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Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.
Edward Cheney, “Sir Walter Scott in Rome,” [1832]

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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“Delighted as I was to see Sir Walter Scott, I remarked with pain the ravages disease had made upon him. He was often abstracted, and it was only when warmed with his subject that the light blue
eye shot from under the pent-house brow with the fire and spirit that recalled the Author of Waverley.

“The first of May was appointed for a visit to Frescati; and it gave me great pleasure to have an opportunity of showing attention to Sir Walter without the appearance of obtrusiveness.

“The Villa Muti, which belonged to the late Cardinal of York, has, since his death, fallen into the hands of several proprietors; it yet retains, however, some relics of its former owner. There is a portrait of Charles I., a bust of the Cardinal, and another of the Chevalier de St George. But, above all, a picture of the fête given on the promotion of the Cardinal in the Piazza de S. S. Apostoli (where the palace in which the Stuarts resided still bears the name of the Palazzo del Pretendente) occupied Sir Walter’s attention. In this picture he discovered, or fancied he did so, the portraits of several of the distinguished followers of the exiled family. One he pointed out as resembling a picture he had seen of Cameron of Lochiel, whom he described as a dark, hard-featured man. He spoke with admiration of his devoted loyalty to the Stuarts. I also showed him an ivory head of Charles I., which had served as the top of Cardinal York’s walking stick. He did not fail to look at it with a lively interest.

“He admired the house, the position of which is of surpassing beauty, commanding an extensive view over the Campagna of Rome; but he deplored the fate of his favourite princes, observing that this was a poor substitute for all the splendid palaces to which they were heirs in England and Scotland. The place where we were suggested the topic of conversation. He was walking, he told me, over the field of Preston, and musing on the unlooked-for event of that day, when he was suddenly startled by the sound of the minute-guns pro-
claiming the death of
George IV. Lost in the thoughts of ephemeral glory suggested by the scene, he had forgotten, in the momentary success of his favourite hero, his subsequent misfortunes and defeat. The solemn sound, he added, admonished him of the futility of all earthly triumphs; and reminded him that the whole race of the Stuarts had passed away, and was now followed to the grave by the first of the rival house of Brunswick who had reigned in the line of legitimate succession.

“During this visit Sir Walter was in excellent spirits; at dinner he talked and laughed, and Miss Scott assured me she had not seen him so gay since he left England. He put salt into his soup before tasting it, smiling as he did so. One of the company said, that a friend of his used to declare that he should eat salt with a limb of Lot’s wife. Sir Walter laughed, observing that he was of Mrs Siddons’ mind, who, when dining with the Provost of Edinburgh, and being asked by her host if the beef were too salt, replied, in her emphatic tones of deep tragedy, which Sir Walter mimicked very comically,
‘Beef cannot be too salt for me, my lord.’

Sir Walter, though he spoke no foreign language with facility, read Spanish as well as Italian. He expressed the most unbounded admiration for Cervantes, and said that the ‘novelas’ of that author had first inspired him with the ambition of excelling in fiction, and that, until disabled by illness, he had been a constant reader of them. He added, that he had formerly made it a practice to read through the ‘Orlando’ of Boiardo, and the ‘Orlando’ of Ariosto, once every year.

“Of Dante he knew little, confessing he found him too obscure and difficult. I was sitting next him at
dinner, at
Lady Coventry’s, when this conversation took place. He added, with a smile, ‘it is mortifying that Dante seemed to think nobody worth being sent to hell but his own Italians, whereas other people had every bit as great rogues in their families, whose misdeeds were suffered to pass with impunity.’ I said that he, of all men, had least right to make this complaint, as his own ancestor, Michael Scott, was consigned to a very tremendous punishment in the twentieth canto of the Inferno. His attention was roused, and I quoted the passage—
‘Quell’ altro, che nei fianchi & cosi poco,
Michele Scotto fu, che veramente
Delle magiche frode seppe il gioco.’
He seemed pleased, and alluded to the subject more than once in the course of the evening.

“One evening when I was with him, a person called to petition him in favour of the sufferers from the recent earthquake at Foligno. He instantly gave his name to the list with a very handsome subscription. This was by no means the only occasion on which I observed him ready and eager to answer the calls of charity.

“I accompanied Sir Walter and Miss Scott one morning to the Protestant burial-ground. The road to this spot runs by the side of the Tyber, at the foot of Mount Aventine, and in our drive we passed several of the most interesting monuments of ancient Rome. The house of the Tribune Rienzi, and the temple of Vesta, arrested his attention. This little circular temple, he said, struck him more than many of the finer ruins. Infirmity had checked his curiosity. ‘I walk with pain,’ he said, ‘and what we see whilst suffering makes little impression on us; it is for this reason that much of what I saw at Naples, and which I should have en-
joyed ten years ago, I have already forgotten.’ The Protestant burying-ground lies near the Porta S. Paolo, at the foot of the noble pyramid of Caius Cestius. Miss Scott was anxious to see the grave of her friend,
Lady Charlotte Stopford. Sir Walter was unable to walk, and while my brother attended Miss Scott to the spot, I remained in the carriage with him. ‘I regret,’ he said, ‘that I cannot go. It would have been a satisfaction to me to have seen the place where they have laid her. She is the child of a Buccleuch; he, you know, is my chief, and all that comes from that house is dear to me.’ He looked on the ground and sighed, and for a moment there was a silence between us.

“We spoke of politics, and of the reform in Parliament, which at that time was pending. I asked his opinion of it; he said he was no enemy to reform—‘If the machine does not work well, it must be mended—but it should be by the best workmen ye have.’

“He regretted not having been at Holland House as he passed through London. ‘Lord Holland,’ he said, ‘is the most agreeable man I ever knew; in criticism, in poetry, he beats those whose whole study they have been. No man in England has a more thorough knowledge of English authors, and he expresses himself so well, that his language illustrates and adorns his thoughts, as light streaming through coloured glass heightens the brilliancy of the objects it falls upon.’

“On the 4th of May he accepted a dinner at our house, and it gave my brother and myself unfeigned satisfaction to have again the pleasure of entertaining him. We collected a party to meet him, and amongst others I invited Don Luigi Santa Croce, one of his most ardent admirers, who had long desired an introduction. He is a man of much ability, and has played his part in the political changes of his country. When
I presented him to
Sir Walter, he bade me tell him, for he speaks no English, how long and how earnestly he had desired to see him, though he had hardly dared to hope it. ‘Tell him,’ he added, with warmth, ‘that in disappointment, in sorrow, and in sickness, his works have been my chief comfort; and while living amongst his imaginary personages, I have succeeded for a moment in forgetting the vexations of blighted hopes, and have found relief in public and private distress.’ The Marchesa Loughi, the beautiful sister of Don Michele Gaetani, whom I also presented to him this evening, begged me to thank him, in her name, for some of the most agreeable moments of her life. ‘She had had,’ she said, ‘though young, her share of sorrows, and in his works she had found not only amusement, but lessons of patience and resignation, which she hoped had not been lost upon her.’ To all these flattering compliments, as well as to the thousand others that were daily showered upon him, Sir Walter replied with unfeigned humility, expressing himself pleased and obliged by the good opinion entertained of him, and delighting his admirers with the good-humour and urbanity with which he received them. Don Luigi talked of the plots of some of the novels, and earnestly remonstrated against the fate of Clara Mowbray, in St Ronan’s Well. ‘I am much obliged to the gentleman for the interest he takes in her,’ said Sir Walter, ‘but I could not save her, poor thing—it is against the rules—she had the bee in her bonnet.’ Don Luigi still insisted. Sir Walter replied, ‘No; but of all the murders that I have committed in that way, and few men have been guilty of more, there is none that went so much to my heart as the poor Bride of Lammermoor; but it could not be helped—it is all true.’

Sir Walter always showed much curiosity about the
Constable Bourbon. I said that a suit of armour belonging to him was preserved in the Vatican. He eagerly asked after the form and construction, and enquired if he wore it on the day of the capture of Rome. That event had greatly struck his imagination. He told me he had always had an idea of weaving it into the story of a romance, and of introducing the traitor Constable as an actor. Cæsar Borgia was also a character whose vices and whole career appeared to him singularly romantic. Having heard him say this, I begged Don Michele Gaetani, whose ancestors had been dispossessed of their rich fiefs by that ambitious upstart, to show Sir Walter a sword, now in the possession of his family, which had once belonged to Borgia. The blade, which is very long and broad, is richly ornamented, and the arms of the Borgias are inlaid upon it, bearing the favourite motto of that tremendous personage. ‘Aut Cæsar, aut nihil.’ Sir Walter examined it with attention, commenting on the character of Borgia, and congratulating Don Michele on the possession of a relic doubly interesting in his hands.

“I continued a constant visiter at his house whilst he remained in Rome, and I also occasionally dined in his company, and took every opportunity of conversing with him. I observed with extreme pleasure, that he accepted willingly from me those trifling attentions which his infirmities required, and which all would have been delighted to offer. I found him always willing to converse on any topic. He spoke of his own works and of himself without reserve; never, however, introducing the subject nor dwelling upon it. His conversation had neither affectation nor restraint, and he was totally free from the morbid egotism of some men of genius. What surprised me most, and in one too who had so long been the object of universal admiration, was the unaf-
fected humility with which he spoke of his own merits, and the sort of surprise with which he surveyed his own success. That this was a real feeling none could doubt. The natural simplicity of his manner must have convinced the most incredulous. He was courteous and obliging to all, and towards women there was a dignified simplicity in his manner that was singularly pleasing. He would not allow even his infirmities to exempt him from the little courtesies of society. He always endeavoured to rise to address those who approached him, and once when my brother and myself accompanied him in his drive, it was not without difficulty that we could prevail on him not to seat himself with his back to the horses.

“I asked him if he meant to be presented at the Vatican, as I knew that his arrival had been spoken of, and that the Pope had expressed an interest about him. He said he respected the Pope as the most ancient sovereign in Europe, and should have great pleasure in paying his respects to him, did his state of health permit it. We talked of the ceremonies of the Church. He had been much struck with the benediction from the balcony of St Peter’s. I advised him to wait to see the procession of the Corpus Domini, and to hear the Pope
‘Saying the high, high mass,
All on St Peter’s day.’
He smiled, and said those things were more poetical in description than in reality, and that it was all the better for him not to have seen it before he wrote about it—that any attempt to make such scenes more exact injured the effect without conveying a clearer image to the mind of the reader—as the Utopian scenes and manners of
Mrs Radcliffe’s Novels captivated the imagination more than the most laboured descriptions, or the greatest historical accuracy.


“The morning after our arrival at Bracciano, when I left my room, I found Sir Walter already dressed, and seated in the deep recess of a window which commands an extensive view over the lake and surrounding country. He speculated on the lives of the turbulent lords of this ancient fortress, and listened with interest to such details as I could give him of their history. He drew a striking picture of the contrast between the calm and placid scene before us, and the hurry, din, and tumult of other days.

“Insensibly we strayed into more modern times. I never saw him more animated and agreeable. He was exactly what I could imagine him to have been in his best moments. Indeed I have several times heard him complain that his disease sometimes confused and bewildered his senses, while at others he was left with little remains of illness, except a consciousness of his state of infirmity. He talked of his Northern journey, of Manzoni, for whom he expressed a great admiration, of Lord Byron, and lastly of himself. Of Lord Byron he spoke with admiration and regard, calling him always ‘poor Byron.’ He considered him, he said, the only poet we have had since Dryden, of transcendent talents, and possessing more amiable qualities than the world in general gave him credit for.

“In reply to my question if he had never seriously thought of complying with the advice so often given him to write a tragedy, he answered ‘Often, but the difficulty deterred me—my turn was not dramatic.’ Some of the mottoes, I urged, prefixed to the chapters of his novels, and subscribed ‘old play,’ were eminently in the taste of the old dramatists, and seemed to ensure success. ‘Nothing so easy,’ he replied, ‘when you are full of an author, as to write a few lines in his taste and style; the difficulty is to keep it up—besides,’ he added,
‘the greatest success would be but a spiritless imitation, or, at best, what the Italians call a centone from
Shakspeare. No author has ever had so much cause to be grateful to the public as I have. All I have written has been received with indulgence.’

“He said he was the more grateful for the flattering reception he had met with in Italy, as he had not always treated the Catholic religion with respect. I observed, that though he had exposed the hypocrites of all sects, no religion had any cause to complain of him, as he had rendered them all interesting by turns. Jews, Catholics, and Puritans had all their saints and martyrs in his works. He was much pleased with this.

“He spoke of Goethe with regret; he had been in correspondence with him before his death, and had purposed visiting him at Weimar in returning to England, I told him I had been to see Goëthe the year before, and that I had found him well, and though very old, in the perfect possession of all his faculties. ‘Of all his faculties!’ he replied; ‘it is much better to die than to survive them, and better still to die than live in the apprehension of it; but the worst of all,’ he added thoughtfully, ‘would have been to have survived their partial loss, and yet to be conscious of his state.’—He did not seem to be, however, a great admirer of some of Goethe’s works. Much of his popularity, he observed, was owing to pieces which, in his latter moments, he might have wished recalled. He spoke with much feeling. I answered that he must derive great consolation in the reflection that his own popularity was owing to no such cause. He remained silent for a moment, with his eyes fixed on the ground; when he raised them, as he shook me by the hand, I perceived the light blue eye sparkled with unusual moisture. He added, ‘I am drawing near
to the close of my career; I am fast shuffling off the stage. I have been perhaps the most voluminous author of the day; and it is a comfort to me to think that I have tried to unsettle no man’s faith, to corrupt no man’s principle, and that I have written nothing which, on my death-bed, I should wish blotted.’ I made no reply; and while we were yet silent, Don Michele Gaetani joined us, and we walked through the vast hall into the court of the castle, where our friends were expecting us.

“After breakfast, Sir Walter returned to Rome. The following day he purposed setting out on his northern journey. It was Friday. I was anxious that he should prolong his stay in Rome; and reminding him of his superstition, I told him he ought not to set out on the unlucky day. He answered, laughing, ‘Superstition is very picturesque, and I make it at times stand me in great stead; but I never allow it to interfere with interest or convenience.’

“As I helped him down the steep court to his carriage, he said, as he stepped with pain and difficulty, ‘This is a sore change with me. Time was when I would hunt and shoot with the best of them, and thought it but a poor day’s sport when I was not on foot from ten to twelve hours; but we must be patient.’

“I handed him into his carriage; and in taking leave of me, he pressed me, with eager hospitality, to visit him at Abbotsford. The door closed upon him, and I stood for some moments watching the carriage till it was out of sight, as it wound through the portal of the Castle of Bracciano.

“Next day, Friday, May 11, Sir Walter left Rome.

“During his stay there he had received every mark of attention and respect from the Italians, who in not
APRIL—MAY, 1832.379
crowding to visit him were deterred only by their delicacy and their dread of intruding on an invalid. The use of villas, libraries, and museums was pressed upon him. This enthusiasm was by no means confined to the higher orders. His fame, and even his works, are familiar to all classes—the stalls are filled with translations of his novels, in the cheapest forms; and some of the most popular plays and operas have been founded upon them. Some time after he left Italy, when I was travelling in the mountains of Tuscany, it has more than once occurred to me to be stopped in little villages, hardly accessible to carriages, by an eager admirer of
Sir Walter, to enquire after the health of my illustrious countryman.”