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A Romance of Lake Wakatipu

Note 23.—"The Bloody Clavers."

Note 23.—"The Bloody Clavers."

John Grahame, of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, is a man long-lived in the execrations of his countrymen. Strenuous efforts have been made to purify his memory from what there can be little doubt is well-merited odium, but these have signally failed, and Claverhouse remains as much a byword and reproach to our common humanity as he was two hundred years ago, when employed harrying the lairds of Clydesdale, and ruthlessly shooting down the peasants of Ayrshire. Sir Walter Scott, a man brimful of sympathy for the individual, but a thorough despot in his political sentiments towards the masses, has painted him the hero of renown, gifted with a chivalry and devotion worthy of the highest order in patriotism. In these endeavours, if Sir Walter has succeeded at all, it is only to the extent of shifting the odium from his hero on to himself. Could anything be more disingenuous and less worthy of the great mind than the plea he puts into the mouth of Claverhouse in extenuation of his cold-blooded atrocities?—"There is a difference in my spilling the blood Of muddy peasants and cracked-brained weavers, and Burley [leader of the Presbyterian army] killing prelates, lords, and commanders." Even the able George Gilfillan, the learned divine of Dundee, with all his tenderness and regard to the memory of the Baronet of Abbotsford, is forced to admit that "Claverhouse in 'Old Mortality' is a pure fiction, a failure as well as a falsehood, and the contrarieties drawn in his character are monstrous and thoroughly irreconcilable." Kind, considerate, and in many respects irreproachable as the author of 'Waverley' undoubtedly was, he conceived a bitter animus against the Covenanters, and did not hesitate to misrepresent them in both their character and doctrine. For instance, his Gilbert Kettledrummle page 126is the caricature of a name readily recognised in the events of the period. At the memorable battle of Drumclog he is pictured, in an attitude of perturbation, addressing his companions in misfortune as follows: "Peradventure some pellet may attain unto us even here. Lo, I will ensconce me behind the cairn as behind a strong wall of defence." If there he one distinguishing feature in the character of these noble people more prominently pourtrayed than another, it is the devotion they showed in defending themselves against the wanton, attacks on their civil and religious liberties—a devotion the immediate prospect of death could not shake, far less destroy. They may have been, and, no doubt, many of them were, men extreme in their views and headstrong in their prejudices, but it is a foul libel to brand them as cowards, or even imply that they valued their lives in preference to what they esteemed the glory of God and the good of their country.

Then we find another great intellect embarked in a similar project—viz., William Edmonstoune Aytoun, D.C.L., Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature in the University of our Modern Athens. He sets out with that admirable lay in his Cavaliers, "The Burial March of Dundee,"—

Sound the fife and cry the slogan;
Let the pibroch shake the air
With its wild triumphal music,
Worthy of the freight we bear.

Lo! we bring with us the hero—
Lo! we bring the conquering Græme—
Crowned as best beseems a victor
From the altar of his fame.

In the pages of authentic history no such halo encircles the name of Dundee. Macaulay, in his popular History of England, tells us that the shires in which the Covenanters were most numerous were given up to the license of the army. With the army was mingled a militia composed of the most violent and profligate of those who called themselves Episcopalians. Pre-eminent among the bands which oppressed and wasted these unhappy districts were the dragoons commanded by Claverhouse. The story ran that these wicked men used in their revels to play at the torments of Hell, and call each other by the names of devils and damned souls. The chief of this Tophet on earth, a soldier of distinguished courage and professional skill, but rapacious and profane, of violent temper and of obdurate heart, has left a name which, wherever the Scottish race is settled on the face of the globe, is mentioned with a peculiar energy and hatred.