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(University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
A RICH MAN'S RELATIVES
A NOVEL BY R. CLELAND
Westminster Review, October, 1883.
"Inchbracken" is a clever sketch of Scottish life and manners at the time of the "Disruption," or great secession from the Established Church of Scotland, which resulted in the formation of the Free Church. The scene of the story is a remote country parish in the north of Scotland, within a few miles of the highland line. The main interest centres in the young Free Church minister and his sister and their relations, on the one hand, with the enthusiastic supporters of the Disruption movement, mostly of the peasant or small tradesmen class, with a sprinkling of the smaller landowners; and, on the other hand, with the zealous supporters of the Established Church, represented by the Drysdales of Inchbracken, the great family of the neighbourhood. The story is well and simply told, with many a quiet touch of humour, founded on no inconsiderable knowledge of human nature.
Academy, 27th October, 1883.
There is a great deal of solid writing in "Inchbracken," and they who read it will hardly do so in vain. It is a story of the Disruption; and it sets forth, with much pains and not a little spirit, the humours and scandals of one of the communities affected by the event. The main incident of the story has nothing to do with the Disruption, it is true; but its personages are those of the time, and the uses to which they are put are such as the Disruption made possible. Roderick Brown, the enthusiastic young Free Church minister, finds on the sea-shore after wreck and storm, a poor little human waif which the sea has spared. He takes the baby home, and does his best for it. One of his parishioners has lost her character, however; and as Roderick, at the instigation of his beadle, the real author of her ruin, is good enough to give her money and help, it soon becomes evident to Inchbracken that he is the villain, and that the baby of the wreck is the fruit of an illicit amour. How it ends I shall not say. I shall do no more than note that the story of the minister's trials and the portraitures--of elders and gossips, hags and maids and village notables--with which it is enriched are (especially if you are not afraid of the broadest Scotch, written with the most uncompromising regard for the national honour) amusing and natural in no mean degree.
W. E. Henley.
Athenæum, 17th November, 1883.
"Inchbracken" will be found amusing by those who are familiar with Scotch country life. The period chosen, the "Disruption time," is an epoch in the religious and social life of Scotland, marking a revival, in an extremely modified and not altogether genuine form, of the polemic Puritanism of the early Presbyterians, and so furnishing a subject which lends itself better to literary treatment than most sides of Scottish life in this prosaic century. The author has a good descriptive gift, and makes the most of the picturesque side of the early Free Church meetings at which declaimers against Erastian patronage posed in the attitude of the Covenanters of old. The story opens on a stormy night when Roderick Brown, the young Free Church minister of Kilrundle, is summoned on a ten-mile expedition to attend a dying woman, an expedition which involves him in all the troubles which form the subject of the book. The patient has nothing on her mind of an urgent character. "No, mem! na!" says the messenger.
"My granny's a godly auld wife, tho' maybe she's gye fraxious whiles, an' money's the sair paikin' she's gi'en me; gin there was ocht to confess she kens the road to the Throne better nor maist. But ye see there's a maggit gotten intil her heid an' she says she bent to testifee afore she gangs hence."
The example of Jenny Geddes has been too much for the poor old woman:--
"Ay, an' I'm thinkin' it's that auld carline, Jenny Geddes, 'at's raised a' the fash! My granny gaed to hear Mester Dowlas whan he preached among the whins down by the shore, an' oh, but he was bonny! An' a graand screed o' doctrine he gae us. For twa hale hours he preached an expundet an' never drew breath for a' the wind was skirlin', an' the renn whiles skelpin' like wild. An' I'm thinkin' my granny's gotten her death o' ta'. But oh! an' he was grand on Jenny Geddes! an' hoo she up wi' the creepie am' heved it a the Erastian's heid. An' my granny was just fairly ta'en wi't a', an' she vooed she beut to be a mither in Israel tae, an' whan she gaed hame she out wi' the auld hugger 'at she keeps the bawbees in, aneath the hearthstane, for to buy a creepie o' her ain,--she thocht a new ane wad be best for the Lord's wark,--an' she coupet the chair whaur hung her grave claes,' at she airs fonent the fire ilika Saturday at e'en, 'an out there cam a lowe, an' scorched a hole i' the windin' sheet, an' noo, puir body, we'll hae to hap her in her muckle tartan plaid. An' aiblins she'll be a' the warmer e'y moulds for that. But, however, she says the sheet was weel waur'd, for the guid cause. An' syne she took til her bed, wi' a sair host, an' sma' winder, for there was a weet daub whaur she had been sittin' amang the whins. An' noo the host's settled on her that sair, she whiles canna draw her breath. Sae she says she maun let the creepie birlin' slide, but she beut to testifee afore some godly minister or she gangs hence. An' I'm fear'd, sir, ye maun hurry, for she's real far through."
The excuse for this long extract must be its excellence as a specimen of a long-winded statement, just such as a Scotch fisher boy would make when once the ice was broken. Not less idiomatic is the interview between Mrs. Boague, the shepherd's wife, and Mrs. Sangster "of Auchlippie," the great lady of the congregation, when the latter has had her painful experience of mountain climbing, till rescued by the "lug and the horn" at the hands of her spiritual pastor. Other good scenes are the meeting of the two old wives in mutches an the brae side, and the final discomfiture of the hypocritical scamp Joseph Smiley by his mother-in-law, Tibbie Tirpie, who rights her daughter's wrongs and the minister's reputation by a capital coup de main. Of more serious interest, though full of humour, are the trials the excellent Roderick endures at the hands of his kirk session. Ebenezer Prittie and Peter Malloch are types of many an elder minister and ministers' wives have had to groan under, and the race is not extinct. But all who are interested in such specimens of human nature should refer to Mr. Cleland, who knows his countrymen as well as he can describe his country.
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Crown 8vo, cloth, 3s. 6d. each.
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