Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

was most likely to devote the infants to the infernal spirits, upon their

very entrance into life.

It is remarkable that Michael, Jude 9, durst not bring against Sathan a railing accusation, but said, the Lord rebuke thee, Sathan. But it is fit tò tremble and fear and be upon our watch. Women also in child-birth would look well whom they choice for their midwives, that they be of good report, it being very ordinar for them to be witches, such as arei malæ famæ, because such as are so, ordinarily dedicate children to Sathan, especially the first-born, and use to baptize them in the name of the devil privately; howbeit that is of no force nor can be imputed to the children or parents, being free of any accession thereto; yet such a claim the devil may lay to such as to prove very troublesome to them by his temptations all their days, more especially to those children whose mothers are witches, there being nothing more ordinary to them than to dedicate their children to Sathan, and certainly it is a sin and an high provoke of God, and gives great ground to the devil to tempt, when parents are more satisfied with midwives of that name than others, as supposing them to have more skill, more helpfull, and better success in sic a case than others; a sin I fear too ryfe in the land, and indeed upon the matter, a; forsaking of God. This John Stewart and his sister afore mentioned confessed that his mother gave them to the devil from the womb. It were good that our land had midwives fearing God, educate for that end. Sathan is

ape, studies to imitate God in his covenanting with his people, so he hath his covenant with his, the seals of his covenant, his nip and the renewing of their covenant with the renewing of the nip, as also his other symbols and tokens, whereby he works, sic as these effigies or images, spells, syllabes and charms ; and if he fail in the performance of what he promises, he makes some of them miscarry in their hands, and lays the blame there. I say, he studies to imitate God in his covenant and promises, not for any liking he has to God or his ways but because he finds God's-method ensure the soul to himself: 2dly for mocking of God and his holy ways. The Earl of Dundonald with his coach and himself and his lady, going to the marriage of his grandehild to the Lord Montgomery, from Paslay to Eglintown, an. 1676 in December, was stopt by the way at the said Jonet Mathie her daughter's house; the witch now a prisoner in Paslay upon that account; the horses of the coach refused to go by that door, and turned their heads homeward. Whereupon the gentlemen that rode with the Earl dismounted themselves, and yoked their horses in the coach ; but by that door they would not go ; on which occasion the Earl causes yoke his horses again in the coach, and so drives bomeward with his Lady and all that was with him to Paslay. A very remarkable passage as has been in our days.'

To the superstitions of the North Britons must be added their peculiar and characteristic amusements; and here we have some atonement to make to the memory of the learned Paulus Pleydell, whose compotatory relaxations, better information now inclines us

to

to think, we mentioned with somewhat too little reverence. Before the new town of Edinburgh (as it is called) was built, its inhabitants lodged, as is the practice of Paris at this day, in large buildings called lands, each family occupying a story, and having access to it by a stair common to all the inhabitants. These buildings, when they did not front the high street of the city, composed the sides of little, narrow, unwholesome closes or lanes. The miserable and confined accommodation which such habitations afforded, drove men of business, as they were called, that is, people belonging to the law, to hold their professional rendezvouses in taverns, and many lawyers of eminence spent the principal part of their time in some tavern of note, transacted their business there, received the visits of clients with their writers or attornies, and suffered no imputation from so doing, This practice naturally led to habits of conviviality, to which the Scottish lawyers, till of very late years, were rather too much addicted. Few men drank so hard as the counsellors of the old school, and there survived till of late some vete. rans who supported in that respect the character of their predecéssors. To vary the humour of a joyous evening many frolics were resorted to, and the game of high jinks was one of the most common. In fact, high jinks was one of the petits jeux with which certain circles were wont to while away the time; and though it claims no alliance with modern associations, yet, as it required some shrewdness and dexterity to support the characters assumed for the occasion, it is not difficult to conceive that it might have been as interesting and amusing to the parties engaged in it, as counting the spots of a pack of cards, or treasuring in memory the rotation in which they are thrown on the table. The worst of the game was what that age considered as its principal excellence, namely, that the forfeitures being all commuted for wine, it proved an encouragement to hard drinking, the prevailing vice of the

age. On the subject of Davie Gellatley, the fool of the Baron of Bradwardine's family, we are assured there is ample testimony that a custom, referred to Shakspeare's time in England, had, and in remote provinces of Scotland, has still its counterpart, to this day. We do not mean to say that the professed jester with his bauble and his party-coloured vestment can be found in any family north of the Tweed. Yet such a personage held this respectable office in the family of the Earls of Strathemore within the last cen

* We have learned, with some dismay, that one of the ablest lawyers Scotland ever produced, and who lives to witness (although in retirement) the various changes which have taken place in her courts of judicature, a man who lias filled with marked distinction the highest offices of bis profession, tush'd (pshaw'd) extremely at the delicacy of our former criticism. And certainly he claims some title to do so, having been in his youth not only a witness of such orgies as are described as proceeding under the aus. pices of Mr. Pleydell, but himself a distinguished performer. E E4

tury,

tury, and his costly holiday dress, garnished with bells of silver, is still preserved in the Castle of Glamis. But we are assured, that to a much later period, and even to this moment, the habits and manners of Scotland have had some tendency to preserve the existence of this singular order of domestics. There are (coinparatively speaking) po poor's rates in the country parishes of Scotland, and of course no work-houses to immure either their worn out poor or lie:

poor oribie moping idiot and the madman gay, whom Crabbe characterizes as the happiest inhabitants of these mansions, because insensible of their misfortunes. It therefore happens almost necessarily in Scotland, that the house of the nearest pro prietor of wealth and consequence proves a place of refuge for these outcasts of society; and until the pressure of the times, and the calculating habits which they have necessarily generated had ren-, dered the maintenance of a human being about such a family an object of some consideration, they usually found an asyluın there, and enjoyed the degree of comfort of which their limited intellect rendered them susceptible. Such idiots were usually em-i, ployed in some simple sort of occasional labour; and if we are not misinformed, the situation of turn-spit was often assigned them,ca before the modern improvement of the smoke-jack. But, how ever employed, they usually displayed towards their benefactors-a | 33 sort of instinctive attachment which was very affecting. We kuew one instance in which such a being refused food for many days, pined away, literally broke his heart, and died within the space of a very few weeks after his benefactor's decease. We cannot now pause to deduce the moral inference which might be derived from such instances. It is however evident, that if there was a coarse. ness of mind in deriving amusement from the follies of these od unfortunate beings, a circumstance to the disgrace of which they!'? were totally insensible, their mode of life was, in other respects, calculated to promote such a degree of happiness as their faculties permitted them to enjoy.' But besides the amusement which our forefathers received from witnessing their imperfections and extravagancies, there was a more legitimate source of pleasure in the wild wit which they often Aung around them with the freedom of Shakspeare's licensed clowns. There are few houses in Scotland of any note or antiquity where the witty sayings of some such character are not occasionally quoted at this very day. The pleasure to afforded to our forefathers by such repartees was no doubt height=) ened by their wanting the babits of more elegant amusement. But 15 in Scotland the practice long continued, and in the house of one of the

very first noblemen of that country (a man whose name is never mentioned without reverence) and that within the last twenty years, a jester such as we have mentioned stood at the side-table during

dinner,

" تم

[ocr errors]

dinner, and occasionally amused the guests by lis extemporaneous sallies. Imbecillity of this kind was even considered as an apology for intrusion upon the most solemn occasions.

All know the peculiar reverence with which the Scottish of every rauk attend on funeral ceremonies. Yet within the memory of most of the present generation, an idiot of an appearance equally hideous and absurd, dressed, as if in mockery, in a rusty and ragged black coat, decorated with a cravat and weepers made of white paper in

the form of those worn by the deepest mourners, preceded almost every funeral procession in Edinburgh, as if to turn into ridicule the last rites paid to mortality. *18:90 901

It has been generally supposed that in the case of these as of other successful novels, the most prominent and peculiar characters were sketched from real life. It was only after the death of Smollet, that two barbers and 'a shoemaker contended about the character of Strap, which eachi asserted was modelled from his own : but even in the lifetime of the present author, there is scarcely a dale in the pastoral districts of the southern counties but arrogates to itself the possession of the original Dandie Dinmont. As for Baillie Mae Xyleeble, a person of the highest eminence in the law perfectly well remembers having received fees from him. We ourselves think we recognize the prototype of Meg Merrilies, on whose wild fidelity so much of the interest of Guy Mannering hinges, in the Jean Gordion of the following extract:*

• Old Jean Gordon of Yetholm, who had great sway among her tribe, was well remembered by old persons of the last generation. quite a Meg Merrilies, and possessed the savage virtue of fidelity in the same perfection. Having been often hospitably received at the farmhouse of Lochside near Yetholm, she had carefully abstained from committing any depredations on the farmer's property. But her sons (nine in number) had not, it seems, the same delicacy and stole a broodsow from their kind entertainer. Jean was so much mortified at this irregularity, and so much ashamed of it, that she absented herself from Lochside for several years. At length, in consequence of some temporary pecuniary necessity, the Goodman of Lochside was obliged 10 go to Newcastle to get some money to pay bis rent. Returning through the mountains of Cheviot he was benighted and lost his way. A light glimmering through the window of a large waste barn, which had survived the farm-house to which it had once belonged, guided him to a place of shelter, and when he knocked at the door, it was opened by Jean Gordon. Her very remarkable figure, for she was nearly six feet high, and her equally remarkable features and dress, rendered it impossible to mistake her for a moment; and to meet with such a character in so solitary a place and probably at no great distance from her clan, was a terrible surprize to the poor man whose rent (to lose which would have been ruin to him) was about his person. Jean set up a loud shout of joyful recognition" Eh Sirs! the winsome Gude-man of Lochside! Light down, light down, for ye maunna gang farther the night and a friend's house sae near.” The farmer was obliged to dismount and accept of the gipsy's offer of supper and a bed. There was abundance of provisions in the barn, however it might be come by, and preparations were going on for a plentiful supper, which the farmer, to the great increase of his anxiety, observed was calculated for ten or twelve guests of the same description probably with his landlady. Jean left him in no doubt on the subject. She brought up the story of the stolen sow, and noticed how much pain and vexation it had given her; like other philosophers, she remarked that the world grows worse daily, and like other parents, that the bairns got out of her guiding and neglected the old gipsy regulations which commanded them to respect in their de.. predations the property of their benefactors. The end of all this was an inquiry what money the farmer had about him, and an urgent request that he would make her his purse-keeper, since the bairns, as she called her sons, would soon return home. The poor farmer made a virtue of necessity, told his story, and surrendered his gold to Jean's custody; she made him put a few shillings in his pocket, observing it would excite suspicion should he be found travelling altogether pennyless. This arrangement being made, the farmer lay down on a sort of shake-down; as the Scotch call it, upon some straw, but, as will easily be believed, slept not. About midnight the gang returned with yarious articles of plunder, and talked over their exploits in language which made the farmer tremble. They were not long in discovering their guest and deinanded of Jean whom she had got there? “ E'en the winsome Gude-man of Lochside, poor body," replied Jean," he's been at Newcastle seeking for siller to pay his rent, honest man, but the de'il be lick'd he's been able to gather in, and so he's gaun e'en hame wi' a toom purse and a sair heart.” “That may be, Jean," replied one of the banditti, buti we maun ripe* his pouches a bit and see if it be true or no.", Jean set up her throat in exclamations against the breach of hospitality, but without producing any change of their determination. The farmer soon heard their stifled whispers and light steps by his bedside, and understood they were rummaging his clothes. When they found the money which the foresight of Jean Gordon had made him retain, they held a consultation if they should take it or no, but the smallness of the booty and the vehemence of Jean's remonstrances determined them in the negative. They caroused and went to rest. So soon as day returned, Jean roused her guest, produced his horse which she had accommodated behind the hallan, and guided him for some miles till he was on the high road to Lochside. She then restored his whole property, nor , could his earnest entreaties prevail on her to accept so much as a single guinea.

See a very curious paper intitled Notices on the Scottish Gipsies,' ip a dew publication called the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine.

been

She was

“I have heard the old people at Jedburgh say that all Jean's sons were condemned to die there on the same day. It is said the Jury were equally divided, but that one of their number, a friend to justice, . Rummage his pockets.

who

« AnteriorContinuar »