During the whole of 1806 and 1807 Dryden continued to occupy the greater share of Scott's literary hours; but in the course of the former year he found time, and (notwithstanding a few political bickerings) inclination to draw up three papers for the Edinburgh Review; one being that exquisite piece of humour, the article on the Miseries of Human Life, to which Mr Jeffrey added some, if not all, of the _Reviewers' Groans._ He also edited, with Preface and Notes, ``Original Memoirs written during the Great Civil Wars; being the Life of Sir Henry Slingsby, and Memoirs of Captain Hodgson,'' &c. This volume was put forth in October 1806 by Constable; and in November he begun _Marmion,_---the first of his own Poems in which that enterprising firm had a primary part.
He was at this time in communication with several Booksellers, each of whom would willingly have engrossed his labour;---but from the moment that his undertakings began to be serious, he seems to have acted on the maxim, that no author should ever let any one house fancy that they had obtained a right of monopoly over his works---or, as he expressed it, in the language of the Scottish feudalists, ``that they had completely thirled him to their mill.'' Of the conduct of Messrs Longman, he has attested that it was liberal beyond his expectation; but, nevertheless, a negotiation which they now opened proved fruitless. Constable offered a thousand guineas for the poem very shortly after it was begun, and without having seen one line of it. It is hinted in the Introduction of 1830, that private circumstances rendered it desirable for Scott to obtain the immediate command of such a sum; the price was actually paid long before the book was published; and it suits very well with Constable's character to suppose that his readiness to advance the money may have outstripped the calculations of more established dealers, and thus cast the balance in his favour. He was not, however, so unwise as to keep the whole adventure to himself. His bargain being concluded, he tendered one-fourth of the copyright to Miller of Albemarle Street, and another to John Murray, then of Fleet Street; and the latter at once replied, ``We both view it as honourable, profitable, and glorious to be concerned in the publication of a new poem by Walter Scott.'' The news that a thousand guineas had been paid for an unseen and unfinished MS. seemed in those days portentous; and it must be allowed that the man who received such a sum for a performance in embryo, had made a great stop in the hazards as well as in the honours of authorship. The private circumstances which he alludes to as having precipitated his re-appearance as a poet were connected with his brother Thomas's final withdrawal from his practice as a Writer to the Signet; but it is extremely improbable that, in the absence of any such occurrence, a young, energetic, and ambitious man would have long resisted the stimulus of such success as had attended the Last Minstrel.
``I had formed,'' he says, ``the prudent resolution to bestow a little more labour than I had yet done, and to be in no hurry again to announce myself as a candidate for literary fame. Accordingly, particular passages of a poem which was finally called _Marmion_ were laboured with a good deal of care by one by whom much care was seldom bestowed. Whether the work was worth the labour or not, I am no competent judge; but I may be permitted to say, that the period of its composition was a very happy one in my life; so much so, that I remember with pleasure at this moment (1830) some of the spots in which particular passages were composed.'' The first four of the Introductory Epistles are dated Ashestiel, and they point out very distinctly some of these spots. There is a knoll with some tall old ashes on the adjoining farm of the Peel, where he was very fond of sitting by himself, and it still bears the name of the _Sheriff's Knowe._ Another favourite seat was beneath a huge oak hard by the river, at the extremity of the _haugh_ of Ashestiel. It was here that while meditating his verses he used
``To waste the solitary day In plucking from yon fen the reed, And watch it floating down the Tweed.''
He frequently wandered far from home, however, attended only by his dog, and would return late in the evening, having let hour after hour slip away among the soft and melancholy wildernesses where Yarrow creeps from her fountains. The lines,
``Oft in my mind such thoughts awake, By lone Saint Mary's silent lake,'' &c.
paint a scene not less impressive than what Byron found amidst the gigantic pines of the forest of Ravenna; and how completely does he set himself before us in the moment of his gentler and more solemn inspiration, by the closing couplet,---
``Your horse's hoof-tread sounds too rude, So stilly is the solitude''
But when the theme was of a more stirring order, he enjoyed pursuing it over brake and fell at the full speed of his _Lieutenant._ I well remember his saying, as I rode with him across the hills from Ashestiel to Newark one day in his declining years---``Oh, man, I had many a grand gallop among these braes when I was thinking of Marmion, but a trotting canny pony must serve me now.''
Mr Skene, however, informs me that many of the more energetic descriptions, and particularly that of the battle of Flodden, were struck out while he was in quarters again with his cavalry, in the autumn of 1807. ``In the intervals of drilling,'' he says, ``Scott used to delight in walking his powerful black steed up and down by himself upon the Portobello sands, within the beating of the surge; and now and then you would see him plunge in his spurs, and go off as if at the charge, with the spray dashing about him. As we rode back to Musselburgh, he often came and placed himself beside me, to repeat the verses that he had been composing during these pauses of our exercise.''
He seems to have communicated fragments of the poem very freely during the whole of its progress. As early as the 22d Februar 1807, I find Mrs Hayman acknowledging, in the name of the Princess of Wales, the receipt of a copy of the Introduction to Canto III., in which occurs the tribute to her heroic father, mortally wounded the year before at Jena---a tribute so grateful to her feelings, that she sent the poet an elegant silver vase as a memorial of her thankfulness. And about the same time, the Marchioness of Abercorn expresses the delight with which both she and her lord had read the generous verses on Pitt and Fox. But his connexion with this family was no new one; for his father, and afterwards his brother, had been the auditors of their Scotch rental.
In March, his researches concerning Dryden carried him again to the south. For several weeks he gave his day pretty regularly to the pamphlets and MSS. of the British Museum, and the evening to the brilliant societies that now courted him whenever he came within their sphere. ``As I had,'' he writes to his brother-in-law in India, ``contrary to many who avowed the same opinions in sunshine, held fast my integrity during the Foxites' interval of power, I found myself of course very well with the new administration.'' But he uniformly reserved his Saturday and Sunday either for Mr Ellis at Sunninghill, or Lord and Lady Abercorn at Stanmore; and the press copy of Cantos I, and II. of Marmion attests that most of it reached Ballantyne in sheets franked by the Marquis, or his son-in-law Lord Aberdeen. Before he turned homeward, he made a short visit to his friend William Rose in Hampshire, and enjoyed in his company various long rides in the New Forest, a day in the dock-yard of Portsmouth, and two or three more in the Isle of Wight. Several sheets of Canto III. are also under covers franked from Gundimore. In the first week of May we find him at Lichfield, having diverged from the great road to Scotland for the purpose of visiting Miss Seward. Her account of her correspondent, whom till now she had never seen, was addressed to Mr Cary, the translator of Dante. ``This proudest boast of the Caledonian muse is tall,'' she says, ``and rather robust than slender, but lame in the same manner as Mr Hayley, and in a greater measure. Neither the contour of his face nor yet his features are elegant; his complexion healthy, and somewhat fair, without bloom. We find the singularity of brown hair and eye-lashes, with flaxen eyebrows; and a countenance open, ingenuous, and benevolent. When seriously conversing or earnestly attentive, though his eyes are rather of a lightish grey, deep thought is on their lids; he contracts his brow, and the rays of genius gleam aslant from the orbs beneath them. An upper lip too long prevents his mouth from being decidedly handsome; but the sweetest emanations of temper and heart play about it when he talks cheerfully or smiles---and in company he is much oftener gay than contemplative---his conversation an overflowing fountain of brilliant wit, apposite allusion, and playful archness---while on serious themes it is nervous and eloquent; the accent decidedly Scotch, yet by no means broad. Not less astonishing than was Johnson's memory is that of Mr Scott; like Johnson, also, his recitation is too monotonous and violent to do justice either to his own writings or those of others.'' Miss Seward adds, that she showed him the passage in Cary's Dante where Michael Scott occurs, and that though he admired the spirit and skill of the version, he confessed his inability to find pleasure in the Divina Commedia. ``The plan,'' he said, ``appeared to him unhappy; the personal malignity and strange mode of revenue presumptuous and uninteresting.'' By the 12th of May he was at Edinburgh for the commencement of the summer session, and the printing of his Poem seems thenceforth to have gone on at times with great rapidity, at others slowly and irregularly; the latter Cantos having no doubt been merely blocked out when the first went to press, and his professional avocations, but above all his Dryden, occasioning frequent interruptions.
Mr Guthrie Wright, who was among the familiar associates of the Troop, has furnished me with some details which throw light on the construction of Marmion. This gentleman had, through Scott's good offices, succeeded his brother Thomas in the charge of the Abercorn business. ---``In the summer of 1807,'' he says, ``I had the pleasure of making a trip with Sir Walter to Dumfries, for the purpose of meeting Lord Abercorn on his way to Ireland. His Lordship did not arrive for two or three days, and we employed the interval in visiting Sweetheart Abbey, Caerlaverock Castle, and some other ancient buildings in the neighbourhood. He recited poetry and old legends from morn till night; and it is impossible that anything could be more delightful than his society; but what I particularly allude to is the circumstance, that at that time he was writing _Marmion,_ the three or four first cantos of which he had with him, and which he was so good as read to me. It is unnecessary to say how much I was enchanted with them; but as he good-naturedly asked me to state any observations that occurred to me, I said in joke that it appeared to me he had brought his hero by a very strange _route_ into Scotland. `Why,' says I, `did ever mortal coming from England to Edinburgh go by Gifford, Crichton Castle, Borthwick Castle, and over the top of Blackford Hill? Not only is it a circuitous _detour,_ but there never was a road that way since the world was created!' `That is a most irrelevant objection,' said Sir Walter; `it was my good pleasure to bring Marmion by that route, for the purpose of describing the places you have mentioned, and the view from Blackford Hill---it was his business to find his road and pick his steps the best way he could. But, pray, how would you have me bring him? Not by the post-road, surely, as if he had been travelling in a mail-coach?' ---`No,' I replied; `there were neither post-roads nor mail-coaches in those days; but I think you might have brought him with a less chance of getting into a swamp, by allowing him to travel the natural route by Dunbar and the sea-coast; and then he might have tarried for a space with the famous Earl of Angus, surnamed Bell-the-Cat, at his favourite residence of Tantallon Castle, by which means you would have had not only that fortress with all his feudal followers, but the Castle of Dunbar, the Bass, and all the beautiful scenery of the Forth to describe.' This observation seemed to strike him much, and after a pause he exclaimed--- `By Jove, you are right! I ought to have brought him that way;' and he added, `but before he and I part, depend upon it he shall visit Tantallon.' He then asked if I had ever been there, and upon saying I had frequently, he desired me to describe it, which I did; and I verily believe it is from what I then said that the accurate description contained in the fifth canto was given---at least I never heard him say he had afterwards gone to visit the castle; and when the poem was published, I remember he laughed, and asked me how I liked Tantallon.''
Just a year had elapsed from his beginning the poem, when he penned the Epistle for Canto IV. at Ashestiel; and who, that considers how busily his various pursuits and labours had been crowding the interval, can wonder to be told that
``Even now, it scarcely seems a day Since first I tuned this idle lay--- A task so often laid aside When leisure graver cares denied--- That now November's dreary, gale, Whose voice inspired my opening tale, That same November gale once more Whirls the dry leaves on Yarrow shore.''
The fifth Introduction was written in Edinburgh in the month following; that to the last Canto, during the Christmas festivities of Mertoun-house, where, from the first days of his ballad-rhyming to the close of his life, he, like his bearded ancestor, usually spent that season with the immediate head of the race. The bulky appendix of notes, including a mass of curious antiquarian quotations, must have moved somewhat slowly through the printer's hands; but Marmion was at length ready for publication by the middle of February 1808.
Among the ``graver cares'' which he alludes to as having interrupted his progress, were those of preparing himself for an office to which he was formally appointed soon afterwards, namely, that of Secretary to a Parliamentary Commission for the improvement of Scottish Jurisprudence. This Commission, at the head of which was Sir Islay Campbell, Lord President of the Court of Session, continued in operation for two or three years. Scott's salary, as secretary, was a mere trifle; but he had been led to expect that his exertions in this capacity would lead to better things. In giving a general view of his affairs to his brother-in-law in India, he says---``I am principally pleased with my new appointment as being conferred on me by our chief law lords and King's counsel, and consequently an honourable professional distinction. The employment will be but temporary, but may have consequences important to my future lot in life, if I give due satisfaction in the discharge of it.'' He appears accordingly to have submitted to a great deal of drudgery, in mastering the technical controversies which had called for legislatorial interference and he discharged his functions, as usual, with the warm approbation of his superiors; but no result followed.
Not only did he write sundry articles for the Edinburgh Review while Marmion was on hand, but having now frequent correspondence with Mr Southey, whose literature had not as yet been very lucrative to him, he made an effort to enlist that friend also in the same critical corps. Thalaba and Madoc had been handled by them in no very flattering style; the early works of Wordsworth still more irreverently; but Southey declined these offers of intermediation on the score mainly of politics---expressing, at the same time, some regret that Wordsworth, in his magnificent sonnet on Killiecrankie, should have introduced that type of ultra-toryism, the Viscount of Dundee, without apparent censure of his character. In reply (15th December, 1807), Scott admits his own ``extreme dislike'' of the tone of the Review as to the war with Bonaparte. He says:---``Who ever thought he did a service to a person engaged in an arduous conflict, by proving to him, or attempting to prove, that he must necessarily be beaten? and what effect can such language have but to accelerate the accomplishment of the prophecy which it contains? And as for Catholic Emancipation---I am not, God knows, a bigot in religious matters, nor a friend to persecution; but if a particular sect of religionists are _ipso facto_ connected with foreign politics---and placed under the spiritual direction of a class of priests, whose unrivalled dexterity and activity are increased by the rules which detach them from the rest of the world---I humbly think that we may be excused from intrusting to them those places in the State where the influence of such a clergy, who act under the direction of a passive tool of our worst foe, is likely to be attended with the most fatal consequences. If a gentleman chooses to walk about with a couple of pounds of gunpowder in his pocket, if I give him the shelter of my roof, I may at least be permitted to exclude him from the seat next to the fire. So thinking, I have felt your scruples in doing anything for the Review of late. As for my good friend Dundee, I cannot admit his culpability in the extent you allege; and it is scandalous of the Sunday bard to join in your condemnation, `and yet come of a noble Gr<ae>me!'<*> I admit he
*James Grahame, author of _The Sabbath,_ &c.
was _tant soit peu sauvage_---but he was a noble savage; and the beastly Covenanters against whom he acted, hardly had any claim to be called men, unless what was founded on their walking upon their hind feet. You can hardly conceive the perfidy, cruelty, and stupidity of these people, according to the accounts they have themselves preserved. But I admit I had many cavalier prejudices instilled into me, as my ancestor was a Killiecrankie man.''
Mr Southey happened to be in London when Marmion came out, and he wrote thus to the author on his return to Keswick---``Half the poem I had read at Heber's before my own copy arrived. I went punctually to breakfast with him, and he was long enough dressing to let me devour so much of it. The story is made of better materials than the Lay, yet they are not so well fitted together. As a whole, it has not pleased me so much---in parts, it has pleased me more. There is nothing so finely conceived in your former poem as the death of Marmion: there is nothing finer in its conception anywhere. The introductory epistles I did not wish away, because, as poems, they gave me great pleasure; but I wished them at the end of the volume, or at the beginning---anywhere except where they were. My taste is perhaps peculiar in disliking all interruptions in narrative poetry. When the poet lets his story sleep, and talks in his own person, it has to me the same sort of unpleasant effect that is produced at the end of an act. You are alive to know what follows, and lo---down comes the curtain, and the fiddlers begin with their abominations.''
I pass over a multitude of the congratulatory effusions of inferior names, but must not withhold part of a letter on a folio sheet, written not in the first hurry of excitement, but two months after Marmion had reached Ellis. He then says:---``All the world are agreed that you are like the elephant mentioned in the Spectator, who was the greatest elephant in the world except himself, and consequently, that the only question at issue is, whether the Lay or Marmion shall be reputed the most pleasing poem in our language---save and except one or two of Dryden's fables. But, with respect to the two rivals, I think the Lay is, on the whole, the greatest favourite. It is admitted that the fable of Marmion is greatly superior---that it contains a greater diversity of character---that it inspires more interest--- and that it is by no means inferior in point of poetical expression; but it is contended that the incident of Deloraine's journey to Melrose surpasses anything in Marmion, and that the personal appearance of the Minstrel, who, though the last, is by far the most charming of all minstrels, is by no means compensated by the idea of an author shorn of his picturesque beard, deprived of his harp, and writing letters to his intimate friends. These introductory epistles, indeed, though excellent in themselves, are in fact only interruptions to the fable; and accordingly, nine out of ten have perused them separately, either after or before the poem---and it is obvious that they cannot have produced, in either case, the effect which was proposed---viz. of relieving the reader's attention, and giving variety to the whole. Perhaps, continue these critics, it would be fair to say that Marmion delights us in spite of its introductory epistles---while the Lay owes its principal charm to the venerable old minstrel:---the two poems may be considered as equally respectable to the talents of the author; but the fist, being a more perfect whole, will be more constantly preferred. Now, all this may be very true---but it is no less true that everybody has already read Marmion _more than once_---that it is the subject of general conversation---that it delights all ages and all tastes, and that it is universally allowed to improve upon a second reading. My own opinion is, that both the productions are equally good in their different ways: yet, upon the whole, I had rather be the author of Marmion than of the Lay, because I think its species of excellence of much more difficult attainment. What degree of bulk may be essentially necessary to the corporeal part of an Epic poem, I know not; but sure I am that the story of Marmion might have furnished twelve books as easily as six---that the masterly character of Constance would not have been less bewitching had it been much more minutely painted---and that De Wilton might have been dilated with great ease, and even to considerable advantage;---in short, that had it been your intention merely to exhibit a spirited romantic story, instead of making that story subservient to the delineation of the manners which prevailed at a certain period of our history, the number and variety of your characters would have suited any scale of painting. Marmion is to Deloraine what Tom Jones is to Joseph Andrews;---the varnish of high breeding nowhere diminishes the prominence of the features---and the minion of a king is as light and sinewy a cavalier as the Borderer,---rather less ferocious, more wicked, less fit for the hero of a ballad, and far more for the hero of a regular poem. On the whole, I can sincerely assure you, `_sans phrase,_' that had I seen Marmion without knowing the author, I should have ranked it with Theodore and Honoria,---that is to say, on the very top shelf of English poetry.'' This elegant letter may no doubt be considered as an epitome of the very highest and most refined of London table-talk on Marmion, during the first freshness of its popularity, and before the only critical journal of which any one in those days thought very seriously, had pronounced its verdict.
When we consider some parts of that judgment, together with the author's personal intimacy with the editor and the aid which he had of late been affording to the Review itself, it must be allowed that Mr Jeffrey acquitted himself on this occasion in a manner highly creditable to his courageous sense of duty. The number for April 1808 was accompanied by this note:---``Queen Street, Tuesday. ---Dear Scott,---If I did not give you credit for more magnanimity than other of your irritable tribe, I should scarcely venture to put this into your hands. As it is, I do it with no little solicitude, and earnestly hope that it will make no difference in the friendship which has hitherto subsisted between us. I have spoken of your poem exactly as I think, and though I cannot reasonably suppose that you will be pleased with everything I have said, it would mortify me very severely to believe I had given you pain. If you have any amity left for me, you will not delay very long to tell me so. In the meantime, I am very sincerely yours,---F. Jeffrey.''
The reader will I hope pause here and read the article as it stands; endeavouring to put himself into the situation of Scott when it was laid upon his desk, together with. this ominous billet from the editor, who, as it happened, had been for some time engaged to dine that same Tuesday in Castle Street. The detailed criticism of the paper is, I am sure, done in a style on which the writer cannot now reflect with perfect equanimity, any more than on the lofty and decisive tone of the sweeping paragraphs by which it was introduced. All this, however, I can suppose Scott to have gone through with great composure; but he must, I think, have wondered, to say the least, when he found himself accused of having ``throughout neglected Scottish feelings and Scottish characters!''---He who had just poured out all the patriotic enthusiasm of his soul in so many passages of Marmion, which every Scotchman to the end of time will have by heart; painted the capital, the court, the camp, the heroic old chieftains of Scotland, in colours instinct with a fervour that can never die; and dignified the most fatal of her national misfortunes by a celebration as loftily pathetic as ever blended pride with sorrow,---a battle-piece which even his critic had pronounced to be the noblest save in Homer! But not even this injustice was likely to wound him very deeply. Coming from one of the recent witnesses of his passionate agitation on _the Mound,_ perhaps he would only smile at it. At all events, he could make allowance for the petulancies into which men the least disposed to injure the feelings of others will sometimes be betrayed, when the critical rod is in their hands. He assured Mr Jeffrey that the article had not disturbed his digestion, though he hoped neither his booksellers nor the public would agree with the opinions it expressed; and begged he would come to dinner at the hour previously appointed. Mr Jeffrey appeared accordingly, and was received by his host with the frankest cordiality; but had the mortification to observe that the mistress of the house, though perfectly polite, was not quite so easy with him as usual. She, too, behaved herself with exemplary civility during the dinner; but could not help saying, in her broken English, when her guest was departing, ``Well, good-night, Mr Jeffrey---dey tell me that you have abused Scott in de Review, and I hope Mr Constable has paid _you_ very well for writing it.'' This anecdote was not perhaps worth giving; but it has been printed already in an exaggerated shape, so I thought it as well to present the edition which I have derived from the lips of all the three persons concerned. No one, I am sure, will think the worse of any of them for it,---least of all of Mrs Scott. She might well be pardoned, if she took to herself more than her own share in the misadventures as well as the successes of the most affectionate of protectors. It was, I believe, about this time when, as Scott has confessed, ``the popularity of Marmion gave him such a _heeze,_ he had for a moment almost lost his footing,'' that a shrewd and sly observer, Mrs Grant of Laggan, said, wittily enough, upon leaving a brilliant assembly where the poet had been surrounded by all the buzz and glare of fashionable ecstacy--- ``Mr Scott always seems to me like a glass, through which the rays of admiration pass without sensibly affecting it but the bit of paper that lies beside it will presently be in a blaze---and no wonder.''
I shall not, after so much about criticism, say anything more of Marmion in this place, than that I have always considered it as on the whole the greatest of Scott's poems. There is a certain light, easy, virgin charm about the Lay, which we look for in vain through the subsequent volumes of his verse; but the superior strength, and breadth, and boldness both of conception and execution in the Marmion appear to me indisputable. The great blot, the combination of _mean felony_ with so many noble qualities in the character of the hero, was, as the poet says, severely commented on at the time by the most ardent of his early friends, Leyden; but though he admitted the justice of that criticism, he chose ``to let the tree lie as it had fallen.'' He was also sensible that many of the subordinate and connecting parts of the narrative are flat, harsh, and obscure---but would never make any serious attempt to do away with these imperfections; and perhaps they, after all, heighten by contrast the effect of the passages of high-wrought enthusiasm which alone he considered, in after days, with satisfaction. As for the ``epistolary dissertations'' (as Jeffrey called them), it must, I take it, be allowed that they interfered with the flow of the story, when readers were turning the leaves in the first glow of curiosity; and they were not, in fact, originally intended to be interwoven in any fashion with the romance of Marmion. Though the author himself does not allude to, and had perhaps forgotten the circumstance, when writing the Introductory Essay of 1830---they were announced by an advertisement early in 1807 as ``Six Epistles from Ettrick Forest,'' to be published in a separate volume; and perhaps it might have been better that this first Plan had been adhered to. But however that may be, are there any pages, among all he ever wrote, that one would be more sorry he should not have written? They are among the most delicious portraitures that genius ever painted of itself, ---buoyant, virtuous, happy genius---exulting in its own energies, yet possessed and mastered by a clear, calm, modest mind, and happy only in diffusing happiness around it.
The feelings of political partisanship find no place in this poem; but though Mr Jeffrey chose to complain of its ``manifest neglect of _Scottish_ feelings,'' I take leave to suspect that the boldness and energy of _British_ patriotism which breathes in so many passages, may have had more share than that alleged omission in pointing the pen that criticised Marmion. Scott had sternly and indignantly rebuked and denounced the then too prevalent spirit of anti-national despondence; he had put the trumpet to his lips, and done his part at least to sustain the hope and resolution of his countrymen in that struggle from which it was the doctrine of the Edinburgh Review that no sane observer of the times could anticipate anything but ruin and degradation. He must ever be considered as the ``mighty minstrel'' of the Antigallican war; and it was Marmion that first announced him in that character.
Be all this as it may, his connexion with the Review was now broken off; and indeed it was never renewed, except in one instance, many years after, when the strong wish to serve poor Maturin shook him for a moment from his purpose. The loftiest and purest of human beings seldom act but under a mixture of motives, and I shall not attempt to guess in what proportions he was swayed by aversion to the political doctrines which the journal had lately been avowing with increased openness--- by dissatisfaction with its judgments of his own works---or, lastly, by the feeling that, whether those judgments were or were not just, it was but an idle business for him to assist by his own pen the popularity of the vehicle that diffused them. That he was influenced more or less by all of these considerations, appears highly probable; and I fancy I can trace some indications of each of them in a letter with which I am favoured by a warm lover of literature, and a sincere admirer both of Scott and Jeffrey, and though numbered among the Tories in the House of Commons, yet one of the most liberal section of his party<*>---who happened to
* The late Mr Morritt of Rokeby---1848.
visit Scotland shortly after the article on Marmion appeared, and has set down his recollections of the course of table-talk at a dinner where he for the first time met the poet in company with his censor:---``There were,'' he says, ``only a few people besides the two lions---and assuredly I have seldom passed a more agreeable day. A thousand subjects of literature, antiquities, and manners, were started; and much was I struck, as you may well suppose, by the extent, correctness, discrimination, and accuracy of Jeffrey's information; equally so with his taste, acuteness, and wit, in dissecting every book, author, and story that came in our way. Nothing could surpass the variety of his knowledge, but the easy rapidity of his manner of producing it. He was then in his meridian. Scott, delighted to draw him out, delighted also to talk himself, and displayed, I think, even a larger range of anecdote and illustration; remembering every thing, whether true or false, that was characteristic or impressive; every thing that was good, or lovely, or lively. It struck me that there was this great difference---Jeffrey, for the most part entertained us, when books were under discussion, with the detection of faults, blunders, absurdities, or plagiarisms: Scott took up the matter where he left it, recalled some compensating beauty or excellence for which no credit had been allowed, and by the recitation, perhaps, of one fine stanza, set the poor victim on his legs again. I believe it was just about this time that Scott had abandoned his place in Mr Jeffrey's corps. The journal had been started among the clever young society with which Edinburgh abounded when they were both entering life as barristers; and Jeffrey's principal coadjutors for some time were Sydney Smith, Brougham, Horner, Scott himself--- and on scientific subjects, Playfair; but clever contributors were sought for in all quarters. But it was not long before Brougham dipped the concern deep in witty Whiggery; and it was thought at the time that some very foolish neglects on the part of Pitt had a principal share in making several of these brilliant young men decide on carrying over their weapons to the enemy's camp. Scott was a strong Tory, nay, by family recollections and poetical feelings of association, a Jacobite. Jeffrey, however, was an early friend---and thus there was a confliction of feelings on both sides. Scott, as I was told, remonstrated against the deepening Whiggery---Jeffrey alleged that he could not resist the wit. Scott offered to try his hand at a witty bit of Toryism---but the editor pleaded off, upon the danger of inconsistency. These differences first cooled---and soon dissolved their federation.---To return to our gay dinner. As the claret was taking its rounds, Jeffey introduced some good-natured eulogy of his old supporters---Sydney Smith, Brougham, and Horner. `Come,' says Scott, `you can't say too much about Sydney or Brougham, but I will not admire your Horner: he always put me in mind of Obadiah's bull, who, although, as Father Shandy observed, he never produced a calf, went through his business with such a grave demeanour, that he always maintained his credit in the parish!' The fun of the illustration tempted him to this sally, I believe; but Horner's talents did not lie in humour, and his economical labours were totally uncongenial to the mind of Scott.''
Before quitting Marmion and its critics, I ought to say that, like the Lay, this and the subsequent great poems were all first published in a splendid quarto form. The 2000 of the original Marmion, price a guinea and a half, were disposed of in less than a month; and twelve octavo editions between 1808 and 1825, had carried the sale to upwards of 30,000 copies, before the author included it in the collection of his poetry with biographical prefaces in 1830; since which period there have been frequent reprints; making an aggregate legitimate circulation between 1808 and 1848 of about 60,000.
Ere the poem was published, a heavy task, begun earlier, and continued throughout its progress, had been nearly completed; and there appeared in the last week of April 1808, _The Works of John Dryden, now first collected; with notes historical, critical, and explanatory, and a Life of the Author.---Eighteen volumes 8vo._ This was the bold specuIation of William Miller of Albemarle Street; and the editor's fee, at forty guineas the volume, was <L>756. The bulk of the collection, the neglect into which a majority of the pieces had fallen, the obsoleteness of the party politics which had so largely exercised the author's pen, and the indecorum, not seldom running into flagrant indecency, by which transcendent genius had ministered to the appetites of a licentious age, all combined to make the warmest of Scott's admirers doubt whether even his skill and reputation would be found sufficient to ensure the success of this undertaking. It was, however, better received than any one, except perhaps the courageous bookseller himself, had anticipated. The entire work was reprinted in 1821;--- since then the Life of Dryden has had its place in various editions of Scott's prose miscellanies; nor perhaps does that class of his writings include any piece which keeps a higher estimation.
This Dryden was criticised in the Edinburgh Review for October 1808, with great ability, and, on the whole, with admirable candour. The industry and perspicacity with which Scott had carried through his editorial researches and annotations were acknowledged in terms which, had he known the name of his reviewer, must have been doubly gratifying; and it was confessed that, in the life of his author, he had corrected with patient honesty, and filled up with lucid and expansive detail, the sometimes careless and often naked outline of Johnson's masterly Essay. It would be superfluous to quote in this place a specimen of critical skill which has already enjoyed wide circulation, and which will hereafter, no doubt, be included in the miscellaneous prose works of =Hallam.= The points of political faith on which that great writer dissents from the Editor of Dryden, would, even if I had the inclination to pursue such a discussion, lead me far astray from the immediate object of these pages; they embrace questions on which the best and wisest of our countrymen will probably continue to take opposite sides, as long as our past history excites a living interest, and our literature is that of an active nation. On the poetical character of Dryden, I think the editor and his critic will be found to have expressed substantially much the same judgment; when they appear to differ, the battle strikes me as being about words rather than things, as is likely to be the case when men of such abilities and attainments approach a subject remote from their personal passions. As might have been expected, the terse and dexterous reviewer has often the better in this logomachy; but when the balance is struck, we discover here, as elsewhere, that Scott's broad and masculine understanding had, by whatever happy hardihood, grasped the very result to which others win their way by the more cautious processes of logical investigation. While nothing has been found easier than to attack his details, his general views on critical questions have seldom, if ever, been successfully impugned.
I wish I could believe that Scott's labours had been sufficient to recall Dryden to his rightful station, not in the opinion of those who make literature the business or chief solace of their lives---for with them he had never forfeited it---but in the general favour of the intelligent public. That such has been the case, however, the not rapid sale of two editions, aided as they were by the greatest of living names, can be no proof; nor have I observed among numberless recent speculations of the English booksellers, a single reprint of even those tales, satires, and critical essays, not to be familiar with which would, in the last age, have been considered as disgraceful in any one making the least pretension to letters.
Scott's Biography of Dryden---the only life of a great poet which he has left us, and also his only detailed work on the personal fortunes of one to whom literature was a profession---was penned just when he had begun to apprehend his own destiny. On this point of view, forbidden to contemporary delicacy, we may now pause with blameless curiosity. Seriously as he must have in those days been revolving the hazards of literary enterprise, he could not, it is probable, have handled any subject of this class without letting out here and there thoughts and feelings proper to his own biographer's province; but, widely as he and his predecessor may appear to stand apart as regards some of the most important both of intellectual and moral characteristics, they had nevertheless many features of resemblance, both as men and as authors; and I doubt if the entire range of our annals could have furnished a theme more calculated to keep Scott's scrutinising interest awake, than that which opened on him as he contemplated step by step the career of Dryden. There are grave lessons which that story was not needed to enforce upon his mind: he required no such beacon to make him revolt from paltering with the dignity of woman, or the passions of youth, or insulting by splenetic levities the religious convictions ot any portion of his countrymen. But Dryden's prostitution of his genius to the petty bitternesses of political warfare, and the consequences both as to the party he served, and the antagonists he provoked, might well supply matter for serious consideration to the author of the Melville song. ``Where,'' says Scott, ``is the expert swordsman that does not delight in the flourish of his weapon? and a brave man will least of all withdraw himself from his ancient standard when the tide of battle beats against it.'' But he says also,---and I know enough of his own then recent experiences, in his intercourse with some who had been among his earliest and dearest associates, not to apply the language to the circumstances that suggested it---``He who keenly engages in political controversy must not only encounter the vulgar abuse which he may justly contemn, but the altered eye of friends whose regard is chilled.'' Nor, when he adds that ``the protecting zeal of his party did not compensate Dryden for the loss of those whom he alienated in their service,'' can I help connecting this reflection too with his own subsequent abstinence from party personalities, in which, had the expert swordsman's delight in the flourish of his weapon prevailed, he might have rivalled the success of either Dryden or Swift, to be repaid like them by the settled rancour of Whigs and the jealous ingratitude of Tories.
It is curious enough to compare the hesitating style of his apology for that tinge of evanescent superstition which seems to have clouded occasionally Dryden's bright and solid mind, with the open avowal that he has ``pride in recording his author's decided admiration of old ballads and popular tales;'' and perhaps his personal feelings were hardly less his prompter where he dismisses with brief scorn the sins of negligence and haste which had been so often urged against Dryden. ``Nothing,'' he says, ``is so easily attained as the power of presenting the extrinsic qualities of fine painting, fine music, or fine poetry; the beauty of colour and outline, the combination of notes, the melody of versification, may be imitated by artists of mediocrity; and many will view, hear, or peruse their performances, without being able positively to discover why they should not, since composed according to all the rules, afford pleasure equal to those of Raphael, Handel, or Dryden. The deficiency lies in the vivifying spirit, which, like _alcohol,_ may be reduced to the same principle in all the fine arts. The French are said to possess the best possible rules for building ships of war, although not equally remarkable for their power of fighting them. When criticism becomes a pursuit separate from poetry, those who follow it are apt to forget that the legitimate ends of the art for which they lay down rules, are instruction and delight; and that these points being attained, by what road soever, entitles a poet to claim the prize of successful merit. Neither did the learned authors of these disquisitions sufficiently attend to the general disposition of mankind, which cannot be contented even with the happiest imitations of former excellence, but demands novelty as a necessary ingredient for amusement. To insist that every epic poem shall have the plan of the Iliad, and every tragedy be modelled by the rules of Aristotle, resembles the principle of the architect who should build all his houses with the same number of windows and of stories. It happened, too, inevitably, that the critics, in the plenipotential authority which they exercised, often assumed as indispensable requisites of the drama, or epopeia, circumstances which, in the great authorities they quoted, were altogether accidental or indifferent. These they erected into laws, and handed down as essential; although the forms prescribed have often as little to do with the merit and success of the original from which they are taken as the shape of the drinking glass with the flavour of the wine which it contains.'' These sentences appear, from the dates, to have been penned immediately after the biographer of Dryden had perused the Edinburgh Review on _Marmion._
I conclude with a passage, in writing which he seems to have anticipated the only serious critical charge that was ever brought against his edition of Dryden as a whole--- namely, the loose and irregular way in which his own <ae>sthetical notions are indicated, rather than expounded. ``While Dryden,'' says Scott, ``examined, discussed, admitted, or rejected the rules proposed by others, he forbore, from _prudence, indolence,_ or _a regard for the freedom of Parnassus,_ to erect himself into a legislator. His doctrines are scattered without system or pretence to it:---it is impossible to read far without finding some maxim for doing, or forbearing, which every student of poetry will do well to engrave upon the tablets of his memory; but the author's mode of instruction is neither harsh nor dictatorial.''
On the whole, it is impossible to doubt that the success of Dryden in rapidly reaching, and till the end of a long life holding undisputed, the summit of public favour and reputation, in spite of his ``brave neglect'' of minute finishing, narrow laws, and prejudiced authorities, must have had a powerful effect in nerving Scott's hope and resolution for the wide ocean of literary enterprise into which he had now fairly launched his bark. Like Dryden, he felt himself to be ``amply stored with acquired knowledge, much of it the fruits of early reading and application;'' anticipated that though, ``while engaged in the hurry of composition, or overcome by the lassitude of continued literary labour,'' he should sometimes ``draw with too much liberality on a tenacious memory,'' no ``occasional imperfections would deprive him of his praise;'' in short, made up his mind that ``pointed and nicely-turned lines, sedulous study, and long and repeated correction and revision'' would all be dispensed with,---provided their place were supplied as in Dryden by ``rapidity of conception, a readiness of expressing every idea without losing anything by the way---perpetual animation and elasticity of thought--- and language never laboured, never loitering, never (in Dryden's own phrase) _cursedly confined._''
I believe that Scott had, in 1807, agreed with London booksellers as to the superintendence of two other large collections, the Somers' Tracts and the Sadler State Papers but it seems that Constable first heard of these engagements when he accompanied the second cargo of Marmion to the great southern market; and, alarmed at the prospect of losing his hold on Scott's industry, he at once invited him to follow up his Dryden by an Edition of Swift on the same scale,---offering, moreover, to double the rate of payment; that is to say, to give him <L>1500 for the new undertaking. This munificent tender was accepted; and as early as May 1808, I find Scott writing in all directions for books, pamphlets, and MSS., likely to be serviceable in illustrating the Life and Works of the Dean of St Patrick's. While these were accumulating about him, which they soon did in greater abundance than he had anticipated, he concluded his labours on Sadler, and kept pace, at the same time with Ballantyne, as the Somers' Tracts continued to move through the press. The Sadler was published in 1809, in three large volumes, quarto; but the last of the thirteen equally ponderous tomes to which Somers extended, was not dismissed from his desk until towards the conclusion of 1812.
He also edited this year, for Murray, Strutt's unfinished romance of Queenhoo-hall, with a conclusion in the fashion of the original; for Constable, Carleton's Memoirs of the War of the Spanish Succession, to which he gave a lively preface and various notes; and the Memoirs of Robert Cary, Earl of Monmouth. The republication of Carleton,<*>
* It seems to be now pretty generally believed that _Carleton's
* Memoirs_ were among the numberless fabrications of De Foe; but
* in this case (if the fact indeed be so), as in that of his _Cavalier,_
* he no doubt had before him the rude journal of some officer who had
* fought and bled in the campaigns described with such an air of truth.
Johnson's eulogy of which fills a pleasant page in Boswell, had probably been suggested by the interest which Scott took in the first outburst of Spanish patriotism consequent on Napoleon's transactions at Bayonne. There is one passage in the preface which I must transcribe. Speaking of the absurd recall of Peterborough from the command in which he had exhibited such a wonderful combination of patience and prudence with military daring, he says:--- ``One ostensible reason was, that Peterborough's parts were of too lively and mercurial a quality, and that his letters shewed more wit than became a General;---a commonplace objection, raised by the dull malignity of commonplace minds, against those whom they see discharging with ease and indiffrence the tasks which they themselves execute (if at all) with the sweat of their brow and in the heaviness of their hearts. There is a certain hypocrisy in business, whether civil or military, as well as in religion, which they will do well to observe who, not satisfied with discharging their duty, desire also the good repute of men.'' It was not long before some of the dull malignants of the Parliament House began to insinuate what at length found a dull and dignified mouthpiece in the House of Commons---that if a Clerk of Session had any real business to do, it could not be done well by a man who found time for more literary enterprises than any other author of the age undertook--- ``wrote more books,'' Lord Archibald Hamilton serenely added, ``than any body could find leisure to read''---and, moreover, mingled in general society as much as many that had no pursuit but pleasure.
The eager struggling of the different booksellers to engage Scott at this time, is a very amusing feature in the voluminous correspondence before me. Had he possessed treble the energy for which it was possible to give any man credit, he could never have encountered a tithe of the projects that the post brought day after day to him, announced with extravagant enthusiasm, and urged with all the arts of conciliation. I shall mention only one out of at least a dozen gigantic schemes which were thus proposed before he had well settled himself to his Swift; and I do so, because something of the kind was a few years later carried into execution. This was a General Edition of British Novelists,--- beginning with De Foe and reaching to the end of the last century---to be set forth with prefaces and notes by Scott, and printed of course by Ballantyne. The projector was Murray, who was now eager to start on all points in the race with Constable; but this was not, as we shall see presently, the only business that prompted my enterprising friend's first visit to Ashestiel.
Conversing with Scott, towards the end of his toils, about the tumult of engagements in which he was thus involved, he said, ``Aye---it was enough to tear me to pieces---but there was a wonderful exhilaration about it all: my blood was kept at fever-pitch---I felt as if I could have grappled with anything and everything; then there was hardly one of all my schemes that did not afford me the means of serving some poor devil of a brother author. There were always huge piles of materials to be arranged, sifted, and indexed ---volumes of extracts to be transcribed---journeys to be made hither and thither, for ascertaining little facts and dates,---in short, I could commonly keep half-a-dozen of the ragged regiment of Parnassus in tolerable case.'' I said he must have felt something like what a locomotive engine on a railway might be supposed to do, when a score of coal waggons are seen linking themselves to it the moment it gets the steam up, and it rushes on its course regardless of the burden. ``Yes,'' said he, laughing, and making a crashing cut with his axe (for we were felling larches;) ``but there was a cursed lot of dung carts too.'' He was seldom, in fact, without some of these appendages; and I admired nothing more in him than the patient courtesy, the unwearied gentle kindness with which he always treated them, in spite of their delays and blunders, to say nothing of the almost incredible vanity and presumption which more than one of them often exhibited in the midst of their fawning; and, I believe, with all their faults, the worst and weakest of them repaid him by a canine fidelity of affection. This part of Scott's character recalls by far the most pleasing trait in that of his last predecessor in the plenitude of literary authority---Dr Johnson. There was perhaps nothing (except the one great blunder) that had a worse effect on the course of his pecuniary fortunes, than the readiness with which he exerted his interest with the booksellers on behalf of inferior writers. Even from the commencement of his connexion with Constable in particular, I can trace a continual series of such applications. They stimulated the already too sanguine publisher to numberless risks; and when these failed, the result was, in one shape or another, some corresponding deduction from the fair profits of his own literary labour. ``I like well,'' Constable was often heard to say in the sequel, ``I like well Scott's _ain bairns_---but heaven preserve me from those of his fathering!''
Every now and then, however, he had the rich compensation of finding that his interference had really promoted the interests of some meritorious obscure. None more meritorious could be named than John Struthers, a shoemaker of Glasgow, whose very striking poem, _The Poor Man's Sabbath,_ being seen in MS. by Miss Joanna Baillie when on a visit to her native district, was by her recommended to Scott, and by him to Constable, who published it in 1808. Mr Struthers made a pilgrimage of gratitude to Ashestiel, where he was received with hearty kindness; and it is pleasing to add, that he ended his life in a very respectable position---as keeper of Stirling's Library, an old endowment in Glasgow.
James Hogg was by this time beginning to be appreciated; and the popularity of his _Mountain Bard_ encouraged Scott to more strenuous intercession in his behalf. I have before me a long array of letters on this subject, which passed between Scott and the Earl of Dalkeith and his brother Lord Montagu, in 1808. Hogg's prime ambition at this period was to procure an ensigncy in a militia regiment, and he seems to have set little by Scott's representations that the pay of such a situation was very small, and that, if he obtained it, he would probably find his relations with his brother officers far from agreeable. There was, however, another objection which Scott could not hint to the aspirant himself, but which seems to have been duly considered by those who were anxious to promote his views. Militia officers of that day were by no means unlikely to see their nerves put to the test; and the Shepherd's--- though he wrote some capital war-songs, especially _Donald Macdonald_---were not heroically strung. This was in truth no secret among his early intimates, though he had not measured himself at all exactly on that score, and was even tempted, when he found there was no chance of the militia epaulette, to threaten that he would ``list for a soldier'' in a marching regiment. Notwithstanding at least one melancholy precedent, the Excise, which would have suited him almost as badly as ``hugging Brown Bess,'' was next thought of; and the Shepherd himself seems to have entered into that plan with considerable alacrity: but I know not whether he changed his mind, or what other cause prevented such an appointment from taking place. After various shiftiness, he at last obtained from the Duke of Buccleuch's kindness, the gratuitous life-rent of a small farm in the vale of Yarrow; and had he contented himself with the careful management of its fields, the rest of his days might have been easy. But he could not withstand the attractions of Edinburgh, which carried him away from Altrive for months every year; and when at home, a warm and hospitable disposition, so often stirred by vanity less pardonable than his, made him convert his cottage into an unpaid hostelrie for the reception of endless troops of thoughtless admirers; and thus, in spite of much help and much forbearance, he was never out of one set of pecuniary difficulties before he had begun to weave the meshes of some fresh entanglement. _In pace requiescat._ There will never be such an Ettrick Shepherd again.
In May 1808, Joanna Baillie spent a week or two under Scott's roof in Edinburgh. Their acquaintance was thus knit into a deep and respectful affection on both sides; and henceforth they maintained a close epistolary correspondence, which will always be read with special interest. But within a few weeks after her departure, he was to commence another intimacy not less sincere and cordial; and one productive of a still more important series of his letters. He had now reached a period of life after which real friendships are but seldom formed; and it is fortunate that another with an Englishman of the highest class of accomplishments had been thoroughly compacted before death cut the ties between him and George Ellis---because his dearest intimates within Scotland had of course but a slender part in his written correspondence. Mr Morritt of Rokeby and his wife had long been intimate with Lady Louisa Stuart and Mr William Rose; and the meeting, therefore, had been well prepared for. It took place at Edinburgh in June. Scott shewed them the lions of the town and its vicinity, exactly as if he had nothing else to attend to but their gratification; and Mr Morritt recollected with particular pleasure one long day spent in rambling along the Esk by Roslin and Hawthornden,
Where Jonson sat in Drummond's social shade,
down to the old haunts of Lasswade. ``When we approached that village,'' he writes,---``Scott, who had laid hold of my arm, turned along the road in a direction not leading to the place where the carriage was to meet us. After walking some minutes towards Edinburgh, I suggested that we were losing the scenery of the Esk, and, besides, had Dalkeith Palace yet to see. `Yes,' said he, `and I have been bringing you where there is little enough to be seen---only that Scotch cottage---(one by the road side, with a small garth)---but, though not worth looking at, I could not pass it. It was our first country-house when newly married, and many a contrivance we had to make it comfortable. I made a dining-table for it with my own hands. Look at these two miserable willow-trees on either side the gate into the enclosure; they are tied together at the top to be an arch, and a cross made of two sticks over them is not yet decayed. To be sure, it is not much of a lion to shew a stranger; but I wanted to see it again myself, for I assure you that after I had constructed it, _mamma_ (Mrs Scott) and I both of us thought it so fine, we turned out to see it by moonlight, and walked backwards from it to the cottage door, in admiration of our own magnificence and its picturesque effect. I did want to see if it was still there---so now we will look after the barouche, and make the best of our way to Dalkeith.' Such were the natural feelings that endeared the Author of Marmion and the Lay to those who saw him in `the happier hour of social pleasure.' His person at that time may be exactly known from Raeburn's first picture, which had just been executed for his bookseller, Constable, and which was a most faithful likeness of him and his dog Camp. The literal fidelity of the portraiture, however, is its principal merit. The expression is serious and contemplative, very unlike the hilarity and vivacity then habitual to his speaking face, but quite true to what it was in the absence of such excitement. His features struck me at first as commonplace and heavy,---but they were almost always lighted up by the flashes of the mind within. This required a hand more masterly than Raeburn's; and indeed, in my own opinion, Chantrey alone has in his bust attained that, in his case, most difficult task of portraying the features faithfully, and yet giving the real and transient expression of the countenance when animated.
``We passed a week in Edinburgh, chiefly in his society and that of his friends the Mackenzies. We were so far on our way to Brahan Castle, in Ross-shire. Scott unlocked all his antiquarian lore, and supplied us with numberless _data,_ such as no guide-book could have furnished, and such as his own Monkbarns might have delighted to give. It would be idle to tell how much pleasure and instruction his advice added to a tour in itself so productive of both, as well as of private friendships and intimacies, now too generally terminated by death, but never severed by caprice or disappointment. His was added to the number by our reception now in, Edinburgh, and, on our return from the Highlands, at Ashestiel---where he had made us promise to visit him, saying that the farm-house had pigeon-holes enough for such of his friends as could live, like him, on Tweed salmon and Forest mutton. There he was the cherished friend and kind neighbour of every middling Selkirkshire yeoman, just as easily as in Edinburgh he was the companion of clever youth and narrative old age in refined society. He carried us one day to Melrose Abbey or Newark---another, to course with mountain greyhounds by Yarrow braes or St Mary's Loch, repeating every ballad or legendary tale connected with the scenery---and on a third, we must all go to a farmer's _kirn,_ or harvest-home, to dance with Border lasses on a barn floor, drink whisky punch, and enter with him into all the gossip and good fellowship of his neighbours, on a complete footing of unrestrained conviviality, equality, and mutual respect. His wife and happy young family were clustered round him, and the cordiality of his reception would have unbent a misanthrope.
``At this period his conversation was more equal and animated than any man's that I ever knew. It was most characterised by the extreme felicity and fun of his illustrations, drawn from the whole encyclop<ae>dia of life and nature, in a style sometimes too exuberant for written narrative, but which to him was natural and spontaneous. A hundred stories, always apposite, and often interesting the mind by strong pathos, or eminently ludicrous, were daily told, which, with many more, have since been transplanted, almost in the same language, into the Waverley novels and his other writings. These, and his recitations of poetry, which can never be forgotten by those who knew him, made up the charm that his boundless memory enabled him to exert to the wonder of the gaping lovers of wonders. But equally impressive and powerful was the language of his warm heart, and equally wonderful were the conclusions of his vigorous understanding, to those who could return or appreciate either. Among a number of such recollections, I have seen many of the thoughts which then passed through his mind embodied in the delightful prefaces annexed late in life to his poetry and novels. Those on literary quarrels and literary irritability are exactly what he then expressed. Keenly enjoying literature as he did, and indulging his own love of it in perpetual composition, he always maintained the same estimate of it as subordinate and auxiliary to the purposes of life, and rather talked of men and events than of books and criticism. Literary fame, he always said, was a bright feather in the cap, but not the substantial cover of a well-protected head. This sound and manly feeling was what have seen described by some of his biographers as _pride_ and it will always be thought so by those whose own _vanity_ can only be gratified by the admiration of others, and who mistake shows for realities. None valued the love and applause of others more than Scott; but it was to the love and applause of those he valued in return that he restricted the feeling---without restricting the kindness. Men who did not, or would not, understand this, perpetually mistook him---and, after loading him with undesired eulogy, perhaps in his own house neglected common attention or civility to other parts of his family. It was on such an occasion that I heard him murmur in my ear, ` Author as I am, I wish these good people would recollect that I began with being a gentleman, and don't mean to give up the character.' Such was all along his feeling, and this, with a slight prejudice common to Scotchmen in favour of ancient and respectable family descent, constituted what in Grub Street is called his _pride._ It was, at least, what Johnson would have justly called _defensive_ pride. From all other, and still more from mere vanity, I never knew any man so remarkably free.''
The farmer at whose annual kirn Scott and all his household were, in those days, regular guests, was Mr Laidlaw, the Duke of Buccleuch's tenant on the lands of Peel, which are only separated from the eastern terrace of Ashestiel by the ravine and its brook. Mr Laidlaw was himself possessed of some landed property in the same neighbourhood, and being considered as wealthy, and fond of his wealth, he was usually called among the country people _Laird Nippy;_ an expressive designation which it would be difficult to translate. Though a very dry, demure, and taciturn old Presbyterian, he could not resist the Sheriff's jokes; nay he even gradually subdued his scruples so far as to become a pretty constant attendant at his ``_English printed prayers_'' on the Sundays; which, indeed, the parish-kirk being eight miles distant, attracted by degrees more neighbours than quite suited the capacity of the parlour-chapel. Mr Laidlaw's wife was a woman of superior mind and manners a great reader, and one of the few to whom Scott liked lending his books; for most strict and delicate was he always in the care of them, and indeed, hardly any trivial occurrence ever seemed to touch his temper at all, except anything like irreverent treatment of a book. The intercourse between the family at Ashestiel and this worthy woman and her children, was a constant interchange of respect and kindness; but I remember to have heard Scott say that the greatest compliment he had ever received in his life was from the rigid old farmer himself; for, years after he had left Ashestiel, he discovered casually that special care had been taken to keep the turf seat on the _Shirra's knowe_ in good repair; and this was much from Nippy.
And here I must set down a story, which, most readers will smile to be told, was often repeated by Scott, and always with an air that seemed to me, in spite of his endeavours to the contrary, as grave as the usual aspect of Laird Nippy of the Peel. This neighbour was a distant kinsman of his dear friend William Laidlaw;---so distant, that elsewhere in that condition they would scarcely have remembered any community of blood;---but they both traced their descent, in the ninth degree, to an ancestress who, in the days of John Knox, fell into trouble from a suspicion of witchcraft. In her time the Laidlaws were rich and prosperous, and held rank among the best gentry of Tweeddale; but in some evil hour, her husband, the head of his blood, reproached her with her addiction to the black art, and she, in her anger, cursed the name and lineage of Laidlaw. Her youngest son, who stood by, implored her to revoke the malediction; but in vain. Next day, however, on the renewal of his entreaties, she carried him with her into the woods, made him slay a heifer, sacrificed it to the power of evil in his presence, and then, collecting the ashes in her apron, invited the youth to see her commit them to the river. ``Follow them,'' said she, ``from stream to pool, as long as they float visible, and as many streams as you shall then have passed, for so many generations shall your descendants prosper. After that, they shall, like the rest of the name, be poor, and take their part in my curse.'' The streams he counted were nine; ``and now,'' Scott would say, ``look round you in this country, and sure enough the Laidlaws are one and all landless men, with the single exception of Auld Nippy!'' Many times had I heard both him and William Laidlaw tell this story, before any suspicion got abroad that Nippy's wealth rested on insecure foundations. Year after year, we never escorted a stranger by the Peel, but I heard the tale;---and at last it came with a new conclusion;---``and now, think whatever we choose of it, my good friend Nippy is landless.'' He had sold his own land and quitted the Peel.
Mr Morritt's mention of the ``happy young family clustered round him'' at Mr Laidlaw's _kirn,_ reminds me that I ought to say a few words on Scott's method of treating his children in their early days. He had now two boys and two girls;<*>---and he never had more. He was not one of
* Charlotte Sophia, born in October 1799; Walter, October
* 1801; Anne, February 1803; Charles, December 1805.
those who take much delight in a mere infant; but no father ever devoted more time and tender care to his offspring than he did to each of his, as they reached the age when they could listen to him, and understand his talk. Like their playmates, Camp and the greyhounds, they had at all times free access to his study; he never considered their prattle as any disturbance; they went and came as pleased their fancy; he was always ready to answer their questions; and when they, unconscious how he was engaged, entreated him to lay down his pen and tell them a story, he would take them on his knee, repeat a ballad or a legend, kiss them, and set them down again to their marbles or ninepins, and resume his labour, as if refreshed by the interruption. From a very early age he made them dine at table, and ``to sit up to supper'' was the great reward when they had been ``very good bairns.'' In short, he considered it as the highest duty as well as the sweetest pleasure of a parent to be the companion of his children; he partook all their little joys and sorrows, and made his kind unformal instructions to blend so easily and playfully with the current of their own sayings and doings, that so far from regarding him with any distant awe, it was never thought that any sport or diversion could go on in the right way, unless _papa_ were of the party, or that the rainiest day could be dull, so he were at home.
Of the irregularity of his own education he speaks with regret, in the autobiographical fragment written this year at Ashestiel; yet his practice does not look as it that feeling had been strongly rooted in his mind;---for he never did shew much concern about regulating systematically what is usually called _education_ in the case of his children. It seemed, on the contrary, as if he attached little importance to anything else, so he could perceive that the young curiosity was excited---the intellect, by whatever springs of interest, set in motion. He detested and despised the whole generation of modern children's books, in which the attempt is made to convey accurate notions of scientific minuti<ae>: delighting cordially, on the other hand, in those of the preceding age, which, addressing themselves chiefly to the imagination, obtain through it, as he believed, the best chance of stirring our graver faculties also. He exercised the memory by selecting for tasks of recitation passages of popular verse the most likely to catch the fancy of children; and gradually familiarized them with the ancient history of their own country, by arresting attention, in the course of his own oral narrations, on incidents and characters of a similar description. Nor did he neglect to use the same means of quickening curiosity as to the events of sacred history. On Sunday he never rode--- at least not until his growing infirmity made his pony almost necessary to him---for it was his principle that all domestic animals have a full right to their Sabbath of rest; but after he had read the prayers and lessons of the day, he usually walked with his whole family, dogs included, to some favourite spot at a considerable distance from the house---most frequently the ruined tower of Elibank---and there dined with them in the open air on a basket of cold provisions, mixing his wine with the water of the brook beside which they all were grouped, around him on the turf; and here, or at home, if the weather kept them from their ramble, his Sunday talk, was just such a series of biblical lessons as that which we have preserved for the permanent use of rising generations, in his Tales of a Grandfather on the early history of Scotland. I wish he had committed that other series to writing too;---how different that would have been from our thousand compilations of dead epitome and imbecile cant! He had his Bible, the Old Testament especially, by heart; and on these days inwove the simple pathos or sublime enthusiasm of Scripture, in whatever story he was telling, with the same picturesque richness as in his week-day tales the quaint Scotch of Pitscottie, or some rude romantic old rhyme from Barbour's Bruce or Blind Harry's Wallace.
By many external accomplishments, either in girl or boy, he set little store. He delighted to hear his daughters sing an old ditty, or one of his own framing; but, so the singer appeared to feel the spirit of her ballad, he was not at all critical of the technical execution. There was one thing, however, on which he fixed his heart hardly less than thin, ancient Persians of the Cyrop<ae>dia: like them, next to love of truth, he held love of horsemanship for the prime point of education. As soon as his eldest girl could sit a pony, she was made the regular attendant of his mountain rides; and they all, as they attained sufficient strength, had the like advancement. He taught them to think nothing of tumbles, and habituated them to his own reckless delight in perilous fords and flooded streams; and they all imbibed in great perfection his passion for horses---as well, I may venture to add, as his deep reverence for the more important article of that Persian training. ``Without courage,'' he said, ``there cannot be truth; and without truth there can be no other virtue.''
He had a horror of boarding-schools; never allowed his girls to learn anything out of his own house; and chose their governess---Miss Miller---who about this time was domesticated with them, and never left them while they needed one,---with far greater regard to her kind good temper and excellent moral and religious principles, than to the measure of her attainments in what are called fashionable accomplishments. The admirable system of education for boys in Scotland combines all the advantages of public and private instruction; his carried their satchels to the High-School, when the family was in Edinburgh, just as he had done before them, and shared of course the evening society of their happy home. But he rarely, if ever, left them in town, when he could himself be in the country; and at Ashestiel he was, for better or for worse, his eldest boy's daily tutor, after he began Latin.
His letters of this autumn to such friends as Rose, Morritt, and Miss Baillie, give additional details of the pleasant domestic life of Ashestiel. In one (Sept.) he says to Miss Joanna:---``If you ask what I am doing, I am very like a certain ancient king, distinguished in the Edda, who, when Lok paid him a visit,---
Was twisting of collars his dogs to hold, And combing the mane of his courser bold.
If this idle man's employment required any apology, we must seek it in the difficulty of seeking food to make savoury messes for our English guests; for we are eight miles from market, and must call in all the country sports to aid the larder.'' Scott, however, had business enough at this time, besides combing the mane of Brown Adam, and twisting couples for Douglas and Percy. He was deep in Swift; and the Ballantyne press was groaning under a multitude of works, with almost all of which his hand as well as his head had something, more or less, to do. But a serious change was about to take place in his relations with the spirited publishing house which had hitherto been the most efficient supporters of that press; and his letters begin to be much occupied with disputes which cost him many anxious hours in the apparently idle autumn of 1808. Mr Constable had then for his partner Mr Hunter, afterwards Laird of Blackness, to whose intemperate language, much more than to any part of Constable's own conduct, Scott ascribed this unfortunate alienation; which, however, as well as most of my friend's subsequent misadventures, I am inclined to trace in no small degree to the influence which a third person, hitherto unnamed, was about this time beginning to exercise over the concerns of James Ballantyne.
John Ballantyne, a younger brother of Scott's school-fellow, was originally destined for the paternal trade of a _merchant_---(that is to say, a dealer in everything from fine broadcloth to children's tops)---at Kelso. The father seems to have sent him when very young to London, where, whatever else he may have done in the way of professional training, he spent some time in the banking-house of Messrs Currie. On returning to Kelso, however, the ``_department_'' which more peculiarly devolved up on him was the tailoring one.<*> His personal habits had not been improved
* The first time that William Laidlaw saw John Ballantyne, he
* had come to Selkirk to measure the troopers of the Yeomanry Cavalry,
* of whom Laidlaw was one, for new breeches.
by his brief sojourn in the Great City, and the business, in consequence (by his own statement) of the irregularity of his life, gradually melted to nothing in his hands. Early in 1805, his goods were sold of, and barely sufficed to pay his debts. The worthy old couple found refuge with their ever affectionate eldest son, who provided his father with some little occupation (real or nominal) about the printing office; and thus John himself again quitted his native place, under circumstances which, as I shall shew in the sequel, had left a deep and painful trace even upon that volatile mind. He had, however, some taste, and he at least fancied himself to have some talent for literature;<*>
* John Ballantyne, upon the marvellous success of Waverley,
* wrote and published a wretched novel, called ``The Widow's Lodgings.''
and the rise of his brother, who also had met with no success in his original profession, was before him. He had acquired in London great apparent dexterity in book-keeping and accounts. He was married by this time; and it might naturally be hoped, that with the severe lessons of the past, he would now apply sedulously to any duty that might be entrusted to him. The concern in the Canongate was a growing one, and James Ballantyne's somewhat indolent habits were already severely tried by its management. The Company offered John a salary of <L>200 a-year as clerk; and the destitute ex-_merchant_ was too happy to accept the proposal.
He was a quick, active, intrepid little fellow; and in society so very lively and amusing, so full of fun and merriment--- such a thoroughly light-hearted droll, all-over quaintness and humorous mimicry; and moreover, such a keen and skilful devotee to all manner of field-sports, from fox-hunting to badger-baiting inclusive, that it was no wonder he should have made a favourable impression on Scott, when he appeared in Edinburgh in this destitute plight, and offered to assist James in book-keeping, which the latter never understood, or could bring himself to attend to with regularity. The contrast between the two brothers was not the least of the amusement; indeed that continued to amuse him to the last. The elder of these is painted to the life in an early letter of Leyden's, which, on the Doctor's death, he, though not (I fancy) without wincing, permitted Scott to print:---``Methinks I see you with your confounded black beard, bull-neck, and upper lip turned up to your nose, while one of your eyebrows is cocked perpendicularly, and the other forms pretty well the base of a right-angled triangle, opening your great gloating eyes, and crying---_But Leyden!!!_'' James was a short, stout, well-made man, and would have been considered a handsome one, but for these grotesque frowns, starts, and twistings of his features, set off by a certain mock majesty of walk and gesture, which he had perhaps contracted from his usual companions, the emperors and tyrants of the stage. His voice in talk was grave and sonorous, and he sung well (theatrically well), in a fine rich bass. John's tone in singing was a sharp treble---in conversation something between a croak and a squeak. Of _his_ style of story-telling it is sufficient to say that the late Charles Mathews's ``old Scotch lady'' was but an imperfect copy of the original, which the great comedian first heard in my presence from his lips.<*> He was shorter than
* The reader will find an amusing anecdote of Johnny in the
* Memoirs of Matthews, by his widow, vol. ii. p. 382.
James, but lean as a scarecrow, and he rather hopped than walked; his features, too, were naturally good, and he twisted them about quite as much, but in a very different fashion. The elder brother was a gourmand---the younger liked his bottle and his bowl, as well as, like Johnny Armstrong, ``a hawk, a hound, and a fair woman.'' Scott used to call the one Aldiborontiphoscophornio---the other Rigdumfunnidos. They both entertained him; they both loved and revered him; and I believe would have shed their heart's blood in his service; but James had serious deficiencies as a man of business, and John was not likely to supply them. A more reckless, thoughtless, improvident adventurer never rushed into the serious responsibilities of commerce; but his cleverness, his vivacity, his unaffected zeal, his gay fancy always seeing the light side of every thing, his imperturbable good-humour, and buoyant elasticity of spirits, made and kept him such a favourite, that I believe Scott would have as soon have ordered his dog to be hanged, as harboured, in his darkest hour of perplexity, the least thought of discarding ``jocund Johnny.''
The great bookseller of Edinburgh was a man of calibre infinitely beyond the Ballantynes. Though with a strong dash of the sanguine (without which, indeed, there can be no great projector in any walk of life), Archibald Constable was one of the most sagacious persons that ever followed his profession. Mr Thomas Campbell writes to Scott, a year or two before this time,---``Our butteracious friend at the Cross turns out a deep draw-well;'' and another eminent literator, still more closely connected with Constable, had already, I believe, christened him ``The Crafty.'' Indeed, his fair and, very handsome physiognomy carried a bland astuteness of expression, not to be mistaken by any who could read the plainest of nature's handwriting. He made no pretensions to literature---though he was in fact a tolerable judge of it generally, and particularly well skilled in the department of Scotch antiquities. He distrusted himself, however, in such matters, being conscious that his early education had been very imperfect; and moreover, he wisely considered the business of a critic as quite as much out of his ``proper line'' as authorship itself. But of that ``proper line,'' and his own qualifications for it, his estimation was ample; and---often as I may have smiled at the lofty serenity of his self-complacence---I confess I now doubt whether he rated himself too highly as a master in the true science of the bookseller. He had, indeed, in his mercantile character one deep and fatal flaw ---for he hated accounts, and systematically refused, during the most vigorous years of his life, to examine or sign a balance-sheet; but for casting a keen eye over the remotest indications of popular taste for anticipating the chances of success and failure in any given variety of adventure for the planning and invention of his calling---he was not, in his own day at least, surpassed; and among all his myriad of undertakings, I question if any one that really originated with himself, and continued to be superintended by his own care, ever did fail. He was as bold as far-sighted ---and his disposition was as liberal as his views were wide. Had he and Scott from the beginning trusted as thoroughly as they understood each other; had there been no third parties to step in, flattering an overweening vanity on the one hand into presumption, and on the other side spurring the enterprise that wanted nothing but a bridle, I have no doubt their joint career might have been one of unbroken prosperity. But the Ballantynes were jealous of the superior mind, bearing, and authority of Constable; and though he too had a liking for them both personally--- esteemed James's literary tact, and was far too much of a humourist not to be very fond of the younger brother's company---he could never away with the feeling that they intervened unnecessarily, and left him but the shadow, where he ought to have had the substantial lion's share, of confidence. On his part, again, he was too proud a man to give entire confidence where that was withheld from himself.
But in tracing the progress of the coldness which this year advanced to a complete rupture, it must be especially kept in mind that the Edinburgh Review had been the great primary source of the wealth and influence of the house of Constable. The then comparatively little-known bookseller of London, who was destined to be ultimately its most formidable rival in more than one department, has told me, that when he read the article on Marmion, and another on general polities in the same Number, he said to himself---``Walter Scott has feelings both as a gentleman and a Tory, which these people must now have wounded;---the alliance between him and the whole clique of the Review, its proprietor included, is shaken;'' and, as far at, least as the political part of the affair was concerned, John Murray's sagacity was not at fault. We have seen with what thankful alacrity he accepted a small share in the adventure of Marmion---and with what brilliant success that was crowned; nor is it wonderful that a young bookseller, conscious of ample energies, should now have watched with eagerness the circumstances which seemed not unlikely to place within his own reach a more intimate connexion with the first great living author in whose works he had ever had any direct interest. He forthwith took measures for improving and extending his relations with James Ballantyne, through whom, as he guessed, Scott could best be approached. His tenders of employment for the Canongate press were such that the apparent head of the firm proposed a conference at Ferrybridge in Yorkshire; and there Murray, after detailing some of his win literary plans---particularly that already alluded to, of a Novelist's Library---in his turn sounded Ballantyne so far as to resolve on pursuing his journey into Scotland. Ballantyne had said enough to satisfy him that the project of setting up a new publishing house in Edinburgh, in opposition to Constable, was already all but matured; and he, on the instant, proposed himself for its active co-operator in the metropolis. The printer proceeded to open his budget farther, mentioning, among other things, that the author of Marmion had ``both another Scotch poem and a Scotch novel on the stocks;'' and had moreover chalked out the design of an Edinburgh Annual Register, to be conducted in opposition to the politics and criticism of Constable's Review. These tidings might have been enough to make Murray proceed farther northwards; but there was a scheme of his own which had for some time deeply occupied his mind, and the last article of this communication determined him to embrace the opportunity of opening it in person at Ashestiel. He arrived there about the middle of October. The 26th Number of the Edinburgh Review, containing Mr Brougharn's article entitled ``Don Cevallos on the usurpation of Spain,'' had just been published; and one of the first things Scott mentioned in conversation was, that he had so highly resented the tone of that essay, as to give orders that his name might be discontinued on the list of subscribers.<*> Mr
* When the 26th Number appeared, Mr Scott wrote to Constable
* in these terms:---``The Edinburgh Review _had_ become such as to
* render it impossible for me to continue a contributor to it.---_Now,_
* it is such as I can no longer continue to receive or read it.'' The
* list of the then subscribers exhibits, in an indignant dash of
* Constables pen opposite Mr Scott's name, the word ``STOPT!!!''
* ---R. Cadell.
Murray could not have wished better auspices for the matter he had come to open; it was no other than the project of a London Review on the scale of the Edinburgh; and, for weeks ensuing, Scott's letters to Ellis, Morritt, and other literary Tories, attest with what eager zeal he had embraced the new scheme.
It is impossible to include more than a fragment of this copious and curious correspondence in the present narrative; but the first letter to Ellis (Nov. 2) seems to contain, in a few sentences, a sufficiently intelligible summary of his main views. He says:---``The present Ministry are not all that I could wish them---for (Canning excepted) I doubt there is among them too much _self-seeking,_ as it was called in Cromwell's time; and what is their misfortune, if not their fault, there is not among them one in the decided situation of paramount authority, both with respect to the others and to the Crown, which is, I think, necessary, at least in difficult times, to produce promptitude, regularity, and efficiency in measures of importance. But their political principles are sound English principles, and, compared to the greedy and inefficient horde which preceded them, they are angels of light and of purity. It is obvious, however, that they want defenders both in and out doors. Pitt's
------`Love and fear glued many friends to him; And now he's fallen, those tough commixtures melt.'<*>
* See _3d K. Henry IV._ Act II. Scene 6.
Were this only to affect a change of hands, I should expect it with more indifference; but I fear a change of principles is designed. The Edinburgh Review tells you coolly, `We foresee a speedy revolution in this country, as well as Mr Cobbett;' and, to say the truth, by degrading the person of the Sovereign---exalting the power of the French armies, and the wisdom of their counsels---holding forth that peace (which they allow can only be purchased by the humiliating prostration of our honour) is indispensable to the very existence of this country---I think, that for these two years past, they have done their utmost to hasten the accomplishment of their own prophecy. Of this work 9000 copies are printed quarterly, and no genteel family _can_ pretend to be without it, because, independent of its politics, it gives the only valuable literary criticism which can be met with. Consider, of the numbers who read this work, how many are likely to separate the literature from the politics---how many youths are there upon whose minds the flash and bold character of the work is likely to make an indelible impression. Now, I think there is balm in Gilead for all this; and that the cure lies in instituting such a Review in London as should be conducted totally independent of bookselling influence, on a plan as liberal as that of the Edinburgh, its literature as well supported, and its principles English and constitutional. Accordingly, I have been given to understand that Mr William Gifford is willing to become the conductor of such a work, and I have written to him a very voluminous letter on the subject. Now, should this plan succeed, you must bang your birding-piece on its hooks, take down your old Anti-jacobin armour, and `remember your swashing blow.' In point of learning, you Englishmen have ten times our scholarship; and as for talent and genius, ` Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than any of the rivers in Israel?' Have we not yourself and your cousin, the Roses, Malthus, Matthias, Gifford, Heber, and his brother? Can I not procure you a score of blue-caps, who would rather write for us than for the Edinburgh Review if they got as much pay by it? ` A good plot, good friends, and full of expectation---an excellent plot, very good friends!' ''<*>
* Hotspur---1_st K. Henry IV._ Act II. Scene 3.
The excellent plot had too many good friends to be long a secret; nor could the rumours of Scott's share in it and other new schemes tend to soothe the irritation between him and the house of Constable. Something occurred before the end of 1808 which induced Scott to suspect that among other sources of uneasiness had been a repentant grudge as to their bargain about Swift; and on the 2d of January 1809, I find him requesting, that if, on reflection, they thought they had hastily committed themselves, the deed might be cancelled. To this the firm did not assent: their letter expresses regret that Scott should have attached importance to ``an unguarded expression'' of the junior partner, ``our Mr Hunter,'' and the hope that ``the old footing may be restored hereafter, when the misrepresentations of interested persons may cease to be remembered.'' Scott replies coldly, requesting that a portrait for which he had sat to Raeburn may be considered as done for himself, charged to his account, and sent to him. Mr Constable declined, in very handsome terms, to give up the picture. But for the present the breach was complete. Among other negotiations which Scott had patronised twelve months before, was one concerning the publication of Miss Seward's Poems. On the 19th of March, he writes as follows to that lady:---``Constable, like many other folks who learn to undervalue the means by which they have risen, has behaved, or rather suffered his partner to behave, very uncivilly towards me. But they may both live to know that they should not have kicked down the ladder till they were sure of their footing. The very last time I spoke to him on business was about your poems. I understood him to decline your terms; but I had neither influence to change his opinion, nor inclination to interfere with his resolution. He is a very enterprising, and, I believe, a thoroughly honest man, but his vanity in some cases overpowers his discretion.''
``Our Mr Hunter'' was, I am told by friends of mine who knew him well, a man of considerable intelligence and accomplishments, to whose personal connexions the house of Constable owed a great accession of business and influence. He was, however, a very keen politician---in Scott's phrase, ``a sort of Whig gone mad;''---regarded Scott's Toryism with a fixed bitterness; and, moreover, could never conceal his impression that Scott ought to have embarked in no other literary undertakings whatever until he had completed his edition of Swift. It is not wonderful that, not having been bred regularly to the bookselling business, he should have somewhat misapprehended the obligation which Scott had incurred when the bargain for that work was made; and his feeling of his own station and consequence was no doubt such as to give his style of conversation, on doubtful questions of business, a tone for which Scott had not been prepared by his previous intercourse with Mr Constable. The defection of the poet was, however, at once regretted and resented by both these partners; and Constable, I am told, often vented his wrath in figures as lofty as Scott's own. ``Ay,'' he would say, stamping on the ground with a savage smile, ``Ay, there is such a thing as rearing the oak until it can support itself.''
The project of the Quarterly Review was not the only declaration of hostilities. The scheme of starting a new bookselling house in Edinburgh, begun in the short-sighted heat of pique, had now been matured;---I cannot add, either with composed observation or rational forecast---for it was ultimately settled that the ostensible and chief managing partner should be a person without capital, and neither by training nor by temper in the smallest degree qualified for such a situation; more especially where the field was to be taken against long experience, consummate skill, and resources which, if not so large as all the world supposed them, were still in comparison vast, and admirably organized. The rash resolution was, however, carried into effect, and a deed, deposited for secrecy's sake in the hands of Scott, laid the foundation of the firm of ``John Ballantyne & Co., booksellers Edinburgh.'' Scott appears to have supplied all the capital, at any rate his own _one-half_ share, and _one-fourth,_ the portion of James, who, not having any funds to spare, must have become indebted to some one for it. It does not appear from what source John acquired his, the remaining _fourth;_ but Rigdumfunnidos was thus installed in Hanover Street as the avowed rival of ``The Crafty.''
This was arranged in January. Under the same month I must mention an event often alluded to in its correspondence:--- the death of Camp, the first of several dogs whose names will be ``freshly remembered'' as long as their master's works are popular. This favourite preserved his affection and sagacity to the last. At Ashestiel, as the servant was laying the cloth for dinner, he would say, ``Camp, my good fellow, the Sheriff's coming home by the ford--- or by the hill;'' and the sick animal would immediately bestir himself to welcome his master, going out at the back door or the front door according to the direction given, and advancing as far as he was able, either towards the Tweed, or the Glenkinnon burn. He was buried on a fine moon-light night, in the little garden behind the house in Castle Street, immediately opposite to the window at which Scott usually sat writing. My wife told me that she remembered the whole family standing in tears about the grave, as her father himself smoothed down the turf above Camp with the saddest expression of face she had ever seen in him. He had been engaged to dine abroad that day, but apologized on account of ``the death of a dear old friend;'' and Mr Macdonald Buchanan was not at all surprised that he should have done so, when it came out next morning that Camp was no more.
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