The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner HTML version

The Editor's Narrative
It appears from tradition, as well as some parish registers still extant, that the lands of
Dalcastle (or Dalchastel, as it is often spelled) were possessed by a family of the name of
Colwan, about one hundred and fifty years ago, and for at least a century previous to that
period. That family was supposed to have been a branch of the ancient family of
Colquhoun, and it is certain that from it spring the Cowans that spread towards the
Border. I find that, in the year 1687, George Colwan succeeded his uncle of the same
name, in the lands of Dalchastel and Balgrennan; and, this being all I can gather of the
family from history, to tradition I must appeal for the remainder of the motley adventures
of that house. But, of the matter furnished by the latter of these powerful monitors, I have
no reason to complain: It has been handed down to the world in unlimited abundance;
and I am certain that, in recording the hideous events which follow, I am only relating to
the greater part of the inhabitants of at least four counties of Scotland matters of which
they were before perfectly well informed.
This George was a rich man, or supposed to be so, and was married, when considerably
advanced in life, to the sole heiress and reputed daughter of a Baillie Orde, of Glasgow.
This proved a conjunction anything but agreeable to the parties contracting. It is well
known that the Reformation principles had long before that time taken a powerful hold of
the hearts and affections of the people of Scotland, although the feeling was by no means
general, or in equal degrees; and it so happened that this married couple felt completely at
variance on the subject. Granting it to have been so, one would have thought that the
laird, owing to his retiring situation, would have been the one that inclined to the stern
doctrines of the reformers; and that the young and gay dame from the city would have
adhered to the free principles cherished by the court party, and indulged in rather to
extremity, in opposition to their severe and carping contemporaries.
The contrary, however, happened to be the case. The laird was what his country
neighbours called "a droll, careless chap", with a very limited proportion of the fear of
God in his heart, and very nearly as little of the fear of man. The laird had not
intentionally wronged or offended either of the parties, and perceived not the necessity of
deprecating their vengeance. He had hitherto believed that he was living in most cordial
terms with the greater part of the inhabitants of the earth, and with the powers above in
particular: but woe be unto him if he was not soon convinced of the fallacy of such
damning security! for his lady was the most severe and gloomy of all bigots to the
principles of the Reformation. Hers were not the tenets of the great reformers, but theirs
mightily overstrained and deformed. Theirs was an unguent hard to be swallowed; but
hers was that unguent embittered and overheated until nature could not longer bear it. She
had imbibed her ideas from the doctrines of one flaming predestinarian divine alone; and
these were so rigid that they became a stumbling block to many of his brethren, and a
mighty handle for the enemies of his party to turn the machine of the state against them.