[Poor Hogg! we remember him well; not, indeed, where Wordsworth, in a brief but beautiful tribute to his memory, describes him, on the "Moorlands by the Yarrow," but in London, when he was made the lion of the time, and the Freemason's-hall (where hundreds assembled to eat and drink to his honour and their own enjoyment) echoed with high-sounding compliments and Scottish songs! — we remember him, too, in the social circle, cheerful, kindly, and good-humoured; the centre of attraction to bright eyes and smiling faces; some delighting in his originality, others amused by his gentle satire, and all entertained by his wit and humour — we remember much more than we have now time to record — we remember him its a man of natural and vigorous genius; and we have had all our reminiscences placed in sudden and startling array before us, by the melancholy information communicated by one of his nearest relatives and dearest friends — "That by his death, his widow, his only son, and four infant daughters, have been left wholly unprovided for."
It is true there is a farm worth thirty (not, as has been stated, fifty) pounds a-year, given by his Grace of Buccleuch to the family; but time must pass, and money be expended, before the earth will yield its fruits for the sustenance of the widow and the orphans. Sir Robert Peel (whose brief premiership was marked by so many instances of judicious patronage) intended, it is said, to have granted a pension of £100 a-year to James Hogg. Our correspondent states that "his friends are about to make application to the present Government to carry such intention into effect." We hope such an appeal will not be made in vain — we hope it will not — but meanwhile the widow and children may want. Hope is more tardy in yielding produce than the stubborn earth in bestowing fruit; and what is to become of these five helpless creatures in the mean time?
About five hundred gentlemen met together at the Freemasons' Tavern to see the Scottish poet — merely to see him, and hear him speak! — the dinner cost each of them either a guinea or five-and-twenty shillings (we forget which): so that the Londoners paid that day nearly six hundred pounds to see the Shepherd of Ettrick — the glowing and cheerful countenance — the keen, penetrating eye — the rousing laugh — the fresh, heathery look of the Scottish bard were appreciated. We would that those five hundred persons recalled that day as we have done, and then we have no doubt they would willingly bestow other six hundred pounds to enjoy a far more delicious treat — a benefit for the Ettrick Shepherd's family.
We insert the following interesting particulars relative to this extraordinary man; they have been supplied by the correspondent to whom we have referred.]
James Hogg — better known as the "Ettrick Shepherd," an appellation which he derived from his native valley, and the humble but interesting employment of his early years — was born on the 25th of January, 1772, in a cottage on the banks of the Ettrick, and within a short distance of the church of that parish. The poet's father was descended from a race of shepherds who had inhabited that sequestered district from time immemorial; they had originally been retainers of the Scotts of Oakwood, and, if tradition is to be credited, had accompanied the chieftains of that warlike race on many of their predatory excursions across the borders of Scotland. The family name was, as we have been told by himself, formerly pronounced Houg, — and not Hogg, which is a modern, and by no means a pleasing change, — and had its derivation in an old Danish word, Hecco, meaning an eagle. James, the second of four sons, was, when little more than an infant, cast adrift upon the world in consequence of some misfortunes which his father encountered in a farming speculation, into which he had heedlessly entered; but under what master the future poet commenced his career of servitude we have not been informed. Although early deprived of the guidance and council of his excellent parents, the honourable and upright principles which they had instilled into his mind suffered no check; on the contrary, they increased with his years, they grew with his growth, and they strengthened with his strength. To his mother, the Ettrick Shepherd was more indebted for much of his after-celebrity than the world will perhaps be inclined to allow; in this remarkable woman he found a mental nurse, capable of fostering his rising genius, and of cheering him on in his earliest aspirations after fame. She soon discovered that her shepherd-boy had something within him not to be found in the common herd of mankind; to bring that out was her early and, as the world has seen, her successful endeavour. Margaret Laidlaw, in any station of life, would have been considered a woman of no ordinary kind. Like her more remarkable son she was almost entirely self-educated; when in her twelfth or thirteenth year, she had the misfortune to lose her own mother, and, being the eldest of several children, the care of a father's family wholly devolved upon her, and that at a period of her life when the children of the Scottish peasantry usually enjoy the advantages which the parochial schools of their country so widely diffuse over their land, Margaret Laidlaw early felt her inferiority to her more favoured brothers and sisters, and, with a zeal highly laudable in one so young, determined to overcome the disadvantages under which she laboured. To accomplish this, on the Sabbath-day, her only day of rest, she would wander out upon the mountains, a solitary being, yet not alone; her Bible was her companion. Her zeal soon accomplished the object dearest to her heart, and supplied many of the defects in her imperfect education.
At this period, somewhere about the year 1740, the race of minstrels was not altogether extinct on the borders of Scotland, and from the recitations of one of those wanderers, an old man verging on his ninetieth year, Margaret Laidlaw stored her memory, a most retentive, one, with many thousand lines of the border ballads. To the knowledge of this aged individual, perhaps the last of his race, she was no unworthy successor; and from her lips Sir Walter Scott afterwards took down several of the finest ballads in the "Minstrelsy of the Scottish border." The cottage in which Margaret Laidlaw was born, and under the roof of which she passed the first thirty years of her life, is situated in one of the wildest and most sequestered glens in the south of Scotland: to those who have been accustomed to the luxuriant valleys and richer plains of the south, Phaup might well appear a region of desolation; at best it is but the nursing-place of the storm, where thick mists and thunder-clouds lord it over the surrounding mountains for the greater part of the year. During the long mouths of winter, little or no intercourse was to be had between the inhabitants of this dwelling in the wilderness and the more busy world: when we reflect upon such circumstances; is it to be wondered that the mind of Margaret Laidlaw, was early filled with all the superstitious notions which were then so prevalent. She lived, as it were, at the fountain-head of superstition, and had drunk deeply from its troubled waters; a dweller in the lonesome wilderness, she had heard, or imagined she had heard
Those airy tongues, which syllable men's names
On sands, and shores, and desert wildernesses.
She was a firm believer in the existence of those spiritual beings with which fancy had peopled every hill and dale, and every running stream in her native wilds; in her day the shepherd, while tending his flock, had seen in imagination that playful race from fairy land, dancing in the dewy dell beneath the light of the broad harvest moon; the Brownie was no unfrequent visiter at the cottage of the peasant as well as in the hall of the lordly proprietor; the shriek of the Water Kelpie had been heard it mid the rising storm, and the deceitful glare of the Will-o'-th'-Wisp had often allured the unsuspicious and homeless wanderer to an untimely grave. In after-years when Margaret Laidlaw became a mother, it was her practice to amuse her children, during the long nights of winter, with animated recitations from the border ballads: these she would deliver in a strain something between a chaunt and a song, or she would relate tales of fairy land or witchcraft, or might perhaps thrill the young hearts of her children by affecting accounts of the death of some unfortunate shepherd, who had perished amongst the snow when endeavouring to rescue his flock from the wreath under which they had been buried. But while she thus gave vent to her imagination, she was never forgetful of that which was of still greater importance, we mean the religious instruction of her children: she was in the daily habit of reading passages to them from the sacred volume, and those of a nature which she knew would not only interest, but would also improve the infant mind.
On her marriage to Robert Hogg, an event which did not take place before she had reached her thirtieth year, she went to reside with her husband, in a cottage still existing in the immediate vicinity of Ettrick church, and at a short distance from the river which bears that name: here the subject of our memoir was born, and here a few of the earliest years of his childhood were spent, among those scenes which his muse in after-years was to render yet more celebrated. Owing to the circumstances already related, James Hogg enjoyed even fewer advantages, as far as the parish-school was concerned, than had fallen to the lot of his worthy mother: during the whole course of his boyhood, we are told by himself, he only attended the school of his native parish for the short period of three or four months; and his old master, Beattie, when asked some questions regarding his pupil, denied that he had ever been under his tuition, so entirely had the circumstance escaped his memory. As a boy, James Hogg was remarkable among his early associates, more for his never-ending flow of buoyant spirits, than any marks of that commanding genius which, at a future period, delighted and surprised his countrymen; his love of truth was not to be shaken, and he would have scorned to tell anything even approaching to a falsehood. We have been informed by his brother William, that James, as a youth, was what is called in the language of his native valley, a soft, actionless boy; "actionless" or not, he, was, however, a leader in all the sports of his early compeers; and whenever any of them got into mischief, and run the risk of being punished, James would stand beside the accuser, and with great simplicity plead the cause of his companion, but if seized on himself for punishment he would become perfectly frantic, and use every exertion in his power to escape. When a boy at service, he tells us, that having scraped a few shillings together with which he purchased an old violin, on this instrument he practised during his leisure hours, and often stole an hour or two from his night's rest. At first, his fellow-servants listened to his rude attempts with indifference — afterwards they would occasionally lend an car, and in the end they even gratified the young musician by dancing to his strains.
Properly to understand the circumstances which first kindled up the poet's genius, and gave birth to the wonderful powers of his mind, a description of the scenery with which he was familiar in his early years, may with propriety be introduced here. He tells us in his "Mountain Bard," that when a child — and how true to nature is he when he says—
I thought the hills were sharp as knives,
And the braid lift lay whoomled on them;
I glowered me wonder at the wives
Wha' spak' o' either hills ayont them,
The river Ettrick has its source in a wild moorland country, and is hemmed in on all sides by dark and lonely mountains, among which it forces its way for several miles, when the valley begins to open, and the country to assume a more cheerful aspect; the mountains are less rugged in their appearance, and of a brighter green than those which frown over the source of the infant stream. On passing the church of Ettrick, which is sweetly situated on a gentle eminence, with its guardian hill in the back-ground, the river is joined by the Temma, Rankle-burn, and other minor streams; it then passes the mansion-house of the Lords of Napier, descendants of the celebrated discoverer of the logarithms, and the ruins of Tushilaw castle, and about twelve miles farther down it joins its sister stream, the Yarrow; about six miles below this, having passed the town of Selkirk, it is lost in time broader waters of the Tweed, in the vicinity of Abbotsford.
The Yarrow owes its name to a Celtic word, signifying "the brawling stream," a term most appropriate when applied to this river, as it is rarely for a moment at rest from the time it leaves its parent lake, until it joins the Ettrick at Bowhill. The scenery near this lordly mansion of the Buccleuchs, is picturesque in the highest degree. This princely abode, for it well may be called so, stands on a kind of peninsula, formed by the meeting of the waters; the mountains overlooking time Yarrow rise to no great height, but their appearance is greatly enhanced by the tasteful plantations which adorn their sides, and clothe some of them to their utmost tops. In the lower parts of the valley the Yarrow may at times be seen bounding in gladness, (if aught inanimate can feel that sensation), over its rocky bed, at times visible, at others hidden from our view; but it will ever be reminding its of its vicinity; like a spoiled child, it appears unwilling to be forgotten even for a moment, but must continually be forcing itself upon our notice — if not present to our sight, we can at least hear its brawling at no great distance. On ascending the stream, we reach the humble cottage in which the interesting but ill-fated Mungo Park was born, and a short way farther on we pass
Where Newark's stately tower
Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower.
Newark is no longer the scene of feudal hospitality, as in the days of the last minstrel, but now a mouldering ruin — a time-worn monument of years long departed, and of pride and pomp, which has had its end. The situation of this ruin is exceeding beautiful, proudly standing on a precipitous bank overhanging the river, and by its presence, setting aside every recollection of the past, adding much to the beauty of the surrounding landscape. Here Sir Walter Scott lays the scene of the "Lay of the Last Minstrel;'' but those halls which once rung to the song of the wandering bard, are cold, silent, and deserted; the fire which burned so merrily in the hall has long been extinguished, and Time, the great destroyer of man, and the most durable of his works, has here set his seal; and although this hoary pile may for a course of time brave the storms of winter and the heat of summer, it shall never more raise its head, as in the days of other years, when its courts resounded to the warrior's shout, or echoed back the song of the minstrel.
A few miles above the ruins of Newark Castle, the scenery on the banks of the river undergoes an entire change, and a tree is an object for which we look almost in vain; the character of the scenery bears a strong resemblance to that on the banks of the Ettrick, only the valley of the Yarrow is a little narrower, and the mountains of a darker hue. The Yarrow has its source in St. Mary's Loch, on whose placid bosom at times, in the words of a truly great poet, the swan may be seen "to float double, swan and Shadow;" but the visits of this majestic bird are, like those of angels, "few and far between."
St. Mary's is hemmed in on all sides by lofty mountains: well may the poet exclaim,
Abrupt and sheer the mountains sink
At once upon the level brink,
And just a trace of silver sand
Marks where the water meets the land.
Bourhope Law seems to have been born of the waters, and to have sprung from the deep recesses of the lake, rising as it does in the most abrupt, yet picturesque manner, from its margin; no appearance of cultivation, unless we except a few solitary patches, breaks in upon the solitude of the scene—
There's nothing left to fancy's guess,
You see that all is loneliness.
When the surface of the water is unruffled by the breathings of the summer's eve, the surrounding mountains are beautifully shadowed forth in a manner which art cannot imitate, and to which even the pencil of a Turner could not do justice. The ruins of St. Mary's Chapel no longer give an interest to the landscape, but the tower of Dryhope still remains, recalling us to the days of Mary Scott, the celebrated Flower-of Yarrow. The Lochs of the Lows and St. Mary's are almost one and the same sheet of water, being separated only by a very narrow strip of land, and the description which serves for the one may well be applied to the other. Should curiosity lead the traveller further from the abodes of men into the solitary wilderness, among the dark mountains which frown over the western shores of this lake, he will be gratified by a view of the Gray Mare's Tail roaring and foaming over a terrific precipice of three hundred feet in height, and about a mile above this fall we come upon the dark Loch Skene, lying in a scene of gloomy desolation and grandeur, unequalled, we believe, by anything of the same nature in the highlands of Scotland. A long course of years has elapsed since this country, whose scenery we have endeavoured to describe, was covered with a dense forest, and although few vestiges of it now remain, it is still known as the forest of Ettrick. In olden times, when Scotland was an independent kingdom, with a sovereign and a court of her own, Ettrick forest was the hunting domain of royalty, and here the court frequently assembled to enjoy the heart-stirring amusement of hunting the wild deer with horn and hound. In the words of the ballad we may say, that
Ettricke foreste is the fairest foreste
That evir man saw wi' his e'e;
There's the dae, the rae, the hart, the hynde,
And of wild bestis grete plentie.
But those times are long passed, and although tradition may still point out such localities as the Hart's Loup, or the Cleuch of the Buck, there is not at this time a single deer to be seen on the forest mountains. Years have rolled on, and many changes have taken place, since Ettrick and Yarrow heard the bugle of royalty echo along the shores of St. Mary, or among the "dowie dens o' Yarrow;" the hart no longer roams in uncontrolled freedom, a glorious creature full of life and beauty, on the heath-clad mountains of Ettrick — he no longer hounds away, tossing his spreading antlers aloft in mockery of his pursuers — but a scene of a more pleasing nature opens on our view; royalty, and the freaks of royalty, are only remembered in those wilds as among the things which once had a being, and the race who now inhabit those sequestered glens, if not so warlike, are certainly more independent, and, we may add, far more happy than their forefathers. The shepherds who now dwell in those valleys are generally men highly intelligent, of great simplicity of manners, and of great goodness of heart; having had but little intercourse with the more busy world, they live a virtuous, a contented, and a happy life, and are at all times hospitable and kind to strangers. In such a country, and among such a people, it was the fortune — we may say the good fortune — of the Ettrick Shepherd to be born, and to live for the first forty years of his life.
At what time the mountain bard first began his poetical life we cannot say, but we have reason to know that it was at an early period in his history; during the time of his boyish servitude, when visiting the paternal roof, his worthy mother would often say, "Jamie, my man, gang ben the house, and mak me a sang:" — how he succeeded in these attempts we have not heard, nor are we aware that any of his verses composed at this early period are now extant. While the youthful poet was watching his flocks on the mountains, he had opportunities of viewing nature unknown to the dweller in the city; from her workings in his native glens he drank deeply from the fountain of inspiration in the ever-varying aspect of the clouds — from the bright and beautiful sky during the serenity of a summer's twilight, or from the first rays of the morning's sun, bringing gladness to a benighted world, the Ettrick Shepherd had stored his imagination, while yet in the years of his servitude, with thoughts which were to burst forth in glorious creations of a soul filled with poetry.
For the first twenty years of his life James Hogg enjoyed but few opportunities of cultivating his mind, his library consisting only of a few odd numbers of the "Scots Magazine," with "Harvey's Meditations," and that sweet pastoral drama the "Gentle Shepherd," this dramatic poem he could repeat when a boy from beginning to end, without missing a single word, and as for his Bible, he knew its every page. The Psalms of David, those splendid creations of the inspired writer, were so familiar to his mind, that when attending church he seldom required to look upon a book, but his voice was ever heard among the loudest, and not the least musical of the rural worshippers; at one time he even acted its precentor, or clerk, in the parish church of his native Ettrick. When about his twentieth year, a fortunate change took place in his circumstances, on his becoming shepherd to Mr. Laidlaw at Blackhouse; under the roof of this most respectable man he was received, not as a servant, but rather as a suit. Mr. Laidlaw, considering the times in which he lived, and the situation in which he was placed, was in possession of a very respectable library, and to this the Shepherd at all times had free access; here his reading may be said to have had its commencement. In the eldest son of his master the Ettrick Shepherd found a friend and a companion, and a worshipper of nature capable of understanding and appreciating his genius. Young Laidlaw discovered, under the unpretending simplicity of his companion, a mind of great originality, and capable of extraordinary things; he admired him to enthusiasm, roused him to a sense of his importance, and cheered him on in his poetical efforts. It gave Laidlaw but little concern who might look with an eye of suspicion on the talents of his friend, his judgment once formed was not to be shaken by the doubts of others, and his judgment was correct.
The first the that Mr. Hogg ever met his great patron, Sir Walter Scott, was, we are told by Lockhart, in the "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," while the Shepherd resided at Blackhouse. Hogg himself says that their introduction took place in Ettrick, but the locality is of little consequence. At this the Sir Walter, accompanied by his friend, the author of the ''Scenes of Infancy," was in one of his exploring rides through Ettrick Forest, collecting materials for the "Minstrelsy:" the account which the Shepherd gives its of this interview is, that he had been out upon the hills, engaged in some rural occupation, when one of the servant lasses came running out, and told him that he 'bud come hame as fast as ever he could, for Willie Laidlaw, wi' twa gentlemen, were wanting to speak to him.'" The Shepherd soon obeyed the summons, and on his arrival had the pleasure of being introduced to Sir Walter, then Mr. Scott. Both Laidlaw and Hogg entered warmly into Sir Walter's plans, and were able to render him very important assistance in his search. At this meeting some of the Shepherds own verses were read, of which Sir Walter was pleased to speak favourably. Approval, coming from such a quarter, went a great way in converting many an infidel among the Shepherd's early associates, who henceforth became believers in his powers, and saw beauty in productions which they had previously condemned. Having spent a few hours with the Shepherd, Sir Walter declared that he had never met a man of more originality of genius, and from this time became one of his warmest friends and kindest patrons. From his outset in the paths of literature, Hogg never felt anything like doubt as to his ultimate success, nor did he allow such feelings to retard his onward course to fame; he early felt in his soul those strong workings of the spirit which told him that neither his works nor his name should go down to oblivion, or be unrecorded in the annals of literature. He was aware of his own strength, and, relying upon that, he overcame: he might have exclaimed, in the words of a mighty conqueror, "I came, I saw, and I overcame." The approbation of Sir Walter Scott was a triumph for which he and his friend Laidlaw had scarcely dared to hope; all that was wanting was a little mechanical skill, and to accomplish this, he applied to his beloved art in a manner so enthusiastic, that difficulties soon vanished from his path, and the rugged way which leads to fame became smoother and smoother as he journeyed onward.
The Shepherd's first appearance as an author was about the latter end of the last century; he had been sent, he tells us, to Edinburgh, in charge of a flock of his master's sheep, and arriving a few days too early for the market, hired a small room in the suburbs of the city, where he wrote out a few, and these, we believe, not the best of his compositions, but such as his memory furnished on the spur of the moment. On leaving town, they were left in the hands of an obscure printer, and were heard nothing more of, by the Shepherd, until a few copies were sent out to him at Blackhouse. We can conceive the poet's feelings on the occasion; he was now the author of a printed volume, however humble, and a commencement had been made in his literary career. From this time his fame began to extend, slowly, we must allow, at first, but, like the acorn cast into the earth, the tree, although at first but a feeble plant, was, in the course of time, to grow up a goodly tree, spreading its branches far and wide.
The Shepherd's next attempt in the field of literature was his "Mountain Bard." This volume entitled him to take a place among the poets of his country: it is true that the ground which he now occupied had formerly been trodden by the minstrels of the border, but in this volume he has proved himself no unworthy successor to their fame. It is impossible to read the "Mountain Bard" without discovering many beauties; although at times they may appear with rather an ungainly exterior, still the breathings of poetry are there, and breathings such as then spoke of better things and more extended fame. Who can open this volume and not discover the dawnings of that genius which afterwards called into existence the pure and spotless "Kilmeny?"
In the year which followed the publication of his "Mountain Bard," the Shepherd having had occasion to visit Edinburgh, and when again on his return to the country, was accidentally introduced to a gentleman, a fellow-traveller in the coach, who afterwards became one of his zealous supporters, as he ever was one of his most enthusiastic admirers, and, by a strange chain in the course of events, in time his brother-in-law. A notice of that meeting, in a sketch like the present, cannot be without its value the gentleman to whom we allude was the Rev. James Gray, at that time one of the masters in the high School of Edinburgh, a man of letters himself, and an admirer of all who trod in the same path. He was then on his road to Dumfriesshire, with the intention of visiting his father-in-law, Mr. Phillips, who, in after-years, was connected with the poet by the same endearing relationship. Among his fellow-passengers, Mr. Gray found one whose appearance, broad Scottish dialect, simple yet pleasing manners, bespoke the respectable, and happy farmer, for in that light did he look upon his companion. The road over which they were travelling runs through the midst of that pastoral range of mountains among whose most unfrequented solitudes streams such as the Tweed and the Clyde, the Annan and the Ettrick, arise. These rivers, it is well known, are famed in Scottish song, connected as they are with many a traditionary tale, and with deeds of daring performed in days now long past and gone. The conversation of the party turning upon the scenery of the country, and the tales of former days, and the name of Ettrick having been frequently mentioned. Mr. Gray asked his farmer-looking companion if he had ever seen the Ettrick Shepherd? "What, an a be he?" as the answer of the kind-hearted poet, in the homely dialect of his own native mountains. We need hardly say that Mr. Gray was gratified in no common manner by this unexpected but to him most welcome meeting, or how warmly he pressed the Shepherd to visit him on his return to Edinburgh. On their parting, the Shepherd gave his newly-made friend, Mr. Gray, a copy of his "Mountain Bard." This volume was afterwards left with old Mr. Phillips, who was so much pleased with its contents, that he read them over and over, and retained the hook in his possession as long as one leaf of it hung to another, never dreaming at that time that the mountain bard himself should become his son-in-law. On the Shepherd's first visit to Edinburgh after this meeting he found his future bride residing with her relative Mr. Gray; she was accompanied by a cousin, who, to much beauty, had the prospect, which was eventually realised, of inheriting a considerable fortune. After dinner, when the young ladies retired to the drawing-room, the Shepherd was asked what he thought of Miss Susan P—? He answered, "Margaret's the lass for me." The worthy Shepherd was more pleased with the cheerful smile, the dark hair, and the black eyes of his own Margaret, than with the more courtly manners and brighter prospects of her wealthier cousin, and he never afterwards had reason to repent of the preference which he then showed.
It was about the year 1810, we believe, that Mr. Hogg began to rely upon his mental powers for his future support. Having for a time bid farewell to his native mountains, he came to reside in Edinburgh, and during the winter of that year commenced his "Spy," rather a singular undertaking for a simple shepherd from the wilds of Ettrick forest. This work consisted chiefly of tales in prose and verse, with an occasional essay on subjects of general or of local interest; in his endeavours as a periodical writer he had little assistance, relying chiefly upon Iris own invention for the success of his work, unless we except a few papers written by his most excellent friend, Mr. John Grieve, Mr. and Mrs. Gray, with Professor Gillespie of St. Andrews, and a few others. The "Spy," though now long forgotten, contained several sketches of Border manners, which afterwards became so popular when published in his "Winter Evening Tales." The "Spy" continued to languish on throughout its first year, but whether the shepherd's pocket derived anything like an adequate remuneration for his time and trouble we cannot say; we have reason to believe that it merely afforded the means of a scanty subsistence. Greater fame was now in store for the Mountain Bard; his "Queen's Wake," that beautiful poem on which his reputation as a poet must rest, and through which his name will go down to posterity, was in the press, and from. the day on which the "Wake" made her appearance, the poet's right to take his place among the most eminent literary men of his age was as undoubted as it was undisputed. Many of the finest ballads in the "Wake" had been in the Shepherd's possession for years; a happy thought having struck him that, by connecting them in the form in which they now appear, a volume of some interest might be formed — the "Queen's Wake" was the happy and the successful result of this idea. It is not generally known, except among the Shepherd's more intimate friends, that the bards who sing before the young and lovely Queen were pictures drawn from life, and intended to represent some one or other of the poet's more valued companions. The writer of this very imperfect sketch of his beloved friend has a copy of the "Wake" in his possession, in which the Shepherd has written, with his own hand, the names of those individuals whose characters he has sketched; and in every instance, as far as our personal knowledge goes, he has drawn a most faithful and a must correct picture. — But we must conclude for the present. In our next Number we will continue our narrative, when we will add a few more anecdotes, with some interesting extracts from letters now in our possession written by the Ettrick Shepherd....
When we study the lives of men eminent for their talents, we find but few names more remarkable than that of this child of genius, whose eventful history we have been considering. Born and educated under circumstances the most adverse to the development of those extraordinary powers which nature had planted in his breast, by the influence of genius alone, the Ettrick Shepherd has achieved a triumph to which the most distinguished in the land might feel a justifiable pride in laying claim. He has written his name on enduring tablets in the literary annals of his country, and that in characters which will convey it to posterity. His native land may well be proud when acknowledging such a son; and the shepherds of his own Ettrick feel something more than mere pleasure when they point to the cottage in which the poet was horn, under whose humble roof-tree the dawn of his remarkable life had its commencement, or when they exclaim, "There runs the stream on whose sunny banks he often wandered, and in whose praise he ever delighted to sing." The waters of the Ettrick may glisten under the rays of the summer's sun, with the same beauty that first kindled up the imagination of the youthful poet; the slopes of her mountains may be clothed with the same fresh verdure; the heather-bell, the mountain-daisy, and the primrose may yield their wonted fragrance, when spring calls on the slumbering energies of Nature; — but her voice can never recall from their resting-place those eminent individuals who have lately passed from the stage of time. During the last few years the hand of death has struck down some of the must distinguished men of our age. At the commencement of the year whose close we so lately witnessed, we little thought that, ere its termination, to the name of Scott we should have to add those of Coleridge and Hogg. The lives of such men have not been spent. in vain, nor shall their memories perish with the age in which they lived. While the vulgar gaze with admiration on the glittering equipage of nobility, and envy its owner the consequence which it confers, they ought to remember that there is a nobility of a higher order, which neither wealth nor power can bestow; — we allude to that nobility of the soul — a gift which nature confers, and only upon a favoured few; we know that
A king can make a belted knight,
A duke, a lord, an' a' that—
but could the sovereign, when bestowing such honours, confer even a single ray of genius, we might well covet from him the possession of such a prerogative. Who would have heard of Byron's name had that Byron not been the author of "Childe Harold?" — would that of Bacon have reached the present age had its owner not been eminent in the paths of science? On the other hand, the lordly proprietor of Charlecote Park has obtained a notoriety which few will envy him; while the persecuted will be honoured in every age and in every country where genius is held in estimation, the name of the persecutor of Shakspeare will be held in lasting scorn. In every country, in the lapse of time, mere outward nobility has given way to that which dwells within; when the name of the possessor of the former is thought of no longer, that of the latter is remembered by a grateful posterity, and his works are read with feelings of admiration and delight. We have only to glance into the page of history, when we shall find ample confirmation of the truth of our assertion in the orators, the sculptors, the historians, and the poets of ancient Greece and Rome, we find the most enduring monuments of the former power and extended dominion of those mighty empires. It is not to the age alone in which he lives that the poet looks for all celebrity; his mental eye pierces the dark clouds which obscure futurity, and there his hopes rest; from posterity he expects a wider fame and more enduring celebrity. That such feelings had a place in the breast of the Ettrick Shepherd we have every reason to believe; will that his longing aspirations after fame will meet with their reward we cannot for a moment doubt; but will posterity ever do too much justice to the unaffected kindness of his heart, or to the benevolence of his disposition?
In our number for February, we endeavoured to trace the progress of the poet's genius from its early dawn, in the nameless shepherd-boy, until the appearance of the "Queen's Wake" — the most remarkable of all his writings. We have now much pleasure in returning to the subject which we then left unfinished.
The circumstance which gave birth to the "Witch of Fyfe," — with the exception of "Kilmeny," perhaps the most imaginative of all the poet's ballads — was this, and we give the anecdote as we heard it from his own lips. It was the production of a forenoon, having been written between the hours of breakfast and dinner. He was engaged on that day to meet a party at the lodgings of his friend, Robert Jamieson, better known as Scandinavian Jamieson, and being anxious to carry something in his pocket composed in imitation of the old ballads of the North to amuse his friends, he set to work and finished his "Witch of Fyfe;" and with what success he accomplished this self-imposed task we need not say. Can anything be more poetical than the following lines?
The second nycht quahn the new moon set,
O'er the roaring sea we flew:
The cockle-shell out trusty bark.
And our sailis of the green sea rue.
And the cauld windis blew, and the fire flauchtes flew,
And the sea ran to the sky:
And the thunder it growlit, and the sea dogs howlit,
As we gaed scourying bye.
And aye we mounted the sea-green hills,
Quhill we bruishit through the clouds of the heaven.
Than vous it downright like the stern-shot light
Fra' the liftis blue casement driven.
But our tailest stood and our bark was good,
And sae pang was our pearily prowe,
Quhan we could na' speil the brow of the wavis,
We needilit them thro' belowe.
As fast as the hail, as fast as the gale,
As fast as the midnicht leme,
We berit the brieste of the bursting Swale
Or stuffite i' the flotying faem.
In imagination, we have oft accompanied this famous Witch in her wanderings over many lands; with her we have sailed upon the stormy sea when the waves were running mountains high, and have heard the roaring of the tempest; we have seen the flash bursting from the dark cloud, casting a momentary glare upon the disturbed ocean; we have listened to the rolling thunder, and have heard the mournful howl of the sea-dog, but above all we have been charmed with the melody of the mermaid. With the old husband we have watched in Maisry's cot, and seen the frightful hags come in; we have heard the word which the poet durst not utter, and seen, with a trembling heart, the witches' departure, and have even dared to follow them in their flight through the regions of upper air, and after our wandering over the snows of eternity, we have drunk of the Bishop's wine,
Quhill our een they closit, and our voice grew low,
And our tongue wald hardly gang.
We have stood on the distant shores of Norway when all the genii of the North were keeping high holiday. We have witnessed the power of the Witch water in converting frightful hags into young and blooming girls — studies for a West, a Reynolds, a Canova, or a Chantrey; — and we have felt for the poor old husband, when about to forfeit his life for his love of the "bluid-red wine." We have watched his look of agony when bound to the stake the burning brand has been applied to the faggots, and the pile has been in a blaze; and have rejoiced in the timely arrival of the messenger from the shores of Fyfe. We have almost heard the words which were whispered into his ear, — at least, we have witnessed their effect. The strong cords with which the old man was bound have snapped asunder, and we have seen him triumphantly rise above ascending flames, mounting into the clear blue sky; — and his long and his loud guffaw has come upon our ear while he was journeying away to his distant home on the far-off shores of Fyfe. This, and more than this, have we witnessed when reading creations of the poet's fancy, — such as the "Witch of Fyfe," the "Gude Grey Catte," or "Bonny Kilmeny."
Bonny Kilmeny ga'ed up the glen;
But it was na to meet Dunena's men
Nor the rosy monk of the isle to see;—
For Kilmeny was pure a pure could be.
It was only to hear the yorlin sing
And pu' the cress-flower round the spring
The scarlet hypp and the hyndberrye,
And the nut that hangs frae the hazel-tree,—
For Kilmeny was pore as pure could be.
What a beautiful picture is this of a virtuous and a lovely girl! low exquisite in its colourings, and how delightfully they blend one into the other; and with what a masterly hand the picture is finished!
It is not our intention to follow our author through all his subsequent literary career, appearing as he frequently did at the bar of public opinion, but never, perhaps, with the same distinguished success which attended the appearance of the "Queen's Wake." We could, however, point out many individual passages in the Shepherd's writings, where his muse has spread her wings, soaring into the region of song, attaining as lofty an elevation as she ever reached when pouring forth the happiest thoughts which adorn the pages of the "Wake." This beautiful offspring of his imagination came meteor-like across the literary firmament; — but not like the meteor, whose momentary blaze vanishes amid the darkness of night, was she destined to pass from our sight; like some bright and beautiful planet she appears above the horizon — but no like the planet with a borrowed lustre, but with a lustre of her own.
"The Pilgrims of the Sun," of which we will take but a brief glance, was a subject well suited to the fancy of the Ettrick Shepherd; he is always happy when he wanders into fairy land, or, like his heroine and her celestial guide, visits other worlds and other systems. His glowing description of the erratic wanderings of a comet, in this poem, would do no discredit to the genius of a Milton; and had its author never written another line, this passage alone would entitle him to rank high among the poets of the present age. On the return of his fair heroine, Mary Lee, to the green woods of Bowhill, how delightfully the poet brings the scene before us, in the following lines:—
The stars were up, the valley steeped in dew,
The laneful bat in silent circles flew;
No sound was heard, except the lonely rail
Harping his ordinal adown the dale;
And soft and low upon the breezes light
The rush of Ettrick breathed along the night.
Many recollections rise on our mind after reading such lines; the gloom of winter vanishes, and we stand once more with the poet on the banks of the Ettrick in the stillness of a summer's eve; the lower parts of the valley are obscured by a thin mist, but the outlines of the mountains stand out in all their beauty against the evening sky; all above is bright and beautiful; the sky gradually reveals a countless multitude of stars, while in the west we still trace some faint pencillings of a day which has departed. No sounds break in upon our solitude, but those to which the poet so finely alludes: what an idea is that, of the river breathing along the night! — such a thought could only spring up and come to maturity in a soil where nature has scattered the seeds of poetry, and that with no sparing hand.
In the "Mador of the Moor," Mr. Hogg has not been so successful: this poem was a task imposed upon him while on a visit to Kinnaird House, by his ingenious friend Mr. Izett, and he seems to have felt it in that light. In his dedication to his friend Mr. Grieve, he pays the deserved tribute of a heart overflowing with gratitude to one who was his friend—
When trouble pressed and friends were few,
And God and angels only knew.—
In this excellent man, when the Shepherd was just coming into notice, he found one who was ever ready to assist him with his purse, and who would not allow him to want for anything.
In the amiable mother of the present Duke of Buccleuch, Mr. Hogg found a kind friend — one who took a deep interest in his welfare, and to whom, he was indebted for many important favours: through her friendship he obtained the small farm of Altrive, which was his home during the following years of his life. — Although this gift was but of little value when considered in a pecuniary sense, the boon was still of great importance to Mr. Hogg, placing him as it did beyond the reach of want, and binding him more closely and by ties more endearing to his native forest — and to the scenes on which his fancy delighted to dwell, ere he was conscious of the beauties which nature had scattered around, or the influence which they were yet to exert over the powers of his mind. A more acceptable gift could hardly have been thought of than that of Altrive, and the manner in which it was conferred was highly gratifying to the feelings of the poet. The Duke, in his letter to Mr. Hogg on the occasion says, or in words to the same effect, "that in granting so small a favour he was merely obeying a wish often expressed by his late Duchess, that she had long been anxious that such a home should be provided for the Shepherd; that he, the Duke, had much satisfaction in fulfilling the wish of one so dear." We are particular in stating these facts, having recently read a newspaper paragraph calculated to injure the widow and fatherless children of the Shepherd.
It is absurd, in this instance, to speak of the generosity of the present Noble Duke to Mr. Hogg; it is our wish to give honour to whom honour is due; we must not deprive the dead of the honour of such an action, for to the dead it belongs, and not to the living — to the mother, and not to the son. When Mr. Hogg went to reside at Altrive, the cottage was one of the very worst description; this he soon remedied by building a part of the present house, and to this he afterwards made considerable additions, and that at his own expense, and not at the expense of another. The value of Altrive, the cottage not included, will not exceed £30 per annum; the shepherd never held a ninety-nine years' lease of the farm, but such a lease we will allow was granted for the house, and a quarter of an acre of land. But this favour was only conferred within the last three years, and we will now inform our readers for what purpose such a favour was bestowed; merely for the purpose of securing an additional vote in the county, on the passing of the Reform Bill, when it was found the Shepherd was unqualified to exercise the rights of a voter, without being in possession of such a document. The Duke of Buccleuch, or any of his successors, could deprive the poet's family of the farm, but not the cottage, whenever it might suit their fancy; from the generosity of this noble family, and in particular from the present popular Duke, we have no reason to dread such an event. From the year 1816 the Shepherd resided principally in Yarrow, and his visits to Edinburgh from that period were neither frequent nor long continued; his time was divided chiefly between his literary pursuits and his favourite county amusements, to the exercise of which the mountains and the rivers of Ettrick and Yarrow gave ample scope; but of these we shall have occasion to speak at some length in another portion of our narrative.
In 1820 a change took place in Mr. Hogg's prospects, which contributed in no slight degree to the happiness of his after-life — we allude to his marriage. In Miss Margaret Phillips he found a companion worthy of his warmest affection — one upon whose good sense he could always rely; and when he acted up to her wishes, as he did in almost every instance, he never, as we have often heard him declare, had reason to repent. In a letter addressed to a friend, written when on the eve of his marriage, he says, — "I am going into Dumfriesshire, and of course return to the forest a Benedick." On his arrival at Altrive with his bride, his father, who was then alive, an old man in his ninety-second year, met the bridal party at some short distance from the poet's cottage, and had the pleasure of conducting (at the request of his son ) his daughter-in-law to her future home; and a proud old man he was upon the occasion, boasting to his friends that his, son Jamie had brought home a bra' lady for his wife, and not forgetting to add, that she was unco kind to him.
In the summer of 1821 the farm of Mount Benger, being without a tenant, was offered to Mr. Hogg by the trustees of the Duke of Buccleuch, who was then in his minority: this was a most disastrous speculation, as the sequel proved, involving the poet in difficulties at his very outset, and ending in ruin, in as far as his worldly substance was concerned; and any little benefit which he and his family had derived from the liberality of his kind friends the Into Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch was now more than counterbalanced by the ruin which this farm brought upon him and his. In the course of a nine years' lease he sunk upwards of £2000 upon this profitless spot, all of which he had gained by his genius; had this money been laid out at interest, it would have now more than doubled the value of Altrive, and instead of his widow and orphan children having been thrown pennyless on the world, they would have been, if not in affluence, at least beyond the reach of want. When in an evil hour he was induced to become tenant of Mount Benger, consequences so disastrous to the poet's fortunes could not have been foreseen; nor were the days of darkness at that period even dreamt of which soon overshadowed the land, involving many a once happy family in irretrievable ruin in the pastoral districts of Scotland, and among the rest the subject of the present memoir. So far from ruin having been anticipated, it was considered that a favour had been conferred when a lease of Mount Benger was given to the Shepherd. At first he supposed the risk more than enough for him, and hesitated for some the about accepting the offer; he was however urged to do so, by those on whose opinions in such matters he considered he had every reason to place the most undoubted reliance, and under their guidance he became tenant of Mount Benger.
Shortly after Mr. Hogg's name was enrolled among the forest tenantry, having had occasion to visit Edinburgh, we recollect strolling along Princes-street with him hanging upon our arm, when we had the good fortune to meet Sir Walter Scott. We shall not soon forget the beautiful tribute which that mighty master then paid to the genius of his friend. After the usual salutations, Sir Walter said, "I have to congratulate you, Mr. Hogg, on your becoming tenant of Mount Benger."
"Oh! Sir Walter," was the Shepherd's reply," I have to thank you, Sir Walter, for your good offices in that matter."
"No, Sir!" was the answer of the Author of "Waverley," "you have to thank your own genius, not my interest."
Years have passed on since we listened to this brief but interesting conversation; but the impression which it made on our memory will not soon be erased. There is a charm in every word that falls from the lips of such men, which gives an interest even to the most common occurrences of their lives, and, with a talismanic power, converts the very dross of their existence into fine gold.
Professor Wilson's intimacy with Hogg had its commencement shortly after the appearance of the "Isle of Palms," when the Shepherd wrote a flaming review of that poem in an Edinburgh periodical; being exceedingly anxious to meet its author, and having tried for the space of six months to get introduced to him, but in vain, "All that I could learn of him," writes the Shepherd, "was, that he was a man from the mountains of Wales, with hair like eagle's feathers, and units like bird's claws; a red heard, and an uncommon degree of wildness in his looks. Having no other shift; I sat down and wrote him a note, telling him that I wished much to see him, and if he wanted to see he might come and dine with me at my lodgings in the road of Gabriel, at four. He accepted the invitation, and dined with Grieve and me; when I found him so much a man according to my own heart, that for many years we were seldom twenty-four hours asunder when in town." Nothing ever occurred to interrupt this friendship of which the Shepherd speaks.
In one of the Professor's fishing rambles About this the, he spent a few days with his friend at Altrive. We have often heard Mr. Hogg speak of this visit, and boast with no little glee of having beat Wilson in one of these fishing excursions up Douglas-burn. The morning of this eventful day having dawned with such a breeze and such a sky as the true followers of old Izaak Walton delight in, we almost think we hear the words of the Shepherd when he rouses Wilson from his morning slumbers.
"Get up, get up, Wilson," are his words; "a better day for fishing ye never saw. I'll gi'e ye ony odds ye like that I'll beat you the day — what do you say to that, man?"
"Done, James; done," exclaims the Professor; "two jugs of toddy to one, if ye like, to be paid the next the we meet at Ambrose's."
The bet was accepted. "But here comes the lass," says the Shepherd, "wi' the breakfast-tray. Good morning to ye," are his kindly words; "what are ye gaun to let my freen' an' me hae for our breakfast this morning, for Mr. Wilson's a hungry man, I'll warrant?"
"I hae boiled the best mutton ham in a' the house," was Peggy's answer; "and what's mair, I'll gi'e ye the head and shoulders o' that bonny salmon ye caught in the Piper's pool yesterday, wi' some flour scoons, and plenty o' laif bread, wi' as mony fresh eggs as ever ye like; and I'm sure if we use ony thing mair in a' the house that your, freen' wad like he's welcome to't."
The breakfast was soon on the table, and Peggy's good things having been done ample justice to, off start the two fishers. The Shepherd, arrayed in his sky-blue fishing-jacket, shouldering his two-pieced Ritchie, the Professor in his dark-green, with a splendid four-pieced Finn, a shining reel with its tapering line, at the end of which dangles one of tine Professor's celebrated flies, now known by his name, with a pair of red and black hackles.
"What are you intending to make of that rope at the end of your fishing-rod, with those eagle-wings tied to it?" bawls Wilson; "you don't intend to fish for sharks in Douglas-burn, to-day, Hogg, do you?"
"Joost haud yer tongue, Wilson; my eagle-wings wull beat your midges ony day — ye'll be gaun to fish for minnows. I's warrant ye'll find plenty o' them in Douglas-burn."
Their bantering over, the Shepherd yielded up the first of the water to his friend — a very friendly turn, as Professor Gillespie, of St. Andrew's, well knows. The day was most propitious, affording ample sport to both the poets. On their return to Altrive, it was found that they had only killed sixteen dozen trouts, of which number the Professor's basket contained eleven dozen; however, when they came to be weighed, the Shepherd's five dozen turned the scales against the larger number of the Professor, which decided the bet in favour of the former. The Professor was so much knocked up with this expedition that he was glad to fight shy after dinner, and steal off to bed even before the second tumbler was discussed; leaving the Shepherd and his friend Wattie Brydon to enjoy themselves for the rest of the evening.
We recollect reading a very amusing letter from the Professor to his friend the Shepherd, in which he tells him that he had just returned from the Highlands, where he and Mrs. Wilson had travelled upwards of three hundred miles, and that on foot. "Is not the latter immortalized," are his words. He then goes on to make some amusing remarks on his "Isle of Palms," with some witty sayings on the propriety of a cross between a Yarrow tup and a Rydal doe. While in the highlands, in one day he had killed nineteen dozen and a half of trouts, and had nearly caught a red deer by the tail. He says the Gael were astonished at his exploits, as we can well believe they would. "I am to be in Moffat," he adds, on a day which he named, "where I will expect to see you, when we can either coach it or walk it to Ellay. Remember, if you don't come, I will lick you the next time we meet; and what's more, I'll fish up Douglas-burn before you." The Shepherd, more afraid of the former threat, we believe, than he was of the latter, made his appearance at the trysting-place, when they either coached it or walked it to Ellay, and a glorious time they had of it. While there, a beautiful luminous arch appeared in the sky, spanning the heavens from east to west, and was so light and airy in its appearance, that the stars shone with their wonted brilliance through its transparent texture. On this memorable evening a party of the poets had assembled at Mount Rydal: when they heard of this meteoric appearance in the sky, they soon were out upon the lawn to gaze upon a sight so remarkable. The Shepherd had Miss Wordsworth hanging on his arm, when he innocently blundered out, "Hoot, mon! it is neither mair nor less than a treeumphal airch raised in honour of the meeting of the poets." "That's not amiss," said the Professor, laughing. But Wordsworth, turning on his heel, exclaimed, "Poets! what does the fellow mean? Where are they?" — The Shepherd pretends to have been greatly offended at this innocent jest of his friend Wordsworth....
In continuation of our former articles relative to the Ettrick Shepherd, we cannot do better than introduce to the notice of our readers the following remarkable letters, giving some interesting facts regarding the Poet's early life; they are from the pen of his eldest brother, Mr. William Hogg, and were written in answer to a letter from, and addressed to a near relative of the present writer [author's note: The Rev. James Gray], shortly after the appearance of the "Queen's Wake," who was anxious to obtain some information on certain points regarding the early life and family of his friend, the Ettrick Shepherd. The gentleman to whom we allude, in applying to such a source, merely expected a few plain answers to a few simple questions. We need not tell our readers how much he was gratified, or how much he was surprised, when the following able letters were handed to him in answer to his inquiries:—
"Minzion, 20th November, 1813.
Our ancestors, in the paternal line, were long retainers to the Scots of Oakwood, and held under them the lands of Fauldshope. Upon the decline of that family, they seem, to have been expelled their possession, and I think for a life or two there is nothing extant concerning them.
"Our grandfather, William Hogg, is the next of whom any account can be had; and we find him in the it neighbourhood of Fauldshope occupied as a common shepherd. He died at a middle age, leaving our grandmother with four sons and one daughter. She being a prudent, respectable woman, got the family foughten up. Our father was the oldest but one. None of them had any school education, yet our father is a correct and distinct reader of the Bible; and I apprehend that it is from him my brother James derives the seeds of poetry. My reasons for thinking this are the following: — Our father reads much in his Bible, and the passages he generally selects, are the transcendent sublimity of Isaiah, the plaintive strains of Jeremiah, or the magnificent imagery of Ezekiel; these he reads with delight, and I hope with advantage to his spiritual improvement. He reads also, and has sometimes caused me to read "Hervey's Meditations;" and, as this book is written in an elegant flowery style, it affects him much, and he will sometimes exclaim, "Oh! such a man as Hervey has been!" or "Oh! such a writer!" His judgment is sound, and his notions of men and the world tolerably correct, at least of those things of which he has had any experience; but by once engaging in a business, of which he had no previous knowledge, he involved his private affairs in confusion, and that at a time when his family were both small and helpless. He is now, in his eighty-third year, a solitary disconsolate man, deprived, five months ago, of the company and assistance of our mother, a most worthy and respectable woman. His memory retains more faithfully what was communicated to it when about fifteen years of age than what it received yesterday.
"Our mother's father was named Wm. Laidlaw, and resided all his days (which were very many) as a shepherd on the farm of Phaup, the highest and most sequestered parish corner in the parish of Ettrick, and here, with him and one of her brothers, our mother spent the first thirty years of her life, previous to her marriage with our father. In such a situation, shut out from all intercourse with the world, it is no wonder that our mother's mind received many of the superstitious notions that then prevailed. For, whenever the human mind is unagitated by society, and left to brood over itself in solitude, rather than want company, it will create visionary beings for itself; there it will arrange and assign to every class its respective attributes and powers, together with its particular the of appearance; and to this superstition the mind is more prone if the scenery around dispose to melancholy ideas. And such a place was this Phaup. Nothing was to be seen but long tracts of heath, and on the tops of the hills frequently sat a dark and thick mist. Nothing was to be heard but the howl of winds and dash of waters, the sound of these only varied by the increase or diminution of their force, which indeed was perpetually changing; but still the sound was doleful and uninterrupted, and engendered gloomy ideas. Add to these the want of a good education, which at such a place, and at such a time, was never thought of. All the learning that was then given or looked for, was what our father could enforce during the long wintry nights. To a people thus shut up from all human society, it is no wonder to find the days of former years remarkable for superstition,' and the mind overpowered by imaginary terrors.
"Our mother's mind was well fortified by a good system of Christian religion, which our grandfather with much care and diligence had given all his family; yet her mind was stored with tales and songs of spectres, ghosts, fairies, brownies, voices, &c. These had been both seen and heard in her time in the Glen of Phaup; and many a winter night to keep its boys steady, has she told its how the fairie would have tripped with much mirth and speed along the bottom of some lonely deel, how the dead-lights, or some shapeless appearance twisting and throwing itself, announced the death of some near relative; and not unfrequently, the spirit of the gathering storm was heard to shriek through the air. These tales arrested our attention, and filled our minds with the most dreadful apprehensions. It no sooner grew dark, than we durst no longer venture to the door without some one to protect us; and even this had to be one whom we supposed to be more powerful than the spirit whom we thought lingered without the walls of the house, and watched an opportunity to catch us. These songs and tales which were sung and told in a plaintive, melancholy air, had an influence on James's mind altogether unperceived at the time, and perhaps indescribable now. Their agency on the powers of his mind resembled the influence of the solar heat upon the eggs of the ostrich, who is said to deposit them in sand, and leave them to be vivified by the sun's cherishing warmth; they raised into existence the seeds of poetry, which if allowed to have lain dormant till a later period, would probably have never made such vigorous shoots. It had been customary with our mother to repeat to its some of the Psalms of David, partly with a view, no doubt, to keep us quiet, and partly to form our minds to morality and goodness. Several of these James got by heart before he could read a word, and after he went to school he learned many more. The solemn ascriptions of praise that are there given to the Almighty, the beautiful illustrations of moral, goodness with which the sacred writings abound, enriched his mind with the best ideas, and strengthened it for more enlarged excursions. I am, &c.,
"12th December, 1813.
In our excursions for diversion we were often wasting growing corn, or otherwise injuring the implements of husbandry, and for this we were called to strict account. James generally pleaded our cause with great openness and simplicity, stood often beside his accusers, as if unconscious of any crime; but the moment he was seized for punishment he became perfectly frantic, and used very effort to extricate himself from their grasp. Besides his Bible and catechism, the only book he was indulged in the free use of was the "Gentle Shepherd;" this he learned from end to end, and would often repeat its names, songs, and scenes, just as they lay in their order. His memory seemed to take a very firm hold of this beautiful eclogue, and I dare say will retain it to this day. The natural pathos so happily expressed in the pastoral, gave an additional energy to his mind, and further disposed it to harmony and poetry. Our parents thinking that reading too much would induce to a neglect of business, dissuaded him powerfully from the perusal of every book that was not some religious tract or other; so that he had neither access to books, nor money to purchase them with; but as our father's circumstances were far from keeping his family independent, James was early sent to service, but at what age I cannot positively ascertain. Being now without his friends' immediate observation, with a few shillings which he got he purchased an old violin; on this he kept scraping away early and late, until his neighbour servants (who were at first wearied with his discordant jars) at last began to discover harmony in his performances, and expressed their approbation by listening and sometimes dancing. This encouraged James further in the learning of this the most pleasant of all the arts; and I think the study and learning of it were no doubt a collateral help to smooth and harmonious expressions; — indeed, we not unfrequently find a poetical and musical genius existing in the same person. Hitherto he had been employed in the most menial services, such as herding cows, and every drudgery which that employment includes; and was considered as rather a soft, actionless boy, but always distinguished by something vivid in his observations, expressed in rather unordinary words, and with an immediate fervour of spirit. His masters loved him, not indeed so much for the extent and abilities of his service, as for the general fidelity of his conduct, and for his candid and sprightly manner of acknowledging his errors when any piece of business had misfortuned with him.
"It was at Whitsunday 1789 or 1790 that Mr. Laidlaw hired him to be his shepherd, at Blackhouse. As Mr. Laidlaw himself had a natural desire for acquiring useful knowledge, even separate from that which constituted him master of his profession, he did not discourage James from reading, and this itself was sufficient to give the powers of his mind a new impulse. Besides, the power of the human mind does not appear to be gradually matured; new accessions of knowledge are rather instantaneously injected, no doubt, as emanations from the great fountain of all knowledge. Probably an enlargement of mind, accompanied with fresh accessions of knowledge, at this time, contributed, with the favourable turn in his circumstances, to expand his conceptions to a degree altogether unknown before. And now that his genius was no longer chilled by menial servitude, nor its exertions checked by disregard and neglect, it could no longer be repressed, but breathed forth its effusions dressed indeed in a true rustic habit, but marked with indications of originality and nature. — He at this the published several pieces of poetry in the "Edinburgh Magazine," a publication he constantly read, all the time he resided with Mr. Laidlaw. It was when he was with Mr. Laidlaw he was sent to help home with a stack of sheep to some part of Argyleshire. This induced him to make several subsequent journeys into that noted county. He now visited many of the Western Isles, and all the principal parts of Scotland. Here, in those almost dimensionless regions, nature is seen on a large scale. The extent of its glens and horrid grandeur of its rocks and mountains, expand the imagination, and enlarge its conceptions, most irresistibly lifting the mind of the spectator to the great author of all sublimity. His mind thus enriched with ideas collected from the face of nature, he visited the metropolis, and here his access to new publications, and his converse with the polished world, stripped his ideas and style of that rustic habit, which was their native dress. And I am really astonished at the harmony and delicacy of expression which generally pervade the "Queen's Wake." His muse may have made a loftier flight, but the tone of her voice was never sweeter than when she poured forth these beautiful lines.
The waning moon her lustre threw,
Pale round her throne of soften'd blue,
Her circuit round the Southland sky,
Was languid, low, and quickly bye.
Leaning on clouds so faint and fair,
And cradled on the golden air,
Modest and pale as maiden bride,
She sunk upon the trembling tide.
"I have now touched on those incidents in the earlier part of my brother's life, that appear to have cherished that propensity to poetry which is so natural to his genius, yet his mind amidst all its splendid conceptions, is of an imperfect structure. His imagination is quite an overpoise for his judgment. Sanguine in his hopes, the world hath once and again disappointed him and ruined him, because he formed his opinions of men and the world rather from what they should be, than from what they really are: hence he is disappointed whenever he steps out to transact business with them. The vivacity of his imagination disqualified him also from study and research. Present any intricate question to him for solution, his mind grasps it and pervades it with the rapidity of thought, as it really is; but if it miss solution, he cannot return to it again. The powers of his mind are so disordered by the rapidity of their first application, that they cannot for a long time be again collected to reconsider the subject. His judgment once baffled and overpowered, can hardly be brought again to renew the attack, or if it does, it is with diminished force, and more uncertain action.
I remain, dear Sir, yours, &c. &c.