Not to disturb the narrative of his literary proceedings, I have deferred until now the mention of an attempt which Scott made during the winter of 1816--1817, to exchange his seat at the Clerk's table, for one on the Bench of the Scotch Court of Exchequer. It had often occurred to me, in the most prosperous years of his life, that such a situation would have suited him better in every respect than that which he held, and that his never attaining a promotion, which the Scottish public would have considered so naturally due to his character and services, reflected little honour on his political allies. But at the period when I was entitled to hint this to him, he appeared to have made up his mind that the rank of Clerk of Session was more compatible than that of a Supreme Judge with the habits of a literary man, who was perpetually publishing, and whose writings were generally of the imaginative order. I had also witnessed the zeal with which he seconded the views of more than one of his own friends, when their ambition was directed to the Exchequer Bench. I remained, in short, ignorant that he ever had seriously thought of it for himself, until the ruin of his worldly fortunes in 1826; nor had I any information that his wish to obtain it had ever been distinctly stated, until his letters to the late Duke of Buccleuch were placed in my hands after his death. The Duke's answers show the warmest anxiety to serve Scott, but refer to private matters, which rendered it inconsistent with his Grace's feelings to interfere at the time with the distribution of Crown patronage. I incline to think, on the whole, that the death of this nobleman, which soon after left the influence of his house in abeyance, must have, far more than any other circumstance, determined Scott to renounce all notions of altering his professional position.
Early in 1817, he was visited, for the first time since his childish years, with a painful illness, which proved the harbinger of a series of attacks, all nearly of the same kind, continued at short intervals during more than two years. The reader has been told already how widely his habits of life when in Edinburgh differed from those of Abbotsford. They at all times did so to a great extent; but he had pushed his liberties with a most robust constitution to a perilous extreme while the affairs of the Ballantynes were labouring. ``I had,'' he writes to Morritt (12th March) ``been plagued all through this winter with cramps in my stomach, which I endured as a man of mould might, and endeavoured to combat them by drinking scalding water, and so forth. As they grew rather unpleasantly frequent, I had reluctant recourse to Baillie. But before his answer arrived, on the 5th, I had a most violent attack, which broke up a small party at my house, and sent me to bed roaring like a bull-calf. All sorts of remedies were applied, as in the case of Gil Blas' pretended colic, but such was the pain of the real disorder that it out-deviled the Doctor hollow. Even heated salt, which was applied in such a state that it burned my shirt to rags, I hardly felt when clapped to my stomach. At length the symptoms became inflammatory, and dangerously so, the seat being the diaphragm. They only gave way to very profuse bleeding and blistering, which, under higher assistance, saved my life. My recovery was slow and tedious from the state of exhaustion. I could neither stir for weakness and giddiness, nor read for dazzling in my eyes, nor listen for a whizzing sound in my ears, nor even think for lack of the power of arranging my ideas. So I had a comfortless time, of it for about a week. Even yet I by no means feel, as the copy-book hath it,
`The lion bold, which the lamb doth hold---'
on the contrary, I am as weak as water. They tell me (of course) I must renounce every creature comfort, as my friend Jedediah calls it. As for dinner and so forth, I care little about it---but toast and water, and three glasses of wine, sound like hard laws to me. However, to parody the lamentation of Hassan, the camel-driver,
`The lily health outvies the grape's bright ray And life is dearer than the usqueb<ae>.' ''
The scene of the 5th was more than once repeated. His friends in Edinburgh continued all that spring in great anxiety on his account. Scarcely, however, had the first symptoms yielded to severe medical treatment, than he is found to have beguiled the intervals of his suffering by planning a drama on a story supplied to him by one of Train's communications, which he desired to present to Terry, on behalf of the actor's first-born son, who had been christened by the name of Walter Scott Terry.<*> Such
* Mr W. S. Terry lived to distinguish himself as an officer in
* the East India army; and fell in action against the Affghans.
was the origin of ``The Fortunes of Devorgoil''---a piece which, though completed soon afterwards, and submitted by Terry to many manipulations with a view to the stage, was never received by any manager, and was first published, towards the close of the author's life, under the title, slightly altered for an obvious reason, of ``The Doom of Devorgoil.''
On the 29th of March John Philip Kemble, after going through the round of his chief parts, to the delight of the Edinburgh audience, took his final leave of them as _Macbeth,_ and in the costume of that character delivered a farewell address, penned for him by Scott. No one who witnessed that scene, and heard the lines as then recited, can ever expect to be again interested to the same extent by anything occurring within the walls of a theatre; nor was I ever present at any public dinner in all its circumstances more impressive than that which occurred a few days afterwards, when Kemble's Scotch friends and admirers assembled around him---Francis Jeffrey being chairman, Walter Scott and John Wilson the croupiers.
His letters to Terry about this time prove sufficiently that, whatever pain he endured, he had no serious apprehensions as to his health; for a principal theme is the plan of founding a new house at Abbotsford; and by and bye the details of that project, wholly engross the correspondence. The foundation was in part laid early in the ensuing summer: an unfortunate feature in Scott's history; for he was by degrees tempted to extend his design, and the ultimate expense very greatly exceeded all his and his friends' calculations.
Shortly before this time, Mr William Laidlaw had met with misfortunes, which rendered it necessary for him to give up his farm. He was now anxiously looking about him for some new establishment, and Scott invited him to occupy a house on his property, and endeavour, under his guidance, to make such literary exertions as might improve his income. The prospect of obtaining such a neighbour was, no doubt, the more welcome to ``Abbotsford and Kaeside,'' from its opening at this period of fluctuating health; and Laidlaw, who had for twenty years loved and revered him, considered the proposal with far greater delight than the most lucrative appointment on any noble domain in the island could have afforded him. Though possessed of a lively and searching sagacity as to things in general, he had always been as to his own worldly interests simple as a child. His tastes and habits were all modest; and when he looked forward to spending the remainder of what had not hitherto been a successful life, under the shadow of the genius that he had worshipped almost from boyhood, his gentle heart was all happiness. He surveyed with glistening eyes the humble cottage in which his friend proposed to lodge him, his wife, and his little ones, and said to himself that he should write no more sad songs on _Forest Flittings._<*>
* Laidlaw's song of ``Lucy's Flitting''---a simple and pathetic
* picture of a poor Ettrick maiden's feelings in leaving a service where
* she had been happy---must ever be a favourite with all who understand
* the delicacies of the Scottish dialect, and the manners of the
* district in which the scene is laid.
He soon procured a little employment from Mr Blackwood, who was then starting his Magazine; and Scott being at the moment too unwell to write himself, dictated to and _for_ him the anecdotes of gypsies which appeared in Blackwood's opening Number, and have since been placed among the appendages of Guy Mannering. By and bye, when the Laird had made other additions to his territory, and especially to his woodlands, Laidlaw's active watchfulness over the habits and comforts of the cottars employed well entitled him to a regular salary as _factor._ Meantime occasional literary jobs both amused and helped him; and any deficiency of funds was no doubt supplied in the way that maybe guessed from Scott's delicate and thoughtful notes and letters to his most amiable friend: for example, this of November 1817:---``Dear Willie,---I hope you will not quarrel with my last. Believe me that, to a sound judging and philosophical mind, this same account of Dr. and Cr. which fills up so much time in the world, is comparatively of very small value. When you get rich, unless I thrive in the same proportion, I will request your assistance for less, for little, or for nothing, as the case may require; but while I wear my seven-leagued boots to stride in triumph over moss and muir, it would be very silly in either of us to let a cheque twice a-year of <L>25 make a difference between us. But all this we will talk over when we meet. I meditate one day a _coup-de-maitre,_ which will make my friend's advice and exertion essential---indeed worthy of much better remuneration.''
Neither the recurring fits of cramp, nor anything else, could, as yet, interrupt Scott's literary industry. Before Whitsuntide he had made his bargain for another novel. This was at once tendered to Constable, who was delighted to interrupt in his turn the connection with Murray and Blackwood, and readily agreed to meet John Ballantyne at Abbotsford, where all was speedily settled.
As to _Rob Roy,_ the title was suggested by Constable, and he told me years afterwards the difficulty he had to get it adopted by the author. ``What!'' said he, ``Mr Accoucheur, must you be setting up for Mr Sponsor too?---but let's hear it.'' Constable said the name of the real hero would be the best possible name for the book. ``Nay,'' answered Scott, ``never let me have to write up to a name. You well know I have generally adopted a title that told nothing.''---The bookseller, however, persevered; and after the trio had dined, these scruples gave way.
On rising from table, according to Constable, they sallied out to the green before the door of the cottage, and all in the highest spirits enjoyed the fine May evening. John Ballantyne, hopping up and down in his glee, exclaimed, ``Is Rob's gun here, Mr Scott; would you object to my trying the auld barrel with a _few de joy?_''---``Nay, Mr Puff,'' said Scott, ``it would burst, and blow you to the devil before your time.''-``Johnny, my man,'' said Constable, ``what the mischief puts drawing at sight into _your_ head?'' Scott laughed heartily at this innuendo; and then observing that the little man felt somewhat sore, called attention to the notes of a bird in the adjoining shrubbery. ``And by the bye,'' said he, as they continued listening, ``'tis a long time, Johnny, since we have had the Cobbler of Kelso.'' Mr Puff forthwith jumped up on a mass of stone, and seating himself in the proper attitude of one working with his awl, began a favourite interlude, mimicking a certain son of Crispin, at whose stall Scott and he had often lingered when they were schoolboys, and a blackbird, the only companion of his cell, that used to sing to him, while he talked and whistled to it all day long. With this performance Scott was always delighted: nothing could be richer than the contrast of the bird's wild sweet notes, some of which he imitated with wonderful skill, and the accompaniment of the Cobbler's hoarse cracked voice, uttering all manner of endearing epithets, which Johnny multiplied and varied in astyle worthy of the Old Women in Rabelais at the birth of Pantagruel. I often wondered that Mathews, who borrowed so many good things from John Ballantyne, allowed this Cobbler, which was certainly the masterpiece, to escape him.
Scott himself had probably exceeded that evening the three glasses of wine sanctioned by his Sangrados. ``I never,'' said Constable, ``had found him so disposed to be communicative about what he meant to do. Though he had had a return of his illness but the day before, he continued for an hour or more to walk backwards and forwards on the green, talking and laughing---he told us he was sure he would make a hit in a Glasgow weaver, whom he would _ravel up with Rob;_ and fairly outshone the Cobbler, in an extempore dialogue between the bailie and the cateran---something not unlike what the book gives us as passing in the Glasgow tolbooth.''
Mr Puff might well exult in the ``full and entire success'' of his trip to Abbotsford. His friend had made it a _sine qua non_ with Constable that he should have a third share in the bookseller's moiety of the bargain---and though Johnny had no more trouble about the publishing or selling of Rob Roy than his own Cobbler of Kelso, this stipulation had secured him a _bonus_ of <L>1200 before two years passed. Moreover, one must admire his adroitness in persuading Constable, during their journey back to Edinburgh, ---to relieve him of that fraction of his own old stock, with which his unhazardous share in the new transaction was burdened. Scott's kindness continued as long as John Ballantyne lived, to provide for him a constant succession of similar advantages at the same easy rate; and Constable, from deference to Scott's wishes, and from views of bookselling policy, appears to have submitted to this heavy tax on his most important ventures.
During the summer term, Scott seems to have laboured chiefly on his History of 1815 for the Register, which was published in August; but he also found time to draw up a valuable introductory Essay for the richly embellished quarto, entitled ``Border Antiquities,'' which came out a month later. Upon the rising of the Court, he made an excursion to the Lennox, chiefly that he might visit a cave at the head of Loch Lomond, said to have been a favourite retreat of his hero, Rob Roy, and thence to Glasgow, where, under the auspices of a kind and intelligent acquaintance, Mr John Smith, bookseller, he refreshed his recollection of the noble cathedral, and other localities of the birth-place of Bailie Jarvie.
By this time, the foundations of that part of the existing house of Abbotsford, which extends from the hall westwards to the original court-yard, had been laid; and Scott, on reaching home, found a new source of constant occupation in watching the proceedings of his masons. He had, moreover, no lack of employment further a-field,---for he was now negotiating with another neighbouring landowner for the purchase of an addition of more consequence than any he had hitherto made to his estate. In the course of the autumn he concluded this matter, and became, for the price of <L>10,000, proprietor of the lands of _Toftfield,_ on which there had recently been erected a substantial mansion-house. This circumstance offered a temptation which much quickened Scott's zeal for completing his arrangement. The venerable Professor Fergusson had died a year before; his son Adam had been placed on half-pay; and Scott now saw the means of securing for himself, henceforth, the immediate neighbourhood of the companion of his youth, and his amiable sisters. Fergusson, who had written from the lines of Torres Vedras his hopes of finding, when the war should be over, some sheltering cottage upon the Tweed, within a walk of Abbotsford, was delighted to see his dreams realized; and the family took up their residence next spring at the new house of Toftfield, on which Scott then bestowed, at the ladies' request, the name of Huntley Burn:---this more harmonious designation being taken from the mountain brook which passes through its garden,---the same famous in tradition as the scene of Thomas the Rhymer's interviews with the Queen of Fairy. The upper part of the _Rhymer's Glen,_ through which this brook finds its way from the Cauldsheilds Loch to Toftfield, had been included in a previous purchase. He was now master of all these haunts of ``True Thomas,'' and of the whole ground of the battle of Melrose, from _Skirmish-field_ to _Turn-again._ His enjoyment of the new territory was, however, interrupted by various returns of his cramp, and the depression of spirit which always attended, in his case, the use of opium, the only medicine that seemed to have power over the disease.
A pleasant incident belongs to August 1817. Scott had read ``the History of New York by Knickerbocker,'' shortly after its appearance in 1812; and the admirable humour of this early work had led him to anticipate the brilliant career which its author has since run. Campbell, being no stranger to Scott's estimation of Washington Irving's genius, gave him a letter of introduction, which, halting his chaise on the high-road above Abbotsford, he modestly sent down to the house ``with a card on which he had written, that he was on his way to the ruins of Melrose, and wished to know whether it would be agreeable to Mr Scott to receive a visit from him in the course of the morning.''
``The noise of my chaise,'' says Irving, ``had disturbed the quiet of the establishment. Out sallied the warder of the castle, a black greyhound, and leaping on one of the blocks of stone, began a furious barking. This alarm brought out the whole garrison of dogs, all open-mouthed and vociferous. In a little while the lord of the castle himself made his appearance. I knew him at once, by the likenesses that had been published of him. He came limping up the gravel walk, aiding himself by a stout walking-staff, but moving rapidly and with vigour. By his side jogged along a large iron-grey staghound, of most grave demeanour, who took no part in the clamour of the canine rabble, but seemed to consider himself bound, for the dignity of the house, to give me a courteous reception.----Before Scott reached the gate, he called out in a hearty tone, welcoming me to Abbotsford, and asking news of Campbell. Arrived at the door of the chaise, he grasped me warmly by the hand: `Come, drive down, drive down to the house,' said he, `ye're just in time for breakfast, and afterwards ye shall see all the wonders of the Abbey.' I would have excused myself on the plea of having already made my breakfast. `Hut, man,' cried he, `a ride in the morning in the keen air of the Scotch hills is warrant enough for a second breakfast.' I was accordingly whirled to the portal of the cottage, and in a few moments found myself seated at the breakfast table. There was no one present but the family, which consisted of Mrs Scott; her eldest daughter, Sophia, then a fine girl about seventeen; Miss Ann Scott, two or three years younger; Walter, a well-grown stripling; and Charles, a lively boy, eleven or twelve years of age. ---I soon felt myself quite at home, and my heart in a glow, with the cordial welcome I experienced. I had thought to make a mere morning visit, but found I was not to be let off so lightly. `You must not think our neighbourhood is to be read in a morning like a newspaper,' said Scott; `it takes several days of study for an observant traveller, that has a relish for auld-world trumpery. After breakfast you shall make your visit to Melrose Abbey; I shall not be able to accompany you, as I have some household affairs to attend to; but I will put you in charge of my son Charles, who is very learned in all things touching the old ruin and the neighbourhood it stands in; and he and my friend Johnnie Bower, will tell you the whole truth about it, with a great deal more that you are not called upon to believe, unless you be a true and nothing-doubting antiquary. When you come back, I'll take you out on a ramble about the neighbourhood. To-morrow we will take a look at the Yarrow, and the next day we will drive over to Dryburgh Abbey, which is a fine old ruin, well worth your seeing.'--- In a word, before Scott had got through with his plan, I found myself committed for a visit of several days, and it seemed as if a little realm of romance was suddenly open before me.''
After breakfast, while Scott, no doubt, wrote a chapter of Rob Roy, Mr Irving, under young Charles's guidance, saw Melrose Abbey, and had much talk with old Bower, the showman of the ruins, who was eager to enlighten in all things the Sheriff's friends. ``He'll come here sometimes,'' said Johnny, ``with great folks in his company and the first I'll know of it is his voice calling out Johnny! ---Johnny Bower!---and when I go out I'm sure to be greeted with a joke or a pleasant word. He'll stand and crack an' laugh wi' me just like an auld wife---and _to think that of a man that has such an awfu' knowledge o' history!_'' On his return from the Abbey, Irving found Scott ready for a ramble.
``As we sallied forth,'' he writes, ``every clog in the establishment turned out to attend us. There was the old staghound, Maida, that I have already mentioned, a noble animal, and Hamlet, the black greyhound, a wild thoughtless youngster, not yet arrived at the years of discretion; and Finette, a beautiful setter, with soft, silken hair, long pendant ears, and a mild eye, the parlour favourite. When in front of the house, we were joined by a superannuated greyhound, who came from the kitchen wagging his tail; and was cheered by Scott as an old friend and comrade. In our walks, he would frequently pause in conversation, to notice his dogs, and speak to them as if rational companions; and, indeed, there appears to, be a vast deal of rationality in these faithful attendants on man, derived from their close intimacy with him. Maida deported himself with a gravity becoming his age and size, and seemed to consider himself called upon to preserve a great degree of dignity and decorum in our society. As he jogged along a little distance a-head of us, the young dogs would gambol about him, leap on his neck, worry at his ears, and endeavour to tease him into a gambol. The old dog would keep on for a long time with imperturbable solemnity, now and then seeming to rebuke the wantonness of his young companions. At length he would make a sudden turn, seize one of them, and tumble him in the dust, then giving a glance at us, as much as to say, `You see, gentlemen, I can't help giving way to this nonsense,' would resume his gravity, and jog on as before. Scott amused himself with these peculiarities. `I make no doubt,' said he, `when Maida is alone with these young dogs, he throws gravity aside, and plays the boy as much as any of them; but he is ashamed to do so in our company, and seems to say---Ha' done with your nonsense, youngsters; what will the laird and that other gentleman think of me if I give way to such foolery?' Scott amused himself with the peculiarities of another of his dogs, a little shamefaced terrier, with large glassy eyes, one of the most sensitive little bodies to insult and indignity in the world. `If ever he whipped him,' he said, `the little fellow would sneak off and hide himself from the light of day in a lumber garret, from whence there was no drawing him forth but by the sound of the chopping-knife, as if chopping up his victuals, when he would steal forth with humiliated and downcast look, but would skulk away again if any one regarded him.'---His domestic animals were his friends. Everything about him seemed to rejoice in the light of his countenance. Our ramble took us on the hills commanding an extensive prospect. `Now,' said Scott, `I have brought you, like the pilgrim in the Pilgrim's Progress, to the top of the Delectable Mountains, that I may shew you all the goodly regions hereabouts.' . . . I gazed about me for a time with mute surprise. I may almost say with disappointment. I beheld a mere succession of grey waving hills, line beyond line, as far as my eye could reach. monotonous in their aspect, and so destitute of trees, that one could almost see a stout fly walking along their profile; and the far-famed Tweed appeared a naked stream, flowing between bare hills, without a tree or thicket on its banks; and yet such had been the magic web of poetry and romance thrown over the whole, that it had a greater charm for me than the richest scenery I had beheld in England. I could not help giving utterance to my thoughts. Scott hummed for a moment to himself, and looked grave; he had no idea of havin his muse complimented at the expense of his native hills. `It may be pertinacity,' said he at length; `but to my eye, these grey bills, and all this wild border country, have beauties peculiar to themselves. I like the very nakedness of the land; it has something bold, and stern, and solitary about it. When I have been for some time in the rich scenery about Edinburgh, which is like ornamented garden land, I begin to wish myself back again among my own honest grey hills; and if I did not see the heather, at least once a-year, _I think I should die!_' The last words were said with an honest warmth, accompanied by a thump on the ground with his staff, by way of emphasis, that shewed his heart was in his speech. He vindicated the Tweed, too, as a beautiful stream in itself; and observed, that he did not dislike it for being bare of trees, probably, from having been much of an angler in his time; and an angler does not like to have a stream overhung by trees, which embarrass him in the exercise of his rod and line. I took occasion to plead, in like manner, the associations of early life for my disappointment in respect to the surrounding scenery. I had been so accustomed to see hills crowned with forests, and streams breaking their way through a wilderness of trees, that all my ideas of romantic landscape were apt to be well wooded. `Ay, and that's the great charm of your country,' cried Scott. `You love the forest as I do the heather; but I would not have you think I do not love the glory of a great woodland prospect. There is nothing I should like more than to be in the midst of one of your grand wild original forests, with the idea of hundreds of miles of untrodden forest around me. I once saw at Leith an immense stick of timber just landed from America. It must have been an enormous tree when it stood in its native soil, at its full height, and with all its branches. I gazed at it with admiration; it seemed like one of the gigantic obelisks which are now and then brought from Egypt to shame the pigmy monuments of Europe; and, in fact, these vast aboriginal trees, that have sheltered the Indians before the intrusion of the white men, are the monuments and antiquities of your country.'
``The conversation here turned upon Campbell's poem of Gertrude of Wyoming, as illustrative of the poetic materials furnished by American scenery. Scott cited several passages of it with great delight. `What a pity it is,' said he, `that Campbell does not write more and oftener, and give full sweep to his genius! He has wings that would bear him to the skies; and he does, now and then, spread them grandly, but folds them up again, and resumes his perch, as if he was afraid to launch away. What a grand idea is that,' said he, `about prophetic boding, or, in common parlance, second sight---
`Coming events cast their shadows before!'---
The fact is,' added he, `Campbell is, in a manner, a bugbear to himself. The brightness of his early success is a detriment to all his further efforts. _He is afraid of the shadow that his own fame casts before him._'
``We had not walked much farther, before we saw the two Miss Scotts advancing along the hill-side to meet us. The morning's studies being over, they had set off to take a ramble on the hills, and gather heather blossoms with which to decorate their hair for dinner. As they came bounding lightly like young fawns, and their dresses fluttering in the pure summer breeze, I was reminded of Scott's own description of his children, in his introduction to one of the cantos of Marmion:---
`My imps though hardy, bold, and wild, As best befits the mountain child.' &c.
As they approached, the dogs all sprung forward, and gambolled around them. They joined us with countenances full of health, and glee. Sophia, the eldest, was the most lively and joyous, having much of her father's varied spirit in conversation, and seeming to catch excitement from his words and looks; Ann was of a quieter mood, rather silent, owing, in some measure, no doubt, to her being some years younger.''
Having often, many years afterwards, heard Irving speak warmly of William Laidlaw, I must not omit the following passage:---
``One of my pleasantest rambles with Scott about the neighbourhood of Abbotsford, was taken in company with Mr William Laidlaw, the steward of his estate. This was a gentleman for whom Scott entertained a particular value. He had been born to a competency, had been well educated, his mind was richly stored with varied information, and he was a man of sterling moral worth. Having been reduced by misfortune, Scott had got him to take charge of his estate. He lived at a small farm, on the hillside above Abbotsford, and was treated by Scott as a cherished and confidential friend, rather than a dependent. That day at dinner we had Mr Laidlaw and his wife, and a female friend who accompanied them. The latter was a very intelligent respectable person, about the middle age, and was treated with particular attention and courtesy by Scott. Our dinner was a most agreeable one, for the guests were evidently cherished visiters to the house, and felt that they were appreciated. When they were gone, Scott spoke of them in the most cordial manner. `I wish to shew you,' said he, `some of our really excellent, plain Scotch people: not fine gentlemen and ladies, for such you can meet everywhere, and they are everywhere the same. The character of a nation is not to be learnt from its fine folks.' He then went on with a particular eulogium on the lady who had accompanied the Laidlaws. She was the daughter, he said, of a poor country clergyman, who had died in debt, and left her an orphan and destitute. Having had a good plain education, she immediately set up a child's school, and had soon a numerous flock under her care, by which she earned a decent maintenance. That, however, was not her main object. Her first care was to pay off her father's debts, that no ill word or ill will might rest upon his memory. This, by dint of Scotch economy, backed by filial reverence and pride, she accomplished, though in the effort she subjected herself to every privation. Not content with this, she in certain instances refused to take pay for the tuition of the children of some of her neighbours, who had befriended her father in his need, and had since fallen into poverty. `In a word,' added Scott, `she's a fine old Scotch girl, and I delight in her more than in many a fine lady I have known, and I have known many of the finest.'
``The evening having passed away delightfully in a quaint-looking apartment, half study, half drawing-room, Scott read several passages from the old Romance of Arthur, with a fine deep sonorous voice, and a gravity of tone that seemed to suit the antiquated black-letter volume. It was a rich treat to hear such a work read by such a person, and in such a place; and his appearance, as he sat reading, in a large armchair, with his favourite hound Maida at his feet, and surrounded by books and reliques, and Border trophies, would have formed an admirable and most characteristic picture. When I retired for the night, I found it almost impossible to sleep: the idea of being under the roof of Scott; of being on the Borders on the Tweed; in the very centre of that region which had, for some time past, been the favourite scene of romantic fiction; and, above all, the recollections of the ramble I had taken, the company in which I had taken it, and the conversation which had passed, all fermented in my mind, and nearly drove sleep from my pillow.
``On the following morning the sun darted his beams from over the hills through the low lattice of my window. I rose at an early hour, and looked out between the branches of eglantine which overhung the casement. To my surprise, Scott was already up, and forth, seated on a fragment of stone, and chatting with the workmen employed in the new building. I had supposed, after the time he had wasted upon me yesterday, he would be closely occupied this morning: but he appeared like a man of leisure, who had nothing to do but bask in the sunshine and amuse himself. I soon dressed myself and joined him. He talked about his proposed plans of Abbotsford: happy would it have been for him could he have contented himself with his delightful little vine-covered cottage, and the simple, yet hearty and hospitable, style in which he lived at the time of my visit.''
These lines to the elder Ballantyne are without date. They accompanied, no doubt, the last proof-sheet of Rob Roy, and were therefore in all probability written about ten days before the 31st of December 1817---on which day the novel was published.
``With great joy I send you Roy. 'Twas a tough job, But we're done with Rob.''
The novel had indeed been ``a tough job''---for lightly and airily as it reads, the author had struggled, almost throughout with the pains of cramp or the lassitude of opium. Calling on him one day to dun him for copy, James found him with a clean pen and a blank sheet before him, and uttered some rather solemn exclamation of surprise. ``Ay, ay, Jemmy,'' said he, `` 'tis easy for you to bid me get on, but how the deuce can I make Rob Roy's wife speak, with such a _curmurring_ in my guts?''
Rob and his wife, Bailie Jarvie and his housekeeper, Die Vernon and Rashleigh Osbaldistone---these boldly drawn and happily contrasted personages---were welcomed as warmly as the most fortunate of their predecessors. Constable's resolution to begin with an edition of 10,000, proved to have been as sagacious as brave; for within a fortnight a second 3000 was called for.
Scott, however, had not waited for this new burst of applause. As soon as he came within view of the completion of Rob Roy, he desired John Ballantyne to propose to Constable a second series of the Tales of my Landlord, to be comprised, like the first, in four volumes, and ready for publication by ``the King's birth-day;'' that is, the 4th of June 1818. ``I have hungered and thirsted,'' he wrote, ``to see the end of those shabby borrowings among friends; they have all been wiped out except the good Duke's <L>4000---and I will not suffer either new offers of land or anything else to come in the way of that clearance. I expect that you will be able to arrange this resurrection of Jedediah, so that <L>5000 shall be at my order.''
Mr Rigdum used to glory in recounting that he acquitted himself on this occasion with a species of dexterity not contemplated in his commission. He well knew how sorely Constable had been wounded by seeing the first Tales of Jedediah published by Murray and Blackwood--- and that the utmost success of Rob Roy would only double his anxiety to keep them out of the field, when the hint should be dropt that a second MS. from Gandercleuch might shortly be looked for. John therefore took a convenient opportunity to mention the new scheme as if casually---so as to give Constable the impression that the author's purpose was to divide the second series also between his old rival in Albemarle Street, of whom his jealousy was always sensitive, and his neighbour Blackwood, whom, if there had been no other grudge, the recent conduct and rapidly increasing sale of his Magazine would have been sufficient to make Constable hate with a perfect hatred. To see not only his old ``Scots Magazine'' eclipsed, but the authority of the Edinburgh Review itself bearded on its own soil by this juvenile upstart, was to hint gall and wormwood; and, moreover, he himself had come in for his share in some of those grotesque _jeux d'esprit_ by which Blackwood's young Tory wags delighted to assail their elders and betters of the Whig persuasion. To prevent the proprietor of this new journal from acquiring anything like a hold on the author of Waverley, and thus competing with himself not only in periodical literature, but in the highest of the time, was an object for which, as John Ballantyne shrewdly guessed, Constable would have made at that moment almost any sacrifice. When, therefore, the haughty but trembling bookseller---``The Lord High Constable'' (as he had been dubbed by these jesters) ---signified his earnest hope that the second Tales of my Landlord were destined to come out under the same auspices with Rob Roy, the plenipotentiary answered with an air of deep regret, that he feared it would be impossible for the author to dispose of the work---unless to publishers who should agree to take with it the whole of the remaining stock of ``John Ballantyne & Co.;'' and Constable, pertinaciously as he had stood out against many more modest propositions of this nature, was so worked upon by his jealous feelings, that his resolution at once gave way. He agreed on the instant to do all that John seemed to shrink from asking---and at one sweep cleared the Augean stable in Hanover Street of unsaleable rubbish to the amount of <L>5270! I am assured by his surviving partner, that when he had finally redisposed of the stock, he found himself a loser by fully two-thirds of this sum. Burthened with this heavy condition, the agreement for the sale of 10,000 copies of the embryo series was signed before the end of November 1817; and on the 7th January 1818, Scott wrote to his noble friend of Buccleuch,---``I have the great pleasure of enclosing the discharged bond which your Grace stood engaged in on my account.''
The time now approached when a Commission to examine the Crown-room in the Castle of Edinburgh, which had sprung from one of Scott's conversations with the Prince Regent in 1815, was at length to be acted upon; and the result was the discovery of the long lost regalia of Scotland. Of the official proceedings of the 4th Feb. 1818, the reader has a full an particular account in an Essay which Scott penned shortly afterwards; but I may add a little incident of the 5th. He and several of his brother Commissioners then revisited the Castle, accompanied by some of the ladies of their families. His daughter Sophia told me that her father's conversation had worked her feelings up to such a pitch, that when the lid was again removed, she nearly fainted, and drew back from the circle. As she was retiring, she was startled by his voice exclaiming, in a tone of the deepest emotion, ``something between anger and despair,'' as she expressed it, ``By G---, No!'' One of the Commissioners, not quite entering into the solemnity with which Scott regarded this business, had it seems made a sort of motion as if he meant to put the crown on the head of one of the young ladies near him, but the voice and aspect of the Poet were more than sufficient to make the worthy gentle understand his error; and respecting the enthusiasm with which he had not been taught to sympathize, he laid down the ancient diadem with an air of painful embarrassment. Scott whispered, ``Pray forgive me;'' and turning round at the moment, observed his daughter deadly pale, and leaning by the door. He immediately drew her out of the room, and when the air had somewhat recovered her, walked with her across the Mound to Castle Street. ``He never spoke all the way home,'' she said, ``but every now and then I felt his arm tremble; and from that time I fancied he began to treat me more like a woman than a child. I thought he liked me better, too, than he had ever done before.''
At this moment, his position, take it for all in all, was, I am inclined to believe, what no other man had ever won for himself by the pen alone. His works were the daily food, not only of his countrymen, but of all educated Europe. His society was courted by whatever England could shew of eminence. Station, power, wealth, beauty, and genius, strove with each other in every demonstration of respect and worship, and---a few political fanatics and envious poetasters apart---wherever he appeared in town or country, whoever had Scotch blood in him, ``gentle or simple,'' felt it move more rapidly through his veins when he was in the presence of Scott. To descend to what many looked on as higher things, he considered himself, and was considered by all about him, as rapidly consolidating a large fortune:---the annual profits of his novels alone had, for several years, been not less than <L>10,000; his domains were daily increased---his castle was rising---and perhaps few doubted that ere long he might receive from the just favour of his Prince some distinction in the way of external rank, such as had seldom before been dreamt of as the possible consequences of a mere literary celebrity. It was about this time that the compiler of these pages first had the opportunity of observing the plain easy modesty which had survived the many temptations of such a career; and the kindness of heart pervading, in all circumstances, his gentle deportment, which made him the rare, perhaps the solitary, example of a man signally elevated from humble beginnings, and loved more and more by his earliest friends and connexions, in proportion as he had fixed on himself the homage of the great and the wonder of the world.
It was during the sitting of the General Assembly of the Kirk
in May 1818, that I first had the honour of meeting him in private
society: the party was not a large one, at the house of a much-valued
common friend---Mr Home Drummond, the grandson of Lord Kames.
Mr Scott, ever apt to consider too favourably the literary efforts
of others, and more especially of very young persons, received
me, when I was presented to him, with a cordiality which I had
not been prepared to expect from one filling a station so exalted.
This, however, is the same story that every individual, who ever
met him under similar circumstances, has had to tell. When the
ladies retired from the dinner-table, I happened to sit next him;
and he, having heard that I had lately returned from a tour in
Germany, made that country and its recent literature the subject
of some conversation. In the course of it, I told him that when,
on reaching the inn at Weimar, I asked the waiter whether Goethe
was then in the town, the man stared as if he had not heard the
name before; and that on my repeating the question, adding _Goethe
der grosse dichter_ (the great poet), he shook his head as doubtfully
as before---until the landlady solved our difficulties, by suggesting
that perhaps the traveller might mean ``the _Herr Geheimer-Rath_
(Privy Counsellor) _Von Goethe._''---Scott seemed amused with
this, and said, ``I hope you will come one of these days and see
me at Abbotsford; and when you reach Selkirk or Melrose, be sure
you ask even the landlady for nobody but the _Sheriff._'' He appeared
particularly interested when I described Goethe as I first saw
him, alighting from a carriage crammed with wild plants and herbs
which he had picked up in the course of his morning's botanizing
among the hills above Jena. ``I am glad,'' said he, ``that my
old master has pursuits somewhat akin to my own. I am no botanist,
properly speaking; and though a dweller on the banks of the Tweed,
shall never be knowing about Flora's beauties;<*>
* ``What beauties does Flora disclose,
* How sweet are her smiles upon Tweed,'' &c.
but how I should like to have a talk with him about trees!'' I mentioned how much any one must be struck with the majestic beauty of Goethe's countenance---the noblest certainly by far that I have ever yet seen---``Well,'' said he, ``the grandest demigod I ever saw was Dr Carlyle, minister of Musselburgh, commonly called _Jupiter Carlyle,_ from having sat more than once for the king of gods and men to Gavin Hamilton---and a shrewd, clever old carle was he, no doubt, but no more a poet than his precentor. As for poets, I have seen, I believe, all the best of our own time and country---and though Burns had the most glorious eyes imaginable, I never thought any of them would come up to an artist's notion of the character, except Byron.'' Principal Nicol of St Andrew's expressed his regret that he had never seen Lord Byron. ``And the prints,'' resumed Scott, ``give one no impression of him---the lustre is there, Doctor, but it is not lighted up. Byron's countenance is _a thing to dream of._ A certain fair lady, whose name has been too often mentioned in connection with his, told a friend of mine, that when she first saw Byron, it was in a crowded room, and she did not know who it was, but her eyes were instantly nailed, and she said to herself, _that pale face is my fate._ And, poor soul, if a godlike face and godlike powers could have made any excuse for devilry, to be sure she had one.'' In the course of this talk, Sir P. Murray of Ochtertyre, an old friend and schoolfellow of Scott's, asked him, across the table, if he had any faith in the antique busts of Homer. ``No, truly,'' he answered, smiling; ``for if there had been either limners or stuccoyers worth their salt in those days, the owner of such a headpiece would never have had to trail the poke. They would have alimented the honest man decently among them for a lay-figure.''
A few days after this, I received a communication from the Messrs Ballantyne, to the effect that Mr Scott's various avocations had prevented him from fulfilling his agreement with them as to the historical department of the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1816, and that it would be acceptable to him as well as them, if I could undertake to supply it in the course of the autumn. This proposal was agreed to, and I had consequently occasion to meet him pretty often during that summer session. He told me, that if the war had gone on, he should have liked to do the historical summary as before; but that the prospect of having no events to record but radical riots, and the passing or rejecting of corn bills and poor bills, sickened him that his health was no longer what it had been; and that though he did not mean to give over writing altogether--- (here he smiled significantly, and glanced his eye towards a pile of MS. on the desk by him)---he thought himself now entitled to write nothing but what would rather be an amusement than a fatigue to him---``_Juniores ad labores._''
He at this time occupied as his den a small square room, behind the dining parlour in Castle Street. It had but a single Venetian window, opening on a patch of turf not much larger than itself, and the aspect of the place was on the whole sombrous. The walls were entirely clothed with books; most of them folios and quartos, and all in that complete state of repair which at a glance reveals a tinge of bibliomania. A dozen volumes or so, needful for immediate purposes of reference, were placed close by him on a small moveable frame---something like a dumb-waiter. All the rest were in their proper niches, and wherever a volume had been lent, its room was occupied by a wooden block of the same size, having a card with the name of the borrower and date of the loan, tacked on its front. The old bindings had obviously been retouched and regilt in the most approved manner; the new, when the books were of any mark, were rich, but never gaudy---a large proportion of blue morocco---all stamped with his _device_ of the portcullis, and its motto, _clausus tutus ero_---being an anagram of his name in Latin. Every case and shelf was accurately lettered, and the works arranged systematically; history and biography on one side---poetry and the drama on another---law books and dictionaries behind his own chair. The only table was a massive piece of furniture which he had had constructed on the model of one at Rokeby; with a desk and all its appurtenances on either side, that an amanuensis might work opposite to him when he chose; and with small tiers of drawers, reaching all round to the floor. The top displayed a goodly array of session papers, and on the desk below were, besides the MS. at which he was working, sundry parcels of letters, proof-sheets, and so forth, all neatly done up with red tape. His own writing apparatus was a very handsome old box, richly carved, lined with crimson velvet, and containing ink-bottles, taper-stand, &c. in silver---the whole in such order that it might have come from the silversmith's window half an hour before. Besides his own huge elbow-chair, there were but two others in the room, and one of these seemed, from its position, to be reserved exclusively for the amanuensis. I observed, during the first evening I spent with him in this sanctum, that while he talked, his hands were hardly ever idle; sometimes he folded letter-covers---sometimes he twisted paper into matches, performing both tasks with great mechanical expertness and nicety; and when there was no loose paper fit to be so dealt with, he snapped his fingers, and the noble Maida aroused himself from his lair on the hearth-rug, and laid his head across his master's knees, to be caressed and fondled. The room had no space for pictures except one, a portrait of Claverhouse, which hung over the chimneypiece, with a Highland target on either side, and broadswords and dirks (each having its own story) disposed star-fashion round them. A few green tin-boxes, such as solicitors keep title-deeds in, were piled over each other on one side of the window; and on the top of these lay a fox's tail, mounted on an antique silver handle, wherewith, as often as hehad occasion to take down a book, he gently brushed the dust of the upper leaves before opening it. I think I have mentioned all the furniture of the room except a sort of ladder, low, broad, well carpetted, and strongly guarded with oaken rails, by which he helped himself to books from his higher shelves. On the top step of this convenience, Hinse of Hinsfeldt (so called from one of the German _Kinder-m<a:>rchen_), a venerable tom-cat, fat and sleek, and no longer very locomotive, usually lay watching the proceedings of his master and Maida with an air of dignified equanimity; but when Maida chose to leave the party, he signified his inclinations by thumping the door with his huge paw, as violently as ever a fashionable footman handled a knocker in Grosvenor Square; the Sheriff rose and opened it for him with courteous alacrity,---and then Hinse came down purring from his perch, and mounted guard by the footstool, vice Maida absent upon furlough. Whatever discourse might be passing, was broken every now and then by some affectionate apostrophe to these four-footed friends. He said they understood everything he said to them---and I believe they did understand a great deal of it. But at all events, dogs and cats, like children, have some infallible tact for discovering at once who is, and who is not, really fond of their company; and I venture to say, Scott was never five minutes in any room before the little pets of the family, whether dumb or lisping, had found out his kindness for all their generation.
I never thought it lawful to keep a journal of what passes in private society, so that no one need expect from the sequel of this narrative any detailed record of Scott's familiar talk. What fragments of it have happened to adhere to a tolerably retentive memory, and may be put into black and white without wounding any feelings which my friend, were he alive, would have wished to spare, I shall introduce as the occasion suggests or serves. But I disclaim on the threshold anything more than this; and I also wish to enter a protest once for all against the general fidelity of several literary gentlemen who have kindly forwarded to me private lucubrations of theirs, designed to _Boswellize_ Scott, and which they may probably publish hereafter. To report conversations fairly, it is a necessary prerequisite that we should be completely familiar with all the interlocutors, and understood thoroughly all their minutest relations, and points of common knowledge and common feeling, with each other. He who does not, must be perpetually in danger of misinterpreting sportive allusions into serious statement; and the man who was only recalling, by some jocular phrase or half-phrase, to an old companion, some trivial reminiscence of their boyhood or youth, may be represented as expressing, upon some person or incident casually tabled, an opinion which he had never framed, or if he had, would never have given words to in any mixed assemblage---not even among what the world calls _friends_ at his own board. In proportion as a man is witty and humorous, there will always be about him and his a widening maze and wilderness of cues and catchwords, which the uninitiated will, if they are bold enough to try interpretation, construe, ever and anon, egregiously amiss not seldom into arrant falsity. For this one reason, to say nothing of many others, I consider no man justified in journalizing what he sees and hears in a domestic circle where he is not thoroughly at home; and I think there are still higher and better reasons why he should not do so where he is.
Before I ever met Scott in private, I had, of course, heard many people describe and discuss his style of conversation. Everybody seemed to agree that it overflowed with hearty good-humour, as well as plain unaffected good sense and sagacity; but I had heard not a few persons of undoubted ability and accomplishment maintain, that the genius of the great poet and novelist rarely, if ever, revealed itself in his talk. It is needless to say, that the persons I allude to were all his own countrymen, and themselves imbued, more or less, with the conversational habits derived from a system of education in which the study of metaphysics occupies a very large share of attention. The best table-talk of Edinburgh was, and probably still is, in a very great measure made up of brilliant disquisition---such as might be transferred without alteration to a professor's note-book, or the pages of a critical Review---and of sharp word-catchings, ingenious thrusting and parrying of dialectics, and all the quips and quibblers of bar pleading. It was the talk of a society to which lawyers and lecturers had, for at least a hundred years, given the tone. From the date of the Union, Edinburgh ceased to be the headquarters of the Scotch nobility---and long before the time of which I speak, they had all but entirely abandoned it as a place of residence. I think I never knew above two or three of the Peerage to have houses there at the same time and these were usually among the poorest and most insignificant of their order. The wealthier gentry had followed their example. Very few of that class ever spent any considerable part of the year in Edinburgh, except for the purposes of educating their children, or superintending the progress of a lawsuit; and these were not more likely than a score or two of comatose and lethargic old Indians, to make head against the established influences of academical and forensic celebrity. Now Scott's tastes and resources had not much in common with those who had inherited and preserved the chief authority in this provincial hierarchy of rhetoric. He was highly amused with watching their dexterous logomachies---but his delight in such displays arose mainly, I cannot doubt, from the fact of their being, both as to subject-matter and style and method, remote _a Sc<ae>vol<ae> studiis._ He sat by, as he would have done at a stage-play or a fencing-match, enjoying and applauding the skill exhibited, but without feeling much ambition to parade himself as a rival either of the foil or the buskin. I can easily believe, therefore, that in the earlier part of his life---before the blaze of universal fame had overawed local prejudice, and a new generation, accustomed to hear of that fame from their infancy, had grown up--it may have been the commonly adopted creed in Edinburgh, that Scott, however distinguished otherwise, was not to be named as a table-companion in the same day with this or that master of luminous dissertation or quick rejoinder, who now sleeps as forgotten as his grandmother. It was natural enough that persons brought up in the same circle with him, who remembered all his beginnings, and had but slowly learned to acquiesce in the justice of his claim to unrivalled honour in literature, should have clung all the closer for that late acquiescence to their original estimate of him as inferior to themselves in other titles to admiration. It was also natural that their prejudice on that score should be readily taken up by the young aspirants who breathed, as it were, the atmosphere of their professional renown. Perhaps, too, Scott's steady Toryism, and the effect of his genius and example in modifying the intellectual sway of the long dominant Whigs in the north, may have some share in this matter. However, all that may have been, the substance of what I had been accustomed to hear certainly was, that Scott had a marvellous stock of queer stories, which he often told with happy effect, but that, bating these drafts on a portentous memory, set of with a simple old-fashioned na<i:>vet<e'> of humour and pleasantry, his strain of talk was remarkable neither for depth of remark nor felicity of illustration; that his views and opinions on the most important topics of practical interest were hopelessly perverted by his blind enthusiasm for the dreams of by-gone ages; and that, but for the grotesque phenomenon presented by a great writer of the nineteenth century gravely uttering sentiments worthy of his own Dundees and Invernahyles, the main texture of his discourse would be pronounced by any enlightened member of modern society, rather bald and poor than otherwise. I think the epithet most in vogue was _commonplace._
It will be easily believed, that, in companies such as I have been alluding to, made up of, or habitually domineered over, by voluble Whigs and political economists, Scott was often tempted to put forth his Tory doctrines and antiquarian prejudices in an exaggerated shape, in colours, to say the truth, altogether different from what they assumed under other circumstances, or which had any real influence upon his mind and conduct on occasions of practical moment. But I fancy it will seem equally credible, that the most sharp-sighted of these social critics may not always have been capable of tracing, and doing justice to, the powers which Scott brought to bear upon the topics which they, not he, had chosen for discussion. In passing from a gas-lit hall into a room with wax candles, the guests sometimes complain that they have left splendour for gloom, but let them try by what sort of light it is most satisfactory to read, write, or embroider, or consider at leisure under which of the two either men or women look their best.
The strongest, purest, and least observed of all lights, is, however, daylight; and his talk was commonplace, just as sunshine is, which gilds the most indifferent objects, and adds brilliancy to the brightest. As for the old-world anecdotes which these clever persons were condescending enough to laugh at as pleasant extravagances, serving merely to relieve and set of the main stream of debate, they were often enough, it may be guessed, connected with the theme in hand by links not the less apt that they might be too subtle to catch their bedazzled and self-satisfied optics. There might be keener knowledge of human nature than was ``dreamt of in their Philosophy''---which passed with them for _commonplace,_ only because it was clothed in plain familiar household words, not dressed up in some pedantic masquerade of antithesis.
``There are people,'' says Landor, ``who think they write and speak finely, merely because they have forgotten the language in which their fathers and mothers used to talk to them;'' and surely there are a thousand homely old proverbs, which many a dainty modern would think it beneath his dignity to quote either in speech or writing, any one of which condenses more wit (take that word in any of its senses) than could be extracted from all that was ever said or written by the _doctrinaires_ of the Edinburgh school. Many of those gentlemen held Scott's conversation to be commonplace exactly for the same reason that a child thinks a perfectly limpid stream, though perhaps deep enough to drown it three times over, must needs be shallow. But it will be easily believed that the best and highest of their own idols had better means and skill of measurement: I can never forget the pregnant expression of one of the ablest of that school and party---Lord Cockburn---who, when some glib youth chanced to echo in his hearing the consolatory tenet of local mediocrity, answered quietly---``I have the misfortune to think differently from you---in my humble opinion, Walter Scott's _sense_ is a still more wonderful thing than his _genius._''
Indeed I have no sort of doubt that, long before 1818, full justice was done to Scott, even in these minor things, by all those of his Edinburgh acquaintance, whether Whig or Tory, on whose personal opinion he could have been supposed to set much value. With few exceptions, the really able lawyers of his own or nearly similar standing had ere that time attained stations of judicial dignity, or were in the springtide of practice; and in either case they were likely to consider general society much in his own fashion, as the joyous relaxation of life, rather than the theatre of exertion and display. Their tables were elegantly, some of them sumptuously spread; and they lived in a pretty constant interchange of entertainments, in every circumstance of which, conversation included, it was their ambition to imitate those voluptuous metropolitan circles, wherein most of them had from time to time mingled, and several of them with distinguished success. Among such prosperous gentlemen, like himself past the _mezzo cammin,_ Scott's picturesque anecdotes, rich easy humour, and gay involuntary glances of mother-wit, were, it is not difficult to suppose, appreciated above contributions of a more ambitious stamp; and no doubt his London _reputation de salon_ (which had by degrees risen to a high pitch, although he cared nothing for it) was not without its effect in Edinburgh. But still the old prejudice lingered on in the general opinion of the place, especially among the smart praters of _the Outer-House._
In truth, it was impossible to listen to Scott's oral narrations, whether gay or serious, or to the felicitous fun with which he parried absurdities of all sorts, without discovering better qualities in his talk than _wit_---and of a higher order; I mean especially a power of _vivid painting_---the true and primary sense of what is called _Imagination_. He was like Jacques---though not a ``Melancholy Jacques;'' and ``moralized'' a common topic ``into a thousand similitudes.'' Shakspeare and the banished Duke would have found him ``full of matter.'' He disliked mere disquisitions in Edinburgh, and prepared _impromptus_ in London; and puzzled the promoters of such things sometimes by placid silence, sometimes by broad merriment. To such men he seemed _commonplace_---not so to the most dexterous masters in what was to some of them almost a science; not so to Rose, Hallam, Moore, or Rogers,---to Ellis, Mackintosh, Croker, or Canning.
Scott managed to give and receive such great dinners as I have been alluding to, at least as often as any other private gentleman in Edinburgh; but he very rarely accompanied his wife and daughters to the evening assemblies, which commonly ensued under other roofs---for _early to rise,_ unless in the case of spare-fed anchorites, takes for granted _early to bed._ When he had no dinner engagements he frequently gave a few hours to the theatre; but still more frequently, when the weather was fine, and still more, I believe, to his own satisfaction, he drove out with some of his family, or a single friend, in an open carriage; the favourite rides being either to the Blackford Hills, or to Ravelston, and so home by Corstorphine; or to the beach of Portobello, where Peter was always instructed to keep his horses as near as possible to the sea. More than once, even in the first summer of my acquaintance with him, I had the pleasure of accompanying him on these evening excursions; and never did he seem to enjoy himself more fully than when placidly surveying, at such sunset or moonlight hours, either the massive outlines of his ``own romantic town,'' or the tranquil expanse of its noble estuary. He delighted, too, in passing when he could, through some of the quaint windings of the ancient city itself, now deserted, except at mid-day, by the upper world. How often have I seen him go a long way round about, rather than miss the opportunity of halting for a few minutes on the vacant esplanade of Holyrood, or under the darkest shadows of the Castle rock, where it overhangs the Grassmarket, and the huge slab that still marks where the gibbet of Porteous and the Covenanters had its station. His coachman knew him too well to move at a Jehu's pace amidst such scenes as these. No funeral hearse crept more leisurely than did his landau up the Canongate or the Cowgate; and not a queer tottering gable but recalled to him some long-buried memory of splendour or bloodshed, which, by a few words, he set before the hearer in the reality of life. His image is so associated in my mind with the antiquities of his native place, that I cannot now revisit them without feeling as if I were treading on his gravestone.
Whatever might happen on the other evenings of the week, he always dined at home on Sunday, and usually some few friends were then with him, but never any person with whom he stood on ceremony. These were, it may be readily supposed, the most agreeable of his entertainments. He came into the room rubbing his hands, his face bright and gleesome, like a boy arriving at home for the holidays, his Peppers and Mustards gambolling about his heels, and even the stately Maida grinning and wagging his tail in sympathy. Among the most regular guests on these happy evenings were, in my time, as had long before been the case, Mrs Maclean Clephane of Torloisk (with whom he agreed cordially on all subjects except the authenticity of Ossian), and her daughters, whose guardian he had become at their choice. The eldest of them had been for some years married to the Earl of Compton (now Marquis of Northampton), and was of course seldom in the north; but the others had much of the same tastes and accomplishments which so highly distinguished the late Lady Northampton; and Scott delighted especially in their proficiency in the poetry and music of their native isles. Mr and Mrs Skene of Rubislaw were frequent attendants---and so were the Macdonald-Buchanans of Drumakiln, whose eldest daughter, Isabella, was his chief favourite among all his _nieces_ of the Clerks' table---as was, among the _nephews,_ my own dear friend and companion, Joseph Hume, a singularly graceful young man, rich in the promise of hereditary genius, but, alas! cut off in the early bloom of his days. The well-beloved Erskine was seldom absent; and very often Terry or James Ballantyne came with him---sometimes, though less frequently, Constable. Among other persons who now and then appeared at these ``dinners without the silver dishes.'' as Scott called them, I may mention---to say nothing of such old cronies as Mr Clerk, Mr Thornson, and Mr Kirkpatrick Sharpe---Sir Alexander Boswell of Auchinleck, who had all his father _Bozzy's_ cleverness, good-humour, and jovialty, without one touch of his meaner qualities---wrote _Jenny dang the Weaver,_ and some other popular songs, which he sang capitally---and was moreover a thorough bibliomaniac; the late Sir Alexander Don of Newton, in all courteous and elegant accomplishments the model of a cavalier; and last, not least, William Allan, R.A., who had shortly before this time returned to Scotland from several years of travel in Russia and Turkey. At one of these plain hearty dinners, however, the company rarely exceeded three or four, besides the as yet undivided family.
Scott had a story of a topping goldsmith on the Bridge, who prided himself on being the mirror of Amphitryons, and accounted for his success by stating that it was his invariable custom to set his own stomach at ease, by a beef-steak and a pint of port in his back-shop, half-an-hour before the arrival of his guests. But the host of Castle Street had no occasion to imitate this prudent arrangement, for his appetite at dinner was neither keen nor nice. Breakfast was his chief meal. Before that came, he had gone through the severest part of his day's work, and then he set to with the zeal of Crabbe's Squire Tovell---
`And laid at once a pound upon his plate.'
No foxhunter ever prepared himself for the field by more substantial appliances. His table was always provided, in addition to the usually plentiful delicacies of a Scotch breakfast, with some solid article, on which he did most lusty executioner round of beef---a pasty, such as made Gil Blas's eyes water---or, most welcome of all, a cold sheep's head, the charms of which primitive dainty he has so gallantly defended against the disparaging sneers of Dr Johnson and his bear-leader.<*> A huge brown loaf flanked
* See Croker's Boswell (edit. 1831), vol. iii. p. 38.
his elbow, and it was placed upon a broad wooden trencher, that he might cut and come again with the bolder knife. Often did the _Clerks' coach,_ commonly called among themselves _the Lively_---which trundled round every morning to pick up the brotherhood, and then deposited them at the proper minute in the Parliament Close---often did this lumbering hackney arrive at his door before he had fully appeased what Homer calls ``the sacred rage of hunger;'' and vociferous was the merriment of the learned _uncles,_ when the surprised poet swung forth to join them, with an extemporized sandwich, that looked like a ploughman's luncheon in his hand. But this robust supply would have served him in fact for the day. He never tasted anything more before dinner, and at dinner he ate almost as sparingly as Squire Tovell's niece from the boarding-school---
------``Who cut the sanguine flesh in frustums fine, And marvelled much to see the creatures dine.''
The only dishes he was at all fond of were the old-fashioned ones to which he had been accustomed in the days of Saunders Fairford; and which really are excellent dishes,---such, in truth, as Scotland borrowed from France before Catherine de Medicis brought in her Italian _virtuosi_ to revolutionize the kitchen like the court. Of most of these, I believe, he has in the course of his novels found some opportunity to record his esteem. But, above all, who can forget that his King Jamie, amidst the splendours of Whitehall, thinks himself an ill-used monarch unless his first course includes _cockyleekie?_
It is a fact, which some philosophers may think worth setting down, that Scott's organization, as to more than one of the senses, was the reverse of exquisite. He had very little of what musicians call an ear; his smell was hardly more delicate. I have seen him stare about, quite unconscious of the cause, when his whole company betrayed their uneasiness at the approach of an over-kept haunch of venison; and neither by the nose or the palate could he distinguish corked wine from sound. He could never tell Madeira from Sherry; nay, an Oriental friend having sent him a butt of _sheeraz,_ when he remembered the circumstance some time afterwards, and called for a bottle to have Sir John Malcolm's opinion of its quality, it turned out that his butler, mistaking the label, had already served up half the binn as _sherry._ Port he considered as physic: he never willingly swallowed more than one glass of it, and was sure to anathematize a second, if offered, by repeating John Home's epigram---
``Bold and erect the Caledonian stood, Old was his mutton, and his claret good; Let him drink port, the English statesman cried--- He drank the poison, and his spirit died.''
In truth, he liked no wines except sparkling champaign and claret , but even as to this last he was no connoisseur; and sincerely preferred a tumbler of whisky-toddy to the most precious ``liquid ruby'' that ever flowed in the cup of a prince. He rarely took any other potation when quite alone with his family; but at the Sunday board he circulated the champaign briskly during dinner, and considered a pint of claret each man's fair share afterwards. I should not omit, however, that his Bourdeaux was uniformly preceded by a small libation of the genuine _mountain dew,_ which he poured with his own hand, _more majorum,_ for each guest---making use for the purpose of such a multifarious collection of ancient Highland _quaighs_ (little cups of curiously dovetailed wood, inlaid with silver) as no Lowland sideboard but his was ever equipped with---but commonly reserving for himself one that was peculiarly precious in his eyes, as having travelled from Edinburgh to Derby in the canteen of Prince Charlie. This relic had been presented to ``the wandering Ascanius'' by some very careful follower, for its bottom is of glass, that he who quaffed might keep his eye the while upon the dirk hand of his companion.
The sound of music---(even, I suspect, of any sacred music but psalm-singing)---would be considered indecorous in the streets of Edinburgh on a Sunday night; so, upon the occasions I am speaking of, the harp was silent, and _Otterburne_ and _The Bonnie House of Airlie_ must needs be dispensed with. To make amends, after tea in the drawing-room, Scott usually read some favourite author for the amusement ofhis little circle; or Erskine, Ballantyne, or Terry, did so, at his request. He himself read aloud high poetry with far greater simplicity, depth, and effect, than any other man I ever heard; and in Macbeth or Julius C<ae>sar, or the like, I doubt if Kemble could have been more impressive. Yet the changes of intonation were so gently managed, that he contrived to set the different interlocutors clearly before us, without the least approach to theatrical artifice. Not so the others I have mentioned; they all read cleverly and agreeably, but with the decided trickery of stage recitation. To them he usually gave the book when it was a comedy, or, indeed, any other drama than Shakspeare's or Joanna Baillie's. Dryden's Fables, Johnson's two Satires, and certain detached scenes of Beaumont and Fletcher, especially that in the _Lover's Progress,_ where the ghost of the musical innkeeper makes his appearance, were frequently selected. Of the poets, his contemporaries, however, there was not one that did not come in for his part. In Wordsworth, his pet pieces were, I think, the _Song for Brougham Castle,_ the _Laodamia,_ and some of the early sonnets:---in Southey, _Queen Orraca, Fernando Ramirez,_ the _Lines on the Holly Tree_---and, of his larger poems, the _Thalaba._ Crabbe was perhaps, next to Shakspeare, the standing resource; but in those days Byron was pouring out his spirit fresh and full; and, if a new piece from his hand had appeared, it was sure to be read by Scott the Sunday evening afterwards, and that with such delighted emphasis as shewed how completely the elder bard had kept all his enthusiasm for poetry at the pitch of youth, all his admiration of genius, free, pure, and unstained by the least drop of literary jealousy. Rare and beautiful example of a happily constituted and virtuously disciplined mind and character!
Let me turn, meanwhile, to a table very different from his own, at which, from this time forward, I often met Scott.
James Ballantyne then lived in St John Street, a row of good, old-fashioned, and spacious houses, adjoining the Canongate and Holyrood, and at no great distance from his printing establishment. He had married a few years before the daughter of a wealthy farmer in Berwickshire--- a quiet amiable woman, of simple manners, and perfectly domestic habits: a group of fine young children were growing up about him; and he usually, if not constantly, had under his roof his aged mother, his and his wife's tender care of whom it was most pleasing to witness. As far as a stranger might judge, there could not be a more exemplary household, or a happier one; and I have occasionally met the poet in St John Street when there were no other guests but Erskine, Terry, George Hogarth,<*> and
* George Hogarth, Esq. W. S, brother of Mrs James Ballantyne.
* This gentleman is now well known in the literary world; especially.
* by a History of Music, of which all who understand that science
* speak highly---1848.
another intimate friend or two, and when James Ballantyne was content to appear in his own true and best colours, the kind head of his family, the respectful but honest schoolfellow of Scott, the easy landlord of a plain, comfortable table. But when any great event was about to take place in the business, especially on the eve of a new novel, there were doings of a higher strain in St John Street; and to be present at one of those scenes was truly a rich treat, even---if not especially---for persons who, like myself, had no more _knowledge_ than the rest of the world as to the authorship of Waverley. Then were congregated about the printer all his own literary allies, of whom a considerable number were by no means personally familiar with ``=the great unknown:=''---who, by the way, owed to him that widely adopted title;---and He appeared among the rest with his usual open aspect of buoyant good-humour---although it was not difficult to trace, in the occasional play of his features, the diversion it afforded him to watch all the procedure of his swelling confidant, and the curious neophytes, that surrounded the well-spread board.
The feast was, to use one of James's own favourite epithets, _gorgeous;_ an aldermanic display of turtle and venison, with the suitable accompaniments of iced punch, potent ale, and generous Madeira. When the cloth was drawn, the burley preses arose, with all he could muster of the port of John Kemble, and spouted with a sonorous voice the formula of Macbeth---
``Fill full! I drink to the general joy of the whole table!''
This was followed by ``The King, God bless him!'' and second came---``Gentlemen, there is another toast which never has been nor shall be omitted in this house of mine ---I give you the health of Mr Walter Scott with three times three!''---All honour having been done to this health, and Scott having briefly thanked the company with some expressions of warm affection to their host, Mrs Ballantyne retired;---the bottles passed round twice or thrice in the usual way;---and then James rose once more, every vein on his brow distended, his eyes solemnly fixed upon vacancy, to propose, not as before in his stentorian key, but with ``'bated breath,'' in the sort of whisper by which a stage conspirator thrills the gallery---``_Gentlemen, a bumper to the immortal Author of Waverley!_''---The uproar of cheering, in which Scott made a fashion of joining, was succeeded by deep silence, and then Ballantyne proceeded---
``In his Lord-Burleigh look, serene and serious, A something of imposing and mysterious''---
to lament the obscurity in which his illustrious but too modest correspondent still chose to conceal himself from the plaudits of the world---to thank the company for the manner in which the _nominis umbra_ had been received--- and to assure them that the Author of Waverley would, when informed of the circumstance, feel highly delighted the proudest hour of his life,'' &c. &c. The cool demure fun of Scott's features during all this mummery was perfect; and Erskine's attempt at a gay _nonchalance_ was still more ludicrously meritorious. Aldiborontiphoscophornio, however, bursting as he was, knew too well to allow the new novel to be made the subject of discussion. Its name was announced, and success to it crowned another cup; but after that, no more of Jedediah. To cut the thread, he rolled out unbidden some one of his many theatrical songs, in a style that would have done no dishonour to almost any orchestra---_The Maid of Lodi_---or perhaps, _The Bay of Biscay, oh!_---or _The sweet little cherub that sits up aloft._ Other toasts followed, interspersed with ditties from other performers;---old George Thomson, the friend of Burns, was ready, for one, with _The Moorland Wedding,_ or _Willie brew`d a peck o' maut;_---and so it went on, until Scott and Erskine, with any clerical or very staid personage that had chanced to be admitted, saw fit to withdraw. Then the scene was changed. The claret and olives made way for broiled bones and a mighty bowl of punch; and when a few glasses of the hot beverage had restored his powers, James opened _ore rotundo_ on the merits of the forthcoming romance. ``One chapter---one chapter only''---was the cry. After ``_Nay, by'r Lady, nay!_'' and a few more coy shifts, the proof-sheets were at length produced, and James, with many a prefatory hem, read aloud what he considered as the most striking dialogue they contained.
The first I heard so read was the interview between Jeanie Deans, the Duke of Argyle, and Queen Caroline, in Richmond Park; and notwithstanding some spice of the pompous tricks to which he was addicted, I must say he did the inimitable scene great justice. At all events, the effect it produced was deep and memorable, and no wonder that the exulting typographer's _one bumper more to Jedediah Cleishbotham_ preceded his parting stave, which was uniformly _The Last Words of Marmion,_ executed certainly with no contemptible rivalry of Braham.
What a different affair was a dinner, although probably including many of the same guests, at the junior partner's! He in those days retained, I think, no private apartments attached to his auction-rooms in Hanover Street, over the door of which he still kept emblazoned. ``John Ballantyne and Company, Booksellers.'' At any rate, such of his entertainments as I ever saw Scott partake of, were given at his villa near to the Frith of Forth, by Trinity;---a retreat which the little man had invested with an air of dainty voluptuous finery, contrasting strikingly enough with the substantial citizen-like snugness of his elder brother's domestic appointments. His house was surrounded by gardens so contrived as to seem of considerable extent, having many a shady tuft, trellised alley, and mysterious alcove, interspersed among their bright parterres. His professional excursions to Paris and Brussels in quest of objects of vertu, had supplied both the temptation and the means to set forth the interior in a fashion that might have satisfied the most fastidious _petite maitresse_ of Norwood or St Denis. John, too, was a married man: he had, however, erected for himself a private wing, the accesses to which, whether from the main building or the bosquet, were so narrow that it was physically impossible for the handsome and portly lady who bore his name to force her person through any one of them. His dinners were in all respects Parisian, for his wasted palate disdained such John Bull luxuries as were all in all with James. The piquant pasty of Strasburg or Perigord was never to seek; and even the _pi<e`>ce de r<e'>sistance_ was probably a boar's head from Coblentz, or a turkey ready stuffed with truffles from the Palais Royal. The pictures scattered among John's innumerable mirrors were chiefly of theatrical subjects many of them portraits of beautiful actresses---the same Peg Woffingtons, Bellamys, Kitty Clives, and so forth, that found their way in the sequel to Charles Mathews's gallery at Highgate. Here that exquisite comedian's own mimicries and parodies were the life and soul of many a festival, and here, too, he gathered from his facetious host not a few of the richest materials for his _at homes_ and _monopolylogues._ But, indeed, whatever actor or singer of eminence visited Edinburgh, of the evenings when he did not perform several were sure to be reserved for Trinity. Here Braham quavered, and here Liston drolled his best ---here Johnstone, and Murray, and Yates, mixed jest and stave---here Kean revelled and rioted---and here the Roman Kemble often played the Greek from sunset to dawn. Nor did the popular _danseuse_ of the time disdain to freshen her roses, after a laborious week, amidst these Paphian arbours.
Johnny had other tastes that were equally expensive. He had a well-furnished stable, and followed the fox-hounds whenever the covert was within an easy distance. His horses were all called after heroes in Scott's poems or novels; and at this time he usually rode up to his auction on a tall milk-white hunter, yclept _Old Mortality,_ attended by a leash or two of greyhounds,---Die Vernon, Jenny Dennison, and so forth, by name. The featherweight himself appeared uniformly, hammer-in-hand, in the half-dress of some sporting-club---a light grey frock, with emblems of the chase on its silver buttons, white cord breeches, and jockey-boots in Meltonian order. Yet he affected in the pulpit rather a grave address; and was really one of the most plausible and imposing of the Puff tribe. Probably Scott's presence overawed his ludicrous propensities; for the poet was, when sales were going on, almost a daily attendant in Hanover Street, and himself not the least energetic of the numerous competitors for Johnny's uncut _fifteeners,_ Venetian lamps, Milanese cuirasses, and old Dutch cabinets. Maida, by the way, was so well aware of his master's habits, that about the time when the Court of Session was likely to break up for the day, he might usually be seen couched in expectation among Johnny's own _tail_ of greyhounds at the threshold of the mart.
It was at one of those Trinity dinners this summer that I first saw Constable. Being struck with his appearance, I asked Scott who he was, and he told me---expressing some surprise that anybody should have lived a winter or two in Edinburgh without knowing, by sight at least, a citizen whose name was so familiar to the world. I happened to say that I had not been prepared to find the great bookseller a man of such gentlemanlike and even distinguished bearing. Scott smiled, and answered---``Ay, Constable is indeed a grand-looking chield. He puts me in mind of Fielding's apology for Lady Booby---to wit, that Joseph Andrews had an air which, to those who had not seen many noblemen, would give an idea of nobility.'' I had not in those days been much initiated in the private jokes of what is called, by way of excellence, _the trade,_ and was puzzled when Scott, in the course of the dinner, said to Constable, ``Will your Czarish Majesty do me the honour to take a glass of champaign?'' I asked the master of the feast for an explanation. ``Oh!'' said he, ``are you so green as not to know that Constable long since dubbed himself _The Czar of Muscovy,_ John Murray _The Emperor of the West,_ and Longman and his string of partners _The Divan?_''---``And what title,'' I asked, ``has Mr John Ballantyne himself found in this new _almanach imperial?_'' ---``Let that flee stick to the wa','' quoth Johnny: ``When I set up for a bookseller, The Crafty christened me _The Dey of Alljeers_---but he now considers me as next thing to dethroned.'' He added---``His Majesty the autocrat is too fond of these nicknames. One day a partner of the house of Longman was dining with him in the country, to settle an important piece of business, about which there occurred a good deal of difficulty. `What fine swans you have in your pond there!' said the Londoner, by way of parenthesis---`Swans!' cried Constable; `they are only geese, man. There are just five of them, if you please to observe, and their names are Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown.' This skit cost The Crafty a good bargain.''
It always appeared to me that James Ballantyne felt his genius rebuked in the presence of Constable: his manner was constrained, his smile servile, his hilarity elaborate. Not so with Johnny: the little fellow never seemed more airily frolicsome than when he capered for the amusement of the Czar.
When I visited Constable, as I often did at a period somewhat later than that of which I now speak, and for the most part in company with Scott, I found the bookseller established in a respectable country gentleman's seat, some six or seven miles out of Edinburgh, and doing the honours of it with all the ease that might have been looked for had he been the long-descended owner of the place ---there was no foppery, no show, no idle luxury, but to all appearance the plain abundance and simple enjoyment of hereditary wealth. His conversation was manly and vigorous, abounding in Scotch anecdotes of the old time, which he told with a degree of spirit and humour only second to his great author's. No man could more effectually control, when he had a mind, either the extravagant vanity which, on too many occasions, made him ridiculous, or the despotic temper which habitually held in fear and trembling all such as were in any sort dependent on his Czarish Majestys pleasure. In him I never saw (at this period) anything but the unobtrusive sense and the calm courtesy of a well-bred gentleman. His very equipage kept up the series of contrasts between him and the two Ballantynes. Constable went back and forward between the town and Polton in a deep hung and capacious green barouche, without any pretence at heraldic blazonry, drawn by a pair of sleek, black, long-tailed horses, and conducted by a grave old coachman in plain blue livery. The Printer of the Canongate drove himself and his wife about the streets and suburbs in a snug machine, which did not overburthen one powerful and steady cob;---while the gay Auctioneer, whenever he left the saddle for the box, mounted a bright blue dog-cart, and rattled down the Newhaven road with two high-mettled steeds prancing tandem before him.
The Sheriff told with peculiar unction the following anecdote of this spark:---The first time he went over to pick up curiosities at Paris, it happened that he met, in the course of his traffickings, a certain brother bookseller of Edinburgh, as unlike him as one man could well be to another ---a grave, dry Presbyterian, rigid in all his notions as the buckle of his wig. This precise worthy having ascertained John's address, went to call on him a day or two afterwards, with the news of some richly illuminated missal, which he might possibly be glad to make prize of. On asking for his friend, a smiling _laquais de place_ informed him that _Monsieur_ had gone out, but that _Madame_ was at home. Not doubting that Mrs Ballantyne had accompanied her husband on his trip, he desired to pay his respects to _Madame,_ and was ushered in accordingly. ``But oh, Mr Scott!'' said, or rather groaned the austere elder on his return from this modern Babylon---``oh, Mr Scott, there was nae Mrs John yonder, but a painted Jezabel sittin' up in her bed, wi' a wheen impudent French limmers like hersel', and twa or three whiskered blackguards, takin, their collation o' nicknacks, and champagne wine. I ran out o' the house as if I had been shot. What judgment will this wicked warld come to! The Lord pity us!'' Scott was a severe enough censor in the general of such levities, but somehow, in the case of Rigdumfunnidos, he seemed to regard them with much the same toleration as the naughty tricks of a monkey in the ``Jardin des Plantes.''
Why did Scott persist in mixing up all his most important concerns with these Ballantynes? The reader of these pages will have all my materials for an answer; but in the meantime let it suffice to say, that he was the most patient, long-suffering, affectionate, and charitable of mankind; that in the case of both the brothers he could count, after all, on a sincerely, nay, a passionately devoted attachment to his person; that, with the greatest of human beings, use is in all but unconquerable power; and that he who so loftily tossed aside the seemingly most dangerous assaults of flattery, the blandishment of dames, the condescension of princes, the enthusiasm of crowds---had still his weak point, upon which two or three humble besiegers, and one unwearied, though most frivolous underminer, well knew how to direct their approaches. It was a favourite saw of his own, that the wisest of our race often reserve the average stock of folly to be all expended upon some one flagrant absurdity.
I alluded to James Ballantyne's reading of the famous scene in Richmond Park. According to Scott's original intention, the second series of _Jedediah_ was to have included two tales; but his Jeanie Deans soon grew so on his fancy as to make this impossible; and the Heart of Mid-Lothian alone occupied the four volumes which appeared in June 1818, and were at once placed by acclamation in the foremost rank of his writings. Lady Louisa Stuart's picture of the southern rapture may be found elsewhere; but I must not omit here her own remarks on the principal character: ---``People were beginning to say the author would wear himself out; it was going on too long in the same key, and no striking notes could possibly be produced. On the contrary, I think the interest is stronger here than in any of the former ones---(always excepting my first-love Waverley)---and one may congratulate you upon having effected what many have tried to do, and nobody yet succeeded in, making the perfectly good character the most interesting. Of late days, especially since it has been the fashion to write moral and even religious novels, one might almost say of some of the wise good heroines, what a lively girl once said of her well-meaning aunt---`Upon my word she is enough to make anybody wicked.' And though beauty and talents are heaped on the right side, the writer, in spite of himself, is sure to put agreeableness on the wrong; the person from whose errors he means you should take warning, runs away with your secret partiality in the meantime. Had this very story been conducted by a common hand, Effie would have attracted our concern and sympathy---Jeanie only cold approbation. Whereas Jeanie, without youth, beauty, genius, warm passions, or any other novel-perfection, is here our object from beginning to end. This is `enlisting the affections in the cause of virtue' ten times more than ever Richardson did; for whose male and female pedants, all-excelling as they are, I never could care half so much as I found myself inclined to do for Jeanie before I finished the first volume.''
From the choice of localities, and the splendid blazoning of tragical circumstances that had left the strongest impression on the memory and imagination of every inhabitant, the reception of this tale in Edinburgh was a scene of all-engrossing enthusiasm, such as I never witnessed there on the appearance of any other literary novelty. But the admiration and delight were the same all over Scotland. Never before had he seized such really noble features of the national character as were canonized in the person of his homely heroine: no art had ever devised a happier running contrast than that of her and her sister, or interwoven a portraiture of lowly manners and simple virtues, with more graceful delineations of polished life, or with bolder shadows of terror, guilt, crime, remorse, madness, and all the agony of the passions.
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