James Ballantyne says, in a paper dictated from his deathbed:---``I need not here enlarge upon the unfortunate facility which, at the period of universal confidence and indulgence, our and other houses received from the banks. Suffice it to say that all our appearances of prosperity, as well as those of Constable, and Hurst and Robinson, were merely shadows, and that from the moment the bankers exhibited symptoms of doubt, it might have been easy to discover what must be the ultimate result. During weeks, and even months, however, our house was kept in a state of very painful suspense. The other two, I have no doubt, saw the coming events more clearly. I must here say, that it was one of Sir Walter's weaknesses to shrink too much from looking evil in the face, and that he was apt to carry a great deal too far--- `sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.' I do not think it was more than three weeks before the catastrophe that he became fully convinced it was impending---if indeed his feelings ever reached the length of conviction at all. Thus, at the last, his fortitude was very severely tried indeed.''
Mr Ballantyne had never seen Scott's Diary, and its entries from the 20th November 1825 (when it begins) until the middle of January 1826, are in perfect accordance with this statement. The first on the subject is in these terms: ---``Here is matter for a May morning, but much fitter for a November one. The general distress in the city has affected H. and R., Constable's great agents. Should they go, it is not likely that Constable can stand; and such an event would lead to great distress and perplexity on the part of J. B. and myself. Thank God, I have enough to pay more than 20s. in the pound, taking matters at the very worst. But much inconvenience must be the consequence. I had a lesson in 1814 which should have done good; but success and abundance erased it from my mind. But this is no time for journalizing or moralizing either. Necessity is like a sourfaced cook-maid, and I a turn-spit she has flogged, ere now, till he mounted his wheel. If Woodstock can be out by 25th January it will do much, ---and it is possible.''
Thus he continued to labour on at his romance; from time to time arrested amidst his visions by some fresh omen of the coming reality: but after suggesting or concurring in the commercial measure that seemed feasible, immediately commanding his mind into oblivion of whatever must prevent his pursuance of the task that depended solely on himself. That down to the 14th of December he was far indeed from having brought home to himself anything like the extent of his danger, is clear enough from the step recorded in that day's entry-namely, his consenting to avail himself of the power he had retained of borrowing <L>10,000 on the lands of Abbotsford, and advancing that sum to the struggling houses. Ballantyne hints that in his opinion both Constable and his London agents must have foreseen more clearly the issue of the struggle; and it is certain that the only point in Constable's personal conduct which Scott afterwards considered himself entitled to condemn and resent, was connected with these last advances.
My residence had been removed to London before Sir Walter felt, or acknowledged, serious apprehensions: nor can I on this occasion quote his Diary so largely as would enable the reader to follow from day to day the fluctuations of hope, anxiety, and fear. I must limit myself to a few of what seem the most remarkable passages of that record. On the 18th of December he writes thus:---``If things go badly in London, the magic wand of the Unknown will be shivered in his grasp. He must then, faith, be termed the Too-well-known. The feast of fancy will be over with the feeling of independence. He shall no longer have the delight of waking in the morning with bright ideas in his mind, hasten to commit them to paper, and count them monthly, as the means of planting such scaurs and purchasing such wastes; replacing dreams of fiction by other prospective visions of walks by
`Fountain heads, and pathless groves; Places which pale passion loves.'
This cannot be; but I may work substantial husbandry, i. e. write history, and such concerns. They will not be received with the same enthusiasm; at least, I much doubt the general knowledge that an author must write for his bread, at least for improving his pittance, degrades him and his productions in the public eye. He falls into the second-rate rank of estimation:
'While the harness sore galls, and the spurs his side goad, The high-mettled racer's a hack on the road.'
It is a bitter thought; but if tears start at it, let them flow. My heart clings to the place I have created---there is scarce a tree on it that does not owe its being to me.--- What a life mine has been!---half-educated, almost wholly neglected, or left to myself; stuffing my head with most nonsensical trash, and undervalued by most of my companions for a time; getting forward, and held a bold and a clever fellow, contrary to the opinion of all who thought me a mere dreamer; brokenhearted for two years; my heart handsomely pieced again---but the crack will remain till my dying day. Rich and poor four or five times; once on the verge of ruin, yet opened a new source of wealth almost overflowing. Now to be broken in my pitch of pride, and nearly winged (unless good news should come:) because London chooses to be in an uproar, and in the tumult of bulls and bears, a poor inoffensive lion like myself is pushed to the wall. But what is to be the end of it? God knows; and so ends the catechism.--- Nobody in the end can lose a penny by me---that is one comfort. Men will think pride has had a fall. Let them indulge their own pride in thinking that my fall will make them higher, or seem so at least. I have the satisfaction to recollect that my prosperity has been of advantage to many, and to hope that some at least will forgive my transient wealth on account of the innocence of my intentions, and my real wish to do good to the poor. Sad hearts, too, at Darnick, and in the cottages of Abbotsford. I have half resolved never to see the place again. How could I tread my hall with such a diminished crest?---how live a poor indebted man where I was once the wealthy, the honoured? I was to have gone there on Saturday in joy and prosperity to receive my friends. My dogs will wait for me in vain. It is foolish---but the thoughts of parting from these dumb creatures have moved me more than any of the painful reflections I have put down. Poor things! I must get them kind masters! There may be yet those who, loving me, may love my dog because it has been mine. I must end these gloomy forebodings, or I shall lose the tone of mind with which men should meet distress. I feel my dogs' feet on my knees---I hear them whining and seeking me everywhere. This is nonsense, but it is what they would do could they know how things may be.---An odd thought strikes me---When I die, will the journal of these days be taken out of the ebony cabinet at Abbotsford, and read with wonder, that the well-seeming Baronet should ever have experienced the risk of such a hitch?---or will it be found in some obscure lodging-house, where the decayed son of chivalry had hung up his scutcheon, and where one or two old friends will look grave, and whisper to each other, `Poor gentleman '---`a well-meaning man!'---`nobody's enemy but his own!'---`thought his parts would never wear out'---`family poorly left'--- `pity he took that foolish title.' Who can answer this question?--- Poor Will Laidlaw!---poor Tom Purdie!---such news will wring your hearts, and many a poor fellow's besides, to whom my prosperity was daily bread.
``Ballantyne behaves like himself, and sinks the prospect of his own ruin in contemplating mine. I tried to enrich him indeed, and now all---all is in the balance. He will have the Journal stiff, that is a comfort, for sure they cannot find a better editor. _They_---alas, who will _they_ be--- the _unbekannten obern<*>_ who may have to dispose of my all
* _Unbekannten obern_---unknown rulers.
as they will? Some hard-eyed banker---some of these men of millions!---I have endeavoured to give vent to thoughts naturally so painful, by writing these notes---partly to keep them at bay by busying myself with the history of the French Convention. I thank God I can do both with reasonable composure. I wonder how Anne will bear such an affliction. She is passionate, but stouthearted and courageous in important matters, though irritable in trifles. I am glad Lockhart and his wife are gone. Why? I cannot tell ---but I _am_ pleased to be left to my own regrets, without being melted by condolences, though of the most sincere and affectionate kind.---_Half-past eight._ I closed this book under the impression of impending ruin. I open it an hour after (thanks be to God) with the strong hope that matters will be got over safely and honourably, in a mercantile sense. Cadell came at eight to communicate a letter from Hurst and Robinson, intimating they had stood the storm. I shall always think the better of Cadell for this---not merely because `his feet are beautiful on the mountains who brings good tidings,' but because he shewed feeling---deep feeling, poor fellow. He, who I thought had no more than his numeration-table, and who, if he had had his whole counting-house full of sensibility, had yet his wife and children to bestow it upon---I will not forget this, if all keeps right. I love the virtues of rough-and-round men ---the others are apt to escape in salt rheum, sal-volatile, and a white pocket handkerchief.
``_December_ 19.---Ballantyne here before breakfast. He looks on last night's news with confidence. Constable came in and sat an hour. The old gentleman is firm as a rock. He talks of going to London next week. But I must go to work.
``_December_ 21.---Dined with James Ballantyne, and met R. Cadell, and my old friend Mathews the comedian. The last time I saw him before, he dined with me in company with poor Sir Alexander Boswell, who was killed within a week. I never saw Sir A. more. The time before was in 1815, when Gala and I were returning from France, and passed through London, when we brought Mathews down as far as Leamington. Poor Byron made an early dinner with us at Long's, and a most brilliant day we had of it. I never saw Byron so full of fun, frolic, wit, and whim; he was as playful as a kitten. Well, I never saw _him_ again. So this man of mirth, with his merry meetings, has brought me no luck. I could not help thinking, in the midst of the glee, what gloom had lately been over the minds of three of the company. What a strange scene if the surge of conversation could suddenly ebb like the tide, and show us the state of people's real minds!
`No eyes the rocks discover Which lurk beneath the deep.'
Life could not be endured were it seen in reality. Things keep mending in London.
``_December_ 22.---I wrote six of my close pages yesterday, which is about twenty-four pages in print. What is more, I think it comes of twangingly. The air of _Bonnie Dundee_ running in my head to-day, I wrote a few verses to it before dinner, taking the key-note from the story of Clavers leaving the Scottish Convention of Estates in, 1688--9. I wonder if they are good. Ah, poor Will Erskine! thou couldst and wouldst have told me. I must consult J. B., who is as honest as was W. E. But then, though he has good taste too, there is a little of _Big bow-wow_ about it. Can't say what made me take a frisk so uncommon of late years as to write verses of free-will. I suppose the same impulse which makes birds sing when the storm has blown over.
``_December_ 24.---Constable has a new scheme of publishing the works of the Author of Waverley in a superior style, at <L>1, 1s. volume. He says he will answer for making <L>20,000 of this, and liberally offered me any share of the profits. I have no great claim to any, as I have only to contribute the notes, which are light work; yet a few thousands coming in will be a good thing---besides the Printing Office. Constable, though valetudinary, and cross with his partner, is certainly as good a pilot in these rough seas as ever man put faith in.
``_December_ 25.---Abbotsford.---Arrived here last night at seven. Our halls are silent compared to last year, but let us be thankful---_Barbarus has segetes? Nullum numen abest, si sit prudentia._ There shall be no lack of wisdom. But come---_il faut cultiver notre jardin._ I will accept no invitation for dinner, save one to Newton-Don, and Mertoun to morrow, instead of Christmas-Day. On this day of general devotion, I have a particular call for gratitude.
``_January_ 14.---An odd mysterious letter from Constable, who has gone post to London. It strikes me to be that sort of letter which I have seen men write when they are desirous that their disagreeable intelligence should be rather apprehended than expressed. I thought he had been in London a fortnight ago, disposing of property to meet this exigence, and so I think he should. Well, I must have patience. But these terrors and frights are truly annoying. ......... A letter from J. B., mentioning Constable's journey, but without expressing much apprehension. He knows C. well, and saw him before his departure, and makes no doubt of his being able easily to extricate whatever may be entangled. I will not therefore make myself uneasy. I can help doing so surely, if I will. At least, I have given up cigars since the year began, and have now no wish to return to the habit, as it is called. I see no reason why one should not, with God's assistance, shun noxious thoughts, which foretell evil, and cannot remedy it.''
A few days after Sir Walter penned the last-quoted paragraph, Mr Constable made his appearance in London. I saw him immediately. Having deferred his journey imprudently, he had performed it very rapidly; and this exertion, with mental excitement, had brought on a sharp access of gout, which confined him for a couple of days to his hotel in the Adelphi---_reluctantem draconem._ A more impatient spirit never boiled in a feverish frame. It was then that I received my first information of Sir W. Scott's implication as a partner in the firm of Ballantyne. It was then also for the first time, that I saw full swing given to the tyrannical temper of _the Czar._ He looked, spoke, and gesticulated like some hoary despot, accustomed to nothing but the complete indulgence of every wish and whim, against whose sovereign authority his most trusted satraps and tributaries had suddenly revolted---open rebellion in twenty provinces---confusion in the capital--- treason in the palace. I will not repeat his haughty ravings of scorn and wrath. I listened to these with wonder and commiseration; nor were such feelings mitigated when, having exhausted his violence of vituperation against many persons of whom I had never before heard him speak but as able and trusted friends, he cooled down sufficiently to answer my question as to the practical business on which the note announcing his arrival in town had signified his urgent desire to take my advice. Constable told me that he had already seen one of the Hurst and Robinson firm, and that the storm which had seemed to be ``blown over'' had, he was satisfied, only been lulled for a moment to burst out in redoubled fury. If they went, however, he must follow. He had determined to support them through the coming gale as he had done through the last; and he had the means to do so effectually, provided Sir Walter Scott would stand by him heartily and boldly.
The first and most obvious step was to make large sales of copyrights; and it was not surprising that Constable should have formed most extravagant notions of the marketable value of the property of this nature in his possession. Every bookseller is very apt to do so. A manuscript is submitted to him; he inspects it with coldness and suspicion; with hesitation offers a sum for it; obtains it, and sends it to be printed. He has hardly courage to look at the sheets as they are thrown off; but the book is at last laid on his counter, and he from that moment regards it with an eye of parental fondness. It is _his;_ he considers it in that light quite as much as does the author, and is likely to be at least as sorely provoked by anything in the shape of hostile criticism. If this be the usual working of self-love or self-interest in such cases, what wonder that the man who had at his disposal (to say nothing of innumerable minor properties) the copyrights of the Encyclop<ae>dia Britannica, a moiety of the Edinburgh Review, nearly all Scott's Poetry, the Waverley Novels, and the advancing Life of Napoleon---who had made, besides, sundry contracts for novels by Scott, as yet unwritten---and who seriously viewed his plan of the new Miscellany as in itself the sure foundation of a gigantic fortune---what wonder that the sanguine Constable should have laid to his soul the flattering unction, that he had only to display such resources in some quarter totally above the momentary pressure of _the trade,_ and command an advance of capital adequate to relieve him and all his allies from these unfortunate difficulties about a few paltry ``sheafs'' of stamped paper? To be brief, he requested me to accompany him, as soon as he could get into his carriage, to the Bank of England, and support him (as a confidential friend of the _Author of Waverley_) in his application for a loan of from <L>100,000 to <L>200,000 on the security of the copyrights in his possession. It is needless to say that, without distinct instructions from Sir Walter, I could not take upon me to interfere in such a business as this. Constable, when I refused, became livid with rage. After a long silence, he stamped on the ground, and swore that he could and would do alone. I left him in stern indignation.
There was another scene of the same kind a day or two afterwards, when his object was to get me to back his application to Sir Walter to borrow <L>20,000 in Edinburgh, and transmit it to him in London. I promised nothing but to acquaint Scott immediately with his request, and him with Scott's answer. Sir Walter, ere the message reached him, had been candidly told by Constable's own partner that any further advances would be mere folly. Constable lingered on, fluctuating between wild hope and savage despair, until, I seriously believe, he at last hovered on the brink of insanity. When he returned to Edinburgh, it was to confront creditors whom he knew he could not pay.
Scott's Diary has---``_Edinburgh, January_ 16.---Came through cold roads to as cold news. Hurst and Robinson have suffered a bill to come back upon Constable, which I suppose infers the ruin of both houses. We shall soon see. Dined with the Skenes.''---Mr Skene assures me that he appeared that evening quite in his usual spirits, conversing on whatever topic was started as easily and gaily as if there had been no impending calamity; but at parting he whispered---``Skene, I have something to speak to you about; be so good as to look in on me as you go to the Parliament-House to-morrow.'' When Skene called in Castle Street, about half-past nine o'clock next morning, he found Scott writing in his study. He rose, and said---``My friend, give me a shake of your hand---mine is that of a beggar.'' He then told him that Ballantyne had just been with him, and that his ruin was certain and complete; explaining, briefly, the nature of his connexion with the three houses, whose downfall must that morning be made public. He added---``Don't fancy I am going to stay at home to brood idly on, what can't be helped. I was at work upon Woodstock when you came in, and I shall take up the pen the moment I get back from Court. I mean to dine with you again on Sunday, and hope then to report progress to some purpose.''---When Sunday came, he reported accordingly, that in spite of all the numberless interruptions of meetings and conferences with his partner and men of business---to say nothing of his anxieties on account of his wife and daughter---he had written a chapter of his novel every intervening day. And the Diary gives the precise detail. His exertions, he there says, were suspended for the 17th and 18th; but in the course of the 19th, 20th, and 21st, he wrote 38 pages of his novel--- such pages that 70 of them made ``half a volume of the usual size.''
_Diary._---``_January_ 17.---James Ballantyne this morning, good honest fellow, with a visage as black as the crook. He hopes no salvation; has indeed taken measures to stop. It is hard, after having fought such a battle. Have apologized for not attending the Royal Society Club, who have a _gaudeamus_ on this day, and seemed to count much on my being the preses. My old acquaintance, Miss Elizabeth Clerk, sister of Willie, died suddenly. I cannot choose but wish it had been Sir W. S.; and yet the feeling is unmanly. I have Anne, my wife, and Charles, to look after. I felt rather sneaking as I came home from the Parliament-House---felt as if I were liable _monstrari digito_ in no very pleasant way. But this must be borne _cum c<ae>teris;_ and, thank God, however uncomfortable, I do not feel despondent.''
The reader may be curious to see what account Ballantyne's memorandum gives of that dark announcement on the morning of Tuesday the 17th. It is as follows:--- ``On the evening of the 16th, I received from Mr Cadell a distinct message putting me in possession of the truth. I called immediately in Castle Street, but found Sir Walter had gained an unconscious respite by being engaged out at dinner. It was between eight and nine next morning that I made the final communication. No doubt he was greatly stunned---but, upon the whole, he bore it with wonderful fortitude. He then asked---`Well, what is the actual step we must first take? I suppose we must do something?' I reminded him that two or three thousand pounds were due that day, so that we had only to do what we must do---refuse payment---to bring the disclosure sufficiently before the world. He took leave of me with these striking words---`Well, James, depend upon that, I will never forsake you.' ''
In the course of that unhappy yet industrious week, Sir Walter's situation as Ballantyne's partner, became universally known. Mr Ballantyne, as an individual, had no choice but to resolve on the usual course of a commercial man unable to meet engagements: but Scott from the first moment determined to avoid, if by his utmost efforts it could be avoided, the necessity of participating in such steps. He immediately placed his whole affairs in the hands of three trustees (James Jollie, W.S., Alex. Monypenny, W.S., and John Gibson, W.S.), all men of the highest honour and of great professional experience; and declined every offer of private assistance. These were very numerous:---his eldest son and his daughter-in-law eagerly tendered the whole fortune at their disposal, and the principal banks of Edinburgh, especially the house of Sir William Forbes & Co., which was the one most deeply involved in Ballantyne's obligations, sent partners of the first consideration, who were his personal friends, to offer liberal additional accommodation. What, I think, affected him most of all, was a letter from Mr Poole, his daughters' harp-master, offering <L>500,---``probably,'' says the Diary, ``his all.'' From London, also, he received various kind communications. Among others, one tendering an instant advance of <L>30,000---a truly munificent message, conveyed through a distinguished channel, but the source of which was never revealed to him, nor to me until some years after his death, and even then under conditions of secrecy. To all, his answer was the same. And within a few days he had reason to believe that the creditors would, as a body, assent to let things go in the course which he and his trustees suggested.
His Diary has this entry for the 24th January:---``I went to the Court for the first time to-day, and, like the man with the large nose, thought every body was thinking of me and my mishaps. Many were, undoubtedly, and all rather regrettingly; some obviously affected. It is singular to see the difference of men's manner whilst they strive to be kind or civil in their way of addressing me. Some smiled as they wished me good-day, as if to say, `Think nothing about it, my lad; it is quite out of our thoughts.' Others greeted me with the affected gravity which one sees and despises at a funeral. The best-bred---all I believe meaning equally well---just shook hands and went on. A foolish puff in the papers, calling on men and gods to assist a popular author, who having choused the public of many thousands, had not the sense to keep wealth when he had it. If I am hard pressed, and measures used against me, I must use all means of legal defence, and subscribe myself bankrupt in a petition for sequestration. It is the course one should, at any rate, have advised a client to take. But for this I would, in a Court of Honour, deserve to lose my spurs. No,---if they permit me, I will be their vassal for life, and dig in the mine of my imagination to find diamonds (or what may sell for such) to make good my engagements, not to enrich myself. And this from no reluctance to be called the Insolvent, which I probably am, but because I will not put out of the power of my creditors the resources, mental or literary, which yet remain to me.''
_Jan._ 26.---``Gibson comes with a joyful face, announcing that almost all the creditors had aggreed to a private trust. This is handsome and confidential, and must warm my best efforts to get them out of the scrape. I will not doubt--- to doubt is to lose. Sir William Forbes took the chair, and behaved, as he has ever done, with the generosity of ancient faith and early friendship. That House is more deeply concerned than most. In what scenes have Sir William and I not borne share together! desperate and almost bloody affrays, rivalries, deep drinking matches, and finally, with the kindliest feelings on both sides, somewhat separated by his retiring much within the bosom of his family, and I moving little beyond mine. It is fated our planets should cross, though, and that at the periods most interesting for me. Down---down---a hundred thoughts.''
There soon, however, emerged new difficulties. It would indeed have been very wonderful if all the creditors of three companies, whose concerns were inextricably intertangled, had at once adopted the views of the meeting, composed entirely of eminent citizens of Edinburgh, over which Sir William Forbes presided on the 26th of January; nor, it is proper to add, was Scott himself aware, until some days later, of the extent to which the debts of the two houses of Constable and Hurst exceeded their assets circumstances necessarily of the greatest importance to the holders of Ballantyne's paper. In point of fact, it turned out that the obligations of the three firms had, by what is termed cross-rankings, reached respectively sums far beyond the calculations of any of the parties. On the full revelation of this state of things, some of the printers' creditors felt great disinclination to close with Scott's proposals; and there ensued a train of harassment, the detail of which must be left in his Diary, but which was finally terminated according to his own original, and really most generous suggestion.
The day of calamity revealed the fact that James Ballantyne personally possessed no assets whatever. The claims against Sir Walter, as the sole really responsible partner in the printing firm, and also as an individual, settled into a sum of about <L>130,000. On much heavier debts Constable & Co. paid ultimately 2s. 9d. in the pound; Hurst & Robinson about 1s. 3d. The Ballantyne firm had as yet done nothing to prevent their following the same line of conduct. It might still have allowed itself (and not James Ballantyne merely as an individual) to be declared bankrupt, and obtained a speedy discharge, like these booksellers, from all its obligations. But for Scott's being a partner, the whole affair must have been settled in a very short time. If he could have at all made up his mind to let commercial matters take the usual commercial course, the creditors of the firm would have brought into the market whatever property, literary or otherwise, Scott at the hour of failure possessed; they would have had a right to his liferent of Abbotsford, among other things---and to his reversionary interest in the estate, in case either his eldest son or his daughter-in-law should die without leaving issue, and thus void the provisions of their marriage-contract. All this being disposed of, the result would have been a dividend very far superior to what the creditors of Constable and Hurst received; and in return, the partners in the printing firm would have been left at liberty to reap for themselves the profits of their future exertions. Things were, however, complicated in consequence of the transfer of Abbotsford in January 1825. Some creditors now had serious thoughts of contesting the validity of that transaction; but a little reflection and examination satisfied them that nothing could be gained by such an attempt. On the other hand, Sir Walter felt that he had done wrong, in placing any part of his property beyond the reach of his creditors, by entering into that marriage-contract without a previous most deliberate examination into the state of his responsibilities. He must have felt in this manner, though I have no sort of doubt, that the result of such an examination in January 1825, if accompanied by an instant calling in of all _counter-bills,_ would have been to leave him at perfect liberty to do all that he did upon that occasion. However that may have been, and whatever may have been his delicacy respecting this point, he persisted in regarding the embarrassment of his commercial firm with the feelings not of a merchant but of a gentleman. He thought that by devoting the rest of his life to the service of his creditors, he could, in the upshot, pay the last farthing he owed them. They (with one or two exceptions) applauded his honourable intentions and resolutions, and partook, to a certain extent, in the self-reliance of their debtor. Nor had they miscalculated as to their interest. Nor had Sir Walter calculated wrongly. He paid the penalty of health and life, but he saved his honour and his self- respect:---
``The glory dies not, and the grief is past.''<*>
* Sonnet on Scott's death, by Sir E. Brydges.
As to the difficulty that occurred in February, a single extract from his Diary must here suffice. On the 16th he writes thus:---`` `Misfortune's growling bark' comes louder and louder. By assigning my whole property to trustees for behoof of creditors, with two works in progress and nigh publication, and with all my future literary labours, I conceived I was bringing into the field a large fund of payment, which could not exist without my exertions, and that thus far I was entitled to a corresponding degree of indulgence. I therefore supposed, on selling this house, and various other property, and on receiving the price of Woodstock and Napoleon, that they would give me leisure to make other exertions, and be content with the rents of Abbotsford, without attempting a sale. But Gibson last night came in after dinner, and gave me to understand that the Bank of Scotland see this in a different point of view, and consider my contribution of the produce of past, present, and future labours, as compensated _in full_ by their accepting of the trust-deed, instead of pursuing the mode of sequestration, and placing me in the Gazette. They therefore expect the trustees to commence a lawsuit to reduce the marriage-settlement which settles the estate upon Walter; thus loading me with a most expensive suit, and I suppose selling library and whatever else they can lay hold on. Now this seems unequal measure, and would besides of itself totally destroy any power of fancy---of genius, if it deserves the name, which may remain to me. A man cannot write in the House of Correction; and this species of _peine forte et dure_ which is threatened, would render it impossible for one to help himself or others. So I told Gibson I had my mind made up as far back as the 24th of January, not to suffer myself to be harder pressed than law would press me. If they take the sword of the law, I must lay hold of the shield. If they are determined to consider me as an irretrievable bankrupt, they have no title to object to my settling upon the usual terms which the statute requires. They probably are of opinion, that I will be ashamed to do this by applying publicly for a sequestration. Now, my feelings are different. I am ashamed to owe debts I cannot pay; but I am not ashamed of being classed with those to whose rank I belong. The disgrace is in being an actual bankrupt, not in being made a legal one. I had like to have been too hasty in this matter. I must have a clear understanding that I am to be benefited or indulged in some way, if I bring in two such funds as those works in progress, worth certainly from <L>10,000 to <L>15,000.''
It was by and bye settled that he should be left in the undisturbed possession of Abbotsford, on his pledging himself to dispose immediately of all his other property, of what kind soever, for the behoof of the creditors---to limit his personal expenses henceforth within his official salary ---and, continuing his literary labour with his best diligence, to pay in all its profits until the debt should be wholly obliterated. Excepting from a single London Jew, a creditor originally of Hurst's, no practical interference with this arrangement was ever subsequently threatened. Scott, meanwhile, laboured on at his desk. In the very darkest period of his anxieties, he not only continued his Novel and his Bonaparte, but threw off his graceful and humorous, as well as sagacious and instructive reviewal of Pepys' Diary: and before that was published, he had also most effectually displayed his self-possession by a political demonstration under a new but thin disguise.
As soon as Parliament met, the recent convulsion in the commercial world became the subject of some very remarkable debates in the Lower House; and the Ministers, tracing it mainly to the rash facility of bankers in yielding credit to speculators, proposed to strike at the root of the evil by taking from private banks the privilege of circulating their own notes as money, and limiting even the Bank of England to the issue of notes of <L>5 value and upwards. The Government designed that this regulation should apply to Scotland as well as England; and the northern public received the announcement with almost universal reprobation. The Scotch banks apprehended a most serious curtailment of their profits; and the merchants and traders of every class were well disposed to back them in opposing the Ministerial innovation. Scott, ever sensitively jealous as to the interference of English statesmen with the internal affairs of his native kingdom, took the matter up with as much zeal as he could have displayed against the Union had he lived in the days of Queen Anne. His national feelings may have been somewhat stimulated, perhaps, by his deep sense of gratitude for the generous forbearance which several Edinburgh banking-houses had just been exhibiting toward himself; and I think it need not be doubted, moreover, that the _splendida bilis_ which, as the Diary confesses, his own misfortunes had engendered, demanded some escape-valve. Hence the three _Letters Of Malachi Malagrowther,_ which appeared first in the Edinburgh Weekly Journal, and were afterwards collected into a pamphlet by the late Mr Blackwood, who, on that occasion, for the first time, had justice done to his personal character by ``the Black Hussar of Literature.''
These diatribes produced in Scotland a sensation not, perhaps, inferior to that of the Drapier's letters in Ireland; a greater one, certainly, than any political tract had excited in the British public at large since the appearance of Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution. They were answered most elaborately and acutely in the London Courier (then the semi-official organ of Lord Liverpool's Government) by Sir Walter's friend, the secretary of the Admiralty, Mr Croker: who perhaps hazarded, in the heat of his composition, a few personal allusions that might as well have been spared, and which might have tempted a less good-natured antagonist to a fiery rejoinder. Meeting, however, followed meeting, and petition on petition came up with thousands of signatures; and the Ministers erelong found that the opposition, of which Malachi had led the van, was, in spite of all their own speeches and Mr Croker's essays, too strong and too rapidly strengthening, to be safely encountered. The Scotch part of the measure was dropt; and Scott, having carried his practical object, was not at all disposed to persist in a controversy which, if farther pursued, could scarcely, as he foresaw, fail to interrupt the kindly feelings that Croker and he had for many years entertained for each other, and also to aggravate and prolong, unnecessarily, the resentment with which several of his friends in the Cabinet had regarded his unlooked for appearance as a hostile agitator.
When the Court of Session was to rise for the spring vacation he had to take farewell of his house in Castle Street. Henceforth, his family were to stay always, as he designed, in the country---and a small hired lodging was to suffice for himself when his duty called him to be in Edinburgh. In one day's diary he says,---``Looked out a quantity of things, to go to Abbotsford; for we are flitting, if you please. It is with a sense of pain that I leave behind a parcel of trumpery prints and little ornaments, once the pride of Lady S------'s heart, but which she sees consigned with indifference, to the chance of an auction. Things that have had their day of importance with me I cannot forget, though the merest trifles. But I am glad that she, with bad health, and enough to vex her, has not the same useless mode of associating recollections with this unpleasant business.''---Again, on the 13th March---``I have hinted in these notes, that I am not entirely free from a sort of gloomy fits, with a fluttering of the heart and depression of spirits, just as if I knew not what was going to befall me. I can sometimes resist this successfully, but it is better to evade than to combat it. The hang-dog spirit may have originated in the confusion and chucking about of our old furniture, the stripping of walls of pictures, and rooms of ornaments; the leaving of a house we have so long called our home, is altogether melancholy enough. Meanwhile, to make my recusant spirit do penance, I have set to work to clear away papers and pack them for my journey. What a strange medley of thoughts such a task produces! There lie letters which made the heart throb when received, now lifeless and uninteresting---as are perhaps their writers ---riddles which have been read---schemes which time has destroyed or brought to maturity---memorials of friendships and enmities which are now alike faded. Thus does the ring of Saturn consume itself. To-day annihilates yesterday, as the old tyrant swallowed his children, and the snake its tail. But I must say to my journal as poor Byron did to Moore---``D---n it, Tom, don't be poetical.''
``_March_ 14.---J. B. called this morning to take leave, and receive directions about proofs, &c. Talks of the uproar about Malachi; but I am tired of Malachi---the humour is off, and I have said what I wanted to say, and put the people of Scotland on their guard, as well as Ministers, if they like to be warned. They are gradually destroying what remains of nationality, and making the country _tabula rasa_ for doctrines of bold innovation. Their loosening and grinding down all those peculiarities which distinguished us as Scotsmen, will throw the country into a state in which it will be universally turned to democracy, and instead of canny Saunders, they will have a very dangerous North-British neighbourhood. Some lawyer expressed to Lord Elibank an opinion, that at the Union the English law should have been extended all over Scotland. `I cannot say how that might have answered our purpose,' said Lord Patrick, who was never nonsuited for want of an answer, `but it would scarce have suited _yours,_ since by this time the _Aberdeen Advocates<*>_ would have possessed
* The _Solicitors_ of Aberdeen enjoy somehow the title of _Advocates._
themselves of all the business in Westminster Hall.' ''
``_March_ 15.---This morning I leave No. 39 Castle Street, for the last time. `The cabin was convenient,' and habit had made it agreeable to me. I never reckoned upon a change in this particular so long as I held an office in the Court of Session. In all my former changes of residence it was from good to better---this is retrograding. I leave this house for sale, and I cease to be an Edinburgh citizen, in the sense of being a proprietor, which my father and I have been for sixty years at least. So farewell, poor 39, and may you never harbour worse people than those who now leave you. Not to desert the Lares all at once, Lady S. and Anne remain till Sunday. As for me, I go, as aforesaid, this morning.
`Ha til mi tulidh'!---''<*>
* I return no more.
Sir Walter's Diary begins to be clouded with a darker species of distress than mere loss of wealth could bring to his spirit. His darling grandson is sinking at a distance from him under incurable disease. At home the misfortunes against which his manhood struggled with stern energy were encountered by his affectionate wife under the disadvantages of enfeebled health; and it seems but too evident that mental pain and mortification had a great share in hurrying her ailments to a fatal end. Nevertheless, all his afflictions do not seem to have interrupted for more than a day or two his usual course of labour. With rare exceptions he appears, all through this trying period, to have finished his daily task---thirty printed pages of Woodstock--- until that novel was completed; or, if he paused in it, he gave a similar space of time to some minor production; such as his paper on the Life of Kemble. He also corresponded much as usual (notwithstanding all he says about indolence on that score) with his absent friends and I need scarcely add, that his duties as Sheriff claimed many hours every week. The picture of resolution and industry which this portion of his Journal presents, is certainly as remarkable as the boldest imagination could have conceived.
``_Abbotsford, March_ 17.---A letter from Lockhart. My worst augury is verified;---the medical people think poor Johnnie is losing strength; he is gone with his mother to Brighton. The bitterness of this probably impending calamity is extreme. The child was almost too good for this world;---beautiful in features; and though spoiled by every one, having one of the sweetest tempers as well as the quickest intellect I ever saw; a sense of humour quite extraordinary in a child, and, owing to the general notice which was taken of him, a great deal more information than suited his years. The poor dear love had so often a slow fever, that when it pressed its little lips to mine, I always foreboded to my own heart what all I fear are now aware of.
``_March_ 18.---Slept indifferently, and under the influence of Queen Mab, seldom auspicious to me. Dreamed of reading the tale of the Prince of the Black Marble Islands to Little Johnnie, extended on a paralytic chair, and yet telling all his pretty stories about Ha-Papa, as he calls me, and Chiefswood---and waked to think I should see the little darling no more, or see him as a thing that had better never have existed. Oh misery! misery! that the best I can wish for him is early death, with all the wretchedness to his parents that is likely to ensue!
``_March_ 19---Lady S., the faithful and true companion of my fortunes, good and bad, for so many years, has, but with difficulty, been prevailed on to see Dr Abercrombie, and his opinion is far from favourable. Her asthmatic complaints are fast terminating in hydropsy, as I have long suspected; yet the announcement of the truth is overwhelming. They are to stay a little longer in town to try the effects of a new medicine. On Wednesday, they propose to return hither---a new affliction, where there was enough before; yet her constitution is so good, that if she will be guided by advice, things may be yet ameliorated. God grant it! for really these misfortunes come too close upon each other.
``_March_ 28.---We have now been in solitude for some time---myself nearly totally so, excepting at meals. One is tempted to ask himself, knocking at the door of his own heart, Do you love this extreme loneliness? I can answer conscientiously, _I do._ The love of solitude was with me a passion of early youth; when in my teens, I used to fly from company to indulge in visions and airy castles of my own, the disposal of ideal wealth, and the exercise of imaginary power. This feeling prevailed even till I was eighteen, when love and ambition awakening with other passions, threw me more into society, from which I have, however, at times withdrawn myself, and have been always even glad to do so. I have risen from a feast satiated; and unless it be one or two persons of very strong intellect, or whose spirits and good humour amuse me, I wish neither to see the high, the low, nor the middling class of society. This is a feeling without the least tinge of misanthropy, which I always consider as a kind of blasphemy of a shocking description. If God bears with the very worst of us, we may surely endure each other. If thrown into society, I always have, and always will endeavour to bring pleasure with me, at least to shew willingness to please. But for all this, `I had rather live alone,' and I wish my appointment, so convenient otherwise, did not require my going to Edinburgh. But this must be, and in my little lodging I shall be lonely enough.
``_April_ 1.---_Ex uno die disce omnes._---Rose at seven or sooner, studied and wrote till breakfast, with Anne, about a quarter before ten. Lady Scott seldom able to rise till twelve or one. Then I write or study again till one. At that hour to-day I drove to Huntley Burn, and walked home by one of the hundred and one pleasing paths which I have made through the woods I have planted---now chatting with Tom Purdie, who carries my plaid and speaks when he pleases, telling long stories of hits and misses in shooting twenty years back---sometimes chewing the cud of sweet and bitter fancy---and sometimes attending to the humours of two curious little terriers of the Dandie Dinmont breed, together with a noble wolf-hound puppy which Glengarry has given me to replace Maida. This brings me down to the very moment I do tell---the rest is prophetic. I shall feel drowsy when this book is locked, and perhaps sleep until Dalgleish brings the dinner summons. Then I shall have a chat with Lady S. and Anne; some broth or soup, a slice of plain meat---and man's chief business, in Dr Johnson's estimation, is briefly despatched. Half an hour with my family, and half an hour's coquetting with a cigar, a tumbler of weak whisky and water, and a novel perhaps, lead on to tea, which sometimes consumes another half hour of chat; then write and read in my own room till ten o'clock at night; a little bread, and then a glass of porter, and to bed; and this, very rarely varied by a visit from some one, is the tenor of my daily life---and a very pleasant one indeed, were it not for apprehensions about Lady S. and poor Johnnie. The former will, I think, do well; for the latter---I fear---I fear---
``_April_ 3.---I have the extraordinary and gratifying news that _Woodstock_ is sold for <L>8228; all ready money ---a matchless sale for less than three months' work.'' [The reader will understand that, the novel being sold for the behoof of J. B. and Co.'s creditors, this sum includes the cost of printing the first edition, as well as paper.] if Napoleon does as well, or near it, it will put the trust affairs in high flourish. Four or five years of leisure and industry would, with such success, amply replace my losses. I have a curious fancy; I will go set two or three acorns, and judge by their success in growing whether I shall succeed in clearing my way or not. I have a little toothach keeps me from working much to-day---besides I sent off copy for Napoleon.''
The price received for _Woodstock_ shews what eager competition had been called forth among the booksellers, when, after the lapse of several years, Constable's monopoly of Sir Walter's novels was abolished by their common calamity. The interest excited, not only in Scotland and England, but all over civilized Europe, by the news of Scott's misfortunes, must also have had its influence in quickening this commercial rivalry. The reader need hardly be told, that the first meeting of James Ballantyne & Company's creditors witnessed the transformation, a month before darkly prophesied, of the ``Great Unknown'' into the ``Too-well-known.'' Even for those who had long ceased to entertain any doubt as to the main source at least of the Waverley romances, there would have been something stirring in the first confession of the author; but it in fact included the avowal, that he had stood alone in the work of creation; and when the mighty claim came in the same breath with the announcement of personal ruin, the effect on the community of Edinburgh was electrical. It is, in my opinion, not the least striking feature in his Diary, that it contains no allusion (save the ominous one of 18th December) to this long withheld revelation. He notes his painful anticipation of returning to the Parliament-House---_monstrari digito_---as an insolvent. It does not seem even to have occurred to him, that when he appeared there the morning after his creditors had heard his confession, there could not be many men in the place but must gaze on his familiar features with a mixture of curiosity, admiration, and sympathy, of which a hero in the moment of victory might have been proud--- which might have swelled the heart of a martyr as he was bound to the stake. The universal feeling was, I believe, much what the late amiable and accomplished Earl of Dudley expressed to Mr Morritt when these news reached them at Brighton.---``Scott ruined!'' said he, ``the author of Waverley ruined! Good God! let every man to whom he has given months of delight give him a sixpence, and he will rise to-morrow morning richer than Rothschild!''
It is no wonder that the book, which it was known he had been writing during this crisis of distress, should have been expected with solicitude. Shall we find him, asked thousands, to have been master truly of his genius in the moment of this ordeal? Shall we trace anything of his own experiences in the construction of his imaginary personages and events?---I know not how others interpreted various passages in Woodstock, but there were not a few that carried deep meaning for such of Scott's own friends as were acquainted with, not his pecuniary misfortune alone, but the drooping health of his wife, and the consolation afforded him by the dutiful devotion of his daughter Anne, in whose character and demeanour a change had occurred exactly similar to that painted in poor Alice Lee: ``A light joyous air, with something of a humorous expression, which seemed to be looking for amusement, had vanished before the touch of affliction, and a calm melancholy supplied its place, which seemed on the watch to administer comfort to others.'' In several _mottoes,_ and other scraps of verse, the curious reader will find similar traces of the facts and feelings recorded in the author's Diary. As to the novel itself, though none can pretend to class it in the very highest rank of his works, since we feel throughout the effects of the great fundamental error, likened by a contemporary critic to that of the writer who should lay his scene at Rome immediately after the battle of Philippi, and introduce Brutus as the survivor in that conflict, and Cicero as his companion in victory; yet even this censor is forced to allow that Woodstock displays certain excellencies, not exemplified in all the author's fictions, and which attest, more remarkably than any others could have done, the complete self-possession of the mind when composing it. The success of the book was great: large as the price was, its publishers had no reason to repent their bargain; and of course the rapid receipt of such a sum as <L>8000, the product of hardly three months' labour, highly gratified the body of creditors, whose debtor had devoted to them whatever labour his health should henceforth permit him to perform.
His Diary shows that he very soon began another work of fiction; and that he from the first designed the _Chronicles of the Canongate_ to be published by Mr Robert Cadell. That gentleman's connexion with Constable was, from circumstances of which the reader may have traced various little indications, not likely to be renewed after the catastrophe of their old copartnership. They were now endeavouring to establish themselves in separate businesses; and each was, of course, eager to secure the countenance of Sir Walter. He did not hesitate a moment. In the prudence at least of the senior there could no longer be any confidence; and Cadell's frank conduct in warning him against Constable's last mad proposal about a guarantee for <L>20,000, had produced a strong impression.
The progress of the domestic story will be best given by a few more extracts from the Diary:---
``_April_ 8.---We expect a _raid_ of folks to visit us this morning, whom we must have _dined_ before our misfortunes. Save time, wine, and money, these misfortunes---and so far are convenient things---Besides, there is a dignity about them when they come only like the gout in its mildest shape, to authorize diet and retirement, the night-gown and the velvet shoe:---when the one comes to chalk-stones and you go to prison through the other, it is the devil. Or compare the effects of Sieur Gout and absolute poverty upon the stomach---the necessity of a bottle of laudanum in the one case, the want of a morsel of meal in the other. Laidlaw's infant, which died on Wednesday, is buried to-day. The people coming to visit prevent my going---and I am glad of it. I hate funerals---always did;---there is such a mixture of mummery with real grief---the actual mourner perhaps heart-broken, and all the rest making solemn faces, and whispering observations on the weather and public news, and here and there a greedy fellow enjoying the cake and wine. I saw the poor child's funeral from a distance. Ah, that _Distance!_ What a magician for conjuring up scenes of joy or sorrow, smoothing all asperities, reconciling all incongruities, veiling all absurdities, softening every coarseness, doubling every effect by the influence of the imagination. A Scottish wedding should be seen at a distance;---the gay band of dancers just distinguished amid the elderly group of the spectators---the glass held high, and the distant cheers as it is swallowed, should be only a sketch, not a finished Dutch picture, when it becomes brutal and boorish. Scotch psalmody, too, should be heard from a distance. The grunt and the snivel, and the whine and the scream, should all be blended in that deep and distant sound, which, rising and falling like the Eolian harp, may have some title to be called the praise of one's Maker. Even so the distant funeral: the few mourners on horseback, with their plaids wrapt around them---the father heading the procession as they enter the river, and pointing out the ford by which his darling is to be carried on the last long, road---none of the subordinate figures in discord with the general tone of the incident, but seeming just accessions, and no more; this is affecting.
``_April_ 24.---Constable is sorely broken down.
`Poor fool and knave, I have one part in my heart That's sorry yet for thee.'
His conduct has not been what I deserved at his hand; but I believe that, walking blindfold himself, he misled me without _malice prepense._ It is best to think so at least, until the contrary be demonstrated. To nourish angry passions against a man whom I really liked, would be to lay a blister on my own heart.
``_May_ 6.---The same scene of hopeless (almost) and unavailing anxiety. Still welcoming me with a smile, and asserting she is better. I fear the disease is too deeply entwined with the principles of life. I am a tolerable Stoic, but preach to myself in vain.
`Are these things, then, necessities? Then let us meet them like necessities.'
``May 11.---Charlotte was unable to take leave of me, being in a sound sleep, after a very indifferent night. Perhaps it was as well. Emotion might have hurt her; and nothing I could have expressed would have been worth the risk. I have foreseen, for two years and more, that this menaced event could not be far distant. I have seen plainly, within the last two months, that recovery was hopeless. And yet to part with the companion of twenty-nine years, when so very ill---that I did not, could not foresee. It withers my heart to think of it, and to recollect that I can hardly hope again to seek confidence and counsel from that ear to which all might be safely confided.''
His niece Miss Anne Scott (daughter of Thomas) had kindly arrived before he was thus forced to quit the scene, and repair alone to his new lodgings in Edinburgh:--- ``_Diary_---_Mrs Brown's Lodgings, North St David Street._ ---_May_ 14.---A fair good-morrow to you, Mr Sun, who are shining so brightly on these dull walls. Methinks you look as if you were looking as bright on the banks of the Tweed; but look where you will, Sir Sun, you look upon sorrow and suffering.---Hogg was here yesterday in danger, from having obtained an accommodation of <L>100 from James Ballantyne, which he is now obliged to repay. I am unable to help the poor fellow, being obliged to borrow myself. But I long ago remonstrated against the transaction at all, and gave him <L>50 out of my pocket to avoid granting the accommodation,---but it did no good.
``_May_ 15.---Received the melancholy intelligence that all is over at Abbotsford.
``_Abbotsford, May_ 16.---She died at nine in the morning, after being very ill for two days---easy at last. I arrived here late last night. Anne is worn out, and has had hysterics, which returned on my arrival. Her broken accents were like those of a child---the language as well as the tones broken, but in the most gentle voice of submission. `Poor mamma---never return again---gone for ever ---a better place.' Then, when she came to herself, she spoke with sense, freedom, and strength of mind, till her weakness returned. It would have been inexpressibly moving to me as a stranger---what was it then to the father and the husband? For myself, I scarce know how I feel ---sometimes as firm as the Bass Rock, sometimes as weak as the water that breaks on it. I am as alert at thinking and deciding as I ever was in my life. Yet, when I contrast what this place now is, with what it has been not long since, I think my heart will break. Lonely, aged, deprived of my family---all but poor Anne; an impoverished, an embarrassed man, deprived of the sharer of my thoughts and counsels, who could always talk down my sense of the calamitous apprehensions which break the heart that must bear them alone---Even her foibles were of service to me, by giving me things to think of beyond my weary self-reflections.
``I have seen her. The figure I beheld is, and is not, my Charlotte---my thirty years' companion. There is the same symmetry of form, though those limbs are rigid which were once so gracefully elastic---but that yellow masque, with pinched features, which seems to mock life rather than emulate it,---can it be the face that was once so full of lively expression? I will not look on it again. Anne thinks her little changed, because the latest idea she had formed of her mother is as she appeared under circumstances of extreme pain---mine go back to a period of comparative ease. If I write long in this way, I shall write down my resolution, which I should rather write up if I could. I wonder how I shall do with the large portion of thoughts which were hers for thirty years. I suspect they will be hers yet, for a long time at least. But I will not blaze cambric and crape in the public eye like a disconsolate widower, that most affected of all characters.
``_May_ 18.---Another day, and a bright one to the external world, again opens on us; the air soft, and the flowers smiling, and the leaves glittering. They cannot refresh her to whom mild weather was a natural enjoyment. Cerements of lead and of wood already hold her--- cold earth must have her soon. But it is not my Charlotte--- it is not the bride of my youth, the mother of my children, that will be laid among the ruins of Dryburgh, which we have so often visited in gaiety and pastime---No! no! She is sentient and conscious of my emotions somewhere---somehow: _where_ we cannot tell; _how_ we cannot tell; yet would I not at this moment renounce the mysterious yet certain hope that I shall see her in a better world, for all that this world can give me. The necessity of this separation---that necessity which rendered it even a relief,---that and patience must be my comfort. I do not experience those paroxysms of grief which others do on the same occasion. I can exert myself, and speak even cheerfully with the poor girls. But alone, or if anything touches me,---the choking sensation. I have been to her room: there was no voice in it---no stirring; the pressure of the coffin was visible on the bed, but it had been removed elsewhere; all was neat, as she loved it, but all was calm---calm as death. I remembered the last sight of her: she raised herself in bed, and tried to turn her eyes after me, and said, with a sort of smile, ` You all have such melancholy faces.' These were the last words I ever heard her utter, and I hurried away, for she did not seem quite conscious of what she said; when I returned, immediately departing, she was in a deep sleep. It is deeper now. This was but seven days since.
``They are arranging the chamber of death---that which was long the apartment of connubial happiness, and of whose arrangements (better than in richer houses) she was so proud. They are treading fast and thick. For weeks you could have heard a foot-fall. Oh, my God!
``_May_ 19.---Anne, poor love, is ill with her exertions and agitation---cannot walk---and is still hysterical, though less so. We speak freely of her whom we have lost, and mix her name with our ordinary conversation. This is the rule of nature. All primitive people speak of their dead, and I think virtuously and wisely. The idea of blotting the names of those who are gone out of the language and familiar discourse of those to whom they were dearest, is one of the rules of ultra-civilization. which in so many instances strangle natural feeling by way of avoiding a painful sensation. The Highlanders speak of their dead children as freely as of their living members---how poor Colin or Robert would have acted in such or such a situation. It is a generous and manly tone of feeling; and so far as it may be adopted without affectation or contradicting the general habits of society, I reckon on observing it.
``_May_ 20.---To-night, I trust, will bring Charles or Lockhart, or both. Sophia's baby was christened on Sunday 14th May, at Brighton, by the name of Walter Scott. May God give him life and health to wear it with credit to himself and those belonging to him! Melancholy to think that the next morning after this ceremony deprived him of so near a relation!
``_May_ 22.---Lockhart doubtful if Sophia's health will let him be here. Charles arrived last night, much affected, of course. Anne had a return of her fainting-fits on seeing him, and again upon seeing Mr Ramsay,<*> the gentleman
* The Rev. E. B. Ramsay, now Dean of Edinburgh.
who performs the service. I heard him do so with the utmost propriety for my late friend, Lady Alvanley,<*>
* Lady Alvanley died at Edinburgh, in January 1825.
the arrangement of whose funeral devolved upon me. How little I could guess when, where, and with respect to whom, I should next hear those solemn words. Well, I am not apt to shrink from that which is my duty, merely because it is painful; but I wish this day over. A kind of cloud of stupidity hangs about me, as if all were unreal that men seem to be doing and talking about
``_May_ 23.---About an hour before the mournful ceremony of yesterday, Walter arrived, having travelled express from Ireland on receiving the news. He was much affected, poor fellow,---and no wonder. Poor Charlotte nursed him, and perhaps for that reason she was over partial to him. The whole scene floats as a sort of dream before me---the beautiful day, the grey ruins covered and hidden among clouds of foliage and flourish, where the grave, even in the lap of beauty, lay lurking, and gaped for its prey. Then the grave looks, the hasty important bustle of men with spades and mattocks---the train of carriages---the coffin containing the creature that was so long the dearest on earth to me, and whom I was to consign to the very spot which in pleasure-parties we so frequently visited. It seems still as if this could not be really so. But it is so---and duty to God and to my children must teach me patience. Poor Anne has had longer fits since our arrival from Dryburgh than before, but yesterday was the crisis. She desired to hear prayers read by Mr Ramsay, who performed the duty in the most solemn manner. But her strength could not carry it through. She fainted before the service was concluded.
``_May_ 24.---Slept wretchedly, or rather waked wretchedly all night, and was very sick and bilious in consequence, and scarce able to hold up my head with pain. A walk, however, with my sons, did me a deal of good;---indeed their society is the greatest support the world can afford me. Their ideas of everything are so just and honourable, kind towards their sisters, and affectionate to me, that I must be grateful to God for sparing them to me, and continue to battle with the world for their sakes, if not for my own.
``_May_ 25.---I had sound sleep to-night, and waked with little or nothing of the strange dreamy feeling which had made me for some days feel like one bewildered in a country where mist or snow has disguised those features of the landscape which are best known to him---This evening Walter left us, being anxious to return to his wife as well as to his regiment.
``_May_ 26.---A rough morning makes me think of St George's Channel, which Walter must cross to-night or to-morrow to get to Athlone. His absence is a great blank in our circle, especially I think to his sister Anne, to whom he shews invariably much kindness. But indeed they do so without exception each towards the other; and in weal or wo have shown themselves a family of love. I will go to town on Monday and resume my labours. Being now of a grave nature, they cannot go against the general temper of my feelings, and in other respects the exertion. as far as I am concerned, will do me good; besides I must r<e:>establish my fortune for the sake of the children, and of my own character. I have not leisure to indulge the disabling and discouraging thoughts that press on me. Were an enemy coming upon my house, would I not do my best to fight, although oppressed in spirits? and shall a similar despondency prevent me from mental exertion? It shall not, by Heaven! This day and to-morrow I give to the currency of the ideas which have of late occupied my mind, and with Monday they shall be mingled at least with other thoughts and cares.---
``_Abbotsford, Saturday, June_ 17.---Left; Edinburgh today, after Parliament-House. My two girls met me at Torsonce, which was a pleasant surprise, and we returned in the sociable altogether. Found everything right and well at Abbotsford under the new regime. I again took possession of the family bed-room, and my widowed couch. This was a sore trial, but it was necessary not to blink such a resolution. Indeed, I did not like to have it thought that there is any way in which I can be beaten.
``_September_ 12.---I begin to fear Nap. will swell to seven volumes.---As I slept for a few minutes in my chair, to which I am more addicted than I could wish, I heard, as I thought, my poor wife call me by the familiar name of fondness which she gave me. My recollections on waking were melancholy enough. These be
`The airy tongues that syllable men's names.'
``_September_ 13.---Wrote my task in the morning, and thereafter had a letter from the sage Privy-counsellor ------. He proposes to me that I shall propose to the ------ of ------, and offers his own right honourable intervention to bring so beautiful a business to bear. I am struck dumb---absolutely mute and speechless---and how to prevent him making me farther a fool is not easy, for he has left me no time to assure him of the absurdity of what he proposes; and if he should ever hint at such a piece of d---d impertinence, what must the lady think of my conceit or of my feelings! I will write to his present quarters, however, that he may, if possible, have warning not to continue this absurdity.''<*>
* This was not the only proposition of the kind that reached him
* during his widowhood. In the present case there was very high
* rank and an ample fortune.
Lady Scott had not been quite four months dead, and the entry of the preceding day shews how extremely ill-timed was this communication, from a gentleman with whom Sir Walter had never had any intimacy. Nor will the next entry that I extract diminish this impression. In October he resolved to make a journey to London and Paris, in both which capitals he had reason to expect important material would be submitted to him as the biographer of Napoleon. At starting he writes:---``_October_ 11.--- We are ingenious self-tormentors. This journey annoys me more than anything of the kind in my life. My wife's figure seems to stand before me, and her voice is in my ears---`Scott, do not go.' It half frightens me. Strange throbbing at my heart, and a disposition to be very sick. It is just the effect of so many feelings which had been lulled asleep by the uniformity of my life, but which awaken on any new subject of agitation. Poor, poor Charlotte!! I cannot daub it farther. I get incapable of arranging my papers too. I will go out for half an hour. God relieve me!''
His expedition was a very seasonable relief; nor was he disappointed as to its direct object. By the kindness of Earl Bathurst, Colonial Secretary of State, and the Under-secretaries, Mr Wilmot Horton and Mr Robert Hay (who were all attached friends of his) he had access to many unpublished documents preserved in Downing Street, and copious extracts were prepared under his directions. The Duke of Wellington was good enough to give him a MS. commentary of his own on the Russian campaign, and many hours of confidential conversation respecting other parts of Buonaparte's military history. At Paris he was treated with equal kindness by Marshal Macdonald, with whom he had become acquainted a few years before, when the Marshal visited his paternal kindred in Scotland; among others, Sir Walter's constant friend, Hector M`Donald Buchanan. In both cities he was received with the most marked attention. The deep and respectful sympathy with which his misfortunes, and gallant behaviour under them, had been regarded by all classes of men at home and abroad, was brought home to his perception in a way not to be mistaken. Finally, he had the satisfaction of settling his son Charles's destiny: the King personally undertaking that as soon as he had graduated at Oxford, he should be launched in the diplomatic service. I must confine myself to a very few extracts from the Diary--- which will illustrate, among other things, the range of his society on this occasion.
``_Windsor, October_ 20.---Commanded down to pass a day at Windsor. The Lodge in the Forest, though ridiculed by connoisseurs, seems to be no bad specimen of a royal retirement, and is delightfully situated. A kind of cottage, too large perhaps for the style, but yet so managed that in the walks you only see parts of it at once, and these well composed and grouping with the immense trees. His Majesty received me with the same mixture of kindness and courtesy which has always distinguished his conduct towards me. There was no company besides the royal retinue--- Lady Conyngham---her daughter---and two or three other ladies. After we left table, there was excellent music by the royal band, who lay ambushed in a green-house adjoining the apartment. The King made me sit beside him, and talk a great deal---_too much_ perhaps--- for he has the art of raising one's spirits, and making you forget the _retenue_ which is prudent everywhere, especially at court. But he converses himself with so much ease and elegance, that you lose thoughts of the prince in admiring the well-bred and accomplished gentleman. He is in many respects the model of a British Monarch---has little inclination to try experiments on government otherwise than through his Ministers---sincerely, I believe, desires the good of his subjects---is kind towards the distressed, and moves and speaks `every inch a king.' I am sure such a man is fitter for us than one who would long to head armies, or be perpetually intermeddling with _la grande politique._ A sort of reserve, which creeps on him daily, and prevents his going to places of public resort, is a disadvantage, and prevents his being so generally popular as is earnestly to be desired. This, I think, was much increased by the behaviour of the rabble in the brutal insanity of the Queen's trial, when John Bull, meaning the best in the world, made such a beastly figure.---_Pall-Mall, October_ 21.---Walked in the morning with Sir William Knighton, and had much confidential chat, not fit to be here set down, in case of accidents. Returned to a hasty dinner at Lockhart's, and then hurried away to see honest Dan Terry's theatre, called the Adelphi. The heat was dreadful, and Anne so unwell that she was obliged to be carried into Terry's house,---a curious dwelling no larger than a squirrels cage, which he has contrived to squeeze out of the vacant space of the theatre, and which is accessible by a most complicated combination of staircases and small passages. There we had rare good porter and oysters after the play.''
Sir Walter returned from Paris about the middle of the ensuing mouth---and his progress from London homewards is indicated in the following entries:---``_Oxford, November_ 21.---Breakfasted with Charles in his chambers at Brazen-nose, where he had everything very neat. How pleasant it is for a father to sit at his child's board! It is like the aged man reclining under the shadow of the oak which he has planted. My poor plant has some storms to undergo, but were this expedition conducive to no more than his entrance into life under suitable auspices, I should consider the toil and the expense well bestowed.---_Nov._ 23. Slept at Macclesfield. As we came in between ten and eleven, the people of the inn expressed surprise at our travelling so late, as the general distress of the manufacturers has rendered many of the lower classes desperately outrageous.---_Nov._ 24. Breakfasted at Manchester;---pressed on---and by dint of exertion reached Kendal to sleep; thus getting out of the region of the stern, sullen, unwashed artificers, whom you see lounging sulkily along the streets in Lancashire. God's justice is requiting, and will yet farther requite, those who have blown up this country into a state of unsubstantial opulence, at the expense of the health and morals of the lower classes.---_Abbotsford, November_ 26.---Naturally reflected how much expense has increased since I first travelled. My uncle's servant, during the jaunts we made together while I was a boy, used to have his option of a shilling per diem for board wages, and usually preferred it to having his charges borne. A servant now-a-days, to be comfortable on the road, should have 4s. or 4s. 6d. board wages, which before 1790 would have maintained his master. But if this be pitiful, it is still more so to find the alteration in my own temper. When young, on returning from such a trip as I have just had, my mind would have loved to dwell on all I had seen that was rich and rare, or have been placing, perhaps, in order, the various additions with which I had supplied my stock of information---and now, like a stupid boy blundering over an arithmetical question half obliterated on his slate, I go stumbling on upon the audit of pounds, shillings, and pence. Well,---the skirmish has cost me <L>200. I wished for information---and I have had to pay for it.''------
On proceeding to Edinburgh to resume his official duties, Sir Walter established himself in a furnished house in Walker Street, it being impossible for him to leave his daughter alone in the country, and the aspect of his affairs being so much ameliorated that he did not think it necessary to carry the young lady to such a place as Mrs Brown's lodgings. During the six ensuing months, however, he led much the same life of toil and seclusion from company which that of Abbotsford had been during the preceding autumn ---very rarely dining abroad, except with one or two intimate friends, _en famille_---still more rarely receiving even a single guest at home: all the while, in fact, he suffered great pain (enough to have disturbed effectually any other man's labours, whether official or literary) from successive attacks of rheumatism, which seems to have been fixed on him by the wet sheets of one of his French inns; and his Diary contains, besides, various indications that his constitution was already shaking under the fatigue to which he had subjected it. Formerly, however great the quantity of work he put through his hands, his evenings were almost always reserved for the light reading of an elbow-chair, or the enjoyment of his family and friends. Now he seemed to grudge every minute that was not spent at the desk. The little that he read of new books, or for mere amusement, was done by snatches in the course of his meals; and to walk, when he could walk at all, to the Parliament House, and back again, through the Prince's Street Gardens, was his only exercise and his only relaxation. Every ailment, of whatever sort, ended in aggravating his lameness; and, perhaps, the severest test his philosophy encountered was the feeling of bodily helplessness that from week to week crept upon him. The winter, to make bad worse, was a very cold and stormy one. The growing sluggishness of his blood shewed itself in chilblains, not only on the feet but the fingers, and his handwriting becomes more and more cramped and confused.
He spent a few days at Abbotsford at Christmas, and several weeks during the spring vacation; but the frequent Saturday excursions were now out of the question---if for no other reason, on account of the quantity of books which he must have by him while working at his Napoleon. He says on the 30th of December---``Wrote hard. Last day of an eventful year; much evil---and some good, but especially the courage to endure what Fortune sends, without becoming a pipe for her fingers. It is _not_ the last day of the year; but to-morrow being Sunday, we hold our festival to-day. The Fergussons came, and we had the usual appliances of mirth and good cheer. Yet our party, like the chariot-wheels of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, dragged heavily.---It must be allowed that the regular recurrence of annual festivals among the same individuals has, as life advances, something in it that is melancholy. We meet like the Survivors of some perilous expedition, wounded and weakened ourselves, and looking through diminished ranks to think of those who are no more. Or they are like the feasts of the Caribs, in which they held that the pale and speechless phantoms of the deceased appeared and mingled with the living. Yet where shall we fly from vain repining?---or why should we give up the comfort of seeing our friends, because they em no longer be to us, or we to them, what we once were to each other?''
On again quitting Tweedside after the spring holidays (1827), the Diary has:---``I never could help admiring the concatenation between Ahithopel's setting his house in order and hanging himself.<*> The one seems to follow the other
* 2d Samuel, xvii. 23.
as a matter of course. But what frightens and disgusts me is those fearful letters from those who have been long dead, to those who linger on their wayfare through the valley of tears. Those fine lines of Spencer came into my head---
``The shade of youthful Hope is there, That lingered long, and latest died; Ambition all dissolved to air, With phantom Honours by his side. What empty shadows glimmer nigh? They once were Friendship, Truth, and Love! Oh! die to thought, to memory die, Since lifeless to my heart ye prove.''<*>
* ``Poems by the late Honourable W. R. Spencer,'' p. 45.
Ay, and can I forget the author---the frightful moral of his own vision? What is this world?---a dream within a dream: as we grow older, each step is an awakening. The youth awakes, as he thinks, from childhood---the full-grown man despises the pursuits of youth as visionary--- the old man looks on manhood as a feverish dream. The grave the last sleep? No; it is the last and final awakening.
``_Edinburgh, May_ 15.---It is impossible not to compare this return to Edinburgh with others in more happy tunes. But we should rather recollect under what distress of mind I took up my lodgings in Mrs Brown's last summer.--- Went to Court and resumed old habits. Heard the true history of ------.<*> Imagination renders us liable to be the
* Sir Walter had this morning heard of the suicide of a man of
* warm imagination, to whom, at an earlier period, he was much
victims of occasional low spirits. All belonging to this gifted, as it is called, but often unhappy class, must have felt, that but for the dictates ofreligion, or the natural recoil of the mind from the idea of dissolution, there have been times when they would have been willing to throw away life as a child does a broken toy. I am sure I know one who has often felt so. O God! what are we?--- Lords of nature?---Why, a tile drops from a house-top, which an elephant would not feel more than the fall of a sheet of paste-board, and there lies his lordship. Or something of inconceivably minute origin---the pressure of a bone, or the inflammation of a particle of the brain---takes place, and the emblem of the Deity destroys himself or some one else. We hold our health and our reason on terms slighter than one would desire, were it in their choice, to hold an Irish cabin.''
These are melancholy entries. Most of those from which they have been selected begin with R. for Rheumatism, or R. R. for Rheumatism redoubled, and then mark the number of leaves sent to Ballantyne---the proof-sheets corrected for press---or the calculations on which he reluctantly made up his mind to extend the Life of Buonaparte from six to seven, from seven to eight, and finally from eight to nine thick and closely-printed volumes.
During the early months of 1827, however, he executed various minor tracts also: for the Quarterly Review, an article on ``Mackenzie's Life and Works of John Home, author of Douglas,'' which is, in fact, a rich chapter of Scott's own early reminiscences, and gives many interesting sketches of the literary society of Scotland in the age of which Mackenzie was the last honoured relic;---and for the Foreign Quarterly Review, then newly started under the editorship of Mr R. P. Gillies, an ingenious and elaborate paper on the writings of the German novelist Hoffman. This article, it is proper to observe, was a benefaction to Mr Gillies, whose pecuniary affairs rendered such assistance very desirable. Scott's generosity in this matter---for it was exactly giving a poor brother author <L>100 at the expense of considerable time and drudgery to himself---I think it necessary to mention; the date of the exertion requires it of me. But such, in fact, had been in numberless instances his method of serving literary persons who had little or no claim on him, except that they were of that class. I have not conceived it delicate to specify many things of this kind; but I am at liberty to state, that when he wrote his first article for the Encyclop<ae>dia Supplement, and the editor of that work, Mr Macvey Napier (a Whig in politics, and with whom he had hardly any personal acquaintance), brought him <L>100 as his remuneration, Sir Walter said---``Now tell me frankly, if I don't take this money, does it go into your pocket or your publisher's? for it is impossible for me to accept a penny of it from a literary brother.'' Mr Napier assured him that the arrangements of the work were such, that the editor had nothing to do with the fund destined for contributions. Scott then pocketed his due, with the observation, that ``he had trees to plant, and no conscience as to the purse of his fat friend''---to wit, Constable.
At this period, the Edinburgh Diary very seldom mentions anything that could be called a dinner-party. Skene he often styles ``his good Samaritan:'' he was now the usual companion of whatever walks he was willing or able to indulge in. He and his daughter partook generally once in every week the family meal of Mr and Mrs Skene; and they did the like occasionally with a few other old friends chiefly those of the Clerk's table. When an exception occurs, it is easy to see that the scene of social gaiety was doubly grateful from its rarity. Thus one entry, referring to a party at Mr J. A. Murray's,<*> says---``met Jeffrey,
* He became Lord Advocate, and afterwards a Judge of the
* Court of Session, by the title of Lord Murray.
Cockburn, Rutherfurd, and others of that file. Very pleasant---capital good cheer and excellent wine---much laugh and fun. I do not know how it is, but when I am out with a party of my Opposition friends, the day is often merrier than when with our own set. Is it because they are cleverer? Jeffrey and Harry Cockburn are to be sure very extraordinary men; yet it is not owing to that entirely. I believe both parties meet with the feeling of something like novelty---we have not worn out our jests in daily contact. There is also a disposition on such occasions to be courteous, and of course to be pleased.'' Another evening, spent in Rose Court, seems to have given him especial delight, He says---``I wrote hard till dressing time, when I went to Will Clerk's to dinner. As a bachelor, and keeping a small establishment, he does not do these things often, but they are proportionally pleasant when they come round. He had trusted Sir Adam to bespeak his dinner, who did it _con amore,_ so we had excellent cheer, and the wines were various and capital. As I before hinted, it is not every day that M`Nab mounts on horseback,<*> and so our landlord had a little of that solicitude
* That singular personage, the late M`Nab of _that ilk,_ spent his
* life almost entirely in a district where a boat was the usual conveyance.
* I suspect, however, that there is an allusion to some
* particular anecdote which I have not recovered.
that the party should go off well, which is very flattering to the guests. We had a very pleasant evening. The Chief-Commissioner was there, Admiral Adam, J. A. Murray, Tom Thornson, &c. &c.,---Sir Adam predominating at the head, and dancing what he calls his merry-andrada in great style. In short, we really laughed, and real laughter is a thing, as rare as real tears. I must say, too, there was a _heart_---a kindly feeling prevailed over the party. Can London give such a dinner?---it may, but I never saw one---they are too cold and critical to be easily pleased.---I hope the Bannatyne Club will be really useful and creditable. Thomson is superintending a capital edition of Sir James Melville's Memoirs. It is brave to see how he wags his Scots tongue, and what a difference there is in the form and firmness of the language, compared to the mincing English edition in which he has hitherto been alone known.''
No wonder that it should be a sweet relief from Buonaparte and Blucher to see M`Nab on horseback, and Sir Adam Fergusson in his merry-andrada exaltation, and laugh over old Scotch stories with the Chief-Commissioner, and hear Mr Thomas Thomson report progress as to the doings of the Bannatyne Club. But I apprehend every reader will see that Sir Walter was misled by his own modesty, when he doubted whether London could afford symposia of the same sort. He forgets that he had never mixed in the society of London except in the capacity of a stranger, a rare visitor, the unrivalled literary marvel of the time, and that every party at which he dined was got up expressly on his account, and constituted, whoever might be the landlord, on the natural principle of bringing together as many as the table could hold---to see and hear Sir Walter Scott. Hence, if he dined with a Minister of State, he was likely to find himself seated with half the Cabinet--- if with a Bishop, half the Bench had been collected. As a matter of course, every man was anxious to gratify on so rare an occasion, as many as he could of those who, in case they were uninvited, would be likely to reproach him for the omission. The result was a crowding together of too many rival eminences; and he very seldom, indeed, witnessed the delightful result so constantly produced in London by the intermingling of distinguished persons of various classes, full of facts and views new to each other---and neither chilled nor perplexed by the pernicious and degrading trickery of lionizing. But besides, it was unfair to institute any comparison between the society of comparative strangers and that of old friends dear from boyhood. He could not have his Clerks and Fergussons both in Edinburgh and in London. Enough, however, of commentary on a very plain text.
That season was further enlivened by one public dinner, and this, though very briefly noticed in Scott's Diary, occupied a large space in public attention at the time, and, I believe I may add, several columns in every newspaper in Europe. His good friend William Murray, manager of the Edinburgh Theatre, invited him to preside at the first festival of a charitable fund for decayed performers. He agreed, and on Friday the 23d February took the chair, being supported by the Earl of Fife, Lord Meadowbank, Sir John Hope of Pinkie, Admiral Adam, Robert Dundas of Arniston, _Peter_ Robertson, and many other personal friends. Lord Meadowbank had come on short notice, and was asked abruptly on his arrival to take a toast which had been destined for a noble person who had not been able to appear. He knew that this was the first public dinner at which the object of the toast had appeared since his misfortunes, and taking him aside in the anteroom, asked him whether he would now consider it indelicate to hazard a distinct reference to the parentage of the Waverley Novels. Sir Welter smiled, and said, ``Do just as you like---only don't say much about so old a story.''---In the course of the evening the Judge rose accordingly, and said---
``I would beg leave to propose a toast---the health of one of the Patrons. The clouds have been dispelled---the _darkness visible_ has been cleared away---and the Great Unknown---the minstrel of our native land---the mighty magician who has rolled back the current of time, and conjured up before our living senses the men and the manners of days which have long passed away, stands revealed to the eyes and the hearts of his affectionate and admiring countrymen. We owe to him, as a people, a large and heavy debt of gratitude. He it is who has opened to foreigners the grand and characteristic beauties of our country;---it is to him that we owe that our gallant ancestors and illustrious patriots have obtained a fame no longer confined to the boundaries of a remote and comparatively obscure country---he it is who has conferred a new reputation on our national character, and bestowed on Scotland an imperishable name, were it only by her having given birth to himself. I propose the health of Sir Walter Scott.''
Long before Lord Meadowbank ceased speaking, the company had got upon chairs and tables, and the storm of applause that ensued was deafening. When they recovered from the first fever, Sir Walter spoke as follows:---
``I certainly did not think, in coming here to-day, that I should have the task of acknowledging before 300 gentlemen, a secret which, considering that it was communicated to more than twenty people, has been remarkably well kept. I am now at the bar of my country, and may be understood to be on trial before Lord Meadowbank as an offender; and so quietly did all who were _airt_ and _pairt_ conduct themselves, that I am sure that, were the panel now to stand on his defence, every impartial jury would bring in a verdict of _Not Proven._ I am willing, however, to plead _guilty_---nor shall I detain the Court by a long explanation why my confession has been so long deferred. Perhaps caprice might have a considerable share in the matter. I have now to say, however, that the merits of these works, if they had any, and their faults, are all entirely imputable to myself. Like another Scottish criminal of more consequence, one Macbeth,
`I am afraid to think what I have done: Look on't again I dare not.'---
---I have thus far unbosomed myself, and I know that my confession will be reported to the public. I mean, then, seriously to state, that when I say I am the author, I mean the total and undivided author. With the exception of quotations, there is not a single word that was not derived from myself, or suggested in the course of my reading. The wand is now broken, and the book buried. You will allow me further to say, with Prospero, it is your breath that has filled my sails, and to crave one single toast in the capacity of the author of these novels. I would fain dedicate a bumper to the health of one who has represented several of those characters, of which I had endeavoured to give the skeleton, with a truth and liveliness for which I may well be grateful. I beg leave to propose the health of my friend Bailie Nicol Jarvie--- and I am sure, that when the author of Waverley and Rob Roy drinks to Nicol Jarvie, it will be received with the just applause to which that gentleman has always been accustomed,---nay, that you will take care that on the present occasion it shall be =pro-di-gi-ous!='' (Long and vehement applause.)
Mr =Mackay.=---``My conscience! My worthy father the deacon could never have believed that his son would hae sic a compliment paid to him by the Great Unknown!''
=Sir Walter Scott.=---``The Small Known now, Mr Bailie!''
The reader may, perhaps, expect that I should endeavour to name the ``upwards of twenty persons'' whom Sir Walter alluded to on this occasion as having been put into the secret of the Waverley Novels, previously, and without reference, to the catastrophe of 1826. I am by no means sure that I can give the complete list: but in addition to immediate members of the author's own family---(including his mother and his brother Thomas)--- there were Constable, Cadell, the two Ballantynes---two persons employed in the printing-office, namely Daniel M`Corkindale and Daniel Robertson---Mr Terry, Mr Laidlaw, Mr Train, and Mr G. H. Gordon---Charles Duke of Buceleuch, Lady Louisa Stuart, Lord Montagu, Lord and Lady Polwarth, Lord Kinnedder, Sir Adam Fergusson, Mr Morritt, Mr and Mrs Skene, Mr William Clerk, Mr Rose, Mr Hay Donaldson, Mr Thomas Shortreed, Mr John Richardson, and Mr Thomas Moore.
We now reach the completion of that severe task---the _Life of Napoleon:_ and following instantly, the commencement of the charming _Tales of a Grandfather._
``_Diary._---_June_ 5.---Proofs. Parliament House till two. Commenced the character of Buonaparte. To-morrow being a Teind-day, I may hope to get it finished.--- _June_ 10.---Rose with the odd consciousness of being free of my daily task. I have heard that the fish-women go to church of a Sunday with their creels new washed, and a few stones in them for ballast, just because they cannot walk steadily without their usual load. I feel something like them, and rather inclined to take up some light task, than to be altogether idle. I have my proof-sheets, to be sure; but what are these to a whole day? A good thought came in my head to write Stories for little Johnnie Lockhart, from the History of Scotland, like those taken from the History of England. But I will not write mine quite so simply as Croker has done.<*> I am persuaded both children
* The following note accompanied a copy of the First Series of
* the Tales of a Grandfather.---
* ``_To the Right Hon. J. W. Croker._
* ``My Dear Croker,---I have been stealing from you, and as it
* seems the fashion to compound felony, I send you a sample of the
* _swag,_ by way of stopping your mouth ...... Always yours,
* W. =Scott.=''
and the lower class of readers hate books which are written _down_ to their capacity, and love those that are composed more for their elders and betters. I will make, if possible, a book that a child shall understand, yet a man will feel some temptation to peruse should he chance to take it up. It will require, however, a simplicity of style not quite my own. The grand and interesting consists in ideas, not in words. A clever thing of this kind might have a race.''
I received, some years ago, from a very modest and intelligent young man, the late Mr Robert Hogg (a nephew of the Ettrick Shepherd), employed in 1827 as a _reader_ in Ballantyne's printing-office, a letter from which I must give an extract:---``Having been for a few days employed by Sir Walter Scott, when he was finishing his Life of Buonaparte, to copy papers connected with that work, and to write occasionally to his dictation, it may perhaps be in my power to mention some circumstances relative to Sir Walter's habits of composition, which could not fall under the observation of any one except a person in the same situation with myself. When I waited upon him to be informed of the business in which he needed my assistance, he asked me to attend him the next morning at six o'clock. I was punctual, and found Sir Walter already busy writing. He appointed my tasks, and again sat down at his own desk. We continued to write during the regular work hours till six o'clock in the evening, without interruption, except to take breakfast and dinner, which were served in the room beside us, so that no time was lost. I had no notion it was possible for any man to undergo the fatigue of composition for so long a time at once, and Sir Walter acknowledged he did not usually subject himself to so much exertion, though it seemed to be only the manual part of the operation that occasioned him any inconvenience. Once or twice he desired me to relieve him, and dictated while I wrote. I have performed the same service to several other persons, most of whom walked up and down the apartment while excogitating what was to be committed to writing; they sometimes stopt, too, and, like those who fail in a leap and return upon their course to take the advantage of another race, endeavoured to hit upon something additional by perusing over my shoulder what was already set down,---mending a phrase, perhaps, or recasting a sentence, till they should recover their wind. None of these aids were necessary to Sir Walter: his thoughts flowed easily and felicitously, without any difficulty to lay hold of them, or to find appropriate language which was evident by the absence of all solicitude (_miseria cogitandi_) from his countenance. He sat in his chair, from which he rose now and then, took a volume from the bookcase, consulted it, and restored it to the shelf---all without intermission in the current of ideas, which continued to be delivered with no less readiness than if his mind had been wholly occupied with the words he was uttering. It soon became apparent to me, however, that he was carrying on two distinct trains of thought, one of which was already arranged, and in the act of being spoken, while at the same time he was in advance considering what was afterwards to be said. This I discovered by his sometimes introducing a word which was wholly out of place---_entertained_ instead of _denied,_ for example,---but which I presently found to belong to the next sentence, perhaps four or five lines farther on, which he had been preparing at the very moment that he gave me the words of the one that preceded it. Extemporaneous orators of course, and no doubt many writers, think as rapidly as was done by Sir Walter; but the mind is wholly occupied with what the lips are uttering or the pen is tracing. I do not remember any other instance in which it could be said that two threads were kept hold of at once, connected with each other indeed, but grasped at different points.''
The _Life of Buonaparte,_ then, was at last published about the middle of June 1827. Two years had elapsed since Scott began it; but, by a careful comparison of dates, I have arrived at the conclusion that, his expeditions to Ireland and Paris, and the composition of novels and critical miscellanies, being duly allowed for, the historical task occupied hardly more than twelve months. The book was closely printed; in fact, if it had been printed on the original model of his novels, the life of Buonaparte would have filled from thirteen to fourteen volumes: the work of one twelvemonth---done in the midst of pain, sorrow, and ruin.
The general curiosity with which it was expected, and the satisfaction with which high and candid minds perused it, cannot be better described than in the words of the author's most illustrious literary contemporary.
``Walter Scott,'' says Goethe, ``passed his childhood among the stirring scenes of the American War, and was a youth of seventeen or eighteen when the French Revolution broke out. Now well advanced in the fifties, having all along been favourably placed for observation, he proposes to lay before us his views and recollections of the important events through which he has lived. The richest, the easiest, the most celebrated narrator of the century, undertakes to write the history of his own time.
``What expectations the announcement of such a work must have excited in me, will be understood by any one who remembers that I, twenty years older than Scott, conversed with Paoli in the twentieth year of my age, and with Napoleon himself in the sixtieth.
``Through that long series of years, coming more or less into contact with the great doings of the world, I failed not to think seriously on what was passing around me, and, after my own fashion, to connect so many extraordinary mutations into something like arrangement and interdependence.
``What could now be more delightful to me, than leisurely and calmly to sit down and listen to the discourse of such a man, while clearly, truly, and with all the skill of a great artist, he recalls to me the incidents on which through life I have meditated, and the influence of which is still daily in operation?''---_Kunst und Altherthum._
The lofty impartiality with which Scott treats the personal character of Buonaparte, was of course sure to make all ultra-politicians both at home and abroad condemn his representation; and an equally general and better founded exception was taken to the lavish imagery of his historical style. He despised the former clamour---to the latter he bowed submissive. He could not, whatever character he might wish to assume, cease to be one of the greatest of poets. Metaphorical illustrations, which men born with prose in their souls hunt for painfully, and find only to murder, were to him the natural and necessary offspring and playthings of ever-teeming fancy. He could not write a note to his printer---he could not speak to himself in his Diary---without introducing them. Few will say that his historical style is, on the whole, excellent---none that it is perfect; but it is completely unaffected, and therefore excites nothing of the unpleasant feeling with which we consider the elaborate artifices of a far greater historian--- the greatest that our literature can boast---Gibbon. The rapidity of the execution infers many inaccuracies as to minor matters of fact; but it is nevertheless true that no inaccuracy affecting the character of the book as a fair record of great events, has to this hour been detected by the malevolent ingenuity of Jacobin or Buonapartist. Even the most hostile examiners were obliged to acknowledge that the gigantic career of their idol had been traced, in its leading features, with wonderful truth and spirit. No civilian, it was universally admitted, had ever before described modern battles and campaigns with any approach to his daring and comprehensive felicity. The public, ever unwilling to concede a new species of honour to a name already covered with distinction, listened eagerly for a while to the indignant reclamations of nobodies, whose share in mighty transactions had been omitted, or slightly misrepresented, but, ere long, all these pompous rectifications were summed up--- and found to constitute nothing but a contemptible monument of self-deluding vanity. The work, devoured at first with breathless delight, had a shade thrown over it for a time by the pertinacious blustering of these angry Lilliputians; but it has now emerged, slowly and surely, from the mist of suspicion---and few, whose opinions deserve much attention, hesitate to avow their conviction that, whoever may be the Polybius of the modem Hannibal, posterity will recognise his Livy in Scott.
Woodstock, as we have seen, placed upwards of <L>8000 in the hands of Sir Walter's creditors. The Napoleon (first and second editions) produced for them a sum which it even now startles me to mention,---<L>18,000. As by the time the historical work was published, nearly half of the First Series of Chronicles of the Canongate had been written, it is obvious that the amount to which Scott's literary industry, from the close of 1825, to the 10th of June 1827, had diminished his debt, cannot be stated at less than <L>28,000. Had health been spared him, how soon must he have freed himself from all his encumbrances!
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