Before the end of January 1821, he went to London at the request of the other Clerks of Session, that he might watch over the progress of an Act of Parliament designed to relieve them from a considerable part of their drudgery in attesting recorded deeds by signature;---and his stay was prolonged until near the beginning of the Summer term of his Court. On his return he found two matters of domestic interest awaiting him. On the 23d April he writes to the Cornet:---``The noble Captain Fergusson was married on Monday last. I was present at the bridal, and I assure you the like hath not been seen since the days of Lesmahago. Like his prototype, the Captain advanced in a jaunty military step, with a kind of leer on his face that seemed to quiz the whole affair. You should write to your brother sportsman and soldier, and wish the veteran joy of his entrance into the band of Benedicts. Odd enough that I should christen a grandchild and attend the wedding of a contemporary within two days of each other. I have sent John of Skye, with Tom, and all the rabblement which they can collect, to play the pipes, shout, and fire guns below the Captain's windows this morning; and I am just going over to hover about on my pony, and witness their reception. The happy pair returned to Huntley Burn on Saturday; but yesterday being Sunday, we permitted them to enjoy their pillows in quiet. This morning they must not expect to get off so well.''
The Captain and his Lady soon pitched a tent for themselves--- but it was in the same parish, and _Gattonside_ was but an additional Huntley Burn. I may as well introduce here, however, Scott's description to Lord Montagu of _the Glen_ and its yet undivided community:---``The Captain is a very singular fellow; for, with all his humour and knowledge of the world, he by nature is a remarkably shy and modest man, and more afraid of the possibility of intrusion than would occur to any one who only sees him in the full stream of society. His sister Margaret is extremely like him in the turn of thought and of humour, and he has two others who are as great curiosities in their way. The eldest is a complete old maid, with all the gravity and shyness of the character, but not a grain of its bad humour or spleen; on the contrary, she is one of the kindest and most motherly creatures in the world. The second, Mary, was in her day a very pretty girl; but her person became deformed, and she has the sharpness of features with which that circumstance is sometimes attended. She rises very early in the morning, and roams over all my wild land in the neighbourhood, wearing the most complicated pile of handkerchiefs of different colours on her head, and a stick double her own height in her hand, attended by two dogs, whose powers of yelping are truly terrific. With such garb and accompaniments, she has very nearly established the character in the neighbourhood of being _something no canny_ ---and the urchins of Melrose and Darnick are frightened from gathering hazel-nuts and cutting wands in my cleuch, by the fear of meeting _the daft lady._ With all this quizzicality, I do not believe there ever existed a family with so much mutual affection, and such an overflow of benevolence to all around them, from men and women down to hedge-sparrows and lame ass-colts, more than one of which they have taken under their direct and special protection.''
On the 16th of June 1821, died at Edinburgh John Ballantyne. Until within a week or two before, Sir Walter had not entertained any thought that his end was near. I was present at one of their last interviews, and John's death-bed was a thing not to be forgotten. We sat by him for perhaps an hour, and I think half that space was occupied with his predictions of a speedy end, and details of his last will, which he had just been executing, and which lay on his coverlid; the other half being given, five minutes or so at a time, to questions and remarks, which intimated that the hope of life was still flickering before him---nay, that his interest in all its concerns remained eager. The proof-sheets of a volume of his Novelist's Library lay also by his pillow; and he passed from them to his will, and then back to them, as by jerks and starts the unwonted veil of gloom closed upon his imagination, or was withdrawn again. He had, he said, left his great friend and patron <L>2000 towards the completion of the new library at Abbotsford---and the spirit of the auctioneer virtuoso flashed up as he began to describe what would, he thought, be the best style and arrangement of the book-shelves. He was interrupted by an agony of asthma, which left him with hardly any signs of life; and ultimately he did expire in a fit of the same kind. Scott was visibly and profoundly shaken by this scene and sequel. As we stood together a few days afterwards, while they were smoothing the turf over John's remains in the Canongate churchyard, the heavens which had been dark and slaty, cleared up suddenly, and the midsummer sun shone forth in his strength. Scott, ever awake to the ``skiey influences,'' cut his eye along the overhanging line of the Calton Hill, with its gleaming walls and towers, and then turning to the grave again, ``I feel,'' he whispered in my ear,---``I feel as if there would be less sunshine for me from this day forth.''
As we walked homewards, he told me, among other favourable _traits_ of his friend, one little story which I must not omit. He remarked one day to a poor student of divinity attending his auction, that he looked as if he were in bad health. The young man assented with a sigh. ``Come,'' said Ballantyne, ``I think I ken the secret of a sort of draft that would relieve you---particularly,'' he added, handing him a cheque for <L>5 or <L>10---``particularly, my dear, if taken upon an empty stomach.''
I am sorry to take leave of John Ballantyne with the remark, that his last will was a document of the same class with too many of his _states_ and _calendars._ So far from having <L>2000 to bequeath to Sir Walter, he died as he had lived, ignorant of the situation of his affairs, and deep in debt.
The coronation of George IV. had been deferred in consequence of the unhappy affair of the Queen's Trial. The 19th of July 1821 was now announced for this solemnity, and Sir Walter resolved to be among the spectators. It occurred to him that if the Ettrick Shepherd were to accompany him, and produce some memorial of the scene likely to catch the popular ear in Scotland, good service might thus be done to the cause of loyalty. But this was not his only consideration. Hogg had married a handsome and most estimable young woman, a good deal above his own original rank in life, the year before; and expecting with her a dowry of <L>1000, he had forthwith revived the grand ambition of an earlier day, and taken an extensive farm on the Buccleuch estate, at a short distance from Altrive Lake. Misfortune pursued the Shepherd---the bankruptcy of his wife's father interrupted the stocking of the sheep-walk; and the arable part was sadly mismanaged. Scott hoped that a visit to London, and a coronation poem, or pamphlet, might end in some pension or post that would relieve these difficulties, and when writing to Lord Sidmouth, to ask a place for himself in the Hall and Abbey of Westminster, begged suitable accommodation for Hogg also. Lord Sidmouth answered that Sir Walter's wishes should be gratified, _provided_ they would both dine with him the day after the coronation, in Richmond Park, ``where,'' says the letter of the Under-Secretary, ``his Lordship will invite the Duke of York and a few other Jacobites to meet you.'' All this being made known to the tenant of Mount-Benger, he wrote to Scott, as he says, ``with the tear in his eye,'' to signify, that if he went to London he must miss attending the great annual Border fair, held on St Boswell's Green, on the 18th of every July;. and that his absence from that meeting so soon after entering upon business as a store-farmer, would be considered by his new compeers as highly imprudent and discreditable. ``In short,'' James concludes, ``the thing is impossible. But as there is no man in his Majesty's dominions admires his great talents for government, and the energy and dignity of his administration, so much as I do, I will write something at home, and endeavour to give it you before you start.'' The Shepherd probably expected that these pretty compliments would reach the royal ear; but however that may have been, his own Muse turned a deaf ear to him---at least I never heard of anything that he wrote on this occasion. Scott embarked without him, on board a new steam-ship called _the City of Edinburgh,_ which, as he suggested to the master, ought rather to have been christened the _New Reekie._
On the day after the coronation, Sir Walter addressed a letter descriptive of the whole ceremonial to Ballantyne, who published it in his newspaper. It has been since reprinted frequently: and will probably possess considerable interest for the student of English history and manners in future times; for the two next coronations were conducted on a vastly inferior scale of splendour and expense---and the precedent of curtailment in any such matters is now seldom neglected.
At the close of that brilliant scene, he received a mark of homage to his genius which delighted him not less than Laird Nippy's reverence for the _Sheriff's Knoll,_ and the Sheffield cutler's dear acquisition of his signature on a visiting ticket. Missing his carriage, he had to return home on foot from Westminster, after the banquet---that is to say, between two or three o'clock in the morning;--- when he and a young gentleman his companion found themselves locked in the crowd, somewhere near WhitehalI, and the bustle and tumult were such that his friend was afraid some accident might happen to the lame limb. A space for the dignitaries was kept clear at that point by the Scots Greys. Sir Walter addressed a serjeant of this celebrated regiment, begging to be allowed to pass by him into the open ground in the middle of the street. The man answered shortly, that his orders were strict---that the thing was impossible. While he was endeavouring to persuade the serjeant to relent, some new wave of turbulence approached from behind, and his young companion exclaimed in a loud voice, ``Take care, Sir Walter Scott, take care!'' The stalwart dragoon, on hearing the name, said, ``What! Sir Walter Scott? He shall get through anyhow!'' He then addressed the soldiers near him--- ``Make room, men, for Sir Walter Scott, our illustrious countryman!'' The men answered, ``Sir Walter Scott!--- God bless him!''---and he was in a moment within the guarded line of safety.
``I saw Sir Walter again,'' says Allan Cunningham, ``when he attended the coronation. In the meantime his bust had been wrought in marble, and the sculptor desired to take the advantage of his visit to communicate such touches of expression or lineament as the new material rendered necessary. This was done with a happiness of eye and hand almost magical: for five hours did the poet sit, or stand, or walk, while Chantrey's chisel was passed again and again over the marble, adding something at every touch. `Well, Allan,' he said, `were you at the coronation? it was a splendid sight.'---`No, Sir Walter,' I answered,--- `places were dear and ill to get: I am told it was magnificent: but having seen the procession of King Crispin at Dumfries, I was satisfied.' Scott laughed heartily. ---That's not a bit better than Hogg,' he said. `He stood balancing the matter whether to go to the coronation or the fair of Saint Boswell---and the fair carried it.' During this conversation, Mr Bolton the engineer came in. Something like a cold acknowledgment passed between the poet and him. On his passing into an inner room, Scott said, `I am afraid Mr Bolton has not forgot a little passage that once took place between us. We met in a public company, and in reply to the remark of some one, he said, ``That's like the old saying,---in every quarter of the world you will find a Scot, a rat, and a Newcastle grindstone.'' This touched my Scotch spirit, and I said, ``Mr Bolton, you should have added---_and a Brummagem button._'' There was a laugh at this, and Mr Bolton replied, ``We make something better in Birmingham than buttons---we make steam-engines, sir.''---`I like Bolton,' continued Sir Walter; `he is a brave man,---and who can dislike the brave? He shewed this on a remarkable occasion. He had engaged to coin for some foreign prince a large quantity of gold. This was found out by some desperadoes, who resolved to rob the premises, and as a preliminary step tried to bribe the porter. The porter was an honest fellow,---he told Bolton that he was offered a hundred pounds to be blind and deaf next night. Take the money, was the answer, and I shall protect the place. Midnight came---the doors, secured with patent locks, opened as of their own accord---and three men with dark lanterns entered and went straight to the gold. Bolton had prepared some flax steeped in turpentine---he dropt fire upon it,---a sudden light filled all the place, and with his assistants he rushed forward on the robbers; the leader saw in a moment he was betrayed, turned on the porter, and shooting him dead, burst through all obstruction, and with an ingot of gold in his hand, scaled the wall and escaped.' `That is quite a romance in robbing,' I said; and I had nearly said more, for the cavern scene and death of Meg Merrilees rose in my mind;---perhaps the mind of Sir Walter was taking the direction of the Solway too, for he said, `How long have you been from Nithsdale?' ''
Sir F. Chantrey presented the bust, of which Air Cunningham speaks, to Sir Walter himself; by whose remotest descendants it will undoubtedly be held in additional honour on that account. The poet had the further gratification of learning that three copies were executed in marble before the original quitted the studio: One for Windsor Castle--- a second for Apsley House---and a third for the friendly sculptor's own private collection. The casts of this bust have since been multiplied beyond all numeration. Some years later Scott gave Chantrey some more sittings: and a second bust, rather graver in the expression, was then produced for Sir Robert Peel's gallery at Drayton.
When Sir Walter returned from London, he brought with him the detailed plans of Mr Atkinson for the completion of his house at Abbotsford;---which, however, did not extend to the gateway or the beautiful screen between the court and the garden---for these graceful parts of the general design were conceptions of his own, reduced to shape by the skill of the Messrs Smith of Darnick. It would not, indeed, be easy for me to apportion rightly the constituent members of the whole edifice;---throughout there were numberless consultations with Mr Blore, Mr Terry, and Mr Skene, as well as with Mr Atkinson---and the actual builders placed considerable inventive talents, as well as admirable workmanship, at the service of their friendly employer. Every preparation was now made by them, and the foundations might have been set about without farther delay; but he was very reluctant to authorize the demolition of the rustic porch of the old cottage, with its luxuriant overgrowth of roses and jessamines; and, in short, could not make up his mind to sign the death-warrant of his favourite bower until winter had robbed it of its beauties. He then made an excursion from Edinburgh, on purpose to be present at its downfall---saved as many of the creepers as seemed likely to survive removal, and planted them with his own hands about a somewhat similar porch, erected expressly for their reception, at his daughter Sophia's little cottage of Chiefswood.
There my wife and I spent this summer and autumn of 1821---the first of several seasons which will ever dwell on my memory as the happiest of my life. We were near enough Abbotsford to partake as often as we liked of its brilliant society; yet could do so without being exposed to the worry and exhaustion of spirit which the daily reception of new comers entailed upon all the family except Sir Walter himself. But, in truth, even he was not always proof against the annoyances connected with such a style of open-house-keeping. Even his temper sunk sometimes under the solemn applauses of learned dulness, the vapid raptures of painted and periwigged dowagers, the horse-leech avidity with which underbred foreigners urged their questions, and the pompous simpers of condescending magnates. When sore beset at home in this way, he would every now and then discover that he had some very particular business to attend to on an outlying part of his estate, and craving the indulgence of his guests overnight, appear at the cabin in the glen before its inhabitants were astir in the morning. The clatter of Sibyl Grey's hoofs, the yelping of Mustard and Spice, and his own joyous shout of _reveill<e'>e_ under our windows, were the signal that he had burst his toils, and meant for that day to ``take his ease in his inn.'' On descending, he was to be found seated with all his dogs and ours about him, under a spreading ash that overshadowed half the bank between the cottage and the brook, pointing the edge of his woodman's axe for himself, and listening to Tom Purdie's lecture touching the plantation that most needed thinning. After breakfast, he would take possession of a dressing-room up stairs, and write a chapter of _The Pirate;_ and then, having made up and despatched his packet for the printer, away to join Purdie wherever the foresters were at work---and sometimes to labour among them strenuously himself---until it was time either to rejoin his own party at Abbotsford, or the quiet circle of the cottage. ---When his guests were few and friendly, he often made them come over and meet him at Chiefswood in a body towards evening; and surely he never appeared to more amiable advantage than when helping his young people with their little arrangements upon such occasions. He was ready with all sorts of devices to supply the wants of a narrow establishment; he used to delight particularly in sinking the wine in a well under the _brae_ ere he went out, and hauling up the basket just before dinner was announced--- this primitive process being, he said, what he had always practised when a young housekeeper---and, in his opinion, far superior in its results to any application of ice; and, in the same spirit, whenever the weather was sufficiently genial, he voted for dining out-of-doors altogether, which at once got rid of the inconvenience of very small rooms, and made it natural and easy for the gentlemen to help the ladies, so that the paucity of servants went for nothing. Mr Rose used to amuse himself with likening the scene and the party to the closing act of one of those little French dramas, where `Monsieur le Comte' and `Madame la Comtesse' appear feasting at a village bridal under the trees; but in truth, our `M. le Comte' was only trying to live over again for a few simple hours his own old life of Lasswade.
When circumstances permitted, he usually spent one evening at least in the week at our little cottage; and almost as frequently he did the like with the Fergussons, to whose table he could bring chance visitors when he pleased, with equal freedom as to his daughter's. Indeed it seemed to be much a matter of chance, any fine day when there had been no alarming invasion of the Southron, whether the three families (which, in fact, made but one) should dine at Abbotsford, at Huntley Burn, or at Chiefswood; and at none of them was the party considered quite complete, unless it included also Mr Laidlaw. Death has laid a heavy hand upon that circle---as happy a circle I believe as ever met. Bright eyes now closed in dust, gay voices for ever silenced, seem to haunt me as I write.
During several weeks of that summer Scott had under his roof Mr William Erskine and two of his daughters; this being, I believe, their first visit to Tweedside since the death of Mrs Erskine in September 1819. He had probably made a point of having his friend with him at this particular time, because he was desirous of having the benefit of his advice and corrections from day to day as he advanced in the composition of The Pirate---with the localities of which romance the Sheriff of Orkney and Zetland was of course thoroughly familiar. At all events, the constant and eager delight with which Erskine watched the progress of the tale has left a deep impression on my memory; and indeed I heard so many of its chapters first read from the MS. by him, that I can never open the book now without thinking I hear his voice. Sir Walter used to give him at breakfast the pages he had written that morning; and very commonly, while he was again at work in his study, Erskine would walk over to Chiefswood, that he might have the pleasure of reading them aloud to my wife and me under our favourite tree, before the packet had to be sealed up for Edinburgh. I cannot paint the pleasure and the pride with which he acquitted himself on such occasions. The little artifice of his manner was merely superficial, and was wholly forgotten as tender affection and admiration, fresh as the impulses of childhood, glistened in his eye, and trembled in his voice.
Erskine was, I think, the only man in whose society Scott took great pleasure, during the more vigorous part of his life, that had neither constitution nor inclination for any of the rough bodily exercises in which he himself delighted. The Counsellor (as the survivors of _The Mountain_ always called him) was a little man of feeble make, who seemed unhappy when his pony got beyond a foot-pace, and had never, I should suppose, addicted himself to any out-of-doors sport whatever. He would, I fancy, have as soon thought of slaying his own mutton as of handling a fowling-piece; he used to shudder when he saw a party equipped for coursing, as if murder were in the wind; but the cool meditative angler was in his eyes the abomination of abominations. His small elegant features, hectic cheek, and soft hazel eyes, were the index of the quick sensitive gentle spirit within. He had the warm heart of a woman, her generous enthusiasm, and some of her weaknesses. A beautiful landscape, or a fine strain of music, would send the tears rolling down his cheek; and though capable, I have no doubt, of exhibiting, had his duty called him to do so, the highest spirit of a hero or a martyr, he had very little command over his nerves amidst circumstances such as men of ordinary mould (to say nothing of iron fabrics like Scott's) regard with indifference. He would dismount to lead his horse down what his friend hardly perceived to be a descent at all; grew pale at a precipice; and, unlike the White Lady of Avenel, would go a long way round for a bridge.
Erskine had as yet been rather unfortunate in his professional career, and thought a sheriffship by no means the kind of advancement due to his merits, and which his connexions might naturally have secured for him. These circumstances had at the time when I first observed him tinged his demeanour; he had come to intermingle a certain wayward snappishness now and then with his forensic exhibitions, and in private seemed inclined (though altogether incapable of abandoning the Tory party) to say bitter things of people in high places; but, with these exceptions, never was benevolence towards all the human race more lively and overflowing than his evidently was, even when he considered himself as one who had reason to complain of his luck in the world. Now, however, these little asperities had disappeared; one great real grief had cast its shadow over him, and submissive to the chastisement of Heaven, he had no longer any thoughts for the petty misusage of mankind. Meanwhile he shrunk from the collisions of general society, and lived almost exclusively in his own little circle of intimates. His conversation, though somewhat precise and finical on the first impression, was rich in knowledge. His literary ambition, active and aspiring at the outset, had long before this time merged in his profound veneration for Scott; but he still read a great deal, and did so as much I believe with a view to assisting Scott by hints and suggestions, as for his own amusement. He had much of his friend's tact in extracting the picturesque from old, and, generally speaking, dull books; and in bringing out his stores he often shewed a great deal of quaint humour and sly wit. Scott, on his side, respected, trusted, and loved him, much as an affectionate husband does the wife who gave him her heart in youth, and thinks his thoughts rather than her own in the evening of life; he soothed, cheered, and sustained Erskine habitually. I do not believe a more entire and perfect confidence ever subsisted than theirs was and always had been in each other; and to one who had duly observed the creeping jealousies of human nature, it might perhaps seem doubtful on which side the balance of real nobility of heart and character, as displayed in their connection at the time of which I am speaking, ought to be cast.
In the course of a few months more, Sir Walter had the great, satisfaction of seeing Erskine at length promoted to a seat on the Bench of the Court of Session, by the title of Lord Kinnedder; and his pleasure was enhanced doubtless by the reflection that his friend owed this elevation very much, if not mainly, to his own unwearied exertions on his behalf. He writes thus on the occasion to Joanna Baillie:---``There is a degree of melancholy attending the later stages of a barrister's profession, which, though no one cares for sentimentalities attendant on a man of fifty or thereabout, in a rusty black bombazine gown, are not the less cruelly felt: their business sooner or later fails, for younger men will work cheaper, and longer, and harder---besides that the cases are few, comparatively, in which senior counsel are engaged, and it is not etiquette to ask any one in that advanced age to take the whole burden of a cause. Insensibly, without decay of talent, and without losing the public esteem, there is a gradual decay of employment, which almost no man ever practised thirty years without experiencing; and thus the honours and dignities of the Bench, so hardly earned, and themselves leading but to toils of another kind, are peculiarly desirable. Erskine would have sat there ten years ago, but for wretched intrigues.''
In August appeared the volume of the Novelist's Library, containing Scott's Life of Smollett; and it being now ascertained that John Ballantyne had died a debtor, the editor offered to proceed with this series of prefaces, on the footing that the whole profits of the work should go to his widow. Mr Constable, whose own health was now beginning to break, had gone southwards in quest of more genial air, and was residing near London when he heard of this proposition. He immediately wrote to me, entreating me to represent to Sir Walter that the undertaking, having been coldly, received at first, was unlikely to grow in favour if continued on the same plan---that in his opinion the bulk of the volumes, and the small type of their text, had been unwisely chosen, for a work of mere entertainment, and could only be suitable for one of reference; that Ballantyne's Novelist's Library, therefore, ought to be stopped at once, and another in a lighter shape, to range with the late collected edition of the first series of the Waverley Romances, announced with his own name as publisher and Scott's as editor. He proposed at the same time to commence the issue of a Select Library of English Poetry, with prefaces and a few notes by the same hand; and calculating that each of these collections should extend to twenty-five volumes, and that the publication of both might be concluded within two years---``The writing of the prefaces, &c. forming perhaps an occasional relief from more important labours''!--- the bookseller offered to pay their editor <L>6000: a small portion of which sum, as he hinted, would undoubtedly be more than Mrs John Ballantyne could ever hope to derive from the prosecution of her husband's last publishing adventure. Various causes combined to prevent the realization of these magnificent projects. Scott now, as at the beginning of his career, had views about what a collection of English Poetry should be, in which even Constable could not be made to concur; and one of his letters to Lady Louisa Stuart sufficiently explains the coldness with which he regarded further attempts upon our Elder Novelists. The Ballantyne Library crept on to the tenth volume, and was then dropped abruptly; and the double negociation with Constable was never renewed.
Lady Louisa had not, I fancy, read Scott's Lives of the Novelists until, some years after this time, they were collected into two little piratical duodecimos by a Parisian bookseller; and on her then expressing her admiration of them, together with her astonishment that the speculation of which they formed a part should have attracted little notice of any sort, he answered as follows:---``I am delighted they afford any entertainment, for they are rather flimsily written, being done merely to oblige a friend: they were yoked to a great ill-conditioned, lubberly, double-columned book, which they were as useful to tug along as a set of fleas would be to draw a mail-coach. It is very difficult to answer your Ladyship's curious question concerning change of taste; but whether in young or old, it takes place insensibly without the parties being aware of it. A grand-aunt of my own, Mrs Keith of Ravelstone, who was a person of some condition, being a daughter of Sir John Swinton of Swinton---lived with unabated vigour of intellect to a very advanced age. She was very fond of reading, and enjoyed it to the last of her long life. One day she asked me, when we happened to be alone together, whether I had ever seen Mrs Behn's novels?---I confessed the charge.---Whether I could get her a sight of them?--- I said, with some hesitation, I believed I could; but that I did not think she would like either the manners, or the language, which approached too near that of Charles II.'s time to be quite proper reading. `Nevertheless,' said the good old lady, `I remember them being so much admired, and being so much interested in them myself, that I wish to look at them again.' To hear was to obey. So I sent Mrs Aphra Behn, curiously sealed up, with `private and confidential' on the packet, to my gay old grand-aunt. The next time I saw her afterwards, she gave me back Aphra, properly wrapped up, with nearly these words:--- `Take back your bonny Mrs Behn; and, if you will take my advice, put her in the fire, for I found it impossible to get through the very first novel. But is it not,' she said, `a very odd thing that I, an old woman of eighty and upwards, sitting alone, feel myself ashamed to read a book which, sixty years ago, I have heard read aloud for the amusement of large circles, consisting of the first and most creditable society in London?' This, of course, was owing to the gradual improvement of the national taste and delicacy. The change that brings into and throws out of fashion particular styles of composition, is something of the same kind. It does not signify what the greater or less merit of the book is:---the reader, as Tony Lumpkin says, must be in a concatenation accordingly---the fashion, or the general taste, must have prepared him to be pleased, or put him on his guard against it. It is much like _dress._ If Clarissa should appear before a modern party in her lace ruffles and head-dress, or Lovelace in his wig, however genteely powdered, I am afraid they would make no conquests; the fashion which makes conquests of us in other respects, is very powerful in literary composition, and adds to the effect of some works, while in others it forms their sole merit.''
Among other miscellaneous work of this autumn, Scott amused some leisure hours with writing a series of ``Private Letters,'' supposed to have been discovered in the repositories of a Noble English Family, and giving a picture of manners in town and country during the early part of the reign of James I. These letters were printed as fast as he penned them, in a handsome quarto form, and he furnished the margin with a running commentary of notes, drawn up in the character of a disappointed chaplain, a keen Whig, or rather Radical, overflowing on all occasions with spleen against Monarchy and Aristocracy. When the printing had reached the 72d page, however, he was told candidly by Erskine, by James Ballantyne, and also by myself, that, however clever his imitation of the epistolary style of the period in question, he was throwing away in these letters the materials of as good a romance as he had ever penned; and a few days afterwards he said to me---patting Sibyl's neck till she danced under him---``You were all quite right; if the letters had passed for genuine they would have found favour only with a few musty antiquaries; and if the joke were detected, there was not story enough to carry it of. I shall burn the sheets, and give you Bonny King Jamie and all his tail in the old shape, as soon as can get Captain Goffe within view of the gallows.''
I think it must have been about the middle of October that he dropped the scheme of this fictitious correspondence. I well remember the morning that he began _The Fortunes of Nigel._ The day being destined for Newark Hill, I went over to Abbotsford before breakfast, and found Mr Terry walking about with his friend's master-mason. While Terry and I were chatting, Scott came out, bareheaded, with a bunch of MS. in his hand, and said, ``Well, lads, I've laid the keel of a new lugger this morning---here it is---be off to the waterside, and let me hear how you like it.'' Terry took the papers, and walking up and down by the river, read to me the first chapter of Nigel. He expressed great delight with the animated opening, and especially with the contrast between its thorough stir of London life, and a chapter about Norna of the Fitfulhead, in the third volume of The Pirate, which had been given to him in a similar manner the morning before. I could see that (according to the Sheriff's phrase) _he smelt roast meat;_ here there was every prospect of a fine field for the art of _Terryfication._ The actor, when our host met us returning from the haugh, did not fail to express his opinion that the new novel would be of this quality. Sir Walter, as he took the MS. from his hand, eyed him with a gay smile, in which genuine benevolence mingled with mock exultation, and then throwing himself into an attitude of comical dignity, he rolled out, in the tones of John Kemble, one of the loftiest bursts of Ben Jonson's Mammon---
``Come on, sir. Now you set your foot on shore In _Novo orbe_---Pertinax, my Surly,<*>
* The fun of this application of ``my Surly'' will not escape any
* one who remembers the kind and good-humoured Terry's power
* of assuming a peculiarly saturnine aspect. This queer grimness of
* look was invaluable to the comedian; and in private he often called
* it up when his heart was most cheerful.
Again I say to thee aloud, Be rich, This day thou shalt have ingots.''---
This was another period of ``refreshing the machine.'' Early in November, I find Sir Walter writing thus to Constable's partner, Mr Cadell:---``I want two books, Malcolm's London Redivivus, or some such name, and Derham's Artificial Clockmaker.'' [The reader of Nigel will understand these requests.] ``All good luck to you, commercially and otherwise. I am grown a shabby letter-writer, for my eyes are not so young as they were, and I grudge every thing that does not go to press.''
Sir Walter concluded, before he went to town in November, another negotiation of importance with this house. They agreed to give for the remaining copyright of the four novels published between December 1819 and January 1821---to wit, Ivanhoe, The Monastery, The Abbot, and Kenilworth---the sum of five thousand guineas. The stipulation about not revealing the author's name, under a penalty of <L>2000, was repeated. By these four novels, the fruits of scarcely more than twelve months' labour, he had already cleared at least <L>10,000 before this bargain was completed. I cannot pretend to guess what the actual state of his pecuniary affairs was at the time when John Ballantyne's death relieved them from one great source of complication and difficulty. But I have said enough to satisfy every reader, that when he began the second, and far the larger division of his building at Abbotsford, he must have contemplated the utmost sum it could cost him as a mere trifle in relation to the resources at his command. He must have reckoned on clearing <L>30,000 at least in the course of a couple of years by the novels written within such a period. The publisher of his Tales, who best knew how they were produced, and what they brought of gross profit, and who must have had the strongest interest in keeping the author's name untarnished by any risk or reputation of failure, would willingly, as we have seen, have given him <L>6000 more within a space of two years for works of a less serious sort, likely to be despatched at leisure hours, without at all interfering with the main manufacture. But alas! even this was not all. Messrs Constable had such faith in the prospective fertility of his imagination, that they were by this time quite ready to sign bargains and grant bills for novels and romances to be produced hereafter, but of which the subjects and the names were alike unknown to them and to the man from whose pen they were to proceed.<*> A forgotten satirist well says:---
* Mr Cadell says:---``This device for raising the wind was the
* only real legacy left by John Ballantyne to his generous friend;
* it was invented to make up for the bad book stock of the Hanover
* Street concern, which supplied so much good money for the passing
``The active principle within Works on some brains the effect of gin;''
but in Sir Walter's case, every external influence combined to stir the flame, and swell the intoxication of restless exuberant energy. His allies knew indeed, what he did not, that the sale of his novels was rather less than it had been in the days of Ivanhoe; and hints had sometimes been dropped to him that it might be well to try the effect of a pause. But he always thought---and James Ballantyne had decidedly the same opinion---that his best things were those which he threw off the most easily and swiftly; and it was no wonder that his booksellers, seeing how immeasurably even his worst excelled in popularity, as in merit, any other person's best, should have shrunk from the experiment of a decisive damper. On the contrary, they might be excused for from time to time flattering themselves, that if the books sold at less rate, this might be counterpoised by still greater rapidity of production. They could not make up their minds to cast the peerless vessel adrift; and, in short, after every little whisper of prudential misgiving, echoed the unfailing burden of Ballantyne's song---to push on, hoisting more and more sail as the wind lulled.
He was as eager to do as they could be to suggest---and this I well knew at the time. I had, however, no notion, until all his correspondence lay before me, of the extent to which he had permitted himself thus early to build on the chances of life, health, and continued popularity. Before The Fortunes of Nigel issued from the press, Scott had exchanged instruments; and received his booksellers' bills, for no less than four ``works of fiction''---not one of them otherwise described in the deeds of agreement---to be produced in unbroken succession, each of them to fill at least three volumes, but with proper saving clauses as to increase of copy-money in case any of them should run to four. And within two years all this anticipation had been wiped off by Peveril of the Peak, Quentin Durward, St Ronan's Well, and Redgauntlet; and the new castle was by that time complete. But by that time the end also was approaching!
The splendid Romance of The Pirate was published in the beginning of December 1821; and the wild freshness of its atmosphere, the beautiful contrast of Minna and Brenda, and the exquisitely drawn character of Captain Cleveland, found the reception which they deserved. The work was analyzed with remarkable care in the Quarterly Review---by a critic second to few, either in the manly heartiness of his sympathy with the felicities of genius, or in the honest acuteness of his censure in cases of negligence and confusion. This was the second of a series of articles in that Journal, conceived and executed in a tone widely different from those given to Waverley, Guy Mannering and The Antiquary. I fancy Mr Gifford had become convinced that he had made a grievous mistake in this matter, before he acquiesced in Scott's proposal about ``quartering the child'' in January 1816; and if he was fortunate in finding a contributor able and willing to treat the rest of Father Jedediah's progeny with excellent skill, and in a spirit more accordant with the just and general sentiments of the public, we must also recognise a pleasing and honourable trait of character in the frankness with which the recluse and often despotic editor now delegated the pen to Mr Senior.
On the 13th December, Sir Walter received a copy of =Cain,= as yet unpublished, from Lord Byron's bookseller, who had been instructed to ask whether he had any objection to having the ``Mystery'' dedicated to him. He says, in answer to Mr Murray,---``I accept with feelings of great obligation the flattering proposal of Lord Byron to prefix my name to the very grand and tremendous drama of Cain. Some part of the language is bold, and may shock one class of readers, whose tone will be adopted by others out of affectation or envy. But then they must condemn the Paradise Lost, if they have a mind to be consistent. The fiend-like reasoning and bold blasphemy of the fiend and of his pupil lead exactly to the point which was to be expected--- the commission of the first murder, and the ruin and despair of the perpetrator.'' Such was Scott's opinion of the drama which, when pirated, Lord Eldon refused to protect. It may be doubted if the great Chancellor had ever read _Paradise Lost._
Whoever reads Scott's letters to Terry might naturally suppose that during this winter his thoughts were almost exclusively occupied with the rising edifice on Tweedside. The pains he takes about every trifle of arrangement, exterior and interior, is truly most remarkable: it is not probable that many idle lords or lairds ever look half so much about such matters. But his literary industry was all the while unresting. His Nigel was completed by April 1822. He had edited Lord Fountainhall's Chronological Notes, and several other antiquarian publications. Nor had he neglected a promise of the summer before to supply Miss Baillie with a contribution for a volume of miscellaneous verse, which she had undertaken to compile for the benefit of a friend in distress. With that view he now produced---and that, as I well remember, in the course of two rainy mornings at Abbotsford---the dramatic sketch of Halidon Hill; but on concluding it, he found that he had given it an extent quite incompatible with his friend's arrangements for her charitable picnic. He therefore cast about for another subject likely to be embraced in smaller compass; and the Blair-Adam meeting of the next June supplied him with one in Macduff's Cross. Meantime, on hearing a whisper about Halidon Hill, Constable's junior partner, without seeing the MS., forthwith tendered <L>1000 for the copyright---the same sum that had appeared almost irrationally munificent, when offered in 1807 for the embryo Marmion. It was accepted, and a letter about to be quoted will shew how well the head of the firm was pleased with this wild bargain.
The Nigel was published on the 30th of May 1822; and was, I need not say, hailed as ranking in the first class of Scott's romances. Indeed, as a historical portraiture, his of James I. stands forth pr<e:>eminent, and almost alone; nor, perhaps, in reperusing these novels deliberately as a series, does any one of them leave so complete an impression, as the picture of an age. It is, in fact, the best commentary on the old English drama---hardly a single picturesque point of manners touched by Ben Jonson and his contemporaries but has been dovetailed into this story, and all so easily and naturally, as to form the most striking contrast to the historical romances of authors who cram, as the schoolboys phrase it, and then set to work oppressed and bewildered with their crude and undigested burden.
On the day after the publication, Constable, then near London, wrote thus to the author:---``I was in town yesterday, and so keenly were the people devouring my friend _Jingling Geordie,_ that I actually saw them reading it in the streets as they passed along. I assure you there is no exaggeration in this. A new novel from the Author of Waverley puts aside---in other words, puts down for the time, every other literary performance. The smack Ocean, by which the new work was shipped, arrived at the wharf on Sunday; the bales were got out by one on Monday morning, and before half-past ten o'clock 7000 copies had been dispersed! I was truly happy to hear of Halidon Hill, and of the satisfactory arrangements made for its publication. I wish I had the power of prevailing with you to give us a similar production every three months; and that our ancient enemies on this side the Border might not have too much their own way, perhaps your next dramatic sketch might be Bannockburn. It would be presumptuous in me to point out subjects---[had he quite forgotten the _Lord of the Isles?_]---but you know my craving to be great, and I cannot resist mentioning here that I should like to see a battle of Hastings---a Cressy---a Bosworth field ---and many more.''---The Nigel was just launched---Constable knew that _Peveril of the Peak_ was already on the stocks: yet see how quietly he suggests that a little pinnace of the Halidon class might easily be rigged out once a-quarter by way of diversion, and thus add another <L>4000 per annum to the <L>10,000 or <L>15,000, on which all parties counted as the sure yearly profit of the three-deckers _in fore!_ But Constable, during that residence in England, was in the habit of writing every week or two to Sir Walter, and his letters are all of the same complexion. The ardent bookseller's brain seems to have been well-nigh unsettled; and I have often thought that the foxglove which he then swallowed (his complaint being a threatening of water in the chest) might have had a share in the extravagant excitement of his mind. Occasionally, however, he enters on details, as to which, or at least as to Sir Walter's share in them, there could not have been any mistake; and these were, it must be owned, of a nature well calculated to nourish and sustain in the author's fancy a degree of almost mad exhilaration, near akin to his publisher's own predominant mood. In a letter of the ensuing month, for example, after returning to the progress of Peveril of the Peak, under 10,000 copies of which (or nearly that number) Ballantyne's presses were now groaning, and glancing gaily to the prospect of their being kept regularly employed to the same extent until three other novels, as yet unchristened, had followed Peveril, he adds a summary of what was then, had just been, or was about to be, the amount of occupation fnrnished to the same office by reprints of older works of the same pen;---``a summary,'' he exclaims, ``to which I venture to say there will be no rival in our day!'' And well might Constable say so; for the result is, that James Ballantyne and Co. had just executed, or were on the eve of executing, by his order---
``A new edition of Sir W. Scott's Poetical Works, in 10 vols. (miniature) 5000 copies. ``Novels and Tales, 12 vols. ditto, 5000 - ``Historical Romances, 6 vols. ditto, 5000 - ``Poetry from Waverley, &c. 1 vol. 12mo. 5000 - ``Paper required, 7772 reams. ``Volumes produced from Ballantyne's press, 145,000!
To which we may safely add from 30,000 to 40,000 volumes more as the immediate produce of the author's daily industry within the space of twelve months. The scale of these operations was, without question, enough to turn any bookseller's wits;---Constable's, in his soberest hours, was as inflammable a head-piece as ever sat on the shoulders of a poet; and his ambition, in truth, had been moving _pari passu,_ during several of these last stirring and turmoiling years, with that of _his_ poet. He, too, as I ought to have mentioned ere now, had, like a true Scotchman, concentrated his dreams on the hope of bequeathing to his heir the name and dignity of a lord of acres; he, too, had considerably before this time purchased a landed estate in his native county of Fife; he, too, I doubt not, had, while Abbotsford was rising, his own rural castle _in petto;_ and alas! for ``Archibald Constable of Balniel'' also, and his overweening intoxication of worldly success, Fortune had already begun to prepare a stern rebuke.
I must pass on to a different excitement---that of the King's visit to his northern dominions in the autumn of 1822. Before this time no Prince of the House of Hanover was known to have touched the soil of Scotland, except one, whose name had ever been held there in universal detestation---the cruel conqueror of Culloden,--- ``the butcher Cumberland.'' Now that the very last dream of Jacobitism had expired with the Cardinal of York, there could be little doubt that all the northern Tories, of whatever shade of sentiment, would concur to give their lawful Sovereign a greeting of warm and devoted respect; but the feelings of the Liberals towards George IV. personally had been unfavourably tinctured, in consequence of several incidents in his history---above all--- (speaking of the mass of population addicted to that political creed)---the unhappy dissensions and scandals which had terminated, as it were but yesterday, in the trial of his Queen. On the whole it was, in the opinion of cool observers, a very doubtful experiment, which the new, but not young king, had resolved on trying. That he had been moved to do so in a very great measure, both directly and indirectly, by Scott, there can be no question; and I believe it will be granted by all who recall the particulars as they occurred, that his Majesty mainly owed to Scott's personal influence, authority and zeal, the more than full realization of the highest hopes he could have indulged on the occasion of this progress.
Whether all the arrangements which Sir Walter dictated or enforced, were conceived in the most accurate taste, is a different question. It appeared to be very generally thought, when the first programmes were issued, that kilts and bagpipes were to occupy a great deal too much space. With all respect for the generous qualities which the Highland clans have often exhibited, it was difficult to forget that they had always constituted a small, and almost always an unimportant part of the Scottish population; and when one reflected how miserably their numbers had of late years been reduced in consequence of the selfish and hardhearted policy of their landlords, it almost seemed as if there was a cruel mockery in giving so much prominence to their pretensions. But there could be no question that they were picturesque---and their enthusiasm was too sincere not to be catching; so that by and by even the coolest-headed Sassenach felt his heart, like John of Argyle's, ``warm to the tartan;'' and high and low were in the humour, not only to applaud, but each, according to his station, to take a share in what might really be described as a sort of grand _terryfication_ of the Holyrood chapters in Waverley;---George IV., _anno <ae>tatis_ 60, being well contented to enact Prince Charlie, with the Great Unknown himself for his Baron Bradwardine, ``_ad exuendas vel detrahendas caligas domini regis post battalliam._''
But Sir Walter had as many parts to play as ever tasked the Protean genius of his friend Mathews; and he played them all with as much cordial energy as animated the exertions of any Henchman or Piper in the company. His severest duties, however, were those of stage-manager, and under these I sincerely believe any other human being's temper would very soon have given way. The magistrates, bewildered with the rush of novelty, threw themselves on him for advice about the merest trifles; and he had to arrange everything, from the order of a procession to the embroidering of a cross. Ere the green-room in Castle Street had dismissed provosts and bailies, it was sure to be besieged by swelling chieftains, who could not agree on the relative positions their clans had occupied at Bannockburn, which they considered as constituting the authentic precedent for determining their own places, each at the head of his little theatrical _tail,_ in the line of the King's escort between the Pier of Leith and the Canongate. It required all Scott's unwearied good humour, and imperturbable power of face, to hear in becoming gravity the sputtering controversies of such fiery rivals, each regarding himself as a true potentate, the representative of princes as ancient as Bourbon; and no man could have coaxed them into decent cooperation, except him whom all the Highlanders, from the haughtiest MacIvor to the slyest Callum Beg, agreed in looking up to as the great restorer and blazoner of their traditionary glories. He had, however, in all this most delicate part of his administration, an admirable assistant in one who had also, by the direction of his literary talents, acquired no mean share of authority among the Celts---General David Stewart of Garth, the historian of the Highland Regiments. On Garth (seamed all over with the sears of Egypt and Spain) devolved the Toy-Captainship of the _Celtic Club,_ already alluded to as an association of young civilians enthusiastic for the promotion of the philabeg;---and he drilled and conducted that motley array in such style, that they formed, perhaps, the most splendid feature in the whole of this plaided panorama. But he, too, had a potential voice in the conclave of rival chieftains,---and with the able backing of this honoured veteran, Scott succeeded finally in assuaging all their heats, and reducing their conflicting pretensions to terms of truce, at least, and compromise. A ballad (now included in his works), wherein these magnates were most adroitly flattered, was understood to have had a considerable share of the merit in this peace-making; but the constant hospitality of his table was a not less efficient organ of influence.
About noon of the 14th of August, the royal yacht and the attendant vessels of war cast anchor in the Roads of Leith; but although Scott's ballad-prologue had entreated the clergy to ``warstle for a sunny day,'' the weather was so unpropitious that it was found necessary to defer the landing until the 15th. In the midst of the rain, however, Sir Walter rowed off to the Royal George; and, says the newspaper of the day,---``When his arrival alongside the yacht was announced to the King.---`What!' exclaimed his Majesty, `Sir Walter Scott! The man in Scotland I most wish to see! Let him come up.' '' When he stepped on the quarter-deck, his Majesty called for a bottle of Highland whisky, and having drunk his health, desired a glass to be filled for him. Sir Walter, after draining his bumper, made a request that the King would condescend to bestow on him the glass out of which his Majesty had just drunk his health; and this being granted, the precious vessel was immediately wrapped up and carefully deposited in what he conceived to be the safest part of his dress. So he returned with it to Castle Street; but---to say nothing at this moment of graver distractions---on reaching his house he found a guest established there of a sort rather different from the usual visiters of the time. The poet Crabbe, after repeatedly promising an excursion to the north, had at last arrived in the midst of these tumultuous preparations for the royal advent. Notwithstanding all such impediments, he found his quarters ready for him, and Scott entering, wet and hurried, embraced the venerable man with brotherly affection. The royal gift was forgotten---the ample skirt of the coat within which it had been packed, and which he had hitherto held cautiously in front of his person, slipped back to its more usual position---he sat down beside Crabbe, and the glass was crushed to atoms. His scream and gesture made his wife conclude that he had sat down on a pair of scissors or the like: but very little harm had been done except the breaking of the glass, of which alone he had been thinking. This was a damage not to be repaired: as for the scratch that accompanied it, its scar was of no great consequence, as even when mounting the ``_cat-dath,_ or battle-garment'' of the Celtic Club, he adhered, like his hero Waverley, to _the trews._
By six o'clock next morning, Sir Walter, arrayed in the Garb of old Gaul (which he had of the Campbell tartan, in memory of one of his great-grandmothers), was attending a muster of these gallant Celts in the Queen-Street Gardens, where he had the honour of presenting them with a set of colours, and delivered a suitable exhortation, crowned with their rapturous applause. Some members of the Club, all of course in their full costume, were invited to breakfast with him. He had previously retired for a little to his library, and when he entered the parlour, Mr Crabbe, dressed in the highest style of professional neatness and decorum, with buckles in his shoes, and whatever was then considered as befitting an English clergyman of his years and station, was standing in the midst of half-a-dozen stalwart Highlanders, exchanging elaborate civilities with them in what was at least meant to be French. He had come into the room shortly before, without having been warned about such company, and hearing the party conversing together in an unknown tongue, the polite old man had adopted, in his first salutation, what he considered as the universal Language. Some of the Celts, on their part, took him for some foreign abb<e'> or bishop, and were doing their best to explain to him that they were not the wild savages for which, from the startled glance he had thrown on their hirsute proportions, there seemed but too much reason to suspect he had taken them; others, more perspicacious, gave in to the thing for the joke's sake; and there was high fun when Scott dissolved the charm of their stammering, by grasping Crabbe with one hand, and the nearest of these figures with the other, and greeted the whole group with the same hearty _good-morning._
Perhaps no Englishman of these recent days ever arrived in Scotland with a scantier stock of information about the country and the people than (judging from all that he said, and more expressively looked) this illustrious poet had brought with him in August 1822. It seemed as if he had never for one moment conceived that the same island in which his peaceful parsonage stood, contained actually a race of men, and gentlemen too, owning no affinity with Englishmen either in blood or in speech, and still proud in wearing, whenever opportunity served, a national dress of their own, bearing considerably more resemblance to an American Indian's than to that of an old-fashioned divine from the Vale of Belvoir. But the aspect of the city on the 15th, was as new to the inhabitants as it could have been even to the Rector of Muston:---every height and precipice occupied by military of the regular army, or by detachments of these more picturesque irregulars from beyond the Grampians---lines of tents, flags, and artillery, circling Arthur's Seat, Salisbury Crags, and the Calton Hill---and the old black Castle and its rock, wreathed in the smoke of repeated salvoes, while a huge banner royal, such as had not waved there since 1745, floated and flapped over all:---every street, square, garden, or open space below, paved with solid masses of silent expectants, except only where glittering lines of helmets marked the avenue guarded for the approaching procession. All captiousness of criticism sunk into nothing before the grandeur of this vision: and it was the same, or nearly so, on every subsequent day when the King chose to take part in the devised ceremonial. I forget where Sir Walter's place was on the 15th; but on one or other of these occasions I remember him seated in an open carriage, in the Highland dress, armed and accoutred as heroically as Garth himself (who accompanied him), and evidently in a most bardish state of excitement, while honest Peter Mathieson managed as best he might four steeds of a fierier sort than he had usually in his keeping---though, perhaps, after all, he might be less puzzled with them than with the cocked-hat and regular London Jehu's flaxen wig, which he, for the first and last time, displayed during ``the royal fortnight.''
It is, I believe, of the dinner of this 15th August in Castle Street that Crabbe penned the following brief record in his Journal:---``Whilst it is fresh in my memory, I should describe the day which I have just passed, but I do not believe an accurate description to be possible. What avails it to say, for instance, that there met at the sumptuous dinner, in all the costume of the Highlanders, the great chief himself, and officers of his company. This expresses not the singularity of appearance and manners--- the peculiarities of men all gentlemen, but remote from our society---leaders of clans---joyous company. Then we had Sir Walter Scott's national songs and ballads, exhibiting all the feelings of clanship. I thought it an honour that Glengarry even took notice of me, for there were those, and gentlemen too, who considered themselves honoured by following in his train. There were also Lord Errol, and the Macleod, and the Fraser, and the Gordon, and the Fergusson; and I conversed at dinner with Lady Glengarry, and did almost believe myself a harper, or bard, rather---for harp I cannot strike; and Sir Walter was the life and soul of the whole. It was a splendid festivity, and I felt I know not how much younger.''
In the glittering and tumultuous assemblages of that season, the elder bard was (to use one of his friend's favourite similitudes) very like _a cow in a fremd loaning;_ and though Scott could never have been seen in colours more likely to excite admiration, Crabbe had hardly any opportunity of observing him in the everyday loveableness of his converse. Sir Walter's enthusiastic excitement about the kilts and the processions seemed at first utterly incomprehensible to him; but by degrees he perceived and appreciated the dexterous management of prejudices and pretensions. He exclaims, in his Journal,---``What a keen discriminating man is my friend!'' But I shall ever regret that Crabbe did not see him at Abbotsford among his books, his trees, and his own good simple peasants. They had, I believe, but one quiet walk together, and it was to the ruins of St Anthony's Chapel and Muschat's Cairn, which the deep impression made on Crabbe by the Heart of Mid-Lothian had given him an earnest wish to see. I accompanied them; and the hour so spent, in the course of which the fine old man gave us some most touching anecdotes of his early struggles, was a truly delightful contrast to the bustle and worry of miscellaneous society which consumed so many of his few hours in Scotland.
The King took up his residence at Dalkeith Palace; and here his dinner party almost daily included Sir Walter, who, however, appeared to have derived more deep-felt gratification from his Majesty's kind and paternal attention to his juvenile host (the Duke of Buccleuch was at that time only in his sixteenth year), than from all the flattering condescension lavished on himself. From Dalkeith the King repaired to Holyroodhouse two or three times, for the purposes of a levee or drawing-room. One Sunday he attended divine service in the Cathedral of St Giles', when the decorum and silence preserved by the multitudes in the streets, struck him as a most remarkable contrast to the rapturous excitement of his reception on week-days; and the scene was not less noticeable in the eyes of Crabbe, who says in his Journal,---``The silence of Edinburgh on the Sunday is in itself devout.''
There is in the armoury at Abbotsford a sword presented by Charles I to the great Marquis of Montrose---with Prince Henry's arms and cypher on one side of the blade, and his own on the other. One day the late Duke of Montrose happened to sit next to Sir Walter, and complimented him on the vigorous muster of Border Yeomanry which Portobello Sands had exhibited that morning. ``Indeed,'' said Scott, ``there's scarcely a man left to guard our homesteads.''---``I've a great mind,'' quoth the Duke, ``to send a detachment of my tail to Abbotsford to make prize of my ancestor's sword.''---``Your Grace,'' says Sir Walter, drily, ``is very welcome to try---but we're near Philiphaugh yonder.''
Another very splendid day was that of a procession from Holyrood to the Castle, whereof the whole ceremonial had obviously been arranged under Scott's auspices, for the purpose of calling up, as exactly as might be, the time-hallowed observance of ``the Riding of the Parliament.'' Mr Peel (then Secretary of State for the Home Department) was desirous of witnessing this procession privately, instead of taking a place in it, and he walked up the High Street accordingly in company with Scott, some time before the royal cavalcade was to get into motion. The Poet was as little desirous of attracting notice as the Secretary, but he was soon recognised---and his companion, when revisiting Scotland, after the lapse of fourteen years, expressed his lively remembrance of the enthusiastic veneration with which Scott's person was then greeted by all classes of his countrymen. In proposing Sir Walter's memory at a public dinner given to him in Glasgow, in December 1836, Sir Robert Feel said,--- ``I had the honour of accompanying his late Majesty as his Secretary of State, when he paid a visit to Edinburgh. I suppose there are many of you here who were present on that occasion, at that memorable scene, when the days of ancient chivalry were recalled---when every man's friendship seemed to be confirmed---when men met for the first time, who had always looked to each other with distrust, and resolved in the presence of their Sovereign to forget their hereditary feuds and animosities. In the beautiful language of Dryden---
`Men met each other with erected look--- The steps were higher that they took; Friends to congratulate their friends would haste, And long inveterate foes saluted as they pass'd.'
Sir Walter Scott took an active lead in these ceremonies. On the day on which his Majesty was to pass from Holyroodhouse, he proposed to me to accompany him up the High Street, to see whether the arrangements were completed. I said to him---`You are trying a dangerous experiment---you will never get through in privacy.' He said, `They are entirely absorbed in loyalty.' But I was the better prophet: he was recognised from the one extremity of the street to the other, and never did I see such an instance of national devotion expressed.''
The King at his first levee diverted many, and delighted Scott, by appearing in the full Highland garb,---the same brilliant _Stuart Tartans,_ so called, in which certainly no Stuart, except Prince Charles, had ever presented himself in the saloons of Holyrood. His Majesty's Celtic toilette had been carefully watched and assisted by the gallant Laird of Garth, who was not a little proud of the result of his dexterous manipulations of the royal plaid, and pronounced the King ``a vera pretty man.'' And he did look a most stately and imposing person in that beautiful dress---but his satisfaction therein was cruelly disturbed, when he discovered, towering and blazing among and above the genuine Glengarries and Macleods and MacGregors, a figure even more portly than his own, equipped, from a sudden impulse of loyal ardour, in an equally complete set of the self-same conspicuous Stuart tartans:---
``He caught Sir William Curtis in a kilt--- While throng'd the chiefs of every Highland clan To hail their brother, Vich Ian Alderman.''<*>
* Byron's _Age of Bronze._
In truth, this portentous apparition cast an air of ridicule and caricature over the whole of Sir Walter's Celtified pageantry. A sharp little bailie from Aberdeen, who had previously made acquaintance with the worthy Guildhall Baronet, and tasted the turtle-soup of his voluptuous yacht, tortured him, as he sailed down the long gallery of Holyrood, by suggesting that, after all, his costume was not quite perfect. Sir William, who had been rigged out, as the auctioneer's advertisements say, ``regardless of expense,'' exclaimed that he must be mistaken---begged he would explain his criticism---and as he spoke, threw a glance of admiration on a _skene dhu_ (black knife), which, like a true ``warrior and hunter of deer,'' he wore stuck into one of his garters. ``Oo ay---oo ay,'' quoth the Aberdonian; ``the knife's a' right, mon; but faar's your speen?''---(where's your spoon?) Such was Scott's story--- but whether he ``gave it a cocked-hat and walking-cane,'' in the hope of restoring the King's good-humour, so grievously shaken by this heroical _doppel-ganger,_ it is not very necessary to inquire.
As in Hamlet, there was to be a play within the play; and, by his Majesty's desire, William Murray's company performed in his presence the drama of _Rob Roy._ The audience were enchanted with the King's hearty laughter at Bailie Jarvie's jokes;---but I particularly remember his Majesty's shout at _Mattie's_ ``nane o' your Lunnan tricks.''
On the 24th the Magistrates entertained their Sovereign with a banquet in the Parliament House; and Sir Walter Scott was invited to preside over one of the tables. But the most striking homage (though apparently an unconscious one) that his genius received during this festive period, was, when the King, after proposing the health of the Magistrates, rose and said there was one toast more, and but one, in which he must request the assembly to join him,---``I shall simply give you,'' said he, ``_The Chieftains and Clans of Scotland_---and prosperity to the Land of Cakes.'' So completely had this hallucination taken possession, that nobody seems to have been started at the time by language which thus distinctly conveyed his Majesty's impression that the marking and crowning glory of Scotland consisted in the Highland clans and their chieftains.
Scott's early associations, and the prime labours and honours of his life, had been so deeply connected with the Highlands, that it was no wonder he should have taught himself to look on their clans and chiefs with almost as much affection and respect as if he had had more than a scantling of their blood in his veins. But it was necessary to be an eye-witness of this royal visit, in order to comprehend the extent to which he had allowed his imagination to get the mastery over him as to all these matters; and perhaps it was necessary to understand him thoroughly on such points, in his personal relations, feelings, and demeanour, before one could follow his genius to advantage in some of his most favoured and delightful walks of exertion. The strongest impression, however, which the whole affair left on my mind was, that I had never till then formed any just notion of his capacity for practical dealing and rule among men. I do not think he had much in common with the statesmen and diplomatists of his own age and country; but I am mistaken if Scott could not have played in other days either the Cecil or the Gondomar; and I believe no man, after long and intimate knowledge of any other great poet, has ever ventured to say that he could have conceived the possibility of any such parts being adequately filled on the active stage of the world, by a person in whom the powers of fancy and imagination had such predominant sway as to make him in fact live three or four lives habitually in place of one. I have known other literary men of energy perhaps as restless as his; but all such have been entitled to the designation of _busy bodies_---busy almost exclusively about trifles, and, above all, supremely and constantly conscious of their own remarkable activity, and rejoicing and glorying in it. Whereas Scott, neither in literary labour nor in continual contact with the affairs of the world, ever did seem aware that he was making any very extraordinary exertion. The machine, thus gigantic in its impetus, moved so easily that the master had no perception of the obstructions it overcame---in fact, no measure for its power. Compared to him, all the rest of the _poet_ species that I have chanced to observe nearly---with but one glorious exception--- have seemed to me to do little more than sleep through their lives---and at best to fill the sum with dreams; and I am persuaded that, taking all ages and countries together, the rare examples of indefatigable energy, in union with serene self-possession of mind and character, such as Scott's, must be sought for in the roll of great sovereigns or great captains, rather than in that of literary genius.
In the case of such renowned practical masters, it has been usual to account for their apparent calmness amidst the stirring troubles of the world, by imputing to them callousness of the affections. Perhaps injustice has been done by the supposition; but, at all events, hardly could any one extend it to the case of the placid man of the imaginative order;---a great depicter of man and nature, especially, would seem to be, _ex vi termini,_ a profound sympathizer with the passions of his brethren, with the weaknesses as well as with the strength of humanity. Such assuredly was Scott. His heart was as ``ramm'd with life'' (to use a phrase of Ben Jonson's) as his brain; and I never saw him tried in a tenderer point than he was during the full whirl of splendour and gaiety that seemed to make every brain but his dizzy in the Edinburgh of August 1822.
Few things had ever given him so much pleasure as William Erskine's promotion to the Bench. It seemed to have restored his dearest friend to content and cheerfulness, and thus to have doubled his own sources of enjoyment. But Erskine's constitution had been shaken before he attained this dignity; and the anxious delicacy of his conscience rendered its duties oppressive and overwhelming. In a feeble state of body, and with a sensitive mind stretched and strained, a silly calumny, set a-foot by some envious gossip, was sufficient literally to chase him out of life. On his return to Edinburgh about the 20th of July, Scott found him in visible danger; he did whatever friendship could do to comfort and stimulate him; but all was in vain. Lord Kinnedder survived his elevation hardly half-a-year ---and who that observed Scott's public doings during the three or four weeks I have been describing, could have suspected that he was daily and nightly the watcher of a deathbed, or the consoler of orphans; striving all the while against
``True earnest sorrows, rooted miseries, Anguish in grain, vexations ripe and blown?''
I am not aware that I ever saw him in such a state of dejection as he was when I accompanied him and his friend Mr Thomas Thomson from Edinburgh to Queensferry, in attendance upon Lord Kinnedder's funeral. Yet that was one of the noisiest days of the royal festival, and he had to plunge into some scene of high gaiety the moment after he returned. As we halted in Castle Street, Mr Crabbe's mild, thoughtful face appeared at the window, and Scott said, on leaving me,---``Now for what our old friend there puts down as the crowning curse of his poor player in the Borough---
`To hide in rant the heart-ache of the night.'
The very few letters that he addressed to friends at a distance during the King's stay, are chiefly occupied with Erskine. In one of them he says:---``It would be rather difficult for any one who has never lived much among my good country-people, to comprehend that an idle story of a love intrigue, a story alike base and baseless, should be the death of an innocent man of high character, high station, and well advanced in years. It struck into poor Erskine's heart and soul, however, quite as cruelly as any similar calumny ever affected a modest woman---he withered and sunk. There is no need that I should say peace be with him! If ever a pure spirit quitted this vale of tears, it was William Erskine's. I must turn to and see what can be done about netting some pension for his daughters.''
The King's stay in Scotland was protracted until the 29th of August. He then embarked from the Earl of Hopetoun's magnificent seat on the Firth of Forth, and Sir Walter had the gratification of seeing his Majesty, in the moment of departure, confer the honour of knighthood on two of his friends---both of whom, I believe, owed some obligation in this matter to his good offices---namely, Captain Adam Fergusson, deputy-keeper of the Regalia, and Henry Raeburn, R.A., properly selected as the representative of the fine arts in Scotland. This amiable man and excellent artist, however, did not long survive the receipt of his title. Sir Henry died on the 5th of July 1823---the last work of his pencil having been a portrait of Scott for Lord Montagu.
On the eve of the King's departure he received a letter from Mr Peel, saying:---The king has commanded me to acquaint you that he cannot bid adieu to Scotland without conveying to you individually his warm personal acknowledgments. His Majesty well knows how many difficulties have been smoothed, and how much has been effected by your unremitting activity, by your knowledge of your countrymen, and by the just estimation in which they hold you. The King wishes to make you the channel of conveying to the Highland chiefs and their followers, who have given to the varied scene which we have witnessed so peculiar and romantic a character, his particular thanks for their attendance, and his warm approbation of their uniform deportment.''
Though Mr Crabbe found it necessary to leave Scotland without seeing Abbotsford, this was not the case with many less celebrated friends from the south, who had flocked to the Royal Festival. Sir Walter's house was, in his own phrase, ``like a cried fair,'' during several weeks after the King's departure; and as his masons were then in the highest activity, the tumult within doors and without was really perplexing. He says in his letters, that the excitement of the Edinburgh scenes had thrown him into a fever, and, I believe, it was very lucky that an eruption took place, which compelled him to keep his chamber for some days.
Nor was an unusual influx of English pilgrims the only legacy of ``the glorious days'' of August. A considerable number of persons who had borne a part in the ceremonies fancied that their exertions had entitled them to some substantial mark of approbation; and post after post brought despatches from these enthusiasts, to him who was supposed to enjoy, as to matters of this description, the readiest access to the fountain of honour. To how many of these applications he accorded more than a civil answer I cannot tell; but the Duke of York was too good a _Jacobite_ not to grant favourable consideration to his request that one or two half-pay officers who had distinguished themselves in the van of _the Celts,_ might be replaced in Highland regiments, and so re-invested with the untheatrical ``Garb of old Gaul.'' Sir Walter had also a petition of his own. This related to a certain gigantic piece of ordnance, celebrated in the history of the Scottish Jameses under the title of _Mons Meg,_ which had been removed from Edinburgh Castle to the Tower in 1746. When Scott next saw the King, after he had displayed his person on the chief bastion of the old fortress, he lamented the absence of Mons Meg on that occasion in language which his Majesty could not resist. There ensued a correspondence with the official guardians of Meg---among others, with the Duke of Wellington, then Master-General of the Ordnance, and though circumstances deferred her restoration, it was never lost sight of, and took place when the Duke was Prime Minister, in 1828.
A more serious petition was a written one in which Sir Walter expressed feelings in which I believe every class of his countrymen were disposed to concur with him cordially ---and certainly none more so than George IV. himself. The object was the restoration of the peerages forfeited in consequence of the insurrections of 1715 and 1745; and the honourable families, in whose favour this liberal measure was soon afterwards adopted, appear to have vied with each other in the expression of their gratefulness for his exertions on their behalf.
Early in October, he had another attack of illness. He says to Terry, in a letter full of details about silk-hangings, ebony-cabinets, and so forth:---``I have not been very well---a whoreson thickness of blood, and a depression of spirits, arising from the loss of friends, have annoyed me much and Peveril will, I fear, smell of the apoplexy. I propose a good rally, however, and hope it will be a powerful effect. My idea is, _entre nous,_ a Scotch archer in the French king's guard, _tempore_ Louis XL, the most picturesque of all times.'' This is the first allusion to _Quentin Durward_ and also the species of malady that ultimately proved fatal to Sir Walter Scott. He never mentioned to his family the symptoms which he here speaks of; but long before any serious apopletic seizure occurred, it had been suspected by myself, and by others of his friends, that he had sustained slight attacks of that nature, and concealed them. The, depression of spirits could not, however, have hung over him long. Peveril was completed, and some progress had also been achieved with Quentin Durward, before the year reached its close. Nor had he ceased to contemplate future labour with firmness and hopefulness. He, in October, received Constable's bills for another unnamed ``work of fiction;'' and this was the last such work in which the great bookseller was destined to have any concern. The engagement was in fact that redeemed three years afterwards by _Woodstock._
Peveril of the Peak appeared in January 1823. Its reception was somewhat colder than that of its three immediate predecessors. The rapidity of the Novelist's execution was put to a severe trial, from his adoption of so wide a canvass as was presented by a period of twenty busy years, and filled by so large and multifarious an assemblage of persons, not a few of them, as it were, struggling for prominence. Finella was an unfortunate conception; what is good in it is not original, and the rest absurd and incredible. Even worse was that condescension to the practice of vulgar romancers, in his treatment of the trial scenes---scenes usually the very citadels of his strength--- which outraged every feeling of probability with those who had studied the terrible tragedies of the Popish Plot, in the authentic records of, perhaps, the most disgraceful epoch in our history. The story is clumsy and perplexed; the catastrophe (another signal exception to his rules) foreseen from the beginning, and yet most inartificially brought about. All this is true; and yet might not criticisms of the same sort be applied to half the masterpieces of Shakspeare? And did any dramatist---to say nothing of any other novelist---ever produce, in spite of all the surrounding bewilderment of the fable, characters more powerfully conceived, or, on the whole, more happily portrayed, than those (I name but a few) of Christian, Bridgenorth, Buckingham, and Chiffinch?---sketches more vivid than those of young Derby, Colonel Blood, and the keeper of Newgate?
Among the lounging barristers of the _Outer_-House in those days, Sir Walter, in the intervals of his duty as Clerk, often came forth and mingled much in the style of his own coeval _Mountain._ Indeed the pleasure he seemed to take in the society of his professional juniors, was one of the most remarkable, and certainly not the least agreeable features of his character at this period of his consummate honour and celebrity---but I should rather have said, perhaps, of young people generally, male or female, law or lay, gentle or simple. I used to think it was near of kin to another feature in him, his love of a bright light. It was always, I suspect, against the grain with him, when he did not even work at his desk with the sun full upon him. However, one morning soon after Peveril came out, one of our most famous wags (now famous for better things,) namely, Patrick Robertson,<*> commonly called by the endearing Scottish
* Mr R. became Dean of the Faculty of Advocates in 1842, and
* a Judge by the style of Lord Robertson in 1843. His first (and
* successful) appearance as a Poet was in 1847.
_diminutive_ ``Peter,'' observed that tall conical white head advancing above the crowd towards the fire-place, where the usual roar of fun was going on among the briefless, and said, ``Hush, boys, here comes old Peveril--- I see the _Peak._'' A laugh ensued, and the Great Unknown, as he withdrew from the circle after a few minutes' gossip, insisted that I should tell him what our joke upon his advent had been. When enlightened, being by that time half way across the ``babbling hall'' towards his own _Division,_ he looked round with a sly grin, and said, between his teeth, ``Ay, ay, my man, as weel Peveril o' the Peak ony day, as Peter o' the Painch'' (paunch)---which, being transmitted to the brethren of the _stove school,_ of course delighted all of them, except their portly Coryph<ae>us. But _Peter's_ application stuck; to his dying day, Scott was in the Outer-House _Peveril of the Peak,_ or _Old Peveril_---and, by and by, like a good Cavalier, he took to the designation kindly. He was well aware that his own family and younger friends constantly talked of him under this _sobriquet._ Many a little note have I had from him (and so probably has _Peter_ also), reproving, or perhaps encouraging, Tory mischief, and signed, ``Thine, =Peveril.=''
It was, perhaps, some inward misgiving towards the completion of Peveril, that determined Scott to break new ground in his next novel; and as he had before awakened a fresh interest by venturing on English scenery and history, try the still bolder experiment of a continental excursion. However this may have been, he was encouraged and strengthened by the return of his friend Skene, about this time, from a tour in France; in the course of which he had kept an accurate and lively journal, and executed a vast variety of clever drawings, representing landscapes and ancient buildings, such as would have been most sure to interest Scott had he been the companion of his wanderings. Mr Skene's MS. collections were placed at his disposal, and he took from one of their chapters the substance of the _original_ Introduction to Quentin Durward. Yet still his difficulties in this new undertaking were frequent, and of a sort to which he had hitherto been a stranger. I remember observing him many times in the Advocates' Library poring over maps and gazetteers with care and anxiety.
He was much amused with a mark of French admiration which reached him (opportunely enough) in February--- one of the few such that his works seem to have brought him prior to the publication of Quentin Durward. He says to Constable,---``A funny Frenchman wants me to accept some champaign for a set of my works. I have written in answer that as my works cost me nothing I could not think of putting a value on them, but that I should apply to you. Send him a set of my children and god-children (poems and novels), and---if he found, on seeing them, that they were worth a dozen flasks of champaign, he might address the case,'' &c.
A compliment not less flattering was paid within a few weeks after the appearance of Peveril. In the epistle introductory of that novel, Clutterbuck amuses Dryasdust with an account of a recent visit from their common parent ``the Author of Waverley,'' whose outward man, as it was in those days, is humorously caricatured, with a suggestion that he had probably sat to Geoffrey Crayon for his ``Stout Gentleman of No. II.;'' and who is made to apologize for the heartiness with which he pays his duty to the viands set before him, by alleging that he is in training for the anniversary of the Roxburghe Club:---``He was preparing himself,'' (said the gracious and portly _Eidolon_) ``to hobnob with the lords of the literary treasures of Althorpe and Hodnet in Madeira negus, brewed by the classical Dibdin.'' This drollery in fact alluded, not to the Roxburghe, but to an institution of the same class which was just at this time springing into life in Edinburgh---the _Bannatyne Club,_ of which Scott was the founder and first president. The heroes of the Roxburghe, however, were not to penetrate the mystification of Captain Clutterbuck's report, and from their jovial and erudite board, when they next congregated around its ``generous flasks of Burgundy, each flanked by an uncut fifteener''---their Secretary, Dr Dibdin, wrote to Scott, saying:---``The death of Sir M. Sykes having occasioned a vacancy in our =Club,= I am desired to request that you will have the goodness to make that fact known to the =Author of Waverley,= who, from the [=Proheme=] to =Peveril of the Peak,= seems disposed to become one of the members thereof; and I am further desired to express the wishes of the said =Club= that the said =Author= may succeed to the said Baronet.''---Sir Walter answered, that he would find means to convey the message to the ``Author of Waverley;'' adding---``As his personal appearance in the fraternity is not like to be a speedy event, the table of the Roxburghe, like that of King Arthur, will have a vacant chair. But if this author, who hath fernseed and walketh invisible,' should not appear to claim it before I come to London, with permission of the Club, I, who have something of adventure in me, although a knight like Sir Andrew Aguecheek, `clubbed with unhacked rapier, and on carpet consideration,' would, rather than lose the chance of a dinner with the Roxburghe Club, take upon me the adventure of the _siege perilous,_ and reap some amends for perils and scandals into which the invisible champion has drawn me, by being his _locum tenens_ on so distinguished an occasion.''---The Club gladly accepted this offer; and Scott. writes again to their Secretary:--- ``Mad Tom tells us, that `the Prince of Darkness is a gentleman;'<*> and this mysterious personage will, I hope,
* King Lear, Act III. Scene 5.
partake as much of his honourable feelings as his invisibility, and, retaining his incognito, permit me to enjoy, in his stead, an honour which I value more than I do that which has been bestowed on me by the credit of having written any of his novels.''---In his way of taking both the Frenchman's civilities and those of the Roxburghers, we see evident symptoms that the mask had begun to be worn rather carelessly. Sir Walter, it may be worth mentioning, was also about this time elected a member of ``=The Club=''--- that famous one established by Johnson, Burke, and Reynolds. Moreover, he had been chosen, on the death of the antiquary Lysons, Professor of Ancient History to the Royal Academy---a chair originally founded at Dr Johnson's suggestion, ``in order that _Goldy_ might have a right to be at their dinners.'' I believe he was present at more than one of the festivals of each of these fraternities. A particular dinner of the Royal Academy, at all events, is recorded with some picturesque details in his essay on the life of Kemble, who sat next to him upon that occasion.
The Bannatyne Club was a child of his own, and from first to last he took a most fatherly concern in all its proceedings. His practical sense dictated a direction of their funds different from what had been adopted by the Roxburghe. Their _Club Books_ already constitute a very curious and valuable library of Scottish history and antiquities: their example was soon followed with not inferior success by the Maitland Club of Glasgow, of which too Sir Walter was a zealous associate; by the Spalding Club of Aberdeen---and since his death by a fourth, founded at Edinburgh in his honour, and styled _The Abbotsford Club_ ---which last has taken a still wider range---not confining their printing to works connected with Scotland, but admitting all materials that can throw light on the ancient history or literature of any country, described or handled by the Author of Waverley.
At the meeting of the Bannatyne he presided from 1823 to 1831; and, in the chair on their anniversary dinners, surrounded by some of his oldest and dearest friends---Thomas Thomson (the Vice-President), John Clerk (Lord Eldin), the Chief-Commissioner Adam, the Chief-Baron Shepherd, Lord Jeffrey, Mr Constable---and let me not forget his kind, intelligent, and industrious ally, Mr David Laing,<*> bookseller, the Secretary of the Club---
* Now Librarian to the Signet Library. Edin., and LL.D.---1871.
he from this time forward was the unfailing source and centre of all sorts of merriment, ``within the limits of becoming mirth.'' Of the origin and early progress of their institution, the reader has a full account in his reviewal of Pitcairn's Criminal Trials; and the last edition of his Poems includes that excellent song composed for their first dinner--- on March 9, 1823---and then sung by James Ballantyne, and heartily chorused by all the aforesaid dignitaries:---
``Assist me, ye friends of old books and old wine, To sing in the praises of sage Bannatyne, Who left such a treasure of old Scottish lore, As enables each age to print one volume more. One volume more, my friends---one volume more, We'll ransack old Banny for one volume more.''---&c.
Various passages in Scott's correspondence have recalled to my recollection the wonder with which the friends best acquainted with the extent of his usual engagements observed, about this period, his readiness in mixing himself up with the business of associations far different from the Bannatyne Club. I cannot doubt that his conduct as President of the Royal Society, and as manager of the preparations for the King's visit, had a main influence in this matter. In these capacities he had been thrown into contact with many of the most eminent of his fellow-citizens, who had previously been accustomed to flavour their notions of him with something of the gall of local polities; and they had soon appreciated his influence, for they mixt all have had abundant opportunities of observing the case with which ill humours are engendered, to the disturbance of all really useful discussion, wherever social equals assemble in conclave, without having some official preses, uniting the weight of strong and quick intellect, with the calmness and moderation of a brave spirit, and the conciliating grace of habitual courtesy. Presumption, dogmatism, and arrogance shrunk from the overawing contrast of his modest greatness: the poison of every little passion was shamed and neutralized beneath the charitable dignity of his penetration: and jealousy, fretfulness, and spleen felt themselves transmuted in the placid atmosphere of good sense, good humour, and good manners. And whoever might be apt to plead off on the score of personal duty of any sort, Scott had always leisure as well as temper at command, when invited to take part in any business connected with a rational hope of public advantage. These things opened, like the discovery of some new element of wealth, upon certain eager spirits who considered the Royal Society as the great local parent and minister of practical inventions and mechanical improvements; and they found it no hard matter to inspire their genial chief with a warm sympathy in not a few of their then predominant speculations. He was invited, for example, to place himself at the head of a new company for improving the manufacture of oil gas, and in the spring of this year began to officiate regularly in that capacity. Other associations of a like kind called for his countenance, and received it. The fame of his ready zeal and happy demeanour grew and spread; and from this time, until bodily infirmities disabled him, Sir Walter occupied, as the most usual, acceptable, and successful chairman of public meetings of almost every sort, apart from polities, a very prominent place among the active citizens of his native town. Any foreign student of statistics who should have happened to peruse the files of an Edinburgh newspaper for the period to which I allude, would, I think, have concluded that there must be at least two Sir Walter Scotts in the place---one the miraculously fertile, author whose works occupied two-thirds of its literary advertisements and critical columns---another some retired magistrate or senator of easy fortune and indefatigable philanthropy, who devoted the rather oppressive leisure of an honourable old age to the promotion of patriotic ameliorations, the watchful guardianship of charities, and the ardent patronage of educational institutions.
The reader of his correspondence will find hints about various little matters connected with Scott's own advancing edifice, in which he may trace the President of the Royal Society and the Chairman of the Gas Company. But I cannot say that the ``century of inventions'' at Abbotsford turned out very happily. His bells to move by compression of air in a piston proved a poor succedaneum for the simple wire; and his application of gas-light to the interior of a dwelling-house was in fact attended with so many inconveniences, that erelong all his family heartily wished, it had never been thought of. Moreover, he had deceived himself as to the expense of such an apparatus when constructed and maintained for the use of a single domestic establishment. The effect of the apparatus was at first superb. In sitting down to table, in Autumn, no one observed that in each of three chandeliers there lurked a tiny bead of red light. Dinner passed off, and the sun went down, and suddenly, at the turning of a screw, the room was filled with a gush of splendour worthy of the palace of Aladdin; but, as in the case of Aladdin, the old lamp would have been better in the upshot. Jewelry sparkled, but cheeks and lips looked cold and wan in this fierce illumination; and the eye was wearied, and the brow ached, if the sitting was at all protracted. I confess, however, that my chief enmity to the whole affair arises from my conviction that Sir Walter's own health was damaged, in his latter years, in consequence of his habitually working at night under the intense and burning glare of a broad star of gas.
In June Quentin Durward was published; and surpassing as its popularity was eventually, Constable, who was in London at the time, wrote in cold terms of its immediate reception.
Very shortly before the bookseller left Edinburgh for that trip, he had concluded another bargain (his last of the sort) for the purchase of Waverley copyrights---acquiring the author's property in the Pirate, Nigel, Peveril, and also Quentin Durward, out and out, at the price of five thousand guineas. He had thus paid for the copyright of novels (over and above the half profits of the early separate editions) the sum of <L>22,500; and his advances upon ``works of fiction'' still in embryo, amounted at this moment to <L>10,000 more. He began, in short, and the wonder is that he began so late, to suspect that the process of creation was moving too rapidly. The publication of different sets of the Tales in a collective shape may probably have had a share in opening his eyes to the fact, that the voluminousness of an author is anything but favourable to the rapid diffusion of his works as library books---the great object with any publisher who aspires at founding a solid fortune. But he merely intimated on this occasion that, considering the usual chances of life and health, he must decline contracting for any more novels until those already bargained for were written. Scott himself appears to have admitted for a moment the suspicion that he had been overdoing in the field of romance; and opened the scheme of a work on popular superstitions, in the form of dialogue, for which he had long possessed ample materials in his curious library of _diablerie._ But before Constable had leisure to consider this proposal in all its bearings, Quentin Durward, from being, as Scott expressed it, _frost-bit,_ had emerged into most fervid and flourishing life. In fact, the sensation which this novel on its first appearance created in Paris, was extremely similar to that which attended the original Waverley in Edinburgh, and Ivanhoe afterwards in London. For the first time Scott had ventured on foreign ground, and the French public, long wearied of the pompous tragedians and feeble romancers, who had alone striven to bring out the ancient history and manners of their country in popular forms, were seized with a fever of delight when Louis XI. and Charles the Bold started into life again at the beck of the Northern Magician. The result of Quentin Durward, as regards the contemporary literature of the Continent, would open a field for ample digression. As concerns the author himself, the rays of foreign enthusiasm speedily thawed the frost of Constable's unwonted misgivings; the Dialogues on Superstition, if he ever began them, were very soon dropped, and the Novelist resumed his pen. He had not sunk under the short-lived frown---for he wrote to Ballantyne, on first ascertaining that a damp was thrown on his usual manufacture,
``The mouse who only trusts to one poor hole, Can never be a mouse of any soul;''
and, while his publisher yet remained irresolute as to the plan of Dialogues, threw off his excellent Essay on Romance for the Encyclop<ae>dia Britannica; and I cannot but consider it as another display of his high self-reliance, that, though he well knew to what influence Quentin owed its ultimate success in the British market, he, the instant he found himself encouraged to take up the trade of story-telling again, sprang back to Scotland---nay, voluntarily encountered new difficulties, by selecting the comparatively tame and impicturesque realities of modern manners in his native province.
A conversation, which much interested me at the time, had, I fancy, some share at least in this determination. As he, Laidlaw, and myself, were lounging on our ponies, one fine calm afternoon, along the brow of the Eildon Hill where it overhangs Melrose, he mentioned to us gaily the row, as he called it, that was going on in Paris about Quentin Durward, and said, ``I can't but think that I could make better play still with something German.'' Laidlaw grumbled at this, and said, like a true Scotchman, ``Na, na, sir---take my word for it, you are always best, like Helen MacGregor, when your foot is on your native heath; and I have often thought that if you were to write a novel, and lay the scene _here_ in the very year you were writing it, you would exceed yourself.''---``Hame's hame,'' quoth Scott, smiling, ``be it ever sae hamely. There's something in what you say, Willie. What suppose I were to take Captain Clutterbuck for a hero, and never let the story step a yard beyond the village below us yonder?''---``The very thing I want,'' says Laidlaw; ``stick to Melrose in July 1823.''---``Well, upon my word,'' he answered, ``the field would be quite wide enough---and _what for no?_''---(This pet phrase of Meg Dods was a _Laidlawism._)---Some fun followed about the different real persons in the village that might be introduced with comical effect; but as Laidlaw and I talked and laughed over our worthy neighbours, his air became graver and graver; and he at length said, ``Ay, ay, if one could look into the heart of that little cluster of cottages, no fear but you would find materials enow for tragedy as well as comedy. I undertake to say there is some real romance at this moment going on down there, that, if it could have justice done to it, would be well worth all the fiction that was ever spun out of human brains.'' He then told us a tale of dark domestic guilt which had recently come under his notice as Sheriff, and of which the scene was not Melrose, but a smaller hamlet, on the other side of the Tweed, full in our view; but the details were not of a kind to be dwelt upon;---anything more dreadful was never conceived by Crabbe, and he told it so as to produce on us who listened all the effect of another _Hall of Justice._ It could never have entered into his head to elaborate such a tale; but both Laidlaw and I used to think that this talk suggested St Ronan's Well--- though my good friend was by no means disposed to accept that as payment in full of his demand, and from time to time afterwards, would give the Sheriff a little poking about ``Melrose in July.''
Before Sir Walter settled to the new novel, he received Joanna Baillie's long-promised Collection of Poetical Miscellanies, in which appeared his dramatic sketch of Macduff's Cross. When Halidon Hill first came forth, there were not wanting reviewers who hailed it in a style of rapture, such as might have been expected had it been a Macbeth. But this folly soon sunk; and I only mention it as an instance of the extent to which reputation bewilders and confounds even persons who have good brains enough when they find it convenient to exercise them. The second attempt of the class produced no sensation whatever at the time; and both would have been long since forgotten, but that they came from Scott's pen. They both contain some fine passages---Halidon Hill has, indeed, several grand ones. But, on the whole, they always seemed to me unworthy of Sir Walter; and, now that I have read his admirable letters on dramatic composition to Allan Cunningham, it appears doubly hard to account for the rashness with which he committed himself in even such slender attempts on a species of composition, of which, in his cool hour, he so fully appreciated the difficult demands. Nevertheless, I am very far from agreeing with those critics who have gravely talked of Halidon Hill and Macduff's Cross, and the still more unfortunate Doom of Devorgoil, as proving that Sir Walter could not have succeeded in the drama, either serious or comic. It would be as fair to conclude, from the abortive fragment of the Vampyre, that Lord Byron could not have written a good novel or romance in prose. Scott threw of these things _currente calamo;_ he never gave himself time to consider beforehand what could be made of their materials, nor bestowed a moment on correcting them; and neither when they were new, nor even after, did he seem to attach the slightest importance to them.
The month of August 1823 was one of the happiest in Scott's life. Never did I see a brighter day at Abbotsford than that on which Miss Edgeworth first arrived there ---never can I forget her look and accent when she was received by him at his archway, and exclaimed, ``Everything about you is exactly what one ought to have had wit enough to dream!'' The weather was beautiful, and the edifice, and its appurtenances, were all but complete; and day after day, so long as she could remain, her host had always some new plan of gaiety. One day there was fishing on the Cauldshields' Loch, and a dinner on the heathy bank. Another, the whole party feasted by Sir Thomas the Rhymer's waterfall in the glen---and the stone on which Maria that day sat was ever afterwards called _Edgeworth's Stone._ A third day we had to go further a-field. He must needs shew her, not Newark only, but all the upper scenery of the Yarrow, where ``fair hangs the apple frae the rock,''---and the baskets were unpacked about sunset, beside the ruined Chapel overlooking St Mary's Loch--- and he had scrambled to gather blue-bells and heath-flowers, with which all the young ladies must twine their hair,--- and they sang and he recited, until it was time to go home beneath the softest of harvest moons. Thus a fortnight was passed---and the vision closed; for Miss Edgeworth never saw Abbotsford again during his life; and I am very sure she could never bear to look upon it now that the spirit is fled.
Another welcome guest of the same month was Mr Adolphus--- the author of the Letters to Heber; whose reminiscences of this and several subsequent visits are singularly vivid and interesting. He says:---``The circumstances under which I presented myself were peculiar, as the only cause of my being under his roof was one which could not without awkwardness be alluded to, while a strict reserve existed on the subject of the Waverley novels. This, however, did not create any embarrassment; and he entered into conversation as if anything that might have been said with reference to the origin of our acquaintance had been said an hour before. I never saw a man who, in his intercourse with all persons, was so perfect a master of courtesy. His manners were so plain and natural, and his kindness took such immediate possession of the feelings, that this excellence in him might for a while pass almost unobserved. I cannot pay a higher testimony to it than by owning that I first fully appreciated it from his behaviour to others. His air and aspect, at the moment of a first introduction, were placid, modest, and, for his time of life, venerable. Occasionally, where he stood a little on ceremony, he threw into his address a deferential tone, which had in it something of old-fashioned politeness, and became him extremely well.
``A point of hospitality in which Sir Walter Scott never failed, whatever might be the pretensions of the guest, was to do the honours of conversation. When a stranger arrived, he seemed to consider it as much a duty to offer him the resources of his mind as those of his table; taking care, however, by his choice of subjects, to give the visiter an opportunity of making his own stores, if he had them, available. To me he addressed himself often as to a member of his own profession; and indeed he seemed always to have a real pleasure in citing from his own experience as an advocate and a law-officer.
``It would, I think, be extremely difficult to give a just idea of his general conversation to any one who had not known him. Considering his great personal and literary popularity, and the wide circle of society in which he had lived, it is perhaps remarkable that so few of his sayings, real or imputed, are in circulation. But he did not affect sayings; the points and sententious turns, which are so easily caught up and transmitted, were not natural to him: though he occasionally expressed a thought very pithily and neatly. For example, he once described the Duke of Wellington's style of debating as `slicing the argument into two or three parts, and helping himself to the best.' But the great charm of his `table-talk' was in the sweetness and abandon with which it flowed,---always, however, guided by good sense and taste; the warm and unstudied eloquence with which he expressed rather sentiments than opinions; and the liveliness and force with which he narrated and described: and all that he spoke derived so much of its effect from indefinable felicities of manner, look, and tone---and sometimes from the choice of apparently insignificant words---that a moderately faithful transcript of his sentences would be but a faint image of his conversation:--- ``No one who has seen him can forget the surprising power of change which his countenance showed when awakened from a state of composure. In 1823, his face, which was healthy and sanguine, and the hair about it, which had a strong reddish tinge, contrasted rather than barmonized with the sleek, silvery locks above; a contrast which might seem rather suited to a jovial and humorous, than to a pathetic expression. But his features were equally capable of both. The form and hue of his eyes (for the benefit of minute physiognomists it should be noted that the iris contained some small specks of brown) were wonderfully calculated for shewing great varieties of emotion. Their mournful aspect was extremely earnest and affecting; and when he told some dismal and mysterious story, they had a doubtful, melancholy, exploring look, which appealed irresistibly to the hearer's imagination. Occasionally, when he spoke of something very audacious or eccentric, they would dilate and light up with a tragicomic, hare-brained expression, quite peculiar to himself; one might see in it a whole chapter of _C<oe>ur-de-lion_ and the Clerk of Copmanhurst. Never, perhaps, did a man go through all the gradations of laughter with such complete enjoyment, and a countenance so radiant. The first dawn of a humorous thought would shew itself sometimes, as he sat silent, by an involuntary lengthening of the upper lip, followed by a shy sidelong glance at his neighbours, indescribably whimsical, and seeming to ask from their looks whether the spark of drollery should be suppressed or allowed to blaze out. In the full tide of mirth he did indeed `laugh the heart's laugh,' like Walpole, but it was not boisterous and overpowering, nor did it check the course of his words; he could go on telling or descanting, while his lungs did `crow like chanticleer,' his syllables, in the struggle, growing more emphatic, his accent more strongly Scotch, and his voice plaintive with excess of merriment.
``The habits of life at Abbotsford, when I first saw it, ran in the same easy, rational, and pleasant course which I believe they always afterwards took; though the family was at this time rather straitened in its arrangements, as some of the principal rooms were not finished. After breakfast Sir Walter took his short interval of study in the light and elegant little room afterwards called Miss Scott's. That which he occupied when Abbotsford was complete, though more convenient in some material respects, seemed to me the least cheerful<*> and least private in the house. It had,
* It is, however, the only sitting room in the house that looks
however, a recommendation which perhaps he was very sensible of, that as he sat at his writing-table, he could look out at his young trees. About one o'clock he walked or rode, generally with some of his visiters. At this period, he used to be a good deal on horseback, and a pleasant sight it was to see the gallant old gentleman, in his seal-skin cap and short green jacket, lounging along a field-side on his mare, Sibyl Grey, and pausing now and then to talk, with a seriocomic look, to a labouring man or woman, and rejoice them with some quaint saying in broad Scotch. The dinner hour was early; the sitting after dinner was hospitably but not immoderately prolonged; and the whole family party (for such it always seemed, even if there were several visiters) then met again for a short evening, which was passed in conversation and music. I once heard Sir Walter say, that he believed there was a `pair' of cards (such was his antiquated expression) somewhere in the house---but probably there is no tradition of their having ever been used. The drawing-room and library (unfurnished at the time of my first visit) opened into each other, and formed a beautiful evening apartment. By every one who has visited at Abbotsford they must be associated with some of the most delightful recollections of his life. Sir Walter listened to the music of his daughters, which was all congenial to his own taste, with a never-failing enthusiasm. He followed the fine old songs which Mrs Lockhart sang to her harp with his mind, eyes, and lips, almost as if joining in an act of religion. To other musical performances he was a dutiful, and often a pleased listener; but I believe he cared little for mere music---the notes failed to charm him if they were not connected with good words, or immediately associated with some history or strong sentiment, upon which his imagination could fasten. A similar observation might, I should conceive, apply to his feeling of other arts. I do not remember any picture or print at Abbotsford which was remarkable merely as a work of colour or design. All, I think, either represented historical, romantic, or poetical subjects, or related to persons, places, or circumstances in which he took an interest. Even in architecture, his taste had the same bias; almost every stone of his house bore an allusion or suggested a sentiment.
``It seemed at first a little strange, in a scene where so many things brought to mind the Waverley novels, to hear no direct mention of them, or even allusion to their existence. But as forbearance on this head was a rule on which a complete tacit understanding subsisted, there was no embarrassment or appearance of mystery on the subject. Once or twice I have heard a casual reference made, in Sir Walter's presence, to some topic in the novels; no surprise or appearance of displeasure followed, but the conversation, so far as it tended that way, died a natural death. It has, I believe, happened that he himself has been caught unawares on the forbidden ground; I have heard it told by a very acute observer, not now living, that on his coming once to Abbotsford, after the publication of The Pirate, Sir Walter asked him, `Well, and how is our friend Kemble? glorious John!' and then, recollecting, of course, that he was talking of Claud Halcro, he checked himself, and could not for some moments recover from the false step. Had a man been ever so prone to indiscretion on such subjects, it would have been unpardonable to betray it towards Sir Walter Scott, who (beside all his other claims to respect and affection) was himself cautious, even to nicety, of hazarding an inquiry or remark which might appear to be an intrusion upon the affairs of those with whom he conversed. It may be observed, too, that the publications of the day were by no means the staple of conversation at Abbotsford, though they had their turn; and with respect to his own works, Sir Walter did not often talk even of those which were avowed. If he ever indulged in anything like egotism, he loved better to speak of what he had done and seen than of what he had written.
``After all, there is perhaps hardly a secret in the world which has not its safety-valve. Though Sir Walter abstained strictly from any mention of the Waverley novels, he did not scruple to talk, and that with great zest, of the plays which had been founded upon some of them, and the characters, as there represented. Soon after our first meeting, he described to me, with his usual dramatic power, the deathbed scene of `the original Dandie Dinmont;' of course referring ostensibly at least, to the _opera_ of Guy Mannering. He dwelt with extreme delight upon Mackay's performances of the Bailie and Dominie Sampson, and appeared to taste them with all the fresh and disinterested enjoyment of a common spectator. I do not know a more interesting circumstance in the history of the Waverley novels, than the pleasure which their illustrious author thus received, as it were at the rebound, from those creations of his own mind which had so largely increased the enjoyments of all the civilized world.
``In one instance only did he, in my presence, say or do anything which seemed to have an intentional reference to the novels themselves, while they were yet unacknowledged. On the last day of my visit in 1823, I rode out with Sir Walter and his friend Mr Rose, who was then his guest and frequent companion in these short rambles. Sir Walter led us a little way down the left bank of the Tweed, and then into the moors by a track called the Girth Road, along which, he told us, the pilgrims from that side of the river used to come to Melrose. We traced upward, at a distance, the course of the little stream called the Elland. When we had ridden a little time on the moors, he said to me rather pointedly, `I am going to show you something that I think will interest you;' and presently, in a wild corner of the hills, he halted us at a place where stood three small ancient towers or castellated houses, in ruins, at short distances from each other. It was plain, upon the slightest consideration of the topography, that one (perhaps any one) of these was the tower of Glendearg, where so many romantic and marvellous adventures happen in The Monastery. While we looked at this forlorn group, I said to Sir Walter that they were what Burns called `ghaist-alluring edifices.' `Yes,' he answered carelessly, `I dare say there are many stories about them.' ''
Every friend of Sir Walter's must admire particularly Mr Adolphus's exquisite description of his laugh; but indeed, every word of these memoranda is precious.
In September, the Highland Society, at the request of Sir Henry Stewart of Allanton, sent a deputation to his seat in Lanarkshire, to examine and report upon his famous improvements in the art of transplanting trees. Sir Walter was one of the committee, and he took a lively interest in it; witness his Essay on Landscape Gardening. He himself made several Allantonian experiments at Abbotsford; but found reason in the sequel to abate somewhat of the enthusiasm which his Essay expresses as to _the system._ The question, after all, comes to pounds, shillings, and pence--- and, whether Sir Henry's accounts had or had not been accurately kept, the thing turned out greatly more expensive on Tweedside than he found it represented in Clydesdale.
I accompanied Sir Walter on this little expedition, in the course of which we paid several other visits, and explored not a few ancient castles in the upper regions of the Tweed and the Clyde. Even while the weather was most unpropitious, nothing could induce him to remain in the carriage when we approached any ruined or celebrated edifice. If he had never seen it before, his curiosity was like that of an eager stripling: if he had examined it fifty times, he must renew his familiarity, and gratify the tenderness of youthful reminiscences. While on the road, his conversation never flagged---story suggested story and ballad came upon ballad in endless succession. But what struck me most, was the apparently omnivorous grasp of his memory. That he should recollect every stanza of any ancient ditty of chivalry or romance that had once excited his imagination, could no longer surprise me: but it seemed as if he remembered everything without exception, so it were in anything like the shape of verse, that he had ever read. For example, the morning after we left Allanton, we went across the country to breakfast with his friend Cranstoun (Lord Corehouse), who accompanied us in the same carriage; and his Lordship happening to repeat a phrase, remarkable only for its absurdity, from a Magazine poem of the very silliest feebleness, which they had laughed at when at College together, Scott immediately began at the beginning, and gave it us to the end, with apparently no more effort than if he himself had composed it the day before. I could after this easily believe a story often told by Hogg, to the effect that, lamenting in Scott's presence his having lost his only copy of a long ballad composed by him in his early days, and of which he then could recall merely the subject, and one or two fragments, Sir Walter forthwith said, with a smile,--- ``Take your pencil, Jamie, and I'll dictate your ballad to you, word for word;''---which was done accordingly.<*>
* ``One morning at breakfast, in my father's house, shortly after
* one of Sir Walter's severe illnesses, he was asked to partake of
* some of `the baked meats that coldly did furnish forth the _breakfast_-table.'
* --No, no, he answered; I bear in mind at present,
* Bob, the advice of your old friend Dr Weir---
* From season'd meats overt your eyes,
* From hams, and tongues, and pigeon pies---
* A venison pasty set before ye,
* Each bit you eat---_Memento mori._
* This was a verse of a clever rhyming prescription sent some 30
* years before, and which my father then remembered to have repeated
* upon one of their Liddesdale raids. The verses had almost
* entirely escaped his memory, but Sir Walter was able to give
* us a long _screed_ of them.---_Andrew Shortrede._''
As this was among the first times that I ever travelled for a few days in company with Scott, I may as well add the surprise with which his literary diligence, when away from home and his books, could not fail to be observed. Wherever we slept, whether in the noble mansion or in the shabbiest of country inns, and whether the work was done after retiring at night or before an early start in the morning, he _very rarely_ mounted the carriage again without having a packet of the well-known aspect, ready scaled and corded, and addressed to his printer in Edinburgh. I used to suspect that he had adopted in his latter years the plan of writing everything on paper of the quarto form, in place of the folio which he at an earlier period used, chiefly because in this way, whatever he was writing, and wherever he wrote, he might seem to casual observers to be merely engaged upon a common letter; and the rapidity of his execution, taken with the shape of his sheet, has probably deceived hundreds; but when he had finished his two or three letters, St Ronan's Well, or whatever was in hand, had made a chapter in advance.
The novel just mentioned was published in December, and in its English reception there was another falling off, which of course somewhat dispirited the bookseller for the moment. Scotch readers in general dissented stoutly from this judgment, alleging (as they might well do) that Meg Dods deserved a place by the side of Monkbarns, Bailie Jarvie, and Captain Dalgetty;---that no one, who had lived in the author's own country, could hesitate to recognise vivid and happy portraitures in Tenchwood, MacTurk, and the recluse minister of St Ronan's;---that the descriptions of natural scenery might rank with any he had given;---and, finally, that the whole character of Clara Mowbray, but especially its development in the third volume, formed an original creation, destined to be classed by posterity with the highest efforts of tragic romance. Some Edinburgh critics, however---(both talkers and writers)---received with considerable grudgings certain sarcastic shetches of the would-be-fine life of the watering-place sketches which their Southern brethren had kindly suggested _might_ be drawn from _Northern_ observation, but could never appear better than fantastic caricatures to any person who had visited even a third-rate English resort of the same nominal class. There is no doubt that the author dashed off these minor personages with, in the painter's phrase, _a rich brush;_ but I must confess my belief that they have far more truth about them than his countrymen seemed at the time willing to allow; and that while the Continent was shut, as it was in the days of Sir Walter's youthful wanderings, a trip to such a sequestrated place as Gilsland, or Moffat, or Innerleithen---(almost as inaccessible to London duns and bailiffs as the Isle of Man was then, or as Boulogne and Dieppe are now)---may have supplied the future novelist's note-book with authentic materials even for such worthies as Sir Bingo and Lady Binks, Dr Quackleben, and Mr Winterblossom. It should moreover be borne in mind, that during our insular blockade, northern watering-places were not alone favoured by the resort of questionable characters from the south. The comparative cheapness of living, and especially of education, procured for Sir Walter's ``own romantic town'' a constant succession of such visitants, so long as they could have no access to the _tables d'h<o^>te_ and dancing-masters of the Continent. When I first mingled in the society of Edinburgh, it abounded with English, broken in character and in fortune, who found a mere title (even a baronet's one) of consequence enough to obtain for them, from the proverbially cautious Scotch, a degree of attention to which they had long been unaccustomed nearer home; and I heard many name, when the novel was new, a booby of some rank, in whom they recognised a sufficiently accurate prototype for Sir Bingo.
Sir Walter had shewn a remarkable degree of good-nature in the completion of this novel. When the end came in view, James Ballantyne suddenly took vast alarm about a particular feature in the history of the heroine. In the original conception, and in the book as actually written and printed, Miss Mowbray's mock marriage had not halted at the profaned ceremony of the church; and the delicate printer shrunk from the idea of obtruding on the fastidious public the possibility of any personal contamination having been incurred by a high-born damsel of the nineteenth century. Scott was at first inclined to dismiss his friend's scruples as briefly as he had done those of Blackwood in the case of the Black Dwarf:---``You would never have quarrelled with it,'' he said, ``had the thing happened to a girl in gingham:---the silk petticoat can make little difference.'' James reclaimed with double energy, and called Constable to the rescue;---and after some pause, the author very reluctantly consented to cancel and re-write about twenty-four pages, which was enough to obliterate to a certain extent the dreaded scandal---and in a similar degree, as he always persisted, to perplex and weaken the course of his narrative and the dark effect of its catastrophe.
Whoever might take offence with different parts of the book, it was rapturously hailed by the inhabitants of Innerleithen, who immediately identified the most striking of its localities with those of their own pretty village and picturesque neighbourhood, and foresaw in this celebration a chance of restoring the popularity of their long neglected _Well;_---to which Scott had occasionally escorted his mother and sister in the days of boyhood. The notables of the little town voted by acclamation that the old name of Innerleithen should be, as far as possible, dropped thenceforth, and that of St Ronan's adopted. Nor were they mistaken in their auguries. An unheard-of influx of water-bibbers forthwith crowned their hopes; and spruce _hottles_ and huge staring lodging-houses soon arose to disturb wofully every association that had induced Sir Walter to make Innerleithen the scene of a romance. Nor were they who profited by these invasions of the _genius loci_ at all sparing in their demonstrations of gratitude;---the traveller reads on the corner of every new erection there, _Abbotsford Place, Waverley Row, The Marmion Hotel,_ or some inscription of the like coinage.
Among other consequences of the revived fame of the place, a yearly festival was instituted for the celebration of _The St Ronan's Border Games._ A club of _Bowmen of the Border,_ arrayed in doublets of Lincoln green, with broad blue bonnets, and having the Ettrick Shepherd for Captain, assumed the principal management of this exhibition; and Scott was well pleased to be enrolled among them, and during several years was a regular attendant, both on the Meadow, where (besides archery) leaping, racing, wrestling, stone-heaving, and hammer-throwing, went on opposite to the noble old Castle of Traquair, and at the subsequent banquet, where Hogg in full costume always presided as master of the ceremonies. A gayer spectacle than that of _The St Ronan's Games_ in those days could not well have been desired. The Shepherd, even when on the verge of threescore, seldom failed to carry off some of the prizes, to the astonishment of his vanquished juniors; and the _bon-vivants_ of Edinburgh mustered strong among the gentry and yeomanry of Tweeddale to see him afterwards in his glory filling the president's chair with eminent success, and commonly supported on this---which was, in fact, the grandest evening of his year---by Sir Walter Scott, Professor Wilson, Sir Adam Fergusson, and _Peter_ Robertson.
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