Northwest Corner

More than a century has passed since Walter Scott was born–a poet
destined to exercise a profound, far-reaching, permanent influence
upon the feelings of the human race, and thus to act a conspicuous
part in its moral and spiritual development and guidance. To the
greatness of his mind, the nobility of his spirit, and the beauty of
his life there is abundant testimony in his voluminous and diversified
writings, and in his ample and honest biography. Everybody who reads
has read something from the pen of Scott, or something commemorative
of him, and in every mind to which his name is known it is known as
the synonym of great faculties and wonderful achievement. There must
have been enormous vitality of spirit, prodigious power of intellect,
irresistible charm of personality, and lovable purity of moral nature
in the man whom thousands that never saw him living,–men and women
of a later age and different countries,–know and remember and love
as Sir Walter Scott. Others have written greatly. Milton, Dryden,
Addison, Pope, Cowper, Johnson, Byron, Shelley, Wordsworth, Coleridge,
Landor,–these are only a few of the imperial names that cannot
die. But these names live in the world’s respect. The name of Scott
lives also in its affection. What other name of the past in English
literature,–unless it be that of Shakespeare,–arouses such a deep and
sweet feeling of affectionate interest, gentle pleasure, gratitude, and
reverential love?

[Illustration: _Sir Walter Scott._]

The causes of Sir Walter Scott’s ascendency are to be found in the
goodness of his heart; the integrity of his conduct; the romantic
and picturesque accessories and atmosphere of his life; the fertile
brilliancy of his literary execution; the charm that he exercises, both
as man and artist, over the imagination; the serene, tranquillising
spirit of his works; and, above all, the buoyancy, the happy freedom,
of his genius. He was not simply an intellectual power; he was also
a human and gentle comforter. He wielded an immense mental force,
but he always wielded it for good, and always with tenderness. It
is impossible to conceive of his ever having done a wrong act, or
of any contact with his influence that would not inspire the wish
to be virtuous and noble. The scope of his sympathy was as broad as
the weakness and the need are of the human race. He understood the
hardship, the dilemma, in the moral condition of mankind: he wished
people to be patient and cheerful, and he tried to make them so. His
writings are full of sweetness and cheer, and they contain nothing that
is morbid,–nothing that tends toward surrender and misery. He did not
sequester himself in mental pride, but simply and sturdily, through
years of conscientious toil, he employed the faculties of a strong,
tender, gracious genius for the good of his fellow-creatures. The
world loves him because he is worthy to be loved, and because he has
lightened the burden of its care and augmented the sum of its happiness.

Certain differences and confusions of opinion have arisen from the
consideration of his well-known views as to the literary art, together
with his equally well-known ambition to take and to maintain the rank
and estate of a country squire. As an artist he had ideals that he
was never able to fulfil. As a man, and one who was influenced by
imagination, taste, patriotism, family pride, and a profound belief
in established monarchical institutions, it was natural that he
should wish to found a grand and beautiful home for himself and his
posterity. A poet is not the less a poet because he thinks modestly of
his writings and practically knows and admits that there is something
else in the world beside literature; or because he happens to want
his dinner and a roof to cover him. In trying to comprehend a great
man, a good method is to look at his life as a whole, and not to
deduce petty inferences from the distorted interpretation of petty
details. Sir Walter Scott’s conduct of life, like the character out of
which it sprang, was simple and natural. In all that he did you may
perceive the influence of imagination acting upon the finest reason;
the involuntary consciousness of reserve power; habitual deference
to the voice of duty; an aspiring and picturesque plan of artistic
achievement and personal distinction; and deep knowledge of the world.
If ever there was a man who lived to be and not to seem, that man was
Sir Walter Scott. He made no pretensions. He claimed nothing, but he
simply and earnestly earned all. His means were the oldest and the
best; self-respect, hard work, and fidelity to duty. The development
of his nature was slow, but it was thorough and it was salutary. He
was not hampered by precocity and he was not spoiled by conceit. He
acted according to himself, honouring his individuality and obeying the
inward monitor of his genius. But, combined with the delicate instinct
of a gentleman, he had the wise insight, foresight, and patience of a
philosopher; and therefore he respected the individuality of others,
the established facts of life, and the settled conventions of society.
His mind was neither embittered by revolt nor sickened by delusion.
Having had the good fortune to be born in a country in which a right
plan of government prevails,–the idea of the family, the idea of the
strong central power at the head, with all other powers subordinated to
it,–he felt no impulse toward revolution, no desire to regulate all
things anew; and he did not suffer perturbation from the feverish sense
of being surrounded with uncertainty and endangered by exposure to
popular caprice. During the period of immaturity, and notwithstanding
physical weakness and pain, his spirit was kept equable and cheerful,
not less by the calm environment of a permanent civilisation than by
the clearness of his perceptions and the sweetness of his temperament.
In childhood and youth he endeared himself to all who came near him,
winning affection by inherent goodness and charm. In riper years that
sweetness was reinforced by great sagacity, which took broad views of
individual and social life; so that both by knowledge and by impulse he
was a serene and happy man.

The quality that first impresses the student of the character and the
writings of Sir Walter Scott is truthfulness. He was genuine. Although
a poet, he suffered no torment from vague aspirations. Although once,
and miserably, a disappointed lover, he permitted no morbid repining.
Although the most successful author of his time, he displayed no
egotism. To the end of his days he was frank and simple,–not indeed
sacrificing the reticence of a dignified, self-reliant nature, but
suffering no blight from success, and wearing illustrious honours with
spontaneous, unconscious grace. This truthfulness, the consequence
and the sign of integrity and of great breadth of intellectual
vision, moulded Sir Walter Scott’s ambition and stamped the practical
results of his career. A striking illustration of this is seen in
his first adventure in literature. The poems originally sprang from
the spontaneous action of the poetic impulse and faculty; but they
were put forth modestly, in order that the author might guide himself
according to the response of the public mind. He knew that he might
fail as an author, but for failure of that sort, although he was
intensely ambitious, he had no dread. There would always remain to him
the career of private duty and the life of a gentleman. This view of
him gives the key to his character and explains his conduct. Neither
amid the experimental vicissitudes of his youth, nor amid the labours,
achievements, and splendid honours of his manhood, did he ever place
the imagination above the conscience, or brilliant writing above
virtuous living, or art and fame above morality and religion. “I have
been, perhaps, the most voluminous author of the day,” he said, toward
the close of his life; “and it is a comfort to me to think that I have
tried to unsettle no man’s faith, to corrupt no man’s principles,
and that I have written nothing which, on my deathbed, I should wish
blotted.” When at last he lay upon that deathbed the same thought
animated and sustained him. “My dear,” he said, to Lockhart, “be a
good man, be virtuous, be religious–be a good man. Nothing else will
give you any comfort when you come to lie here.” The mind which thus
habitually dwelt upon goodness as the proper object of human ambition
and the chief merit of human life was not likely to vaunt itself on
its labours or to indulge any save a modest and chastened pride in its

[Illustration: _Edinburgh Castle._]

And this view of him explains the affectionate reverence with which the
memory of Sir Walter Scott is cherished. He was pre-eminently a type of
the greatness that is associated with virtue. But his virtue was not
decorum and it was not goodyism. He does not, with Addison, represent
elegant austerity; and he does not, with Montgomery, represent amiable
tameness. His goodness was not insipid. It does not humiliate; it
gladdens. It is ardent with heart and passion. It is brilliant with
imagination. It is fragrant with taste and grace. It is alert, active,
and triumphant with splendid mental achievements and practical good
deeds. And it is the goodness of a great poet,–the poet of natural
beauty, of romantic legend, of adventure, of chivalry, of life in
its heyday of action and its golden glow of pageantry and pleasure.
It found expression, and it wields invincible and immortal power,
through an art whereof the charm is the magic of sunrise and sunset,
the sombre, holy silence of mountains, the pensive solitude of dusky
woods, the pathos of ancient, ivy-mantled ruins, and ocean’s solemn,
everlasting chant. Great powers have arisen in English literature; but
no romance has hushed the voice of the author of _Waverley_, and no
harp has drowned the music of the Minstrel of the North.

The publication of a new book by Sir Walter Scott is a literary event
of great importance. The time has been when the announcement of such
a novelty would have roused the reading public as with the sound of
a trumpet. That sensation, familiar in the early part of the present
century, is possible no more. Yet there are thousands of persons all
over the world through whose hearts the thought of it sends a thrill
of joy. The illustrious author of _Marmion_ and of _Waverley_ passed
away in 1832: and now (1890), at the distance of fifty-eight years,
his private _Journal_ is made a public possession. It is the bestowal
of a great privilege and benefit. It is like hearing the voice of a
deeply-loved and long-lamented friend, suddenly speaking from beyond
the grave.

In literary history the position of Scott is unique. A few other
authors, indeed, might be named toward whom the general feeling was
once exceedingly cordial, but in no other case has the feeling entirely
lasted. In the case of Scott it endures in undiminished fervour. There
are, of course, persons to whom his works are not interesting and to
whom his personality is not significant. Those persons are the votaries
of the photograph, who wish to see upon the printed page the same
sights that greet their vision in the streets and in the houses to
which they are accustomed. But those prosy persons constitute only a
single class of the public. People in general are impressible through
the romantic instinct that is a part of human nature. To that instinct
Scott’s writings were addressed, and also to the heart that commonly
goes with it. The spirit that responds to his genius is universal and
perennial. Caprices of taste will reveal themselves and will vanish;
fashions will rise and will fall; but these mutations touch nothing
that is elemental and they will no more displace Scott than they will
displace Shakespeare.

The _Journal_ of Sir Walter Scott, valuable for its copious variety of
thought, humour, anecdote, and chronicle, is precious, most of all,
for the confirmatory light that it casts upon the character of its
writer. It has long been known that Scott’s nature was exceptionally
noble, that his patience was beautiful, that his endurance was
heroic. These pages disclose to his votaries that he surpassed even
the highest ideal of him that their affectionate partiality has
formed. The period that it covers was that of his adversity and
decline. He began it on November 20, 1825, in his town house, No.
39 Castle street, Edinburgh, and he continued it, with almost daily
entries,–except for various sadly significant breaks, after July
1830,–until April 16, 1832. Five months later, on September 21, he
was dead. He opened it with the expression of a regret that he had
not kept a regular journal during the whole of his life. He had just
seen some chapters of Byron’s vigorous, breezy, off-hand memoranda,
and the perusal of those inspiriting pages had revived in his mind
the long-cherished, often-deferred plan of keeping a diary. “I have
myself lost recollection,” he says, “of much that was interesting, and
I have deprived my family and the public of some curious information
by not carrying this resolution into effect.” Having once begun the
work he steadily persevered in it, and evidently he found a comfort
in its companionship. He wrote directly, and therefore fluently,
setting down exactly what was in his mind, from day to day; but, as
he had a well-stored and well-ordered mind, he wrote with reason and
taste, seldom about petty matters, and never in the strain of insipid
babble that egotistical scribblers mistake for the spontaneous flow
of nature. The facts that he recorded were mostly material facts,
and the reflections that he added, whether serious or humorous, were
important. Sometimes a bit of history would glide into the current
of the chronicle; sometimes a fragment of a ballad; sometimes an
analytic sketch of character, subtle, terse, clear, and obviously true;
sometimes a memory of the past; sometimes a portraiture of incidents
in the present; sometimes a glimpse of political life, a word about
painting, a reference to music or the stage, an anecdote, a tale of
travel, a trait of social manners, a precept upon conduct, or a
thought upon religion and the destiny of mankind. There was no pretence
of order and there was no consciousness of an audience; yet the
_Journal_ unconsciously assumed a symmetrical form; and largely because
of the spontaneous operation of its author’s fine literary instinct
it became a composition worthy of the best readers. It is one of the
saddest and one of the strongest books ever written.

The original manuscript of this remarkable work is contained in two
volumes, bound in vellum, each volume being furnished with a steel
clasp that can be fastened. The covers are slightly tarnished by time.
The paper is yellow with age. The handwriting is fine, cramped, and
often obscure. “This hand of mine,” writes Scott (vol. i. page 386),
“gets to be like a kitten’s scratch, and will require much deciphering,
or, what may be as well for the writer, cannot be deciphered at all. I
am sure I cannot read it myself.” The first volume is full of writing;
the second about half full. Toward the end the record is almost
illegible. Scott was then at Rome, on that melancholy, mistaken journey
whereby it had been hoped, but hoped in vain, that he would recover
his health. The last entry that he made is this unfinished sentence:
“We slept reasonably, but on the next morning—-.” It is not known
that he ever wrote a word after that time. Lockhart, who had access to
his papers, made some use of the _Journal_, in his _Life of Scott_,
which is one of the best biographies in our language; but the greater
part of it was withheld from publication till a more auspicious time
for its perfect candour of speech. To hold those volumes and to look
upon their pages,–so eloquent of the great author’s industry, so
significant of his character, so expressive of his inmost soul,–was
almost to touch the hand of the Minstrel himself, to see his smile,
and to hear his voice. Now that they have fulfilled their purpose, and
imparted their inestimable treasure to the world, they are restored to
the ebony cabinet at Abbotsford, there to be treasured among the most
precious relics of the past. “It is the saddest house in Scotland,”
their editor, David Douglas, said to me, when we were walking together
upon the Braid Hills, “for to my fancy every stone in it is cemented
with tears.” Sad or glad, it is a shrine to which reverent pilgrims
find their way from every quarter of the earth, and it will be honoured
and cherished forever.

[Illustration: _The Canongate Tolbooth._]

The great fame of Scott had been acquired by the time he began to
write his _Journal_, and it rested upon a broad foundation of solid
achievement. He was fifty-four years old, having been born August 15,
1771, the same year in which Smollett died. He had been an author for
about thirty years,–his first publication, a translation of Bürger’s
_Lenore_, having appeared in 1796, the same year that was darkened
by the death of Robert Burns. His social eminence also had been
established. He had been sheriff of Selkirk for twenty-five years.
He had been for twenty years a clerk of the Court of Session. He had
been for five years a baronet, having received that rank from King
George the Fourth, who always loved and admired him, in 1820. He had
been for fourteen years the owner of Abbotsford, which he bought in
1811, occupied in 1812, and completed in 1824. He was yet to write
_Woodstock_, the six tales called _The Chronicles of the Canongate_,
_The Fair Maid of Perth_, _Anne of Geierstein_, _Count Robert of
Paris_, _Castle Dangerous_, the _Life of Napoleon_, and the lovely
_Stories from the History of Scotland_. All those works, together with
many essays and reviews, were produced by him between 1825 and 1832,
while also he was maintaining a considerable correspondence, doing his
official duties, writing his _Journal_, and carrying a suddenly imposed
load of debt,–which finally his herculean labours paid,–amounting
to £130,000. But between 1805 and 1817 he had written _The Lay of the
Last Minstrel_, _Ballads and Lyrical Pieces_, _Marmion_, _The Lady of
the Lake_, _The Vision of Don Roderick_, _Rokeby_, _The Lord of the
Isles_, _The Field of Waterloo_, and _Harold the Dauntless_,–thus
creating a great and diversified body of poetry, then in a new school
and a new style, in which, although he has often been imitated, he
never has been equalled. Between 1814 and 1825 he had likewise produced
_Waverley_, _Guy Mannering_, _The Antiquary_, _Old Mortality_, _The
Black Dwarf_, _Rob Roy_, _The Heart of Midlothian_, _A Legend of
Montrose_, _The Bride of Lammermoor_, _Ivanhoe_, _The Monastery_, _The
Abbot_, _Kenilworth_, _The Pirate_, _The Fortunes of Nigel_, _Peveril
of the Peak_, _Quentin Durward_, _St. Ronan’s Well_, _Redgauntlet_,
_The Betrothed_, and _The Talisman_. This vast body of fiction was also
a new creation in literature, for the English novel prior to Scott’s
time was the novel of manners, as chiefly represented by the works of
Richardson, Fielding, and Smollett. That admirable author, Miss Jane
Porter, had, indeed, written the _Scottish Chiefs_ (1809), in which the
note of imagination, as applied to the treatment of historical fact
and character, rings true and clear; and probably that excellent book
should be remembered as the beginning of English historical romance.
Scott himself said that it was the parent, in his mind, of the Waverley
Novels. But he surpassed it. Another and perhaps a deeper impulse to
the composition of those novels was the consciousness, when Lord Byron,
by the publication of _Childe Harold_ (the first and second cantos,
in 1812), suddenly checked or eclipsed his immediate popularity as a
poet, that it would be necessary for him to strike out a new path. He
had begun _Waverley_ in 1805 and thrown the fragment aside. He took it
up again in 1814, wrought upon it for three weeks and finished it, and
so began the career of “the Great Unknown.” The history of literature
presents scarce a comparable example of such splendid industry
sustained upon such a high level of endeavour, animated by such
glorious genius, and resultant in such a noble and beneficent fruition.
The life of Balzac, whom his example inspired, and who may be accounted
the greatest of French writers since Voltaire, is perhaps the only life
that drifts suggestively into the scholar’s memory, as he thinks of the
prodigious labours of Sir Walter Scott.

During the days of his prosperity Scott maintained his manor at
Abbotsford and his town-house in Edinburgh, and he frequently migrated
from one to the other, dispensing a liberal hospitality at both. He was
not one of those authors who think that there is nothing in the world
but pen and ink. He esteemed living to be more important than writing
about it, and the development of the soul to be a grander result
than the production of a book. “I hate an author that’s all author,”
said Byron; and in this virtuous sentiment Scott participated. His
character and conduct, his unaffected modesty as to his own works, his
desire to found a great house and to maintain a stately rank among
the land-owners of his country, and as a son of chivalry, have, for
this reason, been greatly misunderstood by dull people. They never,
indeed, would have found the least fault with him if he had not become
a bankrupt; for the mouth of every dunce is stopped by practical
success. When he got into debt, though, it was discovered that he ought
to have had a higher ambition than the wish to maintain a place among
the landed gentry of Scotland; and even though he ultimately paid
his debts,–literally working himself to death to do it,–he was not
forgiven by that class of censors; and to some extent their chatter
of paltry disparagement still survives. While he was rich, however,
his halls were thronged with fashion, rank, and renown. Edinburgh,
still the stateliest city on which the sun looks down, must have been,
in the last days of George the Third, a place of peculiar beauty,
opulence, and social brilliancy. Scott, whose father was a Writer to
the Signet, and who derived his descent from a good old Border family,
the Scotts of Harden, had, from his youth, been accustomed to refined
society and elegant surroundings. He was born and reared a gentleman,
and a gentleman he never ceased to be. His father’s house was No.
25 George Square, then an aristocratic quarter, now somewhat fallen
into the sere and yellow. In that house, as a boy, he saw some of the
most distinguished men of the age. In after years, when his fortunes
were ripe and his fame as a poet had been established, he drew around
himself a kindred class of associates. The record of his life blazes
with splendid names. As a lad of fifteen, in 1786, he saw Burns,
then twenty-seven, and in the heyday of fame; and he also saw Dugald
Stewart, seventeen years his senior. Lord Jeffrey was his contemporary
and friend, only two years younger than himself. With Henry Mackenzie,
“the Addison of Scotland,”–born in the first year of the last Jacobite
rebellion, and therefore twenty-six years his senior,–he lived on
terms of cordial friendship. David Hume, who died when Scott was but
five years old, was one of the great celebrities of his early days;
and doubtless Scott saw the Calton Hill when it was, as Jane Porter
remembered it, “a vast green slope, with no other buildings breaking
the line of its smooth and magnificent brow but Hume’s monument on one
part and the astronomical observatory on the other.” He knew John Home,
the author of _Douglas_, who was his senior by forty-seven years; and
among his miscellaneous prose writings there is an effective review of
Home’s works, which was written for the _Quarterly_, in March 1827.
Among the actors his especial friends were John Philip Kemble, Mrs.
Siddons, the elder Charles Mathews, John Bannister, and Daniel Terry.
He knew Yates also, and he saw Miss Foote, Fanny Kemble, and the
Mathews of our day as “a clever, rather forward lad.” Goethe was his
correspondent. Byron was his friend and fervent admirer. Wordsworth
and Moore were among his visitors and especial favourites. The aged
Dr. Adam Ferguson was one of his intimates. Hogg, when in trouble,
always sought him, and always was helped and comforted. He was the
literary sponsor for Thomas Campbell. He met Madame D’Arblay, who was
nineteen years his senior, when she was seventy-eight years old; and
the author of _Evelina_ talked with him, in the presence of old Samuel
Rogers, then sixty-three, about her father, Dr. Burney, and the days
of Dr. Johnson. He was honoured with the cordial regard of the great
Duke of Wellington, a contemporary, being only two years his senior.
He knew Croker, Haydon, Chantrey, Landseer, Sydney Smith, and Theodore
Hook. He read _Vivian Grey_ as a new publication and saw Disraeli as a
beginner. Coleridge he met and marvelled at. Mrs. Coutts, who had been
Harriet Mellon, the singer, and who became the Duchess of St. Albans,
was a favourite with him. He knew and liked that caustic critic William
Gifford. His relations with Sir Humphry Davy, seven years his senior,
were those of kindness. He had a great regard for Lord Castlereagh
and Lord Melville. He liked Robert Southey, and he cherished a deep
affection for the poet Crabbe, who was twenty-three years older than
himself, and who died in the same year. Of Sir George Beaumont, the
fond friend and wise patron of Wordsworth, who died in February 1827,
Scott wrote that he was “by far the most sensible and pleasing man I
ever knew.” Amid a society such as is indicated by those names Scott
passed his life. The brilliant days of the Canongate indeed were gone,
when all those wynds and closes that fringe the historic avenue from
the Castle to Holyrood were as clean as wax, and when the loveliest
ladies of Scotland dwelt amongst them, and were borne in their chairs
from one house of festivity to another. But New street, once the home
of Lord Kames, still retained some touch of its ancient finery. St.
John street, where once lived Lord Monboddo and his beautiful daughter,
Miss Burnet (immortalised by Burns), and where (at No. 10) Ballantyne
often convoked admirers of the unknown author of _Waverley_, was still
a cleanly place. Alison Square, George Square, Buccleuch Place, and
kindred quarters were still tenanted by the polished classes of the
stately, old-time society of Edinburgh. The movement northward had
begun, but as yet it was inconsiderable. In those old drawing-rooms
Scott was an habitual visitor, as also he was in many of the contiguous
county manors,–in Seton House, Pinkie House, Blackford, Ravelstone,
Craigcrook, and Caroline Park, and wherever else the intellect, beauty,
rank, and fashion of the Scottish capital assembled; and it is certain
that after his marriage, in December 1797, with Miss Charlotte Margaret
Carpenter, the scenes of hospitality and of elegant festival were
numerous and gay, and were peopled with all that was brightest in the
ancient city, at first beneath his roof-tree in Castle street and later
beneath his turrets of Abbotsford.

There came a time, however, when the fabric of Scott’s fortunes was to
be shattered and his imperial genius bowed into the dust. He had long
been a business associate with Constable, his publisher, and also with
Ballantyne, his printer. The publishing business failed and they were
ruined together. It has long been customary to place the blame for
that catastrophe on Constable alone. Mr. Douglas, who has edited the
_Journal_ with characteristic discretion and taste, records his opinion
that “the three parties, printer, publisher, and author, were equal
sharers in the imprudences that led to the disaster;” and he directs
attention to the fact that the charge that Constable ruined Scott was
not made during the lifetime of either. It matters little now in what
way the ruin was induced. Mismanagement caused it, and not misdeed.
There was a blunder, but there was no fraud. The honour of all the men
concerned stands vindicated before the world. Moreover, the loss was
retrieved and the debt was paid,–Scott’s share of it in full: the
other shares in part. It is to the period of this ordeal that Scott’s
_Journal_ mainly relates. Great though he had been in prosperity, he
was to show himself greater amid the storms of disaster and affliction.
The earlier pages of the diary are cheerful, vigorous, and confident.
The mind of the writer is in no alarm. Presently the sky changes and
the tempest breaks; and from that time onward the reader beholds a
spectacle, of indomitable will, calm resolution, inflexible purpose,
patient endurance, steadfast industry, and productive genius, that is
sublime. Many facts of living interest and many gems of subtle thought
and happy phrase are found in his daily record. The observations on
immortality are in a fine strain. The remarks on music, on dramatic
poetry, on the operation of the mental faculties, on painting, and on
national characteristics, are freighted with suggestive thought. But
the noble presence of the man overshadows even his best words. He lost
his fortune in December 1825. His wife died in May 1826. On the pages
that immediately follow his note of this bereavement Scott has written
occasional words that no one can read unmoved, and that no one who has
suffered can read without a pang that is deeper than tears.

But his spirit was slow to break. “Duty to God and to my children,”
he said, “must teach me patience.” Once he speaks of “the loneliness
of these watches of the night.” Not until his debts were paid and his
duties fulfilled would that great soul yield. “I may be bringing on
some serious disease,” he remarks, “by working thus hard; if I had once
justice done to other folks, I do not much care, only I would not like
to suffer long pain.” A little later the old spirit shows itself: “I
do not like to have it thought that there is any way in which I can be
beaten…. Let us use the time and faculties which God has left us, and
trust futurity to His guidance…. I want to finish my task, and then
good-night. I will never relax my labour in these affairs either for
fear of pain or love of life. I will die a free man, if hard working
will do it…. My spirits are neither low nor high–grave, I think, and
quiet–a complete twilight of the mind…. God help–but rather God
bless–man must help himself…. The best is, the long halt will arrive
at last and cure all…. It is my dogged humour to yield little to
external circumstances…. I shall never see the three-score and ten,
and shall be summed up at a discount. No help for it, and no matter
either.” In the mood of mingled submission and resolve denoted by these
sentences (which occur at long intervals in the story), he wrought at
his task until it was finished. By _Woodstock_ he earned £8000; by the
_Life of Napoleon_ £18,000; by other writings still other sums. The
details of his toil appear day by day in these simple pages, tragic
through all their simplicity. He was a heart-broken man from the hour
when his wife died, but he sustained himself by force of will and
sense of honour, and he endured and worked till the last, without a
murmur; and when he had done his task he laid down his pen and so ended.

The lesson of Scott’s _Journal_ is the most important lesson that
experience can teach. It is taught in two words: honour and duty.
Nothing is more obvious, from the nature and environment and the
consequent condition of the human race, than the fact that this world
is not, and was not intended to be, a place of settled happiness. All
human beings have troubles, and as the years pass away those troubles
become more numerous, more heavy, and more hard to bear. The ordeal
through which humanity is passing is an ordeal of discipline for
spiritual development. To live in honour, to labour with steadfast
industry, and to endure with cheerful patience is to be victorious.
Whatever in literature will illustrate this doctrine, and whatever in
human example will commend and enforce it, is of transcendent value;
and that value is inherent in the example of Sir Walter Scott.

One denotement, among many, of a genial change, a relaxation of the old
ecclesiastical austerity long prevalent in Scotland, is perceptible
in the lighter character of her modern sepulchral monuments. In the
old churchyard of St. Michael, at Dumfries, the burial-place of Burns,
there is a hideous, dismal mass of misshapen, weather-beaten masonry,
the mere aspect of which, before any of its gruesome inscriptions
are read, is a rebuke to hope and an alarm to despair. Thus the
religionists of old tried to make death terrible. Much of this same
order of abhorrent architecture, the ponderous exponent of immitigable
woe, may be found in the old Grayfriars churchyard in Edinburgh, and
in that of the Canongate. But the pilgrim to the Dean cemetery and
the Warriston, both comparatively modern, and beautifully situated at
different points on the north side of the Water of Leith, finds them
adorned with every grace that can hallow the repose of the dead, or
soothe the grief, or mitigate the fear, or soften the bitter resentment
of the living. Hope, and not despair, is the spirit of the new epoch
in religion, and it is hope not merely for a sect but for all mankind.

The mere physical loveliness of those cemeteries may well tempt you
to explore them, but no one will neglect them who cares for the
storied associations of the past. Walking in the Dean, on an afternoon
half-cloudy and half-bright, when the large trees that guard its
western limit and all the masses of foliage in the dark ravine of the
Leith were softly rustling in the balmy summer wind, while overhead
and far around the solemn cawing of the rooks mingled sleepily with
the twitter of the sparrows, I thought, as I paced the sunlit aisles,
that Nature could nowhere show a scene of sweeter peace. In this
gentle solitude has been laid to its everlasting rest all that could
die of some of the greatest leaders of thought in modern Scotland. It
was no common experience to muse beside the tomb of Francis Jeffrey,
the once formidable Lord Jeffrey of _The Edinburgh Review_. He lies
buried near the great wall on the west side of the Dean cemetery, with
his wife beside him. A flat, oblong stone tomb, imposed upon a large
stone pedestal and overshadowed with tall trees, marks the place,
on one side of which is written that once-famous and dreaded name,
now spoken with indifference or not spoken at all: “Francis Jeffrey.
Born Oct. 23, 1773. Died Jan. 25, 1850.” On the end of the tomb is
a medallion portrait of Jeffrey, in bronze. It is a profile, and it
shows a symmetrical head, a handsome face, severe, refined, frigid, and
altogether it is the denotement of a personality remarkable for the
faculty of taste and the instinct of decorum, though not for creative
power. Close by Lord Jeffrey, a little to the south, are buried Sir
Archibald Alison, the historian of Europe, and Henry Cockburn, the
great jurist. Combe, the philosopher, rests near the south front of the
wall that bisects this cemetery from east to west. Not far from the
memorials of these famous persons is a shaft of honour to Lieutenant
John Irving, who was one of the companions of Sir John Franklin, and
who perished amid the Polar ice in King William’s Land, in 1848-49.

In another part of the ground a tall cross commemorates David Scott,
the painter [1806-1849], presenting a superb effigy of his head, in
one of the most animated pieces of bronze that have copied human life.
Against the eastern wall, on the terrace overlooking the ravine and the
rapid Water of Leith, stands the tombstone of John Blackwood, “Editor
of _Blackwood’s Magazine_ for thirty-three years: Died at Strathtyrum,
29th Oct. 1879. Age 60.” This inscription, cut upon a broad white
marble, with scroll-work at the base, and set against the wall, is
surmounted with a coat of arms, in gray stone, bearing the motto, “Per
vias rectas.” Many other eminent names may be read in this garden
of death; but most interesting of all, and those that most of all I
sought, are the names of Wilson and Aytoun. Those worthies were buried
close together, almost in the centre of the cemetery. The grave of
the great “Christopher North” is marked by a simple shaft of Aberdeen
granite, beneath a tree, and it bears only this inscription: “John
Wilson, Professor of Moral Philosophy. Born 18th of May, 1785. Died
3d April, 1854.” Far more elaborate is the white marble monument,–a
square tomb, with carvings of recessed Gothic windows on its sides,
supporting a tall cross,–erected to the memory of Aytoun and of his
wife, who was Wilson’s daughter. The inscriptions tell their sufficient
story: “Jane Emily Wilson, beloved wife of William Edmonstoune Aytoun.
Obiit 15 April, 1859.” “Here is laid to rest William Edmonstoune
Aytoun, D.C.L., Oxon., Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature
in the University of Edinburgh. Sheriff of Orkney and Zetland. Born
at Edinburgh, 21st June, 1813. Died at Blackhills, Elgin, 4th August,
1865. ‘Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 1 Cor. i. 7.”
So they sleep, the poets, wits, and scholars that were once so bright
in genius, so gay in spirit, so splendid in achievement, so vigorous in
affluent and brilliant life! It is the old story, and it teaches the
old moral.

Warriston, not more beautiful than Dean, is perhaps more beautiful
in situation; certainly it commands a more beautiful prospect.
The traveller will visit Warriston for the sake of Alexander
Smith,–remembering the _Life Drama_, the _City Poems_, _Edwin of
Deira_, _Alfred Hagart’s Household_, and _A Summer in Skye_. The poet
lies in the northeast corner of the ground, at the foot of a large Iona
cross, which is bowered by a chestnut-tree. Above him the green sod
is like a carpet of satin. The cross is thickly carved with laurel,
thistle, and holly, and it bears upon its front the face of the poet,
in bronze, and the harp that betokens his art. It is a bearded face,
having small, refined features, a slightly pouted, sensitive mouth, and
being indicative more of nervous sensibility than of rugged strength.
The inscription gives simply his name and dates: “Alexander Smith,
Poet and Essayist. Born at Kilmarnock, 31st December, 1829. Died at
Wardie, 5th January, 1867. Erected by some of his personal Friends.”
Standing by his grave, at the foot of this cross, you can gaze straight
away southward to Arthur’s Seat, and behold the whole line of imperial
Edinburgh at a glance, from the Calton Hill to the Castle. It is such
a spot as he would have chosen for his sepulchre,–face to face with
the city that he dearly loved. Near him on the east wall appears a
large slab of Aberdeen granite, to mark the grave of still another
Scottish worthy, “James Ballantine, Poet. Born 11th June, 1808. Died
18th Dec., 1877.” And midway along the slope of the northern terrace,
a little eastward of the chapel, under a freestone monument bearing
the butterfly that is Nature’s symbol of immortality, you will see the
grave of “Sir James Young Simpson, Bart., M.D., D.C.L. Born 1811. Died
1870.” And if you are weary of thinking about the evanescence of the
poets, you can reflect that there was no exemption from the common lot
even for one of the greatest physical benefactors of the human race.

[Illustration: _Grayfriars Churchyard._]

The oldest and the most venerable and mysterious of the cemeteries of
Edinburgh is that of the Grayfriars. Irregular in shape and uneven
in surface, it encircles its famous old church, in the haunted
neighbourhood of the West Bow, and is itself hemmed in with many
buildings. More than four centuries ago this was the garden of the
Monastery of the Grayfriars, founded by James the First, of Scotland,
and thus it gets its name. The monastery disappeared long ago: the
garden was turned into a graveyard in the time of Queen Mary Stuart,
and by her order. The building, called the Old Church, dates back to
1612, but it was burnt in 1845 and subsequently restored. Here the
National Covenant was subscribed, 1638, by the lords and by the people,
and in this doubly consecrated ground are laid the remains of many of
those heroic Covenanters who subsequently suffered death for conscience
and their creed. There is a large book of _The Epitaphs and Monumental
Inscriptions in Grayfriars Churchyard_, made by James Brown, keeper of
the grounds, and published in 1867. That record does not pretend to be
complete, and yet it mentions no less than two thousand two hundred
and seventy-one persons who are sepulchred in this place. Among those
sleepers are Duncan Forbes, of Culloden; Robert Mylne, who built a
part of Holyrood Palace; Sir George Mackenzie, the persecutor of the
Covenanters; Carstairs, the adviser of King William the Third; Sir Adam
Ferguson; Henry Mackenzie; Robertson and Tytler, the historians; Sir
Walter Scott’s father; and several of the relatives of Mrs. Siddons.
Captain John Porteous, who was hanged in the Grass-market, by riotous
citizens of Edinburgh, on the night of September 7, 1736, and whose
story is so vividly told in _The Heart of Midlothian_, was buried
in the Grayfriars churchyard, “three dble. pace from the S. corner
Chalmers’ tomb”–1736. James Brown’s record of the churchyard contains
various particulars, quoted from the old church register. Of William
Robertson, minister of the parish, who died in 1745, we read that he
“lies near the tree next Blackwood’s ground.” “Mr. Allan Ramsay,” says
the same quaint chronicle, “lies 5 dble. paces southwest the blew
stone: A poet: old age: Buried 9th January 1758.” Christian Ross, his
wife, who preceded the aged bard by fifteen years, lies in the same
grave. Sir Walter Scott’s father was laid there on April 18, 1799, and
his daughter Anne was placed beside him in 1801. In a letter addressed
to his brother Thomas, in 1819, Sir Walter wrote: “When poor Jack was
buried in the Grayfriars churchyard, where my father and Anne lie, I
thought their graves more encroached upon than I liked to witness.”
The remains of the Regent Morton were, it is said, wrapped in a cloak
and secretly buried there, at night,–June 2, 1581, immediately after
his execution, on that day,–low down toward the northern wall. The
supposed grave of the scholar, historian, teacher, and superb Latin
poet George Buchanan [“the elegant Buchanan,” Dr. Johnson calls him],
is not distant from this spot; and in the old church may be seen a
beautiful window, a triple lancet, in the south aisle, placed there to
commemorate that illustrious author.

Hugh Miller and Dr. Chalmers were laid in the Grange cemetery, which
is in the southern part of the city, near Morningside. Adam Smith is
commemorated by a heavy piece of masonry, over his dust, at the south
end of the Canongate churchyard, and Dugald Stewart by a ponderous tomb
at the north end of it, where he was buried, as also by the monument on
the Calton Hill. It is to see Ferguson’s gravestone, however, that the
pilgrim explores the Canongate churchyard,–and a dreary place it is
for the last rest of a poet. Robert Burns placed the stone, and on the
back of it is inscribed: “By special grant of the managers to Robert
Burns, who erected this stone, this burial-place is to remain for ever
sacred to Robert Ferguson.” That poet was born September 5, 1751,
and died October 16, 1774. These lines, written by Burns, with an
intentional reminiscence of Gray, whose _Elegy_ he fervently admired,
are his epitaph:

“No sculptured marble here, nor pompous lay,
No storied urn nor animated bust–
This simple stone directs pale Scotia’s way
To pour her sorrows o’er her Poet’s dust.”

One of the greatest minds of Scotland, and indeed of the world, was
David Hume, who could think more clearly and express his thoughts
more precisely and cogently upon great subjects than almost any
metaphysician of our English-speaking race. His tomb is in the old
Calton cemetery, close by the prison, a grim Roman tower, predominant
over the Waverley Vale and visible from every part of it. This
structure is open to the sky, and within it and close around its
interior edge, nine melancholy bushes are making a forlorn effort to
grow, in the stony soil that covers the great historian’s dust. There
is an urn above the door of this mausoleum and surmounting the urn
is this inscription: “David Hume. Born April 26th, 1711. Died August
25th, 1776. Erected in memory of him in 1778.” In another part of this
ground you may find the sepulchre of Sir Walter Scott’s friend and
publisher, Archibald Constable, “born 24th February 1774, died 21st
July 1827.” Several priests were roaming over the cemetery when I saw
it, making its dismal aspect still more dismal by that rook-like,
unctuous, furtive aspect which oftens marks the ecclesiastic of the
Roman Catholic church.

Another great writer, Thomas de Quincey, is buried in the old
churchyard of the West church, that lies in the valley just beneath
the west front of the crag of Edinburgh Castle. I went to that spot
on a bright and lovely autumn evening. The place was deserted, except
for the presence of a gardener, to whom I made my request that he
would guide me to the grave of De Quincey. It is an inconspicuous
place, marked by a simple slab of dark stone, set against the wall, in
an angle of the enclosure, on a slight acclivity. As you look upward
from this spot you see the grim, magnificent castle, frowning on its
precipitous height. The grave was covered thick with grass, and in a
narrow trench of earth, cut in the sod around it, many pansies and
marigolds were in bloom. Upon the gravestone is written: “Sacred to the
memory of Thomas de Quincey, who was born at Greenhay, near Manchester,
August 15th, 1785, and died in Edinburgh, December 8th, 1859. And of
Margaret, his wife, who died August 7, 1837.” Just over the honoured
head of the illustrious sleeper were two white daisies peeping through
the green; one of which I thought it not a sin to take away, for it
is the symbol at once of peace and hope, and therefore a sufficient
embodiment of the best that death can teach.

Stronachlacher, Loch Katrine, September 1, 1890.–No one needs to be
told that the Forth bridge is a wonder. All the world knows it, and
knows that the art of the engineer has here achieved a masterpiece. The
bridge is not beautiful, whether viewed from afar or close at hand. The
gazer can see it, or some part of it, from every height in Edinburgh.
It is visible from the Calton Hill, from the Nelson column, from the
Scott monument, from the ramparts of the Castle, from Salisbury Crags,
from the Braid Hills, and of course from the eminence of Arthur’s
Seat. Other objects of interest there are which seek the blissful
shade, but the Forth bridge is an object of interest that insists upon
being seen. The visitor to the shores of the Forth need not mount
any height in order to perceive it, for all along those shores, from
Dirleton to Leith and from Elie to Burntisland, it frequently comes
into the picture. While, however, it is not beautiful, it impresses the
observer with a sense of colossal magnificence. It is a more triumphant
structure even than the Eiffel tower, and it predominates over the
vision and the imagination by the same audacity of purpose and the
same consummate fulfilment which mark that other marvel and establish
it in universal admiration. Crossing the bridge early this morning,
I deeply felt its superb potentiality, and was charmed likewise with
its pictorial effect. That effect is no doubt due in part to its
accessories. Both ways the broad expanse of the Forth was visible for
many miles. It was a still morning, overcast and mournful. There was
a light breeze from the southeast, the air at that elevation being as
sweet as new milk. Beneath, far down, the surface of the steel-gray
water was wrinkled like the scaly back of a fish. Midway a little
island rears its spine of rock out of the stream. Westward at some
distance rises a crag, on which is a tiny lighthouse-tower, painted
red. The long, graceful stone piers that stretch into the Forth at this
point,–breakwaters to form a harbour,–and all the little gray houses
of Queensferry, Inverkeithing, and the adjacent villages looked like
the toy buildings which are the playthings of children. A steamboat
was making her way up the river, while near the shores were many small
boats swinging at their moorings, for the business of the day was not
yet begun. Over this scene the scarce risen sun, much obscured by dull
clouds, cast a faint rosy light, and even while the picture was at its
best we glided away from it into the pleasant land of Fife.

[Illustration: _The Forth Bridge._]

[Illustration: _Dunfermline Abbey._]

In former days the traveller to Stirling commonly went by the way of
Linlithgow, which is the place where Mary Stuart was born, and he was
all the more prompted to think of that enchanting woman because he
usually caught a glimpse of the ruins of Niddry Castle, one of the
houses of her faithful Lord Seton, at which she rested, on the romantic
and memorable occasion of her flight from Loch Leven. Now, since the
Forth bridge has been opened, the most direct route to Stirling is by
Dunfermline. And this is a gain, for Dunfermline is one of the most
interesting places in Scotland. That Malcolm of whom we catch a glimpse
when we see a representation of Shakespeare’s tragedy of _Macbeth_
had a royal castle there nine hundred years ago, of which a fragment
still remains; and on a slope of the coast, a few miles west from
Dunfermline, the vigilant antiquarian has fixed the sight of Macduff’s
castle, where Lady Macduff and her children were slaughtered by the
tyrant. Behind the ancient church at Dunfermline, the church of the
Holy Trinity,–devastated at the Reformation, but since restored,–you
may see the tomb of Malcolm and of Margaret, his queen,–an angel
among women when she lived, and worthy to be remembered now as the
saint that her church has made her. The body of Margaret, who died at
Edinburgh Castle, November 16, 1093, was secretly and hastily conveyed
to Dunfermline, and there buried,–Edinburgh Castle, The Maiden Castle
it was then called, being assailed by her husband’s brother, Donald
Bane. The remains of that noble and devoted woman, however, do not rest
in that tomb, for long afterward, at the Reformation, they were taken
away, and after various wanderings were enshrined at the church of
St. Lawrence in the Escurial. I had often stood in the little chapel
that this good queen founded in Edinburgh Castle,–a place which they
desecrate now, by using it as a shop for the sale of pictures and
memorial trinkets,–and I was soon to stand in the ruins of St. Oran’s
chapel, in far Iona, which also was built by her; and so it was with
many reverent thoughts of an exalted soul and a beneficent life that I
saw the great dark tower of Dunfermline church vanish in the distance.
At Stirling, the rain, which had long been lowering, came down in
floods, and after that for many hours there was genuine Scotch weather
and a copious abundance of it. This also is an experience, and,
although that superb drive over the mountain from Aberfoyle to Loch
Katrine was marred by the wet, I was well pleased to see the Trosach
country in storm, which I had before seen in sunshine. It is a land of
infinite variety, and lovely even in tempest. The majesty of the rocky
heights; the bleak and barren loneliness of the treeless hills; the
many thread-like waterfalls which, seen afar off, are like rivulets
of silver frozen into stillness on the mountain-sides; the occasional
apparition of precipitous peaks, over which presently are driven the
white streamers of the mist,–all these are striking elements of a
scene which blends into the perfection of grace the qualities of gentle
beauty and wild romance. Ben Lomond in the west and Ben Venue and Ben
Ledi in the north were indistinct, and so was Ben A’an in its nearer
cloud; but a brisk wind had swept the mists from Loch Drunkie, and
under a bleak sky the smooth surface of “lovely Loch Achray” shone like
a liquid diamond. An occasional grouse rose from the ferns and swiftly
winged its way to cover. A few cows, wet but indifferent, composed and
contented, were now and then visible, grazing in that desert; while
high upon the crags appeared many sure-footed sheep, the inevitable
inhabitants of those solitudes. So onward, breathing the sweet air that
here was perfumed by miles and miles of purple heather, I descended
through the dense coppice of birch and pine that fringes Loch Katrine,
and all in a moment came out upon the levels of the lake. It was a
long sail down Loch Katrine, for a pilgrim drenched and chilled by the
steady fall of a penetrating rain; but Ellen’s isle and Fitz-James’s
silver strand brought pleasant memories of one of the sweetest of
stories, and all the lonesome waters seemed haunted with a ghostly
pageant of the radiant standards of Roderick Dhu. To-night the mists
are on the mountains, and upon this little pine-clad promontory of
Stronachlacher the darkness comes down early and seems to close it in
from all the world. The waters of Loch Katrine are black and gloomy,
and no sound is heard but the rush of the rain and the sigh of the
pines. It is a night for memory and for thought, and to them let it be

The night-wind that sobs in the trees–
Ah, would that my spirit could tell
What an infinite meaning it breathes,
What a sorrow and longing it wakes!

Oban, September 4, 1890.–Going westward from Stronachlacher, a drive
of several delicious miles, through the country of Rob Roy, ends at
Inversnaid and the shore of Loch Lomond. The rain had passed, but
under a dusky, lowering sky the dense white mists, driven by a fresh
morning wind, were drifting along the heath-clad hills, like a pageant
of angels trailing robes of light. Loch Arklet and the little shieling
where was born Helen, the wife of the Macgregor, were soon passed,–a
peaceful region smiling in the vale; and presently, along the northern
bank of the Arklet, whose copious, dark, and rapid waters, broken
into foam upon their rocky bed, make music all the way, I descended
that precipitous road to Loch Lomond which, through many a devious
turning and sudden peril in the fragrant coppice, reaches safety at
last, in one of the wildest of Highland glens. This drive is a chief
delight of Highland travel, and it appears to be one that “the march of
improvement,”–meaning the extension of railways,–can never abolish;
for, besides being solitary and beautiful, the way is difficult. You
easily divine what a sanctuary that region must have been to the bandit
chieftain, when no road traversed it save perhaps a sheep-track or a
path for horses, and when it was darkly covered with the thick pines of
the Caledonian forest. Scarce a living creature was anywhere visible.
A few hardy sheep, indeed, were grazing on the mountain slopes; a few
cattle were here and there couched among the tall ferns; and sometimes
a sable company of rooks flitted by, cawing drearily overhead. Once I
saw the slow-stepping, black-faced, puissant Highland bull, with his
menacing head and his dark air of suspended hostility and inevitable
predominance. All the cataracts in those mountain glens were at the
flood, because of the continuous heavy rains of an uncommonly wet
season, and at Inversnaid the magnificent waterfall,–sister to Lodore
and Aira Force,–came down in great floods of black and silver, and
with a long resounding roar that seemed to shake the forest. Soon the
welcome sun began to pierce the mists; patches of soft blue sky became
visible through rifts in the gray; and a glorious rainbow, suddenly
cast upon a mountain-side of opposite Inveruglas, spanned the whole
glittering fairy realm with its great arch of incommunicable splendour.
The place of Rob Roy’s cavern was seen, as the boat glided down Loch
Lomond,–a snug nest in the wooded crag,–and, after all too brief a
sail upon those placid ebon waters, I mounted the coach that plies
between Ardlui and Crianlarich. Not much time will now elapse before
this coach is displaced,–for they are building a railroad through
Glen Falloch, which, running southerly from Crianlarich, will skirt
the western shore of Loch Lomond and reach to Balloch and Helensburgh,
and thus will make the railway communication complete, continuous, and
direct between Glasgow and Oban. At intervals all along the glen were
visible the railway embankments, the piles of “sleepers,” the heaps
of steel rails, the sheds of the builders, and the red flag of the
dynamite blast. The new road will be a popular line of travel. No land
“that the eye of heaven visits” is lovelier than this one. But it may
perhaps be questioned whether the exquisite loveliness of the Scottish
Highlands will not become vulgarised by over-easiness of accessibility.
Sequestration is one of the elements of the beautiful, and numbers
of people invariably make common everything upon which they swarm.
But nothing can debase the unconquerable majesty of those encircling
mountains. I saw “the skyish head” of Ben More, at one angle, and of
Ben Lui at another, and the lonely slopes of the Grampian hills; and
over the surrounding pasture-land, for miles and miles of solitary
waste, the thick, ripe heather burnished the earth with brown and
purple bloom and filled the air with dewy fragrance.

[Illustration: _Loch Lomond._]

This day proved capricious, and by the time the railway train from
Crianlarich had sped a little way into Glen Lochy the landscape
was once more drenched with wild blasts of rain. Loch-an-Beach,
always gloomy, seemed black with desolation. Vast mists hung over
the mountain-tops and partly hid them; yet down their fern-clad and
heather-mantled sides the many snowy rivulets, seeming motionless in
the impetuosity of their motion, streamed in countless ribands of
silver lace. The mountain ash, which is in perfect bloom in September,
bearing great pendent clusters of scarlet berries, gave a frequent
touch of brilliant colour to this wild scenery. A numerous herd of
little Highland steers, mostly brown and black, swept suddenly into
the picture, as the express flashed along Glen Lochy, and at beautiful
Dalmally the sun again came out, with sudden transient gleams of
intermittent splendour; so that gray Kilchurn and the jewelled waters
of sweet Loch Awe, and even the cold and grim grandeur of the rugged
Pass of Brander, were momentarily clothed with tender, golden haze.
It was afternoon when I alighted in the seaside haven of Oban; yet
soon, beneath the solemn light of the waning day, I once more stood
amid the ruins of Dunstaffnage Castle and looked upon one of the most
representative, even as it is one of the most picturesque, relics of
the feudal times of Scottish history. You have to journey about three
miles out of the town in order to reach that place, which is upon
a promontory where Loch Etive joins Loch Linnhe. The carriage was
driven to it through a shallow water and across some sands which soon
a returning tide would deeply submerge. The castle is so placed that,
when it was fortified, it must have been well-nigh impregnable. It
stands upon a broad, high, massive, precipitous rock, looking seaward
toward Lismore island. Nothing of that old fortress now remains except
the battlemented walls, upon the top of which there is a walk, and
portions of its towers, of which originally there were but three. The
roof and the floors are gone. The courtyard is turfed, and over the
surface within its enclosure the grass grows thick and green, while
weeds and wild-flowers fringe its slowly mouldering walls, upon which
indeed several small trees have rooted themselves, in crevices stuffed
with earth. One superb ivy-tree, of great age and size, covers much
of the venerable ruin, upon its inner surface, with a wild luxuriance
of brilliant foliage. There are the usual indications in the masonry,
showing how the area of this castle was once subdivided into rooms
of various shapes and sizes, some of them large, in which were ample
fireplaces and deeply recessed embrasures, and no doubt arched
casements opening on the inner court. Here dwelt the early kings of
Scotland. Here the national story of Scotland began. Here for a long
time was treasured the Stone of Destiny, Lia Fail, before it was taken
to Scone Abbey, thence to be borne to London by Edward the First, in
1296, and placed where it has ever since remained, and is visible now,
in the old coronation chair in the chapel of Edward the Confessor,
at Westminster. Here through the slow-moving centuries many a story
of love, ambition, sorrow, and death has had its course and left its
record. Here, in the stormy romantic period that followed 1745, was
imprisoned for a while the beautiful, intrepid, constant, and noble
Flora Macdonald, who had saved the person and the life of the fugitive
Pretender, after the fatal defeat and hideous carnage of Culloden. What
pageants, what festivals, what glories, and what horrors have those
old walls beheld! Their stones seem agonised with ghastly memories
and weary with the intolerable burden of hopeless age; and as I stood
and pondered amid their gray decrepitude and arid desolation,–while
the light grew dim and the evening wind sighed in the ivy and shook
the tremulous wall-flowers and the rustling grass,–the ancient,
worn-out pile seemed to have a voice, and to plead for the merciful
death that should put an end to its long, consuming misery and dumb
decay. Often before, when standing alone among ruins, have I felt this
spirit of supplication, and seen this strange, beseechful look, in the
silent, patient stones: never before had it appealed to my heart with
such eloquence and such pathos. Truly nature passes through all the
experience and all the moods of man, even as man passes through all the
experience and all the moods of nature.

[Illustration: _Dunstaffnage._]

On the western side of the courtyard of Dunstaffnage stands a small
stone building, accessible by a low flight of steps, which bears upon
its front the sculptured date 1725, intertwined with the letters AE.
C. and LC., and the words Laus Deo. This was the residence of the
ancient family of Dunstaffnage, prior to 1810. From the battlements I
had a wonderful view of adjacent lakes and engirdling mountains,–the
jewels and their giant guardians of the lonely land of Lorn,–and saw
the red sun go down over a great inland sea of purple heather and upon
the wide waste of the desolate ocean. These and such as these are the
scenes that make this country distinctive, and that have stamped their
impress of stately thought and romantic sentiment upon its people. Amid
such scenes the Scottish national character has been developed, and
under their influence have naturally been created the exquisite poetry,
the enchanting music, the noble art and architecture, and the austere
civilisation of imperial Scotland.

After dark the rain again came on, and all night long, through light
and troubled slumber, I heard it beating on the window-panes. The
morning dawned in gloom and drizzle, and there was no prophetic voice
to speak a word of cheer. One of the expeditions that may be made from
Oban comprises a visit to Fingal’s Cave, on the island of Staffa,
and to the ruined cathedral on Saint Columba’s island of Iona, and,
incidentally, a voyage around the great island of Mull. It is the most
beautiful, romantic, diversified, and impressive sail that can be made
in these waters. The expeditious itinerant in Scotland waits not upon
the weather, and at an early hour this day I was speeding out of Oban,
with the course set for Lismore Light and the Sound of Mull.[51]