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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 37 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 37 of 37)
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Uiuch better supported than it is ; and standing, bare and
white, as it does, we can only wish it transported back
to its native country. It was occupied for King William,
burnt in Mar's rebellion, and was, I believe, afterwards a
barrack, as long as barracks were supposed to be neces-
sary. At Invercauld, the views are exceedingly fine.
Among many that might be named, those in which Loch-
an ua gar on one hand, and Ben y bourd on the other,
form the extreme distances, are perhaps the most strik-
ing. Finer mountain outlines cannot be imagined than
those in which the former hill is implicated : so graceful
is its pyramidal shape, and so beautifully contrasted
and varied are all the lines and forms of the mountains
out of which it rises, king of all ; while they seem to
cluster round it as the monarch of all the surrounding'
country. In the middle grounds, are the rich valley and
the windings of the Dee; its dark fir woods sweeping
along the sides of the hills, while the rocks and torrents
and precipices and trees, that surround us on all hands,
vary the landscape till we are almost weary of pursuing
it. The character of this scenery is much changed where
Ben y bourd bounds the distance; nor can we help ad-
miring how Nature contrives to produce grandeur from



478 INVEUCAULD

forms the most opposite. This mountain, as its name
expresses, is a flat table ; yet so broad and simple are its
lines and its precipices, and so grand the long- sweeping
lines of the hills which support it, that it produces, with
the valley, a landscape not less grand than tbe very
different pyramidal composition in which Lochan na
gar is the principal object. At one point, where the two-
arched bridge of Dee becomes a main feature in the mid-
dle ground, the pictures are peculiarly complete and fine.
In all this part of the valley, the character of the
scenery is especially stamped by that of the fir woods ;
and yet that character is quite different from what these
confer on the scenes about the Spey. It is just what we
might imagine of Norwegian landscape, and we feel
as if no other tree could have suited the forms of
these hills, and the details of this country. With all
this, there is no air of heaviness or of formality ; nothing
that can for a moment remind us of the black, diugy,
solid, never-green forests of planted wood, no iron out-
lines that assimilate with nothing on earth or sky, no
murky files or clumps blotting the fair horizon. All is
ease and variety and grace, all is careless and wild. Even
the long ranks that are sometimes seen drawn up on the
mountain outline, are in place and in character: they
belong to the more extended forests below : and we are
sensible, that, to want them, would be for the picture to
want something; while we see too, how Nature contrives
to blend them with the general landscape, and to harmo-
nize the whole into one broken and ornamental forest,
by scattered trees, evanescent edges, and a thousand
delicacies which art can never hope to imitate.

In the closer scenery about this country, there is not
less to admire in a different style. There is a wildness in the
torrents and the rocks, that seems peculiarly appropriate



MAR. 479

to the fantastic and bold forms of the ancient and noble
firs that are everywhere scattered about; or the imagi-
nation, which is always ready with its aid, makes us think
that all this is in harmony, and that we could not substi-
tute an oak for a fir without injury to the landscape.
Where the foaming- stream rushes down the mountain
amid huge blocks of granite, and all else around is the
brown heath, towering up towards the blue and far-off
precipice, some solitary tree that has stood the storms of
centuries, is seen raising* its rough and knotted trunk,
drooping its yellow branches and dark masses of foliage
over the water; and, in other places, a giant of the forest
spreads wide its fantastic and twisted arras, the chief of a
group which seems to have sought shelter from the winds
beneath its protection. Aloft on the precipice, long yield-
ing to the blasts, but still rooted against their utmost
force, some massive trunk stretches forth its tree-like
branches from the fury of the west ; a dark canopy of
shade, contrasted with the graceful and tall forms which
rise beneath the shelter of the rock, uniting the elegance
of the poplar and the cypress with the freedom and de-
licacy of the d.roopin^ birch. It is said, that there is no
solitude where tHeifefis a tieei > Sot^it Jsi not always thus.
Neither is the maxim true. There is no' perfect solitude
but by a specier.qfl Bu^flJ.* "nJefe mW^t^hfe some one pre-
sent to whoni'iris'a solitlrde ;*'6r*lt is* nothing. The lone
fir in the brojvn and. bai;e vall&y. ckf Ben Avon, where
nothing else J$.seep.:b95.th*eMi>t*ernijnable wide heath,
spread far around and above, lifeless and void, is solitude
itself: it is man in the desert ; it is the desert, because
there is a being to which it is a solitude.

It is among these hills, exclusively, that the blue
topaz and the beryl are found : but the latter is ex-
tremely rare. Of this mineral, Scotland may boast if it



480 THE DEE.

pleases: but under cover of its name and of that of the
beryl, the jewellers of Edinburgh sell foreign stones of the
same kind at fanciful prices, as they do foreign amethysts
and garnets : while some have even offered theemerald as
the produce of Scotland. Itis not surprising if the country
people sometimes waste, in this pursuit, time that might
be better employed; since, as in the case of mining and
fisheries, there is a mixture of idleness and hope which
offers insuperable temptations to the not uncommon union
of indolence and avarice. It is gambling and the lottery
in another form. As to the lottery, in spite of moralists
and politicians, it is a noble invention. If Hope is the
great sweetener of life, how can we enough praise a con-
trivance by which that visionary entity is stored up in the
pigeon-holes of Messrs. Bish, and Goodluck, and Hazard;
to be retailed by the pound and the ounce, by the month,
the day, and the hour.

To see the rest of the Dee as it deserves, it is necessary
to follow both sides of the river : it is also preferable to
go from the east, as the landscape then faces us, gradually
improving till it terminates in the full blaze of Inver-
eauld. Abergeldie is peculiarly interesting, as are the
vale and the hill of Ballater;: no." indeed flp the beauties
of the Dee cease till it reaches the open country. Aboyne
yields to few places i<r,fhe:f^(ighlands for magnificence
and splendour. But 1 am in dang-fer of passing my bounds.
As to the northern ro^sd- by Ca^gaith, :nothing can well
be more dreary, nor is there gny tt^wiptation to explore
thatdistrict where the Highlands vanish into the Lowlands
of Aberdeenshire.

END OF THE FIRST VOLUMF.

.losEPii Mallett, Printer, 59, Wardoiir Street, Soho, London.



This book is due two weeks from the last date stamped
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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 37 of 37)