The Autobiography of Anne Halkett

[Anne enables Alexander and Anna Mackenzie Lindsay to escape and tries to save their books from destruction; another period of psychosomatic illness, pp. 86 - 88]

The leaf containing pages 101 and 102 has been destroyed.

[p. 86] unworthy, and in what apeared so, none living could condemn mee more then I did myselfe. Butt I had some circumstances to plead for mee, withoutt which I had beene unpardonable, and that was the concealing my intended mariage meerely because hee durst nott withoutt hazard of his life avowedly apeare, and therfore itt had beene imprudence to puplish what might have beene (in those times) ruine to us both.

As soon I as I could get my selfe composed so as to goe abroad, I wentt where duty led mee more then inclination, for I aprehended every one that saw mee censured mee, and that was noe litle trouble to mee when I reflected on my misfortune that gave them butt too just grounds. Butt that I was with patience to suffer, and whatever els my Lord God thought fitt to inflict, to whom I did intirely submitt, and could make nothing unwellcome from His hand who had so wonderfully suported mee in so unparaleld a triall.

In May 1653 the Earle of Dunfermeline [Charles Seton, the 2nd Earl of Dunfermline] came to my chamber, and told mee hee had gott certaine information that there was a party of horse to bee sentt the next day to Belcarese [Balcarres House], and take my [p. 87] Lord Balcarres [Alexander Lindsay, 1st Earl of Balcarres],1 and bring him prisoner to Edb [Edinburgh], which hee durst nott writt nor communicate to any butt mee; and desired I would goe and lett him know what was designed, that hee might escape.2

Which I undertooke, and wentt early the next morning, taking only a man with mee (for I was nesesitate to leave my woman to looke affter some busynese then fell outt); and the tide falling to bee betwixt 3 and 4 in the morning, and a very great wind, so as few butt the boatmen and my selfe ventured to goe over, which contributed well, for I landed safe, and was att Belcarese [Balcarres House] before ten a'clocke;3 and my Lord and Lady [Alexander and Lady Anna] wentt away imediately, and had desired mee to stay in the howse with the chilldren, and take downe all the bookes, and convey them away to severall places in trunkes to secure them (for my Lord [Balcarres] had a very fine library, butt they intrusted were nott so just as they should have beene, for many of them I heard afterwards were lost).

I was very desirous to serve them faithfully in what I was intrusted, and as soone as my Lord and Lady [Alexander Lord Balcarres and Lady Anna Mackenzie, Countess of Balcarres] were gone I made locke up the gates, and with the helpe of Logan, who served my Lord [Balcarres], and one of the women, both beeing very trusty, I tooke downe all the bookes, and, putting them in trunkes and chests, sentt them all outt of the howse in the night to the places apointed by my Lord [Balcarres], taking a short way of inventory to know what sort of bookes were sentt to every person.4

And with the toile and wantt of sleepe (for I wentt nott to bed that night,5 and had butt litle sleepe the night before), that I tooke the sodainest and the most violentt bloudy fluxe that ever I beleeve any had in so short time, which brought mee so weake in ten days time that none saw mee that expected life for mee6.

Butt I forgott to tell that the things had nott beene two houres outt of the howse when the troope of horse came and asked for my Lord [Balcarres]. There officer came up to mee, and I told him my Lord [Balcarres] had beene long sicke, (which was true enough,) and finding itt inconvenientt to bee so farre from the phisitians, was gone to Edb [Edinburgh] for his health.

They searched all the howse, and seeing nothing initt butt bare walls and weemen and chilldren, they wentt away.

I gave accountt by an exprese what I said according to there order, and affter some few [p. 88] days staying concealed att Edb [Edinburgh] my Lord and Lady [Alexander Lord Balcarres and Lady Anna Mackenzie, Countess of Balcarres] wentt to the North, and from thence wentt abroad.

[1 See A Memoir of Lady Anna Mackenzie, Countess of Balcarres and Afterwards of Argyll (1621-1706) by Alexander Lord Lindsay, Master of Crawford and Balcarres. Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1868, and Rosalind K. Marshall's lives of Lord and Lady Balcarres in the ODNB EM]

[2 I have here divided an overlong sentence: "escape" is followed by a semi-colon, not period. Anne Halkett's intense emotionalism as she writes down how she felt after she had made her public confession has swept her grammar and sense of arrangement away and have clarified (subdivided and made new paragraphs for) the text myself here. EM]

[3 Anne travelled rapidly before dawn. Loftis says Balcarres House was 3/4s of a mile north-west of Colinsburgh in East Fifeshire. She was coming from Edinburgh and crossed the Firth of Forth (Loftis, Memoirs, 204n).

The important question is Anne's motivation. Did she do this courageous deed as a member of the Scots Royalists group or because Balcarres had been the most loyal of Bampfield's friends (and, like Bampfield, was intensely disliked by Charles II)? In 1653 Balcarres had written that Bampfield came to Scotland resolved "to employ his blood and life in your majesty's service, even though he should still lie under those misunderstandings, which he conceives you once had of him, and should be sure never to recover your favor" (Bampfield's Apology, 167) If so, her two most daring deeds were done partly to please and to help Joseph Bampfield. Another parallelism is both incidents occurred in and around the sea. EM]

[4 Parallels between Austen's novels and Halkett's memoirs have often been noted. In these scenes of packing up, Anne Murray reminds me of Anne Elliot packing up when her family left Kellynch Hall for Bath, and again when the Hargraves leave Uppercross to rejoin their hurt daughter in Lyme (Persuasion, I:5 and II:1). EM]

[5 I have again divided an overlong sentence and replaced semi-colon with period. EM]

[6 Anne became distraught when in London in very early 1649 Bampfield first tried to tell her his wife might be alive (p. 27). She had felt heself deathly terribly ill at Naworth Castle in December 1649/January 1650 (pp. 32-33), again in late October 1650 at Fyvie when Bampfield came to visit her (p. 65), and would collapse again twice more when Halkett was strongly pressuring her to marry him in 1654 and 1655 (pp. 88, 94). During these repeated episodes she seems to have run a high fever ("feaverish distemper"), suffered bad headeaches ("brain fever"), had overwrought periods ("violentt bloudy fluxe"), terrible pain ("I beged some releefe from the violentt paine I had, which was in that extreamitty that I never felt any thing exceed itt") or simply been depressed ("melancholy vapours"). It's possible she had malaria which was worsened at intervals when she was under high stress. Her weakened health probably led to her giving birth to weak neonates too. EM]

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