Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker: Ch. 53

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Letter LIII

To Dr LEWIS.

DEAR LEWIS,

That part of Scotland contiguous to Berwick, nature seems to have intended as a barrier between two hostile nations. It is a brown desert of considerable extent, that produces nothing but heath and fern; and what rendered it the more dreary when we passed, there was a thick fog that hindered us from seeing above twenty yards from the carriage — My sister began to make wry faces, and use her smelling-bottle; Liddy looked blank, and Mrs Jenkins dejected; but in a few hours these clouds were dissipated; the sea appeared upon our right, and on the left the mountains retired a little, leaving an agreeable plain betwixt them and the beach; but, what surprised us all, this plain, to the extent of several miles, was covered with as fine wheat as ever I saw in the most fertile parts of South Britain — This plentiful crop is raised in the open field, without any inclosure, or other manure than the alga marina, or seaweed, which abounds on this coast; a circumstance which shews that the soil and climate are favourable; but that agriculture in this country is not yet brought to that perfection which it has attained in England. Inclosures would not only keep the grounds warm, and the several fields distinct, but would also protect the crop from the high winds, which are so frequent in this part of the island.

Dunbar is well situated for trade, and has a curious bason, where ships of small burthen may be perfectly secure; but there is little appearance of business in the place — From thence, all the way to Edinburgh, there is a continual succession of fine seats, belonging to noblemen and gentlemen; and as each is surrounded by its own parks and plantation, they produce a very pleasing effect in a country which lies otherwise open and exposed. At Dunbar there is a noble park, with a lodge, belonging to the Duke of Roxburgh, where Oliver Cromwell had his head-quarters, when Lesley, at the head of a Scotch army, took possession of the mountains in the neighbourhood, and hampered him in such a manner, that he would have been obliged to embark and get away by sea, had not the fanaticism of the enemy forfeited the advantage which they had obtained by their general's conduct — Their ministers, by exhortation, prayer, assurance, and prophecy, instigated them to go down and slay the Philistines in Gilgal, and they quitted their ground accordingly, notwithstanding all that Lesley could do to restrain the madness of their enthusiasm — When Oliver saw them in motion, he exclaimed, 'Praised be the Lord, he hath delivered them into the hands of his servant!' and ordered his troops to sing a psalm of thanksgiving, while they advanced in order to the plain, where the Scots were routed with great slaughter.

In the neighbourhood of Haddington, there is a gentleman's house, in the building of which, and the improvements about it, he is said to have expended forty thousand pounds: but I cannot say I was much pleased with either the architecture or the situation; though it has in front a pastoral stream, the banks of which are laid out in a very agreeable manner. I intended to pay my respects to Lord Elibank, whom I had the honour to know at London many years ago. He lives in this part of Lothian; but was gone to the North, on a visit — You have often heard me mention this nobleman, whom I have long revered for his humanity and universal intelligence, over and above the entertainment arising from originality of his character — At Musselburgh, however, I had the good-fortune to drink tea with my old friend Mr Cardonel; and at his house I met with Dr C—, the parson of the parish, whose humour and conversation inflamed me with a desire of being better acquainted with his person — I am not at all surprised that these Scots make their way in every quarter of the globe.