The Bride of Lammermoor eBook: Page2
Walter Scott (2006)
By Cauk and keel to win your bread, Wi' whigmaleeries for them wha need, Whilk is a gentle trade indeed To carry the gaberlunzie on.
FEW have been in my secret while I was compiling these narratives, noris it probable that they will ever become public during the life oftheir author. Even were that event to happen, I am not ambitious of thehonoured distinction, digito monstrari. I confess that, were it safe tocherish such dreams at all, I should more enjoy the thought of remainingbehind the curtain unseen, like the ingenious manager of Punch and hiswife Joan, and enjoying the astonishment and conjectures of my audience.Then might I, perchance, hear the productions of the obscure PeterPattieson praised by the judicious and admired by the feeling,engrossing the young and attracting even the old; while the critictraced their fame up to some name of literary celebrity, and thequestion when, and by whom, these tales were written filled up the pauseof conversation in a hundred circles and coteries. This I may neverenjoy during my lifetime; but farther than this, I am certain, my vanityshould never induce me to aspire.
I am too stubborn in habits, and too little polished in manners, to envyor aspire to the honours assigned to my literary contemporaries. I couldnot think a whit more highly of myself were I found worthy to "come inplace as a lion" for a winter in the great metropolis. I could not rise,turn round, and show all my honours, from the shaggy mane to the tuftedtail, "roar you an't were any nightingale," and so lie down again like awell-behaved beast of show, and all at the cheap and easy rate of acup of coffee and a slice of bread and butter as thin as a wafer. AndI could ill stomach the fulsome flattery with which the lady of theevening indulges her show-monsters on such occasions, as she crams herparrots with sugar-plums, in order to make them talk before company. Icannot be tempted to "come aloft" for these marks of distinction, and,like imprisoned Samson, I would rather remain--if such must be thealternative--all my life in the mill-house, grinding for my very bread,than be brought forth to make sport for the Philistine lords and ladies.This proceeds from no dislike, real or affected, to the aristocracy ofthese realms. But they have their place, and I have mine; and, likethe iron and earthen vessels in the old fable, we can scarce comeinto collision without my being the sufferer in every sense. It may beotherwise with the sheets which I am now writing. These may be openedand laid aside at pleasure; by amusing themselves with the perusal, thegreat will excite no false hopes; by neglecting or condemning them, theywill inflict no pain; and how seldom can they converse with those whoseminds have toiled for their delight without doing either the one or theother.
In the better and wiser tone of feeling with Ovid only expresses in oneline to retract in that which follows, I can address these quires--
Parve, nec invideo, sine me, liber, ibis in urbem.
Nor do I join the regret of the illustrious exile, that he himself couldnot in person accompany the volume, which he sent forth to the martof literature, pleasure, and luxury. Were there not a hundred similarinstances on record, the rate of my poor friend and school-fellow, DickTinto, would be sufficient to warn me against seeking happiness in thecelebrity which attaches itself to a successful cultivator of the finearts.
Dick Tinto, when he wrote himself artist, was wont to derive his originfrom the ancient family of Tinto, of that ilk, in Lanarkshire, andoccasionally hinted that he had somewhat derogated from his gentle bloodin using the pencil for his principal means of support. But if Dick'spedigree was correct, some of his ancestors must have suffered a moreheavy declension, since the good man his father executed the necessary,and, I trust, the honest, but certainly not very distinguished,employment of tailor in ordinary to the village of Langdirdum in thewest.. Under his humble roof was Richard born, and to his father'shumble trade was Richard, greatly contrary to his inclination, earlyindentured. Old Mr. Tinto had, however, no reason to congratulatehimself upon having compelled the youthful genius of his son to forsakeits natural bent. He fared like the school-boy who attempts to stop withhis finger the spout of a water cistern, while the stream, exasperatedat this compression, escapes by a thousand uncalculated spurts, and wetshim all over for his pains. Even so fared the senior Tinto, when hishopeful apprentice not only exhausted all the chalk in making sketchesupon the shopboard, but even executed several caricatures of hisfather's best customers, who began loudly to murmur, that it was toohard to have their persons deformed by the vestments of the father, andto be at the same time turned into ridicule by the pencil of the son.This led to discredit and loss of practice, until the old tailor,yielding to destiny and to the entreaties of his son, permitted him toattempt his fortune in a line for which he was better qualified.
There was about this time, in the village of Langdirdum, a peripateticbrother of the brush, who exercised his vocation sub Jove frigido, theobject of admiration of all the boys of the village, but especiallyto Dick Tinto. The age had not yet adopted, amongst other unworthyretrenchments, that illiberal measure of economy which, supplying bywritten characters the lack of symbolical representation, closes oneopen and easily accessible avenue of instruction and emolument againstthe students of the fine arts. It was not yet permitted to write uponthe plastered doorway of an alehouse, or the suspended sign of aninn, "The Old Magpie," or "The Saracen's Head," substituting that colddescription for the lively effigies of the plumed chatterer, or theturban'd frown of the terrific soldan. That early and more simple ageconsidered alike the necessities of all ranks, and depicted the symbolsof good cheer so as to be obvious to all capacities; well judging that aman who could not read a syllable might nevertheless love a pot of goodale as well as his better-educated neighbours, or even as the parsonhimself. Acting upon this liberal principle, publicans as yet hung forththe painted emblems of their calling, and sign-painters, if they seldomfeasted, did not at least absolutely starve.
To a worthy of this decayed profession, as we have already intimated,Dick Tinto became an assistant; and thus, as is not unusual amongheaven-born geniuses in this department of the fine arts, began to paintbefore he had any notion of drawing.
His talent for observing nature soon induced him to rectify the errors,and soar above the instructions, of his teacher. He particularlyshone in painting horses, that being a favourite sign in the Scottishvillages; and, in tracing his progress, it is beautiful to observe howby degrees he learned to shorten the backs and prolong the legs of thesenoble animals, until they came to look less like crocodiles, andmore like nags. Detraction, which always pursues merit with stridesproportioned to its advancement, has indeed alleged that Dick once upona time painted a horse with five legs, instead of four. I might haverested his defence upon the license allowed to that branch of hisprofession, which, as it permits all sorts of singular and irregularcombinations, may be allowed to extend itself so far as to bestow a limbsupernumerary on a favourite subject. But the cause of a deceased friendis sacred; and I disdain to bottom it so superficially. I have visitedthe sign in question, which yet swings exalted in the village ofLangdirdum; and I am ready to depone upon the oath that what has beenidly mistaken or misrepresented as being the fifth leg of the horse, is,in fact, the tail of that quadruped, and, considered with reference tothe posture in which he is delineated, forms a circumstance introducedand managed with great and successful, though daring, art. The nagbeing represented in a rampant or rearing posture, the tail, which isprolonged till it touches the ground, appears to form a point d'appui,and gives the firmness of a tripod to the figure, without which it wouldbe difficult to conceive, placed as the feet are, how the courser couldmaintain his ground without tumbling backwards. This bold conception hasfortunately fallen into the custody of one by whom it is duly valued;for, when Dick, in his more advanced state of proficiency, becamedubious of the propriety of so daring a deviation to execute a pictureof the publican himself in exchange for this juvenile production,the courteous offer was declined by his judicious employer, whohad observed, it seems, that when his ale failed to do its duty in
It would be foreign to my present purpose to trace the steps by whichDick Tinto improved his touch, and corrected, by the rules of art, theluxuriance of a fervid imagination. The scales fell from his eyes onviewing the sketches of a contemporary, the Scottish Teniers, asWilkie has been deservedly styled. He threw down the brush took upthe crayons, and, amid hunger and toil, and suspense and uncertainty,pursued the path of his profession under better auspices than those ofhis original master. Still the first rude emanations of his genius, likethe nursery rhymes of Pope, could these be recovered, will be dear tothe companions of Dick Tinto's youth. There is a tankard and gridironpainted over the door of an obscure change-house in the Back Wynd ofGandercleugh----But I feel I must tear myself from the subject, or dwellon it too long.
Amid his wants and struggles, Dick Tinto had recourse, like hisbrethren, to levying that tax upon the vanity of mankind which he couldnot extract from their taste and liberality--on a word, he paintedportraits. It was in this more advanced state of proficiency, when Dickhad soared above his original line of business, and highly disdained anyallusion to it, that, after having been estranged for several years,we again met in the village of Gandercleugh, I holding my presentsituation, and Dick painting copies of the human face divine at a guineaper head. This was a small premium, yet, in the first burst of business,it more than sufficed for all Dick's moderate wants; so that he occupiedan apartment at the Wallace Inn, cracked his jest with impunity evenupon mine host himself, and lived in respect and observance with thechambermaid, hostler, and waiter.
Those halcyon days were too serene to last long. When his honour theLaird of Gandercleugh, with his wife and three daughters, the minister,the gauger, mine esteemed patron Mr. Jedediah Cleishbotham, and someround dozen of the feuars and farmers, had been consigned to immortalityby Tinto's brush, custom began to slacken, and it was impossible towring more than crowns and half-crowns from the hard hands of thepeasants whose ambition led them to Dick's painting-room.
Still, though the horizon was overclouded, no storm for some timeensued. Mine host had Christian faith with a lodger who had been agood paymaster as long as he had the means. And from a portrait of ourlandlord himself, grouped with his wife and daughters, in the style ofRubens, which suddenly appeared in the best parlour, it was evident thatDick had found some mode of bartering art for the necessaries of life.
Nothing, however, is more precarious than resources of this nature. Itwas observed that Dick became in his turn the whetstone of mine host'swit, without venturing either at defence or retaliation that his easelwas transferred to a garret-room, in which there was scarce space forit to stand upright; and that he no longer ventured to join the weeklyclub, of which he had been once the life and soul. In short, DickTinto's friends feared that he had acted like the animal called thesloth, which, heaving eaten up the last green leaf upon the tree whereit has established itself, ends by tumbling down from the top, anddying of inanition. I ventured to hint this to Dick, recommended histransferring the exercise of his inestimable talent to some othersphere, and forsaking the common which he might be said to have eatenbare.
"There is an obstacle to my change of residence," said my friend,grasping my hand with a look of solemnity.
"A bill due to my landlord, I am afraid?" replied I, with heartfeltsympathy; "if any part of my slender means can assist in thisemergence----"
"No, by the soul of Sir Joshua!" answered the generous youth, "I willnever involve a friend in the consequences of my own misfortune. Thereis a mode by which I can regain my liberty; and to creep even through acommon sewer is better than to remain in prison."
I did not perfectly understand what my friend meant. The muse ofpainting appeared to have failed him, and what other goddess he couldinvoke in his distress was a mystery to me. We parted, however, withoutfurther explanation, and I did not see him until three days after, whenhe summoned me to partake of the "foy" with which his landlord proposedto regale him ere his departure for Edinburgh.
I found Dick in high spirits, whistling while he buckled the smallknapsack which contained his colours, brushes, pallets, and clean shirt.That he parted on the best terms with mine host was obvious from thecold beef set forth in the low parlour, flanked by two mugs of admirablebrown stout; and I own my curiosity was excited concerning the meansthrough which the face of my friend's affairs had been so suddenlyimproved. I did not suspect Dick of dealing with the devil, and by whatearthly means he had extricated himself thus happily I was at a totalloss to conjecture.
He perceived my curiosity, and took me by the hand. "My friend," hesaid, "fain would I conceal, even from you, the degradation to whichit has been necessary to submit, in order to accomplish an honourableretreat from Gandercleaugh. But what avails attempting to conceal thatwhich must needs betray itself even by its superior excellence? Allthe village--all the parish--all the world--will soon discover to whatpoverty has reduced Richard Tinto."
A sudden thought here struck me. I had observed that our landlord wore,on that memorable morning, a pair of bran new velveteens instead of hisancient thicksets.
"What," said I, drawing my right hand, with the forefinger and thumbpressed together, nimbly from my right haunch to my left shoulder, "youhave condescended to resume the paternal arts to which you were firstbred--long stitches, ha, Dick?"
He repelled this unlucky conjecture with a frown and a pshaw, indicativeof indignant contempt, and leading me into another room, showed me,resting against the wall, the majestic head of Sir William Wallace, grimas when severed from the trunk by the orders of the Edward.
The painting was executed on boards of a substantial thickness, andthe top decorated with irons, for suspending the honoured effigy upon asignpost.
"There," he said, "my friend, stands the honour of Scotland, and myshame; yet not so--rather the shame of those who, instead of encouragingart in its proper sphere, reduce it to these unbecoming and unworthyextremities."
I endeavoured to smooth the ruffled feelings of my misused and indignantfriend. I reminded him that he ought not, like the stag in the fable, todespise the quality which had extricated him from difficulties, inwhich his talents, as a portrait or landscape painter, had been foundunavailing. Above all, I praised the execution, as well as conception,of his painting, and reminded him that, far from feeling dishonoured byso superb a specimen of his talents being exposed to the general viewof the public, he ought rather to congratulate himself upon theaugmentation of his celebrity to which its public exhibition mustnecessarily give rise.
"You are right, my friend--you are right," replied poor Dick, his eyekindling with enthusiasm; "why should I shun the name of an--an--(hehesitated for a phrase)--an out-of-doors artist? Hogarth has introducedhimself in that character in one of his best engravings; Domenichino,or somebody else, in ancient times, Morland in our own, have exercisedtheir talents in this manner. And wherefore limit to the rich andhigher classes alone the delight which the exhibition of works of art iscalculated to inspire into all classes? Statues are placed in theopen air, why should Painting be more niggardly in displaying hermasterpieces than her sister Sculpture? And yet, my friend, we must partsuddenly; the carpenter is coming in an hour to put up the--the emblem;and truly, with all my philosophy, and your consolatory encouragementto boot, I would rather wish to leave Gandercleugh before that operationcommences."
We partook of our genial host's parting banquet, and I escorted Dick onhis walk to Edinburgh. We parted about a mile from the village, just aswe heard the distant cheer of the boys which accompanied the mountingof the new symbol of the Wallace Head. Dick Tinto mended his pace to getout of hearing, so little had either early practice or recent philosophyreconciled him to the character of a sign-painter.
In Edinburgh, Dick's talents were discovered and appreciated, and hereceived dinners and hints from several distinguished judges of the finearts. But these gentlemen dispensed their criticism more willing
Dick, who, in serious earnest, was supposed to have considerable naturaltalents for his profession, and whose vain and sanguine dispositionnever permitted him to doubt for a moment of ultimate success, threwhimself headlong into the crowd which jostled and struggled for noticeand preferment. He elbowed others, and was elbowed himself; and finally,by dint of intrepidity, fought his way into some notice, painted forthe prize at the Institution, had pictures at the exhibition at SomersetHouse, and damned the hanging committee. But poor Dick was doomed tolose the field he fought so gallantly. In the fine arts, there is scarcean alternative betwixt distinguished success and absolute failure; andas Dick's zeal and industry were unable to ensure the first, hefell into the distresses which, in his condition, were the naturalconsequences of the latter alternative. He was for a time patronisedby one or two of those judicious persons who make a virtue of beingsingular, and of pitching their own opinions against those of the worldin matters of taste and criticism. But they soon tired of poor Tinto,and laid him down as a load, upon the principle on which a spoilt childthrows away its plaything. Misery, I fear, took him up, and accompaniedhim to a premature grave, to which he was carried from an obscurelodging in Swallow Street, where he had been dunned by his landladywithin doors, and watched by bailiffs without, until death came tohis relief. A corner of the Morning Post noticed his death, generouslyadding, that his manner displayed considerable genius, though his stylewas rather sketchy; and referred to an advertisement, which announcedthat Mr. Varnish, a well-known printseller, had still on hand a veryfew drawings and painings by Richard Tinto, Esquire, which those ofthe nobility and gentry who might wish to complete their collections ofmodern art were invited to visit without delay. So ended Dick Tinto! alamentable proof of the great truth, that in the fine arts mediocrityis not permitted, and that he who cannot ascend to the very top of theladder will do well not to put his foot upon it at all.
The memory of Tinto is dear to me, from the recollection of the manyconversations which we have had together, most of them turning uponmy present task. He was delighted with my progress, and talked of anornamented and illustrated edition, with heads, vignettes, and culs delampe, all to be designed by his own patriotic and friendly pencil.He prevailed upon an old sergeant of invalids to sit to him in thecharacter of Bothwell, the lifeguard's-man of Charles the Second, andthe bellman of Gandercleugh in that of David Deans. But while he thusproposed to unite his own powers with mine for the illustration ofthese narratives, he mixed many a dose of salutary criticism with thepanegyrics which my composition was at times so fortunate as to callforth.
"Your characters," he said, "my dear Pattieson, make too much use ofthe gob box; they patter too much (an elegant phraseology which Dick hadlearned while painting the scenes of an itinerant company of players);there is nothing in whole pages but mere chat and dialogue."
"The ancient philosopher," said I in reply, "was wont to say, 'Speak,that I may know thee'; and how is it possible for an author to introducehis personae dramatis to his readers in a more interesting and effectualmanner than by the dialogue in which each is represented as supportinghis own appropriate character?"
"It is a false conclusion," said Tinto; "I hate it, Peter, as I hatean unfilled can. I grant you, indeed, that speech is a faculty of somevalue in the intercourse of human affairs, and I will not even insist onthe doctrine of that Pythagorean toper, who was of opinion that overa bottle speaking spoiled conversation. But I will not allow that aprofessor of the fine arts has occasion to embody the idea of his scenein language, in order to impress upon the reader its reality and itseffect. On the contrary, I will be judged by most of your readers,Peter, should these tales ever become public, whether you have notgiven us a page of talk for every single idea which two words might havecommunicated, while the posture, and manner, and incident, accuratelydrawn, and brougth out by appropriate colouring, would have preservedall that was worthy of preservation, and saved these everlasting 'saidhe's' and 'said she's,' with which it has been your pleasure to encumberyour pages."
I replied, "That he confounded the operations of the pencil and the pen;that the serene and silent art, as painting has been called by one ofour first living poets, necessarily appealed to the eye, because it hadnot the organs for addressing the ear; whereas poetry, or that speciesof composition which approached to it, lay under the necessity of doingabsolutely the reverse, and addressed itself to the ear, for the purposeof exciting that interest which it could not attain through the mediumof the eye."
Dick was not a whit staggered by my argument, which he contended wasfounded on misrepresentation. "Description," he said, "was to the authorof a romance exactly what drawing and tinting were to a painter: wordswere his colours, and, if properly employed, they could not fail toplace the scene which he wished to conjure up as effectually before themind's eye as the tablet or canvas presents it to the bodily organ.The same rules," he contended, "applied to both, and an exuberanceof dialogue, in the former case, was a verbose and laborious modeof composition which went to confound the proper art of fictitiousnarrative with that of the drama, a widely different species ofcomposition, of which dialogue was the very essence, because all,excepting the language to be made use of, was presented to the eye bythe dresses, and persons, and actions of the performers upon the stage.But as nothing," said Dick, "can be more dull than a long narrativewritten upon the plan of a drama, so where you have approached most nearto that species of composition, by indulging in prolonged scenes of mereconversation, the course of your story has become chill and constrained,and you have lost the power of arresting the attention and excitingthe imagination, in which upon other occasions you may be considered ashaving succeeded tolerably well."
I made my bow in requital of the compliment, which was probably thrownin by way of placebo, and expressed myself willing at least to make onetrial of a more straightforward style of composition, in which my actorsshould do more, and say less, than in my former attempts of this kind.Dick gave me a patronising and approving nod, and observed that, findingme so docile, he would communicate, for the benefit of my muse, asubject which he had studied with a view to his own art.
"The story," he said, "was, by tradition, affirmed to be truth,although, as upwards of a hundred years had passed away since the eventstook place, some doubts upon the accuracy of all the particulars mightbe reasonably entertained."
When Dick Tinto had thus spoken, he rummaged his portfolio for thesketch from which he proposed one day to execute a picture of fourteenfeet by eight. The sketch, which was cleverly executed, to use theappropriate phrase, represented an ancient hall, fitted up and furnishedin what we now call the taste of Queen Elizabeth's age. The light,admitted from the upper part of a high casement, fell upon a femalefigure of exquisite beauty, who, in an attitude of speechless terror,appeared to watch the issue of a debate betwixt two other persons. Theone was a young man, in the Vandyke dress common to the time of CharlesI., who, with an air of indignant pride, testified by the manner inwhich he raised his head and extended his arm, seemed to be urging aclaim of right, rather than of favour, to a lady whose age, and someresemblance in their features, pointed her out as the mother of theyounger female, and who appeared to listen with a mixture of displeasureand impatience.
Tinto produced his sketch with an air of mysterious triumph, and gazedon it as a fond parent looks upon a hopeful child, while he anticipatesthe future figure he is to make in the world, and the height to whichhe will raise the honour of his family. He held it at arm's lengthfrom me--he helt it closer--he placed it upon the top of a chest ofdrawers--closed the lower shutters of the casement, to adjust a downwardand favourable light--fell back to the due distance, dragging meafter him--shaded his face with his hand, as if to exclude all but thefa
I vindicated my claim to the usual allowance of visual organs.
"Yet, on my honour," said Dick, "I would swear you had been born blind,since you have failed at the first glance to discover the subject andmeaning of that sketch. I do not mean to praise my own performance, Ileave these arts to others; I am sensible of my deficiencies, consciousthat my drawing and colouring may be improved by the time I intendto dedicate to the art. But the conception--the expression--thepositions--these tell the story to every one who looks at the sketch;and if I can finish the picture without diminution of the originalconception, the name of Tinto shall no more be smothered by the mists ofenvy and intrigue."
I replied: "That I admired the sketch exceedingly; but that tounderstand its full merit, I felt it absolutely necessary to be informedof the subject."
"That is the very thing I complain of," answered Tinto; "you haveaccustomed yourself so much to these creeping twilight details of yours,that you are become incapable of receiving that instant and vividflash of conviction which darts on the mind from seeing the happy andexpressive combinations of a single scene, and which gathers from theposition, attitude, and countenance of the moment, not only the historyof the past lives of the personages represented, and the nature of thebusiness on which they are immediately engaged, but lifts even the veilof futurity, and affords a shrewd guess at their future fortunes."
"In that case," replied I, "Paining excels the ape of the renowned Ginesde Passamonte, which only meddled with the past and the present; nay,she excels that very Nature who affords her subject; for I protest toyou, Dick, that were I permitted to peep into that Elizabeth-chamber,and see the persons you have sketched conversing in flesh and blood, Ishould not be a jot nearer guessing the nature of their business than Iam at this moment while looking at your sketch. Only generally, fromthe languishing look of the young lady, and the care you have takento present a very handsome leg on the part of the gentleman, I presumethere is some reference to a love affair between them."
"Do you really presume to form such a bold conjecture?" said Tinto. "Andthe indignant earnestness with which you see the man urge his suit, theunresisting and passive despair of the younger female, the stern air ofinflexible determination in the elder woman, whose looks express atonce consciousness that she is acting wrong and a firm determination topersist in the course she has adopted----"
"If her looks express all this, my dear Tinto," replied I, interruptinghim, "your pencil rivals the dramatic art of Mr. Puff in The Critic, whocrammed a whole complicated sentence into the expressive shake of LordBurleigh's head."
"My good friend, Peter," replied Tinto, "I observe you are perfectlyincorrigible; however, I have compassion on your dulness, and amunwilling you should be deprived of the pleasure of understanding mypicture, and of gaining, at the same time, a subject for your own pen.You must know then, last summer, while I was taking sketches on thecoast of East Lothian and Berwickshire, I was seduced into the mountainsof Lammermoor by the account I received of some remains of antiquity inthat district. Those with which I was most struck were the ruins of anancient castle in which that Elizabeth-chamber, as you call it,once existed. I resided for two or three days at a farmhouse in theneighbourhood, where the aged goodwife was well acquainted with thehistory of the castle, and the events which had taken place in it. Oneof these was of a nature so interesting and singular, that my attentionwas divided between my wish to draw the old ruins in landscape, andto represent, in a history-piece, the singular events which have takenplace in it. Here are my notes of the tale," said poor Dick, handing aparcel of loose scraps, partly scratched over with his pencil, partlywith his pen, where outlines of caricatures, sketches of turrets,mills, old gables, and dovecots, disputed the ground with his writtenmemoranda.
I proceeded, however, to decipher the substance of the manuscriptas well as I could, and move it into the following Tale, in which,following in part, though not entirely, my friend Tinto's advice, Iendeavoured to render my narrative rather descriptive than dramatic. Myfavourite propensity, however, has at times overcome me, and my persons,like many others in this talking world, speak now what then a great dealmore than they act.
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