Immediately on the conclusion of St Ronan's Well, Sir Walter began _Redgauntlet;_---but it had made consideraable progress at press before Constable and Ballantyne could persuade him to substitute that title for _Herries._ The book was published in June 1824, and was received at the time somewhat coldly, though it has since, I believe, found more justice. The r<e:>introduction of the adventurous hero of 1745, in the dulness and dimness of advancing age and fortunes hopelessly blighted---and the presenting him---with whose romantic portraiture at an earlier period historical truth had been so admirably blended---as the moving principle of events, not only entirely, but notoriously imaginary---this was a rash experiment, and could not fail to suggest disadvantageous comparisons; yet, had there been no Waverley, I am persuaded the fallen and faded Ascanius of Redauntlet would have been universally pronounced a masterpiece. About the secondary personages there could be little ground for controversy. What novel or drama has surpassed the grotesquely ludicrous, dashed with the profound pathos, of Peter Peebles---the most tragic of farces?---or the still sadder merriment of that human shipwreck, Nantie Ewart---or Wandering Willie---and his Tale---the wildest and most rueful of dreams told by such a person, and in such a dialect? With posterity, even apart from these grand features, this novel will yield in interest to none of the series; for it contains perhaps more of _Allan Fairford's_ personal experiences than any other of them, or even than all the rest put together.
This year---_mirabile dictu!_---produced but one novel; and it is not impossible that the author had taken deeply into his mind, though he would not _immediately_ act upon them, certain hints about the danger of ``overcropping,'' which have been alluded. to as dropping from his publishers in 1823. He had, however, a labour of some weight to go through in a second edition of his Swift. The additions to this reprint were numerous, and he corrected his notes, and the Life of the Dean throughout, with care. He also threw off several reviews and other petty miscellanies--- among the rest his memorable tribute to the memory of Lord Byron, written immediately after the news of the catastrophe at Missolonghi reached him.
The arrangement of his library and museum was, however, the main care of the summer; and his woods were now in such a state that his most usual exercise out of doors was thinning them. He was an expert as well as powerful wielder of the axe, and competed with his ablest subalterns as to the paucity of blows by which a tree could be brought down. The wood rang ever and anon with laughter while he shared their labours; and if he had taken, as he every now and then did, a whole day with them, they were sure to be invited home to Abbotsford, to sup gaily at Tom Purdie's. One of Sir Walter's transatlantic admirers, by the way, sent him a complete assortment of the tools employed in clearing the Back-woods, and both he and Tom made efforts to attain dexterity in using them; but neither succeeded. The American axe, having a longer shaft than ours, and a much smaller and narrower cutting-piece, was, in Tom's opinion, only fit for paring a _kebbuck_ (_i. e._ a cheese of skimmed milk). The old fashioned weapon was soon resumed, and the belt that bore it had accommodation also for a chissel, a hammer, and a small saw. Among all the numberless portraits, why was there not one representing the ``Belted Knight,'' accoutred with these appurtenances of his forest-craft, jogging over the heather on a breezy morning with Thomas at his stirrup, and Maida stalking in advance?
Notwithstanding numberless letters to Terry about his upholstery, the far greater part of it was manufactured at home. The most of the articles from London were only models for the use of two or three neat-handed carpenters whom he had discovered in the villages near him; and he watched and directed their operations as carefully as a George Bullock could have done; and the results were such as even Bullock might have admired. The great table in the library, for example (a most complex and beautiful one), was done entirely in the room where it now stands, by Joseph Shillinglaw of Darnick---the Sheriff planning and studying every turn as zealously as ever an old lady pondered the development of an embroidered cushion. The hangings and curtains, too, were chiefly the work of a little hunch-backed tailor, by name _William_ Goodfellow--- (save at Abbotsford, where he answered to _Robin_)---who occupied a cottage on Scott's farm of the Broomielees; one of the race who creep from homestead to homestead, welcomed wherever they appear by housewife and handmaiden, the great gossips and newsmen of the parish,---in Scottish nomenclature _cardooers._ Proudly and earnestly did all these vassals toil in his service; and I think it was one of them that, when some stranger asked a question about his personal demeanour, answered in these simple words--- ``Sir Walter speaks to every man as if they were blood-relations.'' Not long after he had completed his work at Abbotsford, little Goodfellow fell sick, and as his cabin was near Chiefswood, I had many opportunities of observing the Sheriff's kind attention to him in his affliction. I can never forget the evening on which the poor tailor died. When Scott entered the hovel he found everything silent, and inferred from the looks of the good women in attendance that their patient had fallen asleep, and that they feared his sleep was the final one. He murmured some syllables of kind regret;---at the sound of his voice the dying tailor unclosed his eyes, and eagerly and wistfully sat up, clasping his hands with an expression of rapturous gratefulness and devotion, that, in the midst of deformity, disease, pain, and wretchedness, was at once beautiful and sublime. He cried with a loud voice, ``The Lord bless and reward you!'' and expired with the effort.
In the painting too Sir Walter personally directed everything. He abominated the commonplace daubing of walls, panels, doors, and window-boards, with coats of white, blue, or grey, and thought that sparklings and edgings of gilding only made their baldness and poverty more noticeable. Except in the drawing-room, which he abandoned to Lady Scott's taste, all the roofs were in appearance at least of antique carved oak, relieved by coats of arms duly blazoned at the intersections of beams, and resting on cornices to the eye of the same material, but composed of casts in plaster of Paris, after the foliage, the flowers, the grotesque monsters and dwarfs, and sometimes the beautiful heads of nuns and confessors, on which he had doated from infancy among the cloisters of Melrose and Roslin. In the painting of these things, also, he had instruments who considered it as a labour of love. The master-limner, in particular (Mr D. R. Hay), had a devoted attachment to his person; and this was not wonderful, for he, in fact, owed a prosperous fortune to Scott's kind and sagacious counsel tendered at the very outset of his career. As a printer's apprentice, he had attracted notice by his attempts with the pencil, and Sir Walter was called upon, after often admiring his skill in representing dogs and horses and the like, to assist him with his advice, as ambition had been stirred, and the youth would fain give himself to the regular training of an artist. Scott took him into his room, and conversed with him at some length. He explained the difficulties and perils of this aspiring walk; and ended with saying, ``It has often struck me that some clever fellow might make a good hit, if, in place of enrolling himself among the future Raphaels and Vandykes of the Royal Academy, he should resolutely set himself to introducing something of a more elegant style of house-painting.''
Meantime, the progress of Abbotsford stimulated both friends and strangers to contribute articles of curiosity towards its adornment. Mr Train's gift of this year was a handsome chair made from the oak of the house of Robroyston, the traditionary scene of the betrayal of Wallace by Menteith. This Sir Walter placed in his own _sanctum:_ where there was no other chair but the one on which he sat at work. But the arrivals were endless: among the rest came, I think within the same week, a copy of Montfau<c,>on's Antiquities, in fifteen volumes folio, richly bound in scarlet, the gift of King George IV., and a set of the Variorum Classics, in a hundred and forty volumes, together with a couple of really splendid carved chairs, the spoils of some Venetian palace, from Mr Constable. These were his tokens of gratitude, by the way, for the MSS. of the Novels, which, on Lord Kinnedder's death, Scott drew from that friend's secret repositories, and transferred, with strict injunctions of watchfulness, to his delighted publisher.
Towards the close of this year, Sir Walter heard of the death of his dear brother Thomas, whose only son had been for some time domesticated at Abbotsford. In October, his own son Charles began his residence at Brazen-nose College, Oxford. The adoption of this plan implied finally dropping an appointment in the civil service of the East-India Company, which had been placed at his disposal by Lord Bathurst in 1820; a step which, were there any doubt on that subject, would alone be sufficient to prove that the young gentleman's father at this time considered his own worldly fortunes as in a highly prosperous situation. A writership in India is early independence;--- in the case of a son of Scott, so conducting himself as not to discredit the name he inherited, it could hardly have failed to be early wealth. And Sir Walter was the last man to deprive his boy of such safe and easy prospects of worldly advantage, turning him over to the precarious chances of a learned profession in Great Britain, unless in the confidence that his own resources were so great as to render ultimate failure in such a career a matter of no primary importance.
By Christmas the Tales of the Crusaders were began, and Abbotsford was at last rid of carpenters and upholsterers. Young Walter arrived to see his father's house complete, and filled with a larger company than it could ever before accommodate. One of the guests was Captain Basil Hall, always an agreeable one: a traveller and a _savant,_ full of stories and theories, inexhaustible in spirits, curiosity, and enthusiasm. Sir Walter was surprised and a little annoyed on observing that the Captain kept a note-book on his knee while at table, but made no remark. He kindly allowed me, in 1836, to read his Abbotsford Diaries, &c., and make what use of them I might then think proper. On the present occasion I must give but a specimen:--- ``On coming to a broad path in the middle of the woods, we took notice of a finger-post, on which was written `The _Rod_ to Selkirk.' We made some remark about Tom's orthography, upon which he laughed, and said that that finger-post had gained him great popularity in the neighbourhood. `I cannot say,' he remarked, `that I had any such view when I ordered it to be put up. The public road, it is true, is not far off, and this leads through the very centre of my grounds, but I never could bring myself to make that a reason for excluding any person who finds it agreeable or advantageous to take over the hill if he likes. But although my practice in this respect had always been well known, the actual admission of it, the avowed establishment of it as a sort of right, by sticking up the finger-post, was received as a kind of boon, and I got a world of credit for a thing which had certainly not any popularity for its object. Nevertheless,' he continued, `I have no scruple in saying that what I did deserved the good people's acknowledgment; and I seriously disapprove of those proprietors who act on a different principle in these matters. Nothing on earth would induce me to put up boards threatening prosecution, or cautioning one's fellow-creatures to beware of man-traps and spring-guns. I hold that all such things are not only in the highest degree offensive and hurtful to the feelings of people whom it is every way important to conciliate, but that they are also quite inefficient---and I will venture to say, that not one of my young trees has ever been cut, nor a fence trodden down, or any kind of damage done in consequence of the free access which all the world has to my place. Round the house, of course, there is a set of walks set apart and kept private for the ladies---but over all the rest of my land any one may rove as he likes. I please myself with the reflection that many people of taste may be indulging their fancies in these grounds, and I often recollect how much of Burns's inspiration was probably due to his having near him the woods of Ballochinyle to ramble through at his will when he was a ragged callant.' Some one talked of the pains taken to provide the poor with receipts for making good dishes out of their ordinary messes. `I dislike all such interference,' he said---`all your domiciliary, kind, impertinent visits;---they are all pretty much felt like insults, and do no manner of good: let people go on in their own way, in God's name. How would you like to have a nobleman coming to you to teach you how to dish up your beef-steak into a French kickshaw? Let the poor alone in their domestic habits: protect them, treat them kindly, trust them; but let them enjoy in quiet their dish of porridge, and their potatoes and herrings, or whatever it may be---for anysake don't torment them with your fashionable soups. And take care,' he added, `not to give them anything gratis; except when they are under the gripe of immediate misery ---what _they_ think misery---consider it as a sin to do anything that can tend to make them lose the precious feeling of independence. For my part, I very very rarely give anything away. Now, for instance, this pile of branches which has been thinned out this morning, is placed here for sale for the poor people's fires, and I am perfectly certain they are more grateful to me for selling it at the price I do (which, you may be sure, is no great matter), than if I were to give them ten times the quantity for nothing. Every shilling collected in this and other similar manners, goes to a fund which pays the doctor for his attendance on them when they are sick; and this is my notion of charity.' ---`I make not a rule to be on intimate terms,' he told us, `with all my neighbours---that would be an idle thing to do. Some are good---some not so good, and it would be foolish and ineffectual to treat all with the same cordiality; but to live in harmony with all is quite easy, and surely very pleasant. Some of them may be rough and _gruff_ at first, but all men, if kindly used, come about at last, and by going on gently, and never being eager or noisy about what I want, and letting things glide on leisurely, I always find in the end that the object is gained on which I have set my heart, either by exchange or purchase, or by some sort of compromise by which both parties are obliged, and good-will begot if it did not exist before--- strengthened if it did exist.'---I have never seen any person on more delightful terms with his family. The youngest of his nephews and nieces can joke with him, and seem at all times perfectly at ease in his presence---his coming into the room only increases the laugh, and never checks it---he either joins in what is going on or passes. No one notices him any more than if he were one of themselves. These are things which cannot be got up.''
Another entry says ---``Last night there was a dance in honour of Sir Walter Scott's eldest son, who had recently come from Sandhurst College, after having passed through some military examinations with great credit. We had a great clan of Scotts. There wore no less than nine Scotts of Harden, and ten of other families. There were others besides from the neighbourhood---at least half a dozen Fergussons, with the jolly Sir Adam at their head--- Lady Fergusson, her niece Miss Jobson, the pretty heiress of Lochore,'' &c. But with all his acuteness, Hall does not seem to have caught any suspicion of the real purpose and meaning of this ball. That evening was one of the very proudest and happiest in Scott's brilliant existence. Its festivities were held in honour of the young lady, whom the Captain names cursorily as ``the pretty heiress of Lochore.'' It was known to not a few of the party, and I should have supposed it might have been surmised by the rest, that those halls were displayed for the first time in all their splendour, on an occasion not less interesting to the Poet than the conclusion of a treaty of marriage between the heir of his name and fortunes, and the amiable niece of his friends Sir Adam and Lady Fergusson. It was the first regular ball given at Abbotsford, and the last. Nay, I believe nobody has ever danced under that roof since then. I myself never again saw the whole range of apartments thrown open for the reception of company except once--- on the day of Sir Walter Scott's funeral.
The lady's fortune was a handsome one, and her guardians exerted the powers with which they were invested, by requiring that the marriage-contract should settle Abbotsford (with reservation of Sir Walter's own liferent) upon the affianced parties. To this condition he gave a ready assent, and the moment he had signed the deed, he exclaimed---``I have now parted with my lands with more pleasure than I ever derived from the acquisition or possession of them; and if I be spared for ten years, I think I may promise to settle as much more again upon these young folks.'' It was well for himself and his children that his auguries, which failed so miserably as to the matter of worldly wealth, were destined to no disappointment as respected considerations of a higher description.
The marriage took place at Edinburgh on the 3d day of February, and then the young couple left Abbotsford two or three weeks afterwards, Sir Walter promised to visit them at their regimental quarters in Ireland in the course of the summer. Before he fulfilled that purpose he had the additional pleasure of seeing his son gazetted as Captain in the King's Hussars---a step for which Sir Walter advanced the large sum of <L>3500.
In May, Terry, and his able brother comedian, Frederick Yates, entered on a negotiation, which terminated in their becoming joint lessees and managers of the Adelphi Theatre. Terry requested Scott and Ballantyne to assist him on this occasion by some advance of money, or if that should be inconvenient, by the use of their credit. They were both very anxious to serve him; but Sir Walter had a poor opinion of speculations in theatrical property; and, moreover, entertained suspicions, too well justified by the result, that Terry was not much qualified for conducting the pecuniary part of such a business. Ultimately Ballantyne, who shared these scruples, became Terry's security for a considerable sum (I think <L>500), and Sir Walter pledged his credit in like manner to the extent of <L>1250. He had, in the sequel, to pay off both this sum and that for which the printer had engaged.
But at this time the chief subject of concern was a grand scheme of revolution in the whole art and traffic of publishing, which Constable, first opened in detail one Saturday at Abbotsford---none being present except Sir Walter, Ballantyne, and myself. After dinner, there was a little pause of expectation, and the brave schemer suddenly started _in medias res,_ saying:---``Literary genius may, or may not, have done its best; but the trade are in the cradle.'' Scott eyed the florid bookseller's beaming countenance, and the solemn stare with which the equally portly printer was listening, and pushing round the bottles with a hearty chuckle, bade me ``Give our twa _sonsie babbies_ a drap mother's milk.'' Constable sucked in fresh inspiration, and proceeded to say that, wild as we might think him, certain new plans, of which we had all already heard some hints, had been suggested by, and were in fact mainly grounded upon, a sufficiently prosaic authority---namely, the annual schedule of assessed taxes, a copy of which interesting document he drew from his pocket, and substituted for his _D'Oyley._ It was copiously diversified, ``text and margent,'' by figures and calculations in his own handwriting which I for one might have regarded with less reverence, had I known at the time this ``great arithmetician's'' rooted aversion and contempt for all examination of his own balance-sheet. He had, however, taken vast pains to fill in the number of persons who might fairly be supposed to pay the taxes for each separate article of luxury, armorial bearings, hunters, racers, four-wheeled carriages, &c., &c.; and having demonstrated that hundreds of thousands held, as necessary to their comfort and station, articles upon articles of which their forefathers never dreamt, said, that our self-love never deceived us more grossly than when we fancied our notions as to the matter of books had advanced in at all a corresponding proportion. ``On the contrary,'' cried Constable, ``I am satisfied that the demand for Shakspeare's plays, contemptible as we hold it to have been, in the time of Elizabeth and James, was more creditable to the classes who really indulged in any sort of elegance then, than the sale of Childe Harold or Waverley, is to this nineteenth century.''
Scott helped him on by interposing, that at that moment he had a rich valley crowded with handsome houses under his view, and yet much doubted whether any laird within ten miles spent ten pounds per annum on the literature of the day. ``No,'' said Constable, ``there is no market among them that's worth one's thinking about. They are contented with a review or a magazine, or at best with a paltry subscription to some circulating library forty miles off. But if I live for half-a-dozen years, I'll make it as impossible that there should not be a good library in every decent house in Britain as that the shepherd's ingle-nook should want the _saut poke._ Ay, and what's that?'' he continued, warming and puffing; ``why should the ingle-nook itself want a shelf for _the novels?_''---``I see your drift, my man,'' says Sir Walter;---``you're for being like Billy Pitt in Gilray's print---you want to get into the salt-box yourself.''---``Yes,'' he responded (using a favourite adjuration)---``I have hitherto been thinking only of the wax lights, but before I'm a twelvemonth older I shall have my hand upon the tallow.''---``Troth,'' says Scott, ``you are indeed likely to be `The grand Napoleon of the realms of _print._' ''---``If you outlive me,'' says Constable, with a regal smile, ``I bespeak that line for my tomb-stone, but, in the meantime, may I presume to ask you to be my right-hand man when I open my campaign of Marengo? I have now settled my outline of operations---a three shilling or half-crown volume every month, which must and shall sell, not by thousands or tens of thousands, but by hundreds of thousands---ay, by millions! Twelve volumes in the year, a halfpenny of profit upon every copy of which will make me richer than the possession of all the copyrights of all the quartos that ever were, or will be, hot-pressed!--- twelve volumes, so good that millions must wish to have them, and so cheap that every butcher's callant may have them, if he pleases to let me tax him sixpence a-week!''
Many a previous consultation, and many a solitary meditation, too prompted Scott's answer.---``Your plan,'' said he, ``cannot fail, provided the books be really good but you must not start until you have not only leading columns, but depth upon depth of reserve in thorough order. I am willing to do my part in this grand enterprise. Often, of late, have I felt that the vein of fiction was nearly worked out; often, as you all know, have I been thinking seriously of turning my hand to history. I am of opinion that historical writing has no more been adapted to the demands of the increased circles among which literature does already find its way, than you allege as to the shape and price of books in general. What say you to taking the field with a Life of the other Napoleon?''
The reader does not need to be told that the series of cheap volumes, subsequently issued under the title of ``Constable's Miscellany,'' was the scheme on which this great bookseller was brooding. Before he left Abbotsford, it was arranged that the first number of this collection should consist of one half of Waverley; the second, of the first section of a ``Life of Napoleon Bonaparte by the author of Waverley;'' that this Life should be comprised in four of these numbers; and that, until the whole series of his novels had been issued, a volume every second month, in this new and uncostly form, he should keep the Ballantyne press going with a series of historical works, to be issued on the alternate months.
Some circumstances in the progress of the Tales of the Crusaders, now on the eve of publication, must have been uppermost in Scott's mind when he met Constable's proposals with so much alacrity. The story of _The Betrothed_ ---(to which he was mainly prompted by the lively conversation on Welsh antiquities of Archdeacon Williams)---found no favour as it advanced with Ballantyne; and so heavily did his critical remonstrances weigh on the author, that he at length determined to cancel it for ever. The tale, however, all but a chapter or two, had been printed off, and both publisher and printer paused about committing such a mass to the games. The sheets were hung up meanwhile, and Scott began The Talisman---of which also James criticised the earlier chapters in such a strain that Scott was deeply vexed. ``Is it wise,'' he wrote, ``to mend a dull overloaded fire by heaping on a shovelful of wet coals?'' and hinted some doubts whether he should proceed. He did so, however; the critical printer by degrees warmed to the story, and he at last pronounced The Talisman such a masterpiece, that The Betrothed might venture abroad under its wing. Sir Walter was now reluctant on that subject, and said he would rather write two more new novels than the few pages necessary to complete his unfortunate Betrothed. But while he hesitated, the German newspapers announced ``_a new romance by the author of Waverley_'' as about to issue from the press of Leipsig. There was some ground for suspecting that a set of the suspended sheets might have been purloined and sold to a pirate, and this consideration put an end to his scruples. And when the German did publish the fabrication, entitled _Walladmor,_ it could no longer be doubtful that some reader of Scott's sheets had communicated at least the fact that he was breaking ground in Wales. Early in June, then, the Tales of the Crusaders were put forth; and, as Mr Ballantyne had predicted, the brightness of the Talisman dazzled the eyes of the million as to the defects of the twin-story. Few of these publications had a more enthusiastic greeting; and Scott's literary plans were, as the reader will see reason to infer, considerably modified in consequence of the new burst of applause which attended the brilliant procession of his Saladin and C<oe>ur de Lion.
To return for a moment to our merry conclave at Abbotsford. Constable's vast chapter of embryo schemes was discussed more leisurely on the following Monday morning, when we drove to the crags of Smailholm. and the Abbey of Dryburgh, both poet and publisher talking over the past and the future course of their lives, and agreeing, as far as I could penetrate, that the years to come were likely to be more prosperous than any they had as yet seen. In the evening, too, this being his friend's first visit since the mansion had been completed, Scott (though there were no ladies and few servants) had the hall and library lighted up, that he might shew him everything to the most sparkling advantage. With what serenity did he walk about those apartments, handling books, expounding armour and pictures, and rejoicing in the Babylon which he had built!
He began, without delay, what was meant to be a very short preliminary sketch of the French Revolution, prior to the appearance of his hero upon the scene of action. This, he thought, might be done almost _currente calamo;_ for his recollection of all the great events as they occurred was vivid, and he had not failed to peruse every book of any considerable importance on these subjects as it issued from the press. He apprehended the necessity, on the other hand, of more laborious study in the way of reading than he had for many years had occasion for, before he could enter with advantage upon Buonaparte's military career; and Constable accordingly set about collecting a new library of printed materials, which continued from day to day pouring in upon him, till his little parlour in Castle Street looked more like an auctioneer's premises than an author's. The first waggon delivered itself of about a hundred huge folios of the Moniteur; and London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels, were all laid under contribution to meet the bold demands of his purveyor.
In the meantime he advanced with his Introduction and, catching fire as the theme expanded before him, had so soon several chapters in his desk, without having travelled over half the ground assigned for them, that Constable saw it would be in vain to hope for the completion of the work within four duodecimos. They resolved that it should be published, in the first instance, as a separate book, in four volumes of the same size with the Tales of the Crusaders, but with more pages and more letterpress to each page. Scarcely had this been settled before it became obvious, that four such volumes would never suffice; and the number was week after week extended---with corresponding alterations as to the rate of the author's payment. Constable still considered the appearance of the second edition of the Life of Napoleon in his Miscellany as the great point on which the fortunes of that undertaking were to turn; and its commencement was in consequence adjourned; which, however, must have been the case at any rate, as the stock of the Novels was greater than he had calculated; and some interval must elapse, before, with fairness to the retail trade, he could throw that long series into any cheaper form.
Before the Court rose in July, Sir Walter had made considerable progress in his Sketch of the French Revolution; but it was agreed that he should make his promised excursion to Ireland before any MS. went to the printers. He had seen no more of the sister island than Dunluce and the Giant's Causeway; his curiosity about the scenery and the people was lively; and besides the great object of seeing his son and daughter-in-law under their own roof, and the scarcely inferior pleasure of another meeting with Miss Edgeworth, he looked forward to renewing his acquaintance with several accomplished persons who had been serviceable to him in his labours upon Swift. But, illustriously as Ireland has contributed to the English Library, he had always been accustomed to hear that almost no books were now published there, and fewer sold than in any other country calling itself civilized; and he had naturally concluded that apathy and indifference prevailed as to literature itself, and of course as to literary men. He had not, therefore, formed the remotest anticipation of the kind of reception which awaited him. Miss Anne Scott and myself accompanied him. We left Edinburgh on the 8th of July in a light open carriage, and embarked at Glasgow for Belfast. The steam-boat, besides a crowd of passengers of all possible classes, was lumbered with a cargo offensive enough to the eye and the nostrils, but still more disagreeable from the anticipations and reflections it could not fail to suggest. Hardly had our carriage been lashed on the deck before it disappeared from our view amidst mountainous packages of old clothes;---the cast of raiment of the Scotch beggars was on its way to a land where beggary is the staple of life. A voyage down the Firth of Clyde, however, is enough to make anybody happy: nowhere can the home tourist, at all events, behold, in the course of one day, such a succession and variety of beautiful, romantic, and majestic scenery: on one hand, dark mountains and castellated shores---on the other, rich groves and pastures, interspersed with elegant villas and thriving towns---the bright estuary between, alive with shipping, and diversified with islands. It may be supposed how delightful such a voyage was in a fine day of July, with Scott, always as full of glee on any trip as a schoolboy; crammed with all the traditions and legends of every place we passed; and too happy to pour them out for the entertainment of his companions on deck. After dinner, too, he was the charm of the table. A worthy old Bailie of Glasgow sat by him, and shared fully in the general pleasure; though his particular source of interest and satisfaction was, that he had got into such close quarters with a live Sheriff and Clerk of Session,---and this gave him the opportunity of discussing sundry knotty points of police law, as to which our steerage passengers might perhaps have been more curious than most of those admitted to the symposium of the cabin. Sir Walter, however, was as ready for the rogueries of the Broomielaw, as for the mystic antiquities of Balclutha, or the discomfiture of the Norsemen at Largs, or Bruce's adventures in Arran. The Bailie insisted for a second bowl of punch, and volunteered to be the manufacturer; ``for,'' quoth he slily, ``I am reckoned a fair hand, though not equal to _my father the deacon._'' Scott smiled in acquiescence.
We reached Belfast next morning. When we halted at Drogheda, a retired officer of dragoons, discovering that the party was Sir Walter's, sent in his card, with a polite offer to attend him over the field of the battle of the Boyne, about two miles of, which of course was accepted;---Sir Walter rejoicing the veteran's heart by his vigorous recitation of the famous ballad (_The crossing of the Water_), as we proceeded to the ground, and the eager and intelligent curiosity with which he received his explanations of it.
On Thursday the 14th we reached Dublin in time for dinner, and found young Walter and his bride established in one of those large and noble houses in St Stephen's Green (the most extensive square in Europe), the founders of which little dreamt that they should ever be let at an easy rate as garrison lodgings. Never can I forget the fond joy and pride with which Sir Walter looked round him, as he sat for the first time at his son's table. I could not but recall Pindar's lines, in which, wishing to paint the gentlest rapture of felicity, he describes an old man with a foaming wine-cup in his hand at his child's wedding-feast.
In the evening arrived a deputation from the Royal Society of Dublin, inviting Sir Walter to a public dinner; and next morning he found on his breakfast-table a letter from the Provost of Trinity College (Dr Kyle, afterwards Bishop of Cork), announcing that the University desired to pay him the high compliment of a degree of Doctor of Laws by _diploma._ The Archbishop of Dublin (Dr Magee) was among the earliest of his visitors; another was the Right Honourable Anthony Blake, who was the bearer of a message from the Marquis Wellesley, then Lord-Lieutenant, inviting him to dine next day at his Excellency's country residence, Malahide Castle. It would be endless to enumerate the distinguished persons who, morning after morning, crowded his _levee_ in St Stephen's Green. The courts of law were not then sitting and most of the judges were out of town; but all the other great functionaries, and the leading noblemen and gentlemen of the city and its neighbourhood, of whatever sect or party, hastened to tender every conceivable homage and hospitality. But all this was less surprising to the companions of his journey (though, to say the truth, we had, no more than himself, counted on such eager enthusiasm among any class of Irish society), than the demonstrations of respect which, after the first day or two, awaited him, wherever he moved, at the hands of the less elevated orders of the Dublin population. If his carriage was recognised at the door of any public establishment, the street was sure to be crowded before he came out again, so as to make his departure as slow as a procession. When he entered a street, the watchword was passed down both sides like lightning, and the shopkeepers and their wives stood bowing and curtseying all the way down.
From Dublin, we made an excursion of some days into Wicklow, halting for a night at the villa of the Surgeon-General, Sir Philip Crampton, who kindly did the honours of Lough Breagh and the Dargle; and then for two or three at Old Connaught, near Bray, the seat of the Attorney-General, afterwards Lord Plankett. Here there was a large and brilliant party assembled; and from hence, under the guidance of Mr Attorney and his amiable family, we perambulated to all possible advantage the classical resorts of the Devil's Glyn, Rosanna, Kilruddery, and Glendalough, with its seven churches, and _St Kevin's Bed_---the scene of the fate of Cathleen, celebrated in Moore's ballad---
``By that lake whose gloomy shore Skylark never warbles o'er,'' &c.
It is a hole in the sheer surface of the rock, in which two or three people might sit. The difficulty of getting into this place has been exaggerated, as also the danger, for it would only be falling thirty or forty feet into very deep water. Yet I never was more pained than when Scott, in spite of all remonstrances, would make his way to it, crawling along the precipice. After he was gone, Plunkett told the female guide he was a poet. Cathleen treated this with indignation, as a quiz of Mr Attorney's.---``_Poet?_'' said she; ``the devil a bit of him---but an honourable gentleman: he gave me half-a-crown.''
On the 1st of August we proceeded from Dublin to Edgeworthstown, the party being now reinforced by Captain and Mrs Scott, and also by the delightful addition of the Surgeon-General. A happy meeting it was: we remained there for several days, making excursions to Loch Oel and other scenes of interest in Longford and the adjoining counties; the gentry everywhere exerting themselves with true Irish zeal to signalize their affectionate pride in their illustrious countrywoman, and their appreciation of her guest; while her brother, Mr Lovell Edgeworth, had his classical mansion filled every evening with a succession of distinguished friends, the _<e'>lite_ of Ireland. Here, above all, we had the opportunity of seeing in what universal respect and comfort a gentleman's family may live in that country, and in far from its most favoured district, provided only they live there habitually, and do their duty as the friends and guardians of those among whom Providence has appointed their proper place. Here we found neither mud hovels nor naked peasantry, but snug cottages and smiling faces all about. Here there was a very large school in the village, of which masters and pupils were in a nearly equal proportion Protestants and Roman Catholics---the Protestant squire himself making it a regular part of his daily business to visit the scene of their operations, and strengthen authority and enforce discipline by his personal superintendence. It is a curious enough coincidence that Oliver Goldsmith and Maria Edgeworth should both have derived their early love and knowledge of Irish character and manners from the same identical district. He received part of his education at this very school of Edgeworthstown; and Pallasmore (the _locus cui nomen est Pallas_ of Johnson's epitaph), the little hamlet where the author of the Vicar of Wakefield first saw the light, is still, as it was in his time, the property of the Edgeworths. It may well be imagined with what lively interest Sir Walter surveyed the scenery with which so many of the proudest recollections of Ireland must ever be associated, and how curiously he studied the rural manners it presented to him, in the hope (not disappointed) of being able to trace some of his friend's bright creations to their first hints and germs. On the delight with which he contemplated her position in the midst ofher own domestic circle, I need say still less. The reader is aware by this time how deeply he condemned and pitied the conduct and fate of those who, gifted with pr<e:>eminent talents for the instruction and entertainment of their species at large, fancy themselves entitled to neglect those every-day duties and charities of life, from the mere shadowing of which in imaginary pictures the genius of poetry and romance has always reaped its highest and purest, perhaps its only true and immortal honours. In Maria he hailed a sister spirit---one who, at the summit of literary fame, took the same modest, just, and, let me add, _Christian_ view of the relative importance of the feelings, the obligations, and the hopes in which we are all equally partakers, and those talents and accomplishments which may seem, to vain and short-sighted eyes, sufficient to constitute their possessors into an order and species apart from the rest of their kind. Such fantastic conceits found no shelter with either of these powerful minds. I was then a young man, and I cannot forget how much I was struck at the time by some words that fell from one of them, when, in the course of a walk in the park at Edgeworthstown, I happened to use some phrase which conveyed (though not perhaps meant to do so) the impression that I suspected Poets and Novelists of being a good deal accustomed to look at life and the world only as materials for art. A soft and pensive shade came over Scott's face as he said---``I fear you have some very young ideas in your head:---are you not too apt to measure things by some reference to literature---to disbelieve that anybody can be worth much care, who has no knowledge of that sort of thing, or taste for it? God help us! what a poor world this would be if that were the true doctrine! I have read books enough, and observed and conversed with enough of eminent and splendidly cultivated minds, too, in my time; but I assure you, I have heard higher sentiments from the lips of poor _uneducated_ men and women, when exerting the spirit of severe yet gentle heroism under difficulties and afflictions, or speaking their simple thoughts as to circumstances in the lot of friends and neighbours, than I ever yet met with out of the pages of the Bible. We shall never learn to feel and respect our real calling and destiny, unless we have taught ourselves to consider everything as moonshine, compared with the education of the heart.'' Maria did not listen to this without some water in her eyes---(her tears are always ready when any generous string is touched;---for, as Pope says, ``the finest minds, like the finest metals, dissolve the easiest;'')---but she brushed them gaily aside, and said, ``You see how it is---Dean Swift said he had written his books in order that people might learn to treat him like a great lord---Sir Walter writes his in order that he may be able to treat his people as a great lord ought to do.''
Lest I should forget to mention it, I put down here a rebuke which, later in his life, Sir Walter once gave in my hearing to his daughter Anne. She happened to say of something, I forget what, that she could not abide it---it was _vulgar._ ``My love,'' said her father, ``you speak like a very young lady; do you know, after all, the meaning of this word _vulgar?_ 'Tis only _common;_ nothing that is common, except wickedness, can deserve to be spoken of in a tone of contempt; and when you have lived to my years, you will be disposed to agree with me in thanking God that nothing really worth having or caring about in this world is _uncommon._''
Miss Edgeworth, her sister Harriet, and her brother William, were easily persuaded to join our party for the rest of our Irish travels. We were anxious to make the best of our way to the Lakes of Killarney; but posting was not to be very rapidly accomplished in those regions by so large a company as had now collected---and we were more agreeably delayed by the hospitalities of Miss Edgeworth's old friends, and Sir Walter's new ones, at various mansions on our line of route---of which I must note especially Judge Moore's, at Lamberton, near Maryborough, because Sir Walter pronounced its beneficence to be even beyond the usual Irish scale; for, on reaching our next halting place, which was an indifferent country inn, we discovered that we need be in no alarm as to our dinner at all events, the Judge's people having privately packed up in one of the carriages, a pickled salmon, a most lordly venison pasty, and half-a-dozen bottles of champaign. But most of these houses seemed, like the Judge's, to have been constructed on the principle of the Peri Banou's tent. They seemed to have room not only for the lion and lioness, and their respective tails, but for all in the neighbourhood who could be held worthy to inspect them at feeding-time.
It was a succession of festive gaiety wherever we halted; and in the course of our movements we saw many castles, churches, and ruins of all sorts---with more than enough of mountain, wood, lake, and river, to have made a similar progress in perhaps any other part of Europe truly delightful. But those to whom the south of Ireland was new, had almost continually before them spectacles of abject misery, which robbed these things of more than half their charm. Sir Walter, indeed, with the habitual hopefulness of his temper, persisted that what he saw even in Kerry was better than what books had taught him to expect; and insured, therefore, that improvement, however slow, was going on. But, ever and anon, as we moved deeper into the country, there was a melancholy in his countenance, and, despite himself, in the tone of his voice, which I for one could not mistake. The constant passings and repassings of bands of mounted policemen, armed to the teeth, and having quite the air of highly disciplined soldiers on sharp service;---the rueful squalid poverty that crawled by every way-side, and blocked up every village where we had to change horses, with exhibitions of human suffering and degradation, such as it had never entered into our heads to conceive;---and, above all, the contrast between these naked clamorous beggars, who seemed to spring out of the ground at every turn like swarms of vermin, and the boundless luxury and merriment surrounding the thinly scattered magnates who condescended to inhabit their ancestral seats, would have been sufficient to poison those landscapes, had nature dressed them out in the verdure of Arcadia, and art embellished them with all the temples and palaces of Old Rome and Athens. It is painful enough even to remember such things; but twenty years can have had but a trifling change in the appearance of a country which, so richly endowed by Providence with every element of wealth and happiness, could, at so advanced a period of European civilization, sicken the heart of the stranger by such wide-spread manifestations of the wanton and reckless profligacy of human mismanagement, the withering curse of feuds and factions, and the tyrannous selfishness of absenteeism; and I fear it is not likely that any contemporary critic will venture to call my melancholy picture overcharged. A few blessed exceptions---such an aspect of ease and decency, for example, as we met everywhere on the vast domain of the Duke of Devonshire---served only to make the sad reality of the rule more flagrant and appalling.
There were, however, abundance of ludicrous incidents to break this gloom; and no traveller ever tasted either the humours or the blunders of Paddy more heartily than did Sir Walter. I find recorded in one letter a very merry morning at Limerick, where, amidst the ringing of all the bells, in honour of the advent, there was ushered in a brother-poet, who must needs pay his personal respects to the author of Marmion. He was a scare-crow figure--- by name O'Kelly; and he had produced on the spur of the occasion this modest parody of Dryden's famous epigram:---
``Three poets, of three different nations born, The United Kingdom in this age adorn; Byron of England, Scott of Scotia's blood, And Erin's pride---O'Kelly great and good.''
Sir Walter's five shillings were at once forthcoming; and the bard, in order that Miss Edgeworth might display equal generosity, pointed out, in a little volume of his works (for which, moreover, we had all to subscribe), this pregnant couplet---
``Scott, Morgan, Edgeworth, Byron, prop of Greece, Are characters whose fame not soon will cease.''
We were still more amused (though there was real misery in the case) with what befel on our approach to a certain pretty seat, in a different county, where there was a collection of pictures and curiosities not usually shewn to travellers. A gentleman, whom we had met in Dublin, had been accompanying us part of the day's journey, and volunteered, being acquainted with the owner, to procure us easy admission. At the entrance of the domain, to which we proceeded under his wing, we were startled by the dolorous apparition of two undertaker's men, in voluminous black scarfs, though there was little or nothing of black about the rest of their habiliments, who sat upon the highway before the gate, with a whisky-bottle on a deal-table between them. They informed us that the master of the house had died the day before, and that they were to keep watch and ward in this style until the funeral, inviting all Christian passengers to drink a glass to his repose. Our cicerone left his card for the widow---having previously, no doubt, written on it the names of his two lions. Shortly after we regained our post-house, he received a polite answer from the lady. To the best of my memory it was in these terms:---``Mrs ------ presents her kind compliments to Mr ------, and much regrets that she cannot shew the pictures to-day, as Major ------ died yesterday evening by apoplexy; which Mrs ------ the more regrets, as it will prevent her having the honour to see Sir Walter Scott and Miss Edgeworth.'' Sir Walter said it reminded him of a woman in Fife, who, summing up the misfortunes of a black year in her history, said--- ``Let me see, sirs; first we lost our wee callant---and then Jenny---and then the gudeman himsel died---and then the _coo_ died too, poor hizzey; but, to be sure, her hide brought me fifteen shillings.''
At one county gentleman's table where we dined, though two grand full-length daubs of William and Mary adorned the walls of the room, there was a mixed company---about as many Catholics as Protestants, all apparently on cordial terms, and pledging each other lustily in bumpers of capital claret. About an hour after dinner, however, punch was called for; tumblers and jugs of hot water appeared, and with them two magnums of whisky---the one bearing on its label =King's,= the other =Queen's.= We did not at first understand these inscriptions; but it was explained, _sotto voce,_ that the King's had paid the duty, the Queen's was of contraband origin; and, in the choice of liquors, we detected a new shibboleth of party. The jolly Protestants to a man stuck to the King's bottle---the equally radiant Papists paid their duty to the Queen's.
Since I have alluded at all to the then grand dispute, I may mention, that, after our tour was concluded, we considered with some wonder that. having partaken liberally of Catholic hospitality and encountered almost every other class of society, we had not sat at meat with one specimen of the Romish priesthood; whereas, even at Popish tables, we had met dignitaries of the Established Church. This circumstance we set down at the time as amounting pretty nearly to a proof that there were few gentlemen in that order; but we afterwards were willing to suspect that a prejudice of their own had been the source of it. The only incivility, which Sir Walter Scott ultimately discovered himself to have encountered---(for his friends did not allow him to hear of it at the time)---in the course of his Irish peregrination, was the refusal of a Roman Catholic gentleman, named O'Connell, who kept stag-hounds near Killarney, to allow of a hunt on the upper lake, the day he visited that beautiful scenery. This he did, as we were told, because he considered it as a notorious fact, that Sir Walter Scott was an enemy to the Roman Catholic claims for admission to seats in Parliament. He was entirely mistaken, however; for, though no man disapproved of Romanism as a system of faith and practice more sincerely than Sir Walter always did, he had long before this period formed the opinion, that no good could come of farther resistance to the claim in question. He on all occasions expressed manfully his belief, that the best thing for Ireland would have been never to relax the strictly _political_ enactments of the penal laws, however harsh these might appear. Had they been kept in vigour for another half century, it was his conviction that Popery would have been all but extinguished in Ireland. But he thought that, after admitting Romanists to the elective franchise, it was a vain notion that they could be permanently or advantageously debarred from using that franchise in favour of those of their own persuasion. The greater part of the charming society into which he fell while in Ireland, entertained views and sentiments very likely to confirm these impressions; and it struck me that considerable pains were taken to enforce them. It was felt, probably, that the crisis of decision drew near; and there might be a natural anxiety to secure the suffrage of the great writer of the time.
Having crossed the hills from Killarney to Cork, where a repetition of the Dublin reception---corporation honours, deputations of the literary and scientific societies, and so forth---awaited him, he gave a couple of days to the hospitality of this flourishing town, and the beautiful scenery of the Lee; not forgetting an excursion to the groves of Blarney, among whose shades we had a right mirthful picnic. Sir Walter scrambled up to the top of the castle, and kissed, with due faith and devotion, the famous _Blarney_ stone, one salute of which is said to emancipate the pilgrim from all future visitations of _mauvaise honte:_
``The stone this is, whoever kisses, He never misses to grow eloquent--- 'Tis he may clamber to a lady's chamber, Or be a member of Parliament.''
From Cork we proceeded to Dublin by Fermoy, Lismore, Casbel, Kilkenny, and Holycross---at all of which places we were bountifully entertained, and assiduously ciceroned---to our old quarters in St Stephen's Green; and after a morning or two spent in taking leave of many kind faces that he was never to see again, Sir Walter and his original fellow-travellers started for Holyhead on the 18th of August. Our progress through North Wales produced nothing worth recording, except perhaps the feeling of delight which everything in the aspect of the common people, their dress, their houses, their gardens, and their husbandry, could not fail to call up in persons who had just been seeing Ireland for the first time. Scott had, while at Edgworthstown, been requested by Mr Canning to meet him at his friend Mr Bolton's, on Windermere. On reaching that lake, we spent a pleasant day with Professor Wilson at Elleray, and he then conducted us to Storrs. A large company had been assembled there in honour of the Minister---among others was Mr Wordsworth. It has not, I suppose, often happened, to a plain English merchant, wholly the architect of his own fortunes, to entertain at one time a party embracing so many illustrious names. He was proud of his guests; they respected him, and honoured and loved each other; and it would have been difficult to say which star in the constellation shone with the brightest or the softest light. There was ``high discourse,'' intermingled with as gay flashings of courtly wit as ever Canning displayed; and a plentiful allowance, on all sides, of those airy transient pleasantries, in which the fancy of poets, however wise and grave, delights to run riot when they are sure not to be misunderstood. There were beautiful and accomplished women to adorn and enjoy this circle. The weather was as Elysian as the scenery. There were brilliant cavalcades through the woods in the mornings, and delicious boatings on the Lake by moonlight; and the last day, ``the Admiral of the Lake'' presided over one of the most splendid regattas that ever enlivened Windermere. Perhaps there were not fewer than fifty barges following in the Professor's radiant procession, when it paused at the point of Storrs to admit into the place of honour the vessel that carried kind and happy Mr Bolton and his guests. The bards of the Lakes led the cheers that hailed Scott and Canning; and music and sunshine, flags, streamers, and gay dresses, the merry hum of voices, and the rapid splashing of innumerable oars, made up a dazzling mixture of sensations as the flotilla wound its way among the richly-foliaged islands, and along bays and promontories peopled with enthusiastic spectators.
On at last quitting Storrs, we visited Mr Wordsworth at his charming retreat of Mount Rydal: and he thence accompanied us to Keswick, where we saw Mr Southey in his unrivalled library. Mr Wordsworth and his daughter then turned with us, and passing over Kirkstone to Ulswater, conducted us first to his friend Mr Marshall's elegant villa, near Lyulph's Tower, and on the next day to the noble castle of his lifelong friend and patron Lord Lonsdale. The Earl and Countess had their halls filled with another splendid circle of distinguished persons. Sir Walter remained a couple of days, and perambulated, under Wordsworth's guidance, the superb terraces and groves of the ``fair domain'' which that poet has connected with the noblest monument of his genius. He reached Abbotsford again on the 1st of September, and said truly that ``his tour had been one ovation.''
Without an hour's delay he resumed his usual habits of life---the musing ramble among his own glens, the breezy ride over the moors, the merry spell at the woodwan's axe, or the festive chase of Newark, Fernilee, Hangingshaw, or Deloraine; the quiet old-fashioned contentment of the little domestic circle, alternating with the brilliant phantasmagoria of admiring, and sometimes admired, strangers--- or the hoisting of the telegraph flag that called laird and bonnet-laird to the burning of the water, or the wassail of the hall. The hours of the closet alone had found a change. The preparation for the Life of Napoleon was a course of such hard reading as had not been called for while ``the great magician,'' in the full sunshine of case, amused himself, and delighted the world, by unrolling, fold after fold, his endlessly varied panorama of romance. That miracle had to all appearance cost him no effort. Unmoved and serene among the multiplicities of worldly business, and the invasions of half Europe and America, he had gone on tranquilly enjoying, rather than exerting his genius, in the production of those masterpieces which have peopled all our firesides with inexpensive friends, and rendered the solitary supremacy of Shakspeare, as an all-comprehensive and genial painter of man, no longer a proverb.
He had, while this was the occupation of his few desk-hours, read only for his diversion. How much he read even then, his correspondence may have afforded some notion. Those who observed him the most constantly, were never able to understand how he contrived to keep himself so thoroughly up with the stream of contemporary literature of almost all sorts, French and German, as well as English. That a rapid glance might tell him more than another man could gather by a week's poring, may easily be guessed; but the grand secret was his perpetual practice of his own grand maxim, _never to be doing nothing._ He had no ``unconsidered trifles'' of time. Every moment was turned to account; and thus he had leisure for everything except, indeed, the newspapers, which consume so many precious hours now-a-days with most men, and of which, during the period of my acquaintance with him, he certainly read less than any other man I ever knew that had any habit of reading at all. I should also except, speaking generally, the Reviews and Magazines of the time. Of these he saw few, and of the few he read little.
He had now to apply himself doggedly to the mastering of a huge accumulation of historical materials. He read, and noted, and indexed with the pertinacity of some pale compiler in the British Museum; but rose from such employment, not radiant and buoyant, as after he had been feasting himself among the teeming harvests of Fancy, but with an aching brow, and eyes on which the dimness of years had begun to plant some specks, before they were subjected again to that straining over small print and difficult manuscript which had, no doubt, been familiar to them in the early time, when in (Shortreed's phrase) ``he was making himself.'' It was a pleasant sight when one happened to take a passing peep into his den, to see the white head erect, and the smile of conscious inspiration on his lips, while the pen, held boldly, and at a commanding distance, glanced steadily and gaily along a fast-blackening page of ``The Talisman.'' It now often made me sorry to catch a glimpse of him, stooping and poring with his spectacles, amidst piles of authorities---a little note-book ready in the left hand, that had always used to be at liberty for patting Maida.
About this time, being again a traveller, I lost the opportunity of witnessing his reception of several eminent persons;--- among others the late admirable Master of the Rolls, Lord Gifford, and his Lady---Dr Philpotts, now Bishop of Exeter; and Mr Thomas Moore. This last fortunately found Sir Walter in an interval of repose---no one with him at Abbotsford but Lady and Miss Scott---and no company at dinner except the Fergussons and Laidlaw. The two poets had thus the opportunity of a great deal of quiet conversation; and from the hour they met, they seemed to have treated each other with a full confidence, the record of which, however touchingly honourable to both, could hardly be made public _in extenso_ while one of them survives. The first day they were alone after dinner, and the talk turned chiefly on the recent death of Byron--- from which Scott passed unaffectedly to his own literary history. Mr Moore listened with great interest to details, now no longer new, about the early days of Mat Lewis, the Minstrelsy, and the Poems; and ``at last,'' says he, ``to my no small surprise, as well as pleasure, he mentioned the novels, without any reserve, as his own. He gave me an account of the original progress of those extraordinary works, the hints supplied for them, the conjectures and mystification to which they had given rise, &c. &c.:'' he concluded with saying ``they have been a mine of wealth to me---but I find I fall in them now---I can no longer make them so good as at first.'' This frankness was met as it should have been by the brother poet; and when he entered Scott's room next morning, ``he laid his hand,'' says Mr Moore, ``with a sort of cordial earnestness on my breast, and said---_Now, my dear Moore, we are friends for life._'' They sallied out for a walk through the plantations, and among other things, the commonness of the poetic talent in these days was alluded to. ``Hardly a Magazine is now published,'' said Moore, ``that does not contain verses which some thirty years ago would have made a reputation.'' ---Scott turned with his look of shrewd humour, as if chuckling over his own success, and said, ``Ecod, we were in the luck of it to come before these fellows;'' but he added, playfully flourishing his stick as he spoke, ``we have, like Bobadil, taught them to beat us with our own weapons.''---``In complete novelty,'' says Moore, ``he seemed to think, lay the only chance for a man ambitious of high literary reputation in these days.''
Moore says---``I parted from Scott with the feeling that all the world might admire him in his works, but that those only could learn to love him as he deserved who had seen him at Abbotsford. I give you _carte blanche,_ to say what you please of my sense of his cordial kindness and gentleness; perhaps a not very dignified phrase would express my feeling better than any fine one---it was that he was a _thorough good fellow._'' What Scott thought of his guest appears from this entry in a private note-book:--- ``Tom Moore's is the most exquisite warbling I ever heard. . . . There is a manly frankness, with perfect ease and good-breeding, about him, which is delightful. Not the least touch of the poet or the pedant. A little---very little man---less, I think, than Lewis, and something like him in person; God knows, not in conversation, for Matt, though a clever fellow, was a bore of the first description. Moreover, he looked always like a schoolboy. Now Moore has none of this insignificance. His countenance is plain, but the expression so very animated, especially in speaking or singing, that it is far more interesting than the finest features could have rendered it. I was aware that Byron had often spoken of Moore and myself in the same breath, and with the same sort of regard; so I was curious to see what there could be in common betwixt us, Moore having lived so much in the gay world, I in the country, and with people of business, and sometimes with politicians; Moore a scholar, I none; he a musician and artist, I without knowledge of a note; he a democrat, I an aristocrat---with many other points of difference; besides his being an Irishman, I a Scotchman, and both tolerably national. Yet there is a point of resemblance, and a strong one. We are both good-humoured fellows, who rather seek to enjoy what is going forward than to maintain our dignity as Lions; and we have both seen the world too widely and too well not to contemn in our souls the imaginary consequence of literary people, who walk with their noses in the air, and remind me always of the fellow whom Johnson met in an alehouse, and who called himself `_the great Twalmly---inventor of the flood-gate iron for smoothing linen._' He also enjoys the _mot pour rire,_ and so do I.''
The author of Lalla Rookh's Kelso chaise was followed before many days by a more formidable equipage. The much-talked-of lady who began life as Miss Harriet Mellon, a comic actress in a provincial troop, and died Duchess of St Albans, was then making a tour in Scotland as Mrs Coutts, the enormously wealthy widow of the first English banker of his time. No person of such consequence could, in those days, have thought a Scotch progress complete, unless it included a reception at Abbotsford; but Mrs Coutts had been previously acquainted with Sir Walter, who indeed had some remote connexion with her late husband's family, through the Stuarts of Allanbank. He had visited her occasionally in London during Mr Coutts's life, and was very willing to do the honours of Teviotdale in return. But although she was considerate enough not to come on him with all her retinue (leaving four of the seven carriages with which she travelled at Edinburgh), the appearance of only three coaches, each drawn by four horses, was rather trying for poor Lady Scott. They contained Mrs Coutts---her future lord the Duke of St Albans ---one of his Grace's sisters---a _dame de compagnie_---a brace of physicians---for it had been considered that one doctor might himself be disabled in the course of an expedition so adventurous---and, besides other menials of every grade, two bedchamber women for Mrs Coutts's own person; she requiring to have this article also in duplicate, because, in her widowed condition, she was fearful of ghosts---and there must be one Abigail for the service of the toilette, a second to keep watch by night. With a little puzzling and cramming, all this train found accommodation;--- but it so happened that there were already in the house several ladies, Scotch and English, of high birth and rank, who felt by no means disposed to assist their host and hostess in making Mrs Coutts's visit agreeable to her. I need not observe how effectually women of fashion can contrive to mortify, without doing or saying anything that shall expose them to the charge of actual incivility.
Sir Walter, during dinner, did everything in his power to counteract this influence of the _evil eye,_ and something to overawe it;---but the spirit of mischief had been fairly stirred, and it was easy to see that Mrs Coutts followed these noble dames to the drawing-room in by no means that complacent mood which was customarily sustained, doubtless, by every blandishment of obsequious flattery, in this mistress of millions. He cut the gentlemen's sederunt short, and soon after joining the ladies, managed to withdraw the youngest, and gayest, and cleverest, who was also the highest in rank (the late Marchioness of Northampton), into his armorial-hall adjoining. ``I said to her'' (he told me), ``I want to speak a word with you about Mrs Coutts;--- we have known each other a good while, and I know you won't take anything I can say in ill part. It is, I hear, not uncommon among the fine ladies in London to be very well pleased to accept invitations, and even sometimes to hunt after them, to Mrs Coutts's grand balls and f<e^>tes, and then, if they meet her in any private circle, to practise on her the delicate _man<oe>uvre_ called _tipping the cold shoulder._ This you agree with me is shabby; but it is nothing new either to you or to me, that fine people will do shabbinesses for which beggars might blush, if they once stoop so low as to poke for tickets. I am sure you would not for the world do such a thing; but you must permit me to take the great liberty of saying, that I think the style you have all received my guest Mrs Coutts in, this evening, is, to a certain extent, a sin of the same order. You were all told a couple of days ago that I had accepted her visit, and that she would arrive to-day to stay three nights. Now if any of you had not been disposed to be of my party at the same time with her, there was plenty of time for you to have gone away before she came; and as none of you moved, and it was impossible to fancy that any of you would remain out of mere curiosity, I thought I had a perfect right to calculate on your having made up your minds to help me out with her.'' Lady Northampton (who had been his ward) answered---``I thank you Sir Walter;---you have done me the great honour to speak as if I had been your daughter, and depend upon it you shall be obeyed with heart and good will.'' One by one, the other exclusives were seen engaged in a little _t<e^>te-<a`>-t<e^>te_ with her ladyship. Sir Walter was soon satisfied that things had been put into a right train; the Marchioness was requested to sing a particular song, _because_ he thought it would please Mrs Coutts. ``Nothing could gratify her more than to please Mrs Coutts.'' Mrs Coutts's brow smoothed, and in the course of half-an-hour she was as happy and easy as ever she was in her life, rattling away at comical anecdotes of her early theatrical years, and joining in the chorus of Sir Adam's _Laird of Cockpen._ She stayed out her three days<*>---saw, accompanied by all
* Sir Walter often quoted the maxim of an old lady in one of
* Miss Ferrier's novels---that a visit should never exceed three days,
* the _rest_ day---the _drest_ day---and the _prest_ day.''
the circle, Melrose, Dryburgh, and Yarrow---and left Abbotsford delighted with her host, and, to all appearance, with his other guests.
It may be said (for the most benevolent of men had in his lifetime, and still has, some maligners) that he was so anxious about Mrs Coutts's comfort, because he worshipped wealth. I dare not deny that he set more of his affections, during great part of his life, upon worldly things, wealth among others, than might have become such an intellect. One may conceive a sober grandeur of mind, not incompatible with genius as rich as even his, but infinitely more admirable than any genius, incapable of breeding upon any of the pomps and vanities of this life or caring about money at all, beyond what is necessary for the easy sustenance of nature. But we must, in judging the most powerful of minds, take into account the influences to which they were exposed in the plastic period; and where imagination is visibly the predominant faculty, allowance must be made very largely indeed. Scott's autobiographical fragment, and the anecdotes annexed to it, have been printed in vain, if they have not conveyed the notion of such a training of the mind, fancy, and character, as could hardly fail to suggest dreams and aspirations very likely, were temptation presented, to take the shape of active external ambition---to prompt a keen pursuit of those resources, without which visions of worldly splendour cannot be realized. But I think the subsequent narrative and his own correspondence must also have satisfied every candid reader that his appetite for wealth was after a essentially a vivid yearning for the means of large beneficence. As to his being capable of the silliness---to say nothing of the meanness---of allowing any part of his feelings or demeanour towards others to be affected by their mere possession of wealth, I cannot consider such a suggestion as worthy of much remark. He had a kindness towards Mrs Coutts, because he knew that, vain and pompous as her displays of equipage and attendance might be, she mainly valued wealth, like himself, as the instrument of doing good. Even of her apparently most fantastic indulgences he remembered, as Pope did when ridiculing the ``lavish cost and little skill'' of his Timon,
``Yet hence the poor are clothed, the hungry fed;''
but he interfered, to prevent her being made uncomfortable in his house, neither more nor less than he would have done, had she come there in her original character of a comic actress, and been treated with coldness as such by his Marchionesses and Countesses.
Since I have been led to touch on what many always considered as the weak part of his character---his over respect for worldly things in general,---I must say one word as to the matter of rank, which undoubtedly had far more effect on him than money. In the first place, he was all along courted by the great world---not it by him; and, secondly, pleased as he was with its attentions, he derived infinitely greater pleasure from the trusting and hearty affection of his old equals, and the inferiors whose welfare he so unweariedly promoted. But, thirdly, he made acute discriminations among the many different orders of claimants who jostle each other for pr<e:>eminence in the curiously complicated system of modern British society. His imagination had been constantly exercised in recalling and embellishing whatever features of the past it was possible to connect with any pleasing ideas and a historical name was a charm that literally stirred his blood. But not so a mere title. He reverenced the Duke of Buccleuch--- but it was not as a Duke, but as the head of his clan, the representative of the old knights of Branxholm. In the Duke of Hamilton he saw not the premier peer of Scotland, but the lineal heir of the heroic old Douglasses; and he had profounder respect for the chief of a Highland Clan, without any title whatever, and with an ill-paid rental of two or three thousand a-year, than for the haughtiest magnate in a blue ribbon, whose name did not call up any grand historical reminiscence. I remember once when he had some young Englishmen of high fashion in his house, there arrived a Scotch gentleman of no distinguished appearance, whom he received with a sort of eagerness and _empressement_ of reverential courtesy that struck the strangers as quite out of common. His name was that of a Scotch Earl, however, and no doubt he was that nobleman's son. ``Well,'' said one of the Southrons to me,---``I had never heard that the Earl of ------ was one of your very greatest lords in this country; even a second son of his, booby though he be, seems to be of wonderful consideration.'' The young English lord heard with some surprise, that the visitor in question was a poor lieutenant on half-pay, heir to a tower about as crazy as Don Quixote's, and noways related (at least according to English notions of relationship) to the Earl of ------ ``What, then,'' he cried, ``what _can_ Sir Walter mean?'' ``Why,'' said I, ``his meaning is very clear. This gentleman is the male representative (which the Earl of ------ may possibly be in the female line) of a knight who is celebrated by our old poet Blind Harry, as having signalized himself by the side of Sir William Wallace, and from whom every Scotchman that bears the name of ------ has at least the ambition of being supposed to descend.''---Sir Walter's own title came unsought; and that he accepted it, not in the foolish fancy that such a title, or any title, could increase his own personal consequence, but because he thought it fair to embrace the opportunity of securing a certain external distinction to his heirs at Abbotsford, was proved pretty clearly by his subsequently declining the greatly higher, but intransmissible rank of a Privy-Councillor. At the same time, I dare say his ear liked the knightly sound; and undoubtedly he was much pleased with the pleasure his wife took, and gaily acknowledged she took, in being My Lady.
The circumstances of the King's visit in 1822, and others already noted, leave no doubt that imagination enlarged and glorified for him many objects to which it is very difficult for ordinary men in our generation to attach much importance; and perhaps he was more apt to attach importance to such things, during the prosperous course of his own fortunes, than even a liberal consideration of circumstances can altogether excuse. To myself it seems to have been so; yet I do not think the severe critics on this part of his story have kept quite sufficiently in mind how easy it is for us all to undervalue any species of temptation to which we have not happened to be exposed. I am aware, too, that there are examples of men of genius, situated to a certain extent like him, who have resisted and repelled the fascinations against which he was not entirely proof; but I have sometimes thought that they did so at the expense of parts of their character nearer the marrow of humanity than those which his weakness in this way tended to endamage; that they mingled, in short, in their virtuous self-denial, some grains of sacrifice at the shrine of a cold, unsocial, even sulky species of self-conceit. But this digression has already turned out much longer than I intended. It is time to open occurrences which contrast sadly with the summer scenes of 1825.
Towards the end of September I returned to Scotland from a visit to London on some personal business. During that visit I had heard a great deal more than I understood about the commercial excitement of the time. There had been several years of extravagant speculation. Even persons who had extensive and flourishing businesses in their hands, partook the general rage of infatuation. He whose own shop, counting-house, or warehouse, had been sufficient to raise him to a decent and safely-increasing opulence, and was more than sufficient to occupy all his attention, drank in the vain delusion that he was wasting his time and energy on things unworthy of a masculine ambition, and embarked the resources necessary for the purposes of his lawful calling, in schemes worthy of the land-surveyors of El Dorado. It was whispered that _the trade_ (so called, _par excellence_) had been bitten with this fever; and persons of any foresight who knew the infinitely curious links by which booksellers, and printers, and paper-makers (and therefore authors) are bound together, for good and for evil, already began to prophesy that, whenever the general crash, which must come ere long, should arrive, its effects would be felt far and wide among all classes connected with the productions of the press. When it was rumoured that this great bookseller, or printer, had become a principal holder of South American mining shares---that another was the leading director of a gas company---while a third house had risked about <L>100,000 in a cast upon the most capricious of all agricultural products, _hops_---it was no wonder that bankers should begin to calculate balances, and pause upon discounts.
Among other hints were some concerning a bookselline, establishment in London, with which I knew Constable to be closely connected. Little suspecting the extent to which any mischance of Messrs Hurst and Robinson must involve Sir Walter's own responsibilities, I transmitted to him the rumours in question. Before I could have his answer, a legal friend told me that people were talking doubtfully about Constable's own stability. I thought it probable, that if Constable fell into any embarrassments, Scott might suffer the inconvenience of losing the copy-money of his last novel. Nothing more serious occurred to me. But I thought it my duty to tell him this whisper also; and heard from him, almost by return of post, that, shake who might in London, his friend in Edinburgh was ``rooted, as well as branched, like the oak.''
A few days, however, after my arrival at Chiefswood, I received a letter from the legal friend already alluded to ---(Mr William Wright, the eminent barrister of Lincoln's Inn,---who, by the way, was also on habits of great personal familiarity with Constable, and liked _the Czar_ exceedingly)--- which renewed my apprehensions, or rather, for the first time, gave me any suspicion that there really might be something ``rotten in the state of _Muscovy._'' Mr Wright informed me that it was reported in London that Constable's London banker had thrown up his book. This letter reaching me about five o'clock, I rode over to Abbotsford, and found Sir Walter alone over his glass of whisky and water and cigar---at this time, whenever there was no company, ``his custom always in the afternoon.'' I gave him Mr Wright's letter to read. He did so, and returning it, said, quite with his usual tranquil good-humour of look and voice, ``I am much obliged to you for coming over; but you may rely upon it Wright has been hoaxed. I promise you, were the Crafty's book thrown up, there would be a pretty decent scramble among the bankers for the keeping of it. There may have been some little dispute or misunderstanding, which malice and envy have exaggerated in this absurd style; but I shan't allow such nonsense to disturb my _siesta._''
Seeing how coolly he treated my news, I went home relieved and gratified. Next morning, as I was rising, behold Peter Mathieson at my door, his horses evidently off a journey, and the Sheriff rubbing his eyes as if the halt had shaken him out of a sound sleep. I made what haste I could to descend, and found him by the side of the brook looking somewhat worn, but with a serene and satisfied countenance, busied already in helping his little grandson to feed a fleet of ducklings.---``You are surprised,'' he said, ``to see me here. The truth is, I was more taken aback with Wright's epistle than I cared _to let on;_ and so, as soon as you left me, I ordered the carriage to the door, and never stopped till I got to Polton, where I found Constable putting on his nightcap. I staid an hour with him, and I have now the pleasure to tell you that _all is right._ There was not a word of truth in the story---he is fast as Ben Lomond; and as Mamma and Anne did not know what my errand was, I thought it as well to come and breakfast here, and set Sophia and you at your ease before I went home again.''
We had a merry breakfast, and he chatted gaily afterwards as I escorted him through his woods, leaning on my shoulder all the way, which he seldom as yet did, except with Tom Purdie, unless when he was in a more than commonly happy and affectionate mood. But I confess the impression this incident left on my mind was not a pleasant one. It was then that I first began to harbour a suspicion, that if anything should befall Constable, Sir Walter would suffer a heavier loss than the nonpayment of some one novel. The night journey revealed serious alarm. My wife suggested, as we talked things over, that his alarm had been, not on his own account, but Ballantyne's, who, in case evil came on the great employer of his types, might possibly lose a year's profit on them, which neither she nor I doubted must amount to a large sum---any more than that a misfortune of Ballantyne's would grieve her father as much as one personal to himself, His warm regard for his printer could be no secret; we well knew that James was his confidential critic---his trusted and trustworthy friend from boyhood. Nor was I ignorant that Scott had a share in the property of Ballantyne's Edinburgh Weekly Journal. That had been commonly reported before I was acquainted with them; and all doubt was removed at the time of the Queen's trial in 1820, when they had some warm debates in my presence as to the side to be taken on that unhappy question. But that Sir Walter was, and had all along been James's partner in the great printing concern, neither I, nor, I believe, any member of his family, had entertained the slightest suspicion prior to the coming calamities which were now ``casting their shadows before.''
It is proper to add here, that the story about the banker's throwing up Constable's book was groundless. Sir Walter's first guess as to its origin proved correct. A few days afterwards, Mr Murray sent me a transcript of Lord Byron's Ravenna Diary, with permission for my neighbour also to read it if he pleased. Sir Walter read those extraordinary pages with the liveliest interest, and filled several of the blank leaves and margins with illustrative annotations and anecdotes. In perusing what Byron had jotted down from day to day in the intervals of regular composition, it very naturally occurred to him that the noble poet had done well to avoid troubling himself by any adoption or affectation of plan or order---giving an opinion, a reflection, a reminiscence, serious or comic, or the incidents of the passing hour, just as the spirit moved him;---and seeing what a mass of curious things, such as ``after times would not willingly let die,'' had been thus rescued from oblivion at a very slight cost of exertion,---he resolved to attempt keeping thenceforth a somewhat similar record. A thick quarto volume, bound in vellum, with a lock and key, was forthwith procured. The occupation of a few stray minutes in his dressing room at getting up in the morning, or after he had retired for the night, was found a pleasant variety for him. He also kept the book by him when in his study, and often had recourse to it when anything puzzled him and called for a halt in the prosecution of what he considered (though posterity will hardly do so) a more important task. It was extremely fortunate that he took up this scheme exactly at the time when he settled seriously to the history of Buonaparte's personal career. The sort of preparation which every chapter of that book now called for has been already alluded to; and ---although, when he had fairly read himself up to any one great cycle of transactions, his old spirit roused itself in full energy, and he traced the record with as rapid and glowing a pencil as he had ever wielded---there were, minutes enough, and hours,---possibly days of weariness, depression, and langour, when (unless this silent confidant had been at hand) even he perhaps might have made no use of his writing-desk.
Even the new resource of journalizing, however, was not sufficient. He soon convinced himself that it would facilitate, not impede, his progress with Napoleon, to have a work of imagination in hand also. The success of the Tales of the Crusaders had been very high; and Constable, well aware that it had been his custom of old to carry on two romances at the same time, was now too happy to encourage him in beginning _Woodstock,_ to be taken up whenever the historical MS. should be in advance of the press.
Thenceforth, as the Diary shews, he continued to divide his usual desk-hours accordingly: but before he had filled many pages of the private Quarto, it begins to record alarm---from day to day deepening---as to Constable, and the extent to which the great publisher's affairs had by degrees come to be connected and bound up with those of the printing firm.
Till John Ballantyne's death, as already intimated, the pecuniary management of that firm had been wholly in his hands. Of his conduct in such business I need add no more: the burden had since been on his surviving brother; and I am now obliged to say that, though his deficiencies were of a very different sort from John's, they were, as respected his commercial career and connexions, great and unfortunate.
He had received the education, not of a printer, but of a solicitor; and he never, to his dying day, had the remotest knowledge or feeling of what the most important business of a master-printer consists in. He had a fine taste for the effect of types---no establishment turned out more beautiful specimens of the art than his; but he appears never to have understood that types need watching as well as setting. If the page looked handsome, he was satisfied. He had been instructed that on every <L>50 paid in his men's wages, the master-printer is entitled to an equal sum of gross profit; and beyond this _rule of thumb_ calculation, no experience could bring him to penetrate his _mystery._ In a word, James never comprehended that in the greatest and most regularly employed manufactory of this kind (or indeed of any kind) the profits are likely to be entirely swallowed up, unless the acting master keeps up a most wakeful scrutiny, from week to week, and from day to day, as to the machinery and the materials. So far was he from doing this, that during several of the busiest and most important years of his connexion with the establishment in the Canongate, he seldom crossed its doors. He sat in his own elbow-chair, in a comfortable library, situated in a different street---not certainly an idle man--- quite the reverse, though naturally indolent---but the most negligent and inefficient of master-printers.
He was busy, indeed; and inestimably serviceable to Scott was his labour; but it consisted solely in the correction and revisal of proof-sheets. It is most true, that Sir Walter's hurried method of composition rendered it absolutely necessary that whatever he wrote should be subjected to far more than the usual amount of inspection required at the hands of a printer; and it is equally so, that it would have been extremely difficult to find another man willing and able to bestow such time and care on his proof-sheets as they uniformly received from James. But this was, in fact, not the proper occupation of the man who was at the head of the establishment---who had undertaken the pecuniary management. In every other great printing-house that I have known anything about, there are intelligent and well-educated men, called, technically, _readers,_ who devote themselves to this species of labour, and who are, I fear, seldom paid in proportion to its importance. Dr Goldsmith, in his early life, was such a _reader_ in the printing-house of Richardson; but the author of Clarissa did not disdain to look after the presses and types himself, or he would never have accumulated the fortune that enabled him to be the liberal employer of _readers_ like Goldsmith. In a letter addressed to John Ballantyne, when the bookselling-house was breaking up, Scott says,---``One or other of you will need to be constantly in the printing-office _henceforth;_ it is the sheet anchor.'' This was _ten_ years after that establishment began. Thenceforth James, in compliance with this injunction, occupied, during many hours of every day, a cabinet within the premises in the Canongate; but whoever visited him there, found him at the same eternal business, that of a literator, not that of a printer. He was either editing his newspaper---or correcting sheets, or writing critical notes to the Author of Waverley. Shakespeare, Addison, Johnson, and Burke, were at his elbow; but not the ledger. We may thus understand poor John's complaint, in what I may call his dying memorandum, of the ``large sums abstracted from the bookselling house for the use of the printing-office.'' Yet that bookselling house was from the first a hopeless one; whereas, under accurate superintendence, the other ought to have produced the partners a dividend of from <L>2000 to <L>3000 a-year, at the very least.
On the other hand, the necessity of providing some remedy for this radical disorder must very soon have forced itself upon the conviction of all concerned, had not John introduced his fatal enlightenment on the subject of facilitating discounts, and raising cash by means of accommodation-bills. Hence the perplexed _states_ and _calendars_---the wildernesses and labyrinths of ciphers, through which no eye but that of a professed accountant could have detected any clue; hence the accumulation of bills and counter-bills drawn by both bookselling and printing-house, and gradually so mixed up with other obligations, that John died in utter ignorance of the condition of their affairs. The pecuniary detail then devolved upon James; and I fancy it will be only too apparent that he never made even one serious effort to master the formidable array of figures thus committed to his sole trust.
The reader has been enabled to trace from its beginnings the connexion between Constable and the two Ballantyne firms. It has been seen how much they both owed to his interference on various occasions of pressure and alarm. But when he, in his overweening self-sufficiency, thought it involved no mighty hazard to indulge his better feelings, as well as his lordly vanity, in shielding these firms from commercial dishonour, he had estimated but loosely the demands of the career of speculation on which he was himself entering. And by and by, when advancing by one mighty plunge after another in that vast field, he felt in his own person the threatenings of more signal ruin than could have befallen them, this ``Napoleon of the press''---still as of old buoyed up to the ultimate result of his grand operations by the most fulsome flatteries of imagination---appears to have tossed aside very summarily all scruples about the extent to which he might be entitled to tax their sustaining credit in requital. The Ballantynes, if they had comprehended all the bearings of the case, were not the men to consider grudgingly demands of this nature, founded on service so important; and who can doubt that Scott viewed them from a chivalrous altitude? It is easy to see, that the moment the obligations became reciprocal, there arose extreme peril of their coming to be hopelessly complicated. It is equally clear, that Scott ought to have applied on these affairs, as their complication thickened, the acumen which he exerted, and rather prided himself in exerting, on smaller points of worldly business, to the utmost. That he did not, I must always regard as the enigma of his personal history; but various incidents in that history, which I have already narrated, prove incontestably that he had never done so; and I am unable to account for this having been the case, except on the supposition that his confidence in the resources of Constable and the prudence of James Ballantyne was so entire, that he willingly absolved himself from all duty of active, and thoroughgoing superinspection.
It is the extent to which the confusion had gone that constitutes the great puzzle. I have been told that John Ballantyne, in his hey-day, might be heard whistling for his clerk, John Stevenson (often alluded to in Scott's correspondence as _True_ Jock), from the _sanctum_ behind the shop with, ``Jock, you lubber, fetch ben a sheaf o' stamps.'' Such things might well enough be believed of that hare-brained creature; but how sober solemn James could have made up his mind, as he must have done, to follow much the same wild course whenever any pinch occurred, is to me, I must own, incomprehensible. The books were kept at the printing-house; and of course Sir Walter (who alone in fact had capital at stake) might have there examined them as often as he liked: but it is to me very doubtful if he ever once attempted to do so: and it is certain that they were _never balanced_ during the latter years of the connexion. During several years it was almost daily my custom to walk home with Sir Walter from the Parliament-house, calling at James's on our way. For the most part I used to amuse myself with a newspaper or proof-sheet in the outer room, while they were closeted in the little cabinet at the corner; and merry were the tones that reached my ear while they remained in colloquy. If I were called in, it was because James, in his ecstasy, must have another to enjoy the dialogue that his friend was improvising---between Meg Dods and Captain Mac-Turk, for example, or Peter Peebles and his counsel.
The reader may perhaps remember a page in a former chapter where I described Scott as riding with Johnny Ballantyne and myself round the deserted halls of the ancient family of Riddell, and remarking how much it increased the wonder of their rain that the late baronet had kept ``day-book and ledger as regularly as any _cheese-monger in the Grassmarket._'' It is nevertheless true, that Sir Walter kept from first to last as accurate an account of his own _personal_ expenditure as Sir John Riddell could have done of his extravagant outlay on agricultural experiments. I could, I believe, place before my reader the sum-total of sixpences that it had cost him to ride through turnpike-gates during a period of thirty years. This was, of course, an early habit mechanically adhered to: but how strange that the man who could persist, however mechanically, in noting down every shilling that he actually drew from his purse, should have allowed others to pledge his credit, year after year, upon sheafs of accommodation paper, without keeping any efficient watch---without knowing any one Christmas, for how many thousands he was responsible as _a printer in the Canongate!_
This is sufficiently astonishing---and had this been all, the result must sooner or later have been sufficiently uncomfortable; but it must be admitted that Scott could never have foreseen a step which Constable took in the frenzied excitement of his day of pecuniary alarm. Owing to the original habitual irregularities of John Ballantyne, it had been adopted as the regular plan between that person and Constable, that, whenever the latter signed a bill for the purpose of the other's raising money among the bankers, there should, in case of his neglecting to take that bill up before it fell due, be deposited a counter-bill, signed by Ballantyne, on which Constable might, if need were, raise a sum equivalent to that for which he had pledged his credit. I am told that this is an usual enough course of procedure among speculative merchants; and it may be so. But mark the issue. The plan went on under James's management, just as John had begun it. Under his management also---such was the incredible looseness of it---the _counter-bills,_ meant only for being sent into the market in the event of the _primary bills_ being threatened with dishonour---these instruments of safeguard for Constable against contingent danger were allowed to lie uninquired about in Constable's desk, until they had swelled to a truly monstrous ``sheaf of stamps.'' Constable's hour of distress darkened about him, and he rushed with these to the money-changers. And thus it came to pass, that, supposing Ballantyne and Co. to have at the day of reckoning, obligations against them, in consequence of bill transactions with Constable, to the extent of <L>25,000, they were legally responsible for <L>50,000.
It is not my business to attempt any detailed history of the house of Constable. The sanguine man had, almost at the outset of his career, been ``lifted off his feet,'' in Burns's phrase, by the sudden and unparalleled success of the Edinburgh Review. Scott's poetry and Scott's novels followed: and had he confined himself to those three great and triumphant undertakings, he must have died in possession of a princely fortune. But his ``appetite grew with what it fed on,'' and a long series of less meritorious publications, pushed on, one after the other, in the craziest rapidity swallowed up the gains which, however vast, he never counted, and therefore always exaggerated to himself. Finally, what he had been to the Ballantynes, certain other still more audacious ``Sheafmen'' had been to him. Hurst, Robinson, and Co. had long been his London correspondents; and he had carried on with them the same traffic in bills and counter-bills that the Canongate Company did with him---and upon a still larger scale. They had done what he did not---or at least did not to any very culpable extent: they had carried their adventures out of the line of their own business. It was they, for example, that must needs be embarking such vast sums in a speculation on hops! When ruin threatened them, they availed themselves of Constable's credit without stint or limit---while he, feeling darkly that the net was around him, struggled and splashed for relief, no matter who might suffer, so he escaped! And Sir Walter Scott, sorely as he suffered, was too plainly conscious of the ``strong tricks'' he had allowed his own imagination to play, not to make merciful allowance for all the apparently monstrous things that I have now been narrating of Constable.
For the rest, his friends, and above all posterity, are not left to consider his fate without consoling reflections. They who knew and loved him, must ever remember that the real nobility of his character could not have exhibited itself to the world at large, had he not been exposed in his later years to the ordeal of adversity. And others as well as they may feel assured, that had not that adversity been preceded by the perpetual spur of pecuniary demands, he who began life with such quick appetites for all its ordinary enjoyments, would never have devoted himself to the rearing of that gigantic monument of genius, labour, and power, which his works now constitute. The imagination which has bequeathed so much to delight and humanize mankind, would have developed few of its miraculous resources, except in the embellishment of his own personal existence. The enchanted spring might have sunk into earth with the rod that bade it gush, and left us no living waters. We cannot understand, but we may nevertheless respect even the strangest caprices of the marvellous combination of faculties to which our debt is so weighty. We should try to picture to ourselves what the actual intellectual life must have been, of the author of such a series of romances. We should ask ourselves whether, filling and discharging so soberly and gracefully as he did the common functions of social man, it was not, nevertheless, impossible but that he must have passed most of his life in other worlds than ours; and we ought hardly to think it a grievous circumstance that their bright visions should have left a dazzle sometimes on the eyes which he so gently reopened upon our prosaic realities. He had, on the whole, a command over the powers of his mind---I mean, that he could control and direct his thoughts and reflections with a readiness, firmness, and easy security of sway---beyond what I find it possible to trace in any other _artist's_ recorded character and history; but he could not habitually fling them into the region of dreams throughout a long series of years, and yet be expected to find a corresponding satisfaction in bending them to the less agreeable considerations which the circumstances of any human being's practical lot in this world must present in abundance. The training to which he accustomed himself could not leave him as he was when he began. He must pay the penalty, as well as reap the glory of this life-long abstraction of reverie, this self-abandonment of Fairyland.
This was for him the last year of many things; among others, of Sybil Grey and the _Abbotsford Hunt._ Towards the close of a hard run on his neighbour Gala's ground, he adventured to leap _the Catrail_---that venerable relic of the days of
``Reged wide and fair Strath-Clyde.''
He was severely bruised and shattered; and never afterwards recovered the feeling of confidence, without which there can be no pleasure in horsemanship. He often talked of this accident with a somewhat superstitious mournfulness.
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