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THE CRISIS-BOOK OF COMMON ORDER READ IN PEACE-SCENE ON READING "LAUD'S LITURGY," OR THE SERVICE-BOOK—THE "DEVOUTER SEX”-INQUIRY AS TO THE IDENTITY OF JENNY GEDDESTHE SCOTS COUNCIL AND THE COURT-QUESTION TRIED WITH RECUSANTS—THE POLITICAL SITUATION—THE DOUBLE OPPOSITION -THE RELIGIOUS BRANCH OF IT-THE HOLDERS OF ECCLESIASTICAL ESTATES-CONSERVATIVE CHARACTER OF THE OPPOSITION-THE "SUPPLICATIONS" - THE SUSPENSE - THE PROCLAMATIONS AND PROTESTATIONS—INDIGNATION AND MOBBING — THE INCIDENTAL CONSTRUCTION OF THE TABLES - CONSOLIDATED INTO A STATE POWER.
All was now ready for the explosion. It was understood that the Service-book was to become the ritual of all the churches in Scotland in the Easter of 1637. For some reason not well known, however, the crisis was postponed ; and the reprieve seems to have caused that accession of nervous irritation which often arises from the deferring of a critical trial which people wish to see well over. On the 16th of July, those among the Edinburgh clergy who agreed to comply with the royal warrant announced that the Service-book would be used in their churches on the Sunday next following. In the morning, as we have seen, the usual prayers had been read from the old Book of Common Order. After this, the book which was to supersede it was inaugurated with all becoming pomp. The Archbishop of St Andrews was present; the Bishop of Edinburgh was to preach, and the Dean in his surplice to read the service. Whenever he opened the fatal volume, there arose in the congregation a confused clamour, waxing louder, and exciting those who partook in it to practical violence - one of those chaotic scenes the exact progress of which cannot be traced. It is certain that books and other missiles at hand were thrown, and that the Bishop of Edinburgh, who stood up to rebuke the rioters, narrowly escaped a blow on the head from a stool.
The disturbers were, to use a contemporary definition, at first almost limited to the “devouter sex.” Some of them, no doubt, were zealots; but the bulk of those contributing outcry and violence were creatures of that debased mob-element, with animal instincts, ever tending to abuse and violence when they are excited. It would appear that the “fauld-stools,” or folding-stools, so well known over all the churches of Christian Europe, were then used in Edinburgh, and that it was the practice for a domestic servant to carry from the house into the church the stool belonging to her mistress, and occupy it until the arrival of the owner. Hence a contemporary, describing the scene, says: “A number of the meaner sort of the people, most of them waiting-maids and women who use in that town for to keep places for the better sort, with clapping of their hands, curses, and outcries, raised such an uncouth noise and hubbub in the church, that not any one could either hear or be heard.”] To account for the gentlewomen delaying to come and occupy their seats on so novel and exciting an occasion, we must suppose that they abstained from countenancing the idolatrous ceremonial, and were to be present only at the sermon. Meanwhile their stools—crossed sticks strapped together—were very convenient missiles.?
1 Gordon's History, i. 7.
? One of the most distinct and familiar of historical traditions attri. butes the honour of flinging the first stool, and so beginning the great civil war, to a certain Jenny or Janet Geddes. But a search among contemporary writers for the identification of such an actor on the scene, will have the same inconclusive result that often attends the search after some criminal hero with a mythical celebrity when he is wanted by the police. It appears that a woman named Janet
It has been already seen that the practice of the response was fundamentally obnoxious to the promoters
..Geddis was at a later time an Edinburgh celebrity; but the only
occasion on which her fame is mentioned is for an act of a totally different character from the throwing of the stool-it is for her con. spicuous part in the rejoicings at the Restoration, recorded in this lively manner by a contemporary news-writer :
“ Amongst all our bontadoes and caprices, that of the immortal Jenet Geddis, princess of the Trone adventurers, was most pleasant; for she was not only content to assemble all her creels, basquets, creepes, furms, and the other ingredients that composed the shope of her sallets, radishes, turnips, carrots, spinnage, cabbage, with all other sort of pot-merchandise that belongs to the garden ; but even her weather chair of state, where she used to dispense justice to the rest of her lankale vassals, were all very orderly burned, she herself countenancin the action with a high-flown claret and vermilion majesty.”—Edinburgh's Joy for his Majesty's Coronation in Eng. land, 6.
Perhaps, like some of the demigods of antiquity, this woman had acquired such a character that any conspicuous or violent act naturally gravitated towards it. Janet was, it appears, an herb-woman or greengrocer; but it will hardly confirm the tradition to find that, after another interval of nearly thirty years, a pamphleteer of the Revolution epoch thus attributes the throwing of the first stool to a woman of that profession :
“After a world of arbitrary proceedings, the Common Prayer-book was sent down into Scotland, where the king had no more right to send it than into the Mogul's country.
“But the old herb-woman at Edinburgh put an end to that game; for hearing the archbishop who watched the rubrick, directing him that read the book to read the collect of the day, she made a gross mistake, and cried, “The deel collick in the wem of thee!' and withall threw her cricket-stool at his head, which gave a beginning to the war of Scotland.”—Notes upon the Phønix edition of the Pastoral Letter; Works of the late Rev. Mr Samuel Johnson, p. 320.
There remains still an item to make up the fagot of incoherent and fragile testimonies to the fame of Jenny Geddes, in the following fragment of a sarcastic song:
“Put the gown upon the bishop,
That's his miller's due o'knaveship;
Put the gown upon the bishop.” The word “knaveship” has no connection with knavery. It meant the feudal allowance due by the farmer to the knave or servant working at the mill where he was bound by feudal tenure to take his grain to be ground. But even this explanation will not help to the mystery about throwing the stool. The song, too, only first appeared in print
of the simple Scots ritual or Book of Common Order. 1 On the present occasion the practice afforded an opportunity for distributing the offences of the Service-book in the bosom of the congregation. We are told how “the gentlewomen did fall a-tearing and crying that the mass was entered amongst them, and Baal in the church. There was a gentleman, who standing behind a pew, and answering ‘Amen' to what the dean was reading, a shezealot hearing him, starts up in choler. “Traitor !' says she, 'does thou say mass at my ear?' and with that struck him in the face with her Bible in great indignation and fury.” 2
The magistrates of Edinburgh were present to grace the occasion. The perplexed clergyman appealed to them, and they managed to get the rioters driven out. Service went on in presence of those who decorously remained. But the excluded mob, joined by others of their kind, kept roaring round the building and battering at the doors. When the service ended, the Bishop of Edinburgh, in passing to his house, was threatened and hustled by the mob. He was still at their mercy when he reached his own door, for it was closed; and if his neighbour, Lord Wemyss, had not given him shelter, he would have remained in imminent danger. There were disturbances in the other churches in Edinburgh where the Service-book was opened. Such members of the
in Johnson's Musical Miscellany, No. 450. Burns was the most important contributor to this work, so that the authority for this lyrical gem is no older than his day. The annotator on Johnson's collection gives it an origin far wide of the Covenant: “This is a mere frag. ment of one of those satirical and frequently obscene old songs composed in ridicule of the Scottish bishops about the period of the Reformation.” — Illustrations of the Lyrical Poetry and Music of Scotland, 390. Wodrow, on the authority of Robert Stewart-a son of the Lord Advocate of the Revolution-utterly dethrones Mrs Geddes: “He tells me that it's the constantly believed tradition that it was Mrs Mean, wife to John Mean, merchant in Edinburgh, that cast the first stool when the service was read in the New Kirk, Edinburgh, 1637; and that many of the lasses that carried on the fray were prentices in disguise, for they threw stools to a great length.” Analecta, i. 64. 1 See above, chap. xlix.
? Gordon's History, i. 7.
Privy Council as could be hastily assembled, concerted with the magistrates how to protect the churches during the afternoon service; and though they succeeded in this, there was still a fierce pursuit of the bishop. He was escorted by the Earl of Roxburgh, the Lord Privy Seal, who found him an unsafe companion, since it was with difficulty that some armed guards protected the carriage in which they drove together from destruction by the mob.
The Bishop of Dunkeld, in an account of the outbreak, says it was not fortuitous, but had been carefully planned by members of the Presbyterian party. As the result of organisation, however, such a scene would only have testified to weak and stupid counsels. Its powerful significance was in its testimony to a great indignation filling the country, and spontaneously breaking forth in the conduct of those classes who are the most susceptible to gregarious excitement. Those who afterwards maintained the righteousness of the cause, admitted the baseness of the instruments by which it had been first promoted, and compared them to Balaam's ass, whose mouth had been opened to speak inspired words. Similar tokens of irritation were manifested in other parts of Scotland, and especially in Glasgow, where again it was the “devouter sex” who were the foremost champions of orthodoxy.2 When the authorities looked into the state of
i Guthry's Memoirs, 43.
2 The earliest instance which the author has noticed of women as. sembling in Scotland under clerical influence and committing violence is in the year 1615. The queen's chamberlain was serving certain writs in the town of Burntisland, in Fifeshire: “The officer, at the cross of the town and other parts, is by a multitude of women, above ane hundred of the bangster Amazon kind, most uncourteously dung off his feet and his witnesses with him, they all hurt and blooded; all his letters and precepts reft fra him, riven, and cast away, and so chased and stoned out of the town. This done clara luce little before noon, the people beholding, some magistrates, as is proven by some 'witnesses, going on the street beside, the bailie's own wife principal leader of this tumultuous army of Amazons—no man could esteem but a premeditate device and plot laid down by policy and craft of men." Though the object appears to have been secular, yet the chief instigator of the riot was found to have been “Master William Watson, minister of that town, ane wha indeed has been principal