REVIEW OF TALES OF MY
-CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTOR, 1817.
Walter Scott's Novel had appeared, and had dealt hardly with the Covenanters, Scott being self-confessedly a royalist. This had to be met, and Thomson entered the lists to meet it!
It should be said, that Scott later was more even-handed in further additions to what became"The Waverley Novels"
On December 4, 1816, Dr. Andrew Thomson, Edinburgh, editor
of the Christian Instructor, wrote to Dr. MCrie thus :I
hope you are not forgetting your promise to review Jedediah Cleishbotham. My
opinion now is that the author is the author of Guy Mannering, and that he is
I will tell you tho ground of my opinion when we meet. Blackwood is not close enough for us cunning dogs. At the same time, dont let your zeal for the Covenanters, and your eagerness to be revenged on their vile calumniators make you neglect the Bishop and Archdeacon of Calcutta. They must have a niche in our January number. And pray do them justice. Dr. agrees with us in thinking tluat Walter has not done justice to the Covenantors. But dont quote his authority in your review.
To which MCrie replied :After a slice of the fattest and nicest bit of the flesh of Cleishbotham, Claverhouse, Daiziel and other savage wild animals, I have, I confess, a great longing to be at them and could instantly fall on without waiting for your formal concurrence and directions. But the vexatious circumstance is, that they are live stock and must be killed before they are eaten, and this will be tough not to say dangerous work. Figure apart, are you really in earnest about reviewing 'Tales of My Landlord?' Is there not an awkwardness in your engaging in such a work? Do you mean it to be executed in a serious strain, or in a merry mood, or in a manner made up of both? It is always understood that you and your underling are capable of both, etc.
To this Dr. Thomson
Review the Tales and take your own mode of doing it. Begin immediately, and go on with all the rapidity of one who has the pen of a ready writer. Spare not the vile Tory of an author. Praise his Scotch, which is exceeding good, but reprobate his principles with all your might. Go on with Cleishbotham. I long to see the Covenanters rescued from his paws. I shall send you your Scots Worthies. I have not the Cloud, but I daresay Blackwood has by this time got back his copy from the author of the Tales, and I shall desire him to transmit it to you without delay.
[Thie Review re-appeared in 1824 in A Vindication of the Scottish Covenanters, a volume which had a large circulation.]
It was felt at the time to be a most powerful attack. Of all men in Scotland MCrie was the best fitted, from sympathy and knowledge of the subject, for meeting Scott on the battlefield of the Covenant. his reply was a vigorous production, discovered a manly independence of sentiment, and rose here and there into robust eloquence, and an invective reminding you of the anathemas of Cargill and Cameron. He carried too, with triumphant success, the warfare into the enemys camp, and, by way of counterpoise, quoted from Episcopalian divines of the same period, specimens of bathos profounder still, of a more adventurous nonsense, of silliness and stupidity more unique, and of prejudice, bigotry, and blindness far more total and hopeless.
It must not be forgotten that the tendency of history and opinion had been to the royal side in Scotland, and that where Mary Stuart was the favourite heroine, John Knox was scarcely like to have his full rights as the great patriot and wise statesman he proved himself to be. And no more deadly wound could have been aimed at the national prejudices and pre. possessions, than Sir Walter, the pride of Scotsmen, had aimed at the heroes of the Covenanters.
Mrs. Oliphant, Literary History of England.
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