by John Brown M.
One November afternoon in 1810,—the year in which "Waverley" was
resumed and laid aside again, to be finished off, its last two volumes
in three weeks, and made immortal in 1814, and when its author, by the
death of Lord Melville, narrowly escaped getting a civil appointment in
India,—three men, evidently lawyers, might have been seen escaping like
school-boys from the Parliament House, and speeding arm in arm down Bank
Street and the Mound, in the teeth of a surly blast of sleet.
The three friends sought the bield of the low wall old Edinburgh boys
remember well, and sometimes miss now, as they struggle with the stout
The three were curiously unlike each other. One, "a little man of feeble
make, who would be unhappy if his pony got beyond a foot pace," slight,
with "small, elegant features, hectic cheek, and soft hazel eyes, the
index of the quick, sensitive spirit within, as if he had the warm heart
of a woman, her genuine enthusiasm, and some of her weaknesses." Another,
as unlike a woman as a man can be; homely, almost common, in look and
figure; his hat and his coat, and indeed his entire covering, worn to
the quick, but all of the best material; what redeemed him from
vulgarity and meanness were his eyes, deep set, heavily thatched, keen,
hungry, shrewd, with a slumbering glow far in, as if they could be
dangerous; a man to care nothing for at first glance, but, somehow, to
give a second and not-forgetting look at. The third was the biggest of
the three, and though lame, nimble, and all rough and alive with power;
had you met him anywhere else, you would say he was a Liddesdale
store-farmer, come of gentle blood; "a stout, blunt carle," as he says
of himself, with the swing and stride and the eye of a man of the
hills,—a large, sunny, out-of-door air all about him. On his broad and
somewhat stooping shoulders was set that head which, with Shakespeare's
and Bonaparte's, is the best known in all the world.
He was in high spirits, keeping his companions and himself in roars of
laughter, and every now and then seizing them, and stopping, that they
might take their fill of the fun; there they stood shaking with laughter,
"not an inch of their body free" from its grip. At George Street they
parted, one to Rose Court, behind St. Andrew's Church, one to Albany
Street, the other, our big and limping friend, to Castle Street.
We need hardly give their names. The first was William Erskine,
afterwards Lord Kinnedder, chased out of the world by a calumny, killed
by its foul breath,—
"And at the touch of wrong, without a strife,
Slipped in a moment out of life."
There is nothing in literature more beautiful or more pathetic than
Scott's love and sorrow for this friend of his youth.
The second was William Clerk,—the Darsie Latimer of "Redgauntlet"; "a
man," as Scott says, "of the most acute intellects and powerful
apprehension," but of more powerful indolence, so as to leave the world
with little more than the report of what he might have been,—a humorist
as genuine, though not quite so savagely Swiftian as his brother Lord
Eldon, neither of whom had much of that commonest and best of all the
humors, called good.
The third we all know. What has he not done for every one of us? Who else
ever, except Shakespeare, so diverted mankind, entertained and
entertains a world so liberally, so wholesomely? We are fain to say, not
even Shakespeare, for his is something deeper than diversion, something
higher than pleasure, and yet who would care to split this hair?
Had any one watched him closely before and after the parting, what a
change he would see! The bright, broad laugh, the shrewd, jovial word,
the man of the Parliament House and of the world, and, next step, moody,
the light of his eye withdrawn, as if seeing things that were invisible;
his shut mouth, like a child's, so impressionable, so innocent, so sad:
he was now all within, as before he was all without; hence his brooding
look. As the snow blattered in his face, he muttered, "How it raves and
drifts! On-ding o' snaw,—ay, that's the word,—on-ding—" He was now at
his own door, "Castle Street, No.39." He opened the door, and went
straight to his den; that wondrous workshop, where, in one year, 1823,
when he was fifty-two, he wrote "Peveril of the Peak," "Quentin
Durward," and "St. Ronan's Well," besides much else. We once took the
foremost of our novelists, the greatest, we would say, since Scott, into
this room, and could not but mark the solemnizing effect of sitting
where the great magician sat so often and so long, and looking out upon
that little shabby bit of sky, and that back green where faithful Camp
[Footnote 1: This favorite dog "died about January, 1809, and was buried,
in a fine moonlight night, in the little garden behind the house in
Castle Street. My wife tells me she remembers the whole family in tears
about the grave, as her father himself smoothed the turf above Camp with
the saddest face she had ever seen. He had been engaged to dine abroad
that day, but apologized on account of the death of 'a dear old
friend.'"—Lockhart's Life of Scott.]
He sat down in his large, green morocco elbow-chair, drew himself close
to his table, and glowered and gloomed at his writing apparatus, "a very
handsome old box, richly carved, lined with crimson velvet, and
containing ink-bottles, taper-stand, etc., in silver, the whole in such
order that it might have come from the silversmith's window half an hour
before." He took out his paper, then, starting up angrily, said, "'Go
spin, you jade, go spin.' No, d—- it, it won't do:—
'My spinnin'-wheel is auld and stiff;
The rock o't wunna stand, sir;
To keep the temper-pin in tiff
Employs ower aft my hand, sir.'
I am off the fang. I can make nothing of 'Waverley' to-day; I'll awa'
to Marjorie. Come wi' me, Maida, you thief." The great creature rose
slowly, and the pair were off, Scott taking a maud (a plaid) with him.
"White as a frosted plum-cake, by jingo!" said he, when he got to the
street. Maida gambolled and whisked among the snow; and her master
strode across to Young Street, and through it to 1 North Charlotte
Street, to the house of his dear friend, Mrs. William Keith of
Corstorphine Hill, niece of Mrs. Keith of Ravelston, of whom he said at
her death, eight years after, "Much tradition, and that of the best, has
died with this excellent old lady, one of the few persons whose spirits
and cleanliness and freshness of mind and body made old age lovely and
[Footnote 2: Applied to a pump when it is dry and its valve has lost its
Sir Walter was in that house almost every day, and had a key, so in he
and the hound went, shaking themselves in the lobby. "Marjorie!
Marjorie!" shouted her friend, "where are ye, my bonnie wee croodlin
doo?" In a moment a bright, eager child of seven was in his arms, and he
was kissing her all over. Out came Mrs. Keith. "Come yer ways in,
Wattie." "No, not now. I am going to take Marjorie wi' me, and you may
come to your tea in Duncan Roy's sedan, and bring the bairn home in your
lap." "Tak' Marjorie, and it on-ding o' snaw!" said Mrs. Keith. He
said to himself, "On-ding—that's odd—that is the very word." "Hoot,
awa! look here," and he displayed the corner of his plaid, made to hold
lambs,—the true shepherd's plaid, consisting of two breadths sewed
together, and uncut at one end, making a poke or cul de sac. "Tak' yer
lamb," said she, laughing at the contrivance; and so the Pet was first
well happit up, and then put, laughing silently, into the plaid neuk,
and the shepherd strode off with his lamb,—Maida gambolling through the
snow, and running races in her mirth.
Didn't he face "the angry airt," and make her bield his bosom, and into
his own room with her, and lock the door, and out with the warm, rosy
little wifie, who took it all with great composure! There the two
remained for three or more hours, making the house ring with their
laughter; you can fancy the big man's and Maidie's laugh. Having made
the fire cheery, he set her down in his ample chair, and, standing
sheepishly before her, began to say his lesson, which happened to be,
"Ziccotty, diccotty, dock, the mouse ran up the clock, the clock struck
wan, down the mouse ran, ziccotty, diccotty, dock." This done repeatedly
till she was pleased, she gave him his new lesson, gravely and slowly,
timing it upon her small fingers,—he saying it after her,—
"Wonery, twoery, tickery, seven;
Alibi, crackaby, ten, and eleven;
Pin, pan, musky, dan;
Twenty-wan; eerie, orie, ourie,
You, are, out."
He pretended to great difficulty, and she rebuked him with most comical
gravity, treating him as a child. He used to say that when he came to
Alibi Crackaby he broke down, and pin-Pan, Musky-dan, Tweedle-um,
Twoddle-um made him roar with laughter. He said Musky-Dan especially
was beyond endurance, bringing up an Irishman and his hat fresh from the
Spice Islands and odoriferous Ind; she getting quite bitter in her
displeasure at his ill behavior and stupidness.
Then he would read ballads to her in his own glorious way, the two
getting wild with excitement over "Gil Morrice" or the "Baron of
Smailholm"; and he would take her on his knee, and make her repeat
Constance's speeches in "King John," till he swayed to and fro, sobbing
his fill. Fancy the gifted little creature, like one possessed,
"For I am sick, and capable of fears,—
Oppressed with wrong, and, therefore, full of fears;
A widow, husbandless, subject to fears;
A woman, naturally born to fears."
"If thou, that bidst me be content, wert grim,
Ugly, and slanderous to thy mother's womb,—
Lame, foolish, crooked, swart, prodigious—"
Or, drawing herself up "to the height of her great argument,"—
"I will instruct my sorrows to be proud,
For grief is proud, and makes his owner stout.
Here I and sorrow sit."
Scott used to say that he was amazed at her power over him, saying to
Mrs. Keith, "She's the most extraordinary creature I ever met with, and
her repeating of Shakespeare overpowers me as nothing else does."
Thanks to the little book whose title heads this paper, and thanks still
more to the unforgetting sister of this dear child, who has much of the
sensibility and fun of her who has been in her small grave these fifty
and more years, we have now before us the letters and journals of Pet
Marjorie: before us lies and gleams her rich brown hair, bright and
sunny as if yesterday's, with the words on the paper, "Cut out in her
last illness," and two pictures of her by her beloved Isabella, whom she
worshipped; there are the faded old scraps of paper, hoarded still, over
which her warm breath and her warm little heart had poured themselves;
there is the old watermark, "Lingard, 1808." The two portraits are very
like each other, but plainly done at different times; it is a chubby,
healthy face, deep-set, brooding eyes, as eager to tell what is going on
within as to gather in all the glories from without; quick with the
wonder and the pride of life: they are eyes that would not be soon
satisfied with seeing; eyes that would devour their object, and yet
childlike and fearless; and that is a mouth that will not be soon
satisfied with love; it has a curious likeness to Scott's own, which has
always appeared to us his sweetest, most mobile, and speaking feature.
There she is, looking straight at us as she did at him,—fearless, and
full of love, passionate, wild, wilful, fancy's child. One cannot look
at it without thinking of Wordsworth's lines on poor Hartley
"O blessed vision, happy child!
Thou art so exquisitely wild,
I thought of thee with many fears,—
Of what might be thy lot in future years.
I thought of times when Pain might be thy guest,
Lord of thy house and hospitality;
And Grief, uneasy lover! ne'er at rest
But when she sat within the touch of thee.
O too industrious folly!
O vain and causeless melancholy!
Nature will either end thee quite,
Or, lengthening out thy season of delight,
Preserve for thee, by individual right,
A young lamb's heart among the full-grown flock."
And we can imagine Scott, when holding his warm, plump little playfellow
in his arms, repeating that stately friend's lines:—
"Loving she is, and tractable, though wild;
And Innocence hath privilege in her,
To dignify arch looks and laughing eyes
And feats of cunning, and the pretty round
Of trespasses, affected to provoke
Mock chastisement and partnership in play.
And, as a fagot sparkles on the hearth
Not less if unattended and alone
Than when both young and old sit gathered round
And take delight in its activity,
Even so this happy creature of herself
Is all-sufficient; solitude to her
Is blithe society: she fills the air
With gladness and involuntary songs."
But we will let her disclose herself. We need hardly say that all this
is true, and that these letters are as really Marjorie's as was this
light brown hair; indeed, you could as easily fabricate the one as the
There was an old servant—Jeanie Robertson—who was forty years in her
grandfather's family. Marjorie Fleming, or, as she is called in the
letters and by Sir Walter, Maidie, was the last child she kept. Jeanie's
wages never exceeded 3 pounds a year, and when she left service she had
saved 40 pounds. She was devotedly attached to Maidie, rather despising
and ill-using her sister Isabella,—a beautiful and gentle child. This
partiality made Maidie apt at times to domineer over Isabella. "I
mention this," writes her surviving sister, "for the purpose of telling
you an instance of Maidie's generous justice. When only five years old,
when walking in Raith grounds, the two children had run on before, and
old Jeanie remembered they might come too near a dangerous mill-lade.
She called to them to turn back. Maidie heeded her not, rushed all the
faster on, and fell, and would have been lost, had her sister not pulled
her back, saving her life, but tearing her clothes. Jeanie flew on
Isabella to 'give it her' for spoiling her favorite's dress; Maidie
rushed in between, crying out, 'Pay (whip) Maidjie as much as you like,
and I'll not say one word; but touch Isy, and I'll roar like a bull!'
Years after Maidie was resting in her grave, my mother used to take me
to the place, and told the story always in the exact same words." This
Jeanie must have been a character. She took great pride in exhibiting
Maidie's brother William's Calvinistic acquirements when nineteen months
old, to the officers of a militia regiment then quartered in Kirkcaldy.
This performance was so amusing that it was often repeated, and the
little theologian was presented by them with a cap and feathers.
Jeanie's glory was "putting him through the carritch" (catechism) in
broad Scotch, beginning at the beginning with "Wha made ye, ma bonnie
man?" For the correctness of this and the three next replies, Jeanie had
no anxiety, but the tone changed to menace, and the closed nieve
(fist) was shaken in the child's face as she demanded, "Of what are you
made?" "DIRT," was the answer uniformly given. "Wull ye never learn to
say dust, ye thrawn deevil?" with a cuff from the opened hand, was the
as inevitable rejoinder.
Here is Maidie's first letter, before she was six. The spelling is
unaltered, and there are no "commoes."
"MY DEAR ISA,—I now sit down to answer all your kind and beloved
letters which you was so good as to write to me. This is the first time
I ever wrote a letter in my Life. There are a great many Girls in the
Square, and they cry just like a pig when we are under the painfull
necessity of putting it to Death. Miss Potune, a Lady of my acquaintance,
praises me dreadfully. I repeated something out of Dean Swift, and she
said I was fit for the stage, and you may think I was primmed up with
majestick Pride, but upon my word I felt myselfe turn a little
birsay,—birsay is a word which is a word that William composed which is
as you may suppose a little enraged. This horrid fat simpliton says that
my Aunt is beautifull, which is intirely impossible, for that is not her
What a peppery little pen we wield! What could that have been out of the
Sardonic Dean? What other child of that age would have used "beloved" as
she does? This power of affection, this faculty of _be_loving, and wild
hunger to be beloved comes out more and more. She perilled her all upon
it, and it may have been as well—we know, indeed, that it was far
better—for her that this wealth of love was so soon withdrawn to its
one only infinite Giver and Receiver. This must have been the law of her
earthly life. Love was indeed "her Lord and King"; and it was perhaps
well for her that she found so soon that her and our only Lord and King
Himself is Love.
Here are bits from her Diary at Braehead: "The day of my existence here
has been delightful and enchanting. On Saturday I expected no less than
three well-made Bucks, the names of whom is here advertised. Mr. Geo.
Crakey (Craigie), and Wm. Keith, and Jn. Keith,—the first is the
funniest of every one of them. Mr. Crakey and walked to Craky-hall
(Craigiehall), hand in hand in Innocence and matitation (meditation)
sweet thinking on the kind love which flows in our tender-hearted mind
which is overflowing with majestic pleasure no one was ever so polite to
me in the hole state of my existence. Mr. Craky you must know is a great
Buck, and pretty good-looking.
"I am at Ravelston enjoying nature's fresh air. The birds are singing
sweetly, the calf doth frisk, and nature shows her glorious face."
Here is a confession: "I confess I have been very more like a little
young divil than a creature for when Isabella went up stairs to teach me
religion and my multiplication and to be good and all my other lessons I
stamped with my foot and threw my new hat which she had made on the
ground and was sulky and was dreadfully passionate, but she never whiped
me but said Marjory go into another room and think what a great crime
you are committing letting your temper git the better of you. But I went
so sulkily that the Devil got the better of me but she never never never
whips me so that I think I would be the better of it and the next time
that I behave ill I think she should do it for she never never does
it…. Isabella has given me praise for checking my temper for I was
sulky even when she was kneeling an hole hour teaching me to write."
Our poor little wifie,—she has no doubts of the personality of the
Devil! "Yesterday I behave extremely ill in God's most holy church for I
would never attend myself nor let Isabella attend which was a great
crime for she often, often tells me that when to or three are geathered
together God is in the midst of them, and it was the very same Divil
that tempted Job that tempted me I am sure; but he resisted Satan though
he had boils and many many other misfortunes which I have escaped…. I
am now going to tell you the horible and wretched plaege (plague) that
my multiplication gives me you can't conceive it the most Devilish thing
is 8 times 8 and 7 times 7 it is what nature itself cant endure."
This is delicious; and what harm is there in her "Devilish"? It is
strong language merely; even old Rowland Hill used to say "he grudged
the Devil those rough and ready words." "I walked to that delightful
place Craky-hall with a delightful young man beloved by all his friends
espacially by me his loveress, but I must not talk any more about him
for Isa said it is not proper for to speak of gentalmen but I will never
forget him!… I am very very glad that satan has not given me boils and
many other misfortunes—In the holy bible these words are written that
the Devil goes like a roaring lyon in search of his pray but the lord
lets us escape from him but we" (pauvre petite!) "do not strive with
this awfull Spirit…. To-day I pronunced a word which should never come
out of a lady's lips it was that I called John a Impudent Bitch. I will
tell you what I think made me in so bad a humor is I got one or two of
that bad bad sina (senna) tea to-day,"—a better excuse for bad humor
and bad language than most.
She has been reading the Book of Esther: "It was a dreadful thing that
Haman was hanged on the very gallows which he had prepared for Mordeca
to hang him and his ten sons thereon and it was very wrong and cruel to
hang his sons for they did not commit the crime; but then Jesus was not
then come to teach us to be merciful." This is wise and beautiful,—has
upon it the very dew of youth and of holiness. Out of the mouths of
babes and sucklings He perfects His praise.
"This is Saturday and I am very glad of it because I have play half the
Day and I get money too but alas I owe Isabella 4 pence for I am finned
2 pence whenever I bite my nails. Isabella is teaching me to make simme
colings nots of interrigations peorids commoes, etc…. As this is
Sunday I will meditate upon Senciable and Religious subjects. First I
should be very thankful I am not a begger."
This amount of meditation and thankfulness seems to have been all she
was able for.
"I am going to-morrow to a delightfull place, Braehead by name,
belonging to Mrs. Crraford, where there is ducks cocks hens bubblyjocks
2 dogs 2 cats and swine which is delightful. I think it is shocking to
think that the dog and cat should bear them" (this is a meditation
physiological), "and they are drowned after all. I would rather have a
man-dog than a woman-dog, because they do not bear like women-dogs; it
is a hard case—it is shocking. I cam here to enjoy natures delightful
breath it is sweeter than a fial (phial) of rose oil."
Braehead is the farm the historical Jock Howison asked and got from our
gay James the Fifth, "the gudeman o' Ballengiech," as a reward for the
services of his flail, when the King had the worst of it at Cramond Brig
with the gypsies. The farm is unchanged in size from that time, and
still in the unbroken line of the ready and victorious thrasher.
Braehead is held on the condition of the possessor being ready to
present the King with a ewer and basin to wash his hands, Jock having
done this for his unknown king after the splore, and when George the
Fourth came to Edinburgh this ceremony was performed in silver at
Holyrood. It is a lovely neuk this Braehead, preserved almost as it was
200 years ago. "Lot and his wife," mentioned by Maidie,—two quaintly
cropped yew-trees,—still thrive, the burn runs as it did in her time,
and sings the same quiet tune,—as much the same and as different as
Now and Then. The house full of old family relics and pictures, the
sun shining on them through the small deep windows with their plate
glass; and there, blinking at the sun, and chattering contentedly, is a
parrot, that might, for its looks of eld, have been in the ark, and
domineered over and deaved the dove. Everything about the place is old
This is beautiful: "I am very sorry to say that I forgot God—that is to
say I forgot to pray to-day and Isabella told me that I should be
thankful that God did not forget me—if he did, O what would become of
me if I was in danger and God not friends with me—I must go to
unquenchable fire and if I was tempted to sin—how could I resist it O
no I will never do it again—no no—if I can help it!" (Canny wee
wifie!) "My religion is greatly falling off because I dont pray with so
much attention when I am saying my prayers, and my charecter is lost
among the Braehead people. I hope I will be religious again—but as for
regaining my charecter I despare for it." (Poor little "habit and
Her temper, her passion, and her "badness" are almost daily confessed
and deplored: "I will never again trust to my own power, for I see that
I cannot be good without God's assistance,—I will not trust in my own
selfe, and Isa's health will be quite ruined by me,—it will indeed."
"Isa has giving me advice, which is, that when I feal Satan beginning to
tempt me, that I flea him and he would flea me." "Remorse is the worst
thing to bear, and I am afraid that I will fall a marter to it."
Poor dear little sinner! Here comes the world again: "In my travels I
met with a handsome lad named Charles Balfour Esq., and from him I got
ofers of marage—offers of marage, did I say? Nay plenty heard me." A
fine scent for "breach of promise"!
This is abrupt and strong: "The Divil is curced and all his works. 'Tis
a fine work Newton on the profecies. I wonder if there is another book
of poems comes near the Bible. The Divil always girns at the sight of
the Bible." "Miss Potune" (her "simpliton" friend) "is very fat; she
pretends to be very learned. She says she saw a stone that dropt from
the skies; but she is a good Christian." Here comes her views on church
government: "An Annibabtist is a thing I am not a member of—I am a
Pisplekan (Episcopalian) just now, and" (O you little Laodicean and
Latitudinarian!) "a Prisbeteran at Kirkcaldy!"—(Blandula! Vagula!
coelum et animum mutas quae trans mare (i.e. trans
Bodotriam)—curris!)—"my native town." "Sentiment is not what I am
acquainted with as yet, though I wish it, and should like to practise
it." (!) "I wish I had a great, great deal of gratitude in my heart, in
all my body." "There is a new novel published, named Self-Control"
(Mrs. Brunton's)—"a very good maxim forsooth!" This is shocking:
"Yesterday a marrade man, named Mr. John Balfour, Esq., offered to kiss
me, and offered to marry me, though the man" (a fine directness this!)
"was espused, and his wife was present and said he must ask her
permission; but he did not. I think he was ashamed and confounded before
3 gentelman—Mr. Jobson and 2 Mr. Kings." "Mr. Banester's" (Bannister's)
"Budjet is to-night; I hope it will be a good one. A great many authors
have expressed themselves too sentimentally." You are right, Marjorie.
"A Mr. Burns writes a beautiful song on Mr. Cunhaming, whose wife
desarted him—truly it is a most beautiful one." "I like to read the
Fabulous historys, about the histerys of Robin, Dickey, flapsay, and
Peccay, and it is very amusing, for some were good birds and others bad,
but Peccay was the most dutiful and obedient to her parients." "Thomson
is a beautiful author, and Pope, but nothing to Shakespear, of which I
have a little knolege. 'Macbeth' is a pretty composition, but awful
one." "The Newgate Calender is very instructive." (!) "A sailor called
here to say farewell; it must be dreadful to leave his native country
when he might get a wife; or perhaps me, for I love him very much. But O
I forgot, Isabella forbid me to speak about love." This antiphlogistic
regimen and lesson is ill to learn by our Maidie, for here she sins
again: "Love is a very papithatick thing" (it is almost a pity to
correct this into pathetic), "as well as troublesome and tiresome—but O
Isabella forbid me to speak of it." Here are her reflections on a
pineapple: "I think the price of a pine-apple is very dear: it is a
whole bright goulden guinea, that might have sustained a poor family."
Here is a new vernal simile: "The hedges are sprouting like chicks from
the eggs when they are newly hatched or, as the vulgar say, clacked."
"Doctor Swift's works are very funny; I got some of them by heart."
"Moreheads sermons are I hear much praised, but I never read sermons of
any kind; but I read novelettes and my Bible, and I never forget it, or
my prayers." Bravo, Marjorie!
She seems now, when still about six, to have broken out into song:—
"EPHIBOL (EPIGRAM OR EPITAPH,—WHO KNOWS WHICH?) ON MY DEAR LOVE,
"Here lies sweet Isabel in bed,
With a night-cap on her head;
Her skin is soft, her face is fair,
And she has very pretty hair:
She and I in bed lies nice,
And undisturbed by rats or mice.
She is disgusted with Mr. Worgan,
Though he plays upon the organ.
Her nails are neat, her teeth are white;
Her eyes are very, very bright.
In a conspicuous town she lives,
And to the poor her money gives.
Here ends sweet Isabella's story,
And may it be much to her glory!"
Here are some bits at random:—
"Of summer I am very fond,
And love to bathe into a pond:
The look of sunshine dies away,
And will not let me out to play.
I love the morning's sun to spy
Glittering through the casement's eye;
The rays of light are very sweet,
And puts away the taste of meat.
The balmy breeze comes down from heaven,
And makes us like for to be living."
"The casawary is an curious bird, and so is the gigantic crane, and the
pelican of the wilderness, whose mouth holds a bucket of fish and water.
Fighting is what ladies is not qualyfied for, they would not make a good
figure in battle or in a duel. Alas! we females are of little use to our
country. The history of all the malcontents as ever was hanged is
amusing." Still harping on the Newgate Calendar!
"Braehead is extremely pleasant to me by the companie of swine, geese,
cocks, etc., and they are the delight of my soul."
"I am going to tell you of a melancholy story. A young turkie of 2 or 3
months old, would you believe it, the father broke its leg, and he
killed another! I think he ought to be transported or hanged."
"Queen Street is a very gay one, and so is Princes Street, for all the
lads and lasses, besides bucks and beggars parade there."
"I should like to see a play very much, for I never saw one in all my
life, and don't believe I ever shall; but I hope I can be content
without going to one. I can be quite happy without my desire being
"Some days ago Isabella had a terrible fit of the toothake, and she
walked with a long night-shift at dead of night like a ghost, and I
thought she was one. She prayed for nature's sweet restorer—balmy
sleep—but did not get it—a ghostly figure indeed she was, enough to
make a saint tremble. It made me quiver and shake from top to toe.
Superstition is a very mean thing and should be despised and shunned."
Here is her weakness and her strength again: "In the love-novels all the
heroines are very desperate. Isabella will not allow me to speak about
lovers and heroins, and 'tis too refined for my taste." "Miss Egward's
(Edgeworth's) tails are very good, particularly some that are very much
adapted for youth (!) as Laz Laurance and Tarelton, False Keys, etc.
"Tom Jones and Grey's Elegey in a country churchyard are both excellent,
and much spoke of by both sex, particularly by the men." Are our
Marjories nowadays better or worse because they cannot read Tom Jones
unharmed? More better than worse; but who among them can repeat Gray's
Lines on a distant prospect of Eton College as could our Maidie?
Here is some more of her prattle: "I went into Isabella's bed to make
her smile like the Genius Demedicus" (the Venus de Medicis) "or the
statute in an ancient Greece, but she fell asleep in my very face, at
which my anger broke forth, so that I awoke her from a comfortable nap.
All was now hushed up again, but again my anger burst forth at her
biding me get up."
She begins thus loftily,—
"Death the righteous love to see,
But from it doth the wicked flee."
Then suddenly breaks off as if with laughter,—
"I am sure they fly as fast as their legs can carry them!"
"There is a thing I love to see,—
That is, our monkey catch a flee!"
"I love in Isa's bed to lie,—
Oh, such a joy and luxury!
The bottom of the bed I sleep,
And with great care within I creep;
Oft I embrace her feet of lillys,
But she has goton all the pillys.
Her neck I never can embrace,
But I do hug her feet in place."
How childish and yet how strong and free is her use of words!—"I lay at
the foot of the bed because Isabella said I disturbed her by continial
fighting and kicking, but I was very dull, and continially at work
reading the Arabian Nights, which I could not have done if I had slept
at the top. I am reading the Mysteries of Udolpho. I am much interested
in the fate of poor, poor Emily."
Here is one of her swains:—
"Very soft and white his cheeks;
His hair is red, and grey his breeks;
His tooth is like the daisy fair:
His only fault is in his hair."
This is a higher flight:—
"DEDICATED TO MRS. H. CRAWFORD BY THE AUTHOR, M.F.
"Three turkeys fair their last have breathed,
And now this world forever leaved;
Their father, and their mother too,
They sigh and weep as well as you:
Indeed, the rats their bones have crunched;
Into eternity theire laanched.
A direful death indeed they had,
As wad put any parent mad;
But she was more than usual calm:
She did not give a single dam."
This last word is saved from all sin by its tender age, not to speak of
the want of the n. We fear "she" is the abandoned mother, in spite of
her previous sighs and tears.
"Isabella says when we pray we should pray fervently, and not rattel
over a prayer,—for that we are kneeling at the footstool of our Lord
and Creator, who saves us from eternal damnation, and from
unquestionable fire and brimston."
She has a long poem on Mary Queen of Scots:—
"Queen Mary was much loved by all,
Both by the great and by the small;
But hark! her soul to heaven doth rise,
And I suppose she has gained a prize;
For I do think she would not go
Into the awful place below.
There is a thing that I must tell,—
Elizabeth went to fire and hell!
He who would teach her to be civil,
It must be her great friend, the divil!"
She hits off Darnley well:—
"A noble's son,—a handsome lad,—
By some queer way or other, had
Got quite the better of her heart;
With him she always talked apart:
Silly he was, but very fair;
A greater buck was not found there."
"By some queer way or other"; is not this the general case and the
mystery, young ladies and gentlemen? Goethe's doctrine of "elective
affinities" discovered by our Pet Maidie.
SONNET TO A MONKEY.
"O lively, O most charming pug!
Thy graceful air and heavenly mug!
The beauties of his mind do shine,
And every bit is shaped and fine.
Your teeth are whiter than the snow;
Your a great buck, your a great beau;
Your eyes are of so nice a shape,
More like a Christian's than an ape;
Your cheek is like the rose's blume;
Your hair is like the raven's plume;
His nose's cast is of the Roman:
He is a very pretty woman.
I could not get a rhyme for Roman,
So was obliged to call him woman."
This last joke is good. She repeats it when writing of James the Second
being killed at Roxburgh:—
"He was killed by a cannon splinter,
Quite in the middle of the winter;
Perhaps it was not at that time,
But I can get no other rhyme!"
Here is one of her last letters, dated Kirkcaldy, 12th October, 1811.
You can see how her nature is deepening and enriching:—
"MY DEAR MOTHER,—You will think that I entirely forget you but I assure
you that you are greatly mistaken. I think of you always and often sigh
to think of the distance between us two loving creatures of nature. We
have regular hours for all our occupations first at 7 o'clock we go to
the dancing and come home at 8 we then read our Bible and get our
repeating, and then play till ten, then we get our music till 11 when we
get our writing and accounts we sew from 12 till 1 after which I get my
gramer, and then work till five. At 7 we come and knit till 8 when we
dont go to the dancing. This is an exact description. I must take a
hasty farewell to her whom I love, reverence and doat on and who I hope
thinks the same of
"P.S.—An old pack of cards (!) would be very exeptible."
This other is a month earlier:—
"MY DEAR LITTLE MAMA,—I was truly happy to hear that you were all well.
We are surrounded with measles at present on every side, for the Herons
got it, and Isabella Heron was near Death's Door, and one night her
father lifted her out of bed, and she fell down as they thought lifeless.
Mr. Heron said, 'That lassie's deed noo,'—'I'm no deed yet.' She then
threw up a big worm nine inches and a half long. I have begun dancing,
but am not very fond of it, for the boys strikes and mocks me.—I have
been another night at the dancing; I like it better. I will write to you
as often as I can; but I am afraid not every week. I long for you with
the longings of a child to embrace you,—to fold you in my arms. I
respect you with all the respect due to a mother. You dont know how I
love you. So I shall remain, your loving child,—M. FLEMING."
What rich involution of love in the words marked!
Here are some lines to her beloved Isabella, in July, 1811:—
"There is a thing that I do want,—
With you these beauteous walks to haunt;
We would be happy if you would
Try to come over if you could.
Then I would all quite happy be
Now and for all eternity.
My mother is so very sweet,
And checks my appetite to eat;
My father shows us what to do;
But O I'm sure that I want you.
I have no more of poetry;
O Isa do remember me,
And try to love your Marjory."
In a letter from "Isa" to
"Miss Muff Maidie Marjory Fleming,
favored by Rare Rear-Admiral Fleming,"
she says: "I long much to see you, and talk over all our old stories
together, and to hear you read and repeat. I am pining for my old friend
Cesario, and poor Lear, and wicked Richard. How is the dear
Multiplication table going on? Are you still as much attached to 9 times
9 as you used to be?"
But this dainty, bright thing is about to flee,—to come "quick to
confusion." The measles she writes of seized her, and she died on the
19th of December, 1811. The day before her death, Sunday, she sat up in
bed, worn and thin, her eye gleaming as with the light of a coming world,
and with a tremulous, old voice repeated the following lines by
Burns,—heavy with the shadow of death, and lit with the fantasy of the
judgment-seat,—the publican's prayer in paraphrase:—
"Why am I loth to leave this earthly scene?
Have I so found it full of pleasing charms?—
Some drops of joy, with draughts of ill between,
Some gleams of sunshine 'mid renewing storms?
Is it departing pangs my soul alarms?
Or Death's unlovely, dreary, dark abode?
For guilt, for GUILT, my terrors are in arms;
I tremble to approach an angry God,
And justly smart beneath his sin-avenging rod.
"Fain would I say, Forgive my foul offence,
Fain promise never more to disobey;
But should my Author health again dispense,
Again I might forsake fair virtue's way,
Again in folly's path might go astray,
Again exalt the brute and sink the man.
Then how should I for heavenly mercy pray,
Who act so counter heavenly mercy's plan,
Who sin so oft have mourned, yet to temptation ran?
"O thou great Governor of all below,
If I might dare a lifted eye to thee,
Thy nod can make the tempest cease to blow,
And still the tumult of the raging sea;
With that controlling power assist even me
Those headstrong furious passions to confine,
For all unfit I feel my powers to be
To rule their torrent in the allowed line;
O, aid me with thy help, OMNIPOTENCE DIVINE."
It is more affecting than we care to say to read her mother's and
Isabella Keith's letters written immediately after her death. Old and
withered, tattered and pale, they are now: but when you read them, how
quick, how throbbing with life and love! how rich in that language of
affection which only women and Shakespeare and Luther can use,—that
power of detaining the soul over the beloved object and its loss!
"K. PHILIP (to CONSTANCE).
You are as fond of grief as of your child.
Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me;
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form.
Then I have reason to be fond of grief."
What variations cannot love play on this one string!
In her first letter to Miss Keith, Mrs. Fleming says of her dead Maidie:
"Never did I behold so beautiful an object. It resembled the finest
waxwork. There was in the countenance an expression of sweetness and
serenity which seemed to indicate that the pure spirit had anticipated
the joys of heaven ere it quitted the mortal frame. To tell you what
your Maidie said of you would fill volumes; for you was the constant
theme of her discourse, the subject of her thoughts, and ruler of her
actions. The last time she mentioned you was a few hours before all
sense save that of suffering was suspended, when she said to Dr.
Johnstone, 'If you let me out at the New Year, I will be quite
contented.' I asked her what made her so anxious to get out then. 'I
want to purchase a New Year's gift for Isa Keith with the sixpence you
gave me for being patient in the measles; and I would like to choose it
myself.' I do not remember her speaking afterwards, except to complain
of her head, till just before she expired, when she articulated, 'O
* * * * *
Do we make too much of this little child, who has been in her grave in
Abbotshall Kirkyard these fifty and more years? We may of her
cleverness,—not of her affectionateness, her nature. What a picture the
animosa infans gives us of herself,—her vivacity, her passionateness,
her precocious love-making, her passion for nature, for swine, for all
living things, her reading, her turn for expression, her satire, her
frankness, her little sins and rages, her great repentances! We don't
wonder Walter Scott carried her off in the neuk of his plaid, and played
himself with her for hours.
The year before she died, when in Edinburgh, she was at a Twelfth Night
Supper at Scott's, in Castle Street. The company had all come,—all but
Marjorie. Scott's familiars, whom we all know, were there,—all were
come but Marjorie; and all were dull because Scott was dull. "Where's
that bairn? what can have come over her? I'll go myself and see." And he
was getting up, and would have gone; when the bell rang, and in came
Duncan Roy and his henchman Tougald, with the sedan chair, which was
brought right into the lobby, and its top raised. And there, in its
darkness and dingy old cloth, sat Maidie in white, her eyes gleaming,
and Scott bending over her in ecstasy,—"hung over her enamored." "Sit
ye there, my dautie, till they all see you"; and forthwith he brought
them all. You can fancy the scene. And he lifted her up and marched to
his seat with her on his stout shoulder, and set her down beside him;
and then began the night, and such a night! Those who knew Scott best
said, that night was never equalled; Maidie and he were the stars; and
she gave them Constance's speeches and "Helvellyn," the ballad then
much in vogue, and all her repertoire,—Scott showing her off, and
being ofttimes rebuked by her for his intentional blunders.
We are indebted for the following to her sister: "Her birth was 15th
January, 1803; her death, 19th December, 1811. I take this from her
Bibles. I believe she was a child of robust health, of much vigor of
body, and beautifully formed arms, and, until her last illness, never
was an hour in bed.
[Footnote 3: "Her Bible is before me; a pair, as then called; the
faded marks are just as she placed them. There is one at David's lament
"I have to ask you to forgive my anxiety in gathering up the fragments
of Marjorie's last days, but I have an almost sacred feeling to all that
pertains to her. You are quite correct in stating that measles were the
cause of her death. My mother was struck by the patient quietness
manifested by Marjorie during this illness, unlike her ardent, impulsive
nature; but love and poetic feeling were unquenched. When Dr. Johnstone
rewarded her submissiveness with a sixpence, the request speedily
followed that she might get out ere New Year's day came. When asked why
she was so desirous of getting out, she immediately rejoined, 'O, I am
so anxious to buy something with my sixpence for my dear Isa Keith.'
Again, when lying very still, her mother asked her if there was anything
she wished: 'O yes! if you would just leave the room-door open a wee bit,
and play "The Land o' the Leal," and I will lie and think, and enjoy
myself' (this is just as stated to me by her mother and mine). Well, the
happy day came, alike to parents and child, when Marjorie was allowed to
come forth from the nursery to the parlor. It was Sabbath evening, and
after tea. My father, who idolized this child, and never afterwards in
my hearing mentioned her name, took her in his arms; and, while walking
her up and down the room, she said, 'Father, I will repeat something to
you; what would you like?' He said, 'Just choose yourself, Maidie.' She
hesitated for a moment between the paraphrase, 'Few are thy days, and
full of woe,' and the lines of Burns already quoted, but decided on the
latter, a remarkable choice for a child. The repeating these lines
seemed to stir up the depths of feeling in her soul. She asked to be
allowed to write a poem; there was a doubt whether it would be right to
allow her, in case of hurting her eyes. She pleaded earnestly, 'Just
this once'; the point was yielded, her slate was given her, and with
great rapidity she wrote an address of fourteen lines, 'to her loved
cousin on the author's recovery,' her last work on earth;—
'Oh! Isa, pain did visit me;
I was at the last extremity:
How often did I think of you,
I wished your graceful form to view,
To clasp you in my weak embrace,
Indeed I thought I'd run my race:
Good care, I'm sure, was of me taken,
But still indeed I was much shaken,
At last I daily strength did gain,
And oh! at last, away went pain;
At length the doctor thought I might
Stay in the parlor all the night;
I now continue so to do,
Farewell to Nancy and to you.'
"She went to bed apparently well, awoke in the middle of the night with
the old cry of woe to a mother's heart, 'My head, my head!' Three days
of the dire malady, 'water in the head,' followed, and the end came."
"Soft, silken primrose, fading timelessly."
It is needless, it is impossible, to add anything to this: the fervor,
the sweetness, the flush of poetic ecstasy, the lovely and glowing eye,
the perfect nature of that bright and warm intelligence, that darling
child,—Lady Nairne's words, and the old tune, stealing up from the
depths of the human heart, deep calling unto deep, gentle and strong
like the waves of the great sea hushing themselves to sleep in the dark;
the words of Burns touching the kindred chord, her last numbers "wildly
sweet" traced with thin and eager fingers, already touched by the last
enemy and friend,—moriens canit,—and that love which is so soon to
be her everlasting light, is her song's burden to the end.
"She set as sets the morning star, which goes
Not down behind the darkened west, nor hides
Obscured among the tempests of the sky,
But melts away into the light of heaven."