A Pure and Dignified Society

Illustration of the Old Market at Lynchburg, by James Wells Champney, from Edward King’s The Great South, Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Co., 1875.

Something of the old Scotch and English manners are still perceptible among the people in this part of Virginia; and there are bits of dialect and phrase which show how little the communities have been affected during the last century by the influences which have so transformed the populations of other sections of America. While England has gone on from change to change, and has even been capable of complete revolution in certain matters, Virginia has altered but little. Until now immigration has had no inducements to come and unlock the treasure-house of the grand mountains of the South-west, and so the people have lived under pretty much the same laws and customs that prevailed in England two centuries ago. Yet the absence of the rushing, turbulent current of immigration has had its compensating advantages in allowing the growth of families in which the hereditary love of culture and refinement, and the strictest attention to those graces and courtesies which always distinguish a pure and dignified society, are preeminently conspicuous.

Edward King, The Great South; A Record of Journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian Territory, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland, Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Co., 1875.

Caput Apri Defero

Arms of Queen's College, Oxford: Argent, three eagles displayed gules, beaked and legged or, on the breast of the first, a mullet of six points of the last.
Arms of The Queen’s College, Oxford: Argent, three eagles displayed gules, beaked and legged or, on the breast of the first, a mullet of six points of the last.

The Boar’s Head at Oxford.

The ancient ceremony of serving up a boar’s head in the hall of Queen’s College, Oxford, at Christmas, is still observed with much pomp and ceremony. The boar’s head is borne on the shoulders of two of the college servants, preceded by the Provost and Fellows of the society, and followed by a procession of choristers and singing men, who sing the following ballad, the Precentor of Queen’s taking the solo part:–

The boar’s head in hand bring I,
Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary,
And I pray you my masters be merry.
Quot estis in convivio,
Caput estis in convivio
Reddens laudes Domino.

The boar’s head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all the land:
Which thus bedeck’d with a gay garland,
Let us servire cantico
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.

Our stewards hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss,
Which on this day to be served is
In Reginensi Atrio,
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.

After the ceremony, the decorations of bays, rosemary, holly, artificial flowers, &c. are distributed among the visitors, the monster head is then placed upon the high table, and the members of the society proceed to dine. The origin of serving up the boar’s head at Queen’s College is somewhat obscure, but we glean from Pointer’s Oxon[i]ensis Academia that “it is in memory of a noble exploit, as tradition goes, by a scholar (a tabarder) of this College in killing a wild boar in Shotover Wood.” Having wandered into the wood, which is not far from Oxford, with a copy of Aristotle in his hand, and being attacked by a wild boar, who came at him with extended jaws, intending to make but a mouthful of him, he was enabled to conquer him by thrusting the Aristotle down the boar’s throat crying, “Græcum Est!” The animal, of course, fell prostrate at his feet, was carried in triumph to the College, and no doubt served up with an “old song,” as Mr Pointer says, in memory of this “noble exploit.”

— John Timbs, Notabilia, or Curious and Amusing Facts about Many Things, London: Griffith and Farran, 1872.

The Gleam of Steel Flashing in Their Faces

The Battle of Culloden (1746) by David Morier, oil on canvas.

Their arms were anciently the Glaymore, or great two-handed sword, and afterwards the two-edged sword and target, or buckler, which was sustained on the left arm. In the midst of the target, which was made of wood, covered with leather, and studded with nails, a slender lance, about two feet long, was sometimes fixed; it was heavy and cumberous, and accordingly has for some time past been gradually laid aside. Very few targets were at Culloden. The dirk, or broad dagger, I am afraid, was of more use in private quarrels than in battles. The Lochaber-ax is only a slight alteration of the old English bill.

After all that has been said of the force and terrour of the Highland sword, I could not find that the art of defence was any part of common education. The gentlemen were perhaps sometimes skilful gladiators, but the common men had no other powers than those of violence and courage. Yet it is well known, that the onset of the Highlanders was very formidable. As an army cannot consist of philosophers, a panick is easily excited by any unwonted mode of annoyance. New dangers are naturally magnified; and men accustomed only to exchange bullets at a distance, and rather to hear their enemies than see them, are discouraged and amazed when they find themselves encountered hand to hand, and catch the gleam of steel flashing in their faces.

The Highland weapons gave opportunity for many exertions of personal courage, and sometimes for single combats in the field; like those which occur so frequently in fabulous wars. At Falkirk, a gentleman now living, was, I suppose after the retreat of the King’s troops, engaged at a distance from the rest with an Irish dragoon. They were both skilful swordsmen, and the contest was not easily decided: the dragoon at last had the advantage, and the Highlander called for quarter; but quarter was refused him, and the fight continued till he was reduced to defend himself upon his knee. At that instant one of the Macleods came to his rescue; who, as it is said, offered quarter to the dragoon, but he thought himself obliged to reject what he had before refused, and, as battle gives little time to deliberate, was immediately killed.

– Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).