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Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 736, February 2, 1878

Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 736, February 2, 1878
Category: Periodicals
Author: Various
Title: Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 736, February 2, 1878
Release Date: 2018-08-24
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art. Fourth Series. Conducted by William and Robert Chambers.

No. 736.




Fifty years ago, or thereabouts, when by goodfortune my brother and I were permitted to makesome advance towards an acquaintance with theluminaries which at that time in a remarkablemanner distinguished society in the Scottish capital,we one evening, at the house of John ArchibaldMurray—afterwards Lord Murray—enjoyedthe satisfaction of seeing a lady who some yearspreviously had become locally famous. She was alively pleasant person, rather small in figure,unmarried, and had seemingly reached middle age.From her manners she evidently moved amongpeople in the higher circles. As to her languagethere was the marked peculiarity that, besides aScottish intonation, there was a pretty frequentuse of the Scottish dialect—that which is bestexemplified in Burns; for as yet there were stilla few northern ladies of rank who in conversationdid not disdain to employ incidentally words inthe national vernacular. They spoke as they hadbeen taught in early life, and as they were accustomedto speak among old and familiar friends.There was nothing coarse or vulgar in theirlanguage; the Scotch words gave an agreeableflavouring to their discourse. Lady Anne Lindsay,the writer of Auld Robin Gray, was a good specimenof this lingering class of high-born ladies, whounderstood and still occasionally used a Scotchseasoning in their conversation. Lord Cockburnhas presented some charming reminiscences ofthis class of ladies, and he wrote just at thetime when they had very nearly died out.

The lady who interested us on the presentoccasion was Miss Stirling Graham of Duntrune.As we understood, she lived mostly at the familyestate in Forfarshire, with a mansion overlookingthe estuary of the Tay, and commanding a distantview of St Andrews. Usually she spent herwinters in Edinburgh, where she was immenselyesteemed for her geniality and accomplishments.My brother, who had already written much aboutthe disastrous troubles in Scotland in the seventeenthcentury, felt a peculiar interest in MissStirling Graham, on account of her connectionby heritage with that historical personage, JohnGraham of Claverhouse—the terrible Claverhousedescribed by Scott in Old Mortality, for his persecutionof the Covenanters, and who as ViscountDundee perished by a musket-shot at the battleof Killiecrankie, 1689. Claverhouse was a Forfarshireman. Leaving no immediate heirs, hisestates devolved on a cousin, David Graham ofDuntrune; this person was succeeded by his lastsurviving son, on whose demise the property wasinherited equally by his four sisters; one of thesesisters was the mother of Clementina StirlingGraham, the lady to whose memory we havedevoted the present paper.

Moving about at evening parties among theliterati and the more eminent lawyers, Miss StirlingGraham, by her original humour and tact,may be said to have kept the town in a pleasantkind of buzz. Nature seemed to have designedher to be an actress. She possessed the power ofsimulation to a degree almost unexampled; alsothe powers of an improvisatrice which have beenvery rarely excelled. Her wit and her personations,however, were always exclusively employedto promote harmless mirth among herselect acquaintances, and we know she wouldhave shrunk from anything like a public exhibition.She was great in personifying and mimickingold Scottish ladies, or indeed Scottish womenin the humbler ranks of life, for which heracute observation of character and her knowledgeof the vernacular tongue particularly qualified her.Her deceptions were numerous, but all of an innocentkind. In her latter days, at the solicitationof friends, she gave an account of her principalpersonations, which was printed for private distribution,under the title of Mystifications. Thebook being much sought after in this country andAmerica, the authoress was prevailed on to let itbe published in the usual way (Edmonston andDouglas), 1865; yet, we doubt, after all, if thishandsome volume, which was edited by Dr JohnBrown, is so well known as it should be, and we{66}propose to give one or two alluring specimens ofthe contents.

The first Mystification in the book is that whichsignalised Miss Stirling Graham’s success in deceivingMr Jeffrey, the eminent practising lawyer, andat the same time editor of the Edinburgh Review.Jeffrey had been introduced to the lady, and hadheard of her cleverness in personation. Meetingher afterwards at the theatre, he said he shouldlike to see her take in some one. A promise wasgiven that he should have that pleasure very soon.Likely enough, the busy advocate thought nothingmore of the matter. On the second evening afterwards,accompanied by Miss Helen Carnegy ofCraigo as her daughter, Miss Stirling Graham, whoat the time had been on a visit to Lord Gillies,stopped at Mr Jeffrey’s door, 92 George Street,between five and six o’clock, when she knew MrJeffrey was at home and preparing for dinner.The two ladies were ushered into the parlourappropriated for visitors. What follows we copyin a somewhat condensed form from the accountin Mystifications.

‘There was a blazing fire, and wax-lights onthe table; he [Jeffrey] had laid down his book,and seemed to be in the act of joining the ladiesin the drawing-room before dinner. The LadyPitlyal was announced, and he stepped forwarda few paces to receive her. She was a sedate-lookinglittle woman of an inquisitive law-lovingcountenance; a mouth in which [by an adroitmanagement of the lips] not a vestige of a toothwas to be seen, and a pair of old-fashionedspectacles on her nose.... She was dressed inan Irish poplin of silver gray, a white Cashmereshawl, a mob-cap with a band of thin muslinthat fastened it below the chin, and a small blacksilk bonnet that shaded her eyes from any glareof light. Her right hand was supported by anantique gold-headed cane, and she leant with theother on the arm of her daughter.

‘Mr Jeffrey bowed, and handed the old lady to achaise longue on one side of the fire, and sat himselfdown opposite to her on the other. But in hisdesire to accommodate the old lady, and in hisanxiety to be informed of the purport of the visit,he forgot what was due to the young one, and theheiress of the ancient House of Pitlyal was leftstanding in the middle of the floor. She helpedherself to a chair, however, and sat down besideher mother. She had been educated in somewhatof the severity of the old school, and during thewhole of the consultation she neither spoke normoved a single muscle of her countenance.

Well!” said Mr Jeffrey as he looked at theold lady, in expectation that she would open thesubject that had procured him the honour of thevisit.

“Weel,” replied her Ladyship, “I am come totak’ a word o’ the law frae you.

“My husband, the late Ogilvy of Pitlyal, amongother property which he left to me, was a houseand a yard at the town-end of Kirriemuir, also akiln and a malt-barn.

“The kiln and the barn were rented by a manthey ca’d John Playfair, and John Playfair subsetthem to anither man they ca’d Willy Cruickshank,and Willy Cruickshank purchased a cargo ofdamaged lint, and ye widna hinder Willy to drythe lint upon the kiln, and the lint took low andkindled the cupples, and the slates flew aff, and a’the flooring was brunt to the ground, and naethingleft standin’ but the bare wa’s.

“Now it wasna insured, and I want to kenwha’s to pay the damage, for John Playfair sayshe has naething ado wi’ it, and Willy Cruickshanksays he has naething to do it wi’, and I am determinedno to take it off their hand the way it is.”

“Has it been in any of the Courts?”

“Ou ay; it has been in the Shirra Court ofForfar; and Shirra Duff was a gude man, and hekent me, and would ha’ gien’t in my favour, butthat clattering creature Jamie L’Amy cam’ in, andhe gave it against me.”

“I have no doubt Mr L’Amy would give a veryfair decision.”

“It wasna a fair decision when he gae it againstme.”

“That is what many people think in your circumstances.”

“The minister of Blairgowrie is but a fule body,and advised me no to gae to the law.”

“I think he gave you a very sensible advice.”

“It was onything but that; and mind, if youdinna gie’t in my favour, I’ll no be sair pleased.”

‘Mr Jeffrey smiled, and said he would not promiseto do that, and then inquired if she had anypapers.

“Ou ay, I have a great bundle of papers, andI’ll come back at any hour you please to appoint,and bring them wi’ me.”

“It will not be necessary for you to return yourself;you can send them to me.”

“And wha would you recommend to me for anagent in the business?”

“That I cannot tell; it is not my province torecommend an agent.”

“Then how will Robert Smith of Balharrydo?”

“Very well; very good man indeed; and youmay bid him send me the papers.”

‘Meantime her Ladyship drew from her pocketa large old-fashioned leather pocket-book withsilver clasps, out of which she presented him aletter directed to himself. He did not look into it,but threw it carelessly on the table. She nowoffered him a pinch of snuff from a massive goldbox, and then selected another folded paper fromthe pocket-book, which she presented to him,saying: “Here is a prophecie that I would likeyou to look at and explain to me.”

‘He begged to be excused, saying: “I believeyour Ladyship will find me more skilled in thelaw than the prophets.”

‘She entreated him to look at it; and onglancing his eyes over it, he remarked, “thatfrom the words Tory and Whig, it did not seemto be a very ancient prophecy.”

“Maybe,” replied her Ladyship; “but it hasbeen long in our family. I copied these linesout of a muckle book entitled the Prophecie ofPitlyal, just before I came to you, in order tohave your opinion on some of the obscure passagesof it. And you will do me a great favour if youwill read it out loud, and I will tell you whatI think of it as you go on.”

‘Here, then, with a smile at the oddity of therequest, and a mixture of impatience in hismanner, he read the following lines, while she{67}interrupted him occasionally to remark upon theirmeaning:

When the crown and the head shall disgrace ane anither,
And the Bishops on the Bench shall gae a’ wrang thegither;
When Tory or Whig,
Fills the judge’s wig;
When the Lint o’ the Miln
Shall reek on the kiln;
O’er the Light of the North,
When the Glamour breaks forth,
And its wild-fire so red
With the daylight is spread;
When woman shrinks not from the ordeal of tryal,
There is triumph and fame to the House of Pitlyal.

“We ha’e seen the crown and the head,” shesaid, “disgrace ane anither no very lang syne,and ye may judge whether the bishops gaed rightor wrang on that occasion; and the Tory and Whigmay no be very ancient, and yet never be theless true. Then there is the Lint o’ the Miln—wehave witnessed that come to pass; but whatthe ‘Light of the North’ can mean, and the‘Glamour,’ I canna mak’ out. The twa hindmostlines seem to me to point at Queen Caroline;and if it had pleased God to spare my son, I mighthave guessed he would have made a figure on hertrial, and have brought ‘Triumph and fame tothe House of Pitlyal.’ I begin, however, to thinkthat the prophecie may be fulfilled in the personof my daughter, for which reason I have broughther to Edinburgh to see and get a gude matchfor her.”

‘Here Mr Jeffrey put on a smile, half serioushalf quizzical, and said: “I suppose it would notbe necessary for the gentleman to change hisname.”

“It would be weel worth his while, sir; shehas a very gude estate, and she’s a very bonnylassie, and she’s equally related baith to Airlieand Strathmore; and a’body in our part of thewarld ca’s her the Rosebud of Pitlyal.”

‘Mr Jeffrey smiled as his eyes met the glance ofthe beautiful flower that was so happily placedbefore him;

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