LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter XII 1811-12

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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Of the L.4000 which Scott paid for the original farm of Abbotsford, he borrowed one half from his eldest brother. Major John Scott; the other moiety was raised by the Ballantynes, and advanced on the security of the as yet unwritten, though long meditated poem of Rokeby. He immediately, I believe by Terry’s counsel, requested Mr Stark of Edinburgh, an architect of whose talents he always spoke warmly, to give him a design for an ornamental cottage in the style of the old English vicarage-house. But before this could be done, Mr Stark died; and Scott’s letters will show how, in the sequel, his building plans, checked for a season by this occurrence, gradually expanded,—until twelve years afterwards the site was occupied not by a cottage but a castle.

His first notions are sketched as follows, in a letter addressed to Mr Morritt very shortly after the purchase. “We stay at Ashestiel this season, but migrate the next to our new settlements. I have fixed only two points
respecting my intended cottage—one is, that ‘it shall be in my garden, or rather kailyard—the other, that the little drawingroom shall open into a little conservatory, in which conservatory there shall be a fountain. These are articles of taste which I have long since determined upon; but I hope before a stone of my paradise is begun we shall meet and collogue upon it.”

Three months later (December 20th, 1811), he opens the design of his new poem in another letter to the squire of Rokeby, whose household, it appears, had just been disturbed by the unexpected accouchement of a fair visitant. The allusion to the Quarterly Review, towards the close, refers to an humorous article on Sir John Sinclair’s pamphlets about the Bullion Question—a joint production of Mr Ellis and Mr Canning.

To J. B. S. Morritt, Esq.
“My Dear Morritt,

“I received your kind letter a week or two ago. The little interlude of the bantling at Rokeby reminds me of a lady whose mother happened to produce her upon very short notice, between the hands of a game at whist, and who, from a joke of the celebrated David Hume, who was one of the players, lived long distinguished by the name of The Parenthesis. My wife had once nearly made a similar blunder in very awkward circumstances. We were invited to dine at Melville Castle (to which we were then near neighbours), with the Chief Baron* and his lady, its temporary inhabitants,—when behold, the Obadiah whom I despatched two hours before dinner from our cottage to summon the Dr Slop of Edinburgh, halting at Melville Lodge to rest his wearied horse,

* The late Right Honourable Robert Dundas, Chief Baron of the Scotch Court of Exchequer.

make apologies, and so forth, encountered the Melville Castle Obadiah sallying on the identical errand, for the identical man of skill, who, like an active knight-errant, relieved the two distressed dames within three hours of each other. A blessed duet they would have made if they had put off their crying bout, as it is called, till they could do it in concert.

“And now, I have a grand project to tell you of. Nothing less than a fourth romance, in verse; the theme, during the English civil wars of Charles I., and the scene, your own domain of Rokeby. I want to build my cottage a little better than my limited finances will permit out of my ordinary income; and although it is very true that an author should not hazard his reputation, yet, as Bob Acres says, I really think Reputation should take some care of the gentleman in return. Now, I have all your scenery deeply imprinted in my memory, and moreover, be it known to you, I intend to refresh its traces this ensuing summer, and to go as far as the borders of Lancashire, and the caves of Yorkshire, and so perhaps on to Derbyshire. I have sketched a story which pleases me, and I am only anxious to keep my theme quiet, for its being piddled upon by some of your Ready-to-catch literati, as John Bunyan calls them, would be a serious misfortune to me. I am not without hope of seducing you to be my guide a little way on my tour. Is there not some book (sense or nonsense, I care not) on the beauties of Teesdale I mean a descriptive work? If you can point it out or lend it me, you will do me a great favour, and no less if you can tell me any traditions of the period. By which party was Barnard Castle occupied? It strikes me that it should be held for the Parliament. Pray, help me in this, by truth, or fiction, or tradition,—I care not which, if it be picturesque. What the deuce is the name of that wild glen, where we had
such a clamber on horseback up a stone staircase?—Cat’s Cradle, or Cat’s Castle, I think it was. I wish also to have the true edition of the traditionary tragedy of your old house at Mortham, and the ghost thereunto appertaining, and you will do me yeoman’s service in compiling the relics of so valuable a legend. Item—Do you know any thing of a striking ancient castle belonging, I think, to the
Duke of Leeds, called Coningsburgh?* Grose notices it, but in a very flimsy manner. I once flew past it on the mail-coach, when its round tower and flying buttresses had a most romantic effect in the morning dawn.

“The Quarterly is beyond my praise, and as much beyond me as I was beyond that of my poor old nurse who died the other day. Sir John Sinclair has gotten the golden fleece at last. Dogberry would not desire a richer reward for having been written down an ass. L.6000 a-year!† Good faith, the whole reviews in Britain should rail at me, with my free consent, better cheap by at least a cypher. There is no chance, with all my engagements, to be at London this spring. My little boy Walter is ill with the measles, and I expect the rest to catch the disorder, which appears,* thank God, very mild. Mrs Scott joins in kindest compliments to Mrs Morritt, many merry Christmases to you and believe me, truly yours,

Walter Scott.”

I insert Mr Morritt’s answer, both for the light which

* See note, Ivanhoe, Waverley Novels, vol. xvii. pp. 335-339.

† Shortly after the appearance of the article alluded to, Sir John Sinclair was appointed cashier of Excise for Scotland. “It should be added,” says his biographer, “that the emoluments of the situation were greatly reduced at the death of Sir James Grant, his predecessor.”—Quarterly Journal of Agriculture, September 1836, p. 125.

it throws on various particular passages in the poem as we have it, and because it shows that some of those features in the general plan, which were unfavourably judged on its publication, had been early and very strongly recommended to the poet’s own consideration by the person whom, on this occasion, he was most anxious to please.

To Walter Scott, Esq.
“Rokeby, 28th December, 1811.
“My dear Scott,

“I begin at the top of my paper, because your request must be complied with, and I foresee that a letter on the antiquities of Teesdale will not be a short one. Your project delights me much, and I willingly contribute my mite to its completion. Yet, highly as I approve of the scene where you lay the events of your romance, I have, I think, some observations to make as to the period you have chosen for it. Of this, however, you will be a better judge after I have detailed my antiquarian researches. Now, as to Barnard Castle, it was built in Henry I.’s time, by Barnard, son of Guy Baliol, who landed with the Conqueror. It remained with the Baliols till their attainder by Edward I. The tomb of Alan of Galloway was here in Leland’s time; and he gives the inscription. Alan, if you remember, married Margaret of Huntingdon, David’s daughter, and was father, by her, of Devorgild, who married John Baliol, and from whom her son, John Baliol, claimed the crown of Scotland. Edward I. granted the castle and liberties to Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick; it descended (with that title) to the Nevills, and by Ann Nevill to Richard Duke of Gloucester, afterwards King Richard III. It does not appear to whom Henry VII. or his son re-granted it, but it fell soon into the hands of the Nevills, Earls of Westmoreland, by whom it was
forfeited in the rising of the North. It was granted by
James I. to the citizens of London, from whom Sir Henry Vane received it by purchase. It does not seem to have ever been used as a place of strength after the rising of the North; and when the Vanes bought it of the citizens, it was probably in a dismantled state. It was, however, a possession of the Vanes before the Civil Wars, and, therefore, with a safe conscience you may swear it stood for the Parliament. The lady for whose ghost you enquire at Rokeby, has been so buried in uncertainty, you may make what you like of her. The most interesting fiction makes her the heiress of the Rokebys, murdered in the woods of the Greta by a greedy collateral who inherited the estate. She reached the house before she expired, and her blood was extant in my younger days at Mortham tower. Others say it was a Lady Rokeby, the wife of the owner, who was shot in the walks by robbers; but she certainly became a ghost, and, under the very poetic nom de guerre of Mortham Dobby, she appeared dressed as a fine lady, with a piece of white silk trailing behind her—without a head, indeed (though no tradition states how she lost so material a member), but with many of its advantages for she had long hair on her shoulders and eyes, nose, and mouth, in her breast. The parson once, by talking Latin to her, confined her under the bridge that crosses the Greta at my dairy, but the arch being destroyed by floods in 1771, became incapable of containing a ghost any longer, and she was seen after that time by some of the older parishioners. I often heard of her in my early youth, from a sibyl who lived in the park to the age of 105, but since her death I believe the history has become obsolete.

“The Rokebys were at all times loyal, at least from Henry IV. downward. They lived early at Mortham
tower, which was, I believe, a better building than the tower of Rokeby, for here also was one where my house now stands. I fancy they got Mortham by marriage.* Colonel Rokeby, the last possessor of the old blood, was ruined in the Civil Wars by his loyalty and unthriftiness, and the estates were bought by the Robinsons, one of whom the long
Sir Thomas Robinson, so well-known and well-quizzed in the time of our grandfathers, after laying out most of the estate on this place, sold the place and the estate together to my father in 1769. Oliver Cromwell paid a visit to Barnard Castle in his way from Scotland, October, 1648. He does not seem to have been in the castle, but lodged in the town, whence I conclude the castle was then uninhabitable. Now I would submit to you, whether, considering the course of events, it would not be expedient to lay the time of your romance as early as the War of the Roses. For, 1st. As you seem to hint that there will be a ghost or two in it, like the King of Bohemia’s giants, they will be ‘more out of the way.’ 2d. Barnard Castle, at the time I propose, belonged to Nevills and Plantagenets, of whom something advantageous (according to your cavalier views) may be brought forward; whereas, a short time before the Civil Wars of the Parliament, the Vanes became possessors, and still remain so; of whom, if any Tory bard should be able to say any thing obliging, it will certainly be ‘insigne, recens, adhuc indicium ore alio,’ and do honour to his powers of imagination. 3d. The knights of Rokeby itself were of high rank and fair domain at the earlier

* The heiress of Mortham married Rokeby in the reign of Edward II.; and his own castle at Rokeby having been destroyed by the Scotch after the battle of Bannockburn, he built one on his wife’s estate—the same of which considerable remains still exist—on the northern bank of the Greta.

period, and were ruining themselves ignobly at the other. 4th. Civil war for civil war; the first had two poetical sides, and the last only one; for the roundheads, though I always thought them politically right, were sad materials for poetry; even
Milton cannot make much of them. I think no time suits so well with a romance, of which the scene lies in this country, as the Wars of the two Roses—unless you sing the rising of the North; and then you will abuse Queen Elizabeth, and be censured as an abettor of Popery. How you would be involved in political controversy—with all our Whigs, who are anti-Stuarts; and all our Tories, who are anti-Papistical! I therefore see no alternative but boldly to venture back to the days of the holy King Harry; for, God knows, it is difficult to say any thing civil of us since that period. Consider only, did not Cromwell himself pray that the Lord would deliver him from Sir Harry Vane? and what will you do with him? still more, if you take into the account the improvements in and about the castle to which yourself was witness when we visited it together?*

“There is a book of a few pages, describing the rides through and about Teesdale; I have it not, but if I can get it I will send it. It is very bare of information, but gives names. If you can get the third volume of Hutchinson’s History of Durham, it would give you some useful bits of information, though very ill written. The glen where we clambered up to Cat-castle is itself called Deepdale. I fear we have few traditions that have survived the change of farms, and property of all sorts,

* Mr Morritt alludes to the mutilation of a curious vaulted roof of extreme antiquity, in the great tower of Barnard Castle, occasioned by its conversion into a manufactory of patent shot;—an improvement at which the Poet had expressed some indignation.

which has long taken place in this neighbourhood. But we have some poetical names remaining, of which we none of us know the antiquity, or at least the origin. Thus, in the scamper we took from Deepdale and Cat-castle, we rode next, if you remember, to Cotherstone, an ancient village of the Fitzhughs on the Tees, whence I showed you a rock rising over the crown of the wood, still called Pendragon Castle. The river that joins the Tees at Cotherstone is yclept the Balder, I fancy in honour of the son of Odin; for the farm contiguous to it retains the name of Woden’s Croft. The parish in which it stands is Romaldkirk, the church of St Romald the hermit, and was once a hermitage itself in Teesdale forest. The parish next to Rokeby, on the Tees below my house, is Wycliff, where the old
reformer was born, and the day-star of the Reformation first rose on England. The family of Rokeby, who were the proprietors of this place, were valiant and knightly. They seem to have had good possessions at the Conquest (see Doomsday Book); in Henry III.’s reign they were Sheriffs of Yorkshire. In Edward II.’s reign, Froissart informs us, that, when the Scotch army decamped in the night so ingeniously from Weardale that nobody knew the direction of their march, a hue and cry was raised after, them, and a reward of a hundred merks annual value in land was offered by the crown for whoever could discover them, and that de Rokeby—I think Sir Ralph—was the fortunate knight who ascertained their quarters on the moors near Hexham. In the time of Henry IV., the High-Sheriff of Yorkshire, who overthrew Northumberland and drove him to Scotland after the battle at Shrewsbury, was also a Rokeby. Tradition says that this sheriff was before this an adherent of the Percys, and was the identical knight who dissuaded Hotspur from the enterprise, on whose letter the angry warrior comments so
freely in
Shakspeare. They are indeed, I think, mentioned as adherents of the Percys in Chevy Chace, and fought under their banner; I hope, therefore, that they broke that connexion from pure patriotism, and not for filthy lucre. Such are all the annals that occur to me at present. If you will come here we can summon a synod of the oldest women in the country, and you shall cross-examine them as much as you please. There are many romantic spots, and old names rather than remains of peels, and towers, once called castles, which belonged to Scroops, Fitzhughs, and Nevills, with which you should be intimate before you finish your poem, and also the abbots and monks of Egglestone, who were old and venerable people, if you carry your story back into Romish times; and you will allow that the beauty of the situation deserves it, if you recollect the view from and near the bridge between me and Barnard Castle. Coningsburgh Castle, a noble building as you say, stands between Doncaster and Rotherham. I think it belongs to Lord Fitzwilliam, but am not sure. You may easily find the account of it in Grose, or any of the other antiquarians. The building is a noble circular tower, buttressed all round, and with walls of immoderate thickness. It is of a very early era, but I do not know its date,

“I have almost filled my letter with antiquarianism; but will not conclude without repeating how much your intention has charmed us. The scenery of our rivers deserves to become classic ground, and I hope the scheme will induce you to visit and revisit it often. I will contrive to ride with you to Wenslydale and the Caves at least, and the border of Lancashire, &c. if I can; and to facilitate that trip, I hope you will bring Mrs Scott here, that our dames may not be impatient of our absence. ‘I know each dale, and every alley green,’ between
Rokeby and the Lakes and Caves, and have no scruple in recommending my own guidance, under which you will be far more likely to make discoveries than by yourself; for the people have many of them no knowledge of their own country. Should I, in consequence of your celebrity, be obliged to leave Rokeby from the influx of cockney romancers, artists, illustrators, and sentimental tourists, I shall retreat to Ashestiel, or to your new cottage, and thus visit on you the sins of your writings. At all events, however, I shall raise the rent of my inn at Greta bridge on the first notice of your book, as I hear the people at Callander have made a fortune by you. Pray give our kindest and best regards to Mrs Scott, and believe me ever, dear
Scott, yours very truly,

J. B. S. Morritt.”

In January, 1812, Scott entered upon the enjoyment of his proper salary as a clerk of Session, which, with his sheriffdom, gave him from this time till very near the close of his life, a professional income of L.1600 a-year. On the 11th of the same month he lost his kind friend and first patron, Henry, third Duke of Buccleuch, and fifth of Queensberry. Both these events are mentioned in the following letter to Joanna Baillie, who, among other things, had told Scott that the materials for his purse were now on her table, and expressed her anxiety to know who was the author of some beautiful lines on the recent death of their friend, James Grahame, the poet of the Sabbath. These verses had, it appears, found their way anonymously into the newspapers.

To Miss Joanna Baillie, Hampstead.
“January 17th, 1812.
“My dear friend,

“The promise of the purse has flattered my imagi-
nation so very agreeably that I cannot help sending you an ancient silver mouth-piece, to which, if it pleases your taste, you may adapt your intended labours: this, besides, is a genteel way of tying you down to your promise; and to bribe you still farther, I assure you it shall not be put to the purpose of holding bank notes or vulgar bullion, but reserved as a place of deposit for some of my pretty little medals and nicknackatories. When I do make another poetical effort, I shall certainly expect the sum you mention from the booksellers, for they have had too good bargains of me hitherto, and I fear I shall want a great deal of money to make my cottage exactly what I should like it. Mean while, between ourselves, my income has been very much increased since I wrote to you, in a different way. My predecessor in the office of Clerk of Session retired to make room for me, on the amiable condition of retaining all the emoluments during his life, which, from my wish to retire from the bar and secure a certain though distant income, I was induced to consent to; and considering his advanced age and uncertain health, the bargain was really not a bad one. But alas! like Sindbad’s old man of the sea, my coadjutor’s strength increased prodigiously after he had fairly settled himself on my shoulders, so that after five years’ gratuitous labour I began to tire of my burden. Fortunately,
Mr Bankes’ late superannuation act provides a rateable pension for office-holders obliged to retire after long and faithful services; and my old friend very handsomely consented to be transferred from my galled shoulders to the broad back of the public, although he is likely to sustain a considerable diminution of income by the exchange, to which he has declared himself willing to submit as a penalty for having lived longer than he or I expected. To me it will make a difference of
L.1300 a-year, no trifle to us who have no wish to increase our expense in a single particular, and who could support it on our former income without inconvenience. This I tell you in confidence, because I know you will be very well pleased with any good fortune which comes in my way. Every body who cares a farthing for poetry is delighted with your volume, and well they may. You will neither be shocked nor surprised at hearing that
Mr Jeffrey has announced himself of a contrary opinion. So, at least, I understand, for our very ideas of what is poetry differ so widely, that we rarely talk upon these subjects. There is something in his mode of reasoning that leads me greatly to doubt whether, notwithstanding the vivacity of his imagination, he really has any feeling of poetical genius, or whether he has worn it all off by perpetually sharpening his wit on the grindstone of criticism.

“I am very glad that you met my dear friend, George Ellis,—a wonderful man, who, through the life of a statesman and politician, conversing with princes, wits, fine ladies, and fine gentlemen, and acquainted with all the intrigues and tracasseries of the cabinets and ruelles of foreign courts, has yet retained all warm and kindly feelings which render a man amiable in society, and the darling of his friends.

“The author of the elegy upon poor Grahame, is John Wilson, a young man of very considerable poetical powers. He is now engaged in a poem called the Isle of Palms, something in the style of Southey. He is an eccentric genius, and has fixed himself upon the banks of Windermere, but occasionally resides in Edinburgh, where he now is. Perhaps you have seen him;—his father was a wealthy Paisley manufacturer—his mother a sister of Robert Sym. He seems an excellent, warm-hearted,
and enthusiastic young man; something too much, perhaps, of the latter quality, places him among the list of originals.

“Our streets in Edinburgh are become as insecure as your houses in Wapping. Only think of a formal association among nearly fifty apprentices, aged from twelve to twenty, to scour the streets and knock down and rob all whom they found in their way. This they executed on the last night of the year with such spirit, that two men have died, and several others are dangerously ill, from the wanton treatment they received. The watchword of these young heroes when they met with resistance was—Mar him, a word of dire import; and which, as they were all armed with bludgeons loaded with lead, and were very savage, they certainly used in the sense of Ratcliffe Highway. The worst of all this is not so much the immediate evil, which a severe example* will probably check for the present, as that the formation and existence of such an association, holding regular meetings and keeping regular minutes, argues a woful negligence in the masters of these boys, the tradesmen and citizens of Edinburgh, of that wholesome domestic discipline which they ought, in justice to God and to man, to exercise over the youth intrusted to their charge; a negligence which cannot fail to be productive of every sort of vice, crime, and folly, among boys of that age.

“Yesterday I had the melancholy task of attending the funeral of the good old Duke of Buccleuch. It was, by his own direction, very private; but scarce a

* Three of these lads, all under eighteen years of age, were executed on the scene of one of the murders here alluded to, April the 22d, 1812. Their youth and penitence excited the deepest compassion; but never certainly was a severe example more necessary.

dry eye among the assistants—a rare tribute to a person whose high rank and large possessions removed him so far out of the social sphere of private friendship. But the Duke’s mind was moulded upon the kindliest and most single-hearted model, and arrested the affections of all who had any connexion with him. He is truly a great loss to Scotland, and will be long missed and lamented, though the successor to his rank is heir also to his generous spirit and affections. He was my kind friend. Ever yours,

W. Scott.”

The next of his letters to Joanna Baillie is curious, as giving his first impressions on reading Childe Harold. It contains also a striking sketch of the feelings he throughout life expressed, as to what he had observed of society in London with a not less characteristic display of some of his own minor amusements.

To Miss Joanna Baillie.
“Ashestiel, April 4th, 1812.

“I ought not, even in modern gratitude, which may be moved by the gift of a purse, much less in minstrel sympathy, which values it more as your work than if it were stuffed with guineas, to have delayed thanking you, my kind friend, for such an elegant and acceptable token of your regard. My kindest and best thanks also attend the young lady who would not permit the purse to travel untenanted.* I shall be truly glad when I can offer them in person, but of that there is no speedy prospect. I don’t believe I shall see London this great while again, which I do not very much regret, were it

* The purse contained an old coin from Joanna Baillie’s niece, the daughter of the Doctor.

not that it postpones the pleasure of seeing you and about half-a-dozen other friends. Without having any of the cant of loving retirement, and solitude, and rural pleasures, and so forth, I really have no great pleasure in the general society of London; I have never been there long enough to attempt any thing like living in my own way, and the immense length of the streets separates the objects you are interested in so widely from each other, that three parts of your time are past in endeavouring to dispose of the fourth to some advantage. At Edinburgh, although in general society we are absolute mimics of London, and imitate them equally in late hours, and in the strange precipitation with which we hurry from one place to another, in search of the society which we never sit still to enjoy, yet still people may manage their own parties and motions their own way. But all this is limited to my own particular circumstances,—for in a city like London, the constant resident has beyond all other places the power of conducting himself exactly as he likes. Whether this is entirely to be wished or not may indeed be doubted. I have seldom felt myself so fastidious about books, as in the midst of a large library, where one is naturally tempted to imitate the egregious epicure who condescended to take only one bite out of the sunny side of a peach. I suspect something of scarcity is necessary to make you devour the intellectual banquet with a good relish and digestion, as we know to be the case with respect to corporeal sustenance. But to quit all this egotism, which is as little as possible to the purpose, you must be informed that
Erskine has enshrined your letter among his household papers of the most precious kind. Among your thousand admirers you have not a warmer or more kindly heart; he tells me Jeffrey talks very favourably of this volume. I should be glad, for
his own sake, that he took some opportunity to retrace the paths of his criticism; but after pledging himself so deeply as he has done, I doubt much his giving way even unto conviction. As to my own share, I am labouring sure enough, but I have not yet got on the right path where I can satisfy myself I shall go on with courage, for diffidence does not easily beset me, and the public, still more than the ladies, ‘stoop to the forward and the bold;’ but then in either case, I fancy, the suitor for favour must be buoyed up by some sense of deserving it, whether real or supposed. The celebrated apology of
Dryden for a passage which he could not defend, ‘that he knew when he wrote it, it was bad enough to succeed,’ was, with all deference to his memory, certainly invented to justify the fact after it was committed.

“Have you seen the Pilgrimage of Childe Harold, by Lord Byron? It is, I think, a very clever poem, bat gives no good symptom of the writer’s heart or morals; his hero, notwithstanding the affected antiquity of the style in some parts, is a modern man of fashion and fortune, worn out and satiated with the pursuits of dissipation, and although there is a caution against it in the preface, you cannot for your soul avoid concluding that the author, as he gives an account of his own travels, is also doing so in his own character. Now really this is too bad; vice ought to be a little more modest, and it must require impudence at least equal to the noble Lord’s other powers, to claim sympathy gravely for the ennui arising from his being tired of his wassailers and his paramours. There is a monstrous deal of conceit in it too, for it is informing the inferior part of the world that their little old-fashioned scruples of limitation are not worthy of his regard, while his fortune and possessions are such as have put all sorts of gratifications too much
in his power to afford him any pleasure. Yet with all this conceit and assurance there is much poetical merit in the book, and I wish you would read it.

“I have got Rob Roy’s gun, a long Spanish-barrelled piece, with his initials, R. M. C., for Robert Macgregor Campbell, which latter name he assumed in compliment to the Argyle family, who afforded him a good deal of private support, because he was a thorn in the side of their old rival house of Montrose. I have, moreover, a relic of a more heroic character; it is a sword which was given to the great Marquis of Montrose by Charles I., and appears to have belonged to his father, our gentle King Jamie. It had been preserved for a long time at Gartmore, but the present proprietor was selling his library, or great part of it, and John Ballantyne, the purchaser, wishing to oblige me, would not conclude a bargain, which the gentleman’s necessity made him anxious about, till he flung the sword into the scale; it is, independent of its other merits, a most beautiful blade. I think a dialogue between this same sword and Rob Roy’s gun, might be composed with good effect.

“We are here in a most extraordinary pickle—considering that we have just entered upon April, when according to the poet, ‘primroses paint the gay plain,’ instead of which both hill and valley are doing penance in a sheet of snow of very respectable depth. Mail-coaches have been stopt—shepherds, I grieve to say, lost in the snow; in short, we experience all the hardships of a January storm at this late period of the spring; the snow has been near a fortnight, and if it departs with dry weather, we may do well enough, but if wet weather should ensue, the wheat crop through Scotland will be totally lost. My thoughts are anxiously turned to the Peninsula, though I think the Spaniards have
but one choice, and that is to choose
Lord Wellington dictator; I have no doubt he could put things right yet. As for domestic politics, I really give them very little consideration. Your friends, the Whigs, are angry enough, I suppose, with the Prince Regent, but those who were most apt to flatter his follies, have little reason to complain of the usage they have met with—and he may probably think that those who were true to the father in his hour of calamity, may have the best title to the confidence of the son. The excellent private character of the old King gave him great advantages as the head of a free government. I fear the Prince will long experience the inconveniences of not having attended to his own. Mrs Siddons, as fame reports, has taken another engagement at Covent Garden: surely she is wrong; she should have no twilight, but set in the full possession of her powers.*

“I hope Campbell’s plan of lectures will answer.† I think the brogue may be got over, if he will not trouble himself by attempting to correct it, but read with fire and feeling; he is an animated reciter, but I never heard him read.

“I have a great mind, before sealing this long scrawl, to send you a list of the contents of the purse as they at present stand,

“1st. Miss Elizabeth Baillie’s purse-penny, called by the learned a denarius of the Empress Faustina.

“2d. A gold brooch, found in a bog in Ireland,

* Mrs Siddons made a farewell appearance at Covent Garden, as Lady Macbeth, on the 29th of June, 1812; but she afterwards resumed her profession for short intervals more than once, and did not finally bid adieu to the stage until the 9th of June, 1819.

Mr Thomas Campbell had announced his first course of lectures on English Poetry about this time.

which, for aught I know, fastened the mantle of an Irish Princess in the days of Cuthullin, or Neal of the nine hostages.

“3d. A toadstone—a celebrated amulet, which was never lent to any one unless upon a bond for a thousand merks for its being safely restored. It was sovereign for protecting new born children and their mothers from the power of the fairies, and has been repeatedly borrowed from my mother, on account of this virtue.

“4th. A coin of Edward I., found in Dryburgh Abbey.

“5th. A funeral ring, with Dean Swift’s hair.

“So you see my nicknackatory is well supplied, though the purse is more valuable than all its contents.

“Adieu, my dear friend, Mrs Scott joins in kind respects to your sister, the Doctor, and Mrs Baillie,

Walter Scott.”

A month later, the Edinburgh Review on Lord Byron’s Romaunt having just appeared, Scott says to Mr Morritt (May 12), “I agree very much in what you say of Childe Harold. Though there is something provoking and insulting to morality and to feeling in his misanthropical ennui, it gives, nevertheless, an odd piquancy to his descriptions and reflections. This is upon the whole a piece of most extraordinary power, and may rank its author with our first poets. I see the Edinburgh Review has hauled its wind.”

Lord Byron was, I need not say, the prime object of interest this season in the fashionable world of London; nor did the Prince Regent owe the subsequent hostilities of the noble Poet to any neglect on his part of the brilliant genius which had just been fully revealed in the Childe Harold. Mr Murray, the publisher of the Romaunt, on hearing, on the 29th of June, Lord Byron’s
account of his introduction to his Royal Highness, conceived that, by communicating it to
Scott, he might afford the opportunity of such a personal explanation between his two poetical friends, as should obliterate on both sides whatever painful feelings had survived the offensive allusions to Marmion in the English Bards and Scotch Reviewers; and this good-natured step had the desired consequences. Mr Moore says that the correspondence “begun in some enquiries which Mr Scott addressed to Lord Byron on the subject of his interview with Royalty;”* but he would not have used that expression, had he seen the following letter:—

To the Right Honourable Lord Byron, &c. &c.
Care of John Murray, Esq., Fleet Street, London.
“Edinburgh, July 3d, 1812.
“My Lord,

“I am uncertain if I ought to profit by the apology which is afforded me, by a very obliging communication from our acquaintance, John Murray of Fleet Street, to give your Lordship the present trouble. But my intrusion concerns a large debt of gratitude due to your Lordship, and a much less important, one of explanation, which I think I owe to myself, as I dislike standing low in the opinion of any person whose talents rank so highly in my own, as your Lordship’s most deservedly do.

“The first count, as our technical language expresses it, relates to the high pleasure I have received from the Pilgrimage of Childe Harold, and from its precursors; the former, with all its classical associations, some of which are lost on so poor a scholar as I am, possesses the additional charm of vivid and animated description, mingled with original sentiment;—

* Life and Works of Lord Byron, vol. ii. p. 155.

but besides this debt, which I owe your Lordship in common with the rest of the reading public, I have to acknowledge my particular thanks for your having distinguished by praise, in the work which your Lordship rather dedicated in general to satire, some of my own literary attempts. And this leads me to put your Lordship right in the circumstances respecting the sale of
Marmion, which had reached you in a distorted and misrepresented form, and which, perhaps, I have some reason to complain, were given to the public without more particular enquiry. The poem, my Lord, was not written upon contract for a sum of money—though it is too true that it was sold and published in a very unfinished state, which I have since regretted, to enable me to extricate myself from some engagements which fell suddenly upon me, by the unexpected misfortunes of a very near relation. So that, to quote statute and precedent, I really come under the case cited by Juvenal, though not quite in the extremity of the classic author—
Esurit, intactam Paridi nisi vendit Agaven.
And so much for a mistake, into which your Lordship might easily fall, especially as I generally find it the easiest way of stopping sentimental compliments on the beauty, &c., of certain poetry, and the delights which the author must have taken in the composition, by assigning the readiest reason that will cut the discourse short, upon a subject where one must appear either conceited, or affectedly rude and cynical.

“As for my attachment to literature, I sacrificed for the pleasure of pursuing it very fair chances of opulence and professional honours, at a time of life when I fully knew their value, and I am not ashamed to say, that in deriving advantages in compensation from the partial
favour of the public, I have added some comforts and elegancies to a bare independence. I am sure your Lordship’s good sense will easily put this unimportant egotism to the right account,—for though I do not know the motive would make me enter into controversy with a fair or an unfair literary critic—I may be well excused for a wish to clear my personal character from any tinge of mercenary or sordid feeling in the eyes of a contemporary of genius. Your Lordship will likewise permit me to add, that you would have escaped the trouble of this explanation, had I not understood that the satire alluded to had been suppressed, not to be reprinted. For in removing a prejudice on your Lordship’s own mind, I had no intention of making any appeal by or through you to the public, since my own habits of life have rendered my defence as to avarice or rapacity rather too easy.

“Leaving this foolish matter where it lies, I have to request your Lordship’s acceptance of my best thanks for the flattering communication which you took the trouble to make Mr Murray on my behalf, and which could not fail to give me the gratification, which I am sure you intended. I dare say our worthy bibliopolist overcoloured his report of your Lordship’s conversation with the Prince Regent, but I owe my thanks to him nevertheless, for the excuse he has given me for intruding these pages on your Lordship. Wishing you health, spirit, and perseverance, to continue your pilgrimage through the interesting countries which you have still to pass with Childe Harold, I have the honour to be, my Lord, your Lordship’s obedient servant,

Walter Scott.

“P.S. Will your Lordship permit me a verbal criticism on Childe Harold, were it only to show I have read his Pilgrimage with attention? ‘Nuestra Dama de la Pena’ means, I suspect, not our Lady of Crime or
Punishment, but our Lady of the Cliff; the difference is, I believe, merely in the accentuation of ‘peña.’”

Lord Byron’s answer was in these terms:—

To Walter Scott, Esq. Edinburgh.
“St James’s Street, July 6, 1812.

“I have just been honoured with your letter.—I feel sorry that you should have thought it worth while to notice the evil works of my nonage, as the thing is suppressed voluntarily, and your explanation is too kind not to give me pain. The Satire was written when I was very young and very angry, and fully bent on displaying my wrath and my wit, and now I am haunted by the ghosts of my wholesale assertions. I cannot sufficiently thank you for your praise; and now, waiving myself, let me talk to you of the Prince Regent. He ordered me to be presented to him at a ball: and after some sayings, peculiarly pleasing from royal lips, as to my own attempts, he talked to me of you and your immortalities; he preferred you to every bard past and present, and asked which of your works pleased me most. It was a difficult question. I answered, I thought the Lay. He said his own opinion was nearly similar. In speaking of the others, I told him that I thought you more particularly the poet of Princes, as they never appeared more fascinating than in Marmion and the Lady of the Lake. He was pleased to coincide, and to dwell on the description of your Jameses as no less royal than poetical. He spoke alternately of Homer and yourself, and seemed well acquainted with both; so that (with the exception of the Turks and your humble servant) you were in very good company. I defy Murray to have exaggerated his
Royal Highness’s opinion of your powers, nor can I pretend to enumerate all he said on the subject; but it may give you pleasure to hear that it was conveyed in language which would only suffer by my attempting to transcribe it; and with a tone and taste which gave me a very high idea of his abilities and accomplishments, which I had hitherto considered as confined to manners, certainly superior to those of any living gentleman.

“This interview was accidental. I never went to the levee; for having seen the courts of Mussulman and Catholic sovereigns, my curiosity was sufficiently allayed: and my politics being as perverse as my rhymes, I had, in fact, no business there. To be thus praised by your Sovereign must be gratifying to you; and if that gratification is not alloyed by the communication being made through me, the bearer of it will consider himself very fortunately, and sincerely, your obliged and obedient servant,


“P.S.—Excuse this scrawl, scratched in a great hurry, and just after a journey.”

Scott immediately replied as follows:—

To the Right Hon. Lord Byron, &c. &c. &c.
“Abbotsford near Melrose, 16th July, 1812.
“My Lord,

“I am much indebted to your Lordship for your kind and friendly letter: and much gratified by the Prince Regent’s good opinion of my literary attempts. I know so little of courts or princes, that any success I may have had in hitting off the Stuarts is, I am afraid, owing to a little old Jacobite leaven which I sucked in with the numerous traditionary tales that amused my infancy. It is a fortunate thing for the Prince himself that he has
a literary turn, since nothing can so effectually relieve the ennui of state, and the anxieties of power.

“I hope your Lordship intends to give us more of Childe Harold. I was delighted that my friend Jeffrey—for such, in despite of many a feud, literary and political, I always esteem him—has made so handsomely the amende honorable for not having discovered in the bud the merits of the flower; and I am happy to understand that the retractation so handsomely made was received with equal liberality. These circumstances may perhaps some day lead you to revisit Scotland, which has a maternal claim upon you, and I need not say what pleasure I should have in returning my personal thanks for the honour you have done me. I am labouring here to contradict an old proverb, and make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, namely, to convert a bare haugh and brae, of about 100 acres, into a comfortable farm. Now, although I am living in a gardener’s hut, and although the adjacent ruins of Melrose have little to tempt one who has seen those of Athens, yet, should you take a tour which is so fashionable at this season, I should be very happy to have an opportunity of introducing you to any thing remarkable in my fatherland. My neighbour, Lord Somerville, would, I am sure, readily supply the accommodations which I want, unless you prefer a couch in a closet, which is the utmost hospitality I have at present to offer. The fair, or shall I say the sage, Apreece that was, Lady Davy that is, is soon to show us how much science she leads captive in Sir Humphrey; so your Lordship sees, as the citizen’s wife says in the farce—‘Threadneedle Street has some charms,’ since they procure us such celebrated visitants. As for me, I would rather cross-question your Lordship about the outside of Parnassus, than learn the nature of the contents of all the other mountains in the world. Pray,
when under ‘its cloudy canopy’ did you hear any thing of the celebrated Pegasus? Some say he has been brought off with other curiosities to Britain, and now covers at Tattersal’s. I would fain have a cross from him out of my little moss-trooper’s Galloway, and I think your Lordship can tell me how to set about it, as I recognise his true paces in the high-mettled description of
Ali Pacha’s military court.

“A wise man said—or, if not, I, who am no wise man, now say, that there is no surer mark of regard than when your correspondent ventures to write nonsense to you. Having, therefore, like Dogberry, bestowed all my tediousness upon your Lordship, you are to conclude that I have given you a convincing proof that I am very much your Lordship’s obliged and very faithful servant,

Walter Scott.”

From this time the epistolary intercourse between Scott and Byron continued to be kept up; and it erelong assumed a tone of friendly confidence equally honourable to both these great competitors, without rivalry, for the favour of the literary world.

The date of the letter last quoted immediately preceded that of Scott’s second meeting with another of the most illustrious of his contemporaries. He had met Davy at Mr Wordsworth’s when in the first flush of his celebrity in 1804, and been, as one of his letters states, much delighted with “the simple and unaffected style of his bearing—the most agreeable characteristic of high genius.” Sir Humphrey, now at the summit of his fame, had come by his marriage with Scott’s accomplished relation, into possession of an ample fortune; and he and his bride were among the first of the poet’s visitants in the original cabin at Abbotsford.

The following letter is an answer to one in which Mr
Southey had besought Scott’s good offices in behalf of an application which he thought of making to be appointed Historiographer Royal, in the room of Mr Dutens, just dead. It will be seen that both poets regarded with much alarm the symptoms of popular discontent which appeared in various districts, particularly among the Luddites, as they were called, of Yorkshire, during the uncertain condition of public affairs consequent on the assassination of the Prime Minister, Mr Percival, by Bellingham, in the lobby of the House of Commons, on the 11th of May, 1812; and that Scott had, in his capacity of Sheriff, had his own share in suppressing the tumults of the only manufacturing town of Selkirkshire. The last sentence of the letter alludes to a hint dropped in the Edinburgh Review, that the author of the historical department of the Edinburgh Annual Register, ought to be called to the bar of the House of Commons, in consequence of the bold language in which he had criticized the parliamentary hostility of the Whigs to the cause of Spain.

To Robert Southey, Esq., Keswick.
“Edinburgh, 4th June, 1812.
“My dear Southey,

“It is scarcely necessary to say that the instant I had your letter I wrote to the only friend I have in power, Lord Melville (if indeed he be now in power), begging him for the sake of his own character, for the remembrance of his father who wished you sincerely well, and by every other objuration I could think of, to back your application. All I fear, if administration remain, is the influence of the clergy, who have a strange disposition to job away among themselves the rewards of literature. But I fear they are all to
pieces above stairs, and much owing to rashness and mismanagement; for if they could not go on without
Canning and Wellesley, they certainly should from the beginning have invited them in as companions, and not mere retainers. On the whole, that cursed compound of madness and villany has contrived to do his country more mischief at one blow than all her sages and statesmen will be able to repair perhaps in our day. You are quite right in apprehending a Jacquerie; the country is mined below our feet. Last week, learning that a meeting was to be held among the weavers of the large manufacturing village of Galashiels, for the purpose of cutting a man’s web from his loom, I apprehended the ringleaders and disconcerted the whole project; but in the course of my enquiries, imagine my surprise at discovering a bundle of letters and printed manifestoes, from which it appeared that the Manchester Weavers’ Committee corresponds with every manufacturing town in the South and West of Scotland, and levies a subsidy of 2s. 6d. per man—(an immense sum)—for the ostensible purpose of petitioning Parliament for redress of grievances, but doubtless to sustain them in their revolutionary movements. An energetic administration, which had the confidence of the country, would soon check all this; but it is our misfortune to lose the pilot when the ship is on the breakers. But it is sickening to think of our situation.

“I can hardly think there could have been any serious intention of taking the hint of the Review, and yet liberty has so often been made the pretext of crushing its own best supporters, that I am always prepared to expect the most tyrannical proceedings from professed demagogues.

“I am uncertain whether the Chamberlain will be
liable to removal—if not I should hope you may be pretty sure of your object. Believe me ever yours faithfully,

Walter Scott.

“4th June.—What a different birthday from those I have seen! It is likely I shall go to Rokeby for a few days this summer; and if so, I will certainly diverge to spend a day at Keswick.”

Mr Southey’s application was unsuccessful—the office he wished for having been bestowed, as soon as it fell vacant, on a person certainly of vastly inferior literary pretensions—the late Rev. J. S. Clarke, D.D., private librarian to the Regent.