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Such were some of the most striking and peculiar traits in the character of this people. "Accustomed to traverse tracts of country, which had never been subjected to the hands of art, contemplating every day the most diversified scenery, surrounded every where by wild and magnificent objects, by mountains, lakes, and forests, the mind of the Highlander is expanded, and partakes in some measure of the wild sublimity of the objects with which he is conversant. Pursuing the chace in regions not peopled, according to their extent, he often finds himself alone, in a gloomy desert, or by the margin of the dark frowning deep; his imagination is tinged with pleasing melancholy; he finds society in the passing breeze, and he beholds the airy forms of his lathers descending on the skirts of the clouds. When the tempest howls * over the heath, and the elements are mixed in dire uproar, he recognises the airy spirit of the storm, and he retires to his cave. Such is, at this day, the tone of mind which characterizes the Highlander, who has not lost the distinctive marks of his race by commerce with strangers, and such, too, has been the picture which has been drawn by Ossian." • Such scenes as these impressed the warm imaginations of the Highlanders with sentiments of awe and sublimity, and, without any moroseness or sullenness of disposition, produced that serious turn of thinking so remarkably associated with gaiety and cheerfulness.
* Previous to a tempest, some mountains in the Highlands emit a loud hollow noise like the roaring of distant thunder; and the louder the noise, the more furious will be the tempest, which it generally precedes about twelve or twenty-four hours. From this warning, when "the spirit of the mountain shrieks," * the superstitious minds of the Highlanders presage many omens. Beindouran in Glenorchy, near the confines of Perth and Argyle, emits this noise in a most striking manner. It is remarkable that it is emitted only previous to storms of wind and rain. Before a fall of snow, however furious the tempest, the mountain, which is of a conical form, and 35OO feet in height, is silent. In the same manner several of the great waterfalls in the Highland rivers and streams give signals of approaching tempests and heavy falls of rain. Twenty-four or thirty hours previous to a storm, the great falls on the river Tummel, north of Shichallain, emit a loud noise, which is heard at the distance of several miles. The longer the course of the preceding dry weather, the louder and the more similar to a continued roll of distant thunder is the noise; consequently, it is louder in summer than in winter. When the rain commences the noise ceases. It forms an unerring barometer to the neighbouring farmers. Why mountains and waterfalls in serene mild weather emit such remarkable sounds, and are silent in tempests and rains, might form an interesting subject of inquiry.
* o.-,. (..
General means of subsistence—Filial affection—Influence of custom—Disgrace attached to cowardice, fyc.
In former times the population, which, as already stated, appears to have been greater than at a later period, would seem at first sight to have greatly exceeded the means of subsistence, in a country possessing so small an extent of land fit for cultivation. Their small breed of cattle throve upon the poorest herbage, and was, in every respect, well calculated for the country. In summer, the people subsisted chiefly on milk, prepared in various forms; while in winter they lived, in a great measure, on animal food: the spring was with them a season of severe abstinence. Many were expert fishers and hunters. In those primitive times, the forests, heaths, and waters, abounding with game and fish, were alike free to all, and contributed greatly to the support of the inhabitants. Now, when mountains and rivers are guarded with severe restrictions, fish and game are become so scarce, as to be of little benefit to the people, and to form only a few weeks' amusement to the privileged. *
The little glens, as well as the larger straths, were, however, peopled with a race accustomed to bear privations with patience and fortitude. Cheered by the enjoyment of a sort of wild freedom, cordial attachments bound their little societies together. A great check to population was, however, found in those institutions and habits, which, except in not preventing revengeful retaliation and spoliations of cattle, served all the purposes for which laws are commonly enforced.
* See Appendix, 0.
While the country was portioned out amongst numerous tenants, none of their sons was allowed to marry till he had obtained a house, a farm, or some certain prospect of settlement, unless, perhaps, in the case of a son, who was expected to succeed his father. Cottagers and tradesmen were also discouraged from marrying, till they had a house, and the means of providing for a family. These customs are now changed. The system of converting whole tracts of country into one farm, and the practice of letting lands to the highest bidder, without regard to the former occupiers, occasions gloomy prospects, and the most fearful and discouraging uncertainty of tenure. Yet, as if in despite of the theory of Malthus, these discouragements, instead of checking population, have removed the restraint which the prudent foresight of a sagacious peasantry had formerly imposed on early marriages. Having now no sure prospect of a permanent settlement, by succeeding to the forms inherited by their fathers, nor a certainty of being permitted to remain in their native country on any terms, they marry whenever inclination prompts them. The propriety of marrying when young, they defend on this principle, that their children may rise up around them, while they are in the vigour of life, and able to provide for their maintenance, and that they may thus ensure support to their old age; for no Highlander can ever forego the hope, that, while he has children able to support him, he will never be allowed to want. On the other hand, the affection of children to their parents has led to the most zealous exertions, mid the greatest sacrifices in providing for their support and comfort. Children are considered less as a present incumbrance, than as a source of future assistance, and as the prop, of declining age. Whatever their misfortunes might be, they believed, that, while their offspring could work, they would not be left destitute. It is pleasing to ob serve, that, among many changes of character, this laudable feeling still continues in considerable force, If a poor man's family are
under the necessity of going to service, they settle among themselves which of their number shall in turn remain at home, to take charge of their parents, and all consider themselves bound to share with them whatever they are able to save from their wages.
The sense of duty is not extinguished by absence from the mountains. It accompanies the Highland soldier amid the dissipations of a mode of life to which he has not been accustomed. It prompts him to save a portion of his pay, to enable him to assist his parents, and also to work when he has an opportunity, that he may increase their allowance,—at once preserving himself from idle habits, and contributing to the happiness and comfort of those who gave him birth. I have been a frequent channel through which these offerings of filial bounty were communicated, and I have generally found, that a threat of informing their parents of misconduct has operated as a sufficient check on young soldiers, who always received the intimation with a sort of horror. They knew that the report would not only grieve their relations, but act as a sentence of banishment against themselves, as they could not return home with a bad or a blemished character. Generals M'Kenzie Fraser and M'Kenzie of Suddie, who successively commanded the 78th Highlanders, seldom had occasion to resort to any other punishment than threats of this nature, for several years after the embodying of that regiment.
Honesty and fair dealing in their mutual transactions were enforced by custom • as much as by established law, and generally had a more powerful influence on their character and conduct, than the legal enactments of latter periods. Insolvency was considered as disgraceful, and prima facie a crime. "Bankrupts were forced to surrender their all, and were clad in a party-coloured clouted garment, with the hose of different sets, and had their hips dashed against a stone in presence of the people, by four men, each
• Sec Appendii, P.