« PreviousContinue »
hardly anything else to do at the and Sir_Edward Grey, Bart., time"—he conceived the idea of M.P., of Falloden-namely, a scalmaking an abbreviated translation ing-ladder or, hooked and pointed of the chronicles of Great Britain. sable. One night he dreamt that the Sibyl Were the "Scalacronica' no more appeared to him, accompanied by than a compilation from the sources, a cordelier friar who supported a most of them well known, menladder of five rungs. Mounting
Mounting tioned by Gray in his Prologue, the steps one by one, the Sibyl there would be no
for showed the knight in succession detaining the readers of Maga' to the works of Walter of Exeter, discuss it, although it amplifies Gildas, Bæda, John of Tynemouth, the brief allusions made by extant William of Malmesbury, Roger de writers to certain important events. Hoveden, and many others. She What impart to it special interest introduced the cordelier as Thomas are the original passages introof Otterburn, whom she commend- duced, not only from the personal ed as a sure guide in the labour experience of a cultivated layman, he was about to undertake. The actively engaged in the events five steps of the ladder corre- described, but from what the author sponded to as many periods which had been told by his father, also Sir Thomas was enjoined to ob- named Sir Thomas Gray, who was serve, four of them being histori- constantly in the active service of cal. The fifth and highest—le Edward I. and Edward II. in the scinkisme bastoun—he was warned Scottish and Continental wars. This not to attempt, for it embraced portion of the 'Scalacronica,' then, the future, and he would only get forms a personal narrative, extendinto difficulty if he attempted to ing over two generations of a deal with the prophecies of Mer- period—the very heyday of chivalry lin, Banister, and Thomas of embracing the establishment of Ercildoune.
Scottish independence. The followWaking from his dream, the ing may be among the causes why captive knight set about his labours so little attention has been paid at once, in the design of dividing to Gray by recent historians of the the work into four books, com
The only prising the periods, and compiled known copy of his work, written from the authors, indicated by the throughout in Norman French, four lower rungs of the ladder. He exists in the library of Corpus gave his manuscript 1 the title of Christi at Cambridge. If this • Scalacronica,' or the ladder chron- is the same manuscript from icle—in allusion, no doubt, to his which John Leland made his dream ; but inasmuch as this dream abstract in the first half of the is only a literary affectation, intro- sixteenth century, then we have duced as a prologue, such as John to deplore its grievous mutilaof Tynemouth prefixed to his ‘His- tion since that time. Had the toria Aurea,' the real reference was thief been content to abstract some to the crest of the Grey family, still of the contents of the first three carried by Earl Grey of Howick rungs of the ladder, we should
1 Some doubts have been expressed whether a plain soldier could be found at that period capable of writing so much with his own hand. It would be very unusual, no doubt; but even if Gray employed an amanuensis, that would not impugn_his authorship.
have owed him little grudge : un- and slew the Sheriff. Gray got his luckily the rascal has purloined head broken, and, lying senseless, them from the fourth step, where was stripped to the skin and left Gray was writing of what was for dead. Luckily the warmth of passing daily under his watchful two houses, blazing one on either eyes, and the loss is irreparable. side of him, kept the life in him The annals of sixteen years, from till dawn, when William de Lundy 1340 to 1355, have disappeared, found him, took him to shelter comprising such interesting events and ly fist garir — "made him as the institution of the Order of recover." the Garter by Edward III., the Of the battle of Falkirk, where campaign of Creci, the siege and the power of Wallace was broken capture of Calais, the defeat of in 1298, the accounts have varied David II. at Neville's Cross, and hugely in respect to the losses of his long captivity:
the Scots. Walsingham puts the Besides Leland's abstract, the number of slain at the preposonly part of the manuscript which terous figure of 60,000, and Hemhas been made public is that begin- ingburgh at 50,000. Both of ning with the Norman Conquest these writers were monks, and down to 1367, when the chronicle knew nothing except from hearsay; closes. This was admirably edited but it is significant of the awful by Father Joseph Stevenson for scale of that disaster that Gray, the Maitland Club, and published well accustomed to deal with miliin 1835; but the missing folios, tary figures, says that not less of course, are not included, and than 10,000 Scots perished. as only 108 copies were printed, After the defection of Robert *Scalacronica' remains accessible de Brus, the national party in to very few readers.
Scotland regarded John Comyn as The personal part of the narra- their chief-gardein et cheuetaine tive--the part, that is to say, de lour querel. The success which which deals with events in which he obtained at Roslyn over Sir Thomas Gray, either the father or John de Segrave-Edward's lieuthe son, take part—begins with a tenant in Scotland-in February brief but vivid account of the fa. 1303, made it necessary for the mous camisade with which Wallace king to undertake another ininaugurated his rising in 1297. In vasion. Gray accompanied the May of that year the elder Gray army, and describes how the royal was at Lanark in the suite of household found accommodation King Edward's Sheriff of Clydes- at Dryburgh Abbey. But Sir dale. Gray calls him William de Hugh de Audley, not content with Hesilrig, but we know from an en- lying in a tent, rode on with Gray quiry held upon his effects in 1304 and sixty men-at-arms to Melrose, that the sheriff's real name was where they quartered themselves Andrew de Livingston. Prob- upon the abbot. It was a dear ably he owned lands called Hazel- night's lodging. The lynx-eyed rig, and the chronicler made a foresters of Ettrick marked where slip between the two Williams their foes had sought harbourabout whom he was writing. aparceyvoit lerbigage du dit Hugh Wallace made a night attack on -stole into the town after nightthe town, surprised the garrison, fall, burst open the doors of the
1 Documents relating to the History of Scotland (Bain), ii, 417.
abbey, and slew or made prisoners was struck in the face by a quarrel the whole party within. Sir from a heavy crossbow, which inThomas Gray was in a house out- flicted such a frightful wound that side the gate, which he held in his comrades bore him out of the hopes of a rescue till it began to fray, believing him to be dead. burn over his head, when he and A parade was formed for his his men were made prisoners also. burial, when somebody noticed a His ransom must have been movement in the supposed corpse. promptly paid, for he reappears at He revived, and eventually rethe siege of Stirling in the follow- covered (il comensa a mouoir et ing spring of 1304. Comyn and regardir et garry apres). his friends had made submission One is tempted to dwell on the at Strathord in February, and incidents of this siege, they are so Bruce was in the south, looking picturesquely described, and conafter the succession to his English vey such an excellent picture of estates,--finding, however, plenty Edward I., than whom nobody of time to devote to King Ed- more thoroughly enjoyed life in ward's service, forwarding engines the trenches, or was more eagerly and munitions of war by sea for alive to the importance of having the campaign in Scotland. Daunt- the very latest inventions in less Sir Williain Olipbant — un military science. He was so full jouen bacheler Descoce-disdained, of energy and fire that he was imsays Gray, to be bound by the patient of those who were more conditions submitted to by Comyn, leisurely. Just as he was setting but claimed to hold authority from out for Stirling, on March 4, he the Lion (se clamoit a tenir du wrote a stinging letter to the Earl Lioun), a somewhat obscure allu- of March, reproaching him for sion, wherein the lion seems to be want of energy in the pursuit of used figuratively to denote the Wallace. “We cannot conceive,” Scottish cause.
he said, “why you are so slow, Oliphant armed and provisioned unless it be to fulfil the proverbhis castle, and prepared to defy all
'Quant la guerre fu finee, the power of the mighty Edward.
Si trest Audegier sespee.' Wallace, almost the only other commander still resisting the Eng. (When the war was over, then lish king, was at large in the Len- Audegier drew his sword.)” Who, nox, with a heavy price on his by the bye, was Audegier, and head. Oliphant was practically what is the allusion ? single-handed in his splendid en- It was natural enough that terprise. The siege began. Gray Edward should urge on his genwas in the retinue of Sir Henry erals the importance of securing de Beaumont, and his son describes Wallace, though a letter written an exciting scene which took place by him the following day is not during an assault on the barriers. such agreeable reading for ScotsAmong the engines of defence were
It is addressed to Robert some which flung grapnels (tenails) de Brus, Earl of Carrick, begging among the assailants. The hooks
as the cloak is of one of these grapnels fastened well made, so also to make the on De Beaumont, who was being hood.” The meaning of this is drawn rapidly over the wall, when shown by the context to be that Gray dashed forward and relieved it was good to have quelled the his chief. Immediately after, Gray rising of Comyn, De Soulis, Fraser,
and James the Steward; but the oriel window in a house in the business would not be complete town, whence the queen and her till Wallace should be taken also. ladies might view the progress of Researches during recent years by the siege. For nineteen weeks Messrs Bain, Stevenson, and others the fortress resisted the thundering have brought to light an immense missiles and streams of wild-fire; number of original letters and then, when all their provender was papers of this period, and one can- gone, Oliphant surrendered unconnot but reflect to what excellent ditionally. But Edward was not use Lord Hailes would have put quite satisfied. He sent word to this material in compiling his the garrison to get into shelter till Annals, and how he would have he tried a shot with his war-wolf rejoiced in the light therein re- (tauntz il eit ferru ove le Lup de flected upon persons and events. guerre).
Very full details have thus been How clearly the scene rises beexhumed of the siege of Stirling, fore one ! The eager king, inand the volumes of Historical tensely interested in the effect of Documents' prepared from these the new machine, explaining its papers and printed by direction of merits to the ladies in the oriel ; Parliament ought to be read side the groups of knights, profesby side with Sir Thomas Gray's sionally critical; the straining narrative. Edward set to work ropes and creaking wheels; the in earnest as soon as he had dis- stout men of Lincoln sweating solved his mid-Lent Parliament at under the July sun as they poised St Andrews. He wrote to the the mighty missile ; then-silence ! Prince of Wales, directing him to a sharp word of command, the obtain material for his siege-engines trigger is released, the wheels ily by stripping the lead from all the round, the rock goes hurtling church roofs between Perth and through the air, and plunges with Dunblane, being careful to leave a a crash against the much-dinted covering over the altars. All this walls. Then what a buzz of commaterial, be it noted, was scrupu- ment and criticism, to be hushed lously paid for at a subsequent in turn as the order is given for date. The siege-engines, thirteen the garrison to come forth, Oliof them, were thoroughly up to phant being the last to leave the date in the latest improvements. gates. They were brought before Each bore a distinctive name, re
half - starved and in gistered as precisely as that of a their rags, then shipped off to battleship- the Lincoln and the various prisons in England, after Segrave, the Robinet and the which, says Gray, the king held a Kingston, the Vicar and the Par- grand tournament before breaking son, the Berefrey, the Linlithgow, up his camp. the Both well, the Prince, the Among the prisoners taken in Gloucester, the Dovedale, and the Stirling was one Ralf de HaliburTout-le-monde, besides a mighty ton. A line is drawn through his “war-wolf,” the like of which had name in the list, apparently shownever been seen.
ing that he had been released, and Aloft, on their precipitous rock, it is not unreasonable to identify William de Oliphant and his stout him with “le vallet qui espia Will garrison looked down on the de Waleys,” and received a reward gathering storm. They could see of 40 merks. It is known from a the masons busy constructing an paper in the Arundel collection
VOL. CLXI.-NO. DCCCCLXXV.
that Wallace was arrested in the son, and brought Comyn safely to house of one Rzwe Raa, in Glas- Dumfries, where their brother gow; and this Rawe or Ralf may Robert was waiting for them. have obtained his liberty on con- “Sir,” they said to their future dition of betraying Wallace. The king, “he gave us such a handobloquy of this deed has usually some reception and such large been attached to Sir John de gifts, and won so upon us by his Menteith ; but that knight was
open countenance, that we could Edward's Sheriff of Dunbarton, not bring ourselves to hurt him.” and would be doing no more than Indeed,” replied Robert; “you his duty in receiving Wallace when
are mighty particular. Let me brought to him for imprisonment. meet him." (Voir, bien estez lectous,
The next point in the 'Scala- lessez moi convenir.) cronica' which throws an original Then Bruce led Comyn before light on historical events is an the altar, and Gray gives a lengthy account of the circumstances of report of the interview, which, as the murder of John Comyn by it is impossible that the substance Robert de Brus. The statements could be known to any but the of historians are so various and two principals, who, it is supposed, irreconcilable on this subject that had drawn apart, is not worth it would be hardly worth while repeating afresh. He mentions, to add another, even under the however, that Sir Robert Comyn, hand of a contemporary, but for immediately on his nephew falling the curious fact that all Bruce's wounded, struck Bruce with his biographers have overlooked or sword, which glanced from his intentionally suppressed the story armour, and incontinently Sir told by Gray. It is distinctly un- Robert was cut down. The amplifavourable to Bruce, which tells tude of detail which Gray has put all the more seriously against him, into this incident is in marked because Gray generally writes in a contrast to the brevity of his remarkably impartial way, taking, style in dealing with some of the as a man of the world, a broad most important transactions. view of characters and actions. There was plenty of work for
Writing in his prison in Edin- the elder Gray in the long warburgh in 1355, forty-nine years fare brought about by Bruce's reafter an event of which he must volt, and it may be gathered from have heard his father's account, the public records how constantly Gray states that on the fatal 10th he was employed on the Borders of February Robert de Brus sent during these years.
But his son his two brothers, Thomas and has nothing to tell of his father's Neil, from Lochmaben to Dal- adventures till the spring of 1308. swinton, the residence of John The greatest of the Plantagenets Comyn, to invite him to an inter- had passed away before then, and view in the church of the Minorite men had cause already to realise Friars at Dumfries. They were how little of his powerful spirit instructed to ride with Comyn, had descended on Edward of Carattack and kill him on the way.
Sir Thomas Gray was Comyn, however, received them so returning from the coronation of kindly and showed so much readi- Edward II. to the castle of Cupar, ness to ride with them and meet in Fife, of which he was governor, their brother, that Thomas and when a countryman warned him Neil thought shame of their trea- that Sir Walter de Bickerton