LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Chapter I 1826-27

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 of 1826-7, Sir Walter suffered great pain (enough to have disturbed effectually any other man’s labours, whether official or literary) from successive attacks of rheumatism, which seems to have been fixed on him by the wet sheets of one of his French inns; and his Diary contains, besides, various indications that his constitution was already shaking under the
fatigue to which he had subjected it. Formerly, however great the quantity of work he put through his hands, his evenings were almost always reserved for the light reading of an elbow-chair, or the enjoyment of his family and friends. Now he seemed to grudge every minute that was not spent at the desk. The little that he read of new books, or for mere amusement, was done by snatches in the course of his meals; and to walk, when he could walk at all, to the Parliament House, and back again through the Prince’s Street Gardens, was his only exercise and his only relaxation. Every ailment, of whatever sort, ended in aggravating his lameness; and, perhaps, the severest test his philosophy encountered was the feeling of bodily helplessness that from week to week crept upon him. The winter, to make bad worse, was a very cold and stormy one. The growing sluggishness of his blood showed itself in chilblains, not only on the feet but the fingers, and his hand-writing becomes more and more cramped and confused. I shall not pain the reader by extracting merely medical entries from his Diary; but the following give characteristic sketches of his temperament and reflections:—

December 16.—Another bad night. I remember I used to think a slight illness was a luxurious thing. My pillow was then softened by the hand of affection, and the little cares put in exercise to soothe the languor or pain, were more flattering and pleasing than the consequences of the illness were disagreeable. It was a new scene to be watched and attended, and I used to think that the malade imaginaire gained something by his humour. It is different in the latter stages—the old post-chaise gets more shattered and out of order at every turn; windows will not be pulled up, doors refuse to
DECEMBER, 1826.3
open, or being open will not shut again—which last is rather my case. There is some new subject of complaint every moment—your sicknesses come thicker and thicker—your comforting and sympathizing friends fewer and fewer—for why should they sorrow for the course of nature? The recollection of youth, health, and uninterrupted powers of activity, neither improved nor enjoyed, is a poor strain of comfort. The best is, the long halt will arrive at last, and cure all. This was a day of labour, agreeably varied by a pain which rendered it scarce possible to sit upright. My journal is getting a vile chirurgical aspect. I begin to be afraid of the odd consequences complaints in the post equitem are said to produce. I shall tire of my journal. In my better days I had stories to tell; but death has closed the long dark avenue upon loves and friendships, and I look at them as through the grated door of a burial-place filled with monuments of those who were once dear to me, with no insincere wish that it may open for me at no distant period, provided such be the will of God. My pains were those of the heart, and had something flattering in their character; if in the head, it was from the blow of a bludgeon gallantly received, and well paid back. I think I shall not live to the usual verge of human existence; I shall never see the threescore and ten, and shall be summed up at a discount. No help for it, and no matter either.

December 18.—Sir Adam Ferguson breakfasted—one of the few old friends left out of the number of my youthful companions. In youth we have many companions, few friends perhaps; in age companionship is ended, except rarely, and by appointment. Old men, by a kind of instinct, seek younger associates, who listen to their stories, honour their grey hairs while present, and mimic and laugh at them when their backs are turned. At least
that was the way in our day, and I warrant our chicks of the present brood crow to the same tune. Of all the friends that I have left here, there is none who has any decided attachment to literature. So either I must talk on that subject to young people—in other words, turn proser—or I must turn tea-table talker and converse with ladies. I am too old and too proud for either character, so I’ll live alone and be contented.
Lockhart’s departure for London was a loss to me in this way.”

He spent a few days at Abbotsford at Christmas, and several weeks during the spring vacation; but the frequent Saturday excursions were now out of the question if for no other reason, on account of the quantity of books which he must have by him while working at his Napoleon. He says on the 30th of December “Wrote hard. Last day of an eventful year; much evil and some good, but especially the courage to endure what Fortune sends without becoming a pipe for her fingers.* It is not the last day of the year; but to-morrow being Sunday, we hold our festival to-day.—The Fergusons came, and we had the usual appliances of mirth and good cheer. Yet our party, like the chariot-wheels of Pharoah in the Red Sea, dragged heavily.—It must be allowed that the regular recurrence of annual festivals among the same individuals has, as life advances, something in it that is melancholy. We meet like the survivors of some perilous expedition, wounded and weakened ourselves, and looking through diminished ranks to think of those who are no more. Or they are like the feasts of the Caribs, in which they held that the pale and speechless phantoms of the deceased appeared and mingled with the living. Yet where shall we fly from vain repin-

* Hamlet, Act III. Scene 2.

ing?—or why should we give up the comfort of seeing our friends, because they can no longer be to us, or we to them, what we once were to each other?

“January 1, 1827.—God make this a happy new year to the King and country, and to all honest men.

“I went to dine as usual at the kind house of Huntly-Burn; but the cloud still had its influence. The effect of grief upon persons who, like myself and Sir Adam, are highly susceptible of humour, has, I think, been, finely touched by Wordsworth in the character of the merry village teacher Matthew, whom Jeffrey profanely calls “a half crazy sentimental person.”* But, with my friend Jeffrey’s pardon, I think he loves to see imagination best when it is bitted and managed, and ridden upon the grand pas. He does not make allowance for starts and sallies, and bounds, when Pegasus is beautiful to behold, though sometimes perilous to his rider. Not that I think the amiable bard of Rydale shows judgment in choosing such subjects as the popular mind cannot sympathize in. It is unwise and unjust to himself. I do not compare myself, in point of imagination, with Wordsworth, far from it; for his is naturally exquisite, and highly cultivated from constant exercise. But I can see as many castles in the clouds as any man, as many genii in the curling smoke of a steam-engine, as perfect a Persepolis in the embers of a sea-coal fire. My life has been spent in such day-dreams. But I cry no roast-meat. There are times a man should remember what Rousseau used to say, Tait-toi, Jean Jacques, car on ne t’entend pas!

“Talking of Wordsworth, he told Anne a story, the object of which, as she understood it, was to show that Crabbe

* See Edinburgh Review, No. xxiii., p. 135.

had no imagination. Crabbe,
Sir George Beaumont, and Wordsworth were sitting together in Murray’s room in Albemarle Street. Sir George, after sealing a letter, blew out the candle which had enabled him to do so, and exchanging a look with Wordsworth, began to admire in silence the undulating thread of smoke which slowly arose from the expiring wick, when Crabbe put on the extinguisher. Anne laughed at the instance, and enquired if the taper was wax, and being answered in the negative, seemed to think that there was no call on Mr Crabbe to sacrifice his sense of smell to their admiration of beautiful and evanescent forms. In two other men I should have said ‘Why, it is affectations,’ with Sir Hugh Evans; ‘but Sir George is the man in the world most void of affectation; and then he is an exquisite painter, and no doubt saw where the incident would have succeeded in painting. The error is not in you yourself receiving deep impressions from slight hints, but in supposing that precisely the same sort of impression must arise in the mind of men, otherwise of kindred feeling, or that the common-place folk of the world can derive such inductions at any time or under any circumstances.

January 13.—The Fergusons, with my neighbours Mr Scrope and Mr Bainbridge, eat a haunch of venison from Drummond Castle, and seemed happy. We had music and a little dancing, and enjoyed in others the buoyancy of spirit that we no longer possess ourselves. Yet I do not think the young people of this age so gay as we were. There is a turn for persiflage, a fear of ridicule among them, which stifles the honest emotions of gaiety and lightness of spirit; and people, when they

* Merry Wives of Windsor, Act I. Scene 1.

give in the least to the expansion of their natural feelings, are always kept under by the fear of becoming ludicrous. To restrain your feelings and check your enthusiasm in the cause even of pleasure, is now a rule among people of fashion, as much as it used to be among philosophers.

Edinburgh, January 15.—Off we came, and in despite of rheumatism I got through the journey tolerably. Coming through Galashiels, we met the Laird of Torwoodlee, who, on hearing how long I had been confined, asked how I bore it, observing that he had once in his life—Torwoodlee must be between 60 and 70—been confined for five days to the house, and was like to hang himself. I regret God’s free air as much as any man, but I could amuse myself were it in the Bastile.

February 19.—Very cold weather. What says Dean Swift?
“When frost and snow come both together,
Then sit by the fire and save shoe leather.’
I read and wrote at the bitter account of the French retreat from Moscow, in 1812, till the little room and coal fire seemed snug by comparison. I felt cold in its rigour in my childhood and boyhood, but not since. In youth and middle life I was yet less sensible to it than now—but I remember thinking it worse than hunger. Uninterrupted to-day, and did eight leaves.*

March 3.—Very severe weather, and home covered with snow. White as a frosted plum-cake, by jingo. No matter; I am not sorry to find I can stand a brush of weather yet. I like to see Arthur’s Seat and the stern

* One page of his MS. answers to from four to five of the close-printed pages of the original edition of his Buonaparte.

old Castle with their white watch-cloaks on. But, as
Byron said to Moore, d——n it, Tom, don’t be poetical. I settled to Boney, and wrote right long and well.

Abbotsford, March 12.—Away we set, and came safely to Abbotsford amid all the dulness of a great thaw, which has set the rivers a streaming in full tide. The wind is high, but for my part
‘I like this rocking of the battlements.’*
I was received by old
Tom and the dogs with the unsophisticated feelings of good-will. I have been trying to read a new novel which I had heard praised. It is called Almacks, and the author has so well succeeded in describing the cold selfish fopperies of the time, that the copy is almost as dull as the original. I think I shall take up my bundle of Sheriff-Court processes instead of Almacks, as the more entertaining avocation of the two.

March 13.—Before breakfast, prepared and forwarded the processes to Selkirk. Had a pleasant walk to the thicket, though my ideas were olla-podrida-ish. I expect this will not be a day of work but of idleness, for my books are not come. Would to God I could make it light, thoughtless idleness, such as I used to have when the silly smart fancies ran in my brain like the bubbles in a glass of champagne,—as brilliant to my thinking, as intoxicating, as evanescent. But the wine is somewhat on the lees. Perhaps it was but indifferent cyder after all. Yet I am happy in this place, where every thing looks friendly, from old Tom to young Nym.† After all, he has little to complain of who has left so many things that like him.

* Zanga, in “The Revenge.”

† Nimrod—a stag-hound.

MARCH, APRIL, 1827. 9

“March 21.—Wrote till twelve, then out upon the heights, though the day was stormy, and faced the gale bravely. Tom Purdie was not with me. He would have obliged me to keep the sheltered ground. There is a touch of the old spirit in me yet, that bids me brave the tempest,—the spirit that, in spite of manifold infirmities, made me a roaring boy in my youth, a desperate climber, a bold rider, a deep drinker, and a stout player at single-stick, of all which valuable qualities there are now but slender remains. I worked hard when I came in, and finished five pages.

“March 26.—Despatched packets. Colonel and Captain Ferguson arrived to breakfast. I had previously determined to give myself a day to write letters; and this day will do as well as another. I cannot keep up with the world without shying a letter now and then. It is true the greatest happiness I could think of would be to be rid of the world entirely. Excepting my own family, I have little pleasure in the world, less business in it, and am heartily careless about all its concerns.

April 24.—Still deep snow a foot thick in the court-yard, I dare say. Severe welcome for the poor lambs now coming into the world. But what signifies whether they die just now, or a little while after to be united with sallad at luncheon time? It signifies a good deal too. There is a period, though a short one, when they dance among the gowans, and seem happy. As for your aged sheep or wether, the sooner they pass to the Norman side of the vocabulary, the better. They are like some old dowager ladies and gentlemen of my acquaintance—no one cares about them till they come to be cut up, and then we see how the tallow lies on the kidneys and the chine.


May 13.—A most idle and dissipated day. I did not rise till half-past eight o’clock. Col. and Capt. Ferguson came to breakfast. I walked half-way home with them, then turned back and spent the day, which was delightful, wandering from place to place in the woods, sometimes reading the new and interesting volumes of Cyril Thornton, sometimes ‘chewing the cud of sweet and bitter fancies’ which alternated in my mind, idly stirred by the succession of a thousand vague thoughts and fears, the gay strangely mingled with those of dismal melancholy; tears which seemed ready to flow unbidden; smiles which approached to those of insanity; all that wild variety of mood which solitude engenders. I scribbled some verses, or rather composed them in my memory. The contrast at leaving Abbotsford to former departures, is of an agitating and violent description. Assorting papers, and so forth. I never could help admiring the concatenation between Ahithophel’s setting his house in order and hanging himself.* The one seems to follow the other as a matter of course. But what frightens and disgusts me is those fearful letters from those who have been long dead, to those who linger on their wayfare through the valley of tears. Those fine lines of Spencer came into my head—
“The shade of youthful hope is there,
That lingered long, and latest died;
Ambition all dissolved to air,
With phantom honours by his side.
“What empty shadows glimmer nigh?
They once were Friendship, Truth, and Love!
Oh die to thought, to Memory die,
Since lifeless to my heart ye prove.Ӡ

* 2d Sam. xvii. 23.

Poems by the late Honourable W. R. Spencer, London, 1835, 45. See ante, vol. vi. p. 373, note.

MAY, 1827.11
Ay, and can I forget the Author the frightful moral of his own vision? What is this world?—a dream within a dream as we grow older—each step is an awakening. The youth awakes, as he thinks, from childhood—the full-grown man despises the pursuits of youth as visionary—the old man looks on manhood as a feverish dream. The grave the last sleep? No; it is the last and final awakening.

Edinburgh, May 15.—It is impossible not to compare this return to Edinburgh with others in more happy times. But we should rather recollect under what distress of mind I took up my lodgings in Mrs Brown’s last summer. Went to Court and resumed old habits. Heard the true history of ——* Imagination renders us liable to be the victims of occasional low spirits. All belonging to this gifted, as it is called, but often unhappy class, must have felt that but for the dictates of religion, or the natural recoil of the mind from the idea of dissolution, there have been times when they would have been willing to throw away life as a child does a broken toy. I am sure I know one who has often felt so. O God! what are we?—Lords of nature?—Why a tile drops from a house-top, which an elephant would not feel more than the fall of a sheet of pasteboard, and there lies his lordship. Or something of inconceivably minute origin, the pressure of a bone, or the inflammation of a particle of the brain takes place, and the emblem of the Deity destroys himself or some one else. We hold our health and our reason on terms slighter than one would desire, were it in their choice, to hold an Irish cabin.”

Sir Walter had this morning heard of the suicide of a man of warm imagination, to whom, at an earlier period, he was much attached.


These are melancholy entries. Most of those from which they have been selected begin with R. for Rheumatism, or RR. for Rheumatism Redoubled, and then mark the number of leaves sent to James Ballantyne—the proof-sheets corrected for press—or the calculations on which he reluctantly made up his mind to extend the Life of Buonaparte from six to seven, from seven to eight, and finally from eight to nine thick and closely printed volumes.

During the early months of 1827, however, he executed various minor tracts also; for the Quarterly Review, an article on Mackenzie’s Life and Works of John Home, author of Douglas, which is, in fact, a rich chapter of Scott’s own early reminiscences, and gives many interesting sketches of the literary society of Scotland in the age of which Mackenzie was the last honoured relic; and for the Foreign Review, then newly started under the editorship of Mr R. P. Gillies, an ingenious and elaborate paper on the writings of the German Novelist Hoffman. This article, it is proper to observe, was a benefaction to Mr Gillies, whose pecuniary affairs rendered such assistance very desirable. Scott’s generosity in this matter—for it was exactly giving a poor brother author L.100 at the expense of considerable time and drudgery to himself—I think it necessary to mention; the date of the exertion requires it of me. But such, in fact, had been in numberless instances his method of serving literary persons, who had little or no claim on him, except that they were of that class. I have not conceived it delicate to specify many instances of this kind; but I am at liberty to state, that when he wrote his first article for the Encyclopedia Supplement, and the Editor of that work, Mr Macvey Napier (a Whig in politics, and with whom he had hardly any personal acquaintance), brought
him L.100 as his remuneration, Sir Walter said, “Now tell me frankly, if I don’t take this money, does it go into your pocket or your publisher’s, for it is impossible for me to accept a penny of it from a literary brother.” Mr Napier assured him that the arrangements of the work were such, that the Editor had nothing to do with the fund destined for contributions:—Scott then pocketed his due, with the observation, that “he had trees to plant, and no conscience as to the purse of his fat friend”—to wit,

At this period, Sir Walter’s Diary very seldom mentions any thing that could be called a dinner-party. He and his daughter partook generally once in every week the family meal of Mr and Mrs Skene of Rubislaw; and they did the like occasionally with a few other old friends, chiefly those of the Clerks’ table. When an exception occurs, it is easy to see that the scene of social gaiety was doubly grateful from its rarity. Thus one entry, referring to a party at Mr J. A. Murray’s (now Lord Advocate for Scotland), says, “Went to dine with John Murray, where met his brother (Henderland), Jeffrey, Cockburn, Rutherford, and others of that file. Very pleasant—capital good cheer and excellent wine—much laugh and fun. I do not know how it is, but when I am out with a party of my Opposition friends, the day is often merrier than when with our own set. Is it because they are cleverer? Jeffrey and Harry Cockburn are to be sure very extraordinary men; yet it is not owing to that entirely. I believe both parties meet with the feeling of something like novelty. We have not worn out our jests in daily contact. There is also a disposition on such occasions to be courteous, and of course to be pleased.”

Another evening, spent in Rose Court with his old friend, Mr Clerk, seems to have given him especial de-
light. He says,—“This being a blank day at the Court, I wrote hard till dressing time, when I went to Will Clerk’s to dinner. As a bachelor, and keeping a small establishment, he does not do these things often, but they are proportionally pleasant when they come round. He had trusted
Sir Adam to bespeak his dinner, who did it con amore, so we had excellent cheer, and the wines were various and capital. As I before hinted, it is not every day that M’Nab mounts on horseback,* and so our landlord had a little of that solicitude that the party should go off well, which is very flattering to the guests. We had a very pleasant evening. The Chief Commissioner was there, Admiral Adam, J. A. Murray, Tom Thomson, &c. &c.—Sir Adam predominating at the head, and dancing what he calls his merry-andrada in great style. In short we really laughed, and real laughter is a thing as rare as real tears. I must say, too, there was a heart, a kindly feeling prevailed over the party. Can London give such a dinner?—it may, but I never saw one—they are too cold and critical to be easily pleased.—I hope the Bannatyne Club will be really useful and creditable. Thomson is superintending a capital edition of Sir James Melville’s Memoirs. It is brave to see how he wags his Scots tongue, and what a difference there is in the form and firmness of the language, compared to the mincing English edition in which he has hitherto been alone known.”

No wonder that it should be a sweet relief from Buonaparte and Blucher to see M’Nab on horseback, and Sir Adam Ferguson in his merry-andrada exaltation, and laugh over old Scotch stories with the Chief-Commis-

* That singular personage, the late M’Nab of that ilk, spent his life almost entirely in a district where a boat was the usual conveyance. I suspect, however, there is an allusion to some particular anecdote which I have not recovered.

sioner, and hear
Mr Thomas Thomson report progress as to the doings of the Bannatyne Club. But I apprehend every reader will see that Sir Walter was misled by his own modesty, when he doubted whether London could afford symposia of the same sort, He forgets that he had never mixed in the society of London except in the capacity of a stranger, a rare visiter, the unrivalled literary marvel of the time, and that every party at which he dined was got up expressly on his account, and constituted, whoever might be the landlord, on the natural principle of bringing together as many as the table could hold—to see and hear Sir Walter Scott. Hence, if he dined with a Minister of State, he was likely to find himself seated with half the Cabinet—if with a Bishop, half the Bench had been collected. As a matter of course, every man was anxious to gratify on so rare an occasion as many as he could of those who, in case they were uninvited, would be likely to reproach him for the omission. The result was a crowding together of too many rival eminences; and he very seldom, indeed, witnessed the delightful result so constantly produced in London by the intermingling of distinguished persons of various classes, full of facts and views new to each other—and neither chilled nor perplexed by the pernicious and degrading trickery of lionizing. But, besides, it was unfair to institute any comparison between the society of comparative strangers and that of old friends dear from boyhood. He could not have his Clerks and Fergusons both in Edinburgh and in London. Enough, however, of commentary on a very plain text.

That season was further enlivened by one public dinner, and this, though very briefly noticed in Scott’s Diary, occupied a large space in public attention at the time, and, I believe I may add, several columns in
every newspaper printed in Europe. His good friend
William Murray, manager of the Edinburgh Theatre, invited him to preside at the first festival of a charitable fund then instituted for the behoof of decayed performers. He agreed, and says in his Journal—“There are 300 tickets given out. I fear it will be uncomfortable; and whatever the stoics may say, a bad dinner throws cold water on charity. I have agreed to preside, a situation in which I have been rather felicitous, not by much superiority of art or wisdom, far less of eloquence; but by two or three simple rules, which I put down here for the benefit of my posterity.

“1st, Always hurry the bottle round for five or six rounds, without prosing yourself or permitting others to prose. A slight filip of wine inclines people to be pleased, and removes the nervousness which prevents men from speaking—disposes them; in short, to be amusing and to be amused.

“2d, Push on, keep moving, as Young Rapid says.* Do not think of saying fine things—nobody cares for them any more than for fine music, which is often too liberally bestowed on such occasions. Speak at all ventures, and attempt the mot pour rire. You will find people satisfied with wonderfully indifferent jokes, if you can but hit the taste of the company, which depends much on its character. Even a very high party, primed with all the cold irony and non est tanti feelings or no feelings of fashionable folks, may be stormed by a jovial, rough, round, and ready preses. Choose your text with discretion—the sermon may be as you like. Should a drunkard or an ass break in with any thing out of joint, if you can parry it with a jest, good and well—if not, do not exert your serious authority, unless it is something very bad. The authority even of a chair-

* Morton’s comedy of A Cure for the Heart-Ache.

man ought to be very cautiously exercised. With patience you will have the support of every one.

“3dly, When you have drunk a few glasses to play the good-fellow, and banish modesty—(if you are unlucky enough to have such a troublesome companion)—then beware of the cup too much. Nothing is so ridiculous as a drunken preses.

“Lastly, always speak short, and Skeoch dock na skiel—cut a tale with a drink.
This is the purpose and intent
Of gude Schir Walter’s testament.”*

This dinner took place on Friday the 23d February. Sir Walter took the chair, being supported by the Earl of Fife, Lord Meadowbank, Sir John Hope of Pinkie, Admiral Adam, Robert Dundas of Arniston, Peter Robertson, and many other personal friends. Lord Meadowbank had come on short notice, and was asked abruptly on his arrival to take a toast which had been destined for a noble person who had not been able to appear. He knew that this was the first public dinner at which the object of this toast had appeared since his misfortunes, and taking him aside in the anteroom, asked him whether he would consider it indelicate to hazard a distinct reference to the parentage of the Waverley Novels, as to which there had, in point of fact, ceased to be any obscurity from the hour of Constable’s failure. Sir Walter smiled, and said, “Do just as you like only don’t say much about so old a story.”—In the course of the evening the Judge rose accordingly and said—†

* Sir Walter parodies the conclusion of King Robert the Bruce’s “Maxims, or Political Testament.” See Hailes’s Annals, A. D. 1311,—or Fordun’s Scoti-chronicon,—XII. 10.

† By the favour of a friend, who took notes at this dinner, I am enabled to give a better report of these speeches than that of the contemporary newspapers.


“I would beg leave to propose a toast—the health of one of the Patrons, a great and distinguished individual, whose name must always stand by itself, and which, in an assembly such as this, or in any other assembly of Scotsmen, must ever be received, I will not say with ordinary feelings of pleasure or of delight, but with those of rapture and enthusiasm. In doing this I feel that I stand in a somewhat new situation. Whoever had been called upon to propose the health of my Hon. Friend some time ago, would have found himself enabled, from the mystery in which certain matters were involved, to gratify himself and his auditors by allusions sure to find a responding chord in their own feelings, and to deal in the language, the sincere language, of panegyric, without intruding on the modesty of the great individual to whom I refer. But it is no longer possible, consistently with the respect due to my auditors, to use upon this subject terms either of mystification, or of obscure or indirect allusion. The clouds have been dispelled—the darkness visible has been cleared away—and the Great Unknown—the minstrel of our native land—the mighty magician who has rolled back the current of time, and conjured up before our living senses the men and the manners of days which have long passed away, stands revealed to the eyes and the hearts of his affectionate and admiring countrymen. If I were capable of imagining all that belongs to this mighty subject—were I able to give utterance to all that as a man, as a Scotsman, and as a friend, I must feel regarding it, yet knowing, as I well do, that this illustrious individual is not more distinguished for his towering talents, than for those feelings which render such allusions ungrateful to himself, however sparingly introduced, I would on that account still refrain from doing what would otherwise be no less pleasing to myself than to those who hear me. But this I hope I may be allowed to say—(my auditors would not pardon me were I to say less)—we owe to him, as a people, a large and heavy debt of gratitude. He it is who has opened to foreigners the grand and characteristic beauties of our country. It is to him that we owe that our gallant ancestors and illustrious patriots—who fought and bled in order to obtain and secure that independence and that liberty we now enjoy—have obtained a fame no longer confined to the boundaries of a remote and comparatively obscure country—it is He who has called down upon their struggles for glory and freedom the admiration of foreign lands. He it is who has conferred a new reputation on our national character, and bestowed on Scotland an imperishable name, were it only by her having given birth to himself. I propose the health of Sir Walter Scott.”


Long before Lord Meadowbank ceased speaking, the company had got upon chairs and tables, and the storm of applause that ensued was deafening. When they recovered from the first fever of their raptures, Sir Walter spoke as follows:

“I certainly did not think, in coming here to-day, that I should have the task of acknowledging, before 300 gentlemen, a secret which, considering that it was communicated to more than twenty people, has been remarkably well kept. I am now at the bar of my country, and may be understood to be on trial before Lord Meadowbank as an offender; and so quietly did all who were airt and pairt conduct themselves, that I am sure that, were the panel now to stand on his defence, every impartial jury would bring in a verdict of Not Proven. I am willing, however, to plead guilty—nor shall I detain the Court by a long explanation why my confession has been so long deferred. Perhaps caprice might have a considerable share in the matter. I have now to say, however, that the merits of these works, if they had any, and their faults, are all entirely imputable to myself. Like another Scottish criminal of more consequence, one Macbeth,
‘I am afraid to think what I have done;
Look on’t again, I dare not,’

“I have thus far unbosomed myself, and I know that my confession will be reported to the public. I mean, then, seriously to state, that when I say I am the author, I mean the total and undivided author. With the exception of quotations, there is not a single word that was not derived from myself, or suggested in the course of my reading. The wand is now broken, and the book buried. You will allow me further to say, with Prospero, it is your breath that has filled my sails, and to crave one single toast in the capacity of the author of these novels. I would fain dedicate a bumper to the health of one who has represented several of those characters, of which I had endeavoured to give the skeleton, with a truth and liveliness for which I may well be grateful. I beg leave to propose the health of my friend Bailie Nicol Jarvie—and I am sure, that when the author of Waverley and Rob Roy drinks to Nicol Jarvie, it will be received with the just applause to which that gentleman has always been accustomed, nay, that you will take care that on the present occasion it shall be pro—di—gi—ous!” (Long and vehement applause.)


Mr Mackay,—“My conscience! My worthy father the deacon could never have believed that his son would hae sic a compliment paid to him by the Great Unknown!”

Sir Walter Scott.—“The Small Known now, Mr Bailie,” & &c.

Shortly after resuming his chair, Sir Walter (I am told) sent a slip of paper to Mr Robertson, begging him to “confess something too,—why not the murder of Begbie?” (See ante, Vol. III. p. 53.) But if Peter complied with the hint, it was long after the senior dignitaries had left the room.

The “sensation” produced by this scene was, in newspaper phrase, “unprecedented.” Sir Walter’s Diary merely says—“February 24.—I carried my own instructions into effect the best I could, and if our jests were not good, our laughter was abundant. I think I will hardly take the chair again when the company is so miscellaneous; though they all behaved perfectly well. Meadowbank taxed me with the novels, and to end that farce at once, I pleaded guilty, so that splore is ended. As to the collection—it has been much cry and little woo, as the deil said when he shore the sow. I got away at ten at night. The performers performed very like gentlemen, especially Will Murray.—March 2.—Clerk walked home with me from the Court. I was scarce able to keep up with him; could once have done it well enough. Funny thing at the Theatre last night. Among the discourse in High Life below Stairs, one of the ladies’ ladies asks who wrote Shakspeare. One says ‘Ben Jonson,’ another ‘Finis.’ ‘No,’ said Will Murray, ‘it is Sir Walter Scott, he confessed it at a public meeting the other day.’”

The reader may, perhaps, expect that I should endeavour to name the “upwards of twenty persons” whom Sir Walter alluded to on this occasion as having been
put into the secret of the
Waverley Novels, previously, and without reference, to the catastrophe of 1826. I am by no means sure that I can give the complete list: but in addition to the immediate members of the author’s own family (including his mother and his brother Thomas) there were Constable, Cadell, the two Ballantynes, Terry, Laidlaw, Mr Train, and Mr G. H. Gordon; Charles Duke of Buccleuch, Lady Louisa Stuart, Lord Montagu, Lord and Lady Polwarth, Lord Kinnedder, Sir Adam Ferguson, Mr Morritt, Mr and Mrs Skene, Mr William Clerk, Mr Hay Donaldson, Mr John Richardson, and Mr Thomas Moore.

The entries in Scott’s Diary on contemporary literature are at this time very few; nor are there many on the public events of the day, though the period was a very stirring one. He seems, in fact, to have very rarely seen, even when in town, any newspaper except the Edinburgh Weekly Journal. At his age, it is not wonderful that when that sheet reached him it for the most part contained the announcement of a death which interested his feelings; and several of the following passages refer to incidents of this melancholy class:—

January 9.—This morning received the long-expected news of the Duke of York’s death. I am sorry both on public and private accounts. His R. H. was, while he occupied the situation of next in succession, a Break-water behind the throne. I fear his brother of Clarence’s opinions may be different, and that he may hoist a standard under which men of desperate hopes and evil designs will rendezvous. I am sorry, too, on my own account. The Duke of York was uniformly kind to me, and though I never tasked his friendship, yet I find a powerful friend is gone. His virtues were
honour, good sense, integrity; and by exertion of these qualities, he raised the British army from a very low ebb to be the pride and dread of Europe. His errors were those of a sanguine and social temper—he could not resist the temptation of deep play, which was fatally allied with a disposition to the bottle. This last is incident to his complaint, which vinous influence soothes for the time, while it insidiously increases it in the end.

January 17.—I observe in the papers my old friend Gifford’s funeral. He was a man of rare attainments and many excellent qualities. His Juvenal is one of the best versions ever made of a classical author, and his satire of the Baviad and Mæviad squabashed at one blow a set of coxcombs, who might have humbugged the world long enough. As a commentator he was capital, could he but have suppressed his rancours against those who had preceded him in the task; but a misconstruction or misinterpretation, nay, the misplacing of a comma was, in Gifford’s eyes, a crime worthy of the most severe animadversion. The same fault of extreme severity went through his critical labours, and in general he flagellated with so little pity, that people lost their sense of the criminal’s guilt in dislike of the savage pleasure which the executioner seemed to take in inflicting the punishment. This lack of temper probably arose from indifferent health, for he was very valetudinary, and realized two verses, wherein he says Fortune assigned him—
——‘One eye not over good,
Two sides that to their cost have stood
A ten years’ hectic cough,
Aches, stitches, all the various ills
That swell the devilish doctor’s bills,
And sweep poor mortals off.’
But he might also justly claim, as his gift, the moral qualities expressed in the next fine stanza—
————————‘A soul
That spurns the crowd’s malign control,
A firm contempt of wrong;
Spirits above affliction’s power,
And skill to soothe the lingering hour
With no inglorious song.’
He was a little man, dumpled up together, and so ill made as to seem almost deformed, but with a singular expression of talent in his countenance. Though so little of an athlete, he nevertheless beat off
Dr Wolcott, when that celebrated person, the most unsparing calumniator of his time, chose to be offended with Gifford for satirizing him in his turn. Peter Pindar made a most vehement attack, but Gifford had the best of the affray,* and remained, I think, in triumphant possession of the field of action, and of the assailant’s cane. G. had one singular custom. He used always to have a duenna of a housekeeper to sit in his study with him while he wrote. This female companion died when I was in London, and his distress was extreme. I afterwards heard he got her place supplied. I believe there was no scandal in all this.

“This is another vile day of darkness and rain, with a heavy yellow mist that might become Charing Cross—one of the benefits of our extended city; for that in our atmosphere was unknown till the extent of the buildings below Queen Street.

January 28.—Hear of Miss White’s death. Poor Lydia! she gave a dinner on the Friday before, and had written with her own hand invitations for another party.

* See Epistle to Peter Pindar, Gifford’s Baviad and Mæviad, pp. 181-191, ed. 1812.

Twenty years ago she used to tease me with her youthful affectations—her dressing like the Queen of Chimney-sweeps on May-day morning, &c.—and sometimes with letting her wit run wild. But she was a woman of wit, and had a feeling and kind heart. Poor Lydia! I saw the
Duke of York and her in London, when Death, it seems, was brandishing his dart over them.
‘The view o’t gave them little fright.’

February 10.—I got a present of Lord Francis Gower’s printed but unpublished Tale of the Mill. It is a fine tale of terror in itself, and very happily brought out. He has certainly a true taste for poetry. I do not know why, but from my childhood I have seen something fearful, or melancholy at least, about a mill. Whether I had been frightened at the machinery when very young, of which, I think, I have some shadowy remembrance—whether I had heard the stories of the Miller of Thirlestane, and similar molendinar tragedies, I cannot tell; but not even recollections of the Lass of Patie’s Mill, or the Miller of Mansfield, or ‘he who dwelt on the river Dee,’ have ever got over my inclination to connect gloom with a mill, especially when the sun is setting. So I entered into the spirit of the terror with which Lord Francis has invested his haunted spot.

February 14.—‘Death’s gi’en the art an unco devel.’* Sir George Beaumont’s dead; by far the most sensible and pleasing man I ever knew, kind, too, in his nature, and generous—gentle in society, and of those mild manners which tend to soften the causticity of the general London tone of persiflage and personal satire. As an amateur painter, he was of the very highest dis-
* “Death’s gi’en the lodge an unco devel,
Tam Sampson’s dead.”—Burns.
tinction; and though I know nothing of the matter, yet I should hold him a perfect critic on painting, for he always made his criticisms intelligible, and used no slang. I am very sorry—as much as it is in my nature to be for one whom I could see but seldom. He was the great friend of
Wordsworth, and understood his poetry, which is a rare thing, for it is more easy to see his peculiarities than to feel his great merit, or follow his abstract ideas.

“A woman of rather the better class, a farmer’s wife, was tried a few days ago for poisoning her maid-servant. There seems to have been little doubt of her guilt, but the motive was peculiar. The unfortunate girl had an intrigue with her son, which this Mrs Smith (I think that is the name) was desirous to conceal, from some ill-advised Puritanic notions, and also for fear of her husband. She could find no better way of hiding the shame than giving the girl (with her own knowledge and consent, I believe) potions to cause abortion, which she afterwards changed for arsenic, as the more effectual silencing medicine. In the course of the trial one of the jury fell down in an epileptic fit, and on his recovery was far too much disordered to permit the trial to proceed. With only fourteen jurymen, it was impossible to go on. The Advocate says she shall be tried anew, since she has not tholed ane assize. Sic Paulus ait—et recte quidem. But, having been half-tried, I think she should have some benefit of it, as far as saving her life, if convicted on the second indictment. Lord Advocate declares, however, that she shall be hanged, as certainly she deserves. Yet it looks something like hanging up a man who has been recovered by the surgeons, which has always been accounted harsh justice.

February 20.—At Court, and waited to see the poi-
soiling woman tried. She is clearly guilty, but as one or two witnesses said the poor wench hinted an intention to poison herself, the jury gave that bastard verdict, Not proven. I hate that Caledonian medium quid. One who is not proved guilty, is innocent in the eyes of law. It was a face to do or die, or perhaps to do to die. Thin features, which had been handsome, a flashing eye, an acute and aquiline nose, lips much marked as arguing decision, and I think, bad temper—they were thin, and habitually compressed, rather turned down at the corners, as one of a rather melancholy disposition. There was an awful crowd; but, sitting within the bar, I had the pleasure of seeing much at my ease; the constables knocking the other folks about, which was of course very entertaining.

“I have a letter from Baron Von Goethe, which I must have read to me; for though I know German, I have forgot their written hand. I make it a rule seldom to read, and never to answer foreign letters from literary folks. It leads to nothing but the battledore and shuttle-cock intercourse of compliments, as light as cork and feathers. But Goethe is different, and a wonderful fellow, the Ariosto at once, and almost the Voltaire of Germany. Who could have told me thirty years ago I should correspond and be on something like an equal footing with the author of the Goetz? Ay, and who could have told me fifty things else that have befallen me?”

Goethe’s letter (as nearly as the Editor can render it) runs thus:

To Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Edinburgh.
“Weimar, January 12th, 1827.

“Mr H——, well known to me as a collector of
objects of art, has given me a likeness, I hope authentic and accurate, of the late
Lord Byron, and it awakens anew the sorrow which I could not but feel for the loss of one whom all the world prized, and I in particular: since how could I fail to be delighted with the many expressions of partiality for me which his writings contain?

“Mean-time the best consolation for us, the survivors, is to look around us, and consider, that as the departed is not alone, but has joined the noble spiritual company of high-hearted men, capable of love, friendship, and confidence that had left this sphere before him, so we have still kindred spirits on earth, with whom, though not visible any more than the blessed shades of past ages, we have a right to feel a brotherlike connexion which is indeed our richest inheritance.

“And so, as Mr H—— informs me he expects to be soon in Edinburgh, I thus acquit myself, mine honoured sir, of a duty which I had long ago felt to be incumbent on me—to acknowledge the lively interest I have during many years taken in your wonderful pictures of human life. I have not wanted external stimulants enough to keep my attention awake on this subject, since not only have translations abounded in the German, but the works are largely read here in the original, and valued according as different men are capable of comprehending their spirit and genius.

“Can I remember that such a man in his youth made himself acquainted with my writings, and even (unless I have been misinformed) introduced them in part to the knowledge of his own nation, and yet defer any longer, at my now very advanced years, to express my sense of such an honour? It becomes me, on the contrary, not to lose the opportunity now offered of praying for a continuance of your kindly regard, and telling you how
much a direct assurance of good-will from your own hand would gratify my old age.

“With high and grateful respect, I salute you,

This letter might well delight Scott. His answer to it I have not seen, but Goethe, in writing soon afterwards to his friend Mr Thomas Carlyle (the translator of his Wilhelm Meister), described it as “cheering and warm-hearted.”

I now insert a few entries from Sir Walter’s Diary, intermixed with extracts from his letters to myself and Mr Morritt, which will give the reader sufficient information as to the completion of his Life of Buonaparte, and also as to his impressions on hearing of the illness of Lord Liverpool, the consequent dissolution of his Cabinet, and the formation of a new Ministry under Mr Canning.

Diary—“February 21.—Lord Liverpool is ill of an apoplexy. I am sorry for it. He will be missed. Who will be got for Premier? If Peel would consent to be made a peer, he would do; but I doubt his ambition will prefer the House of Commons. Wrought a good deal.

April 16.—A day of work and exercise. In the evening a letter from L. with the wonderful news that the Ministry has broken up, and apparently for no cause that any one can explain. The old grudge, I suppose, which has gone on like a crack in the side of a house, enlarging from day to day, till down goes the whole——”

CANNING, &c.—APRIL, 1827. 29
To J. G. Lockhart, Esq., Wimbledon.

* * * * * “Your letter has given me the vertigo—my head turns round like a chariot-wheel, and I am on the point of asking
‘Why, how now? Am I Giles, or am I not?’
The Duke of Wellington out?—bad news at home, and worse abroad.
Lord Anglesea in his situation? does not much mend the matter. Duke of Clarence in the Navy? wild work. Lord Melville, I suppose, falls of course—perhaps cum totâ sequelâ, about which sequela, unless Sir W. Rae and the Solicitor, I care little. The whole is glamour to one who reads no papers, and has none to read. I must get one, though, if this work is to go on, for it is quite bursting in ignorance. Canning is haughty and prejudiced but, I think, honourable as well as able—nous verrons. I fear Croker will shake, and heartily sorry I should feel for that.” * * * * *

Diary—“April 25.—I have now got Bony pegg’d up in the knotty entrails of Saint Helena, and may make a short pause. So I finished the review of John Home’s works, which, after all, are poorer than I thought them. Good blank verse, and stately sentiment, but something luke-warmish, excepting Douglas, which is certainly a master-piece. Even that does not stand the closet. Its merits are for the stage; and it is certainly one of the best acting plays going. Perhaps a play to act well should not be too poetical.

April 26.—The snow still profusely distributed, and the surface, as our hair used to be in youth, after we had played at some active game, half black, half white, all in large patches. I finished the criticism on Home,
adding a string of Jacobite anecdotes, like that which boys put to a kite’s tail. Received a great cargo of papers from
Bernadotte, some curious, and would have been inestimable two months back, but now my task is almost done. And then my feelings for poor Count Itterberg, the lineal and legitimate, make me averse to have much to do with this child of the revolution.”

To J. G. Lockhart, Esq.
April 26.

“The news you send is certainly the most wonderful of my time, in a party point of view, especially as I can’t but think all has turned on personal likings and dislikings. I hope they won’t let in the Whigs at the breach, for I suppose, if Lansdowne come in, he must be admitted with a tail on, and Lauderdale will have the weight in Scotland. How our tough Tories may like that, I wot not; but they will do much to keep the key of the corn-chest within reach. The Advocate has not used me extremely kindly, but I shall be sorry if he suffers in this State tempest. For me, I remain, like the Lilliputian poet—‘In amaze—Lost I gaze’—or rather as some other bard sings
‘So folks beholding at a distance
Seven men flung out of a casement,
They never stir to their assistance,
But just afford them their amazement.’*
—You ask why the wheels of
Napoleon tarry; not by my fault, I swear;
‘We daily are jogging,
While whistling and flogging,
While whistling and flogging,
The coachman drives on,
With a hey hoy, gee up gee ho,’ &c. &c. &c.

* Crazy Tales, by John Hall Stevenson.

To use a more classical simile
‘Wilds immeasurably spread
Seem lengthening as I go.’*
I have just got some very curious papers from Sweden. I have wrought myself blind between writing and collating, and, except about three or four hours for food and exercise, I have not till to-day devauled from my task. . . . .
O, Bony, I’ll owe you a curse, if Hereafter
To my vision your tyrannous spectre shall show,
But I doubt you’ll be pinned on old Nick’s reddest rafter,
While the vulgar of Tophet howl back from below. . . .
I shall, however, displease Ultras such as
Croker, on the subject of Bony, who was certainly a great man, though far from a good man, and still farther from a good king. But the stupidest Roitelet in Europe has his ambition and selfishness, and where will you find his talents? I own I think Ultra-writing only disgusts people, unless it is in the way of a downright invective, and that in history you had much better keep the safe side, and avoid colouring too highly. After all, I suspect, were Croker in presence of Bony to-morrow, he might exclaim, as Captain T. did at one of the Elba levees, ‘Well, Bony’s a d——d good fellow after all.’”

To the Same.
“Abbotsford, May 10, 1827.

. . . “To speak seriously of these political movements, I cannot say that I approve of the dissidents. I understand Peel had from the King carte blanche for an Anti-Catholic Administration, and that he could not accept it because there was not strength enough to form such. What is this but saying in plain

* Goldsmith’s Hermit.

words that the Catholics had the country and the Question? And because they are defeated in a single question, and one which, were it to entail no farther consequences, is of wonderfully little import, they have abandoned the King’s service—given up the citadel because an exterior work was carried, and marched out into Opposition. I can’t think this was right. They ought either to have made a stand without
Canning, or a stand with him; for to abdicate as they have done was the way to subject the country to all the future experiments which this Catholic Emancipation may lead those that now carry it to attempt, and which may prove worse, far worse, than any thing connected with the Question itself. Thus says the old Scotch Tory. But I for one do not believe it was the question of Emancipation, or any public question, which carried them out. I believe the predominant motive in the bosom of every one of them was personal hostility to Canning, and that with more prudence, less arbitrary manners, and more attention to the feelings of his colleagues, he would have stepped nem. con. into the situation of Prime Minister, for which his eloquence and talent naturally point him out. They objected to the man more than the statesman, and the Duke of Wellington, more frank than the rest, almost owns that the quarrel was personal. Now, acting upon that, which was, I am convinced, the real ground, I cannot think the dissidents acted well and wisely. It is very possible that they might not have been able to go on with Canning; but I think they were bound, as loyal subjects and patriots, to ascertain that continuing in the Cabinet with him as Premier was impossible, before they took a step which may change the whole policy, perhaps eventually the whole destiny of the realm, and lead to the prevalence of those principles which the dis-
CANNING, &c.—MAY, 1827.33
sidents have uniformly represented as destructive to the interests of Britain. I think they were bound to have made a trial before throwing Canning, and alas! both the King and the country, into the hand of the Whigs. These are the sort of truths more visible to the lookers-on than to those who play.

“As for Canning, with his immense talent, wit, and eloquence, he unhappily wants prudence and patience, and in his eager desire to scramble to the highest point, is not sufficiently select as to his assistants. The Queen’s affair is an example of this—Lord Castlereagh’s was another. In both he threw himself back by an over-eager desire to press forward, and something of the kind must have been employed now. It cannot be denied that he has placed himself (perhaps more from compulsion than choice) in a situation which greatly endangers his character. Still, however, he has that character to maintain, and unluckily it is all we have to rest upon as things go. The sons of Zeruiah would be otherwise too many for us. It is possible, though I doubt it, that the Whigs will be satisfied with their share of orts and grains, and content themselves with feeding out of the trough without overturning it. My feeling, were I in the House of Commons, would lead me to stand up and declare that I supported Canning so far, and so far only, as he continued to preserve and maintain the principles which he had hitherto professed—that my allegiance could not be irredeemably pledged to him, because his camp was filled with those against whom I had formerly waged battle under his command—that, however, it should not be mere apprehension of evil that would make me start off—reserving to myself to do what should be called for when the crisis arrived. I think if a number of intelligent and able men were to hold by Canning on these grounds, they might yet enable him to
collect a Tory force around him, sufficient to check at least, if not on all points to resist the course of innovation. If my old friend is wise he will wish to organize such a force, for nothing is more certain than that if the champion of Anti-Jacobinism should stoop to become the tool of the Whigs, it is not all his brilliancy of talents, eloquence and wit, which can support him in such a glaring want of consistency. Meliora spero. I do not think Canning can rely on his Whig confederates, and some door of reconciliation may open itself as unexpectedly as the present confusion has arisen.”

DiaryMay 11.—The Boar of the Forest called this morning to converse about trying to get him on the pecuniary list of the Royal Literary Society. Certainly he deserves it, if genius and necessity can do so. But I do not belong to the society, nor do I propose to enter it as a coadjutor. I do not like your royal academies of this kind; they almost always fall into jobs, and the members are seldom those who do credit to the literature of a country. It affected, too, to comprehend those men of letters who are specially attached to the Crown, and though I love and honour my King as much as any of them can, yet I hold it best, in this free country, to preserve the exterior of independence, that my loyalty may be the more impressive, and tell more effectually. Yet I wish sincerely to help poor Hogg, and have written to Lockhart about it. It may be my own desolate feelings—it may be the apprehension of evil from this political hocus-pocus; but I have seldom felt more moody and uncomfortable than while writing these lines. I have walked, too, but without effect. W. Laidlaw, whose very ingenious mind is delighted with all novelties, talked
MAY, 1827.35
nonsense about the new government, in which men are to resign principle, I fear, on both sides.

“Parliament House a queer sight. Looked as if people were singing to each other the noble song of ‘The sky’s falling chickie diddle.’ Thinks I to myself, I’ll keep a calm sough.
‘Betwixt both sides I unconcerned stand by—
Hurt can I laugh, and harmless need I cry?’

May 15,—I dined at a great dinner given by Sir George Clerk to his electors, the freeholders of Mid-Lothian; a great attendance of Whig and Tory, huzzaing each other’s toasts. If is a good peace-maker, but quarter-day is a better. I have a guess the best gamecocks would call a truce, if a handful or two of oats were scattered among them.

May 27.—I got ducked in coming home from the Court. Made a hard day of it. Scarce stirred from one room to another, but by bed-time finished a handsome handful of copy. I have quoted Gourgaud’s evidence; I suppose he will be in a rare passion, and may be addicted to vengeance, like a long-moustached son of a French bitch as he is.
‘Frenchman, Devil, or Don,
Damn him let him come on,
He shan’t scare a son of the Island.’*

May 28.—Another day of uninterrupted study; two such would finish the work with a murrain. What shall I have to think of when I lie down at night and awake in the morning? What will be my plague and my pastime—my curse and my blessing—as ideas come and the pulse rises, or as they flag and something like a snow-haze covers my whole imagination?—I have my Highland

* Sir W. varies a verse of “The tight little Island.”

Tales—and then—never mind—sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.—Letter from
John touching public affairs; don’t half like them, and am afraid we shall have the Whig alliance turn out like the calling in of the Saxons. I told this to Jeffrey, who said they would convert us as the Saxons did the British. I shall die in my Paganism for one. I don’t like a bone of them as a party. Ugly reports of the King’s health; God pity this poor country should that be so, but I hope it is a thing devised by the enemy.

June 3.—Wrought hard. I thought I had but a trifle to do, but new things cast up; we get beyond the Life, however, for I have killed him to-day. The newspapers are very saucy; the Sun says I have got L.4000 for suffering a Frenchman to look over my manuscript. Here is a proper fellow for you! I wonder what he thinks Frenchmen are made of—walking money-bags, doubtless. ‘Now,’ as Sir Fretful Plagiary says, ‘another person would be vexed at this,’ but I care not one brass farthing.

June 5.—Proofs. Parliament-House till two. Commenced the character of Buonaparte. To-morrow being a Teind-day, I may hope to get it finished.

June 10.—Rose with the odd consciousness of being free of my daily task. I have heard that the fish-women go to church of a Sunday with their creels new washed, and a few stones in them for ballast, just because they cannot walk steadily without their usual load. I feel something like them, and rather inclined to take up some light task, than to be altogether idle. I have my proof-sheets, to be sure; but what are these to a whole day? A good thought came in my head to write Stories for little Johnnie Lockhart, from the History of Scot-
land, like those taken from the
History of England. But I will not write mine quite so simply as Croker has done. I am persuaded both children and the lower class of readers hate books which are written down to their capacity, and love those that are composed more for their elders and betters. I will make, if possible, a book that a child shall understand, yet a man will feel some temptation to peruse should he chance to take it up. It will require, however, a simplicity of style not quite my own. The grand and interesting consists in ideas, not in words. A clever thing of this kind might have a race.”

To John B. S. Morritt, Esq., Portland Place, London.
“Edinburgh, June 10, 1327.

Napoleon has been an absolute millstone about my neck, not permitting me for many a long day to think my own thoughts, to work my own work, or to write my own letters—which last clause of prohibition has rendered me thus long your debtor. I am now finished—valeat quod valere potest—and as usual not very anxious about the opinion of the public, as I have never been able to see that such anxiety has any effect in mollifying the minds of the readers, while it renders that of the author very uncomfortable—so vogue la galère.

“How are you, as a moderate pro-Catholic, satisfied with this strange alliance in the Cabinet? I own I look upon it with doubt at best, and with apprehensions. At the same time I cannot approve of the late Ministers leaving the King’s councils in such a hurry. They could hardly suppose that Canning’s fame, talent, and firm disposition would be satisfied with less than the condition of Premier, and such being the case—
‘To fly the boar before the boar pursued,
Was to incense the boar to follow them.’*
On the other hand, his allying himself so closely and so hastily with the party against whom he had maintained war from youth to age seems to me, at this distance, to argue one of two things;—either that the Minister has been hoodwinked by ambition and anger—that he looks upon the attachment of those gentlemen to the opinions which he has always opposed as so slight, unsubstantial, and unreal, that they will not insist upon them, or any of them, provided they are gratified personally with a certain portion of the benefits of place and revenue. Now, not being disposed to think over well of the Whigs, I cannot suppose that a large class of British statesmen, not deficient certainly in talents, can be willing to renounce all the political maxims and measures which they have been insisting upon for thirty years, merely to become placeholders under Canning. The supposition is too profligate. But then if they come in the same Whigs we have known them, where, how, or when are they to execute their favourite notions of Reform of Parliament? and what sort of amendments will they be which are to be brought forward when the proper time comes? or how is Canning to conduct himself when the Saxons, whom he has called in for his assistance, draw out to fight for a share of the power which they have assisted him to obtain? When such strange and unwonted bedfellows are packed up together, will they not kick and struggle for the better share of the coverlid and blankets? Perhaps you will say that I look gloomily on all this, and have forgotten the way of the world, which sooner or later shows that the principles of statesmen are regulated by their advance towards; or retreat from

* King Richard III. Act. III. Sc. 2.

power; and that from men who are always acting upon the emergencies of the moment, it is in vain to expect consistency. Perfect consistency, I agree, we cannot look for—it is inconsistent with humanity. But that gross inconsistency which induces men to clasp to their bosom the man whom they most hated, and to hold up to admiration the principles which they have most forcibly opposed, may gain a temporary triumph, but will never found a strong Ministry or a settled Government. My old friend Canning, with his talents and oratory, ought not, I think, to have leagued himself with any party, but might have awaited, well assured that the general voice must have carried him into full possession of power. I am sorry he has acted otherwise, and argue no good from it, though when or how the evil is to come I cannot pretend to say.

“My best compliments wait on your fireside. I conclude you see Lady Louisa Stuart very often, which is a happiness to be envied. . . . . .

Ever yours, most kindly,

I received, some years ago, from a very modest and intelligent young man, the late Mr Robert Hogg (a nephew of the Ettrick Shepherd), employed in 1827 as reader in Ballantyne’s printing-office, a letter for which this is perhaps the most proper place.

To J. G. Lockhart, Esq.
“Edinburgh, 16th February, 1833.

“Having been for a few days employed by Sir Walter Scott, when he was finishing his Life of Buonaparte, to copy papers connected with that work, and to
write occasionally to his dictation, it may perhaps be in my power to mention some circumstances relative to Sir Walter’s habits of composition, which could not fall under the observation of any one except a person in the same situation with myself, and which are therefore not unlikely to pass altogether without notice.

“When, at Sir Walter’s request, I waited upon him to be informed of the business in which he needed my assistance, after stating it, he asked me if I was an early riser, and added that it would be no great hardship for me, being a young man, to attend him the next morning at six o’clock. I was punctual, and found Sir Walter already busy writing. He appointed my tasks, and again sat down at his own desk. We continued to write during the regular work hours till six o’clock in the evening, without interruption, except to take breakfast and dinner, which were served in the room beside us, so that no time was lost; we rose from our desks when every thing was ready, and resumed our labours when the meals were over. I need not tell you that during these intervals Sir Walter conversed with me as if I had been on a level of perfect equality with himself.

“I had no notion it was possible for any man to undergo the fatigue of composition for so long a time at once, and Sir Walter acknowledged he did not usually subject himself to so much exertion, though it seemed to be only the manual part of the operation that occasioned him any inconvenience. Once or twice he desired me to relieve him, and dictated while I wrote with as much rapidity as I was able. I have performed the same service to several other persons, most of whom walked up and down the apartment while excogitating what was to be committed to writing; they sometimes stopt too, and, like those who fail in a leap and return upon their course to take the advantage of another race, endeavoured to hit upon something additional by peru-
sing over my shoulder what was already set down,—mending a phrase perhaps, or recasting a sentence, till they should recover their wind. None of these aids were necessary to Sir Walter: his thoughts flowed easily and felicitously, without any difficulty to lay hold of them or to find appropriate language; which was evident by the absence of all solicitude (miserta cogitandi) from his countenance. He sat in his chair, from which he rose now and then, took a volume from the bookcase, consulted it, and restored it to the shelf—all without intermission in the current of ideas, which continued to be delivered with no less readiness than if his mind had been wholly occupied with the words he was uttering. It soon became apparent to me, however, that he was carrying on two distinct trains of thought, one of which was already arranged and in the act of being spoken, while at the same time he was in advance considering what was afterwards to be said. This I discovered by his sometimes introducing a word which was wholly out of place—entertained instead of denied, for example,—but which I presently found to belong to the next sentence, perhaps four or five lines farther on, which he had been preparing at the very moment that he gave me the words of the one that preceded it. Extemporaneous orators of course, and no doubt many writers, think as rapidly as was done by Sir Walter; but the mind is wholly occupied with what the lips are uttering or the pen is tracing. I do not remember any other instance in which it could be said that two threads were kept hold of at once connected with each other indeed, but grasped at different points. I was, as I have said, two or three days beside Sir Walter, and had repeated opportunities of observing the same thing. I am, Sir, respectfully your obliged humble servant,


The Life of Buonaparte, then, was at last published about the middle of June 1827. Two years had elapsed since Scott began it; but, by a careful comparison of dates, I have arrived at the conclusion that, his expeditions to Ireland and Paris, and the composition of novels and critical miscellanies being duly allowed for, the historical task occupied hardly more than twelve months. The book was closely printed; in fact those nine volumes contain as much letter-press as Waverley, Guy Mannering, the Antiquary, the Monastery, and the Legend of Montrose, all put together. If it had been printed on the original model of those novels, the Life of Buonaparte would have filled from thirteen to fourteen volumes:—the work of one twelvemonth—done in the midst of pain, sorrow, and ruin.

The magnitude of the theme, and the copious detail with which it was treated, appear to have frightened the critics of the time. None of our great Reviews grappled with the book at all; nor am I so presumptuous as to undertake what they shrunk from. The general curiosity with which it was expected, and the satisfaction with which high and candid minds perused it, cannot I believe be better described than in the words of the author’s most illustrious literary contemporary.

Walter Scott,” says Goethe, “passed his childhood among the stirring scenes of the American War, and was a youth of seventeen or eighteen when the French Revolution broke out. Now well advanced in the fifties, having all along been favourably placed for observation, he proposes to lay before us his views and recollections of the important events through which he has lived. The richest, the easiest, the most celebrated narrator of the century, undertakes to write the history of his own time.

“What expectations the announcement of such a work must have excited in me, will be understood by any one who remembers that I, twenty years older than Scott, conversed with Paoli in the twentieth year of my age, and with Napoleon himself in the sixtieth.


“Through that long series of years, coming more or less into contact with the great doings of the world, I failed not to think seriously on what was passing around me, and, after my own fashion, to connect so many extraordinary mutations into something like arrangement and interdependence.

“What could now be more delightful to me than leisurely and calmly to sit down and listen to the discourse of such a man, while clearly, truly, and with all the skill of a great artist, he recalls to me the incidents on which through life I have meditated, and the influence of which is still daily in operation?”—Kunst und Altherthum.

The lofty impartiality with which Scott treats the personal character of Buonaparte was, of course, sure to make all ultra-politicians at home and abroad condemn his representation; and an equally general and better founded exception was taken to the lavish imagery of his historical style. He despised the former clamour—to the latter he bowed submissive. He could not, whatever character he might wish to assume, cease to be one of the greatest of poets. Metaphorical illustrations, which men born with prose in their souls hunt for painfully, and find only to murder, were to him the natural and necessary offspring and playthings of ever-teeming fancy. He could not write a note to his printer—he could not speak to himself in his Diary—without introducing them. Few will say that his historical style is, on the whole, excellent; none that it is perfect; but it is completely unaffected, and therefore excites nothing of the unpleasant feeling with which we consider the elaborate artifices of a far greater historian—the greatest that our literature can boast—Gibbon. The rapidity of the execution infers many inaccuracies as to minor matters of fact; but it is nevertheless true that no inaccuracy in the smallest degree affecting the character of the book as a fair record of great events, has to this hour been detected even by the malevolent ingenuity of Jacobin and Buonapartist pamphleteers. Even the most hostile
examiners were obliged to acknowledge that the gigantic career of their idol had been traced, in its leading features, with wonderful truth and spirit. No civilian, it was universally admitted, had ever before described modern battles and campaigns with any approach to his daring and comprehensive felicity. The public, ever unwilling to concede a new species of honour to a name already covered with distinction, listened eagerly for a while to the indignant reclamations of nobodies, whose share in mighty transactions had been omitted, or slightly misrepresented; but, ere long, all these pompous rectifications were summed up and found to constitute nothing but a contemptible monument of self-deluding vanity. The work, devoured at first with breathless delight, had a shade thrown over it for a time by the pertinacious blustering of these angry Lilliputians; but it has now emerged, slowly and surely, from the mist of suspicion—and few, whose opinions deserve much attention, hesitate to avow their conviction that, whoever may be the
Polybius of the modern Hannibal, posterity will recognise his Livy in Scott.

Woodstock, as we have seen, placed upwards of L.8000 in the hands of Sir Walter’s creditors. The Napoleon (first and second editions) produced for them a sum which it even now startles me to mention—L.18,000. As by the time the historical work was published, nearly half of the First Series of Chronicles of the Canongate had been written, it is obvious that the amount to which Scott’s literary industry, from the close of 1825, to the 10th of June, 1827, had diminished his debt, cannot be stated at less than L.28,000. Had health been spared him, how soon must he have freed himself from all his encumbrances!