LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter VII 1792-96

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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Scott was called to the bar only the day before the closing of the session, and he appears to have almost immediately escaped to the country. On the 2d of August I find his father writing, “I have sent the copies of your thesis as desired;” and on the 15th he addressed to him at Rosebank a letter, in which there is this paragraph, an undoubted autograph of Mr Saunders Fairford, anno ætatis sixty-three

‘Dear Walter,

‘ . . . I am glad that your expedition to the west proved agreeable. You do well to warn your mother against Ashestiel. Although I said little, yet I never thought that road could be agreeable; besides, it is taking too wide a circle. Lord Justice-Clerk is in town attending the Bills.* He called here yesterday, and enquired very particularly for you. I told him where you was, and he expects to see you at Jedburgh upon the 21st. He is to be at Mellerstain† on the 20th, and

* The Judges then attended in Edinburgh in rotation during the intervals of term, to take care of various sorts of business which could not brook delay, bills of injunction, &c.

† The beautiful seat of the Baillies of Jerviswood, in Berwickshire, a few miles below Dryburgh.

will be there all night. His Lordship said, in a very pleasant manner, that something might cast up at Jedburgh to give you an opportunity of appearing, and that he would insist upon it, and that in future he meant to give you a share of the criminal business in this Court, all which is very kind. I told His Lordship that I had dissuaded you from appearing at Jedburgh, but he said I was wrong in doing so, and I therefore leave the matter to you and him. I think it is probable he will breakfast with
Sir H. H. MacDougall on the 21st, on his way to Jedburgh.’ * * *

This last quiet hint, that the young lawyer might as well be at Makerstoun (the seat of a relation) when His Lordship breakfasted there, and of course swell the train of His Lordship’s little procession into the county town, seems delightfully characteristic. I think I hear Sir Walter himself lecturing me, when in the same sort of situation, thirty years afterwards. He declined, as one of the following letters will show, the opportunity of making his first appearance on this occasion at Jedburgh. He was present, indeed, at the Court during the assizes, but “durst not venture.” His accounts to William Clerk of his vacation amusements, and more particularly of his second excursion to Northumberland, will, I am sure, interest every reader.

To William Clerk, Esq. Advocate, Prince’s Street, Edinburgh.
‘Rosebank, 10th Sept. 1792.
‘Dear William,

‘Taking the advantage of a very indifferent day, which is likely to float away a good deal of corn, and of my father’s leaving this place, who will take charge of this scrawl, I sit down to answer your favour. I find you have been, like myself, taking advantage of the
good weather to look around you a little, and congratulate you upon the pleasure you must have received from your jaunt with
Mr Russell.* I apprehend, though you are silent on the subject, that your conversation was enlivened by many curious disquisitions of the nature of undulating exhalations. I should have bowed before the venerable grove of oaks at Hamilton with as much respect as if I had been a Druid about to gather the sacred mistletoe. I should hardly have suspected your host Sir William† of having been the occasion of the scandal brought upon the library and Mr Gibb‡ by the introduction of the Cabinet des Fées, of which I have a volume or two here. I am happy to think there is an admirer of snug things in the administration of the library. Poor Linton’s misfortune, though I cannot say it surprises, yet heartily grieves me. I have no doubt he will have many advisers and animadverters upon the naughtiness of his ways, whose admonitions will be forgot upon the next opportunity.

‘I am lounging about the country here, to speak sincerely, as idle as the day is long. Two old companions of mine, brothers of Mr Walker of Wooden, having come to this country, we have renewed a great intimacy. As they live directly upon the opposite bank of the river, we have signals agreed upon by which we concert

* Mr Russell, surgeon, afterwards Professor of Clinical Surgery at Edinburgh.

Sir William Miller (Lord Glenlee).

Mr Gibb was the Librarian of the Faculty of Advocates.

§ Clerk, Abercromby, Scott, Fergusson, and others, had occasional boating excursions from Leith to Inchcolm, Inchkeith, &c.; on one of these their boat was neared by a Newhaven one—Fergusson, at the moment, was standing up talking; one of the Newhaven fishermen, taking him for a brother of his own craft, bawled out, “Linton, you lang bitch, is that you?” From that day Adam Fergusson’s cognomen among his friends of The Club was Linton.

a plan of operations for the day. They are both officers, and very intelligent young fellows, and what is of some consequence, have a brace of fine greyhounds. Yesterday forenoon we killed seven hares, so you may see how plenty the game is with us. I have turned a keen duck shooter, though my success is not very great; and when wading through the mosses upon this errand, accoutred with the long gun, a jacket, musquito trowsers, and a rough cap, I might well pass for one of my redoubted moss-trooper progenitors,
Walter Fire-the-Braes, ‘or rather Willie wi’ the Bolt-Foot.

‘For about-doors’ amusement, I have constructed a seat in a large tree which spreads its branches horizontally over the Tweed. This is a favourite situation of mine for reading, especially in a day like this, when the west wind rocks the branches on which I am perched, and the river rolls its waves below me of a turbid blood colour. I have, moreover, cut an embrasure, through which I can fire upon the gulls, herons, and cormorants, as they fly screaming past my nest. To crown the whole, I have carved an inscription upon it in the ancient Romant taste. I believe I shall hardly return into town, barring accidents, sooner than the middle of next month, perhaps not till November. Next week, weather permitting, is destined for a Northumberland expedition, in which I shall visit some parts of that country which I have not yet seen, particularly about Hexham. Some days ago I had nearly met with a worse accident than the tramp I took at Moorfoot;† for having bewildered myself among the Cheviot hills, it was nearly nightfall before I got to the village of Hownam, and

* Walter Scott of Synton (elder brother of Bolt-Foot, the first Baron of Harden) was thus designated. He greatly distinguished himself in the battle of Melrose, A.D. 1526.

† This alludes to being lost in a fishing excursion.

the passes with which I was acquainted. You do not speak of being in Perthshire this season, though I suppose you intend it. I suppose we, that is, nous autres,* are at present completely dispersed.

Compliments to all who are in town, and best respects to your own family, both in Prince’s Street and at Eldin. Believe me ever most sincerely yours,

Walter Scott.’
To William Clerk, Esq.
‘Rosebank, 30th Sept., 1792.
Dear William,

‘I suppose this will find you flourishing like a green bay-tree on the mountains of Perthshire, and in full enjoyment of all the pleasures of the country. All that I envy you is the noctes cenæque deum, which, I take it for granted, you three merry men will be spending together, while I am poring over Bartholine in the long evenings, solitary enough; for, as for the lobsters, as you call them, I am separated from them by the Tweed, which precludes evening meetings, unless in fine weather and full moons. I have had an expedition through Hexham and the higher parts of Northumberland, which would have delighted the very cockles of your heart, not so much on account of the beautiful romantic appearance of the country, though that would have charmed you also, as because you would have seen more Roman inscriptions built into gate-posts, barns, &c., than perhaps are to be found in any other part of Britain. These have been all dug up from the neighbouring Roman wall, which is still in many places very entire, and gives a stupendous idea of the perseverance of its founders, who carried such an erection from sea to sea, over rocks, mountains, rivers, and morasses. There are

* The companions of The Club.

several lakes among the mountains above Hexham, well worth going many miles to see, though their fame is eclipsed by their neighbourhood to those of Cumberland. They are surrounded by old towers and castles, in situations the most savagely romantic; what would I have given to have been able to take effect-pieces from some of them! Upon the Tyne, about Hexham, the country has a different aspect, presenting much of the beautiful though less of the sublime. I was particularly charmed with the situation of Beaufront, a house belonging to a mad sort of genius whom, I am sure, I have told you some stories about. He used to call himself the
Noble Errington, but of late has assumed the title of Duke of Hexham. Hard by the town is the field of battle where the forces of Queen Margaret were defeated by those of the House of York, a blow which the Red Rose never recovered during the civil wars. The spot where the Duke of Somerset and the northern nobility of the Lancastrian faction were executed after the battle is still called Dukesfield. The inhabitants of this country speak an odd dialect of the Saxon, approaching nearly that of Chaucer, and have retained some customs peculiar to themselves. They are the descendants of the ancient Danes, chased into the fastnesses of Northumberland by the severity of William the Conqueror. Their ignorance is surprising to a Scotchman. It is common for the traders in cattle, which business is carried on to a great extent, to carry all letters received in course of trade to the parish church, where the clerk reads them aloud after service, and answers them according to circumstances.

‘We intended to visit the lakes in Cumberland, but our jaunt was cut short by the bad weather. I went to the circuit at Jedburgh, to make my bow to Lord J. Clerk, and might have had employment, but durst
not venture. Nine of the Dunse rioters were condemned to banishment, but the ferment continues violent in the Merse. Kelso races afforded little sport—
Wishaw* lost a horse which cost him L.500, and foundered irrecoverably on the course. At another time I should quote George Buchanan’s adage of ‘a fool and his money,’ but at present labour under a similar misfortune; my Galloway having yesterday thought proper (N. B., without a rider) to leap over a gate, and being lamed for the present. This is not his first faux-pas, for he jumped into a water with me on his back when in Northumberland, to the imminent danger of my life. He is, therefore, to be sold (when recovered), and another purchased. This accident has occasioned you the trouble of reading so long an epistle, the day being Sunday, and my uncle, the captain, busily engaged with your father’s naval tactics, is too seriously employed to be an agreeable companion. Apropos (des bottes)—I am sincerely sorry to hear that James is still unemployed, but have no doubt a time will come round when his talents will have an opportunity of being displayed to his advantage. I have no prospect of seeing my chère adorable till winter, if then. As for you, I pity you not, seeing as how you have so good a succedaneum in M. G.; and on the contrary, hope, not only that Edmonstone may roast you, but that Cupid may again (as erst) fry you on the gridiron of jealousy for your infidelity. Compliments to our right trusty and well-beloved Linton and Jean Jacques.† If you write, which, by the way, I hardly have the conscience to expect, direct to my father’s care, who will forward your letter. I have quite given up duck-shooting for

* William Hamilton of Wishaw,—who afterwards established his claim to the peerage of Belhaven.

John James Edmonstone.

the season, the birds being too old and the mosses too deep and cold. I have no reason to boast of my experience or success in the sport, and for my own part, should fire at any distance under eighty or even ninety paces, though above forty-five I would reckon it a coup déséspére, and as the bird is beyond measure shy, you may be sure I was not very bloody. Believe me, deferring, as usual, our dispute till another opportunity, always sincerely yours,

Walter Scott.’

‘P. S. I believe if my pony does not soon recover, that misfortune, with the bad weather, may send me soon to town.’

It was within a few days after Scott’s return from his excursion to Hexham, that, while attending the Michaelmas head-court, as an annual county-meeting is called, at Jedburgh, he was introduced, by an old companion, Charles Kerr of Abbotrule, to Mr Robert Shortreed, that gentleman’s near relation, who spent the greater part of his life in the enjoyment of much respect as Sheriff-substitute of Roxburghshire. Scott had been expressing his wish to visit the then wild and inaccessible district of Liddesdale, particularly with a view to examine the ruins of the famous castle of Hermitage, and to pick up some of the ancient riding ballads, said to be still preserved among the descendants of the moss-troopers, who had followed the banner of the Douglasses, when lords of that grim and remote fastness. Mr Shortreed had many connexions in Liddesdale, and knew its passes well, and he was pointed out as the very guide the young advocate wanted. They started accordingly, in a day or two afterwards, from Abbotrule; and the laird meant to have been of the party; but ‘it was well for
him,’ said Shortreed, ‘that he changed his mind—for he could never have done as we did.’*

During seven successive years Scott made a raid, as he called it, into Liddesdale, with Mr Shortreed for his guide; exploring every rivulet to its source, and every ruined peel from foundation to battlement. At this time no wheeled carriage had ever been seen in the district the first, indeed, that ever appeared there was a gig, driven by Scott himself for a part of his way, when on the last of these seven excursions. There was no inn nor public-house of any kind in the whole valley; the travellers passed from the shepherd’s hut to the minister’s manse, and again from the cheerful hospitality of the manse to the rough and jolly welcome of the homestead; gathering, wherever they went, songs and tunes, and occasionally more tangible relics of antiquity—even such ‘a rowth of auld nicknackets’ as Burns ascribes to Captain Grose. To these rambles Scott owed much of the materials of his ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border;’ and not less of that intimate acquaintance with the living manners of these unsophisticated regions, which constitutes the chief charm of one of the most charming of his prose works. But how soon he had any definite object before him in his researches, seems very doubtful. ‘He was makin’ himsell a’ the time,’ said Mr Shortreed; ‘but he didna

* I am obliged to Mr John Elliot Shortreed, a son of Scott’s early friend, for some memoranda of his father’s conversations on this subject, which are the more interesting that they represent the worthy Sheriff-substitute’s dialect exactly as it was. These notes were written in 1824; and I shall make several quotations from them. I had, however, many opportunities of hearing Mr Shortreed’s stories from his own lips, having often been under his hospitable roof in company with Sir Walter, who to the last always lodged there when any business took him to Jedburgh.

ken maybe what he was about till years had passed: At first he thought o’ little, I dare say, but the queerness and the fun.’

‘In those days,’ says the Memorandum before me, ‘advocates were not so plenty—at least about Liddesdale;’ and the worthy Sheriff-substitute goes on to describe the sort of bustle, not unmixed with alarm, produced at the first farm-house they visited (Willie Elliot’s, at Millburnholm), when the honest man was informed of the quality of one of his guests. When they dismounted, accordingly, he received Mr Scott with great ceremony, and insisted upon himself leading his horse to the stable. Shortreed accompanied Willie, however, and the latter, after taking a deliberate peep at Scott, ‘out-by the edge of the door-cheek,’ whispered, ‘Weel, Robin, I say, de’il hae me if I’s be a bit feared for him now; he’s just a chield like ourselves, I think.’ Half-a-dozen dogs of all degrees had already gathered round ‘the advocate,’ and his way of returning their compliments had set Willie Elliot at once at his ease.

According to Mr Shortreed, this good-man of Millburnholm was the great original of Dandie Dinmont. As he seems to have been the first of these upland sheep-farmers that Scott ever visited, there can be little doubt that he sat for some parts of that inimitable portraiture; and it is certain that the James Davidson, who carried the name of Dandie to his grave with him, and whose thoroughbred deathbed scene is told in the Notes to Guy Mannering, was first pointed out to Scott by Mr Shortreed himself, several years after the novel had established the man’s celebrity all over the Border; some accidental report about his terriers, and their odd names, having alone been turned to account in the original composition of the tale. But I have the best reason to believe that the
kind and manly character of Dandie, the gentle and delicious one of his wife, and some at least of the most picturesque peculiarities of the menage at Charlieshope, were filled up from Scott’s observation, years after this period, of a family, with one of whose members he had, through the best part of his life, a close and affectionate connexion. To those who were familiar with him, I have perhaps already sufficiently indicated the early home of his dear friend,
William Laidlaw, among ‘the braes of Yarrow.’

They dined at Millburnholm, and after having lingered over Willie Elliot’s punch-bowl, until, in Mr Shortreed’s phrase, they were ‘half-glowrin,’ mounted their steeds again, and proceeded to Dr Elliot’s at Cleughhead, where (‘for,’ says my Memorandum, ‘folk were na very nice in those days’) the two travellers slept in one and the same bed as, indeed, seems to have been the case with them throughout most of their excursions in this primitive district. Dr Elliot (a clergyman) had already a large MS. collection of the ballads Scott was in quest of; and finding how much his guest admired his acquisitions, thenceforth exerted himself, for several years, with redoubled diligence, in seeking out the living depositaries of such lore among the darker recesses of the mountains. ‘The doctor,’ says Mr Shortreed, ‘would have gane through fire and water for Sir Walter, when he ance kenned him.’

Next morning they seem to have ridden a long way, for the express purpose of visiting one ‘auld Thomas o’ Tuzzilehope,’ another Elliot, I suppose, who was celebrated for his skill on the Border pipe, and in particular for being in possession of the real lilt of Dick o’ the Cow. Before starting,” that is, at six o’clock, the ballad-hunters had, ‘just to lay the stomach, a devilled duck or twae, and some London porter.’ Auld
Thomas found them, nevertheless, well disposed for ‘breakfast’ on their arrival at Tuzzilehope; and this being over, he delighted them with one of the most hideous and unearthly of all the specimens of ‘riding music,’ and, moreover, with considerable libations of whisky-punch, manufactured in a certain wooden vessel, resembling a very small milk-pail, which he called ‘Wisdom,’ because it ‘made’ only a few spoonfuls of spirits—though he had the art of replenishing it so adroitly, that it had been celebrated for fifty years as more fatal to sobriety than any bowl in the parish. Having done due honour to ‘Wisdom,’ they again mounted, and proceeded over moss and moor to some other equally hospitable master of the pipe. ‘Ah me,’ says
Shortreed, ‘sic an endless fund o’ humour and drollery as he then had wi’ him! Never ten yards but we were either laughing or roaring and singing. Whereever we stopped, how brawlie he suited himsell to every body! He aye did as the lave did; never made himsell the great man, or took ony airs in the company. I’ve seen him in a’ moods in these jaunts, grave and gay, daft and serious, sober and drunk (this, however, even in our wildest rambles, was but rare) but drunk or sober, he was aye the gentleman. He lookit excessively heavy and stupid when he was fou, but he was never out o’ gude-humour.’

On reaching, one evening, some Charlieshope or other (I forget the name) among those wildernesses, they found a kindly reception as usual; but, to their agreeable surprise after some days of hard living, a measured and orderly hospitality as respected liquor. Soon after supper, at which a bottle of elderberry wine alone had been produced, a young student of divinity, who happened to be in the house, was called upon to take the ‘big ha’ Bible,’ in the good old fashion of Burns’s
Saturday Night; and some progress had been already made in the service, when the goodman of the farm, whose ‘tendency,’ as Mr Mitchell says, ‘was soporific,’ scandalized his wife and the dominie by starting suddenly from his knees, and rubbing his eyes, with a stentorian exclamation of ‘By ——, here’s the keg at last!’ and in tumbled, as he spake the word, a couple of sturdy herdsmen, whom, on hearing a day before of the advocate’s approaching visit, he had despatched to a certain smuggler’s haunt, at some considerable distance, in quest of a supply of run brandy from the Solway Frith. The pious ‘exercise’ of the household was hopelessly interrupted. With a thousand apologies for his hitherto shabby entertainment, this jolly Elliot, or Armstrong, had the welcome keg mounted on the table without a moment’s delay, and gentle and simple, not forgetting the dominie, continued carousing about it until daylight streamed in upon the party. Sir Walter Scott seldom failed, when I saw him in company with his Liddesdale companion, to mimic with infinite humour the sudden outburst of his old host, on hearing the clatter of horses’ feet, which he knew to indicate the arrival of the keg the consternation of the dame and the rueful despair with which the young clergyman closed the book.

‘It was that same season, I think,’ says Mr Shortreed, ‘that Sir Walter got from Dr Elliot, the large old border war horn, which ye may still see hanging in the armoury at Abbotsford. How great he was when he was made master o’ that! I believe it had been found in Hermitage Castle—and one of the doctor’s servants had used it many a day as a grease-horn for his scythe, before they discovered its history. When cleaned out, it was never a hair the worse—the original chain, hoop, and mouthpiece of steel were all entire, just as you now
see them. Sir Walter carried it home all the way from Liddesdale to Jedburgh, slung about his neck like Johnny Gilpin’s bottle, while I was intrusted with an ancient bridlebit, which we had likewise picked up.
“The feint o’ pride—na pride had he . . .
A lang kail-gully hung down by his side,
And a great meikle nowt-horn to rout on had he,”
And meikle and sair we routed on’t, and “hotched and blew, wi’ micht and main.” O what pleasant days! and then a’ the nonsense we had cost us naething. We never put hand in pocket for a week on end. Tollbars there were none—and indeed I think our haill charges were a feed o’ corn to our horses in the gangin’ and comin’ at Riccartoun mill.’

It is a pity that we have no letters of Scott’s describing this first raid into Liddesdale; but as he must have left Kelso for Edinburgh very soon after its conclusion, he probably chose to be the bearer of his own tidings. At any rate the wonder perhaps is not that we should have so few letters of this period, as that any have been recovered. ‘I ascribe the preservation of my little handful,’ says Mr Clerk, ‘to a sort of instinctive prophetic sense of his future greatness.’

I have found, however, two note-books, inscribed ‘Walter Scott, 1792,’ containing a variety of scraps and hints which may help us to fill up our notion of his private studies during that year. He appears to have used them indiscriminately. We have now an extract from the author he happened to be reading; now a memorandum of something that had struck him in conversation; a fragment of an essay; transcripts of favourite poems; remarks on curious cases in the old records of the Justiciary Court; in short, a most miscellaneous collection, in which there is whatever might have been looked for, with perhaps the single exception of original verse.
NOTE-BOOKS OF 1792.201
One of the books opens, with ‘Vegtam’s Kvitha, or The Descent of Odin, with the Latin of
Thomas Bartholine, and the English poetical version of Mr Gray; with some account of the death of Balder, both as narrated in the Edda, and as handed down to us by the Northern historians—Auctore Gualtero Scott.’ The Norse original, and the two versions, are then transcribed; and the historical account appended, extending to seven closely written quarto pages, was, I doubt not, read before one or other of his debating societies. Next comes a page, headed ‘Pecuniary distress of Charles the First,’ and containing a transcript of a receipt for some plate lent to the King in 1643. He then copies the ‘Owen of Carron,’ of Langhorne; the verses of Canute, on passing Ely; the lines to a cuckoo given by Warton as the oldest specimen of English verse; a translation ‘by a gentleman in Devonshire,’ of the death-song of ‘Regner Lodbrog;’ and the beautiful quatrain omitted in Gray’s elegy,
“There scattered oft, the earliest of the year,” &c.
After this we have an Italian canzonet, on the praises of blue eyes (which were much in favour at this time); several pages of etymologies from
Ducange; some more of notes on the Morte Arthur; extracts from the books of Adjournal, about Dame Janet Beaton, the Lady of Branxome of the Lay of the Last Minstrel, and her husband, ‘Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, called Wicked Watt;’ other extracts about witches and fairies; various couplets from Hall’s Satires; a passage from Albania; notes on the Second Sight, with extracts from Aubry and Glanville; a ‘List of ballads to be discovered or recovered;’ extracts from Guerin de Montglave; and after many more similar entries, a table of the MæsoGothic, Anglo-Saxon and Runic alpha-
bets—with a fourth section, headed German, but left blank. But enough perhaps of this record.

In November 1792, Scott and Clerk began their regular attendance at the Parliament House, and Scott, to use Mr Clerk’s words, “by and by crept into a tolerable share of such business as may be expected from a writer’s connexion.” By this we are to understand that he was employed from time to time by his father, and probably a few other solicitors, in that dreary everyday taskwork, chiefly of long written informations, and other papers for the court, on which young counsellors of the Scotch bar were then expected to bestow a great deal of trouble for very scanty pecuniary remuneration, and with scarcely a chance of finding reserved for their hands any matter that could elicit the display of superior knowledge or understanding. He had also his part in the cases of persons suing in forma pauperis; but how little important those that came to his share were, and how slender was the impression they had left on his mind, we may gather from a note on Redgauntlet, wherein he signifies his doubts whether he really had ever been engaged in what he has certainly made the cause célèbre of Poor Peter Peebles.

But he soon became as famous for his powers of story-telling among the lawyers of the Outer-House, as he had been among the companions of his High School days. The place where these idlers mostly congregated was called, it seems, by a name which sufficiently marks the date—it was the Mountain. Here, as Roger North says of the Court of King’s Bench in his early day, “there was more News than Law;” here hour after hour passed away, week after week, month after month, and year after year, in the interchange of light-hearted merriment, among a circle of young men, more than one of whom, in after times, attained the highest honours of the profes-
sion. Among the most intimate of
Scott’s daily associates from this time, and during all his subsequent attendance at the bar, were, besides various since eminent persons that have been already named, the first legal antiquary of our time in Scotland, Mr Thomas Thomson, and William Erskine, afterwards Lord Kinedder. Mr Clerk remembers complaining one morning on finding the group convulsed with laughter, that Duns Scotus had been forestalling him in a good story, which he had communicated privately the day before—adding, moreover, that his friend had not only stolen, but disguised it. ‘Why,’ answered he, skilfully waving the main charge, ‘this is always the way with the Baronet. He is continually saying that I change his stories, whereas in fact I only put a cocked hat on their heads, and stick a cane into their hands to make them fit for going into company.’

The German class, of which we have an account in one of the Prefaces of 1830, was formed before the Christmas of 1792, and it included almost all these loungers of the Mountain. In the essay now referred to, Scott traces the interest excited in Scotland on the subject of German literature to a paper read before the Royal Society of Edinburgh, on the 21st of April, 1788, by the author of the Man of Feeling. ‘The literary persons of Edinburgh,’ he says, ‘were then first made aware of the existence of works of genius in a language cognate with the English, and possessed of the same manly force of expression; they learned at the same time that the taste which dictated the German compositions was of a kind as nearly allied to the English as their language: those who were from their youth accustomed to admire Shakspeare and Milton, became acquainted for the first time with a race of poets, who had the same lofty ambition to spurn the flaming boundaries of the universe, and investigate the realms of
Chaos and Old Night; and of dramatists, who, disclaiming the pedantry of the unities, sought, at the expense of occasional improbabilities and extravagance, to present life on the stage in its scenes of wildest contrast, and in all its boundless variety of character. . . . Their fictitious narratives, their ballad poetry, and other branches of their literature, which are particularly apt to bear the stamp of the extravagant and the supernatural, began also to occupy the attention of the British literati. In Edinburgh, where the remarkable coincidence between the German language and the Lowland Scottish, encouraged young men to approach this newly discovered spring of literature, a class was formed of six or seven intimate friends, who proposed to make themselves acquainted with the German language. They were in the habit of being much together, and the time they spent in this new study was felt as a period of great amusement. One source of this diversion was the laziness of one of their number, the present author, who, averse to the necessary toil of grammar, and the rules, was in the practice of righting his way to the knowledge of the German by his acquaintance with the Scottish and Anglo-Saxon dialects, and of course frequently committed blunders which were not lost on his more accurate and more studious companions.’ The teacher,
Dr Willich, a medical man, is then described as striving with little success to make his pupils sympathize in his own passion for the ‘sickly monotony,’ and ‘affected ecstasies’ of Gessner’s Death of Abel; and the young students, having at length acquired enough of the language for their respective purposes, as selecting for their private pursuits, some the philosophical treatises of Kant, others the dramas of Schiller and Goethe. The chief, if not the only Kantist of the party, was, I believe, John Macfarlan of Kirkton: among those who turned zealously to the popular Belles
Lettres of Germany were, with Scott, his most intimate friends of the period,
William Clerk, William Erskine, and Thomas Thomson.

These studies were much encouraged by the example, and assisted by the advice, of an accomplished person, considerably Scott’s superior in standing, Alexander Fraser Tytler, afterwards a Judge of the Court of Session by the title of Lord Woodhouselee. His version of Schiller’s Robbers, was one of the earliest from the German theatre, and no doubt stimulated his young friend to his first experiments in the same walk.

The contemporary familiars of those days almost all survive; but one, and afterwards the most intimate of them all, went before him; and I may therefore hazard in this place a few words on the influence which he exercised at this critical period on Scott’s literary tastes and studies. William Erskine was the son of an Episcopalian clergyman in Perthshire, of a good family, but far from wealthy. He had received his early education at Glasgow, where, while attending the college lectures, he was boarded under the roof of Andrew Macdonald, the author of Vimonda, who then officiated as minister to a small congregation of Episcopalian nonconformists. From this unfortunate but very ingenious man, Erskine had derived, in boyhood, a strong passion for old English literature, more especially the Elizabethan dramatists; which, however, he combined with a far livelier relish for the classics of antiquity than either Scott or his master ever possessed. From the beginning, accordingly, Scott had in Erskine a monitor who—entering most warmly into his taste for national lore the life of the past—and the bold and picturesque style of the original English school was constantly urging the advantages to be derived from combining with its varied and masculine breadth of delineation such attention to the minor graces of
arrangement and diction as might conciliate the fastidiousness of modern taste. Deferring what I may have to say as to Erskine’s general character and manners, until I shall have approached the period when I myself had the pleasure of sharing his acquaintance, I introduce the general bearing of his literary opinions thus early, because I conceive there is no doubt that his companionship was, even in those days, highly serviceable to Scott as a student of the German drama and romance. Directed, as he mainly was in the ultimate determination of his literary ambition, by the example of their great founders, he appears to have run at first no trivial hazard of adopting the extravagances, both of thought and language, which he found blended in their works with such a captivating display of genius, and genius employed on subjects so much in unison with the deepest of his own juvenile predilections. His friendly critic was just as well as delicate; and unmerciful severity as to the mingled absurdities and vulgarities of German detail commanded deliberate attention from one, who admired not less enthusiastically than himself the genuine sublimity and pathos of his new favourites. I could, I believe, name one other at least among Scott’s fellow-students of the same time, whose influence was combined in this matter with Erskine’s; but his was that which continued to be exerted the longest, and always in the same direction. That it was not accompanied with entire success, the readers of the
Doom of Devorgoil, to say nothing of minor blemishes in far better works, must acknowledge.

These German studies divided Scott’s attention with the business of the courts of law, on which he was at least a regular attendant, during the winter of 1792-3.

If the preceding autumn forms a remarkable point in Scott’s history, as first introducing him to the man-
ners of the wilder Border country, the summer which followed left traces of equal importance. He gave the greater part of it to an excursion which much extended his knowledge of Highland scenery and character; and in particular furnished him with the richest stores which he afterwards turned to account in one of the most beautiful of his great poems, and in several, including the first, of his prose romances.

Accompanied by Adam Fergusson, he visited on this occasion some of the finest districts of Stirlingshire and Perthshire; and not in the percursory manner of his more boyish expeditions, but taking up his residence for a week or ten days in succession at the family residences of several of his young allies of the Mountain, and from thence familiarizing himself at leisure with the country and the people round about. In this way he lingered some time at Tullibody, the seat of the father of Sir Ralph Abercromby, and grandfather of his friend Mr George Abercromby (now Lord Abercromby); and heard from the old gentleman’s own lips his narrative of a journey which he had been obliged to make, shortly after he first settled in Stirlingshire, to the wild retreat of Rob Roy. The venerable laird told how he was received by the cateran ‘with much courtesy,’ in a cavern exactly such as that of Bean Lean; dined on collops cut from some of his own cattle, which he recognised hanging by their heels from the rocky roof beyond; and returned in all safety, after concluding a bargain of black-mail—in virtue of which annual payment Rob Roy guaranteed the future security of his herds against, not his own followers merely, but all freebooters whatever. Scott next visited his friend Edmonstone, at Newton, a beautiful seat close to the ruins of the once magnificent Castle or Doune, and heard another aged gentleman’s vivid recollections of all that happened there when John Home,
the author of
Douglas, and other Hanoverian prisoners, escaped from the Highland garrison in 1745.* Proceeding towards the sources of the Teith, he was received for the first time under a roof which, in subsequent years, he regularly revisited, that of another of his associates, Buchanan, the young laird of Cambusmore. It was thus that the scenery of Loch Katrine came to be so associated with ‘the recollection of many a dear friend and merry expedition of former days,’ that to compose the Lady of the Lake was ‘a labour of love, and no less so to recall the manners and incidents introduced.’† It was starting from the same house, when the poem itself had made some progress, that he put to the test the practicability of riding from the banks of Lochvennachar to the Castle of Stirling within the brief space which he had assigned to Fitz-James’s Grey Bayard, after the duel with Roderick Dhu; and the principal landmarks in the description of that fiery progress are so many hospitable mansions all familiar to him at the same period—Blairdrummond, the residence of Lord Kaimes; Ochtertyre, that of John Ramsay, the scholar and antiquarian (now best remembered for his kind and sagacious advice to Burns); and ‘the lofty brow of ancient Kier,’ the splendid seat of the chief family of the name of Stirling; from which, to say nothing of remoter objects, the prospect has, on one hand, the rock of ‘Snowdon,’ and in front the field of Bannockburn.

Another resting place was Craighall, in Perthshire, the seat of the Rattrays, a family related to Mr Clerk, who accompanied him. From the position of this striking place, as Mr Clerk at once perceived, and as the author

* Waverley, vol. ii. p. 82.

† Introduction to The Lady of the Lake. 1830.

afterwards confessed to him, that of the Tully-Veolan was very faithfully copied; though in the description of the house itself, and its gardens, many features were adopted from Bruntsfield and Ravelstone.* Mr Clerk has told me that he went through the first chapters of
Waverley without more than a vague suspicion of the new novelist; but that when he read the arrival at Tully-Veolan, his suspicion was at once converted into certainty, and he handed the book to a mutual friend of his and the author’s, saying ‘This is Scott’s—and I’ll lay a bet you’ll find such and such things in the next chapter.’ I hope Mr Clerk will forgive me for mentioning the particular circumstance that first flashed the conviction on his mind. In the course of a ride from Craighall they had both become considerably fagged and heated, and Clerk, seeing the smoke of a clachan a little way before them, ejaculated, ‘How agreeable if we should here fall in with one of those signposts where a red lion predominates over a punchbowl.’ The phrase happened to tickle Scott’s fancy—he often introduced it on similar occasions afterwards—and at the distance of twenty years Mr Clerk was at no loss to recognise an old acquaintance in the ‘huge bear’ which ‘predominates’ over the stone basin in the courtyard of the Baron of Bradwardine.

I believe the longest stay he made this autumn was at Meigle in Forfarshire, the seat of Patrick Murray of Simprim, a gentleman whose enthusiastic passion for antiquities, and especially military antiquities, had peculiarly endeared him both to Scott and Clerk. Here Adam Fergusson too was of the party; and 1 have often heard them each and all dwell on the thousand scenes of adventure and merriment which diversified that visit. In

* Waverley, vol. i. p. 82.

the village churchyard, close beneath Mr Murray’s gardens, tradition still points out the tomb of Queen Guenever; and the whole district abounds in objects of historical interest. Amidst them they spent their wandering days, while their evenings passed in the joyous festivity of a wealthy young bachelor’s establishment, or sometimes under the roofs of neighbours less refined than their host, the Balmawhapples of the Braes of Angus. From Meigle they made a trip to Dunottar Castle, the ruins of the huge old fortress of the Earls Marischall, and it was in the churchyard of that place that Scott then saw for the first and last time
Peter Paterson, the living Old Mortality. He and Mr Walker, the minister of the parish, found the poor man refreshing the epitaphs on the tombs of certain Cameronians who had fallen under the oppressions of James the Second’s brief insanity. Being invited into the manse after dinner to take a glass of whisky punch, ‘to which he was supposed to have no objections,’ he joined the minister’s party accordingly, but ‘he was in bad humour,’ says Scott, ‘and, to use his own phrase, had no freedom for conversation. His spirit had been sorely vexed by hearing, in a certain Aberdonian kirk, the psalmody directed by a pitch-pipe or some similar instrument, which was to Old Mortality the abomination of abominations.’

It was also while he had his headquarters at Meigle at this time that Scott visited for the first time Glammis, the residence of the Earls of Strathmore, by far the noblest specimen of the real feudal castle entire and perfect that had as yet come under his inspection. What its aspect was when he first saw it, and how grievously he lamented the change it had undergone when he revisited it some years afterwards, he has recorded in one of the most striking passages that I think ever came from his pen. Commenting, in his Essay on Landscape
Gardening (1828), on the proper domestic ornaments of the Castle Pleasaunce, he has this beautiful burst of lamentation over the barbarous innovations of the Capability men:—‘Down went many a trophy of old magnificence, courtyard, ornamented enclosure, fosse, avenue, barbican, and every external muniment of battled wall and flanking tower, out of the midst of which the ancient dome rising high above all its characteristic accompaniments, and seemingly girt round by its appropriate defences, which again circled each other in their different gradations, looked, as it should, the queen and mistress of the surrounding country. It was thus that the huge old tower of Glammis, “whose birth tradition notes not,” once showed its lordly head above seven circles (if I remember aright) of defensive boundaries, through which the friendly guest was admitted, and at each of which a suspicious person was unquestionably put to his answer. A disciple of Kent had the cruelty to render this splendid old mansion (the more modern part of which was the work of
Inigo Jones) more parkish, as he was pleased to call it; to raze all those exterior defences, and bring his mean and paltry gravel-walk up to the very door from which, deluded by the name, one might have imagined Lady Macbeth (with the form and features of Siddons) issuing forth to receive King Duncan. It is thirty years and upwards since I have seen Glammis, but I have not yet forgotten or forgiven the atrocity which, under pretence of improvement, deprived that lordly place of its appropriate accompaniments,
“Leaving an ancient dome and towers like these
Beggar’d and outraged.”’*

The night he spent at the yet unprofaned Glammis in

* Wordsworth’s Sonnet on Neidpath Castle.

1793 was, as he elsewhere says, one of the ‘two periods distant from each other’ at which he could recollect experiencing ‘that degree of superstitious awe which his countrymen call eerie.’ ‘The heavy pile,’ he writes, ‘contains much in its appearance, and in the traditions connected with it, impressive to the imagination. It was the scene of the murder of a Scottish King of great antiquity, not indeed the gracious
Duncan, with whom the name naturally associates itself, but Malcolm II. It contains also a curious monument of the peril of feudal times, being a secret chamber, the entrance of which, by the law or custom of the family, must only be known to three persons at once, namely, the Earl of Strathmore, his heir-apparent, and any third person whom they may take into their confidence. The extreme antiquity of the building is vouched by the thickness of the walls, and the wild straggling arrangement of the accommodation within doors. As the late earl seldom resided at Glammis, it was when I was there but half furnished, and that with movables of great antiquity, which, with the pieces of chivalric armour hanging on the walls, greatly contributed to the general effect of the whole. After a very hospitable reception from the late Peter Proctor, seneschal of the castle, I was conducted to my apartment in a distant part of the building. I must own that when I heard door after door shut, after my conductor had retired, I began to consider myself as too far from the living, and somewhat too near the dead. We had passed through what is called the King’s Room, a vaulted apartment, garnished with stag’s antlers and other trophies of the chase, and said by tradition to be the spot of Malcolm’s murder, and I had an idea of the vicinity of the castle chapel. In spite of the truth of history, the whole night scene in Macbeth’s Castle rushed at once upon
me, and struck my mind more forcibly than even when I have seen its terrors represented by
John Kemble and his inimitable sister. In a word, I experienced sensations which, though not remarkable for timidity or superstition, did not fail to affect me to the point of being disagreeable, while they were mingled at the same time with a strange and indescribable sort of pleasure, the recollection of which affords me gratification at this moment.’*

He alludes here to the hospitable reception which had preceded the mingled sensations of this eerie night; but one of his notes on Waverley touches this not unimportant part of the story more distinctly; for we are there informed, that the silver bear of Tully-Veolan, ‘the poculum potatorium of the valiant baron,’ had its prototype at Glammis—a massive beaker of silver, double gilt, moulded into the form of a lion, the name and bearing of the Earls of Strathmore, and containing about an English pint of wine. ‘The author,’ he says, ‘ought perhaps to be ashamed of recording that he had the honour of swallowing the contents of the lion, and the recollection of the feat suggested the story of the Bear of Bradwardine.’

From this pleasant tour, so rich in its results, Scott returned in time to attend the October assizes at Jedburgh, on which occasion he made his first appearance as counsel in a criminal court; and had the satisfaction of helping a veteran poacher and sheepstealer to escape through some of the meshes of the law. ‘You’re a lucky scoundrel,’ Scott whispered to his client, when the verdict was pronounced. ‘I’m just o’ your mind,’ quoth the desperado, ‘and I’ll send ye a maukin† the

* Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, p. 398.

i. e. a hare.

morn, man.’ I am not sure whether it was at these assizes or the next in the same town that he had less success in the case of a certain notorious housebreaker. The man, however, was well aware that no skill could have baffled the clear evidence against him, and was, after his fashion, grateful for such exertions as had been made in his behalf. He requested the young advocate to visit him once more before he left the place. Scott’s curiosity induced him to accept this invitation, and his friend, as soon as they were alone together in the condemned cell, said, ‘I am very sorry, sir, that I have no fee to offer you—so let me beg your acceptance of two bits of advice which may be useful perhaps when you come to have a house of your own. I am done with practice, you see, and here is my legacy. Never keep a large watchdog out of doors we can always silence them cheaply—indeed if it be a dog, ’tis easier than whistling—but tie a little tight yelping terrier within; and secondly, put no trust in nice, clever, gimcrack locks—the only thing that bothers us is a huge old heavy one, no matter how simple the construction, and the ruder and rustier the key, so much the better for the housekeeper.’ I remember hearing him tell this story some thirty years after at a Judges’ dinner at Jedburgh, and he summed it up with a rhyme ‘Ay, ay, my lord,’ (I think he addressed his friend
Lord Meadowbank)—
“Yelping terrier, rusty key,
Was Walter Scott’s best Jeddart fee.”

At these, or perhaps the next assizes, he was also counsel in an appeal case touching a cow which his client had sold as sound, but which the court below (the Sheriff) had pronounced to have what is called the cliers—a disease analogous to glanders in a horse. In opening his case before Sir David Rae, Lord Eskgrove,
Scott stoutly maintained the healthiness of the cow, who, as he said, had merely a cough. ‘Stop there,’ quoth the judge, ‘I have had plenty of healthy kye in my time, but I never heard of ane of them coughing. A coughin’ cow!—that will never do—sustain the Sheriff’s judgment, and decern.’

A day or two after this Scott and his old companion were again on their way into Liddesdale, and ‘just,’ says the Shortreed Memorandum, ‘as we were passing by Singdon, we saw a grand herd o’ cattle a’ feeding by the roadside, and a fine young bullock, the best in the whole lot, was in the midst of them, coughing lustily. “Ah,” said Scott, “what a pity for my client that old Eskgrove had not taken Singdon on his way to the town. That bonny creature would have saved us—
‘A Daniel come to judgment, yea a Daniel;
O wise young judge, how I do honour thee!;”

The winter of 1793-4 appears to have been passed like the preceding one; the German class resumed their sittings; Scott spoke in his debating club on the questions of Parliamentary Reform and the Inviolability of the Person of the First Magistrate, which the circumstances of the time had invested with extraordinary interest, and in both of which he no doubt took the side adverse to the principles of the English, and the practice of the French Liberals. His love affair continued on exactly the same footing as before—and for the rest, like the young heroes in Redgauntlet, he ‘swept the boards of the Parliament House with the skirts of his gown; laughed, and made others laugh; drank claret at Bayle’s, Fortune’s, and Walker’s, and eat oysters in the Covenant Close.’ On his desk ‘the new novel most in repute lay snugly intrenched beneath Stair’s Institute, or an open volume of Decisions;’ and his dressing-
table was littered ‘with old play-bills, letters respecting a meeting of the Faculty, Rules of the Speculative, Syllabus of Lectures—all the miscellaneous contents of a young advocate’s pocket, which contains every thing but briefs and bank-notes.’ His own professional occupation, though gradually increasing, was still of the most humble sort; but he took a lively interest in the proceedings of the criminal court, and more especially in those arising out of the troubled state of the public feeling as to politics.

In the spring of 1794 I find him writing to his friends in Roxburghshire with great exultation about the ‘good spirit’ manifesting itself among the upper classes of the citizens of Edinburgh, and above all, the organization of a regiment of volunteers, in which his brother Thomas, now a fine active young man, equally handsome and high-spirited, was enrolled as a grenadier; while, as he remarks, his own ‘unfortunate infirmity’ condemned him to be ‘a mere spectator of the drills.’ In the course of the same year the plan of a corps of volunteer light horse was started; and, if the recollection of Mr Skene be accurate, the suggestion originally proceeded from Scott himself, who certainly had a principal share in its subsequent success. He writes to his uncle at Rosebank, requesting him to be on the look out for a ‘strong gelding, such as would suit a stalwart dragoon;’ and intimating his intention to part with his collection of Scottish coins, rather than not be mounted to his mind. The corps, however, was not organized for some time; and in the mean while he had an opportunity of displaying his zeal in a manner which Captain Scott by no means considered as so respectable.

A party of Irish medical students began, towards the end of April, to make themselves remarkable in the
Edinburgh Theatre, where they mustered in a particular corner of the pit, and lost no opportunity of insulting the loyalists of the boxes, by calling for revolutionary tunes, applauding every speech that could bear a seditious meaning, and drowning the national anthem in howls and hootings. The young Tories of the Parliament House resented this license warmly, and after a succession of minor disturbances, the quarrel was put to the issue of a regular trial by combat.
Scott was conspicuous among the juvenile advocates and solicitors who on this grand night assembled in the front of the pit armed with stout cudgels, and determined to have God save the King not only played without interruption, but sung in full chorus by both company and audience. The Irishmen were ready at the first note of the anthem. They rose, clapped on their hats, and brandished their shilelahs; a stern battle ensued, and after many a head had been cracked, the loyalists at length found themselves in possession of the field. Next morning the more prominent rioters on both sides were bound over to keep the peace, and Scott was, of course, among the number. One of the party, Sir Alexander Wood, whose notes lie before me, says,—‘Walter was certainly our Coriphæus, and signalized himself splendidly in this desperate fray; and nothing used afterwards to afford him more delight than dramatizing its incidents. Some of the most efficient of our allies were persons previously unknown to him, and of several of these whom he had particularly observed, he never lost sight afterwards. There were, I believe, cases in which they owed most valuable assistance in life to his recollection of the playhouse row.’ To this last part of Sir Alexander’s testimony I can also add mine; and I am sure my worthy friend, Mr Donald M’Lean, W.S., will gratefully confirm it. When that
gentleman became candidate for some office in the Exchequer, about 1822 or 1823, and Sir Walter’s interest was requested on his behalf, “To be sure!” said he, “did not he sound the charge upon Paddy? Can I ever forget Donald’s ‘Sticks, by G—t?’” On the 9th May, 1794,
Charles Kerr of Abbotrule writes to him, “I was last night at Rosebank, and your uncle told me he had been giving you a very long and very sage lecture upon the occasion of these Edinburgh squabbles. I am happy to hear they are now at an end. They were rather of the serious cast, and though you encountered them with spirit and commendable resolution, I, with your uncle, should wish to see your abilities conspicuous on another theatre.” The same gentleman, in his next letter (June 3d), congratulates Scott on having “seen his name in the newspaper,” viz. as counsel for another Roxburghshire laird, by designation Bedrule, Such, no doubt, was Abbotrule’s “other theatre.”

Scott spent the long vacation of this year chiefly in Roxburghshire, but again visited Keir, Cambusmore, and others of his friends in Perthshire, and came to Edinburgh, early in September, to be present at the trials of Watt and Downie, on a charge of high treason. Watt seems to have tendered his services to Government as a spy upon the Society of the Friends of the People in Edinburgh, but ultimately, considering himself as underpaid, to have embraced, to their wildest extent, the schemes he had become acquainted with in the course of this worthy occupation; and he and one Downie, a mechanic, were now arraigned as having taken a prominent part in the organizing of a plot for a general rising in Edinburgh, to seize the castle, the bank, the persons of the Judges, and proclaim a provisional Republican Government; all which was supposed to have beer arranged in concert with the Hardies, Thelwalls, Holcrofts, and so
forth, who were a few weeks later brought to trial in London, for an alleged conspiracy to ‘summon delegates to a National Convention, with a view to subvert the Government, and levy war upon the King.’ The English prisoners were acquitted, but Watt and Downie were not so fortunate. Scott writes as follows to his aunt,
Miss Christian Rutherford, then at Ashestiel, in Selkirkshire:—

“Advocates’ Library, 5th Sept. 1794.

“My dear Miss Christy will perceive, from the date of this epistle, that I have accomplished my purpose of coming to town to be present at the trial of the Edinburgh traitors. I arrived here on Monday evening from Kelso, and was present at Watt’s trial on Wednesday, which displayed to the public the most atrocious and deliberate plan of villany which has occurred, perhaps, in the annals of Great Britain. I refer you for particulars to the papers, and shall only add, that the equivocations and perjury of the witnesses (most of them being accomplices in what they called the great plan) set the abilities of Mr Anstruther, the King’s counsel, in the most striking point of view. The patience and temper with which he tried them on every side, and screwed out of them the evidence they were so anxious to conceal, showed much knowledge of human nature; and the art with which he arranged the information he received, made the trial, upon the whole, the most interesting I ever was present at. Downie’s trial is just now going forwards over my head; but as the evidence is just the same as formerly brought against Watt, is not so interesting. You will easily believe that on Wednesday my curiosity was too much excited to retire at an early hour, and, indeed, I sat in the Court from seven in the morning till two the next morning; but as I had provided my-
self with some cold meat and a bottle of wine, I contrived to support the fatigue pretty well. It strikes me, upon the whole, that the plan of these miscreants might, from its very desperate and improbable nature, have had no small chance of succeeding, at least as far as concerned cutting off the soldiers, and obtaining possession of the banks, besides shedding the blood of the most distinguished inhabitants. There, I think, the evil must have stopped, unless they had further support than has yet appeared.
Stooks was the prime mover of the whole, and the person who supplied the money, and our theatrical disturbances are found to have formed one link of the chain. So, I have no doubt, Messrs Stooks, Burk, &c., would have found out a new way of paying old debts. The people are perfectly quiescent upon this grand occasion, and seem to interest themselves very little in the fate of their soi-disant friends. The Edinburgh volunteers make a respectable and formidable appearance already. They are exercised four hours almost every day, with all the rigour of military discipline. The grenadier company consists entirely of men above six feet. So much for public news.

“As to home intelligence—know that my mother and Anne had projected a jaunt to Inverleithing; fate, however, had destined otherwise. The intended day of departure was ushered in by a most complete deluge, to which, and the consequent disappointment, our proposed travellers did not submit with that Christian meekness which might have beseemed. In short, both within and without doors, it was a devil of a day. The second was like unto it. The third day came a post, a killing post, and in the shape of a letter from this fountain of health, informed us no lodgings were to be had there, so, whatever be its virtues, or the grandeur attending a journey to its streams, we might as well have proposed to visit
the river Jordan, or the walls of Jericho. Not so our heroic
John; he has been arrived here for some time (much the same as when he went way), and has formed the desperate resolution of riding out with me to Kelso to-morrow morning. I have stayed a day longer, waiting for the arrival of a pair of new boots and buckskin &cs., in which the soldier is to be equipt. I ventured to hint the convenience of a roll of diaculum plaister, and a box of the most approved horseman-salve, in which recommendation our doctor* warmly joined. His impatience for the journey has been somewhat cooled by some inclination yesterday displayed by his charger (a pony belonging to Anne) to lay his warlike rider in the dust—a purpose he had nearly effected. He next mounted Queen Mab, who treated him with little more complaisance, and, in carters’ phrase, would neither hap nor wynd, till she got rid of him. Seriously, however, if Jack has not returned covered with laurels, a crop which the Rock† no longer produces, he has brought back all his own good-nature, and a manner considerably improved, so that he is at times very agreeable company. Best love to Miss R., Jean, and Anne (I hope they are improved at the battledore), and the boys, not forgetting my friend Archy, though least not last in my remembrance. Best compliments to the Colonel.‡ I shall remember with pleasure Ashestiel hospitality, and not without a desire to put it to the proof next year. Adieu, ma chère amie. When you write, direct to Rosebank, and I shall be a good boy, and write you another sheet

* Dr Rutherford.

Captain John Scott had been for some time with his regiment at Gibraltar.

Colonel Russell of Ashestiel, married to a sister of Scott’s mother.

of nonsense soon. All friends here well. Ever yours affectionately,

Walter Scott.”

The letter, of which the following is an extract, must have been written in October or November—Scott having been in Liddesdale, and again in Perthshire, during the interval. It is worth quoting for the little domestic allusions with which it concludes, and which every one who has witnessed the discipline of a Presbyterian family of the old school at the time of preparation for the Communion, will perfectly understand. Scott’s father, though on particular occasions he could permit himself, like Saunders Fairford, to play the part of a good Amphytrion, was habitually ascetic in his habits. I have heard his son tell, that it was common with him, if any one observed that the soup was good, to taste it again, and say, “Yes, it is too good, bairns,” and dash a tumbler of cold water into his plate. It is easy, therefore, to imagine with what rigidity he must have enforced the ultra-Catholic severities which marked, in those days, the yearly or half-yearly retreat of the descendants of John Knox.

To Miss Christian Rutherford Ashestiel.

“Previous to my ramble, I stayed a single day in town to witness the exit of the ci-devant Jacobin, Mr Watt. It was a very solemn scene, but the pusillanimity of the unfortunate victim was astonishing, considering the boldness of his nefarious plans. It is matter of general regret that his associate Downie should have received a reprieve, which, I understand, is now prolonged for a second month, I suppose to wait the issue of the London trials. Our volunteers are now com-
pletely embodied, and notwithstanding the heaviness of their dress, have a martial and striking appearance. Their accuracy in firing and manoeuvring excites the surprise of military gentlemen, who are the best judges of their merit in that way. Tom is very proud of the grenadier company, to which he belongs, which has indisputably carried off the palm upon all public occasions. And now, give me leave to ask you whether the approaching winter does not remind you of your snug parlour in George’s Street? Do you not feel a little uncomfortable when you see
‘how bleak and bare
He wanders o’er the heights of Yair?
Amidst all this regard for your accommodation, don’t suppose I am devoid of a little self-interest when I press your speedy return to Auld Reekie, for I am really tiring excessively to see the said parlour again inhabited. Besides that, I want the assistance of your eloquence to convince my honoured
father that nature did not mean me either for a vagabond or travelling merchant, when she honoured me with the wandering propensity lately so conspicuously displayed. I saw Dr. yesterday, who is well. I did not choose to intrude upon the little lady, this being sermon week; for the same reason we are looking very religious and very sour at home. However, it is with some folks, selon les règles, that in proportion as they are pure themselves, they are entitled to render uncomfortable those whom they consider as less perfect. Best love to Miss R., cousins and friends in general, and believe me ever most sincerely yours,

Walter Scott.”

In March, 1795, when the court rose, he proceeded into Galloway, where he had not before been, in order to
make himself acquainted with the persons and localities mixed up with the case of a certain
Rev. Mr M’Naught, minister of Girthon, whose trial, on charges of habitual drunkenness, singing of lewd. and profane songs, dancing and toying at a penny-wedding with a “sweetie wife” (that is, an itinerant vender of gingerbread, &c.), and moreover of promoting irregular marriages as a justice of the peace, was about to take place before the General Assembly of the Kirk.

As his “Case for M’Naught,” dated May 22, 1795, is the first of his legal papers that I have discovered, and contains several characteristic enough turns, I make no apology for introducing a few extracts:

“At the head of the first class of offences stands the extraordinary assertion, that, being a minister of the gospel, the respondent had illegally undertaken the office of a justice of peace. It is, the respondent believes, the first time that ever the undertaking an office of such extensive utility was stated as a crime; for he humbly apprehends, that by conferring the office of a justice of the peace upon clergymen, their influence may, in the general case be rendered more extensive among their parishioners, and many trifling causes be settled by them, which might lead the litigants to enormous expenses, and become the subject of much contention before other courts. The duty being only occasional, and not daily, cannot be said to interfere with those of their function; and their education, and presumed character, render them most proper for the office. It is indeed alleged, that the act 1584, chap. 133, excludes clergymen from acting under a commission of the peace. This act, however, was passed at a time when it was of the highest importance to the Crown to wrench from the hands of the clergy the power of administering justice in civil cases, which had, from the ignorance of the laity, been enjoyed by them almost exclusively. During the whole reign of James VI., as is well known to the Reverend Court, such a jealousy subsisted betwixt the Church and the State, that those who were at the head of the latter endeavoured, by every means in their power, to diminish the influence of the former. At present, when these dissensions happily no longer subsist, the law, as far as respects the office of justice of the peace, appears to have fallen into disuse; and the respondent conceives, that any minister is capable of acting in that, or any other
judicial capacity, provided it is of such a nature as not to withdraw much of his time from what the statute calls the comfort and edification of the flock committed to him. Further, the act 1584 is virtually repealed by the statute 6th Anne, c. 6. sect. 2, which makes the Scots law on the subject of justices of the peace the same with that of England, where the office is publicly exercised by the clergy of all descriptions.

* * * * “Another branch of the accusation against the defender as a justice of peace, is the ratification of irregular marriages. The defender must here also call the attention of his reverend brethren and judges to the expediency of his conduct. The girls were usually with child at the time the application was made to the defender. In this situation the children born out of matrimony, though begot under promise of marriage, must have been thrown upon the parish, or perhaps murdered in infancy, had not the men been persuaded to consent to a solemn declaration of betrothment, or private marriage, emitted before the defender as a justice of peace. The defender himself, commiserating the situation of such women, often endeavoured to persuade their seducers to do them justice; and men frequently acquiesced in this sort of marriage, when they could by no means have been prevailed upon to go through the ceremonies of proclamation of banns, or the expense and trouble of a public wedding. The declaration of a previous marriage was sometimes literally true; sometimes a fiction voluntarily emitted by the parties themselves, under the belief that it was the most safe way of constituting a private marriage de presenti. The defender had been induced, from the practice of other justices, to consider the receiving these declarations, whether true or false, as a part of his duty which he could not decline, even had he been willing to do so. Finally, the defender must remind the Venerable Assembly that he acted upon these occasions as a justice of peace, which brings him back to the point from which he set out, viz., that the Reverend Court are utterly incompetent to take cognizance of his conduct in that character, which no sentence that they can pronounce could give or take away.

“The second grand division of the libel against the defender refers to his conduct as a clergyman and a Christian. He was charged in the libel with the most gross and vulgar behaviour, with drunkenness, blasphemy, and impiety; yet all the evidence which the appellants have been able to bring forward tends only to convict him of three acts of drunkenness during the course of fourteen years; for even the Presbytery, severe as they have been, acquit him quoad
ultra. But the attention of the Reverend Court is earnestly entreated to the situation of the defender at the time, the circumstances which conduced to his imprudence, and the share which some of those had in occasioning his guilt, who have since been most active in persecuting and distressing him on account of it.

“The defender must premise, by observing, that the crime of drunkenness consists not in a man’s having been in that situation twice or thrice in his life, but in the constant and habitual practice of the vice; the distinction between ebrius and ebriosus being founded in common sense, and recognised by law. A thousand cases may be supposed, in which a man, without being aware of what he is about, may be insensibly led on to intoxication, especially in a country where the vice is unfortunately so common, that upon some occasions a man may go to excess from a false sense of modesty, or a fear of disobliging his entertainer. The defender will not deny, that after losing his senses upon the occasions, and in the manner to be afterwards stated, he may have committed improprieties which fill him with sorrow and regret; but he hopes, that in case he shall be able to show circumstances which abridge and palliate the guilt of his imprudent excess, the Venerable Court will consider these improprieties as the effects of that excess only, and not as arising from any radical vice in his temper or disposition. When a man is bereft of his judgment by the influence of wine, and commits any crime, he can only be said to be morally culpable, in proportion to the impropriety of the excess he has committed, and not in proportion to the magnitude of its evil consequences. In a legal view, indeed, a man must be held as answerable and punishable for such a crime, precisely as if he had been in a state of sobriety; but his crime is, in a moral light, comprised in the origo mali, the drunkenness only. His senses being once gone, he is no more than a human machine, as insensible of misconduct, in speech and action, as a parrot or an automaton. This is more particularly the case with respect to indecorums, such as the defender is accused of; for a man can no more be held a common swearer, or a habitual talker of obscenity, because he has been guilty of using such expressions when intoxicated, than he can be termed an idiot, because, when intoxicated, he has spoken nonsense. If, therefore, the defender can extenuate the guilt of his intoxication, he hopes that its consequences will be numbered rather among his misfortunes than faults; and his Reverend Brethren will consider him, while in that state, as acting from a mechanical impulse, and as incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, For the scandal which his behaviour may
have occasioned, he feels the most heartfelt sorrow, and will submit with penitence and contrition, to the severe rebuke which the Presbytery have decreed against him. But he cannot think that his unfortunate misdemeanour, circumstanced as he was, merits a severer punishment. He can show, that pains were at these times taken to lead him on, when bereft of his senses, to subjects which were likely to call forth improper or indecent expressions. The defender must further urge, that not being originally educated for the church, he may, before he assumed the sacred character, have occasionally permitted himself freedoms of expression which are reckoned less culpable among the laity. Thus, he may, during that time, have learned the songs which he is accused of singing, though rather inconsistent with his clerical character. What then was more natural than that, when thrown off his guard by the assumed conviviality and artful solicitations of those about him, former improper habits, though renounced during his thinking moments, might assume the reins of his imagination, when his situation rendered him utterly insensible of their impropriety?”

* * * * “The Venerable Court will now consider how far three instances of ebriety, and their consequences, should ruin at once the character and the peace of mind of the unfortunate defender, and reduce him, at his advanced time of life, about sixty years, together with his aged parent, to a state of beggary. He hopes his severe sufferings may be considered as some atonement for the improprieties of which he may have been guilty; and that the Venerable Court will, in their judgment, remember mercy.

“In respect whereof, &c.
Walter Scott.”

This argument (for which he received five guineas) was sustained by Scott in a speech of considerable length at the bar of the Assembly. It was far the most important business in which any solicitor had as yet employed him, and The Club mustered strong in the gallery. He began in a low voice, but by degrees gathered more confidence; and when it became necessary for him to analyse the evidence touching a certain penny-wedding, repeated some very coarse specimens of his client’s alleged conversation in a tone so bold and free, that he was called to order with great austerity by one
of the leading members of the Venerable Court. This seemed to confuse him not a little; so when, by and by, he had to recite a stanza of one of
M’Naught’s convivial ditties, he breathed it out in a faint and hesitating style; whereupon, thinking he needed encouragement, the allies in the gallery astounded the Assembly by cordial shouts of hear! hear!—encore! encore! They were immediately turned out, and Scott got through the rest of his harangue very little to his own satisfaction.

He believed, in a word, that he had made a complete failure, and issued from the Court in a melancholy mood. At the door he found Adam Fergusson waiting to inform him that the brethren so unceremoniously extruded from the gallery had sought shelter in a neighbouring tavern, where they hoped he would join them. He complied with the invitation, but seemed for a long while incapable of enjoying the merriment of his friends. “Come, Duns,” cried the Baronet—“cheer up, man, and fill another tumbler; here’s ******** going to give us The Tailor.”—“Ah!” he answered, with a groan, “the tailor was a better man than me, sirs; for he didna venture ben until he kenned the way.” A certain comical old song, which had, perhaps, been a favourite with the Minister of Girthon
“The tailor he cam here to sew,
And weel he kenn’d the way o’t,” &c.—
was, however, sung and chorussed; and the evening ended in the full jollity of High Jinks.

Mr M’Naught was deposed from the ministry, and his young advocate has written out at the end of the printed papers on the case two of the songs which had been alleged in the evidence. They are both grossly indecent. It is to be observed, that the research he had made with a view to pleading this man’s cause, carried
LAW PAPERS, 1795.229
him for the first, and I believe for the last time, into the scenery of his
Guy Mannering; and I may add, that several of the names of the minor characters of the novel (that of M’Guffog, for example) appear in the list of witnesses for and against his client.

In the following July, a young lad, who had served for some time with excellent character on board a ship of war, and been discharged in consequence of a wound which disabled one of his hands, had the misfortune, in firing off a toy cannon in one of the narrow wynds of Edinburgh, to kill on the spot one of the doorkeepers of the Advocates’ Library; a button, or some other hard substance, having been accidentally inserted with his cartridge. Scott was one of his counsel when he was arraigned for murder, and had occasion to draw up a written argument or information for the prisoner, from which also I shall make a short quotation. Considered as a whole, the production seems both crude and clumsy, but the following passages have, I think, several traces of the style of thought and language which he afterwards made familiar to the world.

“Murder,” he writes, “or the premeditated slaughter of a citizen, is a crime of so deep and scarlet a dye, that there is scarce a nation to be found in which it has not, from the earliest period, been deemed worthy of a capital punishment. ‘He who sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed,’ is a general maxim which has received the assent of all times and countries. But it is equally certain, that even the rude legislators of former days soon perceived, that the death of one man may be occasioned by another, without the slayer himself being the proper object of the lex talionis. Such an accident may happen either by the carelessness of the killer, or through that excess and vehemence of passion to which humanity is incident. In either case, though blameable, he ought not to be confounded with the cool and deliberate assassin, and the species of criminality attaching itself to those acts has been distinguished by the term dolus, in opposition to the milder term culpa. Again, there may be a third species of homicide, in which the per-
petrator being the innocent and unfortunate cause of casual misfortune, becomes rather an object of compassion than punishment.

“Admitting there may have been a certain degree of culpability in the panel’s conduct, still there is one circumstance which pleads strongly in his favour, so as to preclude all presumption of dole. This is the frequent practice, whether proper or improper, of using this amusement in the streets. It is a matter of public notoriety, that boys of all ages and descriptions are, or at least till the late very proper proclamation of the magistrates, were to be seen every evening in almost every corner of this city amusing themselves with firearms and small cannons, and that without being checked or interfered with. When the panel, a poor ignorant raw lad, lately discharged from a ship of war, certainly not the most proper school to learn a prudent aversion to unlucky or mischievous practices, observed the sons of gentlemen of the first respectability engaged in such amusements, unchecked by their parents or by the magistrates, surely it can hardly be expected that he should discover that in imitating them in so common a practice, he was constituting himself hostis humani generis, a wretch the pest and scourge of mankind.

“There is, no doubt, attached to every even the most innocent of casual slaughter, a certain degree of blame, inasmuch as almost every thing of the kind might have been avoided had the slayer exhibited the strictest degree of diligence. A well-known and authentic story will illustrate the proposition. A young gentleman just married to a young lady of which he was passionately fond, in affectionate trifling presented at her a pistol, of which he had drawn the charge some days before. The lady, entering into the joke, desired him to fire: he did so, and shot her dead; the pistol having been again charged by his servant without his knowledge. Can any one read this story, and feel any emotion but that of sympathy towards the unhappy husband? Can they ever connect the case with an idea of punishment? Yet, divesting it of these interesting circumstances which act upon the imagination, it is precisely that of the panel at your Lordships’ bar; and though no one will pretend to say that such a homicide is other than casual, yet there is not the slightest question but it might have been avoided had the killer taken the precaution of examining his piece. But this is not the degree of culpa which can raise a misfortune to the pitch of a crime. It is only an instance that no accident can take place without its afterwards being discovered that the chief actor might have avoided committing it, had he been gifted with the spirit of prophecy, or with such an extreme degree of prudence as is almost equally rare.


“In the instance of shooting at butts, or at a bird, the person killed must have been somewhat in the line previous to the discharge of the shot, otherways it could never have come near him. The shooter must therefore have been guilty cuius levis seu levissimæ in firing while the deceased was in such a situation. In like manner, it is difficult to conceive how death should happen in consequence of a boxing or wrestling match, without some excess upon the part of the killer. Nay, in the exercise of the martial amusements of our forefathers, even by royal commission, should a champion be slain in running his barriers, or performing his tournament, it could scarcely happen without some culpa sen levis seu levissima on the part of his antagonist. Yet all these are enumerated in the English law-books as instances of casual homicide only; and we may therefore safely conclude, that by the law of the sister country a slight degree of blame will not subject the slayer per infortuniam to the penalties of culpable homicide.

“Guilt, as an object of punishment, has its origin in the mind and intention of the actor; and therefore, where that is wanting, there is no proper object of chastisement. A madman, for example, can no more properly be said to be guilty of murder than the sword with which he commits it, both being equally incapable of intending injury. In the present case, in like manner, although it ought no doubt to be matter of deep sorrow and contrition to the panel that his folly should have occasioned the loss of life to a fellow-creature; yet as that folly can neither be termed malice, nor yet doth amount to a gross negligence, he ought rather to be pitied than condemned. The fact done can never be recalled, and it rests with your Lordships to consider the case of this unfortunate young man, who has served his country in an humble though useful station,—deserved such a character as is given him in the letter of his officers,—and been disabled in that service. You will best judge how (considering he has suffered a confinement of six months) he can in humanity be the object of further or severer punishment, for a deed of which his mind at least, if not his hand, is guiltless. When a case is attended with some nicety, your Lordships will allow mercy to incline the balance of justice, well considering, with the legislator of the east, ‘It is better ten guilty should escape than that one innocent man should perish in his innocence.’”

The young sailor was acquitted,

To return for a moment to Scott’s love-affair. I find him writing as follows, in March 1795, to his cousin,
William Scott, now Laird of Raeburn, who was then in the East Indies: “The lady you allude to has been in town all this winter, and going a good deal into public, which has not in the least altered the meekness of her manners. Matters, you see, stand just as they did.”

To another friend he writes thus, from Rosebank, on the 23d of August, 1795:

“It gave me the highest satisfaction to find, by the receipt of your letter of the 14th current, that you have formed precisely the same opinion with me, both with regard to the interpretation of —— ——’s letter as highly flattering and favourable, and to the mode of conduct I ought to pursue for, after all, what she has pointed out is the most prudent line of conduct for us both, at least till better days, which, I think myself now entitled to suppose, she, as well as I myself, will look forward to with pleasure. If you were surprised at reading the important billet, you may guess how agreeably I was so at receiving it; for I had, to anticipate disappointment,—struggled to suppress every rising gleam of hope, and it would be very difficult to describe the mixed feelings her letter occasioned, which, entre nous, terminated in a very hearty fit of crying. I read over her epistle about ten times a-day, and always with new admiration of her generosity and candour—and as often take shame to myself for the mean suspicions, which, after knowing her so long, I could listen to, while endeavouring to guess how she would conduct herself. To tell you the truth, I cannot but confess, that my amour propre, which one would expect should have been exalted, has suffered not a little upon this occasion, through a sense of my own unworthiness, pretty similar to that which afflicted Linton upon sitting down at Keir’s table. I ought perhaps to tell you, what, indeed, you will perceive from her letter, that I was always attentive, while con-
sulting with you upon the subject of my declaration, rather to under than over-rate the extent of our intimacy. By the way, I must not omit mentioning the respect in which I hold your knowledge of the fair sex, and your capacity of advising in these matters, since it certainly is to your encouragement that I owe the present situation of my affairs. I wish to God, that, since you have acted as so useful an auxiliary during my attack, which has succeeded in bringing the enemy to terms, you would next sit down before some fortress yourself, and were it as impregnable as the rock of Gibraltar, I should, notwithstanding, have the highest expectations of your final success. Not a line from poor Jack—What can he be doing? Moping, I suppose, about some watering-place, and deluging his guts with specifics of every kind—or lowering and snorting in one corner of a post-chaise, with Kennedy, as upright and cold as a poker, stuck into the other. As for Linton, and
Crab,* I anticipate with pleasure their marvellous adventures, in the course of which Dr Black’s self-denying ordinance will run a shrewd chance of being neglected. They will be a source of fun for the winter evening conversations. Methinks I see the pair upon the mountains of Tipperary—John with a beard of three inches, united and blended with his shaggy black locks, an ellwand-looking cane, with a gilt head, in his hand, and a bundle in a handkerchief over his shoulder, exciting the cupidity of every Irish rapparee who passes him, by his resemblance to a Jew pedlar who has sent forward his pack—Linton, tired of trailing his long legs, exalted in

* Crab was the nickname of a friend who had accompanied Fergusson this summer on an Irish tour. Dr Black, celebrated for his discoveries in chemistry, was Adam Fergusson’s uncle; and had, it seems, given the young travellers a strong admonition touching the dangers of Irish hospitality.

state upon an Irish garron, without stirrups, and a halter on its head, tempting every one to ask,
‘Who is that upon the pony,
So long, so lean, so raw, so bony?’*
—calculating, as he moves along, the expenses of the salt horse—and grinning a ghastly smile, when the hollow voice of his fellow-traveller observes, ‘God! Adam, if ye gang on at this rate, the eight shillings and sevenpence halfpenny will never carry us forward to my uncle’s at Lisburn.’ Enough of a thorough Irish expedition.

“We have a great marriage towards here Scott of Harden, and a daughter of Count Bruhl, the famous chess-player, a lady of sixteen quarters, half-sister to the Wyndhams. I wish they may come down soon, as we shall have fine racketting, of which I will, probably, get my share. I think of being in town sometime next month, but whether for good and all, or only for a visit, I am not certain. O, for November! Our meeting will be a little embarrassing one. How will she look, &c. &c. &c., are the important subjects of my present conjectures—how different from what they were three weeks ago! I give you leave to laugh, when I tell you seriously, I had begun to ‘dwindle, peak, and pine,’ upon the subject—but now, after the charge I have received, it were a shame to resemble Pharoah’s lean kine. If good living and plenty of exercise can avert that calamity, I am in little danger of disobedience, and so, to conclude classically,

Dicite Io pœan, et Io bis dicite pœan!—
Jubeo te bene valere,
Gualterus Scott.”

* These lines are part of a song on the Parliamentary orator Littleton. They are quoted in Boswell’s Life of Johnson, originally published in 1791.


I have had much hesitation about inserting the preceding letter, but could not make up my mind to omit what seems to me a most exquisite revelation of the whole character of Scott at this critical period of his history, both literary and personal; more especially of his habitual effort to suppress, as far as words were concerned, the more tender feelings, which were in no heart deeper than in his.

It must, I think, have been, while he was indulging his vagabond vein, during the autumn of 1794, that Miss Aikin (afterwards Mrs Barbauld) paid her visit to Edinburgh, and entertained a party at Mr Dugald Stewart’s, by reading Mr William Taylor’s then unpublished version of Bürger’s Lenore. In the Essay on Imitation of Popular Poetry the reader has a full account of the interest with which Scott heard, some weeks afterwards, a friend’s imperfect recollections of this performance; the anxiety with which he sought after a copy of the original German; the delight with which he at length perused it; and how, having just been reading the specimens of ballad poetry introduced into Lewis’s romance of The Monk, he called to mind the early facility of versification which had lain so long in abeyance, and ventured to promise his friend a rhymed translation of “Lenore” from his own pen. The friend in question was Miss Cranstoun, afterwards Countess of Purgstall, the sister of his friend George Cranstoun, now Lord Corehouse. He began the task, he tells us, after supper, and did not retire to bed until he had finished it, having by that time worked himself into a state of excitement which set sleep at defiance.

Next morning, before breakfast, he carried his MS. to Miss Cranstoun, who was not only delighted but astonished at it; for I have seen a letter of hers to a mutual
friend in the country, in which she says “Upon my word,
Walter Scott is going to turn out a poet something of a cross I think between Burns and Gray.” The same day he read it also to his friend Sir Alexander Wood, who retains a vivid recollection of the high strain of enthusiasm into which he had been exalted by dwelling on the wild unearthly imagery of the German bard. “He read it over to me,” says Sir Alexander, “in a very slow and solemn tone, and after we had said a few words about its merits, continued to look at the fire silent and musing for some minutes, until he at length burst out with ‘I wish to Heaven I could get a skull and two cross-bones.’” Wood said that if he would accompany him to the house of John Bell, the celebrated surgeon, he had no doubt this wish might be easily gratified. They went thither accordingly on the instant;—Mr Bell (who was a great humourist) smiled on hearing the object of their visit, and pointing to a closet, at the corner of his library, bade Walter enter and choose. From a well-furnished museum of mortality, he selected forthwith what seemed to him the handsomest skull and pair of cross-bones it contained, and wrapping them in his handkerchief, carried the formidable bundle home to George’s Square. The trophies were immediately mounted on the top of his little bookcase; and when Wood visited him, after many years of absence from this country, he found them in possession of a similar position in his dressing-room at Abbotsford.

All this occurred in the beginning of April, 1796. A few days afterwards, Scott went to pay a visit at a country house, where he expected to meet the “lady of his love.” Jane Anne Cranstoun was in the secret of his attachment, and knew, that however doubtful might
Miss ——’s feeling on that subject, she had a high admiration of Scott’s abilities, and often corresponded with him on literary matters; so, after he had left Edinburgh, it occurred to her that she might perhaps forward his views in this quarter, by presenting him in the character of a printed author. William Erskine being called into her counsels, a few copies of the ballad were forthwith thrown off in the most elegant style, and one richly bound and blazoned followed Scott in the course of a few days to the country. The verses were read and approved of, and Miss Cranstoun at least flattered herself that he had not made his first appearance in types to no purpose.*

I ought to have mentioned before, that in June, 1795, he was appointed one of the curators of the Advocates’ Library, an office always reserved for those members of the faculty who have the reputation of superior zeal in literary affairs. He had for colleagues David Hume, the Professor of Scots Law, and Malcolm Laing, the historian; and his discharge of his functions must have given satisfaction, for I find him further nominated, in March, 1796, together with Mr Robert Hodgson Cay, an accomplished gentleman, afterwards Judge of the Admiralty Court in Scotland, to ‘put the Faculty’s cabinet of medals in proper arrangement.’

On the 4th of June, 1796 (the birth-day of George III.), there seems to have been a formidable riot in Edinburgh, and Scott is found again in the front. On the 5th, he writes as follows to his aunt, Christian Rutherford, who was then in the north of Scotland, and had meant to visit, among other places, the residence of the chère adorable.’

* This story was told by the Countess of Purgstall on her deathbed to Captain Basil Hall. See his Schloss Hainfeld, p. 333.

“Edinburgh, 5th June, 1796.
“Ma Chère Amie,

“Nothing doubting that your curiosity will be upon the tenters to hear the wonderful events of the long-expected 4th of June, I take the pen to inform you that not one worth mentioning has taken place. Were I inclined to prolixity, I might, indeed, narrate at length how near a thousand gentlemen (myself among the number) offered their services to the magistrates to act as constables for the preservation of the peace—how their services were accepted—what fine speeches were made upon the occasion—how they were furnished with pretty painted brown batons—how they were assembled in the aisle of the New Church, and treated with claret and sweetmeats—how Sir John Whiteford was chased by the mob, and how Tom, Sandy Wood, and I rescued him, and dispersed his tormentors à beaux coups de batonshow the Justice-Clerk’s windows were broke by a few boys, and how a large body of constables and a press-gang of near two hundred men arrived, and were much disappointed at finding the coast entirely clear; with many other matters of equal importance, but of which you must be contented to remain in ignorance till you return to your castle. Seriously, every thing, with the exception of the very trifling circumstances above mentioned, was perfectly quiet—much more so than during any King’s birth-day I can recollect. That very stillness, however, shows that something is brewing among our friends the Democrats, which they will take their own time of bringing forward. By the wise precautions of the magistrates, or rather of the provost, and the spirited conduct of the gentlemen, I hope their designs will be frustrated. Our association meets to-night, when we are to be divided into districts according to the place of our abode, places of rendezvous and captains named; so that, upon the
hoisting of a flag on the Tron-steeple, and ringing out all the large bells, we can be on duty in less than five minutes. I am sorry to say that the complexion of the town seems to justify all precautions of this kind. I hope we shall demean ourselves as quiet and peaceable magistrates; and intend, for the purpose of learning the duties of my new office, to con diligently the instructions delivered to the watch by our brother Dogberry, of facetious memory. So much for information. By way of enquiry, pray let me know—that is, when you find any idle hour—how you accomplished the perilous passage of her Majestie’s Ferry without the assistance and escort of your preux-chevalier, and whether you will receive them on your return—how Miss R. and you are spending your time, whether stationary or otherwise—above all, whether you have been at *******? and all the &cs. &cs. which the question involves. Having made out a pretty long scratch, which, as Win Jenkins says, will take you some time to decipher, I shall only inform you farther that I shall tire excessively till you return to your shop. I beg to be remembered to Miss Kerr, and in particular to La Belle Jeanne. Best love to Miss Rutherford; and believe me ever, my dear
Miss Christy, sincerely and affectionately your

Walter Scott.”

During the autumn of 1796 he visited again his favourite haunts in Perthshire and Forfarshire. It was in the course of this tour that he spent a day or two at Montrose with his old tutor Mitchell, and astonished and grieved that worthy Presbyterian by his zeal about witches and fairies. The only letter of his written during this expedition, that I have recovered, was addressed to another of his clerical friends—one by no means of Mit-
chell’s stamp—
Mr Walker, the minister of Dunnotar, and it is chiefly occupied with an account of his researches at a vitrified fort, in Kincardineshire, commonly called Lady Fenella’s Castle, and, according to tradition, the scene of the murder of Kenneth II. by his mistress. While in the north, he visited also the residence of the lady who had now for so many years been the object of his attachment; and that his reception was not adequate to his expectations may be gathered pretty clearly from some expressions in a letter addressed to him when at Montrose by his friend and confidante, Miss Cranstoun.

To Walter Scott, Esq., Post-Office, Montrose.

Dear Scott,—Far be it from me to affirm that there are no diviners in the land. The voice of the people and the voice of God are loud in their testimony. Two years ago, when I was in the neighbourhood of Montrose, we had recourse for amusement one evening to chiromancy, or, as the vulgar say, having our fortunes read; and read mine were in such a sort, that either my letters must have been inspected, or the devil was by in his own proper person. I never mentioned the circumstance since, for obvious reasons; but now that you are on the spot, I feel it my bounden duty to conjure you not to put your shoes rashly from off your feet, for you are not standing on holy ground.

“I bless the gods for conducting your poor dear soul safely to Perth. When I consider the wilds, the forests, the lakes, the rocks and the spirits in which you must have whispered to their startled echoes, it amazeth me how you escaped. Had you but dismissed your little squire and Earwig,* and spent a few days as Or-

* A servant boy and pony.

lando would have done, all posterity might have profited by it; but to trot quietly away without so much as one stanza to despair—never talk to me of love again—never, never, never! I am dying for your collection of exploits. When will you return? In the mean time, Heaven speed you! Be sober, and hope to the end.

William Taylor’s translation of your ballad is published, and so inferior, that I wonder we could tolerate it. Dugald Stewart read yours to ********** the other day. When he came to the fetter dance,* he looked up, and poor ********** was sitting with his hands nailed to his knees, and the big tears rolling down his innocent nose in so piteous a manner, that Mr Stewart could not help bursting out a laughing. An angry man was
* “‘Dost fear? dost fear?—The moon shines clear;—
Dost fear to ride with me?
Hurrah! hurrah! the dead can ride!’—
Oh, William, let them be!’
“‘See there, see there! What yonder swings
And creaks ’mid whistling rain?’—
Gibbet and steel, the accursed wheel;
A murd’rer in his chain.
“‘Hollow! thou felon, follow here,
To bridal bed we ride;
And thou shalt prance a fetter dance
Before me and my bride.’
“And hurry, hurry! clash, clash, clash!
The wasted form descends;
And fleet as wind, through hazel bush,
The wild career attends.
“Tramp, tramp! along the land they rode;
Splash, splash! along the sea;
The scourge is red, the spur drops blood.
The flashing pebbles flee.”
**********. I have seen
another edition too, but it is below contempt. So many copies make the ballad famous, so that every day adds to your renown.

“This here place is very, very dull. Erskine is in London; my dear Thomson at Daily; Macfarlan hatching Kant and George* Fountainhall.† I have nothing more to tell you, but that I am most affectionately yours. Many an anxious thought I have about you. Farewell.—J. A. C.

The affair in which this romantic creature took so lively an interest, was now approaching its end. It was known, before this autumn closed, that the lady of his vows had finally promised her hand to his amiable rival; and, when the fact was announced, some of those who knew Scott the best appear to have entertained very serious apprehensions as to the effect which the disappointment might have upon his feelings. For example, one of those brothers of the Mountain wrote as follows to another of them, on the 12th October 1796: “Mr —— marries Miss ——. This is not good news. I always dreaded there was some self-deception on the part of our romantic friend, and I now shudder at the violence of his most irritable and ungovernable mind. Who is it that says, ‘Men have died, and worms have eaten them, but not for love?’ I hope sincerely it may be verified on this occasion.”

Scott had, however, in all likelihood, digested his agony during the solitary ride in the Highlands to which Miss Cranstoun’s last letter alludes.

Talking of this story with Lord Kinedder, I once asked him whether Scott never made it the subject

* George Cranstoun, Lord Corehouse.

† Decisions by Lord Fountainhall.

of verses at the period. His own confession, that, even during the time when he had laid aside the habit of versification, he did sometimes commit “a sonnet on a mistress’s eyebrow,” had not then appeared. Lord Kinedder answered, “O yes, he made many little stanzas about the lady, and he sometimes showed them to
Cranstoun, Clerk, and myself—but we really thought them in general very poor. Two things of the kind, however, have been preserved—and one of them was done just after the conclusion of the business.” He then took down a volume of the English Minstrelsy, and pointed out to me some lines on a violet, which had not at that time been included in Scott’s collected works. Lord Kinedder read them over in his usual impressive, though not quite unaffected, manner, and said, “I remember well that, when I first saw these, I told him they were his best; but he had touched them up afterwards.”

“The violet in her greenwood bower,
Where birchen boughs with hazels mingle,
May boast itself the fairest flower
In glen or copse or forest dingle.
“Though fair her gems of azure hue
Beneath the dewdrop’s weight reclining,
I’ve seen an eye of lovelier blue
More sweet through watery lustre shining.
“The summer sun that dew shall dry,
Ere yet the sun be past its morrow,
Nor longer in my false love’s eye
Remained the tear of parting sorrow!”

In turning over a volume of MS. papers, I have found a copy of verses, which, from the hand, Scott had evidently written down within the last ten years of his life. They are headed, “To Time—by a Lady”—but certain initials on the back satisfy me, that the authoress
was no other than the object of his first passion. I think I must be pardoned for transcribing the lines which had dwelt so long on his memory—leaving it to the reader’s fancy to picture the mood of mind in which the fingers of a grey-haired man may have traced such a relic of his youthful dreams.

“Friend of the wretch oppress’d with grief,
Whose lenient hand, though slow, supplies
The balm that lends to care relief,
That wipes her tears—that checks her sighs!
“’Tis thine the wounded soul to heal
That hopeless bleeds for sorrow’s smart,
From stern misfortune’s shaft to steal
The barb that rankles in the heart.
“What though with thee the roses fly,
And jocund youth’s gay reign is o’er;
Though dimm’d the lustre of the eye,
And hope’s vain dreams enchant no more;
“Yet in thy train come soft-eyed peace,
Indifference with her heart of snow;
At her cold touch, lo! sorrows cease,
No thorns beneath her roses grow.
“O haste to grant the suppliant’s prayer,
To me thy torpid calm impart;
Rend from my brow youth’s garland fair,
But take the thorn that’s in my heart.
‘Ah, why do fabling poets tell,
That thy fleet wings outstrip the wind?
Why feign thy course of joy the knell,
And call thy slowest pace unkind?
“To me thy tedious feeble pace
Comes laden with the weight of years;
With sighs I view morn’s blushing face,
And hail mild evening with my tears.”