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John Graham of Claverhouse
By Charles Sandford Terry

John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount of Dundee, 1648-1689. By Charles Sanford Terry, M.A., Burnett-Fletcher Professor of History and Archaeology in the University of Aberdeen. Pp. viii, 377. M. 8vo. London: Constable & Co., 1905. 12s. 6d. nett.

It is gratifying to welcome another contribution towards the history of the seventeenth century from the pen of Professor Terry, who has already done so much good work in this field. Whatever private opinions a reader may hold about the subjects treated, he must acknowledge that the author has done his best to approach them from a scientific and not from a partisan point of view, and that he has spared no pains in collecting his information from the most reliable and sometimes from recondite sources. Not only so, but he has given the authorities for his statements in much detail, and there is not a page in the book which has not its quota of references, so that each fact may be checked if desired. With the exception of Queen Mary, it is safe to say that no two characters in Scottish History have given rise to so much debate, or as to which opinion is more keenly divided than John Knox and Claverhouse. Already this is seen by the voluminous newspaper correspondence which has taken place about this book itself: it is indeed impossible to expect that any history of Claverhouse will ever be written which will please all parties. Mark Napier's 4 frenzied work,* as Professor Terry aptly calls it, has been as yet the fullest life of Claverhouse which has been published: but though containing much information it can hardly be considered serious history. Besides, to persons who believed in their Wodrow and sympathised with their Covenanting forefathers, the mere name of Napier was as a red rag to a bull. But since Napier's day much additional information has come to light, and some which Napier might have used but did not. The various volumes of the Reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commissioners are in themselves full of useful matter, and Professor Terry has availed himself of many manuscripts, such as those in the Register House, which, though in existence in Napier's day, were not readily available and often indeed unknown.

Throughout this volume it is evident that the author has striven to be impartial; but a historian who has any sense at all of effect cannot altogether divest himself of his own personal predilections, and the result in this case is that Claverhouse is presented to us in a light which many perhaps will think too favourable. On the other hand, Mr. Terry s estimate of him cannot be summarily dismissed as a mere bit of special pleading: it deserves to be carefully studied, and the more it is studied the more credit will be given to the author for the patient care with which he has approached his subject, and the wealth of illustration with which he has illuminated it. He certainly is of opinion that Claverhouse has been grossly misrepresented by the writers on the Covenanting side of the question; numbers of their assertions he denies the truth of altogether; he brings also much good proof that there have been many and serious exaggerations about the man. It is doubtful whether Mr. Terry's idea that he was merely the slave of circumstances, holding duty as his ideal, and prepared to sacrifice any mere personal feelings in order to carry out the orders which he received from his superiors in office, will ever be accepted by the general mass of the Scottish people: but the historical student who comes to these pages in search of the naked truth will find that at all events there is much more to be said for him than at one time could have been conceived possible. He was not, it may safely be said, the bloody, relentless persecutor such as the popular literature of generations has made him out to be, but he may not altogether have been merely the efficient public servant depicted in this volume, far less the poetic hero of Mr. Napier. The fact is, Claverhouse was a man of his age; he was self-seeking and determined to push his way by every means in his power so long as these were honest: but he was in modern language (straight,*and* had convictions of his own which he carried out after the fashion of his day. He was a persecutor, just as if the tables had been turned his opponents would have been persecutors of him: he had not the virtue of toleration, but nobody had till Dutch William came and pointed the way to it. But he was a gentleman and a gallant one to boot: no one who looks on the splendid portraits which are reproduced in this volume can doubt it. Proud, haughty and ambitious he may have been, but he was true to his trust, and the manner of his death casts a halo of romance over a career the merits of which will still be debated as long as Scotsmen are Scotsmen, however ably writers like Mr. Terry may deal with the subject.

There is an excellent map illustrating the campaign of Viscount Dundee during the months from April till July, 1689, and a plan showing the site of the Battle of Killiecrankie. There has been a certain amount of discussion as to this, but the author, who has evidently gone carefully over the spot personally, gives a very clear account of the battle in which Dundee used his Highland host to such advantage, and while leading his troops to victory, met that glorious death which, after all, was perhaps the most suitable termination to his career. With him the romance of the Stewart cause died for a time, to have a short awakening in the ’45 and then to disappear for ever.

A piece of sound historical work, no student of the time can afford to neglect this volume, which fully maintains Professor Terry’s reputation as a writer.

J. Balfour Paul.

You can download a pdf copy of this book here

See also...

Memoirs of the Lord Viscount Dundee and the Highland Clans
With an Account of his officers after they went to France together with The Massacre of Glenco by an Officer of the Army (pdf)

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