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Domestic Annals of Scotland
From the Reformation to the Revolution
by Robert Chambers 1874

Domestic Annals of Scotland

Domestic Annals of Scotland Volume 2

My thanks to Gregory Lauder-Frost for lending me these volumes to put on the site.

Contents of Volume I

Contents of Volume II Contents of Volume III

Picture of Scotland
By Robert Chambers in 2 volumes (1827)


The complaint of Johnson regarding the hopelessness of fame which attended his lexicographical labours, has hitherto been common to the Industrious Obscure who busy themselves in the compilation of Tourist's Guides, Peerages, School-Books, and Almanacks. Such publications are usually anonymous, and the purchaser thinks no more of the unknown author than he thinks of the man who made his hat or tanned the leather of his shoes. Even when they bear an author's name, no distinct idea is attached to the words—Philips perhaps, or Cafrey, or Goldsmith, or Debrett—any more than to the maker’s name on the blade of a table-knife, or the still more hopeless initials so carefully impressed upon his work by the goldsmith.

An attempt is here made to elevate a topographical work into the superior region of the belles lettres. It has been forced upon the notice of the present author by the success of several similar but less comprehensive works, that an interest may attach to localities of such a sort as to excite and bring into play many of the higher order of sentiments which pervade our common nature. Cities are more than mere collections of houses and men; hills are not merely accidental eminences of the earth; rivers, fortuitous confluences of running waters ; stones, mere blocks. Such they might be when the primeval savage first set his foot amongst them; but such they are not now, after so long a connexion with the fortunes and feelings of civilised man. What is it that gives the sculptured stones of Greece a superior value to the unquarried marble over which they have risen? It is because, though both are alike as old as the creation, the former have received attentions at the hands of men a hundred ages agd, have been looked upon with veneration by millions of human beings, and yet remain monuments of their early power and ingenuity. A house may thus be more than a domicile, a hill more than an eminence, a river more than a stream of flowing water; and thus it is that, in the words of one who must have been perfectly acquainted with this occult philosophy, we may find

Tongues in the trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.

Under these impressions, I have in this work, endeavoured to direct attention almost exclusively to what may be supposed capable of exciting the moral and imaginative faculties of my countrymen. Whatever places derive an interest from the associations of history; whatever places enjoy a reputation from popular poetry and song; wherever man has fought, or loved, or sung; wherever human nature has appeared in circumstances of extraordinary peril or pain, innocence or degradation; wherever talent has arisen or virtue flourished, magnificenoe dwelt or misery groaned; the fanes of religion, the scenery of passion, the infant-land of genius, the graves af the good; whatever has been associated with what man most delights to observe; whatever is capable, on being mentioned, of exciting an interest in his bosom; these places, and these things, receive most attention in the following pages.

To alleviate as much as possible, the gravity inseparable from topographical details, 1 have moreover interspersed thtt work with innumerable local anecdotes and stories, some of which are merely humorous, while others have the more valuable property of illustrating the manners and condition of the country in former times. In all that relates to the selection of materials, it has been my prime and governing object to be original; to say as little as possible where I could say nothing new, and to be as copious as my limits would allow, when I possessed information that was at once novel and agreeable.

It will be readily conceded, that these objects have not been attained without the employment of considerable pains. It would have been easy to copy the humdrum details and innumerable errors of my predecessors, as each and all of them have done in their turn. But to produce a work aiming at so much originality and correctness required a very different process. It scarcely becomes an author to speak at all, and far less with wide, of his labours; but it is perhaps allowable to Say something in the present case, in order that the reader may know to what extent ho is to rely upon the accuracy of the details which he has condescended to peruse.

Without alluding to previous historical studies, I may be permitted to state, that after employing several months of the last year in the perusal of former topographical publications and manuscripts, I began, in the early part of summer, to make a round of deliberate pedestrian tours through the country. Instead of the pilgrim's scallop in my hat, I took for motto the glowing expression of Burns, “ I have no dearer aim than to make leisurely journeys through Caledonia; to sit on the fields of her battles; to wander on the romantic banks of her streams; and to muse by the stately towers of venerable ruins, once the honoured abodes of her heroes.” In order to secure an acquaintance with every remarkable locality, and with its popular legends, I carried letters from my city friends, giving me a claim upon the best offices of the most intelligent persons resident in the districts which I was to visit. I was thus generally successful in eliciting, over and above the kindness of many a worthy and true-hearted Scot, the best information that was to be had regarding all the more attractive localities of my native land.

Goldsmith speaks with just contempt of the travellers who are whirled through Europe in a post-chaise. I sedulously eschewed this practical absurdity. Except in cases where stage-coaches could convey me over a desolate and uninteresting tract, I constantly adopted the more deliberate and independent mode of locomotion, of which nature supplies the means. I had thus an opportunity of becoming familiarly acquainted at once with the face of the country and the traditions of the people; I could move fast or slow as I pleased, and make such digressions from the main route as seemed necessary. I traversed almost every vale in the lowlands of Scotland, and a greater proportion of those in the more northerly region. I saw all the towns except three or four. My peregrinations occupied upwards of five months, and extended to between two and three thousand miles.

In presenting this array of doings and sufferings to the public, I disclaim being influenced by the sentiment which caused Dogberry to assert himself “one that had bad losses." What I say is mere naked truth, told for the simple purpose of assuring the reader, that the work, he has now got into his hands is not the catch-penny compilation of a bookseller’s bock shop ; no patched and contorted tissue of stolen rags, like too many similar publications; that it is not the crude fruit of a literary hot-bed, inflated into premature perfection by the bribe of a greedy publisher; but the result of an honest enthusiasm; an enthusiasm which the consideration of pecuniary profit could neither nourish nor inspire. 1 consider these assurances, moreover, the more necessary, because almost all the statements in the following pages rest solely upon my personal credit —upon the idea which the public shall form of the pains I have taken, and the opportunities of observation I may be snpposed to have enjoyed.

To say that enthusiasm could insure the production of a good work would be palpably absurd. It mayf however, be asserted, that it is indispensably requisite to the production of a work deserving that appellation in its best sense. Money alone, though a powerful, is after^all but an imperfect inspiration; and the hooks which it creates are no more like the productions of a purer motive, than the dowdy flowers of a secluded city dunghill resemble those which spring from the fair primeval earth, generated by the natural juices of the ground, and freshened by the nightly risks of the loving dew.

It is not the intention of the present writer to say, that because he was not conducted through his labours by the hope of gain, he has found every difficulty successfully overcome by the mere ardour of his mind. He is certain, however, that that is the burning liquid which can melt down the obstructions upon which harder instruments had been tried in vain, and that, though it may not in this case have secured, its influence must at least give the chance of, success. It has been his wish from earliest boyhood, in the words of Bums,

“That he, for poor auld Scotland's sake,
Some usefu' plan or book could make."

He has already done more than perhaps his years would give to expect, towards the preservation of what is dearest to her; the memory of her ancient simple manners and virtues; the celebration of her native wit and humour; and in a more extended view of the subject, for the reclamation of that which is altogether poetry—the wonderful, beautiful, glorious past. In the present work, he has steadily pursued the same object; conscious and certain that, though many of his own generation may not give him credit for so exalted a purpose, the people who shall afterwards inhabit this - romantic land will appreciate what could not have been preserved but with a view to their gratification.

Edinburgh; February 8, 1827.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

The Domestic Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century
by Marjorie Plant (1952)

This book, is a fully documented description of the domestic life of all ranks of Scottish society in the eighteenth century. Among numerous other matters, it deals with family relations and the upbringing of children, housing, furniture, fuel, water-supply and sanitation, gardens, food and drink, cooking, servants, clothes, pastimes, etiquette, weddings, christenings and the like. Local variations and local prejudices receive due attention, and the shocked or approving comments of foreign observers bring out an occasional amusing contrast with conditions in other lands.

It is a work calculated to interest the general reader no less than the student of social history. The sources upon which it is based include parish accounts, diaries, household books, letters, family histories, records of travellers, and contemporary manuals of gardening and cookery, to all of which full references are given.

A notable piece of work which bears its learning lightly and is as attractive to the general reader as to the historian. It is one of the best studies of its kind.

—The Manchester Guardian


The mode of life in the early eighteenth-century Scottish home was apt, in general, to be somewhat crude. The economic conditions of the time were not conducive to easy housekeeping. Although the housewife’s familiar complaint of the scarcity and general “naughtiness” of servants might not now win her the sympathy which she would demand, she had far weightier problems which she seems most of the time to have accepted as they came. It is often only through stray passages in her letters, or through the comments of incredulous visitors from the south, that we know of them. Those problems, we must bear in mind, were not the same everywhere. Each district had its own drawbacks and its own natural advantages. The bane of Edinburgh life was that all the water required in its lofty tenements had to be carried upstairs by hand; but the Edinburgh household could at least burn coal—there were places in the north and west where the only fuel was heath or dung.

The exceedingly primitive state of agriculture limited the greater part of the population to a meagre and monotonous diet. There were few vegetables and only salt meat, if any, for the winter months. The monotony was increased in that, throughout the Highlands and in many remote districts elsewhere, the individual household had to fend almost entirely for itself. The nearest shop might be fifty miles away. Food, clothing, soap, candles and all else had to be produced at home. The country housewife who needed a new gown had to spin the wool for it from sheep which she had probably tended herself; she herself grew the flax for her sheets and table-linen. It was a busy life and a lonely one. Visitors were few and far between. Sudden illness, far from medical aid, was a constant dread. It was the inadequacy of means of communication which was largely to blame.

The state of the roads at that time could hardly have been worse. Few of them would take wheeled traffic. Goods, wherever possible, were carried by sea; otherwise there was a slow delivery by pack-horse. Although some improvement was made from 1726 onwards, when a few good military roads were built in the Highlands, it was not until some thirty years later that much attention was paid to road construction elsewhere. Then began a systematic development of turnpike roads, and enterprising coach proprietors soon inaugurated services to link the principal towns. In addition to the obvious economic advantages of this, social gatherings became possible on a scale hitherto unknown.

People in Edinburgh and in other districts within easy reach of the east coast ports had always had an advantage over the rest: supplies of food and household utensils came by sea from other parts of Scotland and also from London and the Continent. But in the early eighteenth century Scottish manufactures and foreign imports alike were at a low ebb. The fairly successful development of industry during the preceding century had taken place behind a protective tariff. One of the immediate effects of the parliamentary union with England in 1707 was to remove this barrier, and it was some time before the benefits of free trade, and of the Union generally, overcame the resulting dislocation of economic life. In due course, however, as the American trade expanded, Glasgow rose to importance as a port, and Scottish manufactures of various kinds were stimulated to meet the new demand for exports.

By the middle of the century new forces and new developments were beginning to affect all walks of life. Soon Scotland found herself well on the way to prosperity, with a well-established linen manufacture, a number of minor industries, better communications and the beginnings of an efficient banking system. It needed only the technical inventions of the next fifty years, introduced with the aid of English capital, to bring about a more rapid expansion.

By 1800 the calico manufacture had attained an importance far beyond that of linen; factories had arisen for such subsidiary processes as bleaching and dyeing; and iron and steel production was about to enter upon a period of intense activity.

Progress was not confined to manufactures. Agriculture, too, entered on a new phase. From the ’twenties onwards enthusiasts up and down the country formed themselves into societies for the discussion of agricultural methods, and tackled the problems of estate management with extra zest. Later, in the second half of the century, came a rapid increase in population, to act as yet another stimulus. Not the least of the new achievements was the introduction of the potato into Scotland as a regular field crop, bringing it for the first time to the table of the ordinary man.

By the end of the century these various changes had led, directly or indirectly, to greater comfort in the home. Food was fresher, more varied and more palatable. It was more tastefully served, on pewter or china plates instead of on the old wooden platters. There were more shops, selling a wider range of goods. The housewife had no longer to spend hours at her spinning-wheel, for there were more attractive materials to be bought than she could make at home. Her husband, in any case, now scorned to wear homespun; he wanted the best English cloth, and a watch to put in his pocket. The wages of domestic servants, among others, had doubled, and the maids who used to go about barefoot and ill-kempt could now dress in the best of style.

The ministers of the kirk, as we shall see, deplored the new trend towards luxury and ostentation, sighing for the return of austerity and a more sedate way of life. But it was still far from being a frivolous age. Philosophical and theological argument, which had flourished during the more austere decades, now admittedly had fallen a little out of fashion, but instead there was a growing enthusiasm for literature and the arts. If, in addition, the younger generation had discovered some of the lighter joys of leisure, who was to grudge them their fun?


Chapter I. The Family and its Upbringing
Chapter II. The Home and its Plenishing
Chapter III. The Garden
Chapter IV. The Kitchen and the Cook
Chapter V. Food and Drink
Chapter VI. Housework and Household Supplies
Chapter VII. Servants and Retainers
Chapter VIII. Clothes
Chapter IX. The Toilet
Chapter X. Health and Sanitation
Chapter XI. Leisure Hours at Home
Chapter XII. Family Celebrations

Download The Domestic Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century here

Annals of Scotland
By Sir David Dalrymple of Hailes (1819)
Came across this publication which has a very interesting account of Robert the Bruce.(pdf)

Prehistoric Annals of Scotland
By Daniel Wilson, LL.D. in two volumes (1863)


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