« PreviousContinue »
cegs, of an epidemic disorder ; but of this who can be secure? Per. haps, alas! one yet remains to punish the flippant tongue, that dared to assert they were no more.” Vol. III. P. 298.
We now dismiss Glenarvon with a mixed feeling of abhorrence and pity; of abhorrence for the triumphant confession of guilty passions and successful crime; of pity for the weak and wayward nature of its strange and silly heroine.
Art. VI. The Antiquary. A Novel. 3 vols. 12mo. ll. 48.
Longman and Co. 1916. , WE turn with pleasure from a school, wliere no kindly plant is rooted, no good feeling flourishes, to the writings of one, wbo, notwithstanding all bis offences against our stricter taste, is master of every noble, every soft affection of the heart, who in all the chequered scenes of life which he presents to our view, whether of joy or sorrow, of vice or folly, is still the friend of human kind. We are nauseated with the mawkishness of affected sensibility, we are disgusted with the barkings of proud and sensual misanthrophy. Ancient Cynicism was Judicrous, modern Cynicism is odious. The Diogenes of the present day has all the rags, without the art of the ancient philosopher. For ourselves we prefer the homely plaid of our north-country bard, to the black velvet coat, and the Daggere wood tattlers of the noble Lord. .
The Novel before us is the third of a series. WAVERLEY presented to us the manners and feelings of a generation nuvy faded off from the face of the earth. The events of seventy years since can now scarcely find a witness among the living : they are within the province of history rather than of memory. GUY MANNERING gave us a description of the generation of our fathers, and of what passed in the world about the end of the American war. The AntiQUARY is intended to pourtray the characteristic features of the present day. There is scarcely a nation in which so decided a change has taken place between the first and the last period, as in Scotland. The feelings, the prejudices, and passions of seventy years since, have long since vanished; there is much nationality, however, still to be found, there is much still remaining to feed the fancy of the poet, and amuse the observation of a man who shall love to follow nature into her secret recesses. There is none so worthy of such a subject as the author of these three most interesting tales, whom from the strougest evidence both external and
internal, we shall boldly pronounce to be Walter Scott. If an additional argument were wanting to confirm our belief upon this point, it would be that, which has been applied to prove the authenticity of the last book of Homer—that he must have written it because no one else could.
The story is sufficiently simple. To the two principal characters we are introduced in the very first chapter, who mount the coach together from Edinburgh to Queensferry. Mr. Oldbuck, the Antiquary, and Mr. Lovel, the hero of the tale. They here, for the first time, become acquainted with each other. The old gentleman is highly delighted with the company of the younger one, and they agree to take a chaise together to Fairport, near which town Mr. Oldbuck, the Laird of Monkbarns, possesses a country-seat. To this Mr. Lovel is invited, though a complete stranger, nor can all the old gentleman's enquirings unravel the mystery attending his new acquaintance. As Mr. Oldbuck gives name to the tale, our readers will be desirous of entering a little into the character of the ANTIQUARY. We cannot give a better description of him than in the author's own words.
“ Mr. Oldbuck next exhibited thumb-screws, which had given the Covenanters of former days the cramp in their joints, and a collar with the name of a fellow convicted of theft, whose services, as the inscription bore, had been adjudged to a neighbouring baron, in lieu of the modern Scottish punishment, which, as Oldbuck said, sends such culprits to enrich England by their labour, and themselves by their dexterity. Many and various were the other curiosities which he shewed; but it was chiefly upon his books that he prided himself, repeating, with a complacent air, as he led the way to the crowded and dusty shelves, the verses of old Chaucer
• For he would rather have at his bed-head,
Ihan robes rich, rebeck, or saltery.' This pithy motto he delivered, shaking his head, and giving each guttural the true Arglo-Saxon enunciation, which is now forgotten in the southern parts of this realm.
« The collection was, indeed, a curious one, and might well be envied by an amateur. Yet it was not collected at the enormous prices of inodern times, which are sufficient to have appalled the most determined as well as earliest bibliomaniac upon record, whom we take to have been none else than the renowned Don Quixote de la Mancha, as, among other slight indications of an infirm understanding, he is stated, by his veracious historian, Cid Hamet Benengeli, to have exchanged fields and farms for folios
and quartos of chivalry. In this species of exploit, the good knight-errant has been imitated by lords, knights, and squires of our own day, though we have not yet heard of any that has mistaken an inn for a castle, or laid his lance in rest against a wind. mill. Mr. Oldbuck did not follow these collectors in such excess of expenditure ; but, taking a pleasure in the personal labour of forming his library, saved his purse at the expence of his time and toil. He was no encourager of that ingenious race of peripatetic middlemen, who, trafficking between the obscure keeper of a stall and the eager amateur, make their profit at once of the ignorance of the former, and the dear-bought skill and taste of the latter.. When such were mentioned in his hearing, he seldom failed to point out how necessary it was to arrest the object of your curiosity in its first transit, and to tell his favourite story of Snuffy Davy and Caxton's Game at Chess. Davy Wilson,' he said, “commonly called Snuffy Davy, from his inveterate addiction to black rappee, was the very prince of scouts for searching blind alleys, cellars, and stalls, for rare volumes. He had the scent of a slow-hound, sir, and the snap of a bull-dog. He would detect you an old black-letter ballad among the leaves of a law-paper, and find an editio princeps under the mask of a school Corderius. Snuffy Davy bought the Game of Chess, 1474, the first book ever printed in England, from a stall in Holland, for about two groschen, or twopence of our money. He sold it to Osborne for twenty pounds, and as many books as came to twenty pounds more. Osborne resold this inimitable windfall to Dr. Askew for sixty guineas. At Dr. Askew's sale,' continued the old gentleman, kindling as he spoke, this inestimable treasure blazed forth in its full value, and was purchased by royalty itself, for one. hundred and seventy pounds! Could a copy now occur, Lord only knows,' he ejaculated, with a deep sigh and lifted-up hands, • Lord only knows what would be its ransom; and yet it was originally secured, by skill and research, for the equivalent of twopence sterling. Happy, thrice happy, Snuffy Davy! and blessed were the times wlien thy industry could be so rewarded !
“ Even I, sir,' he went on, though far inferior in industry, and discernment, and presence of mind, to that great man, can shew you a few, a very few things, which I have collected, not by force of money, as any wealthy man might, although, as my friend Lucian says, he might chance to throw away his coin only to illustrate his ignorance,-but gained in a manner that shews I know something of the matter. See this bundle of ballads, not one of them later than 1700, and some of them an isundred years older. I wheedled an old woman out of these, who loved them better than her psalm-book. Tobacco, sir, snuff, and the Com: plete Syren, were the equivalent! For that mutilated copy of the Complaynt of Scotland, I sat out the drinking of two dozen bottles of strong ale with the late learned proprietor, who, in grati. tude, bequeathed it to me by his last will. These little Elzevirs
are the memoranda and trophies of many a walk by night and morning through the Cowgate, the Canongate, the Bow, Saint Mary's Wynd,- wherever, in fine, there were to be found brokers and trokers, those miscellaneous dealers in things rare and curi. ous. How often have I stood haggling upon a halfpenny, lest, by a too ready acquiescence in the dealer's first price, he should be led to suspect the value I set upon the article !-how have I trembled, lest some passing stranger should chop in between me and the prize, and regarded each poor student of divinity that stopped to turn over the books at the stall, as a rival amateur, or prowl. ing bookseller in disguise !-And then, Mr. Lovel, the sly satisfaction with which one pays the consideration and pockets the article, affecting a cold indifference while the hand is trembling with pleasure !—Then to dazzle the eyes of our wealthier and emulous rivals by shewing them such a treasure as this--(displaying a little black smoked book about the size of a primmer) - to enjoy their surprise and envy, shrouding meanwhile under a veil of mysterious consciousness our own superior knowledge and dexterity-these, my young friend, these are the white moments of life, that repay the toil, and pains, and sedulous attention, which our profession, above all others, so peculiarly demands !'" Vol. I. P. 55.
A ludicrous scene soon ensues, in which the Antiquary's discrimination is called into question by Ochiltree, an old beadsman, who in the latter part of the tale, takes a more conspicuous part. This old beggar declares, that be remembered the throwing up of a mound, for which Oldbuck had given an immense sum as a Roman Prætorium.
“ Yes, my dear friend, from this stance it is probable,-nay, it is nearly certain, that Julius Agricola beheld what our Beaumont has so admirably described !- From this very Prætorium'
" A voice from behind interrupted his extatic description « Prætorian here, Prætorian there, I mind the bigging o't,'
« Both at once turned round, Lovel with surprise, and Oldbuck with mingled surprize and indignation, at so uncivil an interruption. An auditor had stolen upon them, unseen and unheard, amid the energy of the Antiquary's enthusiastic declamation, and the attentive civility of Lovel. He had the exterior appearance of a mendicant.-A slouchehat of huge dimensions ; a long white beard, which mingled with his grizzled hair ; an aged, but strongly marked and expressive countenance, hardened, by climate and exposure, to a right brick-dust complexion ; a long blue gown, with a pewter badge on the right arm; two or three wallets, or bags, slung across his shoulder, for holding the different kinds of meal, when he received his charity in kind from those who were but a degree richer than himself,— all these marked at once a beggar by profession, and one of that privileged class
which are called in Scotland, the King's Bedes-men, or, vulgarly, Blue-gowns.
" What is that you say, Edie?' said Oldbuck, hoping, per. haps, that his ears had betrayed their duty; What were you speaking about? * « • About this bit bourock, your honour,' answered the undaunted Edie ; • I mind the bigging o't’
“ The devil you do! Why, you old fool, it was here before you were born, and will be after you are hanged, man !'
" • Hanged or drowned, here or awa, dead or alive, I mind the bigging o't.
" " You-you-' said the Antiquary, stammering between confusion and anger, ‘you strolling vagabond, what the devil do you know about it?'
" " Why I ken this anent it, Monkbarns, and what profit have I for telling ye a lie--I just ken this about it, that about twenty years syne, I, and a whin hallenshakers like mysell, and the masonlads that built the lang dyke that gaes down the loaning, and twa or three herds may-be, just set to wark, and built this bit thing here that ye ca’ the-the--Prætorian, and a' just for a bield at auld liken Drum's bridal, and a bit blithe gae-down wi' had in't. some sair rainy weather Mair by token, Monkbarns ; if ye howk up the bourock, as ye seem to have begun, ye'll find, if ye have not found it already, a stane that ane o' the mason-callants cut a ladle on to have a bourd at the bridegroom, and he put four let. ters on't, that's A. D. L. L.--Aiken Drum's Lang Ladle--for Aiken was ane o' the kale-suppers o' Fife.'
« « This,' thought Lovel to himself, is a famous counterpart to the story of keip on this syde. He then ventured to steal a glance at our Antiquary, but quickly withdrew it in sheer compassion. For, gentle reader, if thou hast ever beheld the visage of a damsel of sixteen, whose romance of true love has been blown up by an untimely discovery, or of a child of ten years, whose castle of cards has been blown down by a malicious companion, I can safely aver to you, that Jonathan Oldbuck of Monkbarns looked neither more wise nor less disconcerted.” Vol. I. P. 77. .
Lovel is soon after invited by the Antiquary to a dinner, where he meets Sır. Arthur Wardour, a Scotch baronet, of an ancient Jacobite family,, with sufficient of his native prejudices still remaining, tɔ despise Oldbuck, for an unfortunate cross in bis fainily, tried with a German printer, at the time of the Re. formation. This and other similar circumstances generally induce a quarrel between the two old gentlemen, and as on this day, they seldom nieet in harmony, but they part in discord. These differences, however, are soon made up by the old Baronet's amiable daughter, Miss Isabella Wardour. The Baronet on this day retreats in anger, and returns to his own house late at evening, over the sands with his daughter, not aware of