Rob Roy, Complete, Illustrated
Sir Walter Scott
Part 2 out of 10
That of James MacGregor, who, from talent and activity, if not by
seniority, may be considered as head of the family, has been long
misrepresented; as it has been generally averred in Law Reports, as well
as elsewhere, that his outlawry was reversed, and that he returned and
died in Scotland. But the curious letters published in Blackwood's
Magazine for December 1817, show this to be an error. The first of these
documents is a petition to Charles Edward. It is dated 20th September
1753, and pleads his service to the cause of the Stuarts, ascribing his
exile to the persecution of the Hanoverian Government, without any
allusion to the affair of Jean Key, or the Court of Justiciary. It is
stated to be forwarded by MacGregor Drummond of Bohaldie, whom, as before
mentioned, James Mhor acknowledged as his chief.
The effect which this petition produced does not appear. Some temporary
relief was perhaps obtained. But, soon after, this daring adventurer was
engaged in a very dark intrigue against an exile of his own country, and
placed pretty nearly in his own circumstances. A remarkable Highland
story must be here briefly alluded to. Mr. Campbell of Glenure, who had
been named factor for Government on the forfeited estates of Stewart of
Ardshiel, was shot dead by an assassin as he passed through the wood of
Lettermore, after crossing the ferry of Ballachulish. A gentleman, named
James Stewart, a natural brother of Ardshiel, the forfeited person, was
tried as being accessory to the murder, and condemned and executed upon
very doubtful evidence; the heaviest part of which only amounted to the
accused person having assisted a nephew of his own, called Allan Breck
Stewart, with money to escape after the deed was done. Not satisfied with
this vengeance, which was obtained in a manner little to the honour of
the dispensation of justice at the time, the friends of the deceased
Glenure were equally desirous to obtain possession of the person of Allan
Breck Stewart, supposed to be the actual homicide. James Mhor Drummond
was secretly applied to to trepan Stewart to the sea-coast, and bring him
over to Britain, to almost certain death. Drummond MacGregor had kindred
connections with the slain Glenure; and, besides, the MacGregors and
Campbells had been friends of late, while the former clan and the
Stewarts had, as we have seen, been recently at feud; lastly, Robert Oig
was now in custody at Edinburgh, and James was desirous to do some
service by which his brother might be saved. The joint force of these
motives may, in James's estimation of right and wrong, have been some
vindication for engaging in such an enterprise, although, as must be
necessarily supposed, it could only be executed by treachery of a gross
description. MacGregor stipulated for a license to return to England,
promising to bring Allan Breck thither along with him. But the intended
victim was put upon his guard by two countrymen, who suspected James's
intentions towards him. He escaped from his kidnapper, after, as
MacGregor alleged, robbing his portmanteau of some clothes and four
snuff-boxes. Such a charge, it may be observed, could scarce have been
made unless the parties had been living on a footing of intimacy, and had
access to each other's baggage.
Although James Drummond had thus missed his blow in the matter of Allan
Breck Stewart, he used his license to make a journey to London, and had
an interview, as he avers, with Lord Holdernesse. His Lordship, and the
Under-Secretary, put many puzzling questions to him; and, as he says,
offered him a situation, which would bring him bread, in the Government's
service. This office was advantageous as to emolument; but in the opinion
of James Drummond, his acceptance of it would have been a disgrace to his
birth, and have rendered him a scourge to his country. If such a tempting
offer and sturdy rejection had any foundation in fact, it probably
relates to some plan of espionage on the Jacobites, which the Government
might hope to carry on by means of a man who, in the matter of Allan
Breck Stewart, had shown no great nicety of feeling. Drummond MacGregor
was so far accommodating as to intimate his willingness to act in any
station in which other gentlemen of honour served, but not otherwise;--an
answer which, compared with some passages of his past life, may remind
the reader of Ancient Pistol standing upon his reputation.
Having thus proved intractable, as he tells the story, to the proposals
of Lord Holdernesse, James Drummond was ordered instantly to quit
On his return to France, his condition seems to have been utterly
disastrous. He was seized with fever and gravel--ill, consequently, in
body, and weakened and dispirited in mind. Allan Breck Stewart threatened
to put him to death in revenge of the designs he had harboured against
* Note E. Allan Breck Stewart.
The Stewart clan were in the highest degree unfriendly to him: and his
late expedition to London had been attended with many suspicious
circumstances, amongst which it was not the slightest that he had kept
his purpose secret from his chief Bohaldie. His intercourse with Lord
Holdernesse was suspicious. The Jacobites were probably, like Don Bernard
de Castel Blaze, in Gil Blas, little disposed to like those who kept
company with Alguazils. Mac-Donnell of Lochgarry, a man of unquestioned
honour, lodged an information against James Drummond before the High
Bailie of Dunkirk, accusing him of being a spy, so that he found himself
obliged to leave that town and come to Paris, with only the sum of
thirteen livres for his immediate subsistence, and with absolute beggary
staring him in the face.
We do not offer the convicted common thief, the accomplice in MacLaren's
assassination, or the manager of the outrage against Jean Key, as an
object of sympathy; but it is melancholy to look on the dying struggles
even of a wolf or a tiger, creatures of a species directly hostile to our
own; and, in like manner, the utter distress of this man, whose faults
may have sprung from a wild system of education, working on a haughty
temper, will not be perused without some pity. In his last letter to
Bohaldie, dated Paris, 25th September 1754, he describes his state of
destitution as absolute, and expresses himself willing to exercise his
talents in breaking or breeding horses, or as a hunter or fowler, if he
could only procure employment in such an inferior capacity till something
better should occur. An Englishman may smile, but a Scotchman will sigh
at the postscript, in which the poor starving exile asks the loan of his
patron's bagpipes that he might play over some of the melancholy tunes of
his own land. But the effect of music arises, in a great degree, from
association; and sounds which might jar the nerves of a Londoner or
Parisian, bring back to the Highlander his lofty mountain, wild lake, and
the deeds of his fathers of the glen. To prove MacGregor's claim to our
reader's compassion, we here insert the last part of the letter alluded
"By all appearance I am born to suffer crosses, and it seems they're not
at an end; for such is my wretched case at present, that I do not know
earthly where to go or what to do, as I have no subsistence to keep body
and soul together. All that I have carried here is about 13 livres, and
have taken a room at my old quarters in Hotel St. Pierre, Rue de Cordier.
I send you the bearer, begging of you to let me know if you are to be in
town soon, that I may have the pleasure of seeing you, for I have none to
make application to but you alone; and all I want is, if it was possible
you could contrive where I could be employed without going to entire
beggary. This probably is a difficult point, yet unless it's attended
with some difficulty, you might think nothing of it, as your long head
can bring about matters of much more difficulty and consequence than
this. If you'd disclose this matter to your friend Mr. Butler, it's
possible he might have some employ wherein I could be of use, as I
pretend to know as much of breeding and riding of horse as any in France,
besides that I am a good hunter either on horseback or by footing. You
may judge my reduction, as I propose the meanest things to lend a turn
till better cast up. I am sorry that I am obliged to give you so much
trouble, but I hope you are very well assured that I am grateful for what
you have done for me, and I leave you to judge of my present wretched
case. I am, and shall for ever continue, dear Chief, your own to command,
"P. S.--If you'd send your pipes by the bearer, and all the other little
trinkims belonging to it, I would put them in order, and play some
melancholy tunes, which I may now with safety, and in real truth. Forgive
my not going directly to you, for if I could have borne the seeing of
yourself, I could not choose to be seen by my friends in my wretchedness,
nor by any of my acquaintance."
While MacGregor wrote in this disconsolate manner, Death, the sad but
sure remedy for mortal evils, and decider of all doubts and
uncertainties, was hovering near him. A memorandum on the back of the
letter says the writer died about a week after, in October 1754.
It now remains to mention the fate of Robin Oig--for the other sons of
Rob Roy seem to have been no way distinguished. Robin was apprehended by
a party of military from the fort of Inversnaid, at the foot of Gartmore,
and was conveyed to Edinburgh 26th May 1753. After a delay, which may
have been protracted by the negotiations of James for delivering up Allan
Breck Stewart upon promise of his brother's life, Robin Oig, on the 24th
of December 1753, was brought to the bar of the High Court of Justiciary,
and indicted by the name of Robert MacGregor, alias Campbell, alias
Drummond, alias Robert Oig; and the evidence led against him resembled
exactly that which was brought by the Crown on the former trial. Robert's
case was in some degree more favourable than his brother's;--for, though
the principal in the forcible marriage, he had yet to plead that he had
shown symptoms of relenting while they were carrying Jean Key off, which
were silenced by the remonstrances and threats of his harder natured
brother James. A considerable space of time had also elapsed since the
poor woman died, which is always a strong circumstance in favour of the
accused; for there is a sort of perspective in guilt, and crimes of an
old date seem less odious than those of recent occurrence. But
notwithstanding these considerations, the jury, in Robert's case, did not
express any solicitude to save his life as they had done that of James.
They found him guilty of being art and part in the forcible abduction of
Jean Key from her own dwelling.*
* The Trials of the Sons of Rob Roy, with anecdotes of Himself and his
Family, were published at Edinburgh, 1818, in 12mo.
Robin Oig was condemned to death, and executed on the 14th February 1754.
At the place of execution he behaved with great decency; and professing
himself a Catholic, imputed all his misfortunes to his swerving from the
true church two or three years before. He confessed the violent methods
he had used to gain Mrs. Key, or Wright, and hoped his fate would stop
further proceedings against his brother James.*
* James died near three months before, but his family might easily remain
a long time without the news of that event.
The newspapers observed that his body, after hanging the usual time, was
delivered to his friends to be carried to the Highlands. To this the
recollection of a venerable friend, recently taken from us in the fulness
of years, then a schoolboy at Linlithgow, enables the author to add, that
a much larger body of MacGregors than had cared to advance to Edinburgh
received the corpse at that place with the coronach and other wild
emblems of Highland mourning, and so escorted it to Balquhidder. Thus we
may conclude this long account of Rob Roy and his family with the classic
Ite. Conclamatum est.
I have only to add, that I have selected the above from many anecdotes of
Rob Roy which were, and may still be, current among the mountains where
he flourished; but I am far from warranting their exact authenticity.
Clannish partialities were very apt to guide the tongue and pen, as well
as the pistol and claymore, and the features of an anecdote are
wonderfully softened or exaggerated as the story is told by a MacGregor
or a Campbell.
APPENDIX TO INTRODUCTION.
FOR THE APPREHENSION OF ROB ROY.
(From the Edinburgh Evening Courant, June 18 to June 21, A.D. 1732. No.
"That Robert Campbell, commonly known by the name of Rob Roy MacGregor,
being lately intrusted by several noblemen and gentlemen with
considerable sums for buying cows for them in the Highlands, has
treacherously gone off with the money, to the value of L1000 sterling,
which he carries along with him. All Magistrates and Officers of his
Majesty's forces are intreated to seize upon the said Rob Roy, and the
money which he carries with him, until the persons concerned in the money
be heard against him; and that notice be given, when he is apprehended,
to the keepers of the Exchange Coffee-house at Edinburgh, and the keeper
of the Coffee-house at Glasgow, where the parties concerned will be
advertised, and the seizers shall be very reasonably rewarded for their
It is unfortunate that this Hue and Cry, which is afterwards repeated in
the same paper, contains no description of Rob Roy's person, which, of
course, we must suppose to have been pretty generally known. As it is
directed against Rob Roy personally, it would seem to exclude the idea of
the cattle being carried off by his partner, MacDonald, who would
certainly have been mentioned in the advertisement, if the creditors
concerned had supposed him to be in possession of the money.
FROM AND TO THE DUKE OF MONTROSE
RESPECTING ROB ROY'S ARREST OF MR. GRAHAME OF KILLEARN.
_The Duke of Montrose to--_*
* It does not appear to whom this letter was addressed. Certainly, from
its style and tenor, It was designed for some person high in rank and
office--perhaps the King's Advocate for the time.
"Glasgow, the 21st November, 1716.
"My Lord,--I was surprised last night with the account of a very
remarkable instance of the insolence of that very notorious rogue Rob
Roy, whom your lordship has often heard named. The honour of his
Majesty's Government being concerned in it, I thought it my duty to
acquaint your lordship of the particulars by an express.
"Mr. Grahame of Killearn (whom I have had occasion to mention frequently
to you, for the good service he did last winter during the rebellion)
having the charge of my Highland estate, went to Monteath, which is a
part of it, on Monday last, to bring in my rents, it being usual for him
to be there for two or three nights together at this time of the year, in
a country house, for the conveniency of meeting the tenants, upon that
account. The same night, about 9 of the clock, Rob Roy, with a party of
those ruffians whom he has still kept about him since the late rebellion,
surrounded the house where Mr. Grahame was with some of my tenants doing
his business, ordered his men to present their guns in att the windows of
the room where he was sitting, while he himself at the same time with
others entered at the door, with cocked pistols, and made Mr. Grahame
prisoner, carrying him away to the hills with the money he had got, his
books and papers, and my tenants' bonds for their fines, amounting to
above a thousand pounds sterling, whereof the one-half had been paid last
year, and the other was to have been paid now; and att the same time had
the insolence to cause him to write a letter to me (the copy of which is
enclosed) offering me terms of a treaty.
"That your Lordship may have the better view of this matter, it will be
necessary that I should inform you, that this fellow has now, of a long
time, put himself at the head of the Clan M'Gregor, a race of people who
in all ages have distinguished themselves beyond others, by robberies,
depredations, and murders, and have been the constant harbourers and
entertainers of vagabonds and loose people. From the time of the
Revolution he has taken every opportunity to appear against the
Government, acting rather as a robber than doing any real service to
those whom he pretended to appear for, and has really done more mischief
to the countrie than all the other Highlanders have done.
"Some three or four years before the last rebellion broke out, being
overburdened with debts, he quitted his ordinary residence, and removed
some twelve or sixteen miles farther into the Highlands, putting himself
under the protection of the Earl of Bredalbin. When my Lord Cadogan was
in the Highlands, he ordered his house att this place to be burnt, which
your Lordship sees he now places to my account.
"This obliges him to return to the same countrie he went from, being a
most rugged inaccessible place, where he took up his residence anew
amongst his own friends and relations; but well judging that it was
possible to surprise him, he, with about forty-five of his followers,
went to Inverary, and made a sham surrender of their arms to Coll.
Campbell of Finab, Commander of one of the Independent Companies, and
returned home with his men, each of them having the Coll.'s protection.
This happened in the beginning of summer last; yet not long after he
appeared with his men twice in arms, in opposition to the King's troops:
and one of those times attackt them, rescued a prisoner from them, and
all this while sent abroad his party through the countrie, plundering the
countrie people, and amongst the rest some of my tenants.
"Being informed of these disorders after I came to Scotland, I applied to
Lieut.-Genll. Carpenter, who ordered three parties from Glasgow,
Stirling, and Finlarig, to march in the night by different routes, in
order to surprise him and his men in their houses, which would have its
effect certainly, if the great rains that happened to fall that verie
night had not retarded the march of the troops, so as some of the parties
came too late to the stations that they were ordered for. All that could
be done upon the occasion was to burn a countrie house, where Rob Roy
then resided, after some of his clan had, from the rocks, fired upon the
king's troops, by which a grenadier was killed.
"Mr. Grahame of Killearn, being my deputy-sheriff in that countrie, went
along with the party that marched from Stirling; and doubtless will now
meet with the worse treatment from that barbarous people on that account.
Besides, that he is my relation, and that they know how active he has
been in the service of the Government--all which, your Lordship may
believe, puts me under very great concern for the gentleman, while, at
the same time, I can foresee no manner of way how to relieve him, other
than to leave him to chance and his own management.
"I had my thoughts before of proposing to Government the building of some
barracks as the only expedient for suppressing these rebels, and securing
the peace of the countrie; and in that view I spoke to Genll. Carpenter,
who has now a scheme of it in his hands; and I am persuaded that will be
the true method for restraining them effectually; but, in the meantime,
it will be necessary to lodge some of the troops in those places, upon
which I intend to write to the Generall.
"I am sensible I have troubled your Lordship with a very long letter,
which I should be ashamed of, were I myself singly concerned; but where
the honour of the King's Government is touched, I need make no apologie,
and I shall only beg leave to add, that I am, with great respect, and
"yr. Lords. most humble and obedient servant,
COPY OF GRAHAME OF KILLEARN'S LETTER, ENCLOSED IN THE PRECEDING.
"Chappellarroch, Nov. 19th, 1716.
"May it please your Grace,--I am obliged to give your Grace the trouble
of this, by Robert Roy's commands, being so unfortunate at present as to
be his prisoner. I refer the way and manner I was apprehended, to the
bearer, and shall only, in short, acquaint your Grace with the demands,
which are, that your Grace shall discharge him of all soumes he owes your
Grace, and give him the soume of 3400 merks for his loss and damages
sustained by him, both at Craigrostown and at his house, Auchinchisallen;
and that your Grace shall give your word not to trouble or prosecute him
afterwards; till which time he carries me, all the money I received this
day, my books and bonds for entress, not yet paid, along with him, with
assurance of hard usage, if any party are sent after him. The soume I
received this day, conform to the nearest computation I can make before
several of the gentlemen, is 3227L. 2sh. 8d. Scots, of which I gave them
notes. I shall wait your Grace's return, and ever am,
"Your Grace's most obedient, faithful,
THE DUKE OF MONTROSE TO ----
28_th Nov._ 1716--_Killearn's Release._
"Glasgow, 28th Nov. 1716.
"Sir,--Having acquainted you by my last, of the 21st instant, of what had
happened to my friend, Mr. Grahame of Killearn, I'm very glad now to tell
you, that last night I was very agreeably surprised with Mr. Grahame's
coming here himself, and giving me the first account I had had of him
from the time of his being carried away. It seems Rob Roy, when he came
to consider a little better of it, found that, he could not mend his
matters by retaining Killearn his prisoner, which could only expose him
still the more to the justice of the Government; and therefore thought
fit to dismiss him on Sunday evening last, having kept him from the
Monday night before, under a very uneasy kind of restraint, being obliged
to change continually from place to place. He gave him back the books,
papers, and bonds, but kept the money.
"I am, with great truth, Sir,
"your most humble servant,
[Some papers connected with Rob Roy Macgregor, signed "Ro. Campbell," in
1711, were lately presented to the Society of Antiquaries. One of these
is a kind of contract between the Duke of Montrose and Rob Roy, by which
the latter undertakes to deliver within a given time "Sixtie good and
sufficient Kintaill highland Cowes, betwixt the age of five and nine
years, at fourtene pounds Scotts per peice, with ane bull to the bargane,
and that at the head dykes of Buchanan upon the twenty-eight day of May
next."--Dated December 1711.--See _Proceedings,_ vol. vii. p. 253.]
No. III.--CHALLENGE BY ROB ROY.
"Rob Roy _to ain hie and mighty Prince,_ James Duke of Montrose.
"In charity to your Grace's couradge and conduct, please know, the only
way to retrive both is to treat Rob Roy like himself, in appointing tyme,
place, and choice of arms, that at once you may extirpate your inveterate
enemy, or put a period to your punny (puny?) life in falling gloriously
by his hands. That impertinent criticks or flatterers may not brand me
for challenging a man that's repute of a poor dastardly soul, let such
know that I admit of the two great supporters of his character and the
captain of his bands to joyne with him in the combat. Then sure your
Grace wont have the impudence to clamour att court for multitudes to hunt
me like a fox, under pretence that I am not to be found above ground.
This saves your Grace and the troops any further trouble of searching;
that is, if your ambition of glory press you to embrace this unequald
venture offerd of Rob's head. But if your Grace's piety, prudence, and
cowardice, forbids hazarding this gentlemanly expedient, then let your
desire of peace restore what you have robed from me by the tyranny of
your present cituation, otherwise your overthrow as a man is determined;
and advertise your friends never more to look for the frequent civility
payed them, of sending them home without their arms only. Even their
former cravings wont purchase that favour; so your Grace by this has
peace in your offer, if the sound of wax be frightful, and chuse you
whilk, your good friend or mortal enemy."
This singular rhodomontade is enclosed in a letter to a friend of Rob
Roy, probably a retainer of the Duke of Argyle in Isle, which is in these
"Sir,--Receive the enclosd paper, qn you are takeing yor Botle it will
divert yorself and comrad's. I gote noe news since I seed you, only qt
wee had before about the Spainyard's is like to continue. If I'll get any
further account about them I'll be sure to let you know of it, and till
then I will not write any more till I'll have more sure account, and I am
"Sir, your most affectionate Cn [cousin],
"and most humble servant,
"_Apryle_ 16_th,_ 1719.
"To Mr. Patrick Anderson, at Hay--These.'
The seal, _a stag_--no bad emblem of a wild cateran.
It appears from the envelope that Rob Roy still continued to act as
Intelligencer to the Duke of Argyle, and his agents. The war he alludes
to is probably some vague report of invasion from Spain. Such rumours
were likely enough to be afloat, in consequence of the disembarkation of
the troops who were taken at Glensheal in the preceding year, 1718.
FROM ROBERT CAMPBELL, _alias_ M'GREGOR,
COMMONLY CALLED ROB ROY, TO FIELD-MARSHAL WADE,
Then receiving the submission of disaffected Chieftains and Clans.*
* This curious epistle is copied from an authentic narrative of Marshal
Wade's proceedings in the Highlands, communicated by the late eminent
antiquary, George Chalmers, Esq., to Mr. Robert Jamieson, of the Register
House, Edinburgh, and published in the Appendix to an Edition of Burt's
Letters from the North of Scotland, 2 vols. 8vo, Edinburgh, 1818.
Sir,--The great humanity with which you have constantly acted in the
discharge of the trust reposed in you, and your ever having made use of
the great powers with which you were vested as the means of doing good
and charitable offices to such as ye found proper objects of compassion,
will, I hope, excuse my importunity in endeavouring to approve myself not
absolutely unworthy of that mercy and favour which your Excellency has so
generously procured from his Majesty for others in my unfortunate
circumstances. I am very sensible nothing can be alledged sufficient to
excuse so great a crime as I have been guilty of it, that of Rebellion.
But I humbly beg leave to lay before your Excellency some particulars in
the circumstance of my guilt, which, I hope, will extenuate it in some
measure. It was my misfortune, at the time the Rebellion broke out, to be
liable to legal diligence and caption, at the Duke of Montrose's
instance, for debt alledged due to him. To avoid being flung into prison,
as I must certainly have been, had I followed my real inclinations in
joining the King's troops at Stirling, I was forced to take party with
the adherents of the Pretender; for the country being all in arms, it was
neither safe nor indeed possible for me to stand neuter. I should not,
however, plead my being forced into that unnatural rebellion against his
Majesty, King George, if I could not at the same time assure your
Excellency, that I not only avoided acting offensively against his
Majesty's forces upon all occasions, but on the contrary, sent his Grace
the Duke of Argyle all the intelligence I could from time to time, of the
strength and situation of the rebels; which I hope his Grace will do me
the justice to acknowledge. As to the debt to the Duke of Montrose, I
have discharged it to the utmost farthing. I beg your Excellency would be
persuaded that, had it been in my power, as it was in my inclination, I
should always have acted for the service of his Majesty King George, and
that one reason of my begging the favour of your intercession with his
Majesty for the pardon of my life, is the earnest desire I have to employ
it in his service, whose goodness, justice, and humanity, are so
conspicuous to all mankind.--I am, with all duty and respect, your
Excellency's most, &c.,
ESCAPE OF ROB ROY FROM THE DUKE OF ATHOLE.
The following copy of a letter which passed from one clergyman of the
Church of Scotland to another, was communicated to me by John Gregorson,
Esq. of Ardtornish. The escape of Rob Roy is mentioned, like other
interesting news of the time with which it is intermingled. The
disagreement between the Dukes of Athole and Argyle seems to have
animated the former against Rob Roy, as one of Argyle's partisans.
"Rev. and dear Brother,
Yrs of the 28th Jun I had by the bearer. Im pleased yo have got back
again yr Delinquent which may probably safe you of the trouble of her
child. I'm sory I've yet very little of certain news to give you from
Court tho' I've seen all the last weekes prints, only I find in them a
pasage which is all the account I can give you of the Indemnity yt when
the estates of forfaulted Rebells Comes to be sold all Just debts
Documented are to be preferred to Officers of the Court of enquiry. The
Bill in favours of that Court against the Lords of Session in Scotland in
past the house of Commons and Come before the Lords which is thought to
be considerably more ample yn formerly wt respect to the Disposeing of
estates Canvassing and paying of Debts. It's said yt the examinations of
Cadugans accounts is droped but it wants Confirmations here as yet.
Oxford's tryals should be entered upon Saturday last. We hear that the
Duchess of Argyle is wt child. I doe not hear yt the Divisions at Court
are any thing abated or of any appearance of the Dukes having any thing
of his Maj: favour. I heartily wish the present humours at Court may not
prove an encouragmt to watchfull and restles enemies.
My accounts of Rob Roy his escape are yt after severall Embassies between
his Grace (who I hear did Correspond wt some at Court about it) and Rob
he at length upon promise of protectione Came to waite upon the Duke &
being presently secured his Grace sent post to Edr to acquent the Court
of his being aprehended & call his friends at Edr and to desire a party
from Gen Carpinter to receive and bring him to Edr which party came the
length of Kenross in Fife, he was to be delivered to them by a party his
Grace had demanded from the Governour at Perth, who when upon their march
towards Dunkell to receive him, were mete wt and returned by his Grace
having resolved to deliver him by a party of his own men and left Rob at
Logierate under a strong guard till yt party should be ready to receive
him. This space of time Rob had Imployed in taking the other dram
heartily wt the Guard & qn all were pretty hearty, Rob is delivering a
letter for his wife to a servant to whom he most needs deliver some
private instructions at the Door (for his wife) where he's attended wt on
the Guard. When serious in this privat Conversations he is making some
few steps carelessly from the Door about the house till he comes close by
this horse which he soon mounted and made off. This is no small
mortifican to the guard because of the delay it give to there hopes of a
Considerable additionall charge agt John Roy.* my wife was upon Thursday
last delivered of a Son after sore travell of which she still continues
* _i.e._ John the Red--John Duke of Argyle, so called from his
complexion, more commonly styled "Red John the Warriour."
I give yl Lady hearty thanks for the Highland plaid. It's good cloath but
it does not answer the sett I sent some time agae wt McArthur & tho it
had I told in my last yt my wife was obliged to provid herself to finish
her bed before she was lighted but I know yt letr came not timely to yr
hand--I'm sory I had not mony to send by the bearer having no thought of
it & being exposed to some little expenses last week but I expect some
sure occasion when order by a letter to receive it excuse this freedom
"_Manse of Comrie, July_ 2_d,_ 1717.
"I salute yr lady I wish my ............ her Daughter much Joy."
No. V.--HIGHLAND WOOING.
There are many productions of the Scottish Ballad Poets upon the
lion-like mode of wooing practised by the ancient Highlanders when they
had a fancy for the person (or property) of a Lowland damsel. One example
is found in Mr. Robert Jamieson's Popular Scottish Songs:--
Bonny Babby Livingstone
Gaed out to see the kye,
And she has met with Glenlyon,
Who has stolen her away.
He took free her her sattin coat,
But an her silken gown,
Syne roud her in his tartan plaid,
And happd her round and roun'.
In another ballad we are told how--
Four-and-twenty Hieland men,
Came doun by Fiddoch Bide,
And they have sworn a deadly aith,
Jean Muir suld be a bride:
And they have sworn a deadly aith,
Ilke man upon his durke,
That she should wed with Duncan Ger,
Or they'd make bloody works.
This last we have from tradition, but there are many others in the
collections of Scottish Ballads to the same purpose.
The achievement of Robert Oig, or young Rob Roy, as the Lowlanders called
him, was celebrated in a ballad, of which there are twenty different and
various editions. The tune is lively and wild, and we select the
following words from memory:--
Rob Roy is frae the Hielands come,
Down to the Lowland border;
And he has stolen that lady away,
To haud his house in order.
He set her on a milk-white steed,
Of none he stood in awe;
Untill they reached the Hieland hills,
Aboon the Balmaha'!*
* A pass on the eastern margin of Loch Lomond, and an entrance to the
Saying, Be content, be content,
Be content with me, lady;
Where will ye find in Lennox land,
Sae braw a man as me, lady?
Rob Roy he was my father called,
MacGregor was his name, lady;
A' the country, far and near,
Have heard MacGregor's fame, lady.
He was a hedge about his friends,
A heckle to his foes, lady;
If any man did him gainsay,
He felt his deadly blows, lady.
I am as bold, I am as bold,
I am as bold and more, lady;
Any man that doubts my word,
May try my gude claymore, lady.
Then be content, be content.
Be content with me, lady;
For now you are my wedded wife,
Until the day you die, lady.
No. VI--GHLUNE DHU.
The following notices concerning this Chief fell under the Author's eye
while the sheets were in the act of going through the press. They occur
in manuscript memoirs, written by a person intimately acquainted with the
incidents of 1745.
This Chief had the important task intrusted to him of defending the
Castle of Doune, in which the Chevalier placed a garrison to protect his
communication with the Highlands, and to repel any sallies which might be
made from Stirling Castle--Ghlune Dhu distinguished himself by his good
conduct in this charge.
Ghlune Dhu is thus described:--"Glengyle is, in person, a tall handsome
man, and has more of the mien of the ancient heroes than our modern fine
gentlemen are possessed of. He is honest and disinterested to a
proverb--extremely modest--brave and intrepid--and born one of the best
partisans in Europe. In short, the whole people of that country declared
that never did men live under so mild a government as Glengyle's, not a
man having so much as lost a chicken while he continued there."
It would appear from this curious passage, that Glengyle--not Stewart of
Balloch, as averred in a note on Waverley--commanded the garrison of
Doune. Balloch might, no doubt, succeed MacGregor in the situation.
EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION TO ROB ROY
In the magnum opus, the author's final edition of the Waverley Novels,
"Rob Roy" appears out of its chronological order, and comes next after
"The Antiquary." In this, as in other matters, the present edition
follows that of 1829. "The Antiquary," as we said, contained in its
preface the author's farewell to his art. This valediction was meant as
prelude to a fresh appearance in a new disguise. Constable, who had
brought out the earlier works, did not publish the "Tales of my Landlord"
("The Black Dwarf" and "Old Mortality "), which Scott had nearly finished
by November 12, 1816. The four volumes appeared from the houses of Mr.
Murray and Mr. Blackwood, on December 1, 1816. Within less than a month
came out "Harold the Dauntless," by the author of "The Bridal of
Triermain." Scott's work on the historical part of the "Annual Register"
had also been unusually arduous. At Abbotsford, or at Ashiestiel, his
mode of life was particularly healthy; in Edinburgh, between the claims
of the courts, of literature, and of society, he was scarcely ever in the
open air. Thus hard sedentary work caused, between the publication
of "Old Mortality" and that of "Rob Roy," the first of those alarming
illnesses which overshadowed the last fifteen years of his life. The
earliest attack of cramp in the stomach occurred on March 5, 1817, when
he "retired from the room with a scream of agony which electrified his
Living on "parritch," as he tells Miss Baillie (for his national spirit
rejected arrowroot), Scott had yet energy enough to plan a dramatic piece
for Terry, "The Doom of Devorgoil." But in April he announced to John
Ballantyne "a good subject" for a novel, and on May 6, John, after a
visit to Abbotsford with Constable, proclaimed to James Ballantyne the
advent of "Rob Roy."
The anecdote about the title is well known. Constable suggested it, and
Scott was at first wisely reluctant to "write up to a title." Names like
Rob Roy, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Cleopatra, and so forth, tell the
reader too much, and, Scott imagined, often excite hopes which cannot be
fulfilled. However, in the geniality of an after-dinner hour in the
gardens of Abbotsford, Scott allowed Constable to be sponsor. Many things
had lately brought Rob into his mind. In 1812 Scott had acquired Rob
Roy's gun--"a long Spanish-barrelled piece, with his initials R. M. C.,"
C standing for Campbell, a name assumed in compliment to the Argyll
Rob's spleuchan had also been presented by Mr. Train to Sir Walter, in
1816, and may have directed his thoughts to this popular freebooter.
Though Rob flourished in the '15, he was really a character very near
Scott, whose friend Invernahyle had fought Rob with broadsword and
target--a courteous combat like that between Ajax and Hector.
At Tullibody Scott had met, in 1793, a gentleman who once visited Rob,
and arranged to pay him blackmail.
Mr. William Adam had mentioned to Scott in 1816 the use of the word
"curlie-wurlies" for highly decorated architecture, and recognised the
phrase, next year, in the mouth of Andrew Fairservice.
In the meeting at Abbotsford (May 2, 1817) Scott was very communicative,
sketched Bailie Nicol Jarvie, and improvised a dialogue between Rob and
the magistrate. A week later he quoted to Southey, Swift's lines--
Too bad for a blessing, too good for a curse,--which probably suggested
Andrew Fairservice's final estimate of Scott's hero,--"over bad for
blessing, and ower gude for banning."
These are the trifles which show the bent of Scott's mind at this period.
The summer of 1817 he spent in working at the "Annual Register" and at
the "Border Antiquities." When the courts rose, he visited Rob's cave at
the head of Loch Lomond; and this visit seems to have been gossiped
about, as literary people, hearing of the new novel, expected the cave to
be a very prominent feature. He also went to Glasgow, and refreshed his
memory of the cathedral; nor did he neglect old books, such as "A Tour
through Great Britain, by a Gentleman" (4th Edition, 1748). This yielded
him the Bailie's account of Glasgow commerce "in Musselburgh stuffs and
Edinburgh shalloons," and the phrase "sortable cargoes."
Hence, too, Scott took the description of the rise of Glasgow. Thus Scott
was taking pains with his preparations. The book was not written in
post-haste. Announced to Constable early in May, the last sheet was not
corrected till about December 21, when Scott wrote to Ballantyne:--
With great joy I send you Roy.
'T was a tough job,
But we're done with Rob.
"Rob Roy" was published on the last day of 1817. The toughness of the job
was caused by constant pain, and by struggles with "the lassitude of
opium." So seldom sentimental, so rarely given to expressing his
melancholy moods in verse, Scott, while composing "Rob Roy," wrote the
beautiful poem "The sun upon the Weirdlaw Hill," in which, for this once,
"pity of self through all makes broken moan."
Some stress may be laid on the state of Sir Walter's health at this
moment, because a living critic has tried to show that, in his case,
"every pang of the stomach paralyses the brain;" that he "never had a fit
of the cramp without spoiling a chapter."--[Mr. Ruskin's "Fiction Fair
and Foul," "Nineteenth Century," 1880, p. 955.]--"Rob Roy" is a
sufficient answer to these theories. The mind of Scott was no slave to
The success of the story is pleasantly proved by a sentence in a review
of the day: "It is an event unprecedented in the annals either of
literature or of the custom-house that the entire cargo of a packet, or
smack, bound from Leith to London, should be the impression of a novel,
for which the public curiosity was so much upon the alert as to require
this immense importation to satisfy."
Ten thousand copies of a three-volume novel are certainly a ponderous
cargo, and Constable printed no fewer in his first edition. Scott was
assured of his own triumph in February 1819, when a dramatised version of
his novel was acted in Edinburgh by the company of Mr. William Murray, a
descendant of the traitor Murray of Broughton. Mr. Charles Mackay made a
capital Bailie, and the piece remains a favourite with Scotch audiences.
It is plain, from the reviews, that in one respect "Rob Roy" rather
disappointed the world. They had expected Rob to be a much more imposing
and majestic cateran, and complained that his foot was set too late on
his native heather. They found too much of the drover and intriguer, too
little of the traditional driver of the spoil. This was what Scott
foresaw when he objected to "writing up to a title." In fact, he did not
write up to, it, and, as the "Scots Magazine" said, "shaped his story in
such a manner as to throw busybodies out in their chase, with a slight
degree of malicious finesse." "All the expeditions to the wonderful cave
have been thrown away, for the said cave is not once, we think, mentioned
from beginning to end."
"Rob Roy" equals "Waverley" in its pictures of Highland and Lowland
society and character. Scott had clearly set himself to state his
opinions about the Highlands as they were under the patriarchal system of
government. The Highlanders were then a people, not lawless, indeed, but
all their law was the will of their chief. Bailie Nicol Jarvie makes a
statement of their economic and military condition as accurate as it is
humorous. The modern "Highland Question" may be studied as well in the
Bailie's words as in volumes of history and wildernesses of blue-books.
A people patriarchal and military as the Arabs of the desert were
suddenly dragged into modern commercial and industrial society. All old
bonds were snapped in a moment; emigration (at first opposed by some of
the chiefs) and the French wars depleted the country of its "lang-leggit
callants, gaun wanting the breeks." Cattle took the place of men, sheep
of cattle, deer of sheep, and, in the long peace, a population grew up
again--a population destitute of employment even more than of old,
because war and robbery had ceased to be outlets for its energy. Some
chiefs, as Dr. Johnson said, treated their lands as an attorney treats
his row of cheap houses in a town. Hence the Highland Question,--a
question in which Scott's sympathies were with the Highlanders.
"Rob Roy," naturally, is no mere "novel with a purpose," no economic
tract in disguise. Among Scott's novels it stands alone as regards its
pictures of passionate love. The love of Diana Vernon is no less
passionate for its admirable restraint. Here Scott displays, without
affectation, a truly Greek reserve in his art. The deep and strong
affection of Diana Vernon would not have been otherwise handled by him
who drew the not more immortal picture of Antigone. Unlike modern
novelists, Sir Walter deals neither in analysis nor in rapturous
effusions. We can, unfortunately, imagine but too easily how some writers
would peep and pry into the concealed emotions of that maiden heart; how
others would revel in tears, kisses, and caresses. In place of all these
She extended her hand, but I clasped her to my bosom. She sighed as
she extricated herself from the embrace which she permitted, escaped
to the door which led to her own apartment, and I saw her no more.
Months pass, in a mist of danger and intrigue, before the lovers meet
again in the dusk and the solitude.
"Mr. Francis Osbaldistone," cries the girl's voice through the
moonlight, "should not whistle his favourite airs when he wishes to
And Diana Vernon--for she, wrapped in a horseman's cloak, was the
last speaker--whistled in playful mimicry the second part of the
tune, which was on my lips when they came up.
Surely there was never, in story or in song, a lady so loving and so
light of heart, save Rosalind alone. Her face touches Frank's, as she
says goodbye for ever "It was a moment never to be forgotten,
inexpressibly bitter, yet mixed with a sensation of pleasure so deeply
soothing and affecting as at once to unlock all the floodgates of the
She rides into the night, her lover knows the _hysterica passio_ of poor
Lear, but "I had scarce given vent to my feelings in this paroxysm ere I
was ashamed of my weakness."
These were men and women who knew how to love, and how to live.
All men who read "Rob Roy" are innocent rivals of Frank Osbaldistone.
Di Vernon holds her place in our hearts with Rosalind, and these airy
affections, like the actual emotions which they mimic, are not matters
for words. This lady, so gay, so brave, so witty and fearless, so tender
and true, who "endured trials which might have dignified the history of a
martyr, . . . who spent the day in darkness and the night in vigil, and
never breathed a murmur of weakness or complaint," is as immortal in
men's memories as the actual heroine of the White Rose, Flora Macdonald.
Her place is with Helen and Antigone, with Rosalind and Imogen, the
deathless daughters of dreams. She brightens the world as she passes, and
our own hearts tell us all the story when Osbaldistone says, "You know
how I lamented her."
In the central interest, which, for once, is the interest of love, "Rob
Roy" attains the nobility, the reserve, the grave dignity of the highest
art. It is not easy to believe that Frank Osbaldistone is worthy of his
lady; but here no man is a fair judge. In the four novels--"Waverley,"
"Guy Mannering," "The Antiquary," and "Rob Roy"--which we have studied,
the hero has always been a young poet. Waverley versified; so did
Mannering; Lovel "had attempted a few lyrical pieces;" and, in
Osbaldistone's rhymes, Scott parodied his own
blast of that dread horn
On Fontarabian echoes borne.
All the heroes, then, have been poets, and Osbaldistone's youth may have
been suggested by Scott's memories of his own, and of the father who
"feared that he would never be better than a gangrel scrapegut." Like
Henry Morton, in "Old Mortality," Frank Osbaldistone is on the political
side taken by Scott's judgment, not by his emotions. To make Di Vernon
convert him to Jacobitism would have been to repeat the story of
Waverley. Still, he would have been more sympathetic if he had been
converted. He certainly does not lack spirit, as a sportsman, or "on an
occasion," as Sir William Hope says in "The Scots' Fencing Master," when
he encounters Rashleigh in the college gardens. Frank, in short, is all
that a hero should be, and is glorified by his affection.
Of the other characters, perhaps Rob Roy is too sympathetically drawn.
The materials for a judgment are afforded by Scott's own admirable
historical introduction. The Rob Roy who so calmly "played booty," and
kept a foot in either camp, certainly falls below the heroic. His
language has been criticised in late years, and it has been insisted that
the Highlanders never talked Lowland Scotch. But Scott has anticipated
these cavils in the eighteenth chapter of the second volume. Certainly no
Lowlander knew the Highlanders better than he did, and his ear for
dialect was as keen as his musical ear was confessedly obtuse.
Scott had the best means of knowing whether Helen MacGregor would be
likely to soar into heroics as she is apt to do. In fact, here "we may
trust the artist."
The novel is as rich as any in subordinate characters full of life and
humour. Morris is one of the few utter cowards in Scott. He has none of
the passionate impulses towards courage of the hapless hero in "The Fair
Maid of Perth." The various Osbaldistones are nicely discriminated by
Diana Vernon, in one of those "Beatrix moods" which Scott did not always
admire, when they were displayed by "Lady Anne" and other girls of flesh
and blood. Rashleigh is of a nature unusual in Scott. He is, perhaps, Sir
Walter's nearest approach, for malignant egotism, to an Iago. Of Bailie
Nicol Jarvie commendation were impertinent. All Scotland arose, called
him hers, laughed at and applauded her civic child. Concerning Andrew
Fairservice, the first edition tells us what the final edition leaves us
to guess--that Tresham "may recollect him as gardener at Osbaldistone
Hall." Andrew was not a friend who could be shaken off. Diana may have
ruled the hall, but Andrew must have remained absolute in the gardens,
with "something to maw that he would like to see mawn, or something to
saw that he would like to see sawn, or something to ripe that he would
like to see ripen, and sae he e'en daikered on wi' the family frae year's
end to year's end," and life's end. His master "needed some carefu' body
to look after him."
Only Shakspeare and Scott could have given us medicines to make us like
this cowardly, conceited "jimp honest" fellow, Andrew Fairservice, who
just escapes being a hypocrite by dint of some sincere old Covenanting
leaven in his veins. We make bold to say that the creator of Parolles and
Lucie, and many another lax and lovable knave, would, had he been a Scot,
have drawn Andrew Fairservice thus, and not otherwise.
The critics of the hour censured, as they were certain to censure, the
construction, and especially the conclusion, of "Rob Roy." No doubt the
critics were right. In both Scott and Shakspeare there is often seen a
perfect disregard of the denouement. Any moderately intelligent person
can remark on the huddled-up ends and hasty marriages in many of
Shakspeare's comedies; Moliere has been charged with the same offence;
and, if blame there be, Scott is almost always to blame. Thackeray is
little better. There must be some reason that explains why men of genius
go wrong where every newspaper critic, every milliner's girl acquainted
with circulating libraries, can detect the offence.
In the closing remarks of "Old Mortality" Scott expresses himself
humorously on this matter of the denouement. His schoolmaster author
takes his proofsheets to Miss Martha Buskbody, who was the literary set
in Gandercleugh, having read through the whole stock of three circulating
libraries. Miss Buskbody criticises the Dominic as Lady Louisa Stuart
habitually criticised Sir Walter. "Your plan of omitting a formal
conclusion will never do!" The Dominie replies, "Really, madam, you must
be aware that every volume of a narrative turns less and less interesting
as the author draws to a conclusion,--just like your tea, which, though
excellent hyson, is necessarily weaker and more insipid in the last cup."
He compares the orthodox happy ending to "the luscious lump of
half-dissolved sugar" usually found at the bottom of the cup. This topic
might be discussed, and indeed has been discussed, endlessly. In our
actual lives it is probable that most of us have found ourselves living
for a year, or a month, or a week, in a chapter or half a volume of a
novel, and these have been our least happy experiences. But we have also
found that the romance vanishes away like a ghost, dwindles out, closes
with ragged ends, has no denouement. Then the question presents itself,
As art is imitation, should not novels, as a rule, close thus? The
experiment has frequently been tried, especially by the modern geniuses
who do not conceal their belief that their art is altogether finer than
Scott's, or, perhaps, than Shakspeare's.
In his practice, and in his Dominie's critical remarks, Sir Walter
appears inclined to agree with them. He was just as well aware as his
reviewers, or as Lady Louisa Stuart, that the conclusion of "Rob Roy" is
"huddled up," that the sudden demise of all the young Baldistones is a
high-handed measure. He knew that, in real life, Frank and Di Vernon
would never have met again after that farewell on the moonlit road. But
he yielded to Miss Buskbody's demand for "a glimpse of sunshine in the
last chapter;" he understood the human liking for the final lump of
sugar. After all, fiction is not, any more than any other art, a mere
imitation of life: it is an arrangement, a selection. Scott was too kind,
too humane, to disappoint us, the crowd of human beings who find much of
our happiness in dreams. He could not keep up his own interest in his
characters after he had developed them; he could take pleasure in giving
them life,--he had little pleasure in ushering them into an earthly
paradise; so that part of his business he did carelessly, as his only
rivals in literature have also done it.
The critics censured, not unjustly, the "machinery" of the story,--these
mysterious "assets" of Osbaldistone and Tresham, whose absence was to
precipitate the Rising of 1715. The "Edinburgh Review" lost its heart
(Jeffrey's heart was always being lost) to Di Vernon. But it pronounces
that "a king with legs of marble, or a youth with an ivory shoulder,"
heroes of the "Arabian Nights" and of Pindar, was probable, compared with
the wit and accomplishments of Diana. This is hypercriticism. Diana's
education, under Rashleigh, had been elaborate; her acquaintance with
Shakspeare, her main strength, is unusual in women, but not beyond the
limits of belief. Here she is in agreeable contrast to Rose Bradwardine,
who had never heard of "Romeo and Juliet." In any case, Diana compels
belief as well as wins affection, while we are fortunate enough to be in
her delightful company.
As long as we believe in her, it is not of moment to consider whether her
charms are incompatible with probability.
"Rob Roy" was finished in spite of "a very bad touch of the cramp for
about three weeks in November, which, with its natural attendants of
dulness and, weakness, made me unable to get our matters forward till
last week," says Scott to Constable. "But," adds the unconquerable
author, "I am resting myself here a few days before commencing my new
labours, which will be untrodden ground, and, I think, pretty likely to
succeed." The "new labours" were "The Heart of Mid-Lothian."
How have I sinn'd, that this affliction
Should light so heavy on me? I have no more sons,
And this no more mine own.--My grand curse
Hang o'er his head that thus transformed thee!--
Travel? I'll send my horse to travel next.
You have requested me, my dear friend, to bestow some of that leisure,
with which Providence has blessed the decline of my life, in registering
the hazards and difficulties which attended its commencement. The
recollection of those adventures, as you are pleased to term them, has
indeed left upon my mind a chequered and varied feeling of pleasure and
of pain, mingled, I trust, with no slight gratitude and veneration to the
Disposer of human events, who guided my early course through much risk
and labour, that the ease with which he has blessed my prolonged life
might seem softer from remembrance and contrast. Neither is it possible
for me to doubt, what you have often affirmed, that the incidents which
befell me among a people singularly primitive in their government and
manners, have something interesting and attractive for those who love to
hear an old man's stories of a past age.
Still, however, you must remember, that the tale told by one friend, and
listened to by another, loses half its charms when committed to paper;
and that the narratives to which you have attended with interest, as
heard from the voice of him to whom they occurred, will appear less
deserving of attention when perused in the seclusion of your study. But
your greener age and robust constitution promise longer life than will,
in all human probability, be the lot of your friend. Throw, then, these
sheets into some secret drawer of your escritoire till we are separated
from each other's society by an event which may happen at any moment, and
which must happen within the course of a few--a very few years. When we
are parted in this world, to meet, I hope, in a better, you will, I am
well aware, cherish more than it deserves the memory of your departed
friend, and will find in those details which I am now to commit to paper,
matter for melancholy, but not unpleasing reflection. Others bequeath to
the confidants of their bosom portraits of their external features--I put
into your hands a faithful transcript of my thoughts and feelings, of my
virtues and of my failings, with the assured hope, that the follies and
headstrong impetuosity of my youth will meet the same kind construction
and forgiveness which have so often attended the faults of my matured
One advantage, among the many, of addressing my Memoirs (if I may give
these sheets a name so imposing) to a dear and intimate friend, is, that
I may spare some of the details, in this case unnecessary, with which I
must needs have detained a stranger from what I have to say of greater
interest. Why should I bestow all my tediousness upon you, because I have
you in my power, and have ink, paper, and time before me? At the same
time, I dare not promise that I may not abuse the opportunity so
temptingly offered me, to treat of myself and my own concerns, even
though I speak of circumstances as well known to you as to myself. The
seductive love of narrative, when we ourselves are the heroes of the
events which we tell, often disregards the attention due to the time and
patience of the audience, and the best and wisest have yielded to its
fascination. I need only remind you of the singular instance evinced by
the form of that rare and original edition of Sully's Memoirs, which you
(with the fond vanity of a book-collector) insist upon preferring to that
which is reduced to the useful and ordinary form of Memoirs, but which I
think curious, solely as illustrating how far so great a man as the
author was accessible to the foible of self-importance. If I recollect
rightly, that venerable peer and great statesman had appointed no fewer
than four gentlemen of his household to draw up the events of his life,
under the title of Memorials of the Sage and Royal Affairs of State,
Domestic, Political, and Military, transacted by Henry IV., and so forth.
These grave recorders, having made their compilation, reduced the Memoirs
containing all the remarkable events of their master's life into a
narrative, addressed to himself in _propria persona._ And thus, instead
of telling his own story, in the third person, like Julius Caesar, or in
the first person, like most who, in the hall, or the study, undertake to
be the heroes of their own tale, Sully enjoyed the refined, though
whimsical pleasure, of having the events of his life told over to him by
his secretaries, being himself the auditor, as he was also the hero, and
probably the author, of the whole book. It must have been a great sight
to have seen the ex-minister, as bolt upright as a starched ruff and
laced cassock could make him, seated in state beneath his canopy, and
listening to the recitation of his compilers, while, standing bare in his
presence, they informed him gravely, "Thus said the duke--so did the duke
infer--such were your grace's sentiments upon this important
point--such were your secret counsels to the king on that other
emergency,"--circumstances, all of which must have been much better
known to their hearer than to themselves, and most of which could only
be derived from his own special communication.
My situation is not quite so ludicrous as that of the great Sully, and
yet there would be something whimsical in Frank Osbaldistone giving Will
Tresham a formal account of his birth, education, and connections in the
world. I will, therefore, wrestle with the tempting spirit of P. P.,
Clerk of our Parish, as I best may, and endeavour to tell you nothing
that is familiar to you already. Some things, however, I must recall to
your memory, because, though formerly well known to you, they may have
been forgotten through lapse of time, and they afford the ground-work of
You must remember my father well; for, as your own was a member of the
mercantile house, you knew him from infancy. Yet you hardly saw him in
his best days, before age and infirmity had quenched his ardent spirit of
enterprise and speculation. He would have been a poorer man, indeed, but
perhaps as happy, had he devoted to the extension of science those active
energies, and acute powers of observation, for which commercial pursuits
found occupation. Yet, in the fluctuations of mercantile speculation,
there is something captivating to the adventurer, even independent of the
hope of gain. He who embarks on that fickle sea, requires to possess the
skill of the pilot and the fortitude of the navigator, and after all may
be wrecked and lost, unless the gales of fortune breathe in his favour.
This mixture of necessary attention and inevitable hazard,--the frequent
and awful uncertainty whether prudence shall overcome fortune, or fortune
baffle the schemes of prudence, affords full occupation for the powers,
as well as for the feelings of the mind, and trade has all the
fascination of gambling without its moral guilt.
Early in the 18th century, when I (Heaven help me) was a youth of some
twenty years old, I was summoned suddenly from Bourdeaux to attend my
father on business of importance. I shall never forget our first
interview. You recollect the brief, abrupt, and somewhat stern mode in
which he was wont to communicate his pleasure to those around him.
Methinks I see him even now in my mind's eye;--the firm and upright
figure,--the step, quick and determined,--the eye, which shot so keen and
so penetrating a glance,--the features, on which care had already planted
wrinkles,--and hear his language, in which he never wasted word in vain,
expressed in a voice which had sometimes an occasional harshness, far
from the intention of the speaker.
When I dismounted from my post-horse, I hastened to my father's
apartment. He was traversing it with an air of composed and steady
deliberation, which even my arrival, although an only son unseen for four
years, was unable to discompose. I threw myself into his arms. He was a
kind, though not a fond father, and the tear twinkled in his dark eye,
but it was only for a moment.
"Dubourg writes to me that he is satisfied with you, Frank."
"I am happy, sir"--
"But I have less reason to be so" he added, sitting down at his bureau.
"I am sorry, sir"--
"Sorry and happy, Frank, are words that, on most occasions, signify
little or nothing--Here is your last letter."
He took it out from a number of others tied up in a parcel of red tape,
and curiously labelled and filed. There lay my poor epistle, written on
the subject the nearest to my heart at the time, and couched in words
which I had thought would work compassion if not conviction,--there, I
say, it lay, squeezed up among the letters on miscellaneous business in
which my father's daily affairs had engaged him. I cannot help smiling
internally when I recollect the mixture of hurt vanity, and wounded
feeling, with which I regarded my remonstrance, to the penning of which
there had gone, I promise you, some trouble, as I beheld it extracted
from amongst letters of advice, of credit, and all the commonplace
lumber, as I then thought them, of a merchant's correspondence. Surely,
thought I, a letter of such importance (I dared not say, even to myself,
so well written) deserved a separate place, as well as more anxious
consideration, than those on the ordinary business of the counting-house.
But my father did not observe my dissatisfaction, and would not have
minded it if he had. He proceeded, with the letter in his hand. "This,
Frank, is yours of the 21st ultimo, in which you advise me (reading from
my letter), that in the most important business of forming a plan, and
adopting a profession for life, you trust my paternal goodness will hold
you entitled to at least a negative voice; that you have insuperable--ay,
insuperable is the word--I wish, by the way, you would write a more
distinct current hand--draw a score through the tops of your t's, and
open the loops of your l's--insuperable objections to the arrangements
which I have proposed to you. There is much more to the same effect,
occupying four good pages of paper, which a little attention to
perspicuity and distinctness of expression might have comprised within as
many lines. For, after all, Frank, it amounts but to this, that you will
not do as I would have you."
"That I cannot, sir, in the present instance, not that I will not."
"Words avail very little with me, young man," said my father, whose
inflexibility always possessed the air of the most perfect calmness of
self-possession. "_Can not_ may be a more civil phrase than _will not,_
but the expressions are synonymous where there is no moral impossibility.
But I am not a friend to doing business hastily; we will talk this matter
over after dinner.--Owen!"
Owen appeared, not with the silver locks which you were used to venerate,
for he was then little more than fifty; but he had the same, or an
exactly similar uniform suit of light-brown clothes,--the same pearl-grey
silk stockings,--the same stock, with its silver buckle,--the same
plaited cambric ruffles, drawn down over his knuckles in the parlour, but
in the counting-house carefully folded back under the sleeves, that they
might remain unstained by the ink which he daily consumed;--in a word,
the same grave, formal, yet benevolent cast of features, which continued
to his death to distinguish the head clerk of the great house of
Osbaldistone and Tresham.
"Owen," said my father, as the kind old man shook me affectionately by
the hand, "you must dine with us to-day, and hear the news Frank has
brought us from our friends in Bourdeaux."
Owen made one of his stiff bows of respectful gratitude; for, in those
days, when the distance between superiors and inferiors was enforced in a
manner to which the present times are strangers, such an invitation was a
favour of some little consequence.
I shall long remember that dinner-party. Deeply affected by feelings of
anxiety, not unmingled with displeasure, I was unable to take that active
share in the conversation which my father seemed to expect from me; and I
too frequently gave unsatisfactory answers to the questions with which he
assailed me. Owen, hovering betwixt his respect for his patron, and his
love for the youth he had dandled on his knee in childhood, like the
timorous, yet anxious ally of an invaded nation, endeavoured at every
blunder I made to explain my no-meaning, and to cover my retreat;
manoeuvres which added to my father's pettish displeasure, and brought a
share of it upon my kind advocate, instead of protecting me. I had not,
while residing in the house of Dubourg, absolutely conducted myself like
A clerk condemn'd his father's soul to cross,
Who penn'd a stanza when he should engross;--
but, to say truth, I had frequented the counting-house no more than I had
thought absolutely necessary to secure the good report of the Frenchman,
long a correspondent of our firm, to whom my father had trusted for
initiating me into the mysteries of commerce. In fact, my principal
attention had been dedicated to literature and manly exercises. My father
did not altogether discourage such acquirements, whether mental or
personal. He had too much good sense not to perceive, that they sate
gracefully upon every man, and he was sensible that they relieved and
dignified the character to which he wished me to aspire. But his chief
ambition was, that I should succeed not merely to his fortune, but to the
views and plans by which he imagined he could extend and perpetuate the
wealthy inheritance which he designed for me.
Love of his profession was the motive which he chose should be most
ostensible, when he urged me to tread the same path; but he had others
with which I only became acquainted at a later period. Impetuous in his
schemes, as well as skilful and daring, each new adventure, when
successful, became at once the incentive, and furnished the means, for
farther speculation. It seemed to be necessary to him, as to an ambitious
conqueror, to push on from achievement to achievement, without stopping
to secure, far less to enjoy, the acquisitions which he made. Accustomed
to see his whole fortune trembling in the scales of chance, and dexterous
at adopting expedients for casting the balance in his favour, his health
and spirits and activity seemed ever to increase with the animating
hazards on which he staked his wealth; and he resembled a sailor,
accustomed to brave the billows and the foe, whose confidence rises on
the eve of tempest or of battle. He was not, however, insensible to the
changes which increasing age or supervening malady might make in his own
constitution; and was anxious in good time to secure in me an assistant,
who might take the helm when his hand grew weary, and keep the vessel's
way according to his counsel and instruction. Paternal affection, as well
as the furtherance of his own plans, determined him to the same
conclusion. Your father, though his fortune was vested in the house, was
only a sleeping partner, as the commercial phrase goes; and Owen, whose
probity and skill in the details of arithmetic rendered his services
invaluable as a head clerk, was not possessed either of information or
talents sufficient to conduct the mysteries of the principal management.
If my father were suddenly summoned from life, what would become of the
world of schemes which he had formed, unless his son were moulded into a
commercial Hercules, fit to sustain the weight when relinquished by the
falling Atlas? and what would become of that son himself, if, a stranger
to business of this description, he found himself at once involved in the
labyrinth of mercantile concerns, without the clew of knowledge necessary
for his extraction? For all these reasons, avowed and secret, my father
was determined I should embrace his profession; and when he was
determined, the resolution of no man was more immovable. I, however, was
also a party to be consulted, and, with something of his own pertinacity,
I had formed a determination precisely contrary. It may, I hope, be some
palliative for the resistance which, on this occasion, I offered to my
father's wishes, that I did not fully understand upon what they were
founded, or how deeply his happiness was involved in them. Imagining
myself certain of a large succession in future, and ample maintenance in
the meanwhile, it never occurred to me that it might be necessary, in
order to secure these blessings, to submit to labour and limitations
unpleasant to my taste and temper. I only saw in my father's proposal for
my engaging in business, a desire that I should add to those heaps of
wealth which he had himself acquired; and imagining myself the best judge
of the path to my own happiness, I did not conceive that I should
increase that happiness by augmenting a fortune which I believed was
already sufficient, and more than sufficient, for every use, comfort, and
Accordingly, I am compelled to repeat, that my time at Bourdeaux had not
been spent as my father had proposed to himself. What he considered as
the chief end of my residence in that city, I had postponed for every
other, and would (had I dared) have neglected altogether. Dubourg, a
favoured and benefited correspondent of our mercantile house, was too
much of a shrewd politician to make such reports to the head of the firm
concerning his only child, as would excite the displeasure of both; and
he might also, as you will presently hear, have views of selfish
advantage in suffering me to neglect the purposes for which I was placed
under his charge. My conduct was regulated by the bounds of decency and
good order, and thus far he had no evil report to make, supposing him so
disposed; but, perhaps, the crafty Frenchman would have been equally
complaisant, had I been in the habit of indulging worse feelings than
those of indolence and aversion to mercantile business. As it was, while
I gave a decent portion of my time to the commercial studies he
recommended, he was by no means envious of the hours which I dedicated to
other and more classical attainments, nor did he ever find fault with me
for dwelling upon Corneille and Boileau, in preference to Postlethwayte
(supposing his folio to have then existed, and Monsieur Dubourg able to
have pronounced his name), or Savary, or any other writer on commercial
economy. He had picked up somewhere a convenient expression, with which
he rounded off every letter to his correspondent,--"I was all," he said,
"that a father could wish."
My father never quarrelled with a phrase, however frequently repeated,
provided it seemed to him distinct and expressive; and Addison himself
could not have found expressions so satisfactory to him as, "Yours
received, and duly honoured the bills enclosed, as per margin."
Knowing, therefore, very well what he desired me to, be, Mr. Osbaldistone
made no doubt, from the frequent repetition of Dubourg's favourite
phrase, that I was the very thing he wished to see me; when, in an evil
hour, he received my letter, containing my eloquent and detailed apology
for declining a place in the firm, and a desk and stool in the corner of
the dark counting-house in Crane Alley, surmounting in height those of
Owen, and the other clerks, and only inferior to the tripod of my father
himself. All was wrong from that moment. Dubourg's reports became as
suspicious as if his bills had been noted for dishonour. I was summoned
home in all haste, and received in the manner I have already communicated
I begin shrewdly to suspect the young man of a terrible
taint--Poetry; with which idle disease if he be infected,
there's no hope of him in astate course. _Actum est_ of him
for a commonwealth's man, if he goto't in rhyme once.
Ben Jonson's _Bartholomew Fair._
My father had, generally speaking, his temper under complete
self-command, and his anger rarely indicated itself by words, except in
a sort of dry testy manner, to those who had displeased him. He never
used threats, or expressions of loud resentment. All was arranged with
him on system, and it was his practice to do "the needful" on every
occasion, without wasting words about it. It was, therefore, with a
bitter smile that he listened to my imperfect answers concerning the
state of commerce in France, and unmercifully permitted me to involve
myself deeper and deeper in the mysteries of agio, tariffs, tare and
tret; nor can I charge my memory with his having looked positively
angry, until he found me unable to explain the exact effect which the
depreciation of the louis d'or had produced on the negotiation of bills
of exchange. "The most remarkable national occurrence in my time," said
my father (who nevertheless had seen the Revolution)--"and he knows no
more of it than a post on the quay!"
"Mr. Francis," suggested Owen, in his timid and conciliatory manner,
"cannot have forgotten, that by an _arret_ of the King of France, dated
1st May 1700, it was provided that the _porteur,_ within ten days after
due, must make demand"--
"Mr. Francis," said my father, interrupting him, "will, I dare say,
recollect for the moment anything you are so kind as hint to him. But,
body o' me! how Dubourg could permit him! Hark ye, Owen, what sort of a
youth is Clement Dubourg, his nephew there, in the office, the
"One of the cleverest clerks, sir, in the house; a prodigious young man
for his time," answered Owen; for the gaiety and civility of the young
Frenchman had won his heart.
"Ay, ay, I suppose _he_ knows something of the nature of exchange.
Dubourg was determined I should have one youngster at least about my hand
who understood business. But I see his drift, and he shall find that I do
so when he looks at the balance-sheet. Owen, let Clement's salary be paid
up to next quarter-day, and let him ship himself back to Bourdeaux in his
father's ship, which is clearing out yonder."
"Dismiss Clement Dubourg, sir?" said Owen, with a faltering voice.
"Yes, sir, dismiss him instantly; it is enough to have a stupid
Englishman in the counting-house to make blunders, without keeping a
sharp Frenchman there to profit by them."
I had lived long enough in the territories of the _Grand Monarque_ to
contract a hearty aversion to arbitrary exertion of authority, even if it
had not been instilled into me with my earliest breeding; and I could not
refrain from interposing, to prevent an innocent and meritorious young
man from paying the penalty of having acquired that proficiency which my
father had desired for me.
"I beg pardon, sir," when Mr. Osbaldistone had done speaking; "but I
think it but just, that if I have been negligent of my studies, I should
pay the forfeit myself. I have no reason to charge Monsieur Dubourg with
having neglected to give me opportunities of improvement, however little
I may have profited by them; and with respect to Monsieur Clement
"With respect to him, and to you, I shall take the measures which I see
needful," replied my father; "but it is fair in you, Frank, to take your
own blame on your own shoulders--very fair, that cannot be denied.--I
cannot acquit old Dubourg," he said, looking to Owen, "for having merely
afforded Frank the means of useful knowledge, without either seeing that
he took advantage of them or reporting to me if he did not. You see,
Owen, he has natural notions of equity becoming a British merchant."
"Mr. Francis," said the head-clerk, with his usual formal inclination of
the head, and a slight elevation of his right hand, which he had acquired
by a habit of sticking his pen behind his ear before he spoke--"Mr.
Francis seems to understand the fundamental principle of all moral
accounting, the great ethic rule of three. Let A do to B, as he would
have B do to him; the product will give the rule of conduct required."
My father smiled at this reduction of the golden rule to arithmetical
form, but instantly proceeded.
"All this signifies nothing, Frank; you have been throwing away your time
like a boy, and in future you must learn to live like a man. I shall put
you under Owen's care for a few months, to recover the lost ground."
I was about to reply, but Owen looked at me with such a supplicatory and
warning gesture, that I was involuntarily silent.
"We will then," continued my father, "resume the subject of mine of the
1st ultimo, to which you sent me an answer which was unadvised and
unsatisfactory. So now, fill your glass, and push the bottle to Owen."
Want of courage--of audacity if you will--was never my failing. I
answered firmly, "I was sorry that my letter was unsatisfactory,
unadvised it was not; for I had given the proposal his goodness had made
me, my instant and anxious attention, and it was with no small pain that
I found myself obliged to decline it."
My father bent his keen eye for a moment on me, and instantly withdrew
it. As he made no answer, I thought myself obliged to proceed, though
with some hesitation, and he only interrupted me by monosyllables.--"It
is impossible, sir, for me to have higher respect for any character than
I have for the commercial, even were it not yours."
"It connects nation with nation, relieves the wants, and contributes to
the wealth of all; and is to the general commonwealth of the civilised
world what the daily intercourse of ordinary life is to private society,
or rather, what air and food are to our bodies."
"And yet, sir, I find myself compelled to persist in declining to adopt a
character which I am so ill qualified to support."
"I will take care that you acquire the qualifications necessary. You are
no longer the guest and pupil of Dubourg."
"But, my dear sir, it is no defect of teaching which I plead, but my own
inability to profit by instruction."
"Nonsense.--Have you kept your journal in the terms I desired?"
"Be pleased to bring it here."
The volume thus required was a sort of commonplace book, kept by my
father's recommendation, in which I had been directed to enter notes of
the miscellaneous information which I had acquired in the course of my
studies. Foreseeing that he would demand inspection of this record, I had
been attentive to transcribe such particulars of information as he would
most likely be pleased with, but too often the pen had discharged the
task without much correspondence with the head. And it had also happened,
that, the book being the receptacle nearest to my hand, I had
occasionally jotted down memoranda which had little regard to traffic. I
now put it into my father's hand, devoutly hoping he might light on
nothing that would increase his displeasure against me. Owen's face,
which had looked something blank when the question was put, cleared up at
my ready answer, and wore a smile of hope, when I brought from my
apartment, and placed before my father, a commercial-looking volume,
rather broader than it was long, having brazen clasps and a binding of
rough calf. This looked business-like, and was encouraging to my
benevolent well-wisher. But he actually smiled with pleasure as he heard
my father run over some part of the contents, muttering his critical
remarks as he went on.
"_--Brandies--Barils and barricants, also tonneaux.--At Nantz 29--Velles
to the barique at Cognac and Rochelle 27--At Bourdeaux 32_--Very right,
Frank--_Duties on tonnage and custom-house, see Saxby's Tables_--That's
not well; you should have transcribed the passage; it fixes the thing in
the memory--_Reports outward and inward--Corn debentures--Over-sea
Lub-fish._ You should have noted that they are all, nevertheless to be
entered as titlings.--How many inches long is a titling?"
Owen, seeing me at fault, hazarded a whisper, of which I fortunately
caught the import.
"Eighteen inches, sir."--
"And a lub-fish is twenty-four--very right. It is important to remember
this, on account of the Portuguese trade--But what have we here?--
_Bourdeaux founded in the year--Castle of the Trompette--Palace of
Gallienus_--Well, well, that's very right too.--This is a kind of
waste-book, Owen, in which all the transactions of the day,--emptions,
orders, payments, receipts, acceptances, draughts, commissions, and
advices,--are entered miscellaneously."
"That they may be regularly transferred to the day-book and ledger,"
answered Owen: "I am glad Mr. Francis is so methodical."
I perceived myself getting so fast into favour, that I began to fear the
consequence would be my father's more obstinate perseverance in his
resolution that I must become a merchant; and as I was determined on the
contrary, I began to wish I had not, to use my friend Mr. Owen's phrase,
been so methodical. But I had no reason for apprehension on that score;
for a blotted piece of paper dropped out of the book, and, being taken up
by my father, he interrupted a hint from Owen, on the propriety of
securing loose memoranda with a little paste, by exclaiming, "To the
memory of Edward the Black Prince--What's all this?--verses!--By Heaven,
Frank, you are a greater blockhead than I supposed you!"
My father, you must recollect, as a man of business, looked upon the
labour of poets with contempt; and as a religious man, and of the
dissenting persuasion, he considered all such pursuits as equally trivial
and profane. Before you condemn him, you must recall to remembrance how
too many of the poets in the end of the seventeenth century had led their
lives and employed their talents. The sect also to which my father
belonged, felt, or perhaps affected, a puritanical aversion to the
lighter exertions of literature. So that many causes contributed to
augment the unpleasant surprise occasioned by the ill-timed discovery of
this unfortunate copy of verses. As for poor Owen, could the bob-wig
which he then wore have uncurled itself, and stood on end with horror, I
am convinced the morning's labour of the friseur would have been undone,
merely by the excess of his astonishment at this enormity. An inroad on
the strong-box, or an erasure in the ledger, or a mis-summation in a
fitted account, could hardly have surprised him more disagreeably. My
father read the lines sometimes with an affectation of not being able to
understand the sense--sometimes in a mouthing tone of mock heroic--always
with an emphasis of the most bitter irony, most irritating to the nerves
of an author.
"O for the voice of that wild horn,
On Fontarabian echoes borne,
The dying hero's call,
That told imperial Charlemagne,
How Paynim sons of swarthy Spain
Had wrought his champion's fall.
"_Fontarabian echoes!_" continued my father, interrupting himself; "the
Fontarabian Fair would have been more to the purpose--_Paynim!_--What's
Paynim?--Could you not say Pagan as well, and write English at least, if
you must needs write nonsense?--
"Sad over earth and ocean sounding.
And England's distant cliffs astounding.
Such are the notes should say
How Britain's hope, and France's fear,
Victor of Cressy and Poitier,
In Bordeaux dying lay."
"Poitiers, by the way, is always spelt with an _s,_ and I know no reason
why orthography should give place to rhyme.--
"'Raise my faint head, my squires,' he said,
'And let the casement be display'd,
That I may see once more
The splendour of the setting sun
Gleam on thy mirrored wave, Garonne,
And Blaye's empurpled shore.
"_Garonne_ and _sun_ is a bad rhyme. Why, Frank, you do not even
understand the beggarly trade you have chosen.
"'Like me, he sinks to Glory's sleep,
His fall the dews of evening steep,
As if in sorrow shed,
So soft shall fall the trickling tear,
When England's maids and matrons hear
Of their Black Edward dead.
"'And though my sun of glory set,
Nor France, nor England, shall forget
The terror of my name;
And oft shall Britain's heroes rise,
New planets in these southern skies,
Through clouds of blood and flame.'
"A cloud of flame is something new--Good-morrow, my masters all, and a
merry Christmas to you!--Why, the bellman writes better lines." He then
tossed the paper from him with an air of superlative contempt, and
concluded--"Upon my credit, Frank, you are a greater blockhead than I
took you for."
What could I say, my dear Tresham? There I stood, swelling with indignant
mortification, while my father regarded me with a calm but stern look of
scorn and pity; and poor Owen, with uplifted hands and eyes, looked as
striking a picture of horror as if he had just read his patron's name in
the Gazette. At length I took courage to speak, endeavouring that my tone
of voice should betray my feelings as little as possible.
"I am quite aware, sir, how ill qualified I am to play the conspicuous
part in society you have destined for me; and, luckily, I am not
ambitious of the wealth I might acquire. Mr. Owen would be a much more
effective assistant." I said this in some malice, for I considered Owen
as having deserted my cause a little too soon.
"Owen!" said my father--"The boy is mad--actually insane. And, pray, sir,
if I may presume to inquire, having coolly turned me over to Mr. Owen
(although I may expect more attention from any one than from my son),
what may your own sage projects be?"
"I should wish, sir," I replied, summoning up my courage, "to travel for
two or three years, should that consist with your pleasure; otherwise,
although late, I would willingly spend the same time at Oxford or
"In the name of common sense! was the like ever heard?--to put yourself
to school among pedants and Jacobites, when you might be pushing your
fortune in the world! Why not go to Westminster or Eton at once, man, and
take to Lilly's Grammar and Accidence, and to the birch, too, if you like
"Then, sir, if you think my plan of improvement too late, I would
willingly return to the Continent."
"You have already spent too much time there to little purpose, Mr.
"Then I would choose the army, sir, in preference to any other active
line of life."
"Choose the d--l!" answered my father, hastily, and then checking
himself--"I profess you make me as great a fool as you are yourself. Is
he not enough to drive one mad, Owen?"--Poor Owen shook his head, and
looked down. "Hark ye, Frank," continued my father, "I will cut all this
matter very short. I was at your age when my father turned me out of
doors, and settled my legal inheritance on my younger brother. I left
Osbaldistone Hall on the back of a broken-down hunter, with ten guineas
in my purse. I have never crossed the threshold again, and I never will.
I know not, and I care not, if my fox-hunting brother is alive, or has
broken his neck; but he has children, Frank, and one of them shall be my
son if you cross me farther in this matter."
"You will do your pleasure," I answered--rather, I fear, with more sullen
indifference than respect, "with what is your own."
"Yes, Frank, what I have _is_ my own, if labour in getting, and care in
augmenting, can make a right of property; and no drone shall feed on my
honeycomb. Think on it well: what I have said is not without reflection,
and what I resolve upon I will execute."
"Honoured sir!--dear sir!" exclaimed Owen, tears rushing into his eyes,
"you are not wont to be in such a hurry in transacting business of
importance. Let Mr. Francis run up the balance before you shut the
account; he loves you, I am sure; and when he puts down his filial
obedience to the _per contra,_ I am sure his objections will disappear."
"Do you think I will ask him twice," said my father, sternly, "to be my
friend, my assistant, and my confidant?--to be a partner of my cares and
of my fortune?--Owen, I thought you had known me better."
He looked at me as if he meant to add something more, but turned
instantly away, and left the room abruptly. I was, I own, affected by
this view of the case, which had not occurred to me; and my father would
probably have had little reason to complain of me, had he commenced the
discussion with this argument.
But it was too late. I had much of his own obduracy of resolution, and
Heaven had decreed that my sin should be my punishment, though not to the
extent which my transgression merited. Owen, when we were left alone,
continued to look at me with eyes which tears from time to time
moistened, as if to discover, before attempting the task of intercessor,
upon what point my obstinacy was most assailable. At length he began,
with broken and disconcerted accents,--"O L--d, Mr. Francis!--Good
Heavens, sir!--My stars, Mr. Osbaldistone!--that I should ever have seen
this day--and you so young a gentleman, sir!--For the love of Heaven!
look at both sides of the account--think what you are going to lose--a
noble fortune, sir--one of the finest houses in the City, even under the
old firm of Tresham and Trent, and now Osbaldistone and Tresham--You
might roll in gold, Mr. Francis--And, my dear young Mr. Frank, if there
was any particular thing in the business of the house which you disliked,
I would" (sinking his voice to a whisper) "put it in order for you
termly, or weekly, or daily, if you will--Do, my dear Mr. Francis, think
of the honour due to your father, that your days may be long in the
"I am much obliged to you, Mr. Owen," said I--"very much obliged indeed;
but my father is best judge how to bestow his money. He talks of one of
my cousins: let him dispose of his wealth as he pleases--I will never
sell my liberty for gold."
"Gold, sir?--I wish you saw the balance-sheet of profits at last term--It
was in five figures--five figures to each partner's sum total, Mr.
Frank--And all this is to go to a Papist, and a north-country booby, and
a disaffected person besides--It will break my heart, Mr. Francis, that
have been toiling more like a dog than a man, and all for love of
the firm. Think how it will sound, Osbaldistone, Tresham, and
Osbaldistone--or perhaps, who knows" (again lowering his voice),
"Osbaldistone, Osbaldistone, and Tresham, for our Mr. Osbaldistone can
buy them all out."
"But, Mr. Owen, my cousin's name being also Osbaldistone, the name of the
company will sound every bit as well in your ears."
"O fie upon you, Mr. Francis, when you know how well I love you--Your
cousin, indeed!--a Papist, no doubt, like his father, and a disaffected
person to the Protestant succession--that's another item, doubtless."
"There are many very good men Catholics, Mr. Owen," rejoined I.
As Owen was about to answer with unusual animation, my father re-entered
"You were right," he said, "Owen, and I was wrong; we will take more time
to think over this matter.--Young man, you will prepare to give me an
answer on this important subject this day month."
I bowed in silence, sufficiently glad of a reprieve, and trusting it
might indicate some relaxation in my father's determination.
The time of probation passed slowly, unmarked by any accident whatever. I
went and came, and disposed of my time as I pleased, without question or
criticism on the part of my father. Indeed, I rarely saw him, save at
meal-times, when he studiously avoided a discussion which you may well
suppose I was in no hurry to press onward. Our conversation was of the
news of the day, or on such general topics as strangers discourse upon to
each other; nor could any one have guessed, from its tenor, that there
remained undecided betwixt us a dispute of such importance. It haunted
me, however, more than once, like the nightmare. Was it possible he would
keep his word, and disinherit his only son in favour of a nephew whose
very existence he was not perhaps quite certain of? My grandfather's
conduct, in similar circumstances, boded me no good, had I considered the
matter rightly. But I had formed an erroneous idea of my father's
character, from the importance which I recollected I maintained with him
and his whole family before I went to France. I was not aware that there
are men who indulge their children at an early age, because to do so
interests and amuses them, and who can yet be sufficiently severe when
the same children cross their expectations at a more advanced period. On
the contrary, I persuaded myself, that all I had to apprehend was some
temporary alienation of affection--perhaps a rustication of a few weeks,
which I thought would rather please me than otherwise, since it would
give me an opportunity of setting about my unfinished version of Orlando
Furioso, a poem which I longed to render into English verse. I suffered
this belief to get such absolute possession of my mind, that I had
resumed my blotted papers, and was busy in meditation on the
oft-recurring rhymes of the Spenserian stanza, when I heard a low and
cautious tap at the door of my apartment. "Come in," I said, and Mr. Owen
entered. So regular were the motions and habits of this worthy man, that
in all probability this was the first time he had ever been in the second
story of his patron's house, however conversant with the first; and I am
still at a loss to know in what manner he discovered my apartment.
"Mr. Francis," he said, interrupting my expression of surprise and
pleasure at seeing, him, "I do not know if I am doing well in what I am
about to say--it is not right to speak of what passes in the
compting-house out of doors--one should not tell, as they say, to the
post in the warehouse, how many lines there are in the ledger. But young
Twineall has been absent from the house for a fortnight and more, until
two days since."
"Very well, my dear sir, and how does that concern us?"
"Stay, Mr. Francis;--your father gave him a private commission; and I am
sure he did not go down to Falmouth about the pilchard affair; and the
Exeter business with Blackwell and Company has been settled; and the
mining people in Cornwall, Trevanion and Treguilliam, have paid all they
are likely to pay; and any other matter of business must have been put
through my books:--in short, it's my faithful belief that Twineall has
been down in the north."
"Do you really suppose?" so said I, somewhat startled.
"He has spoken about nothing, sir, since he returned, but his new boots,
and his Ripon spurs, and a cockfight at York--it's as true as the
multiplication-table. Do, Heaven bless you, my dear child, make up your
mind to please your father, and to be a man and a merchant at once."
I felt at that instant a strong inclination to submit, and to make Owen
happy by requesting him to tell my father that I resigned myself to his
disposal. But pride--pride, the source of so much that is good and so
much that is evil in our course of life, prevented me. My acquiescence
stuck in my throat; and while I was coughing to get it up, my father's
voice summoned Owen. He hastily left the room, and the opportunity was
My father was methodical in everything. At the very same time of the day,
in the same apartment, and with the same tone and manner which he had
employed an exact month before, he recapitulated the proposal he had made
for taking me into partnership, and assigning me a department in the
counting-house, and requested to have my final decision. I thought at the
time there was something unkind in this; and I still think that my
father's conduct was injudicious. A more conciliatory treatment would, in
all probability, have gained his purpose. As it was, I stood fast, and,
as respectfully as I could, declined the proposal he made to me.
Perhaps--for who can judge of their own heart?--I felt it unmanly to
yield on the first summons, and expected farther solicitation, as at
least a pretext for changing my mind. If so, I was disappointed; for my
father turned coolly to Owen, and only said, "You see it is as I told
you.--Well, Frank" (addressing me), "you are nearly of age, and as well
qualified to judge of what will constitute your own happiness as you
ever are like to be; therefore, I say no more. But as I am not bound to
give in to your plans, any more than you are compelled to submit to
mine, may I ask to know if you have formed any which depend on my
I answered, not a little abashed, "That being bred to no profession, and
having no funds of my own, it was obviously impossible for me to subsist
without some allowance from my father; that my wishes were very moderate;
and that I hoped my aversion for the profession to which he had designed
me, would not occasion his altogether withdrawing his paternal support
"That is to say, you wish to lean on my arm, and yet to walk your own
way? That can hardly be, Frank;--however, I suppose you mean to obey my
directions, so far as they do not cross your own humour?"
I was about to speak--"Silence, if you please," he continued. "Supposing
this to be the case, you will instantly set out for the north of England,
to pay your uncle a visit, and see the state of his family. I have chosen
from among his sons (he has six, I believe) one who, I understand, is
most worthy to fill the place I intended for you in the counting-house.
But some farther arrangements may be necessary, and for these your
presence may be requisite. You shall have farther instructions at
Osbaldistone Hall, where you will please to remain until you hear from
me. Everything will be ready for your departure to-morrow morning."
With these words my father left the apartment.
"What does all this mean, Mr. Owen?" said I to my sympathetic friend,
whose countenance wore a cast of the deepest dejection.
"You have ruined yourself, Mr. Frank, that's all. When your father talks
in that quiet determined manner, there will be no more change in him than
in a fitted account."
And so it proved; for the next morning, at five o'clock, I found myself
on the road to York, mounted on a reasonably good horse, and with fifty
guineas in my pocket; travelling, as it would seem, for the purpose of
assisting in the adoption of a successor to myself in my father's house
and favour, and, for aught I knew, eventually in his fortune also.
The slack sail shifts from side to side,
The boat, untrimm'd, admits the tide,
Borne down, adrift, at random tost,
The oar breaks short, the rudder's lost.
I have tagged with rhyme and blank verse the subdivisions of this
important narrative, in order to seduce your continued attention by
powers of composition of stronger attraction than my own. The preceding
lines refer to an unfortunate navigator, who daringly unloosed from its
moorings a boat, which he was unable to manage, and thrust it off into
the full tide of a navigable river. No schoolboy, who, betwixt frolic and
defiance, has executed a similar rash attempt, could feel himself, when
adrift in a strong current, in a situation more awkward than mine, when I
found myself driving, without a compass, on the ocean of human life.
There had been such unexpected ease in the manner in which my father
slipt a knot, usually esteemed the strongest which binds society
together, and suffered me to depart as a sort of outcast from his family,
that it strangely lessened the confidence in my own personal
accomplishments, which had hitherto sustained me. Prince Prettyman, now a
prince, and now a fisher's son, had not a more awkward sense of his
degradation. We are so apt, in our engrossing egotism, to consider all
those accessories which are drawn around us by prosperity, as pertaining
and belonging to our own persons, that the discovery of our unimportance,
when left to our own proper resources, becomes inexpressibly mortifying.
As the hum of London died away on my ear, the distant peal of her
steeples more than once sounded to my ears the admonitory "Turn again,"
erst heard by her future Lord Mayor; and when I looked back from Highgate
on her dusky magnificence, I felt as if I were leaving behind me comfort,
opulence, the charms of society, and all the pleasures of cultivated
But the die was cast. It was, indeed, by no means probable that a late
and ungracious compliance with my father's wishes would have reinstated
me in the situation which I had lost. On the contrary, firm and strong of
purpose as he himself was, he might rather have been disgusted than
conciliated by my tardy and compulsory acquiescence in his desire that I
should engage in commerce. My constitutional obstinacy came also to my
aid, and pride whispered how poor a figure I should make, when an airing
of four miles from London had blown away resolutions formed during a
month's serious deliberation. Hope, too, that never forsakes the young
and hardy, lent her lustre to my future prospects. My father could not be
serious in the sentence of foris-familiation, which he had so
unhesitatingly pronounced. It must be but a trial of my disposition,
which, endured with patience and steadiness on my part, would raise me in
his estimation, and lead to an amicable accommodation of the point in
dispute between us. I even settled in my own mind how far I would concede
to him, and on what articles of our supposed treaty I would make a firm
stand; and the result was, according to my computation, that I was to be
reinstated in my full rights of filiation, paying the easy penalty of
some ostensible compliances to atone for my past rebellion.
In the meanwhile, I was lord of my person, and experienced that feeling
of independence which the youthful bosom receives with a thrilling
mixture of pleasure and apprehension. My purse, though by no means amply
replenished, was in a situation to supply all the wants and wishes of a
traveller. I had been accustomed, while at Bourdeaux, to act as my own
valet; my horse was fresh, young, and active, and the buoyancy of my
spirits soon surmounted the melancholy reflections with which my journey
I should have been glad to have journeyed upon a line of road better
calculated to afford reasonable objects of curiosity, or a more
interesting country, to the traveller. But the north road was then, and
perhaps still is, singularly deficient in these respects; nor do I
believe you can travel so far through Britain in any other direction
without meeting more of what is worthy to engage the attention. My mental
ruminations, notwithstanding my assumed confidence, were not always of an
unchequered nature. The Muse too,--the very coquette who had led me into
this wilderness,--like others of her sex, deserted me in my utmost need,
and I should have been reduced to rather an uncomfortable state of
dulness, had it not been for the occasional conversation of strangers who
chanced to pass the same way. But the characters whom I met with were of
a uniform and uninteresting description. Country parsons, jogging
homewards after a visitation; farmers, or graziers, returning from a
distant market; clerks of traders, travelling to collect what was due to
their masters, in provincial towns; with now and then an officer going
down into the country upon the recruiting service, were, at this period,
the persons by whom the turnpikes and tapsters were kept in exercise. Our
speech, therefore, was of tithes and creeds, of beeves and grain, of
commodities wet and dry, and the solvency of the retail dealers,
occasionally varied by the description of a siege, or battle, in
Flanders, which, perhaps, the narrator only gave me at second hand.
Robbers, a fertile and alarming theme, filled up every vacancy; and the
names of the Golden Farmer, the Flying Highwayman, Jack Needham, and
other Beggars' Opera heroes, were familiar in our mouths as household
words. At such tales, like children closing their circle round the fire
when the ghost story draws to its climax, the riders drew near to each
other, looked before and behind them, examined the priming of their
pistols, and vowed to stand by each other in case of danger; an
engagement which, like other offensive and defensive alliances, sometimes
glided out of remembrance when there was an appearance of actual peril.
Of all the fellows whom I ever saw haunted by terrors of this nature, one
poor man, with whom I travelled a day and a half, afforded me most
amusement. He had upon his pillion a very small, but apparently a very
weighty portmanteau, about the safety of which he seemed particularly
solicitous; never trusting it out of his own immediate care, and
uniformly repressing the officious zeal of the waiters and ostlers, who
offered their services to carry it into the house. With the same
precaution he laboured to conceal, not only the purpose of his journey,
and his ultimate place of destination, but even the direction of each
day's route. Nothing embarrassed him more than to be asked by any one,
whether he was travelling upwards or downwards, or at what stage he
intended to bait. His place of rest for the night he scrutinised with the
most anxious care, alike avoiding solitude, and what he considered as bad
neighbourhood; and at Grantham, I believe, he sate up all night to avoid
sleeping in the next room to a thick-set squinting fellow, in a black
wig, and a tarnished gold-laced waistcoat. With all these cares on his
mind, my fellow traveller, to judge by his thews and sinews, was a man
who might have set danger at defiance with as much impunity as most men.
He was strong and well built; and, judging from his gold-laced hat and
cockade, seemed to have served in the army, or, at least, to belong to
the military profession in one capacity or other. His conversation also,
though always sufficiently vulgar, was that of a man of sense, when the
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