Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Legend of Montrose by Sir Walter Scott (1819)

Back to Sir Walter, I believe this is one of his best, I finally got the answer to "where are the Scottish speaking charterers" although there isn't much there is more than any other of his books that I am familiar with.

This is a good story that moves along nicely, has lots of good charterers, and we learn a lot about the Highland v Lowland history.

I have a nice 1890's printing from New York.
The only reference to the printer is Trow's bookbinding for the Syndicate Trading Co. 

The Dalgetty character is just great, a bombastic war veteran who's motivation is financial reward but his allegiance is on wavering (until the contract is up.) Really a fun part of the story.

The rest of the combatants are either very smart, very emotional, or very tragic.

Of course this is a story of one of the few success in the (endless) Scot's against the English.

The Children of the mist are a real thing, who new? But the understanding of the Scot & Irish lands and weather leads me to believe that in fact these peoples could have been living in a similar manner as when the Roman's got there.

Here is a little of the ancient rhetoric referances that I like:

“By my honour, Allan,” said Lord Menteith, “you will weary out your friends with this intolerable, froward, and sullen humour ­But I know the reason,” added he, laughing; “you have not seen Annot Lyle to-day.”
“Whom did you say I had not seen?” said Allan, sternly.
“Annot Lyle, the fairy queen of song and minstrelsy,” said Lord Menteith.
“Would to God I were never to see her again,” said Allan, sighing, “On condition the same weird were laid on you!”
“And why on me?” said Lord Menteith, carelessly.
“Because,” said Allan, “it is written on your forehead, that you are to be the ruin of each other.”  So saying, he rose up and left the room.
“Has he been long in this way?” asked Lord Menteith, addressing his brother.
“About three days,” answered Angus; “the fit is wellnigh over, he will be better to-morrow. ­But come, gentlemen, don’t let the tappit-hen scraugh to be emptied.  The King’s health, King Charles’s health! and may the covenanting dog that refuses it, go to Heaven by the road of the Grassmarket!”

Aye, the "Grassmarket" 

The MacEugh as a Highland outlaw so tragically causes the death (by hanging) of all his sons and yet has a redemptive side (however small) that we come to in the end. 

In this passage Scott reinforces the opinion that many of us still maintain; Bagpipes are mostly horrid!

At length, however, as the black-cocks towards the end of the season, when, in sportsman’s language, they are said to flock or crowd, attracted together by the sound of each others’ triumphant crow, even so did the pipers, swelling their plaids and tartans in the same triumphant manner in which the birds ruffle up their feathers, begin to approach each other within such distance as might give to their brethren a sample of their skill.  Walking within a short interval, and eyeing each other with looks in which self-importance and defiance might be traced, they strutted, puffed, and plied their screaming instruments, each playing his own favourite tune with such a din, that if an Italian musician had lain buried within ten miles of them, he must have risen from the dead to run out of hearing.

The poor Italian was awoken from the dead so he could flee further.

The 1600's saw the shift from swards, spears, and bows to the musket. Scott explains some of the issues surrounding these changes and how the world of war was effected.

Before that period, the Lowlanders were as constantly engaged in war as the mountaineers, and were incomparably better disciplined and armed.  The favourite Scottish order of battle somewhat resembled the Macedonian phalanx.  Their infantry formed a compact body, armed with long spears, impenetrable even to the men-at-arms of the age, though well mounted, and arrayed in complete proof.  It may easily be conceived, therefore, that their ranks could not be broken by the disorderly charge of Highland infantry armed for close combat only, with swords, and ill furnished with missile weapons, and having no artillery whatever.
This habit of fight was in a great measure changed by the introduction of muskets into the Scottish Lowland service, which, not being as yet combined with the bayonet, was a formidable weapon at a distance, but gave no assurance against the enemy who rushed on to close quarters.  The pike, indeed, was not wholly disused in the Scottish army; but it was no longer the favourite weapon, nor was it relied upon as formerly by those in whose hands it was placed; insomuch that Daniel Lupton, a tactician of the day, has written a book expressly upon the superiority of the musket.  This change commenced as early as the wars of Gustavus Adolphus, whose marches were made with such rapidity, that the pike was very soon thrown aside in his army, and exchanged for fire-arms.  A circumstance which necessarily accompanied this change, as well as the establishment of standing armies, whereby war became a trade, was the introduction of a laborious and complicated system of discipline, combining a variety of words of command with corresponding operations and manoeuvres, the neglect of any one of which was sure to throw the whole into confusion.  War therefore, as practised among most nations of Europe, had assumed much more than formerly the character of a profession or mystery, to which previous practice and experience were indispensable requisites.  Such was the natural consequence of standing armies, which had almost everywhere, and particularly in the long German wars, superseded what may be called the natural discipline of the feudal militia.
The Scottish Lowland militia, therefore, laboured under a double disadvantage when opposed to Highlanders.  They were divested of the spear, a weapon which, in the hands of their ancestors, had so often repelled the impetuous assaults of the mountaineer; and they were subjected to a new and complicated species of discipline, well adapted, perhaps, to the use of regular troops, who could be rendered completely masters of it, but tending only to confuse the ranks of citizen soldiers, by whom it was rarely practised, and imperfectly understood.  So much has been done in our own time in bringing back tactics to their first principles, and in getting rid of the pedantry of war, that it is easy for us to estimate the disadvantages under which a half-trained militia laboured, who were taught to consider success as depending upon their exercising with precision a system of tactics, which they probably only so far comprehended as to find out when they were wrong, but without the power of getting right again.  Neither can it be denied, that, in the material points of military habits and warlike spirit, the Lowlanders of the seventeenth century had sunk far beneath their Highland countrymen.

The citizen soldier is not a full fighting machine, and as such the musket was the weapon of choice.