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Persons not much interested in, or cognisant of, 
"antiquarian old womanries," as Sir Walter called 
them, may ask "what all the pother is about," in 
this little tractate. On my side it is "about" the 
veracity of Sir Walter Scott. He has been suspected 
of helping to compose, and of issuing as a genuine 
antique, a ballad, Attld Maitland. He also wrote 
about the ballad, as a thing obtained from recitation, 
to two friends and fellow-antiquaries. If to Scott's 
knowledge it was a modern imitation, Sir Walter 
deliberately lied. 

He did not : he did obtain the whole ballad 
from Hogg, who got it from recitation — as I believe, 
and try to prove, and as Scott certainly believed. 
The facts in the case exist in published works, and 
in manuscript letters of Ritson to Scott, and Hogg 
to Scott, and in the original MS. of the song, with 
a note by Hogg to Laidlaw. If we are interested 
in the truth about the matter, we ought at least to 
read the very accessible material before bringing 
charges against the Sheriff and the Shepherd of 

Whether Auld Maitland be a good or a bad 


ballad is not part of the question. It was a 
favourite of mine in childhood, and I agree with 
Scott in thinkinor that it has strono- dramatic situa- 
tions. If it is a bad ballad, such as many people 
could compose, then it is not by Sir Walter. 

The Ballad of Otterburne is said to have 
been constructed from Herd's version, tempered 
by Percy's version, with additions from a modern 
imagination. We have merely to read Professor 
Child's edition of Otterburne, with Hogg's letter 
covering his MS. copy of Otterburne from recitation, 
to see that this is a wholly erroneous view of the 
matter. We have all the materials for forming a 
judgment accessible to us in print, and have no 
excuse for preferring our own conjectures. 

" No one now believes," it may be said, "in the 
aged persons who lived at the head of Ettrick," 
and recited Ottei'burne to Hoee. Colonel Elliot 
disbelieves, but he shows no siorns of having read 
Hogg's curious letter, in two parts, about these 
"old parties ■' ; a letter written on the day when 
^ogg, he says, twice "pumped their memories." 

I print this letter, and, if any one chooses to 
think that it is a crafty fabrication, I can only say 
that its craft would have beguiled myself as it 
beguiled Scott. 

It is a common, cheap, and ignorant scepticism 
that disbelieves in the existence, in Scott's day, or 
in ours, of persons who know and can recite 
variants of our traditional ballads. The strano-e 


song of The Bitter Withy, unknown to Professor 
Child, was recovered from recitation but lately, in 
several English counties. The ignoble lay cA Johnny 
Johnston has also been recovered : it is widely 
diffused. I myself obtained a genuine version of 
Where Goudie rins, through the kindness of Lady 
Mary Glyn ; and a friend of Lady Rosalind 
Northcote procured the low English version of 
Yonng Beichan, or Lord Bateman, from an old 
woman in a rural workhouse. In Shropshire my 
friend Miss Burne, the president of the Folk-Lore 
Society, received from Mr. Hubert Smith, in 1883, 
a very remarkable variant, undoubtedly antique, 
of The Wife of Ushers Well} In 1S96 Miss 
Backus found, in the hills of Polk County, North 
Carolina, another variant, intermediate between the 
Shropshire and the ordinary version." 

There are many other examples of this persist- 
ence of ballads in the popular memory, even in our 
day, and only persons ignorant of the facts can 
suppose that, a century ago, there were no reciters 
at the head of Ettrick, and elsewhere in Scotland. 
Not even now has the halfpenny newspaper wholly 
destroyed the memories of traditional poetry and of 
traditional tales even in the English-speaking parts 
of our islands, while in the Highlands a rich harvest 
awaits the reapers. 

I could not have produced the facts, about Auld 
Maitland especially, and in some other cases, with- 

^ Child, part vi. p. 513. ' Child, part x. p. 294. 


out the kind and ungrudging aid, freely given to a 
stranger, of Mr. William Macmath, whose know- 
ledge of ballad-lore, and especially of the ballad 
manuscripts at Abbotsford, is unrivalled. As to 
Auld Maitland, Mr. T. F. Henderson, in his edition 
of the Minstrelsy (Blackwood, 1892), also made due 
use of Hogg's MS., and his edition is most valuable 
to every student of Scott's method of editing, being 
based on the Abbotsford MSS. Mr, Henderson 
suspects, more than I do, the veracity of the 

I am under obligations to Colonel Elliot's book, 
as it has drawn my attention anew to Auld 
Maitland, a topic which I had studied "somewhat 
lazily," like Quintus Smyrneeus. I supposed that 
there was an inconsistency in two of Scott's accounts 
as to how he obtained the ballad. As Colonel 
Elliot points out, there was no inconsistency. Scott 
had two copies. One was Hogg's MS. : the other 
was derived from the recitation of Hoee's mother. 

This trifle is addressed to lovers of Scott, of the 
Border, and of ballads, el non aultres. 

It is curious to see how facts make havoc of the 
conjectures of the Higher Criticism in the case of 
Atdd Maitland. If HoofSf was the former of that 
ballad, I asked, how did he know the traditions 
about Maitland and his three sons, which we only 
know from poems of about 1576 in the manu- 
scripts of Sir Richard Maitland ? These poems in 
1802 were, as far as I am aware, still unpublished. 


Colonel Elliot urged that Leyden would know 
the poems, and must have known Hogg. From 
Leyden, then, Hogg would get the information. In 
the text I have urged that Leyden did not know 
Hogg. I am able now to prove that Hogg and 
Leyden never met till after Laidlaw gave the 
manuscript oi Attld Mail land lo Hogg. 

The fact is given in the original manuscript of 
Laidlaw's Recollections of Sir Walter Scott (among 
the Laing MSS. in the library of the University of 
Edinburgh). Carruthers, in publishing Laidlaw's 
reminiscences, omitted the following passage. 
After Scott had read Auld Maitland aloud to 
Leyden and Laird Laidlaw, the three rode together 
to dine at Whitehope. 

" Near the Craigbents," says Laidlaw, " Mr. 
Scott and Leyden drew together in a close and 
seemingly private conversation. I, of course, fell 
back. After a minute or two, Leyden reined in 
his horse (a black horse that Mr. Scott's servant used 
to ride) and let me come up. ' This Hogg,' said 
he, ' writes verses, I understand.' I assured him 
that he wrote very beautiful verses, and with 
great facility. ' But I trust,' he replied, ' that there 
is no fear of his passing off any of his own upon 
Scott for old ballads.' I again assured him that 
he would never think of such a thing ; and neither 
would he at that period of his life. 

" ' Let him beware of forgery,' cried Leyden with 
great force and energy, and in, I suppose, what Mr. 


Scott used afterwards to call the saw tones of his 

This proves that Leyden had no personal know- 
ledge of "this Hogg," and did not supply the 
shepherd with the traditions about Auld Maitland. 

Mr. \V. J. Kennedy, of Hawick, pointed out to 
me this passage in Laidlaw's Recollections, edited 
from the MS. by Mr. James Sinton, as reprinted 
from the Transactions of the Hawick Archaeo- 
logical Society, 1905). | 



Scott and the Ballads ..... i 

AULD Maitland ....... i8 

The Ballad of Otterburne . . . . -53 

Scott's Traditional Copy and how he edited it . 67 
The Mystery of the Ballad of Jamie Telfer . . 87 

KiNMONT Willie ...... 126 

Conclusions . . . . . . .148 




It was through his collecting and editing of 
The Border Minstrelsy that Sir Walter Scott 
glided from law into literature. The history of 
the conception and completion of his task, "a 
labour of love truly, if ever such there was," 
says Lockhart, is well known, but the tale must 
be briefly told if we are to understand the 
following essays in defence of Scott's literary 

Late in 1799 Scott wrote to James Ballantyne, 
then a printer in Kelso, " I have been for years 
collecting Border ballads," and he thought that 
he could put together " such a selection as might 
make a neat little volume, to sell for four or five 
shillings." In December 1799 Scott received the 
office of Sheriff of Selkirkshire, or, as he preferred 
to say, of Ettrick Forest. In the Forest, as was 
natural, he found much of his materials. The 
people at the head of Ettrick were still, says Hogg,^ 

^ Hogg to Scott, 30th June 1802, given later in full. 


like many of the Highlanders even now, in that 
they cheered the long winter nights with the 
telling of old tales ; and some aged people still 
remembered, no doubt in a defective and corrupted 
state, many old ballads. Some of these, especially 
the ballads of Border raids and rescues, may never 
even have been written down by the original 
authors. The Borderers, says Lesley, Bishop of 
Ross, writing in 1578, "take much pleasure in 
their old music and chanted songs, which they 
themselves compose, whether about the deeds of 
their ancestors, or about ingenious raiding tricks 
and stratagems." ^ 

The historical ballads about the deeds of their 
ancestors would be far more romantic than 
scientifically accurate. The verses, as they passed 
from mouth to mouth and from generation to 
eeneration, would be in a constant state of flux 
and change. When a man forgot a verse, he 
would make something to take its place. A more 
or less appropriate stanza from another ballad 
would slip in ; or the reciter would tell in prose 
the matter of which he forgot the versified form. 

Again, in the towns, street ballads on remark- 
able events, as early at least as the age of 
Henry viii., were written or printed. Knox 
speaks of ballads on Queen Mary's four Maries. 
Of these ballads only one is left, and it is a libel. 
The hanging of a French apothecary of the 

^ See De Online, Moribus^ et Rebus Gestis Scotonnn, p. 60 (1578). 


Queen, and a French waiting - maid, for child 
murder, has been transferred to one of the Maries, 
or rather to an apocryphal Mary Hamilton, with 
Darnley for her lover. Of this ballad twenty-eight 
variants — and extremely various they are — were 
collected by Professor Child in his English and 
Scottish Popular Ballads (ten parts, 1 882-1 898). 
In one mangled form or another such ballads would 
drift at last even to Ettrick Forest, 

A ballad may be found in a form which the first 
author could scarcely recognise, dozens of hands, 
in various generations, having been at work on 
it. At any period, especially in the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries, the cheap press might 
print a sheet of the ballads, edited and inter- 
polated by the very lowest of printer's hacks ; 
that copy would circulate, be lost, and become in 
turn a traditional source, though full of modern- 
isms. Or an educated person might make a 
written copy, filling up gaps himself in late seven- 
teenth or in eighteenth century ballad style, and 
this might pass into the memory of the children 
and servants of the house, and so to the herds 
and to the farm lasses. I suspect that this process 
may have occurred in the cases of Azild Maitland 
and of The Outlaw Murray — "these two bores" 
Mr. Child is said to have styled them. 

When Allan Ramsay, about 1720, took up and 
printed a ballad, he altered it if he pleased. More 
faithful to his texts (wherever he got them), was 


David Herd, in his collection of 1776, but his 
version did not reach, as we shall see, old reciters in 
Ettrick. If Scott found any traditional ballads 
in Ettrick, as his collectors certainly did, they had 
passed through the processes described. They 
needed re-editing of some sort if they were to 
be intelligible, and readable with pleasure. 

In 1800, apparently, while Scott made only 
brief flying visits from the little inn of Clovenfords, 
on Tweed, to his sheriffdom, he found a co- 
adjutor. Richard Heber, the wealthy and luxurious 
antiquary and collector, looked into Constable's 
first little bookselling shop, and saw a strange, 
poor young student prowling among the books. 
This was John Leyden, son of a shepherd in 
Roxburghshire, a lad living in extreme poverty. 

Leyden, in 1800, was making himself a savant. 
Heber spoke with him, found that he was rich in 
ballad-lore, and carried him to Scott. He was 
presently introduced into the best society in 
Edinburgh (which would not happen in our time), 
and a casual note of Scott's proves that he did 
not leave Leyden in poverty. Early in 1802, 
Leyden got the promise of an East Indian 
appointment, read medicine furiously, and sailed for 
the East in the beginning of 1803. It does not 
appear that Leyden went ballad-hunting in Ettrick 
before he rode thither with Scott in the spring of 
1802. He was busy with books, with editorial 
work, and in aiding Scott in Edinburgh. It was 



he who Insisted that a small volume at five shillings 
was far too narrow for the materials collected. 

Scott also corresponded with the aged Percy, 
Bishop of Dromore, editor of the Religzces, and 
with Joseph Ritson, the precise collector, Percy's 
bitter foe. Unfortunately the correspondence on 
ballads with Ritson, who died in 1803, is but 
scanty ; nor has most of the correspondence with 
another student, George Ellis, been published. 
Even in Mr. Douglas's edition of Scott's Familiar 
Letters, the portion of an important letter of 
Hooror's which deals with ballad-lore is omitted. 
I shall give the letter in full. 

In 1800-01, " The Minstrelsy formed the 
editor's chief occupation," says Lockhart ; but 
later, up to April 1801, the Forest and Liddesdale 
had yielded little material. In fact, I do not know 
that Scott ever procured much in Liddesdale, 
where he had no Hogg or Laidlaw always on 
the spot, and in touch with the old people. It 
was in spring, 1802, that Scott first met his life- 
long friend, William Laidlaw, farmer in Black- 
house, on Douglasburn, in Yarrow. Laidlaw, as 
is later proved completely, introduced Scott to 
Hogg, then a very unsophisticated shepherd. 
"Laidlaw," says Lockhart, "took care that Scott 
should see, without delay, James Hogg."^ These 
two men, Hogg and Laidlaw, knowing the 
country people well, were Scott's chief sources of 

^ Lockhart, vol. ii. p. 60 (1839). 


recited balladry ; and probably they sometimes 
improved, in making their copies, the materials 
won from the failing memories of the old. Thus 
Laidlaw, while tenant in Traquair Knowe, 
obtained from recitation, The Dcemoii Lover. 
Scott does not tell us whether or not he knew 
the fact that Laidlaw wrote in stanza 6 (half of 
it traditional), stanza 12 (also a ballad formula), 
stanzas 17 and 18 (necessary to complete the sense ; 
the last two lines of 18 are purely and romantically 

We shall later quote Hogg's account of his own 
dealings with his raw materials from recitation. 

In January 1802 Scott published the two first 
volumes of The Minstrelsy. Lockhart describes the 
enthusiasm of dukes, fine ladies, and antiquarians. 
In the end of April 1803 the third volume appeared, 
including ballads obtained through Hogg and 
Laidlaw in spring 1802. Scott, by his store of 
historic anecdote in his introductions and notes, 
by his way of vivifying the past, and by his 
method of editing, revived, but did not create, the 
interest in the romance of ballad poetry. 

It had always existed. We all know Sidney's 
words on "The Douglas and the Percy"; Addison's 
on folk-poetry ; Mr. Pepys' ballad collection ; the 
ballads in Tom Durfey's and other miscellanies; 
Allan Ramsay's Evergreen \ Bishop Percy's Re- 
liqties of Ancient Poetry ; Herd's ballad volumes 
of 1776; Evans' collections; Burns' remakings of 


old songs ; Ritson's publications, and so forth. 
But the genius of Burns, while it transfigured 
many old songs, was not often exercised on old 
narrative ballads, and when Scott produced The 
Minstrelsy, the taste for ballads was confined 
to amateurs of early literature, and to country 
folk, y 

Sir Walter's method of editing, of presenting 
his traditional materials, was literary, and, usually, 
not scientific. A modern collector would publish 
things — legends, ballads, or folk-tales — exactly 
as he found them in old broadsides, or in MS. 
copies, or received them from oral recitation. 
He would orive the names and residences and 
circumstances of the reciters or narrators (Herd, 
in 1776, gave no such information). He would 
fill up no gaps with his own inventions, w^ould add 
no stanzas of his own, and the circulation of his 
work would arrive at some two or three hundred 
copies given away ! 

As Lockhart says, " Scott's diligent zeal had 
put him in possession of a variety of copies in 
various stages of preservation, and to the task of 
selecting a standard text among such a diversity 
of materials he brought a knowledoe of old 
manners and phraseology, and a manly simplicity 
of taste, such as had never before been united in 
the person of a poetical antiquary." 

Lockhart speaks of " The editor's conscientious 
fidelity . . . which prevented the introduction of 


anything new, and his pure taste in the balancing 
of discordant recitations." He had already written 
that " Scott had, I firmly believe, interpolated 
hardly a line or even an epithet of his own."^ 

It is clear that Lockhart had not compared 
the texts in The Minstrelsy with the mass of 
manuscript materials which are still at Abbotsford. 
These, copied by the accurate Mr. Macmath, 
have been published in the monumental collection 
of English and Scottish Popular Ballads, in ten 
parts, by the late Professor Child of Harvard, the 
greatest of scholars in ballad-lore. From his book 
we often know exactly what kinds of copies of 
ballads Scott possessed, and what alterations he 
made in his copies. The Ballad of Otterburne is 
especially instructive, as we shall see later. But 
of the most famous of Border historical ballads, 
Kinmont Willie, and its companion, Jamie Telfer 
of the Fair Dodhead, Scott has left no original 
manuscript texts. Now into each of these ballads 
Scott has written (if internal evidence be worth 
anything) verses of his own ; stanzas unmistakably, 
marked by his own spirit, energy, sense of 
romance, and, occasionally, by a somewhat inflated 
rhetoric. On this point doubt is not easy. When 
he met the names of his chief, Buccleuch, and of 
his favourite ancestor, Wat of Warden, Scott did, 
in two cases, for those heroes what, by his own con- 
fession, he did for anecdotes that came in his way — 

* Lockhart, vol. ii. pp. 130-135 (1839). 


he decked them out " with a cocked hat and a 

Sir Walter knew perfectly well that he was not 
"playing the game" in a truly scientific spirit. 
He explains his ideas in his " Essay on Popular 
Poetry" as late as 1830. He mentions Joseph 
Ritson's "extreme attachment to the severity of 
truth," and his attacks on Bishop Percy's purely 
literary treatment of the materials of his Reliques 
of Ancient Poetry (1765). 

As Scott says, "by Percy words were altered, 
phrases improved, and whole verses were inserted 
or omitted at pleasure." Percy "accommodated" 
the ballads " with such emendations as might 
recommend them to the modern taste." Ritson 
cried "forgery," but Percy, says Scott, had to win 
a hearing from his age, and confessed (in general ' 
terms) to his additions and decorations. 

Scott then speaks reprovingly of Pinkerton's 
wholesale fabrication of entire ballads (1783), a 
crime acknowledged later by the culprit (1786). 
Scott applauds Ritson's accuracy, but regrets his 
"preference of the worst to the better readings, as 
if their inferiority was a security for their being 
genuine." Scott preferred the best, the most 
poetical readings. 

In 1830, Scott also wrote an essay on " Imita- 
tions of the Ancient Ballads," and spoke very 
leniently of imitations passed off as authentic. 
"There is no small degree of cant in the violent 


invectives with which impostors of this nature have 
been assailed." As to Hardykmite, the favourite 
poem of his infancy, "the first that I ever learned 
and the last that I shall forget," he says, "the 
public is surely more enriched by the contribution 
than injured by the deception." Besides, he says, 
the deception almost never deceives. 

His method in The Minstrelsy, he writes, was 
"to imitate the plan and style of Bishop Percy, 
observing only more strict fidelity concerning my 
originals." That is to say, he avowedly made up 
texts out of a variety of copies, when he had more 
copies than one. This is frequently acknowledged 
by Scott ; what he does not acknowledge is his 
own occasional interpolation of stanzas. A good 
example is The Gay Gosshawk. , He had a MS. 
of his own "of some antiquity," a MS. of Mrs. 
Brown, a famous reciter and collector of the 
eighteenth century; and the Abbotsford MSS. 
show isolated stanzas from Hogg, and a copy from 
Will Laidlaw. Mr. T. F. Henderson's notes ^ 
display the methods of selection, combination, 
emendation, and possible interpolation. 

By these methods Scott composed "a standard 
text," now the classical text, of the ballads which 
he published. Ballad lovers, who are not 
specialists, go to The Minsirelsy for their 
favourite fare, and for historical elucidation and 

^ Minsirelsy, iii. 186-198. 


Scott often mentions his sources of all kinds, 
such as MSS. of Herd and Mrs. Brown; "an 
old person " ; an old woman at Kirkhill, West 
Lothian"; "an ostler at Carlisle"; Allan Ram- 
say's Tea- Table Miscellany ; Surtees of Mains- 
forth (these ballads are by Surtees himself: Scott 
never suspected him) ; Caw's Hawick Mttseum 
(1774); Ritson's copies, others from Leyden ; the 
Glenriddell MSS. (collected by the friend of 
Burns); on several occasions copies from recitations 
procured by James Hogg or Will Laidlaw, and 
possibly or probably each of these men emended 
the copy he obtained ; while Scott combined and 
emended all in his published text. 

Sometimes Scott gives no source at all, and 
in these cases research finds variants in old 
broadsides, or elsewhere. 

In thirteen cases he gives no source, or "from 
tradition," which is the same thing ; though "tradi- 
tion in Ettrick Forest " may sometimes imply, 
once certainly does, the intermediary Hogg, or 
Will Laidlaw. 

We now understand Scott's methods as editor. 
They are not scientific ; they are literary. We 
also acknowledge (on internal evidence) his inter- 
polation of his own stanzas in Kinniont Willie 
and Jamie Telfer, where he exalts his chief and 
ancestor. We cannot do otherwise (as scholars) 
than regret and condemn Scott's interpolations, 
never confessed. As lovers of poetry we acknow- 


ledge that, without Scott's interpolation, we could 
have no more of Kinmont Willie than verses, 
"much mangled by reciters," as Scott says, of a 
ballad perhaps no more poetical than Jock d the 
Side. Scott says that "some conjectural emenda- 
tions have been absolutely necessary to render it 
intelligible." As it is now very intelligible, to say 
" conjectural emendations " is a way of saying 

But while thus confessing Scott's sins, I cannot 
believe that he, like Pinkerton, palmed off on the 
world any ballad or ballads of his own sole 
manufacture, or any ballad which he knew to be 

The truth is that Scott was easily deceived by 
a modern imitation, if he liked the poetry. Surtees 
hoaxed him not only with Barthram s Dirge and 
A^ithony Feather stonhaugh, but with a long prose 
excerpt from a non-existent manuscript about a 
phantom knight. Scott made the plot of Marmion 
hinge on this myth, in the encounter of Marmion 
with Wilfred as the phantasmal cavalier. He tells 
us that in The Flowers of the Forest " the manner 
of the ancient minstrels is so happily imitated, that 
it required the most positive evidence to con- 
vince the editor that the sonij was of modern 
date." Really the author was Miss Jane Elliot 
(1747- I S05), daughter of Sir Gilbert Elliot 
of Minto. Herd published a made-up copy in 
1776. The tune, Scott says, is old, and he 


has heard an imperfect verse of the original 
ballad — 

" I ride single on my saddle, 
For the flowers o' the forest are a' wede awa'." 

The constant use of double rhymes within the 
line — 

"At e'en, in the gloaming, nae younkers are roaming," 

an artifice rare in genuine ballads, might alone 
have proved to Scott that the poem of Miss Elliot 
is not popular and ancient. 

I have cleared my conscience by confessing 
Scott's literary sins. His interpolations, elsewhere 
mere stopgaps, are mainly to be found in Kinmont 
Willie and Jamie Telfer. His duty was to say, 
in his preface to each ballad, " The editor has 
interpolated stanza " so and so ; if he made up 
the last verses of Kinmont Willie from the con- 
clusion of a version oi Archie Ca field, he should 
have said so ; as he does acknowledge two stopgap 
interpolations by Hogg in Auld Maitland. But 
as to the conclusion of Kinmont Willie, he did, 
we shall see, make confession. 

Professor Kittredge, who edited Child's last 
part (X.), says in his excellent abridged edition of 
Child (1905), "It was no doubt the feeling that 
the popular ballad is a fluid and unstable thing 
that has prompted so many editors — among them 
Sir Walter Scott, whom it is impossible to assail, 
however much the scholarly conscience may dis- 


approve — to deal freely with the versions that 
came into their hands." 

Twenty-five years after the appearance of The 
Border Minstrelsy, in 1827, appeared Motherwell's 
Minstrelsy, Ancient and Modern. Motherwell was 
in favour of scientific methods of editing. Given 
two copies of a ballad, he says, "perhaps they may 
not have a single stanza which is mutual property, 
except certain commonplaces which seem an in- 
tegral portion of the original mechanism of all our 
ancient ballads. ..." By selecting the most beautiful 
and striking passages from each copy, and making 
those cohere, an editor, he says, may produce a 
more perfect and ornate version than any that 
exists in tradition. Of the originals " the indi- 
viduality entirely disappears." 

Motherwell disapproved of this method, which, 
as a rule, is Scott's, and, scientifically, the method 
is not defensible. Thus, having three ballads of 
rescues, in similar circumstances, with a river to 
ford, Scott confessedly places that incident where 
he thinks it most " poetically appropriate " ; and in 
all probability, by a single touch, he gives poetry 
in place of rough humour. Of all this Motherwell 
disapproved. (See Kinmont Willie, infra.) 

Aytoun, in The Ballads of Scotland, thought 
Motherwell hypercritical ; and also, in his practice 
inconsistent with his preaching. Aytoun observed, 
"with much regret and not a little indignation" 
(1859), "that later editors insinuated a doubt as 


to the fidelity of Sir Walter's rendering. My firm 
belief, resting on documentary evidence, is that 
Scott was most scrupulous in adhering to the very 
letter of his transcripts, whenever copies of ballads, 
previously taken down, were submitted to him." 
As an example, Aytoun, using a now lost MS. 
copy of about 1 689-1 702, of The Outlaw MiLvray, 
says " Sir Walter has given it throughout just as 
he received it." Yet Scott's copy, mainly from a 
lost Cockburn MS., contains a humorous passage 
on Buccleuch which Child half suspects to be by 
Sir Walter himself.^ It is impossible for me to 
know whether Child's hesitating conjecture is right 
or wrong. Certainly we shall see, when Scott 
had but one MS. copy, as of Azild Maitland, his 
editing left little or nothing to be desired. 

But now Scott is assailed, both where he 
deserves, and where, in my opinion, he does not 
deserve censure. 

Scott did no more than his confessed followinof 
of Percy's method implies, to his original text of 
the Ballad of Olterburne. This I shall prove from 
his original text, published by Child from the 
Abbotsford MSS., and by a letter from the collector 
of the ballad, the Ettrick Shepherd. 

The facts, in this instance, apparently are 
utterly unknown to Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. 
Fitzwilliam Elliot, in his Further Essays on 
Border Ballads (1910), pp. 1-45. 

^ Child, part ix., 187. 


Again, I am absolutely certain, and can 
demonstrate, that Scott did not (as Colonel Elliot 
believes) detect Hogg in forging Atild Maitland, 
join with him in this fraud, and palm the ballad off 
on the public. Nothing of the kind occurred. 
Scott did not lie in this matter, both to the world 
and to his intimate friends, in private letters. 

Once more, without better evidence than we 
possess, I do not believe that, in Jamie Telfer^ 
Scott transferred the glory from the Elliots to the 
Scotts, and the shame from Buccleuch to Elliot of 
Stobs. The discussion leads us into very curious 
matter. But here, with our present materials, 
neither absolute proof nor disproof is possible. 

Finally, as to Kinmont Willie, I merely give 
such reasons as I can find for thinking that Scott 
^^(3^ " mangled " fragments of an old ballad before 
him, and did not merely paraphrase the narrative 
of Walter Scott of Satchells, in his doeeerel True 
History of the Name of Scott (1688). 

The positions of Colonel Elliot are in each 
case the reverse of mine. In the instance o{ Aiild 
Maitland (where Scott's conduct would be un- 
pardonable if Colonel Elliot's view were correct), 
I have absolute proof that he is entirely mistaken. 
For Otterburne I am equally fortunate ; that is, I 
can show that Scott's part went no further than 
" the making of a standard text " on his avowed 
principles. For Jamie Telfer, having no original 
manuscript, I admit decorative interpolations, and 


for the rest, argue on internal evidence, no other 
beino- accessible. For Kiinnont Willie, I confess 
that the poem, as it stands, is Scott's, but give 
reasons for thinking that he had ballad fragments 
in his mind, if not on paper. 

It will be understood that Colonel Elliot does 
not, I conceive, say that his charges are proved, 
but he thinks that the evidence points to these 
conclusions. He "hopes that I will give reasons 
for my disbelief" in his theories; and "hopes, 
though he cannot expect that they will completely 
dispose of" his views 2how\. Jamie Telfer} 

I give my reasons, though I entertain but 
slight hope of convincing my courteous opponent. 
That is always a task rather desperate. But the 
task leads me, in defence of a great memory, into 
a countryside, and into old times on the Border, 
which are so alluring that, like Socrates, I must 
follow where the logos guides me. To one 
conclusion it guides me, which startles myself, but 
I must follow the logos, even against the verdict of 
Professor Child, noU^e maiti^e a tozis. In some 
instances, I repeat, positive proof of the correct- 
ness of my views is impossible ; all that I can do 
is to show that Colonel Elliot's contrary opinions 
also fall far short of demonstration, or are demon- 
strably erroneous. 

^ Further Essays, p. 184. 


The ballad of Auld Maitland holds in The 
Border Minstrelsy a place like that of the 
Doloneia, or Tenth Book, in the Iliad. Every 
professor of the Higher Criticism throws his stone 
at the Doloneia in passing, and every ballad- 
editor does as much to Auld Maitland. Professor 
Child excluded it from his monumental collec- 
tion of " English and Scottish Popular Ballads," 
fragments, and variants, for which Mr. Child and 
his friends and helpers ransacked every attainable 
collection of ballads in manuscript, and ballads 
in print, as they listened to the last murmurings 
of ballad tradition from the lips of old or young. 

Mr. Child, says his friend and pupil. Professor 
Kittredge, " possessed a kind of instinct " for distin- 
guishing what is genuine and traditional, or modern, 
or manipulated, or, if I may say so, "faked" in a 

" This instinct, trained by thirty years of study, 
had become wonderfully swift in its operations, and 
almost infallible. A forged or retouched piece 
could not escape him for a moment : he detected 
the slightest jar in the ballad ring."^ 

^ Child, vol. i. p. XXX. 



But all old traditional ballads are masses of 
"retouches," made through centuries, by reciters, 
copyists, editors, and so forth. Unluckily, Child 
never gave in detail his reasons for rejecting that 
treasure of Sir Walter's, Auld Maitland. Child 
excluded the poem sans phrase. If he did this, 
like Falstaff "on instinct," one can only say that 
antiquarian instincts are never infallible. We 
must apply our reason to the problem, "What is 
Aiild Maitland ? " 

Colonel Elliot has taken this course. By far 
the most blighting of the many charges made 
by Colonel Elliot against Sir Walter Scott are 
concerned with the ballad of Auld Maitland} 
After stating that, in his opinion, " several 
stanzas " of the ballad are by Sir Walter himself, 
Colonel Elliot sums up his own ideas thus : 
— " My view is that Hogg, in the first in- 
stance, tried to palm off the ballad on Scott, and 
failed ; and then Scott palmed it off on the public, 
and succeeded ... let us, as gentlemen and honest 
judges, admit that the responsibility of the decep- 
tion rests rather on the laird (Scott) than on the 
herd" (Hogg.) 2 

If Colonel Elliot's "view" were correct (and it 
is absolutely erroneous), the guilt of "the laird" 
would be great. Scott conspires with a shep- 
herd, a stranger, to palm off a forgery on the 

^ Minstrelsy, 2nd edition, vol iii. (1803). 
^ Further Essays, pp. 247, 248) 


public. Scott issues the forgery, and, what is 
worse, in a private letter to a learned friend, he 
utters what I must borrow words for : he utters 
" cold and calculated falsehoods " about the manner 
in which, and the person from whom, he obtained 
what he calls "my first copy" of the song. If 
Hogg and Scott forged the poem, then when Scott 
told his tale of its acquisition by himself from 
Laidlaw, Scott lied. 

Colonel Elliot is ignorant of the facts in the case. 
He gropes his way under the misleading light of a 
false date, and of fragments torn from the context 
of a letter which, in its complete form, has never 
till now been published. Where positive and 
published information exists, it has not always come 
within the range of the critic's researches ; had it 
done so, he would have taken the information into 
account, but he does not. Of the existence of 
Scott's "first copy" of the ballad in manuscript 
our critic seems never to have heard ; certainly he 
has not studied the MS. Had he done so he would 
not assign (on grounds like those of Homeric critics) 
this verse to Hogg and that to Scott. He would 
know that Scott did not interpolate a single 
stanza ; that spelling, punctuation, and some slight 
verbal corrections, with an admirable emendation, 
were the sum of his industry : that he did not 
even excise two stanzas of, at earliest, eighteenth 
century work. 

I must now clear up misconceptions which have 


imposed themselves on all critics of the ballad, on 
myself, for example, no less than on Colonel Elliot : 
and must tell the whole story of how the existence 
of the ballad first became known to Scott's collector 
and friend, William Laidlaw, how he procured the 
copy which he presented to Sir Walter, and how 
Sir Walter obtained, from recitation, his " second 
copy," that which he printed in The Minstrelsy in 

In 1 80 1 Scott, who was collecting ballads, gave 
a list of songs which he wanted to Mr. Andrew 
Mercer, of Selkirk. Mercer knew young Will 
Laidlaw, farmer in Blackhouse on Yarrow, where 
Hogg had been a shepherd for ten years. Laidlaw 
applied for two ballads, one of them The Outlaw 
Mttrray, to Hogg, then shepherding at Ettrick 
House, at the head of Ettrick, above Thirlestane. 
Hogg replied on 20th July 1801. He could get 
but a few verses of The Ozitlaw from his maternal 
uncle. Will Laidlaw of Phawhope. He said that, 
from traditions known to him, he could make good 
songs, "but without Mr. Scott's permission this 
would be an imposition, neither could I undertake 
it without an order from him in his own hand- 
writing . . ." ^ Laidlaw went on trying to collect 
songs for Scott. We now take his own account 
of Auld Maitland from a manuscript left by him.^ 

" I heard from one of the servant girls, who had 

^ Carruthers, "Abbotsford Notanda," in R. Chambers's Life of 
Scoti, pp. 115-117 (1891). 2 Ji^id,^ p. 118. 


all the turn and qualifications for a collector, of a 
ballad called Auld Maitland, that a grandfather 
(maternal) of Hogg could repeat, and shfe herself 
had several of the first stanzas, which I took a 
note of, and have still the copy. This greatly- 
aroused my anxiety to procure the whole, for this 
was a ballad not even hinted at by Mercer in his 
list of desiderata received from Mr. Scott. I 
forthwith wrote to Hogg himself, requesting him 
to endeavour to procure the whole ballad. In a 
week or two I received his reply, containing Auld 
Maitland exactly as he had received it from the 
recitation of his uncle Will of Phawhope, cor- 
roborated by his mother, who both said they 
learned it from their father, a still older Will of 
Phawhope, and an old man called Andrew Muir, 
who had been servant to the famous Mr. Boston, 
minister of Ettrick." Concerning Laidlaw's evi- 
dence. Colonel Elliot says not a word. 

This copy of Auld Maitland, with the super- 
scription outside — 

Mr. William Laidlaw, 

all in Hogg's hand, is now at Abbotsford. 

We next have, through Carruthers using 
Laidlaw's manuscript, an account of the arrival 
of Scott and Leyden at Blackhouse, of Laidlaw's 
presentation of Hogg's manuscript, which Scott 
read aloud, and of their surprise and delight. 



Scott was excited, so that his burr became very 

The time of year when Scott and Leyden 
visited Yarrow was not the mitum^i vacation of 
1802, as Lockhart erroneously writes,^ but the 
spring v2iQ.2X\on of 1802. The spring vacation, Mr. 
Macmath informs me, ran from nth March to 
1 2th May in 1802. In May, apparently, Scott 
having obtained the Auld Maitland MS. in the 
vernal vacation of the Court of Session, oave his 
account of his discovery to his friend Ellis (Lockhart 
does not date the letter, but wrongly puts it after 
the return to Edinburgh in November 1802). 

Scott wrote thus : — " We " (John Leyden and 
himself) "have just concluded an excursion of two 
or three weeks through my jurisdiction of Selkirk- 
shire, where, in defiance of mountains, rivers, and 
bogs, damp and dry, we have penetrated the very 
recesses of Ettrick Forest. ... I have ... re- 
turned loaded with the treasures of oral tradition. 
The principal result of our inquiries has been a 
complete and perfect copy of " Maitland with his 
Auld Berd Graie," referred to by [Gawain] Douglas 
in his Palice of Honour (1503), along with John 
the Reef and other popular characters, and cele- 
brated in the poems from the Maitland MS." {circ. 
1575)- You may guess the surprise of Leyden 
and myself when this was presented to us, copied 

^ Carruthers, "Abbotsford Notanda," in R. Chambers's Life of 
Scott, pp. 1 1 5-1 17 (i 891). 2 Lockhart, vol. ii. p. 99. 


down from the recitation of an old shepherd, by a 
country farmer. . . . Many of the old words are 
retained, which neither the reciter nor the copyer 
understood. Such are the military engines, sowies, 
spriiigwalls (springalds), and many others. . . ."-^ 

That Scott got the ballad in spring 1802 is 
easily proved. On loth April 1802, Joseph Ritson, 
the crabbed, ill-tempered, but meticulously accurate 
scholar, who thouQfht that ballad-foro"inor should 
be made a capital offence, wrote thus to Scott : — 
" I have the pleasure of enclosing my copy of a 
very ancient poem, which appears to me to be the 
original of The Wee Wee Man, and which I learn 
from Mr. Ellis you are desirous to see." In Scott's 
letter to Ellis, just quoted, he says : " I have lately had 
from him " (Ritson) "« copie of 'Ye litel wee man,' 
of which I think I can make some use. In return, 
I have sent him a sight of Atdd Maitland, the 
original MS. ... I wish him to see it in puris 
naturalibusr " The precaution here taken was 
very natural," says Lockhart, considering Ritson's 
temper and hatred of literary forgeries. Scott, 
when he wrote to Ellis, had received Ritson's 
The Wee Wee Man "lately": it was sent to him 
by Ritson on loth April 1802. Scott had already, 
when he wrote to Ellis, got "the original MS. of 
Auld MaitlancT' (now in Abbotsford Library). By 
loth June 1802 Ritson wrote saying, "You may 

^ Lockhart, Life of Sir Walter Scott, Ba7-t., vol. ii. pp. 99, 100 


depend on my taking the utmost care of Old 
Maitland, and returning it in health and safety, 
I would not use the liberty of transcribing it into 
my manuscript copy of Mrs. Brown's ballads, but 
if you will signify your permission, I shall be highly 
gratified." ^ " Your ancient and curious ballad," he 
styles the piece. 

Thus Scott had Auld Maitland in May 
1802 ; he sent the original MS. to Ritson ; Ritson 
received it graciously ; he had, on loth April 1802, 
sent Scott another MS., The Wee Wee Man : and 
when Scott wrote to Ellis about his surprise at 
getting "a complete and perfect copy of Maitland," 
he had but lately received The Wee Wee Matty 
sent by Ritson on loth April 1802. He had made 
a spring, not an autumn, raid into the Forest. 

We now know the external history of the 
ballad. Laidlaw, hearing his servant repeat some 
stanzas, asks Hogg for the full copy, which Hogg 
sends with a pedigree from which he never 
wavered. Auld Andrew Muir taught the song to 
Hogg's mother and uncle. Hogg took it from his 
uncle's recitation, and sent it, directed outside, 

To Mr. William Laidlaw, 

and Laidlaw gave it to Scott, in March 12-May 12, 

^ Ritson of loth April 1802, in his Letters of Joseph Ritson^ Esq., 
vol. ii. p. 218. Letter of loth June 1802, Ibid., p. 207. Ritson returned 
the original manuscript of Auld Mait!a?td on 28th February 1803, 
Ibid., p. 230. 


1802. But Scott, publishing the ballad in The 
Minstrelsy (1803), says it is given "as written 
down from the recitation of the mother of Mr. 
James Hogg, who sings, or rather chants, it with 
great animation " (manifestly he had heard the 
recitation which he describes). 

It seems that Scott, before he wrote to Ellis in 
May 1802, had misgivings about the ballad. Says 
Carruthers, he "made another visit to Blackhouse 
for the purpose of getting Laidlaw as a guide to 
Ettrick," being "curious to see the poetical 

Laidlaw's MS., used by Carruthers, describes 
the wild ride by the marshes at the head of the 
Loch of the Lowes, through the bogs on the knees 
of the hills, down a footpath to Ramseycleuch in 
Ettrick. They sent to Ettrick House for Hogg ; 
Scott was surprised and pleased with James's 
appearance. They had a delightful evening : 
"the qualities of Hogg came out at every instant, 
and his unaffected simplicity and fearless frankness 
both surprised and pleased the Sheriff."^ Next 
morning they visited Hogg and his mother at 
her cottage, and Hogg tells how the old lady 
recited Auld Mail land. Hogg gave the story 
in prose, with great vivacity and humour, in 
his Domestic Manners of Sir Walter Scott 


In an earlier poetical address to Scott, con- 

^ Carruthers, pp. 128, 131. 


oratulatino: him on his elevation to the baronetcy 
(18 18), the Shepherd says — 

When Maitland's song first met your ear, 
How the furled visage up did clear. 
Beaming delight ! though now a shade 
Of doubt would darken into dread, 
That some unskilled presumptuous arm 
Had marred tradition's mighty charm. 
Scarce grew thy lurking dread the less, 
Till she, the ancient Minstreless, 
With fervid voice and kindling eye, 
And withered arms waving on high. 
Sung forth these words in eldritch shriek, 
While tears stood on thy nut-brown cheek ; 
" Na, we are nane o' the lads o' France, 
Nor e'er pretend to be ; 
We be three lads of fair Scotland, 
Auld Maitland's sons a' three." 

(Stanza xhii. as printed. In Hogg's MS. copy, given to Laidlaw 
there are two verbal differences, in lines i and 4.) 

Then says Hogg — 

Thy fist made all the table ring. 
By , sir, but that is the thing ! 

Hoee could not thus describe the scene In 
addressing Scott himself, in 1818, if his story were 
not true. It thus follows that his mother knew the 
sixty-five stanzas of the ballad by heart. Does any 
one believe that, as a woman of seventy-two, she 
learned the poem to back Hogg's hoax ? That he 
wrote the poem, and caused her to learn it by rote, 
so as to corroborate his imposture ? 

This is absurd. 

But now comes the source of Colonel Elliot's 
theory of a conspiracy between Scott and Hogg, 


to forge a ballad and issue the forgery. Colonel 
Elliot knows scraps of a letter to Hogg of 30th June 
1802. He has read parts, not bearing on the 
question, in Mr. Douglas's Familiar Letters of Sir 
Walter Scott (vol. i. pp. 12-15), '^^'^^ another scrap, 
in which Hogg says that " I am surprised to hear 
that Atild Maitland is suspected by some to be a 
modern forgery." This part of Hogg's letter of 
30th June 1802 was published by Scott himself 
in the third volume of Tke Minstrelsy (April 

Not having the context of the letter, Colonel 
Elliot seems to argue, " Scott says he got his first 
copy in autumn 1802" ( Lockhart's mistake), "yet 
here are Hogg and Scott corresponding about the 
ballad long before autumn, in June 1802. This 
is very suspicious." I give what appears to be 
Colonel Elliot's line of reflection in my own words. 
He decides that, as early as June 1802, " Hogg" (in 
the Colonel's * view '), " in the first instance, tried 
to palm ofT the ballad on Scott, and failed ; and 
that then Scott palmed it off on the public, and 

This is all a mare's nest. Scott, in March-May 
1802, had the whole of the ballad except one 
stanza, which Hogg sent to him on 30th June. 

I now print, for the first time, the whole of 
Hogg's letter of 30th June, with its shrewd criticism 
on ballads, hitherto omitted, and I italicise the 
passage about Atild Maitland : — 


Ettrick Kovse, June 30. 

Dear Sir, — I have been perusing your minstrelsy very 
diligently for a while past, and it being the first book I ever 
perused which was written by a person I had seen and conversed 
with, the consequence hath been to me a most sensible pleasure ; 
for in fact it is the remarks and modern pieces that I have 
delighted most in, being as it were personally acquainted with 
many of the modern pieces formerly. My mother is actually 
a living miscellany of old songs. I never believed that she had 
half so many until I came to a trial. There are some (st'c) in 
your collection of which she hath not a part, and I should by 
this time had a great number written for your amusement, 
thinking them all of great antiquity and lost to posterity, had 
I not luckily lighted upon a collection of songs in two volumes, 
published by I know not who, in which I recognised about half- 
a-score of my mother's best songs, almost word for word. No 
doubt I was piqued, but it saved me much trouble, paper, and 
ink ; for I am carefully avoiding anything which I have seen or 
heard of being in print, although I have no doubt that I shall 
err, being acquainted with almost no collections of that sort, but 
I am not afraid that you too will mistake. I am still at a loss 
with respect to some : such as the Battle of Flodden beginning, 
"From Spey to the Border," a long poetical piece on the battle 
of Bannockburn, I fear modern : The Battle of the Boyne, 
Young Bateman's Ghost, all of which, and others which I 
cannot mind, I could mostly recover for a few miles' travel were 
I certain they could be of any use concerning the above ; and I 
might have mentioned May Colin and a duel between two 
friends, Graham and Bewick, undoubtedly very old. You must 
give me information in your answer. I have already scraped 
together a considerable quantity — suspend your curiosity, Mr. 
Scott, you will see them when I see you, of which I am as 
impatient as you can be to see the songs for your life. But 
as I suppose you have no personal acquaintance in this parish, 
it would be presumption in me to expect that you will visit my 
cottage, but I will attend you in any part of the Forest if you 
will send me word. I am far from supposing that a person of 

your discernment, — d n it, I'll blot out that, 'tis so like flattery. 

I say I don't think you would despise a shepherd's "humble cot 


an' hamely fare," as Burns hath it, yet though I would be 
extremely proud of a visit, yet hang me if I would know what to 
do wi' ye. I am surprised to find that the songs in your 
collection differ so widely from my mother's. Is Mr. Herd's 
MS. genuine ? I suspect it. Jamie Telfer differs in many par- 
ticulars. Johnny Armstrong of Gilnockie is another song 
altogether. I have seen a verse of my mother's way called 
Johny Armstrong's last good-night cited in the Spectator, and 
a.nother in Boswet/'s /ourna/. It begins, "Is there ne'er a man in 
fair Scotland?" Do you know if this is in print, Mr. Scott ? In 
the Tale of Tomlin the whole of the interlude about the horse 
and the hawk is a distinct song altogether. Clerk Saunders is 
nearly the same with my mother's, until that stanza [xvi.] 
which ends, " was in the tower last night wi' me," then with 
another verse or two which are not in yours, ends Clerk Saunders. 
All the rest of the song in your edition is another song altogether,^ 
which my mother hath mostly hkewise, and I am persuaded from 
the change in the stile that she is right, for it is scarce consistent 
with the forepart of the ballad. I have made several additions 
and variations out, to the printed songs, for your inspection, 
but only when they could be inserted without disjointing the 
songs as they are at present ; to have written all the variations 
would scarcely be possible, and I thought would embarrass you 
exceedingly. I have recovered another half verse of Old Maitlan, 
and have rhymed it thus — 

Remember Piercy of the Scot 
Hath cowf^d aneath thy hand; 
For ilka drap o' Maitlen's blood 
I'll gie thee rigs o' land. 

The two last lines 07ily are original; you will easily perceive 
that they occur in the very place where we suspected a zvant. I 
am surprised to hear that this song is suspected by some to be a 
mode}-n forgery ; this will be best proved by most of the old people 
hereabouts having a great part of it by heart ; many, indeed, are 
not aware of the manners of this place, it is but lately emerged 
from barbarity, ^and till this present age the poor illiterate people 
in these glens knew of no other entertainment in the long winter 
nights than in repeating and listening to these feats of their 

1 Sweet Williajnh Ghost. 


ancestors, which I believe to be handed down inviolate from 
father to son, for many generations, although no doubt, had a 
copy been taken of them at the end of every fifty years, there 
must have been some difference, which the repeaters would have 
insensibly fallen into merely by the change of terms in that 
period. I believe that it is thus that many very ancient songs 
have been modernised, which yet to a connoisseur will bear 
visible marks of antiquity. The Maitlen, for instance, exclusive 
of its mode of description, is all composed of words, which 
would mostly every one spell and pronounce in the very same 
dialect that was spoken some centuries ago. 

Pardon, my dear Sir, the freedom I have taken in addressing 
you — it is my nature ; and I could not resist the impulse of 
writing to you any longer. Let me hear from you as soon as this 
comes to your hand, and tell me when you will be in Ettrick 
Forest, and suffer me to subscribe myself. Sir, your most 
humble and affectionate servant, James Hogg. 

In Scott's printed text of the ballad, two inter- 
polations, of two lines each, are acknowledged in 
notes. They occur in stanzas vii., xlvi., and are 
attributed to Hogg. In fact, Hogg sent one of 
them (vii.) to Laidlaw in his manuscript. The 
other he sent to Scott on 30th June 1802. 

Colonel Elliot, in the spirit of the Higher Criti- 
cism (c/m7i{Bra bombinans in vacuo), writes,^ " Few 
will doubt that the footnotes " (on these interpola- 
tions) "were inserted with the purpose of leading 
the public to think that Hogg made no other inter- 
polations ; but I am afraid I must go further than 
this and say that, since they were inserted on 
the editor's responsibility, the intention must have 
been to make it appear as if no other inter- 
polations by any other hand had been inserted." 

^ Further Essays, pp. 225, 226. 


But no other interpolations by another hand 
were inserted ! Some verbal emendations were 
made by Scott, but he never put in a stanza or 
two lines of his own. 

Colonel Elliot provides us with six pages of the 
Higher Criticism. He knows how to distinguish 
between verses by Hogg, and verses by Scott !^ 
But, save when Scott puts one line, a ballad formula, 
where Hogg has another line, Scott makes no inter- 
polations, and the ballad formula he probably took, 
with other things of no more importance, from Mrs. 
Hogg's recitation. Oh, Higher Criticism ! 

I now print the ballad as Hogg sent it to 
Laidlaw, between August 1801 and March 1802, 
in all probability. 

[Back of Hogg's MS. : Mr. William Laidlaw, 




There lived a king in southern land 

King Edward hecht his name 
Unvvordily he wore the crown 

Till fifty years was gane. 

He had a sister's son o's ain 

Was large o' blood and bane 
And afterwards when he came up. 

Young Edward hecht his name. 

One day he came before the king, 

And kneeld low on his knee 
A boon a boon my good uncle, 

I crave to ask of thee 

^ Further Essays, pp. 227-234, 


"At our lang wars i' fair Scotland 

I lang hae lang'd to be 
If fifteen hunder wale wight men 

You'll grant to ride wi' me." 

"Thou sal hae thae thou sal hae mae 

I say it sickerly ; 
And I mysel an auld grey man 

Arrayd your host sal see." — 

King Edward rade King Edward ran — 

I wish him dool and pain ! 
Till he had fifteen hundred men 

Assembled on the Tyne. 
And twice as many at North Berwick 

Was a' for battle bound 

They lighted on the banks of Tweed 

And blew their coals sae het 
And fired the Merce and Tevidale 

AH in an evening late 

As they far'd up o'er Lammermor 

They burn'd baith tower and town 
Until they came to a derksome house, 

Some call it Leaders Town 

Whae hands this house young Edward crys, 

Or whae gae'st ower to me 
A grey haired knight set up his head 

And cracked right crousely 

Of Scotlands King I baud my house 

He pays me meat and fee 
And I will keep my goud auld house 

While my house will keep me 

They laid their sowies to the wall 

Wi' mony heavy peal 
But he threw ower to them again 

Baith piech and tar barille 

With springs : wall stanes, and good of ern, 

Among them fast he threw 
Till mony of the Englishmen 

About the wall he slew. 


Full fifteen days that braid host lay 

Sieging old Maitlen keen 
Then they hae left him safe and hale 

Within his strength o' stane 

Then fifteen barks, all gaily good, 

Met themen on a day, 
Which they did lade with as much spoil 

As they could bear away. 

*' England's our ain by heritage ; 

And whae can us gainstand. 
When we hae conquerd fair Scotland 

Wi' bow, buckler, and brande" — 

Then they are on to th' land o' france, 

Where auld King Edward lay. 
Burning each town and castle strong 

That ance cam in his way. 

Untill he cam unto that town 

Which some call Billop-Grace 
There were old Haitian's sons a' three 

Learning at School alas 

The eldest to the others said, 

O see ye what I see 
If a' be true yon standard says, 

We're fatherless a' three 

For Scotland's conquerd up and down 

Landsmen we'll never be : 
Now will you go my brethren two, 

And try some jeopardy 

Then they hae saddled two black horse, 

Two black horse and a grey 
And they are on to Edwardes host 

Before the dawn of day 

When they arriv'd before the host 

They hover'd on the ley 
Will you lend me our King's standard 

To carry a little way 



Where was thou bred where was thou born 

Wherein in what country — 
In the north of England I was born 

What needed him to He. 

A knight me got a lady bare 

I'm a squire of high renown 
I well may bear't to any king, 

That ever yet wore crown. 

He ne'er came of an Englishman 

Had sic an ee or bree 
But thou art likest auld Maitlen 

That ever I did see 

But sic a gloom inon ae browhead 

Grant's ne'er see again 
For many of our men he slew 

And many put to pain 

When Haitian heard his father's name, 

An angry man was he 
Then lifting up a gilt dager 

Hung low down by his kee 

He stab'd the knight the standard bore. 

He stabb'd him cruelly ; 
Then caught the standard by the neuk, 

And fast away rade he. 

Now is't na time brothers he cry'd 

Now, is't na time to flee 
Ay by my soothe they baith reply'd, 

We'll bear you company 

The youngest turn'd him in a path 
And drew a burnish'd brand 

And fifteen o' the foremost slew 
Till back the lave did stand 

He spurr'd the grey unto the path 
Till baith her sides they bled 

Grey ! thou maun carry me away 
Or my life lies in wed 


The captain lookit owr the wa' 

Before the break o day 
There he beheld the three Scots lads 

Pursued alongst the way 

Pull up portculzies down draw briggs 

My nephews are at hame 
And they shall lodge wi' me to-night, 

In spite of all England 

Whene'er they came within the gate 

They thrust their horse them frae 
And took three lang spears in their hands, 

Saying, here sal come nae mae 

And they shott out and they shott in, 

Till it was fairly day 
When many of the Englishmen 

About the draw brigg lay. 

Then they hae yoked carts and wains 

To ca' their dead away 
And shot auld dykes aboon the lave 

In gutters where they lay 

The king in his pavilion door 

Was heard aloud to say 
Last night three o' the lads o' France 

My standard stole away 

Wi' a fause tale disguis'd they came 

And wi' a fauser train 
And to regain my gaye standard 

These men were a' down slaine 

It ill befits the youngest said 

A crowned king to lie 
But or that I taste meat and drink, 

Reproved shall he be. 

He went before King Edward straight 

And kneel'd low on his knee 
I wad hae leave my liege he said, 

To speak a word wi' thee 


The king he turn'd him round about 

And wistna what to say 
Quo' he, Man, thou's hae leave to speak 

Though thou should speak a day. 

You said that three young lads o' France, 

Your standard stole away 
Wi' a fause tale and fauser train. 

And mony men did slay 

But we are nane the lads o' France 

Nor e'er pretend to be 
We are three lads o' fair Scotland, 

Auld Maitlen's sons a' three 

Nor is there men in a your host, 

Dare fight us three to three 
Now by my sooth young Edward cry'd, 

Weel fitted sail ye be ! 

Piercy sail with the eldest fight 

And Ethert Lunn wi' thee 
WiUiam of Lancastar the third 

And bring your fourth to me 

He clanked Piercy owr the head 

A deep wound and a sair 
Till the best blood o' his body 

Came rinnen owr his hair. 

Now I've slain one slay ye the two ; 

And that's good company 
And if the two should slay ye baith, 

Ye'se get na help frae me 

But Ethert Lunn a baited bear 

Had many battles seen 
He set the youngest wonder sair. 

Till the eldest he grew keen 

I am nae king nor nae sic thing , 

My word it sanna stand 
For Ethert shall a buffet bide. 

Come he aneath my brand. 


He clanked Ethert owr the head, 

A deep wound and a sair 
Till a' the blood of his body 
Came rinnen owr his hair 

Now I've slayne two slay ye the one ; 

Isna that gude company 
And tho' the one should slay ye both 

Ye'se get nae help o' me. , 

The twasome they hae slayn the one 

They maul'd them cruelly 
Then hang them owr the drawbridge, 

That a' the host might see 

They rade their horse they ran their horse, 

Then hover'd on the ley 
We be three lads o' fair Scotland, 

We fain wad fighting see 

This boasting when young Edward heard, 

To's uncle thus said he, 
I'll take yon lad I'll bind yon lad, 

And bring him bound to thee 

But God forbid King Edward said 

That ever thou should try 
Three worthy leaders we hae lost, 

And you the fourth shall be. 

If thou wert hung owr yon drawbrigg 

Blythe wad I never be 
But wi' the pole-axe in his hand, 

Outower the bridge sprang he 

The first stroke that young Edward gae 
He struck wi might and main 

He clove the Maitlen's helmet stout, 
And near had pierced his brain. 

When Matlen saw his ain blood fa, 

An angry man was he 
He let his weapon frae him fa' 

And at his neck did flee 


And thrice about he did him swing, 

Till on the ground he light 
Where he has halden young Edward 

Tho' he was great in might 

Now let him up, King Edward cry'd, 

And let him come to me 
And for the deed that ye hae done 

Ye shal hae earldoms three 

It's ne'er be said in France nor Ire 

In Scotland when I'm hame 
That Edward once was under me, 

And yet wan up again 

He stabb'd him thro and thro the hear 

He maul'd him cruelly 
Then hung him ower the drawbridge 

Beside the other three 

Now take from me that feather bed 

Make me a bed o' strae 
I wish I neer had seen this day 

To mak my heart fu' wae 

If I were once at London Tower, 

Where I was wont to be 
I never mair should gang frae hame, 

Till borne on a bier-tree , 

At the end of his copy Hogg writes (probably 
of stanza vii.) — "You may insert the two following 
lines anywhere you think it needs them, or substi- 
tute two better — 

And marching south with curst Dunbar 
A ready welcome found." 




Is Auld Maitland a sheer forgery by Hogg, or 
is it in any sense, and if so, in what sense, antique 
and traditional ? That Hogg made the whole of it 
is to me incredible. He had told Laidlaw on 20th 
July 1 80 1, that he would make no ballads on tradi- 
tions without Scott's permission, written in Scott's 
hand. Moreover, how could he have any traditions 
about " Auld Maitland, his noble Sonnis three," 
personages of the thirteenth and fourteenth cen- 
turies ? Scott had read about them in poems of about 
1580, but these poems then lay in crabbed manu- 
scripts. Again, Hogg wrote in words ("springs, 
wall-stanes ") of whose meaning he had no idea ; 
he took it as he heard it in recitation. Finally, the 
style is not that of Hogg when he attempts the 
ballad. Scott observed that "this ballad, notwith- 
standing its present appearance, has a claim to very 
high antiquity." The language, except for a few 
technical terms, is modern, but what else could it be 
if handed down orally ? The language of undoubted 
ballads is often more modern than that which was 
spoken in my boyhood in Ettrick Forest. As 
Sir Walter Scott remarked, a poem of 1 570-1 580, 
which he quotes from the Maitland MSS., "would 
run as smoothly, and appear as modern, as any 


verse in the ballad (with a few exceptions) if 
divested of its antique spelling." 

We now turn to the historical characters in the 

Sir Richard Maitland of Lauder, or Thirlestane, 
says Scott, was already in his lands, and making 
donations to the Church in 1249. If, in 1296, 
forty-seven years later, he held his castle against 
Edward i., as in the ballad, he must have been a 
man of, say, seventy-five. By about 1574 his 
descendant. Sir Richard Maitland, was consoled 
for his family misfortunes (his famous son, Leth- 
ington, having died after the long siege of Edin- 
burgh Castle, which he and Kirkcaldy of Grange 
held for Queen Mary), by a poet who reminded him 
that his ancestor, in the thirteenth century, lost all 
his sons — "peerless pearls" — save one, " Burd- 
allane." The Sir Richard of 1575 has also one 
son left (John, the minister of James vi.).^ 

From this evidence, in 1802 in MS. unpublished, 
and from other Maidand MSS., we learn that, in 
the sixteenth century, the Auld Maitland of the 
ballad was an eminent character in the legends of 
that period, and in the ballads of the people.^ His 

Nobill sonnis three, 
Ar sung in monie far countrie, 
Albeit in rtwal rhyme. 

Pinkerton published, in 1786, none of the pieces 

^ Minstrelsy, vol. iii. pp. 307-310 (1833). 
^ Ibid,, vol. iii. p. 314. 


to which Scott refers in his extracts from the 
Maitland MSS. How, then, did Hogg, if Hogg 
forged the ballad, know of Maitland and his "three 
noble sons " ? Except Colonel Elliot, to whose 
explanation we return, I am not aware that any 
critic has tried to answer this question. 

It seems to me that if the Ballad of Otterburiie, 
extant in 1550 in England, survived in Scottish 
memory till Herd's fragment appeared in 1776, a 
tradition of Maitland, who was popular in the 
ballads of 1575, and known to Gawain Douglas 
seventy years earlier, may also have persisted. 
There is no impossibility. 

Looking next at Scott's Auld Maitland, the 
story is that King Edward i. reigned for fifty 
years. He had a nephew Edward (an apocryphal 
person : such figures are common in ballads), who 
wished to take part in the invasion of Scotland. 
The English are repulsed by old Maitland from 
his "darksome house" on the Leader. The 
English, however, (stanza xv.) conquer Scotland, 
and join Edward i. in France. They besiege that 

Which some call Billop-Grace (xviii.). 

Here Maitland's three sons are learning at school, 
as Scots often were educated in France. They 
see that Edward's standard quarters the arms of 
France, and infer that he has conquered their 
country. They " will try some jeopardy." Persuad- 
ing the English that they are themselves English- 


men, they ask leave to carry the royal flag. The 
eldest is told that he is singularly like Auld Mait- 
land. In anger he stabs the standard-bearer, 
seizes the flag, and, with his brothers, spurs to 
Billop-Grace, where the French captain receives 
them. There is fighting at the gate. The King 
says that three disguised lads of France have stolen 
his flag. The Maitlands apparently heard of this ; the 
youngest goes to Edward, and explains that they are 
Maitlands sons, and Scots ; they challenge any three 
Englishmen; a thing in the manner of the period. 
The three Scots are victorious. Young Edward then 
challenges one of the dauntless three, who slays him. 
Edward wishes himself home at London Tower. 

Such is the story. It is out of the regular line 
of ballad narrative, but it does not follow that, in 
the sixteenth century, some such tale was not told 
"in rural rhyme" about Maitland's "three noble 
sons." That it is not historically true is nothing, 
of course, and that it is not in the Scots of the 
thirteenth century is nothing. 

Colonel Elliot asks. What in the ballad raised 
suspicion of forgery (in 1802-03)? The historical 
inaccuracies are common to all historical ballads. 
(In an English ballad known to me of 1578, Henry 
Darnley is " hanged on a tree " !) 

Next, "there are occasional lines, and even 
stanzas, which jar in style to such a degree that 
they must have been written by two separate 


But this, also, is a common feature. In " Pro- 
fessor Child and the Ballad," Mr. W. M. Hart gives 
a list of Professor Child's notes on the multiplicity 
of hands, which he, and every critic, detect in 
some ballads with a genuinely antique substratum.^ 

Colonel Elliot quotes, as in his opinion the best, 
stanzas viii., ix., x., xi., while he thinks xv., xviii. 
the worst. I give these stanzas — 


They lighted on the banks o' Tweed, 

And blew their coals sae het. 
And fired the Merse and Teviotdale, 

All in an evening late. 


As they fared up o'er Lammermoor, 

They burned baith up and doun, 
Until they came to a darksome house, 

Some call it Leader Town, 


" Wha hands this house ? " young Edward cried, 

" Or wha gi'est ower to me ? " 
A grey-hair'd knight set up his head, 

And crackit right crousely : 


"Of Scotland's king I baud my house, 

He pays me meat and fee ; 
And I will keep my guid auld house, 

While my house will keep me." 

I cannot, I admit, find any fault with these stanzas : 
cannot see any reason why they should not be 

^ Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 
xxi. 4, pp. 804-806. 


Then Colonel Elliot cites, as the worst — 


Then fifteen barks, all gaily good, 

Met them upon a day, 
Which they did lade with as much spoil 

As they could take away. 


Until we came unto that town 

Which some call Billop-Grace ; 
There were Auld Maitland's sons, a' three, 

Learning at school, alas ! 

Now, if I venture to differ from Colonel Elliot 
here, I may plead that I am practised in the art of 
ballad-faking, and can produce high testimonials of 
skill! To me stanzas xv., xviii. seem to differ 
much from viii.-xi., but not in such a way as Hogg 
would have differed, had he made them. Hogg's 
error would have lain, as Scott's did, in being, as 
Scott said of Mrs. Hemans, too poetical. 

Neither Hogg nor Scott, I think, was crafty 
enough to imitate the prosaic drawl of the printed 
broadside ballad, or the feeble interpolations with 
which the "gangrel scrape-gut," or b'dnkelsdnger, 
supplied gaps in his memory. The modern com- 
plete ballad-faker would introduce such abject 
verses, but Scott and Hogg desired to decorate, 
not to debase, ballads with which they intermeddled, 
and we track them by their modern romantic touch 
when they interpolate. I take it, for this reason, 
that Hosrsf did not write stanzas xv., xviii. It was 
hardly in nature for Hogg, if he knew Ville de 


Grace in Normandy (a thing not very probable), 
to invent " Billop-Grace " as a popular corruption 
of the name — and a popular corruption it is, I 
think. Probably the original maker of this stanza 
wrote, in line 4, "alace," an old spelling— not 
**alas" — to rhyme with "grace." 

Colonel Elliot then assigns xv., xviii. as most 
likely of all to be by Hogg. On that I have given 
my opinion, with my reasons. 

These verses, with xviii., lead us to France, and 
whereas Scott here suspects that some verses have 
been lost (see his note to stanza xviii.). Colonel 
Elliot suspects that the stanzas relating to France 
have been interpolated. But the French scenes 
occupy the whole poem from xvi. to Ixv,, the end. 

What, if Hogg were the forger, were his 
sources? He may have known Douglas's Palice 
of Honour, which, of course, existed in print, with 
its mention of Maitland's grey beard. But how did 
he know Maitland's "three noble sons," in 1801- 
1802, lying unsunned in the Maitland MSS. ? 

This is a point which critics of Auld Maitland 
studiously ignore, yet it is the essential point. 
How did the Shepherd know about the three 
young Maitlands, whose existence, in legend, is only 
revealed to us through a manuscript unpublished 
in 1802 ? Colonel Elliot does not evade the point, 
"We may be sure," he says, that Leyden, before 
1802, knew Hogg, and Hogg might have obtained 
from him sufficient information to enable him to 


compose the ballad/ But It was from Laidlaw, 
not from Leyden, that Scott, after receiving his 
first copy at Blackhouse, in spring 1802, obtained 
HoCTor's address,^ There is no hint that before 
spring 1802 Leyden ever saw Hogg. Had he 
known him, and his ballad-lore, he would have 
brought him and Scott together. In 1801-02, 
Leyden was very busy in Edinburgh helping Scott 
to edit Sir Tristram, copying Art hour, seeking 
for an East India appointment, and going into 
society. Scott's letters prove all this.^ 

That Hogg, in 1802, was very capable of 
writing a ballad, I admit ; also that, through Blind 
Harry's Wallace, he may have known all about 
"sowies," and " portculize," and springwalls, or 
springalds, or springalls, mediaeval balistas for 
throwing heavy stones and darts. But Hogg did 
not know or guess what a springwall was. In his 
stanza xiii. (in the MS. given to Laidlaw), Hogg 
wrote — 

With springs ; wall stanes, and good o'ern 
Among them fast he threw. 

Scott saw the real meaning of this nonsense, 
and read — 

With springalds, stones, and gads o' airn. 

In his preface he says that many words in the 

^ Further Essays, p. 237. - Carruthers, p, 128. 

^ Lockhart, vol. ii. pp. 67, 70, 71, 72, 74, 75, 79. 


ballad, "which the reciters have retained without 
understanding them, still preserve traces of their 
antiquity." For instance, springalls, corruptedly 
pronounced sprmgwalls. Hogg, hearing the 
pronunciation, and not understanding, wrote, 
" with springs : wall stanes." A leader would not 
throw "wall stanes" till he had exhausted his am- 
munition. Hogg heard "with springwalls stones, 
he threw," and wrote it, "with springs: wall 
stones he threw." 

Hoear could not know of Auld Maitland "and 
his three noble sons " except through an informant 
familiar with the Maitland MSS. in Edinburgh 
University Library. On the theory of a conspiracy 
to forge, Scott taught him, but that theory is 

Hogg says, in Domestic Manners of Sir Walter 
Scott, that when his mother met Scott she told 
him that her brother and she learned the ballad 
from auld Andrew Muir, and he from "auld Babby 
Mettlin," housekeeper of the first ("Anderson") 
laird of Tushielaw. This first Anderson, laird of 
Tushielaw, reigned from 1688 to 1721 (?) or 1724.^ 
Hogg's mother was born in 1730, and was only 
one remove — filled up by Andrew Muir — from 
Babby, who was " ither than a gude yin," and 
knew many songs. Does any one think Hogg 
crafty enough to have invented Babby Maidand as 
the source of a song about the Maidands, and to 

1 Craig Brown, History of Selkirkshire. 


have introduced her into his narrative in 1834? I 
conjecture that this Maitland woman knew a Mait- 
land song, modernised in time, and perhaps copied 
out and emended by one of the Maitland family, 
possibly one of the descendants of Lethington. We 
know that, under James i., about 1620, Lethington's 
impoverished son, James, had several children ; 
and that Lauderdale was still supporting them (or 
their children) during the Restoration. Only a 
century before, ballads on the Maitlands had 
certainly been popular, and there is nothing impos- 
sible in the suggestion that one such ballad survived 
in the Lauderdale or Lethington family, and 
came through Babby Maitland to Andrew Muir, 
then to Hogg's mother, to Hogg, and to Scott. 

If a manuscript copy ever existed, and was 
Babby's ultimate source, it would be of the late 
seventeenth century. That is the ascertained date 
of the oldest known MS. of The Outlaw Murray, 
as is proved from an allusion in a note appended 
to a copy, referring to a Judge of Session, Lord 
Philiphaugh, as then alive. The copy was of 

Granting a MS. of Auld Maitland existing in 
any branch of the Maitland family in 1680- 1700, 
Babby Mettlin's knowledge of the ballad, and its 
few modernisms, are explained. 

As Lockhart truly says, Hogg "was the most 
extraordinary man that ever wore the maud of a 

^ Child, part ix. p. 185. 


shepherd." He had none of Burns' education. 
In 1802 he was young, and ignorant of cities, and 
always was innocent of research in the crabbed 
MSS. of the sixteenth century. Yet he gets at 
legendary persons known to us only through these 
MSS. He makes a ballad named A uld Mail land 
about them. Through him a farm-lass at Blackhouse 
acquires some stanzas which Laidlaw copies. In 
a fortnight Hogg sends Laidlaw the whole ballad, 
with the pedigree — his uncle, his mother, their 
father, and old Andrew Muir, servant to the 
famous Rev. Mr. Boston of Ettrick. The copy 
takes in Scott and Leyden. Later, Ritson makes 
no objection. Mrs. Hogg recites it to Scott, and, 
according to Hogg, gives a casual "auld Babby 
Maitland " as the original source. 

Is the whole fraud conceivable? Hogg, we 
must believe, puts in two stanzas (xv., xviii.), of the 
lowliest order of printed stall-copy or "gangrel 
scrape-gut " style, and the same with intent to 
deceive. He introduces " Billop-Grace " as a de- 
ceptive popular corruption of Ville de Grace. This 
is far beyond any craft that I have found in the 
most artful modern "fakers." One stanza (xlix.) — 

But Ethert Lunn, a baited bear, 
Had many battles seen — 

seems to me very recent, whoever made it. Scott, 
in Ixii., gives a variant of "some reciters," for 
"That Edward once lay under me," they read 


"That Englishman lay under me." This, if a 
false story, was an example of an art more delicate 
than Scott elsewhere exhibits. 

One does not know what Professor Child would 
have said to my arguments. He never gave a 
criticism in detail of the ballad and of the circum- 
stances in which Scott acquired it. A man most 
reasonable, most open to conviction, he would, I 
think, have confessed his perplexity. 

Scott did not interpolate a single stanza, even 
where, as Hogg wrote, he suspected a lacuna in 
the text. He neither cut out nor improved the 
cryingly modern stanzas. He kept them, as he 
kept several stanzas in Tamlane, which, so he told 
Laidlaw, were obviously recent, but were in a copy 
which he procured through Lady Dalkeith.^ 

By neither adding to nor subtracting from his 
MS, copy oi Auld Maitland, Scott proved, I think, 
his respect for a poem which, in its primal form, 
he believed to be very ancient. We know, at all 
events, that ballads on the Maitland heroes were 
current about 1580. So, late in the sixteenth 
century, were the ballads quoted by Hume of 
Godscroft, on the murder of the Knight of Liddes- 
dale (1354), the murder of the young Earl of 
Douglas in Edinburgh Castle (1440), and the battle 
of Otterburn. Of these three, only Otterburne 
was recovered by Herd, published in 1776. The 
other two are lost ; and there is no prima facie 

^ Scott to Laidlaw, 21st January 1803 ; Carruthers, pp. 121, 122. 


reason why a Maitland ballad, of the sort current 
in 1580, should not, in favourable circumstances, 
have survived till 1802. 

As regards the Shepherd's ideas of honesty 
in ballad-collecting at this early period, I have 
quoted his letter to Laidlaw of 20th July 1801. 

Again, in the case of his text from recitation of 
the Ballad of Otterburne (published by Scott in 
The Minstrelsy of 1806), he gave the Sheriff a full 
account of his mode of handling his materials, and 
Scott could get more minute details by questioning 

To this text of Otterburne, freely attacked by 
Colonel Elliot, in apparent ignorance, as before, of 
the published facts of the case, and of the manu- 
script, we next turn our attention. In the mean- 
time, Scott no more conspired to forge Aztld 
Maitland than he conspired to forge the Penta- 
teuch. That HoCTo- did not forge Auld Maitland 
I think I have made as nearly certain as any- 
thing in this region can be. I think that the 
results are a lesson to professors of the Higher 
Criticism of Homer. 


Scott's version of the Ballad of Otterbztrne, as 
given first in The Minstrelsy of 1806, comes under 
Colonel Elliot's most severe censure. He con- 
cludes in favour of " the view that it consists partly 
of stanzas from Percy's Reliques, which have under- 
gone emendations calculated to disguise the source 
from which they came, partly of stanzas of 
modern fabrication, and partly of a very few stanzas 
and lines from Herd's version " (1776).^ 

As a matter of fact we know, though Colonel 
Elliot does not, the whole process of construction of 
the Otterburne in The Minstrelsy of 1806. Pro- 
fessor Child published all the texts with a letter.^ It 
is a pity that Colonel Elliot overlooks facts in favour 
of conjecture. Concerning historical facts he is 
not more thorough in research. The story, in 
Percy's Reliques, of the slaying of Douglas by 
Percy, " is, so far as I know, supported neither 
by history nor by tradition."^ If unfamiliar with 
the English chroniclers (in Latin) of the end of the 

^ Further Essays^ P- 45- 

2 Child, part viii. pp. 499-502. 

^ Further Essays, p. 10, where only two references to sources 

are given. 



fourteenth century, Colonel Elliot could find them 
cited by Professor Child. Knyghton, Walsingham, 
and the continuator of Higden (Malverne), all 
assert that Percy killed Douglas with his own 
hand/ The English ballad of Otterburne (in MS. 
of about 1550) gives this version of Douglas's 
death. It is erroneous. Froissart, a contemporary, 
had accounts of the battle from combatants, both 
English and Scottish. Douglas, fighting in the 
front of the van, on a moonlight night, was slain 
by three lance-wounds received in the mellay. 
The English knew not whom they had slain. 

The interesting point is that, while the Scottish 
ballads give either the English version of Percy's 
death (in Minstrelsy, 1806) or another account 
mentioned by Hume of Godscroft {circ. 16 10), 
that he was slain by one of his own men, the 
Scottish versions are all deeply affected in an 
important point by Froissart's contemporary narra- 
tive, which has not affected the English versions.^ 
The point is that the death of Douglas was by 
his order concealed from both parties. 

When both the English version in Percy's 
Reliques (from a MS. of about 1550), and Scott's 
version of 1806, mention a "challenge to battle" 
between Percy and Douglas, Colonel Elliot calls 
this incident "probably purely fanciful and im- 
aginary," and suspects Scott's version of being 

^ Child, part vi. p. 292. 

2 Ibid., part ix. p. 243. Herd, 1776 ; also C. K. Sharpe's MS. 


made up and altered from the English text. But 
the challenge which resulted in the battle of 
Otterburn is not fanciful and imaginary ! 

It is mentioned by Froissart. Douglas, he says, 
took Percy's pennon in an encounter under New- 
castle. Percy vowed that Douglas would never 
carry the pennon out of Northumberland ; Douglas 
challenged him to come and take it from his tent 
door that night ; but Percy was constrained not 
to accept the challenge. The Scots then marched 
homewards, but Douglas insisted on besieging 
Otterburn Castle ; here he passed some days on 
purpose to give Percy a chance of a fight ; Percy's 
force surprised the Scots ; they were warned, as in 
the ballads, suddenly, by a man who galloped up ; 
the fight began ; and so on. 

Now Herd's version says nothing of Douglas 
at Newcastle ; the whole scene is at Otterburn. 
On the other hand, Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe's 
MS. text did bring- Douglas to Newcastle. Of 
this Colonel Elliot says nothing. The English 
version says nothing of Percy s loss of his pemion 
to Douglas (nor does Sharpe's), and gives the 
challenge and tryst. Scott's version says nothing 
of Percy's pennon, but Douglas takes Percy's 
sword, and vows to carry it home. Percy's 
challenge, in the English version, is accompanied 
by a gross absurdity. He bids Douglas wait at 
Otterburn, where, pozir tout potage to an army 
absurdly stated at 40,000 men, Percy suggests 


venison and pheasants ! In the Scottish version 
Percy offers tryst at Otterburn. Douglas answers 
that, though Otterburn has no supplies — nothing 
but deer and wild birds — he will there tarry for 
Percy. This is chivalrous, and, in Scott's version, 
Douglas understands war. In the English version 
Percy does not. (To these facts I return, giving 
more details.) Colonel Elliot supposes some one 
(Scott, I daresay) to have taken Percy's, — the 
English version, — altered it to taste, concealed the 
alterations, as in this part of the challenge, by 
inverting the speeches and writing new stanzas of 
the fight at Otterburn, used a very little of Herd 
(which is true), and inserted modern stanzas. 

Now, first, as regards pilfering from the English 
version, that version, and Herd's undisputed version, 
have undeniably a common source. Neither, as it 
stands, is "original"; of an original contemporary 
Otterburn ballad we have no trace. By 1550, 
when such ballads were certainly current both in 
England and Scotland, they were late, confused 
by tradition, and, of what we possess, say Herd's, 
and the English MS. of 1550, all were interblended. 

The Scots ballad version, known to Hume of 
Godscroft (1610), may have been taken from the 
English, and altered, as Child thought, or the 
English, as Motherwell maintained, may have 
been borrowed from the Scots, and altered. One 
or the other process undeniably occurred ; the 
second poet, who made the changes, introduced 


the events most favourable to his country, and 
left out the less favourable. By Scott's time, or 
Herd's, the versions were much degraded through 
decay of memory, bad penny broadsides (lost), and 
uneducated reciters. Herd's version has forgotten 
the historic affair of the capture of Percy's pennon 
(and of the whole movement on Newcastle, pre- 
served in Sharpe's and Scott's) ; Scott's remembers 
the encounter at Newcastle, forgets the pennon, 
and substitutes the capture by Douglas of Percy's 
sword. The Englishman deliberately omits the 
capture of the pennon. The Scots version (here 
altered by Sir Walter) makes Percy wound 
Douglas at Otterburn — 

Till backward he did flee. 

Now Colonel Elliot has no right, I conceive, to 
argue that this Scots version, with the Newcastle 
incident, the captured sword, the challenge, the 
"backward flight" of Douglas, were introduced by 
a modern (Scott?) who was deliberately "faking" 
the English version. There is no reason why 
tradition should 7iot have retained historical in- 
cidents in the Scottish form ; it is a mere assump- 
tion that a modern borrowed and travestied these 
incidents from Percy's Reliqttes. We possess 
Hogg's unedited original of Scott's version of 1806 
(an original MS. never hinted at by Colonel Elliot), 
and it retains clear traces of being contaminated 
with a version of The Huntiss of Ckevet, popular 


in 1459, as we read in The Complaynte of Scotland 
of that date. There is also an old English version 
of The Hunting of the Cheviot (1550 or later, 
Bodleian Library). The nnedited text of Scott's 
Otterburne then contained traces of The Huntiss of 
Chevet ; the two were mixed in popular memory. 
In short, Scott's text, manipulated slightly by him 
in a way which I shall describe, was a thing sur- 
viving in popular 7nemory : how confusedly will be 

The differences between the English version of 
1550 and the Scots (collected for Scott by Hogg), 
are of old standing. I am not sure that there 
was not, before 1550, a Scottish ballad, which the 
English ballad-monger of that date annexed and 
altered. The English version of 1550 is not 
" popular " ; it is the work of a humble literary 

The English is a very long ballad, in seventy 
quatrains ; it greatly exaggerates the number of 
the Scots engaged (40,000), and it is the work of 
a professional author who uses the stereotyped 
prosaic stop-gaps of the cheap hack — 

I tell you withouten dread, 

is his favourite phrase, and he cites historical 
authority — 

The cronykle vvyll not layne (lie). 

Scottish ballads do not appeal to chroniclers ! 
A patriotic and imbecile effort is made by the 


Englishman to represent Percy as captured, indeed, 
but released without ransom — 

There was then a Scottysh prisoner tayne, 
Sir Hew Mongomery was his name ; 
For sooth as I yow saye. 
He borrowed the Persey home agayne. 

This is obscure, and in any case false. Percy 
was taken, and towards his ransom Richard 11. 
paid ^3000/ 

It may be well to quote the openings of each 
ballad, English and Scots. 

English (1550) 
It fell about the Lammas tyde, 

When husbands win their hay, 
The doughty Douglas bound him to ride, 
In England to take a prey. 


The Earl of Fife, withouten strife. 

He bound him over Solway ; 
The great would ever together ride 

That race they may rue for aye. 


Over Hoppertop hill they came in, 

And so down by Rodcliff crag, 
Upon Green Linton they lighted down, 

Stirring many a stag. 


And boldly brent Northumberland, 

And harried many a town. 
They did our Englishmen great wrong. 

To battle that were not boune. 

Then spake a berne upon the bent . . . 

^ Bain, Calendar, vol. iv. pp. 87-93. 


Scottish, Herd (1776) 


It fell and about the Lammas time, 
When husbandmen do win their hay ; 

Earl Douglas is to the English woods, 
And a' with him to fetch a prey. 


He has chosen the Lindsays light, 
With them the gallant Gordons gay ; 

And the Earl of Fyfe, withouten strife, 
And Hugh Montgomery upon a grey. 
( The last line is obviously a reciter's stop-gap^ 


They have taken Northumberland, 
And sae hae they the north shire, 

And the Otterdale they hae burned hale, 
And set it a' into fire. 

Out then spak a bonny boy ; 

Manifestly these copies, so far, are not in- 
dependent. But now Herd's copy begins to vary 
much from the EngHsh. 

In both ballads a boy or " berne " speaks up. 
In the English he recommends to the Scots an 
attack on Newcastle ; in the Scots he announces 
the approach of an English host. Douglas 
promises to reward the boy if his tale be true, to 
hang him if it be false. Tke scene is Otterbuim. 
The boy stabs Douglas, in a stanza which is a 
common ballad formula of frequent occurrence — 

The boy's taen out his little pen knife. 
That hanget low down by his gare, 

And he gaed Earl Douglas a deadly wound, 
Alack ! a deep wound and a sare. 


Douglas then says to Sir Hugh Montgomery — 

Take thoic the vanguard of the three, 
And bury me at yon bracken bush, 

That stands upon yon lilly lea. (Herd, 4-8.) 

Hume of Godscroft (about 16 10), author of 
the History of the Douglases, was fond of quoting 
ballads. He gives a form of the first verse in 
Otterburn which is common to Herd and the 
English copy. He says that, according to some, 
Douglas was treacherously slain by one of his own 
men whom he had offended. " But this narration 
is not so probable," and the fact is fairly meaning- 
less in Herd's fragment (the boy has no motive 
for stabbing Douglas, for if his report is true, 
he will be rewarded). The deed is probably 
based on the tradition which Godscroft thought 
"less probable," — the treacherous murder of the 

In the English ballad, Douglas marches on 
Newcastle, where Percy, without fighting, makes a 
tryst to meet and combat him at Otterburn, on his 
way home from Newcastle to Scotland. Thither 
Douglas goes, and is warned by a Scottish knight 
of Percy's approach : as in Herd, he is sceptical, 
but is convinced by facts. (This warning of 
Douglas by a scout who gallops up is narrated by 
Froissart, from witnesses engaged in the battle.) 
After various incidents, Percy and Douglas en- 
counter each other, and Douglas is slain. After a 


desperate fight, Sir Hugh Montgomery, a prisoner 
of the English, 

Borrowed the Percy home again. 

This is absurd. The Scots fought on, took Percy, 
and won the day. Walsingham, the contemporary 
English chronicler (in Latin), says that Percy slew 
Douglas, so do Knyghton and the continuator of 

Meanwhile we observe that the English ballad 
says nothing of Douglas's chivalrous fortitude, and 
soldier-like desire to have his death concealed. 
Here every Scottish version follows Froissart. In 
Herd's fragment, Montgomery now attacks Percy, 
and bids him "yield thee to yon bracken bush," 
where the dead Douglas's body lies concealed. 
Percy does yield — to Sir Hugh Montgomery. The 
fragfment has but fourteen stanzas. 

In 1802, Scott, correcting by another MS., 
published Herd's copy. In 1806 he gave another 
version, for "fortunately two copies have since been 
obtained from the recitation of old persons residing 
at the head of Ettrick Forest."^ 

Colonel Elliot devotes a long digression to 
the trivial value of recitations, so styled,^ and gives 
his suggestions about the copy being made up from 
the Reliques. When Scott's copy of 1806 agrees 
with the English version. Colonel Elliot surmises 

1 This is scarcely accurate. Hogg, in fact, made up one copy, in 
two parts, from the recitation of two old persons, as we shall see. 

2 Further Essays^ pp. 12-27. 


that a modern person, familiar with the English, 
has written the coincident verses in with differ- 
ences. Percy and Douglas, for example, change 
speeches, each saying what, in the English, the 
other said in substance, not in the actual words. 
When Scott's version touches on an incident known 
in history, but not given in the English version, 
the encounter between Douglas and Percy at 
Newcastle (Scott, vii., viii.), Colonel Elliot sus- 
pects the interpolator (and well he may, for the 
verses are mawkish and modern, not earlier 
than the eighteenth century imitations or remanie- 
ments which occur in many ballads traditional in 

So Colonel Elliot says, " We are not told, either 
in The Minstrelsy or in any of Scott's works or 
writings, who the reciters were, and who the 
transcribers were." ^ We very seldom are told by 
Scott who the reciters were and who the tran- 
scribers, but our critic's information is here mourn- 
fully limited — by his own lack of study. Colonel 
Elliot goes on to criticise a very curious feature 
in Scott's version of 1806, and finds certain lines 
"beautiful" but "without a note of antiquity," 
that he can detect, while the sentiment "is hardly 
of the kind met with in old ballads." 

To understand the position we must remember 
that, in the English, Percy and Douglas fight 
each other thus (1.) — 

1 Further Essays, p. 37. 


The Percy and the Douglas met, 

That either of other wa? fain, 
They swapped together wmle that they sweat, 

With swords of fine Collayne. (Cologne steel.) 

Douglas bids Percy yield, but Percy slays Douglas 
(as in Walsingham's and other contemporary 
chronicles, stanzas li.-lvi.). The Scottish losses 
are then enumerated (only eighteen Scots were 
left alive!), and stanza lix. runs — 

This fray began at Otterburn 
Between the night and the day. 

There the Douglas lost his life. 
And the Percy was led away. 

Herd ends — 

This deed was done at Otterburn, 

About the breaking of the day, 
Earl Douglas was buried at the bracken bush, 

And Percy led captive away. 

Manifestly, either the maker of Herd's version 
knew the English, and altered at pleasure, or the 
Englishman knew a Scots version, and altered at 
pleasure. The perversion is of ancient standing, 
undeniably. But when Scott's original text exhibits 
the same phenomena of perversion, in a part of 
the ballad missing in Herd's brief lay. Colonel 
Elliot supposes that now the exchanges are by 
a modern ballad-forger, shall we say Sir Walter ? 
By Sir Walter they certainly are not \ One tiny 
hint of Scots originality is dubious. In the English, 
and in all Scots versions, men " win their hay " 
at Lammastide. In Scotland the hay harvest is 


often much later. But if the EngHsh ballad be 
Northttmbrian, little can be made out of that 
proof of Scottish origin. If the English version 
be a southern version (for the minstrel is a 
professional), then Lammastide for hay-making 
is borrowed from the Scots. 

The Scots version (Herd's) insists on Douglas's 
burial "by the bracken bush," to which Mont- 
gomery bids Percy surrender. This is obviously 
done to hide his body and keep his death secret 
from both parties, as in Froissart he bids his 
friends do. The verse of the English (1.) on the 
fight between Douglas and Percy, is borrowed by, 
or is borrowed from, the Scottish stanza (ix.) in 
Herd, where Sir Hugh Montgomery fights Percy. 

Then Percy and Montgomery met, 

And weel a wot they warna fain ; 
They swaped swords, and they twa swat, 

And ay the blood ran down between. 

The Persses and the Mongomry met, 

as quoted, is already familiar in The Complaynte of 
Scotland {shout 1549), and this line is not in the 
Eno^lish ballad. So far it seems as if the Eng-Hsh 
balladist borrowed the scene from a Scots version, 
and perverted it into a description of a fight, 
between Percy, who wins, and Douglas — in place 
of the Scots version, the victory over Percy of Sir 
Hugh Montgomery. 

This transference of incidents in the English and 


Scottish ballads is a phenomenon which we are to 
meet again in the ballad of Jamie Telfer of the 
Fair Dodhead. One "maker" or the other has, in 
old times, pirated and perverted the ballad of 
another " maker." 


As early as December 1802-January 1803, Scott 
was "so anxious to have a complete Scottish 
Otterburn that I will omit the ballad entirely in 
the first volume (of 1803), hoping to recover it in 
time for insertion in the third." -^ 

The letter is undated, but is determined by 
Scott's expressed interest "about the Tushielaw 
lines, which, from what you mention, must be 
worth recovering." In a letter (Abbotsford MSS.) 
from Hogg to Scott (marked in copy, " January 7, 
1803") Hogg encloses "the Tushielaw lines," 
which were popular in Ettrick, but were verses 
of the eighteenth century. They were orally re- 
peated, but literary in origin. 

Scott, who wanted "a complete Scottish Otter- 
burn" in winter 1802, did not sit down and make 
one. He waited till he ^ot a text from Hogfo- in 
1805, and published an edited version in 1806. 

Scott's /2/<5/z5-/^^^ stanza i. is Herd's stanza i., with 
slight verbal chancres taken from the Hogfof MS. text 
of 1805. (?) Hogg's MS. and Scott, in stanza ii.. 

^ Scott to Laidlaw, Carruthers, p. 129. 


give Herd's lines on the Lindsays and Gordons, 
adding the Grahams, and, in place of Herd's 

The Earl of Fife, 
And Sir Hugh Montgomery upon a grey, 

they end thus — 

But the Jardines vvald not wi' him ride, 
And they rue it to this day. 

This is from Hogg's copy ; it is a natural Border 
variant. No Earl of Fife is named, but a reproach 
to a Border clan is conveyed. 

For Herd's iii. (they take Northumberland, and 
burn "the North shire," and the Otter dale). 
Honor's reciters crave — 

And he has burned the dales o' Tyne, 

And part o' Almonshire, 
And three good towers in Roxburgh fells, 

He left them all on fire. 

Hogg, in his letter accompanying his copy, 
says that " Almonshire " may stand for the " Bam- 
borowshire " of the English vi., but that he leaves in 
"Almonshire," as both reciters insist on it. Scott 
printed " Bambroughshire," as in the English 
version (vi.). 

Now here is proof that Hogg had a copy, from 
reciters — a copy which he could not understand. 
*' Almonshire" is " Alneshire," or " Alnwickshire," 
where is the Percy's Alnwick Castle. In Froissart 
the Scots burn and waste the region of Alneshire, 
all round Alnwick, but the Earl of Northumberland 
holds out in the castle, unattacked, and sends his 


sons, Henry and Ralph Percy, to Newcastle to 
gather forces, and take the retreating Scots between 
two fires, Newcastle and Alnwick. But the Scots 
were not such poor strategists as to return by the 
way they had come. In a skirmish or joust at 
Newcastle, says Froissart, Douglas captured 
Percy's lance and pennon, with his blazon of arms, 
and vowed that he would set it up over his castle 
of Dalkeith. Percy replied that he would never 
carry it out of England. To give Percy a chival- 
rous chance of recovering his pennon and making 
good his word, Douglas insists on waiting at Otter- 
burn to besiege the castle there ; and he is taken 
by surprise (as in the ballads) when a mounted 
man brings news of Percy's approach. No tryst is 
made by Percy and Douglas at Otterburn in 
Froissart ; Douglas merely tarried there by the 
courtesy of Scotland. 

In Hogg's version we have a reason why 
Douglas should tarry at Otterburn ; in the English 
ballad we have none very definite. No captured 
pennon of Percy's is mentioned, no encounter of 
the heroes "at the barriers " of Newcastle. Percy, 
from the castle wall, merely threatens Douglas 
vaguely; Douglas says, "Where will you meet 
me } " and Percy appoints Otterburn as we said. 
He makes the absurd remark that, by way of 
supplies (for 40,000 men), Douglas will find abund- 
ance of pheasants and red deer.^ 

^ English version, xi.-xv. 


We see that the English balladlst is an un- 
warlike literary hack. The author of the Ettrick 
version knew better the nature of war, as we 
shall see, and his Douglas objects to Otterburn 
as a place destitute of supplies ; nothing is there 
but wild beasts and birds. If the original poem 
is the sensible poem, the Scott version is the 
original which the English hath perverted. 

In Hogg, Douglas jousts with Percy at New- 
castle, and gives him a fall. Then come two 
verses (viii.-ix.). The second is especially modern 
and mawkish — 

But O how pale his lady look'd, 

Frae off the castle wa', 
When down before the Scottish spear 

She saw brave Percy fa' ! 
How pale and wan his lady look'd, 

Frae off the castle hieght, 
When she beheld her Percy yield 

To doughty Douglas' might. 

Colonel Elliot asks, ''Can any one believe that 
these stanzas are really ancient and have come 
down orally through many generations ? " ^ 

Certainly not ! But Colonel Elliot does not 
allow for the fact, insisted on by Professor Child, 
that traditional ballads, from the sixteenth to the 
eighteenth centuries, were often printed on broad- 
sheets as edited by the cheapest broadside-vendors' 
hacks ; that the hacks interpolated and messed their 
originals ; and that, after the broadside was worn 

^ Further Essays^ P- S8. 


out, lost, or burned, oral memory kept it alive in 
tradition. For examples of this process we have 
only to look at Williams Ghost in Herd's copy 
of 1776. This is a traditional ballad; it is in- 
cluded in Scott's Clerk Saunders, but, as Hogg 
told him, is a quite distinct song. In Herd's copy 
it ends thus — 

" Oh, stay, my only true love, stay," 

The constant Marg'ret cry'd ; 
Wan grew her cheeks, she closed her eyes. 

Stretched her soft Hmbs, and dy'd. 

Let this get into tradition, and be taken down 
from recitation, and the ballad will be denounced 
as modern. But it is essentially ancient. 

These two modern stanzas, in Hogg's copy, are 
rather too bad for Hogg's making ; and I do not 
know whether they are his (he practically says 
they are not, we shall see), or whether they are 
remembered by reciters from a stall-copy of the 
period of Lady Wardlaw's Hardyknute. 

After that, Hogg's copy becomes more natural. 

Douglas says to the discomfited Percy (x.) — 

Had we twa been upon the green, 

And never an eye to see, 
I should hae had ye flesh and fell. 

But your sword shall gae wi' me. 

That rings true ! Moreover, had either Hogg 
or Scott tampered here (Scott excised), either 
would have made Douglas carry off — not Percy's 
sword, but the historic captured pennon of Percy. 


Scott really could not have resisted the temptation 
had he been interpolating a son ddvis. 

But your pennoii shall gae wi' me ! 

It was easy to write in that ! 

Percy had challenged Douglas thus — 

But gae ye up to Otterburn, 
And there wait days three (xi.), 

as in the English (xiii.). In the English, Percy, 
we saw, promises game enough there ; in Hogg, 
Douglas demurs (xii., xiii., xiv.). There are no 
supplies at Otterburn, he says — 

To feed my men and me. 

The deer rins wild frae dale to dale, 
The birds fly wild frae tree to tree, 

And there is neither bread nor kale, 
To fend my men and me. 

These seem to me sound true ballad lines, like — 

My hounds may a' rin masterless 
My hawks may fly frae tree to tree, 

in Child's variant of Young Beichan. The 
speakers, we see, are "inverted." Percy, in the 
English, promises Douglas's men pheasants — 
absurd provision for the army of 40,000 men of 
the Enolish ballad. In the Ettrick text Douorlas 
says that there are no supplies, merely fercB 
naturcB, but he will wait at Otterburn to give 
Percy his chance. 

Colonel Elliot takes the inversion of parts as a 


proof of modern pilfering and deliberate change to 
hide the theft ; at least he mentions them, and the 
"prettier verses," with a note of exclamation (!).i 
But there are, we repeat, similar inversions in the 
English and in Herd's old copy, and nobody says 
that Scott or Hogg or any modern faker made 
the inversions in Herd's text. The differences and 
inversions in the English and in Herd are very 
ancient ; by 1550 " the Percy and the Montgomery 
met," in the line quoted in The Complaynte of 
Scotland. At about the same period (1550) it 
was the Percy and the Douglas who met, in the 
English version. Manifestly there pre-existed, by 
1550, an old ballad, which either a Scot then 
perverted from the English text, or an Englishman 
from the Scots. Thus the inversions in the 
Ettrick and English version need not be due (they 
are not due) to a modern " faker." 

In the Hogg MS. (xxiii.), Percy wounds 
Douglas "till backwards he did flee." Hogg 
was too good a Scot to interpolate the flight of 
Douglas ; and Scott was so good a Scot that — 
what do you suppose he did? — he excised "till 
backwards he did flee" from Hogg's text, and 
inserted "that he fell to the ground" from the 
English text I 

In the Hogg MS. (xviii., xix.), in Scott xvii., 
xviii., Douglas, at Otterburn, is roused from sleep by 
his page with news of Percy's approach. Douglas 

^ Further Essays, p. 31. 


says that the page lies (compare Herd, where 
Douglas doubts the page) — 

For Percy hadna' men yestreen 
To dight my men and me. 

There is nothing in this to surprise any one 
who knows the innumerable variants in traditional 
ballads. But now comes in a very curious varia- 
tion (Hogg MS. XX., Scott, xix.). Douglas says 
(Hogg MS. XX.)— 

But I have seen a dreary dream 

Beyond the Isle o' Skye, 
I saw a dead man won the fight, 

And I think that man was I. 

Here is something not in Herd, and as remote 
from the manner of the English poet, with his 

The Chronicle will not lie, 

as Heine is remote from, say, — Milman. The 
verse is magical, it has haunted my memory since 
I was ten years old. Godscroft, who does 
not approve of the story of Douglas's murder 
by one of his men, writes that the dying leader 
said : — 

" First do yee keep my death both from our 
own folke and from the enemy" (Froissart, "Let 
neither friend nor foe know of my estate ") ; " then 
that ye suffer not my standard to be lost or cast 
downe " (Froissart, " Up with my standard and call 
Douglas ! " ;) " and last, that ye avenge my death " 
(also in Froissart). " Bury me at Melrose Abbey 


with my father. If I could hope for these things 
I should die with the greater contentment ; for 
long since I heard a prophesie that a dead mart 
should winne a field, and I hope in God it shall 

be ir^ 

I saw a dead man won the fight, 
And I think that man was I ! 

Godscroft, up to the mention of Melrose and 
the prophecy, took his tale direct from Froissart, 
or, if he took it from George Buchanan's Latin 
History, Buchanan's source was Froissart, but 
Froissart's was evidence from Scots who were in 
the battle. 

But who changed the prophecy to a dream of 
Douglas, and who versified Godscroft's "a dead 
man shall winne a field, and I hope in God it 
shall be I " ? Did Godscroft take that from the 
ballad current in his time and quoted by him ? Or 
did a reinanieur of Godscroft turn his words into 

I saw a dead man win the fight, 
And I think that man was I ? 

Scott did not make these two noble lines out of 
Godscroft, he found them in Hogg's copy from 
recitation, only altering " I saw " into " I dreamed," 
and the ungrammatic "won" into "win"; and 
•'/>5^ fight" into ''a fight." 

The whole dream stanza occurs in a part of 
the ballad where Hogg confesses to no alteration 

^ Godscroft, ed. 1644, p. 100 ; Child, part vi. p. 295. 


or interpolation, and I doubt if the Shepherd of 
Ettrick had read a rare old book like Godscroft. 
If he had not, this stanza is purely traditional ; if 
he had, he showed great genius in his use of 

In Hogg's Ettrick copy, Douglas, after telling 
his dream, rushes into battle, is wounded by 
Percy, and "backward flees." Scott (xx.), follow- 
ing a historical version (Wyntoun's Cronykil), 

Douglas forget the helmit good 
That should have kept his brain. 

Being wounded, in Hogg's version, and " back- 
ward fleeing," Douglas sends his page to bring 
Montgomery (Hogg), and from stanza xxiv. to 
xxxiv., in Hogg, all is made up by himself, he says, 
from facts given "in plain prose" by his reciters, 
with here and there a line or two given in verse. 
Scott omitted some verses here, amended others 
slightly, by help of Herd's version, left out a broken 
last stanza (xl.) and put in Herd's concluding lines 
(stanza Ixviii. in the English text). 

This deed was done at the Otterburn. (Herd.) 
The fraye began at Otterburn. (English.) 

Now what was the broken Ettrick stanza that 
Scott omitted in his published Otte^'burne (1^06)} 
It referred to Sir Hugh Montgomery, who, in 
Herd, captured Percy after a fight ; in the English 


version is a prisoner apparently exchanged for 
Percy. In the Ettrick MS. the omitted verse is 

He left not an Englishman on the field 

That he hadna either killed or taen 
Ere his heart's blood was cauld. 

Scott ended with Herd's last stanza ; in the 
English version the last but two. 

Now the death, at Otterburn, of Sir Hugh, is 
recorded in an English ballad styled The Hunting 
of the Cheviot. By 1540-50 it was among the 
popular songs north of Tweed. The Complaynte 
of Scotland (1549) mentions among "The Songis 
of Natural Music of the Antiquitie " {volkslieder), 
The Hunttis of Chevet. Our copy of the English 
version is in the Bodleian (MS. Ashmole, 48). It 
ends : " Expliceth, quod Rychard Sheale," a minstrel 
who recited ballads and tales at Tamworth 
(circ. 1559). The text was part of his stock-in- 

The Cheviot ballad, in a Scots form popular 
in 1549, is later in many ways than the English 
Battle of Otterburne. It begins with a brag of 
Percy, a vow that, despite Douglas, he will hunt in 
the Cheviot hills. While Percy is hunting with 
a strong force, Douglas arrives with another. 
Douglas offers to decide the quarrel by single 
combat with Percy, who accepts. Richard 
Witherington refuses to look on quietly, and a 
general engagement ensues. 


At last the Duglas and the Perse met, 
Lyk to Captayns of myght and of mayne, 
They swapte together tylle they both swat 
With swordes that wear of fyn myllan." 

We are back in stanza 1. of the English 
Otterburne, in stanza xxxv. (substituting Hugh 
Montgomery for Douglas) of the Hogg MS. 
In The Hitnting, Douglas is slain by an English 
arrow (xxxvi.-xxxviii.). 

Sir Hugh Montgomery now charges and slays 
Percy (who, of course, was merely taken prisoner). 
An archer of Northumberland sends an arrow 
through good Sir Hugh Montgomery (xliii.-xlvi.). 
Stanza Ixvi. has 

At Otterburn begane this spurne, 

Upon a Monnynday ; 
There was the doughte Douglas slean, 

The Perse never went away. 

This is a form of Herd's stanza xiv. of the 
English Otterburn (Ixviii.), made soon after the 
battle. We see that the original ballad has 
protean variants ; in time all is mixed in tradi- 

Now the curious and interesting point is that 
Hogg, when he collected the ballad from two 
reciters, himself noticed that the Cheviot ballad 
had merged, in some way, into the Otterburn 
ballad, and pointed this out to Scott. I now 
publish Hogg's letter to Scott, in which, as usual, 
he does not give the year-date : I think it was 


Ettrick House, Sept. 10, [? 1805]. 
Dear Sir, — Though I have used all diligence in my power 
to recover the old song about which you seemed anxious, I am 
afraid it will arrive too late to be of any use. I cannot at this 
time have Grame and Bewick ; the only person who hath it being 
absent at a harvest ; and as for the scraps of Otterburn which you 
have got, they seem to have been sovie confiised ju77ible made by 
some perso?i who had learned both the songs you have} and in 
time had been straitened to make one out of them both. But 
you shall have it as I had it, saving that, as usual, I have some- 
times helped the metre without altering one original word. 

HoofQ- here pfives his version from recitation as 
far as stanza xxiv. 

Here Hogg stops and writes : — 

The ballad, which I have collected from two different 
people, a crazy old man and a woman deranged in her mind, 
seems hitherto considerably entire ; but now, when it becomes 
most interesting, they have both failed me, and I have been 
obliged to take much of it in plain prose. However, as none of 
them seemed to know anything of the history save what they 
had learned from the song, I took it the more kindly. Any 
few verses which follow are to me unintelligible. 

He told Sir Hugh that he was dying, and ordered him to 
conceal his body, and neither let his own men nor Piercy's 
know ; which he did, and the battle went on headed by Sir Hugh 
Montgomery, and at length 

Here follow stanzas up to xxxviii. 

Hogg then goes on thus : — 

Piercy seems to have been fighting devilishly in the dark. 
Indeed my narrators added no more, but told me that Sir Hugh 
died on the field, but that 

He left not an Englishman on the field, 

• ••••• 

That he hadna either killed or ta'en 
Ere his heart's blood was cauld. 

^ The Hunting of the Cheviot, and Herd's Otterburn. 


Almonshire (Stanza iii.) may probably be a corruption of 
Bamburghshire, but as both my narrators called it so I thought 
proper to preserve it. The towers in Roxburgh fells (Stanza iii.) 
may not be so improper as we were thinking, there may have been 
some [English] strength on the very borders. — I remain, Dear 
Sir, your most faithful and affectionate servant, James Hogg. 

Hogg adds a postscript : 

Not being able to get the letter away to the post, I have 
taken the opportunity of again pumping my old friend's memory, 
and have recovered some more lines and half lines of Otterburn, 
of which I am becoming somewhat enamoured. These I have 
been obliged to arrange somewhat myself, as you will see below, 
but so mixed are they with original lines and sentences that I 
think, if you pleased, they might pass without any acknowledgment. 
Sure no man will like an old song the worse of being somewhat 
harmonious. After stanza xxiv. you may read stanzas xxv. to 
xxxiv. Then after xxxviii. read xxxix. 

Now we know all that can be known about the 
copy of the ballad which, in 1805, Scott received 
from Hogg. Up to stanza xxiv. it is as given by 
the two old reciters. The crazy man may be the daft 
man who recited to Hogg Burns's Tarn Shanter, 
and inspired him with the ambition to be a poet. 
The deranged woman, like mad Madge Wildfire, 
was rich in ballad scraps. From stanza xxv. to 
xxxiv., Hogg confessedly "harmonises" what he 
got in plain prose intermixed with verse. Stanza 
xxxix. is apparendy Hogg's. The last broken 
stanza, as Hogg said, is a reminiscence of the Hunt- 
ing of the Cheviot, in a Scots form, long lost. 

Hogg was not a scientific collector : had he 
been, he would have taken down " the plain prose " 



and the broken lines and stanzas verbally. But 
Hogg has done his best. 

We have next to ask, How did Scott treat the 
material thus placed before him ? He dropped five 
stanzas sent by Hogg, mainly from the part made 
up from "plain prose"; he placed in a stanza and 
a line or two from Herd's text ; he remade a stanza 
and adopted a line from the English of 1550, and 
inserted an incident from Wyntoun's Cronykil 
(about 1430). He did these things in the effort 
to construct what Lockhart calls "a standard text." 
I. In stanza i., for Hogg's "Douglas went,'' 
Scott put "bound him to ride." 

"With the Lindsays." 
" With them the Lindesays." 
" Bamborouahshire." 
" Roxburgh." 
" Reidswire." 
" The border again." 
"The border fells." 
''Most furiously." 
''Right furiouslie." 
A modernised stanza. 
Scott deletes it. 
Scott rewrites the stanza thus, 

But I will stay at Otterburn, 

Where you shall welcome be ; 
And if ye come not at three days end, 
A coward I'll call thee. 






















"Thither will I come," proud Percy said, 

"By the might of Om- Ladye." 
" Thei'e will I bide thee," said the Douglas, 

"My troth I'll plight to thee." 

19. {^.) " I have seen sl dreary dream." 

20. (S.) " I have dreamed -a. dreary dream." 

21. {H) 

Where he met with the stout Percy 
And a' his goodly train. 

21. (5.) 

But he forgot the helmet good 
That should have kept his brain. 

(From Wyntoun.) 

22. (^.) Line 2. " Right keen." 
\s.) Line 2. "Fu'fain." 
Line 4. 

The blood ran down like rain. 

Line 4. 

The blood ran them between. 

But Piercy wi' his good broadsword 
Was made o' the metal free, 

24. (5.) 

Has wounded Douglas on the brow 
Till backward did he flee. 

But Piercy wi' his broadsword good 
That could so sharply wound, 

Has wounded Douglas on the brow, 
Till he fell to the ground. 

25. (^H.) Here Hogg has mixed prose and 
verse, and does his best. Scott deletes Hogg's 25. 

27. (H.) Douglas repeats the story of his dream. 
Scott deletes the stanza. 


28. In Hogg's second line, 

Nae mair I'll fighting see. 

Scott gives, from Herd, 

Take thou the vanguard of the three. 

29. Hogg's verse is 

But tell na ane of my brave men 

That I lie bleeding wan, 
But let the name of Douglas still 

Be shouted in the van. 

This is precisely what Douglas does say, in 
Froissart, but Scott deletes the stanza. Probably 
Hogg got the fact from his reciters, " in plain 
prose," with a phrase or two in verse. 

31. {H.) Line 4. 

On yonder lily lee. 

27. {S.) 

That his merrie men might not see. 

33. [H.) Scott deletes the stanza. 
35- {H.) 

When stout Sir Hugh wi' Piercy met. 

30. (S.) 

The Percy and Montgomery met.^ 

36. (H.) 

" O yield thee, Piercy," said Sir Hugh, 
" O yield, or ye shall die ! " 
" Fain would I yield," proud Percy said, 
" But ne'er to loon like thee." 

31. [S.) 

" Now yield thee, yield thee, Percy," he said, 
" Or else I vow I'll lay thee low," 

'^ Herd, and Complaynte of Scotland^ I549- 


"To whom must I yield," quoth Earl Percy, 
"Now that I see it must be so?" 

Scott took this from Charles Kirkpatrick 
Sharpe's MS. copy.^ 

38. (H.) 

T,2>. (S.) Scott makes a slight verbal alteration. 

39. (H.) Line i. 

34. (S.) Line i. 

Scott substitutes Herd's 

As soon as he knew it was Montgomery. 

40. (//.) Hogg's broken stanza on the death 
of Montgomery, derived from a lost form of the 
Huntiss of Ckevets, named in The Complaynte of 

35. (kS*.) Scott omits giving the formula common 
to the English of 1550 and to Herd. This was the 
whole of Scott's editorial alteration. Any one may 
discover the facts from Professor Kittredge's useful 
abbreviation of Child's collection into a single 
volume (Nutt. London, 1905). Colonel Elliot 
quotes Professor Kittredge's book three or four 
times, but in place of looking at the facts he abounds 
in the Higher Criticism. Colonel Elliot says that 
Scott does not tell us of a single line having been 
borrowed from Percy's version.^ Scott has only 
"a sinsfle line " to tell of, the fourth line in his 
stanza xxii., " Till he fell to the oround." 


^ Child, part ix. p. 244, stanza xiii. 
^ Further Essays, p. 27. 


For the rest, the old English version and 
Herd's have many inter-borrowings of stanzas, but 
we do not know whether a Scot borrowed from an 
Englishman, or vice versa. Thus, in another and 
longer traditional version — Hogg's — more corres- 
pondence must be expected than in Herd's fourteen 
stanzas. It is, of course, open to scepticism to allege 
that Hogg merely made his text, invented the two 
crazy old reciters, and the whole story about them, 
and his second "pumping of their memories," 
invented " Almonshire," which he could not under- 
stand, and invented his last broken stanza on the 
death of Montgomery, to give the idea that The 
Himtiss of Chevets was mingled in the recollections 
of the reciters with The Battle of Otterbuvji. He 
also gave the sword in place of the pennon of 
Percy as the trophy of Douglas, " and the same 
with intent to deceive," just as he pretended, in 
Auld Maitland, not to know what " springwalls " 
were, and wrote "springs: wall-stanes." If this 
probable theory be correct, then Scott was the 
dupe of Truthful James. At all events, though 
for three years Scott was moving heaven and earth 
and Ettrick Forest to find a copy of a Scottish 
ballad of Otterburn, he did not sit down and make 
one, as, in Colonel Elliot's system, he easily could 
and probably would have done. 

Before studying his next ill deed, we must 
repeat that the Otterburn ballads prove that in 
early times one nation certainly pirated a ballad 


of a rival nation, and very ingeniously altered it 
and inverted the parts of the heroes. 

We have next to examine a case in a later 
generation, in which a maker who was interested 
in one clan, pirated, perverted, and introverted 
the roles of the heroes in a ballad by a maker 
interested in another clan. Either an Elliotophile 
perverted a ballad by a Scottophile, or a Scotto- 
phile perverted a ballad by an Elliotophile. 

This might be done at the time when the 
ballad was made (say 1620-60). But Colonel 
Elliot believes that the perversion was inflicted 
on an Elliotophile ballad by a Scottophile 
impostor about 1 800-1 802. The name of this 
desperate and unscrupulous character was Walter 
Scott, Sheriff of Ettrick Forest, commonly called 

In this instance I have no manuscript evidence. 
The name of "Jamie of the Fair Dodhead," the 
ballad, appears in a list of twenty-two ballads in 
Sir Walter's hand, written in a commonplace 
book about 1 800-1 801. Eleven are marked X. 
" Jamie " is one of that eleven. Kmmont Willie 
is among the eleven not marked X. We may 
conjecture that he had obtained the first eleven, 
and was hunting for the second eleven, — some of 
which he never got, or never published. 




The Ballad of Jamie Telfer of the Fair Dodhead 
has many charms for lovers of the Border. The 
swift and simple stanzas carry us through a great 
tract of country, which remains not unlike what it 
was in the days when Scotts, Armstrongs, and 
Elliots rode the hills in jack and knapscap, with 
sword and lance. The song leads us first, with a 
foraging party of English riders, from Bewcastle, 
an English hold, east of the Border stream of the 
Liddel ; then through the Armstrong tribe, on the 
north bank ; then through more Armstrongs north 
across Tarras water ("Tarras for the good bull 
trout"); then north up Ewes water, that springs 
from the feet of the changeless grreen hills and the 
pastorzmi loca vasta, where now only the shepherd 
or the angler wakens the cry of the curlews, but 
where then the Armstrongs were in force. We 

ride on, as it were, and look down into the dale of 



the stripling Teviot, electro clarior (then held by 
the Scotts) ; we descend and ford " Borthwick's 
roaring strand," as Leyden sings, though the burn 
is usually a purling brook even where it joins 
Teviot, three miles above Hawick. 

Next we pass across the green waves of moor- 
lands that rise to the heights over Ettrick (held 
by the Scotts), whence the foragers of the song 
gallop down to "The Fair Dodhead," now a heap 
of grass-covered stones, but in their day a peel 
tower, occupied, acco7^ding to the ballad, by one 
James Telfer. The English rob the peel tower, 
they drive away ten cows, and urge them south- 
wards over Borthwick water, then across Teviot 
at Coultart Cleugh (say seven miles above 
Hawick), then up the Frostily burn, and so down 
Ewes water as before ; but the Scottish pursuers 
meet them before they cross the Liddel again 
into English bounds. The English are defeated, 
their captain is shot through the head (which in no 
way affects his power of making speeches) ; he is 
taken, twenty or thirty of his men are killed or 
wounded, his own cattle are seized, and his victim, 
Telfer, returns rejoicing to Dodhead in distant 

Cest fnagnifiqtie, mats ce nest pas la guerre I 
These events never occurred, as we shall see later, 
yet the poet has the old reiving spirit, the full 
sense of the fierce manly times, and possesses a 
traditional knowledge of the historical personages 


of the day, and knows the country, — more or 

The poem has raised as many difficulties as 
Nestor's long story about raided cattle in the 
eleventh book of the Iliad. Historical Greece 
knew but dimly the places which were familiar to 
Nestor, the towns that time had ruined, the hill 
where Athene "turned the people again." We, 
too, have to seek in documents of the end of the 
sixteenth century, or in an old map of 1654 
(drawn about 1600), to find Dodhead, Catslack, 
or Catloch, or Catlock hill, and Preakinhaugh, 
places essential to our inquiry. 

I see the student who has ventured so far into 
my tract wax wan ! He does not, — she does not, 
— wish to hear about dusty documents and ancient 
maps. For him or for her the ballad is enough, 
and a very good ballad it is. I would shake the 
faith of no man in the accuracy of the ballad tale, 
if it were not necessary for me to defend the 
character of Sir Walter Scott, which, on occasion 
of this and other ballads, is impugned by Colonel 
the Hon. FitzWilliam Elliot. He "hopes, though 
he cannot expect," that I will give my reasons for 
not sharinQT his belief that Sir Walter did a certain 
thing which I could not easily palliate.^ 

1 Fu7-ther Essays on Border Ballads, p. 184. Andrew Elliot, 
1910. To be quoted as F. E. B. B. The other work on the subject 
is Colonel Elliot's The Trustworthiness of the Border Ballads. 
Black woods, 1906. 




My attempts to relieve Colonel Elliot from his 
painful convictions about Sir Walter's unsports- 
manlike behaviour must begin with proof that the 
ballad, as it stands, cannot conceivably be other 
than "a pack o' lees." Here Colonel Elliot, to a 
great extent and on an essential point, agrees with 
me. In sketching rapidly the story of the ballad, 
— the raid from England into Ettrick, the return 
of the raiders, the pursuit, — I omitted the cloit, the 
pivot, the central point of dramatic interest. It 
is this : in one version of the ballad, — call it A 
for the present, — the unfortunate Telfer runs to ask 
aid from the laird of Buccleuch, at Branksome 
Hall, some three and a half or four miles above 
Hawick, on the Teviot. From the Dodhead it was 
a stiff run of eight miles, through new-fallen snow. 
The farmer of Dodhead, in the centre of the Scott 
country, naturally went for help to the nearest of his 
neighbours, the greatest chief in the mid-Border. 
In version A (which I shall call "the Elliot ver- 
sion "), " auld Buccleuch " (who was a man of about 
thirty in fact) was deaf to Telfer's prayer. 

Gae seek your succour frae Martin Elliot, 

For succour ye's get nane frae me, 
Gae seek your succour where ye paid blackmail. 

For, man, ye ne'er paid money to me. 


This is impossibly absurd ! As Colonel Elliot 
writes, "I pointed out in my book" {The Trust- 
worthiness of Border Ballads^ "that the allegation 
that Buccleuch had refused to strike a blow at a 
party of English raiders, who had insolently ridden 
some twenty-five miles into Scottish ground and 
into the very middle of his own territory, was too 
absurd to be believed. . . ."^ 

Certainly ; and the story is the more ridiculous 
as Buccleuch (who has taken Telfer's protection- 
money, or " blackmail ") pretends to believe that 
Telfer — living in Ettrick, about nine miles from 
Selkirk — pays protection-money to Martin Elliot, 
residing at Preakinhaugh, high up the water of 
Liddel. Martin was too small a potentate, and far 
too remote to be chosen as protector by a man 
living near the farm of Singlee on Ettrick, and 
near the bold Buccleuch. 

All this is nonsense. Colonel Elliot sees that, 
and suggests that all this is not by the original 
poet, but has been "inserted at some later period."^ 
But, if so, what was the original ballad before the 
insertion ? As it stands, all hinges on this impos- 
sible refusal of Buccleuch to help his neighbour and 
retainer, James Telfer. If Colonel Elliot excises 
Buccleuch's refusal of aid as a later interpolation, 
and if he allows Telfer to reach Branksome and 
receive the aid which Buccleuch would rejoice to 
give, then the Elliot version of the ballad cannot 
1 F. E. B. B., p. 199. 2 p^ £•. ^. s., p. 200. 


take a further step. It becomes a Scott ballad, 
Buccleuch sends out his Scotts to pursue the 
English raiders, and the Elliots, if they come in at 
all, must only be subordinates. But as the Elliot 
version stands, it is Buccleuch's refusal to do his 
duty that compels poor Jamie to run to his brother- 
in-law, "auld Jock Grieve" in Coultartcleugh, four 
miles higher on Teviot than Branksome. Jock 
gives him a mount, and he rides to *' Martin's 
Hab" at " Catlockhill," a place unknown to 
research thereabout. Thence they both ride to 
Martin Elliot at Preakinhaugh, high up in Liddes- 
dale, and the Elliots under Martin rescue Jamie's kye. 
Now the original ballad, if it did not contain 
Buccleuch's refusal of aid to Telfer (which refusal 
is a thing " too absurd to be believed ") must 
merely have told about the rescue of Jamie's kye 
by the Scotts, Wat of Harden, and the rest. If 
Buccleuch did not refuse help he gave it, and there 
was no ride by Telfer to Martin Elliot. Therefore, 
without a passage "too absurd to be believed" 
(Buccleuch's refusal), there could be no Elliots in 
the story. The alternative is, that Telfer in 
Ettrick did pay blackmail to a man so remote as 
Elliot of Preakinhauoh, thouofh Buccleuch was his 
chief and his neighbour. This is absurd. Yet 
Colonel Elliot firmly maintains that the version, in 
which the Elliots have all the glory and Buccleuch 
all the shame, is the original version, and is true on 
essential points. 


That is only possible if we cut out the verses 
about Buccleuch and make an Ettrick man not appeal 
to him, but sfo direct to a Liddesdale man for succour. 
He must run from Dodhead to Coultartcleugh, get 
a horse from Jock Grieve (Buccleuch's man and 
tenant), and then ride into Liddesdale to Martin. 
But an Ettrick man, in a country of Scotts, would 
inevitably go to his chief and neighbour, Buccleuch : 
it is inconceivable that he should choose the remote 
Martin Elliot as his protector, and go to him. 

Thus, as a corollary from Colonel Elliot's own 
disbelief in the Buccleuch incident, the Elliot 
version of the ballad must be absolutely false and 

If Colonel Elliot leaves in the verses on Buc- 
cleuch's refusal, he leaves in what he calls "too 
absurd to be believed." If he cuts out these verses 
as an interpolation, then Buccleuch lent aid to 
Telfer, and there was no occasion to approach 
Martin Elliot. Or, by a third course, the Elliot 
ballad originally made an Ettrick man, a neighbour 
of the great Buccleuch, never dream of appealing to 
hi7n for help, but run to Coultartcleugh, four miles 
above Buccleuch's house, and thence make his way 
over to distant Liddesdale to Martin Elliot ! Yet 
Colonel Elliot says that in what I call " the Elliot 
version," " the story defies criticism." ^ Now, 
however you take it, — I give you three choices, — 
the story is absolutely impossible. 

^ Trustworthiness of the Border Ballads, p. vi. 


This Elliot version was unknown to lovers of 
the ballads, till the late Professor Child of Harvard, 
the greatest master of British ballad-lore that ever 
lived, in his beautiful English and Scottish Popular 
Ballads, printed it from a manuscript belonging 
to Mr. Macmath, which had previously been the 
property of a friend of Scott, Charles Kirkpatrick 
Sharpe. This version is entitled "Jamie Telfer in 
the Fair Dodhead," not ''of'' : Jamie was a tenant 
(there was no Jamie Telfer tenant of Dodhead in 
1 5 70- 1 609, but concerning that I have more to 
say). Jamie was no laird. 

Before Professor Child's publication of the 
Elliot version, we had only that given by Scott 
in The Border Minstrelsy of 1802. Now Scott's 
version is at least as absurdly incredible as the 
Elliot version. In Scott's version the unhappy 
Jamie runs, not to Branksome and Buccleuch, to 
meet a refusal ; but to "the Stobs's Ha'" (on Slit- 
terick above Hawick) and to " auld Gibby Elliot," 
the laird. Elliot bids him go to Branksome and 
the laird of Buccleuch, 

For, man, ye never paid money to me ! 

Naturally Telfer did not pay to Elliot : he paid 
to Buccleuch, if to any one. More, till after the 
Union of 1603, ^"^^ the end of Border raids, 
Gilbert Elliot, a cousin and friend of Buccleuch, 
was not the owner of Stobs. The Hon. George 
Elliot pointed out this fact in his Border Elliots 


and the Family of Minlo : Colonel Elliot rightly 
insists on this point. 

The Scott version is therefore as hopelessly- 
false as the Elliot version. The Elliot version, 
with the Buccleuch incident, is "too absurd to 
be believed," and could not have been written 
(except in banter of Buccleuch), while men remem- 
bered the customs of the sixteenth century. The 
Scott version, again, could not be composed before 
the tradition arose that Gilbert Elliot was laird of 
Stobs before the Union of the Crowns in 1603. 
Now that tradition was in full force on the Border 
before 1688. We know that (see chapter on 
Kin77iont Willie, infra), for, in 1688, a man born 
in 1 613, Captain Walter Scott of Satchells, in his 
Metrical History of the Honourable Families of 
the Names of Scott and Elliot, represents Gilbert 
Elliot of Stobs as riding with Buccleuch in the 
rescue of Kinmont Willie, in 1596.^ Now Sat- 
chells's own father rode in that fray, he says,^ and he 
gives a minute genealogy of the Elliots of Stobs.^ 

Thus the belief that Gilbert Elliot was laird of 
Stobs by 1596 was current in the traditions of a 
man born seventeen years after 1596. The Scott 
version rests on that tradition, and is not earlier 
than the rise of that erroneous belief. 

Neither the Scott nor Elliot version is other 
than historically false. But the Scott version, if we 

^ Satchells, pp. 13, 14. Edition of 1892. 

^ Ibid., p. 14. ^ Ibid., part ii. pp. 35, 36. 


cut out the reference to auld Gibby Elliot, offers a 
conceivable, though not an actual, course of events. 
The Elliot version, if we excise the Buccleuch 
incident, does not. Cutting out the Buccleuch 
incident, Telfer goes all the way from Ettrick to 
Liddesdale, seeking help in that remote country, and 
never thinks of asking aid from Buccleuch, his neigh- 
bour and chief. This is idiotic. I n the Scott version, 
if we cut out the refusal of Gilbert Elliot of Stobs, 
Telfer goes straight to his brother-in-law, auld Jock 
Grieve, within four miles of Buccleuch at Brank- 
some ; thence to another friend, William's Wat, 
at Catslockhill (now Branksome-braes), and so to 
Buccleuch at Branksome. This is absurd enough. 
Telfer would have gone straight to Branksome and 
Buccleuch, unless he were a poor shy small farmer, 
who wanted sponsors, known to Buccleuch. Jock 
Grieve and William's Wat, both of them retainers 
and near neighbours of Buccleuch, were such 
sponsors. Granting this, the Scott version runs 
smoothly, Telfer goes to his sponsors, and with his 
sponsors to Buccleuch, and Buccleuch's men rescue 
his kye. 


COLONEL Elliot's charge against sir walter 


Colonel Elliot believes generally in the historical 
character of the ballad as given in the Elliot version, 


but " is inclined to think that " the original poet 
" never wrote the stanza " (the stanza with 
Buccleuch's refusal) " at all, and that it has been 
inserted at some later period." ^ In that case 
Colonel Elliot is "inclined to think" that an 
Ettrick farmer, robbed by the English, never 
dreamed of going to his neighbour and potent 
chief, but went all the way to Martin Elliot, high 
up in Liddesdale, to seek redress ! Surely few 
can share the Colonel's inclination. Why should 
a farmer in Ettrick " choose to lord " a remote 
Elliot, when he had the Cock of the Border, the 
heroic Buccleuch, within eight miles of his home ? 

Holding these opinions. Colonel Elliot, with 
deep regret — 

I wat the tear blinded his ee — 

accuses Sir Walter Scott of havino- taken the Elliot 
version — till then the only version — and of having 
altered stanzas vii.-xi. (in which Jamie goes to 
Branksome, and is refused succour) into his own 
stanzas vii.-xi., in which Jamie goes to Stobs and 
is refused succour. This evil thing Scott did, thinks 
Colonel Elliot. Scott had no copy, he thinks, of the 
ballad except an Elliot copy, which he deliberately 

We must look into the facts of the case. I 
know no older published copy of the ballad than 
that of Scott, in Border Minstrelsy, vol. i. p. 91 

1 F. E. B. B., p. 200. 


et seqq. (1802). Professor Child quotes a letter 
from the Ettrick shepherd to Scott of "June 30, 
1S02" thus: "I am surprised to find that the 
songs in your collection differ so widely from my 
mother's \ Jamie 7>//6'?' differs in many particulars."^ 
(This is an incomplete quotation. I give the MS. 
version later.) 

Scott himself, before Hogg wrote thus, had 
said, in the prefatory note to his Jamie Telfe^^ : 
"There Is another ballad, under the same title as 
the following, in which nearly the same incidents 
are narrated, with little difference, except that the 
honour of rescuino- the cattle is attributed to the 
Liddesdale Elliots, headed by a chief there called 
Martin Elliot of the Preakin Tower, whose son, 
Simm, is said to have fallen in the action. It is 
very possible that both the Teviotdale Scotts and 
the Elliots were engaged in the affair, and that 
each claimed the honour of the victory." 

Old Mrs. Hogg's version, " differing in many 
particulars " from Scott's, must have been the Elliot 
version, published by Professor Child, as "A*," 
" Jamie Telfer in' (not "^/") " the Fair Dodhead," 
"from a MS. written about the beQ-innino- of the 
nineteenth century, and now in the possession of 
Mr. William Macmath"; it had previously belonged 
to Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe.^ 

^ Child, English a?id Scottish Popular Ballads, part viii. p. 51 8. 
He refers to " Letters I. No. 44" in MS. 

2 See Sargent and Kittredge's reduced edition of Child, p. 467, 
1905. They pubhsh this Elliot version only. The version has 


There is one great point of difference between 
the two forms. In Sir Walter's variant, verse 26 
summons the Scotts of Teviotdale, includino- Wat 
of Harden. In his 28 the Scotts ride with the 
slogan " Rise for Branksome readily." Scott's 
verses 34, 36, and the two first lines of 38, are, 
if there be such a thing as internal evidence, from 
his own pen. Such lines as 

The Dinlay snavv was ne'er mair white 
Nor the lyart locks o' Harden's hair 

are cryingly modern and " Scottesque." 

That Sir Walter knew the other version, as in 
Mr. Macmath's MS. of the early nineteenth century, 
is certain ; he describes that version in his preface. 
That he effected the whole transposition of Scotts 
for Elliots is Colonel Elliot's opinion. ^ 

If Scott did, I am not the man to defend his 
conduct ; I regret and condemn it ; and shall try to 
prove that he found the matter in his copy, I shall 
first prove, beyond possibility of doubt, that the 
ballad is, from end to end, utterly unhistorical, 
though based on certain real incidents of 1596-97. 
I shall next show that the Elliot version is probably 
later than the Scott version. Finally, I shall make 
it certain (or so it seems to me) that Scott worked on 
an old copy which was 7iot the copy that belonged 

modern speUing. On this version and its minor variations from 
Scott's, I say more later ; Colonel Elliot gives no critical examination 
of the variations which seem to me essential. 
1 F.E. B.B.,^. 184. 


to Kirkpatrick Sharpe, but contained points of 
difference, 7iot those inserted by Sir Walter Scott 
about " Dinlay snaw," and so forth. 



I580-1609 ? 

Colonel Elliot has made no attempt to prove 
that one Telfer was tenant of the Dodhead in 
1 580-1 603, which must, we shall see, include the 
years in which the alleged incidents occur. On 
this question — was there a Telfer in the Dodhead 
in 1580-1603? — I consulted my friend, Mr. T. 
Craig Brown, author of an excellent History of 
Selkirkshire. In that work (vol. i. p. 356) the 
author writes : " Dodhead or Scotsbank ; Dodhead 
was one of the four stedes of Redefurd in 1455. 
In 1609 Robert Scot of Satchells (ancestor of the 
poet-captain) obtained a Crown charter of the lands 
of Dodbank." For the statement that Dodhead 
was one of the three stedes in 1455, Mr. Craig 
Brown quotes "The Retoured Extent of 1628," 
"an unimpeachable authority." For the Crown 
charter of 1609, v/e have only to look up 
"Dodbank" in the Register of the Great Seal of 
1609. The charter is of November 24, 1609, and 
gratifies " Robert Scott of Satscheillis " (father of 
the Captain Walter Scott who composed the 


Metrical History of the Scotts in 1688) with the 
lands, which have been occupied by him and his 
forefathers "from a time past human memory." 
Thus, writes Mr. Craig Brown to me, "Scott of 
Satchells was undoubtedly Scott of Dodhead also 
in 1609." 

In "The Retoured Extent of 1628," ''Dodhead 
or Dodbank " appears as Harden's property. Thus 
in 1628 the place was " Dodhead or Dodbank," a 
farm that had been tenanted by Scotts "from beyond 
human memory." But Mr. Craig Brown proves 
from record that one Simpson farmed it in 15 10. 

So where does Jamie Telfer come in ? 

The farmers were Scotts, it was to their chief, 
Buccleuch, that they went when they needed aid.^ 

Thus vanishes the hero of the ballad, Jamie 
Telfer in the Fair Dodhead, and thus the ballad is 
pure fiction from end to end. 



This is only one of the impossibilities in the 
ballad. That the Captain of Bewcastle, an English 

^ Robert Scott (the poet Satchells's father) " had Southinrigg for 
his service " to Buccleuch, says Sir William Fraser, in his Memoirs 
of the House of Buccleuch. (See Satchells, 1892, pp. vii., viii.) But the 
" fathers " of Satchells " having dilapidate and engaged their Estate 
by Cautionary," poor Satchells was brought up as a cowherd, till he 
went to the wars, and never learned to write, or even, it seems, to 
read ; as he says in the Dedication of his book to Lord Yester. 


hold, stated in a letter of the period to be distant 
three miles from the frontier, the Liddel water, 
should seek "to drive a prey" from the Ettrick, 
far through the bounds of his neighbours and foes, 
Grahams, Armstrongs, Scotts, and Elliots, is a 
ridiculously absurd circumstance. 

Colonel Elliot attempts to meet this difficulty 
by his theory of the route taken by the Captain, 
which he illustrates by a map.^ The ballad gives 
no details except that the Captain found his first 
guide "high up in Hardhaughswire," which Colonel 
Elliot cannot identify. The second guide was 
"laigh down in Borthwick water." If this means 
on the lower course of the Borthwick, the Captain 
was perilously near Branksome Hall and Harden, 
and his ride was foolhardy. But "laigh down," I 
think, means merely "on lower ground than Hard- 

The Captain, as soon as he crossed the Ritter- 
ford after leaving Bewcastle, was in hostile and 
very watchful Armstrong country. This initial 
difficulty Colonel Elliot meets by marking on his 
map, as Armstrong country, the north bank of 
the Liddel down to Kershope burn ; and the 
Captain crosses Liddel below that burn at Ritter- 
ford. Thence he goes north by west, across Tarras 
water, up Ewes water, up Mickledale burn, by 
Merrylaw and Ramscleugh and so on to Howpasley, 
which is not on the lower but the upper Borthwick. 

^ The Trustworthiness of the Border Ballads, opp. p. 36. 


Looking at Colonel Elliot's chart of the 
Captain's route, all seems easy enough for the 
Captain. He does not try to ride into Teviotdale, 
for which he is making, up the Liddel water, and 
thence by the Hermitage tributary on his left. 
Colonel Elliot studs that region with names of 
Armstronor and Elliot strono-holds. He makes the 
Captain, crossing Liddel by the Ritterford, bear to 
his left, through a space empty of hostile habita- 
tions, in his map. This seems prudent, but the 
reofion thus left blank was full of the fiercest and 
most warlike of the Armstrong name. That road 
was closed to the Captain ! 

Colonel Elliot has failed to observe this fact, 
which I go on to prove, from a memoir addressed 
in 1583 to Burleigh, by Thomas Musgrave, the 
active son of the aged Captain of Bewcastle, Sir 
Simon Musgrave. Thomas describes the topo- 
graphy of the Middle Marches. He says that the 
Armstrongs hold both banks of Liddel as far south 
as " Kershope foot" (the junction of the Kershope 
with the Liddel), and hold the north side of the 
Liddel as far as its junction with the Esk.^ Thus 
on crossing Liddel by the Ritterford, the Captain 
had at once to pass through the hostile Armstrongs. 
Thereby also were Grahams with whom the Mus- 
graves of Bewcastle were in deadly feud. Farther 
down Esk, west of Esk, dwelt Kinmont Willie, an 
Armstrong, "at a place called Morton." If he did 

^ Border Papers, vol. i. pp. 120-127. 


pass so far through Armstrongs, the Captain met 
them agahi, farther north, on Tarras side, where 
Runyen Armstrong Hved at Thornythaite. Near 
him was Armstrono- of Hollhouse, Musorrave's 
great enemy. North of Tarras the Captain rode 
through Ewesdale ; there he had to deal with three 
hundred Armstrong men of the spear/ When 
he reached Ramscleuch (which he never could 
have done), the Colonel's map makes the Captain 
ride past Ramscleuch, then farmed by the Grieves, 
retainers of Buccleuch, who would warn Branksome. 
When the Captain reached Howpasley on Borth- 
wick water, he would be observed by the men of 
Scott of Howpasley, the Grieves, who could send a 
rider some six miles to warn Branksome. 

We get the same information as to the perils 
of the Captain's path from the places marked on 
Blaeu's map of 1600-54. There are Hollhouse 
and Thornythaite, Armstrong towers, and the 
active John Armstrong of Langholm can come at 
a summons. 

It seems to be a great error to suppose that the 
route chosen for the Captain by Colonel Elliot 
could lead him into anything better than a death- 
trap. I must insist that it would have been mad- 
ness for a Captain of Bewcastle to ride far through 
Armstrong country, deep into Buccleuch's country, 
and return on another line through Scott, and near 
Elliot, and through Armstrong country — and all 

^ Border Papers, vol. i. p. io6. 


for no purpose but to steal ten cows in remote 
Selkirkshire ! 

Here I may save the reader trouble, by omitting 
a great mass of detail as to the deplorable condition 
of Bewcastle itself in 1580-96. Sir Simon, the 
Captain, declares himself old and weary. The 
hold is "utterly decayed," the riders are only 
thirty-seven men fairly equipped. Soldiers are 
asked for, sometimes fifty are sent from the 
garrison of Berwick, then they are withdrawn. 
Bewcastle is forayed almost daily; "March Bills" 
minutely describe the cattle, horses, and personal 
property taken from the Captain and the people 
by the Armstrongs and Elliots. 

Once, in 1582, Thomas Musgrave slew Arthur 
Graham, a near neighbour, and took one hundred 
and sixty kye, but this only caused such a feud that 
the Musgraves could not stir safely from home. 
From 1586 onwards, Thomas Musgrave, officially 
or unofficially, was acting Captain of Bewcastle. 
He had no strength to justify him in raiding to 
remote Ettrick, through enemies who penned him 
in at Bewcastle. 

I look on Musgrave as the Captain whose 
existence is known to the ballad-maker, and I find 
the origin of the tale of his defeat and capture in 
the ballad, in a distorted memory of his actual 

On 3rd July 1596, Thomas (having got Scrope's 
permission, without which he dared not cross the 


Border on affairs of war) attempted a retalia- 
tory raid on Armstrongs within seven miles of the 
Border, the Armstrongs of Hollace, or Hollhouse. 
"He found only empty houses;" he "sought a 
prey " in vain ; he let his men straggle, and return- 
ing homeward, with some fifteen companions, he 
was ambushed by the Armstrongs near Bewcastle, 
was refused shelter by a Graham, was taken 
prisoner, and was sent to Buccleuch at Branksome. 
On 15th July he came home under a bond of ^200 
for ransom.^ As every one did, in his circum- 
stances, the Captain made out his Bill for Damages. 
It was indented on 28th April 1597. We learn 
that John (Armstrong) of Langholm, Will of 
Kinmont (not Liddesdale men), and others, who 
took him, are in the Captain's debt for "24 horses 
and mares, himself prisoner, and ransomed to ;C200, 
and 16 other prisoners, and slaughter." The 
charges are admitted by the accused ; the Captain 
is to get ;^400.^ 

In my opinion this capture of the Captain of 
Bewcastle and others, poetically handled, is, with 
other incidents, the basis of the ballad. Colonel 
Elliot says that the incident "is no proof that a 
Captain of Bewcastle was not also taken or killed 
at some other place or at some other time." But 
what Captain, and when? Sir Simon, in 1586, 
had been Captain, he says, for thirty years. 

^ Scrope, in Bo?'der Papers, vol. ii. pp. 148-152. 
2 Border Papers, vol. ii. p. 307, No. 606. 


Thenceforth till near the Union of the Crowns, 
Thomas was Captain, or acting Captain. 

So considerable an event as the takings of a 
Captain of Bewcastle, who, in the ballad, was shot 
through the head and elsewhere, could not escape 
record in dispatches, and the periodical " March 
Bills," or statements of wrongs to be redressed. 
Colonel Elliot's reply takes the shape of the 
argument that the ballad may speak of some 
other Captain, at some other time ; and that, in 
one way or another, the sufferings and losses of 
that Captain may have escaped mention in the 
English dispatches from the Border. These 
dispatches are full of minute details, down to the 
theft of a single mare. I am content to let 
historians familiar with the dispatches decide as to 
whether the Captain's mad ride into Ettrick, with 
his dangerous wounds, loss of property, and loss 
of seventeen men killed and wounded (as in the 
ballad), could escape mention. 

The capture of Thomas Musgrave, I think, 
and two other incidents, — confused in course of 
tradition, and handled by the poet with poetic 
freedom, — are the materials oi Jamie Telfer. One 
of the other incidents is of April 1597/ Here 
Buccleuch in person, on the Sabbath, burned twenty 
houses in Tynedale, and "slew fourteen men who 
had been in Scotland and brought away their 
booty." Here we have Buccleuch "on the hot 

^ Border Papers^ vol. ii. pp. 299-303 


trod," pursuing English reivers, recovering the 
spoils probably, and slaying as many of the raiders 
as the Captain lost, in the ballad. Again, not a S07i 
of Elliot of Preakinhaugh (as I had erroneously 
said), but a nephew named Martin, was slain in a 
Tynedale raid into Liddesdale/ Soldiers aided 
the English raiders. A confused memory of this 
death of Elliot's nephew in 1597 may be the 
source of the story of the death of his son, Simmy, 
in the ballad. 

Our traditional ballads all arise out of some 
germs of history, all handle the facts romantically, 
and all appear to have been composed, in their 
extant shapes, at a considerable time after the 
events. I may cite Mary Hamilton ; The Laird of 
Logie is another case in point ; there are many 

Colonel Elliot does not ao-ree with me. So 
be it. 

Colonel Elliot writes that, — in place of my 
saying that Jamie Telfer "is a mere mythical 
perversion of carefully recorded facts," — " it would 
surely be more correct to say that it is a fairly true, 
though jumbled, account of actual incidents, separ- 
ated from each other by only short periods of 
time, . . ."^ If he means, or thinks that I mean, 
that the actual facts were the capture of Musgrave 
near Bewcastle in 1596 by the Armstrongs, with 
Buccleuch's hot-trod, and Martin Elliot's slaying in 

1 Border Papers, vol. ii. p. 356. - F. E. B. B., p. 161. 


1597, I entirely agree with him that the facts are 
"jumbled." But as to the opinion that the ballad 
is "fairly true" about the raid to Ettrick (the 
Captain could not ride a mile beyond the Border 
without the Warden's permission), about the non- 
existent Jamie Telfer, about the shooting, taking, 
and plundering of the Captain, about his loss of 
seventeen men wounded and slain (he lost about as 
many prisoners), — I have given reasons for my 



We now come to the important question, Is the 
Scott version of the ballad (apart from Sir Walter's 
decorative stanzas) necessarily later than the Elliot 
version in Sharpe's copy ? The chief argument 
for the lateness of the Scott version, the presence 
of a Gilbert Elliot of Stobs at a date when this 
gentleman had not yet acquired Stobs, I have 
already treated. If the ballad is no earlier than 
the date when Elliot was believed (as by Satchells) 
to have obtained Stobs before 1596, the argument 
falls to the ground. 

Starting from that point, and granting that a 
minstrel fond of the Scotts wants to banter the 
Elliots, he may make Telfer ask aid at Stobs. 
After that, which version is better in its topo- 


graphy? Bidden by Stobs to seek Buccleuch, 
Telfer runs to Teviot, to Coultartcleugh, some four 
miles above Branksome. Branksome was nearer, 
but Telfer was shy, let us say, and did not know 
Buccleuch ; while at Coultartcleugh, Jock Grieve 
was his brother-in-law. Jock gives him a mount, 
and takes him to " Catslockhill." 

Now, no Catslockhill is known anywhere, to me 
or to Colonel Elliot. Mr. Henderson, in a note to 
the ballad,^ speaks of " Catslack in Branxholm," and 
cites the Register of the Privy Seal for 4th June 
1554, and the Register of the Privy Council for 
14th October 1592. The records are full of that 
Catslack, but it is not in Branksome. Blaeu's map 
(1600-54) gives it, with its appurtenances, on the 
north side of St. Mary's Loch. There is a Catslack 
on the north side of Yarrow, near Ladhope, on the 
southern side. Neither Catslack is the Catslockhill 
of the Scott ballad. But on evidence, "and it is 
good evidence," says Colonel Elliot,^ I prove that, 
in 1802, a place called " Catlochill " existed be- 
tween Coultartcleugh and Branksome. The place 
(Mrs. Grieve, Branksome Park, informs me) i^ 
now called Branksome-braes. On his copy of 
The Minstrelsy of 1802, Mr. Grieve, then tenant of 
Branksome Park, made a marginal note. Catlochill 
was still known to him ; it was in a commanding 
site, and had been strengthened by the art of man. 
His note I have seen and read. 

^ See his Border Minstrelsy, vol. ii. p. 15. - F. E. B. B., p. 156. 


Thus, on good evidence, there was a Catlochill, 
or Catlockhill, between Coultartcleugh and Brank- 
some. The Scott version is right in its topography. 

This fact was unknown to Colonel Elhot. Not 
knowing a Catslackhill or Catslockhill in Teviot, 
he made Scott's Telfer go to an apocryphal 
Catlockhill in Liddesdale. Professor Veitch had 
said that the Catslockhill of the ballad " is to be 
sought''' in some locality between Coultartcleugh 
and Branxholm. Colonel Elliot calls this "a 
really preposterously cool suggestion."^ Why 
" really preposterously cool " ? Being sought, the 
place is found where it had always been. Jamie 
Telfer found it, and in it his friend " William's 
Wat," who took him to the laird of Buccleuch at 

In the Elliot version, when refused aid by 
Buccleuch, Jamie ran to Coultartcleugh, — as in 
Scott's, — on his way to Martin Elliot at Preakin- 
haugh on the Liddel. Jamie next " takes the 
fray" to "the Catlockhill," and is there remounted 
by " Martin's Hab," an Elliot (not by William's 
Wat), and they "take the fray" to Martin Elliot at 
Preakinhaugh in Liddesdale. This is very well, 
but where is this " Catlockhill " in Liddesdale ? 
Is it even a real place ? 

Colonel Elliot has found no such place ; nor 
can I find it in the Registi'uni Magni Sigilii, nor 
in Blaeu's map of 1600-54. 

1 T. B. B., p. 14. 


Colonel Elliot's argument has been that the 
Elliot version, the version of the Sharpe MS., is 
the earlier, for, among other reasons, its topography 
is correct.^ It makes Telfer run from Dodhead to 
Branksome for aid, because that was the com- 
paratively near residence of the powerful Buccleuch. 
Told by Buccleuch to seek aid from Martin Elliot 
in Liddesdale, Telfer does so. He runs up Teviot 
four miles to his brother-in-law, Jock Grieve, who 
mounts him. He then rides off at a right angle, 
from Teviot to Catlockhill, says the Elliot ballad, 
where he is rehorsed by Martin's Hab, The pair 
then take the fray to Martin Elliot at Preakinhaugh 
on Liddel water, and Martin summons and leads 
the pursuers of the Captain. 

This, to Colonel Elliot's mind, is all plain 
sailing, all is feasible and natural. And so it is 
feasible and natural, if Colonel Elliot can find a 
Catlockhill anywhere between Coultartcleugh and 
Preakinhaugh. On that line, in Mr. Veitch's 
words, Catlockhill "is to be sought." But just as 
Mr. Veitch could find no Catslockhill between 
Coultartcleugh and Branksome, so Colonel Elliot 
can find no Catlockhill between Coultartcleugh 
and Preakinhaugh. He tells us ^ indeed of 
" Catlockhill on Hermitage water." But there is 
no such place known ! Colonel Elliot's method is 
to take a place which, he says, is given as " Catlie " 
Hill, "between Dinlay burn and Hermitage water, 

1 T. B. B., p. 12. 2 t; ^, ^,^ p, 12. 


on Blaeu's map of 1654." We may murmur that 
Catlie Hill is one thing and Catlock another, but 
Colonel Elliot points out that "lock" means "the 
meeting of waters," and that Catlie Hill is near 
the meeting of Dinlay burn and the Hermitage 
water. But then why does Blaeu call it, not 
Catlockhill, nor Catlie hill, nor "Catlie" even, but 
" Gat lie,' for so it is distinctly printed on my copy 
of the map ? Really we cannot take a place called 
" Gatlie Hill " and pronounce that we have found 
"Catlockhill"! Would Colonel Elliot have per- 
mitted Mr. Veitch — if Mr. Veitch had found " Gatlie 
Hill " near Branksome, in Blaeu — to aver that he 
had found Catslockhill near Branksome ? 

Thus, till Colonel Elliot produces on good 
evidence a Catlockhill between Coultartcleugh and 
Preakinhaugh, the topography of the Elliot ballad, 
of the Sharpe copy of the ballad, is nowhere, for 
neither Catliehill nor Gatliehill is Catlockhill. That 
does not look as if the Elliot were older than the 
Scott version. (There was a Sim Armstrong of 
the Cathill, slain by a Ridley of Hartswell in 1597.^) 

We now take the Scott version where Telfer 
has arrived at Branksome. Scott's stanza xxv. is 
Sharpe's xxiv. In Scott, Buccleuch ; in Sharpe, 
Martin Elliot bids his men "warn the waterside" 
(Sharpe), " warn the water braid and wide " (Scott). 
Scott's stanza xxvi. is probably his own, or may be, 
for he bids them warn Wat o' Harden, Borthwick 

^ Memoirs of Robert Carey ^ p. 98, 1808, 


water, and the Tevlot Scotts, and Gilmanscleuch — 
which is remote. Then, in xxvii., Buccleuch says — 

Ride by the gate of Priesthaughswire, 

And warn the Currors o' the Lee, 
As ye come down the Hermitage slack 

Warn doughty Willie o' Gorrinberry. 

All this is plain sailing, by the pass of Priesthaughs- 
wire the Scotts will ride from Teviot into Hermitaee 
water, and, near the Slack, they will pass Gorrin- 
berry, will call Will, and gallop down Hermitage 
water to the Liddel, where they will nick the 
returning" Captain at the Ritterford. 

The Sharpe version makes Martin order the 
warning of the waterside (xxiv.), and then Martin 
says (xxv.) — 

When ye come in at the Hermitage Slack, 
Warn doughty Will o' Gorranberry. 

Colonel Elliot^ supposes Martin (if I follow 
his meaning) to send Simmy with his command, 
back over all the course that Telfer and Martins 
Hab have already ridden : back past Shaws, near 
Braidley (a house of Martin's), past " Catlockhill," 
to Gorranberry, to "warn the waterside." But 
surely Telfer, who passed Gorranberry gates, and 
with Hab passed the other places, had "taken the 
fray," and warned the water quite sufficiently 
already. If this be granted, the Sharpe version is 
taking from the Scott version the stanza, so natural 
there, about the Hermitage Slack and Gorranberry. 

J T. D. B., pp. 19, 20. 


But Colonel Elliot infers, from stanzas xxvi., xxx., 
xxxi., that Simmy has warned the water as far as 
Gorranberry {again), has come in touch with the 
Captain, "between the Frostily and the Ritter- 
ford," and that this is "consistent only with his 
having moved up the Hermitage water." 

Meanwhile Martin, he thinks, rode with his 
men down Liddel water. But here we get into a 
maze of topographical conjecture, including the 
hypothesis that perhaps the Liddel came down in 
flood, and caused the English to make for Kers- 
hope ford instead of Ritterford, and here they 
were met by Martin's men on the Hermitage line 
of advance. I cannot find this elegant combined 
movement in the ballad ; all this seems to me 
hypothesis upon hypothesis, even granting that 
Martin sent Simmy back up Hermitage that he 
might thence cut sooner across the enemy's path. 
Colonel Elliot himself writes : "It is certain that 
after the news of the raid reached Catlockhill " 
{and Gorranberry, Telfer passed it), " it must have 
spread rapidly through Hermitage water, and it is 
most unlikely for the men of this district to have 
delayed taking action until they received instruc- 
tions from their chief." ^ 

That is exactly what I say ; but Martin says, 
"When ye come in at the Hermitage Slack, warn 
doughty Will o' Gorranberry." Why go to warn him, 
when, as Colonel Elliot says, the news is running 

1 T. B. B., p. 20. 


through Hermitage water, and the men are most 
probably acting on it, — as they certainly would do ? 

Martin's orders, in Sharpe xxv,, are taken, I 
think, from Buccleuch's, in Scott's xxvii. 

The point is that Martin had no need to warn 
men so far away as Gorranberry, — they were 
roused already. Yet he orders them to be warned, 
and about a combined movement of Martin and 
Simmy on different lines the ballad says not a 
word. All this is inference merely, inference not 
from historical facts, but from what may be guessed 
to have been in the mind of the poet. 

Thus the Elliot or Sharpe version has topo- 
graphy that will not hold water, while the Scott 
topography does hold water ; and the Elliot song 
seems to borrow the lines on the Hermitage Slack 
and Gorranberry from a form of the Scott version. 
This being the case, the original version on which 
Scott worked is earlier than the Elliot version. In 
the Scott version the rescuers must come down the 
Hermitage Slack : in the Elliot they have no 
reason for riding back to that place. 



Did Scott know no other version than that of the 
Sharpe MS. ? In Scott's version, stanza xlix., the 


last, is absent from the Elliot version, which 
concludes triumphantly, thus — 

Now on they came to the fair Dodhead, 
They were a welcome sight to see, 

And instead of his ain ten milk-kye 
Jamie Telfer's gotten thirty and three. 

Scott too gives this, but ends with a verse not in 
Sharpe — 

And he has paid the rescue shot 
Baith wi' goud and white money, 

And at the burial o' Willie Scott 
I wat was mony a weeping ee. 

Did Scott add this ? Proof is impossible ; but 
the verse is so prosaic, and so injurious to the 
triumphant preceding verse, that I think Scott 
found it in his copy : in which case he had another 
copy than Sharpe's. 

Scott (stanza xviii.) reads " Catslockhill " where 
the Sharpe MS. reads " Catlockhill." In Scott's 
time it was a mound, but the name was then 
known to Mr. Grieve, the tenant of Branksome 
Park. To-day I cannot find the mound ; is it 
likely that Scott, before making the change, sought 
diligently for the mound and its name ? If so, he 
found " Catlochill^' for so Mr. Grieve writes it, not 

Meanwhile Colonel Elliot, we know, has no 
Catlockhill where he wants it ; he has only 
Gatliehill, unless his Blaeu varies from my copy, 
and Gatliehill is not Catlockhill. 


Scott gives (xlviii.) the speech of the Captain 
after he is shot through the head and in another 
dangerous part of his frame — 

" Hae back thy kye ! " the Captain said, 
"Dear kye, I trow, to some they be, 

For gin I suld live a hundred years, 
There will ne'er fair lady smile on me." 

This is not in Sharpe's MS., and I attribute this 
redundant stanza to Scott's copy. The Captain, 
remember, has a shot "through his head," and 
another which must have caused excruciating 
torture. In these circumstances would a poet Hke 
Scott put in his mouth a speech which merely 
reiterates the previous verse ? No ! But the verse 
was in Scott's copy. 

Colonel Elliot has himself noted a more im- 
portant point than these : he quotes Scott's stanza 
xii., which is absent from the Sharpe MS. — 

My hounds may a' rin masterless, 
My hawks may fly frae tree to tree, 

My lord may grip my vassal lands, 
For there again maun I never be ! 

" They are, doubtless, beautiful lines, but their 
very beauty jars like a false note. One feels they 
were written by another hand, by an artist of a 
higher stamp than a Border ' ballad-maker.' And 
not only is it their beauty that jars, but so also 
does their inapplicability to Jamie Telfer and to 


the circumstances in which he found himself — so 
much so, indeed, that it may well occur to one 
that the stanza belongs to some other ballad, and 
has accidentally been pitchforked into this one. It 
would not have been out of place in the ballad of 
The Battle of Otterbotcrne, and, indeed, it bears 
some resemblance to a stanza in that ballad." 
Here the Colonel says that the lines "one feels 
were written by another hand, by an artist of a 
higher stamp than a Border ballad-maker." But 
** it may also occur to one that the stanza belongs 
to some other ballad, and has accidentally'' (my 
italics) " been pitchforked into this " : a very sound 

Now if Scott had only the Sharpe version, he 
was the last man to "pitchfork" into it, "accident- 
ally," a stanza from "some other ballad," that 
stanza being as Colonel Elliot says "inapplicable" 
to Telfer and his circumstances. Poor Jamie, a 
small tenant-farmer, with ten cows, and, as far 
as we learn, not one horse, had no hawks and 
hounds; no "vassal lands," and no reason to say 
that at the Dodhead he "maun never be again." 
He could return from his long run ! Scott certainly 
did not compose these lines ; and he could not 
have pitchforked them into Jamie Telfer, either 
by accident or design. 

Professor Child remarked on all this : "Stanza 
xii. is not only found elsewhere (compare Young 
Beichan, E vi.), but could not be more inappropri- 


ately brought in than here ; Scott, however, is not 
responsible for that." ^ 

The hawk that flies from tree to tree 

is a formula ; it comes in the Kinloch MS. copy 
of the ballad oi Jamie Douglas, date about 1690. 

I know no proof that Scott was acquainted 
with variant E of Young Beickan} If he had 
been, he could not have introduced into Jamie 
Telfer lines so utterly out of keeping with 
Telfer's circumstances, as Colonel Elliot himself 
says that stanza xii. is. It may be argued, 
** if Scott did find stanza xii. in his copy, it was in 
his power to cut it out ; he treated his copies as he 
pleased." This is true, but my position is that, 
of the two, Scott is more likely to have let the 
stanza abide where he found it (as he did with his 
MS. of Tamiane, retaining its absurdities) in his 
copy, than to "pitchfork it in," from an obscure 
variant of Yoitng Beichan, which we cannot prove 
that he had ever heard or read. But as we can 

^ Child, part vii. p. 5. 

^ Variant E is a patched-up thing from five or six MS. sources 
and a printed "stall copy." Jamieson published it in 1S17. 
Motherwell had heard a ca7itefable, or version in alternate prose and 
verse, which contained the stanza. It is not identical with stanza 
xxxii. in Scott's /a7;/z> Telfer, but runs thus— 

My hounds they all go masterless, 
My hawks they fly from tree to tree, 
My younger brother will heir my lands, 
Fair England again I'll never see. 

Child, part ii. p. 454 ct seqq. The speaker is young Beichan, a 
prisoner in the dungeon of a professor of the Moslem faith. 


never tell that Scott did not know any rhyme, we 
ask, why did he "pitchfork in" the stanza, where it 
was quite out of place ? Child absolves him from 
this absurdity. 

Thus Scott had before him another than the 
Sharpe copy ; had a copy containing stanza xii. 
That copy presented the perversion — the trans- 
position of Scott's and Elliot's — and into that copy 
Scott wrote the stanzas which bear his modern 
romantic mark. Colonel Elliot, we saw, is uncertain 
whether to attribute stanza xii. to "another hand, 
an artist of higher stamp than a Border ballad- 
maker," or to reofard it as belonCTing- "to some 
other ballad," and as having been "accidentally 
pitchforked into this one." The stanza is, in 
fact, an old floating ballad stanza, attracted into 
the ca7itefable of S^tsie Pye, and the ballad of 
Yozmg Beichan (E), and partly mX.o Jamie Douglas. 
Thus Scott did not make the stanza, and we cannot 
suppose that, if he knew the stanza in any form, 
he either "accidentally pitchforked" or wilfully 
inserted into Jamie Telfer anything so absurdly 
inappropriate. The inference is that Scott worked 
on another copy, not the Sharpe copy. 

If Scott had not a copy other than Sharpe's, 
why should he alter Sharpe's (vii.) 

The moon was up and the sun was down, 


The sun wasna up but the moon was down? 


What did he gain by that ? Why did he make 
Jamie ''of,'' not " in " Ihe Dodhead, if he found " in " 
in his copy ? "In" means " tenant in," " of " means 
"laird of," as nobody knew better than Scott. 
Jamie is evidently no laird, but "of" was in 
Scott's copy. 

If the question were about two Greek texts, 
the learned would admit that these points in A 
(Scott) are not derived from B (Sharpe). Scott's 
additions have an obvious motive, they add 
picturesqueness to his clan. But the differences 
which I have noticed do nothing of that kind. 
When they affect the poetry they spoil the poetry, 
when they do not affect the poetry they are quite 
motiveless, whence I conclude that Scott followed 
his copy in these cases, and that his copy was not 
the Sharpe MS. 

If I have satisfied the reader on that point 
I need not touch on Colonel Elliot's lonp- and 
intricate argument to prove, or suggest, that Scott 
had before him no copy of the ballad except one 
supposed by the Colonel to have been taken by 
James Hogg from his mother's recitation, while 
that copy, again, is supposed to be the Sharpe 
MS. — all sheer conjecture.^ Not that I fear to 
encounter Colonel Elliot on this ground, but 
argufying on it is dull, and apt to be inconclusive. 

In the letter of Hogg to Scott (June 30, 
1803) as given by Mr. Douglas in Fa^niliar Letters, 
1 F. E. B. B., pp. 179-185. 


Hogg says, "I am surprised to find that the 
songs in your collection differ so widely from 
my mother's. , . . Jamie Telfer differs in many 
particulars." ^ The marks of omission were all 
filled up in Hogg's MS. letter thus: "Is Mr. 
Herd's MS. genuine ? I suspect it." Then it 
runs on, ''Jamie Telfer differs in many particulars." 

I owe this information to the kindness of Mr. 
Macmath. What does Hogg mean ? Does " Is 
Mr. Herd's MS. genuine.?" mean all Herd's MS. 
copies used by Scott ? Or does it refer to Jamie 
Telfer in especial ? 

Mr. Macmath, who possesses C. K. Sharpe's 
MS. copy of the Elliot version, believes that 
it is Herd's hand as affected by age. Mr. 
Macmath and I independently reached the con- 
clusion that by " Mr. Herd's MS." Hogg meant 
all Herd's MSS., which Scott quoted in The 
Minstrelsy of 1803. Their readings varied from 
Mrs. Hogg's ; therefore Hogg misdoubted them. 
He adds ih.3it J a7nie 7>^r differs from his mother's 
version, without meaning that, for Jamie, Scott 
used a Herd MS. 


I have now proved, I hope, that the ballad of 
Jamie Telfer is entirely mythical except for a few 
suggestions derived from historical events of 

^ Child, part viii. p. 518. 


1596-97. I have shown, and Colonel Elliot 
agrees, that refusal of aid by Buccleuch (or by 
Elliot of Stobs) is impossible, and that the ballad, 
if it existed without this incident, must have been 
a Scott, and could not be an Elliot ballad. No 
farmer in Ettrick would pay protection-money to 
an Elliot on Liddel, while he had a Scott at 
Branksome. I have also disproved the existence 
of a Jamie Telfer as farmer at " Dodhead or 
Dodbank" in the late sixteenth century. 

As to the character of Sir Walter Scott, I 
have proved, I hope, that he worked on a copy 
of the ballad which was not the Elliot version, 
or the Sharpe copy ; so that this copy may have 
represented the Scotts as taking the leading part ; 
while for the reasons given, it is apparently earlier 
than the Elliot version — cannot, at least, be proved 
to be later — and is topographically the more correct 
of the two. I have given antique examples of 
the same sort of perversions in Otterburn. If I 
am right. Colonel Elliot's charge against Scott 
lacks its base — that Scott knew none but the 
Sharpe copy, whence it is inferred that he not 
only decorated the song (as is undeniable), but 
perverted it in a way far from sportsmanlike. 

I may have shaken Colonel Elliot's belief in 
the historicity of the ballad. His suspicions of 
Scott I cannot hope to remove, and they are very 
natural suspicions, due to Scott's method of editing 
ballads and habit of "giving them a cocked hat 


and a sword," as he did to stories which he heard ; 
and repeated, much improved. 

Absolute proof that Scott did, or did not, 
pervert the ballad, and turn a false Elliot into a 
false Scott version, cannot be obtained unless new 
documents bearing on the matter are discovered. 

But, I repeat, as may be read in the chapter 
on The Ballad of Otterbutne, such inversions and 
perversions of ballads occurred freely in the six- 
teenth century, and, in the seventeenth, the process 
may have been applied to Jamie Telfer} 

1 Aytoun, in The Ballads of Scotland {vo\. i. p. 211), says that his 
copy oi Jamie Telfer "is almost verbatim the same as that given in 
the Border Minstrelsy.'" He does not tell us where he got his copy ; 
or why the Captain's bride's speech (Sharpe, stanza xxxvi.) differs 
from the version in Scott and Sharpe. He gives the stanza which 
comes last in Scott's copy, and is too bad and enfeebling to be attri- 
buted to Scott's pen. He omits the stanza which has strayed in from 
other ballads, 

" My hounds may a' rin masterless." 

But as Aytoun confessedly rejected such inappropriate stanzas, he may 
have found it in his copy and excised it. 


If there be, in The Border Minstrelsy, a ballad 
which is still popular, or, at least, is still not 
forgotten, it is Kinmont Willie. This hero was 
an Armstrong, and one of" the most active of that 
unbridled clan. He was taken prisoner, contrary 
to Border law, on a day of "Warden's Truce," by 
Salkeld of Corby on the Eden, deputy of Lord 
Scrope, the English Warden ; and, despite the 
written remonstrances of Buccleuch, he was shut 
up in Carlisle Castle. Diplomacy failing, Buccleuch 
resorted to force, and, by a sudden and daring 
march, he surprised Carlisle Castle, rescued Willie, 
and returned to Branksome. The date of the 
rescue is 13th April 1596. The dispatches of the 
period are full of this event, and of the subse- 
quent negotiations, with which we are not con- 

The ballad is worthy of the cool yet romantic 
gallantry of the achievement. Kinmont Willie 
was a ruffian, but he had been unlawfully seized. 
This was one of many studied insults passed by 
Elizabeth's officials on Scotland at that time, 

when the English Government, leagued with the 



furious pulpiteers of the Kirk, and with Francis 
Stewart, the wild Earl of Bothwell, was persecuting 
and personally affronting James vi. 

In Buccleuch, the Warden of the March, 
England insulted the man who was least likely to 
pocket a wrong. Without causing the loss of an 
English life, Buccleuch repaid the affront, re- 
covered the prisoner, broke the strong Castle of 
Carlisle, made Scrope ridiculous and Elizabeth 

In addition to Kinmont Willie there survive 
two other ballads on rescues of prisoners in similar 
circumstances. One is Jock d the Side, of which 
there is an English version in the Percy MSS., 
John a Side. Scott's version, in The Border 
Minstrelsy, is from Caw's Museum, published at 
Hawick in 1784. Scott leaves out Caw's last 
stanza about a punch-bowl. There are other 
variations. Four Armstrongs break into Newcastle 
Tower. Jock, heavily ironed, is carried downstairs 
on the back of one of them ; they ride a river in 
spait, where the English dare not follow. 

Archie d Cafield, another rescue, Scott printed 
in 1802 from a MS. of Mr. Riddell of Glenriddell, 
a great collector, the friend of Burns. He omitted 
six stanzas, and " made many editorial improve- 
ments, besides Scotticising the spelling." In the 
edition published after his death (1833) he "has 
been enabled to add several stanzas from recitation." 
Leyden appears to have collected the copy whence 


the additional stanzas came ; the MS., at Abbots- 
ford, is in his hand. In this ballad the Halls, 
noted freebooters, rescue Archie o' Cafield from 
prison in Dumfries. As in Jock d the Side and 
Kin7nont Willie, they speak to their friend, asking 
how he sleeps ; they carry him downstairs, irons 
and all, and, as in the two other ballads, they are 
pursued, cross a flooded river, banter the English, 
and then, in a version in the Percy MSS., "com- 
municated to Percy by Miss Fisher, 1780," the 
English lieutenant says — 

I think some witch has bore thee, Dicky, 

Or some devil in hell been thy daddy. 
I would not swam that wan water, double-horsed. 

For a' the gold in Christenty. 

Manifestly here was a form of Lord Scrope's 
reply to Buccleuch, in the last stanza of Kinmont 

He is either himself a devil frae hell, 
Or else his mother a witch may be, 

I wadna hae ridden that wan water 
For a' the gowd in Christentie. 

Scott writes, in a preface to Archie d Cafield 
3.n6. Jock d the Side, that there are, with Kininont 
Willie, three ballads of rescues, "the incidents 
in which nearly resemble each other; though the 
poetical description is so different, that the editor 
did not feel himself at liberty to reject any one of 
them, as borrowed from the others. As, however, 
there are several verses, which, in recitation, are 


common to all these three songs, the editor, to 
prevent unnecessary and disagreeable repetition, 
has used the freedom of appropriating them to that 
in which they have the best poetical effect."^ 

Consequently the verse quoted from the Percy 
MS. of Archie Cafield may be improved and 
placed in the lips of Lord Scrope, in Kimnont 
Willie. But there is no evidence that Scott ever 
saw or even heard of this Percy MS., and probably 
he got the verse from recitation. 

Now the affair of the rescue of Kinmont Willie 
was much more important and resonant than the 
two other rescues, and was certain to give rise 
to a ballad, which would contain much the same 
formulae as the other two. The ballad-maker, like 
Homer, always uses a formula if he can find one. 
But Kinmont Willie is so much superior to the 
two others, so epic in its speed and concentration 
of incidents, that the question rises, had Scott 
even fragments of an original ballad of the 
Kinmont, "much mangled by reciters," as he 
admits, or did he compose the whole.? No MS. 
copies exist at Abbotsford. There is only one 
hint. In a list of twenty-two ballads, pasted into 
a commonplace book, eleven are marked X (as 
if he had obtained them), and eleven others are 
unmarked, as if they were still to seek. Un- 
marked is Kimnount Willie. 

Did he find it, or did he make it all ? 

^ Minstrelsy, vol. iii. p. 76, 1803. 


In 1888, in a note to Kinmont Willie, I wrote : 
"There is a prose account very like the ballad 
in Scott of Satchells' History of the Name of Scott " 
(1688). Satchells' long-winded story is partly in 
unrhymed and unmetrical lines, partly in rhymes 
of various metres. The man, born in 16 13, was 
old, had passed his life as a soldier ; certainly could 
not write, possibly could not read. 

Colonel Elliot "believes that Sir Walter wrote 
the whole from beginning to end, and that it is, 
in fact, a clever and extremely beautiful paraphrase 
of Satchells' rhymes."^ 

This thorough scepticism is not a novelty, as 
Colonel Elliot quotes me I had written years ago, 
" In Kinmont Willie, Scott has been suspected 
of making the whole ballad." I did not, as the 
Colonel says, "mention the names of the sceptics 
or the grounds of their suspicions." "The 
sceptics," or one of them, was myself: I had 
"suspected" on much the same grounds as Colonel 
Elliot's own, and I shall give my reasons for adopt- 
ing a more conservative opinion. One reason is 
merely subjective. As a man, by long familiarity 
with ancient works of art, Greek gems, for example, 
acquires a sense of their authenticity, or the reverse, 
so he does in the case of ballads — or thinks he 
does — but of course this result of experience is no 
ground of argument : experts are often gulled. 
The ballad varies in many points from Satchells', 

^ Further Essays, p. 112. 


which Colonel Elliot explains thus : " I think that 
the cause for the narrative at times diverorino- from 
that recorded by the rhymes (of Satchells), is due, 
partly to artistic considerations, partly to the author 
having wished to bring it more or less into con- 
formity with history,"^ 

Colonel Elliot quotes Scott's preface to the 
ballad : "In many things Satchells agrees with the 
ballads current in his time" (1643-88), "from 
which in all probability he derived most of his 
information as to past events, and from which he 
occasionally pirates whole verses, as we noticed 
in the annotations upon the Raid of the Reids- 
wire. In the present instance he mentions the 
prisoner's large spurs (alluding to fetters), and 
some other little incidents noticed in the ballad, 
which therefore was probably well known in his 

As Satchells was born in 1613, while the rescue 
of Kinmont Willie by Buccleuch, out of Carlisle 
Castle, was in 1596, and as Satchells' father was 
in that adventure (or so Satchells says) he probably 
knew much about the affair from fresh tradition. 
Colonel Elliot notices this, and says : " The proba- 
bility of Satchells having obtained information from 
a hypothetical ballad is really quite an inadmissible 


This comes near to begging the question. As 
contemporary incidents much less striking and 

^ Further Essays, p. 112. 


famous than the rescue of Kinmont Willie 
were certainly recorded in ballads, the opinion 
that there was a ballad of Kin7nont Willie is a 
legitimate hypothesis, which must be tested on its 
merits. For example, we shall ask, Does Satchells' 
version yield any traces of ballad sources ? 

My own opinion has been anticipated by Mr. 
Frank Miller in his The Poets of Dumfriesshire 
(P- oZ^ 19 lo), and in ballad-lore Mr. Miller is well 
equipped. He says : " The balance of probability 
seems to be in favour of the originality of Kinmont 
Willie,'' rather than of Satchells (he means, not of 
our Kinmont Willie as Scott gives it, but of a 
ballad concerning the Kinmont). "Captain Walter 
Scott's" (of Satchells) ''True History was certainly 
gathered out of the ballads current in his day, as 
well as out of formal histories, and his account of 
the assault on the Castle reads like a narrative 
largely due to suggestions from some popular 

Does Satchells' version, then, show traces of a 
memory of such a lay ? Undoubtedly it does. 

Satchells' prolix narrative occasionally drops or 
rises into ballad lines, as in the opening about 
Kinmont Willie — 

It fell about the Martinmas 
When kine was in the prime 

that Willie "brought a prey out of Northumber- 
land." The old ballad, disregarding dates, may well 


have opened with this common formula. Lord 
Scrope vowed vengence : — 

Took Kinmont the self-same night. 

If he had had but ten men more, 

That had been as stout as he, 
Lord Scroup had not the Kinmont ta'en 

With all his company. 

Scott's ballad (stanza i.) says that " fause 
Sakelde " and Scrope took Willie (as in fact Salkeld 
of Corby did\ and 

Had Willie had but twenty men, 

But twenty men as stout as he, 
Fause Sakelde had never the Kinmont ta'en, 

Wi' eight score in his cumpanie. 

Manifestly either Satchells is here "pirating" a 
verse of a ballad (as Scott holds) or Scott, if he 
had no ballad fragments before him, is "pirating" 
a verse from Satchells, as Colonel Elliot must 

In my opinion, Satchells had a memory of a 
Kinmont ballad beginning like Jamie Telfer, "It 
fell about the Martinmas tyde," or, like Otterburn, 
"It fell about the Lammas tide," and he opened 
with this formula, broke away from it, and came 
back to the ballad in the stanza, "If he had had 
but ten men more," which differs but slightly from 
stanza ii. of Scott's ballad. That this is so, and 
that, later, Satchells is again reminiscent of a 
ballad, is no improbable opinion. 


In the ballad (iii.-viii.) we learn how Willie is 
brought a prisoner across Liddel to Carlisle ; we 
have his altercation with Lord Scrope, and the 
arrival of the news at Branksome, where Buccleuch 
is at table. Satchells also gives the altercation. In 
both versions Willie promises to "take his leave" 
of Scrope before he quits the Castle. 

In Scott's ballad (Scrope speaks) (stanza vi.). 

Before ye cross my castle yate, 

I trow ye shall take fareweel o' me. 

Willie replies — 

I never yet lodged in a hostelrie, 
But I paid my lawing before I gaed. 

In Satchells, Lord Scrope says — 

" Before thou goest away thou must 

Even take thy leave of me ? " 
" By the cross of my sword," says Willie then, 

" I'll take my leave of thee." 

Now, had Scott been pirating Satchells, I think 
he would have kept " By the cross of my sword," 
which is picturesque and probable, Willie being 
no good Presbyterian. In Otterburne, Scott, alter- 
ing Hoggs copy, makes Douglas swear " By the 
might of Our Ladye." 

It is a question of opinion ; but I do think that 
if Scott were merely paraphrasing and pirating 
Satchells, he could not have helped putting into 
his version the Catholic, " ' By the cross of my 
sword,' then Willy said," as given by Satchells. 


To do this was safe, as Scott had said that 
Satchells does pirate ballads. On the other hand, 
Satchells, composing in black 1688, when Catholi- 
cism had been stamped out on the Scottish Border, 
was not apt to invent " By the cross of my 
sword." It looks like Scott's work, for he, of 
course, knew how Catholicism lino-ered among the 
spears of Bothwell, himself a Catholic, in 1596. 
But it is not Scott's work, it is in Satchells. In 
both Satchells and the ballad, news comes to 
Buccleuch. Here Satchells arain balladises — 

"It is that way?" Buckcleugh did say; 

" Lord Scrope must understand 
That he has not only done me wrong 

But my Sovereign, James of Scotland. 

" My Sovereign Lord, King of Scotland, 

Thinks not his cousin Queen, 
Will offer to invade his land 

Without leave asked and gi'en." 

I do not see how Satchells could either invent 
or glean from tradition the gist of Buccleuch 's 
diplomatic remonstrances, first with Salkeld, for 
Scrope was absent at the time of Willie's capture, 
then with Scrope. Buccleuch, in fact, wrote that 
the taking of Willie was "to the touch of the 
King," a stain on his honour, says a contemporary 

In a contemporary ballad, a kind of rhymed 
news-sheet, the facts would be known and reported. 

^ In Minstrelsy, vol, ii. p. 35 (1833). 


But at this point (at Buccleuch's reception of the 
news of Kinmont), Scott is perhaps overmastered 
by his opportunity, and, I think, himself composes 
stanzas ix,, x., xi., xii. 

O is my basnet a widow's curch ? 

Or my lance a wand o' the willow tree ? 

and so on. Child and Mr. Henderson are of 
the same opinion ; but it is only sense of style that 
guides us in such a matter, nor can I give other 
grounds for supposing that the original ballad 
appears again in stanza xiii. 

were there war between the lands, 
As well I wot that there is none, 

1 would slight Carlisle castle high, 
Tho' it were built o' marble stone ! 

Thence, I think, the original ballad (doubt- 
less made "harmonious," as Hogg put it) ran into 
stanza xxxi., where Scott probably introduced the 
Elliot tune (if it be ancient) — 

O wha dare meddle wi' me ? 

Satchells next, through a hundred and forty 
lines, describes Buccleuch's correspondence with 
Scrope, his counsels with his clansmen, and gives 
all their names and estates, with remarks on their 
relationships. He thinks himself a historian and 
a genealogist. The stuff is partly in prose lines, 
partly in rhymed couplets of various lengths. 
There are two or three more or less ballad-like 


stanzas at the beginning, but they are too bad for 
any author but Satchells. 

Scott's ballad " cuts " all that, omits even what 
Satchells gives — mentions of Harden, and goes 
on (xv.) — 

He has called him forty marchmen bauld, 
I trow they were of his own name. 

Except Sir Gilbert Elliot called 
The Laird of Stobs, I mean the same.' 

Now I would stake a large sum that Sir 
Walter never wrote that "stall-copy" stanza! 
Colonel Elliot replies that I have said the ballad- 
faker should avoid being too poetical. The ballad- 
faker should shun being too poetical, as he would 
shun kippered sturgeon ; but Scott did not know 
this, nor did Hogg. We can always track them 
by their too decorative, too literary interpolations. 
On this I lay much stress. 

The ballad next gives (xvi.-xxv.) the spirited 
stanzas on the ride to the Border — 

There were five and five before them a', 
Wi' hunting horns and bugles bright ; 

And five and five came wi' Buccleuch, 
Like Warden's men arrayed for fight. 

And five and five like a mason gang, 
That carried the ladders lang and hie ; 

And five and five like broken men, 

And so they reached the Woodhouselee. 

— a house in Scotland, within "a lang mile" of 
Netherby, in England, the seat of the Grahams, 


who were partial, for private reasons, to the 
Scottish cause. They were at deadly feud with 
Thomas Musgrave, Captain of Bewcastle, and 
Willie had married a Graham. 

Now in my opinion, up to stanza xxvi., all the 
evasive answers given to Salkeld by each gang, 
till Dicky o' Dryhope (a real person) replies with a 
spear-thrust — 

" For never a word o' lear had he," 

are not an invention of Scott's (who knew that 
Salkeld was not met and slain), but a fantasy of 
the original ballad. Here I have only familiarity 
with the romantic perversion of facts that marks all 
ballads on historical themes to guide me. 
Salkeld is met — 

"As we crossed the Eatable land. 
When to the English side we held." 

The ballad does not specify the crossing of 
Esk, nor say that Salkeld was on the English side ; 
nor is there any blunder in the reply of the " mason 


"We gang to harry a corbie's nest, 
That wons not far frae Woodhouselee." 

Whether on English or Scottish soil the masons 
say not, and their pretence is derisive, bitterly 

Colonel Elliot makes much of the absence of 
mention of the Esk, and says "it is afUr they are 


in England that the false reports are spread."^ 
But the ballad does not say so — read it ! All 
passes with judicious vagueness. 

"As we crossed the Eatable land, 
When to the English side we held." 

Satchells knows that the ladders were made at 
Woodhouselee ; it took till nightfall to finish them. 
The ballad, swift and poetical, takes the ladders 
for granted — as a matter of fact, chronicled in the 
dispatches, the Grahams of Netherby harboured 
Buccleuch : Netherby was his base. 

" I could nought have done that matter without 
great friendship of the Grames of Eske," wrote 
Buccleuch, in a letter which Scrope intercepted.^ 

In Satchells, Buccleuch leaves half his men at 
the "Stonish bank" (Staneshaw bank) '' for fear 
they had made noise or din'' An old soldier should 
have known better, and the ballad (his probable 
half-remembered source here) does know better — 

"And there the laird garr'd leave our steeds^ 
For fear that they should stamp and nie," 

and alarm the castle garrison. Each man of the 
post on the ford would hold two horses, and also 
keep the ford open for the retreat of the advanced 
party. The ballad gives the probable version ; 
Satchells, when offering as a reason for leaving half 
the force, lest they should make " noise or din," 

1 Further Essays, p. 124. * Border Papers, vol. ii. p. 367- 


is maundering. Colonel Elliot does not seem to 
perceive this obvious fact, though he does per- 
ceive Buccleuch's motive for dividing his force, 
"presumably with the object of protecting his line 
of retreat," and also to keep the horses out of 
earshot, as the ballad says.^ 

In Satchells the river is "in no great rage." 
In the ballad it is " great and meikle o' spait." And 
it really was so. The MS. already cited, which 
Scott had not seen when he published the song, 
says that Buccleuch arrived at the " Stoniebank 
beneath Carleile brig, the water being at the tyme, 
through raines that had fallen, weill thick." 

In Scott's original this river, he says, was 
the Esk, in Satchells it is the Eden, and Scott 
says he made this necessary correction in the 
ballad. In Satchells the storming party 

Broke a sheet of leid on the castle top. 

In the ballad they 

Cut a hole through a sheet o' lead. 

Both stories are erroneous; the ladders were too 
short ; the rescuers broke into a postern door. 
Scrope told this to his Government on the day 
after the deed, 14th April.^ 

In xxxi. the ballad makes Buccleuch sound 
trumpets when the casde-roof was scaled ; in fact 

^ Further Essays, pp. 123, 124. 
^ Border Papers, vol. ii. p. 121. 


it was not scaled. The ladders were too short, and 
the Scots broke in a postern door. The Warden's 
trumpet blew " O wha dare meddle wi' me," and 
here, as has been said, I think Scott is the author. 
Here Colonel Elliot enters into learning about 
"Wha dare meddle wi' me?" a " Liddesdale 
tune," and in the poem an adaptation, by Scott, of 
Satchells' "the trumpets sounded 'Come if ye 
dare.' " 

Satchells makes the trumpets sound when the 
rescuers bring Kinmont Willie to the castle-top on 
the ladder (which they did not), and again when 
the rescuers reach the ground by the ladder. 
They made no use at all of the ladders, which 
were too short, and Willie, says the ballad, lay "in 
the lower prison." They came in and went out by a 
door ; but the trumpets are not apocryphal. They, 
and the shortness of the ladders, are mentioned in 
a MS. quoted by Scott, and in Birrell's contempo- 
rary Diary, i. p. 57. In the MS. Buccleuch 
causes the trumpets to be sounded from below, 
by a detachment "in the plain field," securing the 
retreat. His motive is to encourage his party, " and 
to terrify both castle and town by imagination of a 
greater force." Buccleuch again "sounds up his 
trumpet before taking the river," in the MS. 
Colonel Elliot may claim stanza xxxi. for Scott, 
and also the tune "Wha dare meddle wi' me?" 
he may even claim here a suggestion from 
Satchells' "Come if ye dare." Colonel Elliot says 


that no tune of this title ever existed, a thing not 
easy to prove/ 

In the conclusion, with differences, there are 
resemblances in the ballad and Satchells. Colonel 
Elliot goes into them very minutely. For ex- 
ample, he says that Kinmont is " made to ride off, 
not on horseback, but on Red Rowan's back ! " 

The ballad says not a word to that effect. 
Kinmont's speech about Red Rowan as "a rough 
beast " to ride, is made immediately after the 

"Then shoulder high, with shout and cry, 
We bore him down the ladder lang ; 
At every stride Red Rowan made, 

I wot the Kinmont's aims played clang." ^ 

After this verse Kinmont makes his speech 
(xl.-xli.). But if he did ride on Red Rowan's back to 
Staneshaw bank, it was the best thing that a heavily 
ironed man could do. In the ballad (xxvii. ) no 
horses of the party were waiting at the castle, all 
horses were left behind at Staneshaw bank (Satchells 
brings horses, or at least a horse for Willie, to the 
castle). On what could Willie "ride off," except 
on Red Rowan ? ^ 

Stanzas xxxv., xxxvi. and xliv. are related, we 
have seen, to passages in Jock o the Side and 
Archie d Cafield, but ballads, like Homer, employ 
the same formulae to describe the same circum- 

^ Further Essays, p. 125. 

* Birrell's Diary vouches for the irons. 

^ Further Essays, p. 128. 


stances : a note of archaism, as in Gaelic poetic 
passages in Metre hen. 

I do not pretend always to know how far Scott 
kept and emended old stanzas mangled by reciters : 
there are places in which I am quite at a loss to 
tell whether he is "making" or copying. 

I incline to hold that Satchells was occasionally 
reminiscent of a ballad for the reasons and traces 
given, and I think that Scott when his and 
Satchells' versions coincide, did not borrow direct 
from Satchells, but that both men had a ballad 

That ballad was later than the popular belief, 
held by Satchells, that Gilbert Elliot was at the 
time (1596) laird of Stobs, which he did not 
acquire till after the Union (1603), and that he 
(the only man not a Scot, says Satchells, wrongly) 
rode with Buccleuch. Elliot is not accused of 
doing so in Scrope's dispatches, but he may have 
come as far as Staneshaw bank, where half the 
company were left behind, says Satchells, with the 
horses, which were also left, says the ballad. In 
that case Elliot would not be observed in or near 
the Castle. Yet it may have been known in 
Scotland that he was of the party. 

He was, as Satchells says, a cousin, he was also 
a friend of Buccleuch's, and he may conceivably 
have taken a part in this glorious adventure, though 
he could not, at the moment, be called laird of 
Stobs. Were I an Elliot, this opinion would be 


welcome to me ! Really, Salkeld was in a good 
position to know whether Elliot rode with 
Buccleuch or not. 

The whole question is not one on which I can 
speak dogmatically. A person who suspects Scott 
intensely may believe that there were no ballad 
fragments of Kinmont in his possession. The 
person who, like myself, thinks Satchells, with his 
" It fell about the Martinmas," knew a ballad 
vaguely, believes that Satchells had some ballad 
sources bemuddled in his old memory. 

A person who cannot conceive that Scott wrote 

Except Sir Gilbert Elliot, called 
The laird of Stobs, I mean the same, 

will hold that Scott knew some ballad fragments, 
disjecta membra. But I quite agree with Colonel 
Elliot, that the ballad, as it stands (with the excep- 
tion, to my mind, of some thirty stanzas, themselves 
emended), "belongs to the early nineteenth century, 
not to the early seventeenth." The time for sup- 
posing the poem, as it stands, to be "saturated with 
the folk-spirit " all through is past ; the poem is far 
too much contaminated by the genius of Scott 
itself, like Burns' transfiguration of "the folk- 
spirit " at its best. 

Near the beginning of this paper I said, in 
answer to a question of Colonel Elliot's, that I 
myself was the person who had suspected Scott 
of composing the whole of Kinmont Willie, and 


I have given my reasons for not remaining 
constant to my suspicions. But in a work which 
Colonel Elliot quotes, the abridged edition of 
Child's great book by Mrs. Child-Sargent and 
Professor Kittredge (1905), the learned professor 
writes, ^' Kinmont Willie is under vehement 
suspicion of being the work of Sir Walter Scott." 
Mr. Kittredge's entire passage on the matter is 
worth quoting. He first says — " The traditional 
ballad appears to be inimitable by any person of 
literary cultivation," "the efforts of poets and 
poetasters " end in " invariable failure." 

I do not think that they need end in failure 
except for one reason. The poet or poetaster 
cannot, now, except by flat lying and laborious 
forgery of old papers, produce any documentary 
evidence to prove the authenticity of his attempt 
at imitation. Without documentary evidence of 
antiquity, no critic can approach the imitation 
except in a spirit of determined scepticism. He 
knows, certainly, that the ballad is modern, and, 
knowing that, he easily finds proofs of modernism 
even where they do not really exist. I am con- 
vinced that to imitate a ballad that would, except 
for the lack of documentary evidence, beguile the 
expert, is perfectly feasible. I even venture to 
offer examples of my own manufacture at the close 
of this volume. I can find nothing suspicious in 
them, except the deliberate insertion of formulee 

which occur in genuine ballads. Such wieder- 


holungen are not reasons for rejection, in my 
opinion ; but they are suspect with people who 
do not understand that they are a natural and 
necessary feature of archaic poetry, and this fact 
Mr. Kittredo-e does understand, 

Mr. Kittredge speaks of Sir Walter's unique 
success with Kiitmont Willie ; but is Sir Walter 
successful ? Some of his stanzas I, for one, can 
hardly accept, even as emended traditional verses. 

Mr. Kittredge writes — " Sir Walter's success, 
however, in a special kind of balladry for which he 
was better adapted by nature and habit of mind 
than for any other, would only emphasise the 
universal failure. And it must not be forgotten 
that Kinmont Willie, if it be Scott's work, is not 
made out of whole cloth ; it is a working over of 
one of the best traditional ballads known (Jock o' 
the Side), with the intention of fitting it to an 
historical exploit of Buccleuch. Further, the sub- 
ject itself was of such a nature that it might well 
have been celebrated in a ballad, — indeed, one is 
tempted to say, it must have been so celebrated." 

Not a doubt of that ! 

" And, finally, Sir Walter Scott felt towards ' the 
Kinmont' and 'the bold Buccleuch' precisely as 
the moss-trooping author of such a ballad would 
have felt. For once, then, the miraculous hap- 
pened. . . ."^ Or did not happen, for the excep- 
tion is "solitary though doubtful," and "under 

^ Sargent and Kittredge, pp. xxix., xxx. 


vehement suspicion." But Mr. Kittredge must 
remember that no known Scottish ballad " is made 
out of whole cloth." All have, in various decrees, 
the successive modifications wrought by centuries 
of oral tradition, itself, in some cases, modifying a 
much modified printed " stall-copy " or " broad- 

Take/oc^ d the Side. The oldest version is 
in the Percy MS.^ As Mr. Henderson says, "it 
contains many evident corruptions," 

"Jock on his lively bay, Wat's on his white horse behind." 

There is an example of what the original author 
could not have written ! 

We do not know how good Jock was when he 
left his poet's hands ; and Scott has not touched 
him up. We cannot estimate the original ex- 
cellence of any traditional poem by the state in 
which we find it, 

Corrupt by every beggar-man, 
And soiled by all ignoble use. 

^ Hales and Furnivall, ii. pp. 205-207. 


We have now examined critically the four essentially 
Border ballads which Sir Walter is suspected of 
having " edited " in an unrighteous manner. Now 
he helps to forge, and issues Auld M ait land. Now 
he, or somebody, makes up Otter burne, "partly of 
stanzas from Percy's Reliques, which have under- 
gone emendations calculated to disguise the source 
from which they came, partly of stanzas of modern 
fabrication, and partly of a few stanzas and lines 
from Herd's version."^ Thirdly, Scott, it is sug- 
gested, knew only what I call "the Elliot version" 
of Jamie Telfer, perverted that by transposing 
the roles of Buccleuch and Stobs, and added 
picturesque stanzas in glorification of his ancestor, 
Wat of Harden, Fourthly, he is suspected of 
"writing the whole ballad" of Kinmont Willie^ 
"fjom beginning to end." 

Of these four charges the first, and most 
disastrous, we have absolutely disproved. Scott 
did not write one verse of the Auld Maitland; he 
edited it with unusual scrupulosity, for he had but 
one copy, and an almost identical recitation. He 

^ Further Essays, p. 45. 



could not "eke and alter" by adding verses from 
other texts, as he did in Otterburne. 

Secondly, Scott did not make up Otterburne in 
the way suggested by his critic. He took Hogg's 
MS., and I have shown minutely what that MS. 
was, and he edited it in accordance with his pro- 
fessed principles. He made "a standard text." 
It is only to be regretted that Hogg did not take 
down verbatim the words of his two reciters and 
narrators, and that Scott did not publish Hogg's 
version, with his letter, in his notes ; but that 
was not his method, nor the method of his 

Thirdly, as to Jamie Telfer, long ago I wrote, 

" The lyart locks of Harden's hair," 

azit Jacobus aut Diabolus, meaning that either 
James Hogg or the devil composed that stanza. 
I was wrong. Hogg had nothing to do with it ; on 
internal evidence Scott was the maker. But that 
he transposed the Scott and Elliot roles is incapable 
of proof, and I have shown that such perversions 
were made in very early times, where national, not 
clan prejudices were concerned. I have also shown 
that Scott's version contains matter not in the 
Elliot version, matter injurious to the poem, as 
in one stanza, certainly not composed by himself, 
the stanza being an inappropriate stray formula 
from other ballads. But, in the absence of manu- 


script materials I can only produce presumptions, 
not proofs. 

Lastly, Kinmont Willie, and Scott's share in it, 
is matter of presumption, not of proof. He had 
been in quest of the ballad, as we know from his 
list of desiderata ; he says that what he got was 
"mangled" by reciters, and that, in what he got, 
one river was mentioned where topography requires 
another. He also admits that, in the three ballads 
of rescues, he placed passages where they had most 
poetical appropriateness. My arguments to show 
that Satchells had memory of a Kinmont ballad 
will doubtless appeal with more or less success, or 
with none, to different students. That an indefinite 
quantity of the ballad, and improvements on the 
rest, are Scott's, I cannot doubt, from evidence of 

" Sir Walter Scott it is impossible to assail, 
however much the scholarly conscience may dis- 
approve," says Mr. Kittredge.^ Not much is to be 
taken by assailing him ! " Business first, pleasure 
afterwards," as, according to Sam Weller, Richard 
III. said, when he killed Henry vi. before smother- 
ing the princes in the Tower. I proceed to pleasure 
in the way of presenting imitations of " the tradi- 
tional ballad" which "appears to be inimitable by 
any person of literary cultivation," according to 
Mr. Kittredoe. 

^ Ballads^ p. xxix. 


Imitations of Ballads 

The three following ballads are exhibited in con- 
nection with Mr. Kittredge's opinion that neither 
poet nor poetaster can imitate, to-day, the tradi- 
tional ballad. Of course, not one of my three 
could now take in an expert, for he would ask for 
documentary evidence of their antiquity. But I 
doubt if Mr. Kittredge can find any points in 
my three imitations which infallibly betray their 

The first, Simmy ' d Whythaugh, is based on 
facts in the Border despatches. Historically the 
attempt to escape from York Castle failed ; after the 
prisoners had got out they were recaptured. 

The second ballad. The Young Rzithven, gives 
the traditional view of the slaying of the Ruthvens 
in their own house in Perth, on 5th August 1600. 

The third. The Dead Mans Dance, combines 
the horror of the ballads of Lizzy Wan and The 
Bonny Hind, with that of the Romaic ballad, in 
English, The Sjiffolk Miracle (Child, No. 272). 



O, will ye hear o' the Bishop V York, 
O, will ye hear o' the Armstrongs true, 

How they hae broken the Bishop's castle, 
And carried himsel' to the bauld Buccleuch ? 

They were but four o' the Lariston kin, 

They were but four o' the Armstrong name, 


Wi' stout Sim Armstrong to lead the band, 
The Laird o' Whythaugh, I mean the same. 

They had done nae man an injury, 

They had na robbed, they had na slain, 
In pledge were they laid for the Border peace, 

In the Bishop's castle to dree their pain. 

The Bishop he was a crafty carle, 

He has ta'en their red and their white monie, 

But the muddy water was a' their drink. 
And dry was the bread their meat maun be. 

" Wi' a ged o' airn," did Simmy say, 

"And ilka man wi' a horse to ride. 
We aucht wad break the Bishop's castle. 

And carry himsel' to the Liddel side. 

"The banks o' Whythaugh I sail na see, 

I never sail look upon wife and bairn ; 
I wad pawn my saul for my gude mear, Jean, 

I wad pawn my saul for a ged o' airn." 

There was ane that brocht them their water and bread ; 

His gude sire, he was a kindly Scot, 
Says "Your errand I'll rin to the Laird o' Cessford, 

If ye'll swear to pay me the rescue shot." 

Then Simmy has gi'en him his seal and ring. 
To the Laird o' Cessford has ridden he — 

I trow when Sir Robert had heard his word 
The tear it stood in Sir Robert's e'e. 

"And sail they starve him, Simmy o' Whythaugh, 

And sail his bed be the rotten strae ? 
I trow I'll spare neither life nor gear. 

Or ever I live to see that day ! 

" Gar bring up my horses," Sir Robert he said, 
" I bid ye bring them by three and three. 

And ane by ane at St. George's close. 
At York gate gather your companie." 

Oh, some rade like corn-cadger men, 
And some like merchants o' linen and hose ; 

They slept by day and they rade by nicht. 
Till they a' convened at St. George's close. 


Ilka mounted man led a bridded mear, 

I trow they had won on the English way ; 

Ilka belted man had a brace o' swords, 
To help then' friends to fend the fray. 

Then Simmy he heard a hoolet cry 

In the chamber Strang wi' never a licht ; 

"That's a hoolet, I ken," did Simmy say, 

" And I trow that Teviotdale's here the nicht 1 " 

They hae grippit a bench was clamped wi' steel, 
Wi' micht and main hae they wrought, they four, 

They hae burst It free, and rammed wi' the bench, 
Till they brake a hole in the chamber door. 

" Lift strae frae the beds," did Simmy say ; 

To the gallery window Simmy sped, 
He has set his strength to a window bar. 

And bursten it out o' the binding lead. 

He has bursten the bolts o' the Elliot men, 
Out ower the window the strae cast he. 

For they bid to loup frae the window high. 
And licht on the strae their fa' would be. 

To the Bishop's chamber Simmy ran ; 

" Oh, sleep ye saft, my Lord ! " says he ; 
"Fu' weary am I o' your bread and water, 

Ye'se hae wine and meat when ye dine wi' me." 

He has lifted the loon across his shoulder ; 

" We maun leave the hoose by the readiest way ! " 
He has cast him doon frae the window high. 

And a' to hansel the new fa'n strae ! 

Then twa by twa the Elliots louped. 

The Armstrongs louped by twa and twa. 

" I trow, if we licht on the auld fat Bishop, 
That nane the harder will be the fa'!" 

They rade by nicht and they slept by day ; 

I wot they rade by an unkenned track ; 
"The Bishop was licht as a flea," said Sim, 

"Or ever we cam' to the Liddel rack." 


Then " Welcome, my Lord," did Simmy say, 

"We'll win to Whythaugh afore we dine, 
We hae drunk o' your cauld and ate o' your dry. 
But ye'll taste o' our Liddesdale beef and wine." 



The King has gi'en the Queen a gift, 

For her May-day's propine, 
He's gi'en her a band o' the diamond-stane. 

Set in the siller fine. 

The Queen she walked in Falkland yaird, 

Beside the hoUans green. 
And there she saw the bonniest man 

That ever her eyes had seen. 

His coat was the Ruthven white and red, 

Sae sound asleep was he 
The Queen she cried on May Beatrix, 

That bonny lad to see. 

" Oh ! wha sleeps here. May Beatrix, 

Without the leave o' me ? " 
" Oh ! wha suld it be but my young brother 

Frae Padua ower the sea ! 

" My father was the Earl Cowrie, 

An Earl o' high degree. 
But they hae slain him by fause treason, 

And gar'd my brothers flee. 

"At Padua hae they learned their leir 

In the fields o' Italie ; 
And they hae crossed the saut sea-faem. 

And a' for love o' me ! " 

The Queen has cuist her siller band 

About his craig o' snaw ; 
But still he slept and naething kenned, 

Aneth the hollans shaw. 


The King was walking thro' the yaird, 

He saw the siller shine ; 
" And wha," quo' he, " is this galliard 

That wears yon gift o' mine ? " 

The King has gane till the Queen's ain bower, 

An angry man that day ; 
But bye there cam' May Beatrix 

And stole the band away. 

And she's run in by the little black yett, 

Straight till the Queen ran she : 
" Oh ! tak ye back your siller band, 

Or it gar my brother dee ! " 

The Queen has linked her siller band 

About her middle sma' ; 
And then she heard her ain gudeman 

Come sounding through the ha'. 

" Oh ! whare," he cried, " is the siller band 

I gied ye late yestreen ? 
The knops was a' o' the diamond-stane, 

Set in the siller sheen." 

"Ye hae camped biding at the wine, 

A' nicht till the day did daw ; 
Or ye wad ken your siller band 

About my middle sma' ! " 

The King he stude, the King he glowered, 

Sae hard as a man micht stare : 
" Deil hae me ! Like is a richt ill mark, — 

Or I saw it itherwhere ! 

"I saw it round young Ruthven's neck 

As he lay sleeping still ; 
And, faith, but the wine was wondrous guid, 

Or my wife is wondrous ill ! " 

There was na gane a week, a week, 

A week but barely three ; 
The King has hounded John Ramsay out, 

To gar young Ruthven dee ! 


They took him in his brother's house, 

Nae sword was in his hand, 
And they hae slain him, young Ruthven, 

The bonniest in the land ! 

And they hae slain his fair brother, 

And laid him on the green. 
And a' for a band o' the siller fine 

And a blink o' the eye o' the Queen ! 

Oh ! had they set him man to man, 

Or even ae man to three. 
There was na a knight o' the Ramsay bluid 

Had gar'd Earl Gowrie dee ! 



"The dance is in the castle ha'. 
And wha will dance wi' me ? " 

" There's never a man o' living men, 
Will dance the nicht wi' thee ! " 

Then Margaret's gane within her bower. 

Put ashes on her hair, 
And ashes on her bonny breast 

And on her shoulders bare. 

There cam' a knock to her bower-door. 

And blythe she let him in ; 
It was her brother frae the wars. 

She lo'ed abune her kin. 

"Oh, Willie, is the battle won? 

Or are you fled?" said she, 
"This nicht the field was won and lost, 

A' in a far countrie. 

"This nicht the field was lost and won, 

A' in a far countrie. 
And here am I within your bower. 

For nane will dance with thee." 


"Put gold upon your head, Margaret, 

Put gold upon your hair. 
And gold upon your girdle-band, 

And on your breast so fair ! " 

" Nay, nae gold for my breast, Willie, 

Nay, nae gold for my hair, 
It's ashes o' oak and dust o' earth, 

That you and I maun wear ! 

" I canna dance, I mauna dance, 

I daurna dance with thee. 
To dance atween the quick and the deid. 

Is nae good companie." 

The fire it took upon her cheek, 

It took upon her chin, 
Nae Mass was sung, nor bells was rung. 

For they twa died in deidly sin. 

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