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in the feast of fancy ; though one choice spirit doth occa-
sionally sit and shine among us, to whom that drug is
dear — and the oyster-beds along the sounding shores of
the mighty sea, have reason to bless their stars that the
accounts they have from the fishermen, of the innumerous
barrels so unmercifully emptied in Picardy, are apocry-
phal. See there is our outstretched arm, and on the point
of that little finger — not unfrequently turned up so — lies
untrembling the drop of the mountain-dew ! So steady is
every sinew of sobriety — who often rises with the sun, and
often sits up for him too — the sun, who, washed and
dressed almost in a moment, takes a stage by steam before
breakfast, and whom you see dining on a dessert of fruits
of all glorious sorts and sizes about midday, right over
your head, sitting beneath the Deas, in the blue chamber,
ceiling'd and fretted by the sky ! Not brighter is that
blue chamber of the sun, than the parlour where we hold
our Parliament — North in the chair, and unlike that solemn
silence in St. Stephens, a speaker indeed! No rat or
radical from rotten borough here — each of us member for
a county, Lowland or Highland, — the Representatives of
Scotland — ay, of England, too, — for lo ! " England sends
her men, of men the chief" — Seward of Christchurch,
and Buller of Brazennose ; — and as for Ireland, the green
and glorious, — lo ! the bold, the dauntless O'Doherty, —
the adjutant good-at-need, — the ensign, with whom no
hope is forlorn, — the standard-bearer, who plants the staff"
of joy in the centre of our table, in a hole bored by the
gleg gimlet of his nation's wit, so that the genial board is

178 -Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

overshadowed by its bright emblazonry, and at every
rustle in its folds, Tickler seems to rise in stature, Macra-
bin to become more and more the grave Covenanter,
Mullion's mirth to grow broader as the crump farl on the
gridiron, and our shepherd to shine like a rowan-tree in
autumn, brightening the greensward where lie his sheep-
like lambs. Invinciblcs all ! It is indeed a bright, a be-
nign, a beautiful little circular world, inhabited but by a
few choicest spirits — some of them — oh ! may we dare to
hope it — even on earth immortal ! The winged words —
some like bees and some like birds — keep working and
lurking, stinging and singing, wherever they alight- — yet
no pernicious pain in the wound, no cruel enchantment in
the strain. The winged words — bee or bird-like — are
still murmuring among flowers, —

" Flowers, worthy of Paradise, which not nice art
In beds and curious knots, but nature boon
Pour'd forth profuse on hill, and dale, and plain,
Both where tlie morning sun first warmly smote
The open field, and where the unpierced shade
Imbrown'd the noontide bowers !"

Some faint echo of the sounds that then circle round the
inner shrine, not unheard by the outward world, makes its
heart to beat or burn within it, its nerves to tingle, or
haply even brings the dim haze across its eye. The
mean and malignant are cowed like poultry by the crow-
ing of a far-off game-cock, on his airy walk on a pleasant
hill-farm. The son of genius pining in the shade — Oh !
why should genius ever pine beneath the sun, moon, and
stars? — feels encouragement breathed into his spirit, and
knows that one day or other he shall emerge from the
gloom in glory, cheered by the cordial strain of us kindred
spirits, who, one and all, will take him by the hand, the
mirthful as well as the melancholy, for their likings and
loves are the same, and place him among the '0|xoti(xoi,
the equal-honoured, the sacred band, brothers all, who, to
the sound of flutes and soft recorders, in firmest phalanx
move on in music to everlasting fame.

We were some half hour ago speaking of the fashion-
able world — were wc not — of Edinburgh ? Why, in Edin-

A midsummer-day's dream. 179

burgh, there is par-excellence no fashionable world. We
are — as the King — God bless him — once very well ob-
served, when all we Sawnies happened to be dressed in
our Sunday's best — a nation of gentlemen ; — and in a
nation of gentlemen, you have no notion how difficult, or
rather how impossible, it is to make a fashionable world.
VVe are all so vastly pleasant and polite — low-breeding
among us is so like high-breeding in any other less distin-
guished district of the globe, — that persons who desire to
be conspicuous for the especial elegance of their manners,
or the especial splendour of their blow-outs, know not how
to set about it, — and let the highest among them be as
fashionable as they will, they will hear an army of chair-
men " gurgling Gaelic half-way down their throats," as
they keep depositing dowager after dowager, matron after
matron, mawsey after mawsey, virgin after virgin, all with
feathers " swailing in their bonnets," and every father's
daughter among them more fashionable than another, in
the gas-lighted hall of a palace in Moray Place, inhabited
by a most fashionable Doubleyou Ess — about a dozen of
whose ofispring of various sizes and sexes, at each new
arrival, keep glowering and gufiawing through the bannis-
ters on the nursery story, the most fashionable little dirty
red-headed dears that ever squalled in a scrubbing-tub on
the Plotter's Saturday Night, — while ever and anon fashion-
able servant maids, some in female curiosity — proof of
an enlightened mind — and others, of whom it appears,
" the house-affairs do call them hence," keep tripping to
and fro, one with a child's night-cap in her hand, and an-
other with something else equally essential to its comfort
before getting into bed — while it inspires you with a fine
dash of melancholy, to behold on such a night of fashion-
able festivities, here and there among the many men appa-
rently butlers, footmen, valets, waiters, and so forth —
many of them fashionably powdered with oat and barley
meal of the finest quality — some in and some out of livery,
blue breeches and red, black breeches and gray — you are
inspired, we say, with a fine spirit of melancholy, to dis-
cern, among " these liveried angels lackeying you," the
faces of Sawlies, well known at fashionable funerals, and
who smile upon you as you move from room to room, as

180 Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

if to recall to your remembrance the last time you had the
satisfaction of being preceded by them into that place of
fashionable resort — the Gray Friars' Churchyard — •

" Tiioso fnnoral-bakcd mates
Do coldly furnisli up the supper tables."

Another consequence of our being a nation of gentlemen
is, that in all broad Scotland there is no such thing as — a
man of ton. An occasional puppy — a not unfrequent
prig — is to be met with, in persons ambitious of being distin-
guished among a nation of gentlemen, each by the posses-
sion of his own peculiarity, in itself perhaps more becom-
ing a cur than a Christian, a barber's block than a head
with tongue and brains. But a man of ton, we repeat, is,
in such a nation, an impossible production ; and we appeal
to our readers, if they ever beheld that phenomenon in
Edinburgh, — or even in Glasgow, where, on the given
principle, a few might reasonably enough be expected to
•be found in winter quarters about the Gorbals, or summer
ones, down at the Auld-kirk, — (so, in the west, do they
pronounce Innerkip,) — or the Largs.

There is another general consequence of our being a
nation of gentlemen, which deserves notice in this patriotic
periodical. Here no man is permitted to pride himself on
his superior skill and excellence in the broad, open-day
violation of all the bonds and duties of life. This of itself
prevents the appearance in a century of a single man of
ton. We do not mean to say, that there is no wickedness
among us in this pleasant place, — no vice, — no licentious-
ness, — no dishonour. But they hide their heads in the
dark. Here the adultress does not show her Dice — brazen
or blushing with paint. Were she to do so, there are no
men of ton to caper by her side, on horseback, along
street, or round square, or lead her, at concert, assembly,
or play, up the fair lane of stainless matrons, and virgins
pure, whose ears abhor the meretricious rustle of the
wanton's flaunting habiliments. This is not fashionable
among the nation of gentlemen, fashionable as we are.
The lady who should act thus, would soon find herself in
a nunnery, and the gentleman would pay a visit to the
great seat of the riband tradf.


The Queen of the North is of an excellent size ; and
we hope that, during our day, she will not greatly expand
her dimensions. There ought always to be a bright em-
broidered belt of villas, a mile broad at least, between her
and the sea ; and surely she will not tread upon the feet
of the old Pentlands. We could heave the pensive sigh —
almost drop the pensive tear — to remember the hundreds
of sweet, snug, sheltered, cozy cottages — not thatched,
but slated — with lattice-windows, and haply Venetian-
blinds — front-trelliced — and with gable-end rich in its
jargonelle, " all wede away" by the irresistible " march
of stone and lime," charging in close street, and then
taking up position in hollow square, on every knoll and
brae in the neighbourhood. How many pretty little blos-
soming gardens does the spring now in vain desiderate 1
Are there any such things novv-a-days, we wonder, as
retired citizens? Old, decent, venerable husband and
wife, living about a mile, or two miles even, out of town,
always to be found at home when you stroll out to see
how the worthy pair are getting on, either sitting each
on an opposite arm-chair, with a bit sma' lassie, grand-
child perhaps, or perhaps only an orphan servant girl,
treated as if she were a grandchild, between them on a stool,
and who was evidently reading the Bible as you entered ;
or the two, not far from one another in the garden — he
pruning, it may be, the fruit-trees, for he is a great gar-
dener, and rejoices in the golden pippin — she busy with
the flowers, among which we offer you a pound for every
weed, so exquisitely fine the care that tends those gor-
geous beds of anemones and polyanthuses, or pinks, and
carnations, on which every dewy morning Flora descends
from heaven to brighten the glory with her smiles ! But
we are relapsing into the pathetic, so let us remark that a
capital should always be proportioned to a country — and
verily, Scotland carries hers, like a head with a fine
phrenological developemcnt, on a broad back and shoul-
ders, and looks stately among the nations. And never —
never — this is our morning and evening prayer — never
may she need to hang down that head in shame, but may
she lift it up, crested with glory, till the blue skies them-

VOL. I. 16

182 milson's miscellaneous writings.

selves shall be no more — till cease the ebbing and the
flowing of that sun-bright sea !

But never in all her annals were found together Shame
and Scotland. Sir William Wallace has not left Shame
one single dark cavern wherein to hide her head. Be
thou bold, free, patriotic, as of old, gathered up in thyself
within thy native mountains, yet hospitable to the high-
souled Southron, as thou wert ever wont to be even in the
days of Bannockburn and Floddcn ! — To thine eye, as of
old, be dear each slip of blue sky, glimpsing through the
storm — each cloud-cleaving hill-top, Bennevis, Cairngorm,
Cruachan — Rannoch's black, bright, purple heather-sea —
Cowrie's Carse, beloved of Ceres — and Clydesdale, to
Pomona dear — spire pointing to heaven through the dense
city-cloud, or from the solitary brae — baronial hall or
castle sternly dilapidating in slow decay — humble hut,
that sinks an unregarded ruin, like some traditionless
cairn — or shieling, that, like the nest of the small brown
moorland bird, is renewed every spring, lasting but one
summer in its remotest glen ! To thine ears, as of
old, be

" Dear the wild music of the mountain wave,
Breaking along the shores of liberty !"

Dear the thunder of the cataract heard, when the sky is
without a cloud, and the rain is over and gone — heard by
the deer-stalker, standing like a shadow, leagues off, or
moving for hours slow as a shadow, guided by the antlers.
Dear be the yell of the unseen eagle in the sky, and dear,
where " no falcon is abroad for prey," the liappy moaning
of the cushat in the grove — the lilting of the lintwhite
among broom and brier — the rustle of the wing of the
lonesome robin-red-breast in the summer woods — his sweet
pipe on the barn or byrc-riggin' in autumn, through all
winter long his peck at the casement, and his dark-eyed
hopping round the hearth ! Be thine ever a native, not
an alien spirit, and ever on thy lips, sweet Scotia! may
there hang the music of thy own Doric tongue.

Nor vain the hope, for it is in heaven ! A high philo-
sophy has gone out from the sages of thy cities into the
loneliest recesses of the hills. The student sits by the

A midsummer-day's dream. 183

ingle of his father's straw-roofed shed, or lies in leisure,
released from labour, among the broomy banks and braes
of the vvimpling burn, and pores and meditates over the
pages of Reid, and Furgusson, and Stewart, and Brown,
— wise benefactors of the race. Each vale " sings aloud
old songs, the music of the heart," — the poetry of Burns
the deathless shall brighten for ever the cottar's hearth —
Campbell is by all beloved — and the high harp of Scott
shall sound for ever in all thy halls. And more solemn,
more sacred, all over the land are heard, —

" Those strains that once did sweet in Sion glide,"

the songs, mournful in their majesty, of the wo-denouncing,
sin-dooming prophets of old, of which the meanings are
still profound to the ear of nations that listen to them
aright — for there is a taint at the core of all their hearts,
and not one single land on the face of the whole earth,
strong as it may be in its simplicity, that hath not reason
to dread that one day or other may be its own — the doom
of the mighty Babylon !

But lo ! a soft sweet smile of showery sunshine — and
our hearts are touched by a sudden mirth.

" Then said I, Master, pleasant is this place."

A pleasanter city is nowhere to be seen — neither sea-shore
nor inland, but between the two, and uniting the restless-
ness of the one situation with the quietness of the other —
there green waves leaping like furies, here green hills
fixed like fate, — there white sails gliding, here white tents
pitched, — there — you can hardly see it even with a tele-
scopic eye — the far-off Bass, from whose cliffs, perhaps
at this very moment, the flashing fowling-piece has scared
a yelling cloud of sea-birds, — there the near Castle-Rock
thundering a royal salute, for it is the anniversary of the
birthday of our most gracious and glorious king, — there
masts unnumbered, here roofs multitudinous, — there Nep-
tune, here Apollo, — together, sea, sun, and heaven, all in
one — a perfect poem !

Verily it is a pleasant place, and pleasant are the people
who inhabit it, through all their grades. The students at


the University are pleasant — so are the professors. The
shopkeepers are pleasant — so are the citizens in general,
especially such of them as are Tories — though for thy
sake, dear friend, — now at far-off Cacra-bank — we could
almost become a little \\'higgish — pleasant are the advo-
cates — pleasant every W. S. — arc not the ministers of the
city pleasant as they are pious — and were not those plea-
sant polemicals all, about the Apocrypha? Pleasant are
the country gentlemen who come hither to educate their
sons and daughters, forgetful of corn bills — and pleasant,
O, Edina ! are the strangers within thy gates ! Up and
down, down and up the various steps of thy society do we
delight to crutch it ; nor can we complain of a cold recep-
tion from the palace in Moray Place to the box at New-
ington. Yea, verily, Edinburgh is a pleasant place, and
pleasant are its inhabitants.

We are too much a nation of gentlemen to talk long
about ourselves, and this city of ours, with its Castle-
Rock, — its Arthur's Scat, — its Calton Hill, — and its Par-
thenon of Seven Pillars, standing unemployed like the
seven young men of yore, in the now poor, dear, dead
Scots Magazine, but unlike them — unfinished ! There
will the poor Pillars be, — in summer's heat and winter's
cold — without a roof to cover them, nor, after the scaffold-
ing shall have been removed, so much as a timber skeleton
to stand between them and the easterly harr, seeming to
say to every stranger as he ascends the hill, — " Oh, mas-
ter, we are Seven 1"

So let us ofT to London for an hour or two, not by that
unhappy mail-coach, which is not once suffered to cool its
axle-tree all the way from this to York Minster — (that is
an edifice we must ere long be describing,) — and in which
we have committed no crime of sufficient atrocity to de-
serve imprisonment. Neither have we any desire to die
of indigestion, and constipation and inflammation of the
bowels, mortification, and gangrene. That is the death of
a bag-man. No — ours be the stiff, breeze-loving smack,
with her bowsprit right in the wind's eye, and eating out
of it, as the helmsman luffs up to catch every capful, all
such craft as custom-house cutlers, and be hanged to them,
— even the king's ones, — gun-brigs cruizing on the station,

A midsummer-day's dream. 185

— Southampton schooners of the Yacht Club, — or crack-
collier from Newcastle, trying it on in ballast, whose cap-
tain served last with old Collingwood, and, in youth, with

" Gallant Admiral Howe, sung out, Yo I heave O !" —

Or gallant steamer, that, never gunwale in, but ever up-
right as the stately swan, cleaves blast and breaker as
they both come right ahead, — the one blackening, and
the other whitening, — while Bain's trumpet is heard in the
mingled roar, and under his intrepid skill all the iiundrcds
on board feel as safe as in their own beds, though it is
near nightfall, and we are now among the shores and shal-
lows of the Swin, where ships untold have gone to pieces.
— See, there, a wreck !

As for London, it is long since we have sported our
figure in Bond Street or the Park. We have had no box
at the Opera for a good many years. We have never
condescended to put our nose into St. Stephen's Chapel
since we accepted the Chillerns — the House of Lords has
long been the object of our most distant respect — and,
generally speaking, at the West End, wo verily believe wc
are about as well known as Captain Parry, or any other
British officer, will ever be at the North Pole.

Yet once we knew London well — both by day when
it was broad awake, and by night " when all that mighty
heart was lying still." We remember, now, as yesterday,
the eve on which we first — all alone and on foot, reached
Hyde-Park Corner. All alone ! Yes — thousands and hun-
dreds of thousands were on foot then, as well as ourselves,
and on horses and in chariots. But still we were alone.
Not in misanthropy — no — no — no — for then, as now, and
with more intense, more burning passion, with stronger-
winged and farther-flighted imagination did we love our
kind, for our thoughts were merry as nightingales, untamed
as eagles, and tender as doves. But we were young —
and we were in a manner foreigners — and few friends had
we but the sunbeams and the shadows of our own restless
soul. From the solemn and sacred inclosure of thy bell-
chiming and cloistered haunts — Rhedicyna I did we come,
— the tomes of the old world's treasures closed for a sea-


IfeO Wilson's miscellaneous writings.

son — Homer, and Pindar, and Eschylus, and Plato, and
the Stagyrite, and Demosthenes, and Thucydidcs, left for
awhile asleep on the shelves of the Gothic-windowed
library, where so many musing days had cloudlikc floated
by, nor failed to leave behind them an immortal inspiration,
pure and high as that breathed from the beauty and the
grandeur of the regions of setting suns, — and all at once,
from the companionship of the dead did we plunge into that
of the living !

From the companionship of the dead ! For having bade
farewell to our sweet native Scotland, and kissed, ere wo
parted, the grass and the flowers with a shower of filial
tears — having bade farewell to all her glens, now a-glim-
mer in the blended light of imagination and memory — with
their cairns and kirks, their low-chimneyed huts and their
liigh turreted halls — their free-flowing rivers, and lochs
dashing like seas — we were all at once buried, not in the
Cimmerian gloom, but the cerulean glitter, of Oxford's
ancient academic groves. The genius of the place fell
upon us — yes I we hear now, in the renewed delight of the
awe of our youthful spirit, the pealing organ in that chapel
called the Beautiful — we see the saints on the stained
windows — at the altar the picture of one up Calvary meekly
bearing the cross! It seemed, then, that our hearts had
no need even of the kindness of kindred — of the country
where we were born, and that had received the continued
blessings of our enlarging love ! Yet away went, even
then, sometimes our thoughts to Scotland, like carrier-
pigeons wafting love-messages beneath their unwearied
wings ! They went and they returned, and still their go-
ing and coming was blest. But ambition touched us, as
with the wand of a magician from a vanished world and a
vanished time. The Greek tongue — multitudinous as the
sea — kept like the sea sounding in our ears, through the
stillness of that world of towers and temples. Lo ! Zeno,
with his arguments hard and high, beneath the Porch !
Plato divinely discoursing in grove and garden ! The
Stagyrite searching for truth in the profounder gloom ! The
sweet voice of the smiling Socrates, cheering the cloister's
shade and the court's sunshine ! And when the thunders
of Demosthenes ceased, we heard the harping of the old

A midsummer-day's dream. 187

blind, glorious mendicant, whom, for the loss of eyes,
Apollo rewarded with the gift of immortal song ! And
that was our companionship of the dead !

But the voice— the loud and near voice of the living
world came upon us — and starting up, like a man wakened
from the world of sleep and dreams, we flew to meet it on
the wind — onwards and onwards to its source humming
louder and louder as we approached, a magnificent hum as
from a city with a thousand gates of everlasting ingress
and egress to all the nations of the earth !

Not till then had we known any thing of 9ur own being.
Before, all had been dream and vision, through which we
had sunk, and kept sink sinking, like flowers surcharged
with liquid radiance, down to the palaces of naiads, and
mermaids, and fairy folk, inhabiting the emerald caves,
and walking through the pearl-leaved forests and asphodel
meadows of an unreal and unsubstantial world ! For a
cloudy curtain had still seemed to hang between us and
the old world — darkening even the fields of Marathon and
Plataea, whose heroes were but as shadows. Now we
were in the eddies — the vortices — the whirlpools of the
great roaring sea of life ! and away we were carried, not
afraid, y^t somewhat trembling in the awe of our new de-
light, into the heart of the habitations of all this world's
most imperial, most servile — most tyrannous and most
slavish passions ! All that was most elevating and most
degrading — most startling and most subduing too — most
trying by temptation of pleasure, and by repulsion of pain
— into the heart of all joy and all grief — all calm and all
storm — all dangerous trouble, and more dangerous rest —
all rapture and all agony — crime, guilt, misery, madness
and despair. A thousand voices, each with a different
tone, cried us on — yet over them all one voice, with which
the rest were still in unison — the voice of the hidden
wickedness that is in the soul of every man who is born
of a woman, and that sometimes as if it were of guardian
angel, and sometimes of familiar demon, now lured, per-
suaded, urged, drove us on — on, on, in amongst shoals and
shallows of that dim heaving sea, where many wrecks
were visible, sheer hulks heaved up on the dark dry — or

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