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Full text of "The Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, containing descriptions of their scenery and antiquities, with an account of the political history ... present condition of the people, &c. ... founded on a series of annual journeys between the years 1811 and 1821 ... in letters to Sir Walter Scott, bart."

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,.■: Sf(,. &c. ^q.. . 







1824. kf^ 

Joseph Mallctt, Printer, 
59, Wardour Street, Soho. 


Marine Animals-— Light of the Ocean. . . * 1 

Sky — Canna — Rum 27 

Second Sight 63 

Egg— Tirey— Coll 89 

General Economy and Population of the High- 
lands 109 

lona 146 

On the Gaelic Language 184 

Mull — Towns and Manufactures K . .-. 228 

Origin and Races of the Highlanders 250 

To-morrow ^ 299 

Highland Romances and Superstitions 320 

Lismore — Distillation — JVaturalizalion of Fish — 

Staffa — Treshinish — Colonsa — Ulva — Gometra 367 
The Highland Clans 397 

Lunga — Scarha — Coryvrechan — Jura — Isla — 

Colonsa — Oransa — Gigha 413 

Ancient Highland Policy and Manners 430 

■ **v% vx%%«%%%%^%^. 




All the world knows what Callimachus has said 
about a book, when it arrives at a fourth volume. The 
minutest Grecian has those four Greek words, at least, 
by heart; and the most slender wit can quote what is 
" omnibus lippis notum et tonsoribus." What could Cal- 
limachus have known about big books. Did he ever 
read the Statutes at large, or eight volumes of the Life 
of Antar, or the lucubrations of Duns Scotus, or the 
Works of Pere Macedo, or the seven folios of Count 
Marsigly on the Danube, or Van Swieten's Commen- 
taries on Boerhaave's Aphorisms, or Sir Charles Grandi- 
son, or the 36525 volumes of Trismegistus. Four octa- 
voes! Have I not described two hundred islands, and a 
thousand mountains and lakes, and heaven knows how 
many miles of heath, and bog, and salt sea brine, besides 
forests, and cascades, and rivers innumerable. On Count 
Marsigly's plan, the very rivers alone are entitled to four 
hundred folios. 

Pliny understood those things better. "Bonus liber," 
says Pliny, " melior est quisque, quo major." A right 
sensible remark ; as this is certainly becoming a Meya Bi^Xiov 
as fast as it can. Such is the consequence of travelling. 
Yet does not a man travel to enquire " de omni scibili," 
and must he not fill up his pages with all the "quibus 
dams" which belong to such matters. Cardan was ac- 
cused of making digressions that he might eke out his 
sheet, because he was paid by the foot. It is probable 
that he was a writer of reviews. The personage who 



here steps forth, is much more troubled with taking reefs 
in his. Does he not feel that he has been close reefed 
during the whole of his voyage, and that he must now 
work through the fourth volume under a try-sail and a 
storm jib. That learned man guided his pen, of course; 
whereas this present one is very much given to guiding 
itself, and, like a headstrong horse, to carrying away the 
rider too. It is a strange tool, that said pen. It bears a 
great resemblance to the horn of the Swiss shepherd. 
No sooner is it uplifted, than the ideas come scrambling 
in from all quarters, over rocks, and through bushes, and 
down the steep, and up the ravine, " petite e grosse,' 
bianche e nere, Lio ba." 

As to travelling, Cowper says that we " Describe and 
print it, that the world may know, How far we went for 
what was nothing worth." Whoever thinks thus of him- 
self, is like the dog who runs through the village with 
his tail between his legs ; for so surely will all the curs 
of the village bark after him. That is as silly as Martial, 
when he says " Si nimius videar, seraque coronide lon- 
gus Esse liber, legito pauca; libellus ero." " Con- 
tentus paucis lectoribus" — indeed. No, Sir Walter, I 
intend that you shall read on till you come to the very 
Finis itself. And I intend that it shall be read from 
John o'Groat's house to the great wall of China; and 
that it shall be translated into the languages of the Esqui- 
maux, and of the Abipones, and of the x4ntipodes. Did 
not Caramuel propose to write a hundred folios, and did 
he not propose to get an edict from each of the Sove- 
reigns of the Globe, to compel all their subjects to read 
them. Those were noble times indeed. I hope the re- 
spective Sovereigns will take the hint, that I may say 
with old Ennius, " Volito vivus per ora virum." 

Besides, if a book is a good thing, as Pliny and 
Cicero aver, this book must be a good thing. The syl- 


looism is indisputable. Every school boy knows what 
Cicero says of books ; *' rusticantur, non impediunt domi," 
and so forth: the quotation is stale. But what is this to 
the opinion of Lucas de Penna. " A book," saith he, 
is, "lumen cordis, speculum corporis, comes itineris, do- 
mesticus amicus," and many more things of many more 
things ; besides which, " vocatus properat, jussus festi- 
nat, semper prsesto est, nunquam non raorigerus, per- 
plexa resolvit, obscura illustrat," and what not. Who 
would not write a book : who would not read four vo- 
lumes of a book. 

As to the labour which has been bestowed on it, 
Isocrates was not the model ; and he, all the world 
knows, employed three Olympiads in composing one 
panegyric. If you wish to know the age of the author, 
he is not the rival of Daniel Heinsius, who wrote his 
notes on Silius Italicus before he was weaned. If 
Villalpland bestow^ed forty years upon his Commen- 
tary on Ezekiel, so did not he who stands before you, 
on this book. If Baronius employed thirty years on 
his Annals, so did not " le personnage qui vous ecrit 
ces saintes memoires de perfection" on his journals. If 
Vaugelas spent twenty-five on Quintus Curtius, so has 
not the author of these four volumes on Donald. If 
Montesquieu was twenty years engaged in the Esprit des 
Loix, similarly was he engaged in his own spirit, but not 
on this book. Neither did he publish, like the Due de 
Maine, at seven years of age. But he wrote it in seven 
months, and it is published. It is your business to read. 
In other matters he has imitated Beroaldus ; and con- 
sidering that " le texte ne valoit pas mieux que le com- 
mentaire, il les a fait aller ensemble." '* Doncques soit 
que vous lisiez ou non, ou que vous commenciez ici ou 
la, n'lmporte: ce livre est partout plein de fideles in- 
structions et sens parfait ; tellement que c'est tout un par 

B 2 


ou voiis lisiez ; il y a aiitant a apprendre dans iin lien 
qu'en rautre." 

Be not alarmed at the prospect of a dissertation on 
Natural History. I am not going^ to give you a catalogue 
of hard names, which, unluckily, is what is usually com- 
prised under this term. Wliy this science, as it is called, 
should be in disgrace, in this country of ours, is another 
matter. It is a road to honour in Germany : to knight- 
hoods, professorships, and orders, and stars; to the fa- 
vour of Emperors, and to what not. In France, it does 
not prevent a man from being a minister of state; it did 
not disgrace Pliny : neither did it hinder Aristotle from 
being* the tutor and friend of Alexander, nor, — from 
being Aristotle. Among us, it is supposed to terminate 
in boiling fleas and impaling- butterflies; commencing 
in frivolity, passing' its time in auctions, and ending- in 
a set of glazed mahogany drawers; just as geology is 
fast settling into a collection of broken shells and rotten 
bones. The satire has not ended with Peter Pindar ; nor 
perhaps did it begin with Pope. But the classification 
of the Dunciad lent its aid to prevent from rising, what 
it could not entirely sink. Cotton says that a splay- 
footed rhime acts like chain shot, when a fine speech 
makes no execution. Witness, Don Juan, as well as 
Whistlecraft and Hudibras: it is more than half the se- 
cret; and it is wit, too, that does not cost very dear. But 
it is the same with the whole " clinquant" race: as we 
have an unhappy facility in l>elieving, and in remember- 
ing also, what glides glibly over the tongue, and jingles 
smooth on the ear. But to leave Pope, and his weeds 
and beetles, it can never be disgraceful nor debasing to 
study the objects that surround us : to learn to under- 
stand and admire all the splendour, the beauty, the va- 
riety, and the contrivance, of the works of Nature. Nor 
can we admire and appreciate them without understand- 


ing- them first: Mhile, without such knowledge, there are 
myriads that even escape our observation : that are to lis 
as if they had never existed. Though these objects did 
not conduce to the convenience and happiness of man, 
that Providence, which, but equally created him, has 
thought fit to create and place them in the same world ; 
and can the study of His works be degrading. This sa- 
tire might be pardonable, if it was the remark of the 
Master Spirits alone of the world. It has been that of the 
empty and the idle. Even Pope himself would have 
been as yveW occupied in dissecting cockchafers, as in 
propagating Boling-broke's metaphysics, spite of the 
dress which he has given them ; and the pursuit of the 
Emperor of Morocco over hedge and ditch, is at least as 
rational as that of a stinking fox. Doing nothing is not 
a very good occupation ; but there are many popular 
ones that are much worse: and there are no small num- 
ber of persons, whose lives would be well exchanged in 
watching the policy of mites, or in changing the last 
rebel feather of a pigeon's wing. 

1 am not so absurd as to imagine that the mind ne- 
cessary for the weightier business of life, is to be formed 
or cultivated by this study. So far from this, it is cer- 
tain, that, in middling minds, it will generate a habit of 
minute trifling, and a fondness for insignificant pursuits. 
But those who make it the business of life, are little 
likely to do any thing better ; and the trifling will trifle 
in every thing. The Butterfly hunter, and the Botanist, 
with his " lovely science," are what nature made them. 
It is they, not their pursuits, that are in fault. Natural 
history contains food for more than one class of intellect ; 
and he who sees nothing in it but classification and cata- 
logue, who values it only as he may display the plant in 
a sheet, or the butterfly in a box, would have been mea- 
suring /Eschylus, or replacing a comma in Shakspeare, 


when others were studying- the poetry ; would have been 
arranging a duty on jalap or tobacco pipes, while the 
statesman was extending the commerce of his country, 
or would have returned from a seven years' residence in 
Greece and Italy, with the measure of an ogee in his 

But let others lift the gauntlet which I have only 
touched. As I leaned over the taffrel, it seemed as if all 
the rubies and sapphires and emeralds with which 
Arabic poetry has decorated the fairies of the ocean, were 
swimming by in the bright sun. A carkanet of this sub- 
marine jewellery was soon caught, and proved to be an 
unknown animal, no less extraordinary in its mechanism 
than splendid in its colouring. The catalogue-maker 
would call it a Beroe ; but it is not. We are always most 
struck by the mechanical contrivances of nature, when 
they most resemble our own ; and not less so, when they 
areoperose, and refined, in proportion to the insignifi- 
cance, the insensibility, and the brief duration of the 
animal. Except in the motion of swimming, this crea- 
ture appeared as insensible as the cucumber which it 
resembled in shape, and the jelly which formed its body. 
Without head, or limbs, or heart, or blood, or nerves, its 
life was probably limited to a very few days, and it was 
the food, in thousands, of every gurnard or herring that 
was swimming- by. Yet, to enable this otherwise dull 
and half vegetating animal to move, there was an appa- 
ratus provided, which rivalled, as it resembled, the finest 
metal work that mechanism overproduced. Eight tubes, 
provided with circular pallets, and resembling chain 
pumps, performed this ofiice, by transmitting water: nor 
could the nicest mechanic have constructed the machine 
in any other manner, nor with more of artificial form and 
accuracy, had the problem been given to him. With the 
same materials, it was, of course, inimitable: of that size. 


it would have been inimitable even in metal : while, at 
every movement, each of these pumps resembled, or, pro- 
perly, excelled, by the succession of prismatic colours, a 
chain of the gems to which I have just compared them. 
If the resources of nature for accomplishing any single 
object are various, no less wonderful is that wanton pro- 
fusion, if we may use such a term, which she displays. 
By the simple expedient of a tail and pectoral tins, every 
fish in the sea moves ; and here is an animal scarcely pos- 
sessed of sensation, provided with an apparatus a thou- 
sand times more complicated, and which might equally 
have moved, like the Medusa which it resembles, without 
any apparatus, by the mere dilatation and contraction of 
its gelatinous body. In a similar manner, nature has pro- 
vided more than fifty ways of moving an animal while 
entirely immersed in water; while we, to whom such an 
object is of the first importance, have scarcely yet in- 
vented one, or been able to copy one of these con- 

This is what is called the simplicity of nature, I sup- 
pose. The philosophers tell us that nature attains all her 
ends by the shortest and simplest expedients, that she 
does nothing superfluous, never makes use of two causes 
where one will suffice, and so on. Philosophy has its 
cant too, like every thing else. A centipede has two 
hundred and thirty legs, and a worm none at all. A 
monkey has two or four, as he pleases; and a kangaroo 
may take his choice between two and five. A flea and a 
grasshopper hop upon two, and walk upon six ; and a 
maggot runs as fast, and hops as far, as both, without 
any. An ostrich runs as swiftly on two legs as a horse on 
four ; and has wings, without being able to fly. A grey- 
hound has a long tail, that he may turn the easier in the 
chase; the hare which outruns and outturns him, has an 
inch of scut, and the stag, which flies before them and 


the wind both, has just as much tail as Mahomet, whose 
Os coccyg-is is preserved at Mecca in lavender, as the seed 
whence the body is to be reg-enerated hereafter. Nothing 
was ever so different from itself, as nature is in her plans 
for accomplishing- her ends, and for accomplishing- the 
very same ends. The cod breathes water, through gills ; 
the porpoise, living- in the same element, pursuing the 
same prey, breathes air, and must come to the surface to 
fetch it. The herring swims, for want of legs to walk; 
and must open his mouth because he has no hands. The 
gurnard has legs and fins both. The crab walks, and 
feeds himself with his own nut-cracking fingers. If he 
is displeased with the shape of either of his legs, he 
takes leave of it, and gets a new one. Man, the lord of 
all, employs a surgeon to saw off his useless limb, and 
the carpenter makes him a substitute, of which the sole 
merit is, that it is not subject to the gout. The penguin 
passes for a bird; but he is probably of opinion himself, 
that he is a fish. Birds lay Ggga, say the philosophers, 
because it would be inconvenient to carry the weight of 
their progeny about for nine months. The bat contrives 
to manage this matter in another way, in spite of them. 
Why does not a hare or a deer lay eggs 1 There are more 
reasons why they should do so, than why a turtle or a 
crocodile should. Feathers are necessary for flying; so 
are the breast bone and the pectoral muscles of birds. 
The bat thinks otherwise. Nature laughs at all our 

If we were to make a system on the subject, it should 
be, that she delights in variety, not in uniformity; in dis- 
playing the extent of her resources and means, not their 
limits; in difficulties overcome, in complexity, not in 
simplicity. She amuses us with two or three hundred 
Ericse; with endless species of a genus, differing so 
slightly, yet still differing, that she compels us to wonder 


how she has produced variations so numerous; so slen- 
der, yet so marked. She even makes us wonder why all 
this. It is the same in the animals before us. There are 
as many hundreds of Medusae; of a tribe, the simplicity 
of which would defeat our attempts to vary them, were 
the problem given, and which yet do not defeat our 
labours in distinguishing them. There are twenty forms 
©f the simplest fibre, that swims a Vibrio; all distinguish- 
able. There may be a far greater number, for aught we 
know. There are hundreds of microscopic genera, and 
in those, thousands of species, which crowd the waters ; 
when, to our feeling and apprehension, one or two would 
have answered all the ends of multiplying life and hap- 
piness. Nature is all variety, invention, wealth, pro- 
fusion. She riots and wantons in her own powers, she 
dazzles us by her fertility, and astonishes us by her re- 
source. She scorns Man and his philosophy, that would 
bind her down, and measure her by his own narrow 
powers and conception. This is Nature. These are the 
wonders of its Almighty Author. 

It is from this power, this profusion, this facility, that 
we may deduce an argument against the necessary popu- 
lation of other spheres. Such a population is probable; 
but it is not necessary. Many of those may answer other 
purposes. The Moon does answer another purpose. 
There are physical reasons why it should not be in- 
habited ; at least on any principle of animal life that 
we can conceive. It is said that there are moral reasons 
why it should. Assuredly not. The Moon has a specific 
task and duty, already assigned, as our satellite. It is 
not necessary that it should perform the functions of an 
inhabited world. It is difficult to find language that we 
ourselves approve of, in speaking on such subjects: but 
trusting to be pardoned for what is almost inevitable, and 
for an expression so mean, yet so explicit, we may say 


that it was no more trouble to the Almighty Hand to 
create the great globe of the moon as a mirror and noc- 
turnal lamp to the earth, than to produce the meanest 
reptile or vegetable that lives on its surface. That purpose 
alone is a justification: it is a moral justification of an 
uninhabited sphere. He spake the word ; no more : it is 

On the same day that I found this animal, the sea 
appeared filled with glittering sand ; which, on examina- 
tion, was found to consist of minute spirals, resembling 
the worm of a ramrod, but not the hundredth of an inch 
in diameter. Naturalists would place this animal in the 
genus which they term. Vibrio; comprising objects as 
different from each other as turtle and venison. What 
concerns us just now, is, that this spiral creature, hitherto 
undescribed, like half a dozen more of similar form, ex- 
tended from the Mull of Cantyre to Shetland, rendering- 
all the sea muddy, for miles in breadth and fathoms in 
depth ; and so numerous, that a pint of water contained 
five thousand, or ten thousand, it is the same thing. The 
computation must be left to Jedediah Buxton; but if all 
the men, women, and children, that have been born since 
the creation, were shaved, and all their separate hairs 
were lives, these would not amount to one generation of 
this spiral people, born on Monday morning to die on 
Wednesday night ; and so on, for ever and ever. It is 
absolutely appalling. But even this is nothing; when, 
in nine places often, all the intervals among these, were 
filled by forty or fifty other species, of different sizes; 
and some so small, that they were not equal in bulk to 
the great toe of their neighbours. But what is even all 
this : when it is just the same all the way to the North 
Pole, and worse and worse to the Equator: oceans in 
breadth and miles in depth, all active, all bustling and 
busy ; every atom of water a life ; an universe of self- 


will, and desire, and gratification, and disappointment • 
and the occupation of the whole being to destroy and be 
destroyed, to eat and be eaten. Thus it has been from 
the creation, and thus it will be: truly, we feel woefully 
insignificant in the middle of this crowd. I really cannot 
think, with Cato, that the world was made for Osesar. If 
the majority is to have it, the ocean is something more 
than the highway of nations ; and we of the earth, and 
the air, men, mites, midges, and all, would scarcely be 
missed, though the tail of a comet should once more 
sweep the ocean to the top of Ararat and Cotopaxi. 

Six weeks of calm and storm did I amuse myself with 
such creatures and their vagaries ; and if 1 found two 
hundred kinds that the world had not then mustered 
in its catalogues, in sixty weeks, I might probably have 
found as many thousands. But the naturalists have been 
so occupied with christening, and dividing, and with 
transferring their crabs from Cancer to Pagurus, and 
Portunus, and Cyclops, and Garamarus, and so on, that 
they have no time to do any thing but make preparations 
and grammars for a study which is neVer to be studied. 
It is scholastic logic under another shape. He who 
wants to enjoy the honours that flow from the impo- 
sition of new names, let him put on his spectacles and 
search the waters : but I will spare you all the Greek 
and all the anatomy ; for why should I write what will 
never be read at the Linnean Society. Some of those 
animals are infinitely amusing ; whether in their ap- 
pearance and construction, or in their odd motions, 
or in their odder manners ; omitting all points of 
mere Natural history. Except the shell fishes, (and 
theirs is a house,) I know of no animals in the world 
that wear clothes. But among my novelties, I found 
one who had a sort of surtout, very much like a dragoon's 
cloak, except that it was not faced with a scarlet collar 


and had no buttons. While I was trying to analyse his 
troublesome shape, he slipt his head out of this cloak, 
and swam away ; feeling, doubtless, that he was waging 
unequal war with the end of a feather, in his great coat. 
I secured the Spolia Opima, which had no attachment to 
the body ; being a mere hemispherical membrane, with a 
round hole to put the head through. Thus undressed, 
he was about half an inch long, and might have passed 
for a Vibrio : but that is a convenient genus which holds 
every thing. 

As to their manners, I at length became thoroughly 
acquainted with them all, so as to fancy 1 knew what 
they were thinking of. I must however reserve the meta- 
physics for a separate work : but, in the mean time, I 
wish that the recruiting Serjeants, and dirty callants, 
and other such like matter, which renders the High Street 
impassable, and the convocation which adorns the pave- 
ment at Hatchett's, would learn from them how to con- 
duct themselves in a crowd. Very often, there were in 
the same tumbler of water, not less than three or four 
hundred, of all sizes, and shapes, and modes of motion; 
some swimming, others spinning like tops, others again 
tumbling, skipping', hopping, and flying from side to 
side with invisible velocity ; while some other monster of 
a Medusa, big enough to have swallowed five thousand 
of the smallest fry, was throwing out his long arms in 
every direction, the congregation of sizes being, at the 
same time, as various as all that intervenes between a 
jackass and a flea. Yet not the least interference ever 
took place : every person knew his distance and kept it; 
and the whole ballet went on, without collision of heads, 
as regularly as if it had all been arranged by Monsieur 

What ignoramuses we are to imagine that man is the 
" noblest work," or woman either : two-legged, restless 


thinking', dissatisfied, man, woman, or child. I fear we 
must g-o much further down, if down it be, in the scale 
of creation, for this " most wondrous being" and "per- 
fect form of existence." Is not the seat of the soul 
in the stomach ; has not Van Helmont proved it ; do 
we not all know it, even we that are not Aldermen. It 
is the Medusa, the Hydra, the Hydatid, and the Polype, 
to which we must look for this beau ideal, this perfection. 
How would that worthy body rejoice, if they could be 
reduced to this state of sublimity, and become, — oh de- 
light—all stomach. How enviable the sea blubber Avho, 
withoul^ brain, or nerves, or blood-vessels, or heart, or 
ears, or eyes, or nose, or legs, or arms, or any of those 
superfluities and protuberances which are only the causes 
of anxiety and pain, dilates his very existence to receive 
the bounties which nature bestows on him. Whose mu- 
tilation or division serves but to reproduce and multiply 
his soul as well as his body, and to diffuse gormandizing" 
and happiness to new beings. This is indeed the ideal 
perfection, pursued, and pursued in vain, by Helvetius, 
and Condorcet, and Godwin. As to the hypothesis 
itself, nothing can be more clear. There are many ani- 
mals without brains, but none without a stomach : there- 
fore the brain is a superfluity, and the stomach is 
the animal itself. Van Helmont was right. Menenius 
Agrippa had a glimpse of the truth. Thus, man, who, 
as the philosophers before De Maillet had proved, was 
originally a submarine monad, and then a medusa, an 
oyster, a monkey, an ass, a tyger, and so on, has marred 
instead of mending his existence, by his imaginary im- 
provements; losing something by every limb he has 
gained, just as, in machines, the simplest is found to be 
the most perfect. But there is nothing new under the 
sun, not even my theory ; since a sapient Scot said long 


ag-0, " Troth, Sir, the stomach is the laoii, and tlie rest is 
all an excrascence." 

But I owe the Vorticella, one of my numerous sea 
friends, yet a word. He is free to roam where he pleases, 
yet he chooses to unite with his fraternity to form a Re- 
public. A Republic too, without a President; yet with 
one will, with nought in view but the general good. 
And is it to man that we shall look for political, more 
than for physical, perfection. Here too the Vorticella 
puzzles, in another way, the vain philosopher that would 
scan him. His republic is a plant, the individuals are 
the leaves, the organs of general as well as of individual 
nutrition. Each performs that duty for the whole, and 
for all the individuals, as he does for himself. But his 
fraternity, the Polypes, proceed yet one step further. 
Their plants are made of stone, and they build dwellings. 
Dwellings; — they construct islands and continents for 
the habitation of man. The labours of a worm, which 
man can barely see, form mountains like the Apennine, 
and regions, to Avhich Britain is as nothing. The invisi- 
ble, insensible toils, of an ephemeral point, conspiring 
with others in one great design, working unseen, un- 
heard, but for ever, guided by one volition, by that One 
Volition which cannot err, converts the liquid water into 
the solid rock, the deep ocean into dry land, and ex- 
tends the dominions of man, who sees it not and knows 
it not, over regions which even his ships had scarcely 
traversed. This is the Great Pacific Ocean ; destined, 
at some future day, to be the World. That same Power, 
which has thus wrought by means which blind man 
would have despised as inadequate, by means which he 
has but just discovered, here too shows the versatility, 
the contrast of its resources. In one hour, it lets loose the 
raging engines, not of its wrath, but of its benevolence; 


and the volcano and the earthquake lift up to the clouds, 
the prepared foundations of new worlds, that from those 
clouds they may draw down the sources of the river, the 
waters of fertility and plenty. 

If the heavens have their stars, so has the ocean. In 
these summer nights, and on these shores, the sea was 
one blaze. A stream of fire ran off on each side from the 
bows, and the ripple of the wake was spangled with the 
glow-worms of the deep. Every oar dropped diamonds, 
every fishing line was a line of light, the iron cable went 
down a torrent of flame, and the plunge of the anchor 
resembled an explosion of lightning. When it blew a 
gale, the appearance was sometimes terrific, and the 
whole atmosphere was illuminated, as if the moon had 
been at the full. In calms, nothing could exceed the 
loveliness of the night, thus enlightened by thousands of 
lamps, which, as they sailed slowly by, twinkled, and 
were again extinguished at intervals, on the glassy and 
silent surface of the water. But all the world has wit- 
nessed this. That it must have been a familiar observa- 
tion among the ancients, is certain ; or this property 
would not have been used as a familiar epithet in 
poetry. Ovid, I hope it is Ovid, makes Empedocles 
say, that he remembers himself, in some of his trans- 
migrations, " plantaque, et ignitus piscis." It is par- 
ticularly noticed by Pliny ; and, since his days, at least, 
all the philosophers have had their several theories about 
it. I too, as Corregio says, have mine. 

It is produced by putrefaction, says one party : and 
the proofs are, that sea water does not putrefy, and 
that putrid matters are not luminous. It is caused by 
phosphorus, says another ; and the reason is, that the sea 
contains no phosphorus. Sea water is phosphorescent, 
says a third set of philosophers. That is to say, it is lu- 
minous ; which is precisely what we knew before. It is 


an electrical light, said the electricians, when electricity 
served to explain all nature; and that, in the first place, 
is impossible ; besides, meaning- nothing. Mayer says, 
that the sea absorbs light from the sun ; and emits it 
again. Another gentleman puts a whiting into a tub of 
water, and says that the sea is illuminated by a solution 
of whitings. The seamen deal only in final causes; and 
they say that it prognosticates bad weather. I prefer the 
theory of the French Philosopher to all those. It is a 
certain effect, caused by a cause ; and " qui vient d'une 
huile phosphorique de la mer, ou de la matiere electrique, 
ou de quelque autre chose semblable." This phosphoric 
oil is the very flattering oil itself, which philosophers lay 
to their souls : " aut est aut non : " it is this cause, or 
that, or the other, and the one is as good as the other. And 
if it is not to be found in either the one or the other, why 
then, we must apply to "ille Doctor resolutus," and to 
the "Seraphic Doctor," who will inform us that lead 
weighs more than tin, because it is heavier, that virtue is 
better than vice, on account of "the fitness of things," 
and, that beauty consists in the agreeable impressions 
which the beautiful object makes on the visual organs. 
" The flesh of the hedgehog, " says Bacon, " is hard and 
dry, because he putteth forth prickles, just as thorns and 
briars are." And hence, also, it is, that to " eat hares', 
and deer's, and hens' brains, doth strengthen the me- 
mory : " exactly for the same reasons that " the brains 
of rabbits, (and of such philosophers,) are fullest at the 
full moon." I trust, that it is quite intelligible now. 

But it has been observed that some marine insects, 
and other minute sea animals, are luminous. Thirty or 
forty kinds have been named as possessing this property ; 
and yet those persons, who have sailed in hundreds, over 
all the seas of the globe, with their eyes close shut, have 
not considered this as the cause of the appearance in 


question; and hat'e not even seen that there are thou- 
sands such, where they have found units. Here then is 
Corregio's Theory. Every marine animal which I have 
examined being luminous, the whole are probably so: 
and whether it be so or not, these are the sole source of 
the lights, and the sea itself is luminous, only in as far as 
it contains them. 

1 could easily enumerate all the mnrine animals in 
which I have ascertained the existence of the luminous 
property ; but it would be an enormous list. Suffice it for 
the present purpose, to say, that the greater number of 
the bright twinkling lights on our own shores, are caused 
by the tribe of Medusa, commonly called blubbers; of 
which we possess seventy or eighty distinct kinds our- 
selves, but of which, the total species far exceed two 
hundred. These are the chief glow-worms of the ocean; 
not because they possess this property exclusively, as 
has been idly thought, but because of the enormous 
numbers in which they crowd the waters. More than 
once, I have met with colonies of them, so dense, that the 
water appeared an entire mass of animals, a solid heap 
of jelly. It is among these that this brilliant appearance 
is displayed at night with such splendour : nor does it 
require much attention, in such cases, to satisfy ourselves 
respecting the real cause. But as there is no marine 
creature so small, even though microscopic, that is not 
endued with the same virtue, it is no great cause of sur- 
prise, when the numbers of those are considered, if the se?i 
is at times found universally luminous. The presence of 
the spiral animal alone, just mentioned, was sufficient to 
render the whole water a body of light, from Shetland to 
the Mull of Cantyre. It is chiefly from neglecting the 
minute and microscopic species, that naturalists have 
committed their errors respecting the causes of the lu- 
minous sea. 

VOL. IV. c 


As to the proper fishes, every one that I have yet seen 
is possessed of the ^ame power. It is the movement of the 
largerkinds which produces those great flashes, like light- 
ning, that are sometimes seen deep under the water; and 
when shoals, or very large fishes, are present, the extent 
of the flash is often very great, and the effect splendidly 
beautiful. That is easily seen with a shoal of herrings or 
pilchards. By striking the gunwale, or stamping on the 
floor, the whole water yields a sudden and deep-seated 
flash of blue light ; producing a strong illumination, and 
an eflTect, which, if unexpected, is almost terrific. This 
is plainly a voluntary effort on the part of the animal, 
independent of the mere act of swimming. It is therefore 
evident that the power belongs to the fish itself; because, 
if it had been produced by the mere friction of its body 
against the minute luminous animals around, exciting 
their action, it should have attended the ordinary act of 
swimming in all cases. In all the luminous creatures of 
whatever size, it is voluntary ; and that circumstance 
confirms this opinion: while, as we shall presently see, 
there are reasons why it should be so, because there are 
important purposes which it is meant to serve. 

It is in consequence of this voluntary power, that the 
lights are found to twinkle, in the manner that every one 
must have witnessed ; for, whatever the luminous appa- 
ratus may consist in, it is plainly under the command of 
the animal. There is not one of them that is permanently 
luminous; excepting after death; which is a very dis- 
tinct circumstance, as I shall presently show. It is easy 
enough to prove this ; as I have often done, by con- 
fining a number, of various kinds, in the ship's bucket. 
When first taken, the whole will yield bright sparks. 
They then cease to shine, till troubled or agitated, when 
they again show their lights : but, after a time, they either 
become obstinate or incapable, and will sparkle no more. 


This has been one of tlie causes which has misled care- 
less observers ; who, finding- themselves in possession of 
many animals that would not yield light, have hastily 
concluded that they had not the power. Another cause 
of error in this case has been, the slippery nature of the 
larger Medusae ; as I have often put down a bucket into 
the midst of a crowd of sparks, without catching a single 
animal. Observers, failing in the same manner, have 
supposed the water itself luminous, when a little more 
care would have secured and detected the cause. The 
minuter animals have been entirely overlooked ; as they 
are all transparent, and as very few are visible to the 
naked eye, unless examined attentively, in a glass, by a 
strong- lig-ht, and often, by a magnifier. In this way, a 
bucket of water will often be found filled with bright and 
large sparks, when nothing is visible to a superficial ex- 
amination, but when a careful one would have detected 
the cause. It is also remarkable, while it is an additional 
source of deception, that the spark of light is frequently 
much larger than the body of the animal ; so that ob- 
servers can scarcely be persuaded to attribute it to its 
real cause. In the very reverse way, in the large Me- 
dusae, the light, so far from occupying the whole body, is 
also a spark, often extremely disproportioned to its bulk : 
so that, from this cause also, careless naturalists have 
permitted themselves to be deceived ; and, biassed by 
their theories, have persisted in supposing- that the pro- 
perty was in the water, not in the animals by which it is 

Proofs so minute aiid particular, ought to satisfy the 
most sceptical : but if the populace is rarely convinced 
against its will, philosophers never are : since every one 
abhors the discoverer, as he rejects the discovery which 
he has not himself made. But as the world will always 
go on in the same way, I too may go on to say, that this 

c 2 


view of the cause of the Lights of the sea, is confirmed by 
the fact, that they abound, just in proportion as the 
animals themselves do. That is the reason why those 
appearances are so brilliant in our firths and on our weedy 
and rocky shores, where the animals of these tribes chiefly 
resort: and why this appearance is most conspicuous in 
summer and in calm weather, when they seem, not only 
to be produced in greater abundance, but especially to 
seek the surface. At sea, they are often absent, as are 
the lights; and, in gales of wind, they frequently sink to 
the bottom; directed by that instinct which belongs to 
the leech and other imperfect animals ; as they are also 
destroyed by the surging' of the waves. So far is it there- 
fore from being true, that the lights abound most in 
stormy weather, or prognosticate gales, that the facts are 
just the reverse. When they are visible in bad weather, 
it arises from the greater agitation to which the sea is 
then subject : as, under all circumstances, the light is ex- 
cited by disturbing the animals. It is moreover true, that 
there are never any lights to be seen, where there are no 
animals to be found. In this case, the water of the ocean 
is blue ; in the other it is green, though often transparent. 
Where green, it will generally be found also, that it is 
sliohtly turbid : sometimes, very dull, or almost muddy; 
and it is then full, not only of minute animals, but of 
their relics and fragments. Thus also, green water is 
always more or less luminous; but the blue ocean, I be- 
lieve, never is so. 

Though the bright sparks so familiar are chiefly 
the produce of Medusse, they are also caused by Beroes, 
Pennatulse, Holothurise, Nereides, Shrimps, and hun- 
dreds more of large animals, whether worms or insects. 
Yet they are far from being limited to beings of those 
dimensions; as some of the most distinct and brilliant 
that I have ever witnessed, are the produce of Cyclopes, 


Vorticellae, and other animals, not exceeding the hun- 
dredth of an inch in diameter. But frequently, when the 
animals are extremely minute, the points of light which 
they yield, are so small, and at the same time so nume- 
rous, that the effect is not a congregation of sparks, but a 
general diffused light. It is like the milky way, or the 
light of a Nebula, compared to the effect of a distinct 
constellation. This is the source of the stream of white 
and blueish light which follows a fishing line, and 
which often attends the breaking of a sea. In the equa- 
torial regions, navigators have frequently compared 
the surface of the water to a plain of snow ; for the 
animals of those tribes appear to abound most in the 
warmest climates. The bright spark, as every one knows, 
often remains on the oar when lifted out of the water; 
and the animal may then easily be ascertained ; as it may 
equally be found by collecting the lights in a bucket, 
and by examining them in the focus of a candle, with the 
aid of a magnifying glass. 

The colour of the light is various. When diffused, it 
is sometimes a pure and bright white, resembling moon- 
light. It is often blueish, like lightning, electricity, or 
phosphorus, whether diffused or in sparks ; but the latter 
are, also, often reddish or yellowish ; in a few cases very 
red. Its seat in the animal has never yet been certainly 
discovered : though, from its being confined to a particu- 
lar place, and being uuder the command of the will, it is 
unquestionably provided for by some particular organ, as 
in the luminous land animals. In these, its place, and 
even the very substance itself, is easily detected : but the 
transparency of the marine species checks this investiga- 
tion, and the light which is required for examining the 
animal, prevents us from discovering where it lies, by 
overcoming it. I have laboured at it in vain ; as I never 
could use any light, however faint, in whfch that of the 


animal did not disappear. The chemical nature of the 
luminous substance, remains also, of course, unknown ; 
but this has not yet been ascertained in the glow worm, 
the Fulgora, Lampyris, and other terrestrial insects, where 
we can obtain possession of the very matter itself. 

I must therefore, pass on : but it is now important to 
remark, that there is a certain state after death, in which 
all fishy matter, whether of these animi^ls, or of the pro- 
per fishes, is luminous. This is popularly familiar in the 
case of whitings and other fish, in our larders. Thus, 
also, where Medusae have been thrown on the shore, they 
are observed to become entirely luminous in a very short 
time. It is essential, however, here to remark, that this 
light occupies the whole body, and is pale; being entirely 
diflferent from the spark which they give out while alive. 
It is not less important to point out, that this state does 
not begin to take place till the animal is dead, and that 
it is not a state of putrefaction. Our whitings are fresh 
and eatable, long after they have begun to shine; and 
putrefaction, so far from being the cause of the light, 
destroys it. 1 need only further add, that the matter of 
the fish, and the light with it, is, in this case, soluble, or 
rather diffusible, in water. This is the fact which has 
led to one of the erroneous theories formerly mentioned. 
It may possibly have some occasional share in producing 
the effect; but it is far from being the ordinary cause. 
Had the light, for example, caused by a shoal of herrings, 
been the mere result of the agitation of such detached 
luminous matter, the same should have been produced 
by other kinds of agitation. 

It remains to enquire into the reason for a provision so 
singular and so universal, and which assuredly would 
never have been made without a good purpose. There 
are great ends in view in nature, where great means are 
employed ; though we do not always find them out. In the 


luminous land animals, very limited and partial purposes 
are served, and the property is equally limited. In the 
sea, it is universal; and equally universal is its object. 
In more senses than one, the marine tribes are the stars 
of the deep; they are lamps to guide its inhabitants 
throug-h those regions of obscurity ; to warn them of their 
enemies, and to indicate their prey. This is the provision 
which nature has here furnished for these ends; in re- 
gions where the sun yields no light, where there is dark- 
ness even at noon day. 

It is well known that many fish prey by night, like the 
lion and tiger, and that some do that, exclusively. But 
that is not all. So rapidly is the passage of light through 
water diminished, that there is a depth in the ocean at 
which darkness is perpetual. Assuredly, the mode which 
Bouguer adopted to determine this, is not a satisfactory 
one ; but he places the point of perpetual darkness at 
723 feet. If we make it a thousand, we may perhaps be 
safe; but even were it more, it would not invalidate this 
view. Neither that, nor far more, is the limit to the range 
of fishes ; as it is well known that, in the ocean, innumer- 
able kinds inhabit far greater depths. According to La 
Place's computation, the sea must be many miles in 
depth ; and we have no reason to think that it is unin- 
habited any where. The coral-making tribes reside at 
much more than a thousand feet, as we know by the 
soundings in the vicinity of those rocks: and Captain 
Ross's sounding engine brought up living animals, from 
depths of six thousand feet ; and from regions which, 
on the most extravagant computation, must therefore be 
in perpetual darkness. Yet those very insects are the 
food of the whale; which, if it did not even feed so 
deep, must feed in darkness during the depths of a 
polar winter, and can have no light to pursue its prey, 
but that which is furnished by their bodies, or by its own. 


In Shetland, the ling frequents exclusively the deepest 
valleys of the sea. It is not taken in less than fifteen 
hundred feet; but though the lines will not reach lower, 
it resides in far deeper regions. If even such valleys 
were not dark in the day time, they must be so at night, 
and in winter; nor is it possible that these, or other fishes, 
could find their food, but for that provision which I here 
consider as designed for this end. The luminous spark 
is the object of pursuit, and it is an easy one; it is pro- 
bably so to ail of the marine tribes,however minute; be- 
cause we know of no point at which the continuous series 
of mutual destruction ceases. If there are fishes that 
feed exclusively on vegetables, those will not affect the 
general argument. 

It is also a rule of nature to furnish every animal with 
some species of defence ; and, in this case, that is the 
power which they all possess of obscuring their light. 
The first effect of alarm, or of contact, on a Medusa or a 
Beroe, for example, is to cause it to shine; but if that 
be continued, they remain obscure ; and the greater the 
agitation and injury, the more obstinately do they remain 
dark. It is only by suffering them to continue unmo- 
lested for a time, that tbey renew their luminous action. 
If we may venture to turn motive-mongers for a blubber- 
fish, we might suppose that curiosity was the first im- 
pulse, and an instinctive sense of danger the second. 
Thus, as too often happens on land, their beauty is their 
bane : perhaps their vanity may aid ; or their curiosity, as 
in the case of Mrs. Bluebeard, here meets its punish- 
ment. A more prudent glow worm than she who is on 
record, would have escaped the fangs of the nightingale. 
It is further probable, that while the accumulated light' 
of such myriads of animals may diffuse a general illumi- 
nation over the sea, that of individuals may serve the pur- 
pose of a lamp for their own uses, as well as that of an 


attraction for their enemies. Thus it may warn them of 
their prey, as well as of their danger. And it is probable 
that this is the fact, from the case of the herring shoals, 
which become luminous on an alarm, as if to enquire into 
the causes, 

Cowley, in his metaphysical Mistress, compares that 
visionary paragon of his, to a Medusa or a stale whiting. 
" The fish around her crowded as they do, to the false 
light that treacherous fishes show." Thus also, the 
torch with which they hunt the salmon, under Dandie 
Dinmont's auspices, is a " treacherous light ;" and the 
fish unquestionably means to make a supper of it. All 
fish are thus attracted ; and if our sea fishermen do not 
use this expedient, it is from ignorance, or because their 
forefathers did it not before them. Many savage nations 
are fully aware of its value. Light is the object of attack 
and prey to fishes; and, doubtless, to all the inferior ma- 
rine animals. Hence it is probable, that all those tribes, 
though unfurnished with optical organs, are capable of 
distinguishing light. I have proved this respecting the 
beautiful animal formerly mentioned, which always fol- 
lowed the candle when confined in a glass ; and the same, 
I think, is true of all the Beroes. It is equally percep- 
tible in the Hydra and the Actinia, which are peculiarly 
sensible to light; and it appears also, experimentally, to 
be the case with many other equally obscure marine ani- 
mals unprovided with optical organs. But I have not yet 
had an opportunity to make a sufiScient number of trials 
to determine that this power is universal. There is, how- 
ever, no physiological reason against it. Sensibility to 
light is the oflice of an optical nerve, which they may 
possess, even on the surface : the eye is only a machine, 
a microscope. The luminous property of dead fish is 
directed to similar ends. It occurs immediately on death, 
while they are yet fit for food ; and by attracting the 


kinds which devour these spoils, it furnishes them with a 
resistless prey, and tends to remove those remains which 
might produce, in the sea, injurious effects similar to 
those which putrefying matter does in the atmosphere. 

One word yet with the Naturalists, before parting 
with our fishes. If it be thought a bold word, the answer 
is, that had mankind always believed itself in the right, 
there would not now have been much difference between 
the Naturalists and the bears which they are at so much 
trouble in defining. The world is full of their volumes 
of classifications and descriptions. Does any person un- 
derstand them. Because the Logicians have invented de- 
finitions, every plant, and fish, and butterfly, must be de- 
fined. This is the paltry invention of Scholastic Logic, 
doubly misapplied. A definition, says Linnoeus, must 
be comprised in twelve words. We invent a cutting 
tool, in short, and blunt it that it may not cut. It 
requires twelve hundred words, perhaps, to explain 
those twelve : and when we have studied both, we are as 
little able to refer, with certainty, any object to its name, 
as we were before ; though all this apparatus is meant for 
that purpose. A figure solves the whole difficulty at a 
glance : and the Naturalists prove the necessity, by their 
own practice. We have two great engines of communi- 
cation : language, and painting. The former is the ve- 
hicle between mind and mind : by the latter, absent forms 
of matter are brought before us. Painting is the lan- 
guage of physics. A single line is here worth volumes; 
because it does what volumes cannot do. Let the Natu- 
ralists' catalogues be catalogues of hieroglyphics, not of 
words. Let them convert their endless definitions and 
descriptions into Representation ; and it will then be 
indifferent how soon the whole Systematical Race and 
all its systems, are made into a bonfire, and offered up as 
a sacrifice to the neglected Manes of Painting. 

SKY. 27 


There is a saying in the Highlands, no less prudent 
than well meant. " Make a good breakfast, for you do 
not know where you will dine." It also argues a deep 
insight into futurity ; since the oracle will often be ac- 
complished, by your dining with the celebrated Duke 
whom the mistaken proverb so unmercifully belies. " Res 
ternporis edax." But of all the Res of a man's life, in 
this never-ready, ever-late, country, none is more vora- 
cious, and devours time to less purpose, than dinner. 
There are more wise sayings on the abuse of time than 
on all other abuses, and more abuse of those wise sayings 
than of all the rest united. And the greatest abuse of 
the time and the sayings both, is to sit down at four 
o'clock, and to drink whisky punch till twelve; to get 
up at nine, wonder for your breakfast till ten, talk over 
it till twelve, order your boat or your horse at one, em- 
bark at two, and discover at three, that, in an hour, dinner 
will be waiting for you. Rather than submit to a High- 
land dinner, when there was aught else to be done, I 
would consent to be whipt, like Prince Ethelred, with 
wax candles. The last rock still remained to be seen ; 
just as the watch pointed to four o'clock. That the 
" stomach's solid stroke" pointed to the same hour, was 
not in my calculations: but the last rock of Sky, the 
final term of a long equation, which was to have settled 
all doubts, was not seen, and, still, when I arrived at 
Strathaird, the dinner was eaten. But to-morrow would 
come. It did come indeed ; but not in Sky. Thus did 

88 SKY. 

Sky remain unsettled ; because of a dinner which I did 
not eat. 

The night was dark when we left our host ; two Ian- 
thorns served to guide us, just as lanthorns guide in such 
a countr}^^ ; and I, the pilot, had the advanced guard. 
The dark masses of the mountains added tenfold obscu- 
rity to that of the night and the lanthorn ; the ground 
was uneven, and every thing around was silent and empty. 
But on a sudden, it appeared more silent and more 
empty than ever; as if all the world had disappeared to- 
gether, and left me and my lanthorn alone in empty space. 
I listened, but nothing was to be heard but the intermit- 
ted sighing of the night breeze, with an occasional sound 
like that of the sea murmuring on some far distant shore. 
An instinctive and undefinable sense of horror caused 
me to stop, as I turned again from the blackness behind 
me, to the empty and invisible grey expanse before. I 
advanced, step after step, with the caution of the nightly 
thief, and, in an instant, found myself on the brink of an 
abyss, dark and interminable as the sky above. Such are 
among the perils that environ him who chooses to travel 
in Sky by the light of a lanthorn. 

I had scarcely fallen asleep, when I was roused by 
all the noises to which a seaman's ear is alive. At first, 
came low, rustling, and intermitting sounds, with an oc- 
casional hollow noise like that of distant thunder; suc- 
ceeded by a tremendous and unintelligible roaring, with 
intervals of an awful silence, as if all nature had expired 
at one violent effort. Shortly they became more frequent 
and more steady; and as the squalls came down the 
mountain in more rapid succession, causing" the vessel to 
heel to their force, they hissed through our rigging, as 
if the trees of some ancient forest were yielding to the 
storm which was to tear them from their rocks. Exaspe- 
rating themselves at intervals, they now whistled loud 

SKY. 29 

against the mast: the tones increasing- in acuteness, as 
if augmenting in rage, till the whole was one fearful con- 
cert of furious and angry noises, intermixed with the ge- 
neral hissing uproar, and the short inveterate bursts of 
an obscure, deep, and hollow sound, more heart-sinking 
than that of thunder. It seemed as if all the stormy de- 
mons of the mountains had at once been let loose on us ; 
and, experienced as we were in these islands, we agreed 
that Cuchullin was the only and true father of squalls. 

All the men were on deck in an iflstant; every thing 
around was darkness; except when the surging of a 
white sea to leeward, breaking on a reef of rocks, gave a 
transient gleam, faintly illuminating the high cliffs around 
lis, like a feeble lightning in a dark night. " See the 
lead ready," was the cry ; and, on heaving it over the 
stern, there was found to be only a foot of water. We 
were drifting fast on the rocks. AH hands flew to the 
windlass; the foresail was hoisted; and the anxiety of 
many hours was condensed into the few minutes that 
bowsed us into deeper water and brought the anchor 
atrip. It was a shorter, but a more terrific moment, when 
it left the ground. We made stern way. " Put up the 
helm" — cried the Captain, The landsman ran to the 
tiller; the vessel struck the rock with her heel, swung 
round into the surf, cleared the breakers that were 
foaming far away under her quarter, and, in a few 
seconds, we were in deep water. 

In the morning, we were off Rum, beating under a try 
sail, " perl'aer nero eper la nebbia folta;" as the Cap- 
tain meant to anchor in Loch Scresort. The sea was 
running short and fearful; the squalls from the mountains 
whirling it up in one universal sheet of white foam. " So 
wonderful prodigious was the weather, As heaven and 
earth had meant to come together." Our cutter kicked, 

90 CANNA. 

and rolled, and floundered most villanously ; having the 
property, as seamen call it, of making bad weather. As 
if it was not bad enough already. But this is a common 
trick with ladies and gentlemen on shore, as well as with 
cutters at sea; when, not content with catching the evil in 
the simplest way, as you do a stone, by turning your back 
on it and receiving it in a soft place, they rebel, and twist, 
and turn, and flounder about, till it hits them in the worst 
of all possible places, with a vast increase of the conse- 
cutive grievance. The ills of life commonly require a 
helping hand to perfect them; and the general rule is, 
when the poker falls on the fender, always to knock down 
the shovel and the tongs. " Gossip, by your leave, Quoth 
Mother Bumby, I do well perceive The moral of your 
story." It ended by the Captain resigning the pilotage 
to the Landsman, and bearing up for Canna. We should 
have foundered at our anchors in Loch Scresort, in half 
an hour ; as I chanced to know. 

As the harbour of Canna is the common resort of the 
ships that trade to the northward, and as the gale con- 
tinued, it was soon crowded with shipping, and all became 
bustle and life; contrasting strangely with the solitudes 
through which we had been so long wandering. This 
island, which is green and fertile, is held by one principal 
tenant or tacksman, and crowded by the population to 
which it is sulsset. The pasture is appropriated to black 
cattle ; and the necessities of the people have almost 
excluded the cultivation of grain, to adopt that of po- 
tatoes: their farms being reduced to so small a size, by 
the demand for land, as not to admit of so great a luxury 
as oats. With the assistance of fishing, they contrive to 
exist miserably enough. The quantity of coal fish which 
they take, is nearly incredible; often dipping them out 
of the water by means of large landing nets : yet the 


superfluity, which is frequent, is thrown away to rot, with 
the improvidence so characteristic of this country, while 
their corn is often refusing- to grow for want of manure. 

Canna is upwards of four miles ong, and one broad ; 
forming a ridge, of which the highest point appears 
to be about 800 or 1000 feet. Nearly the whole of the 
northern side is bounded by cliffs; while the southern 
descends gradually to the shore by a succession of rocky 
terraces, commonly columnar, and covered on the sur- 
faces with the richest verdure. Its fertility must be at- 
tributed, partly to the nature of the soil, which is formed 
of decomposed basalt, but not less to the declivity, which 
admits of the regular drainage of the water which per- 
petually falls in this rainy climate. The effect is indeed 
similar to that of artificial irrigation ; and wherever there 
is no declivity here, the ground becomes moory, and peat 
accumulates. This is the case in all the islands where 
the soil is of the same quality, but where there is no such 
declivity: and it serves to prove M'hat advantages might 
be derived to peat soils from irrigation ; an operation, as 
I formerly remarked, totally unknown in the Highlands, 
The quantity of peat here, is so small, that it is consumed 
much faster than it is renewed. In no long time there- 
fore, Canna will be obliged to depend for its fuel, on an 
importation, either of peat or coal, and the value of the 
estate will diminish accordingly. 

The columnar rocks of Canna are most remarkable on 
the southern side of the island ; where many different 
ranges may be seen, rising in terraces from the shore, 
even to the uppermost level. In some parts, the columns 
are quite regular; but in others they pass into the irre- 
gular rock. Many picturesque views are found towards 
the eastern end of the island, particularly from different 
points above the harbour : the variety and intricacy of the 
cliffs, added to the varied outline of the harbour itself, the 

32 CANNA. 

life produced by the shipping, and the noble back ground 
formed by the high mountains of Rum, producing scenes 
of great beauty, and of a striking character. On a rock, 
which is here detached at a small distance from the shore, 
there are still to be seen the remains of the rudest dwel- 
ling that I ever beheld, even in this country. It consists but 
of two walls, projecting in an angle from the rock, which, 
very economically, forms the remainder of the building. 
Tradition says that it is a castle, in which a jealous chief- 
tain confined his wife : but, in those days, jealousy did 
did not probably operate in so quiet and temporizing a 
manner. The celebrated Compass Hill of the tour books' 
is a point on which the magnetic needle undergoes a dis- 
turbance. But such disturbances are neither peculiar to 
that point, nor even to this island. Deviations of the 
needle produced by the influence of rocks or land, are 
very frequent throughout all the basaltic islands of this 
coast: and, in many places, the influence is such and sa 
extensive, as to affect the ordinary variation of the com- 
pass when at sea. Sandy Island may almost be consi- 
dered as a part of Canna ; since they are separated by a 
beach of sand only, which is uncovered at low water. 
The surface of the latter island is little elevated, and it 
is in no way interesting, except on the south-east side;: 
where there are some remarkable rocks, called Craig na 

On the west coast of Canna, there is a rock, which, at 
low water, looks very much like a hat, rather on a gigan- 
tic scale, it is true, since it is fifty or sixty feet high. At 
high water, the platform is covered by the sea, and is 
receiving constant additions of breadth, by the wasting 
of the upper exposed part. It is easy to forsee that, at 
some future day, this tower will become a narrow pinna- 
cle, and that, ultimately, it will disappear altogether; 
leaving nothing but this half-tide rock to mark its former 

OANNA. 33 

place. This feature is very common, all through these 
islands; as in Rum, in Sky, and in many other places. 
Nor is it confined to one particular kind of rock. If it is 
seen in tra|>, in Rum and here, in Sky it is found in lime- 
stone and sandstone, and, in other places, in slate and 
granite. It is probable that many of the present half-tide 
and sunk rocks, are the remains of loftier ones, or of por- 
tions once above water, which have thus mouldered away. 
This appearance is evidently owing to the protection which 
the sea, wetting them twice every day, affords against 
the destructive power of frost, which is the great cause 
of the mouldering and fall of rocks. 

Such is the nature of a fact as familiar as it has been 
unnoticed. It is not a mere matter of curiosity, as the 
consequences that flow from it are most important; al- 
though Engineers have entirely overlooked them, as they 
have the fact itself. It is hence plain, that, in marine 
architecture, a submarine foundation is preferable to a 
dry one, because it is less destructible ; and there are 
cases in practice, where such a wasting of the founda- 
tion before the building-, does actually occur. There is 
a remarkable instance of this at Conway castle, on one of 
the sea flanks ; where there is a tower, now suspended 
in the air, in consequence of the failure of the slaty foun- 
dation; oflfering a fine example of tenacious masonry, 
and making us almost imagine that the works of art are 
more durable than those of nature. Had that foundation 
been under water, this accident would not have hap- 
pened : as it is, we may expect hereafter to see the fur- 
ther ruin of this magnificent building, from the same 
cause. Thus also it follows, that the Edystone, and its 
copy, the Bell-rock light-house, are safer, from the very 
circumstance which was the cause of additional labour, 
and which many persons have idly supposed a misfor- 
tune and a source of tear. Should those works theia- 



selves last as Conway has done, there is no danger that 
they will suffer from the treachery of their foundations. 
The ocean is their protector instead of their enemy. It 
is the submarine foundation which is the foundation " on 
a rock." But to turn to other matters : from Engineering 
to Physic. Such is the fate of our " farrago libelli." 

The ladies and gentlemen who delight in draughts, 
and pine without the daily pills, ask how those remote 
islanders manage when they are sick, and how they con- 
trive to live without medicine. How do others contrive 
to live no longer with it ; and with all its appliances and 
aids to boot. This is the consequence of having a theory : 
there are better roads to " healtli and longevity," Dryden 
will tell you, than tiiat of " feeing the Doctor for a nau- 
seous draught." Physic or no physic, Death knocks 
alike at the door of all ; at the wicker gate of the High- 
lander's cottage, as at the proud portals of the Nobles of 
the land. If he throttles the fisherman with a billow or 
a breaker, he chokes the wealthy citizen who is regal- 
ing on his labours in Fishmonger's Hall, with turtle and 
custard. Arithmetically speaking, at least, it appears a 
matter of some indifference whether we take physic or 
not, whether we reside in Canna, or " among the homi- 
cides of Warwick-lane ;" the averages will not differ by 
a hair's breadth. 

As to Dryden, a word with him. You poet folk are 
very apt to talk nonsense when you travel out of your 
own line; and to make the people believe it is sense too. 
" God never made his work for man to mend," says 
Dryden. This is very fine, very fine indeed. Tertullian 
says that shaving is an impious attempt to improve the 
works of the Creator. This is finer still. I suppose 
Dryden never heard of a steel collar, nor of a short leg, 
nor of Miss Befiin, nor of bark, ague, calomel, plague, 
tooth-ache, nor Tristram Shandy. And Cowper too; 


but we may allow him to talk. As to the gentlemau 
who is to *' hunt in fields for health uubought," half 
a dozen hunters and a pack of hounds, cost nothing 
of course; and the fox-hunter never breaks his leg-, 
" for man to mend," Every disorder is to be prevented 
by exercise : and that is the reason why half the people 
of Canna were sick, why painters and commentators 
live to a hundred, and why a ploughman, a soldier, or a 
sailor, is an old man at forty. Every disorder is to be 
prevented by temperance; all diseases are produced by 
gluttony. If man was not a glutton, he would live to be 
nine hundred ; or at least, as Bleskenius says the Irish 
did in his day, to two hundred and fifty. This tetn[>er- 
ance is the reason why the Highlanders have no diseases ; 
no fevers, inflammations, and so forth ; as every body 
knows. The Court of Death is a fine assembly : but I wish 
Mr. Gay had told us how Plague, Yellow Fever, Dysen- 
tery, Typhus, Ag-ue, Rheumatism, Pleurisy, Consump- 
tion, and the whole of Pandora's black train, are pro- 
duced by intemperance. And thus people are frightened 
from their bread and butter. It is only another form and 
mode of the ascetic reasoning which crossed us once 
before. Never write nonsense verses about temperance 
and exercise, my dear Scott. Go on producing ro- 
mances, eat your beef, drink your wine, and be thankful 
to Him that gave them. If the people here have diseases 
enough, so they have doctors enough ; particularly as 
the better part of physic now a days, is to auiuse otiose 
people, and to fugitate disorders which fly just as fast 
before the hand of Nature herself. To a wise man indeed, 
the better part of physic is discretion; a discretion 
which takes as little as possible. This is the Napoleon 
practice. That Great Man would never have made his 
fortune by physic, it is true; but that is another matter. 
We might indeed enquire, " Quot Themison segros au- 



tumno Occident uiio ;" but that was in another depart- 
ment of his practice. He would have made a great Phy- 
sician. What would he not have made, as well as Am- 
bassador to the court of Pekin. I told you before, that 
it only depended on Alexander the Great himself, to 
have rivalled his namesake cpf Brass pans. 

Physic is a luxury, however, to the multitude ; and 
one which, like Tea, has gradually crept down, in Eng- 
land, from the palace to the cottage, until not an old 
woman's megrim, or the cut finger of a journeyman car- 
penter, can be cured without the aid of the village apothe- 
thecary. When it comes to be a contest between Jalap 
and Death, 1 suspect the chances are not much worse for 
the Highlanders, than for the inhabitants of Warwick- 
lane. But it is not for me to enumerate here, which of 
all a Highlander's disorders Nature Vt ill cure, and which 
the Doctor cannot. Those who delight in physicky talk, 
and that is every body, may seek it elsewhere. There 
Mas a time when the Lowlanders would not use a win- 
nowing machine; lest they should fly in the face of Him, 
who, in his own good time, would cause his breeze to 
blow on the Shieling hill ; quile forgetful of the very in- 
strument from which the Prophet himself has derived so 
fearful an image of judgment. The Highlanders were 
never, I believe, thus infected with the disease of fanati- 
cal misinterpretation. They received vaccination eagerly. 
Clergymen and old women operate: which is right; 
since better cannot be. Yet it would have been as well 
if the Lady Bountifuls, whether in breeches or petticoats, 
had intermeddled with this matter somewhat less, else- 
where. But it is a peculiar merit of the Medical art, 
that it can be understood and practised by intuition. It 
is full time that the College of Edinburgh should be 
pulled down, as a superfluity. 

But why should the Highlanders die, more than the 
Lowlanders. Can a consumption be cured better at Sid- 


mouth than in Sky : or a dropsy, or an asthma. Will 
not a catarrh vanish in its own time : and who cares 
whether it does or not. The measles, and the rest, do 
their business in their own way, every where; sore 
throats are cured by the foot of an old stocking, the 
sciatica holds for life in all climates, the Howdie brings 
children as effectually into the world as the He She, 
and the Highlanders, enviable dogs, know nothing of 
the Ague. Some one or other can bleed, in every com- 
munity ; and as this operation is here regulated and set- 
tled, while, in the scientific practice, the fashion of bleed- 
ing and of not bleeding revolves every ten years, or 
oftener, it comes precisely to the same thing, in the long 
run. A Highland tibia, if it breaks, from some mis- 
chance, is spliced by a smith or a carpenter, as effectu- 
ally as by a surgeon, and generally much better; and if 
a scull chances to be fractured, the owner has the satisfac- 
tion of dying or recovering, as it may happen, without 
being trepanned into an operation by some raw appren- 
tice, who wants to try his hand in boring a round hole, 
that he may obtain a sight of the Dura Mater. 

In good earnest, I have looked somewhat hardly into 
the Highland practice of physic, and it is neither very 
deficient, nor very inefficacious, nor very unreasonable. 
Many farmers, most of the Lairds, or their wives, to- 
gether with the schoolmasters and clergymen, possess 
useful knowledge ; and, what is not less valuable, active 
humanity. Moreover, there are very few places in which 
a Surgeon is not accessible, at least within a day or two ; 
and I need only say, that a Scottish surgeon is generally 
as well educated and well informed on all points of his 
professional duties, as Roderic Random himself. The 
Highlanders, like many other people, once believed in 
various supernatural causes of disease: in witchcraft, elf- 
shots, and so forth. Those have disappeared. Pennant 
has mentioned the Fillan, a worm falling from fhe rlouils^ 


to produce disorders. It is nearly forgotten. Linneeus 
was silly enoug-li to believe in the Furia infernalis ; a 
Lapland s^oblin, worthy of just the same credence. It is 
the same superstition, from the common parent North: 
thoug-h neither he nor Pennant knew it. 

There are very few of the ancient superstitious reme- 
dies remaining-, and still fewer of the diseases to which 
superstitious or imaginary causes are assigned. The 
herbs, once supposed to be endued with supernatural vir- 
tues and signatures, seem now to have sank to their 
true level of natural remedies; ajid they are adminis- 
tered, as far as I have seen, without the ancient forms 
that partook of incantation. If a raw egg is still good 
for bile, because both are yellow, England may share 
the folly and the philosophy with them. That such belief 
and such practices were once common, is, however, well 
known ; and it is far from impossible that they may exist 
still. The Highlanders derive them from the ancient 
stock of superstitious observances which has pervaded 
all the world alike ; though they are apt to imagine that 
they were peculiar to themselves. The Roan tree, the 
Holly, the Juniper, and the rest, belong to the ancient 
Botanomanteia. Even the Misletoe is not solely Druidical. 
It is but part of an ancient whole ; and Virgil is much 
more likely to have borrowed his Golden Branch from 
Medea, than from Abaris. The Druid antiquaries never 
look half deep enough. If Paracelsus orders that his 
plants should be gathered with certain ceremonies, and 
under favourable planetary conjunctions, it is because 
his far-disfant predecessors in magic and quackery did 
the same. It. is even a relic of the same astrology, that 
seeds are to be sown, and bacon salted, in a certain 
state of the moon; and that the Partridge of Stationers' 
Hall still assumes the office of Abercrombie and Mawe, 
If Medea was the first physician of whom we know, who 
made a " ptisane rcsloratif'' on this principle, yet when 


she nioiHits her magic car to traverse Ossa, Peliou, Olym- 
pus, and Pindus, in search of" small herbs ' and precious 
stones, it is because Greece has borrowed from Tartary or 
Hindostan. There is nothing- new, even in quackery. 

The precious stones of Medea will also explain the 
virtues of the Crystal Ball, if not of the Elf-shot; a su- 
perstition which, however, I believe to be equally out of 
date. Those gems are nevertheless still preserved in 
many families ; but, I believe, only as antiques and heir 
looms. I cannot at least find that their touch, or the 
water in which they have been dipped, is any longer in 
repute, either for men or cattle. I find it so said in books, 
it is true ; but I fear that the books are, in this case, as 
usual, copying from each other, and giving us the history 
of past times as now present. This superstition, under 
many forms, has been as general as it is ancient. Crystal- 
lomancy is but a modification of it. The virtues of the 
Beryl are known to all readers in the occult sciences. 
Paracelsus is here among the learned : and Boyle, like an 
old woman, believed in their powers. The Carbuncle of 
the East, which lights the midnight cavern, is of the 
same parentage. The whole science of Gems and Pe- 
riapts seems peculiarly Oriental. Hence the endless 
sculptured stones, rings, seals, amulets, and talismans. 
Hence the great seal of Solomon, which imprisons the 
Genii: hence the beads of Paternoster and Ave Maria. 
Hence Urim and Thummim: as well as the (jwAmr-^picc of 
the Jews, the Amulets of the Turks, and the Gris Gris 
of the Negroes. That numerous superstitious connected 
with crystal and precious stones, were prevalent in 
Greece and Rome, is equally known to every scholar. 
Pliny is full of this, and he borrows from the East. The 
Roman Athleta; wore amulets. This fashion went down 
to the Gothic warriors, in their bracelets and neck rings. 
In the army which was beaten by the Duke of Guise, 


under Henry the third, all the soldiers had amulets. It 
is not long", since crystal balls were found in some tombs 
at Rome ; but I know not that any description of their 
purposes, in this case, has descended to us. 1 may have 
overlooked it, however, among the mass of trash, where 
we are so often tempted to read and skip, and skip and 
read. Hence also it was, that precious stones became 
ingredients in medicine. Even yet, they are found in the 
shops of the Italian apothecaries. The modern Druids 
fancy that the crystal balls of the Highlands have 
been borrowed from their progenitors ; from the amulet, 
or egg, the Glain Naydir. That is possible, but not ne- 
cessary. The Druids themselves borrowed; and as the 
superstition was Scandinavian also, it may as well have 
descended by the one road as the other. As to the 
Druid beads, as they are called, such as I have seen, ap- 
peared sometimes to be of Venetian manufacture : but 
they may have been Egyptian, as the art of making glass 
beads was carried by those people to great perfection : 
for what I care, they may be Phenician. 

Our coral and beils, and our anodyne necklace, what- 
ever the good ladies may think, are but charms of the 
same school. A thread of virtue was worn for the same 
purpose, by the little puling Athenians. It was a property 
of coral to turn pale when the wearer's life was threat- 
ened. Hence one reason for the choice of this material. 
The Latin Christians used those Prsefiscini for their chil- 
dren. Chrysostom abuses them for it, in his Homilies : 
and so does Jerom. They were condemned by Constau- 
tine, and by the Councils of Tours and Laodicea ; as they 
also are in the Capitularies of Charlemagne. Mamma 
does not know that she is breaking the Canon Law, with 
her coral and bells. The Athenian midwives hung a 
charm about the neck of Pericles when he was dying of 
the Plague. And he, graceless philosopher as he was, 


laughed at them. Plato says they were all quacks ; which, 
considering' his own metaphysics, is somewhat strong. 

So much for the anodyne necklace. But physic is 
founded in quackery. Ask Moliere; and that is the 
reason why quacks are the only true physicians, and 
quackery the only physic. That is the reason why Dr. 
Young's friends can get no practice. If you are not sa- 
tisfied with Moliere's opinion, ask Pindar : not Peter. 
He says that Chiron was a quack. Hermes and Zoroaster 
have met no better fate ; but the father of all was Ammon, 
the great Physician of Egypt. All the breed of the 
Asclepiades were quacks and impostors ; as even Greece 
allows. The Senate took it into its head to interfere, at 
Rome, and to forbid them : yet they were not effectually 
banished till the time of Cicero. The Senate was wrong: 
who ever had confidence in systematic medicine; unless 
it should chance to be my friend John M'Kinnon. The 
noble Art was founded in magic, mysticism, and super- 
stition ; and by these alone it can ever flourish. The re- 
verence which my friends at Canna had for the pills, was 
all derived from the globular form and the gallipot. 
There is no philosophy in physic. The man was never 
yet found who could be prevailed to believe in it from 
reason, or to listen to reasoning' respecting- it. The Phy- 
sician who reasons, may take to John M'Kinnon's trade 
whenever he chooses. " Populus vult decipi : Decipi- 
atur." The same mysterious influence that once worked 
wonders in the shape of crystal balls, and of herbs ga- 
thered under a trine aspect in the seventh house, now 
works by means of dog Latin, dullness, and long-tailed 
draughts. The form only is changed. It once operated 
by weight of cane and protuberance of wig. He was a 
fool who surrendered the wig. Van Butchell understood 
his trade better. Every one knows what aloes or pep- 
permint is : but invest them with the mystic red stamp. 


and they immediately gain in virtue and value, a thou- 
sand fold, in the shape of Juniper's essence and Ander- 
son's pills. Strip off the wig, and the stamp, and the 
crotchets of the prescription, — but lift the veil, and all is 
over. Disclosure is death. 

I had occasion to make some remarks formerly on the 
mineral-water-drinkings of the Highlanders. I know 
not that they now resort to St. Fillan's or to St. Maree's 
well, for the cure of Lunacy. But that was a fashion in 
Cornwall also, and in England generally. I suspect 
that their ordinary love of water is somewhat connected 
with this superstitious regard for springs and wells. The 
water of a mighty river is here, even poetically distin- 
guished, from that, of which the meaner and less com- 
manding sources are known. We might almost suppose 
that there was a rush-crowned and dripping Deity who 
was thought to pour it out of his urn. The life of the 
base and the pusillanimous, was maintained by the stag- 
nant waters of the reedy pool. It belonged but to the 
heroic and warlike soul, to drink from the Father of 
streams or the bright fountain. In Isla, as well as in St. 
Kilda, every where, in short, there is some chosen and 
worshiped fountain which remedies all diseases, pre- 
sent and prospective ; to which they resort to drink, even 
after their dinners, though surrounded with water in all 
its forms, ground, above, and below. They would still 
say with Horace " dignaberis haedo;" had not goats been 
supplanted by sheep, and sacrifices by John Knox and 
his predecessors. 

All this is indeed rigidly classical ; nor is it often 
that the parentage and descent are so easily traced. To 
the worship of fountains by the Greeks and Romans, I 
had occasion to allude formerly, when on a similar sub- 
ject. The Fontiualia of ancient Home are among the 
best known of those. The flowers which were then 


thrown into tLe wells, and the garlands with which they 
were crowned, have almost descended to our own day. 
The history of the celebrated well near Padua, in the 
times of the Emperors, is well known. Tiberius threw 
dice into it, to try his destiny. Suetonius says that they 
were "still there:" and Claudian remarks "Tunc om- 
nem liquidi valleni mirabere fundi. Tunc veteres hastse, 
regia dona, micant." Theodoric, as Cassiodorus says, 
walled it round, on account of its great reputation. 
The coins which were then offered to the presiding Deity, 
are the half-pence still used in Cornwall, Wales, and 
the Highlands, for analogous purposes. In Sky, offerings 
were formerly left, of bread, and flowers, and similar 
things, on the stone at the Fairies' Well of Loch Shiant. 
Pins are still offered, even in England. Hence, also, 
omens or predictions are obtained, by the mode in which 
the air bubbles rise. This was the Pegomancy of the 
Greeks; who also solicited the answer of the Nymphs 
of the Spring, by oflerings of bread, stones, or coins, or by 
dipping in a mirror, and construing the figures which the 
water had left on it. Those usages have descended to 
Turkey. They were adopted by the Saxons, whether 
from a Classic source, is doubtful : more probably from 
the Oriental parent of both. They are noticed by Ihre 
and Lindenbrog. In Britain, during the planting and 
progress of Christianity, they were held so improperly 
superstitious, that they were forbidden by a Canon in the 
time of Edgar. They are similarly proscribed by a Canon 
of Anselm. Thus we trace the similar usages and opinions 
of the Highlanders. 

But, of one singular medical superstition here, I have 
myself met an instance. Riding soberly along on my 
white poney, I observed a damsel running, like a grey- 
hound, across some fields, and leaping all the enclosures 
in her way, to cut off my passage. At length she arrived, 


like Camilla, all breathless. " Ech, Sir " said she, " our 
lassie is a deeing", and I was jist seeking for ye." Did 
1 indeed, " carry fate and physic in my eye." " What 
rhubarb, senna, or what purgative drug," could have so 
contaminated my aspect, that I should be mistaken for 
a physicking, gossiping apothecary, and on a fine summer 
evening, and in the Highlands. I protested against the 
libel. "But ye hae gotten a white beast there." Of 
course, I concluded that the real Doctor had a Avhite 
beast too, and that he must be behind me ; so I very 
inhumanely, as it afterwards proved, rode off to make way 
for the genuine iEsculapius. It was long afterwards 
thatl discovered the medical virtues necessarily inherent 
in every man who rode on a white horse. 

This is ancient enough, and has, of course, reached 
the Highlands along the usual downhill highway of na- 
tional descent. White was the hue of virtue, as well as 
of purity ; and thus white animals have received other 
honours than those of having their brains knocked out, 
and their livers ransacked for prophesies, by the butcher 
priests of Jupiter and Juno. The white eagle was the 
emblem of good government, white oxen of Industry; 
and a white horse was a horse of honour and distinction 
in war. If Richard lost his head and his crown on White 
Surrey, so did St. Vitus charge his foes upon his white 
Bucephalus ; and thus does St. George assail the dragon ; 
at least on our crown pieces, if not in Cappadocia. Ti- 
rante rode a white horse ; and, unquestionably, Rosinante 
had once been of the same colour. Saxo Grammaticus 
tells us that the Bohemians derived all their omens from 
a white horse, which was sacred, and kept for that pur- 
pose by the priests ; and every body knows that the 
Persians chose their king by the same token. I have no 
doubt that it was the White Horse which finally recon- 
ciled the Highlanders to Hanover; but lest you should 


think that my horse has run away with me, I will spare 
you the other page of illustrations. 

I have been often sore bested by this character; 
whether acquired by the white horse or not : destined to 
witness what I could not remedy, to wish for medicines 
that I did not possess, and to write prescriptions for what 
could not be obtained. Yet nine tenths of the applicants 
have been women ; and all of them labouring- under the 
disorders supposed especially appropriated to luxury and 
idleness, the produceof imagination and hypochondriasm. 
I know of no people more subject to melancholy and 
fear, to all the disorders of the medicinally depraved 
imagination, than the Highland wives. " Timere muscas 
praetervolantes," to be haunted with the " Livor secundis 
anxius," is peculiarly the disease of this country ; and 
no one knows better than Girseal how to entertain that 
parasite, of which it is said, that he who feeds it shall never 
want a guest. Heaven knows, they have little of either 
luxury or idleness; yet the ailments of a Highland wife 
would astound the most fashionable physician, daily con- 
versant with the disorders of Grosvenor Square, with the 
miseries that send our idlers to Bath and Buxton, to Rams- 
gate and Cheltenham. I must leave this to Physicians 
to explain; as they understand every thing. If the cha- 
racter of a Physician is the best to travel by in Abyssinia, 
so it is in the Highlands. Take your degree, fill your 
pocket with bread piljs, and you will be pestered and 
adored wherever you go. Diseases too, will rise up, 
ready armed at all points, like Cadmus's men, the mo- 
ment you appear. You may silence nine tenths of them, 
at least, " Pulveris exigui jactu ; " and from the rest, 
your natural progress will compel you to fly. 

If you wish to know^what has led to this ^Esculapian 
discussion, there had been a fever in this island, imported 
from Sky, and I was desired to visit a patient. He had 


taken no medicines : consequently, was likely to recover. 
At least, he was not to die of the Doctor; and there was 
nobody at hand to do any harm. The Napoleon practice of 
the Islands is certainly very successful ; " If kitchen cor- 
dials will not remedie, Certes his time is come, needs 
mought he die." When this was settled, a bare-legged girl 
was observed scouring down the green slope of the hill, 
with all possible speed. I was summoned to see a " lassie 
with a lame eye." I remember to have once cured a pair 
of lame eyes, by means of a pair of spectacles. But the 
lameness of my present patient's eye was beyond Galileo's 
aid ; it had been poked out by a bull, five years before, 
and the Chevalier Taylor himself, could have done no- 
thing more than substitute a glass one, which would 
doubtless have answered every necessary purpose. If the 
people made much use of their eyes, they would find 
them to be lame much oftener. The Bible Society will 
increase the manufacture of spectacles ; and thus matters 
are concatenated in this world. 

My Aid-de-camp on this occasion, was John JM'Kin- 
non, an intelligent young man, who, to the trades of 
farming, fishing, and shoemaking, had thus superadded 
physic. But, unlike bis fraternity, his practice was all 
from love and charity ; nor did I find that he was less 
successful than his reputed betters, or that his system in 
fevers did not succeed as well as the more operose sieges 
and long bills of the regular JEsculapians. The present 
of a new lancet, in place of the rusty tool he had been 
working with, made him as happy as the Armenian Doc- 
tor, of whom Sir Robert Poiter has told us. I proposed 
to Mr. M'Kinnon to extend his practice, and to set up 
as an apothecary in Canna ; but he modestly feared that 
he had not abilities enough. I tried to prove to him that 
he had too much ability. And then I showed him the 
analogy between Cookery and Physic, as thus, and how 


easily it was acquired. That when you had caught your 
disease, as you had " caught your chub," the first point 
was, to discover the name of it, as there could be no phy- 
sic without a name for your disease. Thus, being* the 
Liver complaint, or the Nerves, or the Hay fever, you had 
only to turn to Dr. Buchan or the London Practice of 
Physic, and having- there found out the method of dress- 
ing it, you seasoned your dish with a little jalap, magne- 
sia, rhubarb, ipecacuanha, castor, camphor, mercury, 
opium, bark, arsenic, henbane, contrayerva, a iesN small 
herbs, and a clove or two, putting it all to stew in a bed, 
with a little water gruel, and, like the cook, trusting to 
time for the event. I convinced him further, that he had 
just the same advantages as all his brethren ; because, 
" Dios es el que sana, e i! medico Ileva la plata." Which 
also was the chief part of the practice. I also assured 
him that he needed not to care for Paracelsus, who says 
that the Devil " siiscitat imperitos medicos " on purpose 
to bring physic into disgrace. It never could be dis- 
graced ; because learning was unnecessary in the divine 
art of healing. As he was a shoemaker, he knew, in- 
deed, that if the skin was ill tanned, the shoes would be 
bad, the purchaser would abuse Crispin, and he would 
fall back on the Tanner. But in the case of the Apothe- 
cary, his productions were inscrutable, alike in their en- 
trances and exits; the gallipots concealing the one, and — 
while the coffin took care of all the ultimate effects, and 
the earth covered them for ever. And thus Mr. M'Kinnon 
received virtue and authority, " medicandi, purgandi, 
seignandi, pergandi, taillandi, coupandi, et occidendi, im- 
pune per totam Cannam." 

Why not, as well as through an Aberdeen degree. 
There were three chances in favour of him. To be sure, 
the world is of another opinion ; so that the three chances 
of shoemaking, farming, and fishing, that John M'Kinnon 


was a clever fellow, were all so much against biin in the 
public opinion. Mr. Locke indeed, and such people as 
he, who are of opinion that the more you put into the 
brains the more they will hold, maintain also, that the 
more they do hold, the greater is the certainty of their 
capacity. But Dr. Young, on the other hand, says, that 
the public has made up its mind, that the abilities of all 
men are the same ; and their acquirements too, of course : 
a fact, unquestionably, that has been admitted from all 
antiquity, and v.'hich is the reason why Dr. Eady is equal 
to Hippocrates, Mr. Haydon to Raphael, Elkanah Settle 
to Homer, and Mr. Macmanus to Solon ; why the Horse 
Guards rival St. Peters, and the statue of Mrs. Nightin- 
gale the Niobe. As soon as Dr. Hervey had discovered 
the circulation of the blood, he lost all his practice. It 
was a complete proof that he had no abilities for physic. 
Silly people, indeed, such as Mr. Locke, Leonardo da 
Vinci, Dr. Hartley, Sir Christopher Wren, Michael An- 
gelo, and Dr. Young, may imagine that as a correct judg- 
ment, a powerful reasoning faculty, an acute discernment, 
and a body of general knowledge, added to industry, 
may make a man competent to the acquisition of any and 
every science, so the display of those on points on which 
the public can judge, should be an earnest of the posses- 
sion of that science which is especially professed, but of 
which they have not the means of judging. There could 
not be a greater mistake. The surest proof of a man's 
acquirements, judgment, and discernment, in the divine 
art of healing, is to be wanting in acquirements, judg- 
ment, and discernment, in all other things. And ob- 
viously ; because it is for the same reason that the man 
who has been balancing a straw on his nose all his life, is 
perfectly acquainted with the length of his own nose, and 
can see — precisely to the end of his straw. Much good 
may it do them. 

mi;dicink in the nu;n lands. 49 

Fame had been working- hard during my absence. 
When I returned to the ship, it was surrounded by a 
triple row of boats, and the deck was covered witli people. 
It looked as if the natives of New Zealand had taken 
possession of some unfortunate whaler or missionary ves- 
sel. Clambering- on board with difficulty, I was assailed 
by half the diseases in Dr. Cullen's Synopsis. Not 
without fees, however; honest souls. A little more of 
this Highland honour would do no harm in London. One 
had a cock under his arm ; a very classical fee ; another* 
a pair of ducks; a third, potatoes; and those who had 
nothing to offer, more modestly drew back into the rear. 
To return the fees was easy; to see what was visible was 
not difficult; bui to translate Gaelic disorders that lay 
perdue within the carcase, into plain English, required 
the joint forces of all the interpreters on board. Half the 
day was thus occupied; to the utter exhaustion of our 
whole stock of remedies; and, for those who came last, 
bread and peppermint were compounded by the gunner's 
mate, on the model of the bullets which he had in charge. 
Saga Eira herself, the great Goddess of Scandinavian 
Physic, could have done no more. I hope I did as much 
good and as little harm as is done daily by the faculty; 
and if I did nothing else, those who had come with long 
faces, retired with brighter looks ; as each in succession 
drew his boat off from the side, and paddled away to the 

The Fevers, once so common and fatal in the High- 
lands, have become rare since famine has become less 
frequent. This is one of the consequences of the recent 
improvements, which, like many more, has been over- 
looked by the anti-reformists. Why they are not more 
fatal, why they are not perpetual, in the close, unven- 
tilated, unwashed, eternal cribs and boxes, and blankets, 
of a Highland cottage, those may well wonder who know 



what a fever is, and what constitutes a Highland cottage. 
Thanks to the very cottage for this ; it would be a sturdy 
contagion indeed, that could stand the eternal smoke 
and fire that penetrates every cranny, and will scarcely 
suffer the inhabitants to exist, much less the fever. It 
is a perpetual suffumigation, as potent as that of a ma- 
gician. The secret is all in the Lumm ; it is best where 
there is not even a lumm, and when the smoke is obliged 
to contend with every crevice and hole, to worm itself 
between every two straws, before it can reach to mix 
with the free element ; destined by the great Alchemy of 
Nature, to return again into the form of future peat bogs. 
Improvement, luxury, whatever it is to be called, is now 
building chimneys; smoke finds a short road to the clouds, 
and the fever has taken joint possession with the in- 
habitants; never again to be exterminated till cribs are 
burnt, Highlanders taught to wash themselves and their 
blankets, and windows made to open. It is a good thing 
to make improvements; but it is good also, to know how 
to begin at the right end. 

The chimney is a premature improvement in the High- 
land cottage. It was well meant, doubtless; it was 
meant at least to look well in the eyes of the Landlord 
and his Steward ; but a little philosophy would have 
retarded it for another half century, till the houses had 
learnt to have more loom, and the Highlanders a greater 
love of cleanliness and order. It is a grave truth, that 
wherever it has been introduced, if once the fever gets 
in, it becomes a hard task to eradicate it. Old Harrison 
was of the same opinion some time ago, though the fever 
did not happen to enter into his calculations. " Now 
have we many chimneys, and yet our tenderlings com- 
plain of rheums, catarrhs, and poses. Then had we none 
but reredosses, and our heads did never ake. For as the 
smoke in those days was supposed to be a sufficient hard- 


oning- for the timbers of the house, so it was reported a 
far belter medicine to keep the good man and his family 
from the quacke or pose." You may read Piers Plow- 
man, if you are in want of further authorities on this 
subject. But a truce with all this medicine. Take as 
little of it as you like ; and the less you take of the 
reality, the better for your health. 

During- two days it blew so hard, that the sea whisked 
round us mast high, in one whirl of white foam, so that 
no one knew what was rain, or sea, or M'ind ; we seemed 
at anchor in the clouds themselves. At last, we concluded 
that it had blown out for the present; but who shall say 
when it shall not blow here, or what notice it will give. 
Dr.Francis Moore, indeed, had prognosticated a gale ; just 
as, in the same page, he had desired the Grand Turk to 
" look to it, as he had given him fair warning." I and 
the Grand Turk agreed to despise his prognostic, and the 
boat was hauled up. We ran round the north end of 
Sanda " in no time." There was a formidable swell from 
the west, but the strait was under the lee of the land for 
a space. I wished to see the Craig na feoulan in their 
poetical dress ; and, in all this kind of scenery, the dan- 
gers constitute half the value. They were nothing from 
the shore, safely entrenched under a fauld dyke. Black, 
now, as night, they rose defying the enormous surges 
which, at every instant, broke on them, whitening the sea 
far round with the hissing foam, which, as it swept back- 
ward, was gradually swallowed up in the green wave. 
Blacker than the rocks themselves, was the dense curtain 
of clouds that rose wildly, like a mountain ridge, in the 
south; growing slowly upwards till it overtopped the 
high hills of Rum, and contrasting with the long line f 
breakers which whitened along that dark and frightful 
shore. Not a boat was to be seen ; even the gulls had 
left the sea: and the puffins, ranged high on the rocky 


52 wuM. 

shelves, were eyeing, with fear and doubt, the coraing" 
storm. Still the clouds grew up, a solid and pitchy mass; 
the gale began to freshen; and as the driving mists that 
sailed in, curling grey beneath the black canopy above, 
began to entangle the towering cliffs, all became sky and 
water, except where the breaking of the waves still 
showed an occasional glimpse of the dark masses against 
which they were impelled with the noise of thunder. 
" Its going to be an awsome day," said the gunner; and 
we were on a lee shore close to the breakers. It became 
alike difficult and dangerous to put the boat about before 
the sea. Keeping my eye fixed on every coming wave, 
to watch for an interval, in an instant, there arose in the 
distant horizon, the gigantic form of a man, white as the 
foam around, its feet repulsing the sea, and the arms 
extended upwards, with an expression of ferocious 
energy, to the black solid cloud on which it was pictured 
with all the distinctness of life. It sank in an instant as 
it arose, and there remained but the dull misty line that 
divided the ocean and the sky. I had seen my Wraith. 
Doubtless, you think that my nervous system must have 
been grievously deranged at these repeated prospects of 
searching the deep bottom of the flood; there to repose, 
among the finny droves. But use makes all things per- 
fect; and he who has long braved the ocean and the gale, 
becomes, at length, a piece of the " ses et robur" of the 
ship itself, and acquires a proverbial confidence in his 
own buoyancy. 

The Wraith was a false prophet. Again attempting 
Rum, we landed at ScuirMore; but at the imminent risk 
of losing our boat among the breakers aud rocks of this 
most impracticable shore. In half an hour it blew a hur^ 
ricane, and all hopes of re-embarking vanished. With 
the assistance of the villagers of Guirdil, the boat was 
hauled up dry, and we made up our minds to remain a 

itu.M. 53 

week; by no means an unlikely evenf. But we should 
not have been starved, while there was a Highlander who 
had a potatoe. We were in at least as much danger of 
being devoured with kindness. One hoped that if 1 
visited his neighbour, I should also come to him. " The 
house of one, was only two miles off; that of another, 
only five." " I could surely pass one night at Papadill ; 
or one at Kilmorie;" " it was but a bittie over the hill." 
But as it was impossible to go to all, it ended, as was 
natural, in taking up with the nearest Maclean who spoke 
the best English. If I am to be wrecked any where, I 
will choose Rum ; for the Rumites are not too rich. I have 
spoken of the antiquities of Highland hospitality before. 
As far as Classic authority avails, it should be Gothic, not 
Celtic. They ought to be indebted for it to their Scan- 
dinavian ancestry. But the unlucky Celts have nobody 
to speak for them. It may have belonged to all equally* 
But we are on sure ground at least, when we take Tacitus 
for authority; and what was "German," was probably 
Belgic, Saxon, and Scandinavian. Of that people he 
says, " Convictibus et hospitiis non alia gens effusius 
indulget. Quemcumque mortalium arcere tecto, nefas 
habetur; pro fortuna quisque epulis excipit." It was 
the same with the Burgundians, according to Lindenbrog. 
Here is one of the Laws: " Quicumque hospiti venienti 
tectum aut focum negaverit, trium solidorum inlatione 
mulctetur." Among the Sclavi, says Hermolaus, " Si 
quis, quod rarissime fieri consuevit, peregrinum hospitio 
removisse convictus fuerat, illius oedes et facultates in- 
cendio consumere licitum erat." 

Be the cause what it may, in ten minutes the potatoe 
kettle was put on the fire, and my boat's crew was pro- 
vided with such fare as the house afforded. I Avas taken 
into the parlour, and regaled with tea ; for, as in England 

54 RUM. 

of old, this is a precious article, and given as a treat at 
any time of the day. If the ©poV (paeivoi; was but a crazy 
wooden chair, it was the best that myAlcinoushad to offer. 
But the day wore on, the potatoes were eaten, there was 
nothing to do, and it continued to blow and rain, as if 
Rum itself would have been blown about our ears. The 
neighbours had come to see the strangers ; and a consider- 
able ogling began to take place among- some of my hand- 
some lads and the damsels. There was an old fiddle 
hanging up in a corner, very crazy in the pegs and in the 
intestines, but still practicable. My host could scarcely 
scrape, and the Cremona was not even inscrapeable trim. 
But at length, by dint of the boatswain's mate, a little 
philosophy, and a little oakham, the pegs were repaired 
and the strings eked out, as well as if Straduarius himself 
had had the management of the business. But " though 
it discolours the complexion of my greatness to acknow- 
ledge it," pray imagine the Orpheus; Corypheus to a 
party of Highland lads and lasses, in Rum, in a storm. 
So it was, however; and the musician gained great 
credit and applause: never probably having been half so 
much esteemed or admired in his life, in any society, 
before or since. In good sooth, the Grand Signer is in 
the right, when he learns to make harness or forge a 
blade ; for " we know what we are, but we know not 
what we shall be." Full little did I foresee, when solv- 
ing some obscure fluxion in the theory of vibrating 
strings, that I should ever have fiddled to a ball in Rum. 
Yet this is orthodox : Apollo be my witness. And in 
the lamented days of Chivalry, the Leach and the Min- 
strel were one. For does not the Lady in the tale of 
Ingefred and Gudrune, tread a tender remembrance oti 
the Leach's foot, because her Ladyship had conceived a 
gentle attachment towards the Fidler. Physic, fiddling, 


political economy, and geology : " In the space of one 
revolving moon, Was Chemist, fidler, statesman," and — 
I leave the rhyme to you. 

By some means or other, we have come to the subject 
of Music again ; and also, by some means or other, there 
is something more to be said, which, if it ought to have 
been said before, was not. That same memory is a 
" fond deceiver :" why fond, the Poet must explain. 
This comes of not keeping- a common-place book ; as 
Swift boasted : Swift, — who was forty years common- 
placing his polite conversation. I ought to have quoted 
Scymnos of Chio, as authority for the musical propen- 
sity of the Celts, when he speaks of them as using music 
at their meetings on account of its pleasing effects. 

Z'/]Xovvr€<; ainriv -rifAefuKTiux; yji^iv. 

It is probable that those people were really Celts, and 
from this very circumstance; as the Gothic early nations 
appear to have had no attachment to this art ; though, 
from the laxity usual to his age, on this subject, the coun- 
tries which this writer assigns to the Celts, must then 
have contained many other nations. 

We should have been glad to have known more of the 
nature of this music, and of that of their instruments. The 
remark must go for what it is worth, in a research so ab- 
struse and conjectural ; and, possibly it is worth very little. 
Those who place more faith in the Highland Abaris than 
myself, may try if they can find any support in the remark 
of Plutarch, that the presents which he brought to Delos 
were accompanied by various musical instruments, by 
" harps, hautboys, and guitars," as some Irish antiquary 
chooses to translate the terras. 

I might also have said more respecting the use of 
cultivated music in Scotland, at an early period, when 


speaking of that subject ; because I believe, on reflec- 
tion, that it goes further in explaining the peculiar cast, 
and the refinement, of some of the ancient airs, than it 
then appeared to me. The Embassy of Edward the 
fourth, in 1474, was attended by William Roger, who 
was detained by James, and made a Knight. Numerous 
musicians were brr ught up in his school ; and this, doubt- 
less, aided in giving that air of refinement to much of 
the national music, which might otherwise be supposed 
to have sprung up in more recent times. There is reason 
to believe that the Scots were much better musicians, 
in the general sense and use of the word, at that day, 
than themselves now suppose; and it is not even im- 
probable that, considering their natural musical propen- 
sities, they became equal if not superior to the neigh- 
bour whence they borrowed. Unluckily, little or nothing 
remains in the shape of absolute proof. We must be 
content with the casual remarks of contemporary writers. 
When Holland, in his Honlat, mentions twenty-five 
instruments as in use, it seems to argue something more 
than the cultivation of music merely national. That the 
science was cultivated in its refinements, also appears 
from Douglas, the Poet, who must have been learned in 
music, from his using such technical terms as descant, 
counter, sesquialtra, and so on. He also mentions dif- 
ferent instruments ; such as " monycords, tympans, 
clarions, shalms, psaltries, organs, portatives, cythols, 
and cymbals;" most of them implying some species of 
symphonic music, and, almost necessarily, that which 
was in use at that day for ecclesiastical purposes. I con- 
jecture that it is to this Church music, to the B flat of the 
Gregorian Chant, that we are indebted for the frequent 
and unpleasant occurrence, in a similar manner, of the 
flat seventh in the simple Scottish melodies. 

I then also made some remarks on the probable anti- 


quity of the violin in the Highlands. The subject de- 
served somewhat more. It must have been known in 
Britain very early. Hawkins quotes the statue of the 
Giustiniani Apollo as playing- on a violin; but Winkel- 
man and Mengs have proved that this is a modern work. 
A vessel, however, was dug- up at Soissons, containing- a 
representation of one, supposed by Le Boeuf to be as 
old as 752. In England, there is even earlier authority. 
Osbern thinks he has proved that the date of the Crypt 
of Canterbury is 742; and, among the grotesque capi- 
tals there, one figure is playing on a violin. This seems to 
indicate the remote knowledge of this instrument in Bri- 
tain and Gaul ; and it also confirms the Oriental parentage 
of the violin, as these sculptures contain the mythological 
allusions found on Egyptian and Persian monuments. 

A ball here requires no great preparations, it must 
be allowed. The lasses had no shoes, and marvellous 
little petticoat ; but to compensate for those deficiencies, 
they had abundance of activity and good-will. I sup- 
pose I ought to admire Highland dancing, fling and all ; 
and if I do not, it is not for want of abundant experi- 
ence. But the people are fond of it ; they enter into it 
with heart and soul, as well as with all the limbs of their 
body, and it makes them very happy ; and if all these 
are not good reasons in favour of any system of dancing, 
I wish some one would discover better. If there is any 
thing to be said on the other side, this deponent does 
not mean to say it. 

But all human happiness must end. " Hilary term 
is short," as old Burton says, and alas the time came 
that we must part. " 'Tis a sad sentence of an ancient 
date :" and who shall gainsay it. The sun blazed out 
beneath the cloud, and the fiddle ceased. But I pro- 
tracted the evil hour as long as I could, in tender pity to 
the prettiest girl of the party, who had been sudden and 


quick in falling in love with a handsome lad belonging 
to my crew, and was weeping bitterly at the thoughts of 
parting. As the wind filled our little sail and swept us 
over the rolling sea, I saw the last wave of poor Ariadne's 
hand, as she stood advanced on the point of a rock, with 
her long hair streaming in the storm. Those nudities, I 
do not mean of the legs, but of the heart, are a captivat- 
ing sight: if I had been Ned Williamson, I would have 
taken that lassie home, and married her; but Cupid had 
been at his usual mischief. Unquestionably this inven- 
tion, the dance, is one of his wicked expedients towards 
restoring the long-divided union of the congeminated 
Platonic soul. Poor Peggy Maclean had fallen head- 
long into the trap; and indeed she seemed to be of Sir 
Thomas Elyot's opinion, that it should have " betokened 
matrimony," For Sir Thomas says, that " the dauncing 
together of a man and a woman, holding each other by 
the hand or the arme, betokeneth concord." " It is a 
mystical representation of matrimony," he further says, 
" not begun without a special consideration, as well for 
the conjunction of two personnes, as for the imitation of 
sundrie virtues which be thus represented." Thus the 
learned differ, as usual : for St. Augustine says that 
" nemo saltat sobrius ;" that " melius est fodere quam 
saltare." The dance is the Devil's procession, says the 
author of the History of the Waldenses : as many steps 
as a man makes in the dance, so many steps does he take 
towards hell. What Messieurs Beaucbamp, Feuillet, 
Noverre, and other authorities, say, shall never be re- 
peated by me ; lest Peggy and her friends should sus- 
pect that the " continuitie of moving the foote and body," 
in the Highland fling, doth not " express any pleasaunt 
or protitabe effects or motions of the mind." 

As to the question of authority, however, once more, 
we have Dugdale versus St. Augustine. Not only does 


" tiauncing" encourage matrimony and love, but lawyers 
also. Some men indeed may doubt whether the encou- 
ragement of this race, and that of the Devil, (I speak it 
with respect,) are marked by any wide differences. How- 
ever that be, his Sacred Majesty Henry VI. cap. 9, did 
enact that the lawyers and judges should dance four 
times a year, " for their encouragement in this excellent 
study of the law," and for making those gentlemen "more 
fit for their books at other times." And then again, as 
if the truth were never to be attained, even in the matter 
of dancing, there is Lawyer versus Lawyer, Sebastian 
Brant against King Henry and Dugdale. " What else 
is dauncing but even a nurcery to maintaine evile sinne 
in yonge heartes." I hope Peggy Maclean's young heart 
did not sin. Certain it is that there is a large lack of 
gravity in this Highland fling ; from which cause it may 
possibly fall under the ban of St. Augustine. Had it 
been the Pavan indeed, we might have doubted the pro- 
priety of the fulrnination ; since this " merry daunce" 
was danced by gentlemen dressed in bags and swords, 
and other apposite fittings, as well as by judges in their 
robes, princes in their ermines of state, and ladies with 
trains seventeen yards long. Poor Peggy's train scarcely 
reached to the middle of her leg. It is probable that 
the Highland fling is not descended from the Pavan : that 
train is a sad obstacle to this descent. Peggy would 
have been puzzled to have erected her little coatie into 
the form of a peacock's tail. Whence is it ; I have hunted 
Monsieur Noverre and Monsieur Feuillet in vain ; be- 
sides Justus Lipsius, Saxo Grammaticus, and Ossian. It 
does not come from the Bolero, nor from the Barginet of 
Antimachus, nor from the Sacred dance of the Egyptian 
priests, nor from the Tripudium, nor the Pastoritium, nor 
the Twiggon, nor the Rounde, nor the Cotillion, nor the 
Waltz, nor the Galliard, nor the Minuet, nor the Horn- 

60, RUM. 

pipe of Cornouaille, for which you may consult Chauce r 
nor from the Corauto, nor the Jig, nor the Fandango, 
northe Allemand, nor the Moresco, (which some choose 
to call Morrice,) nor the Polonoise, nor the Saraband. 
In short, it is the Highland fling. 

For all purposes of philosophy, the expedition to 
Rum ended as many others had done before. I had 
ballasted the boat with as much bloodstone as would 
have furnished all the shops in London. But still it blew 
hard, the boat would not scud, and I was obliged to 
throw the ballast overboard. Gold and silver have gone 
the same road too often, to justify any especial lamenta- 
tion over half a ton of jasper. There was a blockhead on 
board who thought fit to cry, because, as he said, he had 
a wife and children, and did not choose to risk his life 
for a " wheen chucky-stanes." A man would get very 
few chucky stanes, or see very little of this country either, 
if he were to put his life into the balance every hour, as 
my uxorious friend seemed to do. We may care over- 
much, even for that indispensable ingredient in the hu- 
man body. 

There is a great deal of stormy magnificence about 
the lofty cliffs, as there is generally all round the shores 
of Rum ; and they are, in most places, as abrupt as they 
are inaccessible from sea. The interior is one heap of 
rude mountains, scarcely possessing an acre of level land. 
It is the wildest and most repulsive of all the islands. 
The outlines of Halival and Haskeval are indeed elegant, 
and render the island a beautiful and striking object 
from the sea. In some places, extensive surfaces of bare 
rock are divided into polygonal compartments, so as to 
resemble the grand natural pavements of Staft'a, but with 
an efl'ect infinitely more striking. Loch Scresort is with- 
out features or character ; the acclivities ascending gently 
from a flat and straight shore. If it is not always bad wea- 



ther in Ruin, it cannot be good very often ; since, on 
seven or eight occasions that I have passed it, there has 
been a storm, and on seven or eight more in which 1 have 
landed, it was never without the expectation of being 
turned into a cold fish. ♦' The bitter breathing winds 
with boist'rous blasts" seem to have set up their throne 
here, as at Loch Scavig: and the rains too. Like that 
place, it possesses a private winter of its own, even in 
what is here called summer. Into the bargain, it enjoys 
a most " inamabilis unda," where you may be swamped 
or upset in any weather. 

The cause of this stormy and rainy atmosphere is evi- 
dent, as it is at St. Kilda, and at the Cape of Good Hope 
in a Southwester: and we may here, at any time, witness 
the whole process of brewing a storm, together with the 
formation of what are called, by meteorologists, parasitic 
clouds. Nothing appears more myterious than to see a 
cloud thus stationary on a mountain, as if there was a 
dead calm, when it is blowing a gale : but the fact, in 
this case, is, that the cloud is formed and re-dissolved 
at every instant; the vapour being precipitated from the 
arriving current by the mountain, and re-dissolved in the 
departing one. When this last process does not take 
place, a cloudy atmosphere collects ; and the event may 
be rain, as well as squalls of wind ; while these may be 
quite local, as happens perpetually in this island, and in 
numerous other independent places. In such a case as 
this, a storm of this nature is generally limited to the 
island alone ; because the power of precipitation is li- 
mited. When connected with a tract of land, the power 
over the atmosphere, exerted by such a group of moun- 
tains, may be continued in succession, and thus become 
sufficient to deluge a whole country : and thus it is, that 
these act on the west coast of Scotland, in producing its 
rainy climate. 

62 KIIM. 

It was on one of those occasioii;=, wlien I rould not 
keep the sea, and knew nothing- about the land, that I 
met a young man in the usual shepherd's dress, and ac- 
companied him to his house, to remain as long- as it should 
please the elements of Rum. When shall I go into such 
a house in England, find such manners and such conver- 
sation under such plaids, and see such smoky shelves, 
covered, not only with the books of the ancients, but of the 
moderns ; books too not lying uncut, but well thumbed 
and well talked of. But I had met with such things 
too often to be surprised. It was the same in former 
days; it surprised Johnson, and naturally enough ; for it 
is a combination that is not found in England. But his 
surprise was that of his countrymen at large; it is the error 
of opulent and extravagant, of purse-proud England; 
that measures a man by his house and his coat, instead of 
his mind, and then is surprised that education, with re- 
fined manners, and with refined sentiments too, is found 
in a hut, and under a coarse jacket. The truth is, that 
the Highland farmer of this class, now, I believe, be- 
coming scarce, is a gentleman in disguise: the English 
one is too often a plebeian in disguise; an interior as 
rude as his own lands and his own hinds, being concealed 
under all the external and misplaced fittings of a gentle- 
man. But as Seneca remarks, " unaquaque res duas 
habet ansas." The English wit retorts, and says that a 
Scottish gentleman is poor ; he is a " beggarly scho- 
lar." It is like his own countryman, who, in boasting 
of the cheapness of eggs, forgets that it proved the 
scarcity of money. Whether a Scottish gentleman is 
poor, or a poor Scot learned, is a problem in the differ- 
ential calculus which I do not pretend to solve. Those 
who are of the one opinion may dine at the " mensa 
Persica," or on roast beef and plumpudding; those who 
are of the contrary, may join Mr. Maclean and me, in a 
salt herrinff, or in the " cereales caense" of milk and 



To collect tales of the Second Sight, would be to re- 
peat what has often been told, to transcribe what is better 
read in the voluminous collection of Theophilus Insu- 
lanus, or, the Reverend Donald Macleod ; as strenuous a be- 
liever as he seems to have been a worthy, if a weak, man. 
Many more might indeed be added to his: but the dull 
sameness of the whole is such, that a mere specimen of 
some of the varieties is as much as anyone can endure. Yet 
it is a subject that is far from deserving neglect. Many 
things which have no value in themselves, become im- 
portant when connected with past times. It is indifferent 
whether they consist in truth or error; if they have ever 
influenced human conduct, and modified the nature of 
human society. The follies of our ancestors were not 
always such ; in those, they found their wisdom : it is 
credulity now ; it was philosophy then. The weakness 
of 31an is no less worth our study than his strength ; it is 
often the largest portion of his history. We must not 
despise, because we can refute ; but should remember, 
that what, to us, does not require an opposing argument, 
could not, when it was philosophy, find one. Every age 
has had its philosophy and its creeds : from Hindostan to 
Rome, and from Scandinavia to Sky. Accius Nevius cut 
a stone in two, with a razor; Emilia drew water from the 
Tiber in a sieve; her sister vestal lighted the extinct fire 
with the tail of her linen ; Numa received his laws from 
Egeria; and Prince Hohenloe, borrowing from the 
(papfAayicc (Turrifia,,^ curcs the tooth-acho, a thousand miles 
point blank. Rome needs not quarrel with Sky on 
these subjects; nor Paris nor London neither. He who 
believes in Perkinism, or Bletonism, or Mesmerism, must 


not smile at Theophilus and Gormala Mac LeIIan. 
There is less excuse also. A certain quantity of belief 
is a want of the human mind. Perhaps there is an Organ 
of Credulity, or Credulitiveness, which requires food. 
But, in our days, we have so many— things — to believe, 
that we are the less excusable in believing — nothings. 
This want of solid food was equally the excuse of the 
Platonists and the Aristotelians of the early and the mid- 
dle ages : it was the excuse of the whole Haberdashery : 
of the Grammarians, and the Metaphysicians, and the 
Etymologists, and the Cabiri, and the Alchemists, and 
the Physiognomists. Their pursuits were but ghosts, 
ti^uXa, simulacra, imagines, umbree, of another brood: 
visions and dreams : nothings. The " Celarent, Darii, 
Ferapton," the " alii legunt sics," the " cohobation of 
the white dragon with Sol," and all the rest, sprung in 
the same weedy and unapplied dunghill whence arose 
the equally rank spawn of Gaap, Focalor, Beleth, 
Gorson, Amaymon, Furcas, Barbatos, Agares, and Morax. 
" Multa renovantur quee jam cecidere;" the forms 
changed, the matter the same. To trace their causes, 
their connexions, their variations, their rise, and their 
decline, would be interesting to more than a psycholo- 
gist, and would require, — what I do not mean to write 

The Second Sight, and all the other superstitions of 
our own ancestors, are as deserving of our regard as the 
equally egregious ones of classic antiquity. Odin, and 
Tuisco, and Thor, and Seater, are fully as proper per- 
sonages as "Mars, Bacchus, Apollo, virorum;" Friga 
and Hela were respectable dames : nor can Northern my- 
thology produce such a termagant as Juno. Between 
Hercules and Fingal, the difference is not enormous : he 
who does not prefer the Vikingr to the Argonauts, an 
ancient Highlander to a Spartan, or the government of 
Olave and Donald to the abominations of Lycurgus, has 
not been long enough at school ; nor was there ever a 
Dugald of them all, that might not have rivalled Cacus 

SEfONl) SIGHT. 65 

at bis own trade, nor a more classical set of thieves to be 
found in the Greek novelists, than were the Kennedies, 
the Barrisdales, and the Mac Gregors. But we are taken 
possession of by the follies and knaveries of classic anti- 
quity, before we know whether we had any of our own ; 
and weight of birch turns the scale against the equal or 
superior claims of our not less magnanimous ancestors. 
Doubtless, John Macleod and Christian Mac Kinnon 
knew as much of futurity, and saw as deeply into a mill- 
stone, as Apollonius, Tiresias, and the old Sybil : and I 
know not why a cross-legged Sky tailor, muddled with 
whisky and tobacco, should not have told as many truths, 
as the Pythian under the influence of carbonic acid gas 
or wind beneath. 

It has been said that the Second Sight was peculiar 
to the Highlands : the term maybe so ; but certainly the 
property was not. It was a prophecy from visions : a re- 
velation to the sight of the Seer : and the very term is 
proof to the contrary; used, as it has ever been, as equi- 
valent to that of Prophet. If this mode of prophecy did 
prevail here in an unusual degree, that may, perhaps, be 
accounted for by its having accidentally attracted more 
notice than elsewhere. The fashion of superstitions is 
like all fashions; and chance may have made this the 
fashionable one here, as others have prevailed in other 
countries. One ghost, one witch, never has appeared 
without producing more; and whenever false prophets 
have declared themselves, they have come, not "in single 
files, but in battalions." In folly and fraud, as in murder, 
" there is propagation too." It has been the same for 
the record of this superstition. Accidents, well known, 
brought, as in a moment, before the reasonable and civi- 
lized public, a nation as strange and incredible as if it 
had dropped from the clouds. The eighth century was 
suddenly let loose in the middle of the eighteenth, under 
our very noses ; as if the " Fingalian dynasty" had been 
raised at once out of a grave of ten centuries, and mar- 
shalled full before us, like the armies of Alexander and 



Ceesar at Maklonado, ready tartaiied, dirked, and plumed, 
for action. With a living and breathing- romance at our 
own doors, it became matter of course to seek for, and to 
record, every scene, and recollection, and point of cha- 
racter. How that has been done, needs not be said; nor 
how much and how often, fiction has been added to truth ; 
how frequently plain things have been distorted and ex- 
aggerated, nor how perseveringly the stale and dull ro- 
mances of dull observers, dull writers, and duller copyists, 
have been intruded on us in place of the far more inter- 
esting realities. 

Thus we may plausibly account for the apparent preva- 
lence of the Second Sight in the Highlands: fashionable 
when existing*, and peculiarly called into notice when it 
had ceased. This opinion is confirmed by the case of the 
Isle of Mann. The same Celts originally, the same Nor- 
wegian mixture afterwards, with the same language, opi- 
nions, usages, and governnjent, the same superstitions 
prevailed in this island as in the Highlands at large, and 
this one, among the rest, to a period so late as the com- 
mencement of the last century. But the fate of Mann was 
far diflferent from that of the Highlands. Though long- 
preserving the independence of a feudal kingdom, it be- 
came a portion of England, at a very distant date; and 
sailing gradually down with the current of English im- 
provement, its peculiarities insensibly disappeared and 
were forgotten. When leisure and fashion incited anti- 
quaries and moralists to examine it, the rough waves of 
the mountain torrent had subsided, and the former foam 
and sparkle of its waters were found gliding a tranquil 
and transparent stream. 

When comparing the visions of the Highland Seers 
with others which history and tradition record, one of 
their most striking features is the accuracy of detail with 
which they exhibit the impending events. Yet antiquity 
furnishes one noted example, precisely of the same cha- 
racter. This is the vision of the battle of Pharsalia, which 
those who have written so much on this subject have 


overlooked. The story is told l>y Aulus Gellius in his 
Noctes Atticae, simply and briefly, but with great minute- 
ness ; as it is by Liicati, though without the same details. 
Whence the original authority came, we can never know ; 
nor is it easy to discover whether this was a common oc- 
currence and a popular belief. Yet I am inclined to 
think that the Second Sight, almost in the Highland ac- 
ceptation of the term, was a prevailing superstition of 
the classic times; as it is frequently noticed that, in the 
Greek and Roman theatres, the people were avi^are of 
distant victories at the very moment of the events. The 
passage in Lucan is so short, that I may venture to quote 
it; for that in Aulus Gellius, I must refer to the original : 

Euganeo, si vera fides memorantibus. Augur 
Colle sedens^ Aponus terris ubi fumifer exit, 
Atque Antenorei dispergitur unda Timavi 
Venit summa dies, geritur res maxima dixit, 
Impia concurrunt Pompeii et Csesaris arma. 

It may appear a violent antiquarian refinement, to 
imagine that tiiis person, who was a priest called Cor- 
nelius, of high rank and character, had been of the 
breed of the original Celts who inhabited those parts of 
Italy, that it was therefore a Celtic superstition, and that 
thus the Highland Gael had a peculiar claim on it. 
This notion may not, however, be so very absurd as it 
seems, at first sight. The Etrurians, who were a Celtic 
people, and whose gloomy superstitions savoured much 
of the character attributed to the Druidical ones, were 
notedly given to divination. 

But I must further remark, that instances of what may 
fairly be called Second Sight, since they were predictions 
formed on the mental or imaginary view of passing events, 
are by no means so rare, even in modern times, as the 
Highlanders, claiming this property as a peculiar gift of 
their own, have thought fit to imagine. Philip de Comines 
relates, that the Archbishop of Vienna said, on a certain 
F 2 

66 *;i:<ONi) SIGHT. 

occasion, to Lewis, after mass, " Sir, your mortal enemy 
is dead." It was Charles, Duke of Burgundy, who, 
almost while he was speaking, was slain at the battle of 
Granson. In a similar manner, as Pius Quintus was sit- 
ting- in Consistory, he suddenly broke off, and desired to 
give thanks on account of the battle of Lepanto, which 
had been fought and gained at that very instant. I might 
very easily extend this list; but I am not now collecting 
tales to add to the heap. I may only further remark, that a 
well-known instance of Second Sight is also ascribed to 
the much-talked-of Prince Lee Boo. I presume that St. 
Columba must have been indebted to the Highland air 
and influence of lona, for that proportion of this talent 
which Adamnan has ascribed to him. 

Though Theophilus is the chief repository for ex- 
amples, Martin has given us the only document in the 
nature of a code of laws on this subject. Yet, on some 
points, he contradicts himself; while he is also contra- 
dicted by Mr. Aubrey's correspondent, as well as by other 
authorities. It is impossible to reconcile these jarring 
evidences: but it is natural to imagine, that, on a subject 
partaking so much of fiction, every one was not agreed. 
I must put them together in the best form that I can, 
from the different sources of information. 

The term Taisch, applied to the Second Sight, means, 
simply, a vision ; and the Gaelic derivative term ap- 
plied to the prophet, is the Seer of visions. Those Seers 
dealt in evil omens or death, principally ; partly, perhaps, 
because the anticipation of evil is more prevalent than 
that of good, and partly because misfortunes and death, 
as the most impressive events, are the best remembered. 
But their prophecies were not thus limited; as events, 
pleasing or indifferent, or even trifling, such as marriages, 
births, the visits of friends, and many other ordinary 
occurrences, were within the scope of their powers. The 
exertion of this faculty was not subservient to the pro- 
phet's will, but the impressions were always made unex- 
pectedly ; and, being frequently painful, against his in- 

sr.( oAU ^u;nr. 69 

clination also. The trance was obvious to the bystanders, 
by its effects on the inspired patient : causing him to 
stare and produce other grimaces, such as all Seers have 
indulged in, from the time of the Delphic oracle down- 
wards. Though many prophets should be assembled 
together, they did not all see the same vision; unless the 
chosen Seer should touch his neighbours, when it was 
communicated to them like an electric shock. Although 
this art was not limited to men, the number of male pro- 
fessors seems to have exceeded that of the female. Even 
children were not excluded ; and one of the narrators 
asserts that it was necessarily inherited by them from 
their prophetic parents; though Martin is of a different 
opinion. This misfortune, (for by some it was so con- 
sidered,) could be prevented only by baptizing the child 
while the head alone was yet in the world. Martin says 
that horses and cows also saw these visions ; as was proved 
by their starting, snorting, and bellowing. This has been 
said of horses, in the case of ordinary ghosts: and for- 
tunately, no one can contradict those four-legged pro- 
phets. Martin also asserts that this property could not 
be taught or communicated ; that it was necessarily in- 
herent: but Mr. Aubrey's correspondent says that one 
John Mac Gregor offered to teach it to any person in 
three days, and that, in Sky, any one might be taught for 
a pound of tobacco. It was not therefore a very valuable 
commodity. It appears that, like most other prophets, 
the Highland Seers could discover the fate of others 
better than their own; as the same person remarks, that 
this very John Mac Gregor did not foresee that he was to 
be hanged for stealing. Thus any vicious character might 
possess the gift of prophecy ; and, in general, it appears 
to have been most common among the uneducated and 
vulgar. But, in the records, there also appear gentle- 
men, and even ministers, gifted with the art. Whether it 
was the work of good or evil spirits, opinion seems to 
have been divided. Those who argue like Glanvil and 
many others, attribute it, of course, to the former. 


But there is a philosophical theory on this subject, 
which explains many difficulties, and which gives a con- 
sistency to the whole; connecting it also with a set of 
opinions that has had a wide and long prevalence. Nei- 
ther Martin nor Theophilus had wit enough to discover 
it : and as to Aubrey, he was an antiquary. Every 
Highlander is born with an attached or rather a detached 
ghost, which accompanies him from the cradle to the 
grave. This is the very Genius of Brutus ; though the 
Highlander did not possess a good and an evil attendant, 
an Ebene and a Topaze. The Genius, or ghost of our 
mountaineer, resembles, in every circumstance, even of 
dress, his principal : infantile at birth, and thus following- 
him through life; undistinguishable from the reality, by 
those who possess the faculty of seeing the inhabitants 
of the invisible world ; and changing" his aspect, and 
even his dress, in an instant, and in exact conformity to 
the changes or caprices of the true man. 

The ghost, or Genius, however, thus attached to its 
principal, is not rigidly bound in its attendance; but may 
be separated, both by time and distance: being in one 
place, prospectively, while the reality is yet in another, 
and performing those acts, in one hour, or on one day, 
which the owner and principal is to execute at a more 
distant period. Thus these ghosts possess a species of 
confused attachment to their principals, and a self identity, 
united; in consequence of which, the world of the High- 
landers is filled with a double population; an aerial or 
invisible army of Rosicrucian spirits, which becomes 
visible to those who are endowed with the peculiar 
faculty in question; and who thus, in the actions and con- 
duct of these Genii, learn to see those coming events 
which thus " cast their shadows before." The Taisch of 
an individual, is thus, equally, his own Genius : which, in 
certain cases, becomes, in this manner, visible, even to 
him who did not possess the general faculty of seeing 
the whole army of spirits. He is here the attendant 
Genius, more accurately : his office, on such an occasion, 


being that of a prophet, as, on others, he is conceived to 
take charge, for good and evil, of his principal. It is he 
also, and not the internal spirit, or ghost, of the individual, 
who, at the moment of his death, carries the news to 
distant friends. 

Whencever they have derived their theory, it must 
be well known to those who have dabbled in the depths 
of demonology, that it is not their own. The Manes of 
the ancients seem, sometimes, to have been souls se- 
parated from the bodies, and, at others, a sort of tutelary 
Genii, lesemblingthe Highland Taisch, M'hich attends its 
living patron and likeness. The Greeks and Romans 
held that there was a " tertium quid," independent of 
the body and the soul both, belonging to every individual. 
This was the ErSwXov, simulacrum, or imago; an "umbra 
tenuis," the very likeness of the body, and that spirit 
which the necromancers had the power of summoning. 
This also was the spirit, or thing, which was sent to the 
Elysian fields to receive the rewards due to the prin- 
cipal. So that the Greek, if he were a favoured per- 
sonage at least, might enjoy a double existence after 
death ; because Hercules is feasting aloft with the gods, 
when Ulysses addresses his ers&Xov in the Elysian fields. 
Thus also, according to Lucian, while the spirit of Philip 
of Macedon is in heaven, his soul is below, in hell, mend- 
ing old shoes. What became of the second soul of the 
mob, high and low, we are not informed. Poor Delrio 
is sadly confused on this subject; as well as the High- 
landers. Campanella gets over the difficulty by means 
of words; the usual substitute for ideas. Man, says 
Campanella, consists of a body, a soul, and a spirit; and 
thus the matter is solved. The theory of the Onion is 
too vulgar to be quoted in so profound a treatise on High- 
land Psychology; since it is to be found in the Spectator. 

In the correct instances of Second Sight, the vision 
seen during the fit, is au accurate picture of the im- 
pending event, a minute detail of things and persons. 
Thus, if a funeral is seen, there are the coffin, the bearers, 

72 SKCOND siGjrr. 

individually, and the procession itself. Thus also a bridal 
ceremony, or a fire, or the arrival of ships, or even an 
impending- dinner, is displayed. Known individuals were 
described by their persons; unknown ones, by their 
dresses or other peculiarities. In other cases, there were 
conventional marks or appearances, whence the conclu- 
sions were drawn. Thus, a shroud or a winding- sheet 
enveloping a person, was a certain omen of his death ; 
and that was the nearer, in proportion to the quantity of 
the body covered. If it reached to the face, the fulfil- 
ment was to take place in a few hours. The sound of 
hammering a coffin, and the restlessness of deal boards, 
were omens of death, generally, to some one ; and some- 
times the fated individual was seen actually stretched out 
on his bier, or on the " dead deal." If a seat should 
appear empty when a person was actually sitting on it, 
that also was an omen of his death ; as it was, if any one 
should appear dwindled to an unusual size. The vision 
of a person's own duplicate, or ejSaXov, is also enumerated, 
but not very correctly, among those of the Second Sight. 
In such cases, the Astral Spirit was extremely tenacious 
of the resemblance. A man turns his coat inside out, or 
puts a whisp of straw round his leg, and the inveterate 
double does the same. If the Seer himself was to be 
the cause of the fated individual's death, he saw all the 
circumstances except his own person. A spark of fire 
falling on the arms or breast of a woman, was the omen 
of a dead child. Certain sounds were also omens of 
death. The voice of the Taisch, or Benshee, is familiar 
to every reader; and the jingling of armour was among 
the prognostics. The " sound of death on the harp" is 
found in the Ossianic poetry. Of other conventional 
signs, I shall only further say, that to see a woman stand- 
ing on a man's right hand, was a denunciation of mar- 
riage ; and that if there were more than one, he was con- 
demned to marry them in succession. 

The distance of time at which the predictions were to 
be accomplished, is an important particular. Martin says 


that events foreseen in the morning-, were to be fultiUeil 
in a few hours; those seen in the evening-, at night. But 
Martin is bad, even at his own dull trade ; for the col- 
lected narratives tell a far other story. In one or two 
instances, the event has taken place before the prediction ; 
in some, they are simultaneous, though distant ; while 
the vision sometimes occurred, as long as two years before 
the accomplishment. Those offered a convenient latitude 
to the Soothsayers. 

It is asserted, whether we are to believe it or not, that 
the prophets cared little about the result or success of their 
visions ; waiting patiently for their accomplishment, 
before noticing their anticipatory knowledge; a proceed- 
ing, which, it is argued, shows that they had no design 
to impose, or to acquire reputation. This argument, un- 
luckily, cuts a good deal deeper the other way; as it 
required little, either of impudence or discernment, to 
predict the event which had already happened. And as 
those idle people spent a pretty large portion of their time 
in dreaming, it is not very difficult to understand how 
some, even of the dreams which had previously been pro- 
mulgated, should have been accomplished. He also who 
prognosticates death, has to do with a personage who will 
assuredly not disappoint him. It is in vain to say that 
those people esteemed this property as an evil which they 
would gladly get rid of; and that they considered it as a 
virtue, conferring no merit nor distinction. The one as- 
sertion contradicts the other ; besides which, it is most 
apparent, from the narratives, that it was really con- 
sidered a distinction and a privilege. It also gave im- 
postors an opportunity of gaining some advantage, by 
terrifying the public mind. We may say of them as Po- 
litian says of Priests, " Histriones sunt maximi, pavidam- 
que plebem terrent minaciis." It would be a new case 
in morals, where distinction and superiority were not 
turned to purposes of profit by an artful man. If there 
was any imaginary inconvenience to the possessor, in 
thus living in an atmosphere of Spirits, it was, doubtless, 


well repaid by the honour: and the world has never yet 
seen a mark of distinction so slender or absurd, but 
that it could always command claimants ; were it even of 
far less value than the three coloured threads of Lilliput, 
the shape of a coat, or the fashion of a curricle. To cut 
short this subject, I shall only further remark, that a kind 
of Second, or rather anticipatory Smell, also existed; 
broiling fish or flesh being thus predicted, long before 
the salmon was caught or the sheep killed. 

I must be brief with my examples ; of which I have 
condensed enough, as I hope, for illustration. Here is 
one specimen, which may serve for a hundred of the same 
tribe. Christian M'Kinnon saw her master laid on a bed, 
close to the fire side, with a winding sheet about him, and 
apiece of linen tied round his head. In three weeks he 
died, and was thus removed to the fire. John Macleod 
saw the minister of Durinish, in Sky, dwindle away to the 
size of a boy of six or seven years of age, and then reco- 
ver his natural size; soon after which, he sickened and 
died. But I need not go on with this common species. 
It is more important to see how credulity defeats its own 
objects, and how those reporters contradict themselves. 

A Mr. Keith drops down of an apoplexy from his 
chair, and then the iunkeeper avers that he saw that event 
three hours before. This is recorded as an unexception- 
ablesp ecimen ; andsuch,'doutless, are nine tenbthsof the 
whole number. On those terms, it requires no ghost to 
teach the art. In the same manner, a Knoydart man 
falls overboard and is drowned, at Oransa. They drag him 
up by a fishing line; and then the owner of the line swears 
that he heard him, nightly, for a quarter of a year before, 
making lamentable cries, and that those very hooks used 
to jingle on their lines at night, untouched. Those who 
believed in such prophecies, must have been ready to 
believe any thing. Whether the credulity balanced or 
exceeded the imposture, in many instances, it would be 
hard to say. 

It is asserted, that only one of a company used to see 


a vision; and this stands, one among the laws. Yet 
Angus Campbell sees a fleet of ships anchor in Ensay, 
where never vessel came before, and the same sight is 
seen by his children and domestics. In the mean time, 
the vessels disappear ; but, in two years, a fleet anchors 
ao-ain in the same place. If, in this common and natural 
occurrence, moreover, the first fleet is the ghost of the 
second, it is plain, that scarcely an event could ever occur, 
which might not, with a sufficient latitude, have been 
thus construed. If " John Thomson, a weaver in Paisley," 
had a call to make a coffin twenty-four hours before it 
was required, the accomplishment is not more marvellous 
than the dream. 

Some of the predictions are of events so silly, that the 
Devil, if the suggestions proceed from him, must be 
sadly in want of employment. A certain Donald Beaton 
receives a present of " the loin of a deer," which he wishes 
in the hands of his mother in law, who was a prophetess. 
At the same instant, she sees him enter the house with 
the meat. Thus also, Gormala Maclellan is washing 
potatoes, and wishes that one of them was in the throat 
of a woman six miles off", with whom she had a quarrel. 
The denounced person is, at the same time, sensible of 
the evil wish, and comes early on the next morning to 
complain of it. 

The Dsemon of the Second Sight must indeed be as fool- 
ish a personage as the Devils of Hagiology and Witch- 
craft ; who not only do all manner of absurd and trifling 
things Avith great cost of labour, but are " bamboozled" 
and cheated at every turn, by the Witches and the 
Saints. The Mason Devil, who builds bridges on con- 
tract, is defrauded out of his fee by sending a dog over 
to open the way. Nostradamus tricks him out of soul 
and body both, by causing himself to be buried in a hole 
in the church wall ; and Mrs. I forget her name, with 
not less ingenuity and more wit, outgenerals him on a 
common point of natural philosophy in the matter of elas- 
ticity. Thus alike for his " niaiserie." Virgilius cheats 

76 Si:CONl) SIGHT. 

him, by coaxing him to return into the hole whence he 
bad just relieved him; as the Genie is enticed into the 
copper kettle. He is twenty years occupied in the des- 
perate office of blowing out St. Gudula's candle; and so 
on : but you must turn to the Golden Legend for more 
of this than I choose to enumerate. 

Among other matters incorrectly enumerated under 
the Second Sight, are dreams fulfilled, and the ghost 
who appears to another person at the moment of its 
owner's death. These are superstitions of the whole 
world ; and the latter belongs properly to another de- 
partment of daemonology, which I have noticed else- 
where. But Lavater's explanation of this piece of phi- 
losophy is worth giving. It is fortunate for philosophy 
that such a mode of solution has been invented, in all 
the sciences. " Words, my Lord, words." The imagina- 
tion of a dying man, says this gentleman, " concentrated 
in the focus of a warm affection," may act on the visual 
organs of another at a distance, so as to produce his ap- 
parition after death. I hope you understand it clearly. 
As examples of these, Maclean of Knock, being in Coll, 
meets a sick neighbour walking, and, on the next day, 
he finds that he had died at the same hour. John 
Macleod, in Sky, dreams that a person came to him to 
announce the death of George the second ; and on the 
same day, the post brought him the news. Of such 
revelations, there never M'ere wanting believers every 
where, and never will. I need not have noticed them, 
had they not been collected by the Wierus of Sky; a 
hopeless Philomath, who confounded together all genera 
and species, spectrology, dsemonology, oneiromancy, 
and vulgar soothsaying; and who, if he had ventured 
his head among this rabble rout, would have had it 
plucked off by some angry ghost for his blunders, or 
have been locked up by an enraged Daemon in the 
caverns of Caucasus or Dom Daniel. 

The same neglect of making proper distinctions, of an 
art which comprises all human as well as extra-human 


knowledg-e, has confounded under the Second Sight, Pits- 
cottie's famous tales. Let every devil enjoy his own. 
The Heralds who mustered at the market cross, summon- 
ino- all ranks to attend the king at cockcrowing to Flod- 
den, (where an unlucky ancestor of mine, by the bye, was 
killed for personating the king,) must have belonged to 
the Valkyrs, the demons of slaughter, whose business it 
was to summon the heroes to the feast of Odin. As to 
the old man with a bald forehead, with red hair hanging 
down to his shoulders, and a long russet coat with a lineu 
girdle, as he gave very good advice, he must have been 
a very honest ghost, though somewhat ungallant. It is 
not unlikely Umt Sir David knew more about him than 
he chose to tell. 

But enough of the philosophy and the facts both. 
The belief appears once to have been universal; but when 
it began to wane, no one knows. If every one believed 
what Martin and Macleod did, it should have been in full 
vigour, at the beginning of the last century. But these 
philosophers are neither patterns nor samples of the 
Highlanders of their day ; and the belief was unques- 
tionably tottering, when it was necessary to write an 
angry book to prove it well founded. A man who be- 
lieved as Martin did on all subjects, could not possibly 
think arguments necessary. But Theophilus, as the 
name imports, adopts Lord Peter's plan ; just as Glanvil, 
and hundreds more, had done before him, and as Wesley 
did in our own day. Sadducism is the enemy to be com- 
bated ; and the infidel whom Glanvil would knock down 
with the broomstick if a witch, is to be frightened into 
better manners, in the Highlands, by his own Taisch ; as, 
under John Wesley's command, he is to be bullied by 
the clattering and stamping Cobold, Jeffery, or sent, with 
old Booty, headlong down the chimney of Strombolo. 

This argument must be allowed its own weight. 
Poor Macleod is wondrous dull ; but he views the down- 
fall of religion only, in that of the Second Sight. His 
prototype, notwithstanding the slashing wit of his title, 


" a Whip for the Droll, fidler to the Atheist," is fully as 
fog-gy, though vastly more enraged ; but, with him, the 
downfall of Religion and Government both, are impli- 
cated in that of witchcraft. It is thus that we have 
always been threatened ; by Pope and Pagan, by Hagi- 
ologists and Demonologists, by Church and Exchequer 
alike. But, fortunately, this is an innocent modification 
of the " argumentum baculinum:" hard words break no 
bones; and, luckily, these logicians neither keep the 
keys of Hela's dark abode, nor grasp the bolts which 
they fain would hurl. 

It is an ancient argument, for this as for all parallel 
creeds, that visions of the future have been a received 
belief in all nations, and that far wiser men than we 
" sceptical drolls, ribalds, and pedling jesters" have be- 
lieved. It is very true : this is the " argumentum ad 
verecundiam;" which is well worth the former, as it 
proves every thing in the most incontrovertible manner. 
All nations have believed every thing; so must we: the 
Seven wise men of Greece, men far wiser than we are, 
believed that the Sun went round the earth, and that the 
moon was as large as Peloponnesus: so must we. They 
believed in Jupiter and Juno; the Chinese believe that 
the Celestial Empire is 16000 years old : the Tartars of 
Thibet believe that the Lama is immortal, the Catholics 
that the Pope is infallible: so must we. The Gael be- 
lieve that their language Avas that of Paradise, the French 
that they are the politest, wisest, cleverest, most uncon- 
quered, and most cooking nation in the world ; and the 
Calmucks believe that all their cookery is not equal to a 
horse steak stewed between the rump and the saddle. 
This aro-ument proves somewhat overmuch; so we may 
even dismiss it ; only wondering that reasonable men, in 
reasonable times, should have ever considered popular 
belief of any kind, as a ground of assent or conviction. 

An argument has also been adduced, from the con- 
viction of the Seers themselves: from their conscientious 
belief in the reality of their own visions. This is easily 


explained. It is often very difficult to distinguish be- 
tween the dreams of sleeping and waking. The period of 
real dreaming, is the brief interval that takes place 
between these two conditions: it may even be protracted 
for a considerable time, by the alternation or vacillation 
of a state which verges on wakefulness without reaching 
it, with one that equally verges on sleep. In such a 
case, the dream may easily be supposed a waking vision : 
the intermediate state, which should terminate in sleep, 
taking the opposite course, and the patient, or dreamer, 
remaining unconscious that he had been in the land of 
shadows. This is the real Genius which appeared to 
Brutus, and it is tlie vision of Colonel Gardiner. There 
is no meastire of time here, but the metaphysical one; 
the succession of ideas. How many of these may be 
crowded into a moment, every metaphysician knows ; 
and thus hours may appear to have been spent in the 
shortest instant of waking. This is the true theory of 
dreams : it is folly to imagine that they occur in sleep. 
Thought is then truly dead, and ideas are neither formed 
nor suggested. The longest dream may be the occupa- 
tion of a second of time, and that second is an imperfect 
wakefulness: the vision here, is an intrusion of associated 
ideas, which the exertion of thought, or attention, can 
neither check nor arrange, because the faculty is not 
perfectly recovered. If the person wakes, the dream is 
remembered; if he sleeps again, it is forgotten. If 
unconscious that he has slept, and if he is a believer 
in the existence of visions, he believes that he has seen 
one. The Arabic author, whose patient dips his head 
into a tub of water, and, in that brief instant, passes 
twenty years in a foreign land, understood this subject 
well ; and had our metaphysicians attended to this 
tale, we should have been spared much of the nonsense 
which has been written on dreaming by men whom 1 
do not choose, for their own sakes, to name, whether 
moralists, theologians, or metaphysicians. Opium, no 
one need be told, produces a similar state : this is the 


vacillation between sleep and watchfulness ; and hence, 
the poppy should have been the attribute of Morpheus 
instead of Somnus. It is also caused by disease: in fever, 
it is one species of delirium ; in hypochondriacal disorders, 
it is any thing; and it may be the Second Sight. Thus 
also, want of occupation, and its consequent listless doz- 
ing state, produce similar effects. It is only for a con- 
viction of the possibility, or the existence, of Second 
Sight to be superadded, and the business is done. 

This was exactly the condition of the Highlanders: 
unoccupied, subject to hypochondriacal disorders, doz- 
ing away their time in tending their cattle, nationally and 
habitually superstitious, and believing that which it was 
the fashion to believe. Let us add to this, that they were 
generally ill fed; often on the verge of starving: and 
how this condition leads to generate visions, the Hagi- 
ology will teach us. It was the severe fastings of the 
St. Anthonys, and the St. Simon Stylites, and the thou- 
sand others of this holy crew, which produced all of which 
we have read ; devils more than all hell could hold ; and, 
most unquestionably, the legends are, in this sense, full 
of truths; they are not fictions, as has been unjustly 
said. They saw, in the mind, what they believed, in 
consequence, to be in the air, in the cell, and in the 
desert : they told what they thought true, and the High- 
land Seers often did the same. The images were recol- 
lections ; ideas falsely embodied. The Second Sight and 
the Legends rank together metaphysically: the truth is 
similar for both; the fashion different, the essence the 

Let us remember also, that such a fashion, such a 
creed, tends to assimilate every thing to itself, like other 
theories. Strong impressions on the imagination, even 
in periods of absolute wakefulness, occur to all : there are 
few who have not experienced them. These were always 
ready to be pressed into the same service. If cases so 
extraordinary as the very remarkable one of Nicolai, are 
rare, we yet know that similar ones exist: often carefully 


roncealed, from the patients' fear of being- suspected of 
insanity or hallucination. But I will not carry this fur- 
ther ; it is matter for a book ; and is in danger of becom- 
ing- graver than the subject demands. 

Yet a word more is necessary on credulity: not on 
that of the audience, but of the Seers themselves. Every 
one knows that, during- the reign of witchcraft, those 
wretched j)eopIe often believed that they had done what 
ihey were charged with, and what was impossible. The 
instances are too numerous to require quoting ; nor were 
they produced by terror or torment. The confession of 
Agnes Sympson to King James, quoted here, may serve for 
a specimen. Such self-conviction perhaps argues a state 
of mind bordering on insanity ; yet these people were no 
more insane than the Highland Seers, and were equally 
convinced of what was impossible. The case of Peter 
Stump, in Germany, is a perfect specimen of this nature. 

This miserable wretch was supposed to be one of tlie 
sorcerers called Were Wolves, who, by means of a diabo- 
lical ointment and girdle, became wolves ; devouring- and 
destroying men, women, and children. He was executed 
in 1589, for thus murdering- sixteen persons; being- 
broken on the wheel, and tortured with red-hot pincers. 
So far was he convinced of his guilt, that he begged the 
executioner not to spare him, for the sake of his soul. 

The value of the evidence in the cases of the Second 
Sight, is a separate question : of the abundance there is 
no doubt; nor will it be denied that, in many instances, 
it ought, in common parlance, to be considered effective, 
as proceeding from men of education. It has also been 
said, to give value to it, that no fraud can be suspected, 
as no profit was ever made by this art. This artillery is 
of very little weight; unless it could also be shown that 
men of education have not given evidence, and do not 
give it every day, in affirmation of things demonstrably 
untrue or physically impossible; and unless it could be 
proved that the ten thousand analogous fictions, of which 
the world is full, had been invented or related for " the 



lucre of gain." But the ari^ument from evidence applies 
to every thing- alike : to falsehood, natural or superna- 
tural. There never was a tale, which numbers could not 
be found to aver, even on oath, before " one of his Ma- 
jesty's Justices of the Peace for the county of" Corn- 
wall ; or any other county. « Taken on oath before rae 
Robert Hunt," " quorum, aye and rotulorum too," is the 
proof of half the witchcraft of Glanvil. In the same way, 
Agnes Sympson confessed to James, the Solomon of Scot- 
land ; and who shall doubt the testimony of King Jamie 
and Agnes Sympson ; to say nothing of all Scotland into 
the bargain. And what did she confess : why that the 
Devil appointed to meet her at midnight, at the church- 
yard of North Berwick, and that there she danced the 
heys with Kate Grey, Bessie Wright, Gilbert Macgil, 
and an hundred more ; Gillies Duncan playing the trump, 
and the Devil, in a black gown and band, directing the 
ball out of the pulpit; the infernal revels terminating, 
by digging up old bones, and kissing his Satanic Ma- 
jesty's behind. And did not Agnes Tompson aver that 
she and her sisterhood sailed in their sieves into Leith 
Roads, where they left " a christened cat," and raised a 
storm, in consequence of which King Solomon's ship had 
a contrary wind ; and did not these " confessions make 
the King in a wonderful admiration." It would be ab- 
solute treason to doubt his Sacred and Royal Highness 
and Majesty's word ; more particularly, standing, as he 
does, a Royal author and a Malleus maleficarum himself; 
besides judging the cause, taking the depositions, and 
hearing Gillies Duncan play the Devil's own jigg on the 
Jew's harp. But if we even dared to doubt him who held 
in equal aversion, roasting pig, tobacco, witches, salt 
lino-, and mustard, how can we doubt a mathematician ; a 
maTi accustomed to the evidence of x and y, and who 
never gave credence to any thing that carried less weight 
than the axioms of Euclid. Yet Sinclair himself, a pro- 
fessor of curves and angles and solid spheres, m the 
University of Glasgow, saw the devil, with his own eyes, 


fly out of the mouth of Helen Stewart, in the shape of a 
squib, when she was burnt at the stake for witchcraft : 
and another, equally credible witness, backed by a whole 
county, assures us, that when the witch, whom they 
burnt, cracked in the fire, each report was as loud as a 
cannon. Sinclair's mathematics must have had a won- 
derful virtue in improving* his reasoning- faculty — in the 
ratios of angles and sines. A true mathematician may be 
trusted with moral investigations, when the soul of man 
is proved to be the Triangle which it was once supposed, 
and when the fluent of its powers is found in the flux- 

a a — X 

The argument from evidence is valid for every thing 
alike : Witchcraft and Second Sight stand on the same 
bottom : Sinclair and Macleod have but one crutch be- 
tween them; and how that support has fared, as to the 
former and all his fraternity, up to Proclus and lambli- 
chus, every one knows. It is just the same in physics. 
If oaths could aught avail, we should not yet have to dis- 
pute about Mermaids : the depositions have been taken 
down, before men as good as Dogberry, fifty times; 
comb, looking-glass, and all : the very sea nymph herself 
has been domesticated and taught to spin in Holland. 
But old Gerard beats them all ; for he vows that he saw 
barnacles turn into geese and fly awa}^ Holinshed is 
no less certain of this established fact. Refellingthe vile 
sceptics, as Macleod, or Heywood, or Remigius, or Cor- 
nelius Agrippa, or Del Rio, or even old Henry Institor 
himself might have done, the Herbalist goes on to say, 
most solemnly, " But that which we have seen shall we 
declare;" and so on. Why, it is not three weeks, since 
I could have produced a hundred people, consisting of 
Nobles of the land. Judges, Lawyers, Gentlemen of 
every pursuit except the requisite one, gamekeepers, and 
huntsmen, shepherds and shoemakers, persons cunning 
in evidence, and cunning in the foot prints of men, deer, 
dogs, and sheep, and all agreeing, and all ready to swear 
that they had seen, not only seen, but measured and 

o 2 

84 *;Er<)Ni) si out. 

exainihed repeatedly, ;ill those very inipressloiis on a 
block of granite. A catholic with his stony couch of 
St. Paul, the Arab of Sinai with that of Mahomet, and the 
Cingalese with his Adam's foot, could not have believed 
harder or sworn stronger. Nor could St. Augustine, who 
avers that he saw men in Ethiopia without heads, and 
with their eyes in their breasts ; stranger fellows than 
even the Arimaspians. St. Jerom too, who tells us that 
the vagabonds who lounge about the Gallowgate of Glas- 
gow, used to eat each other in his younger days, vows 
that there were Satyrs, men with tails and goat's legs, 
exhibited at Alexandria alive, and that one of them was 
pickled and sent in a cask to Constantine. Does not 
Nazarius appeal to the whole assembled Gallic nation, to 
his living and listening audience, for the truth of the 
Army of Angels which visibly descended, in broad day, 
from the heavens, to the relief of this very Constantine, 
this dealer in pickled satyrs; and do they not all swear 
that they saw it. Is not this evidence. The apparitions jf 
Castor and Pollux, long before, are attested by historians : 
they are attested by the evidence of brass and marble ; 
by public monuments. The endless and impossible mar- 
vels and miracles of the early Church and of Rosweyde, 
the dead restored to life, limbs replaced, what not, the 
operations of Saints, relics, and uiartyrs, are attested by 
thousands and tens of thousands. I could outweiofh all 
the testimonies of the Second Sight, by millions ; by the 
most unimpeachable testimonies in support of things 
which never happened, which never will happen, which 
could not possibly happen. Such are the blessed cer- 
tainties of evidence. But I am not going to write a trea- 
tise of evidence; nor do I wish to shake the faith of 
Theophilus or Waverley in the Second Sight. 

It is not worth while to be serious on this subject; 
and still less to prose over a matter which has already 
been beprosed to very weariness, ever since the time of 
Aristotle, and long before. The Second Sight can 
scarcely merit the iuterfprince of supernatural power, 


when conferred, as it was, for purposes, generally useless 
or frivolous. This is the argument against the drummer of 
Tedworth and the rest of the noisy tribe ; be they Pucks, 
or Bugs, or Pickles, or Bogles, or Kotri, or Cobolds, or 
what not: devils uniting mischief and folly; malignant 
without injury, and jokers without wit. Like all the 
tribe of superstitions, this gift was nearly limited to the 
ignorant among the people, and to an ignorant people 
among the nations. Had the prophecies ever answered 
a rational purpose, had they belonged to a more enlight- 
ened age and race, we might perhaps have listened to 
them more composedly, though we should not have given 
them more credence. The belief of the people them- 
selves, proves just as much as all other credulity has 
done at all times: but, really, our Highland friends 
scarcely deserve the censure of credulity, when, in our 
own day, a whole people, involving* those who are, at 
least classed, among the educated, could have waited, 
in implicit confidence, for days, weeks, and months, for 
the parturition of a septagenarian virgin, and the re- 
surrection of Joanna Southcofe. Donald and Dngald 
were mere children in belief, compared to the denizens of 

I need not quote Dr. Johnson's judgment on this sub- 
ject; nor do 1 notice it, except for the purpose af ascer- 
taining a date. At the time of his visit, the belief seems 
to have been so far expired, that no decided professor 
could be found in Sky. I need not say, that if there had 
been believers, professors would not have been wanting. 
At that time, it was asserted that the Clergy opposed the 
belief: and, as was said, against conviction. It is plain 
that they had taken a very diHerent view of its utility, 
from Theophilus Insulanus; nor is it unlikely that this 
proceeding, whether on conviction or not, had its effect. 
This is exactly, " De par le Roi, defense a Dieu, De faire 
miracles dans ce lieu." Scepticism, like belief, is conta- 
gious ; and thus fell a tottering fabric which we might 


otherwise have entertained, for some time longer, among 
our pleasures of the imagination. 

Fashion, ignorance, idleness, credulity, superstition, 
falsehood, dreaming, starvation, hypocliondriasm, impos- 
ture, will explain all. As to fashion, Livy has well re- 
marked, " Multa prodigia facta, aut, quod evenire solet, 
motis semel in religionem animis, multa nuntiata, et te- 
mere credita sunt." When once the minds of a people 
are prepared with a solution for every event, there will 
never be wanting events adapted to the solution. Those 
idle persons also, who were always on the watch for the 
spirits of the sea and air, for those " that in cross ways 
and floods have burial," were equally prepared to dream 
dreams and see waking visions, " with wonder to fear, 
The events of such things as shall never appear." That 
hypochondriasm and melancholy are diseases of this 
people, no one need be told; and how starvation leads to 
the disorders of the imagination, I have already remarked. 
That an ancient Highlander passed the half of his days 
in dreaming, with an empty belly, by the side of a dyke, 
is not new information ; since it is lamented, in some late 
popular works, that " the happy vassal cannot now sit at 
the foot of his grey rock or green tree, humming the care- 
less song." On idleness, as a cause of Second Sight, it 
was well remarked to me by an acute Highlander, " Ah, 
Sir, the people have too many cares to think of the 
Second Sight now," 

If I mistake not, it is now, not only disbelieved, but 
held a matter to be ashamed of. Even those who believed 
that such things did happen in former times, will not 
admit that they can occur at present. It is easy to give 
a thoughtless credence to what is distant, and to what 
seems supported by what is called evidence ; since few 
think of examining whether the evidence is not as false 
as the tale, or ask themselves what the evidence for that 
evidence is. Thus it was, that even the miracles of the 
Church which were not credited when they were sup- 


posed to Lave been performed, or when they were first 
related, passed into the Hagiologies and the faith of later 
times. If there are yet a few who wish that strangers 
should reverence every thing that belongs to their coun- 
try, it is plain, that they are here desirous of persuading 
them into what they do not believe themselves. When 
in Sky, I heard of one ancient Taylor who was a pro- 
fessor, but a professor without an audience: his liver 
having been hardened by sitting cross-legged, till he saw 
visions which nobody believed, and which, consequently, 
never were accomplished. Belief, here, is every thing: 
and as the Ghost frightens those only who chuse to be 
frightened, so the successful Seer prophesied to an au- 
dience " willing," like Dr. Johnson, " to believe." Half 
a dozen Johnsons would have revived the whole system. 
So may the Celtic club, whenever it pleases. The dreams 
of a professional dreamer are easily fulfilled to a dream- 
ing audience. Among infinite visions, dealing in proba- 
bilities also, some will be accomplished : and while the 
failures are forgotten, a single instance of success will 
become the fertile parent of an universal faith. Since the 
days of Jason, the seaman has believed that the weather 
must change with the moon ; ever disappointed, ever 
believing. It is enough that it has once happened. Yet 
the winds blow as they list, and the moon must go on, just 
as the Nautical Almanac directs. This was the Seer's 
luck ; but when he undertook to prognosticate, he might 
have said, like Tiresias, " O Laertiade, quicquid dicam 
aut erit aut non." 

" Sus, Belial, Satan, et Mildefaut, Torchebinet, Sau- 
cierain, Grihaut, Francipoulain, Noricot, et Grincelle, 
Asmodeus, et toute sa sequel le," the whole race of the 
supernaturals, " black spirits and white, blue spirits and 
grey," witches and prophets, all hang together. On one 
hand, anxiety for the future, fear, and the love of mystery, 
with the desire of distinction, hallucination, and fraud on 
the other, have produced prophecy and witchcraft, where- 
ever there was a soil in which they could root. When 

S8 sK<<tM) sioirr. 

tlie Sper was \vorslii|)|>e<], .uwl ihe Witch bunit, their 
trades flourished : since they have alike been neglected, 
the Lying Spirit and the Familiar have fled together 
from the regions of common sense and illumination; and 
the rest of hell's black crew, unable to bear the rising 
sun,!iave gone down with them to the realms of endless 
night and oblivion. 

On second thoughts, I will give you the narrative of 
Aulus Gellius, to which I referred. The gentlemen can 
translate it for the ladies who have not yet learnt Latin. 

" Quo C. Cgesar et Cn. Pompeius die per civile bel- 
lum signis collatis in Thessalia conflixerunt, res accidit 
Patavii in Transpadana Italia memorari digna. Cornelius 
quidam sacerdos, et loco nobilis, et sacerdotii religionibus 
venerandus, et castitate vitse sanctus, repente mota mente 
conspicere se procul dixit pugnam acerrimam pugnari, ac 
deinde cedere alios, alios urgere, caedem, fugam, tela 
volantia, instaurationem pugnce, impressionem, genjitus, 
vulnera, proinde ut si ipse in prielio versaretur, coram 
videre sese vociferatus est: ac postea subito exclamavit, 
Csesarem vicisse. Ea Cornel ii sacerdotis hariolatio levis 
turn quidem visa est et vecors : magna raox admiratione 
fuit: quod non niodo pugnte dies, qua in Thessalia pug- 
nata est, neque praelii exitus, qui erat prsedictus, idem 
fuit, sed omnes quoque pugnandi rseciprocse vices, et 
ipsa exercituum duorura conflictatio, vaticinantis motu 
atque verbis representata est." 

v.aa. 89 


Nothing can be more melancholy than the voices of 
the sea birds: the cold, chilling, scream of the sea g-uU, 
the lonely whistle of the curlew, and the feeble, complain- 
ing notes of the sandlark and the plover. There is 
something perhaps in association; we combine these 
sounds with the driving clouds, the darkening sea, and 
the gale. It is, in truth, a " melancholy main ;" surging, 
for ever and ever, against the bows, or hissing and 
gurgling in doleful tones past the quarter. Even the 
sun shines not at sea as it does on the land. Faint and 
cold, it never warms ; and the wavering, unsteady, pale 
shadows of the ropes on the deck, seem to speak its im- 
potence ; how unlike the chequered and dancing shade 
of the grove, as it tells of the noonday heat. The sound 
of the gale as it sweeps the ancient forest, is majestic: 
the pinewood in the storm is the poet's walk. Far other 
is the whistling of the tempest in the rigging, the spiteful 
and angry tones, which chill and numb the heart. But 
it is when night begins to settle in, that theSea is in- 
deed sad : when all the horizon glooms around, and the 
white foam appears at intervals through the shadowy 
uncertainties of things, when, instead of the quiet home 
to which we have looked for shelter and repose, we are 
still wanderers of the wild wave, exposed to the night 
and the storm, without refuge or hope, and where, for 
the silence of that hour of peace, still we are doomed to 
hear the same, never-ending, weary sounds. It is then 
that the life, like the voices, of the gull and the cormo- 
rant seems melancholy indeed ; condemned to pursue 
their cold, wet occupations on the boisterous wave, home- 
less, shelterless, and solitary. 



But the morning rose; and, with it, the hope that 
morning ever brings, even on the solitary sea. 

We embarked in the boat for Egg; but there was some- 
thing in the look of the clouds as they rose along the 
distant horizon, which bore no aspect of friendship. 
There was a heavy ground swell too, from the west, al- 
though but little wind ; and the sharp peak of Halival 
was contending with a flying mist, that ever and anon 
disappeared, to be again renewed in endless and strange 
shapes; now curling, and twisting, and spreading in thin 
and gray wreaths, like the smoke of a furnace, and then 
collecting in a dense and livid mass, obscuring the yet 
faint light of the morning, and casting a deep shadow on 
the steep sides of the mountain. Soon, the long strings 
of the gannets were seen hastening away to the north- 
ward, and the divers, restless and uneasy, were inces- 
santly dipping beneath the wave, rising at every instant 
to look about, as if expecting change : while some note 
of preparation was heard among the gulls, as, at short 
intervals, they hurried over our boat to seek shelter in 
the high cliffs of Rum. The men wished to return ; but 
the helm was mine, and I considered that we could make 
the land before it was too late. We did reach it, and ran 
the boat up dry in Lagg Bay. But the surge continued 
to rise, and as one long ridge chased another, each curl- 
ing its brilliant top of transparent green over the pre- 
ceding, as they ran foaming up the bright polished sand, 
it became plain that the storm was approaching nearer at 
every moment. 

We had scarcely reached the base of the Scuir, when 
the symptoms of its coming* thickened on us. One black 
cloud, black as the Scuir itself, was climbing fast above 
the horizon, flinging its scattering masses wider and 
wider, and enveloping, by degrees, the high and dreary 
mountains of Rum with one tremendous mass of shadow ; 
showing faintly, by the grey reflections beneath it, forms, 
of an uncertainty more appalling than absolute darkness. 
A thousand silvery wings flitted across the black expanse* 

EGG. 91 

as, buirying in from the gale, the sea fowl flew, scream- 
ing, for shelter, to the cliffs beneath us, which, black as 
midnight, were now more strongly contrasted with the 
foaming- surge that ran before the coming gale. We had 
just gained the summit of this high rock, when the storm 
arrived like a thunderbolt. In an instant, the rain de- 
scended in torrents, the wind whistled against the rocks 
as if it would have blown them from their bases, and all 
was one chaos of lightning and cloud and darkness, of 
rain and hail and storm, threatening to hurry us over the 
face of the cliffs. With difficulty, we crept along on our 
hands and knees, holding by every projecting fragment, 
till we reached the base of this magnificent precipice. 

We had no resource but to run, professionally, before 
the gale. I remembered that there was an inn. We 
steered directly for it ; and, in a few minutes, we arrived 
at the door, pushed it forcibly open, and bounced in. A 
venerable-looking old gentleman immediately came out 
of a side parlour, where some other persons were col- 
lected round a table, before a blazing fire. I requested 
a fire in my bed room, that I might dry my clothes. In 
the Highlands, as every one knows, the innkeeper is a 
gentleman. That was a point indeed which 1 had never 
disputed, either in the Highlands or the Lowlands; nor 
have I ever discovered that we are entitled to withhold 
our civility, because we pay for our accommodation : a 
fortunate rule ; as it proved here. The good — innkeeper — 
discovered that I had no clothes to change, and in a few 
minutes I was rigged out iu a fresh suit ; while Neil 
Maclean was smoking below at the kitchen fire, like an 
over-heated hay stack. I could not help thinking this 
was the civilest innkeeper that I had ever seen in the 
Highlands, and, as is the usage, asked for dinner. They 
had dined, he said, but would get me something; and he 
disappeared. I began however to doubt, when left 
alone, and when, looking round, I found a chamber that 
had more accommodations, and furniture, and books, than 
belong to Highland hostelleries. *' There cannot surely 

.02 EGO. 

be two houses so much like each other; iitid I cannot 
have taken the wrong^ one." I looked out on all sides ; 
there was no other house visible. " It was formerly the 
inn; of that I am sure; and I know that Clanranald's te- 
nant must keep an inn, in terms of his lease; and so, it is 
and must be the inn after all." Still, I was not quite satis- 
fied with my own conviction : and as the old gentleman 
entered again to tell me that I should find something to eat, 
although his friends had dined, I said to myself, " This 
is Hardcastle's house after all : I am sure of it." I pro- 
posed my doubt. " You are as welcome now as you were 
then," was the reply. 1 could only beg a thousand par- 
dons, and conclude that he must think me a very impu- 
dent fellow. " No, no," said he, laughing, " Bide ye 
quiet; we shall all be glad of your company, if you stay 
a month ; and we will take care of your men at the 
change house." I did bide quiet; the wind blew for 
three days, so that not a boat could look at the sea, and 
if I ever find such a welcome and such society as I found 
here, I will willingly mistake a gentleman's house for an 
inn again. This vvas the " veritable Amphitrion." 

Life is made up of lights and shadows. On the se- 
cond day of the gale, as I was wandering on the shore, 
I met a sallow, timid, alarmed object, looking- most 
poetically rueful at the sea and the sky. Thou art very 
like a crazed poet, thought I ; and, moreover, like an 
Englishman, and what is worse, like a Londoner, and what 
is still worse, like a Cockney: what canst thou possibly 
be doing here alone in Egg", in such a gale of wind. 
" Do you think I can venture over to Rum," said the 
figure, accosting me, as one civilized being approaches 
another, by instinct, in the wilds of Africa. " Not unless 
you are determined to feed the cod fish of Egg : but 
what ill fortune can have left you here." Poor helpless 
animal : but T need not publish it to all the world : let 
his poetry and himself sleep in peace together. He had 
come to Egg with a letter of introduction. I advised 
him to leave the remainder of those documents in Egg, or 

FCC. 9a 

to throw them into (he sea, and to mistake the next house 
he found, for an inn. His host had tired of him in a day ; 
and, to g"et ri(i of his voracity or his poetry, I cared not 
which, had determined to ship him off to his next patron 
in Rum, sink or swim. He might as well have tied a 
stone round his neck, and thrown him into the sea at 
once. I ordered him not to stir, at the risk of his life ; 
promising- him a safe conduct, as soon as conduct was safe 
for any one. " But what will my landlord say," replied 
the distressed Poet. I assured him that this " Birbo" 
would not condemn him to drowning for the sake of 
another leg- of mutton. But I mistook. How the matter 
ended, it is easy to g-uess; and what became of the other 
letters of introduction, may bo conjectured also. When 
he writes his Highland tour, he may give the key to the 
story himself, if he pleases. 

There is an unfortunate association between the names. 
Rum and Egg, which has perhaps helped to contribute 
to their want of good report; just as no man would goto 
a Tragedy, or sit down to a Novel, of which the heroine 
was called Dolly Clutterbuck. Egg is three miles long*, 
and, with little exception, is bounded by rocky shores ; 
the cliffs, near the northern extremity, being lofty, and in 
some places, imperfectly columnar. The general view 
of the island is striking, from its very picturesque out- 
line; and the Scuir, which is the cause of this character, 
constitutes also its most attractive object. This is a 
ridge of rock, above a mile in length, resembling a long 
irregular wall. It occupies the summit of the highest 
part of the island; its extreme height above the level of 
the sea being 1-340 feet. In a general sense, it is per- 
pendicular at the sides ; and, at the eastern extremity, 
absolutely so; whence arises its peculiarly striking cha- 
racter at this part. Towards the west it becomes gradu- 
ally more irregular and lower, till it disappears. As, 
from its position on the hill, its perpendicular face is 
highest toward the south, its eflects are most striking in 
that direction. The top of the ridge is flat, particularly 

94 KGG. 

at the eastern extremity, where its character is, in every 
respect, most accurately mural ; and here its breadth is 
about a hundred yards, diminishing toward the west. At 
this part, its hig-hest perpendicular face is 470 feet, and 
the least 350; a variation arising from the obliquity of its 
base ; and thus it derives importance, as well from its 
altitude, as from its regular and bold form and its sin- 
gular and striking position. It is a beautiful object, 
even in its details: being formed chiefly of a columnar, 
black, porphyritic, pitchstone. When viewed in front, 
it resembles a long wall of gigantic dimensions, but free 
of all formality. From other points, it is seen retiring in 
a beautiful and varied perspective, terminating, in a very 
graceful manner, the slope of the hill on which it stands. 
The commanding elevation which it occupies, and the 
peculiarity of its form, render it still more imposing than 
its bulk. Hence, like all objects on the mountain out- 
line, its dimensions are magnified ; while, from its inde- 
pendence of the general form of the hill on which it stands, 
it gains that additional consequence which an artificial 
work would require in the same position. Thus also its 
dark and solid mass is fully defined on the sky, so as to 
produce the additional effect arising from strong oppo- 
sition of light and shadow. When viewed on the eastern 
extremity, it resembles a ruinous tower, of gigantic di- 
mensions ; and the resemblance is rendered more perfect, 
by the columnar regularity of the structure, and the ab- 
solute perpendicularity of the sides. The extraordinary 
effect of the great polygon tower at Warwick, is known 
to many who will never, possibly, see this island ; and if 
theycan imagine it increased to the height of 500 feet, and 
perched on the top of a hill, high above their heads, they 
may form some conception of what painting can describe 
but little better than words. It is, however, not solely 
from mere dimension and position, that the sublimity of 
this object is derived. It arises from one of those meta- 
physical and circuitous trains of reasoning, which we so 
often perform without consciousness. Wherever the 

EGG. 95 

forms of nature approach to those of art, there is a vague 
association of human power attached to them ; or the 
magnitude of nature, as an effect, is insensibly united 
with an idea of the efforts of human art and labour as 
a cause. The sense of power is, in all cases, one of the 
chief sources of the sublime. In ordinary architecture, 
magnitude is as essential as simplicity to the production 
of that effect, because it implies the exertion of power; 
and as, in viewing those natural objects which approxi- 
mate in character to the productions of human force, the 
mind insensibly refers them to the same source, it be- 
comes thus impressed with a feeling which is rarely, if 
ever, excited by those more stupendous scenes in which 
Nature can be compared only with herself. We think 
little of the power which produces a mountain ; because 
we know that to be infinite, and because she offers us a 
thousand rivals in her own works ; it is when she conde- 
scends to imitate the petty operations of man, on her own 
great scale, that we contemplate her with admiration and 

But the grandeur of this object is not comprised 
solely in its form and magnitude; as it is peculiarly sub- 
ject to all those splendid atmospherical effects which 
arise from light and shadow, and from the passage of 
clouds. The stormy land of Rum is their unceasing 
source; and the height of the Scuir is such as to arrest 
them in their flight, producing the most brilliant and ter- 
rific combinations. Then indeed, cradled in its storms, 
and towering, black as night, to the heavens, it seems to 
" look from its cloudy throne o'er half the world," Of 
all those effects, the most magnificent examples occurred 
during the three fierce days of this visit. In the first 
eflforts of the gale, the whole atmoshere was involved in 
one univeral sheet of mist and rain ; through which, as 
the more violent gusts made partial openings, glimpses of 
the dark mass of this immense wall were occasionally 
seen ; while, its invisible boundaries conveyed the feeling 
as of interminable dimensions. Again, as the driving rack 

.% Ecn. 

entangled its summit and concealed its outline, it rose to 
an indefinite height, a gigantic tower, hiding its lofty 
head in the clouds. Occasionally, as the tempest whirled 
the mists along the face of the hill and obscured its base, 
the huge black mass became involved in additional gloom; 
resembling the visionary castle of some enchanter, found- 
ed on the storm}^ cloud, and suspended on the air. That 
this noble object is almost utterly unknown, is the fault 
of those who nsight, long since, Ijave described it, and 
the misfortune of those who trust to blind guides. But it 
is of too high a scale for the herd of spectatius ; to whom, 
even the attractions of Staffu are rather the effect of its 
" marvellous ;" of its power, like the echo, the cascade, 
and the cavern, in exciting- silly wonderment, rather than 
of a right feeling of the grandeur of nature. 

The celebrated cave of this island has been so often 
described, and its tale so often told, that I need not go 
very deeply into that subject. The entrance is from the 
sea shore : but so narrow as to admit a man with diffi- 
culty. Within, it soon expands; so as to be twenty or 
thirty feet in height and breadth, and about 250 in 
length. Many years have past since it was discovered to 
modern travellers, after a long period of oblivion; and 
the curiosity and depredations of successive visitors, have 
now nearly succeeded in removing the relics which gave 
it its horrible interest. In a few years more, the tale will 
be, like many others, divested of all that reality which 
gave it a value that no effort of imagination can supply. 
The dim smoking lights of our guide still gleamed on 
the few bones that strew the rude floor, once covered 
with mouldering skeletons; conveying a lively idea of 
the heroic ages of Gaelic independence. There is an- 
other cave, which is said to have served the purpose of a 
place of worship to the Catholics, when toleration had 
scarcely reached them. It is not difficult to conceive the 
solemn and picturesque effect of such a congregation, 
met under such circumstances, in a place rendered so 
striking by its picturesque character, and by the roaring 



©f the stormy sea on which it opens. But 1 must leave 
more of Eg-g" untold than I am well willing. 

There is nothing- in Muck to attract attention, beyond 
its green surface. I did not formerly render justice to 
its etymology. Erin's green isle was called Muc, be- 
cause when the Milesian invaders were about to land, the 
Tuath de Danans, w ho were Chaldsean magicians, misti- 
fied it, just as King Mannanan had treated Mona on an- 
other occasion ; so that it became no bigger than a hog. 
Our own Muck was colonized by those Dedanian Magi, 
and thus borrowed from the Maternal Isle. But unfor- 
tunately this etymology is doubtful, Moch signifies 
white ; and hence, in Hebrew, Mok is cotton. It also 
signifies the Dawn of Day. From one or other comes 
Mocha; and, of course, Mocha Coffee. We must reject, 
with scorn therefore, the base Hog. I hope the Muck- 
ites will forgive my other crimes, for the sake of this 
honourable Etymon : and may the new Mocha hereafter 
flourish with Cotton and Coffee, as it does, at present, with 
heath and sea weed. And now, we must change our 
ground once more. 

The Sky was bright, the sea blue, the sun warm, 
and the month June, when I visited Tirey. Every thing 
was green, and smiling, and happy, and Tirey looked 
like a little Paradise in the ocean. The good humour of 
the atmosphere is no less potent an enchanter in certain 
matters of beauty, than its moral resemblance is in others: 
even so, Ladies. I can well imagine this island a dreary, 
flat waste of sand and rocks ; foggy, stormy, wet, and com- 
fortless. It is thus that "A parterre assis, juge avec plus 
d'indulgence qu'a parterre debout." Hungry or full, wet 
or dry, wearied or springing with life, foul or fair, our 
judgments are the produce of a cloud, a shower, a breeze, 
a glimpse of the inconstant sun ; the decisions of the 
Judge, who hangs because he has not dined. Let the 
man who cannot see the sun, imagine it : let him who is 
hungry, forget it, let the wet and weary fancy himself 
disporting amid the holiday of nature, and thus, at least 


98 TrREv; 

for his own sake, let him see and feel ; otherwise " quod-' 
cunque infundis, acescet." " Cultivate good humour/* 
says my Lord Bacon. There is something, nevertheless, in 
Tirey, which must always be interesting. That some- 
thing, strange as it may seem, is the universal absence of 
all features. But the truth is, that we become wonderfully 
wearied of mountains, and rivers, and rocks, and cliffs, 
and lakes, and cascades; of all those violent sauces which 
stimulate the mind's appetite, only to wear it out. Tirey 
is like a meagre day, and gives it time to recover its tone. 
To say that Tirey is absolutely flat, would not be true, 
geographically; because the northern extremity is in- 
terspersed with low rocks, and there are three hills at the 
southern end of the island, which attain an elevation of 
three or four hundred (eet. But the main part is really 
flat ; and so flat, and level, and low, that we are inclined to 
wonder why the sea does not drown it in gales of wind ; as 
it is not much more than twelve feet above the higfh water 
mark. It has unquestionably been produced, chiefly, 
by the sea ; from the gradual accumulation of sand banks, 
originally detained by a reef of low rocks. Thus the soil, 
is almost every where a loose sand ; consolidated, in some 
places, by the progress of vegetation and agriculture, 
and by the growth of peat ; in others, protected, with 
great difficulty, by a tliin covering of turf, from the action 
of those winds, which, once admitted, would soon again 
sweep it away to its original birth place. So properly 
dreaded is this event, that it is not permitted to turn a 
turf in that large plain which forms its most striking 
feature. This is called the Reef, and it contains about 
1600 acres ; being as flat as the sea, and uninterrupted 
by any eminence, scarcely even by a plant or a stone 
higher than the general level ; offering, thus, a specimen, 
of verdure, alike singular and beautiful. It is not so easy 
as it might be thought, to imagine the effect of a bowling 
green of this extent, with a surface like velvet; but he 
who may see it, will acknowledge that the systems of art 
are not a criterion of the charms of landscape ; but that 

TIREY. 99 

^Jature, all powerful, can create beauty out of what, in 
the Artist's hands, would be only so many yards of green 
baize. The metaphysics of this, are tolerably obvious. 

Tirey is remarkle for its fertility ; the soil, though 
sandy and light, being* a mixture of calcareous or shell 
sand, chiefly, with vegetable and peat earth. Such a soil, 
which would, in any dry climate, be barren or poor, is 
here maintained in a state of constant fertility, by the 
equable moisture derived from its position in this rainy 
sea. This condition of the land is every where proved 
by the presence of the yellow Iris, Polygonum, water- 
mint, and other aquatic plants, which are found flourish- 
ing in every corn field ; as a hatred of weeds is not among 
the catalogue of Highland antipathies. Tirey can have 
no streams, of course ; but there are some pools of various 
sizes in different places, besides two small lakes ; one of 
which is so managed as to discharge a rivulet, applied to 
theturningof a Mill. Here and there, the ground is marshy; 
and the water, in most places, lies so near to the surface, 
that the inhabitants readily procure it by digging a very 
few feet. Those parts which are preserved for pasture, are 
surprisingly rich ; producing, in particular, white clover, 
the natural tenant of those soils, in such abundance, as 
almost to exclude the grasses. Unfortunately, it contains 
little peat ; and this forms a considerable deduction from 
its value, as the inhabitants are obliged to fetch from 
Mull, in their small boats, an article as cumbrous in 
freight as it is indispensable. Those who have proposed 
to import coal, forget that the expense of freight here, is 
merely the application of labour for which there is no 
demand. Unable to command money, it could not pay 
for coal, under the present state of divided farming. 

There can be no trees in an island so utterly unshel- 
tered: but there is not, I believe, even a single plant of 
heath in the lower tracts; nor, I might add, a ligneous 
fibre of any kind, except the Salix argentea. It is almost 
as deficient in enclosures as in trees ; and this is a radical 
fault in the management of such a tract of loose land, in 

H 2 

100 TIREY. 

SO stormy a climate. Hence, the gales of wind sweep over it 
as freely as they do over the sea ; materially disturbingthe 
operations of agriculture, by dispersing the seed, together 
with the loose and dry soil; and often breaking down the 
crops, both of corn and potatoes, when they have attained 
their full growth. Hence, the land is probably less pro- 
fitably employed in culture, than it would be in pasture, 
in an abstract view ; though the minuteness of the farms, 
and the numbers of the population, render cultivation in- 
dispensable here, as every where else throughout the 
Highlands. At the northern extremity, it suffers consi- 
derably from the inundation of sand, as does the south- 
ern extremity of Coll ; but elsewhere, both islands are 
free from that plague. Yet Martin assures us, that, in 
his day, the Reef was subject, not merely to the sand 
flood, but even to inundation from the sea. Thence it 
must be concluded, that the land has been materially 
raised by the deposition of sand ; confirming the notion 
already suggested, that the whole island has been chiefly 
created by the winds. 

It is pleasing to observe how that operation, which is 
ruinous in Coll and in many other places, is here bene- 
ficial ; on the principle which I formerly noticed in North 
Uist. That want of shelter which arises from the absence 
of rocks or inequalities, is one of the leading causes of 
the fertility of this island, and of the little injury which 
it receives from the sand drift ; as it has also been the 
cause of its very existence. In consequence of the level 
and unobstructed surface of the land, the sand is distri- 
buted over the flat parts in so equable a manner, as not 
only to raise it beyond the power of the sea, but to 
improve the whole by perpetually renewing its natural 
calcareous manure; seldom accumulating in such a man- 
ner as to repel or suffocate vegetation. The reverse effect 
is very apparent at its northern extremity, as it is in Coll; 
where the rocky eminences that are scattered over the 
surface, affording shelter, cause the sand to collect in such 
a manner, as to produce a barren desert. The general 

COLL. 101 

hioisture of this island conduces also materially to tho 
g-ood effectsjust mentioned ; as, by maintaining- an active 
veg-etation on the surface, it serves to bind and retain 
that which would otherwise be speedily dispersed. 

The beautiful marble of Tirey is well known. The 
quarry is still open, but the produce is not in fashion ; as 
in these matters, fashion, and not beauty, is omnipotent. 
Raspe introduced it into notice ; but he, or his quarry-men, 
were so ig-norant, that they nearly destroyed the whole 
by gunpowder. Raspe, as youjprobably know, was a sort 
of Dowsterswivel in Scotland, at a time when all the High- 
land proprietors expected to dig- gold and silver out of 
their barren mountains, as they had dug peat. It has 
been said, that, like many projectors of his class, he placed 
metals where he well knew how to find them again. 
Whether this be true or not, he seems to have deserved 
as little credit for his metallic discoveries, as for the re- 
pute of writing Munchausen's travels, out of Lucian, 
Marco Polo, Sir John Mandeville, and the other rivals of 
Ferdinand Mendez Pinto. There is also a rock of white 
marble here, resembling- that of lona; which he appears 
to have overlooked. A long wall has been built out of it : 
containing so many specimens of Sahlite, Augite, Tremo- 
lite, and other beautiful minerals, that it is a perfect 
cabiTiet of mineralogy. He who wishes to fill his own 
drawers, may gratify himself by the simple process of 
pulling down a farm dyke. 

Coll and Tirey form a sort of chain ; being separated 
by a rocky sound, not much more than half a mile in 
breadth. The former, like its neighbour, is about twelve 
miles long; its mean breadth being somewhat less than 
three. The coast line of both, is an intermixture of rocky 
shores and small sandy bays; but the rocks predominate 
much in Coll, as the flat shores do in Tirey. The surface 
of Coll has a most extraordinary aspect; particularly 
throughout the far greater portion to the northward. It is 
SQ covered with bare rocks, scarcely to be called hills, 
that, when viewed from alow position, nothing but a con- 

102 TOLL. 

tinuoiis, grey, stony surface is visible ; and as those protu- 
berances are of a rounded form, and of similar dimensions, 
the whole conveys the notion of a rude pavement on a most 
gigantic scale. It is not easy to conceive any thing much 
more singular, nor to imagine a country with an aspect 
more hopelessly barren ; yet the intervals are filled with 
green pastures, and with small pools and lakes, amounting 
in number, as it is said, to forty-two. Those, however, are 
discovered only at the precise spots where the traveller 
happens to be ; as the predominance of rock every 
where, conceals them from a general view. The southern 
extremity, is a desert of sand ; being exposed to the same 
influences as the northern point of Tirey, and, from the 
form of its surface, more adapted to retain what the winds 
deposit. Here we may wander through the waste, and 
suppose ourselves in the plains of Africa ; enjoying all 
the pleasures of the novelty, and of the imagination, with 
the satisfaction of reflecting that we can neither perish 
with thirst, be choked by a Simoom, nor " smothered in 
the dusty whirlwind." It is pleasant enough to view the 
battle at a distance. 

Though not about to give a pentandriau monogynian 
account of the vegetable beauties of Coll, I must not for- 
get to say that I found in its lakes, the Eriocaulon sep- 
tangulare ; before this, known only in Sky. Those who 
never saw sea kale in its native state, will find it also on 
the western shore. But its ordinary flowers, if they do 
not rival those of our gardens in variety and splendour, 
are, by position, contrast, and numbers, not less captivat- 
ing to the eye; while the whole atmosphere is perfumed 
by their fragrance, as is also the case in Tirey. This fea- 
ture is peculiar to the sandy soils of all the islands, but 
is no where more remarkable than in these two. In this 
montli, the month of June, the May of this climate and 
the " lusty spring time of the year," the profusion of 
flowers almost conceals the verdure of those beautiful 
plains from the eye. Even Boswell, whose flight was 
circumscribed, has been eloquent respecting a small 



tract, here called, from this cause, the Variegated Plain : 
but, as he saw it in October, his commendations are li- 
mited to its virtues as a race course. To me, it was an 
enamelled carpet of undescribable gaiety, painted with 
all the usual plants of spring, and more ; the snowy bril- 
liancy of the clover and the daisy, being intermixed with 
the bright yellow of the Ranunculus, the lovely azure of 
the Veronica, the deeper blue of the Hyacinth, and the 
splendid crimson of the Geranium Sanguineum. 

Spring-, lovely Spring, is, doubtless, as beautiful as 
the Poets have made her; but she is seldom to be found 
but in the poets. These gentlemen too have a trick of 
following old patterns; of consulting Chaucer, and Thom- 
son, and Virgil, and twenty more, to say nothing of the 
Almanac and the Gardener's Calendar. To what climes 
Spring comes when she ought to come, I know not; it 
would be well to know where she comes at all ; in this 
Hyperborean country, at least. In these green islands of 
the western main, it is seldom till the end of June; in the 
mountains, winter lingers in her lap till he is ready to 
lie down again. If, by chance, she does come, it is " with 
showers and sunshine in her fickle eyes," to smile coldly 
on the purple heaths of August. As to May day, young 
or old, it is much the same : her tears must flow till May 
is gone and past. If ever she was " led by the jocund 
train of vernal hours," it is not here that she is so led. 
Boreas, Aquilo, and Aquarius, hand her in, and Eurus 
and Auster walk her out. " The first, the fairest daugh- 
ter of the skies," " is sprung from April's wayward race," 
and spends her time in flirting with the icicles of old 
Winter's beard. I fear indeed that the nymph has for 
ever lost her maiden honours, is become a chilly and an 
antiquated virgin ; and that her ravished charms have 
been inherited by her oldest sister, July. It is May still 
in the Calendar; but " Pale, immature, the blighted ver- 
dure springs," wonders when Summer will arrive, waits 
but to be overtaken by the sere Autumn, to shrink again 
before the harbinger of killing Winter. 

104 MAY. 

If May thus weeps over her fled and fallen honours^ 
well may we. May : — does not the very name make our 
hearts beat and our pulses throb, and the young blood 
mantle again on the cheek, as if the sound itself were to 
recall the hours of youth, and love, and joy. May. — 
Could Ave not all write volumes on it: Yet, — "There's 
no such thing." " And when she cannot scold, she cries," 
says Cowper : but the worst of it is, that she scolds and 
cries both. Is there a greater vixen on earth, than your 
own dear Edinburgh May; " This mirthful May, of every 
moneth Queue." She is Capricornus, Aquarius, and 
Pisces, all in one : " With am'rous zephyrs fluttering on 
her breast ;" indeed. Did the Poets really invent her. 
They are somewhat given to inventing; it cannot be de- 
nied. Or did she really exist once, and has the Polar 
basin come nearer to us, or is the axis of the earth gone 
awry, or is there a cold comet in the wind, or, — what is 
the matter. Do we not still talk of " a maying we will 
go :" but who, now a days, would think of going " a may- 
ing" till the end of June. " For thee, sweet month, the 
groves green liv'ries wear," and so forth, says Dryden. 
What does Chaucer say. " In May that mothir is of 
monethis glade, That the freshe flowers all, blew, white 
and rede :" but what does he not say. We will admit, for 
the sake of peace, that there was such a " moneth" as 
May, in the good old times of " merry Englaunde :" as 
the chimney sweepers believe still. 

But must we believe that there was one in Scotland. 
Dunbar affirms it; and Douglas, and Holland, and King 
James. Read the golden Terge, or the Houlat, or the 
King's Quair, or the Blait Luvar, or the Thistle and the 
Rose, or Merlin, or the Twa Luves. Had I not forsworn 
poetry, I could have overwhelmed you with quotations. 
" Mirie is th' entree of May, The time is hot and long the 
day :" very merry indeed ; wonderfully hot. '* The fowles 
make mirie play:" cocksparrows on a dunghill, doubt- 
less. If the " skyis ring with schouting of the larks," 
it is only a proof that they are in a conspiracy with the 

MAY. 105 

Poets, to swear falsely. Are the poets indeed untrue; 
or is May a Jilt. Is it possible that Dunbar can have 
written about a May which he never saw nor smelt ; with 
his " tender odouris reid and quhy t." And James, too. 
Every thing is possible with you poets. Certain it is^ 
and no less sad, that the only places in fair Scotia where 
you will now find the incense-breathing month, " the 
sweet vapours and the soft morrowing," " the air intem- 
perit, sober and amene," are those very pages of paper. 
Yet somebody must have produced the original autho- 
rity: or a Scottish poet would now as soon think of writ- 
ing about " roses reid spreading their knoppis,"or about 
" The fields flowrischit and fretful of fairheid," in De- 
cember, as in May. But she probably disappeared with 
the Union : and if that is not the solution, you must find 
a better. 

She is a puzzling dame, this said May ; in more ways 
than one ; in more places than the Almanac, and the 
skies, and the flowery meadows " so green a," Urania, 
says Ausonius, loves her above all other months. It must 
be hoped that she behaved better in those days. But 
Urania had other and sounder reasons. May : the fairest 
nymph of the year, the laughing* Goddess that " from 
her green lap throws. The yellow cowslip and the pale 
primrose," was — " credite posteri" — a middle-aged man, 
with an ample robe, carrying a basket of flowers. Thus 
fashions change. In Scotland, she is sweet sixteen ; a 
" fair May :" in London, she is a chimney sweeper, daubed 
with red ochre and gingerbread gold. In one point, 
however, Scotland is still classical in its veneration for 
May : though it keeps no Lemuralia, and worships no 
Bona Dea. "Nee viduae teedis eadem, nee virginis apta, 
Tempora, quae nupsit, non diuturna fuit." So pertina- 
cious are fashions; even when the reasons for them are 
forgotten. Even when all sense and reason are against 
them. For " Harde is his herte that lovith nought, In 
Mey, whan all this mirth is wrought." If you wish for 

106 COLL, 

more learning on this subject than I have room for, yoa 
may consult Erasmus. 

But if May is not the May of marriage, still she is the 
" May of life." So says Macbeth, at least, and Guarini, 
with his " verde etade." " The spring time of life;" "the 
youth ;" " il gioventu del anno :" and thus ; beyond all 
enumeration. Behold again, how fashions change. The 
Greeks called youth the autumn of life. Read Pindar. 1 
must not quote him : it is only the apothecaries who do 
that. Thus also Horace : " Jam tibi lividos"— "Distinguet 
autumnus racemos." This is glorious news for " middle- 
aged gentlemen ;" since, if the autumn of the year js its 
youth, then must the sere autumn of their days be the 
" sweet spring time of the year," the lovely breathing 
May, the very hey-day of butter cups and whispering 
breezes. They may laugh at Montaigne then, when he 
says that, as the soul " gets on in life," it begins to turn 
" aigre et moisi." 

I trust that the poets, the critics, the almanac makers, 
and those who have more pages to spare than I, will settle 
what I have left undetermined ; but whenever and where- 
ever Spring does choose to come, she must have something 
to smile on ; and, in the Western Isles, I know not where 
to find her but on these sandy plains. If she is rare, 
however, and late, her character is here no less remark- 
able for its novelty than its splendour ; nor, as I wan- 
dered over these bright sands, dazzled with the beauty 
and regaled with the perfume of her flowers, do I know 
that I would have changed her for herself where she riots 
in the rich green meadows and the full foliage of an 
English landscape. No trees, it is true, were seen burst- 
ing into leaf; but the sun was bright in a cloudless sky 
of the purest azure, a gentle breeze wafted over a sum- 
mer sea, the distant bleatings of the sheep and the low- 
ing of the cattle, and the grey rocks seemed, themselves, 
to rejoice in the sweet sunshine. If the Nightingale was 
wanting, the air was filled with the warblings of the 

COLL. 107 

Thrush and the long-drawn melodious note of the Wood- 
lark ; while the glassy repose of the wide and blue 
ocean, stretched far away, completed the picture of uni- 
versal peace and joy. 

The garden which taste and industry have created 
here, was a little Paradise to those who had so long been 
condemned to clouds and water, to surging seas, and 
screaming blocks, and tar. Trees had been planted j and 
though they could not surmount the rocks which pro- 
tected them from the westerly gales, they gave an air of 
freshness and ornament and comfort, to the little spot 
which they surrounded, that made us forget their want 
of stature. The roses were bursting from their buds, and 
every flower bloomed as bright as in more favoured cli- 
mates. I have said, that the delights of the garden and 
the shrubbery are here accessible alike to all ; and there 
are few indeed who could have had more to contend with 
than Coll. There is a limit to the growth of trees ; but 
shrubs and flowers can always find sufficient shelter; 
aTid, if their productions are later, they are neither less 
brilliant nor less vigorous, than in the most favoured parts 
of England. But they whose kitchen garden is the po- 
tatoe field alone, cannot be expected to take much de- 
light in the pinks and roses of the parterre : and thus it 
is that we encounter a thistle where we might have found 
a rose. As to the kitchen garden, I still hope to hear, 
that, after the first explosion of wrath, " The Book" has 
grown up, at least into a leek : and that my successors 
will hereafter find the " pultiphagus" Donald " tunica- 
tam cum sale mordentem cepe," and wearing an annual 
kalestock in his bonnet on my birth day. I wish Coll 
would write a " Book," under the double weight of his 
own name and the Gaelic tongue. Who can wander 
among those wild retreats, amid rocks and streamlets and 
cascades and bright miniatures of delicious lakes, and not 
imagine the tangled thicket of sweet brier and woodbine 
superseding the black and scraggy heath, the rude and 
neglected banks breathing all the sweets of the yeajf, th,^ 

108 COLL. 

evergreen-sheltered alley replacing the impracticable 
bog, and the margin of the silvery expanse or the pel- 
lucid rivulet, bordered with the flowers of spring and 
summer, where it is now a stony, muddy, unapproachable 
swamp. Often have I envied the blind and indolent pos- 
sessor of the grey rock, skirted with its own green bank, 
and impending over the now rushy pool, the lazy, taste- 
less owner of the rude, inaccessible, knoll, of the wild 
torrent and the ravine, of the little sheltered, but useless, 
dell, and of all the nameless, endless, beauties, of which 
Nature has here laid the germs in vain. But such is the 
lot of life. Those who could enjoy, have not : and for those 
who possess wealth, and wealth only, it is a sealed book. 
The old castle of Coll is uninteresting; and Johnson 
has told the tale of Cameron Maclonich. Martin, the 
very excess of whose marvels has, perhaps, helped to 
shame the people out of many that might have stood their 
ground longer, tells us that Coll and Tirey were neces- 
sary to each other's existence ; a sort of male and female 
pair of islands; as one of them chiefly produced females, 
and the other males : in the ratios often to one, as some 
one says. It is to this same gentleman that we are 
indebted for the tales of the two stones, which certain 
combating Giants threw at each other. Giants have been 
always much given to throwing stones ; all the world 
over. The Giant Ydris, whom Mr. Rowlands proves to 
have been a Druid Astronomer, picked three out of his 
shoe, and they are still to be seen near Talyllin. The 
Titans, whom Pezron and Jamieson prove to have been 
Celtic, or Highland, Giants, threw stones at Jupiter, and 
he, in return, overwhelmed them with all the petralogy 
of Olympus, on the plain of Crau. Og, the giant King of 
Basan, as the Rabbins assure us, lifted a huge stone to 
throw at the Israelites, meaning to demolish all their 
armies at one hit; when, unluckily, a Lapwing- pecked a 
hole in it, so that his head went through, and his teeth 
immediately grew so long that he could not get it oflT 
again. Mr. Martin, Mr. Martin, you are nobody. 



It is difficult, and would be disadvantageous, to se- 
parate two subjects so mutually connected as are the 
system of agricultural occupancy in the Highlands, and 
the condition of their population. If I have here inter- 
mixed them, it is because the former is chiefly deserving 
of consideration as it afl^ects the latter, and because I shall 
thus avoid some repetition. If there should be any ob- 
scurity, it is because I must crowd matter for a volume 
into a few pages. Much confusion has been produced in 
those subjects, by the various writers, who, generally 
engaged in controversy, and neglecting to make proper 
distinctions, have puzzled those, in particular, who were 
not practically acquainted with the country. At pre- 
sent, every variety of occupancy may be found in the 
Highlands, but all are not entitled to equal regard. 
Improved farming is the same here as elsewhere. The 
ancient system of run-rig is almost expired, and that of 
tacks is nearly in the same case. The sheep farming 
admits of little other remark than what belongs to it as 
connected with the Crofting system : and this last is, in 
fact, what alone deserves much attention, as being that 
which chiefly affects the condition of the people, both as it 
relates to themselves and to the State. A few unexpired 
and ancient leases of lands, scarcely paying any rent, 
may also be passed by, without further notice; as hav- 
ing no general influence on the country. 

It would now be fruitless to examine, minutely, the 
system of Tacks ; as in no long time, it will cease to 
exist. But the Tacksman has been the subject of cen- 
sure and hatred, as an unnecessary person and an op- 
pressor ; a wholesale dealer, enhancing the price to the 


purchaser; screwing-, from the subtenants, higher rents 
than would have been obtained had he not intervened. 
His real nature and effect have never been understood. 
He is not unnecessary, if there be no steward ; unless the 
proprietor chuses to do that duty for himself. Whether 
he is to be an oppressor or not, as compared to his land- 
lord, must chiefly be a question of the relative moral cha- 
racter of the two. It is said that he must have less at- 
tachment to his tenantry, and less interest in their wel-* 
fare, than the proprietor of the estate. If the proprietor 
were a Feudal Lord, and the tenants Villeins, or if a 
Highland proprietor were now the Chief that he once 
was, that might be true ; but, at present, the connexion 
between the Tenant and the Lessor, be he the principal 
or the deputy, the proprietor or the Tacksman, is little 
more than a commercial one. The former can have no 
peculiar affection for his tenants that may not equally be 
felt by the latter ; and both are alike interested in their 
welfare and prosperity, as far as either must benefit by 
their well-doing. To consider the Tacksman as a " re- 
grater and forestaller of land," is to suppose that, in com- 
merce, a manufacturer or wholesale merchant will retail 
at a wholesale price. Here, the retail price is fixed from? 
many circumstances ; among which, those that in some 
measure affect the case of land also, are increase of la- 
bour and attention, uncertain payments, toil of collecting-, 
and chance of bad debts and of actions at law ; to which 
must especially be added, in this particular instance, 
competition. From these causes, or from a desire to make 
as much as he can from his estate, the landlord will gene- 
rally let his farms to the highest bidders; and the tacks- 
man can do no more. Whatever profit, therefore, this 
person derives from the subsetting of land, or from a re- 
tail trade in small leases, will be taken from the possible 
profits of the land owner, not from the tenants ; just as, 
in commerce, the retail dealer takes that, as his profit, 
which would fall into the hands of the wholesale mer- 
chanty should he think fit to act the part of retailer also. 


I would willingly have avoided saying more on the 
Sheep system, than what might have been deduced from 
the present general remarks. But perhaps it is necessary 
to notice it thus separately, for the sake of those who 
have seen nothing else in the Agricultural economy of 
the Highlands, and have seen this through distorted 
organs. This was not the sole reform itself, as has been 
idly imagined : it was rather the basis of reform. It was 
the extension of a system long established in England, 
where it had produced a similar outcry ; and which had 
been so long established in the south of Scotland also, as 
to have been forgotten. The theory of it is simple, when 
simply stated : and I shall merely mention the local one 
audits bearings; without any reference to the general 
doctrines that relate to large and small farms. 

In those mountainous and boggy tracts, black cattle 
cannot consume all the pasture. Sheep can; and con- 
sequently, there is a saving on this head alone, by the 
exchange. Sheep cannot be cultivated to a profit, unless 
in large flocks, and by a well-regulated system, the de- 
tails of which are too minute forme to give here. Small 
capitalists cannot thence manage them : and thus arises 
the necessity of large sheep farms. Lastly, the necessity 
of a proportion of winter food, renders it compulsory to 
take from petty agriculture, the smaller interspersed 
tracts which are adapted to this purpose. Now, those 
small spots were occupied by a race of starving and 
miserable tenants, who thus impeded the application of 
what they could not use ; producing nothing themselves, 
and obstructing production. It became imperative on 
the proprietors, to eject them, for the general benefit, as 
well as for their own. Yet those proprietors, so far from 
acting as had been formerly the case in England and 
Scotland, provided their displaced people with new farms 
in other places. Instead of receiving their well-merited 
praise for humanity, they have met nothing but obloquy: 
injurious writing from those who knew nothing of writing 
but how to hold a pen, with outcry and rebellion from 


their ungrateful tenantry, and, in some instances, even 
from those who were paying no rents, and who had become 
to consider the land as their own. An English reader 
may well ask what the grievance was in this case. It was 
that they were separated from the hills and the glens of 
their early affections. By such canting, the cant of a 
few idle poets and romancers, the improvement of a 
whole country was to be obstructed, and an indolent and 
half-savage race preserved in misery and barbarism. 
It is easy to string words together, and to write pathetic 
nonsense. It was a singular hardship, assuredly, to move 
such a people, from one hill to a neighbouring one, from 
the green glen of the mountain to the green margin of 
the next sea shore: to places also whither they carried 
all their connexions with them ; increasing their society, 
while they increased their means of living. The People 
have no such feelings. The attachment of the wretched 
creatures in question was a habit; the habit of indolence 
and inexperience, the attachment of an animal little dif- 
fering in feelings from his own horned animals. Had it 
even been more, they were children; unable to judge 
for themselves, and knowing nothing beyond the narrow 
circle of their birth. As children, it was the duty of 
their superiors to judge for them, and to compel them, 
for their own advantage. What the entire consequences 
have been, will be seen when the crofting system is ex- 
amined. But the obvious ones are on the surface. If 
this people was so " valuable," the reform was advanta- 
geous, because it has increased their numbers. The 
Land was incapable of further division among them, 
because every thing arable was occupied. They were 
incapable of farming the pastoral farms, which must 
therefore have been wasted. As they could not liave 
increased on the spot, they must have starved and emi- 
grated. They were starving and emigrating. They have 
been introduced to fresh wealth, to a new creation of 
wealth, on the sea shores. The Celtic economists ex- 
claim about Manufactures. A manufacture has beeu 


established : they manufacture food ; fish. But it is not 
wool or cotton : such it is to see nothing but Mords. The 
possession of ideas is sometimes necessary. To spin 
cotton is a circuitous road to the stomach : the new High- 
land Crofter spins food by one operation. To turn rocks 
and peat into corn and potatoes, is a manufacture. This 
is the problem that was to be solved. It is solved : but 
not in words. 

The Crofting system was the division of the joint 
farms, and the creation of similar new ones. The joint 
tenant commonly held in run-rig. I quoted authorities 
before, to show that this was an ancient German practice. 
Blackstone seemed against me. Here are two authorities 
more, that appear to make for me. Diodorus says of a 
Spanish people, " Agros singulis annis divisos colunt." 
Horace says of the Getse, " Nee cultura placet longior 
annua." The joint tenant is now a sole tenant; a Crofter, 
paying a money rent. On the Kelp shores, he holds by 
a Rent service. The most obvious advantages are these. 
His interest in his lot is increased, because it is his own. 
It is therefore better cultivated. Consequently, he can 
live better, and the proprietor also can claim a higher 
land rent. Formerly, he overstocked his lands, from 
jealousy or avarice; now, if he errs in this, he is soon 
checked by its obvious punishment. He has discarded 
his superfluous horses, because he now can see that those 
are an unprofitable stock. Accommodation has been 
found for more people: and thence, in the very first step, 
the population is increased. The new lands have added 
to the general mass of cultivation, and have thus in- 
creased the territory producing food and paying rent. 
A system which has at once increased rent, territory, 
population, and individual comfort, must be a judicious 
one; at least as far as the present is concerned. To these 
advantages, 1 need scarcely again add, the clearing out of 
the pasture farms which the small tenants had encum- 
bered, and the power thus given to the proprietors to 
occupy them in an advantageous manner. Those benefits 



have followed, alike, from all the crofted farms; but by 
the maritime crofts, the people have gained access to a 
new branch of industry, to new food; and to what was 
before unknown to them, animal food. Hence arises the 
main increase of comfort and of population : and yet it 
was ag-aiiist this very change that the most violent cla- 
mour was made, even by those who were the immediate 
gainers, and who were perpetually on the verge of fa- 
mine, while their maritime neighbours were comparatively 
rioting in plenty. 

The advantage to the proprietors, in this last case, 
has also been very considerable; but it was not at first 
foreseen. So deficient are the people at large in the most 
obvious principles of public economy, that there are many 
proprietors who do not even now comprehend the nature 
of a system by which they are profiting. The original 
practice commenced, almost in chance ; or rather in col- 
lateral inducements, very diflferent from those which form 
the great source of the benefits derived. The green 
land of the sea shores, access to sea weed for manure, 
the necessity of labourers for the kelp, and, above all, a 
minutely divided state of the land, scarcely permitting 
any other mode of occupation, were the prime motives 
for a choice of place, which also relieved the great inte- 
rior farms in the most effectual manner. As a proof of 
this ignorance, I found one large estate of this nature, 
where the landlord had levied a rent, or rather a tax, on 
all the boats on his lands which were used for fishing. 
The obvious consequence was, a loud clamour against 
injustice and oppression; since the tax was thus ren- 
dered sensible, and thus, chiefly, oppressive. A severer 
critic would conclude that this was really an act of op- 
pression. It is kinder to attribute it to ignorance: and 
had this person placed an additional rent on the land, he 
would have avoided obloquy, have compelled the idle to 
work, and have also increased his revenue. Thus also a 
discouragement was thrown in the way of that very 
fishing, on which he must have depended for his rent, as 


his people did for their subsistence; as some of the te- 
nants actually declined fishing, to avoid paying- this duty. 
It must be similar ignorance, which levies from the 
tenants of petty public houses, a sum of money, per gal- 
lon, on the whisky which they retail. Thus the tenant 
complains of a tax, and the traveller wonders at the 
meanness which will suffer a " Chief," to be a partner 
in a concern of this nature. The true policy here, wouW 
be to place the rent on the inn ; as is done, without ob- 
loquy, all the world over. If English travellers have 
taxed the Highland gentry with meanness, they almost 
deserve it as a punishment for unpardonable ignorance; 
which is the only defence that I can make for them, 
in this case, against the Sassanach. 

The real source of benefit to the proprietor of the ma- 
ritime crofts, is a tax on, or a rent from, labour. The farms 
themselves are conmionly so minute, that the people 
could not subsist on them; they could pay no rent, of 
course, from a surplus produce, since their lands aflford 
none. The rent here, therefore, is the rent of the fish- 
eries, not of the land; although levied on it, by those 
who are practically wiser than the persons just mentioned. 
These farms are analogous to houses, or land, in towns 
and manufacturing communities; which pay rent from 
the wages of labour, for the accommodations required in 
their pursuits. And thus, where the fisheries are carried 
on for commercial purposes, the lots of land have be- 
come gradually so reduced, that they are exactly parallel 
to town holdings ; while, where fishing is carried on only 
for domestic use, the system remains a compound one. 
Thus the proprietors who hold maritime, with other 
lands, have been increasing their revenues in many ways 
at once. They have received an augmentation of land 
rent, from a better system of pasture farming; while they 
have created a maritime one, by virtually levying on the 
fisheries. As this system also is peculiarly open to a 
perpetual competition, they have further gained by in- 
crease of rents ; while fresh tracts have also been added 

I 2 


to their stock of cultivated land, by the operations of 
those new tenants. 

If the Highland proprietors have been accused of 
levying- excessive rents, the accusation has possibly been 
often true. But it has often also been unjustly made ; 
and chiefly from ignorance of the real nature of these 
maritime rents. Yet those accusations did not indeed 
seem unjustifiable, when miserable rocky crofts were 
found paying as high rents as the best land in the neigh- 
bourhood of large towns. But the cases are far more 
parallel than those people imagined. In both, the ac- 
commodation for labour is equally concerned ; and, still 
more, they are analogous cases of competition. The sea 
shore is here a city, in which there are more demands 
than room for houses. It might diminish the discontent 
of the tenants, if they were made acquainted with the 
real nature of their farms and their rents: if indeed it 
be possible to render intelligible to them, what their edu- 
cated betters are seldom able to understand. 

It would carry me too far out of my way, to show how 
the system of maritime crofting is likely to operate on 
the fisheries. I have already pointed out a strong case, 
in that of the new Crofters on the Sutherland Estate; 
where, without the reforms of that extensive property, 
no such beneficial events could have followed. Though 
not sanguine respecting a future great and advantageous 
increase of the Highland population, it is more likely to 
originate from this cause than from any other. The 
Crofters may be supposed, gradually to diminish their 
lots of land as they increase their fisheries. When the 
System becomes commercial, as in this case of the Su- 
therland Herring Fishery, they will then be able to pur- 
chase the corn or potatoes which they must now raise ; 
and the ultimate result of such a progress, though per- 
haps a possible, rather than a probable one, will be the 
establishment of lines of fishing villages or towns. 
Though such an event should be incapable of comple- 
tion, it is useful to know what it is to which these im- 


provenients are really teiiding^. It is also plain that this 
is the true progress by which fisheries will be established, 
without painful efforts or expensive sacrifices, and in 
the natural progress of things. It will not be etl'ected 
by that forcible foundation of towns, on which I have 
spoken more at large under the article Tobermory. 

If the rent which is here paid for rocks and bogs, 
surprises a stranger, it is not less plain that, in any other 
situation, those lands would pay none : or rather, they 
would not be cultivated. No other British cultivators 
could be found, willing to bestow their labour on subjects 
so unprofitable, or able to live upon the produce. To 
the two main causes of the occupation of such lands, 
fishing, and competition, must therefore be added, the 
temperate habits of the people, or the small quantity of 
food, clothing, and accommodation, with which they are 
contented. Yet this external aspect of poverty aids in 
producing the idea of oppressive rents. Still, that which 
has been the habit of immemorial time, which is alike the 
lot of all, is not poverty. But under such views, every 
rent, however small, would be an oppressive one; nor 
would the abandonment of it remove the evil. The un- 
conditional surrender of the lands to the tenantry, would 
not enable them to enlarge their lots, nor prevent the 
further subdivision ; and a very few years would find 
them exactly in that state, of which the improvement had 
thus been vainly attempted. And while that surrender 
would involve the ruin of the proprietor and of all those 
who live by his expenditure, it would be replaced by the 
gain of a few additional families, starving, and propa- 
gating starvation ; consuming without reproducing, ob- 
jects of pity, incapable of improvement, without hope, 
and useless to the political community. This is part of a 
system of equality, by which universal happiness is to 
be the result of universal poverty. 

It must be evident, that such a system of farming is 
conducted at a great expense ; however badly conducted 
it may be, and however wretched the stock or the pro- 


diice. As such laud could not be cultivated by a large 
tenant, by capital and hired labour, so it must now be 
wrought at a price which can pay no profit or return. It 
is of no moment that no account of expense appears, 
where no books are kept ; that the tenant sets no value 
on his own labour and that of his family ; that he does 
not consider the cost of his idle horses; that he does not 
estimate the price of his fuel, in labour and carriage ; nor 
the value of the house which he has built with his own 
hands. If all this were to be calculated, no equivalent 
could be offered for the produce of such a farm ; par- 
ticularly when it is considered, that four returns form a 
good crop of oats. Had labour here a market, much of 
this farming would be abandoned, since, to labour, would 
be a more profitable occupation. As it is, that bears no 
price ; which is another reason why such lands have a 
value here, which they could not have elsewhere. It is 
to a crowded and unemployed population therefore, that 
the country is indebted, if it be a debt on the part of the 
country, for the cultivation of so much waste land ; as 
the proprietor is for a rent which, under any other kind 
of population, he could not draw. The conclusion from 
all this is important: and it is, that to reduce the state of 
the Highlands to a similarity with England or the Low- 
lands, would diminish, instead of increasing, the rentals 
of the proprietors, unless that were balanced by some un- 
expected improvements of other lands ; because those 
small crofts must all be abandoned to a system of pas- 
ture, which would pay, comparatively, a very small re- 
turn to the landholder. 

If the aspect of a cultivation which is almost Chinese, 
impresses a stranger, at first, with a high notion of the 
industry of the people, he may, perhaps, a few days after- 
wards, form an opinion the exact reverse, when he sees 
large tracts highly susceptible of improvement, scarcely 
producing pasture. The paradox is easily explained. 
The want, in the latter case, is that of capital, not of 
labour. The smaller tenants are improvers by compul- 


sion, and their capital is their own labour: the larger 
tenants, and the proprietors, cannot afford to hire it; 
they cannot expend on contingency. It is impossible to 
concentrate or accumulate the smaller capitals and their 
effects; and thus, while the improvements of the small te- 
nements are great, even to folly in a commercial view, the 
larger are neglected. Thus, it is the worst looking land 
that maintains the greatest population. The resources 
of this land are, however, in the way to be exhausted: 
what remains of eventual augmentation of wealth to the 
Highlands, must be sought in the interior lands, and the 
extensive tracts ; but it is a distant and a contingent one, 
otherwise than as the crofting system may still be ex- 
tended to those. 

Taking another view of this case, there is at present 
a superabundance of labour applied in producing small 
effects; while, under a proper state of direction and con- 
centration, it might produce useful and permanent im- 
provements. It is wasted on that, which, if the state of 
the Highlands is ever to be radically changed, can be 
considered as only temporary. Such excessive industry, 
therefore, if not absolutely misdirected, is not turned to 
the best account. If the Highlands are to be reformed 
by the enlargement of farms and the introduction of a 
superior class of tenants, the improvements of the Crofters 
will be found of little value, because they are on too 
small a scale, and too much dispersed ; though they 
may now rescue much land from the waste. The ulti- 
mate value of such improvements has been much over- 
rated by speculative persons, because they have not 
taken a correct view of their nature and bearings. They 
talk of improvements, as they use other words. The croft 
patches of improved peat, or rocks, would generally be 
inaccessible to a large tenant, with any advantage; and 
such rough land as has been cultivated by the spade, 
must be thrown into pasture, if ever a more perfect and 
economical cultivation by the plough is adopted. No 
other circumstances than a crowded population and a 


low value of labour, can preserve the cultivation of such 
lands ; and whenever those cease, or when capital and 
labour shall seek for more legitimate and profitable em- 
ployment in the breaking up of larger tracts, the occu- 
pation of the crofts, as such, must be abandoned. The 
labours of the crofting system are therefore merely the 
parts of a temporary, not of a permanent, one; and, so 
far from being the first stage of general improvement, 
they are but the last improvements of an ancient system ; 
which may be repaired, but cannot be rendered perfect; 
It must lastly be obvious, that if the same quantity of 
labour and expense which have been bestowed on the 
crofts, had been directed to larger tracts of land, they 
might have produced permanently valuable eflfects. Un- 
fortunately, the present practice is inseparable from the 
present state of things. Still, we cannot but lament this 
waste of capital ; since that is wasted which produces 
no permanent change on the property ; which does not 
lead to further augmentation of capital. Yet much of this 
system must always continue; and, from its reference to 
the fisheries, from its connexion with the potatoe system, 
and from the state of the population, much of it ought. 
But if extensive and permanent improvements are to be 
expected, we must look for them to the introduction of 
capitalists, to a considerable enlargement of farms, and to 
the reformation of other lands. 

It is a popular subject of complaint that no leases are 
granted to the crofters. But the small tenants are secure 
in their possessions, while they conduct themselves well; 
nor can a lease serve any useful purpose, where there is 
either nothing to improve, or no power of improving. It 
seems even proper that the landlord should retain the 
right of withdrawing the land from those who will not 
cultivate it, that he may bestow it on those who come 
with the double claim of equal wants and superior in- 
dustry. The character of the people may also be pleaded 
in justification ; since so great is their indolence, that, 
often, nothing short of the risk of losing their farms, will 


induce them to cultivate for more than the barest liveli- 
hood. It is idle to suppose that the Highland landholder 
does not manage his land with the same regard for the 
mutual interest of himself and his tenant, as his Lowland 
neighbour; those interests being, in reality, not often at 
variance. Though the proprietors do not build for the 
crofters, and that an ejectment implies the loss of their 
houses, the hardships, in this case, are not very great, as 
the value of the building is trifling. 

In terminating these remarks on the Crofting System, 
I must point out an effect to which I barely alluded be- 
fore ; namely, the great increase of the Highland popu- 
lation which has followed it. This has held pace, pre- 
cisely, with the extension of sheep farming, of that very 
improvement which was to depopulate the whole coun- 
try. The causes must now be apparent, in these re- 
marks. It must be added also, that while there has thus 
been an increase of people within the country, there has 
been a distinct increase beyond its limits, in those who 
are now maintained by the increase of surplus or ex- 
ported produce on the sheep farms; an increase indicated 
and measured by the increase of rent. So widely do the 
facts differ from the groundless anticipations. As to the 
pernicious ultimate bearings of the system, they are 
easily deducible from the remarks dispersed throughout 
this essay, and from those formerly made, when treating 
of the Food of the Highlands. We must console our- 
selves by reflecting that they were not to be avoided, 
and that they will be checked and suspended by the va- 
rious corrections that must spring up during the prooress 
of the country to general improvement. 

In antient times it was a fashion here, to hold lands 
« en metairie," or, " in steelbow ;" but there are no such 
tenures now. Under the system of Tacks, Cotters 
were frequent; though the labour on the tacksman's 
farm, was often also executed by servitudes taken in part 
of rent. Absolute cotters are now too rare to require 
any notice in this sketch of the Highland system. The 


Rent services on the kelp farms have been sufficiently 
described : and slight servitudes, such as harvest labour, 
the carrying of peats, and soon, are still occasionally in 
use. These also are frequently stigmatized as instances 
of hardship and oppression ; but they are exactly analor 
gous to the case of kelp, which I formerly explained. 
That the tenant may complain of those servitudes, be- 
cause he prefers idleness, is not a claim for much com- 
passion ; and we must rather approve a practice which 
compels him to benefit himself and his landlord at the 
same time, when nothing but that could induce him to 
move. That his services may chance to be wanted for 
his landlord, when he also requires them for bis owo 
farm, is what must equally happen to a cotter; but it is 
the best bargain that he could make, and he must abide 
by it. But all these complaints, against servitudes as 
against rent, are the remains of those ancient feelings, 
from which the Highland people were used to consider 
the lands as their own : a feeling which was in full force, 
in many places, not many years ago, and which chiefly 
led to those acts of resistance that broke out into what 
may be called insurrections. 

What I have said about the low value of labour as 
the cause of the cultivation of the crofts, is not at va- 
riance with the want of labourers or the dearness of la- 
bour. Alow value is not alow price; for there is no 
price, because there is no market. On general prin- 
ciples, an excessive population should produce low-priced 
labour; the peculiarity of this one makes the present ex- 
ception. There is no proper marketable labour here, 
because there is no class of independent labourers, where 
every man is a tenant; and therefore, if ever to be ob- 
tained, it is always at a very high price, at one which, 
even in the English capital, would be deemed exorbi- 
tant. How much of this is the result of idleness and 
extortion, I need not repeat; while something also must 
be allowed, for that pride which imagines itself possessed 
of property. And how it operates in impeding agricul- 

iiiGHLAM) Et;oNo:\!Y a>:d population. 123 

tural improvement, in creating the servitudes, and in 
many other ways, is equally obvious. It is an evil which 
will scarcely be remedied while land is found for every 
one. But whenever large farms shall become more ge- 
neral, an independent class of labourers must arise: 
wages will then find their value, as elsewhere; and I 
have little doubt that the labourer will then generally be 
a richer and a happier man than the small crofter; unless 
indeed he should continue to think that starving idleness 
is a better state than active competence. 

It has happened occasionally, in the recent division 
of the lands, that some tenants have unavoidably been 
ejected. From a mixture of charity, and of the hope of 
future advantage, those have been allowed to settle them- 
selves on the outskirts of the lands, under the name of 
Mailers; thus creating free crofts for themselves, and at 
length becoming renters and tenants. Those instances, 
however, are rare. In former times, rents were chiefly 
paid in produce; but they have now been converted into 
money rents; an arrangement partly originating in the 
diminution of resident proprietors. To a Consumer, a 
rent in kind was a convenient market: it was absolutely 
necessary for the support of the Chief's family: now, it 
would compel the landholder to become a haberdasher in 
agricultural produce, as is still the case in Hungary and 
elsewhere. After all that has been said against the an- 
cient rents, they were a convenience to the tenants, though 
they were among the first to exclaim for their commu- 
tation. Of the economical differences between a corn 
rent and a money rent, I need not here enquire. But he 
who is to pay in money, must first find it; which, in a 
land without markets, and where a small tenant's com- 
modities are in peddling quantities, is not only difficult, 
but a frequent source of loss, by putting him in the 
power of a dishonest trader or a monopolist. The sale of 
corn or fowls, for such purposes is nearly impossible; and 
he must therefore depend on his wool or cattle for his 
rent. If those fail, he has no resource ; while there are 


farms also which are unfavourable for breeding. Here, 
too, he is subject to fluctuations of value, in paying the 
money rent, greater than on the ancient system. The 
real convenience of the rent in kind was this: that the 
tenant was rated to any produce which he couM raise, or 
in a great many kinds, or, what was still more commo- 
dious, was permitted to substitute one for another. Hence 
he was not condemned to any particular cultivation, for 
the purpose of raising money, as any surplus answered 
his purpose; while his landlord offered him a sure 
market, at a known price, without the risk of fraud, 
failure, or bad debts, and freed from the profits of the 
intermediate merchant. 

There are many cases in Public Economy, where ge- 
neral doctrines require essential modifications; some- 
times from physical and local, and sometimes even from 
metaphysical, considerations. I am fully aware how often 
I have reasoned respecting the Highlands, in contradic- 
tion to many of the imaginary principles of that science; 
and equally aware how, from those, I might be apparently 
confuted, or at least controverted. But the fault is with 
those who neglect some of the collateral considerations; 
who have created a hypothetical science, and then ima- 
gine it a practical one; and who, in fact, enter on calcu- 
lations, in which they forget some of the elements. Half 
of the modern fallacies in economical reasoning, and half 
of our disappointments in the results expected from this 
science, may be traced to this cause. 

It is time to turn to the subject of the Highland popu- 
lation ; because all else that remains to be said on the 
Agricultural system, bears, in some manner, upon this 
question. I need not say that this has been a fruitful 
source of acrimony, controversy, and bad writing. The 
question of Emigration has been, as every one knows, 
the mainspring of the whole. If the late political changes 
of Britain have brought peace into this dispute also, the 
general subject is far from being understood as it ought 
to be, for the comfort of all parties. If ignorance and ill- 


luiiiioiir have here had their full sway, so have private 
acrimony, the spirit of mischief, and the cant of the poets 
and romancers. Idle tourists, ignorant of public eco- 
nomy, ignorant of the country, and copying in succession 
from each other, have continued to propagate their false 
and foolish views, long after the circumstances which 
might once have given them some colour, had ceased. 
Here is a specimen of the philosophy of this class. 
*' Whence will our Armies be recruited — where shall we 
find marines to man our Navy, the bulwark of our island: 
the neglect of which would endanger our existence as a 
free and independent nation." Those are ponderous 
words : but it is of such " skimble-skamble stuff," that 
the half of those Lamentations have been composed. 
Pennant gave into this, because he did not understand 
such subjects: Johnson, because he did not attend to 
them. Had Adam Smith, by good fortune, and with the 
added advantage of being " a Scotchman," given but 
one brief chapter to the Highlands, a world of ink and 
ilT-humour would have been saved. Instead of this, the 
philosophy has been sought in the economics of Oliver 
Goldsmith. Really, it would be as well if the Poets would 
remember what Waller once said : for certain it is that 
they succeed very ill when they meddle with Truth, It 
was by means of the cabalistic words, Emigration, Eject- 
ment, Engrossing, and Oppressive Rents, that all this 
perversion of judgment was produced : for it is by 
Words that the world is swayed. 

Were we to believe the half of what has been said on 
this subject, we should conclude that the Highlands were 
to have been depopulated past recovery ; that the very 
Empire itself was to be ruined, that it would be unable 
to defend itself, that our entire army was composed of 
Highlanders, that neither Scot nor Englishman had cou- 
rage to fight, and that the downfall of Britain was sealed, 
because three or four hundred people, containing per- 
haps fifty men, of which not one might ever have enlisted 
as a soldier, had embarked for America, singing " Ha til 


mi tulidb." It is time to think and reason like men. 
Nor is it true that emigration from the Highlands was a 
new invention, or was the produce of new systems of 
farming; since it was in use, even as early as the original 
settlement of Georgia, and before. 

But, to come to the question like reasonable beings, 
every population is redundant when the people are unable 
to command the proper and decent necessaries of life ; 
whatever the measure of these may be for that country. 
It is unquestionably so, at least, when that scale is already 
so low, that it cannot be lowered without inducing abso- 
lute poverty; nakedness and want. It is therefore indif- 
ferent what their absolute numbers may be ; as the ques- 
tion is a relative one between want and supply. The 
most scanty population may thus be redundant, as the 
most crowded may still have room; and those who, in 
several parts of the Highlands, have disputed the state- 
ment of an existing redundance, should bear this in mind. 

Now no one, who is acquainted with the Highlands, 
can doubt, that, in many parts, the people are, not merely 
in that state of relative redundance which may still be 
corrected by lowering the scale of living, but that this 
condition is even absolute, and without remedy of that 
nature: the population being already reduced to the 
lowest state, as to wealth, at which it can well exist. The 
presence of poverty is not less certain, because the defi- 
ciency is universal, and that no one lives much worse 
than his neighbour : though, from want of contrast, it 
may be less visible, and is, of course, less felt. Riches 
and poverty, to a certain extent, are relative; yet, even 
thus, poverty becomes a source of unhappiness, by com- 
parison with superior wealth. 

Though I am obliged to apply the term poverty to 
this state, it is a word which conveys improper ideas, 
and particularly to an Englishman, which it is here most 
necessary to correct. To his ear, it is connected with 
notions of baseness, of a general deficiency in moral qua- 
lities ; while, as applied to the labouring class at large. 


improperly called the labouring- poor in that luxurious 
country, it fosters, in the people, ill-will towards the 
upper ranks, rebellion against the government, and a 
spirit of general discontent; accompanied by a want of 
self-estimation, which debases them still lower, and assists 
in destroying that pride of independence to which the 
Poor Laws give the finishing blow. Montesquieu says 
that poverty is debasing, only when it is the consequence 
of misrule; and we may apply his Canon to the case in 
point. Poor, therefore, as the Highlander may sometimes 
be, he is not deserted by his proper pride, by his manly 
feelings, nor by the many other virtues by which he is 
characterized. Difficult as it may generally be to rouse 
his industry by ordinary inducements, yet to avoid cha- 
rity^ or to maintain his parents and dependents, he will 
undergo any privations, and exert his utmost energy. 
This would, in itself, atone for all his national defects; 
which, after all the anger that is excited by the mention 
of them, are not often really important. It is this recti- 
tude of mind also, added to his habitual submission and 
contentedness under slender accommodations, that makes 
him bear, without complaint, the misfortunes which may 
be his lot. It is often said, that it is dangerous to tamper 
with the stomach of the people. Judging by the out- 
rageous clamours of " the English poor," when deprived 
of their wheaten bread and their porter, their beef and 
their tea, the maxim is as true as the proofs of it are dis- 
gusting. Here, it fails ; nor can any thing excite more 
surprise in a stranger, than the patience with which oc- 
casional, as well as habitual want, is borne by the High- 
landers. It is far from unusual for them to decline re- 
ceiving, not only common charity, but even parochial re- 
lief. It is known to many, not only that this has been 
refused when offered, but that another object has been 
indicated, by the person himself, as more deserving: that 
a portion of what had been accepted, has been returned, 
when the sufferer considered that he had overcome the 
most pressing part of his difficulties. If this be a di- 


gression from the main subject, I can only wish for op- 
portunities of making- many more of the same nature. 
Could such a feeling be excited in England, could every 
Englishman become, in this respect, a Highlander, more 
would be done for the welfare and the peace of the nation, 
than by all the laws and all the systems that ever were 

Among other careless assertions on the subject of this 
population, it has been said that it cannot now be re- 
dundant, because the same statement was made thirty 
years ago, and that, since that period, it has materially 
increased. But all that follows is, that owing to the im- 
provements of the country, the means of living have also 
increased. There is more productive labour, and more 
produce: and thus, though the population is far greater 
absolutely, it is not excessive, proportionably : or when 
compared to the food. In the case of such a progression, 
a nice equipoise of the people and the food, of consump- 
tion and supply, cannot be preserved through every stage 
of the process. Thus, while the population and the pro- 
duce have held a common pace together, there have been 
fluctuations, in excess and defect, at different times. 
When the demand for food has exceeded the supply, the 
excess of population has been felt in the want of farms 
to cultivate; in other cases, the reverse has happened, 
and laud has remained unoccupied. It must always be 
remembered, that place, as well as time, is concerned in 
this question ; and that, on some estates, there has often 
been a defect of people, while, even in the immediately 
adjoining, there has been a redundancy. It has been a 
principal fault of writers, to overlook all those circum- 
stances, and thus to reason from limited and partial ob- 
servations; plunging their readers into error and doubt, 
and themselves into controversy. The facts of both the 
opposing parties have been frequently true, but their 
generalizations were false. The former frequency of 
famine is a sufficient proof of a redundant population in 
former days. If its rarity in our own time should be 


ntUUired as a proof tliat there has been no such redun- 
dancy lately, it must be recollected that migration, as 
well as emigration, has offered remedies which, in those 
distant times, were unattainable. The tendency, at least, 
always exists ; and its natural progress is to increase, till 
it approaches, or possibly, touches, the painful limit of 
some former period ; when the remedy, whatever it be, 
becomes again called iaito action. It is not possible to 
know where that limit is to be, at any given time ; but it 
is evident that whenever a race of this nature is run be- 
tween food and population, or supply and consumption, 
interferences must happen, and the inconveniences of an 
excessive population will be felt, at some period, or in 
some particular spot. The criterion by which this excess 
may be judged of, appears sulKciently obvious, without 
having recourse to the deceptive and uncertain aid of 
numerical investigation. It is commonly found in the 
minute division of farms; of which, the consequence is, 
a degree of pressure, frequently arising to actual want. 
It is equally evinced by high rents, or by a low price for 
labour: as it is by the exclusive culture of potatoes, and 
by excessive fishing. Benbecula, formerly noticed, was 
an example, and, perhaps, remains such: the compara- 
tive low rate of the kelp labour, or rent services, being 
equivalent to a high rent for the farms. Canna, and many 
other places, might be adduced to illustrate the othef 
points; but this would lead to a treatise on a subject 
which is likely to extend too far as it is. 

Those who are always ready to direct the property of 
others, (a ver}^ numerous race, all through life) blame the 
proprietors for taking rents too high. But, as I before 
remarked, this is the only check against that ruinous di- 
vision which would generate an agrarian law ; a law as 
destructive as the poor laws of Suicidal England. A pre- 
posterous attachment to a given spot, is frequently also 
a cause of local redundance; as is, a difficulty of mi- 
grating, from want of distant employment, or of emi- 
grating, from Avant of capital. Benbecula was formerly 



noticed asacaseof this nature. The difficulty of moving 
man, has been often remarked by economical writers ; 
here, it has often an appearance little less than marvellous. 
It is plainly connected with ignorance; with a low de- 
gree of mental cultivation. In fact, strong local attach- 
ment is a common attendant of this state, which knows 
not that there is as good a world beyond its own imme- 
diate home. In the Highlands also, this feeling is deeply 
connected with the language ; as I have sufficiently re- 
marked elsewhere. 

It may well be wondered how such a state of things 
as a starving people unwilling to move, can exist at all; 
it is not less surprising to be told that it is impossible to 
find a remedy. It might be expected that the over- 
flowing of people in one place, would, without any great 
effort, discharge its superfluity on those neighbouring 
countries where there is a deficiency or a demand. But, 
besides the causes just mentioned, the insulated state 
and the peculiar habits of the people, present obstacles 
to migration, which will not be overcome till many 
changes have taken place. Any expedients that may 
break down the bounds which separate the Highlanders 
from the Empire at large, ought to be adopted. The in- 
terchange of its constituent parts will become easy, 
whenever there shall be established a community of 
pursuits, occupations, language, manners, and wants. If 
the law of settlement in England, is a grievance which all 
economists have admitted, what must we think of a sys- 
tem which produces the same effects over a whole coun- 
try. To point out means, would lead me much too far. 
The mere proposal, I am aware, will shock all those who 
are so ardent for the preservation of the ancient man- 
ners, habits, and language of this people. But where, 
not only their happiness, but their very existence is at 
stake, it is impossible to give way to those follies. It 
would be very well, \Vere it possible, to combine, in this 
case, pleasure with profit; the real advantage of the 
people, with the indulgence of the fantastic Avishes of 


their superiors. What the poor people themselves have 
to gain by reinaining what they were two centuries past, 
it would be hard to say; and it really is far beyond the 
bounds of fair indulgence to the romance of their betters, 
to consent to see tlie Highlanders at large, sutfering any 
inconveniences from which they might be relieved. How 
just those views are, is proved by the country itself. The 
Highland border displays the evidence every where: all 
that is here wished is, that a system which has thus pow- 
erfully displayed its own advantages, should beextended. 
The Highland border is what it is, because it is no longer 
the Highlands: and I am not aware that any peculiar 
sufferings can flow from rendering Scotland one Scotland, 
and all its people Scottish Men. 

It has been contended that no species of removal was 
ever necessary; because the means of living were in- 
creasing in proportion to the increase of numbers. That 
is not the fact. If it were, we are then to wait till the 
period of distress has actually occurred, before we apply 
the remedy. While the speculator is preparing his me- 
dicine, the disease has arrived ; and that disease is death. 
It is prevention which is our duty. To say that employ- 
ment can always be found on the spot, in the cultivation 
of fresh lands and in manufactures, is the assertion of 
ignorance. On the subject of manufactures, 1 have else- 
where said all that can be required, and have sufficiently 
shown the futility of all schemes of this nature. In the 
maritime Highlands, which have generally been the seats 
of the excessive population, the properly arable land 
bears a very small proportion to the pastures, and every 
thing capable of improvement is already in a state of 
cultivation, which, as I have already shown, would be 
ruinous, rather than profitable, any where else. A change 
of system, or what is meant by " improving new lands," 
would, as I have also shown, diminish the number of oc- 
cupants; because it would diminish the quantity of that 
produce which would be consumed on the soil, as well as 
the labour required to maintain the agricultural land in 



cultivation. Either the land already cultivated on such 
estates, could not be occupied at all by a tenant of large 
capital, or else it would be cultivated at a far less ex- 
pence ; and, in either case, the same result, of a dimi- 
nished demand, or room, for people, and consequently of 
a diminished population, follows. Under such a change 
also, that fishery which acts so large a part in maintaining 
the present population, would fall off or cease, till some 
other plan could be adopted, to the suppression of many 
people ; nor would it be again rendered available, till 
the pursuit of fishery was entirely separated from that 
of agriculture, and a regular fishing trade established. 
This is the tendency of such a change of system. Such 
then is the foresight of these economists, that they pro- 
duce the very emigration which they intended to pre- 
vent. And as their direct establishments of fisheries, 
really end in forcing' the people into a bad system of 
agriculture, as at Tobermory, the plans which they lay 
for abetter mode of cultivation and occupancy, are plans 
for establishing this very system of fishing; an event 
which they had never contemplated. However strange 
such a conclusion may appear to those persons, it is as 
certain as the general principle is obvious. As the la- 
bours of agriculture are performed in a cheaper manner, 
fewer hands are required to conduct it ; and though a 
greater number of people are maintained by such im- 
proved cultivation, the same lands no longer bear those 
whom it can no longer furnish with employment; who 
must therefore migrate, perhaps to earn elsewhere, the 
very food raised on the lands which they had left. 

The Crofting System has already effected so much, 
that we may in charity suppose that the speculators in 
question, who talk of improving waste lands, without 
knowing precisely what they mean themselves, allude to 
this, as to an inexhaustible resource. Its real nature is 
unknown to them: and while they have imagined that all 
agricultural reform was alike, they have supposed that 
what was once done might be done indefinitely, and that 


where there was one croft, there might as easily be ten 
or a hundred. They arc ignorant that those people are 
maintained, more by fishing- than by agriculture, that 
crofting- cannot easily be extended beyond the margin of 
the sea, and that the interior land is either absolutely 
incapable of cultivation, or must be reserved in aid of the 
pasture farms. Yet, granting that such an increase were 
possible, it is by migration that those beneficial improve- 
ments have already been made, and it is only by further 
migrcition that they could be extended to produce the 
desired effects. Yet these are the very persons who ex- 
claimed against migration as cruel and o[)pressive, who 
overwhelmed a whole country with philanthropic lamen- 
tation and canting-, and whose ends, had they not been 
defeated by superior sense and firmness, would have in- 
jured those whom they professed to serve, and have im- 
peded that great increase of population and wealth which 
the country has experienced. Thus little does ignorance 
know, even its own meaning; thus blind is anger. 

Those who have vainly flattered themselves that the 
possibility of crofting was indefinite, should also know 
that even this new allotment of lands, has, in some cases, 
excluded a part of the old population; instead of provid- 
ing for more, as has been the more general result. This 
happened in North Uist, among other places ; and thus 
the excess of population was here brought to light by that 
very system which, in other places, had caused it to be 
absorbed in new employment. However paradoxical this 
may appear, it is easily explained. Under the ancient 
system of joint tenantry, no correct idea was entertained 
of the value of land, as no man's lot was defined. Thus 
a farm, let to ten or twenty tenants, accommodated two 
or three more ; no one being sensible of his particular 
share of the sacrifice required for the superfluous hands. 
Hence, most of these farms were encumbered with gra- 
tuitous retainers; who, from the claims of kindred, or 
other causes, were thus allowed to drag on a miserable 
existence. A single lot cannot admit of this kind of hix 


charity; and hence ihose who lived by such a contribution, 
became ejected, and proved to be superfluous. In process 
of time, however, such rejected population will be absorbed 
by increase of industry on the rough lands in question. 

The subject of Migration has thus been gradu- 
ally brought before us in this review of the Crofting 
system. I must now add, that while every removal of 
the people ought to be gradual and progressive, it ought 
to be early. It should be carried into effect, by any 
means, even by force, should that be necessary, while 
the people are yet rich enough tore-establish themselves, 
and before the period of real excess and want arrives. 
That which is called oppression, is here, in fact, huma- 
nity. The longer a change is protracted, the more se- 
vere in every way it will be, because greater numbers 
will be added to greater poverty. Moreover, those whose 
speculations would still further condense and crowd this 
population, are their real enemies, not those whose ma- 
nagement compels them to remove. Little praise can be 
given to schemes that would multiply population, only 
to multiply misery : and the common and false logic 
which would increase quantity without regard to qua- 
lity, is, in this case, peculiarly false and injurious. This 
reasoning applies to that further division of the crofts, 
which has been urged on the proprietors. The same ef- 
fect would follow from the surrender of their rents, 
equally proposed. There would be an increase of popu- 
lation. But the consequences would be the same ; and 
what those are, if I have not here made them apparent, 
may unfortunately be seen in far too many places, where 
this system of extreme subdivision has been injudiciously 
adopted. Assuredly, the Proprietor who may follow this 
plan, cannot long expect any rent. Thus, that attention 
to his own interest which it is the fashion to condemn, be- 
comes the real preventive of what must be, in the end, a 
source of injury. The interests of the landholder and 
the tenant, of the employer and the employed, of the 
rich and the poor, are far oftener mutually dependent, 


than those restless and evil spirits, who strive to infuse 
dissensions between them, and to subvert the common 
and ancient arrangements of society, choose to admit 
or see. 

I cannot well avoid now saying a few words respect- 
ing Emigration. This, in fact, has been the foundation of 
all the discussions on Highland economy ; as well as the 
war-cry of that body which is, at once, the most numer- 
ous, the most clamorous, and the least informed. When 
the terrific term, Emigration, and the more formidable 
one, Depopulation, were sounded, the quiet voice of 
Reason became utterly inaudible. This is not the only 
case where the simplest truths are rejected, or the plainest 
demonstrations misunderstood, from their connexion with 
terms that have been associated with peculiar feelings 
and prejudices. But there has recently occurred such a 
revolution in the public mind on this subject, that there 
is now little more to contend with than ihe intrinsic dif- 
ficulties of the subject itself. Voltaire is not a very high 
authority in national economy ; yet his lively fable should 
have opened the eyes of those who might for ever have 
floundered among economical doctrines in vain. " Dans 
ce cas il faudroit que la terre rendit le double de ce 
qu'elle rend, ou qu'il y auroit ie double de pauvres, ou 
qu'il faudroit avoir le double sur I'etranger, ou envoyer 
la moitie de la nation en Amerique, ou que !a moitie de 
la nation mangeat I'autre." Such reasoning indeed ought 
to have been obvious enough ; but it is the property of 
anger and fear alike, to obscure reason. If the ancient 
emigrations, which originally laid the foundation of all 
those wild fears and idler writings, appear at variance 
with what I have formerly said about local attachments, 
the contradiction is but apparent; for both statements 
are true. Such emigrations have generally been the re- 
sult of some common feeling, operating on a large com- 
munity ; and thus, whole tracts have sometimes emigrated 
together, to the no small terror of patriotic persons. 
With all this, it has still been always found dirticult to 


move raruilies, or individuals, or small tracts. Let those 
who then saw blanks, never again to be filled, seek them 
now. It onglit to be plain to every one, that the evils 
of emigration are imaginary ; that it is often a blessing, 
and that the blank is soon and easily repaired; often, 
indeed, too easily and too soon. But it is unnecessary 
to pursue a subject, which, by the veering of the poli- 
tical vane, has become as favourite an expedient for the 
repair of all State evils, as it was once thought to be the 
root of all. 

It remains yet, however, to try to adjust the over- 
warm partizans, who adopted opposite sides respecting 
the redundancy of Highland population, and its reme- 
dies. To show that both parties were right and also wrong, 
will not be difficult. The most conspicuous emigrations 
were those which followed the events of 1745, and their 
consequences; namely, the commutation of services for 
rent, chiefly, and the introduction of large pasture farms; 
producing immediate relief, and justifying the utility of 
that expedient. Hence Lord Selkirk entered the lists; 
contending for Emigration, as politically natural and ne- 
cessary ; as an inevitable consequence of the progress of 
things, and as the only remedy. There is no question 
respecting the general truth of his views and prin- 
ciples. The arguments of his antagonists were directed 
to show, that Emigration was politically inexpedient, and, 
at the same time, unnecessary; because there were abun- 
dant means in the Highlands, of absorbing the increase 
of population. Experience has proved that they were, 
to a certain extent, practically right ; and that other re- 
medies, consisting in the various improvements now well 
known, were then available. But the same experience 
has also been long enough continued to prove, that those 
remedies were rather palliative than radical ; that they 
were exhaustible. The views of the partizans of those 
expedients have been here shown to be narrow ; and the 
partial fulfilment of their predictions was the result of 
circumstances which they did not foresee. The disease 


has advanced faster than those recnedies have beetj able 
to cope with it; and thus it has been determined that 
occasional Emigration is, even now, necessary. It is 
also obvious, that this necessity must proceed in a con- 
stant ratio of increase, as the remedies do in a ratio of 
diminution; and that a time will arrive when no remedy 
but Emigration will remain. Then, Lord Selkirk's con- 
clusions will be justiiied. But, being theoretical, their 
error was that of considering* the resources as exhausted, 
when they were still available. The most necessary 
elements of the calculation, the facts themselves, had 
been overlooked; as the event has shown. 

There is another, and not an unimportant question, 
connected with the population of the Highlands. Poli- 
ticians are accused of considering* man as a mere ma- 
chine, of viewing- him solely as an integrant part of the 
State, and of treating him as an animal whose sole busi- 
ness it is to work, or fight, or perform such other duties 
as may raise the country to which he belongs, to that 
rank, which, in their estimation, produces political hap- 
piness. Mere moralists say, that the purpose of g-overn- 
ment is to render individuals happy. Thus it is said, 
that the poverty of the Highlands is perfectly compatible 
with the happiness of the people. This question has 
never yet been fairly stated. The objections of the mo- 
ralists have never been answered. It will not be very 
difRcult to answer, in this case, on both grounds; and to 
show, not only that there is expediency, but humanity, 
in altering or controuling the character of the Highland 

It is unnecessary to repeat the truism respecting- the 
duties of a State in producing the greatest collective 
sum of happiness, Avith the least of misery. Direct legis- 
lative restrictions cease, for this end, at a certain point. 
It is then the business of National Economy, to take up 
and pursue the same plan. But a sound economist con- 
siders, not only how the greatest quantity of this com- 
modity may be procured for the present whole, but for 


the future also. With him, it is essential that posterity 
should not have to pay for the happiness of the present 
age; but that all who are to come, to the most distant 
times, should, like all that are present, receive as nearly 
equal a share of good as can be obtained. Thus, there- 
fore, even the welfare of the general State tends to that 
of its constituent parts; or the political views of the eco- 
nomist become combined with his plans for the happi- 
ness of individuals: and such parts of his theories as 
seem, to the people, to neglect, or to sacrifice them, be- 
cause apparently occupied immediately about the State, 
are directed to the very same benevolent end. It is 
easy to apply this reasoning to the case of the Highlands. 
Admitting that even the most crowded and indigent 
population is here happy, we must enquire how long 
this happiness can continue on the same system, and what 
the event will be as to posterity. We must then ask how 
this condition affects the rest of the State, or the universal 
happiness ; how far such a population contributes its share 
to the general support, and how far it is just that the in- 
dustry and thought of one portion of the community, 
should be called on for the advantage or the protection 
of those who contribute nothing. When it does not this, 
when man feeds himself alone, the right, or the happi- 
ness, of one portion, is infringed in favour of the other. 
But those questions have been answered before hand ; and 
I need not pursue a subject which might easily be rami- 
fied to an interminable length. It is sufficient to have 
shown, that the economical plans which seem most 
purely political, are directed to the benevolent end of 
producing the greatest quantity of general, and, conse- 
quently, the greatest sum of individual happiness, for the 
future as for the present. Thus, even the question of 
happiness, revolves itself into one of State policy. 

It has been seen, that as this people is maintained, chiefly 
as cultivators, and on lands in a state of extreme division, 
the population of any given tract must thus be greater 
than under a more extended system, and that the <on- 


version of many small farms into one, must diminish it. 
But, in this case, the agricultural machine is more per- 
fect ; the same produce is obtained by fewer hands, or at 
a less expense; as, in manufactures, that is the state of 
perfection where the greatest return is obtained on the 
lowest terms. This is the fundamental argument in fa- 
vour of large farms, as it is against the crowded popula- 
tion of the Highlands : the exceptions peculiar to this 
country, were formerly stated. It is also the argument 
against the spade. Had it been the best instrument, the 
plough would not have been invented. It is the steam 
engine of agriculture. If the horse consumes five times 
as much as the man, he is the efficient cause often times 
the produce ; thus leavinga surplus profit, which doubles 
the man, or, the people. By the spade, more men are 
fed upon the farm, but there are none to spare; as he 
who produces all, consumes all. The increase of pro- 
duce is a fallacious profit; because the shallow politician 
does not distinguish between gross profit^ and net profit. 
There is another mode of viewing the argument against 
the continued improvement of fresh lands, and the ex- 
cessive cultivation of old ones. Here, the further increase 
of capital, or industry, does not produce a proportional 
return; and thence it is that inferior lands are gradu- 
ally taken out of the mass of cultivation. Every increase 
of food thus produced, is progressively obtained at a still 
greater expense ; and hence, in time, such lands become 
incapable of maintaining any but those who labour it. 
Here, net produce, or surplus, and consequently, rent, 
ceases, and here misery is established. If the food of 
two is thus raised, where that of one was before, it is 
shortly called on to provide for three ; while the added 
labour of one more, is insufiicient to produce his own 
share. The Surplus, which is required for numerous 
demands, can be procured only by labouring the land in 
the cheapest manner. On the divided Highland system, 
it is devoured by the means taken for its production. The 
excess of return above expenditure, forms the capital for 


future iinprovenients; if there be none, the process and 
the population also, come to a stand; the stand of poverty 
and famine. 

Thus, also, if there be no surplus produce, there can 
be no surplus population. Redundancy is not surplus; 
nor is it a paradox to say that the over-crowded Highland 
population affords none; because every man's exertions 
are here required to raise food for himself. Hence, in 
this system, there cannot exist any of those individuals 
who constitute the efficient parts of a State. It is thus, 
that Utopian systems of agrarian equality, are necessarily 
states of barbarism. The extreme division of the High- 
lands would be far worse than the ancient Clanship ; 
since the people could maintain, neither the Chief, nor the 
piper, nor even the piper's gillie. The theoretical per- 
fection of such an entire State, would not allow of a King, 
a judge, an army, or a minister of religion ; it would not 
find even the ploughwright or smith, without whom, the 
very ground could not be cultivated. That it could not 
be realized practically, is true; because the whole fabric 
would fall to pieces long before it had reached that point. 
If, therefore, a society cannot exist on those terms, what- 
ever portion of it is in that condition, is, for all general 
purposes, an encumbrance, instead of an advantage to the 
State. The defenders of Owen may apply this reasoning 
to their own scheme. In such a system, also, there is a 
constant tendency to increase, and when it is arrived at 
perfection, all further increase is at an end. Hence, the 
moment of happiness long sought, and at length accom- 
plished, is that of misery. The limit to population is the 
limit of food, and the check is famine. Thus, emigration, 
or migration, becomes imperious ; while want is the only 
motive of action ; and hence, such a change becomes at- 
tended by that extreme misery which has generated the 
painful ideas connected with those terms ; and which, to 
those not accustomed to reason, appears a consequence, 
where it is, in fact, a cause. I must here stop ; and I stop 
gladly, as sensible that the whole subject requires much 


more space than I have to give it : but he can have very 
little regard for his unfortunate countrymen, who would 
lend his assistance towards augmenting or perpetuating 
that which has already too strong a tendency to maintain 

To conclude. It is easy to show that the state of the 
Highlands confirms the theoretical opinion, that a country 
in this condition can possess no surplus population. Yet 
as the condition is not here absolute, a surplus is not 
entirely wanting, but is merely deficient when compared 
to the rest of the Empire. The evidences are apparent, 
in the want of manufactures, and of the current trades of 
society ; in the absence of ail those who elsewhere live 
without cultivating land, in the consequent union of 
many occupations in one individual, and, most of all, in 
the want of persons ready to work for hire, or, of a class 
of free labourers. Those facts are apparent on the very 
surface : but their real nature and cause have not been 
understood. Such a deficiency of surplus is, compara- 
tively, of a private nature : that surplus which is more 
rigidly public, or political, consists in the individuals 
which the State can take for its armies, which may be 
rendered available to the public defence, with the least 
disturbance to the general machine. It is, unfortunately, 
difiricult to touch on this subject, without rousing preju- 
dices which are always on the watch for offence ; yet the 
tenderness of which is neither prudent nor politic. All 
those clamours, however, are the produce of a few indi- 
viduals; who, without any peculiar claims, present them- 
selves as the representatives of the opinions and feelings 
of a whole people, and of one with which they are, too 
often, but very partially acquainted. 

It was never disputed, that the Highlanders possessed 
all the qualities of good soldiers. That belongs to the 
personal character of the people. But they are averse 
to entering the army. That is a political character, a 
case in public economy. It is not a censure, to say that 
they have not strong military propensities. A man of 


such propensities is a bad animal. But, for a man loving 
peace, in peace, to be a true soldier in war, is perhaps 
the very highest praise that can be given: and, thus 
considering the Highlanders, I feel myself more truly 
their defender and admirer, than those who have displayed 
so much misplaced indignation on the contrary side. 

The Highlands have been represented as a nursery 
of seamen and soldiers, as the sole defence of the empire ; 
and thus every emigration has been lamented as if it 
were the ruin of Britain. And, to all this, England and 
Scotland listen, and seem to consent; confessing thus, 
their own inferiority and disgrace. To say that the 
Highlanders have defended Britain by their numbers, is 
an arithmetical absurdity: it is for the English and Scot- 
tish military to admit, if it pleases them, the superiority 
of the Highland troops. If they allow that the High- 
landers have bled for them, and that the g^reat balance of 
war was turned, not by the weight of hundreds and tens 
of thousands from England and the Lowlands, but by 
thousands and hundreds from the Highlands, no one has 
a right to dispute it. It was said, that, in the American 
war, there were 70,000 Highland soldiers employed. 
That was more nearly the population of the country than 
the amount of its army ; which, through the whole cam- 
paigns, never exceeded 12,000. But as popular opinions 
become current by repetition, every one still speaks of 
the thousands of men which this country annually fur- 
nished to the Navy and the Army. By how many falla- 
cious statements this number has been swelled, and how 
often that service, which was the result of influence and 
threats, amounting virtually to conscription, has been 
represented as voluntary, I shall avoid showing, that I 
may avoid a tedious and an idle controversy. To write 
pages, for the purpose of convincing- the public that there 
are persons who do not choose to be convinced, is to 
occupy space that may be much better employed. 

That the Highlanders are averse to the army, is noto- 
rious to every one really acquainted with this people. Ex- 


ceptionsniay of course be quoted, on account of the very 
various condition of the people in different parts of the 
country, and for other reasons on which I need not dwell. 
If Proprietors have sometimes found considerable facility 
in raising- regiments, the assertion still remains true. That 
is a separate case; it is one of personal attachment: the 
aversion in question is that to enlisting merely as a sol- 
dier, or, in the common phrase, being recruited by beat 
of drum. If authority were wanting, none can be stronger 
than that of Col. Stewart, who says that it is so difficult 
to recruit the five Highland Regiments, in the country, 
that they are obliged to maintain parties in Edinburgh 
and Glasgow. He also considers it the consequence of a 
" low state of patriotism and courage among the once 
chivalrous, high-minded, and warlike Highlanders;" and, 
what appears more surprising, that " the disinclination 
to a military life among the Highlanders," has arisen, in a 
great measure, " from the idle and too general report of 
the destruction of lives in the Highland Regiments." 

Testimony like this cannot be disputed. The " dis- 
inclination" could not be stated much more strongly, nor 
by a more competent judge. It may appear bold to dis- 
pute the assigned causes, against such an authority: yet 
this I am disposed to do. I can never admit that the 
Highlanders are " in a low state of courage," or that 
their " disinclination" to the service arises from the fear 
of death. That would be a censure indeed. It is im- 
possible. The true reason lies elsewhere. It is a ne- 
cessary consequence of the condition of the country, and 
is common to the Highlanders with the whole world. It 
is well known to politicians, that if it is difficult to pro- 
cure recruits from agricultural labourers, they cannot be 
procured from persons who own or occupy land, be that 
occupancy ever so small. No man leaves his property to 
go on military service, voluntarily. This is the case of 
the Highlands ; where every one is either the actual pos- 
sessor of land, or looks forward to be what his father was 
before him. Nor is poverty favourable to the recruiting' 


service. Its great harvest is among- those who are wanton 
from wealth, or discontented from ungratified ambition, 
or suddenly checked in a state of high labouring- wages. 
It is thus that manufacturers enlist faster than agricul- 
turists, and always most readily where those peculiar cir- 
cumstances exist. It is hence that the Highland soldier 
must be sought in Glasgow, not in his own lands: and 
thus is the preceding statement as to recruiting, explained. 
Thus the greatest difficulty in Highland recruiting has 
been found where the division of land was the most mi- 
nute ; because it is precisely there that every one is a 
possessor. The very same consequences were felt in 
France: especially after the Revolution, when land be- 
came subdivided ; and, still more, when, from the new 
French laws of descent, the subdivision had proceeded to 
a greater extent. The French peasantry, spirited and 
excellent soldiers as they are, thus became, like the High- 
landers, attached to the land, and unwilling to enter the 
array: and it was this, no less than the prolongation of 
the war, which produced the Conscription laws. This is 
a case where military conscription became imperious : and 
were all England occupied as the Highlands are, we, like 
our neighbours, should be driven to the same resource. 

What I have said must convince every unprejudiced 
person; equally respecting the fact and its causes: 
while it is the defence of my worthy friends against un- 
merited calumny. The repugnance is no discredit: the 
reverse, would be conduct against motives. The High- 
landers here suffer, as usual, from their injudicious 
friends; and might well appeal to a familiar Spanish pro- 
verb. Making the habitual assertions respecting their 
military propensities, and then overborne by their own 
facts, those persons assign disgraceful moral causes for 
what is a necessary and natural political consequence. 
But the feeling is not new. Scottish history might have 
informed those Politicians, that the Earl of Mar found 
similar difficulties in 1715 ; when, in two months, he was 
unable, by bounties and promises, to collect more than 


two hundred men at laverness, and was obliged to resort 
to fraud and force. The same is true of the Naval service. 
Even the maritime Highlanders never volunteered for the 
navy; and the number of men which they had at any time 
in that service, was extremely trifling. The impress itself 
was abandoned early in the war, after having been at- 
tempted in the Islands; the people beiug found as unfit 
for the navy as landsmen. Notwithstanding* their early 
and constant familiarity with the sea, the Highlanders 
have a well-known antipathy to a sailor's life : and every 
naval man with whom I have ever conversed, agrees that 
they are incapable of being turned into good seamen. 
As usual, there is one marked exception : else, perhaps, I 
should not now have been writing these words. It is, like 
all others in the country, to be found on the Border. The 
Argyllshire Highlanders partake in the common merit of 
the Clyde on this subject. No one has better reason to 
know it ; and I can only regret that I must not inscribe 
in these pages, the names of the gallant, bold, and kind 
hearts that accompanied me in all my wanderings, that 
daily risked themselves in my service, and that made 
my home on the wild wave, a home of activity, security, 
and happiness. 

In parting- with this subject, I can only repeat a for- 
mer apology for such imperfection as is the consequence 
of Brevity. There is not one of the circumstances noticed, 
which would not have afforded matter for a Chapter of 
itself. But I have sacrificed nearly the whole, to what 
was of chief importance ; to that which regarded, and 
chiefly influenced, the present state of the country. So 
many changes also have occurred since those disputes 
were last agitated, that, to have entered on all the former 
questions, would have been, not only to write what is now 
superfluous, practically, but to have given a false impres- 
sion of the actual state of the Highlands. That any thing 
remains open to controversy, is a consequence of that 
necessary brevity which excluded all the proofs and 
illustrations that might have been adduced. 


I4(> ION A. 


Though the Etymology of lona, The Island of 
Waves, is obvious, theCabiri, not content, as usual, with 
what is a great deal too certain, must derive it from the 
Hebrew. It is a dove, and so is Columba; " and all that." 
And thus, Arran is derived from Aran, bread; and Bute 
from the Egyptian Buto ; and Coll from the Cup 
and Noah's ark. And, therefore, when Scyphoraantic 
Dolly consults the grounds of her tea, to see whether 
Roger will prove true, it is because Noah entered the 
Ark, and so on. I wish the Cabiri would stay in Samoth- 
race or Syria, and leave us of lona in peace. But what is 
even this, what are tag, rag, bag, shag, cag, mag, toNelme, 
that raging man of symbols. H is an emblem of the de- 
luge: the side-strokes are shores, and the cross-line 
marks their former union. It is a diminished A, and A 
is a mountain, because it is pyramidal. Hence, its French 
name is Aush ; it is A-ish. In English, it is Each, be- 
cause it is divided or cached. A represents Ararat, 
and thus H is the catastrophic Deluge of A. H is also 
Aw-ish, which is Eau-ish,or waterish, and thus, A and H 
are historical symbols of the Deluge. A little clean 
straw is the only answer to such quartos as these, 

lona is about three miles long, and, where widest, 
only one in breadth. The highest elevation is about 400 
feet, and the surface is diversified with rocky hillocks, 
and patches of green pasture, or of moory and boggy 
soiL At the southern extremity, with the exception of a 
low sandy tract near Bloody Bay, it is a mere labyrinth of 
rocks. The village is a miserable collection of huts, in- 
habited by a population of about 450 people. It is sepa- 
rated from Mull by a narrow sound ; and the western 

lONA. 147 

coast is beset by numetoiis rocks and small islands, among* 
which, Soa is the most conspicuous. The Bay of Martyrs 
is a small creek, near the villag^e, and is said to be the 
place where the corpses brought hither for interment 
were landed. 

Port na Currach, the Bay of the Boat, lies on the op- 
posite side of the island. On its shore, are some irregular 
heaps of pebbles, apparently thrown up by the sea; with 
which tradition has been busy. Here, it is said,Columba 
first landed from Ireland ; and a heap, of about fifty feet 
in length, is supposed to be a model and a memorial of 
his boat. The others are said to have been penances per- 
formed by the Monks ; but these anilities are scarcely 
worth repeating. A place called Clach na Druineach, 
seems entitled to just the same degree of respect. The 
remains of the celebrated marble quarry are near the 
southern extremity, and the shore still affords those peb- 
bles of green serpentine, which are objects of pursuit 
now to visitors, as they were once esteemed for antima- 
gical and medical virtues. 

But enough of the physical history of an island often 
described. The works of art are here more interesting than 
those of Nature : it is the antiquarian and moral history of 
lona which constitutes its great interest. Pennantand Cor- 
dinerhave been the historians; and how imperfectly they 
have performed their tasks, I need not say. It is not very 
creditable to those who might have done it long since, that 
Iona,thestar of theWestern Ocean, the "Luminary of roving- 
barbarians," the Day-spring- to savage Caledonia, should 
so long have remained an object for wandering Tourists to 
tell of; unhonoured, undescribed by those who owe it the 
deep debt of civilization, of letters, and of religion ; un- 
told by an jEbudean, untold even by a Highland pen. 
If Time can now take nothing more from those written 
records, to which it cannot add, yet it is making daily, 
hourly, attacks on that which it is the duty of the pencil 
and the graver to preserve from perishing, before it shall 
be too late. lona has long demanded a volume, a Book, 

L 2 

148 ION A. 

of its own: let us hope that its Ruins will not much longer 
lift their hoary and neglected heads in reproach to the 
Antiquaries of the Highlands, to the Antiquaries of 

Not to enumerate all the advantages which a country 
derives from the visits of tourists, iifty years ago, Mr, 
Pennant could not see the tombs of lona, without wading 
through what a Hindoo would have considered peculiarly 
appropriate. It could not then be said, that they were 
" lying naked to the injuries of stormy weather." The 
native is no longer allowed to stable his stirks in chapel 
and hall. Thus much has The Book effected. They 
quote here, a proverb of St. Columba, " that where there 
is a cow, there must be a woman, and where there is a 
woman, there must be mischief; " which was the sufficient 
reason why the Saint banished his Nuns to a maritime 
outpost near Mull. Pennant deserves equal credit for 
having banished the cows ; who, in defiance of the Saint^s 
ingenious corollary, had excluded the nuns out of dor- 
mitory, chapel, and all ; converting them into one dirty 
and boggy " vaccisterium." It is not probable that there 
is a single fragment remaining of the original buildings. 
Judging merely by style, St. Oran's chapel ought to 
be the oldest, the Nunnery chapel the next, and the Ca- 
thedral the latest. Yet when we know how very little 
England has to show of ecclesiastical architecture, prior 
to the Norman invasion, it is impossible to admit, that a 
specimen so finished, and so entire, as St. Oran's chapel, 
should have been executed in the sixth Century. Those 
who believe that, must believe the whole story; which 
is this. The Devil having discovered that the Saint was 
come to intrude upon his rights, caused the chapel to fall 
down as fast as it was built, undoing, Penelope-like, in 
the night, what had been set up in the day. Upon this, 
the Holy man was directed, in a vision, to bury a human 
victim alive. St. Oran became the voluntary sacrifice, 
and was inhumed accordingly. But the Saint's con- 
science could not rest ; or else, actuated by a curiosity 
to know what was going on in the grave, he stole in pri- 

ION A. 14i> 

Fately, by night, and dug* up his friend. To his grcfit 
surprise, he found Oran as fresh as a Vampire, extremely 
communicative, and talking most profanely about those 
" regions below, which none are permitted to see ;" which 
no one but Orpheus, Theseus, and iEneas, had seen 
before him, and which only Emanuel Swedenburg was 
to see after him. On this, to prevent all further disclo- 
sure of the secrets of the prison house, Oran was effectu- 
ally soldered down. 

I formerly remarked, in speaking of Dunkeld, that 
we must not judge of the dates of ancient ecclesiastical 
buildings in Scotland, by styles : and the remark need 
not be limited to Scotland. The reasons were then given ; 
and hence it is not uncommon to find a particular style 
adopted in some place, long after it had been abandoned 
in England ; whence, strange errors have crept in, re- 
specting the date of many Scottish buildings ; the records 
having, in most cases, been lost. In the same manner 
have antiquaries imagined reparations, where there was 
only an ignorant intermixture of styles; and, in such 
cases, the latest fashion is a measure for the date of that 
which appears the oldest part. It is more than doubtful 
whether Columba erected any buildings in stone. Ex- 
cepting the Dunes, the Pictish Towers, the Vitrified 
Forts, and the Circles, there is no reason to suppose that 
Scotland possesses any building as early as the sixth cen- 
tury. Lawyers, like you, contrive to hang men upon 
delicate evidence ; and upon such I mean to prove that 
the original buildings of lona were, like many other 
early ones, constructed of wicker, or wattles. In the 
history of the Saint's life, he is reported to have given 
orders for indemnifying some land owner, from whom his 
monks had stolen stakes to repair their houses. Glaston- 
bury was no better at the beginning ; whether St. Joseph 
of Arimathea's thorn stick, still growing, was one of the 
stakes of that cathedral or not. Greestead, in Essex, is 
known to have been built of the same materials. Thus of 
many others ; and that this was a common mode of build- 

150 ION A. 

iug, in the early times of England as well as of Scotland, 
is known to the whole world. 

That it was so in Ireland, is equally true, as the Irish 
antiquaries admit. Sir James Ware says that the ancient 
houses in his country, were made of wicker, covered with 
reeds or straw ; though he, as well as Harris, says that 
stone and lime buildings were known in the fifth Century. 
In 431, Palladius built three wooden oratories. The 
Chapel of Monenna in Armagh was built in 630, of 
smoothed timber " secundum morem Scoticarum gen- 
tium." In 635, the church of Lindisfern was built, by 
Finnan, of split oak, covered with reeds. Bede tells us, 
that, in 684, St. Cuthbert built a church of loose stone 
and turf: no great improvement on the log huts arid 
wicker houses. The former is the kind of building 
which we should have expected St. Columba to have 
transferred ; even were it not almost proved by the re- 
script just quoted. Unfortunately, their wild asser- 
tions respecting the stone towers, asserted to have been 
built by the Pheni and Milesians, and dedicated to the 
Persian worship of fire, deprive the Irish of all credit as 
to their own antiquities. Yet the more rational think that 
the stone-roofed Chapels, which are Norman, are as early 
as the ninth Century. For it seems certain, that in Ire- 
land, and no less in Scotland, the first stone buildings 
must have appertained to the Gothic nations, or the 
northern invaders; though this is denied by some of the 
Irish antiquaries. Yet they must have been very rare, 
even at a later date ; for when Roderic O'Connor built 
a stone castle in 1171, it was both thought and called, 
The Wonderful Castle. This expression marks strongly 
the rarity of stone buildings at that period. From that 
time, however, the fashion seems to have crept on ; as 
Giraldus gives us a list of fifteen stone castles in 1180. 
Cox makes them thirty-nine, and Stanihurst the same; 
but it is probable that those were nearly all the works of 
the Scandinavian Irish, who introduced their national 
taste for solid masonry. Of that taste, the proofs remain 

lONA. 15F 

in our own country, as well as wherever the Northmen 
settled ; and no where more strikingly than in Normandy, 
where, throug^hout the province, as well as at St. Michael's 
Mount, their buildings are still objects of admiration. 

The rarity of stone works in Ireland, is strongly 
evinced by the following fact, which would almost lead us 
to suppose that Roderic O'Connor's castle was the only 
one then in existence. When Henry the second wanted 
to give the Irish kings and princes a Christmas dinner in 
Dublin, he caused a palace to be built for himself, as 
Hoveden tells us, of wattles ; " virgis Isevigatis ;" this 
being the fashion of his own country. Bernard also says 
that Malachi O'Morgair, bishop of Armagh, had formerly 
built an Oratory " de lignis quidem laevigatis, sed apte 
firmiterque contextum ; opus Scoticum pulchrurai satis." 
He says too, that the same bishop was blamed for his 
extravagance in having built a house of stone, the like 
never having been seen before. But some of the Irish, 
anxious for the honour of their country, deny this tale. 
Whatever the truth may be, there seem to have been few 
houses in any part of Britain, at that age, formed of better 
materials ; while many churches, and even some castles, 
appear also to have been made of wicker work. Pem- 
broke Castle, according to Giraldus, was formed from 
" virgis et cespite tenui ;" and with regard to Glaston- 
bury, there can be no doubt of the fact, because it is on 
record. A British town in Caesar's time must have been 
of the same nature. " Oppidum vocant Britanni, cum 
sylvas impeditas, vallo atque fossa munieruut." But even 
in the twelfth century, the Irish churches were chiefly of 
wood. According to the early Councils, it was forbidden 
to apply the Chrisma to this material : and, for this reason, 
Archbishop Comyn refused to anoint the Irish altars. 

If any of the tombs are of a high antiquity, they carry 
no evidence of it. The only ones which bear Irish in- 
scriptions, are of a late date. The Runic sculptures 
cannot prove a date higher than the ninth century; be- 
cause that was the commencement of the Danish inva- 

15"2 loN.u 

sioDS. Those knots, often so beautifully designed and 
sculptured, are also found on stones, proved, by their 
dates, to be of the fourteenth and fifteenth Centuries: 
the original designs having become a standing fashion for 
after times. Even the chimerical animals of the same 
people, which have been traced to Egypt, became a kind 
of heirloom to the artizans of later days; who equally 
seem to have borrowed them for ornaments, long after 
their symbolic meanings, if they ever had such with thenij 
were forgotten : just as, in modern times, our drawing 
rooms are haunted by sphynxes, and decorated by the 
hieroglyphics of fire, water, air, time, and eternity, with- 
out proving- that Messieurs Gillows or Oakley are deeply 
read in the mysteries of Thoth or Isis. 

Thus much for the tombs and crosses; and the 
only rational conclusion as to the antiquity of these 
buildings is, that they belong, perhaps all, to the Ro- 
man Catholics, and therefore, do not reach higher than 
the end of the thirteenth Century ; if they are even 
so early. It was not till that period that this Church 
gained a permanent footing, as I have shown at the 
end of this letter, and that their monasteries were 
established. If Ceallach, as I have here also shown,^ 
erected a monastery in 1203, and that this was pulled 
down by the Irish Clergy of St. Columba's order, M'ho, 
like the learned of lona itself, did not approve of the 
Romish doctrines, this fixes the maximum possible date 
and limit of these buildings. It is probable that they 
were not erected till long after, and possibly not before 
the Norwegian Secession ; as the Culdees in Scotland, 
who had resisted the Romish power, in this place and 
elsewhere, so long, were not finally vanquished till about 
1300, and even continued to have some power in the 
fourteenth Century. 

If St. Oran's chapel had been found in England, it 
would have been esteemed as prior to the eleventh cen- 
tury. It is probably the work of the Norwegians, of 
whatever date; as this style is Norman, however once 

lONA. 153 

reputed Saxon. Its general resemblance to the Irish 
stone-roofed chapels, which were the works of the same 
people, would lead to the same conclusion; and a similar 
character indeed seems to have pervaded all those build- 
ings. The Chapel formerly described on Inch Cormac, 
is perfectly Irish. St. Oran's is a rude and small building, 
of about sixty feet by twenty-two; now unroofed, but 
otherwise very entire. The sculpture of the door-way is 
in good preservation, and the chevron moulding is re- 
peated many times on the soffit of the arch, in the usual 
manner. But the style and execution are mean, and 
there is no other mark of ornament on the building. There 
are some tombs within it, of different dates; and there 
are many carved stones in the pavement; one of them 
being ornamented with balls, in an uncommon style. One 
of the tombs lies under a canopy of three pointed arches: 
being for this place, rather handsome, and evidently, far 
more modern than the building itself. The people, or the 
present old schoolmaster Maclean, who is the vox populi 
and showman, call this St. Oran's tomb ; but it belongs 
to a warrior and not to a saint, to some pirate of much 
more modern times. Whether, as Dr. Macpherson asserts, 
all those who bore a ship with furled sails in their arms, 
were descended from the Norwegian kings, or the Lords 
of Mann, is a point which the Lyon king at arms would be 
much troubled to prove. The ship was, as might be ex- 
pected, a common armorial bearing among the Chiefs of 
the Western sea. It M'as not unusual also for the tombs 
of the Danes to be made in the form of a ship. 

Though the Nunnery ought to be the next in point of 
time, we are sure that there were no monastic establish- 
ments for females during the times of Columba's disci- 
pline. The proper monastic establishments of lona be- 
long to the age of the Romish influence ; and thus the 
date of this building is brought down to a period, later, 
at least, than 1200. Were it not that style is here no test 
of dates, this chapel might be referred to a prior period: 
the architecture being purely Norman, without a vestige 

154 lONA, 

of the pointed manner, or of any ornament indicating- 
that ag-e. It is in g"ood preservation ; and the length is 
about sixty feet, by twenty in breadth. The roof has 
been vaulted, and part of it remains. The arches are 
round, vrith plain fluted soffits. The other buildings that 
appertained to the Nunnery have so far vanished as to be 
unintelligible; but there is a court, and something is 
shown which is said to have been a church, and was pro- 
bably the Lady Chapel. The Nuns were not displaced 
at the Reformation ; and their order was that of Can- 
onesses of St. Augustin. The black-letter inscription 
round the stone of the Prioress Anna, dated in 1511, has 
been often printed. The Lady's own figure is in a bar- 
barous style, and in bad relief; supported on each side 
by angels, and with the " ora pro me" at her feet. The 
Sancta Maria to whom the request is made, holds the 
Infant in her arms ; having a mitre on her head, and the 
sun and moon above it. Pennant mistook a sculpture 
above the head of the Prioress herself, for a plate and a 
comb. It is the looking-glass and comb : an emblem of 
the Sex, which appears to have been originally borrowed 
from ancient Greek or Roman art, and on which I have 
made some remarks elsewhere. This serves to prove the 
mixed and accidental sources from which the artists of 
those days derived their designs. There are many other 
tombs within this building; but I could find no more 
carvings or inscriptions, although one is named, as in- 
scribed to a Beatrice, daughter of a Somerled, and a 
Prioress. I was also informed that the women of the 
island were still exclusively buried in this department; 
but many things are said in this country, to which abso- 
lute faith must not be given. 

The date of the Cathedral, or Abbey Church, since it 
performed both offices, is as obscure as every thing else 
about this place : it is dedicated to St. Mary. Boethius, 
whose testimony is worse than none at all, says that it 
was built by Malduinus in the seventh century. This is 
fully seven centuries too soon ; at least for the most re- 

lOiNA. 155 

cent part ; for it is evidently of two distinct periods. 
That which lies to the eastward of the tower, is probably 
of the same time as the chapel of the Nunnery, be that 
when it may. At present its form is that of a cross; the 
leno-th being- about 160 feet, the breadth 24, and the 
length of the transept 70. That of the choir is about (iO 
feet. The tower is about 70 feet high, divided into three 
stories. It is lighted, on one side, above, by a plain 
slab, perforated by quatrefoils, and on the other by a Ca- 
therine-wheel, or marigold window, with spiral mullions. 
The tower stands on four cylindrical pillars of a clumsy 
Norman design, about ten feet hig-h and three in diame- 
ter. Similar proportions pervade the other pillars in the 
church ; their capitals being short, and, in some parts, 
sculptured with ill-designed and grotesque figures, still 
very sharp and well preserved ; among which that of an 
angel weighing souls, (as it is called by Pennant,) while 
the devil depresses one scale with his claw, is always 
pointed out with great glee. This sculpture, however, 
represents an angel weighing the good deeds of a man 
against his evil ones. It is not an uncommon feature 
in similar buildings, and occurs, among other places, at 
Montivilliers ; where also the Devil, who is at the oppo- 
site scale, tries to depress it with his fork; as is done 
elsewhere with his claw. The same allegory is found, in 
detail, in the Legends ; and it may also be seen in some of 
the works of the Dutch and Flemish painters. The arches 
are pointed, with a curvature intermediate between those 
of the first and second styles, or the sharp and the orna- 
mented, the two most beautiful periods of Gothic ar- 
chitecture ; their soffits being fluted with plain and rude 
mouldings. The corded moulding separates the shaft 
from the capital of the pillars, and is often prolonged 
through the walls, at the same level. The larger windows 
vary in form, but are every where inelegant. There is a 
second, which is here the clerestory tier; the windows 
sometimes terminating in a circular arch, at others, in 
trefoil heads ; the whole being surmounted by a corbel 

156 lONA. 

table. Such are the chief details of St. Mary's Church ; 
and I shall only further add, while on this subject, that 
when I made some remarks formerly, on the Oriental 
ol-igin of the sharp arch, I might have adduced, from 
Ledwich, one or two other remarkable specimens of its 
early use in the same countries. Antinoopolis, founded 
by Adrian, in consequence of the death of Antinous in 
the Nile, in 182, contains, at least, the contrasted arch ; 
as may be seen in Montfaucon. In Europe, the coins of 
Berengarius and of Lewis the Pious, show also that it 
was used as early as the ninth and tenth centuries ; a 
period considerably prior to the commonly received date 
of its introduction. 

There is a mixture of materials in all these buildings. 
The granite, which is red, and resembles the Egyptian, 
may have been brought from Mull, or from the Nuns 
island ; but the gneiss, hornblende slate, and clay slate, 
which are intermixed with it, are the produce of lona 
itself. A fissile mica slate has been used for the roofs ; 
and this, like the sandstone employed for some of the 
sculptured members, is not found in the island : the lat- 
ter has probably been brought from Inch Kenneth, or 
from the shore of Gribon in Mull. Pennant found the 
last remains of the marble altar-piece ; but it is now va- 
nished. It was described by Sacheverell as six feet by 
four in dimensions; and tradition says that it came from 
Sky. Unluckily for its preservation, a fragment of it 
was esteemed a Fetish against fire, shipwreck, murder, 
ill fortune, and what not. The font remained in perfect 
preservation at my visit. 

The pavement is still entire. On the north side of the 
altar is the most perfect of the monuments; that of the 
Abbot Mac Fingon, or Mac Kinnon, with an inscription 
often printed, and the obiit of 1500. It stands on four 
feet; the figure of the priest being in a high relief, with 
his vestments and crosier, and with four lions at the 
angles. His father, Lachlan, has a separate monument, 
on the outside. This stone is neither of black marble nor 

ioN\. 157 

basalt, as has been said, but of a mica slate containing- 
hornblende; and Lightfoot's Byssus lolithus does not 
grow on it, but on that of the Abbot Kenneth on the op- 
posite side : so much for botanical and mineralogical cri- 
ticism. This last Abbot was a Mackenzie, or a Seaforth : 
but his tomb is much defaced, as is that of an armed 
knig-ht who lies on the floor, probably a Maclean, with 
a shell sculptured by his side, to denote his maritime 
claims. It is here that I proposed to have laid my own 
carcase, as I once told you, should the mermaids have 
permitted it. Nor is the motive without good autho- 
rities, though I did not then quote them. In China, it is 
a trade to seek for pleasant places of sepulture among 
the hills. There is an undertaker for the landscape, as 
well as for the coffin ; and the man of taste is paid for 
these discoveries, in proportion to the beauty of the 
scenery, and, of what must be of vastly more moment to 
the tenant, the salubrity of the situation. The other ad- 
vantages of a bed in lona are apparent; since the fortu- 
nate tenants will, not only float at the end of all things, 
but in the very best of company. 

Round the cathedral, are various fragments of walls 
and enclosures, which are nearly unintelligible. Two 
of them are said to have led to the sea; others are 
thought to have been chapels ; and some are, unques- 
tionably, parts of the monastery. It is easy enough to 
conjecture what may have been the cloister and the hall ; 
but there is neither ornament nor interest in any of 
these ruins. Four arches of the former remain ; and 
three walls of what was probably the refectory. The re- 
mains of the Bishop's house are just as little worthy of 
notice. Buchanan says that there were several chapels, 
founded by kings of Scotland and Insular Chiefs : all 
of which is very probable, though his testimony on these 
subjects, being derived from mere hearsay, is of no 

While I write, the roof has fallen. I wish that lona 
had been preserved, like Melrose and Dunkeld, This 

158 io\.\. 

would have been better than talking- of Gothic archi- 
tecture. But the people speak of this, as they do of the 
Greek, without feeling or understanding' it. It is the 
fashion at present. The opinions of the Polycephalous 
monster are of about the same value in the one as in the 
other. It proved the line and fathom of its taste and of 
its principles of judgment, by its once unlimited condem- 
nation of what was not then the fashion. Had the Par- 
thenon been erected by Odin or Regner Lodbrog', it is 
easy to conjecture what its fate would have been. But 
it was the temple of Minerva and Pericles. We need not 
concern ourselves much about the architectural affections 
of those who can see merit in the architecture of Greece 
only ; who can range the proud aisles of York and West- 
minster, or look up to the splendour, taste, and effect of 
Lincoln and Peterborough, without feeling that there is 
something here too, though it be not Greek; and that 
there are two things, known by a common name. But 
thus it must ever be. 

Among the ruins of the monastery were the Sacred 
Black stones ; but they are no longer to be found. Honest 
old Maclean, the Mystagogue of the place, was far from 
being- an adept in the secrets of his trade ; though com- 
bining within himself the joint offices of Coquinarius, 
Gardinarius, Portarius, Cellerarius, Eleemosynarius, and 
Sacrista. But though to swear on the Black stones of 
lona, was proverbial for that oath which was never to be 
broken without infamy, this form, and even the stones 
themselves, were not thus limited, as Martin will assure 
us. What the peculiar power of this talisman was, in 
giving a conscience to him who was well aware that he 
had none of his own, is neither related nor to be guessed. 
But the Devil, who, as some wit says, is the father of 
oaths, has so contrived as to furnish, even the most bar- 
barous of his followers, with some formula adapted to 
their capacity. The lonians swore by cabbage ; a High- 
lander has no kale to swear by. A fisherman swore by 
his nets ; and the Greeks, generally, by any thing in their 

lONA. 159 

houses ; as they did by the plane tree, a dog, a goose, as 
well as by their own bodies. This last oath, with anato- 
mical improvements, has descended from the Argonauts 
to our own Jack Tars. Plato, who has come before us 
more than once already, was as good a swearer as our 
virgin Queen, The Scythians swore by their swords, and 
by the air. Lucian tells us that they also pricked their 
fingers and drank each others blood in affirmation : and 
our Highlanders had once the same usage. If you choose 
to look into ^Eschines, you will find that some of the 
Highland oaths resembled the imprecations made by the 
Amphyctions against those who had profaned the temple 
of Delphi; the Cyrrheans and Acragallides. The va- 
riety and multiplicity of oaths are proportioned to the 
superstitions of a country, says some one. They be- 
long, at least to the general class of human refinements. 
The Highlanders seem to have had but few. The 
Chieftain's hand, or the naked dirk, served most pur- 
poses ; and the concatenation is here sufficiently intel- 
ligible. Capricious as these receipts for telling truth 
appear often to have been among wild nations, they cer- 
tainly have answered better purposes at times, than to 
allow us to attribute them to the personage above named. 
The story is well known, of the Highlander who had no 
scruple in perjuring himself on the Bible in an English 
court of justice, but who refused to do the same, ac- 
cording to his own views of the nature of an oath. Those 
who find all knowledge among the Druids, suppose the 
stones to be a relic of Druidical superstition ; the original 
oath having been taken on the sacred stone of a temple. 
When and where, we may ask. It is more ingenious to 
imagine the fashion derived from some similar respect 
paid to a meteorolitic Palladium in former days : this is 
the oath, " Per Jovem lapidem." Were I inclined to 
show much of this meteorolitic learning, I might tell you 
the story of Elagabalus, and describe the black stone of 
Mecca, and that worshipped by the Tyrrhenians, and 
much more. But lona threatens to be long enough with- 

wo wn.s. 

out all these digressions. There was another stone in 
lona, of which Martin tells us that whoever stretched his 
arm three times over it, in the name of the Trinity, 
would never err in his steerage. This should have been, 
at least, half Catholic. Such it is to be ignorant of the 
Druidical Religion. I forgot to say formerly, that the 
Druids worshipped the Trinity. But Cromer and Sche- 
dius have proved it; nay, that they worshipped the 
Cross also. They lopped an oak tree into the shape of a 
cross, and, on the three arms, they inscribed Thau, 
Hesus, and Belenus. And these are among the thijigs 
on which antiquaries expect to be believed. 

The remains of the ancient causeway are sufficiently 
perfect in some places; but in others, it has been dilapi- 
dated, like every thing else, to build cottages and make 
enclosures, the stolen materials of which, betray them- 
selves every where. The " Abbot's fish-pond " is as 
likely to have been a mill-pond. A certain manuscript 
says that there were 360 crosses here in fortner days, and 
tradition says that the Synod of Argyll ordered 60 to be 
thrown into the sea: consequently, there are 300 to account 
for. Of those, there are the traces of four only remaining. 
Two are very perfect, and one of them is beautifully 
carved; the third has been broken off at about ten feet; 
and of the last, the foot alone remains, fixed in a mound 
of earth. Sundry fragments are, however, to be found, 
which have been converted into grave-stones; and which, 
from the sculptures and inscriptions on them, have cer- 
tainly been votive. Pennant says that the Cross at Camp- 
belltown had been transferred from this place ; but 1 
formerly showed that this was an error. It is in vain to 
ask where the rest are ; if indeed they ever were. One 
of those remaining, is called after St. Martin, and the 
other after St. John ; and, like the rest, they were pro- 
bably of votive origin. Adam and Eve, with the for- 
bidden tree, are represented on one side of the former. 
It is surprising to see the accuracy and freedom of 
the workmanship and design, in such a material as 

\OJi\t I()l 

»!ilca-slate ; a substance, which seems as ill n-lapted to 
sculpture as it is possible to imagine. 

We must lament over the Crosses of lona, whether 
they Were sixty or three hundred and sixty. But all 
reformers are the same, be the matter to be reformed 
what it may. It isonly the S[)irit of Destruction let loose; 
whether it be Leo the IconoclasI, Omar, or Charlemagiif , 
Greek books, or Saxon temples, it is all the same. Had 
the valiant Karl not been so hot a reformer, we mitrht 
now have known somewhat more than we do of Saxon 
idols and Saxon temples ; and might possiby have been 
as keen followers of Odin as we are of Druiyus. The 
Synod of Argyll may, however, find its authority in mobs, 
if it prefers them to monarchies: and the destruction of 
the Pagan temples by the early Christians, will prove 
that it had not the merit of discovery. If it did destroy 
the Library of lona, it has its authority too, in the destruc- 
tion of innocent libraries and inofiensive works of art, by 
those who professed the doctrines and practice of peace, 
and mildness, and forbearance, and forgiveness, and tole- 
rance, and superior light. There is an Organ of Reform- 
itiveness. If the early Christian Apostles destroyed all 
the Teutonic monuments, the Vikingr, in their turn, upset 
lona. For other reasons, the Synod of Argyll turned it 
inside out again. Edward did what he could to reform 
Wales and Scotland ; and Cromwell and Canute, laboured 
in their several vocations, to reform England, The Ro- 
mans demolished Etruria and Carthage, and they were re- 
formed in their turn, by Pope and Pagan. They over- 
turned all the world as far as they could get at it, and what 
they could not effect, others have done for them. The Em- 
peror Charles reformed his own subjects of Flanders, by 
the halter and gibbet; and Pizarro amended the Mexicans, 
by the ultimate argument of Kings. Alexander reformed 
Persepolis with a Torch, and Barrere and his crew me- 
dicined to the faults of France with the guillotine. Their 
fraternity reformed the Chejnical Nomenclature with 
words ; and the Americans convert the Dogribs an4 

VOL. IV. M 1 

162 ION A. 

Great Beavers, with rum and gunpowder. Thus, it also 
is, that, instead of following- the system of Osmyn and 
Amurath, we reform the dangerous excess of property, 
l>y the multiplication of Laws and Lawyers: by Delay. 
But we have too much humanity. For, as a Sawny 
observed to me, when I was lamenting the fracture of 
one of these very Crosses, " If you Engiishers had pulled 
down your Cathedrals too, you would not now have been 
troubled with the Archbishop of Canterbury." 

The great collection of tombs surrounds St. Oran's 
chapel. This was the proper Polyandrium of lona; but 
it is of no great extent. The stones seem to lie in rows, 
in a north and south direction. The story told by Monro, 
is repeated by Buchanan, who, though a Highlander 
himself, is, on all subjects of the Highlands, the merest 
of compilers. Its truth depends on the accuracy of a 
writer, who has buried here, forty-eight Kings of Scot- 
land, beginning with Fergus II, and ending' with Macbeth; 
ten of whom never existed. Besides those personages, 
this was also the repository of one French, four Irish, and 
eight Norwegian Kings. The Dean himself seems to 
have borrowed from an authority, the " Erische cronic- 
kels," not very solid at any time, and not likely to have 
gained much in weight or accuracy, by time and trans- 
mission to him. It would be no easy problem to discover 
who was the French Monarch that thought he should 
float with all this goodly company, when, "seven years 
before the last day, all the nations shall be drowned by 
a deluge, except Columba's holy isle;" all the nations 
of the proverb, consisting of Ireland and Isla. But to 
examine the Kings more narrowly, though Monro says 
that there were forty-eight Scottish monarchs buried 
here, the list, as given by Monipenny, amounts only to 
forty-tive, commencing in the year 404, with Fergus II, 
who is reckoned the fortieth king, and whose real date 
is 503. It is not worth while to copy this list; which 
ends with Macbeth, the eigthy-fourth King of Scotland, 
according to this Chronology. That of the Colbertine 

I ON A. 163 

MS. differs, but is of equally little value. Aiter ail 
this, there are just two things which appear certain; 
namely, that Duncan actually Mas buried in lona, and 
that, from Malcolm III, who was buried at Tynemouth, 
onwards, the kings of Scotland were interred at Dun- 
fermline or Arbroath. With respect to the Irish Kings, 
it appears on record, that Neill Frassach only, the son of 
Fergal, who died in 778, was buried in this place. 

The credulity, if it must not sometimes have a worse 
name, of all those historians, is, perhaps, often more ludi- 
crous than censurable, as belonging to their age, and to 
the nature of what was considered history in those days. 
But that such tales should be repeated and believed now, 
when one moment's consideration would detect them, is 
scarcely, even amusing. Every one relates the story of 
the forty-eight kings of Zona, down to Pennant and Cor- 
diner, and from them, down to us, without hesitation or 
enquiry ; as if it were at least possible, if not true. Now 
lona could not have been a sacred place till 570 A. D. if so 
soon, because Columba did not arrive in Scotland till 563 
or 565 ; yet Fergus the Second is buried there in the year 
404, (which is really 503, without improving the truth), 
and after him, Domangart, Comgal,Gauran, and Conal, the 
real names of the four succeeding kings ; the last of whom 
died in 571, when lona could scarcely have acquired its 
reputation, and the three former of whom were all dead 
and buried, while it was yet a desert and unknown island. 
What might be said further, of the Polytyrannium of 
lona, as of much more that has here passed in review, on 
more occasions than one, may be said in the words of 
Hailes; " If readers can digest so many absurdities, it is 
an ungrateful labour to set plain truth before them." 

These " Tumuli Regum, Hibernite, Scotioe," and much 
more of the same nature, would be inoffensive enough, 
and the Kings would be as innocent personages as King 
Cophetua and the beggar Zenelophon, if all this was not 
repeated, and repeated without criticism, to those who have 
no interest in, or knowledge of, Scottish history, and\yho 

M 2 

164 lONA. 

repeat those tales without iuyestigatioii, till they become 
standing-articles of belief. It would else be an ungrateful 
labour indeed, to judge them ; but nothing deserves neg- 
lect which tends to corrupt History. The fictitious British 
kings have found their level. Brutus, Locrinus, Hudi- 
bras, Gurgustius, Sicilius, Gorbonian, Gurguntius, Elyn- 
quellus, and Agrestes who assists Claudius in conquering 
those Orcades which he never saw, are fairly gone to 
sleep; and it is full time that the repose of lona should 
at length remain undisturbed by Dean Monro, Mony- 
pennie,and Eugenius. Where else is this to end. Par- 
tholanus, king of Ulster, Munster, Connaught, or Bally 
O'Shaugnessy, is the son of Esra, Sru, Framant, Fa- 
thaclan, Magog-, Japhet, and Noah, and landed in the 
Emerald Isle, 1973 years after the Creation. Odin lived 
in the time of Pompey, and nine hundred years before. 
Niall, Xing' of Tipperary, consults with Moses and Aaron. 
Parsons proves that Jason came to Ireland in the Argo, 
and the Seven kings of Rome reigned 243 years, though 
three of them were murdered and one expelled. The 
Egyptians arrived in Scotland in the reign of King 
Mainus, says Boethius : a Messenger despatched out of 
the Ark, landed in Ireland after the Deluge, and carried 
away a handful of Shamrock, as a specimen. You will 
find it all in the Psalters of Cashel and Tara. 

However all this may be, Monro says that he saw 
three chapels; what he did not see, the Erische cronickels 
told him ; and he and his successors have guessed the 
rest. The description is not indeed very intelligible. 
Taken literally, it should mean that the several allotments 
of Kings were buried in three separate tombs: " tombes 
of staine formit like little chapels;" having each a broad 
slab of " gray marble or whin stone" in the gable, on 
which were inscribed the words " Tumulus Regum Sco- 
tiee," " Hibernise" and " Norwegise." It is in vain, there- 
fore, if this be the true account, to seek for those tombs, 
as has been done, in the open " fair kirkzaird ;" and, of 
such tombs or chapels " of staine," there is not a trace. 

lONA, 165 

So much for the " riflge of the Kings," as it has been 
called ; with no great propriety, if the Dean's description 
be correct. Be that as it may, it would require a lynx's 
eye to discover the tomb of any King, among the infinite 
confusion of stones that have been taken up, and replaced 
to cover the much more orderly personages who now die 
quietly in their beds. " In the" ])resent " Golgotha, 
there are sculis of all sorts;" and king- Amberkelethus 
Mould probably be troubled to recognize his own again, 
were he to seek it among- those of his clan who have at- 
tempted to get into better company, after their deaths, 
than they enjoyed ^hile living-. 

But, with all this nonsense, there is a mixture of 
truth; as it is evident, no less from the number of 
ancient stones, than from the remains of sculpture and 
inscription, that lona was a place of great posthumous 
resort, at least for the Chiefs of the Isles, even down 
to a late period. Some of the stones are finely carved 
with knots and vegetable ornaments, and with recum- 
bent warriors and other emblems; but the greater num- 
ber are plain. Yet if personages of such high note as 
Kings, whether Scottish or Irish, or even Norwegian 
Viceroys, or Sea kings, had been buried here in num- 
bers, we ought to have found something in the nature 
of testimonial sculpture or inscription; whereas there is 
nothing. Two mutilated Erse, or Irish, inscriptions 
seem among the most ancient ; and one of these be- 
longed to a certain Donald Longshanks. Four Abbots, 
of about the year 1500, are sufiicienlly modern. If, as 
Sacheverel says, three hundred inscriptions were col- 
lected here about the year 1600, and deposited with the 
Argyll family, it is next to impossible that the originals 
should have disappeared, considering the durable uature 
of the materials, and the protection which the stones 
must have received from earth and vegetation in later 
days. These tales all bear dissection very ill. As to 
other details, a lump of red granite is pointed out as the 
tomb of the solitary French king. Lauchlan Mac Fingonj 

Wa ION A. 

formerly noticed, lies at the eiul of St. Oran's chapel, 
with his dated epitaph of 1439. There is also a Mac Do- 
nald ; the Angus Og- who was with Bruce at Bannock- 
burn ; whose son John was a great benefactor to this 
establishment, as the account of his life in the Red Book 

But it is much more fortunate for the good old school- 
master, that he can show off his own clan to svich ad- 
vantage, from the Doctor, John Beaton, upwards to old 
Torloisk. A Coll, a Duart, and a Lochbuy, fill up the 
intermediate stages with their appropriate achievements, 
namely, defensive armour, swords and pistols. Unques- 
tionably, those heroes gave largely to the church, though 
it has not "canopied their bones till doomsday ;" but if we 
may hazard a conjecture, it is probable they only gave 
what they were no longer able to keep : as some of them 
seem, during their lives, to have been as formidable ene- 
mies as the Vikingr, to the Holy Isle. According to the 
Dean, Rasay, which belonged to lona by heritage, was 
then " perteining" to Mac Gilliechallum " by the sword." 
It is impossible to discover now, what were the islands 
that belonged to lona, independently of the property 
which this establishment possessed in Galway. Out of 
thirteen islands, which, as the Dean says, formed part of 
this rich endowment, conferred by Scottish kings, he has 
given the names of seven only ; and three of these have 
changed their appellations, so that it is now impossible 
even to guess at them. Canna, Soa, Eorsa, and Inch 
Kenneth, are the other four; and from the internal evi- 
dence afforded by the remains of cells or other establish- 
ments, we might venture to add the three Shiant isles, the 
three Garveloch isles, and the Isles of St. Corniac, which, 
with Rasay, will nearly make up the number; though it 
is probable that StaflTa, the Treshinish isles, and Colonsa, 
belonged also to lona, as it is equally believed that Tirey 
at one time did. 

I saw no marks of mail armour in any of these sculp- 
tures : and it is doubtful if any other than plate armour 

lOiN.v, 167 

was ever used in the Highlands. Nor do I know it the 
sculptured ships will be taken as evidence of the state 
of navigation in those days : whether, in heraldic phrase, 
they are ships roasted, ruddered, and sailed, " proper," 
or whether they must be classed with the fraternity of 
gryphons, salvages, mermaids, and blue boars. If they 
are real ships, the birlings had the prow and stern alike, 
prolonged like those of the Roman gallies, upwards, in 
long curves. The rudder is powerful, and the rigging- 
consists of one mast a midships, with a single square 
sail ; the yard being slung in the centre, with haulyards 
and after braces. The sail being fastened by four points 
only, they must have been small vessels, or rather boats; 
and there is neither bowsprit nor appearance of any pro- 
vision for rowing. They should also have been clinker 
built; if we may judge from one of the best preserved of 
these sculptures. When a Greek hero had been drowned 
in some of the piratical adventures that seem to have been 
an inheritance of that virtuous people from the time of the 
Argonauts to our own, his tomb at home was decorated 
with a ship, to indicate what is told in much plainer 
language, by the celebrated epitaph, " Here we are^ three 
brothers dear. Two lies in America and I lies here." 
Thus we may suppose the tomb of Maclean to have been 
his Ixpiov or his cenotaph. But it was customary also to 
place the emblems of the occupant's trade on his grave. 
These were the o-vj/^ara /Av^/^axa; so that the ship had pro- 
bably no other signification. The gentleman who writes 
on his tombstone in Tamerton church-yard, " Glazier 
from London," has something like Classical authority in 
his favour. The Greek Ghosts, like the Celtic ones, take 
great delight in contemplating their own " grey stones." 
The ^lyvxccyuyia is the " Calling- of the ghosts" in Ossiau, 
as much as it is that of ^neas when he erects the tomb 
of his friend Deiphobus on the Rhoetean shore; and Au- 
sonius, in the same way, tells us of the delight which 
dead men took in hearing their names called over. But 
enough of those antiquities. 


The loss of the library of lona Isas been a frequent 
subject of rejvret, like all inaccessible things; but its 
value was probably far less than its reputation. The fate 
of the Alexandrian library could scarcely have excited 
more lamentation. The only account of it which has 
been transmitted to us, is that of Boece ; and though 
much of it must be received with suspicion, it serves to 
ascertain some facts respectinqf the nature of this collec- 
tion ; notwithstandina;- the neglected and ruined state in 
Avhich many of the manuscripts were found even then ; 
(hat is, between 1500 and 1520, about M'hich time he 
wrote his history. That he used it in compiling his work, 
is supposed to be a proof that it contained ancient his- 
torical records; although this very fact is encumbered 
with a ditficulty arising from his own assertion, that 
Alexander the first, had removed the records of Scotland 
from lona to the Priory of Restennet, long before his own 
time. Of what value those records might have been, 
it is difficult to conjecture; but they cannot be rated 
highly, when we recollect that the use of letters was 
nearly unknown in those very periods respecting which 
our curiosity and want of information are greatest. By the 
loss of their Theological works, it is not likely that we 
have lost much, either in point of merit or quantity. It 
must be remembered in the first place, that the disciples 
of Gohimba did not engage in the theology of the times. 
The simplicity of his Rule limited him chiefly to the use 
of the Scriptures; and, from Adamnan's evidence, we 
know that he employed his monks in making accurate 
copies of these books. If they had collected the theo- 
logical writings of their predecessors or contemporaries, 
we still possess, from other sources, all that was valuable 
among them ; and I need not remark, that, excepting the 
writings of the Fathers of the Church, little value can 
be attached to the works of those ages. It seems indeed 
certain, that, in the ninth century at least, they had no 
other theological books than those of St. Cbrysostom. 
Respecting the works said to have been written by Co" 


lumba himself and his successors, they could not have 
been numerous, and it is not likely that they were very 
important. Columba's Life of St. Patrick, with his other 
writinoTs, whatever they nii«lit have been, is lost; but 
Adamnan's Geography of the Holy Land, a work of 
hearsny, and his Life of Columba, are extant, as is 
Cumin's Life of the same Saint ; and if these are to be 
taken as a measure of the rest, we have little occasion 
to lament that which is now irrecoverable. Those works 
of Columba and others, supposed to be preserved in Ire- 
land, are now rejected as spurious. 

It has been fondly conjectured that lona must have 
possessed many of the classical authors; and, among 
other things, theJost books of Livy's history. Could this 
be proved, there would indeed be reason to lament the 
destruction of this library; but the evidence is worse 
than doubtful, though it appears to have made an im- 
pression on Gibbon. The orig'inal tale of Boethius on 
this subject, is not only awkwaid, but encumbered with 
Anachronisms. He reports that Fergus the second brought 
away from the plunder of Rome by Alaric, whom he 
assisted, a chest of books, and that he deposited these 
at lona. Thus, this present must have been made to a 
monastery that had no existence ; as the sack of Rome 
in question, preceded the landing of St. Columba by more 
than a century. It took place in 412, and lona was not 
founded till 5G3. It is unnecessary to dwell on the other, 
less gross, mistake of a similar nature, which mentions 
this same king as having employed writers to transcribe 
these works, when letters were unknown in Scotland. It 
is not very easy to see how Fergus could have been at 
Rome in 412, when he died in 506 : and it is therefore 
Mseless to question whether a half-barbarian king would 
have considered books as a property worth transferring 
to such a distance. The existence of classical writers in 
this collection, is another question ; but we have little 
more evidence, even on this subject, than that of this fa- 
bulous and inaccurate writer, who asserts that he and his 


friends inspected certain frag-ments which appeared to be 
more in the style of Sallust than Livy. It is also re- 
ported that Pius II. when in Scotland, intended to have 
visited lona in search of the lost works of this last au- 
thor, but was prevented by the death of James the first. 

Such is the total amount of all this evidence respecting 
the library of lona, historical, classical, and theological; 
and every one is equally entitled to form his own conjec- 
tures respecting its probable value and our loss. But I 
may remark generally, that the existence of large libra- 
ries, or of collections of classical authors, in our ancient 
monasteries, is a mere hypothesis. Letters were very 
little cultivated, even in those abodes ; and the very few 
authors which they did preserve, were among the least 
interesting. Their own necessary, or official, libraries, 
were already expensive, as well from their bulk, orna- 
ment, and materials, as from the price of transcription ; 
and there was as little temptation as there was power, to 
add to them, works of mere ancient literature. The Cata- 
logue of the Glasgow library, and of that of Aberdeen, will 
probably convey a tolerably just notion of the nature of 
those monastic collections. The library of St. Victor may 
perhaps do as well ; " Majoris de modo faciendi boudi- 
nos; Le Moustardier de penitence; L'apparition de St. 
Gertrude a un nonnain estant mal d'enfant ; Sabolenus 
de Cosmographia Purgatorii ;" and, to sum the whole, 
" Soixante et neuf breviaires de haulte greffe," 

The dispersion of those books, whatever they may 
have been, is a question of equal obscurity. It is sup- 
posed that they suffered, together with the establishment 
in general, by the incursions of the Northmen, noticed in 
the History of the Isles formerly, or in the fire by which 
it was destroyed in 1069. But if that had happened, 
Boethius could not have consulted them many centuries 
after. The authors who report that they were carried 
off by the Norwegians, and that some were deposited 
at Drontheim, seem to have overlooked this obvious 
contradiction. Either they were not taken away, or 


burnt, or there was no library in lona prior to 1069, 
Edward the first, the Rav/head and Bloodybones of 
Scotland, is also accused, by Bishop Nicolson, of plun- 
dering- lona, among the other attacks which he is said 
to have made on the records of this country. But this is 
only a reasoning- from the majus to the minus ; and the 
truth is, that the unlucky Edward is the Cat who eats up 
all the missing bacon. Every country has its own mon- 
ster, for these and similar purposes. The White ants in 
India used to eat hogsheads of Rupees, when the Gover- 
nor found it convenient. Hailes, Avhose authority may 
safely be balanced against Nicolson's, says that the tak- 
ing of some charters from Scone, and the tearing off of 
some seals, are the only well-vouched outrages of Ed- 
ward's army. Next comes the Reformation ; and here 
we might expect to stand on firmer ground. At this 
event, it is said, many manuscripts were carried to Douay, 
Rome, and Ratisbon, by the fugitated monks. Whatever 
the fact may be, it is certain that very few, if any, have 
been found. It is not in the least probable that the 
Gaelic manuscript of the Ossianic poetry, existing at 
Douay, was a part of this spoil ; and, if it were, it would 
not go far to prove the general assertion. That the re- 
forming mob itself did destroy many of them, is far more 
likely. In the western district, which included lona, 
the execution of the act of the convention of estates in 
1561, was committed to the Earls of Arran, Glencairn, 
and Argyll ; and that they or their followers rifled and 
destroyed without mercy, is too well known. The term 
Gothic has been applied to this synod ; but the poor 
Goths little deserve such a comparison : we may with 
great justice apply to our own countrymen on this occa- 
sion. Lord Byron's well known parody of a well-known 
pasquinade. To confirm this opinion of the dispersion of 
these works at that period, it is said, that a little prior to 
the time of Charles the second, many of them were in 
possession of the Argyll family, and that one was even 
found by some Duke of Montague, employed in a shop, 


for the base purpose of wrapping- snuff. If Calvin left 
any tiiins", Cromwell is accused of sweeping clean after 
him. But Cromwell, like Edward, is a Grunibolunibo 
who has been condemned to father many imps besides 
his own. There is not the slightest evidence that his 
soldiers visited lona; nor is it likely that iheir predeces- 
sors in purity left any thing- to amend. But, as I have 
noticed in the account of Cairn Burg-, it is said that some 
of the works which were taken from the monastery dur- 
ing the confusion of this attack, on the part of the Re- 
formers, were deposited there by the Macleans, as in a 
place of safety ; and here, it is also said, they perished 
by fire during the attack by Cromw ell's people. Enough. 
It is a heavy task to wade through the mass of mira- 
cles with M'hich Adamnan and Cumin have embellished 
their lives of St. Columba. The date of the former work 
is 680; of the latter, 657. A specimen will be enough. 
A globe of light appeared round his head at the altar. 
He turned water into wine, conversed with angels, and 
exorcised the devil out of a milk pail. One of his con- 
trivances was more valuable. It was a spit which caught 
deer and other game, of itself, when fixed in a wood out 
of doors, and which he presented to one of his friends; 
but its virtue was destroyed by the primitive cause of all 
mischief, the curiosity of his wife. These are matters 
for the Golden Legend. But when divested of that which 
belongs to the piety and credulity of the age, we imagine 
that we can discover the features of a character truly apos- 
tolic; a fervent and unwearied piety, united to an industry 
in pursuing his mission that knew no repose, and to an 
undaunted courage, which the condition of the ferocious 
and lawless people whom he attempted to convert, ren- 
dered indispensable. 

It would be scarcely necessary to remark that Columba 
and Columbanus were distinct persons, had they not 
been confounded by a writer of yesterday, the rest of 
whose knowledge is of the same scale. The latter was 
Bishop of Leinster, and died, after many wanderings. 

SAINT C01.UMBA. 173 

in Italy, in 615. Descended from a family which was 
alhed to the Kings of Scotland and Ireland, and a native 
of the latter country, Columba commenced his career in 
563, or,acconling- to Bede, in 565, and in the forty-second 
year of his age; after having travelled in many countries, 
much esteemed for his piety and learning. He was ac- 
companied by twelve Saints, as it is said, whose names I 
need not repeat; but who amount to thirteen, according 
to the enumeration. Landing first in Oransa, and then 
in lona, he proceeded to the eastern parts of Scotland, or 
the territories of the Picts; where he converted their 
king Brude or Bridei, the extent of whose reign lies be- 
tween 557 and 587, obtaining from him a part of this 
island. So says Bede ; but the Annals of Ulster and 
Tighernac say that this grant was made by Connel the 
son of Comghal, king of the Dalriadan Scots. Innes 
sides with this opinion : and Jamieson wishes to reconcile 
them, by supposing that lona might have lain on the 
confines of both dominions; and that it was given by the 
one king and confirmed by the other. This conversion, 
as his venerable biographer affirms, was not eft'ected 
without many dangers and some miracles. In a few 
years, however, the greater part of the Pictish kingdom 
appears to have been converted to Christianity; churches 
and monasteries having also been built in many places. 
The Irish annalists, and others, assert, that, under his 
superintendence, 300 churches and 100 monasteries were 
founded ; but the greater part of those were probably in 
Ireland, where he shares with St. Patrick, in the merit 
of extending the reign of Christianity. But these re- 
ligious labours were not limited to Scotland and Ireland. 
In the reign of Oswald, Northumberland became the 
scene of the pious labours of Aidan and other monks 
from lona, who cultivated the Saxon language for this 
purpose, and his people were converted to the Christian 
faith ; but not without giving rise, in after times, to a 
miraculous history, in which a vision of St. Columba ap- 
pears to Oswald, announcing to him a victory over the 


Britons. The influence of lona in England, did not 
cease with its first success ; many of its religious esta- 
blishments having, long- after, been provided by teachers 
or monks from this remote spot, which was thus destined 
to extend its influence far beyond the bounds of its own 
narrow and stormy region. 

But the zeal of the monks of lona required a still wider 
range of action ; and even during Columba's own life, 
they undertook voyages to the surrounding islands and 
the Norwegian seas, for the purpose of propagating the 
Gospel in countries which it had not yet reached. St. 
Columba is said to have made a voyage himself to the 
North Sea in his Currach, and to have remained there 
twelve days. This praise is equally due to the monastic 
establishments of Ireland ; which indeed must be con- 
sidered as almost children of the same parent, and fel- 
low labourers in the same rude vineyard. Irish monks 
were found in Iceland by the Norwegians in 900; and 
they were so generally diff'used, even through France, 
Italy, and other parts of Europe, as to have produced a 
remark from the Bollandists, that all the Saints of un- 
known origin were reputed to be of Irish or Scottish 
descent. Notwithstanding the zeal of Bede for the 
Church of Rome, he bears ample testimony to the ar- 
dour, the learning, and the simplicity of the monks of 
Columba's Rule; while, in acknowledging the advan- 
tages which Britain derived from their labours, he 
laments their departure from some of the rites of the 
Romish Church, and more particularly, their neglect of 
the Tonsure, and their irregularity respecting the time of 

The exact nature or extent of this schism is not known. 
It is asserted that St. Patrick and St. Palladius, who were 
the supposed precursors of St. Columba in Ireland, were 
missionaries from Rome. As it also appears tliat Co- 
lumba left Ireland under circumstances of political dis- 
sension, it has been suspected that some difference be- 
tween his religious opinions and those which were then 


universally entertained, must have been the cause: an 
hypothesis which does not ag^ree with the undiminished 
influence which he appears to have retained in his native 
country. If it is difficult to develope the whole of this 
subject, we may still with safety conclude, that lona pre- 
served the opinions and practices of the Oriental Church 
whence it sprung-, in comparative simplicity, and preached 
the Gospel with purity, long- after the corruptions at 
Rome had diffused themselves over the surrounding- 
countries. It has indeed been called the Rome of Ire- 
land and Scotland ; but the comparison does not render 
justice to that seat of a far purer Christianity. We learn 
from Bede's authority, just quoted, that they preached 
only the works of charity and piety which they derived 
from the writings of the prophets, the evangelists, and 
the apostles; a testimony the more valuable, as it is evi- 
dently given in the nature of a censure for differing- 
from the orders and usages of the Romish Church. 

The monastic order of St. Columba was sometimes 
called the Apostolic, and gave rise, in after times, to 
those institutions, of which the members were called 
Culdees. He had himself been educated under Theliaus, 
who, with several other Welsh Bishops, bad been conse- 
crated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem ; and hence their 
monasteries adopted the Oriental system. The rules for 
the conduct of the monks of lona, appear to have been 
rigid; no less as it regarded their public forms of wor- 
ship than their own conduct. But I need not describe 
them, as they must be known to every one conversant 
in ecclesiastical history. It has often been made a re- 
proach to the apostolic character in our own times, that 
in attempting the conversion of barbarous and ignorant 
people, doctrines, to them often cold, and too often unin- 
tellig-ible, have been enforced, to the neglect of practical 
morality and utility. From the first part of that censure, 
it appears that Columba was free ; and that his life was 
spent as much in offices of worldly utilily, as in the pro- 
pagation of a pure and practical religion : improviugthc 


condition of the barbarians whom he was desirous of turn- 
ing- into the paths of reh*gion,by instructing them in agri- 
culture, gardening, and other useful arts. That he was 
himself learned, not only in the Scriptures but in all 
secular learning, is pointedly remarked by his principal 
biographer, who also praises his medical knowledge, his 
eloquence and his conversation. The learning of his 
followers is admitted by their cotemporaries ; and thus 
it was the fate of this singular island to diffuse, not only 
the blessings of religion, but those of learning and arts, 
among a people involved in the grossest darkness. The 
monks indeed are said to have supported themselves by 
their labour; unlike the monks of whom Mathew Paris 
writes, " but I can find in a furlong a hare, better than 
in Beatus vir or Beati omnes." But this statement has 
probably been exaggerated ; if lona was so largely en- 
dowed in their time, as it was said to have been after- 
wards. This practice, they derived from the Eastern 
establishments whence they had sprung. They also mar- 
ried, as celibacy was held in dishonour; and hence arose 
one of the chief oppositions to them on the part of Rome : 
while the celibacy, and apparently consequent sanctity 
of that Clergy, gave them at first a great weight in the 
minds of the people, in their contests with the Culdees. 

There is much difficulty in tracing the history of lona 
downwards from the time of Columba, whose death took 
place in 597, at the age of 77 years. In 714, about 150 
years after the original grant, the monks were expelled by 
Nectan,anotherPictish King, residing beyond Drum Albin,. 
and, as is thought, at or about Inverness. From the Ulster 
Chronicle, if it can be believed in preference to Torfosus, 
we learn, that the establishment was afterwards twice 
burnt, first in 797, and again in SOI, by the northern 
pirates. A third invasion took place in 805, when sixty- 
eight persons were slaughtered ; but a new town was 
built in 806. It is said that the bones of Columba were 
removed by Kenneth the third, in 849, and subsequently 
transported to Ireland by John de Courcy, in 1185: an 


obscure anecdote; since oilier records assert tliat they 
were carried to Ireland for fear of the Gals, or Pirates, in 
877. But the most ruinous event of this nature appears 
to have been that which occurred in 085, when the AbJroi 
and fifteen monks or " Doctors," were killed, and the 
whole establishment dispersed. In 1069, it was again 
destroyed by fire. Yet after that period, there is a list 
of Abbots and Bishops, in the same Chronicle, which is 
brought down to 109f), the period of the death of the 
Abbot Duncan. The first Papal Legate visited Scotland 
in 1120; but it does not appear that any material change 
in its institutions was made till 1203, when Ccallach built 
a monastery in it, w hich was afterwards demolished and 
suppressed by a Synod of the Irish Clergy. Af(er 1203, 
a new order of things commences in lona, and the pre- 
ceding historical statement, meagre as it is, confirms that 
which the style and nature of the buildings themselves 
prove; namely, that they are all of a date later than the 
twelfth century. The list of Abbots in an uninterrupted 
line, amounts to 32 ; commencing with St. Baithcn, who 
succeeded Columba, and died in GOO. The death of the 
last, St. Caoin Chomrach, is marked in 945. There is 
then some obscurity, arising from the Coarbs, who seem 
to have puzzled the antiquaries as much as the Framea, 
but who appear to have been only the elective successors, 
followed by a list of Bishops, commencing with St. Fin- 
gon, who died in 964, ending in 1178, and intermixed 
Avith four more Abbots, beginning in 1004, and terminat- 
ing in 1099, with Abbot Duncan, already mentioned. Some 
of these appear to have been of Norwegian and French, 
others being of Irish and Scotch, extraction ; and their 
occasional connexion with Norway, is proved by the fact 
that they were sometimes consecrated at Drontheim. In 
the treaty between Magnus and Alexander III, there is 
a reservation of the patronage in favour of this Arch- 
bishopric ; a fact which does not add a little to the con- 
fusion in which the whole history of the establishment of 
lona is involved. 



Among other obscurities in the history of Coliimba 
and his establishment, that is not the least which relates 
to his ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Although but an Ab- 
bot, he is said to have been Primate of all the Irish 
Churches ; and it appears that the jurisdiction of his suc- 
cessors extended, not only over the Western Islands and 
the neighbouring' mainland, but over many of the monas- 
teries in Scotland, such as St. Andrew's, Dunkeld, Aber- 
nethy, and others : claiming authority even over bishops, 
as is remarked by Bede. 

This confusion is perhaps not very difficult of solution. 
In the East, Abbots were originally of high rank; and 
some of the Greek bishops were known by the term of 
Abbots, exercising episcopal functions. An Abbey was 
a community, before the formation of Dioceses; and, in 
the primitive British churches, many Bishops resigned 
their charges to found Abbeys ; as happened also in 
Ireland. In this last country also, Abbot and Bishop 
were sometimes names for the same person ; possessing 
the rank of the one, and the charges of the other. The 
Bishops of Derry, were Abbots ; and, in the thirteenth 
century, Malachias the Bishop of Down, made donations 
to a certain Priory, " reservato Abbatis titulo." Thus, 
the situation and charge of Columba, seem to be ex- 
plained. He is even called Archbishop, by Conchubran, 
and Pontifex in the life of St, Mungo; an appellation 
never bestowed on the inferior Clergy. Though by the 
Council of Chalcedon, Abbots were subjected to Bishops, 
yet, even in France, many obtained exemptions, though 
that law had been enforced in the Capitularies of Char- 
lemagne. Some of them had even permission to wear 
the mitre and carry the cross. If these were still sub- 
ject to the Bishops, the Mitred Abbots had plenary Epis- 
copal jurisdiction. In England, as is well known, there 
were Sovereign Abbots, who sat in Parliament. Accord- 
ing to Sir E. Coke, there were twenty-seven of these. 
It must always be recollected, that the term Bishop had 
not, at firstii the meaning which it has at present. In 

ct 179 

Scotland, they had thus no Dioceses : while it appears 
further, that the Abbots of lona were sometimes called, 
indifferently, Abbots or Bishops, and that the terms v/ere 
even considered synonymous. It was not uncommon, in the 
early ages of the Church, to consecrate Bishops who had 
no jurisdiction; nor were there regular Dioceses in 
Scotland, till the beginning of the twelfth Century. The 
Bishopric of St. Andrews, established by Grig, is said to 
have been the first Diocesan erection. 

The power of the parent institution appears to have de- 
clined after the last Danish invasion ; when it came under 
the dominion of those conquerors. That event must have 
been accelerated by the loss of the considerable revenues 
which it derived from Galway, and elsewhere ; which 
were taken away and granted to Holyrood House in 1180. 
Yet the Culdees became chiefly remarkable after the 
death of Columba, by their dispersion throughout Europe ; 
being known, as the parent institution was, by the namesof 
the Apostolic Order, and the Order of St. Columba. Their 
societies, whether fixed, or employed on foreign missions, 
are said to have consisted of twelve brothers and an 
Abbot. Their name has been derived from Gille Dee, 
servants of God ; by others, from Kil Die, by Nicholson, 
from Cowl Dhu, on account of their dress, and from other 
sources ; and it appears that they retained considerable 
influence to a late period, extending it even to the elec- 
tion of Bishops. Even when their Societies appear to 
have been entirely dissolved, the individuals continued 
to teach ; as they had done long after the revenues and 
power of the ecclesiastical establisnraents had fallen into 
the hands of i-he Romish monks. 

The influx of that clergy in the twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries, at length supplanted the original possessors; 
and, as they professed celibacy, which formed no part of 
the rule of the Culdees, as I have just noticed, affected 
great purity of manners, possessed wealth to supply what 
these had lost, and adopted more expensive and showy 
ceremonials, they appear to have equally supplanted them 

2!I 2 


in the regard of tlie people. It was in 1127, that Gre- 
gory, Abbot of the Culdees of Dunkeld, was made a Bi- 
shop; the Romish Church having proceeded to effect by 
circumvention and reconciliation, what it had failed in 
carrying by force or open hostility. The creation of four 
Bishops by David the first, aided the downfall of the 
Culdees. The great step towards innovation, was the 
introduction of the Romish monastic order of Saint 
Augustin. When Cardonell says, that the original 
monks of lona who were plundered by the Danes, were 
those very Augustins, he forgets himself, as he does 
when he says that they were followed by Cluniacs. It 
would not have been worth while to have noticed this 
blunder, had it not been often copied from a book as 
slender as it is popular. The Romish Church had no 
influence in Scotland at that date; scarcely in England. 
The year 785 saw the first Papal Legates to the Saxons. 
In 905 was the first bull issued against their hetero- 
doxies. It does not appear that their influence was com- 
plete till the time of Wilfrid and the period of the Norman 
sway; however Hume and Whitaker may be at variance 
on this point. The Irish Church continued separate from 
Rome in the ninth century, and later. Notwithstanding 
these inroads, the Culdees continued to resist at Money- 
musk and St. Andrews; and, as Sir James Dalrymple 
thinks, did not finally yield till the fourteenth century. 
By the transference of the Primacy from Dunkeld to St. 
Andrews, this Saint superseded Col umba as the Patron 
of Scotland. 

It is to the Romish Clergy, as I already remarked, 
thatwemust attribute the Cathedral of lona, at least, and 
probably the Nunnery, whatever we may determine about 
St. Oran's Chapel. It appears that the monks were Clu- 
niacs, and that the Nunnery, as I before said, was appro- 
priated to Canonesses of St. Augustin ; establishments 
which remained unchanged till the dissolution of the Mo- 
nasteries. It was in the time of Edward the first, as I 
formerly mentioned, that the separation of the Isle of 


Mann took place ; wlien its Bishops assumed the title of 
Bishops of the Siulereys, or Sodor, and Mann, while those 
of lona were known by the name of Bishops of the Isles. 
In 1617, lona was annexed to the Bishopric of Argyll 
by James the sixth; and thus ends the history of an in- 
stitution which, if it has occupied more space than I ori- 
g-inally foresaw, m«st seek its apology in its own intrinsic 

I cannot however dismiss lona without noticing- the 
Clacb na Brath, which are still remembered here, as in 
the Garveloch Isles. In former days, there was also one 
at Kilchoman in Isla; but I' believe it has vanished. 
This talisman is said to have consisted originally of three 
globes of white marble, placed in three basins; but these, 
like the crosses, were thrown into the sea; from which 
we must conclude that the Synod considered them as 
Popish globes. A single stone, which the boys of the 
village take care to preserve, now serres the same pur- 
pose ; although it seems to be forgotten that it should be 
turned three times round in the direction of the sun. 
When this globe is worn out, its great prototype will also 
be expended; though what particular interest any one 
can have in putting an end to the world, is not very in- 
telligible; unless it be to try whether lona will continue 
to swim, amid the general wreck of all things. To pro- 
tect the Clach Brath from the depredations of the in- 
credulous, it was held that he who should remove it 
would neither know peace nor sleep till it was restored; 
and this, says Mr. Martin, actually happened to a cer- 
tain shipmaster. It is likely that we must seek for the 
whole of this superstition where all the rest are to be 
found. It belonged to the KiQoi/.avT€ia of the Greeks ; and 
doubtless had its prime source, with all the others, among 
the Chaldeans and Egyptians, together with all the vari- 
ous " manteias" M'hich the Denionologists have collected. 
The meaning of Clach na Brath is, the stones of judg- 
ment, or rath«r, of the judgment day. The literal mean- 
ing, however, of the term, is, conflagration. Hence we 

182 lOMA. 

discover that the Celts believed, like the Chaldeans and 
the Scandinavians and many more, that the world was 
to be destroyed by fire ; although the prophecy respect- 
ing- lona refers to a general deluge. This is all we know 
of the Cosmogony of the Celts. Our Scandinavian an- 
cestors have given us far better measure in the Edda. 
They appear to have borrowed from Berosus : but " I am 
weary of conjectures, this must end them." 

The hour of departure at length arrived. The red 
sun was setting far beyond the towering and purple moun- 
tains of Mull, as, for the last time, I sat amid the graves 
of heroes long departed, and contemplated the crim- 
son liohts that glimmered on the ruins, and shot their 
feeble rays aslant, over the darkening sea. It was the 
hour of spirits ; but I looked in vain to see the fair form 
oflona's protecting Angel, standing on its topmost towers, 
and counting the surrounding islands to see that none 
were lost. But I saw the cutter rocking at its anchor. 
The blue flag was flying, and the wind was fair. I had 
fulfilled the proverb which says that 

There never yet came man to I 
Who did not come times three : 

yet it was not without regret that I saw its tower diminish- 
ing in the horizon, as we coasted the rugged and desolate 
shores of Mull, and finally lost all traces of objects, the 
more striking from their solitary position amid the wide 
waste of rocks and water, where no sound is ever heard 
but the roar of the winds and waves, and the melan- 
choly voices of the sea fowl. 

The ruins of lona are the soul and centre of the 
Painter's Landscape. Without them, that landscape is 
nothing; with them, it is everything; because, in it, 
they are, themselves, every thing-. But, still more, are 
they the centre of the landscape of the Poet; because 
History has surrounded them with a magic and an in- 
terest beyond the reach and power of the pencil. This 
is a distinction which the painter sometimes forgets. His 

lOiXA. 1^3 

history must have measure ; breadth, and height, and con- 
spicuify; or it is nothing. Thus, in natural landscape, 
the representation is often nothing-, where the reality is 
pregnant with life. This is the Poet's Landscape. The 
most ruined of ruins, the last grey stone that remains on 
another, may excite, in nature, the strongest emotions; 
because they are the emotions of the Poet. But Repre- 
sentation strives in vain ; the painter fails, and wonders 
why: because he forgets that he is trespassing, and tres- 
passing on the province of the poet. " Tell Sextilius 
that thou hast seen Marius sittinjv on the ruins of Car- 
thage." What do the ruins perform here. No part of 
the painter's landscape, assuredly : he has tried it, and 
he has failed. But, in Nature, they are all. They speak, 
not to the eye, but to the mind ; and it is the Poet alone 
who can teach them how to speak. Art labours in 
vain. The merest fragment of that building which tells 
us of past days, is important in the reality, because 
it says to us " Posteri posteri, vestra res agitur;" speaks 
to us of the flight of generations and of the unsparing 
hand of time, calls up the long train of vanished life, 
and animates with the eloquence of history, the rudest 
rock that lifts its head above the wild ocean. This is lona. 



It is a popular opinion that Beasts have no lang-nage ; 
notwithstanding the authority of Pilpay and many other 
great men. This decision will admit of a question, by 
those M ho have attended a Parliament of Highland Dro- 
vers, or witnessed a squabble between two Welsh wives. 
To the non-adept, al I languages are equally dark ; though 
the Italian may sound smoother than the Gaelic, (which 
Yi genuine Gael denies,) or the bubbling of the Hottentot 
nnd the croaking of the Overysselander, appear to be 
the cries of different animals. A convocation of Turkey 
cocks, indignant at the intrusion of a scarlet cloak on 
its debates, resents it in language quite as intelligible 
as that of the Synod of Highland drovers, and, to com- 
mon ear?, equally varied and copious. Did not even 
Pythagoras, and that other quack, Apollonius of Tyana, 
pretend to understand the language of birds; while 
Sigurd also acquired the same knowledge, by drinking of 
Dragon's broth. Whether that be true or not, it is un- 
questionable that Animals possess language. Though 
the Roman Gentries did not comprehend the watchword of 
the Geese that assisted them as Videttes in guarding the 
Capitol, their own long files change front, advance, wheel 
into line, double up, form by Echellon, and call Officers 
to the front, with as much precision as if they had been 
educated in Dundas's Manual. Plaintiff and defendant 
appear in the Crow courts, and judgment is given and 
executed, with fully as much justice, doubtless, as in 
Westminster Hall; while, to us, the Judge but says, 
" what says he — Caw." Your Pig is a great master of 
language; giving notice of rain, asking for his meat and 
drink, leading his companions to ravage a potatoe field, 


rctiionstrating' with the butcher, and making* love and 
war, all in good set terms, if not in all the metaphysics of 
the Greek Tenses. Unfortunately, he cannot write a 
grammar: besides which, his talents in philology have 
not time to develope themselves completely; as, before 
his education is half finished, we shave his hide, smoke 
him, and convert him into sausages and bacon. The re- 
mainder of my speculations must however be abandoned 
at present, for want of room. It is sufficient that I have 
established my point, by reasoning from the intonations 
of a Gaelic debate. 

I have elsewhere, I believe, remarked, that a traveller 
in the Highlands, now meets English, in some shape, 
almost every where, and chiefly among- the Children. 
It is fast spreading-, even into the wild districts of Kin- 
tail, Sutherland, and Rossshire. In the Islands, this is a 
consequence of the communication between the natives 
and the Lowland fishermen and traders; and of the voy- 
ages and journeys of the former, from various places to 
the Low country, for the purpose of reaping or of the 
fisheries. It spreads along the Border, and in the vicinity 
of towns; the Steam boats export it from Greenock: the 
smuggler learns to squabble M'ith the excisemen and 
argue with the justices, and pedlars and shopkeepers deal 
out English and haberdasheries in the same breath. Boat- 
men, guides, and horse dealers, contrive to cheat English 
travellers in their own tongue. Innkeepers, waiters, and 
ostlers, do the same. Writers to the Signet conspire to 
make ejectments, draw leases, drive, pound, replevin, and 
empty their Client's pockets, in good plain English ; the 
tax-gatherer sticks up his Saxon warnings at every cot- 
tage, and woe be to him that cannot understand them; 
while the Drover, who has made twenty annual voyages 
to Smithfield or York, with the Northumbrian shepherd 
who migrates from the wilds of Cheviot to those of 
Knoydart, Moidart, Applecross, or Assynt, help on the 
general corruption of the language of Paradise and old 
Gaul. The first impression is made on the Children, 


because pride, habit, and inflexibility of organs, check 
the learning of the old. I wish I could .say that English 
schools gave much assistance in the spreading of this 
language among them; but of any schools, there are as 
yet few ; and on the language that is to be taught in 
them, there are differences of opinion, and many preju- 
dices yet to be surmounted. 

If the object of language is mutual communication, 
that communication cannot be rendered too complete: but 
complete, it can never be, as long as the different inhabi- 
tants of one Empire are incapable of thoroughly under- 
standing each other. It requires little discernmentor re- 
flection, to seeor comprehend the inconveniences that arise 
from the present state of the Highlands in this respect: 
inconveniences that have been felt in every nation, where 
more than one tongue has been united under a common 
government. It was as much to the language of the 
ancient Highlanders as to the peculiarity of their man- 
ners and institutions, that Scotland was indebted for the 
long series of mis-rule, rebellion, rapine, and disorder, in 
which it was involved before the final termination of 
Highland independence. If those greater inconveniences 
have disappeared, there remain many others, which 
will yield only to the universal diff'usion of English, to 
that change which shall unite the whole inhabitants of 
Scotland, or 1 should say, of Britain, under one language. 

The opinion is not new, and it is that of sensible 
Highlanders themselves; for, in this case, as in most 
others, a spectator, such as you and I, has little to do but 
to attempt to hold the balance between contending Celts. 
The Gartmore MS., which I have elsewhere quoted as 
authority, says that the language " has a tendency to 
unite the people, and to disunite them from the rest of 
the kingdom ; " " preventing them from making improve- 
ments in the aflTairs of common life, and in other know- 
ledge." This is the opinion of 1747. The stickler for 
kilts, and Feudal justice, and Highland perfection, on 
the other hand, says, that " Highland eloquence," that 


of the common people, " is unequalled in the British 
Empire," that "the mountains and vales of the Hebrides 
contain a greater command of words and ideas," than any 
part of Europe, and that the English is a "base bastard 
tongue, made up of mingled materials, huddled together 
accidentally into a barbarous jargon by the pirates and 
robbers of modern Europe, and composed of Frenchi- 
fied Latin, Low Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Scandinavian, 
Saxon, &c." and " that the Celtic is superior in convey- 
ing- ideas," and so on, — and so on. This is the opinion 
of 1808. And this " decissionnaire" is a Master of 
Arts and a Highland Clergyman. Voltaire says that the 
"sourds " are the only fit judges of music. And there- 
fore we may proceed. 

It is an effect of different languages, to produce a 
separation of interests and feelings among the inhabitants 
of the same country; and there is nothing surely now 
remaining- in the habits or opinions of the Highlanders, 
as distinguished from Scotland in general, which is worth 
preserving ; even were the requisite sacrifice much less. 
But, in truth, the superiority in knowledge, art, and in- 
dustry, in every thing that constitutes the political 
strength and value of a population, as well as the happi- 
ness and wealth of the constituent individuals, is in favour 
of those who speak English : while I know not, that, in a 
moral view, the Lowland Scots, as a people, and com- 
paring rural with rural population, are any way in- 
ferior to the Highlanders. The amalgamation of this 
mountain division of our population, with the nation at 
large, meets with an obstacle at the very outset, in the 
differences of language : and they unite only on the 
borders, where the English spreads, and as that is dif- 
fused. The dullest observer may trace the progress; not 
the joint progress of the language and of improvement, 
but the dependence of the latter on the former. The 
greatest inconveniences now experienced by the High- 
landers, arise from a population, in many, perhaps in most 
places, too dense for the employment which it can com- 


maiid. This I demonstrated not long ago. I then also 
showed that migration to the Lowlands or to England, to 
the army and the navy, presented remedies which, if par- 
tial, are nevertheless available and advantageous to all 
parties. To this, the difference of language offers an 
obstacle, which is not only formidable, but sometimes in- 
superable; and of which the effect is fully experienced 
still, as it has been felt ever since the Lowlands and 
Highlands came into amicable contact. 

But independently of this, it is the tendency of the 
Highland language to unite the people by one local 
bond, so as to prevent them from feeling a common in- 
terest with the nation at large. It was an inimical bond 
once: it is one of jealousy and repugnance still. While 
also it nourishes this distinctness of feelings and interests, 
making the Highlanders a minority of foreigners in their 
own country, it maintains or fosters those ancient habits 
and modes of thinking, which repel what the people can- 
not be taught to consider improvements ; innovations 
which they despise, because they dislike those by whom 
they were introduced, or which they neglect, becanse 
ignorant of their value, or, which they abhor because 
they interfere with old habits, or lastly, which they con- 
sider invasions of their hereditary or habitual rights. 

Every thing is matter of association ; and there is no 
stronger bond by which usages and manners are united 
and preserved, than that of language. Opinions are 
formed in it, and consecrated by it i it constitutes, not 
only the vehicle of ideas, but almost the ideas them- 
selves; and it will be in vain to attempt to change the 
current of thought and action in the Highlands, while the 
language is allowed to remain. Destroy this bond, and 
the charm is at an end. A change of terms is, pro- 
verbially, a test of truth. Make the people speak and 
think in another language, and the term which was once 
matter of pride or afl'ection, becomes a term of reproach 
or disrepute. The charm is in the terms Chief and Clan, 
Translate them into Feudal Lord and Villeins, and it is 


broken,, To " lift" cattle was the act of a gentleman : to 
steal sheep is matter for the halter. To put a very plain, 
a very vulg-ar case. It is easy to imagine that the High- 
land term for what King James thought too great a 
luxury for a subject, might have conveyed no notions of 
censure or disgrace ; it is very certain that it has not 
always done so. Translate it into English, rouse the 
complicated ideas which it carries to our minds, and the 
disease must vanish. It is superfluous to dwell on a 
subject so plain ; much better arguments than this, 
would be wasted on those whose prejudices object to the 
introduction of English into the Highlands. 

It is very certain that no nation will maintain two 
languages long, where the business of society can be 
carried on with one : still less, when the new one is more 
useful than the old. Hence the introduction of English, 
slow as it is, must, sooner or later, be the downfall of 
the Gaelic, Among other reasons for its abolition, I may 
name the inconvenience which so often arises from it in 
the Highlands, in the ordinary administration of justice; 
as it indeed yet does, also, in Wales. However the par- 
tiality of the natives may lead them to boast of its copi- 
ousness, the Gaelic, like the Welsh, is insufficient for the 
complicated Avants of Society, in its present state in 
Britain. The difficulty of interpretation is hence so 
great, that it is often impossible to procure intelligible 
evidence in a Court : and that this inconvenience is fre- 
quently felt, is well known to the Scottish judges who 
make the Highland circuit ; as it is in England to the 
judges for Wales. It cannot be supposed that those who 
are desirous of maintaining the Gaelic language, are not 
fully aware of these inconveniences : of some of them at 
least, they assuredly are. Yet, sometimes for want of 
reflection, at others, stimulated by prejudices, or by the 
more laudable feelings which are desirous to preserve 
the evanescent traces of manners and antiquity among a 
race to which they attach romantic virtues, they perhaps 
hope to gain one object without losing the other. That 


is, assuredly, impossible; nor will any exertion prevent 
that from being- soon forg-otten, on which so many inroads 
are making. The manners and habits must change ; and 
history and poetry will preserve, without fear of loss, all 
that it is desirable to preserve, of a condition of society 
which was, unquestionably, romantic and interesting, if 
not so very singular in all points as it has sometimes been 
thought. No effort will indeed preserve those manners and 
habits; and if any thing- were wanting to prove that even 
the Gaelic language is in its death agonies, it is the vain 
exertion made to preserve it; exertion that never yet 
saved that, over which the progress of change had sus- 
pended the universal law of nature. 

It is a question that may safely be asked, even by 
those who do not understand this language, what it pos- 
sesses which is worth preserving. It is confessedly in- 
adequate to that increase of ideas and objects and rela- 
tions, which civilization has introduced ; and although 
the Bible has been translated into it, its changes and 
corruptions in different parts of this country, are in them- 
selves sufficient proofs of its inadequacy to the present 
uses of society. The several districts accuse each other 
of speaking a corrupt language. The Argyllshire rnen 
disdain those of Perthshire and Inverness ; Sky is at va- 
riance with Lewis, Sutherland with Kintail, and Kintail 
with the whole world. But if we enquire rigidly where 
it is purest, we shall find the " genuine Gaelic" spo- 
ken, only where the people are yet in the most back- 
ward state; where, consequently, it is least efficient; 
the exact consequence that might have been expected. 
This is a case in which corruption is improvement: in 
the view of the Gael themselves, improvement is corrup- 
tion ; to those at least who f^mcy that imperfection and 
meagreness constitute merit in language, that the ima- 
ginary purity of antiquity, and not power and utility, 
are its essentials. That such purity can be united to 
perfection or copiousness, is the dream of those who know- 
not what language is, who are ignorant how languages 

GAELIC ianguacf:. 191 

have arisen. In this particular instance, as I shall have 
occasion to show again, the purity is quite imaginary: 
since the Gaelic, even in what is considered its purest 
state, is a compound tongue. 

It must be admitted, that a language should be pre- 
served, for the sake of those works which it may have 
produced. But the Gaelic has produced nothing, except 
the traditionary poems claimed equally by the Irish, 
garbled and interpolated, no less by traditionary re- 
citers ihan by modern translators, and the nserits of 
which, whatever they may be, are now fully appre- 
ciated. There is nothing more to be elicited by hu- 
man research or industry ; and siiould this become a 
dead language to-morrow, there can be nothing to re- 
gret, on that score at least. It must also be admitted, 
that the Gaelic tongue justly claims an ancient origin ; 
that its connexions ramify widely, and that its study is 
important, in that very abstruse and difficult branch of 
philology which relates to the origin and connexions of 
languages. But, for this purpose, it is sufficient that it 
exists in the traditionary poems, in the dictionaries and 
grammars, and in the translated works that have already 
been executed: that it is found in the libraries of the 
philologists, lexicographers, and grammnrians. For their 
purposes, it is always alive; nor shall we have any great 
reason to lament the day, when, like the Cornish, which 
is long since dead, and the Welsh and Breton, which are 
fast expiring, it will be found no where else. 

To these fruitless attempts to preserve that on which 
the hand of death is already irremoveably tixed, we must, 
in some degree, attribute the establishment and main- 
tenance of Gaelic schools, and to a certain extent also, 
the translation and dispersion of Gaelic bibles. There is 
no one who does not rejoice in every exertion that is made 
to spread the advantages of education through all the 
ranks of society : but the question here is somewhat more 
intricate, and has been viewed by different persons in 
different lights. It is asked, on one side, what benefits 


are coinparatively to be expected from furnishing- those 
who cannot read Gaelic, with an instrument, of which the 
use, limited as it is, is fast expiring-, which is palpably 
pernicious, and which is more difficult of acquisition than 
English. The old cannot learn to read if they Mould, 
and the young can learn any thing. Would not their 
efforts be far better directed to the acquisition of a lan- 
guage abounding in books, containing all the elementary 
works required for extending the objects of education, 
and which is, even now, among themselves, fast becoming 
the daily organ of general intercourse, and the engine 
of improvement. To this, the same objectors add, that 
the acquisition of Gaelic is by no means easy: that it is 
far less so than that of English ; and that, even when 
acquired, it is inadequate to its professed objects. Even 
those who speak the language, have, it is said, little more 
facility in acquiring the art of reading it by means of the 
grammar and dictionary, than those to whoni it is un- 
known ; nor if two adult Highlanders were educated, 
one to read and write his own language, and the other to 
do as much in English, is it certain but that the latter 
would make the more rapid and effectual progress. With 
respect to Children, it is added that experience has as- 
certained the fact. 

To all this it is answered on the other side, and with 
some appearance of reason, that the mere acquisition of 
reading in the Gaelic, will incite to the learning of En- 
glish, and that the ambition of acquiring knowledge, will 
thus be generated. It is also added, in direct opposition 
to those opinions, that it is much easier for a Highlander 
to learn to read Gaelic than English, and that those who 
have actually learnt English in the schools established 
for this purpose, read without understanding. Some, 
even of those who are engaged in the present new trans- 
lation of the Bible, consider that the diflfusion of these 
translations and of a Gaelic education, so far from pre- 
serving the language, as some inconsiderate persons 
fondly hope, will produce precisely the reverse effect, 

r.AI Lie L\NGUA(JI'. 


Bnd hasten i(s downfa!!. It is not easy to decide between 
conflicting opinions; but, those are deceived who flatter 
themselves that their present efforts will maintain the 
language in a state of purity. They may thus record it 
for posterity : but that the living- language can thus be 
preserved pure, when insufficient for the increased wants 
and knowledge of the age, is impossible. The corrup- 
tion, or the improvement, of the Gaelic, is a necessary 
consequence of its being continued as a living- language; 
because, being' inadequate to the increased necessity for 
words, it must borrow. It is by its death alone that it 
can be preserved. 

Nor is that the paradox which it seems. It is not til! 
a language is dead, that it becomes immutable, and, like 
man himself, immortal. A living language must change, 
and it may perish : if it does perish, it is because it was 
a living- one. What would Latin have now been, had it 
lived. Bracton or Fleta will teii us. What is the mo- 
dern, the living and spoken Greek, and why is it not the 
Greek of Demosthenes or Xenophon, as our written 
Latin is that of Cicero. Of Cicero — certainly not; since 
we cannot keep, even to a much worse standard; since 
we cannot do this, even in writing, with all our efforts; 
because we have ideas which Cicero, or even Priscian, 
never entertained. Hence it is that some nations have 
adopted for their annals, a sacred, dead, or unpopular 
language. This is the only shadow of apology for our 
Latin Epitaphs, which I ridiculed formerly; though, in 
that particular case, it is inapplicable. This is true of 
the Hebrew of Scripture; which, though written at wide 
intervals, appears almost the produce of one period. It 
■must have been, at length, the sacred language, a lan- 
guage of history and record, a Sanscrit. The pure He- 
brew was preserved by the Prophets and the Priesthood. 
The Sacred writings and laws had been neglected durino- 
the idolatry and the aberrations of this people; and, 
hence, it is probable, that when they returned from the 
Babylonish captivity, those were to them a dead, or 

VOL. IV. o 


rather, an antiquated language. What the Hebrew is 
now, every one knows. I may admit, as I have just 
done, that the new Gaelic Bible will, or may, preserve 
the standard of a classical literary style, of the best, at 
least, which the present age can produce; but as there is 
no past Gaelic literature to be cherished, and as there is 
no prospect of future Gaelic works, that will confer no 
advantages on the language, or on literature. It is thus 
that our own Bible has aided the vitality of Shakspeare; 
more, perhaps, than is commonly imagined. It has pre- 
served a kind of standard, from a past age; it has ren- 
dered that standard universal and popular: and has thus 
embalmed the writers of that age. Hence a collateral 
evil that would result from a New Translation : it would 
shortly antiquate a whole body of authors: otherwise 
than as the innate vitality of our Great Dramatist might 
preserve himself from perishing, and thus uphold the 
minor stars that accompany his bright career. 

It is not necessary to say much respecting the dis- 
persion of Gaelic Bibles: on that of the Book itself, 
there cannot be two opinions. It has been said, that, 
under cover of the professed motive, the desire to pre- 
serve this sinking- language was concealed ; sometimes, 
openly confessed. The objection of those who have 
made this remark, to the general circulation of the Gaelic 
Scripture, is, that very few adult Highlanders can read, 
and that it is therefore, to them, a dead letter, bestowed 
on those v/ho, as yet, can read no language. The aged 
will scarcely learn to read Gaelic, even for the sake of 
the Bible ; and if they are inclined to undergo the la- 
bours of education, it may be better communicated in 
English, for the purpose of reading an English Bible. 
As to those who can read Gaelic, and who can speak En- 
glish, there can be less question as to the superior expe- 
diency of furnishing- them with English Bibles; or per- 
haps, what might be still better, with a translation on the 
opposite page, or with two bibles. Respecting the Chil- 
dren under education, whether they speak English or 


not, there can be stiil less doubt that the circulation of 
the Scriptures, in English exclusively, is an act pecu- 
liarly proper and necessary. These arguments appear 
to have been brought forward as long- ago at least as 
1770, by some members of the Society for propagating 
Christian Knowledge, when a translation of the New 
Testament was proposed. It is well known that Dr. 
Johnson, so often absurdly blamed as inimical to the 
Scots, took up this question, in favour of the Gaelic 
translation, and of the Highlanders ; and it is said that 
his interference had great weight in turning the balance. 
I need not give the answer to the arguments just ad- 
duced against the Gaelic translation; because it is al- 
ready given in the remarks which have preceded. 

Of the peculiar beauties or recommendations of the 
Gaelic, as a language, a stranger to it cannot form any 
opinion; except from weighing and comparing the opi- 
nions of those who do understand it, and from those facts 
which are alike open to all. The beauties of the other 
dialects of the Celtic, have been defended with equal 
vigour. Vallancey asserts that the Irish is the most 
copious language in the Universe. His decisions re- 
specting language must be valuable, when he calls the 
Persian a jumble of Latin, Greek, Arabic, and Turkish. 
This is like Mr. Macdonald's clear arrangement of Da- 
nish, Swedish, and Scandinavian. Lucian, at least, is of 
a different opinion from Vallancey, when he makes Mer- 
cury say that he cannot invite the gods of the Gauls to 
the Council, because he does not understand their bar- 
barous jargon. Julian compares the Celtic to the croak- 
ing of Ravens. Whatever Vallancey and Lucian may 
dispute, a language which has never been cultivated for 
other purposes than the ordinary wants of an ill-civilized, 
or half-barbarous people, does not, " a priori," claim 
much ; one which has never been an organ of literature 
or of science, which can scarcely be said to have a me- 
dium of communication through books, is not likely to 
be very copious or estimable. It is a rule to which the 

o 2 


Gaelic cannot he an exception, that lang-uages follow the 
course of nations; being rich, full, and abounding-, in a 
state of hig-h cultivation, meagre and imperfect in the 
savage state. As population, commerce, science, and 
intercourse, increase, so as to give a greater range to 
human intellect and human passions, the improvement of 
language keeps pace. It is a singular exception, in a 
philosophical view, without affecting this argument, that, 
in Greece and in Arabia, the improvement of the language 
was independent of that of the manners. It outran the 
career of general improvement. 

It is said that the Gaelic is highly metaphorical, and 
therefore admirably adapted to poetry, and that it con- 
tains names for ail the varieties of rivers, hills, and val- 
leys, and, generally, of all natural objects. The last 
assertion is not true. It is not so abounding in terms 
for familiar objects as might be expected : in this re- 
spect, it falls far short of many rude languages, or rather, 
of the languages of many rude people. It is inmea- 
surably behind the Arabic, It has even borrowed, from 
modern languages, innumerable terras which it ought to 
have possessed ; while it is absolutely wanting in others, 
so as to be driven to circumlocution and metaphor and 
substitution. As an instance in the very case which is 
produced, it does not distinguish sea bays, firths, and 
lakes ; still less, as it ought, the varieties of these. It 
is the same for rivers; it is the same for colours. There 
are a dozen English or Scottish names for a coal fish, and 
the Gaelic has scarcely two or three. It possesses but 
one name for many birds; and thus, beyond enumera- 
tion. Even in this, its simplest department, it is a com- 
pound language; pure as it is the fashion to call it; 
since a great proportion, even of its familiar terms, is 
taken from the Scandinavian, not from the Celtic, as is 
vulgarly supposed. 

Inasmuch as this presumed richness in terms may 
confer on it poetical powers, it would merely follow that 
it is a poetical tongue, as far as relates to the limited 


circle of materials within the poet's reach ; or that, like 
other imperfect tongues, it has paid attention to those 
minute distinctions in nature, with which its framerswere 
principally conversant. As to the other species of re- 
puted merit, its metaphorical richness, it proves its po- 
verty by this very claim. Metaphor and substitution are 
the only resources of a barbarous or limited language. 
It is compelled to be circuitous, because it has not the 
materials for expressing its meaning directly ; and thus, 
even the process of thinking is impeded : because the 
idea to be communicated is vague, like its representa- 
tive. If language be necessary for the communication 
of ideas, it is no less true that it is necessary for their 
production ; and thus, we shall not be far wrong, when 
we measure the intellectual powers and acquisitions of a 
people, by the copiousness and accuracy of its dictionary. 
It is not peculiar to the Gaelic to be metaphorical, because 
all analogous languages are so ; and because every lan- 
guage has been metaphorical originally. But the meta- 
phor, or substituted phrase, or term, becomes, in time,a sim- 
ple expression of the idea; conferring on it, and at the 
same time receiving from it, accuracy. Thus metaphors 
disappear from a cultivated tongue, but their skeletons can 
still be traced ; and hence, auiong other things, arise the 
metaphysical parts of grammar, concerning which so 
much unnecessary parade has been made by some authors, 
and by Home Tooke among others, as if they had dis- 
covered something unknown to all the rest of mankind. 
We cannot turn a page of English, without finding spe- 
cimens of those condensed metaphors ; of what the Gae- 
lic, like every other language, might have equally dis- 
played, had it ever been that of an intellectual people. 
That no dialect of our European Celtic ever belonged to 
such a people, or to a literary one, requires no other evi- 
dence ; and he must be a very shallow metaphysician who 
can, on this subject, imagine that poetry implies litera- 
ture. But I need not, and indeed dare not, enlarge on 


The case of substitution is analogous, yet different ; 
and it is only by analyzing language, that we can trace 
the important part which it has acted, and be convinced 
at the same time, how it is connected with the aiigmenta- 
tation and refinement of ideas in a people. To put a 
simple case or two, from the English, it would not be at 
first suspected, that the words truth and wit stood in this 
predicament ; and, that the meaning of the first term, at 
least, was originally diflferent from what it is now. Wit 
is what a man wotteth or knoweth : it is knowledge : truth 
is that which he troweth, or believeth. The term wit, has 
entirely departed at length, except in colloquial phrase- 
ology, from its original meaning : and truth, now, is what 
can be demonstrated, to compel belief. Thus also, to 
putasomcAvhat ludicrous case, the immoveable post from 
which a messenger commenced his journey, has become 
significative of the most rapid motion of travelling. 

It is the character also, of all limited, or barbarous 
languages, to be powerful, or peculiarly susceptible of 
sublimity, within their limits. That is true of the Hebrew, 
which, whatever may have been said of it by those who 
idly suppose it the original Language and especially of 
Divine origin, stands, to a certain degree, in this predica- 
ment. In return for its poetical powers, nothing can be 
more meagre and dry than the Historical parts of the 
Bible. Its real imperfections are seen here ; as they are 
in other cases which need not be pointed out to scholars. 
Nothing can be more striking than the contrast between 
this Language and the French ; simple, natural, avoiding 
allusions and figures, the language of reason. Hence 
the unpoetical nature of the French tongue. It is nearly 
as incapable of poetry as of Rhythm ; however its pos- 
sessors may flatter themselves to the contrary. That 
which really is Poetry in French, is not an exception to 
this criticism ; it is the language of excited feeling. 

Were it required to prove that the Gaelic does labour 
under this defect, poverty, it would be sufficient to con- 
sult its dictionary, which any one, though ignorant of the 


language, may. But it is well known to the present 
translators of the Bible, that this is the fact : and tliey 
are fully aware of the diffifHilties which they have en- 
countered in the. translation of the Proverbs, and of those 
parts of Scripture in g^eneral, which demanded ideas be- 
yond the range of intellect of a barbarous people. Here, 
they have necessarily been driven to the expedient last 
named, substitution : but it must be plain, that the ideas 
are not thus truly communicated to the people ; and that 
much time must yet elapse before such words shall ac- 
quire that meaning which it is necessary that they should 
possess. There is a process of education first to be under- 
gone ; nor will the new ideas be easily acquired without 
a knowledgeof the English language. There ought, how- 
ever, to be no difficulty in translating into Gaelic, when, 
among the first forty words of a highly reputed Vocabu- 
lary, yve find equivalents for such English words as 
Abactors, Ablacate, Ablepsy, Ablaqueation, Abnodation, 
and so on. Lest you should suppose that 1 have taken 
Gaelic words for English ones, by mistake, I am bound to 
inform you that the Gaelic for Ablaqueation, is " freumh 
chraobh a leige ris ; " whatever the English may be. If 
these are the Philologists of the Gaelic tongue, we need 
not make ourselves very unhappy about their opinions. 
It must be hoped that the Translators will themselves 
give the world a Dictionary, and disclaim such sup- 
porters and defenders as this. 

To pass from the metaphysical part of this question, 
it is thus obvious, that the translators are improving a 
language, of which they are at the same time acknow- 
ledging the poverty. Yet, as I have already remarked* 
this has thoughtlessly been called corrupting it: and it is 
on the same principle, that the most copious and useful 
dialects of the Highlands, as of the Celtic elsewhere, are 
called corrupt, because they have borrowed what they 
wanted from their neighbour tongues. It cannot there- 
fore be justly said, as it has been asserted, that the 
purity of the Gaelic language will be preserved by this 


translation. lu their own sense of purity, every new 
term, and every substitution, are corruptions ; and he 
who shall apply this tongue to any uses more than were 
known to its remotest antiquity, is its corruptor. To rea- 
son thus, however, is to have a most outrageous and 
misplaced fondness for the archoeology of language. AH 
tongues must undergo this process of corruption, if they 
are to be worth any thing, and all the refined languages 
of the world have suffered it. But the subject is becom- 
ing too obvious to deserve another word. 

The Gaelic language is said to be very melodious; by 
some enthusiasts, to be softer than the Italian. It is very 
certain that we cannot, with justice, dispute about ears,- 
more than about palates; and it would be in)prudent 
indeed, to enter the lists on this question, with those who 
find the melotly of soft soothing sounds in the strains of a 
bagpipe, and v/hose organs are probably differently con- 
stituted from ours. AH that can be said on such a subject 
is, that, to ears of any other structure and tune than those 
of a Gael, the snuflHing guttural tones of this language 
appear to be as unmelodious as any collection of sounds 
can well be. There is however, a degree of truth in the 
opinion just quoted, though not known to the ardent 
Gael to whom we owe the remark; as the dialect of 
Bologna possesses a sound, to the ear of a stranger, which 
strongly resembles that of the Gaelic. 

It is lastly said, that this language is peculiarly ex- 
pressive, that no other can effectually be substituted in 
its place, or, that it cannot be translated. That is a po- 
sition which no one will deny. The expression of every 
language, of every word in it, is the result of innumerable 
associations, known to those only, with whom it has 
formed the language of the nursery, in whom it recalls 
the thousand ideas of infancy, youth, and manhood, with 
which it has been connected. To such associations, trans- 
lation, in all languages alike, is death ; and it is not 
therefore, to be wondered at, if the Gael, like the French- 
man or the Spaniard in parallel cases, is unable to feel in 


Eng-lish as he feels in Gaelic ; if he finds that the word 
which is given him to express the same meaning, seems 
feeble and tame. It is feeble and tame, because it means, 
to him, literally what is requisite, and no more ; divested 
of every corresponding- or associated idea from which all 
the expression of every language arises. The Abbe du 
Bos has misapprehended the cause of this, when he says 
that it arises from the circuitous translation which we are 
obliged to make into our own language. It is, that the 
word, or expression, is not associated with all those pri- 
mary and original, those habitual feelings and impressions 
which constitute all its power and effect; though we are 
not always in the habit of tracing a cause, not understood, 
or even imagined, by the mass of mankind. He who has 
taken the trouble to learn Spanish, for the purpose of 
reading Don Quixote, (the advice which Harley gave to 
Rowe, and an experiment which others have tried,) will 
not be long in convincing himself that he might nearly 
as well have read it in his English translation. To him, 
the Spanish is as English ; since, unless it could make 
him a Spaniard, it can do no more than the translator has 
done before him. The English read the Waverley novels, 
and they fancy that they feel the full force of them : truly, 
they feel them very much as a Frenchman may do, and, as 
far as their national peculiarities are concerned, not a 
great deal better. I do not, however, mean to say, that it 
is useless to acquire a language for the purpose of read- 
ing an original author. The advantage and pleasure arise, 
in a great measure, from the defect itself; from our 
imperfect knowledge of the language in question. Some- 
thing is thus left to the imagination ; and the very vague- 
ness and uncertainty, allow of a play of feeling, and of 
associations, if different ftom those of the author, often, 
possibly, more pleasing; but which are excluded, when 
the definite language of the translator, from which we 
cannot escape, is placed before our eyes. Many of us can 
read Dante with pleasure, who could not translate him 
«s well as Carey ; and who yet, frigidly turn the English 


pages of this author, with little of pleasure or excite- 

Much heat and acrimony have been displayed respect- 
ing- the antiquity of the Gaelic, or Erse, as a written lan- 
guage : revived by, if not originating in, the Ossianic 
controversy. I had occasion to speak respecting it, when 
on that subject. Irish Antiquarian Truth seems to lie 
peculiarly deep: and Ledwich maintains that there is no 
Irish Manuscript older than the eleventh century. In 
spite of Vallancey, Irenceus calls it a barbarous language. 
So does Adamnan, in 700; himself a native. I need not 
recur to the antiquity of existing manuscripts, to a ques- 
tion long disputed, and never likely to receive more light. 
Nor need I dive into the shadowy, the visionary obscu- 
rities of ancient Irish literature; since there is nothing of 
real information to be procured. But passing by that 
subject, and recurring to the simple question of the an- 
cient use or possession of letters among the Western 
Celts, Ledwich must have suffered his wrath at the out- 
rageous Antiquaries of his own country to mislead him, 
when he denies, absolutely, any early knowledge of 
written characters. The whole question involves that of 
the alphabet, and the early use of letters among the 
Gothic as well as the Celtic tribes. When I say that I 
have read volumes more than I can name, on this subject, 
you will not expect me to condense all their matter into 
two pages ; particularly as they all differ. Yet I must 
say something. But it is all respecting Ireland ; for the 
Highland Gael go for nothing in this question. They have 
no concern in it ; because they have no antiquities in the 
matterof their Language. Whatever belongs to the remote 
history of this, must be sought in Ireland. Yet they need 
not be very angry. The Laws of Greece were not written 
till the Archonship of Draco. Rome had no historian for 
five hundred years. She could not write her own records 
for three hundred years after her foundation. Few could 
write in Germany and France, in the thirteenth and four- 
teenth centuries; Kings of England could not write their 

ga:<:lic lanouagk. 203 

naraes,even when England was a great and powerful coun- 
try ; and the French laws were reduced into writing, only 
under Charles the seventh, in 1454^ It was the same in 
Spain : whence the meagreness of Spanish history before 
Ferdinand and Isabella. 

When Whitaker says that Ossian wrote, in the third 
Century, in the Roman character, we may begin by dis- 
missing him. He labours under no want of decision at 
least; on any subject. I remarked formerly, that Caesar 
had said of the Druids, that they used Greek letters. 
These were made use of for common business; it was 
only the Sacred matters which were not committed to 
writing. Hotoman chooses to suppose the word " GriBcis" 
interpolated. I answered this sufficiently on a former occa- 
sion: it is not worth another discussion. The leading mis- 
take of these antiquaries has been to suppose that Greek 
letters, or Greek characters, implied the Greek language. 
That does not follow. If Lucian says that a Philosopher 
of Gaul conversed with him in Greek, it proves nothing, 
any way; as this person might easily have learnt it at 
Marseilles. Of his Hercules Ogmius, I can make nothing, 
and have not room to speak, in such a sketch as this is. 
In confirmation of Csesar, Astle has shown, from a monu- 
ment of Gordian in the third Century, that the Gauls had 
letters somewhat similar to the Greek. The Roman 
alphabet succeeded gradually to them. It was the same 
with the Spaniards ; and Strabo says that the Turditani 
hadletters, which they boasted to have possessed for 6000 
years. The Franks had written characters before they 
received Christianity. Cornelius Agrippa says, that, in 
the time of Marcomirus and Pharamond, those were 
Greek. All this proves that the Western Celtic colonies 
had letters, or possessed an alphabet; and these, they 
probably brought with them. Therefore the Irish might 
have inherited them also from their Celtic parentage. 

If the Irish had a Druid priesthood, as is proba- 
ble, and if the Druids of Gaul possessed Greek letters, 
or any letters, as Ceesar says they did, there must have 


been early letters in Ireland. It cannot be answered that 
the Druids of Gaul had borrowed Greek letters from 
Marseilles; because they could not have borrowed an 
alphabet, without learning- the language also. They 
could have borrowed the one, but as part of the other; 
and that they did not do this, is proved by Ceesar's writ- 
ing' his letters in Greek, to prevent them from being 
read, had they been intercepted. This alphabet must 
have been the original Celtic one, introduced at their 
migration and settlement, together with their other 
knowledge; and, of course, preserved by those who were 
the depositaries of all the rest ; by the Priesthood. The 
conclusion, " a priori," should be, that whatever alpha- 
bet can be proved to have belonged to the Great Celtic 
nation elsewhere, should also be the Irish one. We must 
therefore seek the resemblance in the Pelasgian and 
the Phenician : and, consequently, in the Greek. Thus 
we approximate to Caesar's testimony. He says that the 
letters of the Druids were Greek, and those Priests were 
Celts. The Phenicians spoke a dialect of the Great 
Celtic tongue, and they lent their alphabet to Greece 
through Cadmus. But even if the Pelasgians had in- 
troduced it, the conclusion would be the same; because 
I shall presently show that they were Celts, and that the 
alphabet was probably the same. The connexion ap- 
pears as simple as the conclusion seems certain. 

This reasoning is confirmed by an examination of the 
alphabets themselves. That I may shelter myself under 
authority, Bochat says that there can be no doubt of the 
antiquity of the Irish alphabet, as it contains only the 
seventeen letters of Cadmus. The conclusion therefore is, 
that the Irish Celts brought their alphabet, and therefore 
the use of letters, in their original migration. Had they 
procured them from Greece in after times, or from the 
Roman alphabet, there could not have been this singular 
coincidence; as they Avould have taken a greater num- 
ber, or the whole. Hence, therefore, we must conclude 
that their knowledge of letters, is as ancient as is pos- 

GALl.It; I.AN'GUACr:. 205 

sible. The question of the original Greek alphabet iai 
obscure and disputed, 1 admit ; yet without affecting- this 
argument. To examine all that has been written respect- 
ing- the Pelasgian, Etruscan, and Phenician letters, 
would lead me far astray, without throwing- any advan- 
tageous or further light on this question. When Gori 
reckons twelve, and Swinton thirteen, letters in the 
Etruscan alpha])et, even the simplest part of the question 
cannot be very clear. It might well occupy a volume, as 
this enquiry has already occupied many. But, under 
any theory, the question, as to Ireland, will remain 
the same. As Celts, it is indifferent whether their 
alphabet came from the Phenicians or the Pelasgi; or 
whether it came from a higher, or a more remote, source ; 
the common source of the whole. When Mabillon, and 
Ledwich following him, deny the early knowledge of 
letters in Britain and Ireland, they offer nothing which 
will avail against these arguments. Stimulated by his 
usual, but not unreasonable anger, Ledwich supposes that 
the Irish letters are not older than the Belgee ; that they 
borrowed characters from the Romans, and introduced 
them into Ireland. In that case, the Irish should have had 
the Roman, not the early Greek, alphabet; as I have just 
shown. Or, had they borrowed from the Saxons, as has 
also been said, they would have taken the whole. The mere 
borrowing of Saxon and Roman characters, proves nothing, 
as long as the number and the powers of the alphabet re- 
main the same. He ridicules the pretended antiquity of 
the Irish Oguras. And so he may. Those were Runic, 
unquestionably, and imported by the Scandinavians. 
Those M'ho argue against the antiquity of the Irish alpha- 
bet, because the Ogums are Gothic, are ignorantly con- 
founding, as usual, the Celts and the Goths; and are 
arguing against the latter, when they imagine it is against 
the former. The very advocates have themselves made 
the same blunder, and have thus injured their own cause. 
Vallancey is here foremost ; and hence his theory, as far 
as it depends on the Ogums, is baseless. It is this which 


has produced nearly all the confusion of this subject. 
All these may be seen in Hickes ; and their origin is 
clear. They have nothing to do with the question of a 
Celtic alphabet. Celsius thinks that the Runes, or 
Ogums, were perverted Roman and Greek characters. 
Venantius Fortunatus is the first who mentions them, in 
the sixth Century, and they appear to have been intro- 
duced about the third. All this therefore leaves the 
Celtic letters, or alphabet, untouched ; and their remote 
antiquity will be confirmed by the remarks I shall 
presently make on the language itself. On the Ogums 
or Runes, themselves, I shall say no more; because our 
own Gael have no interest in this part of the subject. 

While the Gaelic orthography admits of some obser- 
vations, even from a stranger to the language, it also de- 
mands them: as its formidable appearance, and the dis- 
crepancy of the written from the spoken words, serve to 
terrify beginners at the outset, and are also obstacles to 
the progress of the natives in learning to read. That 
which first strikes a stranger's eye is, that there are, 
not only numerous dormant vowels, as well as consonants, 
but that whole syllables are so. And although the latter 
is not the fact, in the estimation of the natives themselves, 
the effect, to an unlearned ear, is rendered precisely the 
same by the mode of pronunciation ; so that, thus far, to 
those who are to learn, they are truly dormant in prac- 
tice. Few Sassanach eyes would recognize the names 
Mac Nair and Mac Gilony, in Mhic an Fheabhair and 
Mhicalonabhaidh. One example from a common word 
will illustrate this. Cly is so nearly the pronunciation of 
the word for a sword, that it is usually spelt so when 
displayed among English : but, to be more accurate, it 
ought to be Clay or Cl,a,i. Now this is a real disyllabic, 
of a sufficiently terrific appearance, spelt Claidheamh. 
To analyze this word, we must first cut out altogether the 
dh, acknowledged to be dormant, as well as the i, which, 
for some other reason, is suppressed. The ea has then 
the power of an e, or of a French i, and the mh is a v 


which, though not theoretically dormant, is inaudible by 
untaught ears. Thus we come to Cl,a,i ; if not carefully 
pronounced, a monosyllable; and which might be spelt 
as one, even out of the original word, by making' use of 
the two first vowels, of which one is placed for show and 
the other for use. Thus the whole syllable, dheamh, is, 
to English eyes and ears, dormant. 

This example will serve generally as an illustration 
of a point en which it is not necessary to be a Gael to 
be allowed to judge. In reality, as may be seen in this 
specimen, there are dormant consonants, dormant vowels, 
modifying- vowels and consonants, as they are considered, 
and combinations of consonants used to represent those 
single ones which might as well be substituted, as is 
done in all other European languages; particularly as 
they are actually used in this very one. A general gram- 
marian can see no reason why the sound v should some- 
times be represented by that letter, and sometimes by 
mh ; although Gaelic grammarians have reasons of their 
own for this practice. On what involves general prin- 
ciples in language, every one may give his opinion ; 
though submitting it, on those which are absolutely pe- 
culiar. I need not instance more words, as illustrations 
of modifying consonants, which also occur, nor of com- 
plications of letters to represent aspirations, which might 
better be done by accentual marks; as it would carry me 
into details, when it is only with the general principle 
that I have room to intermeddle. 

The opinion respecting the expediency of a change, 
is supported by Llwyd, whose knowledge will not be dis- 
puted. He argues against the mute aspirates dh, mh, 
th, &c. and against the necessity of this practice, as 
adopted for the sake of preserving the possessive, or ini- 
tial letter, and indicating the radical, or primitive. It is 
not done in the collateral Welsh and Cornish, and the 
want is not felt. Moreover, it was not practised by the 
ancient Irish, and has not, therefore, the reputed merit of 
antiquity, more than of utility, assigned to it. With them, 

208 OAF.Lir LANtUiAGE. 

in former times, one letter served different purposes, as 
in the French and Spanish. It is absurd to introduce a 
novelty, which is, at the same time, useless, superfluous, 
and disaj^reeable. No evil could arise from taking the 
V for the mh. All nations have borrowed letters as 
they wanted them, and thus, even the Greek alphabet 
itself was formed. 

There is no language, it is true, which will not admit 
of the same censure to a certain degree; not even the 
Italian, beautiful as its orthography is ; but there is not 
one, except this, which has not acknowledged the fault, 
and made gradual and progressive improvements towards 
a remedy. If, as is said in defence, the quiescent vowels 
and consonants sometimes affect the neighbouring letters, 
being the modifying ones just noticed, the obvious answer 
is, that it is an operose method of producing a slender 
effect. The aspirates, it is said, are inflexions; but these 
also might be represented by a less cumbersome contri- 
vance. Assuredly, the nation which adopted such a sys- 
tem, wrote little, or had little value for time. The qui- 
escent consonants, it is also said in defence, are intro-i 
duced for the purpose of preventing the meeting of 
vowels in compound words. This is a spelling to the 
eye only ; the necessity of which belongs to the general 
false principle on which this orthography is chiefly de- 
fended ; and >vhich, to its other inconveniences, adds 
this, that the same method is not followed by all writers, 
and hence, that, with its other faults, it combines that of 
being unsettled. That such is the fact, is well known. 
Shaw says that every person's orthography differs from 
another's, and that all are wrong. He attempted to re- 
duce it somewhat nearer to convenience, and has been 
abused. Such is the effect, possibly, of feelings, which, 
in this, as in aught else, will not admit improvement lest 
it should acknowledge a fault. 

The general ground of defence above alluded to is, 
that the present orthography must be preserved for the 
sake of the radicals ; that yve may be enabled to trace their 


whole filiation through all their descents, tnodificatioiis, 
and modes of composition. Thus, for example, the dor- 
mant consonants may indicate the root in declinable 
words, or else the primitive ; and so on. It does not 
appear very difficult to answer this, on general principles. 
If the Gaelic has any other and better reasons for depart- 
ing from the common usage of other languages, those 
who are engaged in the present translation of the Bible, 
are competent to explain them; and it is right that they 
should do so, to satisfy many, who, like myself, object on 
the grounds here stated, and others who do the same, 
because they do not understand. In the mean time, all 
languages might set up the same defence; yet all refined 
ones have rejected the practice which the Gaelic scholars 
defend and follow, and have continued to change their 
orthography as they increased and improved their 
grammars and dictionaries. Let any one examine the 
Greek from the time of the Pelasgi to that of the Athe- 
nians, or the change which took place in the Latin from 
the period of the Decemviri or the twelve tables, to the 
Augustan age. 

Certainly the Gael have little respect for the opinion 
of Quintiiian. " Ego, sit scribendum quidque judico, 
quomodo sonat; hie est usus literarum, ut custodiant 
voces, et, velut depositum reddant legentibns; itaque id 
exprimere debent quod dicturi sint." Marius Victorinus 
would have told them " Bis peccatis, quod aliud scri- 
bitis et aliud legitis quam scriptum est." Orthography 
ought to be the picture of pronunciation. The very ob- 
ject of writing and of letters, is to represent sounds. 
The Romans acted on this principle, when, in borrow- 
ing a77eXo?, ayyvfa, Kyv-iarit;, they WrotC augelus, aucom, 

Anchises. And it is plain that this was a progressive 
improvement; because Varro informs us that they first 
wrote aggelus, agcora, Agchises: and that they also 
Hsed the g for the n, in such words as aggulus, agceps, 
iggero. The Gael reverse this plan : finding a diffi- 
culty already, they study to make it greater. It is a 



misfortune that we have lost what Caesar wrote on this 

The Gaelic tongue, as it now stands, carries in it the 
evidence of its own barbarism ; and in resisting the 
change, expresses a determination to preserve that. There 
is no reason why we should not argue respecting it, as we 
do about all the present languages of civilized Europe. 
I know not what exemption it possesses from common 
rules. Not to enter too deeply into a question which 
would lead me far astray, it is, among other things, in the 
nature of languages as they improve, to compound short 
or monosyllabic words, for the expression of new ideas. 
Thus, even sentences become words. It is in the next 
stage of this process, to abbreviate or condense them in 
the pronunciation; and lastly, as the language becomes 
literary, to do the same in the orthography. Before this 
final process, yet unattained in many languages, we find 
those quiescent letters on which no nation but the Gaelic 
prides itself, and which all are glad to reject as opportu- 
nity offers. These were not always such : commonly, 
they are the remains of the original words ; the very 
certificates of origin which the Gael are so anxious to 
preserve. It is thus that the orthography of a nation 
gradually adapts itself to the pronunciation ; although 
numerous causes are always at work to impede the per- 
fection of the process. Thus also, what is more important 
than facility in writing and reading, languages become 
refined, enlarged, and generally improved : making work 
for metaphysicians, grammarians, and etymologists, and 
for such supposed discoveries as I formerly noticed. To 
retrograde as far back as possible, through this process, 
I know not that I can select a better example than the 
languages of North America, including that of Greenland ; 
of which, the Mohawk is a splendid specimen, since 
it displays a majority of words, if words they may be 
called, reaching from five to eighteen or twenty syllables. 
Those, in reality, are compound terms, sometimes amount- 
ing to sentences ; and they offer an extreme case of the 


system which all, except the Gael, hasten to forget. Not 
but that, even now, languages, from wantonness or neces- 
sity, are making- occasional use of tlie same machinery : 
and those who wish to see how language has grown in 
this way, may turn to the catenations of the Morning Post, 
if not satisfied with a line of battle ship, or the multi- 
farious twinned progeny of modern poetry. Whether the 
heaven-born-and-never-enough-to-be-admired adjective 
of the former, a worthy rival of the American siniyeyoder- 
ighwhinoughneyontkaghthogsk, be ever destined to sub- 
side into one manageable word, lies hid in the womb of 
time ; but, on the Gaelic system, that could never happen. 
The Germans now pride themselves on the facility with 
which their language admits this species of composition ; 
and hence an abuse which almost makes the author of a 
new work in it, the inventor of a new language. When 
time shall have condensed those compounds, if that is 
ever to arrive, the German will be the most copious 
language in existence ; and will then lose what almost 
outweighs the advantages, but what, on the principle 
under review, it would for ever retain. The extension of 
that principle, it is plain, would lead the Gael back to the 
original types, could they discover them, and their lan- 
guage might then become a rival of the Mohawk. 

It does not require five minutes inspection of any 
modern or ancient classical language, to see what effects 
would result from persistence on the Gaelic principle, in 
a system of radical or derivative orthography. Words 
meet us at every step. Mine, for example, should be 
spelt my one, manly manlike, but be out, blame blas- 
pheme, (in this instance, producing confusion), and so 
on; and, as a specimen of a sentence, that strange-look- 
ing adverb, duntaxat, should be still spelt, dum talis 
casus sit. The final result would be to sacrifice all the 
metaphysical parts of speech, and to return to the original 
nouns and verbs. If the English still retains the dor- 
mant guttural, in though, through, and many other words, 
it has dropt that in many more, and will probably part with 



those also, in time ; as it ought. The Latins followed the 
practice of condensation, in converting vexillum into ve- 
lum, maxilla and axilla into mala and ala, and picinus 
into piniis ; as all languages have done, in examples 
which might, if quoted, fill a page or two. 

With all due respect to the personages engaged in 
the new Bible, it really seems, to a mere spectator, like 
myself, a subject of regret, that, with the power thus 
fortunately come into their hands, they did not attempt a 
reformation ; if, at least, the object is to preserve and fa- 
cilitate the acquisition of the language. If it be to die, it 
is of no great moment: but, to give it every chance of 
living, its acquisition ought to be rendered as tempting as 
possible. Comparatively, the preservation of its deriva- 
tion, is a trifling advantage ; to the people, as a language 
for use, it is none ; and future grammarians can never be 
at a loss. Nor can it be objected that ancient books 
would thus be rendered unintelligible, as has happened 
in the other European languages ; because it possesses 
none. The scholars in question have now a power that 
never yet occurred to any one. They are almost the 
founders of a written tongue, since what has previously 
been published, would easily be superseded : they are at 
least Dictators whom few would question, and there are 
not many Avho would have to toil through the difficulty 
of forgetting. They have a golden opportunity, by which 
they might surely diffuse, with greater ease, that work 
which it is most important to spread, and by which also, 
the Ossianic relics, which comprise nearly all of their 
original literature worth preserving, might become far 
more widely known. Certainly no Englishman, in a si- 
milar case, would labour to retain, even the orthography 
of Chaucer and Gower. If it be intended to preserve 
or even to spread the Gaelic tongue for temporary pur- 
poses, and that, under circumstances too, where the time 
required, or the poverty and inconvenience of the parties 
engaged, which amounts to the same thing, is the main 
impediment to its acquisition, it would be matter, even of 


policy, to render that as easy as possible, antl thus to di- 
minish the time and the expense. It is difficult enough, 
with all the aids of " Spelling made easy," (instead of its 
being, as in this case, made difficult), to teach the sni- 
velling urchins of a village school, that d, o, g, do not 
spell cat. 

Thus they might also introduce or borrow any letters 
which they might want for their purpose. They say that 
the Roman letters are imperfect, and will not convey the 
sounds. Surely what cannot be conveyed by the twenty- 
four letters of the Roman English alphabet, is still less 
likely to be represented by the eighteen of the Irish or 
Celtic one. But there is nothing to prevent their bor- 
rowing from the Greek also. This was tried in Ireland, 
and Llwyd adopted it. But it is a misfortune of all 
alphabets, that they are inadequate to their purposes. 
They are all deficient in the necessary sounds, and almost 
all have superfluous signs : two characters performing the 
same office; while some of the simple ones, further per- 
form that of doubled letters, being* virtually dipthongs. 
If the Greek is among the best, nothing can be more ca- 
pricious than the order of its arrangement. To be defi- 
cient in vowels, as are all the Oriental alphabets, is, 
perhaps, of all defects, the greatest. Certainly, our 
alphabets, in no language, have been the production of 
philosophers or grammarians, or even the result of a mo- 
ment's thought : they have arisen in barbarism and chance ; 
and, by a strange and unaccountable respect to antiquity, 
they have been followed, though being the cause of more 
than half the difficulty which impedes the acquisition 
of languages. It seems extraordinary and inexplicable 
that they are not reformed. The difficulty could not 
be very great; and we have ourselves witnessed one 
change, in the distinction between the u and v and the i 
and j, long loudly called for. Yet the pertinacity with 
which this absurd confusion of vowels and consonants 
was so long upheld, may, perhaps, prove the difficulty of 
adopting more effectual alterations. Here, the scho- 


lars in question might almost be any Tyrants they 

Whatever may be judged as to the justice of these 
general views, the original orthography of the Highland 
Gaelic is admitted to have been copied from the Irish 
language, till after 1750. Bishop Kerswell's work is of 
166*7 : and a translation of the Psalms was also published 
in 1664, on this principle. In 1753, there was another, 
and, in 1767, the New Testament was again translated; 
while, at that time, some changes were made, for the pur- 
pose of adapting the language better to the Highland 
dialect; some Irish idioms being also rejected. It was 
afterwards still more improved; and the present Bible 
professes to make some further changes for the better. 
Yet I understand it to be the declaration of some Gaelic 
scholars, that it admits of still further improvements ; 
while it is also their opinion, that a very essential one 
would be the substitution of the Irish and original alpha- 
bet for the Roman. This I have answered already : they 
may borrow, if they please, in addition ; or substitute a 
letter of one power for another; or, if they like it, may 
take the % for the ch : but how eighteen letters can per- 
form more than our alphabet, even admitting that it pos- 
sesses some duplicates, is not easy to discover. But to 
acknowledge what they do by this general declaration, is 
quite sufficient, by the way, to settle the question respect- 
ing the antiquity of Highland manuscripts; since, as late 
as 1664, a Highland Gaelic work was, in fact, an Irish 
one, though executed in Scotland. It amounts to a con- 
fession that the Gaelic was, in the Highlands, an unwrit- 
ten language, till a recent period : what they borrowed 
in 1664, they had borrowed before, if indeed they had 
any thing written ; and from a people whose very ancient 
use of letters cannot be questioned. 

The very fact, of an orthography remaining stationary 
for so many centuries, proves, for Ireland as well as the 
Highlands, literary poverty. If the nineteenth century 
must, or may, go back to the ninth, or to the twelfth, for 


a model, it is proof enough that such a country has pro- 
duced nothing- intermediate, or the spelling and forms of 
the words must have undergone modifications. We need 
ask no stronger proofs of an illiterate people; illiterate 
in their own tongue at least. We need not ask what the 
orthography of this very page would have been, had the 
English and Scots possessed no works of the period that 
lies between Chaucer or Blind Harry and the Lady of the 
Lake. In the Gaelic, as in every other language, speech 
has gone on improving ; but the changes have not been 
recorded in books, because there were none in which 
they could be recorded. Thus, taking an extreme view, 
for vocal sounds, comparatively modern, we must resort 
to ancient symbols. Thus also, here as elsewhere, the 
written and the spoken languages are constantly tending 
to separate, till at length the orthography comes to hang 
in rags about the pronunciation ; " a world too wide for 
its shrunk shanks." 

But this subject must not be indulged in longer. I 
must now answer an objection made by the Highlanders 
respecting the Northern invasions and conquests, on the 
score of language. It has been said that if these inva- 
sions were so numerous and long continued, and the con- 
quests as complete as they have been represented, the 
Scandinavian ought to have been the language of the 
Highlands, and not the Celtic. Hence also, it is said, 
those that speak Celtic must be Celts. 

To answer this, let us look for parallel cases. William 
failed in introducing the Norman into England, though 
he was the chief despot among a horde of despots of his 
own importation; possessed of all the rule and much of 
the property of the country, and that property including 
the very people; establishing a species of jointly and 
severally tyrannical oligarchy. That he attempted it, by 
force and art both, is well known, from other evidence 
than his law language. Not only indeed did the Nor- 
mans attempt this, but the very people themselves lent 
their aid, in hopes of ridding theaisclves of oppressions, 


and to avoid the diso^race of being thought English. 
They did the same in the matter of dress as in language ; 
and hence the proverb " Jack would be a gentleman if 
he could speak French." Hearne says that " the Nor- 
mans did ail ihey possibly could to destroy every thing 
that looked like Saxon, and yet they were not able to 
bring their ill design to perfection." Higden says that 
the children in schools were compelled to learn French, 
and " haveth, siththe that the Normans came first into 
England. AUso, Gentelmennes children beth ytaught 
to speke Frensche, from the tyme that they beth rokked 
in her cradel," &c. And again he says " And uplondish- 
raen wo!e likne hemself to gentil men, and fondeth with 
grete bisynesse for to speak Frensche for to be the more 
ytold of." But this was all abandoned : and, in 1385, 
the schools had given up the French, and taught En- 
glish. Trevisa says that it was then wearing out. Rich- 
ard spoke French only, and the Nobles in general could 
speak no English ; while the middle ranks also used 
French, and the Poets, down to Chaucer, wrote in it, 
during a space of three centuries; yet all was unavailing. 
For, in spite of all this, the Norman children became 
English, and spoke that language, even in William's 
time. Thus, in effect, the Normans recovered a language 
possessing an affinity to their original tongue; that 
tongue which they had lost, in France, in fur less time 
than the 150 years which intervened between Rollo and 
William; while they had also even adopted the French 
names which figure in Battle Abbey Roll : genuine 
names, whatever that record may be. So complete was 
the change, that even when buried in Normandy, whither 
they were carried from England, the inscriptions on their 
tombs were in English. 

Had William been a better philologist, and more at- 
tentive to his own history, he would have seen the futility 
of his attempt, from the experience of his own people 
and country. Yet there were many things in favour of 
his plan ; as French was already established in England, 


having been the court language of Edward the Con- 
fessor, as it was that of Scotland, even in the time of 
Alexander the third. Yet in spite of such an example 
of failure as this, there are antiquaries who still choose to 
suppose that the present Scottish tongue was introduced 
by Malcolm and his Queen ; forcibly established over the 
universal Gaelic of the couutry. It is fruitless to offer 
other arguments to prove that such a process was im- 
possible. Reasoning and facts both, are thrown away on 
prejudices like this. The Southland Scots indeed, were 
Saxons already: but the North-eastern were the offspring 
of the Picts, and their language that of this people. 
Hence it was that the other Scandinavian and German 
tribes amalgamated so easily in a common language ; and 
hence the marked resemblance of the Scottish dialect to 
the present Swedish, rather than to the Anglo Saxon. 
As far as it is Saxon, its superior purity is thus also easily 
accounted for. The conquest of Kenneth was that of a 
Gael; in tongue at least: and the Gaelic probably re- 
mained the Court language, till superseded by the 
French. But thePicts, asa people, retained their own 
tongue. This is the simple and just theory of the Scot- 
tish language, as far as it can be stated within such con- 
fined limits. The language of a people never was thus 
changed; and it has been well remarked that " the pa- 
tient indocility of the multitude must ultimately triumph 
over the caprice and tyranny of the rulers." It is not 
even indicated in History, that Malcolm attempted, or 
wished this; and how could he, indeed, have thought of 
it, when the language was already established, when it 
was the very language of the country. It would have 
been somewhat singular also, if he, and his Queen Mar- 
garet, had brought the Saxon from a Court, of which the 
language was French. It was not known there. It is 
more likely that they were compelled to learn it them- 
selves, after their arrival in Scotland. 

In the same way, the Franks, long before William, 
who conquered Gaul, were unable to introduce their Ian- 


guage, which was German, or Teutonic, and were 
obliged to adopt the Roman of that day, then the tongue 
of the people whom they overcame. The language of 
Sicily is essentially what it was before the conquest of 
Harold. It was equally out of the power of Raoul, or 
Rollo, to force his Scandinavian on Normandy ; and he 
also was compelled to adopt the language of the con- 
quered. The vanquished French of Neustria drove out 
of the field, in the space of less than a century, the lan- 
guage of the Court, the army, and the law ; as the Saxons 
afterwards, in England, did that very tongue, and against 
the same advantages. The Romans held Britain for 
centuries, yet they never introduced the Latin. I might 
easily illustrate this still further, from the conquests of 
the Goths in Italy and in Spain, from that of the Moors 
in the latter country, from those of the Arabs in Persia, 
the Persians in India, the Tartars in China, and many 
more. I might also illustrate it from Roman conquests, 
beyond number: and so far was this people from es- 
tablishing its own language, even in Greece, that the 
Greek excluded the Latin from the Eastern Empire. 

The fact is an established one ; nor has any thing 
short of overwhelming superiority, of an enormous dis- 
proportion between the civilization and numbers of the 
invaders and the invaded, or of political extermination, 
as In the case of the British under the Saxons in En- 
gland, or in the much stronger one of America, produced 
the effects of substituting the language of the conquerors 
for that of the conquered. Nor can it well be otherwise ; 
neither force nor activity can avail against dispersion and 
indocility: it is far easier for the minority to acquire a 
new language than the majority ; while it also finds an 
interest, or rather a necessity, in so doing. Gibbon, in 
arguing against the vulgar, or popular opinion, respecting 
the extermination of the Britons by the Saxons, overlooks 
this important circumstance. It is not necessary that 
they should have been literally exterminated ; but, had 
they not been reduced to a very small number, the Saxon 

oai:lic language. 219 

language would not have been established and the 
British excluded. This rare instance, among those which 
I have just enumerated, like some others which History 
furnishes, does prove that the Saxon conquests were 
marked by a ferocit}'^ almost unexampled ; and though 
this argument has been overlooked by all historians, as 
well as by Gibbon, it is one that cannot easily be con- 

It has been a prevailing theory among antiquarian 
historians, that the similarity or identity of language is 
one of the strongest proofs of the original connexion or 
identity, and of the descents of nations. It has even 
passed into a kind of law, which no one thinks of disput- 
ing, and which, as such, has misled almost every one 
who has treated this subject. History, as every one of 
those writers asserts, offers no proof of the descents of 
nations, because such history is necessarily defective or 
wanting. It is language, say they, which affords the only 
and the safe guide. Sheringham calls it " prsecipuum, cer- 
tissimumque argumentum;" and Pinkerton, more lately, 
has laid undue stress on it, in his Dissertation on the 
origin and progress of the Goths ; a work in which he 
has too often allowed his theory to mislead him. Doctor 
Johnson, to go no further, lays it down also as a law, and 
reasons on it as an established axiom. I might extend 
this list, not merely to a tenfold length, but to almost 
every author who has treated this subject ; though it is 
disproved by the whole current of history, by facts at 
our own doors, which it is marvellous that any one should 
have overlooked. It is assuredly surprising that so many 
persons, of the highest attainments, should have forgot- 
ten, how often and how completely, this evidence be- 
comes deceptive, in consequence of the changes of lan- 
guage adopted by nations, and, very notedly, and com- 
monly, in this case of conquest. History is so full of this, 
that we can scarcely turn a page without being convinced 
of the fact; but the instances which I have just adduced 
are sufficient. Had the maxim been true, our Normans 


would have been reckoned Saxons, but for their history ; 
Romans would have been Greeks; Tartars, Chinese ; and 
so on beyond all enumeration. Nor can we examine An- 
tiquarian discussions on the subject of the descent of 
Nations, without perceiving- that this theory has been the 
leading cause of the obscurity in which that subject has 
been entangled, and of the voluminous writings to which 
it has given rise. But when such Antiquaries have so 
far suffered themselves to be misled, it is not surprising 
that the Highlanders should still imagine themselves 
Celts ; and this, not only where they have more than an 
equal portion of Gothic blood in their veins, but, in some 
cases, where not one trace of a Celtic origin remains. 

But in cases of an amalgamation between the conque- 
rors and the conquered, the language of the former be- 
comes often superinduced on, or mixed with, that of the 
latter. This happened in England with the Norman ; 
and thus also the Franks introduced a portion of German 
into the mixture of Latin and Celtic which was the 
tongue of their Gallic conquests. Thus also may the 
Norwegians have modified the Gaelic Celtic of their 
Highland possessions. But in attempting to judge of 
the extent of that, we are somewhat checked by the 
knowledge of another affinity subsisting between the 
Gothic and the Erse, or Gaelic, tongues. What portion of 
the whole resemblance belongs to those conquests, is a 
point which we have no means of discovering. Adelung, 
as well as Llwyd, from whose decisions few will appeal, 
have determined that one half of the present Irish, which 
is also the purest dialect of the Celtic in their estimation, 
is Gothic. The Welsh, the Cornish, the Manx, and the 
Armoric, are variously corrupted, besides, by French and 
English words : as the Highland dialect is fast becoming. 
It is easy, thus, to see, how little reason the Gael have to 
boast of a purity which is perfectly imaginary. To call 
a language pure, which is equally compounded of two 
distinct tongues, and to adduce this imaginary purity as 
a reason against further innovations, is a species of igno- 


ranee, united to prejudice, at which we may safely smile. 
To quote those opinions, to enumerate but a small por- 
tion of the passages in which the Purity, as well as the 
many other supereminent perfections of this mixed lan- 
guage, as well as its copiousness, are stated, might amuse 
the reader : but I am unwilling to amuse him at the ex- 
pense of an appearance of criticism and controversy, to 
which a rational enquiry into languages, which is equally 
the property of all scholars, must not condescend. It 
has been the fashion for this people, to suppose that 
no one has a right to speak of their Tongue, who is 
not a Native, and that Natives possess the exclusive right. 
Had this been the Canon Law of Language, it need not 
be asked what the consequences would have been as to 
half the languages of the world. He who knows but his 
own, may safely keep his opinions to himself. It is from 
this mixture, that these Celtic philologists have com- 
mitted so many mistakes, in deducing the affinity of their 
language to the Greek, the Latin, and the Sanscrit. The 
great and leading affinity in this case, is between the 
Gothic portion of the Erse or the Gaelic, not its Celtic 
one. But I must inevitably bestow a few words more 
on a subject into which I have been thus dragged; 
though not a little troubled to give, in a page or two, any 
intelligible sketch of matters which have occupied vo- 
lumes — libraries. 

Parallel tables of the Celtic dialects to the Greek and 
Latin, and to some other languages, have been so often 
republished, that it is fruitless to repeat them, even if I had 
room. Three fourths of them, moreover, are erroneous,from 
the cause which I have just pointed out. The Celts have 
mistaken the parentage of their language; and none so 
much as those who, like Pezron, Pelloutier, and the Irish 
antiquaries, have written most about it. Sir William 
Jones's simple view, is the best basis for this enquiry ; 
and I must state it as briefly as I can before proceed- 
ing. Sanscrit was the language of the first race of 
Indians ; and hence descended that of the first race of 


Persians, of the old Egyptians, and of the Goths ; from 
which, chietiy, branch the tongues of the Greeks and 
Romans, and, more purely, those of the Picts, Saxons, 
Scandinavians, Franks, Germans, and so on. The other 
radical language was that of the Assyrians, or the second 
Persian race. In this, the Chaldee is perhaps the most 
ancient ; and hence ramify the Hebrew, the Syriac, Phe- 
nician, and Carthaginian, the Arabic, the Abyssinian, 
some of the Tartar languages, some African tongues, and 
the Celtic. Hence the Celtic and the Gothic tongues are 
from distinct roots ; and it is necessary to keep that im- 
portant fact in sight. Thus much for the general and 
leading division of the European tongues. 

Pelloutier therefore commits a gross error, when he 
says that the Celtic is the mother of all the European 
languages. It is the prior in Europe ; but it is only 
ip part parent. He confounded it with the Gothic. 
Boullet has done the same, and worse ; when he derives 
the Gothic from the Celtic. Whitaker, more unpardon- 
ably, has even confounded the Celtic and the Anglo- 
Saxon. Pinkerton is by no means clear on this point ; 
nor Bochart, nor many more whom I need not enumerate. 
Vallancey generally contrives to be wrong. But, through 
the parent Celtic, arises the resemblance of the Welsh, 
Irish, and Armoric, to the Hebrew, on which so much 
unfounded ridicule has been thrown. Rowlands, Pezron, 
and many others, have tabulated the words. Hence also 
the celebrated resemblance of the Irish to the Cartha- 
ginian speech in Plautus, which Bochart equally ex- 
plained by means of the Hebrew ; the resemblance of 
which to the Carthaginian is pointed out by St. Augus- 
tine. This is the true solution : it is folly to seek it in 
Pheni and Phenician colonies. Hence the Phenician 
words of the Cornish ; idly supposed to have been intro- 
duced during the commerce for Tin, by antiquaries who 
ought to have known their subject better. 

Hence also the resemblance which Vallancey has, truly, 
in this instance, traced between the Calrauc, the Shilhense, 


the Maltese, and other African and Asiatic languages, 
and the Irish. This also offers the true solution of the 
celebrated dispute about the Basque, or the language of 
Biscay and of ancient Aquitaine or Gascony. One party 
asserts that it is Celtic, and that it resembles the Welsh 
and the Irish ; another utterly denies this, and says that 
it is an African tongue. Both parties are right ; it is 
African : it was the language of the Iberi and the Mauri 
who peopled Spain ; but it is, like the language of the 
Berbers, a remote branch of this great root the As- 
syrian, and the stock of the Celtic: and therefore it has 
happened, tbat while it bears a real resemblance to our 
own Celtic dialects, that resemblance is slight, like that 
of the Carthaginian. Hence the mutual understanding, 
asserted to exist, and again contradicted, between the 
Welsh, and the Moors and Maltese. You may consult 
Charaberlayne and Adelung on those points of corre- 
spondence ; since I cannot venture further, without mak- 
ing this sketch a treatise. 

The Basque or the Cantabric, had been remarked as 
a singular language, by Pliny, Mela, and Ennius. It was 
Llwyd who first called it Celtic ; and it thus proves that 
he was radically right. Ledwich denies the resemblance ; 
in which he is plainly wrong. He would not have denied 
it had he understood this branch of his subject: he did 
so, by a sort of prior reasoning; because he did not 
choose to admit of the Iberian colonies to Ireland. It is 
plain that this connexion explains away the Milesian, as 
it does the Phenician colonization. They are no longer 
required for solving the resemblance between the Irish 
and the Carthaginian. It is far more remote. 

I may pass over the general modern languages de- 
rived from the Gothic, or from the Sanscrit radical, as 
there is scarcely any obscurity on this part of the sub- 
ject. Hence arises the resemblance between the Persian 
and the German, between both those languages and the 
Greek, (and of course the Latin,) and between the Greek 
and the Sanscrit ; a resemblance strongly marked, even 


in the grammar, aiicJ, most decidedly, in the inflections 
of the nouns and verbs. If it is chiefly through this con- 
nexion that the Erse resembles the Greek and Latin, as 
I have remarked, yet it appears that the Greek itself has 
been, like that very Erse, compounded of the Celtic 
and Gothic tongues. 

Here, most of the antiquaries are against me ; which 
1 cannot help. To pass over Pinkerton and fifty prede- 
cessors on this subject, Jamieson, the last writer on this 
question, says that the Pelasgi were Goths, and their 
language Gothic. I have noticed this subject at some 
length in another place ; nor can that origin ever be con- 
sidered as proved, until he, or those who support it, will 
explain why the Greeks are a dark, sallow, black-haired, 
race, a Celtic race, when the Goths were a tall, fair- 
haired, and blue-eyed one. Nature is, in this, unchange- 
able; and till she does change her laws, I must ever be 
convinced that the Pelasgi were Celts. This is an argu- 
ment which the whole race of philologists has over- 
looked, and it is an insuperable one. 

Leibnitz, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus before him, 
are on my side, to a certain extent, when they say that 
the Latin is a compound of Celtic, or Barbarian, and 
Greek. If the Romans derived the Celtic portion of their 
tongue from the Etrurians, Osci, Umbri, and Ausonians, 
it was from the very Pelasgi themselves ; and therefore 
thePelasgic of Greece, and the early Greek itself, must 
have been Celtic. But as the classic Greek is com- 
pounded from the Gothic and Celtic, those Celtic words 
found in the Roman tongue, are not all necessarily thus 
taken from the early settlers of Italy whom this peo- 
ple conquered. Quintilian reconciles the two components 
of the Latin in this very manner, by deriving it from the 
JEoMc Greek, as does Varro ; and it is remarkable, that 
when he finds a difiicult etymology, it is always in a 
Celtic word. Had those writers, or Plato, known the 
Celtic dialects with which we are acquainted, they would 
have illustrated their subjects far otherwise than they 


Imve done. Eiuiius says that the Latin was originally 
the same as the Greek. The yEoIians were Pelaso^i and 
Celts : thouo-h Pinkerton also chooses to consider them 
Scythoe or Goths. He, at least, ought to have known a 
Goth better. I shall shortly prove it, as I trust, in ex- 
amining the origin of the Highland people. Llwyd is 
with me also; for he says, decidedly, that the Celtic was 
spoken by the Osci, Laestrigones, Sabines, Umbrians, 
and Ausonians. So is Stiernhelm, when he says that the 
Celtic, Etruscan, and Phrygian, are " ex una fonte" 
" nee GrjBca longe distat." So is Vossius. So, I should 
think, is Herodotus, vi'hen be says that the Pelasgian 
was a different language from the Hellenic Greek. The 
Hellenes were lonians. The lonians were Athenians; 
or, rather, they were the same people. This was the 
fine people of Greece ; and these were the true Scythians, 
or Goths, who mixed or refined the language, and who 
also produced the greater part of what Greece has done 
towards its fame. Herodotus also calls the language of 
those colonies of Pelasgi who remained distinct in Italy 
at his day, barbarous. This was the Celtic tongue of the 
various people already named. 

It has been asserted that the Pelasgi were Phenicians : 
and it has been again contradicted. If they were such, 
it explains the nature and connexions of their language ; 
and, what must be remarked here, the history of their 
early Alphabet also. Some indeed have thought fit to 
say that the alphabet of Cadmus, or the Phenician alpha- 
bet, and the Pelasgic, were different. There seems no 
ground for that assertion. There would thus be two early 
alphabets in Greece. The Irish or Gaulish one, I have 
shown, is the early Greek, or that of Cadmus; omitting* 
the letters of Palaniedes and Simonides. This is the 
Celtic alphabet, and it should therefore be the Pelasgian, 
on the grounds of the common nature of the people and 
the common nature of their languages. If the Phenicians 
and Pelasgians were radically one people, it is not likely 
that they should have possessed two alphabets: while, 
VOL. IV. q 


as there is an admitted coincidence between them, and 
as there is also a coincidence with the Irish alphabet, the 
unity of the whole seems as satisfactorily proved as such 
a case is ever likely to be. Besides, Herodotus says, dis- 
tinctly, that the Greeks first used the Phenician letters, 
or those of Cadmus, and that he himself saw them en- 
g^raved on the tripods in the temple of Apollo at Thebes. 
Whence then could any other or distinct Pelasgic alpha- 
bet have been derived ; since they did not receive this 
till 1045 A. C. There was none before ; and there could 
have been none after. The resemblance of the Greek 
characters to these Oriental ones, and their changes, have 
also been traced. Those were made by the lonians. It 
may perhaps reconcile these theories to remark, that the 
Pelasgi need not have reached Greece from the Syrian 

Plato, is, I think, with me also, when he says that 
the Greeks had many barbarous words, which he sup- 
posed to be Phrygian. This is probable, as the Trojans 
were of the Celtic root. The remark is in the Cratylus : 
where be names mp, vhup, xwa?, and others, which he says 
do not accommodate themselves to the Greek, Had the 
antiquaries who have engaged in this dispute, been aware 
of the radical origin of this Celtic branch, or whatever it 
may be called, had they known the real nature of these 
Pelasgians, and the root whence they had spread, it is 
probable that the controversy would never have been 
broached. Much of it is little more than a controversy of 
words, when the real cradle of the Pelasgians is under- 
stood. This question has been misunderstood, chiefly 
on account of the erroneous theory respecting- that early 
people. Had the Pelasgi indeed been Goths and not 
Celts, the produce of the first gi'eat division of Asiatics, 
instead of being that of the second, they ought to have 
possessed, or they might, at least, have had, an alphabet 
which was not the Phenician one introduced by Cadmus. 
As it is, they n>ay also have had one, independently of 
this:, t might even have differed in some points: but 


thouoli that were satisfactorily proved, which it has not, 
both would still be radically the same. 

To conclude this very brief sketch. The arg-uments 
which have been brought on the other side, and most of 
which are mustered over again in the Hermes Scythicus, 
(which I name here, merely as it is the latest work), are 
as nothing- against all this evidence. They are less than 
nothing, when the Breed is taken into consideration. A 
dark, sallow, race was the earliest known Greek Colony, 
and it continues to occupy the same country still. It 
was a Celtic race, because we can trace it still, among 
acknowledged Celts. It was the Pelasgian race. It 
spoke a language which was not Hellenic: which be- 
came .(Eolic Greek, in time, which was called barba- 
rous, which was Pelasgian. The early Italian colonies 
also spoke Pelasgian : they were thought to be a colony 
from Greece; so much were the people and the lan- 
guage the same. That point is indifferent: they might have 
been the same people from a common source. This was 
the Etruscan and Ausonian. Rome borrowed from it ; 
and it is proved that she has borrowed Celtic. The Pe- 
lasgian, or Etruscan, was therefore a Celtic; it was pro- 
bably The Celtic tongue, which we have received, and 
now possess in a corrupted state. And here there is a 
double argument. It is doubted whether Rome borrowed 
those words from the Etruscan or from the iEolic Greek : 
and the cause of that doubt proves that the /Eolic Greek 
and the Etruscan wer^ both from the same root, which 
root must have been Pelasgian, or it could not have com- 
prised both : and thus again we arrive at the same con- 
clusion. The Hellenic race was the Gothic one, and 
hence the resemblance of the Greek and the German, to 
each other, and to the Sanscrit, or first division of Lan- 
guages. Thus, if the German seeks his language in the 
Greek, it is in the Hellenic, or Ionic : the Celt seeks his 
own in the Pelrsgian, or .^olic. Both find their languages 
in the Latin. Such is a summary of the argument: and- 
such the true parentage and nature of the Gaelic tongue. 


228 MUM 


You, and all the rest, luust now be so wearied of the 
descriptions of islands, that I must begin " contrahere 
vela;" to take a reef or two in the mainsail. I am 
wearied myself. And I know not where I could have 
done it better: partly because Mull is now as well known 
as Edinburgh, and partly because there is very little in it 
worth knowing. It is a detestable island ; trackless and 
repulsive, rude without beauty, stormy, rainy, and dreary. 
All this is true of the interior at least; the shores, in 
several places, afford striking objects, and, to Geology, 
an interest which does not lie in our present track, I 
may venture to describe, in fragments, a country which I 
know too well ; leaving the geography to Mr. Arrow- 
smith's map. That map, I may here say it once for all, 
must be the companion of those who are desirous of follow- 
ing the geography of this book. No map within its own 
compass, could have served any possible purpose; and 
it would be an ill compliment, to Scotland and to 
readers, alike, to suppose that the general position of the 
Highlands and Islands was not universally known. 

Mull is a heap of rude mountains, and almost every 
point on its shores is rocky or precipitous ; while, with 
slender exceptions, it is an entire mass of trap rocks. 
Ben More is the highest mountain, and the ascent is 
neither very tedious nor difficult. I found it to be 3097 
feet high. The view is various and extensive. Staffa, 
lona, The Treshinish Isles, Coll and Tirey, with Ulva, 
Gometra, Colonsa, Eorsa, and other objects, are seen 
beautifully diversifying the broad face of the western 
sea, distinct as in a map; while, to the southward, Scarba 
and Jura, with the smaller isles of the Argyllshire coast, 

MULL. 22.0 

recede gradually in the distant haze. The rugged sur- 
face of Mull itself, excludes the objects to the eastward ; 
but Loch Scredon forms a beautiful picture beneath our 
feet; its long- and bright bay deeply intersecting with 
its dazzling surface, the troubled heap of mountains. 

An accident happened on the top of Ben More, which 
is worth relating, as showing hoAv discoveries may be the 
result of accident ; provided we keep our eyes open. A 
hail storm came on, and, in a few minutes, the ground 
was covered. It became piercing- cold, though in August ; 
and the seamen produced some whisky in a tin cup. 
Being too strong for ordinary throats, I attempted to di- 
lute it with hail. In an instant it turned so cold that I 
was obliged to drop it : the surface became covered with 
ice, and it froze to the grass. This was a case of cold 
generated by the solution of the hail in the alcohol of the 
whisky; a fact before unknown, but analogous to many 
other chemical phenomena. On pursuing the subject 
afterwards, in a correct maner, with alcohol, I found that 
the degree of cold thus produced, amounted to 39 degrees. 
With the temperature of Zero, therefore, mercury might 
be frozen at one operation, and in a manner far more 
"genteel "than by means of acids. 

The southern coast of Mull is nearly one continuous 
range of lofty precipices, well known to those who visit 
Staffa. There is little interest in Loch Don and Loch 
Speliv : but the former is the station of the Oban ferry. 
Loch Buy is equally uninteresting; and the cliffs of this 
shore will disappoint him who has seen those of Sky. 
On the western extremity, where the trap ceases, they 
become much more interesting^, thoug^h less striking- at a 
distance; forming the low granite point of the Ross, 
whence there is a short transit to lona. I might indeed 
spend a few pages in describing the singular wildness 
of this strange shore ; its labyrinths of red rocks and 
green waves, the fairy scenery of its deep recesses and 
shrubby ravines, its thousand bays and dells and glades, 
where thousands might live, each in his little paradise. 

230 MDLl. 

unknowing- and unknown. But you all tell me that I 
have described too much already. So might I have told 
of the Lady's Island: but Dr. Johnson has told the tale 
already, and Miss Baillie has again brought it all before 
us with her own pen: and we all exclaim, "Shall we 
for ever make books by pouring out of one phial into 
another." Thence must I be '' brief," and thence also, 
obscure. What else can he be, who is condemned to 
crowd into pages, that which has occupied volumes upon 
volumes; who deals in Druids, Potatoes, History, Gob- 
lins, Bagpipes, Planting, Language, Pigs, Matrimony, 
Shopkeeping, Herrings, Goths, Leeks, Celts, Castles, 
Chiefs, Cockles, Codfish, Coal, Churches, and heaven 
knows what more ; chained down, like a Highland cow, to 
a narrow circle that he dare not and cannot pass. If I 
had passed it, there would have been a fifth volume. 
Thus it is, that, of the half of the present discussions, 
I can say only, that they are "obstetrices animorum; "as 
Socrates said before me. " II faut faire penser ; " and I 
have often furnished little more than the " tire tete and 
forceps ; " since, as Tristram says, there was no room to 
bring the birth fairly into the world. 

On this coast, there arise a comfortable new mansion 
house, and, near it, a weather-beaten, old, grey, tall, thin, 
dark, uncomfortable, square tower. These are the old 
and new dwellings of the Chief; and they are typical 
of the several possessors. The Chief of the elder days, 
was doubtless contented with his tower. When his castle 
was besieged, he ate salt beef; when the siege was raised, 
he made a creach on his neighbour's cows, and ate it 
fresh. When he had the upper hand, he killed as many 
Macdonalds as he could catch, and when the Macdonalds 
were uppermost, they killed him. " Money there was 
none " " in this republic : " laws, as little ; the rents 
were paid in blood, and the next generation " was like 
the former." But the good old times being past, the 
young Chief eats beef and mutton in any way he chooses 
to dress it ; his walls are papered by Mr. Duppa, and his 

MULL. 231 

furniture is "of thesilken sheen." Sympathetic mahogany 
smoothly slides, where firm oak once stood immoveable ; 
" his hills are white over with sheep," and his rents are 
paid in notes of the Bank of Scotland. He may awake on 
any morning he chooses, with his throat uncut; and if the 
Macdonald should take a fancy to his castle, he will em- 
ploy an army of peaceful and well-wigged lawyers, to 
besiege it in the Court of Session, instead of a crew of 
M'arlike and breechless Caterans. But who is ever con- 
tented. The Chief cannot deal any longer in pit and 
gallows; he cannot raise a regiment of ruffians and a 
flock of sheep too; he laments that he cannot have rent 
and power, bank notes and influence, that a Dugald or 
a Donald will no longer " cut his bones " for him ; and 
forgets that he cannot combine the comfortsof his new 
mansion, with a dark and troubled residence in a narrow 
tower. But '* Blanche, Tray, and all the little dogs," are 
barking at me, and I must stop. Polonius, indeed, thinks 
there is " no oflTence ; " and so do I. 

The Sound of Mull is far too familiar to demand much 
further remarks than those which were formerly made 
on its Morven shore. It is a dreary strait, excepting- at 
its entrance, where Duart castle is an object of some 
note, though now familiar as Dumbarton or Edinburgh. 
It seems to stand here, the tyrant of the strait, the wild 
palace of wilder chieftains; and, in contemplating the 
banen hills around, the rude rocks, and the ruder waves, 
we are carried back, through centuries, to the days of 
warfare and piracy, to Norwegian tyranny and feudal 
ferocity. It is a strong military post, while it is a pictur- 
esque object ; and it was occupied as a barrack, to a late 
period. The great keep is of Norwegian strength ; the 
walls being nine feet thick, and the inner area thirty-six 
by twelve. The corbels show that it was divided into 
two stories, by a wooden floor. The additional buildings 
seem all to belong to 1664, from the attached date, and 
are of a much slighter construction. Hence to Aros, there 
is nothing interesting, excepting Scallasdale. This house 

232 TOBKftMOUV, 

is remarkable for its beautiful ash trees, which meet us 
like an Oasis in the desert, giving an air of summer to all 
around, and recalling to mind what weeks past among 
stormy seas, and barren rocks, and regions of Mullish 
dreariness, had almost obliterated. As to the interior 
country, it may be called impenetrable : being a heap 
of trackless mountains, offering no temptation to quit the 
beaten road. But the little Bay of Aros is not deficient in 
beauty, though of a wild character; while the valley, like 
the bay, derives an interest from its castle, pitched in a very 
picturesque manner on the summit of a rocky hill of no 
great elevation. Hence, there is an irregular, dreary 
valley, which conducts to Loch na Keal and to Staffa, by a 
road well contrived to give the strangers who frequent it, 
an unfavourable impression of Mull and of the Highlands 
in general. But I need not trouble myself further, with 
describing what there is not to be seen in Mull. 

Tobermory, the chief point of interest, comprises an 
upper and a lower town : the former, being a black one, 
and consisting of thirty or forty huts, is the seat of a half- 
employed population. The lower town, built near the 
water's edge, is backed by the cliff" that supports this 
Acropolis ; and is disposed in a sort of crescent, con- 
taining some public buildings, and twenty, or more, slated 
houses. The former include a custom house, an inn, a 
post office, and a pier ; and some of the houses used for 
coopers' stores and other purposes, are of a large size. 
A few boats are built here; but all the other business of 
Tobermory, which is very trifling, depends on its Custom 
House ; as it is the place where the legal forms connected 
with the herring fishery must be complied with. This 
establishment owes its origin to the same causes as Ta- 
nera and Ullapool, formerly noticed ; but it remains as 
it did, a warning proof, if fond experimenters in political 
economy could take warning, of the difficulty of coun- 
teracting the habits of a people, or of hastening-, by 
forced means, the natural progress of a country in arts 
and commerce. The cause of its failure has been sought 

MANrFACTURlii?. 233 

in the arrangement made for the new population that was 
enticed to it. The establishment included two thousand 
acres of land, and an allotment was made to each house, 
at a very low price, as an inducement to the settlers. 
Hence the idle, rather than the industrious, flocked to it; 
while the want of ambition and industry, too character- 
istic of the Highlanders, combined with their agricul- 
tural habits, made them bestow on their lots of land, the 
little labour which they were inclined to exert; neg- 
lecting the fisheries and manufactures which were the 
objects in the contemplation of the Society. But there 
were other faults; consisting in the inconvenience of its 
position and its distance from the fishing grounds. On 
these, as too minute, I need not dwell. 

With respect to manufactures, the Projectors of To- 
bermory followed the outcry of the day ; patriotically 
imagining that Emigration, the eternal bugbear, was thus 
to be prevented, and that they had only to will all sorts 
of impossible events. It is not only here, however, that 
shallow economists have conceived the collection of a 
mass of people to be the only requisite for the establish- 
ment of manufactures; that, like the plants which ve- 
getate by the brook, they must necessarily spring up 
wherever that brook was capable of turning a mill. Un- 
questionably, there is wind and water enough in the 
Highlands to turn all the cotton mills in the universe ; 
but there is another more essential moving force which 
those worthy and patriotic visionaries appear to have for- 
gotten. Capital does not seek new outlets till it is dam- 
med up to bursting ; nor is it easy to see what temptation 
there could have been to transfer raw materials to a dis- 
tant workshop, to a country conspicuous for want of 
steady and industrious habits, and when the manufac- 
tured articles must have been returned to the place 
whence they were brought, to be sold, if not consumed. 
Many events must take place, before a paper mill or a 
carding engine will be erected under the water-falls of 
Tobermory. The Highlands produce scarcely any raw 


material but wool ; and, even of that, not so much as is 
commonly imagined ; since breeding- is the great concern 
of the sheep farmers. They consume still less ; and it is 
therefore futile to suppose that even a woollen manufac- 
tory could advantageously be established here, in com- 
petition with capital and machinery already at work 
where the great market for the produce, and the market 
for industry also, lie. I may further add, as a portion 
of this general view, that if, to establish manufactures 
here, or elsewhere, were to create capital, there would be 
valid reasons for the proceeding. But, to establish, is 
merely to transfer capital and employment, from places 
which those would not have chosen, had they not been 
the most advantageous. The change is a source of loss, 
not of gain ; unless there were countervailing advantages 
in the cheapness of fuel and labour, or in the superior 
industry and knowledge of the people. In all of these, 
the Highlands are notedly deficient : and if a High- 
lander is to be taught mechanical dexterity and industry, 
those will be best learnt, where also he may best earn his 
living, among manufactures already established. I need 
not go deeper into these obvious arguments. 

But whatever difficulties there may be in the way of 
establishing regular manufactories, or in promoting sys- 
tems of this nature on broad and commercial principles, 
there is none in the introduction of such petty domestic 
manufactures as might be carried on, with little or no 
capital, by individuals or families, and chiefly by the ap- 
plication of their own unoccupied labour and time. There 
are, in this climate, much bad weather and many short 
days, in which the people cannot employ themselves out 
of doors, and during which, their time is spent in idle- 
ness, and assuredly not happily. It would be an absolute 
blessing to discover work to do, " frigidus agricolam si 
quando continet imber;" and such domestic manufac- 
tures would probably be found not less amusing, and 
somewhat more profitable, than reciting tales of ghosts 
or of Ossian, which, we are assured, whether we believe 


it or not, forms their favourite occupation. Even where 
the labours of fishing and agriculture are united, and 
still more where this is not the case, there is always a 
considerable portion of the year unoccupied; confirming-, 
if not producing, that indolence which is so inimical to 
the improvement of those people. Of such dormant 
time and labour, the value is nothing; as that for which 
there is no demand, can have no price. It would form 
but a slender charge therefore on the manufactured ar- 
ticles; and thus the Highlanders, even without the ad- 
vantage of machinery, might often compete in the mar- 
ket, with those who can command its aid. But putting a 
remote market out of the question, they might thus sup- 
ply themselves and their immediate neighbourhood with 
their produce; at such a price, in many cases, as would 
be fully sufficient to command a sale and reward them at 
the same time. Under such a system of manufacturing, 
any price beyond that of the raw produce is clear gain; 
but when the capitalist comes to interfere, and labour 
itself finds a price, he must be remunerated, not only for 
the wages which he pays, but by a profit on them, added 
to all the other profits incidental to a commercial system; 
and thus the structure which he was to support or ex- 
tend, speedily falls to the ground. It is thus that the 
spinning of wool and flax by the hand wheel, or even by 
the distaflT, is, in the hands of the women, in countries of 
this kind, a source of profit as well as of occupation ; 
even when the same articles can be produced by machi- 
nery with a hundredth or a thousandth part of the labour. 
But no price, however small, which a capitalist could 
offer for that labour, would enable him to bring such 
commodities to market in competition with the produce 
of a mill. It is the same with the knitting of stockings, 
which long formed an occupation in Shetland, Aberdeen- 
shire, and Wales, and which yet survives to a certain 

This is the system of manufacturing, therefore, which 
it would be desirable to cultivate in the Highlands, as 


long as they remain in their present state, and until the 
division of labour, if that is ever destined to happen, shall 
take place. To dictate either the mode or the subjects, 
would be to trespass on the supposed rights of those, who, 
perhaps, may, in time, think of exerting themselves. The 
most obvious ones, and which require to be rather ex- 
tended than introduced, are the spinning of wool, flax, 
and hemp, and the manufacturing of such ordinary arti- 
cles of consumption from them, as require neither much 
capital nor machinery. For such a purpose, it would 
probably be found advantageous to extend the cultivation 
of flax, and almost to create that of hemp; the demand 
for which article, in nets and lines, is incessant. Inde- 
pendently of profit, the moral effect of giving employ- 
ment to the idle, would be advantageous in more ways 
than one. It would operate as a stimulus to a people 
whose industry is rather dormant, from want of a motive 
or an object, than dead ; as all experience shows. The 
very mind is enlarged and the character improved by 
those means ; the possession of unexpected gain furnishes 
new means of gratification, and excites a spirit of ambi- 
tion which is not long in raising the man from a state 
little better than that of his domestic animals, dreaming 
out a stagnant existence, forgetful of the past, heedless 
of the present, and reckless of the future. We must here 
also remember, that the corruption of morals which is 
the consequence of manufactures, does not occur in sys- 
tems of this nature, even when conducted on a much 
larger scale ; as it is peculiar to those where the labourers 
are crowded, either in towns or in appropriated buildings. 
The experience of every country, as well as our own, 
proves this. Another good collateral effect, which is not 
so immediately obvious, would follow from such a plan : 
it would be that of exciting a taste for other occupations 
than those of agriculture, which engrosses too great a 
proportion of this population ; while it would also de- 
monstrate to them that it is possible to find the means 
of living without the possession of land. There is no na- 


turaF tendency in the present system to correct itself; 
nor is there any thing* desirable in a condition which is, 
alternately, one of severe labour and of idleness. To at- 
tempt the establishment of manufactures or fisheries by 
force, are projects only for inconsiderate benevolence. 
Whatever is to be done, must be done gradually; by 
following-, as much as leading, the changes of opinion 
and practice which time and circumstances produce, and 
by presenting new motives and creating new wants. This 
is the natural order in which alone improvements can 
proceed, without exciting pain, inconvenience, or discon- 
tent, on one hand, and without producing ill humour, loss, 
and disappointment, on the other. 

If, practically, so little of this has yet been done that 
there are but few proofs to offer in favour of such a plan, 
it must be recollected that a business which all the High- 
land economists have overlooked, is a case in point ; 
though not rigidly so, as it is neither voluntary, nor the 
occupation of idle time. This is the making of kelp, al- 
ready noticed, which, in another sense, is a domestic ma- 
nufacture. Even as it is necessarily conducted, it is an 
advantageous source of wealth to the people ; and it 
would be far less exceptionable, were it possible to carry 
it on during the seasons of repose, instead of pursuing it 
at a time when there are many other things calling for 
attention. Were it not for this manufacture, there are 
many places where the people could not possibly pay 
the rents of their farms ; that labour which it demands, 
paying, in itself, a large portion of these. It is the great 
misfortune of the Highlands, that, from the nature and 
divided state of the farms, there can be little surplus pro- 
duce from which to pay rent. Those therefore who have 
the advantage of this people at heart, ought to adopt 
every means for this purpose, in addition to that fishing 
which is the leading resource; while it is certain, that 
whatever they do in this respect, will be advantageously 
reflected on themselves, in the increase, both of rent and 
of security. 

238 Tow\«. 

But, to pass from these considerations, there is no 
demand, even for towns, in this country : and the argu- 
ment applies nearly to all the Highlands alike. The ar- 
ticles required for the ordinary supply of an agricultural 
district, are the principal cement of the small towns every 
"where. But the Highlanders have neither the habit of 
consuming' these, nor the means of purchasing them. 
Their agriculture is both slovenly and limited : and they 
are either content with expedients, or, having sufficient 
leisure, are able to supply themselves with utensils by the 
labour of their own hands. They have no superfluity to 
spend in luxury or ornament; nor does their ambition 
yet stimulate them to improve their condition. It is a 
richer and a more improved rural population which has 
recourse to the industry of towns ; and thus there is pro- 
moted that division of labour which is mutually advan- 
tageous, but which must be the gradual result of many 
circumstances, and cannot be forced. If there could be 
any doubt of the validity of this reasoning,its justice would 
be proved by examining almost all the attempts which 
have been made in the Highlands to force the growth of 
towns. They offer various instances of failure; of failure 
which all might have foreseen, except those who forget 
that the town does not make industry, but that industry 
makes towns ; who begin their operations at the wrong 
end, and then wonder at their disappointments. There 
is another circumstance, arising from the character of the 
people, which renders towns inexpedient in the High- 
lands, unless under circumstances of an absolute demand 
for that species of industry which they encourage or pro- 
duce. They cultivate what are called the social habits 
of the people; in other words, their propensity to idle- 
ness and all its consequences ; a fact, of which any one 
may satisfy himself, by visiting those repositories of in- 
dolence and filth and neglect; even if it were not matter 
of common and daily remark, by the most strenuous de- 
fenders of Highland virtue. When I quote Mrs. Grant, as 
a printed authority, it is one from which it would not 


be easy to appeal, on the ground of the Judge being 
a severe one. But I am willing to pass from a subject 
which is not agfreeable. 

Yet I must add a word on Highland shops; because 
the tobacco at Tobermory, my usual bribe, bore double 
the price which it did in Glasgow. How else should 
such shopkeepers realize large estates, after a few years 
of dealing in pins and tape, and scythes, and stockings, 
and all the miscellaneous matter of a shop that sells every 
thing. The prices of the most ordinary articles^ are often 
rated, nearly in as exorbitant a manner as the tobacco ; 
an extortion for which there is no excuse, as no credit is 
given, and no peculiar expense of distant carriage, or of 
rent, incurred. But, from some cause or other, there is 
either a want of competition, or else there is a combina- 
tion, a monopoly of some kind, wherever these shops 
exist ; so that we Southrons need not be much surprised 
at being imposed on by people who are so rapacious 
towards each other. It has been said, and repeated, (and 
therefore, " fas est audita loqui,") that the landholders, or 
principal tenants, are here the monopolists; sharing with 
their mercantile tenants in the profits, and preventing 
competition upon their own estates, or leases, with this 
very view. How easily this may be done, need not be 
said to those who know how Highland estates are divided 
and managed. Whether this censure be founded or not, 
I do not know. But so much blame has been thrown on 
Highland proprietors and tacksmen, and that has often 
proved so unfounded, that I am very unwilling to believe 
what is not confirmed by facts. This accusation is an- 
cient; and it is said, in the reports to which I have here 
alluded, that the conduct with which the Superiors are 
thus charged, (with what truth, I know not) is a remain 
of the former tyranny of the chief persons of the Clan, 
during the prevalence of that System. According to the 
Gartmore MS., written in 1747, the small heritors and 
substantial tacksmen " play the merchant," and the " poor 
ignorant people are cheated out of their effects for one 

240 ^ HOI'S. 

half of their value, and so " kept in eternal poverty," 
possessing- no money, and dealing by barter. In those 
days, these landlords purchased their cattle from them 
at their own prices ; and it was from the abuses thence 
arising-, that the trade of Drover originated. There is a 
remedy however, which, though as yet but partial in its 
operation, may in time give the unfortunate Highlanders 
the advantage of that fair market, which assuredly no 
people can require more, when their general and extreme 
poverty is considered. Vessels are occasionally found 
cruising round the sea coasts, and supplying them with 
the various articles for their wants, by means of barter; a 
plan, which, if fairly conducted, possesses a double ad- 
vantage, inasmuch as it gives them a double market at 
their own doors. The poor Highlander finds often as 
much difficulty in selling as in buying; and, in both, he 
is too often subject to be defrauded. Should the Steam- 
boat navigation be materially extended on these, shores, 
this will not be one of the least advantages accruing to 
the people from it. 

The establishment of these shops has nevertheless 
been of great use, and they are found every where ; so 
that Dr. Johnson could not now remark, that if a female 
were to break her needle in Sky, her work is at an end. 
By holding out new temptations and conveniences to the 
people, their industry has been stimulated ; and in dis- 
covering wants before unknown, they have also discovered 
that it is better to work, than to lie under a dyke all day 
long or lounge about in the rain. The activity of com- 
merce thus produces advantages to all parties; as has 
been long ago remarked on more momentous occasions; 
worming itself in, like a screw, wherever it can find a 
hole. It was at John o'Groat's house, on the walls of 
the very Houna inn itself, that I saw displayed the great 
names of Day and Martin ; and in a land which shoes had 
scarcely reached. What a sud<kn transferrence of the af- 
fections; from Houna to Holborn, from the blue streaming 
of the Pentland Firth, to the black gutters of Fetter Lane 

SHOPS. 241 

I could not help iinagJnino- the Bill-sticker with his wand 
of office and his box of paste, marciiing- nine hundred 
miles from Holborii to John o'Groat's house, to fix a 
blacking- bill on tlie walls of Houna inn. Messrs. Da3^ and 
Martin deserve their chariots and curricles, were it for 
nothing- else. But they deserve it for better reasons. It 
is thus that the HighJauds will he civilized and improved, 
or improved and civilized ; as I hinted formerly. Even 
to know that there is such a thing as liquid blacking in the 
world, may excite the desire to possess it : and the fish- 
erman may become ambitious to render his Sunday boots 
a substitute for a looking glass. Blacking, like oranges 
and Gingerbread Kings, cannot be obtained without 
mone)"^ ; and he who desires to purchase an " eighteen- 
penny bottle," will labour to catch an eigliteen-penny 
fish more than his usual number, that his boots may daz- 
zle the sunshine and the eyes of the favoured fair. And 
if Blacking is now sold at Houna, and Carraway comfits 
at Brora, is not Rouge to be bought at Blair in Athol, and 
is there not a milliner's shop at Kingusie. The Cow- 
herd boy cannot buy an orange, nor the Calmuc-cheeked 
lassie adorn her protuberance of angle with carmine or 
red ochre, unless they have laboured for an equivalent. 
If she is to cast aside the horn comb and the snood, that 
she may flaunt in a Kingusie cap and ribbons, she must 
go into the harvest-field at six instead of twelve; and 
thus luxuries produce desire, and desire industry. Nor 
does the chain end here. If there is a new muslin gown 
and a suit of ribbons purchased for Sunday, or a pair of 
white cotton stockings and "caulf shoon" for kirk and 
market, there must be a " kist " to keep them in, and an 
umbrella to preserve them from the rain. Thus one want 
produces another: the Highlander, or his wife and daugh- 
ter for him, become first discontented, then ambitious, 
then industrious, and finally rich. And thus too, he learns 
at length, to be clean ; since the muslin train will not 
pass the midden, nor sit down on the creepie, nor lie 
among the milk tubs and porridge pots, unscathed. And 


242 MULL. 

thus, in time, the hairs disappear from the butter, and 
the dubs are filled up, and the cows are put into a byre 
of their own, and the people learn to speak English, and 
the Highlands, alas, succumb, with all their pristine 
virtues, to rouge and ribbons, blacking and sweetmeats, 
tea and umbrellas, vanity and luxury. 

That the excitement of the industry of the people, 
whether by these or other means, must form an essential 
part of any attempt to improve the Highlands, is unques- 
tionable. There is much however to be done in other 
Avays; and there are many things which are hourly 
operating their expected effects. Local improvements, 
such as roads, bridges, harbours, ferries, and posts, have 
done much : not only by facilitating internal communica- 
tion and commerce, but by introducing to the people 
the opinions and habits of their more improved neigh- 
bours. The war has acted in a similar manner, by re- 
turning disbanded soldiers; and its effects will be long- 
perceptible. The introduction of Lowland tenants has 
been useful, by introducing better examples; and much 
benefit has also resulted from the late general revolu- 
tions in the total agricultural system. Similar good con- 
sequences have flowed from the extension of the fisheries ; 
but perhaps nothing has been more extensively or sud- 
denly operative, at least in the maritime Highlands, than 
the steam boats. We can trace almost their weekly 
effects on the habits and opinions of the people. The 
advantages to result from the new schools are obvious; 
particularly as they will now be coupled with all these 
parallel innovations, so as to bear more immediately on hu- 
man life. To all this we may add the impending abolition 
of the Gaelic language; that obstacle, which, as long as 
it remains unremoved, will render all other efforts vain, 
but which no fondness of exertion can now preserve from 
its natural and hastening death. But I need not dwell 
on this subject, nor protract the enumeration. It would 
be to produce a formal and tedious dissertation, by bring- 
ing under review much of what has already passed before 

MULL. 24:] 

us, and wliich must speak for itself", as best it can. It ouo ijl; 
not to be less impressive because it has been stated as cir- 
cumstances gave rise to it ; and if it has often been stated 
with apparent levity, it is not the less likely to be erjually 
well noted, and much better received. 

During- the northern retreat of some ships belonging- 
to the Spanish Armada, one of the vessels, the Florida, 
was lost off this harbour, and her timbers are still occa- 
sionally brought up as they -work loose. In 1740, Sir 
Archibald Grant and Captain Roe attempted to weigh 
ber, by means of divers and machinery. The attempt 
was unsuccessful, but some guns were brought up. The 
brass ones had the mark of an English founder, R. & I, 
Philips, 1584, with a crown and E. R. ; so that it may be 
doubted if they belonged to the Spanish vessel. The 
iron guns were deeply corroded ; but on scraping them, 
they became so hot that they could not be touched : and 
it is easy to imagine the fright of the Donalds, on finding 
hot guns five fathoms deep ; guns too, that had been 
cooling for more than a century to so little purpose. If 
ever Highlander had reason to believe in Water goblins, 
he would have been justified on this occasion ; though 
the Fire King must here have usurped the dominions of 
his rival fiend. 

Now, here is one of those Physical facts which no one 
would have believed " a priori," however strong- the 
moral evidence. It may offer a caution against a philo- 
sophical incredulity which has become fashionable among- 
certain reasoners, because, having acquired a portion of 
physical knowledge, they conclude that every thing- must 
needs be known. There is nothing physically impossible, 
except that which is contradictory in itself, or contradic- 
tory to some demonstrated physical axiom. This scepti- 
cism has, in particular, been displayed with much ill- 
placed triumph, in the cases of the prodigies recorded by 
ancient historians. Whether Numa brought down light- 
ning from heaven or not, it is now known that he might 
have done so. Had Livy or Pliny related that an iron 

R 2 



anchor had been brought up burning- hot from the bottom 
of the Tiber, or from beneath the sea at Ostia, where it 
had been left by the galley of ^neas, and that the omen 
had terrified the wholeRoman people, or had been followed 
by a phigue or an invasion of the Gauls, (as it might have 
been,) we should have ranked it with the angel warriors 
of CoMstantine, even down to the year 1812. We should 
have ranked it with the showers of stones and the Pal- 
ladium. Yet tbe same generation that has proved the 
possibilify of the death of TuHus Hostilius by theFrank- 
linian experiment, has proved that the showers of stones 
were true. It has now proved that what the Highlanders 
could not explain and no one chose to believe, in 1740, 
was also a fact; and the year 1812 has demonstrated that 
burning hot iron may be fished up from the bottom of a 
deep sea. I will not pretend that I was more ready to 
believe than those 1 have blamed, when I accidentally 
met with the same appearance, and was the first to dis- 
cover and explain the cause. 

There is some coppice wood near Tobermory, which 
adds much to the beauty of the situation. Mull was 
once celebrated for its woods; but, like those of the 
Islands in general, they have long since vanished. Yet the 
remains of oaks, found in many places, intermixed with 
birch and hazel, show that care and attention, if care and 
attention were here the fashion, might again restore them 
to a respectable appearance. I am almost unwilling, even 
to allude to a subject which has often before crossed me, 
because I have no room to dilate on it as it deserves. 
Yet it is unfortunate that those who plant in these difficult 
climates, do not know the value of the Plane tribe, par- 
ticularly of the common Sycamore, in resisting the 
winds, even on the sea shores. N(» violence from these, 
ever causes it to turn a single branch ; a fact easily wit- 
nessed in numerous places. The same ignorance has led 
to the planting of firs and larch in those situations, where 
they invariably fail: and this has been done here, in 
Mull. If a Scottish farmer, whether in the Highlands or 

MULL. 245 

the Lowlands, could be faugljt the value of hedge rows, 
even of birch, alder, or the meatiest bushes, in sheltering* 
the land, by checking evaporation and cold, this country 
would soon assume a far different appearance; and he 
also would soon discover that he would save more in his 
total crop, than he loses by the pitiful economy of land, 
as he imagines it, which here defeats its own ends. There 
is far more injury done to his crop, by the want of shelter, 
and by consequent exposure to the chilling eftectsof the 
winds in such a climate, than ten times the amount of 
the loss of land which would arise from enclosures, or 
the diminution of produce on the line of trees, that would 
follow from planting them ; while it is also forgotten, that 
the trees themselves have a value, which, probably, re- 
places that of all the grain which they prevent from 
growing. He is equally ignorant that the common Elder 
forms, in this view, a most valuable enclosure; growing 
in any situation and elevation, attaining- its full stature in 
a tenth of the time which a hawthorn hedge requires, 
and requiring no protection or expence at the beginning, 
because detested by cattle. 

With respect to the Larch, the value of the timber 
and the adaptation of the tree itself to the climate of the 
Highlands, are daily rendering it an object of increased 
attention to Planters. Yet the frequent failures of this 
tree demand a remark, because those persons do not seem 
to have been yet aware of the cause. It becomes rotten 
in the heart, in certain situations; and hence considerable 
disappointments have arisen. The cause seems to lie in 
a physiological character peculiar to all alpine plants; 
among which the Larch must be ranked. The whole of 
these require a constant supply of water, and as constant 
a drainage. In their native situations, they are perpe- 
tually wetted, and again dried ; and when we attempt to 
cultivate them in our gardens, we are compelled to imitate 
this natural process, which may be considered as ana- 
logous to Irrigation, in which draining is as assential as 
watering. This is apparently the feeling of the Tree in 

246 iviuLL. 

question ; and hence it is that it thrives on mountain de- 
clivities, and that it fails on flat ground, unless the con- 
stitution of that is so porous as to give a ready passage 
to the water. This is a General Principle, which, if I 
mistake not much, the Planters of this tree would profit 
by keeping in view for each particular case, as a guide to 
their operations. 

The western shore of Mull is known to all those who 
know StafFa, but it merits much more attention than is 
commonly bestowed on it ; being by much the most in- 
teresting, as well as the most picturesque part of the 
Island. Mac Kinnon's cave, visited by every tourist, is 
of great dimensions ; and, like many others, has arisen 
from the wasting of a trap vein. It is so lofty, that the 
lights which are used are insufficient to show the roof; 
and, from its general depth, it is equally impossible to 
form a notion of its dimensions from any point of view. 
Thus, although it may appal the imagination by its dark- 
ness, its silence, and its vacuity, it offers no forms; no- 
thing-, as Dr. Johnson would say, but an abyss of unideal 
vacancy. Near to this spot there is a very magnificent 
excavation in the face of the cliff", of great breadth 
and height, though not deep. The form is beautifully 
arched, and the streams of water that trickle through the 
calcareous strata which constitute its roof, have orna- 
mented it with huge stalactites. The outside is variegated 
and adorned with ivy; and ancient ash trees spring from 
the crevices above, overshadowing the opening, and pro- 
ducing, with the lofty back ground of the cliffs, a scene 
of great effect. The affection which ivy bears to the 
basaltic rocks, is often a source of great beauty in many 
parts of Mull, particularly along its sea shores. From 
their greater durability, the veins often remain, long after 
the surrounding materials have disappeared ; rising like 
irregular walls, and, when thus partially covered with 
ivy and other plants, scarcely distinguishable from the 
remains of ancient towers and castles. There are some 
very picturesque examples of this kind in Loch na Keal ; 

INCH ki:nni:tii. '247 

and, on the east coast, in the Sound, there is one ot enor- 
mous dimensions, generally pointed out to strangers. A 
simple wall of an hundred feet in height is an object 
which art has never yet produced ; and as long- as we are 
deceived with the notion that these are works of art, the 
effect is most striking ; but when once they are recog- 
nized to be natural productions, their peculiar power over 
the imagination vanishes. 

I have no room to describe all the singular scenes that 
occur along this shore; but there are some caves sur- 
rounded by basaltic columns, further to the southward, 
which are exceedingly curious, if not properly pic- 
turesque. Near them is also to be seen the trunk of a 
tree, enclosed in the rock, and converted into that sort of 
coaly matter called Cologne earth ; presenting a subject 
of speculation for geologists. Here also is a pavement 
of the most beautiful and regular basaltic columns, on a 
$niall scale, that exists in the Islands. Loch Scredon is 
a long and extensive inlet ; but the shores are too low and 
the mountains too distant, to admit of its forming a pic- 
turesque object, on a general view. Yet some striking- 
scenery may be found along the shores, among the pro- 
montories which project into the water, and the long 
ranges of basaltic columns which skirt it on the southern 
side. Among the granite rocks near the western ex- 
tremity of the Ross, and on this shore as well as on the 
southern, there are many strange and wild combinations 
of rock, trees, and water, in that peculiar style of com- 
position so well known in the works of Salvator Rosa. 1 
almost grieve that I must pass so much untold. 

Of Inch Kenneth, there is little to remark. Dr. John- 
son's visit has conferred on it a celebrity to which it has 
no claim from its own merits. The chapel has been a 
small building, and is accompanied by the remains of a 
cross. Many ancient sculptured grave stones cover the 
burying ground ; but, as usual, the enclosure is broken 
down, and the monuments encumbered with weeds and 
rubbish, the haunt of the plover and the curlew. St. 

248 MULL. 

Kenneth, its patron saint, was a friend of St. Columba, 
whom he is said to have rescued by prayer, from being 
drowned, during a storm " in undosis Charybdis Bre- 
cani." It was this Kenneth probably who died Abbot 
of Achabo in Ireland in (JOO. The remains of Sir Allan 
Maclean's house still exist ; but Inch Kenneth is no 
longer inhabited. 

In hoisting the peak, to get under way, one of the 
blocks split, and fell upon the head of a man in the gal- 
ley. The Captain called out to know who was hurt; and 
though the men on deck had not seen, either the injury 
or the person, the answer from all hands was, " I'm sure 
it's Archy" — " It canna be any body but Archy" — " It 
must be Archy." And Archy it was. Poor Archy ; if 
there was a block or a yard to fall, or a sheet to give 
way, or a handspike to fly out of the capstan, or a pair 
of trowsers to be washed overboard, it was always Archy 's 
head, or legs, or arms, or trowsers, that were to suffer. 
His face was a very presage and preface of mishap : it 
was the fa!al physiognomy of James the second, the mark 
that Nature or Fate has stamped on him who has been 
selected for misfortune. Archy's luck had pursued him 
from his birth ; from the cook room to the mast; in the 
West Indies and in the East; in a man of war and in a 
coasting sloop. He was the only man of the crew who had 
suffered from the yellow fever, the only man whose leg 
had been broken, the only man who had been washed 
overboard, the man who had borne the accidents of a ship 
for all the rest ; and now, where the fall of a block was 
as unlikely as the fall of the moon, it had selected Archy's 
head to fall on, though he was the only one of the whole 
crew who seemed out of its reach. He never was seen 
to smile, seldom spoke to the men, and, when on deck, he 
stood or sat retired, a melancholy man. What is the 
meaning of this ; is it true indeed, as the French say, that 
there are only two things in this world, good luck and 
bad luck. Voltaire might have given Archy a parallel 
and episodical place in his commentary on the fortunes 

MULL. 249 

of the Stuarts. So he might to Byroii; who, like Archy, 
was the football of fortune, who never had a fair wind in 
his life, and who, at last, resigned the command of the 
Channel fleet, for no other reason than his uniform bad 
luck. It was with justice, indeed, that he was nick- 
nauied Foul-weather Jack. There is more truth in this 
matter of luck, or fate, than three classes of philosophers, 
whom I da not choose to name, are willing to allow. He 
was a wise man who said, " I always employ a lucky Ge- 
neral." " Chance, High Arbiter," orders it all. " Let 
Clotho wash her hands in milk, and twine our thread of 
gold and silk," and we need little care what wind blows, 
for it will always blow to port. I know not if it was Archy's 
hick or my own ; but so it was that we had not one wind 
during this whole voyage, which was not right in our 
teeth ; though, for six weeks, we cruised on every one of 
the thirty-two points of the compass, and every day on a 
new one. So, however, it was. Our ancestors held that 
the Witches and the Evil ones ruled the winds to evil. 
So did Archy. " The Devil sends bad cooks," prover- 
bially; and Archy maintained that moral science and 
human experience are embodied in proverbs. We admit 
him a share in morals ; our progenitors, whom we now 
disclaim, gave him a share in physics also. Archy could 
not discover the difference. He held with his Ancestry, 
and with " Martin." The Captain was of the opinion of 
Cacambo. To be sure, Archy had never considered 
whether the doctrine was invented by Manes in the third 
century, or by the Gnostics before him, or whether it 
sprung up among the Greeks, as Plutarch affirms. Yet 
so it was, that he was a Manichean. There is some ex- 
cuse for these aberrations, when a man gets his head 
broke by every block that falls, loses his breeches in 
every lurch, and has a foul wind in his teeth, like the 
Tracys, on whatever quarter of the compass he sails. Be- 
sides which, Archy had the Ague. Who would not be a 
Manichean and a Fatalist upon such terms. 



The Highland fair have been generally accused of 
wanting those qualities which are so apt to make fools of 
us who boast of superior wisdom. I must enter the lists 
in their defence, that I may have at least one side in my 
favour; and he who has the Ladies on his part, may defy 
the world whenever he chooses. Of Isla, in particular, I 
may say, that I have never found finer models or more 
beautiful women, even at Rye or in Lancashire. I have 
seen more beauty in Sky alone, in one week, than in a 
whole Olympiad spent in the Low Country ; and if I 
dared to name those Helens, there is not one of them all 
who would not bind these volumes in Morocco and gold, 
and treasure them, even beyond Ossian. I mentioned 
Morven with similar honour formerly : and even that 
abominable Meg Dods was compelled to acknowledge 
the beauty from which she would doubtless have pulled 
the caps, had she dared. The Highland borders of Perth- 
sihire deserve equal distinction : and, generally, it is true, 
that the beauty of the females predominates on the line 
which allows the high and the low countries to intermix. 

Philosophically speaking, I must now remark that this 
beauty is generally found in the tall and fair race, or else 
in that mixture where Gothic predominates over Celtic 
blood. I cannot explain why the blue eyes and fair com- 
plexion should be more common among the women than 
the men : but I made the observation so constantly, that 
I think 1 can scarcely be mistaken. 1 know not that I 
ever saw a pretty Avoman of the Celtic blood. The dark 
race produces beauty, in Spain and in Italy ; more rarely, 
I believe, in Greece. Whether Japhet had black eyes 

HIGHLAND im:ai)ty. 251 

and hair, and communicated his defects to Gomer and 
the rest of the " Japeti genus" is a question that I must 
leave to Pezrou, and to the Titans. Certain it is, that 
whichsoever of this original family had blue eyes and 
fair hair, he has been the founder of beauty and energy ; 
of Circassian charms and of Teutonic spirit. If all High- 
land beauty is Scandinavian, all the beauty of Greece 
was Ionian, or Attic : and unquestionably, this was a dif- 
ferent race from the Celtic Pelasgian. Of Celtic beauty, 
History has no certain records. Not Eiisa, assuredly : 
or the pious iEneas would not have fled from her. Sir 
Charles Grandison as he was. As to Camilla, she had a 
Celtic foot, probably. 

And that reminds me of a French wit who travels in 
duodecimo, and who has been marvellously pathetic on 
the subject of the feet of the Scottish fair. As far as his 
anatomy may touch Glasgow or Edinburgh, I must aban- 
don the field : but on that tender point of beauty, I must 
defend the nymphs of the Highlands in general. They 
are very commonly, unexceptionable in this part so in- 
teresting to our neighbours of Gaul. The heavy charge 
made by this philosopher, is not, at least, a Celtic error; 
for the limbs of this race, are generally delicate and well 
drawn ; as is the case with so many of the Oriental and 
Tartar tribes. If Report says true, France has not every 
where to boast of Parisian tenuity of foot ; as the ladies 
of Toulouse are " largement pattees comme sont les oies," 
and as the Queen of Sheba, who was noted for spread of 
foot, is the Reine Pedauque of this southern capital. I 
cannot, however, pretend to go through all the female 
anatomy of the Highlands in this categorical manner; sa- 
tisfied if I can conciliate the mountain fair, by a decision 
from which I am sure they will not appeal, on whatever 
else we may chance to disagree ; and not deciding till I 
have assured them, that, after a careful study of the an- 
tique, and various measurements of the ancle of the 
Medicean, the Callipyga, and the Victrix of Canova, I 
have seen sights which would have ravished the eyes 


of Monsieur Nodier, and which even the Callipyga might 
have boasted of. I hope, now, that 1 have made my 
peace; and that I shall be forgiven, even the Middens 
and the Parallel roads. With respect to this said foot 
and ancle indeed, the balance is clearly on the side of 
the Celts. Venus herself, the beloved of gods and men, 
owes her thick ancle to her Hellenic blood, to her Gothic 
parentage. All the dazzling tenuity of this organ, all 
Parisian boast, is Celtic ; and if it is to remote British 
blood that the Fair of Britain must resort for what they 
would so often die to obtain, so does the Belgic ancle of 
Wales betray its Gothic origin; true rival of the taste 
which even yet, in Greece, swathes it in bandages till 
it emulates the produce of a turning lathe. Such are the 
varieties of opinion. 

It is easy to see also, that the misfortune of the High- 
land fair in wanting that which poets praise and lovers 
adore, is the consequence, more of their breeding thau 
their birth. There is not a finer and ruddier race of chil- 
dren than the chubby, white-headed, bare-legged varlets 
of both sexes, that are seen daily dabbling in the dirty 
pools round a Highland hut. To the age of ten or twelve, 
the girls grow up with as much beauty as can be found, 
even in the towns of England where they are best treated. 
But the labours of harvest and the toils of the peat moss 
soon commence ; and those begin their operations on a 
face which has been, for ten years, smoked like bacon in 
doors, and which, out of doors, has braved the wind and 
rain, and the sun too, whenever it condescends to shine, 
for the same period. The hair is tied back with a long- 
comb, as in a well-known Chinese punishment, till the 
skin is stretched like a drum: the rains descend, the 
winds of heaven blow on it, the sun burns it, — when it is 
hot enough ; and it is not wonderful, that, when the only 
refuge from all this is a smoky cottage, and the only food 
a little porridge and potatoes, the bones learn to project, 
and the whole physiognomy acquires that habitual ex- 
pression which we all put on, when riding in the teeth 


of a storm over Coryaraick or through the black defiles 
af Glenco, If, in a few years, the aspect of forty is 
impressed on the countenance of eighteen, you must 
"accuse the elements of unkindness:" and cease to won- 
der if you cannot find the lily of the valley and the bank 
of blue violets, breathing the odours of spring', on the 
stormy summit of Ben Lomond, or amid the granite 
wastes of Cruachan. 

Because Pennant has quoted a case at Luss, where, at 
the time when he wrote, there happened to be a few very 
old people, it has been the ftishion to imagine that Lon- 
gevity was an inheritance of the Highlanders. Tiiis is a 
notion which an Englishman would readily adopt in tra- 
velling through the country, where the old and infirm 
are to be seen every where. Reports of Longevity, as 
Johnson has remarked, are greedily swallowed by him 
who is tottering on the verge of his own climacteric. 
There are few points on which we are less willing to be 
undeceived, and few tales more readily believed, than 
those which produce examples of human existence pro- 
tracted beyond its ordinary period. In the Highlands 
as indeed in Scotland at large, the cause of this erroneous 
opinion is obvious enough. No Poor Laws have yet 
destroyed those bonds of affection by which families are 
united in one common interest, through all their living 
generations: no rates and overseers and church-wardens, 
have striven, as by law ordered, to supersede that Com- 
mandment which Nature herself confirms. The claims 
of a Parent are no less sacred than those of a child : and 
the grandmother, tottering on the verge of fourscore, 
spins her thread by the side of the fire in winter, or 
basks at the door in the short sun of her last summer, 
secure in the affections of her children and her grand- 
children, even when no longer able to exercise her- 
self in assisting or directing that househould over which 
her claims are never superseded till she can no longer 
exert them. In the improved and highly civilized coun- 


try of England, we thrust our parents into workhouses, 
and they are forgotten. 

It is easy to trace the differences of character above 
noticed, in the persons of this people ; and though it is 
not very often that we can find specimens of the pure 
and original breed of Celts, they are still to be seen in 
various remote districts. The differences of the North- 
man and the true Gael are strongly marked : and it is to 
the infinite gradations between those, that the confusion 
of the Highland form and physiognomy is owing. The 
pure Northman is tall and stout, with round limbs, and 
inclining to be fat when well fed ; his complexion is fair, 
ruddy when young, and his face full ; while his eyes are 
blue, and his hair sandy, or, sometimes, red. A fine 
specimen of the Northern descent, offers a striking con- 
trast to the pure descendant of Celtic stock, bred " in 
and in," till he has been reduced to a size and physiog- 
nomy not much more respectable than that of Chim- 
panzee. Small, slender, and dry, with eyes of jet and a 
sallow skin, his cheek bones are acute, his lips thin, and 
his expression keen and wild; the small head being- 
covered with long, shining, straight, locks of coal-black 
hair. Take the handsomest specimen of these " men of 
Ind," clap a turban on his head and a pair of loose cot- 
ton trousers on his heels, and he might pass for some 
Tartar or Afhgan. A woman of the same descent, with 
a few black rags of ostrich feathers and a silk bonnet, 
would hardly be distinguished from our purest speci- 
mens of Gypsies. Yet, in general, the physiognomy is 
far from disagreeable; melancholy, yet resolute, and, 
commonly, intelligent ; whenever at least the possessor 
is engaged in active life. If otherwise, nothing can well 
look more averse to thinking or action, than the face of a 
dark Highlander, as you may often see him by a dyke 
side in the rain, or lounging by his crazy and neglected 
boat on the sea shore. Though the stature is small, the 
limbs are well formed, and the muscles marked by power 


and activity. There are (e.w avIio ran row against a prac- 
tised Highlander, either for strength or time. 1 have 
often been obliged to keep my boat's crew at the oar, for 
twelve, and even fifteen hours, in a heavy sea, without 
rest or relief. A walking- Highlander will perform his 
fifty or sixty miles in a day; and when it is done, he will 
probably be found lounging about among bis friends, 
instead of resting himself: ready to begin again the next 

Such are the two leading distinctions of form and 
feature among the Highlanders. It is also very necessary 
to remark, that the Gothic blood predominates among the 
Magnates, or Duine Wassels, as the Celtic does among 
the common people. This is a fact that must be well 
known to those who will take the trouble to recollect 
their own observations, and to reflect a moment on what, 
possibly, never struck them before. If my own Theory 
should render my opinion in this matter suspicious, there 
is a testimony on record, which is free from any such sus- 
picion, because the writer had no Theory. This is the 
Gartmore MS. : where it is remarked, that the Principal 
people of the Highlands are of a different race from the 
Commons: being " larger bodied than the inferior sort/' 
They are, in fact, taller and stouter; and the writer 
might equally have added, that the fair complexion is 
generally found among them, and very rarely, the Celtic 
cast. This circumstance is important, in another way ; 
as confirming the historical fact of the conquests of the 
Celts, or original Highlanders, by the Northmen, and 
another, not less important, that the power and the wealth 
fell into the hands of the Gothic conquerors, who have 
retained it in their own race and hands to this day, while 
the Celtic race became their vassals, as they still continue 
their tenants ; barring, of course, such exceptions as 
must naturally have arisen from that subdivision of pro- 
perty, which, by degrees, drove the extenuating progeny 
of Norway, or the North, into the ranks. It is also 
worthy of note, that this distinction is not united to the 


Islands. The writer here quoted, is speaking of his own 
immediate vicinity ; and it will, in reality, be found that 
throug^hout the country, the superiority of wealth or sta- 
tion, as of person, belongs to a Gothic race ; and that the 
Celts are every where the lower caste of society. Ex- 
ceptions, arising from intermarriage or other causes, must 
be allowed their due weight in modifying this general 

It is proper however, now, to remark, that for one of 
either distinct character, among the common people, there 
are hundreds which have no decided one ; but in which 
either the Celtic or the Northern stamp is alternately 
distinguishable, if not predominant. If we meet with 
power, and with beauty of stature and form, under various 
aspects, it is always greater as the Norse leaven predo- 
minates, or when the hair is not black, and the eyes are 
blue, or fair. In fact, the Gothic race has done for the 
Highlands, just what it has done for England. It is the 
same in France, where almost all the beauty of the nation 
is comprised in Normandy. We, who talk of being Bri- 
tons, and who affect to despise a little black Highland 
Celt, forget the equally contemptible remains of our ori- 
ginal forefathers that may still be found in the recesses 
of Wales, Cornwall, or Brittany, The true Bull Briton 
does not recollect that he is the offspring of Romans, 
Belgffi, Cimbri, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Danes, and 
Gallic Norwegians: and that not one of the qualities of 
which he boasts, belongs to the name he bears. This is 
alike the blunder of the Highlander, with his Celtic clubs 
and his Celtic tongue. But, for this reason, Donald may 
retort on his brother John whenever he likes. 

But I must examine this question in somewhat more 
of detail. There is not one in the whole range, not only 
of our own antiquities, but of antiquities in general, 
which has produced more authors, more controversy, and 
more confusion. And it has been its fate, like many more, 
that a hundred ignorant and presuming writers have 
thrust themselves into a subject, not to be discussed as if 


it was a Dupondius, or a Roman mile post; thus mis- 
leading-ordinary readers, and darkening- the light whicli 
had been difiused over it by such labours as those of 
Pinkerton ; to pass over a whole host of prior great 
names. Yet there is not one who has not had some fa- 
vourite system to support; while controversy and anger 
have aided prejudice, in obscuring- the judgments, even 
of men, of whom we might have thought that they 
needed only to will, to discover the truth. 

Did I not hope to reconcile some of these statements, 
and to correct others, I would have stated this question, 
even more briefly ; but in the character of antiquarian 
bottle-holder which I have before assumed,! hope to do 
so by means of an argument which every one of those 
Authors has very strangely overlooked. I have said 
more fully, in speaking of Language, that the changes 
which it undergoes in a people that makes foreig-n con- 
quests and settlements, prevent us from tracing their 
descent by the similarity of Tongues. If it be a canon 
as false as it has hitherto been received for true, it has 
been one of the greatest sources of error in those investi- 
gations. It is the Breed which is the only steady cri- 
terion of national descent. Mixture may often introduce 
difficulties into the use of this test: but it will not often 
cause any that are insuperable. Here, as I formerly in- 
sinuated. Nature cannot err: and had the Philologists in 
question been equally Physiologists, we might have been 
spared half of the never-ending volumes which I have 
waded through, wading through fiction and nonsense. 
As well might we hope to see a Negro race become white, 
as to find a Goth converted into a Celt, through any de- 
scent. It is not the Jew alone who is condemned to bear 
the stamp of his race to eternity : if he has borne it with 
peculiar inveteracy, it is because he has the most care- 
fully preserved that race from mixture. It will shortly 
be seen, among other things, how this simple argument 
overturns the whole laborious system of Pinkerton and 
Janiieson and many more, respecting the Greeks. 
VOL. IV. s 


I may here equally give battle, at the outset, to an- 
other fashionable dogma, because 1 may have occasion to 
question it where the examination would be less conve- 
nient. It is, that the progress of all nations is neces- 
sarily from hunting to pasturage, and then to agriculture. 
It is a school-boy's Thesis, as much related to the real 
history of the world, as the triplet, Divinity, Law, and 
Physic. It has corrupted the half of these antiquarian 
theories. I choose Ledwich out of the whole, because of 
his g-ood sense, as a criminal for display here, when he 
assumes, proceeding- on this tlieory, that the British Celts 
were a wild people, living- in woods. Hundreds, of less 
note, have reasoned respecting them on the same falla- 
cious principle. If the Goths were an agricultural 
people, as is admitted, why should not the Celts have 
been such before them. The word Cruithneach, used as 
an argument, proceeds on a false etymology. They were 
equally Asiatics, equally migrators. Because we find 
American Tuscaroras hunting-, it is presumed that all 
early nations must begin by the Chace, or by living on 
animal food. It is a pure hypothesis; and is without the 
advantage of geographical support, even as it relates to 
the ruder people of the world. It is not the state of the 
South Sea, nor of the African nations: it probably never 
was. Though Hercules vanquished wild beasts, it does 
not even follow that early Greece was a hunting* nation. 
The Celts, moreover, were not Autochthones, and they 
had migrated from the centre of civilization. Hunting- 
nations do not migrate. Migration is the consequence of 
crov^'ds, and crowds are the consequence of agricultural 
and other improvement. It is New York or Philadelphia 
which migrates; not the Slave Lake or Nootka. Caesar 
has told us how the Helveti migrated; and that is a 
specimen from which we may judge of other migrations. 
The migrating Gothic races were all agricultural na- 
tions. The Officina Gentium, as it has been idly called, 
ploughed with the share, as well as with the sword and 
" framea," and the keels of its " black ships." So much 


for tliis common and unfonndetl theory ; whicli, were it 
here proper, might have been illustrated at great length. 

There are three leading races in Europe, the Celts, 
the Goths, or Scythians, and tlie Sarmatiaus ; and tlie 
order of their appearance in Europe is that in which I 
have named them. To simplify this question, I sliall 
first examine and dismiss the latter; as, however im- 
portant they may be, they took no share in the early set- 
tlements of our islands. I need scarcely say that they 
include the Sclavonians, and comprise, of course, the 
Russians, the Poles, the Huns, the Lapps, and the Finns. 
Hence the analogy, often remarked, between the lan- 
g-uages of Hungary and Lapland. It vi'ould almost have 
been unnecessary to have noticed this race, had not Dr. 
Macpherson and Mr. James Macpherson introduced con- 
fusion into this subject, by their dreams respecting Sar- 
matian colonies to Britain. The Germans were not Sar- 
matae, as those two writers suppose. It was the Sclavo- 
nians that were such. The languages are utterly dif- 
ferent : the Russians have borrowed Greek characters 
merely. Tacitus distinguishes them decidedly : and 
their settlement was posterior to that of the Goths or 
Scythians. When Dr. Macpherson calls the Celts, tall, 
fair, robust people, with blue eyes, we may conjecture 
how well he was qualified to decide upon Sarmatians. 
The casual mention, by Tacitus, of Silures in Britain, as 
a dark people with crisped hair, has been used as an ar- 
gument in favour of Sarmatic colonies. There is some 
error or misinformation here, on the Historian's part ; be- 
cause we have no traces of such a race, and cannot even 
conjecture his meaning. Having dismissed these ima- 
ginary colonists, we may also dismiss, even with less 
ceremony, the visionary Phenician and Iberian colonies 
to Ireland, of which I have said more than enough on 
various incidental occasions. The real source of the 
error, and the answer to the only argument brought in 
support of this fancy, is given in the remarks on Lan- 
guage. Respecting the Romans, and the share which they 



raig-ht have taken in British colonization, nothing is ne- 
cessary ; as their history is known to the whole world. 

I have noticed, in the remarks on the Gaelic Language, 
almost all that is requisite respecting the original con- 
nections of the Celtic people. As far as the present 
purpose is concerned, we might assume them as the 
Aborigines of Britain and Ireland. It is quite fruitless 
to dispute, as has been done through volumes of idle 
controversy, whether they migrated from Ireland to Scot- 
land, or the reverse, or whether Ireland was peopled from 
England. It is impossible to find, even a shadow of evi- 
dence, direct or analogical, on which to build an argu- 
ment: and to write systems without this, is to construct 
dull romances. The moral probability is, that a people 
arriving over the sea from a continent, would settle the 
nearest island first; and, hence, Scotland and England 
should claim the priority, and probably, a joint one. The 
dispute is not worth another word. 

But the Celts themselves demand and deserve a fur- 
ther examination ; if indeed it be possible to clear this 
subject from the infinite perplexity in which it has been 
involved by a host of conflicting and careless writers, 
ancient and modern. To leave even one morass in the 
path, would impede our progress over the firmer ground 
which is to follow. Hence, I must go further back, and 
enter somewhat more deeply into this subject, than the 
immediate question before me seems to demand. It will 
be the shorter road, 

Ammianus Marcellinus, (to commence with him,) de- 
rives the name from a certain King Celtus, the son of Queen 
Galatia, who gave her name — and so on. Appian says 
that (/cltus was the son of Polyphemus. This is equiva- 
lent to our own Brutus and Scota; and I need not quote 
more of this kind of learning. The origin of the name 
has found abundant food for the Etymologists and the 
Cabiri: and I trust that I shall be excused from giving 
a page on this fruitless subject, though that page would 
be only the representative of volumes. Pezron says that 


the Celts were the Titans, and that Saturn and Jupiter 
were their Kings. Thai is enough for four volumes more. 
Were I to show, from ten more authors, how they were 
derived from Japetus, Japhet, Gomer, and Peleg-, and how 
Gomer gave his name to the Cinibri, and Peleg to the 
Pelasgi, whom they married, what they did, how Orpheus, 
Hercules, Pluto, and the rest of the Gods " majorum et 
minorum gentium," were descended from them, and 
where and how they settled, 1 should do it in one word. 
Conceive it done. There is something more important to 
come. Let all that learning take its appropriate place in 
the dream book. 

In the writings of the Classical authors, we find great 
confusion respecting the Celts, from an occasional, or 
rather a frequent, misapplication of the terras VieKroi, KeXra*, 
and Cellce, to the Gothic tribes. It will be better to exa- 
mine them first where they have not committed this error. 
Caesar is the most distinct of all, when he divides the 
inhabitants of his Gaul, into Celtee, Belgce and Aquitani. 
Those Celtse were truly our own Celts; speaking that 
language, of which the Erse is a dialect: the Belgoe were 
Goths, and the Aquitani appear to have been an African 
people, sprung from the Iberi and Mauri ; yet originally 
branching from the great Eastern Celtic root, and speak- 
ing that language which is the present Basque; whence 
the disputed resemblance, already explained, between 
that tongue and the Irish. 

As the countries occupied by the Belgse preserved 
Celtic local names, they must have been the posterior 
colony; as is indeed, a necessary consequence of the 
relative order of the two Great Races; and thus the 
extent of the Celtic nation in Gaul, had been reduced by 
their intrusion and settlement. Some confusion of religion 
and usages also remained ; and, from these different 
causes it probably was, that the ancients so often con- 
founded the new Scythians or Goths, with the Celts, 
under the name of Celtic. Caesar is almost the only 
writer who seems to have been fully aware of the distinc- 


tion ; and, for that, we are probably indebted, in some 
measure, to his philological knowledg-e. The Helveti 
were also Celts ; and it is probable that the Volsee and 
Tectosages were the same. Tacitus is far from clear on 
this subject; and, apparently, from the want of local 
Jcnowledge. Yet he marks the Gothini as a Celtic people, 
when he says that, "Gothinos, Gallica lingua coarguit 
non esse Germanos." It is hence plain, that he knew of 
such a distinction, and was aware of its real nature. We 
must take care, here, not to be 'misled by the terra Go- 
thinos, so like our own word Goths. The remains of 
the Helvetic Celts still exist, as a separate race, in the 
neighbourhood of the Valais. 

This very term means Gaul, like our own Wales; the 
W,V, and G, being convertible letters. It is a term of some 
importance in the present enquiry. The Highlanders 
imagine that Gael and Gal mean two distinct people. But 
the word is the same ; and whatever confusion lies here, 
is of anothor nature. It is a generic term, though often 
misapplied. In the Saxon Chronicle, Kent, Sussex, 
Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset, Cornwall, &c. are called 
Wealas and Walen. Galloway, Galway, Waldenses, 
Galatians, are all from the same word. The principal 
confusion has arisen from applying the term Gauls, and 
that of "lingua Gallica," to the Gothic tribes who settled 
in and on Celtic Gaul. Hence the Gauls are not always 
Celts, any more than are the ancient KeXrai. Both mis- 
takes are of a similar nature: the writers of whatever 
period, having- been often misled by the Geography, 
sometimes by the transmutation of Language resulting 
from conquests. There were German Gauls, as there 
were German " Celtse." Cisalpine Gaul was German or 
Gothic. The Gauls of Brennus were Goths or Germans : 
and so were many more, whom History has recorded as 
Gauls. Galatia was Gaul in name ; but the Galatians, 
of whom we alone know, were Goths, not Celts. These 
remarks might serve to explain a confusion which per- 
vades volumes ; volumes which they might have saved : 


but its extent and nature will be more fully detailed im- 
mediately, in examining the ancient writers, on their use 
of the term Celt. 

The other Celtic people of early Europe, as far as we 
can discover any thing respecting- them, may be com- 
prised under the general term Pelasgi ; as, following 
some ancient authors, I include, under this race, the 
early settlers of Italy. Now, as I formerly hinted, Pink- 
kerton, and Jamieson more recently, in his Hermes Scy- 
thicus, attempt to prove that the Pelasgi were Scythians 
or Goths. They have followed Sheringham ; but I need 
not name the other authors who have maintained this 
theory ; and I could not go through all their arguments, 
in much less space than that of their own volumes. 
Pinkerton's judgment here, seems to have been warped 
by his unaccountable wrath against the name of Celt. 
His own reading ought to have shown him that he 
was wrong. Jamieson concludes that the Hellenes and 
Pelasgi were originally the same people, and that the 
Pelasgi were not Phenicians, any more than Celts. Had 
this been the fact, the Greek could not have been the 
language which it is. I shall show that they were dif- 
ferent races: and if the proofs have been somewhat an- 
ticipated in the remarks on the Gaelic tongue, there is 
yet much to be done. 

The physiological argument must serve me in lieu of 
a minute analysis of these two writers* While such an 
examination would be endless, it would also be super- 
fluous; because such is the force of this argument that it 
is impossible to escape from it. There are few now who 
do not know the aspect of a Greek. In particular, the 
Mainotesare precisely the pure, dark, small, black-eyed, 
black-haired Celts, which we can still find occasionally 
in the Highlands and in Wales; and, much more decid- 
edly, in the hills of the Valais, and in Brittany. The 
raw-boned, tall, light-eyed, fair-haired, Scythian, or Goth, 
never could have furnished this race. It is, simply, im- 
possible. Languages may be cast oft' and assumed ; but 


the form and constitution, never. On the other hand, the 
lonians were probably the Scythians, or Goths of Pin- 
kerton, and of Greece, and the second Colony; though 
-Athenian pride and conceit thought fit to suppose itself 
prior and autochthonous. Megara was Ionic, as well as 
Attica. Isocrates, and the Athenians also, boast that 
theirs was the most ancient city of Greece. But Pau- 
sanias says that Lycosura in Arcadia was older; and 
Dionysius of Halicarnassus decides, positively, that 
Arcadia was the parent colony of the Pelasgian tribes. 
Hence the Pelasgic must have been the prior settlement ; 
as it ought to be, from general considerations respecting 
the priority of the Celtic race in Europe, and indepen- 
dently of historical testimony. The Spartans, Dorians, 
and yEolians, as well as the Arcadians, were Pelasgi and 
Celts ; as we know from other authorities. All Pelopon- 
nesus was Celtic, because it was Pelasgian, Strabo 
says that all beyond the Isthmus, except the Megarians, 
Athenians and Dorians, were then called iEolians. Now 
1 have shown, under the head of Language, that the 
earliest Latin, the " Prisca" of Isidore's Origines, resem- 
bled the iEolian Greek ; which contains numerous Celtic 
words. It was thought to have been derived from that ; 
but it probably came from the Pelasgic colonies of Italy, 
as I then remarked. That these were a Celtic people I 
shall presently show; so as to add a double confirmation 
to this view. On the other hand, the ^av6oi; Menelaus 
and Achilles, and all the Glaucopes, were Goths. The 
very description proves it. So probably were the ewv^jpSf?, 
the well-limbed, or legged, not the " well-booted " peo- 
ple. They may be found still : if less abundant. 

Such is the general argument from the Races or 
Breeds. There is no other mode of explaining the dark 
population of present Greece. It is not the Gothic race. 
There is no other mode of explaining the double origin 
of the Greek tongue, of accounting for its Celtic portion, 
or its Pelasgic words, and its Gothic, or Sanscrit, gram- 
mar. And the one confirms the other ; so as not to leave 


a rational doubf, " a priori," behind. There were two 
languages ; there were two people. The languages find 
their resemblances still, in those of two modern races of 
Celts and Goths ; and two breeds, or two corresponding 
physiological divisions of People, are still attached re- 
spectively, to the same two divisions of language. The 
Pelasgi must have been Celts. 

But this view of the settlement of Greece seems capa- 
ble of more minute confirmation, by the testimonies of 
ancient authors, and by historical facts. Greece was at 
first subjected to considerable changes, and to frequent 
settlements. There was no g^eneral union before the 
Trojan war. Pelasgium was the oldest and the largest 
division or region. The Hellenes followed ; and it was 
this race which accompanied Achilles to Troy. Hence 
it is that he was ^avBoi;, a ferocious and warlike Goth; a 
worthy rival of Odin or Regner Lodbrog. Helen herself 
was, doubtless, a Scandinavian Beauty; a Goth. The 
predominant number of the Greek warriors against Troy, 
seem to have been of this race ; and as the Trojans were, 
with equal probability, a Celtic people, we have here a 
type of the contests afterwards carried on between Scan- 
dinavian and Celtic tribes, with similar success. It was 
when " Greek met Greek," when Goth was pitched 
against Goth, that " came the tug of war." If this be a 
somewhat fanciful, it is at least an amusing parallel. 

As Attica became the most powerful state, by attract- 
ing others, the name Pelasgi was at length lost in that of 
Hellenes : just as the Picts were replaced, in name, not 
in person, by the Scots. As to the Pelasgians, the dis- 
pute respecting their Phenician origin seems thus easily 
settled ; as I more than hinted before when speaking of 
the Gaelic tongue. Astle, arguing from language, says 
that they were Phenicians. That alone would not prove 
it ; because, as I then showed, the Phenicians and Pelasgi, 
like many other nations, were from the common Celtic 
stock. But his position has been disputed, solely, or 
chiefly, because his opponents thought fit to suppose the 


Pelasgi Scythians ; and as the Phenicians were Celts, it 
was not convenient to admit this theory. That objection 
is thus removed ; and the same view, as I have also re- 
marked, reconciles the dispute respecting the supposed 
difference between a Pelasgic and a Phenician alphabet, 
while it confirms the Celtic nature of the Pelasgi. It is, 
however, probable, that the Pelasgi were really Pheni- 
cians, or rather, that they branched from the Syrian Celtic 
stock into Greece. It is generally admitted that the Ca- 
rians and Phenicians peopled all the Isles. Pelops ar- 
rived from Asia, and gave his name to Peloponnesus. 
This was the opinion of Thucydides; and he believed 
also that this origin was proved by the opening of some 
ancient graves, in the expiations that were solemnized 
at Delos, and by finding that the bodies had been buried 
according to the Phenician mode. Among other things, 
the heads were laid to the west, instead of the east. To 
shorten the references and quotations in support of the 
Celtic origin of the Pelasgi, I shall only further add gene- 
rally, tbatPausanias, Herodotus, and Dionysius of Hali-. 
carnassus, say, that the Pelasgic colonies continued, 500 
years before Christ, to inhabit the shores of the Helles- 
pont and the south of Italy, retaining their barbarous 
manners and speech. A barbarous speech could not have 
been the Greek of that day. It was the Celtic. 

Though all this historical evidence seems positive, I 
am bound to add that there is much confusion among- the 
ancient writers on this subject, and much obscurity re- 
specting the colonization of Greece, of which advantage 
has been taken by those who had favourite systems to 
support, and who seem to have been more anxious about 
those than about the truth. The three authors whom I 
have last quoted, for example, state certain Pelasgic co- 
lonies as differing in speech and manners. It is easy, 
however, to reconcile most of these difficulties, if not all, 
where truth alone is the object. The same misapplication 
oi' terms in the case of Pelasgi as in those of Celts and 
Gauls, will reconcile the greater part. We must allow 


something- for the retention of the ancient geographi- 
cal names, something for the changes of language in 
consequence of the repetition of Colonies and Conquests ; 
and, with these aids, there will be little left that we can- 
not explain. If I have succeeded in doing it, it is a 
subject far too extensive for my limits, and I must ex- 
clude it from this place. Let the physiological argument 
be held as a perpetual check over all these investigations, 
and there will be little left for future volumes on this 

What remains to be said on the Pelasgic Celts, be- 
longs chiefly to the history of Rome, and is partially no- 
ticed under the head of Language. Here, the same con- 
fusion has been made, and from the same causes. The 
Celtic portion of the " lingua prisca" of Rome, must, as I 
have shown, be sought among the Sabines, Etrurians, 
Umbrians and Ausonians. The ancient inflexions of the 
words are Celtic, though the modern are Greek or San- 
scrit ; and the cause of the latter is apparent, in the bor- 
rowing of the Romans from Greece. I must condense the 
ancient testimonies on the subject of these early Italians, 
as much as I can. 

Polybius proves that the Celts settled in Italy, from 
the foot of the mountains to the Adriatic ; and he remarks 
that the ancient language differed so much from that of 
his time, that it could not be understood. It was not 
Greek, therefore, at that day, but Celtic. He doubted 
if he could understand even the treaty of 505, with Car- 
thage. Even in 260 A. C, the inscription on the Co- 
lumna rostrata differed from the language of Julius Caesar. 
Pugnandod and praedad were the ablatives ; the d be- 
ing- dormant, as the dh is in Irish. The genitive, in a 
similar manner, was pennai. That the Etruscans were 
Pelasgi, has, perhaps, been sufliiciently shown by the cor- 
respondence of the alphabets. Florus says, that the Um- 
brians were " antiquissimus Italise populus." Dionysius 
Hal. says, that they possessed a great part of Italy, when 
the Pelasgi settled in Greece in 1500 A. C; and as this 


was prior to the appearance of the Goths in Europe, they 
must have been Celts, ^lian calls them indigenous. 
Pliny, Solinus, Julius Firmicus, and others, confirm the 
same opinion. Herodotus indeed says that the Etrus- 
can language was not Pelasgic. His testimony cannot 
be of much value, when he was not acquainted with 
either; but if it were true, it would prove nothing, when 
the Welsh and the Irish, equally derived from one root, 
and that a Celtic one also, are mutually unintelligible. 
He Avould have equally called these different languages. 
But this venerable Historian is equally confused, as are 
most of those who have mentioned this subject, respect- 
ing the early colonization of Italy. His errors on one 
subject, confirm this view of his errors on the other; be- 
cause both are of the same nature. Some ancient au- 
thors, and many moderns following them, bring the Pe- 
lasgi from Arcadia into Italy. They were aware of the 
similarity of the language ; and hence, if the Pelasgi 
were Celts, so must the Umbri and the rest of those na- 
tions have been. On any view, these opinions confirm 
the Celtic origin of the whole, equally in Greece and 
Italy. Others choose that Etruria should send colonies 
to Greece ; and here the artists interfere, because it in- 
volves the History of Greek Art. Thus Winkelman, 
Lanzi, D'Arco, and others, are at variance with each 
other, and sometimes with common sense. This particu- 
lar subject I must pass, as it would form a dissertation 
itself: only remarking, that Winkelman must be wrong, 
because, in addition to the opinion of Dion. Halic. just 
quoted, Thucydides says that Greece was in a state 
of comparative barbarism, when Etruria was iit a high 
state of civilization and far advanced in art. Pliny 
says that Marcus Flavins, in 489 A. C. brought 2000 
statues from Bolsena to Rome. It was already a declin- 
ing nation, a nation declined by luxury from previous 
prosperity and power, when it was overwhelmed by 
Rome; and this alone would suffice to show that the 
Italian colonies of Celts were at least as early in date as 

(>»!GIN AND RATES. 2()9 

the Greek Polasgi. T!iey should, in fact, be earlier, on 
this g-round : and that remote state of civilization con- 
firms the opinion of Dion. Halic. just quoted. It is 
not necessary that Italy should have been colonized from 
Greece because the people were the same. This is the 
Irish blunder respecting- their own Phenician settlements, 
in another form. Tiiey were the same people, or resem- 
bled each other, because they were from a common stock. 
Yet there mig-ht have been many interchanges of colonies 
and settlements. That there were many in after times, we 
know; and there might have been earlier ones. Those alone 
who wish to make confusion in this subject, for the pur- 
pose of supporting their causes, may easily do so, by 
misapprehending this portion of History. That Etruria 
taught its arts to Greece, seems a fact as nearly proved 
as the nature of the subject admits ; not merely by chro- 
nolog-y and history, but by the characters of Etruscan 
and early Greek Art themselves: a subject on which I 
cannot here enter. If this proposition has been reversed, 
that seems chiefly to have arisen from the Artists and 
Antiquaries confounding- the produce of Magna Graecia 
with the works of the Etruscans in the same country, and 
from their thus mistaking modern Greek for ancient 
Greek art ; but still more perhaps from habitual venera- 
tion and prejudice towards that country. I think that it 
cannot be necessary to examine more evidence to prove 
that the early Italian settlers were Celts. It would be 
easy enough to protract this view to the length of its 

One incidental remark, I must be allowed to make 
here. Pinkerton, chiefly, but others also, have stated 
the Celts as a savage people, not only deficient in civi- 
lization, but incapable of it. The very name Celt has 
been held forth as a stigma, and as another word for a 
Savage. To repeat all the injurious language which 
that able Antiquary has thought fit to use, is unnecessary ; 
but it would be impossible to find a very soft term for 
this most unfounded accusation. To name Phenicia, in 


government, enterprise, and arts, is a sufficient answer* 
To name early Greece, bold, warlike, and piratical 
Greece, is sufficient. To name Etruria and the asso- 
ciated states of Rome, in Art, in ag-riculture, in policy, 
and even in arms, is sufficient. The Nobles of Rome 
were sent to Etruria for education. Livy says that they 
were taught that language formerly, just as they were 
instructed in Greek in his day. It was spoken in Rome 
in the Augustan age. Troy was Celtic; Carthage was 
Celtic. Allowing a great deal for fable, the Turditani 
of Strabo must have been a civilized people. Since the 
Jews possessed a language from this leading Root, they 
must also be classed in the same division of Original Na- 
tions. They were fundamentally of the race of those 
whom they long after conquered, under the Divine orders 
and protection. Distinct as they were thus rendered, 
they were still historically and physically affiliated to the 
other Celtic tribes of Classical antiquity, as they were to 
their Pagan neighbours of Palestine by language : and 
hence one of the great causes of their aberrations into 
the surrounding Idolatry. Thus much forthat division of 
this great people, M'hose history, as connected with Greece 
and Rome, and with Holy Scripture, has come down to 
us; since I must not extend this enquiry. 

With respect to the Western Celts, we have but very 
imperfect information, from various causes, of which some 
are sufficiently obvious. Yet, in Europe, they were the 
miners and artisans in metals to the Goths, as they had 
been before. Every fable and every fact prove that they 
possessed, at least those arts. They are the Dwarfs who 
figure in the Ksempe Viser, in metals, mines, and pre- 
cious stones. Possessing those arts, it isscarcel}' possible 
but that they should have had many others : as the Arts 
are all mutually connected. To suppose that such a 
people were not agriculturists, is idle. A Celt was not 
necessarily a " savage, incapable of education." The 
Celts of Britain however, and possibly those of Germany, 
had not made such advances in Society, as those of 


Italy and Greece had done. Yet we must not be too 
certain, even of this. The Goths were their extermina- 
tors. This is proved by History ; it is proved by the 
fact of their disappearance. In Britain and Ireland, in 
particular, they were subject to the successive ferocity 
and conquests of Belgae, Romans, Picts, Saxons, Danes, 
Norweg^ians, and Normans. They were so far diminished 
in numbers, that it is scarcely too much to call this, in a 
political view, extermination. If they had possessed arts 
and civilization, those must have been destroyed also. 
We have no right to conclude that because we cannot 
discover them, they never possessed any : since the want 
of records is not a proof. Mexico is a recent example in 
point. The very traces of an ancient civilized empire are 
vanished. Had the Spaniards been the Goths, had the 
sera been the first century, we should now have known 
no more of the Mexicans than of the Western Celts. 
But the conquerors of America who saw, could also write; 
the Celts of Britain had no Clavigero in their enemies. 
The examples are endless. Had it not been for the 
Sacred writers, we should never have known, even the 
names of the Syrian tribes which the Israelites extermi- 
nated. Asia is full of the remains of people, respecting 
whom we can scarcely conjecture. The Scythians, at 
some points, both of ancient time and of place, were a 
highly civilized people. Greece itself borrowed from 
them ; but it is only by the most incidental records that 
we know it. This is the apology for the history of Abaris 
and the Hyperboreans, which I brought forward for 
ridicule, formerly. Much has been lost, unquestionably; 
but, in this and similar cases, while we admit the general 
fact, we have no right to invent our own solutions. The 
history of early Egypt is preserved in its Pyramids alone. 
They happened to be indestructible. Almost all else 
must be sought in foreign writers ; since, like the Celts, 
it has not recorded in letters, its own strength and fame. 
Had the Architecture of Egypt been that of modern 
Britain, putty and paste, brick, and chalk, and sand, had 

272 OHIO IN AND llAfflS. 

its funereal usages resembled our own, had there been no 
Moses, no Herodotus, no Greece, no Rome, the Nile 
would now have been known but as the child of barren 
rocks and burning sands, the parent of Crocodiles, and 
Plague, and Papyrus, of marshes and Mamelukes, and 
misery. Chaldea, Assyria, Phenicia, admit of almost 
similar remarks. It was Rome that preserved Carthage 
for us: Troy must be sought in Homer. The history 
of the splendour of Etruria, has been slenderly pre- 
served by the notices of hostile writers. Yet, like pris- 
tine Egypt, it has also handed down to us the history 
of its arts in its works : but, unlike that wonderful coun- 
try, in the most fragile of materials, in records unexpect- 
edly immortal. Pottery, medals, stone, lime, clay, rub- 
bish, rust, and dirt, those are the historians of Nations; 
in those we must almost seek, even for Babylon the Great, 
the Queen of the world. 

The Irish Antiquaries might have made much of this 
argument ; but they have overlooked it. I do not mean 
to do for them what they have themselves neglected; to 
lend them conjectures. Let them conjecture for them- 
selves: for that which is possible may not be true. The 
civilization of early Ireland which is actually recorded, 
and which they have so grossly misplaced, begins with 
the sixth Century, and is Saxon or Gothic. This is the 
geometry, music, arithmetic, and grammar, which they 
taught to Charlemagne. This learning was, assuredly, as 
little Celtic as it was " Milesian" or " Persian:" and it 
is this misrepresentation, this confounding and misplacing 
of dates, which has so justly brought their antiquities 
into contempt. Yet perhaps the present observations 
may explain what Tacitus says, when he remarks that 
the Irish ports were more frequented by foreign ships 
than the British. They exported woollen manufac- 
tures. Huet chooses to doubt. So does Ledwich ; but 
he was angry, and it did not agree with his system. A 
Celtic civilization in Britain is possible; and I mean to 
demand no more. If there really was no such thing. 


perhaps if may be explained by the nature of tlieir abo- 
minable governments. The principles of freedom were 
established in all the Celtic governments of eastern and 
southern Europe. Etruria was singularly free. There 
were twelve governors of provinces, who formed an aris- 
tocratic council, and the Chief was elected by the Na- 
tion. The Etrurians were notedly jealous of their Li- 
berty. The Priestcraft of the Druids made the Celts of 
the west a caste of Pariahs. Nothing* could have thriven 
under such a detestable system. Even in the matter 
of war, the Poet's judgment might have taught him that 
it was in vain for an idle priesthood to preach immortality 
to its warriors, when itself refused to put its own timid 
hand to the spear. It was not thus that Mahomet ren- 
dered his promises availing, and his Sword biting. 

But I must suffer these reflections to make such weight 
as they may, and proceed to examine the mistakes of au- 
thors ancient and modern, respecting the Celts. It is 
unfortunate that more than three-fourths of this enquiry 
must consist in the correction of errors, and in the dis- 
entanglement of the confusion which the mistakes and 
rashness of careless antiquaries have introduced into it. 
But it is here the shortest road to truth. To destroy the 
enemy at once, is better than to be condemned to fight 
him at every new position. AVhen once the rubbish is 
cleared away, the truth will shine out, of itself, with little 

It is indifferent which of the moderns we begin with. 
The Chronology of error is not worth arranging. Pezron 
completely confounds, even his own Titans, by supposing 
that the Celts settled upon the Germans, whereas the 
reverse is notorious. This is a good foundation for the 
History of Saturn and Japhet, of Gomer and Pluto. Pel- 
loutier sets out by confounding the Celts with the Scy- 
thians. This is an equally valuable basis for two vo- 
lumes. But each Abbe was a Bas Breton ; each derives 
all Europe from his favoured brethren. " On a bien dit, 
que si les triangles faisoient un Dieu, il lui donneroient 



trois cotes." He is extremely "learned" also; and he 
confesses that he read his authorities " apres souper," 
just as he read the " Gazette." Which is probable 
enough. There is some justification for Pinkerton's 
wrathful judgment on Celtic intellects. He may include 
a few more. Mallet's work is almost useless, for the 
same reason: unless, like Pelloutier's, whenever we meet 
the word Celt, we substitute Goth for it. Dr. Percy has 
exposed his error ; for it was he who saw it first. Bruker 
may rank with the rest. He confounds every thing: 
Celts, Scythians, Germans, Gauls, Britons, Spaniards, 
and many more. Whitaker is worse, if possible; since, 
in addition, he confounds the Saxon and the Celtic 
tongues, as I before observed ; and, confident in his own 
strength, abuses Dr. Johnson for deriving from the Ice- 
landic what he should have sought in his imaginary 
Celtic. Some of these persons make, even the Franco- 
manni and the Marcomanni Celts. It is not easy to com- 
pare superlatives ; or perhaps Borlase might stand one 
step higher; since he even confounds the religion of 
Odin with that of his favoured Druids. " The learned" 
Dr. John Macpherson, as he is called, has proved, among 
many other things, as I have already been obliged to re- 
mark, that the Celts were tall and fair, and had blue eyes, 
and so forth. This is but a sandy bottom for twenty-one 
" dissertations." But it is Pelloutier, quotations and all, 
transplanted to Sky. Boullet, — I have marked him else- 
where. Leibnitz and Lipsius are not blameless; nor 
Bochat, nor Le Court de Gebelin, nor many more. But 
enough of the moderns. We must see what the ancients 
have done. 

Briefly, as nine-tenths of them call the Goths, Celtae, 
they ought to be right, because they are the majority and 
" the ancients ;" and we should be wrong in opposing 
them. That would be a very easy way of getting rid of 
the subject and the difficulty together. But it cannot 
pass. They had not paid that attention to the distinctions 
of ancient nations which we have done; because those 


were scarcely an object of interest to persons who con- 
sidered all but themselves as Barbarians. While also 
they had not the same advantages as ourselves, in his- 
torical and geographic knowledge, this subject was not 
in the list of their sciences. How little they have done 
in this branch of Archceology and Philology, is well 
known to every scholar. 

There can be no question respecting their errors in 
this matter, when really examined. There were two 
leading divisions of People in early Europe; dark Celts 
and fair Goths ; the primary and the secondary migrants. 
The distinctions and the relative priority of those two 
great nations have been proved. We prove the majoritj*^ 
of the ancient writers to be wrong, by means of them- 
selves; we can prove it by Caesar alone. He knew the 
Celts, and he knew the Belgic Goths : he knew the dis- 
tinction of their languages. Tacitus, and others, have 
described their persons; and we cannot allow the less 
accurate classical writers, either to transfer the names, or 
to confound the races : which they have done. I may 
therefore as safely examine ancient errors as I have done 
modern ones. Had those moderns exerted the same 
criticism, these mistakes could not have been propagated. 
To take them in a mass, for the sake of brevity, the fol- 
lowing authors call the Gauls, Celts; KeXrai, KeXrot, or 
Celtse. Herodotus, Aristotle, Polybius, Diodorus, Dio- 
nysius of Halicarnassus, Dionysius Periegetes, Strabo, 
Plutarch, Arrian, Pausanias, Ptolemy, Athenseus, Ste- 
phen of Byzantium, Livy, Pomponius Mela, Pliny, Lu- 
can, Silius Italicus, and Caesar. Caesar alone is always 
right, because he made distinctions. The rest are oftener 
wrong than right, because they confounded the Belgic, 
or Gothic, with the Celtic Gauls. This is the blunder 
from geography, to which 1 formerly alluded. Appian, 
Suidas, and Dion Cassius, are among the worst: because 
they almost always call the Germans Celts. Some of 
the others also commit the same error. Tacitus, among 
other mistakes on this subject, describes the Eslhonians 

T 2 


as setlling in Prussia and Livonia, and retaining the 
« Celtic" tongue. This was the Gothic. Justin describes 
the multiplication and conquests of the " Celts," under 
the same error; calling them, " aspera, audax, et belli- 
cosa gens." Florus and Livy describe their courage. 
This was the courage, and these were the conquests, 
of the warlike and fierce Goths. 

It will be sufficient to prove a few of them wrong, by 
their own testimony : as it would almost involve the 
history of ancient Europe, to go through the whole. 
Diodorus says that the KeXroi are tall and fair, and have 
yellow hair. His error is strongly marked by his own 
criticism. He says that the inhabitants of Narbonne 
were KeXroi, and the other people of that country, Takarai, 
but that the Romans confounded them all under the 
name of Gauls. KeXxo* and TaXarai are the same words, 
and Gaul is Galatian : so that it is plain from this, as 
well as the description, that he applied the term Celt to 
a Goth ; while it is equally evident that he was aware 
of their being two distinct races, and that his Galatians 
are the real Celts. Arrian says that the Celtse are 
" procerse staturse," and Silius Italicus uses the same 
term. Strabo says, that the KeKrai had yellow hair and 
were avSpe? fvi^tiwiarept. He coufouuds them again, when 
he says that the Germans, Tefi^avovi;, and the Celts, lived 
beyond the Rhine, but that they resembled each other 
in form, manners, and mode of life. This is the de- 
scription of Goths only, not of Goths and Celts. The 
Personal marks here enumerated, are the very marks of 
the Germans, which Tacitus, Pliny, Claudian, and many 
more, have given. " Magni artus," " truces," " cserulei 
oculi," says the former of the Germans. This author, 
Strabo, further says, that because of the celebrity of the 
Celts, the Greeks applied this term to all the Gauls. He 
is here committing an error, as well as the Greeks whom 
he criticises. He blames them for calling those among 
the Gauls who were really Celts, by the name KcXto*; 
himself applying that term to the Gothic Gauls: while 

ORIGIN AN!) RAti;S. . 277 

it is plain that he, like Diodorus, knew that these were 
two distinct people. Livy says that the Celts had " fusa 
et Candida corpora." This is more than enough to prove 
that the other authors were describing Goths under the 
name of Celts. Posidonius calls the Allobroges, who 
were a Teutonic tribe, Celts. If there could yet be a 
doubt, Polybius proves the certainty of this confusion, 
by naming the tribes of the " Celts" who sacked Rome 
under Brennus. They were the Semnones, Boii, and 
Veneti ; and these were Gothic Gauls, or Germans. 

Some of the authors, however, whom I first enume- 
rated, are not always wrong on this point ; being correct 
to a certain extent, respecting the inhabitants of Gaul, 
and thus confirming the opinion which I deduced from 
Csesar's knowledge ; namely, that the real distinction 
between Goths and Celts was actually known, though 
the two people were often confounded ; and that the 
Celts of those who were truly aware of the distinction, 
were the very Celts of our own system. Csesar, indeed, 
confesses that they confounded the Celtte, Aquitani, and 
Belgse, under the general name of Gauls; and in this 
case, he was aware that there were three languages and 
three people, the real European Celts, the African Celts, 
or the oflTspring of the Iberi and Mauri, and the German, 
or Belgic Goths. His term Celtte is correctly applied, 
and is our own authority for the name of those people 
whom the Goths conquered, and who spoke the language 
of Armorica and Ireland. I may confirm this by Pausa- 
nias, who appears to be right, though perhaps more from 
chance than design, when he says that the Gauls lived near 
the western sea of remote Europe, but that their ancient 
name was Celts. It is plain, therefore, that those Ancients 
did not use the term Celt for Goth, designedly, as the 
real denomination of that Race, but from ignorance ; and 
consequently, that we are not wrong ourselves in restor- 
ing the former name to its proper owners. 

Though the certainty of this confusion is thus com- 
pletely proved against the Ancients, a few words more 


on this subject will not be uninstructive, while it will 
render unnecessary any minute remarks on the Goths 
hereafter. The Gauls of Bellovesus who attacked Rome 
in the time of Tarquin the eider and built Milan, were 
Goths ; as were those, under Sigovesus, who settled in 
Germany and Galatia, receiving the latter from Nico- 
medes. Hence, as I formerly remarked, Galatia is Celtic 
in name only. The Insubri were Belgic Gauls, like the 
Semnones and Salluvii ; and it was those tribes which 
beat the Etruscans and settled in Italy. This was one of 
the conquests of Celts by Goths. The Gauls who plun- 
dered Thrace, Byzantium, Macedonia, and Delphi, in 

279 A. C. and whom Cicero mentions in his Oratio pro 
Fronteio, were Goths, as I before noticed. This was the 
warlike and restless race which drove the Celts before 
them in Europe, and which, under various names and 
forms, has been the main source of our present popula- 
tion. It is evident, from all this, that the term Gaul, 
like Celt, was often applied by the ancients to a Gothic 

We may, therefore, turn to this race ; having cleared 
up the history of the Celts, and removed the confusion 
in which they have been involved, both by the ancients 
and the moderns. So much has also been now said re- 
specting the Goths, that, as far as the present purpose is 
concerned, little remains to be added. Pinkerton has 
made this question so clear, that it is fruitless to go over 
it. The work is done to our hands • and it is not my 
purpose to transcribe what may better be read in the 
original solid and satisfictory Essay. It is sufficient to 
say that the Goths were the Scythians of the Ancients. 
Nor need I enumerate the various names by which they 
were known to those writers, or by which their several 
tribes were designated. I need not repeat where I can 
neither correct nor elucidate; and, for the object at pre- 
sent in view, it is sufficient to notice those tribes which 
were concerned in the settlement of Britain. 

Among these, however, a doubt hangs over the 


Cimbri ; and this is the only point, after that of the Pe- 
lasgi, on which I feel disposed to question Pinkerton. 
While also this subject has been almost inextricably 
confused by every author, without one exception, it is 
a most important one in the history of our own popula- 
tion. Till it be cleared up, it is in vain to lay down any 
theory on that question ; and, as before, it is better to 
smooth the path at once, than to leave obstacles to en- 
counter at every succeeding step. As to the name, it is 
sufficient to say that the Etymologists have derived the 
term Cimbri from Gomer. Those who think such ques- 
tions worth volumes, may write volumes. It is enough 
to be condemned to read them. Plutarch makes Cimber 
the generic name of a robber era marauder: and so do 
others among- the Ancients. It has been thought that 
they were named after the Cimbric Chersonesus or Jut- 
land. 1 think that the reverse will presently appear. 

It is plain that the ancients used the term Cimbri, Cim- 
merii, and Kiw^poi, as a generic name of the great Gaulish 
and German nations. Diodorus says that the Gauls were 
called CimTuerii ; and Josephus, who has a theory to sup- 
port, calls the Galatians Gomarians; presumed by the 
Etymologists to be the same term. Appian and Diodorus 
also use the term Celt and Cimber as equivalent ; 
^* KeKroii roii; KtjM.|3poK Xeyof/.evoi^ :" for it is plain, from other 
authors, that this is the real object of that passage. This 
is almost evidence enough ; but the remainder will ap- 
pear, on enquiring who the Cimbri were. The term 
Cymri, or Cumri, appears, with us, to have been equally 
generic; having been applfed to the inhabitants of 
Wales, of Cumberland, and of a district in Scotland, 
bounded on one side by the Clyde ; whence the Cumbray 
islands still. 

Now Pezron thinks that the Cimbri were Celts; so 
do Whitaker, and Macpherson, and many more. It is 
indifferent what those think, who confounded the Celts 
and the Goths : because, with them, it is plain that the 
Cimbri might be either. Llwyd thinks that the Cimbri 


were Celts. His opinions always merit respect ; but they 
are wrong on this point. Pinkerton is an antagonist of 
more moment, and I must take him as the champion for 
the whole. He decides that the Cimbri were Celts; but 
not in his usual firm and positive manner. He does not 
seem to have been satisfied with his own evidence; and 
had he consulted anthors whom it is quite surprising that 
he should have overlooked, he must have changed his 
mind. His testimonies are circuitous, inferential, and 
feeble; while it seems probable that his ardour for his 
own system misled him. His main stay are the passages 
already quoted from Appian and Diodorus, and these are 
neutral on this point ; partly because the terms Cimber 
and Celt are interchangeable, and partly because, as I 
have fully shown, the ancients applied the term Celt to 
the Goths. I shall now prove, from them, that the Cimbri 
were Goths. 

Tacitus says that it was in 640 U. C. that the arms of 
the Cimbri were first heard. " Sexcentesimum et quad- 
ragesimum annum urbs nostra agebat, cum primum Cim- 
brorum audita sunt arma." These were the arms of the 
Gothic Gauls, already mentioned. Appian says that the 
people who plundered Delphi under Brennus, were 
Cimbri. I have already shown that these were Goths. 
These are facts enough from history : it is superfluous to 
quote more. But the description of the Cimbri cannot 
be mistaken : it is that of the Goths. " Cimbri Iseti perire 
in bello, in morbo cum lamentis," says Paulus Diaconus. 
Quintilian, speaking of the Cimbri, says " Immanes sunt 
animis atque corporibus, et ad insitam feritatem vaste 
utroque exercent, bellando animos, corpora, adsuetudine 
laborura." Cicero, in his Tusculan dissertations, remarks 
that the " Cimbri et Celtiberi in preeliis exultant, la- 
mentantur in morbo : " and Florus confirms all this, when 
he compares them to wild beasts ; " Nee minus animorum 
immanitate quam corporum, belluis suis proximi." When 
he describes their migrations, he confirms it by a different 
kind of testimony. " Cimbri, Theutoni, atque Tigurini, 



ab extremis Galilee profugi " — "novas sedes quaere- 
bant." I need produce no more evidence, and I need make 
no commentaries on this. The Cimbri were Goths, not 

The BelgjB scarcely require a word; as their Gothic 
origin is universally admitted, except by such writers 
as Pelloutier and his followers. The value of their 
opinions is already understood. Caesar's testimony can- 
not be eluded. He says that the Bel gae differed from the 
Celtas in language, and that the former were descended 
from the Germans; "ortos a Germanis : " and, that having 
passed the Rhine, " Gallos expulisse." As to the Picts, 
Pinkerton has demonstrated their Gothic, and, apparently, 
their Scandinavian origin, so completely, that this point 
may be considered as now taken out of the regions of 
historical controversy. His evidence cannot be abridged, 
and I need not transcribe it. This basis is fixed. Of the 
Danes, Saxons, and Norwegians, the history is as familiar 
as our own. I may therefore proceed to the actual colo- 
nization of Britain and Ireland; since that of the High- 
lands, which is here the ultimate object of enquiry, de- 
pends on it. 

If the Welsh brought the name of Cymri or Cimbri 
with them, and if they were all Cymri, they could not 
have been Celts, as I have just shown. Yet they are 
partly such ; because their language is almost as Celtic 
as the Erse, because their topographic names are Celtic, 
and because they preserve a Celtic personal character. 
Llwyd's theory, following- Leibnitz, is, that there was an 
original Celtic population, and a second Celtic colony. 
Rowlands copies him. They are wrong. We must change 
the last term, before this theory of Wales is the true one. 
The second Colony must have been Gothic Cimbri. They 
were probably Belgse, and a part of those who colonized 
England ; driving the Celts before them, as they did on 
all occasions, conforming to their language, as they have 
done elsewhere, but imposing their own name of Cuniri. 
No other supposition will explain the Gothic race, or blue 


eyes of North Wales ; and this was the spirit which so 
long resisted Saxon and Norman England. It was Goth 
against Goth. Wales claims as little honour from its 
Celtic portion, as Ireland and Scotland. 

That the Belgae settled in England, we know from Caesar. 
The emigration of Belgic Gaul was, in his day, a recent 
event. Tacitus confirms the opinion, as far as assent can 
confirm it. " Gallos vicinum solum occupasse credibile 
est" The same Belgae appear to have settled in Ireland ; 
and, as it is esteemed, through England, and about the 
first Century. There is no evidence that they extended 
to Scotland. This is the first Gothic race, in Britain and 
Ireland at least. Ptolemy names them in the second 
Century : and they were reduced, together with the Cel- 
tic Britons, in the year 50 and onwards, by the Romans. 
Richard says that the Cauci and the Menapii, two Teu- 
tonic tribes, came to Britain before Caesar. The English 
Belgae were the Bibroci, Parisi, Regni, Cattivelauni, and 
Atrebatii. It is thought that the Belgae of Ireland set- 
tled in the south, and are the " Firbolgs " who oppose 
the Scandinavian invaders, in Ossian. 

Scotland has an indirect interest in the Belgae, as 
forming the probable basis of the Dalriadan colonies, 
whose lot it was to reduce divided Scotland into one 
kingdom, and to impose the term Scot on the people. 
To imagine a Celtic people making concjuestsover Goths, 
is as if the hare should turn on the wolf. The language, 
as I have often remarked, proves nothing. But they 
have a much stronger interest in the Picts, who formed 
the real Caledonia of the Romans, Though this people 
came from Scandinavia, they were intimately connected 
with Saxony, if not actually Saxons. The Cimbri, Sax- 
ons, Picts, and Danes, were almost one people. The 
Icelandic Chronicles say that the Saxons actually settled 
in Norway. Bede brings Hengist and Horsa from Odin. 
Peringskiold confirms this view : and the ancient writers 
in general speak of the Scandinavian and Saxon lan- 
guages as nearly the same in the time of Ethelred. It 


is indifterent how this is detennined ; as they were the 
same race, spenking' the same language. 

I will admit that he whohas the fortune to differ from 
Camden, Selden, Speed, Innes, and Chalmers, as well as 
from Whitaker, ought to feel some alarm at his temerity, 
or be very sure of his ground. As to a whole army of 
'' trium literarum homines," it would be somewhat over- 
much to provide answers for all of them. But what is 
this to encountering- Pinkerton and Ritson, as I have so 
often done. This last worthy indeed, cannot now give 
me " the lie valiant," as he has done to Percy, and to 
Warburton, and to every one else who happened to differ 
from him : and as to Mister John Pinkerton, he may 
be satisfied with his merited honours, and admit, if he 
can, that he has not kept a centry at every post. 

Astothedate of the Pictish invasion, it is obscure. Yet 
we may approximate near enough (o it for any useful 
purpose. Saxo Granimaticus speaks of Northern inva- 
sions of Ireland in the time of the Incarnation. Tacitus 
says that this people was powerful in ships and arms, in 
the year 100. Eumenius says that the Irish and the 
Picts invaded Britain in 50 A. C. If the authority of 
Nennius is to be admitted, he says, distinctly, that the 
Picts settled in Orkney, 200 years before Christ. It is 
probable that there was a long series of invasions, re- 
sembling those of the Danes and Norwegians between 
the eighth and tenth centuries. The identity of manners 
and people, justifies a conclusion which reconciles every 
thing. When Eric of Norway invaded Orkney, he found 
Peti settled in these islands, together with Papae, or Irish 
Priests. Pets are Picts. The Pentland Firth is called 
Petland, in the Icelandic history. The Roman or Latin 
etymology of Picts, it must be hoped, is completely aban- 
doned. This idle derivation and silly blunder, has been 
a cause of infinite confusion ; and may afford a warning 
example of the evils produced by fanciful and false 
etymologies. All this evidence, loose as it is, fixes a 
general date for the Pictish invasions, about the first cen- 

t2S4 ORICiN AiN'U RAC'liS. 

tury. The Romans found the Pictisii or Caledonian 
people established and powerful, thoug-h they do not 
mention the name till 290 ; and then it is to give it the 
false etymology which has produced so much idle dis- 
cussion. A minimum date is thus at least fixed. The 
general fact is confirmed incidentally by Eumenius, when 
he remarks, that, in the time of Julius Caesar, the Picts 
were the common enemies of Britain ; and by Ammianus 
Marcellinus, who points out the Vecturiones and the 
Dicaledones as these people. There is an equally inciden- 
tal confirmation of it by Gildas, as there is by Bede when 
he says that there were five languages used in Britain 
in his day: the British, the Irish, the English or Saxon, 
the Pictish, and the Latin. It has been attempted to 
evade this, by supposing that the Pictish was a dialect of 
the Irish. This is catching- at straws: and those who 
have questioned Bede, are among the writers whose shal- 
low and prejudiced views deprive them of all claim to 

It has been argued by most of the antiquaries whom 
I have here opposed, that the Picts must have spoken 
Gaelic and have been Celts, because the topographic 
names of the Low Country are so often Celtic. This 
proves only that the original inhabitants were Celts; 
which is precisely what I have already indicated. This 
argument has been directed against Pinkerton ; and if he 
has suffered, it is because he would not allow of any origi- 
nal Celtic people in Scotland. This system, my system, 
which is consonant to all the history of the Celtic and 
Gothic tribes, removes the whole difiiculty, and neutral- 
izes the argument. It appears to me that there is no 
longer any difficulty. It appears to me also that there 
ought at length to be peace on this question; if there 
ever could be peace or rest on a subject which has been 
the source of war and contention through Centuries. 

There is one other argument which I must also 
answer, because it has much less weight in itself than 
has been attached to it ; while it is a feather against the 


preceding evidence. The names of the Pictish King;s are 
said to be derived from the Gaelic. In the first phxce, the 
fact is not so. Some may be Gaelic; others are plainly 
Gothic ; but the etymology of the greater number is ob- 
scure. In the next place, the Gaelic and the Suio- 
Gothic agree to the extent of one half, as I formerly 
showed. It is likely further, that, as in all similar 
cases, the conquering Picts adopted many words, or a 
portion of the Gaelic tongue, just as the Saxons adopted 
many British words in England ; and, lastly, as these 
names have passed down by Erse tradition and have 
been recorded by Irish Monks, it is easy to understand 
how they should have been modified or changed. Even 
the list of Gaelic Kings, Latinized by the same hands, is 
scarcely intelligible. 

The invasions and settlement of the Picts extended to 
the Northern isles of Scotland and to Ireland ; whether 
to the ^budae, is uncertain. It is probable. These 
people appear to be the Lochlannic invaders of Ireland, 
and the real Feni, or Fions; a name, as Ledwich thinks, 
derived from Finland. That etymology is doubtful ; 
they might have been the " fair " Gael. But the general 
question is not affected by an unsettled etymology on 
this point. 

Be that what it may, these Picts drove back the na- 
tive Celts, both in Scotland and Ireland, and settled 
over them ; as the Anglo-Saxons afterwards did in Eng- 
land over the mixed Britons. Chalmers says that there 
were no previous Celts in Shetland, though there were 
in Orkney, and that this is proved by there being Dru- 
idical remains in the latter and not in the former. The 
fact is not correct, and the argument is of no use, if it 
w^ere. There are the same kinds of remains in both 
islands, and I have formerly shown that those works are 
not Druidical. It is certain that the Pictish conquests, 
in Scotland at least, were of the same ferocious charac- 
ter as those of the Saxons in England, because the 
conquerors retained their own language. I formerly 


showed the nature and value of this argument. The 
Celts were exterminated, using- that word in the same 
lax sense as applied to England, and driven to the woods 
and mountains. But they have left the traces of their 
original possession, in topographic names in the Low 
Country; as they have done, all over Europe. Had the 
Pictish invasions resembled that of the Normans in 
France, they would have lost the Scandinavian, and 
taken the Gaelic tongue. That they spoke a different 
one, is certain. Columba requires an interpreter to com- 
municate with them and to preach to them. I have re- 
marked, in its proper place, that this is the true source 
of the lanofuag^e of Low Scotland. 

It has been a fashion to suppose that the Picts were 
Savages ; naked and painted savages. This is nonsense ; 
it deserves no gentler a term. They were of the same 
races that invaded Rome and Greece, that settled in 
Italy. They were almost the agricultural and orderly 
" Germans" of Tacitus. They might have painted their 
faces, or dyed their hair with woad or aught else, as a 
fashion ; whether to strike terror into their enemies (as 
has been said), or not. All nations have their systems of 
ornament; and, for aught the fact bears, the " Naked 
Pict " whose " painted vest " Prince Vortigern wore, 
need not have been more naked or more painted than the 
Picts of a Parisian Assembly. The Romanized term, 
Picti, has here helped to mislead the careless. They 
fought in chariots; that implies arts. They were early 
and long powerful against the arms of Rome, and they 
appear then to have been long possessed of a vigorous 
government. Rather, they were under different govern- 
ments, like the German tribes ; and while we may safely 
reason from the one to the other, we are sure that they 
could not, without long-established order and intelli- 
gence, have united as they did, against powerful and 
experienced armies. It is probable that their civilization 
was equal to that of the Saxons of the Heptarchy : but 
we read of Kings in the one case, and of painted Savages 

ORl»ilN AND RACES. 287 

in the other, and become prejudiced accordingly. Such 
is the effect of terms. 

Here then is a theory, which, with the simple modifi- 
cation of allowing an original Celtic population, recon- 
ciles even Pinkerton : an antiquary whom, above all those 
who have interfered in this question, it would be least 
desirable to differ from, since it is he who first brought 
order into this chaos. That alteration reconciles all those 
who are worth reconciling. It leaves the leading- argu- 
ment of Camden, Selden, and Speed, men whom no 
one would willingly differ from, untouched, Whitaker 
may thrust himself among them if he pleases. It leaves 
Innes also, his Pictish Kings, and Tacitus his blue-eyed 
Germans, and Jamieson his Scottish language; while it 
explains what has been a perpetual source of error and 
controversy, the two, and different races, which, from a 
high antiquity, inhabited Scotland. 

I mentioned, originally, that the fair and tall among 
the present Highlanders had been derived from Norwe- 
gian blood. It is evident that they might equally have 
come of Pictish blood, had the Picts intermingled with 
the Celts ; which we can never know. They might also 
have come of Dalriadan blood, to a certain extent; if, as 
I have shown to be probable, this was chiefly a Belgic 
people. Hence, probably, arises the Scandinavian stamp 
of such central Highlanders as the Mac Gregors and 
others. Whitaker chooses to suppose that the Caledo- 
nians who opposed the Romans were Gael. I am almost 
tired of following his aberrations. The Romans were 
fully aware of their " German origin." Tacitus speaks 
as plain as man can speak. He says of the Caledonians 
who opposed the Romans, " Rutilis comse, magni artus, 
Germanicam originem asseverant." His knowledge of 
the Germans will not be questioned. It is marvellous 
how a writer like Whitaker, M'hose defect was not want 
of reading, could oppose such a passage as this. Even 
Malcolm, long after, talks of his yellow-haired people ; 


con firm inn- this opinion. The Gael or Celts had been 
driven back to their forests and strong holds long- before. 
If it be a source of self applause that the Roman arms 
were resisted, that applause is due to the ancestors of the 
Low Country Scots. The term Caledonians, though it 
were derived from the Gaelic, would not prove the people 
Gael ; any more than the term Welsh or Briton proves 
that Wales or Britain possessed no Belgic Goths. The 
points of repulse lay on the margin of the mountainous 
region,as it must ever do in similar cases ; but that does 
not prove the defenders to have been mountaineers, any 
more than it proves them Celts. 

What peculiar merit or pleasure there is in deriving 
an origin from an ever-beaten people, when there is a 
choice, it would be difficult to discover. If the Romans 
did not conquer the Highlands, it is because there was 
nothing to conquer. Yet they traversed the mountains 
wherever they had any object in doing so ; as they did 
through Mar to the North, as well as by the way of For- 
tingal ; and apparently as far as Badenoch. Ptolemy 
has shewn us that the country was an entire forest, in- 
habited merely on the sea shores. The Romans did not 
conquer for glory alone. It was for vulgar profit as well 
as conquest that they warred. It was the commerce of 
Britain which helped to tempt them: the tin of Cornwall 
and the pearls of Wales, were among the attractions, as it 
was the amber of Prussia which enticed them to the 
Baltic. They also levied tributes, provided for rapacious 
officers and governors, disposed of turbulent troops, and 
maintained those whom they could not well have paid 
otherwise. They had no ambition to govern the barren 
rocks and marshy forests of the Highlands : nor could 
the repulses M'hich they experienced, have proceeded 
from a people thus scattered. The Picts introduced their 
Saxo or Suio-Gothic governments ; and this was the or- 
ganization which repelled Rome. It was that which had 
beaten Rome within its own gates before, which had set- 

o::iaix and races. 289. 

tied itself over Italy, nnd which, in after time!?, was dcs- 
tiiied to uprise. Modern Europe, from that Roman Europe 
Avhich it overturned. 

Enough of the Picts. But we are not yet relieved 
from obscurity and dispute. After the Roman retreat, 
there was a Pictish kingdom in Scotland, governed by 
Kings, of which^the series has been settled by Innes, 
and which may therefore be considered as received. Dur- 
ing the early part of this period, the Celts, or people of 
the Highlands, are as much forgotten as if they had 
never existed. It is likely that they were, then at least, 
much reduced, and probably in a nearly savage state; 
whatever civilization they might have possessed befonp. 
They could have been but few in numbers, because the 
territory was limited ; far more so indeed than it now is. 
That some remained in the Western Islands, is probable, 
but not proved. I have said enougb respecting this for- 
merly. The terms Scot and Scotland were still unknown. 
St. Jerom is the first who names the Scottish tribes. But 
the terms Scotia and Scot were applied to Ireland. I 
need not go over the proofs, which have been repeated 
to weariness; and which no ill-humour and ignorance, 
of which there have been abundance displayed, have 
yet subverted. Whence the name originated, is quite un- 
known. That the Scots were a posterior colony of Scy- 
thians to Ireland, is a hypothesis of Ledwich's, utterly 
without support. Macpherson, w ho, among many others, 
chooses to imagine that there is some dreadful dishonour 
in tracing the term to Ireland, concludes, at one time, 
that the lerne of Claudian, in an often-quoted passage 
which mentions the Scots of lerne, means the Western 
Islands, at another Stratherne, then the Western coast, 
and so on. It cannot mean all ; and such is the conse- 
quence of feeble attempts to evade a positive testimony. 
WJien he says that the Scot-Irish could not have reached 
Scotland in numbers, in their boats, he should have 
asked himself how any colonization of Britain was ever 
made. Granting that these boats were currachs, or skin 

VOL. IV. u 


boats, ho might have found, in Herodotus, that the wicker 
and hide boats of the Euphrates carried 160 tons, and 
even had asses on board to transport back the skins after 
the frame was sold at Babylon. His attempts to overturn 
Bede's evidence respecting the Dalreudinian settlement, 
is equally unavailing' against that positive testimony from 
ii writer who was almost a living witness. Gibbon's 
doubts are more worthy of respect than all Macpherson's 
proofs : but it is very plain that he had neither cared 
for nor examined this subject; or he would have left 
little for others to do. Hume thinks that the Scots came 
from Ireland. Ireland was called Scotia, even in Bede's 
time, in 731 : and, as Usher says, as far down as the 
eleventh century. The ancient Scottish writers consi- 
dered the Gaelic language which they knew, as Irish, 
and the terms as equivalent; as may be seen by their 
calling the language and the people of the Highlands 
Erische and Erse. 

It must be admitted that there are some contradic- 
tions about the date and manner of this settlement. Bede 
fixes the first permanent establishment of the Scots in 
Argyllshire, in 460. Richard says it was in 320. Ammi- 
anus Marcellinus, less likely to be correct than either, 
assigns it to the year 360. Fergus, it is well known, was 
the leader; and he became the first king of Scotland, 
Avhich was then limited to a district, including Argyll- 
shire, of which the extent is unknown, but which had 
probably grown to a considerable magnitude when his 
descendant Kenneth vanquished the King of Pictland 
and united both dominions under his own person. This 
is that portion of Scottish history which explains Dun- 
stafFnage ; the residence, doubtless, of a Chief, at first 
resembling the succeeding Chiefs of the days of Somer- 
lid, and afterwards that of a more powerful monarch. 
Galloway, forming an independent Scoto-Irish kingdom 
till its union with Scotland by marriage, probably origin- 
ated in the same source. To this account of the Dalri- 
adan expedition and settlement, I must yet however add, 


that it is narrated and believed by Fovdun, (a writer of a 
far other stamp than Boethius), by Major, Gildas, Geoffrey 
of Monmouth, and others, and that the date is sometimes 
fixed at 150 A. C. The more doubtful particulars are, 
that the Irish having" attacked the Romans in Scotland, 
were at first driven back; returning, under Maximus, 
being- beaten back again by Gratianus Municeps, but 
finally returning and establishing themselves in 396. 

Now, that the Scots should have given their name to 
Pictland, and that this name should have vanished, is no 
argument against the validity of this history. It is a pre- 
cise parallel to that of the Angles and England, and on the 
very same territory. The Angles were the most insig- 
nificant of the Saxons. The invading- Scots were an 
insignificant people. The case of the Teutones is simi- 
lar. This name is first mentioned by Pytheas ; and, 
according to Mela, they inhabited an island called Coda- 
nonia, whence, as Spener says, they were also called 
Codani. Yet they carried and spread their obscure name 
so widely, as to have made the term Teutonic a generic 
one to our own day. There is no end to this class of illus- 
tration. It is one of the endless modifications of Luck. 
It is a folly of another kind in the same antiquaries, 
which asserts that the Pictish people were exterminated 
by Kenneth, because the name then disappears. As well 
might it be supposed that the Angles had exterminated 
all the other Britons ; all the inhabitants of Britain. 

I must here point out an additional error in Pinkerton, 
when after asserting that the original population of Scot- 
land was entirely Gothic, he says that its only Celts are 
those who thus arrived from Ireland. This is one of the 
consequences of his outrageous feelings towards the name 
of a Celt. It is not possible, on moral principles, that Eng- 
land, Wales, and Ireland, should have possessed an ori- 
ginal Celtic population, and that Scotland should not 
have had its own share ; nor is it possible, on any other 
grounds, to explain the Celtic topographical names which 
pervade all Scotland, and which, as through Europea 



large, mark the existence of an early Celtic race. It is 
moreover doubtful, as I remarked before, that the Scoto- 
Irish, or Dalreudiiii, were Celtic at all ; and Pinkerton 
should have perceived, that in adopting this fancy, he 
was disclaiming- the Belgic or Gothic colonization of the 
South of Ireland, which he had himself aided in esta- 
blishing. I need not repeat, for the tenth time, that their 
using the Erische or Celtic language, proves nothing. 
Pinkerton's Celts, since Celts there are, must be sought 
elsewhere ; and they can be found, most securely, in the 
shattered remains of the original people. 

Now this history, simple and inoffensive as it must 
seem to any plain mind, has given rise to outrage, and 
abuse, and controversy, and bad writing, through the 
space of a century and more, in the hands of Sibbald, Dal- 
rymple, Abercrombie, Mackenzie, and others. Tytler is 
most particularly furious against Pinkerton, for saying 
that the Pictsare the real Scots of present Scotland, and 
that the nominal Scots were a small colony. He and 
others are equally rabid at the supposition that the Scots 
should have been descended from the Irish. It is really 
very difficult to see where the offence lies. It is little 
better than a dispute about terms. The people of Scot- 
land are the people of Scotland, the very Caledonians 
who resisted Rome and England, and who have raised 
themselves by their energies, to their present state. That 
they have changed their names during their progress 
because they have intermarried into another family, as 
little vitiates their blood and descent, as the blood of cue 
of their present Stewarts is corrupted by taking the sur- 
name of Murray, from a similar cause. Southern Britain 
does not become insane at hearing itself called England, 
and at being told that the petty Angles were the parent 
of its name. The antiquity of a people is not bound up 
in the antiquity of its designation : nor is there any reason 
why "the Renegado Pinkerton," who is simply investi- 
gating and stating a historical fact, is to be answered in his 
own indiscreet, and now, it must be hoped, exploded Ian- 


guage. If every historian is to figbt his way throug^h 
embattled hosts of raging and ignorant people who choose 
to fancy that their own honour is involved in some vi- 
sionary honour of their ancestors before the Flood, it will 
become necessary for him to imitate the Arab husband- 
man, and to write in full armour, with his right hand 
on the pen and his left on the sword. 

It must yet however be remembered, respecting this 
early history, that the conquest of Kenneth over Pict- 
landj was not a conquest with that unequal force which it 
is rather pleasing than true to suppose. And it is pleas- 
ing merely, it pleases the inconsiderate at least, be- 
cause the name Scot has swallowed up the name Pict. 
It is as if all Scotland Mere itself to boast that it had 
been conquered by such an imaginary unequal force. 
The descendants and people of Fergus may boast, if they 
please; if they can find theinsehes out: but for the rest 
to do so, is to boast of the conquests of him whose name 
they suffered as the vanquished. Mr. Pinkerton's anta- 
gonists seem to have lost sight of this simple argument, 
in the extremity of their anger. That he should have 
forgotten to retort it, is still more surprising'. As to the 
strife itself, it appears to have lain between equal forces, 
as far as we can now conjecture. The south-west of 
Scotland was then probably an ally of Kenneth, as being 
of the same race. x\ll the south-east was Anglo-Saxony. 
The immense mountain tract to the north-west, was pro- 
bably, if not neutral, an ally also of Kenneth, in conse- 
quence of the identity of language. Caithness, Suther- 
land, and parts of Moray and Aberdeenshire, seem to 
have been in the possession of the Danes or Norwegians; 
so thatPictavia was a very limited territory. It is even 
probable that the western empire was the strongest ; 
and it is equally probable, from what I have formerly 
said respecting the Belgic colonies of Ireland, that this 
was a contest between two branches of one equally war- 
like people. If this view of early Scottish history has 
not yet been taken, it is fully time that it should. 

294 OKICIN AND ilACliS. 

I have said so much formerly respecting the Danish 
and Norweg-ian invasions and settlements, that I have 
here left nothing to say. The ancient history has now 
been brought into contact with the modern, as far as my 
purposes were concerned ; and to say more, would be 
repetition. The sketch of the history of the Clans, must 
also suffice for what I might say on the later people who 
settled in Scotland, from England, Flanders, and Nor- 
mandy. I have not undertaken to write four quartos on 
this subject. 

But as I have often had occasion to say that the 
Highlanders are a mixed race, and as I have equally said 
that they have little title to that Celtic blood of which 
they boast as if it were a merit, I must now make a few 
deductions from the mass of proofs which I have thus 
brought forward to secure myself. The original Celtic 
breed has been modified by the Gothic blood in these 
several manners. By the Picts, by the Belgic Dalria- 
dans, by the early Norwegians and Danes in the North, 
by the Danish Vikingr and the Norwegian government of 
Magnus Barefoot, and by the intercourse, during a long 
period, between the Irish Ostmen of Dublin and of that 
eastern coast, and the western of Scotland. Subse- 
quently, and during the same period, that of the High- 
land Magnates at least, has been modified by the settle- 
ments of Anglo-Normans, Anglo-Saxons, Flemings, and 
Low-country, or Saxon and Pictish Scots. 

Such is the history of the present Highland people. 
The traces are in their persons, as well as in their poli- 
tical history. The traces are in their energy and in their 
estimable qualities. To seek for these among Celts, is to 
seek them where they were never yet found, in the West ; 
although I have already defended the Great Celtic people 
as they were never defended before. He who would see 
■what a Celt of this division really is, may find him in the 
Highlands, though rarely. He is even more rare in Ire- 
land; and hence the unquestionable fine qualities and 
fine persons of the great mass of the Irish people. They 


have least of the Celtic and most of the Gothic blood. 
The true Celt may be found in Cornwall, but still better 
in Wales; and assuredly he is there an animal which no 
one would wish to preserve, either for his moral qualities 
or his personal appearance. Let the Highlander who is 
vain of his Celtic blood, go to Brittany, if he would see 
what it is of which he boasts. He may go to Switzer- 
land also. But, in ancient Armorica, he will find the 
true Celt in the true state of a true savage; speaking his 
own unmitigated jargon, lazy, dirty, fraudful, unim- 
proved since the year 453 that he is first reputed to have 
migrated thither from Cornwall, and resisting, stedfastly 
and strenuously, all the improvements around him. Those 
who have seen him in his native hills, as I have, will 
vouch that the picture is not overdrawn. 

The Highlanders are still a mixed race, and it is 
their misfortune; though that misfortune is precisely the 
reverse of M'hat they themselves imagine. To boast of 
being an unmixed people, is the result of — any motive 
which they please to assign : to boast of being Celts, is 
to glory in ill-fortune. If they find any glory in the 
Celtic tongue, that is a separate matter. It is most parti- 
cularly certain that all the Magnates of the Highlands are 
of the Gothic race, and, generally, from the latest settlers. 
The earliest must be sought among the people of Reuda, 
If there be a Pedigree more remote than the pedigrees of 
Harold Harfager's race, it will be found in the Mac Gre- 
gors, and in the remainder of those who occupied that 
portion of the west side of our island which did not fall 
into the hands of the Norwegian Kings and of the Lords 
of the Isles and the West. Galloway alone competes with 
these in antiquity of settlement ; the source being the 
same. If these Irish descents are Belgic, and therefore 
Gothic, much more certainly are those pedigrees such, 
which deduce from Ireland after the eighth Century, and 
onwards. Ireland in the east, Scotland in the west, and 
the Islands, were one Norwegian people, and, sometimes, 
almost one kingdom. 


It is absolutely childish to fancy that this is any 
stigma on Highland honour. It was the fate of the 
Celts to be conquered wherever they came into contact 
with the Goths; and when they were not exterminated, 
they were driven into corners where their miserable rem- 
nants continue to this day, the same base people M'hich 
those Gofhs apparently found them. We might almost 
conclude, did we dare to reason on the desijjns ofProvi- 
dence, that the Gothic nation was ordained for this end ; 
and that nothing short of extermination was applicable 
to the correction of a people who, even yet, are resisting 
the improvements that surround them. Why this por- 
tion of the Great Celtic nation should so far have differed 
from those of Syria and llaly, 1 know not : unless it has 
been explained by means of their Religion and Govern- 
ment. Yet even respecting the eastern Celts, it must 
be remembered that the Arcadians, the Spartans, and 
the remainder of the Pelasgic race, remained for ever in- 
ferior to the Hellenic Greeks. Arcadia did nothing in 
intellect. Sparta did nothing: its only praise, if praise 
that be, is what might equally be claimed by New Zea- 
land. It is from the Goths that Europe derived its 
beauty, its energy, its intellect, and its spirit of freedom. 
The liberty, ihe power, the glory of Britain, were born 
in the woods and morasses of Germany, and amid the 
rocks and waves of Scandinavia. 

The Highlander may continue to pride himself on his 
Celtic blood, his visionary unmixed race, and his imagi- 
nary unconquered mountains, if he pleases; on mountains 
which have been transferred to successive races of those 
before whom the Cehs fled as sheep before the wolf. 
England, wiser, will boast that it was conquered, that it 
is a mixed nation, that every drop of original British 
blood which it possesses, is a drop too much. The Eng- 
lishman is now the conqueror; to boast of his aboriginal 
descent, would be to boast of being vanquished ; (o be 
ashamed of conquest, would be to be ashamed of being- 
the victor. We are Britons from the name of our 


island, not from our pedigree. British America does not 
boast of being- descended from Dog-ribbed Indians and 
Chactaws. Even so, are the present Highlanders a 
mixed race of conquerors: it is quite time that they 
should know their own history, and cease to glory in that 
Celtic intellect to which Mr. Pinkerton imputes this very 
aberration of judgment. That a true Celt should thus 
continue to prove himself one, must be endured ; but it 
is not to be borne, that the blood of Macdonalds and 
Macleods and Macdougalls, should thus forget itself, and 
enlist under the banners M'hich it trampled under foot. 
The mark of Odin is stamped on the forehead of the 
robust Dugald who drives at the caschrom or pulls at the 
oar ; it is the spirit of Odin's race which still draws the 
Clymore on its enemies, it is Scythian hospitality M'hich 
still throws its door open to the stranger, and will tlve 
Highlander belie it all. When he rages about his Celtic 
parentage, he is fighting for another identity, not his own : 
lie is contestino- for some abstract idea of a Highlander 
which does not exist. When he treats his neighbours as 
contemptible Sassanachs who never conquered his virgin 
country, he is like the Miser in Plautus, laying hold of 
himself and longing to slay himself with his own Cly- 
more. If he was a Celt once, he has, at least in a ma- 
jority of cases, been repaired, like his own pistol, with 
a new barrel and a new stock. It is perhaps however, 
best as it is ; else we might have wars between Sky and 
Mull, between Glen Shiel and Glen Morison ; Roy versus 
Dhu, a red-headed and a black-headed faction in the un- 
conquered land of the hills and plaids. 

Anger is a silly passion ; because it perverts the judg- 
ment of a Hero, as well as that of a divider of mathemati- 
cal instruments. The strenuous " Celt" who resorts to Ire- 
land for pedigrees from Fitzgerald and Constantine Cen- 
timachus, he who traces to Alpin and Dardanus, he who 
boasts of Dunstaffnage and Beregonium, is ragingly 
indignant that Scot and Scotland should be derived 
from Irish and Ireland. He prides himself that the 


Scottish crown is based on the rock of Fergus's Irish 
Chair, that Irish Kenneth conquered Caledonia : and yet 
he will not allow to Ireland, even tlie small honour of 
participating in Ossian, or in Caledonian music, or in 
those letters which Columba himself taught to his bar- 
barous ancestors. This is the " Celt" who boasts of the 
superiority of his warlike ancestors over the Lowlanders, 
who boasts that he never met them without conquering 
them. " Quid nunc vult veteratior sibi." It was the 
Lowlanders who first drove his savage and timid fore- 
fathers to their mountains and forests ; it was the Low- 
landers who resisted the power of Rome and the power 
of England. Scandinavia conquered him again and 
again ; enslaved him, and ruled him for centuries. His 
Celtic blood is still under the rein and rule of Saxon, 
Dane, and Norman ; of Norwegian princes and Scottish 
Barons, the protectors, for him, of that independence 
which he could not preserve for himself. In after times, 
if it was Highlander that was armed against Lowlander, 
it was brother against brother, oftener than Celt against 
Sassanach. When the mountains conquered, it was 
when an armed and trading banditti descended from their 
hills on peaceful cultivators or slumbering townsmen. If 
the blood of the Bruces, and the Wallaces, and the 
Douglases, listens to all this with patience, it is a proof 
of their patience. But I must end ; and I may end with- 
out fear. If the dirk of one Mtox^uv trembles in its sheath 
at these outrages, the Clymores of a thousand truculent 
and fiery Scandinavians must be brandished in defence 
of him who has thus vindicated their race and honour, 
reckless of the wrath of a few sallow and hare-hearted 

TO-M()UKO\V. 299 


I HAVE SO often " deaved" thee, Sir Walter, with the 
weig^htier matters of agriculture, and with the profundities 
of that fashionable science of which a wise man now 
shuns even the name, so often drawn the rusty sword of 
antiquity in combat, and " plonced thee deepe in archaeo- 
logic mudde," so often scribbled of green fields, and 
purling streams, and of " mountains on whose barren 
breast, The lab'ring clouds will often rest," that it is full 
time for me to relieve thy weariness with a whole chapter 
of moving adventures. Hitherto, they have come in 
" fittes," and far sundered ; " So that a schoolboie maie, 
with plaie, not paine, Pycke echeone plumbe awaie, and 
leave the puddynge plaine." But whatever the plums 
of this pudding may have been, they were not put in for 
the mere purpose of being picked out. It might have 
been blackened with plums, thick as the evening rooks ; 
but the sweetmeats have here been selected for their 
weight ; plums of lead, aimed at a mark ; artilleiy 
" which oft prevails, and gains its ends when other fails." 
Has not To-morrow, and To-morrow, come before us 
again and again, yet is this thief of time unslain. Again 
he rises like Antseus, and again he must be levelled with 
the earth. Never will a true Highlander do aught to- 
day when he can do it to-morrow : there is always " time 
enough ;" *' he thinks it folly to be wise too soon;" and 
thus the Highland Saturn perpetually devours his own 
head instead of his tail. Donald would stare at the 
speech of Titus, were it translated into Gaelic. If the 
man " is unborn, who duly weighs an hour," what shall 
we say of him to whom a day is as nothing in the balance 
of life, who expects to overtake that time to-morrow 


which passed him to-day, and which he will never catch 
till its forelock he transplanted to its tail, and that be 
made as long as the tail of the Great Serpent of Muspel- 
sheim. He who trusts his time to Highland keeping, 
will, in vain, " Bid him drive back his car and re-import 
The period past, regive the given hour." But '* Thou 
say'st I preach, Lorenzo." 

I had professed a design to visit a certain Mull and a 
certain eastern coast; to depart in the morning, and to 
return on the following evening. " I had a horse and I 
had nae mair;" but I wanted no more. Had 1 not dearly 
purchased my experience in Highland aids of all kinds; 
and did I not well know the nature of Highland time, 
the " Cras hoc fiet" of this to-morrowing country. But 
this plan was not magnificent enough ; and besides, 
every man in this country knows what you want, better 
than you do yourself. The Steward was to be sent v, ith 
me ; and he was to deliver me to a set^ond, and the second 
to a third, and so on. It is indifferent whether our chains 
are of gold or of iron : yet I still hoped to escape from 
one or other of my tormentors, at some narrow lane or 
intricate road. 

But when the morning came, I saw there was no 
chance of cheating Peter Pattison at least. Perpendi- 
cular as his walking stick, obedient as Corporal Trim, 
dealing only in bows and monosyllables, and carrying in 
his starched, imperturbable face, and in the very folding 
of his cravat, nothing but Cocker's Arithmetic and Bos- 
ton's Crook in the Lot, he soon made me sensible that I 
was his prisoner. I betook myself to wheedling: as- 
sured him that I knew all the ways, and more, that I re- 
gretted giving him so useless a journey; and so forth. 
" His Laird had ordered him to deliver me over to Mr. 
Macnab." I assured him again that I preferred being 
alone. " I was desired to attend you to Mr. Macnab's." 
I reminded him that it was " the Sabbath," and that he 
would miss his Kirk; building somewhat on his physiog- 
nomy and the tie of his cravat. But the habits of office 

TO- M OR Row. 301 

rode here parainoinit over the power of grace, " I was 
ordered to attend you to Mr. 3Iacnab's, Sir," said the in- 
flexible Peter. And thus I found myself prisoner to a 
puritanical clerk, who was corporal and police officer in 
one. I wished him, his precision, his obedience, and his 
Laird, at the bottom of the sea. 

We were appointed to breakfast with Mr. Macnab, 
at eight o'clock, by ample notification ; but on arriving at 
a repectable farm-house, we found every thing silent, 
except the pigs, who were grunting for their breakfast. 
The byre was still unopened, and the cows were waiting 
with characteristic patience till somebody chose to milk 
them. If there were an}' cocks and hens in the esta- 
blishment, they were following the example of their bet- 
ters, and dreaming on their perches till Mr. Macnab's 
clock chose to strike the hour of awaking. Round the house 
rode Peter, and round the yard he returned, but no one 
appeared ; the stable door was locked, and there was no 
person to take the horses. At length he opened his 
mouth : " I, think, they, are, not, up ; " said Peter Patti- 
son. All the doors were kicked, and the windows shook 
and beaten, but no answer; yet Peter discomposed not a 
muscle of his perpendicular face. Knock again — " Wake 
Duncan with this knocking." In half an hour, down came 
the very Mr.Macnab himself; his coat and waistcoat hang- 
ing loose, his knees unbuttoned, and without his stockings. 
The cause was plain enough. Our host might have said 
of himself and all his family, I believe, " Stertimns in- 
domitum quod despumare Falernum, Sufficiat:" audit 
was evident that we had intruded an hour or two on the 
usual family sleep. An hour or two, — it was half an hour 
before a bare-legged wench came in, half naked or half 
dressed, to light the peat fire ; and, for the first hour, the 
peat fire gave out nothing but smoke. By degrees, how- 
ever, the flame struggled through the clouds, and the 
kettle was put on. It was now near ten o'clock ; I hoped 
it was to be the breakfast hour : such are the fallacious 
hopes of mortals. It was in vain that I proposed to make 


my excursion to the cliffs, and return to breakfast: Mr. 
Macnab swore that I should not stir till I had eaten a 
good meal ; it was the Laird's order. Peter remained 
unmoved : and in half an hour, came down a draggled 
girl : unwashed, uncombed, winking, half awakened ; and 
then a son, and a son, and another son, and " the last was 
like the former; " filthy dogs; while the whirring of the 
clock showed that it was now on the stroke of eleven. 

I had begun by calculating on twelve; hoping by 
Peter Pattison's aid, to advance two hours on the High- 
land day. I now deferred my hopes till one. If any 
thing on earth could have made a man angry, it was not 
the blustering, idle, slip-shod, unwashed, unsobered, 
host, for that was the nature of this genus ; but the 
starched, perpendicular, precise, unmoved face of Peter 
Pattison : who, after having brought me into these toils, 
was thinking only of his orders, not to quit me till I had 
breakfasted and was transferred to his successor, and who 
paced up and down the room with all the apathy of a 
centry mounting guard over some unlucky culprit. And 
that culprit a free-born Englishman, travelling for his 
pleasure, prisoner to a Highland Laird and two of his 
myrmidons, a prig and a drunken farmer, under cover of 
kindness, in a land of liberty and of hospitality. Sadly 
do they belie the best half of the boasted proverb : as 
must ever happen with those who are thinking more of 
themselves than their guests. Phalaris would have put 
this Host to warm in his Bull : Homer would have re- 
commended him to Rhadamanthus ; Minos would have 
whisked him into the fourth story downwards, with a 
sweep of his tail, the Burgundians would have fined him 
all his fortune, and the Sclavi would have burnt his house 
down. I took up Roderick Random ; and by the time 
the clock had struck twelve, down came Mrs. Macnab, 
" very loth," languishing, dirty, drabbish, polite, and 
lackadaisical ; evidently roused from her couch by pre- 
mature alarm. That there was no apology for the late- 
ness of the breakfast, was a proof that breakfast was never 


earlier at this house; and that no apology was made for 
keeping me four hours waiting for it, was a sure sign 
that (he essence of hospitality was here held to consist, 
solely in filling the stomach of the guest. 

The breakfast being finished at one o'clock, I pro- 
posed to ride to the Mull first, and afterwards to proceed 
to Ardbeg; as it was suflicieut if I arrived there before 
it was dark. " What ; would you go without your din- 
ner; and they dine at four." It was fruitless to dispute 
orders, and I suffered myself to be led along like a bear 
to the stake. Mr. Macnab was sure that there would be 
time enough to visit the Mull to-morrow, after our return; 
and truly, to him, it was always time enough on any to- 
morrow, to do all that he was ever likely to perform. It 
was in vain to be impatient to proceed, even for Ardbeo-; 
for if my own horse was ready, Mr. Macnab's was to be 
caught, and fed, and bridled, and saddled ; and Mr. Mac- 
nab was not dressed, and the stable was locked, and the 
boy was lost, and there was a stirrup broke, and the 
bridle was lent, and there was no corn in the chest, and 
Peter Pattison remained as unmoved as ever, and I wished 
him at the old Nick, and Macnab at Jericho, and the 
Laird at Beelzebub, and I wished myself courage enough 
to quarrel with the whole tribe, and ride oflT; a reso- 
lution which was finally prevented, only by being un- 
luckily in possession of the Laird's horse. But by half- 
past two, Mr. Macnab was in his saddle, and we reached 
Ardbeg at four o'clock. Dinner was just ready, and it 
was too late to go out to look at all which I had come so 
far to see. When the dinner was done, there was toddy to 
be drank, and then another glass, and another; for with 
all his indolence, my guide was active enough here; 
*' Doctus et ad calicem, vigilanti stertere naso." I pleaded 
water drinking, and proposed to walk out alone; but 
they would all go with me if I would wait a minute, and 
thus, and thus, the twilight came on, and then the dark- 
ness, and then some got drunk, and others tipsy, and it 
became bed-time. Thus ended the first day of the duties 

.%4 Tt)-M0151K)W. 

of a Hig^hlaitd Cicerone, and oC his deputies (o the third 

As I had now abandoned all thoughts of seeing any 
thing in such society as this, I proposed to return to Mr, 
Macnab's to breakfast in the morning, and thus to see, 
at least the Mull. " Would I go without my breakfast; 
the Laird would never forgive them. No, no; there would 
be plenty of time after breakfast." Still, I hoped to out- 
wit them when the morning came; as I purposed to 
steal my own horse and abscond. In the morning, I 
found that it was in the hi) I, no body was awake, and all 
the rest of all other things were just as usual. Breakfast 
began at eleven, was finished at twelve, and, at one, we 
set out to return to Mr. Macnab's. Still there might be 
time to see this Mull, since it was but two miles off. 
But the horses were first to be fed ; that could not be 
dispensed with ; yet it was not done after all, because 
there was no boy or no corn, or no key : and then there 
were stots to talk of, and Mrs. Macnab had yet to get up, 
and the Master Macnabs were, nobody knew where, and 
Miss Macnab's petticoat was not dry, and there was 
much jioinff backwards and forwards, and round about, 
and in and out, and I mounted my horse; but it was all 
the same. At length the clock struck four; and then 
Mr. Macnab insisted upon it that 1 should stay to dinner, 
and to sleep, and that we should see the Mull to-mor- 
row. To-morrow ; — if there really ever is such a thing- 
as To-day in this land of To-morrows, To-day, this very 
day, this very hour, I wish you and all your race, good 
morrow, now and for ever. At six o'clock I sat down to 
dinner at the Laird's, like John Gilpin; having gone to 
Ardbeg and back again, spent two days most vilely, and, 
wise as 1 " at first got up, I did again get down." 

That is a noted word in the fool's Calendar, that To- 
morrow ; be the owner who he may, I care not. As to 
this procrastinator, there is not a day in his long life in 
which he may not say, " hesternum eras consurapsi- 
mus:" but when the next day comes, it is still Yester- 

To-Monno-w. 305 

clay's To-morrow: and of all the To-morrows that are to 
follow, each, like the Kiiiii^s in Macbeth, is like the for- 
mer. That one which is to see the work done, " semper 
pauilum erit ultra." If you douht it, try again. 

A finer morning never rose on the hills than the first 
day, the first To-morrow I should say, of that particular 
Septendjer. The brown heath was hot and dry all round, 
and the softest of breezes was waving- the surface of the 
hay that surrounded our cottage, rising and falling- 
like the waves of a gentle sea. The boat was to be ready 
at six, the tackle was to have been ready the day before. 
Long coils of hair line surrounded Donald's hat, which 
hung dormant on a peg- in the hall, like his own spherical 
noddle on the bolster ; and flies of all hues and dimen- 
sions, flies that would have confounded all the genea- 
logies of Latreille or Linnteus, were stuck dense in its 
crown ; minatory of death to all the salmon and trout 
that should prove their profound ignorance of entomo- 
logy by swallowing them. The lake itself, bright as a 
mirror, stretched away its sinuous length through the 
brown wastes, till it vanished among the far-oft' blue 
mountains of the west. What lake, what cottage, I must 
not tell. 

At length the sleepers awakened ; but the fire was 
to be lighted, the kettle to be boiled, and the breakfast 
to be prepared, eaten, and talked over. Thus came ten ; 
and, with it, the ready apology that the fish would not 
rise till the breeze chose to do the same. But the breeze 
rose, and the lake was a mile off. Rods and fishing lines, 
reels and flies and landing nets and fish baskets, were 
now mustered: but one was to be spliced and another 
was rusty; there were five meshes to be taken up in the 
net, and no fly would succeed on such a day, but black 
hackles. Black hackles were made : and the clock (clocks 
go on though Man stands still,) struck twelve. We were 
on the border of the lake; " that scoundrel Angus" had 
forgotten the oars, and " that rascal Donald" the provi- 
sions. The provisions arrived ; so did the oars. But the 


306 TO-iMORROW. 

breeze was likely to be of more use than the oars. Donald 
returned for the mast and sail ; and we were under way 
at two o'clock. " It is too late to fish to-day," said our 
Conductor, " as we have a long step before night; but 
we will make up for it to-morrow." Thus ^ve arrived at 
our destination, after much sailing, much rowing, and 
much walking, weary, bewildered, bemired, and be- 
nighted : all of them the consequences of intending" to 
rise at six o'clock to fish in the Loch. To-morrow came 
at last, with a grey drizzling rain. The fish would rise, 
it was true ; " but why should we wet ourselves for a 
few trout; it would clear up by twelve; we should have 
time enough to fish then, and reach our night quarters 
too." It was all that we could do to reach those quarters 
without any fishing: the mountain before us was path- 
less, wet, and steep, the ponies were lamed by yester- 
day's march, and, worse than Knights Templars, there 
were six riders for two horses. We arrived before it was 
quite dark enough to break our necks, consoled our- 
selves with the hospitality of our host, and determined 
to make up for our disappointments, in the lake that lay 
broad and blue before our door — To-morrow. To-mor- 
row came; but, alas, this To-morrow was Sunday. 

When Monday arrived, it was discovered that the most 
serviceable of the ponies had lost a fore shoe. He was 
the sumpter pony, and we could neither travel in this 
desert land without provisions, nor could he clamber the 
rocks without his shoe. The Smith was twelve miles off; 
he could not be procured till to-morrow. But, for this day, 
To-morrow was not to prevail, and a boat was despatched 
to fetch him. But, as much talk ensued, and much time 
was required to get, first the boat, and then the oars, and 
then the men, and lastly to make them go for the Smith, 
it was impossible to fish To-day. " But we should reach 
our evening quarters in good time to catch a dish of the 
finest trout in the country for supper." Between rowing 
boats across one bay, and walking round another, and 
clambering over one promontory, and dodging another 


in the boat, no reached the scene of our projected ex- 
ploits at last. But the party at sea had chased cormo- 
rants, and the land division wild ducks; and we were 
hungry, and the dinner was not ready, and at length it 
was determined that we would dine to-day, and would 
get up early — To-morrow, and begin our fishing in good 

We had commenced our fishing on Friday, and on 
Tuesday morning it becauie a serious question whether 
it would not be better to push on for the next river; as 
there was better fishing. But there was something- in the 
way ; a rock, or a covey of moor fowl, or what not. 
Solomon says it was " a Lion :" so that we only embarked 
when we should have been at our river. Unfortunately, 
we soon espied the floating corks of a fisherman's Long- 
lines. As we had no great prospect of any other dinner, 
we proposed to take the fish and leave the price at the 
hook. It required an hour to draw the lines ; and as 
there was no fish on the hooks, this operation cost nothing 
but Time ; which, as you must have long since remarked, 
is not here a commodity of price. By some mischance, 
we arrived at our destination at six only ; and then 
it was found convenient to put off our fishing till — To- 
morrow. To-morrow came again ; (despised as it may 
be, it will come,) but where were we to sleep to-night. 
The land '* was all before us where to choose:" but there 
was neither road nor track, and the nearest hut was forty 
miles off. If we gave up the river in the morning, we 
might fish the Loch in the evening, provided we started 
early. But there was a tag, a rag, a jag, or a something- 
wantingtothe pony's saddle, and our consultation was long, 
and the bogs were deep, and the salmon must be boded, 
and, by some means or other, we arrived at the borders of 
theLoch, if not To-day, yet before To-morrow. And when 
it was To-morrow, in good earnest, it was necessary to 
sleep off our fatigues of yesterday. It was impossible to 
fish the Loch, and make our way across a bog of five miles 
broad, to our evening lodging : but we might fish another 

X 2 


Loch by the way. When we arrived at this other Loch, 
there was a flock of wild gfeese on the margin. The 
trenches were accordingly opened in form, and after ex- 
pending- a couple of hours in attaining the third parallel, 
away flew the geese, cackling defiance as they drew up 
their long- file in the air. We determined to return — To- 
morrow ; to bring the boat up early, and have " a good 
long day of it." 

Thursday and To-morrow came together; our fishing 
party had commenced on Friday ; but as we had laboured 
hard, and were entitled to a little rest, To-morrow was 
once more appointed, to indemnify us for all our past 
Yesterdays. Thus ended one week of our fishing. To- 
morrow came with a gale of wind and rain — on Saturday 
the water was muddy — Sunday was the Sabbath; and when 
To-morrow, and To-morrow, and To-morrow, had come 
and gone in the same manner, it was time for me to take 
my leave of the party. I left them lounging about the 
green before the door on Thursday at noon : fully re- 
solved to have " a long day of it" — To-morrow. 

After all, this is perhaps no small source of pleasure. 
Happiness is all in the pursuit, not in the enjoyment : and 
Hope, — dear Hope,-— who shall say that he enjoys it like 
the Highlander, who expects to catch the trout to-morrow 
that would now have been eaten; to plant hereafter the 
tree which, once in the ground, is looked at for three days 
and then forgotten, till, struggling through a century of 
wind and rain, some distant heir converts it into rakes 
and plough-tails. I was on a visit to a worthy friend, 
and we were " wearying for our dinner" as usual. " You 
see that hill," said he, " I mean to plant it to-morrow." 
Nothing else was wanting to have converted the whole 
estate into woods as fine as the six venerable ash trees 
that overshadowed his house. " My ancestors planted 
these," said he, " a century ago ; it is a pity they had not 
planted more." They had received this laud, nearly two 
centuries before, on a lease which was almost expiring; 
the sole condition being to leave a hundred acres of wood 


of thirty years' growth, under a tletermined fine. They 
had all, it is likely, intended equally to plant To-morrow. 
As yet, however, no other tree than the six ashes had 
been set. My friend had been in possession twenty 
years; he had two more to run ; and 1 left him intending-, 
as he had done on every day of all those years that he had 
" wearied for his dinner," to plant, like all before him, — 

Procrastination : — a great deal might be said about it ; 
but he will be a clever moralist who will say any thing- 
new. All that I mean to say about it here, is, that it is one 
liuk of a chain, in which it has, for very near neighbours, 
indolence and contentment. Such is the moral ; now for 
the fable. But the fables here are true ones. We were 
at anchor in Sky, and our friends were dining with us : 
there was profusion of lobsters and crabs ; to the great 
surprise of the audience. Whence could they have come. 
♦' Thence; just under your house." " How." By means 
of a crab-pot." " How could one be made, or pro- 
cured." As if they had not seen the lobster-smacks of 
London passing their very windows every season. We 
gave them our own. We returned next year, and found 
it in possession of the chickens; guiltless of fish, as from 
the first moment it had reached its new destination. We 
dined with the new owner of our Trap, and our dinner 
was just what it had been a year before, and what it will 
be till he goes to that dinner where he himself will be 
eaten; boiled mutton at top and roasted mutton at bottom, 
potatoes when it pleased Heaven, and in the interreg- 
num, nothing. 

We had dined three days at the house of a worthy 
friend, on the same eternal boiled and roast. Our turn 
arrived to give a dinner. There were salmon ; the deck 
was covered with them in all the progressive stages of 
kippering, " And where could we have got them" — 
" In the river that runs past your door ; this morning." 
We sent him two dozen as a due. He recollected then 
that there were salmon in this very river; he had pos- 


sessed a net " twenty years ago," but it was " full of 
holes." " Salmon were very convenient in a family ; kip- 
per was a good relish at breakfast ; he would have his 
net mended to-morrow." Our boat put him ashore within 
twenty yards of his house, in the evening ; the tide had 
ebbed, and she could not be brought up to the rocks ; 
the boatmen jumped into the water to pull her up; the 
Laird lost his balance and fell in. The ten idle fellows 
who are for ever lounging about the doors and wonder- 
ing whether the boat can land in the surf " to-day," 
might build a pier in three hours ; instead of which they 
stand looking quietly on till she is thrown ashore and, 
perhaps, makes a hole in her bottom. The Laird and his 
men jump into the water and get a hearty ducking, and 
the ten men descend and draw her above high water 
mark to the destruction of her sheathing. In the morn- 
ing, she must be launched again, but the ten men are 
wonderins: at some other things somewhere else : the tide 
ebbs out, two or three hours are lost, the wind changes, 
the boat, at last afloat, is half the night at sea, or is driven 
to leeward of her port, and the Laird has a two-days' jour- 
ney over land, provided he is not drowned ; because one 
of those days, well spent, would have given him the com- 
mand of tide and time to all eternity. Thus too, instead 
of being carried in and out of the water pickaback when 
sober, or tumbling into it when otherwise, he might have 
reached his own door dry shod any day for these twenty 
years pasf. Twenty, did I say ; it is fifty years since a 
predecessor of mine made the same remark on the same 
place, and it is four hundred and fifty since the Lairds 
of this estate have been breaking their shins and destroy- 
ing their boats, generation after generation, on these very 
rocks. Four years after, the boats and the stones re- 
mained just as before, as might be expected : the holes 
in the salmon net were quite as large and as numerous as 
we had left them, and even the Argyllshire Highlanders 
who accompanied me, swore that the " Deil was in thae 
Hielaud louns." Sky abounds in oysters; as it does in 

TO-MORIIOW. * 311 

crabs and lobsters. But who eats an oyster in Sky. It' 
any body ever saw a fish at table, that was not my for- 
tune ; yet our deck was covered with cod every day. But 
as luxury is a vice, this is praise. 

Mrs. Hamilton has given us the history of abridge at 
Glenburnie. I would fain believe that the whole genus 
of bridges has been the better for it. I rode a hundred 
miles to Glen Never; but when I arrived, the object of 
my pursuit proved to be on the opposite side of the river. 
The river was only forty feet wide, but it was deep and 
stony and strong. There was no bridge ; there was no 
boat; it could not be forded; the rain had rained; it 
rains there every day. I waited with patience for two 
days. On the third, I tried the ford, and narrowly es- 
caped drowning. I was obliged to abandon an object that 
I had come a hundred miles to see, because of a river, 
surrounded by tall fir-trees, out of which I could have 
constructed a bridge in a day. But what was this. The 
house lay on one side of the stream, which flowed under 
its very walls. The parish church and the village were 
on the other, and so was the school. The children had 
gone to school, as usual, on that morning ; the shower had 
fallen in the interval, and when they returned in the even- 
ing, the ford was full. They were obliged to go back, 
three miles, and sleep on the desks for two days. The fa- 
mily had gone to the Parish Church every Sunday for the 
last twenty years ; when the river chose to permit them ; 
and when it did not choose to allow them to return, they 
had been detained at the Minister's house for a week ; be- 
cause six fir-trees, that cost nothing but the trouble of 
felling, added to a day's labour, would have made a 

The diflTerence between procrastination and indolence, 
is that between an arithmetical series and its first term. 
The "majus" of course, here contains the "minus." 
Donald, deceived by " The false Enchanter," puts off till 
To-morrow, what he considers an evil To-day ; as if he 
had eaten of the fruit of the trees of the Sun and Moon, 


and expected to live five hundred years. Perhaps he 
really believes that Chronos is sleeping in one of his is- 
lands, bound hand and foot. 1 wish he was ; but, unfor- 
tunately, sleeping or waking, that bald-pated personage 
holds on hissteady career ; remorseless, inexorable, mow- 
ing down all our To-morrows, and converting the erect fu- 
ture into the prostrate past. Were Donald subject to the 
gout, I would reconunend him the lesson of him who 
seems to have held To-morrow in as much dread as myself; 
but indeed, even his own Ossian will tell him that it is the 
fate of the indolent soul to abide " amid foul November 
fogs" by "the dead morass;" while his ghost is con- 
demned to be for ever " folded in the vapour of the fenny 
field." Persius and the Celtic poet have chosen the same 

image. " Sed cum lapidosa chiragra 

Fregerit articulos, veteris ramaliafagi. 
Tunc crassos transisse dies, vitamque palustrera, 
Et sibi, jamseri, vitam ingemuererelictam. 
He might have taken a lesson from his own "mountain 
streams, which, clear asglass, Gay dancing on, the putrid 
pool disgrace." One example more on this part of the 
subject, and I have done. 

Taking a walk on a piece of new-made road, I was 
surprised to find that it passed through the middle of one 
of the ancient Highland huts. When this hut was so built 
as to contain the cattle and the family both, " cum pecus 
et dominos communi clauderet umbra," (an arrangement 
equally praised by Herodotus in ancient Egypt,) it was 
of considerable length ; as you well remember. Through 
this one, there was abundant room for the road ; and the 
inhabitants, not a bit deranged, had barricaded each end, 
continuing to inhabit it ; while the superfluous thatch and 
rafters formed a pendent canopy over the heads of the 
passengers. The owner had received sufficient and re- 
gular notice to quit, for this public purpose, with the 
assignment of a new spot to build on. This, it appeared, 
was too much trouble ; and, rather than be fashed with 
moving, he had remained quietly in his place, suffering 


the road-makers to beat his walls down about his ears, 
and then very peaceably repairing- the damage by the 
expedient we saw. There, I doubt not, he remains, and 
will remain, till the remnants of this structure fall upon 
his head. If you disbelieve, go to Loch Inver, and see. 

This is certainly one of the fundamental principles of 
a genuine Gael : whatever angry Highlanders may say 
to the contrary. The very people themselves acknow- 
ledge it, both in their practice and their conversation ; 
though, like the wife who will suffer nobod}' to beat her 
husband but herself, they do not choose that a Saxon 
should say so; "soon moved " like Eve and her daugh- 
ters, " with slightest touch of blame." He is not a true 
man if he would not prefer basking in the sun on a dry 
bank, soaking under a dyke in the rain, or cowering over 
the smoke of a peat fire, to any occupation which you 
could offer him. He is the true " Giovanni poco fa" who 
was " figlio di Madonna poca fila :" though I must do the 
Highland witie the justice to say, that she does not con- 
form to her half of the Italian Proverb : since the fair sex, 
in this country, is unquestionably the most active and 
useful part of the community. You will naturally say 
" Quis expedivit psittaio suum Xa»^e; " will neither hun- 
ger nor money move him ; for he surely appears to possess 
more than enough of the one, and none at all of the other. 
It must be admitted that he is not often over-fed : and 
it is true, equally, that he has no objection to get money ; 
but he estimates his indolence, not his labour, at so high 
a price, that it is not a small stimulus of this kind that 
will make him move. As to the greater exertions, we 
may say, with the Poet on another subject, " Te semper 
anteit sseva necessitas." Half of the extortionate demands 
of the Highlanders, as guides or boatmen, are bottomed 
on this principle; and I have often offered in vain, a gui- 
nea for a boat, when a London waterman would have 
jumped at the promise of half-a-crown. You might almost 
suppose that they had adopted the Turkish maxim — that 
" to sit is better than to stand, to lie is better than to sit, 


to sleep is better than to wake, and Deatii is best of all." 
This averseness to motion is strikingly exemplified 
by the frequent use of the Gaelic expression for " make 
baste ; " which is assuredly the first phrase a Saxon will 
learn. You know the sound of " Grease Ort " well. 
But this tardiness of movement is, of course, the produce 
of Celtic dignity : as is proved by the parallel conduct 
of the most dignified of nations : " Mi venga la rauerte 
di Spagna," is a saying that would suit either. And if, 
as Cicero says, supreme felicity consists in doing nothing, 
why then Donald is the only true philosopher. It is 
partly for this reason, as well as from pride, if we are to 
believe themselves, that labour cannot be hired in the 
Highlands ; or, at least, that it cannot be depended on. 
If this pride is still existing, so much the worse: it never 
was esteemed a laudable quality, even among those who 
could afford to pay for it ; and, as the property of a Baron 
of Thonder-ten-tronk, of a Monsieur le Marquis de Vau- 
rien, or of a garlic-eating Hidalgo, it has now, for some 
time, as much ceased to be a matter of boast as it has 
with Signer Giovanni Pocofa. Even in Pitscottie's time, 
it does not seem to have been much esteemed; and, at 
present, it really is not a qualification from which a High- 
lander can derive much ornament, honour, or porridge. 
The worthy Historian says, " But the idle and sloathful, 
and such as do shun and avoide labour, seeme in gritt 
povertie, and yit they will not stick to boast of their gen- 
tilitie and noble birth, as thoucht it war more semlie for 
the honest to laik, then comlie, by exercise of some honest 
airt, to get their living." 

For other reasons, which I formerly noticed, it is not 
easy to procure labourers; but even those who might la- 
bour, are averse to it, and prefer starving in a pleasing re- 
pose. It is very evident that the luxury of an outrageous 
price will not often be offered; and of course, no price is 
proposed. To steady labour they are particularly averse ; 
and no dependence can therefore be placed on them, as they 
will leave their engagements to return to their usual tran- 


qiiillity, tliemoiuent that it becomes displeasing to them, or 
that they fancy they have gained money enough. It is quite 
notorious that this was the case with the labourers on the 
Caledonian Canal : and hence it was, that one of the main 
objects of that well-intended project, the finding employ- 
ment for the Hiffblanders, was defeated. Hence the Rent 
services formerly mentioned; as the Landlords would 
otherwise procure no hands, or else the people would quit 
them, even in the middle of their work, should the fit of 
idleness come on. For the same reason, it was found ne- 
cessary to import quarry-men from the Lowlands into Sky 
and into Assynt, to work on the marble and limestone 
quarries; as the Highlanders considered it as too hard 
work, and would not persevere beyond a few days, even 
when induced to commence. Mr. Joplin's quarries, and 
those of Lord Macdonald, were thus wrought by Low- 
landers, transported at a considerable expense, when the 
Highlanders, on the very spot, were lounging about and 
looking on. All this, however, is nearly confined to those 
who have not yet received the contamination of Lowland 
improvement; as, in the slate quarries of Seil and Bala- 
hulish, and when employed in the towns, they are as ac- 
tive workmen as the Lowlanders. If, to us, this seems to 
imply censure, it cannot so be felt by them; since it is a 
source of ituaginary merit and of self-gratulation. That 
it is very generally true, in spite of the exceptions I have 
just noticed, is proved by the conduct of Highland 
proprietors themselves, in preferring Low Country la- 
bourers, tenants, and fishermen, and even in advertising 
for them as " preferred." This is the opinion of a High- 
lander about his own countrymen, and it cannot therefore 
fail to be true : while, being noticed in the work of our 
friend Col. Stewart, it must be a fact. 

It is partly to the difference of character among dif- 
ferent districts, and partly to other causes, that we must 
look for the very contradictory statements that are made 
respecting the Highland character for industry. My 
inclination is to make their apology when I can. Man is 


naturally iiuloleiit unless pressed by want, stimulated by 
ambition or luxury, or roused by example or emulation. 
Industry is an artificial habit; and it is not very wonder- 
ful that the Highlander, who sees all idle about him, who 
is nearly deprived of exertion for want of objects, and 
who is habitually contented with the narrow circle of his 
possessions and conveniences, should follow the propen- 
sities of his nature, and be what we almost every where 
find him in the remote districts. Such habits indeed un- 
fortunately stick to him, even when he might benefit 
himself by exertion ; nor is it unusual every year to see his 
crops of corn ready for the sickle, and neglected till the 
rainy season arrives and ruins his prospects. He is rarely 
to be seen in his harvest field till ten or eleven o'clock; and 
when there, half his time is spent, like " Tom," in " help- 
ing Jack:" in talking to his fellow labourers, lounging 
about the sheaves, looking at the sky, and wondering 
when it is going to rain. With all this, hundreds, in every 
summer, are found travelling to the south, to reap foreign 
harvests, and returning homewards with the pittance, 
gained by a few weeks of hard labour, for which they 
have perhaps walked a hundred or two of miles without 


The case is the same with respect to the fisheries. 
Where they are pressed by want, as in Canna, no people 
can be more active ; and, Avhere fisheries have been long 
established, as in Barra or Loch Torridon, there some- 
times appears no want of activity. Yet, on many parts of 
the west coast, though the shores abound with cod and 
numerous other fish, as I have already remarked, a boat 
is seldom seen employed in this pursuit ; nor will the 
natives often take the trouble to increase their scanty 
commons by an exertion so easily made. Yet the herring 
fisheries, in which there is the prospect of great and sud- 
den gain, sets a Avhole coast in motion ; and he who 
should chance to visit the Islands during' that season, 
will wonder that any one should accuse a Highlander of 
indolence. The fact is, nevertheless, unquestionable as a 


national feature ; and has been fully experienced in other 
cases than that of Tobermory, so lately noticed. 

It is not improbable that much of this indolence is the 
consequence of early habits acquired in tending the 
cattle by the road sides and wastes; an occupation car- 
ried on in a state somewhat between sleeping and wak- 
ing-, and requiring no exertion. But it is, in every way, 
a result of their ancient occupations and habits. The 
pastoral state has always been, notoriously, a source of 
similar dispositions, and a bar to improvement. The 
habit of frequent and private warfare also, has every 
where produced similar effects. This is the history of 
the Arabs; and the exceptions and their causes are well 
known, while they illustrate, in another way, this very 
fact. It was the same in the ancient pastoral Arcadia. 
The Arcadians did nothing in arts, and made no pro- 
gress in improvement, when Greece was performing 
what has continued to instruct and to astonish the world 
to our own times. If this was partly the result of their 
Celtic birth, it was not less that of their occupations. 
The life of a shepherd seems necessarily to lead to wan- 
dering and idleness. His wants are few, and easily gra- 
tified ; while the liberty which attends this condition, 
renders it difficult to introduce reform which must com- 
mence with restraint. The state of Arcadia was that of 
the Highlands : it is passing away, but it is not yet past. 

If this be really one of the causes of this vice, others, 
and perhaps stronger ones, may be found in the want of 
stimulus just noticed, in the impossibility under which 
they often labour, of bettering their condition by any ex- 
ertions, in the want of sufficient occupation on their very 
limited farms, and in bad example, or inattention, among 
those wiio might set them better ones. It has been too 
common to attempt to make these improvements and 
changes, by force and censure, instead of by inducement 
and gentleness and example. The improvers have for- 
gotten that " the nature of man being much more de- 
lighted to be led than driven, doth many times stubbornly 

818 INDOLf-NTr. 

resist authority when to persiinsion it readily yieldeth:" 
and they are surprised that, where nothing is attempted, 
nothing" is done. If they are thus negligent, surely they 
are the last that should complain ; M'hile the censure 
which may here seem to be passed on the people, ought, 
in fairness, to be placed where it is due, on those who 
neglect their duties. Lastly and not least, this mental 
disease must be attributed in part, to that contented dis- 
position which, however convenient to the possessor and 
however amiable in itself, is a quality little deserving of 
praise by a sound moralist. Dr. Johnson has called this 
content " a muddy mixture of pride and ignorance." It 
is that of a hog or a Hottentot; not the contentment of 
the patient and cheerful spirit. Content is here a vice. 
It is Discontent which is the true virtue ; the cause of all 
human improvement, without which man might have still 
realized the golden age of the poets, feeding on acorns, 
if he could get them, clothing himself in skins, and bur- 
rowing in the ground. 

As to their pride, it often puts on the appearance of 
laziness, to the inexperienced. If Donald refuses to la- 
bour for wages, because he rents an acre of land and is a 
farmer, so there are some kinds of work which Celtic 
etiquette and dignity do not allow him to touch. I had 
requested a Guide to relieve me of some hammers, not 
imagining that what did not disgrace me could offend 
him. He threw them with great disdain to a bare-legged 
boy; and I might have concluded that he had objected to 
the weight, had we not, shortly after, loaded him with the 
five fowling-pieces of the party, under which he trotted 
off as proud as an ass with a new pack-saddle. These 
are delicate distinctions. 

The Highlanders do not, however, claim the exclusive 
privilege of indolence ; since it is generic in a certain 
state of society ; although that state, it must be admitted, 
is a good deal past with them. But habits remain long 
after circumstances have changed. Not to affront our 
friends by remarking this characteristic feature in all the 

liN'DOLENCE. 019 

savag'e tribes of America or elsewhere, we have classical 
authority for its being" a habit, I should rather say a prin- 
ciple, among the ancient Northern nations. A Highlander 
cannot be displeased when he knows, from authority so 
high as that of Tacitus, that indolence, among those 
tribes, was not a passive quality, an " ignavia," but a 
principle of action ; of inaction would be more correct. 
When the Germans, says this author, were not at war or 
engaged in military exercises, they passed their time in 
indolence, feasting, and sleep. At the same time, they 
transferred the care of their houses to the old, the infirm, 
and the females ; " by a strange contradiction, both 
loving- inaction and hating peace." The Celts seem to 
have acted in a similar manner; nor is there so much 
contradiction in this conduct, as the Historian, rather for 
the sake of antithesis thati with his usual judicious eye 
to the philosophy of the case, has chosen to represent. 
If it was thus a principle, it was one also which was con- 
nected with their military habits. It was held base to 
cultivate the arts of peace for the purposes of procuring 
wealth or ensuring the means of living. The same author 
says elsewhere, " Pigrum C[uinimo etiners videtur, sudore 
acquirere quod possis sanguine parare." The business 
of war was honourable, but the labours of peace discre- 
ditable. Inaction was then, just what it is now, the dis- 
tinction of a gentleman ; and if a Torquil or a Magnus 
chose to sleep his peaceful hours away, he was as well 
and as correctly employed as an Ensign in country quar- 
ters is now, in looking out of the window and in teaching 
his terrier to fetch and carry. In truth, idleness was not 
only the business of a gentleman and a warrior, but the 
badge of liberty. Thus, you see, I have proved, and I 
trust to the satisfaction of our irritable friends, that this 
property was once an honour, if not a virtue. If Society 
chooses to whisk round and make it a vice, it is Society 
and not Donald that is to be blamed. 



All the world has heard of Highland Ghosts and Su- 
perstitions, and we have been desired to believe that the 
people are as credulous as ever. This has been the con- 
sequence of repeating-, as of to-day, things long past : it 
is, as I have often said, Romance attempting to pass for 
Truth. The Highlanders now believe just as much as 
their Pictish and Saxon neighbours. To imagine other- 
wise, is to make Martin our standard to the present hour. 
Doubtless, aseptagenarian Crone, doting over the stories 
of her progenitors, may repeat them till she believes them 
herself. Children here have their Goblins and Fairies, 
as they have in England : and a calf of a Celt may be 
frightened by another calf looking over a hedge by moon- 
light, just as an Essex brother might be. Ignorance and 
credulity, timidity and fright, walk hand in hand, in Sky 
and Uist, as in London and Cornwall. But the High- 
landers have made much greater strides into the regions 
of light and good sense than those false friends of theirs 
know of: and are little indebted to those who would re- 
present them as trembling at the mountain mists, or as 
living in a land of shadows. Many superstitious prac- 
tices moreover remain, by habit, long- after the belief on 
which they were originally founded, has vanished. Few 
also would choose to sleep alone in a church, even though 
not believers in ghosts. The Highlanders speak of an 
Evil eye now, with much the same faith as we do of a 
solitary magpie or an inverted stocking. If they have 
their Beltein, London has its sooty Floralia; and, *' like 
the strong statutes in the barber's shop" standing " more 
in mock than mark," the crystal ball, remembered, like 


the Royal touch, but for neglect, reposes at peace in the 
" kist" or " avvniry." 

It is one thing-, however, to doubt of the belief in super- 
stitions, and another to think them unworthy of notice 
and record. Those who have wished to persuade us of 
their existence, would have been better employed in col- 
lecting and illustrating them. But this transcended the 
powers of that prolific class which writes more than it 
reads. Such a history is a contribution, not only towards 
that of the human mind, but to that of the descent of na- 
tions ; for the superstitions and the tales of a people will 
be found to possess very wide, and often, very unexpected 
connexions. The recollections of this lore in the High- 
lands, seems however, not only very scanty and meagre, 
but extremely confused, as I shall soon show. We have 
often been told that this was a story-telling race, and that 
they passed their long winter days in repeating their su- 
pernatural tales and poems. This is easily said : it is 
time that it should be proved. That is the way to com- 
mand belief. Their brethren, the Cymri, have been more 
industrious, or more fortunate: for the Welch tales are 
numerous, interesting, and often highly poetical. But 
they were a polished and literary people, when the High- 
lands were plunged in barbarism. It is the same for 
their Gothic connexions. That nation, in all its ramifica- 
tions, from Denmark to Austria, from Hecla to the Hartz, 
can produce volumes where the Highlands can scarcely 
fill pages : and, to those Classics of the nursery, we must 
also resort for correct editions, as well as for illustrations 
and corrections of our own confusion. The Peasantry of 
Dalecarlia and the Odenwald and the Ertzegebirge, are 
the Groeviiand Gronovii of the Goblin race. Though the 
Highlands have a double claim, on a Celtic and on a Gothic 
source, yet, from each spring, but a scanty rill has de- 
scended to them : while they have so muddled and mixed 
the waters, as almost to defy our critical powers. The 
Lowlands have been much more faithful depositaries of 




this respectable branch of literature: as their ballads 
and tales abundantly testify. 

As he who has not read the poets, the historians, the 
orators, and the scholiasts, will edit Aristophanes or 
Persius to little purpose, so he who may undertake the 
office of a Highland Grimm, must bring something more 
than the Gaelic language to the task. Mythology, 
Oriental, Classical, and Scandinavian, Chaldea, and 
Egypt, and Arabia, and Greece, and Rome, Platonist and 
Rosicrucian, Magic, Dsemonology, and Witchcraft, the 
whole black army, from Proclus and Psellus down to 
Kornmannus, Scheretzins, Bodinus, Erastus, Anthony 
Rusca, Saloppidus, Jacob Boissard, and George Agricola, 
must form his familiar reading. In the tales of Arabia, 
Persia, Tartary, and Hindostan, he will often find what 
he seeks ; and the Sagas and romances of northern Eu- 
rope will furnish him similar information under forms of 
closer affinity. Siva, Bacchus, Medea, Odin, Thor, Mer- 
cury, Lokk, Maugrabin, Castor, Pollux, Sigurd, Hela, 
Lycaon, Bellerophon, and fifty more, will often prove to 
be acquaintances little suspected. He will approximate 
Homer and Lucian and Theocritus, with Iceland and 
Arabia and the Hagiologists, when little suspecting such 
associations. Genii, Dives, Duergars, Dracae, Trolds, 
Fairies, White Women, Saints, Devils, Giants, Kings of 
Fire, Water, Earth, and Air, Dragons, Vampires, Cobolds, 
Pucks, Goblins, Mermaids, Night-hags, Wolves, Scrags, 
Fantasms, Apparitions, Harpies, must be his bosom 
friends, and the Fates and the Furies, the Valkyriar and 
the Sirens, Pythonissa and Canidia, his loves. He must 
rival Albertus Magnus and Cardan, in Lychnomancy, and 
Oneiromancy, and Geomancy and Necromancy, and Li- 
thomancy, and Ceromancy, and all the other " manteias ;" 
nor will he waste his midnight candle in vain, over the 
Fabliaux, Thumb, Hickathrift,Sir Bevis, Arthur, Pendra- 
gon, St. George, and More of More-hall. You may think 
that I wish to alarm the aspirant : " to fright my readers 
with the Pagan vaunt, Of mighty Mahound and rude 


Terinagaunt." By no means : but he who is destined to 
rescue the fair fame of his country on this point, must be 
an Adept. 

It must not be imagined that the Highlanders have any 
pecuh'ar claims on their own tales and superstitions, as 
their ignorant friends have supposed. This literature is 
the property of the whole world, and they have received 
the knowledge of Nations through the downhill stream of 
their descent. As they have thus inherited from the Celts 
and the Goths jointly, we may sometimes fancy that we 
have detected a superstition peculiarly Celtic. But such 
has been the intermixture, and such is the remote origin 
of all this matter, that the supernatural creed and litera- 
ture of those two People can scarcely ever be effectually 
separated. If I have occasionally noted any distinctions 
of this nature, it is without any anxiety to prove what 
would require a much larger collection, and much more 
attention than I think fit to bestow on the subject here. 
There is no attempt towards order, because there was no 
room for order in this crowd. But the road which others 
may follow is indicated : the connexions which seemed 
most worthy of being marked, are traced ; and whoever 
may think the subject worth an octavo, will here find the 
far better part of the path smooth and clear before him. 
I may as well commence with Mother Mac Goose as any 
where else. 

The tale of Fraoch Eilan has been printed by Pennant 
and Dr. Smith. This enchanted garden was watched by 
a Dragon, and the fair Mego longed for its fruit. Her 
lover Fraoch undertook to gather the golden apples of 
these Gaelic Hesperides. LikeLeander, he boldly swam 
the lake, and attacked the monster. But both bit the 
dust, and poor Mego died of grief. It is easy to trace the 
parentage and affinity of this tale. In the romances of 
the North, as in Greece and in the East, hidden treasures 
are always guarded by a dragon. In Sturla's Odes, gold 
is called the spoil of the dragon's den. The Highlands 
have also their own edition of the tale of Child Rowland 



and Burd Ellen ; Jamieson (Robert) has given it. Dr. 
Macpherson has noticed the following-. A Magician lived 
on a rock. A tempest arises, and a boat arrives, without 
mariners, but with a hundred oars and white sails. A 
voice orders him to enter the Boat of Heroes. He sads 
seven days in the bosom of the cloud, without requiring 
food or sleep : hearing shrill voices, but seeing no one. 
On the eighth, a storm arises, a thousand voices cry. The 
Isle, and he lands in the Elysium of the Celtic heroes. 
This seems to be the tale of Procopius, wherever it ori- 
ginated. Dr. Smith has printed the story of Bera: and the 
style of this, as of all these tales, is highly poetical. Bera 
was the daughter of Grinaii, the last of the Sages of old. 
A fatal spring arose on Cruachan, and to her was its 
charge committed. When the sun's last beams should 
sink beneath the mountain, it was her daily duty to cover 
it with a stone, on which were impressed the mysterious 
characters of the ancient Sages. Oppressed with the 
chase, one fatal evening she neglected this charge. The 
waters burst forth; and when she awoke, she beheld 
only the wide extent of Loch Awe, covering the valley 
with its stormy billows, far beyond the reach of the eye. 
There is also, in this Legend, an oriental air : and Merlin s 
Fay stops the Cavern's mouth with an enchanted stone. 
If the mysterious characters which restrained the waters, 
savour of the talismans of eastern magic, they also possess 
an analogy to the Rnnic characters which bridled the 
wind. But even the Runic mythology is oriental ; nor 
is it diflScult to trace some of the reveries of the Edda to 
the Chaldee cosmogony. The body and the Head of the 
Giant Ymir perform the same office for the earth and the 
heavens, as does the bisection of the Goddess Omorca. 

Ewen of the little head inhabited the mountains that 
skirt the mighty Ben More. There was war in Mull among 
the Giants; and certain omens presaged his death; but 
nobly scorning them, he lost his head In action. Nothing 
daunted however, he took the useless member under his 
arm, like St. Denys, and rode off: another springing up 


to supply its place. He has never since been visible ; 
but when a Chief of Loch Buy is to die, his bridle is 
beard to ring for three successive nights, as he ambles on 
his coal-black steed round the margin of the Loch. There 
is an affinity between Ewen and those giants whom Jack, 
of celebrated memory, slew. Here, the Highlanders have 
apparently mixed up many tales and characters into one. 
The giants whom Jack killed, had two heads, as Ewen 
has in some of the editions, and sometimes three. There 
is a celebrated Headless Horse still in Germany : and the 
absence of the head may have been here transferred from 
the horse to the rider. The Coal-black steed is that of the 
Hunter Woden, who is a terrestrial as well as an aquatic 
rider ; and the bridle belongs to the same equipage. 

Lest I should rival the Blue Bibliotheque, I must 
refer to Mrs. Murray's book, for one among the most com- 
plicated of these Highland tales. There is a lady who, 
like Cinderella, is envied by her two elder sisters ; she 
flies from home and marries a Fairy, who deserts her. 
She consults another Fairy, who gives her a magical pair 
of shoes, by the aid of which, she may chace him through 
the flood and the wave, across the Forest and over the 
mountain. A comb accompanies this gift, causing pearls 
and diamonds to drop from her hair ; and so on. This 
tal€ has evidently combined the circumstances of more 
than one of the original stories : and it is more worth 
notice where it differs from the models than where it 
agrees with them; by marking the introduction of High- 
land ideas, Asto the Magic Shoes, they were made by the 
same Crispin as the Seven-Leagued Boots. If the latter 
have been worn by more heroes than Tom Thumb, they 
seem to have been originally manufactured in the neigh- 
bourhood of Caucasus, at the fountain of all knowledge ; 
since they are alsofound in the CalmucTales, inSsidi Kur, 
and in the Hungarian Tales from that source. The Magic 
Shoes were given, but not originally, to Jack the Giant- 
Killer, by his cousin the Three-Headed Giant: but (hey 
have performed many a journey, for they belonged once 


to Lokk, the king's jester in Vallialla; serving- him in Lis 
escape from that place : while they seem also to have been 
borrowed by Mercury, with the simple addition of a pair 
of wings. Rather, they both obtained them from the 
same shop : the real Officina Gentium, as well as of Cloud 
cloaks, Tarn hats. Wishing caps, Inexhaustible purses, 
Magic rings. Enchanted swords, and Flying horses; 
besides Magical glasses, Giants, Fairies, Dwarfs, Elves, 
Hamadryads, and hundreds more, "tales quales." If 
Gyges had his ring, so had Odin, and fifty others. Pa- 
colet gallops up and down the clouds on a horse that he 
borrowed from the Tartars; so does Perseus : but how the 
Poets ever became mounted on Pegasus, they must ex- 
plain. The Spanish Hidalgo loses his Elf-wife by pro- 
nouncing a sacred name, and the Metal Boat of Prince 
Amrad sinks under the same bann. Orpheus meets a 
similar fortune to the Spaniard, by looking back. Jupi- 
ter and Thor are Giant-killers, alike ; and Jack, of nur- 
sery note, is their legitimate son. Where we cannot 
easily trace beyond the Greek Pantheon, we may at least 
fish in that well of borrowed Orientalism. 

It has not been observed so much as it deserves, that 
most of the pettier mythology of Greece is only our own 
Fairy Lore, transmuted to suit the peculiarities of that 
people, as it has been every where else, and with the 
agents newly baptized. They borrowed from the parent 
spring, and we have done the same, by a different road. 
Hence the coincidences which I have here and there 
pointed out, and which might easily be traced much fur- 
ther. Thus it is that we agree with them, without neverthe- 
less having borrowed from them. Yet, in some instances, 
we have done this also, through the high-road of the cor- 
rupted Christian Church. But, like some other misfor- 
tunes arising from our early education, Greece, taking 
first possession, imposes itself on us as the original ; and 
few of us perceive that Perseus, Hercules, Bacchus, Me- 
dea, Bellerophon, Arion, Orpheus, Dedalus, Prometheus, 
Cacus, the Sirens, the Harpies, the Cyclops, the Dryads, 


the Tritons, the Argonauts, Dragons, Hydras, Hesporiilcs, 
and a whole race more, with the entire crowd of magic, 
witchcraft, superstition, physic, oracles, and what not, are 
but our own Thumbs, and Hickathrifts, and Fairies, and 
Quackery, and Conjuration ; and that we have been 
rvirrw-ed for twenty years by the Druids, for the purpose 
of learning to read Mother Goose in Greek. 

Thus, to return to our Highlanders, the descent of 
Conan to Hell, among much more, equally unsuspected, 
points out the origin of the parallel Greek fable ; as it is 
little likely to have come directly from this second-hand 
source, the gutter of Eastern mythology. If it is the story of 
Theseus, it is that of Odin. He descends to hell in search 
of his companions. The Devil assaults him, but he 
returns the blow with interest, and makes good his 
ground. But I must leave half told, the story of this 
bold Cambuscan. As to the Highland Hell, it is the 
Icelandic one ; the Niflheim of Snorro Sturleson, if he was 
the collector of the Edda. They have forgotten Surtur; 
but Jurna, (whence Loch Hourn) is a hell of cold : a con- 
gregation of eternal frost and snow. This was good Ice- 
landic policy ; on the principle of the witty preacher; 
always to reserve your burnings for hot weather, and your 
freezings for January. Fingal, with due reverence be it 
spoken, is not an absolute original himself, more than Co- 
nan. His sword is the Sword of Sharpness of the Edda, 
madeby Velent or Weyland, the Hyberborean Vulcan. It 
is the wonderful sword SkofFnung, and also Balmung, and 
it is Mimmung in Ettin Langshanks. It is equally Tyr- 
sing, the fairy blade of Suafurlami ; and it is also the 
sword which Jack begged of the Giant ; cutting off a 
man's head so neatly, that he does not perceive it till he 
blows his nose and finds it left in his hand. It is the 
sword Durandal, with which Orlando cuts rocks in two, 
and it is Escalibor, the sword of Arthur. It is the sword of 
Antar, forged from a thunderbolt; or, in that philosophy 
which analyses us out of half of our pleasures, from a 
lump of meteoric iron, containing no one knows how 


many per cent of nickel, and used for carving Esquimaux 
Crang-. In the tale of the Golden Mountain, the Mer- 
chant's son receives from the Giants whom he outwits, a 
sword so powerful, that when the wearer says "heads off," 
all the hostile heads fall off without contact. It is but the 
sword of Harlequin after all. Fingal and Harlequin — Oh. 
In the same tale, the outwitting of the foolish Giants 
remind us of Jack; and he cheats them out of the seven- 
leagued boots and the invisible cloak, by pretending to 
try their properties, that he may settle their dispute 
about the division of their inheritance. 

The Fairy, through whom this hero becomes King of 
the Golden Mountain, is introduced as a White Snake, 
and she is disenchanted by cutting off her head. The 
Highlanders also have their White Snake ; but it is a dif- 
ferent animal ; since the witch who obtains the middle 
section from Michael Scott, converts it into an enchanted 
broth, working wonders unknown. It was by means of 
Dragon's broth that Sigurd learned the language of Birds, 
as I have said elsewhere. Though the Dragon is an im- 
portant personage, he seems to have been nearly for- 
gotten in the Highlands. Nevertheless, every place has 
had its Dragon or Serpent, which is commonly the rival 
of him of Wantley, of him who strove with the Arimas- 
pian, and of the equally veracious Cappadocian, who la- 
bours with the no less veracious Knight, to render Britain 
the rival of Athens in monetary sculpture. It is probable 
that the popular belief in real, actual, serpents, which 
nevertheless have no existence, is connected with this, 
I suspect that the Furia infernalis and the Fillan, for- 
merly noticed, are Vorms of the same school. It would 
be as well, by the bye, if the Critics would at length 
agree to substitute the popular terra in place of that 
which no longer bears its original meaning. The Worm 
was not always a personage to be trod on. 

I know not if the Highlanders yet remember the 
Moath doog or Matha dhu : but he is a Celt or a Scandi- 
navian of their school, since he is not yet forgotten in the 


Isle of Mann. It is not a century since he haunted Peel 
Castle; lying- by the guard-rponi fire at night, and often 
alarming the Gentries. He bears a strange affinity to a 
Spanish goblin, who, like him, had a hairy coat, and 
might have passed either for a black dog or a wolf; and 
who similarly haunted the guard-room of the Alhambra. 
I have not yet heard of the Highlander " Who as so e'er 
that simple he would take, It him a War-wolf instantly 
would make." Having been common in Normandy, he 
ought to be found here also. But the Garwalf is like all 
the rest, the Thessalian Lycanthropos. The Thessalians 
were noted Conjurers. 

I formerly noticed the Highland Pigmies. Martin 
and Monro supposed them to be realities. It is more 
likely that they were the offspring of the Duergars, the 
Dwarfs of the North ; whom it is not always very easy to 
distinguish from the other Elves of light or darkness of 
our Gothic ancestors. Some of these were Lapidaries ; 
as they not only polished, but manufactured crystals ; and 
they were probably related to the metallic Cobolds of the 
mine, who dressed the ore, or suffocated the miner, just 
as they happened to be in good or bad humour. If the 
Crystal Amulets of the Highlanders were actually po- 
lished by Fairies, and not by Druids, those must have 
been the very Duergars in question ; and the Elf-shot 
arrow-heads must have come off the same wheel. The 
true Fairies, to whom they are commonly attributed, seem 
to have had no tendency to work ; occupying their days 
in feasting-, dancing, and amusement. But the Elf-shot 
was a solid substance ; as it actually penetrated the body of 
the victim, producing instant death, though the wound 
was to be discovered only by a learned eye. When 
possessed, it was a charm, not only against its own evil 
effects, but against incantations of all kinds. These Lapi- 
dary Elves are also the dwarfs of the Hartz, who ren- 
dered themselves invisible by their Nebel caps, and 
fought with the Giants; and whose wars are supposed to 


relate to the contests between the Goths and the original 

If I had ever seriously doubted of the Water Bull, my 
incredulity must have been demolished by once meeting 
a native who was watching- to shoot one that had com- 
mitted some ravages on his sheep "twenty days ago;" 
" going up and down the lake, as big as a house." An 
attempt had been made to take him, by a hook baited 
with a dog; but he had broken away, and " the lake was 
filled with blood." This goblin being invulnerable, like 
Claverhouse, with aught but silver shot, he had loaded 
his gun with sixpences ; while his two sons were disturb- 
ing the water where it was concealed, with dung- forks. 
If all be true, he would form a fit fish for the Giant who 
" sat upon a rock and bobb'd for whale :" since he is 
occasionally angled for by a cable baited with a sheep 
and made fast to an oak; but he breaks the tackle just 
as he scorns the sixpences. This is like Thor, who fishes 
for the Great Snake lormungandr, with a Bull's head. 
He is also called the Elf Bull. When cattle snort and 
run about, he is among them, invisible. He may then be 
seen through the hole of an Elf arrow : but the over-cu- 
rious loses his sight. He is mouse-coloured and sleek, 
like an otter. 

We need not care for Donald's classifications, as he is 
but a shallow deniotiologist. The Water Bull and the 
River Horse are species of the same genus, and coheirs 
with the Kelpie of the Lowlanders and the Water Kings 
and Goblins of Germany. They are acquaintances of 
Hippolytus also. Procopius tells us that the Goths were 
much inclined this way ; having " Aereos, terrestres, et 
alia minora dcemona, quae in aquis fontium et fiuminum 
versari dicuntur." The River Horse also frequents 
Highland lakes and rivers ; swallowing up a funeral 
procession about Loch Cateran. In Rasay, on one occa- 
sion, he devoured a farmer's daughter. To circumvent 
him, the man roasted a pig; plunged the red-hot spit, 

WATliR ELVliS. 331 

copying" Cutis, into his eye, and killed him. Fifty years 
ag-o, Rasay himself believed this story. The proper Each 
Uisk, or River Horse, of the Highlands, was a handsome 
animal, who used to graze on the road sides, ready saddled 
and bridled, watching for the traveller. He appeared 
very tame, and enticed the unwary wight to mount; when 
on a sudden he galloped off' with him to some lake, 
plunging- in, and devouring his victim at his leisure. 
Others assert, that he who had once bitted him, had en- 
slaved him. He has sometimes an enchanted bridle on 
which his power depends, and the possession of which, 
gives the victor the power of seeing- coming events, and 
of beholding all the spirits that wing the mid air. This 
is a corruption of the original text: just as they often 
attribute to the Fairies what belongs to Brownie or Puck, 
or to others of the Dives of their Oriental or Northern 
ancestry. But when a bold Mac Gregor fights the Water 
horse, obtains his bridle, and cheats him out of its secret, 
this, like others, is not so modern and puerile an addition 
as it appears; since he will prove to be only Jack the 
Giant-Killer, or Odin, or Thor. It is like Hay aping- 
Jack Hickathrift ; or Thomas the Rymer who acts the 
part of the Fairy King at Tom na Heurich ; just as Mi- 
chael Scott builds the bridges which, in other places, 
have been erected by the General Pontifex maximus of 
Alpine torrents. The gentle demeanour of the River 
horse also reminds us of the Black Horse who carries off" 
the unfortunate " Borgue" that is to be, and lands him 
on the roof of the Copper Castle. I must also notice an 
Aerial Bull, who may possibly be a real Mac. He is 
called the New Year's Bull ; and if Procopius had told 
us something more of this class of Gothic spirits, we 
might possibly have traced his parentage. Perhaps he 
is connected with the Bohemian Steers who fly away in 
the romance of Libussa. This appears in the shape of a 
black bull, but the matter is only a cloud; and it de- 
scends on the wind, wanderiug about the earth on New 


Year's eve. But whence he comes, and why he comes 
at all, no one knows. 

That the Water Spirits may be traced to a Norwegian 
fountain, and thus to the German goblins of the same 
character, is confirmed by the existence of the same be- 
lief in the Isle of Mann and in Shetland, in former times. 
In each also, he appears with a diff'erence. In the former 
island, he used to feed among the cattle in the fields; 
plunging into the water, when pursued, like a Hippopo- 
tamus. He was so like to the ordinary cattle, as to de- 
ceive both the people and the cows: but wJjen he chose 
to act the part of an Incubus, the consequence was fatal 
to the cow, and the produce was a shapeless mass. This 
was also the case in Angus. King Mihrage's mares had 
better fortune; and the Sea Horse of that tale also offers 
one of those coincidences between northern and oriental 
fictions which meet us at every step. In Shetland, he 
was an absolute German goblin, a genuine River Horse 
or Water King: a mischievous Kelpie, who thirsted for 
human life, assisted the drowning to drown, and sucked 
their blood through their nostrils. Even the witch of 
Shetland became a water Elf; for Marion Pardon was 
burnt in 1645, because she upset a fishing boat under 
this form. But the Water Spirit, with his nine fold, is of 
a somewhat troublesome pedigree and connexions. The 
Dracce of Gervase of Tilbury, who float on the waters in 
the shape of cups and rings to inveigle travellers, are of 
his race. He has high relations in the North, where he 
maintains his rights as the devourer of damsels and 
drowning men. He is no less than Odin himself, under 
one of his metamorphoses : for, like the Gods of India, or 
the triple Queen of Night and addled brains, this God 
has in his time played many parts. He here enacts Old 
Nick, and old Nick is originally a water Devil : he is Davy 
Jones himself: a personage unknown to the Greek my- 
thology, unless he is Neptune, as the Nixies and Undines, 
his nieces, are the Sea nymphs: a metamorphosis not 


much less reasonable tlian that into St. Nicholas the pa- 
tron of seamen, formerly noticed. Whatever that be, he 
haunts the wave and the flood, the mountain torrent and 
the ford, the black lake and the raging- sea ; raismg the storm 
and the inundation, and scorning to add fraud to force. 
The Witch who threads the yeasty wave in her cockle 
shell, and She who pursues the sailor's bark to Aleppo, 
are of the same pitiless school. But the Nixies charm to 
betray. They display their beauties and allurements on 
the bright margin of the summer stream, and plunge the 
confiding lover beneath its waters; for their voices are 
sweet as the melodious dropping of the waters in the ca- 
verns of the sea: and in the caverns of the sea they also 
abide, sporting in the g'oen wave, and swallowing up the 
unwary boat that ventures into their enticing watery 
bowers. The Lowland Kelpie is, unquestionably, of 
these; but of which, he and Nikar himself only know. 

There is a much more intimate connexion between 
the Mermaid and the other Spirits of the Flood, than the 
vulgar are aware of. This is another of the instances 
where a superstitious belief degenerates into an imagin- 
ary physical fact. Hence the Highlanders believe now 
in the Mermaid as a sober question of Natural History ; 
as a beast that may be stuffed and dried, and shown to 
the holiday fools of England for a shilling. It is far 
otherwise in Shetland ; but there is indeed a general 
fishiness in the superstitions of these islands, which smells 
rank of their Norwegian descent. With similar claims, 
the Highlanders have lost sight of many of the dreams of 
their Runic ancestry. The same belief was preserved 
in the Isle of Mann, as long as the Manx chose to believe 
any thing. The anatomy of their Mermaid was that 
which all the world knows, even to the comb. Of fifty 
stories, there is none more to the purpose than this, A 
beautiful Sea Nymph became enamoured of a young 
shepherd, bringing him splendid presents of coral, shells, 
and pearls, accompanying them by caresses and smiles. 
On one occasion, however, attempting to embrace him, 

334 M BUM AID*:. 

he became alarmed and resisted ; which the lady resent- 
ing, threw a stone at him, whereof he died. 

The Mermaid is multifarious. Peter Gellius says, 
that the Tritons of Epirus lay in wait for women, whom 
they stole. The Sea Nymphs and Giants of the North, 
prophesied like the Sirens, and sung- warnings. The 
Mermaid of Resenius preached a sermon against drunk- 
enness. The Lady Mar Gyga of the Speculum Regale, 
is known to all the Adepts. She of Coryvrechan was her 
sister. The Nereides and the Sirens, Proteus and his 
crew, all betray their own birth. Hesiod says that they 
lived two or three hundred thousand years. Demetrius 
considers the Gods of the Western Islands who died in 
hurricanes, and on whom Plutarch is so philosophical, 
as Mermaids : more confusion. This personage says that 
they conferred the gift of prophecy. This is the very 
Arabian story. Pliny is full on this subject, and says 
that they came on board of ships in the night, which sank 
under them. Molos, who ravished one of them, was found 
without his head, l^ut they took care of their own heads. 
For in the Danish ballad of Lady Grimild, Hero Hogen 
cuts off the Mermaid's head, and she puts it on again. 
There were Mermen of course. Rosmer Hafmand in the 
Kceinpe Viser is one of these. 

TheShetlanders, philosophers in the matter of drown- 
ing, have provided an expedient for the amphibious 
powers of the Mermaid tribe, or, perhaps, have retained 
some original belief. There is an aerial world beneath 
the waters ; and it is in this they abide, passing the li- 
quid element by means of inflated seal skins. On one 
occasion, a Nymph who had lost her jacket, was taken by 
a native, and married : producing a large family. Still 
she longed for the sea ; and, after many years, picking 
up the diving machine of some other of the tribe, she 
jj'unged into the surge, and was seen no more. In the 
Isle of Mann, as in Shetland, it was the belief that there 
was a world beneath the waters, with another atmo- 
sphere ; abounding in all the imaginary treasures of the 

GHOstS. 336 

deep. Fabulists scarcely less ing-enious than Sindbad^ 
even pretended to have visited it; describing", like Cla- 
rence, " wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl," 
unvalued jewels, scattered over the bottom of this fairy 
sea. There is Orientalism in this also ; it is the watery 
empire of the Arabian tales again, modified by the pecu^ 
liar habits and opinions of this northern people. 

But I must pass to the Highland Ghosts. Their psy- 
chology is peculiarly intricate. There is a heterodoxy in 
their conduct, as well as a heterogeneity in their nature, 
which is extremely abstruse. Sometimes they seem pure 
spirit ; at others, they have corporeal properties, or they 
unite the spiritual and the corporeal essences in one. 
They are formed of thin air, and disappear in smoke; 
on many more authorities than those of Ossian and Mac- 
pherson. If they are also immortal, as Ghosts ought to 
be, they sometimes die and are buried. They may also 
be killed. They are hard, because they pull a man's hair 
and box his ears; and heavy, because they must some- 
times be lifted from the ground ; when they resist, being 
tangible and ponderable. They are also voracious, as 
well as thievish; plundering the people of their stores, 
and so on. But thus the metaphysicians to this super- 
natural school for ever puzzle themselves; and, with re- 
verence be it spoken, even Milton has not escaped from 
his own theory unharmed ; as all the world knows. In 
the Highlands, a good deal must also be placed to the 
account of the chronicling carles and anid wives from 
whom we must collect our information. They have made 
confusion, in the first place, between the Genius or 
Astral spirit of the Second Sight, and the true Ghost,^ 
or disembodied soul. Some of their Ghosts also are ordi- 
nary Elves and Goblins, confounded in the narrations: 
the Eating Ghost appears to be a corrupted Brownie ; 
and, now and then, I believe he may be traced to the 
Vampires of Mycone. In other cases, the Ghost is plainly 
the Fire King, since he carries a light in his mouth ; and, 
occasionally he is even confounded with Fairies and with 


ordinary Witches. But the Highlanders have a more 
legitimate Vampire; and he may as well take his place 
here as any where else. A farmer meets an acquaintance, 
long- dead, and proceeds consequently to inspect his 
grave, where he finds the coffin open and empty. But 
this was a benevolent Goule ; as he had proceeded to 
the house, to protect his friend's child from a cow, which 
was about to swallow it by mistake among- the straw of 
the cradle. Here we have a mixture of Gellert and Tom 
Thumb probably; a confusion resembling- that of Miss 
Mac Cinderella. As to the Vampires, if you wish to be- 
come extremely learned in this matter, read Calmet, and 
see how a sensible man may blind himself. 

Who shall extricate all this, and give the Devil his 
due. I would, if I had room ; if I had even a book to 
hold what I have blotted; but I must content myself, as 
usual, with a few rambling remarks. I suspect that the 
eating Ghost is sometimes no less a personage than the 
redoubted and redoubtable hero, Tom Thumb ; whose 
metamorphoses are as numerous as his names, and among 
whose " aliases" Tom Lin, Tamlane, Daumesdick, 
Tommel finger, Thaumlin, and Dummling, form but a 
small part. Tom is given to extravagant eating; just 
like Grimaldi ; for all the Clowns come evidently from 
this parentage; among whom Lokk, Odin's jester, the 
fool and glutton, the Momus and the Clown of Valhalla, 
stands high. He could eat more than any man ; and 
when the giants are feasting, Sifia's husband eats a full 
grown ox and eight salmon, together with a vast profu- 
sion of sweetmeats ; besides drinking three firkins of 

In the account of the Second Sight, I explained that 
variety of the Highland Ghost which is the true Genius, 
or Astral Spirit, who, being born and dying with his prin- 
cipal, should be as inseparable from him as a Bailiff from 
his Bum. Thus he should be a duplicate Ens, or an Ens 
nonentical; though Donald's metaphysics are here sadly 
puzzled; as he not only wanders from, but survives his 


principal ; thus performing those offices which, in other 
countries, are executed hy the disembodied soul of the 
man himself: unless, in the Highlands, a man has no 
other life than a cabbage, and that, like the Shadow in the 
German tale, the soul is a distinct substance from the body, 
which may be bought and sold, and locked up in a box. 
Really, those Celtic metaphysics are very obscure. If 
the personages who have collected these things had ever 
heard of any other country than the Highlands, they 
would have puzzled us and themselves much less. How- 
ever that may be, there seems more of the evil than the 
good in the Highland Genius. He is an ominous gentle- 
man, who generally comes to harbinger mischief ; a " min- 
chin Malicho," who forewarns of downfall and death. 
Martin, who ought to have understood these things, 
since he understood little else, says that the Taisch is the 
voice of the person doomed to die. That is worse than 
Paddy Blake's echo. This is " the Ben Shee's boding 
note:" as familiar and as clannish in Ireland as in the 
Highlands. If Martin had understood his trade as he 
ought, he would have known that the Taisch was the As- 
tral spirit of the individual. This seems plain : and if 
he is thus in two places at once, it is no more than his fra- 
ternity can be elsewhere ; for it is thus that the Witch can 
act and suffer by a kind of biquity ; and that the object of 
her persecution is tormented by being roasted or pricked 
in the shape of wax. 

Tiiis is the very personage who ought to be the Bodach 
Glas of Waverley, and the vision who pronounces " Lo- 
chiel's warning." But mark how difficult it is to get at 
the truth in these extramundane matters ; not less than 
it is, at times, to extract sublunary truth in the High- 
lands. Waverley says that the Bodach Glas is hereditary 
in his family. That, in fact, is one of the theories ; and a 
troublesome one it is. Every Chief, it is said, had his 
family spirit ; a sort of Herald Mortuary, who forewarned 
him of death, as it had warned all his predecessors and 
was to warn his posterity for ever. Thus, he was not the 

VOL. lY. z 

338 GHOST!?. 

Astral spirit of the individual, but a Genius who had 
charge of the whole race. Thus philosophers differ : and 
thus philosophy is at war with philosophy. Yet if this 
theory be a true one, and if there be thus a Clan Genius, 
or a Ghostly and perpetual Chief, with a supreme com- 
mand, they have not preserved his descent with the same 
care as they have the patterns of their Tartans ; for I can- 
not find that many of these family Genii have been re- 
tained in the Chief's Tail. 1 suspect too that there is 
another kind of confusion in this case. Lham Dearg", the 
Ghost of the Bloody hand, haunts the dark fir woods of 
Rothiemurchus, cased in plate armour of steel, like the 
" ghost of Gimlet," and is supposed to be the family 
Death watch. This u a fearful, and somewhat of a solid 
goblin ; as the fated Grant, and others for aught I know, 
can hear the jingling of its armour. Loch Hourn too is 
haunted by the Glas Lich, a ghaunt and gigantic female 
spirit : and she too is the Angel of death to Barrisdale, 
or to Glengarry ; for nobody seems very certain, and not 
many care. 

Now I guess that, in these cases, there is somewhat of 
the usual confusion of identities which pervades all the 
Gaelic psychology. Ewen of the little head performs 
the same office for Loch Buy ; and I have shown how 
many personages besides he has been confounded with. 
This task seems to have been imposed on him by some 
chronicler ill read in this reading. The Lham Dearg-, 
the Glas Lich, and Ewen also, belong to a heterodox com- 
munity which combines the various properties of Ghosts 
and Giants and Goblins. To make this confusion worse, 
some of these personages lived in a state of wedlock, or 
possibly, of handfasting or concubinage; for the records 
say not which. Of one noted couple of this nature, the 
name of the male was Fhua mhoir bein Baynac, and of 
the female, Clashnichd Aulnaic. They were a quarrel- 
some pair : but the man, as is very proper, had the su- 
premacy: beating his wife, whose shrieks used to rouse 
the nocturnal echoes of Strath Down. 



It is law with all Ghosts, that should they wander the 
wold or the church-yard for a century, they never ask for 
what they want till first addressed. But the obstinacy 
of the Highland Ghost demands another ceremony, called 
the dead-lift; which consists in lifting- him from the 
ground till the wind blows beneath the soles of his feet 
and the earth. 1 have not found any rule for this in the 
Science. But I am only a Bachelor in the Black Arts. 
Those who appear to distant friends at the moment of the 
owner's death, are the common property of the whole 
world. The general theory is puzzling ; in other cases 
th*an those of Mrs. Veale and of Lord Lyttleton. But the 
Highland philosophy on this subject makes it quite easy. 
These visitors muster with the Spirits " black, white, and 
grey, with all their trumpery," which belong to the Second 
Sight. They are the Astral duplicates, who may wander 
where they list, even in the original's lifetime. But I 
have never heard, in the Highlands, that they revealed 
the dark secrets of their masters ; as in the cases of Ma- 
jor George Sydenham and of Lord Tyrone. When they 
possessed a solid and vulnerable mortality, they were 
sometimes to be killed by silver shot : but there was one 
who had only one vulnerable point: a mole under his 
left breast, as big as a Highland bonnet. An arrow 
being directed against this unlucky spot by the Gaelic 
Giant Killer, he evaporated in a whiff of smoke. If the 
mole had been in his heel, we should have thought of 
Achilles; who is, in this matter, somewhat of an Oriental 
hero himself. The killing and evaporation of the Ghost 
is perfectly orthodox ; since there is Milton's authority 
for it. Another Ghost is scalded with hot soup : but 
these are rather Goblins than Ghosts ; as I said before. 
There is one who becomes the Slave of the Lamp to a 
bold Donald who had rendered him some especial ser- 
vice. This is a very palpable Oriental Genie ; as are 
many more. Like other Genii, it obeys all orders, and, 
among other things, is directed to drive a herd of wild 
deer into its master's stables ; believing them to be horses. 

z 2 

340 GHOSTS. 

We trace here that silliness of character so generally 
found in all those beings, in the popular tales of all na- 
tions ; where the strong and the powerful, whether mor- 
tal or spiritual, are outwitted by the weak. The Giants 
are tricked, by a Thumb of some kind, out of their cap 
and shoes; and so is the Devil, wherever he copes with a 
dexterous mortal. That the Ghost is sometimes a Genie, 
is further proved by his bulk ; as he is often as tall as a 
pine tree. As to him who possesses the vulnerable mole, 
his secret is betrayed by a female with whom he cohabits. 
This is not exactly new. The secret of the Devil's golden 
hairs is betrayed by his grandmother ; and the Arabian 
tales furnish us other parallel instances. I suspect also 
that there is some connexion between these very golden 
hairs, and the hairs belonging to a Highland Witch, the 
property of which was to bind her enemies. She is afraid 
of being worried by certain dogs, and she begs the mas- 
ter of the hounds to tie them round the animals. He sus- 
pects a trick, and ties them round a beam, which they 
clasp so fast that they cut it in two. 

The real Ghosts or disembodied spirits of men, seem to 
have fled with the Second sight. That Macpherson bor- 
rowed his own, is rather probable than certain ; since the 
mythology of Norway descended to the Highlands. As- 
gard, the palace of Odin, is that of Trenmor; and as 
Niflheim received the base spirits that died of disease or 
old age, so the ghosts of the Ossianic poltroons are con- 
demned to remain for ever shivering in the Malaria of a 
dirty Highland dub. The Heroes, whom he avers that 
the Irish have spoiled, and whom it is equally probable 
that he unspoiled, are the very Giants of Scandinavia. 
Among other things, they are roused by a rock, being 
great sleepers, and it rebounds from them. Vidrich Ver- 
landson can be awakened only by a kick in the ribs; and 
he falls asleep again. Thus for twenty more of these. 
When a great stone falls on the prototype of Tom Thumb, 
he asks who is shaking the leaves from the tree. 

But such tales of this nature as the Highlanders yet re- 

mtisKiN. .'Ml 

*nember,theyieineiiiber as their poetry, not their creed. The 
weak or credulous may occasionally feel those terrors of 
the supernatural, from which few are any where exempt. 
Such impressions may even be more common here than 
in the Lowlands ; because they are most active on the so- 
litary individual and the melancholic temperament. But 
the Spirits of the dead have no other exclusive privilege 
now in the land of the Gael, than what they derive from 
the solitudes of its wild rocks and dark lakes, and the 
deep silence of its gloomy caverns ; from the doubtful 
moonlight that glimmers on the thin vapour of the pool, 
the wild mists that wheel and curl around the summit of 
the mountain, the hollow voice of the yet unfelt storm, 
or the blue gleaming of the lightning and the hoarse roar 
of the thunder, as hill returns the sound to hill, and rock 
to rock. I doubt if they ever could have produced such 
examples of credulity, eveti in the Second Sight, as the 
Lowlands of Scotland did during the reign of witchcraft. 
Not to go further than Sinclair's work, in 1654, and in 
Galloway, some fifty people, with a minister at their head, 
hold conversation and chop logic with the devil for a 
space of six months, and believe and swear that they saw 
a naked hand and arm come alone into the house and beat 
on the floor: the hint, I doubt not, for Horace Walpole's 
Otranto; unless he rather stole from the ghostly hand of 
Elkerken in VVierus, which used to haunt a road in the 
Dutchy of Cleves, overturning carriages, and pulling 
travellers off their horses. 

But, among this crowd, I must not forget the Uriskin, 
the Macs of the Fawns and Satyrs. Whether these were 
created out of the " Caro non Adamica" or not, I do not 
pretend to opine. The Jewish doctors, and Abraham Seba, 
say that their souls were made on Friday night, and that 
there was no time to give them men's bodies. Bochart, 
Maimonides, Dr. Tyson, and Hyginus Phurnutus, are 
mighty profound on this subject ; but Cicero confesses 
that he does not understand them: which is just my case. 
There is a miscellaneous mass of superstitions remaining, 


which I shall notice with the same reference to antiquity 
and to the analogous creeds of other nations. Martinis 

here one of the chief authorities. 

Leagues of friendship were cemented by drinking a 
drop of each other's blood ; an usage not uncommon 
among uncivilized nations. It was practised especially 
among the Scythians. The Devil, it is well known, has 
no confidence in any other ink. The sprinkling of the 
colours with the blood of the first animal taken on the 
enemies' ground, is a Pagan sacrifice and consecration to 
ensure victory, and was probably derived from Norway, 
But the Highlanders also held that the same good effect 
would follow from drawinsf the blood of a woman who 
should cross their path, provided it was taken " above 
the breath ;" whence they had recourse to venesection, ar- 
teriotomy, " the learned it call," in the temporal artery. 
If the banner was consecrated among the Scandinavians, 
so it was often enchanted: and thus also it was sometimes 
the work of the Fatal Sisters Urda, Valandi, and Skulda. 
TheParcae contented themselves with spinning a thread; 
but the Nornies wove a whole web of fate ; the flag 
of pale terror and affright, the dark raven waving his 
wings above the destined prey. Gray makes them weave 
the " winding sheet of Edward's race." That is question- 
able; for this was not a Celtic incantation; if indeed 
the Bards were Celts rather than Scandinavian Skalds, 
The Fiery Cross was a Northern usage ; nor was it merely 
a signal, and a denunciation of fire and sword. The 
blood was to be that of an animal killed for the purpose, 
and, I believe, of a goat : it was a sacrifice. Nor is this 
Cross the Christian Crucifix. It is the hammer of Thor: 
the thunderbolt with which he slew the Giants, and tried 
in vain to knock out the brains of his friend Skrimner, 
This is the cross to which I have alluded when on the 
subjects of Circles and Sculptures. 

We have been left much at a loss about Highland 
omens ; with the exception of those that belong to the 
Second Sight. How finely contemptuous Epictetus is on 


this subject. " Omens announce that your will is free, 
and that if you will use your liberty, you will have no- 
thing to accuse." Auguries were derived, among the 
German nations, from the neighing of horses : this is 
Scythian ; and Persian too, as every school boy knows. 
The Norwearians seem to have known or cared little about 
horses, unless they were Sea horses; being an amphi- 
bious and fishy people. The Highlanders have followed 
them in this matter ; and hence the horse was here no 
conjurer, except in the medical profession. The Ger- 
mans had equal regard to omens from birds ; and if an 
eagle " tow'ring to the sky, was by a mousing owl flown 
at and killed," they were as unhappy as Cicero when his 
chickens would not eat their dinner. 

Possession of a farm was here given, not by a handful 
of earth, but by the delivery of a stick and a straw. The 
straw is the Roman "stipulatio ;" a term which has now 
somewhat departed from its original meaning. The peri- 
odical whipping of children to record the boundaries of 
land, was another Highland custom connected with territo- 
rial property. This still flourishes in England ; though 
tenderness of heart in the Parish Ofl^icers, or of the corres- 
ponding organ in the degenerate English urchins, has ap- 
plied the geographical associations to the stomach, in the 
ishape of nuts and gingerbread. Each practice is exqui- 
sitely metaphysical : and the former in particular, argues 
a profound acquaintance with those delicate concatena- 
tions which are the foundation, as they form the funda- 
mental part, of modern education. Those who deal in 
Apollo, Baal, and Anaitis, may, if they choose, trace 
this rite to the Spartans, who flogged their children every 
Monday morning in the temple of Diana, to prevent them 
from crying. Why the human animal, being the only 
reasoning one, should be educated exclusively by means 
of brute force and pain, when the non-reasoning tribes, 
pigs, dogs, horses, Canary birds, and the rest, are taught 
by gentleness and rewards, is a problem to be solved by 
the modern Druids. The Pig must clearly be the supe- 


rior animal. If the ancient Druids occupied twenty years 
in teaching verses, if " Mutato nomine, de te Fabula,* 
they did not flog their pupils. Is it the dull routine of 
"hjBc musa" and " amo amas," which is at the bottom of all 
this, or rather something worse: does the IlajSaywyo? want 
stimulus and variety. If so, it surely would be a vast im- 
provement to flog the Master once a day, " pour le de- 
sennuyer." Which Avould unquestionably shorten the 
process of education. 

Martin says that women were not allowed to learn to 
write, lest they should form intrigues. The Turkish fair 
surmount this impediment by means of flowers; a thing- 
language, like that of the Academy of Lagado. What 
the Highland ladies substituted, Martin has not chosen 
to tell ; but he might as well have told us who could 
write in the Highlands in those days. The Druidical 
ladies, however, followed the Turkish fashion ; since we 
are assured by Mr. Davies that all language was derived 
from theirs, and theirs from plants and trees. It is pro- 
bably owing to the want of letters in the Highlands, that 
the Runic incantations have been forgotten. Odin boasts of 
his wonder-working Runes ; but he has not taught them 
to his posterity. These were like the Ephesian letters of 
the Greeks ; they were the Abraxas and Abracadabra of 
the North. The Cabalists wrought their miracles with 
the seventy-two names of the Deity. The Irish have 
" bothered" themselves with these Ramruner, their 
Ogums, to little purpose. More reading would have saved 
them a great deal of trouble. The letters were varied 
according to the several magical purposes to which they 
were applied. There were as many as twenty-four forms 
of G alone: and hence the endless alphabets collected 
by Hickes. The Runes are as classical as every thing 

" Carmine loesa Ceres, sterilem vanescit in herbam, 
Deficiunt, laesse carmine, fontis aquae, 
Uicibus Glandes, cantataque, vitibus, uva, 
Decidit."— • 


It is unnecessary to say that Witcbcraft has had its 
reign here, as elsewhere. To trace it to the Druids, is 
for those whose reading is limited to Toland and their 
own lucubrations. The art itself, as practised here, pos- 
sessed no peculiar marks to distinguish it from that of 
other nations. The Highland Canidia did what all the 
rest of the tribe have ever done. This is among the 
widest spread. The Illinois, as Charlevoix tells us, tor- 
ment by roasting and pricking images. Obi is now as 
familiar as Treacle and Rum. It has not, however, been 
said, that the practice of witchcraft prevailed much in 
the Highlands, or that they displayed those disgraceful 
executions which blot the criminal records of their neigh- 
bours and the judgment of the pious Sir Matthew Hale. 
The latest mention of a serious belief in this power, is in 
1775 ; when prosecutions were attempted before the Kirk 
Session in Sky, for carrying off the milk of cows by the 
fascinations of the Evil Eye. These were neglected and 
discountenanced ; and the belief has since ceased. Vir- 
gil's authority need not be quoted to prove that the ^aoMavia 
has been a very wide spread superstition. The Romans 
had a god Fascinus. The well-known countercharm was 
the " Fig of Spain," known to Ancient Pistol, as well as 
to Don Ramirez de Prado; or to Fromman, who has writ- 
ten a long book on fascination. Our old women have 
not forgotten the sign : whatever else they may not have 
remembered. Mercurialis has proved that the wasting 
of children is the result of Fascination : but the authors 
on this are endless. You may consult Perkins, Bartho- 
linus, Hardouin, Linder Westphalus, De Valle de Moura, 
and twenty more. 

I may pass to the element of Fire. Martin has given 
us one process, to which it has been the fashion to assign 
a Druid ical origin. A fire was to be generated by the 
friction of two pieces of wood, while all other fires and 
lights were to be extinguished. Sometimes it was pro- 
duced by the rapid motion of a spinning wheel ; and it 
was called Tein Econuch, or the forced fire. Water was 


then to be boiled over it, and this, sprinkled over cattle, 
cured them of the murrain. Houses were also preserved 
from evil, whether arising from witchcraft or other causes, 
by carrying- this fire in a circle round them ; and the same 
process was held eflicacious in the preservation of women 
newly lain in, and their children. Festus says that the 
Vestal fire was produced by an auger and a board; and 
Lipsius agrees with him. Plutarch however asserts, that 
it was lighted by the Sun, with the aid of a Speculum; 
but he seems to have confounded a Greek usage with a Ro- 
man one. Numa is indeed said to have borrowed this Spe- 
culum from the Etrurians ; to whom he was also indebted 
for that electrical knowledge which killed Tullus Hosti- 
lius, as it did Professor Richman long after, turned Sir 
John Pringle out of the chair of the Royal Society, ex- 
cited the war of the Sharps and Blunts, and raised to the 
skies, Dr. Franklin and Sir Joseph Banks. 

This brings us to the Highland Beltein: an especially 
favoured child of the modern Druids, who write volumes 
about it, as if it was all perfectly clear, and as if it was 
peculiar to the Highlands. Every thing, whisky, cou- 
rage, ghosts, virtue, or Beltein, is alike peculiar to the 
Highlands, among those who know of no country but the 
Highlands. This festival is equally known in Ireland ; 
as might be expected. It is known all over the world. 
In Cornwall, the fires of St. John and St. Stephen's days, 
are the Bealtine. In Brittany, it is the custom, on the 
^ame day, to pass through this sacred fire, a plant of the 
Sedum Telephiura, or Orpine, there called St. John's 
plant; preserving it afterwards, to live or die, and thus to 
regulate the fate of the experimenter. The Highland Bel- 
tein, kept on the first of May, was accompanied by some- 
what more of the character of a Pagan sacrifice ; though 
a random wrenching of etymology will not prove that 
the God to be propitiated, was Baal, or Bel, or Beelzebub. 
The Irish, of course, trace this to their favourite Cartha- 
ginian connexions; and Belus, as all the world knows, 
was the Sun. With them, the Cattle were driven through 

nKLTElN. 34T 

the fire, as a means of protection from future harm. The 
Knock Greine, or Grian, of the same country, are sup- 
posed to prove this theory, as having- been connected with 
the worship of the Sun, Apollo, or Belus ; and this per- 
son too is thought to be the Gruagach of the Highlanders. 
That term may possibly have been derived from a Druid- 
ical modification of the universal mythology ; but it does 
not prove the Beltein to be Druidical. The Highland 
festival is now fallen into oblivion : marking a great in- 
road on the manners of the people ; because Halloween 
is yet preserved in the Lowlands, as are the Cornish 
periodical superstitions just mentioned. When last re- 
membered, the shepherds and the boys made a rural feast 
on May-day ; and an orator, throwing a part over the 
left shoulder, with his face to the east, invoked the Eagle 
and the Storms to spare their lambs and sheep. In some 
places, one of them jumped across the fire : and this was 
supposed a Druidical human sacrifice. I doubt the whole 
Theory. The true derivation is probably from Pales, 
unless indeed he himself is Baal ; and this is the pagan 
sacrifice to the Deity of flocks and herds. There is no 
more difiiculty in this, than that the worship of Flora 
should have been preserved by the London Chimney 
Sweepers ; while, to make the matter worse, Maid Marion 
becomes the Goddess of snow-drops and lilies, and is not 
only worshipped, but personated, by a sooty demon with 
a shovel and a scraper in his grimy fist. I believe the 
whole system to be just as true as every thing else tha;t 
we have been told about the Druids. Olaus Magnus and 
Hotoman say that the Goths kept this festival in a similar 
manner, with fires. Lemmius informs us that the Moors, 
the Jews, and the Christians, did the same every where. 
It was an universal custom also, in Spain, where there were 
no Druids. The leaping over fires at the beginning of the 
year, was a practice of the Greeks : and this is the very 
Highland Beltein itself. May sometimes represented the 
commencement of the year: but that was various, and hence 
the various days appropriated to this usage, in different 

348 YULE. 

countries. But the date was also altered in some cases, 
to suit other festivals. Gregory, Bishop of Neo-Ceesarea 
in Pontus, allowed the Christians to keep the Bacchana- 
lia, the Saturnalia, and the Floralia; transferring the 
days to the Festivals of John, and Mary, and others. 
Hence the present combinations. It was a mode of wean- 
ing them from their Heathen usages ; and was practised 
in the case of many other analogous admissions. It is here 
that we must often seek the real descent to ourselves, of 
Yule, Beltein, and so on. Greece and Rome were, to us, the 
parents, and through the Christian Church ; whatever 
the more remote parentage may be. The Beltein, in 
its time and its manner, is precisely the feast of Pales 
in Ovid's Fasti; thePalilia; when the shepherds also 
lighted straw and jumped over it. It is possible however, 
that the term and the usage may be distinct things, in 
this case and in some others. 

The Halloween of the Highlanders was celebrated 
with the well-known incantations described by Burns and 
others, on the first of November, round fires called Sam 
Huin, the fires of peace; the night being spent in dancing 
and feasting. In Ireland, the AUhallows Eve is called Oid- 
che Shamna, and this is idly supposed to be the Eve of 
Samen, the Phenician name of the Sun. The fires were 
called Tine tlach'd ga; and it is said that the people 
were obliged to extinguish their own, and re-light thera 
at that of the Druids, paying an annual tax ; in default of 
which, they were denied fire all the winter. No one 
believes any Irish tales of this kind : and this isToland's 
own. If it is celebrated among the Russian peasantry, 
and with many of the same superstitious observances as 
in Scotland, it proves nothing more than the descent I 
have just traced for the Beltein. The Highland Christ- 
mas is, like the Yule of the Lowlands, the Scandinavian lol ; 
but, like many other of these popular usages, it has been 
combined with the Christian festival and with the Catholic 
and Protestant ceremonies, as many other superstitions 
have been, so as somewhat to puzzle the cause. Even 

YULR, 349 

Demons and Elves have contrived to get admittance here: 
and St.George also, with as little claims, has thrust himself 
into this goodly company without a ticket. It was the 
feast of midwinter in the North : a Bacchanalian holiday, 
as Rudbeck thinks, and possibly derived from the Satur- 
nalia. The Etymology has been sought in 01 or Ole, 
Ale; but it has sorely puzzled all the antiquaries. Arn- 
grim Jonas and Hickes adopt the preceding. They are 
all wrong : it is the feasts of the Sanscrit Sun passing the 
Solstice, and is still kept by the Rajahpoots. But it was 
transferred to the feast of the Nativity by Haco Adel- 
sten, the first Christian King of Norway. The Yule 
clog, common every where, is here sometimes called 
Cailleach nollich, or the Christmas old woman. It is 
therefore supposed to be a human sacrifice, and a sub- 
stitute or atonement for the death of the parties con- 
cerned, till the next anniversary comes round. This 
seems a complication of confusion ; is it the great Chris- 
tian sacrifice transferred to the wrong day; or is it 
founded on vague traditions of the human sacrifices of 
the Druids. Their New-year's Eve and New-year's Day 
are little marked by any peculiarity, except what may be 
traced to the Catholic superstitions. Whatever magical 
virtues the Roan tree may possess in itself, the cross into 
which it is made, is probably from this Church. The 
smoking with juniper wood, as a security from witchcraft 
during the ensuing year, seems a Catholic suflTumigation ; 
unless indeed, it be a magical one of more ancient claims; 
or the Pagan one from which Rome has borrowed. The 
sprinkling should be the same ; but why the water, the 
" uisk cashrichd," is to be procured from what is called 
a "dead and living ford," I know not. In general, the 
holy water is obtained by the immersion of the magic 
crystal ball. As to the other lustrations by fire, their mo- 
difications are more numerous than I choose to record. 
The carrying it round newly delivered women, and the 
passing the children through it in various modes, were th« 


Ampliidroinia of Athens, where similar ceremonies were 
performed on the fifth day. 

Martin has recorded another sacrifice, usual in his 
day, which probably comes from a diflTerent source. At 
Hallowtide, a cup of ale was offered to a Sea God called 
Shony, for the purpose of rendering the lands fertile. 
This drink was made by a general subscription of the 
inhabitants; and it was drank in the fields at night. This 
ceremony, he says, was confined to Lewis. The nature of 
the Deity would lead us to suspect it to be Norwegian : 
and if he has not made confusion himself, it is probable 
that the people did ; by asking from a .Sea deity, corn, 
instead of fish or hostile ships, and by transferring the 
ceremony to a wrong day. We have been told of oflfer- 
ings made to an Apollo with yellow hair: no one knows 
where, or when, or how, or for what purpose. This is 
probably like the Goddess Anaitis. Such fancies as 
these, the dreams of etymologists, or of students raw 
from Tooke's Pantheon, injure the cause they would il- 
lustrate. It would be well if those who cannot explain 
the antiquities of their country would refrain from ren- 
dering them still more obscure by the " learning" of a 
school boy. (Edipus Celticus will never be hatched from 
a Druid's Egg; nor from Lempriere's dictionary. 

The last sacrifice noticed by Martin is that to Brownie, 
who seems to have no Celtic name. The people offered 
milk to this *' lubbar fiend," on a certain stone, and upon 
a hill, on Sundays, in many places. This is a libation ; 
and, thus also, any drink that was spilt by accident, was 
supposed to belong, of right, to the Fairies. The Gaelic 
Brownie is a tall man in long brown hair; and every one 
knows his ofiice and the family to which he belongs. It 
was one of his properties to strike work as soon as he had 
received payment; and if, unwittingly, his reward was 
given him before his labours were finished, it was in vain 
to expect any further service. It is the same in the Low 
Country, and in the German tale of the Elves and the 


Shoemaker. The Highlanders had also then' female 
Brownie, who was called Maug Vuluchd or Hairy Mag; 
the Pickle Harin of our Teutonic neighbours in a female 
garb. The Highland Fairy, who makes shoes for a shep- 
herd while he is preparing a mess of porridge for it, is 
this very person, misnamed. I suspect that the Apollo 
above named is also this Puck ; and that ignorant nar- 
rators have confounded one species of sacrifice with the 
other. It requires more learning than Pinkerton will 
allow to a Celt, to develope this subject. Brownie and 
Apollo Gruagach are probably, both, the English Robin 
Goodfellow ; mischievous and serviceable, a good fellow 
when he threshes the corn, or when he had charge of the 
cellar and swept the house, as in Germany, but a monkey, 
a devil, a knave, a pug, or a goblin, when he knotted 
horses' manes and tails and frightened the children. He 
is a Gub or a Gob in Sweden, and an old man ; but he is 
always a sturdy fellow, a Lubbar. In Germany, he is 
hairy all over; but I must leave his history unfinished. 
We borrow much more than we contrive to recollect. 
INine-tenths of us imagine the Night Mare to consist of 
two or three superfluous pounds of supper. But that 
heavy personage, from Avhose embraces it is so difficult 
to get free, is as guiltless of gormandizing as she is of 
any equestrian connexions. Her breeding is not of a 
" mare's nest ;" she was hatched in the great shop of gob- 
lins and nations. She is the Night Mai, the maiden of 
night : " And Mab, his merry queen, by night. Bestrides 
young folks that lie upright:" says Drayton. But Dray- 
ton is not quite at home here. She is one of the Scandi- 
navian Fates; and her business is to choke him in his 
bed, whom she chooses to take napping, rather than to 
wait and watch for him in the flood or the mine, in the 
forest or on the sea rock. The Lamiae of Classical an- 
tiquity are little different. 

I should deserve to be bestridden myself, by Mab, 
Titania, and the whole crew, if I did not say a few words 
more on their Highland Subjects, though they crossed 


me once before. Their office, here as elsewhere, was 
for good and evil both; though humoured and flattered 
as friendly beings. Persia io reputed their birth place. 
The good and the bad Genii, the Deevs and the Fairies, 
are, like the Dwarfs and the Giants of the North, the 
more ancient and the more modern Persians; the in- 
vaders and the invaded. Those who favour this Theory, 
do not ascend high enough. There is something more 
ancient than all ; a beginning before the beginning, and 
so on to the Antediluvians. They assumed and exer- 
cised malevolent authority over those children whose 
beauty was matter of pride or praise; they stole or 
changed them as they thought fit, and had an uncon- 
trouled power over them before baptism. As elsewhere, 
they made quaint circles in the green sward, " whereof 
the ewe bit not," sang heavenly strains to willing ears, 
sported their midnight revels by moonlight on the mossy 
turf, dressed in green, and lived beneath hillocks. What 
more they have ever done, they did here. It was not al- 
lowed to speak of Fairies without adding a term of ci- 
vility. They were called the Good men. This is the 
Ev^)j/*<o-/Ao^ Hence the Furies were called benevolent, 
Eumenides. Thus also theEuxine; because it was so 
notoriously stormy and bad a sea. " Quem tenet Euxini 
mendax cognomine littus." It was thus to be coaxed 
into moderation, like the Fairies and the Furies. We 
have not forgotten, ourselves, this Euphemism; the " bona 
verba fari." Death was unpronounceable : it was " vita 
functus," with them: with us every one knows what it is. 
A prison was called Domicilium, and so on. Cicero says 
that the Pythagoreans were peculiarly attentive to this. 
But enough of Cledonism and Onomancy for the present. 
The Dracse carried off" people to their subterranean 
recesses, and employed them in various offices. He 
who touched his eyes with an enchanted ointment 
could see them ever after. This is Highland also. 
And it is by means of an ointment that the Cove- 
tous man discovers the hidden treasures of Caucasus. 


These spirits are equally the White Wiven of Friesland, 
I raenlioned formerly how they became Soldiers; mili- 
tary fairies or Hellequins, the Milites Herleurini: as I 
also related the tale of The Rymer's Fidlers. But where 
can I dispose of a whole headful of this matter, in such 
an Index as this. 

But some of the Highland incidents carry a flavour 
peculiarly northern with tiiem, and thus perhaps lead us 
to their proximate source; since it is of the quality of all 
matters in this department of natural history, to be mo- 
dified in different countries, by the peculiarities of the 
people through whom they pass. A Donald is led over 
a whole country by invisible music; reminding us of the 
pied piper of Hamel, and of what is well worth all the 
fairy music that ever was piped, the Zaubertlote. But 
this too is Oberon's horn, which could make even the 
chairs and tables dance, as well as the rats and the boys. 
It was probably the same person who built the walls of 
Thebes, and charmed the Dolphin, and Pluto. The one 
story is as good as the other; and Papageno, Orpheus, 
Oberon, Arion, Amphion, are all copies of an original 
whom nobody knows. In Denmark, there was an espe- 
cially musical Elf king. We find Oberon's horn in an- 
other shape, in the tale of the Jew in the bush. After 
much fiddling, he saves himself from hanging by his 
musical powers. Papageno in the Zauberflote is equally 
efficacious with the guitar; as his master is with his 
flute; all of them instruments of the same manufactory. 
One Highlander, in passing a mountain, hears the tramp 
of horses, the music of the horn, and the cheering of the 
huntsman ; when suddenly a gallant crew of thirteen 
Fairy hunters, dressed in green, sweep by him ; the 
silver bosses of their bridles jingling in the night breeze. 
This is plainly German : for a Highlander might as well 
have imagined a squadron of Pindarees mounted on 
Elephants, as the galloping of a troop of horse over 
Cairn Gorm or Ben Nevis. This is the Hunter of Roden- 
stein, or Hackel ; whose compact with the Devil was 



that he might hunt till Doomsday, and who still alarms 
the peasantry of Uslar or the Odinwald. The hounds 
of hell watch his grave, and the wild army of his train 
scours the midnight mountain and forest, in chace of the 
Deer. But it is a versatile tribe. Woden too is the wild 
hunter; so is the Devil of Vauvert, the huntsman of Fon- 
tainebleau whom Sully heard. St. Hubert claims cousin- 
ship with them both : he hunts in France also in another 
shape, and thus the same person is the Ghost of a Ger- 
man Baron, a Deity, a Saint, a Fairy, and what not. It is 
the God Siva under his diverse aspects; and thus po- 
pular tales are bred out of popular confusion, just at St. 
George and More of More Hall have sprung from Her- 
cules or Apollo, and as these fetch their pedigree and 
their feats from India. It is the same for what they have 
forgotten as for what they have remembered of this lore. 
The Homines Metallici are still busy in the Hartz ; twenty 
years ago they were actively employed in picking and 
breaking ore in Wales ; and, for aught I know, " they live 
there still." But the Highlanders had no mines; and if 
the " Swart fairy" ever found his way there, he has been 
forgotten. It is thought that the Metallic Dracse, orDwarfs, 
allude to the original Celts, who retired into the moun- 
tains on the irruptions of the Goths, and who were once 
possessed of arts which I have elsewhere noticed. There 
is however an objection to this opinion, while the fact 
itself proves the high antiquity of the art of mining in 
Germany. It is, that the Miners' Terms are derived from 
the most ancient Gothic tongue. 

It is not surprising if our friends have forgotten much 
of their Scandinavian superstitions; for these and the 
Saxon are the germs of nearly all our popular legends. 
If the Norwegians lost their tales on settling in the High- 
lands, it was just as they lost their language. There is 
no small connexion between the two, in this matter. It 
happened alike to the Normans in England ; their tongue 
merged in the Saxon, and their tales shared the same 
fate. Still, Iceland and Denmark preserve what the Nor- 


wegian Highlanders have forgotten ; and Normandy, 
even yet, remembers stories of the older time, which we 
must seek there. Still, in both these remote countries, 
Hela rides dark through the forest, on the three-legged 
horse of Niflheim : attended by the Night Wolves of Hell, 
and spreading war, famine, and pestilence ; crying Havoc 
as she lets slip the dogs of war. The Malones may ask 
where the Poet found this hint. 

Martin has recorded some curious oracular proceed- 
ings. The hinder end of a man was to be bumped against 
a bank, when there came out of the sea, little creatures, 
who answered all questions. Or he was wrapped in a 
fresh cow's hide and left all night in a solitary place, 
generally near a cascade; when invisible spirits made 
the necessary communications, which he revealed in the 
morning. This Oracle has puzzled the Highland anti- 
quaries, who never see an inch beyond the length of a 
Druid's nose or their God Bel. The Priests of the Oracle 
ofDodona slept on the ground in skins; being thence 
called Xa[j(.aievvai. A cow-liide was also a sacrifice to the 
Pythian. The cascade may be Scandinavian or Greek: 
and probably both are one. The Germans, and other 
ancient nations, divined by the noise of falling waters : 
it was a species of Hydromancy. Among the Greeks, 
the murmuring of fountains was, or might be, prophetic; 
because Deities and Nymphs presided over them. Hence 
the choice of Delphi, (/astalian springs, and so on. There 
appears here also some slender affinity with a German 
superstition, to which the popular story of the Turnip 
seems to refer. The man who would become wise, hangs 
nine nights on a tree, shook by the winds; where he im- 
bibes his knowledge. A passenger is robbed, thrust into 
a sack, and hoisted up to a tree; and he succeeds in 
escaping", by enticing a silly passenger to let him down 
and take his place, under the pretence of his thus ac- 
quiring a knowledge of all the secrets of the universe. 
It is easy to trace greater aberrations than this, in the; 
Highland editions of these matters. 

A A 2 


A less humane expedient, was the roasting of a livings 
Cat : when an oracular Grimalkin, attended by a swarm 
of kittens, made its appearance, answering all enquiries. 
The marine soothsayers probably belong- to Norway ; but 
there is a more abstruse pedigree for these. The Cartha- 
ginians had a squadron of little sea gods in the shape of 
pigmies, who used to protect their ships; and whose 
images, some one says, were carried to sea; whence, as 
some one else thinks, the Catholics still carry the images of 
their Saints. These are the Pataeci, the Traraxo* of Hero- 
dotus. As Scaliger, Morin,Bochart, and Selden, dispute 
about them, they must be important gods, though Pau- 
sanias says that they were only a foot high. Eisner thinks 
they were the Dioscuroi. They have grown to a goodly 
size as they are now manufactured by the rivals of Phi- 
dias in his Majesty's dock yards. Whether the cats have 
any relationship to the Marquis of Carabbas or to Mar- 
cou the Prince of Cats, it is not for me to decide; but I 
conjecture that this oracle also is of a Norwegian breed ; 
since the imps of that country appeared in theshape of Cats, 
as well as Ravens. The Trows too were sometimes em- 
bodied in that form ; and, correctly I believe, under the 
colour of a tortoise-shell one; so that there must have 
been males in those days, though the ancient virgins 
of Cockney cannot find one now, even by aid of advertise- 
ment in the Times and Courier. The Cats have still kept 
their hold of the witches, and by consequence, of Old 
Maids, to our own day ; and the Ravens, no one need be 
told, have been noted soothsayers, all over the world and 
at all tiines. As Mahomet was served by a pigeon, Odin 
had his two crows, as well as his two wolves Geri and 
Freki which he fed at his own table. They sat on his 
shoulders, and whispered every thing which they heard 
or saw. Their names were Hugin and Munin, thought 
and memory ; no bad program of Odinian metaphysics. 
He sends them out in the morning to fly round the world, 
and they bring back the news at dinner time. This is 
the very " little bird that told me so." The Raven, how- 

ORACI.ES. 357 

ever, claims an Eg-yptian parentage, St. Ambrose says 
lie was worshipped there. Hence it yet is, that they 
croak when a cliff is about to fall ; and Isonce also it is 
unlucky to shoot them ; not, as g-eneraliy esteemed, be- 
cause they embody the spirit of Kinor Arthur. But, 
though I have not chosen to enter into the mysteries of 
Highland witchcraft, I must remark that the Highland 
Witch appeared, like the Norwegian one, in the shape of a 
cat, and also of a raven. She further assumed the form 
of a magpie, as in England ; whence the soothsaying' fa- 
culties of this bird. Alias, she was a hare, a stone, and 
many other things, on which I need not rest. As a cat, 
she succeeded in drowning- an ancient Rasay, who had 
been hostile to her fraternity: attacking his boat in that 
villainous channel of Portree where I was once nearly 
drowned, myself, without her aid, and filling the boat and 
the rigging- with a swarm of fellow imps, who, clambering 
on the lee gunwale and stays, upset the boat. Of the last 
oracular machinery which I shall notice, viz. the shoulder 
bone of a sheep, Mr. Elphinstone has found the parallel 
in Caubul. But it does not follow that the Highlanders 
brought it thence, as you, among others, have chosen to 
suppose. Nor from Persia ; where it is also mentioned 
as in use by Hanway. Drayton notes it as an English 
superstition ; and so does Selden, as used in the time of 
Henry the second. The sayings of Mahomet were recorded 
by his disciples on shoulder bones of mutton, as well as 
upon leaves. It was also used in the N6npo//.ayT6*a of the 

Among incantations to procure v.'ind, we have heard of 
at least two. Water was poured on certain^ black stones 
for this purpose; and the cunning mohk with the fearful 
name, O'Gorgon, already mentioned, made money of this 
trade, as the Laplanders have done before him. It was 
customary also to hang a he-goat to the mast for a fair 
wind. This is a sacrifice to yEolus ; but whence, he alone 
knows; unless, by a blunder, the goat has been trans- 
ferred from Bacchus. Their northern progenitors skinned 


the g-oat and locked the winds up in the bag : borrowings 
from Homer, or he from them. To tie them up in a pair 
of garters, is a practice yet remembered in Shetland ; but 
Martin has not told us, and I never could find, that the 
Highlanders had any recollection of the Runic Knots, 
even for securing Love; that perishable substance Love, 
more volatile and capricious than all the winds of the 
Great Minch or the ^gean sea. The Cake which was 
eaten in St, Kilda and elsewhere on Michaelmas day, is 
the Triangular Cake of St. Woolf. Saxo Grammaticus 
describes auspices from eating a Cake ; and it is still used 
among the Finns. Our own Wedding Cake, and the ring 
through which it must be passed, are analogous ; while 
this is the Confarreatio of the Romans. I noted some 
cases of Hydromancy before. In Lewis, says Martin, 
they brought a dish of water from St. Andrew's well, and 
if, when laid on the water, it turned Sunways, the patient 
would recover. The turning sunways meets us every 
where, and is of the highest antiquity ; Witches, it is well 
known, reversed the proposition, and this is the Scottish 
" widershins." In the recorded use of Cups, there are 
remains of Scyphomancy ; but I must hurry through the 
least interesting. If Calmet is right respecting Joseph's 
Cup, this superstition is however an important one. I 
never heard that the " Casting of the heart," known in 
Shetland, was used in the Highlands ; but it is the Molyb- 
domancy of the Greeks. In the same islands, a storm 
in a washing- tub was no jest in former days. The Witch 
placed a porringer in a tub of water, and sung the song 
of Odin. A corresponding storm arose at sea, and as the 
porringer " whummeled," the devoted boat was lost. 
This is the Greek Scyphomancy again. 

I do not know that the Highlanders possess any pecu- 
liar superstitions on the subject of funerals. The salt, 
the candles, the streekingand watching, the Ululatio, the 
feasts, are universal. All those of which I have read and 
heard, are of common belief in many other places: bar- 
ring what is particularly connected with the Second 


Sight. Thus for Weddings. The knots untied, are the 
well-known Ligature. Greek zones and cestuses, even 
Venus's Girdle, are the same ; and this also explains the 
mysteries that lie beneath the loss of a Highland Snood. 
Opening the door to emit the parting soul, is the same 
thing. The prognostic of funeral or death, and the tracing 
of the path by lights, or Corpse Candles, M'hich precede 
the Taisch na Tiabedh, were common to them with the 
Welch as well as the Manx ; and that superstition also 
existed in Cornwall. It is not however necessary that it 
should be a Celtic one. If we trace the mythology, the 
superstitions, and the tales, of the Celts to the East, so 
must we those of the Goths. All alike merge in the re- 
cesses of Caucasus, under the shadow of Elborus and 
Ararat, or in the plain of Shinar. The Corpse Candles 
are part of an extensive family ; whose fraternity, in the 
shape of Jack-a-lanthorn and Will of the Wisp, are not 
forgotten any where. This brood is as much personified 
in the terrible turnip as in the fires of St. Hermes. Our 
Scandinavian ancestors held large shares in this Gas 
Light company, as well as the Celts. If the Cymri have 
their Canwhyllan Cyrph, and the Gael their Corpse 
Lights, the Saxons have their Daws Licht. The Trolds 
who lighted the grave fires of Scandinavia, are the very 
Trows who still carry the flambeaux of the Elfin under- 
taker in Shetland, and who used to stand on the church- 
yard wall of Peel Cathedral, to marshal the souls of ship- 
wrecked mariners the way that they were going. In the 
Highlands, they attended the fatal ford. If I said that 
our friends had no Fire King-, like the Germans, I am 
partly wrong: since this personage is of the race of the 
very Lights in question. He has merely lost his person- 
ality. The Highlanders have dropped the bearer and 
retain only the flambeau. The light which attends the 
ford, is not only an indication of death, but, like Jack and 
Will, he is a tempter also. It is the Fire King's light, 
wielded by no mortal band. The poetry and the splen- 
dour are gone, but the superstition remains. 


These also are the Fire Demons of Germany, who flit 
and glimmer over the caverns of hidden treasure: the 
Spirit of the Hartz who deals out molten gold with his 
infernal pitchfork, to entice his friends to their own ruiji. 
Jack and Will are equally mischievous : they were once 
equally clever ; for they also detected mines as well as 
bogs ; but, like the devils of the Saints, and the breed 
of the Pucks and Bugs, and even like Odin himself who 
ends in frightening children from their bread and butter, 
they become silly in their old age ; Masting their energies 
and expending- the midnight link in dull fun and stale 
tricks, and ending by "lighting your honour " into a bog. 
Are they not all first cousins to the Fire Sheet which 
conceals the Spanish Enchanted Castle; and to the flame 
through which the Arabic Knight must cut his way, to 
perform whatever is to be done. Thus too Brynhildr, 
the daughter of Budla, lives in a castle surrounded by 
the Fire Vafrloga. Here also. Mythology and Supersti- 
tion combine themselves with Physics. The holy and 
ominous fires of the Aurora Borealis, hold a middle place 
between truth and fiction ; and Greece had its Cistor 
and Pollux, perched in the shape of an electrical star on 
the spindle, or gliding along the bobstay to dazzle and 
drown the unlucky sailor who was over-hauling the jib 
tack. This is even Davy Jones himself, under one of his 
metamorphoses : and thus things come round. And thus 
also the natural and the supernatural history learn to 
part company, as men grow out of their lustral childhood. 
Franklin's kite has here spoiled half of our sport, unless 
Numa did that before; and the prying of chemistry ana- 
lyses out of the remainder. Familiarity too, breeds con- 
tempt, even in this case: and thus the Chimeera con- 
tinued to blow out its fires, like Powel, scarcely remem- 
bered, even in fable ; and the populace now boils its 
kettles at the once sacred Jack-a-lanterns of the Caspian, 
which Guebres adored, and nations reverenced. 

There must be a marvellous want of invention in 
the world, when, of all these contrivances, so few are 


thoroughly distinguished in character, and when nearly 
the whole have been wandering about by roads so cir- 
cuitous ; commencing at the very beginning of Time, and 
lost in antiquity. The Greeks, who choose to forget that 
any nation but their own possessed antiquity or authors, 
say that Dearchus, a disciple of Aristotle, was the first 
writer of Romances. They should not have forgotten the 
Odyssey, at least ; nor the Theogony neither. Dearchus 
has about the same claims as Antonius Diogenes, or Da- 
masius, who wrote four books of " incredible things," 
(as if nobody else had done as much), or Athanagoras, 
or Achilles Tatius, or Longus, or Ciutterbuck and Cleish- 
bottom. It is just thesanje for Sir Bevis, and Sir Launce- 
lot, and Hornechild, and Amadis of Gaul, and fifty more. 
There is never a beginning, unless it be at Babel or in 
Noah's Ark. To fall in love with an unknown fair through 
the intervention of her shoe, seems not a very unusual 
phenomenon in the " morale" of love. But Cupid did not 
take his first stand from the transparent slipper of Cinder- 
ella; wherever else that might have happened. As King 
Sesostris, or Cheops, (for 1 forget which) was sitting one 
day in a lackadaisical attitude on the banks of the Nile, 
an Eagle, or an Ibis, flying over his head, dropped in his 
lap a delicate female shoe. Immediately, his Majesty 
became transfixed, and gave orders for the discovery of 
the Beauty to whom it belonged ; and thus commenced 
Cinderella, if her age is not ten or twenty centuries older. 
Sir William Jones has traced Gellert to Hindostan ; 
though the Welsh swear that it happened to one of the 
blood of the Cadwalladers, a fiery Cymra, who seems to 
have been much in want of a House of Commons to keep 
him in order. Even Bow Bells ring falsehood to the " tall 
London apprentice ; " for not only is the essence of this 
story found in " The Three Children of Fortune," but 
Mr. Morier has shown us that Whittington is of the same 
eastern tribe and people ; unless indeed, he may have 
made one especial and separate Avatar on the heads of 
the Livery of London. More profound Pagans than I, 

362 romances; ANf> supkustitions. 

find Tom Thumb and his Cow in the same quarter ; 
but we have received him by a more direct importa- 
tion, North-about, in twenty shapes besides that of 
Tamlin ; though Drayton, who ought to have known 
better, makes these two different persons. In the Edda, 
he is no less a personage than Thor; while in a German 
story, (proh Jupiter ! wliat a descent,) he is a taylor's son, 
and hides himself in a glove; the very feat performed by 
the Thunderer of the North; besides which, he is found 
in the story of the young- lliese, in that of Sigurd, in that 
of Grettir, and in more ; to say nothing of his confusion of 
identity, in other points, with Jack the Giant-killer, with 
Tom Hycophric, with the King of the Golden Mountain, 
with the fortunate possessor of the Golden Goose, and so 
on. There is no end to this ; if we can find but the ter- 
minal point of the old stocking, it runs on to the very 
beginning. There is not a pin to choose between Were 
Wolves, Vampires, Goules, and Ogres; and the Vroucola- 
cas is unquestionably of Arubic bastardy. 

It is the same for more, even of our more common 
tales and romances, than is suspected. Hay and his yoke, 
as I formerly insinuated, are Hickathrift and his axle- 
tree : how much further he may go, I know not. Gog 
and Magog were slain by Corineus; from whom Corn- 
wall derives its name. They have now taken their sta- 
tions in Guildhall ; they are two tremendous mountains in 
Cambridgeshire ; but they were originally the Yajuj and 
Majuj of the Koran, the Gheffand Mogheff of Caucasus; 
Caucasus, where Prometheus lies under all the weight 
of Elborus, where Medea cooked her kettle, and which 
has been the birth-place of all the Genii and Demons of 
all romance. The very Legends have not the merit of 
novelty ; and the Scots could steal like their neighbours. 
Oran's behaviour to Columba is that of a Vampire; he is 
quelled only by the Saint's superiority ; and Columbanus 
hangs his Cope on a sun-beam, borrowing the trick from 
Tomling himself. That hanging- up is met with under 
more shapes than one ; and indeed these transmigrations 


are so numerous, and often so distorted, that it generally 
requires no little attention to catch the evanescent resem- 
blances,and to trace the true connexion, WhatTomThumb 
and Columbanus do in this case, was done by Sigurd, Avho 
caught the Lions and hung- them up on the walls by their 
tails. Tt is no more marvellous that the Goule should 
have travelled hither, than to Greece, modern Greece; or 
that the original beast, who has been so strangely con- 
founded with the visionary being, should have been trans- 
muted into a Harpy. This is exactly the same mixture 
of somatology and psychology which has given us Castor 
and Pollux and Chimseras, on one hand, from electricity 
and hydrogen gas; and which, on the other, has pro- 
duced the Daw's lichtand the Fire King, with his " hot 
copper filly." 

As to the widow of Ephesus, and twenty more of the 
same race, the Greeks have just as much right to them 
as Boccace or La Fontaine have. We must go back to 
the East for them ; just as we hunt Outis to Sindbad, 
Munchausen to Marco Polo and Lucian, and these very 
gentlemen to the sources of the Ganges, or the Kur, or 
the Araxes, or the Euphrates. Phsedrus and the sham 
Esop have retailed Lidian fables. Joe Miller himself is 
Hierocles; a Greek once, but long before that, an Egyp- 
tian, and a Hindoo. It is not a Paddy, but a pedant, a 
" Scholasticus," who reduces his horse to a straw a day, 
gets his head shaved in his sleep and then mistakes it 
for his neighbour's, and who vows that he will never go 
into the water again till he can swim. Sancho quotes 
Greek proverbs without knowing it : so do we ; it was a 
Grecian pig who made more cry than he gave wool ; but 
this particular list is endless. The story of Tantalus is 
Chinese; and, by parity of reasoning, the Siphon has 
been as long known to them. Pliny broke his Eggshells 
to prevent the witches from sailing in them. Confucius 
and Sanchoniatho cut their hair when the Moon was in 
Aries, that it might curl. A Roman fair would have 
fainted had she put the left shoe on the right foot. 


Chrysolite was worn to expel folly: g-old now serves to 
hide it, or to make it current. The history of Arthur's 
birth is that of Jupiter and Alcmena; but even Amphi- 
tryon himself is a Hindoo. 

But the world is all old together. The dominion of 
the sea was the dream of Athens, long- before " our Ships, 
colonies and commerce," were heard of. Anaxagoras 
was persecuted because he was in the right : so was 
Galileo; so are the Geognosts. The Oxydracae fought 
Alexander with Congreve rockets. The dreams of Plato 
and Aristotle have been models of dreaming to all their 
successors. And so have their better things. Apothe- 
caries were noted for the multiplicity of their draughts 
in the time of The Preacher. Stereotype printing is 
Chinese. The Corn trade was as well known to Joseph 
as to Mr. Waddington. Plautus is Moliere, and Katter- 
felto never exceefled Jannes and Jambres. Archimedes 
bui nt the Roman fleet with a lens ; and thus Padre Gu- 
milla converted the Mexican Chief Tunucua, and Lord 
Macartney did not convert Kien Long. The system of 
Condorcet and Godwin is that of the Platonists, and the 
roasted pigs which the Recruiting Sergeant promises to 
his followers, crying " come eat me," tempted the Myr- 
midons, long, long ago, to knock out their brains against 
the walls of " Troy divine." The suitors of Penelope 
played at Kopscot ; Duck and drake was €7roo-Tpa/.<(rjwo?, the 
urchins of Sparta and Thebes spun cockchafFers, played 
blindfold at i^-via, xaXvu, " artiazed" at even and odd, and 
" apodidraskinded" at hide and seek. The crowd of the 
Roman Piccadilly was obliged to give way to the " ar- 
g'utis trochis" of the idle boys ; if a hare crossed Jack 
Davus's path, it spoiled his project, and Moll Cornelia of 
Little Velabrum Street, discovered it in the grounds of 
her tea cup, just as Cephrenus or Cleopatra had scypho- 
mantized for similar purposes long before. 

I have a word here with Gibbon : a bold thing to say. 
He puzzles himself somewhat unusually about the Seven 
Sleepers of Ephesus, and supposes that Mahomet had 


borrowed the tale from the Christians. It is in the Koran, 
that is true; but it is found all over the East. The fact 
is, unquestionably, exactly the reverse of his conjecture. 
The Syrian Church adopted it, and adapted it to their 
own uses; altering the date to the convenient period of 
the Persecution of Decius. The proof lies, not only in 
the numerous analogies here quoted, but in the fact that 
it occurs as an original Scandinavian tale; derived, 
doubtless, from the common Fountain. It is related in 
the Gesta Longobardorum, as occurring in the north; 
and Paul of Aquileia says, that the sleepers were Roman 
Apostles. Its analogy to the story of Peter Klaus is obvious. 
If Gibbon had been as profound in this as in all other 
learning-, he would also have made a much more complete 
Marsyas of Warburton than he has ; while no one is very 
sorry for his excoriation of that member of the Cabiri. 
The descent of iEneas to Hell is a fairy tale, borrowed, 
through Homer, from the Oriental fountain whence that 
Poet has stolen so much more; and if Virgil makes a 
" shabby" exit at the Ivory gate, it is possibly because 
his story had here deserted him. As to the Eleusinian 
mysteries, their two ghosts must battle it out in Elysium ; 
and I suspect that The Grand Lodge of the Rosy Cross, 
with Weishaupt, Barruel, and Robison, at its head, would 
make the fittest umpires. 

It is strange that while we will never see that our 
own poetical supernaturalities are the same as those of 
Greece, we are eternally lauding each " old poetic 
mountain," " every shade and hallowed fountain," as if 
no other woods but those " that wave o'er Delphi's steep," 
no other isles but those " that crown th' iEgean deep," 
had been the poetical haunts of a poetical mythology. 
Such is the consequence of having been flogged at West- 
minster and Eton. We are silly enough also to imagine that 
a reasonable people lived among Fauns and Hamadryads, 
and believed in its own Goblins and Fairies and Giant- 
killers. We have a strange aversion to think of Anti- 
quity as of ourselves. They believed, in their National 


infancy, as we believed, and what we believed, in onr 
own. As to the matter, India is destined to eniig'hten us 
yet further on this head. There is much to be elicited in 
Rajahpootan ; a district which preserves much that we 
have hitherto known but as belonging; to our immediate 
ancestry. Their Bard is our own ; and the Celtic " Furor'* 
of Pedigree here rages uncontrouled. Here also the 
Music is Caledonian ; and so Caledonian, that we fancy 
we can name the very airs of our own mountains and 
streams. It is in those primitive regions that we meet 
the nearest living originals of the great Celtic nation ; as, 
among them also, we find the blue-eyed Scythian, the 
progenitor of our own conquering Goths. 

But I must end. When the skein does not stop, 
we always get to Tartary, or Arabia, or India, to Peris- 
tan, or Caucasus, in short, to Shinar, to Babel. If we 
could pass Ararat, we might land in Noah's ark, and 
thus terminate with the Antediluvians. Mythology, Su- 
perstition, Gods, Ghosts, and Giants, Deevs and Fairies 
and Thumbs and Hickathrifts, they are all brothers; 
worshipped, feared, despised ; such is the progress. 
After having fought under Odin, we begin by bowing to 
him in the heavens ; we then learn to fear him in the 
boiling flood or the midnight forest, we use him to " adorn 
a tale," and we end by making him a bugaboo to frighten 
our naughty children. But he was a mortal hero first. 
Boh, says Warton, was one of Odin's heroes. Narses 
was the Boh of Assyrian Mothers. Richard and Huni- 
ades have performed the same office in their day. Napo- 
leon and Pitt made but one stride from the field and the 
cabinet to the Nursery, for their lot was cast in evil days. 
In better times, they might have passed through all their 
stao-es; but even their last metamorphosis is a tale of 
other times, and, alas, they will sleep in eternal peace, 
like an ancestor of my own, a bold Cuthbert of the dark 
wave, once equally terrific, when the exploits of Thor 
and Odin shall still terrify or regale the child that is 




The morning being fine, I directed the vessel to stand 
along the north side of Lismore, and, taking the boat, 
rowed close in shore, under the shadow of the land ; now 
rounding a promontory, now crossing some little bay in- 
terspersed with rocks separated by stripes of barley and 
potatoes, resembling the allotments of infantile garden, 
in which, in our younger days, we used hourly to watch 
the tedious progress of obstinate cress and more obsti- 
nate radishes. Here and there a stray cow was seen pon- 
dering over the sea weed that skirted the tide mark ; but, 
excepting the occasional scream of the gull that flew 
aloft, or the chatter of a tern as it flitted threatening round 
our boat, all was silence. Like Palinurus, I was nodding 
at the helm, when I was roused by a sudden exclamation. 
" A Still, a Still !" was the cry, " pull for your lives, my 
boys." Opening my eyes, I immediately perceived the 
cause of this uproar. Beneath a rock, close by the edge 
of the water, was burning a bright and clear fire, near 
which sat an old man and a young girl, with two or three 
casks scattered about. An iron crook, suspended on 
some rude poles, supported a Still ; and the worm passed 
into a tall cask, into which fell a small stream from the 
summit of the rock behind. Two or three sturdy fellows 
Were lounging about ; while the alchemist in chief sat 
over the fire, in the attitude of Geber or Paracelsus wait- 
ing for the moment of projection. A rough shed, erected 
under another rock, seemed to contain some tubs and 
casks; nor could any thing be more picturesque than this 
primitive laboratory, or more romantic than the whole 


scene. But I couid only take a glance of these arrange- 
ments. Before the boat was well in sight, an universal 
scream was set up; away rart the girl to some cottages 
which were perched on the cliff, and down came men, 
women, and children, hallooing, scolding, swearing, and 
squalling, in all the unappveciable intonations of a Gaelic 
gamut. One snatched up a tub, another a cask ; the still- 
head was wliipt up by a sturdy virago, the malt was 
thrown out, the wash emptied ; but, in the mean time, 
my men had jumped out into the water and were mixed 
pell-mell with the operators; scrambling over the rocks, 
and dashing about among the waves like ducks at the 
sound of a gun. A chase took place on one side after the 
Still-head, and as the exciseman was the most swift 
footed, the chemist dropt his burden and betook himself 
to his heels. The women stuck fast to their casks and 
tubs, kneeling, praying*, scolding', and screaujing; and 
here the battle raged, as battles are Avont to rage when 
the fair sex is armed against the ruder one, with the 
three-fold weapons of nails and tongue and tears. But 
the chief brunt of the war took place at the Still. Though 
the head had been carried off at the first brush, and the 
fire kicked out, the cauldron was so hot that the combat- 
ants who on each side contested for it, could not hold it 
long; and as the first possessor of the scalding prize 
burned his fingers, it fell to the ground, to be again 
snatched up by some one of the opposed party. At 
length one of the Chemists seized it effectually ; and, 
flinging it out with a vigorous arm, it fell into the sea. 
It should have perished in the waters; but, unfortunately 
the liquor had run out in the contest, and falling with its 
mouth downwards, it floated, to the great horror of the 
smugglers, and the delight of the opposed exciseman; 
who, dashing at it over head and ears, like a Newfound- 
land dog, rescued it from drowning, and brought it ashore 
in triumph. In two short minutes the battle was won, 
and the spoils secured ; much sooner indeed than you 
will read this account of it. But there was little value 


ill all the plunder; which consisted only in the Still and 
its head. The distillation of the whisky was unfortu- 
nately but just commenced ; and the little that had run, 
was overset, to prevent it from falling- into the hands of 
the enem3^ What else the excisemen might have de- 
stroyed, was emptied by the people themselves at tbe 
opening of the campaign. I thought that enough had 
been done, both for glory and for the picturesque ; and 
entreated that they might be allowed to solace themselves 
in the best manner they could, with the empty casks. I 
even argued for the restoration of the Still to the poor 
wretches, who seemed at length quite discomfited and 
melancholy; but that, unfortunately, was against the law. 
The rest of the plunder was however given up; bul I 
believe that my arguments had but a small share in ef- 
fecting this surrender. One of the girls, who was very 
pretty, fell on her knees to the seaman who had the prin- 
cipal charge, and as he was a handsome good-humoured 
fellow himself, he could not resist her entreaties. So the 
lassie wiped her eyes, threw back her long hair with her 
fingers, and beauty, as usual, gained all that remained to 
be won of this hard-fought day. We parted in better hu- 
mour than we began, and returned to the Cutter in tri- 
umph, bearing aloft on the prow, like Harold the daunt- 
less, the battered trophies. Thus passed the Battle of 
the Still ; and the shores of Lismore again subsided into 
peace, as the sounds of conflict were hushed, and the 
dashing of the oars retired upon the breeze. 

The ancient fertility of Lismore still lives in its poeti- 
cal name, Lios more, the great garden. It is a narrow 
ridge, about eight miles long, uneven and rocky, but 
green and fertile, as it is all formed of limestone. It is 
noted for its produce, which is chiefly barley ; but the 
greater part is so interspersed with projecting rocks and 
abrupt hillocks, as to prevent the use of the plough. 
Though deficient in interest to him, to whose eye flowery 
meadows and fertile fields are only other modes of ste- 
rility, it is a point of view for the most magnificent ex- 


370 llSMORK. 

pause of maritime scenery throughout the Western islands. 
The bay of Oban can no where be seen to more advan- 
tage, not even from Kerrera. The chain of rugged and 
blue mountains, extending from Cruachan to Ben Nevis, 
forms the principal feature in this landscape; retiring in 
a distant perspective, to which the eye is conducted by 
the gradually contracting expanse of the Linnhe loch, 
interspersed with islands, and chequered with the bright 
sails of shipping that diminish till they are lost to the 
view amid the ridges of lofty mountains among which 
it disappears. The bold brown hills of Morven to the 
northward, are succeeded by the more airy and conical 
elevations of Mull : the Sound, like a mighty river, wind- 
ing along between them, enlivened by a constant suc- 
cession of ships and boats, by the harbour of Loch Don, 
and by the bold mass of Duart castle advancing on its 
rocky promontory into the sea. On the opposite side, the 
bright town of Oban with all its masts, with the castles 
of Dunnolly and Dunstaffnage, throw a gleam of living 
and historical interest over the whole; adding that cha- 
racter which taste well knows how to esteem. Far in 
the western distance, the black cliffs of Mull retire in 
long and fading perspective : succeeded by the bold mass 
of Scarba, and bounding a sea interspersed with innu- 
merable islands, which, grouped in various forms, as if 
floating on the blue expanse, at length vanish in the 
fading tints that mark the far-off cones of Jura. 

In former days, Lismore was the seat of a Bishop, 
being the residence of the Diocese of Argyll. This ap- 
pears to have included Lochaber, with the whole of Lorn 
and Kintyre ; and its Bishops were styled indifferently, 
by the name of Argyll or Lismore. It was separated 
from that of Dunkeld in 1200, as it is supposed, at the re- 
quest of Bishop John, and the list of its prelates amounts 
to fifteen, commencing with Evaldus, and ending with 
Robert Montgomery, who died in 1658. The ruins of a 
church, with some tombs, still remain, but there are no 
marks of any Cathedral, nor of the Bishop's residence. 


The traces of its castles are now barely visible, and are 
without interest. A round fort is remarkable, as contain- 
ing- a gallery within the wall, like the Pictish towers. 
Lismore still retains a degree of ecclesiastical celebrity; 
being- the seat of the Western Bishop *' nulla tenens," and 
of a Roman Catholic College, M'hich is maintained chiefly 
by the produce of the lime quarries. 

This island is one of the most noted seats of illicit dis- 
tillation. That arises from its fertility in grain, from its 
central situation in a populous country, and from the fa- 
cility which its coast affords both for the manufacture 
and the exportation. The Highland process of distilla- 
tion is, in all its stages, very simple; the smallness of the 
capital engaged, with the risk of seizure, limiting the ap- 
paratus to that which is absolutely necessary. The malt- 
ing is generally carried on by a distinct class, by the 
dealers in grain themselves; and the wash is manufac- 
tured in a rude hut, in some retired or concealed spot, 
poorly provided with a few casks and tubs. The re- 
mainder of the apparatus consists of two or three casks 
to receive the spirit, and of a still, generally of eighteen 
gallons in capacity, with a very short worm and tub ; 
the great command of water rendering a long one unne- 
cessary. Sometimes a hut is erected to protect the still 
from the weather; but it is frequently set up in the open 
air, under some bank or rock which permits a stream of 
water to be easily introduced into the tub. On the sea 
coast, the shore is generally chosen for this purpose ; as 
it enables the operators to keep watch against the i-eve- 
nue boats, and to dispose of their commodity with the 
greater ease ; but in inland situations, a wood or some 
secluded mountain glen is the common seat of the ope- 
ration. These stills are generally discovered by the 
smoke; though expert excisemen also trace them by ex- 
amining the water of the mountain streams, impregnated 
by the waste. Guilt is often industrious and inventive 
when honesty is not ; and it is as strong a proof of the 
indolence of this people as can be given, that they will 
B B 2 


not take the trouble to char their peats ; an expedient 
which would secure them from the most frequent source 
of detection. 

The superior quality of the Highland whisky is ac- 
knowledged by all the learned ; and is indeed obvious 
to the most inexperienced, whether in the pleasures of the 
passing moment or the repentance of the morrow. It is 
not flavoured by peat smoke, unless the malt is thus 
smoked purposely ; and this ornament is now so far out 
of fashion, that I have never met with it but in the Long 
Island. The flavour supposed, by the ignorant, to arise 
from this cause, is merely the produce of the grain itself, 
the natural flavour of its essential oil ; and it varies every 
where. Thatof Arran, in the older days, was the Bur- 
gundy of all the vintages. The superiority of the High- 
land Spirits arises from the thinness and acidity of the 
wash, and from the slow manner in which the operation 
is conducted : and, be the price what it may, it can al- 
ways command a sale. In general, however, the price is 
lower than that of legal whisky; and it is therefore not 
wonderful if the people who can avoid it, forbear to pur- 
chase at a higher price, that which is as nauseous as it 
is poisonous. The solution of a fiscal problem is cer- 
tainly not often an easy task; but to make a triple at- 
tack, on the pocket, the stomach, and the constitution, 
at once, argues no very great proficiency in the art by 
which wealth may be extracted from the people. 1 am 
fully aware of the complicated difficulties of this subject; 
but the people at large are by no means convinced that 
it is impossible for them to be supplied with that which 
is wholesome and palatable from a Lowland still. High- 
land whisky is not now, however, what it has been. The 
increased watchfulness of the officers, has rendered it 
convenient for the distillers to diminish the bulk of their 
commodity by concentration, that so it may be the easier 
transported ; whence its fine flavour is destroyed, so that, 
when sold by the retailers, it is often little better than a 
nauseous mixture of alcohol and water. As to the duties 


and regulations, tbey are changing- while 1 write; and 
before you read this, they may be changed again. 

The moral effects of illicit distillation in this country, 
are, unquestionably, evil ; but that evil is far less than 
anxious moralists suppose. It is confined almost entirely 
to the very few districts where this trade is conducted, and 
chiefly, indeed, to the persons engaged in it : and as the 
price of whisky is always so high as to render it inaccessi- 
ble to the mass of the people, they can suffer but little 
from its use. That it does generate idleness and profligacy 
in certain situations, cannot be denied ; but if we except 
the injury done to the revenue, there is not much mischief 
produced by the illicit distillation of the Highlands. 

There are no evils in the world without some coun- 
tervailing- good. In an agricultural view. Highland dis- 
tillation is an object of considerable importance. In most 
districts, the barley is destined to this purpose; very 
little of it being consumed as food. That grain is a ne- 
cessary article of cultivation in their narrow system of 
rotation; and, indeed, independently of this, much of the 
land now in cultivation, would be thrown into pasture, were 
the raising of barley abandoned. The present scale of 
Highland rents, in many places, could therefore no longer 
subsist; since the price of that grain would fall to a rate 
which would render its production impossible. It thus 
becomes the interest of such proprietors to permit, if not 
to countenance, illicit distillation; and unless where the 
profligate conduct, generated by this practice, and lead- 
ing to the neglect of particular farms, may injure the 
land-owner, he becomes a gainer by this trade. A stronger 
instance of its effects than that whicb occurred in Isla in 
1815, need not be sought; barley being there at double 
the price which it bore in the Lothians, although the 
crop was abundant. It must be recollected here, that the 
want of a commercial system, prevents that equalization 
of prices which so readily takes place in the Low Coun- 
try. Hence, it has been said that the Highland proprie- 
tors prevent the revenue laws from being executed; both 


by tbeir influence, and in their judical capacity. On 
such a subject, it is natural to expect a good deal of 
acrimony, and some want of truth. An indifferent person 
may be allowed to moderate the harsher conclusions. But 
it is not for me to intermeddle between the contending 
parties ; and still less to give the history of the revolu- 
tions of the Excise. Politicians have contended that 
distillation was, in a general view, advantageous, by 
ensuring such a surplus of grain as might, in seasons of 
distress, be converted into food. A few years ago, when 
in Jura, being unable to procure some whisky, and asking 
the cause, the answer was, " We must now make all our 
bear into bannocks." 

I should be deficient in gratitude to worthy Sir John 
Barleycorn, if I had not bestowed a few words on him 
who has so often been a friend of the wet and the weary, 
who has smoothed the rude path over the mountain, and 
levelled the boisterous waves of the Western Ocean. I 
would willingly have bestowed half-a-dozen pages on 
bira, but alas, I have no room. Yet one word I must be 
allowed on his pedigree and antiquity. I have no doubt 
that Pindar's praise was the praise of whisky ; whatever 
the Corporation of Bath may think. TJisg was the true 
TSwf of the Poet ; or what is it doing there. I am sure that 
if Donald ever takes to reading this " learned Theban," 
he will agree with me. How else did the Cyclops 
possess wine which could not be drank without "ten 
waters," and which he took especial care to lock up from 
his wife. The Cyclopean wine was whisky, and he 
learned the art of making it from Prometheus, whose 
liver it burnt ; gnawing it like a vulture. The Egyptians 
were chemists from all times ; whether Hermes or Thoth 
was their Stahl or not. The talk of Zosimus, Dioscorus, 
Sinesius, and Olympiodorus, is Egyptian and mystical, 
and it was that which the Alchemists adopted afterwards. 
Bale says that Osiris taught the Britons to make beer ; 
perhaps he meant whisky. Dioscorides has clearly shown 
that distillation was known to the Egyptians. The Arabs 


and the Tartars have known it from all time. Geber 
lived in the eighth century. It seems to have been 
brought into Europe in the twelfth. Arnoldus of Ville- 
neuve speaks of aqua vitse as a medicine, in his life of 
Francis, in 1300. Le Grand says it reached Ireland 
about the middle of the twelfth century. Some persons 
think that it was unknown in the Highlands till after 
1400: and it was only after 1500, that the distillers 
of Paris were incorporated. So that "Donald's love of 
whisky cannot be very ancient; unless Fingal borrowed 
the joy of his shell from the Irish Phenicians. Avicenna, 
Rabbi Moses, and Seneca, advise him to get drunk once 
a month. I wish he could, poor fellow. It is a fine thing. 
But if the " facundi calices" are overacted, the poet's 
nose turns red, his liver consumes like Prometheus, the 
earth covers him, his letters are published by some kind 
friend, and Messrs. and Co. refuse to give five pounds for 
the copy-right of his works. 

The tide was fast ebbing as we quitted for the last 
time the shores of Lismore ; and in passing a low in- 
sulated rock, I observed some cows waiting on the shore, 
while others were coming down from the green pastures 
above, to join them. Not having the Nautical Almanack 
at hand, they had probably miscalculated the tide ; yet 
not by many minutes. The accuracy with which cattle 
calculate the times of the ebb and flood, and follow the 
diurnal variations, is such, that they are seldom mistaken, 
even when they have many miles to walk to the beach. 
In the same way, they always secure their retreat from 
these insulated spots in such a manner, that they are 
never surprised and drowned ; a fate, which, had the 
present been a case of flood instead of ebb, might have 
befallen ill educated cattle. The idea of Time, say the 
metaphysicians, is comprised in, — but as no cow has yet 
written a treatise on the Vaccine understanding, I need 
not trouble you with a solution that solves nothing. A 
cow is graminivorous, say the anatomists, because it has 
four stomachs and no teeth, a horse is graminivorous 


because it lias plenty of teeth and only one stomach ; man 
is omnivorous because, although liis teeth and his stomach 
are like those of a horse, he has reason and has no tail ; 
and the hog resembles man in this matter, though his tail 
is a spiral and he is unable to draw an inference. There 
would be no use in philosophy if it could not account for 
every thing. But the cow eats sea-weed, not because 
she is hungry, as she quits the best pastures for the 
shores. In Canada she is fed on fish; horses eat fish in 
Shetland, and so they did in Asia in the time of Hero- 
dotus, as cows did among the Ichthyophagi of India, if 
we are to believe Nearchus: all of which proves that 
they have more reason than the anatomists. And, thus 
reasoning, we bade adieu to Lismore. 

In this island, there is a small lake containing Sea 
Trout, which have bred there from unknown time, with- 
out the possibility of communication with the Sea. This 
is an apparently simple Thesis ; but it deserves a longer 
commentary than the Sea trout has ever yet received. 
Popular opinions are always right, of course; and it is 
the general conviction that sea fish can live only in the 
Sea, and the reverse. If both dogmas should prove un- 
true, some better consequences may follow, than that of 
rearing shrimp sauce where we now breed tadpoles, or 
feeding turtles where we educate frogs. Had I lived in 
the glorious days of Nero, I should have been made a 
Consul at least; with the addition to my name, like an- 
other well-known worthy, of Muraena; or, perhaps, of 
Rhombus, Lupus, or Scomber. But our age is so wise, 
that it has nothing left to learn. If I have ever blamed 
Donald for supposing that he had surmounted improve- 
ment, let me beg his pardon, for he is the most docile of 
children, in the balance. 

Now that we have seen what is the conviction, on this 
subject, of all those who know all that ever is to be, as 
well as all that ever has been, let us enquire what the 
facts are. That the Salmon can live alternately in salt 
and fresh water, is known to all the world. But there 


are six more species of that genus which do the same, 
from choice. Of these, there are English names for four; 
the Grey Salmon, the Sea Trout, the Gwiniad, and the 
Smelt ; and the other two are, the Migratorius and the 
Autumnalis: the former, an inhabitant of the Baikal, and 
the latter, of the Frozen Ocean. Besides these, the 
Conger and the Torsk enter rivers, for some unknown 
purposes of their own : as do the Sprat, the Shad, the 
Greater and the Lesser Lamprey, the Stickleback, and the 
Cottus quadricornis. The Mullet spawns in the Mean- 
der, and in all the other rivers of Asia Minor; where his 
unlucky progeny, that was to have been, is taken and 
made into Botargo.^ The Shad unquestionably spawns in 
the Thames; or else the Lord Mayor and the Court of 
Aldermen could not devour his infant family in the shape 
of White bait, as they do, while the bony Parents are 
left to Israel in St. Mary Axe. It is' probable that the 
Sprat does the same. That the Flounder, which is a sea 
fish, resides, by choice, and permanently, in the same 
river, is vulgarly known: and the Pleuronectes roseus, 
another species, the English name of which I do not 
know, is also taken in the Thames. The Cyclopterus Li- 
paris and the Cyprinus Chalcoides, choose, similarly, to 
leave the Caspian for the Wolga: and most people know 
that the Caspian is a salt sea, and the Wolga a fresh 
river. The Cyprinus Aphya inhabits, indifferently, the 
shores of the sea, and the neighbouring rivers. The Del- 
phinus Leucas, called the White Whale, chooses to ascend 
the Hudson and other American rivers, even to the dis- 
tance of a hundred miles, and much more, from the sea ; 
partly for the purpose of controverting the learned gen- 
tlemen who cannot be taught any thing more, and partly 
that he might make Hearne and Mackenzie believe that a 
fresh-water river was the Polar Basin. The Foudre, I 
know not that a French fish will condescend to accept of 
an English name, visits the Seine. 

Thus much for the opinions of Sea fish respecting 
fresh waters. The sentiments of fresh-water fish about 


the sea, are rather more difficult to ascertain ; as they 
have somewhat too much of sea room to be easily found, 
when once they get their liberty. In the Caspian, 
luckily, they can be caught : and when Pallas is my au- 
thority, those who know all things without studying any 
thing, will possibly not dispute that the following species 
of Cyprinus choose to live there in preference to the 
Wolga; though, in Europe, they are all river fish as far 
as we know. They are, the Idus, Nasus, Ballerus, As- 
pius, and Carassius. The four first have no English 
names : the last is our Crucian ; and the Pike, the Bleak, 
the Roach, and the Bream, all fresh-water fish with us, 
are there of the same opinion. Our own Eel invariably 
goes to the sea to breed, provided he can get out of his 
prison ; as is well known to the inhabitants of Dee Side. 

Those things are all in the common order of Nature. 
I have chosen to separate the following cases, as dis- 
playing some differences, though still bearing on the 
point in view. In the Highland Sea Lochs, the Whiting 
Pout and the Rockling, two species of Gadus, or Cod, 
frequent the extremities of those waters where they are 
always fresh ; and, from being tak6n of all sizes, it is 
probable that they breed there. The Mackarel is found 
in the same situations. Liancourt informs us that the 
Herring ascends the Potowmack, the Delaware, the 
Hudson, and the Elk rivers. Twiss says that this fish is 
also found in fresh water lakes in Ireland : but, should 
bis authority be questionable, they have, often, and long 
together, resided in Loch Dhu near Inveraray, introduced 
by an occasional high flood. The Sterlet and the Stur- 
geon, together with some species of Salmon, on Pallas's 
authority, have chosen to fix their residence in the Kama; 
never descending to the Caspian, as they do to the Sea 
elsewhere. This may be considered a voluntary and 
complete naturalization. Lastly, of the larger fishes, the 
Cod has chosen to live in a fresh-water lake in Shetland, 
which communicates with the sea at Stromness Voe by 
an opening like that of a mouse trap; sufficient to terrify 


any Cod who had not wit enough to know that it was the 
better place of the two. I shall only further add that 
Shell fish, more than I choose to enumerate, which else- 
where live in the Sea, are living very composedly, on the 
authority of Monsieur Freminville, in the fresh and 
brackish waters of the Gulph of Finland. Our own 
Muscles, Periwinkles, Cockles, and Limpets, though not 
very active in walking, always contrive to get near to 
the mouth of a river, if there is one to be found ; and 
our shrimps do the same, with somewhat greater facilities. 

For these reasons, I have proposed to turn out of our 
lakes, rivers, and ponds, the whole detestable breed of 
Trout, Gudgeons, Bream, Pike, Bleak, Roach, Dace, 
Grayling, Frogs, black Beetles, and what not, and to sub- 
stitute Turbot, John Dory, Turtle, Whiting, Smelts, Lob- 
sters, and so on : besides hedging in the Salmon, that we 
may have him at command whenever we please. I am 
told that this is all " Theory," and can never succeed. 
That is a favoured term. It was always a favourite word 
of those who have no Theory at all — except their own ; 
their established Theory, that their own acquisitions are 
the limits and bounds of all possible knowledge; and of 
all experience too. It is Theory when it is the rigid in- 
ference of rigid reason from demonstrated facts. It is 
Experience, when it is the opinion of those who have 
neither facts nor reasoning faculty. The rule is not li- 
mited to a contest between Frogs and Turbot. I hope 
only, Sir Walter, that you have no Lakes at Abbotsford, 
and are not an "Uffiziale" of Fisheries. 

I may as well give these Philosophers a specimen of 
Theory on this matter ; and not a very bad one either. 
When the Deluge covered the mountains, it is certain 
that there were no fresh-water lakes and rivers ; and con- 
sequently there was no distinction of habitation for 
fishes. Nor is this an argument from a miracle, which, 
while we believe, we reverence. It is an undoubted 
fact, from geographical experience, that all original 
lakes were once salt. Every lake which does not give 


issue to a stream, continues salt still : the others have 
been freshened by the change of their waters. Conse- 
quently, all fresh-water fish might live in the sea, or they 
never could have existed. 

To return to the practical question. The physical rea- 
soning, " a priori," is this. If salt-water fish cannot live 
in fresh water, it is because they cannot respire it, or be- 
cause they can find no food. If they cannot continue 
their kind, it is because they can find no spawning places. 
I have shown that numerous species do respire it : if it is 
not poison to them, it cannot be very poisonous, and all 
the rest may possibly bear it. The respiratory organs 
and functions are the same in all. If a Salmon can find 
food for six weeks, and a voracious Pike for his whole 
centenary life, so may a Cod. Where Crayfish live, 
Crabs may ; and Smelts and Whiting, where Perch and 
Trout. Besides, we know little about the resources of 
fishes in this matter. They eat each other : that is some- 
thing : and we are not to suppose that a cargo of turtle is 
to starve in Loch Lomond, because it does not contain 
flying fish. Besides, if fishes are to become an article of 
rural economy, we might feed them, as the Romans did. 
Those who wish to know how this was done, may consult 
their agricultural writers. They are as omnivorous as 
pigs ; and there is no reason why it should not be profit- 
able to feed fish, as well as ducks or fowls. Moreover, 
the larger feed on the smaller kinds, in succession ; and 
thus the mixture of difi'erent species in one place, pro- 
duces food ; since many, like our gold and silver fish in 
confinement, live and grow on what, to us, is invisible; 
possibly on Infusory Animalcules, or, for aught that we 
know, on the element itself. The enormous reproduction 
of the whole tribe, produces food also in the form of 
spawn; and thus numbers might live where a single 
species might die from want. As to spawning places, it 
is pretty much the same for all, for the bottom of the sea 
and the bottom of a lake : and if the Salmon has dis- 
covered that the river is the best of the two, it is our busi- 


ness to teach Jolin Dory and Red Mullet to be of the 
same opinion. Reproduction is compulsory ; and, con- 
sequently, spawning is the same. Those who were com- 
pelled to spawn would find a place for themselves. The 
habits of cultivated land animals have been changed by 
ourselves, in a thousand ways ; and, utterly ignorant as 
we are of the nature and moral powers of fish, it is far too 
rash to conclude that they are incapable of change of 
habits, or of extensive naturalization, or of education. 

Those who understand every thing, say that this has 
not been tried. That is certainly an overwhelming rea- 
son why it should not be tried. It is probably by trying 
what never was tried before, that we are not exactly the 
painted Picts and breechless Celts that we were twenty 
centuries ago; which is just what those learned gentle- 
men would have been still, had there been nobody to 
" try" for them. The instances already quoted must go 
for nothing : because they are " Theory." Now there- 
fore for a little practice. The Frieslanders, a remarkably 
theoretical and lively people, have naturalized the Plaise 
in their ponds, long, long ago. The Herring has been na- 
turalized in the ponds of Germany. The Grey Mullet is 
naturalized in ponds in Guernsey ; and, like the others, 
has propagated his race, even to the transplantation and 
reproduction of the breed. The same fish is naturalized 
in the Lake Biviere in Sicily, a vile putrid marsh, from 
time out of mind ; and, in the same waters. Lobsters and 
Crabs of all kinds are kept for the sake of improving their 
qualities. The Smelt has been naturalized in a pond in 
Yorkshire, by Colonel Meynell ; remaining uninjured, 
after frosts which had hardened the whole surface for 
skating. The Sole has lived in ponds. Our Oysters are 
transplanted to rivers and ponds to improve them. Such 
is the experience of designed trials. If there is no fur- 
ther success, it is because there have been no more ex- 
periments. The objectors, however, whose trade it is to 
impede improvement, as if that had been the road by 
which they have attained the places which they so well 


merit, say that the fish would deteriorate in quality. 
That remains to be proved. The Sicilians think other- 
wise. So does the Corporation of Colchester. So do the 
Fishermen of the Tees, who fished the Yorkshire Smelts. 
One word more, and I shall leave those who possess 
more lakes and rivers than I do, to settle this knotty point. 
The Romans understood good eating as well as Paris ; 
whatever Paris may think. Those who wish to know 
how they reverenced fish, may read Juvenal. They may 
read Varro, if they like. Every one has heard of their 
Piscinse. Cato, the Tutor of Lucullus, sold his Ward's 
fish-ponds for 400,000 Sesterces. Hirtius spent 12,000 
Sesterces annually, in feeding- his fish. Caesar sold his villa 
for 400,000, on account of the value of the fish. Licinius 
Murcena was named on account of the invention of Piscinae. 
The common people had them every where; and the 
fishes, Martial tells us, were so tame as to come to the 
owner's call. " Qui norunt Dominum, man unique lam- 
bunt." They licked their master's hands. A fish is not 
quite such an insensible, rapacious, brute, as the follow- 
ers of " gentle Isaac" think. All this, however, proves 
nothing to the point, in itself; because here we cannot 
discover the nature of the fish, while we know that they 
had both fresh and salt Piscinae. But Columella has 
said enough to establish all that I wish to prove ; namely, 
that they did cultivate sea fish in fresh ponds. The whole 
Chapter is worth the study of those who do not think 
themselves too wise to learn from Rome, and who as 
yet know of Rome little more than the longs and shorts 
which their Druids taught them in their days of birch 
and learning. " Nam et harum studia rerum, majores 
nostri celebraverunt : adeo quidem, ut enim dulcibus 
aquis marinos clauderent pisces, atque eadem cura, Mu- 
gilem Scarumque nutrirent, qua nunc Muraena et Lupus 
educantur." The peasants " replebant mariais semini- 
bus," or transported the spawn of sea fish to the Saba- 
tine, the Veline, the Cimine, and the Vulsinian lakes; 
which produced, " Lupos, Auratasque" " et si qua sint 


alia piscium genera dulcis undoe tolerantia." This prac- 
tice was universal in the early days of Rustic Rome ; 
and it fell into disuse among' the peasantry, only when 
the Romans grew luxurious and rich, so that the opulent 
took this trade, as an amusement, into their own hands, 
and built expensive conservatories at their marine villas. 
What the fish above-named were, we have no certain 
means of knowing, except that the Mugil is probably 
the Mullet ; but, from the mode of expression used, there 
must have been many species ; while the whole of the 
circumstances were so familiar, that, writing, as he does, 
under an apology for dwelling on this subject. Columella 
thinks it unnecessary to be minute on what was univer- 
sally known. 

I have nearly done. Those who choose to keep thou- 
sands of acres of Highland lakes which they never saw, 
for the purpose of feeding vile trout which they never 
eat, will continue to enjoy the satisfaction of supporting 
their practice against this new Opposition Theory. Yet 
as breeches have succeeded to kilts, and potatoes to peat 
bogs, I do not despair of yet discovering*, by the Second 
Sight, that our grandchildren are angling in Loch Lo- 
mond for Turbot, dredging for oysters in the Tay, and 
regaling on Surmullet, Dory, and Lobsters, from the 
streams and ponds whence they formerly choked them- 
selves with woolly Pike and thorny Perch. As to the 
difficulty of transportation, it is not likely to be a serious 
obstacle. There is a good deal of popular misunder- 
standing about this. From the peculiar structure of fishes, 
and particularly from the disposition of the blood ves- 
sels which supply their muscles, they are easily ex- 
hausted by violent exertion ; and thus it is that they are 
killed by being long hooked or entangled. This, which 
is vulgarly called drowning, must be avoided. They are 
otherwise much more tenacious of life than is com- 
monly imagined. Minnows will live for many weeks, 
crowded in a vessel in absolute contact : the Carp lives 
thus in Holland, in cellars, without any water: the 

384 ST A I' FA. 

Conger is possessed of similar powers ; as is the whole 
race of flat fish, as well as the gurnards and the dog- 
fishes. If we know not that the same is true of 
many others, it is for want of trials. With respect 
to the Cod of Stromness Voe, the experiment might 
be made in five minutes, by placil g a grating before 
its very narrow communication with the sea. No- 
thing- but obstinacy and ignorance united, can much 
longer impede a fair series of experiments on this im- 
portant subject. On a former occasion, I noticed the 
enormous quantity of property in the Highlands, which 
is wasted in the shape of water. We have naturalized 
the land animals to the improvement of our own con- 
dition, and it remains to naturalize those of the sea; to 
make them our slaves, the tributaries to our industry and 
to our superiority. We have done the same with the 
vegetable kingdom. Nature has given us Crabs and Sloes, 
and we have converted them into Golden Pippins and 
Green Gages. We have put our hook into the nose of 
Behemoth, and it remains for us to tame Leviathan. Na- 
ture has stamped on all her gifts, the Universal Law, that 
without labour and industry, they shall not be attained : 
and He who will not lend his hand to this work, is of 
those who, had they commanded the world, would have 
been living on Sloes and Acorns still. But let the Ich- 
thyophagi fight it out among themselves; for you and 
I have " other fish to fry." 

He is a bad Philosopher who submits to be a machine 
of his own making : who winds himself up on Sunday 
morning to run down on Saturday night ; striving against 
wind, weather, fate, time, accident and change, because 
he determined once, and will not determine again. We 
were bound for Tobermory ; but by the time we had "let 
draw the fore-sheet," the wind changed. I ordered the 
vessel to bear up for Staffa. The Captain vowed that I 
did not know my own mind. It was precisely that wliich 
I did know. He, at least, ought to have known it to be 
the Seaman's "look out," "that his business maybe every 

STAFFA. 385 

thing and his intent every where, for that's it that always 
makes a g-ood voyage out of notliing." The policy is 
not less good on shore : for it was by never knowing 
in the morning where I should sleep at night, that I saw 
the Highlands. 

Thus, for the fifth time, I reached StafFa. As to its 
superiority to Peestum and Palmyra, to be sure, like 
Macedon and Monmouth, there are columns in both. But 
in spite of that learned conmientator, it would certainly 
puzzleNature to build St. Paul's, rather more than it would 
have done Sir Christopher to have built Staffa ; though 
why there should be any rivalry between an island and a 
temple, it is not easy to see. The chief consequence of the 
comparison is, that every cockney who goes from Cheap- 
side to StafFa, expects to find it built on the model of Bow 
Church: so that I have no hopes of success, succeed- 
ing to so much " fine writing." Of the other tour books, 
there are not less than twenty that will tell you how to 
go to Staffa ; and the half of them will tell you how you 
will be M'etted,and wearied, and delayed, and frightened, 
and starved, and cheated, and disappointed, and drowned. 
The whole of which events are to be found amonjr the 
contingencies of human life, every where. As there are 
two requisites in all those cases, a talent to inflict, and a 
talent to suffer, a prudent man avoids some of these evils, 
diminishes others, and smiles at the rest ; but he who 
seeks them, or permits them, will find them all. I have 
landed in Stafl'a in "all weathers ; " and embarked from 
it too. I have no patent for buoyancy ; others may do 
the like if they choose to try; but he who does not 
try, will not succeed; and that is all I will say on the 
Argonautics of Staffa. When once limded, the Great 
Cave may always be entered from above ; but, as I 
am informed, it now requires a key. That is very 
proper. The Heroes of Romance, Gadifer, Carados, 
Don Belianis, the Knight of the Eagle, and the rest, sel- 
dom entered their Caves with so little trouble. It was 
well when they gained access without encountering half 
VOL. IV. c c 

386 STAFFA. 

a dozen griffins, enchanters, snakes, dwarfs, and lions, 
which were to be pacified, into the bargain, by a bottle 
from some enchanted fountain, or a golden branch : be- 
sides fighting, and swallowing sulphur and smoke. John 
Barleycorn is the enchanted fountain of Ulva; and the 
Open Sesame bears the appropriate mark of the Hero of 

Though the modern discovery of StafTa is due to Mr. 
Leach, in 1772, its Scandinavian name, the island of 
columns, proves that the Northmen had been aware of 
its peculiarities, as well as of its existence. Fingal, the 
ubiquarian hero, has lately appropriated to himself the 
right of the Great Cave ; but the original Gaelic name 
appears to have been Uaimh binn, the musical cave ; a 
name derived from the music of the waves, as some ety- 
mologists say ; but, if a Highlander had ever seen an 
organ or a Pan's pipe, more likely to have come from that 
obvious source. This island is about a mile and a half in 
circumference, and is now used as a summer pasture for 
cattle, there being no longer a house on it. Its highest 
point, by my measurement, is 144 feet. Faujas de St. 
Fond is very marvellous and pathetic on the subject of 
the tenant and the storms. It is a pity that we also can- 
not write with all our hairs on end. I know not what 
this tenant could have found to do; unless, like St. Mag- 
nus, he had employed himself in "ploughing his heart 
with the plough-share of repentance," in contemplating 
his nose, like the Bramins, till he saw a blue flame at the 
end of it, or in catching fleas. On this latter subject, 
Monsieur Faujas is also very eloquent, and very "galeux." 
But he professed to write on Natural History. 

The beauties of StafFa are all comprised in its coast : 
yet it is only for a small space toward the south and south- 
east, that these are remarkable : as it is there that the co- 
lumns occur. Westward, the cliffs are generally low, 
rude, and without beauty; but, in the north-east quarter, 
there are five small caves, remarkable for the loud reports 
which they give when the sea breaks into them; resem- 

STAFF. A. 387 

bliiijsf the distant discharges of heavy ordnance. The 
nortliernmost point is coliininf?r, but it is nearly even with 
the water. The highest point of the great face is 112 
feet from high water mark. It becomes lower in proceed- 
ing towards the west : the greatest height above M'Kiu- 
non's cave being- 84 feet. The same takes place at the 
Clamshell cave, where the vertical cliffs disappear and 
are replaced by an irregular declivity of a columnar 
structure, beneath which the landing' place is situated. 
The columns in this quarter are placed in the most irre- 
gular directions, being oblique, erect, horizontal, and 
sometimes curved : while they are also far less decided 
in their forms than the larger vertical ones which con- 
stitute the great face. Where they reach the grassy sur- 
face of the island, they gradually disappear; but are 
sometimes laid bare, so as to present the appearance of a 
geometrical pavement where their ends are seen ; in 
other places, displaying portions of their parallel sides. 
The difficulty of drawing these columns is such, that no 
mere artist, be his general practice what it may, is ca- 
pable of justly representing any point upon this island. 
It is absolutely necessary that he should have an intimate 
mineralogical acquaintance, not only with rocks in gene- 
ral, but with all the details and forms of basaltic columns ; 
since no hand is able to copy them by mere inspection ; 
so dazzling and difficult to develope, are all those parts 
in which the general, as well as the particular, character 
consists. This is especially the case in attempting to 
draw the curved and implicated columns, and those which 
form the causeway ; where a mere artist loses sight of the 
essential part of the character, and falls into a sort of me- 
chanical or architectural regularity. That fault pervades 
every representation of Staffa, except one, yet published ; 
nor are there any of them, which might not have been 
produced in the artist's workshop at home. 

At the Scallop, or Clamshell cave, the columns, on one 
side, are bent, so as to form a series of ribs not unlike an 
inside view of the timbers of a ship. The opposite wall 

c c 2 

388 STAFFA. 

is formed by the ends of columns, bearing a general re- 
semblance to the surface of a honeycomb. This cave is 
.'JO feet in height, and 16 or 18 in breadth at the entrance : 
its length being 130 feet, and the lateral dimensions gra- 
dually contracting" to its termination. The inside is un- 
interesting-. The noted rock Buachaille, (BowoXo?,) the 
herdsman, is a conoidal pile of columns, about 30 feet 
high, lying" on a bed of curved horizontal ones, visible 
only at low water. The causeway here presents an ex- 
tensive surface, which terminates in a long projecting 
point at the eastern side of the great cave. It is formed 
of the broken ends of columns, once continuous to the 
height of the cliffs. This alone exceeds the noted Giant's 
causeway, as well in dimensions as in the picturesque 
diversity of its surface : but it is almost neglected, among 
the more striking and splendid objects by which it is ac- 
companied. The great face is formed of three distinct 
beds of rock, of miequal thickness, inclined towards the 
east in an angle of about nine degrees. The lowest is a 
rude trap tufo, the middle one is divided into columns 
placed vertically to the planes of the bed, and the upper- 
most is an irregular mixture of small columns and shape- 
less rock. The thickness of the lowest bed at the western 
side, is about 50 feet : but, in consequence of the incli- 
nation, it disappears under the sea, not far westward 
of the Great Cave. The columnar bed is of unequal 
depth ; being only 36 feet at the western side, and 54 
where the water first prevents its foundation from being 
further seen. To the eastward, its thickness is concealed 
by the causeway. Thus, at the entrance of the Great Cave 
on this side, the columns are only 18 feet high, becoming 
gradually reduced to two or three, till they disappear. 
The inequality of the upper bed, produces the irregular 
outline of the island. The inclination of the columns to 
the horizon, in consequence of their vertical position to- 
wards the inclined plane of the bed, produces a very un- 
pleasing effect whenever it is seen, as it is from the 
south-west: the inclination of nine degrees, conveying 



the impression of a fabric, tottering-, and about to tall. 
Fortunately, the most numerous and interesting" views 
are found from positions into which this defect does not 
intrude; and many persons have doubtless visited Staffa 
without discovering" it. 

Although the columns have a general air of straight- 
ness and parallelism, no one is perfectly straight or regu- 
lar. They never present that geometrical air which I 
just now condemned in the published views. In this re- 
spect they fall far short of the regularity of the Giant's 
causeway. Very often, they have no joints ; sometimes 
one or more may be seen in a long column ; while, in 
other places, they are not only divided into numerous 
parts, but the angles of the contact are notched. They 
are sometimes also split by oblique fissures, which de- 
tract much from the regularity of their aspect. These 
joints are very abundant in the columns that form the 
interior sides of the Great Cave, to which indeed they 
are chiefly limited ; and it is evident, that the action of 
the sea, by undermining these jointed columns, has thus 
produced the excavation : as a continuation of the same 
process may hereafter increase its dimensions. The avei- 
age diameter is about two feet ; but they sometimes 
attain to four. Hexagonal and pentagonal forms are pre- 
dominant: but they are intermixed with figures of three, 
four, and more sides, extending even as far as to eight 
or nine, but rarely reaching ten. 

It is with the morning sun only, that the great face of 
Staffa can be seen in perfection. As the general surface is 
undulating and uneven, great masses of light and shadow 
are thus produced, so as to relieve that which, in a direct 
light, appears a flat insipid mass of straight wall. Those 
breadths are further varied by secondary shadows and 
reflections arising from the smaller irregularities ; while 
the partial clustering of the columns, produces a number 
of subsidiary groups, which are not only highly beautiful, 
both in themselves and as they combine with and melt 
into the larger masses, but which entirely remove that 

390 STAFFA. 

dryness and formality which is produced by the incessant 
repetition of vertical lines and equal members. The 
Cormorant's or Mac Kinnon's Cave, though little vi- 
sited, in consequence of the frauds and indolence of the 
Boatmen, is easy of access, and terminates in a gravelly 
beach where a boat may be drawn up. The broad black 
shadow produced by the great size of the aperture, gives 
a very powerful effect to all those views of the front of 
the island into which it enters ; and is no less effective 
at hand, by relieving the minute ornaments of the columns 
which cover it. The height of the entrance is 50 feet, 
and the breadth 48; the interior dimensions being nearly 
the same to the end, and the length being 224 feet. As 
it is excavated in the lowest stratum, the walls and the 
ceiling are without ornament : yet it is striking, from the 
regularity and simplicity of its form. But the superior 
part of the front consists of a complicated range of co- 
lumns, hollowed into a concave recess above the open- 
ing ; the upper part of this colonnade overhanging the 
concavity and forming a sort of geometric ceiling ; 
while the inferior part is thrown into a secondary mass of 
broad but ornamented shadow, which conduces much 
to the general effect of the whole. 

The Boat Cave is accessible only by sea. It is along 
opening, resembling the gallery of a mine, excavated in 
the lowest rude stratum ; its height being about 16 feet, 
its breadth 12, and its depth about 150, Upwards, the 
columns overhang it, so as to produce a shadow which 
adds much to the effect; while they retire in a concave 
sweep, which is also over-hung by the upper mass of the 
cliff ; thus producing a breadth of shade, finely softening 
into a full light by a succession of smaller shadows and 
reflections arising from the irregular groupings of the co- 
lumns. The upper part of this recess, catching a stronger 
shadow, adds much to the composition ; while the eye of 
the picture is found in the intense darkness of the aper- 
ture beneath, which gives the tone to the whole. 

Of the effect which such obscure parts give to highly 

STAFFA. 391 

ornamented surfaces, Gothic architecture afibsils excel- 
lent examples. The front of Peterborough Cathedral is 
perfect in this way; exceeding, in this respect, every 
specimen that exists, and speaking highly in praise of 
the artist who could conceive such a work. Hheims is 
another instance; but less striking. This conception is 
the more remarkable, because it has been a common 
fault of these artists, to overload their designs with orna- 
ment, and thus to lose the advantage of it, by the want 
of contrast and repose. Tasteless persons have also, in 
modern times, destroyed, by very trivial alterations, that 
eftect which the original artist probably intended to pro- 
duce. The beautiful tower of Gloucester Cathedral is 
an example in point ; where the richness of the ornamen- 
tal work on the surface, is obscured, and in a great mea- 
sure destroyed, by the dazzling lights of the wooden 
divisions which fill the windows. This evil might easily 
be removed, by painting those black. For similar rea- 
sons, many of our Cathedrals have gained in picturesque 
effect by the loss of their statues, so often lamented. The 
vacant nich produces that repose so much and so often 
wanted in these highly ornamented buildings ; and those 
who will compare Wells, in which they remain, with the 
numerous other buildings from which they have been 
removed, will agree to the truth of this remark. 

The Great Cave is deficient in that symmetry of position 
with respect to the face of the island, which conduces so 
much to the effect of the Boat Cave. The outline of the 
aperture, perpendicular at the sides, and terminating in a 
contrasted arch, is pleasing and elegant. The height, from 
the top of the arch to that of the cliff above, is 30 feet ; 
and from the former to the surface of the water, at mean 
tide, 66. The pillars by which it is bounded on the 
western side, are 36 feet high ; while, at the eastern, they 
are only 18, though their upper ends are nearly in the 
same horizontal line. This difference arises from the 
height of the broken columns which here form the cause- 
way ; a feature which conduces so much to the pictur- 

392 STAFF A. 

esque efiect of the whole, by aftbrding a solid mass of 
dark fore-ground. Towards the west, the height of the 
columns gradually increases as they recede from the cave: 
but their extreme altitude is only 54 feet, even at low 
water. The breadth of this cave at the entrance, is 42 
feet ; as nearly as that can be ascertained, where there 
is no very precise point to measure from. This continues 
to within a small distance of the inner extremity, when it 
is reduced to 22; and the total length is 227 feet. These 
measures were all made with great care, however they may 
differ from those of Sir Joseph Banks. The finest views 
here are obtained from the end of the causeway, at low, 
water. When the tide is full, it is impossible to comprehend 
the whole conveniently by the eye. From this position also, 
the front forms a solid mass of a very symmetrical form; 
supporting, by the breadth of its surface, the vacant sha- 
dow of the cave itself. Here also, that intricate play of 
light, shadow, and reflection, which is produced by the 
broken columns retiring in ranges gradually diminishing, 
is distinctly seen ; while the causeway itself forms a fore- 
ground no less important than it is rendered beautiful by 
the inequalities and the groupings of the broken columns. 
Other views of the opening of this cave, scarcely less 
picturesque, may be procured from the western smaller 
causeway ; not indeed without bestowing much time and 
study on this spot, is it possible to acquire or convey any 
notion of the grandeur and variety which it contains. 

The sides of the cave within, are columnar through- 
out; the columns being broken and grouped in many 
different ways, so as to catch a variety of direct and re- 
flected tints, mixed with secondary shadows and deep 
invisible recesses, which produce a picturesque effect, 
only to be imitated by careful study of every part. It 
requires a seaman's steadiness of head to make drawings 
here. As I sat on one of the columns, the long- swell 
raised the water at intervals up to my feet, and then, sub- 
siding again, left me suspended high above it; while the 
silence of these movements, and the apparently undis- 

STAFF A. 393 

turbed surface of the sea, caused the whole of the cave 
to feel like a ship heaving- in a sea-way. The ceiling is 
divided by a fissure, and varies in different places. To- 
wards the outer part of the cave, it is formed of the irre- 
gular rock; in the middle, it is composed of the broken 
ends of columns, producing a geometrical and orna- 
mental effect, and at the end, a portion of each rock 
enters into its composition. Inattention has caused the 
various tourists to describe it as if it were all columnar, 
or all rude. As the sea never ebbs entirely out, the only 
floor of this cave is the beautiful green water; reflecting 
from its white bottom, those tints which vary and har- 
monize the darker tones of the rock, and often throwing 
on the columns the flickering lights which its undula- 
tions catch from the rays of the sun without. 

If spectators contrive to be disappointed at Staffa, 
that is no great cause of surprise. There is nothing 
which the imagination is not always ready to exceed. 
Those who have formed their expectations from the amaze- 
ment of the original recorder, must thank him for their 
misfortune. Those who want taste, will not acquire it, 
as by magic, here ; and those who only come to stare, or 
to boast of their adventures, will find other sources of 
gratification than such as are derived from its beauty, its 
grandeur, or its variety. It is no cause for surprise that 
we find individuals insensible of the merits of Raphael 
or Phidias, that the student in Robinson Crusoe yawns 
over Tacitus or Milton. Taste and feeling were never 
produced at once from nothing; and, to mere wonder- 
ment, nothing can be wonderful enough. But lest he 
who does possess taste should be disappointed at Staffa, 
let him recollect in time, that descriptions which repre- 
sent the feelings of the narrator, can have nothing in 
common with his own, and avoid them. Let him anti- 
cipate nothing, and he will come with a mind duly pre- 
pared. If, even thus, he should feel a momentary, or a 
first disappointment, let him recollect the difiiculty which 
he has at first felt in appreciating the finest works of art. 


or, if he has not experienced this, let him remember the 
remarks of Sir Joshua Reynolds on the pictures of Ra- 
phael in the Vatican. He will then return, again and 
again, if it be in his power; and, at every new visit, this 
extraordinary scenery will rise in his estimation ; pre- 
senting the strongest proof of merit which exists, either 
in the works of art or nature. But the pencil of the 
artist can do little for StafFa. If that richness which it 
displays, arising from order and symmetry, from multi- 
plicity of ornament contrasted and combined with great- 
ness of dimension and simplicity of style, is a legitimate 
subject of painting, there is a sentiment here vvhich it 
cannot reach. It is, as in the case of Egg, that which is 
felt when Nature allows us to draw indistinct comparisons 
between her works and those of art; comparisons which 
convey an impression of her power, because it is then so 
easily contrasted with that of man, and which is no longer 
sensible when, working on her own great and rude scale, 
she forms the promontory and the mountain, the mighty 
river and the wide ocean. Nor can the pencil of the 
artist do aught for that poetry which seems to render the 
Caves of StafFa fit residences for the visionary mythology 
of the coral caverns and waving forests of the glassy sea. 
The gentle twilight which for ever reposes in the recesses 
of Fingal's cave, the playful and living effects of reflected 
light, and the liquid sound of the green water as it rises 
and falls in measured intervals over its silvery floor, that 
solitude which the mind would fain people with ima- 
ginary beings, these are the business of the Poet, and 
must be left to the Poet of Nature. But we must pass to 
matters of less interest. 

The Treshinish Isles, consisting of Fladda, Linga, 
Bach and the two Cairnburgs, form a chain to the west- 
ward of Staffa; but, excepting to a geologist, they are 
uninteresting. I have had occasion to name Cairnburg' 
before, as the seat of a Castle in the Norwegian times, 
and as having been falsely supposed by Pennant, the limit 
between the Sudereys and Nordereys. But there are no 


traces of ancient works on if. In 1715, it was garrisoned 
by the Macleans, and was taken and retaken more than 
once during that rebellion. It had been attacked before, 
by Cromwell's troops : and here, it is fancied, were the 
rescued books of lona burnt. There is a barrack on the 
smaller island which is still tolerably entire. On the 
larger, there are the remains of a wall with embrasures, 
skirting the cliff; forming something like a battery which, 
it must be supposed, was then mounted with ordnance. 

Nothing can be much more enticing than the aspect 
of these islands from Staffa. But the enthusiastic anti- 
quary who may visit Cairnburg, is the child who opens 
its toy to inspect the cause of its movements and its 
music. Striking as those remains appear from a dis- 
tance, insulated as they are on a solitary rock in this bois- 
terous sea, the seat of ancient romance, their dignity va- 
nishes on a near inspection. The idea of Gunpowder 
puts to flight all the visions which arise from the lofty 
tower and the strong wall, from the barbican, the machi- 
colation, and the ponderous gate ; which hover over the 
days of the arrow, the spear, and the shield. There is 
no romance in a redoubt: and whatever sensations the 
solid bastion and " arrowy ravelin" may hereafter excite 
in the breasts of future antiquaries, they are, to us, the 
mean matters of every day war and gazettes. The charm 
of Time is wanting ; but a few centuries may perhaps 
confer, even on these ruins, that dignity which we at pre- 
sent find in the still more insignificant works of the 
Danes or the Gael. When the obscurity produced by 
distance of time shall resemble that which arises from 
distance of place, they may acquire that consequence ia 
the eyes of posterity, which they now possess in the blue 
and fading horizon. He that would enjoy the pleasures 
of the imagination must not scrutinize ; let him avoid the 
shores of Cairnburg". 

Colonsa is a flat uninteresting little island, and unin- 
habited. The aspect both of Ulva and Gometra is, at 
first sight, as rude and as little enticing as can well be. 

39C ULVA. 

thouglj they are high a!)d rocky. In both, the surface 
is brown and heatl)y, and utterly destitute of wood. On 
the south-western shore of Ulva, the columnar rocks are 
often disposed in a very picturesque manner ; being- often 
broken, sometimes detached, and occasionally bearing a 
distant resemblance to ruined walls and towers. Had 
Ulva been the only basaltic island on this coast, it might 
possibly have attracted more attention ; but it has been 
eclipsed by Stafl'a, and has remained unsung. It is said 
that the usage, or fine, known by the name of " Mercheta 
mulierum," lately existed in Ulva; and as Dr. Johnson 
has repeated the tale, it has naturally attracted some- 
what more notice than it merits. This has been a fa- 
vourite source of debate with jurists and antiquaries; 
and is equally told of Sark, where a similar fine is still 
said to be claimed and paid. Dr. Plot, refers to Guern- 
sey, in confirmation of his theory ; but in that island, 
the practice is not known. Boethius, the parent of all 
lies, is the father of the Scottish Mercheta also. It was 
established by King Evenus, who never existed; and 
the Scots submitted to it for a thousand years, till it was 
formally abolished by Malcolm the third. Craig says 
that it was imported from France, together with the Feu- 
dal Laws. Certainly, the one was as much imported as 
the other. Blackstone denies that the Gavel kind tenure 
originated in such a practice. Hailes thinks this Mer- 
cheta to have been merely the fine paid by a vassal, as a 
villein, for marrying without the consent of his Chief. 
The Irish maintain that the Danes introduced the reputed 
practice into that country, among other oppressions. The 
Highlanders pretend that it was a power actually exerted 
by the Lords of the Isles ; and, in confirmation, they re- 
late a tale of a Dougal Dall Mac Gillichattan, which I do 
not choose to repeat. Sir Robert Porter says that this 
right is enforced at present in Lapland and Circassia. I 
must allow the contesting parties to settle it together. 



It is difficult to procure any accurate information on 
the History of the Highland Clans, and, possibly, the at- 
tempt may be a source of some dissatisfaction. Yet, with- 
out some sketch of this nature, there would remain an 
obscurity in the political history of the country. To En- 
glish readers in particular, this is a constant source of 
difficulty: while the well-remembered Rebellions, and 
the misrepresentations of careless writers, have combined 
to give a false view of their nature and of their connexions 
with Scotland. The Highlanders themselves have an in- 
terest in correcting those errors which confound the in- 
significant with the distinguished, the offspring and 
branch with the parent and trunk, and the long indepen- 
dent and almost Sovereign Chiefs with the more recent 
intruders and the Feudal Barons of the Crown. The His- 
tory of those Names is therefore a branch of general His- 
tory, and as such only have I here attempted to view 
them. I have neither desire nor room for genealogical 
obscurities : and even the name of Douglas will carry 
no weight beyond the evidence which it can produce. 
Real Pedigrees would have been historically valuable : 
but if they do not exist, it is no cause for surprise. As 
far as I have had occasion to enquire respecting them, I 
have sheltered myself under the too oftenjarring authori- 
ties of Douglas himself, of Achmar, Macfarlane, and the 
other well-known books and family histories of the Gene- 
alogists. It will be sufficient if the reader can acquire 
a general notion of the relative weights of the principal 
Highland names, and of their situation with respect to 
the Crown. He who attempts more, should recollect the 


remark of Favorinus to Adrian, " that it is dangerous to 
convince a man who has thirty Legions at his heels to 
back his arguments :" or a Skian Dhu in his Oe either. 
To him also it must be left to enquire who is the first of 
his name: the Macdonald or the Macleod. It is he too 
who will discover that Douglas cannot be very good au- 
thority, when he confounds De Isia with De Isle, and 
when he differs from Barbour. And it is he further who 
may exert his faith in believing that Ollani Fodhla, who 
reigned 900 years before Christ, held triennial parliaments 
of genealogy^. 

There are many families popularly ranked among the 
Highland Clans, which have no more title to the place 
than the Estes and the Cornaros. This has arisen partly 
from the indefinite boundary which separates them from 
the Feudal Barons of the Crown, and partly from the 
changes produced by forfeiture and transposition. If 
Antiquity and Descent form the basis, as they ought, 
mere possession should confer no claim ; unless there is 
to be a chronological line, separating the intruders of 
ancient days from those of modern times. If this lie not 
a law, even Gordon has no other claims than any modern 
purchaser of a Highland estate. In any case it is neces- 
sary to distinguish between the aboriginal families, if 
there be such, those which sprung from the Norwegians, 
whether on the west or in the north, the Flemings, or 
Teutonic families who settled about the time of William 
the Lion, and the Lowland ones which received grants 
of Highland estates from the forfeitures of their original 
or prior possessors. Thus also it is necessary to distin- 
guish secondaries from principals. As examples of those 
distinctions, I may name, in the Scandinavian-Irish di- 
vision, Mac Donald, and MacLeod; in the Flandro-Teu- 
tonic, Murray and Sutherland ; and in the transplanted, 
Gordon, Stewart, and Fraser ; to which may be added, as 
prior, the Norman families which came into Scotland after 
the Conquest. As Secondaries, branching from the great 
Names, may be named Mac Lean and Mac Pherson ; be- 


sides which there is a whole host of less important and 
tertiary ones, ramifying from this species. 

The very term Clan, has been a principal source of 
confusion in this case. Though implying a patriarchal 
government, it designates those Feudal establishments 
which were practically independent of the Crown, as ex- 
ercising the privilege of independent warfare. It is as 
improperly applied to those Feudal Barons who were 
subjects of the Crown, to the families of Sutherland, 
Murray, or Gordon, as it would be to that of Douglas, 
Dacre, or Percy. With as little propriety, has it been 
attached to such names as Graham and many others, who, 
springing up at later dates, and being implicated in Low- 
land possessions, must still more be considered as Barons 
of Scotland. Nor, in this case, was it the custom of the 
people to assume the Chief's name, as was done in the 
former. It is equally an error to consider the origins of 
the Clans as lost in the remoteness of antiquity. When 
antiquaries apply this term to the early Caledonians or 
to Ireland, they are unwarily increasing this confusion. 
History knows little or nothing of the state of the people 
or their government, at this period. It can only reason 
from analogy; and from the accounts given by Tacitus, 
Caesar, and others, of the system of the Gauls and Ger- 
mans, it is not entitled to form such a conclusion. That the 
Irish tribes are called Clans in the Brehon laws, proves 
nothing. These appear to have been at first single and 
actual families, under a Chief; and afterwards. Tribes, 
resembling those which the Romans found in Caledonia; 
a condition very different from Highland Clanship. 

Proceeding on the little history which we do possess, 
we must indeed bring down the system of Clanship and 
the origins of the Clans, to a date considerably recent. It 
is very certain that there was no Clanship in the West 
during the sway of Norway. The present great families 
which trace their descents from that period, were Feudal 
Lords, Princes, or Governors, under the Norwegian 
Crown and that of the islands. They made no indepen- 


dent warfares on each other, and were not associated by 
names in imaginary families. Thus the system of Clan- 
ship, here at least, could not possibly have commenced 
before the year 1300, nor even so early ; because when 
the Lords of the Isles possessed a regal state, there could 
not have been any Clans. It would be no compliment 
to John, Donald, or Alexander, to consider them merely 
Chiefs of a Clan. When the distinctions arose, it is not 
now possible exactly to say ; because that very period is 
precisely the one where the obscurity of Highland History 
commences. Yet something like a maximum date can 
be fixed by the battle of Hara Law. In this affair, as is 
said, the progenitor of the Macleans, " Red Hector of 
the battles," was first distinguished, and hence arose the 
consequence of a family, afterwards to ramify into a Clan ; 
a secondary of the Mac Donald, and apparently, the first 
offset to claim independence, and to lead to many more 
similar dismemberments and distinct Clanships. lu the 
same action, Alexander Stewart, grandson of Robert the 
second and Earl of Mar, collected the Lords between 
Tay andSpey; including, among others, Erskine, Ogilvie, 
Leslie, Eraser, Gordon, Eorbes, Leith, together with the 
Lowland names of Maule, Fotheringham, Arbuthnot, Bur- 
net, and others; yet the term Clans is not here used; 
the Lowland and Highland proprietors and Barons being 
equally called Lords. This date is 1411; and it was 
assuredly long after this, that the progressive debility 
and dismemberment of the powers of the Lords of the 
Isles, suffered the Clans of the west to establish them- 
selves, and to produce that system of general warfare and 
confusion, of which we have all read. Though we can- 
not with equal precision trace the origins of the Clans of 
the mainland, there is no reason to suppose that they 
were earlier; while it is not difiicult to conjecture how 
and when they spread, so as to produce the same sys- 
tem, during the various feeble periods of the Scottish 

Such appears to be the real history of (he origin of 


the Hig^bland Clans. The term itself has been so inter- 
mixed with romance, and has been so much a matter of 
pride, that it is not surprising if it dazzles the imaginatioa 
and the judgment also. But "le vrai est le seul beau ;" 
and in this case, it really is the most beautiful of the two. 
The great mass of the Clans is the produce of consan- 
guinity and rebellion, and of the intrusion of invaders 
and Lowland Settlers ; often also, of very recent change 
and separation. The greater families can derive no ho- 
nour from thus confounding themselves with the " Di mi- 
norum gentium," under the vague term of Clans. Mac- 
donald is not a Chief, but a Chief of Chiefs; and where 
others mount an Eagle's feather, he may, if he pleases, 
stick the whole bird in his bonnet. 

I need scarcely now add, that the claims to an un- 
known Celtic antiquity and independence, are utterly 
groundless. Where the Chiefs can be traced at all, it is 
to a Scandinavian source ; and this is the case, even where 
the pedigrees are deduced from Ireland. Those Mag- 
nates are Norwegians, not Celts : nor is there any reason 
for renouncing a descent which is as honourable as it is 
demonstrable, for the sake of claiming what is visionary^ 
and what, if it were otherwise, could confer little merit. 
It is nearly the same for the continental families which 
claim from Kenneth or his nobles ; because the Dalriads 
to whom they belong, were of a Gothic race. Should 
there be a Celtic exception, it is utterly impossible to 
discover it. Of the Central, Northern, and Eastern High- 
land families, the Scandinavian or Teutonic descent is 
equally clear; and where they have not this, they have 
nothing. The general antiquity of the Highland names 
stands on the same grounds as that of the Lowland 
ones, and many of them are Lowland. Yet even the 
blood of the Douglases, Bruces, Mortons, Leslies, Lisles, 
Kers, Crichtons, Scots, Hays, Boyds, and hundreds 
more, listens with patience to all these imaginary Celtic 
claims to superior antiquity, as if their own was not botr 



tomed on better gTounds, and their descents more clear. 
Even the modern Highland Clans seem to have some- 
times forgotten, in the plenary inspiration of the High- 
land Cestrus, that their antiquity is to be sought in the 
Lowlands, not in the Highlands, and that when they 
abandon their Saxon claims, they are new indeed. All 
this is matter of History, and all the Bards and Seana- 
cbies that ever fabled, cannot change its current. But 
those who find superior pleasure in fiction and romance, 
may indulge themselves ; for thus it is, that the visions of 
Clanship have been fostered, till "every Campbell claims 
Argyll ; " and as old Jack says, '* they never prick their 
finger but they cry," there is some of the Chief's 
«• blood spilt." 

What the meaning- of independence is, when applied 
to a community like this, it would be hard to conjecture. 
Even omitting- what I formerly remarked on the Celtic 
people, the independence of a Murray, a Cumin, or a 
Gordon, will scarcely stand for that of the people whom 
they conquered, or on whom they were imposed, re- 
ceiving them " quasi glebse adscriptos." But thus is 
even History written. The people, the " Achivi," are 
forgotten, as if they were nothing. The Glorious inde- 
pendence of Prussia is a vast consolation to the conscript 
who would but have carried his two panniers at any rate. 
If this be consolatory, they may consider their conquerors 
in succession as themselves, and there will be no further 
difficulty in proving themselves unconquered. If it is 
amusing to find this people despising their Lowland 
neighbours, when superior to them in arts, arms, policy, 
and every thing-, it is not less so, to find that they were 
then the serfs of Sutherlands, Murrays, Cumins, and other 
Saxons, (to use their own term.) and of the very Low- 
landers themselves; of Stewarts, Gordons, Erasers, Ba- 
rons receiving grants of a conquered people, or, like 
Cumin, conquering for themselves, with little regard for 
the Crown under which they held. For those Magnates 



tbemselves to despise the Lowlanders, is to despise their 
own birth and pedigree, their progenitors, descendants, 
and cousins. 

To be indignant at this, would be indignation much 
misplaced. He who was a powerful Lowlander before 
the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, must have little re- 
spect for his own antiquity, if he chooses to commence his 
career of pride and honour in the fourteenth. It is as if 
the fiery Fitzes of William were to disclaim that Normandy 
whence they brought their names and their swords, that 
they might remember themselves only as Barons of Hamp- 
shire or Shropshire. It is as if Percy were to forget that 
he springs from Charlemagne, or Atholl from Lascaris, 
because the one sternly strode the border, and the other 
led bare-legged clans to battle from his barren mountains. 
But, be the indignation laudable or absurd. History will 
remain History; and all the Clans of all the Highlands can 
never cause it to swerve one inch from its fixed founda- 
tion. I need not repeat that the language proves nothing. 
He who received a grant of Gaels was condemned to 
assume their tongue. The names prove nothing; because 
they were the distinctions of nations, not of families. A 
Macdonald was a Donaldian : and had this been the 
fashion elsewhere, there might have been as many Cumins 
or Gordons. 

To return to the Clans. As few ancient documents 
exist, most of the Pedigrees depend on the traditions of 
Seanachies, and are necessarily conjectural or fabulous 
beyond a very short period. It could not be otherwise. 
But when it is considered what a chasm the wars of 
the Roses made in English pedigrees, when Scotland has 
no written documents before Malcolm Canmore,aud when 
its charters, even as late as James V and Mary, are so 
incorrect that the persons cannot sometimes be ascer- 
tained, our Highland friends may cease to wonder at their 
own deficiencies, or to be indignant at those who do not 
choose to believe. It is natural to ask how pedigrees 
were continuously preserved when surnames were un- 


known. In the Highlands, these are recent; while the 
cotnnion ones also, are Clan names, or the designations 
of kingdoms, not of fannlies. The early affixes were 
personal qualities, as we have Donald, roy, dhn, bane, or 
derived from other circumstances, as balloch, coich, &c. ; 
or lastly, as in Norway, from descent ; whence the various 
patronymics, the vhics and the oes of Scotland and Ire- 
land, resembling the aps, sens, sons, fitzes, wiczes, and 
viches, of other countries, and the iuses(uoi;) of the Romans. 
Thus, while Donald Roy might be the son of DugaTd dhu 
and the grandson of Ian more, simple Donald Macdonald 
was the HansHanson of Iceland, and Donald Macdugald 
vhiclan, the John Billy Robert, still in use, of the Isle of 
Mann. And if the princi|)al name was Macdonald, his son 
Arthur might found a secondary clan of MacArthurs, 
This name was called " bun sloine : " and thus there 
might also be MacArthurs of more Clans than one, as is 
the case with many of these names. Surnames were 
unknown in Scotland before Malcolm Canmore. They 
were taken from lands about thebeo-inning; of the twelfth 
Century, but were not common, as is thought, till the 
reigns of Alexander III and Robert I. In England, they 
began Avith the Conquest, but were not used by the com- 
mon people till the time of Edward the second. They 
were not adopted in Sweden till 1514, and have not yet 
found their way among the people. 

The Clans have been mustered in different ways; 
some persons making twenty or less, and others forty, 
fifty, or more. I shall be satisfied here with referring to 
the President Forbes's list, often printed ; though it is 
not the authority which it has been reputed on this sub- 
ject of Clanship. He is brooding over rebellion, and 
enumerating the powers which may be brought into 
action. To confound Atholl with Maclean, or Suther- 
land with Mackinnon, is to produce the very confusion 
which I have already pointed out. Had the Armstrongs 
or the Duke of Hamilton been suspected families, they 
would have found the same place. But as I do not pre- 

MKUIL.IM) tLA^S. 405 

tend to write the history of Mis^hlaiul families, 1 must 
limit this enquiry to the origin of some principal ones, as 
it regards their relative antiquity and their national de- 
scent. As to the inferior and ulterior ramifications, I can 
only transcribe Achinar, balancing him with other autho- 
rities, and thus shifting the weight off my own shoulders 
on those which are past feeling it. 

To begin with Macdonald, who includes many ac- 
knowledged derivative clans of the same and of other 
names, he is Norwegian both by male and female descent. 
Of his progenitors, Olave and Somerlid, we are certain. 
The Irish claims of his pedigree are from a certain King, 
Constantino Centimachus, whom Scottish History does 
not now choose to recognize. The consequent designa- 
tion of Clan CoUa, derived through Somerlid, as it is 
said, must therefore take its rank where it best can. The 
greater branches of the same name speak for themselves. 
Of the secondaries, Maclean, or Mac Gillayne, (Mac Gil 
Ian,) is esteemed the foremost in rank, though sometimes 
claiming a separate Irish descent from Fitzgerald. If 
there be any doubt, I know of no resource but Wager of 
battle. For this as for the rest, and for the order of the 
several dignities, Buchanan must be responsible; and as 
the whole list is far too long to write or read, I, and you, 
must be content with the sonorous enumeration of Mac 
Ian, Mac Alister, Mac Nab, Mac Intyre, Mac Aphie, Mac 
Eachern, Mac Kinnon, Mac Walrick, Mac Kenrick, Mac 
Gilmorie, Mac Ilrevie, and Robertson ; " fortemque Gyan 
fortemque Cloanthum." Yet the Macleans enumerate 
under themselves, Mac Guire, Mac Ewen, Mac Lay, and 
Mac Quarrie ; such are the trine and triple vegetations 
and subdivisions of all these important plants. I must 
also add, that this Herald has given vast offence ; as there 
are many of these prideful personages, who claim sepa- 
rate and unintelligible descents, as if they had actually 
sprung, rivalling the Athenians, ready bonneted, plumed, 
and kilted, from the earth. Let their ghosts settle this 


matter with his, in that place where pedigrees are pro- 
verbially respected. 

Of Macdougal, there is less to say, though of the 
same original pedigree. His fortunes were soon clouded; 
as has happened to many others who had not the good 
fortune to possess the gift of Second Sight in politics. 
The derivation of Macleod from Loda is fantastic. Liod 
was larl of Orkney in the early days; and of his 
Norwegian descent, there can be no question. Liodhus, 
or Lewis, the name of the original possession, wrested 
from this family in James the sixth's time, bespeaks his 
ancient wealth. The name itself is the Saxon Leod, or 
Lud, signifying people, and producing' Llwyd, Ludovic, 
Ludwig, and Lewis: and the same is true of many other 
Highland names often reputed Gaelic by ignorant per- 
sons; such as the Ivars, Abrachs, Ronalds, Pauls or 
Phails, Gilberts, and Nicolsons. It is probable that the 
family of Macleod had possessed Lewis from the time ft 
was surrendered by Reginald ; having governed it as 
Viceroys under Olave ; as it was also one of the first con- 
quests made by Harold Hardraade in the Western islands, 
after his visit to Orkney. The Mac Rimmons, Mac Gin- 
nises, and Mac Lures by ramification, and the Mac Crails 
by marriage, are said to belong to this ancient name. 
The thitd of the Insular names, Mac Niel claims an Irish 
descent; but even then, he is like the Tuathals or Tooles, 
the Mac Lochlins, and others, a Norwegian and a Niall. 
Whether he was the eighteenth of his name, as Toland 
says, or the thirty-sixth, according to Achmar, is indif- 
ferent; though we should be glad to know how any 
Niall or any Norwegian or Irishman among them, was to 
prove a descent of a thousand years. But neither Ge- 
nealogists nor Druids miss a night's rest for lack of 

The origin of Cameron is admitted to be really ob- 
scure. Some deduce the name from Cambro, in the time 
of Alexander the second, and others from Camerarius, or 

lilGtiLAND CLANS. 407 

Chambers. If John Lord of the Isles possessed Lochaber 
ill the time of Baliol, he cannot be very ancient, there at 
least: yet he appears in James the first's time, joining 
him with the Clan Chattan, against Alexander of the 
same race. Mac Phail, Mac Clerich, Mac Martin, Mac 
Gilveil, and some more hard names are said to have 
sprung from him I but on this head also I must refer to 
the printed authorities, since the superiority is disputed. 
1 cannot help thinking that the Mac Ras are very ancient 
and very Celtic; but no one will assist me in proving it. 
As to the Mac Gillivrays, if they will not defend them- 
selves in print, how can I record their ancient worth. If 
the mighty Clan of Campbell now musters more of the 
same name beneath it than any other, he is a very ques- 
tionable Highlander, as far as his remote origin is con- 
cerned. It appears to be a Norman family, which became 
Highland by marrying the heiress of O'Duibhne, an 
Irish Chief of Argyllshire in the twelfth Century. Hence 
arose Lochow. The name Cambel, appears in Rymer, 
Dugdale, and Prynne. There were Cambelsin Ayrshire, 
as well as in the Isles and in Perthshire. Campbell, like 
-Stewart, appears to have had his first rise, as a Highland 
Chief, on the ruins of Alexander of Lorn. The name is 
derived, as it is said, from Beauchamp in Normandy. 
Although thus ancient, the enormous extent and power of 
this family in the Highlands, is of a very modern date; 
and whatever Campbell of Calder might have been in 
pedigree, he was, in the West, a Low lander and an in- 
truder. As to the descent from Mervyn (the son of the 
very established King Arthur), and a daughter of Chil- 
debert, that must be left to those whom it interests. The 
Highlanders say that the name is derived from Crooked 
mouth, as they derive Cameron from Camstron, and as 
they find similar reasons for Grant and many more. But 
whether Lochow's mouth was straight or crooked, he 
could not have been a small man when he was a Knight 
and a Crusader, at a time when few Highland Chiefs 
possibly knew where Jerusalem stood, or if they had ever 


heard of it at all, thought, probably, that the world was 
shaped like a Pancake, and that the City of David stood 
in the middle of it. 

Mac Kay ought to be of a Norwegian stem, though 
said to be ramified from an important Lowland family, 
Mac Intosh is a very disputed and troublesome personage. 
Clan Chattan is supposed to imply a descent from the 
Catti, who are equally supposed to have given their name 
to the Catini of Catteness or Caithness. The rebus of 
the Cat, or the " armes parlantes," adopted equally by 
this family and Sutherland, goes for nothing more than 
the heraldry which it is worth. It is however supposed 
that this was a family, driven or moved from Caithness 
by Danish invasions. The Highland Genealogists choose 
to derive him from Macduff Thane of Fife; and thus 
he is Mac an Toisich, Son of the Thane. But Tosche or 
Toiseach is not Thane : it was the name of a General or 
military leader among the Irish. Thane, the Saxon Thein, 
was never a title in the Highlands, as 1 have noticed on 
other occasions. In Scotland, Skene says it was equi- 
valent to an Earl's son. I doubt if he is correct. Cam- 
den says it was a Charge. The Saxon Thanes w ere Ser- 
vientes Regis. The ordinary Thanes, or the " minores," 
were Feudal Lords. These became Barons in the pro- 
gress of things. The meaning indeed seems to have been 
very lax. Sometimes it signified Noble ; sometimes Ma- 
gistrate, or even a free vassal. There is another descent 
from M^c Donald, through Angus Macintosh in 1291 ; 
but the tale which is told by a Macintosh in confirmation, 
is not fit to be repeated. The respective Heads must 
settle it among themselves ; but Shaw, Mac Murrich, or 
Murdochson, Farqhuarson, and Mac Pherson, are named 
as minor branches of this tree. The latter is of a dif- 
ferent opinion ; which is very proper. Achmar says that 
the Farquharsons belong to the Clan Fhioula, whence 
come Finlays, and Mac Kinlays, and Fiulaysons. And 
these are descended from Farquhard Shaw; which is 
Saxon, not Highland. A plain man would conclude that 


the opulence of the name of Farquharson was a proof, at 
least of ancient importance; be the descent what it may. 
Every man cannot arrive to onr days, from Sbem, Ham, 
Japhet, or Peleg-, in an independent stream of his own. 
I will not say a word about Sutherland and Murray, for 
they have books of their own. Not to know them, would 
argue ourselves unknown. And has not Monsieur Grant 
de Vaux given us an octavo of Grants. He says that they 
are a ramification of Mac Gregor. Others are of opinion 
that they are Normans, and were settled in Moray by a 
marriage with the family of Cumin. Some one chooses 
to suppose that they are Groats ; in which case they 
must have been Knights of the Round Table at Dungsby 
Head. Who is to determine? And who that has had 
no other vegetable to dine on in all his Highland pere- 
grinations but the great Stewart tree, can ever forget its 
root, trunk, branches, leaves, and fruit. He who desires 
to know Forbes, may consult Sir Thomas Urquhart. If 
Hay was christened at a battle which was never fought 
at Luncarty, it would be good to show that he was not 
the son of Jack Hickathrift, who performed the same 
feats before him. 

Those who are inclined to make Cumin ancient enough, 
should derive him from St. Cumin, who wrote the life of 
Columba in657. Unluckily, his name was Cumnan,and 
the Cumins seem to have arrived from Northumberland 
in the reign of David the first. Their Norman origin 
cannot admit of much dispute, more than that of the St. 
Clairs, who unquestionably came in the train of William. 
How he sank, and how the Gordons rose, is too recent to 
be a matter of difficulty. That powerful family seems to 
have been English, and to have taken its place in the 
Lowlands of Scotland soon after the beginning of the 
twelfth Century. 

It is here useful to remark, that we have no subsidiary 
ramifications from the names of this class, as in the wes- 
tern and purely Highland ones; a proof of the confusion 
produced from the abuse of this term. The nameless Du- 


aids and Donalds assumed the nannes of their Chiefs in 


those days and regions, till the distinction of the sept 
subsided into, and produced the names of the vassal 
families. But I should remark, that among the names of 
Oothic parentage, where the real descents have not been 
preserved or indicated by history, it is difficult to distin- 
guish between the Anglo-Saxon ones of the South of 
Scotland, the Norman imported names, those of French 
casual families during the intimacy of the two kingdoms, 
and those of the Flemings who settled in Scotland at the 
period formerly mentioned. The Normans, in assuming 
French names, have added to this perplexity ; which is 
not a little increased by finding that such a name as 
Mouat, bearing the arms of the Montaltos of Italy, is a 
Flintshire family of Montealts. Bruces, from Yorkshire, 
'Anglo Norman Hamiltons from Buckinghamshire, De- 
lisles, Bethunes, Baillies, Montgomeries, Baliols, Living- 
stones, Leslies, and numerous others, are equally trouble- 
some acquaintances, though few of them concern the ob- 
ject at present in hand. The Frazers, as I have already 
hinted, are, with the Chisholms, of similar Low Country 
origin, and apparently of French extraction ; being pow- 
erful in East Lothian in the time of David the first, 
though now, from well-known circumstances, conspicuous 
among Highland Clans. So are the Grahams, or Grseraes ; 
who were Borderers, and who, apparently, settled in Scot- 
land in the same reign. Of the Mackenzies, the popular 
opinion is that this is a Fitzgerald from Ireland, who re- 
ceived a Grant of Kintail for his services at the battle of 
Largs. If there be really a charter of Alexander the third 
to that effect, there is no room for doubt. Yet the only 
names noticed in the Norwegian and only account of this 
action, are the St,ewart, and Peter de Curry. Alexander 
himself seems to have taken no share in it. It is not be- 
lieved that he was present; and if there was any one to 
deserve Kintail, or aught else, for his exertions, it was 
the Stewart himself. However that may be, a Fitzgerald 
from Leinster must still have been a Norwegian ; because 


this province was, not only especially occupied by that 
people, but was the last which they retained, as a separate 
nation, in Ireland. The prefix Fitz was, in this case, 
copied from the Normans ; as it was by other Irish fa- 
milies, possibly because it was esteemed more genteel 
than Mac or O. 

The claims of the Highlands on the Clans, or rather 
Names, of Drummond, Monro, Ogilvie, Oliphant, Menzies, 
and many more, may be measured by the same general 
rules. I cannot enter into all these points, since they 
would occupy a volume, and a dull one too. The Ger- 
man Elephant is a peculiarly unfortunate choice, to be 
made by a Celt. They are all names at least of which a 
Highlander ought not to boast. If the Mac Farlanes have 
not been well settled, it has not been for want of fond- 
ness and care in their genealogist. As Earls of Lennox 
in 1200, they are not strictly within the Highland pale, 
spite of the Celtic Mac ; but they claim the rights of pa- 
rentage, according to Achmar, over Mac Allan, Mac Nair, 
Mac Errochar, Mac William, and Mac Andrew, besides 
such unheard-of and unspeakable compounds as Mac 
Niter, Mac Jock, Mac Instalker, Mac Nuyer, Mac Robb, 
and Mac Grusich ; to say nothing of whole races of the 
more intelligible Smiths, and Millers, and others, which 
are found all over the world. Mac Lauchlan pretends 
to be a distinct Irish family, as does Mac Naughton; 
though some derive the latter from Mac Donald ; and 
Mac Corquodale, claiming a direct descent from nothing 
less than King Alpin, and independently of Mac Gregor, 
stands like a sort of St. Marino ; a microscopic clan among 
overwhelming multitudes. But he has a parallel, if he 
be a true man, in the name of Wapshott, in England ; of 
which family a blacksmith now at Chertsey is admitted 
to hold the land which his ancestors held at the same 
date, in the time of Alfred. Of Mac Gregor himself, the 
note is great; and no one need be told that he is de- 
scended from King Kenneth or King Alpin ; but how 
he should have sprung from Grig, better known by his 


sonorous and absurd name of Gregory the Great, who 
was never married, and had no issue of any kind, it would 
be somewhat hard to understand. Among: a long" list of 
subsidiaries, they claim Mac Aulay ; but Buchanan af- 
firms that this is an independent Lenox family. 

But time is flying, and I have not yet arrived at the 
Mac Paddos and the Mac Eggos and the Mac GufFogs and 
the Mac Lehoses, and the Mac Lewhames, and the 
Mac Taws, and the Mac Ivors, and the Mac Oleas, and the 
Mac Aheirs, and the Mac Lonvies, and the Mac Gilveils, 
and the Mac Eols, and the Mac Neits, and the Mac Ma- 
nuses, and the Mac Achounichs, and the Mac Kessans, 
and the Mac Sawels, and the Mac Kiltochs; and when 1 
shall, no one knows. Doubtless they have all been great 
men in their several days; but "shall these compare, 
with Caesar and with Canibals, and Trojan Greeks." 

I will therefore " imitate the honourable Roman in 
brevity," for if you are not tired, I am. The Celtic anti- 
quaries who have given us these catalogues, are certainly 
not particularly qualified for the places of Norroy, Rich- 
mond, Garter, Clarenceux, or Lyon ; though theirs is 
but a foolish trade itself, according to old Lord Pem- 
broke. But it is an innocent amusement enough; if these 
aspirants after a descent from Gomer would only keep 
their minds at ease, even though the wicked world should 
not choose to believe what cannot be. They are all an- 
cient enough ; heaven knows; since we are at least sure 
that they are all Mac Adams. 

LUNGA.- 413 


Coryvrechan is a tremendous whirlpool which swal- 
lows up all ships that approach within a mile of it, and 
I have just returned from sailing through Coryvrechan. 
It seems a singular fatality, that with the best disposi- 
tions in the world for peace, a quiet personage like my- 
self, can scarcely move a step in this country, without 
knocking his head against some unlucky subject of con- 
troversy. If it be not a Druid, it is a Highlander, or hiis 
clan, or his pedigree, or his Chief, or his virtues, or his 
kilt. One day it is Fingal, and the next it is a ragged 
Mac Raw, or a knavish boatman. Yesterday it was King 
Constantino Centimachus and his tombstone, and to- 
morrow, possibly, it may be Mrs. Mac Phail and her dirty 
public-house. Berigonium meets you in one quarter, 
Dunstaffnage in another, Inverlochy in a third, and the 
Parallel roads in a fourth. You fly from this last sub- 
ject of contention, and it is only to plunge into the abyss 
of the Caledonian Canal. In lona, you are assailed by re- 
gimented ghosts of never-born or never-buried kings, and 
in Lewis, by hosts of pigmies. If you escape the tomb of 
Ossian in Glen Almond, it is only to encounter it in half 
a dozen other places. Every cave is the very one in 
which the piper disappeared ; and when you have ex- 
tricated yourself from the dog kennels of Oscar and 
llhyno, it is but to get entangled in the mazes of a High- 
land kingdom before Julius Csesar, and of a Highland 
University before letters. In abetting emigration, you 
make one enemy, and, in opposing it, another. The ad- 
vocate for large farms and new tenants meets you in 

414 UINGA. 

wrath, on one side, and the champion for small farms and 
old tenants, on the other. One party is enraged because 
you wish for too many people, and another because you are 
desirous of too few. Kelp, fish, towns, mountains, manu- 
factures, mermaids, boats, g^uides, ostlers, inns, vitrified 
forts, in every thing great and small, physical, historical, 
political, or metaphysical, past, present, and to come, 
in what exists, may exist, or never did nor can exist, 
there is an obstruction to be surmounted, in some shape, 
or form, or mode, or modification or other. There is no 
remedy but to arm yourself cap-a-pee, and to fight your 
way, like Sir Guy or St. George, through these hosts of 
obstacles, or to shut your eyes and receive passively, all 
that fate may choose to send you. 

You will naturally ask me why I have knocked 
my head against so many obstacles. They have knocked 
their heads against mine. I did not seek them; they 
encountered me, like Apollyon ; and if I had not fought 
them, I must have turned back and remained at home 
at peace. If others have escaped, it is because they have 
travelled the broad, and beaten, and easy path of books 
and belief; but are we always to go on in the easy way, 
to repose on the " doux and mol chevet" of ignorance, 
because we will not encounter a few angry Apollyons. 
The fault is in the multitude : Thucydides made the 
very same complaint before I was born. " Let no one 
trust the poets, nor the prose writers who study embel- 
lishment rather than facts." For thus, saith he, is the 
multitude deceived : "finding truth by taking what is 
nearest." I ought, in prudence, to have given this in 
Greek; since Pythagoras advises us " not to poke the 
fire wiih our sword." For certain it is that, 

" Clament periisse pudorem, — ea cum reprehen- 

dere coner, ' 
Vel quia nil rectum, nisi quod placuit sibi, dicunt, 
Vel quia tui'pe putant parere rainoribus, et quae 
Imberbes didicere, senes perdenda fateri." 

SCARBA. 415 

Among* the " tetcs chautles," this incredulity is some- 
times dignified by the soft term, abuse. " No abuse, 
Ned, in the world, honest Ned, none." " 1 have done 
the part of a careful friend," in protecting- him from him- 
self The Lord Chancellor Bacon assures us that " know- 
ledge is more beautiful than any apparel which can be 
put on it;" and that " Facility to believe, impatience to 
doubt, temerity to answer, sloth to search, seeking things 
in words, these are the things" which make prejudice 
pass for patriotism, fable for truth, " et quod semel re- 
ceptum est" for knowledge. I shall soon explain that 
this formidable Charybdis has its moments of peace. But 
whirlpools, like caves and cascades, have an ancient and 
prescriptive right to exaggeration and fable. If Charyb- 
dis and Coryvrechan have not escaped, neither has the 
Mahlstrom ; since Kircher says that there is a hole in it 
which reaches to the centre of the earth and communi- 
cates with the Gulph of Bothnia. Just so did the learned 
formerly dispute whether Teneriffe was seventy-nine, or 
fifty-two, or only nine miles high. 

Unless it be the passage of the Dorish more, the Kyle 
rich, and the Kyle haken, there is hardly any thing 
throughout all the Western islands more amusing, excit- 
ing, and anxious, than the passage of the Sound of Scarba. 
Landsmen generally think themselves safe when they are 
near their own proper element ; but here, even the 
rawest is tempted to doubt of his security, when he sees 
himself surrounded on all sides by rocks and islands, 
buffeting a sea that invades hiai before, behind, and all 
round, and whisked and whirled about in twenty ways, 
by whirlpools and currents that are running in all man- 
ner of directions at the same moment. With a head sea, 
a beating wind, and a favouring tide, it is perfection ; it 
is not less so when the wind and sea are favourable, and 
the current at odds with both ; particularly if the man 
at the helm never held a tiller ex^-ept on the Crinan 
Canal. A bill on one of these islands has been wrought 
by the quarrymen into the shape of a house. Being the 

416 SCARDA. 

principal object, it serves for a scale to the whole ; and 
thus the sloops look like cockle-shells, and the men like 
mites; while the whole island, which is not less than a 
mile over, appears to be about the size of a kale-yard. 
Thus the majorit}^ always carries its point, however in 
the wrong; just as the bell-rope in our cabin, which was 
the only perpendicular line in the ship, seemed the only 
one that was never right, because it was always in a 

But the sea is not for ever raging in the Sound of 
Scarba. I crossed it in a toy of a yaul, with a single 
boatman, at six in a July morning, when the sky was 
without a cloud, and the air without a breeze. The water 
would have been smooth if it could : it was indeed glassy ; 
but it was a torrent of melting and boiling glass ; stream- 
ing and whirling, in all sorts of evolutes and involutes 
of curves, and running forward all the while, like a 
mill-stream, whirlpools, curves, and all. The poor little 
wherry went up, and down, and side-ways, and forwards, 
and backwards, and round-about, and I thought it fortu- 
nate that I did not go to the bottom. Yet after thus qua- 
drilling it for twenty miles, to get over a space of two, we 
landed in Lunga, no one well knew how. This is a 
rocky and rude island, about a thousand feet high, and 
the views from it are fine. But every thing here is beau- 
tiful, and all stations afford fine views. 

Scarba, which is about three miles long, is a single 
conical mountain, of an elegant form, rising suddenly out 
of the sea all round, to the height of fifteen hundred feet 
or more ; conspicuous from afar, and from all quarters, 
no less from its altitude than from its figure. The surface 
is rocky and rude, and towards the west in particular, it 
is cut down perpendicularly, by rugged precipices of 
many hundred feet in height. The east side forms one of: 
the most striking and romantic objects on this coast. The 
sea-line, receding in a beautifully regular curve, pro- 
duces a bay from which the land rises with a rapid and 
uniform acclivity, diversified with projecting rocks, and 


covered with a liaht scatfered forest of bircl! and alder, 
which, in the landscape, has all the effect of the finest wood. 
When at anchor, the vessel lies in a wooded amphitheatre ; 
the trees towering far aloft and descending- to the water's 
edge; while closing in on each hand, the projecting points 
of the bay, and the opposite island of Luing, seem to form 
the boundaries of an inland lake. 

It is between Scarba and Jura that the Strait of the 
Cory vrechan lies ; and, l)y watching the tide, I succeeded 
in navigating it in the long-boat. We had, during many 
seasons, watched for an opportunity of sailing through it 
in the vessel, during the period of its turbulence; but 
unsuccessfully. On the Jura side, the coast is rocky and 
often precipitous, but without any very striking features. 
The Scarba shore however, is both rude and magnificent ; 
while the interest is increased by the perilous situation 
from which it must be viewed. It is impossible to be 
engaged in this wild place without considerable anxiety. 
With every precaution, danger is always impending: 
since any miscalculation of the tides, or the unexpected 
occurrence of sudden bad weather, might render it im- 
possible for a boat to extricate itself, even if, by running 
into some creek, it should escape being immediately lost. 
Every observation is made as if from the brink of a 
precipice. Like the philosophers of Laputa, one eye was 
directed to the clouds, and another to the watch. If one 
class of danger was only possible, the other was certain. 
The error of a few minutes might have been the price of 
as many lives ; and you may well imagine that I did not 
linger them away on rocks far more dangerous than those 
of the Sirens. 

The hazards of the Coryvrechan, are of the same na- 
ture as those of the other narrow channels of the Western 
Islands, as well as of the Pentland Firth ; and if greater, 
they may still be avoided, witf> similar precautions. But 
as this passage is seldom used by boats, and never by 
vessels, it has received, in addition to the exaggeration, 
the further ill character which attends all untried danger^. 




Had it been as necessary a channel as the Kyle Rich or 
Hoy Mouth, we should have heard far less of its horrors. 
Like those of the Mahlstrom, they shrink before the bold- 
ness of a fair examination. The leading cause of the turbu- 
lence of the sea here, is tlie narrowness of this passage, 
with the constraint thus produced in the tide-wave. To 
this must be added a pyramidal rock, rising with a rapid 
acclivity from the bottom, which is about a hundred 
fathoms deep, to within fifteen of the surface. The Mahl- 
strom is indebted for its whirlpools, to a rock precisely 
similar, at twenty fathoms. The course of the tide-stream 
is thus diverted, so as to assume numerous intricate direc- 
tions, as in the Pentland Firth ; while a counter-current 
or eddy being also produced, chiefly on the Scarba side, 
the return of this into the main stream, produces those 
gyrations, resembling the wells of Swona and Stroma, 
which romance has magnified into a whirlpool capable of 
swallowing ships. One of these appears more conspicuous 
than the others ; but, in smooth water, the whole stream 
is full of those whirling eddies so common in all similar 

When there are wind and sea both, and more particu- 
larly when the former is opposed to the swell, or to the 
tide, or to both, the danger then becomes real, as the 
water then breaks high and short in every direction, and 
with frightful violence. It is this short, breaking sea 
which might swallow up a vessel, unless every thing were 
well secured on deck; not the whirlpools, which only 
impede the steerage. One vessel only, a foreigner, is 
remembered to have passed inadvertently through it at 
an improper time. From the alarm of the crew, she lost 
steerage, and became unmanageable ; but was thrown 
out into the eddy, and carried away, unharmed, along the 
Jura shore. I have seen both Hoy Mouth and Cory- 
vrechan in gales of wind of equal violence : and, if I mis- 
take not, the former was fully as terrific an object as the 
latter. The flood-tide runs through this gulph from the 
eastward; and though the rapidity cannot be twelve 



miles in an hour, as it has been computed, it must be very 
considerable. The violence of the sea is also greatest 
witli the flood, because of the general opposition of the 
western swell. In neap-tides, there is an hour or more 
of repose at the change ; and, in springs, about half as 
much. At those times, and in moderate weather, even 
small boats may pass through without difiiculty. We 
left it with no less success than we had entered ; but 
were just late enough to find that we had but a few mi- 
nutes to spare. 

Intimate as I am with Jura, I have little to say of it, 
and much less to say in its favour. The distant view of 
its mountains, remarkable, no less for their conical forms 
than their solitary reign, leads to expectations that are 
not realized. This island is a continuous mountain ridge, 
elevated to the southward into five distinct points, of 
which the three principal are called the Paps ; and the flat 
land which it contains, is of an extent so trifling, as 
scarcely to merit notice. Of course it displays little agri- 
culture, and contains but a scanty population ; being one 
continued tract of brown and rocky mountain pasture. 
The western shore contains many of those caves and 
arches which are so common throughout these islands ; 
but I saw none worthy of being distinguished. The great 
inlet of Loch Tarbet possesses no beauty ; nor are there 
any antiquities to redeem the total want of natural in- 
terest. The same is true of Lowlandman's Bay, and of 
the harbour of the Small Isles, on the eastern coast, 
whence Ben Shianta rises. 

Ben an Oir and Ben na Caillich, are accessible from 
the Strait of Isla; and their medium height is about 25000 
feet. They aflTord an extensive view, not only of Isla 
and Jura, but of the smaller isles eastward and west- 
ward, and of the coast of Cantyre ; the distant hori- 
zon terminating, yet very faintly, with Mull. If not very 
rich and splendid in objects, it is still striking from the 
wide expanse which it commands, and from the extensive 
horizon of sea brought under the eye. But the chief 

EE 2 

420 isLA. 

interest is found in the display of the skeleton and struc- 
ture of Jura, which seems anatomized to its very founda- 
tions, and in the beauty and correctness of the geometri- 
cal perspective: the lines of the strata departing from 
beneath, and stretching far to the north, till they meet 
and vanish in a point of the distant horizon. 

The strait which separates Jura from Isla is narrow, 
and remarkable for the accurate correspondence of the 
opposite shores; as if the two islands had been disjoined 
by violence. The tides run through it with the rapidity 
of a river. French eilan, a small islet, still shows the 
ruins of a castle called Claig, said to have been a prison 
belonging to the Macdonalds. He who is on the hunt 
after castles, may often imagine that he has found one, 
in the trap veins which here, as in Mull, often rise above 
the surface, in forms resembling ruined walls. 

There is something picturesque about the ferry house 
at Portaskeg. The shore was covered with cattle; and 
while some were collected in groups under the trees and 
rocks, crowding to avoid the hot rays of a July evening^ 
others were wading in the sea to shun the flies, some em- 
barking, and another set swimming on shore from the 
ferry-boats; while the noise of the drovers and the boat- 
men, and all the bustle and vociferation which whisky 
did not tend to diminish, were re-echoed from hill to hill, 
contrasting strangely with the silence and solitude of the 
surrounding mountains. The disembarkation formed a 
most extraordinary spectacle. I had seated myself with 
my back to the horned company, meditating thoughts 
oblivious of bulls and boats alike, when I was startled 
by a plunge under my nose, on which uprose from the 
bottom of the deep a cow, and with such a bound as al- 
most to clear the entire surface. For an instant I forgot 
myself, and thought it was the very Water Bull of which 
I had heard. The very long minute that intervened be- 
tween the plunge of each and its reappearance above the 
water, as they were all thrown over in succession, was 
almost awful ; and their extreme buoyancy was indicated 

isLA. 421 

by the elastic and forcible spring- with which they rose 
above the surface, to fall back again into the sea. 

Though Isla is considerably different from Jura in 
character, it is not very interesting to a traveller, unless 
as he may take pleasure in witnessing the rise and pro- 
gress of agricultural improvement and wealth. It retains 
so few marks of Highland manners, as scarcely to excite 
any feelings different from the Low country. Opulent 
tenants. Lowland agriculture, good houses, roads, make 
us forget that we are in the ancient Kingdom of the Nor- 
wegian Lords of the Isles. Its extent is considerable, 
and the general character is mountainous ; though it 
contains much flat and cultivated land. The higher tract 
lies chiefly to the northward, and resembles Jura. Of 
wood there is little, if we except some recent plantations 
and single trees, too limited to produce much eflfectin the 
landscape. Loch in Daal forms a spacious but a shallow 
bay, much frequented by shipping ; and the village or 
town of Bowmore at its extremity, is of a respectable 
size and appearance. On the western shore, there is a 
very large and open cave called Uaimh more, which, in 
the days of poverty, was inhabited by diflferent families. 
The cave of Sanig, further to the south, is narrow, dark, 
wet, and uninteresting-. Loch Gruinard is a deep inden- 
tation; but shallow and marshy ; giving ample evidence 
of having been once united to Loch in Daal, so as to have 
divided the island into two parts. The sea banks which 
it has long left dry, and the still progressive shoaling of 
both these inlets, are proofs that cannot be mistaken. 
The east coast is without interest. But if I thus hurry 
through Isla, it is chiefly because I can point out nothing- 
which has not often come before us, in other and better 
forms, already. Had it been the first island reviewed, it 
would have afforded ground for much that has now been 

If this island had retained all its antiquities, it might 
have presented many objects of interest ; since it was 
once the principal seat of the Lords of the Isles. The 



chapels which lemain are roofless, and ruinous ; but in 
the enclosure of that at Kildalton, there are two crosses 
covered with sculpture : yet of clumsy proportions, and 
without any merit. It appears to have once abounded 
in religious structures ; and, if we might judge by the 
names Balinabby, Ardneave, and the island of Neave, 
(Heaven,) it must have possessed some ecclesiastical es- 
tablishments. Cairns, barrows, wells of concealment, 
and monumental stones, are objects too common every 
where to demand now any particular notice. The re- 
mains of an artificial hillock, resembling the celebrated 
Tynewald hill of the Isle of Mann, have been mentioned 
elsewhere, as a memorial of the ancient Norwegian go- 
vernment. Of the usual Round works, Dun Borrereg is 
remarkable for containing- a gallery within the walls, like 
the Glen Elg towers ; as is another in the same neigh- 
bourhood for having" a banquette within. In Loch Guirm 
there is an island on which once stood a square fort or 
castle, with a round tower at each angle ; while other 
ruins point to a former pier and some subsidiary build- 
ings. This was one of the castles of the Lords of the 
Isles; and, in Loch Finlagan, there is another ruin of 
the same nature, with the traces also of a pier and a 
Chapel. Here, as Martin informs us, was a large stone, 
seven feet square, to receive the feet of Macdonald when 
he was crowned ; the elected Chief standing on it while 
the sword and the white rod of power were placed in his 

If all antiquities were like the following, antiquity- 
hunting might become a better trade than it has ever yet 
been. A farmer, in digging, some years since, found 
eighteen golden rings or bracelets, and, supposing they 
were brass, converted them into handles for a chest of 
drawers. Such ornaments were worn by the Gauls : and 
among the northern nations, before the use of coinage, 
rings were used instead of money. Hringa or Ringa,and 
Baug, signified bracelets as well as finger rings. They 
were worn by the Nobles or officers round their wrists, 

IS LA. 423 

and were given to the people as rewards for particular 
services ; while they were also used at the ceremonies 
of investiture. That they were the current money, ap- 
pears certain ; since Haco is described by the poet Sturla, 
as levying- contributions from the enemy, in Rings ; and 
the Bang Gerdar, the ring exacter, appears to have been 
the Executioner of the Norwegian Exchequer. Such is 
probably the history of this Chest of Drawers. They 
had been idly imagined to be Roman ; and, of course the 
very "gold of the Stranger" which Macpherson and Fin- 
gal stole from Caracalla. In the days of Norway, and 
since, Lead mines were wrought in Isla : but they have 
been for some time abandoned. It possessed also the re 
putation, (and I suppose a fraudful one), of producing 
Quicksilver, Cobalt, and other valuable metals. Miners 
and projectors have the art of discovering, at least the 
pockets in which metallic minerals abound ; and have 
never been backward, more than their fraternity the 
alchymists, in expedients for extracting them from those 

It was now full summer, even here. The tide did not 
choose to run the right way, the wind did not choose to 
blow, and the weather was so lovely that the sun seemed 
as if it did not choose to set. It is this lingering sun, 
creeping slowly beneath the edge of the horizon, with 
its attendant twilight never lost till it is renewed again, 
which makes us first wonder when it will be time to go 
to bed, and which at last returns to tell us not to go at 
all. " Cogit noctes vigilare serenas." And thus I sat 
on the deck, catching whitings, and looking at the yellow 
and red light as it gleamed along the bright and still sea, 
wondering when it would become grey, that I at least 
might have my own watch below. But it became yel- 
lower and redder, not a minute was there in which Ma- 
homet might not have distinguished a black thread from 
a white, or a Pharisee have seen the blue and white in 
the fringe of his garment; morning came treading on the 
rear of evening, as if unwilling to part, and at length the 

424 COLONS A. 

suu rose as lie bad set, glancing bright over the tops of 
the waves, before I had well recollected the astronomy 
of my school days. It was then either too late or too 
early for sleep, and we weighed anchor for Colonsa. 

Colonsa and Oransa form one chain of about twelve 
miles in length ; the former island being about ten miles 
long, and the two being separated by a strait less than a 
mile wide. The exterior aspect of Colonsa is hilly, rude, 
and unpromising; but after passing a hilly barrier on the 
west, we enter suddenly on a fertile and pleasing valley, 
containing a fresh-water lake. When Oransa was a mo- 
nastery, it is probable that Colonsa was church land : and 
it still contains the traces of four chapels, together with 
some monumental stones. 

Oransa possesses no other interest than that which 
arises from the ruins of its monastery ; but as this has 
been described and figured by Pennant, I may pass it 
slightly. That Columba first landed in Oransa, but that, 
having foresworn even the sight of Ireland, he quitted it 
for lona, is a tale well known. Oran too is reported to 
have built the monastery ; but the present ruins belong 
to the period of the Romish church. This establishment 
was a Priory for Canons of St. Augustin, not Cistercians, 
as has been said ; and cannot well date higher than the 
thirteenth century. The dimensions of the Church are 
about sixty feet by eighteen, and there are the remains 
of a Cloister which has formed a square of forty feet, 
built with sharp, but rude, arches, of no decided charac- 
ter. Among other ruinous buildings, there is a chapel 
containing a tomb belonging to an Abbot Mac-Duffie ; 
together with a handsome sculptured cross. 

In these bright summer seas, and on these white sandy 
bottoms, the sensation of being" in a small boat is some- 
times almost alarming, as it often is in the West Indian 
islands. It was most striking, early in the morning, 
when the sky was without a cloud, and when the reflec- 
tions were so perfect, that not even the line of the horizon 
could be seen. There seemed to be no water. Around, 

GICiiA. 425 

all appeared to be sky alike, above and below; and be- 
neath and far distant, was the bright sand, with every 
stone and weed visible on the bottom. The boat felt as 
if suspended, like a balloon, in mid air; and on looking 
over the side, the feeling was that of being on the edge 
of a precipice, from which a fall would not have drowned 
you, but have broken your neck. It was quite a relief to 
disturb the water around, so as to become convinced that 
there was some support at hand. 

Such had been the evenings and the mornings, and 
such rose the next day. The small islands of Gigha and 
Cara stretched along the horizon, a bank of tender mist 
on a cool grey sky, with not a vapour above nor a ripple 
below to disturb the still serenity around. All seemed 
so tranquil, so dead, that even the light which marked 
the place of the rising sun, appeared an intrusion on the 
universal repose. It was as if the sun had never set, and 
would never rise ; as if the elements had never moved, 
as if the world had but then been created in peace, in 
peace to remain for ever. Not a sea bird was yet awake, 
the sails hung dead over the sleeping vessel, and, as if 
afraid to hear his own voice in the universal silence, the 
man at the helm spoke in a whisper. But the gradual 
sun streamed slowly upwards, and at length surmounted 
the wave ; the tide washed us gently on, with itself; and, 
still motionless on the quiet surface, imperceptibly we 
reached the anchorage. 

Cara and Gigha are so slightly separated as to form 
almost one island, about seven miles long, rocky, and 
bare of trees, and therefore without beauty. Yet the di- 
versity of the ground, and the proximity of the mainland, 
render Gigha pleasing; and wood, could that be induced 
to grow, might render it beautiful. It has a population 
of about 500 inhabitants, and the people show a well, 
which, on being duly exorcised, produces a favourable 
wind to the supplicant. A cross, the ruins of a chapel, 
and some tombs, offer no peculiar interest. The remains 
of a Law Ting, on Tynewald hill, are more important, as 


being the only Thingevalla besiiles that of Isia, which 
remains in the Islands. It is a species of structure, howr 
ever, so easily obscured by time, that unless marked by 
tradition, it may easily escape notice. 

Before parting with these islands, I must notice the 
sculptured stones of the Highlands, which I have hitherto 
omitted. The Antiquaries have been so learned about 
2T>)Xat and Cippi, and about Jacob and Laban, and about 
the stones which Joshua set up, and about Terminus, and 
Obelisks, and what not, that I shall claim the privilege of 
passing it all by. They were the substitutes also for 
Jupiter and Juno when nations could not carve ; in the 
East, they were emblems of the Sun, and Siva, and Mi- 
thra; in the North they served similar ends to the Chil- 
dren of Odin ; every where they have been Altars, Stones 
of Election, Monuments to Heroes, Memorials of Victo- 
ries, and records of treaties, decrees, and grants of land ; 
memorials, serving the purpose of parchment indented 
and red tape. Suppose the treatise written. For those 
under review, we can readily assign, at least two of these 
uses. The monumental ones, called in Wales Meini Gwyr, 
or the Stones of Heroes, are known by the ashes and re- 
mains found beneath them ; those used for Elections 
were sufficiently discussed formerly when speaking of 
the Circles. The sculptured obelisks are the most ob- 
scure, and the most interesting: yet, however connected 
with the antiquities of the Highlands, they almost all lie 
beyond the proper boundaries of this region. These have 
been so far figured by Pennant and Cordiner, as to ren- 
der detailed descriptions unnecessary. The object here 
is, to attempt to ascertain their much-disputed age and 
purposes, and the people with whom they originated. 

The Stone of Forres is the most noted of these. Cor- 
diner has seen more than exists on it ; forgetting the real 
duty of an antiquary; a duty well pointed out in Sir R. 
Porter's travels. Still, it represents battles, and possibly, 
a treaty of peace. It is clearly the history of two actions; 
not of one, as Cordiner says: because the troops engaged 


differ In each, and there are two distinct Executions of 
Prisoners. It is supposed to mark the conquest of the 
Danes by the Scots, and a treaty between Malcolm and 
some fictitious Canute or Sueno. But the Cavalry is 
routed. The Sea Kings had no Cavalry, and therefore it 
is the Scots who are beaten. The monument, be the ag-e 
what it may, is therefore a Danish one. History knows 
of no treaty between Malcolm and the Danes: there is 
no end to supposing-. The Runic ornaments help to mark 
the nation of the Sculptors: the Cross limits the date to 
a period within the tenth Century. This is all that we 
shall ever know about the Pillar of Forres. It is indif- 
ferent whether the victory belongs to the Caledonians or 
the Norwegians, as the honour is pretty nearly balanced 
in their compound posterity. 

The Maiden stone of Aberdeenshire is a remarkable 
Obelisk. This contains, among other less important mat- 
ters, the Runic Elephant, which has puzzled all the an- 
tiquaries, the Comb and Looking-glass, which Gordon, 
Pennant, Cordiner, and all the rest have mistaken, and 
apparently, Rudders. Chalmers says that the Maiden way 
is a Roman road. It is the causeway to the fort of Ben- 
nachie, and exactly resembles that of Noath. These ima- 
ginary Roman roads have led antiquaries astray, and 
falsified the history of the Roman arms in Britain. It is 
time that this were corrected ; for that reason. Now this 
stone should be a monument to a female. The Abbess 
of lona bears the same emblem : it was a Sexual Rebus. 
Originally, to us, the Comb and Looking-glass are Greek. 
They have been found on votive tablets and sepulchral 
stones; and among other places, on the Amyclean mar- 
bles, apparently as the offering of a Priestess. Hence 
the Maiden stone might be supposed Roman. But the 
Scandinavians borrowed so many eastern emblems, that 
they may also have adopted this one. That is confirmed 
by the presence of the Elephant, which occurs also at 
Meigle, at Dornoch, and elsewhere. Though the Ske- 
leton of the Elephant is found buried in the North, th^ 


animal itself could not have been known to the native 
Goths. It is the emblem of Ganesha, who is even sculp- 
tured with a trunk. The Rudders unite in indicating 
the Scandinavian origin of this stone. 

As I do not mean to describe the stones of Meigle, I 
shall only remark that, by uniting various apparently in- 
congruous emblems, they have given rise to endless non- 
sense; having been supposed Egyptian and what not; 
erected by Boethius's Egyptian Scottish colony. Hunt- 
ings are the prevailing ornaments. Gordon dreams that 
they are police officers in pursuit of the problematical 
murderers of Malcolm the second. Another is a monu- 
ment to Queen Guinever. Nay, this Queen was an adul- 
teress says Buchanan, and she was devoured by wild 
beasts; and yet there are five monuments to her, not 
merely one. Maule is worse ; and Gordon says that the 
serpents are eels, and represent the Loch of Forfar; and 
Cordiner — this is really more like Children than even 
" old women." Cordiner is very learned about the Pam- 
phylian hieroglyphics: which have nothing to do with 
the matter. It is all in the usual style of guessing and of 
seeking for the only impossible explanations. Runic 
Elephants, Camels, Centaurs, Lions, serpents, fishes, 
circles, triangles, balls, such are the principal objects, 
together with the undoubted Christian Cross. Thus the 
date of these becomes also limited, and we must equally 
refer them to the tenth Century and to the Scandinavians ; 
be the objects what they may. This is the simple soIu~ 
tion of all the obelisks, as it is of the Circles. 

The Crypt of Canterbury, and numerous Irish Sculp- 
tures, as well as French ones recorded by Montfaucon 
and Chiflet, equally show that the Northmen borrowed 
those emblems from the east. Childeric adopted them : 
and Heathen Deities were even worshipped in France in 
the seventh Century. Cordiner desires that the Cross 
should be Egyptian, because he chooses to go to a re- 
mote antiquity for these stones. There is no affinity. 
The carved stones of Ireland all belong to the tenth 


Century, like these, and it was then that the Cross be- 
came united with the more ancient traditional emblems. 
The Irish Danes were converted in 984, according to 
Ware ; but, if we may trust to a coin of Anlaff, in 930. 
Odin ordered g;reat stones to be erected over the dead. 
That they were frequented by Nani, or spirits, as Keysler 
tells us, is a separate and more ancient opinion. It has 
as little to do with the stones in question, as the ima- 
g-inary dedication of all obelisks to the Sun or to the 
Monolithic worship. Those who describe such stones in 
support of their several opinions, describe what has no 
existence; like Hemingford, when he says that the stone 
of DunstafTnage was " Lapis pergrandis" " concavus 
quidem,ad modum rotundse cathedrae conspectus." 

As to the oriental resemblances, Wormius says that 
the Danish emblems were all Egyptian. The combina- 
tions of the circle and triangle are found in the Irish 
Norwegian Sculptures, as well as in those of Meigle. 
The Scandinavians probably borrowed them from the Ro- 
mans, who adopted Egyptian Gods and emblems under 
the Emperors. It is equally probable that, like the Pam- 
phylian, Barberini, and Isiac hieroglyphics, which have 
produced a volume in Kircher's hands, they had no 
meaning, or very little. The Runic knot was the emblem 
of faith, union, constancy. It was the Trulofa: and the 
term has been corrupted into a very popular one without 
much perversion of its meaning. Cnut was Knot, be- 
cause he united England, Denmark, and Norway. Like 
the Hieroglyphics, it seems to have degenerated at last 
into a mere ornament. Such is the simple history of Sculp- 
tures, rendered foolishly mysterious by dullness that 
would fain pass for learning. I am almost sorry to have 
wasted so many words on them. 



To place my own views of Ancient Highland policy 
and manners in opposition to the popular opinion, will 
naturally incur the charge of presumption. But popular 
opinions are transmitted, for centuries, without criticism 
or enquiry; received, because current. If that indolence 
which shuns the enquiry that would disturb its repose, 
be thus flattered, so prejudice and affection have here 
concurred in giving reception to that which was also 
flattering to our feelings. The charms of romance too 
have been superadded; so that it has become as diffi- 
cult to separate truth from fiction and to change the bias 
of the public mind, as it is unpleasing to oppose the popu- 
lar belief. But History must not shrink from its duties. 
"The Historian," says Leland, "must be armed against 
censure by his consciousness of his love of truth, and by 
a literary courage which despises every charge except 
that of wilful misrepresentation." 

As to the ordinary writers, their opinions go for little ; 
since they are seldom more than the transcribers of each 
other. From the herd of tourists, I can indeed except 
only Pennant and Johnson. But these subjects did not 
enter into the views of the former : and if Johnson's re- 
marks are those of a powerful mind, he has erred by 
reasoning on the current opinions which he took without 
enquiry. To such names as Home and Dalrymple, I might 
add many others; but the enumeration would, I believe, 
include all the writers who have either noticed this subject, 
or written expressly on it; every one of them, as far as I 
know, having followed the ordinary romance, and not one 
having chosen to see what the system really was. Hailes 
inighthave placed it in a just view, if he had chosen : and 


if be had, Ill's name would have carried that Professional 
authority which alone weighs with the mass of mankiud, 
and possibly, long- since have reduced us to a state of com- 
mon sense on this subject. I showed formerly, that he had 
declined the Political History of the Islands as unneces- 
sary, and as laborious or " prolix." No one but himself 
could have explained his reasons for either omission, and 
those we now can never know. That ourgeneral Antiqua- 
ries should have overlooked this subject, is not surprising. 
Some miserable ruin or silly usage of Jersey or Mann is 
sufficient to occupy pages, while no one seems to recol- 
lect that the latter remains to Britain, a relic of the Nor- 
wegian constitution by which so large a portion of 
Scotland was once governed, and a memorial of the most 
splendid acquisition ever made by its strength and policy ; 
as they forget that the Norman Islands are all that Bri- 
tain's King now holds of that ancient Dukedom which 
gave England a proud footing in the heart of its rival's 
dominions, and which still give it a port on a hostile 
shore, for which France would pawn the best jewel in its 

It is easy, from slender traditions and casual records, 
to construct systems : and if to assertions we can oppose 
only doubts, if we cannot controvert because we cannot 
lay hold of a shadow, belief will be regulated by preju- 
dice or inclination, by the pleasure it may afford or the 
pride it may cherish. Thus has a System been con- 
structed in this case, which has gained that currency 
among the Lions, that must follow where the Lions are 
the Statuaries and where the majority cares not what is 
believed. It is Apelles who paints Antigonus in profile 
only. That every thing is best, that all are brave, and 
generous, and happy, that government is conducted 
without force, that constraint is the result of paternal 
care, and obedience of affection, forms a picture of Uto- 
pian felicity, which we cherish with delight, and part 
from with reluctance. Yet whatever pleasure there may 
be in self-deception, we cannot prevent the unwelcome in- 

432 AWriE-vr highlaxd pomcv ainj> !\ianni:rs. 

trusion of Reason, which forces it«!elf upon us uncalled, 
and asks, can this be true. 

But we can also controvert; not only from history 
and from moral reasoning, but from the very traditions 
and tales themselves, on which the reverse and common 
opinion has been founded. These present little else than 
the record of a most savage and unhappy condition: op- 
pression, wrong, and vice, at home ; and abroad, feud, 
theft, and rapine : every disorder in short,' external and 
internal, that ever belonged to the worst states of So- 
ciety. While warfare was of the most cruel description, 
treachery, rebellion, and assassination were common, even 
among the nearest relations : and if the former involved 
practices found only among- the most savage nations, to 
the latter were owing many of the dismemberments 
which gave rise to the independent Clans, the very ex- 
istence of which, is itself a proof of this state of things. To 
know their history, to read the current tales, and to believe 
otherwise, to form a theory for the Highlands, of roman- 
tic virtue and excellence, is to exhibit human nature in a 
light contrary to all moral and historical experience, as 
well as to the facts themselves. If this System was the 
uncontrouled empire of the passions, so it was the sub- 
mission of thousands to the criminal and seltish purposes 
of the few. Yet it is one which we are called on to ad- 
mire. We might admire it, were it now the fashion 
to envy the happiness which the French found under 
Lewis XIV. But even the most loyal Briton does not 
imagine that all happiness is to be measured by that of 
the Governors, and that the governed are as nothing in 
the balance. As to the redeeming virtues of fidelity and 
attachment, I have explained them elsewhere, as neces- 
sary consequences of this condition of things ; while they 
must sometimes also have depended on the very nature 
of a people possessed of many lofty points of character, 
and on the position of a petty State, mutually known and 
related, and forced into unanimity by surrounding ene- 
mies, waiting only for the moment of division, to destroy 


It is impossible to read tbe History of Highland feuds 
tluring the disjointed independence of the Clans, without 
being- struck by their correspondence with the descrip- 
tions of ancient Arabian manners. The same slender 
connexion among the tribes, arising merely from a com- 
mon language and common usages ; a lax or imperfect 
civil polity; perpetual and hereditary feuds, kindled by 
the slightest causes or the slightest recollections; hosti- 
lities, rendered more savage by their civil character, and 
those unceasing; every family free to revenge its own 
injuries; and a quickness to insults, real or imaginary, 
which took care that causes for revenge or war should 
never be wanting. On the opposite side of the picture* 
we find the same courage, the same fidelity, generosity» 
hospitality, and so forth, which are related of our own 
pastoral and warlike tribes. The Highland reader may 
consult Niebuhr, or D'Herbelot, or Pocock, he may con- 
sult Gibbon if he pleases, for the portrait of his ances- 
tors: it is that of human nature whenever it has been 
placed in the same circumstances, and might be equally 
illustrated by the history of all the mountain tribes of 
Asia, ancient and modern. 

With respect to the most remote antiquity, we are li- 
mited to the evidence of the Classical writers. Their 
remarks, however, prove little, while their want of per- 
sonal knowledge, added to their laxity or credulity, 
makes us often doubt, even what they positively assert, 
as I formerly noticed of Solinus. When Strabo says that 
the Irish " lived on human flesh and thought it a duty to 
devour the dead bodies of their friends," and when Dio- 
dorus repeats the same tale, of the Britons who inhabited 
Iris, we must be allowed to doubt ; because it is incom- 
patible with the religion and the state of improvement of 
the tribes from which they had sprung, and which they 
continued to resemble. If Pausanias says the same of 
the Gattls who accompanied Brennus, this seems the fic- 
tion of an enemy, and of an ignorant and a credulous 
one. Gibbon, like many others, professes that he sees 



no reason to doubt the often-quoted passage of St. Jeroni, 
(" adversus Jovinum,") which is certainly distinct and 
positive, importing, not only that the Attacotti ate human 
flesh, but that he himself saw them eat it. " Cum ipse 
adolescentulus in Gallia, viderim Attacottos, gentem Bri- 
tannicam, humanis vesci carnibus." The addition, that 
they preferred the shepherd to the sheep, and cut off the 
most delicate parts of women whom they met in the 
woods, is hearsay. It is hard to say that Saint Jerom did 
not tell a truth ; yet we may ask, in addition to the above 
objection, how an usage like this should not have been 
known to the Romans of Britain, how it could have been 
tolerated at Paris, or where they found human flesh to 
eat; unless indeed the Parisians had partaken with them, 
and had then been acting the part which they were des- 
tined to repeat in after ages, on the Marshal D'Ancre and 
on Madame de Lamballe. Yet there is an obscure con- 
firmation of this writer's veracity, in a record of some 
painted glass, formerly existing in Whitby Abbey, re- 
presenting the Scots as Cannibals. Still, it is very diffi- 
cult to believe. 

Ignorance compels us to descend suddenly from this 
dark age to that of the Norwegian rule, since History has 
nothing intermediate. At that period, we must suppose 
that the usages and manners of the Highlanders were 
those of their rulers ; and what else is required to com- 
plete the picture, must be sought, as it best can, in Scot- 
tish History, and inferred by means of moral and his- 
torical analogies. From both, we are entitled to con- 
clude, that the condition of the Princes and Lords of the 
West, must have been superior to that of the Chiefs after 
the divisions of the Clans, and that the same must be 
true of those who were great Barons of the Scottish 
Kingdom. The government of the Norwegians appears 
to have been a very liberal one ; and the people were pro- 
bably amalgamated, so as to partake of equal rights with 
those of the Conquerors. Thus it probably was, that the 
Norwegian tongue was swallowed up in the Celtic; an 


operation assisted by the numerical superiority of the 
conquered. It seems unquestionable, that as the dis- 
memberments of the Clans took place, the Highlanders 
became more barbarous, in peace as in The Chiefs 
became Feudal tyrants, as in more important cases, and 
the liberty of the people was lost. If the facts that prove 
this are scanty, they are sufficient. The Heritable juris- 
dictions were the substitution of an almost unlimited 
legal and judicial despotism for the comparative freedom 
of the Norwegian government: under the Scottish 
Crown, they may be almost said to have been usurped 
from its debility. And the deterioration was nearly pro- 
gressive to the last. The Chief who executes without 
trial, is succeeded by him who advertises for the head of 
a suspected fugitive, and afterwards by Lovat and by his 
times of tyranny and assassination. Even had we not 
those proofs which are afforded by every authority that 
has descended to us, we might have drawn the same 
inferences, from general considerations; as being con- 
sistent with all moral and historical experience. 

The period of the Clans, commencing somewhere about 
the fourteenth or the fifteenth Century, forms, in fact, the 
dark, or middle age of the Highlands. Here, that por- 
tion which had been often independent and considera- 
bly united, fell from the proud elevation on which it 
had stood, from which it had defied the arms of Scotland 
and formed treaties with foreign and powerful princes. Of 
its extreme barbarism during this period, down to James 
the sixth and even far later. History and tradition are 
full ; but as I cannot introduce illustrations which would 
sM-ell this slender sketch to a volume, I must refer to the 
authorities, as to the memory of those who know where 
they exist, and to the confidence which the less informed 
will place in this appeal. It is proper to recollect that 
this is the very stage to which the romantic pictures that 
have been drawn of the Highlands relate, and that this 
is the condition of things which has called forth the mis- 
placed praise and admiration of the thoughtless. It is 

FF 2 


amusing to read the sentiments of foreigners on this sub- 
ject. According to Froissart, the French themselves, 
whom the Italians then considered barbarians, were asto- 
nished at the ignorance, poverty, and barbarism, even of 
Scotland at large. But the Highlanders, or the people of 
" La Sauvage Escoche," were looked on as we look on 
the Nootkans ; for even the " Doulce Escoche" was igno- 
rant alike of comforts, arts, and manners. " Gente ruvida 
e salvatica," says a contemporary Italian poet ; and Le 
Laboureur remarks that the country was almost a desert, 
" et plus pleine de sauvagine que de bestail." How the 
state of the Highlands underwent a gradual improve- 
ment, from the foreign education of the Chiefs, from 
communication with the Low Country, and from the twi- 
light of increasing knowledge which must have reached 
them, is matter of general notoriety. How it was ter- 
minated, is even more universally known. 

The authorities to which I have alluded, will be 
found generally in Scottish history, and most minutely 
in the reign of James VI; in the preambles of the Coun- 
cil, extending from 1608 through a period of about fif- 
teen years. The severity of the Law which compelled 
the Chiefs to send their children as hostages to Edin- 
burgh, under penalty of death, is a striking proof. Their 
lands were given to others who should reduce the people 
to " civility, order, and obedience." Their ignorance, 
barbarism, and irreligion, the tyranny of the Chiefs, 
" their monstrous deadly feuds," the " Sorners eating 
up" the people, theft, piracy, and much more, form the 
features of this picture. The wars of Cromwell, Mon- 
trose, and William, the memorial of Wade, that of Lovat 
to George the first, representing the Highlands " as a 
continual scene of civil war," protract a portrait which is 
afterwards continued to 1747 by the Gartmore MS.; 
while the minute parts are filled up, and the general 
statement confirmed, by Buchanan's "Feuds of the Clans," 
by Birt and Martin, and by innumerable tales and tradi- 
tions, handed down to us by those who have not long 


quitted the stage on which they were themselves actors. 
To question this, is idle; to disprove it, impossible. 

Having- formerly shown the origin of the Clan sys- 
tem, I may examine its nature and bearings. Birt distin- 
guishes between Chiefs and Chieftains ; the former being 
the head of an extensive Clan comprising subdivisions, 
and the latter, that of one of these inferior tribes. Though 
the Chief was a despot, the principle of obedience is said 
to have consisted in voluntary attachment, not in force ; 
while, in subservience to this devotion, succeeded an at- 
tachment to the Chieftain, or head of the inferior tribe, 
and then to some particular friendly Clans. Besides this, 
the whole Highlands were conceived to have a common 
cause against the Lowlands ; displayed in those inroads, 
of which the value of the plunder was, in reality, the lead- 
ing motive. Had the Lowlanders possessed no cattle, 
or had an effectual defence been compatible with their 
condition, we should have heard much less of this hatred. 

Theoretically, the Government seems to have been he- 
reditary; and, it is said, rigidly in the legitimate male 
line. I shall immediately show that this is doubtful. The 
origin and connexions of this people, would also lead us 
to suppose that the law of Tanistry had been regularly 
established : and there are facts which prove, at least, 
that it was often followed. The Tanist was the next in 
dignity to the Chief: and was nominated, according to 
his relationship, wealth, age, and abilities, as the even- 
tual successor, in case of a minority or of the failure of 
the direct heir, whose rights he often also usurped. There 
was a similar practice in the Saxon Heptarchy, and 
among the Germans and the Scandinavians; from which 
latter the Highlands must have derived it. Thus, a bro- 
ther, or an uncle, might succeed, instead of a son ; or a 
bastard, in place of a legitimate one. It appears also 
that the Tanist claimed a third of the estate during his life. 

As the Tanist was elected by the Clan, those petty 
states were subject to all the evils of Elective Monarchies. 
The Chief himself was also elected or nominated in the 


same manner. This was a Norwegian custom ; as is 
known from Meursius, Krantz, Saxo Grammaticus, and 
others ; and the elections took place in circles, or on hil- 
locks, or near erect stones and Cairns. On being elected, 
the Chief received a sword and a white rod, and a genea- 
logical oration was made ; while the heir was obliged to 
give a public proof of his valour before his election. It 
is certain also that the Clan, consisting, it is probable, 
chiefly of the principal persons, sometimes exercised the 
privilege of the Veto : as appears from the celebrated 
tale of the Hen Chief. So that the Hereditary right was 
not indefeasible. That the Chief and the Clan might also 
differ in opinion, on points of the highest importance, is 
evinced by the conduct of the Macleods in espousing the 
cause of 1745. 

Unquestionably, such a power must have generated 
a frequent and salutary check against tyranny on the 
part of the Chief; but it maybe doubted whether the 
long-continued descent in one line, is a proof of invariable 
mildness in these petty governments, as has been assert- 
ed. It must be recollected that the Chief was not a mere 
King governing subjects, but generally, almost always, 
the proprietor of the lands. Thus, various interests were 
concerned in maintaining him in his place and power, 
independently of his own Feudal right of Property. No 
mere despot can ever stand on his own solitary strength : 
nor is there a government so bad, from that of Algiers to 
that of Djezzar or Ali Pacha, where, in some shape or 
other, there are not many who have a joint interest in the 
Tyrant's stability. But for that, such atrocious tyrannies 
could not last a single day. The common origin of the 
Germans and the Scandinavians, and the general simi- 
larity of usages which pervaded both nations, justifies 
me in drawing analogies from Tacitus on these subjects,' 
A remark of his on the former people, confirms the ge- 
neral weight of the Clan in all matters at issue between 
them and the Chief, as well as in the point of Election. 
" Ubi rex vel princeps, audiuntur autoritate suadendi, 


inagis quam jubendi potestate." The well-known remark 
also, " De raajoribus omnes, de minoribus principes con- 
sultant," tends to confirm this view of a popular check 
over the Chief. Doubtless, the barbarous Clans departed, 
in time, from the system of their Norwegian ancestors ; 
yet the preservation of this power, by the heads, at least, 
of the Clan, was absolutely necessary to the very exist- 
ence and durability of the System. 

I must further remark, that the chief Clansmen, or 
principal Feudatories, possessed this right on the same 
principle as the Free Socagers in England were Assessors, 
also of right, with the Mesne Lord. Though, in Eng- 
land, the Commons, being Villeins, had no consideration, 
or voice, it is possible that Norway may have introduced 
this privilege into its British possessions. Camden, fol- 
lowing Bishop Merrick (I think) temp. Henry VIII. says 
that the Deemsters of Mann were originally chosen by 
The People ; and I formerly shewed that the People of 
this island appealed against a King whom they had de- 
posed, by Ambassadors to the Sovereign, and that their 
appeal was received. A relic of the same original liberty 
seems also to exist in the Douzeniers and Constables of 
Guernsey, and in their Convention of States; but I have 
not room, in a sketch of this nature, to pursue this inves- 
tigation as far as it merits. Yet if this right did ever 
really exist, it must have vanished in the Highlands, as 
we hear nothing of it, in after times, unless the case of 
■ the Hen Chief be one in point. It is more likely, how- 
ever, that the Veto, in this instance, proceeded from the 
principal Clansmen or tenants ; and not from the people 
at large, who seem rather to have held the place of Vil- 
leins; and the case of the Isle of Mann must possibly 
also be explained in the same manner. This story has 
been so often related, merely as an amusing tale, that it 
is now difiicult to give it its due weight in the popular 
opinion; but it is from such anecdotes that we must de- 
rive our knowledge. Had they been formerly viewed by 
the lights of History and Law, by a Hailes or a Camden, 


instead of a Garnett or a Pennant, a tourist or a novelist, 
we should not so long have remained in our present po- 
etical ignorance on those subjects. 

I have said that the Descents could not have been 
regular and undisturbed ; and this is confirmed by their 
own history. Experimental marriage, or hand-fasting, 
was common : no great proof of the regard paid to the 
Sex at this day. Being a contract extended to a year, 
it was thus sometimes productive of a semilegitimate 
heir. This practice was also common in £skdale formerly ; 
as it was in Portland island, in Wales, in Guernsey, and 
elsewhere. The mode varied ; the contract being some- 
times limited to a few weeks, or to a mere trial. It was 
a Danish custom ; and is derived by Ihre from " foesta 
hand," being literally, a contract. Ordinary concubin- 
age was also common ; and it clearly appears that the 
illegitimate might inherit, as well as the legal heir ; either 
by testamentary arrangemeitts or otherwise. The report 
of the Council of lona says that the hand-fasting or con- 
cubinage was " contracted for certain years ;" holding 
the contracting parties as fornicators, and ordaining them 
to be punished as such. The case of Lewis, formerly re- 
cited, also shows the nature and effects of this usage; 
while the tale of Clan Chattan on the subject of Mer- 
cheta, which I have not chosen to repeat, confirms the 
general laxity of morals on this point. Those who desire 
us to believe in ancient virtue, must at least permit us to 
believe in the ancient vices of which they also are the 
reciters. No great distinction indeed seems to have been 
made, in Scotland generally, at one period, between le- 
gitimate and illegitimate children. In ancient times, the 
very term Bastard was adopted as a distinction, and not 
esteemed a dishonourable one : as in the instance of 
William. The Bastard was even justified in carrying his 
father's Coat, with a bend sinister : " fissura," as Upton 
calls it, " eo quod finditur a patria heereditate." In Scot- 
land, under Alexander II, the Galloway men defended 
the claims of a bastard against the rights of three legiti- 


mate daua^liters ; and they were Highlanders, sprung 
from the same source. William Chisholm, Bishop of 
Dunblaine, gave great portions to his bastard sons and 
daughters. A Stewart, Bishop of Moray, had a daughter 
and son legitimated in 1530. Patrick Hepburn, also 
Bishop of Moray, had five sons and two daughters legiti- 
mated in one day, in 1535. Bastardy seems no more to 
have been a disgrace, than it was a disqualification. The 
people of those days seem rather to have thought, with 

Savajje and Euripides, " No^ot re woXXo/ yvrjo-jW ' 

Amid such a mixture of children, and under the practice 
of repudiation, it is not wonderful if the successions to a 
Highland command and estate were somewhat confused ; 
particularly when we add to those, the practice of Nun- 
cupation and Election. Hence, some of the great sources 
of wars and feuds; nor can we much praise a system in 
which every mode of jarring succession Avas united ; 
while, to all this, we must add the usurpations of guar- 
dians and relations, with the destruction of the legitimate 
or established heirs; irregularities to which we must at- 
tribute many of the subdivisions of the Clans, as the vari- 
ous tales prove. 

In the popular view, the Chief was the original, if not 
always the actual, proprietor of the land, which was let 
to his Clan, through the tacksmen; who being his rela- 
tions, were thus his stewards, and his officers in war. If 
allotted in other modes, it was still the business of the 
Chief to provide land for all, by perpetual subdivision ; 
an indispensable duty, when there was no other mode of 
existing. For these lands, he received rents and services 
both ; the most remarkable feature of this relation, being 
military service, as in the case of Feudal tenure. It thus 
became his interest, if it had not been his duty, to prevent 
his followers from falling into poverty or starving. It 
was his interest, in a very strong sense : because his army 
constituted, not only his security, but apartof his wealth. 
By means of that, he plundered the neighbouring Clans, 


or States; and by means of that alone, could lie expect 
to preserve the existence of his own petty empire, or the 
possession of his own property. This sense of benefits 
received, or the contemplation of the Chief as the foun- 
tain of life, ought to have been, in itself, a source of attach- 
ment; and we are told that it was such. Yet that may 
be questioned ; because, the experience of recent times 
has shown that the people considered themselves the 
proprietors of their farms; as not liable to be ejected at 
the will of their Chief, and scarcely even to compulsory 
rent. But there is a good deal of difiiculty in all those 
matters; while it would have been well if it had not 
been increased by exaggeration or fiction. It is a fond 
mistake also, if not worse, to suppose that the connexion 
between the Chief and the people was only that of a 
Feudal Lord and his Vassals, or what is still more ficti- 
tious, that of a Parent and a Patriarch with his family. 
From the Gartmore authority, it was often the bond that 
unites a Leader of Banditti to his gang, as it also was 
the tyranny of a Despot over Slaves. The Chiefs were 
fond of "having in command as many loose vagrants as 
they possibly could ; " men " who dared any thing and 
had nothing to lose." 

But the Chief was not necessarily the possessor of 
all the lands of bis domain; while the government was 
actually separable, even from the whole estate ; if at least 
attachment on one side constituted power on the other. 
The Alienation of lands by long leases, was common ; 
and they were also lost by conquest or forfeiture, with- 
out nevertheless dissolving the attachment. This was 
proved in Lovat's case ; his estate having been forfeited 
in there bellion of 1715,'and given to Mackenzie of Fraser- 
Dale. Boswell describes the authority assumed by Sir 
Allan Maclean in lona, when it had long been in the 
hands of Argyll ; and a parallel fact had occurred long 
before ; when Sir John Maclean raised 400 men on this 
very estate. There is something splendid in this ; and 


we may pardon some warmth of feeling when we find 
mankind swayed by other motives than interest, or acting, 
from habits of devotion, in direct opposition to it. 

Much as the Clan system coincides with the Feudal 
one, it is said still to have differed in important particu- 
lars. It has been asserted that the people were not vil- 
leins ; because of the privilege which they claimed of 
" shaking hands with their Chiefs," and because they 
boasted of being of his blood ; his " clan," or children, 
naturally as well as politically. Hence it has been called a 
Patriarchal system, or a mixture of both. The " blood" or 
descent, is plainly a fiction ; as I have shown elsewhere. 
It is impossible, physically, that a powerful Chief could 
have been an extensive progenitor of this nature ; while 
it is equally certain that the clan was often a political 
connexion merely ; consisting of various people asso- 
ciated under a common head, and, in the West, generally 
assuming the name of the Chief as a surname. As to the 
lands, they were distributed in a similar manner, and for 
similar purposes, under every mode of the Feudal system : 
so that this might equally be called a Patriarchal one, by 
those who please themselves with romantic views of hu- 
man nature and policy. If there was a peculiarly strong 
attachment in any case, it must have depended, partly 
on the limited extent of the Clan, and principally, it may 
be presumed, on the personal character of the Chief. 
But this subject deserves to be examined more minutely; 

We know, from Caesar, that, among their Celtic an- 
cestors, " plebs poene servorum habetur numero." The 
early Teutonic conquerors invariably treated the con- 
quered people like slaves, or rather like beasts, and esta- 
blished their own system wherever they settled. The 
history of Saxon England is familiar. If Harold Har- 
fagre did not adopt in Scotland the same Feudal system 
which his Ally, William, established, or rather confirmed, 
in England, it would be an anomaly which we cannot 
easily credit without positive proof. Hence, in England, 
all the lands became the property of the conquerors, and 


thus arose the estates and the nobles of England. Those 
of the Norwegian Highlanders sprung up in the same 
manner; and he who can believe that the rest of the sys- 
tem did not follow, ought to produce other evidence than 
has yet been done. 

On the Mainland of Scotland, under the Crown, the 
people seem, unquestionably, to have been Villeins. 
Hailes is of opinion that the peasants on an estate were 
"ascripti glebee" or "quasi ascripti;" as performing 
services, such as was the Highland military service. But 
the Highlanders also performed other villein services, 
often holding their lands by the Rent Service of the Etig- 
Jish law, or in a mixture of military service and villein 
socage. It is plain that Hailes is not anxious to prove 
this; yet he has himself shown, from the Chartulary of 
InchafFray, that slaves and their children were conveyed 
like sheep and horses; and this, not merely with the 
land, but without them. Pinkerton finds no exact proof 
of the transfer of the people with the soil ; yet he consi- 
ders them as, in fact, slaves under menial and feudal 
bondage. He derives the term husbond, the name of a 
Scottish farmer, from the term bondage ; these being at- 
tached to particular farms and masters. He attempts, 
however, to make a frivolous distinction ; as if they were 
slaves in custom rather than law. It is frivolous at least, 
as to the purpose of this enquiry, as the custom is all 
that concerns us ; that being here the sole law. A Char- 
ter of Robert the first, preserved by Nisbet, declares 
Adam Adamson and his son "free;" implying, clearly, 
a previous bondage. Further, if Hailes's theory of Mer- 
cheta, as a Highland usage, be correct, the Highlanders 
must have been villeins. " Marriage," he says, " out of 
the Clan, deprived the Chief of part of his live stock;" 
and hence, (to shorten a passage which I need not quote,) 
arose the Mercheta. 

Thus he admits it as probable, that the usage of the 
Highlands on this head, was the same as that of the 
Lowlands* There is every reason to believe that it was 


so; partly for Ins reasons, partly because we can mark 
no period at which it could have been abolished, after 
havino- existed under the Norwegians, and partly from our 
knowing that the tenants were actually attached to the 
soil and transferred with it, and that they performed all 
those services which have ever been found under a Feudal 
system. This belief is further confirmed by our know- 
ledge of the manner in which, in no distant times, the 
men were forced into military service; in the rebellion 
of Mar; by Lovat, as appears from the State Trials; and 
by Cameron, whose " volunteers" were *' tied up in his 
barn." It is also evinced by the general conduct of the 
Chiefs to the people, in many other cases ; and even by the 
fact that men were compelled to enter the army, even in 
the American war ; though in this instance, under other 
modes of compulsion. Here, the fact proves the former 
habit; though it is not an example of the same power. 
These proofs are further confirmed by numerous other 
circumstances which mark the identity of the imaginary 
Patriarchal system of the Highlands with the Feudal one. 
Among these I may enumerate the incidents of Mar- 
riage, Wardship, Reliefs, and Aids, as common to both ; 
though they have not attracted the attention which they 
deserved, partly because known by other names, but 
chiefly because the ordinary writers on these subjects, 
were unacquainted with the antiquities of Law. Their 
right of Maritagium was exercised, precisely as it was by 
the Norman Barons, that they might strengthen their clan, 
or avoid a hostile alliance. This was the custom also with 
the ancient Germans, to whom we trace the whole of our 
Feudal System, as it was of the Norwegians, who intro- 
duced it through Normandy into England. Wardship is 
found in the Brehon laws as well as in the Norman laws of 
England, and was similarly in use in the Highlands; the 
Chief taking the infant heir of the Feudatory under his 
protection. The presents claimed by the Highland Chiefs 
from the Clan, on the marriage of their daughters and on 
other occasions, were the Aids and Reliefs of the Feudal 


system, found also among- the ancient Germans; the 
"quod pro honore acceptum etiam necessitatibus subve- 
nit." Madox shows that they were similarly due to the 
English kings. As to minor points of resemblance, the 
Kinsmen and Tacksmen were the Magnates, or Knights, 
and their farms were their Knights' fees. The reparation 
of Castles belonged to both systems. The Rents, common 
services, and military services, were the same. The Piper 
and the Bard held their places by Grand Serjeanty. Every 
thing was the same in Ireland. In the laws of Howel Dha, 
all these usages are referred to the ancient customs of the 
Britons. The Highlands could not have, had an exemp- 
tion ; it was the natural and necessary system there, as 
every where else in the same circumstances. 

When we ask why this view has not been taken of the 
Clan system, it is easy to see that the cause consists in 
the romantic and visionary notions which have been so 
sedulously promulgated, and, in imperfect views of 
Law and History. But the leading reason must perhaps 
be sought in its familiarity. It was co-existing with our- 
selves in the Highlands, when it had become, every 
where else, mere matter of history, incapable of making 
the same impressions. I need hardly say that Lord Coke 
and Selden are the highest authorities among those who 
consider that the Feudal system was not introduced into 
England by the Normans, but that it existed previously 
among the Saxons, originating, as it did every where else, 
from the very circumstances in which the people were 
placed with regard to an inefficient and distant govern- 
ment. The Highlanders were forced into a Feudal sys- 
tem, like the Saxons or the Norman English, because the 
General Government gave them no protection. It became 
necessary that they should defend themselves ; and that 
could be done only by associating under the protection 
of a powerful head. If Inheritance, Usurpation, or other 
causes, introduced modifications into this system, still, 
even in minor points, it resembled that of England. 
Kindness on the part of the Lord, and attachment on that 


of the people, were as necessary in tbe one case as in the 
other; nor, excepting- that difference which arises from 
the greater freshness of the Highland history, does it 
appear that there was any distinction between the con- 
duct of the English Lord to his dependants, and that of 
the Highland Chief to his Clan. The English vassals 
were not called his clan, or children, it is true, nor did 
they take the Lord's name; but if any effect did arise 
from this in the Highlands, we have no reason to think 
that it was of much moment. Like the Highland Chief, 
the Feudal lord was surrounded by his younger brethren 
and his kindred ; and, in his journeys, he was followed by 
a train of gentlemen, and of commoners also; though it 
was not called a " Tail," and perhaps differed chiefly in 
the superiority of dress and appearance. His people 
were all those whom he could feed at home or furnish 
with land ; he spent his revenues in securing their affec- 
tion and assistance ; they partook of his feuds and quar- 
rels, just as it was his duty to defend and protect them; 
and they also shared in his pleasures, in his feasts and in 
his huntings, as the followers of the Chief did. 

Where the Feudal Lord possessed but a small domain, 
the mutual obligation was understood without specific 
agreements; and the differences are most apparent 
where the English Baron was very powerful and his 
estates extensive. It became then necessary to introduce 
a species of legal agreements; and thus originated that 
more extensive and formal system of vassalage which 
seems to have misled those who have attempted to make 
distinctions between the Highland and the English Feu- 
dal systems. But the condition of the Highlands, before 
the subdivisions of the Clans, must have been similar; 
as it is impossible that John, in 1270, or even Alexander, 
or Donald Balloch after him, could have conducted him- 
self towards his people, or they towards him, as the Mac- 
nabs or the Glencoes did in after times. As little, or 
even less, could that imaginary parental system have 
existed among those who, like Cumin, reigned over a re- 


mote and scattered population of which they could have 
had no personal knowledge; or among those who, like 
Gordon, were transplanted into the Highlands by grants 
from the Crown, and who thus became foreign rulers of a 
transferred and alien people. Time, at least, was, in these 
cases, required to produce, even the appearance of at- 
tachment. Nor could such a people have considered 
themselves the children of the Chief, except in the lapse 
of generations; and, even then, the strength and univer- 
sality of the attachment may safely be doubted. The 
case of the Frazers is an exception in point; an affection 
produced by a long course of time. In the Highlands 
also, under the greater and early Chiefs, possessing such 
enormous territories as the Lords of the Isles did, grants 
of the same nature as in England, became equally indis- 
pensable. Many lands were thus alienated irredeemably, 
laying the foundations of new families, and helping to 
produce that very multiplicity of Clans which sprung up 
only in after ages. If, in England, personal attachment and 
intimacy became gradually incompatible with this sys- 
tem, or ceased because become unnecessary, so these 
were also infringed on by various political causes. They 
had been the natural consequences of the existence or 
the fear of foreign injury ; and it is easy to see how 
they were similarly generated and preserved in the 
Highlands, and how they at length disappeared. Simple 
moral and political principles seem fully sufficient to ex- 
plain every thing, without adopting a romantic and mar- 
vellous system of morals and policy, incompatible with 
all that we know of human nature and human society. I 
may conclude by the important remark, that the exist- 
ence of this system in the Highlands, confirms the opi- 
nions of Selden, of Millar, and of others, on this subject; 
in contradiction to Spelman and to those who maintain 
that the Feudal system was introduced into England by 

To return. While the Chief was the commander in 
war, he was also Legislator and Judge ; a combination 


not likely to conduce to the happiness of the people, even 
with all the checks of self-interest to controul its bad 
effects. For taxes, there neither could have been great 
want nor great means ; while the expences of the State 
must have been chiefly supported by the hereditary re- 
venue, by his own property. That he was maintained, 
if necessary, by the voluntary contributions of the Clan, 
and that he levied taxes for such purposes as the build- 
ing of a Castle, or the marriage of a daughter, or for 
any especial support of his dignity, are the Feudal usages 
just noticed. If those who refused to submit to such 
requisitions, were ejected, or otherwise punished, this 
was a necessary consequence of that which, in a vassal, 
was rebellion, as well as breach of implied contract. It 
is further said, as if it were something peculiar, that 
the protection which the Chief owed to his followers, 
extended so far as to shield them, even from the Laws. 
That was, however, a matter of course ; because to them, 
the Laws of Scotland were alien laws. There were times 
in which they owed no allegiance, and others, in which 
they disclaimed it; nor could they, at those periods, have 
maintained their States on any other principle. This, 
which has been called rebellion against the Crown, is the 
proudest part of their character ; and though I shall not 
be suspected, any more than my most loyal friends of 
the Highlands, of advocating rebellion, it is impossible 
to contemplate, without a high admiration of their ener- 
gies and spirit, the resistance and the constancy displayed 
by such handfuls of people; nor to see, without pleasure, 
a few petty proprietors thus defying a whole empire in 
defence of their hereditary or conquered rights, and rely- 
ing for their strength on the attachment of their subjects. 
This is indeed a bright light in the picture ; and we can 
only grieve that it must be opposed by shadows no less 

It is an interesting fact, as involving the nature of 
these States, that in cases of unsuccessful contests with 
the Scottish crown, the Chief was called on to give hos- 



tag-es, and made responsible for the conduct of his people. 
As this usage was sanctioned by the Parliament, his 
power over his vassals was acknowledged and established 
by the law ; as, without power, there could have been 
no responsibility. If they had not therefore been petty 
Princes before, they were rendered so by the Legislature 
itself. In his relation to the Scottish crown however, the 
Chief, though not amenable to the ordinary municipal 
laws, remained subject to the punishments of treason ; 
while a declaration of war, if it may so be called, was 
couched in an act of outlawry, or a " writ of fire and 
sword," directed to the Sheriff. The external relations 
of the Clans among themselves, resembled those of larger 
States. Ambassadors were sent, and offensive and de- 
fensive leagues made; as Treaties of a graver nature 
had been, with remote and greater Powers, in the times 
which had preceded. Thus wars also were levied ; and 
where new causes could not be found, hereditary feuds 
were always ready to supply their place. 

To suppose that this was a happy state for the peo- 
ple, is contrary to all our knowledge of human feelings. 
Dependence, under any form, is a condition from which all 
try to escape, and to which no one willingly returns. It 
would require strong* evidence to make us believe that 
on the point of free-will, the Highlanders differed from 
all nations and people, and were wanting in that universal 
principle so deeply implanted in all animal nature, that 
if there be an organ in earthly brains which Craniology 
should not have forgotten, it is an organ of resistance. That 
the Highland Chiefs were happy in their commands, 
no one will dispute; since there is not a much greater 
source of happiness, particularly to the uncultivated, than 
"respect, obedience, troops of " sycophants: power ob- 
tained, and the means of gratifying it ; pride flattered and 
fomented. They have doubtless lost much by substituting 
tame obedience to the laws for high contempt of them, 
siibmission for controul, the state of a subject for that of a 
King. But we must not judge this question till the people 


publish their opinions; as the Chiefs have done. The 
ridicule attached to the name of James VI, or to a Scottish 
Privy Council, will not invalidate the facts which prove 
the situation of tiie governed. In the " Instructions for 
settling the Peace of the Isles," the Chiefs are stated as 
men " who never regarded what surety of right they had 
of any land; accounting their power to oppress, warrant 
sufficient for them to possess, and using that tyrannical 
form over the tenants, as it caused the country to be almost 
uninhabited ; " or, compelling them to " turn to idleness 
and live on the fruits of other men's labours. " Their 
tyranny " is also dwelt on ; and, that Clanship was a 
Despotism and a Tyranny, instead of a Patriarchal and 
a kind government, is equally confirmed by an incidental 
notice in the Gartmore MS.; where it is stated that the 
doctrines of " indefeasible hereditary right, and of abso- 
lute uncontroulable power in the Chief Magistrate," were 
taught as essential. This is precisely what we should 
conclude ourselves, from the History of Clanship and of 
the Highlands : a condition of things not peculiarly in 
repute, even where the evils are more dilute, and when 
the invisible distance of the Sovereign will, and the Mist 
of Glory and Prestige with which it is surrounded, cause 
the Power more to resemble the necessary and Physical 
order of the World than the assumption of one man over 
his fellow mortals. The Ukase which sends a Kibitka 
across Sarmatian bogs to Siberian snows, may possibly 
be endured; not so the warrant of Lovat, which trans- 
ports the refractory Clansman to plough Atlantic seas and 
cultivate Virginian Savannahs. 

The nature of the system of Justice forms the most 
obscure part of the history of the Highland governments. 
That the Norwegians had established and left a regular 
administration of Justice and fixed laws, appears plain 
from their history in Scotland and Ireland. The Brehon 
laws were clearly of Norwegian origin ; whatever fanci- 
ful Irish antiquaries may have dreamt. The profound 
and ancient respect which this people had for Law, is 

G G 2 


marked fhronghout their whole history. In the Eyrbig- 
gia Saga, the Judges will not even exorcise a certain set 
of offensive Ghosts, till they have allowed them to plead. 
In the same history, Thorarin refuses to let his house be 
searched on suspicion of theft, because it was not legal, 
'the Suits were, even then, carried on before assemblies 
of the people at the Thingvalla. Those, it is well known, 
are, circuitously, the origin of our juries: resembling the 
Seniors in the ancient British Courts, or the men of wis- 
dom and authority in theParliament of Howel Dha. The 
Compurgators descended to Wales, to Ireland, and to 
Mann ; in which last, that usage still exists, and where 
trial by expurgation has not even yet disappeared. It 
was also a practice of the Saxons. The Lucumones of 
Etruria have idly been supposed by Ihre, to have been 
the Lagmen of the Scandinavians, because the Etrurians 
were not Goths. St. Magnus shines as a lover of Justice 
among the ancient Norwegians. In Normandy, the same 
feature prevailed. The Clameur D'Haro has made the 
name of Rollo proverbial. The tale of William's funeral 
in St. Stephen's at Caen, is well known ; with the appeal 
which Asselin made, because his property had been vio- 
lated. This was a legal people ; and it is well known 
that it has proved a litigious one. 

It is vain now to conjecture about Celtic policy. The 
Druids, if there Mere any here, were Legislators and 
Judges both ; but of their laws we have neither record 
nor shadow left. The western Highlanders, at least, must 
have received their laws and municipal usages from the 
Norwegians. The reason for that opinion is, that, in 
Isla, the causes were actually tried before such Juries, 
and because the Mount, or Judgment Hill, is still remain- 
ing. These Thingvalla were, indifferently, Mote hills, 
or the slopes of hills, or Circles, or Stones, or Cairns, as in 
the case of Elections: and the stones of the circumference, 
sometimes twelve, at others fourteen, represented the 
variable number of Lagmen, as of Electors. In Ireland, 
they were called Pari hills; and were in use as late as 


the tenth century. The Tynewald of Mann is still what 
it was in the days of Magnus Barefoot. In Ireland, the 
Brehon Judges sat in the open air, that magic might 
have less power over them. The Brehon had an eleventh 
part of the property in dispute, and, from Martin, we 
learn that this rule held also in Isla. The Gorseddau of 
Wales were the same ; and the mode of payment similar, 
by a settled rate. If the Brehon in Ireland had a here- 
ditary right to his office, it is because this was also a 
Feud ; being, in fact, a Baronial Judicature. This was 
his peculiar Service ; and the nature of it is confirmed 
by English records of the time of John, where certain 
fees are held, on condition of finding a Judge for the 
King's service. The case must have been the same for 
the greater part of the Highland States of the mainland ; 
since, in the early ages, nearly all of those of which we 
have any knowledge, were Scandinavian also. It was the 
great coincidence between the Norman laws and usages 
and those of the Britons, as derived from a common 
source, which was the cause that so few essential changes 
of that nature were made at the Conquest. 

It is probable that much of this regular system disap- 
peared during the barbarization and division of the Clans. 
That Scotland did not interfere, even on the mainland, 
till a very late period, is proved ; because, even in cer- 
tain Statutes of James IV, passed in 1488, and in the re- 
gulations established during the King's minority, Ross, 
Sutherland, Caithness, and Orkney, are omitted in the 
specification of territory. As late as 1503, when the 
Islands had been rendered parts of the Kingdom, by the 
forfeitures of John, Angus, and Maclean, the Parliament 
declared that the islands had " almaist gane wyld" for 
want of Justice and of courts: proceeding then to es- 
tablishing them in certain specified places. This irregu- 
larity must have arisen from neglect of the Norwegian 
usages, and from the tyranny of the Chiefs in assuming-, 
or exercising, plenary powers of legislation, judgment, 
and execution, by their Heritable Jurisdictions. These 


were however not usurpations so properly, as they were 
necessary parts of the Feudal system already explained. 
In England, the Villein was bound to appear in his Lord's 
Court. A Baron, in right of his Fee, was hereditary 
Judge and Justiciary. It is a mistake to have supposed 
this an usurped right, when, in after times, it was taken 
away. But we wondered, merely because we saw in 
practice what we had only read of, without weighing its 
nature and consequences. This power of " pit and gal- 
loM's," included the administration, by the Chief, of cri- 
minal, as well as of civil justice, by his own immediate 
act, as well of execution as of judgment, and, without jury, 
as without laws. To prevent the abuse of justice, from 
personal feelings, it was subsequently modified, while it 
was recognized by the Legislature ; the Chief being- com- 
pelled to abandon the judgment seat to a Baron Baily, 
who was nevertheless his own Officer, not that of the 
Crown. But in practice, this could seldom, if ever, afford 
any effectual protection ; while this Person must have 
had an interest in supporting the power of the Chief, and 
none in defending the rights of the people. The former 
was still, by deputy. Judge in his own cause : while there 
was additional danger that, to his, should be added the 
personal interests or resentments of the Baily also. But 
it is said, in defence of the Chief's administration, that 
his own interests were concerned in doing justice with 
mercy: as he was a gainer by the welfare and happiness 
of his people. Unfortunately, this motive has always 
proved a feeble barrier against power : against the effects 
of anger, pride, or revenge. We need not ask how Ne- 
groes have been used, nor how men often treat their ani- 
mals, in the very face of their most palpable interests. 
If the Highland Chiefs and their Bailys did not abuse 
their powers, they were a people whom the world has 
never yet seen. 

The facts on record confirm this opinion derived from 
general principles. So far was the Baily from conduct- 
ing himself as became a dispenser of the laws, that it was 


hot uncommon for him to examine the accused, with per- 
sonality and rancour, and even with blows. This Officer 
also has been known to declare, of a presuined culprit, 
even before trial, that " his very name should hang him." 
How far they sometimes exceeded, even tltese powers as 
judges, is evinced by another anecdote from the same 
author, Birt, of a Chief who had set a price on the head 
of a man who had not been tried ; and whose head was 
accordingly brought in. If such things were common, 
the power of a Chief was paramount to all forms of law, 
even to those of his own making ; and he might have dis- 
posed of the heads of his subjects like Muley Moloch or 
AH Pacha ; for it was never conceived that, in such cases 
as this, he was guilty of murder. If Toshach of Moni- 
vaird hung a man on every court day, as is said, for the 
purpose of striking a salutary terror into his clan, he may 
well compare with those worthies. That such was, in 
fact, the assumed power of the Chiefs, so high their sense 
of their own rights, and so little their regard for those 
of the people, are confirmed by two circumstances which 
occurred to the same reporter : nor could they have 
thus happened at so late a period, and so near to the very 
centre of Highland civilization, Inverness, had they not 
been matters of general admission and practice. I may 
refer to him for the tale of the Chief who offered to bring 
him the heads of some of his Clan, and for that of another 
who said that had his people remonstrated with him for- 
merly as they then did, they would have been " precipi- 
tated from the nearest rock." The tale of Boswell about 
Sir Allan Maclean, so late as 1773, confirms the same as- 
sumption on one side, and submission on the other. 

In all those instances, these Chiefs were only exerting 
their rights, and, consequently, they are comparatively 
free from blame, personally. But such arbitrary and 
divided governments could not have existed, without that 
species of oppression which is not the less severe that the 
instances are less conspicuous ; the oppression of petty ty- 
ranny, against which there is no defence. In this, as in 


all similar cases, the happiness or misery of the people 
must have depended much on the personal character of 
the Chief J and it is not for any one, even to conjecture, 
how the balance stood for good and evil. While the 
marked instances of oppression above quoted, are con- 
spicuous, because of their place and date, it is easy to 
imagine how the case must have stood in times and places 
more remote. Though the personal character of Lovat 
was far from amiable, his moral depravity was not re- 
markable, while it was controuled by education, and by 
characteristic caution and prudence. It would be ex- 
traordinary if this should be the only, or the greatest, 
tyrant that the entire country had produced during a 
lapse of three or four centuries. Among other things, 
when any of his clan had offended him, he used to send 
them to Inverness jail, threatening them "with hanging 
or perpetual imprisonment," and intimidating them into 
" contracts for their banishment," by means of suborned 
witnesses. Thus he " got rid of troublesome fellows," 
while he made money of them by selling them to the ship 
masters. Here is an example, in plain terms, of what is 
called a white slave trade, in a Chief's own vassals, carried 
on by duress and subornation of perjury. 

While the general truth of all this is confirmed by 
the evidence in the State Trials, it is equally known, that 
he not only made use of his own people in conducting his 
acts of revenge, but that he hired men from other clans 
for the same purpose ; employing them in houghing cattle, 
in raising fires, and even in murder; facts which convey 
an equally unfavourable opinion of the people themselves. 
If those agents were taken and condemned, he allured 
them to secresy respecting himself, by promises, " until 
the knot was tied." Even the neighbours who knew the 
real instigator of these crimes, did not dare to whisper his 
name to each other ; well knowing that they would suffer 
in a similar manner. Of minor acts of oppression, con- 
ducted by other hands, the celebrated story of Lady 
Grange is an example ; as is that of Connor, a Catholic 


priest, who was imprisoned in Harris, by Seafortli, about 
the year 1660, and detained for many years. The shoot- 
ing- of the horses of the tenants, in Tirey, might, with 
many other well-known tales, be adduced as further in- 
stances of the oppression which might be practised with 
impunity in the Hig-hlands, even at no very remote 
periods. If such was the conduct of the Chiefs, better 
could not be expected from their inferiors. Hig-hland 
tradition is full of narratives to this effect, and many of 
them have often been printed ; not seldom as if they 
were rather calculated to adorn a pleasing tale than to 
point a severe moral. That murders must have been 
common, at the same periods, even in the Lowlands, is a 
bad justification : though that they were so, appears by 
the severe laws of Robert II against murderers and 
abettors. His orders to the army, not to pillage their 
own countrymen, serve equally to shew what the nature 
of a Scottish army was then. 

The dislike of the people to the settlement of stran- 
gers among them, might easily have been testified by 
other modes than assassination ; and that this was a cur- 
rent remedy, is a proof of a state of feeling, and even at 
a period when the laws had really reached them, which 
no colouring can palliate ; whatever excuses may be found 
for political crimes or depravity. If the instances call 
for notice, it is as the result of that peculiar system of 
government and state of society which they also prove. 
The tale of the English agent treacherously attacked by 
the " Gentlemen of the Clan" who were partaking of his 
hospitality, is in the same author : and it proves, among 
other things, that the honour and hospitality of which we 
have heard so much, were empty names ; since to have 
eaten together, even among the wild Arabs, is an insu- 
perable barrier to hostility, much more to treachery. Of 
similar bearings are the history of the Mortgagee whom 
the Chief had intended to hang, and of him who was 
attacked in his bed by six " Gentlemen of the Macpher- 
sons;" the latter evincing the courage of these worthies, 


as the former does their honour. The attacks on Sir 
Alexander Murray at Strontian, are an example of the 
common process of the people themselves in all those 
cases; which Birt furth( r confirms when he says that, in 
al! instances of the settlement of strangers, it was the 
custom to fire their houses and barns, and hough their 
cattle, and even to murder the tenants. To judge truly 
of this state of things, let us take Mr. Burke's imaginary 
map, and ask ourselves, not what we think of these tales 
in books of a century old, but what we think of them as 
now daily performed in Ireland. It was a dark part of 
the character of this people that they cherished ven- 
geance, and never ceased to seek opportunities of grati- 
fying it. Yet even this perhaps may carry with it my 
Lord Bacon's apology. But no apology can be offered 
for what, it is said, Lovat found no difiiculty in doing ; 
namely, procuring hired assassins, even out of his own 
clan. That assassination was lightly viewed, appears 
from a story related by Birt, of a person who had offered 
himself to murder a Chief; understanding that there had 
been a quarrel between him and the English officer. 

But it will be a relief now to turn to other matters. 
The nature of their Castles is among the best indications 
that we can find of their personal wealth, and of their 
acquaintance with domestic comfort, as it also is of their 
military science. The Clansmen appear to have had no- 
thing better than huts: and this indeed is proved by Birt, 
who, even at his late day, describes the Lairds as living 
in such dwellings, without a second story, and sometimes 
containing the cattle under the same roof. The Children 
were treated little better than the domestic animals, and 
the apparel and all else were " fitting." I may say of 
the Highland Chief as has been said of others in similar 
circumstances, that the private citizen of Europe is pos- 
sessed " of more solid and pleasing luxuries than the 
proudest Emir who marches at the head of ten thousand 
horse." Still, in the latter periods, much of manners, and 
even of education, were thus masked to common eyes or 


casual visitors. Those who doubt it, may call to mind the 
manners represented in Homer, or even in the early his- 
tory of the Jewish patriarchs. If the common people 
were then grossly ignorant, some learning was generally 
diffused among the upper classes; and the Chiefs, it is well 
known, frequently united, to their necessary high tone of 
feeling, the polish derived from the habits of good, and 
often, of foreign society. 

But it is idle to say that literary education was ge- 
nerally diffused at a remote period, among the upper 
classes in the Highlands. There could not have been 
more education among the mountains than in the Low 
Country ; and there, it certainly was not great nor general, 
at that day. Though the Universities had been esta- 
blished in the beginning of the fifteenth Century, they 
were so little regarded, that, nearly a hundred years 
afterwards, it was enacted that every Baron, or Free- 
holder of substance, should send his eldest son to school, 
to acquire Latin ; that he might render himself capable 
of becoming a judge. That lona was ever a seminary 
for general education, is a fiction which I noticed for- 
merly. That it had diffused " the blessings of know- 
ledge" to a barbarous people, is mere phraseology. The 
Council which met there in 1609, was assuredly of a very 
different opinion. Here, Andrew, Bishop of the Isles, 
declares, in the presence of a Council of the Insular 
Chiefs themselves, who also sign their names to the re- 
port, the " great ignorance," not only of those very 
Chiefs, but of the commonalty. It further assigns this 
as the cause of the neglect of Religion, and also, of 
the growth of all kinds of vice, and so on ; while it says, 
pointedly, that the " ignorance and incivility of the Isles 
are daily increased by the negligence of good education 
and instruction of youth in knowledge of God and Let- 
ters:" proceeding to order that every gentleman pos- 
sessed of sixty cows, shall put, at the least, his eldest son, 
or his eldest daughter, if he has no male children, to the 
Lowland schools, till they have learnt to read and speak 


Ed^'UsI). a century after, Lovat, in his Memorial, calls 
the people " very ijynorant and illiterate," and the same 
opinion is confirmed by all the other reports down to the 
last rebellion. To believe otherwise is fondness: to assert 
the contrary, fiction. We might well ask how it could 
have been otherwise, when there were few or no schools 
in the Highlands, and when there was no communication 
between them and the detested Lowlands. I formerly at- 
tempted to defend the religious character of the ancient 
Highlanders. But that is not the opinion of those who 
knew the Highlands in those days. In the instructions of 
James the sixth to the Commissioners for settling the 
peace of the Isles, the Council speaks of their "irreli- 
gion," and of" planting the Gospel among those rude bar- 
barians and uncivil people." The Gartmore MS. far 
later, is equally severe; and here the question must rest 
for those who feel more inclination than myself for enter- 
ing further on it. 

Martin informs us, that in the great families, there was 
a Marischal Tach or Seneschal, who arranged the guests, 
so as to prevent quarrels for precedence; as he also pre- 
served the pedigrees. Sometimes there were two ; and 
he also describes a cup-bearer and purse-master, heredi- 
tary and holding " by patent." The Chief had also a reti- 
nue of young gentlemen, who sought opportunities to 
signalize themselves. Those, he used to lead or send on 
plundering expeditions : and it was their duty to return 
with spoil, or to die in the attempt; thus laying the foun- 
dations of their characters for courage. This was a Ger- 
man usage ; and, here, it was probably a fashion of Nor- 
wegian origin. " Principum semulatio, cui plurimi et ac- 
errimi comites." " In pace decus, in bello praesidium, 
magno juvenum globe circumdari." Thus Csesar informs 
us. A Standard-bearer, an Armour-bearer, or Gilliglas, 
the Gillimore, 0/ Sword-bearer, and the Cockman (Gok- 
man), or Warder, with the Hanchman, or Valet, and three 
other servants, the Gilli-comstraine, Gilli-casflue, and 
Gilli-trusharnish, added to the establishment. 


As to the scientific and literary department of the 
household, Birt mentions an Orator or spokesman, the 
Bladier or man of talk : but it is uncertain whether he 
was distinct from the Bard and Genealogist. It is pos- 
sible that rich Chiefs might have had difterent persons 
for duties which, among- the less opulent, were performed 
by one. The Bard appears to have been an important 
personage; and from the disputes which have arisen re- 
specting the traditionary poems, he has been more largely 
discussed than any other. We need not suppose the 
term derived from Bardus, a King of Gaul when Gaul 
had no Kings. This officer is described by the Classic 
writers, and as belonging to the Celtic nation ; but from 
the confusion which they have made between the Goths 
and the Celts, we can place little reliance on their opi- 
nions, Avhile we know that the Poet and his poetry 
were held in high honour by the Gothic races. It is 
probable that the Bard was derived from the Scandina- 
vian Skald ; for the Poets of the Norman Kings, and the 
Skalds of the North, were parallel personages in their 
rank and duties. Ammianus Marcellinus confounds them 
with the Druids ; a mistake which might easily have 
arisen, as, in Ireland, their lands were exempt from taxes, 
and were asylums or sanctuaries in feudal wars. It is 
quite possible, however, that the Bard might also have 
been a Celtic officer ; although that would scarcely be 
proved by the verse of Lucan, so often quoted. In Wales, 
he might have been derived from either source. The 
Irish Bards had the privilege of a free maintenance, for 
six months, wherever they pleased to reside. Among 
the Germans, they recited songs, " quorum relatu accen- 
dunt animos, futurseque pugnse fortunam ipso cantu au- 
gurantur." From Athenseus we learn, (quoting Possido- 
nius,) that when the Celts went to war, they were fol- 
lowed by Parasites. His Celts, however, are Goths. 
These dined at their Chief's table, sang their praises to 
the people, who crowded round them, and also to any 
one who chose to listen. The poems which they recited 


were composed in honour of the Great. In another 
place, he says that they were vile flatterers. In the 
Highlands, the oflSces of Parasite and Poet seem to have 
been similarly united; as the epigram says those of Fool 
and of Laureate were in Cibber. Appian also tells us 
that those Chiefs had a Poet in their pay, to sing their 
praises and abuse their rivals. Diodorus, who relates 
the same story of their praising one party and abusing 
the other, seems to have fancied the office analogous to 
that of the Roman Censor. 

This character agrees sufficiently with that which 
Spenser has given of the Irisli Bards in his own day, and 
with that given long before by Froissart, in the time of 
Richard the second, to induce us to believe that they 
were always what Athenseus calls them : a vile race. Their 
insolence had then become so great, that they almost 
equalled themselves with the Kings, or Chiefs, at whose 
tables they sat; so that his Ambassador was obliged, 
among other regulations, to degrade them. In the times 
of the Poet, they not only lived licentious and profligate 
lives themselves, as they had done for centuries before, 
but encouraged the young men in every species of vice, 
rapine, and violence. Thus also it was, that, in the Coun- 
cil of lona, " Bards and profest pleisants" were ranked 
with jugglers and vagabonds ; while this was called "an 
abuse" which had " defiled" the whole of the Isles ; and, 
in consequence, they were sentenced to be put into the 
stocks and banished. The Troubadours were not much 
better. Poetry has brought down an indifferent repu- 
tation, almost to our own days; and the Bards of old 
might make us doubt how far this divine art is neces- 
sarily salutary to the morals of its professors. In Wales, 
the Poet was in high respect, and one of the principal 
officers of the King's household. Many laws were en- 
acted respecting them, by Howel, in the tenth century, 
and by Bleddyn ap Cynfyn,in 1070. The Highland Chiefs 
were at least more economical on this point; for, in Wales, 
the Bard, the Herald, and the Musician, vv ere three dis- 


tinct offices. Of what importance they were esteemed in 
influencing^ the manners and opinions of the people, is no- 
torious from the conduct, first of Edward, and afterwards 
of Henry the fourth. Martin also says that in the High- 
lands, any thing which they asked for was granted, for 
fear of a satire ; that they gradually became insolent and 
were then disregarded. They seem indeed to have fallen 
a good deal from their high estate ; as Birt describes the 
Bard drinking- small ale at the foot of the table, with the 
trans-Saltic mob. They studied, by lying on their backs 
in the dark, with a "stone on their bellies," " pumpino- 
their brains," and producing what few could understand. 
Martin's praise is not warm. 

If the functions of the Highland Bard were thus the 
same as those of the ancient Celtic one, he appears gene- 
rally to have been the Genealogist: an office always held 
in high estimation, and conducted, doubtless, on the same 
liberal principles as in modern times, from the period of 
the invention of Battle Abbey roll downwards. Yet 
Martin unites the offices of Genealogist and Marischal 
Tach. Of these later bards, Neil Mac Ewen is mentioned 
with approbation by the Highlanders, as a Poet in 1630 ; 
and John Macdonald, of the Keppoch family, received 
a pension from Charles the second. The last Bard was 
that of Clanranald, Macvurich, who was alive in 1780. 

The Piper retained his rank as a gentleman, with a 
Gillie to carry his pipes, when the Poet had fallen into 
disrepute, and nearly into oblivion. The heads of the 
animals were his fee; but, like the Bard, he had a portion 
of land allotted to his especial maintenance. Asa military 
personage, his office was of high importance; and, in an- 
cient times, he never lowered his high dignity by playing 
for purposes of amusement or festivity. The Gathering-, 
the Onset, and the Coronach, seem to have been his 
limited service. On the Harper, I need only remark, in 
addition to what I formerly said, that he is unnoticed by 
Martin and Birt. It is possible that the Bard and Harper 
might sometimes have been one person, or that opulent 


Chiefs who had a taste for music, might have entertained 
such an artist, though not a regular officer of state. 

The Table of the Chief could not have been very de- 
licate, even among the most powerful : but if we may 
judge by the diet of Alnwick Castle, they could not have 
been much worse provided than their English neigh- 
bours in similar Baronial times. How these matters 
stood among the inferiors, even to a late day, need 
scarcely be asked ; when all meat was to be killed at 
Martinmas, and when, of that, not much could have fallen 
to the share of the multitude. That it was usual, in for- 
mer times, to boil the animal in the hide, we have Mo- 
nipennie's authority; as a fowl was also roasted in its 
feathers. It is even said, that they formerly also boiled 
their meat by throwing hot stones into a wooden vessel 
with it. Of the former practice, the Low Country still 
retains a miniature relic, in its odorous and fearful hag- 
gis, "sight horrible to gods and men," spite of the laud- 
atory verses of Burns: while we still ornament our Christ- 
mas turkey with periapts from Epping, and relish our 
breakfasts with Bologna ; while even the very term pud- 
ding bespeaks the odious origin of the whole cylindrical 
fraternity. Birt's account of the food, as of the habita- 
tions and dress, even of the Lairds of his time, would 
scarcely be credited, had we not other reasons to know 
that it is true. The great Chiefs however, like the feudal 
Barons, paid the wages of their followers from their tables ; 
the last fragments descending to those who could not 
gain admission within doors, but who were always at 
hand to devour the crumbs of their superiors. Trains of 
followers were thus easily attracted ; and, as among their 
northern ancestors, the right of thus feasting on the Chief 
was considered a badge of liberty. The funeral feasts of 
the Highlands have so often been described, that it is 
unnecessary to notice them ; but this practice seems also 
to have been of Norwegian or Gothic origin. It is relat- 
ed of two brothers in Iceland, that they gave a feast at 
the funeral of their father, which lasted fourteen days ; 


tbe guests amounting- to 1200 people. The funeral feasts 
of the Greeks and Romans, and those even of the Jews, 
Persians, Turks, and other eastern nations, as well as of 
the Germans, Scandinavians, Sclavi, and others more 
immediately connected with the Highlanders, offer illus- 
trations which would occupy raore room than I can spare. 

That the Highlanders were noted for drinking, as well 
as for fighting in their cups, needs not be told : but, for 
the latter, they have the warrant of high antiquity. "Na- 
tis in usum est." Diodorus says that the Celts, when 
drunk, always fought, and Tacitus tells us the same of 
the Germans and Thracians. "Diem noctemque potando, 
nulli probrum. Crebroe ut inter vinolentos rixse, raro 
conviciis, saepius csede et vulneribus transfiguntur." But 
this vice, in the Highlands, seems to have proceeded be- 
yond the regions of jesting. In the Council of lona, it is 
stated as a cause of "great poverty," and of the " cruelty 
and inhuman barbarity practised by the inhabitants on 
their natural friends and neighbours." In General Wade's 
report, and in the Gartmore MS. nearly half a century 
after, it is mentioned as a cause of universal poverty, and 
as one of the great causes of theft and rapine; the peo- 
ple spending all their ill-gotten gains in this manner. 
A singular law of Guernsey might have been useful, in 
addition to King James's decrees : though, whether it 
sprang from the Norwegian Potators, may be doubted. 
He who is there proved guilty of habitual drunkenness, is 
considered a lunatic, and the Court appoints curators to 
his estate. In Martin's day, it was the fashion to sit in a 
circle round the drink till it was drunk dry, whatever the 
quantity might be ; as it was a reproach to broach a piece 
of liquor and not to finish it. The feebler children of 
these degenerate days are bound to praise, what they 
can no longer imitate. 

The Chief's ordinary retinue on a journey, was often 
augmented by his friends and kinsmen, as it was by idle 
followers, who might hope to come in for some share of 
the provisions, if not of the honour. This was matter of 

VOL. )V. H II 


pride; and that it commonly displayed itself in the muster 
of a ragged and half-naked rabble, has often been matter 
of jest. But if Arrian may be allowed to confirm the 
popular opinion about Celtic pride, he will tell us that 
" Celtae magna de seipis sentiunt:" as Siliusltalicus calls 
the whole race "vaniloquum Celtse genus," and as Dio- 
dorus speaks of their "hyperbolic pride." Their ene- 
mies say that they have forfeited no tittle of those claims. 
Those otiose and bare-legged volunteers have long dis- 
appeared ; yet there remains a tendency of the same kind, 
which it would not be very difficult to re-excite in full, 
notwithstanding the unlucky literal translation of a meta- 
phorical term which has brought the Chief's " tail " into 
ridicule. We cannot be surprised that the pride of an 
ancient Following was laughed at, when it was accompa- 
nied by such poverty as it displayed among the smaller 
Chiefs. But, after all, it was the same feeling which 
dressed np the "merrymen " of Old England, and caused 
Lear to lose his wits ; and where none was richer than 
another, the want of a regular appointment of "tawny 
coats" was no subject of ridicule. If there still be pa- 
triotic Chiefs desirous to renew ancient fashions, it is 
fitting for them to recollect, that, after all the terms with 
which it can be larded, the style in question was simply 
Baronial, and that they were very petty Barons indeed. 
I know not why the Percys and the Howards, and fifty 
more, should not parade Pall Mall with three hundred, or 
three thousand men at their heels, with buff coats and 
morions and half-pikes ; though Mr. Peel's tranquillity 
would probably be somewhat disconcerted, and even 
Townshend would decide that it was contrary to the " bo- 
uos mores " over which he presides. 

Of the ancient customs, there are few more pleasing 
to contemplate than the system of fosterage, equally noted 
in the old times of Ireland. If we are to believe Camden, 
the attachments thus produced, were stronger than those 
of nature. If a kind of relationship was thus established, 
strenothenina: the bonds of union between the Chief and 


his people, it was also common, as I formerly remarked, 
for the Clan to consider themselves as his real descend- 
ants. The universal spirit of genealogy perhaps enabled 
some to trace a real connexion; or, at least, with the 
usual latitude of this science, to form one which was not 
very improbable. But this state of universal consangui- 
nity has been much overrated ; as if it actually rendered 
a Clan government as truly and physically patriarchal, as 
it was reputed to be in the conduct of the Chief to his 
people. But while neither the Norwegian Lords nor the 
transplanted Scottish Barons, could have been the real an- 
cestors of their Clans, the testimony of Highlanders them- 
selves leaves the question without a dispute. It is of little 
moment that Dalrymple romances, as usual, when he talks 
of the " Clans being descended from the Chief," and of 
their counting the degrees of their descent, and of every 
man believing himself as well born as his Chief, and of 
the attachment being thus strengthened by the addition 
of those " sacred ties of human life." This is the usual 
cant which has been given us for fact ; and in the very 
face of Loj^at, who calls it an " affectation" of the people 
to assume their Chief's name ; as well as of the Gartmore 
writer, who says that " the Chiefs oblige all the farmers 
and cottars to take their names," and so " in a generation 
or two, it is believed that they really are of that name." It 
is a waste of time to controvert an absurdity so palpable* 
yet if the opinion produced any good effects, it was a 
more valuable fiction of Law, than most otheis have 

On the fidelity of the people, so much talked of, 1 had 
occasion to make some remarks formerly. It was the 
same among the Germans and the Anglo Saxons. Caesar 
says " nefas est etiam in extrema fortuna deserere pa- 
trones," and again, " Si quid iis j)er vim accidat, aut 
eundem casum una ferunt, aut sibi mortem consciscunt." 
" Infame superstitemprincipi sue ex acie recessisse," says 
Tacitus. The story of Chiiodomarus, in Ammianus Mar- 
cellinus, is similar ; and it proves that this much-cele • 
H H 2 


brated virtue was not peculiar to Highlanders. " Comites 
ejus, ducenti numero, et tres amici junctissimi, flagitium 
arbitrati post regem vivere, vel pro rege non mori, si ita 
tulerit casus, tradidere se vinciendos." In England, 
when Cynewulf was surprised at Merton, his attendants 
refused to abandon or survive their Lord. The most sa- 
cred tie among the Anglo Saxons, was that of Vassal and 
Lord. It was even Law. It is found in the enactments of 
Alfred and Canute. " If a man desert his Lord by sea 
or land, he forfeits all he has and his own life." We may 
allow the Highlanders to claim any virtues they please; 
but they must not put in these claims as exclusive. It 
was the character of the age and the system everywhere : 
and it is evident that the tie of Vassal and Lord among 
the Saxons, is precisely the attachment of the Highland 
Clan to the Chief. Donald may perhaps, however, be 
surprised to find how little difference there was between 
himself and the odious " Sassanachs." 

The predatory warfare or systematic robbery which 
they carried on, both against each other and on the Low- 
lands, is well remembered. This practice must have 
originated with the Clans. It was a consequence of 
petty warfare and feud among each other, and of poverty 
as it regarded themselves compared with the Lowlands. 
The incursions of the greater Barons or of the Lords of the 
Isles, possessed the higher character of National warfare. 
Thus it increased as the disorders of Clanship multiplied ; 
as the objects of war diminished with the diminution of 
the powers by which it was waged. History seems to 
mark this. Though there never was any want of rob- 
beries, even in the time of James VI ; the evils of that age 
present a leading character of somewhat more splendid 
crime and disorder. At a later date, " Continual rob- 
beries and depredations in the Highlands and countries 
adjacent" are mentioned in Lovat's memorial ; while the 
chief Plunderers, according to Wade, were the Camerons, 
the Mac Kenzies, Keppoch, the Mac Gregors, and the 
Breadulbane men. The Chiefs protected the felons, and 


lived on the spoil, of which tliey received one half or 
two-thiids. If any one attempted a prosecntion, his 
cattle were killed, his houses burnt, and himself or 
family murdered. The picture drawn by the Gartmore 
MS. as late as 1747, is much stronger. " Stealing and 
robbing' by means of villains kept in absolute command, 
was the universal way of resenting- quarrels among the 
Clans." "All property was precarious;" "there was 
no culture, no industry," from that cause ; and the people 
robbed " universally," for their "support," and for stock- 
ing' their farms. " The people were lazy in every thing 
but rapine and depredations ;" and " there was no au- 
thority, no order, no government." Black mail was 
regularly levied down to that day; and "the people lived 
by all this as a trade ;" fearing " no dangers, as they had 
nothing to lose." It was from this cause that they were 
always ready for any rebellion; as they did every thing 
which their Chiefs desired. In this way does that writer 
explain, what it is the fashion now to call a hereditary 
attachment to a long line of ancient Kings. 

As the term Creach is here a word of virtue, I must 
adopt it. If this was considered legitimate, such was 
also the case with those nations which have so often been 
here brought forward for illustration. Pomponius Mela 
says of them, " Latrocinia nullam habent infamiam, quae 
extra fines cujusque civitatis fiunt ; atque ea juventutis 
exercendae, ac desidiceminuendse causa, fieri proedicant." 
Why Michaelmas was preferred, and whence the cant 
phrase of a Michaelmas Moon, is easily understood, by 
recollecting, that this was the only season when the cattle 
were fit for sale or slaughter. If these expeditions were 
in some sense justified, on the ground that there was a 
standing declaration of war against the Lowlands, as 
there was on the English Border against England, or as 
there is among the Arabs against all who have wealth to 
plunder, yet they were also carried on for their own 
account, by people, who being attached to no Clan or 
Chief, could be considered only as banditti. Nor, when 


plunder was counted lawful by the Chiefs, could it well 
have been deemed otherwise by the people, not much 
used to draw nice distinctions on points of moral or inter- 
national law, and knowing or caring little for any law, 
but that which lay in the narrow circle of the hangman's 
noose. These banditti were called Cearnacbs or Kernes; 
and when Donald Bane Leane was hanged in Rannoch in 
1752, (at rather a late season to permit anarchy, it must 
be admitted) he complained of it as an act of oppression, 
because he had taken the cattle only from his enemies. 
" Wae worth the loun that made the laws, to hang a 
man for gear." That it was not thought a crime, but 
rather a merit, is popularly said. The story of the old 
Lady who was indignant that her peaceful husband had 
died on a " pickle o strae," is familiar. 

But at the later periods at least, even the regular Creachs 
were not held universally honourable ; and this practice 
could scarcely have descended to us as one for which 
the Barrisdales, the Mac Gregors, the Kennedies, and 
others, were especially noted, had not a stigma been at- 
tached to it, had it been matter of universal usage, and 
held matter of universal right. Certain it is that there 
were peculiar Clans noted for these robberies; many 
more indeed than those I have named from Wade : and 
that the practice was, not only disapproved of by some of 
the Chiefs, but absolutely forbidden, is known in the in- 
stance of the Camerons themselves, formerly famed for 
their depredations, about the beginning of the last cen- 
tury. Glenco was then said to be a noted plunderer, 
with little else to live on; a proof that it was a distinc- 
tion, and not an honourable one. The art of tracking 
the robbers was carried to great perfection : and it was 
the custom to demand Indemnity from the Chief, where 
their traces ceased to be visible ; as, on his part, it was 
incumbent to make good the damage, unless he could 
pursue them out of his own bounds. This usage has been 
common to all rude nations ; which, even in the case of 
murder, have extended their vengeance, not only to the 


family of the culprit, if he could not be found, but to the 
town or district to which he belonged. Thus, even in 
Judea, when a murderer could not be discovered, a sacri- 
fice was required of the city where the deed was com- 
mitted. The same rule holds in Hindostan, respecting 
robbery ; and in Japan, respecting all crimes; where also 
it is enforced with a severity which, if more barbarous, 
is not so absurd as among the Negroes of some of the 
African states, where a creditor may take any property 
he pleases, as indemnity against his debtor, and where 
he thus leaves the prosecution of his claims to others. 
Such usages are held out as reproaches against barba- 
rism, by those who forget that the law of the Highland 
Chiefs is still English Common law, and that an innocent 
proprietor in Ireland, can be ruined for the misdeeds of 
fraudulent distillers, of whom he has no knowledge, and 
over whom he has no controul. It was also an established 
rule, that a proportion was due to the Chief over whose 
lands the plunderers passed; the reward for discovery 
was called Tascall money, and parties plundering in dis- 
tant quarters mutually exchanged their spoils, to escape 
detection. But that I may terminate this subject, on 
which more than enough has been said by every writer, 
the practice of levying Black mail, offered a more secure, 
and a less violent mode of procuring the wages of rob- 
bery. It is in vain to say, that this practice, more than 
that of the Creachs, could have been considered legiti- 
mate. The leviers of Black mail were robbers, and they 
knew themselves to be such : and if Barrisdale chose to 
declare himself a benefactor to the public and a preserver 
of order, because he had reduced his robberies to a sys- 
tem, and prevented the depredations of smaller thieves 
than himself, this has been the argument of all the Rob- 
bers that ever existed, from Robin Hood upwards and 
downwards, and in every country under the Sun. Ac- 
cording to the Gartmore authority also, the watch com- 
panies, which were established for the protection of pro- 
perty against the plunderers, conducted themselves so 


ing-eniously, that the one half was employed in stealing, 
for the purpose of supporting the trade of the remainder 
in recovering. If it was convenient to insure in the office 
of Bavrisdale or Rob Roy, tlie expedient was found of 
equal value in tijat of Jonathan Wild. But it was his 
policy too, like that of the Highlander, to allow of no 
thieving but under his own sanction. That this mode of 
insurance was really convenient, cannot however be de- 
nied; as it is found to be in Italy at tbis day: and the 
strongest proof of this is, that though it was rendered as 
penal to comply with the demand as to extort it, the law 
was constantly broken. The insurer, if he failed to pro- 
tect what he had undertaken, was held responsible for 
the loss; and the business was conducted in the most re- 
gular manner by means of written acquittances. He who 
refused to insure, met with no mercy. 

The apology for robbery was, that they plundered only 
those whose ancestors had originally plundered them of 
their lands. This was no great proof of their historical 
knowledge, it must be owned ; but it is the reasoning of 
the children of Ishmael, and has been that of the whole 
race from the beginning. As to the Chiefs, it is an apo- 
logy, if not a very good one, to say that they had received 
full countenance for their proceedings, from others, all 
over Europe, who had perhaps much less excuse. In 
Germany, the Nobles not only made wars, of their own 
authority, but Barons and Knights even robbed on the 
highway, and boasted of the fortunes which they had thus 
made. Many of their Castles are still to be seen. The 
Emperor Rodolph destroyed sixty-six of them at one 
time: and a hundred and forty were demolished after- 
wards by the Swabian league. But all Europe was full 
of murderers, robbers, and assassins, and the Knights 
were their avowed protectors. Hence the insurrections 
in France, Flanders, and England, and, among others, 
the celebrated Jacquerie, formerly mentioned. The Barons 
of Rome claimed a privilege for these crimes, and their 
houses Avere sanctuaries for assassins and banditti. The 


contests of these rival houses about the time of Sixtus 
the fourth, may fully emulate, in every thing, those of 
the Highland Chiefs. I trust tijat my friends the Macs 
will receive this as the best apology that I can make for 
them : and it is an apology, " talis qualis." 

At what period the practice of piracy ceased in the 
maritime Hio-hlands, seems unknown. If it was not once 
as important a trade as cattle stealing, they must have 
much belied their Norwegian ancestors. That was an 
extraordinary race. When we consider their conquests, 
in Sicily and elsewhere, we must have far underrated the 
naval powers of this people, and the capacity and good- 
ness of their ships. There have not been many more 
singular kingdoms than the Norwegian Kingdom of the 
Western islands. It is not a small proof of much more 
talent and power than we seem inclined to grant to that 
people, to have governed so strangely scattered an Em- 
pire at all ; to have governed it from Norway, is to have 
done, comparing relative wealth and knowledge, little 
less than what Britain is doing now. To have retained, 
under one command, all the widely scattered islands from 
the Isle of Mann to the Clyde, and thence even to the 
remotest Shetland, and to have added to these, nearly all 
the western coast of Scotland and parts of Ireland, must 
have required, not only great talents, but considerable 
fleets. It is not improbable, if we knew more about both, 
that a considerable similarity would be found to exist 
between the Norwegian maritime kingdom and the pira- 
tical states of ancient and early Greece; but judging as 
far as we can from the relative extent of dominion under 
both people, the palm, in spite of our school prejudices, is 
probably due to the Norwegians. To both, it must be re- 
membered, the mariner's compass was alike unknown ; 
but, assuredly, the boasted expedition of the Argonauts, 
be it what it has been supposed, a voyage up the Black 
Sea, bears no comparison to the conquest of the Western 
Isles, far less to the Sicilian expedition of Harold the 
Dauntless. The Greeks of the sea coasts were all pirates 


originally, as we know from Thucydides. It was not a 
reproach, but a glory ; and was considered an honourable 
profession. The Norwegians declared it such in their 
laws. Like the Vikingr, the Greeks lived by piracy. 
Minos himself was a Sea King. Even in the day of the 
Historian, it was still considered honourable, provided 
the inroads were conducted according to etiquette. He 
notes the Locrians, Etolians, and Acarnanians, as par- 
ticularly addicted to this practice, and the Phenicians and 
Carians as the most dexterous pirates. And as he also 
says that the ships used in the Trojan war were not 
decked, but resembled the ancient piratical boats, and 
since the largest rates, or those of the Boeotians, carried a 
hundred and twenty men, according to Homer, and those 
of Philoctetes fifty, it is easy to comprehend what tlie 
dimensions of the Pirate-ships must have been. 

Though the Lords of the Isles were shorn of the 
beams which had glittered round the Crown of Norway, 
even they must have possessed a considerable maritime 
force. That they did so, we know by the traditions of 
sea-fights and expeditions in which they and their suc- 
cessors were engaged. To this maritime life we must 
also attribute the peculiar positions chosen for the sites 
of Castles on the sea-coasts. Without such a force, in- 
deed, the Lords of the Isles could not, for so long a time, 
have retained their power; nor, without many vessels, 
could they have transported the large armies with which 
they sometimes attacked Scotland. Maritime warfare 
among the smaller Clans, implied maritime plundering. 
Thus also, while, on the main-land, there were clans of 
banditti, or independent hordes of robbers, similar man- 
ners prevailed in the islands ; and, in these, there were 
piratical Clans, and pirates, who associated for plunder, 
in bands more or less extensive. 

Numerous anecdotes and traditions preserve the re- 
cords of those ; and some of the caves, such as that of 
MacKinnon in Mull, seem to have been among the strong 
holds of those Highland Mainotes. Pabba and Rona 


were the seats of piratical bands in Monro's time ; Rasay 
was also a capital pirate in his day ; and that they acted 
the part of Algerines, is proved by a recorded history of 
the capture of a Dutch ship, by the Macleods, when 
Scotland was not at war with Holland. Indeed the acts of 
the Council of that day, prove this fact; because Lord 
Stewart, the King's Lieutenant, broke and destroyed, 
pursuant to his Commission, all the galleys, birlings, and 
war barges of The Isles, to put a stop to this system of 
piracy and civil maritime warfare. It is doubtful if, in 
the reign of Elizabeth, the natives of Mull had ever heard 
of the name of Spain, far less of the Armada: and the 
capture of the Florida, which was effected by treachery, 
seems to have been a piratical act. But they may say 
with FalstafF, " 'twas their vocation." 

That the Highland Clans lived in war, needs not be 
told. The " Tonsura humani generis," as Tertullian, who 
thought it a sin to shave our own beards, wittily calls it, 
was perhaps, here necessary ; though it was not neces- 
sary that it should have been conducted with the ferocity 
which marked its character. Yet the military organiza- 
tion appears to have been very imperfect, because de- 
ficient in, what is the basis of every thing, obedience: a 
fact which may lead us to doubt, both of the power of the 
Chiefs and the attachment of the people. It is well 
known that the ancient Highlanders could seldom be 
rallied in the field, and that it was impossible to detain 
them from home, when disgust, the acquisition of plunder 
or other causes, induced them to disband. They have 
been alternately accused and exculpated of this charge 
of ferocity in war ; and here, as usual, both parties are 
correct, by assuming different facts and different periods. 
It is like most other disputes respecting this country. 
When the antagonist brings his charge, the defendant says 
that those were the evils of ancient days, long since past : 
when he returns in the career, it is then said that they are 
the evils resulting from modern improvement, the vices 
of civilization. Thus all the wrong is a « punctum 


fluens," being- neither in time nor place: while a few 
instances, collected from ages, are concentrated on 
one point of splendid virtue, illuminating the darkness 
of centuries. Such are the consequences of mutual 
hostility, and of the attempt to apply a standard of 
national character, to a people ranging between the 
tenth and the nineteenth centuries, and between the lon- 
gitudes of St. Kilda and Stonehaven. As to the question 
of cruelty or ferocity, assuredly, all the anecdotes that 
have descended to us from remote times, at least down 
to James VI, bespeak a fierce and cruel people ; and 
it has been invariably said, that they gave no quarter 
in war. 

But we must recollect that such conduct was not 
peculiar to this people. That of the Scots of the Low 
Country, and the account of their manners, given by 
Lyndsay after the death of James the^first, may well bear 
a comparison ; nor would it be easy to exceed the atroci- 
ties which they committed in the invasion of Northumber- 
land, It would be fair to draw the parallel between the 
foreign wars of the Highland Clans, and the invasions of 
Rome by the early Gauls, or to compare the internal wars 
of the Highlanders with the petty warfares and civil 
dissensions of England, of Germany, and of France, at 
various periods. If the Nobles of Germ