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men quite nervous and fidgety in the anticipated pleasure of perusal, not able to cast an eye even on the advertisements till they had shut every press in the room, and put every book in its proper place, and thrust their hands into their pockets again and again, to fix down their minds to the positive and absolute certainty that they had not lost their tooth-pick, their pencil, their penknife, their purse, and their bunch of keys. Poor old chaps ! This is the very hysteria of doting method—must I, too, come to this ? Must I, Oh! must I be--godfather to a flannel button? Well-a-day! But I'm not bound to confess more just now than that, when I sit down to my newspaper in the winter evening, I like to see everything around me clean and clear, tidy and trim : And Mary knows her duty to be as quiet as a church mouse.
We got into our new domicile about the middle of September ; but before I had all my nicknacks within sorted to my proper mind, it was the end of December. The ruminating leisure of the Old Bachelor in the old Scottish Village began thus with the New Year.
GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE SCOTTISH PEOPLE. The Scotch are a peculiar people. Strong are the lights of their national character, and deep the shadows. From the earliest times they seem to have been grave and enthusiastic, impatient of the interference of strangers, steady in their old attachments, and slow in forming new ones. This was already their character when they were roused to oppose the systematic attempts of Edward I. to subdue their liberties; and, in reaction, there can be no doubt that this time of peculiar peril and exerted patriotism helped strongly to fix the leading features of the people. Danger taught them suspicion, and caution, and watchfulness; and the frequent sore defeats which their little bands had to endure, in a protracted struggle with well-appointed and superior numbers, mixed a wild pathos with the stern and
GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE SCOTTISH PEOPLE.
short breathings of vengeance vowed anew. Brief intervals of enjoyment, the more fervently enjoyed because beset by a thousand calls to renewed toil, and ever liable to be mingled with regrets for the past, and the sense of still coming danger; the grave and thoughtful consideration of grey-headed sires, mingled with the forebodings of old women, and relieved by the inspiration of minstrels, and by the fierce jest and careless farewell of the young warrior, poignant from the brooding heart, but flung recklessly forth to cheat the fears of his aged parent, or the maiden of his love,—all this may account in part for the expression of our early national temper, in which humour, and pathos, and resolve are so curiously blent. In later times, if we look to the general character of the Scotch, in connexion with the external mode of the Christian faith to which they cling, we find them strongly intellectual, and impatient of anything like a spiritual yoke. The English are a reserved people : The gesticulations of the Continental races are an abomination to them : They are shy in displaying the softer part of our nature : Their peculiar humour is often nothing more than pathos checked, curbed, and turned queerly aside by their sense of shame at being caught giving way tender-heartedly. Such being the national temperament, no wonder the English took kindly to the Reformation, with its soberer ritual, and less ostentatious outward show of emotional worship. If the English are reserved, the Scotch are still more so; and hence at the Reformation they proceeded much farther than their southern neighbours in reducing their religious ordinances to a severe simplicity. The attempt of England, in the time of the Stuarts, to impose Episcopacy upon Scotland, besides being in the first place directly at variance with the wishes of the latter nation, awoke the remembrance of former attempts from the same quarter to impose a civil government; and thus Episcopacy became doubly associated with the idea of tyranny, making the Scotch cling still more closely to their own form of worship. We can easily see how these great national circumstances gave strength, and sturdiness,
religious enthusiasm to the Scottish character ; and it
is no less easy to see that they were likely to cause and confirm the leading national faults: These are a want of courtesy and softness in the expression of even their best affections ; suspicion and illiberality in their estimate of strangers, and of such as differ from them in their set opinions and modes of living ; disputatious habits ; pride and self-sufficiency. In matters of religion these faults are often carried to an offensive pitch. So determined are the Scotch to discard everything like outward ceremonial observance in their worship, and keep their ground aloof from Popery and Prelacy, that they will hardly allow themselves to be decent in the House of Prayer: Only listen in country parishes to the clamorous confabulations of the deaf old people around the pulpit ere the clergyman comes in ; look to the half of the worshippers taking their seats so soon as the minister gives any hint by the turn of his style, or the inflected cadence of his voice, that he is drawing towards the close of his prayer ; see the half-dozens that are leaving the church before the conclusion of the service, and the dozens who are seizing their hats, and brushing them with their elbows during the last blessing, the end of which they seem impatiently to wait for as the signal to clap them on their heads. And then the rage of the Scotch for preaching -nothing but preaching! Why, the very days of their Sacraments are called the “ preaching days.'
preaching days.” I mean merely to say that they lay far too much stress on the intellectual gratification of hearing clever preaching, compared with the far more important part of Sanctuary duty, namely, prayer and praise. And then every village has its bellwether or two of orthodoxy and heterodoxy; and there in the church the heckler or weaver, who aspires to lead the sense of the place, lies with his chin fixed on his two fists on the board before him, gaping and grinning from his maud, to catch the speaker, if he can, stumbling on the borders of the “unsound.” And then how the village does ring with it next day, if anything bold and out of the beaten track has been said by the minister! And in this way the spiritual leadership of these bell-wethers is maintained ; and at every settlement of a pastor in the place, of course they have the parish at the wag of their disputatious and convincing forefinger. Such are some of the leading characteristics, good and bad, of the Scottish people, especially in their simple and unsophisticated villages. They have all the harsh and unamiable peculiarities I have mentioned; but then, again, they are sober and industrious, and only seem to keep more firmly in the indurated grain of their temper the stamp of religious discipline, the impress of Heaven. I will just add, in the way of general praise, that to see the old men, on a bright evening of the still Sabbath, in their light-blue coats and broad-striped waistcoats, sitting in their southern gardens on the low beds of camomile, with the Bible in their hands, their old eyes filled with mild seriousness, blent with the sun-light of the sweet summer-tide, is one of the most pleasing pictures of human life: And many a time with profound awe have I seen the peace of their cottages within,
and the solemn reverence of young and old, when some grey-haired patriarch has gathered himself up in his bed, and, ere he died, blessed his children.
OUR NEIGHBOURS. The strength and staple of the character of our Village lay in the small proprietors, styled variously Cock-lairds, Bonnet-lairds, Portioners, Feuars. Their little pendicles of land were held of a nobleman, whose ancestors had their feudal castle in the neighbourhood of the Village, or, to speak more properly, in the neighbourhood of whose feudal castle the Village had originally been built. Those who had enough to support themselves and their families on their “ quarter," “ husband,” or “cot” lands, generally lived by farming their own small poffle—which, by the way, they did very ill ; others, again, who had only a few stripes of possession in the run-rig crofts, added the trade of village blacksmith or joiner to the produce of their feus. The race was an honest, sturdy, harsh, and sternly Calvinistic one ; doing little obeisance to the neighbouring gen
try, and being much given to Dissent. Their chief indulgences were a horn of ale when the Village common was let for the summer, and the rental of the preceding season divided ; a general gaudeamus at the New Year; and the humours of their annual Fair. So much for our Cocklairds, who had dusty old parchments in dusty old trunks.
When I first left my home, a stripling, to push my fortune, what a great thing was our Fair! Not to speak of the goodly muster of trampers, randies, tinkers, jugglers, tinselled tumblers, and every picturesque curiosity of the human kind, we had our barn-dance in day-light, with its brisk hoo! hoo! and many a ringing smack of a kiss on the cherry-cheeked damsels, astonishing the array of an ordinary with its deray extraordinary over the way all the merry day. From all the dales around came the rattling lads to see the lambs and the lasses, with a sheep's eye for both; and when the market left the hill, our little town was choke full. Most of our rural fairs in the south of Scotland have declined within the last forty years, from a gradual change of trade and manners. There is now a shoemaker in every village, and the annual fair is now no longer the necessary resort for the fatherly purchaser of single-soled-out-steeks for six ramping young loons, three of them with him, and three of them herding to-day-but to see the races to-morrow. The weaver's trade has in many places passed away, like the metaphor of his own shuttle; and the gash goodwife has no longer her stall of the snow-white se'enteen-hunder” linen. Pewter has supplanted the ram's horn cutty; and the glib-tongued Ruthvens (Scoticé, Ribbons) from Selkirk, with their freckled curly-headed imps, tramp no longer to our fairs. The trade of the village cooper is gone to “staps :” his bent thumbs and his bickers are missed on the green: the tinman has dished him. There is also less frank roughness now in village manners ; less hauling and slapping and buying of ribbons for Jenny at the fair ; shier attempts now in the rural lad to put his budding manhood to the proof, by “ linking with” his sweatheart before the people in general, and before his father and sly-laughing sisters in