The novel of The Monastery was published in the beginning of March 1820. It appeared not in the post 8vo form of Ivanhoe, but in 3 vols. 12mo, like the earlier works of the series. In fact, a few sheets of The Monastery had been printed before Scott agreed to let Ivanhoe have ``By the Author of Waverley'' on its title-page; and the different shapes of the two books belonged to the abortive scheme of passing off ``Mr Laurence Templeton'' as a hitherto unheard of candidate for literary success.
At the rising of his Court on the 12th, he proceeded to London, for the purpose of receiving his baronetcy, which he had been prevented from doing in the spring of the preceding year by illness, and again at Christmas by family afflictions. The Prince Regent was now King. One of his first visiters was Sir Thomas Lawrence, who informed him that his Majesty had resolved to adorn the great gallery, then in progress at Windsor Castle, with portraits by his hand of his most distinguished contemporaries; all the reigning monarchs of Europe, and their chief ministers and generals, had already sat for this purpose: on the same walls the King desired to see exhibited those of his own subjects who had attained the highest honours of literature and science---and it was his pleasure that this series should commence with Walter Scott. The portrait was begun immediately, and the head was finished before Scott left town. Sir Thomas has caught and fixed with admirable skill one of the loftiest expressions of his countenance at the proudest period of his life: to the perfect truth of the representation, every one who ever surprised him in the act of composition at his desk will bear witness. The expression, however, was one with which many who had seen the man often, were not familiar; and it was extremely unfortunate that Sir Thomas filled in the figure from a separate sketch after he had quitted London. When I first saw the head, I thought nothing could be better; but there was an evident change for the worse when the picture appeared in its finished state---for the rest of the person had been done on a different scale, and this neglect of proportion takes considerably from the majestic effect which the head itself, and especially the mighty pile of forehead, had in nature. I hope one day to see a good engraving of the head alone, as I first saw it floating on a dark sea of canvass.
Lawrence told me several years afterwards that, in his opinion, the two greatest men he had painted were the Duke of Wellington and Sir Walter Scott; ``and it was odd,'' said he, ``that they both chose usually the same hour for sitting---seven in the morning. They were both as patient sitters as I ever had. Scott, however, was, in my case at least, a very difficult subject. I had selected what struck me as his noblest look; but when he was in the chair before me, he talked away on all sorts of subjects in his usual style, so that it cost me great pains to bring him back to solemnity, when I had to attend to anything beyond the outline of a subordinate feature. I soon found that the surest recipe was to say something that would lead him to recite a bit of poetry. I used to introduce by hook or by crook a few lines of Campbell or Byron; he was sure to take up the passage where I left it, or cap it by something better---and then---when he was, as Dryden says of one of his heroes,
`Made up of three parts fire---so full of heaven It sparkled at his eyes'---
then was my time---and I made the best use I could of it. The hardest day's work I had with him was once when * * * * * *<*> accompanied him to my painting room. * * * * * *
* A distinguished Whig friend.
was in particularly gay spirits, and nothing would serve him but keeping both artist and sitter in a perpetual state of merriment by anecdote upon anecdote about poor Sheridan. The anecdotes were mostly in themselves black enough---but the style of the _conteur_ was irresistibly quaint and comical. When Scott came next, he said he was ashamed of himself for laughing so much as he listened to them; `for truly,' quoth he, ` if the tithe was fact, might have said to Sherry---as Lord Braxfield once said to an eloquent culprit at the bar---`Ye're a verra clever chiel', man, but ye wad be nane the waur o' a hanging.' ''
It was also during this visit to London that Scott sat to Chantrey for that bust which alone preserves for posterity the cast of expression most fondly remembered by all who ever mingled in his domestic circle. Chantrey's request that Scott would sit to him was communicated through Allan Cunningham, clerk of the works in the great sculptor's establishment. ``Honest Allan,'' in his early days, when gaining his bread as a stone-mason in Nithsdale, made a pilgrimage on foot into Edinburgh, for the sole purpose of seeing the author of Marmion as he passed along the street. He was now in possession of a celebrity of his own, and had mentioned to his patron his purpose of calling on Scott to thank him for some kind message he had received, through a common friend, on the subject of those ``Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song,'' which first made his poetical talents known to the public. Chantrey embraced this opportunity of conveying to Scott his own long-cherished ambition of modelling his head; and Scott at once assented to the flattering proposal. ``It was about nine in the morning,'' says Mr Cunningham, ``that I sent in my card to him at Miss Dumergue's in Piccadilly. It had not been gone a minute, when I heard a quick heavy step coming, and in he came, holding out both hands, as was his custom, and saying, as he pressed mine---`Allan Cunningham, I am glad to see you.' I said something,'' continues Mr C., ``about the pleasure I felt in touching the hand that had charmed me so much. He moved his hand, and with one of his comic smiles said, ` Ay---and a big brown hand it is.' I was a little abashed at first: Scott saw it, and soon put me at my ease; he had the power---I had almost called it the art, but art it was not ---of winning one's heart, and restoring one's confidence, beyond any man I ever met.''
Chantrey's purpose had been the same as Lawrence's--- to seize a poetical phasis of the countenance; and when the poet first sat, he proceeded to model the head as looking upwards, gravely and solemnly. The talk that passed, meantime, had amused and gratified both, and fortunately at parting, Chantrey requested that Scott would come and breakfast with him next morning before they recommenced operations in the studio. He accepted the invitation, and when he arrived again in Ecclestone Street, found two or three acquaintances assembled to meet him,---among others, his old friend Richard Heber. The breakfast was, as any party in Sir Francis Chantrey's house was sure to be, a gay one, and not having seen Heber in particular for several years, Scott's spirits were unusually excited. ``In the midst of the mirth (says Cunningham) John (commonly called _Jack_) Fuller, the member for Surrey, and standing jester of the House of Commons, came in. Heber, who was well acquainted with the free and joyous character of that worthy, began to lead him out by relating some festive anecdotes: Fuller growled approbation, and indulged us with some of his odd sallies; things which be assured us `were damned good, and true too, which was better.' Mr Scott, who was standing when Fuller came in, eyed him at first with a look grave and considerate; but as the stream of conversation flowed, his keen eye twinkled brighter and brighter; his stature increased, for he drew himself up, and seemed to take the measure of the hoary joker, body and soul. An hour or two of social chat had meanwhile induced Chantrey to alter his views as to the bust, and when Scott left us, he said to me privately, `This will never do---I shall never be able to please myself with a perfectly serene expression. I must try his conversational look, take him when about to break out into some sly funny old story.' As Chantrey said this, he took a string, cut off the head of the bust, put it into its present position, touched the eyes and mouth slightly, and wrought such a transformation, that when Scott came to his third sitting, he smiled and said---`Ay, ye're mair like yoursel now!---Why, Mr Chantrey, no witch of old ever performed such cantrips with clay as this.'
The baronetcy was conferred on him, not in consequence of any Ministerial suggestion, but by the King personally, and of his own unsolicited motion, and when the poet kissed his hand, he said to him---``I shall always reflect with pleasure on Sir Walter Scott's having been the first creation of my reign.''
The Gazette announcing this was dated March 30, 1820 and the Baronet, as soon afterwards as he could get away from Lawrence, set out on his return to the North; for he had such respect for the ancient prejudice (a classical as well as a Scottish one) against marrying in May, that he was anxious to have the ceremony in which his daughter was concerned, over before that unlucky month should commence. He reached Edinburgh late in April, and on the 29th of that month he gave me the hand of his daughter Sophia. The wedding, _more Scotico,_ took place in the evening; and adhering on all such occasions to ancient modes of observance with the same punctiliousness which he mentions as distinguishing his worthy father, he gave a jolly supper afterwards to all the friends and connexions of the young couple.
In May 1820, he received from both the English Universities the highest compliment which it was in their power to offer him. The Vice-Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge communicated to him, in the same week, their request that he would attend at the approaching Commemorations, and accept the honorary degree of Doctor in Civil Law. It was impossible for him to leave Scotland again in time; and on various subsequent renewals of the same flattering proposition from either body, he was prevented by similar circumstances from availing himself of their distinguished kindness.
About the middle of August, my wife and I went to Abbotsford; and we remained there for several weeks, during which I became familiarized to Sir Walter Scott's mode of existence in the country. The humblest person who stayed merely for a short visit, must have departed with the impression that what he witnessed was an occasional variety; that Scott's courtesy prompted him to break in upon his habits when he had a stranger to amuse; but that it was physically impossible that the man who was writing the Waverley romances at the rate of nearly twelve volumes in the year, could continue, week after week, and month after month, to devote all but a hardly perceptible fraction of his mornings to out-of-doors' occupations, and the whole of his evenings to the entertainment of a constantly varying circle of guests. The hospitality of his afternoons must alone have been enough to exhaust the energies of almost any man; for his visiters did not mean, like those of country-houses in general, to enjoy the landlord's good cheer and amuse each other; but the far greater proportion arrived from a distance, for the sole sake of the Poet and Novelist himself, whose person they had never before seen, and whose voice they might never again have an opportunity of hearing. No other villa in Europe was ever resorted to from the same motives, and to anything like the same extent, except Ferney; and Voltaire never dreamt of being visible to his _hunters,_ except for a brief space of the day;---few of them even dined with him, and none of them seem to have slept under his roof. Scott's establishment, on the contrary, resembled in every particular that of the affluent idler, who, because he has inherited, or would fain transmit political influence in some province, keeps open house receives as many as he has room for, and sees their apartments occupied, as soon as they vacate them, by another troop of the same description. Even on gentlemen guiltless of inkshed, the exercise of hospitality upon this sort of scale is found to impose a heavy tax; few of them, now-a-days, think of maintaining it for any large portion of the year: very few indeed below the highest rank of the nobility--- in whose case there is usually a staff of led-captains, led-chaplains, servile dandies, and semi-professional talkers and jokers from London, to take the chief part of the burden. Now, Scott had often in his mouth the pithy verses---
``Conversation is but carving, Give no more to every guest, Than he's able to digest: Give him always of the prime, And but little at a time; Carve to all but just enough, Let them neither starve nor stuff; _And that you may have your due, Let your neighbours carve for you:_''---
and he, in his own familiar circle always, and in other circles where it was possible, furnished a happy exemplification of these rules and regulations of the Dean of St Patrick's. But the same sense and benevolence which dictated adhesion to them among his old friends and acquaintance, rendered it necessary to break them when he was receiving strangers of the class I have described above at Abbotsford: he felt that their coming was the best homage they could pay to his celebrity, and that it would have been as uncourteous in him not to give them their fill of his talk, as it would be in your every-day lord of manors to make his casual guests welcome indeed to his venison, but keep his grouse-shooting for his immediate allies and dependants.
Every now and then he received some stranger who was not indisposed to take his part in the _carving;_ and how good-humouredly he surrendered the lion's share to any one, that seemed to covet it---with what perfect placidity he submitted to be bored even by bores of the first water, must have excited the admiration of many besides the daily observers of his proceedings. I have heard a spruce Senior Wrangler lecture him for half an evening on the niceties of the Greek epigram; I have heard the poorest of all parliamentary blunderers try to detail to him the _pros_ and _cons_ of what he called the _Truck system;_ and in either case the same bland eye watched the lips of the tormentor. But, with such ludicrous exceptions, Scott was the one object of the Abbotsford pilgrims; and evening followed evening only to shew him exerting, for their amusement, more of animal spirits, to say nothing of intellectual vigour, than would have been considered by any other man in the company as sufficient for the whole expenditure of a week's existence. Yet this was not the chief marvel: he talked of things that interested himself, because he knew that by doing so he should give most pleasure to his guests. But how vast was the range of subjects on which he could talk with unaffected zeal; and with what admirable delicacy of instinctive politeness did he select his topic according to the peculiar history, study, pursuits, or social habits of the stranger! And all this was done without approach to the unmanly trickery of what is called _catching the tone_ of the person one converses with. Scott took the subject on which he thought such a man or woman would like best to hear him speak---but not to handle it in their way, or in any way but what was completely, and most simply his own;---not to flatter them by embellishing, with the illustration of his genius, the views and opinions which they were supposed to entertain,---but to let his genius play out its own variations, for his own delight and theirs, as freely and easily, and with as endless a multiplicity of delicious novel- ties, as ever the magic of Beethoven or Mozart could fling over the few primitive notes of a village air.
It is the custom in some, perhaps in many country-houses, to keep a register of the guests, and I have often regretted that nothing of the sort was ever attempted at Abbotsford. It would have been a curious record--- especially if so contrived---(as I have seen done)---that the Dames of each day should, by their arrangement on the page, indicate the exact order in which the company sat at dinner. It would hardly, I believe, be too much to affirm, that Sir Walter Scott entertained, under his roof, in the course of the seven or eight brilliant seasons when his prosperity was at its height, as many persons of distinction in rank, in politics, in art, in literature, and in science, as the most princely nobleman of his age ever did in the like space of time.---I turned over, since I wrote the preceding sentence, Mr Lodge's compendium of the British Peerage, and on summing up the titles which suggested _to myself_ some reminiscence of this kind, I found them nearly as one out of six.---I fancy it is not beyond the mark to add, that of the eminent foreigners who visited our island within this period, a moiety crossed the Channel mainly in consequence of the interest with which his writings had invested Scotland ---and that the hope of beholding the man under his own roof was the crowning motive with half that moiety. As for countrymen of his own, like him ennobled, in the higher sense of that word, by the display of their intellectual energies, if any one such contemporary can be pointed out as having crossed the Tweed, and yet not spent a day at Abbotsford, I shall be surprised.
It is needless to add, that Sir Walter was familiarly known, long before the days I am speaking of, to almost all the nobility and higher gentry of Scotland; and consequently, that there seldom wanted a fair proportion of them to assist him in doing the honours of his country. It is still more superfluous to say so respecting the heads of his own profession at Edinburgh: _Sibi et amicis_--- Abbotsford was their villa whenever they pleased to resort to it, and few of them were ever absent from it long. He lived meanwhile in a constant interchange of easy visits with the gentlemen's families of Teviotdale and the Forest; so that mixed up with his superfine admirers of the Mayfair breed, his staring worshippers from foreign parts, and his quick-witted coevals of the Parliament House ---there was found generally some hearty home-spun laird, with his dame, and the young laird---a bashful bumpkin, perhaps, whose ideas did not soar beyond his gun and pointer--- or perhaps a little pseudo-dandy, for whom the Kelso race-course and the Jedburgh ball were Life and the World. To complete the _olla podrida,_ we must remember that no old acquaintance, or family connexions, however remote their actual station or style of manners from his own, were forgotten or lost sight of. He had some, even near relations, who, except when they visited him, rarely if ever found admittance to what the haughty dialect of the upper world is pleased to designate exclusively as _society._ These were welcome guests, let who might be under that roof; and it was the same with many a worthy citizen of Edinburgh, habitually moving in an obscure circle, who had been in the same class with Scott at the High School, or his fellow-apprentice when he was proud of earning threepence a page by the use of his pen. To dwell on nothing else, it was surely a beautiful perfection of real universal humanity and politeness, that could enable this great and good man to blend guests so multifarious in one group, and contrive to make them all equally happy with him, with themselves, and with each other.
I remember saying to William Allan one morning as the whole party mustered before the porch after breakfast--- ``A faithful sketch of what you at this moment see, would be more interesting a hundred years hence, than the grandest so-called historical picture that you will ever exhibit at Somerset House;'' and my friend agreed with me so cordially, that I often wondered afterwards he had not attempted to realize the suggestion. The subject ought, however, to have been treated conjointly by him (or Wilkie) and Edwin Landseer. It was a clear, bright September morning, with a sharpness in the air that doubled the animating influence of the sunshine, and all was in readiness for a grand coursing match on Newark Hill. The only guest who had chalked out other sport for himself was the stanchest of anglers, Mr Rose; but he, too, was there on his _shelty,_ armed with his salmon-rod and landing-net, and attended by his humorous squire Hinves, and Charlie Purdie, a brother of Tom, in those days the most celebrated fisherman of the district. This little group of Waltonians, bound for Lord Somerville's preserve, remained lounging about to witness the start of the main cavalcade. Sir Walter, mounted on Sybil, was marshalling the order of procession with a huge hunting-whip , and, among a dozen frolicsome youths and maidens, who seemed disposed to laugh at all discipline, appeared, each on horseback, each as eager as the youngest sportsman in the troop, Sir Humphrey Davy, Dr Wollaston, and the patriarch of Scottish _belles-lettres,_ Henry Mackenzie. The Man of Feeling, however, was persuaded with some difficulty to resign his steed for the present to his faithful negro follower, and to join Lady Scott in the sociable, until we should reach the ground of our _battue._ Laidlaw, on a long-tailed wiry Highlander, yclept _Hoddin Grey,_ which carried him nimbly and stoutly, although his feet almost touched the ground as he sat, was the adjutant. But the most picturesque figure was the illustrious inventor of the safety-lamp. He had come for his favourite sport of angling, and had been practising it successfully with Rose, his travelling companion, for two or three days preceding this, but he had not prepared for coursing fields, or had left Charlie Purdie's troop for Sir Walter's on a sudden thought; and his fisherman's costume---a brown hat with flexible brims, surrounded with line upon line, and innumerable fly-hooks---jack-boots worthy of a Dutch smuggler, and a fustian surtout dabbled with the blood of salmon, made a fine contrast with the smart jackets, white-cord breeches, and well-polished jockey-boots of the less distinguished cavaliers about him. Dr Wollaston was in black, and with his noble serene dignity of countenance might have passed for a sporting archbishop. Mr Mackenzie, at this time in the 76th year of his age, with a white hat turned up with green, green spectacles, green jacket, and long brown leathern gaiters buttoned upon his nether anatomy, wore a dog-whistle round his neck, and had all over the air of as resolute a devotee as the gay captain of Huntly Burn. Tom Purdie and his subalterns had preceded us by a few hours with all the greyhounds that could be collected at Abbotsford, Darnick, and Melrose; but the giant Maida had remained as his master's orderly, and now gambolled about Sibyl Grey, barking for mere joy like a spaniel puppy.
The order of march had been all settled, and the sociable was just getting under weigh, when _the Lady Anne_ broke from the line, screaming with laughter, and exclaimed--- ``Papa, papa, I knew you could never think of going without your pet.''---Scott looked round, and I rather think there was a blush as well as a smile upon his face, when he perceived a little black pig frisking about his pony, and evidently a self-elected addition to the party of the day. He tried to look stern, and cracked his whip at the creature, but was in a moment obliged to join in the general cheers. Poor piggy soon found a strap round its neck, and was dragged into the background:---Scott, watching the retreat, repeated with mock pathos the first verse of an old pastoral song---
``What will I do gin my hoggie<*> die?
* _Hog_ signifies in the Scotch dialect a young sheep that has never
* been shorn. Hence, no doubt, the name of the Poet of Ettrick
* ---derived from a long line of shepherds.
My joy, my pride, my hoggie! My only beast, I had nae mae, And wow! but I was vogie!''
---the cheers were redoubled---and the squadron moved on.
This pig had taken---nobody could tell how---a most sentimental attachment to Scott, and was constantly urging its pretensions to be admitted a regular member of his _tail_ along with the greyhounds and terriers; but indeed I remember him suffering another summer under the same sort of pertinacity on the part of an affectionate hen. I leave the explanation for philosophers---but such were the facts. I have too much respect for the vulgarly calumniated donkey to name him in the same category of pets with the pig and the hen; but a year or two after this time, my wife used to drive a couple of these animals in a little garden chair, and whenever her father appeared at the door of our cottage, we were sure to see Hannah More and Lady Morgan (as Anne Scott had wickedly christened them) trotting from their pasture to lay their noses over the paling, and, as Washington Irving says of the old white-haired hedger with the Parisian snuff-box, ``to have a pleasant crack with the laird.''
But to return to the _chasse._ On reaching Newark Castle, we found Lady Scott, her eldest daughter, and the venerable Mackenzie, all busily engaged in unpacking a basket that had been placed in their carriage, and arranging the luncheon it contained upon the mossy rocks overhanging the bed of the Yarrow. When such of the company as chose had partaken of this refection, the Man of Feeling resumed his pony, and all ascended the mountain, duly marshalled at proper distances, so as to beat in a broad line over the heather, Sir Walter directing the movement from the right wing---towards Blackandro. Davy, next to whom I chanced to be riding, laid his whip about the fern like an experienced hand, but cracked many a joke, too, upon his own jackboots, and surveying the long eager battalion of bush-rangers, exclaimed---``Good heavens! is it thus that I visit the scenery of the Lay of the Last Minstrel?'' He then kept muttering to himself, as his glowing eye---(the finest and brightest that I ever saw)---ran over the landscape, some of those beautiful lines from the _Conclusion_ of the Lay---
---------``But still, When summer smiled on sweet Bowhill, And July's eve, with balmy breath, Waved the blue bells on Newark heath, When throstles sung on Hareheadshaw, And corn was green in Carterhaugh, And flourished, broad, Blakandro's oak, The aged harper's soul awoke,'' &c.
Mackenzie, spectacled though he was, saw the first sitting hare, gave the word to slip the dogs, and spurred after them like a boy. All the seniors, indeed, did well as long as the course was upwards, but when puss took down the declivity, they halted and breathed themselves upon the knoll---cheering gaily, however, the young people, who dashed at full speed past and below them. Coursing on such a mountain is not like the same sport over a set of fine English pastures. There were gulfs to be avoided and bogs enough to be threaded---many a stiff nag stuck fast---many a bold rider measured his length among the peat-hags---and another stranger to the ground besides Davy plunged neck-deep into a treacherous well-head, which, till they were floundering in it, had borne all the appearance of a piece of delicate green turf. When Sir Humphrey emerged from his involuntary bath, his habiliments garnished with mud, slime, and mangled water-cresses, Sir Walter received him with a triumphant _encore!_ But the philosopher had his revenge, for joining soon afterwards in a brisk gallop, Scott put Sibyl Grey to a leap beyond her prowess, and lay humbled in the ditch, while Davy, who was better mounted, cleared it and him at a bound. Happily there was little damage done---but no one was sorry that the sociable had been detained at the foot of the hill.
I have seen Sir Humphrey in many places, and in company of many different descriptions; but never to such advantage as at Abbotsford. His host and he delighted in each other, and the modesty of their mutual admiration was a memorable spectacle. Davy was by nature a poet ---and Scott, though anything but a philosopher in the modern sense of that term, might, I think it very likely, have pursued the study of physical science with zeal and success, had he chanced to fall in with such an instructor as Sir Humphrey would have been to him, in his early life. Each strove to make the other talk---and they did so in turn more charmingly than I ever heard either on any other occasion whatsoever. Scott in his romantic narratives touched a deeper chord of feeling than usual, when he had such a listener as Davy; and Davy, when induced to open his views upon any question of scientific interest in Scott's presence, did so with a degree of clear energetic eloquence, and with a flow of imagery and illustration, of which neither his habitual tone of table-talk (least of all in London), nor any of his prose writings (except, indeed, the posthumous Consolations of Travel) could suggest an adequate notion. I say his prose writings---for who that has read his sublime quatrains on the doctrine of Spinoza can doubt that he might have united, if he had pleased, in some great didactic poem, the vigorous ratiocination of Dryden and the moral majesty of Wordsworth? I remember William Laidlaw whispering to me, one night, when their ``rapt talk'' had kept the circle round the fire until long after the usual bedtime of Abbotsford---``Gude preserve us! this is a very superior occasion! Eh, sirs!'' he added, cocking his eye like a bird, ``I wonder if Shakspeare and Bacon ever met to screw ilk other up?''
Since I have touched on the subject of Sir Walter's autumnal diversions in these his latter years, I may as well notice here two annual festivals, when sport was made his pretext for assembling his rural neighbours about him--- days eagerly anticipated, and fondly remembered by many. One was a solemn bout of salmon-fishing for the neighbouring gentry and their families, instituted originally, I believe, by Lord Somerville, but now, in his absence, conducted and presided over by the Sheriff. Charles Purdie, Tom's brother, had charge (partly as lessee) of the salmon-fisheries for three or four miles of the Tweed, including all the water attached to the lands of Abbotsford, Gala, and Allwyn; and this festival had been establishes with a view, besides other considerations, of recompensing him for, the attention he always bestowed on any of the lairds or their visiters that chose to fish, either from the banks or the boat, within his jurisdiction. His selection of the day, and other precautions, generally secured an abundance of sport for the great anniversary; and then the whole party assembled to regale on the newly-caught prey, boiled, grilled, and roasted in every variety of preparation, beneath a grand old ash, adjoining Charlie's cottage at Boldside, on the northern margin of the Tweed, about a mile above Abbotsford. This banquet took place earlier in the day or later, according to circumstances; but it often lasted till the harvest moon shone on the lovely scene and its revellers. These formed groups that would have done no discredit to Watteau---and a still better hand has painted the background in the Introduction of the Monastery:--- ``On the opposite bank of the Tweed might be seen the remains of ancient enclosures, surrounded by sycamores and ash-trees of considerable size. These had once formed the crofts or arable ground of a village, now reduced to a single hut, the abode of a fisherman, who also manages a ferry. The cottages, even the church which once existed there, have sunk into vestiges hardly to be traced without visiting the spot, the inhabitants having gradually withdrawn to the more prosperous town of Galashiels, which has risen into consideration within two miles of their neighbourhood. Superstitious eld, however, has tenanted the deserted grove with a<e:>rial beings to supply the want of the mortal tenants who have deserted it. The ruined and abandoned churchyard of Boldside has been long believed to be haunted by the Fairies, and the deep broad current of the Tweed, wheeling in moonlight round the foot of the steep bank, with the number of trees originally planted for shelter round the fields of the cottagers, but now presenting the effect, of scattered and detached groves, fill up the idea which one would form in imagination for a scene that Oberon and Queen Mab might love to revel in. There are evenings when the spectator might believe, with Father Chaucer, that the
------`Queen of Fa<e:>ry, With harp, and pipe, and symphony, Were dwelling in the place.' ''---
Sometimes the evening closed with a ``burning of the water;'' and then the Sheriff, though now not so agile as when he practised that rough sport in the early times of Ashestiel, was sure to be one of the party in the boat,---held a torch, or perhaps took the helm,---and seemed to enjoy the whole thing as heartily as the youngest of his company---
`` 'Tis blythe along the midnight tide, With stalwart arm the boat to guide--- On high the dazzling blaze to rear, And heedful plunge the barbed spear; Rock, wood, and scaur, emerging bright, Fling on the stream their ruddy light, And from the bank our band appears Like Genii armed with fiery spears.''<*>
<*> See _Poetical Works,_ royal 8vo, p. 694.
The other ``superior occasion'' came later in the season the 28th of October, the birthday of Sir Walter's eldest son, was, I think, that usually selected for _the Abbotsford Hunt._ This was a coursing-field on a large scale, including, with as many of the young gentry as pleased to attend, all Scott's personal favourites among the yeomen and farmers of the surrounding country. The Sheriff always took the field, but latterly devolved the command upon his good friend Mr John Usher, the ex-laird of Toftfield; and he could not have had a more skilful or a better-humoured lieutenant. The hunt took place either on the moors above the Cauldshields' Loch, or over some of the hills on the estate of Gala, and we had commonly, ere we returned, hares enough to supply the wife of every farmer that attended with soup for a week following. The whole then dined at Abbotsford, the Sheriff in the chair, Adam Fergusson croupier, and Dominie Thompson, of course, chaplain. George, by the way, was himself an eager partaker in the preliminary sport; and now he would favour us with a grace, in Burns's phrase ``as long as my arm,'' beginning with thanks to the Almighty, who had given man dominion over the fowls of the air, and the beasts of the field, and expatiating on this text with so luculent a commentary, that Scott, who had been fumbling with his spoon long before he reached Amen, could not help exclaiming as he sat down, ``Well done, Mr George! I think we've had everything but the view holla!'' The company, whose onset had been thus deferred, were seldom, I think, under thirty in number, and sometimes they exceeded forty. The feast was such as suited the occasion---a baron of beef at the foot of the table, a salted round at the head, while tureens of hare-soup and hotchpotch extended down the centre, and such light articles as geese, turkeys, a sucking-pig, a singed sheep's head, and the unfailing haggis, were set forth by way of side-dishes. Blackcock and moorfowl, bushels of snipe, _black puddings, white puddings,_ and pyramids of pancakes, formed the second course. Ale was the favourite beverage during dinner, but there was plenty of port and sherry for those whose stomachs they suited. The quaighs of Glenlivet were tossed off as if they held water. The wine decanters made a few rounds of the table, but the hints for hot punch soon became clamorous. Two or three bowls were introduced, and placed under the supervision of experienced manufacturers ---one of these being usually the Ettrick Shepherd---and then the business of the evening commenced in good earnest. The faces shone and glowed like those at Camacho's wedding: the chairman told his richest stories of old rural life, Lowland or Highland; Fergusson and humbler heroes fought their peninsular battles o'er again; the stalwart Dandie Dinmonts lugged out their last winter's snow-storm, the parish scandal, perhaps, or the dexterous bargain of the Northumberland _tryste;_ and every man was knocked down for the song that he sung best, or took most pleasure in singing. Sheriff-substitute Shortreed---(a cheerful, hearty, little man, with a sparkling eye and a most infectious laugh)---gave us _Dick o' the Cow,_ or _Now Liddesdale has ridden a raid;_ his son Thomas (Sir Walter's assiduous disciple and assistant in Border Heraldry and Genealogy) shone without a rival in _The Douglas Tragedy_ and _The Twa Corbies;_ a weather-beaten, stiff-bearded veteran, _Captain_ Ormistoun, as he was called (though I doubt if his rank was recognised at the Horse-Guards), had the primitive pastoral of _Cozwdenknowes_ in sweet perfection; Hogg produced _The Women folk,_ or _The Kye comes hame;_ and, in spite of many grinding notes, contrived to make everybody delighted whether with the fun or the pathos of his ballad; the Melrose doctor sang in spirited style some of Moore's masterpieces; a couple of retired sailors joined in _Bould Admiral Duncan upon the high sea;_---and the gallant croupier crowned the last bowl with _Ale, good ale, thou art my darling!_ Imagine some smart Parisian savant---some dreamy pedant of Halle or Heidelberg---a brace of stray young Lords from Oxford or Cambridge, or perhaps their prim college tutors, planted here and there amidst these rustic wassailers---this being their first vision of the author of Marmion and Ivanhoe, and he appearing as heartily at home in the scene as if he had been a veritable Dandie himself---his face radiant, his laugh gay as childhood, his chorus always ready. And so it proceeded until some worthy, who had fifteen or twenty miles to ride home, began to insinuate that his wife and bairns would be getting sorely anxious about the fords, and the Dumples and Hoddins were at last heard neighing at the gate, and it was voted that the hour had come for _doch an dorrach_---the stirrup-cup---to wit, a bumper all round of the unmitigated _mountain dew._ How they all contrived to get home in safety, Heaven only knows---but I never heard of any serious accident except upon one occasion, when James Hogg made a bet at starting that he would leap over his wall-eyed pony as she stood, and broke his nose in this experiment of ``o'ervaulting ambition.'' One comely goodwife, far off among the hills, amused Sir Walter by telling him, the next time he passed her homestead after one of these jolly doings, what her husband's first words were when he alighted at his own door---``Ailie, my woman, I'm ready for my bed---and oh lass (he gallantly added), I wish I could sleep for a towmont, for there's only ae thing in this warld worth living for, and that's the Abbotsford hunt!''
It may well be supposed that the President of the Boldside Festival and the Abbotsford Hunt did not omit the good old custom of _the Kirn._ Every November, before quitting the country for Edinburgh, he gave a _harvest home,_ on the most approved model of former days, to all the peasantry on his estate, their friends and kindred, and as many poor neighbours besides as his barn could hold. Here old and young danced from sunset to sunrise,---John of Skye's bagpipe being relieved at intervals by the violin of some Wandering Willie;---and the laird and all his family were present during the early part of the evening--- he and his wife to distribute the contents of the first tub of whisky-punch, and his young people to take their due share in the endless reels and hornpipes of the earthen floor. As Mr Morritt has said of him as he appeared at Laird Nippy's kirn of earlier days, ``to witness the cordiality of his reception might have unbent a misanthrope.'' He had his private joke for every old wife or ``gausie carle,'' his arch compliment for the ear of every bonny lass, and his hand and his blessing for the head of every little _Eppie Daidle_ from Abbotstown or Broomielees.
The whole of the ancient ceremonial of the _daft days,_ as they are called in Scotland, obtained respect at Abbotsford. He said it was _uncanny,_ and would certainly have felt it very uncomfortable, not to welcome the new year in the midst of his family, and a few old friends, with the immemorial libation of a _het pint;_ but of all the consecrated ceremonies of the time none gave him such delight as the visit which he received as _Laird_ from all the children on his estate, on the last morning of every December--- when, in the words of an obscure poet often quoted by him,
``The cottage bairns sing blythe and gay, At the ha' door for _hogmanay._''
The following is from a new-year's day letter to Joanna Baillie:---``The Scottish labourer is in his natural state perhaps one of the best, most intelligent, and kind-hearted of human beings; and in truth I have limited my other habits of expense very much since I fell into the habit of employing mine honest people. I wish you could have seen about a hundred children, being almost entirely supported by their fathers' or brothers' labour, come down yesterday to dance to the pipes, and get a piece of cake and bannock, and pence a-piece (no very deadly largess) in honour of _hogmanay._ I declare to you, my dear friend, that when I thought the poor fellows who kept these children so neat, and well taught, and well behaved, were slaving the whole day for eighteen-pence or twenty-pence at the most, I was ashamed of their gratitude, and of their becks and bows. But after all, one does what one can, and it is better twenty families should be comfortable according to their wishes and habits, than half that number should be raised above their situation. Besides, like Fortunio in the fairy tale, I have my gifted men---the best wrestler and cudgel-player---the best runner and leaper--- the best shot in the little district; and, as I am partial to all manly and athletic exercises, these are great favourites, being otherwise decent persons, and bearing their faculties meekly. All this smells of sad egotism, but what can I write to you about save what is uppermost in my own thoughts? And here am I, thinning old plantations and planting new ones; now undoing what has been done, and now doing what I suppose no one would do but myself, and accomplishing all my magical transformations by the arms and legs of the aforesaid genii, conjured up to my aid at eighteen-pence a-day.''
``The notable paradox,'' he says in one of the most charming of his essays, ``that the residence of a proprietor upon his estate is of as little consequence as the bodily presence of a stockholder upon Exchange, has, we believe, been renounced. At least, as in the case of the Duchess of Suffolk's relationship to her own child, the vulgar continue to be of opinion that there is some difference in favour of the next hamlet and village, and even of the vicinage in general, when the squire spends his rents at the manor-house, instead of cutting a figure in France or Italy. A celebrated politician used to say he would willingly bring in one bill to make poaching felony, another to encourage the breed of foxes, and a third to revive the decayed amusements of cockfighting and bull-baiting---that he would make, in short, any sacrifice to the humours and prejudices of the country gentlemen, in their most extravagant form, provided only he could prevail upon them to `dwell in their own houses, be the patrons of their own tenantry, and the fathers of their own children.' ''<*>
* _Miscellaneous Prose Works,_ i. p. viii.
In September 1820 appeared _The Abbot_---the continuation, to a certain extent, of The Monastery, of which I barely mentioned the publication under the preceding March. I have nothing of any consequence to add to the information which the Introduction of 1830 affords us respecting the composition and fate of the former of these novels. It was considered as a failure---the first of the series on which any such sentence was pronounced;---nor have I much to allege in favour of the White Lady of Avenel, generally criticised as the primary blot---or of Sir Percy Shafton, who was loudly, though not quite so generally, condemned. In either case, considered separately, he seems to have erred from dwelling (in the German taste) on materials that might have done very well for a rapid sketch. The phantom, with whom we have leisure to become familiar, is sure to fail---even the witch of Endor is contented with a momentary appearance and five syllables of the shade she evokes. And we may say the same of any grotesque absurdity in human manners. Scott might have considered with advantage how lightly and briefly Shakspeare, introduces _his_ Euphuism---though actually the prevalent humour of the hour when he was writing. But perhaps these errors might have attracted little notice had the novelist been successful in finding some reconciling medium capable of giving consistence and harmony to his naturally incongruous materials. ``These,'' said one of his ablest critics, ``are joined---but they refuse to blend: Nothing can be more poetical in conception, and sometimes in language, than the fiction of the White Maid of Avenel; but when this etherial personage, who rides on the cloud which `for Araby is bound'---who is
`Something between heaven and hell, Something that neither stood nor fell,'--
---whose existence is linked by an awful and mysterious destiny to the fortunes of a decaying family; when such a being as this descends to clownish pranks, and promotes a frivolous jest about a tailor's bodkin, the course of our sympathies is rudely arrested, and we feel as if the author had put upon us the old-fashioned pleasantry of selling a bargain.''<*>
* Adolphus's _Letters to Heber,_ p. 13.
The beautiful natural scenery, and the sterling Scotch characters and manners introduced in The Monastery, are, however, sufficient to redeem even these mistakes; and, indeed, I am inclined to believe that it will ultimately occupy a securer place than some romances enjoying hitherto a far higher reputation, in which he makes no use of Scottish materials.
Sir Walter himself thought well of _The Abbot_ when he had finished it. When he sent me a complete copy, I found on a slip of paper at the beginning of volume first, these two lines from _Tom Cribb's Memorial to Congress_---
``Up he rose in a funk, lapped a toothful of brandy, And _to it_ again!---any odds upon Sandy!''---
and whatever ground he had been supposed to lose in The Monastery, part at least of it was regained by this tale, and especially by its most graceful and pathetic portraiture of Mary Stuart. ``The Castle of Lochleven,'' says the Chief-Commissioner Adam, ``is seen at every turn from the northern side of Blair-Adam. This castle, renowned and attractive above all the others in my neighbourhood, became an object of much increased attention, and a theme of constant conversation, after the author of Waverley had, by his inimitable power of delineating character---by his creative poetic fancy in representing scenes of varied interest--- and by the splendour of his romantic descriptions, infused a more diversified and a deeper tone of feeling into the history of Queen Mary's captivity and escape.''
I have introduced this quotation from a little book privately printed for the amiable Judge's own family and familiar friends, because Sir Walter owned to myself at the time, that the idea of _The Abbot_ had arisen in his mind during a visit to Blair-Adam. In the pages of the tale itself, indeed, the beautiful localities of that estate are distinctly mentioned, with an allusion to the virtues and manners that adorned its mansion, such as must have been intended to satisfy the possessor (if he could have had any doubts on the subject) as to the authorship of those novels.
About Midsummer 1816, the Judge received a visit from his near relation William Clerk, Adam Fergusson, his hereditary friend and especial favourite, and their lifelong intimate, Scott. They remained with him for two or three days, in the course of which they were all so much delighted with their host, and he with them, that it was resolved to r<e:>assemble the party, with a few additions, at the same season of every following year. This was the origin of the Blair-Adam Club, the regular members of which were in number nine. They usually contrived to meet on a Friday; spent the Saturday in a ride to some scene of historical interest within an easy distance; enjoyed a quiet Sunday at home ``duly attending divine worship at the Kirk of Cleish (not Cleishbotham)''---gave Monday morning to another antiquarian excursion, and returned to Edinburgh in time for the Courts of Tuesday. From 1816 to 1831 inclusive, Sir Walter was a constant attendant at these meetings. He visited in this way Castle-Campbell, Magus Moor, Falkland, Dunfermline, St Andrew's, and many other scenes of ancient celebrity: to one of those trips we must ascribe his dramatic sketch of _Macduff's Cross_---and to that of the dog-days of 1819 we owe the weightier obligation of _The Abbot._
To return---for reasons connected with the affairs of the Ballantynes, Messrs Longman published the first edition of the Monastery; and similar circumstances induced Sir Walter to associate this house with that of Constable in the succeeding novel. Constable disliked its title, and would fain have had _The Nunnery_ instead: but Scott stuck to his _Abbot._ The bookseller grumbled a little, but was soothed by the author's reception of his request that Queen Elizabeth might be brought into the field in his next romance, as a companion to the Mary Stuart of The Abbot. Scott would not indeed indulge him with the choice of the particular period of Elizabeth's reign, indicated in the proposed title of _The Armada;_ but expressed his willingness to take up his own old favourite legend of Meikle's ballad. He wished to call the novel, like the ballad, _Cumnor-Hall,_ but in further deference to Constable's wishes, substituted ``Kenilworth.'' John Ballantyne objected to this title, and told Constable the result would be ``something worthy of the kennel;'' but Constable had all reason to be satisfied with the child of his christening. His partner, Mr Cadell, says---``His vanity boiled over so much at this time, on having his suggestion gone into, that, when in his high moods, he used to stalk up and down his room, and exclaim, `By G---, I am all but the author of the Waverley Novels!' '' Constable's bibliographical knowledge, however, it is but fair to say, was really of most essential service to Scott upon many of these occasions; and his letter proposing the subject of _The Armada,_ furnished such a catalogue of materials for the illustration of the period as may, probably enough, have called forth some very energetic expression of thankfulness.
Scott's kindness secured for John Ballantyne the usual interest in the profits of Kenilworth,---the last of his great works in which his friend was to have any concern. I have already mentioned the obvious drooping of his health and strength; yet his manners continued as airy as ever; ---nay, it was now, after his maladies had taken a very serious shape, and it was hardly possible to look on him without anticipating a speedy termination of his career, that the gay hopeful spirit of the shattered and trembling invalid led him to plunge into a new stream of costly indulgence. It was an amiable point in his character, that he had always retained a tender fondness for his native place. He had now taken up the ambition of rivalling his illustrious friend, in some sort, by providing himself with a summer retirement amidst the scenery of his boyhood; and it need not be doubted, at the same time, that in erecting a villa at Kelso, he calculated on substantial advantages from its vicinity to Abbotsford.
One fine day of this autumn I accompanied Sir Walter to inspect the progress of this edifice, which was to have the title of _Walton Hall._ John had purchased two or three old houses with notched gables and thatched roofs, near the end of the long original street of Kelso, with their small gardens and paddocks running down to the Tweed. He had already fitted up convenient bachelor's lodgings in one of the primitive tenements, and converted the others into a goodly range of stabling, and was now watching the completion of his new _corps de logis_ behind, which included a handsome entrance-hall, or saloon, destined to have old Piscator's bust on a stand in the centre, and to be embellished all round with emblems of his sport. Behind this were spacious rooms overlooking the little _pleasance,_ which was to be laid out somewhat in the Italian style, with ornamental steps, a fountain and _jet d'eau,_ and a broad terrace hanging over the river. In these new dominions John received us with pride and hilarity; we dined gaily, _al fresco,_ by the side of his fountain; and after not a few bumpers to the prosperity of Walton Hall, he mounted Old Mortality, and escorted us for several miles on our ride homewards. It was this day that, overflowing with kindly zeal, Scott revived one of the long-forgotten projects of their early connexion in business, and offered his gratuitous services as editor of a Novelist's Library, to be printed and published for the sole benefit of his host. The offer was eagerly embraced, and when, two or three mornings afterwards, John returned Sir Walter's visit, he had put into his hands the MS. of that admirable life of Fielding, which was followed at brief intervals, as the arrangements of the projected work required, by fourteen others of the same class and excellence. The publication of the first volume of ``Ballantyne's Novelist's Library'' did not take place, however, until February 1821; and notwithstanding its Prefaces, in which Scott combines all the graces of his easy narrative with a perpetual stream of deep and gentle wisdom in commenting on the tempers and fortunes of his best predecessors in novel literature, and also with expositions of his own critical views, which prove how profoundly he had investigated the principles and practice of those masters before he struck out a new path for himself---in spite of these delightful and valuable essays, the Collection was not a prosperous speculation.
Sir James Hall of Dunglass resigned, in November 1820, the Presidency of the Royal Society of Edinburgh; and the Fellows, though they had on all former occasions selected a man of science to fill that post, paid Sir Walter the compliment of unanimously requesting him to be Sir James's successor in it. He felt and expressed a natural hesitation about accepting this honour---which at first sight seemed like invading the proper department of another order of scholars. But when it was urged upon him that the Society is really a double one---embracing a section for literature as well as one of science---and that it was only due to the former to let it occasionally supply the chief of the whole body,---Scott acquiesced in the flattering proposal; and his gentle skill was found effective, so long as he held the Chair, in maintaining and strengthening the tone of good feeling and good manners which can alone render the meetings of such a society either agreeable or useful. The new President himself soon began to take a lively interest in many of their discussions---those at least which pointed to any discovery of practical use;---and he by and by added some eminent men of science, with whom his acquaintance had hitherto been slight, to the list of his most valued friends:---in particular Sir David Brewster.
I may mention his introduction about the same time to an institution of a far different description,---that called ``The Celtic Society of Edinburgh;'' a club established mainly for the patronage of ancient Highland manners and customs, especially the use of ``the Garb of Old Gaul''--- though part of their funds have always been applied to the really important object of extending education in the wilder districts of the north. At their annual meetings Scott was henceforth a regular attendant. He appeared, as in duty bound, in the costume of the Fraternity, and was usually followed by ``John of Skye,'' in all his plumage.
His son Charles left home for the first time towards the close of 1820---a boy of exceedingly quick and lively parts, with the gentlest and most affectionate and modest of dispositions. This threw a cloud over the domestic circle; but, as on the former occasion, Sir Walter sought and found comfort in a constant correspondence with the absent favourite. Charles had gone to Lampeter, in Wales, to be under the care of the celebrated scholar John Williams, Archdeacon of Cardigan; whose pains were well rewarded in the progress of his pupil.
About Christmas appeared Kenilworth, in 3 vols. post 8vo, like Ivanhoe, which form was adhered to with all the subsequent novels of the series. Kenilworth was one of the most successful of them all at the time of publication; and it continues, and, I doubt not, will ever continue to be placed in the very highest rank of prose fiction. The rich variety of character, and scenery, and incident in this novel, has never indeed been surpassed; nor, with the one exception of the Bride of Lammermoor, has Scott bequeathed us a deeper and more affecting tragedy than that of Amy Robsart.
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