Death of Constable---Controversy with Gourgaud---Excursion to Durham---Publication of the Chronicles of the Canongate and Tales of a Grandfather---Religious Discourses---Fair Maid of Perth---Anne of Geierstein---Threatening of Apoplexy---Death of Thomas Purdie---1827--1829.
My wife and I spent the summer of 1827, partly at a sea-bathing place near Edinburgh, and partly in Roxburghshire. The arrival of his daughter and her children at Portobello was a source of constant refreshment to Scott during June; for every other day he came down and dined there, and strolled about afterwards on the beach; thus interrupting, beneficially for his health, and I doubt not for the result of his labours also, the new custom of regular night-work, or, as he called it, of serving double-tides. When the Court released him, and he returned to Abbotsford, his family did what they could to keep him to his ancient evening habits; but nothing was so useful as the presence of his invalid grandson. The poor child was at this time so far restored as to be able to sit his pony again; and Sir Walter, who had, as the reader has observed, conceived, the very day he finished Napoleon, the notion of putting together a series of Tales on the history of Scotland, somewhat in the manner of Mr Croker's on that of England, rode daily among the woods with his ``Hugh Littlejohn,'' and told the story, and ascertained that it suited the comprehension of boyhood, before he reduced it to writing. Sibyl Grey had been dismissed in consequence of the accident at the Catrail; and he had now stooped his pride to a sober, steady creature, of very humble blood; dun, with black mane and legs; by name Douce Davie, alias the Covenanter. This, the last of his steeds, by the way, had been previously in the possession of a jolly old laird near Peebles, and acquired a distinguished reputation by its skill in carrying him home safely when drunk. Douce Davie, on such occasions, accommodated himself to the swerving balance of his rider with such nice discrimination, that on the laird's death the country people expected a vigorous competition for the sagacious animal; but the club-companions of the defunct stood off to a man when it was understood that the Sheriff coveted the succession.
The Chronicles of the Canongate proceeded _pari passu_ with these historical tales; and both works were published before the end of the year. He also superintended, at the same time, the first collection of his Prose Miscellanies, in six volumes 8vo.---several articles being remodelled and extended to adapt them for a more permanent sort of existence than had been originally thought of. Moreover, he penned that autumn his beautiful and instructive Article on the Planting of Waste Lands, which is indeed no other than a precious chapter of his autobiography. What he wrote of new matter between June and December, fills from five to six volumes in the late uniform edition of his works; but all this was light and easy after the perilous drudgery of the preceding eighteen months.
On the 22d of July, his Diary notes the death of Mr Constable:---``This might have been a most important thing to me if it had happened some years ago, and I should then have lamented it much. He has lived to do me some injury; yet, excepting the last <L>5000, I think most unintentionally. He was a prince of booksellers. Constable was a violent tempered man with those he dared use freedom with. He was easily overawed by people of consequence; but, as usual, took it out of those whom poverty made subservient to him. Yet he was generous, and far from bad-hearted:---in person good-looking, but very corpulent latterly; a large feeder, and deep drinker, till his health became weak. He died of water in the chest, which the natural strength of his constitution set long at defiance. I have no great reason to regret him; yet I do. If he deceived me, he also deceived himself.''
Constable's spirit had been effectually broken by his downfall. To stoop from being _primus absque secundo_ among the Edinburgh booksellers, to be the occupant of an obscure closet of a shop, without capital, without credit, all his mighty undertakings abandoned or gone into other hands, except indeed his Miscellany, which he had now no resources for pushing on in the fashion he once contemplated,--- this reverse was too much for that proud heart. He no longer opposed a determined mind to the ailments of the body, and sunk on the 21st of this month, having, as I am told, looked, long ere he took to his bed, at least ten years older than he was. He died in his 54th year; but into that space he had crowded vastly more than the usual average of zeal and energy, of hilarity and triumph, and perhaps of anxiety and misery.
Of the 10th of August---when the news of Mr Canning's death reached Abbotsford---and the day following, are these entries: ``The death of the Premier is announced--- late George Canning---the witty, the accomplished, the ambitious;---he who had toiled thirty years, and involved himself in the most harassing discussions, to attain this dizzy height; he who had held it for three months of intrigue and obloquy---and now a heap of dust, and that is all.---No man possessed a gayer and more playful wit in society; no one, since Pitt's time, had more commanding sarcasm, in debate; in the House of Commons he was the terror of that species of orators called the Yelpers. His lash fetched away both skin and flesh, and would have penetrated the hide of a rhinoceros. In his conduct as a statesman he had a great fault: he lent himself too willingly to intrigue. The last composition with the Whigs was a sacrifice of principle on both sides. To me Canning was always personally most kind. My nerves have for these two or three last days been susceptible of an acute excitement from the slightest causes; the beauty of the evening, the sighing of the summer breeze, bring the tears into my eyes not unpleasantly. But I must take exercise, and case-harden myself. There is no use in encouraging these moods of the mind.''
He received about this time a visit from Mr J. L. Adolphus; who had not seen him since 1824---and says:--- ``Calamity had borne heavily upon Sir Walter in the interval; but the painful and anxious feeling with which a friend is approached for the first time under such circumstances, gave way at once to the unassumed serenity of his manner. There were some signs of age about him which the mere lapse of time would scarcely have accounted for; but his spirits were abated only, not broken; if they had sunk, they had sunk equably and gently. It was a declining, not a clouded sun. I do not remember any reference to the afflictions he had suffered, except once, when, speaking of his Life of Napoleon, he said in a quiet but affecting tone, `I could have done it better, if I could have written at more leisure, and with a mind more at case.' One morning a party was made to breakfast at Chiefswood; and any one who on that occasion looked at and heard Sir Walter Scott, in the midst of his children and grand-children and friends, must have rejoiced to see that life still yielded him a store of pleasures, and that his heart was as open to their influence as ever. I was much struck by a few words which fell from him on this subject a short time afterwards. After mentioning an accident which had spoiled the promised pleasure of a visit to his daughter in London, he then added---`I have had as much happiness in my time as most men, and I must not complain now.' I said, that whatever had been his share of happiness, no man could have laboured better for it. He answered---`I consider the capacity to labour as part of the happiness I have enjoyed.'
``A substitute for walking, which he always very cheerfully used, and which at last became his only resource for any distant excursion, was a ride in a four-wheeled open carriage, holding four persons, but not absolutely limited to that number on an emergency. Tame as this exercise might be in comparison with riding on horseback, or with walking under propitious circumstances, yet as he was rolled along to Melrose, or Bowhill, or Yair, his spirits always freshened; the air, the sounds, the familiar yet romantic scenes, wakened up all the poetry of his thoughts, and happy were they who heard it resolve itself into words. At the sight of certain objects---for example, in passing the green foundations of the little chapel of Lindean, where the body of the `Dark Knight of Liddesdale' was deposited on its way to Melrose,---it would, I suppose, have been impossible for him, unless with a companion hopelessly unsusceptible or preoccupied, to forbear some passing comment, some harping (if the word may be favourably used) on the tradition of the place. This was, perhaps, what he called `bestowing his tediousness;' but if any one could think these effusions tedious because they often broke forth, such a man might have objected against the rushing of the Tweed, or the stirring of the trees in the wind, or any other natural melody, that he had heard the same thing before.
``Some days of my visit were marked by an almost perpetual confinement to the house; the rain being incessant. But the evenings were as bright and cheerful as the atmosphere of the days was dreary. Not that the gloomiest morning could ever be wearisome where, independently of the resources in society which the house afforded, the visitor might ransack a library, unique, I suppose, in some of its collections, and in an its departments interesting and characteristic of the founder. So many of the volumes were enriched with anecdotes or comments in his own hand, that to look over his books was in some degree conversing with him. And sometimes this occupation was pleasantly interrupted by a snatch of actual conversation with himself, when he entered from his own room to consult or take away a book. How often have I heard with pleasure, after a long silence, the uneven step, the point of the stick striking against the floor, and then seen the poet himself emerge from his study, with a face of thought but yet of cheerfulness, followed perhaps by Nimrod, who stretched his limbs and yawned, as if tired out with some abstruse investigation.
``On one of the rainy days I have alluded to, when walking at the usual hour became hopeless, Sir Walter asked me to sit with him while he continued his morning occupation, giving me for my own employment the publications of the Bannatyne Club. His study, as I recollect it, was strictly a work-room. though an elegant one. It has been fancifully decked out in pictures, but it had, I think, very few articles of mere ornament. The chief of these was the print of Stothard's Canterbury Pilgrims, which hung over the chimney-piece, and from the place assigned to it must have been in great favour, though Sir Walter made the characteristic criticism upon it that, if the procession were to move, the young Squire who is prancing in the foreground would in another minute be over his horse's head. The shelves were stored with serviceable books; one door opened into the great library, and a hanging-stair within the room itself communicated with his bedroom. It would have been a good lesson to a desultory student, or even to a moderately active amanuensis, to see the unintermitted energy with which Sir Walter Scott applied himself to his work. I conjectured that he was at this time writing the Tales of a Grandfather. When we had sat down to our respective employments, the stillness of the room was unbroken, except by the light rattle of the rain against the windows, and the dashing trot of Sir Walter's pen over his paper; sounds not very unlike each other, and which seemed to vie together in rapidity and continuance. Sometimes, when he stopped to consult a book, a short dialogue would take place upon the subjects with which I was occupied---about Mary Queen of Scots, perhaps, or Viscount Dundee; or, again, the silence might be broken for a moment by some merry outcry in the hall, from one of the little grandchildren, which would half waken Nimrod, or Bran, or Spice, as they slept at Sir Walter's feet, and produce a growl or a stifled bark ---not in anger, but by way of protest. For matters like these, work did not proceed the worse, nor, as it seemed to me, did Sir Walter feel at all discomposed by such interruptions as a message or the entrance of a visitor. One door of his study opened into the hall, and there did not appear to be any understanding that he should not be disturbed. At the end of our morning we attempted a sortie, but had made only a little way in the shrubbery-walks overlooking the Tweed, when the rain drove us back. The river, swollen and discoloured, swept by majestically, and the sight drew from Sir Walter his favourite lines---
`I've seen Tweed's silver streams, glittering in the sunny beams, Turn drumly and dark, as they rolled on their way.'
There could not have been a better moment for appreciating the imagery of the last line. I think it was in this short walk that he mentioned to me, with great satisfaction, the favourable prospects of his literary industry and spoke sanguinely of retrieving his losses with the booksellers.''
Towards the end of August, Sir Walter's Diary has a good deal about an affair which, however, annoyed his family much more than himself. Among the documents laid before him in the Colonial Office, when he visited London at the close of 1826, were some which represented one of Buonaparte's attendants at St Helena, General Gourgaud, as having been guilty of gross unfairness, giving the English Government private information that the Emperor's complaints of ill-usage were utterly unfounded, and yet then, and afterwards, aiding and assisting the delusion in France as to the harshness of Sir Hudson Lowe's conduct towards his captive. Sir Walter, when using these remarkable documents, guessed that Gourgaud might be inclined to fix a personal quarrel on himself; and there now appeared in the newspapers a succession of hints that the General was seriously bent on this purpose. He applied, as _Colonel Grogg_ would have done forty years before, to _The Baronet._---He writes to William Clerk on the 27th:---``I am about to claim an especial service from you in the name of our long and intimate friendship. I understand that General Gourgaud has, or is about to set out for London, to _verify_ the facts averred concerning him in my history of Napoleon. Now, in case of a personal appeal to me, I have to say that his confessions to Baron Sturmer, Count Balmain, and others at St Helena --- confirmed by him in various recorded conversations with Mr Goulburn then Under-Secretary of State---were documents of a historical nature which I found with others in the Colonial Office, and was therefore perfectly entitled to use. If his language has been misrepresented, he has certainly been very unfortunate; for it has been misrepresented by four or five different people to whom he said the same things---true or false, he knows best. I also acted with delicacy towards him, leaving out whatever related to his private quarrels with Bertrand, &c., so that, in fact, he has no reason to complain of me, since it is ridiculous to suppose I was to suppress historical evidence, furnished by him voluntarily, because his present sentiments render it unpleasing for him that those which he formerly entertained should be known. Still, like a man who finds himself in a scrape, General Gourgaud may wish to fight himself out of it; and if the quarrel should be thrust on me---why, _I will not baulk him, Jackie._ He shall not dishonour the country through my sides, I can assure him. I have, of course, no wish to bring the thing to such an arbitrement. Now, in this case, I shall have occasion for a sensible and resolute friend, and I naturally look for him in the companion of my youth, on whose firmness and sagacity I can with such perfect confidence rely.''
Clerk was ready for his part:---but the General, if he had ever meditated a direct call on Scott, did not persevere. The Diary of September 10th says---``Gourgaud's wrath has burst forth in a very distant clap of thunder, in which he accuses me of contriving, with the Ministry, to slander his rag of a reputation. He be d---d for a fool, to make his case worse by stirring. I shall only revenge myself by publishing the whole extracts I made from the records of the Colonial Office, in which he will find enough to make him bite his nails.'' ---Scott accordingly printed a brief letter, with a crushing appendix of documents. This produced a blustering rejoinder from Gourgaud; but Scott declined to prolong the paper war, simply stating in Ballantyne's print, that ``while leaving the question to the decision of the British public, he should have as little hesitation in referring it to the French nation, provided the documents he had produced were allowed to be printed in the French newspapers, _from which hitherto they had been excluded._'' And he would indeed have been idle had he said more than this, for his cause had been taken up on the instant by every English journal, of whatever politics; and _The Times_ thus summed up its review of the debate:---
``Sir Walter Scott did that which would have occurred to every honest man, whose fair-dealing had violent imputations cast upon it. He produced his authorities. In the General's reply there is enough, even to satiety, of declamation against the English Government, ---of subterfuge and equivocation with regard to the words on record against himself,---and of gross abuse and Billingsgate against the historian who has placarded him; but of direct and successful negative there is not one syllable. The Aide-de-camp of St Helena shews himself to be nothing better than a cross between a blusterer and a sophist.''
Before Gourgaud fell quite asleep, Sir Walter received an invitation from Lord and Lady Ravensworth to meet the Duke of Wellington at their castle near Durham. The Duke was then making a progress in the north of England, to which additional importance was given by the condition of politics;---the chance of Lord Goderich's being able to maintain himself as Canning's successor seeming very precarious--- and the opinion that his Grace must soon be called to the helm of State gaining ground every day. Sir Walter, who felt for the Great Captain the pure and exalted devotion that might have been expected from some honoured soldier of his banners, accepted this invitation, and witnessed a scene of enthusiasm with which its principal object could hardly have been more gratified than he was. The most remarkable feature was a grand dinner in the Episcopal Castle at Durham---that See being as yet unshorn of its Palatine magnificence. ``On the 3d October,'' says his Diary, ``we dined about one hundred and forty or fifty men---a distinguished company---
`Lords and Dukes and noble Princes, All the pride and flower of Spain.'
We dined in the old baronial hall, impressive from its rude antiquity, and fortunately free from the plaster of former improvement, as I trust it will long be from the gingerbread taste of modern Gothicizers. The bright moon streaming in through the old Gothic windows contrasted strangely with the artificial lights within; spears, banners, and armour, were intermixed with the pictures of old bishops, and the whole had a singular mixture of baronial pomp with the grave and more chastened dignity of prelacy. The conduct of our reverend entertainer suited the character remarkably well. Amid the welcome of a Count Palatine he did not for an instant forget the gravity of the Church dignitary. All his toasts were gracefully given, and his little speeches well made, and the more affecting that the failing voice sometimes reminded us that our host laboured under the infirmities of advanced life.'' I was favoured at the time with a letter from Dr Philpotts (now Bishop of Exeter) who said---``I never saw curiosity and enthusiasm so highly excited, and I may add, as to a great part of the company, so nearly balanced. Sometimes I doubted whether the hero or the poet was fixing most attention---the latter, I need hardly tell you, appeared unconscious that he was regarded differently from the others about him, until the good Bishop rose and proposed his health.'' Another friend, the Honourable Henry Liddell, says---``Bishop Van Mildert gave his health with peculiar felicity, remarking that he could reflect upon the labours of a long literary life, with the consciousness that everything he had written tended to the practice of virtue, and to the improvement of the human race. Sir Walter replied, `that hereafter he should always reflect with great pride upon that moment of his existence, when his health had been given in _such terms,_ by the Bishop of Durham _in his own baronial hall,_ surrounded and supported by the assembled aristocracy of the two northern counties, and _in the presence of the Duke of Wellington._' ''
On the 8th Sir Walter reached Abbotsford, and forthwith resumed his Grandfather's Tales, which he composed throughout with the ease and heartiness reflected in this entry:---``This morning was damp, dripping, and unpleasant; so I even made a work of necessity, and set to the Tales like a dragon. I murdered Maclellan of Bomby at the Thrieve Castle; stabbed the Black Douglas in the town of Stirling; astonished King James before Roxburgh; and stifled the Earl of Mar in his bath in the Canongate. A wild world, my masters, this Scotland of ours must have been. No fear of want of interest; no lassitude in those days for want of work---
`For treason, d'ye see, Was to them a dish of tea, And murder bread and butter.' ''
Such was his life in Autumn 1827. Before I leave the period, I must note how greatly I admired the manner in which all his dependents appeared to have met the reverse of his fortunes---a reverse which inferred very considerable alteration in the circumstances of every one of them. The butler, Dalgliesh, had been told when the distress came, that a servant of his class would no longer be required--- but the man burst into tears, and said, rather than go he would stay without any wages: So he remained---and instead of being the easy chief of a large establishment, was now doing half the work of the house, at probably half his former salary. Old Peter, who had been for five-and-twenty years a dignified coachman, was now ploughman in ordinary, only putting his horses to the carriage upon high and rare occasions; and so on with all the rest that remained of the ancient train. And all, to my view, seemed happier than they had ever done before. Their good conduct had given every one of them a new elevation in his own mind---and yet their demeanour had gained, in place of losing, in simple humility of observance. The great loss was that of William Laidlaw, for whom (the estate being all but a fragment in the hands of the trustees and their agent) there was now no occupation here. The cottage, which his taste had converted into a loveable retreat, had found a rent-paying tenant; and he was living a dozen miles off on the farm of a relation in the Vale of Yarrow. Every week, however, he came down to have a ramble with Sir Walter over their old haunts---to hear how the pecuniary atmosphere was darkening or brightening; and to read in every face at Abbotsford, that it could never be itself again until circumstances should permit his r<e:>establishment at Kaeside.
All this warm and respectful solicitude must have had a salutary influence on the mind of Scott, who may be said to have lived upon love. No man cared less about popular admiration and applause; but for the least chill on the affection of any near and dear to him he had the sensitiveness of a maiden. I cannot forget, in particular, how his eyes sparkled when he first pointed out to me Peter Mathieson guiding the plough on the haugh: ``Egad,'' said he, ``auld _Pepe_'' (this was the children's name for their good friend)---``auld _Pepe's_ whistling at his darg. The honest fellow said, a yoking in a deep field would do baith him and the blackies good. If things get round with me, easy shall be Pepe's cushion.'' In general, during that autumn, I thought Sir Walter enjoyed much his usual spirits; and often, no doubt, he did so. His Diary, however, shews (what perhaps many of his intimates doubted during his lifetime) that, in spite of the dignified equanimity which characterized all his conversation with mankind, he had his full share of the delicate sensibilities, the mysterious ups and downs, the wayward melancholy, and fantastic sunbeams of the poetical temperament. It is only with imaginative minds, in truth, that sorrows of the spirit are enduring. Those he had encountered were veiled from the eye of the world, but they lasted with his life.
The first series of Chronicles of the Canongate---(which title supplanted that of _The Canongate Miscellany,_ or _Traditions of the Sanctuary_)---was published early in the winter. The contents were, the Highland Widow, the Two Drovers, and the Surgeon's Daughter---all in their styles excellent, except that the Indian part of the last does not well harmonize with the rest; and certain preliminary chapters which were generally considered as still better than the stories they introduce. The portraiture of Mrs Murray Keith under the name of Mrs Bethune Baliol, and that of Chrystal Croftangry throughout, appear to me unsurpassed in Scott's writings. In the former, I am assured he has mixed up various features of his own beloved mother; and in the latter, there can be no doubt that a good deal was taken from nobody but himself. In fact, the choice of the hero's residence, the original title of the book, and a world of minor circumstances, were suggested by painful circumstances recorded in his Diary of 1827. He had, while toiling his life out for his creditors, received various threatenings of severe treatment from the London Jews formerly alluded to, Messrs Abud and Co.; and, on at least one occasion, he made every preparation for taking shelter in the Sanctuary of Holyroodhouse. Although these people were well aware that at Christmas 1827 a very large dividend would be paid on the Ballantyne debt, they could not bring themselves to comprehend that their interest lay in allowing Scott the free use of his time; that by thwarting and harassing him personally, nothing was likely to be achieved but the throwing up of the trust, and the settlement of the insolvent house's affairs on the usual terms of a sequestration. The Jews would understand nothing, but that the very unanimity of the other creditors as to the propriety of being gentle with him, rendered it extremely probable that their own harshness might be rewarded by immediate payment of their whole demand. They fancied that the trustees would clear off any one debt, rather than disturb the arrangements generally adopted; they fancied that, in case they laid Sir Walter Scott in prison, there would be some extraordinary burst of feeling in Edinburgh ---that private friends would interfere;---in short, that in one way or another, they should get hold, without farther delay, of their ``pound of flesh.''---Two paragraphs from the Diary will be enough as to this unpleasant subject:---
``_October_ 31.---Just as I was merrily cutting away among my trees, arrives Mr Gibson with a very melancholy look, and indeed the news he brought was shocking enough. It seems Mr Abud has given positive orders to take out diligence against me for his debt. This breaks all the measures we had resolved on, and prevents the dividend from taking place, by which many poor persons will be great sufferers. For me---the alternative will be more painful to my feelings than prejudicial to my interests. To submit to a sequestration, and allow the creditors to take what they can get, will be the inevitable consequence. This will cut short my labour by several years, which I might spend, and spend in vain, in endeavouring to meet their demands. I suppose that I, the Chronicler of the Canongate, will have to take up my residence in the Sanctuary, unless I prefer the more airy residence of the Calton Jail, or a trip to the Isle of Man. _November_ 4.---Put my papers in some order, and prepared for the journey. It is in the style of the Emperors of Abyssinia, who proclaim, `Cut down the Kantuffa in the four quarters of the world, for I know not where I am going.' Yet, were it not for poor Anne's doleful looks, I would feel firm as a piece of granite. Even the poor dogs seem to fawn on me with anxious meaning, as if there were something going on they could not comprehend. Set off at twelve, firmly resolved in body and mind. But when I arrived in Edinburgh at my faithful friend Mr Gibson's---lo! the scene had again changed, and a new hare is started.''
The ``new hare'' was this. It transpired in the very nick of time, that a suspicion of usury attached to these Israelites in a transaction with Hurst & Robinson, as to one or more of the bills for which the house of Ballantyne had become responsible. This suspicion assumed a shape sufficiently tangible to justify that house's trustees in carrying the point before the Court of Session. Thus, though the Court decided in favour of the Abuds, time was gained; and as soon as the decision was pronounced, Scott heard also that the Jews' debt was settled. In fact, Sir William Forbes, whose banking-house was one of Messrs Ballantyne's chief creditors, had crowned his generous efforts for Scott's relief by privately paying the whole of Abud's demand (nearly <L>2000) out of his own pocket---ranking as an ordinary creditor for the amount; and taking care at the same time that his old friend should be allowed to believe that the affair had merged quietly in the general measures of the trustees. It was not until some time after Sir William's death, that Sir Walter learned what had been done on this occasion; and I may as well add here, that he died in utter ignorance of some services of a like sort which he owed to the secret liberality of three of his brethren at the Clerks' table---Hector Macdonald Buchanan, Colin Mackenzie, and Sir Robert Dundas. I ought not to omit, that as soon as Sir Walter's eldest son heard of the Abud business, he left Ireland for Edinburgh; but before he reached his father, the alarm had blown over.
This vision of the real Canongate has drawn me away from the Chronicles of Mr Croftangry. The scenery of his patrimonial inheritance was sketched from that of Carmichael, the ancient and now deserted mansion of the noble family of Hyndford; but for his strongly Scottish feelings about parting with his _land,_ and stern efforts to suppress them, the author had not to go so far a-field. Christie Steele's brief character of Croftangry's ancestry, too, appears to suit well all that we have on record concerning his own more immediate progenitors of the stubborn race of Raeburn:---``They werena ill to the poor folk, sir, and that is aye something; they were just decent bein bodies. Ony poor creature that had face to beg got an awmous, and welcome; they that were shamefaced gaed by, and twice as welcome. But they keepit an honest walk before God and man, the Croftangrys; and as I said before, if they did little good, they did as little ill. They lifted their rents and spent them; called in their kain and eat them; gaed to the kirk of a Sunday; bowed civilly if folk took aff their bannets as they gaed by, and lookit an black as sin at them that keepit them on.'' I shall give no offence by adding that many things in the character and manners of Mr Gideon Gray of Middlemas, in the Tale of the Surgeon's Daughter, were considered at the time by Sir Walter's neighbours on Tweedside as copied from Dr Ebenezer Clarkson of Selkirk. ``He was,'' says the Chronicler, ``of such reputation in the medical world, that he had been often advised to exchange the village and its meagre circle of practice for Edinburgh. There is no creature in Scotland that works harder, and is more poorly requited, than the country doctor, unless perhaps it may be his horse. Yet the horse is, and indeed must be, hardy, active, and indefatigable, in spite of a rough coat and indifferent condition; and so you will often find in his master, under a blunt exterior, professional skill and enthusiasm, intelligence, humanity, courage, and science.'' A true picture--- a portrait from the life, of Scott's hard-riding, benevolent, and sagacious old friend, ``to all the country dear.''
These Chronicles were not received with exceeding favour at the time; and Sir Walter was a good deal discouraged. Indeed he seems to have been with some difficulty persuaded by Cadell and Ballantyne that it would not do for him to ``lie fallow'' as a novelist; and then, when he in compliance with their entreaties began a Second Canongate Series, they were both disappointed with his MS., and told him their opinions so plainly that his good-nature was sharply tried. The Tales which they disapproved of, were those of My Aunt Margaret's Mirror, and the Laird's Jock; he consented to lay them aside, and began St Valentine's Eve or the Fair Maid of Perth, which from the first pleased his critics. It was in the brief interval occasioned by these misgivings and debates, that his ever elastic mind threw off another charming paper for the Quarterly Review---that on Ornamental Gardening, by way of sequel to the Essay on Planting Waste Lands. Another fruit of his leisure was a sketch of the life of George Bannatyne, the collector of ancient Scottish poetry, for the Club which bears his name.
He had taken, for that winter, the house No. 6 Shandwick Place, which he occupied by the month during the remainder of his servitude as a Clerk of Session. Very near this house, he was told a few days after he took possession, dwelt the aged mother of his first love; and he expressed to his friend Mrs Skene a wish that she should carry hint to renew an acquaintance which seems to have been interrupted from the period of his youthful romance. Mrs Skene complied with his desire, and she tells me that a very painful scene ensued. His Diary says:---``_November_ 7.---Began to settle myself this morning after the hurry of mind and even of body which I have lately undergone.---I went to make a visit, and fairly softened myself, like an old fool, with recalling old stories, till I was fit for nothing but shedding tears and repeating verses for the whole night. This is sad work. The very grave gives up its dead, and time rolls back thirty years to add to my perplexities. I don't care. I begin to grow case-hardened, and, like a stag turning at bay, my naturally good temper grows fierce and dangerous. Yet what a romance to tell!---and told, I fear, it will one day be. And then my three years of dreaming, and my two years of wakening, will be chronicled, doubtless. But the dead will feel no pain.---_November_ 10.---Wrote out my task and little more. At twelve o'clock I went again to poor Lady Jane to talk over old stories. I am not clear that it is a right or healthful indulgence to be ripping up old sores, but it seems to give her deep-rooted sorrow words, and that is a mental blood-letting. To me these things are now matter of calm and solemn recollection, never to be forgotten, yet scarce to be remembered with pain.''
A few days afterwards arrived a very agreeable piece of intelligence. The King had not forgotten his promise with respect to the poet's second son; and Lord Dudley, then Secretary of State for the Foreign Department, was very well disposed to comply with the royal recommendation. Charles was appointed to a clerkship in the Foreign Office; and his settlement was rapidly followed by more than one fortunate incident in his father's literary and pecuniary history. The, first Tales of a Grandfather appeared early in December, and their reception was more rapturous than that of any one of his works since Ivanhoe. He had solved for the first time the problem of narrating history, so as at once to excite and gratify the curiosity of youth, and please and instruct the wisest of mature minds. The popularity of the book has grown with every year that has since elapsed; it is equally prized in the library, the boudoir, the schoolroom, and the nursery; it is adopted as the happiest of manuals, not only in Scotland, but wherever the English tongue is spoken; nay, it is to be seen in the hands of old and young all over the civilized world, and has, I have little doubt, extended the knowledge of Scottish history in quarters where little or no interest had ever before been awakened as to any other parts of that subject, except those immediately connected with Mary Stuart and the Chevalier.
There had been serious doubts, in what proportions the copyright of the Novels, &c. was vested, at the moment of the common calamity, in Scott or in Constable. One of the ablest of the Scotch Judges, John Irving, Lord Newton, undertook the settlement of this complicated question, as private arbiter: and the result of his ultimate award was, that Scott had lost all hold on the copyright of the Novels from Waverley to Quentin Durward; but that Napoleon and Woodstock were wholly his. This decision, however, was not to be expected speedily: it had now become highly expedient to bring the body of copyrights to sale---and it was agreed to do so, the money to be deposited in bank until the award were given. This sale (on 19th December 1827) comprised all the Novels from Waverley to Quentin Durward inclusive, besides a majority of the shares of the Poetical Works. Mr Cadell's family and private friends were extremely desirous to secure for him part at least of these copyrights; and Sir Walter's were not less so that he should seize this last opportunity of recovering a share in the prime fruits of his genius. The relations by this time established between him and Cadell were those of strict confidence and kindness; and both saw well that the property would be comparatively lost, were it not ensured that thenceforth the whole should be managed as one unbroken concern. The result was, that the copyrights exposed to sale were purchased, one-half for Sir Walter, the other half for Cadell, at the price of <L>8500. Well might the ``pockpuddings''---for so the Diary styles the English booksellers---rue their timidity on this day; but it was the most lucky one that ever came for Sir Walter's creditors. A dividend of six shillings in the pound was paid at this Christmas on their whole claims. The result of their high-hearted debtor's exertions, between January 1826 and January 1828, was in all very nearly <L>40,000. No literary biographer, in all likelihood, will ever have such another fact to record. The creditors unanimously passed a vote of thanks for the indefatigable industry which had achieved so much for their behoof.
On returning to Abbotsford at Christmas, after completing these transactions, he says in his Diary---``My reflections in entering my own gate to-day were of a very different and more pleasing cast than those with which I left this place about six weeks ago. I was then in doubt whether I should fly my country, or become avowedly bankrupt, and surrender up my library and household furniture, with the liferent of my estate, to sale. A man of the world will say I had better done so. No doubt, had I taken this course at once, I might have employed the money I have made since the insolvency of Constable and Robinson's houses in compounding my debts. But I could not have slept sound, as I now can under the comfortable impression of receiving the thanks of my creditors, and the conscious feeling of discharging my duty as a man of honour and honesty. I see before me a long, tedious, and dark path, but it leads to stainless reputation. If I die in the harrows, as is very likely, I shall die with honour; if I achieve my task, I shall have the thanks of all concerned, and the approbation of my own conscience.''
He now took up in earnest two pieces of work, which promised and brought great ultimate advantage; namely, a complete collection of his Poems, with _biographical prefaces;_ the other, an uniform edition of his Novels, each to be introduced by an account of the hints on which it had been founded, and illustrated throughout by historical and antiquarian annotations. On this last, commonly mentioned in the Diary as the _Magnum Opus,_ Sir Walter bestowed pains commensurate with its importance;--- and in the execution of the very delicate task which either scheme imposed, he has certainly displayed such a combination of frankness and modesty as entitles him to a high place in the short list of graceful autobiographers. True dignity is always simple; and perhaps true genius, of the highest class at least, is always humble. These operations took up much time; yet he laboured hard this year both as a novelist and a historian. He contributed, moreover, several articles to the Quarterly Review and the Bannatyne Club library; and to the Journal conducted by Mr Gillies, an excellent Essay on Moli<e`>re this last being again a free gift to the editor.
But the first advertisement of 1828 was of a new order; and the announcement that the Author of Waverley had _Sermons_ in the press, was received perhaps with as much incredulity in the clerical world, as could have been excited among them by that of a romance from the Archbishop of Canterbury. A thin octavo volume, entitled ``Religious Discourses by a Layman,'' and having ``W. S.'' at the foot of a short preface, did, however, issue in the course of the spring, and from the shop, that all might be in perfect keeping, of Mr Colburn, a bookseller then known almost exclusively as the standing purveyor of what is called light reading---novels of fashionable life and the like pretty ephemera. I am afraid that the Religious Discourses, too, would, but for the author's name, have had a brief existence; but the history of their composition, besides sufficiently explaining the humility of these tracts in a literary as well as a theological point of view, will, I hope, gratify most of my readers---Sir Walter's cicerone over Waterloo, in August 1815, was a certain Major Pryse Gordon, then on half-pay, and resident at Brussels. The acquaintance, until they met at Sir Frederick Adam's table, had been slight; but the Major was exceedingly attentive during Scott's stay, and afterwards took some pains about collecting reliques of the field for Abbotsford. One evening the poet supped at his house, and there happened to sit next him the host's eldest son, then a lad of nineteen, whose appearance and situation much interested him. He had been destined for the Church of Scotland, but, as he grew up, a deafness, which had come on him in boyhood, became worse and worse, and at length his friends feared that it must incapacitate him for the clerical function. He had gone to spend the vacation with his father, and General Adam offered him a temporary appointment as a clerk in the Commissariat, which he hoped to convert into a permanent one, in case the war continued. At the time of Scott's arrival that prospect was wellnigh gone, and the young man's infirmity, his embarrassment, and other things to which his own memorandum makes no allusion, excited the visitor's sympathy. Though there were lion-hunters of no small consequence in the party, he directed most of his talk into the poor clerk's ear-trumpet; and at parting, begged him not to forget that he had a friend on Tweedside.
A couple of years elapsed before he heard anything more of George Huntly Gordon, who then sent him his father's little _spolia_ of Waterloo, and accompanied them by a letter explaining his situation, and asking advice, in a style which renewed and increased Scott's favourable impression. He had been dismissed from the Commissariat at the general reduction of our establishments, and was now hesitating whether he had better take up again his views as to the Kirk, or turn his eyes towards English orders; and in the meantime he was anxious to find some way of lightening to his parents, by his own industry, the completion of his professional education. There ensued a copious correspondence between him and Scott, who gave him on all points of his case most paternal advice, and accompanied his counsels with offers of pecuniary assistance, of which the young man rarely availed himself. At length he resolved on r<e:>entering the Divinity Class at Aberdeen, and in due time was licensed by the Presbytery there as a Preacher of the Gospel; but though with good connexions, for he was ``sprung of Scotia's gentler blood,'' his deafness operated as a serious bar to his obtaining the incumbency of a parish. The provincial Synod pronounced his deafness an insuperable objection, and the case was referred to the General Assembly. That tribunal heard the young man's cause maintained by all the skill and eloquence of Mr Jeffrey, whose good offices had been secured by Scott's intervention, and they overruled the decision of the Synod. But Gordon, in the course of the discussion, gathered the conviction that a man almost literally stone-deaf could _not_ discharge some of the highest duties of a parish-priest in a satisfactory manner, and he with honourable firmness declined to take advantage of the judgment of the Supreme Court. Meantime he had been employed, from the failure of John Ballantyne's health downwards. as the transcriber of the Waverley MSS. for the press, in which capacity he displayed every quality that could endear an amanuensis to an author; and when the disasters of 1826 rendered it unnecessary for Scott to have his MS. copied, he exerted himself to procure employment for his young friend in one of the Government offices in London. Being backed by the kindness of the Duke of Gordon, his story found favour with the then Secretary of the Treasury, Mr Lushington ---and Mr Gordon was named assistant private secretary to that gentleman. The appointment was temporary, but he so pleased his chief that there was hope of better things by and by.---Such was his situation at Christmas 1827; but that being his first Christmas in London, it was no wonder that he then discovered himself to have somewhat miscalculated about money matters. In a word, he knew not whither to look at the moment for extrication, until he bethought him of the following little incident of his life at Abbotsford.
He was spending the autumn of 1824 there, daily copying the MS. of Redgauntlet, and working at leisure hours on the Catalogue of the Library, when the family observed him to be labouring under some extraordinary depression of mind. It was just then that he had at length obtained the prospect of a Living, and Sir Walter was surprised that this should not have exhilarated him. Gently sounding the trumpet, however, he discovered that the agitation of the question about the deafness had shaken his nerves--- his scruples had been roused---his conscience was sensitive, ---and he avowed that, though he thought, on the whole, he ought to go through with the business, he could not command his mind so as to prepare a couple of sermons, which, unless he summarily abandoned his object, must be produced on a certain day---then near at hand---before his Presbytery. Sir Walter reminded him that his exercises when on trial for the Probationership had given satisfaction;--- but nothing he could say was sufficient to re-brace Mr Gordon's spirits, and he at length exclaimed, with tears, that his pen was powerless,---that he had made fifty attempts, and saw nothing but failure and disgrace before him. Scott answered---``My good young friend, leave this matter to me---do you work away at the Catalogue, and I'll write for you a couple of sermons, that shall pass muster well enough at Aberdeen.'' Gordon assented with a sigh; and next morning Sir Walter gave him the MS. of the ``Religious Discourses.'' On reflection, Mr Gordon considered it quite impossible to produce them at Aberdeen as his own: but they had remained in his hands; and it now occurred to him that, if Sir Walter would allow him to dispose of these to some bookseller, they might possibly bring a price that would float him over his little difficulties of Christmas.
The only entries in the Diary which relate to the business, are the following:---``_December_ 28. Huntly Gordon writes me in despair about <L>180 of debt which he has incurred. He wishes to publish two sermons which I wrote for him when he was taking orders; and he would get little money for them without my name. People may exclaim against the undesired and unwelcome zeal of him who stretched his hands to help the ark over, with the best intentions, and cry sacrilege. And yet they will do me gross injustice, for I would, if called upon, die a martyr for the Christian religion, so completely is (in my poor opinion) its divine origin proved by its beneficial effects on the state of society. Were we but to name the abolition of slavery and polygamy how much has, in these two words, been granted to mankind in the lessons of our Saviour!---_January_ 10, 1828. Huntly Gordon has disposed of the two sermons to the bookseller, Colburn, for L.250; well sold, I think, and to go forth immediately. I would rather the thing had not gone there, and far rather that it had gone nowhere, yet hang it, if it makes the poor lad easy, what needs I fret about it? After all, there would be little grace in doing a kind thing, if you did not suffer pain or inconvenience upon the score.''
The next literary entry is this:---``Mr Heath, the engraver, invites me to take charge of a yearly publication called the Keepsake, of which the plates are beyond comparison beautiful, but the letter-press indifferent enough. He proposes <L>800 a-year if I would become editor, and <L>400 if I would contribute from seventy to one hundred pages. I declined both, but told him I might give him some trifling thing or other. To become the stipendiary editor of a New-Year's-Gift Book is not to be thought of, nor could I agree to work regularly, for any quantity of supply, at such a publication. Even the pecuniary view is not flattering, though Mr Heath meant it should be so. One hundred of his close printed pages, for which he offers <L>400, are nearly equal to one volume of a novel. Each novel of three volumes brings <L>4000, and I remain proprietor of the mine after the first ore is scooped out.'' The result was that Mr Heath received, for <L>500, the liberty of printing in his Keepsake the long-forgotten juvenile drama of the House of Aspen, with Aunt Margaret's Mirror, and two other little tales, which had been omitted, at Ballantyne's entreaty, from the second Chronicles of Croftangry. But Sir Walter regretted having meddled in any way with the toyshop of literature, and would never do so again, though repeatedly offered very large sums---nor even when the motive of private regard was added, upon Mr Allan Cunningham's lending his name to one of these painted bladders. In the same week that Mr Heath made his proposition, Sir Walter received another, which he thus disposes of in his Diary:---``I have an invitation from Messrs Saunders and Ottley, booksellers, offering me from <L>1500 to <L>2000 annually to conduct a journal; but I am their humble servant. I am too indolent to stand to that sort of work, and I must preserve the undisturbed use of my leisure, and possess my soul in quiet. A large income is not my object; I must clear my debts; and that is to be done by writing things of which I can retain the property.''
He finished his novel by the end of March, and immediately set out for London, where the last budget of proof-sheets reached him. The Fair Maid was, and continues to be, highly popular, and though never classed with his performances of the first file, it has undoubtedly several scenes equal to what the best of them can shew, and is on the whole a work of brilliant variety and most lively interest.
Though the Introduction of 1830 says a good deal on the most original character, that of Connachar, the reader may not be sorry to have one paragraph on that subject from the Diary:---``_December_ 5, 1827. The fellow that swam the Tay, and escaped, would be a good ludicrous character. But I have a mind to try him in the serious line of tragedy. Miss Baillie has made her Ethling a coward by temperament, and a hero when touched by filial affection. Suppose a man's nerves, supported by feelings of honour, or say by the spur of jealousy, sustaining him against constitutional timidity to a certain point, then suddenly giving way, I think something tragic might be produced. James Ballantyne's criticism is too much moulded upon the general taste of novels to admit (I fear) this species of reasoning. But what can one do? I am hard up as far as imagination is concerned,---yet the world calls for novelty. Well, I'll try my brave coward or cowardly brave man. _Valeat quantum._''
I alluded, in an early chapter, to a circumstance in Sir Walter's conduct which it was painful to mention, and added, that in advanced life he himself spoke of it with a deep feeling of contrition. Talking over this character of Connachar, just before the book appeared, he told me the unhappy fate of his brother Daniel, and how he had declined to be present at his funeral or wear mourning for him. He added---``My secret motive in this attempt was to perform a sort of expiation to my poor brother's manes. I have now learned to have more tolerance and compassion than I had in those days.'' I said he put me in mind of Samuel Johnson's standing bareheaded, in the last year of his life, on the market-place of Uttoxeter, by way of penance for a piece of juvenile irreverence towards his father. ``Well, no matter,'' said he; ``perhaps that's not the worst thing in the Doctor's story.''<*>
* See _Boswell_ under August 1784.
Sir Walter and Miss Scott remained at this time six weeks in the Regent's Park. His eldest son's regiment was stationed at Hampton Court; the second had recently taken his desk at the Foreign Office, and was living in my house; he had thus looked forward to a happy meeting with all his family---but he encountered scenes of sickness and distress, in consequence of which I saw but little of him in general society. Nor is his Diary particularly interesting, with the exception of a few entries. That for May 1st is: ---``Breakfasted with Lord and Lady Francis Gower, and enjoyed the splendid treat of hearing Mrs Arkwright sing her own music, which is of the highest order;---no forced vagaries of the voice, no caprices of tone, but all telling upon and increasing the feeling the words require. This is `marrying music to immortal verse.' Most people place them on separate maintenance.''---Among other songs, Mrs Arkwright delighted Sir Walter with her own set of---
`Farewell! farewell!---The voice you hear Has left its last soft tone with you Its next must join the seaward cheer, And shout among the shouting crew,'' &c.
He was sitting by me, at some distance from the lady, and whispered as she closed---``Capital words---whose are they? Byron's, I suppose, but I don't remember them.'' He was astonished when I told him that they were his own in The Pirate. He seemed pleased at the moment, but said next minute---``You have distressed me---if memory goes, all is up with me, for that was always my strong point.''
``_May_ 5.---Breakfasted with Haydon, and sat for my head. I hope this artist is on his legs again. The King has given him a lift, by buying his clever picture of the Mock Election in the King's Bench prison. Haydon was once a great admirer and companion of the champions of the Cockney school, and is now disposed to renounce them and their opinions. To this kind of conversation I did not give much way. A painter should have nothing to do with politics. He is certainly a clever fellow, but too enthusiastic, which, however, distress seems to have cured in some degree. His wife, a pretty woman, looked happy to see me, and that is something. Yet it was very little I could do to help them.<*>---_May_ 8.---Dined with Mrs Alexander
* Sir Walter had shortly before been one of the contributors to
* a subscription for Mr Haydon. The imprisonment from which
* this subscription relieved the artist produced, I need scarcely say,
* the picture mentioned in the Diary. This clever man concluded
* an unhappy history in the unhappiest manner in 1846.
of Ballochmyle:---Lord and Lady Meath, who were kind to us in Ireland, and a Scottish party, pleasant from having the broad accents and honest thoughts of my native land. A large circle in the evening. A gentleman came up to me and asked `If I had seen The Casket, a curious work, the most beautiful, the most highly ornamented,--- and then the editor or editress---a female so interesting,--- might he ask a very great favour?' and out he pulled a piece of this picnic. I was really angry, and said,---for a subscription he might command me; for a contributor--- No. This may be misrepresented, but I care not. Suppose this patron of the Muses gives five guineas to his distressed lady, he will think he does a great deal, yet he takes fifty from me with the calmest air in the world; for the communication is worth that if it be worth anything. There is no equalizing in the proposal.---_May_ 11.--- Dined with his Majesty in a very private party, five or six only being present. It is impossible to conceive a more friendly manner than that his Majesty used towards me. ---_May_ 19.---Dined by command with the Duchess of Kent. I was very kindly recognised by Prince Leopold--- and presented to the little Princess Victoria---I hope they will change her name---the heir-apparent to the crown as things now stand. How strange that so large and fine a family as that of his late Majesty, should have died off, or decayed into old age, with so few descendants. Prince George of Cumberland is, they say, a fine boy about nine years old---a bit of a Pickle. This little lady is educating with much care, and watched so closely, that no busy maid has a moment to whisper, `You are heir of England.' I suspect if we could dissect the little heart, we should find that some pigeon or other bird of the air had carried the matter. She is fair, like the royal family---the Duchess herself very pleasing and affable in her manners. I sat by Mr Spring Rice, a very agreeable man. There were also Charles Wynn and his lady---and the evening, for a Court evening, went agreeably off. I am commanded for two days by Prince Leopold, but will send excuses. ---_May_ 25.---After a morning of letter-writing, leave taking papers---destroying, and God knows what trumpery, Sophia and I set out for Hampton Court, carrying with us the following lions and lionesses---Samuel Rogers, Tom Moore, Wordsworth, with wife and daughter. We were very kindly and properly received by Walter and his wife, and had a very pleasant day. At parting, Rogers gave me a gold-mounted pair of glasses, which I will not part with in a hurry. I really like S. R., and have always found him most friendly.''
Breakfasting one morning with Allan Cunningham, (whose notes are before me) he looked round the table, and said, ``What are you going to make of all these boys Allan!''---``I ask that question often at my own heart,'' said Allan, ``and I cannot answer it.''---``What does the eldest point to?''---``The callant would fain be a soldier, Sir Walter---and I have half a promise of a commission in the King's army for him; but I wish rather he could go to India, for there the pay is a maintenance, and one does not need interest at every step to get on.'' Scott dropped the subject; but went an hour afterwards to Lord Melville (who was now President of the Board of Control), and begged a cadetship for young Cunningham. Lord Melville promised to inquire if he had one at his disposal, in which case he would gladly serve the son of ``honest Allan;'' but the point being thus left doubtful, Scott meeting Mr John Loch, one of the East-India Directors, at dinner the same evening, at Lord Stafford's, applied to him, and received an immediate assent. On reaching home at night, he found a note from Lord Melville, intimating that he had inquired, and was happy in complying with his request. Next morning, Sir Walter appeared at Sir F. Chantrey's breakfast-table, and greeted the sculptor (a brother of the angle) with---``I suppose it has sometimes happened to you to catch one trout (which was all you thought of) with the fly, and another with the bobber. I have done so, and I think I shall land them both. Don't you think Cunningham would like very well to have cadetships for two of those fine lads?''---``To be sure he would,'' said Chantrey, ``and if you'll secure the commissions, I'll make the outfit easy.'' Great was the joy in Allan's household on this double good news; but I should add, that before the thing was done he had to thank another benefactor. Lord Melville, after all, went out of the Board of Control before he had been able to fulfil his promise; but his successor, Lord Ellenborough, on hearing the case, desired Cunningham to set his mind at rest; and both his young men are now prospering in the India service.
``_Rokeby, May_ 30,---A mile from the house we met Morritt, looking for us. He is now one of my oldest, and I believe one of my most sincere friends;---a man unequalled in the mixture of sound good sense, high literary cultivation, and the kindest and sweetest temper that ever graced a human bosom. His nieces are much attached to him, and, are deserving and elegant, as well as beautiful young women.---What there is in our partiality to female beauty that commands a species of temporary homage from the aged, as well as ecstatic admiration from the young, I cannot conceive; but it is certain that a very large portion of some other amiable quality is too little to counterbalance the absolute want of this advantage. I, to whom beauty is, and shall henceforward be, a picture, still look upon it with the quiet devotion of an old worshipper, who no longer offers incense on the shrine, but peaceably presents his inch of taper, taking special care in doing so not to burn his own fingers. Nothing in life can be more ludicrous or contemptible than an old man aping the passions of his youth.''
Next night Sir Walter rested at Carlisle,---``A sad place,'' says the Diary, ``in my domestic remembrances, since here I married my poor Charlotte. She is gone, and I am following ---faster, perhaps, than I wot of. It is something to have lived and loved; and our poor children are so hopeful and affectionate, that it chastens the sadness attending the thoughts of our separation.'' His feeling and sprightly companion wrote thus a day or two afterwards to her sister:--- ``Early in the morning before we started, papa took me with him to the Cathedral. This he had often done before; but he said he must stand once more on the spot where he married poor mamma. After that we went to the Castle, where a new showman went through the old trick of pointing out Fergus MacIvor's _very_ dungeon. Peveril said---`Indeed? ---are you quite sure, sir?' And on being told there could be no doubt, was troubled with a fit of coughing, which ended in a laugh. The man seemed exceeding indignant: so when papa moved on, I whispered who it was. I wish you had seen the man's start, and how he stared and bowed as he parted from us; and then rammed his keys into his pocket, and went off at a hand-gallop to warn the rest of the garrison. But the carriage was ready, and we escaped a row.''
They reached Abbotsford that night, and a day or two afterwards Edinburgh; where Sir Walter was greeted with the satisfactory intelligence that his plans as to the _Opus Magnum_ had been considered at a meeting of his trustees, and finally approved _in toto._ As the scheme inferred a large outlay on drawings and engravings, and otherwise, this decision had been looked for with much anxiety by him and Mr Cadell. He says---``I trust it will answer; yet who can warrant the continuance of popularity? Old Nattali Corri, who entered into many projects, and could never set the sails of a windmill to catch the _aura popularis,_ used to say he believed that were he to turn baker, it would put bread out of fashion. I have had the better luck to dress my sails to every wind; and so blow on, good wind, and spin round, whirligig.'' The _Corri_ here alluded to was an unfortunate adventurer, who, among many other wild schemes, tried to set up an Italian Opera at Edinburgh.
During the remainder of this year Sir Walter never opened his ``locked book.'' Whether in Edinburgh or the country, his life was such, that he describes himself, in several letters, as having become ``a writing automaton.'' He had completed by Christmas the Second Series of Tales on Scottish History, and made considerable progress in another novel---Anne of Geierstein: he had also drawn up for the Quarterly Review his article on Hajji Baba in England; and that delightful one on Davy's _Salmonia_--- which, like those on Planting and Gardening abounds in sweet episodes of personal reminiscence. And, whenever he had not proof-sheets to press him, his hours were bestowed on the _opus magnum._
About this time died Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, the widower of his first love, and the most generous and efficient friend in the late crisis of distress. On this event his letters have some very touching passages---but his feelings towards that admirable person have been sufficiently shewn in preceding extracts.
Visiting Abbotsford at Christmas, I found him apparently well in health (except that he suffered from rheumatism), and enjoying the society, as usual, of the Fergussons, with the welcome addition of Mr Morritt and Sir James Steuart of Allanbank---a gentleman whose masterly pencil had often been employed on subjects from his poetry and novels, and whose conversation on art (like that of Sir George Beaumont and Mr Serope), being devoid of professional pedantries and jealousies, was always particularly delightful to him. One snowy morning, he gave us sheets of _Anne of Geierstein,_ extending to, I think, about a volume and a half; and we read them together in the library, while he worked in the adjoining room, and occasionally dropt in upon us to hear how we were pleased. All were highly gratified with those vivid and picturesque pages,---and both Morritt and Steuart, being familiar with the scenery of Switzerland, could not sufficiently express their astonishment at the felicity with which he had divined its peculiar character, and outdone, by the force, of imagination, all the efforts of a thousand actual tourists. Such approbation was of course very acceptable. I had seldom seen him more gently and tranquilly happy.
When these friends left him, he went with me to my brother's in Clydesdale, and there enjoyed some days of relaxation. It was then that he first saw the self-educated sculptor, John Greenshields, who greatly interested him from a certain resemblance to Burns, and took the first sitting for a very remarkable statue in freestone, now in Mr Cadell's possession---the last work which this worthy man was destined to complete.
Sir Walter's operations appear to have been interrupted ever and anon, during January and February 1829, in consequence of severe distress in the household of his printer; whose warm affections were not, as in his own case, subjected to the authority of a stoical will. On the 14th of February the Diary says:---``The letters I received were numerous, and craved answers; yet the 3d volume is getting on _hooly and fairly._ I am twenty leaves before the printer, but Ballantyne's wife is ill, and it is his nature to indulge apprehensions of the worst, which incapacitates him for labour. I cannot help regarding this amiable weakness of the mind with something too nearly allied to contempt.'' On the 17th, ``I received the melancholy news that. James Ballantyne had lost his wife. With his domestic habits the blow is irretrievable. What can he do, poor fellow, at the head of such a family of children? I should not be surprised if he were to give way to despair.'' ---James was not able to appear at his wife's funeral; and this Scott viewed with something more than pity. Next morning, however, says the Diary---``Ballantyne came in, to my surprise, about twelve o'clock. He was very serious, and spoke as if he had some idea of sudden and speedy death. He has settled to go to the country, poor fellow!''---He retired accordingly to some sequestered place near Jedburgh, and there indulged his grief in solitude. Scott regarded this as weakness, and in part at least as wilful weakness, and addressed to him several letters of strong remonstrance and rebuke. In writing of the case to myself, he says---``I have a sore grievance in poor Ballantyne's increasing lowness of heart, and I fear he is sinking rapidly into the condition of a religious dreamer. His retirement from Edinburgh was the worst advised scheme in the world. I in vain reminded him, that when our Saviour himself was to be led into temptation, the first thing the Devil thought of was to get him into the wilderness.'' ---Ballantyne, after a few weeks, resumed his place in the printing-office; but he addicted himself more and more to what his friend considered as erroneous and extravagant notions of religious doctrine; and I regret to say that in this difference originated a certain alienation, not of affection, but of confidence, which was visible to every near observer of their subsequent intercourse. Towards the last, indeed, they saw but little of each other. I suppose, however, it is needless to add, that down to the very last, Scott watched over Ballantyne's interests with undiminished attention.
Many entries of his Diary during the Spring Session refer to the final carrying of the Roman Catholic Question, When the Duke of Wellington announced his intention of conceding those claims, there were meetings and petitions enough in Edinburgh as elsewhere; and though Scott felt considerable repugnance to acting in any such matter with Whigs and Radicals, in opposition to a great section of the Tories, he ultimately resolved not to shrink from doing his part in support of the Duke's Government on that critical experiment.<*>
* See _ante,_ pp.
He wrote, I believe, several articles in favour of the measure for the Weekly Journal; he spoke, though shortly, at the principal meeting, and proposed one of its resolutions; and when the consequent petition was read in the House of Commons, his name among the subscribers was received with such enthusiasm, that Sir Robert Peel thought fit to address to him a special and very cordial letter of thanks on that occasion.
His novel was finished before breakfast on the 29th of April; and his Diary mentions that immediately after breakfast he began his compendium of Scottish history for Dr Lardner's Cyclop<ae>dia. When the proprietors of that work, in July 1828, offered him <L>500 for an abstract of Scottish History in one volume, he declined the proposal. They subsequently offered <L>700, and this was accepted; but though he began the task under the impression that he should find it a heavy one, he soon warmed to the subject, and pursued it with cordial zeal and satisfaction. One volume, it by and by appeared, would never do,---in his own phrase, ``he must have elbow-room''---and I believe it was finally settled that he should have <L>1500 for the book in two volumes; of which the first was published before the end of this year.
Anne of Geierstein came out about the middle of May; and this, which may be almost called the last work of his imaginative genius, was received at least as well---(out of Scotland, that is)---as the Fair Maid of Perth had been, or indeed as any novel of his after the Crusaders. I partake very strongly, I am aware, in the feeling which most of my own countrymen have little shame in avowing, that no novel of his, where neither scenery nor character is Scottish, belongs to the same pr<e:>eminent class with those in which he paints and peoples his native landscape. I have confessed that I cannot rank even his best English romances with such creations as Waverley and Old Mortality; far less can I believe that posterity will attach similar value to this Maid of the Mist. Its pages, however, display in undiminished perfection all the skill and grace of the mere artist, with occasional outbreaks of the old poetic spirit, more than sufficient to remove the work to an immeasurable distance from any of its order produced in this country in our own age. Indeed, the various play of fancy in the combination of persons and events, and the airy liveliness of both imagery and diction, may well justify us in applying to the author what he beautifully Bays of his King Ren<e'>---
``A mirthful man he was; the snows of age Fell, but they did not chill him. Gaiety, Even in life's closing, touch'd his teeming brain With such wild visions as the setting sun Raises in front of some hoar glacier, Painting the bleak ice with a thousand hues.''
It is a common saying that there is nothing so distinctive of _genius_ as the retention, in advanced years, of the capacity to depict the feelings of youth with all their original glow and purity. But I apprehend this blessed distinction belongs to, and is the just reward of, virtuous genius only. In the case of extraordinary force of imagination, combined with the habitual indulgence of a selfish mood---not combined, that is to say, with the genial temper of mind and thought which God and Nature design to be kept alive in man by those domestic charities out of which the other social virtues so easily spring, and with which they find such endless links of interdependence;---in this unhappy case, which none who has studied the biography of genius can pronounce to be a rare one, the very power which heaven bestowed seems to become, as old age darkens, the sternest avenger of its own misapplication. The retrospect of life is converted by its energy into one wide blackness of desolate regret; and whether this breaks out in the shape of a rueful contemptuousness, or a sarcastic mockery of tone, the least drop of the poison is enough to paralyze all attempts at awakening sympathy by fanciful delineations of love and friendship. Perhaps Scott has nowhere painted such feelings more deliciously than in those very scenes of Anne of Geierstein, which offer every now and then, in some incidental circumstance or reflection, the best evidence that they are drawn by a grey-headed man. The whole of his own life was too present to his wonderful memory to permit of his brooding with exclusive partiality, whether painfully or pleasurably, on any one portion or phasis of it; and besides, he was always living over again in his children, young at heart whenever he looked on them, and the world that was opening on them and their friends. But above all, he had a firm belief in the future reunion of those whom death has parted.
He lost two more of his old intimates about this time;--- Mr Terry in June, and Mr Shortreed in the beginning of July. The Diary says:---``_July_ 9. Heard of the death of poor Bob Shortreed, the companion of many a long ride among the hills in quest of old ballads. He was a merry companion, a good singer and mimic, and full of Scottish drollery. In his company, and under his guidance, I was able to see much of rural society in the mountains, which I could not otherwise have attained, and which I have made my use of. He was, in addition, a man of worth and character. I always burdened his hospitality while at Jedburgh on the circuit, and have been useful to some of his family. Poor fellow! So glide our friends from us, Many recollections die with him and with poor Terry.''
His Diary has few more entries for this twelvemonth. Besides the volume of history for Lardner, he had ready by December the last of the _Scottish_ Series of Tales of a Grandfather; and had made great progress in the prefaces and notes for Cadell's _Opus Magnum._ He had also overcome various difficulties which for a time interrupted the twin scheme of an illustrated edition of his Poems: and one of these in a manner honourably characteristic of the late John Murray of Albemarle Street, who had till now retained a share in the copyright of Marmion. Scott having requested him to _sell_ that share, he generously replied:--- ``So highly do I estimate the honour of being even in so small a degree, the publisher of the author of the poem, that no pecuniary consideration whatever can induce me to part with it. But there is a consideration of another kind, which until now I was not aware of, which would make it painful to me if I were to retain it a moment longer. I mean the knowledge of its being required by the author, into whose hands it was spontaneously resigned in the same instant that I read his request.''
The success of the collective novels was far beyond what either Sir Walter or Mr Cadell had ventured to anticipate. Before the close of 1829, eight volumes had been issued; and the monthly sale had reached as high as 35,000. Should this go on, there was, indeed, every reason to hope that, coming in aid of undiminished industry in the preparation of new works, it would wipe off all his load of debt in the course of a very few years. And during the autumn (which I spent near him) it was most agreeable to observe the effects of the prosperous intelligence, which every succeeding month brought, upon his spirits.
This was the more needed, that his eldest son, who had gone to the south of France on account of some unpleasant symptoms in his health, did not at first seem to profit rapidly by the change of climate. He feared that the young man was not so obedient to his physicians as he ought to have been; and in one of many letters on this subject, after mentioning some of Cadell's good news as to the great affair, he says---``I have wrought hard, and so far successfully. But I tell you plainly, my dear boy, that if you permit your health to decline from want of attention, I have not strength of mind enough to exert myself in these matters as I have hitherto been doing.'' Happily Major Scott was, ere long, restored to his usual State of health and activity.
Sir Walter himself, too, besides the usual allowance of rheumatism, and other lesser ailments, had an attack that season of a nature which gave his family great alarm, and which for several days he himself regarded with the darkest prognostications. After some weeks, during which he complained of headach and nervous irritation, certain h<ae>morrhages indicated the sort of relief required, and he obtained it from copious cupping. He says, in his Diary for June 3d---``The ugly symptom still continues. Either way I am firmly resolved. I wrote in the morning. The Court kept me till near two. In the evening Dr Rose ordered me to be cupped, an operation which I only knew from its being practised by those eminent medical practitioners the barbers of Bagdad. It is not painful; and, I think, resembles a giant twisting about your flesh between his finger and thumb.'' After this he felt better, he said, than he had done for years before; but there can be little doubt that the natural evacuation was a very serious symptom. It was, in fact, the precursor of apoplexy. In telling the Major of his recovery, he says---``The sale of the Novels is pro-di-gi-ous. If it last but a few years, it will clear my feet of old incumbrances, nay, perhaps, enable me to talk a word to our friend Nicol Milne.
`But old ships must expect to get out of commission, Nor again to weigh anchor with _yo heave ho!_'
However that may be, I should be happy to die a free man; and I am sure you will all be kind to poor Anne, who will miss me most. I don't intend to die a minute sooner than I can help for all this , but when a man takes to making blood instead of water, he is tempted to think on the possibility of his soon making earth.''---Mr Milne, be it observed, was the proprietor of a considerable estate conterminous with Abbotsford to the westward.
Among a few other friends from a distance, Sir Walter received this summer a short visit from Mr Hallam, and made in his company several of the little excursions which had in former days been of constant recurrence. Mr Hallam had with him his son, Arthur, a young gentleman of extraordinary abilities, and as modest as able, who not long afterwards was cut off in the very bloom of opening life and genius. His beautiful verses on _Melrose seen in company with Scott,_ have since been often printed.
The close of the autumn was embittered by a sudden and most unexpected deprivation. Apparently in the fullest enjoyment of health and vigour, Thomas Purdie leaned his head one evening on the table, and dropped asleep. This was nothing uncommon in a hard-working man; and his family went and came about him for several hours, without taking any notice. When supper was ready, they tried to awaken him, and found that life had been for some time extinct. Far different from other years, Sir Walter seemed impatient to get away from Abbotsford to Edinburgh. ``I have lost,'' he writes (4th November) to Cadell, ``my old and faithful servant---my factotum---and am so much shocked, that I really wish to be quit of the country and safe in town. I have this day laid him in the grave. This has prevented my answering your letters.''
The grave, close to the Abbey at Melrose, is surmounted by a modest monument, having on two sides these inscriptions---
_In grateful remembrance of the faithful and attached services of twenty-two years, and in sorrow for the loss of a humble but sincere friend; this stone was erected by Sir Walter Scott, Bart., of Abbotsford.
Here lies the body of Thomas Purdie, wood-forester at Abbotsford, who died 29th October 1829, aged sixty-two years.---``Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things._''---St Matthew, chap. xxv. ver. 21st.
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