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Edinburgh Past and Present


AND THE VALE OF THE ESK. I33 of the seventeenth century. Over a gateway near the middle, leading into an inner court, you see armorial bearings carved in the stone, and decipher the motto, Hos gZoria red& konores. . . . Not, however, till you have moved from immediately in front of the mansion, so as to survey it in flank and depthwise to the back, are you aware of its full picturesqueness. If you move to the right, you find yourself on a path edging a deep, precipitous, thickly-wooded dell, with the Esk below, and you see, on glancing back, that the more modem portion of the mansion overhangs this dell behind, the windows of the chief rooms looking down into the dell, and athwart its woody labyrinth, with a steepness almost dizzying. . . . For a new surprise, you must return, repass the front and doorway, and descend on the other or left flank of the bouse, where there is a massive block of very ancient masonry to which the rest is an evident addition. The block or tower rests also on the sandstone rock springing up from the dell behind ; and it is part of the established procedure of a visit that you should grope your way through a dark excavation pointed out to you in the rock itself, just beneath the masonry which it supports Descending a few steps, an{ stooping along this mine-like gallery, you come to a hideous circular shaft, once a well, sunk deep down through the rock, with an embrasure atop opening out dangerously on the clear chasm of the dell ; and thence, by similar communications, you reach two chambers, also cut out of the rock. One is a mere dark cavern, in which several men could hide or sleep ; the other admits more light, and has the peculiarity that its sides all round, about ten or twelve feet in the longest direction and four or five feet in the other, are scooped out into a number of square holes or recesses, separated from each other, vertically and horizontally, by partitions an inch or two thick, much after the fashion of a bottle-rack for some Troglodyte or Cyclops. When these caverns were made, and for at purpose or in what freak, no mortal can tell. fi. . . 'Were there no special traditions of a historical kind about Hawthornden House, were it simply the picturesque edifice we have described, overhanging the beautiful glen of the Esk, part of it bringing back the seventeenth century by its look, and part recalling a remoter and- more savage Scottish eld, it would be worth visiting, and would probably attract visitors. This, however, is not the case. Hawthornden House has been for three centuries in the possession of a family of Drummonds, a branch of the wider Scottish race of that name, and it is interesting as having been the 'residence of one man of this family who took for himself a place in British Literature, and is known pre-eminently as the Drummond of Hawthornden. He it was indeed
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‘34 ROSLTN, HAWTHORNDEN, that built the more modern portion of the mansion as we now see it, repairing or renewing the more ancient house that stood on. the same rock and fragments of which still remain, Hawthornden, in short, is a kind of minor Abbotsford, much nearer Edinburgh, and much more antique than the greater one; and it is this’ that makes it an object of curiosity, and invests all its accessories with a precise human interest.’ 1 Perhaps the most interesting fact in Drummond’s life was the visit paid to him by Ben Jonson, who had walked from London into Scotland. He had not come, qs is generally stated, on purpose to see Drummond; but he had known Drummond by reputation for some time, and was very glad to make his acquaintance personally. Accordingly, after having met Drummond in Edinburgh (where Jonson, as a celebrity from ‘London, was received with great distinction by all classes of people, and even presented with the freedom of the city at a banquet in his honour),‘he accepted Drummond’s invitation to stay a week or two with him in Hawthornden House. The time was about the Christmas of 1618 or the New Year’s Day of 1619 ; and the visit has been sketched as follows :- ‘Retter than most myths of the kind is the myth which would tell us exactly how the visit began, Drummond, it says, was sitting under the great sycamore-tree in front of his house, expecting his visitor, when at length, descending the well-hedged avenue from the public road to the house, the bulky hero hove in sight. Rising, and stepping forth to meet him, Drummond saluted him with “Welcome, welcome, royal Ben !” to which Jonson replied Thank ye, thank ye, Hawthornden IJJ and they laughed, fraternised, tmd went in together. ‘ For two or three weeks, at all events, Drummond had Ben Jonson all to himself. There would, doubtless, be friends from Edinburgh, perhaps Scot of Scotstarvet and two or three more, asked out every other day to make dinnercompany for the great man ; and again, once or twice, Drummond and Ben may have trudged into Edinburgh together in the forenoon, or walked together by cross-roads to the house of some neighbour of Drummond’s. (Carriages were not then much in fashion near Edinburgh, and I do not think Drummond kept one, or had a horse fit for a rider of Ben’s size.) But then, even when there’were other guests at Drummond’s table, Ben would be the 1 This and the following extracts are taken from Professor Masson‘s Drammond of fiaw thorn&# : Tiu Story of his Ltyc and Writings.
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