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Fraser's Scottish Annual
The Greatness of Scottish Women


"While thy wings aspire are heart and eye
Both with thy nest upon the dewy ground." —WORDSWORTH.

IT is not true that up to the time J when she dawns upon the poetic f vision of her lover and becomes the inspiration of his song that the Scottish woman leads a species of tadpole existence. Strange though it may appear there is such a thing as the Scottish female child. True she is unknown to literature; she is never seen on canvas; she is not met in hotel corridors nor in newspaper scraps, but she exists. Somewhere among the empurpled and everlasting hills, shy and fleet of foot as the hare that, bounding, shakes the dew from the heart of the wild rose; where the mavis springs on startled wing from out the golden gorse; among the hazels and the tasseled birks; with the limpid glint of the mountain tarn in her clear eye, with a flush on her cheek caught from the rose that paints the dingle-side, the hues of the sun-embrowned bracken in her hair, you find the Scottish woman-child.

It may be she gathers blaeberries among the heather. It may be she tends the sheep "Upon the cauld hillside." It may be she lies proneand dreaming upon the slopes by grey Dunnolly, where placid Oban gazes forth upon the sea. Mayhap she wakes a thousand echoes where Bothwell Ha' inoulders to dust, and silver Clutha winds. She may be the Janet of the lone shieling on the misty island or the Jean of the cot, the like of which the Lowland poet has immortalized, but from some source, whether from that suggestion of infinitude which comes from the ocean, or the hint of aspiration whispered by mountain; whether from the free screaming of the eagle or the blythe trilling of the lark; from sad, ruined palace or smiling cot, she gathers, gathers, as she grows, and enshrines within herself all those qualities of dignity and endurance, intellect and perseverance, art and fancy, courage and reserve which make her more fitted, after her long, slow period of mental gestation is past, to be the mother of sons, than any other race of women in the world.

There are, as I have said, no tales of the Scottish woman-child. She has been ignored even by the men of her own race. Perhaps because she has no easy prattle. She has none of that piqueing precocity which is, however, too often the precursor of an ineffective maturity. Yet her mind teems with sights and sounds, perceptions and reflections for which speech is inadequate, even sacreligious. Some day, breaking the floodgates of reserve, they steal upon the world through the silent medium of the pen. For it is by that cheap implement the Scottish woman most frequently hews her way up the steep heights of Fame until greatness lies close to, yea, within her own very volition.

A thousand poets rise to greet her entrance into womanhood. Beauty or no beauty, and this is always debateable ground, what woman of any other nationality has been so lauded for personal charm, and one might add has been so slighted for mental capacity by her fellow countrymen!

"Not the swan on the lake
Not the foam on the shore
Can compare with the charms
Of the maid I adore."

These are the Ossianic utterances of the Gaelic poet.

"She's backit like the peacock,
She's breistit like the swan,"

sang Douglas of his fair unresponsive Annie Laurie. And having drifted first to this question of doubtful Scottish beauty Jet me repeat what some one less enamoured than Douglas, and therefore more to he trusted, says of this woman's claims to physical perfection. She was tall, her historian says, slim and graceful, oval-faced, with delicately cut features, dark eyes and hair, rosy cheeks and lips, and he concludes somewhat slightingly, rather winsome than handsome. For my part I. think the catalogue of her charms compares very favourably with that of even a Langtry; commit each alike to unflattering paper and which shall we say is in the ascendant, the Scottish or the English beauty.

But I am not going to occupy space descanting upon the Bonnie Jeans, bewildering Nannies and piquante Kates of Scottish song in order to prove that female beauty exists in Scotland. I shall not even linger over the authentic Grecian fairness of Highland Mary or of that Royal Mary whose beauty wrought to her downfall. I shall not pause to more than remind you of the beautiful Moncrieffe giris of recent history, because to me, I will confess, Scottish beauty has never seemed to consist so much in fineness of feature as in that indefinable quality, which for lack of a better definition I shall call charm. And what is charm but the halo with which intellectuality gilds and elevates the materialism of physical comeliness. I believe it was to this quality Burns referred when he spoke of Highland Mary's "sparkling glance." He might have said her "smiling glance." But there is a difference apparent to the least perspicacious between a smiling glance and a sparkling glance, the difference which exists between the common sheen of glass and the scintillation of the diamond, the difference between the lack and the possession of a valuable individuality. Here is another hint of the same characteristic from the same penetrating judgment:

"If thou hast heard her talking,
And thy attentions plighted,
That every other person but her
By thee is slighted;

O, that's the lassie of my heart,
My lassie ever dearer;
That's the queen of womankind,
And ne'er a ane to peer her."

As for the woman whose rank was that of queen, I believe it was more by her musical talent,—she was an accomplished musician,— more by her poetic mind,—she wrote graceful poetry in French,— more by a gratifying mentality than by mere perfection of face and form that Mary Stuart enslaved the hearts of men. Yet, lest the blood which flows in my veins should have made me in any degree a partial critic, let us turn to what some English people, and surely there are none less liable to err from enthusiasm, have said of the Scotch woman. It is, indeed, to the thoughtful Southern that we are chiefly indebted for a just estimate of the quality of attractiveness which I claim for Scottish women. The thoughtful Southern I say. There are foreigners, you know, to whom Scotch women will never be other than big, raw-boned and ugly, just as there are people to whom even the brilliancy of halo surrounding a Saviour's head would be invisible, who would pass through life unobservant of a Milky Way, unaware of the magical phenomena of an Aurora Borealis. I quote from one of these thoughtful foreigners, Wordsworth, words addressed to the Highland Maid, to which my poor utterances in her behalf are at least kindred in meaning:

"For never saw I form or face
In which more plainly I could trace
Benignity and homebred sense
Ripening in perfect innocence."

Miss Mulock calls these women "comfortable," that is satisfying, contenting (I think their own word "comely "is better and more prettily expressive), but she also speaks of "that wonderfully noble beauty, not prettiness but actual beauty in its highest physical as well as spiritual development, which is not seldom found across the Tweed."

But enough of beauty. Handsome is as handsome does. Let us pass to things more lasting.

I have said that it was chiefly by this use of the pen that Scottish women have climbed again and again so near to the temple of Fame that it needed but the stretching forth of their own hands to enable them to clasp in theirs the elusive fingers of the presiding goddess. Let me tell you why it was more by the use of the pen than in any other way, it was the cheapest path to the summit. Pencil and paper lay within the means of even the poorest peasant of an impoverished country. There was never any means in the family of the cottager for the education of the daughter of the house; what there was to spare was hoarded to make a minister of the son. The girl, therefore, found an outlet for her poetic and artistic instincts only in the use of the pencil. Scribbling, scribbling, pouring out upon paper all those impressions and judgments, sentiments and fancies which I have pictured her as gathering in her childhood. Scribbling one of them, Joanna Baillie, to such good effect that she was daily spoken of as second only to Shakespeare. Scribbling, if you will let me call it so, plays for the famous Siddons, some say with the forcefulness of a man, as Mrs. Fawcett says "certainly with force of mind, but with a purity which was essentially feminine." Scribbling herself into a fame that was for a time unparalleled and sinking at last, from the narrowness of her domesticity, into an oblivion borne with the fortitude of which Scottish mental equipoise is. alone capable.

There is another of these scribblers, Janet Hamilton. At eighteen years of age the author of twenty religious poems. Then love came to her, wooed, won her, and withholding her hand, as not she alone but scores of her countrywomen have done, from that clasp which while it intoxicates the brain never warms the heart she turned her back on Fame choosing rather that walk in life which lies on higher ground, whose paths have joys more intense, griefs more profound and successes nearer to Heaven— the path of motherhood.

Did I tell you she was blind? Blind and groping her way through life, educated ten children; taught herself writing at fifty-nine years of age and became a contributor to the magazines, sounding a clarion note for Garibaldi and freedom. Oh trilling lark and screaming eagle, deep-buried in the heart of the child, how loud you speak from the mind of the woman!

After the Reformation, Charles Mackay tells us, the mantle of poesy which had up to that time been the appanage of princes, fell upon the shoulders of the people. And well did women as well as men avail themselves of its mystic influences, contributing alike to Scottish poesy

Tender songs,
Loyal, royal, mirthful, sad,
Songs that for their burden had
Love or War;
Drinking, dancing, wooing, sped
Some whose words were tears unshed
Deepest woe.

What Scottish heart, what heart, indeed of any nationality, does not melt over Lady Ann Lindsay's. "Auld Robin Gray," with its pathetic picture of enduring love and equally enduring virtue?

"We took but ae kiss and we tore ourselves away."

What heart with any tinge of that Jacobite sentiment which dies not out with years, but only mel-lows to a tender melancholy, does not revel in the thrilling impassioned Jacobitism of Lady Keith, Baroness Nairne and Mrs. Cockburn.

But Time has changed all this. In those new fields which hav& opened for women, even in Scotland, she is still well to the front.. Word-writing which she invariably elevated to the more complex task of word-painting is no longer the only alternative of the Scottish woman. She is taught wood-carving now, in some of the schools, and it is, said the artistic manifestations are marvellous. Not that the purely artistic gift is a thing of recent years. On the contrary, as far- back as 1737, we hear of Elizabeth Blackwell liberating her husband from a debtors prison by her own exertions with the brush. Thrown upon her own resources after his imprisonment, she began to make drawings of flowers for publication. In that year she published a large folio volume of two hundred and fifty plates,followed two years later by a second of the same size, the whole five hundred plates having been not only drawn and colored by herself, but also engraved.

Another Scotchwoman, Margaret Gillies, made a name for herself in London, as a miniature artist. Charlotte and Anne Naysmith have left many small, but exquisite proofs of their skill. Nor must I omit to mention that other notable artist, Mrs. Fanny Mclan.

It is true that Scottish women have not been distinguished for histrionic ability, although it has been said that the great Mrs. Kendal is of Scottish parentage, but I hold that this failure is not so much from lack of power, for a certain amount of dramatic element is absolutely necessary to the satisfactory rendering of every Scottish song, as from the religious and moral aversion which they have always entertained towards the stage. To give a Scotch comic song with accessories of gesture and imitation, to play upon their hearers' feelings with all the vengefulness necessary to the singing of a "MacGregor's Gathering" or with the pianissimo effects of the "Land o' the Leal" was to the Scottish mind entirely correct. But "playacting" was different.

When they have overcome their prejudice in this respect I believe that Scottish women will lead the world upon the operatic stage. As it is, Margaret Maclntyre, "our own Margaret" they call her in Inverness, is singing in Italy the passionate songs of the Italians as, they say, they have never yet been interpreted by foreigner ; and should we be surprised, knowing the intensity of Scottish emotion and the general knowledge of melody which prevails among the poorest classes in that land of mmtrelsy and romanticism. For me you may take your Patti with allthe perfect mechanism of her throat if you will let me.

"Smile, when I am wae and weep when I am glad."

with the hundreds of Maggie Barrs. and Jeannie Hardys who star even the less pretentious walks of Scottish vocalism.

Modjeska says of her Polish countrywomen that above all other claims, even those of love, they place the thought of country. Admirable patriotism I but, while the Scottish women lives, scarcely yet unique. The literature of Scotland teems with tales of woman's loyalty. "The women's tongues," said the young Chevalier, "had done more for him than the men's swords.' There is the story of the gentlewoman, who flinging her fan to her vacillating husband—vacillating because he knew failure meant not only death to himself, but probable loss of rank and wealth for his dearest—asked for his sword in return that she, at least, might wield it in the cause of Jacobitism. And was it in the glory, the panoply, the triumph of war that she was alone brave? A thousand times no. Do you remember girlish Grizel Bailie, enduring all the torments of the superstitious, going night after night for weeks through the graveyard, which her imaginative soul peopled with horrors, to convey food to the father upon whose head there was a price. For if these women were brave in upholding- their gallant Prince in the flood- time of his fortunes were they not equally enduring when place and power had vanished and calamity gloomed with equal vengeance upon them all. What Polish woman outranks in gallantry a Flora Macdonald? And does not the story of Grizel Baillie's mingled patriotism and filial love recall that other story in which Sir David Baird's mother was heroine. In the days -of the Indian Mutiny Baird was taken prisoner and, report said, subjected to the cruelty of being -chained to another. The news was broken tenderly to the old mother, much apprehension, you may be sure, being felt for the effect of the ill-tidings. Her only comment came as a surprise. 'The Lord,,, :said she, her mind reverting to the lively, restless Davy of boyhood, "help the chiel that's chained to oor Dauvit." What could you have expected? God and country had been the text of this woman's utterances all the days of her life, a shibboleth that never fails beside the Scottish hearth. And when her country summoned and she gave her all, self-abnegation and joy renunciation had been coincident with her giving. He was hers but more her country's, most of all her God's. The pang of separation was past. It was not. could not have been a sudden pang. One cannot preach doctrines like these without -a daily contemplation of the result. And what transcendant bravery is this which first measures and then dares! Let success and joy or defeat with suffering and death wait upon his sword, he was her ungrudging gift to her country. Somewhere back in the past he had been hers, hers by all the unforgettable pangs of motherhood, but what was that to the travail of her country. Mind of heroic mold this! Of the same mind Scotland's Maiden Martyrs; of the same stuff Jennie Geddes flinging her stool at the heads of the Dean and Bishop of Edinburgh to show her unbounded opposition to anything that savored of Popery. Of exactly the same stuff the Scottish colonist kneading her bread upon a towel stretched from peg to peg upon the ground, whittling her spoons from scraps of the logs hewn to form a shelter for her head in the grim wilderness, nursing her babe with calmness at her breast in oft-recurring solitude while the wild cat yowls and moans upon the roof and even silence holds a thousand terrors. Glorious stuff this! Godsend us much of it in this our beloved land!

I come at last to the true greatness of Scottish women.

I have told you that scores of Scottish women having tapped at the portals of Fame, have turned their backs upon the wide-opening doors, choosing rather to become the mothers of greatness than to embody it themselves, believing in the profundity of the wisdom which said the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. I have related to you the story of Janet Hamilton, not because of its singularity, but because it is, with the exceptional point of her blindness, the history of many. Because I wished to show you that, climbing from such ignorance as may be the unavoidable re-suit of her humble and poverty- stamped environment towards that knowledge which is power—the Scottish woman has been quick to discover that there are two pinnacles to the Mountain of Greatness, to either of which intellectual womanhood may climb. One low- lying, within the ken of men, all glare and glitter, and for women unutterable loneliness; one higher, so high that Heaven's mist-like obscurity descends upon it, and its triumphs are within only the vision of the angels ; and the lower is called by men a deathless Fame and the higher—only motherhood.

It was, this keen-eyed woman saw, but letting go of Fame a little while to have it come back a more glorious thing when hand in hand with filial love. It was, she knew, but banking for a time, the treasures of her mind to lay them, principal and interest, within the possession of the child of her bosom. Do you think it cankered the heart of the mother of a Carlyle that she was obscure and he was a "ruler of men"? Do you think the mothers of such men as a Byron or a Burns, a Norman McLeod or a Barrie, weep that their children are great and they are unknown? And yet, if it be as Science tells us, it was to their mothers these men owed their talent for greatness. But do you remember what token of his high favor the Almighty conferred upon Sarah of old? Was it that she personally, should be famed for her wisdom, lauded throughout the ages for her beauty or her intellect ? Not so. He who created the perfect woman's heart knew best how to reward its wise, warm, loving, self- sacrificing greatness. He made her a mother—the mother of nations— the fountainhead from which came "kings of people."

Surely Scottish woman is the Sarah of all nations. For though Respect and Honor may wait upon the talent of a Bonheur, Intellect bows its proud head before the mind of a George Eliot, Music herself pause to listen to a Patti, all the treasures of man's mind with Love which is king of all" rulers of men" pour at the feet of the Scottish woman saying, "These I owe to my Scottish mother.

This is the greatness of Scottish women.

IN a certain district of Scotland there is a farmer who is very tall and very fat, and by reason of his weight perhaps finds existence somewhat of a burden. Nor does he suffer in silence; the chief entertainment which he provides for his friends is the. description of his very latest affliction. The other day a neighbour who had just parted from him, after listening to his tale of woe, met the farmer's son on the road. "Ye're faither's no verra weel the day," he remarked. "H'm," grunted the hopeful. "There's owre muckle o' my faither for him to be a' weel at wance."

AT one time the Clyde was only navigable near Glasgow for small vessels of a very light draught. A skipper, navigating his way up the river, stuck in the mud, and was not sparing in his grumbling at the delay to which he was subjected. While waiting for the rise of the tide he espied a young girl approaching the river, with a pail to fetch some water. This was too much for the poor skipper, so, leaning over the bulwarks of his vessel he thus addressed the lassie, "Noo gin ye tak' ae drap of water oot o' here till I get afloat again, I'll hit ye wi' a boathook.

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