April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO DAVID LAING ; 14 October 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18441014-TC-DL-01; CL 18: 238-241


Chelsea, 14 Octr, 1844—

My dear Sir,

I hope you have accumulated a sufficient stock of patience, within the last year during which I have let you lie fallow, to admit of my again coming in upon with some of my Scotch difficulties. I am upon Gilderoy the Robber1 today; at least it is he that ultimately brings me to the point of writing to you.

Chambers in his Scotch Songs & Ballads informs me very vaguely that ‘Gilderoy was hanged on the Gallow tree between Leith and Edinburgh in the year 1638.’2 I know Chambers's way in such cases; and, of course, can only use him as a Note of Interrogation. Gilderoy is mentioned twice or thrice in Spalding; the places (in the old edition of Spalding) are pp. 49, 98, 71 of Vol I: but there is no account of his death there: in the Bannatyne-Club Spalding there may possibly be a Note about him at one of those passages,—tho' the work did not seem to be rich in elucidations when I looked at it.3 Or, by possibility, some of your Pitcairns or other Editors of Trials, your Fountainhalls4 or such like, may have an express Chapter upon him; in which case all will be right here, if you name it to me. One way or other I have got an image of this ‘winsome Gilderoy’ with roses to his shoon and long garters,5 poor fellow, dangling somewhere on the gallows in those years; and would gladly know when it was, and where, and how,—or know at least that all this was unknowable. By Spalding he does not seem to have died in '38, but to have been already dead then. ‘John Dugar’6 and other ‘lymmars [rogues]’ are connected with him, and have reminiscences about him.

Another inquiry, since my hand is in, I may make of you. In Thurloe's State Papers I. 101, there is a Letter of Oliver Cromwell, wherein he speaks of the ‘Laird of Gramhead’: I have no doubt this means Greenhead, ‘Sir W. Ker of Greenhead,’ concerning whom you teach me in Baillie. Do you know anything farther concerning this Laird of Greenhead than what Baillie has;—and was the ‘Sir W. Ker Director of Chancery’ a different person from this Laird?7 He is not worth much search; but if you know, pray tell me. I am gathering all Oliver's Letters, and adding such commentary as may make them intelligible. They are uniformly full of sense, verity and manfulness, when one does understand them.

On the whole, is there no attainable account of the Scottish Affairs in Church and State during those dreary years! I find two Highland Civil wars (or Expeditions to quench Civil war) 1651 and 1654, indistinctly swimming in the Serbonian Quagmire of Thurloe and others; I find Strahans,8 Kers, &c &c whom I cannot distinguish; I find Protesters, Engagers,9 and on the whole Darkness visible. For Scotland as for England the ‘History’ of the Civil may be defined as surpassing in genuine unadulterated Human Stupidity all the attempts at recording that men have elsewhere made. Falsity, inaccuracy, owlish darkness of head and of heart, Dulness to the verge of locked-jaw,—and it was not a Dulness, it was a great fiery Heroism, as authentic as the Earth ever saw, that those blockheads had got to give record of! My malison upon them; they have done evil as they could; raying out confusion and misconception instead of truth and heavenly light! Quiet oblivion, or old Ballads by Homeric Fiddlers would have been better.— But it is needless to curse: “the blockheads ye have always with you”:10 there they are, and we cannot alter them. I have had to thank poor Balfour in my great scarcity;11 Baillie in your editing is very useful; I have also got some good of Scotstarvet, considerable amusement at least.12——— Has anybody, since Hailes's time, overhauled those Papers you seem to have in great quantity in the Advocates' Library? Hailes's little Volumes are better worth their ink than most;—they have one great merit, brevity; they are readable with instruction, tho' abounding in errors.13 The man, if defective in information as to these things, had good sense as to things in general; which is an immense quality in editing as in other matters!—

You once informed me that E. Philips, Miltons Nephew, the Continuator of Baker, was the first person, to your knowledge, who had expressly named Jenny Geddes. I, not long since, took to examining him on this important subject,—to ascertain the year; for he says, Jenny was still alive while he wrote. In my Edition, which is the 8th, of 1684, the words stand clear enough, under the year 1637: “Jane or Janet Gaddis, yet living” &c. So in the 7th; so also in the 6th, of 1674;—but in the 4th, of 1665 (which is Philip's first edition; the fourth of Baker) they are not there: in the fifth there was no examining; that edition is not in the Museum; nor did I learn what year it came out in, tho' that doubtless would be easy enough. Between 1665 and 1674, these sentences must first have been written, and poor Jenny still breathing the vital air. If you ever fall in with this 5th edition, or know where to find it, pray look, and let us ascertain.14

I have very lately got for myself, after many readings, questionings and attemptings, some kind of intelligible notion of the Battle of Dunbar; Oliver, I find, drove the Scotch right-wing pellmell upon the body of the Army which, hemmed in by the Doun Hill and Brox Burn, had not room to manoeuvre, and so was reduced by its own cavalry and their pursuers to ‘immortal smash.’15— I find farther that there is some feeble bandying of accusations between Lesly and the Clergy (Parliament Committee, I suppose it was, of Lords and Clergy; Jeffray the Quaker in it, and Waugh and Carstairs),—as if they had urged him to come down and fight.16 I should like well to know the exact truth of that. Can you help me any way to a List of the said Committee that went with the Army? I fear, not

My Paper is done; and, I am sure, your Patience, however large a stock of it there might be! Tell me of Gilderoy, and forgive me.— Yours always truly

T. Carlyle

—Where precisely is the Gallowlee? or was?—