Dienstag, 26. Mai 2015

The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter illustrated by N.C. Wyeth

Jane Porter's The Scottish Chiefs is the epic story of William Wallace's struggle for Scottish independence from English rule. After the cruel death of his wife at the hands of the English, Wallace embarks on a patriotic crusade to free Scotland, gathering around himself loyal followers, drawn from across Scottish society.
Jane Porter (1776-1850) was born in Durham as the third of the five children of Jane (née Blenkinsop) and William Porter. Tall and beautiful as she grew up, Jane Porter's grave air earned her the nickname La Penserosa (lit. "the pensive girl"). After her father's death, her family moved to Edinburgh, where Walter Scott was a regular visitor. Some time afterwards the family moved to London.(Wikipedia).

Miss Jane Porter


In the 1920s, N.C. Wyeth completed the paintings for Porter’s The Scottish Chiefs, his eighth Scribner Illustrated Classic, he wrote the publisher expressing "obvious pleasure with the results he had achieved… the last illustration for Scottish Chiefs was shipped in the morning… I believe I have got something at last—a picture which rings with a certain historical conviction, a quality which I felt was very necessary, in that particular subject"
With reasonably good color plates, this series should take its place with the best I have done” (Allen & Allen, 96). 
First published in 1810, Jane Porter’s epic novel of William Wallace was the inspiration for the film Braveheart (1995) with Mel Gibson. 
First Scribner’s Illustrated Edition appeared in 1921. Edited by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith. It contains 14 colored plates. Later editions only show 9 colored plates.

 Wallace and Marion
Being resigned to bury his youth - since its strength could no longer be serviceable to his country - books, his harp, and the sweet converse of his tender Marion, became the occupations of his days. Ellerslie was his hermitage; and there, closed from the world, with an angel his companion, he might have forgotten Edward was lord in Scotland, had not that which was without his little paradise made a way to its gates, and showed him the slavery of the nobles and the wretchedness of the people. In these cases, his generous hand gave succor where it could not bring redress. Those whom the lawless plunderer had driven from their houses or stripped of their covering, found shelter, clothing, and food at the house of Sir William Wallace.

The Pledge
"Scotsmen!" cried Wallace, waving the fatal sword, which blazed in the glare of these northern lights like a flaming brand, "behold how the heavens cry aloud to you! I come, in the midst of their fires, to call you to vengeance. I come in the name of all ye hold dear, of the wives of you bosoms, and the children in their arms, to tell you the poniard of England is unsheathed-innocence and age and infancy fall before it. With this sword, last night, did Heselrigge, the English tyrant of Lanark, break into my house, and murder my wife!"
The shriek of horror that burst from every mouth, interrupted Wallace. "Vengeance! vengeance!" was the cry of the men, while tumultuous lamentations for the "sweet Lady of Ellerslie," filled the air from the women.
Wallace sprung from the cliff into the midst of his brave countrymen.
"Follow me, then, to strike the mortal blow!"
Helen Descends the Stones of Glen
They proceeded in silence through the curvings of the dell till it opened into a hazardous path along the top of a far-extending cliff, which overhung and clasped in the western side of a deep loch. As they mounted the pending wall of this immense amphitheater, Helen watched the sublime uprise of the king of light issuing from behind the opposite citadel of rocks, and borne aloft on a throne of clouds that swam in floating gold. The herbage on the cliffs glittered with liquid emeralds, as his beams kissed their summits; and the lake beneath sparkled like a sea of molten diamonds. All nature seemed to rejoice at the presence of this magnificent emblem of the Most High. Helen's heart swelled with devotion, and its sacred voice breathed from her lips.

The Storm on the Firth of Clyde
The wind, which had gradually been rising, blew a violent gale from that part of the coast; and the sea, being pent between the rocks which skirt the continent and the northern side of Bute, became so boisterous, that the boatmen began to think they should be driven upon the rocks of the island, instead of reaching its bay. Wallace tore down the sails, and laying his nervous arms to the oar, assisted to keep the vessel off the breakers, against which the waves were driving her. The sky collected into a gloom; and while the teeming clouds seemed descending even to rest upon the cracking masts, the swelling of the ocean threatened to heave her up into their very bosoms.

The Battle of Stirling Castle
But all his promptitude proved of no effect. The walls were giving way in parts, and Wallace was mounting by scaling-ladders, and clasping the parapets with bridges from his towers. Driven to extremity, Cressingham resolved to try the attachment of the Scots for Lord Mar; and even at the moment when their chief had seized the barbican and outer ballium, this sanguinary politician ordered the imprisoned earl to be brought out upon the wall of the inner ballia. A rope was round his neck, which was instantly run through a groove, that projected from the nearest tower.

The Wounded Helen
...but the cut was too wide for his surgery; and, losing every other consideration in fears for her life, he again took her in his arms, and bore her out of the chapel. He hastened through the dark passage, and almost flying along the lighted galleries, entered the hall. The noisy fright of the servants, as he broke through their ranks at the door, alarmed the revelers; and turning round, what was their astonishment to behold the regent, pale and streaming with blood, bearing in his arms a lady apparently lifeless, and covered with the same dreadful hue!

Wallace and the Children
It was a clear frosty day, and the keenness of the air brightened the complexion of Wallace, while it deepened the roses of his infant companions. The leader of the Scottish escort immediately proclaimed to the embassadors that this was the regent. At the sight of so uncourtly a scene the haughty prelate of Durham drew back.

King Edward

Wallace Draws the King's Sword
Many weapons were instantly unsheathed; and their bearers, hurrying to the side of Badenoch and Lorn, attempted to lay hands on Wallace; but he, drawing the sword of Edward, with a sweep of his valiant arm that made the glittering blade seem a brand of fire, set his back against the wall, and exclaimed:
"He that first makes a stroke at me shall find his death on this Southron steel! This sword I made the puissant arm of the usurper yield to me; and this sword shall defend the Regent of Scotland against his ungrateful countrymen!"

Wallace rescues Helen
Meanwhile Wallace wrapped himself in Baliol's blue cloak, which lay in the anteroom, and enveloping even his helmet in the friendly mantle, he moved swiftly along the gallery toward the chamber of Helen. To be prepared for obstacles, he had obtained from Baliol a particular description of the situation of every apartment leading to it. It was now within an hour of midnight. He passed through several large vacant rooms, and at last arrived at the important door. It opened into a small chamber, in which two female attendants lay asleep. He gently raised the latch, and, with caution taking the lamp which burned on the table, glided softly through the curtains which filled the cedar arch that led into the apartment of Helen. He approached the bed, covering the light with his hand, while he observed her. She was in a profound sleep, but pale as the sheet which enveloped her—her countenance seemed troubled, her brows frequently knit themselves, and she started as she dreamed, as if in apprehension. Once he heard her lips faintly murmur, "Save me, my father! on you alone—" There she stopped. 

Bruce on the Beach
When Bruce leaped upon the beach, he turned to Wallace and said with exultation, though in a low voice, "Scotland now receives her king! This earth shall cover me, or support my throne!"
"It shall support your throne, and bless it too," replied Wallace; "you are come in the power of justice, and that is the power of God. I know Him in whom I bid you confide; for He has been my shield and sword, and never yet have I turned my back upon my enemies. Trust, my dear prince, where I have trusted; and while virtue is your incense, you need not doubt the issue of your prayers."

Wallace's Vision
It was Wallace's custom, once at least in the night, to go himself the rounds of his posts, to see that all was safe. The air was serene and he walked out on this duty. He passed from line to line, from station to station, and all was in order. One post alone remained to be visited, and that was a point of observation on the craigs near Arthur's Seat. As he proceeded along a lonely defile between the rocks which overhang the ascent of the mountain, he was startled by the indistinct sight of a figure amongst the rolling vapors of the night, seated on a towering cliff directly in the way he was to go. The broad light of the moon, breaking from behind the clouds, shone full upon the spot, and discovered a majestic form in gray robes, leaning on a harp; while his face, mournfully gazing upward, was rendered venerable by a long white beard that mingled with the floating mist. Wallace paused, and stopping some distance from this extraordinary apparition, looked on it in silence. The strings of the harp seemed softly touched, but it was only the sighing of a transitory breeze passing over them. The vibration ceased, but, in the next moment the hand of the master indeed struck the chords, and with so full and melancholy a sound that Wallace for a few minutes was riveted to the ground; then moving forward with a breathless caution, not to disturb the nocturnal bard, he gently approached.

 Death of Edwin
 He spoke to the winds. They poured toward Edwin; Wallace, with a giant's strength, dispersed them as they advanced; the beam of wood fell on the heads, the breasts of his assailants. Himself bleeding at every pore, he felt not a smart while yet he defended Edwin. But a shout was heard from the door, a faint cry was heard at his side. He looked around. Edwin lay extended on the ground, with an arrow quivering in his breast, his closing eyes still looking upward to his friend. The beam fell from the hands of Wallace. He threw himself on his knees beside him. The dying boy pressed his hand to his heart, and dropped his head upon his bosom—Wallace moved not, spoke not. His hand was bathed in the blood of his friend, but not a pulse beat beneath it; no breath warmed the paralyzed chill of his face as it hung over the motionless lips of Edwin.

In the Tower of London
When Gloucester gently opened the door, which contained the remains of the bravest and the best, Bruce stood for a moment on the threshold. At the further end of the apartment, lighted by a solitary taper, lay the body of Wallace on a bier, covered with a soldier's cloak. Kneeling by its side, with her head on its bosom, was Helen. Her hair hung disordered over her shoulders, and shrouded with its dark locks the marble features of her beloved. Bruce scarcely breathed. He attempted to advance, but he staggered and fell against the wall. She looked up at the noise; but her momentary alarm ceased when she saw Gloucester.


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