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Sir Walter Scott and his Hounds

(by Steve Tillotson, November 2012)

1. THE HIGHLAND GREYHOUND (and references to Scott's Deerhound Maida)
(Source: The British cyclopæedia of natural history Page 307, Charles Frederick Partington - 1836)

This is a very powerful dog, equally staunch and faithful, an d when the Scottish mountains swarmed with stags and roes, it was held in high estimation, as being capable of following the deer over surfaces too rough and faiguing for the ordinary hounds of the low country. - Highland Greyhound

The general aspect of the Highland hound is commanding and fierce. His head is long, and muzzle rather sharp; his ears pendulous, but not long, his eyes large, keen and penetrating, half concealed among the long, still and bristly hair with which his face is covered; his body is very strong and muscular, deep chested, tapering towards the loins, and his back slightly arched; hid hind quarters are furnished with large prominent muscles and his legs are long, strong boned, and straight - a combination of qualities which gives him that speed and long duration in the chase for which he is so eminently distinguished. His hair is wiry and shaggy, of a reddish sand colour, mixed with white; his tail is rough, which he carries somewhat in the manner of a staghound, but not quite so erect. This is the dog formerly used in the time of Ossian, The Scottish highland greyhound will either hunt in packs or singly. A remarkably fine and large of this description was a long time in the posession of Sir Walter Scott, bart., and was a most apropriate guardian for his unique and magnificent seat at Abbotsford. This splendid dog was presented to Sir Walter Scot, as a mark of the highest respect and esteem by the late chieftain, Macdondll Of Glengarry. He preserved this race of dogs with much care; and in order to prevent the degeneracy which arises from consanguinity, he was in the habit of crossing the breed with the bloodhound from Cubs and also with the shepherd's dog of the Pyrenees, which is distinguished for its size, beauty and docility. Sir Walter Scott's Maida was the offspring of a sire of the latter species, and a dam of the Scottish highland race, and certainly was one of the finest dogs ever seen in that country of the kind, not only on account of his symmetry of form and dignified aspect, but also from his extraordinary size and strength.

This fine specimen of the dog probably brought on himself premature old age, by the excessive fatigure and exercise to which his natural ardour inclined him; for he had the greats pleasure in accompanying the common greyhounds; and, although from his great size and strength, he was not at all adapted for coursing, yet he had not unfrequently turned, and even ran down hares. Maida lies buried at the gate of Abbotsford, which he long protected; a grave stone is placed over him, with the figure of a dog cut on it by Mr John Smith of Melrose and bears the following inscription "-

Maida, tu mamiorca dorrals sub imarfne Mairtir
Ad januam Uumlnl. Sic ubi terra levis!

This powerful and splendid variety of dog was, in the olden time, employed in hunting the wolf, as well as the deer ; but the circumstances of the Scotch highlands have changed, the wolf is no more, and the deer is so rare in most places that it ceases to be an object of sport, except to the few who have it as property. The stocking of the hills with sheep has also dislodged the deer, and rendered the deer dog a forbidden visiter. Gentler sport has succeeded, and the soft sportsman of the south, with his pointer and his Joe Manton, have come instead of the driving dog and the daring highlander.

2. EDMUND HOGAN ON IRISH AND SCOTTISH HOUNDS (and references to Scotts hounds) 1897

Hogan 115
About the year 1825, Sir Walter Scott was offered a fine Irish Wolfdog by Miss Edgeworth, but declined, saying he had others. They were a brace of dogs of gigantic sice given him by Glengarry and Cluny MacPherson on the death of his "Maida" whom he called a wolfdog

Hogan 127
In 1841, Richardson under the initials H.D.R., wrote four columns in the Irish Penny Journal of 13th May 1841 on the Irish Wolfdog, and he gave a portrait of that hound. A few years later he wrote a fuller sketch in his book on The DOG: Its origin, Natural History and Varieties, and claimed the initials H.D.R as his own. He was a Scot living in Dublin, wrote the best account of the Irish Dog handed on the breed of what are now called Irish wolfdogs. He says "Many assert the Irish wolfdog is no longer in existence. I hold that he and the Highland deerhound are one and the same" In proof he says "1. The irish conquered and colonised Scotland, and, of course, took their great dogs with them. 2. Campion calls the Irish dog a greyhound of great bone and limb. E. Evelyn calls him a tall greyhound. R He is called a greyhound in the Welsh Laws, and by Henry VIII., Moryson Pennant, Falkland Smith. T. The Highland deerhound is indeed now the tallest dog in existence"

These reasons go some way, but not the whole way, to show the identity of the Irish and Highland hound. He proceeds to say "This animal (The Highland Deerhound) is nearly extinct. Even Glengarry, whose dogs were once so famous, has not one genuine specimen left, and but a few remain scattered here and there in the North of Ireland and in the Highlands Of Scotland. Mr Nolan's dog "Oscar" is the finest specimen of the kind I have ever seen. His portrait heads this article; he stands 28 1/2 inches in height at the shoulders. Their average height in their very best days seems to have been about 30 inches. The colour of Oscar is dark iron-grey with white breast.


(Scott was the guardian of the Maclean Clephane girls. Margaret Maclean Clephane married the Smiths’ cousin Spencer Compton (Lord Compton, later the 2nd Marquess of Northampton).
[Jan.-Feb. 1816]

MANY thanks my dear Miss Clephane for your kind two letters.1 Do not suppose this an answer to either of them, as I am in town for a very few days, and much pressd for time. I beg your and Mrs. Clephanes acceptance of two books. Paul has been generally liked especially the battle, about which I have had many compliments from military people. I send you also the two political poems with a few additional lines. Item, for this is a mere bill of lading, some sheets of music of Campbell's intended work, which we trust will thrive. Caduil gu la has taken immensely in Covent Garden. I gave it to our friend Terry to ornament a farce or opera or melodrama of his derived from Guy Mannering, which has had good fortune. I am answerable for the words of three of these (the full words will be given separately) and we wish much to have your opinion.

The Factor's Garland is admirable and worth a mermaid's skeleton at any time. No news here but that we are all well, and that I have got a deer-hound or blood-hound, or wolf-hound that is the most magnificent creature ever seen for height and strength. All Edinburgh is agape at him. I got him from Glengarry. He is descended of the Blue Spanish wolf-dog, and the real deer grey-hound, and might have followed Johnnie Armstrong for size and dignity.

Remember me most kindly and faithfully to Mrs. Clephane and also Miss Williamina. Ever yours,
W. S. 1816
All my copies of the Ballad at Carter-haugh are gone abroad, but I will get one for you.

3.2 LETTER TO JOANNA BAILLIE (Scottish playwright)

....MORE forward in February than in the midst of (April and I think if the weather does not soon become steady we shall be cured of our national grievance of plenty of cheap meal.

I have added a most romantic inmate to my family a large bloodhound allowed to be the finest dog of the kind in Scotland perfectly gentle affectionate and good- natured and the darling of all the children. I had him in a present from Glengarry who has refused the breed to people of the very first rank. He is between the deer greyhound and mastiff with a shaggy mane like a lion and always sits beside me at dinner-his head as high as the back of my chair.
W. S.



Page 320. Sir Walter and his dog.—A good many years afterwards, when Sir John was engaged on the Edinburgh statue of Sir Walter Scott, he was assisted in the execution of the poet's favourite dog "Maida" by the loan of the staghound's brother from Lord Colonsay. Going one day to see the progress of the work, Sir Adam Ferguson told the sculptor the following story: During one of his many visits to Abbotsford, Sir Adam and the "author of Waverley," accompanied by "Maida," usually took a stroll immediately after breakfast, and one morning Sir Walter looked into the larder to ascertain the condition of a very fine joint of beef, which had been provided for an approaching dinner to some expected friends. They were horrified to find the meat completely mangled; and on Sir Walter turning to "Maida," the hound's guilty aspect afforded irresistible evidence of the culprit. With his proverbial humanity, instead of punishing the old favourite, Scott placed his hand upon its head and simply said :—

"Maida, Maida, you glutton,
You've taken the beef,
And left but the mutton!"

Chambers's Journal, Volume 54 Page 274, 1877 By William Chambers, Robert Chambers SIR "WALTER SCOTT AND HIS DOGS. 17. One of my pleasant recollections is that of seeing Sir Walter Scott out on a stroll with his dogs; the scene being in the neighbourhood of Abbotsford, in the summer of 1824, while as yet the gloom of misfortune had not clouded the mind of the great man. There he was limping gaily along with his pet companions amidst the rural scenes which he had toiled to secure and loved so dearly.

Scott's fondness for animals has perhaps never been sufficiently acknowledged. It was with him a kind of second nature, and appears to have been implanted when as a child he was sent on a visit to the house of his grandfather, Robert Scott, at Sandyknowe, in the neighbourhood of Dryburgh. Here, amidst flocks of sheep and lambs, talked to and fondled by shepherds and ewe-milkers, and revelling with collies, he was impressed with a degree of affectionate feeling for animals which lasted through life. At a subsequent visit to Sandyknowe, when his grandfather had passed away, and the farm operations were administered by ' Uncle Thomas,' he was provided with a Shetland pony to ride upon. The pony was little larger than many a Newfoundland dog. It walked freely into the house, and was regularly fed from the boy's hand. He soon learned to ride the little pony well, and often alarmed 'Aunt Jenny' by cantering over the rough places in the neighbourhood. Such were the beginnings of Scott's intercourse with animals. Growing up, there was something extraordinary in his attachment to his dogs, his horses, his ponies, and his cats; all of which were treated by him, each in its own sphere, as agreeable companions, and which were attached to him in return. There may have been something feudal and poetic in this kindly association with humble adherents, but there was also much of simple good-heartedness. Scott added not a little to the happiness of his existence by this genial intercourse with his domestic pets. From Lockhart's Memoirs of Sir Walter, and other works, we have occasionally bright glimpses of the great man's familiarity with his four-footed favourites. We can see that Scott did not, as is too often the case, treat them capriciously, as creatures to be made of at one time, and spoken to harshly when not in the vein for amusement. On the contrary, they were elevated to the position of friends. They possessed rights to be respected, feelings which it would be scandalous to outrage. At all times he had a soothing word, and a kind pat, for every one of them. And that, surely, is the proper way to behave towards the beings who are dependent on us.

Among Sir Walter's favourite dogs we first hear of Camp, a large bull-terrier, that was taken with him when visiting the Ellises for a week at Sunninghill in 1803. Mr and Mrs Ellis having cordially sympathised in his fondness for this animal, Scott, at parting, promised to send one of Camp's progeny in the course of the season to Sunninghill. As an officer in a troop of yeomanry cavalry, Scott proved a good horseman, and we are led to know that he was much attached to the animal which he rode. In a letter to a friend written at this period (1803), he says: 'I have, too, a hereditary attachment to the animal—not, I flatter myself, of the common jockey cast, but because I regard him as the kindest and most generous of the subordinate animals. I hardly even except the dogs; at least, they are usually so much better treated, that compassion for the steed should be thrown into the scale when we weigh their comparative merits.'

For several years Camp was the constant parlour dog. He was handsome, intelligent, and fierce, but gentle as a lamb among the children. At the same time, there were two greyhounds, Dougla3 and Percy, which were kept in the country for coursing. Scott kept one window of his study open, whatever might be the state of the weather, that Douglas and Percy might leap out and in as the fancy moved them. He always talked to Camp as if he understood what was said—and the animal certainly did understand not a little of it; in particular, it seemed as if he perfectly comprehended on all occasions that his master considered him a sensible and steady friend; the greyhounds, as volatile young creatures whose freaks must be borne with.

William Laidlaw, the friend and amanuensis of Scott, mentions in the Abbotsford Notanda a remarkable instance of Camp's fidelity and attention. It was on the occasion of a party visiting a wild cataract in Dumfriesshire, known as the Gray Mare's Tail. There was a rocky chasm to be ascended, up which Scott made his way with difficulty, on account of his lameness. 1 Camp attended anxiously on his master; and when the latter came to a difficult part of the rock, Camp would jump down, look up to his master's face, then spring up, lick his master's hand and cheek, jump down again, and look upwards, as if to shew him the way and encourage him. We were greatly interested with the scene.'

The most charming part of Scott's life was, as we think, that which he spent with his family at Ashestiel, from about 1804 to 1808, part of which time he was engaged in writing Marmion. Ashestiel was a country mansion situated on the south bank of the Tweed, half way between Innerleithen and Galashiels, and in what would be called a solitary mountain district. There was the river for fishing, and the hills for coursing, and no other amusement. To enliven the scene, literary friends came on short visits. There was an odd character in the immediate neighbourhood, called from his parsimony Old Nippie, whose habits afforded some fun. When still at Ashestiel in 1808, there is presented a pleasant picture by Lockhart of the way in which Scott passed the Sunday. The account of it is a perfect Idyll. 1 On Sunday he never rode—at least not until his growing infirmity made his pony almost necessary for him—for it was his principle that all domestic animals have a full right to their Sabbath of rest; but after he had read the Church service, he usually walked with his whole family, dogs included, to some favourite spot at a considerable distance from the house—most frequently the ruined tower of Elibank—and there dined with them in the open air on a basket of cold provisions, mixing his wine with the water of the brook beside which they were all grouped around him on the turf; and here, or at home, if the weather kept them from their ramble, his Sunday talk was just such a series of biblical lessons as that preserved for the permanent use of the rising generation in his Tales of a Grandfather. He had his Bible, the Old Testament especially, by heart; and on these days inwove the simple pathos or sublime enthusiasm of Scripture, in whatever story he was telling, with the same picturesque richness as he did, in his week-day tales, the quaint Scotch of Pitscottie, or some rude romantic old rhyme from Barbour's Brtice or Blind Harry's Wallace.'

Failing from old age, Camp was taken by the family to Edinburgh, and there he died about January 1809. He was buried in a fine moonlight night in the little garden behind the house, No. 39 Castle Street, immediately opposite the window where Scott usually Bat writing. His daughter, Mrs Lockhart, remembered 'the whole family standing round the grave as her father himself smoothed down the turf above Camp with the saddest expression of face she had ever seen in him. He had been engaged to dine abroad that day, but apologised on account of " the death of a dear old friend."'

A few months later, Scott says in one of his letters: 'I have supplied the vacancy occasioned by the death of dear old Camp with a terrier puppy of the old shaggy Celtic breed,' and which he named Wallace. This new companion was taken on an excursion to the Hebrides in 1810, and in time partly compensated for the loss of Camp. There came, however, a fresh bereavement in 1812, in the death of the greyhound Percy. Scott alludes to the fact in one of his letters. 'We are going on in the old way, only poor Percy is dead. I intend to have an old stone set up by his grave, with Cy gist li preux Percie [Here lies the brave Percy]; and I hope future antiquaries will debate which hero of the House of Northumberland has left his bones in Teviotdale.' The two favourite greyhounds are alluded to in the Introduction to the second canto of Marmion—

Remember'st thou my greyhounds true?
O'er holt or hill there never flew,
From slip or leash there never sprang,
More fleet of foot or sure of fang.

In a letter dated Abbotsford, 1816, written to Terry, with whom he communicated on literary and dramatic subjects, he says: 'I have got from my friend Glengarry the noblest dog ever seen on the Border since Johnnie Armstrong's time. He is between the wolf and deer hound, about six feet long from the tip of the nose to the tail, and high and strong in proportion: he is quite gentle and a great favourite. Tell WilL Erskine he will eat off his plate without being at the trouble to put a paw on the table or chair. I shewed him to Matthews, who dined one day in Castle Street before I came here.'

The staghound so introduced was the famous Maida, which came upon the scene when the Waverley novels were beginning to set the world on fire. Maida was the crack dog of Scott's life, and figures at his feet in the well-known sculpture by SteelL He did not quite supersede Wallace and the other dogs, but assumed among them the most distinguished place, and might be called the canine major-domo of the establishment. On visiting Abbotsford in 1817, Washington Irving enjoyed the pleasure of a ramble with Scott and his dogs. His description of the scene is so amusing that we can scarcely abate a jot:

'As we sallied forth, every dog in the establishment turned out to attend us. There was the old staghound, Maida, that I have already mentioned, a noble animal; and Hamlet, the black greyhound, a wild thoughtless youngster, not yet arrived at the years of discretion ; and Finette, a beautiful setter, with soft silken hair, long pendent ears, and a mild eye, the parlour favourite. When in front of the house, we were joined by a superannuated greyhound, who came from the kitchen wagging his tail; and was cheered by Scott as an old friend and comrade. In our walks, he would frequently pause in conversation, to notice his dogs, and speak to them as if rational companions; and, indeed, there appears to be a vast deal of rationality in these faithful attendants on man, derived from their close intimacy with him. Maida deported himself with a gravity becoming his age and size, and seemed to consider himself called upon to preserve a great degree of dignity and decorum in our society. As he jogged along a little distance ahead of us, the young dogs would gambol about him, leap on his neck, worry at his ears, and endeavour to tease him into a gambol. The old dog would keep on for a long time with imperturbable solemnity, now and then seeming to rebuke the wantonness of his young companions. At length he would make a sudden turn, seize one of them, and tamble him in the dust, then giving a glance at us, as much as to say: "You see, gentlemen, I can't help giving way to this nonsense," would resume his gravity, and jog on as before. Scott amused himself with these peculiarities. "I make no doubt," said he, "when Maida is alone with these young dogs, he throws gravity aside, and plays the boy as much as any of them; but he is ashamed to do so in our company, and seems to say: Ha? done with your nonsense, youngsters: what will the laird and that other gentleman think of me if I give way to such foolery?"

'Scott amused himself with the peculiarities of another of his dogs, a little shamefaced terrier, with large glassy eyes, one of the most sensitive little bodies to insult and indignity in the world. "If ever he whipped him," he said, "the little fellow would sneak off and hide himself from the light of day in a lumber garret, from whence there was no drawing him forth but by the sound of the chopping-knife, as if chopping up his victuals, when he would steal forth with humiliated and downcast look, but would skulk away again if any one regarded him."

* While we were discussing the humours and peculiarities of our canine companions, some object provoked their spleen, and produced a sharp and petulant barking from the smaller fry; but it was some time before Maida was sufficiently roused to ramp forward two or three bounds, and join the chorus with a deep-mouthed bow v>oio. It was but a transient outbreak, and he returned instantly, wagging his tail, and looking up dubiously in his master's face, uncertain whether he would receive censure or applause. "Ay, ay, old boy !" cried Scott, "you have done wonders ; you have shaken the Eildon hills with your roaring; you may now lay by your artillery for the rest of the day. Maida," continued he, "is like the great gun at Constantinople; it takes so long to get it ready, that the smaller guns can fire off a dozen times first.'"

Maida accompanied his master to town, where he occupied the place of the lamented Camp. In the sanctum at Castle Street, Maida lay on tne hearthrug, ready when called on to lay his head across his master's knees, and to be caressed and fondled. On the top step of a ladder for reaching down the books from the higher shelves sat a sleek and venerable Tom-cat, which Scott facetiously called by the German name Hinse of Hinsfeldt. Lockhart mentions that Hinse, ' no longer very locomotive, usually lay watching the proceedings of his master and Maida with an air of dignified equanimity. When Maida chose to leave the party, he signified his inclinations by beating the door with his huge paw; Scott rose and opened it for him with courteous alacrity—and then Hinse came down purring from his perch, and mounted guard by the foot-stool, vice Maida absent on furlough. Whatever discourse might be passing was broken, every now and tlren, by some affectionate apostrophe to these four-footed friends. Dogs and cats, like children, have some infallible tact for discovering who is, and who is not, really fond of their company; and I venture to say, Scott was never five minutes in any room before the little pets of the family, whether dumb or lisping, had found out his kindness for all theix generation.'

In letters to his eldest son, Scott seldom fails to tell him how things are going on with the domesticated animals. For example: 'Hamlet had an inflammatory attack, and I began to think he was going mad, after the example of his great namesake; bat Willie Laidlaw bled him, and he recovered. Pussy is very welL' Next letter: 'Dogs all well—cat sick—supposed with eating birds in their feathers.' Shortly afterwards: 'All here send love. Dogs and cat are well I daresay you have heard from some other correspondent that poor Lady Wallace [a favourite pony] died of an inflammation after two days' illness. Trout [a favourite pointer] has returned here several times, poor fellow, and seems to look for you; but Henry Scott is very kind to him.' In a succeeding letter we have the account of an accident to Maida: 'On Sunday, Maida walked with us, and in jumping the paling at the Greentongue park, contrived to hang himself up by the hindleg. He howled at first, but seeing us making towards him, he stopped crying, and waved his tail, by way of signal, it was supposed, for assistance. He sustained no material injury, though his leg was strangely twisted into the bars, and lie was nearly hanging by it. He shewed great gratitude, in his way, to his deliverers.'

At Abbotsford, in the autumn of 1820, when a> large party, including Sir Humphry Davy, Dr Wollaston, and Henry Mackenzie were sallying out— Scott on his pony Sybyl Grey, with Maida gambolling about him—there was some commotion and laughter when it was discovered that a little black pig was frisking about and apparently Tesolved to be one of the party for the day. Scott tried to look stern, and cracked his whip at the creature, ibut was in a moment obliged to join in the general cheers. Poor piggy was sent home. 'This pig,' says Lockhart, 'had taken, nobody could tell how, a most sentimental attachment to Scott, and was constantly urging his pretensions to be admitted a regular member of his tail along with the greyhounds and terriers; but indeed, I remember him suffering another summer under the same sort of pertinacity on the part of an affectionate hen. I leave the explanation for philosophers—but such were the facts.'

Mr Adolphus, a visitor to Abbotsford in 1830, when the health of the great writer was breaking down under his honourable and terribly imposed task-work, gives us not the least striking instance of Scott's wonderful considerateness towards animals. 'In the morning's drive we crossed several fords, and after the rain they were wide and deep. A little, long, wise-looking, rough terrier, named Spice, which ran after us, had a cough, and as often as we came to a water, Spice, by the special order of his master, was let into the carriage till we had crossed. His tenderness to his brute dependants was a striking point in the benignity of his character. He seemed to consult not only their bodily welfare, but their feelings, in the human sense. He was a gentleman even to his dogs.' When too roughly frolicsome, he rebuked them gently, so as not to mortify them, or spoil the natural buoyancy of their character.

We could extend these memorabilia, but have perhaps said enough. Maida died in October 1824, and is commemorated in a sculptured figure at the doorway of Abbotsford. His attached master wrote an epitaph on him in Latin, which he thus Englished:

Beneath the sculptured form which late you wore, Sleep soundly, Maida, at your master's door.

It was a sad pang for Scott, when quitting home to seek for health abroad, and which he did not find, to leave the pet dogs which survived Maida. His last orders were that they should be taken care of. We may be permitted to join in the noble eulogium pronounced on Scott by Willie Laidlaw, who lived to mourn his loss, that Kindness of heart was positively the reigning quality of Sir Walter's character! w. c.

See also
A Scene At Abbotsford From "The Keepsake" page 261
Frederic Mansel Reynolds - 1829

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