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Exploring the WestThree Travel Narratives$

Mushirul Hasan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780198063117

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198063117.001.0001

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Concerning the Highlands

Concerning the Highlands

(p.37) 9 Concerning the Highlands
Exploring the West

Mushirul Hasan

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

In the Highlands, there are few towns, but mountains, forests, and desolate spots abound. There, for twelve months in the year, it snows and rains; but the males of the country, especially the lower orders, are used to the snow and cold that they do not suffer any inconvenience from either. The Highlanders wear a bonnet and jacket, but neither breeches nor boots. Their lower body is covered to the knee with the skirt of their jacket; the knee is bare. Below the knee they wear cotton stockings on their legs, and shoes with buckles on their feet, and carry about with them a double-edged sword. The author learned that their valour and bravery are extraordinary. He also heard stories about Englishmen.

Keywords:   Highlands, Highlanders, mountains, forests, snow, Englishmen

Some Account of the Highlands.

In that region the towns are few in number, but mountains, forests and desolate spots abound. There, for twelve months in the year, it snows and rains; but the males of the country, especially the lower orders, from being so accustomed to snow and cold, suffer no inconvenience whatever from either. As an instance of this, the poorer sort, as the caste of shepherds, spreading half of their cloak on the ground, and covering themselves with the other half, lie down to sleep in the jungles. When the snow is collected in a heap on the cloak, they jump up, give it a shake, and again betake themselves to rest in the snow.

The tails and wool of the sheep are curled like the cotton of a coverlet;—for which reason the cold makes no impression on their bodies, and during the twelve months the flocks remain out in the jungles and pasture grounds. During the time snow is on the ground, and when they can get neither green herbs nor grass, both sheep, horses, and cows are fed upon hay. Those sheep on whose bodies the wool is scant, by reason of the frost remain thin and weak; but there are here very few of this description. The grass of Europe is sweet scented, and is highly nutritive for animals. In (p.38) Europe there is neither gram,1 mash,2 nor hurburah;3 but there is a species of grain whose seed is blackish: it is called corn. The Scotch people eat this themselves and also feed horses upon it.

The Highlanders wear a bonnet and jacket, but neither breeches nor boots. Their lower body is covered to the knee with the skirt of their jacket; the knee is bare. Below the knee they wear cotton stockings on their legs, and shoes with buckles on their feet, and carry about with them a double-edged sword. I was told that their valour and bravery exceed all bounds.

There is a tale, that upon a certain time a Highlander having come up to London was walking about in the bazar and was followed by a crowd of Englishmen and boys. From amongst the crowd a person, to create sport, lifted up the skirt of the Highlander's raiment behind. At this he was greatly ashamed; and at the same time his wrath kindling, with a stroke of his sword he cut off that person's head. Then police officers, &c. came to seize him, and surrounded him both in front and rear; but he undauntedly stood his ground before them, prepared either to kill or die: he wounded many people, and on whichever side he made his assault they fled before him. No one had the courage even to approach him, how then could they seize him? This circumstance coming to the knowledge of the King, he sent some of his own people to call him to him, and ordered them to say to him, ‘his Majesty has sent for you.’ The Highlander, upon hearing the King's name mentioned, immediately bowed his head, and followed those who had been commissioned to call him. When he came into the presence of the sovereign, the Monarch asked him why he had committed murder without a cause? The Highlander, according to the custom of Europe, kneeling on one knee bowed his head, and having made his obeisance, respectfully said, ‘when that person (whom I killed) had seen my lower body I felt greatly ashamed, and being jealous of my honour, I committed the deed; but as soon as I heard your Majesty's name, presenting myself before you, I have been dignified by being permitted to kiss your threshold. If you had not called me, no one had the power to take (p.39) me alive.’ The King approving the defence he had made, acquitted him of the murder, and honoured him with his countenance.

There is another story of an adventure happening to a poor Highlander from not being well acquainted with the English language. He came up to London and was greatly distressed for want of victuals. One day, in the bazar, seeing a person with a friendly expression of countenance, he stated to him his lamentable case. The man asked him why he did not go to the shop of a penny-cook, where it is usual for poor people to get food. It is here necessary to state, that in these shops poor people giving a couple of pice, get a piece of bread, a portion of meat, and half a seer of beer or barley water: this kind of shop is called in English a penny-cook's. The Highlander forgetting the name penny-cook, from his ignorance of the language thought that it was penny-cut, and going further on he asked the people of the city where the penny-cut shop was. A man (whom he addressed) thought that he wanted to get either his hair cut or to be shaved, and pointed out a barber's shop. The Highlander going to the shop knocked at the door, and was admitted by the barber, who seated him on a chair. The tonsor then filled an ewer with hot water, put a lump of soap in it, and making a lather, placed it on the table before the Highlander, and went up stairs for his razors and other shaving apparatus. The Highlander taking the soap-suds water for broth began to drink it, and swallowed three mouthfuls; and mistaking the lump of soap for a potatoe, and being exceedingly hungry, he chewed and ate it. Upon the barber's coming down stairs and seeing what had happened, he was petrified with astonishment. The Highlander taking two pice from his pocket, laid them on the table, saying, ‘I am much obliged to you: the broth was very good, but the potatoe was not sufficiently boiled.’

Stories of Englishmen. A certain countryman having come up to town, alighted at a friend's house and became his guest. The host, setting out a table, entertained him according to custom. The countryman relished highly a fried sheep's liver, for he had never before partaken of such a well-dressed fry, and he wrote down on paper the receipt for mixing the ingredients and the mode of cooking the dish, and put the memorandum in his pocket. The next morning he went to the butchers' stalls, and having purchased a sheep's liver he tied it in a napkin, and carrying it in his hand set (p.40) out for his own village. A bazar dog came behind him, snatched the liver, handkerchief and all, out of his hand, and scampered off. The countryman, casting his eyes after the dog, said, ‘It is true you have taken a raw liver out of my hand, but I have still got safe in my pocket the receipt for dressing it.’ In this way, in every country, there is no scarcity of fools and blockheads.

The country people, in particular, are commonly ignorant and stupid, as this other story of the folly of an English countryman will establish.

An old farmer intending to pay a visit to his landlord, said to his wife, ‘it is needful that I take with me some present or other, to give to my landlord.’ Then his spouse having taken a pig, tied it in a small bag and gave it in charge of her husband. The old fellow, placing it on his shoulder, trudged away. When he had accomplished half his journey he came to a house of entertainment, and feeling weary, he laid the bag down and betook himself to sleep. The host seeing the bag, and conjecturing that there was some living animal in it, immediately opened the mouth of it and discovered the pig. For the sake of sport he took it out, and substituted in its place a pup, and tying the mouth of the bag the same as it had been before, he laid it down. After a short time the farmer awoke, took up his bag, and pursued his way in the direction of his landlord's house: arriving there, immediately the landlord heard that his tenant had come, he came to meet him at the door in a very cordial manner, and kindly inquired after his health; and observing a bag in his hand, and imagining that there might be something in it, he said, ‘what is this that you have brought for me?’ The farmer replied, ‘I am but a poor man, how then can I bring you a gift fitting to be presented to you? but, according to my means, I have here brought you a pig.’—The landlord knowing his poverty was highly pleased (at what he had brought), and said, ‘for you this is a great present indeed: open the bag, I should like to see it.’ The farmer opening it found a pup inside. Then the landlord flew into a passion, and said in a rage, ‘What! do you wish to pass your jokes on me? Instantly begone.’—The farmer, ashamed, turned away, and upon again reaching the alehouse, lay down to sleep as before. The host quickly took from the bag the pup and replaced the pig. The farmer awaking proceeded on his way home. Upon his wife's coming out to meet him, immediately (p.41) he saw her, his anger rose, and his face reddening he said, ‘don't come before me, I'll teach you better manners with a stick.’ His wife said, ‘my dear, are you well? What is the matter, what fault have I committed?’ The husband answered, ‘you tied up in the bag a pup instead of a pig, and have disgraced me before the landlord, what greater offence is there than this?’ The woman replied, ‘pardon me, I never was guilty of such a thing.’—The wife then opened the bag, when instantly the pig jumped out. The blockhead of a farmer was perfectly convinced that this miracle had been brought about by the porker; for here he sees a pig, and there he saw a pup: and giving it a few strokes with his whip, he said, ‘you must not play me this trick again.’


(1) Gram or koolthee, name of a grain (Dolichos biflorus).

(2) A kind of vetch (Phaseolus max).

(3) Unknown.