This was one of the busiest summers of his busy life. Till the 12th of July he was at his post in the Court of Session five days every week; but every Saturday evening found him at Abbotsford, to observe the progress his labourers had made within doors and without in his absence; and on Monday night he returned to Edinburgh. Even before the Summer Session commenced, he appears to have made some advance in his Rokeby, for he writes to Mr Morritt, from Abbotsford, on the 4th of May---``As for the house and the poem, there are twelve masons hammering at the one, and one poor noddle at the other---so they are both in progress;'' and his literary tasks throughout the long vacation were continued under the same sort of disadvantage. That autumn he had, in fact, no room at all for himself. The only parlour which had been hammered into habitable condition, served at once for dining-room, drawing-room, school-room, and study. A window looking to the river was kept sacred to his desk; an old bed-curtain was nailed up across the room close behind his chair, and there, whenever the spade, the dibble, or the chisel (for he took his full share in all the work on hand) was laid aside, he plied his pen, apparently undisturbed and unannoyed by the surrounding confusion of masons and carpenters, to say nothing of the lady's small talk, the children's babble among themselves, or their repetition of their lessons. The truth no doubt was, that when at his desk he did little more, as far as regarded _poetry,_ than write down the lines which he had fashioned in his mind while pursuing his vocation as a planter. By and by, he says to Terry:---``The acorns are coming up fast, and Tom Purdie is the happiest and most consequential person in the world. My present work is building up the well with some _debris_ from the Abbey. The worst of all is, that while my trees grow and my fountain fills, my purse, in an inverse ratio, sinks to zero.'' He then adds that he has at least been relieved of one of his daily labours, that of hearing his boy Walter's lesson, by ``a gallant son of the church, who with one leg of wood, and another of oak, walks to and fro from Melrose every day for that purpose.'' This was Mr George Thomson, son of the minister of Melrose, who, when the house afforded better accommodation, was and continued for many years to be domesticated at Abbotsford. Scott had always a particular tenderness towards persons afflicted with any bodily misfortune; and Thomson, whose leg had been amputated in consequence of a rough casualty of his boyhood, had a special share in his favour from the high spirit with which he refused at the time to betray the name of the companion that had occasioned his mishap, and continued ever afterwards to struggle against its disadvantages. Tall, vigorous, athletic, a dauntless horseman, and expert at the singlestick, George formed a valuable as well as picturesque addition to the _tail_ of the new laird, who often said, ``In the Dominie, like myself, accident has spoiled a capital life-guardsman.'' His many oddities and eccentricities in no degree interfered with the respect due to his amiable feelings, upright principles, and sound learning; nor did _Dominie Thamson_ at all quarrel in after times with the universal credence of the neighbourhood that he had furnished many features for the inimitable personage whose designation so nearly resembled his own; and if he never ``wagged his head'' in a ``pulpit o' his ain,'' he well knew it was not for want of earnest and long-continued intercession on the part of the author of Guy Mannering.
For many years Scott had accustomed himself to proceed in the composition of poetry along with that of prose essays of various descriptions; but it is a remarkable fact that he chose this period of perpetual noise and bustle, when he had not even a summer-house to himself, for the new experiment of carrying on two poems at the same time---and this too without suspending the heavy labour of his Swift, to say nothing of lesser matters in which the Ballantynes were, from day to day, calling for the assistance of his judgment and his pen. In the same letter in which Erskine acknowledges the receipt of the first four pages of Rokeby, he adverts also to the Bridal of Triermain as in rapid progress. Certain fragments of verse which were mentioned as being inserted in the Register of 1811 under the guise of _Imitations of Walter Scott,_ had attracted considerable notice; the secret of their authorship was well kept; and by some means, even in the shrewdest circles of Edinburgh, the belief had become prevalent that they came from Erskine. Scott had no sooner completed his bargain as to Rokeby, than he resolved to pause from time to time in its composition, and weave those fragments into a lighter romance, to be published anonymously, in a small volume, as nearly as possible on the same day with the avowed quarto. He expected great amusement from the comparisons which the critics would no doubt indulge themselves in drawing between himself and this humble candidate; and Erskine good-humouredly entered into the scheme, undertaking to do nothing which should effectually suppress the notion of his having set himself up as a modest rival to his friend. Nay, he suggested a further refinement, which in the sequel had no small share in the success of this little plot upon the sagacity of the reviewers. ``To prevent,'' he writes, ``any discovery from your prose, what think you of putting down your ideas of what the preface ought to contain, and allowing me to write it over? And perhaps a quizzing review might be concocted.'' This hint was welcome; and among other parts of the preface to _The Bridal of Triermain_ which ``threw out the knowing ones,'' certain Greek quotations are now accounted for. Scott, on his part, appears to have studiously interwoven into the piece allusions to personal feelings and experiences more akin to his friend's history and character than to his own; and he did so still more largely, when repeating this experiment, in Harold the Dauntless.
The same post which conveyed Erskine's letter above quoted, brought him an equally wise and kind one in answer to a fresh application for details about the Valley of the Tees. Scott had promised to spend part of this autumn with Morritt; but now, busied with his planting, and continually urged by Ballantyne to have the Quarto ready by Christmas, he would willingly have trusted his friend's knowledge in place of his own research. Morritt urgently represented, in reply, the expediency of a leisurely personal inspection; adding, ``I shall always feel your friendship as an honour: we all wish our honours to be permanent: and yours promises mine at least a fair chance of immortality. I hope, however, you will not be obliged to write in a hurry. If you want a few hundreds independent of these booksellers, your credit is so very good, now that you have got rid of your Old Man of the Sea, that it is no great merit to trust you, and I happen at this moment to have five or six for which I have no sort of demand:---so rather than be obliged to spur Pegasus beyond the power of pulling him up when he is going too fast, do consult your own judgment, and set the midwives of the trade at defiance.'' This appeal was not to be resisted. Scott accepted Morritt's friendly offer so far as to ask his assistance in having some of his printer's bills discounted: and he proceeded the week after to Rokeby, travelling on horseback, his eldest boy and girl on their poneys, while Mrs Scott followed in the carriage. Halting at Flodden to expound the field to his young folks, he found that Marmion had benefited the public house there very largely; and the village Boniface, overflowing with gratitude, expressed his anxiety to have a _Scott's Head_ for his sign-post. The poet demurred to this proposal, and assured mine host that nothing could be more appropriate than the portraiture of a foaming tankard, which already surmounted his door-way. ``Why, the painter-man has not made an ill job,'' said the landlord, ``but I would fain have something more connected with the book that has brought me so much custom.'' He produced a well-thumbed copy, and handing it to the author, begged he would at least suggest a motto from the tale of Flodden Field. Scott opened the book at the death scene of the hero, and his eye was immediately caught by the ``Inscription'' in black letter---
``Drink, weary pilgrim, drink, and pray For the kind soul of Sibyl Grey.''
``Well, my friend,'' said he, ``what more would you have? You need but strike out one letter in the first of these lines, and make your painter-man, the next time he comes this way, print between the jolly tankard and your own name
`Drink, weary pilgrim, drink and =pay.=' ''
Scott was delighted to find, on his return, that this suggestion had been adopted, and for aught I know, the romantic legend may still be visible.
At Rokeby he remained about a week; and how he spent it is well told in Mr Morritt's _Memorandum:_--- ``The morning after he arrived he said---`You have often given me materials for romance---now I want a good robber's cave, and an old church of the right sort.' We rode out, and he found what he wanted in the ancient slate quarries of Brignal, and the ruined Abbey of Egglestone. I observed him noting down even the peculiar little wild-flowers and herbs on the side of a bold crag near his intended cave of Guy Denzil; and could not help saying, that as he was not to be upon oath in his work, daisies, violets, and primroses would be as poetical as any of the humble plants he was examining. I laughed, in short, at his scrupulousness; but I understood him when he replied, `that in nature herself no two scenes were exactly alike, and that whoever copied truly what was before his eyes, would possess the same variety in his descriptions, and exhibit apparently an imagination as boundless as the range of nature in the scenes he recorded; whereas---whoever trusted to imagination, would soon find his own mind circumscribed and contracted to a few favourite images, and the repetition of these would sooner or later produce that very monotony and barrenness which had always haunted descriptive poetry in the hands of any but the patient worshippers of truth. Besides which,' he said, `local names and peculiarities make a fictitious story look so much better in the face.' In fact, from his boyish habits, he was but half satisfied with the most beautiful scenery when he could not connect with it some local legend, and when I was forced sometimes to confess with the Knife-grinder, `Story! God bless you! I have none to tell, sir'---he would laugh and say, `then let us make one---nothing so easy as to make a tradition.' Mr Morritt adds, that he had brought with him about half the bridal of Triermain---and promised himself particular satisfaction in _laying a trap for Jeffrey._
Crowded as this year was with multifarious cares and tasks---the romance of Rokeby was finished before the close of 1812. Though it had been long in hand, the MS. bears abundant evidence of its being the _prima cura:_ three cantos at least reached the printer through the Melrose post ---written on paper of various sorts and sizes---full of blots and interlineations---the closing couplets of a despatch now and then encircling the page, and mutilated by the breaking of the seal.
According to the recollection of Mr Cadell, though James Ballantyne read the poem, as the sheets were advancing, to his usual circle of _dilettanti,_ their whispers were far from exciting in Edinburgh such an intensity of expectation as had been witnessed in the case of The Lady of the Lake. He adds, however, that it was looked for with undiminished anxiety in the south. I well remember, being in those days a young student at Oxford, how the booksellers' shops there were beleaguered for the earliest copies, and how he that had been so fortunate as to secure one was followed to his chambers by a tribe of friends, all as eager to hear it read as ever horse-jockeys were to see the conclusion of a match at Newmarket; and indeed not a few of those enthusiastic academics had bets depending on the issue of the struggle, which they considered the elder favourite as making to keep his own ground against the fiery rivalry of Childe Harold.
On the day of publication (January 12, 1813), Scott writes gaily enough to Morritt, from his seat at the Clerks' table:---``The book has gone off here very bobbishly; for the impression of 3000 and upwards is within two or three score of being exhausted, and the demand for these continuing faster than they can be boarded. I am heartily glad of this, for now I have nothing to fear but a bankruptcy in the Gazette of Parnassus; but the loss of five or six thousand pounds to my good friends and school companions would have afflicted me very much. I wish we could whistle you here to-day. Ballantyne always gives a christening dinner, at which the Duke of Buccleuch<*> and a
* Charles Earl of Dalkeith became Duke of Buccleuch in January
* 1812, on the death of Duke Henry his father.
great many of my friends are formally feasted. He has always the best singing that can be heard in Edinburgh, and we have usually a very pleasant party, at which your health as patron and proprietor of Rokeby will be faithfully and honourably remembered.''
It will surprise no one to hear that Mr Morritt assured his friend he considered Rokeby as the best of all his poems. The admirable, perhaps the unique fidelity of the local descriptions, might alone have swayed, for I will not say it perverted, the judgment of the lord of that beautiful and thenceforth classical domain; and, indeed, I must admit that I never understood or appreciated half the charm of this poem until I had become familiar with its scenery. But Scott himself had not designed to rest his strength on these descriptions. He said to his printer while the work was in progress (September), ``I hope the thing will do, chiefly because the world will not expect from me a poem of which the interest turns upon _character;_'' and in another letter (October), ``I think you will see the same sort of difference taken in all my former poems,---of which I would say, if it is fair for me to say anything, that the force in the Lay is thrown on style---in Marmion, on description---and in the Lady of the Lake, on incident.'' Possibly some of these distinctions may have been matters of afterthought; but as to Rokeby there can be no mistake. Of its principal characters no one who compares the poem with his novels will doubt that, had he undertaken their portraiture in prose, they would have come forth with effect hardly inferior to any of all the groupes he ever created. As it is, I question whether even in his prose there is anything more exquisitely wrought out, as well as fancied, than the whole contrast of the two rivals for the love of the heroine; and that heroine herself has a very particular interest attached to her. Writing to Miss Edgeworth five years after this time (1818), he says, ``I have not read one of my poems since they were printed, excepting last year the Lady of the Lake, which I liked better than I expected, but not well enough to induce me to go through the rest---so I may truly say with Macbeth---
I am afraid to think of what I've done--- Look on't again I dare not.
This much of _Matilda_ I recollect---(for that is not so easily forgotten)---that she was attempted for the existing person of a lady who is now no more, so that I am particularly flattered with your distinguishing it from the others, which are in general mere shadows.'' I can have no doubt that the lady he here alludes to, was the object of his own unfortunate first love; and as little, that in the romantic generosity, both of the youthful poet who fails to win her higher favour, and of his chivalrous competitor, we have before us something more than a mere shadow.
In spite of these graceful characters, the inimitable scenery on which they are presented, and the splendid vivacity and thrilling interest of several chapters in the story--- such as the opening interview of Bertram and Wycliff---the flight up the cliff on the Greta---the first entrance of the cave at Brignall---the firing of Rokeby Castle and the catastrophe in Egglestone Abbey;---in spite certainly of exquisitely happy lines profusely scattered throughout the whole composition, and of some detached images---that of the setting of the tropical sun in Canto VI., for example ---which were never surpassed by any poet;---in spite of all these merits, the immediate success of Rokeby was greatly inferior to that of the Lady of the Lake; nor has it ever since been so much a favourite with the public at large as any other of his poetical romances. He ascribes this failure, in his Introduction of 1830, partly to the radically unpoetical character of the Roundheads; but surely their character has its poetical side also, had his prejudices allowed him to enter upon its study with impartial sympathy. Partly he blames the satiety of the public ear, which had had so much of his rhythm, not only from himself, but from dozens of mocking-birds, male and female, all more or less applauded in their day, and now all equally forgotten. This circumstance, too, had probably no slender effect the more that, in defiance of all the hints of his friends, he now repeated (with more negligence) the uniform octosyllabic couplets of the Lady of the Lake, instead of recurring to the more varied cadence of the Lay or Marmion. It is fair to add that, among the London circles at least, some sarcastic flings in Mr Moore's ``Twopenny Post Bag'' may have had an unfavourable influence on this occasion.<*> But the cause of failure which the poet himself
* See the Epistle of Lady Corke---and that of Messrs Lackington.
places last, was unquestionably the main one. The deeper and darker passion of Childe Harold, the audacity of its morbid voluptuousness, and the melancholy majesty of the numbers in which it defied the world, had taken the general imagination by storm; and Rokeby, with many beauties and some sublimitics, was pitched, as a whole, on a key, which seemed tame in the comparison.
I have already adverted to the fact that Scott felt it a relief, not a fatigue, to compose the Bridal of Triermain _pari passu_ with Rokeby. In answer, for example, to one of his printer's letters, he says, ``I fully share in your anxiety to get forward the grand work; but, I assure you, I feel the more confidence from coquetting with the guerilla.'' The quarto was followed, within two months, by the small volume which had been designed for a twin-birth; ---the MS. had been transcribed by one of the Ballantynes themselves, in order to guard against any indiscretion of the press-people; and the mystification, aided and abetted by Erskine, in no small degree heightened the interest of its reception. Except Morritt, Scott had no English confidant. Whether any of his companions in the Parliament House were in the secret, I have never heard; but I can scarcely believe that any of those who had known him and Erskine from their youth upwards, could have believed the latter capable either of the invention or the execution of this airy and fascinating romance in little. Mr Jeffrey, as it happened, made a voyage that year to America, and thus lost the opportunity of immediately expressing his opinion either of Rokeby or of Triermain. The Quarterly critic seems to have been completely deceived. ``The diction (he says) undoubtedly reminds us of a rhythm and cadence we have heard before; but the sentiments, descriptions, and characters, have qualities that are native and unborrowed.'' If this writer was (as I suppose) Ellis, he no doubt considered it as impossible that Scott should have engaged in such a scheme without giving him a hint of it; but to have admitted into the secret any one who was likely to criticise the piece seriously, would have been to sacrifice the very object of the device. Erskine's own suggestion, that ``perhaps a quizzical review might be got up,'' led, I believe, to nothing more important than a paragraph in one of the Edinburgh newspapers. He may be pardoned for having been not a little flattered to find it generally considered as not impossible that he should have written such a poem; and I have heard James Ballantyne say, that nothing could be more amusing than the style of his coquetting on the subject while it was yet fresh; but when this first excitement was over, his natural feeling of what was due to himself, as well as to his friend, dictated many a remonstrance; and, though he ultimately acquiesced in permitting another minor romance to be put forth in the same manner, he did so reluctantly, and was far from acting his part so well.
Scott says, in the Introduction to the Lord of the Isles ---``As Mr Erskine was more than suspected of a taste for poetry, and as I took care, in several places, to mix something that might resemble (as far as was in my power) my friend's feeling and manner, the train easily caught, and two large editions were sold.'' Among the passages to which he here alludes, are no doubt those in which the character of the minstrel Arthur is shaded with the colourings of an almost effeminate gentleness. Yet, in the midst of them, the ``mighty minstrel'' himself, from time to time, escapes; as, for instance, where the lover bids Lucy, in that exquisite picture of crossing a mountain stream, trust to his ``stalwart arm''---
``Which could yon oak's prone trunk uprear.''
Nor can I pass the compliment to Scott's own fair patroness, where Lucy's admirer is made to confess, with some momentary lapse of gallantry, that he
``Ne'er won---best meed to minstrel true--- One favouring smile from fair Buccleuch.''
But, above all, the choice of the scenery reveals the treasured predilections of the poet. For who that remembers the circumstances of his first visit to the vale of St John, but must recognize the impress of his own real romance
As a whole, the Bridal of Triermain appears to me as characteristic of Scott as any of his larger poems. His genius pervades and animates it beneath a thin and playful veil, which perhaps adds as much of grace as it takes away of splendour. As Wordsworth says of the eclipse on the lake of Lugano--- ``'Tis sunlight sheathed and gently charmed;''
and I think there is at once a lightness and a polish of versification beyond what he has elsewhere attained. If it be a miniature, it is such a one as a Cooper might have hung fearlessly beside the masterpieces of Vandyke.
The Introductions contain some of the most exquisite passages he ever produced; but their general effect has always struck me as unfortunate. No art can reconcile us to contemptuous satire of the merest frivolities of modern life---some of them already grown obsolete---interlaid between such bright visions of the old world of romance. The fall is grievous from the hoary minstrel of Newark and his feverish tears on Killiecrankie, to a pathetic swain who can stoop to denounce as objects of his jealousy
``The landaulet and four blood bays--- The Hessian boot and pantaloon,''
Before Triermain came out, Scott had taken wing for Abbotsford; and indeed he seems to have so contrived it in his earlier period, that he should not be in Edinburgh when any unavowed work was published; whereas, from the first, in the case of books that bore his name on the title-page, he walked as usual to the Parliament House, and bore all the buzz and tattle of friends and acquaintance with an air of good-humoured equanimity, or rather of total indifference.
The limits of this narrative do not admit of minute details concerning the commercial adventures in which Scott was entangled; and those of the period we have now reached are so painful that I am very willing to spare them. By the spring of 1813 the crisis in the war affected credit universally; and while the oldest firms in every department of the trade of literature had difficulties to contend with, the pressure brought many of humbler resources to extremity. It was so with the house of _John Ballantyne & Co.;_ which had started with no solid capital except what Scott supplied; and had been entrusted to one who never looked beyond the passing day---availed himself with a blind recklessness of the system of discounting and renewing bills---and, though attached to Scott by the strongest ties of grateful veneration, yet allowed himself to neglect month after month the most important of his duties---that of keeping the only moneyed partner accurately informed as to the actual obligations and resources of the establishment.
Mr John's loose methods of transacting business had soon cooled the alliance between his firm and the great Tory publisher of London. Murray's Scotch agency was taken away---he retained hardly any connection with Scott himself, except as a contributor to his Review, and from time to time a friendly visitor in Albemarle Street; and under these altered circumstances, I do not see how the whole concern of John Ballantyne & Co. could have escaped the necessity of an abrupt and disastrous exposure within but a few weeks after the appearance of the _Triermain,_ had not the personal differences with Constable been by that time healed. Mr Hunter had now retired from that house; and Constable, released from his influence, had been watching with hope the unconcealable complication in the affairs of this fragile rival. Constable had never faultered in his conviction that Scott must continue to be the ruling spirit in the literature of their age: and there were few sacrifices which that sanguine man would not have made to regain his hold on the unmatched author. The Ballantynes saw the opening for help, and their advances were well met; but some quite unexpected calls on Scott compelled him to interfere directly. and he began in his own person a negotiation which, though at the time he likened it to that of the treaty of Amiens, was far from being capriciously protracted, or from leading only to a brief and barren truce. Constable, flattered _in limine_ by the offer, on fair terms, of a fourth part of the remaining copyright of Rokeby, agreed to relieve the labouring firm of a mass of its stock: the partners to exert themselves in getting rid of the residue, and then wind up their publishing concern with all convenient speed. This was a great relief: on the 18th of May 1813, Scott writes to Mr John---``For the first time these many weeks, I shall lay my head on a quiet pillow:'' but there was still much to be achieved. The warehouse must still groan under unsaleable quires---the desk, too late explored, shewed a dismal vista of approaching demand. Scott was too just not to take something of the blame upon himself; the accumulated stock bore witness against too many of his own plans and suggestions: nor could he acquit himself of carelessness in not having forced the manager to greater exactness in the detailing of accounts. But still he felt that he had serious reason for complaint; and the letter of which a sentence has just been quoted ends in these words, which ought to have produced the deeper impression because of their gentleness:---``Adieu, my dear John. If I have ever expressed myself with irritation in speaking of this business, you must impute it to _the sudden, extensive, and unexpected embarrassments in which I found myself involved all at once._ If to your real goodness of heart and integrity, and to the quickness and acuteness of your talents, you added habits of more universal circumspection, and, above all, the courage to tell disagreeable truths to those whom you hold in regard, I pronounce that the world never held such a man of business. These it must be your study to add to your other good qualities. Meantime, as some one says to Swift, I love you with all your failings. Pray make an effort and love me with all mine. Yours truly, W.S.'' ``P. S.---James has behaved very well during this whole transaction, and has been most steadily attentive to business. I am convinced that the more he works the better his health will be. _One or other of you will need to be constantly in the printing-office henceforward---it is the sheet-anchor._''
The allusion in this postscript to the printer's health reminds me that Scott's letters to himself are full of hints on that subject, even from a very early period of their connexion; and these hints are all to the same effect. One letter (Ashestiel, 1810) will be a sufficient specimen: ---``I am very sorry for the state of your health, and should be still more so, were I not certain that I can prescribe for you as well as any physician in Edinburgh. You have naturally an athletic constitution and a hearty stomach, and these agree very ill with a sedentary life and the habits of indolence which it brings on. You must positively put yourself on a regimen as to eating, not for a month or two, but for a year at least, and take regular exercise and my life for yours.''---Among the early pets at Abbotsford there was a huge raven, whose powers of speech were remarkable and who died in consequence of an equally remarkable voracity. Thenceforth, Scott often repeated to his old friend, and occasionally scribbled by way of postscript to his notes on business---
``When you are craving, Remember the Raven.''
Sometimes the formula is varied to---
``When you've dined half, Think on poor Ralph!''
His preachments of regularity in book-keeping to John, and of abstinence from good cheer to James, were equally vain; but, on the other hand, it must be allowed that the ``hard skirmishes,'' as he calls them, of May 1813, do not seem to have left on himself all the impression that might have been anticipated. He was in the most vigorous of his prime: his temperament was buoyant and hopeful: nothing had occurred to check his confidence in the resources of his own genius and industry. So it was, that ere many weeks had passed, he was preparing fresh embarrassments for himself by bidding for another parcel of land. As early as the 20th of June he writes to Constable as being already aware of this matter, and alleges his anxiety ``to close at once with a very capricious person,'' as the only reason that could have induced him to offer for <L>5000 the whole copyright of an as yet unwritten poem, to be called ``The Nameless Glen.'' A long correspondence ensued, in the course of which Scott mentions ``the Lord of the Isles,'' as a title which had suggested itself to him in place of ``The Nameless Glen;'' but as the negotiation did not succeed, I may pass its details. The new property which he was so eager to acquire, was that hilly tract stretching from the old Roman road near Turn-again towards the Cauldshiels Loch: a then desolate and naked mountain-mere, which he likens, in a letter of this summer, to the Lake of the Genie and the Fisherman in the Arabian Tale. To obtain this lake at one extremity of his estate, as a contrast to the Tweed at the other, was a prospect for which hardly any sacrifice would have appeared too much; and he contrived to gratify his wishes in the course of July. Nor was he, I must add, more able to control some of his minor tastes. I find him writing to Terry on the same 20th of June, about ``that splendid lot of ancient armour, advertised by Winstanley,'' a celebrated auctioneer in London, of which he had the strongest fancy to make spoil, though he was at a loss to know where it should be placed when it reached Abbotsford; and on the 2d of July, this acquisition also having been settled, he says to the same correspondent---``I have written to Mr Winstanley. My bargain with Constable was otherwise arranged, but little John is to find the needful article, and I shall take care of Mr Winstanley's interest, who has behaved too handsomely in this matter to be trusted to the mercy of our little friend the Picaroon, who is, notwithstanding his many excellent qualities, a little on the score of old Gobbo---doth somewhat smack---somewhat grow to.''
On the 12th of July, as usual, he removed to Tweedside; but he had not long enjoyed himself in sketching out woods and walks for the borders of his Fairy Lake before he received sharp admonishment. Two lines of a letter to the ``little Picaroon,'' dated July 24th, speak already to a series of annoyances:---``Dear John,---I sent you the order, and have only to hope it arrived safe and in good time. I waked the boy at three o'clock myself, having slept little, less on account of the money than of the time. Surely you should have written, three or four days before, the probable amount of the deficit, and, as on former occasions, I would have furnished you with means of meeting it. These expresses, besides every other inconvenience, excite surprise in my family and in the neighbourhood. I know no justifiable occasion for them but the unexpected return of a bill. I do not consider you as answerable for the success of plans, but I do and must hold you responsible for giving me, in distinct and plain terms, your opinion as to any difficulties which may occur, and that in such time that I may make arrangements to obviate them if possible.''
The _affair_ of the 24th itself was aggravated by the circumstance that Scott had been prepared to start on the 25th for a visit in a different county: so that the worst consequences that had so late alarmed his _manager,_ must have been after all unavoidable if he had deferred his messenger but a few hours more.
Scott proceeded, accordingly, to join a gay and festive circle, whom the Duke of Buccleuch had assembled about him on first taking possession of the magnificent Castle of Drumlanrig, in Nithsdale, the principal messuage of the dukedom of Queensberry, which had recently lapsed into his family. But _post equitem sedet atra cura_---a second and a third of these unwelcome missives, rendered necessary by neglect of precisely the same kind, reached him in the midst of this scene of rejoicing.
He had been engaged also to meet the Marquis of Abercorn at Carlisle, in the first week of August, on business connected with his brother Thomas's late administration of that nobleman's affairs; and he had designed to pass from Drumlanrig to Carlisle for his purpose, without going back to Abbotsford. In consequence of these repeated harassments, however, he so far altered his plans as to cut short his stay at Drumlanrig, and turn homewards for two or three days, where James Ballantyne met him with such a statement as in some measure relieved his mind.
He then proceeded to fulfil his engagement with Lord Abercorn, whom he encountered travelling in a rather peculiar style between Carlisle and Longtown. The ladies of the family and the household occupied four or five carriages, all drawn by the Marquis's own horses, while the noble Lord himself brought up the rear, mounted on horseback, and decorated with the ribbon of the Garter. On meeting the cavalcade, Scott turned with them, and he was not a little amused when they reached the village of Longtown, which he had ridden through an hour before, with the preparations which he found there made for the dinner of the party. The Marquis's majordomo and cook had arrived there early in the morning, and everything was now arranged for his reception in the little public house, as nearly as possible in the style of his own mansions. The ducks and geese that had been dabbling three or four hours ago in the village pond, were now ready to make their appearance under numberless disguises; a regular bill-of-fare flanked the Marquis's allotted cover every huckaback towel in the place had been pressed to do service as a napkin; and the landlady's poor remnants of crockery had been furbished up, and mustered in solemn order on a crazy beauffet, which was to represent a sideboard worthy of Lucullus. I think it worth while to preserve this anecdote, which Scott delighted in telling, as perhaps the last relic of a style of manners now passed away, and never likely to be revived among us.
Having despatched this dinner and his business, Scott again turned southwards, intending to spend a few days at Rokeby; but on reaching Penrith, the landlord placed a letter in his hands: _ecce iterum_---it was once more a cry of distress from John Ballantyne. Having once more despatched a cheque and a gentle remonstrance to Edinburgh, he rode on to Brough; but there he received such a painful account of Mrs Morritt's health, that he abandoned his intention of proceeding to Rokeby; and indeed it was much better that he should be at Abbotsford again; for by this time the whole of these affairs had reached a second _crisis._ Again Constable was consulted; and now a detailed statement was submitted to him. On examining it, he so expressed himself, that all the partners concurred in the necessity of submitting forthwith to steps not less decisive than painful. Constable again relieved them of some of their crushing stock; but he frankly owned that he could not do in that way enough to serve them effectually; and Scott was constrained to have recourse to the Duke of Buccleuch, who with the kindest promptitude gave him a guarantee to the extent of <L>4000, immediately available in the money market--- the poet insuring his life for that sum, and depositing the insurance as security with the Duke; while John Ballantyne agreed, in place of a leisurely winding up of the publishing affair, to terminate it with the utmost possible speed, and endeavour to establish himself as an auctioneer of books, antiquities, and objects of vertu. How bitterly must Scott have felt his situation when he wrote thus to John on the 16th August:---``With regard to the printing, it is my intention to retire from that also so soon as I can possibly do so with safety to myself, and with the regard I shall always entertain for James's interest. Whatever loss I may sustain will be preferable to the life I have lately led, when I seem surrounded by a sort of magic circle, which neither permits me to remain at home in peace, nor to stir abroad with pleasure. Your first exertion as an auctioneer may probably be on `that distinguished, select, and inimitable collection of books, made by an amateur of this city retiring from business.' I do not feel either health or confidence in my own powers sufficient to authorize me to take a long price for a new poem, until these affairs shall have been in some measure digested.'' There still remained a difficult digestion. His correspondence on to Christmas is deeply chequered; but the nature of the details may be guessed by such as have had experience in the merchandise of literature; and few others, I suppose, will regret their curtailment.
It was in the midst of these distressing occurrences that Scott received two letters---one from Dr Stanier Clarke, private librarian to the Regent, and another, more formal, from the Marquis of Hertford, Lord Chamberlain, announcing His Royal Highness's desire to nominate him to the office of Poet-laureate, which had just fallen vacant by the death of Mr Pye. Its emoluments were understood by him to be ``<L>400, or at least <L>300 a-year;'' at that time such an accession of income must have been welcome; and at any rate, what the Sovereign designed as a favour and a distinction could not be lightly waived by Walter Scott. He felt, however, that holding already two lucrative offices in the gift of the Crown, he could not gracefully accept a third, entirely unconnected with his own legal profession, while so many eminent men remained wholly dependent on their literary exertions; and the friends whom he consulted, especially the Duke of Buccleuch, all concurring in the propriety of these scruples, he declined the royal offer. It is evident that from the first he had had Mr Southey's case in his contemplation. The moment he made up his mind as to himself, he wrote to Mr Croker and others in the Prince Regent's confidence, suggesting that name: and he had soon to congratulate his friend of Keswick on assuming the official laurel, which ``had been worn of old by Dryden and more lately by Warton.'' Mr Southey, in an essay long subsequent to his death, says---``Sir Walter's conduct was, as it always was, characteristically friendly and generous.''
This happened in September. October brought another succession of John Ballantyne's missives, to one of which Scott answers:---``For Heaven's sake, treat me as a man, not as a milch-cow;''---and a third crisis, at the approach of the Martinmas term, was again weathered with the narrowest difficulty---chiefly, as before, through the intervention of Constable. All these annoyances produced no change whatever in his habits of industry. During these anxious months of September, October, and November, he kept feeding the press from day to day both with the annotated text of the closing volumes of Swift's works, and with the MS. of his Life of the Dean. He had also proceeded to mature in his mind the plan of the Lord of the Isles, and executed such a portion of the First Canto as gave him confidence to renew his negotiation with Constable for the sale of the whole, or part of its copyright. It was, moreover, at this period, that his eye chanced to light once more on the Ashestiel fragment of _Waverley._ He read over those introductory chapters---thought they had been undervalued---and determined to finish the story.
It is proper to mention, that, in the very agony of these perplexities, the unfortunate Maturin received from him a timely succour of <L>50, rendered doubly acceptable by the kind and judicious letter of advice in which it was enclosed; and I have before me ample evidence that his benevolence had been extended to other struggling brothers of the trade, even when he must often have had actual difficulty to meet the immediate expenditure of his own family.
The great successes of the Allied Powers in the campaigns of 1813 gave a salutary stimulus to commercial enterprise: and the return of general confidence facilitated many arrangements in which Scott's interests were involved. He, however, needed no such considerations to heighten his patriotic enthusiasm, which overflowed in two songs--- one of them never since, I believe, omitted at any celebration of the anniversary of Mr Pitt's death---
``O dread was the time and more dreadful the omen, When the brave on Marengo lay slaughtered in vain.''
He also wrote an address to the Sovereign for the Magistracy of Edinburgh, which was privately acknowledged to the penman, by his Royal Highness's command, as ``the most elegant congratulation a sovereign ever received or a subject offered.'' The Magistrates accordingly found particular graciousness at Carlton House; and on their return (Christmas, 1813) presented Scott with the freedom of his native city and a very handsome piece of plate.
I must, however, open the year 1814 with a melancholy story. Mention has been made in connection with an unlucky edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, of Henry Weber, a German scholar, who, escaping to this country in 1804, from misfortunes in his own, excited Scott's compassion, and was thenceforth furnished, through his means, with literary employment of various sorts. Weber was a man of considerable learning; but Scott, as was his custom, appears to have formed an exaggerated notion of his capacity, and certainly countenanced him, to his own severe cost, in several most unhappy undertakings. When not engaged on things of a more ambitious character, he had acted for ten years as his protector's amanuensis, and when the family were in Edinburgh, he very often dined with them. There was something very interesting in his appearance and manners: he had a fair, open countenance, in which the honesty and the enthusiasm of his nation were alike visible; his demeanour was gentle and modest; and he had not only a stock of curious antiquarian knowledge, but the reminiscences, which he detailed with amusing simplicity, of an early life chequered with many strange-enough adventures. He was, in short, much a favourite with Scott and all the household; and was invited to dine with them so frequently, chiefly because his friend was aware that he had an unhappy propensity to drinking, and was anxious to keep him away from places where he might have been more likely to indulge it. This vice had been growing on him; and of late Scott had found it necessary to make some rather severe remonstrances about habits which were at once injuring his health and interrupting his literary industry. They had, however, parted kindly when Scott left Edinburgh at Christmas; and the day after his return, Weber attended him as usual in his library---being employed in transcribing extracts during several hours, while his friend, seated over against him, continued working at the Life of Swift. The light beginning to fail, Scott threw himself back in his chair, and was about to ring for candles, when he observed the German's eyes fixed upon him with an unusual solemnity of expression. ``Weber,'' said he, ``what's the matter with you?'' ``Mr Scott,'' said Weber, rising, ``you have long insulted me, and I can bear it no longer. I have brought a pair of pistols with me, and must insist on your taking one of them instantly;'' and with that he produced the weapons, which had been deposited under his chair, and laid one of them on Scott's manuscript. ``You are mistaken, I think,'' said Scott, ``in your way of setting about this affair---but no matter. It can, however, be no part of your object to annoy Mrs Scott and the children; therefore, if you please, we will put the pistols into the drawer till after dinner, and then arrange to go out together like gentlemen.'' Weber answered with equal coolness, ``I believe that will be better,'' and laid the second pistol also on the table. Scott locked them both in his desk, and said, ``I am glad you have felt the propriety of what I suggested---let me only request farther, that nothing may occur while we are at dinner to give my wife any suspicion of what has been passing.'' Weber again assented, and Scott withdrew to his dressing-room, from which he despatched a message to one of Weber's companions,---and then dinner was served, and Weber joined the circle as usual. He conducted himself with composure, and everything'seemed to go on in the ordinary way, until whisky and hot water being produced, Scott, instead of inviting his guest to help himself, mixed two moderate tumblers of toddy, and handed one of them to Weber, who, upon that, started up with a furious countenance, but instantly sat down again, and when Mrs Scott expressed her fear that he was ill, answered placidly that he was liable to spasms, but that the pain was gone. He then took the glass, eagerly gulped down its contents, and pushed it back to Scott. At this moment the friend who had been sent for made his appearance; and Weber, on seeing him enter the room, rushed past him and out of the house, without stopping to put on his hat. The friend, who pursued instantly, came up with him at the end of the street, and did all he could to soothe his agitation, but in vain. The same evening he was obliged to be put into a strait-waistcoat; and though in a few days he exhibited such symptoms of recovery that he was allowed to go by himself to pay a visit in the North of England, he there soon relapsed, and continued ever afterwards a hopeless lunatic, being supported to the end of his life, in June 1818, at Scott's expense, in an asylum at York.
On the first of July 1814, the Swift, nineteen volumes 8vo, at length issued from the press. This adventure, undertaken by Constable in 1808, had been proceeded in during all the variety of their personal relations, and now came forth when author and publisher felt more warmly towards each other than perhaps they had ever before done. The impression was of 1250 copies; and a reprint of similar extent was called for in 1824. Scott added to his edition many admirable pieces, both in prose and verse, which had never before been printed, and still more, which had escaped notice amidst old bundles of pamphlets and broadsides. To the illustration of these and of all the better known writings of the Dean, he brought the same qualifications which had, by general consent, distinguished his Dryden: ``uniting,'' as the Edinburgh Review expresses it, ``to the minute knowledge and patient research of the Malones and Chalmerses, a vigour of judgment and a vivacity of style to which they had no pretensions.'' His biographical narrative, introductory essays, and notes show, indeed, an intimacy of acquaintance with the obscurest details of the political, social, and literary history of the period of Queen Anne, which it is impossible to consider without feeling a lively regret that he never accomplished a long-cherished purpose of editing Pope. It has been specially unfortunate for that ``true deacon of the craft,'' as Scott often called him, that first Goldsmith, and then Scott, should have taken up, only to abandon it, the project of writing his life and annotating his works.
The Edinburgh Reviewer thus characterises the Memoir of the Dean of St Patrick's:---
``It is not much like the production of a mere man of letters, or a fastidious speculator in sentiment and morality; but exhibits throughout, and in a very pleasing form, the good sense and large toleration of a man of the world, with much of that generous allowance for the
`Fears of the brave and follies of the wise,'
which genius too often requires, and should therefore always be most forward to show. It is impossible, however, to avoid noticing that Mr Scott is by far too favourable to the personal character of his author, whom we think it would really be injurious to the cause of morality to allow to pass either as a very dignified, or a very amiable person. The truth is, we think, that he was extremely ambitious, arrogant, and selfish; of a morose, vindictive, and haughty temper; and though capable of a sort of patronising generosity towards his dependents, and of some attachment towards those who had long known and flattered him, his general demeanour, both in public and private life, appears to have been far from exemplary; destitute of temper and magnanimity, and we will add, of principle, in the former; and in the latter, of tenderness, fidelity, or compassion.''---Vol. xvii. p. 9.
I have no desire to break a lance in this place in defence of Swift. It does not appear to me that he stands at all distinguished among politicians (least of all, among the politicians of his time) for laxity of principle; nor can I consent to charge his private demeanour with the absence either of tenderness, or fidelity, or compassion. But who ever dreamed---most assuredly not Scott---of holding up the Dean of St Patrick's as on the whole an ``exemplary character?'' The biographer felt, whatever his critic may have thought on the subject, that a vein of morbid humour ran through Swift's whole existence, both mental and physical, from the beginning. ``He early adopted,'' says Scott, ``the custom of observing his birthday as a term not of joy but of sorrow, and of reading, when it recurred, the striking passage of Scripture in which Job laments and execrates the day upon which it was said in his father's house _that a man-child was born;_'' and I should have expected that any man who had considered the black close of the career thus early clouded, and read the entry of Swift's diary on the funeral of Stella, his epitaph on himself, and the testament by which he disposed of his fortune, would have been willing, like Scott, to dwell on the splendour of his immortal genius, and the many traits of manly generosity ``which he unquestionably exhibited,'' rather than on the faults and foibles of nameless and inscrutable disease, which tormented and embittered the far greater part of his earthly being. What the critic says of the practical and business-like style of Scott's biography, appears very just---and I think the circumstance eminently characteristic; nor, on the whole, could his edition, as an edition, have been better dealt with than in the Essay which I have quoted. It was by the way, written by Mr Jeffrey at Constable's particular request. ``It was, I think, the first time I ever asked such a thing of him,'' the bookseller said to me; ``and I assure you the result was no encouragement to repeat such petitions.'' Mr Jeffrey attacked Swift's whole character at great length, and with consummate dexterity; and, in Constable's opinion, his article threw such a cloud on the Dean as materially checked for a time the popularity of his writings. Admirable as the paper is in point of ability, I think Mr Constable may have considerably exaggerated its effects; but in those days it must have been difficult for him to form an impartial opinion upon such a question; for, as Johnson said of Cave that ``he could not spit over his window without thinking of The Gentleman's Magazine,'' I believe Constable allowed nothing to interrupt his paternal pride in the concerns of his Review, until Waverley opened another periodical publication still more important to his fortunes.
And this consummation was not long delayed. Before Christmas Erskine had perused the greater part of the first volume, and expressed his decided opinion that Waverley would prove the most popular of all his friend's writings. The MS. was forthwith copied by John Ballantyne, and sent to press. As soon as a volume was printed, Ballantyne conveyed it to Constable, who did not for a moment doubt from what pen it proceeded, but took a few days to consider of the matter, and then offred <L>700 for the copyright. When we recollect what the state of novel literature in those days was, and that the only exceptions to its mediocrity, the Irish Tales of Miss Edgeworth, however appreciated in refined circles, had a circulation so limited that she had never realized a tithe of <L>700 by the best of them---it must be allowed that Constable's offier was a liberal one. Scott's answer, however, was, that <L>700 was too much in case the novel should not be successful, and too little if it should. He added, ``If our fat friend had said <L>1000, I should have been staggered.'' John did not forget to convey this last hint to Constable, but the latter did not choose to act upon it; and ultimately agreed to an equal division of profits between himself and the author.
There was a considerable pause between the finishing of the first volume and the beginning of the second. Constable, eager about an extensive _Supplement_ to his Encyclop<ae>dia Britannica, earnestly requested Scott to undertake a few articles; and, anxious to gratify the generous bookseller, he laid aside his tale until he had finished two essays---those on Chivalry and the Drama. They were written in the course of April and May, and he received for each of them <L>100.
A letter of the 9th July to Mr Morritt gives in more exact detail than the author's own recollection could supply in 1830, the history of the completion of Waverley which had then been two days published. ``I must now'' (he says) ``account for my own laziness, by referring you to a small anonymous sort of a novel, which you will receive by the mail of this day. It was a very old attempt of mine to embody some traits of those characters and manners peculiar to Scotland, the last remnants of which vanished during my own youth. I had written great part of the first volume, and sketched other passages, when I mislaid the MS., and only found it by the merest accident as I was rummaging the drawers of an old cabinet; and I took the fancy of finishing it. It has made a very strong impression here, and the good people of Edinburgh are busied in tracing the author, and in finding out originals for the portraits it contains. Jeffrey has offered to make oath that it is mine, and another great critic has tendered his affidavit _ex contrario;_ so that these authorities have divided the Gude Town. Let me know your opinion about it. The truth is that this sort of muddling work amuses me, and I am something in the condition of Joseph Surface, who was embarrassed by getting himself too good a reputation; for many things may please people well enough anonymously, which if they have me in the title-page, would just give me that sort of ill name which precedes hanging---and that would be in many respects inconvenient, if I thought of again trying _a grande opus._''
Morritt, as yet the only English confidant, conveyed on volume by volume as he read them his honest criticism: at last vehemently protesting against the maintenance of the incognito. Scott in his reply (July 24th) says:---``I shall _not_ own Waverley; my chief reason is, that it would prevent me the pleasure of writing again. David Hume, nephew of the historian says the author must be of a Jacobite family and predilections, a yeoman-cavalry man, and a Scottish lawyer, and desires me to guess in whom these happy attributes are united. I shall not plead guilty, however; and as such seems to be the fashion of the day, I hope charitable people will believe my _affidavit_ in contradiction to all other evidence. The Edinburgh faith now is, that Waverley is written by Jeffrey, having been composed to lighten the tedium of his late transatlantic voyage. So you see the unknown infant is like to come to preferment. In truth, I am not sure it would be considered quite decorous for me, as a Clerk of Session, to write novels. Judges being monks, Clerks are a sort of lay brethren, from whom some solemnity of walk and conduct may be expected. So whatever I may do of this kind, `I shall whistle it down the wind, and let it prey at fortune.'<*>
* _Othello,_ Act III. Scene 3.
The second edition is, I believe, nearly through the press. It will hardly be printed faster than it was written; for though the first volume was begun long ago, and actually lost for a time, yet the other two were begun and finished between the 4th June and the first July, during all which I attended my duty in Court, and proceeded without loss of time or hinderance of business.''
This statement as to the time occupied by the second and third volumes of Waverley, recalls to my memory a trifling anecdote, which, as connected with a dear friend of my youth, whom I have not seen for many years, and may very probably never see again in this world, I shall here set down, in the hope of affording him a momentary, though not an unmixed pleasure, when he may chance to read this compilation on a distant shore--- and also in the hope that my humble record may impart to some active mind in the rising generation a shadow of the influence which the reality certainly exerted upon his. Happening to pass through Edinburgh in June 1814 , I dined one day with the gentleman in question (now the Honourable William Menzies, one of the Supreme Judges at the Cape of Good Hope), whose residence was then in George Street, situated very near to, and at right angles with, North Castle Street. It was a party of very young persons, most of them, like Menzies and myself, destined for the Bar of Scotland, all gay and thoughtless, enjoying the first flush of manhood, with little remembrance of the yesterday, or care of the morrow. When my companion's worthy father and uncle, after seeing two or three bottles go round, left the juveniles to themselves, the weather being hot, we adjourned to a library which had one large window looking northwards. After carousing here for an hour or more, I observed that a shade had come over the aspect of my friend, who happened to be placed immediately opposite to myself, and said somethin that intimated a fear of his being unwell. ``No,'' said be, ``I shall be well enough presently, if you will only let me sit where you are, and take my chair; for there is a confounded hand in sight of me here, which has often bothered me before, and now it won't let me fill my glass with a good will.'' I rose to change places with him accordingly, and he pointed out to me, this hand which, like the writing on Belshazzar's wall, disturbed his hour of hilarity. ``Since we sat down,'' he said, ``I have been watching it---it fascinates my eye---it never stops---page after page is finished and thrown on that heap of MS. and still it goes on unwearied--- and so it will be till candles are brought in, and God knows how long after that. It is the same every night---I can't stand a sight of it when I am not at my books.''---``Some stupid, dogged, engrossing clerk, probably,'' exclaimed myself, or some other giddy youth in our society. ``No, boys,'' said our host, ``I well know what hand it is---'tis Walter Scott's.'' This was the hand that, in the evenings of three summer weeks, wrote the two last volumes of Waverley.
The gallant composure with which Scott, when he had dismissed a work from his desk, awaited the decision of the public---and the healthy elasticity of spirit with which he could meanwhile turn his whole zeal upon new or different objects---are among the features in his character which will always, I believe, strike the student of literary history as most remarkable. It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance to his fortunes of this his first novel. Yet before he had heard of its reception in the south, except the whisper of one partial friend, he started on a voyage which was likely to occupy two months, and during which he could hardly expect to receive any letters.
He had been invited to accompany the Commissioners of the Northern Light Houses in their annual expedition; and as its programme included the Hebrides, and he had already made some progress in the Lord of the Isles, the opportunity for refreshing and enlarging his acquaintance with that region would alone have been a strong temptation. But there were many others. The trip was also to embrace the isles of Shetland and Orkney, and a vast extent of the mainland coasts, no part of which he had ever seen---or but for such an offer might ever have much chance of seeing. The Commissioners were all familiar friends of his---William Erskine, then Sheriff of the Orkneys, Robert Hamilton, Sheriff of Lanarkshire, Adam Duff, Sheriff of Forfarshire; but the real chief was the Surveyor-General, the celebrated engineer Mr Stevenson, and Scott anticipated special pleasure in his society. ``I delight,'' he told Morritt, ``in these professional men of talent. They always give you some new lights by the peculiarity of their habits and studies ---so different from the people who are rounded and smoothed and ground down for conversation, and who can say all that every other person says---and no more.''
To this voyage we owe many of the most striking passages in the Lord of the Isles, and the noble romance of the Pirate wholly. The leisure of the yacht allowed him to keep a very minute diary, from which he gave sundry extracts in his notes to both these works, and which may now be read entire in the larger memoirs of his life and correspondence. It abounds in interest---in sketches of scenery which could have come from his hand alone---in most curious details of insular manners: but its chief value is in its artless portraiture of the penman. I question if any man ever drew his own character more fully or more pleasingly. We have before us, according to the scene and occasion, the poet, the antiquary, the magistrate, the planter, and the agriculturist; but every where the warm yet sagacious philanthropist---every where the courtesy, based on the unselfishness, of the thoroughbred gentleman. It concludes with these words:---``But I must not omit to say, that among five or six persons, some of whom were doubtless different in tastes and pursuits, there did not occur, during the close communication of more than a weeks aboard a small vessel, the slightest difference of opinion. Each seemed anxious to submit his own wishes to those of his friends. The consequence was, that by judicious arrangement all were gratified in their turn, and frequently he who made some sacrifices to the views of his companions, was rewarded by some unexpected gratification calculated particularly for his own amusement. We had constant exertion, a succession of wild and uncommon scenery, good humour on board, and objects of animation and interest when we went ashore:---_Sed fugit interea---fugit irrevocabile tempus._''
I have been told by one of the companions of this voyage, that heartily as he entered throughout into their social enjoyments, they all perceived him, when inspecting for the first time scenes of remarkable grandeur, to be in such an abstracted and excited mood, that they felt it would be the kindest and discreetest plan to leave him to himself. ``I often,'' said Lord Kinnedder, ``on coming up from the cabin at night, found him pacing the deck rapidly, muttering to himself---and went to the forecastle, lest my presence should disturb him. I remember, that at Loch Corriskin, in particular, he seemed quite overwhelmed with his feelings; and we all saw it, and retiring unnoticed, left him to roam and gaze about by himself, until it was time to muster the party and be gone.'' Scott used to mention the surprise with which he himself witnessed Erskine's emotion on first entering the Cave of Staffa. ``Would you believe it?'' he said---``my poor Willie sat down and wept like a woman!'' Yet his own sensibilities, though betrayed in a more masculine and sterner guise, were perhaps as keen as well as deeper than his amiable friend's.
A few days before his voyage ended, he heard casually of the death of Harriet, Duchess of Buccleuch, who ever since the days of Lasswade had been his most kind friend. The sad intelligence was confirmed on his arrival in the Clyde, by a most touching and manly letter from the Duke. Its closing paragraph has these sentences:---``Endeavouring to the last to conceal her suffering, she evinced a fortitude, a resignation, a Christian courage, beyond all power of description. Her last injunction was to attend to her poor people. I have learned that the most truly heroic spirit may be lodged in the tenderest and the gentlest breast. If ever there was a proof of the efficacy of our religion in moments of the deepest affliction, and in the hour of death, it was exemplified in her conduct. I will endeavour to do in all things what I know she would wish. I have therefore determined to lay myself open to all the comforts my friends can afford me. I shall be most happy to cultivate their society as heretofore. I shall love them more and more because I know they loved her. Whenever it suits your convenience I shall be happy to see you here. I feel that it is particularly my duty not to make my house the house of mourning to my children; for I know it was _her_ decided opinion that it is most mischievous to give an early impression of gloom to the mind.''
The Duke survived for some years, and he continued in the line of conduct which he had from the first resolved upon; but he never recovered the blow: and this no one perceived more clearly than Scott.
In his letter to Morritt on reaching Edinburgh, he says (September 14th),---``We sailed from Leith, and skirted the Scottish coast, visiting the Buller of Buchan and other remarkable objects---went to Shetland---thence to Orkney---from thence round Cape Wrath to the Hebrides, making descents everywhere, where there was anything to be seen---thence to Lewis and the Long Island--- to Skye to Iona---and so forth, lingering among the Hebrides as long as we could. Then we stood over to the coast of Ireland, and visited the Giant's Causeway and Port Rush, where Dr Richardson, the inventor (discoverer, I would say,) of the celebrated fiorin grass, resides. By the way, he is a chattering charlatan, and his fiorin a mere humbug. But if he were Cicero, and his invention were potatoes, or anything equally useful, I should detest the recollection of the place and the man, for it was there I learned the death of my friend. Adieu, my dear Morritt; like poor Tom, `I cannot daub it farther.' ''
As he passed through Edinburgh, the negotiation as to the Lord of the Isles, which had been protracted through several months, was completed: Constable agreeing to give fifteen hundred guineas for one-half of the copyright, while the other moiety was retained by the author. The same sum had been offered at an early stage of the affair, but it was not until now accepted, in consequence of the earnest wish of Messrs Ballantyne to saddle the publisher of the new poem with another pyramid of their old ``quire stock,''---which, however, Constable ultimately persisted in refusing. It may easily be believed that John's management during a six weeks' absence had been such as to render it doubly convenient for the Poet to have this matter settled; and it may also be supposed that the progress of Waverley during that interval had tended to put the chief parties in good humour with each other. For nothing can be more unfounded than the statement repeated in various memoirs of Scott's life, that the sale of the first edition of this immortal Tale was slow. It appeared on the 7th of July, and the whole impression (1000 copies) had disappeared within five weeks; an occurrence then unprecedented in the case of an anonymous novel, put forth at what is called among publishers _the dead season._ A second edition of 2000 copies was at least projected by the 24th of the same month:---that appeared before the end of August, and it too had gone off so rapidly that Scott now, in September, found Constable eager to treat, on the same terms as before, for a third of 1000 copies. This third edition was published in October; and when a fourth of the like extent was called for in November, I find Scott writing to John Ballantyne:---``I suppose Constable won't quarrel with a work on which he has netted <L>612 in four months, with a certainty of making it <L>1000 before the year is out.'' It would be idle to enumerate subsequent reprints. Well might Constable regret that he had not ventured to offer <L>1000 for the whole copyright of Waverley!
The only private friends originally intrusted with his secret appear to have been Erskine and Morritt. But there was one with whom it would, of course, have been more than vain to affect any concealment. On the publication of the third edition, I find him writing thus to his brother, then in Canada:---``Dear Tom, a novel here, called Waverley, has had enormous success. I sent you a copy, and will send you another with the Lord of the Isles which will be out at Christmas. The success which it has had with some other circumstances, has induced people
`To lay the bantling at a certain door, Where lying store of faults, they'd fain heap more.'<*>
* Garrick's Epilogue to _Polly Honeycombe,_ 1760.
You will guess for yourself how far such a report has credibility; but by no means give the weight of your opinion to the Transatlantic public; for you must know there is also a counter-report, that you have written the said Waverley. Send me a novel intermixing your exuberant and natural humour, with any incidents and descriptions of scenery you may see---particularly with characters and traits of manners. I will give it all the cobbling that is necessary, and, if you do but exert yourself, I have not the least doubt it will be worth <L>500; and, to encourage you, you may, when you send the MS., draw on me for <L>100, at fifty days' sight---so that your labours will at any rate not be quite thrown away. You have more fun and descriptive talent than most people; and all that you want--- i. e. the mere practice of composition---I can supply, or the devil's in it. Keep this matter a dead secret, and look knowing when Waverley is spoken of. If you are not Sir John Falstaff, you are as good a man as he, and may therefore face Colville of the Dale. You may believe I don't want to make you the author of a book you have never seen; but if people will, upon their own judgment, suppose so, and also on their own judgment give you <L>500 to try your hand on a novel, I don't see that you are a pin's-point the worse. Mind that your MS. attends the draft. I am perfectly serious and confident, that in two or three months you might clear the cobs. I beg my compliments to the hero who is afraid of Jeffrey's scalping-knife.''
In truth, no one of Scott's intimate friends ever had, or could have had, the slightest doubt as to the parentage of Waverley: nor, although he abstained from communicating the fact formally to most of them, did he ever affect any real concealment in the case of such persons; nor, when any circumstance arose which rendered the withholding of direct confidence on the subject incompatible with perfect freedom of feeling on both sides, did he hesitate to make the avowal. Nor do I believe that the mystification ever answered much purpose among literary men of eminence beyond the circle of his personal acquaintance. But it would be difficult to suppose that he had ever wished that to be otherwise; it was sufficient for him to set the mob of readers at gaze, and above all, to escape the annoyance of having productions, actually known to be his, made the daily and hourly topics of discussion in his presence---especially (perhaps) productions in a new walk, to which it might be naturally supposed that Lord Byron's poetical successes had diverted him.
Mr Jeffrey had known Scott from his youth---and in reviewing Waverley he was at no pains to conceal his conviction of its authorship. He quarrelled as usual with carelessness of style and some inartificialities of plot, but rendered justice to the substantial merits of the work. The Quarterly was far less favourable. Indeed the articles on Waverley and Guy Mannering in that journal will bear the test of ultimate opinion as badly as any critical pieces which our time has produced. They are written in a captious, cavilling strain of quibble, which shews as complete blindness to the essential interest of the narrative, as the critic betrays on the subject of the Scottish dialogue, which forms its liveliest ornament, when he pronounces that to be ``a dark dialect of Anglified Erse.'' With this remarkable exception, the censors of any note were not slow to confess their belief that, under a hackneyed name and trivial form, there had appeared a work of original creative genius, worthy of being placed by the side of the very few real masterpieces of prose fiction. Loftier romance was never blended with easier, quainter humour, by Cervantes. In his familiar delineations he had combined the strength of Smollett with the native elegance and unaffected pathos of Goldsmith; in his darker scenes he had revived that real tragedy which appeared to have left our theatre with the age of Shakspeare; and elements of interest so diverse had been blended and interwoven with that nameless grace, which, more surely perhaps than even the highest perfection in the command of any one strain of sentiment, marks the mastermind cast in Nature's most felicitous mould.
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