The Heart of Mid-Lothian
To The Heart Of Mid-Lothian--(1830)
The author has stated, in the preface to the Chronicles of the Canongate, 1827,
that he received from an anonymous correspondent an account of the incident
upon which the following story is founded. He is now at liberty to say, that the
information was conveyed to him by a late amiable and ingenious lady, whose wit
and power of remarking and judging of character still survive in the memory of
her friends. Her maiden name was Miss Helen Lawson, of Girthhead, and she
was wife of Thomas Goldie, Esq. of Craigmuie, Commissary of Dumfries.
Her communication was in these words:--
"I had taken for summer lodgings a cottage near the old Abbey of Lincluden. It
had formerly been inhabited by a lady who had pleasure in embellishing
cottages, which she found perhaps homely and even poor enough; mine,
therefore, possessed many marks of taste and elegance unusual in this species
of habitation in Scotland, where a cottage is literally what its name declares.
"From my cottage door I had a partial view of the old Abbey before mentioned;
some of the highest arches were seen over, and some through, the trees
scattered along a lane which led down to the ruin, and the strange fantastic
shapes of almost all those old ashes accorded wonderfully well with the building
they at once shaded and ornamented.
"The Abbey itself from my door was almost on a level with the cottage; but on
coming to the end of the lane, it was discovered to be situated on a high
perpendicular bank, at the foot of which run the clear waters of the Cluden,
where they hasten to join the sweeping Nith,
'Whose distant roaring swells and fa's.'
As my kitchen and parlour were not very far distant, I one day went in to
purchase some chickens from a person I heard offering them for sale. It was a
little, rather stout-looking woman, who seemed to be between seventy and eighty
years of age; she was almost covered with a tartan plaid, and her cap had over it
a black silk hood, tied under the chin, a piece of dress still much in use among
elderly women of that rank of life in Scotland; her eyes were dark, and
remarkably lively and intelligent; I entered into conversation with her, and began
by asking how she maintained herself, etc.
"She said that in winter she footed stockings, that is, knit feet to country-people's
stockings, which bears about the same relation to stocking-knitting that cobbling