LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter IX 1810

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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Walter Scott was at this epoch in the highest spirits, and having strong reasons of various kinds for his resolution to avail himself of the gale of favour, only hesitated in which quarter to explore the materials of some new romance. His first and most earnest desire was to spend a few months with the British army in the Peninsula, but this he soon resigned, from an amiable motive, which a letter presently to be quoted will explain. He then thought of revisiting Rokeby for he had, from the first day that he spent on that magnificent domain, contemplated it as the scenery of a future poem. But the burst of enthusiasm which followed the appearance of the Lady of the Lake finally swayed him to undertake a journey, deeper than he had as yet gone, into the Highlands, and a warm invitation from the Laird of Staffa,* a brother of his friend and colleague Mr Macdonald Buchanan, easily induced him to add a voyage to the Hebrides. He was accompanied by part of his

* The reader will find a warm tribute to Staffa’s character as a Highland landlord, in Scott’s article on Sir John Carr’s Caledonian Sketches, Miscellaneous Prose Works, vol. xix.; and some spirited verses, written at his mansion of Ulva, in Scott’s Poetical Works, edition 1834, vol. x., p. 356.

family (not forgetting his dog Wallace), and by several friends besides; among others his relation Mrs Apreece (now
Lady Davy), who had been, as he says in one of his letters, “a lioness of the first magnitude in Edinburgh,” during the preceding winter. He travelled slowly, with his own horses, through Argyllshire, as far as Oban; but, indeed, even where post-horses might have been had, this was the mode he always preferred in these family excursions, for he delighted in the liberty it afforded him of alighting and lingering as often and as long as he chose: and, in truth, he often performed the far greater part of the day’s journey on foot—examining the map in the morning so as to make himself master of the bearings—and following his own fancy over some old disused riding track, or along the margin of a stream, while the carriage, with its female occupants, adhered to the proper road. At Oban, where they took to the sea, Mrs Apreece met him by appointment.

He seems to have kept no journal during this expedition; but I shall string together some letters which, with the notes that he contributed many years afterwards to Mr Croker’s Edition of Boswell, may furnish a tolerable sketch of the insular part of his progress, and of the feelings with which he first inspected the localities of his last great poem—The Lord of the Isles. The first of these letters is dated from the Hebridean residence of the young Laird of Staffa, now Sir Reginald Macdonald Steuart Seton of Staffa, Allanton, and Touch, Baronet.

To Miss Joanna Baillie.
“Ulva House, July 19, 1810.

“I cannot, my dear Miss Baillie, resist the temptation of writing to you from scenes which you have rendered classical as well as immortal. We, which in
the present case means my wife, my eldest girl, and myself, are thus far in fortunate accomplishment of a pilgrimage to the Hebrides. The day before yesterday we passed the Lady’s Rock, in the Sound of Mull, so near that I could almost have touched it. This is, you know, the Rock of your Family Legend. The boat, by my desire, went as near as prudence permitted; and I wished to have picked a relic from it, were it but a cockle shell, or a mussel, to have sent to you; but a spring tide was running with such force and velocity as to make the thing impossible. About two miles farther, we passed under the Castle of Duart, the seat of Maclean, consisting of one huge (indeed immense) square tower, in ruins, and additional turrets and castellated buildings (the work, doubtless, of Benlora’s guardianship), on which the roof still moulders. It overhangs the strait channel from a lofty rock, without a single tree in the vicinity, and is surrounded by high and barren mountains, forming altogether as wild and dreary a scene as I ever beheld. Duart is confronted by the opposite castles of Dunstaffnage, Dunolly, Ardtornish, and others, all once the abodes of grim feudal chiefs, who warred incessantly with each other. I think I counted seven of these fortresses in sight at once, and heard seven times seven legends of war and wonder connected with them. We landed late, wet and cold, on the Island of Mull, near another old castle called Aros, separated, too, from our clothes, which were in a large wherry, which could not keep pace with our row-boat.
Mr Macdonald of Staffa, my kind friend and guide, had sent his piper (a constant attendant, mark that!) to rouse a Highland gentleman’s family in the neighbourhood, where we were received with a profusion of kindness and hospitality. Why should I appal you with a description of our difficulties and distresses how—Charlotte lost her shoes, and little Sophia
her whole collection of pebbles—how I was divorced from my razors, and the whole party looked like a Jewish sanhedrim! By this time we were accumulated as follows:—
Sir George Paul, the great philanthropist, Mrs Apreece, a distant relation of mine, Hannah Mackenzie, a daughter of our friend Henry, and Mackinnon of Mackinnon, a young gentleman born and bred in England, but nevertheless a Highland chief.* It seems his father had acquired wealth, and this young man, who now visits the Highlands for the first time, is anxious to buy back some of the family property which was sold long since. Some twenty Mackinnons, who happened to live within hearing of our arrival (that is, I suppose, within ten miles of Aros), came posting to see their young chief, who behaved with great kindness, and propriety, and liberality. Next day we rode across the isle on Highland ponies, attended by a numerous retinue of gillies, and arrived at the head of the salt-water loch called Loch an Gaoil, where Staffa’s boats awaited us with colours flying and pipes playing. We proceeded in state to this lonely isle, where our honoured lord has a very comfortable residence, and were received by a discharge of swivels and musketry from his people.

“Yesterday we visited Staffa and Iona: The former is one of the most extraordinary places I ever beheld. It exceeded, in my mind, every description I had heard of it; or rather, the appearance of the cavern, composed entirely of basaltic pillars as high as the roof of a cathedral,† and running deep into the rock, eternally swept by

* William Alexander Mackinnon, Esq., now member of Parliament for Lymington, Hants.

† ——“that wondrous dome,
Where, as to shame the temples deck’d
By skill of earthly architect,
Nature herself, it seem’d, would raise
a deep and swelling sea, and paved as it were with ruddy marble, baffles all description. You can walk along the broken pillars, with some difficulty, and in some places with a little danger, as far as the farthest extremity. Boats also can come in below when the sea is placid,—which is seldom the case. I had become a sort of favourite with the Hebridean boatmen, I suppose from my anxiety about their old customs, and they were much pleased to see me get over the obstacles which stopped some of the party. So they took the whim of solemnly christening a great stone seat at the mouth of the cavern, Clachan an Bairdh, or the Poet’s Stone. It was consecrated with a pibroch, which the echoes rendered tremendous, and a glass of whisky, not poured forth in the ancient mode of libation, but turned over the throats of the assistants. The head boatman, whose father had been himself a bard, made me a speech on the occasion; but as it was in Gaelic, I could only receive it as a silly beauty does a fine-spun compliment, bow, and say nothing.

“When this fun was over (in which, strange as it
A minster to her Maker’s praise!
Not for a meaner use ascend
Her columns, or her arches bend;
Nor of a theme less solemn tells
That mighty surge that ebbs and swells,
And still, between each awful pause
From the high vault an answer draws,
In varied tone prolonged and high,
That mocks the organ’s melody.
Nor doth its entrance front in vain
To old Iona’s holy fane,
That Nature’s voice might seem to say,
‘Well hast thou done, frail Child of clay!
Thy humble powers that stately shrine
Task’d high and hard—but witness mine!’”
Lord of the Isles, Canto IV., St. 10.
may seem, the men were quite serious), we went to Iona, where there are some ancient and curious monuments. From this remote island the light of Christianity shone forth on Scotland and Ireland. The ruins are of a rude architecture, but curious to the antiquary. Our return was less comfortable; we had to row twenty miles against an Atlantic tide and some wind, besides the pleasure of seeing occasional squalls gathering to windward. The ladies were sick, especially poor
Hannah Mackenzie, and none of the gentlemen escaped except Staffa and myself. The men, however, cheered by the pipes, and by their own interesting boat-songs, which were uncommonly wild and beautiful, one man leading and the others answering in chorus, kept pulling away without apparently the least sense of fatigue, and we reached Ulva at ten at night, tolerably wet, and well disposed for bed.

“Our friend Staffa is himself an excellent specimen of Highland chieftainship; he is a cadet of Clanronald, and lord of a cluster of isles on the western side of Mull, and a large estate (in extent at least) on that island. By dint of minute attention to this property, and particularly to the management of his kelp, he has at once trebled his income and doubled his population, while emigration is going on all around him. But he is very attentive to his people, who are distractedly fond of him, and has them under such regulations as conduce both to his own benefit and their profit; and keeps a certain sort of rude state and hospitality, in which they take much pride. I am quite satisfied that nothing under the personal attention of the landlord himself will satisfy a Highland tenantry, and that the substitution of factors, which is now becoming general, is one great cause of emigration: This mode of life has, however, its evils; and I can see them in this excellent man.
The habit of solitary power is dangerous even to the best regulated minds, and this ardent and enthusiastic young man has not escaped the prejudices incident to his situation. But I think I have bestowed enough of my tediousness upon you. To ballast my letter, I put in one of the hallowed green pebbles from the shore of St Columba—put it into your work-basket until we meet, when you will give me some account of its virtues. Don’t suppose the lapidaries can give you any information about it, for in their profane eyes it is good for nothing. But the piper is sounding to breakfast, so no more (excepting love to
Miss Agnes, Dr, and Mrs Baillie), from your truly affectionate

Walter Scott.

“P.S. I am told by the learned, the pebble will wear its way out of the letter, so I will keep it till I get to Edinburgh. I must not omit to mention that all through these islands I have found every person familiarly acquainted with the Family Legend, and great admirers.”

It would be idle to extract many of Scott’s notes on Boswell’s Hebridean Journal; but the following specimens appear too characteristic to be omitted. Of the island Inchkenneth, where Johnson was received by the head of the clan M’Lean, he says:—

“Inchkenneth is a most beautiful little islet of the most verdant green, while all the neighbouring shore of Greban, as well as the large islands of Colonsay and Ulva, are as black as heath and moss can make them. But Ulva has a good anchorage, and Inchkenneth is surrounded by shoals. It is now uninhabited. The ruins of the huts, in which Dr Johnson was received by Sir Allan M’Lean, were still to be seen, and some tatters of the paper hangings were to be seen on the walls. Sir George Onesiphorus Paul was at Inchkenneth with the same party of which I was a member. He seemed to me to suspect many of the Highland tales which he heard,
but he showed most incredulity on the subject of Johnson’s having been entertained in the wretched huts of which we saw the ruins. He took me aside, and conjured me to tell him the truth of the matter. ‘This Sir Allan,’ said he, ‘was he a regular baronet, or was his title such a traditional one as you find in Ireland?’ I assured my excellent acquaintance that, ‘for my own part, I would have paid more respect to a Knight of Kerry, or Knight of Glynn; yet Sir Allan M’Lean was a regular baronet by patent;’ and, having given him this information, I took the liberty of asking him, in return, whether he would not in conscience prefer the worst cell in the jail at Gloucester (which he had been very active in overlooking while the building was going on), to those exposed hovels where Johnson had been entertained by rank and beauty. He looked round the little islet, and allowed Sir Allan had some advantage in exercising ground; but in other respects he thought the compulsory tenants of Gloucester had greatly the advantage. Such was his opinion of a place, concerning which Johnson has recorded that ‘it wanted little which palaces could afford.’

Sir Allan M’Lean, like many Highland chiefs, was embarrassed in his private affairs, and exposed to unpleasant solicitations from attorneys, called, in Scotland, Writers (which, indeed, was the chief motive of his retiring to Inchkenneth). Upon one occasion he made a visit to a friend, then residing at Carron Lodge, on the banks of the Carron, where the banks of that river are studded with pretty villas. Sir Allan, admiring the landscape, asked his friend whom that handsome seat belonged to. ‘M——, the Writer to the Signet,’ was the reply. ‘Umph!’ said Sir Allan, but not with an accent of assent, ‘I mean that other house.’ ‘Oh! that belongs to a very honest fellow, Jamie ——, also a Writer to the Signet.’—‘Umph!’ said the Highland chief of M’Lean, with more emphasis than before—‘And yon smaller house?’—‘That belongs to a Stirling man; I forget his name, but I am sure he is a writer too; for’—— Sir Allan, who had recoiled a quarter of a circle backward at every response, now wheeled the circle entire, and turned his back on the landscape, saying, ‘My good friend, I must own you have a pretty situation here, but d—n your neighbourhood.’”

The following notices of Boswell himself, and his father, Lord Auchinleck, may be taken as literal transcripts from Scott’s Table-Talk:—


Boswell himself was callous to the contacts of Dr Johnson, and when telling them, always reminds one of a jockey receiving a kick from the horse which he is showing off to a customer, and is grinning with pain while he is trying to cry out, ‘Pretty rogue—no vice all fun.’ To him Johnson’s rudeness was only ‘pretty Fanny’s way.’ Dr Robertson had a sense of good breeding, which inclined him rather to forego the benefit of Johnson’s conversation than awaken his rudeness. . . . . . .

“Old Lord Auchinleck was an able lawyer, a good scholar, after the manner of Scotland, and highly valued his own advantages as a man of good estate and ancient family; and, moreover, he was a strict Presbyterian and Whig of the old Scottish cast. This did not prevent his being a terribly proud aristocrat; and great was the contempt he entertained and expressed for his son James, for the nature of his friendship, and the character of the personages of whom he was engoué one after another. ‘There’s nae hope for Jamie, mon,’ he said to a friend. ‘Jamie is gane clean gyte. What do you think, mon? He’s done wi’ Paoli—he’s off wi’ the land louping scoundrel of a Corsican; and whose tail do you think he has pinned himself to now, mon?’ Here the old judge summoned up a sneer of most sovereign contempt. ‘A dominie, mon—an auld dominie! he keeped a schule, and caud it an acaadamy.’ Probably if this had been reported to Johnson, he would have felt it most galling, for he never much liked to think of that period of his life; it would have aggravated his dislike of Lord Auchinleck’s Whiggery and Presbyterianism. These the old Lord carried to such an unusual height, that once, when a country man came in to state some justice business, and being required to make his oath, declined to do so before his Lordship, because he was not a covenanted magistrate. ‘Is that a’ your objection, mon?’ said the judge; ‘come your ways in here, and we’ll baith of us tak the solemn league and covenant together.’ The oath was accordingly agreed and sworn to by both, and I dare say it was the last time it ever received such homage. It may be surmised how far Lord Auchinleck, such as he is here described, was likely to suit a high Tory and Episcopalian like Johnson. As they approached Auchinleck, Boswell conjured Johnson by all the ties of regard, and in requital of the services he had rendered him upon his tour, that he would spare two subjects in tenderness to his father’s prejudices; the first related to Sir John Pringle, President of the Royal Society, about whom there was then some dispute current; the second concerned the general question of Whig and Tory. Sir John Pringle, as Boswell says, esca-
ped, but the controversy between Tory and Covenanter raged with great fury, and ended in Johnson’s pressing upon the old judge the question, what good
Cromwell, of whom he had said something derogatory, had ever done to his country; when, after being much tortured, Lord Auchinleck at last spoke out, ‘God! doctor, he gart kings ken that they had a lith in their neck’—he taught kings they had a joint in their necks. Jamie then set to mediating between his father and the philosopher, and availing himself of the judge’s sense of hospitality, which was punctilious, reduced the debate to more order.”

The following letter, dated Ashestiel, August 9, appears to have been written immediately on Scott’s return from this expedition.

To J. B. S. Morritt, Esq. Rokeby Park.
“My dear Morritt,

“Your letter reached me in the very centre of the Isle of Mull, from which circumstance you will perceive how vain it was for me even to attempt availing myself of your kind invitation to Rokeby, which would otherwise have given us so much pleasure. We deeply regretted the absence of our kind and accomplished friends, the Clephanes, yet, entre nous, as we were upon a visit to a family of the Capulets, I do not know but we may pay our respects to them more pleasantly at another time. There subsist some aching scars of the old wounds which were in former times inflicted upon each other by the rival tribes of M’Lean and Macdonald, and my very good friends the Laird of Staffa and Mrs M’Lean Clephane are both too true Highlanders to be without the characteristic prejudices of their clans, which, in their case, divide two highly accomplished and most estimable families, living almost within sight of each other, and on an island where polished conversation cannot be supposed to abound.

“I was delighted, on the whole, with my excursion.
The weather was most excellent during the whole time of our wanderings; and I need not tell you of Highland hospitality. The cavern at Staffa, and indeed the island itself, dont on parle en histoire, is one of the few lions which completely maintain an extended reputation. I do not know whether its extreme resemblance to a work of art, from the perfect regularity of the columns, or the grandeur of its dimensions, far exceeding the works of human industry, joined to a certain ruggedness and magnificent irregularity, by which nature vindicates her handiwork, are most forcibly impressed upon my memory. We also saw the far-famed Island of Columba, where there are many monuments of singular curiosity, forming a strange contrast to the squalid and dejected poverty of the present inhabitants of the isle. We accomplished both these objects in one day, but our return, though we had no alarms to boast of, was fatiguing to the ladies, and the sea not affording us quite such a smooth passage as we had upon the Thames (that morning we heard the voice of
Lysons setting forth the contents of the records in the White Tower), did, as one may say, excite a combustion in the stomachs of some of our party. Mine being a staunch anti-revolutionist, was no otherwise troublesome than by demanding frequent supplies of cold beef and biscuit. Mrs Apreece was of our party. Also
Sir George Paul, for prison-house renowned,
A wandering knight, on high adventures bound.
—We left this celebrated philanthropist in a plight not unlike some of the misadventures of ‘Him of the sorrowful figure.’ The worthy baronet was mounted on a quadruped, which the owners called a pony, with his woful valet on another, and travelling slowly along the coast of Mull, in order to detect the point which approached nearest to the continent, protesting he would
not again put foot in a boat, till he had discovered the shortest possible traject. Our separation reminded me of the disastrous incident in
Byron’s Shipwreck, when they were forced to abandon two of their crew on an unknown coast, and beheld them at a distance commencing their solitary peregrination along the cliffs.

Walter Scott.”

The Iona pebble, mentioned in Scott’s letter from Ulva, being set in a brooch of the form of a harp, was sent to Joanna Baillie some months later; but it may be as well to insert here the letter which accompanied it. The young friend, to whose return from a trip to the seat of war in the Peninsula it alludes, was John Miller, Esq., then practising at the Scotch bar, but now an eminent King’s counsel of Lincoln’s Inn.

To Miss Joanna Baillie, Hampstead.
“Edinburgh, Nov. 23, 1810.

“I should not have been so long your debtor, my dear Miss Baillie, for your kind and valued letter, had not the false knave, at whose magic touch the Iona pebbles were to assume a shape in some degree appropriate to the person to whom they are destined, delayed finishing his task. I hope you will set some value upon this little trumpery brooch, because it is a harp, and a Scotch harp, and set with Iona stones. This last circumstance is more valuable, if ancient tales be true, than can be ascertained from the reports of dull modern lapidaries. These green stones, blessed of St Columba, have a virtue, saith old Martin, to gratify each of them a single wish of the wearer. I believe, that which is most frequently formed by those who gather them upon the shores of the Saint, is for a fair wind to transport them from his domains. Now, after this, you must
suppose every thing respecting this said harp sacred and hallowed. The very inscription is, you will please to observe, in the ancient Celtic language and character, and has a very talismanic look. I hope that upon you it will have the effect of a conjuration, for the words Buail a’n Teud signify Strike the String; and thus having, like the pedlars who deal in like matters of value, exhausted all my eloquence in setting forth the excellent outward qualities and mysterious virtues of my little keepsake, I have only to add, in homely phrase, God give you joy to wear it. I am delighted with the account of your
brother’s silvan empire in Glo’stershire. The planting and cultivation of trees always seemed to me the most interesting occupation of the country. I cannot enter into the spirit of common vulgar farming, though I am doomed to carry on, in a small extent, that losing trade. It never occurred to me to be a bit more happy because my turnips were better than my neighbours; and as for grieving my shearers, as we very emphatically term it in Scotland, I am always too happy to get out of the way, that I may hear them laughing at a distance when on the harvest rigg.
‘So every servant takes his course,
And bad at first, they all grow worse’—
I mean for the purposes of agriculture,—for my hind shall kill a salmon, and my plough-boy find a hare sitting, with any man in the forest. But planting and pruning trees I could work at from morning till night; and if ever my poetical revenues enable me to have a few acres of my own, that is one of the principal pleasures I look forward to. There is, too, a sort of self-congratulation, a little tickling self-flattery in the idea that, while you are pleasing and amusing yourself, you are seriously contributing to the future welfare of the country, and
that your very acorn may send its future ribs of oak to future victories like Trafalgar.

“You have now by my calculation abandoned your extensive domains and returned to your Hampstead villa, which, at this season of the year, though the lesser, will prove, from your neighbourhood to good society, the more comfortable habitation of the two. Dr Baillie’s cares are transferred (I fear for some time) to a charge still more important than the poor Princess.* I trust in God that his skill and that of his brethren may be of advantage to the poor King; for a Regency, from its unsettled and uncertain tenure, must in every country, but especially where parties run so high, be a lamentable business. I wonder that the consequences which have taken place had not occurred sooner, during the long and trying suspense in which his mind must have been held by the protracted lingering state of a beloved child.

“Your country neighbours interest me excessively. I was delighted with the man, who remembered me, though he had forgotten Sancho Panza; but I am afraid my pre-eminence in his memory will not remain much longer than the worthy squire’s government at Barataria. Mean while, the Lady of the Lake is likely to come to preferment in an unexpected manner, for two persons of no less eminence than Messrs Martin and Reynolds, play carpenters in ordinary to Covent Garden, are employed in scrubbing, careening, and cutting her down into one of those new-fashioned sloops called a melo-drama, to be launched at the theatre; and my friend, Mr H. Siddons, emulous of such a noble design, is at work on the same job here. It puts me in mind of

The Princess Amelia whose death was immediately followed by the hopeless malady of King George III.

the observation with which our parish smith accompanied his answer to an enquiry whom he had heard preach on Sunday. ‘Mr such-a-one—O! sir, he made neat work,’ thinking, doubtless, of turning off a horse-shoe handsomely. I think my worthy artizans will make neat work too before they have done with my unlucky materials—but, as Durandarte says in the cavern of Montesinos ‘Patience, cousin, and shuffle the cards.’
Jeffrey was the author of the critique in the Edinburgh; he sent it to me in the sheet, with an apology for some things in that of Marmion which he said contained needless asperities; and, indeed, whatever I may think of the justice of some part of his criticism, I think his general tone is much softened in my behalf.

“You say nothing about the drama on Fear, for which you have chosen so admirable a subject, and which, I think, will be in your own most powerful manner, I hope you will have an eye to its being actually represented. Perhaps of all passions it is the most universally interesting; for although most part of an audience may have been in love once in their lives, and many engaged in the pursuits of ambition, and some perhaps have fostered deadly hate; yet there will always be many in each case who cannot judge of the operations of these motives from personal experience: Whereas, I will bet my life there is not a soul of them but has felt the impulse of fear, were it but, as the old tale goes, at snuffing a candle with his fingers. I believe I should have been able to communicate some personal anecdotes on the subject, had I been enabled to accomplish a plan I have had much at heart this summer, namely, to take a peep at Lord Wellington and his merry men in Portugal; but I found the idea gave Mrs Scott more distress than I am entitled to do for the mere gratification of my own curiosity. Not that there would have been
any great danger,—for I could easily, as a non-combatant, have kept out of the way of the “grinning honour” of my namesake, Sir Walter Blount, and I think I should have been overpaid for a little hardship and risk by the novelty of the scene. I could have got very good recommendations to Lord Wellington; and, I dare say, I should have picked up some curious materials for battle scenery. A
friend of mine made the very expedition, and arriving at Oporto when our army was in retreat from the frontier, he was told of the difficulty and danger he might encounter in crossing the country to the southward, so as to join them on the march; nevertheless, he travelled on through a country totally deserted, unless when he met bands of fugitive peasantry flying they scarce knew whither, or the yet wilder groups of the Ordinanza, or levy en masse, who, fired with revenge or desire of plunder, had armed themselves to harass the French detached parties. At length in a low glen he heard, with feelings that may be easily conceived, the distant sound of a Highland bagpipe playing ‘The Garb of Old Gaul,’ and fell into the quarters of a Scotch regiment, where he was most courteously received by his countrymen, who assured ‘his honour he was just come in time to see the pattle.’ Accordingly, being a young man of spirit, and a volunteer sharp-shooter, he got a rifle, joined the light corps, and next day witnessed the Battle of Busaco, of which he describes the carnage as being terrible. The narrative was very simply told, and conveyed, better than any I have seen, the impressions which such scenes are likely to make when they have the effect (I had almost said the charm) of novelty. I don’t know why it is I never found a soldier could give me an idea of a battle. I believe their mind is too much upon the tactique to regard the picturesque, just as the lawyers care very little for an elo-
quent speech at the bar, if it does not show good doctrine. The technical phrases of the military art, too, are unfavourable to convey a description of the concomitant terror and desolation that attends an engagement; but enough of this bald disjointed chat, from ever yours,

W. S.”

There appeared in the London Courier of September 15, 1810, an article signed S. T. C., charging Scott with being a plagiarist, more especially from the works of the poet for whose initials this signature had no doubt been meant to pass. On reading this silly libel, Mr Southey felt satisfied that Samuel Taylor Coleridge could have no concern in its manufacture; but as Scott was not so well acquainted with Coleridge as himself, he lost no time in procuring his friend’s indignant disavowal, and forwarding it to Ashestiel. Scott acknowledges this delicate attention as follows:—

To Robert Southey, Esq.
“Ashestiel, Thursday.
“My dear Southey,

“Your letter, this morning received, released me from the very painful feeling, that a man of Mr Coleridge’s high talents, which I had always been among the first to appreciate as they deserve, had thought me worthy of the sort of public attack which appeared in the Courier of the 15th. The initials are so remarkable, and the trick so very impudent, that I was likely to be fairly duped by it, for which I have to request Mr Coleridge’s forgiveness. I believe attacks of any sort sit as light upon me as they can on any one. If I have had my share of them, it is one point, at least, in which I resemble greater poets—but I should not like to have
them come from the hand of contemporary genius. A man, though he does not ‘wear his heart upon his sleeve for daws to peck at,’ would not willingly be stooped upon by a falcon. I am truly obliged to your friendship for so speedily relieving me from so painful a feeling. The hoax was probably designed to set two followers of literature by the ears, and I daresay will be followed up by something equally impudent. As for the imitations, I have not the least hesitation in saying to you, that I was unconscious at the time of appropriating the goods of others, although I have not the least doubt that several of the passages must have been running in my head. Had I meant to steal, I would have been more cautious to disfigure the stolen goods. In one or two instances the resemblance seems general and casual, and in one, I think, it was impossible I could practise plagiarism, as
Ethwald, one of the poems quoted, was published after the Lay of the Last Minstrel. A witty rogue, the other day, who sent me a letter subscribed Detector, proved me guilty of stealing a passage from one of Vida’s Latin poems, which I had never seen or heard of; yet there was so strong a general resemblance, as fairly to authorize Detector’s suspicion.

“I renounced my Greta excursion in consequence of having made instead a tour to the Highlands, particularly to the Isles. I wished for Wordsworth and you a hundred times. The scenery is quite different from that on the mainland, dark, savage, and horrid, but occasionally magnificent in the highest degree. Staffa, in particular, merits well its far-famed reputation: it is a cathedral arch, scooped by the hand of nature, equal in dimensions and in regularity to the most magnificent aisle of a gothic cathedral. The sea rolls up to the extremity in most tremendous majesty, and with a voice
like ten thousand giants shouting at once. I visited Icolmkill also, where there are some curious monuments, mouldering among the poorest and most naked wretches that I ever beheld. Affectionately yours,

W. Scott.

The “lines of Vida” which “Detector” had enclosed to Scott as the obvious original of the address to “Woman” in Marmion, closing with
“When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou!”
end as follows;—and it must be owned that, if Vida had really written them, a more extraordinary example of casual coincidence could never have been pointed out—
“Cum dolor atque supercilio gravis imminet angor,
Fungeris angelico sola ministerio!”
Detector’s reference is “Vida ad Eranen El. II. v. 21;”—but it is almost needless to add there are no such lines and no piece bearing such a title in Vida’s works. Detector was no doubt some young college wag, for his letter has a Cambridge post-mark.