J. H. Alexander, P. D. Garside, and Claire Lamont (eds), The Edinburgh Edition of the Waverley Novels, Vol. 25 [A]: Walter Scott: Introductions and Notes from the Magnum Opus: Waverley to A Legend of the Wars of Montrose
pg 102Introduction to Guy Mannering
The Novel or Romance of Waverley made its way to the public slowly, of course, at first, but afterwards with such accumulating popularity as to encourage the author to a second attempt. He looked about for a name and a subject; and the manner in which the novels were composed cannot be better illustrated than by recit-ing the simple narrative on which Guy Mannering was originally founded; but to which, in the progress of the work, the production ceased to bear any, even the most distant resemblance. The tale Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatuswas one told me by an old servant of my father's, an excellent old Highlander, without a fault, unless a preference to mountain-dew over less potent liquors be accounted one. He believed as firmly in the story, as in any part of his creed.
A grave and elderly person, according to old John MacKinlay's Editor’s Noteaccount, while travelling in the wilder parts of Galloway, was be-nighted. With difficulty he found his way to a country-seat, where, with the hospitality of the time and country, he was readily admitted. The owner of the house, a gentleman of good fortune, was much struck by the reverend appearance of his guest, and apologized to him for a certain degree of confusion which must unavoidably attend his reception, and could not escape his eye. The lady of the house was, he said, confined to her apartment, and on the point of making her husband a father for the first time, though they had been ten years married. At such an emergency, the Laird said, he feared his guest might meet with some apparent neglect.
"Not so, sir," said the stranger; "my wants are few, and easily supplied, and I trust the present circumstances may even afford an opportunity of showing my gratitude for your hospitality. Let me only request that I may be informed of the exact minute of the birth; and I hope to be able to put you in possession of some particulars, which may influence, in an important manner, the future prospects of the child now about to come into this busy and change-ful world. I will not conceal from you that I am skilful in understand-ing and interpreting the movements of those planetary bodies which exert their influences on the destiny of mortals. It is a science which I do not practise, like others who call themselves astrologers, for hire or reward; for I have a competent estate, and only use the knowledge I possess for the benefit of those in whom I feel an interest." The Laird bowed in respect and gratitude, and the stranger was accommodated with an apartment which commanded pg 103an ample view of the astral regions.
The guest spent a part of the night in ascertaining the position of the heavenly bodies, and calculating their probable influence; until at length the result of his observations induced him to send for the father, and conjure him, in the most solemn manner, to cause the assistants to retard the birth, if practicable, were it but for five minutes. The answer declared this to be impossible; and almost in the instant that the message was returned, the father and his guest were made acquainted with the birth of a boy.
The Astrologer on the morrow met the party who gathered around the breakfast table, with looks so grave and ominous, as to alarm the fears of the father, who had hitherto exulted in the pro-spects held out by the birth of an heir to his ancient property, failing which event it must have passed to a distant branch of the family. He hastened to draw the stranger into a private room.
"I fear from your looks," said the father, "that you have bad tidings to tell me of my young stranger; perhaps God will resume the blessing he has bestowed ere he attains the age of manhood, or perhaps he is destined to be unworthy of the affection which we are naturally disposed to devote to our offspring."
"Neither the one nor the other," answered the stranger; "unless Critical Apparatusmy judgment greatly errs, the infant will survive the years of minor-ity, and in temper and disposition will prove all that his parents can wish. But with much in his horoscope which promises many bless-ings, there is one evil influence strongly predominant, which threatens to subject him to an unhallowed and unhappy temptation Critical Apparatusabout the time when he shall obtain the age of twenty-one, which period, the constellations intimate, will be the crisis of his fate. In what shape, or with what peculiar urgency, this temptation may beset him, my art cannot discover."
Critical Apparatus"Your art, then, can afford us no defence," said the anxious father, "against the threatened evil?"
"Pardon me," answered the stranger, "it can. The influence of Critical Apparatusthe constellations is stronger: but He, who made the heavens, is Editor’s Notemore powerful than all, if his aid be invoked in sincerity and truth. You ought to dedicate this boy to the immediate service of his Editor’s NoteMaker, with as much sincerity as Samuel was devoted to the worship in the Temple by his parents. You must regard him as a being Critical Apparatussegregated from the rest of the world. In childhood, in boyhood, you must surround him with the pious and virtuous, and protect him, to the utmost of your power, from the sight or hearing of any Critical Apparatuslicense, in word or action. He must be educated in religious and moral principles of the strictest description. Let him not enter the pg 104world, lest he learn to partake of its follies, or perhaps of its vices. In short, preserve him as far as possible from all sin, save that of which too great a portion belongs to all the fallen race of Adam. With the approach of his twenty-first birthday comes the crisis of his fate. If he survive it, he will be happy and prosperous on earth, and a chosen vessel among those elected for heaven. But if it be otherwise"——The Astrologer stopped, and sighed deeply.
"Sir," replied the parent, still more alarmed than before, "your words are so kind, your advice so serious, that I will pay the deepest attention to your behests; but can you not aid me farther in this most important concern? Believe me, I will not be ungrateful."
"I require and deserve no gratitude for doing a good action," said the stranger, "in especial for contributing all that lies in my power to save from an abhorred fate the harmless infant to whom, under a singular conjunction of planets, last night gave life. There Critical Apparatusis my address; you may write me from time to time concerning the progress of the boy in religious knowledge. If he be bred up as I advise, I think it will be best that he come to my house at the time when the fatal and decisive period approaches, that is, before he has attained his twenty-first year complete. If you send him such as I desire, I humbly trust that God will protect his own, through whatever strong temptation his fate may subject him to." He then gave his host his address, which was a country-seat near a post town in the south of England, and bid him an affectionate farewell.
The mysterious stranger departed, but his words remained im-pressed upon the mind of the anxious parent. He lost his lady while his boy was still in infancy. This calamity, I think, had been predicted by the Astrologer; and thus his confidence, which, like most people of the period, he had freely given to the science, was riveted and confirmed. The utmost care, therefore, was taken to carry into effect the severe and almost ascetic plan of education which the sage had enjoined. A tutor of the strictest principles was employed to superintend the youth's education; he was surrounded by domestics of the most established character, and closely watched and looked after by the anxious father himself.
The years of infancy, childhood, and boyhood, passed as the Editor’s Notefather could have wished. A young Nazarene could not have been bred up with more rigour. All that was evil was withheld from his observation—he only heard what was pure in precept—he only witnessed what was worthy in practice.
But when the boy began to be lost in the youth, the attentive father saw cause for alarm. Shades of sadness, which gradually assumed a darker character, began to overcloud the young man's pg 105temper. Tears, which seemed involuntary, broken sleep, moonlight wanderings, and a melancholy for which he could assign no reason, seemed to threaten at once his bodily health, and the stability of his mind. The Astrologer was consulted by letter, and returned for answer, that this fitful state of mind was but the commencement of Critical Apparatushis trial, and that the poor youth must undergo worse and more desperate struggles with the evil that assailed him. There was no hope of remedy, save that he showed steadiness of mind in the study of the Scriptures. "He suffers," continued the letter of the sage, "from the awakening of those harpies, the passions, which have slept with him as with others, till the period of life which he has now attained. Better, far better, that they torment him by un-grateful cravings, than that he should have to repent having satiated them by criminal indulgence."
The dispositions of the young man were so excellent, that he combated, by reason and religion, the fits of gloom which at times overcast his mind, and it was not till he attained the commencement of his twenty-first year, that they assumed a character which made his father tremble for the consequences. It seemed as if the gloomiest and most hideous of mental maladies was taking the form of religious despair. Still the youth was gentle, courteous, affection-ate, and submissive to his father's will, and resisted with all his power the dark suggestions which were breathed into his mind, as it seemed, by some emanation of the Evil Principle, exhorting him, Editor’s Notelike the wicked wife of Job, to curse God and die.
The time at length arrived when he was to perform what was then thought a long and somewhat perilous journey, to the mansion of the early friend who had calculated his nativity. His road lay through several places of interest, and he enjoyed the amusement of travelling, more than he himself thought would have been poss-ible. Thus he did not reach the place of his destination till noon, on the day preceding his birth-day. It seemed as if he had been carried away with an unwonted tide of pleasureable sensation, so as to forget, in some degree, what his father had communicated concerning the purpose of his journey. He halted at length before a respectable but solitary old mansion, to which he was directed as the abode of his father's friend.
The servants who came to take his horse, told him he had been expected for two days. He was led into a study, where the stranger, now a venerable old man, who had been his father's guest, met Critical Apparatushim with a shade of displeasure, as well as gravity, upon his brow. Critical Apparatus"Young man," he said, "wherefore so slow upon a journey of such importance?"—"I thought," replied the guest, blushing and looking pg 106downward, "that there was no harm in travelling slowly, and satisfy-ing my curiosity, providing I could reach your residence by this day; for such was my father's charge."—"You were to blame," Editor’s Notereplied the sage, "in lingering, considering that the avenger of blood was pressing on your footsteps. But you are come at last, and we will hope for the best, though the conflict in which you are to be engaged will be found more dreadful, the longer it is postponed. But first, accept of such refreshments as nature requires, to satisfy, but not to pamper, the appetite."
The old man led the way into a summer parlour, where a frugal Critical Apparatusmeal was placed on the table. As they sate down to the board, they were joined by a young lady about eighteen years of age, and so lovely, that the sight of her carried off the feelings of the young stranger from the peculiarity and mystery of his own lot, and riveted his attention to every thing she did or said. She spoke little, and it was on the most serious subjects. She played on the harpsichord at her father's command, but it was hymns with which she accompan-Critical Apparatusied the instrument. At length, at a sign from the sage, she left the room, turning on the young stranger, as she departed, a look of inexpressible anxiety and interest.
The old man then conducted the youth to his study, and con-versed with him upon the most important points of religion, to satisfy Editor’s Notehimself that he could render a reason for the faith that was in him. Critical ApparatusDuring this examination, the youth, in spite of himself, felt his mind occasionally wander, and his recollections go in quest of the beauti-Critical Apparatusful vision who had shared their meal at noon. Upon such occasions, the Astrologer looked grave, and shook his head at this relaxation of attention; yet, on the whole, he was pleased with the youth's replies.
At sunset the young man was made to take the bath; and, having Editor’s Notedone so, he was directed to attire himself in a robe, somewhat like that worn by Armenians, having his long hair combed down on his shoulders, and his neck, hands, and feet bare. In this guise, he was conducted into a remote chamber totally devoid of furniture, except-ing a lamp, a chair, and a table, on which lay a Bible. "Here," said the Astrologer, "I must leave you alone, to pass the most critical period of your life. If you can, by recollection of the great truths of which we have spoken, repel the attacks which will be made on your courage and your principles, you have nothing to apprehend. But the trial will be severe and arduous." His features then assumed a pathetic solemnity, the tears stood in his eyes, and his voice fal-tered with emotion as he said, "Dear child, at whose coming into the world I foresaw this fatal trial, may God give thee grace to support it with firmness!"
pg 107The young man was left alone; and hardly did he find himself Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatusso, when, like a swarm of demons, the recollections of all his sins of omission and commission, rendered even more terrible by the scrupulousness with which he had been educated, rushed on his mind, and, like furies armed with fiery scourges, seemed determined to drive him to despair. As he combated these horrible recollections with distracted feelings, but with a resolved mind, he became aware that his arguments were answered by the sophistry of another, and that the dispute was no longer confined to his own thoughts. The Author of Evil was present in the room with him in bodily shape, Critical Apparatusand, potent with spirits of a melancholy cast, was impressing on him the desperation of his state, and urging suicide as the readiest mode to put an end to his sinful career. Amid his errors, the pleasure he had taken in prolonging his journey unnecessarily, and the atten-tion which he had bestowed on the beauty of the fair female, when his thoughts ought to have been dedicated to the religious discourse of her father, were set before him in the darkest colours; and he was treated as one who, having sinned against light, was, therefore, deservedly left a prey to the Prince of Darkness.
As the fated and influential hour rolled on, the terrors of the Critical Apparatushateful Presence became more confounding to the mortal senses of the victim, and the knot of the accursed sophistry became more inextricable in appearance, at least to the prey whom its meshes surrounded. He had not power to explain the assurance of pardon which he continued to assert, or to name the victorious name in which he trusted. But his faith did not abandon him, though he lacked for a time the power of expressing it. "Say what you will," was his answer to the Tempter; "I know there is as much betwixt the two boards of this Book as can insure me forgiveness for my transgressions, and safety for my soul." As he spoke, the clock, which announced the lapse of the fatal hour, was heard to strike. The speech and intellectual powers of the youth were instantly and fully restored; he burst forth into prayer, and expressed, in the most glowing terms, his reliance on the truth, and on the Author, of the gospel. The demon retired, yelling and discomfited, and the old man, entering the apartment, with tears congratulated his guest Critical Apparatuson his victory in the fatal struggle.
The young man was afterwards married to the beautiful maiden, the first sight of whom had made such an impression on him, and they were consigned over at the close of the story to domestic happiness.—So ended John MacKinlay's legend.
The author of Waverley had imagined a possibility of framing an interesting, and perhaps not an unedifying, tale, out of the incidents pg 108of the life of a doomed individual, whose efforts at good and virtuous conduct were to be for ever disappointed by the intervention, as it were, of some malevolent being, and who was at last to come off victorious from the fearful struggle. In short, something was medit-Editor’s Noteated upon a plan resembling the imaginative tale of Sintram and his Companions, by Mons. Le Baron de la Motte Fouqué, although, if it then existed, the author had not seen it.
The scheme projected may be traced in the three or four first chapters of the work, but farther consideration induced the author to lay his purpose aside. It appeared, on mature consideration, that Editor’s NoteAstrology, though its influence was once received and admitted by Bacon himself, does not now retain influence over the general mind sufficient even to constitute the mainspring of a romance. Besides, it occurred, that to do justice to such a subject would have required not only more talent than the author could be conscious of possess-ing, but also involved doctrines and discussions of a nature too serious for his purpose, and for the character of the narrative. In changing his plan, however, which was done in the course of print-ing, the early sheets retained the vestiges of the original tenor of the story, although they now hang upon it as an unnecessary and unnatural incumbrance. The cause of such vestiges occurring is now explained, and apologized for.
It is here worthy of observation, that while the astrological doc-trines have fallen into general contempt, and been supplanted by superstitions of a more gross and far less beautiful character, they have, even in modern days, retained some votaries.
One of the most remarkable believers in that forgotten and des-Editor’s Notepised science, was a late eminent professor of the art of legerdemain. One would have thought that a person of this description ought, from his knowledge of the thousand ways in which human eyes could be deceived, to have been less than others subject to the fantasies of superstition. Perhaps the habitual use of those abstruse calculations, by which, in a manner surprising to the artist himself, many tricks upon cards, &c., are performed, induced this gentleman to study the combination of the stars and planets, with the expecta-Critical Apparatustion of obtaining prophetic annunciations.
Editor’s NoteHe constructed a scheme of his own nativity, calculated according to such rules of art as he could collect from the best astrological authors. The result of the past he found agreeable to what had hitherto befallen him, but in the important prospect of the future a singular difficulty occurred. There were two years, during the course of which he could by no means obtain any exact knowledge, whether the subject of the scheme would be dead or alive. Anxious pg 109concerning so remarkable a circumstance, he gave the scheme to a brother Astrologer, who was also baffled in the same manner. At one period he found the native, or subject, was certainly alive; at another, that he was unquestionably dead; but a space of two years extended between these two terms, during which he could find no certainty as to his death or existence.
The Astrologer marked the remarkable circumstance in his Diary, and continued his exhibitions in various parts of the empire until the period was about to expire, during which his existence had been warranted as actually ascertained. At last, while he was exhibit-ing to a numerous audience his usual tricks of legerdemain, the Critical Apparatushands, whose agility had so often baffled the closest observer, sud-denly lost their power, the cards dropped from them, and he sunk down a disabled paralytic. In this state the artist languished for two years, when he was at length removed by death. It is said that the Editor’s NoteDiary of this modern Astrologer will soon be given to the public.
The fact, if truly reported, is one of those singular coincidences which occasionally appear, differing so widely from ordinary calcu-lation, yet without which irregularities, human life would not present to mortals, looking into futurity, the abyss of impenetrable darkness, which it is the pleasure of the Creator it should offer to them. Were every thing to happen in the ordinary train of events, the future would be subject to the rules of arithmetic, like the chances of gaming. But extraordinary events, and wonderful runs of luck, defy the calculations of mankind, and throw impenetrable darkness on future contingencies.
Editor’s NoteTo the above anecdote, another, still more recent, may be here added. The author was lately honoured with a letter from a gentle-man deeply skilled in these mysteries, who kindly undertook to calculate the nativity of the writer of Guy Mannering, who might be supposed to be friendly to the divine art which he professed. But it was impossible to supply data for the construction of a horo-scope, had the native been otherwise desirous of it, since all those who could supply the minutiæ of day, hour, and minute, have been long removed from the mortal sphere.
Having thus given some account of the first idea, or rude sketch, of the story, which was soon departed from, the author, in following out the plan of the present edition, has to mention the prototypes of the principal characters in Guy Mannering.
Some circumstances of local situation gave the author, in his youth, an opportunity of seeing a little, and hearing a great deal, about that degraded class who are called gipsies; who are in most Editor’s Notecases a mixed race, between the ancient Egyptians who arrived in pg 110Europe about the beginning of the fifteenth century, and vagrants of European descent.
The individual gipsy upon whom the character of Meg Merrilies was founded, was well known about the middle of the last century, Editor’s Noteby the name of Jean Gordon, an inhabitant of the village of Kirk Yetholm, in the Cheviot hills, adjoining to the English Border. The author gave the public some account of this remarkable person, in one of the early Numbers of Blackwood's Magazine, to the fol-lowing purpose:—
Editor’s Note"My father remembered old Jean Gordon of Yetholm, who had great sway among her tribe. She was quite a Meg Merrilies, and possessed the savage virtue of fidelity in the same perfection. Having Editor’s Notebeen often hospitably received at the farm-house of Lochside, near Yetholm, she had carefully abstained from committing any depreda-tions on the farmer's property. But her sons (nine in number) had not, it seems, the same delicacy, and stole a brood-sow from their Critical Apparatuskind entertainer. Jean was so much mortified at this ungrateful conduct, and so much ashamed of it, that she absented herself from Lochside for several years.
"It happened, in course of time, that in consequence of some temporary pecuniary necessity, the Goodman of Lochside was obliged to go to Newcastle to raise some money to pay his rent. He succeeded in his purpose, but returning through the mountains of Cheviot, he was benighted and lost his way.
"A light, glimmering through the window of a large waste barn, which had survived the farm-house to which it had once belonged, guided him to a place of shelter; and when he knocked at the door, it was opened by Jean Gordon. Her very remarkable figure, for she was nearly six feet high, and her equally remarkable features and dress, rendered it impossible to mistake her for a moment, though he had not seen her for years; and to meet with such a character in so solitary a place, and probably at no great distance from her clan, was a grievous surprise to the poor man, whose rent (to lose which would have been ruin) was about his person.
"Jean set up a loud shout of joyful recognition—'Eh, sirs! the winsome Gudeman of Lochside! Light down, light down; for ye maunna gang farther the night, and a friend's house sae near.' The farmer was obliged to dismount, and accept of the gipsy's offer of supper and a bed. There was plenty of meat in the barn, however it might be come by, and preparations were going on for a plentiful repast, which the farmer, to the great increase of his anxiety, observed, was calculated for ten or twelve guests, of the same de-scription, probably, with his landlady.
pg 111"Jean left him in no doubt on the subject. She brought to his recollection the story of the stolen sow, and mentioned how much pain and vexation it had given her. Like other philosophers, she remarked that the world grew worse daily; and, like other parents, that the bairns got out of her guiding, and neglected the old gipsy regulations, which commanded them to respect, in their depreda-tions, the property of their benefactors. The end of all this was, an inquiry what money the farmer had about him; and an urgent re-quest, or command, that he would make her his purse-keeper, since the bairns, as she called her sons, would be soon home. The poor farmer made a virtue of necessity, told his story, and surren-dered his gold to Jean's custody. She made him put a few shillings in his pocket, observing it would excite suspicion should he be found travelling altogether penniless.
"This arrangement being made, the farmer lay down on a sort of shake-down, as the Scotch call it, or bed clothes disposed upon some straw, but, as will easily be believed, slept not.
"About midnight the gang returned, with various articles of plun-der, and talked over their exploits in language which made the farmer tremble. They were not long in discovering they had a guest, and demanded of Jean whom she had got there.
Critical Apparatus"'E'en the winsome Gudeman of Lochside, poor body,' replied Jean; 'he's been at Newcastle seeking siller to pay his rent, honest man, but deil-be-lickit he's been able to gather in, and sae he's gaun e'en hame wi' a toom purse and a sair heart.'
Critical Apparatus"'That may be, Jean,' replied one of the banditti, 'but we maun ripe his pouches a bit, and see if the tale be true or no.' Jean set up her throat in exclamations against this breach of hospitality, but without producing any change in their determination. The farmer soon heard their stifled whispers and light steps by his bedside, and understood they were rummaging his clothes. When they found the money which the providence of Jean Gordon had made him retain, they held a consultation if they should take it or no; but the smallness of the booty, and the vehemence of Jean's remonstrances, determined them in the negative. They caroused and went to rest. As soon as day dawned, Jean roused her guest, produced his horse, which she had accommodated behind the hallan, and guided him for some miles, till he was on the high-road to Lochside. She then restored his whole property; nor could his earnest entreaties prevail on her to accept so much as a single guinea.
"I have heard the old people at Jedburgh say, that all Jean's sons were condemned to die there on the same day. It is said the jury were equally divided, but that a friend to justice, who had slept pg 112during the whole discussion, waked suddenly, and gave his vote for condemnation, in the emphatic words, 'Hang them a'!' Unanimity is not required in a Scottish jury, so the verdict of guilty was returned. Jean was present, and only said, 'The Lord help the innocent in a day like this!' Her own death was accompanied with circumstances of brutal outrage, of which poor Jean was in many respects wholly undeserving. She had, among other demerits, or merits, as the reader may choose to rank it, that of being a stanch Jacobite. She chanced to be at Carlisle upon a fair or market-day, soon after the year 1746, where she gave vent to her political partial-ity, to the great offence of the rabble of that city. Being zealous in their loyalty, when there was no danger, in proportion to the tameness with which they had surrendered to the Highlanders in 1745, the mob inflicted upon poor Jean Gordon no slighter penalty Editor’s Notethan that of ducking her to death in the Eden. It was an operation of some time, for Jean was a stout woman, and, struggling with her murderers, often got her head above water; and, while she had voice left, continued to exclaim at such intervals, ' Charlie yet! Charlie yet! ' When a child, and among the scenes which she frequented, I have often heard these stories, and cried piteously for poor Jean Gordon.
Editor’s Note"Before quitting the Border gipsies, I may mention, that my Editor’s Notegrandfather, while riding over Charterhouse moor, then a very ex-tensive common, fell suddenly among a large band of them, who were carousing in a hollow of the moor, surrounded by bushes. They instantly seized on his horse's bridle with many shouts of welcome, exclaiming (for he was well known to most of them) that they had often dined at his expense, and he must now stay and share their good cheer. My ancestor was a little alarmed, for, like the Goodman of Lochside, he had more money about his person than he cared to risk in such society. However, being naturally a bold lively-spirited man, he entered into the humour of the thing, and sate down to the feast, which consisted of all the varieties of game, poultry, pigs, and so forth, that could be collected by a wide and indiscriminate system of plunder. The dinner was a very merry one; but my relative got a hint from some of the older gipsies to retire just when—
- Editor’s Note The mirth and fun grew fast and furious,
and, mounting his horse accordingly, he took a French leave of his entertainers, but without experiencing the least breach of hospitality. I believe Jean Gordon was at this festival."—(Blackwood's Magazine, vol. i. p. 54.)
pg 113Notwithstanding the failure of Jean's issue, for which,
- Editor’s Note Weary fa' the waefu' wuddie,
a grand-daughter survived her whom I remember to have seen. Editor’s NoteThat is, as Dr Johnson had a shadowy recollection of Queen Anne, as a stately lady in black, adorned with diamonds, so my memory is haunted by a solemn remembrance of a woman of more than female height, dressed in a long red cloak, who commenced acquaintance by giving me an apple, but whom, nevertheless, I looked on with as much awe, as the future Doctor, High Church and Tory as he was doomed to be, could look upon the Queen. I conceive this woman to have been Madge Gordon, of whom an impressive account is given in the same article in which her Mother Jean is mentioned, but not by the present writer:—
Editor’s Note"The late Madge Gordon was at this time accounted the Queen of the Yetholm clans. She was, we believe, a grand-daughter of the celebrated Jean Gordon, and was said to have much resembled her in appearance. The following account of her is extracted from the letter of a friend, who for many years enjoyed frequent and favour-able opportunities of observing the characteristic peculiarities of the Yetholm tribes.—'Madge Gordon was descended from the Faas by the mother's side, and was married to a Young. She was a remarkable personage—of a very commanding presence, and high stature, being nearly six feet high. She had a large aquiline nose,—penetrating eyes, even in her old age—bushy hair, that hung around her shoulders from beneath a gipsy bonnet of straw—a short cloak of a peculiar fashion, and a long staff nearly as tall as herself. I remember her well;—every week she paid my father a visit for her awmous, when I was a little boy, and I looked upon Madge with no common degree of awe and terror. When she spoke vehemently, (for she made loud complaints,) she used to strike her staff upon the floor, and throw herself into an attitude which it was impossible to regard with indifference. She used to say that she could bring from the remotest parts of the island, friends to revenge her quarrel, while she sat motionless in her cottage; and she frequently boasted that there was a time when she was of still more considerable im-portance, for there were at her wedding fifty saddled asses, and unsaddled asses without number. If Jean Gordon was the prototype of the character of Meg Merrilies, I imagine Madge must have sat to the unknown author as the representative of her person.'"—(Black-wood's Magazine, vol. I. p. 56.)
How far Blackwood's ingenious correspondent was right, how far mistaken in his conjecture, the reader has been informed.
pg 114To pass to a character of a very different description, Dominie Sampson, the reader may easily suppose that a poor modest humble Editor’s Notescholar, who has won his way through the classics, yet has fallen to leeward in the voyage of life, is no uncommon personage in a coun-try, where a certain portion of learning is easily attained by those who are willing to suffer hunger and thirst in exchange for acquiring Greek and Latin. But there is a far more exact prototype of the worthy Dominie, upon which is founded the part which he performs in the romance, and which, for certain particular reasons, must be expressed very generally.
Such a preceptor as Mr Sampson is supposed to have been, was Editor’s Noteactually tutor in the family of a gentleman of considerable property. The young lads, his pupils, grew up and went out in the world, but the tutor continued to reside in the family, no uncommon circum-stance in Scotland, (in former days,) where food and shelter were readily afforded to humble friends and dependents. The Laird's predecessors had been imprudent, he himself was passive and un-fortunate. Death swept away his sons, whose success in life might have balanced his own bad luck and incapacity. Debts increased and funds diminished, until ruin came. The estate was sold; and the old man was about to remove from the house of his fathers, to go he knew not whither, when, like an old piece of furniture, which, left alone in its wonted corner, may hold together for a long while, but breaks to pieces on an attempt to move it, he fell down on his own threshold under a paralytic affection.
The tutor awakened as from a dream. He saw his patron dead, and that his patron's only remaining child, an elderly woman, now neither graceful nor beautiful, if she had ever been either the one or the other, had by this calamity become a homeless and penniless orphan. He addressed her nearly in the words which Dominie Sampson uses to Miss Bertram, and professed his determination not to leave her. Accordingly, roused to the exercise of talents which had long slumbered, he opened a little school, and supported his patron's child for the rest of her life, treating her with the same humble observance and devoted attention which he had used towards her in the days of her prosperity.
Such is the outline of Dominie Sampson's real story, in which there is neither romantic incident nor sentimental passion; but which, perhaps, from the rectitude and simplicity of character which Critical Apparatusit displays, may interest the heart and fill the eyes of the reader as irresistibly, as if it respected distresses of a more dignified or refined character.
These preliminary notices concerning the tale of Guy Mannering, pg 115and some of the characters introduced, may save the author and reader, in the present instance, the trouble of writing and perusing a long string of detached notes.
Abbotsford, January, 1829.