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Chapter 3

He had a routh o' auld nick-nackets,
Rusty airn caps, and jinglin-jackets,
Would held the Loudons three in tackets,
A towmond gude;
And parritch-pats, and auld sayt-backets,
Afore the flude.--Burns

After he had settled himself in his new apartments at Fairport, Mr. Lovel
bethought him of paying the requested visit to his fellow-traveller. He
did not make it earlier, because, with all the old gentleman's
good-humour and information, there had sometimes glanced forth in his
language and manner towards him an air of superiority, which his
companion considered as being fully beyond what the difference of age
warranted. He therefore waited the arrival of his baggage from Edinburgh,
that he might arrange his dress according to the fashion of the day, and
make his exterior corresponding to the rank in society which he supposed
or felt himself entitled to hold.

It was the fifth day after his arrival, that, having made the necessary
inquiries concerning the road, he went forth to pay his respects at
Monkbarns. A footpath leading over a heathy hill, and through two or
three meadows, conducted him to this mansion, which stood on the opposite
side of the hill aforesaid, and commanded a fine prospect of the bay and
shipping. Secluded from the town by the rising ground, which also
screened it from the north-west wind, the house had a solitary, and
sheltered appearance. The exterior had little to recommend it. It was an
irregular old-fashioned building, some part of which had belonged to a
grange, or solitary farm-house, inhabited by the bailiff, or steward, of
the monastery, when the place was in possession of the monks. It was here
that the community stored up the grain, which they received as
ground-rent from their vassals; for, with the prudence belonging to their
order, all their conventional revenues were made payable in kind, and
hence, as the present proprietor loved to tell, came the name of
Monkbarns. To the remains of the bailiff's house, the succeeding lay
inhabitants had made various additions in proportion to the accommodation
required by their families; and, as this was done with an equal contempt
of convenience within and architectural regularity without, the whole
bore the appearance of a hamlet which had suddenly stood still when in
the act of leading down one of Amphion's, or Orpheus's, country dances.
It was surrounded by tall clipped hedges of yew and holly, some of which
still exhibited the skill of the _topiarian_ artist,* and presented
curious arm-chairs, towers, and the figures of Saint George and the

* _Ars Topiaria,_ the art of clipping yew-hedges into fantastic figures.
A Latin poem, entitled _Ars Topiaria,_ contains a curious account of the

The taste of Mr. Oldbuck did not disturb these monuments of an art now
unknown, and he was the less tempted so to do, as it must necessarily
have broken the heart of the old gardener. One tall embowering holly was,
however, sacred from the shears; and, on a garden seat beneath its shade,
Lovel beheld his old friend with spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
busily employed in perusing the London Chronicle, soothed by the summer
breeze through the rustling leaves, and the distant dash of the waves as
they rippled upon the sand.

Mr. Oldbuck immediately rose, and advanced to greet his travelling
acquaintance with a hearty shake of the hand. "By my faith," said he, "I
began to think you had changed your mind, and found the stupid people of
Fairport so tiresome, that you judged them unworthy of your talents, and
had taken French leave, as my old friend and brother-antiquary Mac-Cribb
did, when he went off with one of my Syrian medals."

"I hope, my good sir, I should have fallen under no such imputation."

"Quite as bad, let me tell you, if you had stolen yourself away without
giving me the pleasure of seeing you again. I had rather you had taken my
copper Otho himself.--But come, let me show you the way into my _sanctum
sanctorum_--my cell I may call it, for, except two idle hussies of
womankind," (by this contemptuous phrase, borrowed from his
brother-antiquary, the cynic Anthony a-Wood, Mr. Oldbuck was used to
denote the fair sex in general, and his sister and niece in particular),
"that, on some idle pretext of relationship, have established themselves
in my premises, I live here as much a Coenobite as my predecessor, John
o' the Girnell, whose grave I will show you by and by."

Thus speaking the old gentleman led the way through a low door; but
before entrance, suddenly stopped short to point out some vestiges of
what he called an inscription, and, shaking his head as he pronounced it
totally illegible, "Ah! if you but knew, Mr. Lovel, the time and trouble
that these mouldering traces of letters have cost me! No mother ever
travailed so for a child--and all to no purpose--although I am almost
positive that these two last marks imply the figures, or letters, LV, and
may give us a good guess at the real date of the building, since we know,
_aliunde,_ that it was founded by Abbot Waldimir about the middle of the
fourteenth century--and, I profess, I think that centre ornament might be
made out by better eyes than mine."

"I think," answered Lovel, willing to humour the old man, "it has
something the appearance of a mitre."

"I protest you are right! you are right! it never struck me before--see
what it is to have younger eyes--A mitre--a mitre--it corresponds in
every respect."

The resemblance was not much nearer than that of Polonius's cloud to a
whale, or an owzel; it was sufficient, however, to set the Antiquary's
brains to work. "A mitre, my dear sir," continued he, as he led the way
through a labyrinth of inconvenient and dark passages, and accompanied
his disquisition with certain necessary cautions to his guest--"A mitre,
my dear sir, will suit our abbot as well as a bishop--he was a mitred
abbot, and at the very top of the roll--take care of these three steps--I
know Mac-Cribb denies this, but it is as certain as that he took away my
Antigonus, no leave asked--you'll see the name of the Abbot of Trotcosey,
_Abbas Trottocosiensis,_ at the head of the rolls of parliament in the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries--there is very little light here, and
these cursed womankind always leave their tubs in the passage--now take,
care of the corner--ascend twelve steps, and ye are safe!"

Mr. Oldbuck had by this time attained the top of the winding stair which
led to his own apartment, and opening a door, and pushing aside a piece
of tapestry with which it was covered, his first exclamation was, "What
are you about here, you sluts?" A dirty barefooted chambermaid threw down
her duster, detected in the heinous fact of arranging the _sanctum
sanctorum,_ and fled out of an opposite door from the face of her
incensed master. A genteel-looking young woman, who was superintending
the operation, stood her ground, but with some timidity.

"Indeed, uncle, your room was not fit to be seen, and I just came to see
that Jenny laid everything down where she took it up."

"And how dare you, or Jenny either, presume to meddle with my private
matters?" (Mr. Oldbuck hated _puttting to rights_ as much as Dr.
Orkborne, or any other professed student.) "Go, sew your sampler, you
monkey, and do not let me find you here again, as you value your ears.--I
assure you, Mr. Lovel, that the last inroad of these pretended friends to
cleanliness was almost as fatal to my collection as Hudibras's visit to
that of Sidrophel; and I have ever since missed

My copperplate, with almanacks
Engraved upon't and other knacks
My moon-dial, with Napier's bones,
And several constellation Stones;
My flea, my morpeon, and punaise,
I purchased for my proper ease.

And so forth, as old Butler has it."

The young lady, after courtesying to Lovel, had taken the opportunity to
make her escape during this enumeration of losses. "You'll be poisoned
here with the volumes of dust they have raised," continued the Antiquary;
"but I assure you the dust was very ancient, peaceful, quiet dust, about
an hour ago, and would have remained so for a hundred years, had not
these gipsies disturbed it, as they do everything else in the world."

It was indeed some time before Lovel could, through the thick atmosphere,
perceive in what sort of den his friend had constructed his retreat. It
was a lofty room of middling size, obscurely lighted by high narrow
latticed windows. One end was entirely occupied by book-shelves, greatly
too limited in space for the number of volumes placed upon them, which
were, therefore, drawn up in ranks of two or three files deep, while
numberless others littered the floor and the tables, amid a chaos of
maps, engraving, scraps of parchment, bundles of papers, pieces of old
armour, swords, dirks, helmets, and Highland targets. Behind Mr.
Oldbuck's seat (which was an ancient leathern-covered easy-chair, worn
smooth by constant use) was a huge oaken cabinet, decorated at each
corner with Dutch cherubs, having their little duck-wings displayed, and
great jolter-headed visages placed between them. The top of this cabinet
was covered with busts, and Roman lamps and paterae, intermingled with
one or two bronze figures. The walls of the apartment were partly clothed
with grim old tapestry, representing the memorable story of Sir Gawaine's
wedding, in which full justice was done to the ugliness of the Lothely
Lady; although, to judge from his own looks, the gentle knight had less
reason to be disgusted with the match on account of disparity of outward
favour, than the romancer has given us to understand. The rest of the
room was panelled, or wainscotted, with black oak, against which hung two
or three portraits in armour, being characters in Scottish history,
favourites of Mr. Oldbuck, and as many in tie-wigs and laced coats,
staring representatives of his own ancestors. A large old-fashioned oaken
table was covered with a profusion of papers, parchments, books, and
nondescript trinkets and gewgaws, which seemed to have little to
recommend them, besides rust and the antiquity which it indicates. In the
midst of this wreck of ancient books and utensils, with a gravity equal
to Marius among the ruins of Carthage, sat a large black cat, which, to a
superstitious eye, might have presented the _genius loci,_ the tutelar
demon of the apartment. The floor, as well as the table and chairs, was
overflowed by the same _mare magnum_ of miscellaneous trumpery, where it
would have been as impossible to find any individual article wanted, as
to put it to any use when discovered.

Amid this medley, it was no easy matter to find one's way to a chair,
without stumbling over a prostrate folio, or the still more awkward
mischance of overturning some piece of Roman or ancient British pottery.
And, when the chair was attained, it had to be disencumbered, with a
careful hand, of engravings which might have received damage, and of
antique spurs and buckles, which would certainly have occasioned it to
any sudden occupant. Of this the Antiquary made Lovel particularly aware,
adding, that his friend, the Rev. Doctor Heavysterne from the Low
Countries, had sustained much injury by sitting down suddenly and
incautiously on three ancient calthrops, or _craw-taes,_ which had been
lately dug up in the bog near Bannockburn, and which, dispersed by Robert
Bruce to lacerate the feet of the English chargers, came thus in process
of time to endamage the sitting part of a learned professor of Utrecht.

Having at length fairly settled himself, and being nothing loath to make
inquiry concerning the strange objects around him, which his host was
equally ready, as far as possible, to explain, Lovel was introduced to a
large club, or bludgeon, with an iron spike at the end of it, which, it
seems, had been lately found in a field on the Monkbarns property,
adjacent to an old burying-ground. It had mightily the air of such a
stick as the Highland reapers use to walk with on their annual
peregrinations from their mountains; but Mr. Oldbuck was strongly tempted
to believe, that, as its shape was singular, it might have been one of
the clubs with which the monks armed their peasants in lieu of more
martial weapons,--whence, he observed, the villains were called
_Colve-carles,_ or _Kolb-kerls,_ that is, _Clavigeri,_ or club-bearers.
For the truth of this custom, he quoted the chronicle of Antwerp and that
of St. Martin; against which authorities Lovel had nothing to oppose,
having never heard of them till that moment.

Mr. Oldbuck next exhibited thumb-screws, which had given the Covenanters
of former days the cramp in their joints, and a collar with the name of a
fellow convicted of theft, whose services, as the inscription bore, had
been adjudged to a neighbouring baron, in lieu of the modern Scottish
punishment, which, as Oldbuck said, sends such culprits to enrich England
by their labour, and themselves by their dexterity. Many and various were
the other curiosities which he showed;--but it was chiefly upon his books
that he prided himself, repeating, with a complacent air, as he led the
way to the crowded and dusty shelves, the verses of old Chaucer--

For he would rather have, at his bed-head,
A twenty books, clothed in black or red,
Of Aristotle, or his philosophy,
Than robes rich, rebeck, or saltery.

This pithy motto he delivered, shaking his head, and giving each guttural
the true Anglo-Saxon enunciation, which is now forgotten in the southern
parts of this realm.

The collection was indeed a curious one, and might well be envied by an
amateur. Yet it was not collected at the enormous prices of modern times,
which are sufficient to have appalled the most determined as well as
earliest bibliomaniac upon record, whom we take to have been none else
than the renowned Don Quixote de la Mancha, as, among other slight
indications of an infirm understanding, he is stated, by his veracious
historian, Cid Hamet Benengeli, to have exchanged fields and farms for
folios and quartos of chivalry. In this species of exploit, the good
knight-errant has been imitated by lords, knights, and squires of our own
day, though we have not yet heard of any that has mistaken an inn for a
castle, or laid his lance in rest against a windmill. Mr. Oldbuck did not
follow these collectors in such excess of expenditure; but, taking a
pleasure in the personal labour of forming his library, saved his purse
at the expense of his time and toil, He was no encourager of that
ingenious race of peripatetic middle-men, who, trafficking between the
obscure keeper of a stall and the eager amateur, make their profit at
once of the ignorance of the former, and the dear-bought skill and taste
of the latter. When such were mentioned in his hearing, he seldom failed
to point out how necessary it was to arrest the object of your curiosity
in its first transit, and to tell his favourite story of Snuffy Davie and
Caxton's Game at Chess.--"Davy Wilson," he said, "commonly called Snuffy
Davy, from his inveterate addiction to black rappee, was the very prince
of scouts for searching blind alleys, cellars, and stalls for rare
volumes. He had the scent of a slow-hound, sir, and the snap of a
bull-dog. He would detect you an old black-letter ballad among the leaves
of a law-paper, and find an _editio princeps_ under the mask of a school
Corderius. Snuffy Davy bought the Game of Chess, 1474, the first book
ever printed in England, from a stall in Holland, for about two groschen,
or twopence of our money. He sold it to Osborne for twenty pounds, and as
many books as came to twenty pounds more. Osborne resold this inimitable
windfall to Dr. Askew for sixty guineas. At Dr. Askew's sale," continued
the old gentleman, kindling as he spoke, "this inestimable treasure
blazed forth in its full value, and was purchased by Royalty itself for
one hundred and seventy pounds!--Could a copy now occur, Lord only
knows," he ejaculated, with a deep sigh and lifted-up hands--"Lord only
knows what would be its ransom; and yet it was originally secured, by
skill and research, for the easy equivalent of two-pence sterling. *
Happy, thrice happy, Snuffy Davie!--and blessed were the times when thy
industry could be so rewarded!

* This bibliomaniacal anecdote is literally true; and David Wilson, the
author need not tell his brethren of the Roxburghe and Bannatyne Clubs,
was a real personage.

"Even I, sir," he went on, "though far inferior in industry and
discernment and presence of mind, to that great man, can show you a few
--a very few things, which I have collected, not by force of money, as any
wealthy man might,--although, as my friend Lucian says, he might chance
to throw away his coin only to illustrate his ignorance,--but gained in a
manner that shows I know something of the matter. See this bundle of
ballads, not one of them later than 1700, and some of them an hundred
years older. I wheedled an old woman out of these, who loved them better
than her psalm-book. Tobacco, sir, snuff, and the Complete Syren, were
the equivalent! For that, mutilated copy of the Complaynt of Scotland, I
sat out the drinking of two dozen bottles of strong ale with the late
learned proprietor, who, in gratitude, bequeathed it to me by his last
will. These little Elzevirs are the memoranda and trophies of many a walk
by night and morning through the Cowgate, the Canongate, the Bow, St.
Mary's Wynd,--wherever, in fine, there were to be found brokers and
trokers, those miscellaneous dealers in things rare and curious. How
often have I stood haggling on a halfpenny, lest, by a too ready
acquiescence in the dealer's first price, he should be led to suspect the
value I set upon the article!--how have I trembled, lest some passing
stranger should chop in between me and the prize, and regarded each poor
student of divinity that stopped to turn over the books at the stall, as
a rival amateur, or prowling bookseller in disguise!--And then, Mr.
Lovel, the sly satisfaction with which one pays the consideration, and
pockets the article, affecting a cold indifference, while the hand is
trembling with pleasure!--Then to dazzle the eyes of our wealthier and
emulous rivals by showing them such a treasure as this" (displaying a
little black smoked book about the size of a primer); "to enjoy their
surprise and envy, shrouding meanwhile, under a veil of mysterious
consciousness, our own superior knowledge and dexterity these, my young
friend, these are the white moments of life, that repay the toil, and
pains, and sedulous attention, which our profession, above all others, so
peculiarly demands!"

Lovel was not a little amused at hearing the old gentleman run on in this
manner, and, however incapable of entering into the full merits of what
he beheld, he admired, as much as could have been expected, the various
treasures which Oldbuck exhibited. Here were editions esteemed as being
the first, and there stood those scarcely less regarded as being the last
and best; here was a book valued because it had the author's final
improvements, and there another which (strange to tell!) was in request
because it had them not. One was precious because it was a folio, another
because it was a duodecimo; some because they were tall, some because
they were short; the merit of this lay in the title-page--of that in the
arrangement of the letters in the word Finis. There was, it seemed, no
peculiar distinction, however trifling or minute, which might not give
value to a volume, providing the indispensable quality of scarcity, or
rare occurrence, was attached to it.

Not the least fascinating was the original broadside,--the Dying Speech,
Bloody Murder, or Wonderful Wonder of Wonders,--in its primary tattered
guise, as it was hawked through the streets, and sold for the cheap and
easy price of one penny, though now worth the weight of that penny in
gold. On these the Antiquary dilated with transport, and read, with a
rapturous voice, the elaborate titles, which bore the same proportion to
the contents that the painted signs without a showman's booth do to the
animals within. Mr. Oldbuck, for example, piqued himself especially in
possessing an _unique_ broadside, entitled and called "Strange and
Wonderful News from Chipping-Norton, in the County of Oxon, of certain
dreadful Apparitions which were seen in the Air on the 26th of July 1610,
at Half an Hour after Nine o'Clock at Noon, and continued till Eleven, in
which Time was seen Appearances of several flaming Swords, strange
Motions of the superior Orbs; with the unusual Sparkling of the Stars,
with their dreadful Continuations; With the Account of the Opening of the
Heavens, and strange Appearances therein disclosing themselves, with
several other prodigious Circumstances not heard of in any Age, to the
great Amazement of the Beholders, as it was communicated in a Letter to
one Mr. Colley, living in West Smithfield, and attested by Thomas Brown,
Elizabeth Greenaway, and Anne Gutheridge, who were Spectators of the
dreadful Apparitions: And if any one would be further satisfied of the
Truth of this Relation, let them repair to Mr. Nightingale's at the Bear
Inn, in West Smithfield, and they may be satisfied."*

* Of this thrice and four times rare broadside, the author possesses an

"You laugh at this," said the proprietor of the collection, "and I
forgive you. I do acknowledge that the charms on which we doat are not so
obvious to the eyes of youth as those of a fair lady; but you will grow
wiser, and see more justly, when you come to wear spectacles.--Yet stay,
I have one piece of antiquity, which you, perhaps, will prize more

So saying, Mr. Oldbuck unlocked a drawer, and took out a bundle of keys,
then pulled aside a piece of the tapestry which concealed the door of a
small closet, into which he descended by four stone steps, and, after
some tinkling among bottles and cans, produced two long-stalked
wine-glasses with bell mouths, such as are seen in Teniers' pieces, and a
small bottle of what he called rich racy canary, with a little bit of
diet cake, on a small silver server of exquisite old workmanship. "I will
say nothing of the server," he remarked, "though it is said to have been
wrought by the old mad Florentine, Benvenuto Cellini. But, Mr. Lovel, our
ancestors drank sack--you, who admire the drama, know where that's to be
found.--Here's success to your exertions at Fairport, sir!"

"And to you, sir, and an ample increase to your treasure, with no more
trouble on your part than is just necessary to make the acquisitions

After a libation so suitable to the amusement in which they had been
engaged, Lovel rose to take his leave, and Mr. Oldbuck prepared to give
him his company a part of the way, and show him something worthy of his
curiosity on his return to Fairport.

Sir Walter Scott

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