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AMERICAN MONTHLY MAGAZINE
Vol. IV.....No. 1
ART. 1. Memoir relative to the Highlands; with Anecdotes of Rob Roy, and his
Family. 18mo. pp. 152. Philadelphia. M. Carey & Son. 1818.
elegantly written essay, (which may which it has long been customary among be considered as a sort of supplement to us to regard the natives of the Scottish the celebrated novel of Rob Roy,) to Highlands. place the character, manners, and politi- After remarking that till nearly the cal condition of the interesting people of last eighty years the Highlanders were whom it treats, in a more fair and impar. treated by the government rather as enetial point of view than the prejudices mies against whose incessant incursions it either of their admirers or enemies have was incumbent upon the state to be watchhitherto permitted. The author has, ful, than as subjects whose obedience it certainly, exercised considerable acumen was important to compel, the author proin his bistorical investigation of the claims ceeds, in impressive and animated terms, made by the Scottish Highlanders, or to comment upon the measures subserather by their friends for them, to quali- quently pursued with regard to them by ties and attainments unquestionably in the ruling powers, and the interest excompatible with the imperfect state of cited by their wild achievements and the society to which, up to the period of romantic and secluded regions in which 1745, they had arrived; and, though his they dwell, in times apparently averse language is evidently that of one disposed from the rude and daring exploits of a rather to condemn than applaud, the tem- half-civilized people, whose rugged and perate manner in which he conducts his mountainous country is but ill-adapted argument, and the candour with which to the luxurious feelings of a modern he admits their pretensions in points tourist. where they do not clash with the main tenor of his observations, entitle him to 1745,) indeed, they cannot complain that
« Since that period, (the rebellion in the praise of a honourable as well as they have been either neglected or despised. acute examiner, and induce us to con- They instantly became the objects of legis
lative care and protection-their grievances sider at some length the rationale of a
were redressed, and their fidelity appre. hook which goes far toward destroying ciated---enactments were made to relax the
more austere and dangerous parts of their ed, therefore, the best domestic subject of original institutions--to liberate the mass of that ambiguous species of poetry which the population from the fetters of an imme- takes its ungraceful station betwixt the hemorial despotism-and to assimilate the roic and the common ballad ; and which, manners of the mountaineer to those of his from its extreme facility and obtrusive glare, fellow countrymen, without breaking' his has acquired so great a portion of fugitive spirit, or insulting his prejudices. His coun- popularity. It is a singular fact in the histrymen, as if zealous to atone for their for- tory of taste, that in an age, boasting beyond iner neglect, have ever since occupied all others its security and opulence, and unthemselves with eager arrd curious inquiries questionably disposed to indolence and eninto his habits and manners---His poetry, joyment, the story of wild and barbarian amusements, and superetitions-his tradi- adventure, should have been found the tions, and his history indër áll its manifest fittest element of poetic excitement; and exaggerations; and such has beev the change that the relation of exploits, in which the in the sument of public opinión, prodaced peaceful and effeminate reader would shudby one vast itąpulses that there still exists a der to engage, should afford him the highest decided propensity to exalt the Highland imaginary delight, even when imbodied in character even to the highest pitch of ima- very humble diction, and sustained by the ginative excellence-to give way without most slender poetic embellishment.” resistance to the most extravagant pretensions on the score of its valour, high-mindedness, and generosity,--and to ascribe to
The Scottish Highlands are not divided it with a gratuitous profusion, all the quali- from the plain country by those strongly ties which can elevate or embellish the cha- marked lines which usually separate racter of a people, or administer to the vanity of a race, jealous beyond all others mountainous districts from the lowlands; of the glory of their name.
and thus the inhabitants of the con4. This spirit has risen to its greatest height fines frequently mingle, and lose by their in our own day. The singular and interest- union the distinctive features of their ing qualities of the Highland character have never been so carefully displayed, nor so
character. The population of this porhighly admired, as in the times in which we tion of the Scottish territory is computed live. Poetry has cheerfully emigrated to refresh her withered laurels in the north, to be about one-eighth of the whole counand romance has sought its appropriate ob- try. The physiognomy of the Highlands scurity and terrors in the gloomy caverns, is generally grand, rough, and deterring the trackless deserts, and the obsolete fero- to the native of more genial climes, city of the Scottish Highlands. The more humble tourist has feebly impressed upon but occasionally the traveller who exevery rock some memorandum of his tran- plores them, descends into a glen or valsitory visit, and has impregnated his labouring quarto with many anecdotes and tradi- ley, to which only a southern atmosphere tions long since told, and as long disbelieved. is wanting to impart the beauty of an There is not a recess in this wild and inter- attractive and lovely landscape. esting country, which has not been explored by some venturous traveller, and so much have all the arts of the south been " Here there is nothing tame or stagnant ; rendered subservient to the illustration of the mountains tower above each other in this region of mist, that there is hardly a frowning majesty, and the torrents ruske romantic spot in it, or a frowning precipice, with impetuosity along; and at every turn, or a rushing cataract, or'an antique castle, the eye is arrested by some material embieni or a gloomy cave, which has not been com- of resistless force and sublimity. Even tho memorated in song, or delineated in some sterility which is stamped on the more procrude specimen of the graphic art, such as minent parts of the scene, and which to the popular travels and other ephemeral works timid and luxurious traveller appears its are competent to supply.
ruling and repulsive characteristic, is not “ It is easy to account for all this, even without its influence in heightening the without referring to the sudden importance general effect-in stirring our sympathy for which the Highlands acquired when they the hapless beings to whose enterprise and became the special object of legislative at- toil it seems for ever to deny their approtention, and the natural avidity with which priate reward,—and who, disdainful of the those secluded regions were explored when temptations which luxury presents, and the they were first thrown open to the secure dependence which it inevitably creates, research of the wondering Lowlander. cling with ardour to the untamed freedom The habits and manners of the Highlanders and high and daring spirit which are written were of a chivalrou: and warlike cast; and on the frowning aspect of their native land. the story of their feuds and adventures was “ In many parts of the Highlands the yet fresh in the remembrance of their coun- mountains are so bleak and utterly barren, trymen. Their character and history form- that they derive their names from the colour of the naked rock which rises in bald and butes; in the patient endurance of hard., sullen austerity. In other parts the hills are clothed with heath, which in the season of ships they have never been excelled, and its flower gives them an appearance highly the pride of a rough, but unsophisticated picturesque. The valleys which intervene race, was glowingly alive to its superiorare called glens, or straths, according to the ity in these respects over the inhabitants magnitude of the stream by which they chance to be intersected. These streams,
of the plains. which abound in every quarter--with the inland lakes which occur in great beauty
« The day is not long past since Highland and variety- and the numerous arms of the Chieftains were known to value themselves sea which often stretch far into the country, not a little on their patience of fatigue, cold, impart to the Highlands every embellish- and hunger. Their pretensions, indeed, ment which scenery can derive from the have been sometimes answered with a element of water, in all its various and pic- sneer, and the merit which they boasted has turesque combinations.”
been despised as the result, not of choice,
but of necessity. It is impossible, however', Industry, agricultural or commercial, not to perceive how narrow and illiberal is has, in no age, been numbered among the much all the qualities on which individuals
the insulting sarcasm-or to forget how virtues of the Highlanders. Their towns and nations justly value themselves, are decan only aspire to the denomination of pendent on accident and fortune. We must
be satisfied in such cases with appreciating villages, and to manufacturing skill and the virtue without curiously exploring its energy they have, consequently, ever source. The grandeur of Rome might bebeen strangers. Even the cultivation of come equivocal, if we should insist on meathe soil, opposed as it has been by the it had its origin; and the freedom of En
suring it by the poverty and rapine in which natural barrenness of the country, and gland might lose much of its majestic and the influence of ancient institutions, imposing aspect, if we should trace it mi
nutely through the turbulence and tyranny has proceeded but slowly, and the princi- by which it has been alternately vindicated pal occupation of the Highlanders at the and assailed in the lapse of many ceniuspresent day consists in the breeding of ries.
Every one has heard of the spirit of cattle, for which they find a ready mar- clanship, which formed the most characterket in the Lowlands. Turf and unhewn istic feature of Highland manners down to rock supply the materials of their simple a very late period. The bond of union dwellings; in these they reside during
created by this singular institution was so
strong, that the duty of the members of the the winter months, but on the approach clan towards their chief, superseded all of warmer weather, repair to their sum- other obligations. To defend him, whoever
might be the assailant-to sacrifice life and mer huts, or shielings, in the mountains, fame for him, whatever might be the cause where they tend their herds, and occupy in which he had embarked-to despise all themselves, during the season, in pastoral
authority which he resisted—to know no
law of morals, nor perhaps of religion, avocations. Milk and its coarser prepa- which had not the sanction of his conduct rations constitute the basis of their diet; and example-to submit both mind and and the luxury of animal food is obtained body to his sacred and uncontrollable sway
--were the cardinal principles in the narrow only by the rough but inspiring labours education of every mountaineer, which he of the chace-labours in which this hardy durst not infringe but at the hazard of death and indefatigable race have ever de- and infamy:- This singular and apparently
terrific authority was in its origin strictly lighted, as affording the image of those patriarchal. The Highlanders were divided sterner and more destructive pursuits into numerous tribes, effectually separated which formed almost the sole occupation from each other, for all other purposes but
those of hostility, by the natural boundaries of their progenitors, and acquired for of mountains, rivers, and lakes, which inthem a fame which would be more ho- tersect the country in all directions. By the nourable were it less sanguinary.
simple theory of their domestic govern
ment, each tribe or clan formed but one The habits and occupations of the family, and the chief was the father of that Highlanders are favourable to the virtues farnily. His power over his children was attached to the character of a half-civi- unlimited, both in peace and war ;--their lized people. Fortitude is one, and not duty to him knew no bounds but their pow.
er of discharging it. As the fountain of their the least, of their distinguishing attri- blood, and the father of their race, he was