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Lord Jeffrey and Craigcrook
A History of the Castle by James Taylor And a Sketch of Lord Jeffrey's Character and Craigcrook Life by the Right Hon. Lord Moncrieff of Tulliebole With a Description of the Original Structure by Thomas Ross, Architect (1892)


When the late Dr Taylor conceived the idea of preparing a volume on Craigcrook, his chief object was to secure the reminiscences of Lord Moncreiff, whose knowledge of Jeffrey and his cotemporaries rendered him peculiarly fitted to reproduce the genius of the place as well as of its most famous occupant. No other living writer could possibly have given to the public such store of pleasant memories as is contained in the chapter which forms the main portion of this book. The great critic lives again in these pages; and though we are often carried away from the "tea roses” and “grey towers” to mingle with the men of note and power who were his friends, Jeffrey is always the centre, and Craigcrook the happy “muster ground ” of them all.

Apart from this special association, which is the dominant note of the book, the story of Craigcrook is well worthy of permanent record. It takes us back almost to the days of Robert the Bruce. A portion of the present building probably dates from before the battle of Pinkie. It was fortified by the “King’s party” in the troublous times of Queen Mary. Passing through several hands, it was finally bequeathed in 1719, and the whole property is now administered by trustees for charitable purposes.

During this century the Castle has had a variety of tenants, but the glamour of the place has never failed to exercise its power over them.

Brightness and hospitality are now, as ever, identified with Craigcrook. Nature has invested it with the charm of quiet beauty, which seems to grow with the passing years. The changes which have been gradually made in the building are in perfect harmony with the original, and also with its surroundings. These have so far been carefully detailed by Mr Ross in his valuable note. It remains only to be said that the present occupant, Mr Robert Croall, with warm appreciation of the beauty and traditions of Craigcrook, has recently (1891) enlarged the building in a manner which enhances its dignity, without in the least degree detracting from its sweetness and grace. This extension, as shown at pages 12 and 18, was carried out with characteristic skill by Mr Thomas Leadbetter. The delay in issuing this volume is the less to be regretted, as otherwise the photographs by Messrs Bedford, Lemere & Co., of London, which add so greatly to its value, would have been incomplete. Of special interest is the view at page 42, showing the interior of Jeffrey’s study, and a glimpse of the chair on which the “thunderer” was wont to sit.

A pathetic interest is added to the book by the fact that the learned Editor has not been spared to see the publication of what was to him a labour of love. With the author of “The Great Historic Families of Scotland ” there has gone from us a rich treasure of byegone lore. His love for the past was a passion, and bore many valuable fruits. Not the least interesting of these is the present sketch of an ancient Castle, whose history and associations had always for him a special charm.

Edinburgh, May 1892.


HE lands of Craigcrook belonged in the fourteenth century, and probably at a much earlier period, to the famous family of Graham, ancestors of the ducal house of Montrose, who early in the preceding century held extensive possessions in the adjoining district of Midlothian. It is mentioned in Wood’s History of Cramond, published in 1794, that in Father Hay’s Collection of Charters there is preserved a copy of a Resignation made by Patrick de Graham, Lord of Kinpunt, and David de Graham, Lord of Dundaff, of all right or claim they could have to the lands of Craigcrook, in favour of John de Allyncrum, burgess of Edinburgh, bearing date 9th April 1362. That worthy citizen in turn settled them on a chaplain officiating at “Our Lady’s altar in the church of St. Giles, and his successors, for ever, to be nominated by the magistrates of Edinburgh.” The pious donor sets forth that this foundation was to be for the salvation of the souls of the illustrious Robert Bruce, late King of Scotland, of his wife Queen Elizabeth, and for the safety and prosperity of their son, the present King David; of William Earl of Douglas, his wife lady Margaret, and of Archibald Douglas, during their lifetime, and for the salvation of their souls after death, and of the souls of the burgesses and commonalty of the city of Edinburgh, and of their ancestors and successors; for the souls of his own father and mother, brothers, sisters, and friends, then of himself and of his spouse, Joanne, and finally of all faithful souls deceased.

In 1376 the lands of Craigcrook were let in feu-farm to Patrick and John Leper, on condition of their paying an annual rent of £6, 6s. 8d. Scots, for the support of the altar of the Virgin Mary, and of the chaplain officiating there. In November 1428 John Leper resigned these lands to John de Hill and his successors, chaplains at that altar. Sir Simon Pivston of Graigmillar, Provost of Edinburgh, made them over in 1540 to Sir Edward Marjoribanks, Prebend of Craigcrook, and he in the following year let the lands to George Kirkaldy, brother of Sir James Kirkaldy of Grange, Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, on payment of £27, 6s. 8d. Scots. But in 1542 he restored Craigcrook to Sir Edward, and the lands were assigned by him, with the consent of the Provost and Chapter of the Collegiate Church of St. Giles, in perpetual feu-farm, to William Adamson, burgess of Edinburgh—an example of the manner in which, on the approaching downfall of the Romish Church, ecclesiastical property was alienated to secular purposes. It is probable that the new proprietor of Craigcrook was the son of a William Adamson, who was one of the magistrates of Edinburgh, and one of the guardians of the city after the battle of Flodden. It appears that the second William Adamson, who was killed at the battle of Pinkie in 1547, had inherited or acquired considerable property, including Clenniston, Craigleith, and part of Cramond, in the vicinity of Craigecrook, and it is probable that the present castle was erected by him. or by his grandson, who was his immediate successor. The only mention of Craigcrook in connection with public events was during the minority of James VI., and his mother Queen Mary’s imprisonment in England, while the Castle of Edinburgh was held in her interest by Kirkaldy of Grange. The King’s party, in order to prevent the “inbringing of victuals” to the garrison, fortified Merchiston, Gray-cruik (as the fortalice is termed by Keith and Spottiswood), Lauriston, and “other places of strength about the town of Edinburgh and “all inhabitainis within two myles to Edinburgh wer constraint to leave thair houssis and landis to that effect Edinburgh sould have na furneissing.” Craigcrook remained for several generations in the possession of the Adamsons, until in 1659 Robert Adamson disposed of his extensive estates in the parish of Cramond, and sold Craigcrook to John Mein, merchant in Edinburgh. Ten years later it was purchased from Mein’s son by John Hall, one of the bailies, and afterwards Lord Provost of Edinburgh, created a Baronet in 1687, and the founder of the family of the Halls of Dunglass.. On his acquisition of the Dunglaas estate—an old possession of the great family of Home—he sold Craigcrook to Walter Pringle, Advocate, from whose son it was purchased by John Strachan, Clerk to the Signet.

At his death in 1719 Strachan bequeathed the whole of his property, real and personal—including the estates of Craigcrook, North Clermiston, and Boddams (with the exception of some small sums to his brother and two nieces)—“mortified for charitable and pious uses.” Mr. Strachan’s trustees, consisting of two Advocates, two Writers to the Signet, and the Presbytery of Edinburgh, resolved that the benefits of the Craigcrook Mortification should be conferred on “poor old men, women, and orphans.” They also determined that no old person should be admitted as a pensioner under the age of sixty-four, nor any orphan above the age of twelve. Fifty merks Scots were allotted to the poor of the Advocates, one hundred merks to those of the Writers to the Signet. Twenty pounds annually are granted for a Bible to one of the members of the Presbytery, beginning with the Moderator, and going through the others in rotation.

About the beginning of the present century Craigcrook was the residence for several years of Mr. Archibald Constable, the distinguished publisher. “It welcomed many a guest distinguished in the literature of this country,” says Mr. Thomas Constable, “and there were few eminent foreign visitors to Edinburgh who did not bring an introduction to its most successful publisher.”

In the spring of 1815 Francis Jeffrey, who had for some years spent his summer and autumn at Hatton, “transferred his rural deities,” says his biographer, to Craigcrook. When he first became the tenant the house was only an old keep, respectable for age, but inconvenient for a family; and the ground was merely a bad kitchen garden of about an acre; all in paltry disorder. He immediately set about reforming. Some ill-placed walls were removed; while others, left for shelter, were in due time loaded with gorgeous ivy, and both protected and adorned the garden. A useful, though humble, addition was made to the house. And by the help of neatness, sense, evergreens, and flowers, it was soon converted into a sweet and comfortable retreat. The house received a more important addition many years afterwards; but it was sufficient without this for all that his family and his hospitalities at first required. But by degrees that earth hunger, which Scotsmen ascribe to the possession of any portion of the soil, came upon him, and he enlarged and improved all his appurtenances. Two sides of the mansion were flanked by handsome bits of evergreened lawn. Two or three western fields had their stone fences removed, and were thrown into one, which sloped upwards from the house to the hill, and was crowned by a beautiful bank of wood; and the whole place, which now extended to thirty or forty acres, was always in excellent keeping. Its two defects were—that it had no stream, and that the hill robbed the house of much of the sunset. Notwithstanding this, it was a most delightful spot—the best for his purposes that he could have found. The low ground, consisting of the house and its precincts, contained all that could be desired for secluded quiet, and for reasonable luxury. The hill commanded magnificent and beautiful views, embracing some of the distant mountains in the shires of Perth and Stirling, the near inland sea of the Firth of Forth, Edinburgh and its associated heights, and the green and peaceful nest of Craigcrook itself. Lockhart says: “The windows open upon the side of a charming hill, which in all its extent, as far as the eye can reach, is wooded most luxuriously to the very summit. There cannot be,” he adds, “a more delicious rest for the eyes than such an Arcadian height in this bright and budding time of the year.” And Carlyle in his Reminiscences says: “I remember pleasant strolls out to Craigcrook (one of the prettiest places in the world), where, on a Sunday especially, I might hope, what was itself a rarity with me, to find a really companionable human acquaintance, not to say one of such quality as this. He (Jeffrey) would wander about the woods with me, looking on the Forth and Fife hills, on the Pentlands, and Edinburgh Castle and city: nowhere was there such a view.”

In a letter to Mr. Charles Wilkes, his father-in-law, of date 7th May 1815, Jeffrey gives the most complete description we have met with of the state of Craigcrook when he took up his residence there. He says:—

“We are trying to live at this place for a few days, just to find out what scenes are pleasant, and what holes the wind blows through. I must go back to town in two or three days for two months, but in July we hope to return, and finish our observations in the course of the autumn. It will be all scramble and experiment this season, for my new buildings will not be habitable till next year, and the rubbish which they occasion will be increased by endless pulling down of walls, levelling and planting of shrubs, etc. Charley wishes me to send you a description of the place, but it will be much shorter and more satisfactory to send you a drawing of it, which I shall get some of my artist friends to make out. In the meantime, try to conceive an old narrow high house, eighteen feet wide and fifty long, with irregular projections of all sorts; three little staircases, turrets, and a large round tower at one end; On the whole, exhibiting a ground plan like this—

with multitudes of windows of all shapes and sizes, placed at the bottom of a green slop, ending in a steep woody hill which rises to the height of 300 or 400 feet on the west, and shaded with some respectable trees near the door,—with an old garden, or rather two, one within the other, stuck close on one side of the house, and surrounded with massive and aged stone walls fifteen feet high. The inner garden I mean to lay down chiefly in smooth grass, with clustered shrubs and ornamental trees. beyond. to mask the wall, and I am busy in widening the approaches, and sunk fences for the high stone walls on the lawn. My chief operation, consists in an additional building, which I have marked but with double walls in the egant plan above, in which I shall have one excellent and very large: room of more than twenty-eight feet in length by eighteen in breadth, and storeroom below, and two pretty bedchambers above. The windows are the only ones in the whole house which will look to offer a sequestered and solemn view, which is the chief charm of the room.

DATE, A.D. 1626

It was the favourite resort of his friends, who knew no such enjoyment as at that place. And with the exception of Abbotsford, there were more interesting strangers there than in any house in Scotland. Saturday, during the summer session of the Courts, was always a day of festivity; chiefly, but by no means exclusively, for his friends at the Bar, many of whom were under general invitations. Unlike some barbarous tribunals which feel no difference between the last and any other day of the week, but more“ on with the same stupidity through them all, and would include Sunday if they could, our legal practitioners, like most of the other sons of bondage in Scotland, are liberated earlier on Saturday; and the Craigcrook party began to assemble about three, each taking to his own enjoyment. The bowling-green was sure to have its matches, in which the host joined with skill and keenness; the garden had its loiterers; the flowers, not forgetting the wall of glorious yellow roses, their worshippers; the hill its prospect seekers. The banquet that followed was generous, the wines never spared, but rather too various; mirth unrestrained, except by propriety; the talk always good, but never ambitious; and mere listeners in no disrepute. What can efface these days, or indeed any Craigcrook day, from the recollection of those who had the happiness of enjoying them!”

In another letter to Mr. Wilkes, dated 9th May 1818, Jeffrey writes:—

“I have been enlarging my domain a little, chiefly by getting in a good slice of the wood on the hill which was formerly my boundary; my field went square up to it before in this way. Now I have thrown my fence back 100 yards into the wood so as to hide it entirely and to bring the wood down into the field; and to do this gracefully, I am cutting deep scoops and bays into it with the fence buried in the wood. It is a great mass of wood, you will remember, clothing all the upper part of a hill more than a mile long, and 300 feet high; not very old nor fine wood—about forty years old, but well mixed, of all kinds, and quite thick and spiry.”

In the same letter he says:—

“There is something delicious to me in the sound even of a biting east wind among my woods; and the sight of a clear spring bubbling from a rock, and the smell of the budding pines and the common field daisies, and the cawing of my rooks, and the cooing of my cushats, are almost enough for me,—so, at least, I think to-day, which is a kind of parting day for them, and endears them all more than ever. Do not imagine, however, that we have nothing better, for we have now hyacinths, auriculas, and anemones, in great glory, besides sweetbriar, and wallflowers in abundance, and blue gentians and violets, and plenty of rose leaves, though no flowers yet, and apple-blossoms and sloes all around.”

“10th May.—The larches are lovely, and the sycamores in full flush of rich, fresh foliage; the air as soft as new milk, and the sky so flecked with little pearly clouds full of larks, that it is quite a misery to be obliged to wrangle in courts and sit up half the night over dull papers. We shall come out here, however, every Saturday.”

This appears to be the first reference to the Saturday gatherings for the Sessional Saturnalia, as he termed them, for which Craigcrook was for more than thirty years so famous.

Whether alone or with his choicest friends around him, his enjoyment of Craigcrook and its garden and grounds was intense. Writing to Mr. Wilkes in 1830, he says—

“The grass is so green and the pale blue sky so resonant with larks in the morning, and the loud strong bridal chuckle of blackbirds and thrushes at sunset, and the air so lovesick with sweetbriar, and the garden so bright with hepaticas, and primroses, and violets, and my transplanted trees dancing out so gracefully from my broken clumps, and my leisurely evenings wearing away so tranquilly, that they have passed in a sort of enchantment, to which I scarcely remember anything exactly parallel since I first left college in the same sweet season, to meditate on my first love in my first ramble in the Highlands.”

When sweltering under the heat of July in London in 1833, he writes to Cockburn—

“I wish I were lolling on one of my high shady seats at Craigcrook, listening to the soothing wind among the branches.”

And a week later, writing from Watford, though he had been all day wandering among the ancient Druidical oaks and gigantic limes of Moor Park, his heart was still in his Scottish home. “It is sweet weather,” he says, “and I pine hourly for shades, and leisure, and the Doric sounds of my mother tongue.”

On his return from the sunny south, he writes to Empson—

“I am agreeably disappointed in this here Craigcrook. It is much less rough and rugged and nettley and thistley, than I expected, and really has an air that I should not be ashamed to expose to the gentler part of polished friends from the south. It has rained a little every day, but nothing to-signify, and there is a crystal clearness on the steep shores of the Forth, and a blue skyisliness on the distant mountains of the west, that at most makes amends for your emerald lawns, and glorious woods of Richmond and Roehampton.”

In the cold and wet April of 1837 he describes himself to Rutherford as “exercising a frugal and temperate hospitality at Craigcrook, reading idle books, and blaspheming the weather and on 11th November of that year he writes to Empson—

“Postremum hunc Arcthusa—We go to Edinburgh to-morrow, and I shall indite no more to you this year from rustic towers and coloured woods. They have been very lovely and tranquil all day, and with no more sadness than becomes parting lovers; and now there is a glorious full moon looking from the brightest pale sea-green sky you ever saw in your life.”

In 1835 he completed the beauty and comfort of Craigcrook by making his last and greatest addition to the house. “I am going to make an addition to Craigcrook,” he wrote to Mrs. Colden, 29th April, “and am pulling down so much of the house that I fear we shall not be able to inhabit there this year.” On September 30th he wrote to Dr. Macleod, “My Craigcrook buildings have been roofed in for some time, and everything finished but the plastering.”

The enlargement of Craigcrook enabled Lord Jeffrey to extend his hospitality, and his letters show that he received frequent and often lengthened visits not only from old friends like John Richardson, but also from numerous individuals who had attained high eminence in literature and science, in artistic, and even military pursuits. Lord Cockbum mentions that on the 21st of October 1837 he dined at Craigcrook with the veteran soldier Lord Lynedoch, one of the finest specimens of an old gentleman; his head finer than Jupiter’s; his mind and body, at the age of eighty-eight, both perfectly entire; with a memory full of the most interesting scenes, and people of the last seventy years. It is pleasant to think of the eminent critic and judge dispensing generous hospitality to such veterans as Lord Chief Commissioner Adam and Lord Lynedoch, and to Macaulay, Talfourd, and Dickens, along with his own personal friends Cockbum, Moncreiff, Mackenzie, Fullarton, and Rutherford, and enlivening the conversation with a play of fancy, wit, humour, shrewd and sound sense rarely equalled.

Not less interesting, though in a different way, is the picture of the venerable judge sauntering in his garden or in his grounds, hand-in-hand with his precocious little grandchild, explaining to her the materials of her clothes, and the difference between plants and animals; pointing out the goodness of God in making flowers so beautiful; expounding the mysteries of numeration, and the benefits to be derived from attendance at church. To him, in these circumstances, we may apply with additional interest the description which Burns gives of Sir Thomas Miller of Glenlee, President of the Court of Session, at his beautiful seat of Barskimming:—

“Through many a wild romantic grove,
Near many a hermit-fancied cove,
(Fit haunts for friendship or for love),
In musing mood,
An aged judge, I saw him rove Dispensing good.”

In 1844 we find him writing to Mrs. Empson describing his enjoyment in the company of his eldest grandchild Charlotte, who was at that time little more than four years old :—

“One other Scottish Sunday blessing on you before we cross the Border; and a sweet, soothing, Sabbath-quiet day it is, with little sun and some bright showers, but a silver sky, and a heavenly listening calm in the air, and a milky temperature of 67; with low-flying swallows, and loud-bleating lambs, and sleepy murmuring of bees round the heavy-headed flowers, and freshness and fragrance all about. Granny [Mrs. Jeffrey] went to the Free Church at Muttonhole, and Tarley and I had our wonted walk of speculation, I showing her over again how the silk, and the muslin and the flannel of her raiment were prepared; with how much trouble and ingenuity; and then to the building of houses in all their details; and to the exchange of commodities from one country to another—woollen cloth for sugar, and knives and forks for wine, etc.; all of which she followed and listened to with the most intelligent eagerness. She then had six gooseberries of my selection in the garden, and then she went up to Ali [a nursery maid], I went to meet Granny on her way from the Free, whom I found just issuing from it with the ancient pastor’s wife—the worthy Doctor himself having prayed and preached, with great animation, for better than two hours, in the eighty-second year of his age. Soon after we came home Rutherfurd came up from Lauriston, and we strolled about for a good while, when Charlotte and I conducted him on his way back, and are just come in at five o’clock. An innocent day it has been at any rate, I think. ... It would do any heart good to see the health and happiness of these children! The smiling, all-endearing, good humour of little Nancy, and the bounding spirits, quick sensibility, and redundant vitality of Tarley. ... I wish you could see our roses, and my glorious white lilies, which I kiss every morning with a saint’s devotion. We have been cutting out evergreens, and extending our turf, on the approach; and it looks a great deal more airy and extensive!*

Again, he wrote to Mrs. Empson describing a walk which he and his granddaughter had “all over the fields,” gathering a basket of mushrooms :—

“Our talk to-day,” he said, “was of the difference between plants and animals, and of the half-life and volition that were indicated by the former; and of the goodness of God in making flowers so beautiful to the eye, and us capable of receiving pleasure from their beauty, which the other animals are not; and then a picture by me of the first trial, flight, and adventures of a brood of young birds, when first encouraged by their mother to trust themselves to the air—which excited great interest, especially the dialogue parts between the mother and the young. She has got a tame jackdaw, whose voracity in gobbling slips of raw meat, cut into the semblance of worms, she very much admires, as well as his pale blue eyes. She was pleased to tell me yesterday, with furious bursts of laughter, that I was an old man, very old and was with difficulty persuaded to admit that Flush (the true original old man) was a good deal older.”

In this dignified and happy position, in the full enjoyment

“Of that which should accompany old age,
Honour, love, obedience, troops of friends."

Lord Jeffrey passed the closing years of his life. On the 9th of November 1849 he left Craigcrook for the last time. On that day he wrote to Empson:—

“Novissimu hoc in agro conscribenda! I have made a last lustration of all my walks and haunts, and taken a long farewell of garden, and terrace, and flowers, seas and shores, spiry towers, and autumnal fields. I always bethink me that I may never see them again, and one day that thought will be a fact; and every year the odds runs up terribly for such a consummation. But it will not be the sooner for being anticipated, and the anticipation brings no real sorrow with it.’’

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The consummation was nearer than he anticipated. On the 22nd of January he was in Court for the last time. He was then under no apparent illness; insomuch that before going home he walked round the Castle Hill, with his usual quickness of step and alertness of gait. But he was taken ill that night of bronchitis and feverish cold, though seemingly not worse than he had often been. On the evening of the 25th he dictated the last letter he ever wrote to the Empsons. He died on the evening of the next day, the 26th of January 1850, in his seventy-seventh year.

“This event,” says Lord Cockburn, “struck the community with peculiar sadness. On the occasion of no death of any illustrious Edinburgh man in our day was the public sorrow deeper or more general.”

“15 Great Stuart Street, “Edinburgh, 27th November 1886.

“Dear Dr. Taylor,—You have been good enough to ask me to furnish for your intended book about Craigcrook my personal recollections of the place, and of its celebrated occupant, Jeffrey.

“It is not always easy to break down into intelligible or readable fragments a general remembrance extending, as in this case, over the greater part of a long lifetime. Neither is it easy to express in words the emotions and associations which the theme you propose to me calls up. I do not remember a time when it was not identified with visions, growing more defined as age advanced, of interest, brilliancy, and pleasure. Old Craigcrook, with its gray towers, tea-roses, and its overhanging woods, is indelibly associated in my memory not only with sunshine and flowers, but with the sowing of the seeds in literature and politics, which produced so plentiful a harvest. Time moderates many enthusiasms, and reduces boyish idols to smaller proportions; but I have not found it so in the present instance. In the course of my life I have come in contact with many distinguished standards by which my early admiration might be tested; and looking back through more than sixty years, I still bow before the images I first worshipped.

“But while the vivid impression remains, single details become dim. I knew Craigcrook as a child, as a schoolboy, and as a college lad. But the men were, of course, my father’s friends, and not my own. It was only after those periods had passed that I could pretend to have observed cotemporary events on any footing of intimacy. In token of our long friendship, and memory of past kindness, I very gladly comply with your request, but I think I can only discharge the task I have undertaken by simply putting down, almost at random, some thoughts and recollections which your request awakens. They will insensibly take the form more of reflection and dissertation than of reminiscence, and I shall confine them entirely to Jeffrey and his cotemporaries.—Believe me, yours very sincerely, Moncreiff.”

Posterity is generally just in its awards, but they constitute only average justice, and not unfrequently individual injustice. I doubt if the popular estimate is as high as it ought to be of what we owe to the circle of vigorous and accomplished men, of which Jeffrey was throughout the centre, and Craigcrook for long the muster-ground. Men who have given a great impulse to human thought, and have left indelible marks on intellectual progress, are apt to be judged, especially in the next generation, more by the standards they have themselves created than by those which they abolished. The true measure of the claims of such men to grateful remembrance can only be attained by comparing the condition in which they found the current of national thought with that in which they left it—by estimating the obstacles which they encountered and surmounted, the dead weight which their leverage removed, and the thick mists of ignorance and apathy which in the end their exertions dissipated and dispersed.

The Edinburgh circle, of whom I now speak, have been described by Henry Cockburn, one of the most distinguished of their number, in the vivid and graphic style of which he was so great a master. They were for some years a circle apart in the northern metropolis, herding with each other, and visiting, dining, and taking their recreation together. Politics ran very high in the beginning of this century; and as these men were of the unfashionable school of Fox, there was little social intercourse between the rival armies. When I first began, with schoolboy eyes, to look out on the world of Edinburgh, twenty years afterwards, the party organisation was as stringent as ever; and although the ramparts were gradually broken down, it required ten years more, and the first Reform Bill, to complete the change. The rising generation, however, happier than their predecessors, disregarded in social life the old lines of separation, and many of them found, as I did, some of their fastest and truest friends in the opposite camp.

The original fraternity was composed of a knot of college lads— they were hardly more—who came together in Edinburgh in days when the French Revolution had stimulated thought all over Europe, and when the avidity for the acquisition of knowledge was intense. They had for the most part been associated within the walls of the Speculative Society of Edinburgh, a Debating Club of some fame which has a certain University sanction. At the beginning of this century many of them had been drafted off into various lines of life. Most of them went to the Scottish Bar; some of them, more ambitious, tried their fortune at that of England; some joined the ranks of Science; but all in the end made their mark, and not a few with distinguished success. The names of the most eminent were Francis Jeffrey, Henry Brougham, George Cranstoun, James Moncreiff, Francis Horner, and his brother Leonard, John Playfair, Henry Cockburn, Thomas Thomson, John Allan, John Fullerton, John Archibald Murray, and a young English clergyman of the now famous name of Sydney Smith. To these I should add the names of George Joseph Bell, John Playfair, John Leslie, Dugald Stewart, Thomas Brown, and John Richardson. They were all friends of my father’s; and my grandfather, old Sir Harry Moncreiff, was never better pleased than when any of this young and vigorous band came, as they often did, to join his supper-party.

Of the men whose names are included in this list, the after career was remarkable. When the Edinburgh Review started in 1802, Sydney Smith was the eldest of the band, being in his thirty-first year. Jeffrey was thirty, and Brougham and Cockbum, I take it, were the youngest, being twenty-four. In the end not one of those I have named failed to rise to honour. Brougham became Lord Chancellor, and for a time the arbiter of the political world. Homer, dying at forty-one, was the subject of a resolution in the House of Commons, moved by Canning, expressive of the regret felt at his decease. Sydney Smith, although he never attained the more glittering prizes of the Church, acquired fame enough to have satisfied the most ambitious. Of the Edinburgh section, although they belonged for many years to the proscribed side of politics, Cranstoun, Fullerton, Moncreiff, Jeffrey, Cockbum, and Murray rose to the Scottish Bench, after having for many years absorbed a large proportion of the leading practice, and after occupying a prominent position in politics. Jeffrey and Murray both held the position of Lord Advocate, and Cockbum was Solicitor-General for some years. Of those in other intellectual pursuits, the names of Dugald Stewart, Thomas Brown, John Playfair, and John Leslie stood, and still stand, as high as Science or Philosophy can raise their votaries.

Such was the Brotherhood. They were not all contributors to the Review. Cranstoun and Moncreiff devoted themselves to legal practice, to the high rank in which they both soon attained. I find from a letter of Jeffrey’s in 1804 that he had endeavoured to enlist Cranstoun for the Review, but had failed to induce him to join. He seems to have had a high estimate, and rightly, of Cranstoun’s general accomplishments, but his vows had been paid to his profession, and he was averse to divert his

South Side

attention from it. He was a year or two older than the others, was of good family, and had at one time thought of entering the army. I had the good fortune to visit him on two occasions at his seat at Cora House, on the Clyde, a most beautiful and remarkable spot, and not more distinguished than its proprietor. He was a courtly, somewhat reserved, formal and fastidious man, but when he unbent was full of resources, varied knowledge, learning, and familiarity with the world.

Of my father I need not speak here. The quiet and unassuming force of his character was known throughout all Scotland. His powerful grasp of legal reasoning made him the most distinguished pleader of his time at the Scottish Bar, and his recorded judgments on the Bench are an imperishable monument to his judicial ability. Lord Cockbum says of him that his name among the Brotherhood was, “The Whole Duty of Man.” I think it was well bestowed: he was the best man I ever knew. It was the fashion among them to say that he was devoted to his profession, which in truth he was, knowing that to be the only talisman to ensure success, and having genuine pleasure in the dialectic exercise. In the end he reached a mastery in the Art which few ever attained. He had, besides, an intensity of energy which never flagged, and which served him in great things as well as in small. But he had other tastes—not suspected of any but his intimates. He was exceedingly fond of music, and no mean judge of it. It was a taste which, I think, few of the others shared with him. He was an ardent politician, apart altogether from all notions of personal interest; and although as far removed from the Radical ranks as a follower of Fox could be, I believe he thought the early numbers of the Review not true blue enough for his standard. Latterly, I think, a seat in the House of Commons was the real object of his quiet and unexpressed ambition. He felt that he had so full a knowledge of the commercial and agricultural interests of Scotland, and was so conversant with its affairs, that he might be of some practical utility in that position. But those were only castles in the air. He had been raised to the head of the Scottish Bar by his election as Dean of the Faculty of Advocates in 1826. In 1829 he accepted a seat on the Bench, which he had been offered and declined two years before. Had he foreseen that the political sun was about to shine on the Whig side so soon, it is not improbable that he would have continued longer at the Bar. A third characteristic was a love of athletics and field sports. Grouse-shooting, dog-breaking, feats of walking and running, were common topics in his after-dinner talk with us, and in his later years he was often seen as a spectator on the cricket-ground. General Hutchinson, in his Book on Dog-Breaking, mentions a dog-story told him by my father at his own table, where the General was a welcome guest. In his youth (in his Oxford days) Lord Moncreiff was a renowned pedestrian. He and Sir John Stoddart, who was afterwards his brother-in-law, once walked from Edinburgh to London for amusement. I think they were twelve or fourteen days on the way, exclusive of two days spent with Wordsworth at the Lakes. Stoddart was a German scholar, which Moncreiff was not, and he found, I think, the two days of Goethe and Schiller the most fatiguing of the fortnight.

He was always a great favourite with the circle, and with Brougham, Jeffrey, and Cockbum in particular; and they looked upon each other with the eyes of affectionate schoolboys. His simplicity, want of self-assertion, and manly truth and straightforwardness, attracted them; and they respected although they did not always sympathise with the earnestness which was his characteristic. It might have been well, perhaps, if some of it had been transferred. With Brougham his friendship and correspondence continued unbroken to the end. In 1834 he spent a fortnight at Brougham's house in London while the latter was Chancellor. I accompanied him to London, and during that period I met Jeffrey and Brougham at dinner at the house of Dr. Maton, who was then the Court Physician. The party, as far as I recollect, consisted of Brougham, Jeffrey, Sir Benjamin Brodie, Lord Moncreiff, and myself. It was an interesting dinner-party. The talk was very good, Brougham was rather voluble, and Jeffrey not as much so as I have known him; but it was an evening to remember.

On Henry Cockbum, better known now as Lord Cockbum, I shall not enlarge. I did once attempt to estimate his character and services as a testimony not more of gratitude than of admiration. What I owed personally to his constant and persistent friendship I cannot express, and I only pass his name now that I may not be diverted from my present theme. His ability was equal to that of any of the circle, and he had in addition the rare gifts of originality and genius.

None of the others, as far as I know, excepting Cockbum, took any interest in field sports or athletics, or open-air pursuits of any kind. A quiet game at bowls was the utmost exertion which served for amusement. Cockbum had one accomplishment certainly which argued athletic training and power: he skated beautifully. To witness the Judge’s graceful figure, with the sweep of his measured dignified outside edge, looking like the monarch of the ice, was a sight worth remembering. One bright frosty Saturday I remember well, when Lochend was frozen to its core with a thick transparent cover, showing the weeds bending below. I was pleading a case before Patrick Robertson (Lord Robertson), when Lord Cockbum appeared at the back of the bench, and this dialogue ensued:—

Cockburn : You must let Moncreiff off for to-day. He and I have a meeting of trustees to attend.
Peter : Who are the trustees?
Cockburn : Loch’s trustees.
Peter : Where do they meet?
Cockburn : At Lochend.
Peter: Oh!

We attended the meeting, and years afterwards I was shown a letter from Cockbum to a correspondent which he had written on the following day, in which he described our skating, and said, “We careered like angels upon an inverted sky,” an association of which I was proud but unworthy.

Of all the circle, Cockbum had the most influence with Jeffrey, and was nearest his everyday life, although from obvious causes this does not come out in Jeffrey’s correspondence. For the most part, Cockbum was at hand. In his editorial work he was not the man to bring his name into prominence; but in the Craigcrook festivities, the Saturday’s Saturnalia, as they were called, few were organised without Cockbum’s aid. He arranged the bowling parties, and very often chose the guests. Thus we find Jeffrey writing in 1827 to Cockburn : “Pray dine here on Thursday,. . . and ask Thomas (Thomson) and the Rutherfurds, and any others you think worthy.” And in 1828 be laments Cockbum’s absence. He says, “Cockburn has deserted us more than usual; first, for his English friends, and then for those in the North, having been a week or more with the Lauder Dicks, and passing twice by Rothiemurchus.”

My old grandfather, Sir Harry Moncreiff, was a powerful and characteristic man, and much appreciated by those younger lights. He had been a man of mark almost before most of them were born. A man of strong, self-reliant capacity, of large views and sympathies, and known to high and low from one end of Scotland to the other. His encouragement to the rising Whigs of the younger generation did not a little to promote the confederacy which afterwards became so powerful. I knew him very well, as far as a lad of fourteen could know a man of seventy-six; for during the two last years of his life, when his footsteps had grown feeble, he used me as a walking-stick, and I had the advantage, which I have ever since valued, of his interesting and powerful conversation. He was a kind of landmark for the Whig party in the North.

Cockburn has sketched him very faithfully, and in Jeffrey’s letters we find him referred to once and again in terms which indicate both respect and intimacy. Thus, in 1811, during the Grey and Granville negotiation, we find Jeffrey rejoicing over the party prospects. He says: “Our Whigs here are in great exultation, and had a fourth more at Fox’s dinner yesterday than ever attended before. There was Sir H. Moncreiff sitting between two Papists!—and Catholic emancipation drank with great applause—and the lamb lying down with the wolf—and all millennial.”— 25th June 1811. Sixteen years afterwards, in August 1827, we find him again mentioned: “Alas! for poor Sir Henry and ancient Hermand [they died on the 9th August 1827]. It is sad to have no more talk of times older than our own, and to be ourselves the vouchers for all traditional antiquity. I fear, too, that we shall be less characteristic of a past age than those worthies who lived before manners had become artificial and uniforms and opinion guarded and systematic.” He says further on: “I wish I could summon up energy enough to write a panegyric on old Sir Henry; and if I were at home, I think I should. But I can do nothing anywhere else.” But what Jeffrey meditated, Brougham did; and devoted a paper in the Edinburgh Review in January 1828 to this tribute of kindly remembrance.

Some, or rather most of the others, I knew familiarly in after life, but they had scattered before I took part in the world’s affairs. I never saw Horner. He and Brougham went to London about 1805 or 1806. Playfair died in 1815, and Homer in 1817. From Brougham I had much kindness in after years, and his close friendship with my father never abated. Leonard Homer migrated later. He and his family are among my earliest and brightest recollections, and his house in Lauriston Lane in Edinburgh was the scene of the gayest and noisiest of children’s parties, which still retain the glorified remembrance of childish or boyish years.

Jeffrey, writing from London in 1823, says, “I was surprised this morning to run against my old friend Tommy Moore, who looks younger, I think, than when we met at Chalk Farm some sixteen years ago.” And-in a subsequent letter in May of the same year, he says, “I also saw a good deal of Miss Edgeworth and Tommy Moore,” and goes on to say that “Moore is even more delightful in society than he is in his writings.” I refer to these things, because they recall some of the phantoms of my youth. Moore was in Edinburgh either in that year or the next. I never saw him, but I well recollect my father and mother going in 1824 to dine with Sir Harry on an occasion to which they seemed to attach unusual interest. It was to meet two rather incongruous guests—Tom Moore and Dr. Andrew Thomson, then the most popular Evangelical preacher in Edinburgh. I recollect that they returned delighted. Tom Moore and Thomson fraternised at once. The bond of union was their passion for music. Moore had sung several of the Melodies; and Andrew Thomson, who had a fine voice, and was an accomplished musician, had finished the evening by singing Moore’s song of the “Meeting of the Waters.” The party embraced, I am told, Chalmers, Jeffrey, and old Henry Mackenzie.

Miss Edgeworth, too, is one of these shadowy apparitions. I was once told off about the same year—1823 or 1824—to escort her to the Went Church in Edinburgh to hear Sir Harry preach, and I well remember the kindly charm of her manner. About the same time and in the same place I encountered Sir James Mackintosh. As I was much impressed with the dignity of my position on these occasions, being greatly overawed by the celebrity of my companions, I fear that as I sat opposite to them in the square pew in the West Church, I never took my eyes off them; not much to the credit of my good manners, but I learned the features of these famous ones by heart. I never saw either again.

Drawing Room

One of the original Brotherhood, and one of the first to yield to the attraction of London, was John Richardson, a man whose mind was cast in a gentle and poetic mould, but who was for many long years the Crown Solicitor in Scottish affairs in London, and a most able and efficient administrator. It was after most of those whose names I have recounted had departed that I became intimate with him, and a more charming companion, or a pleasanter circle than that which he collected round him in London, I never knew. He had an attractive vein of the poetic running through the whole strain of his genial conversation; and in the quiet evenings I have spent with him I learned more of the early ways and characteristics of the “Order” than from any other source. He was a great friend of Campbell the poet, and I find in Jeffrey’s correspondence a letter which Jeffrey wrote to Campbell with reference to Richardson’s leaving Edinburgh (p. 52, 17th March 1801). Among many other notable incidents at his house in London, I have a vivid recollection of one occasion on which Carlyle and Lord Chancellor Campbell were of the party, and engaged in an interesting and well-sustained, though courteous, single combat on the merits of the Lives of the Chancellors. Sir David Dundas was also present, and from time to time slyly fomented the conflagration. We thought that the Chancellor, on the whole, had the best of the encounter.

But, like others, Richardson had other tastes nearer his heart than business, or poetry, or London. A trouting-rod by the banks of the Teviot or the Ale was what he yearned for and enjoyed, and at his beautiful property of Kirklands, in Roxburghshire, he had what he prized more than all the projects of ambition.

These were the men, some of them known to the larger world, and some less so, but they were all in the front rank in the North. Scotland at that time may have been regarded as provincial by those other side the Tweed; may have been thought so then, and some benighted Southrons may think so still. But at that day it was in some respects less provincial than at present, and in some respects more cosmopolitan than England. There may be some in the present day who prate of nationalities, but they are few and underbred. There is no doubt, however, that nothing contributed so much to enhance the respect paid to Scotland among English politicians and scholars as the success of the Edinburgh Review.

The circle which I have described was for the most part forensic, but yet the band ranged over the whole field of human knowledge in all its branches. They had extensive reading, fair scholarship, some of them were profoundly versed in the ancients, and Playfair, Leslie, and Brougham were great and formidable representatives of physical science, as Dugald Stewart and Thomas Brown were of mental philosophy. I doubt if in the circuit of the British Isles at that day there could have been found fifteen personal intimates who presented such a combination of knowledge and intellectual power.

Some critics, who constantly assure the world that they are the true aesthetes, while often they have not a ray of the diviner flame, have a fashion of sneering at the magnates of the Edinburgh Review, as if they had done nothing. I only know that in their society these cavillers could not have held their place for a moment. Their farthing candles would at once have been extinguished, for those men were not dreamers over fanciful emotions, but were stored with the results of hard and varied study. Those were days in which conversation was an art, and I do not believe it was ever more successfully cultivated than in that remarkable circle. Of course, it was long after the date of which I write that I can speak from personal experience; but I do remember one bright summer evening, at a date when those feelings of political separation had long since disappeared, when at the hospitable board of Lord Mackenzie, the son of The Man of Feeling, and a man of remarkable cultivation, we sat till the shadows lengthened, while our host and Jeffrey discussed, with amazing vivacity, wit, and eloquence, the dramatists of the Elizabethan era. Whether in the present day it would have been accounted slow, I cannot say; but we, a party of eight or ten, were all sorry when it ended; and a greater wealth of illustration, fancy, and acute appreciation than the dialogue displayed, I have never found elsewhere. They did not harangue or “orate,” as our American friends have it, or strive for the lead, or seem to request any one to listen, but played into each other’s hands, as if the exercise had been a delight to them. Mackenzie, for the most part, started each view and topic, Jeffrey caught it up and covered it with flowers. Indeed, versatile as Jeffrey was in all departments of intellectual exercise, his special attributes were best displayed in his conversation. Instinct with a vivid fancy rather than with imagination, and a rapid incisive wit rather than humour, his talk was such that one could not listen to him and mark the fertile suggestions of his mobile brain without admiration. One of the last occasions on which I was in his company was in a walk with him alone from Craigcrook to Edinburgh, a distance under three miles, through the grounds of the old residence of Ravelston. It was a few months before his death. What he talked of, I cannot recollect; I only know his discourse was wonderful, and full of melody, instruction, and wisdom.

When I came to be intimate in his later years with this truculent Minos, he was the gentlest, kindest, and most considerate of men. Years of success and fame may have tempered the outspoken vivacity of his manners, and smoothed over the rough edges of his speech or thoughts, but as I knew him, and as many others had the best reason to know— though some did not always remember—he was full of warmth, of feeling, and of generosity. He had no jealousies and no antipathies, and neither open spite nor covert detraction could find endurance at his hands, whoever the author and whoever the object of them.

In the light of retrospect no one can fail to see that the commencement of the Edinburgh Review marks an epoch in periodical literature as clearly as did The Toiler and The Spectator in their day. Periodical journalism, devoted in the main to criticism, is necessarily ephemeral in its nature. It is meant for the present reformation of literary taste; and when it has done its work, and literary taste has been so completely reformed that the old corruptions are forgotten, no wonder that the critic appears at the distance of three-quarters of a century to be a trifle commonplace and a mere beating of the air. The real question is, Did it do its work? And that it did in this instance is unquestionable, or that journal would never have acquired the astonishing celebrity which it at once commanded.

It is thus merely idle for feeble minds to decry Jeffrey’s literary judgments as being erroneous. They were addressed to the public of 1803, and the public of 1803 were perfectly able to judge of them, probably much better than some of the public of 1886. They did substantially approve them, to the extent of buying the Review. Some of our modem scribes are never tired of cavilling at Jeffrey’s strictures on Wordsworth, Coleridge, and what were called the Lake school. I do not say that Jeffrey fully appreciated the merits of those men, or may not have been too severe on their unquestionable faults. They had the genius, as all the world now allows. Poetry of the emotions, poetry of feeling, not of action, poetical analysis of the inner consciousness, was of a style to a certain degree not familiar in those days to our countrymen, and I think not congenial to Jeffrey’s cast of thought. The school had a German mystical dreamy element which the great critic too much resented, and the want of masculine vigour which seemed to characterise it threw into the shade with him the real depth, pathos, and truth of its delineations. Addison and Steele and Swift and Johnson were as often wrong as right in their estimate either of literature or of manners, but no one on that account denies them their places as pioneers in the literary progress of the nation. Jeffrey was, of course, not infallible, but he stirred the public mind to solve great problems in literature and politics, and few men have done as much, and still fewer have done or can do more.

Nor am I by any means prepared to concede that Jeffrey’s criticisms on the Lake school, although imperfect and to some extent misleading, were entirely erroneous. I do not think that they were so in themselves, or as regarded the effect of these writers on the national literature. That the poets had genius, and rare genius, is certain, but their real fault was affectation—affectation of simplicity, and affectation of mysticism. I know this will be considered heresy. But what has been the result of the reaction which they led?—that poetry has in great measure ceased to be written, and that what has been written has to a large extent ceased to be read. Readers have grown tired of groping about to find an unexpressed meaning in unmeaning words, and decline to accept spasmodic and ambiguous utterances as indicating any inspiration. I except the Laureate, who may have his own sins to answer for, but he has the true inspiration, and can be manly when he chooses.

I was in my younger days a diligent student of the earlier numbers of the Edinburgh Review. I found them a repertory of vivacity, of vigour, and of intelligence. I learned from them many lessons, which I have found of service in my subsequent life. I am glad to find that the appreciation which I then had is confirmed by a great name, which even the most critical can hardly disparage. Macaulay says in a private letter, just before the collected reviews of Jeffrey were published: “Jeffrey is at work on his Collection. It will be delightful, no doubt, but to me it will not have the charm of novelty, for I have read and re-read his old articles until I know them by heart.” And he says in a subsequent letter: “What do you think of Jeffrey’s book? The variety and fertility of Jeffrey’s mind seem to me more extraordinary than ever. I think there are few things in the four volumes which one or two other men could not have done as well. But I do not think that any one man except Jeffrey—nay, that any three men—could have produced such diversified excellence. When I compare him with Sydney and myself, I feel with humility perfectly sincere that his range is immeasurably wider than ours; and this is only as a writer. But he is not only a writer, for he has been a great advocate, and he is a great judge. Taking him for all in all, I think him more nearly a universal genius than any man of our time.”

With the view of renewing my Craigcrook associations, and recalling some minor traits which my memory had let slip, I have re-read the whole of Jeffrey’s letters, at least those published by Cockburn, which must be but a minute fraction of those he wrote. I found it a very interesting and very instructive occupation. His letters tell the story of his life in very clear outline. They bring out the rapid brilliancy of his thoughts very perfectly, as well as the kindly courage and sweetness of his temper. One element is disclosed which in my knowledge of the man I had not detected or expected. There was a tinge of melancholy running through the golden thread of his genius, arguing a depressed and nervous temperament, even when fame and fortune favoured him most. Prosperity did not mark him for her own for some tedious years after he joined the Bar, and the death of his first wife left an element of sadness which not unfrequently recurs. His earlier life at the Bar was not at once successful or cheerful; at least, as often happens, the consciousness of unappreciated power seemed, if he may be judged by his correspondence, to produce a chronic depression, deepening as the years went on. But this is a phase from which few successful lawyers have been free. We find him, after two or three years had passed, beginning to wonder if he had mistaken the bent of his intellect, and full of schemes, some of them wild enough, for making a new start.

Dining Room

Thus in 1796 he says: “I wish I had learned some mechanical trade, and would apply to it yet, were it not for a silly apprehension of silly observation. At present I am absolutely unfit for anything, and with middling capacities, and an inclination to be industrious, have as reasonable a prospect of starving as most people I know.”

Again, on 6th March 1799 he says: “As to the goods of fortune, I can say but little for myself. I have got no legacies and discovered no treasures since you went away, and for the law and its honours and emoluments, I do not seem to be any nearer than I was the first year that I called myself practitioner.” On the 3rd January 1801, he writes to his brother: “I make but little progress, I believe I may say none at all, at the Bar; but my reputation, I think, is increasing, and may produce something in time.” And again, on the 1st of August 1801: “I do not make a hundred a year, as I have told you, by my profession.”

But with the assured success of the Review these apprehensions as to his worldly prosperity vanished, and as his literary fame grew, so did his professional success. In 1807 he writes: “I write at the Review still, and might make it a source of considerable emolument, if I set any value on money. But I am as rich as I want to be, and should be distressed with more, at least if I were to work more for it.”

The tale of the Edinburgh Review, its inception, its instantaneous success, the struggles to maintain a reputation so rapidly gained, and the strong broad flood which in the end swept so steadily on, may be discerned in these letters, which formed but a fragment of his current thoughts after all. The original projectors were certainly Brougham. Jeffrey, and Sydney Smith, and the last claims, I have no doubt justly, the credit of the original proposition. Sydney himself tells the secret without disguise, and the motto which he proposed for the work, which is too well known to be quoted, affords real evidence of the truth of his claim. I think I have heard my father say that Brougham did not contribute to the two first numbers, although he was unquestionably one of the original projectors. Sydney Smith edited the first number, and then he left for London, and Jeffrey ascended the throne which he held for so many years. It was not a bed of roses, for one by one his comrades left Edinburgh. In a charming commination which he directs against Homer in 1805, and against all evil-doers of the same class, we have, under his own hand, a list of the faithless ones. He says, “If you will not write reviews, I cannot write anything else. This number is out, thank Heaven! without any assistance from Homer, Brougham, Sydney Smith, Thomas Brown, Allen, Thomson, or any others of those gallant supporters, who voted their blood and treasure for its assistance.” But although absent from the headquarters of the Review, Brougham, Homer, and Sydney Smith continued to be frequent contributors to the end of their lives.

Reading over the memoirs of those remarkable men, one cannot help being struck by the tone of affection, and often tenderness, which prevailed among them. Jeffrey wails over the impending dissolution of their circle in 1802, and will not be comforted. Sydney Smith’s newborn babe was purloined by him from the nurse, in order to show it to Jeffrey and the Edinburgh Reviewers. Smith often recurs to the old faces and supper parties of his Edinburgh companions, and actually goes so far as to wish that he had been born a Scotsman, “to have people care so much about him,” as he says.

On the other hand, Jeffrey’s affection for him was maintained to the last. He says of him, writing in 1827 to his sister in New York: “He is the gayest man and the greatest wit in England; and yet, to those who know him, this is his least recommendation. His kind heart, sound sense, and universal indulgence, making him loved and esteemed by many to whom his wit was unintelligible.”

There can be no doubt it was the accident of Smith’s visit to Edinburgh in 1798 which led to the suggestion of the Review. In May 1802 Jeffrey writes: “Our Review has been postponed until September.” And then he adds: “Few things have given me more vexation of late than the prospect of the dissolution of that very pleasant and animated society in which I have spent so much of my time for these last four years. And I am really inclined to be very sad when I look forward to the time when I shall be deserted by all the friends and companions who possessed much of my confidence and esteem.” But the colour of his thoughts changed rapidly after the first number of the Review was published at the end of 1802. Such was its instantaneous success that he could write to Homer in May 1803, speaking of Longman’s terms, “The terms are, as Mr. Longman says, ‘without precedent;’ but the success of the work is not less so.” From this time the triumphant march is unbroken. Much discord, no doubt, the pungent pages made throughout their literary victims, and many and murderous were the threats launched against the aggressors, although “Little’s leadless pistol” was the nearest approach to bloodshed, and the not too deadly English Bards and Scotch Reviewers the most effective retaliation. It is singular, and concludes the romance fitly, that in both instances the incensed combatants ultimately vowed eternal friendship, Moore finding in Jeffrey his bosom companion, and poor Byron at the other end of Europe wishing he were drinking his claret with Jeffrey at Craigcrook.

For such was the bright and sunny goal to which all these events had tended. It was in 1815 that Jeffrey first set up his household gods at Craigcrook. At that date he had defied and conquered fortune—not indeed without a struggle or without wounds. His practice advanced steadily until the introduction of trial by jury in civil causes in Scotland. Under that system he from the first assumed and held a commanding position. His brilliant rhetoric found in that branch of practice an outlet not afforded by procedure in ordinary legal questions. He says himself in a letter written, I think, in 1815: “We are getting jury trial in certain civil causes too, and that will give me more work. You must know I am a great juryman in the few cases that are now tried in that way, and got a man off last week for murdering his wife, to the great indignation of the Court and discontent of all good people.” But in the ordinary work of the Courts his fame as a pleader stood in the first rank.

One reflection as I went over this correstimepondence struck me forcibly, that as the greater extent of reading has been the destruction of the art of conversation, so the penny postage and the telegraph have terminated the art of letter-writing. There was much virtue in the time, which was the price at which the glory of a London letter was to be had among us in former days, and the writer always tried to give value for the money in painful crossings and re-crossings. Jeffrey’s correspondents had a still greater trial in his handwriting, of which he used to say that he had three kinds—one which his friends and the printer could read, one which the printer could read but his friends could not, and the third class completely illegible to both. In May 1822 Jeffrey was desirous of a visit from Sydney Smith, and wrote to him to invite him to come. Sydney’s reply was, “We are much obliged by your letter, and should have been still more so had it been legible. I have tried to read it from left to right, and Mrs. Sydney from right to left, but neither of us can decipher a single word of it.” Nevertheless, the task of deciphering Jeffrey’s letters was generally amply repaid by the contents. We shall never see such letters again—lively, affectionate, full of strong feeling, lighted up with gleams of fancy and merriment, and a crisp, concise succession of sentences. They have all the qualities which letters ought to have, and which in the old days they sometimes had.

It is interesting to trace through the correspondence the transition of this man of rather depressed temperament from disappointment to success—from a failure to a hero. It is rather like Carlyle’s description of Cromwell mournfully meditating on the banks of the Ouse, not dreaming how great a man he was to be. The widespread reputation of the Edinburgh Review spread also that of its editor; and accordingly we find him, in the first glimpse we have of him in London in 1811, free of the best and most exclusive circles in the metropolis, and alongside of the most renowned men of the day. He writes on the 12th May 1811: “Came home rather late for dinner, and went to Nugents (a great traveller), a brother of Lord N-, where we had an assemblage of wits and fine gentlemen—our old friends Ward and Smith, and Brougham and Mills, who threatened to be Chancellor of the Exchequer last year, and Brummell, the most complete fine gentleman in all London, and Luttrell, and one or two more.”

He goes on to describe how he spent the evening at Holland House, and the magnates he met there, including the old Duke of Norfolk. We find him again in London in 1817, when he writes: ‘ I saw a good deal of Frere, and a little of Canning; neither of whom appeared to me very agreeable, though certainly witty and well bred. There is a little pedantry, and something of the conceited manner of a first form boy, about both.” He says he met Burdett once or twice, but was not impressed by him; and he adds: “Tierney is now the most weighty speaker in the House of Commons, and speaks admirably for that House; Brougham is the most powerful, active, and formidable; Canning is thought to be falling off, and certainly has the worst of it in all their encounters.” This letter was written a few weeks after the death of Homer at Pisa, and of him Jeffrey says: “It is really impossible to estimate the loss which the cause of liberal and practical opinions has sustained by this death. I, for my part, have lost the kindest friend, and most exalted model, that ever any one had the happiness of possessing. This blow has quite saddened all the little circle in which he was head, and of which he has ever been the pride and the ornament.”

I set down these few words of Jeffrey, because they could not have been used by him of any man not acknowledged to be in the front rank in the intellectual and political world. That Francis Homer was eminently so, every one knew, but there has been an unworthy tendency among the ignorant of his countrymen to undervalue his services. I am very much tempted to prolong this analysis of Jeffrey’s London life, in which he met many of the most distinguished men of the day, and met them on a footing of perfect and complete equality. There is scarcely a man of eminence whose name does not occur in these letters. But I shall content myself with only two further extracts. The first is a very vivid account of a man of great celebrity, of whom perhaps less has been said than he deserved,—I mean Lord Althorpe, afterwards Lord Spencer, who led the House of Commons during the days of the first Reform Bill. On 12th February 1832, Jeffrey, writing to Lord Cockbum, says: “I dined yesterday at Lord Carlisle’s, and to-day at Lord Althorpe’s. . . . Althorpe, with his usual frankness, gave us a pretended confession of faith, and a sort of creed of his political morality, and avowed that though it was a very shocking doctrine to promulgate, he must say that he had never sacrificed his own inclinations to a sense of duty without repenting it, and always found himself more substantially unhappy for having exerted himself for the public good! We all combated this atrocious heresy the best way we could; but he maintained it with an air of sincerity, and a half-earnest, half-humorous face, and a dexterity of statement that was quite striking. I wish you could have seen his beaming eye and benevolent lips kindling as he answered us, and dealt out his natural familiar repartees with the fearlessness as if of perfect sincerity, and the artlessness of one who sought no applause, and despised all risk of misconstruction; and the thought that this was the leader of the English House of Commons—no speculator, or discourser, or adventurer—but a man of sense and business, and of the highest rank, and the largest experience both of affairs and society. We had also a great deal of talk about Nelson and Collingwood, and other great Commanders, whom he knew in his youth, and during his father’s connection with the navy; and all of whom he characterised with a force and simplicity which was quite original and striking. I would have given a great deal to have had a Boswell to take a note of the table talk; but it is gone already.”

Morning Room

I conclude this part of my reflections by an extract from a letter written after he had gone on the Bench. There is a tone of repose and satisfaction in the account he gives of his London life. He says: “Our old friends have been very kind to us, and I go away confirmed in my purpose of spending a little time there (London) every spring. Being there for the first time without any serious task or occupation, I entered more largely into society than it was easy for me to do before; and, at all events, crowded into these five weeks the sociality of a whole long session of Parliament. I had the good luck, too, to come at a very stirring time, and to witness the restoration to power of a party to which I was attached so long as it was lawful for me to belong to a party. From the height of my judicial serenity I now affect to look down on those factious doings, but cannot, I fear, get rid of old predilections. At any rate, I am permitted to maintain old friendships, and to speak with the openness of ancient familiarities, with those I most love to meet in private. As you know but few of those we chiefly lived with, it would be of no use to give you a list of names, though it would include almost ail who are much worth seeing in England. Yet we go back quite contented to our provincial duties and enjoyments.”

I should also have liked, did my limits permit, to have traced the gradual growth of Jeffrey’s political opinions, and particularly his political vaticinations, commencing before the First Empire in France, and ending at the first Reform Bill. But, I fear, I cannot intrude to such an extent on your space. I have brought this imperfect sketch to a period so recent that the recollections of a septuagenarian are not required to illustrate it. I have but a few further reflections to add before I wind up.

Jeffrey’s style of oratory was striking and peculiar, and full of both fire and fancy. His figure was slight, his voice clear and well modulated, and of a good compass when he was in health. But he suffered for many years under a bronchial feebleness, which every now and then recurred. His command of language was something marvellous, and when he set himself to speak with eloquence and fire, I do not know that any public speaker reached, or at least eclipsed, the height to which he could rise. I have in my mind the first time I heard him. That was after Lord Liverpool’s death, which shook the whole political fabric, and changed the general complexion of the political world. It was after the Canning Government which the Whigs supported, and after Canning’s death, when the Duke of Wellington had succeeded to the helm of the State. In the year 1829 the Bill for repealing the Catholic Disabilities was brought into Parliament, and there was a great meeting in Edinburgh, attended by both sides of politics—by the old Brotherhood of the Review on the one hand, and by the Conservatives on the other. I was present at that meeting, and it was a great day of very remarkable popular oratory. My father, who was Dean of Faculty, made the first speech, and he was followed by Chalmers and Jeffrey. I only mention this now, because a few of the sentences spoken by Jeffrey on that occasion have remained in my mind ever since. There was a grace and vigour and comprehensiveness about them which, especially in the present juncture of affairs, seem not inappropriate, the appropriateness, however, being rather by contrast than resemblance. I do not say that the sentiment they express has the merit of originality, and perhaps the expressions have nothing in themselves remarkable. But I remember the breathless admiration with which I heard the liquid periods rolled out from his lips, and the deafening burst of cheering which followed them. The whole speech was one well worthy of being studied. I remember very well the half-humorous and half-mournful expression with which he said that he had been unable altogether to chastise in his mind the ancient mammon of Whiggery so as not to regret that it had not been reserved for a Whig Government to carry this important measure. But going on, and warming to the subject, he said these words: “It is among the worst consequences of a system of injustice and oppression, that it in some measure justifies itself by communicating to its victims the vices which it imputes to them. Those who have been long objects of distrust will in the end, I fear, be not trustworthy. Those against whom the law is will but too often be against the law. Those who are ruled by force will soon require force to rule them.” Striking words, whether taken in this happier day of ours as a warning or as a contrast!

At this time unexpected honours were about to descend on him. In the same year Sir James Moncreiff was elevated to the Bench, and Francis Jeffrey succeeded him as the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates—a position of honour, as it is conferred by the votes of the Members of the Bar. Sydney Smith could not bring himself to think of his old friend as “Dean of Faculty.” “With us,” he said, “in England our Deans have no faculties.” Then came in rapid succession the death of the King, the French Revolution, and the three days of July 1830, and the accession of the Grey Government. Jeffrey found himself installed as Lord Advocate, and Henry Cockbum was Solicitor-General for Scotland.

The story which I have been evolving from many scattered threads comes here to its most effective climax. What a change from dark and dispirited 1802! No man with a heart, politics aside, could fail to sympathise with the throb of gratifying success which must have warmed Jeffrey’s heart, when he thought of the rooms in Buccleuch Street, and remembered that the journal he and his College friends had established had culminated in this.

Jeffrey entered Parliament as Member for the Burgh of Maldon; but on the passing of the Reform Bill, was returned at the head of the poll for Edinburgh, which seat he retained until he went on the Bench in 1834.

Much criticism was expended—some friendly, and some the reverse— on Jeffrey’s first appearance in the House of Commons. That it was entirely worthy of his high reputation there is no doubt, but the ordeal was a trying one, to him, probably, more than to any man who then entered Parliament for the first time; for he was sixty years old, and had the burden of an immense reputation. That he acquitted himself ably all are agreed. Sydney Smith says he is almost the only instance of a man beginning a Parliamentary career at that age, and doing it with success.

Macaulay, writing at the time to Macvey Napier (March 8, 1831), says: “The Lord Advocate (Jeffrey) did wonders. His manner is not as yet suited to the House. But he fully sustained his character for talent; and that he should do so was very extraordinary, Mackintosh says, miraculous.” In another letter he says that if the speech was not an absolute success, it was only from the extravagant expectations of his friends. “I rather suppose that independently of the difficulty which necessarily besets a man who goes into an unknown arena with a great reputation to maintain, on that occasion he laboured under one almost fatal disadvantage—a want of power of voice. For a man to succeed in the House of Commons, it is necessary that he should be heard. The oration itself on the Reform Bill was a very fine piece of oratory, and remains to this day one of the most masterly that was delivered upon that great occasion. But it is not surprising to find that a man who had risen to the very heights of fame in a different sphere should not find himself entirely at home all at once with the rather formidable and fastidious audience of the House of Commons. This would detract nothing from his fame, and indeed on this occasion he added to it, seeing that no one had failed to mark both the nobility of his sentiments and the grace of his expression.”

He did not remain in Parliament above four years. And then he went on the Bench. It is needless for me to characterise the reputation which he made as a judge, which indeed surprised many of those that knew him only by general literary repute. But he showed that he possessed all the qualities required for success in that great position. He was rapid, he was patient and courteous, full of illustration, accurate in his conceptions, never sparing of time or labour; and after he took his seat in the Inner House, I well remember, and every one who recollects will bear me out in the sentiment, that a more complete and perfect judicial tribunal than the four Judges of the First Division constituted at that time, it would be difficult to find.

He went on the Bench in 1834; he died on the 26th of January 1850, having served in that capacity nearly sixteen years. He died of an attack of his old enemy, bronchitis, which ran its course very rapidly. I had seen and spoken to him four days before.

But what, you will say, is all this to Craigcrook and its denizens? How did the visitors there comport themselves, and what did they do? As far as my own recollections go, I can recall nothing unusual occurring at the occasional dinner parties there, to which in later years I was bidden; and I am inclined to think that although the Satulnalia continued to retain their name, they had for long lost any flavour of Bohemianism, if they ever possessed it. My father always said that the description in Peter's Letters was purely imaginary; but it gave the impression that the old Castle in Jeffrey’s reign was always the scene of exuberant hilarity. Probably it was so now and then in the years between 1815 and 1830; but Jeffrey’s absences in London, and his indifferent health afterwards, probably tempered the frolics of earlier years.

But the widespread reputation Jeffrey had earned, and the large circle of distinguished friends with whom he was intimate, made Craigcrook in these later years a resting-place for many strangers of note. Many travellers visiting Edinburgh came with introductions to him; and his London friends on their way to the North were frequently his guests in the autumn. Talfourd, Carlyle, Macaulay, and Dickens were his familiar friends, and valued the companionship. During his later years he followed a practice which made him very popular in Edinburgh society—opened his house twice a week during the winter, on the evenings of Tuesdays and Fridays, to all his friends who chose to come, and very pleasant, and sometimes very brilliant, these parties were. There was no political element in the selection, but Whig and Tory were alike pleased to spend the evening so attractively. It was part of my good fortune that I was always welcome on these occasions.

I have said already that although I had known Jeffrey substantially all my life, it was only a few years before his death that I knew him intimately. Before that time, while he was always kindly and courteous, I was more regarded as one of the younger generation than as a comrade. But in 1844 an incident occurred which drew us more closely together, and which I have always looked back on with great gratification. I had been asked to write an article for the first number of the North British Review on Jeffrey’s contribution to the Edinburgh Review. I executed the task, and Jeffrey was so much pleased with it that he wrote me a note, which I still preserve, expressing his desire that we should become more intimate for the future. The note is full of kindly and warm expressions of regard for my father and grandfather, but is too long, and perhaps too personal, to quote at length; but after saying that he would be glad of a chance of being cordial and easy with a third generation of Sir Harry’s, he proceeds, “ I was about as much younger than he, as I fancy you are than me, when I first ventured to seek his confidence on something of a footing of equality; although I was probably of a more venturesome nature than you, yet I cannot but think that he also was, on the whole, a more formidable personage than me.” It may be easily supposed that I was not slow to respond to such an appeal from such a quarter; and from that time until his death, in the beginning of 1850, his friendship was stedfast and unremitting.


Among the other acts of kindness for which I owe him gratitude, was a request which came from Empson, but which, I doubt not, was prompted by Jeffrey, that I would review Macaulay’s first and second volumes of his “History” in the Edinburgh Review in 1849. I found while engaged in the task that Jeffrey had not altogether laid aside his sovereignty, although he had abdicated in 1829. He was succeeded first by Macvey Napier, and on his death by Mr. Empson, who married Jeffrey’s only daughter, and was a man of great capacity and cultivation. I have several letters from Jeffrey during the progress of my work, containing many suggestions of great value, but conceived in the main in the same spirit of warning and rebuke of procrastinating habits as that with which he stimulated Homer and Sydney Smith forty-five years before. I had the pleasure of learning from Empson that the review was approved of by Macaulay, who said in a letter to Empson, of which the latter, writing from Craigcrook in July 1849, sent me an extract: “I do not like to return thanks for what, as Johnson says, must be either flattery or justice. But I should be glad that Moncreiff knew how much pleasure he has given to me, and to those who care most about me.”

One last reminiscence before I conclude this rambling communication. In this year, 1849, I asked Jeffrey’s permission to name my youngest son after him. In reply, he wrote to me from Craigcrook in October 1849 a very affectionate and touching letter, in which, among many other friendly expressions, he says: “ here is nothing that has lately happened to me, standing, as I now do, on the very verge of life, which has cheered and soothed me so much as this proof of affectionate remembrance.” In the close of this letter he reverts to Macaulay and his critics. He says: “Have you read Aytoun’s Cavaliers, and especially the Appendix about Claverhouse and Macaulay? It is by far the most formidable hit that has yet been made at our historian, and I am afraid cannot be effectually parried. There is probably ground for a rejoinder; and I should like to know whether there are any of your North British Covenant-loving contributors who would be likely to look for and point out the vulnerable places, or at any rate, the proper direction of a retort. The Appendix is so much more temperate in tone and language than the fiery Jacobitism of the prose introductions, that it is all the more formidable.”

Such a Covenant-loving champion was found, whose refutation of these criticisms, published too late, alas! for Jeffrey to see them, appeared in an article in the North British Review for February 1850, from the pen, I believe, of Lord Fraser, and very effectually disposed of them.

I must end these fragmentary recollections of Francis Jeffrey. I shall be glad if they interest any of your readers; for it has been a great pleasure to me to recall these times. Pause reverently on the threshold of Craigcrook!

The following description of Lord Jeffrey’s personal appearance, by John Gibson Lockhart, from “Peter’s Letters to his Kinsfolk,” will appropriately complete Lord MoncreifFs interesting sketch of the Home Life at Craigcrook of the eminent critic and judge :—

“Mr. Jeffrey is a very short and a very active-looking man, with an appearance of extraordinary vivacity in all his motions and gestures. His face is one which cannot be understood at a single look—perhaps it requires, as it certainly invites, a long and anxious scrutiny before it lays itself open to the gazer. The features are neither handsome, nor even very defined in their outlines; and yet the effect of the whole is as striking as any arrangement either of more noble or more marked features, which ever came under my view. The forehead is very singularly shaped, describing in its bend from side to side a larger segment of a circle than is at all common; compressed below the temples almost as much as Sterne’s; and throwing out sinuses above the eyes of an extremely bold and compact structure. The hair is very black and wiry, standing in ragged bristly clumps out from the upper part of his head, but lying close and firm lower down, especially about the ears. Altogether it is picturesque, and adds to the effect of the visage. The mouth is the most expressive part of his face, as I believe it is of every face. The lips are very firm, but they tremble and vibrate, even when brought close together, in such a way as to give the idea of an intense, never-ceasing play of mind. There is a delicate kind of sneer almost always upon them, which has not the least appearance of ill-temper about it, but seems to belong entirely to the speculative understanding of the man. . . . What speaking things are liis eyes! They disdain to be agitated with those lesser emotions which pass over the lips; they reserve their fierce and dark energies for matters of more moment; once kindled with the heat of any passion, how they beam Hash upon flash! The scintillation of a star is not more fervid. Perhaps, notwithstanding of this, their repose is even more worthy of attention. With the capacity of emitting such a flood of radiance, they seem to take a pleasure in banishing every ray from their black, inscrutable, glazed, tam-like circles. I think their prevailing language is, after all, rather a melancholy than a merry one—it is, at least, very full of reflection. ... A sharp and, at the same time, very deep-toned voice—a very bad pronunciation, but accompanied with very little of the Scotch accent—a light and careless manner, exchanged now and then for an infinite variety of more earnest expression and address.”

Description of the Original Structure.

Craigcrook Castle having always been an inhabited house, it almost inevitably follows that it should have been considerably altered, and greatly added to, in the course of generations, so as to adapt it to changing times and manners; and this we find to have been the case. Although the latest alterations are of this century, it is difficult at first sight to detect where these begin or where they end, so successfully has the new and old work been brought together and harmonised. But on making a careful survey of the ground plan, it is found that Craigcrook belongs to the z type of structure so peculiar to Scotland. Amongst the earliest examples of this plan is Earlshall, in Fife, dating from 1546, and most of the examples were built between then and the end of the century, although at Harthill, Aberdeenshire, and Kilcoy, Ross-shire, the style lingers on till the early part of the following century; but these seem to be exceptionally late examples.

One of the great advantages of the z plan, and doubtless the reason of its adoption, was that it enabled the inmates to command the house on every side, each angle tower protecting two faces. There was no rule as to the plan of the towers. On some castles they are both square, as at Notland, Fordel, and Glenbucket; and in others they are circular, as at Terpersie, Claypotts, and Muness. While, again, in others, such as at Craigcrook and at Castle Fraser, Ballone, and Moncur in the Carse of Gowrie, they are alternately round and square.

Craigcrook was originally a small structure, measuring about 30 feet by 23 feet, while the round tower is about 20 feet, and the square one about 17 feet over the walls. These dimensions, however, exceed those of Terpersie by about 2 feet in every measurement. The north-east tower contained the entrance door and the staircase to the first and second floors, entering off which, at the west end, the usual wheel stair led to the top of the round tower. The ground floor is vaulted.

In all probability the Castle was not long in existence before it was added to by being lengthened 30 feet eastwards, as seen on hatched part of basement plan, the addition containing the same number of floors, with the kitchen on the ground floor, which was not vaulted. Two round tall corner turrets at the east gable still remain, as will be seen from the illustration. On the east side there still remains the old entrance gateway, bearing date 1626, and represented on one of the illustrations: the gate or door was secured by a sliding bar. The garden extending to the south is surrounded by old walls: a door lintel in one of these bears the date 1662.

The additions made to Craigcrook in this century are shown in outline on the plan. They consist of a new entrance tower, a wing at the northwest comer, containing drawing-room, etc., and another at the north-east comer, containing kitchen, offices, and such like accommodation. This alteration has almost obliterated the square tower of the Z plan, the stair having been taken out, while the top of the tower has disappeared. We are enabled, however, to see what it was like before these alterations were made from a water-colour sketch in the library of the Royal Scottish Academy.

This sketch, of which a copy is here given, so far as I know, has never been published. It shows Craigcrook from the north-west, with the round tower on the right hand, and the square one finished with a gable on the top on the left hand.

Craigcrook seems to have been built on rising ground on the edge of a marsh; a portion of the marsh still remains a few hundred yards northwards. This circumstance of its site would, of course, add considerably to the value of the Castle as a place of strength.


Billiard Room

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