Hugh Miller: Autobiography (11)

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CHAPTER XXIV.


Life is a drama of a few brief acts;
The actors shift, the scene is often changed,
Pauses and revolutions intervene,
The mind is set to many a varied tune,
And jars and plays in harmony by turns.

ALEXANDER BETHUNE.


THOUGH my wife continued, after our marriage, to teach a few pupils, the united earnings of the household did not much exceed a hundred pounds per annum—not quite so large a sum as I had used to think it a few years before; and so I set myself to try whether I could not turn my leisure hours to some account, by writing for the periodicals.  My old inability of pressing for work continued to be as embarrassing as ever, and, save for a chance engagement of no very promising kind, which presented itself to me unsolicited about this time, I might have failed in procuring the employment which I sought.  An ingenious self-taught mechanic—the late Mr John Mackay Wilson of Berwick-on-Tweed—after making good his upward way from his original place at the compositor's frame, to the editorship, of a provincial paper, started, in the beginning of 1835, a weekly periodical, consisting of "Border Tales," which as he possessed the story-telling ability, met with considerable success.  He did not live, however, to complete the first yearly volume; the forty-ninth weekly number intimated his death; but as the publication had been a not unprofitable one, the publisher resolved on carrying it on; and it was stated in a brief notice, which embodied a few particulars of Mr Wilson's biography, that, his materials being unexhausted, "tales yet untold lay in reserve to keep alive his memory."  And in the name of Wilson the publication was kept up for, I believe, five years.  It reckoned among its contributors the two Bethunes, John and Alexander, and the late Professor Gillespie, of St Andrews, with several other writers, none of whom seem to have been indebted to any original matter collected by its first editor; and I, who, at the publisher's request, wrote for it, during the first year of my marriage, tales enough to fill an ordinary volume, had certainly to provide all my materials for myself.  The whole brought me about twenty-five pounds—a considerable addition to the previous hundred and odds of the household, but, for the work done, as inadequate a remuneration as ever poor writer got in the days of Grub Street.  My tales, however, though an English critic did me the honour of selecting one of them as the best in the monthly part in which it appeared, were not of the highest order: it took a great deal of writing to earn the three guineas, which were the stipulated wages for filling a weekly number; and though poor Wilson may have been a fine enough fellow in his way, one had no great encouragement to do one's very best, in order to "keep alive his memory."  In all such matters, according to Sir Walter Scott and the old proverb, "every herring should hang by its own head."

    I can show, however, that at least one of my contributions did gain Wilson some little credit.  In the perilous attempt to bring out, in the dramatic form, the characters of two of our national poets—Burns and Fergusson—I wrote for the "Tales " a series of "Recollections," drawn ostensibly from the memory of one who had been personally acquainted with them both, but in reality based on my own conceptions of the men, as exhibited in their lives and writings.  And in an elaborate life of Fergusson, lately published, I find a borrowed extract from my contribution, and an approving reference to the whole, coupled with a piece of information entirely new to me.  "These Recollections," says the biographer, "are truly interesting and touching, and were the result of various communications made to Mr Wilson, whose pains-taking researches I have had frequent occasion to verify in the course of my own."  Alas, no!  Poor Wilson was more than a twelvemonth in his grave ere the idea of producing these "Recollections" first struck the writer—a person to whom no communications on the subject were ever made by any one, and who, unassisted save by one of the biographies of the poet—that in Chambers' "Lives of Illustrious Scotsmen,"—wrote full two hundred miles from the scene of his sad and brief career.  The same individual who in Mr Wilson's behalf, is so complimentary to my "pains-taking research," is, I find, very severe on one of Fergusson's previous biographers—the scholarly Dr Irving, author of the Life of Buchanan, and the Lives of the older Scottish Poets—a gentleman who, whatever his estimate of the poor poet, may have been, would have spared no labour in elucidating the various incidents which composed his history.  The man of research is roughly treated, and a compliment awarded to the diligence of the man of none.  But it is always thus with Fame.


Some she disgraced, and some with honours crown'd;
Unlike successes equal merits found:
So her blind sister, fickle Fortune, reigns,
And, undiscerning, scatters crowns and chains.


    In the memoir of John Bethune by his brother Alexander, the reader is told that he was much depressed and disappointed, about a twelvemonth or so previous to his decease, by the rejection of several of his stories in succession, which were returned to him, "with an editor's sentence of death passed upon them."  I know not whether it was by the editor of the "Tales of the Borders" that sentence in the case was passed; but I know he sentenced some of mine, which were, I daresay, not very good, though well-nigh equal, I thought, to most of his own.  Instead, however, of yielding to depression, like poor Bethune I simply resolved to write for him no more; and straightway made an offer of my services to Mr Robert Chambers, by whom they were accepted; and during the two following years I occasionally contributed to his Journal, on greatly more liberal terms than those on which I had laboured for the other periodical, and with my name attached to my several articles.  I must be permitted to avail myself of the present opportunity of acknowledging the kindness of Mr Chambers.  There is perhaps no other writer of the present day who has done so much to encourage struggling talent as this gentleman.  I have for many years observed that publications, however obscure, in which he finds aught really praiseworthy, are secure always of getting, in his widely-circulated periodical, a kind approving word—that his criticisms invariably bear the stamp of a benevolent nature, which experiences more of pleasure in the recognition of merit than in the detection of defect—that his kindness does not stop with these cheering notices, for he finds time, in the course of a very busy life, to write many a note of encouragement and advice to obscure men in whom he recognises a spirit superior to their condition—and that the compositions of writers of this meritorious class, when submitted to him editorially, rarely fail, if really suitable for his journal, to find a place in it, or to be remunerated on a scale that invariably bears reference to the value of the communications—not to the circumstances of their authors.

    I can scarce speak of my contributions to the periodicals at this time as forming any part of my education.  I acquired, in their composition, a somewhat readier command of the pen than before; but they, of course, tended rather to the dissipation of previous stores than to the accumulation of new ones; nor did they give exercise to those higher faculties of mind which I deemed it most my interest to cultivate.  My real education at the time was that in which I was gradually becoming initiated behind the bank-counter, as my experience of the business of the district extended; and that which I contrived to pick up in my leisure evenings along the shores.  A rich ichthyolitic deposit of the Old Red Sandstone lies, as I have already said, within less than half a mile of the town of Cromarty; and when fatigued with my calculations in the bank, I used to find it delightful relaxation to lay open its fish by scores, and to study their peculiarities as exhibited in their various states of keeping, until I at length became able to determine their several genera and species from even the minutest fragments.  The number of ichthyolites which that deposit of itself furnished—a patch little more than forty yards square—seemed altogether astonishing: it supplied me with specimens at almost every visit, for ten years together; nor, though, after I left Cromarty for Edinburgh, it was often explored by geologic tourists, and by a few cultivators of science in the place, was it wholly exhausted for ten years more.  The ganoids of the second age of vertebrate existence must have congregated as thickly upon that spot in the times of the Lower Old Red Sandstone, as herrings ever do now, in their season, on the best fishing-banks of Caithness or the Moray Firth.  I was for some time greatly puzzled in my attempts to restore these ancient fishes, [142] by the peculiarities of their organization.  It was in vain I examined every species of fish caught by the fishermen of the place, from the dogfish and the skate to the herring and the mackerel.  I could find in our recent fishes no such scales of enamelled bone as those which had covered the Dipterians [143] and the Coelacanths; [144] and no such plate-encased animals as the various species of Coccosteus [145] or Pterichthys. [146]  On the other hand, with the exception of a double line of vertebral processes in the Coccosteus, I could find in the ancient fishes no internal skeleton: they had apparently worn all their bones outside, where the crustaceans wear their shells, and were furnished inside with but frameworks of perishable cartilage.  It seemed somewhat strange, too, that the geologists who occasionally came my way—some of them men of eminence—seemed to know even less about my Old Red fishes and their peculiarities of structure, than I did myself.  I had represented the various species of the deposit simply by numerals, which not a few of the specimens of my collection still retain on their faded labels; and waited on until someone should come the way learned enough to substitute for my provisional figures words by which to designate them; but the necessary learning seemed wanting, and I at length came to find that I had got into a terra incognita in the geological field, the greater portion of whose organisms were still unconnected with human language.  They had no representatives among the vocables.

    I formed my first imperfect acquaintance with the recent ganoidal fishes in 1836, from a perusal of the late Dr Hibbert's paper on the deposit of Burdiehouse, which I owed to the kindness of Mr George Anderson.  Dr Hibbert, in illustrating the fishes of the Coal Measures, figured and briefly described the Lepidosteus of the American rivers as a still surviving fish of the early type; but his description of the animal, though supplemented shortly after by that of Dr Buckland in his Bridgewater Treatise, carried me but a little way.  I saw that two of the Old Red genera—Osteolepis [147] and Diplopterus [148]—resembled the American fish externally.  It will be seen that the first-mentioned of these ancient ichthyolites bears a name compounded, though, in the reverse order, of exactly the same words.  But while I found the skeleton of the Lepidosteus described as remarkably hard and solid, I could detect in the Osteolepis and its kindred genus no trace of internal skeleton at all.  The Cephalaspean [149] genera, too, Coccosteus and Pterichthys—greatly puzzled me: I could find no living analogues for them; and so, in my often-repeated attempts at restoration, I had to build them up plate by plate, as a child sets up its dissected map or picture bit by bit—every new specimen that turned up furnishing a key for some part previously unknown—until at length, after many an abortive effort, the creatures rose up before me in their strange, unwonted proportions, as they had lived, untold ages before, in the primæval seas.  The extraordinary form of Pterichthys filled me with astonishment; and with its arched carpace and flat plastron restored before me, I leaped to the conclusion, that as the recent Lepidosteus, [150] with its ancient representatives of the Old Red Sandstone, were sauroid fishes—strange connecting links between fishes and alligators—so the Pterichthys was a Chelonian fish—a connecting link between the fish and the tortoise.  A gurnard—insinuated so far through the shell of a small tortoise as to suffer its head to portrude from the anterior opening, furnished with oar-like paddles instead of pectoral fins, and with its caudal fin clipped to a point—would, I found, form no inadequate representative of this strangest of fishes.  And when, some years after, I had the pleasure of introducing it to the notice of Agassiz, I found that, with all his world-wide experience of its class, it was as much an object of wonder to him as it had been to myself.  "It is impossible," we find him saying, in his great work, "to see aught more bizarre in all creation than the Pterichthyan genus: the same astonishment that Cuvier felt in examining the Plesiosaurus, I myself experienced, when Mr H. Miller, the first discoverer of these fossils, showed me the specimens which he had detected in the Old Red Sandstone of Cromarty."  And these were peculiarities about the Coccosteus that scarce less excited my wonder than the general form of the Pterichthys, and which, when I first ventured to describe them, were regarded by the higher authorities in Palæontology as mere blunders on the part of the observer.  I have, however, since succeeded in demonstrating that, if blunders at all—which I greatly doubt, for Nature makes very few—it was Nature herself that was in error, not the observer.  In this strange Coccostean genus, Nature did, place a group of opposing teeth in each ramus of the lower jaw, just in the line of the symphysis—an arrangement unique, so far as is yet known, in the vertebrate division of creation, and which must have rendered the mouth of these creatures an extraordinary combination of the horizontal mouth proper to the vertebrata, and of the vertical mouth proper to the crustaceans.  It was favourable to the integrity of my work of restoration, that the press was not waiting for me, and that when portions of the creatures on which I wrought were wanting, or plates turned up whose places I was unable to determine, I could lay aside my self-imposed task for the time, and only resume it when some new-found specimen supplied me with the materials requisite for carrying it on.  And so the restorations which I completed in 1840, and published in 1841, were found, by our highest authorities in 1848, after they had been set aside for nearly six years, to be essentially the true ones after all.  I see, however, that one of the most fanciful and monstrous of all the interim restorations of Pterichthys given to the world—that made by Mr Joseph Dinkel in 1844 for the late Dr Mantell, and published in the "Medals of Creation," has been reproduced in the recent illustrated edition of the "Vestiges of Creation."  But the ingenious author of that work could scarce act prudently were he to stake the soundness of his hypothesis on the integrity of the restoration.  For my own part, I consent, if it can be shown that the Pterichthys which once lived and moved on this ancient globe of ours ever either rose or sunk into the Pterichthys of Mr Dinkel, freely and fully to confess, not only the possibility, but also the actuality, of the transmutation of both species and genera.  I am first, however, prepared to demonstrate, before any competent jury of Palæontologists in the world, that not a single plate or scale of Mr Dinkel's restoration represents those of the fish which he professed to restore; that the same judgment applies equally to his restoration of Coccosteus; and that, instead of reproducing in his figures the true forms or ancient Cephalaspeans, he has merely given, instead, the likeness of things that never were "in the heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth."

    The place in the geologic scale, as certainly as the forms and characters, of these ancient fishes, had to be determined.  Mr George Anderson had informed me, as early as 1834, that some of them were identical with the ichthyolites of the Gamrie deposit; but then the place of the Gamrie deposit was still to fix.  It had been recently referred to the same geological horizon as the Carboniferous Limestone, and was regarded as lying unconformable to the Old Red Sandstone of the district in which it occurs; but, wholly dissatisfied with the evidence adduced, I continued my search, and, though the process was a slow one saw the position of the Cromarty beds gradually approximating towards determination.  It was not, however, until the autumn of 1837 that I got them fairly fixed down to the Old Red Sandstone, and not until the winter of 1839 that I was able conclusively to demonstrate their place in the base of the system, little more than a hundred feet, and in one part not more than eighty feet, above the upper strata of the Great Conglomerate.  I had often wished, during my explorations, to be able to extend my field of observation into the neighbouring counties, in order to determine whether I could not possess myself, at a distance, of the evidence which, for a time at least, I failed to find at home; but my daily engagements in the bank fixed me down to Cromarty and its neighbourhood; and I found myself somewhat in the circumstances of a tolerably lively beetle stuck on a pin, that, though able, with a little exertion, to spin round its centre, is yet wholly unable to quit it.  I acquired, however, at the close of 1837, in the late Dr John Malcolmson of Madras, a noble auxiliary, who could expatiate freely over the regions virtually barred against me.  He had been led to visit Cromarty by a brief description of its geology, rather picturesque than scientific, which had appeared in my legendary volume; and after I had introduced him to its ichthyolitic beds on both sides of the Hill and at Eathie, and acquainted him with their character and organisms, he set himself to trace out the resembling deposits of the neighbouring shires of Banff, Moray, and Nairn.  And in little more than a fortnight he had detected the ichthyolites in numerous localities all over an Old Red Sandstone tract, which extends from the primary districts of Banff to near the field of Culloden.  The Old Red Sandstone of the north, hitherto deemed so poor in fossils, he found—with the Cromarty deposits as his key—teeming with organic remains.  In the spring of 1838, Dr Malcolmson visited England and the Continent, and introduced some of my Cephalaspean fossils to the notice of Agassiz, and some of the evidence which I had laid before him regarding their place in the scale, to Mr (now Sir Roderick) Murchison.  And I had the honour, in consequence, of corresponding with both these distinguished men; and the satisfaction of knowing, that by both, the fruit of my labours was deemed important.  I observe that Humboldt, in his "Cosmos," specially refers to the judgment of Agassiz on the extraordinary character of the new zoological link with which I had furnished him; and I find Murchison, in his great work on the Silurian System, published in 1839, laying no little emphasis on the stratigraphical fact.  After referring to the previously formed opinion that the Gamrie deposit, with its ichthyolites, was not an Old Red one, he goes on to say—"On the other hand, I have recently been informed by Dr Malcolmson, that Mr Miller of Cromarty (who has made some highly interesting discoveries near that place) pointed out to him nodules resembling those of Gamrie, and containing similar fishes, in highly-inclined strata, which are interpolated in, and completely subordinate to, the great mass of Old Red Sandstone of Ross and Cromarty.  This important observation will, I trust, be soon communicated to the Geological Society, for it strengthens the inference of M. Agassiz respecting the epoch during which the Cheiracanthus [151] and Cheirolepis [152] lived."  All this will, I am afraid, appear tolerably weak to the reader, and somewhat more than tolerably tedious.  Let him remember, however, that the only merit to which I lay claim in the case is that of patient research—a merit in which whoever wills may rival or surpass me; and that this humble faculty of patience, when rightly directed, may lead to more extraordinary developments of idea than even genius itself.  What I had been slowly deciphering were the ideas of God as developed in the mechanism and framework of His creatures, during the second age of vertebrate existence; and one portion of my inquiries determined the date of these ideas, and another their character.

    Many of the best sections of the Sutors and the adjacent hills, with their associated deposits, cannot be examined without boat; and so I purchased for a few pounds a light little yawl, furnished with mast and sail, and that rowed four oars, to enable me to carry out my explorations.  It made me free of the Cromarty and Moray Firths for some six or eight miles from the town, and afforded me many a pleasant evening's excursion to the deep-sea caves and skerries, and the picturesque surf-wasted stacks of the granitic wall of rock which runs in the Ben Nevis line of elevation, from Shandwick on the east to the Scarfs Crag on the west. I know not a richer tract for the geologist.  Independently of the interest that attaches to its sorely-contorted granitic gneiss—which seems, as Murchison shrewdly remarks, to have been protruded through the sedimentary deposits in a solid state, as a fractured bone is sometimes protruded through the integuments—there occurs along the range three several deposits of the Old Red ichthyolites, and three several deposits of the Lias, besides the sub-aqueous ones, with two insulated skerries, which I am inclined to regard as outliers of the Oolite.  These last occur in the form of half-tide rocks, very dangerous to the mariner, which lie a full half-mile from the shore, and can be visited with safety only at low water during dead calms, when no ground swell comes rolling in from the sea.  I have set out as early as two o'clock in a fine summer morning for these skerries, and, after spending several hours upon them, have been seated at the bank desk before ten; but these were mornings of very hard work.  It was the long Saturday afternoons that were my favourite seasons of explorations; and when the weather was fine, my wife would often accompany me in these excursions; and we not unfrequently anchored our skiff in some rocky bay, or over some fishing bank, and, provided with rods and lines, caught, ere our return, a basket of rock-cod or coal-fish for supper, that always seemed of finer flavour than the fish supplied us in the market.  These were happy holidays.  Shelley predicates of a day of exquisite beauty, that it would continue to "live like joy in memory."  I do retain recollections of these evenings spent in my little skiff—recollections mingled with a
well-remembered imagery of blue seas and purple hills, and a sun-lit town in the distance, and tall wood-crested precipices nearer at hand, which flung lengthened shadows across shore and sea—that not merely represent enjoyments which have been, but that, in certain moods of the mind, take the form of enjoyment still.  They are favoured spots in the chequered retrospect of the past, on which the sunshine of memory falls more brightly than on most of the others.

    When thus employed, there broke out very unexpectedly, a second war with the Liberal Moderates of the town, in which, unwillingly rather than otherwise, I had ultimately to engage.  The sacrament of the Supper is celebrated in most of the parish churches of the north of Scotland only once a year; and, as many of the congregation worship at that time in the open air, the summer and autumn seasons are usually selected for the "occasion," as best fitted for open-air meetings.  As, however, the celebration is preceded and followed by week-day preachings, and as on one of these week-days—the Thursday preceding the Sacramental Sabbath—no work is done, kirk-sessions usually avoid fixing their sacrament in a busy time, such as the time of harvest in the rural districts, or of the herring-fishing in the seaport towns; and as the parish of Cromarty has both its rural population and its fishing one, the kirk-session of the place have to avoid both periods.  And so the early part of July, ere the herring-fishing or the harvest comes on, is the time usually fixed upon for the Cromarty sacrament.  In this year, however (1838), it so chanced that the day appointed for the Queen's coronation proved coincident with the sacramental Thursday, and the Liberal Moderate party urged upon the Session that the preparations for the sacrament should give way to the rejoicings for the coronation.  We had not been much accustomed to rejoicings of the kind in the north since the good old times when respectable Tory gentlemen used to show themselves drunk in public on the King's birthday, in order to demonstrate their loyalty: the coronation days of both George IV. and William IV. had passed off as quietly as Sabbaths; and the Session, holding that it might be quite as well for people to pray for their young Queen at church, and then quietly drink her health when they got home, as to grow glorious in her behalf in taverns and tap-rooms, refused to alter their day.  Believing that, though essentially in the right, they were yet politically in the wrong, and that a plausible case might be made out against them by the newspaper press, I waited on my minister, and urged him to give way to the Liberals, and have his preparation-day changed from Thursday to Friday.  He seemed quite willing enough to act on the suggestion, nay, he had made a similar one, he told me, to his Session; but the devout eldership, strong in the precedents of centuries, had declined to subordinate the religious services of the Kirk to the wassail and merriment sanctioned by the State.  And so they determined on keeping their day of sacramental preparation on the Thursday, as their fathers had done.  Meanwhile, the Liberals held what was very properly termed a public meeting, seeing that, though the public had failed to attend it, the public had been quite at liberty to do so, nay, had even been specially invited; and there appeared in the provincial newspapers a long report of its proceedings, including five speeches—all written by a legal gentleman—in which it was designated a meeting of the inhabitants of the town and parish of Cromarty.  The resolutions were, of course, of the most enthusiastically loyal character.  There was not a member of the meeting who was not prepared to spend upon himself the last drop of his bottle of port in her majesty's behalf.  Thursday came—the Thursday of the sacrament and of the coronation; and, with ninety-nine hundredths of the churchgoing portion of my townsfolk, I went to church as usual.  The parochial resolutioners, amounting in all to ten, were, I can honestly avouch, scarce at all missed in a congregation of nearly as many hundreds.  About mid-day, however, we could hear the muffled report of their carronades; and, shortly after the service was over, and we returned to our homes, there passed through the streets a forlorn little group of individuals, that looked exceedingly like a press-gang, but was in reality intended for a procession.  Though joined by a proprietor from a neighbouring parish, a lawyer from a neighbouring burgh, a small coast-guard party, with its commanding officer, and two half-pay Episcopalian officers besides, the number who walked, including boys, did not exceed twenty-five persons; and of these, as I have said, only ten were parishioners.  The processionists had a noble dinner in the head inn of the place—merrier than even dinners of celebration usually are, as it was, of course, loyalty and public spirit to ignore the special claim upon the day asserted by the Church; and the darkening evening saw a splendid bonfire blazing from the brae-head.  And the Liberal newspapers south and north taking part with the processionists, in many a paragraph and short leader, represented their frolic—for such it was, and a very foolish one—as a splendid triumph of the people of Cromarty over Presbyterial bigotry and clerical domination.  Nay, so bad did the case of my minister and his Session appear, thus placed in opposition to at once the people and the Queen, that the papers on the other side failed to take it up.  A well-written letter on the subject by my wife, which fairly stated the facts, was refused admission into even the ecclesiastico-Conservative journal, specially patronized, at the time, by the Scottish Church; and my minister's friends and brethren in the south could do little else than marvel at what they deemed his wondrous imprudence.

    I had anticipated, from the first, that his position was to be a bad one; but I ill liked to see him with his back to the wall.  And though I had determined, on the rejection of my counsel, to take no part in the quarrel, I now resolved to try whether I could not render it evident that he was really not at issue with his people, but with merely a very inconsiderable clique among them, who had never liked him; and that it was much a joke to describe him as disaffected to his sovereign, simply because he had held his preparation services on the day of her coronation.  In order to make good my first point, I took the unpardonable liberty of giving the names in full, in a letter which appeared in our northern newspapers, of every individual who walked in the procession, and represented themselves as the people; and challenged the addition of even a single name to a list ludicrously brief.  And in making good the second, I fairly succeeded, as there were not a few comical circumstances in the transaction, in getting the laughers on my side.  The clique was amazingly angry, and wrote not very bright letters, which appeared as advertisements in the newspapers, and paid duty to make evident the fact.  There was a shallow and very ignorant young shoemaker in the place, named Chaucer, a native of the south of Scotland, who represented himself as the grandson of the old poet of the days of Ewdard III., and wrote particularly wretched doggerel to make good his claim.  And, having a quarrel with the kirk-session, in a certain delicate department, he had joined the processionists, and celebrated their achievements in a ballad entirely worthy of them.  And it was perhaps the severest cut of all, that the recognised leader of the band pronounced Chaucer the younger a greatly better poet than me.  There were representations, too, made to my superiors in the banking department at Edinburgh, which procured me a reprimand, though a gentle one; but my superior in Cromarty—Mr Ross—as wise and good a man as any in the direction, and thoroughly acquainted with the merits of the case, was wholly on my side.  I am afraid the reader may deem all this very foolish, and hold that I would have been better employed among the rocks, in determining the true relations of their various beds, and the character of their organisms, than in bickering in a petty village quarrel, and making myself enemies.  And yet, man being what he is, I fear an ability of efficient squabbling is a greatly more marketable one than any ability whatever of extending the boundaries of natural science.  At least so it was, that while my geological researches did nothing for me at this time, my letter in the procession controversy procured for me the offer of a newspaper editorship.  But though, in a pecuniary point of view, I should have considerably bettered my circumstances by closing with it, I found I could not do so without assuming the character of the special pleader, and giving myself to the advocacy of views and principles which I really did not hold; and so I at once declined the office, as one for which I did not deem myself suited, and could not in conscience undertake.

    I found about this time more congenial employment, though, of course, it occupied only my leisure hours, in writing the memoir of a townsman—the late Mr
William Forsyth, of Cromarty—at the request of his relation and son-in-law, my friend Mr Isaac Forsyth of Elgin.  William Forsyth had been a grown man ere the abolition of the hereditary jurisdictions; and from the massiveness and excellence of his character, and his high standing as a merchant, in a part of the country in which merchants at the time were few, he had succeeded, within the precincts of the town, to not a little of the power of the hereditary Sheriff of the district; and after acting for more than half a century as a laborious Justice of the Peace, and succeeding in making up more quarrels than most country lawyers have an opportunity of fomenting—for the age was a rude and combative one, and the merchant ever a peace-maker—he lived long enough to see Liberty-and-Equality Clubs and Processions, and died about the close of the first war of the French Revolution.  It was an important half-century in Scotland—though it exhibits but a narrow, inconspicuous front in the history of the country—that intervened between the times of the hereditary jurisdictions and the Liberty-and-Equality Clubs.  It was specially the period during which the popular opinion began to assume its potency, and in which the Scotland of the past merged, in consequence, into the very dissimilar Scotland of the present.  And I derived much pleasure in tracing some of the more striking features of this transition age in the biography of Mr Forsyth.  My little work was printed, but not published, and distributed by Mr Forsyth of Elgin among the friends of the family, as perhaps a better and more adequate memorial of a worthy and able man than could be placed over his grave.  It was on the occasion of the death of his last-surviving child—the late Mrs Mackenzie of Cromarty, a lady from whom I had received much kindness, and under whose hospitable roof I had the opportunity afforded me of meeting not a few superior men—that my memoir was undertaken; and I regarded it as a fitting tribute to a worthy family just passed away, at once deserving of being remembered for its own sake, and to which I owed a debt of gratitude.

    In the spring of 1839, a sad bereavement darkened my household, and for a time left me little heart to pursue my wonted amusements, literary or scientific.  We had been visited, ten months after our marriage, by a little girl, whose presence had added not a little to our happiness; home became more emphatically such from the presence of the child, that in a few months had learned so well to know its mother, and in a few more to take its stand in the nurse's arms, at an upper window that commanded the street, and to recognise and make signs to its father as he approached the house.  Its few little words, too, had a fascinating interest to our ears;—our own names, lisped in a language of its own, every time we approached; and the simple Scotch vocable "awa, awa," which it knew how to employ in such plaintive tones as we retired, and that used to come back upon us in recollection, like an echo from the grave, when, its brief visit over, it had left us for ever, and its fair face and silken hair lay in darkness amid the clods of the churchyard.  In how short a time had it laid hold of our affections!  Two brief years before, and we knew it not; and now it seemed as if the void which it left in our hearts the whole world could not fill.  We buried it beside the old chapel of St Regulus, with the deep rich woods all around, save where an opening in front commands the distant land and the blue sea; and where the daisies which it had learned to love, mottled, starlike, the mossy mounds; and where birds, whose songs its ear had become skilful enough to distinguish, pour their notes over its little grave.  The following simple but truthful stanzas, which I found among its mother's papers, seem to have been written in this place—sweetest of burying grounds—a few weeks after its burial, when a chill and backward spring, that had scowled upon its lingering illness, broke out at once into genial summer:—


Thou'rt "awa, awa," from thy mother's side,
    And "awa, awa," from thy father's knee;
Thou'rt "awa" from our blessing, our care, our caressing,
    But "awa" from our hearts thou'lt never be.

All things, dear child, that were wont to please thee
    Are round thee here in beauty bright,—
There's music rare in the cloudless air,
    And the earth is teeming with living delight.

Thou'rt "awa, awa," from the bursting spring time
    Tho' o'er thy head its green boughs wave;
The lambs are leaving their little footprints
    Upon the turf of thy new-made grave.

And art thou "awa," and "awa" for ever,—
    That little face,—that tender frame,—
That voice which first, in sweetest accents,
    Call'd me the mother's thrilling name,—

That head of nature's finest moulding,—
    Those eyes, the deep night ether's blue,
Where sensibility its shadows
    Of ever-changing meaning threw?

Thy sweetness, patience under suffering,
    All promised us an opening day
Most fair, and told that to subdue thee
    Would need but love's most gentle sway.

Ah me! 'twas here I thought to lead thee,
    And tell thee what are life and death,
And raise thy serious thought's first waking
    To Him who holds our every breath.

And does my selfish heart then grudge thee
    That angels are thy teachers now,—
That glory from thy Saviour's presence
    Kindles the crown upon thy brow?

O no! to me earth must be lonelier,
    Wanting thy voice, thy hand, thy love
Yet dost thou dawn a star of promise,
    Mild beacon to the world above.


 
CHAPTER XXV.

All for the church, and a little less for the State.—BELHAVEN.


I HAD taken no very deep interest in the Voluntary controversy. [153]   There was, I thought, a good deal of over-statement and exaggeration on both sides.  On the one hand, the Voluntaries failed to convince me that a State endowment for ecclesiastical purposes is in itself in any degree a bad thing.  I had direct experience to the contrary.  I had evidence the most unequivocal that in various parts of the country it was a very excellent thing indeed.  It had been a very excellent thing, for instance, in the parish of Cromarty, ever since the Revolution, down to the death of Mr Smith—in reality a valuable patrimony of the people there; for it had supplied the parish, free of cost, with a series of popular and excellent ministers, whom otherwise the parishioners would have had to pay for themselves.  And it had now given us my friend Mr Stewart, one of the ablest and honestest ministers in Scotland, or elsewhere, whether Established or Dissenting.  And these facts, which were but specimens of a numerous class, had a tangibility and solidity about them which influenced me more than all the theoretic reasonings pressed on my attention about the mischief done to the Church by the over-kindness of Constantine, or the corrupting effects of State favour.  But then I could as little agree with some of my friends on the endowment side, that the Establishment, even in Scotland, was everywhere of value, as with some of the Voluntaries that it was nowhere of any.  I had resided for months together in various parts of the country, where it would have mattered not a farthing to any one save the minister and his family, though the Establishment had been struck down at a blow.  Religion and morals would have no more suffered by the annihilation of the minister's stipend, than by the suppression of the pension of some retired supervisor or superannuated officer of customs.  Nor could I forget, that the only religion, or appearance of religion, that existed in parties of workmen
among which I had been employed (as in the south of Scotland, for instance), was to be found among their Dissenters—most of them, at the time, asserters of the Voluntary principle.  If the other workmen were reckoned, statistically at least, adherents of the Establishment, it was not because they either benefited by it or cared for it, but only somewhat in the way that, according to the popular English belief, persons born at sea are held to belong to the parish of Stepney.  Further, I did not in the least like the sort of company into which the Voluntary controversy had introduced the good men on both sides; it gave a common cause to the Voluntary and the Infidel, and drew them cordially together; and, on the other hand, placed side by side, on terms portentously friendly, the pious asserter of endowments and the irreligious old Tory.  There was religion on both sides of the controversy, but a religious controversy it was not.

    The position of my grandmother's family, including of course Uncles James and Sandy, was a sort of midway one between the Secession and the Establishment.  My grandmother had quitted the family of Donald Roy long ere he had been compelled, very unwillingly, to leave the Church; and as no forced settlements had taken place in the parish into which she had removed, and as its ministers had been all men of the right stamp, she had done what Donald himself had been so desirous to do—remained an attached member of the Establishment.  One of her sisters had, however, married in Nigg; and she and her husband following Donald into the ranks of the Secession, had reared one of their boys to the ministry, who became, in course of time, the respected minister of the congregation which his great-grandfather had founded.  And, as the contemporary and first cousin of my uncles, the minister used to call upon them every time he came to town; and my uncle James, in turn (Uncle Sandy very rarely went to the country), never missed, when in Nigg, or its neighbourhood, to repay his visits.  There was thus a good deal of intercourse kept up between the families, not without effect.  Most of the books of modern theology which my uncles read were Secession books, recommended by their cousin; and the religious magazine for which they subscribed was a Secession magazine.  The latter bore, I remember, the name of the "Christian Magazine, or Evangelical Repository."  It was not one of the brightest of periodicals, but a sound and solid one, with, as my uncles held, a good deal of the old unction about it; and there was, in especial, one of the contributors whose papers they used to pick out as of peculiar excellence, and not unfrequently read a second time.  They bore the somewhat Greek-looking signature of Leumas, as if the writer had been a brother or cousin-german of some of the old Christians to whom Paul used to notify kind regards and good wishes at the end of his epistles; but it was soon discovered that Leumas was merely the proper name Samuel reversed, though who the special Samuel was who turned his signature to the right about, placing the wrong end foremost, and wrote with all the concise weight and gravity of the old divines, my uncles never knew.  They had both passed away ere, in perusing the "Second Gallery of Literary Portraits," I found myself introduced to worthy old Leumas, also a denizen of the unseen world at the time, as the father of the writer of that brilliant work—the Rev. George Gilfillan of Dundee.  This kind of writing had, of course, its proper effect on my uncles, and, through them, on the family; it kept up our respect for the Secession.  The Established Church, too, was in those days a tolerably faulty institution.  My uncles took an interest in missions; and the Church had none; nay, its deliberate decision against them—that of 1796—remained still unreversed.  It had had, besides, its forced settlements in our immediate neighbourhood; and Moderatism, wise and politic in its generation, had perpetrated them by the hands of some of the better ministers of the district, who had learned to do what they themselves believed to be very wicked things, when their Church bade them—a sort of professional license which my uncles could not in the least understand.  In short, the Secession better pleased them, in the main, than the Establishment, though to the Establishment they continued to adhere, and failed to see on what Seceder principle their old friends were becoming Voluntaries.  On the breaking out of the controversy, I remembered all this; and, when told by good men of the Established Church that well-nigh all the vital religion of the country was on our side, and that it had left the Voluntary Seceders, though the good men themselves honestly believed what they said, I could not.  Further, the heads of a conversation which I had overheard in my cousin the Seceder minister's house when I was a very young boy, and to which it could have been little suspected that I was listening—for I was playing at the time on the floor—had taken a strong hold of my memory, and often returned upon me at this period.  My cousin and some of his elders were mourning—very sincerely, I cannot doubt—over the decay of religion among them: they were falling far short, they said, of the attainments of their fathers; there were no Donald Roys among them now; and yet they felt it to be a satisfaction, though a sad one, that the little religion which there was in the district seemed to be all among themselves.  And now here was there exactly the same sort of conviction, equally strong, on the other side.  But with all that liberally-expressed charity which forms one of the distinctive features of the present time, and is in reality one of its best things, there is still a vast amount of appreciation of this partial kind.  Friends are seen in the Christian aspect; opponents in the polemic one; and it is too often forgotten that the friends have a polemic aspect to their opponents, and the opponents a Christian aspect to their friends.  And not only in the present, but at all former periods, the case seems to have been the same.  I am sometimes half disposed to think, that either the Prophet Elijah, or the seven thousand honest men, who had not bowed the knee to Baal, must have been dissenters.  Had the Prophet been entirely at one in his views with the seven thousand, it is not easy to conceive how he could have been wholly ignorant of their existence.

    With all these latitudinarian convictions, however, I was thoroughly an Establishment man.  The revenues of the Scottish Church I regarded as I have said, as the patrimony of the Scottish people; and I looked forward to a time when that unwarrantable appropriation of them, through which the aristocracy had sought to extend its influence, but which had served only greatly to reduce its power in the country, would come to an end.  What I specially wanted, in short, was, not the confiscation of the people's patrimony, but simply its restoration from the Moderates and the lairds.  And in the enactment of the Veto law I saw the process of restoration fairly begun.  I would have much preferred seeing a good broad anti-patronage agitation raised on the part of the Church.  As shrewdly shown at the time by the late Dr M'Crie, such a course would have been at once wiser and safer.  But for such an agitation even the Church's better ministers were not in the least prepared.  From 1712 to 1784—a period of seventy-two years—the General Assembly had yearly raised its voice against the enactment of the patronage law of Queen Anne, as an unconstitutional encroachment on those privileges of the Church and those rights of the Scottish people which the treaty of Union had been framed to secure.  But the half century which had passed, since through the act of a Moderate majority the protest had been dropped, had produced the natural effect.  By much the greater part of even the better ministers of the Church had been admitted into their offices through the law of patronage; and, naturally grateful to the patrons who had befriended them, they hesitated to make open war on the powers that had been exerted in their own behalf.  According to Solomon, the "gift" had to a certain extent "destroyed the heart;" and so they were prepared to take up merely a half-way position, which their predecessors, the old popular divines, would have liked exceedingly ill.  I could not avoid seeing that, fixed in a sort of overtopped hollow, if I may so speak, between the claims of patronage on the one hand, and the rights of the people on the other, it was a most perilous position, singularly open to misconception and misrepresentation on both sides; and as it virtually stripped the patrons of half their power, and extended to the people only half their rights, I was not a little afraid that the patrons might be greatly more indignant than the people grateful, and that the Church might, in consequence, find herself exposed to the wrath of very potent enemies, and backed by the support of only lukewarm friends.  But however perilous and difficult as a post of occupation, it was, I could not avoid believing, a position conscientiously taken up; nor could I doubt that its grounds were strictly constitutional.  The Church, in a case of disputed settlement, might, I believed, have to forfeit the temporalities if her decision differed from that of the law courts, but only the temporalities connected with the case at issue; and these I deemed worth risking in the popular behalf, seeing that they might be regarded as already lost to the country in every case in which a parish was assigned to a minister whom the parishioners refused to hear.  It rejoiced me, too, to see the revival of the old spirit in the Church; and so I looked with an interest on the earlier stages of her struggle with the law courts, greatly more intense than that with which any mere political contest had ever inspired me.  I saw with great anxiety decision after decision go against her; first that of the Court of Session in March 1838, and next that of the House of Lords in May 1839; and then, with the original Auchterarder case [154] of collision.  I saw that of Lethendy and Marnoch mixed up; and, as one entanglement succeeded another, confusion becoming worse confounded.  It was only when the Church's hour of peril came that I learned to know how much I really valued her, and how strong and numerous the associations were that bound her to my affections.  I had experienced at least the average amount of interest in political measures whose tendency and principles I deemed good in the main—such as the Reform Bill, the Catholic Emancipation Act, and the Emancipation of the Negroes; but they had never cost me an hour's sleep.  Now, however, I felt more deeply; and for at least one night, after reading the speech of Lord Brougham, and the decision of the House of Lords in the Auchterarder case, I slept none.

    In truth, the position of the Church at this time seemed critical in the extreme.  Offended by the usage which she had received at the hands of the Whigs, in her claims for endowments to her new chapels, and startled by their general treatment of the Irish Establishment, and the suppression of the ten bishoprics, she had thrown her influence into the Tory scale, and had done much to produce that reaction against the Liberal party in Scotland which took place during the Ministry of Lord Melbourne.  In the representation of at least one county in which he was all-potent—Ross-shire—she had succeeded in substituting a Tory for a Whig; and there were few districts in the kingdom in which she had not very considerably increased the votes on the Tory, or, as it was termed, Conservative side.  The people, however, though they might, and did, become quite indifferent enough to the Whigs, could not follow her into the Tory ranks.  They stood aloof—very suspicious, not without reason, of her new political friends—no admirers of the newspapers which she patronized, and not in the least able to perceive the nature of the interest which she had begun to take in supernumerary bishops and the Irish Establishment.  And now, when once more in a position worthy of her old character, and when her Tory friends—converted at once into the bitterest and most ungenerous of enemies—were turning upon her to rend her, she had at once to encounter the hostility of the Whigs, and the indifferency of the people.  Further, with but one, or at most two exceptions, all the newspapers which she had patronized declared against her, and were throughout the struggle the bitterest and most abusive of her opponents.  The Voluntaries, too, joined with redoubled vehemence in the cry raised to drown her voice, and misinterpret and misrepresent her claims.  The general current of opinion ran strongly against her.  My minister, warmly interested in the success of the Non-Intrusion principle, has told me, that for many months past I was the only man in his parish that seemed thoroughly to sympathize with him; and I have no doubt that the late Dr George Cook was perfectly correct and truthful when he about this time remarked, in one of his public addresses, that he could scarce enter an inn or a stage-coach without finding respectable men inveighing against the utter folly of the Non-Intrusionists and, the worse than madness of the Church Courts.

    Could I do nothing for my church in her hour of peril?  There was, I believed, no other institutions in the country half so valuable, or in which the people had so large a stake.  The Church was of right theirs—a patrimony won for them by the blood of their fathers, during the struggles and sufferings of more than a hundred years; and now that her better ministers were trying, at least partially, to rescue that patrimony for them from the hands of an aristocracy who, as a body at least, had no spiritual interest in the Church—belonging, as most of its members did, to a different communion—they were in danger of being put down, unbacked by the popular support which in such a cause they deserved.  Could I not do something to bring up the people to their assistance?  I tossed wakefully throughout a long night, in which I formed my plan of taking up the purely popular side of the question; and in the morning I sat down to state my views to the people, in the form of a letter addressed to Lord Brougham.  I devoted to my new employment every moment not imperatively demanded by my duties in the bank office, and, in about a week after, was able to despatch the manuscript of my pamphlet to the respected manager of the Commercial Bank—Mr Robert Paul—a gentleman from whom I had received much kindness when in Edinburgh, and who, in the great ecclesiastical struggle, took decided part with the Church.  Mr Paul brought it to his minister, the Rev Mr Candlish of St George's (now Dr Candlish), who, recognising its popular character, urged its immediate publication; and the manuscript was accordingly put into the hands of Mr Johnstone, the well-known Church bookseller.  Dr Candlish had been one of a party of ministers and elders of the Evangelical majority who had met in Edinburgh shortly before, to take measures for the establishment of a newspaper.  All the Edinburgh press, with the exception of one newspaper, had declared against the ecclesiastical party; and even that one rather received articles and paragraphs in their behalf through the friendship of the proprietor, than was itself on their side.  There had been a larger infusion of Whiggism among the Edinburgh Churchmen than in any other part of the kingdom.  They had seen very much, in consequence, that the line taken by the Conservative portion of their friends, in addressing the people through the press, had not been an efficient one;—their friends had set themselves to make the people both good Conservatives and good Churchmen, and of course had never got over the first point, and never would; and what they now proposed was, to establish a paper that, without supporting any of the old parties in the State, should be as Liberal in its politics as in its Churchmanship.  But there was a preliminary point which they also could not get over.  All the ready-made editors of the kingdom, if I may so speak, had declared against them; and for want of an editor, their meeting had succeeded in originating not the intended newspaper, but merely a formal recognition, in a few resolutions, of its desirableness and importance.  On reading my pamphlet in manuscript, however, Dr Candlish at once concluded that the desiderated want was to be supplied by its writer.  Here, he said, is the editor we have been looking for.  Meanwhile, my little work issued from the press, and was successful.  It ran rapidly through four editions of a thousand copies each—the number, as I subsequently ascertained, of a popular non-intrusion pamphlet that would fairly sell—and was read pretty extensively by men who were not Non-Intrusionists.  Among these there were several members of the Ministry of the time, including the late Lord Melbourne, who at first regarded it, as I have been informed, as the composition, under a popular form and a nom de guerre, of some of the Non-Intrusion leaders in Edinburgh; and by the late Mr O'Connell, who had no such suspicions, and who, though he lacked sympathy, as he said, with the ecclesiastical views which it advocated, enjoyed what he termed its "racy English," and the position in which it placed the Noble Lord to whom it was addressed.  It was favourably noticed, too, by Mr Gladstone, in his elaborate work on Church Principles; and was, in short, both in the extent of its circulation, and the circles into which it found its way, a very successful pamphlet.

    So filled was my mind with our ecclesiastical controversy, that, while yet unacquainted with the fate of my first brochure, I was busily engaged with a second.  A remarkable case of intrusion had occurred in the district rather more than twenty years before; and after closing my week's labours in the bank, I set out for the house of a friend in a neighbouring parish on a Saturday evening, that I might attend the deserted church on the following Sabbath, and glean from actual observation the materials of a truthful description, which would, I trusted, tell in the controversy.  And as the case was one of those in which truth proves stronger than fiction, what I had to describe was really very curious; and my description received an extensive circulation. I insert the passage entire, as properly a part of my story.


    "There were associations of a peculiarly high character connected with this northern parish.  For more than a thousand years it had formed part of the patrimony of a truly noble family, celebrated by Philip Doddridge for its great moral worth, and by Sir Walter Scott for its high military genius; and through whose influence the light of the Reformation had been introduced into this remote corner, at a period when the neighbouring districts were enveloped in the original darkness.  In a later age it had been honoured by the fines and proscriptions of Charles II.; and its minister—one of those men of God whose names still live in the memory of the country, and whose biography occupies no small space in the recorded history of her 'worthies'—had rendered himself so obnoxious to the tyranny and irreligion of the time, that he was ejected from his charge more than a year before any of the other non-conforming clergymen of the Church. [155]  I approached the parish from the east.  The day was warm and pleasant; the scenery through which I passed, some of the finest in Scotland.  The mountains rose on the right, in huge Titanic masses, that seemed to soften their purple and blue in the clear sunshine, to the delicate tone of the deep sky beyond; and I could see the yet unwasted snows of winter glittering, in little detached masses, along their summits.  The hills of the middle region were feathered with wood; a forest of mingled oaks and larches, which still blended the tender softness of spring with the full foliage of summer, swept down to the path; the wide undulating plain below was laid out into fields, mottled with cottages, and waving with the yet unshot corn; and a noble arm of the sea winded along the lower edge for nearly twenty miles, losing itself to the west among blue hills and jutting headlands, and opening in the east to the main ocean, through a magnificent gateway of rock.  But the little groups which I encountered at every turning of the path, as they journeyed, with all the sober, well-marked decency of a Scottish Sabbath morning, towards the church of a neighbouring parish, interested me more than even the scenery.  The clan which inhabited this part of the country had borne a well-marked character in Scottish story.  Buchanan had described it as one of the most fearless and warlike in the north.  It served under the Bruce at Bannockburn.  It was the first to rise in arms to protect Queen Mary, on her visit to Inverness, from the intended violence of Huntly.  It fought the battles of Protestantism in Germany, under Gustavus Adolphus.  It covered the retreat of the English at Fontenoy; and presented an unbroken front to the enemy, after all the other troops had quitted the field.  And it was the descendants of those very men who were now passing me on the road.  The rugged, robust form, half bone, half muscle—the springy firmness of the tread—the grave, manly countenance—all gave indication that the original characteristics survived in their full strength; and it was a strength that inspired confidence, not fear.  There were grey-haired, patriarchal-looking men among the groups, whose very air seemed impressed by a sense of the duties of the day; nor was there alight that did not agree with the object of the journey, in the appearance of even the youngest and least thoughtful.

    "As I proceeded, I came up with a few people who were travelling in a contrary direction.  A Secession meeting-house has lately sprung up in the parish, and those formed part of the congregation.  A path, nearly obscured by grass and weeds, leads from the main road to the parish church.  It was with difficulty I could trace it, and there were none to direct me, for I was now walking alone.  The parish burying-ground, thickly sprinkled with graves and tombstones, surrounds the church.  It is a quiet, solitary spot, of great beauty, lying beside the sea-shore; and as service had not yet commenced, I whiled away half an hour in sauntering among the stones, and deciphering the inscriptions.  I could trace in the rude monuments of this retired little spot, a brief but interesting history of the district.  The older tablets, grey and shaggy with the mosses and lichens of three centuries, bear, in their uncouth semblances of the unwieldy battle-axe and double-handed sword of ancient warfare, the meet and appropriate symbols of the earlier time.  But the more modern testify to the introduction of a humanizing influence.  They speak of a life after death, in the "holy texts" described by the poet; or certify, in a quiet humility of style which almost vouches for their truth, that the sleepers below were "honest men, of blameless character, and who feared God."  There is one tombstone, however, more remarkable than all the others.  It lies beside the church-door, and testifies, in an antique inscription, that it covers the remains of the "GREAT. MAN. OF. GOD. AND. FAITHFUL. MINISTER. OF. JESUS. CHRIST.," who had endured persecution for the truth in the dark days of Charles and his brother.  He had outlived the tyranny of the Stuarts; and, though worn by years and sufferings, had returned to his parish on the Revolution, to end his course as it had begun.  He saw, ere his death, the law of patronage abolished, and the popular right virtually secured; and, fearing lest his people might be led to abuse the important privilege conferred upon them, and calculating aright on the abiding influence of his own character among them, he gave charge on his death-bed to dig his grave in the threshold of the church, that they might regard him as a sentinel placed at the door, and that his tombstone might speak to them as they passed out and in.  The inscription, which, after the lapse of nearly a century and a half, is still perfectly legible, concludes with the following remarkable words:—"THIS. STONE.  SHALL. BEAR. WITNESS. AGAINST. THE. PARISHIONERS. OF. KILTEARN. IF. THEY. BRING. ANE. UNGODLY. MINISTER. IN. HERE."  Could the imagination of a poet have originated a more striking conception in connexion with a church deserted by all its better people, and whose minister fattens on his hire, useless and contented?

    "I entered the church, for the clergyman had just gone in.  There were from eight to ten persons scattered over the pews below, and seven in the galleries above; and these, as there were no more 'Peter Clarks' or 'Michael Tods' [156] in the parish, composed the entire congregation.  I wrapped myself up in my plaid, and sat down; and the service went on in the usual course; but it sounded in my ears like a miserable mockery.  The precentor sung almost alone; and ere the clergyman had reached the middle of his discourse, which he read in an unimpassioned, monotonous tone, nearly one-half his skeleton congregation had fallen asleep; and the drowsy, listless expression of the others showed that, for every good purpose, they might have been asleep too.  And Sabbath after Sabbath has this unfortunate man gone the same tiresome round, and with exactly the same effects, for the last twenty-three years;—at no time regarded by the better clergymen of the district as really their brother;—on no occasion recognised by the parish as virtually its minister;—with a dreary vacancy and a few indifferent hearts inside his church, and the stone of the Covenanter at the door.  Against whom does the inscription testify? for the people have escaped.  Against the patron, the intruder, and the law of Bolingbroke—the Dr Robertsons of the last age, and the Dr Cooks of the present.  It is well to learn from this hapless parish the exact sense in which, in a different state of matters, the Rev. Mr Young would have been constituted minister of Auchterarder.  It is well, too, to learn, that there may be vacancies in the Church where no blank appears in the Almanac."


    On my return home from this journey, early on the following Monday, I found a letter from Edinburgh awaiting me, requesting me to meet there with the leading Non-Intrusionists.  And so, after describing, in the given extract, the scene which I had just witnessed; and completing my second pamphlet, I set out for Edinburgh, and saw for the first time men with whose names I had been familiar during the course of the Voluntary and Non-Intrusion controversies.  And entering into their plans, though with no little shrinking of heart, lest I should be found unequal to the demands of a twice-a-week paper, that would have to stand, in Ishmael's position, against almost the whole newspaper press of the kingdom, I agreed to undertake the editorship of their projected newspaper, the Witness.  Save for the intense interest with which I regarded the struggle, and the stake possessed in it, as I believed, by the Scottish people, no consideration whatever would have induced me to take a step so fraught, as I thought at the time, with peril and discomfort.  For full twenty years I had never been engaged in a quarrel on my own account; all my quarrels, either directly or indirectly, were ecclesiastical ones;—I had fought for my minister, or for my brother parishioners: and fain now would I have lived at peace with all men; but the editorship of a Non-Intrusion newspaper involved, as a portion of its duties, war with all the world.  I held, besides—not aware how very much the spur of necessity quickens production—that its twice-a-week demands would fully occupy all my time, and that I would have to resign, in consequence, my favourite pursuit—geology.  I had once hoped, too—though of late years the hope had been becoming faint—to leave some little mark behind me in the literature of my country; but the last remains of the expectation had now to be resigned.  The newspaper editor writes in sand when the flood is coming in.  If he but succeed in influencing opinion for the present, he must be content to be forgotten in the future.  But believing the cause to be a good one, I prepared for a life of strife, toil, and comparative obscurity.  In counting the cost, I very considerably exaggerated it; but I trust I may say that, in all honesty, and with no sinister aim, or prospect of worldly advantage, I did count it, and fairly undertook to make the full sacrifice which the cause demanded.

    It was arranged that our new paper should start with the new twelvemonth (1840); and I meanwhile returned to Cromarty, to fulfil my engagements with the bank till the close of its financial year, which in the Commercial Bank offices takes place at the end of autumn.  Shortly after my return, Dr Chalmers visited the place on the last of his Church Extension journeys; and I heard, for the first time, that most impressive of modern orators address a public meeting, and had a curious illustration of the power which his "deep mouth" could communicate to passages little suited, one might suppose, to call forth the vehemency of his eloquence.  In illustrating one of his points, he quoted from my "Memoir of William Forsyth" a brief anecdote, set in description of a kind which most men would have read quietly enough, but which, coming from him, seemed instinct with the Homeric vigour and force.  The extraordinary impressiveness which he communicated to the passage served to show me, better than aught else, how imperfectly great orators may be represented by their written speeches.  Admirable as the published sermons and addresses of Dr Chalmers are, they impart no adequate idea of that wonderful power and impressiveness in which he excelled all other British preachers. [157]

    I had been introduced to the Doctor in Edinburgh a few weeks before; but on this occasion I saw rather more of him.  He examined with curious interest my collection of geological specimens, which already contained not a few valuable fossils that could be seen nowhere else; and I had the pleasure of spending the greater part of a day in visiting in his company, by boat, some of the more striking scenes of the Cromarty Sutors.  I had long looked up to Chalmers as, on the whole, the man of largest mind which the Church of Scotland had ever produced;—not more intense or practical than Knox, but broader of faculty; nor yet fitted by nature or accomplishment to make himself a more enduring name in literature than Robertson, but greatly nobler in sentiment, and of a larger grasp of general intellect.  With any of our other Scottish ministers it might be invidious to compare him; seeing than some of the ablest of them are, like Henderson, little more than mere historic portraits drawn by their contemporaries, but whose true intellectual measure cannot, from the lack of the necessary materials on which to form a judgment, be now taken anew; and that many of the others employed fine faculties in work, literary and ministerial, which, though important in its consequences, was scarce less ephemeral in its character than even the labours of the newspaper editor.  The mind of Chalmers was emphatically a many-sided one.  Few men ever came into friendly contact with him, who did not find in it, if they had really anything good in them; moral or intellectual, a side that suited themselves; and I had been long struck by that union which his intellect exhibited of a comprehensive philosophy with a true poetic faculty, very exquisite in quality, though dissociated from what Wordsworth terms the "accomplishment of verse."  I had not a little pleasure in contemplating him on this occasion as the poet Chalmers.  The day was calm and clear; but there was a considerable swell rolling in from the German Ocean, on which our little vessel rose and fell, and which sent the surf high against the rocks.  The sunshine played amid the broken crags a-top, and amid the foliage of an overhanging wood; or caught, half-way down, some projecting tuft of ivy; but the faces of the steeper precipices were brown in the shade, and where the wave roared in deep caves beneath, all was dark and chill.  There were several members of the party who attempted engaging the Doctor in conversation; but he was in no conversational mood.  It would seem as if the words addressed to his ear failed at first to catch his attention, and that, with a painful courtesy, he had to gather up their meaning from the remaining echoes, and to reply to them doubtfully and monosyllabically, at the least possible expense of mind.  His face wore, meanwhile, an air of dreamy enjoyment.  He was busy, evidently, among the crags and bosky hollows, and would have enjoyed himself more had he been alone.  In the middle of one noble precipice, that reared its tall pine-created brow more than a hundred yards overhead, there was a bush-covered shelf of considerable size, but wholly inaccessible; for the rock dropped sheer into it from above, and then sank perpendicularly from its outer edge to the beach below; and the insulated shelf, in its green unapproachable solitude had evidently caught his eye.  It was the scene, I said,—taking the direction of his eye, as the antecedent for the it,—it was the scene, says tradition, of a sad tragedy during the times of the persecution of Charles.  A renegade chaplain, rather weak than wicked, threw himself, in a state of wild despair, over the precipice above; and his body, intercepted in its fall by that shelf, lay unburied among the bushes for years after, until it had bleached into a dry and whitened skeleton.  Even as late as the last age, the shelf continued to retain the name of the "Chaplain's Lair."  I found that my communication, chiming in with his train of cogitation at the time, caught both his ear and mind; and his reply, though brief, was expressive of the gratification which its snatch of incident had conveyed.  As our skiff sped on a few oar-lengths more, we disturbed a flock of sea-gulls, that had been sporting in the sunshine over a shoal of sillocks; and a few of them winged their way to a jutting crag that rose immediately beside the shelf.  I saw Chalmers' eye gleam as it followed them.  "Would you not like, Sir," he said, addressing himself to my minister, who sat beside him—"Would you not like to be a seagull?  I think I would.  Sea-gulls are free of the three elements—earth, air, and water.  These birds were sailing but half a minute since without boat, at once angling and dining, and now they are already rusticating in the Chaplain's Lair.  I think I could enjoy being a sea-gull."  I saw the Doctor once afterwards in a similar mood.  When on a visit to him in Burntisland, in the following year, I marked, on approaching the shore by boat, a solitary figure stationed on the sward-crested trap-rock which juts into the sea immediately below the town; and after the time spent in landing and walking round to the spot, there was the solitary figure still, standing motionless as when first seen.  It was Chalmers—the same expression of dreamy enjoyment impressed on his features as I had witnessed in the little skiff, and with his eyes turned on the sea and the opposite land.  It was a lovely morning.  A faint breeze had just begun to wrinkle in detached belts and patches the mirror-like blackness of the previous calm, in which the broad Firth had lain sleeping since day-break; and the sunlight danced on the new-raised wavelets; while a thin long wreath of blue mist, which seemed coiling its tail like a snake round the distant Inchkeith, was slowly raising the folds of its dragon-like neck and head from off the Scottish capital, dim in the distance, and unveiling fortalice, and tower, and spire, and the noble curtain of blue hills behind.  And there was Chalmers, evidently enjoying the exquisiteness of the scene, as only by the true poet scenery can be enjoyed.  Those striking metaphors which so abound in his writings, and which so often, without apparent effort, lay the material world before the reader, show how thoroughly he must have drunk in the beauties of nature; the images retained in his mind became, like words to the ordinary man, the signs, by which he thought, and, as such formed an important element in the power of his thinking.  I have seen his Astronomical Discourses disparagingly dealt with by a slim and meagre critic, as if they had been but the chapters of a mere treatise on astronomy—a thing which, of course, any ordinary man could write—mayhap even the critic himself.  The Astronomical Discourses, on the other hand, no one could have written save Chalmers.  Nominally a series of sermons, they in reality represent, and in the present century form perhaps the only worthy representatives of, that school of philosophic poetry to which, in ancient literature, the work of Lucretius belonged, and of which, in the literature of our own country, the "Seasons" of Thomson, and Akenside's "Pleasures of the Imagination," furnish adequate examples.  He would, I suspect, be no discriminating critic who would deal with the "Seasons" as if they formed merely the journal of a naturalist, or by the poem of Akenside as if it were simply a metaphysical treatise.

    The autumn of this year brought me an unexpected but very welcome visitor, in my old Marcus' Cave friend Finlay; and when I visited all my former haunts, to take leave of them ere I quitted the place for the scene of my future labours, I had him to accompany me.  Though for many years a planter in Jamaica, his affections were still warm, and his literary tastes unchanged.  He was a writer, as of old, of sweet simple verses, and as sedulous a reader as ever; and, had time permitted, we found we could have kindled fires together in the caves, as we had done more than twenty years before, and have ranged the shores for shell-fish and crabs.  He had had, however, in passing through life, his full share of its cares and sorrows.  A young lady to whom he had been engaged in early youth had perished at sea, and he had remained single for her sake.  He had to struggle, too, in his business relations, with the embarrassments incident to a sinking colony; and though a West Indian Climate was beginning to tell on his constitution, his circumstances though tolerably easy, were not such as to permit his permanent residence in Scotland.  He returned in the following year to Jamaica; and I saw some time after, in a Kingston paper, an intimation of his election to the Colonial House of Representatives, and the outline of a well-toned sensible address to his constituents, in which he urged that the sole hope of the colony lay in the education and mental elevation of its negro population to the standard of the people at home.  I have been informed that the latter part of his life was, like that of many of the Jamaica planters in their altered circumstances, pretty much a struggle; and his health at length breaking down, in a climate little favourable to Europeans, he died about three years ago—with the exception of my friend of the Doocot Cave, now Free Church minister of Nigg, the last of my Marcus' Cave companions.  Their remains lie scattered over half the globe.

    I closed my connexion with the bank at the termination of its financial year; gave a few weeks very sedulously to geology, during which I was fortunate enough to find specimens on which Agassiz has founded two of his fossil species; got, at parting, an elegant breakfast service of plate from a kind and numerous circle of friends, of all shades of politics and both sides of the Church; and was entertained at a public dinner, at which I attempted a speech, that got on but indifferently, though it looked quite well enough in my friend Mr Carruthers' report, and which was, I suppose, in some sort apologized for by the fiddlers, who struck up at its close.  "A man's a man for a' that."  It was, I felt, not the least gratifying part of the entertainment, that Old Uncle Sandy was present, and that his health was cordially drunk by the company in the recognised character of my best and earliest friend.  And then, taking leave of my mother and uncle, of my respected minister, and my honoured superior in the bank, Mr Ross, I set out for Edinburgh, and in a few days after was seated at the editorial desk—a point at which, for the present, the story of my education must terminate.  I wrote for my paper during the first twelvemonth a series of geological chapters, which were fortunate enough to attract the notice of the geologists of the British Association, assembled that year at Glasgow, and which, in the collected form, compose my little work on the Old Red Sandstone.  The paper itself rose rapidly in circulation, till it ultimately attained to its place among what are known as our first-class Scottish newspapers; and of its subscribers, perhaps a more considerable proportion of the whole are men who have received a university education, that can be reckoned by any other Scotch journal of the same number of readers.  And during the course of the first three years, my employer's doubled my salary.  I am sensible, however, that these are but small achievements.  In looking back upon my youth, I see, methinks, a wild fruit tree, rich in leaf and blossom; and it is mortifying enough to mark how very few blossoms have set, and how diminutive and imperfectly formed the fruit is into which even the productive few have been developed.  A right use of the opportunities of instruction afforded me in early youth would have made me a scholar ere my twenty-fifth year, and have saved to me at least ten of the best years of life—years which were spent in obscure and humble occupations.  But while my story must serve to show the evils which result from truant carelessness in boyhood, and that what was sport to the young lad may assume the form of serious misfortune to the man, it may also serve to show, that much may be done by after diligence to retrieve an early error of this kind—that life itself is a school, and Nature always a fresh study—and that the man who keeps his eyes and his mind open will always find fitting, though, it may be, hard schoolmasters, to speed him on in his lifelong education.


FINIS.


THE RIVERSIDE PRESS LIMITED, EDINBURGH
____________________

 

NOTES.

 
1.    The moor on the summit of the Black Isle, no longer "Common."
 
2.    Cromarty.
 
3.    A great-grandchild of the curate was Henry M'Kenzie, author of "The Man of Feeling."  See "Scenes and Legends," p. 144. [ED.—a future project.]
 
4.    Splinters.
 
5.    The River Findhorn, in Morayshire.
 
6.    Lossiemouth, on the coast of Moray.
 
7.    Cape Wrath (Miller).
 
8.    A bookseller twice referred to in Pope's "Dunciad."
 
9.    One of the bodies into which the Secession (see note on p. 319) divided in 1747 over the question of the propriety of taking the Burgess Oath to an uncovenanted king.  Their opponents were Anti-burghers.
 
10.    A measure of capacity used in Scotland, in the form of baskets, for herring from the net—containing 37½ imperial gallons, or about 750 herrings.
 
11.    There may have been truth in the allegation; at least the hangman of Inverness enjoyed, from time immemorial, a similar perquisite,—a peat out of every creel brought to the burgh market (Miller).
 
12.    Gaelic: story-teller, historian.  'S' in pronunciation= sh.
 
13.    Or felspar, a milky or sometimes pinkish rock, one of the components of granite.
 
14.    A stiff, sandy clay usually studded with "boulders" great and small: a deposit of the Ice Age.
 
15.    Rocks showing large conspicuous crystals.
 
16.    Rocks of the composition of granite in which, however, the minerals are arranged in irregular layers: the prevailing type of rock in the Highlands.
 
17.    Rocks made up of alternate sheets of quartz and mica.
 
18.    A Usually dark green mineral.
 
19.    A rock composed of fine layers (schist) of a light green rock (Gr. chloros, green) and felspar.
 
20.    Sulphide of lead.
 
21.    Tangle and wrack.
 
22.    The common Top Shell.
 
23.    The Smooth Limpet.
 
24.    The Cowry, a sea-snail.
 
25.    The System of rocks overlying the Old Red Sandstone, familiar in the south of Scotland, and represented in Sutherlandshire.
 
26.    From Beckford's Oriental romance, "Vathek" (1786).
 
27.    "The beautiful blue damsel flies,
           That fluttered round the jasmine stems,
           Like wingèd flowers or flying gems."
                                              P
ARADISE AND THE PERI (Miller).
 
28.    Cut wood.
 
29.    Hockey.
 
30.    The goal, one of Miller's few puns.
 
31.    It is interesting from a literary point of view to compare briefly the different accounts of this "adventure."  The first, which immediately followed the event, is in verse of the sort a boy of twelve might be expected to write.  It is a "simple tale": "two boys—"the author one"—went to the caves "for some stones," were caught by the tide, and after spending a shivering time in the darkness, "ran so very fast" for the boats that came to rescue them.  Number two is also in verse, seven years more mature, "A Tale of Youth."  The companion is dismissed; for him Miller's high-stepping muse has no place.  The purpose now is to view "the Patriot's caves," as the result of a legend connecting them with Wallace.  He has an appropriate dream, in which "an old grave man" appears to ask the natural question: "Dear child of clay, what dost thou here?" and warn the "Insect of clay" against ambition and kindred faults.  It is early morning when he is awakened by the boatman's challenge: "Ha! fellow, art thou here! art well?"  In the account written at twenty-seven for Principal Baird, the cave is "a mine of wonders"; the companion takes the stage once more; they are rescued at one in the morning; and we have the brief outlines that are afterwards filled in and worked up so effectively in the present narrative.
 
32.    The small red or yellow Winkle Shell.
 
33.    The Dog Winkle.
 
34.    The Turret Shell.
 
35.    The Free Church yacht Betsey, which served as a means of visiting and preaching for the Free Church minister of the small isles near Skye.  The Rev. Mr Swanson, Miller's friend, had "come out" at the Disruption, and so lost his manse in Eigg.  The proprietor of the island refused a site for Free Church purposes.  See Miller's "Cruise of the Betsey."
 
36.    At sight.
 
37.    Jean Baptiste Biot, a French astronomer and physicist (1774-1862).  He was in Shetland in 1817.
 
38.    See note on p. 426.
 
39.    Vertical intrusions of eruptive rock.
 
40.    A rather rare bluish rock ; granite without quartz.
 
41.    Cavities in a rock filled with crystals or some other mineral.
 
42.    Cattle not giving milk.

 
43.    The fairies.
 
44.    i.e. I spy, hide-and-seek.
 
45.    Modelled on Shenstone's "Pastoral Ballads."
 
46.    A series of blue-black clays and thin limestones, rich in fossils; part of the system underlying the Chalk.
 
47.    A winged reptile, which probably flew from tree to tree and shuffled along the ground.
 
48.    A fish-lizard, in shape like a large-sized porpoise.
 
49.    The fossil "pen" or straight internal shell of an extinct form of cuttle-fish. Cf. p. 162, "Skulls of cuttle-fishes," and p. 466.  The reference here is to the creature itself.
 
50.    A family of cuttle-fish, still surviving in a few species.
 
51.    Spanker (MS.).
 
52.    A mainly granular limestone series above the Lias.
 
53.    Fossil fish.
 
54.    Fossilised shells, usually circular (like the horns of Jupiter-Ammon); an extinct family of molluscs, allied to the cuttle-fish, and resembling the modern nautilus (see note, p. 134).
 
55.    Mussels.
 
56.    Shell-fish allied to the mussel, etc. (bivalve molluscs).
 
57.    A genus of molluscs still surviving.
 
58.    Lamp shells.
 
59.    Fishes covered with scales or plates of enamelled bone, represented by the modern American gar-pike. Cf. note on p. 528.  The term as implying classification by scales is now out of use: modern Ostracoderms.
 
60.    The grass-wrack.
 
61.    Fossil wood (brown-coal).
 
62.    The episode of the burning is now known to be mythical.
 
63.    Concealing.  Old Scots, found also in Shakespeare.
 
64.    A flowerless order of plants.
 
65.    Bankrupt.

 
66.    Temporary dwellings on the hill pastures where the cattle are fed for about two months in the summer.
 
67.    The Cambrian Sandstones, etc., of the West Coast are vastly older than the "Old Red" of the East.  The explanation offered in these sentences is entirely erroneous.
 
68.    No: Maree is a form of "Malruba," an ancient Ross-shire saint.
 
69.    An ancient Celtic form of rent or tax paid from the produce of a farm.
 
70.    Frogs or toads.
 
71.    Appended to their joint paper on the "Deposits contained between the Scottish Primary Rocks and Oolitic Series," and interesting, as the first published geological map of Scotland to the north of the Firths of Forth and Clyde (Miller).
 
72.    A regular supply.
 
73.    Milk from which the cream has been removed.
 
74.    A village near Inverness.
 
75.    Lava of geologic age.
 
76.    The Sea-thongs.
 
77.    The Netted Dog-whelk.
 
78.    Species of Top-shells.
 
79.    A species of Scallop.  There are only two of these exclusively west coast shells,—Trochus umbilicatus and Pecten niveus.  As neither of them has yet been detected in any Tertiary formation, they are in all probability shells of comparatively recent origin, that came into existence in some western centre of creation; whereas specimens of Trochus magus and Nassa reticulata, which occasionally occur on the eastern coasts of the kingdom, I have also found in a Pleistocene deposit.  Thus the more widely-spread shells seem to be also the shells of more ancient standing (Miller).
 
80.    The Dog Winkle.
 
81.    The Common Limpet.
 
82.    Near Tobermory in Mull, scene of a famous sea-fight between two West Highland factions towards the end of the fifteenth century.
 
83.    The cas-crom (Gaelic, "bent foot") or foot-plough, having a small plough-like share pressed by the foot, and a long handle.
 
84.    In which a party of Macleods smoked to death the Macdonalds of Eigg in 1577.
 
85.    Still made in the west of Lewis for tourists.
 
86.    See note on p. 59.  As a "hydrous" mineral it is greasy to the touch.
 
87.    Uncle James would scarce have sanctioned, had he been consulted in the matter, the use to which the carcase of his dead eagle was applied.  There lived in the place an eccentric, half-witted old woman, who, for the small sum of one halfpenny, used to fall a-dancing on the street to amuse children, and rejoiced in the euphonius though somewhat obscure appellation of "Dribble Drone."  Some young fellows, on seeing the eagle divested of its skin, and looking remarkably clean and well-conditioned, suggested that it should be sent to "Dribble"; and, accordingly, in the character of a "great goose, the gift of a gentleman," it was landed at her door.  The gift was thankfully accepted.  Dribble's cottage proved odoriferous at dinner-time for the several following days; and when asked, after a week had gone by, how she had relished the great goose which the gentleman had sent, she replied that it was "Unco sweet, but oh! teuch, teuch!"  For years after, the reply continued to be proverbial in the place: and many a piece of over-hard stock fish, and over-fresh steak, used to be characterized as, "Like Dribble Drone's eagle, unco sweet, but oh! teuch, teuch!" (Miller).
 
88.    The latest of the geological periods, often called the Ice Age.
 
89.    Presbyterian ministers who refused to recognise the jurisdiction of bishops in the Church of Scotland. (See note on p. 472.)
 
90.    Robert Gilfillan (1798-1850) author of "Oh why Left I my Hame," for some time collector of Poor Rates in Leith.
    Well known as Gilfillan's song is among ourselves, it is much less so to the south of the Border, and I present it to my English readers, as a worthy representative, in these latter days, of those ludicrous songs of our country in the olden time which are so admirably suited to show, notwithstanding the gibe of Goldsmith,

"That a Scot may have humour, I almost said wit" (Miller).

THE TAX-GATHERER.

Oh! do you ken Peter, the taxman an' writer?
    Ye're well aff wha ken naething 'bout him ava;
They ca' him Inspector, or Poor's Rate Collector—
    My faith! he's weel kent in Leith, Peter M'Craw!
He ca's and he comes again—haws, and he hums again—
    He's only ae hand, but it's as good as twa:
He pu's't out and raxes, an' draws in the taxes,
    An' pouches the siller—shame!  Peter M'Craw!

He'll be at your door by daylight on a Monday,
    On Tyesday ye're favoured again wi' a ca';
E'en a slee look he gied me at kirk the last Sunday,
    Whilk meant—"Mind the preachin' an' Peter M'Craw."
He glowrs at my auld door as if he had made it:
    He keeks through the keyhole when I am awa':
He'll syne read the auld stane, that tells a' wha read it,
    To "Blisse God for a' giftes," []—but Peter M'Craw!

His sma' papers neatly are 'ranged a' completely,
    That yours, for a wonder, 's the first on the raw!
There's nae jinkin' Peter, nae antelope's fleeter;
    Nae cuttin' acquaintance wi' Peter M'Craw!
'Twas just Friday e'enin', Auld Reekie I'd been in,
    I'd gatten a shillin'—I maybe gat twa;
I thought to be happy wi' friends ewer a drappie,
    When wha suld come pap in—but Peter M'Craw?

There's houp o' a ship though she's sair pressed wi' dangers,
    An' roun' her frail timmers the angry winds blaw;
I've aften gat kindness unlooked for frae strangers,
    But wha need houp kindness frae Peter M'Craw?
I've kent a man pardoned when just at the gallows—
    I've kent a chiel honest whase trade was the law!
I've kent fortune's smile even fa' on gude fallows;
    But I ne'er kent exception wi' Peter M'Craw!

Our toon, yince sae cheerie, is dowie and eerie;
    Our shippies hae left us, our trade is awa';
There's nae fair maids strayin', nae wee bairnies playin';
    Ye've muckle to answer for, Peter M'Craw!
But what grade o' greevin' as lang's we are leevin'?
    My banes I'll soon lay within yon kirk-yard wa';
There's nae care shall press me, nae taxes distress me,
    For there I'll be free frae thee—Peter M'Craw!

A devout legend, common in the seventeenth century above the entrance of houses (Miller).
 
91.    A genus of land-snails.
 
92.    This animal is now common in the neighbourhood of Cromarty where it does not seem to have existed in Miller's time.
 
93.    The principal geological division in which Coal Measures occur.
 
94.    The roots of Sigillaria, not an independent "vegetable" as was long believed.
 
95.    A common tree of the Coal Measures, the trunk of which is marked by vertical lines enclosing parallel rows of leaf-scars like seals (sigilla). Cf. p. 315.
 
96.    Tall reed-like plants resembling exaggerated horsetails that grew in thick brakes along the lagoon borders of the Sigillarian jungle.
 
97.    "Scaly" (lepis) trees of the Coal rising to fifty feet or more, resembling the lowly club-moss on a gigantic scale.
 
98.    Horse-tails.
 
99.    The fertile or cone-bearing branches of Lepidodendron, long supposed to bean independent species.
 
100.   Directly attached, not supported on a stalk.
 
101.   The act for manumitting our Scotch colliers was passed in the year 1775, forty-nine years prior to the date of my acquaintance with the class at Niddry.  But though it was only such colliers of the village as were in their fiftieth year when I knew them (with, of course, all the older ones), who had been born slaves, even its men of thirty had actually, though not nominally, come into the world in a state of bondage, in consequence of certain penalties attached to the emancipating act, of which the poor ignorant workers underground were both too improvident and too little ingenious to keep clear.  They were set free, however, by a second act passed in 1799.  The language of both these acts, regarded as British ones of the latter half of the last century, and as bearing reference to British subjects living within the limits of the island, strikes with startling effect.  "Whereas," says the preamble of the older act—that of 1775—"by the statute law of Scotland, as explained by the judges of the courts of law there, many colliers, and coal-bearers, and salters, are in a state of slavery or bondage, bound to the collieries or salt-works where they work for life, transferable with the collieries and salt-works; and whereas the emancipating," &c. &c.  A passage in the preamble of the act of 1799 is scarce less striking: it declares that, notwithstanding the former act, "many colliers and coal-bearers still continue in a state of bondage" in Scotland.  The history of our Scotch colliers will be found a curious and instructive one.  Their slavery seems not to have been derived from the ancient times of general serfship, but to have originated in comparatively modern acts of the Scottish Parliament, and in decisions of the Court of Session—in acts of a Parliament in which the poor ignorant subterranean men of the country were, of course, wholly unrepresented, and in decisions of a Court in which no agent of theirs ever made appearance in their behalf (Miller).
 
102.   A supporter of the Secession Church which hived off from the Establishment in 1733, mainly in protest against forcing a minister on a parish against the will of the congregation.  It was the nucleus of the later United Presbyterian Church, since united with the Free Church.  The leader of the Secession was the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine.  Later he was joined by his brother, the Rev. Ralph.
 
103.   A genus of Eurypterids or "Water-Scorpions" now extinct.  The "Middle O.R." here should be the "Lower O.R."  A genus closely allied to Pterygotus recently discovered in the United States (Upper Silurian, New York State) has been named Hughmilleria.
 
104.   A "buckler-headed" fish, (See note on p. 527.)
 
105.   State of intoxication.
 
106.   The kind of club into which the compositors of a printing-house always form themselves has from time immemorial been termed a chapel; and the petty tricks by which Franklin was annoyed were said to be played him by the chapel ghost.  "My employer desiring," he says, "after some weeks to have me in the composing-room, I left the pressmen.  A new bien-venu for drink, being five shillings, was demanded of me by the compositors.  I thought it an imposition, as I had paid one to the pressmen.  The master thought so too, and forbade my paying it.  I stood out two or three weeks, was accordingly considered as an excommunicate, and had so many little pieces of private malice practised on me by mixing my sorts, transposing and breaking my matter, &c. &c., if ever I stepped out of the room, and all ascribed to the chapel ghost, which, they said, ever haunted those not regularly admitted, that, notwithstanding my master's protection, I found myself obliged to comply and pay the money" (Miller).
 
107.   The extreme picturesqueness of these fires—in part a consequence of the great height and peculiar architecture of the buildings which they destroyed—caught the nice eye of Sir Walter Scott.  "I can conceive," we find him saying, in one of his letters of the period, "no sight more grand or terrible than to see these lofty buildings on fire from top to bottom, vomiting out flames, like a volcano, from every aperture, and finally crashing down one after another, into an abyss of fire, which resembled nothing but hell; for there were vaults of wine and spirits which set up huge jets of flames whenever they were called into activity by the fall of these massive fragments.  Between the corner of the Parliament Square and the Tron Church, all is destroyed excepting some new buildings at the lower extremity" (Miller).
 
108.   The most notable clergyman of the Original Seceders ("Auld Lichts"), formed by the union of two of the smaller subdivisions of the Seceders (see note on p. 162); author of a "Life of Knox" (1812), and a capable church historian.
 
109.   Author of Scots Worthies (1775).
 
110.   The Knotted Wrack is distinguished from fucus vesiculosus, the Bladder Wrack or Black Tang, by having the bladders or air-cells arranged singly along the centre of a frond which has no mid-rib.
 
111.   The Sea-Pink.
 
112.   Ribbon-like seaweed with hollow fronds.
 
113.   A genus of olive-brown Seaweed.
 
114.   Properly a low order of fresh-water algæ, that forms a green slime on stagnant pools.
 
115.   The Channelled Wrack, distinguished from other species by having no air-bladders.
 
116.   Benoit de Maillet (1656-1738) an early champion of Development or Evolution, who derived birds from the flying-fish.
 
117.   Followers of the brothers R. and J. A. Haldane, rich lay preachers of a strong evangelical type early in the nineteenth century.
 
118.   The Broad Church party in the Church of Scotland, "moderate" in its creed, and submissive to the Law Courts in the Intrusion Controversy.  Its opponents, the Evangelicals, afterwards formed the Free Church.
 
119.   Loch Ness (Miller).
 
120.   This Portrait of the Ness is, I fear, scarce true to the ordinary character of the river.  I had visited it during the previous winter, and walked a few miles along its sides, when the tract of country through which it flows lay bleached and verdureless, and steeped in the soaking rain of weeks, and the stream itself, big in flood, roared from bank to brae in its shallower reaches, or boiled sullen and turbid in many a circling eddy in its darker pools.  And my description somewhat incongruously unites a sunlit summer landscape, rich in flower and foliage, with the brown wintry river (Miller).
 
121.   A Swedish name for what are called kames in Scotland, or as here, tomhams, ridges of gravel and sand sometimes extending for miles; relics of the Ice Age.
 
122.   I am reminded by the editor of the Courier, in a very kind critique on the present volume, of a passage in the history of my little work which had escaped my memory.  "It had come," he states, "to the knowledge of Sir Walter Scott, who endeavoured to procure a copy after the limited impression was exhausted (Miller).
 
123.   William Thom (1788-1848) author of "The Mitherless Bairn." [ED.—Thom's birth date is incorrect; he was born in Aberdeen at some time between the end of  1798 and the beginning of 1799.  Contrary to what Miller states, Thom's occupation was that of a hand-loom weaver.  During his life he endured considerable hardship and poverty, dying at Dundee on 28 February 1848.  He is buried there in the Western Cemetery.]
 
124.   C. D. Sillery, author of "Vallery; or, The Citadel of the Lake." 2 vols. Edinburgh, 1829.
 
125.   The following are the opening stanzas of the piece—quite as obnoxious to criticism, I fear, as those selected by Walsh:—


Have ye not seen, on winter's eve,
    When snow rack dimm'd the welkin's face,
Borne wave-like, by the fitful breeze,
                    The snow-wreath shifting place?
Silent and slow as drifting wreath,
    Ere day, the clans from Preston Hill
Moved downward to the vale beneath:
                    Dark was the scene and still!
In stormy autumn day, when sad
    The boding peasant frets forlorn,
Have ye not seen the mountain stream
                    Bear down the standing corn?
At dawn, when Preston bog was cross'd,
    Like mountain stream that bursts its banks,
Charged wild those Celtic hearts of fire,
                    On Cope's devoted ranks.
Have ye not seen, from lonesome waste,
    The smoke-tower rising tall and slow,
O'erlooking, like a stately tree,
                The russet plain below?
And have ye mark'd that pillar'd wreath,
    When sudden struck by northern blast,
Amid the low and stunted heath,
                In broken volumes cast?
At sunrise, as by northern blast
    The pillar'd smoke is roll'd away,
Fled all that cloud of Saxon war,
                    In headlong disarray.

*             *              *              *              *

 
126.   Miller's biographer thinks that in this he misunderstood Principal Baird, who simply suggested that he should devote the leisure hours of his trade to work with the pen. Cf. Bayne's "Life and Letters," I., 260 et seq.
 
127.   Arrow-maker.
 
128.   Diodorns calls it "A certain island lying in front of Britain called Ictis." Its identity is matter of dispute, but the weight of opinion seems to be in favour of one of the Kentish islands, such as Thanet, whose relation to the land at the time would suit the description, while that of St Michael's Mount probably would not.
 
129.   The famous engraver on wood of natural subjects (died 1828).
 
130.   The ancient European wild ox or Urns or Aurochs described by Cæsar; considerably larger than modern cattle: now extinct.
 
131.   The "Celtic" shorthorn, probably the original of the domesticated breeds.
 
132.   For these, see note on p. 134. The rest are varieties of ammonites, having the shell straight (baculites), or bent in a crook at both ends (hamites), or turret-like (turrilites), or bent into boat-shape (scaphites).
 
133.   The idea underlying this explanation of the mountain system of the Highlands has long been discarded. That system has been carved by streams and weathering influences out of a plateau representing the base of an ancient true mountain range, and is not the result of any vertical up-lifts.
 
134.   Fish having long tubercles or detached plates bearing spines, e.g. Sharks. Cf. note on "Ganoid order," p. 162.
 
135.   Deprived of his benefice in the seventeenth century for not accepting the jurisdiction of bishops instituted by Charles II. (Cf. note on p. 302.)
 
136.   Roughly covering the years 1740-1746, but attaining its height at different years in different parishes.
 
137.   Professor Pillans (Miller).
 
138.   Lava.
 
139.   The name given to the northern inhabitants of Scotland in late Roman times and down to the eighth century. Later ignorance regarding them resulted in their being made the subjects of a mythology.
 
140.   The group of rocks containing the oldest evidences of organic life. These rocks are otherwise known as Primary, and the subsequent great divisions of geologic time as Secondary and Tertiary.
 
141.   "For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh" (Miller).
 
142.   The most recent and most reliable restorations of many of these fossil fishes are to be found in Dr Traquair's "Extinct Vertebrate Animals of the Moray Firth Area" in Brown and Buckley's "Vertebrate Fauna of the Moray Basin" (Vol. ii.).  Miller's "Old Red Sandstone" may also be profitably consulted.  There is still some difference of opinion as to the correct classification of the different series included in the Old Red.  Miller's "Lower," though officially recognised, others would place as "Middle" or "Orcadian," from the unique character of its fish fauna, which does not occur in any Lower O. R. elsewhere in Britain.  The Old Red was a lake formation.
 
143.   Ancient lung-fishes (Dipnoi) with bony head-coverings and rounded enamelled scales.
 
144.   A family of "Ganoids" having "hollow fin-spines."
 
145.   Armour-plated fish very common in the Orcadian O. R., but there is really only one species.  Whether related to the "lung-fishes" or to the sharks is a disputed point.
 
146.   The genus of "Ganoids" encased in enamelled plates and, as to the tail, in small, rounded, bony scales, first discovered by Miller (1831).  One species, probably the only one, is named after him.  The generic name (winged-fish) is due to its hollow wing-like appendages placed behind the head.  The type is now extinct, but it is believed to have been a true fish with a cartilaginous skeleton, like the shark, which lived at the bottom of a river or a great lake.  See "Old Red Sandstone," p. 74 et seq., and note on p. 163.  It was small, not exceeding a foot in length.
 
147.   A fringe-finned fish very common in the Orcadian Old Red; allied to the still living Polypterica of the Nile.
 
148.   A fringe-finned fish.  These are of the ordinary fish type.
 
149.   A family of extinct fishes whose "heads" (cephalai) were covered with "buckler-like" plates.
 
150.   The bony-pike or gar-pike, a fresh water fish of North America, clad, like Polypterus, in close-fitting enamelled scales.
 
151.   One of the Acanthodii; the "spiny ones," small fish of the shark type.
 
152.   A genus of fossil fish remotely related to the sturgeon.
 
153.   Between the leading divines of the established Church and the Secession (1829-34), concerning the Scriptural propriety and the utility of Church Establishments.
 
154.   The call to the presentee to the parish of Auchterarder, Fife, was signed by only two persons out of a population of 3000; the large majority of the congregation protesting against his settlement (cf. p. 550).  Thereupon the Church refused ordination.  Patron and presentee took the case to the Court of Session which decided in their favour, enjoining the ordination of the presentee.  The Church appealed to the House of Lords, and there the judgment of the Scottish Court was sustained (2nd May 1839).  Lord Brougham, in particular, maintained that the protest of the congregation was of no more avail to prevent the ordination than the kicking of the "champion's" horse would be to stop a Coronation.  Sentiments expressed in this spirit marked him out specially for attack.
 
155.   Thomas Hog of Kiltearn.  See "Scots Worthies;" or the cheap publication volumes of the Free Church for 1846 (Miller).
 
156.   Peter Clark and Michael Tod were the only individuals who, in a population of three thousand souls, attached their signature to the call of the obnoxious presentee, Mr Young, in the famous Auchterarder case (Miller).
 
157.   The following is the passage which was honoured on this occasion by Chalmers, and which told, in his hands, with all the effects of the most powerful acting:—"Saunders Macivor, the mate of the 'Elizabeth,' was a grave and somewhat hard-favoured man, powerful in bone and muscle, even after he had considerably turned his sixtieth year, and much respected for his inflexible integrity and the depth of his religious feelings.  Both the mate and his devout wife were especial favourites with Mr Porteous of Kilmuir—a minister of the same class as the Pedens, Renwicks, and Cargills of a former age; and on one occasion when the sacrament was dispensed in his parish, and Saunders was absent on one of his Continental voyages, Mrs Macivor was an inmate of the manse.  A tremendous storm burst out in the night-time, and the poor woman lay awake, listening in utter terror to the fearful roarings of the wind, as it howled in the chimneys, and shook the casements and the doors.  At length, when she could lie still no longer, she arose, and crept along the passage to the door of the minister's chamber.  'O, Mr Porteous,' she said, 'Mr Porteous, do ye no hear that?—and poor Saunders on his way back frae Holland!  O, rise, rise, and ask the strong help o' your Master!"  The minister accordingly rose, and entered his closet.  The 'Elizabeth' at this critical moment was driving onwards through spray and darkness, along, the northern shores of the Moray Firth.  The fearful skerries of Shandwick, where so many gallant vessels have perished, were close at hand: and the increasing roll of the sea showed the gradual shallowing of the water.  Macivor and his old townsman, Robert Hossack, stood together at the binnacle.  An immense wave came rolling behind, and they had but barely time to clutch to the nearest hold, when it broke over them half-mast high, sweeping spars, bulwarks, cordage, all before it, in its course.  It passed, but the vessel rose not.  Her deck remained buried in a sheet of foam, and she seemed settling down by the head.  There was a frightful pause.  First, however, the bowsprit and the butts of the windlass began to emerge—next the forecastle—the vessel seemed as if shaking herself from the load; and then the whole deck appeared, as she went tilting over the next wave.  'There are still more mercies in store for us,' said Macivor, addressing his companion: 'she floats still.'  'O, Saunders, Saunders,' exclaimed Robert, 'there was surely some God's soul at work for us, or she would never have cowed yon" (Miller).

 


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