« AnteriorContinuar »
"I have seen Tweed's silver streams, glistening in the sun's beams, Turn dramly and dark as they rolled on their way,"
yet, let me assure the tranquil angler, that, whilst such dangers as are here adverted to, may easily be guarded against, its charms are countless, and its attractions, as a trout-stream, unrivalled. I venture to give this as my opinion after having visited many of the most celebrated rivers abroad and at home.*
Nevertheless, my present purpose is not to write a history of Tweed-fishing, for which I am ill qualified; but to indulge in grateful recollections of "Auld lang syne," and mainly, to record an incident which befel me during my last visit and residence at Clovenford. C, and myself, as I have said, were sole occupants of the portion of our little Inn allotted to company, and were, one day, reposing in our chairs after our usual exercise, when suddenly we were broken in upon by mother Trumbull, our hostess, who, in a great bustle and alarm, announced to us, that the Sheriff was come! the Sheriff was come! what should she do? He always put up at her house when his official duties called him into that neighbourhood, and if she sent him away now, perhaps he might never come there again. We knew nothing about the Sheriff, but we had been very well treated by her husband, Sandy Trumbull, and herself, and we should have much regretted their losing, through us, the Sheriff's company, with his attendant groom and two saddle horses. Although, therefore, we were in possession, and had so far the power in our own hands, we immediately proposed to admit him into our parlour, and to allot him a small dormitory, on the same floor with the parlour, and communicating with it, which our Irish friend, on a former occasion, had occupied very little to his satisfaction. This suggestion was far from making Mother Trumbull happy; but, upon a conference forthwith held with the Sheriff himself, his cheerful salutation, and frank and gentlemanly address, were quite irresistible, and, without further parley, we assured him that if he liked to remain with us, we should be most happy to consent to any arrangement we could make for his accommodation. Dame Trumbull's eyes glistened with delight, and Sandy, who was likewise present to put in a persuasive word, if necessary, expressed, by the contour of his rosy face, his gratification, when it was settled that the Sheriff should have the smallest of our beds, and that C. and myself should jointly occupy the other; and this we continued to do for about a week, during which we were favoured with more or less of the Sheriff's company. The trio soon got to be very cozy; and on our becoming mutually known to each other by name, Scott exclaimed, "Why this is singular enough — I have the name of Carlyon in my pocket;" and, out he took a large roll of papers, which he said contained the unedited manuscript of the Romance of Sir Tristram, from the Advocates' Library, being the sole relic of the muse of "Thomas the Rhymer," of Erceldowne. "You are a Cornishman, of course," he said to me, "and can tell me whether there is any sea-port at present in Cornwall of your name, for such there certainly was in former days, as you will see by the history which I have here, and which, if it suit your taste and you can find time, you may read, and tell me what you think of it, as I am preparing the manuscript for the press." I told him how little conversant I was with these ancient chronicles, but that Mr. Polwhele, who was then writing a history of Cornwall, would be much interested in the discovery and elucidation of a manuscript so connected with that county, and that I would readily write to him on the subject; and this, with many other matters, kept us deeply engaged in conversation that evening, not only whilst we remained below-stairs, but afterwards on our pillows; and whether they were of down or not was immaterial, for, with our new acquaintance, to talk was nearly as much the order of the night, as of the day; and, fortunately, we were all at a time of life when " tired nature's kind restorer, balmy sleep," might be better dispensed with than in later years. As soon as I could, I wrote a letter, hereafter inserted, to Mr. Polwhele, which, it will be seen, reached him at the very time when he was engaged on the subject of the Romance of Morte Arthur, in the form of a Supplement to the 11th Chapter of the 2d Book of his History of Cornwall, a work which, for extent and variety of research, and the consequent abundance of rare and interesting information, has scarcely its equal in the volumes of Provincial History. Unfortunately, the pen of this elegant and ready writer ran on, amidst his heaps of learned and promiscuous lore, without stopping for the purpose of making that orderly selection and arrangement of mate
* Compare Note, p. 62. VOL. II. G
rials which, by diffusing a more equable light over the whole, tend to enhance their value, and claim to public patronage. It is much to be regretted, that the evening of this industrious and learned scholar's life was not employed in abridging and putting in order the varied stores of rare and interesting information, scattered over his miscellaneous writings, and his History of Cornwall in particular. The task would have been by no means irksome to him, and it was due, not only to himself, but to the numerous friends, likewise, who supplied him with so many valuable contributions. His History of Cornwall, at present, is too much like a pathless forest, overgrown, but abounding in objects of interest which are perpetually presenting themselves unawares, and to which, from want of a clue, we are unable, when we wish, to retrace our steps.
To return from this digression; it was at the close of the above-mentioned Supplement, that Mr. Polwhele says,— "I now approach the object which I have all along had in view, while I proceed to state, that of the 'Morte Arthur,' Gibbon has made a very curious use. The historian insinuates, from some expressions, it seems, in the romance, that the Cornish are cowards!!! But can a sarcasm in a mere romance be admitted as sufficient evidence in the case before us?" "The wish to see the origin of the French Romance in some measure illustrated, must be natural to every Cornishman of liberal education;" and immediately afterwards, he subjoins in a note, "I have now little doubt that the French romance was borrowed from Sir Tristram of Scotland; a poem of which, till this very hour, I never heard; and which, by as remarkable a coincidence as ever happened in literature, was announced to me, as I was writing the above paragraph, in a letter from a friend on the banks of the Tweed. This letter is dated Sept. 1st, 1803.
"Mr. Scott, of Edinburgh," says my friend, "is preparing to republish an old metrical romance, entitled Sir Tristram. The edition in question will be made from an unique copy in the Advocates' library in Edinburgh, not for the intrinsic merit of the romance, as a poetical production, which would never have caused its being rescued from confinement, but as a genuine record, too valuable to remain hanging by a single thread. This sole relic of Thomas the Rhymer's muse, is the oldest specimen we possess of compositions of this kind, and one of the few that can be proved decidedly of British origin. It is referred to by Robert de Brune in his metrical annals of England (published by Hearne), and was translated into French very early in the thirteenth century, after which, probably, it was dilated into a prose romance, in French, of considerable length, in which Sir Tristram figures as a knight of the round table; whereas no mention is made of King Arthur, either by Thomas of Erceldowne, or his French translator. The principal dramatis persona; are Mark, King of Cornwall, Ysonde his Queen, and his nephew Sir Tristram. Of course the story abounds in wondrous exploits, but from the frequent references that have been made to it, and the veneration which still attaches to the memory of the author, the fiction, perhaps, is more