The 12th of July  restored Scott as usual to the supervision of his trees and carpenters; but he had already told the Ballantynes, that the story which he had found it impossible to include in the recent series should be forthwith taken up as the opening one of a third; and instructed John to embrace the first favourable opportunity of offering Constable the publication of this, on the footing of 10,000 copies again forming the first edition; but now at length without any more stipulations connected with the ``old stock.''
One of his visiters of September was Mr R. Cadell, who was now in all the secrets of his father-in-law and partner Constable; and observing how his host was harassed with lion-hunters, and what a number of hours he spent daily in the company of his work-people, he expressed, during one of their walks, his wonder that Scott should ever be able to write books at all while in the country. ``I know,'' he said, ``that you contrive to get a few hours in your own room, and that may do for the mere penwork; but when is it that you think?''---``Oh,'' said Scott, ``I lie _simmering_ over things for an hour or so before I get up---and there's the time I am dressing to overhaul my half-sleeping, half-waking, _projet de chapitre_---and when I get the paper before me, it commonly runs off pretty easily. Besides, I often take a dose in the plantations, and while Tom marks out a dyke or a drain, as I have directed, one's fancy may be running its ain rings in some other world.''
It was in the month following that I first saw Abbotsford. He invited my friend John Wilson (now Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh) and myself to visit him for a day or two on our return from an excursion to Mr Wilson's beautiful villa on Windermere, but named the particular day (October 8th) on which it would be most convenient for him to receive us; and we discovered on our arrival, that he had fixed it from a good-natured motive. We found him walking at no great distance from the house, with five or six young people, and his friends Lord Melville and Adam Fergusson. Having presented us to the first Lord of the Admiralty, he fell back a little and said ``I am glad you came to-day, for I thought it might be of use to you both, some time or other, to be known to my old school-fellow here, who is, and I hope will long continue to be, the great giver of good things in the Parliament House. I trust you have had enough of certain pranks with your friend Ebony, and if so, Lord Melville will have too much sense to remember them.''<*>
* _Ebony_ was Mr Blackwood's own usual designation in the _jeux
* d'esprit_ of his young Magazine, in many of which the persons thus
* addressed by Scott were conjoint culprits. They both were then,
* as may be inferred, sweeping the boards of the Parliament House
* as ``briefless barristers.''
We then walked round a plantation called _the Thicket,_ and came back to the house by a formidable work which he was constructing for the defence of his _haugh_ against the wintry violences of the Tweed; and he discoursed for some time with keen interest upon the comparative merits of different methods of embankment, but stopped now and then to give us the advantage of any point of view in which his new building on the eminence above pleased his eye. It had a fantastic appearance---being but a fragment of the existing edifice---and not at all harmonizing in its outline with the original tenement to the eastward. Scott, however, expatiated _con amore_ on the rapidity with which, being chiefly of darkish granite, it was assuming a ``time-honoured'' aspect. Fergusson, with a grave and respectful look observed, ``Yes, it really has much the air of some old fastness hard by the river Jordan.'' This allusion to a so-called _Chaldee MS.,_ in the manufacture of which Fergusson fancied Wilson and myself to have had a share, gave rise to a burst of laughter among Scott's merry young folks, while he himself drew in his nether lip and rebuked the Captain with ``Toots, Adam! Toots, Adam!'' He then returned to his embankment, and described how a former one had been entirely swept away in one night's flood. But the Captain was ready with another verse of the _Oriental MS.,_ and groaned out by way of echo---``Verily my fine gold hath perished!''<*> Whereupon
* See Blackwood for October 1817.
the ``Great Magician'' elevated his huge oaken staff as if to lay it on the waggish soldier's back---but flourished it gaily over his own head, and laughed louder than the youngest of the company. As we walked and talked, the Pepper and Mustard terriers kept snuffing about among the bushes and heather near us, and started every five minutes a hare, which scudded away before them and the ponderous stag-hound Maida---the Sheriff and all his tail hollowing and cheering in perfect confidence that the dogs could do no more harm to poor puss than the venerable tom-cat Hinse of Hinsfeldt, who pursued the vain chase with the rest.
At length we drew near _Peterhouse,_ and found sober Peter himself, and his brother-in-law the facetious factotum Tom Purdie, superintending, pipe in mouth, three or four sturdy labourers busy in laying down the turf for a bowling-green. ``I have planted hollies all round it, you see,'' said Scott, ``and laid out an arbour on the right-hand side for the laird; and here I mean to have a game at bowls after dinner every day in fine weather---for I take that to have been among the indispensables of our old _vie de chateau._'' But I must not forget the reason he gave me some time afterwards for having fixed on that spot for his bowling-green. ``In truth,'' he then said, ``I wished to have a smooth walk and a canny seat for myself within ear-shot of Peter's evening psalm.'' The coachman was a devout Presbyterian, and many a time have I in after years accompanied Scott on his evening stroll, when the principal object was to enjoy, from the bowling-green, the unfailing melody of this good man's family-worship---and heard him repeat, as Peter's manly voice led the humble choir within, that beautiful stanza of Burns's Saturday Night:---
``They chant their artless notes in simple guise; They tune their hearts, by far the noblest aim,'' &c.
It was near the dinner-hour before we reached the house, and presently I saw assembled a larger company than I should have fancied to be at all compatible with the existing accommodations of the place; but it turned out that Adam Fergusson, and the friends whom I have not as yet mentioned, were to find quarters elsewhere for the night. His younger brother, Captain John Fergusson of the Royal Navy (a favourite lieutenant of Lord Nelson's), had come over from Huntly Burn; there were present also, Mr Scott of Gala, whose residence is within an easy distance; Sir Henry Hay Macdougal of Mackerston, an old baronet, with gay, lively, and highly polished manners, related in the same degree to both Gala and the Sheriff; Sir Alexander Don, the member for Roxburghshire, whose elegant social qualities had been alluded to in a preceding chapter; and Dr Scott of Darnlee, a modest and intelligent gentleman, who, having realized a fortune in the East India Company's medical service, had settled within two or three miles of Abbotsford, and, though no longer practising his profession, had kindly employed all the resources of his skill in the endeavour to counteract his neighbour's recent liability to attacks of cramp. Our host and one or two others appeared, as was in those days a common fashion with country gentlemen, in the lieutenancy uniform of their county. How fourteen or fifteen people contrived to be seated in the then dining-room of Abbotsford I know not---for it seemed quite full enough when it contained only eight or ten; but so it was---nor, as Sir Harry Macdougal's fat valet, warned by former experience, did not join the train of attendants, was there any perceptible difficulty in the detail of the arrangements. Everything about the dinner was, as the phrase runs, in excellent style; and in particular the _potage <a`> la Meg Merrilees,_ announced as an attempt to imitate a device of the Duke of Buccleuch's celebrated cook---by name Monsieur Florence---seemed, to those at least who were better acquainted with the Kaim of Derncleugh than with the _cuisine_ of Bowhill,<*> a very laudable specimen of the
* I understand that this now celebrated soup was _extemporized_
* by M. Florence on Scott's first visit to Bowhill after the publication
* of _Guy Mannering._
art. The champaign circulated nimbly---and I never was present at a gayer dinner. It had advanced a little beyond the soup when it received an accompaniment which would not, perhaps, have improved the satisfaction of southern guests, had any such been present. A tall and stalwart bagpiper, in complete Highland costume, appeared pacing to and fro on the green before the house, and the window being open, it seemed as if he might as well have been straining his lungs within the parlour. At a pause of his strenuous performance, Scott took occasion to explain, that _John of Skye_ was a recent acquisition to the rising hamlet of Abbotstown; that the man was a capital hedger and ditches, and only figured with the pipe and philabeg on high occasions in the after part of the day; ``but indeed,'' he added,laughing, ``I fear John will soon be discovering that the hook and mattock are unfavourable to his chanter hand.'' When the cloth was drawn, and the never-failing salver of _quaighs_ introduced, John Bruce, upon some well-known signal, entered the room, but _en militaire,_ without removing his bonnet, and taking his station behind the landlord, received from his hand the largest of the Celtic bickers brimful of Glenlivet. The man saluted the company in his own dialect, tipped off the contents (probably a quarter of an English pint of raw aquavit<ae>) at a gulp, wheeled about as solemnly as if the whole ceremony had been a movement on parade, and forthwith recommenced his pibrochs and gatherings, which continued until long after the ladies had left the table, and the autumnal moon was streaming in upon us so brightly as to dim the candles.
I had never before seen Scott in such buoyant spirits as he shewed this evening---and I never saw him in higher afterwards; and no wonder, for this was the first time that he, Lord Melville, and Adam Fergusson, daily companions at the High School of Edinburgh, and partners,in many joyous scenes of the early volunteer period, had met since the commencement of what I may call the serious part of any of their lives. The great poet and novelist was receiving them under his own roof, when his fame was at its _acm<e'>,_ and his fortune seemed culminating to about a corresponding height---and the generous exuberance of his hilarity might have overflowed without moving the spleen of a Cynic. Old stories of _the Yards_ and _the Crosscauseway_ were relieved by sketches of real warfare, such as none but Fergusson (or Charles Mathews, had he been a soldier), could ever have given; and they toasted the memory of _Greenbreeks_ and the health of _the Beau_ with equal devotion.
When we rose from table, Scott proposed that we should all ascend his western turret, to enjoy a moonlight view of the valley. The younger part of his company were too happy to do so: some of the seniors, who had tried the thing before, found pretexts for hanging back. The stairs were dark, narrow, and steep; but the Sheriff piloted the way, and at length there were as many on the top as it could well afford footing for. Nothing could be more lovely than the panorama; all the harsher and more naked features being lost in the delicious moonlight; the Tweed and the Gala winding and sparkling beneath our feet; and the distant ruing of Melrose appearing, as if carved of alabaster, under the black mass of the Eildons. The poet, leaning on his battlement, seemed to hang over the beautiful vision as if he had never seen it before. ``If I live,'' he exclaimed, ``I will build me a higher tower, with a more spacious platform, and a staircase better fitted for an old fellow's scrambling.'' The piper was heard retuning his instrument below, and he called to him for _Lochaber no more._ John of Skye obeyed, and as the music rose, softened by the distance, Scott repeated in a low key the melancholy words of the song of exile.
On descending from the tower, the whole company were assembled in the new dining-room, which was still under the hands of the carpenters, but had been brilliantly illuminated for the occasion. Mr Bruce took his station, and old and young danced reels to his melodious accompaniment until they were weary, while Scott and the Dominie looked on with gladsome faces, and beat time now and then, the one with his staff, the other with his wooden leg. A tray with mulled wine and whisky punch was then introduced, and Lord Melville proposed a bumper, with all the honours, to the _Roof-tree._ Captain Fergusson having sung _Johnnie Cope,_ called on the young ladies for _Kenmure's on and awa';_ and our host then insisted that the whole party should join, standing in a circle hand-in-hand _more majorum,_ in the hearty chorus of
``Weel may we a' be, Ill may we never see, God bless the king and the gude companie!''
---which being duly performed, all dispersed. Such was _the handsel_---(for Scott protested against its being considered as _the househeating_)---of the new Abbotsford.
Awakening between six and seven next morning, I heard the Sheriff's voice close to me, and looking out of the little latticed window of the then detached cottage called _the Chapel,_ saw him and Tom Purdie pacing together on the green before the door, in earnest deliberation over what seemed to be a rude daub of a drawing; and every time they approached my end of their parade, I was sure to catch the words _Blue Bank._ It turned out in the course of the day, that a field of clay near Toftfield went by this name, and that the draining of it was one of the chief operations then in hand. My friend Wilson, meanwhile, who lodged also in the chapel, tapped also at the door, and asked me to rise and take a walk with him by the river, for he had some angling project in his head. He went out and joined in the consultation about the Blue Bank, while I was dressing; presently Scott hailed me at the casement, and said he had observed a volume of a new edition of Goethe on my table---would I lend it him for a little? He carried off the volume accordingly, and retreated with it to his den. It contained the Faust, and I believe in a more complete shape than he had before seen that masterpiece of his old favourite. When we met at breakfast, a couple of hours after, he was full of the poem ---dwelt with enthusiasm on the airy beauty of its lyrics, the terrible pathos of the scene before the _Mater Dolorosa,_ and the deep skill shewn in the various subtle shadings of character between MephistophiIes and poor Margaret. He remarked, however, of the Introduction (which I suspect was new to him), that blood would out---that, consummate artist as he was, Goethe was a German, and that nobody but a German would ever have provoked a comparison with the book of Job, ``the grandest poem that ever was written.'' He added, that he suspected the end of the story had been left _in obscuro,_ from despair to match the closing scene of our own Marlowe's _Doctor Faustus._ Mr Wilson mentioned a report that Coleridge was engaged on a translation of the Faust. ``I hope it is so,'' said Scott: ``Coleridge made Schiller's Wallenstein far finer than he found it, and so he will do by this. No man has all the resources of poetry in such profusion, but he cannot manage them so as to bring out anything of his own on a large scale at all worthy of his genius. He is like a lump of coal rich with gas, which lies expending itself in puffs and gleams, unless some shrewd body will clap it into a cast-iron box, and compel the compressed element to do itself justice. His fancy and diction would have long ago placed him above all his contemporaries, had they been under the direction of a sound judgment and a steady will. I don't now expect a great original poem from Coleridge, but he might easily make a sort of fame for himself as a poetical translator, that would be a thing completely unique and _sui generis._''
While this criticism proceeded, Scott was cutting away at his brown loaf and a plate of kippered salmon, in a style which strongly reminded me of Dandie Dinmont's luncheon at Mump's Hall; nor was his German topic at all the predominant one. On the contrary, the sentences which have dwelt on my memory dropt from him now and then, in the pauses, as it were, of his main talk;---for though he could not help recurring, ever and anon, to the subject, it would have been quite out of his way to make any literary matter the chief theme of his conversation, when there was a single person present who was not likely to feel much interested in its discussion---How often have I heard him quote on such occasions, Mr Vellum's advice to the butler in Addison's excellent play of _The Drummer_---``Your conjuror, John, is indeed a twofold personage---but he _eats and drinks like other people!_''
Before breakfast was over the post-bag arrived, and its contents were so numerous, that Lord Melville asked Scott what election was on hand---not doubting that there must be some very particular reason for such a shoal of letters. He answered that it was much the same most days, and added, ``though no one has kinder friends in the franking line, and though Freeling and Croker especially<*> are always
* Scott's excellent friend Sir Thomas Freeling was Secretary of
* the Post-Office for along series of years: Mr Croker was Secretary
* of the Admiralty from 1809 to 1827.
ready to stretch the point of privilege in my favour, I am nevertheless a fair contributor to the revenue, for I think my bill for letters seldom comes under <L>150 a-year; and as to coach-parcels, they are a perfect ruination.'' He then told with high merriment a disaster that had lately befallen him. ``One morning last spring,'' he said, ``I opened a huge lump of a despatch, without looking how it was addressed, never doubting that it had travelled under some omnipotent frank like the First Lord of the Admiralty's, when, lo and behold, the contents proved to be a MS. play, by a young lady of New York, who kindly requested me to read and correct it, equip it with prologue and epilogue, procure for it a favourable reception from the manager of Drury Lane, and make Murray or Constable bleed handsomely for the copyright; and on inspecting the cover, I found that I had been charged five pounds odd for the postage. This was bad enough, but there was no help, so I groaned and submitted. A fortnight or so after, another packet, of not less formidable bulk, arrived, and I was absent enough to break its seal too without examination. Conceive my horror when out jumped the same identical tragedy of _The Cherokee Lovers,_ with a second epistle from the authoress, stating that, as the winds had been boisterous, she feared the vessel intrusted with her former communication might have foundered, and therefore judged it prudent to forward a duplicate.''
Scott said he must retire to answer his letters, but that the sociable and the ponies would be at the door by one o'clock, when he proposed to shew Melrose and Dryburgh to Lady Melville and any of the rest of the party that chose to accompany them; adding that his son Walter would lead anybody who preferred a gun to the likeliest place for a black-cock, and that Charlie Purdie (Tom's brother) would attend on Mr Wilson, and whoever else chose to try a cast of the salmon-rod. He withdrew when all this was arranged, and appeared at the time appointed, with perhaps a dozen letters sealed for the post, and a coach parcel addressed to James Ballantyne, which he dropt at the turnpike-gate as we drove to Melrose. Seeing it picked up by a dirty urchin, and carried into a hedge pot-house, where half-a-dozen nondescript wayfarers were smoking and tippling, I could not but wonder that it had not been the fate of some one of those innumerable packets to fall into unscrupulous hands, and betray the grand secret. That very morning we had seen two post-chaises drawn up at his gate, and the enthusiastic travellers, seemingly decent tradesmen and their families, who must have been packed in a manner worthy of Mrs Gilpin, lounging about to catch a glimpse of him at his going forth. But it was impossible in those days to pass between Melrose and Abbotsford without encountering some odd figure, armed with a sketch-book, evidently bent on a peep at the Great Unknown; and it must he allowed that many of these pedestrians looked as if they might have thought it very excusable to make prize, by hook or by crook, of a MS. chapter of the Tales of my Landlord.
Scott shewed us the ruins of Melrose in detail; and as we proceeded to Dryburgh, descanted learnedly and sagaciously on the good effects which must have attended the erection of so many great monastic establishments in a district so peculiarly exposed to the inroads of the English in the days of the Border wars. ``They were now and then violated,'' he said, ``as their aspect to this hour bears witness; but for once that they suffered, any lay property similarly situated must have been _harried_ a dozen times. The bold Dacres, Liddells, and Howards, that could get easy absolution at York or Durham for any ordinary breach of a truce with the Scots, would have had to _dree a heavy dole_ had they confessed plundering from the fat brothers, of the same order perhaps, whose lines had fallen to them on the wrong side of the Cheviot.'' He enlarged too on the heavy penalty which the Crown of Scotland had paid for its rash acquiescence in the wholesale robbery of the Church at the Reformation. ``The proportion of the soil in the hands of the clergy had,'' he said, ``been very great---too great to be continued. If we, may judge by their share in the public burdens, they must have had nearly a third of the land in their possession. But this vast wealth was now distributed among a turbulent nobility, too powerful before; and the Stuarts soon found, that in the bishops and lord abbots they had lost the only means of balancing their factions, so as to turn the scale in favour of law and order; and by and by the haughty barons themselves, who had scrambled for the worldly spoil of the church, found that the spiritual influence had been concentrated in hands as haughty as their own, and connected with no feelings likely to buttress their order any more than the Crown---a new and sterner monkery, under a different name, and essentially plebeian. Presently the Scotch were on the verge of republicanism, in state as well as kirk, and I have sometimes thought it was only the accession of King Jamie to the throne of England that could have given monarchy a chance of prolonging its existence here.'' One of his friends asked what he supposed might have been the annual revenue of the abbey of Melrose in its best day. He answered, that he suspected, if all the sources of their income were now in clever hands, the produce could hardly be under <L>100,000 a-year; and added---``Making every allowance for modern improvements, there can be no question that the sixty brothers of Melrose divided a princely rental. The superiors were often men of very high birth, and the great majority of the rest were younger brothers of gentlemen's families. I fancy they may have been, on the whole, pretty near akin to your Fellows of All Souls---who, according to their statute, must be _bene nati, bene vestiti, et mediocriter docti._ They had a good house in Edinburgh, where, no doubt, my lord abbot and his chaplains maintained a hospitable table during the sittings of Parliament.'' Some one regretted that we had no lively picture of the enormous revolution in manners that must have followed the downfall of the ancient Church of Scotland. He observed that there were, he fancied, materials enough for constructing such a one, but that they were mostly scattered in records---``of which,'' said he, ``who knows anything to the purpose except Tom Thomson and John Riddell? It is common to laugh at such researches, but they pay the good brains that meddle with them;---and had Thomson been as diligent in setting down his discoveries as he has been in making them, he might, long before this time of day, have placed himself on a level with Ducange or Camden. The change in the country-side,'' he continued, ``must indeed have been terrific; but it does not seem to have been felt very severely by a certain Boniface of St Andrews, for when somebody asked him, on the subsidence of the storm, what he thought of all that had occurred,---`Why,' answered mine host, `it comes to this, that the moder_au_tor sits in my meikle chair, where the dean sat before, and in place of calling for the third stoup of Bordeaux, bids Jenny bring ben anither bowl of toddy.' ''
At Dryburgh Scott pointed out to us the sepulchral aisle of his Haliburton ancestors, and said he hoped, in God's appointed time, to lay his bones among their dust. The spot was, even then, a sufficiently interesting and impressive one; but I shall not say more of it at present.
On returning to Abbotsford, we found Mrs Scott and her daughters doing penance under the merciless curiosity of a couple of tourists who had arrived from Selkirk soon after we set out for Melrose. They were rich specimens--- tall, lanky young men, both of them rigged out in new jackets and trousers of the Macgregor tartan; the one, as they had revealed, being a lawyer, the other a Unitarian preacher, from New England. These gentlemen, when told on their arrival that Mr Scott was not at home, had shewn such signs of impatience, that the servant took it for granted they must have serious business, and asked if they would wish to speak a word with his lady. They grasped at this, and so conducted themselves in the interview, that Mrs Scott never doubted they had brought letters of introduction to her husband, and invited them accordingly to partake of her luncheon. They had been walking about the house and grounds with her and her daughters ever since that time, and appeared at the porch, when the Sheriff and his party returned to dinner, as if they had been already fairly enrolled on his visiting list. For the moment, he too was taken in---he fancied that his wife must have received and opened their credentials and shook hands with them with courteous cordiality. But Mrs Scott, with all her overflowing good-nature, was a sharp observer; and she, before a minute had elapsed, interrupted the ecstatic compliments of the strangers, by reminding them that her husband would be glad to have the letters of the friends who had been so good as to write by them. It then turned out that there were no letters to be produced ---and Scott, signifying that his hour for dinner approached, added, that as he supposed they meant to walk to Melrose, he could not trespass further on their time. The two lion-hunters seemed quite unprepared for this abrupt escape. But there was about Scott, in perfection, when he chose to exert it, the power of civil repulsion; he bowed the overwhelmed originals to his door, and on re-entering the parlour, found Mrs Scott complaining very indignantly that they had gone so far as to pull out their note-book, and beg an exact account, not only of his age---but of her own. Scott, already half relenting, laughed heartily at this misery. He observed, however, that ``if he were to take in all the world, he had better put up a sign-post at once,---
`Porter, ale, and British spirits, Painted bright between twa trees;'<*>
* Macneill's _Will and Jean._
and that no traveller of respectability could ever be at a loss for such an introduction as would ensure his best hospitality.'' Still he was not quite pleased with what had happened---and as we were about to pass, half an hour afterwards, from the drawing-room to the dining-room, he said to his wife, ``Hang the Yahoos, Charlotte---but we should have bid them stay dinner.'' ``Devil a bit,'' quoth Captain John Fergusson, who had again come over from Huntly Burn, and had been latterly assisting the lady to amuse her Americans---``Devil a bit, my dear,---they were quite in a mistake, I could see. The one asked Madame whether she deigned to call her new house Tullyveolan or Tillietudlem; and the other, when Maida happened to lay his nose against the window, exclaimed _pro-di-gi-ous!_ In short, they evidently meant all the humbug not for you, but for the culprit of Waverley, and the rest of that there rubbish.'' ``Well, well, Skipper,'' was the reply,---``for a' that, the loons would hae been nane the waur o' their kail.''
From this banter it may be inferred that the younger Fergusson had not as yet been told the Waverley secret--- which to any of that house could never have been any mystery. Probably this, or some similar occasion soon afterwards, led to his formal initiation; for during the many subsequent years that the veil was kept on, I used to admire the tact with which, when in their topmost high-jinks humour, both ``Captain John'' and ``The Auld Captain'' eschewed any the most distant allusion to the affair.
And this reminds me, that at the period of which I am writing, none of Scott's own family, except of course his wife, had the advantage in that matter of the Skipper. Some of them, too, were apt, like him, so long as no regular confidence had been reposed in them, to avail themselves of the author's reserve for their own sport among friends. Thus, one morning, just as Scott was opening the door of the parlour, the rest of the party being already seated at the breakfast-table, the Dominie was in the act of helping himself to an egg, marked with a peculiar hieroglyphic by Mrs Thomas Purdie, upon which Anne Scott, then a lively rattling girl of sixteen, lisped out, ``That's a mysterious looking egg, Mr Thomson---what if it should have been meant for the _Great Unknown?_'' Ere the Dominie could reply, her father advanced to the foot of the table, and having seated himself and deposited his stick on the carpet beside him, with a sort of whispered whistle, ``What's that Lady Anne's<*> saying?'' quoth he; ``I thought that it had
* When playing in childhood with the young ladies of the Buccleuch
* family, she had been overheard saying to her namesake
* Lady Anne Scott, ``Well, I do wish I were Lady Anne too---it
* is so much prettier than Miss;'' thenceforth she was commonly
* addressed in the family by the coveted title.
been well known that the _keelavined_ egg must be a soft one for _the Sherra?_'' And so he took his egg, and while all smiled in silence, poor Anne said gaily, in the midst of her blushes, ``Upon my word, papa, I thought Mr John Ballantyne might have been expected.'' This allusion to Johnny's glory in being considered as the accredited representative of Jedediah Cleishbotham, produced a laugh---at which the Sheriff frowned---and then laughed too.
I remember nothing particular about our second day's dinner, except that it was then I first met my dear and honoured friend William Laidlaw. The evening passed rather more quietly than the preceding one. Instead of the dance in the new dining-room, we had a succession of old ballads sung to the harp and guitar by the young ladies of the house; and Scott, when they seemed to have done enough, found some reason for taking down a volume of Crabbe, and read us one of his favourite tales---
``Grave Jonas Kindred, Sybil Kindred's sire, Was six feet high, and looked six inches higher,'' &c.
But jollity revived in full vigour when the supper-tray was introduced, and to cap all merriment, Adam Fergusson dismissed us with the _Laird of Cockpen._ Lord and Lady Melville were to return to Melville Castle next morning, and Mr Wilson and I happened to mention that we were engaged to dine and sleep at the seat of my friend and relation Mr Pringle of Torwoodlee, on our way to Edinburgh. Scott immediately said that he would send word in the morning to the Laird, that he and Fergusson meant to accompany us---such being the unceremonious style in which country neighbours in Scotland visit each other. Next day, accordingly, we all rode over together to the ``_distant Torwoodlee_'' of the Lay of the Last Minstrel, distant not above five or six miles from Abbotsford---coursing hares as we proceeded, but inspecting the antiquities of the _Catrail_ to the interruption of our sport. We had another joyous evening at Torwoodlee. Scott and Fergusson returned home at night, and the morning after, as Wilson and I mounted for Edinburgh, our kind old host, his sides still sore with laughter, remarked that ``the Sheriff and the Captain together were too much for any company.''
Towards the end of this year Scott received from Lord Sidmouth the formal announcement of the Prince Regent's desire (which had been privately communicated some months earlier through the Lord Chief-Commissioner Adam) to confer on him the rank of Baronet. When he first heard of the Regent's intention, he signified considerable hesitation; for it had not escaped his observation that such airy sounds, however modestly people may be disposed to estimate them, are apt to entail in the upshot additional cost upon their way of living, and to affect accordingly the plastic fancies, feelings, and habits of their children. But Lord Sidmouth's letter happened to reach him a few months after he had heard of the sudden death of Charles Carpenter, who had bequeathed the reversion of his fortune to his sister's family; and this circumstance disposed Scott to wave his scruples, chiefly with a view to the professional advantage of his eldest son, who had by this time fixed on the life of a soldier. As is usually the case, the estimate of Mr Carpenter's property transmitted on his death to England proved to have been an exaggerated one; and at any rate no one of Scott's children lived to receive any benefit from the bequest. But it was thus he wrote at the time to Morritt:---``It would be easy saying a parcel of fine things about my contempt of rank, and so forth; but although I would not have gone a step out of my way to have asked, or bought, or begged, or borrowed a distinction, which to me personally will rather be inconvenient than otherwise, yet, coming as it does directly from the source of feudal honours, and as an honour, I am really gratified with it;---especially as it is intimated, that it is his Royal Highness's pleasure to heat the oven for me expressly, without waiting till he has some new _batch_ of Baronets ready in dough. My poor friend Carpenter's bequest to my family has taken away a certain degree of _impecuniosity,_ a necessity of saving cheese-parings and candle-ends, which always looks inconsistent with any little pretension to rank. But as things now stand, Advance banners in the name of God and St Andrew! Remember, I anticipate the jest, `I like not such grinning honours as Sir Walter hath.'<*> After all, if one must speak for themselves,
* Sir Walter Blunt---1_st King Henry IV.,_ Act V. Scene 3.
I have my quarters and emblazonments, free of all stain but Border theft, and High Treason, which I hope are gentlemanlike crimes; and I hope Sir Walter Scott will not sound worse than Sir Humphrey Davy, though my merits are as much under his, in point of utility, as can well be imagined. But a name is something and mine is the better of the two.''
His health prevented him from going up to the fountain of honour for more than a year. Meantime his building and other operations continued to tax his resources more than he had calculated upon; and he now completed an important negotiation with Constable, who agreed to give him bonds for <L>12,000 in consideration of all his existing copyrights; namely, whatever shares had been reserved to him in the earlier poems, and the whole property in his novels down to the third series of Tales of my Landlord inclusive. The deed included a clause by which Constable was to forfeit <L>2000 if he ever ``divulged the name of the Author of Waverley during the life of the said Walter Scott, Esq.'' It is perhaps hardly worth mentioning, that about this date a London bookseller announced certain volumes of Grub-Street manufacture, as ``A New Series of the Tales of my Landlord;'' and when John Ballantyne, as the ``agent for the author of Waverley,'' published a declaration that the volumes thus advertised were not from that writer's pen, met John's declaration by an audacious rejoinder---impeaching his authority, and asserting that nothing but the personal appearance in the field of the gentleman for whom Ballantyne pretended to act, could shake his belief that he was himself in the confidence of the true Simon Pure. Hereupon the dropping of Scott's mask seems to have been pronounced advisable by both Ballantyne and Constable. But he calmly replied, ``The Author who lends himself to such a trick must be a blockhead---let them publish, and that will serve our purpose better than anything we ourselves could do.'' I have forgotten the names of the ``tales,'' which, being published accordingly, fell still-born from the press.
During the winter he appears to have made little progress with the third series included in this negotiation;--- his painful seizures of cramp were again recurring frequently, and he probably thought it better to allow the novels to lie over until his health should be reestablished. In the meantime he drew up a set of topographical and historical essays, which originally appeared in the successive numbers of the splendidly illustrated work, entitled Provincial Antiquities of Scotland.<*> But he did this
* These charming essays are now included in his _Miscellaneous
* Prose Works._
merely to gratify his own love of the subject, and because, well or ill, he must be doing something. He declined all pecuniary recompense; but afterwards, when the success of the publication was secure, accepted from the proprietors some of the beautiful drawings by Turner, Thomson, and other artists, which had been prepared to accompany his text. He also wrote that winter his article on the Drama for the Encyclop<ae>dia Supplement, and the reviewal of the fourth canto of Childe Harold for the Quarterly.
On the 15th of February 1819, he witnessed the first representation, on the Edinburgh boards, of the most meritorious and successful of all the _Terryfications,_ though Terry himself was not the manufacturer. The drama of _Rob Roy_ will never again be got up so well in all its parts, as it then was by William Murray's Company; the manager's own _Captain Thornton_ was excellent---and so was the _Dugald Creature_ of a Mr Duff---there was also a good _Mattie_---(about whose equipment, by the by, Scott felt such interest that he left his box between the acts to remind Mr Murray that she ``must have a mantle with her lanthorn;'')--- but the great and unrivalled attraction was the personification of _Bailie Jarvie,_ by Charles Mackay, who, being himself a native of Glasgow, entered into the minutest peculiarities of the character with high _gusto,_ and gave the west-country dialect in its most racy perfection. It was extremely diverting to watch the play of Scott's features during this admirable realization of his conception; and I must add, that the behaviour of the Edinburgh audience on all such occasions, while the secret of the novels was preserved, reflected great honour on their good taste and delicacy of feeling. He seldom, in those days, entered his box without receiving some mark of general respect and adniration; but I never heard of any pretext being laid hold of to connect these demonstrations with the piece he had come to witness, or, in short, to do or say anything likely to interrupt his quiet enjoyment of the evening in the midst of his family and friends.
This _Rob Roy_ had a continued run of forty-one nights; and when the Bailie's benefit-night arrived, he received an epistle of kind congratulation signed _Jedediah Cleishbotham,_ and enclosing a five-pound note: but all the while, Scott was in a miserable state, and when he left Edinburgh, in March, the alarm about him in the Parliament House was very serious. He had invited me to visit him in the country during the recess; but I should not have ventured to keep my promise, had not the Ballantynes reported amendment towards the close of April. John then told me that his ``illustrious friend'' (for so both the brothers usually spoke of him) was so much recovered as to have resumed his usual literary tasks, though with this difference, that he now, for the first time in his life, found it necessary to employ the hand of another.
He had now begun in earnest his Bride of Lammermoor, and his amanuenses were William Laidlaw and John Ballantyne;--- of whom he preferred the latter, when he could be at Abbotsford, on account of the superior rapidity of his pen; and also because John kept his pen to the paper without interruption, and, though with many an arch twinkle in his eyes, and now and then an audible smack of his lips, had resolution to work on like a well-trained clerk; whereas good Laidlaw entered with such keen zest into the interest of the story as it flowed from the author's lips, that he could not suppress exclamations of surprise and delight--- ``Gude keep us a'!---the like o' that!---eh sirs! eh sirs!'' ---and so forth---which did not promote despatch. I have often, however, in the sequel, heard both these secretaries describe the astonishment with which they were equally affected when Scott began this experiment. The affectionate Laidlaw beseeching him to stop dictating, when his audible suffering filled every pause, ``Nay, Willie,'' he answered, ``only see that the doors are fast. I would fain keep all the cry as well as all the wool to ourselves; but as to giving over work, that can only be when I am in woollen.'' John Ballantyne told me, that after the first day, he always took care to have a dozen of pens made before he seated himself opposite to the sofa on which Scott lay, and that though he often turned himself on his pillow with a groan of torment, he usually continued the sentence in the same breath. But when dialogue of peculiar animation was in progress, spirit seemed to triumph altogether over matter ---he arose from his couch and walked up and down the room, raising and lowering his voice, and as it were acting the parts. It was in this fashion that Scott produced the far greater portion of The Bride of Lammermoor---the whole of the Legend of Montrose and almost the whole of Ivanhoe. Yet when his health was fairly reestablished, he disdained to avail himself of the power of dictation, which he had thus put to the sharpest test, but resumed, and for many years resolutely adhered to, the old plan of writing everything with his own hand. When I once, sometime afterwards, expressed my surprise that he did not consult his ease, and spare his eye-sight at all events, by occasionally dictating, he answered---``I should as soon think of getting into a sedan-chair while I can use my legs.''
But to return:---I rode out to Abbotsford with John Ballantyne towards the end of the spring vacation, and though he had warned me of a sad change in Scott's appearance, it was far beyond what I had been led to anticipate. He had lost a great deal of flesh---his clothes hung loose about him---his countenance was meagre, haggard, and of the deadliest yellow of the jaundice---and his hair, which a few weeks before had been but slightly sprinkled with grey, was now almost literally snow-white. His eye, however, retained its fire unquenched; indeed it seemed to have gained in brilliancy from the new langour of the other features; and he received us with all the usual cordiality, and even with little perceptible diminishment in the sprightliness of his manner. He sat at the table while we dined, but partook only of some rice pudding; and after the cloth was drawn, while sipping his toast and water, pushed round the bottle in his old style, and talked with easy cheerfulness of the stout battle he had fought, and which he now seemed to consider as won.
``One day there was,'' he said, ``when I certainly began to have great doubts whether the mischief was not getting at my, mind---and I'll tell you how I tried to reassure myself on that score. I was quite unfit for anything like original composition; but I thought if I could turn an old German ballad I had been reading into decent rhymes, I might dismiss my worst apprehensions---and you shall see what became of the experiment.'' He then desired his daughter Sophia to fetch the MS. of _The Noble Moringer,_ as it had been taken down from his dictation, partly by her and partly by Mr Laidlaw, during one long and painful day while he lay in bed. He read it to us as it stood, and seeing that both Ballantyne and I were much pleased with the verses, he said he should copy them over,---make them a little ``tighter about the joints,''---and give them to the Register for 1816.
The reading of this long ballad, however,---(it consists of forty-three stanzas)<*>---seemed to have exhausted him: he
* See _Scott's Poetical Works,_ royal 8vo, p. 618.
retired to his bed-room; and an hour or two after, when we were about to follow his example, his family were distressed by the well-known symptoms of another sharp recurrence of his affliction. A large dose of opium and the hot bath were immediately put in requisition. His good neighbour, Dr Scott of Darnlee, was sent for, and soon attended; and in the course of three or four hours we learned that he was once more at ease. But I can never forget the groans which, during that space, his agony extorted from him. Well knowing the iron strength of his resolution, to find him confessing its extremity, by cries audible not only all over the house, but even to a considerable distance from it ---it may be supposed that this was sufficiently alarming, even to my companion; how much more to me, who had never before listened to that voice, except in the gentle accents of kindness and merriment.
I told Ballantyne that I saw this was no time for my visit, and that I should start for Edinburgh again at an early hour---and begged he would make my apologies---in the propriety of which he acquiesced. But as I was dressing, about seven next morning, Scott himself tapped at my door, and entered, looking better I thought than at my arrival the day before. ``Don't think of going,'' said he; ``I feel hearty this morning, and if my devil does come back again, it won't be for three days at any rate. For the present, I want nothing to set me up except a good trot in the open air, to drive away the accursed vapours of the laudanum I was obliged to swallow last night. You have never seen Yarrow, and when I have finished a little job I have with Jocund Johnny, we shall all take horse and make a day of it.'' When I said something about a ride of twenty miles being rather a bold experiment after such a night, he answered, that he had ridden more than forty, a week before, under similar circumstances, and felt nothing the worse. He added, that there was an election on foot, in consequence of the death of Sir John Riddell of Riddell, Member of Parliament for the Selkirk district of Burghs, and that the bad health and absence of the Duke of Buccleuch rendered it quite necessary that he should make exertions on this occasion. ``In short,'' said he, laughing, ``I have an errand which I shall perform---and as I must pass Newark, you had better not miss the opportunity of seeing it under so excellent a cicerone as the old minstrel,
`Whose withered cheek and tresses grey Shall yet see many a better day.' ''
About eleven o'clock, accordingly, he was mounted, by the help of Tom Purdie, upon a staunch active cob, yclept _Sybil Grey,_---exactly such a creature as is described in Mr Dinmont's _Dumple_---while Ballantyne sprung into the saddle of noble _Old Mortality,_ and we proceeded to the town of Selkirk, where Scott halted to do business at the Sheriff-Clerk's, and begged us to move onward at a gentle pace until he should overtake us. He came up by and by at a canter, and seemed in high glee with the tidings he had heard about the canvass. And so we rode by Philiphaugh, Carterhaugh, Bowhill, and Newark, he pouring out all the way his picturesque anecdotes of former times---more especially of the fatal field where Montrose was finally overthrown by Leslie. He described the battle as vividly as if he had witnessed it; the passing of the Ettrick at daybreak by the Covenanting General's heavy cuirassiers, many of them old soldiers of Gustavus Adolphus, and the wild confusion of the Highland host when exposed to their charge on an extensive _haugh_ as flat as a bowling-green. He drew us aside at _Slain-men's-lee,_ to observe the green mound that marks the resting-place of the slaughtered royalists and pointing to the apparently precipitous mountain, Minchmoor, over which Montrose and his few cavaliers escaped, mentioned, that, rough as it seemed, his mother remembered passing it in her early days in a coach and six, on her way to a ball at Peebles---several footmen marching on either side of the carriage to prop it up, or drag it through bogs, as the case might require. He also gave us, with all the dramatic effect of one of his best chapters, the history of a worthy family who, inhabiting at the time of the battle a cottage on his own estate, had treated with particular kindness a young officer of Leslie's army quartered on them for a night or two before. When parting from them to join the troops, he took out a purse of gold, and told the goodwoman that he had a presentiment he should not see another sun set, and in that case would wish his money to remain in her kind hands; but, if he should survive, he had no doubt she would restore it honestly. The young man returned mortally wounded, but lingered a while under her roof, and finally bequeathed to her and hers his purse and his blessing. ``Such,'' he said, ``was the origin of the respectable lairds of ------, now my good neighbours.''
The prime object of this expedition was to talk over the politics of Selkirk with one of the Duke of Buccleuch's great store farmers, who, as the Sheriff had learned, possessed private influence with a doubtful bailie or deacon among the Souters. I forget the result, if ever I heard it. But next morning, having, as he assured us, enjoyed a good night in consequence of this ride, he invited us to accompany him on a similar errand across Bowden Moor, and up the Valley of the Ayle; and when we reached a particular bleak and dreary point of that journey, he informed us that he perceived in the waste below a wreath of smoke. which was the appointed signal that a _wavering_ Souter of some consequence had agreed to give him a personal interview where no Whiggish eyes were likely to observe them; ---and so, leaving us on the road, he proceeded to thread his way westwards, across Moor and bog, until we lost view of him. I think a couple of hours might have passed before he joined us again, which was, as had been arranged, not far from the village of Lilliesleaf. In that place, too, he had some negotiation of the same sort to look after; and when he had finished it, he rode with us all round the ancient woods of Riddell, but would not go near the house; I suppose lest any of the afflicted family might still be there. Many were his lamentations over the catastrophe which had just befallen them. ``They are,'' he said, ``one of the most venerable races in the south of Scotland---they were here long before these glens had ever heard the name of Soulis or Douglas---to say nothing of Buccleuch: they can shew a Pope's bull of the tenth century, authorizing the then Riddell to marry a relation within the forbidden degrees. Here they have been for a thousand years at least; and now all the inheritance is to pass away, merely because one good worthy gentleman would not be contented to enjoy his horses, his hounds, and his bottle of claret, like thirty or forty predecessors, but must needs turn scientific agriculturist, take almost all his fair estate into his own hand, superintend for himself perhaps a hundred ploughs, and try every new nostrum that has been tabled by the _quackish_ improvers of the time. And what makes the thing ten times more wonderful is, that he kept day-book and ledger, and all the rest of it, as accurately as if he had been a cheesemonger in the Grassmarket.'' Some of the most remarkable circumstances in Scott's own subsequent life have made me often recall this conversation---with more wonder than he expressed about the ruin of the Riddells.
I remember he told us a world of stories, some tragical, some comical, about the old lairds of this time-honoured lineage; and among others, that of the seven Bibles and the seven bottles of ale, which he afterwards inserted in a note to a novel then in progress.<*> He was also full of
* See _The Bride of Lammermoor,_ Note to chap. xiv.
anecdotes about a friend of his father's, a minister of Lilliesleaf, who reigned for two generations the most popular preacher in Teviotdale: but I forget the orator's name. When the original of Saunders Fairford congratulated him in his latter days on the undiminished authority he still maintained---every kirk in the neighbourhood being left empty when it was known he was to mount the tent at any country sacrament---the shrewd divine answered, ``Indeed, Mr Walter, I sometimes think it's vera surprising. There's aye a talk of this or that wonderfully gifted young man frae the college; but whenever I'm to be at the same occasion with ony o' them, I e'en mount the white horse in the Revelations, and he dings them a'.''
Thus Scott amused himself and us as we jogged homewards: and it was the same the following day, when (no election matters pressing) he rode with us to the western peak of the Eildon hills, that he might show me the whole panorama of his Teviotdale, and expound the direction of the various passes by which the ancient forayers made their way into England, and tell the names and the histories of many a monastic chapel and baronial peel, now mouldering in glens and dingles that escape the eye of the traveller on the highways. Among other objects on which he descanted with particular interest, were the ruins of the earliest residence of the Kerrs of Cessford, so often opposed in arms to his own chieftains of Branksome, and a desolate little kirk on the adjoining moor, where the Dukes of Roxburghe are still buried in the same vault with the hero who fell at Turn-again. Turning to the northward, he shewed us the crags and tower of Smailholme, and behind it the shattered fragment of Ercildoune---and repeated some pretty stanzas ascribed to the last of the real wandering minstrels of this district, by name _Burn:_---
``Sing Ercildoune, and Cowdenknowes. Where Holmes had ance commanding,'' &c.
That night he had again an attack of his cramp, but not so serious as the former. Next morning he was again at work with Ballantyne at an early hour; and when I parted from him after breakfast, he spoke cheerfully of being, soon in Edinburgh for the usual business of his Court. I left him, however, with dark prognostications; and the circumstances of this little visit to Abbotsford have no doubt dwelt on my mind the more distinctly, from my having observed and listened to him throughout under the painful feeling that it might very probably be my last.
Within a few days he heard tidings, perhaps as heavy as ever reached him. His ever steadfast friend, to whom he looked up, moreover, with the feelings of the true old border clansman, Charles Duke of Buccleuch, died on the 20th of April at Lisbon. Captain Adam Fergusson had accompanied the Duke, whose health had for years been breaking, to the scene of his own old campaigns: he now attended his Grace's remains to England; and on landing received a letter, in which Scott said:---``I have had another eight days' visit of my disorder, which has confined me chiefly to my bed. It will perhaps shade off into a mild chronic complaint--- if it returns frequently with the same violence, I shall break up by degrees, and follow my dear chief. I thank God I can look at this possibility without much anxiety, and without a shadow of fear.''
On the 11th of May he returned to Edinburgh, and was present at the opening of the Court; when all who saw him were as much struck as I had been at Abbotsford with the change in his appearance. He was unable to persist in attendance at the Clerks' table---for several weeks afterwards I think he seldom if ever attempted it; and I well remember that, when the Bride of Lammermoor and Legend of Montrose at length came out (which was on the 10th of June), he was known to be confined to bed, and the book was received amidst the deep general impression that we should see no more of that parentage.
``The _Bride of Lammermoor_'' (says James Ballantyne) ``was not only written, but published before Mr Scott was able to rise from his bed; and he assured me that when it was first put into his hands in a complete shape, he did not recollect one single incident, character, or conversation it contained. He did not desire me to understand, nor did I understand, that his illness had erased from his memory the original incidents of the story, with which he had been acquainted from his boyhood. These remained rooted where they had ever been; or, to speak more explicitly, he remembered the general facts of the existence of the father and mother, of the son and daughter, of the rival lovers, of the compulsory marriage, and the attack made by the bride upon the hapless bridegroom, with the general catastrophe of the whole. All these things he recollected just as he did before he took to his bed: but he literally recollected nothing else not a single character woven by the romancer, not one of the many scenes and points of humour, nor anything with which he was connected as the writer of the work. `For a long time,' he said, `I felt myself very uneasy in the course of my reading, lest I should be startled by meeting something altogether glaring and fantastic. However, I recollected that you had been the printer, and I felt sure that you would not have permitted anything of this sort to pass.' `Well,' I said, `upon the whole, how did you like it?'--- `Why,' he said, `as a whole, I felt it monstrous gross and grotesque; but still the worst of it made me laugh, and I trusted the good-natured public would not be less indulgent.' I do not think I ever ventured to lead to the discussion of this singular phenomenon again; but you may depend upon it, that what I have now said is as distinctly reported as if it had been taken down in short-hand at the moment; I believe you will agree with me in thinking that the history of the human mind contains nothing more wonderful.''
One day, soon after he reappeared in the Parliament-House, he asked me to walk home with him. He moved languidly, and said, if he were to stay in town many days, he must send for Sybil Grey; but his conversation was heart-whole; and, in particular, he laughed till, despite his weakness, the stick was flourishing in his hand, over the following almost incredible specimen of the eleventh Earl of Buchan.
Hearing one morning shortly before this time, that Scott was actually _in extremis,_ the Earl proceeded to Castle Street, and found the knocker tied up. He then descended to the door in the area, and was there received by honest Peter Mathieson, whose face seemed to confirm the woful tidings, for in truth his master was ill enough. Peter told his Lordship that he had the strictest orders to admit no visitor; but the Earl would take no denial, pushed the bashful coachman aside, and elbowed his way up stairs to the door of Scott's bedchamber. He had his fingers upon the handle before Peter could give warning to Miss Scott; and when she appeared to remonstrate against such an intrusion, he patted her on the head like a child, and persisted in his purpose of entering the sick-room so strenuously, that the young lady found it necessary to bid Peter see the Earl down stairs again, at whatever damage to his dignity. Peter accordingly, after trying all his eloquence in vain, gave the tottering, bustling, old, meddlesome coxcomb a single shove,---as respectful, doubt not, as a shove can ever be,---and he accepted that hint, and made a rapid exit. Scott, meanwhile, had heard the confusion, and at length it was explained to him; when fearing that Peter's gripe might have injured Lord Buchan's feeble person, he desired James Ballantyne, who had been sitting by his bed, to follow the old man home---make him comprehend, if he could, that the family were in such bewilderment of alarm that the ordinary rules of civility were out of the question ---and, in fine, inquire what had been the object of his Lordship's intended visit. James proceeded forthwith to the Earl's house in George Street, and found him strutting about his library in a towering indignation. Ballantyne's elaborate demonstrations of respect, however, by degrees softened him, and he condescended to explain himself. ``I wished,'' said he, ``to embrace Walter Scott before he died, and inform him that I had long considered it as a satisfactory circumstance that he and I were destined to rest together in the same place of sepulchre. The principal thing, however, was to relieve his mind as to the arrangements of his funeral---to show him a plan which I had prepared for the procession---and, in a word, to assure him that I took upon myself the whole conduct of the ceremonial at Dryburgh.'' He then exhibited to Ballantyne a formal programme, in which, as may be supposed, the predominant feature was not Walter Scott, but David Earl of Buchan. It had been settled, _inter alia,_ that the said Earl was to pronounce an eulogium over the grave, after the fashion of French Academicians in the _P<e`>re la Chaise._
And this was the elder brother of Thomas and Henry Erskine! But the story is well known of his boasting one day to the late Duchess of Gordon of the extraordinary talents of his family---when her unscrupulous Grace asked him, very coolly, whether the wit had not come by the mother, and been all settled on the younger branches? I must not forget to set down what Sophia Scott afterwards told me of her father's conduct upon one night in June, when he really did despair of himself. He then called his children about his bed, and took leave of them with solemn tenderness. After giving them, one by one, such advice as suited their years and characters, he added, ---``For myself, my dears, I am unconscious of ever having done any man an injury, or omitted any fair opportunity of doing any man a benefit. I well know that no human life can appear otherwise than weak and filthy in the eyes of God: but I rely on the merits and intercession of our Redeemer.'' He then laid his hand on their heads, and said---``God bless you! Live so that you may all hope to meet each other in a better place hereafter. And now leave me, that I may turn my face to the wall.'' They obeyed him; but he presently fell into a deep sleep; and when he awoke from it after many hours, the crisis of extreme danger was felt by himself, and pronounced by his physician, to have been overcome.
The Tales of the Third Series would have been read with indulgence, had they needed it; for the painful circumstances under which they must have been produced were in part known wherever an English newspaper made its way; but I believe that, except in typical errors, from the author's inability to correct proof-sheets, no one ever affected to perceive in either work the slightest symptom of his malady. Dugald Dalgetty was placed by acclamation in the same rank with Bailie Jarvie---a conception equally new, just, and humorous, and worked out in all the details, as if it had formed the luxurious entertainment of a chair as easy as was ever shaken by Rabelais; and though the character of Montrose himself seemed hardly to have been treated so fully as the subject merited, the accustomed rapidity of the novelist's execution would have been enough to account for any such defect. Caleb Balderstone (the hero of one of the many ludicrous delineations which he owed to the late Lord Haddington)--- was pronounced at the time, by more than one critic, a mere caricature; and, though he himself would never, in after days admit this censure to be just, he allowed that he might have sprinkled rather too much parsley over his chicken.'' But even that blemish, for I grant that I think it a serious one, could not disturb the profound interest and pathos of the Bride of Lammermoor---to my fancy the most pure and powerful of all the tragedies that Scott ever penned.
These volumes, as was mentioned, came out before the middle of June; and though at that moment he was unable to quit his room, he did not hesitate to make all arrangements as to another romance. Nay, though his condition still required an amanuensis, he had advanced considerably in the new work before the Session closed in July. That he felt much more security as to his health by that time, must be inferred from his then allowing his son Walter to proceed to Ireland to join the 18th regiment of Hussars. The Cornet was only in the eighteenth year of his age; and the fashion of education in Scotland is such, that he had scarcely ever slept a night under a different roof from his parents, until this separation occurred. He had been treated from his cradle with all the indulgence that a man of sense can ever permit himself to show to any of his children; and for several years he had now been his father's daily companion in all his out-of-doors occupations and amusements. The parting was a painful one: but Scott's ambition centred in the heir of his name, and instead of fruitless pinings and lamentings, he henceforth made it his constant business to keep up such a frank correspondence with the young man as might enable himself to exert over him, when at a distance, the gentle influence of kindness, experience, and wisdom. The series of his letters to his son is, in my opinion, by far the most interesting and valuable, as respects the personal character and temper of the writer. His manly kindness to his boy, whether he is expressing approbation or censure of his conduct, is a model for the parent; and his practical wisdom was of that liberal order, based on such comprehensive views of man and the world, that I am persuaded it will often be found available to the circumstances of their own various cases, by young men of whatever station or profession.
Abbotsford had, in the ensuing autumn, the honour of a visit from Prince Leopold, now King of Belgium, who had been often in Scott's company in Paris in 1815; and his Royal Highness was followed by many other distinguished guests; none of whom, from what they saw, would have doubted that the masons and foresters fully occupied their host's time. He was all the while, however, making steady progress with his Ivanhoe---and that although he was so far from entire recovery, that Mr Laidlaw continued to produce most of the MS. from his dictation.
The approach of winter brought a very alarming aspect of things in our manufacturing districts; and there was throughout Scotland a general revival of the old volunteer spirit. Scott did not now dream of rejoining the Light Horse of Edinburgh, which he took much pleasure in seeing re-organized; but in conjunction with his neighbour the laird of Gala, he planned the raising of a body of Border Sharpshooters, and was highly gratified by the readiness with which a hundred young men from his own immediate neighbourhood sent in their names, making no condition but that the Sheriff himself should be the commandant. He was very willing to accept that stipulation; and Laidlaw was instantly directed to look out for a stalwart charger, a fit successor for the Brown Adams of former days. But the progress of disaffection was arrested before this scheme could be carried into execution. It was in the midst of that alarm that he put forth the brief, but beautiful series of papers entitled _The Visionary._
In December he had an extraordinary accumulation of distress in his family circle. Within ten days he lost his uncle Dr Rutherford; his dear aunt Christian Rutherford; and his excellent mother. On her death he says to Lady Louisa Stuart (who had seen and been much pleased with the old lady):---``If I have been able to do anything in the way of painting the past times, it is very much from the studies with which she presented me. She connected a long period of time with the present generation, for she remembered, and had often spoken with, a person who perfectly recollected the battle of Dunbar, and Oliver Cromwell's subsequent entry into Edinburgh. She preserved her faculties to the very day before her final illness; for our friends Mr and Mrs Scott of Harden visited her on the Sunday, and, coming to our house after, were expressing their surprise at the alertness of her mind, and the pleasure which she had in talking over both ancient and modern events. She had told them with great accuracy the real story of the Bride of Lammermuir, and pointed out wherein it differed from the novel. She had all the names of the parties, and detailed (for she was a great genealogist) their connexion with existing families. On the subsequent Monday she was struck with a paralytic affection, suffered little, and that with the utmost patience; and what was God's reward, and a great one to her innocent and benevolent life, she never knew that her brother and sister, the last thirty years younger than herself, had trodden the dark path before her. She was a strict economist, which she said enabled her to be liberal; out of her little income of about <L>300 a-year, she bestowed at least a third in well-chosen charities, and with the rest lived like a gentlewoman, and even with hospitality more general than seemed to suit her age; yet I could never prevail on her to accept of any assistance. You cannot conceive how affecting it was to me to see the little preparation of presents which she had assorted for the New Year---for she was a great observer of the old fashions of her period---and to think that the kind heart was cold which delighted in all these acts of kindly affection.''
There is in the library at Abbotsford a fine copy of Baskerville's folio Bible, two volumes, printed at Cambridge in 1763; and there appears on the blank leaf, in the trembling handwriting of Scott's mother, this inscription---``_To my dear son, Walter Scott, from his affectionate Mother, Anne Rutherford---January_ 1_st,_ 1819.'' Under these words her son has written as follows:---``This Bible was the gift of my grandfather Dr John Rutherford, to my mother, and presented by her to me; being alas! the last gift which I was to receive from that excellent parent, and, as I verily believe, the thing which she most loved in the world,---not only in humble veneration of the sacred contents, but as the dearest pledge of her father's affection to her. As such she gave it to me; and as such I bequeath it to those who may represent me charging them carefully to preserve the same, in memory of those to whom it has belonged. 1820.''
On the 18th of December, while his house was thus saddened, appeared his _Ivanhoe._ It was received throughout England with a more clamorous delight than any of the _Scotch novels_ had been. The volumes (three in number) were now, for the first time, of the post 8vo form, with a finer paper than hitherto, the press-work much more elegant, and the price accordingly raised from eight shillings the volume to ten; yet the copies sold in this original shape were twelve thousand.
I ought to have mentioned sooner, that the original intention was to bring out Ivanhoe as the production of a new hand, and that to assist this impression, the work was printed in a size and manner unlike the preceding ones; but Constable, when the day of publication approached, remonstrated against this experiment, and it was accordingly abandoned.
The reader has already been told that Scott dictated the greater part of this romance. The portion of the MS. which is his own, appears, however, not only as well and firmly executed as that of any of the Tales of my Landlord, but distinguished by having still fewer erasures and interlineations, and also by being in a smaller hand. The fragment is beautiful to look at---many pages together without one alteration. It is, I suppose, superfluous to add, that in no instance did Scott re-write his prose before sending it to the press. Whatever may have been the case with his poetry, the world uniformly received the prima cura of the novelist.
As a work of art, Ivanhoe is perhaps the first of all Scott's efforts, whether in prose or in verse; nor have the strength and splendour of his imagination been displayed to higher advantage than in some of the scenes of this romance. But I believe that no reader who is capable of thoroughly comprehending the author's Scotch character and Scotch dialogue will ever place even Ivanhoe, as a work of genius, on the same level with Waverley, Guy Mannering, or the Heart of Mid-Lothian.
The introduction of the charming Jewess and her father: originated, I find, in a conversation that Scott held with his friend Skene during the severest season of his bodily sufferings in the early part of this year. ``Mr Skene,'' says that gentleman's wife, ``sitting by his bedside, and trying to amuse him as well as he could in the intervals of pain, happened to get on the subject of the Jews, as he had observed them when he spent some time in Germany in his youth. Their situation had naturally made a strong impression; for in those days they retained their own dress and manners entire, and were treated with considerable austerity by their Christian neighbours, being still locked up at night in their own quarter by great gates; and Mr Skene, partly in seriousness, but partly from the mere wish to turn his mind at the moment upon something that might occupy and divert it, suggested that a group of Jews would be an interesting feature if he could contrive to bring them into his next novel.'' Upon the appearance of Ivanhoe, he reminded Mr Skene of this conversation, and said, ``You will find this book owes not a little to your German reminiscences.''
By the way, before Ivanhoe made its appearance, I had myself been formally admitted to the author's secret; but had he favoured me with no such confidence, it would have been impossible for me to doubt that I had been present some months before at the conversation which suggested, and indeed supplied all the materials of, one of its most amusing chapters. I allude to that in which our Saxon terms for animals in the field, and our Norman equivalents for them as they appear on the table, and so on, are explained and commented on. All this Scott owed to the after-dinner talk one day in Castle Street of his old friend Mr William Clerk,---who, among other elegant pursuits, has cultivated the science of philology very deeply.
I cannot conclude without observing that the publication of Ivanhoe marks the most brilliant epoch in Scott's history as the literary favourite of his contemporaries. With the novel which he next put forth, the immediate sale of these works began gradually to decline; and though, even when that had reached its lowest declension, it was still far above the most ambitious dreams of any other novelist, yet the publishers were afraid the announcement of anything like a falling-off might cast a damp over the spirits of the author. He was allowed to remain for several years under the impression that whatever novel he threw off commanded at once the old triumphant sale of ten or twelve thousand, and was afterwards, when included in the collective edition, to be circulated in that shape also as widely as Waverley or Ivanhoe. In my opinion, it would have been very unwise in the booksellers to give Scott any unfavourable tidings upon such subjects after the commencement of the malady which proved fatal to him,---for that from the first shook his mind; but I think they took a false measure of the man when they hesitated to tell him exactly how the matter stood, throughout 1820 and the three or four following years, when his intellect was as vigorous as it ever had been, and his heart as courageous; and I regret their scruples (among other reasons), because the years now mentioned were the most costly ones in his life; and for every twelvemonths in which any man allows himself, or is encouraged by others, to proceed in a course of unwise expenditure, it becomes proportionably more difficult for him to pull up when the mistake is at length detected or recognised.
In the correspondence of this winter [1819--1820], there occurs frequent mention of the Prince Gustavus Vasa, who spent some months in Edinburgh, and his Royal Highness's accomplished attendant, the Baron Polier. I met them often in Castle Street, and remember as especially interesting the first evening that they dined there. The only portrait in Scott's Edinburgh dining-room was one of Charles XII. of Sweden, and he was struck, as indeed every one must have been, with the remarkable resemblance which the exiled Prince's air and features presented to the hero of his race. Young Gustavus, on his part, hung with keen and melancholy enthusiasm on his host's anecdotes of the expedition of Charles Edward. The Prince, accompanied by Scott and myself, witnessed the ceremonial of the proclamation of King George IV. on the 2d of February, at the Cross, from a window over Mr Constable's shop in the High Street; and on that occasion also the air of sadness that mixed in his features with eager curiosity was very affecting. Scott explained all the details to him, not without many lamentations over the barbarity of the Auld Reekie bailies, who had removed the beautiful Gothic Cross itself, for the sake of widening the thoroughfare. The weather was fine, the sun shone bright; and the antique tabards of the heralds, the trumpet notes of _God save the King,_ and the hearty cheerings of the immense uncovered multitude that filled the noble old street, produced altogether a scene of great splendour and solemnity. The Royal Exile surveyed it with a flushed cheek and a watery eye, and Scott, observing his emotion, withdrew with me to another window, whispering ``poor lad! poor lad! God help him.'' Later in the season the Prince spent a few days at Abbotsford, where he was received with at least as much reverence as any eldest son of a reigning sovereign could have been. He gave Scott, at parting, a seal, which he almost constantly used ever after.
About the middle of February---it having been ere that time arranged that I should marry his eldest daughter in the course of the spring,---I accompanied him and part of his family on one of those flying visits to Abbotsford, with which he often indulged himself on a Saturday during term. Upon such occasions Scott appeared at the usual hour in Court, but wearing, instead of the official suit of black, his country morning dress---green jacket and so forth---under the clerks gown; a licence of which many gentlemen of the long robe had been accustomed to avail themselves in the days of his youth---it being then considered as the authentic badge that they were lairds as well as lawyers but which, to use the dialect of the place, had fallen into desuetude before I knew the Parliament House. He was, I think, one of the two or three, or at most the half-dozen, who still adhered to this privilege of their order; and it has now, in all likelihood, become quite obsolete, like the ancient custom, a part of the same system, for all Scotch barristers to appear without gowns or wigs, and in coloured clothes, when upon circuit. At noon, when the Court broke up, Peter Mathieson was sure to be in attendance in the Parliament Close, and five minutes after, the gown had been tossed off, and Scott, rubbing his hands for glee, was under weigh for Tweedside. On this occasion, he was, of course, in mourning; but I have thought it worth while to preserve the circumstance of his usual Saturday's costume. As we proceeded, he talked without reserve of the novel of the Monastery, of which he had the first volume with him: and mentioned, what he had probably forgotten when he wrote the Introduction of 1830, that a good deal of that volume had been composed before he concluded Ivanhoe. ``It was a relief,'' he said, ``to interlay the scenery most familiar to me, with the strange world for which I had to draw so much on imagination.''
Next morning there appeared at breakfast John Ballantyne, who had at this time a hunting-box a few miles off, in the vale of the Leader---and with him Mr Constable. his guest; and it being a fine clear day, as soon as Scott had read the Church service and one of Jeremy Taylor's sermons, we all sallied out, before noon, on a perambulation of his upland territories; Maida and the rest of the favourites accompanying our march. At starting we were joined by the constant henchman, Tom Purdie---and I may save myself the trouble of any attempt to describe his appearance, for his master has given us an inimitably true one in introducing a certain personage of his Redgauntlet: He was, perhaps, sixty years old; yet his brow was not much furrowed, and his jet black hair was only grizzled, not whitened, by the advance of age. All his motions spoke strength unabated; and though rather undersized, he had very broad shoulders, was square made, thin-flanked, and apparently combined in his frame muscular strength and activity; the last somewhat impaired, perhaps, by years, but the first remaining in full vigour. A hard and harsh countenance; eyes far sunk under projecting eyebrows, which were grizzled like his hair; a wide mouth, furnished from ear to ear with a range of unimpaired teeth of uncommon whiteness, and a size and breadth which might have become the jaws of an ogre, completed this delightful portrait.'' Equip this figure in Scott's cast-off green jacket, white hat and drab trousers; and imagine that years of kind treatment, comfort, and the honest consequence of a confidential _grieve,_ had softened away much of the hardness and harshness originally impressed on the visage by anxious penury and the sinister habits of a _black-fisher;_ ---and the Tom Purdie of 1820 stands before us.<*>
* There is in the dining-room at Abbotsford a clever little
* sketch in oil of Tom Purdie by Edwin Landseer, R. A---who often
* enjoyed Tom's company in sports both of flood and field.
We were all delighted to see how completely Scott had recovered his bodily vigour, and none more so than Constable, who, as he puffed and panted after him up one ravine and down another, often stopped to wipe his forehead, and remarked that ``it was not every author who should lead him such a dance.'' But Purdie's face shone with rapture as he observed how severely the swag-bellied bookseller's activity was taxed. Scott exclaiming exultingly, though perhaps for the tenth time, ``This will be a glorious spring for our trees, Tom!''---``You may say that, Shirra,'' quoth Tom,---and then lingering a moment for Constable,---``My certy,'' he added, scratching his head, ``and I think it will be a grand season for _our buiks_ too.'' But indeed Tom always talked of _our buiks_ as if they had been as regular products of the soil as _our aits_ and _our birks._ Having threaded, first the Hexilcleugh, and then the Rhymer's Glen, we arrived at Huntly Burn, where the hospitality of the kind _Weird-Sisters,_ as Scott called the Miss Fergussons reanimated our exhausted Bibliopoles, and gave them courage to extend their walk a little further down the same famous brook. Here there was a small cottage in a very sequestered situation, by making some little additions to, which Scott thought it might be converted into a suitable summer residence for his daughter and future son-in-law. The details of that plan were soon settled---it was agreed on all hands that a sweeter scene of seclusion could not be fancied. He repeated some verses of Rogers' ``Wish,'' which paint the spot:---
``Mine be a cot beside the hill--- A bee-hive's hum shall soothe my car; A willowy brook that turns a mill, With many a fall shall linger near:'' &c.
But when he came to the stanza---
``And Lucy at her wheel shall sing, In russet-gown and apron blue,''
he departed from the text, adding---
``But if Bluestockings here you bring, The Great Unknown won't dine with you.''
Johnny Ballantyne, a projector to the core, was particularly zealous about this embryo establishment. Foreseeing that he should have had walking enough ere he reached Huntly Burn, his dapper little Newmarket groom had been ordered to fetch Old Mortality thither, and now, mounted on his fine hunter, he capered about us, looking pallid and emaciated as a ghost, but as gay and cheerful as ever, and would fain have been permitted to ride over hedge and ditch to mark out the proper line of the future avenue. Scott admonished him that the country-people, if they saw him at such work, would take the whole party for heathens; and clapping spurs to his horse, he left us. ``The deil's in the body,'' quoth Tom Purdie; ``he'll be ower every _yett_ atween this and Turn-again, though it be the Lord's day. I wadna wonder if he were to be _ceeted_ before the Session.''---``Be sure, Tam,'' cries Constable, ``that you egg on the Dominie to blaw up his father---I wouldna grudge a hundred miles o' gait to see the ne'er-do-weel on the stool, and neither, I'll be sworn, would the Sheriff.'' ``Na, na,'' quoth the Sheriff, ``we'll let sleeping dogs be, Tam.''
As we walked homeward, Scott, being a little fatigued, laid his left hand on Tom's shoulder, and leaned heavily for support, chatting to his ``Sunday poney,'' as he called the affectionate fellow, just as freely as with the rest of the party, and Tom put in his word shrewdly and manfully, and grinned and grunted whenever the joke chanced to be within his apprehension. It was easy to see that his heart swelled within him from the moment that the Sheriff' got his collar in his gripe.
There arose a little dispute between them about what tree or trees ought to be cut down in a hedge-row that we passed; and Scott seemed somewhat ruffled with finding that some previous hints of his on that head had not been attended to. When we got into motion again, his hand was on Constable's shoulder---and Tom dropped a pace or two to the rear, until we approached a gate, when he jumped forward and opened it. ``Give us a pinch of your snuff, Tom,'' quoth the Sheriff. Tom's mull was produced, and the hand resumed its position. I was much diverted with Tom's behaviour when we at length reached Abbotsford. There were some garden chairs on the green in front of the cottage porch. Scott sat down on one of them to enjoy the view of his new tower as it gleamed in the sunset, and Constable and I did the like. Mr Purdie remained lounging near us for a few minutes, and then asked the Sheriff ``to speak a word.'' They withdrew together into the garden---and Scott presently rejoined us with a particularly comical expression of face. As soon as Tom was out of sight, he said---``Will ye guess what he has been saying, now?---Well, this is a great satisfaction! Tom assures me that he has thought the matter over, and _will take my advice_ about the thinning of that clump behind Captain Fergusson's.''<*>
* I was obliged to the Sheriff's companion of 1815, John Scott
* of Gala, for reminding me of the following trait of Tom Purdie.
* The first time John Richardson of Fludyer Street (one of Sir
* Walter's dearest friends) came to Abbotsford, Tom (who took him
* for a Southron) was sent to attend upon him while he tried for a
* fish (i. e. a salmon) in the neighbourhood of Melrose Bridge. As
* they walked thither, Tom boasted grandly of the size of the fish he
* had himself caught there, evidently giving the stranger no credit
* for much skill in the Waltonian craft. By and by, however,
* Richardson, who was an admirable angler hooked a vigorous fellow,
* and after a beautiful exhibition of the art, landed him in safety.
* ``A fine _fish,_ Tom.''---``Oo, aye, Sir,'' quoth Tom---``it's a bonny
* _grilse._'' ``A grilse, Tom!'' says Mr R.---``it's as heavy a _salmon_
* as the heaviest you were telling me about.'' Tom shewed his
* teeth in a smile of bitter incredulity; but while they were still debating,
* Lord Sommerville's fisherman came up with scales in his
* basket, and Richardson insisted on having his victim weighed. The
* result was triumphant for the captor. ``Weel,'' says Tom, letting
* the salmon drop on the turf---``weel, ye _are_ a meikle fish, mon---
* and a meikle _fule_ too,'' (he added in a lower key) ``to let yourself
* be kilt by an Englander.''
I must not forget, that whoever might be at Abbotsford, Tom always appeared at his master's elbow on Sunday, when dinner was over, and drank long life to the Laird and the Lady and all the good company, in a quaigh of whisky, or a tumbler of wine, according to his fancy. I believe Scott has somewhere expressed in print his satisfaction that, among all the changes of our manners, the ancient freedom of personal intercourse may still be indulged between a master and an _out-of-doors'_ servant; but in truth he kept by the old fashion even with domestic servants, to an extent which I have hardly seen practised by any other gentleman. He conversed with his coachman if he sat by him, as he often did on the box---with his footman, if he happened to be in the rumble; and when there was any very young lad in the household, he held it a point of duty to see that his employments were so arranged as to leave time for advancing his education, made him bring his copy-book once a-week to the library, and examined him as to all that he was doing. Indeed he did not confine this humanity to his own people. Any steady servant of a friend of his was soon considered as a sort of friend too, and was sure to have a kind little colloquy to himself at coming and going. With all this, Scott was a very rigid enforcer of discipline---contrived to make it thoroughly understood by all about him, that they must do their part by him as he did his by them; and the result was happy. I never knew any man so well served as he was---so carefully, so respectfully, and so silently; and I cannot help doubting if in any department of human operations real kindness ever compromised real dignity.
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