ART. IV. – Selections from the Family Papers preserved at Caldwell, 1496-1853. Presented to the Maitland Club by William Mure, M.P. Glasgow. 1854.
THESE three substantial quartos are among the very valuable of the many contributions to that excellent Society, the Maitland Club, to which our historians and archæologists have been so much indebted. By this lifting up another corner of the curtain hung over the private scenes of auld lang syne, glimpses of the manners of our Scottish forefathers are offered, and an insight is given of he hopes and fears, the joys and sorrows, by which their days were rounded off: thus introduced to their homes and hearts, we become familiar with details too much neglected by grave historians, whose stilty pen seldom condescended to deal with trifles below their dignity. Recorders only of events at which the world grew pale, they noted down the thunder-crashes that scarred the mountain summits, while the humble valleys beneath lay overlooked in their obscurity. These family papers, rescued from the moths of muniment rooms, from the tidy matron or the fatal housemaiden – these planks saved from the wreck of ages, are relics of increasing value; they form the basis of national investigation, which widens with the diffusion of education and enlightened curiosity. In an exhaustion of the present, inquiry which must be fed, falls back on first principles, and is driven to the past; and whatever draws us from the present, elevates in the intellectual scale. Thus poor finite morals, who remount the stream of time, give battle to oblivion, and dispute victory with the grave.
No apology was needed from Mr. Mure on the ground of the little claim which the private memoirs of a private family might have to public attraction. it is from such untampered materials that history in the aggregate is best constructed; and in early periods how much of general history was included in that of individuals, by whom the form and pressure of the age and its spirit was illustrated! And here, once for all, we must enter our literary protest against Mr. Mure’s usual intitulation of Colonel; the brevet rank militates against all our inkstand associations, and throws an air of improbability over learned and critical authorship. We have already called attention in our No. 139 to Mr. Mure’s classical pilgrimage to Greece, which, undertaken in true Homeric faith, formed a fitting preparation to his opus magnum, ‘The History of the Language and Literature of Ancient Greece,’ a work discussed in our No. 174, and which, combining all the research and accuracy of the German school without its dulness and want of good taste, is written in a most searching, liberal, and genial spirit. Strong indeed must be the coveys of militia captains, majors and minors, whose brigaded brains could have furnished one chapter. Let right men ever be in right places; and well will our muscular country-gentlemen teach the young idea to shoot, and assuredly from their nurseries many, the stoutest and bravest, will march with honour to the East, who would have quailed and failed when examined in Polybius and political economy. Mr. Mure, recognising the duties as well as the rights of property, and acting as became the chief of his time-honoured race, for a while laid down the pen for the sword; and if he exchanged the banquet of the Homeric gods for the mess, let it be hoped that, induced by his example, the sons of clansmen bold mixed a thought of Castalian streams with their native farintosh. Be that as it may, we can only deal with the Colonel in our and in his critical phase.
Our learned compiler has illustrated these columns with a running commentary of notes, by which this evidence from the tomb is explained; he has throughout exercised an amiable caution, both in the avoidance of tender, disputed points, as in refraining from opening many ticklish questions now settled, rightfully or wrongfully, which might jar with the politics and opinions of his readers whatever they may be. He has moreover prefixed to these Selections a memoir of the genealogy and leading incidents of the House of Caldwell, and thus introduces his readers in this prologue, to the principal performers of a drama extending over the three centuries (acts, as it were) on which the destiny and well-being of Scotland hinged. Thus, in this Banquo glass, in this moving diorama, so full of interest first the armed chieftain of the clan hurries on to the raid and foray, to the slaughter of foeman and the sacking of fortress. Anon, as the feudal spirit of the age is changed, the tragic wail of war, civil and religious, is heard, and the crumbling throne and altar tingle to the social extremities; then, when the hurricane, spent in its own violence, is passed, the horizon brightening up with the coming of better days ushers in the union with England, and the epithalamium, joined in by the chorus of Caldwell, constitutes a happy conclusion and epilogue. The details which mark the gradual transition from an iron age to a golden one of law and order revealed from these repositories, often amusing as a romance, possess the charm of truth – that sine quâ non to the British ηθος, and which is often stranger than fiction – whatever may be predicated and practised across the Channel.
The Mures, an ancient, although untitled family, would, had they flourished beyond the Elbe or Niemen, have been princes at the least: they descend from Sir Reginald Mure, who in 1329 was Lord High Chamberlain of Scotland. The family name was differently written in different periods: More and Moore are the most ancient forms; Mure and Muir the most usual; but a settled nomenclature is a nicety of modern orthography. Early in the fourteenth century, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Adam Mure, married her cousin the Earl of Strathaven, who, succeeding to the throne as Robert II., was the first sovereign of the House of Stuart, and by him she became mother of the whole blood royal of that race: her grand-uncle cemented the connexion by marrying the wealthy sister of Robert’s first wife. No wonder that finally a Mure – backed by royal alliances and grants of forfeited lands – should become one of the richest and most powerful subjects. The family split into many branches, of which the House of Caldwell, although not the chief, has ever ranked very high; and their estates in Ayr and Renfrewshire were acquired about the close of the fourteenth century by the marriage of a Mure with the heiress of Caldwell of that ilk. While we pass rapidly over the detailed links of a clearly made out pedigree, as an inquiry of private rather than of public interest, the honest pride of birth which stimulated this genealogical labour of love, claims the respect of all who, like ourselves, are believers in race. The organic laws of breeding from a good stock are not to be defied, and blood must tell in the long run of every race of honour. Nor does the tendency to truth, bon sang ne peut mentir, form a bad point in ‘raising’ an historian.
However the sons of nobodies may affect to sneer at these vanities of vanities, and pretend that a pot of clay is as good as porcelain, to be born as Hidalgo, a son of somebody, is a distinction that courts cannot confer, nor mobs take away; and its real value may be tested by the cash a millocrat millionaire would pay down for a genuine grandfather. The nouveau riche finds it easier to be inscribed in the Grand Livre de Rentes of the Bourse at Paris, than in the Libro de Oro of aristocratic Venice. Nor is this infirmity one from which strongest minds can escape: thus Byron was prouder of his seat in the House of Lords than of his place in the poets’ corner on Parnassus. Mr. Mure has grafted a new laurel on the ancestral stock by adding to the accidental honour of birthright, the personally achieved aristocracy of intellect. Thus, our Hidalgo, as the Spaniard has it, is also Hijo de sus obras – son of his own works – and is himself, had it been needed, a founder of a family to which those who come after might honestly look up.
Since the days of Horace, name and birth without property has not been rated in the books so high as vile sea-weed; a fiscal dilemma from which the Mures are happily exempt, and have long been. Touching their ample territorial possessions, one of the earliest documents, dated 1496, is an instrument of sazine of Sir Adam Mure’s – Nobilis viri Adæ Mur de Cauldvel – peaceably and legally conveying a small hamlet called Kempisland, alias Breedsorrow, so named because of the ‘grate sorrow it bred in debatting and contesting for the hereditable right thereof.’ This ‘canting’ term kemping, an old Scotch word for ‘striving and fighting,’ was a symbol and commentary of a disputatious age, when border chiefs, great coveters of Naboth’s vineyard, converted many an adjoining field into a campus belli, of which the strongest man reaped the harvest with his claymore.
This forefather Adam, knighted by James IV. as a preux chevalier and Cid Campeador, is described by flattering annalists as ‘a gallant stout man, having many feuds with his neighbours, which were managed with great fierceness and much bloodshed.’ ‘Hector Mwyr,’ son of this worthy sire, was killed in 1499, by the Maxwells of Pollok, whose laird narrowly escaped the vendetta of Caledonia and the wild justice of Hector’s brother. This pretty quarrel long remained an heirloom in the families, and the spirit of the age is read in the indictment of the avenger John for laying an ambuscade for John Maxwell and his man, and capturing them with ‘wikid malice wrangwislie and violentlie.’ Neither did this John respect the holy church, for in 1515 we find him busy ‘with maister full spoliatioun,’ sacking the palace at Glasgow of Archbishop Beaton, and ‘breking down of the samyn with artazary [artillery] and utherwaies.’
This feat was more political than sacrilegious; the prelate, a supporter of the Regent Duke of Albany, was opposed by the Lennox league, and this bold partisan Mure, a master of his art, was no hand at mere legal logomachies. The triumph of the league was short, and the very next year, when the Regent recovered the ascendant, an action was brought ‘aganis Johnne Mure for the wrangis and violent ejection.’ The curious indictment printed at p.54 enumerates the items of the damages done. At the inventory of the household stuff of a Scottish lord-chancellor and archbishop of that day, Lincoln’s Inn and Lambeth – not to say the most non-erastian manse of the Free Kirk – may blush. The wardrobe of the prelate was in truth rich in ‘gowns of scarlet lynit with furreis,’ in rings of gold ‘with precious stanes,’ – articles of greater value than size, and easily carried off in troublous times. The bishop was stronger in feather-beds than towels, and while he possessed ’13 roasting-spets and 18 pots,’ his plate veschell [baisselle] consisted only of ‘5 duzane of pewder; his larders, garde viandes, were stocked with 15 swine, 4 dakyr of salt hyds, 6 duzane salmon, and 1 last of salt herring.’ The stronghold was victualled with vivers for the garrison, perhaps more substantial than elegant. But the prelate’s private provision was of another kind: his grocery, ‘pepir, saffron, ginger, sugar, clovis, and cannel,’ infer a reasonable sipping of loving-cups and spicy bishop, while the ’12 tunnes of wyne’ in the cellar judiciously relieved the salt diet. The store of ordnance and ‘villanous saltpetre’ was commensurate with the commissariat: ‘6 barrels of gunpowder, 11 gunnis, 14 halkirks, 14 steel bonnets, and 13 pair of splints,’ formed the outer defences of this castle of the church militant. In this schedule the backward condition and discomforts of the epoch are revealed; few even in this mansion of a magnate and minister are the evidences of intellectual enjoyment: no vestige is to be traced of a library – that larder for the mind; no Bible, not even a breviary for the bishop, is catalogued.
The ‘lands and guts’ of the said John Mure were so ‘compelled and distrensed’ for these damages, that he was driven to mortgage an estate for ‘auchtt hundredth merks,’ an incumbrance from which he was relieved in 1527 by the Earl of Eglington, with whom he was connected by marriage; but the benefit was burdened with a bond of manrent, and limited space alone prevents our citing the curious deed. The laird thereby became bound, ‘me and myne airs perpetuallie to bekum man and servant till the Erle, and till his airs perpetuallie,’ and to do him military service so long as the sum lent should remain unpaid; and the lender, in further security, was conditionally ‘infeft’ with a portion of the lands of Caldwell. The obligation of service hung long over the house, and in 1665 the Lord Eglington of the day called for the penalty of the bond, on some alleged default of performance. The two opinions of learned counsel repudiating the validity of the claim, illustrate the transition from feudal violence to constitutional law. The signature of Caldwell affixed to the original deed, with ‘his hand on the pen led by the notary,’ offers evidence that he could not write; this faculty, now common to every cottar’s son in Scotland, was rare then among lairds and laymen. The power to wield the pen – an accomplishment clerical not military – was held to unfit the hand for the sword. The rude barons and mere soldiers despised letters, and looked down upon men of learning and scholars, who, then as may be now, quietly returned the compliment; and the priests, too wise to risk the substance for the shadow, and in possession of the monopoly of knowledge – power – chuckled when brute and armed force that feared no sword, trembled before the crosier. The bold but unlettered Sir John was killed in his time and turn by the Cuninghams of Achett, by whom soon after the Earl of Eglington was also dispatched; the family honours and habits were worthily maintained by Sir Robert Mure, son and successor of this Sir John, who, when cited at the trial of a kinsman accused of many murders, for tampering with witnesses, pleaded successfully ‘that he could not be expected to act otherwise when a clansman’s life was at stake.’
The first act of the Caldwell drama closed with this bright knight, few of whose predecessors died peaceably in their beds or were longevous; yet their life, if short, was lively, ‘very exciting, sir,’ as fighting Picton said amid the bombs of Badajoz. The resources of human vegetation in the country were rare before turnpikes, turnips, and quarter sessions were invented; and when war was the serious business, and the chace, its mimic, the recreation, the transition was easy from stalking the red deer to the ambuscade and ‘slochter’ of a neighbour foe. In remote counties, hardly yet over-fertile in events and novelties, injuries were long brooded over: the monotony of life was broken by the plotting and committing great crimes, and by the discussion and remembrance of them afterwards; thus to wipe out the stain of a murdered kinsman was the inheritance of generations, and the demon of revenge, the first duty of a good chief, was immortal.
A change had come over the social spirit when the second act of our drama commenced. The monarchical principle, which, by absorbing petty tyrants into the throne, had triumphed over the feudal, was now itself to be put to severe trial, and the increasing importance of the middle classes led to that reaction of the many against the monopolies in Church and State of the few, which, commenced before by Knox, was now to be consummated by Cromwell. Soon the coming calamities cast a shadow before them, for however good may have emerged ultimately out of the fermentation of evil, the happiness of thousands was wrecked during the process. The little black cloud rising on the horizon could not escape the far-seeing; thus the dying voice of one of this family in 1640 expresses, in the quaint Anglo-Scoto language, a solemn foreboding which cannot be misunderstood:-
‘For sa mickel as at this tyme thair is great appeirance of trubles and warres in this land, whilk God of His infinit mercie prevent, and grant ane happie and gude reformatioune to the glorie of His name. Howbeit I, Robert Mure, of Cauldwell, am now baith weill and haill in bodie, spirit, and mynd; yit, considering there is nothing more certaine nor death, and nothing more uncertaine nor the tyme and manor yrof… thairfor I heirby mak my latter will and testament.’
This long foreseen hurricane passed comparatively gently over the house of Caldwell, whose owners were minors during the downfall of Charles and the ascendancy of Cromwell; but the factory accounts of their guardians mark unmistakeably the general malaise of Scotland. Unfortunate Caledonia, alternately a victim to royalist and republican, might well exclaim, ‘A plague on both your houses!’ Meantime the lairds, youthful and unfashed with politics, cared little for these things, and rejoicing in horseflesh, were curious in costume and became the dandies of their day; constant charges occur in their ‘small accounts’ for ‘dozanes of silver and gold buttones,’ doublets of ‘Pan velvet,’ with ‘sweit Cordiphant gloves.’ These items, the ‘Pannos’ of Italy, the perfumed skins of ‘Cordova,’ with the ‘claithes of Holland’ and ‘Frenche serges,’ denote a dependence on the foreigner for most articles of luxury and refinement, and indicate the backward condition of national manufacture, and this in the vicinity of Glasgow. Meanwhile the expenditure of the young gentlemen in ‘ink-hornes and buiks’ fell below the charges for spurs and ‘buitts,’ nor could the ‘waidgs’ and offerings to their schoolmster, and doctor be pronounced prodigious by the most modest of Dominies.
The accounts are kept in the Scotch money of the time: this currency, full of sound and show, signifies but little compared to the sweet simplicity of the unpretending sterling. According to Caledonian Cockers, the merk, 13s. 4d. Scot, is worth about 13 of our pence, and the pund Scot is only equal to the twelfth part of a pound sterling, or to 1s. 8d., the Scot shilling being thus equivalent to the English penny. The use of the pound sterling only obtained when the golden age of Scotland dawned after the studying Adam Smith, that the value of coins current and in which accounts are usually kept, offers a test to the wealth of nations: thus our plain pound shrinks from no comparison with the roubles or florins of Russia and Austria, imperial and impecunious; nor need this Protestant pound aforesaid, much fear the fivepenny Paul of the successor of St. Peter, infallible and insolvent; so Spain, proudest of papers, repudiates in reales, in nothing less than royals, worth about twopence-halfpenny; while poor Portugal promises to pay in kingly Reis, the infinitesimal fraction of a farthing; but all this mint magniloquence cheers the pride of poverty with the mirage of millions.
The factory accounts of these Mure minors, like the Northumberland and household-books of past centuries, throw much light on statistical and politico-economical details, particularly as regards the ordinary outgoings of a Scottish laird and a country estate of the period. The best evidence is also afforded of the incident law expenses, of the rate of interest on charges, of the variations of prices, and of the gradual rise of rents and fall in the value of money. A long series of tacks or leases furnish curious conveyancing precedents, while, to those who judge of character by handwriting, the facsimiles of landlords’ and other lords’ complicated signatures, when they could sign and deliver their acts and deeds, offer suggestive materials. The rents, from the scarcity of coin, were partly paid in kind, – for instance in poultry, eggs, and even cream, – a payment which occasioned and sustained the rude hospitality of the lairds, with whom ready money and luxuries were scarce, wants and comforts few.
These accounts offer collateral evidence of that sad state of Scotland during the civil and religious struggle, so truthfully and vividly depicted by the great Wizard of the North in his Bothwells and Balfours of ‘Old Mortality:’ they tell of times when the land was overrun by the armed stranger, when houses were converted into barracks, and the owners ‘dragooned and eaten up.’ Charges occur at every page for horses taken by the Inglishman, for ‘tour agitts’ which the Inglishman ‘brak,’ and with allowances to tenants for free quarterings and billetings of troupers, for ‘levyis,’ cesses, and maintenancies of ‘Inglish garrisons.’
The House of Caldwell escaped better from the ‘plague and pestilence’ which, sure followers of the camp, filled poor Scotland’s miseries to the brim. Fortunately the guardians of the Mures were possessed of certain marvellous medicines, which, in spite of the selfish injunction in the MS. receipt-book never to divulge these family secrets, have been considerately given to the public by their descendant, and submitted, in these days of dreaded cholera, to the learned College of Physicians and to the confiding patients of water-doctors, homœopathists and hygeists in general. We subjoin a specimen, in our earnest desire to combine useful with entertaining knowledge, and give a peep into the pharmacopœia of a period long before Dr. Buchan’s book on ‘Family Medicine’ – by making every patient his own physician – hurried thousands of good Scots to an untimely end.
‘Tak three mutchkeens of Malvosie, and ane handful of red sage, and a handful of rew, and boyll them till a mutchkeen be wasted; then straine it, and sett it over the fyre againe; then put thereunto ane pennieworthe of long pepper, half ane of ginger, and ane qrter of ane ounce of nuttmegges, all beaten together; then let it boyl a little, and put therto five pennyworth of mithridate and two of treacle, and a qurter of a mutchkeen of the best angelick water. Keep this all yr lyfe above all bodlie Treasures. Tak it always warm both morning and evening, ane half spoonful if ye be in healthe, and one or two if ye be infected, and sweet thereupon. In all the plague tyme (under God) trust to this; for ther was never man, woman, nor child that this deceived. This is not onlie for the common plague, whch is called the seeknesse, but alsoe for the small pockes, missells, surffete, and diverse other deseases. This copied of a Paper found in my Boxchamber, at the desye of Besse.’
To continue these sanitary revelations, by the leave or without the leave of sweet Bessie:-
‘Take of asphodel Romano, and sett it under the sone in the Caniculare dayes, till it become in whyte ashes or lyke whyt powder. That done, put it in a boxe. Then to applye: Tak the blood or matter of the wound on a cleane linning, and lay on a little of the powder to the blood or matter; and keep the cloathe in a boxe, qure it may nither gette muche cold nor too muche heat. This done, dresse the wounded persone everie day once, and keepe always linning cloathes above the wound. But let no linning cloathe which hathe been used or worne by anie woman com neare the powder or wounded persone. Observe this secreet, and keepe it to yourselfe.’
This misogynist mixture is followed up by a medical diagnosis on a Mur of the feminine gender, and not, we trust, sweet Besse:-
‘SIR, – The bearer labours under the common weakness of being now more feard yn is just, As she was formerlie a little too confident in her own conduct. The spinal bon head hath never been restor’d intirly, qth will make her sensible all her days of a weakness in a descent, but will be freed from all achin paines if she nightly anoint it wth the following oyl, viz., Take a little fatt dogg, take out only his puddings, and putt in his bellie 4 ounces of Cumingseed; rost him, and carefullie keep the droping, qrin boyl a handful of earth wormes quhill they be leiklie; then let it be straind and preservd for use, as said is. My humble dutie to you, Ladie. I am, Glanderstoune, your most humble servitor,
The feud and the foray, the skein dhu and claymore, alone could have kept down the population of a country possessed of such checks to death, undevised in the multitudinous pamphlets of Mr. Malthus, or the speculations of Miss Martineau.
The vials of wrath were emptied in all their stern reality upon the house of Caldwell at the restoration of Charles II.; the national joy of Scotland was soon clouded over by the revival of the hierarchy, by prelatist persecutions, and by the bad faith of the king, in whose family, sincerity was no marked feature. He indeed, in his hour of need at Breda, had subscribed to the Covenant, and had confirmed the Presbyterian Church as a condition of his accession; but now, backed by Clarendon, over whom the spirit of Laud brooded, and disliking the religion of the Presbyterian as one not fit for a gentleman, Charles, who hated the Puritans both from creed and policy, lapsed readily – although in reality he cared little for the religious things, the papacy perhaps excepted – into a cognate prelacy. The darkest period of Scotch historical tragedy extended during his reign and that of his brother James II. This poor bigot, who preferred desolation to disaffection, thought the fair lands near the Forth ‘never would be well until reduced to a hunting field,’ while Lauderdale, his ferocious minister and the tool of the apostate Archbishop Sharp – sent to his dread account in 1679 – re-echoed the paternal sentiment, and held it to be better ‘that the West bore windle straws and sand larks than rebels.’ But civil rights are easier to be trampled on than religious opinions in Scotland, where an antipathy to the episcopacy and a loathing of Erastian dependence was a second nature and conscience. Then where popery and its shadow, the prelacy, was held to be the harbinger of slavery to mind and body, the field conventicle soon superseded the cathedral, and the faithful, excited by preaching in the wilderness, speedily made it a rendezvous of rebels. Scotchmen, serious by nature, and who really believed, in those days neither knew nor practised toleration, that spiritual panacea under which modern indifferentism masks itself so plausibly. But persecution was in vain, and their church waxed strong when watered by the blood of martyrs. Meantime, while war was waged to the knife on both sides, between the massacring and massacred, as the turn might be, the national character became deteriorated under the mutual exasperation, and men, worn down by penalties and persecutions, by torturings and inquisitions, grew weary of their lives.
In 1666, a year fatal to the West of Scotland, William the Laird of Caldwell, irritated beyond endurance, set forth, when none could remain neuter, with his armed and mounted tenants to join the Covenanters, when marching on Edinburgh. They dispersed, however, on hearing of the defeat of the Whig insurgents at Pentland on the 28th of November. Caldwell, who was then attainted, fled the country, by the assistance of devoted clansmen and the supporters of liberty, by whom he was highly esteemed. The moneys advanced to him are acknowledged in ‘obligations’ under the equivocal signature of William Robertssone – William Mure the son of Robert – a method of disguising a real name, without substituting one altogether fictitious, commonly adopted by the conscientious Covenanters in these perilous times of proscription. Our exile died in Holland, broken by the disasters of his family and country. His forfeited estates of Caldwell were given to General Thomas Dalzell, who was thus rewarded for his victory at Pentland. To this unscrupulous tool of the priests, who had learnt cruelty during his early service in Russia, is ascribed the introduction of the torturing screw, the thumbekin, while wives and sons were put to death by him for sheltering husbands and fathers. The hand of the new owner fell heavily on the house of Caldwell, the tenants were rack-rented, and the time-honoured tower and manor place levelled to the dust. One vein of good nature ran through this granite old General; his permission is preserved and printed giving a brother officer leave ‘to put a boat in the lock att Caldwell, and to recreate himselfe by taking of fishes, or any uther why he pleases,’ and we learn by a note that this ‘Locklyboth’ luckily still teems with the finny tribe.
The sins of this William Mure were moreover visited on his widow and orphans. The ‘Lady Caldwell,’ plundered of her personal property and jointure, was with her three daughters imprisoned for three years in the Castle of Blackness; nay, this mother, when a child was on its death-bed only two miles from the castle, was refused by the Council, when she petitioned to be allowed to visit it, although she offered to take the whole garrison with her as a guard, and to maintain it while she performed the last offices to her fatherless bairn.
The hereditary property of Caldwell, restored to the Mures in 1690 by a special Act of Parliament, passed in 1710 on the failure of the elder male line, to William, the head of the cadet branch of Glanderstone, one which had been severed from the parent stock by Sir John Mure in 1554.
The sister of this William gave birth in 1649 to the celebrated William Carstairs, afterwards chaplain to William III. and his principal adviser in Scottish affairs; for the King, busied with distant and more important affairs, gladly availed himself of the service of this brave and discreet man. Carstairs himself also had been schooled in adversity, being imprisoned in 1683 after the Rye House plot; when put to the torture, his resolute keeping of important secrets secured to him, on his settling at the Hague, the confidence of the Prince of Orange. When he accompanied the King to England at the Revolution, the identical instrument whose terrible torments he had resisted was presented to him by the Council as a delicate attention. William desired to see the relic, and tried it on, bidding Carstairs to turn the screw; but at the third ‘gentle violence’ His Majesty cried out ‘Hold, Doctor, hold! – another turn would make me confess anything.’
The difficulties of the house of Mure passed away with the dynasty of the Stuarts; William III., the rising sun, was welcomed from Holland by the Presbyterians, who were patronised by the new King from political motives, when a fresh germ of dissention arose from the prelatists of Scotland becoming Jacobites.
The MS. journal kept in 1685, by this Carstairs during his journey to Holland – then the asylum of persecuted Covenanters – and still preserved in the archives of Caldwell, is written in a small parchment-bound memorandum book, one sold, as the printed docquet – the cover – records, ‘by Joseph Paste, stationer in the Piatza, on the north side of the Royal Exchange, London;’ to this little tome is also appended an account of the travels of his cousin, our William Mure, in 1696, when he visited the head-quarters of King William, and was hospitably welcomed by Carstairs, who evidently in those handbookless days had lent him his journal; whereupon the canny Scot availed himself of the spare blank pages to make his own notes on.
The twin journals here printed in extensor, – although neither would nowadays go down in Albemarle Street, – offer a characteristic contrast in their treatment of the same scenes by the different hands of a grave clergyman and a garrulous Scotch laird. In those serious times of persecution the professors of an austere, morose creed – one suited better to the cheerless North than to the genial, sunshiny South – cared little for fine arts which refine and civilise; curiosity was Calvinised by the repulsive disciples of Geneva and Knox. Having dipped their Bibles in vinegar, and dwelling more on the terrors of hell than on the joys of heaven, they resisted the seductive siren Beauty in all its shapes, and offering no idolatrous sacrifice to the Graces, warred to the death against the Vatican as the mystery of iniquity, and scouted all its appeals to the heart, passions, enjoyments, wants, and weakness of poor humanity, which that system, with the wisdom of serpents, had enlisted into its service.
The tour of William Mure was made in 1696, and the commonplace curiosity of that period is now become a curiosity of itself. ‘Le style est l’homme,’ and we recommend to our excellent friend Peter |Cunningham the detail of the lions of London a century and a half ago. The traveller from Caldwell put up at first in the city with ‘one Mr. Mure, a merchant,’ and doubtless a Scotch cousin. From there he went to the Pell Mell –
‘Where I [ipse loquitur] lodged with one Mrs. Noris att the 2 pigeons, where I had a most desyreable societie. There I stayed until the 24 of May. I went frequently alongst the Tames to the city, where I went upon the tope of Paul’s church, a most famous building both for hight and fabricke, where I had a special view of the city. I saw the Towre, and in it the Armourie, Crowne, with diverse oyer rarities; such as Lyons, Tygers, and outlandish wild cattes. I went also to Bedlam, where I saw the most humbleing sights of distempered people of all kynds, great care being taken of them in their lodgeings and dyet. Some were reclaiming, others reclaimed, serveing the rest. I went to Grassame, where were a great many rarities of stones, foules, fishes, East and West India rarities, and mummies. Att other tyumes I went to Whitehall, Westminster; but frequently to St. James’ Park and the Mell, where I diverted myself oft. Againe to Chelsy, where ther is a hospitall of invalide souldiers, who are well cared for. They have their chapland, who morneing and eveneing says prayers. Besyde their lodgeing and dyet they have, according to their qualitie, soe much a day for their pocket money. There are the most regular gardens and pleasant lookeing to the Thames yt are about London, except the Earl of Montague’s, who has a most noble house with a large fair staircase, large roomes, fine finishing, furniture, and painteing, that I have seen; a mighty dale of silver plate. Upon the sute off arras hangings there’s a Scots highland wedding, acted lively, with all yr ordinare garbes.’ – i. 171.
This Mr. Mure, after all the perils by sea and land, died quietly in his bed, full of years and honours. He was succeeded by his nephew William, who began life as a barrister, and died M.P. for his county; and extract printed from his ‘contingent expenses’ illustrates the life and habits of a laird apparent while leisurely following the law in Edinburgh at the beginning of the last century. The student had a keener relish for spitchcock eels and creature comforts than for the Pandects or the spiritual manna of the Kirk. The Scotch youth of that day, when escaped from the durance of the domestic roof – of which more anon – made up in wine and wassail for the thin potations and paternal brose. Yet the ‘cartes à payer’ of the emancipated youngster, kept in ‘punds Scot,’ prove that the son was no prodigal, and that, although on pleasure bent, he had a frugal mind: his dinner, averaging 8 shillings Scot, can hardly be pronounced extravagant compared to the 1l. 10s., 3l. 4s., &c., which generally follow up when he ‘wined’ with boon companions. In all this intolerable quantity of sack, while ‘wine, brandy, punch, and ale’ figure copiously, not one passing allusion is made to toddy. No mention whatever occurs of whisky in the household or cellar-books of Caldwell; the Mures were ripened by good ‘ail and wyne’ until 1745, when the present vin du pays of Scotland, usquebaugh, that water of life, as this Phlegethontic fluid of death is miscalled, crept down to the Lowlands after the battle of Culloden. This short concentrated dram, which, suiting a damp dreary climate, had cheered the chilled breekless Highlander, now bids fair to convert modern Athens into a gin-palace and pandemonium, in spite of Forbes Mackenzie’s Act and temperance societies.
Be this as it may touching whisky, the wigs in 1710 – the periwigs, not politicians – were to the rising generation an evil and expense no less ruinous than cigars are in 1855. Thus on one day, June 23, we find noted in the account: ‘To a wig, 36l.; to Charles Murthland to buy a London wig, 8 guineas’ – 103l. 4s. 8d. Scot; nor are some Irish ones much dearer in St. James’s Street to this day.
The high and low life traditions of Old Reekie in auld lang syne are vividly chronicled by the lively daughter of this William; the lairds and elders about the year 1730 are thus touched off:-
‘Their manners was peculiar to themselves, as some part of the old feudle system still remained. Every master was revered by his family, honour’d by his tenants, and aweful to his domestics. His hours of eating, sleeping, and ammusement were carefully attended to by all his family and by all his guests. Even his hours of devotion was mark’d, that nothing might interrupt him. He kept his own sete by the fire or at table, with his hat on his head; and often particular dishes served up for himself, that nobody else shared off. Their children aproach’d them with awe, and never spock with any degree of freedom before them. The consequence of this was that except at meals they were never together; tho’ the reverence they had for their parents taught them obedience, modesty, temperance. Nobody helpd themselves at table, nor was it the fashion to eat up what was put on their plate. So that the mistress of the family might give you a ful meal or not, as she pleased; from whence came in the fashion of pressing the guests to eat so far as to be disagreeable. Their tables were as full as at present, tho’ very ill dress’d and as ill served up. They eat out of pewder, often ill cleaned; but were nicer in their linen than now, which was renewed every day in most gentlemens familys, and allwise napkins besides the cloth. the servants eat ill; having a sett form for the week, of three days broth and salt meat, the rest meagre, with plenty of bread and small bear.’ – i. 260.
The holidays, few and far between like angels’ visits, were chiefly connected with the church, as the name implies; nor would a new-born Scot by any means have fancied that he was ushered into a world of privation from the first impressions of it.
‘On the forth week after the mother’s delivery, she is sett on her bed on a low footstool; the bed covered with some neat piece of sewed work or white sattin, with three pillows at her back covered with the same; she in full dress, with a lapped head-dress and a an in her hand. Having informed her acquaintance what day she is to see company, they all come and pay their respects to her, standing or walking a little throw the room (for there’s no chairs). They drink a glass of wine and eat a bit of cake, and then give place to others. Towards the end of the week all the friends were ask’d to what was called the Cummer’s Feast. This was a supper, where every gentleman brought a pint of wine to be drunk by him and his wife. The supper was a ham at the head and a pirimid of fowl at the bottom. This dish consisted of four or five ducks at bottom, hens above, partrages at tope. Therre was an eating posset in the midle of the table, with dryed fruits and sweatmeats at the sides. When they had finished their supper, the meat was removed, and in a moment everybody flies to the sweatmeats to pocket them. Upon which a scamble insued, chairs overturned and everything on the table; wrassalling and pulling at one another with the utmost noise. When all was quiet’d they went to the stoups (for there was no bottles), of which the women had a good share. For tho it was a disgrace to be seen drunk, yet it was none to be a little intoxicate in good company. A few days after this the same company was asked to the christening, which was allwise in the church; all in high dress; a number of them young ladys, who were call’d maiden cummers [the French commère]. One of them presented the child to the father. After the cerrimony they dined and supped togither, and the night often concluded with a ball.’ – i. 265.
The introduction of the herb that cheers but not inebriates, began a social reform; for la destinée des nations dépend de la manière dont elles se nourrissent, according to Brillat Savarin.
‘About the smae time that tea tables were established, it was the fashion for the men to meet regularly in change-house, as it was called, for their differant clubs. There they spent the evening in conversation, without much expence; a shillings reckening was very high; and for people of the first fashion it was more generall from four pence to eight oence the piece, paying besides for their tobacco and pipes, which was much in use. In some of those clubs they played at backgamon or catch honours for a penny the game. All business was transacted in the forenoon and in the change-houses. The lawiers were there consulted, and the bill payd by the employer. The liquor was cherry in Muchken stoups. Every new Muchken was chalked on the head of the stoup. It was increadable the quantity that was drunk sometimes on those accaisons, Everybody dined at home in privit, unless called to some of the entertainments mentioned above; but the tea tables very soon intredused supping in private-houses. When young people found themselves happy with one another they were loath to part, so that supping came to be the unniversal fashion in Edin; and least the family they visited might be unprepared, they sent in the morning to know if they were to drink tea at home, as they wished to wait on them. Amongst friends this was alwise considered as a supper, and any of their men acquanintances ask’d that they could command to make up the party. The acquaintance made up at public places did not visit in this way; they hir’d a chair for the afternoon, and run throw a number of houses as is the fashion still. Those merry suppers made the young people find a want when they went to the country, and to supply the place of them was introduced colations after supper; when the young people met in some one of their bed chambers, and had either tea or posset, where they satt and made merry till far in the morning. But this meeting was carefully consealed manners continues till the sixty, or near it, when more of the English fashions took place, one of which was to dine at three, and what company you had should be at dinner. These dinners lasted long: the weman satt for half an hour after them and retired to tea; but the men took their bottle and often remained till eight at night. The weman were all the evening by themselves, which pute a stope to that general intercourss so necessary for the improvement of both sexes. This naturally makes a run on the pubnlic places; as the women has little ammusement at home. Cut off from the company of the men, and no familie friends to occupiue this void, they must tire of their mothers and elderly sosiety, and flee to the public for reliefe. They find the men there, tho leat in the evening, when they have left their bottle, and too often unfitted for everything but their bed. In this kind of intercourss there is little chance for forming attachments. The women see the men in the worst light, and what impression they make on the men is forgot by them in the morning. These leat dinners has entirely cut off the merry suppers very much regreated by the women, while the men passe the nights in the taverns in gaming or other amusement as their temper leads them. Cut off in a great measure from the society of the men, its necessay the women should have some constant ammusement; and as theya re likewise denied friendships with one another, the parents provides for this void as much as possible in giving them compleat education; and what formerly begun at ten years of age, or often leater, now begines at four or five. How long its to continue the next age most determine; for its not yet fixed in this. Reading, writing, musick, drawing, Franch, Italian, geografie, history, with all kinds of nedle work, are now carefully taught the girles, that time may not lye heavie on their hand without proper society. Besides this, shopes loaded with novels and books of amusement, to kill the time.’ – i. 271.
This diorama of men and manners in Edinburgh contrasts with a companion picture drawn in Hanover by Mrs. Scott, a sister of Mrs. William Mure, and wife to a diplomatic agent. Less easily to be pleased, she carried abroad the likings and dislikings of her country and creed: thus while a sermon was her summum bonum, cards – the deil’s buiks – were her detestation.
‘Perhaps you desire to know something of the diversion of the Carnival. For my part I find none; and were I to make an exact description of it, you would say perhaps that I had mistaken the penances imposed on reasonable people on Ash Wednesday for ye pleasures that Shrove Tuesday put an end to. But I will give you a hint of the Redoubt. It is the town-house with several rooms; but in the large one that opens with a great gate into the street, is the place of public diversion. In this house is put up a bar like the inner house, within which is the dancing, where everybody that can buy or borrow a masking habit is a companiion for ye princes, he or she: without this bar are tables for game, where the Electrice, or any other that weary of the dancing, p lays, and the whole mob has free egress and regress, so that the Electrice herself shall have her table crowdded with such as our Caddies; and to speak the truth our Caddies are at all possible points very much their superiors. To avoid being stiffled with dust, the room is wet all over the hour that the Redoubt begines; so that none need have vapours, if the smell of a new-washed room (or rather a room that has been laid under water, for they know no other way of washing), tallow ruffis, filthy feet, breath perfumed with garlick and sour crude (a stinking kind of kail), can cure them. The last time I was there there were some masques appeared so loathsome that I could not stand near them; for all the mob, male and female, has a masque on. The consequence of that is the stealing from their masters to equipt themselves for ye carnival, and till three or four in the morning they are coming in. There is rooms to retire to, to drink or do what else they please. Tho’ I believe people ill disposed may have fitter places for lewd actions, yet I may say the mischievous effects of this are only to be imagined by those who are witness to the snares it is to them who may rather be said to want prudence than virtue. In short I believe it is only among the Germans, or people as phlegmatick, that such licentiousness can be tolerat without runing all to ruin. And this way of diversion for the princes is here wisely likened to our Queen going incognito to the House of Commons to hear the freedom of speech; as if a German canailly, met together without thought, at least of good, were the same with the Parliament of Brittain assembled to consult of affairs of the last importance to all the Christian world!’ – Part i., p. 207.
The caustic sketches of a gross, sensual, vulgar German Court, recall the style of a sister of this Mrs. Scott – Mrs. Calderwood, the heroine of the ‘Coltness Collection,’ noticed by us in No. 140. These clever but cantankerous ladies were daughters of Sir James Stewart, the founder of Scotch Political Economy, who, long exiled from political causes, was pardoned during the ministry of Lord Bute, through the influence of his first cousin Baron Mure. These she-Lismahagos were homesick creatures, of provincial prejudice; and as Mrs. Scott partook more of crabbed ‘Mauses’ of Old Mortality, than of the mirthful daughter of the Mures just quoted, those curious in the elegances of Hanover must be referred to the original text now printed in tome two.
We turn therefore to the hero of this Epos, to the Mentor and Nestor of our learned Homeric compiler, the Solon, the one, of all the men he had ever known, who, in the experience of Professor Jardine, came nearest up to his notion of a wise man. Traditional reverence to a benefactor is natural and pardonable in a promoted tutor, as also in a dutiful grandson. William Mure, baro et vir bonus, was born in 1718; his father having died suddenly a few days after his election for Renfrewshire, the infant heir was left under the sole guardianship of a mother of genuine piety and good sense. He was educated at home by an eminent Scotch divine, William Leechman, who afterwards, by the interest of his pupil, was promoted to the Principal’s chair in the University of Glasgow; but tutorship is the natural stepping-stone to the young ambition of the mace and mitre in posse. When the toga virilis was assumed the customary continental tour was made, not indeed on the grand scale; as desire to represent his native county, which he did in 1742, limited his circuit. The future Judge, comely then as a Quentin Durward, signalised himself in France without wig or toga: we quote from the journal of a visit to the same countries performed thirty years afterwards by one of his own sons:-
‘I remember going to see the Chateau de Sceaux, belonging to the Count d’Eu, a descendant of Louis XIV., and then almost a rival to Versailles, but plundered and destroyed at the Revolution: in the fine park was a large piece of water; our guide through the grounds entertained us with the following story:- Many years ago two impudent Englishmen, who had been permitted to see the place on a very hot day, took advantage of not being observed as they supposed, to bathe in the lake: the Countess however got word of what was going on much to the consternation of the bathers, who had just time before she came up to regain their clothes and effect their retreat into the wood; our guide added that the strangers were both above six feet high, and that as they hurriedly dressed themselves and slunk away, the princess remarked, “What fine tall fellows they were:” on my repeating this story to my father on my return home, he asked if our cicerone had told us the names of the two tall Englishmen, and on my answering that he had not, he said, “Then I will tell you; the one was the late Sir John Maxwell of Pollock, the other myself.’ ” – Part i. p. 30.
Sir John Watson Gordon might attempt for the next Exhibition this feat of his distinguished countrymen, as a rival to the magnificent Pisa cartoon of the Bathers by Michael Angelo. Our Scotch Adonis having donned his senatorial robes, sat for three sessions a silent member until 1761, when he was appointed a Baron of Exchequer; his range of public activity and influence, limited to Scotch politics and internal administration, rendered him the highest authority in all improvements of land, commerce, and manufactures in Scotland; and one constantly referred to as a sort of standing chamber counsel, with a special retainer.
The Baron, amongst other strong points, possessed the faculty of forming and maintaining friendships with great men – Principibus placuisse viris non ultima laus est. In his infinite correspondence – a portion of which only is now selected, specimens abound from persons of every rank and station acknowledging benefits conferred, or soliciting advice and assistance, nor was it likely that one who was the right hand of Lord Bute in the disposition of loaves and fishes in Scotland, should on any lawful day lack a letter; yet with all his post-office practice the Baron himself was a bad correspondent, unbusiness-like, irregular, and long in answering; his letters scrawled in an almost illegible hand when written at last, frequently wanted dates, and were put too late in the post: their quality again is strained, and the composition studied; the copies of them, carefully kept by their author, demonstrate the value he put on them, and the difficult gestation of Mural parturition. His ‘brain babes,’ hammered out invitâ Minervâ, bear small sign of the current quill: such ponderous labourings to be lively, when compared to the dash and capering of his contemporary Horace Walpole, resemble an Ursa Major’s attempt at a Scotch reel.
The Judge, be it observed, was from the beginning the leading personage of his grandson’s compilation; the greater portion of the two last volumes was printed and prepared for circulation in separate integrity more than ten years ago, although from accidental circumstances the distribution was postponed. The work, originally consisting of two quartos, was specially entitled ‘The Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Baron Mure;’ a third tome has since been added, and one, with its wider scope and pithy annotations, which to our minds is by no means of the least interest.
Many who fully admit the good sense and conduct of the hero, may hold him to be a trifle tiresome; indeed when off the bench, and dealing with lighter literature, the best of Barons may be a bore; an inference not incompatible with the pursuits of law or political economy. As the bones of rabbits fed on madder turn pink, so the turn of mind and exponent style of one crammed with matter, maigre as poor-law gruel, with difficulty becomes poetical or pleasant; not was the threat of the Duchess of Douglas towards the guardian of her antagonist, the Duke of Hamilton, without some consequence. ‘Ah! that Baron Mure!’ exclaimed her Grace, shaking her fist in the air, ‘if I catch him, I’ll mak him as barren a muir as ony in Scotland.’ We must decline, therefore, the temptation of citically eviscerating and embalming the Baron and his epistles, partly from a respect ti those of our weaker English brethren, to whom statistics, theories of Scotch banking, currency, and the culture of flax, &c., suaves res, may seem savourless; and again, because the dicta of this wise man of the North will more appropriately appear in all their length and wight in the pages of a respected colleague, when full justice is done to an illustrious countryman and judge.
Mr. Mure, by his experience in local matters, had greatly assisted Lord Bute in the improvement of his dilapidated Scotch estates, and the Earl, kind by nature and never disinclined to advance a North countryman, repaid the service by intrusting his active agent with the Government patronage of Scotland; this power of the keys during the Bute Ministry rendered the Baron the person perhaps of the greatest influence north of the Tweed – an influence that was preserved by his own personal character, after political power had passed away from his patron; nor could the dispensing deputy complain of those on whom he bestowed his good things, for while many kept up with him a relation nearly resembling that of patron and client in ancient times, others nominated him and his descendants heirs – failing thier own heirs – of destination to their property, nor was this an empty compliment on parchment, for these settlements have in various instances benefited the Caldwell family; nor, however thoughtful of his friends, did the Baron altogether forget that sinecures began at home – or perhaps this great fact was not forgotten by his patron; so in 1763 a patent was passed granting him the reversion of the office of Receiver-General in Jamaica, a snug thing then worth about 700l. a-year. Few givers-away of such loaves and fishes have wanted a friend, and many of the Baron’s ranked as bright luminaries of the period, although they now, in the distance of time, are scheduled away into dim oblivion, and lumped with the fortem Gyam fortemque Cleanthum, of ephemeral notoriety. Brief indeed is the span of the majority of judicial and official personages; and few now-a-days can recollect even the names of the Presidents of the Court of Session or Lords of the Bedchamber of those days.
In this firmament of the now forgotten, two names shine forth as fixed planets, that of David Hume the historian and of John, Earl of Bute, the premier of George III. when he first ascended the throne. Tardy justice is now done to this calumniated minister, during whose short-lived power the game of unscrupulous opposition was easy; then mob prejudices needed only to be pandered by all who envied him his office, and who traded on the soreness felt in the South by the irruptions from Scotland. Thus the ancient border irritation – incidental to the friction of neighbourhood – was soon fretted into a fever, and the North Britons were ranked in the national antipathy with the rats of Hanover, as aliens and paupers who came to suck the vitals of England. Bute became the butt, and the unpopularity of the minister recoiled on his royal master. He was baited by a party who, ever hungering for place, are oligarchs when in, and ‘friends of the people’ and ‘something more’ when out; for the temperature of such loyalty, barely warmed by the sunshine of place, soon passes below the zero of Democracy. Wilkes in prose and Churchill in verse were the foul mouthpieces of the Vox Populi, while caricaturists symbolised the Earl with their king’s mother by jackboot and petticoat, and the whole pack was hallooed on to the death by Temple and Fox. But truth is great, and ultimately will prevail; and now that time has opened the despatch-box and destroyed the spell of ‘Private and confidential,’ we know the great men of the past better than their contemporaries did; and how the character of that brave, honest, and truly English king, the much maligned George III., rises with every new revelation of authentic papers, and how our surprise is lessened that he and the ‘King’s friends’ should have been hated and pecked at by the Wilkites of that day!
The correspondence of the Earl with Baron Mure corrects the inventions of the enemy, and neutralises many an acid aspersion of the lively but prejudiced partisan Horace Walpole, with whom hatred to a Scot was a second nature, although the private notes, written by Lord Bute and his brother at moments snatched from the business of high office, and speaking with the authority of knowledge, may be less spicy and entertaining than the tittle-tattle of an idle semi-Parisian man about town, a creature of coteries and gossip, a professed composer of letters, and a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles, which it must be confessed, he often set marvellously in false paste. Full evidence is now offered, says our compiler, of their patriotism and the purity of the motives by which the Bute system of local administration was guided; their
‘ruling principle of patronage was expressly stated in more than one “Detur digniori” consistently with this principle, preference may have been shown to friends rather than opponents; but of that unscrupulous party favouritism, of those mercenary jobs, or that reckless expenditure of public money, which were so generally recognised as the practice and privilege of placemen in those days, there is no vestige whatever. No less agreeable is the light reflected by Lord Bute’s letters on the more amiable points of his private character, his generous temper, affectionate heart, high sense of personal honour, and elegant accomplishments.’ – i. 33.
We cannot resist citing a characteristic inkling or two shot thus from the secret quiver of the premier’s thoughts:- ‘What strange things,’ writes the patron to his protégé, ‘have passed since you left this! O quando licebit – procul a negotiis, &c. Why am I doomed to climb ambition’s steep and rocky height, who early in life had the meanest opinion of politicians – opinions that maturer age and dear-bought experience too well confirm?’ (Vol. i. p. 119.) Short as was his tenure of office, he was ‘long tired of the anxiety, envy, and disgust of a situation ill suited to his temper or habitudes of life’ (vol. i. p. 175); yet, courageous in his devoted loyalty, he would have done battle to a faction greedy for place as he was indifferent, had his physical powers been equal to his moral fortitude. ‘Many, many reasons justify this resignation in a prudential light, but none of these should have had weight with me at present, if my health had permitted my continuance; the state of that made it impossible, and I yield to necessity.’ (i. 176.)
The possession of power which hardens, and the shafts of calumny which sadden, never soured the milk of his human kindness; he clung fondly to the memory of private and real friends, much as he knew the full emptiness of mere heartless lip-service and obsequiousness to the man in public office.
‘The death of my worthy, dear Stewart goes to my heart – the only remaining legacy of my father out of five or six, all of whom loved me with that fraternal affection, that inviolable attachment, that this iron age will seldom parallel! Few are the real friends that fifty years of life had made; for within a twelvemonth I have seen so much that I blush at my former credulity, and now know that the school of friendship nor the earnest affection. Attachment, gratitude, love, and real respect are too tender plants for ministerial gardens: attempt to raise them, and they are either chilled on their first springing, or if they once appear they fade with the very nourishment that is given them.’
Lord Bute, relieved at last from the cares of State, turly enjoyed the otium cum dignitate, and safe in his much longed for procul a negotiis, thanks to his enemies, lived down calumny. His latter years, spent at Luton, are thus sketched by his son:-
‘He is no longer abusedin print, nor tormented with people desiring his interest: that indeed has left him to a miracle. Ambiguous expressions, double cabinet, &c., no longer amuse the Houses of Lords and Commons in the mouths of Lord Chatham and Mr. Burke. Lord Burte is entirely free to amuse himself with planting and building at Luton, without being accused of governing the king and his ministry in London. All the world are, I believe, convinced that he has nothing now to say (behind the throne): the ministry knew that all along, however many of them said to the contrary; their only support was the cry of undue influence: the event we talk of put an end to that, and with that an end to opposition; the dursten’d not any longer make a handle of my father’s name, as they knew it was too weak a basis to stand on.’ – ii. 200.
A verdict of honourable acquittal must also be given to another friend and voluminous correspondent of the Baron – to James Stuart Mackenzie. This amiable and accomplished gentleman, whose earnest wish also was to put the right man in the right place, was appointed by his brother Lord Bute to be Lord Privy Seal, and to direct Government in Scotland; his dismissal was forced on George III. in 1765 by the unbending over-rated dictator George Grenville, to whose petty spite against his King, London owes a Belgravia of bricks, when the site might have been added, for a miserable sum, to Buckingham Gardens, and through whose pig-headed bad policy England lost America. Mr. Mackenzie, to accommodate George III., had surrendered a former place, and was given this Scottish direction in its stead, which, as it was not a patent one, the King promised upon his honour never should be taken away during his reign; but the painful sacrifice of word and friend was insolently extorted, and the imputed sins of the favourite were visited on an unoffending brother. Mr. Mackenzie was in 1766 restored to his office of Privy Seal by Mr. Pitt, who, although no admirer of Lord Bute, felt the unworthy affront offered to a gentleman and a king. The Scotch patronage was not restored, nor was it regretted by Mr. Mackenzie, who knew that political gratitude consisted too often in a lively anticipation of future favours.
Enough of fleeting party and politics: turn we now to matters more enduring. The fruits of the happy union with England were soon manifested in Scotland, where, as national differences dissolved, faction and fanaticism broke down before the material prosperity of the county – where, as we have seen in Ireland in our times, the evil birds that speculate on public distress expatriated themselves – their occupation gone – for the public good; then the sound portion of the Scotch nation turned to individual interests, with a passing tribute to literature. This was the Augustan age of Scottish letters; when adult education progressed without Manchester agitation or eleemosynary grants from the consolidated fund; but the national hunger for instruction was then natural, not forced. The most remarkable among the Baron’s intimate associates, says our compiler, was David Hume. The historian, although many years the senior, survived the Baron, and deplored, ‘as a loss irreparable, the death of the oldest and best friend I had in the world;’ adding, ‘I should be inconsolable, did I not see an event approaching which reduces all things to a level.’ And in four short months afterwards he too was gathered to his forefathers. ‘The Philosopher,’ as he was familiarly called in the Mural circle, was certainly one of its most distinguished dramatis personæ. The appearance of his outer man is here recorded by one ‘who as a boy was struck with his ponderous, uncouth person equipped in a bright yellow coat spotted with black.’ Even the judgment of Paris was perplexed by the corpus dilecti. It must be owned, writes Andrew Stuart to the Baron, that –
‘Some of his admirers were at first a good deal surprised with the largeness of his figure: they had generally in idea clothed him with a person very little encumbered with matter. Diderot among others was in this mistake, and told Mr. Hume at their first interview, that in place of taking him for the author of his works, he should have taken him for un gros Bernardin bien nourri.’ – i. 25.
L’habit ne fait pas le moine, nor have fat paunches always lean pates, and so –
‘All ranks of people,’ continues Stuart, ‘courtiers, ladies, old and young, wits and savants, vied with each other in the incense they offered up to the célébré Monseiur Hume. Amidst this intoxicating worship [drunk with Gallic praise and Gallic wine – according to Mason] he preserves his own natural style and simplicity of manners, and designs to be cheerful and jolly, as if no such things had happened to him.’
Meantime out partycoloured Philosopher, the observed of all observers at Paris, where ‘motley’s your only wear,’ was moreover hailed as the apostle of Atheism, and was welcomed by the D’Alemberts, and advocates of the rights of man, who, having cleared the ground of Christianity, brought infidelity and republicanism into fashion, leading the way logically, first by denial of God, to the guillotining the king. Thus Voltaire – the high priest – speaking of David, said to Mr. Moore, ‘You mos write him, as I am hees great admeerer. He is a very great onor to Ingland, and above all to Ecosse.’ – ii. 203. So Rousseau, before he had quarrelled with his honourable friend, described Scotland as ‘l’heureuse terre où sont nés David Hume et le Maréchal d’Ecosse.’ – i. 250.
Hume, according to his own showing, passed his life, when out of this ‘happy land,’ not so unpleasantly at Paris:-
‘I continue to live here in a manner amusing enough, and which gives me no time to be tired of any scene. What between public business, the company of the learned, and that of the great, especially of the ladies, I find all my time filled up, and have no time to open a book, except it be some books recently published, which may be the subject of conversation. I am well enough pleased with this change of life, and a satiety of study had before paved the way for it.’ – i. 254.
The Philosopher, astonished at his success, concludes:- ‘Those who have not seen the strange effects of modes will never imagine the reception I met with at Paris from men and women of all ranks and stations: the more I resiled from their excessive civilities the more I was loaded with them;’ and Horace Walpole, at that time at Paris, describes Hume, Whist, and Richardson (i.e. his novels) as ‘the only Trinity now in fashion here.’
When France set the fashion, no one can be surprised that the Baron’s better half, a lady distinguished in her early days for beauty and wit, allied to a certain eccentricity of manners, should also ‘admeer’ David, or be always at home to him, at her town residence at Abbey Hill. Still less is it to be wondered that this, the Holland House of Edinburgh, should become the favourite evening haunt of the great man in his best yellow and black spotted coat. while the Baron was the dispenser of the patronage of Scotland, this suburban villa shone like a petty court, and my lady’s levees were better attended by men of letters and waiters on providence than those at Holyrood House. Mr. Hume too, besides joining in the chat, made one at the card-table. He piqued himself on the good game he played at whist, but –
‘His proficiency in the history of card kings was not rated high by the professors of Hoyle of those days. And on this point, although David could not bear criticism, Mrs. Mure was wont to find fault with him à tort et à travers. One night they got into such a warm discussion on his play, that the Philosopher lost his temper; and taking up his hat, and calling a pretty Pomeranian dog, that always accompanied him, “Come away, Foxey,” walked out of the house, in the middle of the rubber. The family were to start the next morning for Caldwell; and David, who then lived in St. Andrew’s Square, a good mile distant, was at the door before breakfast, hat in hand, with an apology.’
Other ladies indirectly suffered worse: thus a letter from London informs the baron that there –
‘Are many squibs thrown out against our friend the Philosopher, but so scurrilous and silly that I did not think they were worth sending him: tell him, however, this fact, that a certain lady of very high rank and distinction miscarried last week, and told Sir John Pringle, President of the Royal Society, that this was entirely owing to the brusquerie of a puppy at her table throwing out impertinent reflections against Mr. Hume in favour of Rousseau.’
This Ishmaelite of the inkstand, who in his half crazy conceit fancied the universal world to be combined in one conspiracy of envy and malevolence to persecute and crush him poor inoffensive Jean Jacques, was very well at one time with David; so the Genevan philosopher, when in London, became the lion of the English one, who soon, like the rest of mankind, felt inclined to clothe the receant in calfskin. ‘They are lodged together,’ writes a friend to the Baron, ‘in Buckingham Street, Strand –
‘Where many go from civility [curiosity?] to see him [Rousseau]. Our friend David is made the shower of the lion: he is confoundedly weary of his pupil, as he calls him; he is full of oddities, and even absurdities. A friend of mine has offered him a retreat in Wales, where he is to board in a plain farmer’s house, for he would not stay at St. James’s unless the king took board.’ – ii. 63.
The morbid egotist finally settled at Chiswick, ‘boarded in a small house, his landlady a grocer: he sits in the shop and learns English words, which brings many customers to the house.’ – ii. 71.
Next to his skill at cards, David prided himself on the purity of his style, and bore the Baron’s criticisms less philosophically than the whist strictures of his better half MRs. Mure.
‘I am surprised,’ replies Hume to his reviewer, ‘that you should find fault with my letter. For my art, I esteem it the best I ever wrote. There is neither barbarism, solecism, equivoque, redundancy, nor transgression of one single rule of grammar of rhetoric thro’ the whole. The words were chosen with an exact propriety to the sens, and the sense was full of masculine strength and energy. In short, it comes up fully to the Duke of Bickingham’s description of fine writing: exact propriety of words and thought. This is more than what can be said of most composition. But I shall not be redundant in the praise of brevity, tho’ much might be said on that subject. To conclude all, I shall venture to affirm that my last letter will be equal in bulk to all the orations you shall deliver during the two first sessions of parliament.’
Hume, however heavy in person, skimmed lightly with his pen, and was, what seldom happens with infidels, tolerant of religion: thus when our compiler’s father and uncle were taken as boys to see St. Paul’s, and had been told (tell it not to the Dean) by the beadle who showed it,
‘That the daily service was not attended, and that even on Sundays the congregation was small; wishing to curry favour with their sceptical friend, on repeating this conversation, added “How foolish to lay out a million on a thing so useless!” David rebuked them mildly, saying, “Never give an opinion on subjects which you are too young to judge: St. Paul’s, as a monument of religious feeling and taste of the country, does it honour, and will endure; we have wasted millions on a single campaign in Flanders, and without any good resulting from it.” ‘
At home, as abroad, Hume’s amiable character, and the
‘Charm of his conversation, caused his society to be courted even in quarters where his religious scepticism was least likely to meet with approval. The tone of scoffing in which he was occasionally tempted to indulge was also seasoned with so much good humour, and so lively a vein of pleasantry, as to prevent its being offensive. The compiler can vouch for the authenticity of the following anecdotes derived from family sources. One Sunday forenoon, going forth to his walk, the philosopher met Sir James Hunter Blair (the compiler’s grandfather), then an eminent banker in Edinburgh, afterwards M.P. for that city, on his way with his lady to church. They asked Hume to turn and accompany them. “What,” he replied, “go to church with you! with publicans and money changers; the same who were driven with scourges out of the temple! No, no, I’ll never be seen entering a church in such company.” ‘
Whatever our philosopher might believe or disbelieve touching another world, he could quote Scripture, whenever it served his turn, in this: thus when building a new house in St. David’s Street – his name-sake tutelar – he used daily to take a short cut from the old town, across what was then a swamp, and on
‘One occasion, while picking his steps, made a slip, fell over and stuck fast in the bog: observing some Newhaven fish-women passing with their creels, he called aloud to them for help, but when they came up and recognised the wicked unbeliever David Hume, they refused any assistance unless he first repeated in a solemn tone the Lord’s Prayer: this he did without pause or blunder, and was extricated accordingly. He used to tell this story with great glee, declaring that the Edinburgh fish-wives were the most acute theologians he had ever encountered.’ – ii. 178.
Nous avons changé tout cela; and we have heard that the Poundtexts of the Free Kirk, now avoiding this perfect prayer as savouring of ritualistic form and bookery, indulge in an extemporaneous periphrasis of their own. Our David, however indebted, like pious Æneas, to these interposing female divinities, died a tough old bachelor. When young and more tender, he courted a well-born beauty of Edinburgh, and was rejected. ‘But several years afterwards, when he had obtained celebrity, it was hinted to him by a common friend that the lady had changed her mind: “So have I,” replied the philosopher.’ (ii. 178.) Aι δευτεζαι φροντιδες σοφωσαται, said the sages of old; and second thoughts are still sometimes the best in these delicate dilemmas.
Mr. Hume, before he built this new house in the New Town, by which he was led into the quagmire, occupied a lodging in the lofty building called St. James’s Court, at the south end of the earthen mound. On the floor below lived Mrs. Campbell of Succoth, mother of the Lord President, Sir Islay Campbell. One Sunday evening Hume, who was on friendly habits with Mrs. Campbell’s family, stepping down to take tea with her, found assembled a party of pious elderly ladies met to converse on topics suitable to the Sabbath. David’s unexpected entrance on such an occasion caused some dismay on the part of the landlady and her guests; but he sat down and chatted in so easy and appropriate a style, that all embarrassment soon disappeared. On the removal of the tea-things, however, he gravely said to his cards, Mr. Hume! surely you forget what day it is.’ ‘Not at all, madam,’ he replied; ‘you know we often have a quiet rubber on a Sunday evening.’ After vainly endeavouring to make him retract this calumny, she said to him, ‘Now, David, you’ll just be pleased to walk out of my house, for you’re not fit company in it to-night.’
The placid philosopher quitted this world and these ladies at peace, and when on his death-bed, and taking leave of Mrs. Mure, with whom he had had many a critical rub and rubber,
‘Gave her as a parting present a complete copy of his History. This tradition is confirmed by the existence, in the Caldwell library, of his own last edition of his great work (8 vols. 8vo. 1773), inscribed on the title-page of the first volume, “From the Author.” She thanked him, and added, in her native dialect, which both she and the historian spoke in great purity, “O, David, that’s a book you may weel be proud o’; but before ye dee, ye should burn a’ your wee bookies!” To which, raising himself on his couch, he replied with some vehemence, half offended, half in joke, “What for should I burn a’ my wee bookies?” But feeling too weak for further discussion of the point, he shook her hand and bade her farewell.’
Baron Mure, lukewarm in his own orthodoxy, was partial from associations of his youth to foreign education, which was increased by his fondness for Hume and French philosophy, then all the mode; so he sent his two scapegrace sons who fell foul of St. Paul’s, with a private tutor, Mr. Jardine, to the fashionable Parisian ‘Pension Bruneteau.’ The details of this part and parcel of the ‘ancien régime,’ and how the juvenile Scots were French polished, recall a scholastic state of things doomed never to return again. One of the pupils, however, the Baron’s brother, did return, after a lapse of forty-eight years; and did our limited space permit, his graphic reminiscences should have adorned our pages. Such a revisit after a long interval soothes, and may be saddens; the progress of time is arrested, and the hand of the dial marks as it were backward, while the old stand on the charmed sites. How unaltered everything, where the visitor alone is changed! – and here at Paris, while the buildings, the carcase of the school had been spared in the Revolution, the spirit was fled, and even the names of the former masters had passed away, as the memory of a guest that remaineth for a day, and like our own sweet youth, which never can be recalled.
Notwithstanding this literary legacy, and in despite of all the promise of the Pension Bruneteau and the Baron, te breath was no sooner out of the body of the worthy Judge than his son and heir turned from Minerva to Mars, and ‘listed in the Blues.’ Having gone with much credit and suffering through the wretched and mismanaged campaign in America, he quitted the regular service, and settling at Caldwell, judiciously became the Distributor of Stamps for Glasgow. He held this good thing for forty years, amusing his official leisure with playing at war, by commanding fencible and militia regiments. His military capacity was fully appreciated by his early friend Sir John Moore, whose father, a Glasgow surgeon, had been travelling tutor to the Duke of Hamilton, on the recommendation of Baron Mure, his Grace’s guardian. The letters of the hero of Corunna now selected are simple, straightforward, and savour more of the soldier than the scholar; but nature had destined his right hand for the sword, not for the pen, and, in those ‘dark days,’ no ‘competitive examinations,’ or tests, risked the exclusion of the best men from the camp; no pedants with softened brain bothered bold men of muscle and action, – theoretic civilians, who to a dead certainty would have ‘plucked’ both Nelson and Wellington.
The aspirations of Baron Mure for learned accomplishments – right honourable and superexcellent things in the right man and place – were realised in the next generation; and if there be consciousness in the grave, with what pride and pleasure must he turn to the son and heir of this gallant officer, to his grandson, the traveller, scholar, and critic, and the historian of his ancient clan, whose broad estates he holds, and whose fair fame he upholds and extends. Lands indeed are easier to be entailed than intellect; and genius, the rarest of inheritances, is the gift of the Great Giver alone;
Rade volte risurge per li rami
L’Umana probitade; e questo vuole
Quei che la dà, perchè da lui si chiami!
Mr. Mure has, indeed, as we said, grafted new laurels on the stock of distinctions, almost hereditary in his house; for he too has represented his native county in Parliament, and has been invested with the ‘blue ribbon’ of Scottish literature, as Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow. Assuredly, when in after times another edition is called for of this Caldwell Roll, in order that new worthies may be installed, a foremost post in the Fasti of the family will be assigned to him, their first chronicler; nor will our posterity willingly let die a name already inscribed with so much honour on the mantle-hem of the immortal Homer.
Records of Parliament
Which very charter of confirmation in all its points, conditions, articles and circumstances whatsoever we ratify, approve and confirm in equal form and effect for ourselves and our heirs and successors in perpetuity. In testimony of which matter we have ordered our seal to be appended to the present charter. Witnesses, the venerable fathers in Christ William [de Landels], William [Rae] and Duncan [de Strathearn], by the grace of God bishops of St Andrews, Glasgow, Dunblane and Dunkeld, Robert the Steward of Scotland, our nephew, Thomas, earl of Mar, Thomas [Stewart], earl of Angus, Malcolm Fleming, earl of Wigtown, William, earl of Sutherland, David de Lindsay, lord of Crawford, William de Livingston, Robert de Erskine, our chamberlain, knights, and Mr William de Caldwell, our chancellor of Scotland. At Dundee in our parliament held in the same place on 15 May in the twenty-first year of our reign [15 May 1350]. [David II: 1350, 15 May, Dundee, Parliament.]
The lords auditors decree and deliver that Adam Muir of Caldwell shall satisfy and pay Robert [Lyle], lord Lyle the sum of 37 merks of the rest of the payment of the last 100 merks, as is contained in certain indentures made between them thereupon, and ordain that letters be written to distrenzie him of his lands and goods for this. [James III: 1483, 7 October, Edinburgh, Parliament.]
The lords auditors decree and deliver that Alexander Caldwell of that Ilk, Adam Muir of Caldwell and John of Binning of that Ilk shall satisfy and pay Hutcheon Craigill, otherwise called Waneman, the sum of £5 10s, for which they became surety in the sheriff court of Linlithgow to pay the said Hutcheon for certain horse and goods that were previously spulzied from him, as was proven before the lords, and also that they shall pay the said Hutcheon 4 merks […]. [James III: 1484, 11 October, Edinburgh, Parliament.]
The action and cause pursued by David Caldwell against John of Dalziel, son of the lord of Dalziel, for the wrongful occupation and manuring of the lands of Knokhubill, lying in the sheriffdom of Lanark, as is contained in the summons, is continued by the lords auditors until 5 May next, with continuation of days, in the same form and effect as it is now, without prejudice of party, and because the said John of Dalziel alleges that Matthew Stewart should warrant him the said lands, he therefore should call him for the same day, and both parties are summoned according to the act.
The action and cause pursued by Henry Hogg against David Caldwell, for the wrongful harassment and disturbing of him in the lands of Gartness, with the pertinents, as is contained in the summons, is continued by the lords auditors until 5 May next, with continuation of days, in the same form and effect as it is now, without prejudice of party, and because the said David alleges that Matthew Stewart should warrant him the said land, the lords ordain that he be called to warrant him [on] the said day, and both parties are summoned according to the act. [James IV: 1489, 14 January, Edinburgh, Parliament.]
The which day Master Robert Crichton, advocate to our sovereign lord, presented of new this instant day a summons of treason, given under the testimonial of the great seal, duly executed and endorsed, of the which the tenor follows:
James, by the grace of God, king of Scots, sends greeting to our beloved lyon king of arms, Islay, Albany, Ross, Rothesay, Snowdon, Marchmont, heralds, Thomas Crichton, William Bryson, William Purves, Hector Troop, key-keepers, Ormond, Bute, Unicorn, Carrick, pursuivants, William Barrie, Gavin Ramsay, Thomas Barrie, George Dickson, messengers, and each of them, our sheriffs in that part. We instruct and command that you summon lawfully before witnesses James [Hepburn], earl of Bothwell, James Ormiston of that Ilk, Robert, alias Hob Ormiston, his father, [John Hay, younger, of Tallo, John Hepburn, called of Bolton, Sir Patrick Hepburn of Whitecastle, Patrick Whitelaw of that Ilk], Patrick Wilson, brother of Adam Wilson, burgess of Haddington, [Adam Murray], William Murray, brothers, Andrew Kerr [younger, of Greenhead, Walter Kerr, Robert Kerr, his brother, John Turnbull of Gaithouscot], Simon Armstrong, called Wanton Sim, Paris, the Frenchman, [Sir James Cockburn of Skirling, Sir Alexander Hepburn of Whitsome, Master George Halkett, John Cockburn, parson of Dolphinton, brother of the said James Cockburn of Skirling, Master Donald Fraser, archdeacon of Ross, Alexander Haitlie, natural son of John Haitlie of Mellerstain, John Haitlie, lawful son of the said laird of Mellerstain, William Edmonston, son of the parson of Fawlie, Hugh Cockburn, brother of the laird of Skirling, George Brown of Coilston, […] Wauchope, laird of Niddrie, John Somerville, brother of the laird of Somerville, Alexander Cunningham, brother of the laird of Glengarnock, Patrick Hepburn of Fortoun, George Carkettle, son of John Carkettle of Markle, Robert Hepburn, John Hepburn, sons of the laird of Waughton, Henry Spence, brother of the laird of Wormiston, Walter Ogilvie, brother of the laird of Clova, […] Muir of Caldwell, younger, Walter Kerr of Dolphinton, John Hepburn, son of the late parson of Dalry, Andrew Kerr of Hirsell, William Ormiston, called ‘with the head’, Robert Hume of Heuch, Ferdinand Hume of Broomhouse, Henry Haitlie, younger, of Mellerstain, Patrick [Hepburn], bishop of Moray, Adam Hepburn of Ballinhard, his son, George Hepburn, parson of Dalry, also his son, Patrick Hepburn, parson of Kinnoir, also his son, James Innes of Drany, […] Kinnaird of Culbin, Sir Nicholas Tulloch, vicar of Ruthven, Michael Tulloch, his brother, Master Magnus Halcro of Burgh, Master William Moodie, John Mowat of […], Thomas Tulloch of Fluris, Robert Sinclair, son of the late Edward Sinclair of Fluris, Patrick Hepburn of Waughton, Patrick Hepburn, his son and heir apparent, Adam Hepburn of Smeaton, William Hepburn of Gilmerton, William Newton of that Ilk, John Newton, his son and heir apparent, Master Thomas Hepburn, parson of Oldhamstocks], personally if you can conveniently have their presence in person and otherwise at their places of habitation or by publication at the market crosses of our burghs of Edinburgh, Haddington, Jedburgh, Peebles, Duns, Lauder, Fife, Perth, Elgin, Forres and Inverness and other necessary places, if they live or stay outwith our realm or have no fixed abode therein at the said market crosses on notice of 60 days, in such a way that this kind of summons could reach their ears and notice, that they compear before us or our beloved kinsman James, earl of Moray, lord Abernethy etc., regent of our realm, or our justice, on 19 December next to come, in our next parliament beginning in Edinburgh on Monday 15th of the foresaid month of December, at the hour of causes, with continuation of days, to respond to us and our said kinsman the regent of our realm or our justice in our foresaid parliament, for their treasonable conspiracy, oathtaking, plotting, treating and execution in regard to the unspeakable and detestable murder and parricide of our late dearest father Henry [Stewart, lord Darnley], most noble king of Scots and lawful spouse of our dearest mother Mary, queen of Scots, in the months of January and February just past, and also for their treasonable and unspeakable killing of him with their servants William Taylor and Andrew MacKeg in the silence of night in their dwelling at the church of St-Mary-in-the-Field [Kirk o’ Field] near our burgh of Edinburgh on 10 February at about 2 o’clock in the morning, and also for their treasonable interception of the most noble person of our dearest mother Mary, queen of Scots on her way between Linlithgow and the town of Edinburgh beside the bridges called ‘Foull Briggs’, approaching her with 1,000 armed horsemen kitted out for war, in May 1567, and for their treasonable and violent imprisonment of the most noble person of our dearest mother in our castle of Dunbar and their detention of her in the said castle for a period of 12 days, thus committing the unspeakable crime of kidnap on her noble person; also for art and part, and the plotting, favour and assistance offered and demonstrated by them and any of them to the said treasonable conspirators in their foresaid unspeakable and treasonable deeds, and for their concealing and hiding of the same, and their communicating, welcoming, protection and favour offered and demonstrated to them in the foresaid treasonable conspiracies and crimes, after the unspeakable perpetration of the said treasonable crimes, and after they were denounced rebels at the horn and fugitives from the law for those reasons, and especially in our burghs and places of Elgin, Forres, Spynie and various other places in Moray, Orkney and other parts of our realm, and for the said James, earl of Bothwell’s presence and that of other persons in the castle and fortress of Dunbar, and their treasonable support, fortifying and keeping of the said castle with mercenaries, guns, gunpowder and other armaments and materials against us, our royal authority and the regent of our realm in the months of July, August and September just past, notwithstanding that the foresaid persons had been requested on the strength of our letters to hand over the said castle to us and to others in our name, and rejecting our instructions and requirements they treasonably refused to hand over the said castle to us, and to our regent in our name, but treasonably continued to keep it, as they do at present. Seeing that after the foresaid murder, treason and parricide perpetrated and committed by them as has been said, in the said month of February, when our said dearest father had gone to sleep in the silence of night, the said James, earl of Bothwell, not ignorant that he was the principal conspirator, planner and doer of the foresaid abominable parricide, sought out all means and colours with which he could cover and hide his nefarious deed in his eagerness not to let the deed come to light according to the laws and customs of our realm. Dishonestly by effort and solicitation on 28 March just past he saw to it that letters were instructed at the instance of our advocates and on 29 March brought it about that our dearest grandfather Matthew [Stewart], earl of Lennox, lord Darnley, and all others of our lieges having or claiming to have interest, were to compear at the market cross and various other places on 12 April for a prosecution in the presence of our justice and our advocates, to assist in the prosecution of the foresaid case, with ratification that if they did not then our justice and his deputes would proceed in the administration of justice in the said case in accordance with the laws and custom of the realm. These summonses were neither just nor lawful, not only against the laws and daily practice of our realm, but also with 15 days between the date of execution of the said letters and the said 12 April it is very clear that there were scarcely ten or twelve days to use for inspection of the same. None the less the said James, earl of Bothwell – not lawfully summoned nor put under caution to submit to the law for the said treasonable and abominable murder and parricide, but by his methods and efforts – on the twelfth day brought it about that he was subjected to factfinding, assize and examination by his friends’ questioning and attention, while our dearest grandfather and others having interest did not have the legal notice or enough time, or the postponements required by law and the custom of our realm, to gather their friends and discuss the indictment and consider as is usual and customary other indications from similar cases, to prepare for an enquiry or assize involving people who were not suspects. Also, our foresaid dearest grandfather in such a short space of time was not able to gather his friends and discuss things with them, in such a serious case, and without them he was unable, and did not dare, to compear for the prosecution of the foresaid treasonable and abominable parricide while the said James, earl of Bothwell was there, with his friends and retinue who accompanied him and took part in the said crime, who had met him in large numbers in the said burgh of Edinburgh on the said day to that effect, ready armed. And so our dearest grandfather instructed Robert Cunningham, armed with a sufficient mandate, to excuse in the presence of our justice, on the said day and in the said place, the absence of his master on account of lack of time in the foresaid summons, declaring that he could not in such a short time gather his friends and retinue for his honour and the preservation of life, in consideration of such a powerful opponent who was surrounded by such a large number of retinue and friends. So he asked for an appropriate day to be assigned for him for the prosecution of the said case, as the magnitude and gravity of the case demanded. By the manoeuvres, efforts and lobbying of the said James, earl of Bothwell, this was denied, and none the less the said justice subjected the foresaid case to factgathering, enquiry or assize with no one present for the prosecution of the indictment as normal or even sworn in. And thus, under cover of a pretence of purgation of the said earl James of the said unspeakable and treasonable parricide, against the laws, equity and daily practice of this realm, he appeared to avoid the punishment due for such a horrible and unspeakable crime, although the truth of the matter is most clearly that the said James, earl of Bothwell and his accomplices took part and assisted in the perpetration and commission of the foresaid treasonable and nefarious murder and parricide at the time and in the place specified above, and treasonably committed a conflagration at the same time and in the said place with a great quantity of gunpowder, by the force of which the entire hospice was lifted into the air at the foresaid time, and this not without great scandal to our realm and all inhabitants thereof. Further, the foresaid James, earl of Bothwell, immediately after the foresaid treasonable and nefarious parricide perpetrated by him as has been said, knowingly and willingly hid and concealed it, and welcomed, protected and kept with him the late William Blackadder, John Hepburn, called of Bolton, John Hay, younger, of Tallo, Paris […], .the Frenchman, Patrick Wilson, James Ormiston of that Ilk, Robert Ormiston, his uncle, and others who were executors and perpetrators of the said cruel, treasonable and abominable murder, parricide and fire, and paid them, allocated pay to them for the perpetration of such a nefarious and treasonable parricide, knowing them to be perpetrators of the said nefarious crime, and knowingly and willingly after its commission continuously welcomed at least the majority of them into his household, guarded and kept them, assisting them in their treasonable, nefarious and abominable crimes, chiefly in the parricide committed on the most noble person of our said late and dearest father, and the hiding and concealment of the same, and above all on the said 12 April after as has been said, in his own way and contrary to the rule of law, the said James, earl of Bothwell was cleared and acquitted of the treasonable murder and parricide of our late dearest father, by a letter of his own called a cartella signed by himself and judicially delivered, he pitted himself against a noble gentleman who had in no way been defamed who had dared to assert that he [Bothwell] was guilty of the abominable crime and was duelling with him, and according to the law. This notwithstanding, the same James, earl of Bothwell refused on 15 June to take issue with the noble baron and lord of our parliament on this appeal, drawing down on himself the charge of defeat by ordeal. The foresaid James, earl of Bothwell and the foresaid persons plotted, treated, enquired and deliberated in their perpetration of these horrible, treasonable and nefarious crimes, and offered and demonstrated advice, help and assistance to the perpetrators and conspirators, so that he might more easily succeed in his nefarious, abominable and impious plot. To that effect, on 24 April past, with a large number of armed men, namely 1,000 armoured horsemen and others drawn up in hostile array, he set an ambush on the route of our dearest mother then queen of Scots while she was travelling from Linlithgow to our town of Edinburgh, suspecting that no harm would come to her from any of her subjects, least of all from the said earl of Bothwell since she had exhibited such offices of liberality and benevolence towards him as any prince could show and exhibit to a subject. With force and violence he treasonably apprehended her most noble person, cast violent hands on her, not allowing her to make her way peacefully to the town of Edinburgh, but committed the treasonable crime of kidnap upon her most noble person by apprehending our said dearest mother on the public highway, and taking her that night to the castle of Dunbar (which was then in his power), led her there and imprisoned and held her captive there for a period of 12 days or thereabouts. By force and violence, and under compulsion of the fear which can happen to the most constant of women, he forced her into a marriage contract with him as fast as he could. All of these things were thought through, discussed and deliberated by the said earl and the foresaid persons long before the time of the foresaid conspiracy and abominable parricide, notwithstanding that at that time the same James, earl of Bothwell had the honest lady Janet Gordon joined with him in lawful wedlock, and not divorced, and with no legal process planned or begun. Continuing and persevering in his nefarious and treasonable crimes and plans, he kept and detained the most noble person of our said dearest mother in close custody and under guard by force and violence with a band of his armed friends and retinue until 6 May last, when, accompanied by a large number of armed men, he took her to Edinburgh Castle (which was at the time in his power) and imprisoned her there. He forced her to remain there until the 11th of the same month, when, accompanied by a large number of armed men as has been said, he took her to our palace of Holyroodhouse, the better to provide cover for his treasonable and nefarious deeds and plans. Within four days he forced her to marry him, and thus under cover of a pretended deed and a mock wedding he used her most noble person and the governance of our realm in accordance with his abominable and detestable appetite. [Besides, the said James, earl of Bothwell, as one who considered nothing out of bounds, along with the foresaid persons, and so that he could use and enjoy the governance of this realm and the most noble person of our said dearest mother, in the said month of April, took prisoner and imprisoned in the said castle of Dunbar for 10 days or so our beloved councillors George [Huntly], earl of Huntly, our chancellor, William Maitland of Lethington, younger, secretary of our privy council and session, lords, when he said he wanted a discussion with them, and they had no suspicion. He forced them to agree, or at least to say that they agreed, to support all his treasonable and nefarious deeds, especially the sham marriage of him and our said dearest mother. Thereby he most manifestly incurred the charge of lese-majesty, taking to himself the royal authority when our councillors had not been called together or arrested for any crime, and having no commission to do so]. And for many other crimes and treasonable transgressions perpetrated treasonably and unlawfully by the forenamed persons and any of them against us, our regent and our realm on the same day and in the same place they are to present and show themselves. And in this regard they are to await and subject themselves to our justice and that of our parliament according to the laws of our realm, namely the said persons, for seeing that they and any of them have on the basis of the foregoing incurred the crime of lese-majesty as it is decreed and declared by us and by the decreet of the three estates of our realm, and therefore their goods, both immovable and movable, lands and offices and everything else relating to them are forfeit to us and remain with us in perpetuity as our property, and their persons suffer the penalty of treason and of the ultimate punishment inflicted by the laws of our realm. Further, it is necessary for them to answer in respect of the foregoing and submit to the law. It is intimated to the forementioned persons and to any of them that whether they has compeared on the said day and in the said place, with continuation of days, or not, nevertheless our said regent and justice shall proceed in regard to the foregoing, in line with justice. Also, you shall hand over the present letter, duly executed and endorsed, to their bearer. Also you who have had executed these writs in person are to be on the said day in the said place, in the presence of ourselves or our said regent and justice, bearing with you written proof of your summons in relation to the foregoing, or witnesses themselves. To carry this out, we give full authority to you, and to whomsoever of you, our sheriffs in this regard, jointly and separately. Given under testimony of our great seal, at Edinburgh on 1 October in the year of the Lord 1567, and in the first year of our reign. [James VI: 1567, 15 December, Edinburgh, Parliament.]
Supplication by the Laird of Caldwell
My lords and others of the estates of parliament to your lordships humbly means and shows I, your servant, Robert Muir of Caldwell, and my curators here present for their interests, that where my late father contracted sickness in the public service whereof thereafter he died and parted this life, therefore most humbly beseeches your lordships that your lordships will be pleased to give order to [Sir James Carmichael], treasurer depute, and other lords of the exchequer to pass the signature presented to me and to my friends here present, in my name, of the gift of my ward and marriage. And that upon such reasonable compositions as your lordship shall think expedient.
24 July 1641
Read and considered.
5 August 1641
Produced by [James Chalmers], laird of Gadgirth.
5 August 1641
The estates of parliament, in respect of their certain knowledge of the verity of the written within supplication, find the desire thereof reasonable and ordain the gifts to be past freely, according to the act of parliament, and ordain the clerk to give out the duplicate hereof under his hand if need be.
[Robert Balfour, lord Balfour of] Burleigh, in presence of the lords of parliament.
[Charles I: 1641, 15 July, Edinburgh, Parliament.]
Our sovereign lord and lady the king and queen’s majesties, considering that before the year 1669 there was no law empowering the lords of justiciary to forfeit in absence for treason or any other crime but, on the contrary, by the 90th act, parliament 11th, King James VI, of the year 1587, it is statute, declared and ordained that the whole accusation, reasoning, writs, witnesses and other probation and instruction whatsoever of the crime should be alleged, reasoned and deduced to the assize in the presence of the party accused in face of judgement and not otherwise. And therefore, their majesties, with advice and consent of the estates of parliament, declare that all sentences pronounced by the justice court in absence of the accused for treason or any other crime before the year 1669 were from the beginning null and void, and hereby restore all persons or their representatives so forfeited by the justices by way of justice, and particularly the representatives of [William] Muir of Caldwell, […] Kerr of Kersland and Mr William Veitch, minister of the Gospel, which shall be as valid and effectual to all intents and purposes as if they had a special act of parliament reducing these forfeitures. And hereby rescind the act of parliament in the year 1669 in so far as it ratifies these forfeitures, and allow the foresaid persons to apply to the commission named by the act of parliament rescinding fines and forfeitures for claiming of bygones preceding Martinmas [11 November] 1688 conforming to that act. [William II and Mary II: 1690, 15 April, Edinburgh, Parliament.]