LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter XIII 1824-25

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 Winter Session of his Court, Sir Walter resumed his usual course of literary exertion, which the supervision of carpenters, painters, and upholsterers had so long interrupted. The Tales of the Crusaders were begun; but I defer, for the present, the history of their progress.

Abbotsford was at last finished, and in all its splendour; and at Christmas, a larger party than the house could ever before have accommodated, were assembled there. Among the guests was one who kept a copious journal during his stay, and has kindly furnished me with a copy of it. I shall, therefore, extract such passages as bear immediately upon Sir Walter Scott himself, who certainly was never subjected to sharper observation than that of his ingenious friend Captain Basil Hall.

“Abbotsford, December 29, 1824.

“This morning my brother James and I set out from Edinburgh in the Blucher coach, at eight o’clock, and
although we heard of snow-storms on the hills, we bowled along without the smallest impediment, and with a fine bright sun and cheerful green fields around us, with only here and there a distant streak of snow in some shady ravine. We arrived in good time and found several other guests at dinner. . . . . . . .

“The public rooms are lighted with oil-gas in a style of extraordinary splendour. The passages, also, and the bedrooms, are lighted in a similar manner. The whole establishment is on the same footing—I mean the attendance and entertainment—all is in good order, and an air of punctuality and method, without any waste or ostentation, pervades every thing. Every one seems at his ease; and although I have been in some big houses in my time, and amongst good folks who studied these sort of points not a little, I don’t remember to have any where met with things better managed in all respects.

“Had I a hundred pens, each of which at the same time should separately write down an anecdote, I could not hope to record one half of those which our host, to use Spenser’s expression, ‘Welled out alway.’ To write down one or two, or one or two dozen, would serve no purpose, as they were all appropriate to the moment, and were told with a tone, gesture, and look suited exactly to the circumstances, but which it is of course impossible in the least degree to describe.

“Abbotsford, 30th December.

“This morning Major Stisted, my brother, and I, accompanied Sir Walter Scott on a walk over his grounds, a distance of five or six miles. He led us through his plantations, which are in all stages of advancement, and
entertained us all the way with an endless string of anecdotes, more or less characteristic of the scenes we were passing through. Occasionally he repeated snatches of songs, sometimes a whole ballad, and at other times he planted his staff in the ground and related some tale to us, which though not in verse, came like a stream of poetry from his lips. Thus, about the middle of our walk, we had first to cross, and then to wind down the banks of the Huntly-burn, the scene of old
Thomas the Rymer’s interview with the Queen of the Fairies. Before entering this little glen, he detained us on the heath above till he had related the whole of that romantic story, so that by the time we descended the path, our imaginations were so worked upon by the wild nature of the fiction, and still more by the animation of the narrator, that we felt ourselves treading upon classical ground; and though the day was cold, the path muddy and scarcely passable, owing to the late floods, and the trees all bare, yet I do not remember ever to have seen any place so interesting as the skill of this mighty magician had rendered this narrow ravine, which in any other company would have seemed quite insignificant.

“On reaching an elevated point near a wild mountain lake, from whence we commanded a view of many different parts of his estate, and saw the progress of his improvements, I remarked that it must be interesting to engage in planting. ‘Interesting!’ he cried; ‘You can have no idea of the exquisite delight of a planter—he is like a painter laying on his colours—at every moment he sees his effects coming out. There is no art or occupation comparable to this; it is full of past, present, and future enjoyment. I look back to the time when there was not a tree here, only bare heath: I look round and see thousands of trees growing up, all of which, I may say almost each of which, have received
my personal attention. I remember five years ago looking forward, with the most delighted expectation, to this very hour, and as each year has passed, the expectation has gone on increasing. I do the same now; I anticipate what this plantation and that one will presently be, if only taken care of, and there is not a spot of which I do not watch the progress. Unlike building, or even painting, or indeed any other kind of pursuit, this has no end, and is never interrupted, but goes on from day to day, and from year to year, with a perpetually augmenting interest. Farming I hate; what have I to do with fattening and killing beasts, or raising corn only to cut it down, and to wrangle with farmers about prices, and to be constantly at the mercy of the seasons? There can be no such disappointments or annoyances in planting trees.’

“It is impossible to touch for an instant on any theme, but straightway he has an anecdote to fit it. ‘What is the name of that bright spot,’ I said, ‘on which the sun is shining just there in the line of Cowdenknowes?’—‘That,’ said he, ‘is called Haxel Cleugh. I was long puzzled,’ he added, ‘to find the etymology of this name, and enquired in vain on every hand to discover something suitable. I could learn nothing more than that near the Cleugh there was a spot which tradition said had been a Druidical place of worship. Still this did not help me, and I went on for a long time tormenting myself to no purpose. At length when I was reading very early one fine summer’s morning, I accidentally lighted upon a passage in some German book, which stated that Haxa was the old German term for a Druidess.* Here, then, the mystery was solved, and I was so enchanted with the discovery, that I was wild with impatience to

* Hexe is modern German for witch.

tell it to some one; so away I mounted up stairs to my wife’s room, where she was lying fast asleep. I was well aware that she neither knew nor cared one jot about the matter; that did not signify—tell it I must immediately to some one; so I roused her up, and although she was very angry at being awakened out of her comfortable doze, I insisted upon bestowing Haxa, and Haxel Cleugh, and all my beautiful discovery of the Druid’s temple upon her notwithstanding. Now, don’t you understand this?’ said he, turning to me ‘Have not you sometimes on board your ship hit upon something which delighted you, so that you could not rest till you had got hold of some one down whose throat you might cram it—some stupid dolt of a lieutenant, or some gaping midshipman, on whom in point of fact it was totally thrown away?—but still you had the satisfaction of imparting it, without which half the pleasure is lost.’

“Thus we strolled along, borne as it were on this strange stream of song and story. Nothing came amiss to him; the most trivial and commonplace incident, when turned in his hand, acquired a polish and a clearness of the first water. Over all, too, there was breathed an air of benignity and good-will to all men, which was no less striking than the eloquence and point of his narrations. The manner in which he spoke of his neighbours, and of distant persons of whose conduct he disapproved, was all in the same spirit. He did not cloak their faults—he spoke out manfully in contempt of what was wrong; but this was always accompanied by some kindly observation, some reservation in favour of the good they possessed, some natural and proper allowance. I say natural, because I should be giving a wrong impression of the character of his conversation were I to let it be supposed that these excuses or extenuations were mawkishly uttered, or that he acted a part, and as a
DECEMBER 30, 1824.379
matter of rule said something in favour even of those he condemned. . . . . . . .

“He is loyal to the back-bone, to use a vulgar phrase; but with all this there is nothing servile or merely personal in his loyalty. When the King was coming to Edinburgh, and it was known he was to pass over Waterloo Bridge, a gentleman suggested to him the fitness of concealing or erasing the inscription respecting Prince Leopold* on the arch of the bridge, as it was known there was a coolness between the King and his son-in-law. ‘What!’ said he, ‘shall we insult the King’s son-in-law, and through him the King himself, by any allusion to, or notice of, what is so unworthy of all parties? Shall we be ashamed of our own act, and without any diminution of our respect for those to whom the compliment was paid, draw back and eat our words because we have heard of a petty misunderstanding? Shall we undo that which our respect for the King and his family alone prompted us, right or wrong, to do? No, sir! sooner than that inscription should be erased, or even covered with flags or flowers, as you propose, or that any thing, in short, should be done to show that we were ashamed of our respect for Prince Leopold, or sought to save the King’s feelings by a sacrifice of our own dignity, I would with my own hand set the town of Edinburgh on fire, and destroy it!’ . . . . . .

“In the evening we had a great feast indeed. Sir Walter asked us if we had ever read Christabel, and upon some of us admitting with shame that we had never even seen it, he offered to read it, and took a chair in the midst of all the party in the library. He read the

* Prince Leopold had been present at the opening of this bridge—and the inscription records that circumstance.

poem from end to end with a wonderful pathos and variety of expression—in some parts his voice was deep and sonorous, at others loud and animated, but all most carefully appropriate, and very sweetly modulated. In his hands, at all events, Christabel justified
Lord Byron’s often-quizzed character of it—‘a wild and singularly original and beautiful poem.’

Sir Walter also read us, with the utmost delight, or, as it is called, completely con amore, the famous poem on Thomas the Rymer’s adventure with the Queen of the Fairies; but I am at a loss to say which was the most interesting, or even I will say poetical—his conversational account of it to us to-day on the very spot, Huntly-burn, or the highly characteristic ballad which he read to us in the evening.*

“Interspersed with these various readings were hundreds of stories, some quaint, some pathetical—some wild and fairylike, and not a few warlike, especially of the old times, and now and then one of Wellington and Waterloo; and sometimes he gave anecdotes of things close to his own doors,—ay, and incidents of this very day, which we had passed unseen, but which were now kindled into interest and importance, as if by the touch of a magician’s wand.

“There was also much pleasing singing—many old ballads, and many pretending to be old ballads, were sung to the harp and pianoforte. The following is so exquisitely pathetic, that I copied it, after I went to my room, from the young ladies’ book, and give it a place, though perhaps it is to be found somewhere in print:—
“My love he built me a bonnie bower,” &c. &c.†

* See this ballad in the Border Minstrelsy, vol. iv.

† See “The Border Widow’s Lament,” in the Minstrelsy, vol. ii. p. 94.

DECEMBER 31, 1824. 381
“Abbotsford, 31st December, 1824.

“The fashion of keeping up old holidays by bonefires and merriment, is surely decreasing. Or is it that we, the recorders of these things, are getting older, and take consequently less interest in what no longer amuses us, so that we may be deceived in supposing the taste of our juniors to be altered, while in fact it is only our own dispositions and habits that are changed in complexion? It may be so—still I suspect that the progress of education, and the new habits of industry, and the more varied and generous objects which have been opened of late years to all classes, have tended greatly to banish those idle ceremonies and jovialities which I can just recollect in my childhood as being of doubtful pleasure, but which our ancestors describe as being near the summit of their enjoyments. Be this as it may in the eyes of others, I confess, for my part, that your Christmas and New-years’ parties seem generally dull. There are several causes for this: The mere circumstance of being brought together for the express purpose of being merry, acts in opposition to the design in view; no one is pleased on compulsion; then it seldom happens that a party is quite well sorted; and a third reason is, that it will scarcely ever happen that a family circle can be drawn together on two successive years, without betraying to the eye of affection some fatal blanks ‘that were not there before.’

“I took notice at supper, as we waited for the moment that was to give birth to a new year, that there was more than one ‘unquiet drooping of the eye;’ and amidst the constrained hilarity of the hour, I could trace a faltering in some voices, which told distinctly enough to an ear that was watching for it, that however present
the smiling cheek and laughing eye might seem to be, the bleeding heart was far away.*

“It is true enough that it is to ‘moralize too deeply’ to take things in this way, and to conjure up with an ingenuity of self-annoyance these blighting images. So it is, and so I acted; and as my heart was light and unloaded with any care, I exerted myself to carry through the ponderous evening—ponderous only because it was one set apart to be light and gay. I danced reels like a wild man, snapped my fingers, and hallooed with the best of them, flirted with the young ladies at all hazards—and with the elder ones, of which there was a store, I talked and laughed finely. As a suite of rooms was open, various little knots were formed, and nothing would have been nicer had we been left alone, but we must needs be dancing, singing, playing, jesting, or something or other different from that which we might be naturally disposed to be doing. Wherever the Great Unknown went, indeed, there was a sort of halo of fun and intelligence around him; but his plan of letting all things bide was not caught up somehow, and we were shoved about more than enough.

“Supper was over just at midnight, and as the clock was striking twelve, we all stood up, after drinking a hearty bumper to the old year, and having joined hands crosswise, each with his right hand seizing his neighbour’s left, all joined chorus in an appropriate song by Sir Adam Ferguson, a worthy knight, possessed of infinite drollery. Then followed other toasts of a loyal description, and then a song, a good red-hot Jacobite song to the King†—a ditty which, a century ago, might

* The widow and daughters of the poet’s brother, Mr Thomas Scott, were of the party.

† “Here’s to the King, boys,
Ye ken wha I mean, boys,” &c. &c.
have cost the company their heads, or at least their hands—but now it did no more than draw broad smiles of affected apprehension, and that roguish sort of look natural when people are innocently employed in doing what is held to be mischievous, but harms no one.

“Still, still it was ponderous. Not all the humour and miraculous vivacity and readiness of our host could save it—long blank pauses occurred—and then a feeble whisper—but little more, and the roar of a jolly toast subsided into a hollow calm. I dwell upon all this merely to make people consider how useless it is to get up such things nowadays—for if Walter Scott, with all appliances and means to boot—in his noble house—surrounded by his own choice friends—full of health and all he can wish, is unable to exempt a Hogmanay party from the soporific effect proverbially attendant upon manufactured happiness, who else need venture on the experiment! At about one we broke up, and every one seemed rejoiced to be allowed to go about at pleasure: while the horses were putting to, to carry off our numerous company, and shawls were hunting for, people became bright again, and not being called upon to act any part, fell instantly into good-humour; and we had more laughing and true hilarity in the last half hour than in all the evening before. The Author of Waverley himself seemed to feel the reviving influence of freedom, and cruized about from group to group, firing in a shot occasionally to give spirit to what was going on, and then hauling off to engage with some other to show his stores of old armour—his numerous old carved oak cabinets, filled with the strangest things—adder-stones of magical power—fairies’ rings—pearls of price, and amongst the rest a mourning ring of poor Lord Byron’s, securely stowed away in one of the inmost drawers!


“On one of those roving expeditions he pushed his head into the circle of which I happened to make one, and seizing upon some casual analogy, said, ‘that reminds me of a story of a fair, fair, lady,’ &c. All became mute and crowded about him, and he began, in a low, solemn, and very impressive voice, with a sort of mock earnestness which fixed the attention in a wonderful degree, and gave an air of truth and importance to what he was telling, as if it were some material fact which he had to communicate for our serious consideration. ‘There was,’ said he, ‘a very merry party collected in a town in France, and amongst all the gay lords and ladies there assembled, there was none who caused so great a sensation, as a beautiful young lady who danced, played, and sang in the most exquisite style. There were only two unaccountable circumstances belonging to her—one was that she never went to church, or attended family prayers, the other, that she always wore a slender black velvet band or girdle round her waist. She was often asked about these peculiarities, but she always evaded the interrogatories, and still by her amiable manners and beauty won all hearts. One evening, in a dance, her partner saw an opportunity of pulling the loop of her little black girdle behind; it fell to the ground, and immediately the lady became pale as a sheet—then gradually shrunk and shrunk—till at length nothing was to be seen in her place but a small heap of grey ashes!’ . . . .

“I forgot to mention that in the course of a conversation about ghosts, fears in the dark, and such matters, Sir Walter mentioned having once arrived at a country inn, when he was told there was no bed for him. ‘No place to lie down at all?’ said he. ‘No,’ said the people of the house—‘None, except a room in which there is a corpse lying.’ ‘Well,’ said he, ‘did the person die of any contagious disorder?’ ‘Oh no—not at all,’
JANUARY 1, 1825.385
said they. ‘Well, then,’ continued he, ‘let me have the other bed. So,’ said Sir Walter, ‘I laid me down, and never had a better night’s sleep in my life.’

“Abbotsford, January 1, 1825.

“Yesterday being Hogmanay there was a constant succession of Guisardsi. e. boys dressed up in fantastic caps, with their shirts over their jackets, and with wooden swords in their hands. These players acted a sort of scene before us, of which the hero was one Goloshin, who gets killed in a ‘battle for love,’ but is presently brought to life again by a doctor of the party.

“As may be imagined, the taste of our host is to keep up these old ceremonies. Thus, in the morning, yesterday, I observed crowds of boys and girls coming to the back door, where each one got a penny and an oatencake. No less than 70 pennies were thus distributed—and very happy the little bodies looked, with their well stored bags.

“People accustomed to the planting of trees are well aware how grateful the rising generations of the forest are to the hand which thins and prunes them. And it makes one often melancholy to see what a destructive sort of waste and retardation goes on by the neglect of young woods—how much beauty is lost—how much wealth is wantonly thrown away, and what an air of sluttishness is given to scenery which, with a very little trouble, might have adorned and embellished, not to say enriched many a great estate.

“I never saw this mischievous effect of indolence more conspicuously made manifest than in a part of the grounds here. Sir Walter’s property on one side is bounded by a belt of fir trees, say twenty yards across. The ‘march’ runs directly along the centre of this belt, so that one-half of the trees belong to his neighbour, the
other to him. The moment he came in possession he set about thinning and pruning the trees, and planting a number of hardwood shoots under the shelter of the firs. In a very short time the effect was evident: the trees, heretofore choked up, had run into scraggy stems, and were sadly stunted in growth; but having now room to breathe and to take exercise, they have shot up in the course of a few years in a wonderful manner, and have set out branches on all sides, while their trunks have gradually lost the walking-stick or hop-pole aspect which they were forced to assume before, and the beeches and oaks and other recent trees are starting up vigorously under the genial influence of their owner’s care. Meanwhile the obstinate, indolent, or ignorant possessor of the other half of the belt has done nothing to his woods for many years, and the growth is apparently at a stand in its original ugliness and uselessness. The trees are none of them above half the height of Sir Walter’s, and few, if any, of half the diameter. So very remarkable is the difference, that without the most positive assurances I could not believe it possible that it could have been brought about by mere care in so short a period as five years. The trees on the one side are quite without value, either to make fences or to sell as supports to the coal-pits near Berwick, while Sir Walter already reaps a great profit from the mere thinning out of his plantations. To obtain such results, it will be easily understood that much personal attention is necessary, much method and knowledge of the subject. It happens, however, that in this very attention he finds his chief pleasure—he is a most exact and punctual man of business, and has made it his favourite study to acquire a thorough knowledge of the art.

“His excellent taste in planting has produced a very important effect. In laying out his plantations, he
was guided, partly by a feeling that it was natural and beautiful to follow the ‘lie of the ground,’ as it is called, and partly by an idea that by leading his young wood along hollows and gentle slopes, he would be taking the surest course to give it shelter. But though he had only the prosperity and picturesqueness of the wood in view, he has also, he finds, added to the value of the adjoining fields that remain unplanted. The person who formerly rented one farm came to him and offered to take the unplanted part again, and to pay the same rent for it as he had paid originally for the whole, although one-half of it is now a young forest and effectually enclosed. On
Sir Walter’s expressing his surprise at this, the man said that, both for growing corn and for the pasture of sheep, the land was infinitely improved in value by the protection which his rising woods and numerous enclosures afforded.

“This will seem still more remarkable when it is mentioned that, whenever circumstances permitted, his best land has been selected for planting trees. ‘I have no patience,’ he exclaimed, ‘with those people who consider that a tree is not to be placed except on a soil where nothing else will grow. Why should the noblest of all vegetables be condemned to the worst soil? After all it is the most productive policy to give trees every advantage, even in a pecuniary point of view, as I have just shown you. The immediate return in cash is not so great indeed as from wheat, but it is eventually as sure, if matters be properly attended to—and this is all over and above one’s great and constantly increasing source of enjoyment in the picturesque beauty which rising woods afford.’

“Abbotsford, January 2, 1825.

“At breakfast to-day we had, as usual, some 150
stories—God knows how they came in, but he is, in the matter of anecdote, what Hudibras was in figures of speech—‘his mouth he could not ope but out there flew a trope’—so with the
Great Unknown, his mouth he cannot open without giving out something worth hearing—and all so simply, good-naturedly, and naturally! I quite forget all these stories but one:—‘My cousin Watty Scott’ (said he) ‘was a midshipman some forty years ago in a ship at Portsmouth; he and two other companions had gone on shore, and had overstaid their leave, spent all their money, and run up an immense bill at a tavern—on the Point the ship made the signal for sailing, but their landlady said, “No, gentlemen—you shall not escape without paying your reckoning;”—and she accompanied her words by appropriate actions, and placed them under the tender keeping of a sufficient party of bailiffs. They felt that they were in a scrape, and petitioned very hard to be released; “No, no,” said Mrs Quickly, “I must be satisfied one way or t’other: you must be well aware, gentlemen, that you will be totally ruined if you don’t get on board in time.” They made long faces, and confessed that it was but too true. “Well,” said she, “I’ll give you one chance—I am so circumstanced here that I cannot carry on my business as a single woman, and I must contrive somehow to have a husband, or at all events I must be able to produce a marriage certificate; and therefore the only terms on which you shall all three have leave to go on board to-morrow morning is, that one of you consent to marry me. I don’t care a d—— which it is, but, by all that’s holy, one of you I will have, or else you all three go to jail, and your ship sails without you!” The virago was not to be pacified, and the poor youths, left to themselves, agreed after a time to draw lots, and it happened to fall on my cousin. No time was lost,
JANUARY 2, 1825.389
and off they marched to church, and my poor relative was forthwith spliced. The bride, on returning, gave them a good substantial dinner and several bottles of wine a piece, and having tumbled them into a wherry sent them off. The ship sailed, and the young men religiously adhered to the oath of secrecy they had taken previous to drawing lots. The bride, I should have said, merely wanted to be married, and was the first to propose an eternal separation. Some months after, at Jamaica, a file of papers reached the midshipmen’s berth, and Watty, who was observed to be looking over them, carelessly, reading an account of a robbery and murder at Portsmouth, suddenly jumped up, in his ecstasy forgot his obligation of secrecy, and cried out “Thanks be to God, my wife is hanged!”

“Mixed up with all this fun, Sir Walter has much admirable good sense, and makes many valuable reflections, which are apt sometimes to escape notice from the unpretending manner in which they are introduced. Talking of different professions to-day, and of the universal complaint of each one being overstocked, he observed—‘Ay, ay, it is the same in all; we wear our teeth out in the hard drudgery of the outset, and at length when we do get bread to eat—we complain that the crust is hard—so that in neither case are we satisfied.’

“Taking up a book with a pompous dedication to the King, he read the first paragraph, in which the style was inverted in such a manner as scarcely to be intelligible, but yet was so oddly turned as to excite curiosity. ‘Now, this,’ he said, ‘is just like a man coming into a room bottom foremost in order to excite attention: he ought to be kicked for his pains.’

“Speaking of books and booksellers, he remarked, that, considered generally, an author might be satisfied
if he got one-sixth part of the retail price of his book for his share of the profits;—this seems very moderate—but who should have such means of making a right calculation on such a point?

“Some conversation arose about stranger tourists, and I learned that Sir Walter had at length been very reluctantly obliged to put a stop to the inundation of these people, by sending an intimation to the inns at Melrose and Selkirk to stop them by a message, saying it was not convenient to receive company at Abbotsford, unless their visit had been previously announced and accepted. Before this, the house used to be literally stormed: no less than sixteen parties, all uninvited, came in one day—and frequently eight or ten forced themselves in. So that it became impossible for the family to have a moment to themselves. The tourists roved about the house, touched and displaced the armour, and I dare say (though this was not admitted) many and many a set carried off some trophy with them.

“Just as breakfast was concluded to-day he said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I shall read prayers at eleven, when I expect you all to attend.’ He did not treat the subject as if ashamed of it, which some do. He did not say ‘those who please may come, and any one who likes may stay away,’ as I have often heard. He read the Church of England service, and did it with singular beauty and impressiveness, varying his voice according to the subject; and as the first lesson was from a very poetical part of Isaiah, he kindled up, and read it with a great deal of animation, without, however, overstepping the solemnity of the occasion.

“We had an amusing instance of his playfulness this evening. Something introduced the subject of lions. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘I think it amusing enough to be a lion; what think you, Captain Hall?’ ‘Oh,’ I answered, ‘I
am always too much flattered by it—and nothing gratifies me more than being made to wag my tail and roar in my small way.’ ‘That’s right,’ he said, turning to the company, ‘nothing is more diverting than being handed about in that way, and for my part I enjoy it exceedingly; I was once hunted by a well-known lion-catcher, who I found was also in search of
Miss O’Neill, and it so chanced that we met together at Highgate, or in that neighbourhood, and we were carried out to see some grounds, in the course of which both the lion and the lioness found themselves in a place where there was an iron railing all round. “Now,” said I, “if you have got a lock thereto turn upon us, you have us both for ever, and your fortune is made. You have only to hoist a flag on a pole at the top of the hill and stick up a few bills, saying that you have just caught those two beautiful animals, and in an hour’s time you have half the metropolis to see us at a shilling a-head, and we shall roar in grand style—shall we not, Miss O’Neill?”’

“He then laughed much at some lions about town, who disdained being stirred up with a long pole, as every good lion ought to be. ‘You and I, Captain Hall, know better, and we enjoy ourselves accordingly in our noble beast capacity—whereas those poor wretches lose all the good things we get—because, forsooth, they must be loved and admired, and made much of for their mere human qualities—while we are content with our pretensions as monsters!’

“Abbotsford, January 3.

“There has been an immense flood in the Tweed lately, which overflowed its banks, and did a world of mischief, though not quite so great as that at St Petersburgh. But what is comical, this rise of the river actually set Abbotsford on fire: at least the offices on the haugh
below the house, where the water rose three feet perpendicular above the floor; and happening to encounter a pile of unslaked lime in the corner of a cow-house, presently set it in a blaze! There was no want of water you may be sure—‘too much of water, poor Ophelia’—and no great damage was done. This flood raised the water considerably more than a foot; exactly three inches higher than that of 1812, the highest ever known up to that date.

“A neighbouring laird and his son joined our party yesterday, Mr Henderson of Eildon Hall, and the proprietor of the well-known hills of that name. His history may amuse you. He was, long ago, clerk of the Cocket at Leith, an office worth L.50 a-year, and this was his whole substance. It chanced that Mr Ramsay, the banker, was in want of a clerk, and said to a friend, ‘Do you know any one who writes a good hand, is honest and steady, and who never opens his mouth from one year’s end to the other?’ ‘I know your man exactly,’ said the other; and Mr H. was accordingly made clerk under Mr Ramsay, with whom he kept up the necessary communication by means of a sort of telegraph, as it is alleged, as Mr R. had a great dislike to speech. In process of time our hero insinuated himself so completely into the good graces of his patron, that he got a small share in the bank, then a larger, and so on. It happened about this time that the man who had taken Craigleith quarry failed for want of capital; and our friend, the silent clerk of the Cocket, who had the bank under his lee, bought up the contract, and cleared ten thousand a-year for nine or ten years by this one job. So that what with the bank, and sundry other speculations, which all turned out well, he amassed great wealth, and resolved to turn country gentleman.

“One day in company he was making enquiries about
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land, and a gentleman opposite was so eloquent in praise of Eildon Hall, then in the market, that he was seized with a desire to be the purchaser. ‘What is the price?’ asked he. ‘Why,’ said the other, ‘I dare say you may get it for forty thousand pounds.’ ‘Indeed!’ said our quarryman, ‘I will give that with pleasure—and I authorize you to make the offer.’

“Now, the amusing thing about this transaction is, that the estate in question had been some time advertised for sale for thirty-seven thousand pounds only; thus our worthy friend of the telegraph gave three thousand more for the property than was asked, to the great delight and astonishment of Messrs Todd and Romanes, the agents for the sale. A fact, by the way, which goes far to support the Lord Chancellor’s estimate of a banker’s intellects.

“With all this, our taciturn friend makes ‘a very decent Lord,’ is well esteemed in the neighbourhood, and, as he has the discretion now to take good advice, he is likely to do well.

Sir Adam Ferguson, who is the most humorous man alive, and delights in showing up his neighbour, mentioned to him the other day that the Eildon estate was sadly in want of lime. ‘Eh!’ said the laird, ‘I am much obliged to you for that hint—I am just ruined for want o’ hints!’

“At this moment there is a project for making a railway from Berwick to Kelso, as all the world knows; but the Great Unknown and several other gentlemen are anxious to tail on a branch from Melrose to meet the great one; and as Mr H., with his long purse and his willingness to receive hints, is no bad card in the game, he has been brought up to Abbotsford for a week: his taciturnity has long ago fled, and he is now one of the most loquacious Borderers going. Torwoodlee, too, and
son the Skipper, came to breakfast to-day, in order that the whole party might have a consultation before going to the railroad meeting at Melrose. I should suspect that when the Author of Waverley sets his shoulders to any wheel, it must be in a devilish deep slough if it be not lifted out.

“As my brother James was obliged to return to Edinburgh, and I thought that I had staid long enough, we set out from Abbotsford after luncheon, very reluctantly, for the party had grown upon our esteem very much, and had lately been augmented by the arrival from England of Mr Lockhart, whom I wished to get acquainted with, and of Captain Scott, the poet’s eldest son. The family urged me very much to stay, and I could only get away by making a promise to return for their little dance on Friday evening; so that it is not impossible this journal may have some additions made to it in the same strain.”

“Abbotsford, 7th January, 1825.

“To-day my sister Fanny and I came here. In the evening there was a dance in honour of Sir Walter Scott’s eldest son, who had recently come from Sandhurst College, after having passed through some military examinations with great credit.

“We had a great clan of Scotts. There were no less than nine Scotts of Harden and ten of other families. There were others besides from the neighbourhood—at least half-a-dozen Fergusons, with the jolly Sir Adam at their head—Lady Ferguson, her niece Miss Jobson, the pretty heiress of Lochore—&c. &c. &c. . . . . . . .

“The evening passed very merrily, with much spirited dancing; and the supper was extremely cheerful and quite superior to that of Hogmanay.”

“Abbotsford, 8th January.

“It is wonderful how many people a house can be made to hold upon occasions such as this; and when, in the course of the morning, the neighbours came to stream off to their respective homes, one stared, like the man in the Arabian Nights who uncorked the genie, thinking how the deuce they ever got in. There were a few who stayed a while to saunter about the dressed grounds, under the guidance of Sir Walter; but by one or two o’clock my sister and I found ourselves the only guests left, and on the Great Unknown proposing a walk to a point in his plantations called Turn-again, we gladly accepted his offer and set out.

“I have never seen him in better spirits, and we accompanied him for several hours with great delight. I observed that on this occasion the tone of his innumerable anecdotes was somewhat different from what it had been when James and I and some other gentlemen formed his companions. There was then an occasional roughness in the point and matter of the stories; but no trace of this to-day. He was no less humorous, however, and varied than before;—always appropriate, too—in harmony with the occasion, as it were—never lugging in stories by the head and shoulders. It is very difficult, I may say impossible, to give a correct conception of this by mere description. So much consists in the manner and the actual tone and wording of what is said; so much, also, which cannot be imparted, in the surrounding circumstances—the state of the weather—the look of the country—the sound of the wind in the trees close at hand—the view of the distant hills: all these and a thousand other things produce an effect on the minds of those present which suits them for the reception of the conversation at the moment, and prevents any transfer of the senti-
ments produced thereby to any one differently circumstanced.

“On reaching the brow of the hill on the eastern side of one of his plantations, we came in sight of Melrose Abbey, on which there was a partial gleam of sunshine lighting up an angle of the ruins. Straightway we had an anecdote of Tom Purdie, his gamekeeper and factotum. Tom has been many years with Sir Walter, and being constantly in such company, has insensibly picked up some of the taste and feeling of a higher order. ‘When I came here first,’ said Tom to the factor’s wife, ‘I was little better than a beast, and knew nae mair than a cow what was pretty and what was ugly. I was cuif enough to think that the bonniest thing in a country-side was a corn field enclosed in four stane dykes; but now I ken the difference. Look this way Mrs Laidlaw, and I’ll show you what the gentlefolks likes. See ye there now the sun glinting on Melrose Abbey? It’s no aw bright, nor its no aw shadows neither, but just a bit screed o’ light here and a bit daud o’ dark yonder like, and that’s what they ca’ picturesque; and, indeed, it maun be confessed it is unco bonnie to look at!’

Sir Walter wished to have a road made through a straight belt of trees which had been planted before he purchased the property, but being obliged to return to Edinburgh, he entrusted it to Tom Purdie, his ‘right-hand man.’ ‘Tom,’ said he, ‘you must not make this walk straight—neither must it be crooked.’ ‘Diel, Sir! than what maun it be like?’ ‘Why,’ said his master, ‘don’t you remember when you were a shepherd, Tom, the way in which you dandered hame of an even? You never walked straight to your house, nor did you go much about; now make me just such a walk as you used to take yourself.’ Accordingly, ‘Tom’s walk’ is a standing
JANUARY 8, 1825.397
proof of the skill and taste of the ci-devant shepherd, as well as of the happy power which his master possesses, in trifles as well as in great affairs, of imparting his ideas to those he wishes to influence. . . . . . .

“In the course of our walk he entertained us much by an account of the origin of the beautiful song of ‘Auld Robin Gray.’ ‘It was written (he said) by Lady Anne Lindsay, now Lady Anne Bernard. She happened to be at a house where she met Miss Suff Johnstone, a well-known person, who played the air, and accompanied it by words of no great delicacy, whatever their antiquity might be; and Lady Anne lamenting that no better words should belong to such a melody, immediately set to work and composed this very pathetic story. Truth, I am sorry to say, obliges me to add that it was a fiction. Robin Gray was her father’s gardener, and the idea of the young lover going to sea, which would have been quite out of character here amongst the shepherds, was natural enough where she was then residing, on the coast of Fife. It was long unknown,’ he added, ‘who the author was; and indeed there was a clergyman on the coast whose conscience was so large that he took the burden of this matter upon himself, and pleaded guilty to the authorship. About two years ago I wrote to Lady Anne to know the truth—and she wrote back to say she was certainly the author, but wondered how I could have guessed it, as there was no person alive to whom she had told it. When I mentioned having heard it long ago from a common friend who was dead, she then recollected me, and wrote one of the kindest letters I ever received, saying she had till now not the smallest idea that I was the little lame boy she had known so many years before.’

“I give this anecdote partly from its own interest,
and partly for the sake of introducing the unconcerned allusion to his own lameness which I have heard him mention repeatedly, in the same sort of way, without seemingly caring about it. Once speaking of the old city wall of Edinburgh (which, by the way, he says was built during the panic caused by the disastrous battle of Flodden Field)—he said it used to be a great ploy in his youth to climb the said wall. ‘I used often to do it,’ he observed, ‘notwithstanding my bad foot, which made it no very easy job.’

“On coming to a broad path in the middle of the woods, we took notice of a finger-post, on which was written ‘The Rod to Selkirk.’ We made some remark about Tom’s orthography, upon which he laughed, and said that that finger-post had gained him great popularity in the neighbourhood. ‘I cannot say,’ he remarked, ‘that I had any such view when I ordered it to be put up. The public road, it is true, is not far off, and this leads through the very centre of my grounds, but I never could bring myself to make that a reason for excluding any person who finds it agreeable or advantageous to take over the hill if he likes. But although my practice in this respect had always been well-known, the actual admission of it, the avowed establishment of it as a sort of right, by sticking up the finger-post, was received as a kind of boon, and I got a world of credit for a thing which had certainly not any popularity for its object. Nevertheless,’ he continued, ‘I have no scruple in saying that what I did deserved the good people’s acknowledgment; and I seriously disapprove of those proprietors who act on a different principle in these matters. Nothing on earth would induce me to put up boards threatening prosecution, or cautioning one’s fellow-creatures to beware of man-traps and spring-guns. I hold that all such things are not only in the highest degree offensive and
JANUARY 8, 1825.399
hurtful to the feelings of people whom it is every way important to conciliate, but that they are also quite inefficient—and I will venture to say, that not one of my young trees has ever been cut, nor a fence trodden down, or any kind of damage done in consequence of the free access which all the world has to my place. Round the house, of course, there is a set of walks set apart and kept private for the ladies—but over all the rest of my land any one may rove as he likes. I please myself with the reflection that many people of taste may be indulging their fancies in these grounds, and I often recollect how much of
Burns’s inspiration was probably due to his having near him the woods of Ballochmyle to ramble through at his will when he was a ragged callant.’

“He told us of the different periods at which he had planted his grounds. ‘I bought this property bit by bit,’ he said, ‘as accident threw the means of purchase into my hands; I could not lay it all out in a consistent plan, for when I first came here I merely bought a few acres and built a cottage, as a kind of occasional retreat from the bustle of Edinburgh. By degrees I got another and another farm, till all you now see came to me. If things go on improving at the rate they do in the matter of travelling, I dare say I shall be able to live here all the year round, and come out every day from the Court. At present I pass about seven months of the year at Abbotsford, but if the projected railway is established, and we have steam-coaches upon it running at twenty miles an hour, it will be merely good exercise to go in to breakfast and come back to dinner.’

“In a hilly country such as this one is more dependent upon the taste of one’s neighbours than where the surface is flat, for the inequalities bring into view many distant points which one must constantly be wishing to see turned to advantage. Thus it is of consequence to
be on such friendly terms with the neighbourhood, especially the proprietors on the opposite side of the river, that they may take one’s comfort and pleasure into consideration when they come to plant, or otherwise to embellish their ground.
Sir Walter pointed out several different plantations which had been made expressly with a view to the improvement of the prospect from Abbotsford. The owner of one of these estates came over to him one day to point out the line which he had traced with a plough, as the limit of a new plantation, and asked Sir Walter how he liked it, or if he wished any alteration to be made. The Author of Waverley thanked him for his attention, and the two gentlemen climbed the hill above Abbotsford to take the matter into consideration. It was soon seen that, without extending the projected plantation, or diminishing its beauty with reference to the estate on which it was made, a new line might be drawn which would double its apparent magnitude, and greatly enhance the beauty of its form, as seen from Abbotsford. The gentleman was delighted to have an opportunity of obliging the Great well-known Unknown, and cantered back to change the line. The young trees are already giving sufficient evidence of the good taste of the proposer of the change, and, it may be said also, of his good sense and his good-nature, for, unless he possessed both in an eminent degree, all his gigantic talents would be insufficient to bring round about him the ready hearts and hands of all within his reach. Scott of Gala, for instance, has, out of pure kindness, planted, for a space of several miles, the whole of the opposite bank of the Tweed, and with great pains improved all the lines of his father’s planting, solely to please his neighbour, and without any benefit to his own place. His worthy friend, also, of Eildon Hall, he told us to-day, had kindly undertaken, in the same spirit, to plant the base
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of these two beautiful hills, which, without diminishing their grandeur, will greatly add to their picturesque effect, and, in fact, increase the bold magnificence of their summits.

“‘I make not a rule to be on intimate terms,’ he told us, ‘with all my neighbours—that would be an idle thing to do. Some are good—some not so good, and it would be foolish and ineffectual to treat all with the same cordiality; but to live in harmony with all is quite easy, and surely very pleasant. Some of them may be rough and gruff at first, but all men, if kindly used, come about at last, and by going on gently, and never being eager or noisy about what I want, and letting things glide on leisurely, I always find in the end that the object is gained on which I have set my heart, either by exchange or purchase, or by some sort of compromise by which both parties are obliged, and good-will begot if it did not exist before—strengthened if it did exist’—

“‘There, see,’ he continued, ‘that farm there, at the foot of the hill, is occupied by a respectable enough tenant of mine; I told him I had a great desire for him to try the effect of lime on his land. He said he doubted its success, and could not venture to risk so much money as it would cost. ‘Well,’ said I, ‘fair enough; but as I wish to have the experiment tried, you shall have the lime for the mere carting; you may send to the place where it is to be bought, and at the term-day you shall strike off the whole value of the lime from the rent due to me.’ When the day came, my friend the farmer came with his whole rent, which he laid down on the table before me without deduction. “How’s this, my man, you are to deduct for the lime, you know.” “Why, Sir Walter,” replied he, “my conscience will not let me impose on you so far—the lime you recommended me to try, and which but for your suggestion I never would have tried,
has produced more than would have purchased the lime half-a-dozen times over, and I cannot think of making a deduction.”’

“In this way, by a constant quiet interchange of good offices, he extends his great influence amongst all classes, high and low; and while in the morning, at breakfast-time, he gets a letter from the Duke of Wellington, along with some rare Spanish manuscripts taken at Vittoria*—at mid-day he is gossiping with a farmer’s wife, or pruning his young trees cheek by jowl with Tam Purdie—at dinner he is keeping the table merry, over his admirable good cheer, with ten hundred good stories, or discussing railroads, blackfaced sheep, and other improvements with Torwoodlee—in the evening he is setting the young folks to dance, or reading some fine old ballad from Percy’s Reliques, or some blackletter tome of Border lore, or giving snatches of beautiful songs, or relating anecdotes of chivalry—and ever and anon coming down to modern home life with some good honest practical remark which sinks irresistibly into the minds of his audience,—and all with such ease and unaffected simplicity as never, perhaps, was seen before in any man so gifted—so qualified to take the loftiest, proudest line at the head of the literature, the taste, the imagination of the whole world! Who can doubt that, after such a day as I have glanced at, his slumbers must be peaceful, and that remorse is a stranger to his bosom, and that all his renown, all his wealth, and the love of such ‘troops of friends,’ are trebly gratifying to him, and substantial, from their being purchased at no cost but that of truth and nature.

“Alas for poor Lord Byron, of whom he told us an

* About this time the Duke sent Scott some curious documents about the proposed duel between Charles V. and Francis I.

anecdote to-day, by which it appeared that his immense fame as an author was altogether insufficient to harden him against the darts of calumny or malevolence levelled at his private life. He quoted, with the bitterest despair, to
Scott the strong expression of Shakspeare,
Our pleasant vices are but whips to scourge us;*
And added, ‘I would to God that I could have your peace of mind, Mr Scott; I would give all I have, all my fame, every thing, to be able to speak on this subject’ (that of domestic happiness) ‘as you do!’

Sir Walter describes Lord Byron as being a man of real goodness of heart, and the kindest and best feelings, miserably thrown away by his foolish contempt of public opinion. Instead of being warned or checked by public opposition, it roused him to go on in a worse strain, as if he said, ‘Ay, you don’t like it—well, you shall have something worse for your pains.’ Thus his Lordship, poor fellow, by taking the wrong view, went on from bad to worse, and at every struggle with the public sunk deeper and deeper in their esteem, while he himself became more and more sensitive about their disapprobation. ‘Many, many a pleasant hour I have spent with him,’ Sir Walter added, ‘and I never met a man with nobler feelings, or one who, had he not unfortunately taken the wrong course, might have done more to make himself beloved and respected. A man of eminence in any line, and perhaps a man of great literary eminence especially, is exposed to a thousand eyes which men, not so celebrated, are safe from—and in consequence, right conduct is much more essential to his happiness than to those who are less watched; and I may add, that only by such conduct can the permanence of his real influence over
* ‘The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to scourge us.’—King Lear.
any class be secured. I could not persuade Byron to see it in this light—the more’s the pity, for he has had no justice done him.’

“Some one talked of the pains taken to provide the poor with receipts for making good dishes out of their ordinary messes. ‘I dislike all such interference,’ he said,—‘all your domiciliary, kind, impertinent visits—they are all pretty much felt like insults, and do no manner of good; let people go on in their own way, in God’s name. How would you like to have a nobleman coming to you to teach you how to dish up your beefsteak into a French kickshaw? And who is there so miserably put to his ways and means that will endure to have another coming to teach him how to economize and keep his accounts? Let the poor alone in their domestic habits, I pray you; protect them and treat them kindly, of course, and trust them; but let them enjoy in quiet their dish of porridge, and their potatoes and herrings, or whatever it may be—but for any sake don’t torment them with your fashionable soups. And take care,’ he added, ‘not to give them any thing gratis; except when they are under the gripe of immediate misery—what they think misery—consider it as a sin to do any thing that can tend to make them lose the precious feelings of independence. For my part, I very, very rarely give any thing away. Now, for instance, this pile of branches which has been thinned out this morning, is placed here for sale for the poor people’s fires, and I am perfectly certain they are more grateful to me for selling it at the price I do (which, you may be sure, is no great matter), than if I were to give them ten times the quantity for nothing. Every shilling collected in this and other similar manners, goes to a fund which pays the doctor for his attendance on them when they are sick; and this is my notion of charity.’


“I shall have given a false impression of this great man’s character to those who do not know him, if I have left an impression that he is all goodness and forbearance—that there is no acid in his character; for I have heard him several times as sharp as need be when there was occasion. To-day, for instance, when a recent trial, in which a beautiful actress was concerned, happened to be brought into discussion, he gave his opinion of all the parties with great force and spirit; and when the lady’s father’s name was mentioned as having connived at his daughter’s disgrace, he exclaimed, ‘Well, I do not know what I would not give to have one good kick at that infernal rascal—I would give it to him,’ said he, drawing his chair back a foot from the table, ‘I would give it to him in such style as should send the vagabond out of that window as far as the Tweed. Only, God forgive me,’ added he, smiling at his own unwonted impetuosity, and drawing his chair forward quietly to the table, ‘only it would be too good a death for the villain; and besides,’ said he, his goodhumoured manner returning as he spoke, ‘it would be a sad pollution to our bonny Tweed to have the drowning of such a thoroughbred miscreant as could sell his daughter’s honour!’

“It is interesting to see how all ranks agree to respect our hero, and to treat him with respect at once, and with kindness and familiarity. On high days and holidays a large blue ensign, such as is worn by ships of war, is displayed at a flag-staff, rising from a round tower built for the purpose at one angle of his garden. The history of this flag is as follows:—

“The ‘Old Shipping Smack Company’ of Leith, some time ago launched one of the finest vessels they had ever sailed, and called her ‘The Walter Scott,’ in
honour of their countryman. In return for this compliment he made the Captain a present of a set of flags; which flags you may be sure the noble commander was not shy of displaying to all the world. Now, it so happens that there is a strict order, forbidding all vessels, except King’s ships, to hoist any other flag than a red ensign, so that when our gallant smack-skipper chanced to fall in with one of his Majesty’s cruizers, he was ordered peremptorily to pull down his blue colours. This was so sore a humiliation, that he refused to obey, and conceiving that he could out-sail the frigate, crowded all sail, and tried to make off with his ensign still flying at his mast-head. The ship-of-war, however, was not to be so satisfied, and hinted as much by dropping a cannon-shot across his fore-foot. Down came the blue ensign, which was accordingly made prize of, and transmitted forthwith to the Lords of the Admiralty, as is usual in such cases of contumely. Their Lordships, in merry mood, and perhaps even in the plenitude of their power, feeling the respect which was due to genius, sent the flag to Abbotsford, and wrote an official letter to
Sir Walter, stating the case, and requesting him to have the goodness to give orders to his cruizers in future not to hoist colours appropriated exclusively to the ships of his Majesty. The transaction was creditable to all parties, and he, instead of taking offence,* as a blockhead in his place would have done, immediately sent for his masons, and built him a tower on which to erect his flag—and the first occasion on which it was displayed was the late return of his eldest son from England. . . . . . .

* I do not understand how any man could have taken offence under these circumstances. The First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Melville, and the Secretary, Mr Croker, were both intimate friends of Sir Walter’s and all that passed was of course matter of pleasantry.

JANUARY 9, 1825. 407

“I have caught the fever of story-telling from contact with this Prince of all Story-tellers! During the riots for the immaculate Queen lately deceased, a report went abroad, it seems, that Abbotsford had been attacked by a mob, its windows broken, and the interior ransacked. ‘Ay, ay,’ said one of the neighbouring country people, to whom the story was told, ‘so there was a great slaughter of people?’ ‘Na, na,’ said his informant, ‘there was naebody killed.’—‘Weel, then,’ said the other, ‘depend upon it, it’s aw a lee—if Abbotsford is taken by storm, and the Shirra in it, ye’ll hae afterwards to tak account o’ the killed and wounded, I’se warrant ye!’”

“Abbotsford, January 9.

“We saw nothing of the chief till luncheon-time, between one and two, and then only for a few minutes. He had gone out to breakfast, and on his return seemed busy with writing. At dinner he was in great force, and pleasant it was to observe the difference which his powers of conversation undergo by the change from a large to a small party. On Friday when we sat down twenty to dinner, it cost him an effort apparently to keep the ball up at table; but next day, when the company was reduced to his own family, with only two strangers (Fanny and I), he appeared delighted to be at home, and expanded with surprising animation, and poured forth his stores of knowledge and fun on all hands. I have never seen any person on more delightful terms with his family than he is. The best proof of this is the ease and confidence with which they all treat him, amounting quite to familiarity. Even the youngest of his nephews and nieces can joke with him, and seem at all times perfectly at ease in his presence—his coming into the room only increases the laugh, and never checks it—he either joins in
what is going on, or passes. No one notices him any more than if he were one of themselves. These are things which cannot be got up—no skill can put people at their ease where the disposition does not sincerely co-operate.

“Very probably he has so correct a knowledge of human character in all its varieties that he may assist by art in giving effect to this naturally kind bent of his disposition, and this he may do without ceasing to be perfectly natural. For instance, he never sits at any particular place at table—but takes his chance, and never goes, as a matter of course, to the top or to the bottom.* Perhaps this and other similar things are accidental, and done without reflection; but at all events, whether designed or not, their effect is to put every one as much at his ease as if a being of a superior order were not present.

“I know no one who takes more delight in the stories of others than he does, or who seems less desirous of occupying the ears of the company. It is true that no one topic can be touched upon, but straightway there flows out a current of appropriate story—and let the anecdote which any one else tells be ever so humorous, its only effect is to elicit from him another, or rather a dozen others, still more in point. Yet, as I am trying to describe this singular man to others who have not seen him, I should be leaving a wrong impression of his style in this respect, were I to omit mentioning that there is nothing in the least like triumph on these occasions, or any apparent wish to excel the last speaker—the new key is struck, as it were, and instantly the instrument discourses most eloquent music—but the thing is done as

* This seems refining. Sir Walter, like any other gentleman of his standing, might be expected to devolve the labour of carving on one of his sons.

if he could not help it; and how often is his story suggested by the obvious desire to get the man that has been speaking out of a scrape, either with some of the hearers, or perhaps with his own conscience. ‘Are you a sportsman?’ he asked me to-day. I said I was not—that I had begun too late in life, and that I did not find shooting in particular at all amusing. ‘Well, neither do I,’ he observed; ‘time has been when I did shoot a good deal, but somehow I never very much liked it. I was never quite at ease when I had knocked down my black-cock, and going to pick him up, he cast back his dying eye with a look of reproach. I don’t affect to be more squeamish than my neighbours,—but I am not ashamed to say, that no practice ever reconciled me fully to the cruelty of the affair. At all events, now that I can do as I like without fear of ridicule, I take more pleasure in seeing the birds fly past me unharmed. I don’t carry this nicety, however, beyond my own person—as
Walter there will take good occasion to testify to-morrow.’

“Apparently fearing that he had become a little too sentimental, he speedily diverted our thoughts by telling us of a friend of his, Mr Hastings Sands, who went out to shoot for the first time, and after firing away for a whole morning without any success, at length brought down a bird close to the house, and ran up to catch his pheasant, as he supposed—but which, to his horror, he found was a pet parrot, belonging to one of the young ladies. It was flapping its painted plumage, now all dripping with blood and ejaculating quickly, Pretty Poll! pretty Poll! as it expired at the feet of the luckless sportsman—who, between shame and regret, swore that, as it was his first experiment in shooting, it should be his last; and on the spot broke his gun all to pieces, and could never afterwards bear to hear a shot fired.


“But I am forgetting what I hinted at as a very characteristic turn of his good-nature. I had mentioned among other reasons why I was not very fond of shooting, that when I missed I was mortified at my want of skill, and that when I saw the bird lying dead at my feet it recalled to my mind a boyish piece of cruelty which I had been guilty of some five-and-twenty or thirty years ago, the recollection of which has been a source of frequent and bitter remorse. It is almost too bad to relate—suffice it that the nest was robbed, the young ones drowned before the mother’s eyes, and then she was killed. ‘You take it too deeply now,’ he said, ‘and yet an early circumstance of that kind properly reflected upon is calculated to have the best effect on our character throughout life. I too,’ he continued, ‘have my story of boyish cruelty, which has often given me the bitterest remorse in my after life; but which I think has carried with it its useful lesson in practice. I saw a dog coming towards me, when I was a boy about the age you describe yourself to have been when you murdered the ox-eye family. What devil tempted me I know not, but I took up a large stone, threw it, and hit the dog. Nevertheless, it had still strength to crawl up to me, and lick my feet kindly, though its leg was broken—it was a poor bitch big with pup.’

“From parrots we got to corbies, or ravens, and he told us with infinite humour a story of a certain tame bird of this description, whose constant delight was to do mischief, and to plague all mankind and beastkind. ‘A stranger’ (he said) ‘called one day with a very surly dog, whose habit it was to snarl and bite at every animal save man; and he was consequently the terror and hatred of his own fraternity, and of the whole race of cats, sheep, poultry, and so on. “Maitre Corbeau”
seemed to discover the character of the stranger, and from the moment of his arrival determined to play him a trick. I watched him all the while, as I saw clearly that he had a month’s mind for some mischief. He first hopped up familiarly to Cato, as if to say, “How d’ye do?” Cato snapped and growled like a bear. Corbie retired with a flutter, saying, “God bless me, what’s the matter? I had no idea, my good sir, that I was offending you—I scarcely saw you, I was looking for a worm.” By and by he made another studied sort of approach and when Cato growled he drew off, with an air as if he said, “What the devil is the matter with you? I’m not meddling with you—let me alone.” Presently the dog became less and less suspicious of Mr Corbie, and composed himself on the sunny gravel-walk in a fine sleep. Corbie watched his moment, and hopped and hopped quietly till close up, and then leaping on Cato’s back, flapped his wings violently, gave one or two severe dabs with his bill, and then flew up to the edge of the cornice over the gateway, and laughed and screamed with joy at the impotent fury of the dog—a human being could not have laughed more naturally—and no man that ever existed could have enjoyed a mischievous joke more completely than our friend Corbie.’ . . . . .

“10th January, 1825.

“The party at Abbotsford breaks up this morning, to the sorrow, I believe, of every member of it. The loadstar of our attraction, accompanied by his sister-in-law, Mrs Thomas Scott, and her family, set off for Lord Dalhousie’s—and all the others, except Lady Scott and her daughter, who are to follow in a day or two, are streaming off in different directions. Sir Walter seemed as unwilling to leave the country, and return to the bustle of the city, as any schoolboy could have been to go back to
his lessons after the holidays. No man perhaps enjoys the country more than he does, and he is said to return to it always with the liveliest relish. It may be asked, if this be so, why he does not give up the town altogether? He might do so, and keep his Sheriffship; but his Clerkship is a thing of more consequence, and that he must lose; and what is far more important still, his constant transactions with the booksellers could never be carried on with convenience, were he permanently settled at a distance from them and their marts. His great purchases of land, his extensive plantations, the crowd of company which he entertains, and the splendid house he has just completed, are all severe pulls on his income—an income, it must be recollected, which is produced not from any fund, but by dint of labour, and from time to time. He is too prudent and sagacious a man not to live within his means; but as yet he cannot have laid by much, and he will have to write a good deal more before he can safely live where he pleases, and as he pleases.

“It becomes a curious question to know when it is that he actually writes these wonderful works which have fixed the attention of the world. Those who live with him, and see him always the idlest man of the company, are at a loss to discover when it is that he finds the means to compose his books. My attention was of course directed this way, and I confess I see no great difficulty about the matter. Even in the country here, where he comes professedly to be idle, I took notice that we never saw him till near ten o’clock in the morning, and, besides this, there were always some odd hours in the day in which he was not to be seen.

“We are apt to wonder at the prodigious quantity which he writes, and to imagine the labour must be commensurate. But, in point of fact, the quantity of
mere writing is not very great. It certainly is immense if the quality be taken into view; but if the mere amount of handwriting be considered it is by no means large. Any clerk in an office would transcribe one of the
Waverley Novels, from beginning to end, in a week or ten days—say a fortnight. It is well known, or at least generally, and I have reason to believe truly admitted, that Sir Walter composes his works just as fast as he can write—that the manual labour is all that it costs him, for his thoughts flow spontaneously. He never corrects the press, or if he does so at all, it is very slightly—and in general his works come before the public just as they are written. Now, such being the case, I really have no difficulty in supposing that a couple of hours every day before breakfast may be quite sufficient for all the MS. of Waverley Novels produced in the busiest year since the commencement of the series.

“Since writing the above I have taken the trouble to make a computation, which I think fair to give, whichever way it may be thought to make in the argument.

“In each page of Kenilworth there are, upon an average, 864 letters: in each page of this Journal 777 letters. Now I find that in ten days I have written 120 pages, which would make about 108 pages of Kenilworth; and as there are 320 pages in a volume, it would, at my rate of writing this Journal, cost about 29½ days for each volume, or say three months for the composition of the whole of that work. No mortal in Abbotsford-house ever learned that I kept a Journal. I was in company all day and all the evening till a late hour apparently the least occupied of the party; and I will venture to say not absent from the drawing-room one quarter of the time that the Unknown was. I was always down to breakfast before any one else, and often three quarters of an hour before the Author of Kenilworth—always among
the very last to go to bed—in short, I would have set the acutest observer at defiance to have discovered when I wrote this Journal—and yet it is written, honestly and fairly, day by day. I don’t say it has cost me much labour; but it is surely not too much to suppose that its composition has cost me, an unpractised writer, as much study as Kenilworth has cost the glorious Unknown. I have not had the motive of L.5500 to spur me on for my set of volumes; but if I had had such a bribe, in addition to the feelings of good-will for those at home, for whose sole perusal I write this; and if I had had in view, over and above, the literary glory of contributing to the happiness of two-thirds of the globe, do you think I would not have written ten times as much, and yet no one should have been able to discover when it was that I had put pen to paper?

“All this assumes Sir Walter Scott to be the man. If at a distance there still exist any doubt on the question, there seems to be no longer any in Edinburgh. The whole tenor of Sir Walter’s behaviour on the occasion shows him to be the writer; and the single argument of a man of his candour and literary taste never speaking of, or praising works such as these, would alone be sufficient. It would be totally irreconcilable with every part of his character to suppose that he would for an instant take the credit of another’s work—and this silence is equivalent to the claim.

“It may then be settled that he is certainly the author—but some may ask, why then does he affect any mystery about it? This is easily answered—it saves him completely from a world of flattery and trouble, which he sincerely detests. He never reads the criticisms on his books: this I know from the most unquestionable authority. ‘Praise,’ he says, ‘gives him no pleasure—and censure annoys him.’ He is fully satisfied
to accept the intense avidity with which his novels are read—the enormous and continued sale of his works, as a sufficient commendation of them; and I can perfectly understand how the complete exemption from all idle flattery addressed to himself personally is a great blessing. Be it remembered that this favour would be bummed into his ears by every stupid wretch whom he met with, as well as by the polite and learned—he would be literally worried to death by praise, since not a blockhead would ever let him pass. As it is, he enjoys all the reputation he would have if his name were on the title-page, perhaps more; he enjoys all the profit and he escapes all worry about the matter. There is, no doubt, some little bookselling trick in it too; but this is fair enough; his works are perhaps more talked of, and consequently more sold than if the author were avowed—but the real cause of the mystery undoubtedly is his love of quiet, which he can thus indulge without the loss of one grain of literary fame, or advantage of any description.

“To conclude—Sir Walter Scott really seems as great as a man as he is as an author; for he is altogether untouched by the applause of the whole civilized world. He is still as simple in his manners, as modest, unassuming, kind, and considerate in his behaviour to all persons, as he was when the world were unaware of his enormous powers. If any man can be said to have a right to be presumptuous in consequence of possessing acknowledged talents far above those of his company, he is this man. But what sagacity and intimate knowledge of human nature does it not display, when a man thus gifted, and thus entitled as it were to assume a higher level, un-dazzled by such unanimous praise, has steadiness of head enough not to be made giddy, and clearness enough of moral vision to discover that, so far from lessening the
admiration which it is admitted he might claim if he pleased, he augments it infinitely by seeming to wave that right altogether! How wisely he acts by mixing familiarly with all men, drawing them in crowds around him, placing them at their ease within a near view of his excellence, and taking his chance of being more correctly seen, more thoroughly known, and having his merits more heartily acknowledged, than if, with a hundred times even his abilities, he were to trumpet them, forth to the world, and to frighten off spectators to a distance by the brazen sound!

“It is, no doubt, in a great measure, to this facility of access, and engaging manner, that his immense popularity is due; but I should hold it very unfair to suppose that he proceeds upon any such calculation. It is far mote reasonable to conclude that Providence, in giving him such astonishing powers of pleasing others, should also have gifted him with a heart to understand and value the delight of being beloved as well as wondered at and admired; and we may suppose that he now enjoys a higher pleasure from seeing the happiness which he has given birth to both abroad in the world, and at home by his own fire-side, than any which his readers are conscious of. If a man does act well, it is an idle criticism to investigate the motive with any view of taking exception to that. Those motives which induce to good results, must, in the long run, be good also. A man may be wicked, and yet on a special occasion act virtuously, with a view to deceive and gain under false colours some advantage which his own flag denies him; but this will not do to go on with. Thus it signifies nothing to say that Sir Walter Scott, knowing the envious nature of the world, and the pleasure it has in decrying high merit, and picking holes in the reputation of great men, deports himself as he does, in order to avoid
the cavils of his inferiors. Where we find the success so great as in this case, we are quite safe in saying that it is not by rule and compass that the object is gained, but by genuine sentiment and right-mindedness—by the influence of those feelings which prompt men to take pleasure in good and kindly offices—by that judgment which sees through the mists of prejudice and error, finds some merit in every man, and makes allowances for the faults and weaknesses of all;—above all, by that admirable self-command which scarcely allows any unfavourable opinion to pass the lips,—the fruit of which is, that by concealing even from himself, as it were, every unkindly emotion, he ceases to feel it. His principle is, by every means, to banish from his mind all angry feelings of every description, and thus to exempt himself both from the pain of disappointment in disputes where he should fail, and from the pain of causing ill-will in cases where he might succeed. In this way he keeps on good terms with all his neighbours, without exception, and when others are disputing about boundaries and all the family of contiguous wrangling, he manages to be the universal friend. Instead of quarrelling with his eminent brother authors, whether poets or novelists (as so many others have done, and now do, to their mutual discomfort and shame), he is in friendly and thoroughly unenvious correspondence with them all. So far from any spark of jealousy being allowed to spring up, his delight is to discover and to foster, and make the most of genius wherever it exists. But the great trial is every-day life, and among every-day people: his house is filled with company all the year round, with persons of all ranks—from the highest down to the lowest class that is received at all in society; he is affable alike to them all, makes no effort at display on any occasion, is always gay and friendly, and puts every one at his ease;
I consider all else as a trifle compared with the entire simplicity of his manners, and the total apparent unconsciousness of the distinction which is his due. This, indeed, cannot possibly be assumed, but must be the result of the most entire modesty of heart, if I may use such an expression, the purest and most genuine kindness of disposition, which forbids his drawing any comparison to the disadvantage of others. He has been for many years the object of most acute and vigilant observation, and as far as my own opportunities have gone, I must agree with the general report—namely, that on no occasion has he ever betrayed the smallest symptom of vanity or affectation, or insinuated a thought bordering on presumption, or even on a consciousness of his own superiority in any respect whatsoever. Some of his oldest and most intimate friends assert, that he has even of late years become more simple and kindly than ever; that this attention to those about him, and absence of all apparent concern about himself go on, if possible, increasing with his fame and fortune. Surely if Sir Walter Scott be not a happy man, which he seems truly to be, he deserves to be so!”

Thus terminates Captain Hall’s Abbotsford Journal; and with his flourish of trumpets I must drop the curtain on a scene and period of unclouded prosperity and splendour. The muffled drum is in prospect.