LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter II 1817

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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Within less than a month, the Black Dwarf and Old Mortality were followed by “Harold the Dauntless, by the author of the Bridal of Triermain.” This poem had been, it appears, begun several years back; nay, part of it had been actually printed before the appearance of Childe Harold, though that circumstance had escaped the author’s remembrance when he penned, in 1830, his Introduction to the Lord of the Isles; for he there says, “I am still astonished at my having committed the gross error of selecting the very name which Lord Byron had made so famous.” The volume was published by Messrs Constable, and had, in those booksellers’ phrase, “considerable success.” It has never, however, been placed on a level with Triermain; and though it contains many vigorous pictures, and splendid verses, and here and there some happy humour,
the confusion and harsh transitions of the fable, and the dim rudeness of character and manners, seem sufficient to account for this inferiority in public favour. It is not surprising that the author should have redoubled his aversion to the notion of any more serious performance in verse. He had seized on an instrument of wider compass, and which, handled with whatever rapidity, seemed to reveal at every touch, treasures that had hitherto slept unconsciously within him. He had thrown off his fetters, and might well go forth rejoicing in the native elasticity of his strength.

It is at least a curious coincidence in literary history, that, as Cervantes, driven from the stage of Madrid by the success of Lope de Vega, threw himself into prose romance, and produced, at the moment when the world considered him as silenced for ever, the Don Quixote which has outlived Lope’s two thousand triumphant dramas—so Scott, abandoning verse to Byron, should have rebounded from his fall by the only prose romances which seem to be classed with the masterpiece of Spanish genius, by the general judgment of Europe.

I shall insert two letters, in which he announces the publication of Harold the Dauntless. In the first of them he also mentions the light and humorous little piece entitled The Sultan of Serendib, or the Search after Happiness, originally published in a weekly paper, after the fashion of the old Essayists, which about this time issued from John Ballantyne’s premises, under the appropriate name of “the Sale-Room.” The paper had slender success; and though Scott wrote several things for it, none of them, except this metrical essay, attracted any notice. The Sale-Room was, in fact, a dull and hopeless concern; and I should scarcely have thought it worth mentioning, but for the confirmation
it lends to my suspicion that Mr John Ballantyne was very unwilling, after all his warnings, to retire completely from the field of publishing.

To J. S. S. Morritt, Esq. M. P. Rokeby Park.
“Edinburgh, Jan. 30, 1817.
“My dear Morritt,

“I hope to send you in a couple of days Harold the Dauntless, which has not turned out so good as I thought it would have done. I begin to get too old and stupid, I think, for poetry, and will certainly never again adventure on a grand scale. For amusement, and to help a little publication that is going on here, I have spun a doggrel tale called the Search after Happiness, of which I shall send a copy by post, if it is of a frankable size; if not, I can put it up with the Dauntless. Among other misfortunes of Harold is his name, but the thing was partly printed before Childe Harold was in question.

“My great and good news at present is, that the bog (that perpetual hobbyhorse) has produced a commodity of most excellent marle, and promises to be of the very last consequence to my wild ground in the neighbourhood; for nothing can equal the effect of marle as a top-dressing. Methinks (in my mind’s eye, Horatio) I see all the blue-bank, the hinny-lee, and the other provinces of my poor kingdom, waving with deep ryegrass and clover, like the meadows at Rokeby. In honest truth, it will do me yeoman’s service.

“My next good tidings are, that Jedediah carries the world before him. Six thousand have been disposed of, and three thousand more are pressing onward, which will be worth L.2500 to the worthy pedagogue of Gandercleuch. Some of the Scotch Whigs, of the right old fanatical leaven, have waxed wroth with Jedediah—
‘But shall we go mourn for that, my dear?
The cold moon shines by night,
And when we wander here and there,
We then do go most right.’
After all, these honest gentlemen are like
Queen Elizabeth in their ideas of portrait-painting. They require the pictures of their predecessors to be likenesses, and at the same time demand that they shall be painted without shade, being probably of opinion, with the virgin majesty of England, that there is no such thing in nature.

“I presume you will be going almost immediately to London—at least all our Scotch members are requested to be at their posts, the meaning of which I cannot pretend to guess. The finances are the only ticklish matter, but there is, after all, plenty of money in the country, now that our fever-fit is a little over. In Britain, when there is the least damp upon the spirits of the public, they are exactly like people in a crowd, who take the alarm, and shoulder each other to and fro till some dozen or two of the weakest are borne down and trodden to death; whereas, if they would but have patience and remain quiet, there would be a safe and speedy end to their embarrassment. How we want Billie Pitt now to get up and give the tone to our feelings and opinions!

“As I take up this letter to finish the same, I hear the Prince Regent has been attacked and fired at. Since he was not hurt (for I should be sincerely sorry for my fat friend), I see nothing but good luck to result from this assault. It will make him a good manageable boy, and, I think, secure you a quiet Session of Parliament. Adieu, my dear Morritt, God bless you. Let me know if the gimcracks come safe—I mean the book, &c. Ever yours,

Walter Scott.”
To the Lady Louisa Stuart, Gloucester Place, London.
“Edinburgh, Jan. 31, 1817.
“My dear Lady Louisa,

“This accompanies Harold the Dauntless. I thought once I should have made it something clever, but it turned vapid upon my imagination; and I finished it at last with hurry and impatience. Nobody knows, that has not tried the feverish trade of poetry, how much it depends upon mood and whim: I don’t wonder, that, in dismissing all the other deities of Paganism, the Muse should have been retained by common consent; for, in sober reality, writing good verses seems to depend upon something separate from the volition of the author. I sometimes think my fingers set up for themselves, independent of my head; for twenty times I have begun a thing on a certain plan, and never in my life adhered to it (in a work of imagination, that is) for half an hour together. I would hardly write this sort of egotistical trash to any one but yourself, yet it is very true for all that. What my kind correspondent had anticipated on account of Jedediah’s effusions, has actually taken place; and the author of a very good life of Knox has, I understand, made a most energetic attack, upon the score that the old Covenanters are not treated with decorum. I have not read it, and certainly never shall. I really think there is nothing in the book that is not very fair and legitimate subject of raillery; and I own I have my suspicions of that very susceptible devotion which so readily takes offence: such men should not read books of amusement; but do they suppose, because they are virtuous, and choose to be thought outrageously so, ‘there shall be no cakes and ale?’—‘Ay, by our lady, and ginger shall be hot in the mouth too.’ As for the consequences to the author, they can only affect his fortune or his temper—the former, such as it is, has been
long fixed beyond shot of these sort of fowlers; and for my temper, I considered always that, by subjecting myself to the irritability which much greater authors have felt on occasions of literary dispute, I should be laying in a plentiful stock of unhappiness for the rest of my life. I therefore make it a rule never to read the attacks made upon me. I remember being capable of something like this sort of self-denial at a very early period of life, for I could not be six years old. I had been put into my bed in the nursery, and two servant girls sat down by the embers of the fire, to have their own quiet chat, and the one began to tell a most dismal ghost story, of which I remember the commencement distinctly at this moment; but perceiving which way the tale was tending, and though necessarily curious, being at the same time conscious that, if I listened on, I should be frightened out of my wits for the rest of the night, I had the force to cover up my head in the bed-clothes, so that I could not hear another word that was said. The only inconvenience attending a similar prudential line of conduct in the present case, is, that it may seem like a deficiency of spirit; but I am not much afraid of that being laid to my charge—my fault in early life (I hope long since corrected) having lain rather the other way. And so I say, with mine honest
‘Sleep, Philo, untouch’d, on my peaceable shelf,
Nor take it amiss that so little I heed thee;
I’ve no malice at thee, and some love for myself—
Then why should I answer, since first I must read thee?’

“So you are getting finely on in London. I own I am very glad of it. I am glad the banditti act like banditti, because it will make men of property look round them in time. This country is very like the toys which folks buy for children, and which, tumble them about in any way the urchins will, are always brought
to their feet again, by the lead deposited in their extremities. The mass of property has the same effect on our Constitution, and is a sort of ballast which will always right the vessel, to use a sailor’s phrase, and bring it to its due equipoise.

“Ministers have acted most sillily in breaking up the burgher volunteers in large towns. On the contrary, the service should have been made coercive. Such men have a moral effect upon the minds of the populace, besides their actual force, and are so much interested in keeping good order, that you may always rely on them, especially as a corps, in which there is necessarily a common spirit of union and confidence. But all this is nonsense again, quoth my Uncle Toby to himself.—Adieu, my dear Lady Louisa; my sincere good wishes always attend you.

W. S.”

Not to disturb the narrative of his literary proceedings, I have deferred until now the mention of an attempt which Scott made during the winter of 1816-1817, to exchange his seat at the Clerk’s table for one on the bench of the Scotch Court of Exchequer. It had often occurred to me, in the most prosperous years of his life, that such a situation would have suited him better in every respect than that which he held, and that his never attaining a promotion, which the Scottish public would have considered so naturally due to his character and services, reflected little honour on his political allies. But at the period when I was entitled to hint this to him, he appeared to have made up his mind that the rank of Clerk of Session was more compatible than that of a Supreme Judge with the habits of a literary man, who was perpetually publishing, and whose writings were generally of the imaginative order. I had also witnessed the zeal with which he seconded the
views of more than one of his own friends, when their ambition was directed to the Exchequer bench. I remained, in short, ignorant that he ever had seriously thought of it for himself, until the ruin of his worldly fortunes in 1826; nor had I any information that his wish to obtain it had ever been distinctly stated, until certain letters, one of which I shall introduce, were placed in my hands after his death, by the present
Duke of Buecleuch. The late Duke’s answers to these letters are also before me; but of them it is sufficient to say, that, while they show the warmest anxiety to serve Scott, they refer to private matters, which ultimately rendered it inconsistent with his Grace’s feelings to interfere at the time in question with the distribution of Crown patronage. I incline to think, on the whole, that the death of this nobleman, which soon after left the influence of his house in abeyance, must have, far more than any other circumstance, determined Scott to renounce all notions of altering his professional position.

To the Duke of Buccleuch, &c. &c.
“Edinburgh, 11th Dec. 1816.
“My dear Lord Duke,

“Your Grace has been so much my constant and kind friend and patron through the course of my life, that I trust I need no apology for thrusting upon your consideration some ulterior views, which have been suggested to me by my friends, and which I will either endeavour to prosecute, time and place serving, or lay aside all thoughts of, as they appear to your Grace feasible, and likely to be forwarded by your patronage. It has been suggested to me, in a word, that there would be no impropriety in my being put in nomination as a candidate for the situation of a Baron of Exchequer, when a vacancy shall take place. The difference of the
emolument between that situation and those which I now hold, is just L.400 a-year, so that, in that point of view, it is not a very great object. But there is a difference in the rank, and also in the leisure afforded by a Baron’s situation; and a man may, without condemnation, endeavour, at my period of life, to obtain as much honour and ease as he can handsomely come by. My pretensions to such an honour (next to your Grace’s countenancing my wishes) would rest very much on the circumstance that my nomination would vacate two good offices (Clerk of Session and Sheriff of Selkirkshire) to the amount of L.1000 and L.300 a-year; and, besides, would extinguish a pension of L.300 which I have for life, over and above my salary as Clerk of Session, as having been in office at the time when the Judicature Act deprived us of a part of our vested fees and emoluments. The extinction of this pension would be just so much saved to the public. I am pretty confident also that I should be personally acceptable to our friend the
Chief Baron.* But whether all or any of these circumstances will weigh much in my favour, must solely and entirely rest with your Grace, without whose countenance it would be folly in me to give the matter a second thought. With your patronage, both my situation and habits of society may place my hopes as far as any who are likely to apply; and your interest would be strengthened by the opportunity of placing some good friend in Selkirkshire, besides converting the Minstrel of the Clan into a Baron, a transmutation worthy of so powerful and kind a chief. But if your Grace thinks I ought to drop thoughts of this preferment, I am bound to say, that I think myself as well provided for

* The late Right Honourable Robert Dundas of Arniston, Chief Baron of the Scotch Exchequer; one of Scott’s earliest and kindest friends in that distinguished family.

by my friends and the public as I have the least title to expect, and that I am perfectly contented and grateful for what I have received. Ever your Grace’s faithful and truly obliged servant,

Walter Scott.”

The following letter, to the same noble friend, contains a slight allusion to this affair of the Barony; but I insert it for a better reason. The Duke had, it seems, been much annoyed by some depredations on his game in the district of Ettrick Water; and more so by the ill use which some boys from Selkirk made of his liberality, in allowing the people of that town free access to his beautiful walks on the banks of the Yarrow, adjoining Newark and Bowhill. The Duke’s forester, by name Thomas Hudson, had recommended rigorous measures with reference to both these classes of offenders, and the Sheriff was of course called into council:

To His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch, &c. &c. &c.
“Abbotsford, January 11, 1817.
“My dear Lord Duke,

“I have been thinking anxiously about the disagreeable affair of Tom Hudson, and the impudent ingratitude of the Selkirk rising generation, and I will take the usual liberty your friendship permits me, of saying what occurs to me on each subject. Respecting the shooting, the crime is highly punishable, and we will omit no enquiries to discover the individuals guilty. Charles Erskine, who is a good police officer, will be sufficiently active. I know my friend and kinsman, Mr Scott of Harden, feels very anxious to oblige your Grace, and I have little doubt that if you will have the goodness to mention to him this unpleasant circumstance, he would be anxious to put his game under such regula-
tions as should be agreeable to you. But I believe the pride and pleasure he would feel in obliging your Grace, as heading one of the most ancient and most respectable branches of your name (if I may be pardoned for saying so much in our favour), would be certainly much more gratified by a compliance with your personal request, than if it came through any other channel. Your Grace knows there are many instances in life in which the most effectual way of conferring a favour is condescending to accept one. I have known Harden long and most intimately—a more respectable man either for feeling, or talent, or knowledge of human life, is rarely to be met with. But he is rather indecisive—requiring some instant stimulus in order to make him resolve to do, not only what he knows to be right, but what he really wishes to do, and means to do one time or other. He is exactly
Prior’s Earl of Oxford:—
‘Let that be done which Mat doth say’
‘Yea,’ quoth the Earl, ‘but not to-day.
And so exit Harden and enter Selkirk.

“I know hardly any thing more exasperating than the conduct of the little blackguards, and it will be easy to discover and make an example of the biggest and most insolent. In the mean while, my dear Lord, pardon my requesting you will take no general or sweeping resolution as to the Selkirk folks. Your Grace lives near them—your residence, both from your direct beneficence, and the indirect advantages which they derive from that residence, is of the utmost consequence; and they must be made sensible that all these advantages are endangered by the very violent and brutal conduct of their children. But I think your Grace will be inclined to follow this up only for the purpose of correction, not for that of requital. They are so much beneath you, and so much in your power, that this would be unworthy of you—especially
as all the inhabitants of the little country town must necessarily be included in the punishment. Were your Grace really angry with them, and acting accordingly, you might ultimately feel the regret of my old schoolmaster, who, when he had knocked me down, apologized by saying he did not know his own strength. After all, those who look for any thing better than ingratitude from the uneducated and unreflecting mass of a corrupted population, must always be deceived; and the better the heart is that has been expanded towards them, their wants, and their wishes, the deeper is the natural feeling of disappointment. But it is our duty to fight on, doing what good we can (and surely the disposition and the means were never more happily united than in your Grace), and trusting to God Almighty, whose grace ripens the seeds we commit to the earth, that our benefactions shall bear fruit. And now, my Lord, asking your pardon for this discharge of my conscience, and assuring your Grace I have no wish to exchange my worsted gown, or the remote Pisgah exchange of a silk one, for the cloak of a presbyterian parson, even with the certainty of succeeding to the first of your numerous Kirk-presentations, I take the liberty to add my own opinion. The elder boys must be looked out and punished, and the parents severely reprimanded, and the whole respectable part of the town made sensible of the loss they must necessarily sustain by the discontinuance of your patronage. And at, or about the same time, I should think it proper if your Grace were to distinguish by any little notice such Selkirk people working with you as have their families under good order.

“I am taking leave of Abbotsford multum gemens, and have been just giving directions for planting upon Turnagain, When shall we eat a cold luncheon there, and look at the view, and root up the monster in his abyss?
I assure you, none of your numerous vassals can show a finer succession of distant prospects. For the homeview—ahem!—We must wait till the trees grow. Ever your Grace’s truly faithful

W. Scott.”

While the abortive negotiation as to the Exchequer was still pending, Scott was visited, for the first time since his childish years, with a painful illness, which proved the harbinger of a series of attacks, all nearly of the same kind, continued at short intervals during more than two years. Various letters, already introduced, have indicated how widely his habits of life when in Edinburgh differed from those of Abbotsford. They at all times did so to a great extent; but he had pushed his liberties with a most robust constitution to a perilous extreme while the affairs of the Ballantynes were labouring, and he was now to pay the penalty.

The first serious alarm occurred towards the close of a merry dinner party in Castle Street (on the 5th of March), when Scott suddenly sustained such exquisite torture from cramp in the stomach, that his masculine powers of endurance gave way, and he retired from the room with a scream of agony which electrified his guests. This scene was often repeated, as we shall see presently. His friends in Edinburgh continued all that spring in great anxiety on his account. Scarcely, however, had the first symptoms yielded to severe medical treatment, than he is found to have beguiled the intervals of his suffering by planning a dramatic piece on a story supplied to him by one of Train’s communications, which he desired to present to Terry on behalf of the actor’s first-born son, who had been christened by the name of Walter Scott Terry.*

* This young gentleman is now an officer in the East India Company’s army.

Such was the origin of “the Fortunes of Devorgoil”—a piece which, though completed soon afterwards, and submitted by
Terry to many manipulations with a view to the stage, was never received by any manager, and was first published, towards the close of the author’s life, under the title, slightly altered for an obvious reason, of “the Doom of Devorgoil.” The sketch of the story which he gives in the following letter will probably be considered by many besides myself as well worth the drama. It appears that the actor had mentioned to Scott his intention of Terryfyingthe Black Dwarf.”

To Daniel Terry, Esq., London.
“Edinburgh, 12th March, 1817.
“Dear Terry,

“I am now able to write to you on your own affairs, though still as weak as water from the operations of the medical faculty, who, I think, treated me as a recusant to their authority, and having me once at advantage, were determined I should not have strength to rebel again in a hurry. After all, I believe it was touch and go; and considering how much I have to do for my own family and others, my elegy might have been that of the Auld Man’s Mare—
‘The peats and turf are all to lead,
What ail’d the beast to die?’
You don’t mention the nature of your undertaking in your last, and in your former you spoke both of the
Black Dwarf and of Triermain. I have some doubts whether the town will endure a second time the following up a well-known tale with a dramatic representation—and there is no vis comica to redeem the Black Dwarf, as in the case of Dominie Sampson. I have thought of two subjects for you, if, like the Archbishop’s homilies, they do not smell of the apoplexy. The first is a noble and very dra-
matic tradition preserved in Galloway, which runs briefly thus:—The Barons of Plenton (the family name, I think, was——by Jupiter, forgot!) boasted of great antiquity, and formerly of extensive power and wealth, to which the ruins of their huge castle, situated on an inland loch, still bear witness. In the middle of the seventeenth century, it is said, these ruins were still inhabited by the lineal descendant of this powerful family. But the ruinous halls and towers of his ancestors were all that had descended to him, and he cultivated the garden of the castle, and sold its fruits for a subsistence. He married in a line suitable rather to his present situation than the dignity of his descent, and was quite sunk into the rank of peasantry, excepting that he was still called—more in mockery, or at least in familiarity, than in respect—the Baron of Plenton. A causeway connected the castle with the mainland; it was cut in the middle, and the moat only passable by a drawbridge which yet subsisted, and which the poor old couple contrived to raise every night by their joint efforts, the country being very unsettled at the time. It must be observed, that the old man and his wife occupied only one apartment in the extensive ruins, a small one adjoining to the drawbridge; the rest was waste and dilapidated. As they were about to retire one night to rest, they were deterred by a sudden storm, which, rising in the wildest manner possible, threatened to bury them under the ruins of the castle. While they listened in terror to the complicated sounds of thunder, wind, and rain, they were astonished to hear the clang of hoofs on the causeway, and the voices of people clamouring for admittance. This was a request not rashly to be granted. The couple looked out, and dimly discerned through the storm that the causeway was crowded with riders. ‘How many of you are there?’ demanded John.—‘Not more than the hall will
hold,’ was the answer; ‘but open the gate, lower the bridge, and do not keep the ladies in the rain.’ John’s heart was melted for the ladies, and, against his wife’s advice, he undid the bolts, sunk the drawbridge, and bade them enter in the name of God. Having done so, he instantly retired into his sanctum sanctorum to await the event, for there was something in the voices and language of his guests that sounded mysterious and awful. They rushed into the castle, and appeared to know their way through all its recesses. Grooms were heard hurrying their horses to the stables—sentinels were heard mounting guard—a thousand lights gleamed from place to place through the ruins, till at length they seemed all concentrated in the baronial hall, whose range of broad windows threw a resplendent illumination on the moss-grown court below. After a short time, a domestic, clad in a rich but very antique dress, appeared before the old couple, and commanded them to attend his lord and lady in the great hall. They went with tottering steps, and to their great terror found themselves in the midst of a most brilliant and joyous company; but the fearful part of it was, that most of the guests resembled the ancestors of John’s family, and were known to him by their resemblance to pictures which mouldered in the castle, or by traditionary description. At the head, the founder of the race, dressed like some mighty baron, or rather some Galwegian prince, sat with his lady. There was a difference of opinion between these ghostly personages concerning our honest John. The chief was inclined to receive him graciously; the lady considered him, from his mean marriage, as utterly unworthy of their name and board. The upshot is, that the chief discovers to his descendant the means of finding a huge treasure concealed in the castle; the lady assures him that the discovery shall never avail
him. In the morning no trace can be discovered of the singular personages who had occupied the hall. But John sought for and discovered the vault where the spoils of the Southrons were concealed, rolled away the covering stone, and feasted his eyes on a range of massy chests of iron, filled doubtless with treasure. As he deliberated on the best means of bringing them up, and descending into the vault, he observed it began slowly to fill with water. Baling and pumping were resorted to, and when he had exhausted his own and his wife’s strength, they summoned the assistance of the neighbourhood. But the vengeance of the visionary lady was perfect; the waters of the lake had forced their way into the vault, and John, after a year or two spent in draining and so forth, died broken-hearted, the last baron of Plenton.

“Such is the tale, of which the incidents seem new, and the interest capable of being rendered striking; the story admits of the highest degree of decoration, both by poetry, music, and scenery, and I propose (in behalf of my godson) to take some pains in dramatizing it. As thus you shall play John, as you can speak a little Scotch; I will make him what the Baron of Bradwardine would have been in his circumstances, and he shall be alternately ludicrous from his family pride and prejudices, contrasted with his poverty, and respectable from his just and independent tone of feeling and character. I think Scotland is entitled to have something on the stage to balance Macklin’s two worthies.* You understand the dialect will be only tinged with the national dialect—not that the baron is to speak broad Scotch, while all the others talk English. His wife and he shall have one child, a daughter, suitored unto by the conceited young parson or schoolmaster of

* Sir Archy Mac-Sarcasm and Sir Pertinax MacSycophant.

the village, whose addresses are countenanced by her mother—and by Halbert the hunter, a youth of unknown descent. Now this youth shall be the rightful heir and representative of the English owners of the treasure, of which they had been robbed by the baron’s ancestors, for which unjust act their spirits still walked the earth. These, with a substantial character or two, and the ghostly personages, shall mingle as they may—and the discovery of the youth’s birth shall break the spell of the treasure-chamber. I will make the ghosts talk as never ghosts talked in the body or out of it; and the music may be as unearthly as you can get it. The rush of the shadows into the castle shall be seen through the window of the baron’s apartment in the flat scene. The ghosts’ banquet, and many other circumstances, may give great exercise to the scene-painter and dresser. If you like this plan, you had better suspend any other for the present. In my opinion it has the infinite merit of being perfectly new in plot and structure, and I will set about the sketch as soon as my strength is restored in some measure by air and exercise. I am sure I can finish it in a fortnight then. Ever yours truly,

W. Scott.”

About the time when this letter was written, a newspaper paragraph having excited the apprehension of two—or I should say three—of his dearest friends that his life was in actual danger, Scott wrote to them as follows—

To John B. S. Morritt, Esq., M.P., Portland Place, London.
“Edinburgh, 20th March, 1817.
“My dear Morritt,

“I hasten to acquaint you that I am in the land of life, and thriving, though I have had a slight shake, and still feel the consequences of medical treatment. I had
been plagued all through this winter with cramps in my stomach, which I endured as a man of mould might, and endeavoured to combat them by drinking scalding water, and so forth. As they grew rather unpleasantly frequent, I had reluctant recourse to
Baillie. But before his answer arrived, on the 5th, I had a most violent attack, which broke up a small party at my house, and sent me to bed roaring like a bull-calf. All sorts of remedies were applied, as in the case of Gil Blas’ pretended colic, but such was the pain of the real disorder, that it outdeviled the Doctor hollow. Even heated salt, which was applied in such a state that it burned my shirt to rags, I hardly felt when clapped to my stomach. At length the symptoms became inflammatory, and dangerously so, the seat being the diaphragm. They only gave way to very profuse bleeding and blistering, which, under higher assistance, saved my life. My recovery was slow and tedious from the state of exhaustion. I could neither stir for weakness and giddiness, nor read for dazzling in my eyes, nor listen for a whizzing sound in my ears, nor even think for lack of the power of arranging my ideas. So I had a comfortless time of it for about a week. Even yet I by no means feel, as the copy-book hath it,
‘The lion bold, which the lamb doth hold—’
on the contrary, I am as weak as water. They tell me (of course) I must renounce every creature comfort, as my friend Jedediah calls it. As for dinner and so forth, I care little about it but toast and water, and three glasses of wine, sound like hard laws to me. However, to parody the lamentation of Hassan, the camel-driver,
‘The lily health outvies the grape’s bright ray,
And life is dearer than the usquebæ—’
so I shall be amenable to discipline. But in my own
secret mind I suspect the state of my bowels more than any thing else. I take enough of exercise and enough of rest; but unluckily they are like a Lapland year, divided as one night and one day. In the vacation I never sit down; in the session-time I seldom rise up. But all this must be better arranged in future; and I trust I shall live to weary out all your kindness.

“I am obliged to break off hastily. I trust I shall be able to get over the Fell in the end of summer, which will rejoice me much, for the sound of the woods of Rokeby is lovely in mine ear. Ever yours,

Walter Scott.”
To Mrs Maclean Clephane, of Torloisk, Mull.
Edinburgh, 23d March, 1817.
“My dear Mrs and Miss Clephane,

“Here comes to let you know you had nearly seen the last sight of me, unless I had come to visit you on my red beam, like one of Fingal’s heroes, which, Ossianic as you are, I trow you would readily dispense with. The cause was a cramp in my stomach, which, after various painful visits, as if it had been sent by Prospero, and had mistaken me for Caliban, at length chose to conclude by setting fire to its lodging, like the Frenchmen as they retreated through Russia, and placed me in as proper a state of inflammation as if I had had the whole Spafields’ committee in my unfortunate stomach. Then bleeding and blistering was the word; and they bled and blistered till they left me neither skin nor blood. However, they beat off the foul fiend, and I am bound to praise the bridge which carried me over. I am still very totterish, and very giddy, kept to panada, or rather to porridge, for I spurned at all foreign slops, and adhered to our ancient oatmeal manufacture. But I have no apprehension of any return of the serious
part of the malady, and I am now recovering my strength, though looking somewhat cadaverous upon the occasion.

“I much approve of your going to Italy by sea; indeed it is the only way you ought to think of it. I am only sorry you are going to leave us for a while; but indeed the isle of Mull might be Florence to me in respect of separation, and cannot be quite Florence to you, since Lady Compton is not there. I lately heard her mentioned in a company where my interest in her was not known, as one of the very few English ladies now in Italy whom their acquirements, conduct, and mode of managing time, induce that part of foreign society, whose approbation is valuable, to consider with high respect and esteem. This I think is very likely; for, whatever folks say of foreigners, those of good education and high rank among them, must have a supreme contempt for the frivolous, dissatisfied, empty, gad-about manners of many of our modern belles. And we may say among ourselves, that there are few upon whom high accomplishments and information sit more gracefully.

John Kemble is here to take leave, acting over all his great characters, and with all the spirit of his best years. He played Coriolanus last night (the first time I have ventured out), fully as well as I ever saw him; and you know what a complete model he is of the Roman. He has made a great reformation in his habits; given up wine, which he used to swallow by pailfulls,—and renewed his youth like the eagles. He seems to me always to play best those characters in which there is a predominating tinge of some over-mastering passion, or acquired habit of acting and speaking, colouring the whole man. The patrician pride of Coriolanus, the stoicism of Brutus and Cato, the rapid and hurried ve-
hemence of Hotspur, mark the class of characters I mean. But he fails where a ready and pliable yielding to the events and passions of life makes what may be termed a more natural personage. Accordingly I think his Macbeth, Lear, and especially his Richard, inferior in spirit and truth. In
Hamlet the natural fixed melancholy of the prince places him within Kemble’s range;—yet many delicate and sudden turns of passion slip through his fingers. He is a lordly vessel, goodly and magnificent when going large before the wind, but wanting the facility to go ‘ready about,’ so that he is sometimes among the breakers before he can wear ship. Yet we lose in him a most excellent critic, an accomplished scholar, and one who graced our forlorn drama with what little it has left of good sense and gentlemanlike feeling. And so exit he. He made me write some lines to speak when he withdraws, and he has been here criticising and correcting till he got them quite to his mind, which has rather tired me. Most truly yours while

Walter Scott.”

On the 29th of March, 1817, John Philip Kemble, after going through the round of his chief parts, to the delight of the Edinburgh audience, took his final leave of them as Macbeth, and in the costume of that character delivered a farewell address, penned for him by Scott.*

* See Poetical Works, vol. xi. p. 348. Scott’s Farewell for Kemble first appeared in “The Sale-Room,” for April 5th, 1817; and in the introductory note, James Ballantyne says,—“The character fixed upon, with happy propriety, for Kemble’s closing scene, was Macbeth. He had laboured under a severe cold for a few days before, but on the memorable night the physical annoyance yielded to the energy of his mind. ‘He was,’ he said, in the Green-room, immediately before the curtain rose, ‘determined to leave behind him the most perfect specimen of his art which he had ever shown;’ and his success was complete. ‘At the moment of the tyrant’s death

No one who witnessed that scene, and heard the lines as then recited, can ever expect to be again interested to the same extent by any thing occurring within the walls of a theatre; nor was I ever present at any public dinner in all its circumstances more impressive, than was that which occurred a few days afterwards, when Kemble’s Scotch friends and admirers assembled round him—
Francis Jeffrey being chairman, Walter Scott and John Wilson the croupiers.

Shortly before this time Mr William Laidlaw had met with misfortunes, which rendered it necessary for him to give up the lease of a farm, on which he had been for some years settled, in Mid-Lothian. He was now anxiously looking about him for some new establishment, and it occurred to Scott that it might be mutually advantageous, as well as agreeable, if his excellent friend would consent to come and occupy a house on his property, and endeavour, under his guidance, to make such literary exertions as might raise his income to an amount adequate for his comfort. The prospect of obtaining such a neighbour was, no doubt, the more welcome to “Abbotsford and Kaeside,” from its opening at this period of fluctuating health; and Laidlaw, who had for twenty years loved and revered him, considered the proposal

the curtain fell by the universal acclamation of the audience. The applauses were vehement and prolonged; they ceased were resumed—rose again—were reiterated—and again were hushed. In a few minutes the curtain ascended, and Mr Kemble came forward in the dress of Macbeth (the audience by a consentaneous movement rising to receive him), to deliver his farewell.” ... “Mr Kemble delivered the lines with exquisite beauty, and with an effect that was evidenced by the tears and sobs of many of the audience. His own emotions were very conspicuous. When his farewell was closed he lingered long on the stage, as if unable to retire. The house again stood up, and cheered him with the waving of hats and long shouts of applause.”

with far greater delight than the most lucrative appointment on any noble domain in the island could have afforded him. Though possessed of a lively and searching sagacity as to things in general, he had always been as to his own worldly interests simple as a child. His tastes and habits were all modest; and when he looked forward to spending the remainder of what had not hitherto been a successful life, under the shadow of the genius that he had worshipped almost from boyhood, his gentle heart was all happiness. He surveyed with glistening eyes the humble cottage in which his friend proposed to lodge him, his wife, and his little ones, and said to himself that he should write no more sad songs on Forest Flittings.*

Scott’s notes to him at this time afford a truly charming picture of thoughtful and respectful delicacy on both sides. Mr Laidlaw, for example, appears to have hinted that he feared his friend, in making the proposal as to the house at Kaeside, might have perhaps in some degree overlooked the feelings of “Laird Moss,” who, having sold his land several months before, had as yet continued to occupy his old homestead. Scott answers:—

To Mr W. Laidlaw.
“Edinburgh, April 5, 1817.
“My dear Sir,

“Nothing can give me more pleasure than the prospect of your making yourself comfortable at Kaeside till some good thing casts up. I have not put Mr Moss to

* Mr Laidlaw has not published many verses; but his song of “Lucy’s Flitting”—a simple and pathetic picture of a poor Ettrick maiden’s feelings in leaving a service where she had been happy—has long been and must ever be a favourite with all who understand the delicacies of the Scottish dialect, and the manners of the district in which the scene is laid.

any inconvenience, for I only requested an answer, giving him leave to sit if he had a mind—and of free will he leaves my premises void and redd at Whitsunday. I suspect the house is not in good order, but we shall get it brushed up a little. Without affectation I consider myself the obliged party in this matter—or at any rate it is a mutual benefit, and you shall have grass for a cow, and so forth—whatever you want. I am sure when you are so near I shall find some literary labour for you that will make ends meet. Yours, in haste,

W. Scott.”

He had before this time made considerable progress in another historical sketch (that of the year 1815) for the Edinburgh Annual Register; and the first literary labour which he provided for Laidlaw, appears to have been arranging for the same volume a set of newspaper articles, usually printed under the head of Chronicle, to which were appended some little extracts of new books of travels, and the like miscellanies. The Edinburgh Monthly Magazine, subsequently known by the name of its projector, Blackwood, commenced in April of this year; and one of its editors, Mr Thomas Pringle, being a Teviotdale man and an old acquaintance of Laidlaw’s, offered to the latter the care of its Chronicle department also,—not perhaps without calculating that, in case Laidlaw’s connexion with the new journal should become at all a strict one, Scott would be induced to give it occasionally the benefit of his own literary assistance. He accordingly did not write—being unwell at the time—but dictated to Pringle a collection of anecdotes concerning Scottish gypsies, which attracted a good deal of notice;* and, I

* These anecdotes were subsequently inserted in the Introduction to Guy Mannering.

believe, he also assisted Laidlaw in drawing up one or more articles on the subject of Scottish superstitions. But the bookseller and Pringle soon quarrelled, and, the Magazine assuming, on the retirement of the latter, a high Tory character, Laidlaw’s Whig feelings induced him to renounce its alliance; while Scott, having no kindness for Blackwood personally, and disapproving (though he chuckled over it) the reckless extravagance of juvenile satire, which, by and by, distinguished his journal, appears to have easily acquiesced in the propriety of Laidlaw’s determination. I insert mean time a few notes, which will show with what care and kindness he watched over Laidlaw’s operations for the Annual Register.

To Mr Laidlaw, at Kaeside.
Edinburgh, June, 16, 1817.
“Dear Sir,

“I enclose you ‘rare guerdon,’ better than remuneration,—namely, a cheque for L.25, for the Chronicle part of the Register. The incidents selected should have some reference to amusement as well as information, and may be occasionally abridged in the narration; but, after all, paste and scissors form your principal materials. You must look out for two or three good original articles; and, if you would read and take pains to abridge one or two curious books of travels, I would send out the volumes. Could I once get the head of the concern fairly round before the wind again, I am sure I could make it L.100 a-year to you. In the present instance it will be at least L.50. Yours truly,

W. S.”
To the Same.
“Edinburgh, July 3, 1817.
“My dear Sir,

“I send you Adam’s and Riley’s Travels. You will observe I don’t want a review of the books, or a detail of these persons’ adventures, but merely a short article expressing the light, direct or doubtful, which they have thrown on the interior of Africa. ‘Recent Discoveries in Africa,’ will be a proper title. I hope to find you materially amended, or rather quite stout, when I come out on Saturday. I am quite well this morning. Yours, in haste,

W. S.

“P.S.—I add Mariner’s Tonga Islands and Campbell’s Voyage. Pray, take great care of them, as I am a coxcomb about my books, and hate specks or spots. Take care of yourself, and want for nothing that Abbotsford can furnish.”

These notes have carried us down to the middle of the year. But I must now turn to some others which show that before Whitsuntide, when Laidlaw settled at Kaeside, negotiations were on foot respecting another novel.

To Mr John Ballantyne, Hanover Street, Edinburgh.
“Abbotsford, Monday. [April, 1817.]
“Dear John,

“I have a good subject for a work of fiction in petto. What do you think Constable would give for a smell of it? You ran away without taking leave the other morning, or I wished to have spoken to you about it. I don’t mean a continuation of Jedediah, because there might be some delicacy in putting that by the
original publishers. You may write if any thing occurs to you on this subject. It will not interrupt my History. By the way, I have a great lot of the
Register ready for delivery, and no man asks for it. I shall want to pay up some cash at Whitsunday, which will make me draw on my brains. Yours truly,

W. Scott.”
To the Same.
“Abbotsford, Saturday, May 3, 1817.
“Dear John,

“I shall be much obliged to you to come here with Constable on Monday, as he proposes a visit, and it will save time. By the way, you must attend that the usual quantity of stock is included in the arrangement—that is L.600 for 6000 copies. My sum is L.1700, payable in May a round advance, by’r Lady, but I think I am entitled to it, considering what I have twined off hitherto on such occasions.

“I make a point on your coming with Constable, health allowing. Yours truly,

W. S.”

The result of this meeting is indicated in a note scribbled by John Ballantyne at the bottom of the foregoing letter, before it was seen by his brother the printer.

“Half-past 3 o’clock, Tuesday.
“Dear James,

“I am this moment returned from Abbotsford, with entire and full success. Wish me joy. I shall gain above L.600—Constable taking my share of stock also. The title is Rob Roy by the author of Waverley!!! Keep this letter for me.

J. B.

On the same page there is written, in fresher ink, which marks, no doubt, the time when John pasted it into his collection of private papers now before me—

”N.B—I did gain above L.1200—J. B.

The title of this novel was suggested by Constable, and he told me years afterwards the difficulty he had to get it adopted by the author. “What!” said he, “Mr Accoucheur, must you be setting up for Mr Sponsor too?—but let’s hear it.” Constable said the name of the real hero would be the best possible name for the book. “Nay,” answered Scott, “never let me have to write up to a name. You well know I have generally adopted a title that told nothing.”—The bookseller, however, persevered; and after the trio had dined, these scruples gave way.

On rising from table, according to Constable, they sallied out to the green before the door of the cottage, and all in the highest spirits enjoyed the fine May evening. John Ballantyne, hopping up and down in his glee, exclaimed, “is Rob’s gun here, Mr Scott; would you object to my trying the auld barrel with a few dejoy?” “Nay, Mr Puff,” said Scott, “it would burst and blow you to the devil before your time.” “Johnny, my man,” said Constable, “what the mischief puts drawing at sight into your head?” Scott laughed heartily at this innuendo; and then observing that the little man felt somewhat sore, called attention to the notes of a bird in the adjoining shrubbery. “And by the by,” said he, as they continued listening, “’tis a long time, Johnny, since we have had the Cobbler of Kelso.” Mr Puff forthwith jumped up on a mass of stone, and seating himself in the proper attitude of one working with his awl, began a favourite interlude, mimicking a certain son of Crispin, at whose stall Scott and he had often
lingered when they were schoolboys, and a blackbird, the only companion of his cell, that used to sing to him, while he talked and whistled to it all day long. With this performance Scott was always delighted: nothing could be richer than the contrast of the bird’s wild sweet notes, some of which he imitated with wonderful skill, and the accompaniment of the Cobbler’s hoarse cracked voice, uttering all manner of endearing epithets, which Johnny multiplied and varied in a style worthy of the Old Women in
Rabelais at the birth of Pantagruel. I often wondered that Matthews, who borrowed so many good things from John Ballantyne, allowed this Cobbler, which was certainly the masterpiece, to escape him.

Scott himself had probably exceeded that evening the three glasses of wine sanctioned by his Sangrados. “I never,” said Constable, “had found him so disposed to be communicative about what he meant to do. Though he had had a return of his illness but the day before, he continued for an hour or more to walk backwards and forwards on the green, talking and laughing—he told us he was sure he should make a hit in a Glasgow weaver, whom he would ravel up with Rob; and fairly outshone the Cobbler, in an extempore dialogue between the bailie and the cateran—something not unlike what the book gives us as passing in the Glasgow tolbooth.”

Mr Puff might well exult in the “full and entire success” of this trip to Abbotsford. His friend had made it a sine qua non in the bargain with Constable, that he should have a third share in the bookseller’s moiety of the copyright and though Johnny had no more trouble about the publishing or selling of Rob Roy than his own Cobbler of Kelso, this stipulation had secured him a bonus of L.1200, before two years
passed. Moreover, one must admire his adroitness in persuading Constable, during their journey back to Edinburgh, to relieve him of that fraction of his own old stock, with which his unhazardous share in the new bargain was burdened.
Scott’s kindness continued as long as John Ballantyne lived to provide for him a constant succession of similar advantages at the same easy rate; and Constable, from deference to Scott’s wishes, and from his own liking for the humorous auctioneer, appears to have submitted with hardly a momentary grudge to this heavy tax on his most important ventures.

The same week Scott received Southey’s celebrated letter to Mr William Smith, M.P. for Norwich. The poet of Keswick had also forwarded to him somewhat earlier his Pilgrimage to Waterloo, which piece contains a touching allusion to the affliction the author had recently sustained in the death of a fine boy. Scott’s letter on this occasion was as follows:—

To Robert Southey, Esq., Keswick.
Selkirk, May 9th, 1817.
“My dear Southey,

“I have been a strangely negligent correspondent for some months past, more especially as I have had you rarely out of my thoughts, for I think you will hardly doubt of my sincere sympathy in events which have happened since I have written. I shed sincere tears over the Pilgrimage to Waterloo. But in the crucible of human life, the purest gold is tried by the strongest heat, and I can only hope for the continuance of your present family blessings to one so well formed to enjoy the pure happiness they afford. My health has, of late, been very indifferent. I was very nearly succumbing under a violent inflammatory attack, and still feel the effects of the necessary treatment. I believe
they took one-third of the blood of my system, and blistered in proportion; so that both my flesh and my blood have been in a wofully reduced state. I got out here some weeks since, where, by dint of the insensible exercise which one takes in the country, I feel myself gathering strength daily, but am still obliged to observe a severe regimen. It was not to croak about myself, however, that I took up the pen, but to wish you joy of your triumphant
answer to that coarse-minded William Smith. He deserved all he has got, and, to say the truth, you do not spare him, and have no cause. His attack seems to have proceeded from the vulgar insolence of a low mind desirous of attacking genius at disadvantage. It is the ancient and eternal strife of which the witch speaks in Thalaba. Such a man as he feels he has no alliance with such as you, and his evil instincts lead him to treat as hostile whatever he cannot comprehend. I met Smith once during his stay in Edinburgh,* and had, what I seldom have with any one in society, a high quarrel with him. His mode of travelling had been from one gentleman’s seat to another, abusing the well-known hospitality of the Highland lairds by taking possession of their houses, even during their absence, domineering in them when they were present, and not only eating the dinner of to-day, but requiring that the dinner of to-morrow should also be made ready and carried forward with him, to save the expense of inns. All this was no business of mine, but when, in the middle of a company consisting of those to whom he had owed this hospitality, he abused the country, of which he knew little—the language, of which he

* Scott’s meeting with this Mr Smith occurred at the table of his friend and colleague, Hector Macdonald Buchanan. The company, except Scott and Smith, were all, like their hospitable landlord, Highlanders.

knew nothing and the people, who have their faults, but are a much more harmless, moral, and at the same time high-spirited population than, I venture to say, he ever lived amongst—I thought it was really too bad, and so e’en took up the debate, and gave it him over the knuckles as smartly as I could. Your pamphlet, therefore, fed fat my ancient grudge against him as well as the modern one, for you cannot doubt that my blood boiled at reading the report of his speech. Enough of this gentleman, who, I think, will not walk out of the round in a hurry again, to slander the conduct of individuals.

“I am at present writing at our head-court of freeholders—a set of quiet, unpretending, but sound-judging country gentlemen, and whose opinions may be very well taken as a fair specimen of those men of sense and honour, who are not likely to be dazzled by literary talent, which lies out of their beat, and who, therefore, cannot be of partial counsel in the cause; and I never heard an opinion more generally, and evenwarmly expressed, than that your triumphant vindication brands Smith as a slanderer in all time coming. I think you may not be displeased to know this, because what men of keen feelings and literary pursuits must have felt cannot be unknown to you, and you may not have the same access to know the impression made upon the general class of society.

“I have to thank you for the continuation of the History of Brazil one of your gigantic labours; the fruit of a mind so active, yet so patient of labour. I am not yet far advanced in the second volume, reserving it usually for my hour’s amusement in the evening, as children keep their dainties for bonne bouche: but as far as I have come, it possesses all the interest of the commencement, though a more faithless and worthless set
than both Dutch and Portuguese I have never read of; and it requires your knowledge of the springs of human action, and your lively description of ‘hair-breadth ’scapes,’ to make one care whether the hog bites the dog, or the dog bites the hog. Both nations were in rapid declension from their short-lived age of heroism, and in the act of experiencing all those retrograde movements which are the natural consequence of selfishness on the one hand, and bigotry on the other.

“I am glad to see you are turning your mind to the state of the poor. Should you enter into details on the subject of the best mode of assisting them, I would be happy to tell you the few observations I have made—not on a very small scale neither, considering my fortune, for I have kept about thirty of the labourers in my neighbourhood in constant employment this winter. This I do not call charity, because they executed some extensive plantations and other works, which I could never have got done so cheaply, and which I always intended one day to do. But neither was it altogether selfish on my part, because I was putting myself to inconvenience in incurring the expense of several years at once, and certainly would not have done so, but to serve mine honest neighbours, who were likely to want work but for such exertion. From my observation, I am inclined greatly to doubt the salutary effect of the scheme generally adopted in Edinburgh and elsewhere for relieving the poor. At Edinburgh, they are employed on public works at so much a-day—tenpence, I believe, or one shilling, with an advance to those who have families. This rate is fixed below that of ordinary wages, in order that no person may be employed but those who really cannot find work elsewhere. But it is attended with this bad effect, that the people regard it partly as charity, which is humiliating,—and partly as an imposition, in taking their labour below its usual saleable value; to
which many add a third view of the subject—namely, that this sort of half-pay is not given them for the purpose of working, but to prevent their rising in rebellion. None of these misconceptions are favourable to hard labour, and the consequence is, that I never have seen such a set of idle fainéants as those employed on this system in the public works, and I am sure that, notwithstanding the very laudable intention of those who subscribed to form the fund, and the yet more praiseworthy, because more difficult, exertions of those who superintend it, the issue of the scheme will occasion full as much mischief as good to the people engaged in it. Private gentlemen, acting on something like a similar system, may make it answer better, because they have not the lazy dross of a metropolis to contend with—because they have fewer hands to manage—and above all, because an individual always manages his own concerns better than those of the country can be managed. Yet all who have employed those who were distressed for want of work at under wages, have had, less or more, similar complaints to make. I think I have avoided this in my own case, by inviting the country-people to do piecework by the contract. Two things only are necessary—one is, that the nature of the work should be such as will admit of its being ascertained, when finished, to have been substantially executed. All sort of spade-work and hoe-work, with many other kinds of country labour, fall under this description, and the employer can hardly be cheated in the execution, if he keeps a reasonable look out. The other point is to take care that the undertakers, in their anxiety for employment, do not take the job too cheap. A little acquaintance with country labour will enable one to regulate this; but it is an essential point, for if you do not keep them to their bargain, it is making a jest of the thing, and forfeiting the very advantage you have in view—that, namely, of inducing
the labourer to bring his heart and spirit to his work. But this he will do where he has a fair bargain, which is to prove a good or bad one according to his own exertions. In this case you make the poor man his own friend, for the profits of his good conduct are all his own. It is astonishing how partial the people are to this species of contract, and how diligently they labour, acquiring or maintaining all the while those habits which renders them honourable and useful members of society. I mention this to you, because the rich, much to their honour, do not, in general, require to be so much stimulated to benevolence, as to be directed in the most useful way to exert it.

“I have still a word to say about the poor of our own parish of Parnassus. I have been applied to by a very worthy friend, Mr Scott of Sinton, in behalf of an unfortunate Mr Gilmour, who, it seems, has expended a little fortune in printing, upon his own account, poems which, from the sample I saw, seem exactly to answer the description of Dean Swift’s country house—
‘Too bad for a blessing, too good for a curse,
I wish from my soul they were better or worse.”
But you are the dean of our corporation, and, I am informed, take some interest in this poor gentleman. If you can point out any way in which I can serve him, I am sure my inclination is not wanting, but it looks like a very hopeless case. I beg my kindest respects to
Mrs Southey, and am always sincerely and affectionately yours,

Walter Scott.”

About this time Hogg took possession of Altrive Lake, and some of his friends in Edinburgh set on foot a subscription edition of his Queen’s Wake (at a guinea each copy), in the hope of thus raising a sum adequate to the stocking of the little farm. The following letter
alludes to this affair; and also to the death of
Frances Lady Douglas, sister to Duke Henry of Buccleuch, whose early kindness to Scott has been more than once mentioned.

To the Right Honourable Lord Montagu, &c. &c. &c.
“Abbotsford, June 8, 1817.
“My dear Lord,

“I am honoured with your letter, and will not fail to take care that the Shepherd profits by your kind intentions, and those of Lady Montagu. This is a scheme which I did not devise, for I fear it will end in disappointment, but for which I have done, and will do all I possibly can. There is an old saying of the seamen’s, ‘every man is not born to be a boatswain,’ and I think I have heard of men born under a sixpenny planet, and doomed never to be worth a groat. I fear something of this vile sixpenny influence had gleamed in at the cottage window when poor Hogg first came squeaking into the world. All that he made by his original book he ventured on a flock of sheep to drive into the Highlands to a farm he had taken there, but of which he could not get possession, so that all the stock was ruined and sold to disadvantage. Then he tried another farm, which proved too dear, so that he fairly broke upon it. Then put forth divers publications, which had little sale and brought him accordingly few pence, though some praise. Then came this Queen’s Wake, by which he might and ought to have made from L.100 to L.200—for there were, I think, three editions—when lo! his bookseller turned bankrupt, and paid him never a penny. The Duke has now, with his wonted generosity, given him a cosie bield, and the object of the present attack upon the public, is to get if possible as much cash together as will stock it. But no one has loose guineas now to give to poor poets, and I greatly doubt the scheme succeeding,
unless it is more strongly patronised than can almost be expected. In bookselling matters, an author must either be the conjuror, who commands the devil, or the witch who serves him—and few are they whose situation is sufficiently independent to enable them to assume the higher character—and this is injurious to the indigent author in every respect, for not only is he obliged to turn his pen to every various kind of composition, and so to injure himself with the public by writing hastily, and on subjects unfitted for his genius; but moreover, those honest gentlemen, the booksellers, from a natural association, consider the books as of least value, which they find they can get at least expense of copy-money, and therefore are proportionally careless in pushing the sale of the work. Whereas a good round sum out of their purse, like a moderate rise of rent on a farm, raises the work thus acquired in their own eyes, and serves as a spur to make them clear away every channel, by which they can discharge their quires upon the public. So much for bookselling, the most ticklish and unsafe, and hazardous of all professions, scarcely with the exception of horse-jockeyship.

“You cannot doubt the sincere interest I take in Lady Montagu’s health. I was very glad to learn from the Duke, that the late melancholy event had produced no permanent effect on her constitution, as I know how much her heart must have suffered.* I saw our regretted friend for the last time at the Theatre, and made many schemes to be at Bothwell this next July. But thus the world glides from us, and those we most love and honour are withdrawn from the stage before us. I know not why it was that among the few for whom I had so much respectful regard, I never had associated

* Lady Montagu was the daughter of the late Lord Douglas by his first marriage with Lady Lucy Grahame, daughter of the second Duke of Montrose.

the idea of early deprivation with Lady Douglas. Her excellent sense, deep information, and the wit which she wielded with so much good humour, were allied apparently to a healthy constitution which might have permitted us to enjoy, and be instructed by her society for many years. Dis aliter visum, and the recollection dwelling on all the delight which she afforded to society, and the good which she did in private life, is what now remains to us of her wit, wisdom, and benevolence. The Duke keeps his usual health, with always just so much of the gout, however, as would make me wish that he had more a kind wish for which I do not observe that he is sufficiently grateful. I hope to spend a few days at Drumlanrig Castle, when that ancient mansion shall have so far limited its courtesy as to stand covered in the presence of the wind and rain, which I believe is not yet the case. I am no friend to ceremony, and like a house as well when it does not carry its roof en chapeau bras. I heartily wish your Lordship joy of the new mansion at Ditton, and hope my good stars will permit me to pay my respects there one day. The discovery of the niches certainly bodes good luck to the house of Montagu, and as there are three of them, I presume it is to come threefold. From the care with which they were concealed, I presume they had been closed in the days of
Cromwell, or a little before, and that the artist employed (like the General, who told his soldiers to fight bravely against the Pope, since they were Venetians before they were Christians) had more professional than religious zeal, and did not even, according to the practice of the time, think it necessary to sweep away Popery with the besom of destruction.* I am here on

* Lord Montagu’s house at Ditton Park, near Windsor, had recently been destroyed by fire and the ruins revealed some niches with antique candlesticks, &c., belonging to a domestic chapel that had been converted to other purposes from the time, I believe, of Henry VIII.

JUNE 8TH, 1817.79
a stolen visit of two days, and find my mansion gradually enlarging. Thanks to
Mr Atkinson (who found out a practical use for our romantic theory), it promises to make a comfortable station for offering your Lordship and Lady Montagu a pilgrim’s meal, when you next visit Melrose Abbey, and that without any risk of your valet (who I recollect is a substantial person) sticking between the wall of the parlour and the backs of the chairs placed round the table. This literally befel Sir Harry Macdougal’s fat butler, who looked like a ship of the line in the loch at Bowhill, altogether unlike his master, who could glide wherever a weasel might make his way. Mr Atkinson has indeed been more attentive than I can express, when I consider how valuable his time must be.* We are attempting no castellated conundrums to rival those Lord Napier used to have executed in sugar, when he was Commissioner, and no cottage neither, but an irregular somewhat—like an old English hall, in which your squire of L.500 a-year used to drink his ale in days of yore.

“I am making considerable plantations (that is considering), being greatly encouraged by the progress of those I formerly laid out. Read the veracious Gulliver’s account of the Windsor Forest of Lilliput, and you will have some idea of the solemn gloom of my Druid shades.

Your Lordship’s truly faithful
Walter Scott.

“This is the 8th of June, and not an ash tree in leaf yet. The country cruelly backward, and whole fields destroyed by the grub. I dread this next season.”

* Mr Atkinson, of St John’s Wood, was the architect of Lord Montagu’s new mansion at Ditton, as well as the artist ultimately employed, in arranging Scott’s interior at Abbotsford.