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Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character by Edward Bannerman Ramsay

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The reply was, "Indeed, the less we say aboot that prayer the better."
But he was pushed for "further answer as to his own views and his own
ideas on the matter," so he came out with the declaration, "Weel, then,
I say this--they may pray the kenees[28] aff their breeks afore I join
in that prayer."

The following is a characteristic Jacobite story. It must have happened
shortly after 1745, when all manner of devices were fallen upon to
display Jacobitism, without committing the safety of the Jacobite, such
as having white knots on gowns; drinking, "The king, ye ken wha I mean;"
uttering the toast "The king," with much apparent loyalty, and passing
the glass over the water-jug, indicating the esoteric meaning of majesty
_beyond_ the sea,--etc. etc.; and various toasts, which were most
important matters in those times, and were often given as tests of
loyalty, or the reverse, according to the company in which they were
given. Miss Carnegy of Craigo, well known and still remembered amongst
the old Montrose ladies as an uncompromising Jacobite, had been vowing
that she would drink King James and his son in a company of staunch
Brunswickers, and being strongly dissuaded from any such foolish and
dangerous attempt by some of her friends present, she answered them with
a text of Scripture, "The tongue no man can tame--James _Third_ and
_Aucht_" and drank off her glass[29]!



The next change in manners which has been effected, in the memory of
many now living, regards the habits of conviviality, or, to speak more
plainly, regards the banishment of _drunkenness_ from polite society. It
is indeed a most important and blessed change. But it is a change the
full extent of which many persons now alive can hardly estimate. Indeed,
it is scarcely possible to realise the scenes which took place seventy
or eighty years back, or even less. In many houses, when a party dined,
the ladies going away was the signal for the commencement of a system of
compulsory conviviality. No one was allowed to shirk--no daylight--no
heeltaps--was the wretched jargon in which were expressed the propriety
and the duty of seeing that the glass, when filled, must be emptied and
drained. We have heard of glasses having the bottoms knocked off, so
that no shuffling tricks might be played with them, and that they could
only be put down--empty.

One cannot help looking back with amazement at the infatuation which
could for a moment tolerate such a sore evil. To a man of sober
inclinations it must have been an intolerable nuisance to join a dinner
party at many houses, where he knew he should have to witness the most
disgusting excesses in others, and to fight hard to preserve himself
from a compliance with the example of those around him.

The scenes of excess which occurred in the houses where deep drinking
was practised must have been most revolting to sober persons who were
unaccustomed to such conviviality; as in the case of a drinking Angus
laird, entertaining as his guest a London merchant of formal manners and
temperate habits. The poor man was driven from the table when the
drinking set in hard, and stole away to take refuge in his bedroom. The
company, however, were determined not to let the worthy citizen off so
easily, but proceeded in a body, with the laird at their head, and
invaded his privacy by exhibiting bottles and glasses at his bedside,
Losing all patience, the wretched victim gasped out his
indignation--"Sir, your hospitality borders upon brutality." It must
have had a fatal influence also on many persons to whom drinking was
most injurious, and who were yet not strong-minded enough to resist the
temptations to excess. Poor James Boswell, who certainly required no
_extraordinary_ urging to take a glass too much, is found in his
letters, which have recently come to light, laying the blame of his
excesses to "falling into a habit which still prevails in Scotland;" and
then he remarks, with censorious emphasis, on the "drunken manners of
his countrymen." This was about 1770.

A friend of mine, however, lately departed--Mr. Boswell of
Balmuto--showed more spirit than the Londoner, when he found himself in
a similar situation. Challenged by the host to drink, urged and almost
forced to swallow a quantity of wine against his own inclination, he
proposed a counter-challenge in the way of eating, and made the
following ludicrous and original proposal to the company,--that two or
three legs of mutton should be prepared, and he would then contest the
point of who could devour most meat; and certainly it seems as
reasonable to compel people to _eat_, as to compel them to drink, beyond
the natural cravings of nature.

The situation of ladies, too, must frequently have been very
disagreeable--when, for instance, gentlemen came up stairs in a
condition most unfit for female society. Indeed they were often
compelled to fly from scenes which were most unfitting for them to
witness. They were expected to get out of the way at the proper time, or
when a hint was given them to do so. At Glasgow sixty years ago, when
the time had come for the _bowl_ to be introduced, some jovial and
thirsty members of the company proposed as a toast, "The trade of
Glasgow and _the outward bound!_" The hint was taken, and silks and
satins moved off to the drawing-room.

In my part of the country the traditionary stories of drinking prowess
are quite marvellous. On Deeside there flourished a certain Saunders
Paul (whom I remember an old man), an innkeeper at Banchory. He was said
to have drunk whisky, glass for glass, to the claret of Mr. Maule and
the Laird of Skene for a whole evening; and in those days there was a
traditional story of his despatching, at one sitting, in company with a
character celebrated for conviviality--one of the men employed to float
rafts of timber down the Dee--three dozen of porter. Of this Mr. Paul it
was recorded, that on being asked if he considered porter as a wholesome
beverage, he replied, "Oh yes, if you don't take above a dozen."
Saunders Paul was, as I have said, the innkeeper at Banchory: his friend
and _porter_ companion was drowned in the Dee, and when told that the
body had been found down the stream below Crathes, he coolly remarked,
"I am surprised at that, for I never kenn'd him pass the inn before
without comin' in for a glass."

Some relatives of mine travelling in the Highlands were amused by
observing in a small road-side public-house a party drinking, whose
apparatus for conviviality called forth the dry quaint humour which is
so thoroughly Scottish. Three drovers had met together, and were
celebrating their meeting by a liberal consumption of whisky; the inn
could only furnish one glass without a bottom, and this the party passed
on from one to another. A queer-looking pawky chield, whenever the glass
came to his turn, remarked most gravely, "I think we wadna be the waur
o' some water," taking care, however, never to add any of the simple
element, but quietly drank off his glass.

There was a sort of infatuation in the supposed dignity and manliness
attached to powers of deep potation, and the fatal effects of drinking
were spoken of in a manner both reckless and unfeeling. Thus, I have
been assured that a well-known old laird of the old school expressed
himself with great indignation at the charge brought against hard
drinking that it had actually _killed_ people. "Na, na, I never knew
onybody killed wi' drinking, but I hae kenn'd some that dee'd in the
training." A positive _eclat_ was attached to the accomplished and
well-trained consumer of claret or of whisky toddy, which gave an
importance and even merit to the practice of drinking, and which had a
most injurious effect. I am afraid some of the Pleydells of the old
school would have looked with the most ineffable contempt on the
degeneracy of the present generation in this respect, and that the
temperance movement would be little short of insanity in their eyes; and
this leads me to a remark.--In considering this portion of the subject,
we should bear in mind a distinction. The change we now speak of
involves more than a mere change of a custom or practice in social life.
It is a change in men's sentiments and feelings on a certain great
question of morals. Except we enter into this distinction we cannot
appreciate the extent of the change which has really taken place in
regard to intemperate habits.

I have an anecdote from a descendant of Principal Robertson, of an
address made to him, which showed the real importance attached to all
that concerned the system of drinking in his time. The Principal had
been invited to spend some days in a country-house, and the minister of
the parish (a jovial character) had been asked to meet him. Before
dinner he went up to Dr. Robertson and addressed him
confidentially--"Doctor, I understand ye are a brother of my gude freend
Peter Robertson of Edinburgh, therefore I'll gie you a piece of
advice,--Bend[30] weel to the Madeira at dinner, for here ye'll get
little o't after." I have known persons who held that a man who could
not drink must have a degree of feebleness and imbecility of character.
But as this is an important point, I will adduce the higher authority of
Lord Cockburn, and quote from him two examples, very different certainly
in their nature, but both bearing upon the question. I refer to what he
says of Lord Hermand:--"With Hermand drinking was a virtue; he had a
sincere respect for drinking, indeed a high moral approbation, and a
serious compassion for the poor wretches who _could_ not indulge in it,
and with due contempt of those who could but did not;" and, secondly, I
refer to Lord Cockburn's pages for an anecdote which illustrates the
perverted feeling I refer to, now happily no longer existing. It
relates the opinion expressed by an old drunken writer of Selkirk (whose
name is not mentioned) regarding his anticipation of professional
success for Mr. Cranstoun, afterwards Lord Corehouse. Sir Walter Scott,
William Erskine, and Cranstoun, had dined with this Selkirk writer, and
Scott--of hardy, strong, and healthy frame--had matched the writer
himself in the matter of whisky punch. Poor Cranstoun, of refined and
delicate mental and bodily temperament, was a bad hand at such work, and
was soon off the field. On the party breaking up, the Selkirk writer
expressed his admiration of Scott, assuring him that _he_ would rise
high in the profession, and adding: "I'll tell ye what, Maister Walter,
that lad Cranstoun may get to the tap o' the bar, if he can; but tak my
word for't, it's no be by drinking."

There was a sort of dogged tone of apology for excess in drinking, which
marked the hold which the practice had gained on ordinary minds. Of this
we have a remarkable example in the unwilling testimony of a witness who
was examined as to the fact of drunkenness being charged against a
minister. The person examined was beadle, or one of the church
officials. He was asked, "Did you ever see the minister the worse of
drink?" "I canna say I've seen him the waur o' drink, but nae doubt I've
seen him the _better_ o't," was the evasive answer. The question,
however, was pushed further; and when he was urged to say if this state
of being "the better for drink" ever extended to a condition of absolute
helpless intoxication, the reply was: "Indeed, afore that cam', I was
blind fou mysel', and I could see nae thing."

A legal friend has told me of a celebrated circuit where Lord Hermand
was judge, and Clephane depute-advocate. The party got drunk at Ayr, and
so continued (although quite able for their work) till the business was
concluded at Jedburgh. Some years after, my informant heard that this
circuit had, at Jedburgh, acquired the permanent name of the
"_daft_ circuit."

Lord Cockburn was fond of describing a circuit scene at Stirling, in his
early days at the bar, under the presidency of his friend and connection
Lord Hermand. After the circuit dinner, and when drinking had gone on
for some time, young Cockburn observed places becoming vacant in the
social circle, but no one going out at the door. He found that the
individuals had dropped down under the table. He took the hint, and by
this ruse retired from the scene. He lay quiet till the beams of the
morning sun penetrated the apartment. The judge and some of his staunch
friends coolly walked up stairs, washed their hands and faces, came down
to breakfast, and went into court quite fresh and fit for work.

The feeling of importance frequently attached to powers of drinking was
formally attested by a well-known western baronet of convivial habits
and convivial memory. He was desirous of bearing testimony to the
probity, honour, and other high moral qualities of a friend whom he
wished to commend. Having fully stated these claims to consideration and
respect, he deemed it proper to notice also his _convivial_ attainments:
he added accordingly, with cautious approval on so important a
point--"And he is a fair drinker[31]."

The following anecdote is an amusing example of Scottish servant humour
and acuteness in measuring the extent of consumption by a convivial
party in Forfarshire. The party had met at a farmer's house not far from
Arbroath, to celebrate the reconciliation of two neighbouring farmers
who had long been at enmity. The host was pressing and hospitable; the
party sat late, and consumed a vast amount of whisky toddy. The wife was
penurious, and grudged the outlay. When at last, at a morning hour, the
party dispersed, the lady, who had not slept in her anxiety, looked over
the stairs and eagerly asked the servant girl, "How many bottles of
whisky have they used, Betty?" The lass, who had not to pay for the
whisky, but had been obliged to go to the well to fetch the water for
the toddy, coolly answered, "I dinna ken, mem, but they've drucken sax
gang o' water."

We cannot imagine a better illustration of the general habits that
prevailed in Scottish society in regard to drinking about the time we
speak of than one which occurs in the recently-published "Memoirs of a
Banking House," that of the late Sir William Forbes, Bart, of Pitsligo.
The book comprises much that is interesting to the family, and to
Scotchmen. It contains a pregnant hint as to the manners of polite
society and business habits in those days. Of John Coutts, one of four
brothers connected with the house, Sir William records how he was "more
correct in his conduct than the others; so much so, that Sir William
_never but once_ saw him in the counting-house disguised with liquor,
and incapable of transacting business."

In the Highlands this sort of feeling extended to an almost incredible
extent, even so much as to obscure the moral and religious sentiments.
Of this a striking proof was afforded in a circumstance which took place
in my own church soon after I came into it. One of our Gaelic clergy had
so far forgotten himself as to appear in the church somewhat the worse
of liquor. This having happened so often as to come to the ears of the
bishop, he suspended him from the performance of divine service. Against
this decision the people were a little disposed to rebel, because,
according to their Highland notions, "a gentleman was no the waur for
being able to tak' a gude glass o' whisky." These were the notions of a
people in whose eyes the power of swallowing whisky conferred
distinction, and with whom inability to take the fitting quantity was a
mark of a mean and futile character. Sad to tell, the funeral rites of
Highland chieftains were not supposed to have been duly celebrated
except there was an immoderate and often fatal consumption of whisky. It
has been related that at the last funeral in the Highlands, conducted
according to the traditions of the olden times, several of the guests
fell victims to the usage, and actually died of the excesses.

This phase of old and happily almost obsolete Scottish intemperance at
funeral solemnities must have been peculiarly revolting. Instances of
this horrid practice being carried to a great extent are traditionary in
every part of the country. I am assured of the truth of the following
anecdote by a son of the gentleman who acted as chief mourner on the
occasion:--About seventy years ago an old maiden lady died in
Strathspey. Just previous to her death she sent for her grand-nephew,
and said to him, "Wily, I'm deein', and as ye'll hae the charge o' a' I
have, mind now that as much whisky is to be used at my funeral as there
was at my baptism." Willy neglected to ask the old lady what the
quantity of whisky used at the baptism was, but when the day of the
funeral arrived believed her orders would be best fulfilled by allowing
each guest to drink as much as he pleased. The churchyard where the body
was to be deposited was about ten miles distant from where the death
occurred. It was a short day in November, and when the funeral party
came to the churchyard the shades of night had considerably closed in.
The grave-digger, whose patience had been exhausted in waiting, was not
in the least willing to accept of Captain G----'s (the chief mourner)
apology for delay. After looking about him he put the anxious question,
"But, Captain, whaur's Miss Ketty?" The reply was, "In her coffin, to be
sure, and get it into the earth as fast as you can." There, however, was
no coffin; the procession had sojourned at a country inn by the way--had
rested the body on a dyke--started without it--and had to postpone the
interment until next day. My correspondent very justly adds the remark,
"What would be thought of indulgence in drinking habits now that could
lead to such a result?"

Many scenes of a similar incongruous character are still traditionally
connected with such occasions. Within the last thirty years, a laird of
Dundonald, a small estate in Ross-shire, died at Inverness. There was
open house for some days, and great eating and drinking. Here the corpse
commenced its progress toward its appointed home on the coast, and
people followed in multitudes to give it a partial convoy, all of whom
had to be entertained. It took altogether a fortnight to bury poor
Dundonald, and great expense must have been incurred. This, however, is
looked back to at Inverness as the last of the real grand old Highland
funerals. Such notions of what is due to the memory of the departed have
now become unusual if not obsolete. I myself witnessed the first decided
change in this matter. I officiated at the funeral of the late Duke of
Sutherland. The procession was a mile long. Refreshments were provided
for 7000 persons; beef, bread, and beer; but not one glass of whisky was
allowed on the property that day!

It may, perhaps, be said that the change we speak of is not peculiar to
Scotland; that in England the same change has been apparent; and that
drunkenness has passed away in the higher circles, as a matter of
course, as refinement and taste made an advancement in society. This is
true. But there were some features of the question which were peculiar
to Scotland, and which at one time rendered it less probable that
intemperance would give way in the north. It seemed in some quarters to
have taken deeper root amongst us. The system of pressing, or of
_compelling_, guests to drink seemed more inveterate. Nothing can more
powerfully illustrate the deep-rooted character of intemperate habits in
families than an anecdote which was related to me, as coming from the
late Mr. Mackenzie, author of the _Man of Feeling_. He had been involved
in a regular drinking party. He was keeping as free from the usual
excesses as he was able, and as he marked companions around him falling
victims to the power of drink, he himself dropped off under the table
among the slain, as a measure of precaution; and lying there, his
attention was called to a small pair of hands working at his throat; on
asking what it was, a voice replied, "Sir, I'm the lad that's to lowse
the neckcloths." Here, then, was a family, where, on drinking
occasions, it was the appointed duty of one of the household to attend,
and, when the guests where becoming helpless, to untie their cravats in
fear of apoplexy or suffocation[32]. We ought certainly to be grateful
for the change which has taken place from such a system; for this change
has made a great revolution in Scottish social life. The charm and the
romance long attached in the minds of some of our countrymen to the
whole system and concerns of hard drinking was indeed most lamentable
and absurd. At tavern suppers, where, nine times out often, it was the
express _object_ of those who went to get drunk, such stuff as "regal
purple stream," "rosy wine," "quaffing the goblet," "bright sparkling
nectar," "chasing the rosy hours," and so on, tended to keep up the
delusion, and make it a monstrous fine thing for men to sit up drinking
half the night, to have frightful headaches all next day, to make
maudlin idiots of themselves as they were going home, and to become
brutes amongst their family when they arrived. And here I may introduce
the mention of a practice connected with the convivial habits of which
we have been speaking, but which has for some time passed away, at least
from private tables--I mean the absurd system of calling for toasts and
sentiments each time the glasses were filled. During dinner not a drop
could be touched, except in conjunction with others, and with each
drinking to the health of each. But toasts came _after_ dinner. I can
just remember the practice in partial operation; and my astonishment as
a mere boy, when accidentally dining at table and hearing my mother
called upon to "give the company a gentleman," is one of my earliest
reminiscences. Lord Cockburn must have remembered them well, and I will
quote his most amusing account of the effects:--"After dinner, and
before the ladies retired, there generally began what was called
'_Rounds_' of toasts, when each gentleman named an absent lady, and each
lady an absent gentleman, separately; or one person was required to give
an absent lady, and another person was required to match a gentleman
with that lady, and the persons named were toasted, generally, with
allusions and jokes about the fitness of the union. And, worst of all,
there were 'Sentiments.' These were short epigrammatic sentences,
expressive of moral feelings and virtues, and were thought refined and
elegant productions. A faint conception of their nauseousness may be
formed from the following examples, every one of which I have heard
given a thousand times, and which indeed I only recollect from their
being favourites. The glasses being filled, a person was asked for his
or for her sentiment, when this, or something similar, was
committed:--'May the pleasures of the evening bear the reflections of
the morning;' or, 'may the friends of our youth be the companions of our
old age;' or, 'delicate pleasures to susceptible minds;' 'may the honest
heart never feel distress;' 'may the hand of charity wipe the tear from
the eye of sorrow.' The conceited, the ready, or the reckless, hackneyed
in the art, had a knack of making new sentiments applicable to the
passing incidents with great ease. But it was a dreadful oppression on
the timid or the awkward. They used to shudder, ladies particularly; for
nobody was spared when their turn in the _round_ approached. Many a
struggle and blush did it cost; but this seemed only to excite the
tyranny of the masters of the craft; and compliance could never be
avoided, except by more torture than yielding.... It is difficult for
those who have been under a more natural system to comprehend how a
sensible man, a respectable matron, a worthy old maid, and especially a
girl, could be expected to go into company easily, on such

This accompaniment of domestic drinking by a toast or sentiment--the
practice of which is now confined to public entertainments--was then
invariable in private parties, and was supposed to enliven and promote
the good fellowship of the social circle. Thus Fergusson, in one of his
poems, in describing a dinner, says--

"The grace is said; it's nae ower lang,
The claret reams in bells.
Quo' Deacon, 'Let the toast round gang;
Come, here's our noble sels
Weel met the day.'"

There was a great variety of these toasts, some of them exclusively
Scottish. A correspondent has favoured me with a few reminiscences of
such incentives to inebriety.

The ordinary form of drinking a health was in the address, "Here's t'

Then such as the following were named by successive members of the
company at the call of the host:--

_The land o' cakes_ (Scotland).
_Mair freens and less need o' them.
Thumping luck and fat weans_.

_When we're gaun up the hill o' fortune may we ne'er
meet a freen' coming doun.
May ne'er waur be amang us.
May the hinges o' freendship never rust, or the wings o'
luve lose a feather.
Here's to them that lo'es us, or lenns us a lift.
Here's health to the sick, stilts to the lame; claise to
the back, and brose to the wame.
Here's health, wealth, wit, and meal.
The deil rock them in a creel that does na' wish us a'
Horny hands and weather-beaten haffets (cheeks).
The rending o' rocks and the pu'in' doun o' auld

The above two belong to the mason craft; the first implies a wish for
plenty of work, and health to do it; the second, to erect new buildings
and clear away old ones.

_May the winds o' adversity ne'er blaw open our door.
May poortith ne'er throw us in the dirt, or gowd into
the high saddle[34].
May the mouse ne'er leave our meal-pock wi' the tear
in its e'e.
Blythe may we a' be.
Ill may we never see.
Breeks and brochan (brose).
May we ne'er want a freend, or a drappie to gie him.
Gude een to you a', an' tak your nappy.
A willy-waught's a gude night cappy[35].
May we a' be canty an' cosy,
An' ilk hae a wife in his bosy_.
_A cosy but, and a canty ben,
To couthie[36] women and trusty men.
The ingle neuk wi' routh[37] o' bannoch and bairns.
Here's to him wha winna beguile ye.
Mair sense and mair siller.
Horn, corn, wool, an' yarn[38]_.

Sometimes certain toasts were accompanied by _Highland_ honours. This
was a very exciting, and to a stranger a somewhat alarming, proceeding.
I recollect my astonishment the first time I witnessed the ceremony--the
company, from sitting quietly drinking their wine, seemed to assume the
attitude of harmless maniacs, allowed to amuse themselves. The moment
the toast was given, and proposed to be drunk with Highland honours, the
gentlemen all rose, and with one foot on their chair and another on the
_table_, they drank the toast with Gaelic shrieks, which were awful to
hear, the cheering being under the direction of a toast-master appointed
to direct the proceedings. I am indebted to the kindness of the Rev.
Duncan Campbell, the esteemed minister of Moulin, for the form used on
such occasions. Here it is in the Gaelic and the Saxon:--


So! Nish! Nish! Sud ris! Sud ris! Thig ris! Thig ris! A on uair eile!


Prepare! Now! Now! Yon again! Yon again! At it again! At it again!
Another time, or one cheer more!

The reader is to imagine these words uttered with yells and
vociferations, and accompanied with frantic gestures.

The system of giving toasts was so regularly established, that
collections of them were published to add brilliancy to the festive
board. By the kindness of the librarian, I have seen a little volume
which is in the Signet Library of Edinburgh. It is entitled, "The
Gentleman's New Bottle Companion," Edinburgh, printed in the year
MDCCLXXVII. It contains various toasts and sentiments which the writer
considered to be suitable to such occasions. Of the taste and decency of
the companies where some of them could be made use of, the less said
the better.

I have heard also of large traditionary collections of toasts and
sentiments, belonging to old clubs and societies, extending back above a
century, but I have not seen any of them, and I believe my readers will
think they have had quite enough.

The favourable reaction which has taken place in regard to the whole
system of intemperance may very fairly, in the first place, be referred
to an improved _moral_ feeling. But other causes have also assisted; and
it is curious to observe how the different changes in the modes of
society bear upon one another. The alteration in the convivial habits
which we are noticing in our own country may be partly due to alteration
of hours. The old plan of early dining favoured a system of suppers, and
after supper was a great time for convivial songs and sentiments. This
of course induced drinking to a late hour. Most drinking songs imply the
night as the season of conviviality--thus in a popular madrigal:--

"By the gaily circling glass
We can tell how minutes pass;
By the hollow cask we're told
How the waning _night_ grows old."

And Burns thus marks the time:--

"It is the moon, I ken her horn,
That's blinkin' in the lift sae hie;
She shines sae bright, to wyle us hame,
But by my sooth she'll wait a wee."

The young people of the present day have no idea of the state of matters
in regard to the supper system when it was the normal condition of
society. The late dining hours may make the social circle more formal,
but they have been far less favourable to drinking propensities. After
such dinners as ours are now, suppers are clearly out of the question.
One is astonished to look back and recall the scenes to which were
attached associations of hilarity, conviviality, and enjoyment. Drinking
parties were protracted beyond the whole Sunday, having begun by a
dinner on Saturday; imbecility and prostrate helplessness were a common
result of these bright and jovial scenes; and by what perversion of
language, or by what obliquity of sentiment, the notions of pleasure
could be attached to scenes of such excess--to the nausea, the disgust
of sated appetite, and the racking headache--it is not easy to explain.
There were men of heads so hard, and of stomachs so insensible, that,
like my friend Saunders Paul, they could stand anything in the way of
drink. But to men in general, and to the more delicate constitutions,
such a life must have been a cause of great misery. To a certain extent,
and up to a certain point, wine may be a refreshment and a wholesome
stimulant; nay, it is a medicine, and a valuable one, and as such, comes
recommended on fitting occasions by the physician. _Beyond_ this point,
as sanctioned and approved by nature, the use of wine is only
degradation. Well did the sacred writer call wine, when thus taken in
excess, "a mocker." It makes all men equal, because it makes them all
idiotic. It allures them into a vicious indulgence, and then mocks their
folly, by depriving them of any sense they may ever have possessed.

It has, I fear, been injurious to the cause of temperance, that emotions
of true friendship, and the outpouring of human affections, should so
frequently be connected with the obligation that the parties should _get
drunk together_. Drunkenness is thus made to hold too close an
association in men's minds with some of the best and finest feelings of
their nature.

"Friend of my soul, this goblet sip,"

is the constant acknowledged strain of poetical friendship: our own
Robert Burns calls upon the dear companion of his early happy days, with
whom he had "paidl't i' the burn, frae mornin' sun till dine," and
between whom "braid seas had roar'd sin auld lang syne," to commemorate
their union of heart and spirit, and to welcome their meeting after
years of separation, by each one joining his pint-stoup, and by each
taking a mutual "richt guid willie-waught," in honour of the innocent
and happy times of "auld lang syne." David marks his recognition of
friendship by tokens of a different character--"We took sweet counsel
together, and walked _in the house of God_ as friends."--Ps. lv. 14.

Reference has already been made to Lord Hermand's opinion of drinking,
and to the high estimation in which he held a staunch drinker, according
to the testimony of Lord Cockburn, There is a remarkable corroboration
of this opinion in a current anecdote which is traditionary regarding
the same learned judge. A case of some great offence was tried before
him, and the counsel pleaded extenuation for his client in that he was
_drunk_ when he committed the offence. "Drunk!" exclaimed Lord Hermand,
in great indignation; "if he could do such a thing when he was drunk,
what might he not have done when he was _sober!_" evidently implying
that the normal condition of human nature, and its most hopeful one, was
a condition of intoxication.

Of the prevalence of hard drinking in certain houses as a system, a
remarkable proof is given at page 102. The following anecdote still
further illustrates the subject, and corresponds exactly with the story
of the "loosing the cravats," which was performed for guests in a state
of helpless inebriety by one of the household. There had been a
carousing party at Castle Grant, many years ago, and as the evening
advanced towards morning two Highlanders were in attendance to carry the
guests up stairs, it being understood that none could by any other means
arrive at their sleeping apartments. One or two of the guests, however,
whether from their abstinence or their superior strength of head, were
walking up stairs, and declined the proffered assistance. The attendants
were quite astonished, and indignantly exclaimed, "Agh, it's sare
cheenged times at Castle Grant, when shentlemens can gang to bed on
their ain feet."

There was a practice in many Scottish houses which favoured most
injuriously the national tendency to spirit-drinking, and that was a
foolish and inconsiderate custom of offering a glass on all occasions as
a mark of kindness or hospitality. I mention the custom only for the
purpose of offering a remonstrance. It should never be done. Even now, I
am assured, small jobs (carpenters' or blacksmiths', or such like) are
constantly remunerated in the West Highlands of Scotland--and doubtless
in many other parts of the country--not by a pecuniary payment, but by a
_dram_; if the said dram be taken from a _speerit_-decanter out of the
family press or cupboard, the compliment is esteemed the greater, and
the offering doubly valued.

A very amusing dialogue between a landlord and his tenant on this
question of the dram has been sent to me. John Colquhoun, an aged
Dumbartonshire tenant, is asked by his laird on Lochlomond side, to stay
a minute till he _tastes_. "Now, John," says the laird. "Only half a
glass, Camstraddale," meekly pleads John. "Which half?" rejoins the
laird, "the upper or the lower?" John grins, and turns off _both_--_the
upper and lower_ too.

The upper and lower portions of the glass furnish another drinking
anecdote. A very greedy old lady employed another John Colquhoun to cut
the grass upon the lawn, and enjoined him to cut it very close, adding,
as a reason for the injunction, that one inch at the bottom was worth
two at the top. Having finished his work much to her satisfaction, the
old lady got out the whisky-bottle and a tapering wineglass, which she
filled about half full; John suggested that it would be better to fill
it up, slily adding, "Fill it up, mem, for it's no like the gress; an
inch at the tap's worth twa at the boddom."

But the most whimsical anecdote connected with the subject of drink, is
one traditionary in the south of Scotland, regarding an old Gallovidian
lady disclaiming more drink under the following circumstances:--The old
generation of Galloway lairds were a primitive and hospitable race, but
their conviviality sometimes led to awkward occurrences. In former days,
when roads were bad and wheeled vehicles almost unknown, an old laird
was returning from a supper party, with his lady mounted behind him on
horseback. On crossing the river Urr, at a ford at a point where it
joins the sea, the old lady dropped off, but was not missed till her
husband reached his door, when, of course, there was an immediate search
made. The party who were despatched in quest of her arrived just in time
to find her remonstrating with the advancing tide, which trickled into
her mouth, in these words, "No anither drap; neither het nor cauld."

A lady, on one occasion, offering a dram to a porter in a rather small
glass, said, "Take it off; it will do you no harm," on which the man,
looking at the diminutive glass, observed, "Harm! Na, gin it were
poushon" (poison).

I would now introduce, as a perfect illustration of this portion of our
subject, two descriptions of clergymen, well known men in their day,
which are taken from Dr. Carlyle's work, already referred to. Of Dr.
Alexander Webster, a clergyman, and one of his contemporaries, he writes
thus:--"Webster, leader of the high-flying party, had justly obtained
much respect amongst the clergy, and all ranks indeed, for having
established the Widows' Fund.... His appearance of great strictness in
religion, to which he was bred under his father, who was a very popular
minister of the Tolbooth Church, not acting in restraint of his
convivial humour, he was held to be excellent company even by those of
dissolute manners; while, being a five-bottle man, he could lay them all
under the table. This had brought on him the nickname of Dr. Bonum
Magnum in the time of faction. But never being indecently the worse of
liquor, and a love of claret, to any degree, not being reckoned in those
days a sin in Scotland, all his excesses were pardoned."

Dr. Patrick Cumming, also a clergyman and a contemporary, he describes
in the following terms:--"Dr. Patrick Cumming was, at this time (1751),
at the head of the moderate interest, and had his temper been equal to
his talents, might have kept it long, for he had both learning and
sagacity, and very agreeable conversation, _with a constitution able to
bear the conviviality of the times._"

Now, of all the anecdotes and facts which I have collected, or of all
which I have ever heard to illustrate the state of Scottish society in
the past times, as regards its habits of intemperance, this assuredly
surpasses them all.--Of two well-known, distinguished, and leading
clergymen in the middle of the eighteenth century, one who had "obtained
much respect," and "had the appearance of great strictness in religion,"
is described as an enormous drinker of claret; the other, an able leader
of a powerful section in the church, is described as _owing_ his
influence to his power of meeting the conviviality of the times. Suppose
for a moment a future biographer should write in this strain of eminent
divines, and should apply to distinguished members of the Scottish
Church in 1863 such description as the following:--"Dr. ---- was a man
who took a leading part in all church affairs at this time, and was much
looked up to by the evangelical section of the General Assembly; he
could always carry off without difficulty his five bottles of claret.
Dr. ---- had great influence in society, and led the opposite party in
the General Assembly, as he could take his place in all companies, and
drink on fair terms at the most convivial tables!!" Why, this seems to
us so monstrous, that we can scarcely believe Dr. Carlyle's account of
matters in his day to be possible.

There is a story which illustrates, with terrible force, the power
which drinking had obtained in Scottish social life. I have been
deterred from bringing it forward, as too shocking for production. But
as the story is pretty well known, and its truth vouched for on high
authority, I venture to give it, as affording a proof that, in those
days, no consideration, not even the most awful that affects human
nature, could be made to outweigh the claims of a determined
conviviality. It may, I think, be mentioned also, in the way of warning
men generally against the hardening and demoralising effects of habitual
drunkenness. The story is this:--At a prolonged drinking bout, one of
the party remarked, "What gars the laird of Garskadden look sae
gash[39]?" "Ou," says his neighbour, the laird of Kilmardinny, "deil
meane him! Garskadden's been wi' his Maker these twa hours; I saw him
step awa, but I didna like to disturb gude company[40]!"

Before closing this subject of excess in _drinking_, I may refer to
another indulgence in which our countrymen are generally supposed to
partake more largely than their neighbours:--I mean snuff-taking. The
popular southern ideas of a Scotchman and his snuff-box are inseparable.
Smoking does not appear to have been practised more in Scotland than in
England, and if Scotchmen are sometimes intemperate in the use of snuff,
it is certainly a more innocent excess than intemperance in whisky. I
recollect, amongst the common people in the north, a mode of taking
snuff which showed a determination to make the _most_ of it, and which
indicated somewhat of intemperance in the enjoyment; this was to receive
it not through a pinch between the fingers, but through a quill or
little bone ladle, which forced it up the nose. But, besides smoking and
snuffing, I have a reminiscence of a _third_ use of tobacco, which I
apprehend is now quite obsolete. Some of my readers will be surprised
when I name this forgotten luxury. It was called _plugging_, and
consisted _(horresco referens_) in poking a piece of pigtail tobacco
right into the nostril. I remember this distinctly; and now, at a
distance of more than sixty years, I recall my utter astonishment as a
boy, at seeing my grand-uncle, with whom I lived in early days, put a
thin piece of tobacco fairly up his nose. I suppose the plug acted as a
continued stimulant on the olfactory nerve, and was, in short, like
taking a perpetual pinch of snuff.

The inveterate snuff-taker, like the dram-drinker, felt severely the
being deprived of his accustomed stimulant, as in the following
instance:--A severe snow-storm in the Highlands, which lasted for
several weeks, having stopped all communication betwixt neighbouring
hamlets, the snuff-boxes were soon reduced to their last pinch.
Borrowing and begging from all the neighbours within reach were first
resorted to, but when these failed, all were alike reduced to the
longing which unwillingly-abstinent snuff-takers alone know. The
minister of the parish was amongst the unhappy number; the craving was
so intense that study was out of the question, and he became quite
restless. As a last resort the beadle was despatched, through the snow,
to a neighbouring glen, in the hope of getting a supply; but he came
back as unsuccessful as he went. "What's to be dune, John?" was the
minister's pathetic inquiry. John shook his head, as much as to say that
he could not tell; but immediately thereafter started up, as if a new
idea had occurred to him. He came back in a few minutes, crying, "Hae!"
The minister, too eager to be scrutinising, took a long, deep pinch, and
then said, "Whaur did you get it?" "I soupit[41] the poupit," was John's
expressive reply. The minister's accumulated superfluous Sabbath snuff
now came into good use.

It does not appear that at this time a similar excess in _eating_
accompanied this prevalent tendency to excess in drinking. Scottish
tables were at that period plain and abundant, but epicurism or gluttony
do not seem to have been handmaids to drunkenness. A humorous anecdote,
however, of a full-eating laird, may well accompany those which
appertain to the _drinking_ lairds.--A lady in the north having watched
the proceedings of a guest, who ate long and largely, she ordered the
servant to take away, as he had at last laid down his knife and fork. To
her surprise, however, he resumed his work, and she apologised to him,
saying, "I thought, Mr. ----, you had done."

"Oh, so I had, mem; but I just fan' a doo in the _redd_ o' my plate." He
had discovered a pigeon lurking amongst the bones and refuse of his
plate, and could not resist finishing it.


[19] Distinguished examples of these are to be found in the Old
Greyfriars' Church, Edinburgh, and in the Cathedral of Glasgow; to say
nothing of the beautiful specimens in St. John's Episcopal Church,

[20] "This was a square enclosure in the Greyfriars' Churchyard, guarded
on one side by a veteran angel without a nose, and having only one wing,
who had the merit of having maintained his post for a century, while his
comrade cherub, who had stood sentinel on the corresponding pedestal,
lay a broken trunk, among the hemlock, burdock, and nettles, which grew
in gigantic luxuriance around the walls of the mausoleum."

[21] A Shetland pony.

[22] The Lord's Supper.

[23] Bullock.

[24] Perhaps.

[25] Carefully selected.

[26] I recollect an old Scottish gentleman, who shared this horror,
asking very gravely, "Were not swine forbidden under the law, and cursed
under the gospel?"

[27] Lie in a grovelling attitude. See Jamieson.

[28] So pronounced in Aberdeen.

[29] Implying that there was a James Third of England, Eighth of

[30] Old Scotch for "drink hard".

[31] A friend learned in Scottish history suggests an ingenious remark,
that this might mean more than a mere _full drinker_. To drink "fair,"
used to imply that the person drank in the same proportion as the
company; to drink more would be unmannerly; to drink less might imply
some unfair motive. Either interpretation shows the importance attached
to drinking and all that concerned it.

[32] In Burt's _Letters from the North of Scotland_, written about 1730,
similar scenes are related as occurring in Culloden House: as the
company were disabled by drink, two servants in waiting took up the
invalids with short poles in their chairs as they sat (if not fallen
down), and carried them off to their beds.

[33] Lord Cockburn's _Memorials of his Time_, p. 37, _et seq_.

[34] May we never be cast down by adversity, or unduly elevated by

[35] A toast at parting or breaking up of the party.

[36] Loving

[37] Plenty

[38] Toast for agricultural dinners

[39] Ghastly.

[40] The scene is described and place mentioned in Dr. Strang's account
of Glasgow Clubs, p. 104, 2d edit.

[41] Swept.



I come now to a subject on which a great change has taken place in this
country during my own experience--viz. those peculiarities of
intercourse which some years back marked the connection between masters
and servants. In many Scottish houses a great familiarity prevailed
between members of the family and the domestics. For this many reasons
might have been assigned. Indeed, when we consider the simple modes of
life, which discarded the ideas of ceremony or etiquette; the retired
and uniform style of living, which afforded few opportunities for any
change in the domestic arrangements; and when we add to these a free,
unrestrained, unformal, and natural style of intercommunion, which seems
rather a national characteristic, we need not be surprised to find in
quiet Scottish families a sort of intercourse with old domestics which
can hardly be looked for at a time when habits are so changed, and where
much of the quiet eccentricity belonging to us as a national
characteristic is almost necessarily softened down or driven out. Many
circumstances conspired to promote familiarity with old domestics, which
are now entirely changed. We take the case of a domestic coming early
into service, and passing year after year in the same family. The
servant grows up into old age and confirmed habits when the laird is
becoming a man, a husband, father of a family. The domestic cannot
forget the days when his master was a child, riding on his back,
applying to him for help in difficulties about his fishing, his rabbits,
his pony, his going to school. All the family know how attached he is;
nobody likes to speak harshly to him. He is a privileged man. The
faithful old servant of thirty, forty, or fifty years, if with a
tendency to be jealous, cross, and interfering, becomes a great trouble.
Still the relative position was the result of good feelings. If the
familiarity sometimes became a nuisance, it was a wholesome nuisance,
and relic of a simpler time gone by. But the case of the old servant,
whether agreeable or troublesome, was often so fixed and established in
the households of past days, that there was scarce a possibility of
getting away from it. The well-known story of the answer of one of these
domestic tyrants to the irritated master, who was making an effort to
free himself from the thraldom, shows the idea entertained, by _one_ of
the parties at least, of the permanency of the tenure. I am assured by a
friend that the true edition of the story was this:--An old Mr. Erskine
of Dun had one of these retainers, under whose language and unreasonable
assumption he had long groaned. He had almost determined to bear it no
longer, when, walking out with his man, on crossing a field, the master
exclaimed, "There's a hare." Andrew looked at the place, and coolly
replied, "What a big lee, it's a cauff." The master, quite angry now,
plainly told the old domestic that they _must_ part. But the tried
servant of forty years, not dreaming of the possibility of _his_
dismissal, innocently asked, "Ay, sir; whare ye gaun? I'm sure ye're aye
best at hame;" supposing that, if there were to be any disruption, it
must be the master who would change the place. An example of a similar
fixedness of tenure in an old servant was afforded in an anecdote
related of an old coachman long in the service of a noble lady, and who
gave all the trouble and annoyance which he conceived were the
privileges of his position in the family. At last the lady fairly gave
him notice to quit, and told him he must go. The only satisfaction she
got was the quiet answer, "Na, na, my lady; I druve ye to your marriage,
and I shall stay to drive ye to your burial." Indeed, we have heard of a
still stronger assertion of his official position by one who met an
order to quit his master's service by the cool reply, "Na, na; I'm no
gangin'. If ye dinna ken whan ye've a gude servant; I ken whan I've a
gude place."

It is but fair, however, to give an anecdote in which the master and the
servant's position was _reversed_, in regard to a wish for change:--An
old servant of a relation of my own with an ungovernable temper, became
at last so weary of his master's irascibility, that he declared he must
leave, and gave as his reason the fits of anger which came on, and
produced such great annoyance that he could not stand it any longer. His
master, unwilling to lose him, tried to coax him by reminding him that
the anger was soon off. "Ay," replied the other very shrewdly, "but it's
nae suner aff than it's on again." I remember well an old servant of the
old school, who had been fifty years domesticated in a family. Indeed I
well remember the celebration of the half-century service completed.
There were rich scenes with Sandy and his mistress. Let me recall you
both to memory. Let me think of you, the kind, generous, warm-hearted
mistress; a gentlewoman by descent and by feeling; a true friend, a
sincere Christian. And let me think, too, of you, Sandy, an honest,
faithful, and attached member of the family. For you were in that house
rather as a humble friend than a servant. But out of this fifty years of
attached service there sprang a sort of domestic relation and freedom of
intercourse which would surprise people in these days. And yet Sandy
knew his place. Like Corporal Trim, who, although so familiar and
admitted to so much familiarity with my Uncle Toby, never failed in the
respectful address--never forgot to say "your honour." At a dinner party
Sandy was very active about changing his mistress's plate, and whipped
it off when he saw that she had got a piece of rich pate upon it. His
mistress, not liking such rapid movements, and at the same time knowing
that remonstrance was in vain, exclaimed, "Hout, Sandy, I'm no dune,"
and dabbed her fork into the "pattee" as it disappeared, to rescue a
morsel. I remember her praise of English mutton was a great annoyance to
the Scottish prejudices of Sandy. One day she was telling me of a
triumph Sandy had upon that subject. The smell of the joint roasting had
become very offensive through the house. The lady called out to Sandy to
have the doors closed, and added, "That must be some horrid Scotch
mutton you have got." To Sandy's delight, this was a leg of _English_
mutton his mistress had expressly chosen; and, as she significantly told
me, "Sandy never let that down upon me." On Deeside there existed, in my
recollection, besides the Saunders Paul I have alluded to, a number of
extraordinary acute and humorous Scottish characters amongst the lower
classes. The native gentry enjoyed their humour, and hence arose a
familiarity of intercourse which called forth many amusing scenes and
quaint rejoinders. A celebrated character of this description bore the
soubriquet of "Boaty," of whom I have already spoken. He had acted as
Charon of the Dee at Banchory, and passed the boat over the river before
there was a bridge. Boaty had many curious sayings recorded of him. When
speaking of the gentry around, he characterised them according to their
occupations and activity of habits--thus:--"As to Mr. Russell of
Blackha', he just works himsell like a paid labourer; Mr. Duncan's a'
the day fish, fish; but Sir Robert's a perfect gentleman--he does
naething, naething." Boaty was a first-rate salmon-fisher himself, and
was much sought after by amateurs who came to Banchory for the sake of
the sport afforded by the beautiful Dee. He was, perhaps, a little
spoiled, and presumed upon the indulgence and familiarity shown to him
in the way of his craft--as, for example, he was in attendance with his
boat on a sportsman who was both skilful and successful, for he caught
salmon after salmon. Between each fish catching he solaced himself with
a good pull from a flask, which he returned to his pocket, however,
without offering to let Boaty have any participation in the refreshment.
Boaty, partly a little professionally jealous, perhaps, at the success,
and partly indignant at receiving less than his usual attention on such
occasions, and seeing no prospect of amendment, deliberately pulled the
boat to shore, shouldered the oars, rods, landing-nets, and all the
fishing apparatus which he had provided, and set off homewards. His
companion, far from considering his day's work to be over, and keen for
more sport, was amazed, and peremptorily ordered him to come back. But
all the answer made by the offended Boaty was, "Na na; them 'at drink by
themsells may just fish by themsells."

The charge these old domestics used to take of the interests of the
family, and the cool way in which they took upon them to protect those
interests, sometimes led to very provoking, and sometimes to very
ludicrous, exhibitions of importance. A friend told me of a dinner scene
illustrative of this sort of interference which had happened at Airth in
the last generation. Mrs. Murray, of Abercairney, had been amongst the
guests, and at dinner one of the family noticed that she was looking for
the proper spoon to help herself with salt. The old servant, Thomas, was
appealed to, that the want might be supplied. He did not notice the
appeal. It was repeated in a more peremptory manner, "Thomas, Mrs.
Murray has not a salt-spoon!" to which he replied most emphatically,
"Last time Mrs. Murray dined here we _lost_ a salt-spoon." An old
servant who took a similar charge of everything that went on in the
family, having observed that his master thought that he had drunk wine
with every lady at table, but had overlooked one, jogged his memory with
the question, "What ails ye at her wi' the green gown?"

In my own family I know a case of a very long service, and where, no
doubt, there was much interest and attachment; but it was a case where
the temper had not softened under the influence of years, but had rather
assumed that form of disposition which we denominate _crusty_. My
grand-uncle, Sir A. Ramsay, died in 1806, and left a domestic who had
been in his service since he was ten years of age; and being at the time
of his master's death past fifty or well on to sixty, he must have been
more than forty years a servant in the family. From the retired life my
grand-uncle had been leading, Jamie Layal had much of his own way, and,
like many a domestic so situated, he did not like to be contradicted,
and, in fact, could not bear to be found fault with. My uncle, who had
succeeded to a part of my grand-uncle's property, succeeded also to
Jamie Layal, and, from respect to his late master's memory and Jamie's
own services, he took him into his house, intending him to act as house
servant. However, this did not answer, and he was soon kept on, more
with the form than the reality of any active duty, and took any light
work that was going on about the house. In this capacity it was his
daily task to feed a flock of turkeys which were growing up to maturity.
On one occasion, my aunt having followed him in his work, and having
observed such a waste of food that the ground was actually covered with
grain which they could not eat, and which would soon be destroyed and
lost, naturally remonstrated, and suggested a more reasonable and
provident supply. But all the answer she got from the offended Jamie was
a bitter rejoinder, "Weel, then, neist time they sall get _nane ava!_"
On another occasion a family from a distance had called whilst my uncle
and aunt were out of the house. Jamie came into the parlour to deliver
the cards, or to announce that they had called. My aunt, somewhat vexed
at not having been in the way, inquired what message Mr. and Mrs. Innes
had left, as she had expected one. "No; no message." She returned to the
charge, and asked again if they had not told him _anything_ he was to
repeat. Still, "No; no message." "But did they say nothing? Are you sure
they said nothing?" Jamie, sadly put out and offended at being thus
interrogated, at last burst forth, "They neither said ba nor bum," and
indignantly left the room, banging the door after him. A characteristic
anecdote of one of these old domestics I have from a friend who was
acquainted with the parties concerned. The old man was standing at the
sideboard and attending to the demands of a pretty large dinner party;
the calls made for various wants from the company became so numerous and
frequent that the attendant got quite bewildered, and lost his patience
and temper; at length he gave vent to his indignation in a remonstrance
addressed to the whole company, "Cry a' thegither, that's the way to
be served."

I have two characteristic and dry Scottish answers, traditional in the
Lothian family, supplied to me by the late excellent and highly-gifted
Marquis. A Marquis of Lothian of a former generation observed in his
walk two workmen very busy with a ladder to reach a bell, on which they
next kept up a furious ringing. He asked what was the object of making
such a din, to which the answer was, "Oh, juist, my lord to ca' the
workmen together!" "Why, how many are there?" asked his lordship. "Ou,
juist Sandy and me," was the quiet rejoinder. The same Lord Lothian,
looking about the garden, directed his gardener's attention to a
particular plum-tree, charging him to be careful of the produce of that
tree, and send the _whole_ of it in marked, as it was of a very
particular kind. "Ou," said the gardener, "I'll dae that, my lord;
there's juist twa o' them."

These dry answers of Newbattle servants remind us of a similar state of
communication in a Yester domestic. Lord Tweeddale was very fond of
dogs, and on leaving Yester for London he instructed his head keeper, a
quaint bodie, to give him a periodical report of the kennel, and
particulars of his favourite dogs. Among the latter was an _especial_
one, of the true Skye breed, called "Pickle," from which soubriquet we
may form a tolerable estimate of his qualities.

It happened one day, in or about the year 1827, that poor Pickle,
during the absence of his master, was taken unwell; and the watchful
guardian immediately warned the Marquis of the sad fact, and of the
progress of the disease, which lasted three days--for which he sent the
three following laconic despatches:--

_Yester, May 1st_, 18--.
Pickle's no weel.
Your Lordship's humble servant, etc.

_Yester, May Id_, 18--.
Pickle will no do.
I am your Lordship's, etc.

_Tester, May 3d_, 18--.
Pickle's dead.
I am your Lordship's, etc.

I have heard of an old Forfarshire lady who, knowing the habits of her
old and spoilt servant, when she wished a note to be taken without loss
of time, held it open and read it over to him, saying, "There, noo,
Andrew, ye ken a' that's in't; noo dinna stop to open it, but just send
it aff." Of another servant, when sorely tried by an unaccustomed bustle
and hurry, a very amusing anecdote has been recorded. His mistress, a
woman of high rank, who had been living in much quiet and retirement for
some time, was called upon to entertain a large party at dinner. She
consulted with Nichol, her faithful servant, and all the arrangements
were made for the great event. As the company were arriving, the lady
saw Nichol running about in great agitation, and in his shirt sleeves.
She remonstrated, and said that as the guests were coming in he must
put on his coat, "Indeed, my lady," was his excited reply, "indeed,
there's sae muckle rinnin' here and rinnin' there, that I'm just
distrackit. I hae cuist'n my coat and waistcoat, and faith I dinna ken
how lang I can thole[42] my breeks." There is often a ready wit in this
class of character, marked by their replies. I have the following
communicated from an ear-witness:--"Weel, Peggy," said a man to an old
family servant, "I wonder ye're aye single yet!" "Me marry," said she,
indignantly; "I wouldna gie my single life for a' the double anes I
ever saw!"

An old woman was exhorting a servant once about her ways. "You serve the
deevil," said she. "Me!" said the girl; "na, na, I dinna serve the
deevil; I serve ae single lady."

A baby was out with the nurse, who walked it up and down the garden.
"Is't a laddie or a lassie?" said the gardener. "A laddie," said the
maid. "Weel," says he, "I'm glad o' that, for there's ower mony women in
the world." "Hech, man," said Jess, "div ye no ken there's aye maist
sawn o' the best crap?"

The answers of servants used curiously to illustrate habits and manners
of the time,--as the economical modes of her mistress's life were well
touched by the lass who thus described her ways and domestic habits with
her household: "She's vicious upo' the wark; but eh, she's vary
mysterious o' the victualling."

A country habit of making the gathering of the congregation in the
churchyard previous to and after divine service an occasion for gossip
and business, which I remember well, is thoroughly described in the
following:--A lady, on hiring a servant girl in the country, told her,
as a great indulgence, that she should have the liberty of attending the
church every Sunday, but that she would be expected to return home
always immediately on the conclusion of service. The lady, however,
rather unexpectedly found a positive objection raised against this
apparently reasonable arrangement. "Then I canna engage wi' ye, mem; for
'deed I wadna gie the crack i' the kirk-yard for a' the sermon."

There is another story which shows that a greater importance might be
attached to the crack i' the kirk-yard than was done even by the servant
lass mentioned above. A rather rough subject, residing in Galloway, used
to attend church regularly, as it appeared, for the _sake_ of the crack;
for on being taken to task for his absenting himself, he remarked,
"There's nae need to gang to the kirk noo, for everybody gets a

The changes that many of us have lived to witness in this kind of
intercourse between families and old servants is a part of a still
greater change--the change in that modification of the feudal system,
the attachment of clans. This, also, from transfers of property and
extinction of old families in the Highlands, as well as from more
general causes, is passing away; and it includes also changes in the
intercourse between landed proprietors and cottagers, and abolition of
harvest-homes, and such meetings. People are now more independent of
each other, and service has become a pecuniary and not a sentimental
question. The extreme contrast of that old-fashioned Scottish
intercourse of families with their servants and dependants, of which I
have given some amusing examples, is found in the modern manufactory
system. There the service is a mere question of personal interest. One
of our first practical engineers, and one of the first engine-makers in
England, stated that he employed and paid handsomely on an average 1200
workmen; but that they held so little feeling for him as their master,
that not above half-a-dozen of the number would notice him when passing
him, either in the works or out of work hours. Contrast this advanced
state of dependants' indifference with the familiarity of domestic
intercourse we have been describing!

It has been suggested by my esteemed friend, Dr. W. Lindsay Alexander,
that Scottish anecdotes deal too exclusively with the shrewd, quaint,
and pawky _humour_ of our countrymen, and have not sufficiently
illustrated the deep pathos and strong loving-kindness of the "kindly
Scot,"--qualities which, however little appreciated across the Border,
abound in Scottish poetry and Scottish life. For example, to take the
case before us of these old retainers, although snappy and disagreeable
to the last degree in their replies, and often most provoking in their
ways, they were yet deeply and sincerely attached to the family where
they had so long been domesticated; and the servant who would reply to
her mistress's order to mend the fire by the short answer, "The fire's
weel eneuch," would at the same time evince much interest in all that
might assist her in sustaining the credit of her domestic economy; as,
for example, whispering in her ear at dinner, "Press the jeelies; they
winna keep;" and had the hour of real trial and of difficulty come to
the family, would have gone to the death for them, and shared their
greatest privations. Dr. Alexander gives a very interesting example of
kindness and affectionate attachment in an old Scottish domestic of his
own family, whose quaint and odd familiarity was charming. I give it in
his own words:--"When I was a child there was an old servant at
Pinkieburn, where my early days were spent, who had been all her life, I
may say, in the house--for she came to it a child, and lived, without
ever leaving it, till she died in it, seventy-five years of age. Her
feeling to her old master, who was just two years younger than herself,
was a curious compound of the deference of a servant and the familiarity
and affection of a sister. She had known him as a boy, lad, man, and old
man, and she seemed to have a sort of notion that without her he must be
a very helpless being indeed. 'I aye keepit the hoose for him, whether
he was hame or awa',' was a frequent utterance of hers; and she never
seemed to think the intrusion even of his own nieces, who latterly lived
with him, at all legitimate. When on her deathbed, he hobbled to her
room with difficulty, having just got over a severe attack of gout, to
bid her farewell. I chanced to be present, but was too young to remember
what passed, except one thing, which probably was rather recalled to me
afterwards than properly recollected by me. It was her last request.
'Laird,' said she (for so she always called him, though his lairdship
was of the smallest), 'will ye tell them to bury me whaur I'll lie
across at your feet?' I have always thought this characteristic of the
old Scotch servant, and as such I send it to you."

And here I would introduce another story which struck me very forcibly
as illustrating the union of the qualities referred to by Dr. Alexander.
In the following narrative, how deep and tender a feeling is expressed
in a brief dry sentence! I give Mr. Scott's language[43]:--"My brother
and I were, during our High School vacation, some forty years ago, very
much indebted to the kindness of a clever young carpenter employed in
the machinery workshop of New Lanark Mills, near to which we were
residing during our six weeks' holidays." It was he--Samuel Shaw, our
dear companion--who first taught us to saw, and to plane, and to turn
too; and who made us the bows and arrows in which we so much delighted.
The vacation over, and our hearts very sore, but bound to Samuel Shaw
for ever, our mother sought to place some pecuniary recompense in his
hand at parting, for all the great kindness he had shown her boys.
Samuel looked in her face, and gently moving her hand aside, with an
affectionate look cast upon us, who were by, exclaimed, in a tone which
had sorrow in it, "Noo, Mrs. Scott, _ye hae spoilt a'_." After such an
appeal, it may be supposed no recompense, in silver or in gold, remained
with Samuel Shaw.

On the subject of the old Scottish domestic, I have to acknowledge a
kind communication from Lord Kinloch, which I give in his Lordship's
words:--"My father had been in the counting-house of the well-known
David Dale, the founder of the Lanark Mills, and eminent for his
benevolence. Mr. Dale, who it would appear was a short stout man, had a
person in his employment named Matthew, who was permitted that
familiarity with his master which was so characteristic of the former
generation. One winter day Mr. Dale came into the counting-house, and
complained that he had fallen on the ice. Matthew, who saw that his
master was not much hurt, grinned a sarcastic smile. 'I fell all my
length,' said Mr. Dale. 'Nae great length, sir,' said Matthew. 'Indeed,
Matthew, ye need not laugh,' said Mr. Dale; 'I have hurt the sma' o' my
back.' 'I wunner whaur _that_ is,' said Matthew." Indeed, specimens
like Matthew, of serving-men of the former time, have latterly been fast
going out, but I remember one or two such. A lady of my acquaintance had
one named John in her house at Portobello. I remember how my modern
ideas were offended by John's familiarity when waiting at table. "Some
more wine, John," said his mistress. "There's some i' the bottle, mem,"
said John. A little after, "Mend the fire, John." "The fire's weel
eneuch, mem," replied the impracticable John. Another "John" of my
acquaintance was in the family of Mrs. Campbell of Ardnave, mother of
the Princess Polignac and the Hon. Mrs. Archibald Macdonald. A young
lady visiting in the family asked John at dinner for a potato. John made
no response. The request was repeated; when John, putting his mouth to
her ear, said, very audibly, "There's jist twa in the dish, and they
maun be keepit for the strangers."

The following was sent me by a kind correspondent--a learned Professor
in India--as a sample of _squabbling_ between Scottish servants. A
mistress observing something peculiar in her maid's manner, addressed
her, "Dear me, Tibbie, what are you so snappish about, that you go
knocking the things as you dust them?" "Ou, mem, it's Jock." "Well, what
has Jock been doing?" "Ou (with an indescribable, but easily imaginable
toss of the head), he was angry at me, an' misca'd me, an' I said I was
juist as the Lord had made me, an'----" "Well, Tibbie?" "An' he said the
Lord could hae had little to dae whan he made me." The idea of Tibbie
being the work of an idle moment was one, the deliciousness of which was
not likely to be relished by the lassie.

The following characteristic anecdote of a Highland servant I have
received from the same correspondent. An English gentleman, travelling
in the Highlands, was rather late of coming down to dinner. Donald was
sent up stairs to intimate that all was ready. He speedily returned,
nodding significantly, as much as to say that it was all right. "But,
Donald," said the master, after some further trial of a hungry man's
patience, "are ye sure ye made the gentleman understand?"
"_Understand?_" retorted Donald (who had peeped into the room and found
the guest engaged at his toilet), "I'se warrant ye he understands; he's
_sharping_ his teeth,"--not supposing the tooth-brush could be for any
other use.

There have been some very amusing instances given of the matter-of-fact
obedience paid to orders by Highland retainers when made to perform the
ordinary duties of domestic servants; as when Mr. Campbell, a Highland
gentleman, visiting in a country house, and telling Donald to bring
everything out of the bedroom, found all its movable articles--fender,
fire-irons, etc.--piled up in the lobby; so literal was the poor man's
sense of obedience to orders! And of this he gave a still more
extraordinary proof during his sojourn in Edinburgh, by a very ludicrous
exploit. When the family moved into a house there, Mrs. Campbell gave
him very particular instructions regarding visitors, explaining that
they were to be shown into the drawing-room, and no doubt used the
Scotticism, "_Carry_ any ladies that call up stairs." On the arrival of
the first visitors, Donald was eager to show his strict attention to the
mistress's orders. Two ladies came together, and Donald, seizing one in
his arms, said to the other, "Bide ye there till I come for ye," and, in
spite of her struggles and remonstrances, ushered the terrified visitor
into Mrs. Campbell's presence in this unwonted fashion.

Another case of _literal_ obedience to orders produced a somewhat
startling form of message. A servant of an old maiden lady, a patient of
Dr. Poole, formerly of Edinburgh, was under orders to go to the doctor
every morning to report the state of her health, how she had slept,
etc., with strict injunctions _always_ to add, "with her compliments."
At length, one morning the girl brought this extraordinary
message:--"Miss S----'s compliments, and she dee'd last night at
aicht o'clock!"

I recollect, in Montrose (that fruitful field for old Scottish
stories!), a most naive reply from an honest lass, servant to old Mrs.
_Captain_ Fullerton. A party of gentlemen had dined with Mrs. Fullerton,
and they had a turkey for dinner. Mrs. F. proposed that one of the legs
should be _deviled_, and the gentlemen have it served up as a relish for
their wine. Accordingly one of the company skilled in the mystery
prepared it with pepper, cayenne, mustard, ketchup, etc. He gave it to
Lizzy, and told her to take it down to the kitchen, supposing, as a
matter of course, she would know that it was to be broiled, and brought
back in due time. But in a little while, when it was rung for, Lizzy
very innocently replied that she had eaten it up. As it was sent back to
the kitchen, her only idea was that it must be for herself. But on
surprise being expressed that she had eaten what was so highly peppered
and seasoned, she very quaintly answered, "Ou, I liket it a'
the better."

A well-known servant of the old school was John, the servant of Pitfour,
Mr. Ferguson, M.P., himself a most eccentric character, long father of
the House of Commons, and a great friend of Pitt. John used to
entertain the tenants, on Pitfour's brief visits to his estate, with
numerous anecdotes of his master and Mr. Pitt; but he always prefaced
them with something in the style of Cardinal Wolsey's _Ego et rex
meus_--with "Me, and Pitt, and Pitfour," went somewhere, or performed
some exploit. The famous Duchess of Gordon once wrote a note to John
(the name of this eccentric valet), and said, "John, put Pitfour into
the carriage on Tuesday, and bring him up to Gordon Castle to dinner."
After sufficiently scratching his head, and considering what he should
do, he showed the letter to Pitfour, who smiled, and said drily, "Well,
John, I suppose we must go."

An old domestic of this class gave a capital reason to his _young_
master for his being allowed to do as he liked:--"Ye needna find faut
wi' me, Maister Jeems; _I hae been langer aboot the place than yersel_."

It may seem ungracious to close this chapter with a communication which
appears to convey an unfavourable impression of an old servant. But the
truth is, real and attached domestic service does not offer its
pleasures and advantages without some alloy of annoyance, and yet how
much the solid benefits prevail over any occasional drawbacks!

The late Rev. Mr. Leslie of St. Andrew-Lhanbryd, a parish in Morayshire,
in describing an old servant who had been with him thirty years, said,
"The first ten years she was an excellent servant; the second ten she
was a good mistress; but the third ten she was a perfect tyrant."



There is no class of men which stands out more prominent in the
reminiscences of the last hundred years than that of our SCOTTISH
JUDGES. They form, in many instances, a type or representative of the
leading _peculiarities_ of Scottish life and manners. They are mixed up
with all our affairs, social and political. There are to be found in the
annals of the bench rich examples of pure Scottish humour, the strongest
peculiarity of Scottish phraseology, acuteness of intellect, cutting
wit, eccentricity of manners, and abundant powers of conviviality. Their
successors no longer furnish the same anecdotes of oddity or of
intemperance. The Courts of the Scottish Parliament House, without
lacking the learning or the law of those who sat there sixty years ago,
lack not the refinement and the dignity that have long distinguished the
Courts of Westminster Hall.

Stories still exist, traditionary in society, amongst its older members,
regarding Lords Gardenstone, Monboddo, Hermand, Newton, Polkemmet,
Braxfield, etc. But many younger persons do not know them. It may be
interesting to some of my readers to devote a few pages to the subject,
and to offer some judicial gleanings[44].

I have two anecdotes to show that, both in social and judicial life, a
remarkable change must have taken place amongst the "fifteen." I am
assured that the following scene took place at the _table_ of Lord
Polkemmet, at a dinner party in his house. When the covers were removed,
the dinner was seen to consist of veal broth, a roast fillet of veal,
veal cutlets, a florentine (an excellent old Scottish dish composed of
veal), a calf's head, calf's foot jelly. The worthy judge could not help
observing a surprise on the countenance of his guests, and perhaps a
simper on some; so he broke out in explanation: "Ou ay, it's a cauf;
when we kill a beast we just eat up ae side, and down the tither." The
expressions he used to describe his own _judicial_ preparations for the
bench were very characteristic: "Ye see I first read a' the pleadings,
and then, after lettin' them wamble in my wame wi' the toddy twa or
three days, I gie my ain interlocutor." For a moment suppose such
anecdotes to be told now of any of our high legal functionaries. Imagine
the feelings of surprise that would be called forth were the present
Justice-Clerk to adopt such imagery in describing the process of
preparing _his_ legal judgment on a difficult case in his court!

In regard to the wit of the Scottish _bar_.--It is a subject which I do
not pretend to illustrate. It would require a volume for itself. One
anecdote, however, I cannot resist, and I record it as forming a
striking example of the class of Scottish humour which, with our
dialect, has lost its distinctive characteristics. John Clerk
(afterwards a judge by the title of Lord Eldin) was arguing a Scotch
appeal case before the House of Lords. His client claimed the use of a
mill-stream by a prescriptive right. Mr. Clerk spoke broad Scotch, and
argued that "the _watter_ had rin that way for forty years. Indeed
naebody kenn'd how long, and why should his client now be deprived of
the watter?" etc. The chancellor, much amused at the pronunciation of
the Scottish advocate, in a rather bantering tone asked him, "Mr. Clerk,
do you spell water in Scotland with two t's?" Clerk, a little nettled at
this hit at his national tongue, answered, "Na, my Lord, we dinna spell
watter (making the word as short as he could) wi' twa t's, but we spell
mainners (making the word as long as he could) wi' twa n's."

John Clerk's vernacular version of the motto of the Celtic Club is
highly characteristic of his humour and his prejudice. He had a strong
dislike to the whole Highland race, and the motto assumed by the modern
Celts, "Olim marte, nunc arte," Clerk translated "Formerly robbers, now
thieves." Quite equal to Swift's celebrated remark on William III.'s
motto--_Recepit, non rapuit_--"that the receiver was as bad as the
thief." Very dry and pithy too was Clerk's legal _opinion_ given to a
claimant of the Annandale peerage, who, when pressing the employment of
some obvious forgeries, was warned that if he persevered, nae doot he
might be a peer, but it would be a peer o' anither _tree!_

The clever author of "Peter's Letters" gives an elaborate description of
Clerk's character whilst at the bar, and speaks of him as "the plainest,
the shrewdest, and the most sarcastic of men." Nor could he entirely
repress these peculiarities when raised to the bench under the title of
Lord Eldin.

His defence of a young friend, who was an advocate, and had incurred
the displeasure of the Judges, has often been repeated. Mr. Clerk had
been called upon to offer his apologies for disrespect, or implied
disrespect, in his manner of addressing the Bench. The advocate had
given great offence by expressing his "_astonishment_" at something
which had emanated from their Lordships, implying by it his disapproval.
He got Lord Eldin, who was connected with him, to make an apology for
him. But Clerk could not resist his humorous vein by very equivocally
adding, "My client has expressed his astonishment, my Lords, at what he
had met with here; if my young friend had known this court as long as I
have, he would have been _astonished at nothing_."

A kind Perthshire correspondent has sent me a characteristic anecdote,
which has strong internal evidence of being genuine. When Clerk was
raised to the Bench he presented his credentials to the Court, and,
according to custom, was received by the presiding Judge--who, on this
occasion, in a somewhat sarcastic tone, referred to the delay which had
taken place in his reaching a position for which he had so long been
qualified, and to which he must have long aspired. He hinted at the long
absence of the Whig party from political power as the cause of this
delay, which offended Clerk; and he paid it off by intimating in his
pithy and bitter tone, which he could so well assume, that it was not of
so much consequence--"Because," as he said, "ye see, my Lord, I was not
juist sae sune _doited_ as some o' your Lordships."

The following account of his conducting a case is also highly
characteristic. Two individuals, the one a mason, the other a carpenter,
both residenters in West Portsburgh, formed a copartnery, and commenced
building houses within the boundaries of the burgh corporation. One of
the partners was a freeman, the other not. The corporation, considering
its rights invaded by a non-freeman exercising privileges only accorded
to one of their body, brought an action in the Court of Session against
the interloper, and his partner as aiding and abetting. Mr. John Clerk,
then an advocate, was engaged for the defendants. How the cause was
decided matters little. What was really curious in the affair was the
naively droll manner in which the advocate for the defence opened his
pleading before the Lord Ordinary. "My Lord," commenced John, in his
purest Doric, at the same time pushing up his spectacles to his brow and
hitching his gown over his shoulders, "I wad hae thocht naething o't
(the action), had hooses been a new invention, and my clients been
caught ouvertly impingin' on the patent richts o' the inventors!"

Of Lord Gardenstone (Francis Garden) I have many early _personal_
reminiscences, as his property of Johnstone was in the Howe of the
Mearns, not far from my early home. He was a man of energy, and promoted
improvements in the county with skill and practical sagacity. His
favourite scheme was to establish a flourishing town upon his property,
and he spared no pains or expense in promoting the importance of his
village of Laurencekirk. He built an excellent inn, to render it a stage
for posting. He built and endowed an Episcopal chapel for the benefit of
his English immigrants, in the vestry of which he placed a most
respectable library; and he encouraged manufacturers of all kinds to
settle in the place. Amongst others, as we have seen, came the hatter
who found only three hats in the kirk. His lordship was much taken up
with his hotel or inn, and for which he provided a large volume for
receiving the written contributions of travellers who frequented it. It
was the landlady's business to present this volume to the guests, and
ask them to write in it during the evenings whatever occurred to their
memory or their imagination. In the mornings it was a favourite
amusement of Lord Gardenstone to look it over. I recollect Sir Walter
Scott being much taken with this contrivance, and his asking me about it
at Abbotsford. His son said to him, "You should establish such a book,
sir, at Melrose;" upon which Sir W. replied, "No, Walter; I should just
have to see a great deal of abuse of myself." On his son deprecating
such a result, and on his observing my surprised look, he answered,
"Well, well, I should have to read a great deal of foolish praise, which
is much the same thing." An amusing account is given of the cause of
Lord Gardenstone withdrawing this volume from the hotel, and of his
determination to submit it no more to the tender mercies of the passing
traveller. As Professor Stuart of Aberdeen was passing an evening at the
inn, the volume was handed to him, and he wrote in it the following
lines, in the style of the prophecies of Thomas the Rhymer:--

"Frae sma' beginnings Rome of auld
Became a great imperial city;
'Twas peopled first, as we are tauld,
By bankrupts, vagabonds, banditti.
Quoth Thamas, Then the day may come,
When Laurencekirk shall equal Rome."

These lines so nettled Lord Gardenstone, that the volume disappeared,
and was never seen afterwards in the inn of Laurencekirk. There is
another lingering reminiscence which I retain connected with the inn at
Laurencekirk. The landlord, Mr. Cream, was a man well known throughout
all the county, and was distinguished, in his later years, as one of the
few men who continued to wear a _pigtail_. On one occasion the late Lord
Dunmore (grandfather or great-grandfather of the present peer), who also
still wore his queue, halted for a night at Laurencekirk. On the host
leaving the room, where he had come to take orders for supper, Lord
Dunmore turned to his valet and said, "Johnstone, do I look as like a
fool in my pigtail as Billy Cream does?"--"Much about it, my lord," was
the valet's imperturbable answer. "Then," said his lordship, "cut off
mine to-morrow morning when I dress."

Lord Gardenstone seemed to have had two favourite tastes: he indulged in
the love of pigs and the love of snuff. He took a young pig as a pet,
and it became quite tame, and followed him about like a dog. At first
the animal shared his bed, but when, growing up to advanced swinehood,
it became unfit for such companionship, he had it to sleep in his room,
in which he made a comfortable couch for it of his own clothes. His
snuff he kept not in a box, but in a leathern waist-pocket made for the
purpose. He took it in enormous quantities, and used to say that if he
had a dozen noses he would feed them all. Lord Gardenstone died 1793.

Lord Monboddo (James Burnet, Esq. of Monboddo) is another of the
well-known members of the Scottish Bench, who combined, with many
eccentricities of opinion and habits, great learning and a most amiable
disposition. From his paternal property being in the county of
Kincardine, and Lord M. being a visitor at my father's house, and
indeed a relation or clansman, I have many early reminiscences of
stories which I have heard of the learned judge. His speculations
regarding the origin of the human race have, in times past, excited much
interest and amusement. His theory was that man emerged from a wild and
savage condition, much resembling that of apes; that man had then a tail
like other animals, but which by progressive civilisation and the
constant habit of _sitting_, had become obsolete. This theory produced
many a joke from facetious and superficial people, who had never read
any of the arguments of the able and elaborate work, by which the
ingenious and learned author maintained his theory[45]. Lord Kames, a
brother judge, had his joke on it. On some occasion of their meeting,
Lord Monboddo was for giving Lord Kames the precedency. Lord K.
declined, and drew back, saying, "By no means, my lord; you must walk
first, that I may _see your tail_." I recollect Lord Monboddo's coming
to dine at Fasque caused a great excitement of interest and curiosity. I
was in the nursery, too young to take part in the investigations; but my
elder brothers were on the alert to watch his arrival, and get a glimpse
of his tail. Lord M. was really a learned man, read Greek and Latin
authors--not as a mere exercise of classical scholarship--but because he
identified himself with their philosophical opinions, and would have
revived Greek customs and modes of life. He used to give suppers after
the manner of the ancients, and used to astonish his guests by the
ancient cookery of Spartan broth, and of _mulsum_. He was an
enthusiastical Platonist. On a visit to Oxford, he was received with
great respect by the scholars of the University, who were much
interested in meeting with one who had studied Plato as a pupil and
follower. In accordance with the old custom at learned universities,
Lord Monboddo was determined to address the Oxonians in Latin, which he
spoke with much readiness. But they could not stand the numerous slips
in prosody. Lord Monboddo shocked the ears of the men of Eton and of
Winchester by dreadful false quantities--verse-making being, in
Scotland, then quite neglected, and a matter little thought of by the
learned judge.

Lord Monboddo was considered an able lawyer, and on many occasions
exhibited a very clear and correct judicial discernment of intricate
cases. It was one of his peculiarities that he never sat on the bench
with his brother judges, but always at the clerk's table. Different
reasons for this practice have been given, but the simple fact seems to
have been, that he was deaf, and heard better at the lower seat. His
mode of travelling was on horseback. He scorned carriages, on the ground
of its being unmanly to "sit in a box drawn by brutes." When he went to
London he rode the whole way. At the same period, Mr. Barclay of Ury
(father of the well-known Captain Barclay), when he represented
Kincardineshire in Parliament, always _walked_ to London. He was a very
powerful man, and could walk fifty miles a day, his usual refreshment on
the road being a bottle of port wine, poured into a bowl, and drunk off
at a draught. I have heard that George III. was much interested at these
performances, and said, "I ought to be proud of my Scottish subjects,
when my judges _ride_, and my members of Parliament _walk_ to the

On one occasion of his being in London, Lord Monboddo attended a trial
in the Court of King's Bench. A cry was heard that the roof of the
court-room was giving way, upon which judges, lawyers, and people made
a rush to get to the door. Lord Monboddo viewed the scene from his
corner with much composure. Being deaf and short-sighted, he knew
nothing of the cause of the tumult. The alarm proved a false one; and on
being asked why he had not bestirred himself to escape like the rest, he
coolly answered that he supposed it was an _annual ceremony_, with
which, as an alien to the English laws, he had no concern, but which he
considered it interesting to witness as a remnant of antiquity! Lord
Monboddo died 1799.

Lord Rockville (the Hon. Alexander Gordon, third son of the Earl of
Aberdeen) was a judge distinguished in his day by his ability and
decorum. "He adorned the bench by the dignified manliness of his
appearance, and polished urbanity of his manners[46]." Like most lawyers
of his time, he took his glass freely, and a whimsical account which he
gave, before he was advanced to the bench, of his having fallen upon his
face, after making too free with the bottle, was commonly current at the
time. Upon his appearing late at a convivial club with a most rueful
expression of countenance, and on being asked what was the matter, he
exclaimed with great solemnity, "Gentlemen, I have just met with the
most extraordinary adventure that ever occurred to a human being. As I
was walking along the Grassmarket, all of a sudden _the street rose up
and struck me on the face_." He had, however, a more serious _encounter_
with the street after he was a judge. In 1792, his foot slipped as he
was going to the Parliament House; he broke his leg, was taken home,
fevered, and died.

Lord Braxfield (Robert M'Queen of Braxfield) was one of the judges of
the old school, well known in his day, and might be said to possess all
the qualities united, by which the class were remarkable. He spoke the
broadest Scotch. He was a sound and laborious lawyer. He was fond of a
glass of good claret, and had a great fund of good Scotch humour. He
rose to the dignity of Justice-Clerk, and, in consequence, presided at
many important political criminal trials about the year 1793-4, such as
those of Muir, Palmer, Skirving, Margarot, Gerrold, etc. He conducted
these trials with much ability and great firmness, occasionally, no
doubt, with more appearance of severity and personal prejudice than is
usual with the judges who in later times are called on to preside on
similar occasions. The disturbed temper of the times and the daring
spirit of the political offenders seemed, he thought, to call for a bold
and fearless front on the part of the judge, and Braxfield was the man
to show it, both on the bench and in common life. He met, however,
sometimes with a spirit as bold as his own from the prisoners before
him. When Skirving was on trial for sedition, he thought Braxfield was
threatening him, and by gesture endeavouring to intimidate him;
accordingly, he boldly addressed the Bench:--"It is altogether
unavailing for your Lordship to menace me, for I have long learnt not to
fear the face of man." I have observed that he adhered to the _broadest_
Scottish dialect. "Hae ye ony coonsel, man?" he said to Maurice Margarot
(who, I believe, was an Englishman). "No," was the reply. "Div ye want
to hae ony appinted?" "No," replied Margarot; "I only want an
_interpreter_ to make me understand what your Lordship says." A
prisoner, accused of stealing some linen garments, was one day brought
up for trial before the old judge, but was acquitted because the
prosecutor had charged him with stealing shirts, whereas the articles
stolen were found to be shifts--female apparel. Braxfield indignantly
remarked that the Crown Counsel should have called them by the Scottish
name of _sarks_, which applied to both sexes.

Braxfield had much humour, and enjoyed wit in others. He was immensely
delighted at a reply by Dr. M'Cubbin, the minister of Bothwell.
Braxfield, when Justice-Clerk, was dining at Lord Douglas's, and
observed there was only port upon the table. In his usual off-hand
brusque manner, he demanded of the noble host if "there was nae claret
i' the castle." "Yes," said Lord Douglas; "but my butler tells me it is
not good." "Let's pree't," said Braxfield in his favourite dialect. A
bottle was produced, and declared by all present to be quite excellent.
"Noo, minister," said the old judge, addressing Dr. M'Cubbin, who was
celebrated as a wit in his day, "as a _fama clamosa_ has gone forth
against this wine, I propose that you _absolve_ it,"--playing upon the
terms made use of in the Scottish Church Courts. "Ay, my Lord," said the
minister, "you are first-rate authority for a case of civil or criminal
law, but you do not quite understand our Church Court practice. We never
absolve _till after three several appearances_." The wit and the
condition of absolution were alike relished by the judge. Lord Braxfield
closed a long and useful life in 1799.

Of Lord Hermand we have already had occasion to speak, as in fact his
name has become in some manner identified with that conviviality which
marked almost as a characteristic the Scottish Bench of his time. He
gained, however, great distinction as a judge, and was a capital lawyer.
When at the bar, Lords Newton and Hermand were great friends, and many
were the convivial meetings they enjoyed together. But Lord Hermand
outlived all his old last-century contemporaries, and formed with Lord
Balgray what we may consider the connecting links between the past and
the present race of Scottish lawyers.

Lord Kames was a keen agricultural experimentalist, and in his
_Gentleman Farmer_ anticipated many modern improvements. He was,
however, occasionally too sanguine. "John," said he one day to his old
overseer, "I think we'll see the day when a man may carry out as much
chemical manure in his waistcoat pocket as will serve for a whole
field." "Weel," rejoined the other, "I am of opinion that if your
lordship were to carry out the dung in your waistcoat pocket, ye might
bring hame the crap in your greatcoat pocket."

We could scarcely perhaps offer a more marked difference between habits
_once_ tolerated on the bench and those which now distinguish the august
seat of Senators of Justice, than by quoting, from _Kay's Portraits_,
vol. ii. p. 278, a sally of a Lord of Session of those days, which he
played off, when sitting as judge, upon a young friend whom he was
determined to frighten. "A young counsel was addressing him on some not
very important point that had arisen in the division of a common (or
commonty, according to law phraseology), when, having made some bold
averment, the judge exclaimed, 'That's a lee, Jemmie,' 'My lord!'
ejaculated the amazed barrister. 'Ay, ay, Jemmie; I see by your face
ye're leein'.' 'Indeed, my lord, I am not.' 'Dinna tell me that; it's no
in your memorial (brief)--awa wi' you;' and, overcome with astonishment
and vexation, the discomfited barrister left the bar. The judge
thereupon chuckled with infinite delight; and beckoning to the clerk
who attended on the occasion, he said, 'Are ye no Rabbie H----'s man?'
'Yes, my lord.' 'Wasna Jemmie----leein'?' 'Oh no, my lord.' 'Ye're quite
sure?' Oh yes.' 'Then just write out what you want, and I'll sign it; my
faith, but I made Jemmie stare.' So the decision was dictated by the
clerk, and duly signed by the judge, who left the bench highly diverted
with the fright he had given his young friend." Such scenes enacted in
court _now_ would astonish the present generation, both of lawyers and
of suitors.

We should not do justice to our Scottish Reminiscences of judges and
lawyers, if we omitted the once celebrated Court of Session _jeu
d'esprit_ called the "Diamond Beetle Case." This burlesque report of a
judgment was written by George Cranstoun, advocate, who afterwards sat
in court as judge under the title of Lord Corehouse. Cranstoun was one
of the ablest lawyers of his time; he was a prime scholar, and a man of
most refined taste and clear intellect. This humorous and clever
production was printed in a former edition of these Reminiscences, and
in a very flattering notice of the book which appeared in the _North
British Review_, the reviewer--himself, as is well known, a
distinguished member of the Scottish judicial bench--remarks: "We are
glad that the whole of the 'Diamond Beetle' by Cranstoun has been given;
for nothing can be more graphic, spirited, and ludicrous, than the
characteristic speeches of the learned judges who deliver their opinions
in the case of defamation." As copies of this very clever and jocose
production are not now easily obtained, and as some of my younger
readers may not have seen it, I have reprinted it in this edition.
Considered in the light of a memorial of the bench, as it was known to
a former generation, it is well worth preserving; for, as the editor of
_Kay's Portraits_ well observes, although it is a caricature, it is
entirely without rancour, or any feeling of a malevolent nature towards
those whom the author represents as giving judgment in the "Diamond
Beetle" case. And in no way could the involved phraseology of Lord
Bannatyne, the predilection for Latin quotation of Lord Meadowbank, the
brisk manner of Lord Hermand, the anti-Gallic feeling of Lord Craig, the
broad dialect of Lords Polkemmet and Balmuto, and the hesitating manner
of Lord Methven, be more admirably caricatured.


_Speeches taken at advising the Action of Defamation and
Damages,_ ALEXANDER CUNNINGHAM, _Jeweller in
Edinburgh, against_ JAMES EUSSELL, _Surgeon there_.

have the petition of Alexander Cunningham against Lord
Bannatyne's interlocutor. It is a case of defamation and
damages for calling the petitioner's _Diamond Beetle_ an
_Egyptian Louse_. You have the Lord Ordinary's distinct
interlocutor, on pages 29 and 30 of this petition:--'Having
considered the Condescendence of the pursuer, Answers for the
defender,' and so on; 'Finds, in respect that it is not
alleged that the diamonds on the back of the Diamond Beetle
are real diamonds, or anything but shining spots, such as are
found on other Diamond Beetles, which likewise occur, though
in a smaller number, on a great number of other Beetles,
somewhat different from the Beetle libelled, and similar to
which there may be Beetles in Egypt, with shining spots on
their backs, which may be termed Lice there, and may be
different not only from the common Louse, but from the Louse
mentioned by Moses as one of the plagues of Egypt, which is
admitted to be a filthy troublesome Louse, even worse than
the said Louse, which is clearly different from the Louse
libelled. But that the other Louse is the same with, or
similar to, the said Beetle, which is also the same with the
other Beetle; and although different from the said Beetle
libelled, yet, as the said Beetle is similar to the other
Beetle, and the said Louse to the other Louse libelled; and
the other Louse to the other Beetle, which is the same with,
or similar to, the Beetle which somewhat resembles the Beetle
libelled; assoilzies the defender, and finds expenses due.'

"Say away, my Lords.

"LORD MEADOWBANK.--This is a very intricate and puzzling
question, my Lord. I have formed no decided opinion; but at
present I am rather inclined to think the interlocutor is
right, though not upon the _ratio_ assigned in it. It appears
to me that there are two points for consideration. _First_,
whether the words libelled amount to a _convicium_ against
the Beetle; and _Secondly_, admitting the _convicium_,
whether the pursuer is entitled to found upon it in this
action. Now, my Lords, if there be a _convicium_ at all, it
consists in the _comparatio_ or comparison of the
_Scaraboeus_ or Beetle with the Egyptian _Pediculus_ or
_Louse_. My first doubt regards this point, but it is not at
all founded on what the defender alleges, that there is no
such animal as an Egyptian _Pediculus_ or _Louse in rerum
natura_; for though it does not _actually_ exist, it may
_possibly_ exist (if not in _actio_, yet in _potentia_--if
not in actuality, yet in potentiality or capacity); and
whether its existence be in _esse vel posse_, is the same
thing to this question, provided there be _termini habiles_
for ascertaining what it would be if it did exist. But my
doubt is here:--How am I to discover what are the _essentia_
of any Louse, whether Egyptian or not? It is very easy to
describe its accidents as a naturalist would do--to say that
it belongs to the tribe of _Aptera_ (or, that is, a yellow,
little, greedy, filthy, despicable reptile), but we do not
learn from this what the _proprium_ of the animal is in a
logical sense, and still less what its _differentia_ are.
Now, without these it is impossible to judge whether there is
a _convicium_ or not; for, in a case of this kind, which
_sequitur naturam delicti_, we must take them _meliori
sensu_, and presume the _comparatio_ to be _in melioribus
tantum_. And here I beg that parties, and the bar in
general--[interrupted by Lord Hermand: _Your Lordship should
address yourself to the Chair_]--I say, I beg it may be
understood that I do not rest my opinion on the ground that
_veritas convicii excusat_. I am clear that although this
Beetle actually were an Egyptian Louse, it would accord no
relevant defence, provided the calling it so were a
_convicium_; and there my doubt lies.

"With regard to the second point, I am satisfied that the
_Scaraboeus_ or Beetle itself has no _persona standi in
judicio_; and therefore the pursuer cannot insist in the name
of the _Scaraboeus_, or for his behoof. If the action lie at
all, it must be at the instance of the pursuer himself, as
the _verus dominus_ of the _Scaraboeus_, for being
calumniated through the _convicium_ directed primarily
against the animal standing in that relation to him. Now,
abstracting from the qualification of an actual _dominium_,
which is not alleged, I have great doubts whether a mere
_convicium_ is necessarily transmitted from one object to
another, through the relation of a _dominium_ subsisting
between them; and if not necessarily transmissible, we must
see the principle of its actual transmission here; and that
has not yet been pointed out.

"LORD HERMAND.--We heard a little ago, my Lord, that there is
a difficulty in this case; but I have not been fortunate
enough, for my part, to find out where the difficulty lies.
Will any man presume to tell me that a Beetle is not a
Beetle, and that a Louse is not a Louse? I never saw the
petitioner's Beetle, and what's more I don't care whether I
ever see it or not; but I suppose it's like other Beetles,
and that's enough for me.

"But, my Lord, I know the other reptile well. I have seen
them, I have felt them, my Lord, ever since I was a child in
my mother's arms; and my mind tells me that nothing but the
deepest and blackest malice rankling in the human breast
could have suggested this comparison, or led any man to form
a thought so injurious and insulting. But, my Lord, there's
more here than all that--a great deal more. One could have
thought the defender would have gratified his spite to the
full by comparing the Beetle to a common Louse--an animal
sufficiently vile and abominable for the purpose of
defamation--[_Shut that door there_]--but he adds the epithet
_Egyptian_, and I know well what he means by that epithet. He
means, my Lord, a Louse that has been fattened on the head of
a _Gipsy or Tinker_, undisturbed by the comb or nail, and
unmolested in the enjoyment of its native filth. He means a
Louse grown to its full size, ten times larger and ten times
more abominable than those with which _your Lordships and I
are familiar_. The petitioner asks redress for the injury so
atrocious and so aggravated; and, as far as my voice goes, he
shall not ask it in vain.

"LORD CRAIG.--I am of the opinion last delivered. It appears
to me to be slanderous and calumnious to compare a Diamond
Beetle to the filthy and mischievous animal libelled. By an
Egyptian Louse I understand one which has been formed on the
head of a native Egyptian--a race of men who, after
degenerating for many centuries, have sunk at last into the
abyss of depravity, in consequence of having been subjugated
for a time by the French. I do not find that Turgot, or
Condorcet, or the rest of the economists, ever reckoned the
combing of the head a species of productive labour; and I
conclude, therefore, that wherever French principles have
been propagated, _Lice_ grow to an immoderate size,
especially in a warm climate like that of Egypt. I shall only
add, that we ought to be sensible of the blessings we enjoy
under a free and happy Constitution, where Lice and men live
under the restraint of equal laws the only equality that can
exist in a well-regulated state.

"LORD POLKEMMET.--It should be observed, my Lord, that what
is called a Beetle is a reptile very well known in this
country. I have seen mony are o' them in Drumshorlin Muir; it
is a little black beastie, about the size of my thoom-nail.
The country-folks ca' them Clocks; and I believe they ca'
them also Maggy-wi'-the-mony-feet; but they are not the least
like any Louse that ever I saw; so that, in my opinion,
though the defender may have made a blunder through
ignorance, in comparing them, there does not seem to have
been any _animus injuriandi_; therefore I am for refusing the
petition, my Lords.

"LORD BALMUTO.--'Am[48] for refusing the petition. There's
more Lice than Beetles in Fife. They ca' them Clocks there.
What they ca' a Beetle is a thing as lang as my arm; thick at
one end and sma' at the other. I thought, when I read the
petition, that the Beetle or Bittle had been the thing that
the women have when they are washing towels or napery
with--things for dadding them with; and I see the petitioner
is a jeweller till his trade; and I thought he had are o'
thae Beetles, and set it all round with diamonds; and I
thought it a foolish and extravagant idea; and I saw no
resemblance it could have to a Louse. But I find I was
mistaken, my Lord; and I find it only a Beetle-clock the
petitioner has; but my opinion's the same as it was before. I
say, my Lords, 'am for refusing the petition, I say--

"LORD WOODHOUSELEE.--There is a case abridged in the third
volume of the _Dictionary of Decisions_, Chalmers _v._
Douglas, in which it was found that _veritas convicii
excusat_, which may be rendered not literally, but in a free
and spirited manner, according to the most approved
principles of translation, 'the truth of calumny affords a
relevant defence.' If, therefore, it be the law of Scotland
(which I am clearly of opinion it is) that the truth of the
calumny affords a relevant defence, and if it be likewise
true that the Diamond Beetle is really an Egyptian Louse, I
am inclined to conclude (though certainly the case is
attended with difficulty) that the defender ought to be

"LORD JUSTICE-CLERK (RAE).--I am very well acquainted with
the defender in this action, and have respect for him, and
esteem him likewise. I know him to be a skilful and expert
surgeon, and also a good man; and I would do a great deal to
serve him or to be of use to him, if I had it in my power to
do so. But I think on this occasion he has spoken rashly, and
I fear foolishly and improperly. I hope he had no bad
intention--I am sure he had not. But the petitioner (for whom
I have likewise a great respect, because I knew his father,
who was a very respectable baker in Edinburgh, and supplied
my family with bread, and very good bread it was, and for
which his accounts were regularly discharged), it seems, has
a Clock or a Beetle, I think it is called a Diamond Beetle,
which he is very fond of, and has a fancy for, and the
defender has compared it to a Louse, or a Bug, or a Flea, or
a worse thing of that kind, with a view to render it
despicable or ridiculous, and the petitioner so likewise, as
the proprietor or owner thereof. It is said that this is a
Louse _in fact_, and that the _veritas convicii excusat_; and
mention is made of a decision in the case of Chalmers _v._
Douglas. I have always had a great veneration for the
decisions of your Lordships; and I am sure will always
continue to have while I sit here; but that case was
determined by a very small majority, and I have heard your
Lordships mention it on various occasions, and you have
always desiderated the propriety of it, and I think have
departed from it in some instances. I remember the
circumstances of the case well:--Helen Chalmers lived in
Musselburgh, and the defender, Mrs. Douglas, lived in
Fisherrow; and at that time there was much intercourse
between the genteel inhabitants of Fisherrow, and
Musselburgh, and Inveresk, and likewise Newbigging; and there
were balls, or dances, or assemblies every fortnight, or
oftener, and also sometimes I believe every week; and there
were card-parties, assemblies once a fortnight, or oftener;
and the young people danced there also, and others played at
cards, and there were various refreshments, such as tea and
coffee, and butter and bread, and I believe, but I am not
sure, porter and negus, and likewise small beer. And it was
at one of these assemblies that Mrs. Douglas called Mrs.
Chalmers very improper names. And Mrs. Chalmers brought an
action of defamation before the Commissaries, and it came by
advocation into this Court, and your Lordships allowed a
proof of the _veritas convicii_, and it lasted a very long
time, and in the end answered no good purpose even to the
defender herself, while it did much hurt to the pursuer's
character. I am therefore for REFUSING such a proof in this
case, and I think the petitioner in this case and his Beetle
have been slandered, and the petition ought to be seen.

"LORD METHVEN.--If I understand this--a--a--a--interlocutor,
it is not said that the--a--a--a--a--Egyptian Lice are
Beetles, but that they may be, or--a--a--a--a--resemble
Beetles. I am therefore for sending the process to the
Ordinary to ascertain the fact, as I think it depends upon
that whether there be--a--a--a--a--_convicium_ or not. I
think also the petitioner should be ordained
to--a--a--a--produce his Beetle, and the defender an Egyptian
Louse or _Pediculus_, and if he has not one, that he should
take a diligence--a--a--a--against havers to recover Lice of
various kinds; and these may be remitted to Dr. Monro, or Mr.
Playfair, or to some other naturalist, to report upon
the subject.

"Agreed to."

This is clearly a Reminiscence of a bygone state of matters
in the Court of Session. I think every reader in our day, of
the once famous Beetle case, will come to the conclusion
that, making all due allowance for the humorous embellishment
of the description, and even for some exaggeration of
caricature, it describes what was once a real state of
matters, which, he will be sure, is real no more. The day of
Judges of the Balmuto-Hermand-Polkemmet class has passed
away, and is become a Scottish _Reminiscence_. Having thus
brought before my readers some Reminiscences of past times
from the Courts of Justice, let me advert to one which
belongs to, or was supposed to belong to, past days of our
Scottish universities. It is now a matter of tradition. But
an idea prevailed, whether correctly or incorrectly, some
eighty or a hundred years ago, that at northern colleges
degrees were regularly sold, and those who could pay the
price obtained them, without reference to the merits or
attainments of those on whom they were conferred. We have
heard of divers jokes being passed on those who were supposed
to have received such academical honours, as well as on those
who had given them. It is said Dr Samuel Johnson joined in
this sarcastic humour. But his prejudices both against
Scotland and Scottish literature were well known. Colman, in
his amusing play of the "Heir at Law," makes his Dr. Pangloss
ludicrously describe his receiving an LL.D. degree, on the
grounds of his own celebrity (as he had never seen the
college), and his paying the heads one pound fifteen
shillings and threepence three farthings as a handsome
compliment to them on receiving his diploma. Colman certainly
had studied at a northern university. But he might have gone
into the idea in fun. However this may be, an anecdote is
current in the east of Scotland, which is illustrative of
this real or supposed state of matters, to which we may
indeed apply the Italian phrase that if "non vero" it is "ben
trovato." The story is this:--An East Lothian minister,
accompanied by his man, who acted as betheral of his parish,
went over to a northern university to purchase his degree,
and on their return home he gave strict charge to his man,
that as now he was invested with academical honour, he was to
be sure to say, if any one asked for the minister, "O yes,
the Doctor is at home, or the Doctor is in the study, or the
Doctor is out, as the case might be." The man at once
acquiesced in the propriety of this observance on account of
his master's newly-acquired dignity. But he quietly added,
"Ay, ay, minister; an' if ony are speirs for me, the servants
maun be sure to say, Oh, the Doctor's in the stable, or the
Doctor's in the kitchen, or the Doctor's in the garden or the
field." "What do you mean, Dauvid?" exclaimed his astonished
master; "what can _you_ have to do with Doctor?" "Weel, ye
see, sir," said David, looking very knowing, "when ye got
your degree, I thought that as I had saved a little money, I
couldna lay it out better, as being betheral of the church,
than tak out a degree to mysell." The story bears upon the

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