James Johnson.

The recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides online

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the ties above-mentioned, but takes away the power of indulging those
feelings on which they are founded, even if the feelings themselves
remained unimpaired. The maintenance of an aged parent or decrepit
relation, in the glens or mountains, is a very different thing from the
same act of humanity or charity in a sea-port or manufacturing town.
In the former locality, it is scarcely an incumbrance in the latter, for
obvious reasons, it is a serious tax, which few can pay !

But the progressive preponderance of manufacture and commerce
over agricultural and pastoral pursuits, whatever may be the attendant
evils, is inevitable and for this simple reason, that the latter are
limited to the soil which we possess ; whereas the former are almost
illimitable, in the present state of the world. The increase of popula-
tion must have vent ; and where employment presents itself, there will
human industry rush to gain bread. But whether the present High-
land experiment of giving an artificial check to agriculture, in favour
of pasturage, thereby forcing additional numbers into manufacture, will
be productive of good or evil, I must leave to the consideration of Miss
Martineau, and the political economists. The following extract from
Colonel Stewart will convey some idea of the effects of this transition.

" This change appears in the character and condition of the High-
landers, and is indicated, not only in their manners and persons, but in
the very aspect of their country. It has reduced to a state of nature
lands that had long been subjected to the plough, and which had
afforded the means of support to an useful, happy, and contented popu-



lation. It has converted whole glens and districts, once the abodes of a
vigorous and independent race of men, into scenes of desolation. It
has torn up families which seemed rooted like Alpine plants, in the soil
of their elevated region, and which, from their habits and principles,
appeared to be its original possessors, as well as its natural occupiers
and forced them thence, penniless and unskilful, to seek a refuge in
manufacturing towns, or betake themselves to the wilds of a far-distant
land. The spirit of speculation has invaded those mountains which no
foreign enemy could penetrate, and expelled a brave people whom no
warlike intruder could subdue." Vol. i.,p. 117.

A striking feature in the revolutionized Highlander is, his compa-
rative indifference towards chiefs and landlords. And no wonder !
When his lands are put up to the highest bidder, (who very frequently
becomes a bankrupt in the end,) there can be no great sympathy
between lord and man. The evil is extending; and even the tenants
of kind and patriotic landlords are becoming affected by the gloom and
despondency of those who complain of harsher treatment.

" The natural enthusiasm of the Highland character has, in many
instances, been converted into gloomy and morose fanaticism. Theo-
logical disputes, of interminable duration, now occupy much-of the time
formerly devoted to poetical recitals, and social meetings. These cir-
cumstances have blunted their romantic feelings, and lessened their
taste for works of imagination. Their taste for music, dancing, and all
kinds of amusements, has been chilled. Their evening meetings, when
they do occur, are too frequently exasperated by political and religious
discussions, or complaints against their superiors. Even the aspect of
the Highlander, his air and his carriage, have undergone a marked
change. Guided by the sublime and simple truths of Christianity, the
Highlanders were strangers to the very existence of sects that have
branched off from the national church. In this respect, their charac-
ters and habits have undergone a considerable change since they began
to be visited by itinerant missionaries, and since the gloom spread over
their minds has tended to depress their spirit. I fear that some of the
new teachers think more of implicit faith in their own doctrines than
of good works in their disciples and that morals are, in general, left
to the teaching and control of the laws." Ib.

But the most curious and important piece of information produced by
Colonel Stewart is this that the Highlanders practised the doctrines of
Malthus for centuries before that political economist was born.

" A great check to population was found in those institutions and
habits which, except in the retaliation of wrongs, and spoliation of
cattle, served all the purposes for which laws are now enforced. While


the country was portioned out amongst numerous tenants, none of their
sons were allowed to marry, till they had obtained a house , a farm, or
some certain pro sped of settlement, unless, perhaps, in the case of a son
who was expected to succeed his father. Cottagers and tradesmen were
also discouraged from marrying, till they had a house, and means of
providing for a family. These customs are now changed. The system
of throwing whole tracts of country into one farm, and the practice of
letting lands to the highest bidder, occasions gloomy prospects, and the
most fearful uncertainty of tenure. Yet, as if in despite of Malthus,
these discouragements, instead of checking population, have removed
the restraint which the prudent foresight of a sagacious peasantry had
formerly imposed on early marriages. Having now no sure prospect of
a permanent settlement, they marry whenever inclination prompts
them. The propriety of marrying when young, they defend on this
principle, that their children may rise up around them, while they are
in the vigour of life, and ahle to provide for their maintenance ; and
that they may thus insure support in their own old age, for no High-
lander can ever forego the hope that, while he has children able to sup-
port him, he will never be allowed to want." Vol. i. p. 85.

This is a very ingenious doctrine, and probably the true one. In
England, where children will see their parents go to the workhouse, with
perfect nonchalance, the above doctrine would not be understood; and
hence Malthus and Martineau have written on the wrong -side of the
Tweed. As I observed before, there will be an end of these ties, after
the manufacturing or littoral population shall have advanced a few
grades in civilization, and learnt to look with contempt on the old-
fashioned filio-paternal bonds between parent and progeny !

When poor-laws come into operation, too, as in England, the reasons
for early marriage will be different, though the bad consequences will be
the same. In happy England, the poor-laws offer a double premium
to early marriage without prospect of independence. In the first place,
every pauper receives relief in proportion to the number of children he
can produce: in the second place, the married pauper obtains work
from the farmers, in preference to the single one ! Here, then, is the
double premium for imprudent (it should rather be called prudent)
marriages and redundant population ! !

M 2



From Glenkinglass we make a bend to the right, and enter Glencroe
a valley very frequently confounded with Glencoe though as inferior
to the latter as a satyr is to Hyperion. The valley of Glencroe is a hill
at least the centre of it. The famous pass of " REST AND BE THANK-
FUL," rises in the middle, some six or seven hundred feet above the
general level of the glen, though still in a valley, as respects the sur-
rounding scenery. A very good idea may be formed of Glencroe and
"REST AND BE THANKFUL," by supposing that the road from Somers Town
to Hendon was flanked on each side by craggy, barren, and precipitous
mountains. The highest point of Hampstead would then be " REST
AND BE THANKFUL," and nearly as high as the renowned pass in the
Highlands. From this spot, however, the scenery is wild and interest-
ing. With the exception of a small strip of ground on the right of
the road in the hollow, with a few cots and cattle, all is silence and
solitude. The COBLER seems to be the sole inhabitant of this dreary
tract ! Upon the authority of MacCulloch, we are bound to find a
" striking resemblance " between the craggy summit of a mountain,
and a cobler working at his last. I tried, in various directions, to find
out the similitude, but without success. It is as much like a cobler as
it is like a crocodile, or a cow, or a crab. After puzzling my imagina-
tion for half an hour, I suddenly stumbled on the truth it is the cobler
that is like a rock, not the rock like a cobler !

But I would not be understood as denying all resemblance between
the rock in question and a cobler, for the following reasons. In the
first place, it appears that the heirs of the Campbells, in this country,
were obliged to mount the precipice, before they could inherit the pro-
perty of their forefathers. In the second place, we find that Doctor
MacCulloch, without any hope of inheritance, had the temerity or
curiosity to scale this gigantic pinnacle, at the hazard of his life, with
hammer in hand and satchel on back and, what was far worse, with a
pair of seven-league-boots on his nether limbs ! ! " Thus clambering,
and thus moralizing, I reached the summit of the ridge, and found
myself astride on this rocky saddle, with one foot in Loch Long, and the
other in Glencroe." Such being the case, the story of the " Seven-
league-boots " is no longer a fable. At such an interesting period, the
summit of the crag may very possibly have presented some similitude
to a cobler. This airy pinnacle, we are informed by the same autho-
rity, is as sharp as the edge of a razor another source of the sublime


and the dangerous. " I was surprised to find the summit so acute.
It was the bridge of Al Sirat the very razor's blade over which the
faithful are to walk into Paradise." Dr. M. justly observes, that
" there is a pride and a pleasure in surmounting difficulties, even when
there is no one present to applaud." Perched on this giddy pyramid
of Nature, far above the storm's career, the celebrated geologist and
philosopher might have naturally compared himself to the giant genius
of the Andes, when that creation of the poet's fancy seats himself on
the highest peak of Chimborazzo, and

" With meteor standard to the winds unfurl'd,

Looks from his throne of clouds o'er half the world."

Dr. M. assures us that, from the Cobler, the scene is magnificent.
He could contemplate it without anxiety, or fear of slipping off the
narrow path to Paradise. The cliffs themselves, he observes, form a
set of objects, at once sublime and picturesque especially the square
mass, at the western extremity, which rises, in lofty magnificence, more
than two hundred feet perpendicular, like a gigantic tower rooted on
the mountain's brow.

Politely declining the invitation to " rest and be thankful," we
passed through Glencroe descended on Loch Long, at Arroquhar
swept round the head of the lake, amidst fine scenery and crossed the
neck of land that separates Loch Long from Loch Lomond over
which HACO'S sailors carried their ships on their shoulders, in days of
yore * !

Embarking once more in the little steamer, we whisk round Loch
Lomond, striking up Diana Vernon's song while passing Rob Roy's
cave a salutation which must be very gratifying to the old LIFTER, if
his spirit be still wandering among these mountains and, debarking
on the eastern bank of this romantic lake, refresh ourselves with salmon,
whiskey, and sound sleep, preparatory to the ascent of Old BEN.

* In the course of a preceding tour, we crossed from Inverary to the opposite side of
Loch Fine, in a daily passage-boat, and then made our way to Loch Goyle-head, through
HELL VALLEY, (a veritable VALLEE D'ENFER,) which is very little inferior to Glencroe
in some respects it is superior. To those who have a day to spare at Tnverary or
to those who are anxious to make a speedy march from Inverary to Glasgow I would
recommend this route. The scenery of Hell Valley is as wild as Glencroe, and it illus-
trates the depopulating system of the Highlands in the most exquisite manner. Not a
human being is seen in this romantic valley ; though many vestiges of its former inha-
bitants are still suffered to remain on each side of the road !

That inimitable actor, YATES, (who can imitate all others,) might have placed the
scene of his " Deserted Village" in HELL VALLEY, to advantage! And is there a LADY
on the stage, who could more forcibly pourtray the pangs of human nature, in virtuous
adversity, than Mrs. Yates? Not one.



The rains that fertilize England and other countries, only tend to
sterilize poor old Scotland ! The Atlantic Ocean has waged eternal
war against the Highland mountains, and almost daily pours a shower
of shot and shells, of grape and canister on their devoted heads. But
the warrior of the western wave has sturdy combatants to deal with. It
is true that he has shot away the cap and feathers from the head of
many a mountain chief; but their bald and rugged scalps may defy the
Atlantic bombardment for a hundred centuries to come ! These High-
land guerrillas stand as firm as a Macedonian phalanx, and roll back
the tide of war on their aggressor, who renews the combat, from day to
day, with inexhaustible energy. Vulcan appears to have been alarmed,
at some remote period, and to have inteqjosed a prodigious host of
basaltic peace-makers, or Grey police, between the combatants ; but
without success. Many of the interponents, indeed, have fallen in these
Highland and Hebridean forays, as Staffa, Sky, and Egg, can testify ;
but still the elemental war continues, and many a Sassenach wanderer,
besides myself, has had cause to lament the conflicts between these anta-
gonising powers !

Bird's-eye views in the Highlands are not those to which we may look
with much anticipation of pleasure. From the summit of Ben-Nevis,
Ben-Lawers, Ben-Cruachan, or Ben-Lomond, the eye wanders over a
sea of mountains, and a multitude of lakes ; but monotony is predomi-
nant throughout. The lakes may present a variety of shapes, and the
mountains a diversity of altitude ; but the haze of the air and the heath
of the earth produce a dulness of uniformity that ends in something of
disappointment. The prospect is expansive but the view is indistinct.
It is vain it is injudicious, to compare mountain scenery in the High-
lands with the same in Switzerland or Italy. In Scotland, we have not
the dazzling snows, the glittering glaciers, the stupendous precipices,
the tropical verdure, the beautiful villages, the exquisite cultivation, the
pellucid atmosphere, and the glorious suns of the Alps, the Pyrenees,
and the Apennines. The views of the Jura, the Righi, the Col de
Balme, or Vesuvius, are not to be expected from the Caledonian moun-
tains. But these last have a character of their own not indeed of that
" cold sublimity " appertaining to the high Alps, or of that burning
splendor inherent in Apennine scenery but of a solemn, sombre, and
I had almost said sullen cast, peculiar to themselves, and to themselves


The view from Ben-Lomond commands a greater variety, though not
a greater extent of scenery, than Cruachan, Lawers, or even Ben-
Nevis. A brisk gale blew from the westward the sun shone bright
the white clouds sailed rapidly along, veiling and unveiling the summits
of the mountains, and chequering with their shadows the valleys and
the plains between.

" Shade follows shade, as laughing zephyrs drive,
And all the chequered land>cape seems alive."

EASTWARD, the eye wanders over cultivated plains, and classic vales,
castellated rocks, winding rivers, and wealthy towns, till it rests, at the
utmost verge of the horizon, on the intellectual city the Athens of the

WESTWARD, we behold a succession of lakes and woods, of mountains
and valleys, of promontories and precipices, of harbours and ships, of
islands and oceans.

SOUTHWARD, Glasgow and the Clyde darken the atmosphere with
their thousand furnaces. We see the wreaths of smoke which they are
constantly belching forth ; and we almost hear the clanking of their
engines, and the murmur of their machinery.

NORTHWARD, we behold a vast and tumultuous sea of mountains
and mists, where the billows often appear towering above the clouds,
and the clouds rolling down into the abysses of the waves. All is a
moving chaos, conveying some idea of the primordial elements, when
about to be separated into air, earth, and ocean *.

For an amplification, usque ad nauseam, of these brief characteristics,
see the descriptions of sentimental and picturesque tourists, passim !

There is one comfort for travellers, that they may ride to very near
the summit of Ben-Lomond, with more ease than to the summit of
Skiddaw though with less chance of clear weather, when they get there.
But the journey is never without profit. The exercise, the mountain
air, the exhilaration of spirits, and the acquisition of health, are ample
equivalents for any disappointment as to prospect from the mountain's
airy brow.

* It is curious that the ancient Greek navigator, Pytheas, when describing ULTIMA
THULE, (now considered to be the Shetland isles,) asserts that " the climate of these
northern regions is neither earth, air, nor sea, but a chaotic confusion of these three
elements." From this passage, I infer that Pytheas had actually ascended Ben-Nevis
or Ben-Lomond, in a Highland mist. Italian, French, and American tourists make
nearly the same observation, without knowing that they were anticipated, by a Grecian
tourist, two thousand years ago ! There is nothing new under the suu !



I regret exceedingly that I am obliged to pass over this fine and
flourishing city, with little more than the briefest notice, though it
deserves half a volume ! If I am asked, why ? I really cannot tell.
We are unable to explain why an ordinary or even an ugly countenance
will sometimes attract our attention in the street, or in an assembly,
while fifty beautiful faces are passed unnoticed. The narrow, steep,
and somewhat malodorous wynds of AULD REEKIE, excited far more
vivid trains of thought in my mind, than the spacious squares and mag-
nificent streets of the New Town. I only state the fact philosophers
must explain the cause.

Glasgow appears to have been accidentally built over one of Pluto's
most fashionable DIVANS or of Vulcan's most extensive smitheries;
for, at each second of time, we see towering columns, or wreathing
volumes of the densest smoke, belched forth from a thousand infernal
lungs, through pipes or tubes of most gigantic altitudes and dimensions.
The only place which can rival or perhaps excel Glasgow, in this
respect, is BILSTON, near Birmingham, where the inhabitants inhale
more smoke and sulphur than if they lived in the crater of Vesuvius
during a smart eruption. The atmosphere of Glasgow is certainly
much less bright and exhilarating than that of Italy, or even of Edin-
burgh ; and no wonder, when we have so many tall and fuming pyra-
mids, each of them enceinte of a young volcano, threatening to illumine,
but actually darkening, the gloom of even a Caledonian climate !

Although great part of the city of Glasgow is little inferior in archi-
tecture to the New Town of Edinburgh, while it is infinitely more lively
and animated, yet there is something connected with the forges, the fur-
naces, the foundries, and the factories the steamers and the steam-
engines the tar and the hemp the cables and the anchors the
warehouses, casks, cotton bales, packing-cases, rum-puncheons, tobacco
hogsheads, and all the proteian forms and denominations which manu-
factures and merchandise assume that damped or annihilated my
romantic and picturesque ideas, and almost induced me to put a quill
behind my ear, and look as thoughtful as the crowds whom I met in
the streets*.

* " Bothwell and Blantyre may be termed the great frontier bulwarks of the poetical
and romantic part of the Clyde all beyond being the district of commerce, cotton-mill?,
coal-pits, and whatever else can disgust the lover of the primitive beauties of Nature.
The country below this point is, in fact, mill-ridden fairly subjugated, tamed, tor


In every countenance that we contemplate in Glasgow, we see calcu-
lation in every feature some rule of arithmetic, (especially addition or
multiplication,) as legible as in the pages of Cocker. In Edinburgh,
each physiognomy is characterized by the lineaments of either law,
physic, metaphysics, or divinity. In Glasgow, there is also MIND in
every face but it is " mind the main chance." At the time of my
first visit to the Western capital, however, it is but justice to say that
there was an additional element of calculation in every countenance
that of life and death. Choleraphobia intermingled its pale and lurid
hues with the tints of commercial anxiety and domestic affliction !
The inns and the theatres were deserted man seemed cautious of
associating with his species, except in places of public devotion funeral
processions superseded the cheerful promenade and the moral atmos-
phere was as sombre as the physical ! In a subsequent visit, I found the
streets as actively paced as those of the Strand or Cheapside the care
of commerce, but no longer the dread of pestilence, in every eye ! In
none of the principal streets did I see the arm-in-arm lounging of the
tipper classes, or the snuff-taking, toddy-tippling swarms of the lower
orders, as in Auld Reekie.

We all draw imaginary portraits of what we do not see. I had pic-
tured Glasgow, in my own mind, as an immense town, with narrow
streets, and chiefly occupied by weavers, spinning-jennies, and opera-
tives, of all descriptions, situated on the marshy banks of the Clyde. I
was rather surprised and gratified to find the CITY of Glasgow constructed
on the plan of the HOUSES in Edinburgh namely, on FLATS. Con-
trary to the order of rank in the intellectual city, however, I found the
lower flats in Glasgow occupied by the best houses, and consequently
the best tenants. The Clyde-flat, between St. George's Square and the
river, may compete with most parts of the New Town of Edinburgh.
Above George-street and Duke-street, rise various flats and gradations
of habitations and inhabitants till we come to the most surprising
phenomenon which I ever witnessed on any part of the earth's surface
A HARBOUR ON A HILL ! ! Looking up from one of the openings in
Argyle-street, I saw, or fancied, a grove of masts far above the highest
steeple in Glasgow ! Well ! thought I, if this be no spectral illusion,

merited, touzled, and Gulraivished, by the demon of machinery. Steam, like a pale mid-
night hag, kicks and spurs the sides of oppres-ed nature; while smoke rises on every
hand, as if to express the unhappy old dame's vexation and fatigue. The centre of this
is the city of Glasgow." Chambers' Picture of Scut/and.

Such is the picture drawn by a Scotchman, now living, and a warm friend to his
country. Yet, if an Knglisliman drew this picture, Glasgow would be up in arms
against him.


we need not wonder that " Birnam wood should come to Dunsiuane."
After half an hour's laborious ascent, scrambling from flat to flat, and
from factory to factory, among cotton and carbon, sulphur and soda, I
reached a lofty eminence that overlooked the great western metropolis,
and found myself in " PORT DUNDAS !" This eccentric PORT was
crowded with shipping not exactly equal in dimensions to those of the
East India Docks, but fully as respectable, perhaps, as those which
bore th'e eagled legions of Caesar to the shores of Britain, or the war-
riors of WODEN to the banks of Loch Lomond.

Sauntering eastward from " PORT DUNDAS," along the extended
arms of this HARBOUR ON THE HILL, and surveying, with wonder and
admiration, the singular scene that stretched down from this airy crest
to the margin of the Clyde this vast emporium of operatives this city
of the shuttle this community of cotton-spinners this world of weavers
and unwashed artisans, living in an atmosphere of smoke and steam
I came, unexpectedly, to the foot of a colossal statue not rivalling, cer-
tainly, in sculpture, the Farnese Hercules, or the Belvidere Apollo
but still the statue of a far better man, and a far greater hero than either
of them the HERO of the REFORMATION ! Hercules was ready enough
to dispense his club-law on all occasions ; but honest KNOX laboured
successfully in dispensing laws of a very different character among his

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Online LibraryJames JohnsonThe recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides → online text (page 21 of 28)