Posts tagged Literature

Scottish Literary Calendar: 11. November

Epigraph:

Cauld winter was howlin’ o’er muir and oe’r mountains

And wild was the surge on the dark rolling sea

When I met about daybreak a bonnie young lassie

Who asked me the road and the miles to Dundee

Traditional

1|11|1778 | Mary Brunton (Balfour), novelist, born, Orkney. Her novels will include Self Control (1810) and Discipline (1814). |2.1101.01<b>

1|11|1897 Naomi Mitchison, author, born, Edinburgh. ||2.1101.02<b>

1|11|1922 | The Porpoise Press established. It will play an important part in the modern Scottish Lierary Renaissance |2.1101.03<b>

1|11|1950 | Raymond Vetesse, poet, born, Arbroath. |2.1101.04<b>

2|11|1706 | Daniel Defoe, Government spy and author of Robinson Crusoe, wrote to Robert Harley informing him that he had commenced his panegyric Caledonia, in order to convince the Scots that he was one of them |2.1102.01<b>

2|11|1773 |James Boswell and Samuel Johnson arrived at Auchinleck, Boswell’s father’s house.|2.1102.02<b>

3|11|1850 | John Watson [Ian Maclaren], author of very popular sentimental novels of the ‘Kailyard’ school., born |2.1103.01<b>

3|11|1895 |A.G.MacDonell, author of the memorably funny  England, their England, born, Aberdeen |2.1103.02<b>

3|11|1919 | Ludovic Kennedy, broadcaster and author, born, Edinburgh |2.1103.03<b>

**4|11|1771 |Scottish poet and newspaper owner/editor James Montgomery is born Irvine, Ayrshire.|2.1104.01<b>**

4|11|1866 | Helen Jane Findlater, novelist, born, Lochearnhead. She will collaborate with her sister, Mary, in well-regarded novels of manners of which Crossriggs is still in print.|2.1104.02<b>

5|11|1811 | (Hon. Mrs) Sarah Murray [Aust], (1744-1811), travel writer, dies.|2.1105.01<b>

5|11|1819 | James Nicol (1769-1819), Innerleithen-born poet, dies |2.1105.01<b>

5|11|1854 | Susan Ferrier, novelist, dies, aged 72, in Edinburgh.|2.1105.01<b>

5|11|1936 | Stewart Conn, broadcaster and poet, born.|2.1105.01<b>

6|11|1764 | Robert Heron (1764-1807),  the first, if a somewhat inaccurate, biographer of Burns, born New Galloway |2.1106.01<b>

6|11|1894 | Philip Gilbert Hamerton, poet, painter and critic, at one time a denizen at Loch Awe, dies at Boulogne-sur-Seine in France. |2.1106.02<b>

7|11|1838 | Ann(e) Grant (MacVicar), of Laggan, diarist, dies aged 82. |2.1107.01<b>

7|11|1974 | Eric Linklater, novelist (Poet’s Pub and Juan in America), dies at Aberdeen. He is buried in Orkney with which he felt the strongest affinities.|2.1107.02<b>

8|11|1849 | William Robertson Smith born Aberdeenshire. He was prosecuted for heresy for his article about the Bible in the Encylopaedia Britannica, but acquitted. He later became its editor.|2.1108.01<b>

8|11|1891 | Neil Miller Gunn, novelist of the modern Scottish literary renaissance, born at Dunbeath, Caithness. Highland River (1937) will brilliantly evoke his boyhood.|2.1108.01<b>

8|11|1941 | David Black, poet, born South Africa.|2.1108.01<b>

9|11|1941 | William Black, lurid novelist of the ‘Celtic Twilight’, born Glasgow |2.1109.01<b>

9|11|1858 | George Borrow (1803-81), traveller and novelist, at Inverness visiting the Highlands and Northern Isles in search of the Picts |2.1109.02<b>

10|11|1711 | Robert Hay Drummond, the benefactor who helped to establish the Innerpefferay Library, born |2.1110.01<b>

*10|11|1728 | Oliver Goldsmith, playwright (She Stoops to Conquer) and poet,  born in Ireland. He will study medicine in Edinburgh, take a short Highland Tour, and attend formal dances at the Old Town Halls off the High Street. In London he will make the acquaintance of Tobias Smollett.|2.1110.02<b>*

 

11|11|1703 |Martinmas. A paper  proposing the erection of  Lending Libraries throughout the Highlands by Rev. James Kirkwood (1650-1708) was read at the SPCK.|2.1111.01<b>

11|11|1919 |Hamish Henderson, war poet and distinguished twentieth century folklorist, born |2.1111.01<b>

11|11|1935 | Annie S. Swan writes to Dot Allan to congratulate her on her book about William Wallace |2.1111.01<b>

12|11|1772 |Robert Fergusson‘s ‘Hallow Fair’ published in Ruddimans Weekly Magazine .|2.1112.01<b>

***13|11|1850 | Robert Louis Stevenson born, Edinburgh |2.1113.01<b>**

14|11|1789 | William Glen, poet, born, Paisley |2.1114.01<b>

14|11|1910 |Norman MacCaig, poet, born, Edinburgh. His accomplished poetry will be strongly associated with Assynt in Sutherland.|2.1114.02<b>

14|11|1933 | T.S.Eliot, poet, visits Neil Gunn in Inverness |2.1114.03<b>

14|11|1933 | John Joy Bell, journalist, dies.|2.1114.04<b>

15|11|1922 | The Turn of the Day by Marion Angus first published |2.1115.01<b>

16|11|1774 |Robert Fergusson, poet, dies aged 24. |2.1116.01<b>

16|11|1775 |Nichol Graham of Gartmore, miscellaneous writer, dies |2.1116.01<b>

16|11|1797 | Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus born, Edinburgh. Her Memoirs of A Highland Lady will be published posthumously and become a classic.|2.1116.01<b>

 

17|11|1764 | The Speculative Society, whose members have included Francis Jeffrey, Henry Cockburn, Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Hugh MacDiarmid, is founded |2.1117.01<b>

17|11|1949 |Ron Butlin, poet, born Edinburgh |2.1117.01<b>

18|11|1794 | Charles Cordiner, author of Remarkable Ruins and Romantic Prospects of North Britain dies |2.1118.01<b>

**18|11|1826 | Sir Walter Scott meets novelist Fanny Burney, whom he describes in his Journal as “an elderly lady with… a gentle manner and  a pleasing expression of countenance”.|2.1118.02<b>**

18|11|1922 | Allan Campbell Maclean, author of Hill of the Red Fox born.|2.1118.03<b>

19|11|1780 | William Laidlaw, poet and friend of Scott, born |2.1119.01<b>

19|11|1838 |Elgin-born Robert Watson (1746-1838), adventurer and editor of Chevalier de Johnstone’s Memoirs of the Rebellion, 1746, strangled himself in a public house.|2.1119.02<b>

20|11|1776 | William Blackwood, publisher, born Peebles |2.1120.01<b>

21|11|1747 | Joseph Farington, diarist, born. In 1792 he will visit Scotland to make illustrations for John Knox’s Scenery of Scotland, but the project will be abandoned on Knox’s death.|2.1121.01<b>

21|11|1835 | James Hogg, poet and novelist,  dies| 2.1121.02<b>

**21|11|1855 | Jane Welsh Carlyle goes to the Income Tax Commissioners in order to seek a reduction in the tax on her husband’s earnings, fearing that Carlyle will do his own cause little good. She is partially successful, and relieved that Carlyle did not go himself.|2.1121.03<b>**

21|11|1880 | Thomas Tod Stoddart, the angler-poet, dies |2.1121.04<b>

21|11|1936 | James A. Mackay, biographer, born, Inverness. He will edit Robert Burns’ works, and write a biography of him.|2.1121.05<b>

22|11|1794 |Alison Cockburn, poet, dies.| 2.1122.01<b>

22|11|1890 | William Bell Scott, painter and poet, dies |2.1122.02<b>

22|11|1926 | MacDiarmid’s masterpiece, A Drunk Man Looks At The Thistle, published |2.1122.03<b>

22|11|1935 | Hugh Crauford Rae, Glasgow novelist, born |2.1122.04<b>

22|11|1963 |Mary Findlater dies, Comrie.|2.1122.05<b>

23|11|1824 | James Thomson, poet, author of City of Dreadful Night born, Port Glasgow |2.1123.01<b>

23|11|1909 | Nigel Tranter, novelist and historian, born, Edinburgh |2.1123.02<b>

23|11|1924 |Stewart Sanderson, folklorist, born|2.1123.01<b>

23|11|1944 | Christopher Rush author of Venus Peter born,  St. Monans, Fife.|2.1123.02<b>

**24|11|1759 | Tobias Smollett is tried and convicted for libelling Admiral Knowles in the Critical Review. He is imprisoned in the King’s Bench Prison which he describes in his novel Sir Lancelot Greaves.|2.1124.01<b>**

24|11|1790 | Robert Henry, the Stirling-born historian, dies, Edinburgh.|2.1124.02<b>

24|11|1996 | Sorley Maclean [MacGill-Eain, Somhairle], Gaelic poet, dies.|2.1124.03<b>

25|11|1854 | John Gibson Lockhart, biographer of Scott, dies. He will be buried at Scott’s feet. |2.1125.01<b>

25|11|1862 | Norman Macleod ‘Caraid nan Gaidheal’ dies.  |2.1125.02<b>

25|11|1936 | William McIlvanney,  novelist, born, Kilmarnock |2.1125.02<b>

26|11|1747 | The ‘Black Dinner’, subject of an old ballad, took place|2.1126.01<b>

26|11|1775 | Mrs Anne Grant, author of Letters From The Highlands,  describes her daily life in Fort Augustus where her father is quartermaster in a letter to a friend in Glasgow.|2.1126.02<b>

27|11|1778 | John Murray, the Scottish publisher who treated  his authors, including Byron and Campbell, with great generosity, born |2.1127.01<b>

 

28|11|1855 | James Thomson (1768-1855), Crieff-born editor of the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, dies |2.1128.01<b>

28|11|1858 | Robert Pearce Gillies from Arbroath, the self-styled Edinburgh ‘literary veteran’ and subject of a Wordsworth sonnet, dies.|2.1128.01<b>

28|11|1920 | Alexander Scott, poet, born |2.1128.01<b>

28|11|1980 | Brig. Bernard Fergusson (1911-80), soldier, poet and diarist, dies.|2.1128.01<b>

29|11|1818 | George Brown, journalist and distinguished Canadian politician born, Edinburgh |2.1129.01<b>

29|11|1931 | William Reid (1764-1831), Glasgow bookseller, dies.|2.1129.02<b>

29|11|1872 | Mary Somerville (1780-1872), Jedburgh-born mathematician and writer on scientific subjects, dies |2.1129.03<b>

30|11|1862 | St. Andrew’s Day. Sheridan Knowles, dramatist, and Glasgow theatre impresario, dies |2.1130.01<b>

30|11|1934 | Aileen Paterson, author of the Maisie books for children, born |2.1130.02<b>

30|11|1972 | Compton MacKenzie, novelist, dies, aged 89, in Edinburgh. His monumental autobiography My Life and Times (1963-1971) will record his prolific achievements.|2.1130.03<b>

Louis Stott Database: 80 entries                                      Updated: 120898

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Room Enough to Swing a Cat: Quotations from Tobias Smollett

 

 Smollett and Some of his Opinions

  I was born in the northern part of this United Kingdom, in the house of my grandfather; a gentleman of considerable fortune and influence, who had, on many occasions, signalised himself in behalf of his country; and was remarkable for his abilities in the law, which he exercised with great success, in the station of a judge, particularly against beggars, for whom he had a singular aversion. 

Roderick Random [first lines]

He comforted me with observing that life was a voyage in which we must expect to meet with all weathers; sometimes was calm, sometimes rough; that a fair gale often succeeded a storm; that the wind did not always sit one way, and that despair signified nothing; that resolution and skill were better than a stout vessel: for why? because they require no carpenter, and grow stronger the more labour they undergo.

 Roderick Random 41

 

If there be such a thing as true happiness on earth, I enjoy it.

Roderick Random 69

 A prodigy in learning. 

Roderick Random 6

This became the famous malapropism  ‘a progeny of learning’ in The Rivals by Sheridan. 

 I’ll warrant him dead as a herring. 

Roderick Random 4

 Death’s like the best bower anchor, as the saying is, it will bring us all up.

Roderick Random 24

 Some folks are wise and some are otherwise.

Roderick Random  6

London is the devil’s drawing room

  Roderick Random 18

He was formed for the ruin of our sex. 

 Roderick Random 22

We have been jeered, reproached, buffeted, pissed-upon and at last stript of our money; and I suppose by and by we shall be stript of our skins

 Roderick Random 15

 I consider the world is made for me, not me for the world. My maxim is, therefore, to enjoy it while I can, and let futurity shift for itself. 

Roderick Random 14

 The demon of discord, with her sooty wings, had breathed her influence upon our counsels.

Roderick Random 33

 An ounce of prudence is worth a pound of gold

 Roderick Random 15

 In a certain county of England, bounded on one side by the sea, and at the distance of one hundred miles from the metropolis, lived Gamaliel Pickle Esq; the father of that hero whose adventures we propose to record.            

Perigrine Pickle [First Lines] 

The painful ceremony of receiving and returning visits. 

Perigrine Pickle v

 I make good the old saying we sailors get money like horses, and spend it like asses.

Perigrine Pickle ii

  Number three is always fortunate.

Perigrine Pickle x  

 A mere index hunter, who held the eel of science by the tail.

Perigrine Pickle xliii

  There’s a dragon among the chambermaids. 

Perigrine Pickle lxxxii

 Every man of importance ought to write his own memoirs, provided that he has honesty enough to tell the truth. 

Ferdinand Count Fathom i

 The genteel comedy of the polite world.

Ferdinand Count Fathom i

 I ain’t dead, but I’m speechless

Ferdinand Count Fathom  xli

  Nothing is more liable to misconstruction than an act of uncommon generosity; one half the world mistake the motive from want of ideas to conceive an instance of beneficence that soars so high above the level of their own sentiments; and the rest suspect it of something sinister or selfish, from the suggestions of their own sordid and vicious inclinations.

Ferdinand Count Fathom v

 To a man of honour the unfortunate need no introduction.  

Ferdinand Count Fathom  lxii

 He made an apology for receiving the Count in his birthday suit, to which he said he was reduced by the heat of his constitution, though he might have assigned a more adequate cause, by owning that his shirt was in the hands of his washerwoman; then shrouding himself in a blanket, desired to know what had procured him the honour of such an extraordinary visit. 

Ferdinand Count Fathom   xli

 This is believed to be the first use of the phrase ‘birthday suit’ in this sense. Win Jenkins uses it again on a more famous occasion after emerging naked from Loch Lomond.

 Bare I was born, and bare I remain.

Smollett’s Translation of Don Quixote [1755]

“Cervantes’s masterpiece is lucky to have found so perfect a translator as the flamboyant Smollett . The rambunctious personalities of author and translator are ideally matched.”  Quoted on Amazon

I think for my part one half of the nation is mad – and the other not very sound.

 Sir Launcelot Greaves vi

Discord seemed to clap her sooty wings in expectation of a battle.

 Sir Launcelot Greaves iii                      

True patriotism is of no party.

Sir Launcelot Greaves ix

After clouds comes clear weather. 

Sir Launcelot Greaves x

A   seafaring   man   may   have   a   sweetheart   in   every   port, but   he should steer clear of a wife, as he would avoid quicksand.

 Sir Launcelot Greaves xxi

 “That great Cham of Literature, Samuel Johnson.”

Smollett in a Letter to John Wilkes

Boswell interpreted the word ‘Cham’ as ‘Chum’ at first, and he animadverted on Smollett’s ignorance. In fact, the word is an archaic form of ‘Khan’, an entirely appropriate epithet for Johnson because it conveyed, at one and the same time, the despotic nature of his ‘rule’ and the barbarous hordes of writers over whom he ruled. James Burnett, Lord Monboddo (1714-99), was known as ‘the lesser Cham’.

Depend on it, my friend, all men love two hands in their neighbour’s purse, though only one in their own. Men’s principles are all alike; the only difference lies in the mode of carrying them into effect.                       

Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas Book X Ch i

Facts are stubborn things.                                                                                      

Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas Book X Ch 1 

Opinions cannot survive if one has no chance to fight for them

Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas Book X Ch 1

Naked glory is the true and honourable recompense of gallant actions

 Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas Book VIII Ch 12

Glory is the fair child of Peril

Regicide viii

Hark ye, Clinker, you are a notorious offender.   You stand convicted of sickness, hunger, wretchedness and want.

 Humphry Clinker (24 May)

 

 

There is an idea of truth in an agreeable landscape taken from nature, which pleases me more than the gayest fiction, which the most luxuriant fancy can display. 

Humphry Clinker  (28 August)

  One wit, like a knuckle of ham in soup, gives zest and flavour to the dish, but more than one serves only to spoil the pottage.

 Humphry Clinker (5 June)

 Save a thief from the gallows, and he will cut your throat.   

Humphry Clinker (23 June)

   Writing is all a lottery — I have been a loser by the works of the greatest men of the age.

Humphry Clinker, (10 August)

   I believe I should send for the head of your cook in a charger — She has committed felony, on the person of that John Dory, which is mangled in a cruel manner, and even presented without sauce.

Humphrey Clinker  (30 April)

She starched up her behaviour with a double portion of reserve.

Humphry Clinker (12 Sept)

 The oppressive imposition of ridiculous modes, invented by ignorance, and adopted by folly.

 Humphry Clinker (Oct 8)

  Every shot has its commission, d’ye see? We must all die at one time as the saying is. 

The Reprisal II viii

  It is commonly remarked, that beer strengthens as well as refreshes. 

 Travels xix

 

If the spirit of a British admiral been properly exerted the French fleet would have been defeated and Minorca relieved. A man’s opinion of danger varies at different times, in consequence of an irregular tide of animal spirits; and he is actuated by considerations, which he dares not avow.

 On Admiral Byng in The History of England 1757

The highways were infested with rapine and assassination, the cities teemed with the brutal votaries of lewdness, intemperance and profligacy The whole land was overcome with a succession of tumult, riot and insurrection excited in different parts of kingdom by the erection of new turnpikes.

History of England 1757

Quotations from Smollett’s Poetry

It can be argued that Smollett’s first published work was The Tears of Scotland, later set to music by Haydn. It brought him immediate success.

Mourn, hapless Caledonia, mourn

Thy banished peace, thy laurels torn.

 The Tears of Scotland [1746].

 While the warm blood bedews my veins,

And unimpaired remembrance reigns,

Remembrance of my country’s fate

Within my filial breast shall beat.

The Tears of Scotland [1746].

 

 

The glory of the victory was sullied by the barbarity of the soldiers. They had been provoked by their former disgraces to the most savage thirst of revenge. Not contented with the blood which was so profusely shed in the heat of action, they traversed the field after the battle, and massacred those miserable wretches who lay maimed and expiring: nay some officers acted a part in this cruel scene of assassination, the triumph of low illiberal minds, uninspired by sentiment, untinctured by humanity

On Culloden in Smollett’s Continuation of the History of England    

Thy fatal shafts unerring prove

I bow before thine altar, Love                        

Roderick Random xi

THE REGICIDE

The Regicide was Smollett’s first play, written when he was eighteen years of age. It adapts Buchanan’s account of the assassination of James I, King of Scots. Smollett took it with him when he first went to London, but was unable to get it produced.

True courage scorns

To vent her prowess in a storm of words;

And to the valiant actions speak alone. 

The Regicide

. . . Not sleep itself

Is ever balmy; for the shadowy dream

Oft bears substantial woe

The Regicide

. . . Few live exempt

From disappointment and disgrace who run

Ambition’s rapid course. 

The Regicide

As love can exquisitely bless

Love only feels the marvellous of pain,

Opens new veins of torture in the heart,

And wakes the nerve where agonies are born.

The Regicide

. . . Keen are the pangs

Of hapless love, and passion unapproved;

But where consenting wishes meet and views,

Reciprocally breathed, confirm the tie;

Joy rolls on joy, an unexhausting stream!

And virtue crowns the sacred scene.

The Regicide

Is ever balmy; for the shadowy dream

Oft bears substantial woe

 The Regicide

. . . Simple woman

Is weak in intellect as well as frame

And judges often from the partial voice

That soothes her wishes most

The Regicide

Not to the ensanguin’d field of death alone

Is valor limited: she sits serene

In the deliberate council, sagely scans

The source of action: weighs, prevents, provides,

And scorns to count her glories, from the feats

Of brutal force alone.

The Regicide

   

Soft sleep, profoundly pleasing power

Sweet patron of the peaceful hour

Ode to Sleep

Deep in the frozen reaches of the North                                                      

A goddess violated brought thee forth      

Ode to Independence

Thy spirit, Independence, let me share

Lord of the lion-heart and eagle eye

Thy steps I follow with my bosom bare

Nor heed the storm that howls along the sky

Ode to Independence

Nature I’ll court in her sequester’d haunts,

By mountain, meadow, streamlet, grove, or cell;

Where the pois’d lark his evening ditty chants,

And health, and peace, and contemplation dwell.

Ode to Independence

Tis, infamous, I grant it, to be poor.

Advice     

What though success will not attend on all

 Who bravely dares must sometimes risk a fall

Advice   

Too coy to flatter and too proud to serve

Thine be the joyless dignity to starve.

Advice 

False as the fowler’s artful snare.

Song: To fix her! ’twere a task as vain

While British oak beneath us rolls,
And English courage fires our souls;
To crown our toils, the fates decree
The wealth and empire of the sea.

The Reprisal 1757 

                    ODE TO LEVEN WATER.

This poem celebrates the Vale of Leven at the foot of Loch Lomond where Smollett was born, and was first published in Humphry Clinker

On Leven’s banks, while free to rove,

And tune the rural pipe to love,

I envied not the happiest swain

That ever trod the Arcadian plain.

Pure stream, in whose transparent wave

My youthful limbs I wont to lave,

No torrents stain thy limpid source;

No rocks impede thy dimpling course,

That sweetly warbles o’er its bed,

With white, round, polish’d pebbles spread;

While, lightly poised, the scaly brood

In myriads cleave thy crystal flood;

The springing trout, in speckled pride,

The salmon, monarch of the tide,

The ruthless pike, intent on war,

The silver eel, and mottled par.

Devolving from thy parent lake,

A charming maze thy waters make,

By bowers of birch, and groves of pine,

And edges flower’d with eglantine.

Still on thy banks, so gaily green,

May numerous herds and flocks be seen,

And lasses, chanting o’er the pail,

And shepherds, piping in the dale,

And ancient faith, that knows no guile,

And Industry, embrown’d with toil,

And hearts resolved, and hands prepared,

The blessings they enjoy to guard

 

 

 

 

 Smollett on Europe

  In Sterne’s phrase Smollett was a ‘splenetic traveller’, and his works are full of unkind references to the French, the Germans and the Italians, as well as to his fellow countrymen. However, most modern readers will detect some substance in a number of Smollett’s more notorious passages. In any case, what he had to say was usually funny and invariably well put.

…on England

 I am heartily tired of this land of indifference and phlegm where the finer sensations of the soul are not felt…

 Letter to Alexander Carlyle 1754

  I am attached to my country because it is the land of liberty, cleanliness and convenience.

Travels 

  This sort of reserve seems peculiar to the English disposition. When two natives of any other country chance to meet abroad, they run into each other’s embrace like old friends, even though they have never heard of one another till that moment; whereas two Englishmen in the same situation maintain a mutual reserve and diffidence, and keep without the sphere of each other’s attrac­tion, like two bodies endowed with a repulsive power.

Travels xii

 

 

Chelsea Plaque

I know not whether the porcelain made at Chelsea may not vie with the productions either of Dresden, or St. Cloud. If it falls short of either, it is not in the design, painting, enamel, or other ornaments, but only in the composition of the metal, and the method of managing it in the furnace.

Travels viii

…on Germany

German genius lies more in the back than in the brain.

Travels

 

…on Italy

I   repeat   it again; of all the people I ever knew the Italians are the most villainously rapacious.

Travels xxxiv

…on France and the French

Smollett on The French (1)

 A Frenchman in consequence of his mingling with the females from his infancy, not only becomes acquainted with all their customs and humours; but grows wonderfully alert in performing a thousand little offices, which are overlooked by other men, whose time hath been spent in making more valuable acquisitions. He enters, without ceremony, a lady’s bed-chamber, while she is in bed, reaches her whatever she wants, airs her shift, and helps to put it on. He attends at her toilette, regulates the distribution of her patches, and advises where to lay on the paint. If he visits her when she is dressed, and perceives the least impropriety in her coeffure, he insists upon adjusting it with his own hands: if he sees a curl, or even a single hair amiss, he produces his comb, his scissars, and pomatum, and sets it to rights with the dexterity of a professed friseur. He ‘squires her to every place she visits, either on business, or pleasure; and, by dedicating his whole time to her, renders himself necessary to her occasions.  

Travels vii 

Smollett on The French (2)

 If a Frenchman is admitted to your family, and distinguished by repeated marks of your friendship and regard, the first return he makes for your civilities is to make love to your wife, if she is handsome; if not to your sister, your daughter or your niece. 

Travels vii 

Smollett on The French (3)

 A Frenchman pries into all your secrets with the most impudent and importunate curiosity, and then discloses them without remorse.  If you are indisposed, he questions you about the symptoms of your disorder, with more freedom than your physician would presume to use; very often in the grossest terms. He then proposes his remedy (for they are all quacks), he prepares it without your knowledge, and worries you with solicitation to take it, without paying the least regard to the opinion of those whom you have chosen to take care of your health.  

Travels vii 

 

Smollett on The French  (4)

 They affect to believe that all the travellers of our country are grand seigneurs, immensely rich and incredibly generous; and we are silly enough to encourage this opinion, by submitting quietly to the most ridiculous extortion, as well as by committing acts of the most absurd extravagance. 

Travels 

Smollett and the French (5)

  The French, as well as other foreigners, have no idea of a man of family and fashion, without the title of duke, count, marquis, or lord, and where an English gentleman is introduced by the simple expression of monsieur tel, Mr. Suchathing, they think he is some plebeian, unworthy of any particular attention.

Travels xl 

Smollett and the French (6)

 A French friend tires out your patience with long visits; and, far from taking the most palpable hints to withdraw, when he perceives you uneasy he observes you are low-spirited, and therefore he will keep you company.

Travels vii

Of all the people I have ever known I think the French are the least capable of feeling for the distresses of their fellow creatures.

 Travels  vii

Some Different Views on the French

He observed, that France was the land of politeness and hospitality, which were conspicuous in the behaviour of all ranks and degrees, from the peer to the peasant; that a gentleman and a foreigner, far from being insulted and imposed upon by the lower class of people, as in England, was treated with the utmost reverence, candour, and respect; and their fields were fertile, their climate pure healthy, their farmers rich and industrious, the subjects in general the happiest of men.

Perigrine Pickle 35

France abounds with men of consummate honour, profound sagacity, and the most liberal education.

Peregrine Pickle 39

He advised him, now that he was going into foreign parts, to be upon his guard against the fair weather of the French politesse, which was no more to be trusted than a whirlpool at sea.

Peregrine Pickle 33

Birdwatching with Smollett

 The neighbourhood of this fort [near Boulogne], which is a smooth sandy beach, I have chosen for my bathing place. The road to it is agreeable and romantic, lying through pleasant cornfields, skirted by open downs, where there is a rabbit warren, and great plenty of the birds so much admired at Tunbridge under the name of wheat-ears. By the bye, this is a corruption of ‘white arse’, the translation of their French name ‘cul-blanc’, taken from their colour; for they are actually white towards the tail.

…on Scotland

  I do not think I could enjoy life with greater relish in any part of the world than in Scotland

Letter to Alexander Carlyle 1754

  Mr. Cameron of Lochiel, the chief of that clan, whose father was attained for having been concerned in the last rebellion, returning from France, in obedience to a proclamation and act of parliament passed at the beginning of the late war, paid a visit to his own country, and hired a farm in the neighbourhood of his father’s house, which had been burnt to the ground.  The clan, though ruined and scattered, no sooner heard of his arrival, than they flocked in to him from all quarters, to welcome his return, and in a few days stocked his farm with seven hundred black cattle, which they had saved in the general wreck of their affairs: but their beloved chief, who was a promising youth, did not live to enjoy the fruits of their fidelity and attachment

Humphry Clinker (Sep 6)

  The Cameron of Lochiel to whom Smollett refers was John Cameron of Lochiel, XX Chief, who died in 1762, a mere three years after returning to Scotland. 

 It was not to be wondered at if I had a tolerable education, for learning was so cheap in my country, that every peasant was a scholar.

Roderick Random 40 

 

 

I should not be a true Scotch man if I went away without my change

Roderick Random 17

I know that very well; we have scarce any other countrymen to examine here [at the Barber Surgeons’ Hall]; you Scotchmen have overspread us of late as the locusts did Egypt.

Roderick Random 17

  I am so far happy to have seen Glasgow, which, to the best of my recollection and judgment, is one of the prettiest towns in Europe and, without all doubt, it is one of the most flourishing in Great Britain.

Humphry Clinker (Aug 28)

  Glasgow is the pride of Scotland, and, indeed, it might well pass for an elegant and flourishing city in any part of Christendom.

Humphry Clinker (Sep 3)

…the English language [is] spoken with greater propriety at Edinburgh than in London.

Humphry Clinker (July 13)

    Edinburgh is a hot-bed of genius.

Humphry Clinker  [Aug 8]

   The English who have never crossed the Tweed, imagine erroneously, that Scotch ladies are not remarkable for personal attractions; but, I can declare with safe conscience, I never saw so many handsome females together.

Humphry Clinker  (Aug 8)

    The Scots are all musicians.

Humphry Clinker  (Aug 8)

… and, in particular, on Loch Lomond

 

Loch Lomond Paul Sandby

  John Gray, a minor historian, described Smollett as  “the author who by the magic of his pen turned the banks of Loch Lomond into classic ground” 

This country is justly stiled the Arcadia of Scotland; and I don’t doubt but it may vie with Arcadia in every thing but climate…

Humphry Clinker  (28 August)

“I have seen the Lago di Garda, Albano, De Vico, Bolsena and Geneva, and, upon my honour, I prefer Loch Lomond to them all a preference which is certainly owing to the verdant islands that seem to float upon its surface, affording the most inchanting objects ‘of repose to the excursive view. Nor are the banks destitute of beauties which even partake of the sublime. On this side hey display a sweet variety of woodland cornfield and pasture, with several agreeable villas emerging, as it were, out of the lake, till, at some distance, the prospect terminates in huge mountains covered with heath which being in the bloom, affords a very rich covering of purple. Everything here is romantic beyond imagination. This country is justly stiled the Arcadia of Scotland, and I don’t doubt but it may vie with Arcadia in everything but climate. I am sure it exceeds it in verdure, wood and water.”

 Humphry Clinker  (28 August)

 

We went to Loch Lomond, one of the most enchanting spots m the whole world.     

Humphry Clinker  (7 September)

We now crossed the water of Leven, which, though nothing near so considerable as the Clyde, is much more transparent pastoral and delightful. This charming stream is the outlet of Loch Lomond and through a tract of four miles pursues its winding course, murmuring over a bed of pebbles, till it joins the firth at Dumbarton. A very little above its source on the lake stands the house of Cameron so embosomed in an oak wood that we did not see it till we were within fifty yards of the door.  

 Humphry Clinker  (28 August)

 

 

 The Proverbial Smollett

The same Davy Jones, according to the mythology of sailors, is the fiend that presides over all the evil spirits of the deep, and is seen in various shapes….warning the devoted wretch of death and woe.

 Peregrine Pickle xiii

    This is the first mention of Davy Jones. No relevant real person has been found; Davy Jones is likely to be a sailor’s story about evil sea sprits possibly based on the biblical story of Jonah. 

I am pent up in frowzy lodgings where there is not room enough to swing a cat. 

Humphry Clinker (8 June)

   The image which this phrase may conjure up may be of a domestic cat, but Smollett was probably thinking of the cat o’ nine tails with which he would have been familiar in the navy.

  My mother was an honest woman; I didn’t come in on the wrong side of the blanket.

Humphry Clinker 14 October

  I pulled out the post book, and began to read the article, which orders that the traveller who comes first shall be first served.

Travels viii

  You always used me in an officer-like manner that, I must own, to give the devil his due.

Peregrine Pickle I xvii

Hunger, thou knowest, brings the wolf out of the wood.

Translation of Gil Blas Book  XIII Ch v

Why stand shilly-shally? Why not strike while the iron is hot and speak to the squire without loss of time.

Humphry Clinker (14 October)

Casting an eye at my hat and wig he took his off and clapping his own on my head declared that fair exchange was no robbery.

Roderick Random xli

It can’t be had for love nor money.

Humphry Clinker (26 April)

Greater familiarity on his side might have bred contempt.
          

Adventures of an Atom 

The world would do nothing for her if she should come to want–charity begins at home: she wished I had been bound to some substantial handicraft, such as a weaver or a shoemaker, rather than loiter away my time in learning foolish nonsense….

Roderick Random I vi     

  I meddle with nobody’s affairs but my own: the gunner to his linstock and the steersman to the helm, as the saying is.

Roderick Random II xlii  

This proverb is, of course, a variation on ‘let the cobbler stick to his last.’

  He knew not which was which; and, as the saying is, all cats in the dark are grey.

 Humphry Clinker (7 September)

The sense in which this proverb is used by Smollet is probably to describe the similarity which there may be between the two women’s private parts.

  Insolence…akin to the arrogance of the village cock who never crows but upon his own dunghill

Humphry Clinker II 178

  All the fat’s in the fire.

The Reprisal I viii 

  The captain, like the prophets of old, is but little honoured in his own country.

Humphry Clinker

Egad, appearances are very deceitful

Smollett’s Translation of Gil Blas (1749) III vii i

  ‘ Tis a true saying – live and learn

Humphry Clinker

  You knows master, one must live and let live as the saying is

Sir Launcelot Greaves II xvi 

  Which sheweth that he who plays at bowls will sometimes meet with rubbers.

Sir Launcelot Greaves x

Rubbers are impediments encountered in the game of bowls. The expression is also used in Humphrey Clinker

  Please your eye and plague your heart

Roderick Random II xl    

“Well, fools and their money are soon parted.

Roderick Random xi 

She is not worthy to tie her majesty’s shoe-strings.

 Smollett’s Translation of Don Quixote 1 iv 3 

 

 

 

 

Some Observations from Dr. Smollett

   “In 1763 that quintessentially bad-tempered Scotsman, Tobias Smollett, consulted a famous doctor in Montpellier, France, by sending him an account of his condition in Latin. The poor doctor, clearly out of his depth in Latin, replied in French, and made so many errors that Smollett sent him another letter — with another fee — pointing out all the mistakes and confusions in his reply. Later, Smollett triumphantly reported meeting an Englishman who had received an identical letter from the physician, even though they had very different diseases. As Smollett discovered, possession of a doctorate does not necessarily imply knowledge.” 

Ryan Huxtable in a review of The Shocking History of Phosphorus

I find my spirits and my health affect each other reciprocally–that is to say, everything that decomposes my mind produces a correspondent disorder in my body; and my bodily complaints are remarkably mitigated by those considerations that dissipate the clouds of mental chagrin. 

Humphry Clinker (14 June)

I have put myself on the superannuated list too soon, and absurdly sought for health in the retreats of laziness — I am persuaded that all valetudinarians are too sedentary, too regular, and too cautious — We should sometimes increase the motion of the machine.

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (26 Oct )

 There is, however, one disease, for which you have found as yet no specific, and that is old age, of which this tedious unconnected epistle is an infallible symptom: what, therefore, cannot be cured, must be endured…

 The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (26 June)

  The Concise Oxford Book of Proverbs attributes “What cannot be cured must be endured” to Langland in Piers Plowman. Bartlett states that it comes either from  Robert Burton (1577–1640) Anatomy of Melancholy or from François Rabelais (c.1490–1553) Works v

Pure water is certainly of all drinks the most salutary beverage…Those admirable qualities inherent in spring water are clearly evinced by the uninterrupted health, good spirits and longevity of those who use nothing but water for their ordinary drink.

An Essay on the External Use of Water [1752]

 

 

 

 

I am resolved to set out to-morrow for York, in my way to Scarborough, where I propose to brace up my fibres by sea-bathing, which, I know, is one of your favourite specifics.

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (26 June)

The people here [Nice] were much surprised when I began to bathe in the beginning of May … some of the doctors prognosticated immediate death.

  Travels

“No other English writer leaves to posterity so clear a picture of contemporary medicine as does Tobias George Smollett”. Claude E. Jones. 1935.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smollett On the adulteration of food

of wine

As to the intoxicating potion, sold for wine, it is a vile, unpalatable, and pernicious sophistication, balderdashed with cyder, corn-spirit, and the juice of sloes….

of bread

The bread I eat in London, is a deleterious paste, mixed up with chalk, alum, and bone-ashes; insipid to the taste, and destructive to the constitution. The good people are not ignorant of this adulteration; but they prefer it to wholesome bread, because it is whiter than the meal of corn [wheat]: thus they sacrifice their taste and their health, and the lives of their tender infants, to a most absurd gratification of a mis-judging eye; and the miller, or the baker, is obliged to poison them and their families, in order to live by his profession….

of greens

They insist on having the complexion of their pot-herbs mended, even at the hazard of their lives. Perhaps, you will hardly believe they can be so mad as to boil their greens with a brass halfpence, in order to improve their colour; and yet nothing is more true….

. . . of milk

[Milk is] the produce of faded cabbage leaves and sour draff, lowered with hot water, frothed with bruised snails, carried through the streets in open pails….

. . . and of butter

the tallowy rancid mass, called butter, is manufactured with candle-grease and kitchen-stuff….

and the remedy

Now, all these enormities might be remedied with a very little attention to the article of police, or civil regulation; but the wise patriots of London have taken it into their heads, that all regulation is inconsistent with liberty….

The Expedition of Humphry Clinker 8 June

  Smollett on French Food

The longer I live, the more I am convinced that wine, and all fermented liquors, are pernicious to the human constitution

Travels xxxix                                                 

 

An insuppressible affection for a fricassee of frogs . . .

Peregrine Pickle 6

 

For my own part, I hate French cookery, and abominate garlic, with which all their ragouts, in this part of the country, are highly seasoned…         

Travels viii

 
 

 
Smollett’s Libel on Admiral Knowles

Marshalsea Prison, Southwark

  Smollett is famous for complaining about things, and his diatribes in Travels in France and Italy and elsewhere are notorious. However, he was thrown into Marshalsea prison for his most famous piece of invective, the libel on Admiral Knowles. One cannot help suspecting that, like a lot of Smollett’s other observations, it was true:

   We have heard of a man, who, without birth, interest, or for­tune, has raised himself from the lowest paths of life to an eminent rank in the service; and if all his friends were put to the strappado, they could not define the quality or qualities to which he owed his elevation. Nay, it would be found upon enquiry, that he neither has, or ever had any friend at all; (for we make a wide distinction between a patron and a friend); and yet for a series of years, he has been enabled to sacrifice the blood, the treasure, and the honour of his country, to his own ridiculous projects Ask his character of those who know him, [and] they will not scruple to say, he is an admiral without conduct, an engineer without knowledge, an officer without resolution, and a man without veracity. They will tell you he is an ignorant, assuming, officious, fribbling pretender; conceited as a peacock, obstinate as a mule, and mischievous as a monkey; that in every station of life he has played the tyrant with his inferiors, the incendiary among his equals, and commanded a squadron occasionally for twenty years, without having even established his reputation in the article of personal courage. If the service can be thus influenced by caprice, admiral Knowles needs not be surprised at his being laid aside after forty years constant and faithful service.

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Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 5. Into Argyll

 

Arrochar and Glencroe

At Tarbet the A83 leaves Loch Lomond and heads into Argyll proper. Until recently places like Helensburgh, Luss and Arrochar were in Dumbartonshire rather than Argyll, but there is no disputing that, beyond the head of Loch Long, you are in Argyll. The road between Tarbet and Arrochar is not much more than two miles long. Viking raiders took advantage of this portage in 1263 to stage a raid on Loch Lomond from the sea. The crossing, in either direction, is a pleasing one. Visitors evince surprise at the similarities and contrasts which there are between the two lochs. In Written in the Highlands of Scotland Sep 1, 1812 Samuel Rogers (1763-1855), travelling from fresh water to salt expressed his feelings as follows:

Tarbet! thy shore I climbed at last,

And through thy shady region passed,

Upon another shore I stood

And looked upon another flood:

Old Ocean’s self! (’tis he who fills

That vast and awful depth of hills).

 Rogers was, in his day, a highly regarded poet, who visited Scotland on several occasions. In 1803 his visit coincided with that of the Wordsworths. Jeffrey praised his work. Rogers, like other authors relied  on publishers. However, when his  poems did not sell well he produced a lavish edition of them himself, and persuaded Turner to illustrate it.
Loch Lomond 1832 Watercolour for Roger's Poems

Loch Lomond 1832 Illustration for Rogers’ Poems. Drawn: J.M.W.Turner Engraved William Miller

The praise which Robert Southey offers for the inn at Arrochar is praise indeed, since his opinions about other Highland inns was generally unfavourable:

“The country here is well cultivated, well wooded and very beautiful. A line of mountains is on the opposite shore, and behind them Ben Lomond rises in great majesty, Loch Lomond lying, unseen by us, between two ridges. The road turns leftward up the shore of the saltwater loch, and rounds the head: not far from the head stands the Arrochar Inn, more beautifully placed than any inn I have seen in Scotland or elsewhere – a large good house with fine trees about it, not a stone’s throw from the shore, and with the high summit of the grotesque mountain abominably called the Cobbler, opposite and in full view.”

‘The Cobbler’ is a rich joke. Travellers, bred on hills like Grasmere’s Helm Crag with its ‘lion and lamb’, have long supposed they can see a cobbler, his last, and even his wife. It is probably a corruption of the Gaelic for a sensible name for it, ‘forked peak’. However, John Stoddart pointed out:

“This terrific rock forms the bare summit of a huge mountain, and its nodding top so far overhangs its base as to assume the appearance of a cobbler sitting at his work, from when country people call it an greasaiche cróm, the crooked shoemaker.”

The famous ben at the head of Loch Long is, alternatively, and evocatively, called Ben Arthur. One of the sons of Aeden Mac Gabhran, a king of the Scots of Dalriada was called ‘Artur’, and it is sometimes argued that he formed a basis for the legendary monarch.

Coleridge, writing to his wife in September 1803, related how he went ‘ to Arrochar, on purpose to see the Cobbler, which had impressed me so much in Mr Wilkinson’s drawings…’ It was Wilkinson’s Tour which in part persuaded him and the Wordsworths to visit Scotland.

Writing from Arrochar, Burns probably had the Cobbler in mind when he referred to his sojourn in ‘a land of savage hills, swept by savage rains, peopled by savage sheep, tended by savage people.’ However, Turner, and others, thought it sublime.

Neil Munro made Arrochar one of two possible birthplaces of the skipper of the Vital Spark, and the setting for the famous story Mudges, giving the place a reputation of another sort.

Beyond Arrochar the character of the country changes. This is partly due to the fact that Loch Long is a sea loch, but it is also a result of the absence of deciduous trees. The Forestry Commission have excelled themselves in Cowal, where they have planted innumerable conifers. Elsewhere, in contrast to Loch Lomond, are apparently bare hillsides. The road turns into Glen Croe, and, nowadays, climbs steadily across the breast of a hill; the old military road sticks to the valley floor before scrambling in a series of dizzy hairpin bends to the summit. The hills to the south of the road have a splendid name: Argyll’s Bowling Green. In Scotland [1982] Tom Weir offers an explanation:

Argyll’s Bowling Green! How did such a piece of knobbly country, rugged even by Wester Ross standards, get such an undescriptive name?

It was nothing to do with some early duke’s sense of humour, merely the corruption of a Gaelic name Buaile na Greine, which means the sunny cattle fold, a place where the dukes and duchesses used to rest their horses on Loch Longside after crossing from Lochgoilhead.

It was their route to their castle of Rosneath. In 1735 the map maker Carington Bowles applied the name to the whole peninsula, except that he showed it as Argyll’s “Bowling Green.”

And rough as that peninsula is, it was much traversed by cattle drovers coming from Loch Fyne by Hell’s Glen to skirt Loch Goil, cross the ridge to Loch Long, and ferry their cattle across to Portincaple.

In The New RoadNeil Munro states ‘There is not a finer glen in Albyn than Glen Croe.’ Nowadays the traffic still appears to be reduced to insignificance by the mountains, but the spirit of the place has changed. It is not so wild and desolate as when Munro was thinking of it, or when Wordsworth climbed to the Rest and Be Thankful in late August 1803. The weather had brightened as they ascended the Rest, and Dorothy Wordsworth reported that ‘afternoon and evening the sky was in an extraordinary degree vivid and beautiful’ They got to the head of the pass:

At the top of the hill we came to a seat with the well-known inscription “Rest and be thankful” On the same stone it was recorded that the road had been made by Col. Wade’s regiment. The seat is placed so as to command a full view of the valley, and the long, long, road, which, with the fact recorded, and the exhortation, makes it an affecting resting-place.

It is unlikely that the seat, now gone, referred to Wade, since it was built by his successor, Caulfeild. William reflected on the pass in a sonnet Rest and Be Thankful of which the first four lines are:

Doubling and doubling with laborious walk,

Who, that has gained at length the wished-for Height,

This brief this simple wayside Call can slight,

And rests not thankful?

   The answer to this memorable poetic question might have turned out to be John Keats, who thought he was coming to an inn, and was very disappointed when he traversed this famous pass in 1818 :

We were up at 4 this morning and have walked to breakfast 15 Miles through two tremendous Glens – at the end of the first there is a place called rest and be thankful which we took for an Inn – it was nothing but a stone and so we were cheated into 5 more Miles to Breakfast

Southey compared Glencroe with Glencoe:

“The road too is in itself much finer, descending from the immediate summit down a much  steeper inclination; and with such volutions that a line drawn from the top would intersect several times in a short distance. In mountainous countries a fine road is a grand and beautiful work, and never so striking as when it winds thus steeply and skilfully. There has been some improvement of the old military line at this place.” [1819]

The naturalist and traveller, Thomas Pennant, crossing the Rest southbound in 1769 had nothing more to say of it than: “Ascend a very high pass with a little lough on the top of it” but Samuel Johnson called it:

a bleak and dreary region, now made easily passable by a military road, which rises from either end of the glen by an acclivity not dangerously steep, but sufficiently laborious. In the middle, at the top of the hill, is a seat with the inscription “Rest, and be thankful.” Stones were placed to mark the distance, which the inhabitants have taken away, resolved, they said, to have no new miles.

In 1784 a French scientist,Barthélemy Faujas de St Fond, travelled to Scotland, attracted by its remarkable geology. His route took him up Lochlomondside, which delighted him, and then into Glencroe:

I soon found a contrast to the delightful scenes we left. They were succeeded by deserts and dismal heaths. We entered a narrow pass between two chains of high mountains, which appear to have, at a very remote period, formed only one ridge, but which some terrible revolution has torn asunder throughout its length.

This defile is so narrow, and the mountains are so high and steep, that the rays of the sun can scarcely reach the place and be seen for the space of an hour in the twenty-four.  For more than ten miles, which is the length of this pass, there is neither house nor cottage, nor living creature except a few fishes in a small lake, about half way.

In 1796 Sarah Murray, the widow of Captain William Murray, RN, made an extensive tour in Scotland and wrote A Companion and Useful Guide to the Beauties of Scotland:

 

The carriage road…turns to the right, up one of the most formidable as well as most gloomy passes in the Highlands, amongst such black, bare, craggy, tremendous mountains, as must shake the nerves of every timorous person, particularly if it be a rainy day. And when is there a day in the year free from rain in Glen Croe? and on the hill called “Rest-and-be-Thankful?” no day; no not one!

Lord Cockburn, returning from administering justice in Inveraray, wrote:

The day was perfect for that glorious stage from Cairndow to Tarbet. Few things are more magnificent than the rise from Cairndow to Rest-and-be-Thankful. The top of it, where the rocky mountain rises above the little solitary Loch Restil, and all the adjoining peaks are brought into view, is singularly fine. As I stood at the height of the road and gazed down on its strange course both ways, I could not help rejoicing that there was at least one place where railways, and canals, and steamers, and all these devices for sinking hills and, raising valleys, and introducing man and levels, and destroying solitude and nature, would for ever be set at defiance.

From the Rest and Be Thankful a lesser road descends to Lochgoilhead.Sara Jane Lippincott[pseud: Grace Greenwood](1823-1904), an American poet, biographer, and author of children’s books, was best known by her pseudonym. InHaps and Mishaps of a Tour in Europe(1854) she describes Loch Goil:

It was not until we had passed from Loch Long into Loch Goil that the true Highland scenery began to open upon us in its surpassing loveliness and naked grandeur. The shores of Loch Goil are rough, barren, and precipitous, but now and then we passed green-sheltered nooks and dark glens of indescribable beauty. I grew more and more silent and unconscious of my immediate surroundings, for my very soul seemed to have gone from me, to revel abroad in the wide, varied, enchanting scene.

The coachman who took visitors through Hell’s Glen gave Sara Jane the impression that Lochgoilhead was the scene of Thomas Campbell’s poem Lord Ullin’s Daughter. The poem is properly associated with Mull, but it is easy enough to see how confusion may have arisen. Campbell’s second verse is as follows:

Now, who be ye, would cross Lochgyle,

This dark and stormy weather?”

“O, I’m the chief of Ulva’s isle,

And this, Lord Ullin’s daughter.—“

In Gaelic Lochgyle is Loch Goill, the forked loch. Mountain Moor and Loch [1895], the handsome guide produced to mark the opening of the West Highland Railway, offers an explanation for the mistake:

Whether this is the scene described in the ballad of “Lord Ullin’s Daughter” is open to question, as that “dark and stormy water” lies a long way off, west of Mull, with “Ulva’s Isle” adjoining, though, strictly speaking, the name is Loch-na-Keal and not Loch Goil; and our Loch Goil may well be the point intended by the poet, because three days from the mainland opposite Mull, would bring “her father’s men” to it.

Another Campbell poem sometimes attributed in guide books to Carrick Castle on Loch Goil is Lines on Visiting a Scene in Argyllshire , but it is almost certainly about Kirnan, near Kilmichael Glassary, where Campbell’s family came from.

Bill [W. H.] Murray (1913–1996) lived near Carrick Castle for many years . One of the best, and one of the most affectionate, books about the West Highlands is his Companion Guide to the West Highlands of Scotland [1968]. His mountaineering books, about both the Himalayas and the Highlands are entertaining and authoritative. He was also a novelist, and his biography of Rob Roy is important. In his Companion Guide he maintained that Loch Goil, ‘the only truly mountainous fiord of Argyll’ is the most beautiful sea loch of Cowal or the Clyde Coast.

 

Strachur and Ardentinny

From Lochgoilhead it is worthwhile travelling through Hell’s Glen [B839] to join the A815. Strachur is a small resort where there is a Smiddy Museum. Strachur House was in recent years the residence of the writer of one of the most distinctive books about the Second World War, Eastern Approaches [1949] by Sir Fitzroy Maclean (1911-1996), partly about his work with the Partisans in Yugoslavia. A diplomat, then an MP and a Minister, he is also the author of various serious, and other popular historical works.

From Strachur the A815 crosses to Loch Eck. From Whistlefield a lesser road [signposted Ardentinny] leads to Glen Finart.

Glen Finart was the country residence of George Murray, 5th Earl of Dunmore (1762-1836). It is situated near Ardentinny in Cowal, and was visited by Samuel Rogers in both 1803 and 1812 (when he encountered a grampus in the loch). Rogers wrote a poem [1812],  reminiscent of Wordsworth. He refers to Fingal’s Falls, near the head of the glen:

Oft shall my weary mind recall

Amid the hum and stir of men,

Thy beechen grove and waterfall,

Thy ferry with its gliding sail,

And Her – the Lady of the Glen.

In his Journal there is a letter to his sister describing the house affectionately, and shedding light on life in Cowal in the C19:

The house is very small and neat, in a narrow rocky glen running up among steep mountains, with its small river, and a beautiful beech grove between it and the lake. A ferry is within sight of the windows; and while we sit at dinner, we see the little boat passing and repassing continually. At the ferry house is kept also a packet-boat, which twice a week sails to Greenock with passengers, and takes and brings back our letters, and brings back grapes and peaches from the gardens at Dunmore….

This is a reference, of course, to the products of the most spectacular conservatory in Scotland, the ‘Pineapple’, erected by the Dunmores in 1761 at Airth near Stirling. Rogers asks ‘What would Fingal and his family have thought of this?’, and tells how an old laird living on Loch Eck who dined once a year with the Dunmores loved their ‘apples with stones’. He goes on to describe the walks he took to the point [Shepherd’s Point] above the ferry from which there was (and is) a stunning view up Loch Long:

. . . sublime, mountain behind mountain receding one behind another, on each side of the lake, till the vista terminates in a point, and these clad in the softest and richest colours that mist and sunshine can give them. Indeed, I think in its way it surpasses everything of the kind we ever saw together.

Turner’s illustrations for Roger’s Poems included one of Loch Long.

Ardentinny is a small holiday resort in Cowal held in high esteem by generations of Glasgow holidaymakers. No small part of its reputation is due to one of Robert Tannahill’s best-known lyrics:

Far lone amang the Highland hills,

‘Mid Nature’s wildest grandeur,­

By rocky dens and woody glens,

With weary steps I wander.

The langsome way, the darksome day 

The mountain mist sae rainy,

Are nought to me when gaun to thee

Sweet lass o’ Aranteenie.

As with some of Tannahill’s other topographical lyrics the evidence that there ever was such a lass in his life is uncertain.

Blairmore was the residence, after his retirement, of John Joy Bell (1871-1934), the journalist and author of the Glasgow equivalent of ‘Just William’, Wee Macgreegor. One of Bell’s between-the-wars travel books about the west coast, Scotland’s Rainbow West was very popular indeed between the wars. 

From Blairmore visitors returning to Loch Lomond will probably find it most convenient to continue via Kilmun to the Dunoon road [A815], and thence by the Younger Botanic Garden to Loch Eck and Strachur.

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Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 4. Luss and Tarbet

 

Camstradden and Luss

Beyond Ross Dhu, at Camstradden, is the most intimate part of Loch Lomond. There are several large islands in the loch which partly close the view and give Loch Lomond the feel of a much smaller lake. It is no wonder that Dorothy Wordsworth found the place highly appealing.

It seems likely that it was as a result of visiting Inchfad in 1796 that Thomas Wilkinson (1751-1836) later recollected a singularly influential event:

On one of the islands was ripe corn; last week in the shire of Ayr we saw oats that had not yet arrived in the ear. Passed a female who was reaping alone: she sung in Erse as she bended over her sickle; the sweetest human voice I ever heard: her strains were tenderly melancholy, and felt delicious, long after they were heard no more.

Wilkinson’s book Tours to the British Mountains was not published until 1824, but Wilkinson, a landscape gardener employed by the Earl of Lonsdale at Lowther Castle, showed Wordsworth the manuscript before the Wordsworths travelled to Scotland in 1803. It was said to have partly inspired The Solitary Reaper. In a note of 1807 Wordsworth wrote:

“This Poem was suggested by a beautiful sentence in a MS Tour in Scotland written by a Friend, the last line being taken from it verbatim.”

Of the other islands Inchloanaig, ‘Yew Tree Island’, was used as a deer park by the Colquhouns, and visited by Dr Johnson and Boswell. In his amusing guide book, A Tour in Tartan Land [1863], Edward Bradley [pseud. Cuthbert Bede] (1827–1889), reported that foresters living on Inchloanaig told of fairy superstitions to protect their illicit stills:

“It is to be hoped, however, that all these spirits, not only of fancy, but of reality, had been banished the island by the commencement of the present century, for within its boundaries was founded an establishment for the reception and cure of persons who had been the victims to delirium tremens, and those other maladies which arise from excessive drinking…”

 The Tour of Dr Prosody, the satirical poem by William Combe (1742–1823), takes his characters to the same place, an episode illustrated by a well known ‘Rowlandson’ drawing.

In his Table Talk Coleridge asserted that the view of Loch Lomond from Inch Tavannach, Monks’ Island, was one of the five finest things in Scotland. Dorothy Wordsworth enthused, too:

We had not climbed far before we were stopped by a sudden burst of prospect, so singular and beautiful that it was like a flash of images from another world. We stood with our backs to the hill of the island, which we were ascending, and which shut out Ben Lomond entirely, and all the upper part of the lake, and we looked towards the foot of the lake, scattered over with islands without beginning and without end. The sun shone, and the distant hills were visible, some through sunny mists, others in gloom with patches of sunshine; the lake was lost under the low and distant hills, and the islands lost in the lake, which was all in motion with travelling fields of light, or dark shadows under rainy clouds. There are many hills, but no commanding eminence at a distance to confine the prospect, so that the land seemed endless as the water. . . . Wherever we looked, it was a delightful feeling that there was something beyond. Meanwhile, the sense of quiet was never lost sight of; the little peaceful lakes among the islands might make you forget that the great water, Loch Lomond, was so near; and yet are more beautiful, because you know that it is so. . . .

In contrast, William Gilpin (1724-1804), the high priest of the Picturesque, and chooser of stations from which places might be most rewardingly viewed, had a low opinion of the view:

“The countryside immediately beyond the islands appeared flat, and the mountains were too far removed to be of any picturesque use…”

Further north, just off Luss, is Froach Island, a prison where as Wilkinson puts it, ‘delinquents in remote times were conveyed and left, it is said, to shift for themselves as best they could’

 

 

Luss Straits Painted: E.W.Haslehurst

Wordsworth probably visited more of Loch Lomond’s islands than most. In 1803 Wordsworth, Dorothy Wordsworth and Coleridge were rowed to Inchtavannach. In 1814 we learn from Sarah Hutchinson, Wordsworth’s sister-in-law, that they visited Inchtavannach,  again, and then went to Inchgalbraith, and sailed round Inchcruin. They landed on Inchlonaig, deer island, where they met the forester. They then became the only recorded literary visitors to Eilean Fraoch where they gathered bilberries

Luss is an enigma. Its estate cottages, built to house workers from the slate quarries, are attractive, but its present day ‘attractions’ all but destroy their effect. However, the village is much admired by visitors. Intriguingly Lord Cockburn(1779-1854), writing in 1838, condemned the place as a “hog-stye”. He found the best of Luss to be the churchyard where Mrs Cockburn searched for a verse inscription which she had found years ago The Church is to the south of the centre of the village. It was built built by the Colquhouns in 1875 and dedicated to St Kessog. ‘The church at Luss is as beautiful as ever’ said Cockburn. The minister at Luss in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was JohnStuart,(1743–1821), the notable Gaelic scholar and botanist, who was born in Killin. Immediately before he was translated to Luss he accompanied Pennant on his second Highland tour. During his own tour in 1798 Thomas Garnett reported:

After breakfast we repaired to the manse to visit Dr Stuart the minister a man of great taste and learning he received us very politely and shewed us his garden which contains a variety of scarce plants particularly British alpines brought by himself from their native mountains I found here most of the scarce plants which grow upon Benlomond and Benevis as well as in the wilds of the Hebrides but being removed into a milder clime they flourish more luxuriantly

Thomas Garnett (1766–1802), was born in Westmorland and practised as a doctor in Harrogate where his interest in Chemistry led him to became an expert on mineral waters. He was eventually appointed to a professorship of natural philosophy at Anderson’s Institution, Glasgow, a predecessor of the University of Strathclyde. He published Observations on a Tour through the Highlands and Part of the Western Isles of Scotland. [1800] which is one of the more entertaining and informative of several books of the same sort published at about that time. There is some evidence that Dorothy Wordsworth read it.

Three poems by Iain Crichton Smith (1928-1998), the poet who made memorable phrases about people and places all over Scotland, are about Luss.  Translating his own Gaelic in one he calls Luss ‘a picture of a village rather than a true village.’ In Luss Village, like Cockburn, he ends up in the in the churchyard:

Such walls, like honey, and the old are happy

in morphean air like goldfish in a bowl.

Ripe roes trail their margins down a sleepy

mediaeval treatise on the slumbering soul.

And even the water, fabulously silent,

has no salt tales to tell us, nor makes jokes

about the yokel mountains, huge and patient,

that will not court her but read shadowy books.

A world so long departed! In the churchyard

the tilted tombs still gossip, and the leaves

of stony testaments are read by Richard,

Jean and Carol, pert among the sheaves

of unscythed shadows, while the noon day hums

with bees and water and the ghosts of psalms.

The village of Luss and the islands nearby were used as the setting of Goblin Island [1907]. This was the first novel by Elsie Jeanette Dunkerley, [pseud. Elsie Oxenham] (1880–1960), in what became a so-called Scottish sequence of children’s stories Loch Lomond itself appears as Loch Avie. Luss also appears as ‘Markinch’ in the short story The Provost’s Tale [1931] , byA. J. Cronin(1896-1981) and elsewhere in his work. Cronin was a world famous novelist, born in Cardross, whose best known work was Hatter’s Castle [1931].A collection of short stories, Adventures of a Black Bag (1969), was made into the immensely popular radio and television series Dr Finlay’s Casebook.

Above Luss is one of finest viewpoints in Scotland. Wilkinson mentions it as follows:

At Luss took a young Highlander with me on an eminence and there I saw one of the most interesting scenes I ever remember to have beheld. Twenty-one islands rising from the lake in a variety of forms, and beautifully shaded with trees. The points of the islands run past one another in a most picturesque manner

In Observations Garnett describes it thus:

On our return to Luss we dined with our amiable and learned friend Dr Stuart who accompanied us after dinner to Strone Hill, just above the village whence we had a delightful view of the lake and its islands. The evening was fine, the lake still and a pleasing serenity pervaded the whole scene. Below us was the villageof Luss, almost hid in trees with its verdant points projecting into the lake. Inch Tavannach and most of the other islands are seen to great advantage and in the distance are part of the Grampian Mountains, which form a very fine background. The obelisk erected to the memory of Buchanan may likewise be seen distinctly.

Strone Hill, or Stronbrae, is above the glen road (which is now reached by car from the by-pass, or by a footbridge from the village) just outside Luss.

North of Luss the loch is at its most dramatic, its character caught by Hazlitt:

The road to Tarbet is superb. It is on the very verge of the lake – hard, level, rocky, with low stone bridges constantly flung across it, and fringed with birch trees, just then budding into spring, behind which, as through a slight veil you saw the huge shadowy form of Ben Lomond. It lifts its enormous, but graceful bulk direct from the edge of the water without any projecting lowlands….. Loch Lomond comes on you by degrees as you advance, unfolding then withdrawing its conscious beauties like an accomplished coquet.

Inverbeg and Tarbet

Qne of the ‘low stone bridges’ between Luss and Inverbeg, built by Caulfield after 1745 has been handsomely restored, and can still be seen beside the A82. Thomas Pennant offers this description of the military road and the loch:

“The road runs sometimes through woods, at others is exposed and naked; in some so steep as to require the support of a wall; the whole the work of the soldiery: blessed exchange of instruments of destruction for those that give safety to the traveller, and a polish to the once inaccessible native.

Two great headlands covered with trees separate the first scene from one totally different; the last is called the point of Firkin. On passing this cape an expanse of water bursts at once on your eye varied with all the softer beauties of nature. Immediately beneath is a flat covered with wood and corn: beyond the headlands stretch far into the water and consist of gentle risings; many have their surfaces covered with wood, others adorned with trees loosely scattered either over a fine verdure, or the purple bloom of heath. Numbers of islands are dispersed over the lake of the same elevated manner; others just peep above the surface, and are tufted with trees; and numbers are so disposed as to form magnificent vistas between.”

Perhaps one of the best travel books ever written about Scotland is The Companion Guide to the West Highlands of Scotland [1968] by W.H.Murray (see Lochgoilhead). Early on he touches on Loch Lomond:

The banks of Loch Lomond are clothed by deciduous woods. Oak, beech, chestnut, larch, and birch predominate. Caledonian pine and most other coniferous evergreens are present but not much in evidence. Loch Lomond thus appears most colowful in spring and autumn when leaf is either bursting or dying. One of the more enthralling sights of June is the bluebell wood north of Luss, or in May the azaleas and rhododendrons brightening cottage gardens, and in autumn dead bracken, sun-stricken on the hillsides and blazing like a Viking’s pyre. These woods of Loch Lomondside are becoming more highly prized as the work of the Forestry Commission, whose appetite for ground is insatiable, spreads a coniferous monotony across the face of Scotland, for broad-leaved trees and hardwoods are not a rewarding crop. That the banks of Loch Lomond have remained so long free from the forester’s axe and from impairment by tourist development appears well-nigh mira­culous. Their preservation has been due to the rule of enlightened landowners, principally the Colquhouns of Luss, who have sacrificed personal profit.

The librarian and mountaineer Ernest A. Baker(1869-1941), writing in the thirties recommended Glen Douglas, between Loch Lomond and Loch Long as a fine walk. George Eyre Todd explained in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs [n.d.] the connection which is sometimes made between Glen Douglas and King Arthur:

Geoffrey of Monmouth, the monkish chronicler who died in 1154, in his fantastic account of King Arthur, describes how that king pursued his enemies up Loch Lomond, besieged, and all but exterminated them on the islands, and overthrew an Irish army which came to their relief. The earlier historian, Nennius, from whom Geoffrey seems to have got his facts, merely states that Arthur fought certain of his battles in Glen Douglas, and this Glen Douglas is identified by Skene in his Celtic Scotland with the high pass which comes over from Loch Long, and descends at the little inn of Inverbeg between Luss and Tarbet.

In the sixtiesTom Buchan(1931-1995) drew attention to the Glen’s more terrible associations with nuclear warfare :

… the mountain behind him

was drilled with caves

each one crammed with nuclear hardware

and the sea loch over the mountain

lay easy with obsolescent new submarines.

Buchan was a poet who was also the part author of the revolutionary Great Northern Welly Boot Show [1972]. Glen Douglas climbs relatively gently from Loch Lomond before the road descends very precipitously indeed to Loch Long. There it joins the road from Helensburgh and makes an interesting route to Arrochar.

Between Luss and Tarbet on the banks of Loch Lomond is Firkin Point a low hill which best commands its upper and lower reaches. Boswell took General Paoli as far as this when he showed him Loch Lomond.”In point of picturesque beauty, Loch Lomond is probably surpassed by few lakes in Europe,” wrote ‘Christopher North’ in The Land of Burns:

“The highway suddenly ascends to the top of a lofty promontory denominated the Point of Firkin. Although the ascent is difficult, abrupt and tedious, the view from the summit amply repays the labour attending it. From this eminence the whole surface of the lake, diversified with its numerous islands is displayed to the eye.”

An ancient yew-tree beside the old military road which is situated above the A82 along Loch Lomond was for long pointed out as Robert the Bruce’s Tree. It served to mark a somewhat undignified episode in the great warrior’s career. After his defeat by the English at Methven in Perthshire he became a fugitive accompanied by a body of about 200 men. On reaching Craig Royston the King and his men were unable to find a boat but then found one, but one which would take only three at a time. The tree was their rallying point on the other side of the loch. It took a day and a night to ferry all the men. The poet John Barbour (c.1320-95) related all of this in the epic poem The Bruce. The medieval saga has been both transcribed and translated. One prose version was by George Eyre Todd, the local littérateur:

Tradition says he sheltered in the fastness there known as Rob Roy’s Cave. The enemy was behind, and the loch lay deep in front- No means of escape appeared till James of Douglas discovered “ane litil boat that wad but thresome flit”. In that little boat the king was ferried across, and all his host after him. While the passage was being made, Bruce entertained and heartened his men by reciting to them one of the romances which were the chief literature of that time.

Here is Barbour’s account:

The king efter that he wes gane

To Louch Lomond the way has tane

And come on the thrid day,

Bot tharabout na bait fand thai

That mycht thaim our the water ber.

Than war thai wa on gret maner

For it wes fer about to ga,

And thai war into dout alsua

To meyt thar fayis that spred war wyd.

Tharfor endlang the louchhis syd

Sa besyly thai socht and fast

Tyll James of Douglas at the last

Fand a litill sonkyn bate

And to the land it drew fut-hate,

Bot it sa litill wes that it

Mycht our the watter but a thresum flyt.

Thai send tharoff word to the king

That wes joyfull off that fynding

And fyrst into the bate is gane,

With him Douglas, the thrid wes ane

That rowyt thaim our deliverly

And set thaim on the land all dry,

And rowyt sa oftsys to and fra

Fechand ay our twa and twa

That in a nycht and in a day

Cummyn out-our the louch ar thai,

For sum off thaim couth swome full weill

And on his bak ber a fardele.

Swa with swymmyng and with rowyng

Thai brocht thaim our and all thar thing.

Not far south of Tarbet a splendid regency cottage, Stuckgowan, is exquisitely situated above the A82. In its architecture it is one of the finest houses in the National Park. In 1835 Nathaniel Parker Willis, the American poet, visited Scotland. He is a good, but sometimes acerbic guide:

“In the course of our ramble we walked through an open gate, and, ascending a gravel walk, found a beautiful cottage, built between two mountain streams, and ornamented with every device of taste and contrivance. The mild pure torrents were led over falls and brought to the thresholds of bowers; and seats and bridges and winding paths were distributed up the steep channels, in a way that might make it a haunt for Titania. It is the property, I found afterward, of a Scotch gentleman, and a great summer retreat of the celebrated Jeffrey, his friend. It was one more place to which my heart clung in parting.”

At the lochside close to Stuckgowan is Edendarroch, the subject of an extended paean of praise from Professor J.M.Blackie.

The name ‘Tarbet’ is found throughout the Highlands. It occurs where a low divide, forming a portage, separates two bodies of water, in this instance Loch Lomond and Loch Long. Viking raiders took advantage of this portage in 1263 to stage a raid on Loch Lomond from the sea. N. P. Willis, the American poet, St Fond, the French geologist, and others have waxed lyrical about Tarbet. Faujas dreams of returning there:

The superb Loch Lomond, the fine sunlight that gilded its waters, the silvery rocks that skirted its shores, the flowery and verdant mosses, the black oxen, the white sheep, the shepherds beneath the pines, the perfume of the tea poured into cups that had been given by kindness, and received with gratitude, will never be effaced from my memory, and make me cherish the desire not to die before again seeing Tarbet. I shall often dream of Tarbet . . .

Jeffrey, as already mentioned had a summer retreat at Stuckgowan. The old inn at Tarbet, at which various literary travellers sneered, was replaced in the C19 with a very grand hotel which now dominates the place. However, in his Reminiscences [1887], Thomas Carlyle, traversing the district in 1817 with friends, thought otherwise:

. . . to Tarbet , a most hospitable clean and welcome little country inn (now a huge “Hotel” I hear — worse luck to it, with its nasty “Hotel Company Limited”!)

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Literary Loch Lomond and the Trossachs: 3. Arden and Glen Fruin

 

Arden

Those visitors who have been to Rowardennan can retrace their steps to Balloch where the A82 may be rejoined. The alternative is to head for Aberfoyle, ten miles away, to explore the Trossachs. The road to the North first reaches Loch Lomond at Duck Bay, just beyond Cameron House. Here is Smollett’s opinion of the loch:

“I have seen the Lago di Garda, Albano, De Vico, Bolsena and Geneva, and, upon my honour, I prefer Loch Lomond to them all a preference which is certainly owing to the verdant islands that seem to float upon its surface, affording the most inchanting objects ‘of repose to the excursive view. Nor are the banks destitute of beauties which even partake of the sublime. On this side hey display a sweet variety of woodland cornfield and pasture, with several agreeable villas emerging, as it were, out of the lake, till, at some distance, the prospect terminates in huge mountains covered with heath which being in the bloom, affords a very rich covering of purple. Everything here is romantic beyond imagination. This country is justly stiled the Arcadia of Scotland, and I don’t doubt but it may vie with Arcadia in everything but climate. I am sure it exceeds it in verdure, wood and water.”   

 
 
 
 
 

 

Loch Lomond from near Cameron House. Drawn: P.Sandby Engraved: P.Medland 1780

This quotation is from Humphry Clinker which is, of course, a work of fiction. Albano, De Vico and Bolsena figure in Smollett’s Travels in France and Italy, but neither Garda nor Geneva do, which raises the interesting question of whether or not Smollett actually saw either of them.

Smollett lived from 1721 to 1771. When he was born the Act of Union between England and Scotland 1707, in which his grandfather played a prominent part, and the rebellions of 1715 and 1719 were recent events still fresh in everyone’s minds. There were some Bleach Fields in the Vale of Leven, but the main occupation was farming and the whole aspect of the countryside was rural. Communications were very difficult indeed, and it was not until after1745 that that roads began to be improved. The lochside road from Dumbarton to Inveraray was built then, but it was not until 1765 that Dumbarton Bridge was completed. It was, perhaps, not surprising that travellers did not begin to frequent Scotland until after these improvements had taken place.Smollett himself returned to Scotland in 1753, 1760 and 1766. Thomas Gray visited Loch Lomond in 1764; Thomas Pennant in 1769, Samuel Johnson in 1773 John Wilkes in the early 1760s and William Gilpin in 1776.The following extracts from the writers themselves give some idea of Loch Lomond during the eighteenth century:

“The mountains are ecstatic and ought to be visited in pilgrimage once a year. None but those monstrous creatures of God know how to join so much beauty with so much horror. Rowed to Inchmurrin an island with a park of the Duke of Montrose’s whose house at Buchanan stands on the edge of Loch Lomond. Exquisite landscape round the lake; view of Ben Lomond, the second mountain in Scotland for height, Ben Nevis in Inverness-shire being the first.”

Thomas Gray (1764)

“To the north we looked far up the narrow channel of the lake which we had just seen from the shore. We were now more in the centre of the view, but the scene was more shifted. It was more a vista. The mountains shelved beautifully into the water, on both sides; and the bottom of the lake was occupied by Ben Vorlich which filled its station with great distinction, on the right Ben Lomond, the second hill in Scotland, raised its respectable head, while the waters at their base were dark, like a black, transparent mirror, But in this point of view the form of Ben Lomond was rather injured by the regularity of its line, which consists of three stages of ascent. In general, however, this mountain appears finely sloped; and its surface beautifully broken.”

William Gilpin (1776)

“Had Loch Lomond been in a happier climate it would have been the boast of wealth and vanity to own one of the little spots which it encloses, and to have employed upon it all the arts of embellishment. But, as it is, the islets which court the gazer at a distance disgust him at his approach when he finds; instead of soft lawns and shady thickets, nothing more than uncultivated ruggedness.”

Samuel Johnson (1773)

 

 In Rob Roy, set in the Eighteenth Century, Scott describes the loch as follows:

But certainly this noble lake, boasting innumerable beautiful islands, of every varying form and outline which fancy can frame,its northern extremity narrowing until it is lost among dusky and retreating mountains, while, gradually widening as it extends to the southward, it spreads its base around the indentures and promontories of a fair and fertile land, -affords one of the most surprising, beautiful, and sublime spectacles in nature.

Loch Lomond was celebrated by Paul Johnson (b. 1928) in his Highland Jaunt [1973]:

It is still a pleasing scene, and there is no through road on the far side of the loch, which sparkled under a blazing sun. But the affluent society has already lapped its shores. Myriads of little, brightly coloured sailing boats bounced on the water; speed boats roared to and fro; and we called at Duck Bay Marina from which such activities radiate. There is a vast bar and restaurant, whose plate glass, glare-proof windows frame the water and the hills beyond. Teams of smart and pretty waitresses, in tartan mini-kilts, busied themselves serving scampi and chips and other traditional Scotch dishes. There were thousands of people about and hundreds of cars. A shop sold tartan everythings and seven year old whisky marmalade.

Duck Bay can also be deemed to be the spot where the luscious Win Jenkins went bathing in the nude in Humphry Clinker, shrewdly covering her face, rather than any other portion of her anatomy when a gentleman whom she knew went by.

Lewis Grassic Gibbon (1901-1935), whose atmospheric novels conveyed the character of the Mearns, praised Loch Lomond in The Scottish Scene [1934], probably referring to the view seen from Duck Bay:

“Loch Lomond lies quite near Glasgow. Nice Glaswegians motor out there and admire the scenery and calculate its horsepower and drink whisky and chaff one another in genteelly Anglicized Glaswegianisms. After a hasty look at Glasgow the investigator would do well to disguise himself as one of like kind, drive down to Loch Lomondside and stare across its waters at the sailing clouds that crown the Ben, at the flooding of colours changing and darkling and miraculously lighting up and down those misty slopes, where night comes over long mountain leagues that know only the paddings of the shy, stray hare, the whirr and cry of the startled pheasant, silences so deep you can hear the moon come up, mornings so greyly coloured they seem stolen from Norse myth.”

A little further on Arden is reached. It may have been the Lochlomondside mansion where Robert Burns dined ‘at a goodfellow’s house’:

“I have lately been rambling over by Dumbarton and Inveraray, and running a drunken race on the side of Loch Lomond with a wild Highlandman; his horse which had never known the ornaments of iron or leather, zigzagged across before my old spavin’d hunter, whose name is Jenny Geddes, and down came Jenny and my Bardship; so I have such a skinful of bruises and wounds, that I shall be at least four weeks before I dare venture on my journey to Edinburgh.” [Burns to Richmond, July, 1787]

Nearby, along the B831, is Bannachra Castle, a castle of the Colquhouns in Glen Fruin, notorious because it was sacked in 1592 by a MacFarlane who mutilated the vanquished laird, his wife’s lover, ‘in a revolting but appropriate fashion’. He served his unfaithful lady with her lover’s private parts as a mocking dish: a tale to fascinate, and, possibly, discomfort Robert Burns who stayed with MacLachlan of Bannachra during his West Highland tour of 1787. Nearby is Dunfion, Fingal’s Hill, another of his numerous seats throughout Scotland.

One of the earliest literary visitors to Loch Lomond was Ben Jonson (1571-1637), the Elizabethan playwright. He was of Scottish extraction, and in 1618-19 he travelled Scotland, spending over a year there. He was entertained at the end of 1618 by William Drummond of Hawthornden who recorded as much as he could of what Jonson had to say in his diary, which was eventually published as Conversations. Jonson planned to write a versified account of his travels entitled A Discovery, and ‘a fisher or Pastorall play’ set on Loch Lomond. Whether he ever wrote it is not known, since Jonson’s papers were later lost in a fire.

In perhaps the best short guide to the Highlands of the thirties James Baikie (1866-1931) prompted visitors:

“It is said that Dr Chalmers, of Disruption fame, once expressed a gentle hope that there might be a Loch Lomond in heaven. Scripture says nothing to the contrary, though it unaccountably excludes the sea, which the Hebrew always hated; and one hopes that, were it only for the sake of Glasgow, the good Doctor’s pious aspiration may be realised.”

John Young, who published Lochlomondside and other Poems in 1872, expressed the same sentiment in verse:

A Poet-Preacher once, ’tis said,

When Lomond and her isles lay spread

Before his genius-flashing eye,

Loaded the pinions of a sigh,

Soul-born, with this impassioned cry—

O Joy! Should it to man be given

That a Loch Lomond be in Heaven”

John Keats (1795-1821), the Romantic poet, was at Loch Lomond in July, 1818. He is one of the few visitors to comment favourably on the weater:

“The banks of the Clyde are extremely beautiful – the north end of Loch Lomond grand in excess – the entrance at the lower end to the narrow part from a distance is precious good – the evening was beautiful and nothing could surpass our fortune in the weather.”

The loch is also the subject of one of Scotland’s most famous lyrics, the Jacobite lament Loch Lomond:

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes

Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond

Where me and my true love will ne-er meet again

On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomon’.

 

Chorus:

O ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak’ the low road

And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye

For me and my true love will ne-er meet again

On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomon’.

 

Twas there that we parted in yon shady glen

On the steep, steep sides o’ Ben Lomon’

Where in purple hue, the hielan hills we view

And the moon comin’ out in the gloamin’.

 

The wee birdies sing and the wild flowers spring

And in sunshine the waters are sleeping

But the broken heart, it kens nae second spring again

Tho’ the waeful may cease frae their greetin’

The song has been rendered in countless ways. Famously, Runrig, the rock band, performed it to an audience of 40,000 in Balloch Park in June 1991. Paul Robeson recorded the song and Vaughan Williams made a madrigal of it. Rather carelessly, Martha Tilton, accompanied by the Benny Goodman Orchestra, referred to “the sun coming up through the gloaming”. Even Noel Coward considered his audiences would be sufficiently familiar with the lyrics to write a pastiche:

The high road is my road,

The low road’s a slow road

And I’ll guarantee ya

I’ll be there to see ya

On the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond

John Purser (b.1942) in Scotland’s Music [1992] lambasts these travesties:

The return of the Jacobite army from Derby via Carlisle is commemorated in the internationally famous song Loch Lomond. The tune is a variant of The Bonnie Hoose 0′ Airlie, the words relatively modern. It certainly has no place in the mid-eighteenth century, and in any case scarcely anybody knows how to sing it. It has had heaped upon its head more appalling and ignorant performances than any song has a right to bear. Its subject matter is one of bitter and ironic tragedy. The Jacobite soldier awaiting execution claims he will reach Scotland before his companion as his spirit will get there first by the low road. This is usually rendered by singers and arrangers with an inane chirpiness more suited to selling washing-up liquid. One day perhaps it will be restored to its proper dignity.

Andrew Lang risked rendering the poem in his own way:

There’s an ending o’ the dance, and fair Morag’s

  safe in France,

And the Clans they hae paid the lawing,

And the wuddy has her ain, a we twa are left

  alane,

Free o’ Carlisle gaol in the dawning.

It is sometimes averred that Loch Lomond isbased on a slightly different folk tune, Robin Cushie, to be found in McGibbon’s Scots Tunes Book [1742] (i.e. before the Rising of 1745) At one time the words were attributed to Lady John Scott (1810-1900) who is said to have adapted a broadside ballad by Sanderson of Edinburgh [1838]. This tale (which is probably wrong) may have arisen because of confusion between Loch Lomond and Annie Laurie, of which Lady Scott made a ‘refined’ version. The version of Loch Lomond with which we are familiar seems to have first appeared in print in Poets and Poetry of Scotland [1876], but there are many variants. Tradition has it that the original words were written by a Jacobite incarcerated in Carlisle Castle in 1745.

In By Yon Bonnie Banks Maurice Lindsay (1918-2009) comments that this beautiful loch has inspired little good poetry. With Burns he surveys the mountain of bad verse, which it has attracted. Both Lindsay and Burns particularly dislike Address to Loch Lomond [1788] by James Cririe (1752-1835. Here is part of the long letter which Burns wrote to his friend, Peter Hill, criticising the poem in October 1788:

The following perspective of mountains blue—the imprisoned billows beating in vain—the wooded isles—the digression on the yew-tree—“Benlomond’s lofty, cloud-envelop’d head,” &c. are beautiful. A thunder-storm is a subject which has been often tried, yet our poet in his grand picture has interjected a circumstance, so far as I know, entirely original:—

“the gloom

 Deep seam’d with frequent streaks of moving fire.”

Late in the nineteenth century Donald Macleod (1831-1916), the littérateur from Dumbarton, published Lays of Loch Lomond which included much such verse, but also took in both John Barbour and Thomas Campbell. A specimen of the bad verse. in this case by Willam Shand Daniel (1813-1858), runs as follows:

Tis evening upon Lomond’s lake,

On her green isles the morn is gleaming;

In Heaven there’s not a cloud to break

The lustre o’er the waters streaming

Maurice Lindsay also mentions Barbour, but he does not refer to two immensely successful poems by Englishmen: Wordsworth’s Highland Girl is set on Loch Lomond, as is Manley Hopkins’ Inversnaid, both of which are dealt with elsewhere. Wordsworth went on to write three other somewhat less successful Loch Lomond poems; The Brownie’s Cell, The Brownie and To the Planet Venus, an Evening Star. Composed at Loch Lomond . Adam and Charles Black’s Picturesque Tourist [1851] quotes a further Wordsworth poem, Ruth, in describing the islands of Loch Lomond, although it is Windermere that Wordsworth probably had in mind:

 

With all its fairy crowds

Of islands, that together lie

As quietly as spots of sky

Among the evening clouds.

Undeterred by his predecessors, in A View of Loch Lomond, Lindsay has a rather successful go himself:

….picture postcards

that claim to lay the constant on the table,

(the camera cannot lie) are popular;

what trotting tourists hoped to purchase for the

shelf;

the image they’d retain, if they were able.

But landscape’s an evasion of itself.”

Burns tells us he muttered some verses when he celebrated sunrise Loch Lomond, but what they were has been lost. He used a cold wind from Ben Lomond in his Epistle to Davie, addressed to a fellow poet, to provide a contrast to a warm fireside, but otherwise he appears to have remained silent.

Glen Fruin, lying between the foot of Loch Lomond and the Gareloch, can be reached by a road built for the convenience of the Ministry of Defence, or by the B831 (see above). It was the site of a clan battle between the MacGregors and the Colquhouns in 1603, and a memorial stone at the head of the glen marks the supposed site of it. Scott put it in Lady of the Lake:

Proudly our pibroch has thrill’d in Glen

Fruin,

And Bannochar’s groans to our slogan

replied;

Glen Luss and Ross Dhu, they are smoking

in ruin,

And the best of Loch Lomond lie dead on

her side.

 Widow and Saxon maid

Long shall lament our raid,

Think of Clan Alpine with fear and with woe;

Lennox and Leven glen

Shake when they hear again,

“Roderigh Vich Alpine dhu, ho! iero!”

The massacre of the Colquhouns has been the subject of several ballads. The last verse of The Raid of Glen Fruin is as follows:

And dearly has M’Gregor paid

By name proscribed and haunted band

For dark Glen Fruin’s lawless raid –

No more he rules Loch Katrine’s strand.

Hugh MacDonald (1817-1860), the Paisley poet and travel writer, asserted “All that is beautiful, indeed, of earth, sea or sky may be said to be congregated round this favoured spot…” W.H.Auden (1907-1973),teaching in Helensburgh, celebrated the quality of the view in Dec. 1931:

No strange sound laid my echo on the road

And when where two little lanes branched

off I stood,

On either side the moorland grew away,

Luminous all Glen Fruin lay

And the sky was silent as an unstruck bell.

Loch Lomond was below, I saw

Boats on a bay like toys on floor;

Scotland in every quarter touched me still.

 

North of Arden and Glen Fruin hills begin to encroach more closely on the road, and the monumental arch at the southern entrance to Ross Dhu is sometimes said to mark the beginning of the Highlands. In practice the Highland Boundary Fault is further south, most evident in the string of islands which culminate in Inchmurrin. [Ferry signposted at the Arden roundabout]. Inchmurrin was visited by Thomas Gray(1716-1771), the distinguished classical scholar and poet, in 1764. Gray was a very important literary ‘discoverer’ of the English Lake District to which he wrote a guide. He only made a modest impact on Scotland, but he was a man who was listened to in London and an arbiter of taste. His enthusiasm for Scottish mountains undoubtedly contributed to their discovery.
 
  For long the home of the Colquhouns, Ross Dhu is now a developer’s golf course, a somewhat wretched fate for a Scottish national treasure, but one which has preserved its character. In the grounds is a ruined keep which the family occupied before their petite classical mansion was built. The estate fringes the most exquisite part of Loch Lomond. Literary visitors have included Scott, who was insulted, and Boswell and Johnson.

It is often said that Boswell’s father, Lord Auchinleck (1706–82), gave the name “Ursa Major” to Dr Johnson. However, Lucy Walford tells a plausible tale in her Recollections. She states that Lady Helen Colquhoun, who was a fastidious woman, took a dislike to Johnson, in particular, it is reported to the fact that he entered her drawing room dripping wet. In an aside she muttered, ‘What a bear’, whereupon one of the company responded ‘if it is so, it is Ursa Major’. This event is not recorded in either Johnson’s or Boswell’s accounts of their visit. Of course, it may be due to a conflation, on Mrs. Walford’s part, of two half-remembered stories.

Johnson’s robustness is illustrated by the fact that when they were furnished with a boat to take them to Inch Galbraith and Inchlonaig one of the younger Colquhouns was made ill by the rough weather and had to be taken home, but Johnson proceeded. Here he reflects favourably on Scots servants:

“When I was upon the Deer Island, I gave the keeper who attended me a shilling, and he said it was too much. Boswell afterwards offered him another, and he excused himself from taking it, because he had been rewarded already.”

 

 

 

John Colquhoun

John Colquhoun,(1805–1885), sportsman and naturalist, was the second son of Sir James Colquhoun. He was brought up partly at Ross Dhu, but later took both Arrochar House and Glenfalloch. He wrote the archetypal nineteenth century huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ treatise, The Moor and the Loch [1840]. There were several editions of the book, which was substantially revised in 1878.He is rather regrettably associated with Inch Galbraith, a Loch Lomond island close to Ross Dhu with a ruined keep on it, where Pennant noted that an osprey nested. The island was also visited by Johnson and Boswell. John Colquhoun says, rather ruefully, that, as a young man, he shot the female osprey and trapped the male:

 

They were a beautiful pair, the female, as in most birds of prey, being considerably the larger. The eggs of these ospreys had regularly been every year, and yet they never forsook their eyrie. It was a beautiful sight to see them sail into our bay on a calm summer night, and, after flying round it several times, strike down on a good-sized pike and bear it away as if it were a minnow.

 

As a sporting writer John Colquhoun was a successor to Colonel Thomas Thornton (1747-1893) whose tour of the Highlands probably took place in 1784. His account of it, A Sporting Tour through . . . . . . Great Part of the Highlands of Scotland, was published in 1804. He too encountered an osprey on Loch Lomond:

We had in the course of the day seen an osprey or water eagle make some noble dashes into the lake after her prey and understanding from one of the boatmen that there was an eyrie on a small island in our voyage home I ordered them to attempt to get as near the nest as possible and loaded my gun well wishing to kill her as a specimen Notwithstanding all our precaution however she rose long before we got near the island at least we perceived a bird of some kind for it was too dark to distinguish of what sort at the distance we lay These birds are very rare in all my different excursions I never heard of any except at Loch Lomond and Loch Morlaix in Glennaore.

 

This last reference is probably to Loch Morlich in Glenmore. Thornton was a gifted exponent of the topographical malapropism. His best was probably ‘Cree in Laroche’ [Crianlaraich]

John Colquhoun’s seventh child was Lucy Bethia Walford [née Colquhoun], (1845–1915), who became the author of some 45 books. It was considered at the time that her novels might be mentioned in the same breath as those of Thomas Hardy.In Recollections of a Scottish Novelist [1910] she explains that Scott presented himself at Sir James Colquhoun’s door, confident of welcome and assistance. However, the author had not taken account of her ancestor’s sense of his own importance. Sir James regarded a mere Edinburgh lawyer as of little consequence, and ordered the butler to show him round Ross Dhu. Lucy Walford continues:

Such an affront was never forgotten nor forgiven; in Rob Roy the Colquhoun’s were absolutely ignored, and the scene of the Lady of the Lake, originally intended to be laid on the banks of Loch Lomond was removed to Loch Katrine.

The consequences of this episode are touched on in a footnote to Burt’s Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland by the editor, Robert Jamieson, who reports that an old Highlander (encountered on the summit of Ben Lomond in 1814) complained vehemently about the Lady of the Lake:

 That d—–d Walter Scott…ever since he wrote his Lady of the Lake, as they call it, everybody goes to see that filthy hole Loch Katrine then comes round by Luss, and I have had only two gentlemen to guide all this blessed season, which is now at an end. I shall never see the top of Ben Lomond again! — The devil confound his ladies and his lakes, say I!

 

 

 

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Literary Loch Lomond: 2. Drymen and Ben Lomond

 

Gartocharn and Kilmaronock

Cameron House is situated close to the village of Balloch and it is from there that travellers wishing to visit the eastern side of the loch leave the A82 and follow the A811 Gartocharn is a village on the way to Drymen, on the line of the old military road from Dumbarton to Stirling. Maurice Lindsay (1918-2009) once lived there. In By Yon Bonnie Banks [1961] he described the village just as electric light and piped water arrived there in the 1950s. First and foremost he was a poet, but he had a very varied range of interests, managing Border Television, and becoming the Director of the Scottish Civic Trust. His Burns Encylopedia [1959] is one of the most thorough; his Castles of Scotland was knowledgeable and affectionate, and he was always a secure guide to Scottish Literature. The Edinburgh Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry [2005], for example, is one of the best collections of Scottish verse. He publicised his clansman, the dramatist and poet Sir David Lyndsay (c1490-1555) from Fife, when he was little known; in The Lowlands of Scotland [1953] Lindsay connects Lyndsay’s poem The History of Ane Noble and Valiant SquireMeldrum, umquhyle Laird of Cleish and Binns [1547] with his own parish. The poem describes the raising of a siege of Boturich Castle on behalf of the lady owner of it. Here Lindsay sets the scene:

 

The parish of Kilmaronock lies to the east of Balloch. On the shore of the loch, looking out over Inch Murrin, two famous houses stand [Boturich Castle and Ross Prioy]. Boturich Castle, once the seat of the Haldanes who fell heir to part of the Lennox lands, was reputedly the scene of one of Squire Meldrum’s adventures. Squire Meldrum was a gallant sixteenth-century warrior around whose undoubtedly real exploits and feats of arms were embroidered by Sr David Lyndsay of the Mount:

 And sa this Squire amorous

Seizit and wan the lady’s house

And left therein a Capitane

Syne to Strathern returnit again

 
 
 

 

Ben Lomond 1830 Drawn: John Fleming Engraved: Joseph Swan

Tom Weir (1914–2006), the mountaineer, naturalist and broadcaster, married the headmistress of the local school and from 1959 until his death lived in Gartocharn. He was best known as the author of a regular monthly column about his activities in the Scots Magazine: he traversed the length and breadth of country finding curiosities, and explaining traditions, always possessed with a keen eye for the natural landscape. The idea was later transformed into a series of television programmes. As prolific writer about the Scottish countryside he tried to climb the hill just south of the village of Gartocharn whenever he could. This prominent volcanic plug which commands a very fine view of the loch is called Duncryne; affectionately it is called locally, from its appearance, ‘the Dumpling’.

“Duncryne is to my mind the finest viewpoint of any small hill in Scotland and it is from here that I would like you to look at Loch Lomond.”

Further along this road is Auchenlarich, the house in Kilmaronock Parish where the Scottish litterateur and publicist for Scotland’s scenic assets, George Eyre-Todd (1862-1937) lived for much of his life.

Going in the opposite direction from Gartocharn one reaches Ross Priory, an ostentatious eighteenth century mansion on the edge of Loch Lomond; here Scott completed Rob Roy. He made his early acquaintance with the district as a young lawyer when he was engaged in an eviction, but he revisited the area frequently to see friends, including his fellow advocate Hector MacDonald Buchanan at Ross. He records that in August or September 1809 he visited Cambusmore and Ross Priory and, with Mr MacDonald Buchanan, explored the Isles of Loch Lomond, Arrochar and so on. It was as a result of this excursion that the Lady of the Lake came to fruition, and the trip no doubt contributed to Rob Roy. In 1817 he wrote to his patron ‘from Ross where the clouds on Ben Lomond are sleeping…’ The house is superbly situated in elegant policies at the lochside, sometimes open to the public.

A little further along the A811 is Kilmaronock Parish Church, where Tom Weir is buried. The parish at the foot of Loch Lomond derives its name from an ancient well about a quarter-mile west of the parish church, known as St Marnock’s Well. The guardian saint of the locality is St. Ronan, but he is sometimes confused with St Marnock. His name has also been altered to St. Maronock or Maronnon. He was put into Lady of the Lakeby Scott when Ellen Douglas rejects Roderick Dhu:

Sir Roderick should command

My blood, my life,— but not my hand

Rather will Ellen Douglas dwell

A votaress in Maronnan’s cell;

Wordsworth, his wife Mary and his sister-in-law, Sara Hutchinson (1775-1835) traversed the parish at the end of July 1814. At the foot of Loch Lomond they ascended Mount Misery which, like the Dumpling, is a notable viewpoint. They visited the church, the manse and the ruins of Mains Castle, a tower house once owned by the Earl of Glencairn. They then went to Drymen where they went to church. It is from Sara Hutchinson’s Journal and Letters that so much is known about the trip.

 Drymen and Rowardennan

Beyond Kilmaronock is the rather charming Georgian Catter House, then Drymen Bridge. To the left a by road to a golf-course leads to Buchanan Castle. It was at the old house, burned down in 1852 that Scott showed Lady Louisa Stewart a part of Lady of the Lake in 1809. Drymen is a village above the Endrick at the foot of Loch Lomond where William Dixon Cocker, (1882-1970), described by Trevor Royle as an ‘unjustly forgotten figure of the Scottish Renaissance’, was partly brought up. He was Glasgow born, but his relations on his mother’s side were farmers who owned the adjacent farms of Drumbeg and Wester Drumquhastle just outside Drymen. Cocker much preferred them to Glasgow. Several of his poems were set locally. Here he praises the Endrick:

It dauners doon to auld Balfron,

But though it gangs at sober pace

It ettles yet anither race,

An’ rests a wee to gether strength

Until Gartness is reached at length;

There, whaur the mill mak’s merry clatter,

Doon to the Pot comes Endrick Watter.

(To see the saulmon loup there whiles

Folk come frae a’ the airts for miles.)

Then does the roarin’ river hasten

To tume its watters in the basin,

The deep dark pool that kens nae day,

Whaur kelpies lurked lang syne, they say;

Then oot it comes through yetts o’ stane,

An’ hastens on to greet the Blane,

Which, fed by mony a Campsie burnie,

Comes to jine Endrick on its journey.

An’ noo it glides by auld Drumquhastle,

An’ by Dalnair (as braw’s a castle),

An’ by Drumbeg, an’ by the Catter,

Whaur Drymen brig spans Endrick Watter.

The mansion o’ the gallant Grahams

It passes, an’ the humble hames

O’ cottar folk by brae an’ haugh.

It widens as it nears the loch,

An’ slower rins, as though ’twere fain

To tak’ the backward gait again.

But time and streams gang backwards never,

There’s nae respite for man or river.

We maun get forrit, aye maun trevel

Until we reach the appointed level.

There, we shall broaden oot at last,

To merge in the unfathom’d vast.

The dramatist James Bridie (188-1951) lived at the neighbouring Finnich Malise for some years. The Hired Lad [1993] by Ian Campbell Thompson describes rural life in Strathendrick in the years after the war.

Earlier, the minor poet, Hector MacNeill (1746-1818), the friend of Robert Graham of Gartmore, was, it is said, brought up on ‘Lochlomondside’ [DNB], probably somewhere in the vicinity of Drymen. However, Drymen Moor, has the greatest claim to C18 literary fame. Two highly distinguished English visitors, John Wilkes (1727-1797), the journalist and politician, and Charles Churchill(1732–1764), the poet, attempted to cross it on their ‘Highland Tour’, but the weather defeated them, and they retired to Buchanan House. Wilkes was Smollett’s neighbour in Chelsea, but the two fell out over the merits of Bute’s administration. Whether Wilkes and Churchill would now enjoy the sort of notoriety which Johnson and Boswell enjoy, for the anti-Scottishness of some of the Doctor’s remarks, we shall never know, because Wilkes’ papers were burnt However, their trip did give rise to Churchill’s Prophesy of Famine [1763], probably the most splenetic poem ever written about Scotland. It was a polemic against things Scottish in general and the Bute administration, for which Smollett was an advocate, in particular. The countryside described was inspired by Drymen Moor:

Far as the eye could reach, no tree was

  seen,

Earth, clad in russet, scorn’d the lively

  green.

No living thing, whate’er its food, feasts

  there,

But the Cameleon, who can feast on air.

No birds, except as birds of passage, flew

No bee was known to hum, no dove to coo.

Rebellion’s spring, which thro’ the country

  ran,

Furnished, with bitter draughts the steady

  clan.

Patrick Graham, the Minister of Aberfoyle, pointed out in his early guide that Churchill not only denigrated the district, but failed to acknowledge the considerable hospitality they received at Buchanan.

At the very northern edge of the parish of Drymen is Duchray Castle (near Aberfoyle)where Alexander Graham who wrote the account of it in MacFarlane’s Geographical Collections lived. His grandfather’s account of Glencairn’s Rising was edited by Scott.

Nearby, on the road to Killearn, is Gartness, a hamlet beside the Endrick where the famous mathematician Napier worked on logarithms. His kinswoman Priscilla Napier (1908-1998) wrote a realistic trilogy of semi-documentary novels about the district of which the second, A Difficult Country: The Napiers in Scotland [1972] describes Gartness during Napier’s time. At Gartness the river forms the renowned salmon-leap, the Pot of Gartness, the subject of a reflective poem by Maurice Lindsay.

“All the collided anger of wide rains

twisted from ragged slopes in channelled rills,

white with vexation, tumbles towards the plains.”

In the other direction the B837 leads from Drymen to the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. The loch is reached at Balmaha dominated by Conic Hill. Off Balmaha is Inchcailloch, one of the larger islands of Loch Lomond [Ferry from Balmaha]. It is the site of a nunnery and a graveyard of the Clan MacGregor; Rob Roy’s ancestors are buried there. It is said by some to resemble a reclining woman with folded arms, and it was the subject of one of Cunninghame Graham’s memorable Scottish Sketches. He chose a sharper image:

The Island of Nuns lies like a stranded whale on the waters, with its head pointing towards the red rocks of Balmaha.

Scott, in Lady of the Lake, makes the island the source of a Fiery Cross, although the yew is not characteristic of the island:

 

 A slender crosslet formed with care

A cubit’s length in measure due

The shafts and limbs were rods of yew

Whose parents in Inch Cailliach wave

Their shadows o’er Clan Alpine’s grave,

And, answering Lomond’s breezes deep,

Soothe many a chieftain’s endless sleep.

 

The by-road continues as far as Rowardennan, at the foot of Ben Lomond. Cars can go no further, but pedestrians may follow the West Highland Way (in either direction). It is from Rowardennan that most walkers ascend Ben Lomond. The following verse was supposedly inscribed on a window at the inn at Rowardennan, but, Thomas Garnett quotes a longer version of the same poem, dated Oct 3 1771, which he attributes to Thomas Russell, and states that it was scratched on a window pane at the inn at Tarbet:

Stranger! if o’er this pane of glass perchance

Thy roving eye should cast a casual glance,

If taste for grandeur and the dread sublime

Prompt thee Ben Lomond’s fearful height to climb,

Here gaze attentive, nor with scorn refuse

The friendly rhymings of a tavern muse. . . .

Trust not at first a quick advent’rous pace,

Six miles its top points gradual from the base;

Up the high rise with panting haste I passed,

And gained the long laborious steep at last.

More prudent you, when once you pass the deep,

With measured pace ascend the lengthened steep;

Oft stay thy steps, oft taste the cordial drop,

And rest, oh rest! long, long upon the top.

There hail the breezes; nor with toilsome haste

Down the rough slope thy precious vigour waste:

So shall thy wandering sight at once survey

Vales, lakes, woods, mountains, islands, rocks and sea. . . .

Ben Lomond dominates views of Loch Lomond, and commands stunning views of it. Early visitors, including literary visitors, regarded the ascent of the peak as a considerable achievement, and its terrors pre-occupied them.AsGeorge Abraham (1871-1965) observed in British Mountain Climbs [1909]:

It is decreed impossible to reach the top without the aid of a bottle of whisky, and the mountain had lost none of its prestige in this respect.

An early account of the hill occurs in Sir John Stoddart (1773-1856)Remarks on the Local Scenery and Manners of Scotland [1801]:

“The north side of Ben Lomond itself excites a degree of surprise arising almost to terror. This mighty mass, which hitherto had appeared to be an irregular cone, placed on a spreading base, suddenly presents itself as an imperfect crater, with one side forcibly torn off – leaving a stupendous precipice…”

One nineteenth century French literary visitor who succeeded in climbing to the top of Ben Lomond wasCharles Nodier (1780-1844) who set two novels in the district. His friend Amadée Pichot(1795-1877) followed him in pursuit of Scott, and wrote captions for a travel book, brilliantly illustrated by Francois Alexandre Pernot, Voyage historique et littéraire en Angleterre et en Écosse [1825].It includes a fine illustration of Ben Lomond.

Chauncy Hare Townshend (1798-1868) and Thomas Frognall Dibdin (1776-1847), who toasted his publisher on Ben Lomond, also climbed the hill, while William Hazlitt (1778-1830), the C19 critic, thought he did, but probably did not. The ascent had been popular since C18, Sarah Murray reporting that she met a traveller awaiting favourable conditions in Tarbet. The famous Glasgow poet Thomas Campbell (1777-1844) celebrated the hill in 1837:

Thy steadfast summit, heaven-allied

(Unlike life’s little span),

Looks down, a Mentor, on the pride

Of perishable man.

Other poets who have written about the hill includeP. G. Hamerton (1834-1894), the painter, who waxed topographical:

Bright from a spring half down the precipice

Issued the silver Forth, whose silver line

Followed a winding course…..

Walter Wingate(1865-1918) imitated one of Horace’s odes in a poem about the Ben in winter. Professor Blackie was explicit about going up Ben Lomond:

From Rowardennan we make a start

And scale the height with cunning art

and Samuel Rogers (see Ardentinny) celebrated the mountain as follows:

Blue was the loch, the clouds were gone,

Ben Lomond in his glory shone.

Thomas Garnett (see above) prints these lines scratched on a window- pane at Tarbet in his Observations:

His lofty summit in a veil of clouds

High o’er the rest displays superior state,

In proud pre-eminence sublimely great

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