John Galt.

Sir Andrew Wylie of that ilk online

. (page 40 of 40)
Online LibraryJohn GaltSir Andrew Wylie of that ilk → online text (page 40 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

doubted that it is easier to write the first than the last chapter
of a book. Every one of our readers must have seen, that the
laird's death, though it no doubt delayed, yet it was not an
event calculated to subtract any thing from the happiness of our


hero. Indeed, within as short a period as decency would permit,
and shorter too than the prudent Miss Mizy thought decent,
Mary and the baronet were united. It would have afforded us
the greatest pleasure to describe the notable tasks and cares
which Miss Mizy took upon herself at the wedding how she
received a roving commission from her niece, the heiress and
bride, to go into Glasgow, and, in conjunction with Miss Peggy
Picken, there to make the most judicious purchases for the
bridal paraphernalia in what manner, for two whole days, the
judicious maiden gentlewomen went from shop to shop, inspect-
ing and pricing the articles, until they~had ascertained where
the best could be got cheapest how Miss Peggy caught a
severe cold in the reconnoitre, and was obliged to wear a piece
of red flannel round her throat, a most sovereign remedy, when
they sallied forth to make the actual purchases in what manner
they were received on that occasion, in consequence of, having
taxed the politeness and civility of the shopkeepers, to the utmost
stretch of human patience, in the preliminary visits but all
these things would demand a circumstantiality of narration
totally incompatible with the rapid summation of a concluding
chapter. Let it suffice then to say, that Sir Andrew and Mary,
after being three several Sundays proclaimed in church, were
united by Mr Symington at The Place in the holy bands of
matrimony, in presence only of the venerable grandmother, Mr
Tannyhill, and the servants, Miss Mizy acting as bridemaid.
On this occasion Bell Lampit, seeing old Martha affected to
tears, thought proper, at the conclusion of the blessing, to tune
her pipes, and send forth a most vociferous sobbing and wail ;
which, however, instead of awakening any sympathy, set all
present a-laughing.

Lord and Lady Sandy ford had, immediately after the laird's
death, returned to Chastington Hall, where, as soon as an easy
^journey permitted, they were visited by the happy pair.

During that visit, much to the surprise of the Marquis of
Avonside, Sir Andrew accepted the Chiltern Hundreds, and
ended his parliamentary career; an event which the marquis
attributed to the exercise of some sinister influence on the part
of the Earl of Sandyford, whom his lordship considered as envi-


ous of the address by which he had secured the great talents of
the baronet to the ministerial side. Sir Andrew also, at the
same time, closed his lucrative connexion with Mr Vellum,
declaring, that he was satisfied with the fortune he had acquired.
The earl and countess again urged him to become their neigh-
bours, and Castle Rooksborough, which his lordship had in the
mean time purchased, was formally offered as a temptation ; but
firm in his intention to promote the welfare of his native coun-
try, he resisted alike the solicitations of interest and friendship,
and returned to Scotland, where he has since continued to

, reside permanently; making, however, occasional visits with his
lady to his old southern friends in the last of which he heard
that Ferrers, who occasioned so much unhappiness to the coun-
tess, had been killed in the Peninsula; and that the rector, who
was also dead, had amply provided for the orphan Monimia.

The only part of our hero's conduct which has excited any
speculation, and we mention it without comment, since it may
be deemed equivocal, is the manner in which he has acted
towards his grandmother. Many of the villagers at Stoneyholm
thought, when he rebuilt the mansion-house of Wylie, that he
ought to have removed Martha to it ; indeed Lady Wylie herself
was very urgent with the old woman to live with them, but the
baronet said nothing; while Martha declared that they would
both better show their regard, by allowing her to spend the even-
ing of her days in her own way, peaceably in the service of him
who had vouchsafed, of his own free grace, to shed such unme-
rited abundance on her declining years.

By an arrangement conducted through the medium of Sir
Archibald Maybole, Mr Symington got a call to the parish of
Auchinward ; and Mr Tannyhill, to the surprise and delight of
the people, who had long venerated his amiable and gentle dis-
positions, was promoted from the school to the church, where he
still exercises with undiminished mildness the pastoral duties of
the cure. On a late occasion, when in the neighbourhood, we
went to his " Examine," chiefly drawn thither by mere curiosity,
many years having passed away since we were present at any
thing of the kind. We found him seated in the venerable carver?

, walnut elbow-chair, amidst the elders, in the session-house, lis-


tening with patient affection to the replies of the youth of both
sexes assembled ; and it seemed to our observant eyes, that he
often sighed to remark how much they were inferior in religious
knowledge to their orthodox parents. Among others present
was a lad, Robin Kennedy, clothed in the sprucest cut of clipping
Jock, who, under the style and title of Mr Shaper, had, after a
three months' insight with Messrs Buts and Lining, clothiers on
the South Bridge of Edinburgh, supplanted his old master,
Thomas Steek, in the business of the young farmers of the
parish. Robin Kennedy was dressed in his Sunday suit ; but
happening unfortunately to be seated on a bench where a nail
protruded, in standing up to answer the question, " What does
every sin deserve ?" he tore his breeches, and exclaimed, looking
back at the nail, and feeling the wounded corduroy " God's
curse!" "Very well, Robin," said Mr Tannyhill ; "but soberly
and coolly."

For some reason or another not explained in any satisfactory
manner to the public, Miss Mizy is permitted to enjoy The
Place by herself, where she is sometimes visited by the baronet
and Lady Wylie, with their children. But on those occasions
the drawing-room is always carefully locked ; for the children,
as she has herself assured us, are such tempests, particularly the
boys, that they have no mercy on the furniture. One of them,
before the precaution of locking the door, actually picked off the
putty which, as we have described, concealed the face of the
blooming May in the emblematic picture of that month. And
here we should not omit to inform our readers, that when we
last, called at The Place, Miss Mizy told us that in sorting some
old papers she had made a great literary discovery; namely, a
volume written by her brother, in his own handwriting, con-
taining, as she assured us, " a most full account of all manner
of particularities anent the decay of the ancient families of the
west country," a work that we have some reason to hope Sir
Andrew may induce her to transmit to us, in order that we
may arrange it for publication ; for though " the laird," as she
observed, " wasna a man of book lair, he had yet a nerve at
observation, and a faculty to note whatsoever came to pass, in a
manner just extraordinar, as any rational person, no over critical


about points and phrases, may very clearly discern." Should
the baronet succeed in procuring the manuscript, we shall lose
no time in sending it to press for the entertainment and edifica-
tion of the public. Meanwhile, having brought his own bio-
graphy to a close, we leave him, as all heroes ought to be left,
in the full enjoyment of the manifold gifts and felicities which
prudence and good fortune united can procure.





THE criticisms on " Sir Andrew Wylie," at the time of its appear-
ance, were of a very mixed character. Some of them were tissues
of sheer abuse, against the reception of which the obvious malig-
nity was a sufficient caveat ; and some were prompted by an evident
envy of that popularity which " The Annals," " The Legatees,"
and " The Provost," had secured to the author. Only one or two
were fair, and acknowledged the merits of the book when
compared with the productions just mentioned as of a mixed

For the first time in this series of works, the author trode upon
English ground, and ventured upon a delineation of the most arti-
ficial, of all states of existence aristocratic society. The task
was one for which neither his powers nor his tastes were peculiarly
adapted ; but when we regard the character of Lord Sandy ford,
which is drawn with philosophical nicety, it would be harsh to say
that he has altogether failed. The episode of the gipsies, although
in some degree an excrescence on the main story, is acutely and
picturesquely managed ; and the language of the old mother, in
assuming the tone of the sybil, is often impregnate'd with high
poetical feeling.

It would be vain, however, to conceal that the Scottish parts of
the narrative are by far the best, and that the characteristic genius
of the author is much more vividly displayed in the first and third
volumes. The old grandmother, Martha Tannyhill, the gentle
and modest " dominie " Miss Mizy the Laird and Mary Cun-
ningham are all sketches full of life, and faithfully true to nature ;
nor do Bell Lampit and Daft Jamie find less willingly a place in
our recollections. The hero himself is drawn with great vigour
and boldness, but, perhaps, is after all the most questionable in the
book if we regard its probabilities.

Sir Andrew Wylie was in England the most popular of all Mr


Gait's writings. To what it owed this pre-eminence, if not from
the greater admixture of English dialogue and portraiture, it would
be difficult to say.

The annotations are restricted, principally for the reason already
mentioned, to a few illustrative remarks by Mr Gait himself.

"Of all my manifold sketches, 'I repine most at an alteration
which I was induced, by the persuasion of a friend, to make, on
the original tale of Sir Andrew Wylie ; as it now stands, it is more
like an ordinary novel than that which I first projected, inasmuch
as, instead of giving, as intended, a view of the rise and progress
of a Scotchman in London, it exhibits a beginning, a middle, and
an end, according to the most approved fashion for works of that
description. But no particular story is engrafted on my original
idea, and perhaps, the book by the alteration is greatly improved ;
it is not, however, the work I had planned, in which certainly
there would have been no such episode as the gipsies introduced
an episode, however, which I have heard frequently mentioned
as the best contrived part of the narrative.

" The second edition was inscribed to my amiable friend the
Earl of Blessington, in consequence of a remark which his lord-
ship made to me when he was reading it ; speaking of Lord Sandy-
ford's character, he observed, that it must be very natural, for, in
the same circumstances, he would have acted in a similar manner,
and he seemed not to have the least idea, that he was himself the
model of the character : perhaps I never received so pleasing a
compliment. Of course the story has nothing to do with his lord-
ship ; indeed in selecting scenes and incidents for the likenesses I
endeavour to portray, I only aspired to make my dramatis personce
speak and act after the manner of the models ; just as Sir Joshua
Reynolds persuaded the first Lord Duncan to stand to him as
Jupiter, in the celebrated picture of Hercules strangling the ser-
pents, which he painted for that arch-empress Catherine II., as
emblematic of the progress of civilization in the Russian empire."

" Origin of the interview between Sir Andrew Wylie and King George

the Third; with anecdotes of other members of the royal family."

" At the suggestion of a friend, I am induced to mention several

accidental circumstances, which he thinks will be amusing to my

readers, particularly to give an explanation of the origin of the


interview, in Windsor Park, between Sir Andrew Wylie and George
the Third. He informs me, that it is considered as the transcript
of a real occurrence, and that I am supposed to have had, myself,
a meeting with his majesty similar to the scene described ; other-
wise, it is thought, his familiar manner could not have been so

" The supposition is not correct in fact, but the impression which
I entertain of two droll incidents with the ' half gilly, half gut-
chard* old king, has contributed to the force of the picture. Some
eight-and-twenty years ago, my friends, Park and Spence, were in
London, and I went with them to see Windsor Castle. Wyatt's
great staircase was then nearly finished, but the interior scaffolding
was not all removed. In looking at the construction, I got up the
main flight of steps, and was gazing about, when the king was
announced. Before I could could get down, his majesty, with tho
architect, came in, and I was obliged, in consequence, to remain
for some time standing where I was.

" The king observed us, particularly myself, who was so con-
spicuous, and lingered with Mr Wyatt, until he had satisfied his
curiosity by looking at us ; speaking all the time, ' his tongue
never lay,' and looking about as he was speaking. It was evident
that he spoke more at random than seriously addressed the archi-
tect, being occupied in noticing us. Something in his manner
drew my attention, and from that interview, which lasted proba-
bly several minutes, I caught a durable remembrance of his pecu-
liarities. I see him still.

" The other occasion was still more characteristic of the good in-
tentioned venerable man. It was on the morning of that day, on
which he dissolved the parliament of the Whig administration,
formed after the death of Mr Pitt. I happened to be with a
friend, at morning prayers, in the oriel chapel of the Castle.
The king was there, and the late princess Amelia, with a few at-
tendants, besides the gentlemen of the chapelry ; in all, about
twenty persons. It was a sight worthy of remembrance. The
old man remained seated, with an humble worshipping demeanour,
while the prayer for the king was said, but he stood up, and re-
peated aloud, with pathos, the petition for the people.

" With this really touching solemnity, all gravity, however, fled
from me. It is well known that his majesty was very near-sighted,


a defect which caused him to hold the prayer-book close to hia
face : over the top of the leaves, with the sly simplicity of an
urchin at school, he frequently took a peep at us, but whenever he
caught my eye, cowered, as it were, down, afraid, and e conned
his task' in the most exemplary manner. The way he did this
was exceedingly amusing ; but the worst of it was, that I could
not conceal the effect, and accordingly ' I and the king' con-
tinued to play at bo-peep during all the remainder of the service.

" To these two incidents, as they may be called, I owe those
particular traits of individuality which have been embodied in the
scene with Sir Andrew Wylie ; and which, I must believe, are not
unlike. I know, from good authority, that George the Fourth re-
marked, in reading the description, it was ' by far the likest por-
trait of his majesty he had ever seen.'

" It often struck me, that the late Duke of Kent had much of his
father's manner. I was, for many years immediately preceding his
death, honoured with his royal highness's condescension, and I have
still, among my papers, several curious documents which he gave
to me, illustrative of domestic matters in the royal family. The
occasion was this : circumstances, which need not be explained, led
him to incur debts, and he was advised, I think foolishly, to apply
to parliament to discharge them. He mentioned the circumstance
to me, and I took the liberty of at once condemning the advice.
From less to more, he mentioned it had been suggested to him that
he had a legal claim. This I knew he had not ; and sensible, that
an application on such a ground might lead to unpleasant discus-
sions, I recommended him to consult competent legal advisers.

" His royal highness, knowing that I was acquainted with Sir
Archibald Macdonald, who had been chief baron, put the papers
into my custody, to show to him, and requested me to sound him on
the subject. Sir Archibald, at once pronounced the same opinion
that I had done, and went immediately to Sir William Grant, the
eminent master of the rolls, who also concurred, and strongly de-
precated any sort of public proceeding. I reported progress, and,
in the end, the duke did not apply for public money, though he
conferred on the subject with different influential gentlemen.

" Among these papers, was a long well- written letter, by the
duke himself, to his brother the Prince Regent, noticing some of
the circumstances alluded to. His royal highness sent a groom to


me for the copy of this letter, before five o'clock in the morning,
on the day he left London for the last time, when he went to the
west of England : the other papers he allowed to remain.

" By the way, to this untimeously sending of the groom, ' there-
by hangs a tale,' when should be told as an anecdote of that sin-
gular good nature, which is peculiar to the members of the royal

" His Royal Highness was in the practice of commanding me to
come to him, often at times very inconvenient ; frequently, be-
tween five and six o'clock, which was my dinner hour. This
had occurred more than once ; and one day, when I was
engaged to a particular party, it so vexed me that without
once, in my fit of self-absorption, thinking of his rank, I resolved
to have an end put to the custom. Accordingly, frying with
anger, and growing fiercer as I walked faster through Hyde
Park to the palace, by thinking of the inconvenience, I was
shown into the room where the duke was sitting, and began
immediately to deliver myself of my cogitations. He listened
for a short time, and, before I had done, gave an exceed-
ingly good-natured laugh at my remonstrance. It dissolved the
spell ; I saw at once my absurd violation of etiquette, and knew not
where to look. But, with a kind of boyish playfulness, he good-
humouredly admitted the justice of my complaint. After that
time, he generally requested me to come at hours which he
thought would be convenient. With the exception of this final
message, he was always very considerate. An early riser, the
hour was of no importance to him.

" I have also had occasion to be sensible of the affability of the
Duke of York, on several particular occasions ; quite often enough
to justify a man in my station to be more than pleased. It will
be recollected, that a public dinner was arranged in commemoration
of George the Third, ostensibly, but really to get up a subscrip-
tion to defray the expense of a monumental group of sculpture.
Nothing could be more flattering than the prospect ; the Duke of
York agreed to take the chair, and the whole clanjamphry of the
court promised to attend. But after all 'this beauteous dawn,'
some of the back-stair gentry went to his royal highness, and
remonstrated with him against countenancing such a subscription ;
the duke, in consequence, determined not to go, which was, of course,
' A sign for all the courtiers to be sick. '

3. 2 G


" It was evident, that every one who had taken an interest in
the festival, stood on the imminent verge of ridicule. It could not
be put off without great expense. I went to Lord Blessington, who
was one of the stewards, and represented to him how we all stood.
After much consideration, it was determined to try how we could
work upon the duke ; so accordingly, we walked to the Horse
Guards together, and got his royal highness's promise to come on
condition that nothing should be said about the subscription. The
dinner thus passed off ' charmingly well,' with all its constella-
tions, and I dare say is remembered even to this hour ; but the
monumental group ' lies mouldering in the clay,' nor has the secret
of the duke's coming to the barren feast been, till now, disclosed.

" The Duke of York, like all the refined of the human race, had
a very civilized regard for choice cookery. Once, at some Scottish
feast, or dinner of the Highland Society, I was sitting opposite, when,
with an air, the landlord placed before him a haggis. It was evi
dently ill made ; the bag was dingy altogether an ugly, flabby,
desultory trencherful of e fat things. ' The duke, alarmed at the
apparition, cried to me, ' Gait, what is that ?' Fascinated at th$
sight, I could not resist the temptation, and replied gravely, ( a
boiled pair of bagpipes.' Tell it not in Gath, even at the risk of
being reviled in Scotland for ever, his royal highness immediately
ordered the

* Great chieftain of the pudding race*
ignominiously away.

" For the kind notice of the Duke of Sussex, I have now, in the
course of a long period, about seven-and-twenty years, had
frequently occasion to feel indebted. His Royal Highness has
always treated me with the greatest condescension ; invited me to
dine with him at the palace, and to his conversations ; but his
uniform kindness has been more valued than even these dis-

" To the other members of the royal family, I am unknown ; but
the late king, when he read the ' Spaewife,' was pleased to express
a wish that the author should know it had given him much plea-
sure, and spoke to me on my first introduction at court; an
honour, as I was told.

" I mention these things, because the propriety of doing so has
been suggested to me ; at the same time, that I frankly confess



marks of distinction have been ever agreeable to me, but I have
great doubts of having accomplished anything deserving of notice.
The man does not know himself, who is not constantly apprehen-
sive lest he mistake, in his vanity, notoriety for reputation ; the
recognition of the privileged great of society is not of any value,
without the consciousness of having done something to deserve it,"
GALT'S Autobiography, Vol. ii. p. 274283.



This book is DUE on the last date stamped below.

Fine schedule: 25 cents on first day overdue

50 cents on fourth day overdue
One dollar on seventh day overdue.






Online LibraryJohn GaltSir Andrew Wylie of that ilk → online text (page 40 of 40)