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REMARKS ON THE MONASTERY.
(Concluded from page 256.)
THE sketch of the Monastery at the close of our last Number was necessarily meagre and imperfect. Perusing it with an eagerness of haste scarce admitting reflection, we could not give a methodical detail of the story, far less arrange the observations which it suggested. The view of the first scene that opened to us, convinced us, that the magician had lost none of his wonted powers. The next reminded us of him who "exhausted worlds, and then imagined new," only to convince us more certainly that it was his sole privilege; that others may indeed "call spirits from the vasty deep," but that legitimate spirits in the proper costume of their order will unly come when Shakespeare "does call for them." We would advise all imaginative persons in this sceptical age, to "beware of counterfeits;" but of this more anon. We gladly return to recognize the chaste and natural colours, in which are set before us the spires and turrets of the Monastery, the green and quiet domain of the Halidome, lying amidst the surrounding turbulence like some shady and verdant island amidst seas vexed with perpetual tempests, peopled, too, by the same magic power, with calm, industrious, and more than commonly intelligent inhabitants; life glows in every line, and every object wears the hues of reality. The truth of taste, which is one of the most enviable distinctions of this writer, has saved him
from the temptation of heightening the Abbey into the first stile of ecclesiastical magnificence, or giving Arcadian beauty to even our own classical Tweedside. Scorning to spread taudry snares for sophisticated minds, he trusts to truth and nature for effects, and gives to his genuine Scottish pictures all the severe simplicity of the originals. The profound sagacity of the author has always led him to lay the scene of his half real fictions at the same crisis of time with some great public change or commotion, or some event memorable in history; one of those which afford stirring spirits a pretext for aiming at distinction, and awake even the torpid to exertion, that show distinctly the varied hues of many coloured life, and produce those changes of fortune that afford themes for the tragic muse, and bring into full light those peculiarities of character productive of the highest comic effect.
The first of his productions, which has never been exceeded by any of its successors, or indeed equalled by any previous work of the same nature, derived a paramount interest from its connection with the insurrection of 1745, where, in regard to the opposing parties he does "nothing extenuate, nor ought set down in malice," but leaves our affections and opinions balanced between the sanctity that exalts the courage and patriotism of the venerated Gardiner, and the high honour, strict probity, and generous self-devotion of that most respectable oddity the Baron of Bradwardine, whose higher qualitics appear so bright,
while the gloom of adversity thickens round them, that we forget his pride, his bigotry, and pedantry; all other feelings are lost in our admiration of his equanimity and indulgent candour towards his enemies. We see from the first all the madness and folly of the enterprise, the rashness of the leader, and the ambition, strife, and unhappy divisions of his adherents; and yet, while our reason fully convinces us of the guilt and the danger that must needs follow the success of the insurgents, we feel as much admiration of the gallant yet wretched adventurer, and as keen a sympathy for his deluded followers as a better cause could demand. We do not think of either side as Jacobites or Hanoverians, but as fellow creatures, acting from mixed motives, and so impelled by circumstances, as to be scarce masters of their own determination. Who that has seen the striking pictures exhibited in this work, can ever forget the brilliant gaiety of the evening at Holyroodhouse, seeming by contrast to deepen the anguish with which every virtuous mind surveys the trials and closing scene at Carlisle? Now, the reason why this writing has so happily succeeded in interweaving truth with fiction, an attempt in which all but Shakespeare have miserably failed, is this: others, Miss Lee, for instance, and the French author of Cleveland, have bent and distorted the facts of history to accommodate them to others, the mere creation of fancy. With sounder judgment and more veneration for truth, our author keeps close to the details he finds upon record, only furnishing to his real personages the manners and conversation most suited to their characters; while all the natives of his prolific brain, act in subservience to the ruling powers of the story, without ever breaking the line in which they are kept dependant upon the leading facts or persons. The Laird of Ellangowan is all along swayed in all he says and does by public events. The disaffection of his family is the means of sinking him into that poverty and vulgar association which influence his own fate and character, and produce all the misfortunes of his family. The matchless story of Old Mortality is strictly historical in the general facts, towards the bringing out of which, all the
characters are subordinate and justly adapted. The Antiquary appears at the time when the American war called out the defensive home troops, and the feelings and incidents thus produced are interwoven, though in a slighter manner, with the story. The interest of the Black Dwarf turns upon circumstances connected with the feeble struggles made in favour of the exiled Stuarts towards the year 1715. And the brave outlaw, Rob Roy, conducts his operations with a view to the re-establishment of the same family, while the dejection and discontent of this country, in consequence of the Union, gives a general colouring to the whole. The Porteous mob, another result of that unpopular though salutary measure, affords a foundation for the story of Jeany Deans. In the Bride of Lammermoor, the unquiet and precarious state of Scotch politics during the early part of the reign of Queen Anne, gives room to depict with historic truth that state of society which gave such advantage to the artful and ambitious, who turned with the tide, and brought ruin and disgrace on the less accommodating friends of the old regime, though not involved in actual rebellion. The splendid romance of Ivanhoe catches the very crisis when public affairs, no longer prosaic, and business like, wore the stamp and impress of the wild and wonderful,-a palmer full of the spirit of the crusaders and the tidings of Palestine,an heroic prince, newly broke from the bonds of treachery abroad, and avoiding in disguise more unnatural treachery at home,-errant knights, Saxon Franklins, and bondsmen, crowd the scene without violating probability, and in perfect unison with the spirit and character of the time. The radiant vision of a lofty-minded Jewess, too, appears placed in extraordinary circumstances, yet such as completely coincide with facts that history preserves to us. Her language, exalted by a strong infusion of the sublime spirit and expressions of the Old Testament, suits her, and would suit no other; and a variety of facts and characters are brought together that are adapted to that peculiar crisis, but could never appear united without the connecting link which the history of the time affords. In the present story, too, we have a
most important public event chosen as a keystone to the whole, and as affording a cement to connect together characters otherwise incongruous. This is no other than the Reformation,-an event of surpassing importance, wherever the light of the gospel drove the idolatry and corruptions of the age before it.
In Scotland, where it made way from its own power, and much from the zeal and intelligence of the people at large, in direct opposition to the ruling powers, it assumed a form of still greater interest. Religious changes, such as inculcate an austere simplicity, and dismiss all the pomp and pageantry of worship, are, however, less susceptible of poetical embellishment, than mere secular affairs. The ark of the testimony must needs be touched with cautious reverence. The author, with his accustomed tact, seems to have felt this, but has not shown the same tact in the expedient he has used to adorn and diversify his story. A short abstract of the whole, with extracts from the work itself, may be acceptable to some of our country readers whom the book has not reached. As for our fellow citizens, the modern Athenians, they emulate the love of novelty which distinguished their prototypes too successfully, to be supposed in want of information on this head. They may, however, find some amusement in comparing our strictures with their own previously formed opinions.
The story in the meantime begins about the time of the too memorable battle of Pinkie Cleuch, a fatal result of Henry the Eighth's rough wooing, as our nobles called it, for his son, the infant suitor of the hard-fated Mary. Ever jealous of the independence of their ancient kingdom, the Scotch dreaded a connection which might eventually subject them to that sway which they had so stoutly resisted when a female minority had before led the way to a disputed succession. The Monastery of St Mary's was too near the English border to escape entirely the fury of the English reformists, who made a pretext of religion to plunder these retreats, which had hitherto been considered as the safe abodes of sanctity and peace. A still greater danger was now approaching in the gradual but sure progress of the Reformation in
Whether to crush this dangerous novelty by prompt and decisive measures of severity, or to arrest its progress by skilful controversy, and that diligence in the discharge of religious duties which might take away the reproach of relaxed discipline, was now the alternative on which the leaders of the church had to decide. The good Abbot of St Mary's was not well qualified for adopting either. Too indolent and humane to enforce measures of severity, too selfindulgent for a strict reform of discipline, and possessing neither learning or talents to enable him to meet the zeal and acuteness of the Gospellers in the arena of controversy, the Abbot looked round him in helpless perplexity. Cardinal Beatoun, equally aware of the importance of the crisis, and the inconsequence of the Abbot, sends him a Sub-Prior, meant under that name for a coadjutor. Father Eustace, peculiarly qualified to furnish the good Father with opinions, and steer his way through difficulties, excels wherever he is deficient. Ardent in zeal, sincere in belief, profoundly learned, acute, sagacious, and firm of purpose, perfectly master of himself on all occasions, disdaining sensual indulgences, and habituated to "Spare fast that oft with Gods doth diet," he has no vulnerable point to give room for censure, or to afford consolation to those who shrink from his superiority. The new brother, humble in manner, but powerful in mind, soon, without assuming it, exerts the native superiority of intellect, and in no instance does the good Father proceed without consult ing this humble adviser, always guided by his directions, yet sorely feeling that he is no longer master of himself, and earnestly desiring to regain his liberty by procuring some preferment for the too powerful brother who thus holds him in an invisible chain. On no occasion has the author displayed more insight into character than in this picture of the reluctant homage which indecision pays to firmness, and imbecility to intellect; but before we furnish the reader with a specimen of their opposite characters, we must return to the dwellers of Glendearg, a solitary narrow glen, dependent on the Abbey, the secluded inhabitants of which had found it necessary to construct a little tower, as a protec
tion from the Tynedale snatchers, and such other inconvenient visitors to whom they were exposed by their distance. Simon Glendinning, the master of this sequestered dwelling, having a more warlike disposition than the other quiet tenants who dwelt under the shadow of the Abbey, volunteers to the field of Pinkie Cleuch, and is left there with some thousand other kindly Scots, who, from too precipitate rashness to engage, rushed on their own destruction. The homely pathos of the following extract will be found irresistible by wives and mothers, and makes us at once sufficiently acquainted with Glendearg, and interests us in its humble inhabitants.
“When the doleful news, which spread terror and mourning through the whole of Scotland, reached the Tower of Glendearg, the widow of Simon, Elspeth Brydone by her family name, was alone in that desolate habitation, excepting a hind or two, alike past martial and agricultural labour, and the helpless widows and families of those who had fallen with their master. The feeling of desolation was universal;but what availed it? The Monks, their patrons and protectors, were driven from their Abbey by the English forces, who now overrun the country, and compelled at least an appearance of submission on the part of the inhabitants. The Protector, Somerset, formed a strong camp among the ruins of the ancient Castle of Roxburgh, and compelled the neighbouring country to come in, pay tribute, and take assurance from him, as the phrase then went. Indeed, there was no power of resistance remaining, and the few barons, whose high spirit disdained even the appearance of surrender, could only retreat into the wildest fastnesses of the country, leaving their houses and property to the wrath of the English, who detached parties through the country to distress, by military exaction, those whose chiefs had not made their submission. The Abbot and his community having retreated beyond the Forth, their lands were severely forayed, as their sentiments were held peculiarly inimical to the alliance with England.
Amongst the troops detached on this service was a small party, commanded by Stawarth Bolton, a captain in the English army, and full of the blunt and unpretending gallantry and generosity which has so often distinguished the nation. Resistance was in vain. Elspeth Brydone, when she descried a dozen of horsemen threading their way up the glen, with a man at their head, whose scarlet cloak, bright armour, and dancing plume, proclaimed him a lead
er, saw no better protection for herself than to issue from the iron grate, covered with a long mourning veil, and holding one of her two sons in each hand, to meet the Englishman-state her deserted condition, place the little tower at his commandand beg for his mercy. She stated, in a I submit, because I have nae means of few brief words, her intention, and added, resistance.'
"And I do not ask your submission, mistress, from the same reason,' replied the Englishman. To be satisfied of your peaceful intentions is all I ask; and, from what you tell me, there is no reason to doubt them.'
"At least, sir,' said Elspeth Brydone, take share of what our spence and our garners afford. Your horses are tiredyour folk want refreshment.'
"Not a whit-not a whit,' answered the honest Englishman; it shall never be said we disturbed by carousal the widow of a brave soldier, while she was mourning for her husband.-Comrades, face about. Yet, stay,' he added, checking his warhorse, my parties are out in every direction; they must have some token that your family are under my assurance of safety.Here, my little fellow,' said he, speaking to the eldest boy, who might be about nine or ten years old, lend me thy bonnet.'
"The child reddened, looked sulky, and hesitated, while the mother, with many a fye and nay pshaw, and such sarsenet chidings as tender mothers give to spoiled children, at length succeeded in snatching the bonnet from him, and handing it to the English leader.
"Stawarth Bolton took his embroidered red cross from his barret-cap, and putting it into the loop of the boy's bonnet, said to the mistress, (for the title of lady was not given to dames of her degree,) By this token, which all my people will respect, you will be freed from any importunity on the part of our forayers.' He placed it on the boy's head; but it was no sooner there, than the little fellow, his veins swelling, and his eyes shooting fire through tears, snatched the bonnet from his head, and, ere his mother could interfere, skimmed it into the brook. The other boy ran instantly to fish it out again, threw his brother's bonnet back to him, first taking out the cross, which, with great veneration, he kissed, and put into his bosom. The Englishman was half diverted, half surprised, with the scene.
"What mean ye by throwing away Saint George's red cross?' said he to the elder boy, in a tone betwixt jest and earnest.
"Because Saint George is a southern saint,' said the child sulkily.
"Good-' said Stawarth Bolton. And what did you mean by taking it out of the