The voyage and these good news sent him back in high vigour to his desk at Abbotsford. For lighter work he had on hand the _Memorie of the Somervilles,_ a very curious specimen of family history, which he had undertaken to edit at the request of his neighbour Lord Somerville. This was published in October. His serious labour was on the Lord of the Isles: of which only three cantos had been written when he concluded his bargain with Constable. He had carried with him in the Yacht some proof-sheets of a little book that Ballantyne was printing, entitled _Poems illustrative of Traditions in Galloway and Ayrshire, by Joseph Train, Supervisor of Excise at Castle-Stewart:_ and, being struck with the notes, wrote, on his arrival at home, to the author, whom he had never seen, requesting information concerning the ruins of Turnberry, on the Ayrshire coast, of which he wished to say something in connection with one of Bruce's adventures in the forthcoming poem. Mr Train did much more than Scott had meant to ask;---for he had never himself been at Turnberry ---but instantly rode over the hills to the spot, and transmitted ample details of the castle and all its legends:---not omitting a local superstition, that on the anniversary of the night when Bruce landed there from Arran, the meteoric gleam which had attended his voyage re-appeared unfailingly in the same quarter of the heavens. What use Scott made of this and other parts of Mr Train's paper, we see from the fifth canto of the Lord of the Isles and its notes: and the date of the communication (November 2) is therefore important as to the history of the composition; but this was the beginning of a correspondence which had many other happy consequences. From this time the worthy supervisor, who had had many literary plans and schemes, dropt all notion of authorship in his own person, and devoted his leisure with most generous assiduity to the collection of whatever stories he fancied likely to be of use to his new acquaintance, who, after one or two meetings, had impressed him with unbounded enthusiasm of attachment. To no one individual did Scott owe so much of the materials of his novels: and one of the very earliest packets from Castle-Stewart (November 7) contained a ballad called _The Durham Garland,_ which, reviving Scott's recollection of a story told in his youth by a servant of his father's, suggested the groundwork of the second of the series. James Ballantyne, in writing by desire of ``the Author of Waverley'' to Miss Edgeworth, with a copy of the fourth edition of that novel (November 11), mentioned that another might soon be expected; but, as he added, that it would treat of manners more ancient than those of 1745, it is clear that no outline resembling that of _Guy Mannering_ was then in the printer's view: most probably Scott had signified to him that he designed to handle the period of the Covenanters. There can, I think, be as little doubt that he began Guy Mannering as soon as Train's paper of the 7th November reached him.
He writes, on the 25th December, to Constable that he ``had corrected the last proofs of the Lord of the Isles, and was setting out for Abbotsford to refresh the machine.'' And in what did his refreshment of the machine consist? The poem was published on the 15th January; and he says, _on that day,_ to Morritt, ``I want to shake myself free of Waverley, and according have made a considerable exertion to finish an odd little tale within such time as will mystify the public, I trust---unless they suppose me to be Briareus. Two volumes are already printed, and the only persons in my confidence, W. Erskine and Ballantyne, are of opinion that it is much more interesting than Waverley. It is a tale of private life, and only varied by the perilous exploits of smugglers and excisemen.'' Guy Mannering was published on the 24th of February---that is, exactly two months after the Lord of the Isles was dismissed from the author's desk; and---making but a narrow allowance for the operations of the transcriber, printer, bookseller, &c., I think the dates I have gathered together confirm the accuracy of what I have often heard Scott say, that his second novel ``was the work of six weeks at a Christmas.'' Such was his recipe ``for refreshing the machine.''
I am sorry to have to add, that this severity of labour, like the repetition of it which had deplorable effects at a later period, was the result of difficulties about the discount of John Ballantyne's bills.
Finding that Constable would not meet his views as to some of these matters, Mr John suggested to Scott that some other house might prove more accommodating if he were permitted to offer them not only the new novel, but the next edition of the established favourite Waverley: but upon this ingenious proposition Scott at once set his _veto._ ``Dear John,'' he writes, ``your expedients are all wretched, as far as regards me. I never will give Constable, or any one, room to say I have broken my word with him in the slightest degree. If I lose every thing else, I will at least keep my honour unblemished; and I do hold myself bound in honour to offer him a Waverley, while he shall continue to comply with the conditions annexed.'' The result was, that Messrs Longman undertook the Guy Mannering, relieving John of some of his encumbering stock; but Longman, in compliance with Scott's wish, admitted Constable to a share in the adventure; and with one or two exceptions, originating in circumstances nearly similar, the house of Constable published all the subsequent novels.
I must not, however, forget that _The Lord of the Isles_ was published a month before _Guy Mannering._ The poem was received with an interest much heightened by the recent and growing success of the mysterious Waverley. Its appearance, so rapidly following that novel, and accompanied with the announcement of another prose tale, just about to be published, by the same hand, puzzled and confounded the mob of dulness. The more sagacious few said to themselves--- Scott is making one serious effort more in his old line, and by this it will be determined whether he does or does not altogether renounce that for his new one.
The most important remarks of the principal Reviewers on the details of the plot and execution are annexed to the last edition of the poem; and show such an exact coincidence of judgment in two masters of their calling, as had not hitherto been exemplified in the professional criticism of his metrical romances. The defects which both point out, are, I presume, but too completely explained by the preceding statement of the rapidity with which this, the last of those great performances, had been thrown off; nor do I see that either Reviewer has failed to do sufficient justice to the beauties which redeem the imperfections of the Lord of the Isles---except as regards the whole character of Bruce, its real hero, and the picture of the Battle of Bannockburn, which, now that one can compare these works from something like the same point of view, does not appear to me in the slightest particular inferior to the Flodden of Marmion.
This poem is now, I believe, about as popular as Rokeby; but it has never reached the same station in general favour with the Lay, Marmion, or the Lady of the Lake. The instant consumption of 1800 quartos, followed by 8vo reprints to the number of 12,000, would, in the case of almost any other author, have been splendid success; but as compared with what he had previously experienced, even in his Rokeby, and still more so as compared with the enormous circulation at once attained by Lord Byron's early tales, which were then following each other in almost breathless succession, the falling off was decided. One evening, some days after the poem had been published, Scott requested James Ballantyne to call on him, and the Printer found him alone in his library, working at the third volume of Guy Mannering.---`Well, James,' he said, `I have given you a week---what are people saying about the Lord of the Isles?'---``I hesitated a little,'' says the Printer, ``after the fashion of Gil Blas, but he speedily brought the matter to a point---`Come,' he said, `speak out, my good fellow; what has put it into your head to be on so much ceremony with me all of a sudden? But, I see how it is, the result is given in one word---_Disappointment._' My silence admitted his inference to the fullest extent. His countenance certainly did look rather blank for a few seconds; in truth, he had been wholly unprepared for the event; for it is a singular fact, that before the public, or rather the booksellers, had given their decision, he no more knew whether he had written well or ill, than whether a die thrown out of a box was to turn up a size or an ace. However, he instantly resumed his spirit, and expressed his wonder rather that his poetical popularity should have lasted so long, than that it should have now at last given way. At length he said, with perfect cheerfulness, `Well, well, James, so be it---but you know we must not droop, for we can't afford to give over. Since one line has failed, we must just stick to something else:'---and so he dismissed me, and resumed this novel .... He spoke thus, probably, unaware of the undiscovered wonders then slumbering in his mind. Yet still he could not but have felt that the production of a few poems was nothing in comparison of what must be in reserve for him, for he was at this time scarcely more than forty. An evening or two after, I called again on him, and found on the table a copy of the Giaour, which he seemed to have been reading. Having an enthusiastic young lady in my house, I asked him if I might carry the book home with me, but chancing to glance on the autograph blazon, `_To the Monarch of Parnassus from one of his subjects,_' instantly retracted my request, and said I had not observed Lord' Byron's inscription before. `What inscription? ' said he; `O yes; I had forgot, but inscription or no inscription, you are equally welcome.'' I again took it up, and he continued---`James, Byron hits the mark where I don't even pretend to fledge my arrow.' At this time he had never seen Byron, but I knew he meant soon to be in London, when, no doubt, the mighty consummation of the meeting of the two bards would be accomplished--- and I ventured to say that he must be looking forward to it with some interest. His countenance became fixed, and he answered impressively, `O, of course.' In a minute or two afterwards he rose from his chair, paced the room at a very rapid rate, which was his practice in certain moods of mind, then made a dead halt, and bursting into an extravaganza of laughter, `James,' cried he, `I'll tell you what Byron should say to me when we are about to accost each other---
Art thou the man whom men famed Grizzle call?
And then how germane would be my answer---
Art thou the still more famed Tom Thumb the small?'
This, concludes Mr B. kept him full of mirth for the rest of the evening.''
The whole scene is delightfully characteristic: and not more of Scott than of his printer; for Ballantyne, with all his profound worship of his benefactor, was an undoubting acquiescer in ``the decision of the public, or rather of the booksellers;'' and among the many absurdities into which his reverence for the popedom of Paternoster-Row led him, I never could but consider with special astonishment, the facility with which he seemed to have adopted the notion that the Byron of 1814 was really entitled to supplant Scott as a popular poet. Appreciating, as no man of his talents could fail to do, the original glow and depth of Childe Harold, he always appeared quite blind to the fact that in the Giaour, the Bride of Abydos, Parisina, and indeed, in all his early narratives, Byron owed at least half his success to imitation of Scott, and no trivial share of the rest to the lavish use of materials which Scott never employed, only because his genius was under the guidance of high feelings of moral rectitude. All this Lord Byron himself seems to have felt most completely: witness his letters and diaries; and I think I see many symptoms that both the decision of the million, and its index, ``the decision of the booksellers,'' tend the same way at present.
If January brought ``disappointment,'' there was abundant consolation in store for February 1815. Guy Mannering was received with eager curiosity, and pronounced by acclamation fully worthy to share the honours of Waverley. The easy transparent flow of its style; the beautiful simplicity, and here and there the wild solemn magnificence of its sketches of scenery; the rapid, ever heightening interest of the narrative; the unaffected kindliness of feeling, the manly purity of thought, everywhere mingled with a gentle humour and a homely sagacity; but, above all, the rich variety and skilful contrast of characters and manners at once fresh in fiction, and stamped with the unforgeable seal of truth and nature; these were charms that spoke to every heart and mind; and the few murmurs of pedantic criticism were lost in the voice of general delight, which never fails to welcome the invention that introduces to the sympathy of imagination a new group of immortal realities. The first edition was, like that of Waverley, in three little volumes, with a humility of paper and printing which the meanest novelist would now disdain to imitate; the price a guinea. The 2000 copies of which it consisted were sold the day after the publication; and within three months came a second and a third impression, making together 5000 copies more. Of the subsequent vogue it is needless to speak.
On the rising of the Court of Session in March, Scott went by sea to London with his wife and their eldest girl. Six years had elapsed since he last appeared in the metropolis; and brilliant as his reception had then been, it was still more so on the present occasion. Scotland had been visited in the interim, chiefly from the interest excited by his writings, by crowds of the English nobility, most of whom had found introduction to his personal acquaintance ---not a few had partaken of his hospitality at Ashestiel or Abbotsford. The generation among whom, I presume, a genius of this order feels his own influence with the proudest and sweetest confidence on whose fresh minds and ears he has himself made the first indelible impressions---the generation with whose earliest romance of the heart and fancy his idea had been blended, was now grown to the full stature; the success of these recent novels, seen on every table, the subject of every conversation, had, with those who did not doubt their parentage, far more than counter-weighed his declination, dubious after all, in the poetical balance; while the mystery that hung over them quickened the curiosity of the hesitating and conjecturing many---and the name on which ever and anon some new circumstance accumulated stronger suspicion, loomed larger through the haze in which he had thought fit to envelope it. Moreover, this was a period of high national pride and excitement. At such a time, Prince and people were well prepared to hail him who, more perhaps than any other master of the pen, had contributed to sustain the spirit of England throughout the struggle, which was as yet supposed to have been terminated on the field of Toulouse. ``Thank Heaven you are coming at last''---Joanna Baillie had written a month or two before---``Make up your mind to be stared at only a little less than the Czar of Muscovy or old Bl<u:>cher.''
And now took place James Ballantyne's ``mighty consummation of the meeting of the two bards.'' ``Report,'' says Scott to Moore, ``had prepared me to meet a man of peculiar habits and a quick temper, and I had some doubts whether we were likely to suit each other in society. I was most agreeably disappointed in this respect. I found Lord Byron in the highest degree courteous, and even kind. We met for an hour or two almost daily, in Mr Murray's drawing-room, and found a great deal to say to each other. We also met frequently in parties and evening society, so that for about two months I had the advantage of a considerable intimacy with this distinguished individual. Our sentiments agreed a good deal, except upon the subjects of religion and politics, upon neither of which I was inclined to believe that Lord Byron entertained very fixed opinions. I remember saying to him, that I really thought that if he lived a few years he would alter his sentiments. He answered, rather sharply---`I suppose you are one of those who prophesy I shall turn Methodist.' I replied---`No; I don't expect your conversion to be of such an ordinary kind. I would rather look to see you retreat upon the Catholic faith, and distinguish yourself by the austerity of your penances.' He smiled gravely, and seemed to allow I might be right. On politics, he used sometimes to express a high strain of what is now called Liberalism; but it appeared to me that the pleasure it afforded him, as a vehicle for displaying his wit and satire against individuals in office, was at the bottom of this habit of thinking, rather than any real conviction of the political principles on which he talked. He was certainly proud of his rank and ancient family, and, in that respect, as much an aristocrat as was consistent with good sense and good breeding. Some disgusts, how adopted I know not, seemed to me to have given this peculiar and (as it appeared to me) contradictory cast of mind; but, at heart, I would have termed Byron a patrician on principle . . . . . . Lord Byron's reading did not seem to me to have been very extensive, either in poetry or history. Having the advantage of him in that respect, and possessing a good competent share of such reading as is little read, I was sometimes able to put under his eye objects which had for him the interest of novelty. I remember particularly repeating to him the fine poem of Hardyknute, an imitation of the old Scottish ballad, with which he was so much affected, that some one who was in the same apartment asked me what I could possibly have been telling Byron by which he was so much agitated . . . . .. . Like the old heroes in Homer, we exchanged gifts. I gave Byron a beautiful dagger mounted with gold, which had been the property of the redoubted Elfi Bey. But I was to play the part of Diomed in the Iliad, for Byron sent me, some time after, a large sepulchral vase of silver. It was full of dead men's bones, and had inscriptions on two sides of the base. One ran thus:---`The bones contained in this urn were found in certain ancient sepulchres within the long walls of Athens, in the month of February 1811.' The other face bears the lines of Juvenal---`_Expende---quot libras in duce summo invenies?---Mors sola fatetur quantula sint hominum corpuscula._' To these I have added a third inscription, in these words---`The gift of Lord Byron to Walter Scott.' There was a letter with this vase, more valuable to me than the gift itself, from the kindness with which the donor expressed himself towards me. I left it naturally in the urn with the bones; but it is now missing. As the theft was not of a nature to be practised by a mere domestic, I am compelled to suspect the inhospitality of some individual of higher station, most gratuitously exercised certainly, since, after what I have here said, no one will probably choose to boast of possessing this literary curiosity. We had a good deal of laughing, I remember, on what the public might be supposed to think, or say, concerning the gloomy and ominous nature of our mutual gifts. He was often melancholy--- almost gloomy. When I observed him in this humour, I used either to wait till it went off of its own accord, or till some natural and easy mode occurred of leading him into conversation, when the shadows almost always left his countenance, like the mist rising from a landscape. In conversation, he was very animated. . . . . . . I think I also remarked in his temper starts of suspicion, when he seemed to pause and consider whether there had not been a secret, and perhaps offensive, meaning in something casually said to him. In this case I also judged it best to let his mind, like a troubled spring, work itself clear, which it did in a minute or two. I was considerably older, you will recollect, than my noble friend, and had no reason to fear his misconstruing my sentiments towards him, nor had I ever the slightest reason to doubt that they were kindly returned on his part. If I had occasion to be mortified by the display of genius which threw into the shade such pretensions as I was then supposed to possess, I might console myself that, in my own case, the materials of mental happiness had been mingled in a greater proportion . . . . . . I have always continued to think that a crisis of life was arrived, in which a new career of fame was opened to him, and that had he been permitted to start upon it, he would have obliterated the memory of such parts of his life as friends would wish to forget.''
It was also in the spring of 1815 that Scott had, for the first time, the honour of being presented to the Prince Regent. His Royal Highness, on reading his Edinburgh Address, had said to William Dundas, that ``Walter Scott's charming behaviour about the laureateship made him doubly desirous of seeing him at Carlton House:'' and there had been other messages from the Prince's librarian. On hearing from Mr Croker (then Secretary to the Admiralty) that Scott was to be in town by the middle of March, the Prince said---``Let me know when he comes, and I'll get up a snug little dinner that will suit him;'' and, after he had been presented and graciously received at the _levee,_ he was invited to dinner accordingly, through his excellent friend Mr Adam (afterwards Lord Chief Commissioner of the Jury Court in Scotland),<*> who at that time held a confidential
* This most amiable and venerable gentleman, my dear and
* kind friend, died at Edinburgh on the 17th February 1839, in the
* 89th year of his age. He retained his strong mental faculties in
* their perfect vigour to the last days of this long life, and with them
* the warmth of social feelings which had endeared him to all who
* were so happy as to have any opportunity of knowing him---to
* none more than Scott.
office in the royal household. The Regent had consulted with Mr Adam also as to the composition of the party. ``Let us have,'' said he, ``just a few friends of his own---and the more Scotch the better;'' and both the Chief Commissioner and Mr Croker assure me that the party was the most interesting and agreeable one in their recollection. It comprised, I believe, the Duke of York---the late Duke of Gordon (then Marquess of Huntly)---the late Marquess of Hertford (then Lord Yarmouth)---the Earl of Fife--- and Scott's early friend Lord Melville. ``The Prince and Scott,'' says Mr Croker, ``were the two most brilliant story-tellers in their several ways, that I have ever happened to meet; they were both aware of their _forte,_ and both exerted themselves that evening wish delightful effect. On going home, I really could not decide which of them had shone the most. The Regent was enchanted with Scott, as Scott with him; and on all his subsequent visits to London, he was a frequent guest at the royal table.'' The Lord Chief Commissioner remembers that the Prince was particularly delighted with the poet's anecdotes of the old Scotch judges and lawyers, which his Royal Highness sometimes _capped_ by ludicrous traits of certain ermined sages of his own acquaintance. Scott told, among others, a story, which he was fond of telling; and the commentary of his Royal Highness on hearing it amused Scott, who often mentioned it afterwards. The anecdote is this:--- A certain Judge, whenever he went on a particular circuit, was in the habit of visiting a gentleman of good fortune in the neighbourhood of one of the assize towns, and staying at least one night, which, being both of them ardent chess-players, they usually concluded with their favourite game. One Spring circuit the battle was not decided at day-break, so the Judge said---``Weel, Donald, I must e'en come back this gate in the harvest, and let the game lie ower for the present;'' and back he came in October, but not to his old friend's hospitable house; for that gentleman had in the interim been apprehended on a capital charge (of forgery,) and his name stood on the _Porteous Roll,_ or list of those who were about to be tried under his former guest's auspices. The laird was indicted and tried accordingly, and the jury returned a verdict of _guilty._ The Judge forthwith put on his cocked hat (which answers to the black cap in England,) and pronounced the sentence of the law in the usual terms ---``To be hanged by the neck until you be dead; and may the Lord have mercy upon your unhappy soul!'' Having concluded this awful formula in his most sonorous cadence, the Judge, dismounting his formidable beaver, gave a familiar nod to his unfortunate acquaintance, and said to him in a sort of chuckling whisper---``And now, Donald, my man, I think I've checkmated you for ance.'' The Regent laughed heartily at this specimen of judicial humour; and ``I'faith, Walter,'' said he, ``this old big-wig seems to have taken things as coolly as my tyrannical self. Don't you remember Tom Moore's description of me at breakfast---
`The table spread with tea and toast, Death-warrants and the Morning Post?''
Towards midnight, the Prince called for ``a bumper, with all the honours, to the Author of Waverley,'' and looked significantly, as he was charging his own glass, to Scott. Scott seemed somewhat puzzled for a moment, but instantly recovering himself, and filling his glass to the brim, said, ``Your Royal Highness looks as if you thought I had some claim to the honours of this toast. I have no such pretensions, but shall take good care that the real Simon Pure hears of the high compliment that has now been paid him.'' He then drank off his claret, and joined in the cheering, which the Prince himself timed. But before the company could resume their seats, his Royal Highness exclaimed---``Another of the same, if you please, to the Author of Marmion---and now, Walter, my man, I've checkmated you for _ance._'' The second bumper was follpwed by cheers still more prolonged: and Scott then rose and returned thanks in a short address, which struck the Lord Chief Commissioner as ``alike grave and graceful.'' This story has been circulated in a very perverted shape. I now give it on the authority of my venerated friend.---He adds, that having occasion, the day after, to call on the Duke of York, his Royal Highness said to him ---``Upon my word, Adam, my brother went rather too near the wind about Waverley---but nobody could have turned the thing more prettily than Walter Scott did---and upon the whole I never had better fun.''<*>
* Since this narrative was first published, I have been told by
* two gentlemen who were at this dinner, that, according to their
* recollection, the Prince _did not_ on that occasion run ``so near the
* wind'' as my text represents: and I am inclined to believe that a
* subsequent scene may have been unconsciously blended with a
* gentler rehearsal. The Chief Commissioner had promised to revise
* my sheets for the second edition; but alas! he never did so---
* and I must now leave the matter as it stands.
The Regent, as was his custom with those he most delighted to honour, uniformly addressed the poet, even at their first dinner, by his Christian name, ``Walter.''
Before he left town, he again dined at Carlton House, when the party was a still smaller one than before, and the merriment, if possible, still more free. That nothing might be wanting, the Prince sung several capital songs in the course of, that evening---as witness the lines in Sultan Serendil---
``I love a Prince will bid the bottle pass, Exchanging with his subjects glance and glass; In fitting time can, gayest of the gay, Keep up the jest and mingle in the lay. Such Monarchs best our freeborn humour suit, But despots must be stately, stern, and mute.''
Before he returned to Edinburgh, on the 22d of May, the Regent sent him a gold snuff-box, set in brilliants, with a medallion of his Royal Highness's head on the lid, ``as a testimony'' (writes Mr Adam, in transmitting it) ``of the high opinion his Royal Highness entertains of your genius and merit.''
I transcribe what follows from James Ballantyne's _Memoranda:_--- ``After Mr Scott's first interview with his Sovereign, one or two intimate friends took the liberty of inquiring, what judgment he had formed of the Regent's talents? He declined giving any definite answer---but repeated, that `he was the first gentleman he had seen--- certainly the first _English_ gentleman of his day;---there was something about him which, independently of the _prestige,_ the `divinity, which hedges a King,' marked him as standing entirely by himself: but as to his abilities, spoken of as distinct from his charming manners, how could any one form a fair judgment of that man who introduced whatever subject he chose, discussed it just as long as he chose, and dismissed it when he chose?' '' Ballantyne adds--- ``What I have now to say is more important, not only in itself, but as it will enable you to give a final contradiction to an injurious report which has been in circulation; viz. that the Regent asked him as to the authorship of Waverley, and received a distinct and solemn denial. I took the bold freedom of requesting to know _from him_ whether his Royal Highness had questioned him on that subject, and what had been his answer. He glanced at me with a look of wild surprise, and said--- `What answer I might have made to such a question, put to me by my Sovereign, perhaps I do not, or rather perhaps I do know; but I was never put to the test. He is far too well-bred a man ever to put so ill-bred a question.'
During his brief residence in London, Scott lost his dear friend George Ellis---which threw a heavy cloud over a bright sky. But the public events of the time must alone have been sufficient to keep him in a state of fervid excitement. Before his return to the north, Napoleon had been fully reinstated, and the allied forces were fast assembling in the Netherlands. His official duties compelled him to defer once more his old anxiety for ``a peep at Wellington and his merry men,'' until the fate of Europe had been decided at Waterloo. But his friends were well aware of his resolution to visit the Continent as soon as the session was over; and he very kindly accepted the proposal of three young neighbours of Tweedside who were eager to make the excursion in his society.
With these gentlemen, Alexander Pringle, of Whytbank (since M.P. for Selkirkshire), Robert Bruce (now Sheriff of Argyle), and his kinsman, the late accomplished John Scott of Gala, he left Edinburgh accordingly on the 27th of July. They travelled by the stage-coach, and took the route of Cambridge; for _Gala_ and _Whytbank,_ both members of that university, were desirous of showing its architecture to their friend. After this wish had been gratified, they proceeded to Harwich. ``The weather was beautiful,'' says _Gala,_ ``so we all went outside the coach. At starting, there was a general complaint of thirst, the consequence of some experiments over-night on the celebrated _bishop_ of my _Alma Mater;_ our friend, however, was in great glee, and never was a merrier _basket_ than he made it alI the morning. He had cautioned us, on leaving Edinburgh, never to _name names_ in such situations, and our adherence to this rule was rewarded by some amusing incidents. For example, as we entered the town where we were to dine, a heavy-looking man, who was to stop there, took occasion to thank Scott for the pleasure his anecdotes afforded him: `You have a good memory, sir,' said he: `mayhap, now, you sometimes write down what you hear or be a-reading about?' He answered, very gravely, that he did occasionally put down a _few_ notes, if anything struck him particularly. In the afternoon, it happened that he sat on the box, while the rest of us were behind him. Here, by degrees, he became absorbed in his own reflections. He frequently repeated to himself, or _composed_ perhaps, for a good while, and often smiled or raised his hand, seeming completely occupied and amused. His neighbour, a vastly scientific and rather grave professor, in a smooth drab Benjamin and broad-brimmed beaver, cast many a curious sidelong glance at him, evidently suspecting that all was not right with the upper story, but preserved perfect politeness. The poet was, however, discovered by the captain of the vessel in which we crossed to Helvoestsleys; and a perilous passage it was, chiefly in consequence of the unceasing tumblers in which this worthy kept drinking his health.''
Before Scott reached Harwich, he received Constable's acceptance of an offer to compose, during the journey, a series of sketches, which he undertook to have ready for publication ``by the second week of September;'' and thenceforth he threw his daily letters to his wife into the form of communications meant for an imaginary group, consisting of a spinster sister, a statistical laird, a rural clergyman of the Presbyterian Kirk, and a brother, a veteran officer on half-pay. The rank of this last personage corresponded, however, exactly with that of his own elder brother, John Scott, who also, like the Major of the book, had served in the Duke of York's unfortunate campaign of 1797; the sister is only a slender disguise for his aunt Christian Rutherfurd, already often mentioned; Lord Somerville, long President of the Board of Agriculture, was Paul's laird; and the shrewd and unbigoted Dr Douglas of Galashiels was his ``minister of the gospel.'' These epistles, after having been devoured by the little circle at Abbotsford, were transmitted to Major John Scott, his mother, and Miss Rutherfurd, in Edinburgh; from their hands they passed to those of James Ballantyne and Mr Erskine, both of whom assured me that the copy ultimately sent to the press consisted, in great part, of the identical sheets that had successively reached Melrose through the post. The rest had of course been, as Ballantyne expresses it, ``somewhat cobbled;'' but, on the whole, _Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk_ are to be considered as a true and faithful journal of this expedition. The kindest of husbands and fathers never portrayed himself with more unaffected truth than in this vain effort, if such he really fancied he was making, to sustain the character of ``a cross old bachelor.'' The whole man, just as he was, breathes in every line, with all his compassionate and benevolent sympathy of heart, all his sharpness of observation, and sober shrewdness of reflection; all his enthusiasm for nature, for country life, for simple manners and simple pleasures, mixed up with an equally glowing enthusiasm, at which many may smile, for the tiniest relies of feudal antiquity---and last, not least, a pulse of physical rapture for the ``circumstance of war,'' which bears witness to the blood of _Boltfoot_ and _Fire-the-Braes._ I shall not trespass on the reader of that delightful record, except by a few particulars which I owe to the juniors of the party.
Paul modestly acknowledges in his last letter, the personal attentions which he received, while in Paris, from Lords Cathcart, Aberdeen, and Castlereagh; and hints that, through their intervention, he had witnessed several of the splendid _f<e^>tes_ given by the Duke of Wellington, where he saw half the crowned heads of Europe grouped among the gallant soldiers who had cut a way for them to the guilty capital of France. Scott's reception, however, had been distinguished to a degree of which Paul's language gives no notion. The Noble Lords above named welcomed him with cordial satisfaction; and the Duke of Wellington, to whom he was first presented by Sir John Malcolm, treated him then, and ever afterwards, with a kindness and confidence, which, I have often heard him say, he considered as ``the highest distinction of his life.'' He used to tell, with great effect, the circumstances of his introduction to the Emperor Alexander, at a dinner given by the Earl of Cathcart. Scott appeared, on that occasion, in the blue and red dress of the Selkirkshire Lieutenancy; and the Czar's first question, glancing at his lameness, was, ``In what affair were you wounded?'' Scott signified that he suffered from a natural infirmity; upon which the Emperor said, ``I thought Lord Cathcart mentioned that you had served.'' Scott observed that the Earl looked a little embarrassed at this, and promptly answered, ``O yes; in a certain sense I have served---that is, in the yeomanry cavalry; a home force resembling the Landwehr, or Landsturm.''---``Under what commander?''---``Sous M. le Chevalier Rae.''---``Were you ever engaged?''---``In some slight actions---such as the battle of the Cross Causeway and the affair of Moredun-Mill.''---``This,'' says Mr Pringle of Whytbank, ``was, as he saw in Lord Cathcart's face, quite sufficient, so he managed to turn the conversation to some other subject.'' It was at the same dinner that he first met Platoff,<*> who seemed to take a great fancy
* Scott acknowledges, in a note to St Ronan's Well (vol. i. p.
* 252), that he took from Platoff this portrait of Mr Touchwood:---
* ``His face, which at the distance of a yard or two seemed hale and
* smooth, appeared, when closely examined, to be seamed with a
* million of wrinkles, crossing each other in every direction possible,
* but as fine as if drawn by the point of a very fine needle.'' Thus
* did every little peculiarity remain treasured in his memory, to be
* used in due time for giving the air of minute reality to some imaginary
to him, though, adds my friend, ``I really don't think they had any common language to converse in.'' Next day, however, when Pringle and Scott were walking together in the Rue de la Paix, the Hetman happened to come up, cantering with some of his Cossacks; as soon as he saw Scott, he jumped off his horse, leaving it to the Pulk, and, running up to him, kissed him on each side of the cheek with extraordinary demonstrations of affection---and then made him understand, through an aide-de-camp, that he wished him to join his staff at the next great review, when he would take care to mount him on the gentlest of his Ukraine horses.
It will seem less surprising that Scott should have been honoured with much attention by the leading soldiers and statesmen of Germany then in Paris. The fame of his poetry had already been established for some years m that country. Yet it may be doubted whether Bl<u:>cher had heard of Marmion any more than Platoff; and old Bl<u:>cher struck Scott's fellow-travellers as taking more interest in him than any foreign general, except only the Hetman.
A striking passage in Paul's tenth letter indicates the high notion which Scott had formed of the personal qualities of the Prince of Orange. After depicting, with almost prophetic accuracy, the dangers to which the then recent union of Holland and Belgium must be exposed, he concludes with expressing his hope that the firmness and sagacity of the King of the Netherlands, and the admiration which his heir's character and bearing had already excited among all, even Belgian observers, might ultimately prove effective in redeeming this difficult experiment from the usual failure of ``_arrondissements,_ indemnities, and all the other terms of modern date, under sanction of which cities and districts, and even kingdoms, have been passed from one government to another, as the property of lands or stock is transferred by a bargain between private parties.''
It is not less. curious to compare, with the subsequent course of affairs in France, the following brief hint in Paul's 16th letter:---``The general rallying point of the _Liberalistes_ is an avowed dislike to the present monarch and his immediate connexions. They will sacrifice, they pretend, so much to the general inclinations of Europe, as to select a king from the Bourbon race; but he must be one of their own choosing, and the Duke of Orleans is most familiar in their mouths.'' Thus, in its very bud, had his eye detected the _conjuration de quinze ans!_
As yet, the literary reputation of Scott had made but little way among the French nation; but some few of their eminent men vied even with the enthusiastic Germans in their courteous and unwearied attentions to him. The venerable _Chevalier,_ in particular, seemed anxious to embrace every opportunity of acting as his cicerone; and many mornings were spent in exploring, under his guidance, the most remarkable scenes and objects of historical and antiquarian interest both in Paris and its neighbourhood. He several times also entertained Scott and his young companions at dinner; but the last of those dinners was thoroughly poisoned by a preliminary circumstance. The poet, on entering the saloon, was presented to a stranger, whose physiognomy struck him as the most hideous he had ever seen; nor was his disgust lessened, when he found, a few minutes afterwards, that he had undergone the _accollade_ of David ``of the blood-stained brush.''
From Paris, Mr Bruce and Mr Pringle went on to Switzerland, leaving the Poet and Gala to return home together, which they did by way of Dieppe, Brighton, and London. It was here, on the 14th of September, that Scott had his last meeting with Byron. He carried his young friend in the morning to call on Lord Byron, who agreed to dine with them at their hotel, where he met also Charles Mathews and Daniel Terry. Gala has recorded it in his note-book as the most interesting day he ever spent. ``How I did stare,'' he says, ``at Byron's beautiful pale face, like a spirit's---good or evil. But he was _bitter_---what a contrast to Scott! Among other anecdotes of British prowess and spirit, Scott mentioned that a young gentleman ------ ------ ------ had been awfully shot in the head while conveying an order from the Duke, and yet staggered on, and delivered his message when at the point of death. `Ha!' said Byron, `I daresay he could do as well as most people without his head---it was never of much use to him.' Waterloo did not delight him, probably---and Scott could talk or think of scarcely anything else.'' Mathews accompanied them as far as Warwick and Kenilworth, both of which castles the poet had seen before, but now re-examined with particular curiosity. They spent a night at Sheffield; and early next morning Scott sallied forth to provide himself with a planter's knife of the most complex contrivance and finished workmanship. Having secured one to his mind, and which for many years after was his constant pocket-companion, he wrote his name on a card, ``Walter Scott, Abbotsford,'' and directed it to be engraved on the handle. On his mentioning this acquisition at breakfast, young Gala expressed his desire to equip himself in like fashion, and was directed to the shop accordingly. When he had purchased a similar knife, and produced his name in turn for the engraver, the master cutler eyed the signature for a moment, and exclaimed--- ``John Scott of Gala! Well, I hope your ticket may serve me in as good stead as another Mr Scott's has just done. Upon my word, one of my best men, an honest fellow from the North, went out of his senses when he saw it---he offered me a week's work if I would let him keep it to himself---and I took Saunders at his word.'' Scott used to talk of this as one of the most gratifying compliments he ever received in his literary capacity.
In a letter to Morritt, he says:---``We visited Corby Castle on our return to Scotland, which remains, in point of situation, as beautiful as when its walks were celebrated by David Hume, in the only rhymes he was ever known to be guilty of. Here they are, from a pane of glass in an inn at Carlisle:---
`Here chicks in eggs for breakfast sprawl, Here godless boys God's glories squall, Here Scotchmen's heads do guard the wall, But Corby's walks atone for all.'
Would it not be a good quiz to advertise _The Poetical Works of David Hume,_ with notes, critical, historical, and so forth ---with an historical inquiry into the use of eggs for breakfast; a physical discussion on the causes of their being addled; a history of the English Church music, and of the choir of Carlisle in particular; a full account of the affair of 1745, with the trials, last speeches, and so forth of the poor _plaids_ who were strapped up at Carlisle; and lastly, a full and particular description of Corby, with the genealogy of every family who ever possessed it? I think, even without more than the usual waste of margin, the Poems of David would make a decent twelve shilling touch. I shall think about it when I have exhausted mine own _century of inventions._''
Reaching Abbotsford, Scott found with his family his old friend Mr Skene of Rubislaw, who had expected him to come home sooner, and James Ballantyne, who had arrived with a copious budget of bills, calenders, booksellers' letters, and proof-sheets. From each of these visitors' _memoranda_ I now extract an anecdote. Mr Skene's is of a small enough matter, but still it places the man so completely before myself, that I am glad he thought it worth setting down. ``During Scott's absence,'' says his friend, ``his wife had had the tiny drawing-room of the cottage fitted up with new chintz furniture---everything had been set out in the best style---and she and her girls had been looking forward to the pleasure which they supposed the little surprise of the arrangements would give him. He was received in the spruce fresh room, set himself comfortably down in the chair prepared for him, and remained in the full enjoyment of his own fireside, and a return to his family circle, without the least consciousness that any change had taken place---until, at length, Mrs Scott's patience could hold out no longer, and his attention was expressly called to it. The vexation he showed at having caused such a disappointment, struck me as amiably characteristic ---and in the course of the evening he every now and then threw out some word of admiration to reconsole _mamma._''
Ballantyne's note of their next morning's conference is in these terms:---``He had just been reviewing a pageant of emperors and kings, which seemed, like another Field of the Cloth of Gold, to have been got up to realize before his eyes some of his own splendid descriptions. I begged him to tell me what was the general impression left on his mind. He answered, that he might now say he had seen and conversed with all classes of society, from the palace to the cottage, and including every conceivable shade of science and ignorance---but that he had never felt awed or abashed except in the presence of one man---the Duke of Wellington. I expressed some surprise. He said I ought not, for that the Duke of Wellington possessed every one mighty quality of the mind in a higher degree than any other man did, or had ever done. He said he beheld in him a great soldier and a great statesman---the greatest of each. When it was suggested that the Duke, on his part, saw before him a great poet and novelist, he smiled, and said, `What would the Duke of Wellington think of a few _bits of novels,_ which perhaps he had never read, and for which the strong probability is that he would not care a sixpence if he had?' You are not,'' (adds Ballantyne) ``to suppose that he looked sheepish or embarrassed in the presence of the Duke---indeed you well know that he did not, and could not do so; but the feeling, qualified and modified as I have described it, unquestionably did exist to a certain extent. Its origin forms a curious moral problem; and may probably be traced to a secret consciousness, which he might not himself advert to, that the Duke, however great as a soldier and statesman, was so defective in imagination as to be incapable of appreciating that which had formed the charm of his own life, as well as of his works.''<*>
* It is proper to add to Mr Ballantyne's solution of his ``curious
* moral problem,'' that he was in his latter days a strenuous opponent
* of the Duke of Wellington's politics; to which circumstance
* he ascribes, in these same _memoranda,_ the only coolness that ever
* occurred between him and Scott. I think it very probable that Scott
* had his own first interview with the Duke in his mind when he
* described the introduction of Roland Gr<ae>me to the Regent Murray
* in the Abbot:---``Such was the personage before whom Roland
* Graham now presented himself with a feeling of breathless awe, very
* different from the usual boldness and vivacity of his temper. In
* fact he was, from education and nature, much more easily controlled
* by the moral superiority arising from the elevated talents and
* renown of those with whom he conversed, than by pretensions
* founded only on rank or external show. He might have braved
* with indifference the presence of an Earl merely distinguished by
* his belt and coronet; but he felt overawed in that of the eminent
* soldier and statesman, the wielder of a nation's power, and the leader
* of her armies.''
Two years after this time, when Mr Washington Irving visited Scott, he walked with him to a quarry, where his people were at work. ``The face of the humblest dependent,'' he says, ``brightened at his approach---all paused from their labour to have a pleasant `crack wi' the laird.' Among the rest was a tall straight old fellow, with a healthful complexion and silver hairs, and a small round-crowned white hat. He had been about to shoulder a hod, but paused, and stood looking at Scott with a slight sparkling of his blue eye as if waiting his turn; for the old fellow knew he was a favourite. Scott accosted him in an affable tone, and asked for a pinch of snuff. The old man drew forth a horn snuff-box. `Hoot man,' said Scott, `not that old mull. Where's the bonnie French one that I brought you from Paris?' `Troth, your honour,' replied the old fellow, `sic a mull as that is nae for week-days.' On leaving the quarry, Scott informed me, that, when absent at Paris, he had purchased several trifling articles as presents for his dependents, and, among others, the gay snuff-box in question, which was so carefully reserved for Sundays by the veteran. `It was not so much the value of the gifts,' said he, `that pleased them, as the idea that the laird should think of them when so far away.' ''
One more incident of this return---it was told to me by himself, some years afterwards, with gravity, and even sadness. `The last of my chargers,'' he said, ``was a high-spirited and very handsome one, by name Daisy, all over white, without a speck, and with such a mane as Rubens delighted to paint. He had, among other good qualities, one always particularly valuable in my case, that of standing like a rock to be mounted. When he was brought to the door, after I came home from the Continent, instead of signifying, by the usual tokens, that he was pleased to see his master, he looked askant at me like a devil; and when I put my foot in the stirrup, he reared bolt upright, and I fell to the ground rather awkwardly. The experiment was repeated twice or thrice, always with the same result. It occurred to me that he might have taken some capricious dislike to my dress; and Tom Purdie, who always falls heir to the white hat and green jacket, and so forth, when Mrs Scott has made me discard a set of garments, was sent for, to try whether these habiliments would produce him a similar reception from his old friend Daisy:---but Daisy allowed Tom to back him with all manner of gentleness. The thing was inexplicable---but he had certainly taken some part of my conduct in high dudgeon and disgust; and after trying him again, at the interval of a week, I was obliged to part with Daisy---and wars and rumours of wars being over, I resolved thenceforth to have done with such dainty blood. I now stick to a good sober cob.'' Somebody suggested, that Daisy might have considered himself as ill-used, by being left at home when _the Laird_ went on his journey. ``Ay,'' said he, ``these creatures have many thoughts of their own, no doubt, that we can never penetrate.'' Then laughing, ``Troth,'' said he, ``maybe some bird had whispered Daisy that I had been to see the grand reviews at Paris on a little scrag of a Cossack, while my own gallant trooper was left behind bearing Peter and the post-bag to Melrose.''
Scott had written verse as well as prose during his travels. ``The Field of Waterloo'' was published before the end of October; the profits of the first edition being his contribution to the fund raised for the relief of the widows and children of the soldiers slain in the battle. This piece appears to have disappointed those most disposed to sympathize with the author's views and feelings. The descent is indeed heavy from his Bannockburn to his Waterloo: the presence, or all but visible reality of what his dreams cherished, seems to have overawed his imagination, and tamed it into a weak pomposity of movement. The burst of pure native enthusiasm upon the _Scottish_ heroes that fell around the Duke of Wellington's person, bears, however, the broadest marks of the ``Mighty Minstrel:''
------``Saw gallant Miller's fading eye Still bent where Albyn's standards fly, And Cameron, in the shook of steel, Die like the offspring of Lochiel, '' &c.;---
and this is far from being the only redeeming passage. The poem was the first upon a subject likely to be sufficiently hackneyed; and, having the advantage of coming out in a small cheap form---(prudently imitated from Murray's innovation with the tales of Byron, which was the deathblow to the system of verse in quarto)---it attained rapidly a measure of circulation above what had been reached either by Rokeby or the Lord of the Isles.
Meanwhile the revision of Paul's Letters was proceeding; and Scott had almost immediately on his return concluded his bargain for the first edition of a third novel--- _The Antiquary;_ nor was it much later that he completed rather a tedious negotiation with another bonnet-laird, and added the lands of _Kaeside_ to Abbotsford---witness the last words of a letter to Miss Baillie, dated Nov. 12: ---``My eldest boy is already a bold horseman and a fine shot, though only about fourteen years old. I assure you I was prouder of the first black-cock he killed, than I have been of anything whatever since I first killed one myself, and that is twenty years ago. This is all stupid gossip; but, as Master Corporal Nym says, `things must be as they may:' you cannot expect grapes from thorns, or much amusement from a brain bewildered with thorn hedges at Kaeside, for such is the sonorous title of my new possession, in virtue of which I subscribe myself,
=Abbotsford & Kaeside.=''
His pride in the young heir of _Abbotsford and Kaeside_ was much gratified about this time, on occasion of a solemn football match _more majorum,_ held under the auspices of the Duke of Buccleuch on the famous field of Carterhaugh, the scene of Montrose's last battle. The combatants on one side were picked men of the town of Selkirk, duly marshalled and led by their Provost; on the other, yeomen and shepherds of the vale of Yarrow, at whose head marched the Duke's gay and good-humoured brother-in-law, Lord Home, well pleased with this festive mockery of old feuds, which would have been forgotten aged before but for the ballad so dear to the burghers,---
'_Tis up wi' the Sutors o' Selkirk, And 'tis down wi' the Earl of Home._
His Lordship's lieutenant was James Hogg, now ranked among the tenantry of Yarrow; and the muster being complete---to quote the Edinburgh newspaper of 15th December--- ``The ancient banner of the Buccleuch family, a curious and venerable relique, emblazoned with armorial bearings, and with the word _Bellendaine,_ the ancient warcry of the clan of Scott, was displayed, as on former occasions when the chief took the field in person, whether for the purpose of war or sport. The banner was delivered by Lady Ann Scott to Master Walter Scott, younger of Abbotsford, who attended suitably mounted and armed, and, riding over the field, displayed it to the sound of the warpipes, and amid the acclamations of the assembled spectators, who could not be fewer than 2000 in number. That this singular renewal of an ancient military custom might not want poetical celebrity, verses were distributed among the spectators, composed for the occasion by Mr Walter Scott and the Ettrick Shepherd. . . . . The parties parted with equal honours, but, before they left the ground, _the Sheriff_ threw up his hat, and in Lord Dalkeith's name and his own, challenged the Yarrow men, on the part of the Sutors, to a match to be played upon the first convenient opportunity.'' The newspaper then gives Scott's ``Lifting of the Banner:''---
``Then up with the Banner! let forest winds fan her! She has blazed over Ettrick eight ages and more; In sport we'll attend her, in battle defend her, With heart and with hand, like our Fathers before;''
---and that excellent ditty by Hogg, entitled ``The Ettrick Garland to the Ancient Banner of the House of Buccleuch:''---
``All hail! memorial of the brave The liegemen's pride, the Border's awe! May thy grey pennon never wave On sterner field than Carterhaugh.''
I have no doubt the Sheriff of the Forest was a prouder man, when he saw his boy ride about Carterhaugh with the pennon of Bellenden, than when Platoff mounted himself for the imperial review of the _Champ de Mars._
Mr Hogg in his Autobiography informs us that when the more distinguished part of the company assembled on the conclusion of the sport to dine at Bowhill, he was proceeding to place himself at a particular table---but the Sheriff seized his arm, told him _that_ was reserved for the nobility, and seated him at an inferior board---``between himself and the Laird of Harden.'' ``The fact is,'' says Hogg, ``I am convinced he was sore afraid of my getting to be too great a favourite among the young ladies of Buccleuch!'' Who can read this, and not be reminded of Sancho Panza and the Duchess? And, after all, he quite mistook what Scott had said to him; there was no _high table for the nobility_---but there was a _side-table for the children,_ at which, when the Shepherd was about to seat himself, his friend probably whispered that it was reserved for the ``_little_ lords and ladies, and their playmates.''---Hogg was incurable; if it had been otherwise, he must have been cured, for a little time at least, by some incidents of the preceding winter. He then, being as usual in pecuniary straits, projected a work, to be called ``The Poetic Mirror,'' in which should appear some piece by each popular poet of the time, the whole to be edited by himself, and published for his benefit; and he addressed, accordingly, to his brother bards a circular petition for their best assistance. Scott---like Byron and most others---declined the proposition. His letter has not been preserved, but nobody can suspect that it was uncourteous. The Shepherd, however, took some phrase in high dudgeon, and penned an answer virulently insolent in spirit and in language, accusing him of base jealousy of his own genius. I am not sure whether it was on this or another occasion of the like sort, that James varied the usual formulas of epistolary composition, by beginning with ``Damned Sir,'' and ending, ``Believe me, Sir, yours with disgust, &c.;'' but the performance was such that no intercourse took place for some weeks, or perhaps months, afterwards. The letter in which Hogg at length solicits a renewal of kindliness, says nothing, it may be observed, of the circumstance which, according to his Autobiography, had caused him to repent of his suspicions. The fact was, that hearing, shortly after the receipt of the offensive epistle, that the Shepherd was confined to his lodgings, in an obscure alley of Edinburgh, by a dangerous illness, Scott called on a kind friend and protector of his, Mr John Grieve (a hatter on the North Bridge) to make inquiries about him, and to offer to take on himself the expenses of the best medical attendance. He had, however, cautioned the worthy hatter that no hint of this offer must reach Hogg; and in consequence, it might perhaps be the Shepherd's feeling at the time that he should not, in addressing his life-long benefactor, betray any acquaintance with this recent interference on his behalf. There can be no doubt, however, that he obeyed the genuine dictates of his better nature when he penned this apologetic effusion:---
``_Gabriel's Road, February_ 28, 1815.
``Mr Scott,---I think it is great nonsense for two men who are friends at heart, and who ever must be so---indeed it is not in the nature of things that they can be otherwise--- should be professed enemies.
``Mr Grieve and Mr Laidlaw, who were very severe on me, and to whom I was obliged to show your letter, have long ago convinced me that I mistook part of it, and that it was not me you held in such contempt, but the opinion of the public. The idea that you might mean that (though I still think the reading will bear either construction) has given me much pain; for I know I answered yours intemperately, and in a mortal rage. I meant to have enclosed yours, and begged of you to return mine, but I cannot find it, and am sure that some one to whom I have been induced to show it, has taken it away. However, as my troubles on that subject were never like to wear to an end, I could not longer resist telling you that I am extremely vexed about it. I desire not a renewal of our former intimacy, for haply, after what I have written, your family would not suffer it; but I wish it to be understood that, when we meet _by chance,_ we might shake hands, and speak to one another as old acquaintances, and likewise that we may exchange a letter occasionally, for I find there are many things which I yearn to communicate to you, and the tears rush to my eyes when I consider that I may not. If you allow of this, pray let me know, and if you do not, let me know. Indeed, I am anxious to hear from you, for `as the day of trouble is with me, so shall my strength be.' To be friends _from the teeth forwards_ is common enough; but it strikes me that there is something still more ludicrous in the reverse of the picture, and so to be enemies---and why should I be, _from the teeth forwards,_ yours sincerely,
Scott's reply was, as Hogg says, ``a brief note, telling him to think no more of the business, and come to breakfast next morning.''
The year 1815 may be considered as, for Scott's peaceful tenor of life, an eventful one. That which followed has left almost its only traces in the successive appearance of nine volumes, which attest the prodigal genius and hardly less astonishing industry of the man. Early in January were published Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk, of which I need not now say more than that they were received with lively curiosity, and general, though not vociferous applause. The first edition was an octavo of 6000 copies; and it was followed in the course of the next two or three years by a second and a third, amounting together to 3000 more. The popularity of the novelist was at its height; and this admitted, if not avowed, specimen of Scott's prose, must have been perceived by all who had any share of discrimination, to flow from the same pen.
Mr Terry produced, in the spring of 1816, a dramatic Piece entitled ``Guy Mannering,'' which met with great success on the London boards, and still continues to be a favourite with the theatrical public. What share the novelist himself had in this first specimen of what he used to call the ``art of _Terryfying,_'' I cannot exactly say; but his correspondence shows that the pretty song of the _Lullaby_ was not his only contribution to it; and I infer that he had taken the trouble to modify the plot, and rearrange, for stage purposes, a considerable part of the original dialogue.
Early in May appeared the novel of ``The Antiquary,'' which seems to have been begun a little before the close of 1815. It came out at a moment of domestic distress. His brother Major John Scott, whose health had long been feeble, died on the 8th of May. The Major, from all I have heard, was a sober, sedate bachelor, of dull mind and frugal tastes, who, after his retirement from the army, divided his time between his mother's primitive fireside, and the society of a few whist-playing brother officers, that met for an evening rubber at Fortune's tavern. He left some <L>6000 to be divided between his two surviving brothers; and Walter thus writes on the occasion to his friend at Rokeby: ``Though we were always on fraternal terms of mutual kindness and good-will, yet our habits of life, our tastes for society and circles of friends, were so totally different, that there was less frequent intercourse between us than our connexion and real liking to each other might have occasioned. Yet it is a heavy consideration to have lost the last but one who was interested in our early domestic life, our habits of boyhood, and our first friends and connexions. It makes one look about and see how the scene has changed around him, and how he himself has been changed with it. My only remaining brother is in Canada, and seems to have an intention of remaining there; so that my mother, now upwards of eighty, has now only one child left to her out of thirteen whom she has borne. She is a most excellent woman, possessed, even at her advanced age, of all the force of mind and sense of duty which have carried her through so many domestic griefs, as the successive deaths of eleven children, some of them come to men and women's estate, naturally infers. She is the principal subject of my attention at present, and is, I am glad to say, perfectly well in body and composed in mind. . . . . I sent you, some time since, The Antiquary. It is not so interesting as its predecessors---the period did not admit of so much romantic situation. But it has been more fortunate than any of them in the sale, for 6000 went of in the first six days, and it is now at press again; which is very flattering to the unknown author.'' In a letter of the same date to Terry, Scott says---``It wants the romance of Waverley and the adventure of Guy Mannering; and yet there is some salvation about it, for if a man will paint from nature, he will be likely to amuse those who are daily looking at it.''
After a little pause of hesitation, it attained popularity not inferior to Guy Mannering; and though the author appears for a moment to have shared the doubts which he read in the countenance of James Ballantyne, it certainly was, in the sequel, his chief favourite among all his novels. Nor is it difficult to account for this preference, without laying any stress on the fact that, during a few short weeks, it was pretty commonly talked of as a falling of from its immediate predecessors---and that some minor critics re-echoed this in print. In that view, there were many of its successors that had stronger claims on the parental instinct of protection. But the truth is, that although Scott's Introduction of 1830 represents him as pleased with fancying that, in the principal personage, he had embalmed a worthy friend of his boyish days, his own antiquarian propensities, originating perhaps in the kind attentions of George Constable of Wallace-Craigie, and fostered not a little, at about as ductile a period, by those of old Clerk of Eldin, and John Ramsay of Ochtertyre, had by degrees so developed themselves, that he could hardly, even when the Antiquary was published, have scrupled about recognising a quaint caricature of the founder of Abbotsford Museum, in the inimitable portraiture of the Laird of Monkbarns. The Descriptive Catalogued that collection which he began towards the close of his life, but, alas! never finished, is entitled ``_Reliqui<ae> Trottcosian<ae>---or the Gabions of the late Jonathan Oldbuck, Esq._'' But laying this, which might have been little more than a good-humoured pleasantry, out of the question, there is assuredly no one of all his works on which more of his own early associations have left their image. Of those early associations, as his full-grown tastes were all the progeny, so his genius, in all its happiest efforts, was the ``Recording Angel;'' and when George Constable first expounded his ``Gabions '' to the child that was to immortalize his name, they were either wandering hand in hand over the field where the grass still grew rank upon the grave of _Balmawhapple,_ or sauntering on the beach where the _Mucklebackets_ of Prestonpans dried their nets, singing
``Weel may the boatie row, and better may she speed, O weel may the boatie row that wins the bairns' bread''---
or telling wild stories about cliff-escapes and the funerals of shipwrecked fishermen.
Considered by itself, this novel seems to me to possess, almost throughout, in common with its two predecessors, a kind of simple unsought charm, which the subsequent works of the series hardly reached, save in occasional snatches:---like them it is, in all its humbler and softer scenes, the transcript of actual Scottish life, as observed by the man himself. And I think it must also be allowed that he has nowhere displayed his highest art, that of skilful contrast, in greater perfection. Even the tragic romance of Waverley does not set of its MacWheebles and Callum Begs better than the oddities of Jonathan Oldbuck and his circle are relieved, on the one hand by the stately gloom of the Glenallans, on the other by the stern affliction of the poor fisherman, who, when discovered repairing the ``auld black bitch o' a boat'' in which his boy had been lost, and congratulated by his visitor on being capable of the exertion, makes answer---``And what would you have me to do, unless I wanted to see four children starve, because one is drowned? _It's weel wi' you gentles, that can sit in the house wi' handkerchers at your een, when ye lose a friend; but the like o' us maun to our wark again, if our hearts were beating as hard as my hammer._''
It may be worth noting, that it was in correcting the proof-sheets of this novel that Scott first took to equipping his chapters with mottoes of his own fabrication. On one occasion he happened to ask John Ballantyne, who was sitting by him, to hunt for a particular passage in Beaumont and Fletcher. John did as he was bid, but did not succeed in discovering the lines. ``Hang it, Johnnie,'' cried Scott, ``I believe I can make a motto sooner than you will find one.'' He did so accordingly; and from that hour, whenever memory failed to suggest an appropriate epigraph, he had recourse to the inexhaustible mines of ``_old play_'' or ``_old ballad,_'' to which we owe some of the most exquisite verses that ever flowed from his pen.
Unlike, I believe, most men, whenever Scott neared the end of one composition, his spirit seems to have caught a new spring of buoyancy, and before the last sheet was sent from his desk, he had crowded his brain with the imagination of another fiction. The Antiquary was published, as we have seen, in May, but by the beginning of April he had already opened to the Ballantynes the plan of the first _Tales of my Landlord;_ and---to say nothing of _Harold the Dauntless,_ which he began shortly after the Bridal of Triermain was finished, and which he seems to have kept before him for two years as a congenial plaything, to be taken up whenever the coach brought no proof-sheets to jog him as to serious matters---he had also, before this time, undertaken to write the historical department of the Register for 1814. He had not yet collected the materials requisite for his historical sketch of a year distinguished for the importance and complexity of its events; but these, he doubted not, would soon reach him, and he felt no hesitation about pledging himself to complete, not only that sketch, but four new volumes of prose romances--- and his Harold the Dauntless also, if Ballantyne could make any suitable arrangement on that score---between the April and the Christmas of 1816.
The Antiquary had been published by Constable, but I presume that, in addition to the usual stipulations, he had been again, on that occasion, solicited to relieve John Ballantyne's stock to an extent which he did not find quite convenient; and at all events he had of late shewn a considerable reluctance to employ James Ballantyne and Co. as printers. One or other of these impediments is alluded to in this queer note of Scott's:---``Dear John,--- I have seen the great swab, who is supple as a glove, and will do ALL, which some interpret NOTHING. However, we shall do well enough. W. S.'' ``The great swab'' had been admitted, almost from the beginning, into the _secret_ of the Novels---and for that, among other reasons, it would have been desirable for the Novelist to have him continue the publisher without interruption; but Scott was led to suspect, that if he were called upon to conclude a bargain for a fourth novel before the third had made its appearance, his scruples as to the matter of _printing_ might at least protract the treaty; and why Scott should have been urgently desirous of seeing the transaction settled at once, is sufficiently explained by the fact, that though so much of Mr John's old unfortunate stock still remained on hand---and with it some occasional recurrence of difficulty as to _floating-bills_ must be expected---while Mr James Ballantyne's management of pecuniary affairs had not been very careful<*>---nevertheless, the sanguine
* In February 1816, when James Ballantyne married, it appears
* from letters in his handwriting that he owed to Scott more
* than <L>3000 of personal debt.
author had gone on purchasing one patch of land after another, until his estate had already grown from 150 to nearly 1000 acres. The property all about his original farm had been in the hands of small holders (Scottic<e`>, _cock-lairds_); these were sharp enough to understand that their neighbour could with difficulty resist any temptation that might present itself in the shape of acres; and thus he proceeded buying up lot after lot of unimproved ground, at extravagant prices,---his ``appetite increasing by what it fed on;'' while the ejected yeomen set themselves down elsewhere, to fatten at their leisure upon the profits---most commonly the anticipated profits---of ``The Scotch Novels.''
He was ever and anon pulled up with a momentary misgiving,---and resolved that the latest acquisition should be the last, until he could get rid entirely of ``John Ballantyne & Co.'' But, after the first and more serious embarrassments had been overcome, John was far from continuing to hold by his patron's anxiety for the total abolition of their unhappy copartnership. He, unless when some sudden emergency arose, flattered Scott's own gay imagination, by representing everything in the most smiling colours; and though Scott, in his replies, seldom failed to introduce some hint of caution---such as ``_Nullum numen abest si sit prudentia_''---he more and more took home to himself the agreeable cast of his _Rigdum's_ anticipations, and wrote to him in a vein as merry as his own--- _e. g._---``As for our stock,
``'Twill be wearing awa', John, Like snaw-wreaths when it's thaw, John,'' &c. &c. &c.
John could never have forgotten that it was to Constable alone that his firm had more than once owed its escape from dishonour; and he must have known that, after the triumphant career of the Waverley series had once commenced, nothing could have been more easy than to bring all the affairs of ``back-stock, &c.'' to a close, by entering into a distinct and candid treaty on that subject, in connexion with the future works of the great Novelist, either with Constable or with any other first-rate house in the trade: but he also knew that, were that unhappy firm wholly extinguished, he must himself subside into a clerk of the printing company. Therefore, in a word, he appears to have systematically disguised from Scott the extent to which the whole Ballantyne concern had been sustained by Constable especially during his Hebridean tour of 18l4, and his Continental one of 1815 ---and prompted and enforced the idea of trying other booksellers from time to time, instead of adhering to Constable, merely for the selfish purposes,---first, of facilitating the immediate discount of bills;---secondly, of further perplexing Scott's affairs, the entire disentanglement of which would have been, as he fancied, prejudicial to his own personal importance.
It was resolved, accordingly, to offer the risk and half profits of the first edition of another new novel---or rather collection of novels---to Mr Murray of Albemarle Street, and Mr Blackwood, who was then Murray's agent in Scotland; but it was at the same time resolved, partly because Scott wished to try another experiment on the public sagacity, but partly also, no question, from the wish to spare Constable's feelings, that the title-page of the ``Tales of my Landlord'' should not bear the magical words ``by the Author of Waverley.'' The facility with which both Murray and Blackwood embraced such a proposal, as no untried novelist, being sane, could have dreamt of hazarding, shews that neither of them had any doubt as to the identity of the author. They both considered the withholding of the avowal on the forthcoming title-page as likely to check very much the first success of the book; but they were both eager to prevent Constable's acquiring a sort of prescriptive right to publish for the unrivalled novelist, and agreed to all the terms, including a considerable burden of the endless ``back-stock.''
Scott's intention originally was to give in the four volumes as many tales, each having its scene, laid in a different province of Scotland; but this scheme was soon abandoned: and the series included only the two stories of the Black Dwarf and Old Mortality. When the former had been printed off, Murray shewed it to Gifford, who expressed some disapprobation: and Blackwood, on hearing what the Quarterly critic thought, ventured to write to James Ballantyne, intimating his own apprehension likewise, that the Dwarf would be considered as hardly worthy of the author: he said that the groundwork was excellent, but that the execution had been too rapid---that the conclusion seemed to him very disappointing: and that if the author would recast the latter chapters, he (Mr Blackwood) would gladly take on himself the expense of cancelling the sheets. Scott, on receiving this communication, wrote to Ballantyne in terms of violent indignation, of which Blackwood had the sternest share apparently, but which I doubt not was chiefly stirred against the ``coadjutor'' referred to in the new publisher's epistle. ``Tell him and his coadjutor,'' said be, ``that I belong to the Black Hussars of Literature, who neither give nor receive quarter. I'll be cursed but this is the most impudent proposal that ever was made.'' Ballantyne translated this into courtly phrase for the eye of the parties---but Scott heard no wore of preliminary criticism.
On the first of December, the Tales appeared, and notwithstanding the silence of the title-page, the change of publishers, and the attempt which had certainly been made to vary the style both of delineation and of language, all doubts whether they were or were not from the same hand with Waverley had worn themselves out before the lapse of a week. On the 14th, the London publisher was unable to suppress his exultation, and addressed to Scott himself a letter concluding in these words:---``Heber says there are only two men in the world---Walter Scott and Lord Byron. Between you, you have given existence to a =third= ---ever your faithful servant, _John Murray._'' To this cordial effusion, Scott returned a dexterous answer. It was necessary, since he had resolved against compromising his incognito, that he should be prepared not only to repel the impertinent curiosity of strangers, but to evade the proffered congratulations of overflowing kindness. He contrived, however, to do so, on this and all similar occasions, in a style of equivoque which could never be seriously misunderstood. He says to Murray:---``I give you heartily joy of the success of the Tales, although I do not claim that paternal interest in them which my friends do me the credit to assign me. I assure you I have never read a volume of them until they were printed, and can only join with the rest of the world in applauding the true and striking portraits which they present of old Scottish manners. I do not expect implicit reliance to be placed on my disavowal, because I know very well that he who is disposed not to own a work must necessarily deny it, and that otherwise his secret would be at the mercy of all who choose to ask the question, since silence in such a case must always pass for consent, or rather assent. But I have a mode of convincing you that I am perfectly serious in my denial---pretty similar to that by which Solomon distinguished the fictitious from the real mother---and that is, by reviewing the work, which I take to be an operation equal to that of quartering the child. But this is only on condition I can have Mr Erskine's assistance, who admires the work greatly more than I do, though I think the painting of the second Tale both true and powerful. The first tale is not very original in its concoction, and lame and impotent in its conclusion.''
Murray, gladly embracing this offer of an article for his journal on the Tales of my Landlord, begged Scott to take a wider scope, and dropping all respect for the idea of a divided parentage, to place together any materials he might have for the illustration of the Scotch Novels in general. What Scott's original conception had been I know not; but the able biographer of John Knox, Dr M`Crie, had, in the meantime, considered the representation of the Covenanters, in the story of Old Mortality, as so unfair as to demand at his hands a very serious rebuke. The Doctor forthwith published, in a religious magazine, a set of papers, in which the historical foundations of that tale were attacked with indignant warmth; and Scott found the impression they were producing so strong, that he finally devoted a very large part of his article for the Quarterly to an elaborate defence of his own picture of the Covenanters.<*>
* Since I have mentioned this reviewal, I may express here
* my conviction, that Erskine, not Scott, was the author of the
* critical estimate of the Waverley novels which it embraces---
* although for the purpose of mystification Scott had taken the
* trouble to transcribe the paragraphs in which that estimate is
* contained. At the same time I cannot but add that, had Scott
* really been the sole author of the article, he need not have
* incurred the severe censure which has been applied to his supposed
* conduct in the matter. After all, his judgment of his
* own works must have been allowed to be not above, but very far
* under the mark: and the whole affair would, I think, have been
* considered by every candid person exactly as the letter about Solomon
* and the rival mothers was by Murray, Gifford, and ``the
* four o'clock visitors'' of Albemarle Street---as a good joke. A better
* joke, certainly, than the allusion to the report of Thomas Scott
* being the author of Waverley, at the close of the paper, was never
* penned; and I think it includes a confession over which a misan-
* thrope might have chuckled---``We intended here to conclude
* this long article, when a strong report reached us of certain Transatlantic
* confessions, which, if genuine (though of this we know
* nothing), assign a different author to these volumes than the party
* suspected by our Scottish correspondents. Yet a critic may be excused
* seizing upon the nearest suspicious person, on the principle
* happily expressed by Claverhouse, in a letter to the Earl of Linlithgow.
* He had been, it seems, in search of a gifted weaver, who
* used to hold forth at conventicles: `I sent for the webster (weaver),
* they brought in his _brother_ for him; though he, may be, cannot
* preach like his brother, I doubt not but he is as well-principled as
* he, wherefore I thought it would be no great fault to give him the
* trouble to go to jail with the rest!' ''---_Miscell. Prose,_ xix. p. 85.
The answer to Dr M`Crie, and the Introduction of 1830, have exhausted the historical materials on which he constructed his Old Mortality; and the origin of the Black Dwarf---as to the conclusion of which story he appears on reflection, to have adopted the opinion of honest Blackwood ---has already been mentioned in an anecdote of his early wanderings. The latter Tale, however imperfect, and unworthy as a work of art to be placed high in the catalogue of his productions, derives a singular interest from its delineation of the dark feelings so often connected with physical deformity; feelings which appear to have diffused their shadow over the whole genius of Byron---and which, but for this single picture, we should hardly have conceived ever to have passed through Scott's happier mind. All the bitter blasphemy of spirit which, from infancy to the tomb, swelled up in Byron against the unkindness of nature; which sometimes perverted even his filial love into a sentiment of diabolical malignity; all this black and desolate train of reflections must have been encountered and deliberately subdued by the manly parent of the Black Dwarf. Old Mortality, on the other hand, is remarkable as the novelist's first attempt to re-people the past by the power of imagination working on materials furnished by books. In Waverley he revived the fervid dreams of his boyhood, and drew, not from printed records, but from the artless oral narratives of his _Invernahyles._ In Guy Mannering and the Antiquary he embodied characters and manners familiar to his own wandering youth. But whenever his letters mention Old Mortality in its progress, they represent him as strong in the confidence that the industry with which he had pored over a library of forgotten tracts would enable him to identify himself with the time in which they had birth, as completely as if he had listened with his own ears to the dismal sermons of Peden, ridden with Claverhouse and Dalzell in the rout of Bothwell, and been an advocate at the bar of the Privy Council when Lauderdale catechized and tortured the assassins of Archbishop Sharpe. To reproduce a departed age with such minute and life-like accuracy as this tale exhibits, demanded a far more energetic sympathy of imagination than had been called for in any effort of his serious verse. It is indeed most curiously instructive for any student of art to compare the Roundheads of Rokeby with the Bluebonnets of Old Mortality. For the rest---the story is framed with a deeper skill than any of the preceding novels; the canvass is a broader one; the characters are contrasted and projected with a power and felicity which neither he nor any other master ever surpassed; and notwithstanding all that has been urged against him as a disparager of the Covenanters, it is to me very doubtful whether the inspiration of romantic chivalry ever prompted him to nobler emotions than he has lavished on the re-animation of their stern and solemn enthusiasm. This work has always appeared to me the Marmion of his novels.
I have disclaimed the power of farther illustrating its historical groundworks, but I am enabled by Mr Train's kindness to give some interesting additions to Scott's own account of this novel as a composition. The generous Supervisor visited him in Edinburgh in May 1816, a few days after the publication of the Antiquary, carrying with him a purse that had belonged to Rob Roy, and also a fresh heap of traditionary gleanings---among others some story by a Mr Broadfoot, ``schoolmaster at the clachan of Penningham.'' Broadfoot had facetiously signed his communication _Clashbottom,_---``a professional appellation derived,'' says Mr Train, ``from the use of the birch, and by which he was usually addressed among his compamons,--- who assembled, not at the Wallace Inn of Gandercleuch, but at the sign of the Shoulder of Mutton in Newton-Stewart.'' Scott (who already possessed Rob Roy's gun) received these gifts with benignity, and invited the friendly donor to breakfast next morning. He found him at work in his library, and surveyed with enthusiastic curiosity the furniture of the room, especially its only picture, a portrait of Graham of Claverhouse. Train expressed the surprise with which every one who had known Dundee only in the pages of the Presbyterian Annalists, must see for the first time that beautiful and melancholy visage, worthy of the most pathetic dreams of romance. Scott replied, ``that no character had been so foully traduced as the Viscount of Dundee---that, thanks to Wodrow, Cruickshanks, and such chroniclers, he, who was every inch a soldier and a Gentleman, still passed among the Scottish vulgar for a ruffian desperado, who rode a goblin horse, was proof against shot, and in league with the Devil.'' ``Might he not,'' said Mr Train, ``be made, in good hands, the hero of a national romance as interesting as any about either Wallace or Prince Charlie?'' ``He might,'' said Scott, ``but your western zealots would require to be faithfully portrayed in order to bring him out with the right effect.'' ``And what,'' resumed Train, ``if the story were to be delivered as if from the mouth of _Old Mortality?_ Would _he_ not do as well as _the Minstrel_ did in the Lay?'' I think it certain that to this interview with Train we owe the framework of the Gandercleuch Series, as well as the adoption of Claverhouse's period for one of its first fictions. It seems also probable that we owe a further obligation to the Supervisor's presentation of Rob Roy's _spleuchan._
Within less than a month, the Black Dwarf and Old Mortality were followed by ``Harold the Dauntless, by the author of the Bridal of Triermain.'' This poem had been, it appears, begun several years back; nay, part of it had been actually printed before the appearance of Childe Harold, though that circumstance had escaped the author's remembrance when he penned, in 1830, his Introduction to the Lord of the Isles; for he there says, ``I am still astonished at my having committed the gross error of selecting the very name which Lord Byron had made so famous.'' The volume was published by Messrs Constable, and had, in those booksellers' phrase, ``considerable success.'' It has never, however, been placed on a level with Triermain; and though it contains many vigorous pictures, and splendid verses, and here and there some happy humour, the confusion and harsh transitions of the fable, and the dim rudeness of character and manners, seem sufficient to account for this inferiority in public favour. It is not surprising that the author should have redoubled his aversion to the notion of any more serious performances in verse. He had seized on an instrument of wider compass, and which, handled with whatever rapidity, seemed to reveal at every touch treasures that had hitherto slept unconsciously within him. He had thrown off his fetters, and might well go forth rejoicing in the native elasticity of his strength.
It is at least a curious coincidence in literary history, that as Cervantes, driven from the stage of Madrid by the success of Lope de Vega, threw himself into prose romance, and produced, at the moment when the world considered him as silenced for ever, the Don Quixote which has outlived Lope's two thousand triumphant dramas---so Scott, abandoning verse to Byron, should have rebounded from his fall by the only prose romances, which seem to be classed with the masterpiece of Spanish genius, by the general judgment of Europe.
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