LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Sir Walter Scott to Daniel Terry, 9 January 1823

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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“Abbotsford, January 9th, 1823.
“Dear Terry,

“It is close firing to answer letters the day they come to hand, but I am afraid of losing opportunities, as in the case of the mirror, not to be retrieved. I am first to report progress, for your consideration and Mr Atkinson’s, of what I have been doing here. Every thing about the house has gone à rien mieux, and the shell is completely finished; all the upper story and garrets, as well as the basement, have had their first coat of plaster, being first properly fenced from the exterior air. The only things which we now greatly need are the designs for the ceilings of the hall and drawing-room, as the smiths and plasterers are impatient for their working plans, the want of which rather stops them. I have taken actual, real, and corporal possession of my sitting-room, which has been fitted with a temporary floor, door, and window—the oratory, and the door into the library, being bricked up ad interim. This was a stop of necessity, as my books began to suffer in Peter’s garret, so they were brought up to the said room, and are all ranged in their old shelves and presses, so as to be completely comeatable. They have been now there a fortnight without the least appearance of damp, so dry
JANUARY, 1823.239
do the brick facings make the wall; and as we keep good fires in the place (which, by the by, vents like all Mr Atkinson’s chimneys, in a superior style), I intend they shall remain there till they are transferred to the Library, so that this room will be fitted up last of all. I shall be then able to judge of a point on which I have at present some doubt—namely, the capacity of my library to accommodate my books. Should it appear limited (I mean making allowance for future additions) I can perhaps, by Mr Atkinson’s assistance, fit up this private room with a gallery, which might enter by carrying the stair up the oratory, and renouncing the idea of fitting it up. The cedar, I assure you, is quite beautiful. I have had it sawn out into planks, and every one who looks at it agrees it will be more beautiful than oak. Indeed, what I have seen of it put to that use, bears no comparison unless with such heart of oak as
Bullock employed, and that you know is veneered. I do not go on the cry in this, but practical knowledge, for Mr Waugh, my neighbour, a West Indian planter (but himself bred a joiner), has finished the prettiest apartment with it that I ever saw. I should be apt to prefer the brass notches, were the difference only what you mention, namely, L.20; but I cannot make out how that should be, unless by supposing the joiners’ wages much higher than with us. But indeed, in such a library as mine, when the books are once catalogued, I could perhaps in many instances make fixed shelves answer the turn, by adopting a proper arrangement from the beginning. I give up the Roslin drop in the oratory—indeed I have long seen it would not do. I think the termination of it may be employed as the central part of Mr Atkinson’s beautiful plan for the recess in the library; by the by, the whole of that ceiling, with the heads we have got, will be the prettiest thing ever seen in these parts.


“The plan preferred for the door between the entrance-hall and ante-room, was that which was marked B. To make this plain, I reinclose A and C—which mode of explaining myself puts me in mind of the evidence of an Irish officer—‘We met three rebels, one we shot, hanged another, the third we flogged and made a guide of.’—‘Which of the three did you flog and make a guide of?’—‘Him whom we neither shot nor hanged.’ Understand, therefore, that the plan not returned is that fixed upon. I think there is nothing left to say about the house excepting the chimney-pieces. I have selected for the hall chimney-piece one of the cloister arches of Melrose, of which I enclose an accurate drawing. I can get it finished here very beautifully, at days’ wages, in our dark red freestone. The chimneys of drawing-room, library, and my own room, with grates conforming, will be got much better in London than any where else; by the by, for the hall I have got an old massive chimney-grate which belonged to the old persecutor Bishop Sharp, who was murdered on Magus Muir. All our grates must be contrived to use wood as well as coal, with what are called half-dogs.

“I am completely Lady Wishfort as to the escritoire. In fact, my determination would very much depend on the possibility of showing it to advantage; for if it be such as is set up against a wall, like what is called, par excellence, a writing-desk, you know we have no space in the library that is not occupied by book-presses. If, on the contrary, it stands quite free, why, I do not know—I must e’en leave it to you to decide between taste and prudence. The silk damask, I fancy, we must have for the drawing-room curtains; those in the library we shall have of superfine crimson cloth from Galashiels, made of mine own wool. I should like the silk to be sent down in the bales, as I wish these curtains to be made
JANUARY, 1823.241
up on a simple useful pattern, without that paltry trash of drapery, &c. &c. I would take the armoury curtains for my pattern, and set my own tailor, Robin Goodfellow, to make them up; and I think I may save on the charge of such an upholsterer as my friend Mr Trotter much of the difference in the value of materials. The chairs will be most welcome. Packing is a most important article, and I must be indebted to your continued goodness for putting that into proper hands. The mirror, for instance—O Lord, sir!

“Another and most important service would be to procure me, from any person whom Mr Atkinson may recommend, the execution of the enclosed commission for fruit-trees. We dare not trust Edinburgh; for though the trade never makes a pause in furnishing you with the most rare plants, insomuch that an old friend of mine, the original Jonathan Oldbuck, having asked one of them to supply him with a dozen of anchovies, he answered ‘he had plenty of them, but, being a delicate plant, they were still in the hothouse’ yet, when the said plants come to bear fruit, the owner may adopt the classical line—
‘Miratur novas frondes et non sua poma.’
My new gardener is a particularly clever fellow in his way, and thinks the enclosed kinds like to answer best. Our new garden-wall will be up in spring, time enough to have the plants set. By the way, has Mr Atkinson seen the way of heating hot-houses, &c., adapted by Mr Somebody at Glasgow, who has got a patent? It is by a new application of steam, which is poured into a vaulted roof, made completely air-tight, except where it communicates with an iron box, so to speak, a receptacle of the heated air. This vaulted recess is filled with bricks, stones, or such like substances, capable of
receiving and retaining an extreme degree of heat from the steam with which they are surrounded. The steam itself is condensed and carried off; but the air, which for many hours continues to arise from these heated bricks, ascends into the iron receptacle, and is let off by ventilators into the space to be heated in such quantities as may be desired. The excellence of this plan is not only the saving of fuel, but also and particularly the certainty that the air cannot be overheated, for the temperature at hottest does not exceed 95 degrees—nor overchilled, for it continues to retain, and of course to transmit, the same degree of heated air, or but with little variation, for ten or twelve hours, so as to render the process of forcing much more certain and simple than it has been from any means hitherto devised. I dare say that this is a very lame explanation, but I will get a perfect one for Mr Atkinson if he wishes it. The Botanical Garden at Glasgow has adopted the plan, and they are now changing that of Edinburgh for the same purpose. I have not heard whether it has been applied to houses; but, from the principle, I should conceive it practicable.

Peveril has been stopped ten days, having been driven back to Leith Roads by stress of weather. I have not a copy here, but will write to Ballantyne to send you one forthwith. I am sick of thinking of it myself. We hear of you often, and always of your advancing favour with the public. It is one of many cases in which the dearly beloved public has come round to my decided opinion, after seeming to waver for a time. Washington Irving’s success is another instance of the same. Little Walter will, I hope, turn out all we can wish him; and Mrs Terry’s health, I would fain hope, will be completely re-established. The steam-boats make a jaunt to Scotland comparatively so speedy and easy, that I hope you will sometimes cast both of yourselves this way. Abbotsford, I am sure, will please you, when
JANUARY, 1823.243
you see all your dreams realized, so far as concerns elevation, &c.

John Thomson, Duddingstone, has given me his most splendid picture, painted, he says, on purpose for me a true Scottish scene. It seems to me that many of our painters shun the sublime of our country, by labouring to introduce trees where doubtless by search they might be found, but where most certainly they make no conspicuous part of the landscape, being like some little folks who fill up a company, and put you to the proof before you own to have seen them. Now this is Fast Castle, famous both in history and legend, situated near St Abb’s Head, which you most certainly must have seen, as you have cruized along the coast of Berwickshire. The view looks from the land down on the ragged ruins, a black sky and a foaming ocean beyond them. There is more imagination in the picture than in any I have seen of a long time a sort of Salvator Rosa’s doings.—Revenons à nos moutons. I find that the plans for the window-shutters of the entrance-hall are much wanted. My wainscot will not be altogether seven feet—about six. Higher it cannot be, because of the pattern of the Dunfermline part; and lower I would not have it, because the armour, &c. must be suspended beyond the reach of busy and rude fingers, to which a hall is exposed. You understand I mean to keep lighter, smaller, and more ornate objects of curiosity in the present little room, and have only the massive and large specimens, with my fine collection of horns, &c., in the hall. Above the wainscot, I propose the wall to be planked and covered with cartridge paper, and then properly painted in wainscot, to match the arrangement beneath.

“I have now, as your own Dogberry says, bestowed all my tediousness upon you;—yet I have still a question
of yours to answer on a certain bookseller’s part. Unquestionably I know many interesting works of the kind he mentions which might be translated from the German:—almost all those of
Musæus, of which Beddoes made two volumes, and which are admirably written; many of La Motte Fouque; several from the collection bearing the assumed name of Beit Weber. But there is a point more essential to their success with the British public than even the selection. There is in the German mode of narration, an affectation of deep metaphysical reflection and protracted description and discussion, which the English do not easily tolerate; and whoever translates their narratives with effect should be master of the taste and spirit of both nations. For instance, I lately saw a translation of ‘Sintram und seine Gefahrten,’ or Sintram and his Comrades, the story in the world which, if the plot were insinuated into the boxes, as Bayes says, would be most striking, translated into such English as was far more difficult to me than the original German. I do not know where an interpreter such as I point to could be found; but a literal jog-trotter, such as translated the passages from Goëthe annexed to the beautiful engravings, which you sent me,* would never make a profitable job. The bibliopole must lay his account to seek out a man of fancy, and pay him well. I suppose my friend Cohen† is above superintending such a work, otherwise he is the man to make something of it. Perhaps he might be induced to take it in hand for the love of the task. All who are here—namely, my lovely lady and the Lady Anne—salute you and Mrs Terry with the most sincere good wishes.—Faithfully yours,

W. Scott.

* I presume this alludes to the English edition of Retsch’s Outlines from Faust.

† Mr Cohen is now Sir Francis Palgrave, K.H.


“P.S. Direct to Edinburgh, where I shall be on the 14th. Perhaps the slightest sketch of the escritoire might enable me to decide. If I could swop my own, which cost me L.30, it might diminish my prudential scruples. Poor little Johnnie would have offered the prime cost at once. Your letter shall go to James Ballantyne. I think I have something new likely to be actually dramatical. I will send it you presently; but, on your life, show it no one, for certain reasons. The very name is kept secret, and, strange to tell, it will be printed without one.”