LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Walter Scott to George Ellis, 27 August 1803

Vol I Preface
Vol. I Contents.
Chapter I
Chapter II 1771-78
Chapter III 1778-83
Chapter IV 1783-86
Chapter V 1786-90
Chapter VI 1790-92
Chapter VII 1792-96
Chapter VIII 1796-97
Chapter IX 1798-99
Chapter X 1800-02
Chapter XI 1802-03
Chapter XII 1803-04
Vol. II Contents.
Chapter I 1804-05
Chapter II 1805
Chapter III 1806
Chapter IV 1806-08
Chapter V 1808
Chapter VI 1808-09
Chapter VII 1809-10
Chapter VIII 1810
Chapter IX 1810
Chapter X 1810-11
Chapter XI 1811
Chapter XII 1811-12
Vol. III Contents.
Chapter I 1812-13
Chapter II 1813
Chapter III 1814
Chapter IV 1814
Chapter V 1814
Chapter VI 1814
Chapter VII 1814
Chapter VIII 1814
Chapter IX 1814
Chapter X 1814-15
Chapter XI 1815
Chapter XII 1815
Vol III Appendix
Vol. IV Contents.
Chapter I 1816
Chapter II 1817
Chapter III 1817
Chapter IV 1818
Chapter V 1818
Chapter VI 1818
Chapter VII 1818-19
Chapter VIII 1819
Chapter IX 1819
Chapter X 1819
Chapter XI 1820
Chapter XII 1820
Vol. V Contents.
Chapter I 1820
Chapter II 1820-21
Chapter III 1821
Chapter IV 1821
Chapter V 1821
Chapter VI 1821
Chapter VII 1822
Chapter VIII 1822
Chapter IX 1822-23
Chapter X 1823
Chapter XI 1823
Chapter XII 1824
Chapter XIII 1824-25
Vol. VI Contents.
Chapter I 1825
Chapter II 1825
Chapter III 1825
Chapter IV 1825
Chapter V 1826
Chapter VI 1826
Chapter VII 1826
Chapter VIII 1826
Chapter IX 1826
Chapter X 1826
Chapter XI 1826
Vol. VII Contents.
Vol VII Preface
Chapter I 1826-27
Chapter II 1827
Chapter III 1828
Chapter IV 1828
Chapter V 1829
Chapter VI 1830
Chapter VII 1830-31
Chapter VIII 1831
Chapter IX 1831
Chapter X 1831-32
Chapter XI 1832
Chapter XII
Vol VII Appendix
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“Lasswade, August 27, 1803.
“Dear Ellis,

“My conscience has been thumping me as hard as if it had studied under Mendoza, for letting your kind favour remain so long unanswered. Nevertheless, in this it is like Launcelot Gobbo’s, but a hard kind of conscience, as it must know how much I have been occupied with Armies of Reserve, and Militia, and Pikemen, and Sharpshooters, who are to descend from Ettrick Forest to the confusion of all invaders. The truth is, that this country has for once experienced that the pressure of external danger may possibly produce internal unanimity; and so great is the present military zeal, that I really wish our rulers would devise some way of calling it into
action, were it only on the economical principle of saving so much good courage from idle evaporation.—I am interrupted by an extraordinary accident, nothing less than a volley of small shot fired through the window, at which my wife was five minutes before arranging her flowers. By Camp’s assistance, who run the culprit’s foot like a Liddesdale bloodhound, we detected an unlucky sportsman, whose awkwardness and rashness might have occasioned very serious mischief—so much for interruption.—To return to
Sir Tristrem. As for Thomas’s name, respecting which you state some doubts,* I request you to attend to the following particulars: In the first place, surnames were of very late introduction into Scotland, and it would be difficult to show that they became in general a hereditary distinction, until after the time of Thomas the Rhymer; previously they were mere personal distinctions peculiar to the person by whom they were borne, and dying along with him. Thus the children of Alan Durward were not called Durward, because they were not Ostiarii, the circumstance from which he derived the name. When the surname was derived from property, it became naturally hereditary at a more early period, because the distinction applied equally to the father and the son. The same happened with patronymics, both because the name of the father is usually given to the son; so that Walter Fitzwalter would have been my son’s name in those times as well as my own; and also because a clan often takes a sort of general patronymic from one common ancestor, as Macdonald, &c. &c. But though these classes of surnames become hereditary at an early period, yet, in the natural course of things, epithets merely per-

* Mr Ellis had hinted that “Rymer might not more necessarily indicate an actual poet, than the name of Taylor does in modern times an actual knight of the thimble.”

sonal are much longer of becoming a family distinction.* But I do not trust, by any means, to this general argument; because the charter quoted in the
Minstrelsy contains written evidence, that the epithet of Rymour was peculiar to our Thomas, and was dropped by his son, who designs himself simply, Thomas of Erceldoune, son of Thomas the Rymour of Erceldoune; which I think is conclusive upon the subject. In all this discussion, I have scorned to avail myself of the tradition of the country, as well as the suspicious testimony of Boece, Dempster, &c., grounded probably upon that tradition, which uniformly affirms the name of Thomas to have been Learmont or Leirmont, and that of the Rhymer a personal epithet. This circumstance may induce us, however, to conclude that some of his descendants had taken that name certain it is that his castle is called Leirmont’s Tower, and that he is as well known to the

* The whole of this subject has derived much illustration from the recent edition of the “Ragman’s Roll,” a contribution to the Bannatyne Club of Edinburgh by two of Sir Walter Scott’s most esteemed friends, the Lord Chief Commissioner Adam and Sir Samuel Shepherd. That record of the oaths of fealty tendered to Edward I., during his Scotch usurpation, furnishes, indeed, very strong confirmation of the views which the Editor of “Sir Tristrem” had thus early adopted concerning the origin of surnames in Scotland. The landed gentry, over most of the country, seem to have been then generally distinguished by the surnames still borne by their descendants—it is wonderful how little the land seems to have changed hands in the course of so many centuries. But the towns’ people have, with few exceptions, designations apparently indicating the actual trade of the individual; and, in many instances, there is distinct evidence that the plan of transmitting such names had not been adopted; for example, Thomas the Tailor is described as son of Thomas the Smith, or vice versâ. The chief magistrates of the burghs appear, however, to have been, in most cases, younger sons of the neighbouring gentry, and have of course their hereditary designations. This singular document, so often quoted and referred to, was never before printed in extenso.

country people by that name, as by the appellation of the Rhymer.

“Having cleared up this matter, as I think, to every one’s satisfaction, unless to those resembling not Thomas himself, but his namesake the Apostle, I have, secondly, to show that my Thomas is the Tomas of Douce’s MS. Here I must again refer to the high and general reverence in which Thomas appears to have been held, as is proved by Robert de Brunne; but above all, as you observe, to the extreme similarity betwixt the French and English poems, with this strong circumstance, that the mode of telling the story approved by the French minstrel, under the authority of his Tomas, is the very mode in which my Thomas has told it. Would you desire better sympathy?

“I lately met by accident a Cornish gentleman, who had taken up his abode in Selkirkshire for the sake of fishing—and what should his name be but Caerlion? You will not doubt that this interested me very much. He tells me that there is but one family of the name in Cornwall, or as far as ever he heard any where else, and that they are of great antiquity. Does not this circumstance seem to prove that there existed in Cornwall a place called Caerlion, giving name to that family? Caerlion would probably be Castrum Leonense, the chief town of Liones, which in every romance is stated to have been Tristrem’s country, and from which he derived his surname of Tristrem de Liones. This district, as you notice in the notes on the Fabliaux, was swallowed up by the sea. I need not remind you that all this tends to illustrate the Caerlioun mentioned by Tomas, which I always suspected to be a very different place from Caerlion on Uske—which is no seaport. How I regret the number of leagues which prevented my joining you and the sapient Douce, and how much ancient lore I have
lost. Where I have been, the people talked more of the praises of Ryno and Fillan (not
Ossian’s heroes, but two Forest greyhounds which I got in a present) than, I verily believe, they would have done of the prowesses of Sir Tristrem, or of Esplandian, had either of them appeared to lead on the levy en masse. Yours ever,

W. Scott.”