LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart
Chapter 17: 1837-39

Vol. I. Preface
Vol. I Contents.
Chapter 1: 1794-1808
Chapter 2: 1808-13
Chapter 3: 1813-15
Chapter 4: 1815-17
Chapter 5: 1817-18
Chapter 6: 1817-19
Chapter 7: 1818-20
Chapter 8: 1819-20
Chapter 9: 1820-21
Chapter 10: 1821-24
Chapter 11: 1817-24
Chapter 12: 1821-25
Chapter 13: 1826
Vol. II Contents
Chapter 14: 1826-32
Chapter 15: 1828-32
Chapter 16: 1832-36
‣ Chapter 17: 1837-39
Chapter 18: 1837-43
Chapter 19: 1828-48
Chapter 20: 1826-52
Chapter 21: 1842-50
Chapter 22: 1850-53
Chapter 23: 1853-54
Chapter 24: Conclusion
Vol. II Index
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“The Ballantyne Humbug.”—False impressions.—Lockhart’s real aim.—The flaw in Scott.—Contradictions in his character.—Why Lockhart described the Ballantynes.—Mr. Cadell’s evidence.—Lockhart’s candour as to Scott.—History of the brethren.—Kelso.—Scott’s “air-drawn schemes.”—Extravagance in business.—John Ballantyne “penniless.”—James’s claret.—Bill and counter-bill.—Negligence.—Concealments Change of publishers.—Death of John Ballantyne.—Constable and the bills.—Reply of the Ballantynes.—Unbalanced books.—Cadell’s evidence.—Hughes and Cadell.—Lockhart “could not understand.”—“Be a good man.”—Ballantyne pamphlet.—What “might have been.”—Unfortunate James.—His labours and sorrows.—Abbotsford.—Counter charges.—Attitude of the press.—False accusations.—Cadell’s letter.—His new documents.—Opinion of the Chief Commissioner.—Legal advice.—Lockhart’s reply to the Ballantynes.—Defects of taste.—Their rebutter.—Lockhart’s reception of it.—General reflections.

No part of the Biography caused so much outcry as the references to the Ballantynes and to Constable. The representatives of John, and James his brother, protested in a tract or pamphlet: their tone was the reverse of conciliatory. Their case was taken up by the part of the press politically opposed to Scott, and “the isle was full of noises” such as often follow a successful biography. The example of Mr. Froude’sCarlyle” is comparatively recent and familiar. To the representatives of Ballantyne,
Lockhart replied in “The Ballantyne Humbug Handled”: his tone was not more to be commended than the taste, in a certain circumstance, of his opponents. They answered at great length, and with many tables of figures, and they were left “with the last word,” except so far as the “Life of Scott,” very slightly amended in the second and later editions, is the last and enduring word.

This affair of the three pamphlets cannot be omitted in a Biography of Lockhart, though the chapter which deals with it must inevitably be of little general interest. To myself it seems that the impressions which commonly exist in the minds of readers, as touching the matter of the Ballantynes, are these:—

1. The Ballantynes were the cause of Scott’s financial ruin.

This is an absolutely erroneous idea, and is never upheld by Lockhart in his “Life of Scott.”

2. Lockhart maligned the Ballantynes by throwing on them the whole blame of Scott’s ruin.

This opinion, though industriously circulated in the newspapers of 1838-1839, is as false as the former.

In this chapter I shall try to show what Lockhart’s theory of the relations between Scott and the Ballantynes, as set forth in the “Life,” really amounts to. I shall demonstrate that his “brief,” so to speak, in a commercial question, of which a man of letters is not usually a competent judge, was prepared for him by an authority whom he had
every reason to trust and respect. I shall show that if the quarrel was not settled in private between the parties concerned, Lockhart’s advisers were responsible for the avoidance of this method; and that if Lockhart’s conclusions were wrong, the error lay with acute and experienced men of business.1

One or two preliminary observations must be made. It was, as I have said, by no means Lockhart’s intention or aim to attribute Scott’s ruin to the Ballantynes. Their representatives made this general charge against Lockhart. His “one great object is to rivet on the public mind the impression that all the involvements, embarrassments, and misfortunes of his father-in-law were, in great measure, if not altogether, attributable to his choice of improper or worthless instruments.” Lockhart had no such object. With equal clearness of insight and delicacy of statement, he executed the painful task of tracing Sir Walter’s misfortunes to Sir Walter’s own errors of various kinds. The Ballantynes (undeniably “improper instruments” for Scott) aided and accelerated, but did not cause, the downfall. Lockhart’s intention and aim was to draw a thoroughly truthful picture of Sir Walter Scott. How entirely he succeeded, how boldly and

1 Lockhart introduced into his Second Edition (the edition of 1839, in ten volumes) such alterations as he deemed that the truth required. It is therefore on the basis of this edition (compared with the first, and with the edition abridged by Lockhart himself in 1848) that his treatment of the Ballantynes shall here be discussed, with as much brevity as may be consistent with the innumerable minute details of the controversy.

fully, yet how delicately, as regards Scott, he told the truth, no one can know better than the present compiler, who has followed in his steps, and has handled many of the documents which he used.

Now it is a commonplace of modern speculations on genius to say that genius is never exempt from some moral or psychological flaw. To be sure, the nature of the most commonplace mortals is in the same perilous case; but the light of genius makes the shadows show darker, the fissures deeper. In the case of Sir Walter the inevitable flaw occurred just where it was least to be expected. It lay not in exorbitant love of wine and women; not in indolent waste of power; not in vanity; not in jealousy; not in the sæva indignatio of Swift; not in the Morbus Eruditorum and the melancholy of Johnson; not in any of the besetting sins of literary mankind; but in the conduct of these commercial affairs from which men of letters usually turn away in distaste and conscious incompetence.

Lockhart could not have concealed this flaw if he would. Sir Walter’s hidden connection with business had been proclaimed from the house-top. Lockhart, therefore, had to examine the pathology, as it were, and all the complex and contradictory circumstances of a fault which he himself “was not inclined to,” and he had to give of these as lucid an account as he might. “Contradictory” we may well call the circumstances. In Sir Walter we have undeniably a man of the noblest generosity.
While he was living the life of a mill-horse in the struggle to repay his creditors, he would steal the rare hours of his too-stinted leisure, and make of the work done then a free gift to persons with no claim on him but that of common misfortune. Yet he had early engaged in a secret commerce, and Lockhart, admitting that where there is secrecy there is usually wrong, is perfectly explicit about Scott’s methods of feeding the
Ballantyne Press.

Again, Scott was a proud man, and his assailants have called him (very unjustly in their sense) “the slave of rank.” Yet he passed much of his time with cronies like the Ballantynes, whom he could not, and, indeed, certainly did not, regard or treat as his social equals. Here was another contradiction which galled Lockhart. As he observes in his reply to the first Ballantyne pamphlet (p. 4), “These gentlemen can hardly have failed to see why I introduced detailed descriptions of their comrades. The most curious problem in the life of Scott could receive no fair attempt at solution, unless the inquirer were made acquainted, in as far as the biographer could make him so, with the nature, and habits, and manners of Scott’s agents.” Therefore he drew his pictures of the manners and persons of agents whom Scott chose from a strange mixture of motives. His adversaries, the authors of the first Ballantyne pamphlet, urge that it never occurred to Lockhart that his
representations of James and John might seem inconsistent with the sagacity claimed for the great author who freely associated with them.1 But this practical contradiction in Scott’s character, this boon companionship and commercial alliance with men in no way his peers, did strike Lockhart: herein lay the mystery and the bitterness of Sir Walter’s devotion to the Ballantynes. Lockhart offers his theory of this unlucky engouement in the “

I have been permitted to read, but do not think it necessary to cite, a private letter of 1838, in which Lockhart gives to a friend, Lord Meadowbank, exactly the same explanation of Scott’s connection with the Ballantynes, as, in the “Life,” he gave to the public. The identical conclusions are stated with colloquial freedom.

Scott, unhappily, lived in a mist about money, yet was, in some inscrutable way, a keen business man. As he said, he had “a thread of the attorney” in him. Scott was full of social punctilio, yet he unbent with Rigdumfunnidos and Aldiborontiphoscophornio. Here was the double-starred flaw in the ruby of Scott’s nature; and if the flaw was to be understood, with all that it implied of “hallucination” (the word is Mr. Cadell’s in a letter to Lockhart), with all that it meant of freakishness and whim, then Scott’s associates, the

1Refutation,” p. II.

2 First Edition, iv. 175; Second Edition, v. 355, 356.

Ballantynes, must be described—and described they were—in imperishable pictures. But Lockhart repeats,1 what is plain to any unprejudiced reader, that he “casts no imputation on the moral rectitude of the elder Ballantyne,” while he thinks John Ballantyne guilty of nothing worse than “giddiness of head and temper.” His theory is that, while Sir Walter initiated ill-considered enterprises, his two associates or subordinates were not the men to check him; but, from one or another foible or failing, and from want of commercial standing, were rather likely to accelerate his progress towards ruin. John would be keeping facts back (as Scott often complains), or would be intriguing (as against
Constable in 1813-1815); John was mischievous and reckless. James (except in matters of literary opinion) was too pliant, and too averse from arithmetic. If these and other charges are over-stated, and if the portraits of the Ballantynes are caricatured, be it remembered that Lockhart wrote under the eyes, with the often-repeated approval, and in the light of the information furnished by Mr. Cadell. Now, from 1812 till the ruin of 1826, Mr. Cadell had been Constable’s partner; he married Constable’s daughter, who died young, and no man knew all the persons concerned more intimately than he did. He was a trained man of business, and of him, on the fatal December 18, 1825, Scott wrote: “He showed feeling, deep feeling. . . . I

1Life,” viii. 91.

love the virtues of rough and round men.”1 Scott also calls Mr. Cadell “a faithful pilot,” and he was, as shall be shown, Lockhart’s pilot in what regarded the Ballantynes. Even in 1848 he is rich in new anecdotes of John’s iniquities!

The dispute between Lockhart and the representatives of the Ballantynes was, in essence, one of these hopeless controversies in which both parties are, to a considerable extent, practically saying the same thing. Thus the Ballantyne Trustees keep repeating, “Mr. Lockhart admits” this or that, whereas the so-called “admission” is really the essence of Lockhart’s case. Lockhart represents Sir Walter as originating the Printing Company, and also the Publishing Company, though he suspects John’s influence here. Lockhart shows how Sir Walter was a thoroughly incompetent publisher, selecting, for reasons unconnected with trade, books that were bound to fail. Lockhart dwells on Scott’s reckless purchases of land, even in his most pressing hours of early embarrassment. Lockhart insists on Sir Walter’s habit of living in fantasy, and what can be a more ruinous characteristic

1 The following note is borrowed from George Allan’sLife of Scott,” Edinburgh, 1834, p. 470:—

“He remarked to Captain Basil Hall, on the eve of his departure for the Continent, in the autumn of 1831: ‘Ah, if I had been in our excellent friend Cadell’s hands during all the course of my writing for the public, I should now, undoubtedly, have been worth a couple of hundred thousand pounds, instead of having to work myself to pieces to get out of debt.’” Basil Hall tells the same story in one of his volumes of “Miscellanies.”

in a man of business? Lockhart freely quotes (what he might, if uncandid, have suppressed) Sir Walter’s remark, that to him
James Ballantyne owed “his difficulties as well as his advantages.” Thus Lockhart did not (as the partisans of the Ballantynes urge) hide Sir Walter’s own share in his own ruin: did not throw all the blame on the brothers. But to them he gave such share of the blame as he thought due. If he erred, he erred in company with and on the suggestion of the man who, of all others, ought best to have known the facts, namely, Mr. Cadell. Meanwhile, the Ballantyne Trustees attack Lockhart as if all his extremely frank statements about Scott’s share in his own ruin were reluctant, or heedlessly illogical admissions, made in a virulent campaign against James and John. This is the general effect of their first pamphlet, and this is what I mean when I describe the controversy as one in which, to a considerable extent, both parties are saying much the same thing.

For the understanding of the Ballantyne Controversy it is necessary, first, to have connected ideas as to what, in the “Life,” Lockhart wrote about John and James. James is first mentioned as the son of “a respectable tradesman” in Kelso, and a schoolfellow of Scott at the Grammar School. An extract is next offered from deathbed memoranda, written by James, at Lockhart’s request.1

1Life,” i. 157.

Scott and James met, but were not very intimate, when Ballantyne was attending law classes in Edinburgh, preparatory to becoming a solicitor.1 James became a Kelso writer in 1795, and, in 1796, not succeeding as a country writer, he set up a weekly
Tory newspaper. In 1799, Ballantyne printed at Kelso for Scott twelve copies of his early verses, “Apology for Tales of Terror,” and Scott suggested making a volume of Border Ballads.2

On April 22, 1800, Scott wrote to Ballantyne, saying that there were chances for a good printer in Edinburgh, and hinting at “pecuniary assistance” in trade. Lockhart “suspects that even thus early the writer” (Scott) “contemplated the possibility at least of being himself very intimately connected with the result of these air-drawn schemes.”3 Thus Lockhart from the first represents the “air-drawn schemes” as Sir Walter’s own, not as Ballantyne’s. At the end of 1802, James Ballantyne, complying with Scott’s hint, set up his presses in the precinct of Holyrood. He received (also in compliance with Scott’s hint) “a liberal loan.” Lockhart presently describes James’s talents, his eye for errors in proof-sheets, his moral character—“he was really an honest man;” and, to Scott, was a useful critic—an extraordinary fact in literary history.4 In 1805, when Ballantyne wanted a fresh loan, Scott announced his willingness to advance money “to

1Life,” i 221. 2 Ibid., ii. 43.

3 Ibid., ii. 48. 4 Ibid., ii. 201.

be admitted as a third sharer of my business.”1 Lockhart is “in doubt whether” this association “ought, on the whole, to be considered with more of satisfaction or regret.” The solitary cause for “satisfaction,” apparently, is the spur given to Scott’s energy by the misfortunes of his enterprise.2 Lockhart then speaks of Scott’s own literary undertakings, but adds, “The alliance with Ballantyne soon infected him with the proverbial rashness of mere mercantile adventure.” Lockhart shows how Scott’s eagerness to help other men of letters “hurried him and his friends into a multitude of arrangements,” often all but disastrous. “It is an old saying that wherever there is a secret there must be something wrong; and dearly did he pay the penalty for the mystery in which he had chosen to involve this transaction.”

Here the mystery and the “wrong,” in the sanguine enterprises, are all attributed, justly and explicitly, to Scott, despite the apparent sense of the passage about the Ballantyne alliance “infecting him with rashness.” It was not James Ballantyne, an unadventurous man, but “mercantile adventure” that produced this fatal result. “Ballantyne’s habitual deference to his opinion induced him to advocate” Scott’s suggestions for publishing books “with enthusiastic zeal.” This “habitual deference” made James a bad partner for Scott: that is a great portion of Lockhart’s argument throughout, and the fact

1 Ballantyne’s Memorandum; “Life,” ii. 230.

2Life,” ii. 235-237.

really cannot be denied. Scott suggesting books for publishers to print at his press, and James being his mouthpiece, “both came to take for their printing company a certain share of the pecuniary risk, by allowing the time and method of . . . payment to be regulated according to the employer’s convenience. Hence, by degrees, was woven a web of entanglement from which neither Ballantyne nor his adviser had any means of escape,” “except in Scott’s indomitable spirit.”1

Thus Lockhart displays Scott as the active person in the original weaving of the fatal web of credit: Ballantyne only acquiesces in “habitual deference to his opinion.” A correspondent cited in Mr. Murray’sMemoirs2 incidentally shows us a feast given on the enlargement of the printing works. “Everything good and abundant. White Hermitage the order of the day. What would your London printers say to this?” (July 14, 1807). Mr. Murray’s letters in 1809 prove that he regarded the business of the Ballantyne Press as wildly speculative.3 The truth was that Scott, having now quarrelled with Constable, was setting up a Ballantyne publishing house, with John Ballantyne, of all people, as manager. To John, Lockhart was “inclined to trace” (perhaps erroneously) a share in Scott’s alienation from Constable, “as well as most of my friend’s subsequent misadventures.”4

1 “Life,” ii. 235-237. 2 “Memoirs,” i. 86.

3 Ibid., i. 170-75. 4 “Life,” iii. 117.

Lockhart now gives a sketch of John Ballantyne’s early career (on information from
Mr. Cadell), which he modified in his Second Edition. John’s own Memorandum1 confesses that, from the year 1802, in Kelso, he “neglected business,” “neglected business every way,” “shot and hunted,” “got into difficulties”—finally (1805), “all consummated . . . my furniture, goods, &c, sold at Kelso, previous to my going to Edinburgh to become my brother’s clerk. . . . My effects at Kelso, with labour, paid my debts, and left me penniless.” “What a partner for the Great Minstrel!” writes Mr. Cadell, when he sends the Memorandum to Lockhart (Nov. 24, 1836).

Whether John had been a tailor or not (though Will Laidlaw remembered him in that capacity) is a matter of no importance. But it was of importance to show that, in this negligent, sporting, penniless ex-tradesman (tailor or not), there was no proper associate for Scott, and no promising manager of his publishing company—“at £300 a year, and one fourth of the profits besides.” Why did Scott select such an associate? There is the mystery, of which Lockhart gave his solution. In a veracious Life of Sir Walter these personal facts about John Ballantyne had to be taken into account. John was also dexterous at accounts pretty much as Sisyphus, according to Homer, “was of all men most skilled in the use of the oath.” John had been in Messrs.

1 First Edition, v. 77. Second Edition, vi. 330.

Currie’s bank. This was denied; but Lockhart’s authority was Mr. Cadell, writing on May 27, 1836. Lockhart then draws sketches of the brothers in their habitual aspect and manners—sketches which were described by his adversaries as malevolent caricatures. Mr. Cadell, on the other hand, writes (July 20, 1836): “I absolutely wept with joy at the Rembrandt portraits of John and James. I think I see the strut of James, and the wriggle of John, and dark was the day which brought the last into council.”

This remark either suggested or was suggested by Lockhart’s observation, “They both loved and revered Scott, and I believe would have shed their hearts’ blood in his service; but they both, as men of affairs, deeply injured him; and, above all, the day that brought John into pecuniary connection with him was the blackest in his calendar. . . .”1 The Ballantynes, being the thirdsmen between Scott and Constable, were jealous of Constable, Lockhart thinks, and Constable of them, and this, he considers, was of ill effect on Sir Walter’s concerns.

The publishing affairs of “John Ballantyne and Co.” were never successful. Lockhart has explained, more than once, how Scott entered on enterprises interesting, if to any public, to a very small one; or dictated by desire to help poor authors. This system in itself meant ruin; nor

1Life,” iii. 121.

were John and
James in a position to remonstrate. The actual capital in ready money (except such debts as James could recover from his old Kelso business) was Scott’s. “My brother,” says James in his memoranda, “though an active and pushing, was not a cautious bookseller, and the large sums received never formed an addition to stock. In fact, they were all expended by the partners, who, being then young and sanguine men, not unwillingly adopted my brother’s hasty results.”

If this admission by James Ballantyne does not mean that Scott and James accepted John’s bookkeeping and accounts at a venture, and that all three “spent the results,” what does it mean? A curious example of the system, unknown to Lockhart, occurs in a letter of James Ballantyne to Constable.1 James begs for money or bills. Two years earlier, not foreseeing the “painful circumstances” of 1813, he had bought wine to the amount of £75—from an ironmonger! “About six months ago I gave him my bill, at six months, for the amount.” James “renewed” when the bill fell due, giving his acceptance in exchange. The ironmonger failed, “so that both sums, amounting to £150, are now due.”

This was the Ballantyne-Constable bill-and-counter-bill system, writ small!

“Neither John nor others complained. Now . . . I feel insuperable objection to make this misfortune

1 July 17, 1814, “Archibald Constable,” iii. 44-46.

known to the partners. It would engender gloom and dissatisfaction,” says poor
James, and so on. James, being anxious “not to touch the business funds,” wants to borrow, by a bill at six months, from Constable. Such were the ways of the partners; but James, at least, was anxious not to “touch the business funds.”

By May 1813, thanks to the causes described, and “the rash adoption of some injudicious speculations of Mr. Scott’s,” the moneyed partner determined to dissolve the publishing concern. Constable rescued the partners, with the aid of the £4000 guaranteed to Scott by the Duke of Buccleuch. In a kindly letter of Scott’s to John Ballantyne, while complaining of “sudden, extensive, and unexpected embarrassments,” and a lack of “universal circumspection, and the courage to tell disagreeable truths,” on John’s part, he pronounces him an unrivalled “man of business” (May 18, 1813). Five days later he warns John against “shutting his eyes, or blinding those of his friends, upon the actual state of business.” James has been “steadily attentive,” but “one of you will need to be constantly in the printing-house henceforward.”1 So far, for about eight years, this elementary precaution had clearly been neglected.

Perhaps a manager who shuts his own eyes, or blinds those of his friends, who permits “sudden and unexpected embarrassments” to be sprung on

1Life,” iv. 78-81.

them, is not the very best kind of partner for a man like
Scott. “Our friend” (Scott) “was always in a dream about cash and bills. He deceived himself,” writes Mr. Cadell (August 29, 1836). Lockhart says that Scott’s warnings to John Ballantyne were “vain,” but they (the brothers) “had some reason for displeasure (the more felt because they durst not, like him, express their feelings), when they found that scarcely had these ‘hard skirmishes’ terminated in the bargain of May 18” (with Constable), “before Scott was preparing fresh embarrassments for himself, by commencing a negotiation for a considerable addition to his property at Abbotsford. . . . Nor was he, I must add, more able to control some of his minor tastes.”1

This is frank enough, and not very consistent with the theory, that the Ballantynes are accused of ruining Scott. How much anxiety of the darkest kind John Ballantyne caused Sir Walter, by deferring to the last moment his announcements of debts to be paid; how Scott had to keep requesting him “to be a business-like correspondent”; how Ballantyne equivocated, how he did not write explicitly, how he never admitted the nearness of danger, “until it is almost unparriable,” Scott himself sets forth in letters to the culprit.2 Sir Walter deplores his “strange concealments”; he asks only for “a fair statement.”3

1Life,” iv. 85, 86. 2 Ibid, iv. 89, 91.

3 July, August, 1813. “Life,” iv. 92, 93.


Constable was consulted in their difficulties, and suggested an appeal to a friendly capitalist. Scott obtained a guarantee for £4000 from the Duke of Buccleuch; yet even with this aid, and with Constable’s assistance, matters went badly. At Christmas 1814 there was trouble, and Scott “determined to break up, as soon as possible, the concern which his own sanguine rashness, and the gross irregularities of his mercurial lieutenant, had so lamentably perplexed.”1 Here, on Lockhart’s side, is a fair division of blame!

In the pressure, “Guy Mannering” was sold to Messrs. Longmans; and John Ballantyne, despite the debt of all partners to Constable, wished to offer the new edition of “Waverley” to a London publisher. Scott vetoed this “wretched expedient.”2 But Lockhart blames John Ballantyne for “prompting and enforcing the idea of trying other publishers from time to time, instead of adhering to Constable, merely for the selfish purposes—first, of facilitating the immediate discount of bills; secondly, of further perplexing Scott’s affairs, the entire disentanglement of which would have been, as he fancied, prejudicial to his own personal importance.”3

As to John Ballantyne’s conduct at this time (1813-1815), whatever its motive, Lockhart had Mr. Cadell’s authority. “You will see by them” (a parcel of letters) “how Constable & Co. kept up the Ballantynes in 1813-1814-1815, and the misery

1Life,” v. 22. 2 Ibid, v. 24. 3 Ibid., v. 151.

attending it. I wonder even now at the picaroon trick of going to other booksellers, when, every day almost, they were asking favours” (January 3, 1837). Meanwhile
Scott, says Lockhart, was still buying land, and James’s “management of the pecuniary affairs of the printing-house had continued to be highly negligent and irregular.”

To end the financial history of John Ballantyne, he died in 1821, ignorant of the state of his affairs, and leaving to Scott £2000, which he did not possess.1 In his Memorandum he declares that the publishing business, when wound up in 1817, left Scott fully paid, with a balance of £1000. Lockhart says that, on the other hand, in 1817, John’s name was “on floating bills to the extent of at least £10,000, representing part of the debt which had been accumulated on the bookselling house, and which, on its dissolution, was assumed by the printing company in the Canongate.”2

John Ballantyne was dead, but the financial confusion survived. Towards the close of his work Lockhart recapitulates the story of Scott’s connection with the Ballantynes; repeating his assertion that James was “a perfectly upright man,” while John suffered from “giddiness of head and temper.” But James “was hardly a better manager than the picaroon.”3 He had never been a trained printer; taste he had, but not the vigilant “eye of the master.” Even when in the printing-house, his

1Life,” vi. 332. 2 Ibid., vi. 332. 3 Ibid, viii. 91.

work was rather literary than mechanical: he was “a literator, not a printer.” The complication of “bills and counter-bills” left by John’s management was not to be cleared by James. Lockhart supposes that
Scott kept no “efficient watch” on the sheaves of accommodation paper, and never knew “any Christmas, for how many thousands, or rather tens of thousands, he was responsible as a printer in the Canongate” Now as, by the admission of Mr. Hughes, one of James Ballantyne’s trustees, the books of the firm had not yet been balanced in 1837, it is not easy to see how Scott could have known the extent of his responsibilities.1 Once more, “Owing to the original habitual irregularities of John Ballantyne, it had been adopted as the regular plan between that person and Constable, that whenever the latter signed a bill for the purpose of the other’s raising money among the bankers, there should, in case of his neglecting to take that bill up before it fell due, be deposited a counter-bill signed by Ballantyne, on which Constable might, if need were, raise a sum equivalent to that for which he had. pledged his credit. . . . The plan went on under James’s management, just as John had begun it. Under his management also—such was the incredible looseness of it—the counter-bills, meant only for being sent into the market in the event of the primary bills being threatened with dishonour—these instruments of safeguard for Constable against

1Refutation,” p. 48.

contingent danger were allowed to lie uninquired about in Constable’s desk, until they had swelled to a truly monstrous sheaf of stamps. Constable’s hour of distress darkened about him, and he rushed with these to the money-changers. . . . And by this one circumstance it came to pass that, supposing Ballantyne & Co. to have, at the day of reckoning, obligations against them, in consequence of bill transactions with Constable, to the extent of £25,000, they were legally responsible for £50,000.”

In fact, they were in James Ballantyne’s case, when, in place of a debt of £75 for wine to an ironmonger, he managed, by dint of bills and similar accommodations, to owe £150!

This point has been warmly contested. As the matter is complicated, I shall give the reply of the Ballantynes here.

They say1 that one of Mr. James Ballantyne’s trustees, Mr. Hughes, being engaged in the press which printed the “Life,” saw Lockhart’s remarks on these bills and counter-bills in the proof-sheets. He thereon wrote a note to Mr. Cadell, saying that the subject “surely ought to be brought under Mr. Lockhart’s review.” Sir Walter was (contrary to Lockhart’s opinion) “cognisant of all these bills,” which Ballantyne discussed with him once a month, and they always met the bills falling due “by bills of a certain amount drawn on Constable & Co. . . . James Ballantyne & Co. granted counter-bills on

1Refutation,” p. 47.

Constable & Co., and of all these obligations Sir Walter kept a regular account in a book of his own.”1

“The bills also, I am in a position to show, were exclusively for Sir Walter’s accommodation, so that, as regards them, Mr. Ballantyne must have lost largely. The printing-house was thriving and had no need of them; and I have not the slightest doubt, when the books are balanced up to the bankruptcy of 1825-1826, that Mr. Ballantyne will be found to have been Sir Walter’s creditor to a considerable amount.”

Here let us again observe that, even in 1836 or 1837, the books of the Ballantyne printing firm had not yet been balanced! If this admission does not justify Lockhart’s theory of James as an indifferent manager, nothing can do so.

Mr. Hughes goes on, in his note to Mr. Cadell, to discredit the story of Constable rushing to the money-changers with a “sheaf of counter-bills.” “Counters were regularly drawn for the primaries, the difference of interest calculated, and the counters as regularly discounted.” The authors of the pamphlet insist on this, and give a specimen, “which overthrows completely Mr. Lockhart’s theory of the bill transactions. . . . The bills were not in Constable’s desk. . . . The statement is either a creature of imagination only, or of abused credulity.”2

1 A royal 8vo, bound in red morocco. 2 pp. 39, 40.


Now, on all this matter Lockhart drew his information, not from fancy, but from Mr. Cadell, who, of course, was with Constable when the day of panic came, and ought to have known the facts.

On January 3, 1837, before the “Life” was published, Mr. Cadell wrote from Edinburgh:—

John Ballantyne.—I felt diffident as to what I stated to you, when I was in town, as to the bill transactions resting on my unsupported authority. I have, since I returned, therefore, per favour of Constable’s trustees, got a sight of a huge batch of letters. I send for your inspection some forty or fifty; it will not take long to glance at them—a few bearing me out, and one or two to procure you a laugh after a hard day’s work. . . . I cannot at this distance call to mind the remedy for the slippery payments made for the bills for John’s use, which I appear to have suggested in October 1815.1 John suggested the double bills!!”

This is all that I can find about the double bills in Mr. Cadell’s correspondence. I discover no single hint of remonstrance from Mr. Cadell to Lockhart as regards this matter, no single note of dissent. Criticism Mr. Cadell offers on a variety of other points not financial; on this point (in existing letters)—none. He did not send Mr. Hughes’s notes to Lockhart; “he never communi-

1 See letter of 29th October.

cated them to me; but had he done so, I certainly should have paid very little attention to their tenor, for this reason . . . namely, that the statement which this subaltern of the Ballantynes impugns was drawn up by me on the authority of Mr. Cadell himself, the surviving partner of the house of
Constable, and . . . one of the most acute men of business in existence.”1

Lockhart especially refers to a letter of Mr. Cadell’s of October 1836,2 opening the topic in these words, “One thing Sir Walter never could have foreseen.” The point was “that, according to Constable’s partner, Scott could not have anticipated being called upon to discharge twice over the monies indicated by a certain large amount of bills drawn by James Ballantyne & Co.”3

To all this the Ballantyne Trustees reply by reports of conversations between Mr. Hughes and Mr. Cadell, in which Mr. Cadell accepted Mr. Hughes’s view, and showed him proof-sheets annotated accordingly for Lockhart’s use. In another interview with Mr. Cadell, Mr. Hughes averred

1 On this point, and on the non-communication of Mr. Hughes’s letter to Lockhart, Mr. Bayley writes: “I once thought it would have been better you had seen Hughes’s letter, but now it is as well you did not, as you could not have taken his statement in opposition to Cadell’s; but it must be brought out that you never saw it. . . . I spoke to the old Chief Commissioner (Mr. Adam of Blair Adam) as to Cadell being the respondent, as it was his information you went by, but we think you must yourself stand forth. . . .”

2 This letter is missing.

3Letter to Sir Adam Fergusson,” p. 103.

that Mr. Cadell agreed with him about the fact that
Constable “had not one bill in his desk to take to the money-changers,” in the panic. “Curiously enough, he had laboured to convince Lockhart of this, but could not get him to understand it.”

Now, Mr. Cadell had only to make a plain statement of fact.

“Curiously enough,” no trace of these labours to enlighten the dull intelligence of Lockhart remain in a correspondence which, though incomplete, everywhere shows Mr. Cadell supplying Lockhart with the facts about the Ballantynes, and nowhere shows him even hinting at any correction where they are concerned. “Curiously enough,” Mr. Cadell never contradicts or qualifies Lockhart’s assertion that the whole statement was made on his authority. Mr. Cadell, in fact, calls John Ballantyne “the origo mali,” and, as I have already said, as late as 1848, keeps throwing in new stories illustrative of John’s “picarooning” exploits, with an unpublished anecdote or two of James. One story, about the British Linen Company Bank, and some bills, is especially picaresque. Apart from questions of tone and style, then, it appears undeniable that Lockhart, in writing about the Ballantynes, worked throughout on the facts supplied, and in accordance with the advice given, by an adept in business, and an eye-witness of the transactions.


To illustrate Lockhart’s sentiments towards James Ballantyne before he had examined the pecuniary affairs, I quote a letter of his to Mr. Cadell (Jan. 22). It was written soon after James’s death.

“I am obliged by your letter about poor James Ballantyne, and shall be pleased to hear that his family are left in tolerable circumstances. I hope that the business will be kept, in part at least, for the son, who seemed a very fine boy.” Lockhart also contributed towards the support of John Ballantyne’s widow. To Mr. Cadell, Lockhart writes (Oct. 3, 1833), “Would to God you had been near to Sir Walter from the beginning.”

He appreciated Mr. Cadell’s sterling qualities; he relied on his information, and, whatever error may have come into his uses of that information, he did well in trusting to his informant. About the first Ballantyne pamphlet he writes, “It gives me no concern, because, as you know, I have spoken nothing but the truth about James Ballantyne, and never bore him the least ill-will, God knows.”

We have condensed the pages which contain the gist of Lockhart’s remarks, in the “Life,” on the Ballantynes. He also cites freely and fully from Sir Walter’s commendations of James, whom he had “tried to enrich,” whose “misfortunes and advantages,” he said, alike came from him. Sir Walter and his old companion never recriminated on each other, says Lockhart; but circumstances apart from money matters came between them at
the close, in the twilight of two broken lives. That the Ballantynes were odd, incongruous associates for Sir Walter; that his whole unlucky relations with them were the result (as we have said) of a flaw in his noble nature; that had he dealt with men not his dependents and retainers, say with
Mr. Cadell, it would have been better for him; that John “did something smack, a little grow to;” that James did not balance his books yearly—Lockhart may be said to have demonstrated. So far these men’s influence was ill for Scott; and Lockhart has made it conspicuous in every page, that Scott’s choice of such friends and such agents was his own fault. For the rest, some remarks might well have been spared; but a whole aspect of Scott, and a strange and potent influence in Scott’s history, would have been lost, had the portraits of the brethren as they lived been omitted. If the etching be deeply bitten, the acid, so to speak, had been gathering long. The Ballantynes were not, in obvious social ways, congenial to Lockhart’s taste; he believed that their society was rather unworthy of Sir Walter; and—supposing them to be accessories (not more) to Sir Walter’s ruin—he owed their memory little good-will. His own life had been embittered for many years by the collapse of 1826, and his temper had not been improved.

“The trustees and son” (a boy of sixteen) “of the late Mr. James Ballantyne” published their
Refutation of the Mis-statements and Calumnies” of Lockhart, in August 1838. With a taste which may be left to the judgment of the reader, they headed their work with a motto from the “Life,” Sir Walter’s dying words, “Lockhart, my dear, be a good man . . . !” They then decided that Lockhart had been a very bad man. His “attempts to exculpate his father-in-law from blame” are blended with “caricature portraits and degrading anecdotes. . . .” He “panders to that depraved taste which gloats,” and so forth: Mr. Carlyle’s reply may suffice. It is needless to remark that Lockhart never, for one moment, tries “to exculpate his father-in-law from blame.” Far from endeavouring “to aggrandise the character of Sir Walter by depreciating that of the Ballantynes,” Lockhart deliberately shows how Sir Walter lowered his own nature in the society of Rigdumfunnidos and the other. Lockhart’s imputations on the Ballantynes are, it is urged, “equally at variance with the evidence which he has himself produced, and with facts which, having access to them, he was bound to make himself master of. . . .”

There follows a defence of John; Lockhart drew thence a few emendations for “Les Enfances Jehan,” as set forth in his Second Edition. For the rest, the facts about John Ballantyne, as extracted from Sir Walter’s and Mr. Cadell’s letters, may suffice. John was not a good manager of a pub-
lishing establishment; that fact is undeniable, even by Trustees!

Dropping John, the Ballantynes develop their own case. Sir Walter “was greatly benefited by his connection with the Ballantynes.” “His own large expenditure absorbed the whole profits of the printing establishment, and much more besides, involving the elder brother” (James) “in ruin, at a period of his life when, from the nature and extent of his business, he might otherwise have possessed a comfortable, if not an affluent independence.”

This last allegation is an excursion into the chapter of “might have been.” Had Sir Walter not taken up Ballantyne, he might have been “blessed with a sturdy partner.” Had James not been taken up by Sir Walter, he might, or rather certainly would have, vegetated as a “stickit writer” at Kelso, publishing the Kelso Tory weekly, and supporting, out of his “comfortable, if not affluent independence,” his old parents, and the “penniless” sporting tradesman, John.

Mr. Morritt of Rokeby, writing to Lockhart after the publication of the Ballantyne pamphlet, says that these opinions prevail in canny Yorkshire. “This is plain common sense, and none of them cared much for the details, which I suppose nobody understands but the traders in bills.”1

1 Mr. Morritt had urged an objection against the description of the revels in St. John Street; this I gather from Mr. Cadell’s letters. Mr. Cadell took the opposite view.


The ruin came, say the Ballantyne Trustees, from Scott’s “extensive purchases of land before he had realised money to pay for it, and from his making a free use of the name of the Company (with the consent of his partner, of course) to meet the payments.” Certainly: Lockhart never conceals, nay he insists on, these ruinous purchases; but “the consent of the partner,” the fact that the partner, for years, was Scott’s salaried employee, and Scott’s error in having such a pliable partner, are all part of Lockhart’s case. Indeed, the Trustees keep quoting Lockhart’s statements about this matter against him, whereas they are a proof of his fairness.1 The more candid Lockhart is, the more he is blamed for inconsistency!

The strong and essential part of the Trustees’ case is that the accommodation bills, and other kites flown by the Company, were for Sir Walter’s private accommodation alone, not for the Company’s uses. True; but all the real bullion (beyond the Company’s earnings) was also Sir Walter’s own, payment for his novels and poems. “Except the means necessary to carry the business on, and Mr. James Ballantyne’s personal and family expenses, Sir Walter drew from it all its earnings, and more than all.” Mr. Ballantyne’s profits “were floating in the business at the command of Sir Walter Scott. . . . He had cast his bread upon the waters, but it did not return to him after many days of labour and sorrow. He lost all.”

1Refutation,” pp. 26, 27.


At one time, in 1816-1822, it is not apparent to me that James had anything at all to lose. He was merely a salaried servant. “The labour and sorrow” of James, among the luxuries of his various abodes, his horses, his wines, and so forth, are not conspicuous. All these mortifications he owed to his connection with Scott, and, after the ruin, Scott resolutely declined, even to his own disadvantage, to let any of his copious printing work be given to any press but that of Ballantyne. “Cadell rather wished to rush it” (“The Tales of a Grandfather”) “out by employing three presses, but this I repressed. . . . I will not have poor James driven off the plank to which we are all three clinging. . . . I am happy enough to think that the plank is large enough to float us all.”1 Ballantyne, say his friends, “lived to repair his ruined fortune.” If he did, he had Scott to thank for it.

It is also alleged that James knew nothing of the disposition of Abbotsford at the marriage of Major Scott; that he did (as against Lockhart’s belief) “make serious efforts to master the formidable balance of figures;” that he reckoned Abbotsford among the assets, thinking “there was Abbotsford, which would secure everybody, and make up every deficiency.” That Abbotsford, if sold, could “make up every deficiency,” was a rather sanguine estimate. Here, as usual, we have

1 Journal, ii. 106. Letter to Cadell, “Life,” ix. 210.

Lockhart frankly stating that Sir Walter felt that he had done wrong in placing any part of his property beyond the reach of his creditors, by entering on that marriage contract without a previous most deliberate examination into the state of his responsibilities. If James knew not about the disposition of Abbotsford, his nescience was, clearly, unknown to Lockhart.

Lockhart’s repeated attestation of James’s honesty, and his own regret at the comments he has to make, is dismissed by his critics as “cant.”1 It is again alleged that Scott did know the amount of his liabilities—though how he could, without balance-sheets, is a mystery to myself. Moreover, the liabilities were personal in essence, not commercial. Scott’s own view, that James “owes his difficulties as well as his advantages to me; . . . I have been far from suffering by him,” is cited, from the “Life,” where Lockhart gave it every prominence. But Lockhart differed from Scott’s opinion; he believed that Scott did suffer from having Ballantyne as a partner—a partner whom, by his own fault, he had chosen.

The Trustees “notice Mr. Lockhart’s extraordinary assertion that Sir Walter never drew anything from the printing-house business.” They do not cite page and volume for this extraordinary assertion, which they ascribe “to ignorance,”2 and admit “in one sense to be true.”3 They also

1Refutation,” p. 33. 2 Ibid., p. 55. 3 Ibid., p. 27.

contest, by passages from
James Ballantyne’s diary, Lockhart’s suspicion that John Ballantyne fanned the feud (1808) between Scott and Constable. Constable’s own opinion about “the misrepresentations of interested persons,” and Scott’s denial that these caused his anger, may be found in the “Life.”1 The Trustees also contrast the tone of Lockhart’s letters to James Ballantyne before he wrote the “Life,” with his sarcasms in the “Life” itself.

To myself it seems that the Trustees err in exaggerating Lockhart’s theory of the injury received by Scott from the Ballantynes, and in exaggerating the injury done to the Ballantynes by Scott. To John no injury was done. That penniless sportsman lived, thanks to Scott, a life of affluence and enjoyment. James did the same, in his way, and, after a period of distress, retrieved his fortune, as he had made it and lost it, thanks to Scott. Lockhart’s theory of the injury done by the Ballantynes to Scott (as I understand it) has been already explained. That it is (as I comprehend it) correct, I do not doubt. But it may be said, Volenti non fit injuria.

In this controversy, the press, as a rule, took sides against Lockhart. Sir Walter had never loved press-men; never sought, as he says, to make “what are called literary acquaintances”; had even done his nature violence, by repressing

1 iii. 152, 153. I think there is a pretty obvious way of reconciling these contradictories.

the impudent advances of at least one “able editor.” The
Times and several other papers calmly remarked that Lockhart “attributed Sir Walter’s embarrassments wholly to the mismanagement of the Ballantynes”! This is the old favourite fallacy! Say that a man holds a position which he does not hold, then demolish it, and he is confuted. This argument is the unfailing resource of ignorance, carelessness, and spite; of course, it is usually successful with the public. The Trustees reprinted these mendacious statements of Lockhart’s position as a supplement to their pamphlet! Lockhart, of course, never took up for a moment the position assigned to him by the Times and its allies in the press: he had ascribed Scott’s ruin to Scott’s own failings, aggravated, in some degree, by the qualities of John Ballantyne, and by the very nature of James Ballantyne’s position, and his carelessness about balance-sheets.

This I take to be Lockhart’s argument in the “Life”; but, in his reply, through a very natural consequence of the logical fallacy employed by his opponents, he was almost irritated into defending, and believed that fresh documents entitled him to defend, something like the position which his adversaries had assigned to him.

Between Mr. Cadell and Lockhart, after the “Refutation” appeared in August 1838, a correspondence occurred. “The brochure” said Mr. Cadell (Aug. 18), “has the strongest display of
bad spirit from the motto” (“Be a good man, my dear”) “to the end. But for
Sir Walter Scott, what could James Ballantyne have done for himself? What could John? It was John’s concern that laid the foundation of all. His trash about £1000 over”—from the publishing business wound up in 1817—“was, like his £2000 legacy, paid by Sir Walter to the tune of above £400! . . . As to money made by James after 1826, who gave him the business to make it? Sir Walter Scott, who would not allow me to take a volume from him.”

On August 23, Mr. Cadell suggested that Lockhart should make no reply to the Ballantynes, except “in the new edition”—advice which could not be followed, for practical reasons. As to the marriage contract about Abbotsford, he “has not a scintilla of doubt as to Ballantyne’s knowledge” of it; and is “certain” that Constable also knew. Both men were concerned in raising £10,000 on Abbotsford, in December 1825—money hopelessly wasted.

On August 26, Mr. Cadell sent to Lockhart (who was at Milton Lockhart, and remote from his books and documents) a copy of his letter of October 1836, on the authority of which, and of documents sent by Mr. Cadell, Lockhart had written what he did write about the bills. “On reading what I said at the above date, and asking Bayley to come to me for the same purpose, we feel that you should give yourself not one moment’s uneasiness.” Mr. Cadell then makes statements, to the detriment of John and
James, which, at this time of day, it seems needless to publish. He adds, “I retain my conviction that, in 1825-26, Sir Walter did not know the gross amount of his engagements.” He writes, but only with “almost” certainty, as to James’s knowledge of the marriage-contract about Abbotsford.

If Lockhart had, in Mr. Cadell’s opinion, made a gross bévue about the bills, here was the opportunity for reminding him of it. But Mr. Cadell obviously supports him, by reference to his own letter of October 1836.

I am not concerned to prove that Lockhart’s theory of the Ballantynes (especially in his reply to them) is correct. But as a man of letters, with no commercial training, obliged to write about complicated matters of finance, I do not think that Lockhart can reasonably be blamed for relying on the opinion of Mr. Cadell. He might, indeed, have distrusted Mr. Cadell’s possible “personal bias,” but how was he to make due allowance for that element in the affair? That he did, mentally, make such allowance is a fact. That most telling and serious story about John Ballantyne and the British Linen Bank, Lockhart did not use in his defence; possibly he found it to be erroneous, possibly he spared the memory of John.

On Oct. 31, Mr. Cadell announces that “Mr. Bayley” (the family agent) “has been greatly delighted with the hasty perusal we have given to John Ballantyne’s ‘states’; they more than bear
out my long statement of October 1836.
James was first in business by himself. In 1804 Sir Walter joined. James put into the concern types and presses, along with £1604 of debts; Sir Walter all the money—all which money James spent. . . . In a word, as my letter two years ago said, James began all the evil.”

On Nov. 8, Mr. Cadell writes in high spirits. He has “concluded his remarks on the entire pamphlet, and got nearly through a corresponding series of notes on the ‘Life’ in reference to the pamphlet. I had come to the same conclusion as the glorious letter of 1821 now before me, that Sir Walter was, ab initio, both James & Co. and John & Co.; but all is now settled to 1822, finished, concluded, and indeed the pamphlet answered to that date.

James in debt in 1816. A pensionary to 1822. In 1822 in debt. . . .”

Figures follow, then, “The conclusion, you may take my word for it, will be that in 1826 James had not one shilling—on the contrary, was deep in debt.”

The “glorious letter of 1821” (June 15) referred to by Mr. Cadell here, and often cited in the correspondence, was a “missive” from Sir Walter to James Ballantyne. It contained a statement of their relations, and proved that, between 1816 and 1821, James was not a partner in “Ballantyne and Co.” Sir Walter “was the Firm”; James was a manager with a salary of £400 a year. The letter is in Lockhart’s Reply to the Ballantyne pamphlet,
pp. 66-70. The “missive” was discovered after the publication of the first edition of Scott’s “

For these and other reasons, Mr. Cadell was eager that Lockhart should write a “Reply,” and backed his opinion by that of Mr. Bayley, Scott’s legal agent. He had sent “the 1821 letter” to Black, the publisher of the Ballantyne pamphlet. “He was in as great astonishment as I was in delight.” Mr. Cadell, in a postscript, again urges Lockhart to reply in a pamphlet, and not to notice the matter in the new edition of the “Life.” On November 10, Mr. Cadell writes that he has shown the letter of 1821 to Mr. John Gibson and his co-trustee, “who concur in declaring it conclusive.” “Where now is the call for any communication about the marriage-contract of January 1825? Ballantyne was, in fact, nobody in the concern. What of the money for Commissions” (Major Scott’s) “and Building? Sir Walter was only drawing on his own funds.” Mr. Cadell ends by suggesting that certain documents should be asked for, and that he should, perhaps, draw up a statement of figures.

On November 16, Mr. Cadell writes about the difficulty of getting the Ballantyne account-books for 1821-1826: “B. & Co. do not like to give them up, and offer to join for an accountant to go over them! We need no accountant!”

This does not seem self-evident!

“On considering the whole question very maturely,”
Mr. Cadell, “I see no call for any lengthened examination of figures!” On November 20, Mr. Cadell had not yet obtained the Ballantyne account-books. On November 29, Mr. Cadell is yet more jubilant. James was really spared too much in the “Life”! The Ballantyne Trustees “are now funking. Mr. Bayley thinks there should be a consultation with them. Mr. Cadell is “against any treaty or compromise, or communing on mutual ground.” “I think you should act the Black Hussar on this occasion: neither give nor receive terms.”

On December 6, Mr. Cadell writes that he has got, and is examining, “part of the Ballantyne books; but much, very much is kept back. The Old Chief (Mr. Adam) is most violently against any treaty, after I read the letters to him. Oh, how he did hotch and laugh!”

By the kindness of the Dowager Lady Adam, I am permitted to make use of the letters of the venerable Chief Commissioner, Sir Walter’s great friend. He was now over eighty years of age, and blind, but the excellence of his heart, and the wonderful clearness of his statements, prove that his expressed distrust of his faculties was erroneous. This old friend of Sir Walter’s died in February 1839; hence it is probable that he never saw or never expressed an opinion on Lockhart’s reply to the Ballantynes. On December 10, he acknowledges, through an amanuensis, Lockhart’s “most kind and most judicious observations.”


“In my conversation with Cadell and Bayley on Saturday last, I was much pleased with the additional views and facts; they strengthen the case; but Mr. Cadell says that Sir Walter’s missive (1821), with James Ballantyne’s reply, renders it triumphant without any more.”

On January 20, the Chief Commissioner sent a long letter on the point of an allegation about usurious interest received by Scott on loans to the firm, and cleared up that point. “I have conceived, in travelling on with you, in every step, an increasing and sincere interest in those uncommon qualities of head and heart, and of honourable feeling, which you have disclosed to me” (December 20, 1838). There could be no higher or better evidence as to Lockhart’s earnestness in this matter than that of Sir Walter’s old friend.

I may add the following memorandum made by the Chief Commissioner:—

Memorandum1 of a Conversation with Mr. Cadell and Mr. Bayley, on the pamphlet entitled, “A Refutation,” &c.
Edinburgh, 17th December, 1838.
. . . . . .

“I consider (and from that point I set out) that the missive of Sir Walter, dated 15th June 1821,

1 This document is in the possession of Mr. Cadell’s heirs, to whom I owe it.

Ballantyne’s reply, establish unanswerably, that the pamphlet of the Ballantynes is a false representation throughout. It proceeds upon the assumption of making Sir Walter the debtor of Ballantyne, whereas it is quite clear, upon the deliberate admission of Ballantyne, that he was indebted to Sir Walter, and it does not appear that there ever was a period when Sir Walter was indebted to him. . . .”

Mr. Adam then examines the letters concerning James Ballantyne’s financial position at the time of his marriage (February 6, 1816), to this result:—

“It is established, by the deliberate written declarations and solemn acts of the parties, that Mr. Lockhart is perfectly correct in what he has asserted in the ‘Life,’ and that Mr. Cadell and Mr. Bayley were equally correct in the information with which they supplied him.

. . . . . .

“It is thus made to appear, by the most unerring evidence which human affairs afford, namely, the deliberate declarations of the parties in writing, and their acts in the most solemn contract which exists in the social intercourse of man, that the facts upon which the pamphlet is founded, and the calumnies contained in it, are unanswerably refuted, so that it is quite unnecessary to carry the matter further; but as it might be satisfactory in some views to do so, the period between 1809 and 1816 and between
1822 and 1826 may be looked into and the result reported.”

“Who will now deny,” writes Mr. Cadell, on January 30, 1840, “that Sir Walter was sole partner and sole prop of both concerns, and the sufferer, the real sufferer, by the extravagancies and mismanagement of both his allies? . . . Sir Walter Scott lost £20,000 by these concerns; pity it is he did not wipe it off from the produce of his wondrous writings, in place of allowing it to roll on in a huge sum, which was, in 1826, the means of overwhelming him.”

Here the letters of Mr. Cadell cease, that is, no more are apparently preserved, till we reach 1847.

The reader now understands the nature and authority of Lockhart’s “brief.” From the incompleteness of the correspondence, I was uncertain as to whether the whole material in Mr. Cadell’s and Lockhart’s hands was submitted for counsel’s opinion to an eminent advocate who is mentioned.

I am now informed by Mr. Bayley, Writer to the Signet, who has most kindly examined the books of his firm, that the documents submitted to the Chief Commissioner, with a brief by Mr. Cadell, “were on January 5, 1839, laid before Mr. Duncan M’Neill, advocate (afterwards Lord Colonsay), and that, as he was unable to undertake their consideration, they were sent to Mr. Patrick Robertson, advocate (afterwards Lord Robertson), and that he,
in consultation with Mr. Cadell and my father, (
Mr. Bayley), revised Lockhart’s proposed Reply to the Ballantyne pamphlet. Mr. Robertson gave no written opinion; and the result of his being consulted was his revisal of Mr. Lockhart’s Reply.”1

Perhaps it is now sufficiently clear that, both in the “Life of Scott,” and, later, in his Reply to the first Ballantyne pamphlet, Lockhart did not write hastily, nor neglect due consultation with the best accessible authorities. To have established this fact suffices for my purpose. As late as 1851, Lockhart wrote, “The details of Scott’s commercial perplexities remain in great measure inexplicable.”2 Therefore I do not attempt to judge, in matters of detail, between Lockhart and the representatives of the Ballantynes. It is enough to demonstrate that Lockhart did his best to be accurate.

As a literary production his pamphlet may, undeniably, be censured for its taste.3 It is not the “dignified reply” desired by Mr. Cadell. In his Journal, Sir Walter Scott, amidst his distresses, exclaims, “I don’t care!” and avers that his temper is growing “savage,” and that he “stands at bay.” Constant misfortune and endless tracasseries had evidently a similar effect on Lockhart’s temper, at no time to be compared to Sir Walter’s. The pro-

1 Letter of Mr. Bayley, Edinburgh, March 25, 1896.

2 Quarterly Review, vol. lxxxviii. p. 199. “Life and Letters of Southey.”

3The Ballantyne Humbug Handled.” In a letter to Sir Adam Fergusson. Robert Cadell, Edinburgh, 1839.

vocations of the
Ballantyne pamphlet, above all the motto, must be allowed for, and Lockhart, of course, believed to the fullest extent in his “brief.” The tone and taste of his Reply may thus be accounted for, though not vindicated. He swept away, with success, a cloud of petty imputations. For example, it was alleged that his friendly letters to James Ballantyne “must have been written at the very time when I was concocting my so-called ‘calumnies.’ I was not quite in such a hurry as to be ‘concocting’ a book about a friend and parent before he was cold in his grave.” It was several years later, when he had studied the affairs of the Ballantynes, that he changed his tone. This part of the Reply the Chief Commissioner had approved.

Into the financial part of Lockhart’s argument, and of the Ballantynes’ answer in a second pamphlet, it is impossible for me to enter. I have made, and abandoned, the attempt to elucidate masses of figures, charges, and counter-charges. The late Mr. Dykes Campbell, I am informed, spent a year on these affairs, with no apparent result. As to what James Ballantyne calls “the discreditable incident” of October 1816, adding, “I was not aware of the terrible consequences arising from one acting partner’s using the co-partnery signature for his personal purposes,” I cannot see that the Trustees make a satisfactory explanation.1 At the least they place James in the position of “an ignorant

1Ballantyne Humbug,” p. 59. Reply, pp. 103-105.

accountant,” as, by the Trustees’ showing, he frankly confessed himself to be.1 To accountants who are not ignorant the rest of this controversy must be left. Lockhart writes, “The whole import of my statement was, that, as a man of affairs, and as manager of the business, Ballantyne had injured
Scott by his carelessness and inefficiency.” Ballantyne’s own letters confess ignorance, confess a beginning in business made “without capital.” Lockhart may have been wholly wrong as to the extent of Scott’s nescience about the bills, and on other points; he had only his brief to go upon. It would, perhaps, have been wiser to meet the Ballantyne Trustees, and discuss quietly their view of the matter; but Lockhart’s advisers discountenanced this course. He says, “I have all along considered myself as Sir Walter’s literary executor, and abstained, in general, from giving either advice or opinion as to any steps proposed or adopted in reference to any money matters of one sort or another.”2 It might have been well if the biographer could have abstained from discussion of money matters, no less than did the executor; but abstention was impossible.

The idea that Mr. Cadell should be the “respondent” was discountenanced by the Chief Commissioner. Lockhart merely acted as the mouthpiece of Mr. Cadell, and Mr. Bayley, the exponent of

1 Reply, p. 84.

2Ballantyne Humbug,” p. 117.

their views of the question. If his finance is wrong, that is a warning to men of letters against dabbling in figures, “states,” “calendars,” “bills,” “counterbills,” and the other mythology of commerce.

As to what Lockhart thought of the second Ballantyne pamphlet, the reply to his own, I have no evidence beyond what is contained in this letter to Mr. Andrew Shortrede, son of the Mr. Robert Shortrede who accompanied Scott in his raids into Liddesdale long ago:—

Milton Lockhart,
Sept. 18, 1839.

My dear Sir,— . . . I have hardly yet had leisure to read the new Ballantyne pamphlet, but I see the manufacturers are at their old tricks, mentioning the £1600 odd of book debts due to James Ballantyne when the firm was formed in 1805, whereas it was twice over stated by me distinctly in my pamphlet. They accuse me of omitting various balances, &c, and yet imply that the book they are drawn from was found by them since my pamphlet appeared. They refer to their appendix for a most important array of figures, &c.—the details of James’s expenditure—and behold the appendix hath not the document. But I am not sure that I shall think it worth while to meddle again with the Dirty and his associates.—Yours truly,

J. G. Lockhart.”

Here the discussion of an affair often made
matter of reproach against
Lockhart must end. I am content to give the sources of Lockhart’s “foul and elaborate misrepresentation of the Ballantynes.”1 If John was a vir pietate gravis, if James was a learned and sedulous accountant, then Lockhart “foully and elaborately misrepresented” the brothers.

1 Miss Martineau, “Biographical Sketches,” pp. 348, 349.