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Introduction to the Squyer Meldrum Poems

Introduction to the Squyer Meldrum Poems: FOOTNOTES

1 Lewis, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, pp. 102–03. See also Kratzmann’s more restrained comment that it “remains one of the most undeservedly neglected poems of the sixteenth century” (“Sixteenth-Century Secular Poetry,” p. 109).

2 Clariodus borrows demonstrably from William Dunbar’s The Thrissill and Rois of 1503, while Roswall and Lillian must postdate Clariodus, since it cites Clariodus’ protagonists twice. See Purdie, Shorter Scottish Medieval Romances, pp. 73–74.

3 Hamer, Works, 3:184.

4 Kinsley, Squyer Meldrum, pp. 6–7. Hadley Williams also assumes that Lyndsay’s aim was “to commemorate with affection the life of a much-admired friend,” and that his claim that Meldrum himself was the source of many details (lines 31–34) “helps to establish the truth and reliability of his following account,” though she also notes that this was a common rhetorical ploy (Selected Poems, pp. 284–85).

5 See Hamer, Works, 3:177–81 for a catalogue of records relating to William Meldrum and his immediate forebears, including the majority of the documents discussed below.

6 Dickinson, Sheriff Court Book of Fife, pp. 250, 255, 258, 259, 260, 261, 265, 266, 269, 270.

7 1) Reg. Mag. Sig. 3:580–81, no. 2529: charter confirming purchase of lands of “Ovir-Prates” in Fife from Walter Lundy, drawn up in Edinburgh, 30 December 1541, and confirmed 1 January 1541/2. Witnesses include “Wil. Meldrum de Bindis.” 2) Reg. Mag. Sig. 3:636, no. 2748 gives confirmation of Lyndsay and his wife in lands of Garmyltoun-Alexander (Garleton) in East Lothian: charter drawn up at Struthers on 5 May 1542, witnesses include “Wil. Meldrum” (confirmed 8 August 1542).

8 Reg. Mag. Sig. 4:114, no. 490.

9 For the administrative transfer of Cleish from Fife to the enlarged shire of Kinross, Hamer (Works, 3:186) cites a parliamentary act from 1685. See now RPS James VII, M1685/4/18, Parliamentary minutes from 11 June 1685.

10 See Reg. Mag. Sig. 2:638, no. 2996. In the previous year, a charter had ratified the sale by “Arch. Meldrum de Bynnys” of other lands within Cleish; both sales were to Robert Colville, whose family name would remain associated with Cleish (Reg. Mag. Sig. 2:615, no. 2896, Edinburgh, 28 November 1505).

11 Dickinson, Sheriff Court Book of Fife, p. 400.

12 For example, a Walter Kynnard is described as the “lard of Bynnis” in a document of 11 March 1552–53, but his title derives from the estates of “Culbin and Byn” near Elgin, Morayshire (see Reg. Sec. Sig. 4:312, no. 1921, and ER 18:521).

13 On the arms of Meldrum of Seggie, recorded from the fifteenth century, see McAndrew, Scotland’s Historic Heraldry, p. 449.

14 Laing, Poetical Works, 1:311; Hamer, Works, 3:187.

15 Registrum de Honoris de Morton 2 (items 245 and 256): “terrarum et baronie de Abirdour terrarum de Tyrie terrarum de Wodfeild terrarum de Seyfeild terrarum de Binis Bawbartanis . . .” (p. 263) and “Terras de Tiry / Wodfeild / Seyfeild / Bynis / Babertanis” (p. 277); see the “Binn” and “Binn Hill” marked above “Brunt Illand” on Blaeu’s 1654 map of East Fife:

16 Registrum de Dunfermelyn, no. 452, pp. 345–46.

17 Dickinson, Sheriff Court Book of Fife, pp. 399–400 (Inverkeithing quarter).

18 Dickinson, Sheriff Court Book of Fife, p. 396. On Blaeu’s 1654 map of Fife it is labeled “Binnety” (see, but “Binn Farm” and “Binn Hill” are still marked on the modern Ordnance Survey map (accessed via

19 Dickinson, Sheriff Court Book of Fife, pp. 401 and 400.

20 Liber Conventus, p. lxxix. Admiral Adam was a fan of Lyndsay’s poem, for Laing reports that “having, in 1810, acquired this property, he placed the following inscription on the old house: — ‘This house, in the reign of James V, belonged to Squire Meldrum of Cleish and Binns, celebrated in a Poem of Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount’” (Poetical Works, 1:311).

21 NRS GD254/45 (1576), GD254/62 (1597) and GD254/80 (1617). The “templand of Bin” is listed immediately after “quarter of lands of Blaircrambeth” and “quarter of Kinnaird.” On Blaeu’s map of West Fife, Kinnard and Blair of Krammey are immediately adjacent to Bin Keltey, all near “Binn-Eartie mons” (on reading “Blair of Krammey” as Blaircrambeth, see Place-Names of Fife, entry for “Blair #”). Other later evidence for the existence of this estate can be found in Grant, Commissariot Record of Edinburgh: “Dewar, David, in Byn, par. of Cleisch in Fyfe 23 June 1597” (p. 74). See also Grant, Commissariot Record of St Andrews: “Barclay, Catherine, spouse to James Greve, in Bine, par. of Cleish 19 May 1626” and “Davidson, Christian, spouse to George Hoge, tenant in Binn, par. of Cleish 29 Nov. 1688” (pp. 26 and 94). The papers of the Erskine family of Cardross contain an instrument from 20 May 1585 relating to “lands of the Bin, in parish of Ballingrie” with an annual rent of 80 Scots merks: the parish of Ballingry includes the area proposed by Laing and Admiral Adam for Squire Meldrum’s estate (NRS GD15/568).

22 Cowan et al., The Knights of St John, p. liv (on date of resignation); pp. lvii–lxi on “temple lands” and leasing practices.

23 See Cowan et al., The Knights of St John, Introduction, pp. lxxiv–xxxiii. The relevant part of the Fife list is on p. 26.

24 Early maps offer little help: although the modern Ordnance Survey map of West Fife and Kinross records a “Binn” and “Binn Wood” in the expected location at the western foot of Benarty hill (see, and seventeenth-century maps of Fife reliably record the actual hill of “Binearty” or “Binn-Eartie mons,” only Blaeu’s 1654 map of West Fife (see marks a settlement named “Bin Keltey” near it — then and now, this settlement is normally just known as Kelty (see The Place-Names of Fife entry for #Kelty).

25 Hamer, Works, 3:187. Kinsley lists a few of the documents discussed here in a footnote, but without further comment (Squyer Meldrum, p. 5).

26 Squyer Meldrum, p. 5; for this charter see Reg. Mag. Sig. 1:48 (no. 170).

27 Reg. Mag. Sig. 1:630, no.1717 (Hamer cites this from a different source at Works, 3:177). The estates in question are “the 3d part lands of Cleis, 3d part of the milne of Cleis, third part of Wester Cleis, third part of Bordland, third part of Newistoun, third part of the town and miln of Newstoun.”

28 Cal. Laing Charters, pp. 25–26 (item 96).

29 See for example a charter dated at Stirling, 2 January 1540–41, which reconfirmed John Lord Lindsay of Byres and his wife Helen Stewart in a long list of lands including “Bynnis” in the barony of Abercorn (Reg. Mag. Sig. 3:513, no. 2256).

30 Ninth Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Part 2:185, Muniments of the Lords Elphinstone, muniment 6.

31 Dalyell, Binns Papers, pp. 5–6 (no. 16).

32 Acta Dom. Con. 1 (1839), p. 369, 10 July 1494 (quoted in Hamer, Works 3:178n7). See also Acta Dom. Con. 2 (1918), p. 202, 10 May 1498 (in Hamer, Works, 3:178n9).

33 There are instruments of sasine in the name of “Annabelle, Jonete et Margarete Meldrumis” for various lands within Cleish in 1473, and separate instruments for Margarete and Jonete in 1479 (ER 9:675, 680). The “[p]recept of sasine by Jonet Meldrum, relict of James Meldrum of Bynnis” from 1485/86 relates to “a sixth of the lands of Myddilcleische, a half of the lands of Doill a sixth of the lands of Bordland, and a sixth of the lands of Nevinstonis in the barony of Cleische” (NRS GD150/205). The fact that it calls James Meldrum her “carnal” son could indicate that he was illegitimate, since Meldrum was clearly her maiden as well as her married name (in early modern Scotland, women normally retained their maiden names in legal documents), but the term could also just be used to clarify that he was not merely a step-child (see Marshall, “Illegitimacy,” p. 20).

34 Dalyell, Binns Papers, p. 9, no. 30.

35 “Arch. Meldrum de Bynnys” sold other Cleish estates to the same Robert Colvile in 1505; Reg. Mag. Sig. 2, p. 615, no. 2896 (28 November 1505). In Hamer’s speculative family tree (Works, 3:181) he describes Squire Meldrum’s father Archibald as “fl. 1478–1506.” But the fact that the lady of Strathearn describes the squire as being an attractive marriage prospect because “ye ar your fatheris air” (Historie, line 972) may imply that his father was still living at that point (which was c. 1515).

36 Registrum de Dunfermelyn, pp. 354–56 (no. 458); Reg. Mag. Sig. 2:64, no. 279.

37 Works, 3:181. I have omitted here all mention of another “Maister Williame Meldrum” who appears in records between c. 1525–54 as a notary public — often along with another notary James Meldrum — and who was vicar of Strabok. There is no suggestion either by Lyndsay or the historical record that his Meldrum was a university graduate (“Maister”), whereas this man is probably the William Meldrum who graduated from the University of St Andrews in 1523 (Anderson, Early Records, pp. 112). Hamer theorizes that William and James might have been the sons of James Meldrum of Cleish, and thus cousins to Squire William Meldrum (Works, 3:185–86).

38 Reg. Mag. Sig. 3:629–30, no. 2725. Robert Gib was also addressed as “Robert Gib of the Bynnis” in a letter of 1 June 1542, issued from St Andrews (Reg. Sec. Sig. 2:706, no. 4678).

39 Hamer, Works, 3:181, citing a precept of sasine dated “Ochterotherstruther” [i.e., Struthers Castle], 30 May 1550 and recorded in Fraser, Memorials of the Earls of Haddington, 2:261.

40 Quoted from an instrument drawn up “[a]t the gates of Struthirs 18 October 1528,” where “the said Lord sent out his servant John Baxster of Quhelt to intimate that he refused to see the procurator or to peruse the letters. Whereupon the said procurator took instruments” (Beveridge and Russell, Protocol Books of Dominus Thomas Johnsoun, p. 1, no. 2).

41 Dalyell, The Binns Papers, no. 33, dated Edinburgh, 20 July 1531 (p. 10). James Hamilton of Kincavil was delated for heresy (i.e., formally accused) in 1532 and fled to England in 1534, although he would later return (Edington, Court and Culture, pp. 54–55).

42 NRS GD86/80, dated 10 December 1516.

43 TA 3:29 and 243; TA 4:8.

44 ER 9:678 and ER 10:766.

45 TA 1:207 and Fraser, Memorials of the Earls of Haddington, 2:242–43 (no. 325).

46 Reg. Sec. Sig. 1:134, no. 910.

47 TA 3:29: “Item, idem onerat se de xviij ll., de firmis terrarum de Clesche et Bynning, de uno termino aute hoc compotum et de terminis compoti, existentium in manibus regis per mortem quondam uxoris Roberti Levingston, militis”; and 3:243: “Et de ix ll., de firmis terrarum de Cleisch et Bynning, in warda existentium per mortem quondam Roberti Levingstoun, militis, et Cristiane Prestoun sue sponse, de terminis compoti.” TA 4:8: “Et de vi ll. xiij s. iiij d., pro warda certarum terrarum in Cleisch per mortem quondam Cristiane Prestoun, sponse Roberti Levingstoun, vendita Roberto Colvill.”

48 Between the Binnys and the Binns lies the Kincavil estate (modern Kingscavil) which supplied Sir Patrick Hamilton with his style. See the Blaeu 1654 map of Lothian and Linlithgow which shows “Binns” and, to the southwest, the cluster of “Bynny,” “Wester Bynny,” and “E. Bynny.” These three are placed, slightly inaccurately, immediately next to “Kinkauil”:

49 See notes to lines 13–22, 24–26, 30–34, 36, 120, 205–6, 781–88, and 875–80 (on misplaced allusions to Virgil’s Aeneid), 900 ff. (the start of the love-affair), 1473, 1477–78, and much of the Testament.

50 Lives of the Scottish Poets 2:114. See also Stauffer, who appended the description “boisterous and satirical” to his joint listing of the Historie and the (undoubtedly satirical) Tragedie of the Cardinall (English Biography Before 1700, p. 336). Hamer describes two more of his contemporaries as having “misunderstood Lindsay’s intentions” (Works, 3: 226) although in fact one of the two, Kitchin, denied that the Historie was “naked burlesque,” claiming only that “we seem to see a jocose element in the Last Will and Testament with which [it is] supplied” (Survey of Burlesque, p. 30). Smith had identified the Testament with Old French literary parodies (French Background, pp. 133–36).

51 Hamer, Works, 4:xxxiii.

52 Hamer, Works, 3:197.

53 English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, p. 103.

54 Riddy, “‘Squyer Meldrum’ and the Romance of Chivalry,” p. 28.

55 “‘Squyer Meldrum’ and the Romance of Chivalry,” pp. 28 and 36.

56 Court and Culture, pp. 122–23. This is also the line adopted by Calin in his comparison of the Meldrum poems to French chivalric biographies and literary testaments (Lily and Thistle, pp. 149–56).

57Squyer Meldrum and the Work of Mourning,” p. 148 (italics his).

58Squyer Meldrum and the Romance of Chivalry,” p. 28.

59 Goldstein labels Meldrum’s speech in the Testament as the “encrypted voice” of Lyndsay himself, grieving for his friend, but this does not explain why Lyndsay made his “friend” appear so comically vain (“Squyer Meldrum and the Work of Mourning,” p. 159).

60 Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, p. 223. At the 1524 funeral of Thomas Howard — earl of Surrey, second Duke of Norfolk and victor over the Scots at Flodden in 1513 — the Carlisle herald recited his noble deeds in much the same way that Meldrum seems to imagine “ane oratour” reading out the Historie; see Gittings, Death, Burial and the Individual, p. 37, and Daniell, Death and Burial in Medieval England, p. 45. On the 3,000-word essay detailing the civic and military triumphs of Howard’s career that appears on an inscription fixed to his monument in the Priory of the Virgin Mary and St. Andrew, see Blomefield, Topographical History, 2:119–25.

61 Riddy, “‘Squyer Meldrum’ and the Romance of Chivalry,” p. 28.

62 See Rice, The European Ancestry of Villon’s Satirical Testaments; Bach, Das Testament als Literarische Form. Literary testaments in English and Scots up to c. 1565 are catalogued in Wilson, “The Testament of the Buck.”

63 National Records of Scotland, “Wills and Testaments,” online at

64 Boffey, “Lydgate, Henryson, and the Literary Testament.” Wilson distinguishes between those literary testaments “which make bequests in the manner of a legal will” and more general confessional pieces (“Testament of the Buck,” p. 159).

65 See Clewett, “Rhetorical Strategy,” p. 12, where he argues that Lyndsay’s preferred method in Papyngo and other poems is one of “drawing successively, and not concurrently, on conventions from various genres”; the same might be said of the conjunction of chivalric biography and literary testament in the Meldrum diptych.

66 Thomas, comparing the Testament to the historical funeral pageantry for James V in 1543 but not taking the Historie into account, simply assumed that the Testament was intended to be “sardonic,” “sly,” and “ironic” (Princelie Majestie, pp. 212–14).

67 See Gittings, Death, Burial and the Individual, p. 166. John of Gaunt specifically forbade his executors to embalm his body despite decreeing a 40-day wait before burial (Nichols, Wills of the Kings and Queens of England, p. 146).

68 Nicolas, Testamenta Vetusta, 1.109; 379–80.

69 Pitscottie, Historie and Cronicles, 1:cliv. Hamer is inclined to treat discrepancies between Lyndsay’s and Pitscottie’s accounts as proof of the former’s greater reliability: “The story which is unfolded in the poem is fully accepted as history, but the inconsistencies in the accounts of Lindsay and Pitscottie have been disregarded” (Works, 3:204).

70 Pitscottie, Historie and Cronicles, 1:2 (Preface) and Mackay’s discussion at 1:xxxv–vi.

71 As MacKay notes, “the true date is 1517” (Pitscottie, Historie and Cronicles, 1:299n2).

72 That is, “cut in the backs of his legs (i.e., hamstrung), struck through the body, the caps of his elbows struck from him and also his kneecaps.”

73 Pitscottie, Historie and Cronicles, 1:298–300 (from James V, chapter 8). The spelling of this passage has not been normalized: in addition to the use of Scots quh- for modern English wh-, it uses z for yogh or modern English y (e.g., zeir “year,” zeit “yet”); u/v/w are interchangeable (e.g., wpoun “upon”), and words ending in -th in modern English often take an extra -t (e.g., monetht “month,” witht “with,” baitht “both”).

74 Marjorie’s two legitimate sons with Sir John Haldane may have caused confusion here.

75 Translation mine. “Art and part” is a Scottish legal phrase covering the various means of participating in a crime, from instigating or encouraging it to actually committing it.

76 They married sometime between 28 May 1508 and 20 January 1508/09, the respective dates of a charter for Haldane which makes no mention of a wife (Reg. Mag. Sig. 2:691, no. 3236), and one citing “Johanni Haldane, et Marjorie Lawsoun ejus sponse” (Reg. Mag. Sig. 2:702–03, no. 3288). For further joint legal arrangements, see NRS GD198/71–74 of 29 January 1508/09, and TA 4:387 (for 1512). That Haldane was killed at the disastrous battle of Flodden (9 September 1513) is confirmed by a special retour of 29 November 1513, in favor of his son James Haldane as heir of his lands in the baronies of Gleneagles and Haldane: “said James being declared to be of legitimate age by reason of dispensation of late king in favour of heirs of those killed at Twischilhaugh, (excepting lands of Rusky [Ruskie] and Lanrik [Lanrick] in stewartry of Menteth) [Menteith], said lands having been in king’s hands since death of said Sir John on field of battle with deceased king in Northumberland, guarding person of king, ten weeks ago or thereabout” (NRS GD198/122–123). Haldane lists a second son, Archibald (Haldanes of Gleneagles, pp. 35–36).

77 This accords with Lyndsay’s passing mention of how the affair often obliged Meldrum to fight, thanks to the “jelousie and fals invie” of others (lines 1185–90). If Meldrum and Marjorie were unable to marry thanks to Meldrum’s distant kinship with her deceased husband’s family (as Lyndsay and Pitscottie claim), this may explain George Haldane’s support for him.

78 Fraser theorized that Meldrum’s appearance on the scene had overturned some sort of previous agreement between Marjorie and Luke Stirling (Stirlings of Keir, pp. 33–34).

79 NRS GD198/126.

80 Haldane, Haldanes of Gleneagles, p. 35, citing a document of 11 August 1549 from the Protocol Books of Stirling.

81 NRS GD198/117 and GD198/127.

82 NRS GD430/60; the precept is described as being by “John Haldane of Gleneagles,” but the date (1518) and the fact that it is in favor of Margaret Erskine indicates that it must be by Marjorie’s son James Haldane, who was contracted to marry Margaret Erskine in that same year. See NRS GD124/3/4 (14 December 1518).

83 Works, 3:212, and see 3:211–14 for his detailed if inconclusive discussion of evidence for Stirling’s involvement.

84 They were married by 13 July 1513: Hamer (Works, 3:214) cites Fraser, Stirlings of Keir, p. 34 (itself citing the Keir Inventory, p. 25). See also a letter of reversion (i.e., the right to redeem heritable lands upon payment of a debt) of 18 July 1513, in which Forrester refers to Stirling as “my gude sone in law” (transcribed by Fraser, Stirlings of Keir, p. 297, item 89). They were still married on 8 October 1530 (see Reg. Sec. Sig. 2:95, no. 751), “Preceptum Carte Confirmationis Johnannis Striuiling de Keire, militis, et Margarete Forestar ejus sponse . . .” and Reg. Mag. Sig. 3:212 (no. 969).

85 Hamer cites a charter of 22 May 1539 in which Sir John Stirling is alive (citing Fraser, Stirlings of Keir, p. 361, charter no. 14, 22), and a letter of 10 June 1539 in which he is listed as “umquhill Johne Striueling of the Keir, knycht” in Reg. Sec. Sig. 2.451 (no. 3052: see also nos. 3102 and 3133 of 31 July and 31 August respectively, dealing with the inheritance of his father’s properties by “James Striueling, sone and are of the umquhill Johnne Striueling of the Keyre, knycht”). The trial was held in Stirling in 1542–43; see Pitcairn, Criminal Trials, 1.1:327 (5 January 1542–43).

86 Hamer, Works, 3:211. Buchanan, Historical and Genealogical Essay, p. 90. No dates or supporting documents are cited in this account.

87 Buchanan, Historical and Genealogical Essay, p. 249.

88 Reg. Sec. Sig. 2:753, no. 4968 (4 November 1542).

89 Fraser dates his tenure of this post from 1516 (Stirlings of Keir, p. 29); see also an instrument of sasine dated 5 October 1519, citing a precept issued by “John Steirling of the Keir, kt, sheriff of Perth” (NRS GD26/3/1030).

90 NRS GD198/75–77 (following on from GD198/71). Another document in this series of arrangements, a precept of chancery dated 29 January 1508/09 (NRS GD198/74), was witnessed by “Sheriffs of Perth in that part; Laurence Haldan [Haldane], William Meldrum and Archibald Lindesay.” If this refers to the young Squire Meldrum rather than a member of one of the many other branches of Meldrums, Lyndsay omitted this phase entirely from his biography. See also NRS GD198/225, a summons against John Thayne by Sir John Haldane of Gleneagles relating to lands in Strathearn, executed by “William Meldrome [Meldrum], sheriff in that part,” dated 25 January 1508/09. One of the witnesses is “Robert Lausone,” probably Marjorie’s eldest brother.

91 Historical Manuscripts Commission, Report on the Manuscripts, p. 9.

92 NRS GD17/86.

93 See NRS GD430/82, dated 18 May 1490, and Cal. Laing Charters, p. 47, no. 184, dated 26 November 1481.

94 Protocol Books, eds. Beveridge and Russell, pp. 37–38, no. 194, dated 19 April 1539; and NRS GD158/248, letters of reversion by Adam Boithwell witnessed by “James Halden of Glennagas” and “James Lausoun of Hie Riggis,” as well as “Archibald Halden,” who may be James’ younger brother (4 May 1542).

95 Hamer (Works, 4:15–23) cites probable lost Scottish editions of The Dreme c. 1528–30, The Complaynt, c. 1529–30, Papyngo 1530, The Deploration of the Death of Queen Magdalene 1537 (the year of her death), The Tragedie of the Cardinall 1547 (the year after Beaton’s death, followed by an extant London edition of 1548), and the extant 1554 edition of Ane Dialog betuix Experience and the Courteour.

96 See discussion of the 1568 Warkis in the Introduction to the Answer to the Kingis Flyting.

97 Fraser, Memorials of the Earls of Haddington 2: 250. Longer-standing connections are suggested by the fact that Lord John’s grandfather Patrick — Meldrum’s original employer — and Marjorie’s father Mr. Richard Lawson are listed together as lords of council in an extract decreet of 18 November 1500 (NRS GD124/1/544).

98 Works, 3:182.

99 Works, 3:228.

100 Thomas, Princelie Majestie, pp. 213–15.

101 From Philippic 14, 11.31. Meldrum did not die for his country of course, but Charteris evidently felt that the general tone was appropriate.

102 From Fasti, 2.380.

103 Description of this witness quoted in Hamer, Works, 4:64.

104 Poetical Works, 3:285.

105 See Hamer, Works, 4:54.

106 Hamer, Works, 4:54–57.

107 Laing, Scott, and Thomson, eds., “Wills of Thomas Bassadyne and Other Printers,” p. 214. Charteris’ own will (dated 16 April 1598) listed “Item, xl Squyres of Meldrum, at ij s. the pece — summa, iiij l.” (p. 224). Presumably these were copies of his 1594 print. It is notable that they are twice the price of the Meldrum copies in Gourlaw’s will.

108 Kratzmann, “Sixteenth-Century Poetry,” p. 109.

109 Kratzmann, “Sixteenth-Century Poetry,” p. 109, quoting from Charteris’ 1568 “Preface to the Reidar,” p. 1.

110 Kratzmann also notes the surprising absence of the Meldrum poems from “that other great literary monument of 1568, the Bannatyne manuscript,” which does contain excerpts from Lyndsay’s Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis. He suggests that George Bannatyne may have known of Charteris’ new expanded Warkis and thus felt no need to copy Lyndsay’s poems himself (“Sixteenth-Century Poetry,” p. 109). Bannatyne may well have omitted Lyndsay’s other works from his manuscript because they were already circulating widely in print form, but this tells us nothing about whether the Meldrum poems were among them.

111 Hamer (Works, 4:78) notes that G4b contains the initials and device of Thomas Finlason.

112 Hamer, Works, 4:78.

113 See entry for “Hart, Andro” in the Scottish Book Trade Index.

114 Described briefly by Cowan, “An Edition of Sir David Lyndsay’s Squyer Meldrum, 1634,” pp. 103–04.

115 A copy of both Meldrum poems would again keep company with The History of Sir Eger, Sir Grahame and Sir Gray-Steel (also known as Eger and Grime) in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce R 267. Both were printed in 1711 (printer and place unknown) while the third text of Douce R 267, Beuis of Hampton, has lost its date but was printed in Aberdeen by James Nicol; it appears to use the same type as the Meldrum poems and Sir Eger so all three texts may be Aberdeen productions by Nicol.

116 Works, 4:91.

117 See entry for “Anderson, Andrew, Heirs and Successors of” in the Scottish Book Trade Index.

118 Bibliotheca Heberiana, p. 88, no. 854.

119 Works, 4:12. Hamer misprinted the squire’s forename as “Willam.”

120 The Edinburgh Magazine, or Literary miscellany, 5:335. Italics Pinkerton’s.

121 Laing, Poetical Works, 3:294; Hamer, Works, 4:93.

122 Manicules appear in C’s Historie at lines 65, 601, 431, 851, 1455, 1481, and 1519; a single paraph is used at line 1183, and double paraphs at line 245. C’s Testament has a manicule at line 15.


The Historie

C. S. Lewis enthused that “Squire Meldrum . . . ought to be in everyone’s hands; a lightly modernized and heavily glossed text at a reasonable price is greatly to be desired . . . . We have greater stories in verse; perhaps none, even in Chaucer, more completely successful.”1 The Historie of Squyer Meldrum presents itself as a chivalric biography of Lyndsay’s acquaintance and neighbor in northeast Fife, Squire William Meldrum. Its form (octosyllabic couplets), style, and choice of incident are modeled in part on medieval romance (see further below under “Romance and Irony in the Meldrum-poems”), a genre still eagerly read in Lyndsay’s day and indeed still composed, as the sixteenth-century Scottish metrical romances of Clariodus and Roswall and Lillian testify.2 Although presented as a biography, the bulk of the Historie focuses on a small selection of romantic and chivalric episodes from Meldrum’s youth from 1513 to 1517, when a ferocious ambush ended his martial career. The Historie of Squyer Meldrum is accompanied by the shorter Testament of Squyer Meldrum in which Lyndsay has Meldrum himself — now an old man — issue detailed instructions for his own funeral ceremonies and the construction of his tomb. It is distinguished from the preceding Historie by the dramatic monologue format — the narrator is no longer Lyndsay but Meldrum himself — and by its stately rhyme-royal stanzas followed by a final eight-line stanza of mixed Scots and Latin. But readers’ attention has always been captured by the fast-paced Historie.

As a dashing young squire, Meldrum sets out for France with the Scottish army to fight Henry VIII’s troops at Calais (events which date this to 1513). In an initial detour via Ireland, the Scottish navy raids the English-held Carrickfergus. Meldrum rescues a grateful lady from rape by two pillagers, but refuses her offers to become his wife or, with increasing desperation, his camp-follower mistress. At Calais he defeats Talbart, a battle-hardened English champion whom no one else dares to fight and who is shocked to be bested by such a young squire. Making his leisurely way back to Scotland during the Anglo-French truce, Meldrum rescues a Scottish party besieged by Englishmen in the French town of Amiens, for which he is honored by the French king and sought vainly in marriage by another nameless French lady. Sailing home, Meldrum leads his plucky band of Scots in the capture of a great warship captained by an English pirate. He returns at last to Scotland, where his glorious reputation precedes him and makes him welcome everywhere. He begins a passionate love affair with the widowed lady of Strathearn at her instigation, defending her lands from the depredations of her greedy neighbor MacFarland and fathering a daughter upon her. But the lovers are cruelly separated by a jealous neighboring knight, who arranges for a vicious roadside ambush that ends Meldrum’s fighting career and very nearly his life. Meldrum and his lady never see each other again. The final 76 lines summarize Meldrum’s subsequent decades of quiet but useful employment as a sheriff-depute of Fife, a medical practitioner, and a member of the household of the Lords Lindsay of the Byres at Struthers Castle, Fife.

Hamer’s exhaustive trawl through the historical record confirmed many elements of Meldrum’s story, and this seems to have persuaded him — and thence many modern critics — to take the whole work as a true record of Meldrum’s life as well as of Lyndsay’s unqualified admiration for him: “as we have seen from the records of William Meldrum, the Squire of Cleish and Bynnis was not a fictitious person. All that Lyndsay says about him in the poem is perfectly true.”3 James Kinsley evidently agreed:
The Historie is a serious biography celebrating the virtues and deeds of a great man intimately known and lately dead, and there is no reason to doubt its essential truth. For all his witchery as a teller of tales in the royal nursery, Lindsay was (and by profession had to be) a reliable man.”4
Squire of Cleish and Binns

The pleasure of reading the Meldrum poems is undoubtedly heightened by the knowledge that their subject was a real person known to Lyndsay. How accurate it is overall will be discussed further below, but the fundamental truth of Meldrum’s existence is not in doubt.5 The Sheriff Court Book of Fife 1515–1522 contains several records of Meldrum’s activities as sheriff-depute of Fife in 1522 (compare the Historie, line 1538), serving under the sheriff, Patrick, Lord Lindsay of the Byres (compare the Historie, lines 1519–23).6 That Sir David Lyndsay knew Meldrum personally is confirmed by the fact that the latter is listed as a witness to charters confirming sales and grants of land to Lyndsay in 1541–42.7 William Meldrum’s last appearance in the historical record is as a witness to a charter drawn up at Struthers, 25 July 1550 (Struthers was the principal seat of the Lords Lindsay of the Byres), and he is assumed to have died not long after this.8

Meldrum’s titles can likewise be corroborated by the historical record, although they have inspired some critical controversy not of Lyndsay’s making. Lyndsay writes that Meldrum was “borne within the schyre of Fyfe; / To Cleische and Bynnis richt heritour” (lines 74–75). (Cleish was once part of the county of Fife, but later transferred to Kinross.)9 In a document of 12 October 1506, one Archibald Meldrum, styled “de Bynnys,” is recorded as selling lands within Cleish to a Robert Colvile, and one of the witnesses is “Wil. Meldrum filio suo et herede apparente” (“his son and heir apparent”).10 This is surely Lyndsay’s Squire Meldrum, and suggests that he had reached the age of majority (21) by then. Cleish was in fact a collection of estates owned by different families. In a Fife tax roll from March 1517 (drawn up under the authority of the same sheriff Patrick, Lord Lindsay of the Byres, who would later employ Meldrum), there are returns for “Cliesh-Meldrum,” “Cleish Allardice,” “Winton’s part of Cliesh,” “Janet Kinloch’s part of Cliesh” and “Lindsay’s part of Cliesh and Carnbeath” (not our poet Lyndsay): clearly, there were several local lairds who could style themselves “of Cleish.”11 This might be enough in itself to explain why Lyndsay takes care to cite both of Meldrum’s titles, “Cleische and Bynnis,” and why the historical Meldrum signed himself “William Meldrum de Bynnis” or “de Binds” when he used a title at all (in the Historie Lyndsay has him exclaim “I wald gif all the Bynnis” if only he could get at the English attackers, lines 644–45). The earliest prints of the Meldrum poems also use only “The Squyer of the Bynnis” for their running headers.

While the name “Cleish” indisputably refers to an area southwest of Lochleven (confirmed by numerous contemporary records of taxes, land sales and inheritances), “Bynnis” is more problematic. The element “Bin” or “Ben” comes from the Gaelic for summit or peak; there are a lot of these in Scotland, and consequently a lot of place-names which are some variant of “Bin,” including more than one in Fife.12 Meldrum, too, is not an uncommon surname — even within Fife there is another well-established, armigerous family of Meldrums of Seggie.13 The more the matter is investigated, the less clear it becomes how many different “Bynnis,” or branches of Meldrums, we may be dealing with. Nevertheless, David Laing stated categorically that Squire Meldrum’s Bynnis “is in the neighbourhood of Cleisch, and lies near the foot of Benarty, not far from Lochleven,” and Hamer agreed, although neither provided contemporary evidence for identifying it as such.14 There is documentary evidence for the existence of various estates called “Binns” in Fife; there is also documentary evidence for the use of the style “of Binns” by various Meldrums over the years, including William. But unlike with Cleish, there is no record of a Meldrum actually buying, selling, or otherwise dealing with lands called the Binns in Fife.

Records for sixteenth-century Fife offer at least three possible candidates for Squire Meldrum’s estate, although two can probably be dismissed. A series of documents from 1540–42 detailing the resignation of the earldom of Morton by James, earl of Morton, in favor of Robert Douglas of Lochleven includes “Binis” or “Bynis” amongst the lands within his barony of Aberdour in the south of Fife; it lies by the distinctive geographic feature of Binn Hill which overlooks the town of Burntisland, between Aberdour and Kinghorn.15 The register for Dunfermline abbey records an assize of perambulation (a formal marking-out of the borders) of the marshes between Wester and Easter Kinghorn on 6 October 1457, and one of the men involved is an “Archibaldus meldrum de Clesse.”16 Is this Meldrum involved because he owns neighboring property, or simply because he owns land somewhere within Dunfermline abbey’s broader area of influence, which included Cleish? And what is the relationship between this Archibald Meldrum “de Clesse” and the Archibald Meldrum “de Bynnys,” father of William, whose 1506 sale of some Cleish property was cited above? The Aberdour settlement of Binns is not listed separately in the 1517 Fife tax return, however, so it may have been of too little account at the time to furnish the squire with his preferred style.17

A second Fife estate can probably also be dismissed, although it is listed in this tax roll. “The half of Binn” (valued 1 pound) forms part of the barony of “Aringosk” (Arngosk) within the “Edin Quarter” of the county.18 (The tax roll divides Fife into four quarters: Dunfermline, Inverkeithing, Leven, and Eden, the last being the area around the river Eden in the extreme northwest of Fife, some distance from Cleish). Apart from the place-name itself, however, there is no reason to connect this “Binn” to the Meldrums of Cleish.

More promising is the third Fife candidate. The 1517 tax roll lists “The Binnyes” within the regality of the Church for the same Dunfermline quarter as Cleish, and it is valued at 2 pounds — the same as “Cliesh-Meldrum.”19 The fact that these lands lie within the same quarter of Fife as Cleish would seem to argue in their favor, although proximity in itself proves nothing (Lyndsay’s family owned estates in both Fife and East Lothian, for example). This “Binnyes” would seem to correspond to the estate described by Laing as lying at the foot of Benarty, just east of Cleish and south of Lochleven. The editor of the 1841 Liber Conventus S. Katherine Senensis prope Edinburgum had described this estate in more detail as “the lands, or ‘Temple’ lands of Binn or Binns, which are also now in the county of Kinross, though at that time in Fife, and are presently the property of Admiral Adam, of Blair-Adam” (this volume is not otherwise concerned with Lyndsay or his poem, so the passing attempt to locate the squire’s estates indicates how famous and popular Lyndsay’s poem once was in Scotland).20

Although neither the anonymous editor of the Liber Conventus S. Katherine nor Admiral Adam recorded their evidence for believing this to be the site of Meldrum’s estate of the Binns, the fact that an estate named Bin did exist here in the sixteenth century can be verified elsewhere. In July 1576, the sacristan of Dunfermline and parson of Cleish issued letters of tack and assedation in favor of one James Lyndesay of Dowhill, Cleish, for a clutch of lands in and around Cleish including “templand of Bin.” “Tempilland of Bin” is cited in two further letters of tack and assedation (from 4 May 1597 and 2 January 1617) preserved within the papers of the Lindsays of Dowhill.21 A “Templand” or “tempilland” is one which belongs, or once belonged, to either the Knights Templars or the Hospitaller knights of St. John, which incidentally indicates that the name “templand of Bin” must predate the resignation of all remaining Hospitaller lands into royal hands in 1564 (the Templars had already been formally suppressed in the fourteenth century).22 The Hospitallers owned hundreds of parcels of land across Scotland, many of which were leased out long-term to secular tenants. A great rental of all Hospitaller property in Scotland was drawn up by Sir Walter Lindsay, preceptor of the Order of St. John, in c. 1539–40 (this the same “Sir Walter” whom Meldrum would name as one of his executors in the Testament — see note to lines 26–27).23 Within the sheriffdom of Fife, Walter records a “bynnis land ther . . . vj d.” (i.e., worth 6 pennies rent). However, it is listed below “the temple of Inchemartyne of aberdor pertening to the erle of morton” (i.e., Inch Marton of Aberdour) together with other parcels of land belonging to named individuals (“robertsonis land,” “David clerkis land ther”), which may indicate that it relates either to a man named Bynn or, more likely, to the settlement of Binn within the barony of Aberdour, as described above. Much later in the Fife list comes “the temple of the perrenwele perteni[n]g to the lard of Dowhill” followed by “the tempil land of newinstoun pertening to andro Howburn.” These are modern Dowhill, Paranwell, and Nivingston in the parish of Cleish, settlements surrounding the Blair-Adam area identified by the Liber and Laing as the squire’s “Bynnis.” This is where one would expect Walter to list the “bynnis” if it referred to the estate identified by Laing and Admiral Adam.24

All the same, the assertion by Laing, Hamer and others that this was the location of Squire Meldrum’s “Binnys” would probably stand unquestioned were it not for some compelling evidence for another “Binns” entirely. Kinsley revived a much earlier suggestion that the squire’s title may derive instead from the more famous Binns within the barony of Abercorn, Linlithgowshire (now West Lothian), an identification which Hamer and Laing had firmly rejected.25 A charter of 28 October 1363 granted one “David de Melgdrom” the lands of “Westbins” in the barony of Abercorn.26 That there were also Meldrums in Cleish by the end of the fourteenth century is confirmed by another charter from the reign of Robert III granting an assortment of estates within the barony of “Cleis, Fyfe” to a “Willielmi de Melgdrum.”27 A charter of 30 April 1417 helpfully connects the Meldrums of Cleish in Fife to the barony of Abercorn: “William Melgdrum, laird of Clesch” granted lands in Philpston (an estate within Abercorn) to James of Dundas.28 There is another significant connection to Abercorn via the Lords Lindsay of the Byres, who had held that barony for generations and would continue to do so throughout the period when they employed squire Meldrum.29 A notarial instrument of 14 February 1440 recorded a resignation of lands by a “Dame Agnes of Erth” to “Sir John Lindissay . . . upon the ground of the lands of Bynnis, near the Castle of Manerstoun,” and the witnesses included one “James of Meldrum, son and heir of the laird of Bynnis.”30 In 1478, an instrument of sasine dealing with lands within Abercorn was witnessed by local landowners including “Archibald Meldrum, son and heir of the late James Meldrum of Bynnis.”31 A few years later, two documents from 1494 and 1498 record a dispute over lands within Cleish, Fife, between an “Archibald meldrum of the bynnis” and “James meldrum his brothir,” who are described as the heirs to “Jonete meldrum of the Clesche.”32 A Jonete Meldrum is recorded as owning land in Cleish along with Annabelle and Margarete Meldrum in the 1470s (presumably sisters), but more importantly, Jonet Meldrum is identified as the “relict [i.e., widow] of James Meldrum of Bynnis” in a precept of sasine of 18 February 1485/86 in which she grants various Cleish properties to her “carnal son” James.33 This inheritance seems to be the root of the acrimonious dispute between the brothers James and Archibald Meldrum over lands in Cleish. Given the fourteenth-century records of Meldrums in both Cleish and Abercorn, a mid-fifteenth century marriage between James and Jonete Meldrum might represent an effort to maintain ties between these two branches of an extended kinship, at least if Jonete’s husband “James Meldrum of Bynnis” was the same man as the “James of Meldrum, son and heir of the laird of Bynnis” cited in those Abercorn documents of 1440 and 1478.

Some years later, an instrument of sasine dated 10 March 1516/17 and relating to the grant of lands within Abercorn by Patrick, Lord Lindsay (squire Meldrum’s future employer) was witnessed by “Archibald Meldrum of Bynnis.”34 This seems likely to be the same Archibald Meldrum, “son and heir of the late James Meldrum of Bynnis,” who, as a young man, had witnessed the 1478 document from Abercorn. The crucial question is whether he is also the “Archibald Meldrum of the bynnis,” son of Jonete, who fought with his brother James over land-rights in Cleish in 1494–98, as well as the “Archibald Meldrum de Bynnis” whose son William — our protagonist — bore witness to a sale of lands in Cleish in 1506.35 If William Meldrum, his father Archibald, and grandfather James did all hold Abercorn lands from the Lords Lindsay of the Byres, it might explain why Patrick, fourth Lord Lindsay was so ready to hire William Meldrum once he had recovered from the disastrous ambush of 1517, and to retain him permanently in the Lindsay’s main seat at Struthers, in Fife.

Where might “Archibaldus meldrum de Clesse” — mentioned above as being involved in the perambulation of the marches in Kinghorn in 1457 — fit into all of this? The Dunfermline abbey register also lists an “Archibald Meldrum of Clesche” in an assize of perambulation of “the marches betwixt Gaytmilk & Admulti” (modern Goatmilk and Auchmuty, southeast of Lochleven) for 27 June 1466. This is surely the same man, and he is probably also the “Arch. de Meldrum de Cleesch” who appears in a list of witnesses to a royal charter of 30 October 1444.36 It seems too early for him to be identified with the “Archibald Meldrum of the bynnis” who squabbled with his brother in the 1490s over their mother Jonete’s Cleish estates, but it is possible that he was Jonete’s father or other male relative.

So far, these scattered records allow us to construct the following conjectural family tree:

This differs substantially from the one proposed by Hamer, who denied all connection to the Abercorn Meldrums.37 It is overwhelmingly tempting to leave it at this neat table, but significant difficulties remain. A charter issued by John, Lord Lindsay at Struthers on 4 June 1542, granted the lands of “Bynnis et Corslattis” in the barony of Abercorn to Robert Gib and his wife Elizabeth Schaw: the charter states that they were formerly held by James Hamilton of Kincavil (a neighboring estate within Abercorn) who was convicted of heresy.38 Among the witnesses was “Wil. Meldrum,” who did not sign himself “de Bynnis” on this occasion, although he would again in a document of 1550 so he clearly had not given this title up.39 This identification of other men who, within Squire Meldrum’s lifetime, claimed the style “of Binns” from the Abercorn estate must reopen the question of whether Meldrum could ever have derived his own style “of Binns” from Abercorn lands. Binns, like Cliesh, was divisible, but an earlier legal attempt in 1528 by James Hamilton’s procurator to force Lord Lindsay to “infeft the said James Hammyltoun in half the lands of Bynis with Corsflat and half of Philipstoun, together with the superiority of the other half of Bynis (belonging to the said James Hammyltoun) [italics mine]” seems to leave little room for Squire Meldrum’s involvement unless he were a tenant of the “the other half of Bynis” over which Hamilton claimed superiority.40 (James Hamilton was unsuccessful: a charter issued by Lord Lindsay of the Byres in 1531 granted to Robert Gib “the lands of Bynnis, lying in the barony of Abircorne . . . which formerly belonged to James Hammyltoun of Kincavill, and were forfeited to the King for heresy.”)41

There is an oddly suggestive link between the (or some) Meldrums and the Hamiltons of Kincavil; however, on 19 February 1518/19, an act of resignation to “Patrick Hammiltoune of Kyncawill, knight” was drawn up in Sir Patrick’s Edinburgh chambers before witnesses including “William Meldrum fiar of Byning” (a fiar is usually a life-tenant); two years earlier, Sir Patrick had sat on an assize in Edinburgh with a group of men including “Archibald Meldrum of Bynnis.”42 Sir Patrick’s elder son and heir was James Hamilton of Kincavil, the same who would unsuccessfully attempt to assert his control over the “Bynis” in 1528. (Lord Lindsay’s reluctance to hear James Hamilton’s case in October 1528 may have been strengthened by the fact that James’ younger brother, Patrick Hamilton, was burnt at the stake for heresy in St Andrews on 29 February 1528.) But the question that remains unanswered is whether either of these Meldrums — Archibald of Bynnis, or William fiar of Byning — has anything to do with Lyndsay’s Squire Meldrum in the first place.

As so often happens in the study of early modern Scotland, we pick through the scattered debris of history for pieces which may or may not belong to the same puzzle. One such disappointing fragment is a couple of related entries in the Treasurer’s Accounts from 1506–07 which record payments “de firmis terrarum [i.e., “from the fermes of the lands”] de Clesche et Bynning” in 1506, and again “de firmis terrarum de Cleisch et Bynning” in 1506–07.43 Between the dates and the paired names, it is hard to believe this does not relate in some way to Meldrum’s estates, but once again, this lead dissolves on closer inspection. Alongside the well-known Binns in Abercorn discussed above, there is another collection of Linlithgow estates called East, West, and Middle Binny or Binning (thus “the Binnys” or “Binnings” collectively), and it turns out that this is the “Binning” intended here. There are suggestive family connections between these Linlithgow “Binnys” or “Binnings” and Fife. The Exchequer Rolls list a sasine for one Margarete Prestoun for lands in “Wester Bynning,” Linlithgow in 1478, as well as individual sasines for Margarete, Katerine, and Cristiane Prestoun for a collection of properties within Cleish, Fife in 1492.44 That this is the same Margaret Preston is confirmed by two documents: a 1492 memorandum for one Robert Bruce “of the relese of Clesche, belangand to Margret Prestoun his spous,” and a precept of 12 December 1500 instructing baillies to “infeft Robert Bruce of Bynning and Margaret Preston, his spouse, in conjunct-fee, in the lands of West Bynning called Abbotsland, lying in the town and territory of West Bynning, in the sheriffdom of Linlithgow.”45 On 15 February 1502/03 this Robert Bruce, described as “portionar of West Bynnyn,” received a letter of tack of “the landis of Bynnyn and Clesch, with the pertinentis, liand within the schirefdomez of Linlithqw and Fiffe” through the death of “Christiane Preston, portionare of the said landis” before she reached the legal age of majority (i.e., 21; perhaps she was a younger sister of Margaret).46 By 1506–07, Christiane’s husband, Robert Levingstoun, was also dead, and it is to their deaths and the wardship of their properties in “Clesche et Bynning” that those Treasurer’s Accounts in 1506–7 refer: the final record notes that the wardship of these Cleish holdings was sold to Robert Colville — the same man who also bought lands in Cleish from Archibald Meldrum in 1506.47 In other words, we have uncovered yet more tangled connections between landowning families in Linlithgow and West Fife, but we are no closer to identifying Squire Meldrum’s estate of “the Bynnis.”

If Squire Meldrum did own land in the Binnys (rather than the Binns) of Linlithgowshire, it may indicate that he was, after all, that “William Meldrum fiar of Byning” who witnessed that 1519 document for Sir Patrick Hamilton of Kincavil.48 But there are, in the end, too few pieces of too many puzzles for the matter to be settled. If the elegant family tree arrived at by combining the Linlithgow and Fife references to “Archibald Meldrum of Bynnis” is difficult to dismiss, so too is the persuasive simplicity of the assumption that the Meldrums owned adjacent estates of Cleisch and Binns in southwest Fife. This is by no means the only historical mystery attached to the squire and his biography.


One of the great difficulties faced by readers of the Meldrum poems is the way in which tone and register sometimes shifts abruptly, with regular (if ambiguous) hints of irony, as well as odd discrepancies between the squire of the Historie and the narrator of the Testament.49 Such features would normally make one suspect satirical intent, particularly in the work of a writer as famed for satire as Lyndsay, but this is difficult to square with a conviction that the Meldrum poems were intended as heartfelt praise of Meldrum. As David Irving put it back in 1804: “[t]hat Lindsay wished to render his deceased friend an object of ridicule can hardly be supposed: yet several passages of Squyer Meldrum have an appearance of intentional burlesque.” Irving dismissed the puzzle with an urbane shrug: “in obsolete poetry, it must be recollected, the serious cannot always be readily distinguished from the ludicrous.”50 Hamer, with far more respect for Lyndsay as a poet, was determined to defend the Meldrum poems from charges of irony:
The satire which we have come to look upon as characteristic of Lindsay is here completely wanting. Its place is occupied by kindliness, by deep appreciation of his old friend, and by a feeling of tender romance towards the ill-fated love affair. The narrative goes with a swing and an ardour like nothing else in Lindsay, and yet retains the simplicity of diction and outlook, and also subjective interest.51
In his note to the passage in which Meldrum jousts with the English champion Talbart, Hamer again insisted that “there is no sense of burlesque.”52 Two decades later, Lewis continued to bat away suspicions of ironic intent:
The strange idea that the poem is a burlesque, unless it is based on the first fifty lines or so, may come from the love scenes where much chivalry, good sense, and wholesome sensuality are mixed with much humour. But the humour is not burlesque; in English medieval romance homely realism thus often blends with courtly love . . .”53
A brilliant solution to the apparent contradictions between tone and authorial intent was offered in 1974 by Felicity Riddy. She argued that there was satire and criticism in the poem, but that it was literary rather than social, and Meldrum himself was not its target: “For Lindsay, Meldrum is an exemplar of noble conduct, and the central concerns of the poem are ethical, not historical nor psychological.”54 Rather, she argued that Lyndsay presented the life of his “old friend” in the form of a chivalric romance in order to show how outmoded and inappropriate the values and concerns of medieval romance had become for sixteenth-century society:
As I see it, the variations of tone in the Historie, that have given rise to radically different views about its seriousness, are the necessary outcome of Lindsay’s attempt to maintain an equilibrium between a poetic vision of life and life itself; during the course of the poem the vision is obliterated and something more prosaic but no less honourable offered in its place. [. . . .]
The change that has taken place between Malory’s day and Lindsay’s seems to me a significant one. The way in which the Historie honours, laughs at, and in the end discards romance is an acknowledgement of the growth in the sixteenth century of new evaluations of the nature of the good life that render the old fictions obsolete.55
Riddy’s reading of the Historie as illustrating a clash between old and new values was adopted by Edington:
Although on one level Squyer Meldrum represents a sincere tribute to the memory of an old friend, admiration for the Squire was blended with an equally profound unease concerning the cultural values that inspired his adventures.56
Most recently, R. James Goldstein has modified this reading by arguing that Lyndsay did not consistently distance himself from romance; rather, he “was simultaneously attached to the traditional chivalric values embodied by his friend and self-reproachful for maintaining attachments to values he understood to be moribund.”57

The Historie is certainly suffused with the features of medieval romance, from conventions of vocabulary and phraseology to broader matters such as characterization, narrative pacing and the selection of scenes and incidents; this is part of what has contributed to the Historie’s great appeal. As Riddy notes:
The actions that go to make up the poem all have to do with either war or love: there has been a drastic simplification therefore of Meldrum’s real-life experiences [. . . .] it has not I think been sufficiently emphasized hitherto how far Meldrum’s life is expressed in terms of established motifs.58
Among other well-loved motifs, Lyndsay offers his readers much spectacular single combat, usually against terrible odds and frequently on behalf of a lady; a prophetic dream (see note to lines 401–10 for the Arthurian allusions of Talbart’s); a chivalric hero enjoying the gratitude of a nation; scenes of love-agony inspired more or less instantly by a lady’s beauty on the one hand, and a hero’s chivalric prowess on the other, all taking place in “the mirrie tyme of May” (line 927); rings exchanged as love-tokens (lines 195–96, 1002–06). The Historie’s promise that readers will be morally enriched by listening to tales of noble deeds signals its generic affiliation right from the start. Conventional romance diction and style is everywhere: ladies are invariably “bricht” (lines 486, 896, 1258); descriptions of battles are thick with alliteration; combatants are “brim as beiris” (“fierce as bears,” line 1301) or “worthie and wicht” (lines 220, 1394); they are “vailyeand” and fight “vailyeandlie” (lines 14, 19, 217, 281, etc.), or like “wyld lyounis” (line 236, 629, 647) as they win the “pryse” (lines 241, 1047).

The world of romance is also evoked by the mysterious vagueness of some scenes and characters, a feature that sits rather awkwardly with the Historie’s self-presentation as a true story. Meldrum’s beloved (whom we know from external evidence to be Marjorie Lawson, widowed lady of Gleneagles) is only ever called “the ladie” in the text, as indeed are all the other “ladies” who fall in love with Meldrum, turning them from individuals into a trope. Meldrum’s “ladie” is from the vale of Strathearn, but instead of naming the famous estate, Lyndsay reports only that she lives in “ane castell . . . / Beside ane montane” (lines 858–59). The enemy from whom Meldrum rescues one of her other properties is named as “Makferland” (see note to line 1055 on why this mysterious character may have been so named), but the castle itself is again nameless (see notes to lines 1055 and 1057). The most deadly of Meldrum’s foes is a “cruell knicht” who masterminds the 1517 ambush: his namelessness may be frustrating from a historian’s point of view, but it does serve to align him much more readily with the traitorous villains of romance. Meldrum’s first chivalric deed of rescuing the maiden of Carrickfergus takes place, not in the thick of the siege, but in a quiet, convenient “garding amiabill” (pleasant garden, line 105) in which the fascination with material luxury that characterizes romance is indulged through the detailed description of the maiden’s rich clothing (lines 121–27).

Romances may also signal their generic affiliation by citing others of their kind. Thus, the battle prowess of the hero may be compared to — or claimed to excel — that of other famous heroes of romance and epic, as when Meldrum is compared to Gaudifer from the legend of Alexander (lines 1281–82), Tydeus from the siege of Thebes (lines 1310–12), Roland and Oliver from the legend of Charlemagne (lines 1313–14 and 1316), or Arthurian heroes such as Lancelot, Gawain, and the knights of the Round Table (lines 48–64, 1315, 1320). At one point Meldrum even compares himself to Lancelot (line 1079, in a scene of chivalric vow-making which itself is a stock motif of romance — see note to lines 1088–92). Apart from such explicit references to other romances, Lyndsay may have modeled aspects of the love-affair between Squire Meldrum and the lady Marjorie on a tremendously popular fifteenth-century English romance called The Squire of Low Degree (see notes to lines 907–26).

It is clear that Lyndsay’s Historie of Squyer Meldrum is deliberately modeled on the medieval literary genre of romance, and reading this poem as a rueful criticism of that genre (as well as of the late-medieval chivalric values which romance celebrates) goes a long way towards explaining its shifting tone and occasional outright comedy. One aspect that it does not fully account for, however, is the discrepancy between the modest and charming protagonist of the Historie and the pompous, self-regarding narrator of the Testament.59 (See further discussion of the Testament below) The claims and demands attributed to Meldrum in the latter poem make a sympathetic reading of his character difficult there, and this triggers a retrospective reinterpretation of the Historie and its adorable protagonist, one all the more effective for taking the reader by surprise. Within the Testament, Meldrum commands his audience to “reid the legend of my life” (line 72) and he specifies that at his funeral, “ane oratour” should declaim “at greit laser [‘leisure’] the legend of my life, / How I have stand in monie stalwart strife” (Testament, lines 164, 167–68). Biographies celebrating the chivalric deeds of the deceased in a manner almost akin to saints’ lives (as the term “legend” implies) were sometimes commissioned to be read at grand chivalric funerals,60 and it is suddenly apparent that the Historie we have just read is the text so designated.

For Riddy, this revelation of the Historie’s status as funeral eulogy merely explains Lyndsay’s choice of the idealizing mode of romance, but this is to ignore the status of the Testament as a dramatic monologue.61 It would be one thing for Lyndsay to describe a magnificent funeral celebrating a friend; it is quite another for Lyndsay to depict this friend as demanding such magnificence for himself. This suddenly brings the Testament, and thence potentially the Historie, into line with Lyndsay’s other satirical dramatic monologues such as The Tragedie of the Cardinall about the assassinated Cardinal Beaton, the unrepentant court dog in The Complaint of Bagsche (who only regrets his numerous past cruelties because they have led to his current poverty), the foolish parrot in the The Testament of the Papyngo, or any number of characters in his masterpiece, An Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis. As the uncomfortable disparity between the charming Meldrum of the Historie and the pompous elderly man of the Testament widens, Lyndsay’s serene assertion at the opening of the Historie that Meldrum himself was the source for some of the incidents described (“secreitis that I did not knaw, / That nobill squyer did me schaw,” lines 33–34) takes on a rather different meaning. Thus, although Lyndsay’s brief Historie shares many characteristics with those great national chivalric biographies, Barbour’s Bruce and Hary’s Wallace, the difficulty in gauging its author’s attitude towards his subject is a key difference. Although they, too, contain episodes of dubious historical accuracy, particularly the Wallace, their aim of glorifying their heroes is never in doubt.


Where the Historie takes the form of a romance or chivalric biography, the Testament is part of the equally well-established genre of literary testament.62 Perhaps the most famous examples are the satirical Testament and the Lais (sometimes called Le petit testament) by the fifteenth-century French poet François Villon, although Villon was by no means the inventor of the genre and not all literary testaments are satirical, as Henryson’s fifteenth-century Scots Testament of Cresseid demonstrates. In modern Scots legal terminology, a testament “is the collective term used to describe all the documents relating to the executry of a deceased person,” whether a brief valuation of their goods, or one supplemented by a will indicating how the deceased wished to distribute them.63 Wills might also specify the arrangements and expenditure for the deceased’s funeral, as Meldrum’s testament does here. The writing of a will sometimes coincided with the dying person’s final confession, so literary testaments often have a confessional element to them and some, such as Lydgate’s fifteenth-century Testament, are entirely confessional in nature.64 All of these elements, including the satirical, can be seen in Lyndsay’s other extended example of a literary testament, The Testament and Complaynt of our Soverane Lordis Papyngo.65 The initial question which Meldrum’s poetic Testament poses is thus whether or not it is to be understood as satirical. The contrast between the Meldrum who narrates it and the protagonist of the preceding Historie suggests that it is, and several internal features confirm this.

In the Testament of the Papyngo, the very first virtue Lyndsay lists among the glories of his sovereign’s father, James IV, is that “he wes myrrour of humilitie” (line 491). It gradually becomes apparent that, whether or not this was true of James IV, it is not a virtue that the Meldrum of the Testament shares, although he opens innocently enough with remarks on the brevity of human life and his intention to take his leave of the world “with the help of God omnipotent” (line 11). Mimicking genuine legal convention, he names his executors as three members of the Lindsay family whom he had served for the past three decades. His remark that their “surname failyeit never to the croun: / Na mair will thay to me, I am richt sure” (lines 19–20) may strike a slightly odd note with its implicit comparison of himself to James V, but he quickly returns to pious convention by commending his soul to God and his property to his next of kin (lines 29–37). His insistence that he never cared for “conquessing of riches nor of rent” and that he “never tuik cure of gold more than of glas — / Without honour, fy fy upon riches!” (lines 39, 41) implies a pleasing modesty, although an uncharitable reader might also wonder if this meant he had no wherewithal to pay for the elaborate funeral. The satirical potential of these two emerging motifs — an implicit comparison with James V, and the question of money — only really emerges when one compares the details of Meldrum’s proposed funeral arrangements to contemporary wills and funerary practice.66

Meldrum asks that his body be disemboweled, embalmed with precious spices and enclosed in “ane coistlie carvit schryne / Of ceder treis, or of cyper fyne” (lines 53–54). His heart and tongue are to be enclosed separately in “twa caissis of gold and precious stanis” (line 57). His body should be presented to Mars while his embalmed tongue and heart are to go to Mercury and Venus respectively. Separate burial of heart and/or entrails was common for monarchs from the medieval period up to Meldrum’s own day (see notes to lines 50–56 and 57–85), but the expense of the process involved — not to mention the “cases of gold and precious stones” to put them in — meant that this practice was necessarily restricted to the wealthiest and most important members of society, those whose funerals were to be so magnificent that the body would need some form of preservation to last through the weeks of planning.67 Records for Scottish wills from this period are scant, but medieval and early modern wills from England record occasional requests for separate heart burial for the likes of Guichard, Earl of Huntingdon, in 1380 or Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, in 1483.68 Lyndsay portrays Meldrum as having far greater social aspirations in death than he ever achieved in life.

Revealing in a different way are Meldrum’s instructions regarding his tongue, which he wishes to be offered at the temple of Mercury, explaining that it is to give thanks for the way “My ornate toung my honour did avance” (line 84) before the kings of Scotland, England, and France. Mercury is an ambiguous figure: although revered as the god of rhetoric and eloquence, he was also the god of commerce, cheats, and thieves (see note to line 79). Meldrum’s tongue certainly runs away with him as the Testament moves on: he imagines that his funeral will be commended “throw the warld” (line 46); muses smugly that Venus had made him so desirable that “Wes never ladie that luikit in my face / Bot honestlie I did obtene her grace” (lines 90–91); insists that “All creature . . . will me commend, / And pray to God for my salvatioun” when they hear his life-story (lines 171–72); demands a golden-lettered epitaph for his tomb that is grander than that on James V’s tomb (see note to lines 199–203), and finally, describes the inconsolable grief of all the people he will leave behind, including particularly the “fair ladies of France” (who, several decades after last seeing Meldrum, will apparently still be overcome with “extreme dolour” and “weir the murning weid”) along with similarly grief-stricken ladies in London and Scotland, his Carrickfergus maiden, and of course his beloved Lady of Strathearn (lines 211–30).


Meldrum’s adventures as described by Lyndsay are carefully embedded in national historical events. This helps to give the Historie the feel of accurate biography, despite the romance mode of narrative. There is the Scottish raid on English-held Carrickfergus in 1513; there is the fighting against Henry VIII at Calais in 1513, during which Meldrum is supposed to have defeated an English champion. Key historical players are mentioned, such as James Hamilton, earl of Arran and commander of the Scottish fleet in 1513; Robert Stewart, lord d’Aubigny, captain of Louis XII’s Scots guards; Antoine D’Arces (or Seigneur de la Bastie), acting regent of Scotland on behalf of the Duke of Albany in 1517 when the ambush of Meldrum took place. Meldrum’s involvement in these international affairs is undocumented, of course, but the relative accuracy with which major historical events are cited appears to reinforce the truth of Meldrum’s own adventures.

There are some historical records directly related to Meldrum’s affair with the “lady of Strathearn” and the vicious ambush that ended it, however, and these shed very interesting light on Lyndsay’s handling of Meldrum’s biography. On the one hand, they reveal the identity of Meldrum’s real-life love and confirm that both affair and ambush really happened, the latter in 1517 as Lyndsay says (see notes to lines 1389–90 and 1484–85). On the other hand, they also demonstrate that his version of events cannot be entirely true. For an audience who knows this — see below on Lyndsay’s original audience and their knowledge of Meldrum’s past — it offers a key to interpreting the squire’s other adventures as well as Lyndsay’s attitude towards his material.

The first record to consider is the Historie and Cronicles of Scotland by Robert Lindesay of Pitscottie. Pitscottie was probably a grandson of Meldrum’s employer Patrick, fourth Lord Lindsay of the Byres. He lived c. 1532–78 and he cites Sir David Lyndsay himself among the sources for his history, so one might imagine that the version of Meldrum’s story which he recounts would be accurate. J. G. Mackay notes, however, that in Pitscottie’s account of the reign of James V, “there are more serious errors in the dates than in any part of his history,” and he speculates this may be because Pitscottie was relying on hearsay rather than written accounts or his own memory.69 Nevertheless, Pitscottie’s social circle overlapped with that of Lyndsay, Meldrum, and the Lords Lindsay, so there is potential for input from eyewitnesses in his account (perhaps at second hand, since Pitscottie was only born fifteen years after the events in question) as well as from retellings of Lyndsay’s version of events:70
In this meane tyme Dilabatie [De La Bastie] beand left regent as we haue schawin remanit in the abbay of Hallierudhous [Holyroodhouse] and ane gaird of frinchemen about him to the number of iiijxx [80] of hagbuttaris [carriers of a type of handgun] to be redy at his command quhene he chargit and so it hapnit at this tyme the monetht of [November] and in the zeir of God 1mvcand [xviii] zeiris.71 At this tyme thair was ane gentillman in Edinburgh nameit Williame Meldrum laird of Binnis quho had in companie witht him ane fair lady callit the Lady Glennagieis [Gleneagles] quho was dochter to Mr Richart Lawsone provest of Edinburgh, the quhilk lady had borne to this laird tua bairnes [children] and intendit to marie hir gif he might haue had the popis lecence because hir husband befoir and hie was sibe [related]. Zeit nocht withstanding ane gentillman callit Luke Stirling inwyit [begrudged] this lufe and marieage betuix thir tuo persouns, thinkand to haue the gentill woman to himself in marieage, because he knew the laird micht nocht haue the popis licence be the lawis. Thairfor he solistit his brotheris sone the laird of Keir witht ane certane of [certain number of] airmitt men to sett wpoun the laird of Binnis to tak this lady frome him be way of deid [i.e., by killing him], and to that effect followit him betuix Leytht [Leith] and Edinburgh and sett on him beneth the Rude chapell witht fyftie airmett men and he againe defendit him witht fyue in number and faught cruellie witht thame and slew the laird of Keiris principall servandis befoir his face defendand himself, and hurt the laird of Keir that he was in perrell of his lyfe, and xxvj of his men; zeit throw multiplecatioun of his enemeis was oversett and drawin to the earth and left lyand for deid, hocht of his legis, strikin throw the body, the knappis of his elbokkis strikin fre him and also the liddis of his kneis72 nathing of lyfe left in him zeit be the mightie powar of God he eskaipit the deid [death] and all his men that was witht him and leiffit fyftie zeir thairefter.
In the meane tyme come word to Monser Tillabatie [Monsieur De La Bastie] quhair he was at that tyme in the Abbay of Hallierudhous [Holyroodhouse] schawand to him that sic ane nobill man was slaine and murdreist at his hand and he incontenent [immediately] gart strike ane lairum [call to arms] and blaw his trumpatis and rang the common bell commanding all men to follow him baitht on fute or horse that he might revenge the said slaughter, and ruschit fercelie fordwart to the place quhair the battell was strikin and saw this nobill man lyand deidlie wondit and his men about him in the samin maner and passit fercelie efter the enemeis and committaris of the said cryme and ower hyit [overtook] thame at Lythgow [Linlithgow] quhair thay tuik the peill of Lythgow [the castle of Linlithgow] wpoun their heidis to be thair saifgaird and warand [guarantee], thinkand to defend them selffis thairin. Nochtwithtstanding this nobill regent lape manfullie about the house and seigit it continuallie quhill [until] thay randerit the samin and thame that was halderis thairof come into his will quho tuike thame and brocht thame to Edinburgh and gaif thame ane fair syse [judicial inquiry] quho was all convict and condamnitt of the said cryme, and thairefter was put in the castell of Edinburgh in suire keiping induring the Regent’s will [for as long as the Regent wished].73
Much of this appears to confirm (and indeed supplement) the version of events given by Lyndsay, but given the circumstances, it is odd that there are any contradictions at all. Where Lyndsay says Meldrum and the lady had one daughter between them, Pitscottie cites two children;74 Lyndsay describes Meldrum and eight followers as being ambushed by sixty armed men, against the five followers and fifty attackers in Pitscottie; in Lyndsay’s Historie they ambush Meldrum while he is on his way from Edinburgh to the “ferrie” (i.e., Queensferry, a major crossing-point of the Firth of Forth), but in Pitscottie he is attacked on his way from the port of Leith back to Edinburgh; in Lyndsay’s account, the lady is traveling with Meldrum and the ambush is in order to abduct her (although they appear to forget this and leave her behind) whereas Pitscottie merely says the ambush was to free the lady by killing Meldrum, and there is no suggestion that she was present. Finally, Lyndsay describes Antoine D’Arces as pursuing the lone “knicht” or “tyrane” (lines 1418, 1421) and imprisoning him in Dunbar Castle (see note to line 1422 on D’Arces’ possession of this), whereas Pitscottie has him pursue a group of attackers to Linlithgow castle, then imprison them in Edinburgh castle.

Pitscottie proves correct in some details absent from Lyndsay’s poem, most notably in the identification of Meldrum’s lover, but the very external records that confirm Pitscottie’s identification of Meldrum’s paramour as Marjorie Lawson also confirm that neither Lyndsay’s nor Pitscottie’s report of their affair and its dramatic conclusion can be entirely accurate.

The records in question are as follows:
Et de xl li., in partem solutionis octuaginta librarum compositionis facte cum Magistro Patricio Lausoune pro respectuato sibi facto pro mutilatione Georgii Haldan, Willelmi Meldrum, et suorum complicium et pro precogitata felonia in hujus modi mutilatione commissa, ac pro arte et parte ejusdem; et sic restant xl li. onerande ut supra. TA 5:107–08 (from section dated 17 January – 17 September 1517)

[And of £40 in partial payment of the £80 total agreed with Master Patrick Lawson with respect to his part in the mutilation of George Haldane, William Meldrum, and their companions, and for the malice aforethought with which this mutilation was carried out, and for art and part of the same; and thus £40 remains owing, as stated above.]75

. . . the lady of Glennegas be put at fredom and have hir free will to pas quher scho plesis best, and that [neither] William Meldrum allegit to be hir spous, Maister James nor Maister Patrik Lausone mak hir na trouble nor impediment thairintill as thai will answer to my Lordis Regentis and Consell tharapon.
Acta Dom. Con. MS. Vol. 30:31 [dated 20 June 1517]
The historical “lady of Glennegas” (Gleneagles) in 1517 was indeed Marjorie Lawson, who had married Sir John Haldane of Gleneagles in 1508. They had two sons before he was killed at Flodden in September 1513.76 Both Haldanes and Lawsons were prominent families and there is ample documentation to confirm not only their marriage and Marjorie’s subsequent possession of the Gleneagles estates, but also to fill out her family background (see the family trees in the Appendix). Pitscottie is correct in identifying her as the daughter of Master Richard Lawson of High Riggs and Humbie, justice clerk and Provost of Edinburgh. The record also confirms a romantic liaison with Meldrum in its description of him as one who was “allegit to be hir spous.” But in place of Lyndsay’s anonymous “cruell knicht” or Pitscottie’s Luke Stirling and the laird of Keir, it names two of Marjorie’s own brothers, Masters James and Patrick Lawson. More surprisingly still for those familiar with the Lyndsay or Pitscottie version of events, it orders both them and Meldrum to leave Marjorie alone. This record is clearly related to the one from the Treasurer’s Accounts recording partial payment of a substantial fine imposed on Master Patrick Lawson for the mutilation of William Meldrum, George Haldane, and companions; the weight of the fine is explained by the “malice aforethought in the way in which this injury was committed.” Unfortunately there is no exact date for this record, so we cannot be certain that the “restraining order” was issued after the vicious attack on Meldrum, but it does reconfirm that the primary attacker in the eyes of the law was Marjorie’s own brother Patrick. It also names George Haldane as co-victim with Meldrum. This is almost certainly George Haldane of Kippen, an uncle to Marjorie’s deceased husband who would later act as one of the tutors of Marjorie’s son, James Haldane. The prominent naming of Haldane as co-victim incidentally casts doubt on the story of Meldrum’s magnificent solo stand, backed by only a handful of nameless underlings.

A complex picture of family rivalries is emerging from these two brief records. An affair evidently took place between William Meldrum and the wealthy widow Marjorie Lawson, and her brothers appear to have been implacably opposed to it, although Meldrum seems to have had support from some members of Marjorie’s deceased husband’s family.77 But the affair seems to have gone sour by June 1517, when the Lords of Council ordered Meldrum along with Marjorie’s brothers to “mak hir na trouble nor impediment.” It is tempting to imagine that Marjorie, by this point, regretted the affair and wanted rid of the whole lot of them, although it is also possible that the inclusion of Meldrum in this “restraining order” was not her idea. Either way, Meldrum lost any support he once had as Marjorie’s lover. Lyndsay then claims that she was married “aganis hir will” (line 1465) — to whom he does not say.

Pitscottie does not mention her marriage, but he does claim that the attack was made by the laird of Keir on behalf of his uncle Luke Stirling, who supposedly hoped to marry Marjorie himself. This claim is arresting because Marjorie did in fact marry Luke Stirling of Keir.78 The date of the marriage is unknown, but in an instrument of resignation transferring lands to her son James Haldane, dated 9 December 1526, she is identified as “relict [widow] of John Haldene of Glenneges, and of Luke Striviling [Stirling].”79 Was he involved in the Meldrum ambush, or does the story of his involvement only spring up as a consequence of her later marriage to him? Either way, it rather spoils Lyndsay’s claim that she mourned the loss of Meldrum forever after (lines 1465–79). She may even have married a third time within Meldrum’s lifetime, this time to Robert Menteith of Wester Kerse (perhaps a kinsman of her first husband through his grandmother, Agnes Menteith).80 This may be the same Robert Menteith who appears among the witnesses of a retour of 19 March 1547, which names Marjorie’s grandson John Haldane as heir of his father’s lands in Gleneagles.81 Assuming he was of an age with Marjorie, he may also be the Robert Menteith to whom Marjorie’s son James Haldane had directed a precept of sasine relating to some Haldane lands back in March 1518. This was drawn up with the consent of James’ tutors (he cannot have been older than nine at the time), and one of those so named is George Haldane of Kippen, the same man who was badly injured by Marjorie’s brother Patrick in the attack on Meldrum only the previous year.82 These were tight-knit family circles.

To return to the potential involvement of the Stirlings of Keir in the separation of Marjorie and Meldrum, Hamer remarks guardedly that “all the accounts of Stirling’s attack on Meldrum, wherever they appear, have only two authorities, Lindsay and Pitscottie,”and he is inclined to dismiss Pitscottie’s allegations against Luke Stirling.83 He also exonerates Sir John Stirling of having any interest in marrying Marjorie himself on the grounds that he was already married to Margaret Forrester, daughter of Sir Walter Forrester of Torwood, but Sir John is not let off the hook.84 Lyndsay states that the anonymous “cruell knicht” was eventually murdered on Stirling Bridge (lines 1495–99), and Sir John Stirling would indeed be murdered in 1539, perhaps near Stirling where the subsequent trial was held, something which seems to link Lyndsay’s and Pitscottie’s accounts.85 Hamer argues that “the records of his land-dealings prove him to have been a brutal, relentless persecutor,” but the only evidence he provides comes not from contemporary documents but from a tale recounted in an eighteenth-century history of the house of Buchanan.86 This claims that Sir John Stirling of Keir had obtained superiority over half of the Lenny estate of Walter Buchanan of Lenny, but when he failed to evict Buchanan from the premises, he persuaded David Shaw to do it for him, in the event by murder. Shaw was then supposedly overcome by remorse for disinheriting the widow and daughters of Buchanan, which “put him upon the resolution of expiating Lenny’s murder by that of Keir, which he accordingly performed by killing of Keir, as he met him occasionally near Stirling.”87 Unsurprisingly, there is no contemporary evidence for Shaw’s remorse, although there is plenty to substantiate his extensive career of violence: he and George Dreghorne, his accomplice in Stirling’s murder, were the subject of a letter of respite (i.e., a delay granted in court proceedings) on 4 November 1542 not only for the murder of Stirling, but for “all utheris slauchteris, mutilationis, actionis, transgressionis, crimes and offensis quhatsumevir committit in ony tyme bigane.”88 The fact that Stirling was sheriff of Perth from 1516 until at least 1519 may have given him an alternative reason to take an interest in affairs at Gleneagles, although it tells us nothing of what kind of interest.89 In sum, there is no contemporary evidence to link the Stirlings to the attack on Meldrum, but Pitscottie is so specific in accusing members of this prominent local family that the possibility of such a link is difficult to dismiss altogether. We will never know for certain unless other records come to light.

What does become apparent in the combing of contemporary records is just how interconnected all of these families were long before — and after — the affair between Marjorie and Meldrum took place, something which tells a rather different story to Lyndsay’s. Significantly, these connections extend even to the audience for Lyndsay’s poem (see “Audience” below). Lyndsay describes the start of the affair as if it were an episode in a romance: the returning hero Meldrum is traveling through Strathearn one evening when he spots a castle and decides to take shelter. Its mistress is charmed by her unexpected visitor and they fall more or less immediately in love. In reality, the Meldrum and Lawson families appear to have known each other for years; when Sir John Haldane was making arrangements for his new bride Marjorie in 1508–09 with infeftments in their joint names, the witnesses to one of the instruments of sasine included “Archibald Meldrum of Bynnis [Binns]” — probably the squire’s father — and “George Haldene, uncle of John Haldene [Haldane] of Glennegas [Gleneagles], kt,” the man with whom Squire Meldrum would later be caught in the fatal ambush.90 Meanwhile, a contract of marriage drawn up in 1518 between Margaret Erskine and Marjorie’s young son James Haldane (a union which did eventually take place) was approved by Haldane’s tutors, among whom was “George Haldane of Kippane,” and witnessed by “Sir Walter Forrester of the Torwood,” already by this point Sir John Stirling’s father-in-law.91 The Stirlings and Lawsons also knew each other: Marjorie’s brother Master James Lawson (one of Meldrum’s attackers in 1517) would agree to act as one of the arbiters in a dispute between Sir John Stirling of Keir and Alexander Drummond on 14 October 1529.92 The Lawsons and Haldanes themselves go back well before Marjorie’s marriage. In 1490, her father Master Richard Lawson was involved, as king’s justice clerk, in settling the dispute over the Lennox inheritance in which Sir John Haldane’s grandfather (also John) was one of the claimants; Richard Lawson and Sir John Haldane (grandfather to Marjorie’s husband) were also joint witnesses to an instrument of resignation relating to some Fife lands back in 1481.93 Ties remained strong in the decades after the Meldrum affair: when an instrument of sasine was drawn up in 1539 for Marjorie’s nephew James Lawson (son of her eldest brother Robert), the witnesses included her son “James Haldane of Glennagis,” along with his son and heir John Haldane; in 1542, the cousins witnessed another document together.94

Lyndsay’s account of the love-affair and the attack on Meldrum is thus deliberately inaccurate in some key particulars. When this fact is combined with the comic disparity between the charming young Meldrum of the Historie and the incorrigibly boastful old Meldrum of the Testament, it helps to cast doubt on the accuracy of some other episodes in this biography. It raises the question, for example, of whether the otherwise untraceable English champion “Talbart” (see note to the Historie, lines 265–71) might be intended to represent the most important Talbot of Henry VIII’s army, i.e., George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, chivalric idol and lieutenant of the English vanguard — someone whom Meldrum is extremely unlikely to have engaged in individual combat. Lyndsay would thus not be recording historical events so much as Meldrum’s great propensity for exaggeration in reporting the events of his life. The same might apply to Meldrum’s capture of the English warship, so suspiciously similar to events in Hary’s Wallace (see notes to lines 710 ff.) and indeed any episode in which Meldrum displays the extraordinary qualities of a knight of romance. While this allows the text to operate as a critique of medieval romance and the simplistic ideals which this genre often portrayed, as Riddy so convincingly argued, it also offers wry comment on those — such as the elderly Meldrum of the Testament — who wished to present themselves through the restrictive prism of romance values. Such a dynamic may not be immediately apparent to modern readers with nothing but the relationship between the Historie and Testament to go on, but it must have been very clear, and a source of some amusement, to an audience with first-hand knowledge of the mismatch between Meldrum’s life and Lyndsay’s romanticized version of it, as Lyndsay’s original audience appears to have been.


All the evidence suggests that the Meldrum poems were written for private consumption in the immediate social circle of the Lords Lindsay of the Byres. Part of this impression comes from the poems themselves: apart from the fact that the Meldrum of the Testament chooses “My freind Sir David Lyndsay of the Mont” to direct his funeral (lines 92–93), he calls upon “David Erll of Craufuird” another member of the extended Lindsay clan, as well as his own patron “Johne Lord Lindesay, my maister speciall” (lines 22–23) to be his executors, and he bids farewell not only to Lord Lindsay but to his unnamed lady and daughters, and sons Patrick and Norman (see note to lines 205–09), names that would mean little to a wider audience. Further evidence for an intimate initial audience comes from the atypical publication history of the Meldrum poems. Several of Lyndsay’s poems were printed within a year or two of composition, which suggests that he tended to write for wider public consumption even when a poem happened to be addressed familiarly to the king.95 Those works not printed (or known to have been printed) in Lyndsay’s lifetime appeared soon after it in the collections of his Warkis published from 1558 onwards, which were later “augmentit with sindrie warkis” (including the Answer to the Kingis Flyting) from 1568.96 But there is no evidence for any print of the Meldrum poems before c. 1580, and no actual surviving witness until the 1594 Charteris print on which the present edition is based. This suggests that the Meldrum poems, unlike his other works, remained in private hands for a generation, despite the fame of their author.

A key point about this intimate first audience for the Historie and Testament is that they were personally acquainted, not only with Meldrum himself, but with some of the other participants (or potential participants) in the story of Meldrum’s disastrous love-affair. A retour of 8 March 1525–26 confirming John Lindsay (the future fifth Lord Lindsay of the Byres) as heir to his father lists among the jurors “John Stirling of Keir, knight” and “George Haldane of Kippen”; if the former’s involvement in Meldrum’s affair with the Lady of Gleneagles is uncertain, the latter’s is beyond doubt.97 It is thus likely that the audience at Struthers had independent knowledge of Meldrum’s real history already, and were able to amuse themselves by comparing it to Lyndsay’s version, just as they could compare Lyndsay’s dramatized portrayal of Meldrum in the Testament to the real article. They enjoyed a ready-made dramatic irony to which modern readers will never be privy. Lyndsay thus had no need to seed the poems with the usual textual markers of irony or authorial intervention. This dynamic relationship between the Meldrum poems and Lyndsay’s original audience also has a bearing on the date of composition.


Although most previous editors date the poems to c. 1550, this needs re-examination. It does not at first seem controversial: the Historie ends by recording the death of its subject — “Thus at the Struther into Fyfe, / This nobill squyer loist his lyfe” (lines 1589–90) — and the historical Meldrum disappears from the records after July 1550. The Testament refers to his old flame Marjorie Lawson as if she were still alive, which would seem to date it to before her death in 1553 (see above, “The Historie and History”). Lyndsay himself died early in 1555, providing an absolute terminus ad quem. Hamer accordingly suggests composition in 1550–53, although he adds that “whether the poem which describes his early adventures [i.e., the Historie] was written before or after his death is a matter for individual opinion.”98 A dating of 1550–53 would accord nicely with the assumption that the Meldrum poems were written to honor the life of a much-missed old friend, but one detail in the Testament suggests an alternative dating, and this has an important bearing on the interpretation of the poems themselves.

In the Testament, the dramatized Meldrum appoints for himself three executors (lines 22–28). The first two are unproblematic: they are David Lindsay, ninth earl of Crawford, and his own employer John Lindsay, fifth Lord Lindsay of the Byres, both of whom outlived Meldrum and indeed Lyndsay himself (see note to lines 22 and 23). But the third is Sir Walter Lindsay, preceptor of Tophichen Priory and head of the Scottish chapter of the knights of St. John of Jerusalem, and Sir Walter was dead by March 1547 (see note to lines 26–27). The head of the Order of St. John for Scotland was a prominent public figure and there is no way that Lyndsay or his audience could not have known of the death of Sir Walter and the accession of James Sandilands. This means that either Lyndsay has Meldrum appoint himself an executor whom everybody knows to be dead already, or the Meldrum poems were written before March 1547, and therefore while Meldrum himself was still alive and probably resident at Struthers. Hamer could not bring himself to accept the latter conclusion, with all of its implications for tone and authorial intent:
I think, therefore, that either Sir Walter must have resigned the preceptorship in 1547, or else Sir James Sandilands had received the assurance that he would be elected preceptor after the death of Sir Walter. Both things may have happened, in fact . . . . I do not think we are entitled either to assume that the poem was written before Meldrum’s death, or after Sir Walter’s, if this took place in 1547, on account of Lindsay’s honesty in historical fact.99
Setting aside that last wistful claim, this position depends on an assumption that Sir Walter’s death in 1547 had been reported in error: “The report just quoted from [Historical MSS Commission, Second Report, 196] does not reproduce the documents,” Hamer adds hopefully. But the documents have since been reexamined and are incontestable (see note to the Testament, lines 26–27). Could Lyndsay have assigned Meldrum two living and one dead executor, even in jest? It is hard to think of any possible motivation, and it does not make a good joke. The inescapable conclusion is that the poems — despite the Historie’s solemn report of Meldrum’s death — were written while Meldrum was still alive. This much is hinted at by the fact that the dramatized Meldrum of the Testament advises his audience to “go reid the legend of my life” (line 72), a text apparently already available, although “Meldrum” still stands before them.

The reinterpretation that such a revised dating demands is dramatic, but can nonetheless be briefly set out. If Meldrum were alive at the point of composition, he would almost certainly have been a member of that original, knowledgeable audience for the poems. The Testament’s dramatic monologue by a “Meldrum” who boasts of his female conquests and orders up a funeral fit for a king may thus have been performed for Meldrum, along with the thrilling Historie (now much more obviously a work of semi-fiction, since it claims to mourn the death of a member of the immediate audience). This brings the tone of the Meldrum poems far closer than previously imagined to that of a work like the Answer to the Kingis Flyting — a text that amuses and flatters its subject but also teases him, and not always gently. Lyndsay is unlikely to have felt as constrained in teasing Meldrum as he was with his sovereign. If the flattering Historie is a gift to Meldrum, the Testament is more like a mischievous roasting which, in addition, contrives to turn the Historie into an entertaining example of the squire’s own wishful thinking, or boasting. This does not negate earlier readings of the Historie as a critique of romance and medieval chivalric values; nor does it mean that Meldrum and Lyndsay could not have been friends, as has always been assumed. But it does require a less naïve reading of the Historie as biography, and an even greater recognition of the subtlety and ironic layering of the poems as a pair.

“Before 1547” is a much less satisfactory dating than c. 1550 or c. 1550–53, but it can probably be narrowed down somewhat. Although the information provided by the poems themselves is to be treated with caution, they would not be nearly so effective if the real Meldrum were not an older man inclined to nostalgic exaggeration of the exploits of his youth. If Meldrum were born by 1485 (see above, “Squire of Cleish and Binns”), he would have been in his later fifties by the time he witnessed two legal documents for Lyndsay and his wife in 1541/42, the point by which we can prove that he and the poet were personally acquainted. It has been suggested that the funeral of James V on 8 January 1543 — which Lyndsay had organized — provided inspiration for some of Meldrum’s own requests in the Testament, an impression bolstered by the fact that Meldrum specifies Lyndsay as his own funeral-director.100 Would Lyndsay, close to the king throughout the latter’s life, have found it funny to model Meldrum’s mock-funeral on James’ real one? This is not a question that can be answered merely by referring to modern sensibilities of what constitutes ‘good taste,’ but it does at least give pause for thought: Lyndsay need not have run James’ funeral already to know how a spectacular chivalric funeral should go. On balance, the most likely window for composition seems to be c. 1540–47, a period when Lyndsay was most often in residence in Fife and his acquaintanceship with Meldrum is certain.

C Edinburgh: Henrie Charteris, 1594 (STC 2nd ed. 15679)

The Historie of ane nobil and wailzeand Squyer, William Meldrum, vmquhyle Laird of Cleische and Bynnis. Compylit be Sir Dauid Lyndesay of the Mont, alias, Lyoun King of Armes. (H C) The Testament of the said Williame Meldrvm Squyer. Compylit alswa be Sir Dauid Lyndesay, &c. Imprentit at Edinburgh be Henrie Charteris. Anno M.D.XCIIII. Cum Priuilegio Regali.
Quarto volume; 56 pages; 35 lines per page. Printed in blackletter, but — as is usual in early prints of vernacular material — with the running headers and most of the title page printed in Roman typeface. Roman typeface is also used for names of classical gods in the Historie — see “Mars” (line 390), “Phoebus” (lines 712, 932), and “Venus” (line 906) — but the Testament prints such names in blackletter, reserving Roman typeface for the Latin phrases of the final macaronic stanza. Running header: “THE SQVYER [sometimes SQWYER] / OF THE BYNNIS [sometimes BINNIS]” (for both texts). Collation: A–C8 (for the Historie); D4 (for the Testament).

The title page contains two Latin epigraphs which would seem to have been supplied by Charteris rather than Lyndsay, since they also appear, with another two quotations from Cicero, on the title pages of Charteris’ 1594 print of Hary’s Wallace, for which their sentiments are more appropriate:
Cicero Philip. 14.
Proprium sapientis est, grata eorum virtutem memoria prosequi, qui pro Patria vitam profuderunt.101

[“It is most appropriate for the wise to follow with grateful memory the valor of those who have given their lives for their country’s sake.”]

Ovid.2. Fast.
Et memorem famam, qui bene gessit habet.102

[“He who has won the day possesses an eternal fame.”]
Extant Copies

1. Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, H.29.c.23(2). Pages c. 184 x 140mm. Bound together with Charteris’ print of Lyndsay’s Warkis of 1592, which lists the Meldrum poems in its Table of Contents but does not itself contain them. Damage to the foot of the last few pages of the Historie and all of the Testament, although the wide margins mean that only the final two lines of each page are affected.

2. San Marino, CA, Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, 62229. This copy was filmed for Early English Books Online (EEBO).

3. London, British Library, C.39.d.23. Inscribed on title page: “Tho: Arrowsmyth seruant to Henry Bowes Esquire. Empt: in Edenbr: Marche ijo 1597. prt xxx d. Scottish.”103

The English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) also lists a copy within Aberdeen Library and Information Services, but current staff report that they are unable to trace this volume or any record of it in their holdings, and they suspect a cataloguing error. Laing also recorded a copy in private hands, bound up with the Warkis of 1592.104

Hamer demonstrates that this 1594 print is probably a paginary reprint of a lost edition of c. 1580, printed in Edinburgh by John Ross for Henry Charteris and intended to accompany his edition of the Warkis of . . . Schir Dauid Lyndesay of the Mont printed the same year (STC 2nd ed. 15661).105 Although both of the surviving copies of the c. 1580 Warkis are damaged, lacking both date and the last few items of the Table of Contents, the volume was reissued by Charteris in 1582 with a new title page and preliminaries, and there the Table of Contents is rounded off with “The Historie of the Squyer William Meldrum of the Benis, neuer befoir Imprentit” and “The Testament of the said Squyer.”106 (See the Introduction to the Answer to the Kingis Flyting for a description of this edition of the Warkis.) Further evidence of the existence of a separate print of the Meldrum poems by the early 1580s is provided by the will of bookbinder Robert Gourlay or Gourlaw, who died of plague on 6 September 1585 (the will was registered 22 April 1586): “Item, the Squyer of Meldrum, blak, sax, at xij d. the peice — summa vj s.” (i.e., six copies printed in black letter at twelve pence each, in total six shillings).107 Gregory Kratzmann argues that Charteris may have known of the Meldrum poems as early as 1568 when he compiled his enlarged Warkis, since he refers in the “Preface to the Reidar” to Lyndsay’s “frutefull and commodious Historyis, baith humane and divine, baith recent and ancient.”108 Kratzmann theorizes that Meldrum was omitted in 1568 because Charteris “could not accommodate it within a Warkis which was to support the cause of reform,”109 but several of the comic poems in the 1568 Warkis offer equally little to “the cause of reform,” such as the Answer to the Kingis Flyting, the “Complaynt and Confessioun of Bagsche, the kingis auld hound” or “The Justing betuix James Watsone, and Johne Barbour.” But many of the poems published in the 1568 Warkis deal with relatively recent people and events, such as “The Tragedie of the Cardinall” (about Cardinal David Beaton, assassinated in 1546), or the description of the realm and complaint of the Commonweal in The Dreme. It seems more likely that these are the “recent histories” extolled by Charteris in the volume’s Preface.110
L Edinburgh: Printed [by T. Finlason]111 for Richard Lawson, 1610 (STC 2nd ed. 15680).

THE HISTORIE OF A NOBLE AND VALIANT SQVYER VViliam Meldrum, VM-quhile Laird of Cleish and Binnes. Compyled be Sir David Lindesay of the Mount, aliâs, Lyon King of Armes. The testament of the said William Meldrum squyer. Compyled alswa be Sir David Lindesay, &c.
Quarto volume; 56 pages; 35 lines per page. Printed in blackletter, with Roman typeface for the title page, running headers, and many personal names and places within the texts (not just for classical gods’ names, as in C).
A paginary reprint of C, and retaining C’s Latin epigraphs on the title page.

Running header: “The Squyer of the Binnes / The Squyer of the Binnes” (for both Historie and Testament).

Collation: A–C8 (for the Historie); D4 (for the Testament).

Extant Copy: San Marino, CA, Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, 31527, where it is bound together with T. Finlason’s print of the The VVorks of . . . Sir David Lyndesay (Edinburgh, 1610), STC 2nd ed. 15665. Consulted on EEBO.

Hamer lists an additional copy in the “Library of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres. Formerly Laing’s copy. Laing Sale Catalogue, 1.1872, bought by Quaritch, £22, 10s.”112

H Edinburgh: heires of Andrew Hart, Decemb. 27. 1634 (STC 2nd ed. 15680.5)

THE HISTORIE OF A NOBLE AND VA-/liant Squyer WILLIAM MELDRUM, Vmquile Laird of Cleish and Binnes. Also the Testament of the said William Meldrum, Compiled by Sir DAVID LINDESAY of the Mount: alias, Lyon King of Armes.
Octavo volume, 64 pages, 31 lines per page. Printed in blackletter with Roman typeface for title page, running headers, and most names and places within the text. The title page bears a clumsy woodcut portrait labeled “S. DAVID LYNDSAY” in which he is shown wearing a badge of the royal coat of arms (presumably denoting his status as Lyon King of Arms) and a rather worried expression. (This portrait also appears in Hart’s Workes of the same year.) On the verso of the title page are the arms of James VI and Anne of Denmark. The “heires” of Andrew or Andro Hart were his wife, Jonet Keene, and sons Samuel and John, who ran the business from Hart’s death in 1621 until 1639.113

Running header: “The Historie of / Squyer Meldrum”

Collation: A–[D8]

Extant Copy: Edinburgh, Central Library, Class Y, Z.152.H32.114 152 x 95mm. A–C8 is mistakenly followed by a second copy of B1–8: D1–8 is missing. Text of Historie breaks off after line 1422, “And sent him backwart to Dunbar” (where C reads “And send him backward to Dumbar”).

S Glasgow: Robert Sanders, 1669. (Wing L2321A)

The HISTORY OF THE NOBLE and valiant Squyer WILLIAM MELDRUM, umwhile Laird of Cleish and Bins. As also the Testament of the said WILLIAM MELDRUM. Compyled by Sir DAVID LINDSAY of the Mount: Alias, Lyon King of Arms. GLASGOW, by ROBERT SANDERS, Printer to the Town, and are to be sold in his Shop. 1669.
Duodecimo volume; 48 pages; 42 lines per page. Printed in blackletter with Roman typeface for title page etc.


A4B2C4D2E4F 2G4H2

Extant Copy: London, British Library C.57.aa.44(2). Approximately 124 x75 mm. This tiny brown half-bound volume, with Miscellaneous Poems 1667–69 stamped on its spine, contains: Alexander Montgomerie’s Cherrie and the Slae (missing its first 36 pages and imprint); the Meldrum poems; The Frier and the Boy, “Very delectable, though unpleasant to all Stepmothers” (Glasgow, 1668); The History of Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough and William of Cloudesly (Glasgow: Robert Sanders, 1668); Scottish Proverbs . . . gathered together by David Ferguson, sometime Minister at Dumfermline (printed 1667); The History of Sir Eger, Sir Grahame and Sir Gray-Steel (Glasgow: Robert Sanders, 1669). This textual company gives a good sense of the later reception of the Meldrum poems.115

A Edinburgh: Heir of Andrew Anderson, 1683. (Wing L2322)

The HISTORY of the NOBLE and valiant Squyer WILLIAM MELDRUM, umwhile Laird of Cleish and Bins. As also the Testament of the said WILLIAM MELDRVM Compyled by Sir DAVID LINDSAY of the Mount: Alias, Lyon King of Arms. EDINBVRGH, Printed by the Heir of Andrew Anderson. Printer to the Kings most Sacred Majesty, and are be sold at his shop. Anno. 1683.
Duodecimo volume; 48 pages; 42 lines per page. Roman typeface throughout (the earliest extant Meldrum print to abandon blackletter). Contains a woodcut on the verso of the title page of an Elizabethan man smoking a pipe.

Running header: “The History / of Squyer Meldrum”

Extant Copies

1. Oxford, Bodleian Library, Malone 954. Incomplete: missing title page and the whole of sheet D, which contained the final six lines of the Historie and the whole of the Testament.

2. London, British Library, C.34.a.29. Wing suggested the imprint “Glasgow: Robert Sanders, 1683” (2nd ed., L2322), presumably on the basis of the incomplete Malone print, and this was followed by both the ESTC (citation no. R31700) and EEBO, which filmed Malone with its missing title page and sheet D. The British Library catalogue currently describes its complete copy as “Edinburgh, 1683” but offers no publisher or additional description, which is supplied here from Hamer.116 The printer Andrew Anderson died in 1676; his wife Agnes and son James continued the business, initially under the imprint “Heir of Andrew Anderson” (used 1676–94). They were often involved in legal wrangles with other Scottish printers, including the Robert Sanders to whom the incomplete Malone copy of this print was erroneously attributed by Wing, ESTC, and EEBO.117

Richard Heber’s sale catalogue from 1836 lists as item 854: “Lyndsay. The Historie of a Noble and Valiant William Meldrum Squyer, Umqle Laird of Cleish and bins. Compilled by Sir D. Lindesay. Written by James Clark, 1635. Glasgow. Russia.”118 This lost witness is the only recorded manuscript copy of the Meldrum poems. Hamer notes that it had been bought by Heber from Pinkerton’s library in 1812, and was sold in 1836 to an untraceable “J. Bohn.”119 Earlier, Pinkerton had written of this manuscript:
The editor [i.e., Pinkerton himself] has a correct and well-written MS. of it in 12mo [i.e., duodecimo, a tiny format], Glasgow, written be James Clark, 1635. This would seem copied from another MS.; for the transcriber, had he seen any of the printed copies, would hardly have taken this trouble with a fix-penny pamphlet. This piece is the very best of all Lindsay’s works; being descriptive of real manners and incidents: tho’ it has somewhat too much spice, as the French call it, being very free in a passage or two. This has prevented the Scottish booksellers from reprinting it, lest it should offend their godly customers.120
On a lost print of c. 1580, see the discussion of C above. A final early print — a miniscule octodecimo edition — was listed by Laing as: “Glasgow, printed by Robert Sanders, one of His Majesties Printers, &c. 1696,” but is now untraceable.121


These are listed by the abbreviations used in the Notes.

Bawcutt and Riddy: Longer Scottish Poems, Vol. 1: 1375-1650. Eds. Priscilla Bawcutt and Felicity Riddy. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1987. It contains only the Historie, lines 840–1516.

Chalmers: The Poetic Works of Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount. Ed. George Chalmers. 3 vols. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme, 1806. This was the first serious attempt at a scholarly edition.

Hadley Williams: Sir David Lyndsay: Selected Poems. Ed. Janet Hadley Williams. Glasgow: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 2000. The most recent edition of the Meldrum -poems and the Answer to the Kingis Flyting, with much new scholarship in the notes as well as on-page glossing.

Hamer: The Works of Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, 1490-1555. Ed. Douglas Hamer. 4 vols. STS 3rd series 1, 2, 6, 8. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1931–36. Still an invaluable edition, Hamer provides by far the fullest account of the printing history of Lyndsay’s works and an extremely comprehensive documentation of the lives of Lyndsay, Meldrum, and other relevant figures, most of which is quoted in full.

Kinsley: Squyer Meldrum. Ed. James Kinsley. London and Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1959.

Laing: The Poetical Works of Sir David Lyndsay. Ed. David Laing. 3 vols. Edinburgh: William Paterson, 1879.

Small and Hall: Sir David Lyndesay’s Works. Eds. J. Small, J. and F. Hall. EETS o.s. 11, 19, 35, 37, 47. London, 1865–71. This edition offers no substantial annotation and has not been consulted here.


The copy-text for the present edition is C, which dates from 1594 and is the earliest surviving witness to the text: there are no manuscript witnesses to any of the Lyndsay poems edited for this volume. Richard Lawson’s print of 1610 (L) was also consulted, as were the later, more anglicized prints H (Edinburgh, 1634) and A (Edinburgh, 1683). These witnesses are mentioned occasionally in the explanatory notes, but they have not been collated with C since they rarely differ from it except in spelling, and where they do differ, C almost invariably offers the superior reading. At lines 22–23 of the Historie, for example, Charteris’ strongly alliterative and metrically regular phrase “squyeris . . . / That wounders wrocht in weirlie weidis” becomes in L “squyers . . . / That wonderouslie wrocht into their weeds” (H and A clearly follow L with “wond[e]rously wrought in their weed[e]s”). For more substantive differences, see the notes to the Historie, lines 122 and 1259, or line 5 of the Testament.

In accordance with METS editorial policy, the letters þ (thorn, letter-form identical with printed y) and ȝ (yogh) have been transcribed with their modern equivalents th and y (the latter is always the value for yogh intended in these texts); the distribution of u/v has been normalized according to modern spelling practice; article the and pronoun thee have been differentiated by the addition of an extra e to the latter; and accented final -e has been marked. Punctuation, capitalization, and word-division have been modernized. Manicules or paraph-marks indicating section-breaks have been rendered as indentation and an additional space between lines.122

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