Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, August 22, 2022


 "The Vision of Cambell of Inverawe" by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, Bart.  [note that the author's name ia oftern hyphenated]  (first published Legendary Tales of the Highlands:  A Sequel to Highland Register, 1841, as "The Legend of the Vision of Campbell of Inverawe," the final tale in Volume 3 of Dick Lauder's three-volume work; reprinted in the anonymously-edited Weird Tales Scottish (or Scottish Weird Tales), Volume 6 in publishers William Paterson's "Nuggets for Travellers" series, that volume also reprinted the same year by White and Allen as Weird Tit-Bits Scottish.)

At its heart this is a fairly simple story of the price of honor (or honour -- this was written by a Scot) in the face of certain doom.  Duncan Campbell, Laird of Inverawe, led a troop of the Black Watch, the famed military group originally formed to maintain peace in the Highlands.  The Watch, however, became usd for political reasons by their overlords in London, first sent to fight in Flanders. then, back home, they were ordered to act against those who had risen against King Charles.  This last was a grievous duty for Campbellwho,led one company of the Black Watch, and his men:  here they had to fight against friends and relatives, many of whom numbered among the insurgents.  Ner Lorn, they were ordered to burn and destroy the homes of a few of those who opposed what they consdiered to the government of an usurper.  But Campbell and men had sworn an oath and, distasteful as it was, obeyed orders.

It happened that Campbell, by some circumstance, had been detained behind his men and while attempting to rejoin them got lost.  Having determined the best route to rejoin his men was a diagonal track across some treacherous mountains, he set out, eventually finding his narrow path blocked by rock that would be difficult for a mountain goat to cross.  Tired, cold, and hungry, Campbell heard a voice call out to him by name.  The person who had recognizd him offered him food,a fire, and directions back to his company.  Campbell was grateful but at a loss; he did not tecognized the man who had recognized him.

It turned out that the man was one of the homeowners whose property was destroyed by Cambell's men earlier that day.  The man held no antipathy for Campbell because, he said he knew that Campbell was an honorable man who had acted against his personal wishes because of his oath to his king.  Thus, in an amazing act of friendship, the man fed Campbell and then set him on the correct path.  All of this shows that, in the Highlands, a man's oath is sacrosanct, even when that oath forces one to go against one's own desires and wishes.

Fast forward to later, after the mission had been accomplished and the Black Watch sent home.  Campbell is back at his estate by the shore of Loch Etive under the mighty cliffs of Ben-Cruachan.  There he reveled in his many friendships and threw gay and merry feasts, for Campbell was nothing is not generous, kind, and friendly.  He lived with his devoted wife and his precious son.  The boy, Donald, happened to be away from home durng one feast.  As that feast broke up The Laird of Inverawe's good friend, George Campbell, raised the parting cup.  As George made the toast, a "rattling peal of thunder rolled dirctly over their heads" -- an ill omen many thought.  Later, alone with his thoughts after his wife had retied for the night. Campbell was startled by the appearance of a man  "with a naked dirk in his hand, his clothes dripping wet, his long hair streaming over his shoulders and half-veiling his glaring eyes and pale and haggard countenance."  The stranger promised him no harm buut begged for his protection, sayng that, in a sudden quarrel, he had shed the blood of a fellow-man, and that the victim's friends were in hot pursuit of him.  The stranger claimed "that protection, and that hospitality, which no one has ever failed to find within the house in Inverawe."  Hearing this, Campbell cried, "By Cruachan, I swear that you shall have both!" and, in doing so, Campbell's sacred honot and chivalry bound him to that pledge. 

Later that evening Campbell his the man in a remote cave, leaving him with food and blankets and urging him not to light a fire that might alert his pursuers.  That night, in bed, he was awoken by a ghostly spectre with an open, bleeding gash in its chest.   The ghost was that of the man who had fed and aided Campbell the night he was separated from his men.  The ghost had a dire wardning:  "Inverawe! -- blood must flow for blood! -- Shield not the murderer!"  The next morning Campbell was unsure whether he had a real visitant or a dream.   

The ghost appeared the second night with a more direct warning:  "My first visit has been fruitless! -- Once more I come to warn you that blood must flow for blood.  No longer shield the murderer!  Force me not to appear again, when all warning will be vain!"

And on the third night:  "The blood of the murderer might have been offered up -- now your blood mut flow for his!  We meet once more at Ticonderoga!"

Hoping to convince the man to give mself up, Campbell then went to the cave where he had hid the assassin, but the man was not there.  Campbell never saw him again, nor did Campbell ever learn his name.  Campbell also never learned the name of his ghostly visitor.

And, Ticonderoga?  What a strange name.  Campbell had never heard of it and had no idea what it referred to.

Time passed and the spectre's dire warning faded to the back of Campbell's memory.  Some time later (years, perhaps), the Crown called the Black Watch back to duty.  This time to fight the enemy in America.  You can see where this is headed.  The Black Watch is sent to New York, to Lake George, to take the heavily fortified fort Campbell knew as "Fort Defiance"...

Despite being a heavily telegraphed tale, "The Vision of Campbell of Inverawe" has several things going for it.  First, the strict adherence to honor as a major part of the Scottish character is weel (and tragically) portrayed.  Second, the vivid description of Campbell's Highland makes the landscape a character of its own in the tale; the rugged and dour beauty of the country and its people add strength to the importance of a rigid code of honor.  Third, the detail of the campaign against Fort Ticonderoga is compelling.

Added late in the tale is a subplot concerning Campbell's son Donald, who unbeknownst to Campbell, travels to America to fight with his father.  There, both Donald and Campbell befriend a young Indian warrior -- something that further solidifies our feelings for both characters and makes the inevitable tragedy even more poignant.

All in all, a darned good story.

[And, I  must admit, a story I felt somewhat guilty enjoying.  I felt I was betraying Kitty's great-aunt Sadie, who, as a McDonald, refused to have Campbell's soup in the house because she would have nothing to do with that scurrilous clan.  Irish Alzheiners and Scottish Alzeimers are one and the same:  you forget everything but the grudge.  Sadie evidently held onto the grudge with a fierceness that was epic.  She also had a strong antipathy for the Irish and for Catholics, and Kitty's father was both so she refused to talk to him.  ("Eileen, would your husband like another cup of coffee?"  This, while Harold was sitting right nest to her.)  On the plus side, Sadie taught Kitty how to identify all the tartans -- even the despised Campbell tartan.  Sadie was very talented at tatting and all of Kitty's underwear before she was school-age was trimmed with homemade lace; I still have Sadie's ivory tatting shuttle around her somewhere.  Wherever Sadie is, I hope she forgives me for liking this story.]

Sir Thomas Dick Lauder of Fountainhall, 7th Baronet, (1784-1848) was a close friend of Sir Walter Scott.  He wrote several romances, along with volumes of Scottish legends and Scottish history, travelogues, natural history, and (at her request) a book detiling the official history of QueenMary's visit to Scotland in 1843.  Dick Lauder also served as Secretary to the Board of Manufactures, on the Herring Fisheries Board, and at the Royal Institution for the Encouragement of Fine Arts, a fellow of the Royal Socity of Edinburgh and as Deputy Lieutenant for conties Moray and Haddington.  in politics he was an active liberal and presided over what has been said to be the largest political rally in Scotland.

"The Vision of Cambell of Inverawe" can be read online.


  1. Lots of Scottish blood from my mother's family. My brother has traced it back to the Sheriff of Butte or something like that.

    1. Kitty was one-quarter Scot. We traced back the Scotch in her brother's blood to a bottle of Glenlivet.

  2. This sounds good! I loved Sir Walter Scott as a kid!