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Scotland and the Scotch
Or, The Western Circuit by Catherine Sinclair (1840)


Studious we toil, correct, amend, retouch,
Take much away, yet mostly leave too much.

It may probably be considered a somewhat presumptuous hope for the author to imagine she might add any interest to what is already familiarly known respecting past and present times in Scotland ; and certainly if the many who could succeed in this attempt better, had undertaken the pleasing task at all, she might have entirely refrained from adding her mite to the general fund of entertainment on those interesting topics. The mine is abundant, and requires only to be worked, but strangers about to explore the northern regions, vainly inquire for any recent work, to act as a clue in conducting them through the labyrinth of our Highland hills and glens, affording the general information, and local anecdotes, which add life and animation to that beautiful scenery. While the press abounds with interesting pages, describing the present state of the Pawnees, Zoolus, Red Indians, Thugs, London pick-pockets, New Zealanders, and other barbarians, hardly one stray journal has ventured forth, these many years, respecting the almost unknown tribes of Caledonia.

An excursion in Scotland wants the novelty and adventure of savage life; neither can it boast of anything to compare with the gorgeous paraphernalia of a continental tour. The traveller must here dispense with carnivals, operas, cathedrals, restaurateurs, brigands, improvisa-tori, arch-dukes, and ex-kings; nor can he fall into raptures about the Venus de Medici, or the climate, but to compensate for these lamentable deficiencies, we have in the Highlands old traditions, second sight, bagpipes, witchcraft, clans, tartan, whiskey, heather, muir-fowl, red-deer, and Jacobites!

Should a single travelling carriage alter its course this year from Calais to the north, and trace out any part of this tour as it is described, with half the pleasure such an excursion is capable of exciting, the highest ambition of this volume would be attained, and the information afforded along the road will at least be found accurate. The author’s chief perplexity has arisen from being too intimately acquainted with the country, as she finds great difficulty in compressing this work within portable compass, and she has also been deeply solicitous, not in a single instance to infringe the sacred privacy of society, nor the confidence of domestic life; therefore her pages resemble the catalogue of a picture exhibition—where landscapes only appear, they are described at full length, and historical scenes are drawn without disguise, but when an individual is accidentally introduced, he always preserves a strict incognito, being mentioned as the “Portrait of a gentleman,” or “Likeness of an officer in uniform,” or “Sketch of a chieftain in Highland costume.”

The author wishes the pen may fall from her hand, before she writes a page not devoted to sound religion and strict propriety, or which can injure either the dead or the living. She believes, however, it must be conceded by every candid reader, that while occupying her own leisure, and endeavouring to beguile that of others, in sketching these recollections of Scotland’s present beauty, and of Scotland’s former greatness, she has recorded

“Not one line that, dying, I would wish to blot.”

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