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THE DOUGLASES.
INTRODUCTION.
page 35

IN the story of Scotland,' says Mr. Froude, 'weakness is nowhere; power, energy, and will are everywhere;' and this national vigour, determined will, and indomitable resolution seem to have culminated in the 'Doughty Douglases.' Their stalwart and tough physical frames, and the strong, resolute, unbending character of such men as 'William the Hardy,' 'Archibald the Grim,' and 'Archibald Bell-the-Cat,' the types of their race, eminently fitted them to be 'premier peers'— leaders of men. From the War of Independence down to the era of the Reformation, no other family played such a conspicuous part in the affairs of Scotland as the Douglases. They intermarried no less than eleven times with the royal family of Scotland, and once with that of England. They enjoyed the privilege of leading the van of the Scottish army in battle, of carrying the crown at the coronation of the sovereign, and of giving the first vote in Parliament. 'A Douglas received the last words of Robert Bruce. A Douglas spoke the epitaph of John Knox. The Douglases were celebrated in the prose of Froissart and the verse of Shakespeare. They have been sung by antique Barbour and by Walter Scott, by the minstrels of Otterburn and by Robert Burns.' A nameless poet who lived four hundred years ago eulogised their trustiness and chivalry. Holinshed, in the next century, speaks of their 'singular manhood, noble prowess, and majestic puissance.' They espoused, at the outset, the patriotic side in the War of Independence, and they contributed greatly to the crowning victory of Bannockburn. They sent two hundred gentlemen of the name, with the heir of their earldom, to die at Flodden. There was a time when they could raise thirty thousand men, and they were for centuries the bulwarks of the Scottish borders against our 'auld enemies of England.' They [p.35] have gathered their laurels on many a bloody field in France, where they held the rank of princes, and in Spain and in the Netherlands, as well as in England and Scotland, and—
 
THE MAULES.
INTRODUCTION.
page 339

Mr. Maule was a very remarkable character, and during his early and middle life, his name and eccentric doings, in one form [p.339] or another, were almost continually before the public, whom he alternately surprised and scandalised by his systematic defiance of decorum and conventional usages. He was possessed of excellent natural abilities, which had, however, been only imperfectly cultivated; but his natural shrewdness stood him well instead of acquired knowledge. 'He is the most long-headed fellow,' wrote of him Mr. Hunter, of Blackness, 'in Forfarshireland, and of the soundest judgment too (if he did not sometimes let his passion get the better of him) of any person of his years whom I know, and has more brains than his whole family beside.' Unfortunately, Mr. Maule's passion did very often get the better of him. He was unmeasured both in his likings and dislikings, 'devotedly attached to those who did not thwart him, implacable to those who did;' liberal and kind to those who came in contact with him only in the affairs of public life, but most arbitrary and despotic in his behaviour to his own family. He would brook no opposition to his will, and was vindictive and unrelenting to those who thwarted him or refused to submit to his authority. He was ultimately at variance with all the members of his family, and the verdict of public opinion unhesitatingly pronounced him in the wrong. On the other hand, he was an excellent landlord, and was highly popular among his numerous tenantry and the labourers on his estates, whom he treated with great liberality. In 1839 his tenantry erected a handsome column, 105 feet high, on the Downie Hills, in Forfarshire, as a memorial of their respect for him as their landlord. Mr. Maule's generosity was a very conspicuous feature of his character. He bestowed a pension on the widow of Charles James Fox, the great statesman; and he also conferred an annuity of fifty pounds on the widow of Robert Burns, which was continued until the eldest son of the poet was enabled to provide for his mother, and the further assistance of her benefactor was respectfully declined. He enlarged the public schools of Brechin, and erected a hall, fitted up in the most tasteful manner, with library and apparatus, and beautiful paintings, at his sole expense, for the Mechanics' Institute of that burgh. His acts of benevolence indeed were unceasing, and advancing years, while they tended somewhat to mitigate his animosities and soften his character, served to widen the channels of his munificence.
 
THE MARCHMONT HUMES.
INTRODUCTION.
page 402

His noble-minded daughter, Grizel, came over to England in 1688, in the train of the Princess of Orange. After the settlement of the crown on William and Mary, the latter, who wished to retain Sir Patrick's daughter near her person, offered her the situation of one of her maids of honour. But, like the Shunammite of old, Grizel preferred to dwell among her own people; and about two years after the Revolution she married her faithful lover, Mr. George Baillie, who had now regained his paternal estates, and spent with him forty-eight years of wedded life, in the enjoyment of an amount of happiness proportioned to the remarkable virtues and endowments of both husband and wife. [p.402] Mr. Baillie filled with great honour several important offices under Government, and was distinguished equally for his eminent abilities and his high-toned integrity. Rachel, the younger daughter of this excellent couple, inherited the family estates, and was the common ancestress of the elder branch of the Earls of Haddington and of the Baillies of Jerviswood, who have now succeeded to the Haddington titles and estates. The elder daughter, Grizel, who became the wife of Sir Alexander Murray of Stanhope, wrote a most interesting memoir of her mother, Lady Grizel, whose appearance she thus describes: 'Her actions show what her mind was, and her outward appearance was no less singular. She was middle-sized, clean in her person, very handsome, with a life and sweetness in her eyes very uncommon, and great delicacy in all her features; her hair was chestnut, and to the last she had the finest complexion with the clearest red in her cheeks and lips that could be seen in one of fifteen, which, added to her natural constitution, might be owing to the great moderation she observed in her diet throughout her whole life.' Lady Murray speaks of her mother's poetical compositions, and several of her songs or ballads were printed in Ramsay's 'Tea-Table Miscellany.' The best known of these is the beautiful and affecting but unequal pastoral song, 'Were na my heart licht, I wad die,'which is associated with a most pathetic incident in the life of Robert Burns. This admirable woman died in 1746, in the eighty-first year of her age, having survived her husband about eight years.
 
THE ERSKINES OF BUCHAN AND CARDROSS.
page 129

Lord Buchan was evidently impressed with the notion that his opinion upon public affairs would be prized even by the King himself, so that he had no hesitation in tendering his advice to his Majesty as to what he should do at certain junctures in state affairs, or in expressing his approval of the dutiful conduct of the daughters of George III., grounding his right to do so, as was his wont, on his consanguinity to the royal family. In April, 1807, when the Ministry of 'All the Talents' was dismissed from office by the King, the Earl wrote to his Majesty requesting him 'not to accept the Great Seal from his brother Thomas, but to impose his command upon him to retain it for the service of his Majesty's subjects.'|R†|r 'This is my humble suit and opinion,' he adds, 'and I am sure, considering my consanguinity to your Majesty, and my being an ancient peer of your Majesty's realm, you will see it in the light my duty and fidelity to you inclines me to expect.' It is a curious fact that the King and Queen [p.129] and the Princesses always courteously and kindly acknowledged the letters of this eccentric old nobleman; and the Duke of Kent, as his correspondence shows, cherished sincere friendship for him. Though the Earl was noted for his intense vanity, he was by no means fond of gross flattery. His natural shrewdness enabled him readily to notice when the proper limit of praise was overstepped. There is a well-known letter addressed to him by Robert Burns, dated 3rd February, 1787, which contains the following complimentary couplet:—
 
THOMAS GRAHAM, LORD LYNEDOCH.
page 172

In the autumn of 1787, Mrs. Graham happened to be on a visit at Blair, to the Duchess of Athole, along with their youngest sister, Miss Cathcart, then in her seventeenth year, when Robert Burns, at that time on a tour in the Highlands, came with a letter of introduction to the Duke. His Grace was from home, but the visitor was cordially welcomed by the Duchess, and the Duke returned before he left Blair. The poet afterwards declared that the two days (September 1st and 2nd) which he spent there, were among the happiest days of his life. In a letter which he wrote from Inverness, on September 5th, to Mr. Walker, afterwards Professor of Humanity, of Glasgow, who was then residing at Blair Athole, enclosing his well-known 'Humble Petition of Bruar Water,' the poet says, 'The "little-angel band"—I declare I prayed for them very sincerely today at the Fall of Fyers. I shall never forget the fine family-piece I saw at Blair: the amiable, the truly noble Duchess, with her smiling little seraph in her lap, at the head of the table; the lovely "olive-plants," as the Hebrew bard finely says, round the happy mother; the beautiful Mrs. Graham; the lovely sweet Miss Cathcart, &c. I wish I had the power of Guido to do them justice.' Sad to tell, these three lovely sisters all passed away in the flower of their youth. The Duchess survived Burns's visit only three years, and Mrs. Graham five. Miss Cathcart, who was singularly amiable as well as beautiful, was cut off at twenty-four. And yet other three members of the Cathcart family lived to a great age.* [p.172] In order to induce Burns to visit her and her husband at Lynedoch, Mrs. Graham offered toconduct him to a spot hallowed in Scottish song—the graves of Bessie Bell and Mary Gray, which lie inthe bosom of that romantic estate. Bessie Bell was the daughter of the Laird of Kinnaird, and Mary Gray of the Laird of Lynedoch.An intimate friendship existed between them, and when the plague of 1666 broke out, the two young ladies built themselves a house in a retired and romantic spot, called the Burnbraes, about three-quarters of a mile westward from Lynedoch House, where they resided for some time, and were supplied with food by a young gentleman of Perth, who, it is said, was in love with them both. The disease wasunfortunately communicated to them by their lover, and proved fatal. 'The pest came frae the burrowstoun, and slew them baith thegither.' They were buried in a sequestered spot called the Dronach Haugh, at the foot of of a brae of the same name, upon the banks of the river Almond. The beauty and the fate of these 'twa bonnie lasses' arc commemorated in an old ballad bearing their name.* He promised to do so, and there is every probability that heperformed his promise when he visited Mr. Ramsay of Auchtertyre in the following October. It is not unworthy of mention that Lord Lynedoch had a handsome iron railing placed round these celebratedgraves, and caused them to be neatly trimmed, and covered with wild flowers.
 
THE GORDONS.
page 340

Robert Burns in the course of his northern tour came to Fochabers, and presuming on his acquaintance with the Duchess of Gordon in Edinburgh, to whom he had been introduced in the course of the preceding winter, he proceeded to Gordon Castle, leaving at the inn his travelling companion, William Nichol, one of the masters of the Edinburgh High School—a jealous, rude, and brutal pedagogue. The poet was received with the utmost hospitality and kindness, and the following entry in his diary showed how highly he appreciated his reception. 'The Duke made me happier than ever great man did—noble, princely, yet mildly condescending and affable, gay and kind. The Duchess witty and sensible. God bless them' His stay was unfortunately cut short by Nichol, whose pride was inflamed into a high degree of passion by the fancied neglect which he had suffered by being left at the inn, and who insisted on proceeding immediately on his journey. Burns, sensible of the kindness which had been shown him by the Duke and Duchess, made the best return in his power by sending them a poem, entitled 'Castle Gordon,' which is not one of his happiest efforts. The Duchess had planned a visit of Mr. Addington, afterwards Lord Sidmouth, to Castle Gordon,' when Burns should meet him, knowing that the English statesman was a warm admirer of the poetry of the Scottish bard. But the future Premier was unable to accept the invitation, and contented himself with writing and forwarding some verses expressing a warm admiration of the genius of the poet—which, however, had no [p.340] practical result—and recommending him to be resigned to the want of worldly gear and 'grateful for the wealth of his exhaustless mind.'

 

 

 
 

 

 
 

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