« AnkstesnisTęsti »
pre-marriage settlement, in the old crumpled manuscript and faded ink, is before me as I write. It is dated 1751. In this document an annuity provided against the prospective bride is "restricted during the life of Anna Laurie, widow of Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch, to ane annuity of Seventy Pounds Sterling yearly." Annie Laurie's own will is also extant. It was drawn up as early as 1711, the year after her marriage, "forasmuch as I consider it a dewtie upon everie persone whyle they are in health and sound judgement so as to settle yr. worldly affairs that yrby all animosities betwixt friends & relatives may obviat." The deed appoints her husband "to be my sole & only executor, legator, & universalle intrometter with my haill goods, gear, debts, & sums of money that shall pertain & belong to me the tyme of my decease, or shall be dew to me by bill, bond, or oyrway."
The husband never had these duties to perform. Annie Laurie survived him, living until 1761, when she was close on eighty. Her death is recorded prosaically enough in the "Scots Magazine" thus: "April 5, at Carse, Dumfriesshire, Mrs. Anne Laurie, relict of Alexander Fergusson of Craigdarroch, Esquire, & daughter of the deceased Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton." She had been the lady bountiful of Nithsdale, and in her later years was a notable gossip and matchmaker. It was under her direction that the present mansion house of Craigdarroch was built, and a relic of her taste is preserved in the formal Georgian gardens at the back. One of the winding paths still bears her name. The portrait of her reproduced here hangs in the dining-room at Maxwelton. It is ascribed to Aikman (1682-1731), but the head-dress seems to belong to a later period.
She is described as slender and graceful, with large blue eyes and brown hair, which was never powdered, despite the fashion of the times. Her face appears to have been rather long, and the features are clearly of the Grecian type. Tradition says that her feet, like her hands, were unusually small, in which case the simile,
Like dew on the gowan lying Is the fa' o' her fairy feet,
is well founded. It would shock one more to think of this charming creature taking
snuff if other ladies of that age had not done the same thing. Her snuff-box, still in existence, is a piece of Sèvres work, with a miniature of Prince Charlie painted on the lid. It is some consolation to know that she did not adopt the practice till well on in years. She was very fond of letter-writing, but she "wrote uninterestingly," says a descendant in whose hands some specimens of her correspondence remain. She always signed her name "Anna.”
A visit to Maxwelton to-day is interesting on several grounds. This, the original home of Annie Laurie, sits high upon its "braes," nestling amid umbrageous shades of venerable trees, overlooking a flowery parterre. It was two hundred years old when she was born, and though it has been rebuilt, a considerable portion of the original remains, notably the great tower. Some of the old walls are twelve feet thick. The lower room in the tower is the gun-room, and the little room above is always spoken of in the family as "Annie Laurie's boudoir." Over the entrance door of the tower, and above a window in the opposite wing, are inserted two marriage stones, the first that of Annie's father and mother, the second (dated 1641) that of her grandfather and grandmother. The stones are about two feet square. The bride's and the bridegroom's initials and the date of the marriage are cut upon them, along with the family coat of arms, which bears among other heraldic devices two laurel leaves and the motto, "Virtus semper viridis." There is also an Annie Laurie marriage stone at Craigdarroch. Such stones were often put up, in accordance with a very ancient custom, but specimens are now extremely rare.
A Laurie is still in possession of Maxwelton, though not of the first baronet's male line. Sir Robert Laurie, the contemporary of Burns, represented Dumfries at Westminster for thirty yearsfrom 1774 till his death in 1804. His eldest son, Admiral Sir Robert Laurie, died in 1848 without issue, and the Laurie baronetcy expired with him. The present proprietor of Maxwelton, the Rev. Sir Emilius Bayley Laurie, a retired Church of England clergyman, is the great-grandson of Burns's "whistle" hero, but inherits his baronetcy through his mother, a granddaughter of Sir Robert, who mar
Maxwelton House, the home of Annie Laurie, enjoys any notoriety which it may possess not from its antiquity, for there are many older houses even in this part of Scotland; not from any peculiarity of structure; not from any part it has played in history, but solely from its association with the name of Annie Laurie. And that lady owes her fame not to any accident of birth, or to anything remarkable in her character or career, but simply to the song composed by the man she threw over, and more particularly to the air to which in later days that song has been sung.
So much for the heroine and the place
MAXWELTON HOUSE, THE EARLY HOME OF ANNIE LAURIE
of the song; now, as to the song itself. The original version written by the jilted Jacobite consisted of two stanzas only. The second stanza, beginning
She's backit like a peacock,
evidently owed something to an old, unquotable version of "John Anderson, my Jo"; but the style of Douglas's verses is wonderfully chaste and tender for the age. Here they are, exactly as he wrote them:
Maxwelton banks are bonnie,
Whare early fa's the dew; Whare me and Annie Laurie
Made up the promise true;Made up the promise true,
And never forget will I, And for bonnie Annie Laurie I'd lay doun my head and die.
She 's backit like a peacock,
She's breastit like a swan, She's jimp about the middle,
Her waist ye weill may span;Her waist you weill may span, And she has a rolling eye, And for bonnie Annie Laurie I'd lay doun my head and die.
This, it will be seen at once, is not quite the song with which the public is familiar. Just as Fingland was superseded in his love, so his song was superseded by a brighter and more delicately cut gem than he was able to fashion. The "jimp about the middle" and the "rolling eye" stanza is never sung now. But who does not know the lines beginning,
Her brow is like the snawdrift,
which gave place to it?
The history of this modern version of the song is bound up with the familiar tune, for both song and tune were from the same pen. Douglas's original lines were long known among the common people in the south of Scotland, but there was no fitting tune for them; and, strange to say, they made no appearance in print until Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe included. them in his privately printed "Ballad Book of Songs" in 1824. Up to that
ANNIE LAURIE'S HUSBAND FROM AN OLD PRINT
time they had been sung to a tune long since discarded. In 1825 Allan Cunningham transcribed the verses, with trifling alterations, for his "Songs of Scotland," and it was from finding them there that Lady John Scott had the idea of recasting them. I quote from a letter of her own, dated 1899, as follows:
It is no trouble to tell you my share in "Annie Laurie." I wrote the music originally to another old ballad. I was staying at Marchmont (when my sister, Lady H. Campbell, was alive), & one day, in the library, I took Allan Cunningham's poetry, & I thought my tune would just suit his ballad of "Annie Laurie." I did not like his second verse, which begins, "She 's backit like a peacock," so I altered it to what it is at present. I added the third verse, "Like dew on the gowan lying." I then sang it to poor Sir Hugh & my sister to see if they thought it worth writing down. They liked it. I did write it down. After the Crimean War I gave it to Lonsdale [a London music seller] to publish for a bazaar for the widows & orphans of the soldiers who had been killed.
Here we have, in a nutshell, the story of how the modern song was called into being, and how its tune was made.
It was in the year 1835 that Lady John Scott wrote her version of the song, and although it was published, with the music,
in an Edinburgh collection in 1838, she withheld her name until 1854, when she published it with other songs. There seems to have been no particular reason for hiding the authorship. But nearly all Scottish ladies of "family" used to write anonymously when they wrote at all. A reward was actually offered for the discovery of the authorship of "Auld Robin Gray," written by Lady Lindsay. "The Flowers of the Forest" was published anonymously by Miss Jane Elliot; and Lady Nairne enjoyed the joke of hearing "The Land o' the Leal" conjecturally attributed to Burns.
Lady John Scott has as much right to be called the author of "Annie Laurie" as Burns has to be called the author of "Auld Lang Syne" and many another old song which he touched up and saved from oblivion. But she was not at all anxious to claim the distinction. She was a real Scottish gentlewoman, "all of ye olden time," though she died as recently as 1900. Born Alicia Anne Spottiswood in 1810, she belonged to one of the oldest families in the south of Scotland. An ancestor, John Spottiswood, went to France in 1558 to be present at the marriage of Mary Stuart to the dauphin. His son, again, was the famous Archbishop Spottiswood who crowned Charles I at Holyrood in 1625. Lady John was of the seventh generation from the archbishop. In 1836. she married Lord John Scott, the Duke of Buccleuch's only brother. Lord John died suddenly in 1860, and the widow was left disconsolate, with no children to comfort her.
Almost up to her own death she acted as if her hus
band were still by her side. His chair was set out for him at every meal; when she traveled, his luggage went with her own; she wrote letters to him as if he were on a journey. His hats and sticks remained in the hall; his dressing-room was seen exactly as he left it. There was no morbidness about all this. With a healthy mind, Lady John's motto at all times and in every relation of life was, "Hand [hold] fast by the past." She was a great stickler for old-fashioned ways. Instead of putting up a notice to 'Shut the gate," she had it in the vernacular "Steek the gett." A farmer on her estate, objecting to the name of "Howlet's Ha'," altered it to the English equivalent of "Owl's Hall," and was promptly ordered to revert to the original designation or quit the place. She always burned peats in preference to coal, and kept a grinding mill when everything else of the kind had long since vanished. The "guisards" at New-Year time were requested to come and act their "plays" before her and her visitors; and on Handsel Monday she would herself set out and seek her cakes at the homes of her servants, in the words of the old rhyme:
FROM AN OLD PRINT
My feet 's cauld,
my shoon 's thin, Gie 's my cakes an' let me rin.
Never lived a more perfervid Scot. "I would rather stay in a pigsty in Scotland than in a palace in England," she said.
Such was the author of the popular version of "Annie Laurie," the composer of its tune. Surviving her husband for forty years, she passed away, at the age of ninety, in March, 1900, on the sixty-fourth anniversary of her wedding-day.
ROOKFIELD, on the authority of "The Morning Democrat's" social column, was on the qui vive: Charley Brinton had come home from Harvard with an unexpected fiancée and the fiancée's mother, and nobody knew how old John Brinton was going to take it. Reflect that old John Brinton was to Brookfield what a sort of composite DiogenesCroesus would have been to Sinope, and you will admit that the "Democrat" was not overstating the case.
The dingy little cottage on Grove Street that had sheltered the twenty-odd years of John Brinton's widowerhood somewhat grudgingly received Charles and his guests. It had the air of doing most things grudgingly, however, probably contracted from Mrs. Mallet, the colored housekeeper, who came in by the day, fried monotonous, indigestible meals, and made. a faint pretense of keeping the house in order. Under urging from Charles, she prepared a supper of fried chicken on the evening of the ladies' arrival, removed a modicum of the ancient dust, and put a
Author of "The Siren of the Air,"
BY REGINALD BIRCH
vase of nasturtiums in the middle of the
round, red clothed table.
John Brinton, making no exception for the exceptional circumstances, came home just in time to take his place at the head of the table. In response to a telegram from his son, he had neglected his business long enough to meet the ladies at the station, telephone to Mrs. Mallet, and send them out to Grove Street in a carriage. He greeted them unsmilingly when they came to the supper-table, and solemnly served the chicken. When everybody except himself had been served, he pushed his chair back from the table, called to Mrs. Mallet, and requested her to fry some bacon and eggs for him.
In the midst of the sensational silence that followed this request, Mrs. Powell spoke.
"I'm so sorry we did n't have just your usual supper," she said. "I understand that Brookfield is famous for its bacon and eggs."
"You may have some, too, if you care to wait, ma'am," said Brinton, surprised