Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character by Edward Bannerman Ramsay

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  • 1857
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Twenty-Second Edition, Enlarged,
With the Author’s Latest Corrections and Additions

And a Memoir of Dean Ramsay

By Cosmo Innes























The friends of Dean Ramsay desiring a memorial of his life, his friendly publishers, and his nearest relatives, have asked me to undertake the work, and placed in my hands some materials giving authentic facts and dates, and illustrating the Dean’s own views on the leading events of his life.

I feel myself excluded from dealing with one important part of such a life, for I could not take upon me to speak with confidence or authority upon church doctrines or church government. On the other hand, for the _man_ I have that full sympathy which I suppose ought to exist between the writer and the subject of the biography.

We were very old friends, natives of the same district, bred among a people peculiar in manners and language, a people abounding in a racy humour, differing from what prevails in most parts of Scotland–a peculiarity which it was the joy of the Dean to bring before his countrymen in his _Reminiscences_; and although he and I were not kindred of blood, his relatives and friends were very much mine, and my uncles and aunts were also his.

Edward Bannerman Burnett, known in after life as Edward Ramsay, and Dean of Edinburgh, was born at Aberdeen on the last day of January 1793. His father, Alexander, second son of Sir Thomas Burnett, Baronet, of Leys, was an advocate, and sheriff of Kincardineshire, where the family estates lay. The sheriff was of delicate constitution, and travelled in the south of Europe for his health, until obliged to fly from the French Revolution; and at Aberdeen, the first place where he and his wife stopped, Edward was born. The Dean’s mother was Elizabeth, the elder daughter of Sir Alexander Bannerman of Elsick, and she and her sister Mary, afterwards Mrs. Russell, were co-heirs of his estates in the pretty valley of the Feugh, including the whole parish of Strachan, of which the southern part, looking over into the _How_ of the Mearns, was Mrs. Burnett’s portion; the northern, with the beautiful bank of Dee where Blackhall stands, falling to Mrs. Russell. Both sisters were eminently handsome. I have a tradition of the young ladies, when they first came from their York school to Edinburgh, being followed and gazed at by passengers in the streets, for their beauty; and there are many still living in Edinburgh who long after gazed with admiration on the fine old lady, the Dean’s mother, bending over her embroidery frame in her window in Darnaway Street.

Alexander Burnett and his wife Elizabeth Bannerman had a large family. Edward, the fourth son, when very young, was taken by his grand-uncle, Sir Alexander Ramsay, and sent to school near his own house at Harlsey in Yorkshire. Edward’s first school, to which he was sent in 1801, made a remarkable impression upon the Dean’s memory. “I believe,” he says, “at that period (the very beginning of the century) it was about the most retired village in England not of a mountainous district. No turnpike road went through the parish. It lay in the line of no thoroughfare. The only inhabitants of education were the clergyman, a man of great simplicity of character, who had never been at the University, and my great-uncle, of above fourscore, and a recluse. The people were uneducated to an extent now unusual. Nearly all the letters of the village were written by my uncle’s gardener, a Scotchman, who, having the degree of education usual with his countrymen of the profession, and who being very good natured, had abundant occupation for his evenings, and being, moreover, a prudent man, and _safe_, became the depository of nine-tenths of the family secrets of the inhabitants. Being thus ignorant generally, and few of them ever having been twenty miles from the place, I may consider the parish fifty years behind the rest of the world when I went there, so that it now furnishes recollection of rural people, of manners and intelligence, dating back a hundred years from the present time. It was indeed a very primitive race; and it is curious to recall the many indications afforded in that obscure village of unmitigated ignorance. With all this were found in full exercise also the more violent and vindictive passions of our nature. They might have the simplicity, but not the virtues, of Arcadia…. There were some old English customs of an interesting nature which lingered in the parish. For example, the old habit of bowing to the altar was retained by the rustics on entering church, and bowing respectfully to the clergyman in his place. A copy of the Scriptures was in the vestry _chained_ to the desk on which it lay, and where it had evidently been since that mode of introducing the Bible was practised in the time of Edward VI. The passing bell was always sounded on notice of the death of a parishioner, and sounded at any hour, night or day, immediately on the event happening. One striking custom prevailed at funerals. The coffin was borne through the village to the churchyard by six or eight bearers of the same age and sex as the deceased. Thus young maidens in white carried the remains of the girl with whom they had lately sported. Boys took their playfellow and companion to the churchyard. The young married woman was borne by matrons; the men of middle age did the same office for their contemporary…. The worship of the little church was, as may be supposed, extremely simple, and yet even there innovation and refinement had appeared in the musical department. The old men who used to execute the psalmody, with the clerk at their head, had been superseded. A teacher of singing had been engaged, and a choir, consisting of maidens, boys and men, executed various sacred pieces with the assistance of a bassoon and violin. I recollect in the church a practice which would have shocked the strict rubricians of the present day. Whenever banns of marriage were proclaimed, immediately after the words ‘This is the first, second, or third time of asking,’ the old clerk shouted out, ‘God speed them weel.’ In nothing was the primitive and simple character of the people more remarkable than in the social position of the clergy amongst them. The livings were all small, so that there was no temptation for ecclesiastics of birth and high position in society to come there. The clergy were in many cases clergy only on Sundays, and for Sunday duty. The rest of the week they were like their people; engaged in agriculture or horse-breeding, they lived with their servants, and were scarcely raised above the position of farmers. To show the primitive manners of many clergymen, I may mention the case of an usher in my school, who was also curate. He enjoyed the euphonious name of Caleb Longbottom. I recollect his dialect–pure Yorkshire; his coat a black one only on Sunday, as I suppose he was on week days wearing out his old blue coat which he had before going into orders. Lord Macaulay has been charged that in describing the humble social condition of the clergy in the reign of Charles II., he has greatly exaggerated their want of refinement and knowledge of the world; but really, from my recollection of my friend Mr. Longbottom and others at the time I speak of, in the reign of George III., I cannot think he has overdrawn the picture. Suppose this incident at a table in our own time:–My uncle lived in what is called in Yorkshire the Hall; and being principal proprietor in the parish, he was in fact the squire or great man. The clergy always dined at the hall after evening service, and I recollect the first day the new curate dined. The awkwardness and shyness of the poor man were striking, even to the eyes of a thoughtless schoolboy. He summoned courage to call for beer, and, according to the old custom, deemed it necessary to drink the health of all present before he put the glass to his lips. He addressed first the old gentleman, then the vicar, then myself, and finally, with equal solemnity, drank to the servants in attendance–the old butler and coachman, who were waiting upon the company[1].”

I value these reminiscences of his Yorkshire school, written long after, because I think them very curious; and they show how early Edward Ramsay had his eyes open to characteristic features of the people.

Ramsay’s grand-uncle, the old Sir Alexander Ramsay, died in 1806, neglecting to make the provision which he had intended for his grand-nephew, but leaving his estates to his nephew, Edward’s father, who then gave up his sheriffship (in which he was succeeded by Adam Gillies), and being a Whig and of Whig family, accepted a baronetcy from Mr. Fox, and made Fasque his home for the short remainder of his life.

The future Dean was not fortunate in schools. On his father’s succeeding to the family estates he quitted Harlsey indeed, but only to move to Durham, which left no more pleasant memories in his mind than the other, although there he learned to blow the flute, and indulge his strong musical taste. He writes of Durham school that it had fallen off terribly, from the increasing infirmities of the head master, and Ramsay was anxious to leave it, when that move came naturally by the death of his father[2]. Writing in his journal some time afterwards, he says, “What was I to do? I was determined to go into the Church, and must go to college. How was the intermediate period to be spent?” His first private tutor was the Rev. J.H. Browne, at Kegworth in Leicestershire, afterwards Archdeacon of Ely. “Here,” says Edward, “I did learn something both of books and of the world. Browne was a scholar, and my fellow-students were gentlemen and knew something of life.” He next lived for a time with Mr. Joynes, a clergyman, at Sandwich in Kent, and went from thence, in October 1811, to Cambridge.

He entered as a pensioner at St. John’s, and although professing to be a reading man, he was not eminently satisfied with the effects of the society into which he fell upon his habits and accomplishments. “Not,” he says, “that I had not really good associates, but somehow it seems not to have been the best and such as I might have had.” Another defect was his not having a skilful and effective private tutor at a time when he felt that he stood specially in need of one. “I could not form my reading habits alone, and I had not sufficient help. I did enough, however, to show I was not an ass. I got a scholarship. I was twice in goodish places in the first class. I had a name for flute-playing;” and then, ending this retrospect, which he wrote with some disgust, he tells how he left Cambridge in his third year, going out B.A. with no contest for honours. His college vacations were spent either in London with college friends, or with a reading party under Wilkinson, the tutor, at Redcar. In gathering up his recollections, he says he saw a good deal of society: one summer was very musical; of another which he spent at home he enumerates his occupations–“botany,” “music,” “Deeside.” Through all, his study was theology, but in “small doses” he says. His brother Marmaduke joined him on the Christmas holiday of 1816, when they worked together at the cryptogamics, and then went up to Cambridge together–Edward to renew his theological studies with the help of the formal lectures at the University. He spent the remainder of that season at Bath with friends and relatives. He speaks of the Bath society, its gaiety, theatricals, music–some rich clergymen giving good dinners, and brother Marmaduke coming for his long vacation to a farm-house two miles from Bath, “where we had some good botanical fun. Can it be that the finding a new plant put us in a state of ecstasy? How we treasured up specimens! How we gloried in our collections! But it has all passed away; no chord is touched.” To some, who think of the Dean as the reverend, pious, grave, even melancholy man, these youthful reminiscences may appear unnatural, even unworthy. I must own that there breaks out now and then in his journal something which shows that he himself was not satisfied with many of these juvenile memoranda, as if they showed unfitting occupation and education of a young clergyman. But that was not their real nature. Those small studies and accomplishments took the place in his early training which the cricket-match or the boat-race now take in the school time of Young England. The Dean speaks somewhat contemptuously–“Here I got a smattering of astronomy,” and again of his studies of cryptogamics and botany; but he nevertheless felt the full benefit of such accomplishments. His music, his passion for rural and especially Highland scenery, the enjoyments of society, the love of seeing others happy, the joining of happiness with goodness, made the Dean what he was in after life, and enabled him to take that position amongst his countrymen which a purely theological upbringing would not have done.

But now our young cleric was to put away childish things, and to take upon him the duty of his high calling. He was ordained at Wells, and officiated for the first time as curate of Rodden, near Frome, Somerset, on Christmas day 1816.

Rodden is a very small village, of one or two farms and some labourers’ cottages, nestling round the little church, with a few, very few, outlying houses or farms. It lies among meadows on each side of the rivulet which runs through the village. One of the outlying houses is “Styles Hill,” inhabited by one family of the Sheppards, all of whom soon became dear friends of the Dean. Another was the “Pear-tree” Cottage, an uninteresting red brick house, where Mr. Rogers provided a residence for the young curate. The incumbent of the parish, when Ramsay went there, was the Rev. John Methwen Rogers of Berkley, who was non-resident. The duties of Rodden were too small to employ his whole time, and in the following year (1817) Ramsay became curate also of Buckland Dinham, the rector of which was non-resident and lived at a distance, so that the curate had the sole charge of the parish. In his work at Buckland, Ramsay took great delight, and soon won the hearts of his people, although many of them were Wesleyan Methodists of the old type[3]. But it was not only amongst the peasantry that Ramsay was beloved. All the upper and middle classes in his own little parishes, and through the whole valley, regarded him with strong esteem and affection, and amongst them were persons whose character, and even whose little peculiarities of language, he caught and remembered. One of these, a retired Captain Balne, although he failed in prevailing on the young clergyman to take a glass of grog, his own favourite cure for all ailments, was pleased when the curate came to take a dish of tea with him and his gentle wife. Once, when Ramsay was ill, the grief in the parish was universal; but he used to say that the greatest proof of attachment was given by Captain Balne, who happened to be enjoying his dinner when the news of his friend’s illness reached him, upon which he laid down his knife and fork, and declared he could not take another mouthful. Captain Balne had a peculiar phraseology. One phrase, in particular, was, “If I may be allowed the language,” which came readily on all occasions. If he was asked “How is Mrs. Balne to-day?” the Captain would reply, “She is quite well, I thank you, Mr. Ramsay, if I may be allowed the language;” or ask him, “Have you a good crop of apples this year?” “Pretty middling, sir, if I may be allowed the language.” The constant recurrence of the phrase struck Mr. Ramsay, who quoted it long after in his letters to his Frome friends–“I am glad to say my congregation at St John’s continues good–if I may be allowed the language.”

Buckland is a larger village than Rodden, containing nearly 500 inhabitants. The two places are five miles apart. Buckland is on the brow and slope of a steep hill, the church being on the summit, and the irregular street descending from it on the Frome side, with many cottages scattered about among orchards and meadows. So the curate of Buckland, living at the Pear-tree Cottage in Rodden, required a pony for locomotion, which he showed with some pride to his neighbours on first buying it. It was an iron-gray, and a sedate clerical pony enough, to which he gave the name of Rumplestiltskin, after one of Grimm’s popular stories; and whenever he spoke of him or to him, he gave him his name at full length. The country and some of the places round Buckland are very interesting. On the west is one of the entrances to Vallis, a grassy valley bordered by limestone rocks, and trees and copse, with a trout-stream winding through it. There, when the labours of the day were done, the Sheppards and he would spend a summer afternoon sketching and botanising, whilst tea was prepared at a neighbouring farm.

Vallis opened into several other vales, and on the heights above were the picturesque villages of Elm and Skells, and the ruined nunnery and massive old castle, the old seat of Delameres, renowned for a defence in the Cromwellian wars. Mr. Ramsay proposed in jest to fit up the castle as a dwelling, and bring all his friends to live there. Another time he was for fitting it up as a museum. It would make, he said, a splendid place for a _hortus siccus_–a “great ornament to our ponds and ditches[4].” The writer of these trifles excuses herself for collecting them, because she knew the value which is attached to the least of the sayings and doings of a departed friend; but we are assured, that even in those Arcadian regions life was not always holiday. There was some serious work. The curate took great pains on the future interests as well as the characters of his little flock.

In one family he acted the part of the truest of friends–gently reproving the little ones when they deserved it, and ready to amuse when it was the time for amusement–sometimes taking them to Bath for the day, and making them very happy, bestowing at the same time great pains on their instruction–sometimes practising music with them, and accompanying their sonatas on his incomparable flute–recommending to the governess a higher style of music, leading them on gradually to the works of Beethoven and Mozart. By and by he gave them instructions in architecture; taught them, as he said, all that he had learned from Rickman. His teaching was minutely technical. He would assemble his class in a little morning room, with books before them, and a case of mathematical instruments, pens and pencils. His pupils wrote what he saw fit to dictate, and he taught them how to use the compasses. Next came botany, which was not a new study to his pupils. There his brothers assisted him. They made a joint _hortus siccus_ under his instruction. Edwin contributed many specimens from Scotland, and Marmaduke made a little collection of mosses. But they had to thank the curate for yet higher and better instruction. His younger pupils were not excluded from the most earnest conversations between him and Mr. Algar, Mr. John Sheppard, and some friends of the neighbouring gentlemen and clergy. In these conversations books were read and criticised, theological and other subjects, including some politics, were discussed. Ramsay was quizzed for Whiggish tendencies. The mistress of the house usually joined and set them right in politics, for she had been brought up in Plymouth during the French war, and had learned the old-fashioned Tory doctrine, and to think any other politics sinful. But all those high subjects of politics and religion were discussed with fitting respect; for that society–young and old–had a deep sense of religion, and the parents encouraged the younger members to visit and instruct the workmen and their families who were employed in the large cloth manufactories of the Sheppards; so that it came to pass that every man, woman, and child was taught or helped to teach others, for in those days very few of the working-people, at least in that part of England, could read at all. A lending library was attached to the mills. A large Sunday school was formed, chiefly for the children of the workpeople, and additional services were undertaken by the curate–a second sermon on Sundays besides one on Thursday evenings, where the families of the neighbourhood attended, and as many of the servants as could be spared. There, be sure, was no big talk on the primary obligation of orthodoxy, no attempts to proselytise. But all classes of that primitive people valued his preaching, and farmers and their labourers, the workmen of the factories, as well as their masters, took advantage of it. His brothers often visited him, and joined heartily in his pursuits whether gay or serious. It was delightful to see the three brothers so happy in each other’s society, and helping on a worthy common object. Marmaduke, the Cambridge man, would talk astronomy, and William, the sailor, afterwards Admiral Ramsay, brought down a fine telescope, and himself gave them their first lesson in practical astronomy, handing over the instrument when he left to his brother the curate, that he might continue the instruction.

During all these years of useful, cheerful, happy employment at Frome, Edward Ramsay never forgot the land of his forefathers and of his own youth. He sometimes visited Bath and London to hear Edward Irving preach, to see Kean act, to stare at old books and prints in the shop windows, to revel in the beauties of Kew Gardens; but every summer he found time for a visit to Scotland, and spent his holiday with boyish delight amongst the scenes and friends of his childhood.

It was on one of those visits to Scotland, in the autumn of 1822, whilst Mr. Ramsay was spending his holidays among his friends on Deeside, that the managers of St. Paul’s Chapel, Aberdeen, offered him the place of second minister to that congregation, along with Mr. Cordiner. He was much gratified, and would gladly have accepted the appointment. He liked the place–his native town; thought highly of the respectability of the congregation; but there was one objection, which to him was insuperable. The congregation had for some time been Episcopal only in name, and it went against Mr. Ramsay’s conscience to minister in a church calling itself Episcopal, but without the communion or discipline of a bishop. He explained to the managers his objection, and thought for a time it might be overcome by a union with the Scotch Episcopal churches in the diocese. He had yet to learn the strength, of the Scotch prejudice against bishops; perhaps to learn that the more shadowy the grounds of dispute, so much the more keenly are ecclesiastical squabbles fought. Worthy Bishop Skinner would have been glad to have Ramsay a fellow-labourer in his city upon whatever conditions. Yet he could not contradict his younger friend’s honest and temperate adherence to his principles and to Episcopacy. The correspondence all round, which I have before me, is quite decorous; but after Ramsay had stated his objection, and that it was insuperable, the managers wrote to him, 1st October 1822, that “a unanimous election would follow if he accepted the situation under the present establishment.” It would have been easy to divide the congregation, but this did not suit Ramsay’s feelings or nature, and he courteously bowed to the decision of the managers, and returned to Frome, where his income from both curacies was L100 a year,–a poverty the more irksome to a man of culture and refined tastes.

Not long after (still, I think in 1823), the Journal records–“Mrs. Forbes, my aunt, had just come into her accession of fortune, and presented me with L5000. A man may live many days in this world, and not meet the like gift in a like kindly spirit[5].”

Of the year 1823 the Journal remarks very severe winter. “Marmaduke and Edwin with me at the Pear-tree[6]; a delightful tour in South Wales with the Sheppards and other friends most agreeable and good-humoured,–botany, sketching, talk, and fun. Life has few things to offer more enjoyable than such tours. I have found in them the happiest hours in my life.” And then follows the wail for so “many of them departed; so many dear good friends; all different, but all excellent!”

Marmaduke having gone as tutor to Lord Lansdowne’s eldest son, Edward was more free to consider an offer from Edinburgh, and ultimately accepted the curacy of St. George’s in York Place, under Mr. Shannon. He preached his two last sermons at Rodden and Buckland on Christmas day 1823.


[1] _Reminiscences_ (Second Series, 1861). Introduction.

[2] May 10, 1810.

[3] Some account of his dealings among the Methodists may be found in the _Sunday Magazine_, January 1865, edited by the Rev. Dr. Guthrie. The paper is titled “Reminiscences of a West of England Curacy.”

[4] This was a favourite quotation of Ramsay’s, who was amused with the remark of Withering’s or Woodward’s botany, repeated in his letters for long after:–“The organ at St. John’s gives universal satisfaction–a great ornament to our ponds and ditches.”

[5] Mrs. Forbes, the sister and aunt of so many Burnetts and Ramsays, lived the latter part of her life at Banchory Lodge, in the middle of that “Deeside” country, where the future Dean spent many of his happy holidays, and learned much of the peculiar ways of that peculiar people. There were no two ladies in Scotland more esteemed and beloved than the Dean’s aunts on both sides–Mrs. Russell, his aunt and mine, living in widowhood at Blackhall, and Mrs. Forbes at Banchory Lodge, three miles apart, on the opposite banks of Dee. Mrs. Forbes died 1st February 1838.

[6] His dwelling near Frome.


The Dean was passionately fond of Deeside. Let me indulge myself in looking back upon that district such as he knew it, such as I remember it sixty years ago.

The natural features of Deeside are not changed. The noble river pours down its brown flood as of old, hurrying from its wooded rocky highlands. On the prettiest part of its bank stands Crathes, the finest of Aberdeenshire castles, the immemorial seat of the Burnetts, where Edward Ramsay, himself a Burnett, was received with all the love of kindred, as well as the hearty respect for his sacred profession. I daresay Crathes was not to him quite what I remember it. But we were of different professions and habits. I will say nothing of the chief sport of Dee, its salmon-fishing. However fascinating, the rod is a silent companion, and wants the jovial merriment, shout and halloo, that give life and cheerfulness to the sport of the hunter. My recollection of Deeside is in its autumn decking, and shows me old Sir Robert and my lady, two gentle daughters and four tall stalwart sons–they might have sat for a group of Osbaldistones to the great painter Walter Scott. I will not describe the interior of the old house, partly because it was changing, and every change appeared to me for the worse; but no one would forget the old hall, where Kneller’s picture of Bishop Burnett still looks down on his modern cousins and their hospitality. It was a frank and cordial hospitality, of which the genial old bishop would have approved. The viands were homely almost to affectation. Every day saw on that board a noble joint of boiled beef, not to the exclusion of lighter kickshaws; but the beef was indispensable, just as the _bouilli_ still is in some provinces of France. Claret was there in plenty–too plentiful perhaps; but surely the “braw drink” was well bestowed, for with it came the droll story, the playful attack and ready retort, the cheerful laugh–always good humour. A dinner at Crathes was what the then baronet, old Sir Robert, would call the “best of good company.”

Another part of the house I well remember–the place, half gun-room, half servant’s hall–where we prepared for sport in the morning, and brought the day’s bag home at night. Prominent figures there were two brothers Stevenson, Willie and Jamie, known for twenty miles round as the “fox-hunters,” known to us, after the southern sporting slang had been brought among us by our neighbour Captain Barclay, as “Pad-the-hoof” and “Flash-the-muzzle[7]” The fox-hunting was on foot, but let no mounted hunter sneer. The haunts of the game were continuous woods and bogs, hard to ride and from which no fox could be forced to break. “Pad-the-hoof” looked no ignoble sportsman as he cheered his great slow-hounds through the thicket, and his halloo rang from the wood of Trustach to the craigs of Ashintillie. Both were armed, but “Flash” took less charge of the hounds than seeing to death the fox, the enemy of all, including the roe, which recent plantations had raised into an enemy. I must say nothing on foot or wing came amiss to Flash-the-muzzle’s gun. Hares and rabbits, not then the pest of the country, swelled our bag. We had a moderate number of black game, and the fox-hunters were somewhat astonished to find that we of the gentry set much store by woodcock, which bulked so little in the day’s sport. The fox-hunter brothers had the run of the servants’ hall at Crathes, and they were said to have consumed fabulous numbers of kitchen pokers, which required to be heated red-hot to give the jugs of ale of their evening draught the right temperature and flavour. That was a free-living community. The gentlemen of the house were too much gentlemen to stand upon their dignity, and all, from the baronet downwards, had the thorough appreciation of Deeside humour. It was there that the Dean learned his stories of “Boatie” and other worthies of the river-side. Boatie himself was Abernethy, the ferryman of Dee below Blackhall; he hauled his boat across the river by a rope made fast at both ends. Once, in a heavy water, the rope gave way, and Boatie in his little craft was whirled down the raging river and got ashore with much difficulty. It was after this, when boasting of his valiant exertions, that Mrs. Russell put him in mind of the gratitude he owed to Providence for his escape, and was answered as the Dean himself tells us in his _Reminiscences_. Another of the water-side worthies, “Saunders Paul,” was nominally the keeper of the public-house at Invercannie, where the water of Cannie falls into Dee. It was the alehouse of the country, but frequented much more by the gentry than by the commons. It was there that Mr. Maule in his young days, not yet Lord Panmure, led the riots and drank his claret, while Saunders capped him glass for glass with whisky and kept the company in a roar with Deeside stories. Old Saunders–I remember him like yesterday–was not a mere drunken sot or a Boniface of the hostelry. He had lived a long lifetime among men who did not care to be toadied, and there was a freedom and ready wit in the old man that pleased everybody who was worth pleasing. Above all, there was the Deeside humour which made his stories popular, and brought them to the ear of our Dean.

That was the left side–the Crathes bank of Dee. Across the river was the somewhat dilapidated fortalice of Tilquhillie, the seat of an ancient and decayed branch of the Douglases. The last laird who dwelt there lived in the traditions of Deeside as own brother to the Laird of Ellangowan in Scott’s romance. Ramsay has put him well on canvas. Who does not remember his dying instructions to his son and his grieve?–“Be ye aye stickin’ in a tree, Johnny; it will be growin’ when ye are sleepin’!” while he cautions the grieve, “Now mind that black park; it never gied me onything, ne’er gie onything to it.”

In the days when the Dean knew that Water-side the fortalice was uninhabited, and I think not habitable for gentlefolks; but down on the haugh below, and close to the river in a pretty garden-cottage, dwelt the old Lady Tilquhillie, with her son the sheriff of the county, George Douglas, whom a few Edinburgh men may yet remember as the man of wit and pleasure about town, the _beau_ of the Parliament House–at home a kind hospitable gentleman, looking down a little upon the rough humours that pleased his neighbours. The old lady–I think she was a Dutch woman, or from the Cape of Good Hope–and her old servant, Sandy M’Canch, furnished the Dean with many a bit of Deeside life and humour; and are they not written in the _Reminiscences!_

Higher up the river were two houses where the Dean was much beloved–Banchory Lodge, his uncle General Burnett’s, where also lived his dear aunt, the widowed Mrs. Forbes; and Blackhall, where, in the time I have in my mind, lived his aunt, Mrs. Russell, the widow of my uncle Francis Russell, a woman of many sorrows, but whose sweet voice and silver laugh brought joy into the house even amidst sickness and sorrow[8]. She had not the Deeside language, but she and her sister Lady Ramsay, Yorkshire women, and educated in the city of York, helped to give the Dean that curious northern English talk which he mixed pleasantly with the language of Angus and Mearns that he loved so well; and he inherited from the Bannermans the sweet voice, so valuable an inheritance to a preacher.

I have gone over less than a dozen miles of the valley of the Dee, which was the Dean’s Deeside. I think the manners and popular thought, as well as the language of that little district, were peculiar, and fitted to catch the attention of an eager student of human nature and character. Deeside, in its wider acceptance, of course includes the great city at its mouth, and the picturesque mountains of Mar near the source of the river, where the Queen has now set her mark of favour on the land. I beg to distinguish Deeside–the Dean’s Deeside–lying between these. The city of Aberdeen, with its trade and manufacture and wealth, with its University and schools, and some tradition of the antique metropolis, has established, as she had good right, habits and language of her own, not to be mistaken, but almost confined to her own walls. On the other hand, the mountains of Mar, where lie the springs of the Dee, where tower Lochnagar and Benmacdhui, are inhabited by a race of shepherds and hunters, speaking a different language, differing in manners from the Dean’s friends, who dwelt from the Hill of Fair to Ashintillie, where hardly a Gaelic name occurs among the peasantry.

The little cluster of mansions which I have mentioned lies, I think, wholly within the parish of Banchory-Ternan. Following the river down from that parish, the next place of any importance is the old manor-house of Durris, some half-dozen miles lower, and on the right bank of the river. It is a place of some interest to lawyers for having given rise to one of the leading cases on the law of entail, which settled points that had formerly been doubtful, all in favour of the strict entail. The victim in that case, ejected by the heir of entail, was John Innes, who had sold his property in Moray to invest the produce in the great barony of Durris. The new tenant, believing himself almost proprietor, built a comfortable house under the walls of the old castle, and in that house was born the writer of these notes. I do not feel myself severed by any disgusts from the country of my youth where I spent my best years, or at least the years of most enjoyment. It was then a wild moor, with some natural beauty, a picturesque den leading from the house to the noble river, wooded with native birch and scrubby oak, with some tall larches and magnificent horse-chestnuts, and even a few immemorial Spanish chestnuts planted by the old Peterboroughs, now all gone. Along that river bank were some of the broadest haughs with which I am acquainted, and some of the best salmon streams, then woods and sheep pastures and a dozen miles of heather hills–up to Cairn-monearn and Kerloach–giving the best grouse-shooting in the country. It is in truth a charming water-side even in the eyes of a critical old man, or of a tourist in search of the picturesque; but for a boy who lived there, shot, and fished there, while all the houses round were the dwellings of cousins and friends, while game was not yet let for hire, it was a place to win that boy’s heart, and I loved it very heartily. We were the nearest neighbours on one side of that cluster of residences of the Burnetts and Douglases and Russells which I have tried to describe. We were all very good friends, and thus the Dean and I were early acquainted.

I have said little of the Dean’s ancestors, merely named the Burnetts and Bannermans. Indeed I would guard against loading my memoir of the Dean with anything like mere pedigree. I take no interest in his ancestry, except in so far as they may have given a character–so far as he may have inherited his personal qualities from them. I will not dwell then upon Alexander de Burnard, who had his charter from Robert the Bruce of the Deeside lands which his descendants still hold, nor even on the first Lairds of Leys. When the Reformation blazed over Scotland, the Baron of Leys and his kindred favoured and led the party that supported the new faith; but, even in that iconoclastic age, two of them are found protesting against the destruction of religious places at Aberdeen. One, Gilbert Burnett (he was grand-uncle of the Bishop of Sarum), enjoyed considerable reputation abroad for certain philosophical writings. He was Professor of Philosophy, first at Basle and afterwards at Montauban, and a general synod of the French Protestants desired that his works should be printed at the expense of the synod. These _Dissertationes Ethicae_ were accordingly published at Leyden in 1649; but his death prevented his other writings from being published. Two brothers of the same generation, Thomas and Duncan, settled in England as physicians, and seem to have been men of literary eminence. Pedigrees of both are to be found in the Herald’s Visitations of Essex and Norfolk. Duncan, Thomas, and Gilbert, are all noticed by Sir Thomas Middleton among the “Learned Men and Writers of Aberdeen;” and Duncan is noted as a holy, good, and learned man. In the stirring times of the Covenants, Sir Thomas Burnett of Leys, Baronet, though an adherent of the Huntlys, embraced the Covenant from conscientious motives against his political instincts and associations. And ever afterwards we find him firm in the principles of the Covenant, yet advising peaceful and moderate counsels; and when Montrose, after his conversion to the royal cause, passed through Aberdeenshire, harrying the lands of the leading Covenanters, he supped one day at Crathes, excepted and protected Sir Thomas Burnett and his son-in-law, Sir William Forbes of Monymusk, in the general denunciation of the Puritans. We find Sir Thomas repeatedly a commissioner for visiting the University of Aberdeen, and in his later years he endowed three bursaries at King’s College, his own _alma mater_. Jamesone has painted him with a thoughtful and refined, but earnest and manly face. The baronet’s brother, James Burnett of Craigmyle, was of the same character. No less earnest and staunch than his brother in his adherence to his principles–he ever figures as a peace-maker and enemy of bloodshed. He is described by the parson of Rothiemay, an unsuspected testimony, as a “gentleman of great wisdom, and one who favoured the King though he dwelt among the Covenanters, and was loved and respected by all.” Is it not plain that the temperance and moderation descended in the blood of the Burnetts?

Thomas Burnett of Kemnay, grandson of Craigmyle, is known in a sphere where few Scotsmen had entered. He was a courtier of that remarkable little court of the Electress Sophia of Hanover, where he became the friend of the philosopher Leibnitz, correspondent of the poet Dryden, and his letters are full of curious gossip on the most various subjects–theology, philosophy, literature, including poetry and the small talk of the day. He was greatly employed and trusted by the Electress Sophia. His son George was noted as an agriculturist, and his grandson, Alexander Burnett of Kemnay (by a daughter of Sir Alexander Burnett of Leys), was long British Secretary of embassy at Berlin, and attended Frederick the Great in the campaigns of the Seven Years’ War; remaining at the Prussian Court as Charge d’Affaires after Sir Andrew Mitchell’s death.

James, third son of Craigmyle the Covenanter, married a daughter of the family of Irvine of Monboddo, a scion of the house of Drum, and having so acquired that barony, he transmitted it to his descendants, of whom the most famous was his great-grandson, James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, a Judge of the Court of Session, an eminent lawyer, and a man of rare accomplishments, with some whimsical peculiarities. In a treatise on the origin and progress of language, he was the first seriously to assert the descent of mankind from the monkey, and that the human race were originally furnished with tails! That and a hundred other whimsies were mixed up with a great deal of learning then very rare, and with a philosophy that dealt in free and daring speculation, of which the world was not yet worthy.

The first baronet of Leys, besides his brother James of Craigmyle, had yet another brother, Robert Burnett of Crimond, an eminent advocate, very learned, and of high moral and religious principle. Though his wife was a sister of Johnstone of Warriston, he himself, unlike his two brothers, was an opponent of the Covenant, for which he went into exile until the Restoration, when he was made a Judge of the Court of Session as Lord Crimond. He had three sons by the Warriston lady. His eldest, Sir Thomas Burnett, was physician to royalty from Charles II to Queen Anne. The third was Gilbert, Bishop of Salisbury, of whom it is not my intention to give any detailed account. His brilliant talents and great influence made him many friends, and even more enemies. History is beginning to do justice to his character without concealing his weaknesses. He seems to have been more honest than was the fashion in his time.

Such is the little gathering of family history, for the accuracy of which I am chiefly indebted to my kind friend the Lord Lyon–himself a Burnett. Perhaps I should apologise for saying even the little I have said of the Dean’s pedigree; but while I press into my service the country of his birth and breeding, and the local peculiarities amongst which his life was spent, as possibly having some influence on his character, I could not resist the wish to show another element, drawn from his ancestry, that went to the forming of that character. Was not our Dean a worthy representative of Puritan leaders who refused to go into the violence of the Covenant–of the Bishop of unreproached life, who read the Thirty-nine Articles with an unconcealed desire to include conscientious Dissenters–of many peaceful gentlemen on the banks of the Dee, who mixed a happy playful humour with a catholic reverence for that Christianity which he could recognise in other sects, though preferring his own?


[7] The present generation of Burnetts think that those slang names were invented by Barclay, but I knew him well, and venture to doubt his humorous powers. In the midst of “sporting” and violent excitement he was serious in talk, as became the descendant of the old Quakers.

[8] Mrs. Russell had lost her two sons by a strange fatality–both were drowned, the elder, Lockhart, while skating at Bath, about 1805-6, James, the younger, in crossing the river Dee in a boat rowed by himself in 1827.


Edward Ramsay left Somersetshire amidst the general regrets of his parishioners and neighbours, and entered on his Edinburgh career 1st January 1824. The journal which I am now using has not hitherto spoken much of the differing opinions of his brother clergymen, although there is sometimes a clergyman noted as “very low,” and elsewhere, one branded as a “concealed Papist.” But in Edinburgh–it is vain to conceal it–every profession must be broken into parties. He found Edinburgh, or rather I should say the Episcopal Church in Edinburgh, then theologically divided between the Evangelicals, headed by the Rev. Edward Craig and the old-fashioned Churchmen, the rather moral school, of which Mr. Alison was the distinguished ornament. Mr. Ramsay went to St. George’s Chapel, York Place, as Mr. Shannon’s curate, in the beginning of 1824, and remained doing that duty for two and a half years. He then went to St. Paul’s, Carrubber’s Close, where he laboured for a year.

In 1825 Ramsay “toiled on” with sermons and wrote a series on the Articles. “A great improvement,” he says, “must have taken place in Edinburgh, for unquestionably the sermons I then got credit for we should all think little of now[9].” In 1826 he left Mr. Shannon’s chapel, and took the single charge of the quaint old chapel of St. Paul’s, Carrubber’s Close. Amongst the events recorded of the year was the acquaintance he made by officiating at the funeral of Lady Scott, Sir Walter’s wife. In 1827 he mentions a change, “a considerable move to me, which, under God, has been a good one.” He closed with an offer of the curacy of St. John’s, under Bishop Sandford, when he was thirty-seven years of age. In spring he was ill, and went to visit his old place and friends in Somerset.–“Interesting, very: received at my old curacy of Buckland with much joy, and on the whole enjoyed my visit.” At Whitsunday 1827 he came home to enter on St. John’s with Bishop Sandford, being thus half of 1827 in Carrubber’s Close and half in St. John’s. I was in Edinburgh then, and can well remember what general favour accompanied Mr. Ramsay in church and society. Perhaps he was not prepared for the vehemence of church dissensions among us. I do not think there was at that time so bitter war between churchmen of the same profession in England, but the Episcopal Church, of whatever section, had made great progress then in Scotland. Its fine liturgy, and more decorous ceremonial, had attracted some. Many of the heads of country families round Edinburgh have been educated in England, and many of them have married in England–both circumstances tending to keep up their attachment to the Episcopal Church; and in their houses the scholarly, accomplished, agreeable clergyman of the Episcopal Church was a welcome guest, as well as an adviser and influential friend.

In summer of 1827 the journal tells us his brother Marmaduke paid him a visit. “We read some Italian–I got a notion of Dante.”

At the commencement of 1829 he enters in his journal–“This was a most important year indeed, the year of my marriage; and what event has been to me so joyful, so full of interesting recollections?” He tells that in the summer a visitor came to Scotland–a friend of Lady Dalhousie, and recommended by her to Lady Robert Kerr, at whose house they met. The lady was Isabella Cochrane, of the well-known Canadian family; writing in 1844 he says–“Fifteen years of close acquaintance with that lady have taught me the best commentary upon the Scripture declaration that a ‘virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.’ I need not say more than that I believe I owe mainly to her (under Providence) my comfort, success and position here. But let this suffice. None but myself can know my full obligations.” Next year begins–“As 1829 gave me a wife, 1830 gave me a church, for on the 14th January Bishop Sandford died, and the whole charge was offered to me, which I undertook for three years without a curate–i.e. without a man-curate, for a most effective assistant I had in dearest Isabella, who wrote to my dictation many a weary hour.”

Except a little parcel of letters touching the negotiation with Bishop Skinner, and the Aberdeen congregation in 1822, I find no letters of Ramsay till he wrote to one of the dear old friends at Frome announcing a visit with his wife.

Mr. RAMSAY to Miss STUART SHEPPARD, Fromefield, Frome, Somerset.

7 Albany Court, London, 9th June [1831].

My dear Stuart, I have been in such a whirl and such a turmoil since I came here that I have hardly had time to collect my scattered thoughts to write you a line. I have seen much and heard much, but shall not attempt to give you any account _now_, as I hope (please God) we shall meet ere long. Mrs. Ramsay’s brother-in-law, the Bishop of Nova Scotia, is here–he preached the annual sermon for the anniversary meeting of the Charity Children in St. Paul’s. I went as his chaplain, but of this more hereafter. He has been very urgent upon us to protract our stay here through all next week, but I have resisted his importunities, as I am really desirous of taking as much time as I can at Frome. We accordingly fix Tuesday for leaving London. We stay that day at Windsor with a friend, come to Winchester, Romsey, Salisbury, on Wednesday, and on Thursday the 16th, I hope to see you all in health and comfort. Dear Stuart, I shall be happy, really happy, to be amongst you once more. It is to me like coming _home_. Do not wait dinner or make any arrangements, because our hour of arrival is uncertain. We may be detained till the evening seeing sights. Mrs. E.B.R. eats nothing (literally), and I daresay your common dinner may furnish _me_ with a meal. Mrs. Ramsay desires kindest love; she is not looking well, and I hope, after the racket here, she will improve upon Frome quiet. God bless you.–Your affectionate


Marked–“First visit to F.F. with wife, June 9,1831.”

Mr. RAMSAY to Miss STUART SHEPPARD, Fromefield.

Woburn, Friday night, 1st July [1831].

We are sure that our very dear friends at Fromefield will be interested in hearing of our progress and welfare, and as we have a few extra minutes this morning, we are determined to devote them to a party now living in the hearts of _all_ the wanderers with whom they so lately and so grievously parted: the _weather_ even _sympathised_ on Tuesday evening, and all the comfort we had was in talking over individually the whole Fromefield concern. My brother, who is _slow_ in making friends, and shy of strangers, softened into tender friendship under the influence of such kindness, and vows that if he had such friends he would travel annually from Edinburgh to see them. He has put one sprig of verbena from Stuart in one pocket, another sprig from Jane in another pocket, and a piece of painted glass from Elizabeth in another pocket. How lucky it is that his dress should be so abundantly supplied with the accommodation of so many receptacles for reminiscences! Our next grief after leaving you was the not seeing Cousin John! We were sadly disappointed. We did not get into Clifton till near ten; the rain would prevent his coming to meet us, and the next morning we very provokingly missed each other, though Mr. Ramsay consoled himself with writing a note. How much I hope and trust that we are all to meet next year! We were delighted with our drive from Chepstow to Ross–the Wye scenery is exquisitely beautiful; we exhausted ourselves and our epithets in exclamations, and the day seemed made for the magnificent view from the Wynd Cliff, and then we came to Tintern Abbey! How often we wished for our Chedder party–how often we talked over the pleasure we would have in admiring all this beauty with them, and how often, like spoiled children, we wondered why all this enjoyment should not have accompanied us to Monmouth! but good-night, my very dear friends–I shall leave the letter in better hands for finishing, I am so sleepy!!

[Mr. Ramsay]–We have seen many things of which the ingenious and very learned Dr. Woodward would say that they were “great ornaments to our ponds and ditches.” But of this enough, and more than enough. Allow me to take this opportunity of expressing my satisfaction at finding how completely Mrs. E.B.R enters into the friendship which has so long existed between _us_, and at seeing how fully prepared she is to appreciate your kindness to myself and her; in short, to find that she loves you all now, as if she had known you as long as I have. May we never lose sight of these feelings! We saw Oxford to-day–a good thing, but in detail not equal to Cambridge–in general effect far superior. Gloster pleased me: the tower and cloisters surpassingly fine. People do not roar enough about the steeple of St. Mary’s, Oxford–it is _the finest_ in England, superior I think to that of Salisbury. Are you aware that there is a modern church at Oxford in the pure Norman style? My visit to Frome has given me (except in parting) unmixed satisfaction. I cannot say how much I have been gratified, and with what pleasure I look forward to a renewal. I must to bed, my eyes cannot discern the place to write in, and I am sleepy. Adieu, dearest friends, one and all at the Field of Frome, the Hill of Styles, the cottage of Keyford, etc. I rejoice to think that my good friend _Kay_ is safe. Good-night! Woburn looks well–“a great ornament,” etc.

Marked by Mrs. Clerk–“Written on their way from F.F.–first visit.”

Mr. RAMSAY to Miss BYARD, Fromefield, Frome, Somerset.

Edinburgh, Dec. 17, 1831,

My dearest Friend, They have told me that you are not well, and neither time nor distance can take away the feeling of regard and friendship with which I sympathise with all that occurs to you. I confess myself that I was some time since disposed to look on all things around me with an anxious aspect; but I am beginning to see in _all events_ but a part of that dispensation which is so gloriously distinguished as the work of _love_, and I think that public calamity or private sorrow, sickness, pain, weariness and weakness, _may_ all be translated into the same language, and may be arranged as synonyms of the same word. Yes! piety, goodness, the favour and approbation of God, are all marked out by sorrow and infirmity here. Why else did the blessed Jesus tabernacle here below–a man of sorrows? and why else was he acquainted with grief? It might make a Christian almost drink his cup of sickness and pain with _greediness_ when he remembers that he is tasting the same cup as that of which his Lord drank, and he might hail with rapture the outstretched arm of death and suffering as about to place on his head the diadem of eternal glory. I am not to flatter you–you need it not, you ask it not; but, my friend, you must feel and know that you have been walking with God, walking _humbly_, doing good, neither trusting to false presumptions nor to your own merits. Christ has been _your_ master, to Him you have looked, and, blessed be God! He will never, never forsake those who trust to Him,–those who are good to others for his sake,–those who seek redemption through Him. Where, O ye years that are past, have you gone? You have carried to the throne of grace many an act of contrition, many a devout prayer, many a good deed, many an offering of faith, from the friend to whom I now write. Bring back, ye moments that are to come and which shall be granted to her in this world, rich consolations, promises of pardon, assurances of favour, all spiritual blessings! Dear Miss Byard, may all these be yours in full abundance. May God the Father bless you, through the Eternal Spirit, for Christ’s sake! This is the sincere and earnest prayer of your affectionate and faithful friend, E.B.R.

In this I am joined by Isabella.

Marked–“It arrived just after her death.”

In his journal Mr. Ramsay speaks of Bishop Sandford with a very grateful recollection. To him he owed his preferment, and a “more agreeable charge could not well be had.” He characterises him as a man of elegant mind and accurate scholarship, of deep piety and sincere faith. I think it is with some regret that he adds, the “state of the Church is much changed since his episcopate.”

His dear brother Marmaduke died in the summer of 1831, and the Dean, who is no exaggerator of his feelings, remarks–“This is one of the sorrows for which language is inadequate. Such a mind, such taste, abilities, and accomplishments!” Edward Ramsay felt that nothing could make up for the loss of his brother, but he had comfort in thinking how much his brother’s mind had been wakened to religious inquiries. His simple notes in his journal are sometimes worth preserving. “July 6, 1833, was the finest day I ever remember.” He passed it in the Highlands with Professor Forbes, Skenes, and other delightful friends. On the 28th he left for the Duke of Sutherland’s funeral; afterwards he repaired to Leamington and Dr. Jephson, whose skill he soon found reason to admire. On leaving Leamington he thanks God that he has gained in health, and learnt also wisdom in regard to the “management of myself, and certainly in diet.” It is not necessary to record the little tours with his wife, which now happened almost every season, either to Deeside or the Highlands or his old haunts in Somerset. On July 2, 1836, I find it recorded that he went with a party to hear Dr. Chalmers at the Dean Church, and returned all in great delight. He made a long journey that year to hear the great organ at Birmingham, and came home by many cathedrals, and yet “glad to get home.”

In 1838 he notes, after a Highland journey, the “Synod was this year for altering the canons,” He notes a “white-stone visit to the Stranges, Ross-end Castle, with the Bells. Alas! how many things and people are gone.”

In 1839 “Lady Dalhousie, my admired friend, came to stay with us. She came January 19, and on the 22d died in the drawing-room in an instant! It was an awful visitation, and never to be forgotten.”

The following letter, written immediately after the calamity, is from the Marquis of Dalhousie, from various circumstances an object of great affection to the Dean, who consented to take charge of his daughters when he went as Governor-General to India, bestowing on them the care and anxious watchfulness which the young ladies returned with hearty affection:–


Dalhousie Castle, 25th January 1839.

My dear Mr. Ramsay–I have sent John in, partly because I am anxious that you should let me know how Mrs. Ramsay is to-day, and partly because I cannot rest till another evening without endeavouring to express to you some portion of the very, very deep gratitude which I feel for all your kindness–for the kindness of your every act and word, and–I am just as confident–of your every thought towards us all in this sad time. _God knows how truly I feel it_: and with that one expression I stop; for it makes me sick to think how slow and how coldly words come to clothe the feeling which I wish to convey to you. Believe only this, that to my own dying day I never can forget your goodness. Believe this too–that since it has pleased Almighty God that my poor mother’s eyes should not he closed under my roof, and by my hand, I would not have wished any other place for her departure than among friends so kindly, loving, and so well loved.

God bless you and repay it to you, prays your ever grateful and affectionate friend, DALHOUSIE.

Rev. E. B. Ramsay.

February 27, 1839.–“My uncle General Burnett died; another limb of the older generation gone; a good and kind man; a man of the world, and not a clever one. Latterly he showed a considerable desire to know more about religion. Went with J. Sandilands to be present at the formation of a branch of the Church Society at Glasgow–made a regular speech!” On September 4th he writes–“The first day of meeting of the general committee for business of the Scottish Episcopal Church Society. I gave a large dinner. Much have I worked for this society, and done better things than give dinners. By the by William Ramsay [his brother the admiral] made a capital speech.” On March 5, 1841, it is noted, Bishop Walker died–“a good man. His mind cast in a limited mould of strong prejudices; but a fair man, strictly honest in all his ways. He was not fitted to unravel difficulties in his episcopate, and scarcely suited to these times. He had been a furious opponent of the old evangelicals. A constant and kind friend to me. May his memory be honoured. Bishop Terrot elected bishop. I am very grateful to think that in all this business I can look with satisfaction upon everything that has been done by me.”

From this time Mr. Ramsay’s thoughts were very much taken up with the Episcopal Church Society, and he records in his journal most of its meetings, and the English friends who came across the Borders to help them. He mentions also a Scotch Presbyterian churchman who became convinced of the apostolical authority of episcopacy–“an excellent man.” Then a visit of Mr. —-, “an accomplished and able man, somewhat strong of the popish leaven.” That was in 1842, and on the margin is written–“Gone over to the Church of Rome, 1845.” He mentions also the “stupid business at Portobello and squabbles,” and his going down to make peace. On September 4th we have some things which seemed important at their time–the Queen’s visit to Scotland. He says, “It was a stirring subject for old Scotland.” “This day, 4th Sept., I read prayers and preached before her Majesty, and also dined and sat near Prince Albert and the Queen. In the evening presented to the Queen and Prince Albert, and introduced to Sir Robert Peel.” Then comes the cry–“All vanity of vanities!” At the end of this month the Bishop of London–“very agreeable”–was in Edinburgh, and the Dean accompanied him to Glenalmond, to see the proposed site for Trinity College. In 1843 he mentions the death of a friend, who, he feared, died an infidel: “However, I have no wish to proclaim his errors. To me he was ever kind and considerate. Let us leave judgment to Him who cannot err.” In June of that year he paid a visit to England, spent Sunday at Leeds, and was much interested with Dr. Hook and his church. “I have considerable dubitation as to the expediency of making the services of our parish churches choral.” He went on to London and Oxford, where it was long vacation, but he met with great kindness from the heads of University College and Exeter. “Magdalene is faultless.”

After mentioning some visitors in March 1844, he writes–“Dickens’s Christmas Carol really a treat, a thoroughly wholesome book.” On the 8th April he was present at the lunch given to the children of the Episcopal poor in the Old Town. “This, I trust, is the commencement of a scheme to bring some actually poor into our church. I made a speech, and, to my astonishment, rather a good one.” After a pretty long tour in the south of England he comes home in August 1844, and notes a letter from the Bishop of London, containing the offer of the Bishopric of New Brunswick, in a handsome and gratifying manner. “I think I was right to refuse. May God forgive me if it was an improper shrinking from duty.” October 14, 1844: “I have now brought up this record of my life’s transactions to the present time, and my purpose is, in future journalising, to take the leading points, to notice subjects only, painful, joyful, or difficult. All my thoughts since the offer of the New Brunswick mitre have confirmed the correctness of my judgment.” October 17, 1844: “I am trying to repeat the experiment of last week, and write my sermon over again. I see clearly that in such work we cannot take too much pains: dinner at Lord Medwyn’s to-day–very pleasant–rather an exception this to dinners: how dull the routine! October 22: succeeded in my resolution of rewriting the whole of my sermon, and found the advantage; in fact, nothing in the way of public speaking can be done without a thorough preparation. How high parties are running! It has a sad effect on my mind; but my refuge must be in keeping off controversy and adhering to edifying and practical subjects.” In the same month he records the death of a dear friend, whom he visited on his deathbed. “Nothing,” he says, “could be more satisfactory than his state of mind;” the Dean lost a kind Christian, attached and delightful friend. “I was glad to be able to answer his scruples and fears about being an object of Christ’s mercy and pardon.” December 11, 1844, he lost his mother–“simple-minded,” he says, “as a child. Oh! what a break of the family circle! It seems as if the last link which bound us together were broken, and a point vanished round which we could always rally. I went with Lauderdale to see the poor remains, so attenuated, and yet the countenance like itself, still beautiful, and fine features.” The funeral made the Dean very sad. She was followed to the grave by two sons, a son-in-law, two grandsons and distant cousins. Mr. Alison read the service, and she was buried beside her old friend of fifty years–poor Mrs. Macdonald.

1844: “Christmas day morning, Communion 78, in all 404; the church so full. I preached an old but a good sermon.” He has a Christmas dinner of a few friends, but not much Christmas spirit, he says. In 1845, January 12, the journal notices–“I preached my liturgy sermon, and apparently with much success.” Some of his congregation had spoken of it as worthy to be printed. He saw a good deal of company in his own house, whom I do not think it necessary to particularise, though they were generally of distinction for talent or rank, or both together. He heard C. Kemble read Henry VIII., which “I did much enjoy. Will. Shakspeare when most known is most admired.” On 19th January he preached a sermon, but his note upon it is not like the last. “I liked it, but it did not seem to take as I had expected. Have been much meditating this week on many matters, Church especially: find myself unsettled, I fear, but I think I have the remedy, which is to keep my attention fixed rather on practical than on speculative points. We cannot agree on the one; on the other we may, and good men do.” March 2, 1845: “I confess that the Romanising tendencies so openly avowed in the Church of England alarm me. The question occurs, Is not this a necessary, or at least a natural tendency of High Churchism?” Speaking of meetings of his Synod, he says “it is wretched work, which ended, indeed, in doing nothing.” One member had spoken with much bitterness, which he says, “thank God, I do not feel.” 3d April 1845: “We are in a nice mess about this Old Town business. Two different communion offices in one day in the same chapel. Is it possible that this could ever have been contemplated by the canon? I do fear the extreme and Romanising party, and they hurt us here. The Scotch office is supposed to identify us with them, and certainly the comments upon it make it speak a language very different from the English.”

June 19.–“Left home in the ‘Engineer’ coach at seven, travelled through to London without stop, and arrived there at one o’clock: wonderful the shortening of this journey; went with a party to Handel’s Athalia at Exeter Hall; tired, fagged, and sleepy as I was, I yet felt deeply the power of the mighty master in this his mighty work. Yes, Handel is the greatest musician the world ever saw.”

July 18, 1845.–“Returned to London: did little more there: arrived in Edinburgh for Mr. Sandiland’s marriage, a great stretch of friendship in me, for it has discomposed all our summer plans.” On 15th August there is an entry too characteristic to be omitted:–“Have been thinking a great deal about the state of matters at present, and the sort of demeanour I should exhibit to the world. I should be very cautious–hardly give an opinion if conflicting statements, and certainly not gossip about them–certainly not speak harshly or severely of any. Keep my own course, work hard, and endeavour to conciliate; rather lean to high than low side.” November 10, 1845: “at a meeting to hear Dr. Simpson, Mr. Macfarlane, and Norman Macleod give an account of their mission to North America: interesting. Macleod a real clever fellow.”

26th November 1845.–“The consecration of Dalkeith Chapel: we went out and stayed the day; all good and well managed: Sermon preached by Rev. E. B. R: approved: three bishops, twenty clergy. It is really a fine thing for a man to have done; a beautiful chapel; hope it won’t be extreme.”

Dec. 2.–“Warden to College appointed; looks like business!”

Dec. 7.–“Heard astonishing news–William appointed to the ‘Terrible, the largest steam man-of-war in the service–in the world.”

Dec. 14, 1845.–“Sermon on Christ the True Light. Collection for Scottish Episcopal Church Society, L151.”

15th March 1846.–“Sermon, ‘Am I your enemy because I tell you the truth?’ Here a sad blank, for I have been very ill, and out of chapel two Sundays, and could not go to confirmation, and all sorts of horrors. I have communed a good deal with myself, and I have made up my mind to a conduct and demeanour in Church matters almost neutral. I positively will not again mix myself up in any way with party, or even take part. I will confine myself to St. John’s and its duties. This is my _line_–hear what every one has to say, and keep a quiet, conciliatory, and even tenor. It is more striking the more I think of the different way in which different minds are affected by religious truth.” …

April 16.–“Synod meeting and Society. I took the moderate and conciliatory side. Did right this time.”

April 29.–“Preached the Casuistry sermon. Mrs. R. made it A 20.”

June 1.–“Busy preparing for journey;” he leaves home for his summer holiday “with rather less spirit and expectation of enjoyment than usual.”

Mr. Ramsay was appointed Dean of the Diocese of Edinburgh by Bishop Terrot in 1846, after having previously declined, as we saw, the dignity of the Bishopric of New Brunswick, offered him by Sir Robert Peel. He afterwards refused the Bishopric of Glasgow in 1847, and the Coadjutor-Bishopric of Edinburgh in 1862.

And now is the beginning of constantly recurring complaints of depression–low spirits, a “cloud upon my spirits; headache, even pain and violent pain.” He was disappointed at not getting to see the “Terrible;” was low and depressed. “Went to Bath. Delighted with Torquay; interested at Exeter; the service there the very best. Is cathedral service more than a solemn concert?” Then he went by Beaminster to see his nephew Alexander and his family. He stayed a short time at Crewkerne with his niece Mrs. Sparks. “Church a fine one: To Frome: This visit full of interest. How kind and good! The only drawback is parting. We spent a week at Frome, and did enjoy it much. Much kindness, heartiness I should say, intelligence, and real goodness. Changes I found, and saw how time had told on many a face and frame. My dear companion was much pleased and interested in our visit…. July 16.–Left Frome, and sorrowed at parting. Saw Sydney Herbert’s gorgeous church at Wilton. Too much! With the exterior of Salisbury not at all disappointed; with the interior a little. Arrived at Farnborough by eight o’clock, and a most cordial welcome we had from all the inmates of its pretty rectory. Went back to London on Friday, and returned to Farnborough Saturday, and spent Sunday. July 19.–Was glad for Isabella to have an opportunity of seeing a Sunday in a country place in England. I preached twice, and we were interested. Aug. 4.–Came to York. Glorious! Chapter-house restored by Mr. Bell.”

January 1, 1851.–“Having preached on Sunday last regarding improvement and good resolutions, I would now do the same for myself. I have made some resolutions in my own mind, chiefly regarding the control and regulation of temper, irritability, forbearance, more composed and calm temperament, order, diligence, dispatch of work, etc.” On January 6th there is a Ragged School meeting–“a long and tiresome meeting; the Duke of A—- speaks well; Guthrie amusing; Fox Maule good; Candlish clever–very.”

On his birthday in 1853 he writes: “I have just made two resolves–first, never to give way to temper, fret, ill-humour, party spirit, or prejudice; second, to work my best in what I may have still to do.”

There is a great deal more of the journal, but one or two additional extracts will show sufficiently the nature of the man, his devotion to his sacred duty, his gentleness, and love of peace. The High Churchman may think him unduly careless about forms and ceremonies; but, loving him very well, I yet wish to represent the Dean as he really was. Above all things full of charity, loving religion as he understood the religion of the Gospel, and not much concerned, not really deeply concerned, about the shape and dress in which it presented itself. He held, however, that the Protestant Episcopal Church, as established in England, as disestablished in Scotland, for he never would separate them, was in all its belongings the most desirable, its service the most decent.

1858 was a sad year for the Dean. Mrs. Ramsay had been very ill, and sinking in strength and spirit visibly, till, on the 23d July the afflicted husband makes this entry:–“It pleased God to visit me with the deep and terrible affliction of taking away my friend, companion, and adviser of twenty-nine years.” It was a heavy blow, and for a time it seemed to paralyse the Dean. This journal, never regular, becomes from this time quite broken.

Looking back from this point, which to the Dean seemed the end of happiness, he could acknowledge how duty supplied the place of pleasure. He was grateful also for many mercies. In one respect he was singularly fortunate. His Bishop and he, I may say during all the time he served in St. John’s, were cordially of the same way of thinking. Bishop Terrot was indeed a very different man from himself, but in the relations of Bishop and Dean they were very happy. The Dean wrote a little memoir of Bishop Terrot, which he published in the _Scottish Guardian_ (May 15, 1872), where he prints the remarkable letter from the Bishop to himself, answering the question why he declined communion with Mr. Drummond, and ending with the sentence–“These are matters of _ecclesiastical police_ which each local church has a right to manage in its own way, subject to the law of the Catholic Church, i.e. the Bible.” The Dean then bore testimony that he had always found his Bishop an interesting companion, a kind friend, a faithful and judicious adviser, and he speaks highly, and surely not too highly, of his great intellectual powers, as well as of his moral qualities. I am myself a very hearty admirer of Bishop Terrot, and I think it not out of place to add something to our knowledge of him, by printing a few letters which concern him and his family.

COLONEL TERROT to DEAN RAMSAY.–Without date, but of the year 1872.

Very Rev. and dear Sir–There is one little incorrect deduction in your kind memoir, or at least a deduction which may be made from what you say of my father deriving his intellect from his mother—that my grandfather was inferior in such respects. From deep feeling and devotion to his memory, my grandmother never spoke of her husband to us, but from others I have heard that he was a bright, handsome and talented young man, who, with the very imperfect education given at that time to officers in the army, and employed in active service in America at the age of fourteen, was yet distinguished for ability, especially in mathematics and engineering matters, so that he was employed by those in command of the siege, and was actually riding with the engineer who was in charge of the sieging operations when a cannon-ball struck and killed him. He was in an English infantry regiment, and not in the Indian service, except that the regiment was serving in India at the time. He met my grandmother in the ship which took them to India. She was going to a maternal uncle, Colonel Hughes, who was considerably displeased on her announcing at Madras that she was engaged to a poor young officer who had offered to her during the voyage. But the young couple being determined, he gave his consent, and continued kind to his niece, and my father was born in his house, and at his father’s request called Hughes after him. My grandfather was twenty-five and his bride eighteen at their marriage, and she was a widow before she was twenty, from which time till she died at eighty-five she was a widow indeed, making her son the chief object of her life, living in and for him.

His uncle William, whom he succeeded at Haddington, was never married, and was exceedingly attached to my father. He was a singular man; in his early days very gay and handsome, and living in some matters, I know not what, so incorrectly, that on offering himself for holy orders, the then Bishop of Durham wrote to him mentioning something he had heard, and telling him if it was true he was not fitly prepared for taking orders. My uncle acknowledged the accusation as far as it was true, and thanked the Bishop for his letter, and abstained from coming forward at that time, but took the admonition so to heart that it led to an entire conversion of heart and life. He then came forward in a very different state to receive ordination, and was through his whole life a most zealous and devoted man, a friend of Milner and Wilberforce. An old lady, Mrs. Logan of Seafield, told me that once when Mrs. Siddons was acting, uncle William walked twenty miles to see her and persuade her not to go, and, whether by arguments or eloquence, he succeeded. Though kind and gentle he was a strong Calvinist, and by his zeal and energy in preaching such doctrines, injured himself in a worldly point of view. He was always poor, and often gave away all the little he had, and lived from hand to mouth. He was very much admired and beloved by ladies, which perhaps prevented his marrying. He was very happy and useful among the sailors, and died at his sister’s, Mrs. Jackson, at Woolwich. She, as Elizabeth Terrot, had been a beauty, and was to the last a fine, happy, spirited, contented and joking old lady, very fond of my father, to whom she left all she had. She was bright, unselfish and amusing, even on her deathbed incapable of despondency or gloom.

Excuse my troubling you with these details; and believe me to be truly grateful for your graceful tribute to our dear father. I send a few lines for your private eye, written by my sister Mary, expressing what she felt on last seeing him, and it expresses, too, exactly what I felt that last Good Friday as he sat in that chair in which he had so long suffered. I never saw him there again, With deep respect, gratefully yours, S.A. TERROT.



Sad, silent, broken down, longing for rest, His noble head bent meekly on his breast, Bent to the bitter storm that o’er it swept; I looked my last, and surely, then I thought, Surely the conflict’s o’er, the battle’s fought; To see him thus, the Saviour might have wept.


His rest was near–his everlasting rest; No more I saw him weary and oppressed.
_There_ in the majesty of death he lay For ever comforted: I could not weep;
He slept, dear father! his last blessed sleep, Bright in the dawn of the eternal day.


And thou, whose hand _his_, groping, sought at last, The faithful hand that he might hold it fast! Once more, when parting on the eternal shore, It may be, when thy heart and hand shall fail, Entering the shadows of death’s awful vale His hand shall grasp thine, groping then no more.


My dear Dean–Many thanks for your very interesting memoir of Bishop Terrot. His remark about _humdrum_ and _humbug_ is worthy of the best days of Sydney Smith, and so is a hit about table-turning[10]. I once heard him preach, and still remember with pleasure the unexpected delight it gave to my dear mother and myself. We did not know in the least what was coming, either from the man or the text, and it was excellent.–Yours sincerely,


Deanery, Westminster, 1872.


Hawarden, May 26, 1872

My dear Friend–I have read with much interest your graceful and kindly memoir of Bishop Terrot, which you were so good as to send me.

He had always appeared to me as a very real and notable, and therefore interesting man, though for some reason not apparent a man _manque_, a man who ought to have been more notable than he was. I quite understand and follow you in placing him with, or rather in the class of, Whately and Paley, but he fell short of the robust activity of the first, and of that wonderful clearness of the other, which is actual brightness.

Your account of the question of Lordship is to me new and interesting. I have never called the Scottish Bishops by that title. I should be content to follow the stream, but then we must deal equally, and there is the case of the Anglo-Roman bishop to meet, especially now that the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill has been repealed; but only on Friday I addressed one of the very best among them “Right Rev. Bishop M—-.”

You will, I am sure, allow me the license of private judgment in the two expositions about the church in p. 5. You praise both, but the second the more highly. To me the first seems excellent, and the second, strange to say, wanting in his usual clearness and consecutiveness. For having in head (1) most truly said that Christ “instituted a society _and_ revealed a doctrine,” he then proceeds as if he had quite forgotten the first half of the proposition, and conceived of the society only as (so to speak) embedded in the doctrine. Also, I complain of his depriving you of the character of [Greek: iegeus], which indeed I am rather inclined to claim for myself, as “He hath made us kings and priests” ([Greek: hiegeis]).

I hope you are gradually maturing the idea of your promised summer expedition to the south, and that before long I shall hear from you on the subject of it.

Will you remember me kindly to Miss Cochrane, and believe me, ever affectionately yours,


The Dean was greatly affected by a terrible calamity, which happened in his house in Ainslie Place, where, in June of 1866, his niece Lucy Cochrane, one of his family, was burnt to death; out of many letters of condolence which he received at the time, I have only space to insert three–one from the Rev. Dr. Hannah, then head of Glenalmond College, an accomplished scholar, to whom our Dean was much attached, and upon whom he drew very freely in any questions of more recondite scholarship, another from the Rev. D.T.K. Drummond, and the third from the Premier:–


Trinity College, Glenalmond, N.B.

June 15, 1866.

Dear Mr. Dean–I _must_ write one line, though I know you will be overwhelmed with letters, to say how deeply distressed and shocked we are at the news in this morning’s paper, and how profoundly we sympathize with you under this fearful affliction. I thought instantly of Mr. Keble’s lovely poem in the Lyra Innocentium:–

“Sweet maiden, for so calm a life,
Too bitter seemed thine end.”

And it applies closely, I am sure, in the consolations it suggests; that

“He who willed her tender frame
Should rear the martyr’s robe of flame,”

has prepared for her a garland in Heaven,

“Tinged faintly with such golden light As crowns His martyr train.”

But if blessed for her, it will be a sore trial for the survivors. We feel so keenly for her poor sisters, who seem to have to bear the brunt of so many sorrows. May God support them and you! So prays in hearty sympathy, yours ever sincerely,



St. Fillans, Crieff, 16th June.

My dear Friend–This morning’s paper brought us the sad, sad intelligence of the frightful calamity which has befallen your household.

My heart aches when I think of the overwhelming sorrow this great affliction must bring to your kind and loving heart. Long friendship and unbroken esteem must be my apology for intruding on you at this early stage of your bereavement. I cannot but express my deep and heart-felt sympathy with you in it, and my earnest prayer that God the Holy Spirit may sanctify and comfort by his own grace and presence all on whom this great sorrow has fallen.

In the expression of this sympathy my dear wife cordially unites with yours most affectionately and truly,



11 Carlton H. Terrace,

June 16, 1866.

My dear Dean Ramsay–I cannot refrain from writing to you a word of sympathy under the grievous calamity with which your peaceful and united household has in the providence of God been visited. I have only heard of it in a very partial account to-day; but I deeply lament alike the extinction of a young and promising life, the loss your affectionate heart has sustained, and the circumstances of horror with which it has been accompanied. I need not say how this concern extends to your brother the Admiral also. I shall hope to hear of you through some common friend. I cannot ask you to write, but beg you to believe me always affectionately yours,


Very few of the Dean’s own letters have been preserved, but the following will show him as a correspondent:–


23 Ainslie Place, Feb. 3, 1865

Dear Dr. Lindsay Alexander–I am not aware of having an undue predominance of modesty in my nature, but really I have been surprised, I may truly say much amazed, at the dedication of the volume which I received this evening. Need I add that, on more calmly considering the matter, I am deeply gratified. From Dr. Lindsay Alexander such a compliment can be no ordinary gratification. “Laudari a laudatis” has always been a distinction coveted by those who value the opinion of the wise and good.

I thank you most cordially for the delicacy with which you refer to the “most stedfast adherence to conviction” of one who has long been convinced that no differences in matter of polity or forms of worship ought to violate that “unity of spirit,” or sever that “bond of peace,” in which we should ever seek to join all those whom we believe sincerely to hold the truth as it is in Jesus.–I am always, with sincere regard, yours truly and obliged,


DEAN RAMSAY to Mrs. CLERK, Kingston Deverell.

23 Ainslie Place,

Edinburgh, March 14, 1865.

Dearest Stuart–I take great blame and sorrow to myself for having left your kind letter to me on my birthday so long unanswered. It was indeed a charming letter, and how it took me back to the days of “Auld lang Syne!” They were happy days, and good days, and the savour of them is pleasant. Do you know (you don’t know) next Christmas day is forty-two years since I left Frome, and forty-nine years since I went to Frome? Well! they were enjoyable days, and rational days, and kind-hearted days. What jokes we used to have! O dear! How many are gone whom we loved and honoured! I often think of my appearing at Frome, falling like a stranger from the clouds, and finding myself taken to all your hearts, and made like one of yourselves. Do you know Mrs. Watkins is alive and clever, and that I constantly correspond with her? You recollect little Mary Watkins at Berkely. She is now a grandmother and has three or four grandchildren!–ay, time passes on. It does. I have had a favoured course in Scotland; I have been thirty-seven years in St. John’s, and met only with kindness and respect. I have done much for my church, and that is acknowledged by every one. My Catechism is in a tenth edition–my Scottish Book in an eleventh; 3000 copies were sold the first week of the cheap or people’s edition. I meet with much attention from all denominations. A very able man here, Dr. Lindsay Alexander, an Indpendent, has just dedicated a book (a good one) to Dean Ramsay, with a flattering dedication. But I don’t expect to hold on _much_ longer. I feel changed, and at times not equal to much exertion. It was a terrible change for me to lose my companion of twenty-nine years, and I have never, of course, recovered that loss. It is a great point for a person like me to have three nieces, quite devoted to care of me and to make me happy: cheerful, animated, and intelligent, pretty also–one of them an excellent musician, and _organist_ to our amateur choir for week days in the chapel. By the by we have a glorious organ. How I have gone on about my miserable self–quite egotistical. “If I may be allowed the language” (the late Capt. Balne). But I thought you would like it. Good-bye. Love to Malcolm _Kenmore_. When do your boys come? Your ever loving and affectionate old friend,



23 Ainslie Place,

Edinburgh, 12th Feb. 1868.

Many thanks for writing about our beloved Bessie, my very dear Stuart. She is indeed much endeared to all the friends, and I am a friend of more than 50 years! God’s will be done. We have come to that age when we must know our time is becoming very uncertain.

There is only one thing, dearest Stuart, that I _can_ say–my best wishes, best affections, best prayers, are with her who now lies on a sick bed. _She_ has not to begin the inquiry into the love and support of a gracious Redeemer. She may say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

May God be merciful and gracious to support you all on this deeply interesting occasion, is the earnest prayer of your affectionate old friend, E. B. RAMSAY.


23 Ainslie Place,

Edinburgh, 3d June 1870.

My dear Stuart–I had such a kind letter from you some time ago, about visiting you, and I did not answer it–wrong, very! and I am sorry I put it off. Should I come to England this summer I should look on it as a _last_ visit, and would make an effort to see old Frome again. Do you know it is fifty-four years since I first appeared at Rodden!

I preach still, and my voice and articulation don’t fail; but otherwise I am changed, and walk I cannot at all. St. John’s goes on as usual–nice people, many, and all are very kind. We have lately had the interior renewed, and some changes in the arrangement, which are great improvement. It is much admired, “a great ornament to our ponds and ditches,”–Dr. Woodward. However, dear Stuart, I have not yet said distinctly enough what I meant to say at the beginning–that should I come south I would make an effort to come to K. Deverell.

Miss Walker has left fully L200,000 to our church. I am at present (as Dean) the only Episcopal trustee, with four official trustees–all Presbyterians.

The Bishops seem the most _go-ahead_ people in the church just now. New sectioning and revision of Scripture, translation, all come from them: both of much importance. I wish they could get rid of the so-called Athanasian Creed. I cannot bear it. Nothing on earth could ever induce me to repeat the first part and the last part. Love to yourself, husband, and all yours.–Your affectionate



Broomhall, Dunfermline,

7th August 1870.

My dear and venerable Brother Dean–It was very ungrateful of me not to have thanked you before for your most kind vindication of my act in Westminster Abbey. I had read your letter with the greatest pleasure, and must now thank you for letting me have a separate copy of it. I certainly have no reason to be dissatisfied with my defenders. All the bishops who have spoken on the subject (with the single exception of the Bishop of Winchester) have approved the step–so I believe have a vast majority of English churchmen.

How any one could expect that I should make a distinction between confirmed and unconfirmed communicants, which would render any administration in the abbey impossible, or that I should distinguish between the different shades of orthodoxy in the different nonconformist communions, I cannot conceive. I am sure that I acted as a good churchman. I humbly hope that I acted as He who first instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper would have wished.

You are very kind to have taken so much interest in my essays, and what you say of the Athanasian Creed is deeply instructive. You will be glad to hear–what will become public in a few days–that of the 29 Royal Commissioners, 18 at least–including the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of St. David’s and Carlisle and the two Regius Professors of Divinity–have declared themselves against continuing the use of it.

I found your note here when we arrived last night to assist at the coming of age of young Lord Elgin. We were obliged to pass rapidly through Edinburgh, in order to reach this by nightfall. In case I am able to come over this week to Edinburgh, should I find you at home, and at what hour?

It would probably be on Thursday that I could most easily come.–Yours sincerely,



Kingston Deverell, Warminster, Wilts.

23 Ainslie Place, Edin., Sept. 5 [1872].

My dear Malcolm Clerk–Many thanks for your remarks touching the Athanasian Creed. I agree quite, and am satisfied we gain nothing by retaining it, and lose much. You ask if I could help to get facsimiles; I am not likely–not in my line I fear. Should anything turn up I will look after it. One of the propositions to which unlimited faith must be given, is drawn from an analogy, which expresses the most obscure of all questions in physics–i.e. the union of mind and matter, the what constitutes one mortal being–all very well to use in explanation or illustration, but as a positive article of faith in itself, monstrous. Then the Filioque to be insisted on as eternal death to deny!

People hold such views. A writer in the _Guardian_ (Mr. Poyntz) maintains that God looks with more favour upon a man living in SIN than upon one who has seceded ever so small from orthodoxy. Something must be done, were it only to stop the perpetual, as we call it in Scottish phrase, _blethering_!

I am always glad to hear of your boys. My love to Stuart, and same to thyself.–Thine affectionate fourscore old friend,


I am preparing a twenty-second edition of _Reminiscences_. Who would have thought it? No man.

I have not hitherto made any mention of the Dean’s most popular book, the _Reminiscences_. I cannot write but with respect of a work in which he was very much interested, and where he showed his knowledge of his countrymen so well. As a critic, I must say that his style is peculiarly unepigrammatic; and yet what collector of epigrams or epigrammatic stories has ever done what the Dean has done for Scotland? It seems as if the wilful excluding of point was acceptable, otherwise how to explain the popularity of that book? All over the world, wherever Scotch men and Scotch language have made their way–and that embraces wide regions–the stories of the _Reminiscences_, and Dean Ramsay’s name as its author, are known and loved as much as the most popular author of this generation. In accounting for the marvellous success of the little book, it should not be forgotten that the anecdotes are not only true to nature, but actually true, and that the author loved enthusiastically Scotland, and everything Scotch. But while there were so many things to endear it to the peasantry of Scotland, it was not admired by them alone. I insert a few letters to show what impression it made on those whom one would expect to find critical, if not jealous. Dickens, the king of story-tellers; Dr. Guthrie, the most picturesque of preachers; Bishop Wordsworth, Dean Stanley, themselves masters of style–how eagerly they received the simple stories of Scotland told without ornament.


The Feu House, Perth, January 12, 1872.

My dear Dean–Your kind, welcome and most elegant present reached me yesterday–in bed; to which, and to my sofa, I have been confined for some days by a severe attack of brow ague; and being thus disabled for more serious employment, I allowed my thoughts to run upon the lines which you will find over leaf. Please to accept them as being _well intended_; though (like many other good intentions) I am afraid they give only too true evidence of the source from which they come–viz., _disordered head._–Yours very sincerely,


_Bp. of St. Andrews_.

Ad virum venerabilem, optimum, dilectissimum, EDVARDUM B. RAMSAY, S.T.P., Edinburgi Decanum, accepto ejus libro cui titulus _Reminiscences_, etc.; vicesimum jam lautiusque et amplius edito.

Editio accessit vicesima! plaudite quiequid Scotia festivi fert lepidique ferax!
Non vixit frustra qui frontem utcunque severam, Noverit innocuis explicuisse jocis:
Non frustra vixit qui tot monumenta priorum Salsa pia vetuit sedulitate mori:
Non frustra vixit qui quali nos sit amore Vivendum, exemplo praecipiensque docet: Nec merces te indigna manet: juvenesque senesque Gaudebunt nomen concelebrare tuum;
Condiet appositum dum fercula nostra salinum, Praebebitque suas mensa secunda nuces;
Dum stantis rhedae aurigam tua pagina fallet, Contentum in sella taedia longa pati!
Quid, quod et ipsa sibi devinctum Scotia nutrix Te perget gremio grata fovere senem;
Officiumque pium simili pietate rependens, Saecula nulla sinet non[11] meminisse Tui.

The TRANSLATION is from the pen of DEAN STANLEY:–

Hail, Twentieth Edition! From Orkney to Tweed, Let the wits of all Scotland come running to read. Not in vain hath he lived, who by innocent mirth Hath lightened the frowns and the furrows of earth: Not in vain hath he _lived_, who will never let _die_ The humours of good times for ever gone by: Not in vain hath he _lived_, who hath laboured to give In himself the best proof how by love we may _live_. Rejoice, our dear Dean, thy reward to behold In united rejoicing of young and of old; Remembered, so long as our boards shall not lack A bright grain of salt or a hard nut to crack; So long as the cabman aloft on his seat, Broods deep o’er thy page as he waits in the street! Yea, Scotland herself, with affectionate care, Shall nurse an old age so beloved and so rare; And still gratefully seek in her heart to enshrine One more _Reminiscence_, and that shall be Thine.


The Deanery, Westminster,

February 3, 1872.

My dear elder (I cannot say eldest so long as the Dean of Winchester lives) Brother–I am very glad that you are pleased with my attempt to render into English the Bishop’s beautiful Latinity….

Accept our best wishes for many happy returns of the day just past.–Yours sincerely,


On the publication of the Twentieth Edition of the _Reminiscences_, Professor Blackie addressed to the Dean the following sonnets:–


Hail! wreathed in smiles, thou genial book! and hail Who wove thy web of bright and various hue, The wise old man, who gleaned the social tale And thoughtful jest and roguish whim, that grew Freely on Scotland’s soil when Scotland knew To be herself, nor lusted to assume
Smooth English ways–that they might live and bloom With freshness, ever old and ever new
In human hearts. Thrice happy he who knows With sportive light the cloudy thought to clear, And round his head the playful halo throws That plucks the terror from the front severe: Such grace was thine, and such thy gracious part, Thou wise old Scottish man of large and loving heart.


The twentieth edition! I have looked Long for my second–but it not appears; Yet not the less I joy that thou hast brooked Rich fruit of fair fame, and of mellow years, Thou wise old man, within whose saintly veins No drop of gall infects life’s genial tide, Whose many-chambered human heart contains No room for hatred and no home for pride. Happy who give with stretch of equal love This hand to Heaven and that to lowly earth, Wise there to worship with great souls above As here to sport with children in their mirth; Who own one God with kindly-reverent eyes In flowers that prink the earth, and stars that gem the skies.



Gad’s Hill Place, Higham, by Rochester, Kent,

Tuesday, 29th May 1866.

My dear Sir–I am but now in the receipt of your kind letter, and its accompanying book. If I had returned home sooner, I should sooner have thanked you for both.

I cannot adequately express to you the gratification I have derived from your assurance that I have given you pleasure. In describing yourself as a stranger of whom I know nothing, you do me wrong however. The book I am now proud to possess as a mark of your goodwill and remembrance has for some time been too well known to me to admit of the possibility of my regarding its writer in any other light than as a friend in the spirit; while the writer of the introductory page marked viii. in the edition of last year[12] had commanded my highest respect as a public benefactor and a brave soul.

I thank you, my dear Sir, most cordially, and I shall always prize the words you have inscribed in this delightful volume, very, very highly.–Yours faithfully and obliged,



1 Salisbury Road,

30th October 1872.

My dear Mr. Dean–My honoured and beloved friend, I have received many sweet, tender, and Christian letters touching my late serious illness, but among them all none I value more, or almost so much, as your own.

May the Lord bless you for the solace and happiness it gave to me and mine! How perfect the harmony in our views as to the petty distinctions around which–sad and shame to think of it–such fierce controversies have raged! I thank God that I, like yourself, have never attached much importance to these externals, and have had the fortune to be regarded as rather loose on such matters. We have just, by God’s grace, anticipated the views and aspects they present on a deathbed.

I must tell you how you helped us to pass many a weary, restless hour. After the Bible had been read to me in a low monotone–when I was seeking sleep and could not find it–a volume of my published sermons was tried, and sometimes very successfully, as a soporific. I was familiar with them, and yet they presented as much novelty as to divert my mind from my troubles. And what if this failed? then came the _Reminiscences_ to entertain me, and while away the long hours when all hope of getting sleep’s sweet oblivion was given up!

So your book was one of my many mercies. But oh, how great in such a time the unspeakable mercy of a full, free, present salvation! In Wesley’s words

“I the chief of sinners am,
But Jesus died for me.”

I have had a bit of a back-throw, but if you could come between three and four on Friday, I would rejoice to see you.–Ever yours, with the greatest esteem,



Duntrune, 8th January 1872.

My dear Mr. Dean–I thank you very much for the gift of your new edition of “Scottish Reminiscences,” and most especially for the last few pages on Christian union and liberality, which I have read with delight.