MR. ANDREW LANG ON ST. ANDREWS.*
SCARCELY Oxford herself, "steeped in sentiment as she lies, spreading her gardens to the moonlight, and whispering
from her towers the last enchantments of the Middle Ages," has had a greater influence upon the imagination than the "mine own St. Andrews" of Dean Stanley, of Principal Tulloch, of John Campbell Shairp, and of Mrs. Oliphant, on whose history Mr. Andrew Lang has now allowed the light of his knowledge, and still more of what Mr. Stevenson has termed his "incommunicable humour," to play with an effect that is sometimes pleasing, but sometimes, also, pro- voking. This is due mainly, no doubt, to the special beauty and picturesqueness of the natural situation of St. Andrews, and to the quite unique position which it has occupied in the history of Scotland. In St. Andrews there can be realised in an afternoon, as there can be realised nowhere else north of the Tweed, all the glory, and very nearly all the tragedy, of Scottish history. " Is the truth as near us now," muses Mr. Lang, in a strain of unwonted and almost personal pathos, "as it was when the Pictish King died here in religion, or when Knox held, as he deemed, the actual verity and secret of the world P We grow grey like the dear city of youth and dream,'—the city of our youth; like her, we have seen too many changes and known too many disappointments. Her shattered monuments yet behold the sea, the sun, the sky ; to have done so much, says the Greek, is not to have failed. So some may muse as the pale winter sunset fades beyond the sands." But St. Andrews may be regarded in the spirit of optimism and with an eye to the future, as well as in the light of the past and in the spirit of gentle pessimism. " On the 5th of March in this year," we read in the Rectorial address of the Marquis of Bate,—one of the most remarkable Scots- men of the time, and one who would have been much more heard of than he has been if he had not shunned public life, and plunged into ecclesiological studies, —"I took a walk with Professor Knight to Drumcar- row. It was a fair, sunny day. We stood among the the remains of the prehistoric fort, and looked over the bright view, the glorious landscape enriched by so many memories, the city of St. Andrews enthroned upon her sea- girt promontory, the German Ocean stretching to the horizon, from where it chafes upon the cliffs which support her walls. And we remarked how God and man, how nature and history, had alike marked this place as the ideal home of learning and culture." And the Marquis of Bute gives slightly more definite expression to his vision of the future when he says : "I myself have some- times dreamt of the primeval headland, still lifting sky- ward its crown of ancient towers, but with that crown encircled by an aureola of affiliated colleges—a common- wealth of seats of learning, an Oxford of the North." If an Oxford of the North is possible or desirable—both points may be argued—the situation of St. Andrews, its historical romance exerting a refining and even hallowing influence upon the mind of susceptible youth, the fact that the con- struction of the Forth and Tay Bridges has placed it within comparatively easy reach, not only of the whole of Scotland, but of England as well, even the circumstance of its being the acknowledged headquarters of the increasingly popular game of golf, mark it out for this position.
But Mr. Lang does not deal with the St. Andrews of the future. He scarcely touches upon the St. Andrews of the pre- sent. He even looks forward to the time when his little town shall be " but a fishing village again," and " men will hear the tide as they stand on the wave-worn promontory whence the great broken towers shall have fallen." He contents himself with being the popular, though not the final historian (for he intimates in his Preface that a more elaborate work by some one else is in preparation) of the St. Andrews of the
• Bt. Andrews. By Andrew Lang. With Mud-rations by T. Hodge. London : Longmans, Green, and Co. 18P3.
past, of legend and of history, of St. Rule and the Culdees, of the Priory, the Cathedral, the Castle, and the University, of Wallace, Lamberton, and Bruce, of the martyrs, the saints, and the sinners, of John Knox, Cardinal Beaton, and Mary Stuart, of Montrose and Sharpe,—the St. Andrews that Samuel Johnson found in decay, and little better than a filthy village, the St. Andrews which is associated with the student-life and a portion of the professorial career of Thomas Chalmers, and finally the St. Andrews which, over a
geneMtion ago, Sir Hugh Playfair reformed and renovated with an almost ruthless hand. It is quite unnecessary to say that Mr. Lang has produced an eminently graceful and readable book, suggestive in a variety of ways, and full of out-of-the-way knowledge. At the same time, we must point out what we cannot help regarding as serious blemishes in his work. He sometimes speaks with an air of bored scepticism which is surely unbecoming the impartial historian, of the
town which was the centre of religious feeling, if it was also the cockpit of ecclesiastical feuds, in Scotland. One passage will indicate what we mean. At the close of his chapter on the death of the indubitably heroic Protestant martyr, Patrick Hamilton, he says :-
" Anything may have happened in the dark backward, and abysm of time ; anything may happen again in the future, but that a student ever again should be burned for his opinions out- side St. Salvator's is one of the least probable of chances. Indeed, who now would choose, except as apoint of honour, to suffer for ideas about fate and free-will, about the benefit of prayers to the dead, about Faith and Works and Grace ? But, in a world of conscious ignorance, we may dispute as to whether men were not happier then, when they believed that they knew the unknowable, and were ready to die or to slay for a guess of the philosophers, a dream of the metaphysicians."
Mr. Lang is, of course, quite entitled—the italics in the passage we have quoted are his, not ours—to have his own views on fundamental questions in theology and philosophy. But is he quite entitled to dismiss with an urbane sneer, as " a guess of the philosophers, a dream of the metaphysicians," and without an explanation of the want of faith that is in him, what not a few regard even now, with Patrick Hamilton, as vital truths,—so very vital as to be worth dying for P Many of Mr. Lang's countrymen will also regret that he should have written, in the guise of a history of St. Andrews, what is to some extent a pamphlet against the opinions which are generally held in Scotland of the War of Inde- pendence and the Reformation, with both of which the old town was, although in different degrees, associated. He does not disguise his views of both struggles. Referring to efforts made by Edward I. and Henry VIII. to bring about a union between England and Scotland, he says :- " In both junctures the English policy, if admitted, would have saved infinite bloodshed and suffering, would have secured to Scotland, peace, wealth, opportunities of learning, and in the case of Henry VIII., would have mitigated the havoc of the Scottish Reformation, and obtained a due provision for the Reformed Church. The national resistance under Wallace, Bruce, and Lamberton, changed Scotland from a comparatively prosperous country, with inklings of civilisation, into a starved, fierce, and half-barbarous realm. Civilisation was cramped by the endless hostilities with England. The Reformation again, conducted as it was, bequeathed to Scotland a disastrous legacy,—the turmoil of the Solemn League and Covenant, innumerable blood-feuds, horrors uncounted, a stinted Kirk, beggarly universities, and a fierce dissatisfied temper of which we may never see the last."
In this spirit Mr. Lang writes all through his book. He is too magnanimous, of course, to rake up scandals as to the private lives of either patriots or Reformers, and he spends several of his pages in proving it to be at least possible that George Wishart, the martyr, was not the same Wishart who was one of the conspirators against the life of Cardinal Beaton. On the other hand, he tells everything that he can against Lamberton, the clerical ally of Wallace and Bruce, especially on the score of oath-breaking,--although that was a very common practice in those early days. When he refers to Bruce, it is as "The King with the strong, savage face, which craniologists have compared to that of a carnivorous beast, and to the thrice-ancient Neanderthal skull." And he has no mercy for Knox, whom he accuses of being the patron of private murder in the interests of the " Trewth."
On this, which, of course, is not original, one or two remarks may be made. Is it not absolutely idle to quarrel with the accomplished facts of history, such as Bannockburn, which made Scotland independent, and the Reformation, which made it Presbyterian, and to speculate as to what would have happened had they not been accomplished ? Mr. Lang thinks that if Bannockburn had turned out differently —as in all probability he believes it would if Edward I. and not Edward II. had commanded there—Scotland would have secured "peace, wealth," &c. What evidence is there to support this view ? A subjugated Scotland would always have been discontented. " Not for glory, riches, or honours did we fight," wrote the Scotch Parliament to the Pope, " but for liberty alone, which no good man abandons but with his life." This is the temper of men who, even had Bannockburn been a second Falkirk, would have taken every opportunity of rising again. And with a rebellious Scotland on its flank, as well as a half-conquered Ireland not far off, is it not possible that England would have become the prey of France P Besides, is it quite certain that even Scot- land, if completely conquered, would have enjoyed peace ? It would have been dragged into the troubles of England. It had a sufficiently hard time of it with the struggle between its feeble Kings and its turbulent nobles ; but would it have been any the better for being permitted to take part in the Wars of the Roses ? In this connection besides, Mr. Lang to all appearance ignores Mr. Burton's view of Bannockburn as the desperate and successful stand of the Saxon, against Norman aggression. " What the Scots dreaded," Mr. Barton says, " was the prerogative power, royal and baronial, which the Normans brought by innovation on the original laws and customs of England." The Scots, in fact, were fighting the battle of their fellow-Saxons on the other side of the Tweed :—
"They knew that when the King of England found difficulty in gathering a sufficient force for crushing them, it was because he was haggling with his own people about demands for the renewal of the Great Charter and the limitation of the forest laws ; and these reiterated demands were nothing but the lamentations and denunciations of the people of England for the rights and liberties of which they deemed they had been robbed."
Similarly Mr. Lang makes far too much of the " havoc of the Scottish Reformation," and of the " horrors uncounted " which that Reformation bequeathed. Were there no "horrors" elsewhere ? What of the Massacre of St Bartholomew ?
What of the Thirty Years' War ? What, even, of the bloodshed in England ? Lord Bute, himself a Roman Catholic, oppor- tunely reminds us, " The maximum of persons put to death in connection with the Reformation in Scotland is stated to be nineteen on one side and five or six on the other. Henry or Mary would have consumed them in a month." Mr. Lang knows the Border even better than he knows St. Andrews ; and it is just as well when he talks of the possibility of the " havoc of the Scottish Reformation " being " mitigated " by the adoption of the English policy of the period, that he should be told that " the work of ruin in the South, as at Melrose, was the work not of the Scottish reformers, but of the English." It may be a matter for regret that Knox approved of what Mr. Lang terms " private murder," as a method of advancing Reformation doctrines. But it is tolerably certain that he did not regard the assassination of such a man as Cardinal Beaton as being "private murder "
at all. He looked upon it much as it was looked upon in his time, as a legitimate device in warfare.
We have reserved to ourselves but a limited space to do justice to the non-contentious side of this book, which is by far the best that has ever been written about St. Andrews. The quaint and fascinating old city has been guide-booked almost ad nauseam, and it is not Mr. Lang's fault that his book is in many respects but a singularly tasteful guide-book. Every step that one takes in St. Andrews is sacred ground, but it is also familiar. Mr. Lang is perhaps most successful when he deals with the beginnings of St. Andrews, first as an ecclesiastical and then as an educational centre. His picture of " the small town of wooden buildings, dependent mainly on the Church, and not unwillingly paying its dues and altarages to the great Corporation by which it gains its im- portance," is remarkably good. Equally excellent is his reproduction of the life of the students in the old College of St. Leonard's, when " the allowance of food was four ounces of bread at breakfast and supper, with eight ounces at dinner." Mr. Lang's portraits of the men and women who have given St. Andrews its reputation, are, with the excep
tion of that of John Knox, remarkably good. He is equally just to, and happy with, Saints and Sinners, Andrew Melville and Mary Stuart, Samuel Rutherford and James Sharpe.
Nowhere is to be found a more "actual" representation than is given here of the life of Montrose in St. Andrews, where be read little, but devoted himself to golf and archery, and gave suppers, and spent his money generously rather than wickedly. The book contains numerous and useful illustrations. But why should a portrait of Tom Morris, the veteran golfer, be introduced where we should expect one of Cardinal Beaton? Is this a sly joke ?