Chronicles of the Canongate

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First edition title page

Chronicles of the Canongate was a collection of stories by Sir Walter Scott, published in 1827 and 1828. They are named after the Canongate, in Edinburgh.

  • 1st series (short stories, 1827):
    • "The Highland Widow"
    • "The Two Drovers"
    • "The Surgeon's Daughter"
  • 2nd series (novel, 1828):

The second series is sometimes taken as part of the Waverley Novels.

The Highland Widow[edit]

Plot summary[edit]

The MacTavish family lived near Oban in 1775. Hamish MacTavish Mohr ("Senior"), a daring freebooter, had met his death in an encounter with the Saxon red-coats, by whom the Highlands were garrisoned after the battle of Culloden. His wife, who had shared all his dangers, strove to inspire their only son with his father's love of adventure and hatred of servile toil; but as he grew up the lad evinced no inclination for lawless pursuits, and, unable to endure his mother's taunts at his want of spirit, enlisted in one of the regiments formed in Scotland to oppose the French in the American war of independence. Before sailing he sent her some money by Phadraick, and returned to spend a few days with her, when she fiercely reproached him for daring to act in opposition to her will, and, failing to alter his purpose, drugged his parting-cup, thus causing him to exceed his furlough, and render himself liable to the lash as a deserter. She then urged him to flee to her kinsmen, while she baffled his pursuers; but he resolved to await the arrival of the sergeant and men of his regiment who, he felt sure, would be sent to arrest him. They came, and, on being summoned to surrender, he shot the sergeant dead. The other soldiers secured him, and he was marched as a prisoner to Dumbarton castle, where he was tried by court-martial and condemned to be shot. His captain and a Presbyterian minister interceded for him; but the English general in command was determined to make an example, and the next morning his sentence was carried out in the presence of his comrades.

His mother, who had attempted to follow him, was met by the minister wandering in a wild glen, and on hearing her son's fate, she uttered terrible imprecations, and renounced all further intercourse with the world. She lived, however, for many years in her lonely cottage, regarded with awe and pity by her neighbours as the victim of destiny, rather than the voluntary cause of her son's death and her own wretchedness. At length, while two women, who had been set to watch her last moments, were sleeping, she disappeared from her bed, and was never heard of again.

Characters[edit]

  • Hamish MacTavish Mohr, an outlaw
  • Elspat, his wife
  • Hamish Bean ("Junior"), their son
  • Miles Phadraick, a farmer
  • Rev Michael Tyrie, a Presbyterian minister
  • Green Colin, captain of Hamish Bean's regiment
  • Allan Break Cameron, his sergeant

The Two Drovers[edit]

Plot summary[edit]

In 1795, Robin Oig was just starting from Doune with a drove of cattle for England, when his father's sister, who was supposed to be gifted with second sight, drew his dirk from the folds of his plaid, and, exclaiming that there was Saxon blood on it, induced him to entrust the weapon to Morrison, who undertook to return it when asked for. At Falkirk the Highlander met his bosom friend, Wakefield, and they travelled southwards together. Having reached Cumberland, they separated to hire pasturage for their beasts, and it happened that while the Englishman bargained with the bailiff, the Highlander came to terms with the squire, and they thus both secured the same enclosure. On discovering this, Wakefield reproached his comrade with having played him false, and, angrily refusing his offer that they should share the field, had to be content with a barren moor belonging to the landlord of the alehouse, where they had agreed to pass the night.

The squire had invited Oig to sup with him, and mentioned having passed Morrison a few miles off. On reaching the inn the Highlander met with a cold reception from the assembled company, who sided with Wakefield, and egged him on to challenge Oig to a Cumberland tussle. But the Highlander would have shaken hands, and, refusing to fight except with swords, he attempted to leave the room. Wakefield, however, opposed his doing so, and struck him senseless to the ground. Frantic with rage when he revived, and prevented by the hostess from attacking his comrade, Oig sullenly went out, warning him to beware. Striding over the moonlit moor to meet Morrison, he obtained his dirk on the pretence that he had enlisted, and, returning to the alehouse, he stabbed Wakefield through the heart.

At his trial the judge made every allowance for the provocation Oig had received, but pointed out to the jury that, as he went to recover possession of his weapon, there was ample time for his passion to have subsided, and for him to have reflected on the guilt of his meditated revenge. He was, accordingly, convicted of murder, and having been sentenced to be hung, he met his fate with the observation, "I give a life for the life I took, and what can I do more?"

Characters[edit]

  • Robin Oig MacCombich, a Highland drover
  • Janet of Tomahourich, his aunt
  • Hugh Morrison of Glanae, a Lowland drover
  • Harry Wakefield, an English drover
  • Mr Ireby, a Cumberland squire
  • John Fleecebumpkin, his bailiff
  • Ralph Heskett, host of an alehouse
  • Dame Heskett, his wife
  • Hortence Bennet, his lover

The Surgeon's Daughter[edit]

Plot summary[edit]

Gideon Gray was a surgeon who lived in Fife in the late 18th century. The surgeon's services were unexpectedly sought by a pregnant woman and her husband, who arrived in the village, as strangers, just before she gave birth. The following day the father left, and within a month the mother was carried off by her father, who persuaded Mr Gray to undertake the care and education of the boy, and deposited a thousand pounds in trust for him. Four years afterwards Mrs Gray died in giving birth to a daughter, and the two children were brought up together. At the age of fourteen Richard, who had been led by his nurse to believe himself born to wealth and honour, was informed by his guardian of his real position, and, after consulting with Mr Lawford and his companion Tom Hillary, he decided to remain an inmate of Mr Gray's family as his apprentice, with Hartley as a fellow pupil. As they grew up both the young men fell in love with Menie, and when the doctor proposed that Hartley should become his partner, and endeavour to secure her affections, it transpired that she and Richard were already secretly engaged. Hartley determined to make a voyage to India, and learnt with astonishment that his rival, at the instigation of Hillary, who was now a captain in the Company's service, intended to spend two years there before marrying, in the hope of realising a fortune.

Having obtained the money left by his grandfather in Mr Gray's hands, and enlisted as a recruit, he sailed from Edinburgh with his friend for the depot at Ryde; but, on recovering from a drinking bout before landing, he found himself in the military hospital, deserted by Tom Hillary, and robbed of all his belongings. Hartley, however, was acting as one of the medical officers, and, having earned the gratitude of the commandant, General Witherington, by successfully treating two of his children who were suffering from small-pox, was able to obtain a commission for his fellow-student. The general and his wife had discovered that Richard was their first-born, and when he was introduced to them the shock of hearing him describe himself as an orphan, deserted by his parents, caused the death of his mother, upon which the father was seized with a fit of frenzy, and on recovering could not face his son again. Hartley had, however, been previously entrusted with his history, as well as a gift of money for him, and they sailed together for Madras. Having killed his colonel in a duel, Richard fled to the court of a native prince, while Hartley obtained great reputation as a medical practitioner. One of his patients was Barak el Hadji, who promised him his influence with Hyder Ali, should he at any time need it.

Bangalore Fort in 1860

Some months afterwards he was startled by the presence of Menie Gray at a public breakfast, chaperoned by the Begum, who, he learnt, was the wealthy widow of a Rajah. At a private interview with his old master's daughter, Hartley elicited from her that she had come out at Richard's invitation to be married, and was on her way to meet him in Mysore. Mistrusting her lover, he offered his protection should she need it, and the next day he received a note from her telling him she was sold to Tippoo Saib. Unable to obtain an audience of the governor, Hartley resolved to solicit the intervention of Hyder Ali, and, having reached Seringapatam, he sought the aid of El Hadji, who introduced him to another Fakir of higher rank. Following his directions, he accompanied a troop of native cavalry to Tippoo's encampment near Bangalore, and witnessed his return thither, escorted by a magnificent bodyguard, including artillery and elephants. The Begum, who had previously arrived with her retinue, and Menie under her protection, was at once invited to an interview with the prince in his garden the following day. Accordingly at noon the discharge of cannon announced that he had left his palace; and on the arrival of his visitor, attended by Richard as her principal officer, she was conducted to a cushion on his right hand. An attendant then proclaimed the appointment of Richard as governor of the city, and the Begum in return presented Tippoo with the litter containing Menie.

The old Fakir, however, came forward, and, throwing off his disguise, ascended the throne as Hyder Ali. Having reproved his son, he commanded him to restore the gift to the care of Hartley, but allowed the ceremony of investiture to proceed. As Richard, however, who had plotted with Paupiah to betray his trust, was about to mount the elephant in waiting for him, the Rajah made a sign, upon which the animal seized him by the neck with its trunk, and crushed him to death with its foot. The Begum was then ordered to bear her share in compensating her intended victim for the indignity she had suffered, and afterwards deprived of her power and riches. Menie returned to her native village, and the gallant Hartley died from a distemper caught in the courageous pursuit of his profession.

Characters[edit]

  • Mr Gideon Gray, of Middlemas, a village surgeon
  • Jean Gray, his wife
  • Menie Gray, their daughter
  • Mr Richard Tresham, afterwards General Witherington
  • Mlle Zilia de Monçada, afterwards his wife
  • Richard, their son
  • Mathias de Monçada, a Portuguese Jew
  • Mr Lawford, Town Clerk of Middlemas
  • Tom Hillary, his apprentice
  • Adam Hartley, Mr Gray's apprentice
  • Mr M'Fittoch, a dancing master
  • Captain Seelencooper, Governor of Military Hospital at Ryde
  • Barak el Hadji, an agent of Hyder Ali
  • Madame de Montreville, a Begum
  • Paupiah, steward to the British resident
  • Hyder Ali, Rajah of Mysore
  • Tippoo Saib, his son

References[edit]

  • This article incorporates text from the revised 1898 edition of Henry Grey's A Key to the Waverley Novels (1880), now in the public domain.