Scott's Use of Scottish Family History in Redgauntlet

by Joanne Wilkes
Scott's Use of Scottish Family History in Redgauntlet
Joanne Wilkes
The Review of English Studies
Start Page: 
End Page: 
Select license: 
Select License


WHEN Redgauntlet appeared in 1824, reviewers were quick to attack its author for adopting Jacobite rebellion as his subject once again,' and one of them even berated him as a 'determined, systematical despiser of historic fact' for presenting a Jacobite conspiracy as taking place at a time 'when all the world was at pea~e'.~

However, modern critics such as David Daiches, D. D. Devlin, and David Brown have pointed out that Scott invents a Jacobite conspiracy for the 1760s in Redgauntlet, not for its own sake, but as a focus for his exploration of the social changes that had occurred in Scotland since the rebellion of 1745. The Jacobite cause, particularly as embodied in Hugh Redgauntlet, is an expression of the old 'heroic' Scotland, ruled by codes of honour and feudal loyalty, and relying on military means to resolve conflict. But these values-and hence Redgauntlet himself- are becoming increasingly anachronistic in a Scotland in which hereditary jurisdictions have been abolished, the legal system is growing in power, and the Hanoverian regime will not resort to combat even to put down a Jacobite rev01t.~ Hence the scene in which the conspiracy breaks up may be, as Brown puts it, 'Scott's most audacious piece of historical fantasy', but it works since it is 'founded securely on the underlying social reality of the peri~d'.~

The novel is, then, true to what we would now call social history, if not to the details of political history beloved of Dr Dryasdust. I wish to suggest here that Scott is also bringing to bear on Redgauntlet-and especially on Redgauntlet-another kind of history: the history of several promi- nent Scottish families.

See the reviews of the novel in the New Monthly Magazine, 11 (1824), 93-6, at p. 94; Monthly Review, 104 (1824), 198-209, at pp. 200-1 ;Examiner, 11 July 1824, p. 441;Universal Review, 1 (1824), 514-20, at pp. 516-17.

Crniversal Review, p. 517.
' See Daiches, 'Scott's Redgauntlet', in Robert C. Rathburn and Martin Steinmann, jun. (edd.), From Jane Austen to Joseph Conrad: Essays Collected in Memory ofJames T.Hillhouse (Minneapolis, 1958), 46-59; Devlin, 'Scott and Redgauntlet', Review of English Literature, 4 (1963), 91-103; Brown, Sir W'alter Scott and the Histoncal Imagination (London, 1979),151-72.

Brown, Sir WalterScott, p. 166.
RESNew Series, Vol. XLI,No.162 (1990) 0Oxford L'niversity Press 1990


The family with which I am most concerned is the Herries family. It will be remembered that when Redgauntlet visits the Fairfords in Edinburgh early in the novel, he adopts the alias 'Herries of Birrenswork'. Saunders Fairford explains to Alan that 'Herries of Birrenswork' is "'a branch of that great and once powerful family of Herries, the elder branch whereof merged in the house of Nithesdale at the death of Lord Robin the Philosopher, Anno Domini sixteen hundred and sixty- even"'.^ The property was, however, forfeited on account of the family's support of the Jacobites in the 1715 rebellion. Alan later learns from Provost Crosbie that 'Herries' is both the maiden name of Redgauntlet's mother and "'partly his own"', and also that there are not so many Herries as formerly, since "'the old stocks are wearing out"' (p. 252). The picture emerging, then, is of a family once numerous, wealthy, and powerful, but now in decline partly because of its support for Jacobitism-and this is also what we find when we look at the historical Herries family.

The first record of landownership by a Herries relates to 1323, when Robert the Bruce gave a charter to 'Richard de Heriz' of land in Haddingtonshire, and 'Robert de Heriz' was styled 'Dominus de Nith~dale';~

this Robert was the ancestor of the main branch of the Herries family. His son Sir John Herries, 1st of Terregles (near Dumfries), had in 1364 a charter from King David Bruce making Terregles a barony, while his descendant Sir Herbert Herries was created Lord Herries of Terregles by James IV in about 1489. In the early sixteenth century his successors acquired much land.' However, William, 3rd Lord Herries, left no sons, and the title passed to the husband of his eldest daughter, Sir John Maxwell, second son of the 5th Lord Maxwell. This is also relevant to the novel, since Redgauntlet is said to be related to the Jacobite Maxwell of Summer- trees. The family's losses of property seem to have begun during the 1640s as a result of their adherence to the Royalist side during the Civil War. John, 7th Lord Herries, had his rents for 1644-5 and subsequent years uplifted, and had to pay large sums from his estate in fines, as well as being made to raise, support, and quarter troops for Parliament. In 1659 he was imprisoned for debt.8 He was, moreover, the Lord Herries who, as Saunders Fairford explains, succeeded as 3rd Earl of Nithsdale in 1667, but his new estate had been depleted

'Sir Walter Scott, Redgauntlet (1824; repr. Everyman, 1906), 56. All subsequent citations will be from this edition and will be incorporated into the text.

ti P. H. M'Kerlie, History of the Lands and Their Owners in Galloway, v (London, 1877),

144.'Sir William Fraser, The Book of Caerlaverock (Edinburgh, 1873), i. 586; M'Kerlie, History

of the Lands, v. 147. Fraser, Book of Caerlaverock, i. 208 ff., 354 ff.

too, since the 2nd Earl had had to sell some property on account of losses suffered in the war.9

Yet it was the family's Jacobitism, particularly its involvement in the '15, which led to its eclipse. William Maxwell, 5th Earl of Nithsdale and 9th Lord Herries (1676-1744), was a leading figure in the rising, hastening in October to the assistance of the English Jacobites under Forster and the Earl of Derwentwater. A month later, they had to surrender at Preston.l0 In the novel, the forfeiture of the 'Birrenswork' property is said to have been due to the support of Redgauntlet's forebear 'Herbert Herries' for his 'kinsman' Derwent- water (p. 56), and, as far as I am aware, this 'Herbert Herries' has no historical basis." Nevertheless, the career of the Jacobite Earl of Nithsdale has an interesting echo in the novel. He had been sentenced to death for his part in the uprising, but on the night before he was due to die, he escaped from the Tower by disguising himself as one of his wife's friends, a Mrs Mills. This naturally caused a sensation throughout the kingdom, and Scott was later to tell the story himself in his Tales of a Grandfather. It is, I think, possible that in having Darsie disguised as a woman during Redgauntlet's conspiracy, Scott is evoking this famous event of Jacobite history, as well as the more celebrated disguise of the Young Pretender as Flora Macdonald's maid 'Betty Burke' after the '45.12 Redgauntlet points out to Darsie in fact that female disguise is a device "'to which kings and heroes have been reduced"' (p. 407).

Not that heroism characterized the family's behaviour in subse- quent years. The Earl of course forfeited his titles and had to flee abroad, where he lived on a small pension from 'James 111' and was constantly in debt.13 The rest of his life was uneventful, and he died the year before the '45. His son, the 6th Earl of Nithsdale and 10th Lord Herries but for the attainder, was presented to Charles in Edinburgh in 1745, but was apparently too terrified by the fate his father had so narrowly avoided to join the Jacobites actively.14 He was also brother-in-law to Charles, Earl of Traquair, whose failure to come out in the Prince's support is mentioned by Maxwell in the novel

Fraser, Bwk of Caerlaverock, i. 374. lo Ibid. i. 4244.

l1 The pedigree of the Earls of Derwentwater appears in Major Francis John Angus Sturt, The Life of the Right Honourable James Radcliffe, Third Earl of Den~entzzater (London, 1929), 180-1.

" Fraser, Book of Caerlaverock, i. 433ff.; ii. 222ff. See also The Lbfiscellaneous Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott (Edinburgh, 1871), xxv. 389-91. The parallel between Darsie's and Nithsdale's disguises has been noted by Charles S. Olcott in his The Country of Sir W'ultet-Scott (London, 1913), 360.

l3 Fraser, Book of Caerlaverock, i. 441 ; Henrietta Tayler, Lady 'Yithsdale and Her Family (London, 1939), 22. l4 Tayler, Lady .Vithsdale, pp. 253-6.

(p. 265). The anachronistic nature of Redgauntlet's fanatical dedi- cation to the Jacobite cause does, I think, stand out in stronger relief if we are aware of how lukewarm even in 1745 had been the head of the Herries family.

The pattern of prosperity followed by decline adumbrated in the novel is applicable to other branches of the Herries family as well. Roger, a younger brother of Andrew, 2nd Lord Herries, held land in Maidenpaup early in the sixteenth century, but in 1629 his descendant William Herries, on the verge of beggary, was forced to sell it. Another branch, the Herries of Mabie, acquired much land in the Kirkcudbright and Galloway areas in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but William Herries of Mabie parted with this and other land in 1707. There are records of a Herries family of Barnbarroch (Kirkcudbright) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but they become extinct early in the eighteenth, while the Herries of Upper Barnbarroch sold their property in 1822, two years before Redgauntlet was published. The Scottish public records of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries contain numerous other entries relating to minor families of the name Herries, but in most cases all traces vanish after this period, at least as regards connection with landed property. l5

At several points in the novel, Redgauntlet's capacity for violence becomes an issue. For example, he tells Joshua Geddes that he and his followers will rip out the stakes the Quaker has used for fishing, and throw them and their lessee down the tide (p. 63). Later, when Darsie shows resentment at his imprisonment, Redgauntlet says he will blow his nephew's brains out rather than allow him to escape (p. 239), and during the conspiracy at Crackenthorp's inn he threatens Alan with death if he betrays the plot (p. 401). When Alan plans to escape confinement at the inn, Lilias warns him against this, on the grounds that Redgauntlet, 'in his moments of enthusiasm, knew neither remorse nor fear', and would visit his wrath on Darsie (p. 432). On the other hand, Redgauntlet had once failed in his plan to abduct the

Is See David C. Herries' articles in Jliscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica: 'Pedigree of Herries of blabie (or Maby) in the Parish of Troqueer and Stewartry of Kirkcudbright', 4th ser., 5 (1912), 78-84 and 114-20; 'The Family of Herries of Barnbarroch in the Parish of Colvend, and Stewartry of Kirkcudbright', 4th ser., 5 (1913), 298-303; 'Herries Notes', 4th ser., 5 (1913), 361-3; also H. Herries-Crosbie, The Stop and Pedigree of the Lords Henies of Herries in the Male Line (Wexford, 1921), 11, 14, 16. The 'Herries of Heathgill' and 'Herries of Auchintulloch' mentioned by Crosbie in the novel (p. 252) appear to be fictional-as is the Herries family in a more recent novel, Hugh Walpole's Rogue Hem'es (1930). The eponymous hero of the latter does seem to owe something to Scott's portrayal of Redgauntlet, in his tendencies for melancholy brooding and dreaming of the unattainable, while his family is notable for its unchanging loyalties.

infant Darsie because his mother held him fast, and he was not capable of '"using unmanly violence to his brother's widow"' (p. 356), while at one point Alan, speculating about Redgauntlet's likely intentions towards the adult Darsie, concludes that 'though, in his feudal pride, Redgauntlet might venture on the deeds of violence exercised by the aristocracy in other times, he could not be capable of any action of deliberate atrocity', since his language was 'so strikingly that of the gentleman, and even of the man of honour' (p. 259). The irony is, of course, that in the Britain of the 1760s Redgauntlet has no opportunity to indulge any violent propensities or to show any 'military courage', since the representative of the Hanoverian regime, Colonel Colin Campbell, quickly uncovers the Jacobite conspiracy and then refuses to fight the conspirators on their own-military- terms. The history of the various branches of the Herries family does, however, reveal much about 'the deeds of violence exercised by the aristocracy in other times', and hence provides a perspective from which we can view Redgauntlet's character.

Apart from information about landownership, the material dealing with the Herries family in the public records concerns mainly their involvement in violent incursions against the persons andlor property of other families, or even members of their own. In 1483 a George Herries of Terraughty was ordered by the Lords of Council to return cattle and other goods stolen from Ninian Crichton, parson of Sanquhar, while three years later his relative Richard Herries of Mabie was fined for deforcing the Chamberlain of Galloway, who was collecting rents on Crown lands let to the family. A century later we find the Privy Council denouncing as rebels 'Richie Hereis in Barnbarroch' and his brother Robert for not answering a complaint by a James Gordon that they had continually robbed and molested him. In 1591 this Richard Herries was again denounced as a rebel, together with Robert Herries of Mabie and various other Herries and Max- wells, for not appearing to answer the complaint of 'Johnne Redik of Dalbaty', that they had stolen his animals and furniture, demolished his houses, and tried to evict his family, household, and tenants. Robert Herries of Barnbarroch was in similar trouble four years later, this time because of a complaint by Robert Maxwell of Bracoth, that Herries and others had burnt his houses with his family inside, including his wife who had recently given birth-certainly a case of 'unmanly violence'. Similar incidents occur in the seventeenth century. In 1612 an Archibald Herries of Maidenpaup faced a charge of having almost murdered a servitor of the Earl of Orkney, and two Herries of Mabie were convicted of robbing and threatening the life of the Steward of Kirkcudbright. Two other members of the same branch were accused in 1643 of conniving at the escape of a Robert Maxwell from prison at Dumfries, and as late as 1674 we find an Adam Newall entering into a bond of caution for his relative Robert Herries of Halldykes, that the latter should not harm the Murrays of Brockelrig, their tenants or servants. l6

'Deeds of violence' were almost as often committed against relatives as against rival families or representatives of government. In about 1528 a Peter Herries was burnt inside a peel-tower by various other Herries, including Andrew, brother of William, 3rd Lord Herries, and in the following year Roger Herries of Maidenpaup had to be ordered to cease molesting this same Lord Herries (his nephew), who with his mother had complained that Roger and his accomplices were daily despoiling and oppressing tenants in Terregles, holding them in prisons and fetters, stealing their goods, and laying waste their lands. Further intra-family feuding is evident later in the century, since in 1592 three other Herries of Maidenpaup had to find surety that they would not harm 'Matthew Hereis in Larglanglie', while in 1593 Walter Herries of Knokinschynnoch became surety that 'Mathew Hereis in Lochrutongait' would not harm John, Roger, or George Herries, or George's sons John and Archibald. Ten years later Walter Herries of Knokinschynnoch was in trouble himself, being accused by William Herries of Corsuada of ejecting the latter from his property, stealing his goods, and other acts of oppression.17

Redgauntlet is not, I think, meant to be seen as capable of the worst atrocities committed by his Herries ancestors, and he is certainly more selfless and idealistic than they seem to have been. This is borne out by a Herries legend more directly relevant to the novel, and one which Scott himself had first brought before the public. In his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1802-3), he had published a ballad by his friend Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, 'Lord Herries His Complaint', based on a story about a square stone tower near Hoddam Castle, a former seat of the Herries family which had been sold to the Sharpes in about 1630. Over the door of the tower are carved figures of a dove and a serpent, with the word 'Repentance' between them, so that the tower is usually called the Tower of Repentance. According to the legend, a

l6 See David Herries, 'Herries of Mabie', pp. 79-80, 84, 115-16; 'Herries of Barnbarroch', pp. 298-9; 'Pedigree of Herries of Maidenpaup in Galloway', MGH, 4th ser., 4 (191 l), 219-22, at pp. 221-2; 'Notes on the Families of Herries of Balharry and Herries of Middle Palgus in Perthshire', JIGH, 4th ser., 5 (1913), 221-3, at p. 223.

" See David Herries, 'Herries Notes', JfGH, 4th ser., 5 (1913), 361-3, at p. 361; 'Herries of Maidenpaup', pp. 219-20; 'Herries Notes', MGH, 5th ser., 1 (1914), 64-7, at pp. 66-7; also Herries-Crosbie, Lords Henies of Henies, p. 5. I have omitted some of David Herries' examples to avoid tedium. Nor were robbery and violence on the Borders confined to the Herries family, of course.

Lord Herries, nicknamed 'John the Reif' for his constant marauding and plundering, was once crossing the Solway from England with a boatful of unlawfully taken prisoners, when he was overtaken by a storm. In order to lighten his load, he cut all the prisoners' throats and threw them into the sea. However, he later felt great remorse, and hence built the tower as a kind of penance: in the ballad, he laments that because of his terrible crime, he feels as if he is living in hell, and will die in despair:

'Alas! twelve precious lives were spilt, My worthless spark to save; Bet had I fall'n, withouten guilt, Frae cradle to the grave. 'Repentance! signal of my bale, Built of the lasting stane, Ye lang shall tell the bluidy tale, When I am dead and gane. 'How Hoddam's Lord, ye lang shall tell, By conscience stricken sair, In life sustain'd the pains of hell, And perish'd in despair. Is

In the novel Redgauntlet makes two terrifying crossings of the Solway with Darsie, and on the second occasion is certainly acting illegally, but he saves rather than sacrifices his nephew's life, and is motivated by political idealism and a sense of family destiny, rather than by a desire for self-preservation or personal gain.

The aura of violent daring and military valour surrounding Redgauntlet may owe something to Scott's knowledge of the Herries family history, but in the novel he is drawing more directly on the traditions of two other important Scottish families. One of these is, of course, the source of 'Wandering Willie's Tale': Scott's note tells us that it is based 011a story of 'Sir Robert Grierson of Lagg, the famous persecutor' (p. 447), which he had heard in his youth. He had probably also read the version-very close to his own-given in Strains of the hlountain Muse (1814) by Joseph Train, his regular informant on the customs and traditions of south-west Scotland: the letters to and from Train in the Abbotsford Collection contain several references to other legends about Grierson's reputed connections with the Devil.19 The other important Redgauntlet legend is the story of the origin of the family horseshoe mark on the forehead and the curse it represents. The sobriquet 'Redgauntlet' had originally been given to

l8 See The Poetical IVorks ofsir lihlter Scott (Edinburgh, 1880), iv. 307-12. l9 See National Library of Scotland, MS 874, fos. 114-20.


a Norman knight called Fitz-Aldin because of his great slaughter of the English and his reluctance to give them quarter. Later, while fighting for the Scots against Edward Baliol, this Alberick Redgauntlet in his eagerness to attack Baliol had ridden over his own son and killed him, and at the same moment his wife had died giving birth to another son, who bore the horseshoe mark on his forehead. Because of Alberick's great cruelty to his son, "'Heaven had decreed that the valour of his race should always be fruitless, and that the cause which they espoused should never prosper"'. Hence the family had always been on the losing side in the civil broils dividing Scotland (pp. 230 ff.). This story is in fact substantially the same as that recorded early this century by an H. Herries-Crosbie, but as part of the Crosbie family history. Since a father had ridden over and killed a son fighting on the opposite side in battle-in this case at Bannock- burn itself-his new son was born with a horseshoe mark on his forehead which had been inherited by later generations. And on account of this Crosbie's atrocity, all his descendants found that 'their toil, their cleverness, their kindness, their loyalty should never avail them long'.20 As Herries-Crosbie's very name suggests, there was some intermarriage between the Herries and Crosbie families, notably between Margaret Herries and John Crosbie (a Provost of Dumfries) in 1670, and, around the turn of the next century, between Robert Herries of Upper Barnbarroch and his second cousin Jean, daughter of Robert Crosbie of Kipp.21 In the novel, however, there is no suggestion that the Crosbies are doomed always to support the losing side: William Crosbie, Provost of Dumfries, may be married to a relative of Redgauntlet's, but he is generally anxious to serve whichever party seems to be in the ascendant at the time.

The effect of Scott's use of the Grierson and Crosbie legends in creating the Redgauntlet family background is to highlight the family's violent propensities and their political idealism. They have generally not fought for personal gain, but both Alberick's ruthless slaughter of the English and the readiness with which his descendant Sir Robert Redgauntlet in the 'Tale' switches from killing his Covenanter political and religious enemies to hunting foxes, suggest that the family can revel in killing for its own sake. Moreover, given that Alberick Redgauntlet was fighting in the Scottish cause against the English, Hugh Redgauntlet's passionate interest in his story reveals how for him Jacobitism is really just the most recent manifes- tation of the Scots' long struggle against English oppres~ion.~~

Z0 Herries-Crosbie, Lords Herries of Henies, pp. 1-2. Z' Ibid. 2-3, 12, 14.

22 This is in fact how it was seen by many Scottish Jacobites after the Union of 1707; see Daiches, 'Scott's Redgauntlet', pp. 50-1.

The family curse, meanwhile, provides the basis for his belief that he and his nephew have no choice but to adhere to the Jacobite cause, however doomed to failure it may be.

The recurrence of the Redgauntlet horseshoe mark and their continual support of the losing side throughout Scotland's history are not the only instances in the novel of the persistence of hereditary tendencies. Indeed, in 'Wandering Willie's Tale', although Sir John Redgauntlet may seem very different from his father Sir Robert-fair- spoken, peaceable, religious-when Steenie Steenson declares that his rent-money must be in hell with Sir John's father, then "'he heard the Laird swearing blood and wounds behind him, as fast as ever did Sir Robert"' (p. 121). It is, however, Joshua Geddes who best illustrates how difficult it is to expunge hereditary characteristics, and Scott again adapts the history of a prominent Scottish family to illuminate the issue.

Geddes explains to Darsie that his ancestors of the sixteenth century were

renowned among the ravenous and bloodthirsty men who then dwelt in this vexed country; and so much were they famed for successful freebooting, robbery, and bloodshed, that they are said to have been called Geddes, as likening them to the fish called a Jack, Pike, or Luce, and in our country tongue, a Ged. (p. 74)

Joshua Geddes tries to put this family background behind him, even to the suppression of passionate feeling itself. He defaces the family's armorial scutcheon, creates a quiet, peaceful retreat where life moves as slowly as the very river flowing through it, and, as a Quaker, rejects not only violence but even the legal system which has largely replaced it as a means of settling disputes. Geddes' account of his forebears has some historical basis, since the Geddes were a leading Peeblesshire family who held lands in Kirkurd and Rachan for hundreds of years, and the name did indeed derive from the plural of 'ged', a pike-their arms were three pike-heads. During the sixteenth century they were continually feuding with the Tweedies of Drumelzier, and one of them was actually murdered by the Tweedies in 1592. In 1617 the minister of Glenholm was to complain of the disruptive behaviour of Charles Geddes of Rachan, which had caused the dissolution of a Kirk Session, but the culprit paid little heed to warnings and admonitions, and even when threatened with excommunication did not promise to mend his ways till a year later. However, by 1752 the family land had all been sold to pay debts, and the conversion of Joshua's grandfather Philip to Quakerism, as well as the commercial success of his father which is the basis of Joshua's own prosperity (pp. 74-6), seem to be Scott's invention^.^^ He hence combines history with fiction to estab- lish the greatest contrast possible between the past and the present of the Geddes family.

Nevertheless, he draws this contrast only to underline how heredi- tary qualities persist despite all attempts to suppress them-for Joshua sometimes exhibits a violent temper. When he sees Benjie riding swiftly by on his horse Solomon, he exclaims, "'[tlhe mischievous bastard! . . . the doomed gallows-bird!"' (p. 71), and when Rachel explains to Darsie that her brother, although eschewing the use of force, will not submit to Redgauntlet's threats over the salmon issue, Darsie concludes that 'the spirit of the old sharers of the spoil was not utterly departed even from the bosom of the peaceful Quaker' (p. 83). Later, when Geddes goes off to confront Redgauntlet's men at the fishing station, Darsie decides that the Quaker's usual absence of enthusiasm 'perhaps rather belonged to the sect than to his own personal character' (p. 183). Since Geddes and Redgauntlet share a similar family heritage, and both show some violent propensities, it turns out that Darsie's initial impression of the pair as 'no bad emblem of Peace and War' (p. 62) has exaggerated the contrast between them.

Yet Darsie, for all his Redgauntlet heritage, shows no sympathy for Jacobitism, and throughout the conspiracy merely hopes to avoid having to reject the cause overtly and thus incur his uncle's wrath. Alan may once have sensed in his friend 'a spark of something dangerous' (p. 27), but this is scarcely evident in the novel, while Redgauntlet himself, as we have seen, does not really appear to be capable of the atrocities perpetrated by his ancestors on both sides. In the end he acknowledges in fact that Darsie's support for the winning side has spelt the end of the family's "'fatal doom"', and the last we hear of Sir Arthur Darsie Redgauntlet is that he was presented to George I11 by Lieutenant-General Campbell. This brings me, finally, back to the Herries family, and to that branch of it which was both the most prominent at the time the novel was published (1824), and the most likely to be evoked by the name 'Herries of Birrenswork'.

For, soon after Redgauntlet appeared, Maria Edgeworth reported to Scott that the novel had caused a great accession of visitors to a Miss Herries of 'Birrenswark' then living in Cheltenham.2' Birrenswark is in fact a hill between Lockerbie and Ecclefechan in Dumfriesshire, which, at the time the novel was written, formed part of the estate of the Herries of Halldykes. The Miss Herries mentioned by Maria

23 For the Geddes family, see James LValter Buchan and the Revd. Henry Paton (edd.), :L Histon of Peeblesshire, iii (Glasgow, 1927), 188-93, 281-96. 2" Letter of 17 Nov. 1824, in The Letters of Sir llalter Scott, ed. H. J. C. Grierson (London, 1932-7), viii. 497 n. 'Birrenswark' is obviously a variant spelling of 'Birrenswork'.

Edgeworth was probably a daughter of William Herries of Halldykes, Catherine Jane Grace, who died at Cheltenham in 1840.25 Her half-brothers Sir Robert Herries and Colonel Charles Herries, as well as Charles's son John Charles Herries, achieved eminence in their respective fields, and their careers suggest that the family had some capacity to adapt to changing circumstances.

William Herries of Halldykes (b. 1692) was apparently very extravagant, and so was obliged to sell the Halldykes estate to his younger brother in 1751. This brother was a banker in Rotterdam, and around the middle of the eighteenth century William's eldest son Robert joined his uncle's business. By 1762 this Robert had come to manage the London branch of Coutts', and in 1768 he invented a system of circular notes of credit for the use of travellers abroad-a forerunner of modern travellers' cheques. Four years later he set up his own London bank, his partners including his uncle and two of his brothers. He was knighted in 1774, and between 1780 and 1784 was MP for Dumfries Burghs. Sir Robert Herries clearly owed his wealth (not to mention his title) to his banking activities rather than to his traditional status as a landowner, and was obviously willing to participate in a Hanoverian political system.26

Meanwhile the career of his brother Colonel Charles Herries shows the family's military talents being used in the service of the Hanoverian regime. Col. Herries, a great swordsman, horseman, and commander, raised in 1779 a regiment of London Merchants called the Light Horse Volunteers of London and Westminster. It was active mainly in the Gordon Riots of 1780 and in the revolutionary agitation of 1794-1810, and at different times Herries' privates included Spencer Percival, the 3rd Duke of Montrose, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, two Chief Justices, and two Speakers, as well as various other lawyers, MPs, and commercial men. When Herries died in 1819, he was accorded a public military funeral and a monument in Westminster Abbey. His son William had distinguished himself in the Napoleonic Wars, being badly wounded while trying to rescue General Sir John Hope from under his horse during a French attack at Bayonne in 1814.27

However, the most prominent Herries in public life in 1824 was no doubt Colonel Herries' son, John Charles Herries. He had been Commissary in Chief during the last years of the Napoleonic Wars,

" David Herries, 'Pedigree of Herries of Halldykes in the Parish of Dryfesdale, Dumfries- shire (Pt 11)'. .UGH. 4th ser.. 4 (1911). 378-82, at P.380.


26 1bid. 378-82.

27 David Herries. 'Pedigree of Herries of St. Tulian's. Kent'. I1lGH. 4th ser.. 5 (1912). 40-6; Edward Herries, 22.1ernoirif the Public Life of ;he Right Hon. John Charles ~e4t-s (iondon, 1880), i. 10-14.

and Auditor of the Civil List from 1816 to 1821. Indeed, his political career extended beyond Scott's lifetime, well into the 1850s. Not only did he hold important offices in governments under Hanoverian monarchs, but also, in the years immediately before the novel was published, served on a Commission of Enquiry into the collection and management of revenue, and, as Financial Secretary to the Treasury from 1823, put into effect its recommendations for the consolidation and simplification of the customs laws. This is rather ironic in view of the fact that in the novel Redgauntlet's Jacobite conspiracy is closely associated with the smuggling of spirits and other contraband from Scotland to England!28

There was a final irony in the history of the main branch of the Herries family which Scott did not live to know. William Maxwell, 10th Lord Herries and 6th Earl of Nithsdale but for the attainder, had been succeeded by a daughter, Lady Winifred, who married William Haggerston-Constable and became known as Lady Winifred Con- stable-Maxwell. Scott himself had met Lady Winifred as a young man, describing her as a 'singular old curmudgeon' and as 'one of the most extravagant figures' he ever saw.29 In 1824, when Redgauntlet appeared, the family was represented by her grandson, William Constable-Maxwell, who was given the title of 10th Baron Herries of Terregles by the House of Lords in 1858. In 1874, his third son Joseph married Mary Monica Hope-Scott-by then Sir Walter's only surviving de~cendant.~~

28 Edward Herries, John Charles Henies, i. 117ff.;Annua[Register, 97 (1855), 268.
29 Fraser, Book of Caerlavernck, i. 49G1; letter of 4 Aug. 1828 from Scott to Lockhart, in Letters, x. 482.

30 Debrett's Peerage and Barnnetage 1980 (London, 1979), 594; Major-General Sir Walter Maxwell-Scott, Guide to Abbotsford, rev. Dr James Corson (Abbotsford, 1975), 4. She was Scott's great-granddaughter, descended from Lockhart and Scott's elder daughter Sophia.

  • Recommend Us