dean of Edinburgh, whose words I quote, truly
says that "he was a Churchman by conviction, but was ever ready to meet,
and, where occasion offered, to act with others upon the basis of a
common humanity and common Christianity."
 The margin seems to show that this page of the journal was not
written till 1843.
 The Bishop said that the two impediments to profitable or amusing
conversation were _humdrum_ and _humbug_.
On another occasion, the Bishop having expressed his doubt of the truth
of spirit-rapping, table-turning, etc., and being pressed with the
appeal, "Surely you must admit these are indications of Satanic agency,"
quietly answered, "It may be so, but it must be a mark of Satan being in
a state of dotage!"
 Alluditur ad titulum libri _Reminiscences_, etc.
 Here is the passage referred to by Mr. Dickens:--"There are persons
who do not sympathise with my great desire to preserve and to
disseminate these specimens of Scottish humour; indeed, I have reasons
to suspect that some have been disposed to consider the time and
attention which I have given to the subject as ill-bestowed, or at any
rate, as somewhat unsuitable to one of my advanced age and sacred
profession. If any persons do really think so, all I can say is, I do
not agree with them. National peculiarities must ever form an
interesting and improving study, inasmuch as it is a study of human
nature; and the anecdotes of this volume all tend to illustrate features
of the Scottish mind, which, as moral and religious traits of character,
are deeply interesting. I am convinced that every one, whether clergyman
or layman, who contributes to the innocent enjoyment of human life, has
joined in a good work, inasmuch as he has diminished the inducement to
_vicious_ indulgence. God knows there is enough of sin and of sorrow in
the world to make sad the heart of every Christian man. No one, I think,
need be ashamed of his endeavours to cheer the darker hours of his
fellow-travellers' steps through life, or to beguile the hearts of the
weary and the heavy laden, if only for a time, into cheerful and amusing
trains of thought. So far as my experience of life goes, I have never
found that the cause of morality and religion was promoted by sternly
checking the tendencies of our nature to relaxation and amusement. If
mankind be too ready to enter upon pleasures which are dangerous or
questionable, it is the part of wisdom and of prudence to supply them
with sources of interest, the enjoyment of which are innocent and
* * * * *
When this Memoir was only begun I was anxious to say something of the
Dean's musical powers; and, not venturing to speak of music myself, I
asked the Dean's sister Lady Burnett to supply my deficiency. In reply I
had the following letter:--
22d February 1873.
... As a flute-player the Dean attained a proficiency rarely
seen in an amateur, and used frequently to play the very
difficult flute-obligatos of some of Handel's songs, which
are considered a hard task even for professionals. Besides
playing the flute he was thoroughly conversant with the
mechanism of the organ, and had some knowledge of the
violoncello, though he never gave much time to the study of
that instrument. But perhaps the most interesting point in
this part of the character of my brother was his ardent love
for Handel's music. There was not a song or chorus of the
great master that he was not acquainted with, and in his
younger days he used to sing the bass music from the Messiah
and other Oratorios with great taste and skill--his voice, a
fine mellow baritone, being well suited to these songs. You
may remember his lectures on Handel delivered at the
Philosophical Institution some years ago, and how
enthusiastic he was when describing the manifold beauties of
his favourite composer, and how interested and eager he
became when the choir sang the music he knew and loved
I wrote this on Saturday evening when sitting alone,
thinking of the great loss I had sustained; the variety there
was in Edward's character; how accomplished he was; what
knowledge he had on many subjects; his fine taste, his
gentleness and Christian piety; and then his strong sense of
humour and fun; how amusing he was, and such droll things
broke out every now and then! even to the very last so genial
and social, and altogether such a man that we "ne'er shall
look upon his like again."--Yours very sincerely, LAUDERDALE
In preparing another duodecimo edition of the "Reminiscences of Scottish
Life and Character," I gladly avail myself of the opportunity afforded
me of reproducing some of the materials which had been added to the
octavo edition, especially that part at page 322, etc., which advocated
a modified interchange of pulpits between Episcopalian and Presbyterian
clergymen; to add also some excellent Scottish stories which had been
sent to me by kind friends. I am desirous also of repeating the
correction of an error into which we had fallen in copying the account
of a toast in the Highland form, which had been kindly contributed by
the respected minister of Moulin, in the octavo edition at page 70. To
Lowland conceptions, the whole proceeding has somewhat the appearance of
a respectable company at once becoming insane; still it ought to be
correct, and the printer had, by mistake, inserted a word that has no
existence in the Gaelic language. The text reads--
"Lud ris! Lud ris! You again! you again!"
It should be
Sud ris! Sud ris! Yon again! yon again!
that is--"you cheer again."
The demand for a twenty-second edition of a volume of "Scottish
Reminiscences" embracing subjects which are necessarily of a limited and
local character--a demand which has taken place during the course of
little more than fifteen years since its first publication--proves, I
think, the correctness of the idea upon which it was first
undertaken--viz. that it should depict a phase of national manners which
was fast passing away, and thus, in however humble a department,
contribute something to the materials of history, by exhibiting social
customs and habits of thought which at a particular era were
characteristic of a race. It may perhaps be very fairly said that the
Reminiscences came out at a time specially suitable to rescue these
features of national life and character from oblivion. They had _begun_
to fade away, and many had, to the present generation, become obsolete.
To those who have not given their attention to the subject for the
elucidation of which this volume has been written, I would present two
specimens of the sort of materials from which they may expect to find
these Reminiscences are compiled. They are chosen to indicate a style of
life and manners now fast fading away, and are taken from a period which
lies within the scope of our own recollections. Now, a subject like this
can only be illustrated by a copious application of anecdotes which must
show the features of the past. And let me premise that I make use of
anecdotes not for the purpose of telling a good story, but solely in the
way of _illustration_. I am quite certain that there was an originality,
a dry and humorous mode of viewing persons and events, quite _peculiar_
to the older Scottish characters. And I am equally certain, that their
peculiar humour can only be exhibited in examples. From the late Mr.
Erskine of Linlathan I received the following:--Mr. Erskine recollected
an old housekeeper at Airth, who belonged to this class of character. A
speech of this Mrs. Henderson was preserved in the family as having been
made by her at the time of the execution of Louis XVI. in 1793. She was
noticing the violent emotion exhibited by Mr. Bruce of Kinnaird, the
Abyssinian traveller, at the sad event which had just taken place, and
added, in the following quaint and caustic terms, "There's Kinnaird
greeting as if there was nae a saunt on earth but himsel' and the king
o' France." How utterly unlike anything that would be said on such an
occasion by an English person in the same position in life!
For the same purpose, let me introduce a characteristic little Scottish
scene, which my cousin, the late Sir Thomas Burnett of Leys, used to
describe with great humour. Sir Thomas had a tenant on his estate, a
very shrewd clever man, whom he was sometimes in the habit of consulting
about country matters. On one occasion he came over to Crathes Castle,
and asked to see Sir Thomas. He was accordingly ushered in, accompanied
by a young man of very simple appearance, who gazed about the room in a
stupid vacant manner. The old man began by saying that he understood
there was a farm on the estate to be let, and that he knew a very fine
young man whom he wished to recommend as tenant. He said he had plenty
of _siller_, and had studied farming on the most approved
principles--sheep-farming in the Highlands, cattle-farming in the
Lowlands, and so forth, and, in short, was a model farmer. When he had
finished his statement, Sir Thomas, looking very significantly at his
companion, addressed the old man (as he was usually addressed in the
county by the name of his farm)--"Well, Drummy, and is this your friend
whom you propose for the farm?" to which Drummy replied, "Oh fie, na.
Hout! that is a kind o' a _Feel_, a friend (_i.e._ a relation) o' the
wife's, and I just brought him ower wi' me to show him the place."
The question of change in the "life and character" of a people, during
the period embraced in the reminiscences of an aged individual, must
always be a subject for deep and serious consideration. In the case of
Scotland, such changes comprise much that is interesting and amusing.
But they also contain much matter for serious thought and reflection to
the lovers of their country. In preparing the present edition of these
Reminiscences, I have marked out many further changes, and have marked
them from a deep feeling of interest in the moral and religious
improvement of my country. To my readers I say that I hope we have all
learned to view such changes under a more serious national aspect than a
mere question of amusement or speculation. The Christian, when he looks
around him on society, must observe many things which, as a patriot, he
wishes might be permanent, and he marks many things which, as a patriot,
he wishes were obliterated. What he desires should be enduring in his
countrymen is, that abiding attributes of Scottish character should be
associated amongst all men with truth and virtue--with honour and kindly
feelings--with temperance and self-denial--with divine faith and
love--with generosity and benevolence. On the other hand, he desires
that what may become questions of tradition, and, in regard to his own
land, REMINISCENCES of Scottish life, shall be--cowardice and folly,
deceit and fraud, the low and selfish motives to action which make men
traitors to their God and hateful to their fellow-men.
It would be worse than affectation--it would be ingratitude--to disclaim
being deeply impressed by the favourable reception which has for so long
a time been given to these Reminiscences at home, in India, in America,
and in all countries where Scotchmen are to be found.
It is not the least of the enjoyments which I have had in compiling
these pages, to hear of the kind sympathy which they have called forth
in other minds, and often in the minds of strangers; and it would be
difficult for me to describe the pleasure I have received when told by a
friend that this work had cheered him in the hour of depression or of
sickness--that even for a few moments it may have beguiled the weight of
corroding care and worldly anxiety. I have been desirous of saying a
word in favour of old Scottish life; and with some minds, perhaps, the
book may have promoted a more kindly feeling towards hearts and heads of
bygone days. And certainly I can now truly say, that my highest
reward--my greatest honour and gratification--would spring from the
feeling that it might become a standard volume in Scottish cottage
libraries, and that by the firesides of Scotland these pages might
become as Household Words.
EDINBURGH, 23 AINSLIE PLACE.
_St. Andrew's Day_
 These words, "St. Andrew's Day," were deleted by the Dean; and
though he lived till the 27th December, he did not touch the
proof-sheets after the 19th November 1872.
SCOTTISH LIFE AND CHARACTER.
* * * * *
CHAPTER THE FIRST.
I wish my readers always to bear in mind that these Reminiscences are
meant to bear upon the changes which would include just such a
revolution as that referred to at page 15 in the bonnet practice of
Laurencekirk. There is no pretension to any researches of _antiquarian_
character; they are in fact Reminiscences which come almost within
personal recognition. A kind friend gave me anecdotes of the past in her
hundredth year. In early life I was myself consigned to the care of my
grand-uncle, Sir Alexander Ramsay, residing in Yorkshire, and he was
born in 1715; so that I can go pretty far back on my own experience, and
have thus become cognisant of many changes which might be expected as a
consequence of such experience.
I cannot imagine a better illustration of the sort of change in the
domestic relations of life that has taken place in something like the
time we speak of, than is shown in the following anecdote, which was
kindly communicated to me by Professor MacGregor of the Free Church. I
have pleasure in giving it in the Professor's own words:--"I happened
one day to be at Panmure Castle when Lord Panmure (now Dalhousie) was
giving a treat to a school, and was presented by the Monikie Free Church
Deacons' Court with a Bible on occasion of his having cleared them
finally of debt on their buildings. Afterwards his Lordship took me into
the library, where, among other treasures, we found a handsome folio
_Prayer Book_ presented to his ancestor Mr. Maule of Kelly by the
Episcopalian minister of the district, on occasion of his having, by Mr.
Maule's help, been brought out of jail. The coincidence and contrast
were curiously interesting."
For persons to take at various intervals a retrospective view of life,
and of the characters they have met with, seems to be a natural feeling
of human nature; and every one is disposed at times to recall to memory
many circumstances and many individuals which suggest abundant subjects
for reflection. We thus find recollections of scenes in which we have
been joyous and happy. We think of others with which we only associate
thoughts of sorrow and of sadness. Amongst these varied emotions we find
subjects for reminiscences, of which we would bury the feelings in our
own hearts as being too sacred for communication with others. Then,
again, there are many things of the past concerning which we delight to
take counsel with friends and contemporaries. Some persons are disposed
to go beyond these personal communications with friends, and having
through life been accustomed to write down memoranda of their own
feelings, have published them to the world. Many interesting works have
thus been contributed to our literature by writers who have sent forth
volumes in the form of _Memoirs of their Own Times, Personal
Recollections, Remarks upon Past Scenes_, etc. etc. It is not within
the scope of this work to examine these, nor can I specify the many
communications I have from different persons, both at home and in our
colonial possessions; in fact, the references in many cases have been
lost or mislaid. But I must acknowledge, however briefly, my obligations
to Dr. Carruthers, Inverness, and to Dr. Cook, Haddington, who have
favoured me with valuable contributions.
Now, when we come to examine the general question of memoirs connected
with contemporary history, no work is better known in connection with
this department of Scottish literature than the _History of his Own
Times_, by my distinguished relative, Dr. Gilbert Burnett, Bishop of
Salisbury. Bishop Burnett's father, Lord Crimond, was third son of my
father's family, the Burnetts of Leys, in Kincardineshire. There is now
at Crathes Castle, the family seat, a magnificent full-length portrait
of the Bishop in his robes, as Prelate of the Garter, by Sir Godfrey
Kneller. It was presented by himself to the head of his family. But, as
one great object of the Bishop's history was to laud and magnify the
personal character and public acts of William of Orange, his friend and
patron, and as William was held in special abhorrence by the Jacobite
party in Scotland, the Bishop holds a prominent, and, with many, a very
odious position in Scottish Reminiscences; in fact, he drew upon himself
and upon his memory the determined hatred and unrelenting hostility of
adherents to the Stuart cause. They never failed to abuse him on all
occasions, and I recollect old ladies in Montrose, devoted to the exiled
Prince, with whom the epithet usually applied to the Prelate was that of
Such language has happily become a "Reminiscence." Few would be found
now to apply such an epithet to the author of the _History of his Own
Times_, and certainly it would not be applied on the ground of the
Jacobite principles to which he was opposed. But a curious additional
proof of this hostility of Scottish Jacobites to the memory of Burnett
has lately come to light. In a box of political papers lately found at
Brechin Castle, belonging to the Panmure branch of the family, who, in
'15, were forfeited on the ground of their Jacobite opinions and
adherence to the cause of Charles Edward, there has been found a severe
and bitter supposed _epitaph_ for Bishop Burnett. By the kindness of the
Earl of Dalhousie I was permitted to see this epitaph, and, if I chose,
to print it in this edition. I am, however, unwilling to stain my pages
with such an ungenerous and, indeed, I may say, so scurrilous a
representation of the character of one who, in the just opinion of our
Lyon King-at-Arms, himself a Burnett of the Kemnay branch, has
characterised the Bishop of Salisbury as "true and honest, and far
beyond the standard of his times as a Clergyman and as a Bishop." But
the epitaph found in these Panmure papers shows clearly the prejudices
of the age in which it was written, and in fact only embodies something
of that spirit and of those opinions which we have known as still
lingering in our own Reminiscences.
If it were not on my part a degree of presumption, I might be inclined
to consider myself in this volume a fellow-labourer with the late
accomplished and able Mr. Robert Chambers. In a very limited sphere it
takes a portion of the same field of illustration. I should consider
myself to have done well if I shall direct any of my readers to his able
volumes. Whosoever wishes to know what this country really was in times
past, and to learn, with a precision beyond what is supplied by the
narratives of history, the details of the ordinary current of our
social, civil, and national life, must carefully study the _Domestic
Annals of Scotland_. Never before were a nation's domestic features so
thoroughly portrayed. Of those features the specimens of quaint Scottish
humour still remembered are unlike anything else, but they are fast
becoming obsolete, and my motive for this publication has been an
endeavour to preserve marks of the past which would of themselves soon
become obliterated, and to supply the rising generation with pictures of
social life, faded and indistinct to their eyes, but the strong lines of
which an older race still remember. By thus coming forward at a
favourable moment, no doubt many beautiful specimens of SCOTTISH
MINSTRELSY have in this manner been preserved from oblivion by the
timely exertions of Bishop Percy, Ritson, Walter Scott, and others. Lord
Macaulay, in his preface to _The Lays of Ancient Rome_, shows very
powerfully the tendency in all that lingers in the memory to become
obsolete, and he does not hesitate to say that "Sir Walter Scott was but
_just in time_ to save the precious relics of the minstrelsy of
It is quite evident that those who have in Scotland come to an advanced
age, must have found some things to have been really changed about them,
and that on them great alterations have already taken place. There are
some, however, which yet may be in a transition state; and others in
which, although changes are threatened, still it cannot be said that the
changes are begum I have been led to a consideration of impending
alterations as likely to take place, by the recent appearance of two
very remarkable and very interesting papers on subjects closely
connected with great social Scottish questions, where a revolution of
opinion may be expected. These are two articles in _Recess Studies_
(1870), a volume edited by our distinguished Principal, Sir Alexander
Grant. One essay is by Sir Alexander himself, upon the "Endowed
Hospitals of Scotland;" the other by the Rev. Dr. Wallace of the
Greyfriars, upon "Church Tendencies in Scotland." It would be quite
irrelevant for me to enlarge here upon the merits of those articles. No
one could study them attentively without being impressed with the
ability and power displayed in them by the authors, their grasp of the
subjects, and their fair impartial judgment upon the various questions
which come under their notice.
From these able disquisitions, and from other prognostics, it is quite
evident that sounder principles of political economy and accurate
experience of human life show that much of the old Scottish hospital
system was quite wrong and must be changed. Changes are certainly going
on, which seem to indicate that the very hard Presbyterian views of some
points connected with Church matters are in transition. I have elsewhere
spoken of a past sabbatarian strictness, and I have lately received an
account of a strictness in observing the national fast-day, or day
appointed for preparation in celebrating Holy Communion, which has in
some measure passed away. The anecdote adduced the example of two
drovers who were going on very quietly together. They had to pass
through a district whereof one was a parishioner, and during their
progress through it the one whistled with all his might, the other
screwed up his mouth without emitting a single sound. When they came to
a burn, the silent one, on then crossing the stream, gave a skip, and
began whistling with all his might, exclaiming with great triumph to his
companion, "I'm beyond the parish of Forfar now, and I'll whistle as
muckle as I like." It happened to be the Forfar parish fast-day. But a
still stricter observance was shown by a native of Kirkcaldy, who, when
asked by his companion drover in the south of Scotland "why he didna
whistle," quietly answered, "I canna, man; it's our fast-day in
Kirkcaldy." I have an instance of a very grim assertion of extreme
sabbatarian zeal. A maid-servant had come to a new place, and on her
mistress quietly asking her on Sunday evening to wash up some dishes,
she indignantly replied, "Mem, I hae dune mony sins, and hae mony sins
to answer for; but, thank God, I hae never been sae far left to mysell
as to wash up dishes on the Sabbath day."
I hope it will not for a moment be supposed we would willingly throw any
ridicule or discouragement on the Scottish national tendencies on the
subject, or that we are not proud of Scotland's example of a sacred
observance of the fourth commandment in the letter and the spirit. We
refer now to injudicious extremes, such, indeed, as our Lord condemned,
and which seem a fair subject for notice amongst Scottish peculiarities.
But the philosophy of the question is curious. Scotland has ever made
her boast of the simplest form of worship, and a worship free from
ceremonial, more even than the Church of England, which is received as,
in doctrine and ritual, the Church of the Reformation. In some respects,
therefore, may you truly say the only standing recognised observance in
the ceremonial part of Presbyterian worship is the Sabbath day--an
observance which has been pushed in times past even beyond the extreme
of a spirit of Judaism, as if the sabbatical ceremonial were made a
substitute for all other ceremony. In this, as well as in other matters
which we have pointed out, what changes have taken place, what changes
are going on! It may be difficult to assign precise causes for such
changes having taken place among us, and that during the lifetime of
individuals now living to remember them. It has been a period for many
changes in manners, habits, and forms of language, such as we have
endeavoured to mark in this volume. The fact of such changes is
indisputable, and sometimes it is difficult not only to assign the
causes for them, but even to describe in what the changes themselves
consist. They are gradual, and almost imperceptible. Scottish people
lose their Scotchness; they leave home, and return without those
expressions and intonations, and even peculiarity of voice and manner,
which used to distinguish us from Southern neighbours. In all this, I
fear, we lose our originality. It has not passed away, but with every
generation becomes less like the real type.
I would introduce here a specimen of the precise sort of changes to
which I would refer, as an example of the reminiscences intended to be
introduced into these pages. We have in earlier editions given an
account of the pains taken by Lord Gardenstone to extend and improve his
rising village of Laurencekirk; amongst other devices he had brought
down, as settlers, a variety of artificers and workmen from England.
With these he had introduced a _hatter_ from Newcastle; but on taking
him to church next day after his arrival, the poor man saw that he might
decamp without loss of time, as he could not expect much success in his
calling at Laurencekirk; in fact, he found Lord Gardenstone's and his
own the only hats in the kirk--the men all wore then the flat Lowland
bonnet. But how quickly times change! My excellent friend, Mr. Gibbon
of Johnstone, Lord Gardenstone's own place, which is near Laurencekirk,
tells me that at the present time _one_ solitary Lowland bonnet lingers
in the parish.
Hats are said to have been first brought into Inverness by Duncan Forbes
of Culloden, the Lord President, who died in 1747. Forbes is reported to
have presented the provost and bailies with cocked hats, which they wore
only on Sundays and council days. About 1760 a certain Deacon Young
began daily to wear a hat, and the country people crowding round him,
the Deacon used humorously to say, "What do you see about me, sirs? am I
not a mortal man like yourselves?" The broad blue bonnets I speak of
long continued to be worn in the Highland capital, and are still
occasionally to be seen there, though generally superseded by the
Glengarry bonnet and ordinary hat. It is a minor change, but a very
The changes which have taken place, and which give rise to such
"Reminiscences," are very numerous, and meet us at every turn in
society. Take, for example, the case of our Highland chieftains. We may
still retain the appellation, and talk of the chiefs of Clanranald, of
Glengarry, etc. But how different is a chieftain of the present day,
even from some of those of whom Sir Walter Scott wrote as existing so
late as 1715 or 1745! Dr. Gregory (of immortal _mixture_ memory) used to
tell a story of an old Highland chieftain, intended to show how such
Celtic potentates were, even in his day, still inclined to hold
themselves superior to all the usual considerations which affected
ordinary mortals. The doctor, after due examination, had, in his usual
decided and blunt manner, pronounced the liver of a Highlander to be at
fault, and to be the cause of his ill-health. His patient, who could not
but consider this as taking a great liberty with a Highland chieftain,
roared out--"And what the devil is it to you whether I have a liver or
not?" But there is the case of dignity in Lowland Lairds as well as
clan-headship in Highland Chiefs. In proof of this, I need only point to
a practice still lingering amongst us of calling landed proprietors, not
as Mr. So-and-so, but by the names of their estates. I recollect, in my
early days, a number of our proprietors were always so designated. Thus,
it was not as Mr. Carnegie, Mr. Douglas, Mr. Irvine, etc., but as
Craigo, Tillwhilly, Drum, etc.
An amusing application of such a territorial denominative system to the
locality of London was narrated to me by a friend who witnessed it. A
Scottish gentleman, who had never been in the metropolis, arrived fresh
from the Highlands, and met a small party at the house of a London
friend. A person was present of most agreeable manners, who delighted
the Scotsman exceedingly. He heard the company frequently referring to
this gentleman's residence in Piccadilly, to his house in Piccadilly,
and so on. When addressed by the gentleman, he commenced his reply,
anxious to pay him all due respect--"Indeed, Piccadilly," etc. He
supposed Piccadilly must be his own territorial locality. Another
instance of mistake, arising out of Scottish ignorance of London ways,
was made by a North Briton on his first visit to the great city. He
arrived at a hotel in Fleet Street, where many of the country coaches
then put up. On the following morning he supposed that such a crowd as
he encountered could only proceed from some "occasion," and must pass
off in due time. Accordingly, a friend from Scotland found him standing
in a doorway, as if waiting for some one. His countryman asked him what
made him stand there. To which he answered--"Ou, I was just stan'ing
till the kirk had scaled." The ordinary appearance of his native borough
made the crowd of Fleet Street suggest to him the idea of a church crowd
passing out to their several homes, called in Scotland a "kirk scaling."
A London street object called forth a similar simple remark from a
Scotsman. He had come to London on his way to India, and for a few days
had time to amuse himself by sight-seeing before his departure. He had
been much struck with the appearance of the mounted sentinels at the
Horse Guards, Whitehall, and bore them in remembrance during his Eastern
sojourn. On his return, after a period of thirty years, on passing the
Horse Guards, he looked up to one, and seeing him, as he thought,
unchanged as to horse, position, and accoutrements, he exclaimed--"Od,
freend, ye hae had a lang spell on't sin' I left," supposing him to be
the identical sentinel he had seen before he sailed.
It is interesting to preserve national peculiarities which are thus
passing away from us. One great pleasure I have had in their collection,
and that is the numerous and sympathetic communications I have received
from Scotsmen, I may literally say from Scotsmen _in all quarters of the
world_; sometimes communicating very good examples of Scottish humour,
and always expressing their great pleasure in reading, when in distant
lands and foreign scenes, anecdotes which reminded them of Scotland, and
of their ain days of "auld langsyne."
There is no mistaking the national attachment so strong in the Scottish
character. Men return after long absence, in this respect, unchanged;
whilst absent, Scotsmen _never_ forget their Scottish home. In all
varieties of lands and climates their hearts ever turn towards the "land
o' cakes and brither Scots." Scottish festivals are kept with Scottish
feeling on "Greenland's icy mountains" or "India's coral strand." I
received an amusing account of an ebullition of this patriotic feeling
from my late noble friend the Marquis of Lothian, who met with it when
travelling in India. He happened to arrive at a station upon the eve of
St. Andrew's Day, and received an invitation to join a Scottish dinner
party in commemoration of old Scotland. There was a great deal of
Scottish enthusiasm. There were _seven_ sheep-heads (singed) down the
table; and Lord Lothian told me that after dinner he sang with great
applause "The Laird o' Cockpen."
Another anecdote arising out of Scotsmen meeting in distant lands, is
rather of a more serious character, and used to be told with exquisite
humour by the late lamented Dr. Norman Macleod. A settler in Australia,
who for a long time had heard nothing of his Scottish kith and kin, was
delighted at the arrival of a countryman direct from his own part of the
country. When he met with him, the following conversation took place
between them:--_Q_. "Ye ken my fouk, friend; can ye tell me gin my
faather's alive?" _A_.--"Hout, na; he's deed." _Q_.--"Deed! What did he
dee o'? was it fever?" _A_.--"Na, it wasna fever." _Q_.--"Was it
cholera?" _A_.--"Na." The question being pressed, the stranger drily
said, "Sheep," and then he accompanied the ominous word by delicately
and significantly pointing to the jugular under his ear. The man had
been hanged for sheep-stealing!
It must always be amusing for Scotsmen to meet in distant lands, and
there to play off on each other the same dry, quaint humour which
delighted them in their native land, and in their early days at home. An
illustration of this remark has been communicated by a kind
correspondent at Glasgow. Mrs. Hume, a true Scot, sends me the following
dialogue, accompanied by a very clever etching of the parties, from the
Melbourne _Punch_, August 17, 1871, headed "Too Poor,--_Night of
_Southron_.--You here, Mac! you ought to have been at the concert, you
know. Aren't you one of the 'Scots wha hae?'
_Mac_.--Indeed no. I'm are o' the Scots wha hae na, or I wadna be here
He would not have stayed at home if he had been one of the "Scots wha
I am assured that the genuineness of the following anecdote is
unquestionable, as my informant received it from the person to whom it
occurred. A popular Anglican Nonconformist minister was residing with a
family in Glasgow while on a visit to that city, whither he had gone on
a deputation from the Wesleyan Missionary Society. After dinner, in
reply to an invitation to partake of some fine fruit, he mentioned to
the family a curious circumstance concerning himself--viz. that he had
never in his life tasted an apple, pear, grape, or indeed any kind of
green fruit. This fact seemed to evoke considerable surprise from the
company, but a cautious Scotsman, of a practical, matter-of-fact turn of
mind, who had listened with much unconcern, drily remarked, "It's a
peety but ye had been in Paradise, and there micht na hae been ony faa."
I have spoken elsewhere of the cool matter-of-fact manner in which the
awful questions connected with the funerals of friends are often
approached by Scottish people, without the least intention or purpose of
being irreverent or unfeeling. By the kindness of Mr. Lyon, I am enabled
to give an authentic anecdote of a curious character, illustrative of
this habit of mind, and I cannot do better than give it in his own
words:--"An old tenant of my late father, George Lyon of Wester Ogil,
many years ago, when on his deathbed, and his end near at hand, his wife
thus addressed him: 'Willie, Willie, as lang as ye can speak, tell us
are ye for your burial-baps round or _square_?' Willie having responded
to this inquiry, was next asked if the _murners_ were to have _glooes_
(gloves) or mittens, the former being articles with fingers, the latter
having only a thumb-piece; and Willie, having also answered this
question, was allowed to depart in peace."
There could not be a better example of this familiar handling, without
meaning offence, than one which has just been sent to me by a kind
correspondent. I give her own words. "Happening to call on a poor
neighbour, I asked after the children of a person who lived close by."
She replied, "They're no hame yet; gaed awa to the English kirk to get
_a clap_ o' _the heid_. It was the day of _confirmation_ for St. Paul's.
This definition of the 'outward and visible sign' would look rather odd
in the catechism. But the poor woman said it from no disrespect; it was
merely her way of answering my question." But remarks on serious
subjects often go to deeper views of religious matters than might be
expected from the position of the parties and the terms made use of.
Of the wise and shrewd judgment of the Scottish character, as bearing
upon religious pretensions, I have an apt example from my friend Dr.
Norman Macleod. During one of the late revivals in Scotland, a small
farmer went about preaching with much fluency and zeal the doctrine of a
"full assurance" of faith, and expressed his belief of it for himself in
such extravagant terms as few men would venture upon who were humble and
cautious against presumption. The "preacher," being personally rather
remarkable as a man of greedy and selfish views in life, excited some
suspicion in the breast of an old sagacious countryman, a neighbour of
Dr. Macleod, who asked him what _he_ thought of John as a preacher, and
of his doctrine. Scratching his head, as if in some doubt, he replied,
"I'm no verra sure o' Jock. I never ken't a man _sae sure o' Heaven, and
sae sweert to be gaing tae't_." He showed his sagacity, for John was
soon after in prison for theft.
Another story gives a good idea of the Scottish matter-of-fact view of
things being brought to bear upon a religious question without meaning
to be profane or irreverent. Dr. Macleod was on a Highland loch when a
storm came on which threatened serious consequences. The doctor, a large
powerful man, was accompanied by a clerical friend of diminutive size
and small appearance, who began to speak seriously to the boatmen of
their danger, and proposed that all present should join in prayer. "Na,
na," said the chief boatman; "let the _little_ ane gang to pray, but
first the big ane maun tak an oar." Illustrative of the same spirit was
the reply of a Scotsman of the genuine old school, "Boatie" of Deeside,
of whom I have more to say, to a relative of mine. He had been nearly
lost in a squall, and saved after great exertion, and was told by my
aunt that he should be grateful to providence for his safety. The man,
not meaning to be at all ungrateful, but viewing his preservation in
the purely hard matter-of-fact light, quietly answered, "Weel, weel,
Mrs. Russell; Providence here or Providence there, an I hadna worked
sair mysell I had been drouned."
Old Mr. Downie, the parish minister of Banchory, was noted, in my
earliest days, for his quiet pithy remarks on men and things, as they
came before him. His reply to his son, of whose social position he had
no very exalted opinion, was of this class. Young Downie had come to
visit his father from the West Indies, and told him that on his return
he was to be married to a lady whose high qualities and position he
spoke of in extravagant terms. He assured his father that she was "quite
young, was very rich, and very beautiful." "Aweel, Jemmy," said the old
man, very quietly and very slily, "I'm thinking there maun be some
_faut_." Of the dry sarcasm we have a good example in the quiet
utterance of a good Scottish phrase by an elder of a Free Kirk lately
formed. The minister was an eloquent man, and had attracted one of the
town-council, who, it was known, hardly ever entered the door of a
church, and now came on motives of curiosity. He was talking very grand
to some of the congregation: "Upon my word, your minister is a very
eloquent man. Indeed, he will quite convert me." One of the elders,
taking the word in a higher sense than the speaker intended, quietly
replied, "Indeed, Bailie, there's _muckle need_."
A kind correspondent sends me an illustration of this quaint
matter-of-fact view of a question as affecting the sentiments or the
feelings. He tells me he knew an old lady who was a stout large woman,
and who with this state of body had many ailments, which she bore
cheerfully and patiently. When asked one day by a friend, "How she was
keeping," she replied, "Ou, just middling; there's _ower muckle o' me_
to be a' weel at ae time." No Englishwoman would have given such an
answer. The same class of character is very strongly marked in a story
which was told by Mr. Thomas Constable, who has a keen appreciation of a
good Scottish story, and tells it inimitably. He used to visit an old
lady who was much attenuated by long illness, and on going up stairs one
tremendously hot afternoon, the daughter was driving away the flies,
which were very troublesome, and was saying, "Thae flies will eat up a'
that remains o' my puir mither." The old lady opened her eyes, and the
last words she spoke were, "What's left o' me's guid eneuch for them."
The spirit of caution and wariness by which the Scottish character is
supposed to be distinguished has given rise to many of these national
Certainly this cautious spirit thus pervaded the opinions of the
Scottish architect who was called upon to erect a building in England
upon the long-lease system, so common with Anglican proprietors, but
quite new to our Scottish friend. When he found the proposal was to
build upon the tenure of 999 years, he quietly suggested, "Culd ye no
mak it a _thousand_? 999 years'll be slippin' awa'."
But of all the cautious and careful answers we ever heard of was one
given by a carpenter to an old lady in Glasgow, for whom he was working,
and the anecdote is well authenticated. She had offered him a dram, and
asked him whether he would have it then or wait till his work was
done--"Indeed, mem," he said, "there's been sic a power o' sudden deaths
lately that I'll just tak it now." He would guard against contingency
and secure his dram.
The following is a good specimen of the same humour:--A minister had
been preaching against covetousness and the love of money, and had
frequently repeated how "love of money was the root of all evil" Two old
bodies walking home from church--one said, "An' wasna the minister
strang upo' the money?" "Nae doubt," said the other, rather
hesitatingly; and added, "ay, but it's grand to hae the wee bit siller
in your haund when ye gang an errand."
I have still another specimen of this national, cool, and deliberative
view of a question, which seems characteristic of the temperament of our
good countrymen. Some time back, when it was not uncommon for challenges
to be given and accepted for insults, or supposed insults, an English
gentleman was entertaining a party at Inverness with an account of the
wonders he had seen and the deeds he had performed in India, from whence
he had lately arrived. He enlarged particularly upon the size of the
tigers he had met with at different times in his travels, and by way of
corroborating his statements, assured the company that he had shot one
himself considerably above forty feet long. A Scottish gentleman
present, who thought that these narratives rather exceeded a traveller's
allowed privileges, coolly said that no doubt those were very remarkable
tigers; but that he could assure the gentleman there were in that
northern part of the country some wonderful animals, and, as an example,
he cited the existence of a skate-fish captured off Thurso, which
exceeded half-an-acre in extent. The Englishman saw this was intended as
a sarcasm against his own story, so he left the room in indignation, and
sent his friend, according to the old plan, to demand satisfaction or an
apology from the gentleman, who had, he thought, insulted him. The
narrator of the skate story coolly replied, "Weel, sir, gin yer freend
will tak' a few feet aff the length o' his tiger, we'll see what can be
dune about the breadth o' the skate." He was too cautious to commit
himself to a rash or decided course of conduct. When the tiger was
shortened, he would take into consideration a reduction of superficial
area in his skate.
A kind correspondent has sent me about as good a specimen of dry
Scottish quiet humour as I know. A certain Aberdeenshire laird, who kept
a very good poultry-yard, could not command a fresh egg for his
breakfast, and felt much aggrieved by the want. One day, however, he met
his grieve's wife with a nice basket, and very suspiciously going
towards the market; on passing and speaking a word, he was enabled to
discover that her basket was full of beautiful white eggs. Next time he
talked with his grieve, he said to him, "James, I like you very well,
and I think you serve me faithfully, but I cannot say I admire your
wife." To which the cool reply was, "Oh, 'deed, sir, I'm no surprised at
that, for I dinna muckle admire her mysel'."
An answer very much resembling this, and as much to the point, was that
of a gudewife on Deeside, whose daughter had just been married and had
left her for her new home. A lady asked the mother very kindly about her
daughter, and said she hoped she liked her new home and new relations.
"Ou, my lady, she likes the parish weel eneuch, but she doesna think
muckle o' her _man_!"
The natives of Aberdeenshire are distinguished for the two qualities of
being very acute in their remarks and very peculiar in their language.
Any one may still gain a thorough knowledge of Aberdeen dialect and see
capital examples of Aberdeen humour. I have been supplied with a
remarkable example of this combination of Aberdeen shrewdness with
Aberdeen dialect. In the course of the week after the Sunday on which
several elders of an Aberdeen parish had been set apart for parochial
offices, a knot of the parishioners had assembled at what was in all
parishes a great place of resort for idle gossiping--the smiddy or
blacksmith's workshop. The qualifications of the new elders were
severely criticised. One of the speakers emphatically laid down that the
minister should not have been satisfied, and had in fact made a most
unfortunate choice. He was thus answered by another parish
oracle--perhaps the schoolmaster, perhaps a weaver:--"Fat better culd
the man dee nir he's dune?--he bud tae big's dyke wi' the feal at fit
o't." He meant there was no choice of material--he could only take
By the kindness of Dr. Begg, I have a most amusing anecdote to
illustrate how deeply long-tried associations were mixed up with the
habits of life in the older generation. A junior minister having to
assist at a church in a remote part of Aberdeenshire, the parochial
minister (one of the old school) promised his young friend a good glass
of whisky-toddy after all was over, adding slily and very significantly,
"and gude _smuggled_ whusky." His Southron guest thought it incumbent to
say, "Ah, minister, that's wrong, is it not? you know it is contrary to
Act of Parliament." The old Aberdonian could not so easily give up his
fine whisky to what he considered an unjust interference; so he quietly
said, "Oh, Acts o' Parliament lose their breath before they get to
There is something very amusing in the idea of what may be called the
"fitness of things," in regard to snuff-taking, which occurred to an
honest Highlander, a genuine lover of sneeshin. At the door of the
Blair-Athole Hotel he observed standing a magnificent man in full
tartans, and noticed with much admiration the wide dimensions of his
nostrils in a fine upturned nose. He accosted him, and, as his most
complimentary act, offered him his mull for a pinch. The stranger drew
up, and rather haughtily said: "I never take snuff." "Oh," said the
other, "that's a peety, for there's grand _accommodation_!"
I don't know a better example of the sly sarcasm than the following
answer of a Scottish servant to the violent command of his enraged
master. A well-known coarse and abusive Scottish law functionary, when
driving out of his grounds, was shaken by his carriage coming in contact
with a large stone at the gate. He was very angry, and ordered the
gatekeeper to have it removed before his return. On driving home,
however, he encountered another severe shock by the wheels coming in
contact with the very same stone, which remained in the very same place.
Still more irritated than before, in his usual coarse language he called
the gatekeeper, and roared out: "You rascal, if you don't send that
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