LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter III 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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During the summer term of 1817, Scott seems to have laboured chiefly on his History of 1815, for the Register, which was published in August; but he also found time to draw up the Introduction for a richly embellished quarto, entitled “Border Antiquities,” which came out a month later. This valuable essay, containing large additions to the information previously embodied in the Minstrelsy, has been included in the late collection of his Miscellaneous Prose, and has thus obtained a circulation not to be expected for it in the original costly form.

Upon the rising of the Court in July, he made an excursion to the Lennox, chiefly that he might visit a cave at the head of Loch Lomond, said to have been a favourite retreat of his hero, Rob Roy. He was accompanied to the seat of his friend, Mr Macdonald Buchanan, by Captain Adam Ferguson—the long Linton of the days of his apprenticeship; and thence to Glasgow, where, under the auspices of a kind and intelligent acquaintance, Mr John Smith, bookseller, he refreshed
his recollection of the noble cathedral, and other localities of the birth-place of Bailie Jarvie. Mr Smith took care also to show the tourists the most remarkable novelties in the great manufacturing establishments of his flourishing city; and he remembers particularly the delight which
Scott expressed on seeing the process of singeing muslin that is, of divesting the finished web of all superficial knots and irregularities, by passing it, with the rapidity of lightning, over a rolling bar of red-hot iron. “The man that imagined this,” said Scott, “was the Shakspeare of the Wabsters
‘Things out of hope are compass’d oft with vent’ring.’”

The following note indicates the next stages of his progress:—

To his Grace the Duke of Buccleuch, Drumlanrig Castle.
“Sanquhar, 2 o’clock, July 30, 1817.
“From Ross, where the clouds on Ben-Lomond are sleeping—
From Greenock, where Clyde to the Ocean is sweeping—
From Largs, where the Scotch gave the Northmen a drilling—
From Ardrossan, whose harbour cost many a shilling—
From Old Cumnock, where beds are as hard as a plank, sir—
From a chop and green pease, and a chicken in Sanquhar,
This eve, please the Fates, at Drumlanrig we anchor.
W. S.”

The Poet and Captain Ferguson remained a week at Drumlanrig, and thence repaired together to Abbotsford. By this time, the foundations of that part of the existing house, which extends from the hall westwards to the original court-yard, had been laid; and Scott now found a new source of constant occupation in watching the proceedings of his masons. He had, moreover, no lack of employment further a-field,—for he was now negotiating with another neighbouring landowner for the purchase of an addition, of more consequence than any he had hitherto made, to his estate. In the course of the
autumn he concluded this matter, and became, for the price of L.10,000, proprietor of the lands of Toftfield* on which there had recently been erected a substantial mansion-house, fitted, in all points, for the accommodation of a genteel family. This circumstance offered a temptation which much quickened Scott’s zeal for completing his arrangement. The venerable
Professor Ferguson had died a year before; Captain Adam Ferguson was at home on half-pay; and Scott now saw the means of securing for himself, henceforth, the immediate neighbourhood of the companion of his youth, and his amiable sisters. Ferguson, who had written, from the lines of Torres Vedras, his hopes of finding, when the war should be over, some sheltering cottage upon the Tweed, within a walk of Abbotsford, was delighted to see his dreams realized; and the family took up their residence next spring at the new house of Toftfield, on which Scott then bestowed, at the ladies’ request, the name of Huntly Burn:—this more harmonious designation being taken from the mountain brook which passes through its grounds and garden, the same famous in tradition as the scene of Thomas the Rhymer’s interviews with the Queen of Fairy. The upper part of the Rhymer’s Glen, through which this brook finds its way from the Cauldshiels Loch to Toftfield, had been included in a previous purchase. He was now master of all these haunts of “True Thomas,” and of the whole ground of the battle of Melrose from Skirmish-Field to Turn-again. His enjoyment of the new territories was,

* On completing this purchase, Scott writes to John Ballantyne:—“Dear John, I have closed with Usher for his beautiful patrimony, which makes me a great laird. I am afraid the people will take me up for coining. Indeed, these novels, while their attractions last, are something like it. I am very glad of your good prospects. Still I cry, Prudence! Prudence! Yours truly, W. S.”

AUTUMN, 1817.83
however, interrupted by various returns of his cramp, and the depression of spirit which always attended, in his case, the use of opium, the only medicine that seemed to have power over the disease.

It was while struggling with such languor, on one lovely evening of this autumn, that he composed the following beautiful verses. They mark the very spot of their birth,—namely, the then naked height overhanging the northern side of the Cauldshiels Loch, from which Melrose Abbey to the eastward, and the hills of Ettrick and Yarrow to the west, are now visible over a wide range of rich woodland,—all the work of the poet’s hand:—

“The sun upon the Weirdlaw Hill,
In Ettrick’s vale, is sinking sweet;
The westland wind is hush and still—
The lake lies sleeping at my feet.
Yet not the landscape to mine eye
Bears those bright hues that once it bore;
Though evening, with her richest dye,
Flames o’er the hills of Ettrick’s shore.
“With listless look along the plain
I see Tweed’s silver current glide,
And coldly mark the holy fane
Of Melrose rise in ruin’d pride.
The quiet lake, the balmy air,
The hill, the stream, the tower, the tree,—
Are they still such as once they were,
Or is the dreary change in me?
“Alas, the warp’d and broken board,
How can it bear the painter’s dye!
The harp of strain’d and tuneless chord,
How to the minstrel’s skill reply!
To aching eyes each landscape lowers,
To feverish pulse each gale blows chill;
And Araby’s or Eden’s bowers
Were barren as this moorland hill.”

He again alludes to his illness in a letter to Mr Morritt:—

To J. B. S. Morritt, Esq. M.P. Rokeby.
“Abbotsford, Aug. 11, 1817.
“My dear Morritt,

“I am arrived from a little tour in the west of Scotland, and had hoped, in compliance with your kind wish, to have indulged myself with a skip over the Border as far as Rokeby, about the end of this month. But my fate denies me this pleasure; for, in consequence of one or two blunders, during my absence, in executing my new premises, I perceive the necessity of remaining at the helm while they are going on. Our masons, though excellent workmen, are too little accustomed to the gimcracks of their art, to be trusted with the execution of a bravura plan, without constant inspection. Besides, the said labourers lay me under the necessity of labouring a little myself; and I find I can no longer with impunity undertake to make one week’s hard work supply the omissions of a fortnight’s idleness. Like you, I have abridged my creature-comforts—as Old Mortality would call them—renouncing beer and ale on all ordinary occasions; also pastry, fruit, &c. and all that tends to acidity. These are awkward warnings; but sat est vixisse. To have lived respected and regarded by some of the best men in our age, is enough for an individual like me; the rest must be as God wills, and when he wills.

“The poor laws into which you have ventured for the love of the country, form a sad quagmire. They are like John Bunyan’s Slough of Despond, into which, as he observes, millions of cart loads of good resolutions have been thrown, without perceptibly mending the way. From what you say, and from what I have heard
from others, there is a very natural desire to trust to one or two empirical remedies, such as general systems of education, and so forth. But a man with a broken constitution might as well put faith in Spilsbury or Godbold. It is not the knowledge, but the use which is made of it, that is productive of real benefit. To say that the Scottish peasant is less likely than the Englishman to become an incumbrance on his parish, is saying, in other words, that this country is less populous,—that there are fewer villages and towns,—that the agricultural classes, from the landed proprietor down to the cottager, are individually more knit and cemented together;—above all, that the Scotch peasant has harder habits of life, and can endure from his infancy a worse fare and lodging than your parish almshouses offer. There is a terrible evil in England to which we are strangers,—the number, to-wit, of tippling houses, where the labourer, as a matter of course, spends the overplus of his earnings. In Scotland there are few; and the Justices are commendably inexorable in rejecting all application for licenses where there appears no public necessity for granting them. A man, therefore, cannot easily spend much money in liquor, since he must walk three or four miles to the place of suction and back again, which infers a sort of malice prepense of which few are capable; and the habitual opportunity of indulgence not being at hand, the habits of intemperance, and of waste connected with it, are not acquired. If financiers would admit a general limitation of the ale-houses over England to one-fourth of the number, I am convinced you would find the money spent in that manner would remain with the peasant, as a source of self-support and independence. All this applies chiefly to the country; in towns, and in the manufacturing districts, the evil could hardly be diminished by such
regulations. There would, perhaps, be no means so effectual as that (which will never be listened to) of taxing the manufacturers according to the number of hands which they employ on an average, and applying the produce in maintaining the manufacturing poor. If it should be alleged that this would injure the manufacturers, I would boldly reply,—‘And why not injure, or rather limit, speculations, the excessive stretch of which has been productive of so much damage to the principles of the country, and to the population, whom it has, in so many respects, degraded and demoralized?’ For a great many years, manufactures, taken in a general point of view, have not partaken of the character of a regular profession, in which all who engaged with honest industry and a sufficient capital might reasonably expect returns proportional to their advances and labour—but have, on the contrary, rather resembled a lottery, in which the great majority of the adventurers are sure to be losers, although some may draw considerable advantage. Men continued for a great many years to exert themselves, and to pay extravagant wages, not in hopes that there could be a reasonable prospect of an orderly and regular demand for the goods they wrought up, but in order that they might be the first to take advantage of some casual opening which might consume their cargo, let others shift as they could. Hence extravagant wages on some occasions; for these adventurers who thus played at hit or miss, stood on no scruples while the chance of success remained open. Hence, also, the stoppage of work, and the discharge of the workmen, when the speculators failed of their object. All this while the country was the sufferer;—for whoever gained, the result, being upon the whole a loss, fell on the nation, together with the task of maintaining a poor, rendered effeminate and vicious by over-
wages and over-living, and necessarily cast loose upon society. I cannot but think that the necessity of making some fund beforehand, for the provision of those whom they debauch, and render only fit for the almshouse, in prosecution of their own adventures, though it operated as a check on the increase of manufactures, would be a measure just in itself, and beneficial to the community. But it would never be listened to;—the weaver’s beam, and the sons of Zeruiah, would be too many for the proposers.

“This is the eleventh of August; Walter, happier than he will ever be again, perhaps, is preparing for the moors. He has a better dog than Trout, and rather less active. Mrs Scott and all our family send kind love. Yours ever,

W. S.”

Two or three days after this letter was written, Scott first saw Washington Irving, who has recorded his visit in a delightful Essay, which, however, having been penned nearly twenty years afterwards, betrays a good many slips of memory as to names and dates. Mr Irving says he arrived at Abbotsford on the 27th of August 1816; but he describes the walls of the new house as already overtopping the old cottage; and this is far from being the only circumstance he mentions which proves that he should have written 1817.* The

* I have before me two letters of Mr Irving’s to Scott, both written in September 1817, from Edinburgh, and referring to his visit (which certainly was his only one at Abbotsford) as immediately preceding. There is also in my hands a letter from Scott to his friend John Richardson, of Fludyer Street, dated 22d September, 1817, in which he says, “When you see Tom Campbell, tell him, with my best love, that I have to thank him for making me known to Mr Washington Irving, who is one of the best and pleasantest acquaintances I have made this many a day.”

picture which my amiable friend has drawn of his reception, shows to all who remember the Scott and the Abbotsford of those days, how consistent accuracy as to essentials may be with forgetfulness of trifles.

Scott had received “the History of New York by Knickerbocker,” shortly after its appearance in 1812, from an accomplished American traveller, Mr Brevoort; and the admirable humour, of this early work had led him to anticipate the brilliant career which its author has since run. Mr Thomas Campbell being no stranger to Scott’s high estimation of Irving’s genius, gave him a letter of introduction, which, halting his chaise on the high-road above Abbotsford, he modestly sent down to the house “with a card, on which he had written, that he was on his way to the ruins of Melrose, and wished to know whether it would be agreeable to Mr Scott to receive a visit from him in the course of the morning.” Scott’s family well remember the delight with which he received this announcement—he was at breakfast, and sallied forth instantly, dogs and children after him as usual, to greet the guest, and conduct him in person from the highway to the door.

“The noise of my chaise,” says Irving, “had disturbed the quiet of the establishment. Out sallied the warder of the castle, a black greyhound, and leaping on one of the blocks of stone, began a furious barking. This alarm brought out the whole garrison of dogs, all open-mouthed and vociferous. In a little while, the lord of the castle himself made his appearance. I knew him at once, by the likenesses that had been published of him. He came limping up the gravel walk, aiding himself by a stout walking-staff, but moving rapidly and with vigour. By his side jogged along a large iron-grey staghound, of most grave demeanour, who took no part in the clamour of the canine rabble, but seemed to consider himself bound, for the dignity of the house, to give me a courteous reception.

“Before Scott reached the gate, he called out in a hearty tone, welcoming me to Abbotsford, and asking news of Campbell. Arrived at the door of the chaise, he grasped me warmly by the hand:
‘Come, drive down, drive down to the house,’ said he; ‘ye’re just in time for breakfast, and afterwards ye shall see all the wonders of the Abbey.

“I would have excused myself on the plea of having already made my breakfast. ‘Hut, man,’ cried he, ‘a ride in the morning in the keen air of the Scotch hills is warrant enough for a second breakfast.’

“I was accordingly whirled to the portal of the cottage, and in a few moments found myself seated at the breakfast-table. There was no one present but the family, which consisted of Mrs Scott; her eldest daughter, Sophia, then a fine girl about seventeen; Miss Ann Scott, two or three years younger; Walter, a well-grown strip, ling; and Charles, a lively boy, eleven or twelve years of age.

“I soon felt myself quite at home, and my heart in a glow, with the cordial welcome I experienced. I had thought to make a mere morning visit, but found I was not to be let off so lightly. ‘You must not think our neighbourhood is to be read in a morning like a newspaper,’ said Scott; ‘it takes several days of study for an observant traveller, that has a relish for auld-world trumpery. After breakfast you shall make your visit to Melrose Abbey; I shall not be able to accompany you, as I have some household affairs to attend to; but I will put you in charge of my son Charles, who is very learned in all things touching the old ruin and the neighbourhood it stands in; and he and my friend Johnnie Bower, will tell you the whole truth about it, with a great deal more that you are not called upon to believe, unless you be a true and nothing-doubting antiquary. When you come back, I’ll take you out on a ramble about the neighbourhood. To-morrow we will take a look at the Yarrow, and the next day we will drive over to Dryburgh Abbey, which is a line old ruin, well worth your seeing.’ In a word, before Scott had got through with his plan, I found myself committed for a visit of several days, and it seemed as if a little realm of romance was suddenly open before me.”

After breakfast, while Scott, no doubt, wrote a chapter of Rob Roy, Mr Irving, under young Charles’s guidance, saw Melrose Abbey, and Johnnie Bower the elder, whose son long since inherited his office as showman of the ruins, and all his enthusiasm about them and their poet. The senior on this occasion “was loud in his praises of the affability of Scott. ‘He’ll come here
sometimes,’ said he, ‘with great folks in his company, and the first I’ll know of it is hearing his voice calling out Johnny!—Johnny Bower!—and when I go out I’m sure to be greeted with a joke or a pleasant word. He’ll stand and crack an’ laugh wi’ me just like an auld wife,—and to think that of a man that has such an awfu knowledge o’ history!’”

On his return from the Abbey, Irving found Scott ready for a ramble. I cannot refuse myself the pleasure of extracting some parts of his description of it.

“As we sallied forth, every dog in the establishment turned out to attend us, There was the old staghound, Maida, that I have already mentioned, a noble animal, and Hamlet, the black greyhound, a wild thoughtless youngster, not yet arrived at the years of discretion; and Finette, a beautiful setter, with soft, silken hair, long pendant ears, and a mild eye, the parlour favourite. When in front of the house, we were joined by a superannuated greyhound, who came from the kitchen wagging his tail; and was cheered by Scott as an old friend and comrade. In our walks, he would frequently pause in conversation, to notice his dogs, and speak to them as if rational companions; and, indeed, there appears to be a vast deal of rationality in these faithful attendants on man, derived from their close intimacy with him. Maida deported himself with a gravity becoming his age and size, and seemed to consider himself called upon to preserve a great degree of dignity and decorum in our society. As he jogged along a little distance ahead of us, the young dogs would gambol about him, leap on his neck, worry at his ears, and endeavour to tease him into a gambol. The old dog would keep on for a long time with imperturbable solemnity, now and then seeming to rebuke the wantonness of his young companions. At length he would make a sudden turn, seize one of them, and tumble him in the dust, then giving a glance at us, as much as to say, ‘You see, gentlemen, I can’t help giving way to this nonsense,’ would resume his gravity, and jog on as before. Scott amused himself with these peculiarities. ‘I make no doubt,’ said he, ‘when Maida is alone with these young dogs, he throws gravity aside, and plays the boy as much as any of them; but he is ashamed to do so in our company, and seems to say—Ha’ done with your nonsense, youngsters: what will the laird and that other gentleman think of me if I give way to such foolery?’”


Scott amused himself with the peculiarities of another of his dogs, a little shamefaced terrier, with large glassy eyes, one of the most sensitive little bodies to insult and indignity in the world. ‘If ever he whipped him,’ he said, ‘the little fellow would sneak off and hide himself from the light of day in a lumber garret, from whence there was no drawing him forth but by the sound of the chopping-knife, as if chopping up his victuals, when he would steal forth with humiliated and downcast look, but would skulk away again if any one regarded him.’

“While we were discussing the humours and peculiarities of our canine companions, some object provoked their spleen, and produced a sharp and petulant barking from the smaller fry; but it was some time before Maida was sufficiently roused to ramp forward two or three bounds, and join the chorus with a deep-mouthed bow wow. It was but a transient outbreak, and he returned instantly, wagging his tail, and looking up dubiously in his master’s face, uncertain whether he would receive censure or applause. ‘Ay, ay, old boy!’ cried Scott, ‘you have done wonders; you have shaken the Eildon hills with your roaring: you may now lay by your artillery for the rest of the day. Maida,’ continued he, ‘is like the great gun at Constantinople; it takes so long to get it ready, that the smaller guns can fire off a dozen times first: but when it does go off, it plays the very devil!’

“These simple anecdotes may serve to show the delightful play of Scott’s humours and feelings in private life. His domestic animals were his friends. Every thing about him seemed to rejoice in the light of his countenance.

“Our ramble took us on the hills commanding an extensive prospect. ‘Now,’ said Scott, ‘I have brought you, like the pilgrim in the Pilgrim’s Progress, to the top of the Delectable Mountains, that I may show you all the goodly regions hereabouts. Yonder is Lammermuir, and Smailholme; and there you have Galashiels, and Torwoodlee, and Gala Water; and in that direction you see Teviotdale and the Braes of Yarrow, and Ettrick stream winding along like a silver thread, to throw itself into the Tweed.’ He went on thus to call over names celebrated in Scottish song, and most of which had recently received a romantic interest from his own pen. In fact, I saw a great part of the Border country spread out before me, and could trace the scenes of those poems and romances which had in a manner bewitched the world.

“I gazed about me for a time with mute surprise, I may almost say, with disappointment, I beheld a mere succession of grey
waving hills, line beyond line, as far as my eye could reach, monotonous in their aspect, and so destitute of trees, that one could almost see a stout fly walking along their profile; and the far-famed Tweed appeared a naked stream, flowing between bare hills, without a tree or thicket on its banks; and yet such had been the magic web of poetry and romance thrown over the whole, that it had a greater charm for me than the richest scenery I had beheld in England. I could not help giving utterance to my thoughts.
Scott hummed for a moment to himself, and looked grave; he had no idea of having his muse complimented at the expense of his native hills. ‘It may be pertinacity,’ said he at length; ‘but to my eye. these grey hills, and all this wild border country, have beauties peculiar to themselves. I like the very nakedness of the land; it has something bold, and stern, and solitary about it. When I have been for some time in the rich scenery about Edinburgh, which is like ornamented garden land, I begin to wish myself back again among my own honest grey hills; and if I did not see the heather, at least once a-year, I think I should die!’ The last words were said with an honest warmth, accompanied by a thump on the ground with his staff, by way of emphasis, that showed his heart was in his speech. He vindicated the Tweed, too, as a beautiful stream in itself; and observed, that he did not dislike it for being bare of trees, probably from having been much of an angler in his time; and an angler does not like to have a stream overhung by trees, which embarrass him in the exercise of his rod and line.

“I took occasion to plead, in like manner, the associations of early life for my disappointment in respect to the surrounding scenery. I had been so accustomed to see hills crowned with forests, and streams breaking their way through a wilderness of trees, that all my ideas of romantic landscape were apt to be well wooded. ‘Ay, and that’s the great charm of your country,’ cried Scott. ‘You love the forest as I do the heather; but I would not have you think I do not feel the glory of a great woodland prospect. There is nothing I should like more than to be in the midst of one of your grand wild original forests, with the idea of hundreds of miles of untrodden forest around me. I once saw at Leith an immense stick of timber, just landed from America. It must have been an enormous tree when it stood in its native soil, at its full height, and with all its branches. I gazed at it with admiration; it seemed like one of the gigantic obelisks which are now and then brought from Egypt to shame the pigmy monuments of Europe; and, in fact, these vast aboriginal trees, that have sheltered the Indians before the intrusion
of the white men, are the monuments and antiquities of your country.’

“The conversation here turned upon Campbell’s poem of Gertrude of Wyoming, as illustrative of the poetic materials furnished by American scenery. Scott cited several passages of it with great delight. ‘What a pity it is,’ said he, ‘that Campbell does not write more, and oftener, and give full sweep to his genius! He has wings that would bear him to the skies; and he does, now and then, spread them grandly, but folds them up again, and resumes his perch, as if he was afraid to launch away. What a grand idea is that,’ said he, ‘about prophetic boding, or, in common parlance, second sight
‘Coming events cast their shadows before!’
The fact is,’ added he, ‘Campbell is, in a manner, a bugbear to himself. The brightness of his early success is a detriment to all his further efforts. He is of raid of the shadow that his own fame casts before him.’

“We had not walked much farther, before we saw the two Miss Scotts advancing along the hill-side to meet us. The morning’s studies being over, they had set off to take a ramble on the hills, and gather heather blossoms with which to decorate their hair for dinner. As they came bounding lightly like young fawns, and their dresses fluttering in the pure summer breeze, I was reminded of Scott’s own description of his children, in his introduction to one of the cantos of Marmion:
‘My imps, though hardy, bold, and wild,
As best befits the mountain child,’ &c.
As they approached, the dogs all sprang forward, and gambolled around them. They joined us with countenances full of health and glee.
Sophia, the eldest, was the most lively and joyous, having much of her father’s varied spirit in conversation, and seeming to catch excitement from his words and looks; Ann was of a quieter mood, rather silent, owing, in some measure, no doubt, to her being some years younger.”

Having often, many years afterwards, heard Irving speak warmly of William Laidlaw, I must not omit the following passage:—

“One of my pleasantest rambles with Scott about the neighbour-
hood of Abbotsford, was taken in company with
Mr William Laidlaw, the steward of his estate. This was a gentleman for whom Scott entertained a particular value. He had been born to a competency, had been well educated, his mind was richly stored with varied information, and he was a man of sterling moral worth. Having been reduced by misfortune, Scott had got him to take charge of his estate. He lived at a small farm, on the hillside above Abbotsford, and was treated by Scott as a cherished and confidential friend, rather than a dependant.

“That day at dinner we had Mr Laidlaw and his wife, and a female friend, who accompanied them. The latter was a very intelligent respectable person, about the middle age, and was treated with particular attention and courtesy by Scott. Our dinner was a most agreeable one, for the guests were evidently cherished visiters to the house, and felt that they were appreciated. When they were gone, Scott spoke of them in the most cordial manner. ‘I wished to show you,’ said he, ‘some of our really excellent, plain Scotch people: not fine gentlemen and ladies, for such you can meet every where, and they are every where the same. The character of a nation is not to be learnt from its fine folks.’ He then went on with a particular eulogium on the lady who had accompanied the Laidlaws. She was the daughter, he said, of a poor country clergyman, who had died in debt, and left her an orphan and destitute. Having had a good plain education, she immediately set up a child’s school, and had soon a numerous flock under her care, by which she earned a decent maintenance. That, however, was not her main object. Her first care was to pay off her father’s debts, that no ill word or ill will might rest upon his memory. This, by dint of Scotch economy, backed by filial reverence and pride, she accomplished, though in the effort she subjected herself to every privation. Not content with this, she in certain instances refused to take pay for the tuition of the children of some of her neighbours, who had befriended her father in his need, and had since fallen into poverty. ‘In a word,’ added Scott, ‘she’s a fine old Scotch girl, and I delight in her more than in many a fine lady I have known, and I have known many of the finest.’

“The evening passed away delightfully in a quaint-looking apartment, half study, half drawingroom. Scott read several passages from the old romance of Arthur, with a fine deep sonorous voice, and a gravity of tone that seemed to suit the antiquated black-letter volume. It was a rich treat to hear such a work read by such a person, and in such a place; and his appearance, as he sat reading, in a large arm-chair, with his favourite hound Maida at his feet, and
surrounded by books and reliques, and Border trophies, would have formed an admirable and most characteristic picture. When I retired for the night, I found it almost impossible to sleep: the idea of being under the roof of Scott; of being on the Borders on the Tweed: in the very centre of that region which had, for some time past, been the favourite scene of romantic fiction; and, above all, the recollections of the ramble I had taken, the company in which I had taken it, and the conversation which had passed, all fermented in my mind, and nearly drove sleep from my pillow.

“On the following morning the sun darted his beams from over the hills through the low lattice of my window. I rose at an early hour, and looked out between the branches of eglantine which overhung the casement. To my surprise, Scott was already up, and forth, seated on a fragment of stone, and chatting with the workmen employed in the new building. I had supposed, after the time he had wasted upon me yesterday, he would be closely occupied this morning: but he appeared like a man of leisure, who had nothing to do but bask in the sunshine, and amuse himself. I soon dressed myself and joined him. He talked about his proposed plans of Abbotsford: happy would it have been for him could he have contented himself with his delightful little vine-covered cottage, and the simple, yet hearty and hospitable, style in which he lived at the time of my visit!”

Among other visiters who succeeded the distinguished American that autumn were Lady Byron, the wife of the poet, and the great artist, Mr, now Sir David Wilkie, who then executed for Captain Ferguson that pleasing little picture, in which Scott and his family are represented as a group of peasants, while the gallant soldier himself figures by them in the character of a gamekeeper, or perhaps poacher. Mr Irving has given, in the little work from which I have quoted so liberally, an amusing account of the delicate scruples of Wilkie about soliciting Scott to devote a morning to the requisite sitting, until, after lingering for several days, he at length became satisfied that, by whatever magic his host might contrive to keep Ballantyne’s presses in full play, he had always abundance of leisure for matters less important than Ferguson’s destined heirloom. I shall
now, however, return to his correspondence; and begin with a letter to
Joanna Baillie on Lady Byron’s visit.

To Miss Joanna Baillie, Hampstead.
“Abbotsford, Sept. 26, 1817.
“My dear Miss Baillie,

“A series of little trinketty sort of business, and occupation, and idleness, have succeeded to each other so closely that I have been scarce able, for some three weeks past, to call my time my own for half an hour together; but enough of apologies they are vile things, and I know you will impute my negligence to any thing rather than forgetting or undervaluing your friendship. You know, by this time, that we have had a visit from Lady Byron, delightful both on its own account, and because it was accompanied with good news and a letter from you. I regret we could not keep her longer than a day with us, which was spent on the banks of the Yarrow, and I hope and believe she was pleased with us, because I am sure she will be so with every thing that is intended to please her: meantime her visit gave me a most lawyer-like fit of the bile. I have lived too long to be surprised at any instance of human caprice, but still it vexes me. Now, one would suppose Lady Byron, young, beautiful, with birth, and rank, and fortune, and taste, and high accomplishments, and admirable good sense, qualified to have made happy one whose talents are so high as Lord Byron’s, and whose marked propensity it is to like those who are qualified to admire and understand his talents; and yet it has proved otherwise. I can safely say, my heart ached for her all the time we were together; there was so much patience and decent resignation to a situation which must have pressed on her thoughts, that she was to me one of the most interesting creatures I had seen for a score of years. I am sure I
LADY BYRON, &c.—1817.97
should not have felt such strong kindness towards her had she been at the height of her fortune, and in the full enjoyment of all the brilliant prospects to which she seemed destined. You will wish to hear of my complaint. I think, thank God, that it is leaving me—not suddenly, however, for I have had some repetitions, but they have become fainter and fainter, and I have not been disturbed by one for these three weeks. I trust, by care and attention, my stomach will return to its usual tone, and I am as careful as I can. I have taken hard exercise with good effect, and am often six hours on foot without stopping or sitting down, to which my plantations and enclosures contribute not a little. I have, however, given up the gun this season, finding myself unable to walk up to the dogs; but
Walter has taken it in hand, and promises to be a first-rate shot; he brought us in about seven or eight brace of birds the evening Lady Byron came to us, which papa was of course a little proud of. The black-cocks are getting very plenty on our moor ground at Abbotsford, but I associate them so much with your beautiful poem,* that I have not the pleasure I used to have in knocking them down. I wish I knew how to send you a brace. I get on with mylabours here; my house is about to be roofed in, and a comical concern it is. Yours truly,

W. S.”

The next letter refers to the Duke of Buccleuch’s preparations for a cattle-show at Bowhill, which was followed by an entertainment on a large scale to his Grace’s Selkirkshire neighbours and tenantry, and next day by a fox-hunt, after Dandie Dinmont’s fashion,
* “Good-morrow to thy sable beak,
And glossy plumage dark and sleek,
Thy crimson moon, and azure eye,
Cock of the heath, so wildly shy!” &c.
among the rocks of the Yarrow. The Sheriff attended with his tail on; and
Wilkie, too, went with him. It was there that Sir David first saw Hogg, and the Shepherd’s greeting was graceful. He eyed the great painter for a moment in silence, and then stretching out his hand, said,—“Thank God for it. I did not know that you were so young a man!”

To the Duke of Buccleuch, &c. &c. &c. Drumlanrig Castle.
“My dear Lord Duke,

“I am just honoured with your Grace’s of the 27th. The posts, which are as cross as pye-crust, have occasioned some delay. Depend on our attending at Bowhill on the 20th, and staying over the show. I have written to Adam Ferguson, who will come with a whoop and a hollo. So will the Ballantynes—flageolet* and all—for the festival, and they shall be housed at Abbotsford. I have an inimitably good songster in the person of Terence Magrath, who teaches my girls. He beats almost all whom I have ever heard attempt Moore’s songs, and I can easily cajole him also out to Abbotsford for a day or two. In jest or earnest, I never heard a better singer in a room, though his voice is not quite full enough for a concert; and for an after-supper song, he almost equals Irish Johnstone.†

“Trade of every kind is recovering, and not a loom idle in Glasgow. The most faithful respects of this family attend the Ladies and all at Drumlanrig. I ever am your Grace’s truly obliged and grateful

Walter Scott.

* The flageolet alludes to Mr Alexander Ballantyne, the third of the brothers—a fine musician, and a most amiable and modest man, never connected with Scott in any business matters, but always much his favourite in private.

Mr Magrath has now been long established in his native city of Dublin. His musical excellence was by no means the only merit that attached Scott to his society while he remained in Edinburgh.

LETTERS, &c.—OCTOBER, 1817. 99
“Given from my Castle of Grawacky,
this second day of the month called
October, One Thousand Eight
Hundred and Seventeen Years.

“There is a date nearly as long as the letter.

“I hope we shall attack the foxes at Bowhill. I will hazard Maida.”

We have some allusions to this Bowhill party in another letter; the first of several which I shall now insert according to their dates, leaving them, with a few marginal notes, to tell out the story of 1817:

To Daniel Terry, Esq., London.
“Abbotsford, October 24, 1817.
“Dear Terry,

Bullock has not gone to Skye, and I am very glad he has not, for to me who knew the Hebrides well, the attempt seemed very perilous at this season. I have considerably enlarged my domains since I wrote to you, by the purchase of a beautiful farm adjacent. The farm-house, which is new and excellent, I have let to Adam Ferguson and his sisters. We will be within a pleasant walk of each other, and hope to end our lives, as they began, in each other’s society. There is a beautiful brook, with remnants of natural wood, which would make Toftfield rival Abbotsford, but for the majestic Tweed. I am in treaty for a field or two more; one of which contains the only specimen of a Peel-house, or defensive residence of a small proprietor, which remains in this neighbourhood. It is an orchard, in the hamlet of Darnick, to which it gives a most picturesque effect. Blore admires it very much. We are all well here, but crowded with company. I have been junketting this week past at Bowhill. Mr Magrath has
been with us these two or three days, and has seen his ward, Hamlet,* behave most princelike on Newark Hill and elsewhere. He promises to be a real treasure. Notwithstanding, Mr Magrath went to Bowhill with me one day, where his vocal talents gave great pleasure, and I hope will procure him the notice and protection of the Buccleuch family. The
Duke says my building engrosses, as a common centre, the thoughts of Mr Atkinson and Mr Bullock, and wishes he could make them equally anxious in his own behalf. You may believe this flatters me not a little.

“P.S.—I agree with you that the tower will look rather rich for the rest of the building; yet you may be assured, that with diagonal chimneys and notched gables, it will have a very fine effect, and is in Scotch architecture by no means incompatible. My house has been like a cried fair, and extreme the inconvenience of having no corner sacred to my own use, and free from intrusion. Ever truly yours,

W. S.”
To the Same.
“Abbotsford, 29th October, 1817.
“My dear Terry,

“I enclose a full sketch of the lower story, with accurate measurements of rooms, casements, door-ways, chimneys, &c. that Mr Atkinson’s good will may not want means to work upon. I will speak to the subjects of your letter separately, that I may omit none of them. 1st, I cannot possibly surrender the window to the west in the

* This fine greyhound, a gift from Terry, had been sent to Scotland under the care of Mr Magrath. Terry had called the dog Marmion, but Scott rechristened him Hamlet, in honour of his “inky coat.”

library,* although I subscribe to all you urge about it. Still it is essential in point of light to my old eyes, and the single northern aspect would not serve me. Above all, it looks into the yard, and enables me to summon
Tom Purdie without the intervention of a third party. Indeed, as I can have but a few books about me, it is of the less consequence. 2dly, I resign the idea of coving the library to your better judgment, and I think the Stirling Heads† will be admirably disposed in the glass of the armoury window. I have changed my mind as to having doors on the book-presses, which is, after all, a great bore. No person will be admitted into my sanctum, and I can have the door locked during my absence. 3dly, I expect Mr Bullock here every day, and should be glad to have the drawings for the diningroom wainscot, as he could explain them to the artists who are to work them. This (always if quite convenient) would be the more desirable, as I must leave this place in a fortnight at farthest—the more’s the pity—and, consequently, the risk of blunders will be considerably increased. I should like if the pannelling of the wainscot could admit of a press on each side of the sideboard. I don’t mean a formal press with a high door, but some crypt, or, to speak vulgarly, cupboard, to put away bottles of wine, &c. You know I am my own butler, and such accommodation is very convenient. We begin roofing to-morrow. Wilkie admires the whole as a composition,

* Before the second and larger part of the present house of Abbotsford was built, the small room, subsequently known as the breakfast parlour, was during several years Scott’s sanctum.

† This alludes to certain pieces of painted glass, representing the heads of some of the old Scotch kings, copied from the carved ceiling of the presence-chamber in Stirling Castle. There are engravings of them in a work called “Lacunar Strevelinense.” Edinb. 4to, 1817.

and that is high authority. I agree that the fountain shall be out of doors in front of the green-house; there may be an enclosure for it with some ornamented mason-work, as in old gardens, and it will occupy an angle, which I should be puzzled what to do with, for turf and gravel would be rather meagre, and flowers not easily kept. I have the old fountain belonging to the Cross of Edinburgh, which flowed with wine at the coronation of our kings and on other occasions of public rejoicing. I send a sketch of this venerable relic, connected as it is with a thousand associations. It is handsome in its forms and proportions—a free-stone basin about three feet in diameter, and five inches and a half in depth, very handsomely hollowed. A piece has been broken off one edge, but as we have the fragment, it can easily be restored with cement. There are four openings for pipes in the circumference—each had been covered with a Gothic masque, now broken off and defaced, but which may be easily restored. Through these the wine had fallen into a larger and lower reservoir. I intend this for the centre of my fountain. I do not believe I should save L.100 by retaining Mrs Redford, by the time she was raised, altered, and beautified, for, like the Highlandman’s gun, she wants stock, lock, and barrel to put her into repair. In the mean time, the cabin is convenient. Yours ever,

W. S.”
To Mr William Laidlaw, Kaeside.
“Edinburgh, Nov. 10th. 1817.
“Dear Willie,

“I have no intention to let the Whitehaugh without your express approbation, and I wish you to act as my adviser and representative in these matters. I would hardly have ventured to purchase so much land without the certainty of your counsel and co-operation. . . . . . .
LETTERS NOV.—1817.103
On the other side you will find a small order on the banker at Galashiels, to be renewed half-yearly; not by way of recompensing your friendship ‘with a load of barren money,’ but merely to ease my conscience in some degree for the time which I must necessarily withdraw from the labour which is to maintain your family. Believe me, dear
Willie, yours truly,

W. Scott.”
To the Same.
“Edinburgh, 19th Nov. 1817.
“Dear Willie,

“I hope you will not quarrel with my last. Believe me that, to a sound-judging, and philosophical mind this same account of Dr. and Cr., which fills up so much time in the world, is comparatively of very small value. When you get rich, unless I thrive in the same proportion, I will request your assistance for less, for little, or for nothing, as the case may require; but while I wear my seven-league boots to stride in triumph over moss and muir, it would be very silly in either of us to let a cheque twice a-year of L.25 make a difference between us. But all this we will talk over when we meet. I meditate one day a coup-de-maitre, which will make my friend’s advice and exertion essential—indeed worthy of much better remuneration. When you come, I hope you will bring us information of all my rural proceedings. Though so lately come to town, I still remember, at my waking hours, that I can neither see Tom Purdie nor Adam Paterson,* and rise with the more unwillingness. I was unwell on Monday and Tuesday, but am quite recovered. Yours truly,

W. S.”

* Adam Paterson was the intelligent foreman of the company of masons then employed at Abbotsford.

To Thomas Scott, Esq., Paymaster, 70th Regiment, Kingston, Canada.
“Edinburgh, 13th Dec. 1817.
“My dear Tom,

“I should be happy to attend to your commission about a dominie for your boy, but I think there will be much risk in yoking yourself with one for three or four years. You know what sort of black cattle these are, and how difficult it is to discern their real character, though one may give a guess at their attainments. When they get good provender in their guts, they are apt to turn out very different animals from what they were in their original low condition, and get frisky and troublesome. I have made several enquiries, however, and request to know what salary you would think reasonable, and also what acquisitions he ought to possess. There is no combating the feelings which you express for the society of your son, otherwise I really think that a Scottish education would be highly desirable; and should you at any time revert to this plan, you may rely on my bestowing the same attention upon him as upon my own boys.

“I agree entirely with you on the necessity of your remaining in the regiment while it is stationary, and retiring on half-pay when it marches; but I cannot so easily acquiesce in your plan of settling in Canada. On the latter event taking place, on the contrary, I think it would be highly advisable that you should return to your native country. In the course of nature you must soon be possessed of considerable property, now liferented by our mother, and I should think that even your present income would secure you comfort and independence here. Should you remain in Canada, you must consider your family as settlers in that state, and as I cannot believe that it will remain very long separated from America, I should almost think this equal to depriving
them of the advantages of British subjects—at least of those which they might derive from their respectable connexions in this country. With respect to your son, in particular, I have little doubt that I could be of considerable service to him in almost any line of life he might chance to adopt here, but could of course have less influence on his fortunes, were he to remain on the Niagara. I certainly feel anxious on this subject, because the settlement of your residence in America would be saying, in other words, that we two, the last remains of a family once so numerous, are never more to meet upon this side of time. My own health is very much broken up by the periodical recurrence of violent cramps in the stomach, which neither seem disposed to yield to medicine nor to abstinence. The complaint, the doctors say, is not dangerous in itself, but I cannot look forward to its continued recurrence, without being certain that it is to break my health, and anticipate old age in cutting me short. Be it so my dear
TomSat est vixisse—and I am too much of a philosopher to be anxious about protracted life, which, with all its infirmities and deprivations, I have never considered as a blessing. In the years which may be before me, it would be a lively satisfaction to me to have the pleasure of seeing you in this country, with the prospect of a comfortable settlement. I have but an imperfect account to render of my doings here. I have amused myself with making an addition to my cottage in the country; one little apartment is to be fitted up as an armoury for my old relics and curiosities. On the wicket I intend to mount your deer’s foot*—as an appropriate knocker. I hope the young ladies liked their watches,

* Thomas Scott had sent his brother the horns and feet of a gigantic stag, shot by him in Canada. The feet were ultimately suspended to bell-cords in the armoury at Abbotsford; and the horns mounted as drinking cups.

and that all your books, stationary, &c., came safe to hand. I am told you have several kinds of the oak peculiar to America. If you can send me a few good acorns, with the names of the kinds they belong to, I will have them reared with great care and attention. The heaviest and smoothest acorns should be selected, as one would wish them, sent from such a distance, to succeed, which rarely happens unless they are particularly well ripened. I shall be as much obliged to you as Sancho was to the Duchess, or,” to speak more correctly, the Duchess to Sancho, for a similar favour. Our
mother keeps her health surprisingly well now, nor do I think there is any difference, unless that her deafness is rather increased. My eldest boy is upwards of six feet high; therefore born, as Sergeant Kite says, to be a great man. I should not like such a rapid growth, but that he carries strength along with it; my youngest boy is a very sharp little fellow and the girls give us great satisfaction. Ever affectionately yours,

Walter Scott.”

The following note is without date. It accompanied, no doubt, the last proof-sheet of Rob Roy, and was therefore in all probability written about ten days before the 31st of December, 1817 on which day the novel was published.

To Mr James Ballantyne, St John Street.
“Dear James,
With great joy
I send you Roy.
’Twas a tough job,
But we’re done with Rob.

“I forget if I mentioned Terry in my list of Friends. Pray send me two or three copies as soon as you can.
DECEMBER, 1817.107
It were pity to make the Grinder* pay carriage. Yours ever,

W. S.”

The novel had indeed been “a tough job” for lightly and airily as it reads, the author had struggled almost throughout with the pains of cramp or the lassitude of opium. Calling on him one day to dun him for copy, James Ballantyne found him with a clean pen and a blank sheet before him, and uttered some rather solemn exclamation of surprise. “Ay, ay, Jemmy,” said he, “’tis easy for you to bid me get on, but how the deuce can I make Rob Roy’s wife speak with such a curmurring in my guts?”

* They called Daniel Terry among themselves “The Grinder,” in double allusion to the song of Terry, the Grinder, and to some harsh under-notes of their friend’s voice.