« PreviousContinue »
in writing the History of Scotland, from the union of the crowns to that of the kingdoms."
I wish you could send me Lord Hailes' anonymous Tract on the Gowrie Conspiracy,* 1757, 12mo. It may be split in parts, and sent me under cover: "Andrew Stuart, Esq. M. P. Grosvenor Street, London."
Permit me now to return to a far more important business, your own History. Having fulfilled my design of publishing an authenticated History of the House of Stuart, from 1371 to 1542; so that, if death had surprised me in the midst of a long toil, still by Lord Hailes' labors, Dr. Robertson's, &c., no part of our annals remained unillustrated; I shall resume, in 2 vols, 4to., the early part, from Agricola to 1371. At a most remote distance I viewed the part 1542-1707, in 20 books; 10 of history, 1542-1603; 10 of Annals, 16031707 at the end, a brief chronological deduction to modern times. But in the reigns of Mary and James, little could have been added or illustrated (at least it strikes me so at a distance); and glad I am that your labors in the latter period may relieve me from so heavy a burden. I therefore hope and intend to close my toils with the earliest division, in which much still remains; my Inquiry and Lord Hailes' Annals being rather materials than history, and many new materials having arisen.
In our modern history I above all things wished,
* "A Discourse of the unnatural and vile Conspiracy, attempted by John, Earl of Gowrie, and his brother, against His Majesty's person, at St. Johnstoun, upon the 5th August, 1600." Edin. 1757.
and still wish that some able writer, residing at Edinburgh, where the chief materials are, would undertake a large, formal, and rather prolix history of Scotland under the Commonwealth, 1649-1660: eleven years of deep obscurity in our history and literature. Baillie's unprinted letters,* numerous papers in the Advocates' Library, the manuscript of Glencairn's conspiracy, Hailes' Remarks, &c. &c. might all furnish ample new materials, and most piquant articles for an appendix. A most interesting 4to volume might be formed on those few years, treated with the anecdotical minuteness of memoirs, not with the reserved dignity of history; and nothing could strike in more with our own times, and suggest topics more congenial to the current of sentiment in all parties.
I should consider myself as rendering an eminent service to our literature, if I could persuade you to undertake this part, first and separately. It would be in quite a different style and manner from your History, and would by no means preclude it, but, on the contrary, excite attention and expectation. In your subsequent history you would of course give a rapid masterly abstract of those eleven years in a different style and manner from
Is not Mr. Pinkerton in a mistake, in speaking of these letters as unprinted? In Dr. Watts's Bibliotheca Britannica, I find, "Letters and Journals, containing an impartial account of public transactions, civil, ecclesiastical, and military, in England and Scotland, from the beginning of the civil wars in 1657 to the year 1662, by Robert Baillie; with an account of the Author's life prefixed, and a glossary annexed, by Robert Aitken." Edin. 1775, 2 vols. 8vo.
the memoirs; and the space is so short that no charge of repetition could arise, any more than if you had only published a previous dissertation on an obscure period. In short, were I residing in Scotland and writing your period, I should certainly pursue this plan, just as I published my Inquiry before I commenced my History; for, on obscure topics, double light is necessary.
I have at your service manuscript anecdotes of Cromwell in Scotland, and a list of all the scarce pamphlets in the Museum, 1649-1660, any extracts from which I can order, and can direct your materials here as if for myself. Whatever be your determination, it will give me pleasure if I can serve you in your researches; and do not hesitate to employ me; for I can retaliate on you for any little article I may want from the Edinburgh repositories.
MR. LAING TO MR. PINKERTON.
Edinburgh, Feb. 9th, 1797.
I have delayed for some days to answer your esteemed favor, in order to learn with certainty, whether the Tract which accompanies this was the only publication by Lord Hailes on Gowrie's conspiracy. You will see that it is a publication of the court-narrative with notes, suggested at first to his lordship by visiting Gowrie's house at Perth, which, I am sorry to add, is to be removed very
soon, to make way for barracks.*
Mr. John Da
vidson examined the house with Lord Hailes: his idea is at least singular, though suggested, I suppose, by local circumstances, that James had retired backwards, and, from his constitutional timidity, had caught and excited the alarm, in consequence of which the two unfortunate brothers perished. I am told by Sir H. Moncrieff, that there was a woman some years ago alive at Perth, whose great-grandmother's wedding-dinner was borrowed by Gowrie, (who had dined himself,) and brought into his house to entertain the king; a proof, were the anecdote certain, that his visit was not expected by the earl. Mr. Scott, a minister of Perth, from whom, I believe, this traditionary: fact was derived, possesses, I have heard, some historical anecdotes respecting the conspiracy. Yet no such thing appears in his Statistical Report: nor is it likely that any additional facts of importance are now to be procured. If information, however, of such anecdotes, or if any extracts from Calderwood's Manuscript History be necessary, I shall be happy to make the inquiries or extracts. The
"The Earl of Gowrie's house, which was originally built by the Countess of Huntly, about the year 1520, still remains at Perth. In the year 1746, it was given by the magistrates to William, Duke of Cumberland, who sold it to government for the purpose of containing barracks for a company of artillery. This house stands at the south end of the street, called the Watergate. It was the scene of one of the most problematical events in Scottish history, that is, the execution of what is called the Gowrie Conspiracy.”—Beauties of Scotland, vol. iv. p. 276, 1807.
manuscript contains, if I recollect right, some minute contradictions of James's narrative, which, perhaps, are mostly inserted in the republication of Adamson's Threnodia* at Perth. If any part of my last letter deserve to be insertea in your treatise on the conspiracy, the manner in which you propose to introduce it will be much more gratifying than the mention of my name.
As to the work I am engaged in, it is the humblest and least important part of our annals; or rather, a provincial history, subordinate to the English. Your suggestion, that I may relieve you from a distant toil, if I can complete with any tolerable success the last portion of Scottish history, is a motive that will quicken my diligence and care. I have considered attentively your idea of a previous anecdotical history, or memoirs of Scotland during the usurpation; but, having already passed that period, and reached the middle of Charles II.'s reign, I am now straining to the goal, I mean the union, on which I have a prospect of obtaining some original materials. Till I have reached it, I am unwilling to indulge in a retrospect; and, from the inspection of Woodrow's voluminous collection of manuscripts in the Advocates' Library, I am afraid that a minute account of that period would possess few attractions. Our history was then suspended under a foreign yoke. The manuscripts which I
* The Muses' Threnodie, or Mirthful Mourning, on the death of Mr. Gall, with a Description of Perth, and an Account of Gowrie's Conspiracy, &c. by Henry Adamson. Edin. 1638, 4to. The same book was reprinted with Notes by J. Cant, Perth, 1774, 2 vols. 12mo.