Page images



JULY, 1819.

Art. 1.— The Cottage of St. Leonard's, Muschat's Cairn, and the

Ruins of St. Anthony's Chapel. 'THE THE Tales of my Landlord' have consecrated and rendered

classic ground a variety of scenes possessing formerly but little interest. The genius of Walter Scott has touched them as with a magic wand. In the words of one of his countrymen, since he sung his bold and wild and romantic lays, a more religious solemnity breathes from our mouldering abbeys, and a sterner grandeur frowns over our time-shattered castles. He has peopled our hills with heroes even as Ossian peopled them, and like a presiding spirit, his image haunts the magnificent cliffs of our lakes and seas. And if he be, as every heart feels, the author of those noble prose works that continue to flash upon the world, to him exclusively belongs the glory of wedding Fiction and History in delighted union, and of embodying in imperishable records, the manners, character, soul, and spirit of Caledonia; so that if her annals were lost, her memory would in those tales be immortal.'

The cottage at St. Leonard's crags, the residence of · Donce Davie Deans,' and his daughters Jeanie and Effie, is familiar to all our imaginations. Muschat's cairn, the scene where Jeanie had her midnight meeting with Robertson, and the ruins of St. Anthony's chapel, close by, will not be easily forgotten by the readers of The Heart of Mid Lothian.' But it is not perhaps, very generally known that the scene so described in that interesting novel, has an actual existence in nature. There is however a cottage in the environs of Edinburgh, and upon the very verge of the town, situated precisely as that of Davie Deans is pictured." Betwixt Edinburgh and the mountain called Arthur's Seat,' and near to it are still to be discerned the remains of an old cairn, and the yet stately ruins of St. Anthony's chapel.

The engraving accompanying this number, exhibits those objects as they now are to be seen, and is taken from an admirable drawing, made upon the spot, by Miss C, Schetky, whose graphic powers are so well known to the amateurs of the art in this city. It is

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

a night view, and represents faithfully the gloomy desolation of the scene.

The character and adventures of Jeanie are supposed rather to transcend the bounds of probability, yet it seems from the following extract from a Scottish newspaper that they are founded upon well authenticated facts.


(From the Dumfries and Galloway Courier.] It is not, we believe, very generally known, that the celebrated tale of 'The Heart of Mid Lothian’ is founded on fa t, and that its heroines resided for the greater part of their lives in the immediate neighbourhood of Dumfries. Of these facts, however, our readers will entertain no doubt, when they shall have perused the following narrative, which we have been obligingly permitted to extract from a memorandum, made by a lady, long before the last series of the Tales of my Landlord had been announced, and we distinctly pledge ourselves to the public for the authenticity of its contents.

EXTRACT. "As my kitchen and parlour were not very far from each other, I one day went in to purchase chickens from a person I heard offering them for sale. This was a little stout looking woman, who seemed between 70 and 80 years of age. She was almost covered with a tartan plaid, and her cap had over it a black silk hood, tied under the chin, a piece of dress still much in use among elderly women of that rank of life in Scotland. Her eyes were dark, and remarkably lively and intelligent. I entered into conversation with her, and began by asking how she maintained herself, &c. She said that, in winter, she fitted stockings, that is, knitted feet to country people's stockings;—an employment which bears about the same relation to stocking making that cobbling does to shoe making, and is, of course, both less profitable and less dignified, She added, that she taught a few children to read, and, in summer, ' whiles reared a wheen chicken,” * * * * After some more conversation, during which I was more and more pleased with the good sense and naivete of the old woman's remarks, she rose 'to go away. I then asked her name. Her countenance was suddenly clouded, her colour slightly rose, and she said gravely, or rather solemnly, “ My name is Helen Ilalker; but your husband kens weel about me." * In the evening, I mentioned to Mr.

the new acquaintance I had made, and how much I had been pleased, and inquired what was remarkable in the history of this poor woman.

Mr. said, there were few more extraordinary persons than Helen Walker, She had been early left an orphan with the charge of a sister considerably younger than herself, whom she educated and maintained by her exertions. It will not be easy to conceive her feelings, when she found that this only sister must be tried by the laws of her country for child-murder, and herself called on as the principal witness against her. The counsel for the prisoner told Helen, that if she could declare that her sister had made any preparation, however slight, or had given her any intimation whatever of her situation, such a statement would save her sister's life. Helen said, “ It is impossible for me, sir, to give my oath to a falsehood, and whatever be the consequence, I will give my evidence according to my conscience.” The trial came on. The sister was found guilty and condemned. In removing the prisoner from the bar, she was heard to say to her sister, “ O Nelly! ye hae been the cause o' my death!” Helen replied. “Ye ken I buid to speak the truth.”

In Scotland, six weeks must elapse between the sentence and its execution, and Helen availed herself of it. The very day of her sister's comdemnation she got a petition drawn up, stating the peculiar circumstances of the case, and that same night set out on foot from Dumfries to Lundon, without introduction or recommendation. She presented herself in her tartan plaid and country attire before John, duke of Argyle (after having watched three days at his door), just as he was stepping into his carriage, and delivered her petition. Herself and her story interested him so much, that he immediately procured the pardon she solicited, which was forwarded to Dumfries, and Helen returned, having performed her meritorious journey on foot, in the course of a few weeks.

'I was so strongly interested in this narrative, that I earnestly wi hed to prosecute my acquaintance with Helen Walker; but as I was to leave the country next day, I was obliged to postpone it till my return in spring, when my first walk was to Helen's cottage. She had died a short time before. My regret was extreme, and I endeavoured to obtain some account of her from a woman who inhabited the other end of the house. I inquired if Helen had ever spoken of her past history, her journey to London, &c. “ Na,” said the old woman, “ Helen was a wily body, and whenever ony o' the neighbours spierd ony thing about it she aye changed the discourse.” In short, every answer I received only served to raise my opinion of Helen Walker, who could unite so much prudence with so much heroism and virtue.

Helen Walker lived on the romantic banks of the Clouden, a little way above the bridge by which the road from Dumfries to Sanquhar crosses that beautiful stream. The name of her younger sister is said to have been Tibby (Isabella), and it is known that, after her liberation from Dumfries jail, she was united in marriage to the father of the little innocent whose premature death had brought her life into jeopardy, and that she lived with him in the north of England, where Helen used occasionally to visit her. The interview betwixt Helen and Mrs. above detailed, took place in October 1786, and the remains of the old woman were interred in the church-yard of Irongray, in spring 1787, without a stone to mark the spot where they are deposited.

Art. II.-Original Letters, from an American gentleman at Cal

cutta, to a friend in Pennsylvania.

Non cuivis homini contingit adire Calcuttam!

Calcutta, April 20th.
IN my last, I gave you an account of what I had observed during

the Gentoo holidays. Rude and imperfect I am sensible it was; but as far as it goes, I believe its fidelity may be relied on. About three weeks previous to these ceremonies, the Mahometans performed their religious rites, - which being not altogether so extraordinary as the others, I have hitherto omitted to speak of them: but since I am on the subject, I will now briefly notice the more prominent occurrencies.

The Moorman holidays commenced about the 16th of March, and continued until the evening of the 20th; during which time we had to dispense with the services of our waiters, or body servants, as they are called, --who are all zealous disciples of the prophet, and will on no account forego the pleasure of attending, and assisting at the ceremonies. On the evening of the 19th, those devout mussulmen marched in procession through some of the principal streets; when their numbers, with the lights, and tawdry images, &c. which they carried, made altogether a very imposing spectacle. They appeared to march in distinct companies, at some little distance from each other,-and each company bore a number of tinselled structures, of framed work, on their shoulders, all illuminated with lamps or torches. They also carried numerous figures of animals, in some respects resembling the deer,—with a long, erect, tapering neck, but terminating in a rude likeness of the human head. The procession was formed of men, women, and children, who seemed to be absorbed in devotion; beating their breasts-singing, or rather vociferating, and performing a variety of the most singular and grotesque gesticulations. They all raised their hands at the same time, and brought them down in concert, with great force on their breasts, exclaiming ‘Hussein at every blow:-which I understand to be in commemoration of the massacre of Hussein, one of the sons of Ally, a famous khalif in the early period of Mahommedan history. I went with two or three gentlemen to their church, or mosque (whither the procession tended), which was a small building, but highly decorated in their rude style. Our servants, who perceived us after some time, came to us, and took a great deal of pains to point out every thing which they supposed would gratify us; and explained all they understood of the ceremonies (which, indeed was not much), with the utmost naivete, and apparent sincerity. The poor, benighted rabble, seemed to be enraptured with the solemnities of the occasion; and exhibited cause for some melancholy reflections on the hopeless condition of human intellect, in these extensive and populous regions.

[ocr errors]

The police had a number of the military distributed among the crowd, for the purpose of preventing riotous or disorderly conduct. The next day I went to see the conclusion of these ceremonies. They were held at the upper end of that part of the town which is occupied by English houses, on a handsome and spacious highway, which the marquis Wellesley, while he was governor-general, had caused to be made to a bungelos, or kind of rural retreat, about fifteen miles from the city. This wide and elegant road was thronged with mussulmen, who were engaged as above described. At length they marched off in detachments, with their finery, to a large tank, or pond, near the great road, and threw all the tinselled apparatus into the water; which act, they call burying their godhaving no further occasion for him, it seems, until the succeeding year! Such is the dark and abject state of this ancient people:-in a country, too, where the spontaneous bounties of nature seem to have left little for man to do, but to improve his moral condition, The town, above the aforesaid road, is altogether inhabited by natives; and it looks more like a grove, or great garden, than a city. The cocoa-nut, and other trees, are pretty abundant; either scattered or in clumps, upon the grounds, and the wretched huts are very numerous among them; but make scarcely any show at a small distance. The walls of those hovels are commonly mud, or sometimes matting, set up edge-wise, and thatched with rice-straw, or flags, and sometimes tiled. The grounds are divided into small lots, by means of ditches, which are usually full of filthy, stagnant water, and very offensive. The most common trees and plants in these grounds are the cocoa-nut, mango, tamarind, plantain, pineapple, &c. &c.—which would render them a delightful place for a stroll, were it not for those ditches, and the extreme ardor and subduing influence of the sun. The cocoa-nut tree is very abundant in all directions around the city, as far as I have observed; and is, indeed, one of the greatest blessings of a turrid clime, where man is oppressed with heat and thirst, and potable water difficult to obtain. A single nut, in its green state, affords at once a nutritious repast, and a refreshing beverage to the traveller. It has been remarked of this tree, that it produces all the materials requisite to build a vessel, to rig it, and provision it for a voyage. The body of the tree, it is true, would yield but indifferent ship timber; being very soft, and almost herbaceous in its texture; but the fibrous coating of the nut makes excellent cordage, called coir, and is extensively used here in the manufacture of cables. Those cables are strong and elastic, and are said to be very durable in salt water, though they soon decay when exposed to rain or fresh water. Canvass may also be prepared from the same material; and the nuts themselves afford both food and drink. Thus, you see, it would be possible, from the products of this inestimable plant, to construct, fit out, and provision a ship; and although few of us would be willing to embark in such a vessel, yet the fact may serve to illustrate the value of the tree, as well as the beneficence of

« PreviousContinue »