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our happy lot to witness, there is none in which we rejoice more cordially than in this conversion of the enemies of popular education into its professed, and, we doubt not, its unfeigned and zealous friends. Yet the amende honorable might, we think, in one respect have been more graciously and more generously made than it has been. We took occasion in a former number to protest against the very unfair commentary on Mr. Brougham's famous expression “ The Schoolmaster is abroad!" which Mr. Southey thought proper to give to the world in an article-in many respects an excellent one~in a late number of the 'Quarterly Review'. We are sorry, we confess, to find the very passage containing this unwarrantable misinterpretation extracted by the Editors of the Family Library, and placed ostentatiously as a sort of motto in front of their miscellany. This is, to say the least of it, both unhandsome and injudicious. Why should the tone of distrust and hostility be still kept up between parties who are no longer at war, but labouring side by side in the promotion of a common object. We repeat that Mr. Southey is altogether mistaken in his notion of Mr. Brougham's meaning on the occasion in question. We happen to have heard the words delivered, and can bear the most decided testimony that neither in the context of the speech nor in the tone and manner of the orator, was there any thing whatever implying a threat against the stability of “ certain of our institutions from the progress of popular education.” The power and activity of the Schoolmaster was pointed to, in fact, as a counterbalance and protection against any danger which might seem to threaten our free institutions from the ascendancy of a military temper in governinents either at home or in foreign countries. The argument was, if the Captain be abroad, the Schoolmaster is also abroad—and that popular freedom and growing enlightenment which the one may desire to repress and destroy, the other will sustain and preserve. The words were spoken in the tone of congratulation, not of menace.
We are happy to have it to say, however, that what we have noticed is the only evidence of anything like illiberality we have observed in the present volume. The History of Napoleon is ably and interestingly written, and certainly in a spirit the very reverse of illiberal or ungenerous. We should rather say indeed that something too much of allurement is thrown around the story of the conqueror's bloody career; and that we should perhaps have liked the book better, or at least approved of it more, if the author had constrained himself to take upon the whole a more dispassionate view of his hero's claims upon our admiration, and the true worth of his laurels. We must, however, we are aware, pardon a little ultra-enthusiasm in a biographer, if we would have him give us an animated and shining narrative; and that we must acknowledge the present writer has done, whatever else he has left unattempted.
A SHORT STORY.
Brevity is very good,
The diffusion of information among all classes of the community, through the medium of liberal opinions and cheap books, fraught as it must be with incalculable advantages to individuals and to the community, is yet not without its drawbacks. True, it will effectually break the chains by which the majority of mankind have been bound to the altars of ignorance and error,-it will render up to its proper exercise of thinking an immense volume of intellect which has too long been smothered under the dull masses of credulity and prejudice,--and by making the minds of the majority work as well as their hands, it will blend with every art its appropriate science, and thus enable each individual to add to the productive value of the nation, by improving that about which he is more immediately occupied. But still there are some drawbacks: it will obliterate many of those characteristic distinctions which have hitherto belonged to districts and classes, and which, to those who love to paint human nature, have often formed the chiaro scuro—the grouping of light and shade which have given to the productions much of their charm and effect. For all purposes of strength, and greatness, and wealth, and the enjoyment of what it can give, we grant that the change is incalculably the better; but still it is human nature to doat upon the recollection of that which was reality when life was young. Amid the enjoyments of the British metropolis you cannot make the English peasant, however successful he may have been, forget the little ivied cottage in which he was born; green as is the Savannah of the West, Erin will rise greener in vision o'er the blue waste of the sea to the Irish exile the moment that he sets down to reflect; and gorgeous as is the state, and glowing as is the landscape in oriental climes, the summer shealing in the glen will be dearer in reflection to the Scot; the blue-bell and the purple heather will out-lustre all the flowers of the east; and bright as is the sun upon the Ghauts, it will not come up to the little beam which danced through the thunder-cloud upon the snow-dappled top “ o’ braw Cairn Gorm."
For the sake of those who feel these things, and for a higher purpose-that of preserving a full and faithful record of the human racethere lies an onus on every one who can give even one authenticated trait of the opinions and manners that are vanishing, to render it up, and let it go upon the record.
Besides the necessity of this, from the evanescence of the matter to be preserved—the certainty that if not taken now, it will be gone ere another age has rolled away, there is a necessity in that literature of the time which professes to be a delineation of human character. Formerly the dramatists and the novelists of England ransacked every clime and every class for their characters, and if the artist was a
Shakspeare or a Smollet, the picture was truth in all its variety; and, from the haughty bearing of the Roman senator to the uncouth flirtation of the American squaw, the fictionist in story was a sterling matter-of-fact man in every particular. But the case is altered sadly, we should rather say miserably. The drama is puns and patch-work; and the novelists are mere court butterflies. Scandal and intrigue vamped up with occasional scraps of maudlin morality, more pitiable and even more pernicious than the coarseness of the elder giants, and imaginary and distorted characters, drawn, not from real persons, for these have never been seen, or, if seen, never spoken with, but from names hunted up in the Red Book. These, these form the literature of England for the nineteenth century-light indeed in value and in meaning, but in all else as ponderous, and nearly as poisonous, as barytes. Such things are called fashionable, and it must be confessed that they have some of the grand elements of fashion-they come one knows not whence, they go one knows not where; they vanish rapidly, and they leave not a trace behind. Thus the wonted preservers of the peculiarities of human character have abandoned their duties, and are as useless as if annalists were to inscribe the events of the time upon a racing river or a dashing cascade, or as if limners should go about to pencil the wind and the whirlwind with the effigies of illustrious men.
But, besides those necessities, there is an example, and an encouraging example: the truth with which Sir Walter Scott has delineated such a variety of Scottish characters does far more than redeem all the witchcraft and diablerie to which he has obviously too great a leaning, and all the local prejudices, from which he could be purified only in the crucible of Time ;--and the lovers of genius will thank heaven that he has been so purified, and will enter upon the eternity of his fame without the stain of illiberality.
One of Sir Walter's truest and most touching delineations is that of the fisherman and his family, in the Antiquary;' and rude though be the lines of the hardy reaper of the deep, his courage in the hour of peril, and his grief in that of privation, are haply stronger than if he had sat on a throne.
The fishers on the east coast of Scotland, of whom Scott's delineation is almost the only memorial at all true or readable, have long been a singular and a separate people, though they are now so fast blending with their neighbours, that probably before twenty years have elapsed, not a vestige of them will be found,—at least not a vestige of that character which thirty years ago was comparatively pure and perfect. Their principal localities are at Buckhaven, in Fife; at Auchinithie, on the east coast of Angus (where Scott's hero lived); at John's Haven, on the coast of Mearns; and at Buckie, on the shores of the Moray Firth. There are numbers of them at other places, and wherever they are found, their habits are nearly the same; but at the places mentioned they remained longer without admixture, In the choice of their situations they are somewhat singular; for, though they have not been able to construct their dwellings absolutely in the sea, they have contrived to have them where the land is the ļeast accessible. Buckhaven lies on a narrow beach, with a steep May, 1829.
bank behind, the summit of which is not thirty yards from the sea and it used to be a very extraordinary occurrence if one of the men extended his landward peregrinations to the top of the bank. Daring and persevering in their fishery, (which was generally what is called the white fishery,) and sober in their habits, they were comparatively rich, and a beggar was never known to issue from one of their villages for the purpose of soliciting alms. Their ignorance of all matters relating to the land, as well as of all the ordinary forms of polish and politeness, even as known to the land peasantry of Scotland, was striking ; but they had a politeness of their own, and they had a morality which would have been valuable anywhere and rare in some very polished societies. As characteristic of their ignorance of rural affairs one fact may be mentioned : John Tamson, of Buckhaven, after three score-and-ten years' life upon the waters, (for he was seaworthy at ten, and had remained on board till his eightieth year,) having earned an ample independence for a fisherman, left his boat and his bravery to his sons and grandsons, and became one of the gentlemen of the village. Like many others, John Tamson resolved to commence his gentleman-craft by foreign travel; and for this purpose, after two days spent in deliberating and preparing, he arrived at the summit of the bank, where he stood in as intense an ecstatic wonder as Bruce did by the fountains of the Nile; and all the strange creatures of Africa did not afford to that traveller more novelty and delight than a cow, which George Wilkie was tending by the hedgeside, afforded John Tamson. The head, the four oars, the rudder, were all surveyed and all criticised. The quarter oars were quarrelled with for being too far aft, and George was found fault with for steering the cow (which he had in a halter) by a hawser from the bow instead of the tiller. The cow was grazing along the slope, and John came to the lower side to reconnoitre. T'he uneven surface caused the cow's hoofs to separate considerably. John observed it, and exclaimed, “Egoa, man! baith ye're sdarboard sgulls are sbrung; gi'en ye dinna vish them, theyll be in ribbins up to the thows avore a porpesse coud swallow a witing !"
Auchmithie, in a little hollow, like a shell scooped out of the gigantic and cavern-intersected cliffs between Arbroath and the Red Head, is much more wild and inaccessible; and though the people be not just so secluded, in consequence of the near vicinity of Arbroath, their manners used to be even more singular; and there was much more glee in them than in the inhabitants of the softer shore of Fife. Lord Ethie (Northesk) is the great man of the neighbourhood—the ultimate umpire in all alarming cases, and especially that most fearful one when any wag happens to insinuate a hare, or any part thereof, into one of the fishing-boats. On these occasions there is no safety or success for the boat, if his lordship does not cast out the imp with his own hand.
The traditional, but well-authenticated, anecdotes of the Auchmithie fishers are innumerable; and some are told of John Swankie and his spouse—the veritable Saunders and Maggie Mucklebackit of Sir Walter. John was a man of substance, or a “ Vather o'the toon," according to the heraldry of the village. One of his sons being a little delicate, Jolin resolved to breed him to a less laborious profession than that of the sea. As education was, even in John's view of the matter, necessary for that purpose, he went to the schoolmaster to settle the terms; and he addressed the schoolmaster in these words : “ Zer sguelmaestr, my zon Dam is an aitecky laddie, an' 'as nae staetur for 'is meat; zo I'm genna zend 'im ta yuar sguel 'till 'e gan rite a letter ta ma Loard Ethie, an''dite it tun."
Margaret Swankie's expectations of her son's progress were higher than those even of the majority of the fondest mothers. The boy had been at school a week, and returned to the domestic roof on the Saturday evening; the friends and neighbours were collected; the Aberdeen penny Almanack, which called itself “the Prognostication," but was called “the Derrification" by the fishers, who consulted it as the oracle of the moon, the tides, and the weather, was produced ; and the learned youth was called upon to expound the book of fate. Not one word could he explain, nor could he name a character in the black-letter title. Upon which his mother exclaimed, with a mixture of all the passions peculiar to her class : “ Gae 'wa wi' you! you hinna the zense o' a zick vluke, to be a 'ail uke at the sguel, an canna read a chapter o' the Derrification to your vather's zupper!" But though Margaret was thus high in her expectation of the lore of her sun, her own stock was rather scanty. The only subject indeed upon which she had occasion to be learned, beyond the launching of boats, the baiting of lines, the shipment and unshipment of fishermen, and the carriage and sale of fish, all of which devolve wholly on the females,) was that of the Catechism of the Scottish Kirk. Long had she been spared a public exhibition, for the old minister loved both fish and brandy, and Margaret had them in abundance, and dispensed them with a liberal hand; but the old minister was gathered to his fathers; a stranger came, and, in the proverbial zeal of a new broom, he ordered a public examination in the kirk, all to be presentMargaret Swankie among the rest. Margaret was sadly distressed : she knew not a word, and to remain silent was against both her pride and her practice. At last she hit upon a scheme. The minister had a son about fourteen years old, a very smart though rather a waggish lad. She made friends with him, and prevailed upon him not to instruct her beforehand what to say, but to conceal himself under the seat, and prompt her at the time of need. In the confidence of this auxiliary, Margaret marched boldly into the kirk, and seated herself in the front of the fishers' gallery, with the minister's son snugly concealed, and in full confidence that she would win renown far above her neighbours, as they had no such aid. The examination proceeded, with no great applause to the catechumens; and Margaret became anxious for her turn in order to enjoy the glory of a victory. Her name was at length called; and she rose majestically, having first whispered, “ Mind noo, laddie !" to her hidden champion. “ How many Sacraments are there ?” asked the minister. Margaret did not exactly understand the question ; and so inclined her head a little, and whispered, “Vat's he speerin, laddie ?" sarks (shifts) you have." The question, with this gloss, took Mar
“ How many