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said they entered into a plot with the landlady of a meeting-house for the destruction of a number of the Scottish nobility, who had been the cause of their banishment and sufferings. Having previously sawn through the supports of the roof of the hall, when the company was assembled, at a signal it was let fall upon them with the most disastrous consequences. Dr. Rennie represents Lady Kilsyth and her child as the victims of this Presbyterian plot, and gives 1717 as the date, although she had already been dead twenty-two years.
Dr. Rennie was a much better natural philosopher than historian, and when he describes things that came under his own personal observation, there could not be a more faithful or luminous witness. To him we are indebted for a narrative of the circumstances attending the desecration of Lady Kilsyth's grave. It was communicated to "A Tour through the Highlands," by Dr. Garnett, and accompanied by a drawing of Lady Dundee and her child as they appeared in the coffin, by an artist named Watts. The features are regular, and the face still beautiful, as if her ladyship had fallen into a gentle and peaceful slumber. On the right cheek there is the mark of the blow which she received in the accident, and the child at her feet gives to the drawing a touch of tenderest pathos. The first exposure of the remains has been attributed to some young men, students of the University of Glasgow.
"The body was enclosed," writes Dr. Rennie, "first in a coffin of fir; next in a leaden coffin nicely cemented, but without any inscription: this was again covered with a very strong wooden coffin. The space between the two was filled up with a white matter, somewhat of the colour and consistency of putty, apparently composed of gums and perfumes, for it had a rich and delicious flavour. When I was a boy at school I have frequently seen the coffin in which she lies; for the vault was then always accessible and often opened. But at that time the wooden coffin was entire. Indeed, it was only within a few years that it decayed. Even after this the lead one remained entire for a considerable time, but being very brittle and thin it also began to moulder away; a slight touch of the finger penetrated any part of it. In the apertures thus made nothing was seen but the gummy matter above mentioned. When this was partly removed, which was easily done, being very soft, and only about an inch in thickness, another wooden coffin appeared, which seemed quite clean and fresh. But no one ever thought of opening it till the spring of 1796 [? 1795], when some rude and regardless young men went to visit the tomb, and, with sacrilegious hands, tore open the leaden coffin. To their surprise they found under the lid a covering of fir as clean and fresh as if it had been made the day before. The cover, being loose, was easily removed. With astonishment and consternation, they saw the bodies of Lady Kilsyth [Viscountess of Dundee], and her child, as perfect as the hour they were embalmed.
"For some weeks this circumstance was kept secret; but at last it began to be whispered in several companies, and soon excited great curiosity. On the 12th June, while I was from home, great crowds assembled and would not be denied admission. At all hours of the night, as well as of the day, they afterwards persisted in gratifying their curiosity.
"I saw the body soon after the coffin was opened. Every feature and every limb was as clean and fresh, and the colours of the ribbons as bright, as the day they were lodged in the tomb. What rendered the scene
more striking and truly interesting, was, that the body of her son and only child, the natural heir of the title and estates of Kilsyth, lay at her knee His features were as composed as if he had been only asleep. His colour was as fresh, and his flesh as plump and full, as in the perfect glow of health. The smile of infancy and innocence sat on his lips. His shroud was not only entire, but perfectly clean, without a particle of dust upon it. He seems to have been only a few months old. The body of Lady Kilsyth was equally well preserved; and at a little distance, by the feeble light of a taper, it would not have been easy to distinguish whether she was dead or alive. The features—nay, the very expression of her countenance—were marked and distinct, and it was only in a certain light that you could distinguish anything like ghastly and agonising traits of a violent death. Not a single fold of her shroud was discomposed, nor a single member impaired.
"But as no description can give a just idea of the neatness or elegance of her appearance, I therefore refer you to the sketch by Mr. Watts. I have only to lament that his representation was finished chiefly from my description, as the time you saw the body it was much sullied and the shroud injured. But it is as near the original as I can recollect, or as any pencil can express. I can only say, it is not a flattering portrait. Let the candid reader survey this sketch—let him recall to mind the tragic tale it unfolds, and say, if he can, that it does not arrest the attention and interest the heart. For my part, it excited in my mind a thousand melancholy reflections; and I could not but regret that such rudeness had been offered to the ashes of the dead, so as to expose them thus to the public view.
"The body seemed to have been preserved in some liquid nearly the colour and appearance of brandy; the whole coffin seems to have been full of it, and all its contents saturated with it. The body had assumed somewhat the same tinge, but this seemed only to give it a fresher look; it had none of the ghastly livid hue of death, but rather a copper complexion. It would not, I believe, have been difficult for a chemist to ascertain the nature of this liquid; though perfectly transparent it had lost its pungent qualities, its taste being quite vapid. I have heard that several medical gentlemen carried off small phials of it, but do not know whether they made any experiments with it. The rich odoriferous flavour continued not only in the vault, but even in the church for many weeks, as can be attested by hundreds. All agree it was a mixture of perfumes, but of what kind it is not easy to say; the most prevalent seemed to be that of spirits of turpentine, and it is certain that this odour continued the longest.
"The head reclined on a pillow, and as the covering decayed, it was found to contain a collection of strong scented herbs. Balm, sage, and mint were easily distinguished, and it was the opinion of many that the body was filled with the same. Although the bodies were thus entire at first, I expected to see them soon crumble into dust, especially as they were exposed to the open-air, and the fine aromatic fluid had evaporated; and it seems surprising that they did not. For several weeks they underwent no visible change; and had they not been sullied with dust, and the drops of grease from the candles held over them, I am confident they might have remained as entire as ever, for even a few months ago the bodies were as firm and entire as at the first, and although pressed with the finger, did not yield to the touch, but seemed to retain the elasticity of the living body. Even the shroud, though torn by the hands of the regardless multitude, is still strong and free from rot. Perhaps the most singular phenomenon is, that the bodies seem not to have undergone the smallest decomposition or disorganisation. Some medical gentlemen having made a small incision in the arm of the infant, the substance of the body was found quite firm, and every part in its original state."
Such is Dr. Rennie's picturesque description, but how he allowed this scandalous exposure of the remains of Lady Dundee to continue is wholly unaccountable, and by no means to his credit. It was not that they might become a parochial spectacle that Lord Kilsyth spent his affection on the remains of his dead wife. The bodies were finally hidden away from the public gaze by the late Sir Archibald Edmonstone. In a letter, dated the 3rd February, 1862, to Napier, the biographer of Dundee and Montrose, Sir Archibald writes :—" About forty years ago the old church of Kilsyth was pulled down and a new one built in a different situation: the vault was, however, preserved, and my factors buried in it. On the death of my last, eleven years ago, when the vault was opened for him, I, to my disgust, found that the sexton had taken up the body of Lady Dundee to put that of
Mr. in its place. I then saw it. It was perfectly
shrivelled and discoloured; and what surprised me was, that in the sketch in ' Garnett's Tour,' the child was lying at the feet, whereas now it was lying on her breast; I suppose so placed when the coffin decayed. I immediately ordered the body to be walled up within the vault, so that it would never be exposed again, and I have put up a memorial inscription on the spot. No relic, that I am aware of, was found in the grave."
The unaccountable persistency with which the Jacobites