The Scots are poor, cries surly English pride.
True is the charge; nor by themselves denied.
Are they not, then, in strictest reason clear,
Who wisely come to mend their fortunes here?
There was, in the days of which I write, an old-fashioned custom on the
English road, which I suspect is now obsolete, or practised only by the
vulgar. Journeys of length being made on horseback, and, of course, by
brief stages, it was usual always to make a halt on the Sunday in some
town where the traveller might attend divine service, and his horse have
the benefit of the day of rest, the institution of which is as humane to
our brute labourers as profitable to ourselves. A counterpart to this
decent practice, and a remnant of old English hospitality, was, that the
landlord of a principal inn laid aside his character of a publican on the
seventh day, and invited the guests who chanced to be within his walls to
take a part of his family beef and pudding. This invitation was usually
complied with by all whose distinguished rank did not induce them to
think compliance a derogation; and the proposal of a bottle of wine after
dinner, to drink the landlord's health, was the only recompense ever
offered or accepted.
I was born a citizen of the world, and my inclination led me into all
scenes where my knowledge of mankind could be enlarged; I had, besides,
no pretensions to sequester myself on the score of superior dignity, and
therefore seldom failed to accept of the Sunday's hospitality of mine
host, whether of the Garter, Lion, or Bear. The honest publican, dilated
into additional consequence by a sense of his own importance, while
presiding among the guests on whom it was his ordinary duty to attend,
was in himself an entertaining, spectacle; and around his genial orbit,
other planets of inferior consequence performed their revolutions. The
wits and humorists, the distinguished worthies of the town or village,
the apothecary, the attorney, even the curate himself, did not disdain to
partake of this hebdomadal festivity. The guests, assembled from
different quarters, and following different professions, formed, in
language, manners, and sentiments, a curious contrast to each other, not
indifferent to those who desired to possess a knowledge of mankind in its
It was on such a day, and such an occasion, that my timorous acquaintance
and I were about to grace the board of the ruddy-faced host of the Black
Bear, in the town of Darlington, and bishopric of Durham, when our
landlord informed us, with a sort of apologetic tone, that there was a
Scotch gentleman to dine with us.
"A gentleman!--what sort of a gentleman?" said my companion somewhat
hastily--his mind, I suppose, running on gentlemen of the pad, as they
were then termed.
"Why, a Scotch sort of a gentleman, as I said before," returned mine
host; "they are all gentle, ye mun know, though they ha' narra shirt to
back; but this is a decentish hallion--a canny North Briton as e'er
cross'd Berwick Bridge--I trow he's a dealer in cattle."
"Let us have his company, by all means," answered my companion; and then,
turning to me, he gave vent to the tenor of his own reflections. "I
respect the Scotch, sir; I love and honour the nation for their sense of
morality. Men talk of their filth and their poverty: but commend me to
sterling honesty, though clad in rags, as the poet saith. I have been
credibly assured, sir, by men on whom I can depend, that there was never
known such a thing in Scotland as a highway robbery."
"That's because they have nothing to lose," said mine host, with the
chuckle of a self-applauding wit.
"No, no, landlord," answered a strong deep voice behind him, "it's e'en
because your English gaugers and supervisors,* that you have sent down
benorth the Tweed, have taen up the trade of thievery over the heads of
the native professors."
* The introduction of gaugers, supervisors, and examiners, was one of the
great complaints of the Scottish nation, though a natural consequence of
"Well said, Mr. Campbell," answered the landlord; "I did not think
thoud'st been sae near us, mon. But thou kens I'm an outspoken Yorkshire
tyke. And how go markets in the south?"
"Even in the ordinar," replied Mr. Campbell; "wise folks buy and sell,
and fools are bought and sold."
"But wise men and fools both eat their dinner," answered our jolly
entertainer; "and here a comes--as prime a buttock of beef as e'er hungry
men stuck fork in."
So saying, he eagerly whetted his knife, assumed his seat of empire at
the head of the board, and loaded the plates of his sundry guests with
his good cheer.
This was the first time I had heard the Scottish accent, or, indeed, that
I had familiarly met with an individual of the ancient nation by whom it
was spoken. Yet, from an early period, they had occupied and interested
my imagination. My father, as is well known to you, was of an ancient
family in Northumberland, from whose seat I was, while eating the
aforesaid dinner, not very many miles distant. The quarrel betwixt him
and his relatives was such, that he scarcely ever mentioned the race from
which he sprung, and held as the most contemptible species of vanity, the
weakness which is commonly termed family pride. His ambition was only to
be distinguished as William Osbaldistone, the first, at least one of the
first, merchants on Change; and to have proved him the lineal
representative of William the Conqueror would have far less flattered his
vanity than the hum and bustle which his approach was wont to produce
among the bulls, bears, and brokers of Stock-alley. He wished, no doubt,
that I should remain in such ignorance of my relatives and descent as
might insure a correspondence between my feelings and his own on this
subject. But his designs, as will happen occasionally to the wisest,
were, in some degree at least, counteracted by a being whom his pride
would never have supposed of importance adequate to influence them in any
way. His nurse, an old Northumbrian woman, attached to him from his
infancy, was the only person connected with his native province for whom
he retained any regard; and when fortune dawned upon him, one of the
first uses which he made of her favours, was to give Mabel Rickets a
place of residence within his household. After the death of my mother,
the care of nursing me during my childish illnesses, and of rendering all
those tender attentions which infancy exacts from female affection,
devolved on old Mabel. Interdicted by her master from speaking to him on
the subject of the heaths, glades, and dales of her beloved
Northumberland, she poured herself forth to my infant ear in descriptions
of the scenes of her youth, and long narratives of the events which
tradition declared to have passed amongst them. To these I inclined my
ear much more seriously than to graver, but less animated instructors.
Even yet, methinks I see old Mabel, her head slightly agitated by the
palsy of age, and shaded by a close cap, as white as the driven
snow,--her face wrinkled, but still retaining the healthy tinge which it had
acquired in rural labour--I think I see her look around on the brick
walls and narrow street which presented themselves before our windows,
as she concluded with a sigh the favourite old ditty, which I then
preferred, and--why should I not tell the truth?--which I still prefer
to all the opera airs ever minted by the capricious brain of an Italian
Oh, the oak, the ash, and the bonny ivy tree,
They flourish best at home in the North Countrie!
Now, in the legends of Mabel, the Scottish nation was ever freshly
remembered, with all the embittered declamation of which the narrator was
capable. The inhabitants of the opposite frontier served in her
narratives to fill up the parts which ogres and giants with seven-leagued
boots occupy in the ordinary nursery tales. And how could it be
otherwise? Was it not the Black Douglas who slew with his own hand the
heir of the Osbaldistone family the day after he took possession of his
estate, surprising him and his vassals while solemnizing a feast suited
to the occasion? Was it not Wat the Devil, who drove all the year-old
hogs off the braes of Lanthorn-side, in the very recent days of my
grandfather's father? And had we not many a trophy, but, according to old
Mabel's version of history, far more honourably gained, to mark our
revenge of these wrongs? Did not Sir Henry Osbaldistone, fifth baron of
the name, carry off the fair maid of Fairnington, as Achilles did his
Chryseis and Briseis of old, and detain her in his fortress against all
the power of her friends, supported by the most mighty Scottish chiefs of
warlike fame? And had not our swords shone foremost at most of those
fields in which England was victorious over her rival? All our family
renown was acquired--all our family misfortunes were occasioned--by the
Warmed by such tales, I looked upon the Scottish people during my
childhood, as a race hostile by nature to the more southern inhabitants
of this realm; and this view of the matter was not much corrected by the
language which my father sometimes held with respect to them. He had
engaged in some large speculations concerning oak-woods, the property of
Highland proprietors, and alleged, that he found them much more ready to
make bargains, and extort earnest of the purchase-money, than punctual in
complying on their side with the terms of the engagements. The Scottish
mercantile men, whom he was under the necessity of employing as a sort of
middle-men on these occasions, were also suspected by my father of having
secured, by one means or other, more than their own share of the profit
which ought to have accrued. In short, if Mabel complained of the
Scottish arms in ancient times, Mr. Osbaldistone inveighed no less
against the arts of these modern Sinons; and between them, though without
any fixed purpose of doing so, they impressed my youthful mind with a
sincere aversion to the northern inhabitants of Britain, as a people
bloodthirsty in time of war, treacherous during truce, interested,
selfish, avaricious, and tricky in the business of peaceful life, and
having few good qualities, unless there should be accounted such, a
ferocity which resembled courage in martial affairs, and a sort of wily
craft which supplied the place of wisdom in the ordinary commerce of
mankind. In justification, or apology, for those who entertained such
prejudices, I must remark, that the Scotch of that period were guilty of
similar injustice to the English, whom they branded universally as a race
of purse-proud arrogant epicures. Such seeds of national dislike remained
between the two countries, the natural consequences of their existence as
separate and rival states. We have seen recently the breath of a
demagogue blow these sparks into a temporary flame, which I sincerely
hope is now extinguished in its own ashes. *
* This seems to have been written about the time of Wilkes and Liberty.
It was, then, with an impression of dislike, that I contemplated the
first Scotchman I chanced to meet in society. There was much about him
that coincided with my previous conceptions. He had the hard features and
athletic form said to be peculiar to his country, together with the
national intonation and slow pedantic mode of expression, arising from a
desire to avoid peculiarities of idiom or dialect. I could also observe
the caution and shrewdness of his country in many of the observations
which he made, and the answers which he returned. But I was not prepared
for the air of easy self-possession and superiority with which he seemed
to predominate over the company into which he was thrown, as it were by
accident. His dress was as coarse as it could be, being still decent;
and, at a time when great expense was lavished upon the wardrobe, even of
the lowest who pretended to the character of gentleman, this indicated
mediocrity of circumstances, if not poverty. His conversation intimated
that he was engaged in the cattle trade, no very dignified professional
pursuit. And yet, under these disadvantages, he seemed, as a matter of
course, to treat the rest of the company with the cool and condescending
politeness which implies a real, or imagined, superiority over those
towards whom it is used. When he gave his opinion on any point, it was
with that easy tone of confidence used by those superior to their society
in rank or information, as if what he said could not be doubted, and was
not to be questioned. Mine host and his Sunday guests, after an effort or
two to support their consequence by noise and bold averment, sunk
gradually under the authority of Mr. Campbell, who thus fairly possessed
himself of the lead in the conversation. I was tempted, from curiosity,
to dispute the ground with him myself, confiding in my knowledge of the
world, extended as it was by my residence abroad, and in the stores with
which a tolerable education had possessed my mind. In the latter respect
he offered no competition, and it was easy to see that his natural powers
had never been cultivated by education. But I found him much better
acquainted than I was myself with the present state of France, the
character of the Duke of Orleans, who had just succeeded to the regency
of that kingdom, and that of the statesmen by whom he was surrounded; and
his shrewd, caustic, and somewhat satirical remarks, were those of a man
who had been a close observer of the affairs of that country.
On the subject of politics, Campbell observed a silence and moderation
which might arise from caution. The divisions of Whig and Tory then shook
England to her very centre, and a powerful party, engaged in the Jacobite
interest, menaced the dynasty of Hanover, which had been just established
on the throne. Every alehouse resounded with the brawls of contending
politicians, and as mine host's politics were of that liberal description
which quarrelled with no good customer, his hebdomadal visitants were
often divided in their opinion as irreconcilably as if he had feasted the
Common Council. The curate and the apothecary, with a little man, who
made no boast of his vocation, but who, from the flourish and snap of his
fingers, I believe to have been the barber, strongly espoused the cause
of high church and the Stuart line. The excise-man, as in duty bound, and
the attorney, who looked to some petty office under the Crown, together
with my fellow-traveller, who seemed to enter keenly into the contest,
staunchly supported the cause of King George and the Protestant
succession. Dire was the screaming--deep the oaths! Each party appealed
to Mr. Campbell, anxious, it seemed, to elicit his approbation.
"You are a Scotchman, sir; a gentleman of your country must stand up for
hereditary right," cried one party.
"You are a Presbyterian," assumed the other class of disputants; "you
cannot be a friend to arbitrary power."
"Gentlemen," said our Scotch oracle, after having gained, with some
difficulty, a moment's pause, "I havena much dubitation that King George
weel deserves the predilection of his friends; and if he can haud the
grip he has gotten, why, doubtless, he may made the gauger, here, a
commissioner of the revenue, and confer on our friend, Mr. Quitam, the
preferment of solicitor-general; and he may also grant some good deed or
reward to this honest gentleman who is sitting upon his portmanteau,
which he prefers to a chair: And, questionless, King James is also a
grateful person, and when he gets his hand in play, he may, if he be so
minded, make this reverend gentleman archprelate of Canterbury, and Dr.
Mixit chief physician to his household, and commit his royal beard to the
care of my friend Latherum. But as I doubt mickle whether any of the
competing sovereigns would give Rob Campbell a tass of aquavitae, if he
lacked it, I give my vote and interest to Jonathan Brown, our landlord,
to be the King and Prince of Skinkers, conditionally that he fetches us
another bottle as good as the last."
This sally was received with general applause, in which the landlord
cordially joined; and when he had given orders for fulfilling the
condition on which his preferment was to depend, he failed not to
acquaint them, "that, for as peaceable a gentleman as Mr. Campbell was,
he was, moreover, as bold as a lion--seven highwaymen had he defeated
with his single arm, that beset him as he came from Whitson-Tryste."
"Thou art deceived, friend Jonathan," said Campbell, interrupting him;
"they were but barely two, and two cowardly loons as man could wish to
"And did you, sir, really," said my fellow-traveller, edging his chair (I
should have said his portmanteau) nearer to Mr. Campbell, "really and
actually beat two highwaymen yourself alone?"
"In troth did I, sir," replied Campbell; "and I think it nae great thing
to make a sang about."
"Upon my word, sir," replied my acquaintance, "I should be happy to have
the pleasure of your company on my journey--I go northward, sir."
This piece of gratuitous information concerning the route he proposed to
himself, the first I had heard my companion bestow upon any one, failed
to excite the corresponding confidence of the Scotchman.
"We can scarce travel together," he replied, drily. "You, sir, doubtless,
are well mounted, and I for the present travel on foot, or on a Highland
shelty, that does not help me much faster forward."
So saying, he called for a reckoning for the wine, and throwing down the
price of the additional bottle which he had himself introduced, rose as
if to take leave of us. My companion made up to him, and taking him by
the button, drew him aside into one of the windows. I could not help
overhearing him pressing something--I supposed his company upon the
journey, which Mr. Campbell seemed to decline.
"I will pay your charges, sir," said the traveller, in a tone as if he
thought the argument should bear down all opposition.
"It is quite impossible," said Campbell, somewhat contemptuously; "I have
business at Rothbury."
"But I am in no great hurry; I can ride out of the way, and never miss a
day or so for good company."
"Upon my faith, sir," said Campbell, "I cannot render you the service you
seem to desiderate. I am," he added, drawing himself up haughtily,
"travelling on my own private affairs, and if ye will act by my
advisement, sir, ye will neither unite yourself with an absolute stranger
on the road, nor communicate your line of journey to those who are asking
ye no questions about it." He then extricated his button, not very
ceremoniously, from the hold which detained him, and coming up to me as
the company were dispersing, observed, "Your friend, sir, is too
communicative, considering the nature of his trust."
"That gentleman," I replied, looking towards the traveller, "is no friend
of mine, but an acquaintance whom I picked up on the road. I know neither
his name nor business, and you seem to be deeper in his confidence than I
"I only meant," he replied hastily, "that he seems a thought rash in
conferring the honour of his company on those who desire it not."
"The gentleman," replied I, "knows his own affairs best, and I should be
sorry to constitute myself a judge of them in any respect."
Mr. Campbell made no farther observation, but merely wished me a good
journey, and the party dispersed for the evening.
Next day I parted company with my timid companion, as I left the great
northern road to turn more westerly in the direction of Osbaldistone
Manor, my uncle's seat. I cannot tell whether he felt relieved or
embarrassed by my departure, considering the dubious light in which he
seemed to regard me. For my own part, his tremors ceased to amuse me,
and, to say the truth, I was heartily glad to get rid of him.
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