Wednesday, September 21st.
The house where we lodged was airy, and even cheerful, though one of a line of houses bordering on the churchyard, which is the highest part of the town, overlooking a great portion of it to the opposite hills. The kirk is, as at Melrose, within the walls of a conventual church; but the ruin is much less beautiful, and the church a very neat one. The churchyard was full of graves, and exceedingly slovenly and dirty; one most indecent practice I observed: several women brought their linen to the flat table-tombstones, and, having spread it upon them, began to batter as hard as they could with a wooden roller, a substitute for a mangle.
After Mr. Scott's business in the Courts was over, he walked with us up the Jed - 'sylvan Jed' it has been properly called by Thomson - for the banks are yet very woody, though wood in large quantities has been felled within a few years. There are some fine red scars near the river, in one or two of which we saw the entrances to caves, said to have been used as places of refuge in times of insecurity.
Walked up to Ferniehurst, an old hall, in a secluded situation, now inhabited by farmers; the neighbouring ground had the wildness of a forest, being irregularly scattered over with fine old trees. The wind was tossing their branches, and sunshine dancing among the leaves, and I happened to exclaim, 'What a life there is in trees!' on which Mr. Scott observed that the words reminded him of a young lady who had been born and educated on an island of the Orcades, and came to spend a summer at Kelso and in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh. She used to say that in the new world into which she was come nothing had disappointed her so much as trees and woods; she complained that they were lifeless, silent, and, compared with the grandeur of the ever-changing ocean, even insipid. At first I was surprised, but the next moment I felt that the impression was natural. Mr. Scott said that she was a very sensible young woman, and had read much. She talked with endless rapture and feeling of the power and greatness of the ocean; and with the same passionate attachment returned to her native island without any probability of quitting it again.
The valley of the Jed is very solitary immediately under Ferniehurst; we walked down the river, wading almost up to the knees in fern, which in many parts overspread the forest-ground. It made me think of our walks at Allfoxden, and of our own park - though at Ferniehurst is no park at present - and the slim fawns that we used to startle from their couching-places among the fern at the top of the hill. We were accompanied on our walk by a young man from the Braes of Yarrow, an acquaintance of Mr. Scott's, who, having been much delighted with some of William's poems which he had chanced to see in a newspaper, had wished to be introduced to him; he lived in the most retired part of the dale of Yarrow, where he had a farm: he was fond of reading, and well informed, but at first meeting as shy as any of our Grasmere lads, and not less rustic in his appearance. He had been in the Highlands, and gave me such an account of Loch Rannoch as made us regret that we had not persevered in our journey thither, especially as he told us that the bad road ended at a very little distance from the place where we had turned back, and that we should have come into another good road, continued all along the shore of the lake. He also mentioned that there was a very fine view from the steeple at Dunkeld.
The town of Jedburgh, in returning along the road, as it is seen through the gently winding narrow valley, looks exceedingly beautiful on its low eminence, surmounted by the conventual tower, which is arched over, at the summit, by light stone-work resembling a coronet; the effect at a distance is very graceful. The hills all round are high, and rise rapidly from the town, which though it stands considerably above the river, yet, from every side except that on which we walked, appears to stand in a bottom.
We had our dinner sent from the inn, and a bottle of wine, that we might not disgrace the Sheriff, who supped with us in the evening, - stayed late, and repeated some of his poem.
Thursday, September 22nd.
After breakfast, the minister, Dr. Somerville, called upon us with Mr. Scott, and we went to the manse, a very pretty house, with pretty gardens, and in a beautiful situation, though close to the town. Dr. Somerville and his family complained bitterly of the devastation that had been made among the woods within view from their windows, which looked up the Jed. He conducted us to the church, which under his directions has been lately repaired, and is a very neat place within. Dr. Somerville spoke of the dirt and other indecencies in the churchyard, and said that he had taken great pains to put a stop to them, but wholly in vain. The business of the assizes closed this day, and we went into Court to hear the Judge pronounce his charge, which was the most curious specimen of old woman's oratory and newspaper-paragraph loyalty that was ever heard.
When all was over they returned to the inn in procession, as they had come, to the sound of a trumpet, the Judge first, in his robes of red, the Sheriffs next, in large cocked hats, and inferior officers following, a show not much calculated to awe the beholders. After this we went to the inn. The landlady and her sister inquired if we had been comfortable, and lamented that they had not had it in their power to pay us more attention. I began to talk with them, and found out that they were from Cumberland: they knew Captain and Mrs. Wordsworth, who had frequently been at Jedburgh, Mrs. Wordsworth's sister having married a gentleman of that neighbourhood. They spoke of them with great pleasure. I returned to our lodgings to take leave of the old woman, who told me that I had behaved 'very discreetly,' and seemed exceedingly sorry that we were leaving her so soon. She had been out to buy me some pears, saying that I must take away some 'Jedderd' pears. We learned afterwards that Jedburgh is famous in Scotland for pears, which were first cultivated there in the gardens of the monks.
Mr. Scott was very glad to part from the Judge and his retinue, to travel with us in our car to Hawick; his servant drove his own gig. The landlady, very kindly, had put up some sandwiches and cheese-cakes for me, and all the family came out to see us depart. Passed the monastery gardens, which are yet gardens, where there are many remarkably large old pear-trees. We soon came into the vale of Teviot, which is open and cultivated, and scattered over with hamlets, villages, and many gentlemen's seats, yet, though there is no inconsiderable quantity of wood, you can never, in the wide and cultivated parts of the Teviot, get rid of the impression of barrenness, and the fir plantations, which in this part are numerous, are for ever at war with simplicity. One beautiful spot I recollect of a different character, which Mr. Scott took us to see a few yards from the road. A stone bridge crossed the water at a deep and still place, called Horne's Pool, from a contemplative schoolmaster, who had lived not far from it, and was accustomed to walk thither, and spend much of his leisure near the river.
The valley was here narrow and woody. Mr. Scott pointed out to us Ruberslaw, Minto Crags, and every other remarkable object in or near the vale of Teviot, and we scarcely passed a house for which he had not some story. Seeing us look at one, which stood high on the hill on the opposite side of the river, he told us that a gentleman lived there who, while he was in India, had been struck with the fancy of making his fortune by a new speculation, and so set about collecting the gods of the country, with infinite pains and no little expense, expecting that he might sell them for an enormous price. Accordingly, on his return they were offered for sale, but no purchasers came. On the failure of this scheme, a room was hired in London in which to exhibit them as a show; but alas! nobody would come to see; and this curious assemblage of monsters is now, probably, quietly lodged in the vale of Teviot. The latter part of this gentleman's history is more affecting: - he had an only daughter, whom he had accompanied into Spain two or three years ago for the recovery of her health, and so for a time saved her from a consumption, which now again threatened her, and he was about to leave his pleasant residence, and attend her once more on the same errand, afraid of the coming winter.
We passed through a village, whither Leyden, Scott's intimate friend, the author of Scenes of Infancy, was used to walk over several miles of moorland country every day to school, a poor barefooted boy. He is now in India, applying himself to the study of Oriental literature, and, I doubt not, it is his dearest thought that he may come and end his days upon the banks of Teviot, or some other of the Lowland streams - for he is, like Mr. Scott, passionately attached to the district of the Borders.
Arrived at Hawick to dinner; the inn is a large old house with walls above a yard thick, formerly a gentleman's house. Did not go out this evening.
|To Next Part|