« PreviousContinue »
for the purpose of escape ; for once seized upon, their doom was sharp and short. The mode of punishment was either by hanging or drowning. The next tree, or the deepest pool of the nearest stream, was indifferently used on these occasions. Many moss-troopers are said to have been drowned in a deep eddy of the Jed near Jedburgh. And in fine, the little ceremony used on these occasions added another feature to the reckless and careless character of the Borderers, who were thus accustomed to part with life with as little form as civilized men change their garments.'
Through the train of so many ages, what a melancholy scene have we on this devoted tract, of almost incessant energy, and movement, and enterprise, all worse than in vain ! an extended series of tumult and destruction without an object ; a process of nearly unmingled evil working to no manner and no possibility of ultimate good. The principle of the mischief had no self-corrective, and was of interminable operation. Every man of sober mind, at the time, must have been pleased at the event which reduced the whole wretched and infamous region under the general laws of one strong comprehensive government. Mr. Scott does not betray any petty nationality of feeling on this subject. That he should exultingly hail the change, was not, perhaps, fairly to be expected. His literary duty is performed, as we have already said, very respectably. It did not properly demand all the elaboration and punctilious correctness of composition deemed obligatory on the formal regular historian. Two or three days of revision would, however, have rectified many inaccuracies of construction which are left apparent in a performance which will, nevertheless, please by the spirit and freedom of its style. Some ten or twenty more dates inserted would have materially added to its value.
Little needs be said of the portions of illustrative letterpress attached respectively to the plates. Their historical part consists very much of genealogy and transfers of possession. The utter dryness of these, and of the architectural details very properly introduced, is relieved by curious anecdotes, and passages of picturesque description. We may transcribe two or three short specimens of the more attractive quality.
In the account of Bothwell Castle, Northumberland, there is a striking reference to the condition of captives, in these gloomy fortresses.
• At the foot of the stairs is the door which leads to the prison. Imagination can hardly conceive any place more gloomy and horrible than those dungeons in baronial castles, which were allotted for the incarceration of captives : but here some guiding spirit of benevolence seemed to actuate the architect, for the prison, instead of being excavated from the dark recesses of the earth, was above ground; the cheerful light of heaven was admitted to gladden the sight of the forlorn inhabitant, though gleaming only through the narrow apertures of massy walls, and the fanning breeze might sometimes breathe upon his wan and faded cheek, finding its passage through the same channel. Yet even this was comfort compared to the damp, dark, and profound cell, which commonly served for the dwelling of those whom the chance of war, or crime, or perfidy, placed within the power of the rude, unfeeling, and ferocious owners of these embattled edifices.'
Should the reader descry some degree of discrepancy between such a picture of the fate of prisoners of war, and one of the representations previously cited from the introductory History, (to which we think a few other slight failures of consistency might be added, we can only say that we cannot charge ourselves with the accountableness.
The description of Naworth Castle, a very grand structure of its class, and still entire, begins with this paragraph :
* This Gothic edifice was, in former times, one of those extensive baronial seats which marked the splendour of our ancient nobles, before they exchanged the hospitable magnificence of a life spent among a numerous tenantry for the uncertain honours of court at. tendance, and the equivocal rewards of ministerial favour. If we allow that the feudal times were times of personal insecurity, we must also admit that they were favourable to the growth of manly and decided virtue ; rude and unpolished in its structure, perhaps, but forcible and efficient in its operation. The evils of the institution were in some measure corrected by other qualities inherent in its system, while the good was pure and unmixed. There is a principle of affinity, more or less obvious, in every thing. The vast and solid mansions of our ancient nobility were like their characters; greatness without elegance, strength without refinement; but lofty, firm, and commanding.'
It is easy to dash away in this strain ; but were the Writer reduced to the proof, we inagine it would be long enough before his moral chemistry, or alchymy, would produce forth in palpable form the pure and unmixed good’ latent in that mass of barbarism. It is curious, too, that this extenuation and eulogy should occur at the commencement of the short section which so luckily contains the following for corroboration.
The dungeon of this castle instils horror into the beholder; consisting of four dark apartments, three below, and one above, up a long staircase, all well secured : in the uppermost, one ring remains, to which criminals were chained, and the marks remain of many more such fastening places. Miserable abodes! where the wretched captive lingered out a hopeless life, shut from the sweet varieties of nature, the converse of friend or relative, and all that renders existence valuable by giving us an interest in its preservation,'
One of the most brave and renowned occupants of this castle, was Lord William Howard, a man at the same time devoted to, books, of whom it is related that,
• While busied deeply with his studies, he was suddenly disturbed
by an officer who came to ask his commands concerning the disposal of several moss-troopers who had been just made prisoners. Displeased at the interruption, the warden answered heedless and angrily,
Hang them, in the devil's name;" but, when he laid aside his book, his surprise was not a little, to find that his orders had been literally fulfilled.'
Bothwell Castle, Clydesdale, is pronounced the most splendid ruin, perhaps, in Scotland,' and the ruins of Melrose Abbey, the finest specimen of Gothic architecture and Gothic sculpture. The ample privilege of sanctuary possessed by this latter, interfered so much with the execution of justice, that James V. is said to have acted as baron-baillie, in order to punish those malefactors in charaeter of the abbot's deputy, whom his own sovereign power and that of the laws were
unable to reach otherwise."" There is an extended account of Lindisfarne, or the Holy Island, and its legends of St. Cuthbert.
The history of Wark Castle, Northumberland, presents a most striking instance of the vicissitude of war, in the rapid and long alternation of its capture and partial demolition betwcen the forces of the two powers.
The account of Elibank Tower, Peebles-shire, contains a very amusing incident in the history of the ancestors of Mr. Walter Scott.
• William Scott (afterwards Sir William) undertook an expedition against the Murrays, of Elibank, whose property lay a few miles distant. He found his enemy upon their guard, was defeated, and made prisoner in the act of driving off the cattle which he had collected for that purpose. Sir Gideon Murray conducted his prisoner to the castle, where his lady received him with congratulations on his victory, and inquiries concerning the fate to which he destined his prisoner. “ The gallows," answered Sir Gideon, “ to the gallows with the marauder.” “ Hout na, Sir Gideon," answered the considerate matron, in her vernacular idiom, “ would you hang the winsome young Laird of Harden, when we have three ill-favoured daughters to marry?” “ Right,” answered the baron, who catched at the idea, “ he shall either marry our daughter, mickle-mouthed Meg, or strap for it.” Upon this alternative being proposed to the prisoner, he, upon the first view of the case, strongly preferred the gibbet to“ mickle-mouthed Meg," for such was the
nickname of the young lady, whose real name was Agnes. But at length, when he was literally led forth to execution, and saw no other chance of escape, he retracted his ungallant resolution, and preferred the typical noose of matrimony to the literal cord of hemp. Such is the tradition established in both families, and often jocularly referred to upon the Borders. It may be necessary to add, that mickle-mouthed Meg and her husband were a happy and loving pair, and had a very large family Vol. X. N. S.
In the history of Dunbar Castle, another Agnes makes a much more lofty and commanding figure.
• We read that, in 1338, the earl being absent, his wife, commonly called Black Agnes, from the darkness of her complexion, withstood the endeavours of the English army, under the Earl of Salisbury, to get possession of it. The lady performed all the duties of a bold and vigilant commander, animating her soldiers by her exhortations, munificence, and example. When the battering engines of the besiegers hurled stones against the battlements, she ordered one of her female attendants to wipe off the dirt with her handkerchief; and when Salisbury commanded that enormous machine called the sow to be advanced to the foot of the walls, she scoffingly advised him to take good care of his sow, for she should soon make her cast her pigs, (meaning the men within it) and then ordered a huge rock to be let fall on it, which crushed it to pieces. Salisbury finding his open attempts on the castle thus stoutly resisted, tried to gain it by treachery. Having bribed the person who had the care of the gates, to leave them open ; this he agreed to do, but disclosed the whole transaction to the countess. Salisbury himself headed the party who were to enter : finding the gates open, he was advancing, when John Copeland, one of his attendants, hastily passing before him, the portcullis was let down, and Copeland, mistaken for his lord, remained a prisoner. The countess, who, from a high tower, was observing the event, cried out to Salisbury, jeeringly, Farewell
, Montague ; I intended that you should have supped with us, and assisted in defending this fortress against the English." ;
The siege was changed into a strict blockade, which reduced the heroic commander and her garrison to great extremity; but reinforced by a gallant band, who secretly entered the castle from the sea, in a dark night, she finally drove off
The plates constitute, as they were intended to do, the most important part of the work. The reader is already apprized, that their architectural subjects are not, for the greater part, of a high order of beauty or magnificence. We were not to expect the kind of gratification imparted by views of Grecian or Roman remains; they present, however, many striking aspects of massive ruin, accompanied with a great variety of beautiful and romantic scenery, the greater number of them very judiciously combining landscape with the antiquities. The drawings are chiefly by Clennel, Arnald, and Nasmyth, all engraved in the line manner, by Greig. If here and there a plate betrays too much haste, or considerable intervention of the prentice-hand,' they are in general good, and a fair proportion of them eminently Art. II.' Historical Illustrations of the Fourth Canto of Childe Harold ;
containing Dissertations on the Ruins of Rome, and an Essay on Italian Literature. By John Hobhouse, Esq. of Trin. Coll. Camb. M. A. and F. R. S. 8vo. pp. 576. Price 14s. London, 1818. W VHEN we opened the present volume, we naturally expected
to find its contents corresponding in some degree to its popular title, but to our surprise, we found that Childe Harold has less to do with it, than the ponderous folios of Muratori, or Montfaucon. Some of the longer notices of this volume, Mr. Hobhouse is ingenuous enough to confess, ' are dissertations not at all requisite for the intelligibility of Childe Harold,
although they may illustrate the positions or the objects • therein contained.' It is soinetimes very remotely that they serve even is obscure
of illustration. The 'contents of this work may be divided into three parts; an account of the Ruins of Rome-a few pages on the Roman Catholic religion--and an Essay on Italian Literature. In addition to these, there are some letters of Cola di Rienzi, and a few notes from Tasso to some of his friends, one of which contains a message respecting“ five shirts,' and another is occupied with a correction of four lines in one of bis MSS. And these notes, which, on account of their insignificancy, have been left in the hands of the keeper of St. Anne's, to be exhibited to strangers, and which, for the same reason, have been neglected by Serassi and others, are here presented to us under the article, · Letters of Torquato Tasso, never before published, with trans• lations. They extend to twenty pages.
In the notes upon Childe Harold, Mr. Hobhouse, with great shew of exultation over Serassi, Muratori, and others, boasts of having discovered the cause of Tasso's imprisonment, which was unknown to all his predecessors. For further and, it is hoped, • decisive proof that Tasso was neither more nor less than a
prisoner of state, the reader is referred to “ Historical Illus• trations of Childe Harold,” page 5, and following.' sertation will, however, be found to contain nothing more than a criticism upon an inscription by Miollis, a revolutionary general, on the door of Tasso's prison at St. Anne's; the mention of the famed kiss which Brusoni pretends threw Torquato into prison; and, as the real cause of his imprisonment, the statement of Serassi, that he was confined for insolent words, and kept there because the Duke feared he would upon bis liberation retract the praise of the Este family, contained in his Jerusalem, and satirize them as they deserved. Mr. Hobhouse, at the same time that he pretends no one else has before exposed _this cause, quotes Serassi's words, which mention this very mo tive for his detention, and which are as plain and explicit as his