Ravenswood and Lucy
at the Mermaiden's Well
by Charles Robert Leslie
|Author||Sir Walter Scott|
|Language||English, Lowland Scots|
|Series||Tales of My Landlord (3rd series)|
The Bride of Lammermoor is a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott, published in 1819. The novel is set in the Lammermuir Hills of south-east Scotland, and tells of a tragic love affair between young Lucy Ashton and her family's enemy Edgar Ravenswood. Scott indicated the plot was based on an actual incident. The Bride of Lammermoor and A Legend of Montrose were published together as the third of Scott's Tales of My Landlord series. As with all the Waverley Novels, The Bride of Lammermuir was published anonymously. The novel claims that the story was an oral tradition, collected by one "Peter Pattieson", and subsequently published by "Jedediah Cleishbotham". The 1830 "Waverley edition" includes an introduction by Scott, discussing his actual sources. The later edition also changes the date of the events: the first edition sets the story in the 17th century; the 1830 edition sets it in the reign of Queen Anne, after the 1707 Acts of Union which joined Scotland and England. The story is the basis for Donizetti's 1835 opera Lucia di Lammermoor.
The story recounts the tragic love of Lucy Ashton and Edgar, Master of Ravenswood. Edgar's father was stripped of the title for supporting the deposed King James VII. Lucy's ambitious father, Sir William Ashton, then bought the Ravenswood estate. Edgar hates Sir William for this usurpation of his family's heritage, but on meeting Lucy, falls in love with her, and renounces his plans for vengeance.
Sir William's haughty and manipulative wife, Lady Ashton, is the villainess of the story. She is determined to end the initial happy engagement of Edgar and Lucy, and force Lucy into a politically advantageous arranged marriage. Lady Ashton intercepts Edgar's letters to Lucy and persuades Lucy that Edgar has forgotten her. Edgar leaves Scotland for France, to continue his political activities. While he is away, Lady Ashton continues her campaign. She gets Captain Westenho, a wandering soldier of fortune, to tell everyone that Edgar is about to get married in France. She even recruits "wise woman" Ailsie Gourlay (a witch in all but name) to show Lucy omens and tokens of Edgar's unfaithfulness. Lucy still clings to her troth, asking for word from Edgar that he has broken off with her; she writes to him. Lady Ashton suppresses Lucy's letter, and brings the Reverend Bide-the-bent to apply religious persuasion to Lucy. However, Bide-the-bent instead helps Lucy send a new letter, but there is no answer.
Lady Ashton finally bullies Lucy into marrying Francis, Laird of Bucklaw. But on the day before the wedding, Edgar returns. Seeing that Lucy has signed the betrothal papers with Bucklaw, he repudiates Lucy, who can barely speak. The wedding takes place the next day, followed by a celebration at Ravenswood. While the guests are dancing, Lucy stabs Bucklaw in the bridal chamber, severely wounding him. She descends quickly into insanity and dies. Bucklaw recovers, but refuses to say what had happened. Edgar reappears at Lucy's funeral. Lucy's older brother, blaming him for her death, insists that they meet in a duel. Edgar, in despair, reluctantly agrees. But on the way to the meeting, Edgar falls into quicksand and dies.
The story is fictional, but according to Scott's introduction to the novel it was based on an actual incident in the history of the Dalrymple and Rutherford families. Scott heard this story from his mother, Anne Rutherford, and his great aunt Margaret Swinton. The model for Lucy Ashton was Janet Dalrymple, eldest daughter of James Dalrymple, 1st Viscount of Stair, and his wife Margaret Ross of Balneil. As a young woman, Janet secretly pledged her troth to Archibald, third Lord Rutherfurd, relative and heir of the Earl of Teviot, who was thus the model for Edgar of Ravenswood. When another suitor appeared - David Dunbar, heir of Sir David Dunbar of Baldoon Castle near Wigtown - Janet's mother, Margaret, discovered the bethrothal but insisted on the match with Dunbar. Rutherfurd's politics were unacceptable to the Dalrymples: Lord Stair was a staunch Whig, whereas Rutherfurd was an ardent supporter of Charles II. Nor was his lack of fortune in his favour. Attempting to intercede he wrote to Janet, but received a reply from her mother, stating that Janet had seen her mistake. A meeting was then arranged, during which Margaret quoted the Book of Numbers (chapter XXX, verses 2–5), which states that a father may overrule a vow made by his daughter in her youth.
The marriage went ahead on 24 August 1669, in the church of Old Luce, Wigtownshire, two miles south of Carsecleugh Castle, one of her father's estates. Her younger brother later recollected that Janet's hand was "cold and damp as marble", and she remained impassive the whole day. While the guests danced the couple retired to the bedchamber. When screaming was heard from the room, the door was forced open and the guests found Dunbar stabbed and bleeding. Janet, whose shift was bloody, cowered in the corner, saying only "take up thy bonny bridgroom." Janet died, apparently insane, on 12 September, without divulging what had occurred. She was buried on 30 September. Dunbar recovered from his wounds, but similarly refused to explain the event. He remarried in 1674, to Lady Eleanor Montgomerie, daughter of the Earl of Eglinton, but died on 28 March 1682 after falling from a horse between Leith and Edinburgh. Rutherfurd died in 1685, without children.
It was generally believed that Janet had stabbed her new husband, though other versions of the story suggest that Rutherfurd hid in the bedchamber in order to attack his rival Dunbar, before escaping through the window. The involvement of the devil or other malign spirits has also been suggested. Scott quotes the Rev. Andrew Symson (1638–1712), former minister of Kirkinner, who wrote a contemporary elegy "On the unexpected death of the virtuous Lady Mrs. Janet Dalrymple, Lady Baldoon, younger", which also records the dates of the events. More scurrilous verses relating to the story are also quoted by Scott, including those by Lord Stair's political enemy Sir William Hamilton of Whitelaw.
It is said[who?] that Janet was buried at Newliston near Edinburgh, but Janet's brother John, later Earl of Stair, married Elizabeth Dundas of Newliston in 1669, and he may not have been at Newliston when Janet died. Janet may have been buried by her husband at Glenluce.
Scott's biographers have compared elements of The Bride of Lammermuir with Scott's own romantic involvement with Williamina Belsches in the 1790s. The bitterness apparent in the relationship between Lucy Ashton and Edgar of Ravenswood after their betrothal is broken has been compared to Scott's disappointment when, after courting her for some time, Belsches married instead the much wealthier William Forbes.
The spelling Lammermoor is an Anglicisation of the Scots Lammermuir. The Lammermuir Hills are a range of moors which divide East Lothian to the north from Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders to the south. The fictional castle "Wolf's Crag" has been identified with Fast Castle on the Berwickshire coast. Scott stated that he was "not competent to judge of the resemblance... having never seen Fast Castle except from the sea." He did approve of the comparison, writing that the situation of Fast Castle "seems certainly to resemble that of Wolf's Crag as much as any other".
The name "Edgar"
Like most Anglo-Saxon names, the name "Edgar" had fallen out of use by the later medieval period. The success of The Bride of Lammermoor had a considerable role in this name being revived and becoming widely used, up to the present.
- Díaz, Enrique Garcia (2006). "Fiction and History in the Tales of My Landlord (3rd Series): The Bride of Lammermoor. ". Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club.
- Scott, Walter (1819). "Introduction". The Bride of Lammermoor.
- Chambers, Robert (1859). Domestic annals of Scotland, from the Reformation to the Revolution. II. Edinburgh: W. & R. Chambers. pp. 335–337.
- Paul, James Balfour, Sir (1904). "The Scots peerage". Edinburgh: D. Douglas. p. 147.
- Burkes Peerage and Baronetage. II (107th ed.). p. 1961.
- Symson, Andrew (1841). "Appendix X". The history of Galloway, from the earliest period to the present time. Kirkcudbright: J. Nicholson. p. 222.