The George Beattie Project - A Poet Lost in Time


(Written by George Beattie in September, 1823)

   In drawing up an account of the connection between Miss Gibson and myself,  I shall confine myself to facts alone, without making comments or drawing inferences.
This most distressing task has been forced on me by occurrences of a late date, by which I have been much injured, and for which, I say it with sorrow, I have determined to seek redress.
I need not attempt to describe the anguish of mind which has compelled me to make the following disclosures.
   Some years ago an intimacy and friendship commenced betwixt Miss Gibson and myself, little known I believe except to ourselves.  From what passed betwixt us, I conceived myself warranted in paying my addresses to Miss Gibson.
In this I may have been wrong, and it may here be necessary to admit this, as in a letter written by me to her, just to be mentioned, I invest, if I reflect right, that I had “unauthorisedly” formed an attachment.
This, at all events I stated from motives of delicacy.
This letter was written in August, 1821, and forwarded to Miss Gibson at Pitcaithly.
I have no copy of it; the answer is so mislaid.
In effect, my addresses were rejected; at the same time, I was strictly enjoined not to give over visiting at Stone of Morphie.
I felt disappointed, but from the way in which Miss Gibson soon afterwards conducted herself towards me, I began to suspect that she was not serious in her refusal.
I, however, studied not to intrude myself, and as I felt delicate in speaking on the subject, and knowing that her parents had been made acquainted with my application, I wrote Mr. Gibson asking his forgiveness, if I had done anything that was improper.
I continued visiting Stone of Morphie as I had formerly done.
Truth here compels me to state, that Miss Gibson now began to honour me with more attention than she had formerly done.
When in Town she seldom failed to allow me the pleasure of accompanying her so far on her way home; indeed, it would be more agreeable to truth to say, that she always told me, when she was to allow me that honour.  (I need not premise that the purpose of stating these facts, is to show, that I never at any time paid my addresses to Miss Gibson, with the most distant view to the fortune, which she lately received, and to show that the engagements latterly entered into betwixt her and me, needed not to be matter of surprise.)
   Our intimacy continued increasing till the spring of 1822, when Mr. Bell left Kinnaber.
Shortly after this period, the following note was brought me from Miss Gibson, by one of the servants at Stone of Morphie :-

  If Mr. Beattie feels inclined to extend his evening walk, A Friend will have pleasure in showing him some birds’ nests in the garden of Kinnaber. 4  -

Monday morning.

4  *It may be observed that at this time no person resided at Kinnaber, at least in the Mansion House.

   It need not be doubted that I willingly obeyed.  I have some other Cards of similar import.  I need not repeat my regrets for mentioning these matters, I am determined to tell the precise truth, as far as I do tell at all, it has been extorted from me by cruel injustice.
   Mr. Gibson, shortly after this, unfortunately became indisposed.
I frequently visited him during his illness, and at these times Miss Gibson made appointments with me as to meeting at Kinnaber.
For a considerable part of the summer we met at least twice a week in the House of Kinnaber.  I need not state that on these occasions promises were made, and vows of fidelity and attachment passed betwixt us.
Upon the approach of autumn, and when we were interrupted by masons repairing the house, I continued again to visit Stone of Morphie.
Miss Gibson proposed at this time to visit at Cononsyth, and that her absence should not interrupt our correspondence, it was agreed that we should write to each other.
At this time I received the following letter from the Post-Office :-

Montrose, 30th August, 1822. -
Particular circumstances have occurred, which prevent my going to Cononsyth this week.  I therefore will not trouble Mr. Beattie to be my correspondent at present, but as I intend to make out my visit a few weeks hence, I still propose troubling him to write me.   I hope Mr. Beattie will pay us a visit at Stone of Morphie, within these few days, and he will very much oblige William Gibson. - Mr. Gibson’s spirits are affected by the damp weather; none can raise them so well as Mr. Beattie; do come and see him.

I still continued visiting Stone of Morphie, our intimacy increased, and promises and vows were repeated over and over.   Shortly after this I received the following letter by a servant :-

We have received accounts of the death of my brother, Williamson, he has fallen a sacrifice to the bad climate of Jamaica.   As I am afraid his loss will affect my father’s spirits, could you, my Dear Sir, make it convenient to call on us some evening soon.  You may think it strange in me to ask you to come out at present, but I trust in your good nature excusing it, and there is not another, out of my own family, that I could apply to so readily, and believe me, your much obliged,

      Stone of Morphie, Tuesday                                                                           
                             Wm. Gibson

I never failed to give my good attendance, and from what passed between Miss Gibson and me, I conceived by this time, that nothing could prevent our union.   Miss Gibson complained if I was absent, and her parents did not discountenance my frequent visits.
   The next letter I received was through the Post-Office, addressed to Mr. Smellie, 5  to my care.

5  *A name deliberately chosen by George Beattie at a happy time, reflecting his natural self-effacing wit, humility and absolute lack of ego.

This was a suggestion of my own, when I first wrote Miss Gibson, to prevent the letters being opened by any of my clerks.   It is of the following tenor :-

                                                                     Stone of Morphie, Wednesday Morn.

My father is disappointed that you do not now spend an evening with him, and I am afraid that I am the cause of you being such a stranger here.   I suppose you cannot be ignorant of the report the good folks of Montrose have raised, and that it has prevented your coming to Stone of Morphie, for fear my parents should adopt the Dougald system;  but allow me to inform you that they have not, and may never hear that report; and they have too few daughters to force them on any man, against his will.  On my account they do not give young men a general invitation, for fear they should suppose they courted them; but those who do come are not the less welcome, and none more so than you.  I expected to have got words of you in Montrose that would have saved me writing, but I know you have too much honour to expose me.
Will you spend an evening here this week?
And if you will, let me know by putting a note in the Post-Office, addressed to me, before 2 o’clock to-day.  I shall take care to be out or in the way as you choose, for I begin to think you wish to shun me, and believe me always, you much obliged,
                                                                                                                          William Gibson.

When I received this note, I had not been a week from Stone of Morphie, and I went there immediately on receipt, and found an opportunity of telling Miss Gibson how very far she was mistaken as to the cause assigned by her, for my short absence, and left her convinced that although I might unavoidably be absent for some time, she needed never impute this to the cause assigned in her letter.
My visits were still continued, and both parties were satisfied that a union was to take place.  The storm prevented my visiting for a short time, I was also in a bad state of health, and had fallen back with business in consequence of having been for a considerable time at Aberdeen, and twice at Edinburgh. 
I attended at Stone of Morphie, however, always when I could possibly get away, and our intimacy continued and increased.
   Miss Gibson now received accounts of the death of her uncle , William Mitchell, Esquire, of Grenada, and that she and her mother had been left considerable sums by his Will, and that Miss Gibson was his Residuary Legatee.
After this I visited as formerly, and, from the opinion I had formed of Miss Gibson, I apprehended at first no alteration in her affections or behaviour toward me.
In this I was not mistaken, I found her the same way as formerly.
   On Sunday the 5th May I called at Stone of Morphie, as I before had intimated to Mr. Gibson by letter, and found Miss Gibson at home.
Old matters were talked over, and all our pledges and vows renewed. 
Miss Gibson declared that the fortune she had become possessed of could not alter her affections, but, on the contrary, make them more lasting.
On my asking, as formerly, Miss Gibson declared herself willing to become my bride.  As I had done before, I asked Miss Gibson if she held the consent of her parents to be a condition. 6  She most unequivocally declared the contrary, and the compact was solemnly sealed betwixt us.
It may here be necessary to state (as Miss Gibson attempts to give it another meaning in her letter), that Miss Gibson said “ I mean to say yes, but will you allow me a little time.”  I said,
“ Certainly, as much as you choose, it is nothing new, you have thought of it before, and something may intervene.”    She replied, “ Nothing can possibly intervene, I wish no time, I am yours forever.”
Miss Gibson then mentioned where she meant to reside, which house she wished purchased or taken, &c., and asked how far my means would go in such a purpose, mentioning that she would have cash of her own very soon.
I, with the utmost candour, gave a state of my finances.  A condition was even made as to my going to church.  It may be necessary here to remark, in relation to what is afterwards stated by Miss Gibson, as to her being allowed a few hours consideration, that our last engagement took place betwixt eleven and twelve, and that I did not leave Stone of Morphie till about nine at night.

6  *From the manner I had all along been treated by them, I had not the least reason to expect opposition from them, and Miss Gibson assured me I had nothing to fear there.

My happy moments, however, were now broken in upon and interrupted.
Upon the Monday following, Miss Gibson received accounts, from one of her uncle’s executors, of the extent of the fortune she would succeed to in this country, as Residuary Legatee of her uncle, and that the extent of the property in India could not be ascertained until the executors there wrote.

- I commenced by stating facts without comment, and I shall continue that course.-

On Tuesday at twelve o’clock, Miss Gibson (who had now become very particular as to the hour) wrote me the following letter 7 :-

7  *This letter, as will afterwards appear, did not reach me till Thursday.

Can you, will you, forgive me, if I ask you to give me back that promise which I gave you on Sunday.8

8  *Miss Gibson displays considerable address here, in referring to “one” and her “last” promise, supposing that if it were given back, the others previously given would follow, and by this time she wished to make lightly of the matter.  We were as much engaged “before” as after the Sunday engagement here referred to.

I then asked for a few hours consideration, had you given me that, it would have saved me this to-day.
I then boldly declared, that my mother’s consent was of small consequence, but that is not the case, and she will never, I fear, consent; but you know I never mentioned your last letters, and I hope this correspondence may be kept as quiet.
That this will give you pain, I do not doubt, but better give it now than afterwards; and believe me, you have little to regret in the want of a nearer connection with me, unless my money, and this is not one tenth part of what they call it at Montrose.9

9  *This is pretty knowing, she had “by this time” learned, that it was much more than she or others expected.

That no one can like me better than you do, I do not doubt, yet surely in that case you might have come oftener and seen me this Spring, particularly when I heard of your being at Kirkside; but it is needless for me to say more.  I shall only add, that there breathes not a man in Europe I at present prefer to you; but I still consider that we may be better apart.  That you will always possess my best wishes, be assured, and I hope God will grant you every happiness.
Do not absent yourself from this house, my father has little need to be deprived of his friends.  Do answer this, and address it to Miss Sarah Bronker. 10

 10  *The name of Mr. Mitchell’s black housekeeper in the West Indies.

Post-Office, Montrose, and a servant will call for it on Thursday.  If you grant my request, enclose this billet in it.

   Thursday, 12 o’clock noon.

   This letter was addressed to J. Smellie, to my care, and was received by me on Thursday, the 8th May, at 11 o’clock.
   Far from expecting such a letter, indeed it was impossible to anticipate any thing of the kind, after all that had passed, I could scarcely therefore credit my senses, next I thought it must be a  jeu d’esprit  to vex me.
I was fortified in this idea, from the fanciful name by which Miss Gibson wished to be addressed.
Again it struck me, if Miss Gibson wished to communicate any thing so serious , that she would have sought my attendance at Stone of Morphie, as she had often done before.  From the best judgement I could form, however, after consideration, I thought she would not jest on such a subject.  The answer which I wrote the moment I could get leisure, will best show my conviction at the time, and the state of my feelings.   Miss Gibson says I wrote her harshly.  
I am sorry I should have done so to any lady, and more particularly that I should have had occasion to do so to her;  but I could not command my feelings at the time; I had no leisure for reflection, and even if it had been otherwise, I was incapable of reflection. 
This is a copy of the letter :-

                                                                                                                                           Montrose, 8th May, 1823

   Madam, I only this forenoon received your letter, which is dated on Tuesday.  The reason of the delay I know not.  Some very urgent business, and the utter confusion of my mind, prevented my answering it in time for being received from the Post-Office to-day.  Still, I must send an answer, and I hope it will come safe.  You know little of my feelings when you say simply, that you letter will give me “pain.”    I could not express what I felt on reading it, no language “could” describe my sensations.
Oppressed as I am, I hope you will forgive me, even if I should write incoherently.  I did not think Miss Gibson could have asked any thing that I would not have granted, if in my power;  but I have been fatally mistaken.  I would much sooner part with my existence than give you back the promise you mention, come what will.
   About two years ago I paid my addresses to you, these were rejected.  Still, you gave me liberty to visit Stone of Morphie. 
I became resigned to my fate and contented;  and, although some might not have considered their case hopeless, I would not, for the world, have presumed again to intrude myself on you.
This, you, I never did, you yourself began to raise my hopes, you yourself made appointments, and, in fact, commanded my attendance when you thought proper.
As far as I know myself, I am not presumptuous, nor, in most cases, sanguine;  but could I receive letters from Miss Gibson to meet her solitarily at the garden and house of Kinnaber, without indulging hopes.
These letters I have this day looked over with a sorrowful heart.
You know you allowed me many other meetings which you yourself appointed verbally.
God knows, I have no inclination to mention any of these things, and do so in justice to myself, to show what I might reasonably suppose after all this.  You spoke freely of the report of our union, rather with pleasure than disapprobation, it is mentioned in one of your letters.  I would have thought it wrong to meet you by ourselves in the House of Kinnaber, unless I had implicitly believed that a union betwixt us was to follow.
What passed betwixt us on these on these and other occasions justified this.
I leave it to yourself if you did not put questions which were answered by me, in a way where neither question nor answer could possibly admit of any other interpretation. 
I am sure you cannot forget what passed that day I called at Stone of Morphie, in going to the Mills.  I will say no more here on the subject. 
I looked upon the promise on Sunday as a continuation and confirmation of former pledges.  It was voluntary, solemn, and decisive; and you pointed out the house you wished to be purchased or taken as a residence, &c. &c.;  the jaunt the same as had been different times before mentioned by yourself.
You wrong me cruelly in speaking of your money, it never was at any time in my calculation.  I freely admit I was afraid your good fortune might bring you new suitors, and I was on that account alone anxious for a renewal of our pledges; and I am certain you believed what I stated to you, that your good fortune had been to me a source of uneasiness and even of regret.
This certainly was not doing you justice, but it was a feeling of my own that I could not control.
I explained to you what prevented my seeing you for some time in Spring, a long absence at Edinburgh had thrown me far back with business, and when I was sent for to Kirkside, I was obliged to go and return with all the speed in my power.
I am sorry you should now attempt to make this any excuse for breaking faith.
I was after this received by you with as much kindness as before; and at no time, I can honestly assert, did my affection suffer the least diminution.  I need not speak of the many repeated and nameless endearments that passed betwixt us, they are all forgotten by you,  money has obliterated all.
I leave it to your honour and conscience, if, for at least a year past, either you or I could have had any idea than that a union was to take place.  Sorry would I have been to have sought or taken a rash vow from you, because you had come to a fortune (which I cared nothing about), and I was the last person in the world, that would have made such an attempt, particularly with one of your acuteness and discernment.
How I am to bear this sudden and unexpected, and to me, overwhelming calamity, God only knows, but I scorn to complain.
I know I need not now do so to you; you know what has brought about this,  I shall not attempt to scan your motives.
As to the keeping secret my first letter, I now care no more about it than I do for any thing in this world.
Although particulars may not be known, it will be impossible to hinder the public from giving their decision, without the least aid from me; the matter has not slept there.
It cannot, at least it should not, affront me with the world, that I have been spurned by you in consequence of your having received what is called a fortune, the extent of which never entered my mind, as you seem to surmise in your letter.
On a review of my whole conduct and actions, as connected with you, I have nothing to blame myself with; and I have no doubt it will be conducive to your own happiness, if you can lay your hand on your heart, and say the same.
I have given you my ideas sadly out of order.  You told me your good fortune would not in the least alter your affections.
What you state as to your mother’s consent is ambiguous, as connected with what you said on that head on Sunday, and previously; and also with the contents of one of your letters, where you say I need not fear your parents will adopt the Dougald system, as they have too few daughters to force them on any man, against his will.
I was at all times aware that you were capable of acting for yourself .  I mean, to act honestly and fairly to the last.
I cannot give you back your vow, or rather I should say vows.  I cannot give you back your letters,  justice, honour, truth, forbid it; the use of these letters must now be regulated by circumstances.
I will renounce no claim, but maintain and defend them to the last.
There is something so peculiar in this business, that I fear I cannot refrain taking steps to justify myself, to your parents and the world.  It grieves me to the heart to write in this style, but I cannot help it.  Unfit as I am for the task, I must take a copy of this before despatching it.
Wishing you much more happiness than you have left me I possession of, and improvement in your health, I have still more to say, but cannot now proceed farther.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Geo. Beattie.

  To this letter Miss Gibson sent in course the following answer :-

                                                                                                                                       Stone of Morphie, 9th May, 1823.

   I own the justice and truth of all you have written, and now ask you forgiveness.  I had not any idea of the pain my letter had given you, but on that head we are now “quits.”   May God forgive you for the harshness of yours;  but I would require to take care what I write, as you are a man of law, and therefore not fairly a match;  however, I hope you will answer me by the servant, and tell me whether you will or can forgive me, and believe me I shall endeavour not to hurt your feelings again.
I allowed it was unguarded, and highly unfeeling, and I am very sorry to say, that I have no excuse for myself.
I have only one thing more to add;  if you still wish me to become your bride, I beg that, previous to quitting my father’s house, all the letters that have passed betwixt us, may be destroyed.  I beg you will write by the bearer, and you may address it to my father, who is from home, and as I know your hand and I shall open.  
                                             William Gibson.

   This letter was enclosed in another from Miss Gibson, of the following tenor :-

  The enclosed was written on Friday, and I sent it into town with orders that it should only be delivered into your hands.
You were from home;  I shall now address it the same as formerly, and put it in the Post-Office, and I request that you will answer it, and tell me what you intend with regard to myself.  “The former request shall never again be made,” and it would be a relief, if I thought you would forgive me, and “forget it.”  Address to Mrs. Sarah Bronker, and I will endeavour to make someone call at the Post-office on Monday for it.

W. Gibson.

Stone of Morphie, Saturday evening.

                     Received Monday, 12th May 1823.

   This letter I received on the forenoon of Monday, 12th May, and in case the servant should call at the Post-office and be disappointed, I immediately wrote, and carried the following answer to the Post-Office :-

Montrose, 12th May 1823.

   My Dear Miss Gibson,   I have this moment received your letter.  I am too happy not to forget and forgive what is past.
The trial as severe.  You are an Angel still.  God Almighty bless you.  My already enervated frame tells me I could not live without you;  you must therefore be my bride.  I can prove beyond what I have stated, my continued ardent and honourable attachment for years.  Make of your fortune what you please, personally I neither wish control over, nor the smallest benefit from it in any shape, and it will be the happiest moment of my existence when I can formally renounce it.  I only want Miss Gibson, and she knows I could have begged my bread with her.  My anxiety for the delivery of the last, induced me to put a note in the Post-Office, addressed to you.  The meaning of it will be known to none but yourself. 
Adieu, &c.  I am yours for ever.

Geo. Beattie.

   I should conceive this is a most solemn engagement, confirming former ones, and the lady herself only can account for her conduct after this, in immediately after shunning me, and setting out about a jaunt, without even mentioning the circumstance to me, or conferring on me the honour of “being her correspondent.”
   The foregoing statement consists merely of facts, supported by documents, the preservation of which depended upon chance;  for, till within the period of “one little month,”  Miss Gibson’s simple word would have been held amply sufficient by me in any case.
The observations which might be made upon, and the moral which might be drawn from these facts, accompanied with some additional ones, would fill a large and not uninteresting volume.  This may be an after task, if my mind ever resumes its wonted serenity.
Miss Gibson has said in one of her letters, that I have too much honour to expose her,  in this she is correct.
Nothing but the most cruel treatment could have wrung this information from me, to be communicated even to her nearest connections.  But has she kept her honour with me.  I leave her to answer the question herself.
Whatever I may feel, I feel much more than I can express;  I am determined to seek whatever redress may be within my reach, and this I will do fearlessly but justly.  I can say without vanity, that for at least a year past, and up to the moment of Miss Gibson’s receiving the last mentioned letter from her uncle’s trustee, the attachment was as strong on her part as mine, and that previous to the last period, I could not have withdrawn, with honour to myself or with her consent.

   This ends the Statement sent to Mr. Gibson. 
It did not contain the notes.


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