The Black Dwarf HTML version

Introduction To The Black Dwarf
The ideal being who is here presented as residing in solitude, and haunted by a
consciousness of his own deformity, and a suspicion of his being generally
subjected to the scorn of his fellow-men, is not altogether imaginary. An
individual existed many years since, under the author's observation, which
suggested such a character. This poor unfortunate man's name was David
Ritchie, a native of Tweeddale. He was the son of a labourer in the slate-quarries
of Stobo, and must have been born in the misshapen form which he exhibited,
though he sometimes imputed it to ill-usage when in infancy. He was bred a
brush-maker at Edinburgh, and had wandered to several places, working at his
trade, from all which he was chased by the disagreeable attention which his
hideous singularity of form and face attracted wherever he came. The author
understood him to say he had even been in Dublin.
Tired at length of being the object of shouts, laughter, and derision, David Ritchie
resolved, like a deer hunted from the herd, to retreat to some wilderness, where
he might have the least possible communication with the world which scoffed at
him. He settled himself, with this view, upon a patch of wild moorland at the
bottom of a bank on the farm of Woodhouse, in the sequestered vale of the small
river Manor, in Peeblesshire. The few people who had occasion to pass that way
were much surprised, and some superstitious persons a little alarmed, to see so
strange a figure as Bow'd Davie (i.e. Crooked David) employed in a task, for
which he seemed so totally unfit, as that of erecting a house. The cottage which
he built was extremely small, but the walls, as well as those of a little garden that
surrounded it, were constructed with an ambitious degree of solidity, being
composed of layers of large stones and turf; and some of the corner stones were
so weighty, as to puzzle the spectators how such a person as the architect could
possibly have raised them. In fact, David received from passengers, or those
who came attracted by curiosity, a good deal of assistance; and as no one knew
how much aid had been given by others, the wonder of each individual remained
The proprietor of the ground, the late Sir James Naesmith, baronet, chanced to
pass this singular dwelling, which, having been placed there without right or
leave asked or given, formed an exact parallel with Falstaff's simile of a "fair
house built on another's ground;" so that poor David might have lost his edifice
by mistaking the property where he had erected it. Of course, the proprietor
entertained no idea of exacting such a forfeiture, but readily sanctioned the
harmless encroachment.
The personal description of Elshender of Mucklestane-Moor has been generally
allowed to be a tolerably exact and unexaggerated portrait of David of Manor
Water. He was not quite three feet and a half high, since he could stand upright
in the door of his mansion, which was just that height. The following particulars
concerning his figure and temper occur in the SCOTS MAGAZINE for 1817, and
are now understood to have been communicated by the ingenious Mr. Robert
Chambers of Edinburgh, who has recorded with much spirit the traditions of the