LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter III 1825

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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Without an hour’s delay Sir Walter resumed his usual habits of life at Abbotsford—the musing ramble among his own glens, the breezy ride over the moors, the merry spell at the woodman’s axe, or the festive chase of Newark, Fernilee, Hangingshaw, or Deloraine; the quiet old-fashioned contentment of the little domestic circle, alternating with the brilliant phantasmagoria of admiring, and sometimes admired, strangers—or the hoisting of the telegraph flag that called laird and bonnet-laird to the burning of the water, or the wassail of the hall. The hours of the closet alone had found a change. The preparation for the Life of Napoleon was a course of such hard reading as had not been called for while “the great magician,” in the full sunshine of ease, amused himself, and delighted the world, by unrolling, fold after fold, his endlessly varied panorama of romance. That miracle had to all appearance cost him no effort. Unmoved and serene among the multiplicities of worldly business, and the invasions of half Europe and America, he had gone on tranquilly enjoying rather than exerting his genius, in the production of those masterpieces which
have peopled all our fire-sides with inexpensive friends, and rendered the solitary supremacy of
Shakspeare, as an all-comprehensive and genial painter of man, no longer a proverb.

He had, while this was the occupation of his few desk-hours, read only for his diversion. How much he read even then, his correspondence may have afforded some notion. Those who observed him the most constantly were never able to understand how he contrived to keep himself so thoroughly up to the stream of contemporary literature of almost all sorts, French and German, as well as English. That a rapid glance might tell him more than another man could gather by a week’s poring, may easily be guessed; but the grand secret was his perpetual practice of his own grand maxim never to be doing nothing. He had no ‘unconsidered trifles’ of time. Every moment was turned to account; and thus he had leisure for every thing except, indeed, the newspapers, which consume so many precious hours nowadays with most men, and of which, during the period of my acquaintance with him, he certainly read less than any other man I ever knew that had any habit of reading at all. I should also except, speaking generally, the Reviews and Magazines of the time. Of these he saw few, and of the few he read little.

He had now to apply himself doggedly to the mastering of a huge accumulation of historical materials. He read, and noted, and indexed with the pertinacity of some pale compiler in the British Museum; but rose from such employment, not radiant and buoyant, as after he had been feasting himself among the teeming harvests of Fancy, but with an aching brow, and eyes on which the dimness of years had begun to plant some specks, before they were subjected again to that straining over small print and difficult manuscript which
had, no doubt, been familiar to them in the early time, when (in
Shortreed’s phrase) “he was making himself.” It was a pleasant sight when one happened to take a passing peep into his den, to see the white head erect, and the smile of conscious inspiration on his lips, while the pen, held boldly and at a commanding distance, glanced steadily and gaily along a fast-blackening page of “The Talisman.” It now often made me sorry to catch a glimpse of him, stooping and poring with his spectacles, amidst piles of authorities, a little note-book ready in the left hand, that had always used to be at liberty for patting Maida. To observe this was the more painful, because I had at that time to consult him about some literary proposals, the closing with which would render it necessary for me to abandon my profession and residence in Edinburgh, and with them the hope of being able to relieve him of some part of the minor labours in which he was now involved; an assistance on which he had counted when he undertook this historical task. There were then about me, indeed, cares and anxieties of various sorts that might have thrown a shade even over a brighter vision of his interior. For the circumstance that finally determined me, and reconciled him as to the proposed alteration in my views of life, was the failing health of an infant equally dear to us both. It was, in a word, the opinion of our medical friends, that the short-lived child of many and high hopes, whose name will go down to posterity with one of Sir Walter’s most precious works, could hardly survive another northern winter; and we all flattered ourselves with the anticipation that my removal to London at the close of 1825 might pave the way for a happy resumption of the cottage at Chiefswood in the ensuing summer. Dis aliter visum.

During the latter months of 1825, while the matter to
which I have alluded was yet undecided, I had to make two hurried journeys to London, by which I lost the opportunity of witnessing
Sir Walter’s reception of several eminent persons with whom he then formed or ratified a friendship; among others the late admirable Master of the Rolls, Lord Gifford, and his Lady who spent some days at Abbotsford, and detected nothing of the less agreeable features in its existence, which I have been dwelling upon; Dr Philpotts, now Bishop of Exeter; and also the brother bard, who had expressed his regret at not being present “when Scott and Killarney were introduced to each other.” No more welcome announcement ever reached Scott than Mr Moore’s of his purpose to make out, that same season, his long meditated expedition to Scotland; and the characteristic opening and close of the reply will not, I hope, be thrown away upon my reader, any more than they were on the warm-hearted minstrel of Erin.

To Thomas Moore, Esq., Sloperton Cottage, Devizes.
“Abbotsford, Thursday.
“My Dear Sir—Damn Sir—My Dear Moore,

“Few things could give me more pleasure than your realizing the prospect your letter holds out to me. We are at Abbotsford fixtures till 10th November, when my official duty, for I am ‘slave to an hour and vassal to a bell,’ calls me to Edinburgh. I hope you will give me as much of your time as you can—no one will value it more highly.

“You keep the great north road till you come to the last stage in England, Cornhill, and then take up the Tweed to Kelso. If I knew what day you would be at Kelso, I would come down, and do the honours of Tweedside, by bringing you here, and showing you
any thing that is remarkable by the way; but though I could start at a moment’s warning, I should scarce, I fear, have time to receive a note from Newcastle soon enough to admit of my reaching you at Kelso. Drop me a line, however, at all events; and, in coming from Kelso to Melrose and Abbotsford, be sure to keep the southern side of the Tweed, both because it is far the pleasantest route, and because I will come a few miles to take the chance of meeting you. You do not mention whether you have any fellow-travellers. We have plenty of accommodation for any part of your family, or any friend, who may be with you.—Yours, in great joy and expectation,

Walter Scott.”

Mr Moore arrived accordingly—and he remained several days. Though not, I believe, a regular journalizer, he kept a brief diary during his Scotch tour, and he has kindly allowed me the use of it. He fortunately found Sir Walter in an interval of repose—no one with him at Abbotsford, but Lady and Miss Scott and no company at dinner except the Fergusons and Laidlaw. The two poets had thus the opportunity of a great deal of quiet conversation; and from the hour they met, they seem to have treated each other with a full confidence, the record of which, however touchingly honourable to both, could hardly be made public in extenso while one of them survives. The first day they were alone after dinner, and the talk turned chiefly on the recent death of Byron—from which Scott passed unaffectedly to his own literary history. Mr Moore listened with great interest to details, now no longer new, about the early days of ballad-hunting, Mat Lewis, the Minstrelsy, and the Poems; and “at last,” says he, “to my no small surprise, as well as pleasure, he mentioned the novels,
without any reserve, as his own. He gave me an account of the original progress of those extraordinary works, the hints supplied for them, the conjectures and mystification to which they had given rise, &c. &c.:” he concluded with saying, “they have been a mine of wealth to me—but I find I fail in them now—I can no longer make them so good as at first.” This frankness was met as it should have been by the brother poet; and when he entered Scott’s room next morning, “he laid his hand,” says Mr Moore, “with a sort of cordial earnestness on my breast, and said—Now, my dear Moore, we are friends for life.” They sallied out for a walk through the plantations, and among other things, the commonness of the poetic talent in these days was alluded to. “Hardly a Magazine is now published,” said Moore, “that does not contain verses, which some thirty years ago would have made a reputation.” Scott turned with his look of shrewd humour, as if chuckling over his own success, and said, “Ecod, we were in the luck of it to come before these fellows;” but he added, playfully flourishing his stick as he spoke, “we have, like Bobadil, taught them to beat us with our own weapons.” “In complete novelty,” says Moore, “he seemed to think lay the only chance for a man ambitious of high literary reputation in these days.”

Mr Moore was not less pleased than Washington Irving had been nine years before with Scott’s good friend at Kaeside. He says:—“Our walk was to the cottage of Mr Laidlaw, his bailiff, a gentleman who had been reduced beneath his due level in life, and of whom Scott spoke with the most cordial respect. His intention was, he said, to ask him to come down and dine with us:—the cottage homely, but the man himself, with his broad Scotch dialect, showing all the quiet self-possession of good breeding and good sense.”


At Melrose, writes Mr Moore, “With the assistance of the sexton, a shrewd, sturdy-mannered original, he explained to me all the parts of the ruin; after which we were shown up to a room in the sexton’s house, filled with casts done by himself, from the ornaments, heads, &c. of the abbey. Seeing a large niche empty, Scott said, ‘Johnny, I’ll give you a Virgin and Child to put in that place.’ Never did I see a happier face than Johnny’s at this news—it was all over smiles. ‘But, Johnny,’ continued Scott, as we went down stairs, ‘I’m afraid, if there should be another anti-popish rising, you’ll have your house pulled about your ears.’ When we had got into the carriage, I said, ‘You have made that man most truly happy.’ ‘Ecod, then,’ he replied, ‘there are two of us pleased, for I was very much puzzled to know what to do with that Virgin and Child; and mamma particularly’ (meaning Lady Scott) ‘will be delighted to get rid of it.’ A less natural man would have allowed me to remain under the impression that he had really done a very generous thing.”

They called the same morning at Huntly Burn:—“I could not help thinking” (says Moore), “during this homely visit, how astonished some of those French friends of mine would be, among whom the name of Sir Walter Scott is encircled only with high and romantic associations, to see the quiet, neighbourly manner in which he took his seat beside these good old maids, and the familiar ease with which they treated him in return. No common squire indeed, with but half an idea in his head, could have fallen into the gossip of a humdrum country-visit with more unassumed simplicity.”

Mr Moore would have been likely to make the same sort of observation, had he accompanied Sir Walter into any other house in the valley; but he could not be expected to appreciate oft-hand the very uncommon
intellectual merits of “those old maids” of Huntly Burn—who had enjoyed the inestimable advantage of living from youth to age in the atmosphere of genius, learning, good sense, and high principle.

He was of course delighted at the dinner which followed, when Scott had collected his neighbours to enjoy his guest, with the wit and humour of Sir Adam Ferguson, his picturesque stories of the Peninsula, and his inimitable singing of the old Jacobite ditties. “Nothing,” he writes, “could be more hearty and radiant than Scott’s enjoyment of them, though his attempts to join in the chorus showed certainly far more of will than of power. He confessed that he hardly knew high from low in music. I told him that Lord Byron, in the same manner, knew nothing of music as an art, but still had a strong feeling of it, and that I had more than once seen the tears come into his eyes as he listened. ‘I dare say,’ said Scott, ‘that Byron’s feeling and mine about music might be pretty much the same.’ I was much struck by his description of a scene he had once with Lady (the divorced Lady ——) upon her eldest boy, who had been born before her marriage with Lord ——, asking her why he himself was not Lord —— (the second title). ‘Do you hear that?’ she exclaimed wildly to Scott; and then rushing to the pianoforte, played, in a sort of frenzy, some hurried airs, as if to drive away the dark thoughts then in her mind. It struck me that he spoke of this lady as if there had been something more than mere friendship between them. He described her as beautiful and full of character.

“In reference to his own ignorance of musical matters, Scott mentioned that he had been once employed as counsel upon a case where a purchaser of a fiddle had been imposed upon as to its value. He found it
necessary, accordingly, to prepare himself by reading all about fiddles and fiddlers that he could find in the
Encyclopædia, &c.; and having got the names of Straduarius, Amati, and such like, glibly upon his tongue, he got swimmingly through his cause. Not long after this, dining at ——, he found himself left alone after dinner with the Duke, who had but two subjects he could talk upon—hunting and music. Having exhausted hunting, Scott thought he would bring forward his lately acquired learning in fiddles, upon which his Grace became quite animated, and immediately whispered some orders to the butler, in consequence of which there soon entered into the room about half a dozen tall footmen, each bearing a fiddle-case; and Scott now found his musical knowledge brought to no less trying a test than that of telling, by the tone of each fiddle, as the Duke played it, by what artist it had been made. ‘By guessing and management,’ he said, ‘I got on pretty well till we were, to my great relief, summoned to coffee.’”

In handing to me the pages from which I have taken these scraps, Mr Moore says,—“I parted from Scott with the feeling that all the world might admire him in his works, but that those only could learn to love him as he deserved who had seen him at Abbotsford. I give you carte blanche to say what you please of my sense of his cordial kindness and gentleness; perhaps a not very dignified phrase would express my feeling better than any fine one—it was that he was a thorough good fellow.” What Scott thought of Moore the reader shall see presently.

The author of Lallah Rookh’s Kelso chaise was followed before many days by a more formidable equipage. The much talked-of lady who began life as Miss Harriet Mellon, a comic actress in a provincial troop, and died Duchess of St Albans, was then making a tour in Scot-
land as Mrs Coutts, the enormously wealthy widow of the first English banker of his time. No person of such consequence could, in those days, have thought a Scotch progress complete, unless it included a reception at Abbotsford; but Mrs Coutts had been previously acquainted with
Sir Walter, who, indeed, had some remote connexion with her late husband’s family, through the Stuarts of Allanbank, I believe, or perhaps the Swintons of Swinton. He had visited her occasionally in London during Mr Coutts’s life, and was very willing to do the honours of Teviotdale in return. But although she was considerate enough not to come on him with all her retinue, leaving four of the seven carriages with which she travelled at Edinburgh, the appearance of only three coaches, each drawn by four horses, was rather trying for poor Lady Scott. They contained Mrs Coutts, her future lord the Duke of St Albans, one of his Grace’s sisters—a dame de compagnie (vulgarly styled a Toady)—a brace of physicians—for it had been considered that one doctor might himself be disabled in the course of an expedition so adventurous—and, besides other menials of every grade, two bedchamber women for Mrs Coutts’s own person; she requiring to have this article also in duplicate, because, in her widowed condition, she was fearful of ghosts and there must be one Abigail for the service of the toilette, a second to keep watch by night. With a little puzzling and cramming, all this train found accommodation; but it so happened that there were already in the house several ladies, Scotch and English, of high birth and rank, who felt by no means disposed to assist their host and hostess in making Mrs Coutts’s visit agreeable to her. They had heard a great deal, and they saw something, of the ostentation almost inseparable from wealth so vast as had come into her keeping. They were on the outlook for
absurdity and merriment; and I need not observe how effectually women of fashion can contrive to mortify, without doing or saying any thing that shall expose them to the charge of actual incivility.

Sir Walter, during dinner, did every thing in his power to counteract this influence of the evil eye, and something to overawe it; but the spirit of mischief had been fairly stirred, and it was easy to see that Mrs Coutts followed these noble dames to the drawing-room in by no means that complacent mood which was customarily sustained, doubtless, by every blandishment of obsequious flattery, in this mistress of millions. He cut the gentlemen’s sederunt short, and soon after joining the ladies, managed to withdraw the youngest, and gayest, and cleverest, who was also the highest in rank (a lovely Marchioness), into his armorial-hall adjoining. “I said to her” (he told me), “I want to speak a word with you about Mrs Coutts. We have known each other a good while, and I know you won’t take any thing I can say in ill part. It is, I hear, not uncommon among the fine ladies in London to be very well pleased to accept invitations, and even sometimes to hunt after them, to Mrs Coutts’s grand balls and fêtes, and then, if they meet her in any private circle, to practise on her the delicate manœuvre called tipping the cold shoulder. This you agree with me is shabby; but it is nothing new either to you or to me that fine people will do shabbinesses for which beggars might blush, if they once stoop so low as to poke for tickets. I am sure you would not for the world do such a thing; but you must permit me to take the great liberty of saying, that I think the style you have all received my guest Mrs Coutts in, this evening, is, to a certain extent, a sin of the same order. You were all told a couple of days ago that I had accepted her visit, and that she would arrive to-day
to stay three nights. Now if any of you had not been disposed to be of my party at the same time with her, there was plenty of time for you to have gone away before she came; and as none of you moved, and it was impossible to fancy that any of you would remain out of mere curiosity, I thought I had a perfect right to calculate on your having made up your minds to help me out with her.” The beautiful Peeress answered, “I thank you, Sir Walter—you have done me the great honour to speak as if I had been your daughter, and depend upon it you shall be obeyed with heart and good-will.” One by one, the other exclusives were seen engaged in a little têtte-à-tête with her ladyship. Sir Walter was soon satisfied that things had been put into a right train; the Marchioness was requested to sing a particular song, because he thought it would please Mrs Coutts. “Nothing could gratify her more than to please Mrs Coutts.” Mrs Coutts’s brow smoothed, and in the course of half-an-hour she was as happy and easy as ever she was in her life, rattling away at comical anecdotes of her early theatrical years, and joining in the chorus of
Sir Adam’s Laird of Cockpen. She stayed out her three days*—saw, accompanied by all the circle, Melrose, Dryburgh, and Yarrow—and left Abbotsford delighted with her host, and, to all appearance, with his other guests.

It may be said (for the most benevolent of men had in his lifetime, and still has, some maligners) that he was so anxious about Mrs Coutts’s comfort, because he worshipped wealth. I dare not deny that he set more of his affections, during great part of his life, upon worldly things, wealth among others, than might have become such an intellect. One may conceive a sober

* Sir Walter often quoted the maxim of an old lady in one of Miss Ferrier’s novels—that a visit should never exceed three days, “the rest day—the drest day—and the prest day.”

grandeur of mind, not incompatible with genius as rich as even his, but infinitely more admirable than any genius, incapable of brooding upon any of the pomps and vanities of this life—or caring about money at all, beyond what is necessary for the easy sustenance of nature. But we must, in judging the most powerful of minds, take into account the influences to which they were exposed in the plastic period; and where imagination is visibly the predominant faculty, allowance must be made very largely indeed.
Scott’s autobiographical fragment, and the anecdotes annexed to it, have been printed in vain, if they have not conveyed the notion of such a training of the mind, fancy, and character, as could hardly fail to suggest dreams and aspirations very likely, were temptation presented, to take the shape of active external ambition to prompt a keen pursuit of those resources, without which visions of worldly splendour cannot be realized. But I think the subsequent narrative, with the correspondence embodied in it, must also have satisfied every candid reader that his appetite for wealth was, after all, essentially a vivid yearning for the means of large beneficence. As to his being capable of the silliness—to say nothing of the meanness—of allowing any part of his feelings or demeanour towards others to be affected by their mere possession of wealth, I cannot consider such a suggestion as worthy of much remark. He had a kindness towards Mrs Coutts, because he knew that, vain and pompous as her displays of equipage and attendance might be, she mainly valued wealth, like himself, as the instrument of doing good. Even of her apparently most fantastic indulgences he remembered, as Pope did when ridiculing the “lavish cost and little skill” of his Timon,
“Yet hence the poor are clothed, the hungry fed;”—
but he interfered, to prevent her being made uncomfortable in his house, neither more nor less than he would have done, had she come there in her original character of a comic actress, and been treated with coldness as such by his Marchionesses and Countesses.

Since I have been led to touch on what many always considered as the weak part of his character—his over respect for worldly things in general,—I must say one word as to the matter of rank, which undoubtedly had infinitely more effect on him than money. In the first place, he was all along courted by the great world—not it by him; and, secondly, pleased as he was with its attentions, he derived infinitely greater pleasure from the trusting and hearty affection of his old equals, and the inferiors whose welfare he so unweariedly promoted. But, thirdly, he made acute discriminations among the many different orders of claimants who jostle each other for pre-eminence in the curiously complicated system of modern British society. His imagination had been constantly exercised in recalling and embellishing whatever features of the past it was possible to connect with any pleasing ideas, and a historical name was a charm that literally stirred his blood. But not so a mere title. He reverenced the Duke of Buccleuch—but it was not as a Duke, but as the head of his clan, the representative of the old knights of Branxholm. In the Duke of Hamilton he saw not the premier peer of Scotland, but the lineal heir of the heroic old Douglasses; and he had profounder respect for the chief of a Highland Clan, without any title whatever, and with an ill paid rental of two or three thousand a-year, than for the haughtiest magnate in a blue ribbon, whose name did not call up any grand historical reminiscence. I remember once when he had some young Englishmen of high fashion in his house, there arrived a Scotch gentleman of no
distinguished appearance, whom he received with a sort of eagerness and empressement of reverential courtesy that struck the strangers as quite out of the common. His name was that of a Scotch Earl, however, and no doubt he was that nobleman’s son. “Well,” said one of the Southrons to me,—“I had never heard that the Earl of —— was one of your very greatest lords in this country; even a second son of his, booby though he be, seems to be of wonderful consideration.” The young English lord heard with some surprise, that the visiter in question was a poor lieutenant on half-pay, heir to a tower about as crazy as Don Quixote’s, and noways related (at least according to English notions of relationship) to the Earl of ——. “What, then,” he cried, “What can
Sir Walter mean?” “Why,” said I, “his meaning is very clear. This gentleman is the male representative (which the Earl of may possibly be in the female line) of a knight who is celebrated by our old poet Blind Harry, as having signalized himself by the side of Sir William Wallace, and from whom every Scotchman that bears the name of —— has at least the ambition of being supposed to descend.”—Sir Walter’s own title came unsought; and that he accepted it, not in the foolish fancy that such a title, or any title, could increase his own personal consequence, but because he thought it fair to embrace the opportunity of securing a certain external distinction to his heirs at Abbotsford, was proved pretty clearly by his subsequently declining the greatly higher, but intransmissible rank of a Privy-Councillor. At the same time, I dare say his ear liked the knightly sound; and undoubtedly he was much pleased with the pleasure his wife took, and gaily acknowledged she took, in being My Lady.

The circumstances of the King’s visit in 1822, and
others already noted, leave no doubt that imagination enlarged and glorified for him many objects to which it is very difficult for ordinary men in our generation to attach much importance; and perhaps he was more apt to attach importance to such things, during the prosperous course of his own fortunes, than even a liberal consideration of circumstances can altogether excuse. To myself it seems to have been so; yet I do not think the severe critics on this part of his story have kept quite sufficiently in mind how easy it is for us all to undervalue any species of temptation to which we have not happened to be exposed. I am aware, too, that there are examples of men of genius, situated to a certain extent like him, who have resisted and repelled the fascinations against which he was not entirely proof; but I have sometimes thought that they did so at the expense of parts of their character nearer the marrow of humanity than those which his weakness in this way tended to endamage; that they mingled, in short, in their virtuous self-denial, some grains of sacrifice at the shrine of a cold, unsocial, even sulky species of self-conceit. But this digression has already turned out much longer than I intended.

Mrs Coutts and her three coaches astonished Abbotsford but a few days after I returned to Chiefswood from one of my rapid journeys to London. While in the metropolis on that occasion, I had heard a great deal more than I understood about the commercial excitement of the time. For several years preceding 1825 the plethora of gold on the one hand, and the wildness of impatient poverty on the other, had been uniting their stimulants upon the blood and brain of the most curious of all concretes, individual or national, “John Bull;” nor had sober “Sister Peg” escaped the infection of disorders which appear to recur, at pretty regular periods,
in the sanguine constitution of her brother. They who had accumulated great masses of wealth, dissatisfied with the usual rates of interest under a conscientious government really protective of property, had embarked in the most perilous and fantastic schemes for piling visionary Pelions upon the real Ossa of their moneybags; and unscrupulous dreamers, who had all to gain and nothing to lose, found it easy to borrow, from cash-encumbered neighbours, the means of pushing adventures of their own devising, more extravagant than had been heard of since the days of the South Sea and Mississippi bubbles. Even persons who had extensive and flourishing businesses in their hands, partook the general rage of infatuation. He whose own shop, counting-house, or warehouse, had been sufficient to raise him to a decent and safely-increasing opulence, and was more than sufficient to occupy all his attention, drank in the vain delusion that he was wasting his time and energy on things unworthy of a masculine ambition, and embarked the resources necessary for the purposes of his lawful calling, in speculations worthy of the land-surveyors of El Dorado. It was whispered that the trade (so called, par excellence) had been bitten with this fever; and persons of any foresight who knew (as I did not at that time know) the infinitely curious links by which booksellers, and printers, and paper-makers (and therefore authors), are bound together, high and low, town and country, for good and for evil, already began to prophesy that, whenever the general crash, which must come ere long, should arrive, its effects would be felt far and wide among all classes connected with the productions of the press. When it was rumoured that this great bookseller, or printer, had become a principal holder of South American mining shares—that another was the leading director of a railway company—a third of a gas company
—while a fourth house had risked about L.100,000 in a cast upon the most capricious of all agricultural products, hops—it was no wonder that bankers should begin to calculate balances, and pause upon discounts.

Among other hints to the tune of periculosæ plenum opus aleæ which reached my ear, were some concerning a splendid bookselling establishment in London, with which I knew the Edinburgh house of Constable to be closely connected in business. Little suspecting the extent to which any mischance of Messrs Hurst and Robinson must involve Sir Walter’s own responsibilities, I transmitted to him the rumours in question as I received them. Before I could have his answer, a legal friend of mine, well known to Scott also, told me that people were talking doubtfully about Constable’s own stability. I thought it probable that if Constable fell into any pecuniary embarrassments, Scott might suffer the inconvenience of losing the copy-money of his last novel. Nothing more serious occurred to me. But I thought it my duty to tell him this whisper also; and heard from him, almost by return of post, that, shake who might in London, his friend in Edinburgh was “rooted, as well as branched, like the oak.” Knowing his almost painfully accurate habits of business as to matters of trivial moment, I doubted not that he had ample grounds for being quite easy as to any concerns of his own with his publisher; and though I turned northwards with anxiety enough, none of the burden had reference to that subject.

A few days, however, after my arrival at Chiefswood, I received a letter from the legal friend already alluded to—(Mr William Wright, the eminent barrister of Lincoln’s Inn,—who, by the way, was also on habits of great personal familiarity with Constable, and liked the Czar exceedingly)—which renewed my apprehensions,
or rather, for the first time, gave me any suspicion that there really might be something “rotten in the state of Muscovy.” Mr Wright informed me that it was reported in London that Constable’s London banker had thrown up his book. This letter reached me about five o’clock, as I was sitting down to dinner; and, about an hour afterwards, I rode over to Abbotsford, to communicate its contents. I found
Sir Walter alone over his glass of whisky and water and cigar—at this time, whenever there was no company, “his custom always in the afternoon.” I gave him Mr Wright’s letter to read. He did so, and returning it, said, quite with his usual tranquil good-humour of look and voice, “I am much obliged to you for coming over, but you may rely upon it Wright has been hoaxed. I promise you, were the Crafty’s book thrown up, there would be a pretty decent scramble among the bankers for the keeping of it. There may have been some little dispute or misunderstanding, which malice and envy have exaggerated in this absurd style; but I shan’t allow such nonsense to disturb my siesta. Don’t you see,” he added, lighting another cigar, “that Wright could not have heard of such a transaction the very day it happened? And can you doubt, that if Constable had been informed of it yesterday, this day’s post must have brought me intelligence direct from him?” I ventured to suggest that this last point did not seem to me clear; that Constable might not, perhaps, in such a case, be in so great a hurry with his intelligence. “Ah!” said he, “the Crafty and James Ballantyne have been so much connected in business, that Fatsman would be sure to hear of any thing so important; and I like the notion of his hearing it, and not sending me one of his malagrugrous billets-doux. He could as soon keep his eyebrows in their place if you told him there was a fire in his nursery.”


Seeing how coolly he treated my news, I went home relieved and gratified. Next morning, as I was rising, behold Peter Mathieson at my door, his horses evidently off a journey, and the Sheriff rubbing his eyes as if the halt had shaken him out of a sound sleep. I made what haste I could to descend, and found him by the side of the brook, looking somewhat worn, but with a serene and satisfied countenance, busied already in helping his little grandson to feed a fleet of ducklings. “You are surprised,” he said, “to see me here. The truth is, I was more taken aback with Wright’s epistle than I cared to let on; and so, as soon as you left me, I ordered the carriage to the door, and never stopped till I got to Polton, where I found Constable putting on his nightcap. I staid an hour with him, and I have now the pleasure to tell you that all is right. There was not a word of truth in the story. He is fast as Ben Lomond; and as Mamma and Anne did not know what my errand was, I thought it as well to come and breakfast here, and set Sophia and you at your ease before I went home again.”

We had a merry breakfast, and he chatted gaily afterwards as I escorted him through his woods, leaning on my shoulder all the way, which he seldom as yet did, except with Tom Purdie, unless when he was in a more than commonly happy and affectionate mood. But I confess the impression this incident left on my mind was not a pleasant one. It was then that I first began to harbour a suspicion, that if any thing should befall Constable, Sir Walter would suffer a heavier loss than the nonpayment of some one novel. The night journey revealed serious alarm. My wife suggested, as we talked things over, that his alarm had been, not on his own account, but Ballantyne’s, who, in case evil came on the great employer of his types, might possibly
lose a year’s profit on them, which neither she nor I doubted must amount to a large sum—any more than that a misfortune of Ballantyne’s would grieve her father as much as one personal to himself. His warm regard for his printer could be no secret; we well knew that James was his confidential critic—his trusted and trustworthy friend from boyhood. Nor was I ignorant that Scott had a share in the property of Ballantyne’s
Edinburgh Weekly Journal. I hinted, under the year 1820, that a dispute arose about the line to be adopted by that paper in the matter of the Queen’s trial, and that Scott employed his authority towards overruling the Editor’s disposition to espouse the anti-ministerial side of that unhappy question. He urged every argument in his power, and in vain; for James had a just sense of his own responsibility as editor, and conscientiously differing from Sir Walter’s opinion, insisted, with honourable firmness, on maintaining his own until he should be denuded of his office. I happened to be present at one of their conversations on this subject, and in the course of it Scott used language which distinctly implied that he spoke not merely as a friend, but as a joint-proprietor of the Journal. Nor did it seem at all strange that this should be so. But that Sir Walter was and had all along been James’s partner in the great printing concern, neither I, nor, I believe, any member of his family, had entertained the slightest suspicion prior to the coming calamities which were now “casting their shadows before.”

It is proper to add here that the story about the banker’s throwing up the book was, as subsequent revelations attested, groundless. Sir Walter’s first guess as to its origin proved correct.

A few days afterwards, Mr Murray of Albemarle Street sent me a transcript of Lord Byron’s Ravenna
Diary, with permission for my neighbour also to read it if he pleased.
Sir Walter read those extraordinary pages with the liveliest interest, and filled several of the blank leaves and margins with illustrative annotations and anecdotes, some of which have lately been made public, as the rest will doubtless be hereafter. In perusing what Byron had jotted down from day to day in the intervals of regular composition, it very naturally occurred to Sir Walter that the noble poet had done well to avoid troubling himself by any adoption or affectation of plan or orde— giving an opinion, a reflection, a reminiscence, serious or comic, or the incidents of the passing hour, just as the spirit moved him,—and seeing what a mass of curious things, such as “aftertimes would not willingly let die,” had been thus rescued from oblivion at a very slight cost of exertion,—he resolved to attempt keeping thenceforth a somewhat similar record. A thick quarto volume, bound in vellum, with a lock and key, was forthwith procured; and Sir Walter began the journal, from which I shall begin, in the next chapter, to draw copiously. The occupation of a few stray minutes in his dressing-room at getting up in the morning, or after he had retired for the night, was found a pleasant variety for him. He also kept the book by him when in his study, and often had recourse to it when any thing puzzled him and called for a halt in the prosecution of what he considered (though posterity will hardly do so) a more important task. It was extremely fortunate that he took up this scheme exactly at the time when he settled seriously to the history of Buonaparte’s personal career. The sort of preparation which every chapter of that book now called for has been already alluded to; and—although, when he had fairly read himself up to any one great cycle of transactions, his old spirit roused itself in full
energy, and he traced the record with as rapid and glowing a pencil as he had ever wielded—there were minutes enough, and hours, and perhaps days, of weariness, depression, and languor, when (unless this silent confidant had been at hand) even he perhaps might have made no use of his writing-desk.

Even the new resource of journalizing, however, was not sufficient. He soon convinced himself that it would facilitate, not impede, his progress with Napoleon, to have a work of imagination in hand also. The success of the Tales of the Crusaders had been very high; and Constable, well aware that it had been his custom of old to carry on two romances at the same time, was now too happy to encourage him in beginning Woodstock, to be taken up whenever the historical MS. should be in advance of the press.

Of the progress both of the Novel and the History, the Journal will afford us fuller and clearer details than I have been able to produce as to any of his preceding works; but before I open that sealed book, I believe it will be satisfactory to the reader that I should present (as briefly as I can) my own view of the melancholy change in Sir Walter’s worldly fortunes, to which almost every page of the Diary, during several sad and toilsome years, contains some allusion. So doing, I shall avoid (in some measure at least) the necessity of interrupting, by awkward explanations, the easy tenor of perhaps the most candid Diary that ever man penned.

The early history of Scott’s connexion with the Ballantynes has been already given in abundant detail; and I have felt it my duty not to shrink, at whatever pain to my own feelings or those of others, from setting down, plainly and distinctly, my own impressions of the character, manners, and conduct of those two very dissimilar brothers. I find, without surprise,
that my representations of them have not proved satisfactory to their surviving relations. That I cannot help—though I sincerely regret, having been compelled, in justice to Scott, to become the instrument for opening old wounds in kind bosoms, animated, I doubt not, like my own, by veneration for his memory, and respected by me for combining that feeling with a tender concern for names so intimately connected with his throughout long years of mutual confidence. But I have been entirely mistaken if those to whom I allude, or any others of my readers, have interpreted any expressions of mine as designed to cast the slightest imputation on the moral rectitude of the elder
Ballantyne. No suspicion of that nature ever crossed my mind. I believe James to have been, from first to last, a perfectly upright man; that his principles were of a lofty stamp—his feelings pure even to simplicity. His brother John had many amiable as well as amusing qualities, and I am far from wishing to charge even him with any deep or deliberate malversation. Sir Walter’s own epithet of “my little picaroon” indicates all that I desired to imply on that score. But John was, from mere giddiness of head and temper, incapable of conducting any serious business advantageously, either for himself or for others; nor dare I hesitate to express my conviction that, from failings of a different sort, honest James was hardly a better manager than the picaroon.

He had received the education, not of a printer but of a solicitor; and he never, to his dying day, had the remotest knowledge or feeling of what the most important business of a master-printer consists in. He had a fine taste for the effect of types—no establishment turned out more beautiful specimens of the art than his; but he appears never to have understood that types need watching as well as setting. If the page looked handsome he
was satisfied. He had been instructed that on every L.50 paid in his men’s wages, the master-printer is entitled to an equal sum of gross profit; and beyond this rule of thumb calculation, no experience could bring him to penetrate his mystery. In a word,
James never comprehended that in the greatest and most regularly employed manufactory of this kind (or indeed of any kind), the profits are likely to be entirely swallowed up, unless the acting master keeps up a most wakeful scrutiny, from week to week, and from day to day, as to the machinery and the materials. So far was he from doing this, that during several of the busiest and most important years of his connexion with the establishment in the Canongate, he seldom crossed its doors. He sat in his own elbow-chair, in a comfortable library, situated in a different street—not certainly an idle man—quite the reverse, though naturally indolent—but the most negligent and inefficient of master-printers.

He was busy, indeed; and inestimably serviceable to Scott was his labour; but it consisted simply and solely in the correction and revisal of proof-sheets. It is most true, that Sir Walter’s hurried and careless method of composition rendered it absolutely necessary that whatever he wrote should be subjected to far more than the usual amount of inspection required at the hands of the printer; and it is equally so, that it would have been extremely difficult to find another man willing and able to bestow such time and care on his proof-sheets as they uniformly received from James. But this was, in fact, not the proper occupation of the man who was at the head of the establishment—who had undertaken the pecuniary management of the concern. In every other great printing-house that I have known any thing about, there are intelligent and well-educated men, called, technically, readers, who devote themselves to this species
of labour, and who are, I fear, seldom paid in proportion to its importance.
Dr Goldsmith, in his early life, was such a reader in the printing-house of Richardson; but the author of Clarissa did not disdain to look after the presses and types himself, or he would never have accumulated the fortune that enabled him to be the liberal employer of readers like Goldsmith. I quoted, in a preceding volume,* a letter of Scott’s, written when John Ballantyne and Co.’s bookselling house was breaking up, in which he says, “One or other of you will need to be constantly in the printing-office henceforth: it is the sheet-anchor.” This was ten years after that establishment began. Thenceforth James, in compliance with this injunction, occupied, during many hours of every day, a small cabinet on the premises in the Canongate; but whoever visited him there, found him at the same eternal business, that of a literator, not that of a printer. He was either editing his newspaper—and he considered that matter as fondly and proudly as Mr Pott in Pickwick does his Gazette of Eatanswill—or correcting proof-sheets, or writing critical notes and letters to the Author of Waverley. Shakspeare, Addison, Johnson, and Burke, were at his elbow; but not the ledger. We may thus understand poor John’s complaint, in what I may call his dying memorandum, of the “large sums abstracted from the bookselling house for the use of the printing-office.”† Yet that bookselling house was from the first a hopeless one; whereas, under accurate superintendence, the other ought to have produced the partners a dividend of from L.2000 to L.3000 a-year, at the very least.

On the other hand, the necessity of providing some

* See ante, vol. iii. p. 61.

† See ante, vol. v. p. 77.

remedy for this radical disorder, must very soon have forced itself upon the conviction of all concerned, had not
John Ballantyne (who had served a brief apprenticeship in a London banking-house) introduced his fatal enlightenment on the subject of facilitating discounts, and raising cash by means of accommodation-bills. Hence the perplexed states and calendars—the wildernesses and labyrinths of ciphers, through which no eye but that of a professed accountant could have detected any clue; hence the accumulation of bills and counter-bills drawn by both bookselling and printing house, and gradually so mixed up with other obligations, that John Ballantyne died in utter ignorance of the condition of their affairs. The pecuniary detail of those affairs then devolved upon James; and I fancy it will be only too apparent that he never made even one serious effort to master the formidable balances of figures thus committed to his sole trust—but in which his all was not all that was involved.

I need not recapitulate the history of the connexion between these Ballantyne firms and that of Constable. It was traced as accurately as my means permitted in the preceding volumes, with an eye to the catastrophe. I am willing to believe that kindly feelings had no small share in inducing Constable to uphold the credit of John Ballantyne and Company, in their several successive struggles to avoid the exposure of bankruptcy. He was, with pitiable foibles enough, and grievous faults, and I fear even some black stains of vice in his character, a man of warm, and therefore I hardly doubt, of sympathizing temperament. Vain to excess, proud at the same time, haughty, arrogant, presumptuous, despotic—he had still perhaps a heart. Persons who knew him longer and better than I did, assure me of their conviction that, in spite of many direct professional hinderances and thwartings, the offspring (as he viewed mat-
ters) partly of Tory jealousy, and partly of poetical caprice—he had, even at an early period of his life, formed a genuine affection for
Scott’s person, as well as a most profound veneration for his genius. I think it very possible that he began his assistance of the Ballantyne companies mainly under this generous influence—and I also believe that he had, in different ways, a friendly leaning in favour of both James and John themselves. But when he, in his overweening self-sufficiency, thought it involved no mighty hazard to indulge his better feelings, as well as his lordly vanity, in shielding these friends from commercial dishonour, he had estimated but loosely the demands of the career of speculation on which he was himself entering. And by and by when, advancing by one mighty plunge after another in that vast field, he felt in his own person the threatenings of more signal ruin than could have befallen them, this “Napoleon of the press”—still as of old buoyed up as to the ultimate result of his grand operations, by the most fulsome flatteries of imagination—appears to have tossed aside very summarily all scruples about the extent to which he might be entitled to tax their sustaining credit in requital. The Ballantynes, if they had comprehended all the bearings of the case, were not the men to consider grudgingly demands of this nature, founded on service so important; and who can doubt that Scott viewed them from a chivalrous altitude? It is easy to see that the moment the obligations became reciprocal, there arose extreme peril of their coming to be hopelessly complicated. It is equally clear that he ought to have applied on these affairs, as their complication thickened, the acumen which he exerted, and rather prided himself in exerting, on smaller points of worldly business, to the utmost. That he did not, I must always regard as the enigma of his personal history; but various incidents in that history, which
I have already narrated, prove incontestably that he had never done so; and I am unable to account for this having been the case, except on the supposition that his confidence in the resources of Constable and the prudence of James Ballantyne was so entire, that he willingly absolved himself from all duty of active and thorough-going superinspection.

It is the extent to which the confusion had gone that constitutes the great puzzle. I have been told that John Ballantyne, in his hey-day, might be heard whistling on his clerk, John Stevenson (True Jock), from the sanctum behind the shop, with, “Jock, you lubber, fetch ben a sheaf o’ stamps.” Such things might well enough be believed of that harebrained creature; but how sober, solemn James could have made up his mind, as he must have done, to follow much the same wild course whenever any pinch occurred, is to me, I must own, incomprehensible. The books, of course, were kept at the printing-house; and Scott, no doubt, had it in his power to examine them as often as he liked to go there for that purpose. But did he ever descend the Canongate once on such an errand? I certainly much question it. I think it very likely that he now and then cast a rapid glance over the details of a week’s or a month’s operations; but no man who has followed him throughout can dream that he ever grappled with the sum total. During several years it was almost daily my custom to walk home with Sir Walter from the Parliament-House, calling at James’s on our way. For the most part I used to amuse myself with a newspaper or proof-sheet in the outer room, while they were closeted in the little cabinet at the corner; and merry were the tones that reached my ear while they remained in colloquy. If I were called in, it was because James, in his ecstasy, must have another to enjoy the dialogue that
his friend was improvising—between Meg Dods and Captain Mac-Turk for example, or Peter Peebles and his counsel.

How shrewdly Scott lectures Terry in May 1825: “The best business is ruined when it becomes pinched for money, and gets into the circle of discounting bills.” “It is easy to make it feasible on paper, but the times of payment arrive to a certainty.” “I should not like to see you take flight like the ingenious mechanist in Rasselas, only to flutter a few yards, and fall into the lake; this would be a heart-breaking business.” “You must be careful that a check shall not throw you on the breakers, and for this there is no remedy but a handsome provision of the blunt” &c. &c. Who can read these words and consider that, at the very hour when they fell from Scott’s pen, he was meditating a new purchase of land to the extent of L.40,000—and that nevertheless the “certainty of the arrival of times of payment for discounted bills” was within a few months of being realized to his own ruin; who can read such words, under such a date, and not sigh the only comment, sic vos non vobis?

The reader may perhaps remember a page in a former volume, where I described Scott as riding with Johnny Ballantyne and myself round the deserted halls of the ancient family of Riddell, and remarking how much it increased the wonder of their ruin that the late Baronet had “kept day-book and ledger as regularly as any cheesemonger in the Grassmarket” It is, nevertheless, true that Sir Walter kept from first to last as accurate an account of his own personal expenditure as Sir John Riddell could have done of his extravagant outlay on agricultural experiments. The instructions he gave his son when first joining the 18th Hussars about the best method of keeping accounts, were copied from his
own practice. I could, I believe, place before my reader the sum-total of sixpences that it had cost him to ride through-turnpike gates during a period of thirty years. This was, of course, an early habit mechanically adhered to: but how strange that the man who could persist, however mechanically, in noting down every shilling that he actually drew from his purse, should have allowed others to pledge his credit, year after year, upon sheafs of accommodation paper, “the time for paying which up must certainly come,” without keeping any efficient watch on their proceedings—without knowing any one Christmas, for how many thousands or rather tens of thousands he was responsible as a printer in the Canongate!

This is sufficiently astonishing—and had this been all, the result must sooner or later have been sufficiently uncomfortable; but still, in the absence of a circumstance which Sir Walter, however vigilant, could hardly have been expected to anticipate as within the range of possibility, he would have been in no danger of a “check that must throw him on the breakers”—of finding himself, after his flutterings over The Happy Valley, “in the lake.” He could never have foreseen a step which Constable took in the frenzied excitement of his day of pecuniary alarm. Owing to the original habitual irregularities of John Ballantyne, it had been adopted as the regular plan between that person and Constable, that, whenever the latter signed a bill for the purpose of the other’s raising money among the bankers, there should, in case of his neglecting to take that bill up before it fell due, be deposited a counter-bill, signed by Ballantyne, on which Constable might, if need were, raise a sum equivalent to that for which he had pledged his credit. I am told that this is an usual enough course of procedure among speculative merchants; and it may
be so. But mark the issue. The plan went on under
James’s management, just as John had begun it. Under his management also, such was the incredible looseness of it, the counter-bills, meant only for being sent into the market in the event of the primary bills being threatened with dishonour—these instruments of safeguard for Constable against contingent danger were allowed to lie unenquired about in Constable’s desk, until they had swelled to a truly monstrous “sheaf of stamps.” Constable’s hour of distress darkened about him, and he rushed with these to the money-changers. They were nearly all flung into circulation in the course of this maddening period of panic. And by this one circumstance it came to pass, that, supposing Ballantyne and Co. to have, at the day of reckoning, obligations against them, in consequence of bill transactions with Constable, to the extent of L.25,000, they were legally responsible for L.50,000.

It is not my business to attempt any detailed history of the House of Constable. The sanguine man had, almost at the outset of his career, been “lifted off his feet,” in Burns’s phrase, by the sudden and unparalleled success of the Edinburgh Review. Scott’s poetry and Scott’s novels followed; and had he confined himself to those three great and triumphant undertakings, he must have died in possession of a princely fortune. But his “appetite grew with what it fed on,” and a long series of less meritorious publications, pushed on, one after the other, in the craziest rapidity, swallowed up the gains which, however vast, he never counted, and therefore always exaggerated to himself. He had with the only person who might have been supposed capable of controlling him in his later years, the authority of age and a quasi-parental relationship to sustain the natural influence of great and commanding talents; his proud tempera-
ment and his glowing imagination played into each other’s hands; and he scared suspicion, or trampled remonstrance, whenever (which probably was seldom) he failed to infuse the fervour of his own self-confidence. But even his gross imprudence in the management of his own great business would not have been enough to involve him in absolute ruin: had the matter halted there, and had he, suspending, as he meant to do, all minor operations, concentred his energies, in alliance with Scott, upon the new and dazzling adventure of the Cheap Miscellany, I have no doubt the damage of early misreckonings would soon have been altogether obliterated. But what he had been to the Ballantynes, certain other still more audacious “Sheafmen” had been to him. The house of
Hurst, Robinson, and Co. had long been his London agents and correspondents; and he had carried on with them the same traffic in bills and counter-bills that the Canongate Company did with him—and upon a still larger scale. They had done what he did not—or at least did not to any very culpable extent: they had carried their adventures out of the line of their own business. It was they, for example, that must needs be embarking such vast sums in a speculation on hops! When ruin threatened them, they availed themselves of Constable’s credit without stint or limit—while he, feeling darkly that the net was around him, struggled and splashed for relief, no matter who might suffer, so he escaped! And Sir Walter Scott, sorely as he suffered, was too painfully conscious of the “strong tricks” he had allowed his own imagination to play, not to make merciful allowance for all the apparently monstrous things that I have now been narrating of Constable; though an offence lay behind which even his charity could not forgive. Of that I need not as yet speak. I have done all that seems to me necessary for enabling
the reader to apprehend the nature and extent of the pecuniary difficulties in which Scott was about to be involved, when he commenced his Diary of 1825.

For the rest, his friends, and above all posterity, are not left to consider his fate without consoling reflections. They who knew and loved him, must ever remember that the real nobility of his character could not have exhibited itself to the world at large, had he not been exposed in his later years to the ordeal of adversity. And others as well as they may feel assured, that had not that adversity been preceded by the perpetual spur of pecuniary demands, he who began life with such quick appetites for all its ordinary enjoyments, would never have devoted himself to the rearing of that gigantic monument of genius, labour, and power, which his works now constitute. The imagination which has bequeathed so much to delight and humanize mankind, would have developed few of its miraculous resources, except in the embellishment of his own personal existence. The enchanted spring might have sunk into earth with the rod that bade it gush, and left us no living waters. We cannot understand, but we may nevertheless respect even the strangest caprices of the marvellous combination of faculties to which our debt is so weighty. We should try to picture to ourselves what the actual intellectual life must have been of the author of such a series of romances. We should ask ourselves whether, filling and discharging so soberly and gracefully as he did the common functions of social man, it was not, nevertheless, impossible but that he must have passed most of his life in other worlds than ours; and we ought hardly to think it a grievous circumstance that their bright visions should have left a dazzle sometimes on the eyes which he so gently re-opened upon our prosaic realities. He had, on the whole, a command over the
powers of his mind—I mean that he could control and direct his thoughts and reflections with a readiness, firmness, and easy security of sway—beyond what I find it possible to trace in any other artist’s recorded character and history; but he could not habitually fling them into the region of dreams throughout a long series of years, and yet be expected to find a corresponding satisfaction in bending them to the less agreeable considerations which the circumstances of any human being’s practical lot in this world must present in abundance. The training to which he accustomed himself could not leave him as he was when he began. He must pay the penalty, as well as reap the glory of this lifelong abstraction of reverie, this self-abandonment of Fairyland.

This was for him the last year of many things; among others, of Sibyl Grey and the Abbotsford Hunt. Towards the close of a hard run on his neighbour Mr Scott of Gala’s ground, he adventured to leap the Catrail—that venerable relic of the days of
“Reged wide
And fair Strath-Clyde,”
of which the reader may remember many notices in his early letters to
George Ellis. He was severely bruised and shattered; and never afterwards recovered the feeling of confidence without which there can be no pleasure in horsemanship. He often talked of this accident with a somewhat superstitious mournfulness.