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St. Ronan's Well - Volume I - AUTHOR'S NOTES AND EDITOR'S NOTES Post by :cheemo Category :Long Stories Author :Sir Walter Scott Date :April 2012 Read :3296

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In Scotland a village is erected upon a species of landright, very different from the copyhold so frequent in England. Every alienation or sale of landed property must be made in the shape of a feudal conveyance, and the party who acquires it holds thereby an absolute and perfect right of property in the fief, while he discharges the stipulations of the vassal, and, above all, pays the feu-duties. The vassal or tenant of the site of the smallest cottage holds his possession as absolutely as the proprietor, of whose large estate it is perhaps scarce a perceptible portion. By dint of excellent laws, the sasines, or deeds of delivery of such fiefs, are placed on record in such order, that every burden affecting the property can be seen for payment of a very moderate fee; so that a person proposing to lend money upon it, knows exactly the nature and extent of his security.

From the nature of these landrights being so explicit and secure, the Scottish people have been led to entertain a jealousy of building-leases, of however long duration. Not long ago, a great landed proprietor took the latter mode of disposing of some ground near a thriving town in the west country. The number of years in the lease was settled at nine hundred and ninety-nine. All was agreed to, and the deeds were ordered to be drawn. But the tenant, as he walked down the avenue, began to reflect that the lease, though so very long as to be almost perpetual, nevertheless had a termination; and that after the lapse of a thousand years, lacking one, the connexion of his family and representatives with the estate would cease. He took a qualm at the thought of the loss to be sustained by his posterity a thousand years hence; and going back to the house of the gentleman who feued the ground, he demanded, and readily obtained, the additional term of fifty years to be added to the lease.

Note II., p. 90.--DARK LADYE.

The Dark Ladye is one of those tantalizing fragments, in which Mr. Coleridge has shown us what exquisite powers of poetry he has suffered to remain uncultivated. Let us be thankful for what we have received, however. The unfashioned ore, drawn from so rich a mine, is worth all to which art can add its highest decorations, when drawn from less abundant sources. The verses beginning the poem which are published separately, are said to have soothed the last hours of Mr. Fox. They are the stanzas entitled LOVE.

Note III., p. 252.--MAGO-PICO.

This satire, very popular even in Scotland, at least with one party, was composed at the expense of a reverend presbyterian divine, of whom many stories are preserved, being Mr. Pyet, the Mago-Pico of the Tale, minister of Dunbar. The work is now little known in Scotland, and not at all in England, though written with much strong and coarse humour, resembling the style of Arbuthnot. It was composed by Mr. Haliburton, a military chaplain. The distresses attending Mago-Pico's bachelor life, are thus stated:--

"At the same time I desire you will only figure out to yourself his situation during his celibacy in the ministerial charge--a house lying all heaps upon heaps; his bed ill-made, swarming with fleas, and very cold on the winter nights; his sheep's-head not to be eaten for wool and hair, his broth singed, his bread mouldy, his lamb and pig all scouthered, his house neither washed nor plastered; his black stockings darned with white worsted above the shoes; his butter made into cat's harns; his cheese one heap of mites and maggots, and full of large avenues for rats and mice to play at hide-and-seek and make their nests in. Frequent were the admonitions he had given his maid-servants on this score, and every now and then he was turning them off; but still the last was the worst, and in the meanwhile the poor man was the sufferer. At any rate, therefore, matrimony must turn to his account, though his wife should prove to be nothing but a creature of the feminine gender, with a tongue in her head, and ten fingers on her hands, to clear out the papers of the housemaid, not to mention the convenience of a man's having it in his power lawfully to beget sons and daughters in his own house."--_Memoirs of Mago-Pico. Second edition. Edinburgh_, 1761, p. 19.


(I-A) p. 1. "David M'Pherson's map." In his "Geographical History," London, 4to, 1796.

(I-B) p. 11. "Jenny Dods ... at Howgate." Scott admitted to Erskine that the name of "Dods" was borrowed from this slatternly heroine.

(I-C) p. 33. "He was nae Roman, but only a Cuddie, or Culdee." Some Scottish Protestants took pride in believing that their Kirk descended from Culdees, who were not of the Roman Communion. The Culdees have given rise to a world of dispute, and he would be a bold man who pretended to understand their exact position. The name seems to be _Cele De_, "servant (gillie) of God." They were not Columban monks, but fill a gap between the expulsion of the Columbans by the Picts, and the Anglicising and Romanising of the Scottish Church by St. Margaret and her sons. Originally solitary ascetics, they clustered into groups, and, if we are to believe their supplanters at St. Andrews, the Canons Regular, they were married men, and used church property for family profit. Their mass they celebrated with a rite of their own, in their little church. They were gradually merged in, and overpowered at St. Andrews, for example, by the Canons Regular, and are last heard of in prosecuting a claim to elect the Bishop, at the time of Edward the First's interference with Scottish affairs. The points on which they differed from Roman practice would probably have seemed very insignificant to such a theologian as Meg Dods.

(I-D) p. 47. "Fortunio, in the fairy-tale." The gifted companions of Fortunio, Keen-eye, Keen-ear, and so forth, are very old stock characters in Maerchen: their first known appearance is in the saga of Jason and the Fleece of Gold.

(I-E) p. 169. "The sportsman's sense of his own cruelty." In the reminiscences of Captain Basil Hall, published by Lockhart, he mentions that Scott himself had a dislike of shooting, from a sentiment as to the cruelty of the sport. "I was never quite at ease when I had knocked down my blackcock, and going to pick him up he cast back his dying eye with a look of reproach. I don't affect to be more squeamish than my neighbours, but I am not ashamed to say that no practice ever reconciled me fully to the cruelty of the affair. At all events, now that I can do as I like without fear of ridicule, I take more pleasure in seeing the birds fly past me unharmed." (Lockhart, vii. 331.)

(I-F) p. 240. "Tintock." A hill on the Upper Tweed, celebrated in local rhyme as--

On Tintock tap there is a mist,
And in the mist there is a kist,
And in the kist there is a cap,
And in the cap there is a drap.
Tak' up the cap, drink out the drap,
And set it down on Tintock tap.

(I-G) p. 245. "Donald Cargill." See Editor's Notes to "Redgauntlet." Howie of Lochgoin says Cargill was executed in Edinburgh, not at Queensferry,
as stated here.

_December 1893.

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