« PreviousContinue »
he calls it, "ram-stam," the author's expectation is in a fair way of fulfilment, in so far at least as the production of a book is concerned never likely to create much noise, yet not forgot in a hurry, and to be found in the same "bole" with Burns, Allan Cunningham, Nicholson, Peden's Prophecies, and Rutherford's Letters. Over Nicholson, indeed, "a wandering wicht of Homer's craft," and author of "The Brownie of Blednoch," not noticed in the work, Mactaggart waxes quite eloquent. There is about him, he says, a melancholy and an independence that will ever cause him to be admired by true Caledonians. "And should all mankind desert him I hope he will never find me far away; whatever I can do for the good of that man so shall it be."
In arrangement, the "Encyclopædia" partakes of an alphabetical character, but, like the author's philology, it is only alphabetical after a kind. Under "Borgue," for example, we do not get Deacon Macmin, the Borgue philosopher. The word "Deacon" must be looked up for that. Nicholson is not under Nicholson, but under "Wull," as is also the joyous Gracie of the Tanaree at Millburn, Kirkcudbright; and Ross Island is neither under "Ross" nor "Little," but "Wee," a matter more to be wondered at, as the author not only notices "Janet Richardson," but appends a sad ballad on the wreck of Captain Ormonby:
So on did steer young Ormonby before the furious wind,
Deacon Macmin, as drawn by Mactaggart, is well worth taking a little trouble to find out. When the minister of Borgue died, some friends designed to erect a monument in memory of his reverence, but ere proceeding far they thought there would be no harm in taking the Deacon's opinion about the business. "I ken na (said he) what ye wad say about him but that he's there," indicating that his body lay there, and that no more in justice required
to be said. "So (remarks our author, gravely) the idea of a monument was
blasted by the Deacon's sarcasm.' In some other respects the Deacon appears to have been a kindred spirit with the "Miller of Minnieive "—
I'm but ane humble, dusty miller,
But tak my dram wi' a care killer,
Under the heading "Naturalls," a tender subject for the author to meddle with, will be found graphic descriptions of several of the unfortunate class well known in Galloway-among the rest Davie Eddie, Wull Gourly, who played tunes on his nose; Jamie Neilson, famous for "the plan" or "not the plan;" and Girzey Whay, of Kirkcudbright, with her
Pocket napkin on a staff,
To make the burgess bodies laugh.
Laird Cowtart, the "obstinate man," who refused to avail himself of light from Harris' candles on account of a slight quarrel, will also repay perusal. In some respects our author has anticipated certain recent epics of later days. Carrol's "Hunting of the Snark; an Agony in Eight Fits," is yet quite fresh. Mactaggart quotes from a poem of his own, fortunately never published, “The Rustic Madman, in Six Tornadoes." A Carlylean flavour is also thrown over the account of Paul Jones-"A Gallovidian, I am rather sorry to say; but he was a clever devil, and had strong talents of the infernal stamp." At other times our poet appears to have taken his pleasures sadly, if one may judge from the style of his address, "Mac is Major," written on reaching twenty-one, and after he had been a little time at Edinburgh University
Now Mac upon the Solway shore,
Puir chiel, his ane-and-twentieth year
He entereth upon;
My merry days are past, I fear,
And sad anes coming on.
Nae matter, I'll batter
As weel's I can through life;
To refer to the "Encyclopædia" in terms of more exact criticism might appear ungracious and unnecessary—ungracious, because there is no end of good things within the book, and unnecessary, because the author has said that the work is presented just as he wished it. As for errors, "let them rest on my own broad back. Works of this kind are always fuller of errors than any others; also, should any be displeased because I have not taken notice of some curiosity which was a favourite of theirs, be it told that I was either not of their way of thinking or that I knew nothing about it." In the face of such a direct disclaimer it would be of little use trying to show that "Hogmanay" could hardly be derived from "hug-me-now," or that "Effie," not "Eppie," is the endearing contraction of Euphemia. probably, rather allied to Elspeth.
So at least Scott thought, Eppie being,
One story might have been given, seeing it lay at our author's own door. His treatment of the "Laird of Coul's Ghost," and of ghosts generally, makes it matter for regret that Mactaggart did not try his hand on "A true Relation of an Apparition, Expressions and Actings of a Spirit which infested the house of Andrew Mackie, in Ringcroft of Stocking, in the Parish of Rerrick, in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, in Scotland, 1695, by Mr. Alexander Telfair, minister of that parish, and attested by many other persons who were also eye and ear witnesses. Ephesians vi. II-'Put on the whole armour,'" &c.
DRUMLANRIG AND THE DOUGLASES.
By slow degrees, and at uncertain intervals, the antiquaries of the South of Scotland are making up for their remissness in illustrating various sections of local history, so thoroughly overtaken by the superior zeal of their brethren in the North. It cannot of course often happen that a single corner of Scotland so prolific as Aberdeenshire or Moray in great names can send out within one generation scholars of such rare culture as Robertson and Innes, Stuart and Burton; but, putting for a moment great names aside, the common rank and file of the antiquarian force have shown infinitely superior industry and enthusiasm in dealing with such a tract of country as lies between the Grampians and the Murray Frith. Here was the land of Barbour, who sung so well of the hero-king, even although he was a Southerner; of gossiping old Spalding, who lights up the sombre page of his "Troubles" with dashes of genuine humour, entitling him to the warm commendation of the most recent historian of that agitated period. The pious Bishop Elphinstone, the Parson of Rothiemay, the "gay Gordons," the valiant Keiths, not to speak of municipal records, and the very 'Breviary" of the old Church, have all found painstaking and loving commentators. The "Spalding Club" was mainly instituted to illustrate the history and antiquities of the north-east counties, and the useful series of volumes issued under its auspices make it plain that it may serve as a model for some kindred association in the neglected South. There matters are improving, but still far behind. With the exception of M'Diarmid's "Picture of Dumfries," avowedly light and sketchy, though full at the same time of his inimitable graces of style, and a few dry and not very accurate "Statistical Accounts," there was hardly any literature in existence relating to this part of Scotland, till M'Dowall set himself with cultivated ardour to put into continuous historic shape the existing traditions clustering round "The Queen of the South." The part taken by the burgh in
events so recent as Mar's Rebellion, or the entry of the young Chevalier on the retreat from Derby, could seldom be encountered except in the imperfect pages of Peter Rae, or in the loose talk of some old burgess of the Johnny Gas type, who might be spoken of as having at a very uncertain period the felicity of encountering some plundering Celt "out" in the perilous '45. The notes to Mayne's "Siller Gun" were thought to present as many genealogical and traditionary facts as people in those neglected times needed to care about. Of charter lore, municipal records, or ecclesiastical history, there was absolutely none. Public documents of that kind were neither read nor cared for. Even yet in this respect the southern antiquaries are but on the threshold of their work. Lincluden and Dundrennan, neither of them possibly rivalling in magnificence the stately fane at Elgin, so roughly handled by the "Wolf of Badenoch," or the surpassing beauty of the lonely Kirkwall, saved by its isolation from the despoiler-still even Lincluden, Sweetheart, and Dundrennan have all a story to tell. Why are they permitted to remain dumb? Why is no cunning hand engraving in detail the crumbling fragments ere they pass from sight. Is it never to be known how the monks of the South lived when the Church was independent without being rebellious, zealous without being intolerant, the guide and home of the scholar, the patron and instructor of the craftsman. Of "sweet Lincluden's holy cells," which struck even the robust Burns with plaintive tenderness, little more is on record than that there was interred Margaret, Countess of Douglas, daughter of Robert III.; and there, also, in later and evil days, the barons assembled to decree the code known as "Grim Lord Archibald's battle laws." Dundrennan, again, is chiefly known in connection with the hurried flight of Queen Mary after the disastrous overthrow at Langside, and to a few in modern times, who have not forgotten how often the bench of this country has been adorned by the scholarly taste and courtly bearing of its occupants, as giving an honoured title to the owner of the Abbey ruins, the genial and gifted Thomas Maitland. Holywood also, with its Druidical cromlechs, should be made to reveal something, unless, indeed,