IT has been said that no trace can be found of a printed Secret Commonwealth before 1815. The present editor is inclined to believe that in 1699 the work was still in manuscript. In a letter of Lord Reay's to Mr. Samuel Pepys (Oct. 24, 1699), he says, "I have got a manuscript since I last came to Scotland, whose author, though a parson, after giving a very full account of the Second Sight, defends there being no sin in it. . . . With the first opportunity I shall send you a copy of his books." This description answers very well to Mr. Kirk's treatise, and to no other contemporary work with which I am acquainted, unless it be A Discourse of the Second Sight, by the Rev. Mr. John Frazer, minister of Tirce and Coll. There were, doubtless, other parsons busy with these topics; and the minister of Rerrick informs me that several MSS. by Mr. Telfair, author of the tract already
quoted, were only dispersed about 1877, Examples of these clerical psychical researchers may be found in C. K. Sharpe's prefatory notice to Law's Memorials (Edinburgh, 1818). Such an one is the Rev. Robert Knox, who writes from Cavers to the Rev. Mr. Wyllie on the case of Sir George Maxwell of Pollock. He dare not attribute the mediumship of Janet Douglas "positively to an evil cause. . . . It is our ignorance of any natural agent that makes us impute the effects to evil spirits" (Memorials, p. lxxv). Moreover, Lord Reay writes as if his "parson" were still alive in 1699, whereas Mr. Kirk "went to his own herd" in 1692. "I am promised the acquaintance of this man, of which I am very covetous." Lord Reay was at Durness, and may not have heard of the mishap which carried the minister of Aberfoyle into Fairyland. It may be added that Dr. Hickes writes to Mr. Pepys about neolithic arrow heads as "a subject of near alliance to that of the Second Sight, and of witchcraft, which is akin to them both." He also speaks of "a very tragical, but authentic story told me by the Duke of Lauderdale, which happened in the family of Sir John Dalrymple, Laird of Stair,
and then Lord President. His Grace had no sooner told it me, but my Lord President coming into the room, he desired my Lord to tell it himself, which, altering his countenance, he did with a very melancholick air; but it is so long since that I dare not trust my memory with relating the particulars of it" (June 19, 1700).
Dr. Hickes calls the first Lord Stair "John," Scott calls him "James." There can be no doubt that Dr. Hickes refers to the woful tale of the bride of Lammermoor, who died on September 12, 1669. Law, in his Memorials, says she "was harled through the house"--by spirits, he means. This "harling" or tossing about of a patient, probably epileptic, we have noticed in many of the old stories, as in the modern instance of "Mr. H." Now, in his Introduction to the Bride of Lammermoor, Scott gives all the authorities at his command: Law, Symson's Elegie, and Hamilton of Whitelaw's Satire, which avers that Satan seized the bride and "threw the bridegroom from the nuptial bed." Sir Walter was unacquainted with Dr. Hickes' hint, which actually produces the bride's own father as evidence for a story which was plainly regarded as supernatural. It is most unlucky that Dr.
[paragraph continues] Hickes distrusted his memory. However, it is something to feel assured that "a memorable story" was accepted at the time by the family of the bride, and was known to Lauderdale. 1 Lauderdale himself, by the way, was a psychical researcher, and accommodated Richard Baxter with some accounts of haunted houses, published in his World of Spirits. One story of a haunted house, where a spectral hand appeared, he gives on the authority of "the Rev. James Sharp," afterwards the famous Archbishop. Lauderdale inspected the famed Loudun nuns, and saw only "wanton wenches singing baudy songs in French." His letter to Mr. Baxter is dated March 12, 1659. His best haunted house is of the Epworth type.
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92:1 The letters to Pepys are quoted from his Correspondence, published as Vol. X. of his Diary (New York, 1885).