LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter XI 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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A day or two after the date of the preceding letter, Quentin Durward was published; and surpassing as its popularity was eventually, Constable, who was in London at the time, wrote in cold terms of its immediate reception.

Very shortly before the bookseller left Edinburgh for that trip, he had concluded another bargain (his last of the sort) for the purchase of Waverley copyrights—acquiring the author’s property in the Pirate, Nigel, Peveril, and also Quentin Durward, out and out, at the price of five thousand guineas. He had thus paid for the copyright of novels (over and above the half profits of the early separate editions) the sum of L.22,500; and his advances upon “works of fiction” still in embryo, amounted at this moment to L.10,000 more. He began, in short, and the wonder is that he began so late, to suspect that the process of creation was moving too rapidly. The publication of different sets of the novels in a collective form may probably have had a share in opening his eyes to
the fact, that the voluminousness of an author is any thing but favourable to the rapid diffusion of his works as library books—the great object with any publisher who aspires at founding a solid fortune. But he merely intimated on this occasion that he thought the pecuniary transactions between
Scott and himself had gone to such an extent that, considering the usual chances of life and health, he must decline contracting for any more novels until those for which his house had already advanced monies (or at least bills) should have been written.

Scott himself appears to have admitted for a moment the suspicion that he had been overdoing in the field of romance; and opened to Constable the scheme of a work on popular superstitions, in the form of dialogue, for which he had long possessed ample materials in his thorough mastery of perhaps the most curious library of diablerie that ever man collected. But before Constable had leisure to consider this proposal in all its bearings, Quentin Durward, from being, as Scott expressed it, frost-bit, had emerged into most fervid and flourishing life. In fact, the sensation which this novel, on its first appearance, created in Paris, was extremely similar to that which attended the original Waverley in Edinburgh, and Ivanhoe afterwards in London. For the first time Scott had ventured on foreign ground, and the French public, long wearied of the pompous tragedians and feeble romancers, who had alone striven to bring out the ancient history and manners of their country in popular forms, were seized with a fever of delight when Louis XI. and Charles the Bold started into life again at the beck of the Northern Magician. Germany had been fully awake to his merits years before, but the public there also felt their sympathies appealed to with hitherto unmatched strength and effect. The infection of admiration ran far and wide on the
Continent, and soon re-acted most potently upon Britain. Discussing the various fortunes of these novels a few years after,
Mr Senior says—

“Almost all the characters in his other novels are drawn from British history or from British domestic life. That they should delight nations differing so much from ourselves and from one another in habits and in literary taste, who cannot appreciate the imitation of our existing manners, or join in our historical associations; that the head of ‘Le Sieur Valtere Skote’ should be pointed out by a Hungarian tradesman as the portrait of ‘l’homme le plus célébre en l’Europe;’ that his works should employ the translators and printers of Leipsic and Paris, and even relieve the ennui of a Rothenturn quarantine on the extreme borders of European civilisation, is, as Dr Walsh* has well observed, the strongest proof that their details are founded on deep knowledge of the human character, and of the general feelings recognised by all. But Quentin Durward has the additional advantage of scenery and characters possessing European interest. It presents to the inhabitants of the Netherlands and of France, the most advanced of the continental nations, a picture of the manners of their ancestors, incomparably more vivid and more detailed than is to be found in any other narrative, either fictitious or real: and that picture is dignified by the introduction of persons whose influence has not even yet ceased to operate.

“Perhaps at no time did the future state of Europe depend more on the conduct of two individuals than when the crown of France and the coronet of Burgundy descended on Louis XI. and Charles the Bold. The change from real to nominal sovereignty, which has since been the fate of the empire of Germany, was then impending over the kingdom of France. And if that throne had been filled, at this critical period, by a monarch with less courage, less prudence, or more scrupulous than Louis, there seems every reason to suppose that the great feudatories would have secured their independence, and the greater part of that country might now be divided into many petty principalities, some Catholic, and some Protestant, principally intent on excluding each other’s commodities, and preventing the mutual ruin which would have been predicted as the necessary consequence of a free trade between Gascony and Languedoc.

“On the other hand, if the race of excellent sovereigns who

* See Walsh’s Journey to Constantinople.

governed Burgundy for a hundred and twenty years had been continued—or, indeed, if
Duke Philip had been followed by almost any other person than his brutal son, the rich and extensive countries, which under his reign constituted the most powerful state in Europe, must soon have been formed into an independent monarchy—a monarchy far greater and better consolidated than the artificial kingdom lately built up out of their fragments, and kept together rather by the pressure of surrounding Europe than by any internal principles of cohesion.* From the times of Louis XI. until now, France has been the master-spring in European politics, and Flanders merely an arena for combat. The imagination is bewildered by an attempt to speculate on the course which human affairs might have taken if the commencement of the fifteenth century had found the Low Countries, Burgundy, and Artois one great kingdom, and Normandy, Brittany, Provence, and the other fiefs of the French crown, independent principalities.

“In addition to their historical interest, Sir Walter had the good fortune to find in Charles and Louis characters as well contrasted as if they had been invented for the purposes of fiction. Both were indeed utterly selfish, but there the resemblance ends. The duke’s ruling principle was vanity, and vanity of the least intellectual kind. His first object was the fame of a conqueror, or rather of a soldier, for in his battles he seems to have aimed more at showing courage and personal strength than the calmness and combination of a general. His other great source of delight was the exhibition of his wealth and splendour,—in the pomp of his dress and his retinue. In these ignoble pursuits he seems to have been utterly indifferent to the sufferings he inflicted on others, and to the risks he himself encountered; and ultimately threw away his life, his army, and the prosperity of his country, in a war undertaken without any object, for he was attacking those who were anxious to be his auxiliaries, and persevered in, after success was impossible, merely to postpone the humiliation of a retreat.

“Louis’s object was power; and he seems to have enjoyed the rare felicity of being unaffected by vanity. He had both intrepidity and conduct in battle—far more of the latter indeed than his ferocious rival; but no desire to display these qualities led him into war, if his objects could be otherwise obtained. He fought those only

* This criticism was published (in the London Review) long before the Revolt of Brussels, in 1830, divided Belgium from Holland.

whom he could not bribe or deceive. The same indifference to mere opinion entitled him to
Commines’ praise as “eminently wise in adversity.” When it was not expedient to resist, he could retreat, concede, and apologize, without more apparent humiliation than the king in chess when he moves out of check. He was rapacious, because wealth is a source of power, and because he had no sympathy with those whom he impoverished; but he did not, like his rival, waste his treasures on himself, or on his favourites—he employed them either in the support of his own real force, or in keeping in his pay the ministers and favourites of other sovereigns, and sometimes the sovereigns themselves. His only personal expense was in providing for the welfare of his soul, which he conciliated with his unscrupulous ambition, by allowing the saints his intercessors a portion of his spoils. Our author’s picture of his superstition may appear at first sight overcharged, but the imaginary prayer ascribed to him is scarcely a caricature of his real address to Notre Dame de Clery, which we copy in Brantome’s antiquated spelling—

“‘Ah, ma bonne Dame, ma petite Maistresse, ma grande ame, en qui j’ay eu tousjours mon reconfort. Je te prie de supplier Dieu pour moy, et estre mon advocate envers luy, qu’il me pardonne la mort de mon frere que j’ay fait empoisonner par ce meschant Abbé de S. Jean. Je m’en confesse a toi, comme a ma bonne patronne et maistresse. Mais aussi, qu’eusse-je sceu faire? Il ne me faisoit que troubler mon royaume. Fay moy doncques pardonner, ma bonne Dame; et je sçay ce queje te donneray.’

Sir Walter has made good use of these excellent materials. His Louis and his Charles are perfectly faithful copies, with all the spirit and consistency which even he could have given to creations of his own. The narrative, too, is flowing and connected: each event depends on that which preceded it, without any of the episodes, recapitulations, and sudden changes of scene, which in many of his works weaken the interest, and distract the attention of the reader.”

The result of Quentin Durward, as regards the contemporary literature of France, and thence of Italy and the Continent generally, would open a field for ample digression. As concerns Scott himself, the rays of foreign enthusiasm speedily thawed the frost of Constable’s unwonted misgiving’s; the Dialogues on Superstition, if he ever began them, were very soon dropped, and the Novelist resumed his pen. He had not sunk under the
short-lived frown—for he wrote to
Ballantyne, on first ascertaining that a damp was thrown on his usual manufacture,
“The mouse who only trusts to one poor hole,
Can never be a mouse of any soul;”
and, while his publisher yet remained irresolute as to the plan of Dialogues, threw off, with unabated energy, his excellent Essay on Romance, for the
Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica; and I cannot but consider it as another display of his high self-reliance, that, though he well knew to what influence Quentin owed its ultimate success in the British market, he, the instant he found himself encouraged to take up the trade of story-telling again, sprang back to Scotland—nay, voluntarily encountered new difficulties, by selecting the comparatively tame, and unpicturesque realities of modern manners in his native province.

A conversation, which much interested me at the time, had, I fancy, some share at least in this determination. As he, Laidlaw, and myself were lounging on our ponies, one fine calm afternoon, along the brow of the Eildon hill where it overhangs Melrose, he mentioned to us gaily the row, as he called it, that was going on in Paris about Quentin Durward, and said, “I can’t but think that I could make better play still with something German.” Laidlaw grumbled at this, and said, like a true Scotchman, “Na, na, sir—take my word for it, you are always best, like Helen MacGregor, when your foot is on your native heath; and I have often thought that if you were to write a novel, and lay the scene here in the very year you were writing it, you would exceed yourself.”—“Hame’s hame,” quoth Scott, smiling, “be it ever sae hamely. There’s something in what you say, Willie. What suppose I
were to take Captain Clutterbuck for a hero, and never let the story step a yard beyond the village below us yonder?”—“The very thing I want,” says Laidlaw; “stick to Melrose in July 1823.”—“Well, upon my word,” he answered, “the field would be quite wide enough—and what for no?” (This pet phrase of Meg Dods was a Laidlawism.) Some fun followed about the different real persons in the village that might be introduced with comical effect; but as Laidlaw and I talked and laughed over our worthy neighbours, his air became graver and graver; and he at length said, “Ay, ay, if one could look into the heart of that little cluster of cottages, no fear but you would find materials enow for tragedy as well as comedy. I undertake to say there is some real romance at this moment going on down there, that, if it could have justice done to it, would be well worth all the fiction that was ever spun out of human brains.” He then told us a tale of dark domestic guilt which had recently come under his notice as Sheriff, and of which the scene was not Melrose, but a smaller hamlet on the other side of the Tweed, full in our view; but the details were not of a kind to be dwelt upon;—any thing more dreadful was never conceived by
Crabbe, and he told it so as to produce on us who listened all the effect of another Hall of Justice. It could never have entered into his head to elaborate such a tale; but both Laidlaw and I used to think that this talk suggested St Ronan’s Well—though my good friend was by no means disposed to accept that as payment in full of his demand, and from time to time afterwards would give the Sheriff a little poking about “Melrose in July.”

Before Sir Walter settled to the new novel, he received Joanna Baillie’s long-promised Collection of Poetical Miscellanies, in which appeared his own dramatic
sketch of
Macduff’s Cross. When Halidon Hill first came forth, there were not wanting reviewers who hailed it in a style of rapture, such as might have been expected had it been a Macbeth. But this folly soon sunk; and I only mention it as an instance of the extent to which reputation bewilders and confounds even persons who have good brains enough when they find it convenient to exercise them. The second attempt of the class produced no sensation whatever at the time; and both would have been long since forgotten, but that they came from Scott’s pen. They both contain some fine passages—Halidon Hill has, indeed, several grand ones. But, on the whole, they always seemed to me most egregiously unworthy of Sir Walter; and, now that we have before us his admirable letters on dramatic composition to Allan Cunningham, it appears doubly hard to account for the rashness with which he committed himself in even such slender attempts on a species of composition, of which, in his cool hour, he so fully appreciated the difficult demands. Nevertheless, I am very far from agreeing with those critics who have gravely talked of Halidon Hill, and Macduff’s Cross, and the still more unfortunate Doom of Devorgoil, as proving that Sir Walter could not have succeeded in the drama, either serious or comic. It would be as fair to conclude, from the abortive fragment of the Vampyre, that Lord Byron could not have written a good novel or romance in prose. Scott threw off these things currente calamo; he never gave himself time to consider beforehand what could be made of their materials, nor bestowed a moment on correcting them after he had covered the allotted quantity of paper with blank verse; and neither when they were new, nor ever after, did he seem to attach the slightest importance to them.

Miss Baillie’s volume contained several poems by
Mrs Hemans,—some jeux d’esprit by the late Miss Catherine Fanshawe, a woman of rare wit and genius, in whose society Scott greatly delighted,—and, inter alia, Mr William Howison’s early ballad of Polydore, which had been originally published, under Scott’s auspices, in the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1810.

To Miss Joanna Baillie, Hampstead.
“Edinburgh, July 11, 1823.

“Your kind letter, my dear friend, heaps coals of fire on my head, for I should have written to you, in common gratitude, long since; but I waited till I should read through the Miscellany with some attention, which as I have not yet done, I can scarce say much to the purpose, so far as that is concerned. My own production sate in the porch like an evil thing, and scared me from proceeding farther than to hurry through your compositions, with which I was delighted, and two or three others. In my own case, I have almost a nervous reluctance to look back on any recent poetical performance of my own. I may almost say with Macbeth,—
“I am afraid to think what I have done.
Look on’t again I dare not.”
But the best of the matter is, that your purpose has been so satisfactorily answered and great reason have you to be proud of your influence with the poem-buyers as well as the poem-makers. By the by, you know your request first set me a hammering on an old tale of the Swintons, from whom, by the mother’s side, I am descended, and the tinkering work I made of it warmed the heart of a cousin* in the East Indies, a descendant of the renowned Sir Allan, who has sent his kindred poet by this fleet not a butt of sack, but a pipe of most parti-

* George Swinton, Esq. (now of Swinton) was at this time Secretary to the Council in Bengal.

cular Madeira. You and
Mrs Agnes shall have a glass of it when you come to Abbotsford, for I always consider your last only a payment to account—you did not stay half the time you promised. I am going out there on Friday, and shall see all my family re-united around me for the first time these many years. They make a very good figure as ‘honest men and bonny lasses.’ I read Miss Fanshawe’s pieces, which are quite beautiful. Mrs Hemans is somewhat too poetical for my taste—too many flowers I mean, and too little fruit—but that may be the cynical criticism of an elderly gentleman; for it is certain that when I was young, I read verses of every kind with infinitely more indulgence, because with more pleasure than I can now do the more shame for me now to refuse the complaisance which I have had so often to solicit. I am hastening to think prose a better thing than verse, and if you have any hopes to convince me to the contrary, it must be by writing and publishing another volume of plays as fast as possible. I think they would be most favourably received; and beg, like Burns, to
——“tell you of mine and Scotland’s drouth,
Your servant’s humble ——”
A young friend of mine,
Lord Francis Gower, has made a very fair attempt to translate Goethe’s untranslatable play of Faust, or Faustus. He has given also a version of Schiller’s very fine poem on Casting the Bell, which I think equals Mr Sotheby’s—nay, privately (for tell it not in Epping Forest, whisper it not in Hampstead), rather outdoes our excellent friend, I have not compared them minutely, however. As for Mr Howison, such is the worldly name of Polydore, I never saw such a change in my life upon a young man. It may be fourteen years, or thereabouts, since he introduced himself to me, by send-
JULY, 1823.289
ing me some most excellent verses for a youth of sixteen years old. I asked him to Ashestiel, and he came—a thin hectic youth, with an eye of dark fire, a cheek that coloured on the slightest emotion, and a mind fraught with feeling of the tender and the beautiful, and eager for poetical fame—otherwise, of so little acquaintance with the world and the world’s ways, that a sucking-turkey might have been his tutor. I was rather a bear-like nurse for such a lamb-like charge. We could hardly indeed associate together, for I was then eternally restless, and he as sedentary. He could neither fish, shoot, or course—he could not bear the inside of a carriage with the ladies, for it made him sick, nor the outside with my boys, for it made him giddy. He could not walk, for it fatigued him, nor ride, for he fell off. I did all I could to make him happy, and it was not till he had caught two colds and one sprain, besides risking his life in the Tweed, that I gave up all attempts to convert him to the things of this world. Our acquaintance after this languished, and at last fell asleep, till one day last year I met at
Lockhart’s a thin consumptive-looking man, bent double with study, and whose eyes seemed to have been extinguished almost by poring over the midnight lamp, though protected by immense green spectacles. I then found that my poet had turned metaphysician, and that these spectacles were to assist him in gazing into the millstone of moral philosophy. He looked at least twice as old as he really is, and has since published a book, very small in size, but, from its extreme abstracted doctrines, more difficult to comprehend than any I ever opened in my life.* I will take

* “An Essay on the Sentiments of Attraction, Adaptation, and Variety. To which are added, A Key to the Mythology of the An-

care he has one of my copies of the Miscellany. If he gets into the right line, he will do something remarkable yet.

“We saw, you will readily suppose, a great deal of Miss Edgeworth, and two very nice girls, her younger sisters. It is scarcely possible to say more of this very remarkable person than that she not only completely answered, but exceeded the expectations which I had formed. I am particularly pleased with the naïveté and good-humoured ardour of mind which she unites with such formidable powers of acute observation. In external appearance, she is quite the fairy of our nursery-tale, the Whippity Stourie, if you remember such a sprite, who came flying through the window to work all sorts of marvels. I will never believe but what she has a wand in her pocket, and pulls it out to conjure a little before she begins to those very striking pictures of manners. I am grieved to say, that, since they left Edinburgh on a tour to the Highlands, they have been detained at Forres by an erysipelas breaking out on Miss Edgeworth’s face. They have been twelve days there, and are now returning southwards, as a letter from Harriet informs me. I hope soon to have them at Abbotsford, where we will take good care of them, and the invalid in particular. What would I give to have you and Mrs Agnes to meet them, and what canty cracks we would set up about the days of langsyne! The increasing powers of steam, which, like you, I look on half-proud, half-sad, half-angry, and half-pleased, in doing so much for the commercial world, promise something also for the sociable; and, like Prince Houssein’s tapestry, will, I think, one day waft friends together in the course of a few hours, and, for aught we may be able to tell, bring

cients; and Europe’s Likeness to the Human Spirit. By William Howison.” Edinburgh; 1822.

Hampstead and Abbotsford within the distance of,—‘Will you dine with us quietly to-morrow?’ I wish I could advance this happy abridgment of time and space, so as to make it serve my present wishes.

“Abbotsford, July 18. ——

“I have, for the first time these several years, my whole family united around me, excepting Lockhart, who is with his yeomanry, but joins us to-morrow. Walter is returned a fine steady soldier-like young man from his abode on the Continent, and little Charles, with his friend Surtees, has come from Wales, so that we draw together from distant quarters. When you add Sophia’s baby, I assure you my wife and I look very patriarchal. The misfortune is, all this must be soon over, for Walter is admitted one of the higher class of students in the Military College, and must join against the 1st of August. I have some chance, I think, when he has had a year’s study, of getting him upon the staff in the Ionian islands, which I should greatly prefer to his lounging about villages in horse-quarters; he has a strong mathematical turn, which promises to be of service in his profession; little Charles is getting steadily on with his learning—but to what use he is to turn it I scarce know yet.—I am very sorry indeed that the doctor is complaining—he whose life has been one course of administering help and comfort to others, should not, one would think, suffer himself; but such are the terms on which we hold our gifts—however valuable to others, they are sometimes less available to ourselves. I sincerely hope this will find him better, and Mrs Baillie easier in proportion. When I was subject a little to sore throats, I cured myself of that tendency by spunging my throat, breast, and shoulders every morning with the coldest water I could
get; but this is rather a horse remedy, though I still keep up the practice. All here, that is, wives, maidens, and bachelors bluff, not forgetting little
John Hugh, or, as he is popularly styled, Hugh Littlejohn, send loving remembrances to you and Mrs Agnes. Ever, dear Mrs Joanna, most truly yours,

Walter Scott.”

The next month—August 1823—was one of the happiest in Scott’s life. Never did I see a brighter day at Abbotsford than that on which Miss Edgeworth first arrived there—never can I forget her look and accent when she was received by him at his archway and exclaimed, “Everything about you is exactly what one ought to have had wit enough to dream!” The weather was beautiful, and the edifice, and its appurtenances, were all but complete; and day after day, so long as she could remain, her host had always some new plan of gaiety. One day there was fishing on the Cauldshiels Loch, and a dinner on the heathy bank. Another, the whole party feasted by Thomas the Rymer’s waterfall in the glen—and the stone on which Maria that day sat was ever afterwards called Edgeworth’s stone. A third day we had to go further a-field. He must needs show her, not Newark only, but all the upper scenery of the Yarrow, where “fair hangs the apple frae the rock,”—and the baskets were unpacked about sunset, beside the ruined Chapel overlooking St Mary’s Loch—and he had scrambled to gather bluebells and heath-flowers, with which all the young ladies must twine their hair, and they sang and he recited until it was time to go home beneath the softest of harvest moons. Thus a fortnight was passed—and the vision closed; for Miss Edgeworth
never saw Abbotsford again during his life; and I am very sure she could never bear to look upon it now that the spirit is fled.

Another honoured and welcome guest of the same month was Mr J. L. Adolphus—the author of the Letters to Heber; and I am enabled to enrich these pages with some reminiscences of that visit—the first of several he paid to Abbotsford—which this gentleman has been so kind as to set down for my use, and I am sure for the gratification of all my readers. After modestly recounting the circumstances which led to his invitation to Abbotsford, my friendly contributor says:—

“With great pleasure and curiosity, but with something like awe, I first saw this celebrated house emerge from below the plantation which screened it from the Selkirk and Melrose road. Antique as it was in design, it had not yet had time to take any tint from the weather, and its whole complication of towers, turrets, galleries, cornices, and quaintly ornamented mouldings looked fresh from the chisel, except where the walls were enriched with some really ancient carving or inscription. As I approached the house, there was a busy sound of masons’ tools; the shrubbery before the windows was strewed with the works of the carpenter and stonecutter, and with grotesque antiquities, for which a place was yet to be found; on one side were the beginnings of a fruit and flower garden; on another, but more distant, a slope bristling with young firs and larches; near the door murmured an unfinished fountain.

“I had seen Sir Walter Scott, but never met him in society, before this visit. He received me with all his well-known cordiality and simplicity of manner. The circumstances under which I presented myself were peculiar, as the only cause of my being under his roof was one which could not without awkwardness be alluded
to, while a strict reserve existed on the subject of the
Waverley novels. This, however, did not create any embarrassment; and he entered into conversation as if any thing that might have been said with reference to the origin of our acquaintance had been said an hour before. I have since been present at his first reception of many visitors; and upon such occasions, as indeed upon every other, I never saw a man who, in his intercourse with all persons, was so perfect a master of courtesy. His manners were so plain and natural, and his kindness took such immediate possession of the feelings, that this excellence in him might for a while pass almost unobserved. I cannot pay a higher testimony to it than by owning that I first fully appreciated it from his behaviour to others. His air and aspect, at the moment of a first introduction, were placid, modest, and, for his time of life, venerable. Occasionally, where he stood a little on ceremony, he threw into his address a deferential tone, which had in it something of old-fashioned politeness, and became him extremely well.

“A point of hospitality in which Sir Walter Scott never failed, whatever might be the pretensions of the guest, was to do the honours of conversation. When a stranger arrived, he seemed to consider it as much a duty to offer him the resources of his mind as those of his table; taking care, however, by his choice of subjects, to give the visiter an opportunity of making his own stores, if he had them, available. I have frequently observed this—with admiration both of his powers and of his discriminating kindness. To me, at the time of my first visit, he addressed himself often as to a member of his own profession; and indeed he seemed always to have a real pleasure in citing from his own experience as an advocate and a law officer. The first book he recommended to me for an hour’s occupation
in his library, was an old Scotch pamphlet of the trial of
Philip Stanfield (published also in the English State Trials); a dismal and mysterious story of murder, connected slightly with the politics of the time of James II., and having in it a taste of the marvellous.*

“It would, I think, be extremely difficult to give a just idea of his general conversation to any one who had not known him. Considering his great personal and literary popularity, and the wide circle of society in which he had lived, it is perhaps remarkable that so few of his sayings, real or imputed, are in circulation. But he did not affect sayings; the points and sententious turns, which are so easily caught up and transmitted, were not natural to him: ‘though he occasionally expressed a thought very pithily and neatly. For example, he once described the Duke of Wellington’s style of debating as ‘slicing the argument into two or three parts, and helping himself to the best.’ But the great charm of his ‘table-talk’ was in the sweetness and abandon with which it flowed,—always, however, guided by good sense and taste; the warm and unstudied eloquence with which he expressed rather sentiments than opinions; and the liveliness and force with which he narrated and described: and all that he spoke derived so much of its effect from indefinable felicities of manner, look, and tone—and sometimes from the choice of apparently insignificant words—that a moderately faithful transcript of his sentences would be but a faint image of his conversation.

“At the time of my first and second visits to Abbots-

* See the case of Philip Stanfield’s alleged parricide, and Sir Walter Scott’s remarks thereupon, in his edition of “Lord Fountainhall’s Chronological Notes on Scottish Affairs,” pp. 233-36; and compare an extract from one of his early note-books, given ante, vol. i. p. 261.

ford, in 1823 and 1824, his health was less broken, and his spirits more youthful and buoyant, than when I afterwards saw him, in the years from 1827 to 1831. Not only was he inexhaustible in anecdote, but he still loved to exert the talent of dramatizing, and in some measure representing in his own person the incidents he told of, or the situations, he imagined. I recollect, for instance, his sketching in this manner (it was, I think, apropos to some zoological discussion with
Mr William Stewart Rose) a sailor trying to persuade a monkey to speak, and vowing, with all kinds of whimsical oaths, that he would not tell of him.* On the evening of my first arrival, he took me to see his ‘wild man,’ as he called him, the celebrated Tom Purdie, who was in an outhouse, unpacking some Indian idols, weapons, and carved work, just arrived from England. The better to exhibit Tom, his master played a most amusing scene of wonder, impatience, curiosity, and fear lest any thing should be broken or the candle fall into the loose hay of the packages, but all this with great submission to the better judgment of the factotum, who went on gravely breaking up and unpapering after his own manner, as if he had been sorting some toys for a restless child. Another specimen of his talent for representation, which struck me forcibly about the same time, was his telling the story (related in his Letters on Demonology) of a dying man who, in a state of delirium, while his nurse was absent, left his room, appeared at a club of which he was president, and was taken for his own ghost. In relating this not very likely story, he described with his deep and lingering tones, and with gestures and looks suited to each part of the

* Mr Rose was at this time meditating his entertaining little jeu d’esprit, entitled “Anecdotes of Monkeys.”

action, the sick man, deadly pale and with vacant eyes, walking into the club-room; the silence and consternation of the club; the supposed spectre moving to the head of the table; giving a ghastly salutation to the company; raising a glass towards his lips; stiffly turning his head from side to side, as if pledging the several members; his departure, just at midnight; and the breathless conference of the club, as they recovered themselves from this strange visit.
St Ronan’s Well was published soon after the telling of this story, and I have no doubt that Sir Walter had it in his mind in writing one of the last scenes of that novel.

“He read a play admirably well, distinguishing the speeches by change of tone and manner, without naming the characters. I had the pleasure of hearing him recite, shortly before it was published, his own spirited ballad of ‘Bonny Dundee;’ and never did I listen to more ‘eloquent music.’ This was in one of the last years of his life, but the lines
Away, to the hills, to the caves, to the rocks!
Ere I own a usurper, I’ll couch with the fox!’
could not, in his most vigorous days, have been intonated with more fire and energy.

“In conversation he sometimes added very strikingly to the ludicrous or pathetic effect of an expression by dwelling on a syllable; holding the note, as it would have been called in music. Thus I recollect his telling, with an extremely droll emphasis, that once, when a boy, he was ‘cuffed’ by his aunt for singing,
‘There’s nae repentance in my heart,
The fiddle’s in my arms!’*

* These lines are from the old ballad, “Macpherson’s Lament,”—the groundwork of Burns’s glorious “Macpherson’s Farewell.”—See Scott’s Miscellaneous Prose Works, vol. xvii., p. 259.


“No one who has seen him can forget the surprising power of change which his countenance showed when awakened from a state of composure. In 1823, when I first knew him, the hair upon his forehead was quite grey, but his face, which was healthy and sanguine, and the hair about it, which had still a strong reddish tinge, contrasted rather than harmonized with the sleek, silvery locks above; a contrast which might seem rather suited to a jovial and humorous, than to a pathetic expression. But his features were equally capable of both. The form and hue of his eyes (for the benefit of minute physiognomists it should be noted, that the pupils contained some small specks of brown) were wonderfully calculated for showing great varieties of emotion. Their mournful aspect was extremely earnest and affecting; and, when he told some dismal and mysterious story, they had a doubtful, melancholy, exploring look, which appealed irresistibly to the hearer’s imagination. Occasionally, when he spoke of something very audacious or eccentric, they would dilate and light up with a tragic-comic, harebrained expression, quite peculiar to himself; one might see in it a whole chapter of Cœur-de-lion and the Clerk of Copmanhurst. Never, perhaps, did a man go through all the gradations of laughter with such complete enjoyment, and a countenance so radiant. The first dawn of a humorous thought would show itself sometimes, as he sat silent, by an involuntary lengthening of the upper lip, followed by a shy sidelong glance at his neighbours, indescribably whimsical, and seeming to ask from their looks whether the spark of drollery should be suppressed or allowed to blaze out. In the full tide of mirth he did indeed ‘laugh the heart’s laugh,’ like Walpole, but it was not boisterous and overpowering, nor did it check the course of his words; he could go
on telling or descanting, while his lungs did ‘crow like chanticleer,’ his syllables, in the struggle, growing more emphatic, his accent more strongly Scotch, and his voice plaintive with excess of merriment.

“The habits of life at Abbotsford, when I first saw it, ran in the same easy, rational, and pleasant course which I believe they always afterwards took; though the family was at this time rather straitened in its arrangements, as some of the principal rooms were not finished. After breakfast Sir Walter took his short interval of study in the light and elegant little room afterwards called Miss Scott’s. That which he occupied when Abbotsford was complete, though more convenient in some material respects, seemed to me the least cheerful* and least private in the house. It had, however, a recommendation which, perhaps, he was very sensible of, that, as he sat at his writing-table, he could look out at his young trees. About one o’clock he walked or rode, generally with some of his visiters. At this period he used to be a good deal on horseback, and a pleasant sight it was to see the gallant old gentleman, in his seal-skin cap and short green jacket, lounging along a field-side on his mare, Sibyl Grey, and pausing now and then to talk, with a serio-comic look, to a labouring man or woman, and rejoice them with some quaint saying in broad Scotch. The dinner hour was early; the sitting after dinner was hospitably but not immoderately prolonged; and the whole family party (for such it always seemed, even if there were several visiters) then met again for a short evening, which was passed in conversation and music. I once heard Sir Walter say, that he believed there was a ‘pair’ of cards (such was his antiquated expression)

* It is, however, the only sitting-room in the house that looks southward.

somewhere in the house—but probably there is no tradition of their having ever been used. The drawing-room and library (unfurnished at the time of my first visit) opened into each other, and formed a beautiful evening apartment. By every one who has visited at Abbotsford they must be associated with some of the most delightful recollections of his life.
Sir Walter listened to the music of his daughters, which was all congenial to his own taste, with a never-failing enthusiasm. He followed the fine old songs which Mrs Lockhart sang to her harp with his mind, eyes, and lips, almost as if joining in an act of religion. To other musical performances he was a dutiful, and often a pleased listener, but I believe he cared little for mere music; the notes failed to charm him if they were not connected with good words, or immediately associated with some history or strong sentiment, upon which his imagination could fasten. A similar observation might, I should conceive, apply to his feeling of other arts. I do not remember any picture or print at Abbotsford which was remarkable merely as a work of colour or design. All, I think, either represented historical, romantic, or poetical subjects, or related to persons, places, or circumstances in which he took an interest. Even in architecture his taste had the same bias; almost every stone of his house bore an allusion or suggested a sentiment.

“It seemed at first a little strange, in a scene where so many things brought to mind the Waverley novels, to hear no direct mention of them or even allusion to their existence. But as forbearance on this head was a rule on which a complete tacit understanding subsisted, there was no embarrassment or appearance of mystery on the subject. Once or twice I have heard a casual reference made, in Sir Walter’s presence, to some topic in the novels; no surprise or appearance of displeasure followed,
but the conversation, so far as it tended that way, died a natural death. It has, I believe, happened that he himself has been caught unawares on the forbidden ground; I have heard it told by a very acute observer, not now living, that on his coming once to Abbotsford, after the publication of
the Pirate, Sir Walter asked him, ‘Well, and how is our friend Kemble? glorious John!’ and then, recollecting, of course, that he was talking Claude Halcro, he checked himself, and could not for some moments recover from the false step. Had a man been ever so prone to indiscretion on such subjects, it would have been unpardonable to betray it towards Sir Walter Scott, who (beside all his other claims to respect and affection) was himself cautious, even to nicety, of hazarding an enquiry or remark which might appear to be an intrusion upon the affairs of those with whom he conversed. It may be observed, too, that the publications of the day were by no means the staple of conversation at Abbotsford, though they had their turn; and with respect to his own works Sir Walter did not often talk even of those which were avowed. If he ever indulged in any thing like egotism, he loved better to speak of what he had done and seen than of what he had written.

“After all, there is perhaps hardly a secret in the world which has not its safety-valve. Though Sir Walter abstained strictly from any mention of the Waverley novels, he did not scruple to talk, and that with great zest, of the plays which had been founded upon some of them, and the characters, as there represented. Soon after our first meeting, he described to me, with his usual dramatic power, the deathbed scene of ‘the original Dandie Dinmont;’* of course referring, ostensibly at least, to the opera of Guy Mannering. He dwelt with

* See Note to Guy Mannering, Waverley Novels, vol. iv., p. 242.

extreme delight upon
Mackay’s performances of the Bailie and Dominie Sampson, and appeared to taste them with all the fresh and disinterested enjoyment of a common spectator. I do not know a more interesting circumstance in the history of the Waverley novels than the pleasure which their illustrious author thus received, as it were at the rebound, from those creations of his own mind which had so largely increased the enjoyments of all the civilized world.

“In one instance only did he, in my presence, say or do any thing which seemed to have an intentional reference to the novels themselves, while they were yet unacknowledged. On the last day of my visit in 1823, I rode out with Sir Walter and his friend Mr Rose, who was then his guest and frequent companion in these short rambles. Sir Walter led us a little way down the left bank of the Tweed, and then into the moors by a track called the Girth Road, along which, he told us, the pilgrims from that side of the river used to come to Melrose. We traced upward, at a distance, the course of the little stream called the Elland, Sir Walter, as his habit was, pausing now and then to point out any thing in the prospect that was either remarkable in itself, or associated with any interesting recollection. I remember, in particular, his showing us, on a distant eminence, a dreary lone house, called the Hawk’s Nest, in which a young man, returning from a fair with money, had been murdered in the night and buried under the floor, where his remains were found after the death or departure of the inmates; the fact was simple enough in itself, but, related in his manner, it was just such a story as should have been told by a poet on a lonely heath. When we had ridden a little time on the moors, he said to me rather pointedly, ‘I am going to show you something that I think will interest you;’ and presently, in a wild corner of the hills, he halted us at a place where
stood three small ancient towers, or castellated houses, in ruins, at short distances from each other. It was plain, upon the slightest consideration of the topography, that one (perhaps any one) of these was the tower of Glendearg, where so many romantic and marvellous adventures happen in
The Monastery. While we looked at this forlorn group, I said to Sir Walter that they were what Burns called ‘ghaist-alluring edifices.’ ‘Yes,’ he answered, carelessly, ‘I dare say there are many stories about them.’ As we returned, by a different route, he made me dismount and take a footpath through a part of Lord Somerville’s grounds, where the Elland runs through a beautiful little valley, the stream winding between level borders of the brightest greensward, which narrow or widen as the steep sides of the glen advance or recede. The place is called the Fairy Dean, and it required no cicerone to tell that the glen was that in which Father Eustace, in The Monastery, is intercepted by the White Lady of Avenel.”

Every friend of Sir Walter’s must admire particularly Mr Adolphus’s truly exquisite description of his laugh; but, indeed, every word of these memoranda is precious, and I shall by and by give the rest of them under the proper date.

In September, the Highland Society of Scotland, at the request of the late Sir Henry Stewart of Allanton, sent a deputation to his seat in Lanarkshire, to examine and report upon his famous improvements in the art of transplanting trees. Sir Walter was one of the committee appointed for this business, and he took a lively interest in it; as witness the Essay on Landscape Gardening,* which, whatever may be the fate of Sir Henry Stewart’s own writings, will transmit his name to pos-

* Miscellaneous Prose Works, vol. xxi., pp. 77-151.

terity. Scott made several Allantonian experiments at Abbotsford; but found reason in the sequel to abate somewhat of the enthusiasm which his Essay expresses as to the system. The question, after all, comes to pounds, shillings, and pence—and, whether Sir Henry’s accounts had or had not been accurately kept, the thing turned out greatly more expensive on Tweedside than he had found it represented in Clydesdale.

I accompanied Sir Walter on this little expedition, in the course of which we paid several other visits, and explored not a few ancient castles in the upper regions of the Tweed and the Clyde. Even while the weather was most unpropitious, nothing could induce him to remain in the carriage when we approached any ruined or celebrated edifice. If he had never seen it before, his curiosity was like that of an eager stripling;—if he had examined it fifty times, he must renew his familiarity, and gratify the tenderness of youthful reminiscences. While on the road his conversation never flagged—story suggested story, and ballad came upon ballad in endless succession. But what struck me most was the apparently omnivorous grasp of his memory. That he should recollect every stanza of any ancient ditty of chivalry or romance that had once excited his imagination, could no longer surprise me; but it seemed as if he remembered every thing without exception, so it were in any thing like the shape of verse, that he had ever read. For example, the morning after we left Allanton, we went across the country to breakfast with his friend Cranstoun (Lord Corehouse), who accompanied us in the same carriage; and his lordship happening to repeat a phrase, remarkable only for its absurdity, from a Magazine poem of the very silliest feebleness, which they had laughed at when at College together, Scott immediately began at the
beginning, and gave it us to the end, with apparently no more effort than if he himself had composed it the day before. I could after this easily believe a story often told by
Hogg, to the effect that, lamenting in Scott’s presence his having lost his only copy of a long ballad composed by him in his early days, and of which he then could recall merely the subject, and one or two fragments, Sir Walter forthwith said, with a smile, “Take your pencil, Jemmy, and I’ll dictate your ballad to you, word for word;” which was done accordingly.

As this was among the first times that I ever travelled for a few days in company with Scott, I may as well add the surprise with which his literary diligence, when away from home and his books, could not fail to be observed. Wherever we slept, whether in a noble mansion or in the shabbiest of country inns, and whether the work was done after retiring at night or before an early start in the morning, he very rarely mounted the carriage again without having a packet of the well-known aspect ready sealed, and corded, and addressed to his printer in Edinburgh. I used to suspect that he had adopted in his latter years the plan of writing every thing on paper of the quarto form, in place of the folio which he at an earlier period used, chiefly because in this way, whatever he was writing, and wherever he wrote, he might seem to casual observers to be merely engaged upon a common letter; and the rapidity of his execution, taken with the shape of his sheet, has probably deceived hundreds; but when he had finished his two or three letters, St Ronan’s Well, or whatever was in hand, had made a chapter in advance.

The following was his first letter to Miss Edgeworth after her return to Ireland. Her youngest sister Sophia (a beautiful creature now gone, like most of the pleasant party then assembled) had particularly pleased
him by her singing of a fragment of an Irish ditty, the heroine of which was a sad damsel in a petticoat of red—the chorus, I think, something like
“Shool, shool, ochone—ochone!
Thinking on the days that are long enough agone;”
and he had, as we shall see, been busying himself among his ballad collections, to see if he could recover any more of the words than the young lady had given him.

To Miss Edgeworth, Edgeworths’town.
“Abbotsford, 22d Sept. 1823.
“My dear Miss Edgeworth,

Miss Harriet had the goodness to give me an account of your safe arrival in the Green Isle, of which I was, sooth to say, extremely glad; for I had my own private apprehensions that your very disagreeable disorder might return while you were among strangers, and in our rugged climate. I now conclude you are settled quietly at home, and looking back on recollections of mountains, and valleys, and pipes, and clans, and cousins, and masons, and carpenters, and puppy-dogs, and all the confusion of Abbotsford, as one does on the recollections of a dream. We shall not easily forget the vision of having seen you and our two young friends, and your kind indulgence for all our humours, sober and fantastic, rough or smooth. Mamma writes to make her own acknowledgments for your very kind attention about the cobweb stockings, which reached us under the omnipotent frank of Croker, who, like a true Irish heart, never scruples stretching his powers a little to serve a friend.

“We are all here much as you left us, only in possession of our drawing-room, and glorious with our gas-lights, which as yet have only involved us once in total darkness—once in a temporary eclipse. In both cases the remedy was easy and the cause obvious; and if the
gas has no greater objections than I have yet seen or can anticipate, it is soon like to put wax and mutton-suet entirely out of fashion. I have recovered, by great accident, another verse or two of
Miss Sophia’s beautiful Irish air; it is only curious as hinting at the cause of the poor damsel of the red petticoat’s deep dolour:—

‘I went to the mill, but the miller was gone,
I sate me down and cried ochone,
To think on the days that are past and gone,
Of Dickie Macphalion that’s slain.
Shool, shool, &c.
‘I sold my rock, I sold my reel,
And sae hae I my spinning-wheel,
And all to buy a cap of steel,
For Dickie Macphalion that’s slain.
Shool, shool,’ &c. &c.

“But who was Dickie Macphalion for whom this lament was composed? Who was the Pharaoh for whom the Pyramid was raised? The questions are equally dubious and equally important, but as the one, we may reasonably suppose, was a King of Egypt, so I think we may guess the other to have been a Captain of Rapparees, since the ladies, God bless them, honour with the deepest of their lamentation gallants who live wildly, die bravely, and scorn to survive until they become old and not worth weeping for. So much for Dickie Macphalion, who, I dare say, was in his day “a proper young man.”*

* As clever Tom Clinch, while the rabble was bawling,
Rode stately through Holborn to die in his calling,
He stopt at the George for a bottle of sack,
And promised to pay for it when he came back.
His waistcoat, and stockings, and breeches were white;
His cap had a new cherry ribbon to tie’t.
The maids to the doors and the balconies ran,
And said, ‘Lack-a-day! he’s a proper young man!’”

“We have had Sir Humphrey Davy here for a day or two—very pleasant and instructive, and Will Rose for a month—that is, coming and going. Lockhart has been pleading at the circuit for a clansman of mine, who, having sustained an affront from two men on the road home from Earlstown fair, nobly waylaid and murdered them both single-handed. He also cut off their noses, which was carrying the matter rather too far, and so the jury thought—so my namesake must strap for it, as many of The Rough Clan have done before him. After this Lockhart and I went to Sir Henry Stewart’s, to examine his process of transplanting trees. He exercises wonderful power certainly over the vegetable world, and has made his trees dance about as merrily as ever did Orpheus; but he has put me out of conceit with my profession of a landscape-gardener, now I see so few drains are necessary for a stock in trade. I wish Miss Harriet would dream no more ominous visions about Spicie.* The poor thing has been very ill of that fatal disorder proper to the canine race, called, par excellence, the Distemper. I have prescribed for her, as who should say thus you would doctor a dog, and I hope to bring her through, as she is a very affectionate little creature, and of a fine race. She has still an odd wheezing, however, which makes me rather doubtful of success. The Lockharts are both well, and at present our lodgers, together with John Hugh, or, as he calls himself, Donichue, which sounds like one of your old Irish kings. They all join in every thing kind and affectionate to you and the young ladies, and best compliments to your brother.

* Spice, one of the Pepper and Mustard terriers. Scott varied the names, unlike his Dandie Dinmont, but still, as he phrased it, “stuck to the cruets.” At one time he had a Pepper, a Mustard, a Spice, a Ginger, a Catchup, and a Soy—all descendants of the real Charlie’s-hope patriarchs.

Believe me ever, dear
Miss Edgeworth, yours, with the greatest truth and respect,

Walter Scott.”

The following letter was addressed to Joanna Baillie on the death of her brother, the celebrated physician:

To Miss Joanna Baillie.
“Abbotsford, 3d October, 1823.
“My dearest Friend,

“Your very kind letter reached me just while I was deliberating how to address you on the painful, most painful subject, to which it refers, and considering how I could best intrude my own sympathy amidst your domestic affliction. The token you have given of your friendship, by thinking of me at such a moment, I will always regard as a most precious, though melancholy proof of its sincerity. We have, indeed, to mourn such a man, as, since medicine was first esteemed an useful and honoured science, has rarely occurred to grace its annals, and who will be lamented so long as any one lives, who has experienced the advantage of his professional skill, and the affectionate kindness by which it was accompanied. My neighbour and kinsman, John Scott of Gala, who was attended by our excellent friend during a very dangerous illness, is mingling his sorrow with mine, as one who laments almost a second father; and when in this remote corner there are two who join in such a sincere tribute to his memory, what must be the sorrows within his more immediate sphere of exertion! I do, indeed, sincerely pity the family and friends who have lost such a head, and that at the very time when they might, in the course of nature, have looked to enjoy his society for many years, and even more closely and intimately than during the preceding period
of his life, when his domestic intercourse was so much broken in upon by his professional duties. It is not for us, in this limited state of observation and comprehension, to enquire why the lives most useful to society, and most dear to friendship, seem to be of a shorter date than those which are useless, or perhaps worse than useless;—but the certainty that in another and succeeding state of things these apparent difficulties will be balanced and explained, is the best, if not the only cure for unavailing sorrow, and this your well-balanced and powerful mind knows better how to apply, than I how to teach the doctrine.

“We were made in some degree aware of the extremely precarious state of our late dear friend’s health, by letters which young Surtees had from his friends in Gloucestershire, during a residence of a few weeks with us, and which mentioned the melancholy subject in a very hopeless manner, and with all the interest which it was calculated to excite. Poor dear Mrs Baillie is infinitely to be pitied, but you are a family of love; and though one breach has been made among you, will only extend your arms towards each other the more, to hide, though you cannot fill up the gap which has taken place. The same consolation remains for Mrs Agnes and yourself, my dear friend; and I have no doubt, that in the affection of Dr Baillie’s family, and their success in life, you will find those pleasing ties which connect the passing generation with that which is rising to succeed it upon the stage.

Sophia is in the way of enlarging her family—an event to which I look forward with a mixture of anxiety and hope. One baby, not very strong, though lively and clever, is a frail chance upon which to stake happiness; at the same time, God knows there have been too many instances of late of the original curse having
descended on young mothers with fatal emphasis; but we will hope the best. In the mean-time her spirits are good, and her health equally so. I know that even at this moment these details will not be disagreeable to you, so strangely are life and death, sorrow and pleasure, blended together in the tapestry of human life.

“I answer your letter before I have seen Sophia; but I know well how deeply she is interested in your grief. My wife and Anne send their kindest and most sympathetic regards. Walter is at the Royal Military College to study the higher branches of his profession, and Charles has returned to Wales.

“My affectionate respects attend Mrs Baillie and Mrs Agnes, and I ever am, my dear friend, respectfully and affectionately, yours,

Walter Scott.”
To D. Terry, Esq., London.
“Abbotsford, October 29, 1823.
“My dear Terry,

“Our correspondence has been flagging for some time, yet I have much to thank you for, and perhaps something to apologize for. We did not open Mr Baldock’s commode, because, in honest truth, this place has cost me a great deal within these two years, and I was loth to add a superfluity, however elegant, to the heavy expense already necessarily incurred. Lady Scott, the party most interested in the drawing-room, thinks mirrors, when they cast up, better things and more necessary. We have received the drawing-room grate—very handsome indeed—from Bower, but not those for the library or my room, nor are they immediately wanted. Nothing have we heard of the best bed and its accompaniments, but there is no hurry for this neither. We are in possession of the bedroom story, garrets, and a part of the under
or sunk story—basement, the learned call it; but the library advances slowly. The extreme wetness of the season has prevented the floor from being laid, nor dare we now venture it till spring, when shifting and arranging the books will be ‘a pleasing pain and toil with a gain.’ The front of the house is now enclosed by a court-yard wall, with flankers of 100 feet, and a handsome gateway. The interior of the court is to be occupied by a large gravel drive for carriages, the rest with flowers, shrubs, and a few trees: the inside of the court-yard wall is adorned with large carved medallions from the old Cross of Edinburgh, and Roman or colonial heads in bas relief from the ancient station of Petreia, now called Old Penrith. A walk runs along it, which I intend to cover with creepers as a trellissed arbour: the court-yard is separated from the garden by a very handsome colonnade, the arches filled up with cast-iron, and the cornice carved with flowers, after the fashion of the running cornice on the cloisters at Melrose: the masons here cut so cheap that it really tempts one. All this is in a great measure finished, and by throwing the garden into a subordinate state, as a sort of plaisance, it has totally removed the awkward appearance of its being so near the house. On the contrary, it seems a natural and handsome accompaniment to the old-looking mansion. Some people of very considerable taste have been here, who have given our doings much applause, particularly Dr Russel, a beautiful draughtsman, and no granter of propositions. The interior of the hall is finished with scutcheons, sixteen of which, running along the centre, I intend to paint with my own quarterings, so far as I know them, for I am as yet uncertain of two on my mother’s side; but fourteen are no bad quartering to be quite real, and the others may be covered with a cloud, since I have no ambition to be
DECEMBER, 1823.313
a canon of Strasburg, for which sixteen are necessary; I may light on these, however. The scutcheons on the cornice I propose to charge with the blazonry of all the Border clans, eighteen in number, and so many of the great families, not clans, as will occupy the others. The windows are to be painted with the different bearings of different families of the clan of Scott, which, with their quarterings and impalings, will make a pretty display. The arranging all these arms, &c., have filled up what Robinson Crusoe calls the rainy season, for such this last may on the whole be called. I shall be greatly obliged to you to let me know what debts I owe in London, that I may remit accordingly: best to pay for one’s piping in time, and before we are familiar with our purchases. You mentioned having some theatrical works for me; do not fail to let me know the amount. Have you seen
Dr Meyrick’s account of the Ancient Armour? it is a book beautifully got up, and of much antiquarian information.

“Having said so much for my house, I add for my family, that those who are here are quite well, but Lady Scott a little troubled with asthma. Ballantyne will send you my last affair now in progress: it is within, or may be easily compressed into, dramatic time; whether it is otherwise qualified for the stage, I cannot guess.—I am, my dear Terry, truly yours,

Walter Scott.”

The novel to which Sir Walter thus alludes was published about the middle of December, and in its English reception there was another falling off, which of course somewhat dispirited the bookseller for the moment. Scotch readers in general dissented stoutly from this judgment, alleging (as they might well do), that Meg Dods deserved a place by the side of Monk-
barns, Bailie Jarvie, and Captain Dalgetty; that no one, who had lived in the author’s own country, could hesitate to recognise vivid and happy portraitures in Touchwood, MacTurk, and the recluse minister of St Ronan’s; that the descriptions of natural scenery might rank with any he had given; and, finally, that the whole character of Clara Mowbray, but especially its developement in the third volume, formed an original creation, destined to be classed by posterity with the highest efforts of tragic romance. Some Edinburgh critics, however—(both talkers and writers)—received with considerable grudgings certain sarcastic sketches of the would be fine life of the watering-place sketches which their Southron brethren had kindly suggested might be drawn from Northern observation, but could never appear better than fantastic caricatures to any person who had visited even a third-rate English resort of the same nominal class. There is no doubt that the author dashed off these minor personages with, in the painter’s phrase, a rich brush; but I must confess my belief that they have far more truth about them than his countrymen seemed at the time willing to allow; and if any of my readers, whether Scotch or English, has ever happened to spend a few months, not in either an English or a Scotch watering-place of the present day, but among such miscellaneous assemblages of British nondescripts and outcasts,—including often persons of higher birth than any of the beau monde of St Ronan’s Well, as now infest many towns of France and Switzerland, he will, I am satisfied, be inclined to admit that, while the Continent was shut, as it was in the days of Sir Walter’s youthful wanderings, a trip to such a sequestered place as Gilsland, or Moffat, or Innerleithen—(almost as inaccessible to London duns and bailiffs as the Isle of Man was then, or as Boulogne and Dieppe are
now)—may have supplied the future novelist’s note-book with authentic materials even for such worthies as Sir Bingo and Lady Binks, Dr Quackleben, and Mr Winterblossom. It should, moreover, be borne in mind that, during our insular blockade, northern watering-places were not alone favoured by the resort of questionable characters from the south. The comparative cheapness of living, and especially of education, procured for Sir Walter’s “own romantic town” a constant succession of such visitants, so long as they could have no access to the tables d’hôte and dancing-masters of the Continent. When I first mingled in the society of Edinburgh, it abounded with English, broken in character and in fortune, who found a mere title (even a baronet’s one) of consequence enough to obtain for them, from the proverbially cautious Scotch, a degree of attention to which they had long been unaccustomed among those who had chanced to observe the progress of their personal histories; and I heard many name, when the novel was new, a booby of some rank, in whom they recognised a sufficiently accurate prototype for Sir Bingo.

Sir Walter had shown a remarkable degree of goodnature in the completion of this novel. When the end came in view, James Ballantyne suddenly took vast alarm about a particular feature in the history of the heroine. In the original conception, and in the book as actually written and printed, Miss Mowbray’s mock marriage had not halted at the profaned ceremony of the church; and the delicate printer shrunk from the idea of obtruding on the fastidious public the possibility of any personal contamination having been incurred by a high-born damsel of the nineteenth century. Scott was at first inclined to dismiss his friend’s scruples as briefly as he had done those of Blackwood in the case of the Black Dwarf:—“You would never have quar-
relled with it,” he said, “had the thing happened to a girl in gingham. The silk petticoat can make little difference.” James reclaimed with double energy, and called
Constable to the rescue;—and after some pause, the author very reluctantly consented to cancel and rewrite about twenty-four pages, which was enough to obliterate, to a certain extent, the dreaded scandal—and in a similar degree, as he always persisted, to perplex and weaken the course of his narrative, and the dark effect of its catastrophe.

Whoever might take offence with different parts of the book, it was rapturously hailed by the inhabitants of Innerleithen, who immediately identified the most striking of its localities with those of their own pretty village and its picturesque neighbourhood, and foresaw in this celebration a chance of restoring the popularity of their long neglected Well—the same to which, as the reader of the first of these volumes may have noticed, Sir Walter Scott had occasionally escorted his mother and sister in the days of boyhood. The notables of the little town voted by acclamation that the old name of Innerleithen should be, as far as possible, dropped thenceforth, and that of St Ronan’s adopted. Nor were they mistaken in their auguries. An unheard-of influx of water-bibbers forthwith crowned their hopes; and spruce hottles and huge staring lodging-houses soon arose to disturb wofully every association that had induced Sir Walter to make Innerleithen the scene of a romance. Nor were they who profited by these invasions of the genius loci at all sparing in their demonstrations of gratitude. The traveller reads on the corner of every new erection there, “Abbotsford Place,” “Waverley Row,” “The Marmion Hotel,” or some inscription of the like coinage.

Among other consequences of the revived fame of the
place, a yearly festival was instituted for the celebration of “The St Ronan’s Border Games.” A club of “Bowmen of the Border,” arrayed in doublets of Lincoln green, with broad blue bonnets, and having the
Ettrick Shepherd for Captain, assumed the principal management of this exhibition; and Sir Walter was well pleased to be enrolled among them, and during several years was a regular attendant, both on the Meadow, where (besides archery) leaping, racing, wrestling, stone-heaving, and hammer-throwing, went on opposite to the noble old Castle of Traquair, and at the subsequent banquet, where Hogg, in full costume, always presided as master of the ceremonies. In fact, a gayer spectacle than that of the St Ronan’s Games, in those days, could not well have been desired. The Shepherd, even when on the verge of threescore, exerted himself lustily in the field, and seldom failed to carry off some of the prizes, to the astonishment of his vanquished juniors; and the bon-vivants of Edinburgh mustered strong among the gentry and yeomanry of Tweeddale to see him afterwards in his glory, filling the president’s chair with eminent success, and commonly supported on this which was, in fact, the grandest evening of his year by Sir Walter Scott, Professor Wilson, Sir Adam Ferguson, and “Peter Robertson.”

In Edinburgh, at least, the play founded, after the usual fashion, on St Ronan’s Well, had success very far beyond the expectations of the novelist, whatever may have been those of the dramatizer. After witnessing the first representation, Scott wrote thus to Terry—“We had a new piece t’other night from St Ronan’s, which, though I should have supposed it ill adapted for the stage, succeeded wonderfully—chiefly by Murray’s acting of the Old Nabob. Mackay also made an excellent Meg Dods, and kept his gestures and his action
more within the verge of female decorum than I thought possible.”

A broad piece of drollery, in the shape of an epilogue, delivered in character by Mackay when he first took a benefit as Meg Dods, is included in the last edition of Scott’s Poetical Works;* but though it caused great merriment at the time in Edinburgh, the allusions are so exclusively local and temporary, that I fear no commentary could ever make it intelligible elsewhere.

* See edition 1834, vol. xi. p. 369.