John Macculloch.

The Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, containing descriptions of their scenery and antiquities, with an account of the political history ... present condition of the people, &c. ... founded on a series of annual journeys between the years 1811 and 1821 ... in letters to Sir Walter Scott, bart (Volume 1) online

. (page 17 of 37)
Online LibraryJohn MaccullochThe Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, containing descriptions of their scenery and antiquities, with an account of the political history ... present condition of the people, &c. ... founded on a series of annual journeys between the years 1811 and 1821 ... in letters to Sir Walter Scott, bart (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 37)
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ture ocean, or its bold rocky promontories rising from the
deep water, rich in wild flowers and ferns, and tangled
with wild roses and honeysuckles, or its retired bays
where the waves sleep, reflecting, like a mirror, the
trees which hang over them ; an inverted and softened

Here, even the artist may find occupation : but there
is luuch also which is beyond the reach of art. Nor is
there any thing which is, at the same time, so beautiful
and so incapable of representation as one of its most
common features : the rich and graceful ash trees hang-
ing over the margin, and rooting themselves in the very
wash of the silvery waves, while the bright expanse of
water glistens between their trunks and through the in-
tervals of their drooping foliage. When the sun sets on
this delicious landscape, crimsoning the lofty summit of
Ben Lomond, throwing its yellow light on the glassy
water, and gilding every woody island, every grey rock,
and every tree, with its parting rays, while the evening"
smoke is seen curling blue vmder the shade of the wooded
hills, and the voice of the shepherd's boy and the low-
ing of cattle is heard breaking on the universal silence,
then it is that Loch Lomond is seen and felt as it deserves,
then alone is it appreciated. But thus will it be known,
only to the solitary traveller. There is a soul in the
scenCf a spirit in its whispering woods and tinkling
waves and airy hills, that shuns society, that flies the pro-
fanation of the noisy equipage and the glare of fashion
and folly, Procul O procul, ye gigs and barouches
and haberdashers : but it is in vain to anathematize them,
for they will follow you to Luss; making Luss long since
what the Gallowgate is, and now, unfortunately, making
Tarbet also what Luss was before.


On the east shore of the lake, the pass of Balmacha,
not far from Drymen, forms the Highland boundary;
but its position on the western side is not so strongly
indicated in the physical geography of the country.
Loch Lomond was thus a border country, and the Lennox,
with which it was conterminous, was therefore always sub-
ject, and, as it appears, in an unusual degree, to inva-
sion and plunder, and to forced contributions under the
title of black mail. A story is told at Luss, which is not un-
likely to be true, and which marks the cool and persever-
ing nature of some of the Highland feuds. It is of a gun,
said still to be preserved, which \fas planted in a house,
and from which the Colquhouns of Comstraden used to
fire at those of Luss, every Sunday, as they turned round
an exposed corner in their way to the church. But the
clan Alpin, or Mac Gregor, already mentioned, were
the Kers and Armstrongs of this district ; and I have
already noticed the fight of Glen Fruin, acted near the
very spot to which 1 have now brought you. The cir-
cumstances which relate to this affair are both obscure
and contradictory: but there seem reasons for believing
that this clan was unjustly marked as being more fero-
cious than its neighbours ; and that, however necessary
or right it Avas for the law to interfere, it was rather from
convenience and accident than from any peculiar de-
merits, that they were selected as subjects of the act of

It appears that they had long been in a state of hos-
tility with the Colquhouns of Luss, and that their Chief,
having attempted to settle these differences by an ami-
cable negotiation, was treacherously assaulted by a far
superior force of the enemy; notwithstanding which, he,
by greater skill and courage, gained a victory ; leaving
200 of the enemy dead on the field, including most of the


leading men, and making many prisoners. The loss on
the part of the Mac Gregors, as the tale is related by
themselves, was so trifling, that the Laird's brother and
one man only, were missing, although some were
wounded. The news of this event, as it is reported,
reached James VI. through the widows of the deceased,
who appeared at Stirling, in eolemn procession, each
bearing the bloody shirt of her husband displayed on a
pike. The consequence of this appeal was the act of
outlawry, already mentioned: and, if the narrative be
true, it was an unjust act, since the Colquhouns must
have merited, at least the same punishment as the victors.
If the right of private warfare was still permitted, it
should have been permitted to all; or else the whole
system should have been abolished by general laws, in
place of adopting a plan, at once vengeful and timid,
oppressive, because partial, and, at the same time, in-
efficient, both with respect to the whole country, and to
the peace of this particular district. It has been said, in
justification of the severity of this law, that the battle of
Glen Fruin was attended by circumstances of peculiar

The atrocious deed in question, which is however
denied by the Mac Gregors, was the murder of some
youths of the sept of Colquhoun, whom curiosity had
led to see the fight ; but graver historians have been so
much troubled to reconcile the discordant narratives of
mfich more important events, that the historian of the
Highlands, or the collector of traditions, need not much
regret if he also is unable to reconcile jarring narratives,
so as to satisfy all the parties concerned. These tales,
like those of ghosts, and many others, are best adapted
to a winter fire-side. I know not that they are desirable
commentaries on the lovely and peaceful scenes where


they have occurred, and which now speak of every thing
but rapine and bloodshed. I must confess that they af-
ford me little pleasure ; and if they give you as little, you
will prefer accounts of cascades and lakes and streams
and woods and mountains, to stories of anthropopliagi
like the Mac Gregors ; even though all the account that
words can give you of these delicious landscapes are
but unideal shadows.

The banks of Loch Lomond, not far from Smollet's
monument, display a modern Gothic castle, in which, if
the artist has failed to produce any thing very striking,
he has at least avoided absurdity, and, what commonly
accompanies it, extravagant expense : matters in which
the most fashionable architect of Scotland in this line,
has been remarkably successful. Doubtless, this inge-
nious person takes great credit to himself for his inven-
tions: and doubtless also it would trouble any one to
discover, either the use or ornament of all the pastry
which he has embodied in the shape of masonry. It is
a delicate matter to jest with architecture, or to try ex-
periments in stone and lime: partly on account of its
expensive nature if it proves a bad one, and partly on
account of the extreme durability of the jest. The castle
is a weapon particularly difficult to wield : and it is one
which has proved too weighty for most of the hands that
have attempted it.

If we analyze the elements of which castellated archir
tectnre consists, we shall find that this style admits of so
much variety, that scarcely any general system can be
formed from the works of the ancient artists in it ; and
that such a latitude is, in consequence, given to modern
imitation, that there is room for the unbounded exertions
of fancy. An appearance of strength, and the property
of being defensible, either against sudden insult or more


regular attacks, seem to be the only indispensable prin^
ciples which must be seen predominating through all the
variety which may be adopted. The supplementary parts,
whether these consist in the defensive works, or in the
mere ornaments of the building, have varied according to
the dates of the various structures which remain. They
have partaken of the rudest, and of the most refined
Gothic ; and they have descended, in time, till they
became contaminated with the no-style of Elizabeth
and James, and till nearly all traces of the Gothic man-
ner have disappeared. Yet even these buildings retain
peculiarities which are characteristic, and which bespeak
their uses.

To be more particular: the peculiar elements on
which their character depends, are to be seen in their
massive walls, their buttresses, their flanking and watch
towers, their machicolations, their spare and distant win-
dows, their ponderous and fortified gates, their loop-
holes and battlements, and in a few of the more trifling
ornaments in fashion at one time or another, the pre-
sence or absence of which produces little difference in
the general eflfect of the building. If, to all these, we
add a moat, and, as in some rare cases, a barbican out-
work, we have every thing of which an ancient castle
may consist. These simple elements, subject to no gene-
ral rules, but disposed according to the caprice or design
of the architects, have afforded us structures, of that infi-
nite variety and picturesque eflfect which we see in Car-
narvon, and Conway, and Raglan, and Pembroke, and
Caerphilly, and Kenilworth ; and in innumerable others,
equally well known, and unnecessary to enumerate. They
have varied in size as they have varied in disposition : yet
in almost all instances, they retain the peculiar character
of their style, and are productive of striking effects.


With the full power of I'ecofnpounding and varying,
or copying their material parts, it has still happened that
modern artists have almost invariably failed to convey
the same ideas, and to produce similar effects. If we
were asked for instances of failure, it would be a much
easier task to enumerate the examples of success. They
scarcely exist. A great part may be the fault of the ar-
chitect ; but not the whole. He is perhaps required to
combine the conveniences of a modern structure with the
aspect and effect of an ancient one ; two things, probably,
in themselves scarcely compatible. But it is he who is
in fault when he attempts to convey, merely by appear-
ances, and by ornaments instead of reality, that notion of
strength, of defence, and of solidity, which is, in fact,
inseparable from actual mass of masonry, from real
strength and capacity of being defended. The eye is
never deceived in this ; but detects the trick, and des-
pises the imposition. Hence, these imitations have the
effects of pasteboard models or of scenes in a theatre.
Thus the architect fails, even where his copy is genuine,
or his composition legitimate. When he has attempted,
on the other hand, to invent and compound for himself, it
has too often been his fate to fall into absurdities of his
own, which have produced a ludicrous and contemptible
building; either by incompatibility of combination, or by
those heterogeneous assemblages which we may witness
in many more places than I choose to enumerate.

But there is, beyond these, a difficulty to be over-
come, which perhaps no architect, however versatile his
fancy or profound his knowledge, can surmount. The
idea of a castle is, in reality, a very complicated one, and
does not depend on its architecture alone. It recalls to
the mind all our chivalrous and historical lore, all that of
which it was once the scene ; bringing in a lively man-


ner before us the deeds which were there acted; its
sieges, its defences, its feasts : the dark dungeon, the gay
hall, the tilt yard, and the solemn service of the chapel.
Here the modern building must fail. It is now also an
essential part of an ancient castle, that its towers are
perhaps in ruin ; the ivy mantles over its walls, its moat
is choaked with rubbish, and its stones are stained with
gray lichens, overgrown with mosses, and fringed with
wall flowers and tangling plants ; while the owl hoots
from its watch towers, and the jackdaw and the rook soar
over its roofless chambers. Take away all these adven-
titious, but powerful accompaniments, and the charm is
at an end. Here, still more, modern architecture must
fail : and were even Conway once more to come bright
from the mason's hand, with all its walls smooth and
fresh-jointed, its towers complete, and its gates and win-
dows entire, it ^yould probably fail to excite any great
admiration beyond that which depended on its bulk and
situation, and on the perfection of its workmanship.

The finest general view of the lake, that which con-
veys the most perfect idea of its lower portion, is ob-
tained from the hill above Luss ; resembling in character
that already mentioned from the shoulder of Ben Lomond,
but much superior in the distribution and richness of its
middle ground, and forming a more entire and perfect
picture. The double peak of Dumbarton is distinctly
seen, with the Clyde and the land beyond it ; the noble
expanse of water being now entirely displayed, with all
its green and various islands floating on the bright mirror.
Inch Lonich, stretching out its long ridge of wild wood,
and approaching to the shores of Luss and Comstraden,
unites with their richly ornamented grounds, and with the
bays and promontories of this varied shore, to produce
that splendid middle ground which renders this view all


that we could desire; while it enchants the merest spec-
tator, by its combination of magnificence and tranquillity,
of grandeur in the general aspect, and of the most ex-
quisite ornament in the details.

In quitting Luss and turning northward, we take
leave of this portion of the lake, and enter on that class
of scenery, so entirely distinct in character, which be-
longs to its upper part. The islands are now left behind,
with all that peculiar effect which depends on them ; the
few that are found henceforward, conferring no longeron
the scenery that peculiar character which distinguishes
the lower division of Loch Lomond from all other lakes.
The lofty hills that enclose it on each side, now approach
nearer, and the beauty of the landscapes, which formerly
arose chiefly from the water, now depends principally on
the forms and ornament of the boundaries. Thus it dis-
plays, not only that more common style of lake scenery
which I have noticed on former occasions, and have
sometimes noticed for its sameness and for its insipidity,
but that far superior species of landscape where the
nearer grounds, constituted by the declivities of the hills
and by the variations of the shore, occupy the principal
share of the picture, and leave the water, what it ought
always to be, a subsidiary object. It would be endless
to point out all these scenes, since they are extremely
numerous and no less brilliant : but among the first
which occur, is one where the road both ascends and
winds round a bold promontory. Here it is proper to
ascend the hill by the ancient road, as well as to follow
the new one which leads round it along the shore ; as
without that, much of this fine scenery will be lost. Ben
Lomond, now approaching near to the eye, towers over
the whole scene with great magnifiaence ; still however
retaining that peculiar form which it has displayed dur-
ing the whole progress from Dumbarton.


A similar style of landscape continues to Tarbet; and,
at Inverouglas, a small island, beautifully wooded, and
containing the remains of a castellated mansion once the
seat of the Mac Farlane, forms a principal object in a
scene of unexpected beauty and tranquillity ; where Ben
Lomond, having now entirely changed its character, has
put on the form of an elegant and acute cone, lifting its
head high above the long and picturesque ridge which,
hence to the upper extremity, bounds the eastern side of
the lake. There is a fine view also here from the summit
of Ben Vorlich, an elevation not much inferior to that of
Ben Lomond itself; including Loch Lomond on the one
hand, and, on the other, looking into Loch Long and
over the mountains that extend hence towards the Clyde
and the ocean.

From Tarbet onwards, to the upper extremity of the
lake, the breadth of the water becomes materially con-
tracted ; the opposed hills rising like an enormous wall,
and throwing their shadow upon it; wooded, from the
water's edge, with a continuous forest of oak, which,
spreading over their rocky faces and clambering along
the deep ravines and water courses, at length vanishes in
scattered groups and single trees, adding richness of
ornament to their already picturesque and rocky outlines.
This character of ground, added to the bold promontories
and deep indentations, and to the wild career of the road
itself, constitutes that peculiar range of grand scenery
which renders Loch Lomond, in this part, as superior to
almost all the Highland lakes, as it is distinguished from
the whole of them by the splendour of its lower portion.
One anale of this road cannot fail to attract attention ;
and it is here that the landscape particularly reminds us
of Loch Cateran ; the rocky and woody declivity of the
mountains, with all its precipices and trees, resembling
the romantic skirts of Ben Venu and the recesses of the


Trosachs. Marshal Wade has here excelled all his
other outdoings ; but if we " deem our hoar progenitors
unwise" for making such roads, what shall we say of
their posterity, who, with far more ample means, and
much more crying wants, suffer them, bad as they origi-
nally were, to become utterly impracticable, by neglect,
and by what is called economy.

Shortly after passing this formidable obstruction, the
upper extremity of the lake comes in sight ; forming, in
itself, a striking landscape ; a single island, the last of
all, appearing to float far away on the water, which is
here rendered doubly brilliant by the loftiness and
strongly marked character of its boundaries, and by the
succession of mountains which tower above each other to
enclose it. A huge and bold fragment of rock by the
road side, equal in size to the celebrated Bowder stone
of Keswick, meets us on descending the hill where the
view is obtained ; and hence to the last point of the lake,
the road follows the level of the water. Here, as well as
in the first portion of Glen Falloch, many wild and beau-
tiful scenes occur, of various characters ; and, among the
rest, several very picturesque views of the lake, which,
now reduced to an apparently small compass by the lock-
ing over of the hills, displays some of its finest pictures.
I know not that it contains any one superior, in this style,
to the view from the hill above the inn at Glen Falloch,
though almost a bird's-eye scene. This road, I need
scarcely add, conducts to Tyndrum and Glenorchy ; but
it ceases to possess any interest soon after we lose sight
of the lake.



A FRIEND who has been looking over my shoulder
this last week, somewhat in the way I suppose in which
the devil looks over Lincoln, to watch for prey, tells me
that I talk so much about scenery and drawing, that it
might be supposed I was an artist, that I am only writing
for artists, and that I am as bad as Gilpin. With his per-
mission, I should choose to bisect this compliment ; as I
have no esteem for the latter half of it. However that
may be, console yourself that you are within sight of
land. The days of the picturesque are drawing to an
end ; for Scotland is not every where what it is in the
Perthshire lakes and on the bright margin of Loch
Lomond. You will not always have to complain that the
country is too beautiful, or that I am too warm an ad-
mirer of it. As to the former part. Lord Arundel says,
that a man who does not draw, cannot be an honest man ;
and therefore I am writing for honest men. I think that
1 am writing for all the world, because I think all the
world ought to draw. So does the noble antiquary : who
seems to have viewed this art as Shakspeare did music.
The axiom comes from a warm heart at least, in both.

But there is a greater authority. The Greeks con-
templated the art of painting in so high a light, that they
forbade their slaves to learn it. At the same time, it was
part of the education of all children in the higher ranks ;
being considered as a liberal art. You may consult
Pliny, if you please : or Aristotle, who, in his politics.


says that it ought to be, what it was in Atliens, a branch
of general education ; " not to prevent its possessors from
being cheated in the purchase of pictures, but because it
taught the art of contemplating and understanding beauti-
ful forms." It was the same with the Romans ; who had
very little respect for any art but that of fighting, or for
any science but that of governing and plundering their
neighbours. Ha3 tibi erunt artes. Castiglione is not a
very bad authority in matters that concern a liberal edu-
cation. What he says of the utility of drawing, might
have been said a hundred ways, and therefore I need
not quote it. But the following sentence contains his
opinion of what just now concerns us ; landscape painting.

" Et veramente chi non estima quest' arte, parmi che
molto siadalla ragione alieno : che la machina del mondo
che noi veggiamo, con I'amplo cielo di chiare stelle tanto
splendido ; et nel mezo la terra da i mari cinta, di monti,
valli, et fiumi variata : et di diversi alberi et vaghi fiori
et di herbe ornata : dir si puo die una nobile et gran pit-
tura sia per man de la natura, et di Dio composta. La
qual chi puo imitare, parmi esser di gran laude degno.'*

His notions of the nature of a courtier differed some-
what from my lord Chesterfield's ; that is certain. But
that is not the reason why drawing is not, in this country,
considered a part of a liberal education. Neither can I
assign one ; unless it is that the gentlemen of this land
are too much occupied in corrupting Cornish boroughs,
driving barouches, reading newspapers, and practising
law, physic, divinity, and horse-racing ; and that all the
knowledge of art which is requisite for talking about,
can be acquired in a few hours by reading Pilkington,
and Mr. Haydon's criticisms on the British Gallery.

I could be very learned, and diffuse too, on the
utility of drawing. But to take the negative side, as the


shortest method of proof, I wish any body would point
out a department of life, excepting law, divinity, and
taxation, in which it is not of use ; nay, in which it is
not necessary. If it really can make a man honest, as
Lord Arundel asserts, there are at least two of these
trades in which it is particularly required. There are
none, at any rate, to which it may not prove a relaxation ;
nor are there any persons who may not find, in some of
its numerous departments, an amusement. And really,
there are so many idle, so many tedious, so many mis-
chievous, and so many bitter hours in life, that he will
be a wise man who contrives to multiply whatever re-
sources may diminish their weariness, add to their inno-
cent employments, or lighten their weight.

Indeed, we have reason, every day, to lament the rarity
of this talent among us, in the lighter matters of life, as
well as in the weightier ones. It is not a small merit, that
it saves vast and vain circumlocutions in many things of
daily passage, and that it renders many an obscure tale
intelligible. Many a tale, indeed, cannot be told without
it; from the professor in his chair to the traveller with
bis quarto, the inventor with his schemes, and even the
milliner with the project of a new cap. The lawyer and
the beau are the slaves of Mr. Vickery and Mr. Stultz,
because they cannot describe " the essential form of
grace" in the swelling rotundity of a wig, or the iron con-
straint of a collar: one little line, less than that which
Protogenes drew, might, in the hands of the hero of the
barouche club, raise him to immortality ; when he must
now, with sleepless anxiety, watch the progress of his
mail coach in Mr. Leader's yard : and even the fair must
depend on Mr. Taylor's apprehension of the poco piu
poco meno, which is to determine the beauty that she is
compelled to commit to his charge.


Nay, the depths of old ocean have been ploughed for
years, and countless are the myriads of shapeless mon-
sters, nereides, vorticellfe, mediisoe, salpse, naides,
holothuriae, and other unspeakable things, whose souls
and bodies have been cut through in vain, because they
will neither pickle nor preserve, and because our children
have not learnt to draw: and even when the hortus
siccus has been dried and packed, and the beetles and
butterflies have been boxed, and camphorated, and
sealed, with infinite toil and thought, behold, they arrive,
and all is swallowed up in dusty death. The cockroaches

Online LibraryJohn MaccullochThe Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland, containing descriptions of their scenery and antiquities, with an account of the political history ... present condition of the people, &c. ... founded on a series of annual journeys between the years 1811 and 1821 ... in letters to Sir Walter Scott, bart (Volume 1) → online text (page 17 of 37)