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to the wall behind a window-shutter. But even at the
very same instant we ourselves had proclaimed it with
open nostril from a press in an opposite corner. Terriers
were procured, — but the dog Billy himself would have
been at fault. To pull down the whole cottage would
have been difficult, — at least to build it up again would
have been so ; so we had to submit. Custom, they say,
is second nature, but not when a dead rat is in the house.
No, none can ever be accustomed to that ; yet good
springs out of evil, for the live rats could not endure it,
and emigrated to a friend's house, about a mile off, who
has never had a sound night's rest from that day. We
have not revisited our cottage for several years; but time
does wonders, and we were lately told by a person of
some veracity, that the smell was then nearly gone, — but
our informant is a gentleman of blunted olfactory nerves,
having been engaged from seventeen to seventy in a

Smoke too ! More especially that mysterious and in-
fernal sort, called back-smoke ! The old proverb, " No
smoke without fire," is a base lie. We have seen smoke
without fire in every room in a most delightful cottage we
once inhabited during the dog-days. The moment you
rushed for refuge even in a closet, you were blinded and
stifled; nor shall we ever forget our horror on being within
an ace of smotheration in the cellar. At last, we groped
our way into the kitchen. Neither cook nor jack was

124 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

visible. We heard, indeed, a whirring and revolving
noise — and then suddenly Girzie swearing through the
mist. Yet all this while people were admiring our cottage
from a distance, and especially this self-same accursed
back-smoke, some portions of which had made an excur-
sion up the chimneys, and was wavering away in a spiral
form to the sky, in a style captivating to Mr. Price on the

No doubt, there are many things very romantic about a
cottage. Creepers, for example. Why, sir, these creepers
are the most mischievous nuisance that can atllict a family.
There is no occasion for mentioning names, but — devil
take all parasites. Some of the rogues will actually grow
a couple of inches upon you in one day's time; and when
all other honest plants are asleep, the creepers are hard at
it all night long, stretching out their toes and their fingers,
and catching an inextricable hold of every wall they can
reach, till, finally, you see them thrusting their impudent
heads through the very slates. Then, like other low-bred
creatures, they are covered with vermin. All manner of
moths — the most grievous grubs — slimy slugs — spiders
spinning toils to ensnare the caterpillar — earwigs and
slaters, that would raise the gorge of a country curate —
wood-lice — the slaver of gowk's-spiltle — midges — ^jocks-
with-the-many-legs — in short, the whole plague of insects
infest that — Virgin's bower. Open the lattice for half an
hour, and you find yourself in an entymological museum.
Then, there are no pins fixing down the specimens. All
these beetles are alive, more especially the enormous
blackguard crawling behind your ear. A moth plumps
into your tumbler of cold negus, and goes whirling round
in meal, till he makes absolute porritch. As you open
your mouth in amazement, the large blue-bottle-fly, having
made his escape from the spiders, and seeing that not a
moment is to be lost, precipitates himself head-foremost
down your throat, and is felt, after a few ineffectual
struggles, settling in despair at the very bottom of your
stomach. Still, no person will ^e so unreasonaljle as to
deny that creepers on a cottage are most beautiful. For
the sake of their beauty, some little sacrifices must be
made of one's comforts, especially as it is only for one


half of the year, and last really was a most delightful

How truly romantic is a thatch roof! The eaves how
commodious for sparrows ! VVhat a paradise for rats and
mice ! What a comfortable colony of vermin ! They all
bore their own tunnels in every direction, and the whole
interior becomes a Cretan labyrinth. Frush, frush be-
comes the whole cover in a few seasons ; and not a bird
can open his wing, not a rat switch his tail, without scat-
tering the straw like chaff. Eternal repairs ! Look when
you will, and half a dozen thatchers are riding on the rig-
ging : of all operatives they are most inoperative. Then
there is always one of the number descending the ladder
foj a horn of ale ! Without warning, the straw is all used
up ; and no more fit for the purpose can be got within
twenty miles. They hint heather — and you sigh for slate
— the beautiful sky-blue, sea-green, Ballahulish slate! But
the summer is nearly over and gone, and you must be
flitting back to the city — so you let the job stand over to
spring, and the soaking rains and snows of a long winter
search the cottage to its heart's core, and every floor is ere
long laden with a crop of fungi — the bed-posts are orna-
mented curiously with lichens, and mosses bathe the walls
with their various and inimitable lustre.

Every thing is romantic that is pastoral — and what
more pastoral than sheep 1 Accordingly, living in a cot-
tage, you kill your own mutton. Great lubberly Leices-
ters or South-Downs are not worth the mastication, so you
keep the small black-face. Stone walls are ugly things,
you think, near a cottage, so you have rails or hurdles.
J3ay and night are the small black-face, out of pure spite,
bouncing through or over all imjiediments, after an adven-
turous leader, and despising the daisied turf, keep nibbling
away at all your rare flowering shrubs, till your avenue is
a desolation. Every twig has its little hall of wool, and
it is a rare time for the nest-makers. You purchase a
colley, but he compromises the affair with the fleecy
nation, and contents himself with barking all night long at
the moon, if there happen to be one, if not, at the firma-
ment of his kennel. You are too humane to hang or
drown Luath, so you give him to a friend. But Luath is

1 1 *

126 Wilson's ^miscellaneous wkitings.

in love witli the cook, and pays her nightly visits. Afraid
of being entrapped, should he step into the kennel, he
takes up his station, after supper, on a knoll within ear-
range, and pointing his snout to the stars, joins the music
of the spheres, and is himself a perfect Sirius. The gar-
dener at last gets orders to shoot him — and the gun being
somewhat rusty, bursts and blows off his left hand — so
that Andrew Fairservice retires on a pension.

Of all breeds of cattle we most admire the Alderney.
They are slim, delicate, wild-deer-looking creatures, that
give an air to a cottage. But they arc most capricious
milkers. Of course you may make your own butter ;
that is to say, with the addition of seven or eight pur-
chased pounds weekly, you are not very often out of
that commodity. T'hen, once or twice in a summer, they
suddenly lose their temper, and chase the governess and
your daughters over the edge of a gravel-pit. Nothing
they like so much as the tender sprouts of cauliflower,
nor do they abhor green pease. The garden-hedge is of
privet, a pretty fence, and fast growing, but not formida-
ble to a four-year-old. On going to eat a few goose-
berries by sunrise, you start a covey of cows, that in
their alarm plunge into the hot-bed with a smash, as if
all the glass in the island had been broken — and rushing
out at the gate at the critical instant little Tommy is tot-
tering in, they leave the heir-apparent, scarcely deserving
that name, half hidden in the border. There is no sale
for such outlandish animals in the home-market, and it is
not Martinmas, so you must make a present of them to the
president or five silver-cup-man of an agricultural society,
and receive, in return, a sorry red-round, desperately salt-
petrcd, at Christmas.

What is a cottage in the country, unless " your banks
are all furnished with bees, whose murmurs invite one to
sleep?" There the hives stand, like four-and-twenty fid-
dlers all in a row. Not a more harmless insect in all this
world than a bee. Wasps are devils incarnate, but bees
are fleshly sprites, as amiable as industrious. You are
strolling along, in delightful mental vacuity, looking at a
poem of Barry Cornwall's, when smack comes an infuri-
ated honey. maker against your eye-lid, and plunges into


you the fortieth part of an inch of sting saturated in
venom. The wretch clings to your lid like a burr, and
it feels as if he had a million claws to hold him on while
he is darting his weapon into your eye-ball. Your banks
are indeed well I'urnished with bees, but their murmurs do
not invite you to sleep ; on the contrary, away you fly,
like a madman, bolt into your wife's room, and roar out
for the recipe. The whole of one side of your face is
most absurdly swollen, while the other is in statu quo.
One eye is dwindled away to almost nothing, and is peer-
ing forth from its rainbow-coloured envelope, while the
other is open as day to melting charity, and shining over
a cheek of the purest crimson. Infatuated man ! Why
could you not purchase your honey ? Jemmy Thomson,
the poet, would have let you have it, from Habbie's-Howe,
the true Pentland elixir, for five shillings the pint; lor
during this season both the heather and the clover were
prolific of the honey-dew, and the Skeps rejoiced over all
Scotland on a thousand hills.

We could tell many stories about bees, but that would
be leading us away from the main argument. We remem-
ber reading in an American newspaper, some years ago,
that the United States lost one of their most upright and
erudite judges by bees, which stung him to death in a
wood, while he was going the circuit. About a year
afterwards, we read in the same newspaper, " We are
afraid we have lost another judge by bees ;" and then Ibl-
lowed a somewhat affright ful description of the assassina-
tion of another American Blackstone by the same insects.
We could not fail to sympathise with both sufierers, for in
the summer of 1811 (that of the famous comet) we oiu'-
selves had nearly shared the same fate. Our Newfound-
lander upset a hive in his vagaries — and the whole swarm
unjustly attacked us. The buzz was an absolute roar —
and for the first time in our lives we were under a cloud.
Such bizzing in our hair! and of what avail were fifty-
times-washed nankeen breeches against the Polish Lan-
cers'? With our trusty crutch we made thousands bite
the dust — but the wounded and dying crawled up our
legs, and stung us cruelly over the lower regions. At
last we took to flight, and found shelter in the ice-house.

128 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

But it seemed as if a new hive had been disturbed in that
cool grotto. Again we sallied out, stripping off garment
after garment, till, in jmris vnturalibi(S, we leaped into a
window, which happened to be that of the drawing-room,
where a large party of ladies and gentlemen were await-
ing the dinner-bell — but lancy must dream the rest.

We now ofl'cr a set of the Magazine to any scientific
clmrncter who will answer this seemingly simple question
— what is damp? Quicksilver is a joke to it, for getting
into or out of any place. Capricious as damp is, it is
faithful in its aflections to all cottages ornees. What more
pleasant than a bow-window? You had better, however,
not sit with your back against the wall, for it is as blue and
ropey as that of a charnel-house. Probably the wall is
tastily papered — a vine-leaf pattern perhaps — or something
spriggy — or in the aviary line — or, mayhap, hay-makers,
or shepherds piping in the dale. But all distinctions are
levelled in the mould — Phyllis has a black patch over her
eye, and Strcphon seems to be playing on a pair of bellows.
Damp delights to descend chimneys, and is one of smoke's
most powerful auxiliaries. It is a thousand pities you
hung up — just in that unlucky spot — Grecian William's
Thebes — for now one of the finest water-coloured paintings
in the world is not worth six-and-eightpence. There is
no living in the country without a library. Take down,
with all due caution, that enormous tome, the Excursion,
and let us hear something of the pedlar. There is an end
to the invention of printing. Lo and behold, blank verse
indeed ! You cannot help turning over twenty leaves at
once, for they are all amalgamated in must and mouldi-
riess. Lord Byron himself is no better than an Egyptian
mummy ; and the Great Unknown addresses you in hiero-

We have heard different opinions maintained on the sub-
ject of damp sheets. For our own part, we always wish
to feel the ditference between sheets and ccarments. We
jiate every thing clammy. It is awkward, on leaping out
of bed to admire the moon, to drag along with you, glued
round the body and members, the whole paraphernalia of
the couch. It can never bo good for rheumatism — pro-
blematical even for fever. Now, be candid — did you ever


sleep in perfectly dry sheets in a cottage ornee ? You
would not like to say " No, never," in the morning — pri-
vately, to host or hostess. But confess publicly, and
trace your a})proaching retirement from all the troubles
of this life, to the dimity-curtained cubiculum on Tweed-

We know of few events so restorative as the arrival of
a coachful of one's friends, if the house be roomy. But if
every thing there be on a small scale, how tremendous a
sudden importation of live cattle ! The children are all
trundled away out of the cottage, and their room given up
to the young ladies, with all its enigmatical and emblemati-
cal wall-tracery. The captain is billetted in the boudoir,
on a shakedown. My lady's maid must positively pass
the night in the butler's pantry, and the valet makes a
dormitory of the store-room. Where the old gentleman
and his spouse have been disposed of, remains as contro-
versial a point as the authorship of Junius ; but next morn-
ing at the breakfast-table, it appears that all have survived
the night, and the hospitable hostess remarks, with a self-
complacent smile, that small as the cottage appears, it has
wonderful accommodation, and could have easily admitted
half a dozen more patients. The visiters politely request
to be favoured with a plan of so very commodious a cot-
tage, but silently swear never again to sleep in a house of
one story, till life's brief tale be told.

But not one half the comforts of a cottage have yet been
enumerated — nor shall they be by us at the present junc-
ture. Suffice it to add, that the strange coachman had
been persuaded to put up his horses in the outhouses in-
stead of taking them to an excellent inn about two miles
off. The old black, long-tailed steeds, that had dragged
the vehicle for nearly twenty years, had been lodged in
what was called the stable, and the horse behind had been
introduced into the byre. As bad luck would have it, a
small, sick, and surly shelty was in his stall ; and without
the slightest provocation, he had, during the night-watches,
so handled his heels against Mr. Fox, that he had not left
the senior a leg to stand upon, while he had bit a lump
out of the buttocks of Mr. Pitt little less than an orange.
A cow, afraid of her calf, had committed an assault on the

130 Wilson's miscellaneous writings/

roadster, and tore up his flank with her crooked horn as
clean as if it had been a ripping chisel. The party had to
proceed with post-liorses ; and although Mr. Gray beat
once one of the most skilful and most modest of veterinary
surgeons, his bill was nearly as long as that of a proctor.
Mr. Fox gave up the ghost — Mr. Pitt was put on the super-
annuated list — and Joseph Ilume, the hack, was sent to
the dogs.

To this condition then we must come at last, that if you
build at all in the country, it must be a mansion three
stories high, at the lowest — large airy rooms — roof of
slates and load — and walls of the free-stone or the Roman
cement. No small black-faces, no Alderneys, no bee-
hives. Buy all your vivers, and live like a gentleman.
Seldom or never be without a houseful of company. If
you manage your family matters properly, you may have
your time nearly as much at your own disposal^ as if you
were the greatest of hunkses, and never gave but unavoid-
able dinners. Let the breakfast-gong sound at ten o'clock
— quite soon enough. The young people will have been
romping about the parlours or the purlieus for a couple of
hours — and will all make their appearance in the beauty
of high health and high spirits. Chat away as long as
need be, after muffins and mutton-ham, in small groups on
sofas and settees — and then slip you away to your library,
to add a chapter to your novel, or your history, or to any
other task that is to make you immortal. Let gigs and
curricles draw up in the circle, and the wooing and be-
trothed wheel away across a few parishes. Let the pedes-
trians saunter off into the woods or to the hill-side — the
anglers be off to loch or river. No great harm even in a
game or two at billiards — if such be of any the cue — saga-
cious spinsters of a certain age, staid dowagers, and
bachelors of sedentary habits, may have recourse, without
blame, to the chess or backgammon board. At two the
lunch — and at six the dinner-gong will bring the whole
flock together, all dressed — mind that — all dressed, for
slovenliness is an abomination. Let no elderly gentleman,
however bilious and rich, seek to monopolize a young
lady — but study the nature of things. Champaigne, of
course, and if not all the delicacies, at least all the sub-


stantialitics, of the season. Join the ladies in about two
hours — a little elevated or so — almost imperceptibly — but
still a little elevated or so — then music — whispering in
corners — if moonlight and stars, then an hour's out-of-door
study of astronomy — no very regular supper — but an ap-
pearance of plates and tumblers, and to bed, to happy
dreams and slumbers light, at the witching hour. Let no
gentleman or lady snore, if it can be avoided, lest they
annoy the crickets ; and if you hear any extraordinary
noise round and round about the mansion, be not alarmed,
for why should not the owls choose their hour of revelry?

Fond as we are of the country, we would not, had we
our option, live there all the year round. We should just
wish to linger into the winter about as far as the middle
of December — then to a city — say at once Edinburgh.
There is as good skating-ground, and as good curling-
ground, at Lochend and Duddingstone, as any wherein all
Scotland — nor is there any where else better beef and
greens. There is no perfection any where, but Edinburgh
society is excellent. We are certainly agreeable citizens ;
with just a sufficient spice of party spirit to season the
feast of reason and the flow of soul, and to prevent society
from becoming drowsily unanimous. Without the fillup
of a little scandal, honest people would fall asleep; and
surely it is far preferable to that to abuse one's friends
with moderation. Even literature and belles letters are
not entirely useless ; and our human life would be as dull
as that of Mr. Rogers, without a few occasional Noctes

But the title of our article recalls our wandering thoughts,
and our talk must be of cottages. Now think not, beloved
reader, that we care not for cottages, for that would indeed
be a gross mistake. But our very affections are philoso-
phical ; our sympathies have all their source in reason ; and
our admiration is always built on the foundation of truth.
Taste, and feeling, and thought, and experience, and
knowledge of this life's concerns, are all indispensable to
the true delights the imagination experiences in beholding
a beautiful bo?ia fide cottage. It must be the dwelling of
the poor ; and it is that which gives it its whole character.
By the poor, we mean not pauprrs, beggars; but families

132 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

who to eat, must woi'k, and who, by working, may still be
able to eat. Plain, coarse, not scanty, but unsupcrfluous
fare is theirs from year's-end to year's-end, excepting
some decent and grateful change on chance holidays of
nature's own appointment, a wedding, a christening, or a
funeral. Yes, a funeral ; for when this mortal coil has
been shufTled off, why should the hundreds of people that
come trooping over muirs and mosses to see the body
deposited, walk so many miles and lose a whole day's
work, without a dinner? And, if there be a dinner, should
it not be a good one 1 And if a good one, will the company
not be social ? But this is a subject for a future article,
nor need such article be of other than of a cheerful cha-
racter. Poverty is then the builder and beautifier of all
huts and cottages. But the views of honest poverty are
always hopeful and prospective. Strength of muscle and
strength of mind form a truly Holy Alliance ; and the future
brightens before the steadfast eyes of contentment. There-
fore, when a house is built in the valley, or on the hillside,
— be it that of the poorest cottar, — there is some little
room, or nook, or spare place, which hope consecrates
to the future. Better times may come, — a shilling or two
may be added to the week's wages, — parsimony may ac-
cumulate a small capital in the savings bank sufficient to
purchase an old eight-day clock, a chest of drawers for the
wife, a curtained bed for the lumber place, which a little
labour will convert into a bed-room. It is not to be
thought that the pasture-fields become every year greener,
and the corn-fields every harvest more yellow, — that the
hedgerows grow to thicker fragrance, and the birch tree
waves its tresses higher in the air, and expands its white-
rincd stem almost to the bulk of a tree of the forest, — and
yet that there shall be no visible progress from good to
better in the duellings of those whose hands and hearts
thus cultivate the soil into rejoicing beauty. As the
whole land prospers, so does each individual dwelling.
Every ten years, the observing eye sees a new expres-
sion on the face of the silent earth ; the law of labour is
no melancholy lot; for to industry the yoke is easy, and
content is its own exceeding great reward.

Therefore, it does our heart "ood to look on a cottage.


Here the objections to straw-roofs have no application. A
few sparrows chirping and fluttering in the eaves can do
no great harm, and they serve to amuse the children. The
very baby in the cradle, when all the family are in the
fields, mother and all, hears the cheerful twitter, and is
reconciled to solitude. The quantity of corn that a kw
sparrows can eat, — greedy creatures as they are, — cannot
be very deadly ; and it is chiefly in the winter time that
they attack the stacks, when there is much excuse to be
made on the plea of hunger. As to the destruction of a
little thatch, why, there is not a boy about the house,
above ten years, who is not a thatcher, and there is no
expense in such repairs. Let the honey-suckle too steal
up the wall, and even blind unchecked a corner of the
kitchen-window. Its fragrance will often cheer uncon-
sciously the labourer's heart, as, in the midday hour of
rest, he sits dandling his child on his knee, or converses
with the passing pedlar. Let the moss-rose-tree flourish,
that its bright blush-balls may dazzle in the kirk the eyes
of the lover of fair Helen Irwin, as they rise and fall with
every movement of a bosom yet happy in its virgin inno-
cence. Nature does not spread in vain her flowers in flush
and fragrance over every obscure nook of earth. Simple
and pure is the delight they inspire. Not to the poet's
eye alone is the language of flowers addressed. Those
beautiful symbols are understood by lowliest minds ; and
while the philosophical Wordsworth speaks of the meanest
flower that blows giving a joy too deep for tears, so do
all mankind feel the exquisite truth of Burns's more simple
address to the mountain-daisy, which his ploughshare had
upturned. The one touches sympathies too profound to
be general — the other speaks as a son of the soil afl^ected
by the fate of the very senseless flowers that spring from
the bosom of our common dust.

Generally speaking, there has been a spirit of improve-
ment at work, during these last twenty years, upon all the
cottages in Scotland. The villages are certainly much

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